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Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die
     

Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die

4.0 3
by Sushila Blackman
 

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Death is a subject obscured by fear and denial. When we do think of dying, we are more often concerned with how to avoid the pain and suffering that may accompany our death than we are with really confronting the meaning of death and how to approach it. Sushila Blackman places death—and life—in a truer perspective, by telling us of others who have left

Overview

Death is a subject obscured by fear and denial. When we do think of dying, we are more often concerned with how to avoid the pain and suffering that may accompany our death than we are with really confronting the meaning of death and how to approach it. Sushila Blackman places death—and life—in a truer perspective, by telling us of others who have left this world with dignity.

Graceful Exits offers valuable guidance in the form of 108 stories recounting the ways in which Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, and Zen masters, both ancient and modern, have confronted their own deaths. By directly presenting the grace, clarity, and even humor with which great spiritual teachers have met the end of their days, Blackman provides inspiration and nourishment to anyone truly concerned with the fundamental issues of life and death.

Editorial Reviews

Mavis Fenn
L....[T]he author has succeeded in her purpose: to make the passage of others through death "more grace-filled, more filled with light, more saturated with God's sublime love and understanding"....Graceful Exits will prove to be reassuring; the anthology will likely be used by many on a regular basis for contemplation and meditation.
Journal of Buddhist Ethics
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Often, the stories of great people's deaths focus on the bizarre details. Blackman's book does not focus on such details, but it focuses on death as a great teaching. Death in the Buddhist and Hindu spiritual traditions, according to the author, is not confined to a particular moment but is a process that may take days even after the usual medical indications of death have appeared. The experience of death is part of the discipline that these "great beings," or spiritual teachers, have practiced, and death is an opportunity for the greatest meditation and fulfillment. The 108 stories collected here show that these spiritual teachers did not fear death but rather welcomed it. These masters embrace death not in the sterility of the hospital room but in the company of students and friends, and, thus, death becomes the final lesson that the teachers teach to their students. Written in lucid prose, the book is a training manual for making graceful exits from this life.
Library Journal
Blackman narrates the death stories of over 100 Tibetan, Hindu, and Zen masters, ancient and modern. The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died. As Blackman notes, the Judaeo-Christian perspective of death is not represented here, but this fills a demand for inspirational books about death and Eastern spirituality.
Mavis L. Fenn
...[T]he author has succeeded in her purpose: to make the passage of others through death "more grace-filled, more filled with light, more saturated with God's sublime love and understanding"....Graceful Exits will prove to be reassuring; the anthology will likely be used by many on a regular basis for contemplation and meditation. -- Journal of Buddhist Ethics
From the Publisher
"The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died."—Library Journal

"Written in lucid prose, the book is a training manual for making graceful exits from this life."—Publishers Weekly

"Not since the ground-breaking work of Kubler-Ross on death and dying has there been such a much needed compilation of inspirational stories and examples of how to prepare oneself for the inevitable."—Midwestern Book Review

"This beautiful little book is a gem. It contributes to our understanding that we are truly timeless."—Deepak Chopra, M.D.

"A magical little volume. It reveals with simplicity and lucidity how wise and compassionate living leads to a wise and compassionate death."—Glenn H. Mullin, author of Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780834824164
Publisher:
Shambhala
Publication date:
05/10/2005
Sold by:
Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
160
Sales rank:
1,245,704
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

After
taking leave of his teacher Huang-po, Lin-chi—often called the Chinese
Socrates—went on a long pilgrimage before settling in a small temple around
850. He taught there about ten years and then retired. In 866, when he was
about to die, he seated himself and said, "After I am extinguished, do not
let my True Dharma Eye be extinguished." A monk came forward and said,
"How could I let your True Dharma Eye be extinguished?" Lin-chi
asked, "When somebody asks you about it, what will you say to him?"
The monk gave a shout. "Who would have thought my True Dharma Eye would be
extinguished upon reaching this blind ass!" said Lin-chi. Then the master,
although not ill, adjusted his robes, sat erect, and died.

*

Kalu
Rinpoche tried to sit up by himself but had difficulty doing so. Lama Gyaltsen,
feeling that this was perhaps the time, supported Rinpoche's back as he sat up,
and Bokar Tulku Rinpoche took his extended hand. Kalu Rinpoche wanted to sit
absolutely straight, but the attending doctor and nurse were upset by this, so
relaxed his posture slightly. Nevertheless, he assumed the meditation
posture—his eyes gazed outward in meditation gaze, and his lips moved softly.
A profound feeling of peace and happiness settled on the room and spread
through the minds of those present. Slowly Kalu Rinpoche's gaze and his eyelids
lowered, and the breath stopped.

*

As
Chuang-tzu approached death, his disciples wanted to give him a large and
expensive funeral. But Chuang-tzu said, "The heavens and the earth will
serve me as a coffin and a coffin shell. The sun and moon and stars will
decorate my bier. All creation will be at hand to witness the event. What more
need I than these?"

His
disciples gasped, "We're afraid that carrion kites and crows will eat the
body of our master!"

Chuang-tzu
replied, "Above the ground my flesh will feed the crows and kites; below
the ground, the ants and cricket-moles. Why rob one to feed the other?"
And then he smiled. I shall have Heaven and Earth for my coffin," he said.
"The sun and moon will be the jade symbols hanging by my side. All the
planets and constellations will shine as jewels around me. All beings will be
present as mourners at the wake. What more could I need? Everything has been
taken care of."

*

Sensing
that death was near, Master Razan called everyone into the Buddha Hall and
ascended the lecture seat. First he held his left hand open for several
minutes. No one understood, so he told the monks from the eastern side of the
monastery to leave. Then he held his right hand open. Still no one understood,
so he told the monks from the western side of the monastery to leave. Only the
laymen remained. He said to them: "If any of you really want to show
gratitude to Buddha for his compassion to you, spare no efforts in spreading
the Dharma. Now, get out! Get out of here!" Then, laughing loudly, the
master fell over dead.

*

In
1885, Ramakrishna developed cancer of the throat, and steadily grew worse. On
August 15 of the following year, realizing that his end was near, Ramakrishna
assured his wife, Sarada Devi, that she would be all right and that his young
disciples would take care of her as they had of him. He died the next day. In
his last days, he addressed himself saying, "O mind, do not worry about
the body. Let the body and its pain take care of each other. Think about the
Holy Mother [Sarada Devi] and be happy."

After
the cremation of his body, Sarada was removing her jewelry, as Hindu widows do,
when Ramakrishna appeared to her. In the vision, he told her not to remove her
jewelry, assuring her that he had not gone away but has only passed from one
room to another. Confident of his continual presence with her, the Holy Mother,
as she was known to her devotees, committed herself to teaching and guiding the
young disciples who had been left in her care.


Meet the Author

Sushila Blackman was a student of the Hindu master Swami Muktananda, and was present at his ashram in India during his death. A few months before she completed Graceful Exits, Blackman learned that she had advanced lung cancer. She died a month and a half after finishing the book.

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Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dying is an essential part of ourtime on earth. This book tells us howthose living an Eastern philosophylife departed from this plane ofexistence. The reports recited inthis publication are interesting, butthey also provide insights into thespiritual development of the oneswho died. The book can be helpful intalking to close friends who havea terminal loved one. The book issmall and the reports are short. It is easy to read just one story andput the book down, going back to itfor the next story without anyconcern for continuity. For thethinking and open-minded non-Easternphilosophy follower, numerousinsights are presented. To thosepracticing and involved in yoga, the pages can be inspiring. This isa book that is worth reading andkeeping.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I cannot add much to what the reviewers above have said, but I learned a great deal about a more positive approach to death than we have in most of our western culture. The men and women in this book had focused most of their lives in contemplation and anticipation of death, and were practiced spiritual masters. Many of their exits from life were deeply inspiring, hopeful, and even humorous. Through meditation and other spiritual practices, they learned how to put death in its proper perspective: as yet another step in the ongoing journey of the soul. I highly recommend this book for those grappling with the fact of their body's mortality.