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Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die (Death stories of Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, and Zen masters) Paperback – May 10, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Blackman narrates the death stories of over 100 Tibetan, Hindu, and Zen masters, ancient and modern. The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died. As Blackman notes, the Judaeo-Christian perspective of death is not represented here, but this fills a demand for inspirational books about death and Eastern spirituality.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died."—Library Journal

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

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

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

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

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala; 1st Shambhala Ed edition (2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590302702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590302705
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #143,939 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 13, 1998
Format: Paperback
I read an excerpt of this book in a magazine and had to read the whole thing. The author, for reasons unknown to her, was compelled to collect death stories of Hindu, Buddhist and Zen masters. The stories she reports are awe inspiring. These men and women faced died with poise and courage, inspirations to all who must die. The book has a deeper message: Sushila Blackman was herself dying as she wrote the book. A trip to the emergency room while compiling the stories revealed that she wasn't suffering a mild heart attack as she thought. She was dying from incurable lung cancer. This is the story of a remarkable woman who used the material in this book to guide her own death. It gives me chills.
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38 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 1999
Format: Paperback
My favorite story was about the 97-year-old Zen nun Nogami Senryo who wanted to, and did, die standing up. What a great story! There are many little gems throughout the book, though it is kind of morbid and I could only read a page or so at a time. The stories from India are pretty fantastical and hard to believe, though. I found the afterward to be stunning, how Ms. Blackman discovered she had advanced lung cancer and was going to die. It was the captstone of the whole volume. This book makes sobering but good reading for anyone, even those who are in the bloom of health and are young.
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. McGarry on July 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Koans and stories of the deaths of Masters are scattered throughout the sacred texts of the East. This book is remarkable in that it brings those many stories together in one place. By focusing a book on the theme of "death stories", the stories illumine each other, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The stories reveal a wonderfully refreshing way to think about death (and hence, to think about Life!) Many are solemn, but some are quite humorous. In each, we see the presence of someone who embraces all of human experience, who says "Yes!" to all of Life, including death. Many of the Masters give one final gem of wisdom, summarizing their life's teaching, as their last word. The many photographs of the Masters are heart-warming. For anyone ready to think about death and mortality in terms of their spritual meaning, this book is ideal. Ironically, through looking at how the Masters die, we can implicitly understand their teaching on how to be ever more fully alive.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Judith Jackson on October 24, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
For years I have been interested in conscious death, or as it is also known, maha samadhi. It is mentioned in many biographies and books about spiritual masters, but here it is treated in great detail from the perspective of many spiritual traditions. It makes it possible to get beyond dogma and learn that like all things spiritual, there is more than one way to make maha samadhi. This book answered many long held questions, and I recommend to anyone who is interested in learning about dying consciously.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alan Gettis VINE VOICE on December 13, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sushila Blackman was the perfect person to author this book. She was present at the death of her teacher, Swami Muktananda, and also made her own graceful exit a month and a half after completing the book. She presents the accounts of how great beings die in a very straight forward manner. She did a wonderful job of doing that. The exits themselves were a bit repetitive and not particularly fascinating. Maybe my expectations were too high. There were too many overly dramatic exits, to the point where it seemed there was conformity at work. A number of these great beings died during meditation. Although there was little death bed wisdom, I found the book interesting and commend Ms. Blackman for this unique collection of exits, graceful or otherwise.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Matthew J. Schimpf on July 11, 2008
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How we face death is at least as important as how we face life. This book is a beautiful example of the deep, esoteric meaning of that phrase. We can't explore the notion of up, without talking about down, hot with out mentioning cold, how can we possibly understand life without talking about death (even if it is imaginary)? This book is quite remarkable and should be a staple among hospice workers, and anyone seeking a higher understanding. I wish I could give it six stars.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By The Ness on May 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
We are all here for only a limited time . . . during which we live our lives, and if we are lucky, do not have to spend too much thought on our inevitable demise. Regardless of your situation or reason for considering this book, it is a must read. A positive approach to the end of life is the best present we can give ourselves and those close to us.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Sandy Nathan VINE VOICE on January 19, 2008
Format: Paperback
This powerful book tells the death stories of 108 Eastern spiritual masters. Eastern religions believe one's state of being at the time of death influences or determines one's progress after death. Sushila Blackman began to compile these stories without really knowing why. A trip to the hospital for chest pain revealed she had terminal lung cancer: the book was in fact part of her preparation for her own conscious death. A magnificent book compiled by a magnificent person.
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