Graceful Exits


What Happens to a Master’s Soul After Death?


Seppo said to Gensha, "Monk Shinso asked me where a certain dead monk has gone, and I told him it was like ice becoming water." Gensha said, "That was all right, but I myself would not have answered like that." "What would you have said?" asked Seppo. Gensha replied, "It’s like water returning to water."

Once the Buddha was asked by the wanderer Vacchagotta, "Sir, wht happens to the Enlightened One after death? Where does he go? The Buddha said "Wanderer, make a fire from the sticks that are lying around here." So he did and he lit the fire. Then the Buddha said, "Now throw some more sticks on to it. He did, and the Buddha asked "What’s happening?" Vacchagotta answered, Oh, the fire’s going well." The Buddha said, "Now stop throwing sticks on it." And after a while the fire went out. The Buddha said to him, "What happened to the fire?" "The fire’s gone out, Sir." The Buddha said, "Well, where did it go? Did it go forward? Backward? Right? Left? Up or down?" The wanderer said, "No it didn’t. It just went out." The Buddha said, "That’s right. That’s exactly what happens to the Enlightened One after death."(*)

When no more sticks are thrown on the fire of passionate desire, of craving, of wanting, then the fire goes out. Since there is no karma being created by such a master, there is nothing that needs to be reborn.


* * *


When Master P’u-hau sensed that his end was near, he announced to the people of the nearby town that he would go the next day to the Eastern gate and die there. The whole community went in a procession behind him and assembled outside the city wall to pay their respects. P’u-hau then announced: "A funeral today would not be in accord with the Blue Crow [a mythological bird]. I will pass away tomorrow at the Southern Gate." The next day the people followed him again, but he announced, "It would be more auspicious to leave by the Western Gate tomorrow." On the third day fewer people came, and he decided on the North Gate instead. On the fourth day he picked up his own coffin and carried it out of the Northern Gate. Shaking his bell, he entered the coffin and passed away.


* * *


Master Yin Feng addressed the assembly as follows: "Masters in many places have died either sitting or lying down. These I have witnessed myself. Did anyone ever pass away standing?"

A member of the assembly replied, "Yes, there was someone."

The master asked, "Was there anyone who was standing upside down when he took his last breath?"

The congregation answered: "If so, we have never heard of it."

The master then passed away standing upside down, with his robe still miraculously draping his body. When his followers made their plans for the carrying his body to be cremated, it as still immovable and people streamed in from far and near to see it.

The master had a sister who was a nun. Happening to be in the vicinity, she came right up to him and scolded, "Old brother, for ages you’ve been flouting the law, and you must even puzzle people after you are dead!" She gave him a shove with her hand, and he wobbled and fell flat on the ground.

At last he was cremated, and the ashes were collected and put into a pagoda.


* * *


If one wants to die peacefully, one must begin helping oneself long before one’s time to die has come.
                 –Swami Muktananda


* * *


Imperishable Body of Russian Buddhist Lama

The body of Hambo Lama Itighelov, a spiritual leader of Russian Buddhists from 1911 to 1927, was first exhumed from the grave in 1955, at the Lama's request. When after the third exhumation in 2002 after 75 years since the Lama's death, his body still showed no signs of decay, medical experts decided to examine the miracle.

The grave contained a wooden box and there was a sitting Buddhist lama in a 'lotus' position. His body was preserved as if it were mummified, however it was not. The body was covered with silk clothes and fabric. "Samples taken 75 years after the body had been buried, show that the organics of the skin, hair, and nails of the dead man aren't any different from that of a living human," a professor of history at the Russian State University for Humanities, stated.

"His joints flex, the soft tissues are elastic just like in a living person, and after they opened the box, where the body of the Lama lay for 75 years, there was a very pleasant fragrance," Yershova was quoted as saying.

Yershova believes this is completely inconsistent with what one would expect of a body that has been buried for 75 years.
                 – More at The Epoch Times / Epoch Times International


Above excerpts (other than "Imperishable Body of Russian Buddhist Lama," linked above) are from
Graceful Exits: How Great Beings Die, Death Stories of Tibetan, Hindu & Zen Masters
Compiled and edited by Sushila Blackman
©1997 Weatherhill, Inc., New York
(pp. 94–95, 21–22, 72–73)


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(*) quoting Ayya Khema from
Being Nobody, Going Nowhere

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