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Fearless Death: Buddhist Wisdom on the Art of Dying Hardcover – May 1, 2013
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This excellent book about death and dying...will be extremely helpful for people to prepare for their own death, and to lose their fear of dying, knowing now that death is just the end of our physical aspects but not of our consciousness...This book could be of great help in daily medical practice in the Western world, where death is still a huge taboo as a result of widespread ignorance. Highly recommended. --Pim van Lommel, M.D., Author of Consciousness beyond Life
About the Author
Lama Ole Nydahl is one of the few Westerners fully qualified as a Lama and meditation teacher in the Karma Kagyu Buddhist tradition. In 1969, Ole Nydahl and his late wife Hannah became the first Western students of H.H. the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. After completing several years of Buddhist philosophy studies and intensive meditation training, Nydahl began teaching Buddhism in Europe at the request of the 16th Karmapa. He has since transmitted the Karma Kagyu Buddhist teachings in a different city nearly every day, traveling and teaching worldwide. His depth of knowledge and dynamic teachings inspire thousands of people at his lectures and meditation retreats. Nydahl has been a major driving force in bringing Buddhism to the West, and to date has established more than 600 Diamond Way Buddhist centers in 44 countries around the world. His unique synthesis of modern style and ancient wisdom helped create the largest body of students practicing Diamond Way Buddhist methods in the West. Nydahl's books have been translated into 20 languages and are enjoyed by readers in over 40 countries, including his most recent title published in 2012, Buddha & Love: Timeless Wisdom for Modern Relationships.
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It was eleven o'clock at night on my 17th birthday. I was riding in the front seat of a car between two friends racing across an ancient 2-lane iron bridge in Oklahoma when the kid driving lost control and we bounced off one side of the bridge then the other then swerved at full speed right into an oncoming pickup.
The crash was the loudest noise I'd ever heard. Saying it was a "boom" doesn't do it justice.
When it was over all I could think of was that the car would explode into a ball of flame like in the movies (which rarely happens in real life).
The impact had jammed both doors shut. The kid on my right was lying in the floorboard moaning. I kicked out the window above him and scrambled out over him. (He teased me for years, "You stepped right on my chest!") You'd be amazed the things you can do when you think you're only seconds from fiery death.
In the car it had been toasty warm but on the highway, in deep, dark December it was pitch black and deadly silent with a stiff north wind that was like ice. The impact of the crash had knocked off one of my shoes and I hobbled around in shock with that funny up-and-down motion of walking with one shoe off and one shoe on.
Somewhere in the dark I spit out five teeth but I was alive! I spent the next several months in that strange dream-like state of knowing I was living a life that might not have happened. I don't think any of this is unusual.
There's a moment in your life when death became real for you, too.
You know right now what it was: an accident, the death of a friend, a parent, or grandparent or maybe even a beloved pet. As westerners I don't think we need to be reminded of that. It's a huge, looming reality for all of us. We all know what the situation is. We've all had that moment.
Someone once said the spiritual search is fueled by fear of death. That sounds true for me. For many of us it began in that moment when death became very real, when it went from abstact story to hard reality.
This book takes you back to that beginning, closes the circle, by returning to that original moment only not just as a blind fear to push away and forget.
We can understand what death is, train for it, and even study for it like we would our final exam before we leave this life.
And if we train for it we can develop confidence about it. And with confidence will come the fearlessness Ole Nydahl speaks of in the title.
It's been known for a long time the Tibetans have an approach to death. "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" has been available in the west for decades.
The problem with that version is it's really not very accessible to westerners.
Ole Nydahl, on the other hand, is one of us, a westerner who spent four years as a close disciple of a legendary Tibetan yogi called, "The Sixteenth Karmapa" (his "heart student" they call it) and who has a well-known talent for making difficult concepts clear to western ears.
I really can't imagine anyone more qualified to do it, he's fluent in several languages, including Tibetan, has had his own brushes with death, and even seems to have his fear well under control.
This book, it seems to me, is a book i want to live with as I prepare for my final exam. Try it and maybe you'll agree with me.
If you're young and death seems far away, that's actually the best time to begin.
If you're like me and every mirror you look in seems to have something wrong with it cause you're definitely not as good looking as you're supposed to be, well you'll be even happier to have found it.
I know that though I managed to escape death on that rusty old bridge so long ago, it'll catch up with me some day. Only that time, I want to be ready.
It's in our hands now, I think. And we can do it, live better, die better, and if you can accept it, find an even better rebirth.
Best of luck, whatever your spiritual pathway is. May we all prepare well for our final exams and may they be a long way away!
But it is not a simple book. Both living and dying are explored as process
and consideration for others as well as oneself is in the mix. We often don't
think so much of the ones who are left behind. Because the context of Tibetan
Buddhist thought is so rich and useful, it is actually amazing how accessible
this book is from whatever point you approach it. And the entry points expand
and contract to allow a personal exploration that will take years of thought and
meditative practice to fully fall from the head into the heart. This is a book that
is essential reading for anyone exploring real issues of living as well as dying.