Some recommended reading from the OSHO Sammasati ‘library’ with comments from Maneesha and/or Amazon reviews. Osho books are shown at the beginning.
Please feel free to add your recommendations including what you particularly appreciate about the book in the Comments section at the end of this page.
And Now and Here
(includes a CD of a guided relaxation)
Beyond the Duality of Life and Death
Most of us look for security in our relationships, in our choice of living and working conditions, and in our finances. Underlying this search for security is a deep, instinctive fear of death, which continually colors our lives and drives our focus outward, toward survival. But we also have a longing to turn inward, to relax deeply within ourselves, and experience the sense of freedom and expansion this brings.
With this book we can start exploring our inner world without fear. At the end of the first chapters there are meditations guided by Osho. One of these meditations, Relaxing the BodyMind Meditation, has been recorded with music and included as a CD with this book.
Die, O Yogi, Die
Talks on the Great Tantra Master, Gorakh
“You will be astonished when you hear Gorakh’s words. A little finishing is needed; they are uncut. This sharpening of the edges is what I am doing here. You will be amazed as you come to know him a little. Gorakh has said the most essential. He has said the most valuable…
“One death we are already familiar with, that death in which the body dies – but our ego and mind go on living. This same ego finds a new womb. This same ego, troubled by new desires, again starts off on the journey. Even before leaving behind one body, it is already eager for another. This death is not the real death.”
Dimensions beyond the Known
As noted in the introduction: [In this book, Osho] ‘describes time and its relevance to both his former life and the events of his current life. He describes the process of death, the Tibetan Bardo, and rebirth not in the usual terms of intellectual speculation and hypothesis but in terms of his own personal experience, of one who knows….’ Osho responds to questions such as: You said that the body is death-oriented and the soul is never born at all…. Then what is immortal and who is unborn’? ‘What happens to the soul after death; where does it move about; what does it do and what condition is it in during the interval between the giving up of one body and the taking of another?’
Death: The Greatest Fiction (a compilation)
One of the quotations that appears at the start of this book reads:
Whenever somebody dies – somebody you have known, loved and lived with somebody who has become part of your being – something in you also dies. Of course you will miss the person; a vacuum will be felt. That’s natural. But the same vacuum can be converted into a door. And death is a door.’
At one hundred pages exactly, this is a small book and eminently accessible. Osho describes death as the root of all fears and as, potentially, ‘a door to the divine.’ The Tibetan Bardo, how to know death without dying, the right to die, celebrating death are among the many topics addressed.
The Art of Living and Dying
As is evident in all his books, Osho’s expression is both profound and simple (though never simplistic) so it is instantly accessible. The mix of the pragmatic (for example, responses to questions from the dying and from their carers) – and the esoteric (such as: we die from one of seven energy centres, according to how much inner growth we’ve managed in a lifetime) – makes for an intriguing blend. Pain as a meditation, and a selection of techniques to enable one to enter dying consciously are interspersed with anecdotes and jokes. The book also addresses the fears, the misconceptions and myths that create our notion of death.
At the same time, the book is not an invitation to take on anything in faith. “I don’t want you to be believers,” Osho reminds the reader. ‘I would like you to experience on your own. I don’t want to convince you. What I am saying is my experience.
Until You Die
Osho revitalizes the well-known Sufi stories of Idries Shah in an enjoyable introduction to both Sufism and Osho’s vision. In this new journey, towards the heart, Osho speaks of the need to “die to the ego” – the only the barrier to being oneself and to eternal life.
Advice on Dying and living a better life
(from the back cover): [‘The Dalai Lama) cautions us not to waste our lives in procrastination. Our death is certain. By meditating on impermanence, and on the indefiniteness of the time of our death, we will bring vigour and sparkle into our everyday world – and also prepare ourselves for the inevitable, and crucially important, moment of dying.’
Chapter titles include: Awareness of death; Liberation from fear; Preparing to die; Removing obstacles to a favourable death; Gaining favourable conditions for the time of death; Meditating while dying and The clear light of death.
There’s More to Death Than Dying: A Buddhist perspective
Lama Shenpen Hookham
Chapter on How meditation helps dying
To many people meditation suggests a process of relaxation to find peace and stillness within. But from the Buddhist perspective it is not a contrived effort to feel peaceful; it is a process of seeing accurately, so that we can step out of our fundamental confusion. All our sufferings in life and death are caused by this fundamental confusion that prevents us recognizing our true nature. The remedy is to align with our true nature. First we discover it through meditation. Then when we have learnt to experience it fully and directly, we need to learn to trust it and rely on it, and in this way live and die with the same confidence and ease.
Drawing from the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of approaching and preparing for death, Lama Shenpen Hookham offers Westerners like herself practical descriptions of the attitudes, the practices, and the considerations that surround our own death, caring for those dying and also care-givers. Of great interest to those seeking a positive yet realistic coming to terms with death, its Buddhist context provides further teaching on the Tibetan Books of the Dead, one of the most well-known Tibetan texts.
Anti-Cancer: a new way of life
Dr David Servan-Schreiber
The back cover reads: ‘This international bestseller examines what we can do every day to lower our chances of ever developing the illness, and also explains what to do to increase the changes of recovery from it. This book is the culmination of [the author’s] experience in the field of cancer, as a doctor and as a patient…. He empowers the reader with the understanding and the tools to tackle cancer alongside conventional treatments – or, better yet, to help avoid cancer altogether.’
In the chapter, ‘Defusing Fears,’ he addresses several fears that can arise with any illness, e.g. the fear of suffering, of nothingness, of being alone, of being a burden; of abandoning one’s children; and of unfinished stories. All highly recommended reading.
The author’s earlier book, The Instinct to Heal: curing depression, anxiety and stress without drugs and without talk therapy, may be worth checking out, having sold over a million copies worldwide and being translated into 28 languages.
Death: The Final Stage of Growth
Ours is a death-denying society. But death is inevitable, and we must face the question of how to deal with it. Coming to terms with our own finiteness helps us discover life’s true meaning.
Why do we treat death as a taboo? What are the sources of our fears? How do we express our grief, and how do we accept the death of a person close to us? How can we prepare for our own death?
Drawing on our own and other cultures’ views of death and dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross provides some illuminating answers to these and other questions. She offers a spectrum of viewpoints, including those of ministers, rabbis, doctors, nurses, and sociologists, and the personal accounts of those near death and of their survivors.
Once we come to terms with death as a part of human development, the author shows, death can provide us with a key to the meaning of human existence.
Dying to be Me
In this truly inspirational memoir, Anita Moorjani relates how, after fighting cancer for almost four years, her body began shutting down—overwhelmed by the malignant cells spreading throughout her system. As her organs failed, she entered into an extraordinary near-death experience where she realized her inherent worth . . . and the actual cause of her disease. Upon regaining consciousness, Anita found that her condition had improved so rapidly that she was released from the hospital within weeks—without a trace of cancer in her body! Within these pages, Anita recounts stories of her childhood in Hong Kong, her challenge to establish her career and find true love, as well as how she eventually ended up in that hospital bed where she defied all medical knowledge. As part of a traditional Hindu family residing in a largely Chinese and British society, Anita had been pushed and pulled by cultural and religious customs since she was a little girl. After years of struggling to forge her own path while trying to meet everyone else’s expectations, she had the realization, as a result of her epiphany on the other side, that she had the power to heal herself . . . and that there are miracles in the Universe that she’d never even imagined. In Dying to Be Me, Anita freely shares all she has learned about illness, healing, fear, “being love,” and the true magnificence of each and every human being! This is a book that definitely makes the case that we are spiritual beings having a human experience . . . and that we are all One!
Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life
Ira Byock, M.D.
N.Y. Riverhead Books, 1997
Byock is a prominent palliative care physician and expert in end-of-life decisions. Nobody should have to die in pain. Nobody should have to die alone.
This is Ira Byock’s dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. This book brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, medical drama, and conflict. Through the true stories of patients, he shows us that a lot of important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life. It is a companion for families, showing them how to deal with doctors, how to talk to loved ones – and how to make the end of life as meaningful and enriching as the beginning.
Ira Byock is also the author of The Best Care Possible: A Physician’s Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life.
Until Further Notice, I am Alive
Tom Lubbock was a writer and illustrator and the chief art critic of the UK paper, The Independent, between1997-2011. He was also very happily married, with a young son when, in 2008, he was diagnosed with a brain tumour and told he had 1-2 years to live. This book is his chronicle of his life from then to his death in 2011. Renowned for the clarity and unconventionality of his writing and the fierce intelligence which permeates this extraordinary memoir.” Read the book review on our blog.
Japanese Death Poems: Zen monks & Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death
A fabulous little book; in fact not so little, at 340 pages. The first part includes a chapter on Death and Its Poetry; part two features death poems by zen monks; part three death poems by haiku poets. A sample, one of many stunning entries: Kiba, an eighteenth-century poet, leaving his body at the age of ninety, writes…
My old body.
A drop of dew grown
Heavy at the leaf tip.
Meetings at the Edge
Based on his extensive counseling work with the terminally ill, Levine’s book integrates death into the context of life with compassion, skill, and hope. Capturing the range of emotions and challenges that accompany the dying process, he offers unique support to readers dealing with this difficult experience.
Some readers might find this a bit intellectual, but appreciating Hitchen’s often radical views and his acute mind I was moved by it.
The Natural Death Handbook (fifth edition)
Ed. Nicholas Albery, Gil Elliot & Joseph Elliot (natural Death Centre)
Natural Death Centre
For those living in the UK, at least, this is the book for all things practical around dying and death. Among the topics addressed: the spiritual and practical aspects of preparing for dying; planning a funeral in advance; practical aspects of dying at home; alternatives to euthanasia; personal accounts of conscious deaths; grief; and the death of a pet.
In its latest incarnation this book is in fact part of a trilogy, which is beautifully presented in a 3-sided box. The description of the second and third books follows….
The Natural Death Directory 2012
ed. Rosie Inman-Cook & Lara Dinius-Inman
A slim volume, the content of which is confined to the UK, is described on the back cover as containing ‘listings of natural burial grounds, helpful and flexible funeral directors, and suppliers of coffins, urns and shrouds.
Writing on Death
ed. Ru Callender
Covers many intriguing aspects of dying and death, including ‘a brief history of modern death’, the legalising of assisted dying; funerary masks and death masks; secular celebrants and ceremonies; music-thanatology; near-death and after-death experiences; and psychedelics and the dying process. So far – and I haven’t read the book yet cover to cover – my personal favourite would be Canadian singer and comedian, Carla Zilbersmith’s essay ‘Leave them Laughing’. Her contribution alone makes this book required reading!
Apparently a documentary of the same name, billed as a ‘musical comedy about dying’ was made in 2010 and directed by Academy-Award-winning director John Zaritsky. It follows Carla’s life after she is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and as she blogs and jokes her way through a disease that spells a certain death sentence. The film premiered at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival on May 6, 2010, winning the Special Jury Prize for best Canadian Documentary.
Nearing Death Awareness: A Guide to the Language, Visions and Dreams of the Dying
(from the back cover) The author describes different time of NDA, including visions, dreams, and symbolic language, and offers practical guidance for family and carers of the dying about how to respond appropriately and supportively to NDA behavior.
‘A well-thought out anthology covering the different aspects of, and sometimes names given to, the concept of nearing Death Awareness. This book should provide clear, concise information and comfort to those who read it. (Maggie Callanan, co-author Final Gifts)
On Death and Dying
Elisabeth Kubler Ross
One of the most important psychological studies of the late twentieth century, On Death and Dying grew out of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s famous interdisciplinary seminar on death, life, and transition. In this remarkable book, Dr. Kübler-Ross first explored the now-famous five stages of death: denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Through sample interviews and conversations, she gives readers a better understanding of how imminent death affects the patient, the professionals who serve that patient, and the patient’s family, bringing hope to all who are involved.
Questions & Answers on Death & Dying
Elisabeth Kubler Ross
On Death and Dying is one of the most important books ever written on the subject and is still considered the bench-mark in the care of the dying. It became an immediate bestseller, and Life magazine called it “a profound lesson for the living.” This companion volume consists of the questions that are most frequently asked of Dr. Kübler-Ross and her compassionate answers. She discusses accepting the end of life, suicide, terminal illness, euthanasia, how to tell a patient he or she is critically ill, and how to deal with all the special difficulties surrounding death. Questions and Answers on Death and Dying is a vital resource for doctors, nurses, members of the clergy, social workers, and lay people dealing with death and dying.
Reflections of a Setting Sun: Healing experiences around death
(from the back cover) ‘…explores the mystery of death and the many extraordinary experiences that occur at the interface between life and death. Dr Michael Barbato probes these little-known and frequently misunderstood events, highlights their healing potential and explores possible causes.’ Includes case studies and ‘calls for a more holistic approach to the care of the dying and emphasizes the important role family play in delivering this care.’
Chapter titles: The nature and variety of deathbed visions; The near-death experience; The cause of near-to-death experiences; Mysteries around death; As the suns sets; The final and greatest mystery.
The author (who arranged a workshop for Maneesha at his home in Australia in 2010) was a palliative care physician for more than 20 years, retiring from full-time work in 2009. He now runs workshops on the topic of death and dying for professional and community groups.
Link to his testimony
Seize the day: How the dying teach us to live
Marie de Hennezel
From the book cover: in this ‘lesson on living,’ psychologist and bestselling author Marie De Hennezel draws upon her personal experience of working with the terminally ill in a palliative care unit in Paris and takes us on challenging but ultimately uplifting journey. Her encounters with people at the end of their lives have given her a unique perspective on what life and death really mean, and in this eloquent and inspirational book she passes on what she learnt from these privileged conversation. These insights are thought-provoking and life-affirming, and explore the idea that talking about and facing up to death can actually help us lead fuller lives.
Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Dread of Death
Irvin. D. Yalom
Pub: Piatkus Books (imprint of Little, Brown Book Group) London, 2008
Chapter titles: “The Mortal Wound, “ “Recognizing Death Anxiety,” “The Awakening Experience,” “The Power of Ideas,” “Overcoming Death Terror through Connection,” “Death Awareness: A Memoir,” and “Addressing Death Anxiety: Advice for Therapists.”
From the Back Cover:
Over the past quarter of a century Dr Irvin Yalom, author of The Gift of Therapy and Love’s Executioner, has established himself as the world’s leading group psychotherapist. In this new work, he explores how the knowledge of our own mortality affects the unconscious mind of every human being.
Tackling the effect of mankind’s fear of death – both conscious and unconscious – on attitudes to life and how we might live it, Yalom explains how we find ourselves in need of the comfort of therapy.
The Death of a Woman: How a Life Became Complete
Jane Hollister Wheelwright
This is a beautiful account of one woman’s struggle and an analyst’s courage to come through as an involved human being rather than a detached therapist…it is quite unique. (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross M.D.)
Kubler-Ross might be right but – in spite of being a therapist myself – I found this rather heavy going.
The Grace in Dying: a message of hope, comfort, and spiritual transformation
Kathleen Dowling Singh
Trained in transpersonal psychology and various spiritual traditions, the author works with dying patients in a large hospice in southwestern Florida, and regularly addresses audiences on death, dying, and the hospice movement.
From the back cover: ‘The new Kubler-Ross has arrived and her name is Kathleen Singh. In a stunning debut she has written, quite simply the most important book on the nature of dying since On Death and Dying…. The book is a flat-out masterpiece.’
Chapter titles include: Living, Dying & Transformation, The Consciousness of the Ego; From Tragedy to Grace; The Psycho-spiritual Stages of Dying; The Nearing-death experience; Entering the Mystery.
The Hour of our Death
This is a comprehensive survey of one thousand years (longer, really) of western attitudes towards death…. For most of the thousand years, the “attitude towards death” that Aries is describing crosses national boundaries.
Aries divides his study into four overlapping historical periods: “The Tame Death”, “The Death of the Self”, “The Death of the Other”, and “The Invisible Death”. “The Tame Death” roughly corresponds with the pre-Christian and early middle ages … characterized by a meek acceptance of passing into a long period of sleep. Death is social, and the death ritual has a central place in the society.
“The Death of the Self” moves more into the middle and late middle ages: death is used by the mendicant orders of Christianity to convert a quasi-pagan population. Thus, there is a corresponding rise in individual’s concern with their own death. “The Death of the Other” and “The Invisible Death” are familiar to most modern folks – the latter corresponds with the post WWII American model, and the former to the Romantic Movement.
The research and execution can only be considered awe inspiring, but the thesis less so. Any modern reader of history is aware that “tradition” is invented. Aries is less concerned as to why this might be the case, but for me, the “why” is the interesting question
The Living End
Dr Guy Brown
The decline of infections, starvation, heart attack, and stroke has allowed people to reach extreme old age–and ushered in disability, dementia, and degenerative disease, with profound consequences for the self and society. In chapters echoing Dante’s nine circles of hell, Dr. Guy Brown explores these vital issues at various levels, from the cell, to the whole body, to society and how all this new medical technology affects the meaning of death. He tracks the seismic shifts in the causes and character of death that are rocking medicine and reveals how technological innovations, such as cloning and electronic interfaces, hint at new modes of “survival” after death.
Not a joyous read but a deeply confrontative and educational one! Highly recommended.
The Wisdom of Insecurity
Great for everyone; especially good when one is in a crisis, questioning the meaning of life; asking Why me? Why pain? Why aren’t things going the way I want? What can I rely on?
To Live Until We Say Goodbye
Elisabeth Kubler Ross
The methods of Dr. Kubler-Ross, the world-renowned psychiatrist and authority on death, are revealed in this exploration of her counseling work with terminal patients to help them come to an acceptance of death.
Tuesdays with Morrie
an old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson
The re-union of Mitch Albom with Morrie Schwartz, formerly his college professor in Morrie’s last months of life. (from the back cover) ‘Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live. [This book] is a magical chronicle of their time together.’
(from the back cover)
When I Die: Lessons from the Death Zone
Absolutely riveting and deeply moving testimony, written as the author was dying, to the power of dying as a path for continued inner growth. Cannot recommend this highly enough. See review.
This book shows the reader how to open to the immensity of living with death, to participate fully in life as the perfect preparation for whatever may come next. Levine provides calm compassion rather than the frightening melodrama of death.
The Thing about Life is that One day You’ll be Dead
I confess: nothing more substantial than the title induced me to buy this book! I thought if this is a chap with a sense of humour writing about death it’s got to be good. I was not disappointed.
The back cover includes the following: ‘Weaving together personal anecdote, biological fact, philosophical doubt, cultural criticism, and the wisdom of an eclectic range of writers and thinkers – from Lucretius to Woody Allen – Shield expertly renders both a hilarious family portrait and a truly resonant meditation on mortality.’
The Wisdom of Dying: practices for living
N. Michael Murphy M.D.
Strange title (dying is a smart idea?) but a good read. The first person/ doctor I’ve come across who suggests carers of the dying need to look at their own issues around dying first.
Hospice leader N. Michael Murphy explores the spiritual lessons about living that only death can offer. “The wisdom of dying urges that the roles and masks of everyday life be set aside before it is too late since they often obscure the giving and receiving of caring and love,” Murphy explains in his introduction.
Murphy’s visionary approach to dying includes chapters on witnessing and participating in the life stories of the dying. In these precious personal and family stories, the lessons of living can be passed on, he explains. Hospitals would be transformed, he continues, if family members, doctors, and nurses gathered around a dying or deceased person, lit candles, and told stories of how that person affected their lives. In other chapters, he exposes how funeral homes and death rituals are designed to deny death rather than embrace it as a meaningful extension of life. He also discusses the specifics of caring for a dying person–including the stages of dementia and coma. This is an astute and comforting guidebook for living and dying with soul and dignity. As Thomas Moore writes in the preface, “Read it and live. Read it and die.”
The Study of Dying: From Autonomy to Transformation
edited Allan Kellehear
Quite a heavy book. Kellehear is professor of sociology at the University of Bath and the book’s approach is academic. For example, there are chapters titled, ‘What the social and behavioural studies say about dying’; The dying human: a perspective from biomedicine; The demography of dying; historical approaches to dying; dying and philosophy.’ Though the text is somewhat dense and, as I say, academic, the areas covered are interesting.