IN'TRODUCTION To Bhagawan Nityananda, Baba Muktananda,
In that marvelous Indian epic poem, the Mahabharata, the sage
and Gurumayi Chidvilasananda,
Yudhisthira is asked: "Of all things in life, what is the 1nost amazing?" Yudhisthira answers: "That a man, seeing others die all
the living embodiment of the Siddha lineage.
around him, never thinks that he will die."
Two thousand years later, people still circumambulate the reality of their own death. In a recent New York Times article, infectious disease specialist Dr. Jack B. Weissman remarked, "What strikes me about our system is that more people are afraid of how they are going to die than the fact that they are going to die." 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. We are in dire need of role models, people to show us how to face leaving this world gracefully and to place death in its proper perspective. For this it is natural to tum to those most experienced in dealing with death (and with life): spiritual masters. The Tibetan Buddhist, Zen Buddhist, and Hindu or Yogic traditions that are the focus of this book are deeply linked. One of
these links is the extrao rdinar y impor tan ce they place on the act of dyi ng. To understan d why, we n eed look no fu rther than the princi ples of karrna a nd reinca rnatio n, w hich have been intri -
that the individual is reborn ; he insiste d that all things are subject. to the law of m.utabihty or irnper mane nce (kno\-v n in Buddh ism as anicca) and th at there is no such thing as a person -
cately w oven into the fabric of life in the East since ancien t tirnes.
al identhy or soul, a doctri ne know n as anatta or "no-self." Howe ver, ka nna which can be u n dersto od as a packa ge of energy contai ning both negati ve and positiv e charge s is trans-
KARh \i\ AND REBIRTtl
Accor ding to the law of karma, all bein gs exper ie n ce th e con sequenc es of their action s both menta l and p hysica l. Th e myria d desire s a nd fears of each lifetirn e compe l us to keep re turnin g to earth ly life to experience th e fruits of our previo us action s, wheth er bitter or sweet . Just as we bring th e irnpressions from our wakin g life into our dream s, so the residu al impressions of our action s in this lHc tirne accon1pan y us to the next. The kind of life we come back into is determ ined, in large part, by h ow we live our presen t life. The maste rs from the East maint ain that to live righ teously, let alone to die well, one m u st act wi.tho ut a n y person al attach in ent to one's action s . To be delive red from the fear of death and the certai nty of rebirth , o ne must act witho u t
terra ble fro In one life to the next. Belief in reinca rn ation and the cycle of rebirth is not uniqu e to the Buddh ists and Hindus. For examp le, an ancien t Egypt ian h ermet ic text fragm ent states that "the soul passes fron1 form to form, and the mansion s of her pilgr.in1ages are rnanif old.'' There is also at least. on e passag e in the Bible that sugge sts Jesus m ay h ave believed in reinca rnatio n. In M atthew 17:13, Christ reveal s his divine form to his th ree closes t discipl es, a nd th en tells them th at his precu rsor, John th e Baptist, is actually an in carnat ion of the proph et Elijah . Origen , a promi nent patria rch of the early Christ ian ch urch, described rebirth in h is De Princip iis: The soul has neithe r beginn ing nor end ... Every soul c01nes to this w orl0 strengt hened by the victori es or weake ned by the defeats of its previ ous life. lts place in th is world as a ve ssel appoin ted to honor or dish o n or is
desire , w ith o ut a person al agen da, and w ithout attach ment to res ults . Hindu s m aintai n that until the indivi dual soul Uiva) merge s w ith the Absol ute, the Self of all, it contin ues to be reborn . The Buddh a also endor sed th e tradition al Indian view that huma n s are trappe d in an endles s cycle of lives, kn own as samsara, characteriz ed by dukkh a, or sufferi ng. Accor ding to his teachi ngs, there is no easy escape from thjs fa te becau se our karma the
deterrn ined by its prevto us Inerjts.
Thus the early Christians, like their maste r, appea r to h ave accept ed reinca rnatio n, but th e conce pt was suppre ssed by the En1pe ror Justin ian's Counc il of Const antino ple in 538 AD. In the Jewis h mystical traditi on of the Middle Ages, the notion of a preexisting soul develo ped over tin1 c into the idea of reinca rna tion.
conse quenc es of our action s surviv es the death of the bod y to condit ion a new physical existe nce. The Buddh a did n ot teach
Accor ding to David Chide ster in his book Patterns o[Transcen dence, the K.abba list.ic conce p t of ._qilgul (n1ete1npsycbosis) came to
. .. . ~
signify a pro cess wh ere by souls we re con tinu ous ly reb orn un til thr oug h me dita tion , prayer, and conscientious ritu al observa nce -th ey we re pur ifie d of all sin and eve ntu ally restor ed to God. Re cen tly doc um ent ed inc ide nts also poi nt tow ard the aut hen tici ty of rein car nation: chi ldr en retu rni ng to cities wh ere the y live d in pre vio us lives and ide ntifying family me mb ers ; the selectio n of tulkus (re inc arn ate d lamas) fro m a wri tten list of attr ibu tes left by the pre vio us incarnatio n; and the spo nta neo us past-life regression exp erie n ces of ma ny pat ien ts wh ile und er hypnosis by medical doctors, such as tho se Dr. Brian We iss rec oun ts in his boo k Many Lives, Many Masters. Suc h dat a are ero din g the objections of eve n har den ed skeptics and nud gin g us to revam p our und ers tan din g of wh o we are. As Ste phe n Levine so ma rve lou sly put s it in his boo k Who Dies? it is tim e for us to per ceiv e our selves "as spiritual beings wit h physical experiences rath er than as physical beings wit h spi ritu al exp erie nces." This is how gre at beings perceive themselves, and how, to our gre at fortun e, the y per ceive us as well.
TH E PIN NA CL E OF l-iU MA N TJFE If the re is som eth ing tha t con tinu es into ano the r life, wh at is the
n atu re of tha t som eth ing ? The ma sters refe r to this "so me thin g" by different nam es. Bu ddh ist practition ers have call ed it a "psychospiritual substra tum " or "a stre am of exi sten ce-energy, '' wh ile Hindus or followers of yoga refer to it as the atm an, or soul. The y con cur on one crucial poi nt, how eve r: tha t the goal of life for eve ry ma n and wo ma n is liberation not to lea ve any residual impressions at all.
Lib era tion fro m the cycle of bir th- and -de ath ma y sou nd like an abs trus e con cep t tha t does not tou ch us immediately. Bu t in tru th, to lea p clear of bir th- and -de ath is the final object of hum an life. In Zen it is called the sup rem e proble m, the mo st pressing of all proble ms. The pin nac le of a hum an life is to die and n ot to be reb orn . Thi s mo st sub lim e and remark able of ends is refe rre d to as self -realiza tion , final libe rati on, or nir van a (a ter m tha t suggests the blo wing out of the fire of pas sio ns) . And, in wh at is som etim es called the bes t-k ept secret of the East, we lea rn tha t we don 't hav e to wait unt il we die to attain this final goa l. The cycle of bir th and dea th can be bro ken now. Nir van a, or selfrea lization ,can be atta ine d wit hin this lifetime. Wh en the Tao ist phi los oph er Ch uang- tzu was asked wh y Master Wa ng Tai wa s so ext rao rdi nar y, he replied: "Life and dea th are rev ere d as gre at mo me nts of change, yet to him the y are as no cha nge at all. He ave n and Ear th ma y top ple ove r and collapse aro und him, yet he wo uld rem ain wit hou t a stir. His n1ind is pur e and flaw less, th ere fore he doe s not sha re the sam e fate as the thi ngs aro und him ." On ce one knows one's tru e nat ure , the dea th of the physical bod y bec om es irre lev an tdea th is n o lon ge r real. Th e ma ste rs rea ssu re us tha t this process of self-re aliz atio n or nirvan a is not an annihilatio n, not som ethin g to fear. They like n the final sta te to the merging of a raindro p int o the oce an exi sten ce rem ain s, but one 's limitations and sen se of sep ara ten ess dissolve. Once a per son has bro ken throug h to this final stat e, rein carnation is no longer a necessity. No contin uing factor, linking one inc arn atio n wit h ano the r, remains. This does not me an tha t the liberate d bei ng nev er retu rns som e do, out of com pas sio n for
rnan kind . The Hin du trad itio n spea ks of volu ntar y rein carn ations, called vyutthana, by fully enli ghte ned mas ters who retu rn to eart hly life even afte r may a (illusion) and the ope rati on of karm a has ceas ed to bind the1n. Similarly, Bud dhists believe that bod hisa ttva s the "en ligh tene d bein gs" who are the emb odin ent 1
of corn pass ion will defe r thei r own final libe ratio n, retu rnin g to assist all sen tien t bein gs in thei r stru ggle tow ard real izat ion. Wh ile man y of us hav e bee n taug ht to live wel l now bec ause of con seq uen ces the rew ards of hea ven , for exa mpl e the mas ters teac h us that this "'carrot" mus t be tran scen ded com plet ely. Gre at mas ters live well, not for anti cipa ted pers ona l gain, but for the love of God. The ir lives are full of selfless service, bec ause they und erst and that we are all one . The Bud dha dec lare d that all men cou ld test his path of non atta chm ent for them selv es. Wh ile man y of us aro und the wor ld toda y con tem plat e this goal, aspi re to it, and eve n acti vely pur sue it, in our hea rt-o f-he arts we ofte n harb or dou bts that it is actu ally with in our reac h. The mas ters in this boo k sho w us by thei r own exa mpl e that it is. Som e of them atta ined real izat ion whi le alive; othe rs atta ined the final stat e at dea th. The y are our role mod els, in life and in dea th. By extr acti ng and savo ring thei r sub tle presenc e from thes e stories, we can ren ew dail y our commit_ men t to the goal. We nee d only to pau se a little and dip into the une ndin g rive r of thei r grac e.
LEA VIN G T 'HE BQ l)Y
''Ev eryo ne wan ts to kno w the details of dying, tho ugh few are willing to say so." So begins She rwi n Nul and 's rece nt best sell er
Hovv We Die. Ove r the past few years, I hav e foun d in rnyself a grow ing curiosity abo ut the details of how grea t bein gs die. This curiosity, how eve r, is abo ut the sub tle rath er than the physical aspects. For me, the que stio ns are rnor e abo ut the uns een issues, th e rnysteries. For exa mpl e, one que stio n seek ers freq uen tly ask is why do self-realized beings, vvho hav e tran scen ded the body, hav e physical pain and suff erin g at all? Wh en Ram akri shn a, one of Indi a's grea test saints, was dyin g of thro at cancer, som eon e asked him how he wou ld exp lain this. He ans wer ed that whe re ther e is form, ther e is pain , ther e is suffering. Wit h suc h self-realized mas ters , how eve r, we sec that whi le the exte rnal self n1ay exp erie nce the rava ging effe cts of a disease, the inn er self the self they are mos t dee ply con nec ted to is tota lly at peace. For a rnaster, dea th is not dea th but libe rati on. Acc ordi ng to the Prashna Upanishad and man y othe r Eas tern scri ptur es, the ape rtur e thro ugh whi ch the soul leav es the bod y is wha t indi cate s th e cou rse of its jou rne y afte r dea th . In yogic terms, one of the vital airs, the uda na prana, 1110ves with in the mai n sub tle ner ve cha nne l an d carries the soul to its app ropr iate exit. The sou l of one who has bec on1e unit ed ·w ith the sup rem e Con scio usn ess in this life, or who is so com plet ely focu sed on that dire ctio n that he will reac h that stat e afte r dea th, pass es out thro ugh a tiny ape rture in the crow n of the h ead kno wn as the brah mar and hra or vidriri. The Katha Upanishad states: "Go ing upw ard thro ugh that , one becon1cs imr nor tal." To exit thro ugh this ape rtur e has bee n like ned r.o tryi ng to pass a thre ad thro ugh a very fine nee dle if eve n one fiber of desire is stick in g out, the thre ad can jarn. To accon1plish this task, one 's focus 1nust be attu ned by con stan t practice so that it is tota lly .one -po inte d.
The soul of a virtuous person may depart through any of the other apertures in the head: the eyes, nose, or 1nouth. It then travels along a path of light until it reaches a subtle plane of existence, such as heaven or the realm of ancestors, where it settles to enjoy the fruits of good actions, or karma. But the Hindu and Buddhist scriptures, along with some Egyptian and Greek writings, tell us that these are but temporar y realms, where one is weJcon1e to stay until one's good merhs are exhauste d and the time comes for the soul to be rebo rn on earth. Those whose actions on earth have been lacking in virtue leave the body through the lower openings and travel a path of darkness to experien ce the fruits of bad actions until the next cycle begins. These subtle planes of heaven and hell are described in sin1ilar terms by practicall y all traditions. In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the sage Yajnavalkya tells us that when we go to sleep, we take along the m aterial of this world and create a dream state, which is perceive d by means of our own "brightne ss." It is this same light of consciousness, he says, that is present at death: When this self gets to weakness, gets to confusedn ess, as it were, then the breaths gather around him. He takes to himself those particles of light and descends into the heart .. .. The point of his heart bccom.es lighted up and by that light the self departs either through the eye ~r thro ugh the h ead or through o th er apertu res of th e body.
woe." He tells us that such a seeker will enjoy the fruits of a heavenly plane for a while, then be reborn into a pure and prosperous fainily, or a family of yogis. There the soul regains the mental impressi ons that had been develope d in its previous life, and with th is as a starting point, strives again for perfectio n. The importan ce of choosing a life in which one will meet a master is a point the different tradition s agree upon. The Tibetan Book of the Dead instructs: If one n1ust be reborn on earth, look over the possibilitie s and choose a good birth; one that will assure continuation of spiritual progress, and that will assure the meet-
ing with a Guru who is a virtuous friend, so that you will thus attain liberation .
In the Indian tradition it is said that aspirants who have faith in and devotion for their master are assured salvation by their master at the time of death . By entering into a state of deep meditation at death, they have an awarene ss of what is happenin g and are free of fear. In Zen, death in a seated or standing position is consider ed worthy of an enlighten ed person. Some Zen masters depa rt this life voluntari ly; this is tru e in other traditions as well. However , it is the dying person's state of mind rather than ability to control the manner of dying that is most importan t among all three of the tradition s we are discussing.
What happens to the aspirant, the seeker, who has set out on the path of union but. has not beco1ne one-poin ted at the tim e of death? In the Bhagavad Cita, Lord I
The direction that the vital air, udana prana, takes is determin ed by the final thoughts a person has at the time of death. Our last
FJ NAL THOlJC-;HTS, LAST \VC)RDS
m o m en ts of th o u g h t cr ea te th e im p et u s a n d ci rc u m st an ce s o f o u r re b ir th . T h e fi na l th o u g h t, h o w ev e r, ca nn o t si m p ly b e th e re su lt o f a co n tr o ll ed a ct o f will, o r a w h im . A s th e tw el ft h -c en tu ry In d ia n p o et -s ai n t Jn an es h w ar te ll us :
The longings that a person feels when alive, Which rem ain fixed in his hea rt, Come to mind at the Jnoment o f death . T h e B u d d h a co rn p ar ed th e la st m o m en ts o f th o u g h t to a h er d o f co w s in a b ar n . W h en th e b ar n d o o r is o p en ed , th e st ro n g est w il l go o u t first. If n o o n e co w is p ar ti cu la rl y st ro n g , th en th e h ab it u al le ad er will g o o u t first. I.f n o su ch co w exis ts, th e o n e n ea re st th e d o o r w il l g o o u t first. In th e ab se n ce o f an y o f th es e, th ey w il l al l tr y to g et o u t at o n ce . P er h ap s th e la st th o u g h ts th at ar e m o st w id el y re m em b er ed ar e th o se o f th e g re at b ei n g M ah at m a G an d h i. W h en th e as sa s si n 's b u ll et h it h im, G an d h i im m ed ia te ly in v o k ed th e n a m e o f h is b el o v ed d ei ty w it h th e ex cl ar na ti on , "S ri R am, Sri R ar n, S ri R am ! " In th e Bhaga vad Gita, L o rd K ri sh n a re v ea ls to A rj u n a th at o n e m ay b e li b er at ed fr o m re b ir th b y co n ce n tr at in g co m p le te ly, b y k ee p in g th e m in d an d h ea rt u n it ed , b y d ee p ly su rr en d er in g to th e L or d, an d b y u tt er in g th e m an tr a 01n w h il e dy in g. Y et as th e st o. ri es in th is b o o k su gg es t, ev en th e fi rs t o f th es e ta sk s is im p o ss ib le w it h o u t en g agin g in so m e so rt of sp ir it u al p ra ct ic e w h il e w e ar e a live. O ft en th e la st w o rd s of g re at m as te rs ta k e th e fo rm of bl es sin gs, te a ch in g s, o r in st ru ct io n s. In th e Ja p an es e tr a d it io n , B u d d h is t m as te rs an d m an y la y p eo p le o n th e v e rg e o f d ea th gi ve th ei r la st w o rd s in th e fo rm o f a d ea th p o em , o r jisei. A.ll co n v en -
ti o n al ru le s of p o li te n e ss th at ap p ly in o n e' s life ar e b ro k en in th es e p o e1ns sy m b o li zi n g th e b re ak in g o f th e co n st ra in ts of th is w orld. D ea th p o em s fo rm th e co re of Ja p an 's sp ir it ua l le ga cy. In th em , th e id ea of tr an si en ce is of te n ex p re ss ed th ro u g h im ag es of th e ch an gi n g se as o n s, w it h w il ti n g fl o\ ve r pe ta ls , fo r ex am p le , as a sy1nbo l fo r d ea th . In hi s fa sc in a ti n g b o o k Japanese Dea th Poems, Yoel H o ff m an n te lls u s th at w h il e th e n o ti o n of in d iv id u al sa lv at io n h a s li tt le pl ac e in th e Ja p an es e vi ew o f d ea th , to th e Z en B u d d h ist th e so lu ti o n to li fe 's en igm a is t o b e fo u n d w it h in o n e' s o w n rn in d . H of fm a nn ap tl y de sc ri be s th e Zen p o st u re : o n e m u st p u ri fy o n e 's co n scio u sn es s an d se e re al it y as it is, in it s "s u ch n es s. " A n d p u re re al it y, as se en th ro u g h an en li g h te n ed n1 in d, d o es n ot ad m it of su ch po la ri ti es as "life" an d "dea th ." E n li g h te n in en t in th e Z en tr ad it io n is id en ti fi ed w it h a st at e o f n at u ra l si m pl ic it y that ex te n ds to o n e 's d y in g m o m en ts . As w e w il l se e in th e st or ie s an d d ea th p o em s th at fo ll ow , m n n y Zen m as te rs le av e th is w o rl d w it h n ca su al in di ffe re n ce th at w e in th e W es t 1n ay fi nd difficult. to ev en im a gi ne . T h o se w h o fo ll ow th e "M id dl e W ay " of B ud dh is n1 b el ie v e th at salv at io n fro n1 th e w o rl d o f so rr o w an d p ai n is n o t to b e at ta in ed b y p as sin g fr om a st at e o f in fe ri o r b ei n g to a m o re ex al te d st at e, b u t b y ce as in g a ll du a1 is ti c th o u g h t an d re st in g in th is st at e tr an sc en d in g all du al it y. O n e w h o d ie s lu st in g fo r li(e in th is '\tVorld or fo r sa lva ti o n in th e n ex t is n o t en li gh te n ed . In th e Z en tr ad it io n , t.o di e is n o th in g sp e ci al. In h er fo re w o rd to H el en T w o rk o v 's Z en in A1nerica, N at al ie G o ld b er g teHs a m ar v el o u s st o ry vvhi ch e x em pl if ie s th e ca h n at ti tu d e of a gr ea t Zen rn as te r vvh en fa ci ng th e ir n1 ni nc nt p ro sp e ct of d ea th :
W he n a reb el arm y too k ov er a Ko rea n tow n, all fl ed the Ze n ter npl e ex cep t the abb ot. Th e reb el ge ne ral bu rst int o the ter np le, an d wa s inc en sed to fin d th a t the n1a ste r ref use d to gre et him , let alo ne rec eiv e hi1n as a co nqu ero r. "D on 't yo u knovv/' sho ute d the gen era L "th at yo u are loo kin g at on e wh o can run yo u thr ou gh wi tho ut ba ttin g an eye ?" "A nd yo u,' ' sai d the abb ot, "ar e loo kin g at on e wh o can be run thr ou gh wi tho ut ba ttin g an eye !" Th e ge ne ral 's sco wl tur ne d int o a sm ile . He b ow ed low an d left the tei np le.
Ro ug hly a do ze n de ath po em s are sca tte red thr ou gh ou t the bo ok for the rea de r to co nte mp lat e an d reflect up on ; a few ad dit ion al on es wi.ll be fo un d inc lud ed in the stories.
SP lR IT.UAI, PR i\C TlC E AF TE R DEATl-1
As ma ny ho sp ice wo rk ers tod ay ca n att est , dy ing do es no t oc cu r at a pre cis e mo me nt in tin1e: it is no t a cle ar- cu t ev en t, bu t rat he r a pro ce ss. In Tibet, the art of lea vin g· th e bo dy is kn ow n as phowa, an d de ath is reg ard ed as a m ere po in t on a co nti nu um ma rk ing th e tra ns iti on fro m on e fo rm of co ns cio us ne ss to an oth er. Acco rd ing to the Vajra ya na tra dit ion of Ti be tan Bu dd hism, it is im po rta nt th at on e co nti nu e on e's sp iri tua l pra ctice in the pe rio d du rin g an d im 1n ed iat ely aft er de ath . Long be for e de ath is ne ar, fol low ers of th is pa th stu dy th e Ba rdo Thodol, or Tibetan Book of the Dead un de r th e tut ela ge of a ma ste r so the y ca n pr op erl y n av iga te the va rio us bardo, or stages of de ath , as ea ch ma nif est s its elf. As the dy ing pe rso n's life- force 18
wi thd raw s fro m th e body, a gr ea t cle ar lig ht ap pe ars th e lig ht rep or ted in so .m an y ne ar- de ath ex pe rie nc es. Th e Ti be tan ma sters tea ch th at if on e ca n rec og niz e an d me rg e int o it, on e is libera ted fro m all se pa rat e ex ist en ce . Ho we ve r, as me nti on ed ea rlier wh ile discussing th e Hi nd u tra dit ion , on ly on e wh o ha s de ve lop ed tot al on e-p oin ted ne ss will be ab le to tak e ad va nta ge of thi s cru cia l mo me nt. If th e mo me nt is lost, on e co nti nu es on the jo ur ney th ro ug h the aft er- de ath wo rld , an d is pr es en ted wi th oth er op po rtu nit ies to mo ve tow ard lib era tio n, or at lea st a go od bir th. Th e Tib etan Book of the Dead ch art s th e ba sic ex pe rie nc es on e ha s at th e tim e of de ath an d po int s ou t the sig np os ts lea din g to dif fer en t rea lm s. At de ath , as in dr ea ms , we inh ab it a wo rld co mp os ed of me nta l im ag es. It is critical to un de rst an d th at the se rea lm s are cre ati on s of the mi nd . On e wh os e sp iri t ha s ac qu ire d th e agility of dis pa ssi on is ab le to rec og niz e va rio us ex pe rie nc es in the de ath sta te as asp ec ts of his or h er ow n co nsciousness, an d thu s is able to na vig ate gra ce ful ly thr ou gh the dif fer en t sit ua tio ns as the y ma nif es t. In his co nte mp or ar y ma ste rp iec e, The Tibetan Book of Living an d Dying, So gy al Ri np oc he tel ls us th at at the mo me nt of de ath
''th e or din ary mi nd an d its de lus ion s die, an d in th at ga p the bo un dle ss sk y-l ike na tu re of ou r mi nd is un co ve red . This ess en tia l na tu re of mi nd is the ba ck gr ou nd to the wh ole of life an d de ath , lik e the sk y, wh ich folds the wh ole un ive rse in its en1br ac e." As we see in so me of the sto rie s th at fol low, de ath s of Ti be tan ma ste rs are of ten acco mp an ied by mi rac ulo us sig ns an d po rte nt ous o1nens, su ch as rai nb ow s, div ine mu sic or fragra nc e, flo we r s sh ow eri ng do wn fro m the sky, an d ea rth qu ak es .
·o E/\T I I
I N L 1FE
In the Ind ian tra dit ion of Yoga, as ka rrn ic in1 pre ssi on s are bu rn ed
in the inn er ''ti re' ' kin dle d by the gu ru , ev en tu all y a rno rne nt con1es wh en on e ex pe rie nc es on e's ow n de ath w hil e in a rne dit a tiv e sla te. In Do es Death Really Exist? Svvami M uk tan an da wr ites: On ce o ne ha s ha d tha t exp eri enc e, on e is ne ve r aga in afr aid of dea th . Th erefore, wh en the nH nn en t cm n es to die in Ine dit ati on , on e sho uld die co n1p lct ely. Th en on e will cor ne bac k to life in suc h a wa y that. o ne ·wi ll ne ve r di e aga in.
In su ch a sp iri tua l de ath dy ing to the eg o while still ali ve fea r of ph ys ica l dy ing is ov crc orn e an d on e be co 1n cs sa tur ate d wi th a n aw aren ess of the "e ter na l spi rit '' tha t Hi nd us ca ll moksha. In Meditation an d the A rt of Dy ing, Pa nd it Ar ya tel1s us tha t in th e Hi nd u tra dit ion a gu ru so me tin1es tra ns mi ts to a ve ry ra re disciple a diksha~1nytyu, or initia tor y de ath ex pe rie nc e: Th is ini tia tor y de ath is a con sci ou s pro ces s in yo ga ·w he reby a h a le 8n d he art y pe rso n n1a y ex pe rie nc e de ath for a litt le vvhile. No t ev ery on e can wi ths tan d it. Bu t tho se few wh o are giv en tha t kin d of initia tio n ... are ne ve r the san1c aga in. Th e, me an ing of life an d de ath com ple tel y ch an ge s for thc rn.
This q uo te irn n1ediat.ely calls to mi nd the tho u san ds of ne ar- de ath ex pe rie nc es tha t ha ve be en ch ro nic led by res ea rch e rs su ch as Dr. Ra yn 1o nd Mo od y. Of the n1 an y sp iri tua l gro up s in Ind ia tha t pr actice an ticipa tor y dy ing , pe rh ap s the 1no st vvell kn ow n are the Ba uls of Be ng al. Po ets an d rny stics, the Ba uls vvere ec sta tic bh ak tas (d ev ote es of Vi sh nu or Krish n a} vvho pra cti ce d tne dit ati ng on
the ir ow n de ath in ord er to su rre nd er the ms elv es to an d be reb or n in Go d de ad to the pe rso na l sel f ye t ful ly alive. Bu dd his m als o te ac h es th at the best vva.y to pr ep are for on e's ow n de ath is to an ticipa te the de ath ex pe rie nc e wh ile alive . Th e Bu dd ha ur ge d his disciples to m ed ita te on thi s sac red m ys te ry. Ac co rdi ng to th e Ma haparin irv an a Su tra, as he w as ap pr oa ch ing his ow n de ath , th e Bu dd ha said:
Of all fo otp rints That of the elephan t is supreme; Of all mindfulness meditations That on death is supreme.
Th us, wh en th e se ve nte en th -ce ntu ry Ze n 1na ste r Su zu ki Sh os an wa s tol d th at his ill ne ss wa s a gra ve on e, he res po nd ed th at it me an t no thi ng, sin ce he ha d alr ea dy die d (pr esu tna bly in me ditat ion ) mo re th an thi rty ye ars be fo re.
vV HK r H A PP EN S TO A i\1./\S TE R'S SOtJT. !\F l~ ER DEATH?
Se pp o sai d to Ge ns ha , "M on k Shins o ask ed rne wh ere a ce rta in de ad m on k ha s go ne , an d I tol d him it wa s lik e ice be co mi ng wa ter ." Ge ns h a sai d, "T h at wa s all rig ht, bu t I rnyself wo uld no t ha ve an sw er ed lik e tha t. '' "W ha t wo uld yo u ha ve sai d? " ask ed Seppo. Ge nsha replie d, "It 's lik e wa ter ret ur nin g to w ater. '' In h er bo ok Being Nobody, Going Nowh ere, Ay ya Kh em a pr esen ts u s wi th an oth er delig htf ul res p on se to thi s qu estion : On ce
Bu dd ha
a ske d
w an de re r
Va cch ago tt.a , "Si r, wh at ha pp en s to the En lig hte ne d On e
after death? Where does he go?" The Buddha said, "Wanderer, make a fire from the sticks that are lying around here .., So he did and he lit the fire. Then the Buddha said, "Now throw some more sticks on to it." He did, and the Buddha asked, "What's happening?" Vacchagotta answered, "Oh, the fire's going well." The Buddha said, "Now stop throwing sticks on it." And after a while the fire went out. The Buddha said to him, "What happened to the fire?" "The fire's gone out, Sir." The Buddha said, "Well, where did it go? Did it go forward? Backward? Right? Left? Up or down?" The wanderer said, "No it didn't. It just went out." The Buddha said, ~~That's right. That's exactly what happens to the Enlightened One after death."
When no more sticks are thrown on the fire of passionate desire, of craving, of wanting, then the fire goes out. Since there is no karma being created by such a master, there is nothing that needs to be reborn.
others are see1ningly ordinary people whose elevated state was recognized by others only during their final dying moments. As is invariably the case with hagiographies, these stories have been told and retold, some of them for centuries. While a few stories have the quality of legend about them, my interest has been in presenting actual death experiences. The list of masters presented here is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather to show a cross-section from these three traditions. A few death stories of masters from the Taoist, Muslim, and earlier Buddhist traditions have also found their way irresistibly into the text. A selection of death stories from the Judea-Christian and other traditions not represented here might make a fascinating sequel to this book. As you read through these stories, you may want to savor the feelings or attitudes these great masters embody as they are dying. Sit and contemplate one of the underlying qualities such as joy, courage, fearlessness, humility, or simplicity and reflect on how you can acquire that quality in your own life. Another fruitful practice is to hold the reality of your own death in front
The spiritual ~asters portrayed in this book are of many different persuasions. Among the Indian masters, some are bhaktas, or lovers of God; some are jnanis, devoted to wisdom; some are karma yogis, who achieved their state through selfless service; and some were born self-perfected masters. In the Zen Buddhist tra-
of you each day. This often throws everything into a clearer and sharper perspective, and our priorities naturally rearrange themselves, yielding a richer and more deeply satisfying time spent on this planet.
dition of China and Japan, masters from both the Rinzai sect, the path that supports instant realization, and the Soto sect, the path of gradual realization, are represented. Within the Tibetan tradition, some masters are well-known lamas and rinpoches, while
All the great masters wish for us one thing: that we become able to identify with the true part of our being our essence, our Inner self, our soul before we leave our physical body. Death is natural and unavoidable. But, from the viewpoint of Eastern mystics, it is not real. Only union with the Absolute, immersion in the Void, is real. In con1piling these stories, I have entered more deeply
into my understanding of death and erased rnany fears associated with it. I hope that you, the reader, have a similar experience. This book is written for those who are on, or who aspire to be on, the spiritual path. It is written for seekers. This term, as I use it, is very broad. It includes all those who consider the unseen in life to be their true source of nourishment, sustenance, and joy.
For those unfamiliar with the three traditions represented here, foreign terms are usually rendered in italics and given translations. Exceptions to this are words such as guru, lama, ashram, and nirvana, which have come into wide use in English, as well as two Sanskrit tern1s that appear with frequency in this book and may require explanation: dharma and samadhi. In both Hinduis.m and Buddhism dharma is a central concept. In the sense that it is used here, it means "the teachings," the fundamental understanding of the nature of reality embodied in these religious traditions. Samadhi originally referred to a deep meditative state in which the duality of subject and object disappears. In the, Buddhist tradition this sense of the word has largely been retained. But in the Hindu or Yogic traditions, samadhi also came to mean a realized master's departure from this life (the word mahasamadhi, or "great samadhi" is also used in this sense), and by extension, it even became the term for the tomb or mausoleum of a great teacher. The context should make clear to the reader which sense is meant. Rendering of Asian names is problematic because of the many systems of romanization in use; this book follows the various conventions en1ployed in the original sources. 24
whe n an elde r Bud dhis t mas ter aske d a gro up of med itato rs, ''Wh at surv ives whe n an enli ghte ned bein g dies ?" a man jn the grou p repl ied, "W hen an enli ghte ned bein g dies , not hin g . ." rema1ns The Mas ter sn1i led and repl ied to the surp rise of thos e asse mbled: ''No. The trut h r ema ins."
Whe n it bec ame clea r that he was about. to die, Mat suo Bas ho, the grea test of the haik u poe ts, was ask ed by his frie nds for a deat h poe m, but he refu sed then1. He clai n1ed that in a sen se ever y poc n1 he had wri tten in the prev ious decade by far his mos t pro duc tive peri od, and one of dee p Ze n jnvo lveJ ncn t had been don e as if a dea th poe m. Yet the nex t Ino rnin g, the poe t called hi s frie nd s to h is bed side and told ther n that dur ing the nigh t he had drea med , and that on wak ing a poe n1 had com e to hin1. He then reci ted this farn ous poen1:
Sick, on a journey, Yet over withered fields Drea1ns wander on.
- 3 .--
..... ...--: ..
. .. .... ....•... ..... . .:
Senior disciples assembled at his bedside as Zen Master Taji approached death. One of them, remembering the master was fond of a certain kind of cake, had spent half a day searching the
pastry shops of Tokyo for this confection, which he now presented to hiln. With a wan smile the dying master accepted a piece of the cake and slowly began munching it. As he grew weaker, his disciples inquired whether he had any final words for them. "Yes," the master replied.
' ;i... ..>·. :.. ...':. '.. :... .. .......... . :
ered, "He is your guru. He is young and I am old. He will live and I will die!" Maharaji hinted that he was leaving for several days and later announced: "Today, I a1n released from Central Jail forever." Accompanied by two devotees, Maharaji set off for a day trip to Agra to visit a heart specialist because of chest pains he had been having. Following the visit, the specialist said his heart was fine
. . ...... .. ...... .. . . . ..
l'leen1 f(aroli Baba
and he just neede d rest. At 9:00 PM he left for the train station to return home . Shortl y after depart ing Agra, Maha raji and two of his devote es got off the train at Mathu ra. Mahar aji was sitting on the steps of the station when he bega n convulsing. His eyes were closed and his body was cold and sweating. Mahar aji asked to be taken to nearb y Vrindaban; during the taxi ride there, he seeme d uncon scious, thoug h he would occasionally mumb le incom prehen sibly. His devot ees took him to the emerg ency room, where he was given injections and an oxyge n mask. The hospit al staff said that he was in a diabetic coma but that his pulse was fine. When Maha raji came to, he pulled off the oxyge n mask and the blood pressu re band, saying, "Bekar [useless]." Mahar aji asked for Ganga water, but as there was none, he was given regula r water. He then repeat ed "Jaya Jagadish Hare [Hail to the Lord of the Universe]" several times, each time in a lower pitch. His face becam e very peaceful; all signs of pain disappeared. He was dead. After his death, Maharaji's body was broug ht from Vrind aban to the veran da of the ashram in I
no last words." They pleade d with him, so he took up a brush, wrote the charac ter for "dream ," and passed away.
When death finally comes you will welcom e it like an old friend, being aware of how dreamlike and impennanent the phenomenal world really is. -Dilgo Khyent se Rinpoc he
- 6 -·
When Zen Maste r Takua n Soho was dying , his disciples asked him to write a death verse. He den1urred at first, saying, "I have
Although Anand amayi Ma travel ed to n1any parts of India, the Kankhal ashram was to becom e her final resting place. In July of 1982, her h ealth began to deteri orate seriou sly. As she weakened day by day, her devote es enco urage d her to eat and drink, but she resisted. They implo red her to perfor m a manifestatio n of sponta neous divine will, kheyala, on her body. Howe ver, she repeat edly respon ded, ''There is no kheyala. Whate ver God does is all right." Towar d the end of Jul y, she instru cted devot ees to take her to th e I
.... ····.~.· ·.. ' ''• . ., "'"•• ... ,
Her shrine today remains a place of pilgrimage renowned for its spiritual power.
Hakuin Ekaku, revered as one of the greatest teachers and artists in the history of Japanese Zen, lived in semiretirement for the last three years of his life. In the winter of 17 68, he was examined by a doctor, who, as he felt Hakuin's pulse, remarked, '~Everything seems all right." Hakuin grumbled back, "Some doctor. He can't see that in three da ys I'll be gone." At dawn on December 11, Hakuin awoke from a peaceful sleep, let loose a terrific shout, rolled over on his right side, and died. After his cremation, Hakuin's ashes were said to be the lustrous color of coral and as fragrant as spice. .,..
His final piece of calligraphy was his life statement: a giant character for ''midst," with the inscription, "Meditation in the
of action is a billion times superior to meditation in stillness." MIDST
. . ...
Lama Tseten, disciple of the modern Tibetan master Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche and tutor to the master's spiritual wife Khandro Tsering Chadron, died in an extraordinary way. Although there was a monastery close by, h e refused to go there, saying he did not want to leave a corpse for them to clear up. Khandro was nursing and caring for her old tutor; suddenly one evening he called her over to his side. He had an endearing way
of calling her ''A-mi," meaning "Iny child" in his local dialect. "Ami," he said tenderly, "come here. It's happening now. I've no further advice for you. You are fine as you are: I am happy with you. Serve your master just as you have been doing." Immediately she turned to run out of the tent, but he caught her by the sleeve. "Where are you gong?" he asked. "I'm going to call Rinpoche," she replied. ''Don't bother him, there's no need," he smiled. "With the the master, there's no such thing as distance." With that, he just gazed up into the sky and passed away. I
Empty-handed I entered the world Barefoot I leave it. My coming, my goingnvo simple happenings That got entangled. -I
..' . .
Death is not our shadow, it is our guide. -Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
Then Akkalkot Swami sent for his favorite barber and had a clean shave and bath. Although he hadn't taken food in a week, he looked quite cheerful. He greeted each of those around him with a solicitous look and inquired as to their welfare. Then, seated in the lotus position, he spoke his last words: "No one should weep I shall be always present at all places. I shall respond to every call of the devotees." With these words his eyes closed. The peace and radiance on his face increased, and three white sparks flashed from his mouth. Devotees thronged to the banyan tree and a mammoth procession assembled and went aroun d the city in regal splendor. After the body was appropriately worshiped, it was placed inside the samadhi at Cholappa 's house. ,
A devotee named Cholappa had an earnest desire for the mortal remains of his master, Akkalkot Swami, to be enshrined at his home. To this end, Cholappa dug a place in the compound of his house and built a samadhi, or relic chamber. One day, while passing by Cholappa's house, the all-knowing swami said, "Cholappa, I shall put you in that ditch first; I shall not be leaving before you pack off!" A few months later, Cholappa died of cholera. In his later years, Akkalkot Swami reclined in bed, covered with a cloth blanket. Thousands of devotees and seekers would visit him each day for darshan [audience with, or even a glimpse of, a spiritual master]. One day the swami developed a high temperature that did not subside, and stopped taking food. When one of his devotees asked his permission to take him in a palanquin to his favorite place the banyan tree he agreed. To a devotee who asked, "Swamiji, when are you going to recover?" he replied, "There is no question of my recovery. The time has come for me to depart." Doctors rushed to him with medicines, but he never took them. When the devotee repeated the question, he replied: "When mountains beckon to me." To another devotee who asked the same question, he responded, "When Pandharpur is on fire." [Some present thought this to mean whenever the teachings and righteousness are in peril.]
As Master Tenno was dying, he called to his room the monk in charge of food and clothing in the temple. When the monk sat down by the bed, Master Tenno asked, "Do you understand?" "No," the monk replied. Tenno, picking up his pillow, hurled it through the window, and fell back dead.
earth was afflicted by a mighty earthquake and a storm. His disciple Ananda inquired of him as to the mea ning of these omens, whereupon he replied, "This earthquake portends that I have sacrificed the remaining years of my life. Reckoned fro1n today,
.. . ;
It is recorded that three months prior to the Buddha's death the
I will sustain n1y life for only three n1ore tnonths." Three months later, as Buddha and his disciples can1c to a rnango grove, they were approached by a householder called Chunda, who invited them to a meal. Buddha accepted, but later instructed his disciples that he alone was to eat of the food to be
exists is bound to perish. Be therefore mindful of your salvation. The tirne of my passing has come.
With these words the Buddha entered into a profound meditation and passed away. The earth shook like a ship in a storm, and thunder and lightning filled the heavens.
offered. After the meal, he became ill, and insisted that they walk on to K_ushinagar. There he bathed and then asked Ananda to make him a bed. "0 Ananda," he said to his grief~ stricken disciple, "the time has come for me to pass into peace. Go and tell the others about it, for they will be upset should they not witness my passing." When all had gathered, the Buddha gave them a final serman. It is not appropriate to grieve in an hour of joy ... You all
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, 1
How could I let your True Dharma Eye be extinguished?" Lin-
weep, but is there any cause for grief? We should look upon a sage as a person escaped from a burning mansion ... It does not matter whether I am here or not; salvation does not depend upon me but upon practicing the Dharma, just as a cure depends not upon seeing the doctor but upon taking his medicine ... My time has come, my work is done ... Everything eventually con1es to an end~ even if it should last for an eon. The tirne of parting is bound to one day come. I have done what I could for rnyself and others, and to remain longer would be without purpose. I have trained all whorn I could train. My teachings shall last for rnany generations, so do not be disturbed. Recognize that all that lives is subject to the laws of iinpermanence, and strive for eternal wisdom. When the light of knowledge dispels ignorance, when the world is seen as without substance, the end of life is seen as peace and as a cure to a disease. Everything that
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 he relaxed his posture slightly. Nevertheless, he assumed the
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.
Before we know it our life is finished and it is time to die. If we lack the foundation of a stable practice, we go to death helplessly, in fear and anguish. -Kalu Rinpoche
... ' '' '
: ... . . .. . . ...... ' '
. .. .
As Chuang-t zu approached death, his disciples wanted to give him a large and expensive funeral. But Chuang- tzu said, ''The
heavens and the earth will serve rne as a coffin and a coffin shell. Th e sun and n1oon and stars w ill d ecorate rny bier. All creation will be at hand to w itness the event. What more need I than the se? "
}lis disciples ga sped, "We're afraid that carrion kites and crows will eat the body of our n1aster!" Chuang-tzu replied, "Above the ground n1y flesh will feed the
crovvs and kites; bclovv the ground, the ants and cricket-moles. Why rob one to feed the other?" And then h e srniled. ''I shall have Heaven and Earth for n1v coffin, '' he said. ''The sun and ~
n1oon vvill be the jade symbols hanging by rny side. All the plan-
ets an d constellations will sh ine as jewels arou nd me. All bein gs will be pres ent as mou rner s at th e wak e. Wh at mor e could I nee d? Eve rythi ng has bee n take n care of."
Sensing that de ath was nea r, Mas ter Razan called eve ryo ne into the Bud dha Hall and asce nde d the lect ure seat. Firs t he held his left han d ope n for seve ral min utes . No one unde rsto od, so he told the mo nks from the east ern side of the mo nast ery to leav e. The n he held his right han d open. Still no one un de rsto od, so he told the mo nks from the western side of the mon aste ry to leave. Onl y the laym en rem aine d. He said to them : "If any of you real-
. . ... .. ..
ly wan t to sho w grat itud e to Bud dha for his com pass ion to you ,
spar e no effo rts in spre adin g the Dha rma . Now, get out! Get out of here !" The n, laug hing loudly, the mas ter fell ove r dea d. .. : : .. .. .: . .; . . ~.,. .:
~· 16 :~ . . ....
In 1885, Ram akri shn a dev elop ed can cer of the thro at, and stea dily grew wor se. On August 15 of the following yea r, realizin g that his end was near, Ram akris hna assu red his wife, Sara da Devi,
that she would be all righ t and that his you ng disciple s would take care of her as they had of him . He died the nex t day. In his last days, he add ress ed himself sayi ng, "0 min d, do n ot wor ry abo ut the body. Let the bod y and its pain take care of eac h oth er. Thi nk of the Holy Mo ther [Sar ada Devi] and be happy.'' After the crem atio n of his bod y, Sara da was rem ovin g her jewelry, as Hindu wid ows do, whe n Ramakri shn a app ea red to
... .. . ., .... ' .: .
her. In the vision, he told her n ot to ren1ove her jewelry, assuring her that he h ad n ot gone away but had only passed fr om 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 gu iding the young disciples who had been left in her care.
The body and the soul! The body was born and it will die. But for the soul there is no death. It is like the betel nut. When the nut is ripe it does not stick to the shell. But when it is green it is dzfficult to separate from the shell. After realizing God, one does not identify anymore with the body. Then one knows the body and the soul are two different things.
faults . Learn to make the whole world your own. No one is a stranger, m y child; this entire world is your own! " On th e eve of her departure, the Mother said, "Sharat, I am going. Yogen, Gopap and the rest are here. You look after them." on July 20, 1920 at l :30 AM, the Holy Mother, in a final ecstasy, left the physical world.
Before h e died, Hui-neng, the sixth Chinese patriarch of Zen, spoke these moving words of farewell: Come close. In the eighth month I intend to leave this world. If any of you have doubts, ask about them quickly, and I shall resolve them for you. I must bring your delusions to an end and make it possible for you to gain peace. After I have gone there will be no one to teach you.
Deeply touch ed, all the disciples began to cry. Among them Shenhui alone remained unmoved. Hui-neng turned and spoke to him: I 7 . .,;a.
Five days before her own death thirty-four years later, Sarada Devi made a significant utteran ce while consoling a visiting devotee who had sobbed out, ''Mother, what will happen to us hereafter?" In a very low voice, promptly came the reassuring words, "Why do you fear? You have seen the Master." Then after a pause, she solemnly added, "But I tell you one thing if you want peace of mind, do not find fault with others. Rather see your own
Shen-hut you are a young m onk, yet you have attained the [status of awakening] in which good and not good are identical, and you are not moved by judgments of praise and blame. You others have not yet understood ... You're crying just because you don't know where I'm going. If you knew where I was going you wouldn't be crying. Nature itself is without birth and without destruction, without going and without coming.
Hui-neng's last words were these:
I Good-bye, all of you. I shall depart from you now. After I am gone, do not weep worldly tears, nor accept condolences, money, and silks from people, nor wear mourning garments. If you did so it would not accord with th e sacred Dharma, nor would you be true disciples of mine. Be the same as you would if I were here, and sit all together in meditation. If you are only peacefully calm and quiec without motion, without stillness, without birth, without destruction, without coming, without going, without judgments of right and wrong, without staying and without going-this then is the Great Way. After I have gone just practice according to the Dhanna in the same way that you did on the days that I was with you. Even though I were still to be in this world, if you went against the teachings, there would be no use in my having stayed here.
According to the Dzogchen teachings of the Nyingmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, advanced practitioners can end their lives in a remarkable way, causing their bodies to be reabsorbed back into the light essence of the elements that created them; a manner of passing' that is called the "rainbow body." In 1952 there was a famous instance of the rainbow body in the east of Tibet, witnessed by many people. The man who attained it, Sonam Namgyal, was a humble person, an itinerant stonecarver of mantras and sacred texts. Some say he had been a hunter in his youth, and had received teaching from a great master. No one really knew he was a practitioner; he was truly what is called a ''hidden yogin." Some time before his death, he would
go up into the mountains and just sit, silhouetted against the skyline, gazing up into space. He composed his own songs and chants and sang them instead of the traditional ones. No one had any idea what he was doing. He fell ill, but, strange to say, became increasingly happy. When the illness got worse, his family called in masters and doctors. His son told him he should remember all the teachings he had heard, and he smiled and said, "I've forgotten them all and anyway, there's nothing to remember. Everything is illusion, but I am confident that all is well." Just before his death at seventy-nine, he said: "All I ask is that when I die, don 't move my body for a week." When he died his family wrapped his body and invited lamas and monks to come and practice for him. They placed the body in a small room in the house, and they could not help noticing that though he had been a tall person, they had no trouble getting it in, as if he were becoming smaller. At the same time, an extraordinary display of rainbow-colored light was seen all around the house. When they looked into the room on the sixth day, they saw that the body was getting smaller and smaller. On the eighth day after his death, the morning on which the funeral had been arranged, the undertakers arrived to collect his body. When they undid its coverings, they found nothing inside but his nails and hair.
Having called his monks together, Master Hofuku announced: "During the last week my energy has been draining certainly no cause for worry. It's just that death is near."
A monk asked, "You are about to die. What meaning does it have? We will continue living. What meaning does that have?" ''They are both the Way,'' the Master replied. "But how can I reconcile the two?" asked the monk. Hofuku answered, "When it rains it pours,'' and wrapping his legs in the full lotus, calmly died.
rwo years before his death in l 918, Sai Baba confided to two of his disciples that a third disciple, Tatya, would die during the titne of the festival Dasara, two years hence. He made them vow not to reveal this information to anyone. The years passed and ratya fell sick at the time Baba indicated, but unexpectedly Sai Baba also developed a fever. As Dasara approached, the two devotees were quite concerned about their friend Tatya, for he
Sai Baba of Shirdi, the famous Indian saint, was revered by Hindus and Muslims alike. What follows is a description of a deep trance state known as the "seventy-two hour samadhi," that Sai Baba experienced in 1886, and an account of his mahasamadhi, or final liberation from his physical body, some thirty years later. One full moon day in 1886, Sai Baba suffered from a severe attack of asthma. To rid himself of it, he decided to elevate his prana, or life force, and go into samadhi. He told one of his disciples: ''Protect my body for three days. If I return it will be all right; if I do not, bury my body in that open land (pointing to it) and fix two flags there as a mark." Having said this, at about 10:00 PM Baba fell to the ground. Both his breathing and his pulse stopped. It seemed as if his prana had left the body. The villagers came, wanting to hold an inquest and bury the body in the
disciples were entirely unprepared for what was actually to transpire: by noon Tatya began to show signs of improvement, but at 2:30 PM Sai Baba left his body! In recording this strange event, Nagesh Gunaji, Sai Baba's biographer, says: "People said that Baba gave up his life for Tatya. Why did he do so? He alone knows, as his ways are inscrutable. It seems, however, that in this incident, Baba gave a hint of his passing away, substituting Tatya's name for his own." Anticipating his departure, Sai Baba sent word to another saint that "the light that Allah lit, he is taking away." The saint received the message with tears. Shortly before his death, echoing somewhat the words of Sri Krishna to his disciple, Arjuna, Sai Baba said to his own disciples:
on the third day Baba showed signs of life his abdomen began to move as his breathing began again. Opening his eyes and stretching his limbs, Baba returned to consciousness.
He who loves 1ne most, always sees me. The vvhole world is desolate without me. He tells no stories but mine. He ceaselessly Jneditates upon me and always chants my name. I feel indebted to him vvho surrenders himself completely to me and ever re1nembers me. I shall repay this debt by giving hiln salvation [self-realization]. I an1 dependent upon hin1 who thinks and hungers after 1ne
place Baba had designated. But one of his disciples, Mhalsapati, prevented them from doing so. He remained seated, with his Master's body on his lap, for the full three days. Finally, at 3:00 AM
grew steadily worse. As the main day of Dasara dawned, Tatya's pulse became weak. His end was apparently at hand. But the two
and who does not eat anything without first offering it to me. He who thus comes to me, becomes one with me, just as a river goes to the sea and becomes one with it. So, leaving pride and egoism, you should surrender yourself to me who am seated in your heart.
Comin'"q, all is clear, no doubt about it. Going, all is clear, without a doubt. What, then, is it all?
Although Sai Baba attained mahasamadhi in 1918, he promised: ''I shall remain active and vigorous even after leaving this earthly body. I am ever living to help those who come to me and who surrender and seek refuge in me." At another time, he said: ''My shrine will bless my devotees and fulfill their needs. My relics will speak from the tomb.''
-Hosshin thirteenth-century Zen monk
Sai Baba, when still a boy, had been pYesent at the death of his own master, Venkusha (also known as Gopal Rao). One day, as the lad was in attendance on the master, some other young boys threw bricks at him, out of jealousy. The first missed, but when a second brick was flung, Venkusha took the blow, and his head began to bleed profusely. The young Sai Baba was moved to tears and begged his master to send him away so that the master would not be harmed because of proximity to him. Venkusha refused, but after bandaging his injury he suddenly said, ''I see that the time has come to part from you. Tomorrow at 4:00 Pl\1 I shall leave this body, not as a result of this injury, but by my own power. .. Therefore, I shall now invest my full spiritual personality in you." He proceeded to give the lad a special type of initiation called diksha. At the appointed time on the following day, in a state of perfect peace, Venkusha left his body.
Just before Master Bassui passed away, at the age of sixty-one, he sat up in the lotus posture and said to the disciples gathered around him, "Look directly! What is this? Look in this manner and you won't be fooled." He repeated this injunction in a loud voice, then calmly died. At his own request, he was buried under a shrine he had built to honor I
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I know you are very ill. Like a good Zen student,
you are facing that sickness squarely. You may not know exactly who is suffering, but question yourself What is the essence of this mind? Think only of this. You will need no more. Covet nothing. Your end, which is endless, is as a snowflake dissolving in the pure air. - Bassui, addressing a dying disciple - - --
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Almost blind at the age of ninety-six and no longer able to teach or work about the Jnonastery, Yamamoto Gempo Roshi decided it
was time to die, so he stopped eating. When asked by his monks
why he refused his food, he replied that he had outlived his usefulness and was only a bother to everybody. They told him, "If vou die now [January] when it is so cold, everyone will be ~
uncomfortable at your funeral and you will be an even greater nuisance, so please eat!" He thereupon resumed eating, but when it grew warm again he stopped, and died quietly not long after.
At the age of eighty-two, in the year 1958, Nyogen Senzaki died
in America. Instead of writing the traditional Japanese death poem, Nyogen had taped his last words. Mourners were somewhat startled when, as they were in the mortuary in the presence of the master's body, surrounded by flowers and the chanting of twelve monks, a loud and clear tape recording of Senzaki's voice began to play: Friends in the Dharma, be satisfied with your own head. Do not put any false heads above your own. Then minute after rninute, watch your steps closely. Always keep your head cold and your feet warm . These are m y last words to you .. . The funeral rnust be performed in the simplest way. A few friends who live nearby may attend it quietly. Those who know how to recite sutras may murmur the shortest one. That will be enough. Do not ask a priest or anyone to make a long service and speech and have others yawn... Remember me as a monk, and nothing else. I do not belong to any sect or cathedral. None of then1 should send me a promoted pri est's rank or anything of that sort. I like to be free from such trash and die happily.
Part of Nyogen Senzaki's ash es we re sen t to So en Roshi an d the res t we re bu rie d according to his instru cti on s "in som e un kn ow n, un cul tiv ate d field. " He ha d told his disciples: Do not ere ct a tor nbs ton e! Th e Califo rnia pop py is tom bsto ne eno ugh .. . I wo uld like to be like the mu shr oom in the dee p mo un tai ns- no flow ers, no bra nch es, and no roo t. I w ish to rot mo st inc ons pic uou sly .
doc the n he W . fail to an beg th eal h 's shi har Ma na ma Ra In 19 47 tors suggested am pu tat ing his arm abo ve a cancer ou s tum or, Ra ma na replied wi th a smile: Th ere is no nee d for ala rm . Th e bod y is itse lf a dis eas e . Let it hav e its nat ura l end . Wh y mu tila te it? A simple dre ssing on the affe cte d par t will do.
Two mo re op era tio ns ha d to be pe rfo rm ed, bu t the tum or ap pe are d again. Ind ige no us system s of medicine we re tried, an d e Th t. en atm tre to ld yie t no did e eas dis the t bu , too y ath op me ho . ned cer con un ite qu s wa , ing fer suf to t ren iffe ind ely rem suv e, sag s eye his dy; bo the ste wa e eas dis the ing tch wa tor cta spe a as sat He . ngs bei all ard tow d we flo ce gra his d an r, eve as t gh bri as sho ne Ra ma na insiste d tha t the crowds wh o cam e in large nu mb ers e Th ]. ing be oly h a of ht [sig n sha dar his ve ha to ed ow all be sh ou ld dev ote es pro fou nd ly wi she d tha t the sag e wo uld cu re his bo dy by using the sup ern ormal po we rs. Ra ma na ha d compassion for those wh o grieved ov er the suffering, an d he sou gh t to com for t the m by rem ind ing the m of th e tru th tha t Bh aga van was no t the body:
... .' . ...... .' • . ..
'...... ·•tz ..• • ---
. . .
.. . . .. .
Ranzana Ma harshi.
. ..... ' " .., .. ., ''" ,f~i H.· .;~~n·.i
••.. · '""". ·•···. ....... : l ;':':: :•
They take this body for Bhagavan and attribute suffering to him. What a pity! They are despondent that Bhagavan is going to leave them and go away, but where can he go
house, 0 physician, my malady is beyond thee. He who has created this pain, He will look to my well-being." After his death in 1518 at Maghar, India (near Gorakhpur)
both Hindus and Muslims fought for his corpse. One group wanted to burn the body and the other wanted to bury it. At last Kabir
The end came on April 14, 1950. That evening the sage gave
darshan to all the devotees in the ashram. They sat singing Ramana's hymn to Arunacala, the name of the holy mountain the sage so loved. He asked his attendants to help him sit up, and opened his luminous and gracious eyes for a brief while. There was a smile, a tear of bliss trickled down from the outer corner of one of his eyes, and at 8:47 PM his breathing stopped. There was no struggle, no spasm, none of the signs of death. At that very moment, a comet moved slowly across the sky, passed over the summit of the holy hill, Arunacala, and disappeared behind it.
himself appeared before them in person: he asked them to lift the shroud and look beneath it. In the place of the corpse, to their great astonishment, they found a heap of flowers. One half of the flowers were taken and buried by the Muslims of Gorakhpur, and the other half were taken by the Hindus to Benares and burned.
Master Yakusan's manner of death was in keeping with his life. When he was about to die, he yelled out, ''The Dharma Hall is falling down! The Dharma Hall is falling down!" The monks brought various things and began to prop it up. The master clapped his hands and laughed loudly. Then Yakusan threw up his hands and cried out, "You don't understand my meaning," and thereupon passed away.
Soul, mind, and ego are mere words. There are no true entities of the kind. Consciousness is the only truth. Forgetfulness of your real nature is the real death; remembrance of it is the true birth. It puts an end to successive births.
F- 29 ~
When his health began to falter, Swami Ram Tirth retired to some remote ashrams along the Ganges. Dedicating his remain• Ing energies to the study of the Vedas, he would sit cross-legged •
In contemplation for days on end, unconcerned about his body.
When the poet-saint I
When Puranji, one of his disciples, noted the absence of his characteristic laughter and vitality, he replied:
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Thirty years an d more lvvorked to 11ullify n1}7Self Now I leap the leap o.f death. The ground churns up The skies spin rour1d.
I I I
- -R a nk e i Do rvu
thi rtc cn th -ce nlu ry Zen n1onk
I I J
I I I
Pu ran jj, the wo rld is co nc ern ed on ly wi th .1ny h los son )sthe y ta ste 1nc wh en l ap pe ar bef ore the rn in m y flo we r s. BLIL the y do no t kn ow ho w m uch I h av e to lab or un de rgro u nd in the da rk rec esses, in my roo ts, to ga the r foo d
for the flo we rs an d rhe fruits. I arn no w in mv roo ts . Sil enc e is gre a te r \Vo rk tha n the fir ew ork s of pre a chi ng an d giv ing off tho ug hts to the wo rld . <
Be for e le av ing thi s wo rJd , Ra m Ti rth 's pa rti ng w ords to his disci ple Pu ranji we re: "P ura nji ! W he rev er yo u go , liv e in the Go lde n La nd , in the inn er lig ht. Ca rry on the wo rk th at Ra m ha s be gu n, fo r the tim e has co me for Ra m to tak e the vo w of silen ce. " His pa rti ng wo rd s to his disciple Na ray an a we re: My son , Ra m sha ll soo n be sil ent . Hi s pe n an d ton gu e wil l fail him . Ra in' s bo dy is gro wi ng we ak er da y by day ; his tni nd ha s go tte n so tir ed of the vvo rld tha t no th in g int ere sts hin 1 no w. He feel s as if he wi ll no mo re go do wn to the pla in s. No wo nd er if Rarn's bo dy soo n bec orr 1es ina ctj ve. Ne ve r sha ll he lea ve his de ar Ga ng a's bo som . Th ere for e go to yo ur cav e; pra cti ce sec lusion , div e de ep ev ery Ino me n t int o Ra m an d con 1e ou t a s the e1n ho din 1en t o1 Veda nta. Ha ve no griefs, no wo rri es, n o so rro ws . Fe d Ra m wi th yo u. wi thi n yo u. He is yo u r bo dy . He is yo ur mi nd . He is yo ur all in all. He is yo ur ow n sel f. Ern crg e fron1 yo ur sec lus ion an d be as Ran1 him sel f.
On e w ee k lat er on the ho lid ay kn ow n as Di wa li, Oc tob er 12 , 19 06 , Sw am i Ran1 Ti rth left his bo dy wh ile ba thi ng in the Gan ge s.
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\Vhile he wa s be ing ca rri ed do wn str ea rn by the cu rre nt, his co ok heard b i n1 say alo ud , "Go! Re zn em be r thy lv1other! If tho u art de sti ne d to go thu s, go! .. . Om ! Or n! Om ! " He d re w his }j1 nbs int o
the lotus posture and floated downstream to where the current drew him into an underwater cave. Only an hour before his death, the cook had noticed the swami writing the following passage with tears of joy dropping from his eyes. 0 death, go and strike my body: I have millions of bodies to live in. I will dress myself in the moonbeams, in the gauze made of fine silvery threads, and pass my time in tranquil rest. I will sing my songs in the form of hill streams and brooks, in the form of the rolling waves; I will move on . .I am the soft-footed wind which walks on in ecstasy. I am the ever-gliding form which goes on as time. I descended as waterfalls on the mountain slopes, reviving the faded plants. I made the roses burst into laughter. I rnade the nightingale sing her mournful ditties; I knocked at the doors and woke up the sleeping ones, wiping the tears of the one, blowing the veil from the face of the other. I teased those near and also far. I teased you too. Lo, I go, I go, with nothing in my possession ...
Swami Ram Tirth found the truth he sought by realizing that he
him for several years, he would give him, and any friends he wanted to invite, a formal instruction. On the day of the event, the hall was set up in a fonnal manner. Fifteen minutes into the lecture, the student noticed that Rinpoche looked quite himself while speaking, even laughing and telling jokes. But when he stopped to let the translator speak, his face changed color and he would contract slightly, close his eyes, and recite the mantra with more vigor than usual. After observing this for a few minutes, the student leaned over and asked him if anything was wrong. "Well," Rinpochc replied calmly, "I'm having a heart attack." He then resumed his instruction as though nothing had happened. When the translator spoke next, the student asked with some urgency, "Goodness, shouldn't we stop the teaching immediately?'' With a deep and penetrating look, he replied, ''As you wish. We can either go on now or else finish some other time." The student quickly called a halt to the event and moved Rinpoche to his bed. He sat in meditation while several of his monks surrounded him and chanted in low, deep tones.
After serving as the abbot of the Gyume Tantric College for six
That evening he continued to sit in meditation without moving. The next day, when the student visited Rinpochc's home, he was informed by his attendant that he was not well enough to receive visitors. That night as the lama sat in meditation, his breathing and his heart stopped, but he did not show
years and then as abbot of the Dalai Lama's Namgyal Dratsang monastery for fourteen, Rinpoche retired from monastic activity due to a heart condition. He lived quietly, devoting his time to meditation and to receiving private students. One day he announced to one of his students that as he had been promising
the full signs of death. He was engaged in tuk-dam [the practice of retreating into the heart]. For three days he sat like this, Without manifesting the signs of death. Then his head fell to one side and the death process was complete. Such is the death of an accomplished yogi.
himself was what he had been seeking.
Zen Master Shunryu Suzuki called his students together as he lay
dying of cancer and said: If when I die, the moment I'm dying, if I suffer that is all
right, you know; that is suffering Buddha. No confusion in it. Maybe everyone will struggle because of the physical agony or spiritual agony, too. But that is all right, that is not a problem. We should be grateful to have a limited body ... like mine, like yours. If you had a limitless life it
At age eighty-three, the first Dalai Lama called his disciples to him in an assembly hall of the monastery and informed them that the time of his passing had come. Some pleaded with him to use his powers to extend his life span, others asked if they could not call for a physician or do anything to prevent his passing. When he replied that there was nothing to be done, they asked if they should read any special prayers after his death. He answered: Always bear the teachings of Buddha in mind and for the sake of all living beings apply them to the cultivation of
Shunrvu Suzuki ~
.' ...... . . .... ...... ........
your own mindstream. Rernen1ber the doctrines of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. Make every effort to live, meditate and teach in accordance with the true teachings of Buddha. This alone can fulfill my vvishes.
He then entered into tantric meditation. His breath ceased and his heart stopped beating, but he remained in meditation for thirty days without showing any signs of death. His body transformed from that of an old man into that of a youth, and emanated lights so radiant that few could bear even to look upon him.
Without another word, Tekisui got up and left. A few days before Tekisui's own death, Keichu came from afar to ask about hinL "I hear," he said to the porter, "the master is
verv sick." ''Yes, sir," said the porter. "Here's a box of cakes for hirn. When you hand it to him, give J.
hin1 this message: 'You're old enough to die without regret."'
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With that Keichu left..
Toward the end of her life, Gauribai, poet-saint of Gujarat, made her home in I
When the porter brought the cakes to Tekisui and gave him
Keich u 's n1essage, the n1aster s1niled sweetly, as if he had forgotten all pain.
known her wish to die on the banks of the Jamuna River where, according to the Puranas [mythological texts of India], the boy Dhruva had performed his great penance. She prophesied that her death would take place on Ramanavami, Rama's birthday. Raj Sundeersimha arranged to send her to the place she desired. Gauribai remained there in samadhi for a few days and then went to eternal peace on Ramanavami at the age of fifty.
Shri Tapasviji Maharaj had two enlarged glands that refused to heal surgically removed from his thighs, but with tin1e he became progressively weaker. On the morning of October 12, 1955, when asked how he felt, he replied, "I am in a happy state." Around noon of the sa1ne day, he asked one of his disciples to read the Bhagavad Gita aloud continuously, which he did. At 3:30PM, he
When Dokuon was very sick, Tekisui came to ask after him. Entering the sickroom, he announced himself, and then straddled Dokuon. With his face almost touching Dokuon's, he said, ''Well, how are you?"
opened his eyes and raised two fingers. The eighteen devotees around his bed understood that he would enter mahasamadhi in two hours. An hour later he opened his eyes again and looked around at everyone; he lifted one finger and all present understood one hour remained. At 5:00
Maharaj weakly uttered a
word no one understood. When asked to repeat it, he opened his eves and said, "Belo"Vv." He vvas gently placed on the floor. Upon •
recovering his breath, he called for a young disciple na1ned Satcha and \Vhispered something in his ear. It seemed he was transmitting his final blessings to this young sadhu who had served him so
From the day of my coming hither Full seventy years have passed. Now, setting out on my final path My two legs trample the sky.
faithfully for years. When Maharaj heard the dock strike 5:30 he said loudly, "Ram-Ram bolo" ["Repeat the name of Ram"]. Then he blessed all present by saying, ''Bhagawan will do good to you all." Although he had no bodily strength left, Maharaj took a breath and held it for a long time. Suddenly, unassisted, he sat up and quite easily assu1ned the lotus posture. All the devotees in the room observed him for a few moments with deep love and
-Tsugen J akurei fourteenth-century Zen monk
reverence. His eyes were extremely serene and luminous. Then, motionless and with his gaze fixed between the eyebrows, he uttered slowly and loudly the sacred syllable "Om" with his last breath.
On the holy day of Shivaratri in February 1938, Gaurima, one of the disciples of Sri Ramakrishna, said that the play of her life was drawing to a close. Toward evening she asked for the emblem of the god Darnodara to be brought to her. On seeing it she said: "Beautiful. I sec Hiln vividly with my eyes open and with my eyes closed. I see Him all the time." She kept the ernblein on her head and then on her bosom, before handing it over to the head of the ashram. The next day she uttered "Guru Ramakrishna" three thnes, repeated the Lord's name, and at 8:15 peacefullv. I
The monk asked, "Why can I not see you?" Shri Bodhendra was one of a lineage of Siddhas, or perfected masters, who lived in the Cauvery Delta from the sixteenth to the
The master said, "I am not that which can be seen by physical eyes. II
These were his last words.
nineteenth century. Bodhendra attained samadhi in quite a mysterious manner. Every morning, after finishing his bath in the river, he used to bury himself in the river bed and enter into a
yogic state. In the evening he would ask the children playing nearby to help dig him up. One full moon day in the year 1692,
Sadasiva Brahmendra, an eighteenth-centu ry Siddha who lived in the Cauvery Delta, became a mouni [one who takes a vow of
Sri Bodhendra assumed the yogic state that he used to enter every day on the river bed, and attained samadhi. When his disci-
silence] and an avadhuta [one who sheds all social convention, including the wearing of clothing]. By means of his occult pow-
ples arrived at the site, a divine voice informed them that Sri Bodhendra had attained samadhi and instructed them to raise a
ers, he informed his disciples of his desire to take samadhi along the banks of the Cauvery River. On the appointed day, he
building around the site of his samadhi and perform worship there
instructed them to build a cave, enclose him inside of it, and seal it. When one disciple voiced hesitation at this plan, Brahmendra assured him h e would not go away but would continue to give
his blessing from there. The disciples followed his command dnd his request that he be covered with vilvam leaves, sacred ash,
One day in March of 818, Master Ling Mo took a bath, burned incense, sat in a meditative pose, and said to his monks: "The
camphor, and mud. Nine days after this event, a vilvam tree sprouted from his samadhi. On the same day, devotees at Varanasi
Dharmakaya remains perfectly tranquil while manifesting going forth and coming in. Thousands of sages come from the same ori-
and Manmadurai had visions of his entering samadhi. Some think this indicates that he shed his physical body at three different places at once.
gin, and numerous spirits return to the same One. I have scattered myself by saturation why should this give cause for grief? Don't be troubled in your spirits, but maintain right thought. If you follow this instruction of mine, you will really repay me for my favor; but if you act contrary to my advice, you are not my sons." One monk asked, "To what place will you go, master?" He answered, ''I go to nowhere."
Maharshi Brahmanda, after perforn1ing a particular yajna [ritual fire sacrifice], told his attendant the day of the month in February 1906 that he planned to leave the world. He was given sannyas
[vows of renunciation] and then sat absorbed in a yogic posture for two days. He passed away in this way. His body was placed in a wooden box and, as planned, thrown into the sacred Narn1ada
ditn for a long ti1ne. Do not say that l can1e or went." Just as he
ceased speaking, he passed away.
River while Vedic chants were being recited. The next day a group of local tribesmen spotted hin1 walking on the banks of the Narmada as they were approaching the town
When Zen Master Shen-t'san was preparing to depart this life, he
of Gangonath. Upon arriving in town, they were amazed to hear he had taken samadhi and been immersed in the mother Nannada
shaved his head, bathed hin1sclf, and had the ten1ple bell sounded to sumrnon the congregation and announce his departure. Then he asked, ~~Brothers, do you understand the voiceless
the day before.
Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are obstructed. -The Dalai Lama
santadhi?" Those assembled answered, ''No, we do not." The 1naster said, ~~Listen quietly, without cherishing any ideas." With the congregation on the very tiptoe of expectation that thev·' would hear about the voiceless sa1nadhi, Master Shen-ts'an withdrew fron1 the world.
,;s. ... .
Certain Tibetan yogins have n1astercd the winds, or inner air, that When Zen Master Nan-ch'uan was about to die, a monk asked him, ''Where will you go for the next hundred years?" The master replied, "I will be reborn in the ox of a village f armer. " The monk asked, "May I follow you, Master?"
flows through the chakras or energy centers of the subtle body. One day one such accon1plished being, a retreat master
lowing words: "The star has been fading and the lamp growing
The attendant vvas stunned, but did not dare contradict his master. He looked in the calendar and told him that the following Monday was a day vvhen all the stars were auspicious. "Monday is three days away. WelL I think I can make it," the Inaster replied. vVhen his attendant can1e back into his roorn a few
The master answered, ''If you are coming with me, you had
better bring some blades of grass in your mouth." One morning in December of 834, Nan-ch'uan spoke the fol-
mo me nts late r. he fou nd the n1a ste r s} ttin g upr igh t in yog ic rne ditat i o n p os tur e, so stiJl tha t it loo k ed as tho u g h he had p ass ed aw ay. The re wa s n o bre ath ing , but a fain t pul se wa s per ce ptib le . He dec id ed n ot to do an yt hin g, b ut to \Vai t. At n oon he sud den ly hea rd a dee p exh ala tion , a nd the n1a ster re tur ned to his non nal
rna dc the ir pla ns for car ryin g his bod y to be cre n1a ted , it wa s still in1n1o vable and peo ple stre an1ed in fr orn far and nca r to see it. Th e n1a ste r had a sist er vvh o \Vas a nun . Ha ppe nin g to be in the v icin ity, sh e cam e righ t up to hirn and sco lde d, "Ol d bro the r, for age s yo u'v e bee n flou ting th e la"VV, and you mu st ev en puz z1e
con d itio n , talk e d \-Yit h his atte n dan t in a j oyf u] m ood , and a ske d for his lun ch, wh ich he ate wit h reli sh. He had bee n h oJd ing hi s
peo ple afte r you are dea dl " She gav e him a sho ve wit h her han d, and h e \vobbled and fe ll fl at on the gro und.
bre a th for the wh ol e of th e rno rni ng ses sio n of 1ne dita tion . The rna ster kne w tha t the hun1an life sp an is cou nte d as a fini te num -
Al last he wa s crc rna ted , and the a she s we re collect ed and put
into a pag oda.
ber of bre aths, a nd sin ce he wa s nea r the end of the se, he h eld his bre ath so tha t the fin al nun1be r w o u Jd n o t be rea che d un til the aus pic iou s da y. Ju st afte r lun ch , th e maste r too k an oth er dee p bre a th, and h eld it unt il the evc njn g. He did the sam e th e nex t da y, and the day afte r. Wh en Mo nda y caJne, h e a sk ed: "Is tod ay the a usp icio us day ?" "Yes'' rep lied the atte nda nt. "Fi n e, I sha ll go tod ay/ ' con duc ted the rna ster . Tha t day, w itho ut visible illn ess or difficu lty, the 1na stc r pas se d a wa y in his n1e d ita tion .
Wh en the ten th- cen tur y Ch ine se Zen Ma ste r nam ed Das ui Faz h en wa s ask ed, "Ho w arc you at the t.irne wh en life -de ath arri ves ?"' he ans we red pro mp tly, JJWhen se rve d tea , I tak e tea ; wh en served a rncaL I tak e a rne a l.''
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Ma ster Yin Fen g add res sed the ass en1 bly as foll ows : "'M ast ers in ma n y pla ces h ave die d eith er sitt ing or ly ing dow n. Th ese I hav e wit nes sed rny self. Did an yon e e ver pa ss a-vvay sta ndi ng? '' A m e.rn ber of the assern bl y rep lied , " Yes, the re 1vas son1eone. '' The rna ster ask ed, "Wa s th ere an yo ne w ho vva s st an din g upside -dovvn wh en he too k his last bre ath ? " The con gre ga tion ans we red , "If so, vve hav e n ev er hea rd of it. '' T he rn ast er the n pas sed avvay sta ndi ng ups ide -do-vvn , wit h his rob e still rniracu lou sly d ra pin g his bod y. \Vh en h is fol lovvers
In th e sun1m er of 1983 , Kya bje Lin g Rin poc he , sen ior tut or to His Hol ine ss the Dal ai Lar na, gav e a we ek -lo ng tea chi ng to five o f his clos est vVeste rn disciple s. On e of th em , Jha m pa Sha nen1an , reca lls tb e top i c as b ein g o ne n1 ost pr edo us to Lin g Rin poc he:
bodhicitta, o r the altr uistic wis h to gai n e nlig hte nn1ent for the ben efi t of all se nti en t b e ings. Sh o r tly a fte rvva rd, he suf fe re d the firs t in a ser ies of srn all sto kes . O n Ch risu nas Da y of t hat y e ar, fou r of th e discip les sp ont ane ou sly gat h ere d tog eth e r a t Lin g Rin poc he's hou se in the fo ot hill s of th e Hin1a lay as. \Vh i1c sitt ing in his dovvn sta irs roo n1 rejo icin g ove r the ir d1 anc e m.eet ing , the y
infonned that he had just passed a\vay. That he should pass away on this date bore special significance for them: Ling Rinpoche had always been fond of honoring
and taking rest on
holidays. He \vas eighty-one years old. In death, Ling Rinpoche's exceptional spiritual attainment
\vas n1ade quite evident. He died lying on his right side in a special 1neditation posture modeled on the posture the Buddha assun1cd at parinirvana [his passage from this world]. In the Tibetan tradition the body of a dead person is left on the ...
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deathbed for at least three days in order to allow the stream of
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can be utilized during the death experience if one is an accom-
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consciousness to leave the body peacefully. Several techniques
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plished meditator. With these techniques, the body does not show any signs of deterioration as long as the consciousness rcrnains in it. If the person has the requisite skill, such a meditation can continue for 1nany days. Ling Rinpoche maintained a
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technique called the Meditation on the Clear Light of Death for a
ing the last weeks of his life visited his room daily to make sure
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total of thirteen days. The Swiss disciple who cared for hiin dur-
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everything was satisfactory. She confinncd that during this entire tirne Ling Rinpoche's face remained beautiful and flesh-toned,
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sn1all number of great masters from Tibet have been able to
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achieve this extraordinary state .
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and his body showed none of the norn1al signs of death. Only a
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His Holiness the Dalai Lama was so rnoved by the spirituality of his personal teacher that he decided to have Ling Rinpoche's body en1bahned instead of cremated. Today the statue holding the rernains of Kyabje Ling Rinpoche rnay be viewed at the palace of
the Dalai La1na in Dhararnsala.
Tao-ch'o had a grave illness at age sixty-five. Feeling himself to be dying, he suddenly had a vision of his master, T'an-luan, who commanded him to continue teaching. It is recorded that T' anluan's voice was heard and heavenly flowers were seen by all present. From that moment on, Tao ch' o quickly recovered, gained a new set of teeth, and was revered like a god by his disciples. He continued to preach for eighteen more years before his death.
Seng-chi had a dream while he was very ill that the Buddha of light took him through the void of the whole universe. He awoke free from all signs of disease and suffering. The next night he searched for his sandals, said that he must leave, and then lay down and died, staring into the void with joyful anticipation on his face.
According to his biography, Ikkyu did not distinguish between the high and low in society, and he enjoyed mingling with artisans, merchants, and children. Youngsters followed him about, and birds came to eat out of his hands. Whatever possessions he received, he passed on to others. He was strict and demanding but treated all without favoritism. Near the end of his life, Ikkyu told his disciples, "After my death some of you will seclude yourselves in the forests and
Seventy-six years, Unborn, undying: Clouds break up, Moon sails on -Tokken (1244-1319) Japanese Zen master
joy en d an e sak ink dr y rna ers oth ile wh te, ita ed n1 to ins nta n1 ou me so if t bu e, fin arc n Ze of ds kin th Bo n. me wo of ny pa rn co the y the ' y, a W the as n 'Ze t ou ab g lin bb ba s, ric cle l na sio fes pro me be co are my en em ies ."
, les cip dis st ate gre 's na ish kr ma Ra Sri of e on a, nd na ka Sw am i Vi ve ap pr oa ch ing the en d said: "A gre at tapasya an d me dit ati on ha s con1e up on me , an d I am ma kin g rea dy for de ath ." His disciples co uld n't he lp bu t rem em be r the wo rds de liv ere d a's nd na ka ve Vi ing low fol er, rli ea ars ye ny ma na ish kr ma Ra Sri by . ng thi ery ev u yo n ow sh s ha er oth M the ow "N hi: ad sam a alp nirvik n de hid be ll wi x, bo a in d ke loc el jew the e lik , on ati liz rea Bu t thi s th wi y ke e th ep ke ll wi I . dy sto cu my in pt ke d an u yo aw ay fro m ll wi rth ea s thi on on ssi mi ur yo led fil ful ve ha u yo er me . On ly aft ve ha u yo as ng thi ery ev ow kn ll wi u yo d an d, ke loc the bo x be un kn ow n no w. " A.s Vi ve ke na nd a ap pr oa ch ed de ath , his dis ciples rem em be red his ex pe rie nc e in the ca ve at Am arn ath in 18 98 ; at th at ti1ne he As it. d lle wi f sel him he til un die to t no iva Sh of ce gra the ed rec eiv the ed ult ns co a nd na ke ve Vi , him e for be ne do d ha ru gu his he y da the ne mi ter de lp he to ath de his e for be ac an alm Be ng ali sh ou ld dis ca rd his m ort al she ll. on e sit e th t ou ed int po a nd na ka ve Vi t, lef he e for be ys da Th ree the On . ted ma cre be to d nte wa he ere wh ds un gro ry the mo na ste ter La s. ur ho ee thr for d ate dit rne d an rly ea e ok aw he , Ju ly 4, 19 02 the om fr ge ssa pa a d rea to le cip dis a ed ask e h ing orn the sa me n1 , ess illn his of e us ca be ne alo ate y all nn no he h ug tho Ya jur ve da . Al
He . ish rel at gre th wi cal n1 ity un n nn co the in ok rto pa he y da t tha a k too d an s ur ho ee thr for ns so les r na m1 gra t kri the n ga ve Sa ns d ire ret he ing en ev the in n ve se At i. am sw er oth an th wi lk wa g lon d lle ca he , on ati dit rne his ng wi llo Fo . ne alo ate dit me to 1n roo his ro his fan d an s ow nd wi the all en op to n hii ed ask d an le cip dis a s wa he ht ug tho nt da en att his d, be his on ly iet qu lay he As . ad he , ce on d the ea br he ur ho an of d en the At . ng ati dit me or sle ep ing me ca be es ey his ; ain ag so did e h , tes nu mi few a ter Af ly. ep ve ry de es pr ex ine div a d me su as e fac his d an ws ro eb ey his n ee fixed be tw his in e ibl vis s wa od blo le litt a at th ted no le cip dis er oth sion. A br nostrils, aro un d his mo uth , an d in his eyes. Ac co rdi ng to Yogic h ug ro th t ou s sse pa gi yo d ine um ill an of th ea br life scr ipt ure s, th e the es us ca it so, es do it As . ad he the of top the at ing en op the blo od to flo w int o the no str ils an d the mo uth . e ag e th at d rre cu oc a nd na ke ve Vi i am Sw of sy" sta ec t rea "g e Th e liv t no uld wo he at th cy he op pr n ow his ing fill ful , ine -n rty of thi to be for ty ye ars old.
After ha vin g sp en t tw en ty- nin e fru itful years in a cav e in strict sh wi the as me so to n ow kn s wa la. sun Jet un n tan be Ti ret rea t, the fulfilling ge m. In 19 59 sh e h ad to br ea k h er ret rea t an d lea ve Tibet. He r co us in bu ilt he r a small mu d an d grass hu t, large en ou gh to ho ld Je tsu nla an d tw o visitors. Re ve red as the hig he st lam a of the area, sh e wo uld rec eiv e de vo tee s the first nin e da ys of ea ch mo nth d sse pa e sh e for be s nth mo few A e. tim the of t res the ate dit me d an d an do to d ha I t a wh ed sh pli orn acc ve ha I ow "N away sh e said: y an e liv to ve ha n't do I w No to. ed ne I t tha ng thi ac hie ve d ev ery
long er. I am very hap py if 1 can go soon , but before I go I mus t see His Hol ines s the Dalai Lam a, bec ause I hav e a fevv wor ds to sav to him ." Abo ut a mon th late r His Hol ines s visi ted Orissa and con ferr ed priv atel y with her for ove r an hou r. She catn e out from this <
rnee ting very hap py and said: "No w my last wish is fulfilled, now I am free to go." Soo n afte r, Jet.sun1a beca1ne sligh tly ill and, whi le ren1ainin g in med itati on pos ture , she pass ed awa y. Ano ther Tibe tan nun rela t ed that whe n Jets unla died , the air
was fille d with a swe et scen t, and the sounds of cym bals cou ld be hea rd. And at th e time of her cren1a tion, the sky was fill ed with rain bow s.
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One spri ng day in 199 5, afte r spe ndin g a m ont h inst ruct ing Soto Zen teac hers nea r San Fran cisc o, Mae zurn i Ros h i retu rne d to Jap an to visit fam ily and frie nds, as had bee n his custcnn for twe nty -fiv e year s. Dur ing his visit, in the pres enc e of an old frie nd and abb ot, he corn plet ed and date d ''in the mo nth of the the inka [fin al stat eme nt of emp owe rm ent from ma ster to successo r] fo r his disciple, Sensei Tets uge n Glassrna n . This doc ume nt, whi ch turn ed out to be his "last Dha rma wor ds," con -
Aza leas "
clud es as follows:
Lzfe after lzfe, birth after birth, please practice diligently. Never falter. Do not let die the Wisdom seed of the Bu ddhas and Ancestors. Truly.' I inzplore you!
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Hak uyu Taiz an 1'v1aennn i
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Hui-yung, in the throes of a grave illness in 414, suddenly asked for his clothes and sandals, folded his hands, and tried to stand, as if he were seeing something. When the attendant monks asked him what he saw, he replied, "The Buddha is coming." Just as he finished speaking, he died.
After two years in the rock cave near his hometown of Hsiangyang, P' ang Yun also known as Layrnan P' ang decided it was tin1e to die. Sitting for meditation, he instructed his daughter Ling-chao to go outside and come back to inform him when the sun had reached its zenith. At twelve, he would die. Ling-chao went out and came back almost immediately, saying, "It's already noon, and there's an eclipse of the sun. Come and look." "Is that so?" said P'ang.
By 1693, Bankci's health had so deteriorated that his disciples began building him a burial pagoda. On the tenth of August Bankei was carried there on a litter. The next day he told an attendant in secret that he would be dead within three months. For the tiine left to him, Bankei continued seeing students from his bed. Immediately before he died in November, as he'd predicted, he stopped taking food and medicine. Giving instructions to his most intimate students, he admonished them for their tears, saying, "How do you expect to see Ine, if you look at me in terms of birth and death?" When one disciple asked him to compose a traditional Zen death poern, he said: I've lived for seventy-two years. I've been teaching people for forty-five. What I've been telling you and others every day during that time is all my death verse. I'm not going to make another one now, before I die, just because everyone else does it.
"0 h, yes."
P' ang Yun rose from his seat and went to the window. At that mornent Ling-chao jumped into his vacant place, crossed her legs, and, instantly, died. When P' ang returned and saw what had happened, he said, "My daughter's way was always quick. Now she's gone ahead of me." He went out, gathered firewood, performed a cremation ceremony, and observed the traditional mourning period of seven days before dying himself in the company of Governor Yu Ti. Yu had come to ask how he was. P' ang put his head on his friend's knee, saying, "I beg you to just see all existent phenomena as empty and to beware of taking as real all that is nonexistent. Take care of yourself in this world of shadows and echoes." Then he peacefully passed away.
Having said this, the great Zen rnaster passed away, sitting per· fectly straight. Over five thousand people were in attendance at his funeral.
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Six months before Lahiri Mahasaya left his physical body he told his wife, "The body will go soon. Do not cry at that time." During the sum1ner of 1895, the master developed a small boil on his
back, whic h he did not wan t lanced. Som e of those near him thou ght perh aps he was work ing out in his own body the nega tive karm a of some of his disciples. Whe n a few disciples beca me insistent, h e repli ed cryptically: "The body has to find a caus e to go. I will be agre eable to wha teve r you wan t to do. " A few days before his final depa rture , disciples of Lahiri Mahasaya gath ered arou nd him. Som e, having been called inter nally, arriv ed fro m long dista nces . For hour s the mas ter expo unde d on the Bhag avad Gita, then he simp ly said: "I am going hom e." This rema rk prov oked an outp ouri ng of angu ish amo ng his devo tees. He respo nded with : "Be com forte d. I shall rise again ." Follo wing this state men t, Lahiri Mah asay a rose from his seat and walk ed in a circle three times. He then assu med the lotus post ure, facin g nort h, and gloriously ente red the final
Four and fifty years I've hun g the sky with stars Now I leap thr oug hWh at shattering! -Do gen (120 0-12 53) Japa nese Zen mast er
Just before Chih -hsie n of Hua nch' i passed away in 9 05 AD he asked his atten dant s, IJWho dies si tting?" They answ ered , "A mon k." He said, "Wh o dies stand ing?" They replied, "Enl ighte ned mon ks." He then walk ed arou nd seve n steps with his hand s hanging down, and died.
When Zen Master Ryoen Gcnseki was told he had cancer and was given a life expectancy of several rnonths, he set off alone on a long pilgriinage. Ryoen lived for two more years. For nearly two weeks before his death, in critical condition, every morning he crawled frotn his roon1 to the main hall of the ten1ple to invoke the names of the n1asters of his lineage. He needed to rest fre-
death approaching, he broke his leg with his own hands and took the full lotus. Then, despite agonizing pain, he wrote his final vvords and died vvith the last stroke of the brush. Buddhas and patriarchs cut to pieces; The sword is ever kept sharpened. ~¥here the wheel turns The void gnashes its teeth.
quently throughout both his crawling and invocation. When he died, he was found sitting in the zazen position.
In the year 1582, the abbot of Yerin -ji, Kwaisen, refused to hand
Once when his village was beset by wolves, Dokyo sat for seven nights in different graveyards to test his samadhi while wolves , sniffed at his throat. At the age of eighty, Dokyo wrote these last · words while seated in the upright Zen position. In the frantic hurry of dying It's dzfficult to utter the last 1tVords. If 1 were to speak a wordless word, I wouldn't speak, 1 wouldn't speak. '
Then he put do\vn his brush, hu1nn1ed "an ancient song" to him-
over soldiers who were seeking refuge at his temple. He and his monks were locked in a tower that was then set ablaze. In their usual n1anner, they sat in zazen, and the abbot gave his last sermon: "We are surrounded by flames. How would you revolve yotu Wheel of Dharma at this critical moment?" Each then expressed his understanding. When all were finished, the abbot gave his view: "For peaceful meditation, we need not go to the mountains and strearns. When thoughts are quiet, fire itself is cool and refreshing.'' They perished without a sound.
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self, suddenly laughed heartily, and died.
For rnany years Daito I
When Eshun, a Zen nun, was past sixty and about to leave this World, she had son1e monks pile up son1c wood in the monastery courtyard. Seating herself finnly in the middle of the pile of Wood, she had it set on fire around the edges. "0 nun!" shouted a n1onk, "Is it hot in there?"
ur yo e lik n rso pe pid stu a ly on ern nc co uld wo r tte "S uch a ma self, " an sw ere d Es hu n. Th e fla me s aro se, an d sh e die d.
him r ve co to k on n1 the ted ec dir y, nit dig e ns me im ith w ing the re wi th ea rth .
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d ce pla he , ing dy of ess oc pr the in s wa a nd na ma ah Br i am Sw As u Yo e. ev gri t no o "D d: sai d an les cip dis s hi of e on on nd his ha ch rea d an d Go in ed rg me be all sh u Yo ll. we me d ve ser h ave ay 1n u yo t tha ng ssi ble my u yo e giv I n. ma ah Br of kn ow led ge
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att ain thi s." pre re we o wh s tee vo de d an les cip dis the all d lle Th en he ca te na tio ec aff an d an ng ssi ble a d ha be ch ea r Fo e. se nt to his sid d, an ion vis tal en nd ce ns tra his in d rbe so ab me ca be wo rd . He th en
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aft er so me, tim e, co nti nu ed in a sw ee t, ten de r voice: "I am flo atn ea oc the on ge led ow kn d an th fai of f lea e th on ng ati flo am I . ing ers oth w sa he t tha ed irn cla ex he ly en dd su en Th n." ma ah Br of a, nd na ka ve Vi , na ish kr ma Ra Sri : him re fo be ay aw d sse pa ad h o wh in d rbe so ab , ile wh a for ll sti s wa He a. nd na ga Yo , da an an Prem t Ou e. fac his on ss tne ee sw t ea gr of on ssi pre ex an th wi n tio m ed ita le sib res xp ine t tha , Ah '' : ed im cla ex ly en dd su he ce, en sil of the the am I ... na ish kr ma Ra my of na ish Kr e th , na sh kri ma Ra lig ht ! my th wi e nc da to t n wa I t; fee my on ts kle an t Pu y. bo rd he sh ep
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, Ah ... na ish Kr y bo le litt e th d an h his ld ho to nt wa I a. hn ris K. n't Ca ... na sh i Kr ... na ish I
Kr ish na . .. on the lot us ... ete rn a l. .. the Sw ee t On e! e. 1n ing ess car is na ish Kr ild ch e Th ! ok Lo w. no er ov is y pla y "M ep de A " ... ng mi co am I ! him th wi ay aw me co to e m g llin ca He is ere wh ll ha ge lar the in e rat vib to .ed em se ss ne oli h d sti lln ess an Brah ma na nd a w a s lyi ng an d utt eri ng th ese wo rds . Hi s ph ysical co nd iti on w orsen ed an d on th e ev en ing of the thi rd da y, his ch est su dd en ly h e av ed . It wa s as if a gr ea t wa ve of es ey sed clo lfha s Hi at. ro th the to dy bo the up d sse pa ath bre ith w ng ini sh es ey his , ce tan dis the o int d ze ga he d an , ed en op life e th , 22 19 , 10 ril Ap on t, tha s wa it us Th ce. an lli bri nt ce ifi gn ma lef t his bo dy.
les cip dis his d tol a nd na ga Yo sa an ah ram Pa , 52 19 6, h arc On M xt ne e Th k." luc me ish W w. ro or tom y da big a ve ha "I lau gh ing ly, the for tel Ho ore ltm Bi ' les ge An s Lo at t ue nq ba a d de en da y h e att l ua us his ith w t ou ab ze ga t no did He r. do ssa ba am n ne w In dia
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he a rt -w arm ing sm ile . Af ter ea tin g mo de stly, the gu ru ro se to · d an y wl slo re mo e ok sp He " . dia In l tua iri "sp t ou ab m ake a sp ee ch in a mo re me asu red ca de nc e tha n us ua l. Yogananda en de d his tal k wi th a qu ota tio n fro m on e of his ow n po em s:
Wh ere Ganges, wo ods , Hh na lay an caves, an d me n dream God-
1 a1n hallowe d; my body to uched that sod.
the to y htl slig d ne tur s, eye his ed lift sa an ah ram Pa ed, ish fin he As s wa on ssi mi ard tw ou s ru' gu at. gre e Th or. flo the to slid d rig ht an finish ed. Officials wh o con du cte d the en1balming of the bo dy rep ort ed an un usu al ph en om en on : No physical dis int egr ati on wa s visible, y ntl are app s wa dy bo a's and gan Yo th. dea er aft s day ty en eve n tw dev oid of im pu riti es. Th ey rep ort ed this case as bei ng un iqu e in the ir exp eri enc e.
Death is only an experience through which you are meant to lea rn a great lesson: you cannot die. -Pa ram aha nsa Yoga nan da
Na mp a Shomyo, also kn ow n as Daio I
I tongue-lashed wind and rain, Above Buddhas, Patriarchs. Lightning 's no match for mind.
Ma ste r Ka nz an Eg en sta rte d tea chi ng at sixty n eve r lec tur ed, an d acc ept ed on ly a few stu den ts, wh om he tra ine d wi th ex tre me sev erity. Am ong the few ko an s he used, his fa vo rite wa s "Fo r Egen, he re the re is no bir th- an d-d eat h." On the day of his dea th, he en tru ste d his affairs to his sole he ir an d dresse d him sel f in his traveling clothes. He the n we nt ou t fr om the abb ot' s qu art ers and, sta nd ing qu iet ly an d alo ne be sid e the "wind an d wa ter po nd " at the fro nt gate of the tem ple , he passed away.
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While sitting in me dit ati on , an d jus t aft er hav ing said alo ud for the ben efi t of his disciples, "No sup pre ssing arrival, no following dep art ure," Daibai he ard a we ase l shriek, the "this" of the fol low ing po em . It is said tha t on reciting it h e ind eed bre ath ed his last.
I'm at one with this , this only. You, my disciples, Uphold it firmly. No w I can breathe my last.
On the first of De cem be r of his six ty- six th year, Etsug an an no un ced to his disciples, "Well, I've ma de up my mi nd to die on the eig hth , the day of Bu dd ha 's aw ak ening. If yo u'v e an y questions, bet ter ask then1 bef ore the n. "
As the maste r contin ue d to carry out all his religious duties, howe ver, some of the m.onk s suspec ted that he was havin g a bit of fun with them, while others were struck with grief. On the evenin g of the seven th there was nothin g out of the ordina ry, but that night Etsug an called them all togeth er and taugh t them about Shaky amuni's enligh tenme nt. He also
decided on th e North Gate instea d. On the fourth day he picked up his own coffin and carrie d it out of the North ern Gate. Shaki ng his bell, he entere d the coffin and passed away
entrus ted his affairs to them. At daybr eak he took a bath and then, while sitting dignified in
When the great Tibeta n maste r Jarnya ng Khyen tse Rinpoche, som etimes called the "rnast er of m asters," fell ill he was on pilgrimage in Sikkim . All the senior lamas , the heads of the lineages,
Zen meditation, recited his last poem:
Buddha came down fro m the mountain, I ascended it. Always I've Run counter to his teaching, And now I'm bound for hell ha-ha! Man's inquisitiveness is sheer nonsense. He then closed his eyes and, still sitting, died.
When Maste r P'u-h ua sense d that his end was near, he annou nced to the people of the n earby town that he would go the next day to the Easter n Gate and die there. The whole communit y w ent in a procession behin d him and assem bled outsid e the city wall to pay their respects. P'u -hua then annou nced: ''A
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arrive d one after anoth er to visit hirn, and prayers and rituals for his long life went on day and night. His disciples pleaded with him to contin ue living, for it .is said a rr1aste r of his greatness has the po wer to decide when it is time to leave his body. As he lay in bed, accepting all the offerings, he laugh ed and replied: "All right, just to be auspid ous, I'll say I will live." But the first indica tion he was going to die came throug h the Gya lwang Karm apa, whom he had told he had cornpletcd the work he had come to do in this life, and he had decide d to leave this world. His death was to occu r just after news came that the three great mona steries of Tibet Sera, Drepung, and Gande n had been occup ied by the Chinese. Ten days before he pa ssed away, the groun d was shake n by an enormous earthq uake. Accor ding the Buddh ist sutras, this is a
funera l today would not be in accord w ith the Blue Crow [a mytho logica l bird]. I will pass away tom.o rrow at the Southem Ga te." The next day the peopl e followed him again, but he annou nced, "It would be more auspicious to leave by th e Weste rn Gate tomor row." On the third day fewer people came, and he
sign that marks the imrnin ent passin g of an enligh tened being. Jan1yang Kh yentse died at three o'cloc k in the rnorni ng on the sixth day of the fifth Tibeta n 1nonth in 1959. In certai n tra ditions, during the time a 1naste r re1nai ns in medita tion after death it is impor tant to n1aint ain secrec y. For three days after he passed, compl ete secrecy \vas kept; no on e was allowed to know that K.h.yen tse had died, sin1pl y that his health
b ad take n a turn for the worse . On th e third day after he had
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rneJjcally died, h e came out of meditation: his n ose suddenly deflated, the color in his fa ce drained away, and his h ead fell slightly t.o one side. Until that m oment there had been a certa in poise and stren gth to his body. After the body was washed and
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dressed and taken to the main temple of the palace, crowds filed
in to sh ow th eir respect. Then hundreds of people in amazement reported see in g an incandescent, rnilky light th at gradually spread everywhere. Even the four electric la1nps outside were dirnmed by this rnysterious ligh t. On e of the other masters explained that such manifes tation s of light are sa id to be a sign of someone atta ining Bu ddhah ood.
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Hyma, together with her mother, a rea lized yogini nan1ed Ana s u ya, li ved in Jillellamudi in the mid-tw e ntieth century. At the age of twen ty-five, Hyma becarne critica ll y ill with smallpox. At the last n1orn en t of her life sh e called out lo udly, "An1ma [Mother], I am coming! '' A
sh rine was prepared for
Hyrna. Anasuya cleaned th e b o dy an d p laced it in the samadhi pit in siddhasana [a yoga posture]. W hile the en tire community st ood by weeping, Anasuya seen1ed st ra n gely cheerful. She sat beside the grave and smiled at the onlookers. Then sh e signaled to a doctor standing nearby. He ex arni ncd Hyn1a's body and was shocked to fin d it quite hot, with a faint trace of respiration. He had j ust climbed out of the pit when th e gro up standing nearby felt an electric jolt. The doctor re en tered the grave and discovJaJnJ'ang Khyentse Rinpoche
ered blood oozing from Hyma's fontanel. In the yogic scriptures,
it is written that at death an open fontanel is a sign that the soul has left the body through the sahasrara chakra, the "divine exit" at the top of the head, and becorne liberated. --------------------------------------·-
Death is nothing but a gateway to birth. Nothing that lives ever dies, it only changes form. When a man~" body is weary the soul leaves the body to receive newer and fresher gannents. And so on goes this great play of Godfrom eternity to eternity. -Guru Nanak ----------------------·······" · - - - - - - -
When news spread that Guru Nanak was ready to embark on his last journey, the disciples began to descend upon I
He then asked the congregation to recite God's praises. As the epilogue to the hyn1n was being read, the Guru Nanak pulled the sheet over himself and lay down. The assembly paid obeisance. When the sheet was lifted, there was nothing but flowers. The Hindus and Muslin1s, equally astonished, took their respective flower offerings and the entire assembly fell to their knees. The date was Scpten1ber 7, 1539.
As Master Xu Yun grew weaker during the course of a grave illness, he was urged to seek a doctor's care but he declined, saying, "My causal link with this world is coming to an end." Upon thanking his disciples for helping to rebuild a monastery with hi1n, the n1aster gave then1 the following instruction: "After rn y death, please have my body dressed in my yellow robe and garInents, placed in a coffin a day later, and cren1ated at the foot of the hill to the west of the cowshed. Please then mix my ashes with sugar, flour, and oil, knead all this into nine balls and throw then1 into the river as an offering to living beings in the water. If you help me to fulfill my vow, I shall be eternally grateful." When asked for his last words, the master replied: "Practice sila, dhyana, and prajna [discipline, meditation, and wisdom] to wipe out desire, anger, and stupidity." After a pause, he continued, "Develop the right thought and right mind to create the great spirit of fearlessness for the deliverance of men and the whole vvor1d. You are tired, please retire to rest." A few Inotnents before the Inaster departed this world he irnplored them to preserve the faith. "How to preserve it? The
ansvvcr is in the word sila." After saying this he brought his palms rogether and enjoined upon his assistants to take good care of then1selves. They left the room and returned an hour later to find that Xu Yun had quietly passed away. He was 120 years of age. When his body was cremated, the air vvas filled with a rare fragrance and a white smoke went up into the sky. In the ashes were found over a hundred relics of five different colors and countless small ones, which were mostly white .
When it came time to die on July 19, 1888, Yamaoka Tesshu bathed and put on a spotless white kimono. Following conven.. .. ..
tion, his disciples requested a death verse. Tesshu immediately
Tightening my abdomen against the painThe caw of a morning crow Since his disciples had never heard of a death verse with the word "pain" in it they thought "peace," "light," or a similar sentiment would be more appropriate for a Zen master they were hesitant to 1nake it public. With trepidation, they gave the verse to the Abbot Gasan when he asked for it. "What a magnificent death verse," he exclaimed. When the crow flew past and cried out, Tesshu was hen1orrhaging, his ston1ach eaten away by his cancer those two events filled the cosmos. Tesshu placed himself in fonnal zazen posture, bid his family and friends goodbye ("Don't worry about food or clothing," he
cau tion ed his eldest son ), closed his eyes, took a dee p brea th, and ente red eter nal me dita tion . He was fifty -thr ee year s old. Tekisui, abb ot of Ten ryu ji, compos ed this verse for Tesshu's fune ral:
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Sword and brush poised between the A bsolute and the Relative, His loyal cou rage and noble strength pierced the Heavens. A dream of fifty-three years, Enveloped by the pure fragrance of a lotus blooming in the midst of a roaring fire.
und erst and ." Med ically this con diti on nor mal ly does not per mit volu ntar y retu rn to con scio usn ess. To the surp rise of his atte ndin g doctors, Sri Aur obin do ope ned his eye s at freq uen t inte rval s an d aske d for a drin k of wat er or inqu ired as to the tim e. This led man y to beli eve that the corna was coe xist ing with a con scio us yogic with~ draw al from the body. He spo ke to his atte nda nt, and eve n kissed
and dran k som e wat er.
Ove r the years, Sri Aur obin do had dev elop ed an enlarged pro stat e. Late in 195 0, he ente red into a dee p com a, due to an extr eme urem ic con ditio n. Bef ore ente ring the com a, h e refused any maj or trea tme nt and dec line d to use his ther ape utic pow er on him self . Ask ed why , he said simply, "Ca n't exp lain , you won 't
tho se faith ful com pan ions of his last years. A half an h our befo re his hea rt stop ped, Sri Aur obin do look ed out from his cairn com~ passiona te eyes, and spo ke the nam e of the doc tor by his side,
He passed a\vay in the early hours of Deccn1be r 5, I 950. A few da vs later the iVlother (Sri Aurobind o's wile] announced: "The .(
funeral of Sri Aurobind o has not taken place today. His body is
charged with such a concentration of supran1e ntallight that there is no sign of decompo sition, and th e body vvill be kept. lying on his bed so long as it remains intact." In t he late afternoo n of
Decen1be r 9, he was buried sin1ply in a vault specially prepared in the center of the ashrarn courtyard .
As h is lasr days approach ed, I
sat absorbed in meditati on and refused food. This great founder of c the Shingon sect of esoteric Buddhisrn had prophesi ed that his
death would come on the tvven ty-fi rst day o f the third month. Not long before be died, he told his disdples: "1\lly life wil1 not Jasr n1 uch longer.
teachings of the Buddha. I an1 retu rning to the 1nountai n to rem ain there forev er. '' The grcal transforn 1ation ordinaril y
Live bannonio usly and preserve with care the
rook place within Kobo Daishi as h e vvas lying o n
his right si de. He breathed his last on the twenty-f irst day of the third 1nonth of 835.
A rnost rcrnarkab lc Indian i\ 1aster fron1 the state of Kerala,
Shivapuri Baba, is said to have been born vvilh a srni1 e on his lips.
He graced this earth for 137 years/ li vjng 23 years in solitude, and spending nearly another half ccnlur y traversin g the globe on
foot. His last words , which were given in a total consc ious and lucid state, were: "Live right life, worsh ip God. That is all. Nothi ng more. " At 6:15 AM he got up, sat on his bed, asked for a drink, and
The next day he admit ted he was in pain thoug h it was not in1me diately obviou s. He gave his ha t and robe to one of his disciples and offere d advice to those presen t about the irnpor tance of
said "I'm gone.' ' He then laid hin1self down on his right side, resting his head on the palm of his right hand, and left his body.
not driftin g away from an altruis tic state of mind.
If one wants to die peacefully, one must begin helping onesel f long before one 's time to die has come. - Swami Muktan anda
On the twentieth of the tenth month , Tsong I
on the Adam antine Recita tion, a special tantric breath ing exerdse. Very early the m orning of the twent y-fifth, sitting in full lot us, he rned.it ated on empti ness. At dawn he made a series of inner offerin gs, althou gh no one presen t could under stand why. Then his breath ing ceased and his bod y regain ed the vibran cy of a six teen- year-old. Many discip le s presen t witne ssed the emission of variega ted light rays from his body, which substa ntiate d the belief th at Tsang I
When the sixty- two-y ear-ol d Tsong I
Oracle s w ere consu lted to find the most appro priate treatm ent for the body. When they proph esied that it should be enshr ined in a stu pa, a special hall was built to hold a silver platfo rm toppe d with a sold gold stupa. His murnr nified body was amazi ngly still intact in the n1iddl e of this centu ry. Tsong Khapa was praise d by t.he ninth I
teachi ng in this and future lives. From there he went to the great templ e at Lhasa to make praye rs and offerin gs. Befor e leavin g the templ e he prostr ated, which norm ally is only done when return
In 1215, Eisai, one of the found ers of .Japanesc Zen, kne vv just when his death was appro aching . He journe yed to Kyoto to "show people how to die." Upon his arrival , he first preach ed to
to a place will be imposs ible.
the crowd , then sat compl etely still in the uprigh t Zen positio n,
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and died . However, w hen his follo wers co1nplained that his death had been too sudden, he revived. He died for good in the sarnc 1nanner five da vs lat.cr. "
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Leaving, where to go? Staying, where? Which to choose? I stand aloof To whom to speak my parting words? The galaxy, white, immense. A crescent moon.
As Ninakawa lay dying Zen Master Ikkyu visited him, ;'Shall I lead you on?" Ikkyu asked.
Ninakawa replied: "I carne here alone and I go alone. What help could you be to me?" Ikkyu an swered: 'i lf you think you really come and go, that is your delusion. Let me show you the path on which there is no con1ing and going."
-Shoten eleven th -century Chinese Zen master
With his words, Ikkyu had revealed the path so clearly that Ninakawa stniled and passed away.
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When Run1i's tiine of death drew near, he cautioned his disciples
to have no fear or anxiety on his account.. He told them to
re1ne1nber him "so that I n1ay show myself to you, in whatever
form that ma y be, and ... ever be shedding in your breasts the light of heavenly inspiration. ''
As he la y in extrernc sickness, severe earthquakes took place for seven days and nights. On the seventh day, in response to the alarn1 of hi s disciples, he caln1ly rernarked : "Poor earth ! It is eager
for a fat rnorsel! .It shall have one!" After hi.s death, Run1i's bodv• - - - -- -
laid on his bier and washed
by a loving di sciple . Every drop of this ablution water vvas caught - - - - - - ------------~
and dru nk with reve renc e b y his disciples as the holiest of wat ers. As the was her folded Rurni's arrn s ove r his breast, a tren1or app eare d to pass ove r the iner t bod y and th e washer fe.ll with his face on the lifel ess breast, wee ping. Upo n feel ing his ear pull ed by the dea d saint's han d, as an adm oni tion , he passed into a swo on. In this stat e he hea rd a cry frorn h eav en, which said to hin1: "Th e
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saints of the Lord hav e noth ing to fea r, neit her shall they sorrow. Beli eve rs die not; they n1e re ly dep art from one hab itati on to ano ther abo de." The fune ral proc ession was atte nde d by 1no urne rs of all cree ds Turks, Chr istia ns, Jew s, Rornan s, and Ara bs. Each gro up recited sacr ed scri ptur es acco rdin g to thei r own trad ition s. Ru.rni
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belonge d to eve ryo ne.
Early in May of 196 3 Sivan and a beg an a rigo rous tape reco rdin g sess ion that lasted for day s. He did this for hou rs, unr nind ful of the strai n. Dur ing one of thes e sessions he sa id alou d, "Th e sigh t is gett ing dim; take wha teve r you wan t n ow. The hca ring is getting dull ; te ll wha teve r you wa nt to tell, now itse lf. The tong u e is gett ing ina rticu la te; ask wha te ver you wan t to ask ." • On Jun e 21, he develop a pain in his hip, and on this rare occasion did not atte nd the satsang. At nigh t the pain grew m ore inte nse . On a sub seq uen t day, desp ite illness, Siva.n and a began dict atin g as usu al. Afte r a few sen te nces he pau sed and said quietly, hHa ppin ess con1es wh en the jndi vidu al rnergcs in God ." The n ther e was a long pau se. This vvas th e last reco rded message
Despite the suffering of his physical body over the next few vvecks, Sivananda was never dejected; his spirit \vas joyful and all
the thousand Holy Ones are all the same basically; the ten thou-
who went near hirn during his last illness felt his irresistible love
sand spirits all return to one. I am now disintegrating; why
flowing out and encompassing them. On the evening of July 14
should I be foolish enough to grieve at that? Do not trouble your
he developed a fever. For sorne titne he had difficulty swallowing.
souls. Keep a true mind! If you obey these demands you are truly
His disciples wanted to give hin1 barley \Vater, as was the usual
showing your gratitude to me. If you do not, you are not my
practice, but he insisted on Ganges water. It was brought to him
children." At this moment a Inonk asked, "Where is our teacher
and he had no difficulty in swallowing half a glassful. And with
going?" Goei answered, "I am going to No-place." The monk
that he departed frorn the body at 11: 15
said, "Why shan't I be able to see you any more? Goei said, //That
Sivananda's body was placed in the lotus posture as dazed and
monks, "The Body of the Law in Nirvana shows birth and death;
place is not one to be seen with human eyes," and passed away.
tearful disciples and devotees softly chanted on the verandah of his residence; members of the ashrarn went in to bow before the beloved form in silence. The next day messages of sympathy and condolence arrived at the Rishikesh post office from all over the
On the fifteenth day of the tenth month, Enni announced to his
world. On July 16, to the sound of conches and bells and Vedic
followers that he was about to die. They did not believe him. On
mantras, the holy form of Sivananda was taken to the Ganges
the day of his death he ordered that the drum be beaten and his
where it was ceremoniously bathed. It was then placed on a
imminent death proclaimed. He sat down in his chair and wrote
palanquin filled with flowers and borne in procession to the
his last words. After adding the date and his signature, he wrote
ashrarn area, where the ceremony of Arati was perfonned. To the
"Farewell" and died.
recitation of holy mantras, Sivananda 's body was taken in and tenderly placed in the samadhi shrine
its final resting place.
In his loving tribute, Venkatesananda wrote: '' ... He created an •
inside, and has entered it. Now he works inside, out of view, but
The Taoist master Chuang-tzu describes the death of Yu, a Taoist
more truly and purposefully active, therefore."
who went before him. When Yu fell ill, another sage named Szu went to visit him and asked how he fared. Yu said, ''Wonderful.
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The way of the master is deforming me! My back is as crooked as
a hunchback's and my organs are all topsy-turvy. My chin sticks When Goei was on the verge of death, he rnade his ablutions and
in tny navel, my shoulders rise up above my head and my pigtail
burned incense, then sat in the proper \Nay and said to the
points to the sky. The elen1ents of nature must be all confused."
His heart was cahn and his Inanner carefree. He lin1ped to the well, looked at his reflecti on in the vvater and sa id, "My, 1ny ! How the Nla ker of Things is deforn1in g me! " Szu asked, "Does this upset you"?" "Wh y \vould it? " said Yu . " ... I was born when it was tin1e to be born, and J shall die when it is ti.rnc to die. If we are in peace with 1in1e and foll ow the order of things, neither sorrow
nor joy will move us. The ancients called this 'freedo m from bondage .' Tl1ose who are entangle d with the appearan ce of things cannot free themselves. But not hing can ovcrcorn e the o rd er of nature. Why should I be upset?"
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Nogami Senryo lived the teachings of h e r master, Dagen , with her entire being. She went about life care fully and lovingly caring for th e Seikanji nun's ten1ple in Japan a nd training her one apprenti ce, Kuriki Kakuj o. Noga1ni took care to steep I
th ose around her, but 1nostly herself, to approach everythin g in the spirit o f the classical Zen dictu1n: "Zadatsu Ryubo. Die sitting. Die standing . This is the way of the n1onastic. '' In Zen these pos-
tures are consider ed absolute proof of enlighten 1nent. Dogen used this dictum to stress that practice n1eans to do all activities '
with steady attenti on to the r eality of the present morrtent .
Nogami p ra cticed this awarene ss each rnorning a s sh e spedwith fin ger s extended on the dan1p, neatly folded rag down the wooden floor in the ha II w ay collecting ea ch particle of dust, after each meal as she wiped her bowl dean with a piece of pickled radish, and every afternoo n as she pulled tiny w e eds frorn the white stone garden. H er body understo od that enlighten ment
Nogami Senryo ,.
rnea nt tole rati ng noth ing less tha n the perf ect corn plet ion of ea ch activity. "Zad atsu Ryubo. Die Sitting. Die stan ding . " She repe ated
ing the fi nal stag es of Gya nam a ta's dyin g proc ess. He arri ved at her side sho rtly afte r her dep artu re. Afte r spe ndin g som e tirn c
this like a n1an tra as she stro ve to live eac h mom ent with pur e
alon e with her bod y, offe ring his blessings, he n1o tion ed a few disc iple s into the roo m. The mas ter aske d them to feel the tern -
and rele ntle ss con cen trat ion. On a crisp Nov emb er afte rno on in 1980, Nog ami 's ada man tine voic e pier ced the silen ce: "It's time for Zadatsu Ryu bo!" Her app rent ice, l(ur iki, not kno win g wha t to exp ect, rush ed to the dim hall way. The re she saw Nog ami slow ly wal king tow ard the bro nze statue of Sha kya mun i Bud dha, sitti ng in full lotu s on the alta r in the Wo rshi p Hall. Arri ving just in tim e to witn ess the stou t, 97 -yea r-ol d nun in sim ple blac k robe s take a final step to perfe ct h er stan ce, I
pera ture of her feet
w hich was very cold. The n he had them feel the top of her hea d, whi ch was extr eme ly hot , as if on fire. The n1.as ter exp lain ed: "This sho ws she has left the bod y in the high est stat e of samadhi. Her sou l dep arte d thro ugh the high est spiritual cen ter, the thou san d-p etal ed lotu s in the brai n. Now she has ach ieve d that final stat e of muk ti [lib erat ion] ; she is free . She has no nee d to retu rn to the wor ld. But we will mee t aga in." Late r the rnas ter told his disciples, "You mu st kno w that her pass ing sym bolizes that I will be leav ing this wor ld shor tly." Less than four mon ths late r, Yog ana nda Paramah ams a left his bod y.
died stan ding .
Tow ard the end of h er life, Gya nam ata' s phy sica l con diti on had dete rior ated to the poi nt that she had to stay in bed mos t of the tim.c. Ano ther nun in the Ram akrishn a ord er said of the twe ntytwo mon ths she spe nt with her, "Sri Gya nam ata was una ble to eve n dra w a bre ath with out pain , yet she nev er com plai ned abo ut any thin g." It was repo rted that on Gya nam ata' s last day on this eart h, Nov emb er 17, 195 1 , her face was radi ant wit h light. Wh en she utte red her last wor ds, a big sn1ile illu min ed her face and she exc laim ed, "Wh at joy~ Wh at joy~ Too muc h, too muc h joy! " Wit hin an hou r, she had left. Alth oug h her guru , Yog ana nda Par ama ham sa, had bee n told by the Div ine Mo th er nev er to be in th e roo m whe n one of his dev otee s died , he was imm erse d in dee p med itat ion n earb y dur~
In 194 3, at the age of sixt y-six, Sek i Seis etsu bec arne the hea d of all the Rin zai tem ples in Jap an. 1\vo year s late r he bec ame critically ill and on the first of Oct obe r said to tho se gath ered at his dea thbe d: Whe n I raise n1y hand , start chan ting Shik u Seig an lThe Fou r Vow s of the Bod hisa ttva ]. The n at the end, whe n
you hit the inkin [small hand bell ], I vvill stop brea thin g. Plea se do that .
So whe n Seisetsu Ros hi rais ed his han d, Yam ada Mun 1on Roshi and the two othe r n1onks pres ent beg an cha ntin g, "Sh ujo
muhen sei gan do ... " and at the end hit the inkin. See ing that
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whe n l rai se m y hand, you must no t give n1e an injection . " He rhu s forbad e the doctor to interven e a seco nd tin1e. On th e night
of October 2, vvhen Seisetsu Roshi raised his hand, the sn1all group re ci ted the Shiku Seigan again. When the inkin w as hie seisets LI Roshi gave a bi g ya wn, sJid "Aaaaaa h," and brea thcd his last breath . Those present reported this as being a truly nla gnificenl last rnornent.
seisetsu Hoshi's breathing had stopped, within n1inutcs the doctor appeared and gave hirn an injection to sti1nulate hi s h ea rt. "l\: o l toda y, " Seisetsu Roshi said. Th e n he added, "Tomorr ow,
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Trijang Rin poche surnm oncd hi s long-tirn e secretary, Palden Tsering, to his bedside on a crisp Novcn1b er n1orning in 198 1. "I
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shall not be rnaking the trip to Mundgo d a fter all," he announc ed in a deep, husky voice. Tears carne to Pald en Tsering's eyes, but
he tried to hide thcrn. "Sh all I cancel t he rail tickets, the n ?" he asked. Th e eighty-on e-yea r-old junior tutor to the Dalai La1na did not reply
once, instead he gazed at a thangka [Buddhist painting] across the roorn and fingered his rosa ry. "K.ecp the rn," he al
replied ot last. "I have an appointr nent th ere." The followin g day he died. The Tibetans believe that his next in ca rnation w jll be discovered Jt the South India n refugee scttlerne nt of Mundgo d.
Shortly before he died , Maha una Gandhi told Manub ehn , a close follovver: "I wish l might face the assa ssin 's bullets while lving on '
y o u r la p a n d re p ea ti n g th e n ar n c o f R ai na fa ce ." A s h e rr1oved th ro u g h a crov-vd w h er e Ja n u ar y n1 or ni ng in 19 48 , a n1an b ru sq u el y
w it h a srnile o n my h e \vas to sp ea k o n e p u sh ed hi s w ay pa st M a n u bc h. n an d fired th re e sh o ts at th e M ab at rn a. "Sri R ar n! Sri R ai n 1" G an d h i. said, as h e tu m b le d to th e g ro u n d .
A Jn o n k said to Tozan,
"A tnonk has died ,· where has he gone ?" Tozan answered, "After the fire, a sprout of gras s" - - -- - -···- ·- ·· · ··------- · · · ~-----
W h en M as te r To za n w as dying a 1 n o n k sa id to h im , ''M as te r, y o u r fo u r el em en ts ar c o u t o f h a n n o ny, b u t is th er e an y o n e w h o is
n ev er ill?" "T h ere is," said To za n. "Docs th is o n e lo o k at y o u ?'' as k ed th e rn on k. "It. is m y fu n ct io n to lo o k at hin1 ," an sw e re d T oz an . "H o w ab o u t v-vhen y o u yourse1f lo o k at. hi rn ?" as k ed th e •
"A t th at m o m en t I se e n o il ln es s, " re pl ie d T oz an .
T h re e n1 on th s b ef o re B h ag aw an 0lit y an an d a to o k mahasan1adhi, a d ev o te e called .Lv1ataji fron1 D ad ar ca rn e to ta k e hi s darshan. T he
da }' Detore sh e ar ri v ed , th e rn as te r b ad d ev e] o p ed a di sc ha ro e fn.nn hi s ear. As so o n as M at aj i le ar n ed of rhis, sh e b eg an to an d b eg th e n1as te r n o t to go aw ay . S h e in te rp re te d th is 10 b e a sign th at th e n1 as te r w as cl ea n si n g hi s sy st er n of to x in s, an d fo r on ly o n e p u rp o se . T h e m as te r to ld he r, "W h y ar e y o u cr y in g ? Don 't cry. IV1orc w o rk is po ss ib le in th e su b tl e th an in th e gr os s. " T w o rn o n th s b ef o re his d ep ar tu re , B h ag aw an p ra ct ic al ly st o p p ed ea ti ng . H e ju st d ra n k w at er o r o cc as io n ally at e a li tt le fruit. His b o d y bc ca rn e v er y th in . E v en th e in lJ )l or in ..g o f th. e C1·OS _ est d ev o te es co u ld n o t p er su ad e hin1 to ta k e an y food. D oc to rs w ere se n t for, b u t B h ag aw an w as n o t in te re st ed in d o ct o rs o r dr ug s. He di d n o t w is h to k ee p th e b o d y an y lo n g er an d n o o n e co ul d co m p el hin1 t.o d o so. U p o n se ei n g th e n1aster's er n ac ia te d co nd it io n, a d ev o te e as k ed hiJn, nB ab a, it gives n1e g re at p ai n to see y o u r p re se n t co n d it io n an d w ea k bo d y. W h y ca n 't yo u us e y o u r d iv in e p o w er to g et o v er y o u r p re se n t co n d it io n ?" His co m pa ss 1o na te an sw er was, ''This b o d y is rn er e d u st an d m u d . T h at [p ow er ] is n o t to b e u se d fo r this. T h at is o n ly for th e d ev o te es ." A b o u t 9: 30 A M o n th e rn o rn in g o f his d ea th , a d ev o te e, n o ti cing th at B h ag aw an 's b o d y w as v er y h o t, co n v ey ed th is to h in1 . B h ag aw an re pl ie d , " It w ill b e like th at ," im p ly in g th at it vvas th e n o n n al co n d it io n at th at st ag e. H e th en re p ea te d w o rd s th at h e ha d re p o rt ed ly said o ft en in th e la st n1 on th s • "S- ac·.1nn u t)e ca n1 l' s . . wa rn1, Swam1 b ec am e D ev a to son1c, B . aba an d B h agavv an 10 ot he·rs- ·.~ De v a w1·n no\!\, , . en te r san1adhz·, co n st an t scunadhi." T h es e w ere re p o rt ed ly B h ag aw an 's la st w o rd s, u tt er ed a b o u t a n h o u r before en te ri n g mahasan1adhi. B ef o re hi s d ep ar tu re , B h ag aw an h ad co ff ee d is tr ib u te d a s Prasad [gift 1 to all p re se n t. W it h a sn1ile h e ga v e a fr ui t to a y o u n o .
e m ca be et fe d an s nd ha s hi d en e th re fo boy. A fe w rn om en ts be en be d ha et fe d an s nd ha s hi of ts in jo e th s st ra ig ht . Fo r so rn e ye ar t A . ee fr ly te lu so ab e m ca be w no ey th ; tn stiff du e to rh eu m at is st la he T s. th ea br ep de ry ve e re th or vo tv 10:45 AM th e M as te r to ok es ey ·is H . ed nd pa ex lly fu e m ca be t es ch w as so de ep th at his n, io ss pa m co of ll fu , ok lo a st ca e H . ra ud as su m ed th e shan1bhavi m ed rn tu es ey s hi en th d an d, un ro a l al at th e lo vi ng de vo te es eey s hi of e dl id n1 e th in ed bb ro th e up w ar ds . T he sushumna ne rv th a. re eb lif s hi d an d ar he as w n 01 of br ow s. A m el od io us so un d w as m er ge d in th e cos.rnos. ed ac pl d an e ur st po s tu lo e th in ed ac pl as w B ha ga w an 's bo dy ys da o tw r Fo t. sa ly al rm no he ch hi w in r in th e sa m e ea sy ch ai y, da rs hu T n O . ge a . m ho y pa to ed er th ga th ou sa nds of de vo te es s hi ve ga s le ip sc di e m so , m O of ng ti an ch am id st th e au sp ic io us rga d an s er ow fl h it w ed ck de be , PM 30 bo dy th e ho ly ba th . At 7: i, ur hp es an G in e 1 on h al in ig or s hi to n la nd s, B ha ga wan w as ta ke dy bo 's an w ga ha B d, te ra ec ns co as w V ai ku nt h. After th e gr ou nd al nd sa , or ph m ca by ed nd ou rr su at w as pl ac ed on a de er sk in se e th to r, ve re fo h rt ea e th in ed ac pl as w oo d, gold, an d je wels. It w
h . t a e th r fo · av w t's an as pe e th t, w ay; fo r th e pe as an , t e artian rs r ]' - '· ' A w t's an ch er m e th t, n ha rc 1e D e th sa n s V\ a y; an d for pe rs on ay. , ~ h' s it su g in ay pr of r ne an m or er se r ve te ha w n1 a) ch oo se Im , pr o'd d h , t f' be s A rt ea h s hi J al th i w ay w e th s w o e foli VI e I a m an of · · . ha sized th at th g in sa nn ua i sta tu s, .Sh osan emT) th t an rt po Im t os 1n e 1 " . . th · at th h at de ow kn To h. at 1s to lo ok st ra ig h t at de e en ti re · IS do ctri n c. " ::>
s hi at th ld to n he W . ill e m ca be an os . In th e sp ri ng of 16 55 Sh he e nc si g in th no nt ea m it at th ed at st he Illness w as a gr av e on e, n ni ea m ps ha er [p re fo be s ar ye ty ir th an ha d al re ad y di ed In or e th g · · · vv hc n h b ec am e a m on k] . As h1 s co nd it io n be ca m e critical his c ·· m hi d ke as em th of ne O . ed hb at de s follow ers ga th er ed ar ou nd hi d an k on m e th at y pl ar sh ed ok lo an to sa y "his final w or ds ." Sh os u yo at th ow sh ly on ou Y ? ng yi sa u yo e scol~ed hi m : "W ha t ar ty ir th an th e or m r fo ng yi sa en be e I'v t do n t un de rs ta nd w ha ye ar s. Like this, I si tn pl y die. " ~----~-- -~- ·--~-
You should strive for a readiness to die.' Be certain an d ready; ·when the time co mes you w il l have no fear and no regret.
reci tati on of th e Ve das .
-M ila re pa
d an ar ye nd co se yrt fo s hj l ti un i Su zu ki Sh osa n w as a sa m u ra to ry te as on m e on om fr ng ri de an W . 20 16 be ca m e a Zen m on k in e pl m si a in ne ri ct do t is dh ud B on te ro w d an ot he r, he sp ok e an e th t ns ai ag d ne ar w n te of e H l. al by od to st yle th at w as un de rs an t no is , te ro w e h , m is dh ud B . es ch ri pu rs ui t of ho no r an d 's or ri ar w e th , or ri ar w e th r fo e: lif ab st ra ct do ct ri ne bu t a w ay of
- · ··-
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= .. ~- '
to id sa is t, in sa st te ea gr t's be Ti be to y an m by M il ar ep a. co ns id er ed k have kn · · 1 d s ou al je a by m hi to n ve gi on is po of O\ .Y ln g y ru n a glass
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falsc-adn1irer. This act of compassion resulted in the culprit tota1Iv repenting his action and becoming a disciple. Knowing that he J
n1ust soon leave the "\.Vorld, Milarepa sent messages to gather his disciples and other seekers to him. And to them all Milarepa preached about Truth. After one talk he said:
I raise the mirror of my life Up to my face: sixty years.
With a swing I smash the reflectionThe world as usual; all in its place. ~Taigen
sixteenth-century Zen monk
All of you here today are here due to good karma you have collected in past lives and now, by being together, there is a certain pure and holy bond between us ... I implore you to remember 1ny discourse and to put the teachings into practice in your daily lives to the best of your abilities. If you do, then in whatever reahn I may arrive at the Perfection of Buddhahood you shall be the first to receive the Truth I shall teach. Take comfort in this thought.
Soine days later when a disciple wanted to intercede with the Powers on his behalf, Milarepa replied that illness in a yogi should be a spur to drive him on and prayers should not be offered for his recovery; he should use his illness to progress spiritually and ever be ready for suffering and even death. He went on: "The tin1e has come when the body that is tnind-evolved only
must become merged into the Realn1 of Light and no rites are necessary for this." When asked by his disciples about funeral instructions, Milarepa replied: .. .Instead of erecting stupas, cultivate a loving devotion to all parts of the Dharma and set up the Banner of Love,
and in place of mcrnorials let there be daily prayers ... Life is short, the Inon1ent of death unknown to you, so apply yourselves to n1editation.
ess illn his nd a ar ub Ch t a ce n ide res up k too n the a rep M ila at wh to him d ke as les cip dis g din lea his of o tw n he W . sed inc rea to ers ay pr ir the t ec dir ld ou sh ey th ere wh d an ing go s wa e h rea lm it l fee u yo r ve ere wh ers ay pr ur yo ct ire "D : ed nd po res him , he st, rne ea in d an re ce sin are u yo s a g lon as , ray p u yo r ve ere be st; wh I . gly rin ve wa un d an tly es rn ea ay pr So u. yo th wi re I sh all be the a ep lar Mi en Th ." all of st fir ss ine pp Ha of n alr Re the am go ing to san g his tw o dis cip les a so ng , aft er wh ich he se ern ed to sin k int o a tra nc e fr om wh ich he ne ve r aw ok e. He die d at ag e eig hty -fo ur .·
in the ye a r ll 3 5.
ief ch e th d lle ca he die to t ou ab as w n ssa l(a r ste Ma Ju st be for e ny ma for s nk mo the to ay W the ed ch ea pr e v ha "I d, mo n k an d sai y ea rs. Th e prof ou nd me a nin g of Bu dd hism is to be kn ow n by rt. pa de to t ou ab a1n I er, ov is life ry uso ill y M . elf ms hi n rso pe ea ch u Yo . ve ali s wa I en wh as me sa the t jus on go ld ou sh s nk mo You d sai g vin Ha ' e.' l ab ser rni le op pe ary din or ke n1a ly nd bli ot n sh ou ld thi s, he im me dia tel y pa sse d aw ay .
Du rin g His Holines s the Sixtee nt h K.a rrr1apa's fin a l vis it to Am eri ca in 1 98 0, it wa s an no u nc ed tha t h e ha d a serio us for m of ca nc er. His fin al eig hte en da ys we re sp en t in an Illino is h os pit al, du rin g w hic h t.irne his dis cip les rep or ted th at "Hi s Ho lin ess tefi en b of ity tiv ac us eo tan on sp s Hi l. rfu ee ch ly me tre ex ed ain rem ing be ings ne ve r ce ase d."
The Sixree nlh Ka nn apa
Sh or tl y be fo re his de at h on N ov ct nb er 5, 19 81 , a w es te rn disciple w en t in pa y his final respects. W he n he pu t hi s he ad do w n to re ce iv e hi s bl es si ng , he fo un d hin1self br ea ki ng in to un co nt ro llable te ar s. As th e te ar s co nt in ue d to flow, th e K an na pa ge nt ly to uc he d hi s hair. W he n he st op pe d crying, he ra ised his he ad to fi nd th e J( ar m ap a lo ok in g di re ct ly in to his ey es . W it h a slight sm il e on hi s face, he sa id to th e disciple, "N ot hi ng ha pp en s. " T he se w or ds , so si m pl e an d so un af fe ct ed , th ru st th e pr of ou nd tr ut h of im pe rm an en ce on ce ag ai n in to th e disc iple 's be in g. T he K.ar m ap a 's at te nd in g do ct or , also a vv es te rn er , vvas a1 na ze d at ho w his pa ti en t ne ve r co m pl ai ne d of pa in , or ev en lo ok ed in pa in . E ve n m or e asto un di ng to hi m , from a m ed ic al vi ew po in t, w as th e fact th at for tw en ty -four, fo rt y- ei gh t, an d ev en up to se ven ty -t w o ho ur s af te r de at h, th e K ar rn ap a 's he ar t w as still w ar m to th e to uc h. He re m ar ke d, ''As a ph ysician, I ha ve no ex pl an ati on fo r this." H ow ev er, ac co rd in g to th e T ib et an tr ad it io n, this is a si gn of san1adhi. U po n th e re qu es t of his foll ow er s, th e Illinois ho sp it al gave pe rm is si on pr ob ab ly for th e first ti1ne in it s history for th e bo dy to st ay in th e ho sp it al ro o1 n fo r tw o days, so th at sa cr ed ri tu al s co ul d be pe rf or m ed . Situ R in po ch e ba th ed th e bo dy an d dr ew pr ot ec ti ve tn an tr as on it, an d th e m on ks be ga n pe rfo rm in g pujas [r it ua ls] ou ts id e th e ro om . T he K ar m apa's bo dy w as fl ow n to R um te k, his m on as te ry in Sikkim. T he re it w as pr ep ar ed for cr er na ti on in th e tr ad it io na l rn an ne r se at ed up ri gh t in th e n1 ed ita tio n po st ur e, w ra pp ed in ga uz e an d br oc ad e an d se at ed in a spec ial roo1n. A w ide ra ng e of pe op le ca m e to pa y th ei r re spects. Pr ep ar at io ns be ga n i1nn1ediately to co ns tr uc t a sp ec ia l sh ri ne ,o r chorten said to syn1bolically repre se nt th e bo dy, sp ee ch, an d n1ind of e nl ig ht en in en t to co nt ai n
th e bo dy of th e K ar m ap a du ri ng th e cr em at io n ce re m on y. During 1he se ve n in te rv en in g \.Yeeks, pu ri fi ca ti on ce re m on ie s w er e pe rforn1ed co nt in uo usly an d pr ay er s w er e of fe re d fo r th e K an na pa 's sp ee dy re in ca rn at io n for th e sa ke of all se nt ie nt beings. As people ar ri ve d by th e th ou sa nd s, re pr es en ti ng all sects of B ud dh is m , each filed pa st th e sh ri ne to pa y th ei r re spects an d m ak e th e traditional offering of a w hi te silk scarf. As th e cren1ation fir e w as ab ou t to be lit, a ra in bo w ap pe ared ab ov e th e m on as te ry in th e clear, blue sky. A s th e fire w as bu rn in g, a fe w In er nb er s of th e do cu m en ta ry film cr ew re po rt ed seei ng an ex pl os io n fr om th e to p of th e chorten. O ne m em be r sa w so 1n et hi ng black fly up in to th e air, w hi ch did no t co m e do w n. L at er on e of th e ri np oc he s ex pl ai ne d th at th is ob je ct w as th e to p of His H ol in ess' skul l; th at th e dakinis [god de ss es th at tr an sr nu te su ff erin gl ha d be en w ai ti ng in ai r ab ov e th e m on as te ry to \.Y el co m e His Holiness an d th is w as a sign th at he h ad go ne to n1eet th er n an d be w it h th em . - - - --- -- -
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How w onderful! Th e waves of individual selves according to their na ture rise up, playing for a time, and disappear. I remain th e shoreless ocean. - fro m th e As h ta va kra Sa m hita
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O n th e da y be fo re he died, th e se ve nt y-si x -y ea r- ol d Z en m as te r Ya ku o T ok uk cn fo rb ad e an el ab or at e fu ne ra l an d or de re d hi s
stu de nts to cre ma te his body. "To m orr ow n1orning,'' he said, " I shall eat rice po rrid ge wi th yo ur fo r breakfast, an d at no on I shaH go. " Th e n ext day at no on h e wrote som e las t wo rds , threw do-vvn his bru sh, an d die d sitting up rig ht.
... .... . . ....
On the first day of the Tib eta n Ne w Year in 198 4, La ma Th ub ten Ycshe 's he art sur ren de red to the en orm ou s pre ssu re it ha d end ure d for ov er ten years. Two fau lty val ves ha d en lar ged it to tw ice its no rm al siz e. Ac cor din g to mo de rn me dic ine , it wa s a mi rac le h e wa s alive at all. He him self ha d on ce said he wa s alive "on ly thr ou gh the po we r of ma ntr a." Fo ur m onths before his pas sin g, it bec am e cle a r to his disciples ho w ill he tru ly wa s. On Jan ua ry 3, following a fift een day sta y in a De lhi ho spital, on e of his stu de nts fer ven tly req ue ste d the lam a to live longer. Lam a Yeshe agreed he cou ld do so, bu t "it dep end s on the ka rm a an d ha rd pra ye rs of the stu den ts. " A fevv days lat er, on e of the lam a's dea res t tea che rs urged him to all ow the clo ak of silence ab ou t his con dit ion lift ed, so tha t his stu de nts cou ld cre ate n1erit. By ear ly Fe bru ary it wa s dec ide d tha t La ma Yeshe wo uld un d ergo valve rep lac em en t surge ry in a Ca lifo rni a ho spi tal . Wh ile w ait ing for his bo dy to rega in en ou gh str eng th to un de rgo the sur ge ry, he ha d a str ok e wh ich par aly zed his left sid e. Specific pra yer s an d rna ntr as fo un d in a Tibeta n tex t we re ord e red to pro tect agai nst mo re paralysis. Al tho ug h th e pa ral ysi s did sub side, Lan1a Yes he' s con dit ion gre w 1nore critical.
On th e eve of his passing, La ina Yes h e \lvas co mp le tely con scio us, tal kin g an d la ug hin g wi th th e nu rse s an d eat ing 13 1
strawberries. Around four in the morning Lama Yeshe asked that a particular ritual called the Heruka Sadhana be performed, for which he was able to sit for rneditation. Shortly after five in the morning, his heart stopped. Throughout the day, people sat with him reciting mantras. At five in the evening the utter silence of the room was broken by the sudden shouting of Heruka mantras and it was announced: "Now Lama's meditation is finished." This was the first day of the Tibetan New Year March 3, 1984.
I02 ~ --
Gadge Baba was a wandering saint who carried on the great tradition of Tukaram and Eknath. His name came from the broken piece of earthen pot gad._qe he carried on his head. For fifty years he traveled frorn village to village performing rituals and doing good works. In 1951, his seventy-fifth year, when a friend advised he take rest he replied, "My friend, this body is a hired horse. The more you fondle it, the more docile and lazy it will be
CS· I 00
According to legend, the great Shaivite teacher Abhinavagupta walked into a cave followed by twelve hundred of his disciples, and none of them ever walked out again. The cave, called Bhairava Cave, leads deep into the earth. It exists to this day.
come. And the more you make it run in the ring, the more it will work for you." Although his continued his traveling, in 1953 he twice fell unconscious from diabetes. Accustomed to sleeping on a mat spread on the earth, when he was hospitalized and made to sleep on a soft mattress in 1956, he escaped. When asked about this, he joked how he was unable to pay a large hospital bill, but then in a more serious tone added that "In the face of God, my case has already come up for hearing. I have gotten a deferment, however, and been allowed to live a few more days. JJ
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was one of the most important figures in the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism to the West. He died in 1987 at the age of 4 7, but left a lasting legacy in the form of his teachings and the community of students and practitioners that had grown up around him. "Birth and death are expressions of life," he wrote in a statement read after his death. "I have fulfilled my work and conducted my duties as much as the situation allowed, and now I have passed away quite happily ... On the whole, discipline and practice are essential, whether I am there or not. Whether you are young or old, you should learn the lesson of impermanence from my death."
Although quite sick, he continued his travels, with throngs of people following him. On December 7, although his condition was critical, he )eft Bombay. He died, fittingly, in a van on the way to Nagarwadi. His death was in complete hannony with the
life he had lived. Since leaving home at age 29, he had not made any particular place his home. He was a man of the road, and on the road he ended his life. Over three hundred thousand assembled to attend his last rites in Amravati. He often would say the body belonged to the five elements of nature [earth, air, water, sky, and sun] and once its use vvas over, it had to be returned to the elements.
One Sunday afternoon in la te March, 1973, Yasutani Roshi held a jukai [ccren1ony ro tran sn1it the Buddhist precepts] at Sanun Zendo in Kamakura, Japan. Having been ill for sorne ti.m.e, he sa t
down very carefully on the platfonn, his breath rough and shallow. Although he often h ad a hacking cough, it did not manifest;
... "'"' ' ....... "
.. :1 (
after about. five Ininutes his breathing had bcc(nne con1poscd. He entered samadhi and began the jukai. The cerernony was cornpletcd without the slightest disturbance, not even a single cou gh . His voice was surpri singly loud and strong. Later he sa id that the day's jukai would be his last, that be had done it on \Nill-power alone.
Two days later he sa t up cross-legged in bed and had his breakfast of rice gruel. An atten dant left to get hirn a towel, and when she returned, h e had died. This is one of the las t poerns Yasutani vvrote: Br(qht, br(qht, clean, clear, naked and splendid. The great earth, mountains, and rivers the uncovered womb. There are flowers and the moon who is the Master! Spring, Autumn, Winter, and Stnnmer contpete ~;vith ne\tv garb.
The last years of M e h er Baba's life were spent n1ainly in seclu-
sion. Fron1 1925 until his death in 1969 he n1aintained an unbroken silence, communicating initially with a writing board and later by signs. He etnerged frorn his final sccl usion in J uly .I 968. In December h e began to su ffer fron1 Inuscular spasrns of the
H clkuu n
Rvoko Yaszuani -'
lim bs and spin e, an d h e told h is mandali [gro up of clo se com pa nion s}, ''Th e tim e is ver y n ear . '' The foll ow ing Ino nth h e comfor ted a dev ote e w h o was wo rr ied a bou t his hea lth by say ing , "All w ill be we ll by the end of this m ont h." On Dec em ber 30, sev era l per son s w ere n eed ed to ho ld ont o h is legs as int ens e spa sn1s sho ok his bod y. Tha t eve nin g, alth ou gh the pai n wa s int ense, he told a manda li m em ber "I am n ot this bod y." Jus t afte r noo n the foll ow ing day Bab a wa s seiz ed wit h a sev ere spa sm and his bre ath in g sto ppe d. Att e rnp ts to revive him we re uns uccess ful. Alt ho ugh a me ssa ge w as sent out to the wo rld tha t Bab a's bur ial wo uld be Feb rua ry L his sist er re calle d Bab a hav in g con vey ed by sign s on the last 1no rni ng that "after sev en days he w oul d be one hun dre d percen t free . " Th us Me her Bab a's gar lan ded bo dy, su rro und ed by blo cks of ice, wa s left for sev era l day s, as a con sta nt flow of dev ote es pou red in to pay the ir fin al respec ts. He wa s bur ied on the eigh th day. On e of his sayings, tre as ure d by h is dev ote es, offe red som e sol ace: "W hen I dro p m y bod y, I w ill rem ain in all wh o lov e me . I can nev e r die . Lov e me , obe y me and you will find me . "
Even zf death were to fall upon you today like lightning, you must be ready to die without sadness and regret, without any residue of clinging fo r ~vhat is left behind. Rem aining in the recognition of the absolute view, you should leave this life like an eagle soa ring up into the blu e skv. - Dilg o Khy e ntse Ri npo che ·-
. ed At the you ng age of fift een , Dilgo Kh yen tse Rin poc h e pro nus his ma in tea che r jus t bef ore he pas sed aw ay tha t h e wo uld un stin tingly tea ch w h oev er ask ed him for the Dh arma. 'T"lO pre . par e for this tas k, he spe nt m ost of the nex t thi rte en yea rs In sile nt retr eat in h erm itag es a n d cav es in the wil der nes s nea r his bir thp lac e in Ne pal. Aft er this tim e, wh en he told his sec ond tea che r h e w oul d like to spe nd the rem ain der of his life in stri ct soli tary m edita tion ret rea t, h e rec eiv ed th e rep ly: "Th e tim e has com e for you to tea ch and tra nsm it to oth ers all the cou ntle ss pre cio us tea chi ngs you hav e rec eiv ed." His inn er jou rne y had led h im to an ext rao rdi na ry dep th of kno wle dge, wh ich ena ble d him to be a fou nta in of lov ing kin dne ss, wis dom and com pas sio n for
all livi ng bei ngs until his dea th in 199 1. I
to ip tr r he ot an g in ak n1 of d ea st In . 1n hi e se to vvho n1ost ne ed ed a in s th on n1 lf ha a d an e re th d en sp to d ea st in Tibet, he ch os e y an m d te ca di in e h , ar ye is th g in ur D n. ta hu B jn sa cr ed re tr ea t site ld ou w e H . on so ld or w is th e av le to g in go as tit nc s th at he w ?" w no e di I ll ha ''S : as gs in th ch su ng yi sa it, t so m et im es jo ke ab ou e th in t ee n1 ill w e "W , ng yi sa le ip sc di e os cl a O ne tir ne h e w ro te to of d el fi adh ud B he [t n ai nt ou M ed or G lo ri ou s C op pe r C ol ." t] be Ti to m is dh ud B t gh ou br ho w r te as Pa dm as ar nb ha va , th e rn be to d ne et se e ch po in R e ts en hy K n, ta A ft er th e re tr ea t in B hu en be d ha ho w s le ip sc di s hi of l ra ve se d in be tte r he al th . He vi si te h rt bi nd yo be c he ac tc te 1a tin u1 e th of 1 en th to e in retreat. an d sp ok to go to d te vi in as w e H n. tio ta es if an m al ic ys ph an d de at h or an y an th er th ra t bu n, ta hu B of r he ot M en ue Q Kalirr1pong by th e on ed st si in he , m hi r fo ed ng ra ar d ha e sh us in g th e he li co pt er d ol an ay w e th on e se to , ad ro by y ne ur do in g th e st re nu ou s jo disciple of his. n ai ag c ch po in R c ts en hy K n, ta hu B to Sh or tly aft er re tu rn in g eet pl m co st no ah as w ys da ve el tw r fo d sh ovve d signs of illne ss, an te ro w he y, va av g in ss pa re fo be ys da ur ly un ab le to ea t or dr in k. Fo VO da ys la te r T\. ." th en te ne ni e th on go l al sh "I r: on a pi ec e of pa pe d ve ri ar e, ch po in R ik sh ul Tr , nd ie fr al itu ir sp d an le his closest discip r, te af y da e Th . g tin ee m y pp ha a d ha ey fro rn N ep al an d th at ), th on m n ta be Ti e th of th en te ne ni he (t Se pr et nb er 27, 1991 t gh ri up an in sit n1 hi lp he to ts an nd te at ni gh tfa ll, h e as ke d his e th of s ur ho y rl ea e th In . ep sle ul ef ac pc a po si tio n an d w en t in to e th in d ve ol ss di d in n1 s hi d an ed as ce g n1orning, his br ea th in ab so lu te ex pa nse. , ld or vv e th er ov l1 a d an t be Ti n or fr s le ip sc A t th e re q uc st of di g in m al nb e1 al on iti ad tr g in us r a ye a r fo his b od y w as pr es er ve d
metho ds. Every Friday (the day of his death ) for the first seven weeks, one hundr ed thousa nd butter lamps were offered on the Bodh nath stupa near Shech en Monastery in Nepal. Finall y, his remai ns were crema ted n ear Paro in Bhuta n, in Novem ber 1992, at a three- day cerem ony attend ed by over a hundr ed impor tant lamas, the royal family and minis ters of Bhutan , five hundr ed weste rn discipl es, and a huge crowd of some fifty thous and devotees a gather ing unpre ceden ted in Bhuta n's history. As with other masters, his death was his last teaching, the teachi ng on 1mperma nence : •
Never forget how swiftly this life will be over like a flash of summ er lightni ng or the wave of a hand. Now that you have the opport unity to practice the Dharm a, do not waste a single n1oment on anythi ng else, but with all your energy and effort practice the Dharm a.
When Zen Maste r Tung- shan felt it was time for him to go, he had his head shaved , took a bath, put on his robe, rang the bell to bid farew ell to the comm unity, and sat up till he breath ed no more. To all appea rances he had died. There upon the whole comm unity burst out crying grievously as little childr en do at the death of their mothe r. Sudde nly the maste r opene d his eyes and said to the weepi ng monk s, "We monk s are supposed to be detach ed from all things transitory. In this consists true spiritual life. To live is to work, to die is to rest. What is the use of groaning and moani ng?" He then ordere d a "stupidity-purifying" meal for the whole comm unity. After the meal he said to them, "Please make no fuss over me! Be calm as befits a family of monks! Gener ally speaking, when anyon e is at the point of going, he has no use for noise and comm otion. " There upon he return ed to the Abbot 's room, where he sat in medit ation until he passed away.
Telanga Swam i was a high being who, much to the distress of the Varan asi police, always remai ned naked. When Telanga Swam i rea lized his mission in this world was fulfilled, he fixed his time of leaving a month before the actual day. On the appoi nted day, he gave the necessary instru ctions to his pupils that his body should be enclosed in a wood en chest and cast into the midstream of the Ganges. That day he spent many hours in a closed room in deep medit ation. Comin g out of the room in the afternoon, he blessed a group of discip les and admirers, assum ed the full lotus postur e, and attain ed mahasamadhi. He repute dly had attain ed the age of 280.
When the Taoist sage Lai was on the verge of death, anoth er sage asked him, "Grea t is the Make r of Things! What will becom e of you now? Wher e will h e send you?" Lai replied, "A child who obeys his fa ther and mothe r will go where ver they tell him to go east, west, south, or north. Yin and yang, the eleme nts of nature , are they not to a man like father and mothe r? If I were not to obey them now that they have broug ht me to the point of death, how wayw ard I should be. They are not to be blamed. The
grea t earth burd ens 1ne with a body , forces upon me the toil of life, eas es me in old age, and calm s me in death . If life is good , deat h is good also. If an irons 1nith w ere casti ng meta l and the meta l were to jump up and say, 'Mak e me into the best of all swor ds !' the irons mith wou ld rega rd it as a bad ome n. Now that my hum an form is deco mpo sing, were I to say,' I wan t to be a man ! No thing but a m an! ' the Mak er of Thin gs wou ld think me most unw orthy . Heav en and earth are a grea t forge and the Mak er of Thin gs is a mast er iron smit h. Can the place he is send _ ing m e to be the wron g place ?"
AF TE RW OR D In his book Death and Dying: The Tibetan Tradition, Glen n Mull in rema rks: "Not hing is considere d to be a more pow erful teach er of deat h and impe rma nence than the passi ng of one's own Guru ." I had the grea t good fortu ne to be at my n1aster's ashr am in
.:; - ' .,
Narrow paths toward the cemetery generations of abbots fallen camellias. -Mit su Suzu ki
Indi a whe n he pass ed awa y. The med ical reaso n Swa mi Muk tana nda (affe ction ately calle d Baba by his follo wers ) left his body was a heart attac k. Seve ral hour s befo re this depa rture , he bega n refer ring to hims elf in th e past tense . No one took speci al note of this beca use Sidd ha Yoga mast ers, know n as #per fecte d being s, " often say myst eriou s things. At 11:3 0 in the even ing the ashr am gong , norm ally struc k only at sunr ise and suns et, bega n to soun d. It seem ed odd. In the back grou nd the slow dron e of cha nting coul d be hear d, alon g with inter mitt ent poun ding , like build ing cons truct ion. Sinc e cons tru ction by the India n triba l wo rkers often takes place in the midd le of the nigh t, just as wedd ings can, that seem ed less inco ngruo us than the chan ting. Dow n the corri dor from the dorm room that I shar ed with three othe r wom en, we hear d scurr ying foots teps an d a youn g won1 an's voice whis perin g, "Bab a is sick. Ever yone is invit ed to com e chan t." We all threw some thing on and wen t quick ly down stair s. The chan ting and the poun ding grew loud er and the situa tion seem ed even more conf using. Why, if Baba was sick, were peop le
tearing out the floo r of th e n1editation roon1 next to his apartment in the courtyard? Wouldn't this disturb hi.m? At that
lating n1om cnts of free-floating adoration one can feel in fla shes as an adolescent. But this time the love didn't require an object. It
rno1nent, one of the svvamis walked up and gently whispered,
only had to be relished for its own sake; its origin and its des tina-
"Baba left his body. " I didn't believe it. He couldn't leave. How could he leave me? Yet, looking around, I saw this was the only
tion resided novv in the space between my own heartbeats. Each n1oment was pristine and to be savored simply because it was.
sensible explanation. No one would be tearing out the floor unless Baba had left explicit instructions for the preparation of his burial site to begin iminediate1y after his death.
Whh Baba's mahasamadhi, I knew my life was beginning
I walked around in a daze. To sit. was .more painful, so I kept
anew. And it all belonged to me, because of him. How can the litany of gratitude ever end for a gift so preciou s? He is still alive inside o( me today. There is only one other gift that can possibly
seen1ed to be encased in a cocoon of shock. Some dropped in lin1p bundles to the floor to cha nt, unable to move. Others were vigor-
outshine th is g1fr of the Siddha Inasters: they always lea ve a living master to co ntinue supporting and guiding their devotees to the final goaL Baba passed on the Siddha lineage to a close disci-
ously sweeping a'\-vay dust and debris from the dernolition work going on within a few feet of the chanters. The drone of the chant
ple he'd been training since she was five- years old, Swami Chidvilasananda now affectionately known as Gurumayi.
seemed to contain the pain of the universe. 1 followed what others were doing. First I chanted, and then, when that wasn't. right,
T'vvo sun1n1ers ago while I was visiting Gurumayi at Shree Muktananda Ash ran1 in South Fallsburg, New York, I took a course entitled //Does Death Really Exist?" One late afternoon around the Iniddle of the course, a lovely woman swarni asked us all to close ou r eyes for a contemplation. She said: "Ask yourself, 'Where 1s it that l an1 going to go when l die?'" Before the ques-
rnoving. Hundreds of people were now up and about, and each
I wandered into Amrit, the coffee shop in the
lower garden where Weste rners often gathered . At eve ry table stories could be heard about Baba , about his life, about his glory some going ba ck only a few days, sornc to fifte en years before. Tears, laughter, disbelief, gratitude. The air was thick with grace. Grace moved in the form of people I thought had limitations. For once, their karmic baggage was suspended, their egos not in vievv. The limiting concep ts that usually gave form to n1y perception of others
had dissolved. All I saw was light. Each and every particle of air was i11urnined. My rnind vvas totall y still. Inside I felt a liquid pool of clea c crystalline Hght. My heart felt pregnant wit.h the very joy of be1ng alive and present to each second. It was akin to those clear, titil~
tion was out of her .rn.outh, I heard words resounding inside my chest: " In Baba's heart." These words had clearly been formulat-
ed by something other than my conscious rnind. I left the Catskil1s that summer yvith a new joy that came from a sense of knowing where I was ultiinately going to reside. For son1c rnysterious reason, when I got home I starred collecting death stories of masters and keying then1 into my com•
puter. A book secn1ed to be in the tnaking. Iv1 y original title for it, Diamond L(qht: How Great Beings Die,
arose from an experience following my mother's death. During
the last several of her eighty-n ine years, she never wanted us to buy her presents, but would always relish resting her eyes on the radiant diamonds in the jewelry stores at the mall when we w ent out to lunch. The dian1ond in her wedding ring had been flawed for over half a century and a yearning seemed to be there. She died peacefully the day before Valentine 's Day in 1993, one week after suffering a heart attack. The following Sunday during our morning meditatio n, I had a stron g vision. She appeared standing next to Baba's guru, Bhagawa n Nityanan da, ecstatically waving her arms, with an expression of indescribable joy on her face. Behind her, I saw what looked like a huge icicle. Then I heard her utter, almost in a cheer, "He gave me diamonds! He gave me diamond s!" For me, this was a confirma tion that Bhagawa n had given her the inner light, the true gem. for which she had been yearning. A few years later, in August 1995, my ninety-th ree-year-old father came to spend the last two weeks of his life in our home. Although he had not shown any interest in my yogic practices over the years, the one thing Dad did enjoy was listening to my tape of Baba chanting Om Namah Shivaya, the initiation mantra of the Siddha Yoga lineage. A few days before he left he wanted me to explain to him very simply who Baba Muktana nda was. I told him Baba was a man who had spent his entire life looking for God and that, under the guidance of his master, he had attained God-realization, he had become one with God. This seemed to answer his question. About three hours before he died, I asked Dad if he wanted me to play the tape of Baba chanting the mantra . I was very surprised to hear his response , which turned out to be his final words: ''Just until He comes. Just until He comes." I'm not sure 146
exactly what he meant by this, but I expe rienced the words as a gift; they made me feel a deep joy inside. I knew whatever fonn "He" was going to come in, it would be just perfect. Being present at my dad's death was perhaps the most inti· mate experien ce I ever had with him. It felt like a sacred honor and privilege that he allowed me to partake in his departure. The Siddha lineage teaches tha t all famil y members of devotees for seven generatio ns receive the grace and protectio n of the Siddha masters. The way my parents were so clearly taken care of gave me an insight into the truth and beauty of this teaching. The palpable grace I experien ced around their dying process and departur e inspired a revised title for this book Graceful Exits that emerged very naturally during a quiet moment. Still, when people would ask why I was compilin g the book, I could· n't answer. I didn't know. The underlying reason, about which I had no conscious awarenes s, only became clear several weeks ago. I fe lt some chest pain and walked into our nearby emergen cy room thinking I was having a mild heart attack. Five hours later I walked out, having learned I had advanced lung cancer metastasized to bone. The window on my life had become very short. I had, unknowi ngly, been busy compilin g a training manual for my own "graceful exit!'' Upon hearing this news, I turned again to the source that had always nourishe d me: my gur-u. As soon as I sent the message to Gurumayi, my perceptio n of the world began to shift radically. Suddenly I could see karmic blocks tha t had veiled my con~ sciousness this entire lifetime. Many gifts of sublime insight and understa nding about life, and death, were showere d upon me. One morning in meditati on I had an incredible vision. I saw . on the ground · Her eyes opened, Gurumay i's face close up, lying 147
and she gav e rne a big sn1Ue. "I an1 \Vith you ," she said . Tha t faded, and then I saw the sarn e sce ne, only novv her face vvas
tota lly tran sluc ent, and I hea rd the vvords. "Su s hila, I am dyh1 g vvith you ." The n she wen t on to ans wer a big practical que stio n I bad abo ut the tin1e berv veen no\v and leav ing, "Die a little bit each day in n1editat.ion,"· she sajd. Thjs exp e rien ce was the mos t extr aord jnar y gift and plan ted in me the kno wle dge that Guru1nayi \Vill be with me eve ry min ute of this path and will be ther e to take 1ne across. One rno nth afte r hea ring the nevvs, on rny t.ent.h and final day of palliativ e brai n radi atio n, I was able to jou rne y to Sou th Fall sb urg to be vvith Gur un1 ayi in pers on for a few wee ks. I star t· ed exp erie ndn g eve n grea ter leve ls of Gur uma yi's coin pass ion jn my hea rt. I arri ved with digestive trou bles , the side effe cts of radiatio n. Gurun1 ayi can1e in med itat ion and told me ""Offer you r food to rne and I will turn it to pran a, to ligh t." At'te r that I wou ld do this at eac h mea l and the food vvcnt dow n like nec tar. During this time, the pro fou nd insights and und erst and ings I had bee n give n seem ed to sett le dee p insi de, and I was cata pult ed into a stat e of simply bein g pres ent in the hea rt. It wa s a fear less stat e, vvithout desi re. So whe n I vvas aske d to give a taJk in the tned ita-
irnt ned iatc ly bro ken by a pea l of laug hter whe n I add ed that som eon e told rne 1 was sirnply doin g "ad van ce wor k" for all the dev otee s. Ncnv, back horTle,. the grac e kee ps flovv·ing. I exp erie nce the full sup por t of rny gur u and the enti re Sidd ha cornrnunity eac h
day as my jou rne y con tinu es. I mig ht eve n say I'm look ing forwar d to my dyin g exp erie nce as it con tinu es to unv eil itself each day. In one med itat ion I ha d befo re goin g to Fallsbu rg, Gur urna yi told me to reca ll the mos t pro fou nd and extr aord inar y nled itation s I'd had ove r the past twe nty yea rs . The n she said the "ma ham edit atio n, ,, the sup rem e med itati on, was unim agin ably bey ond any of thes e exp erie nces .
If this boo k serv es to mak e the dep artu re of eve n one oth er pers on rnore grace-filled, mor e filled with ligh t, mor e satu rate d w·i th God 's sub lime love and und e rsta ndin g, it will hav e mor e than serv ed its pur pos e. Sus hi!a Bla ckm an
Septen1ber 21, 199 6
tion inte nsiv e to mor e than a thou san d peo ple, not eve n a ripp le of anx jety aros e. (Qu ite unu sua l, give n that thro ugh out tny twe nty· som e yea rs of Sidd ha Yoga I secr etly harb ored an inte nse fear of bein g con fron ted with suc h a requ est.) Instead, bec aus e of the stat e of grac e t.hat I had bee n gran ted, the deli very of the talk
Self. Wh en I men tion ed in the talk that \Ve vvere all in this proc ess (of dyin g) toge ther, ther e was a brie f hus h in th e roon1 . Tha t was
Sushila B!ackn1an died peacefil.lly and conscious(v on the afternoon of Saturday. November 9, 1996. In rhe spiritual tradition she follotved, this day is celebrated as Divvali, the Festival of L(.qhts, and the begi nnin g of rhe 1Vet-tl Year.
\Vas a joyful offe ring , a natu ral and con 1fon able shar in g with my
MASTERS AND SOURCES
The following is a list of the Inasters whose death stories are recounted in this book an d the original sources from which the stories we re drawn. The masters' names are followed by th eir life dates (when available) and the religious tradition to w hich they belon ged. Nam es are rendered a s per the source material, which means, for exatnple, that names of some Chinese masters have been given Japanese readings, and there are some inconsistencies in romanization. Ch'an is the Chinese pronunciation of the character pronounced Zen in Japanese, and has been used to identify Chinese masters in that tradition.
PHOTO CREDITS Neem Karoli Baba (p. 29). Reproduced with permission of the Hanuman Foundation, Santa Fe, NM. Anandamayi Ma (p. 32). Reproduced with pern1ission of the Matri Satsang, Kailua-Kona, HI. Kalu Rinpoche (p. 40). Photo by Sanje Elliott. Reproduced with permission. Ramakrishna (p. 43). Reproduced with permission of the publisher from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, translated by Swami Nikhilananda (New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center of New York, 1942). Ramana Maharshi (p. 55). Reproduced with permission of Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai, India. Shunryu Suzuki ( p. 63). Photo by RobertS. Boni. Reproduced from Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind by Shunryu Suzuki (New York: WeatherhilL 1971). Kyabje Ling Rinpoche (p. 74). Reproduced with permission of Jhampa Shaneman, B.A.S.I.S., Duncan, Brilish Columbia. Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi (p. 81). Photo by Emmett Ho. Reproduced with permission of the White Plum Sangha, Yonkers, NY. Brahmananda (p. 89). Reproduced with permission of the publisher from Spendour in the Cave by Shyamananda Banerjee (Calcutta: Banerjee Publishing, 1976). Paramahansa Yogananda (p. 91). Reproduced with permission of the SelfRealization Fellowship. Los Angeles, CA. Jam yang Khyentse Rinpoche (p. 96). Reproduced with permission of the Rigpa Foundation. Santa Cruz, CA. Xu Yun (p. 100). Reproduced with permission of the publisher from The Empty Cloud: The Autobiography of the Chinese Zen lvtaster Xu Yun (Rockport, MA: Element Books. 1988). Yamaoka Tesshu (p. 103). Reproduced with permission of the publisher fron1 The Sword of No-Sword by John Stevens (Boston: Sharnbhala, 1984). Shivapuri Baba (p.104). Reproduced with pennission of the publisher from Long Pilgrimage: The Lzfe and Teaching of Sri Govindananda Bharati by J .G. Bennett (London: Hodder and Stoughton Limited, 1965).
Sivan anda (p. Ill ). Repro du ced with perrni ssion of The In ternat ional Sivan anda Yoga Vedan ta Centr e, Queb ec, Canad a. Nogam i Senry o (p. 113 ) . Repro duced wi th perrni ssion of Seika nji Temp le, Nagoy a, Japan . Trijan g R.inpo che (p. 118). Repro duced with permi ssion of Mand ala (Soqu el, CA), court esy of Jaffa Elias . 16th Karm apa (p. 127 ). PhotO by Sanj e Elliott . Repro duced with permi ssion. Lama Yeshe (p. 130) . Photo by Jonat han Landa w. Repro duced with permi ssion from Introduction to Tantra (Bosto n: Wisdo m Public ations , 1978) . Yasut ani Roshi (p. 135). Repro duced from A Zen Wa ve: Basho's Haiku and Zen b y Rober t Aitke n (New York: Weat herhill, 1978) . Dilgo Khye ntse Rinpo che (p. 138). Photo by Matth ieu Ricard . Repro duced with . . permiSSIOn. Front co ver: The rnedit ating monk is a detail from a photograph by Andre Jewel l (Bijou x), from his forthc oming book Zansk ar Journe ys. Repro duced w ith pennission.
The ''weat hern1 ark" identi fies thi s book as a p roduc tio n of Weat herhil L Inc., publis hers of fine books on Asia and the Pacific. Edito rial super vision and book design : D.S. Noble . Cover design by Sushi la Black man and D.S. Noble . Produ ction super vision : Bill Rose. Printe d and bound by Queb ecor. The typefa ce u sed is Merid ien, wit h Charl emag ne for display.