April 7, 2010

Review: Wholesome Fear: Transforming your Anxiety about Impermanence & Death, by Lama Zopa Rinpoche & Kathleen McDonald.

How to Get Over your Fear of Death

You’re going to die. I’m going to die. We’re all going to die.

While that’s not exactly a state secret, it’s still not considered a topic for “polite” conversation; in fact, for the most part, we actively avoid thinking about impermanence and death, which is a problem according to Wholesome Fear.

Ignoring the transience of our existence leads to a false comfort level, one that causes most people to avoid making their spiritual practice a vital part of their lives. Through this book, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Kathleen McDonald remind the reader that waiting is a mistake; that none of us is guaranteed tomorrow, and rather than living in fear of death and thus never truly living, instead use that fear of death in a more wholesome way: to use the time given to focus one’s practice and to more seriously dedicate that time to achieving either enlightenment or nirvana so that one is more ready for death through the accumulation of good karma and bodhichitta and a more relaxed and positive outlook of one’s own death, rather than fighting death through grief and fear .

Wholesome Fear is separated into several sections including several meditations on death and impermanence. Most chapters are very short, only one or two pages long, which allows the reader to take time to absorb and process the concepts presented in each chapter. The subtleties of the chapters belie the simplicity of the text, and so being able to read and re-read short chapters lends genuine strength to the teachings offered.

Wholesome Fear is a text that should not sit on a bookshelf: it should be referenced regularly by anyone willing to face their own mortality and interested in making the most of the time given.

From Wisdom Publications and available at your local, independent bookseller. (Shop local, shop independent, and tell ‘em you saw it on Elephant Journal!)

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