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THE WHEEL OF LIFE AND DEATH by Philip Kapleau

THE WHEEL OF LIFE AND DEATH

A Practical and Spiritual Guide

By Philip Kapleau

Pub Date: March 29th, 1989
ISBN: 385-26058-X
Publisher: Doubleday

Kapleau (The Three Pillars of Zen, Zen: Dawn in the West), former abbot of the Zen Center in Rochester, N.Y., peers beneath the ebony mask of death in this wide-ranging Buddhist guide to the last frontier. Central to Kapleau's message is the belief that death is "life in another form," leading in time to rebirth in a new body. This thesis may prove a stumbling block to those who doubt his contention that "abundant evidence exists to convince any reasonable mind of the validity of rebirth"--especially when the evidence marshalled here relies heavily on the disputed research of Ian Stevenson and other "past life" explorers. At the same time, the concept of rebirth allows Kapleau to depict death as a joyous, instructive occasion, a genuine blessing. Fear of death, he maintains, springs from egoistic self-love: numerous examples from Zen, Hasidic, classical Greek, and other traditional sources demonstrate how spiritual insight can lead to a noble, dignified death. Also essential, according to Kapleau, is an understanding of karma (how one's past lives influence one's present life and future death), which leads to gentle finger-shaking on the dangers of suicide, euthanasia, and pain-doping. On these theoretical foundations, the author dispenses ample practical advice about hospices, organ donation, living wills, and prepaying a funeral; examples of creative funeral services; meditations for the dying; and a checklist of what to do following a death. Despite his unwavering orthodoxy, Kapleau writes with enough compassion, insight, and helpful suggestions to attract a wide, non-Buddhist audience. And his supporting material, drawn from Tolstoy, Socrates, Gandhi, and the like, may well help dispel fear of the Reaper's descending scythe.