|The Little Book of Life and Death|
by Douglas Harding
In this book Douglas investigates the most poignant problem our life poses - what lies at the end of it. He asks us to check four things. First, that to discover whether we are perishable, we must first discover what we are. Second, that outsiders are in no position to tell us this; they can only tell us what we look like at a distance. Third, that what we are is obvious as soon as we dare to look. And fourth, that we turn out to be in all respects the opposite of what we had been told.
Foreword by Ram Dass
The Little Book of Life and Death is a delight. In it I hear an echo of the cosmic giggle. It speaks with a humor and simplicity that is equal to the task which it has set for itself of confronting the conceptual hobgoblins of mortality and exposing the fallacy of death. I am amazed that such a little book can so thoroughly decimate cherished beliefs in matters from birth to ageing to the hereafter, and do it so painlessly and even joyfully. This is the mark of true compassion that arises out of emptiness.
Following in the tradition of the Buddha who cautioned that we do not take another's word about the truth of existence, but rather experience for ourselves, D.E.H. poses a number of provocative experiments for himself and us which one by one topple our preconceptions about ourselves. With the same uncompromising stance as a Ramana Maharshi, he leads us deeper into the no-person land of 'Neti, Neti!' (Not that, not that!) until we reach the point where we are… all and everything. The journey takes us through Western science (NDEs and quarks) and the mystic traditions of East and West. Again and again D.E.H. rejects the gentle ascents reflected in such doctrines as reincarnation and karma in favor of the steep Zen path that has no railing.
D.E.H., like my own guru, Neem Karoli Baba, is in the tradition of 'spiritual rascals.' The fact that his body is 79 years of age, he suggests, impels him on with a sense of urgency which, in the uncertainty of our times, is catchy. For he realizes that if he doesn't extricate himself from being somebody, before he dies, he will, in the words of Rumi, 'end up with an apartment in the city of death.' But I am not fooled. He is only playing with us. For he is worthy of the accolade bestowed on the great masters when they are called 'the living dead.' And what he has offered us is a graceful gift. As a result of this gift, I predict, the literature on dying will never be the same again.