Blackman narrates the death stories of over 100 Tibetan, Hindu, and Zen masters, ancient and modern.
The striking element in these accounts is a sense of being fully prepared to meet death. Blackman grappled with lung cancer and came to peace with her own fears about death as she compiled this book, completed only a few months before she died. As Blackman notes, the Judaeo-Christian perspective of death is not represented here, but this fills a demand for inspirational books about death and Eastern spirituality.
Often, the stories of great people's deaths focus on the bizarre details. Blackman's book does not focus on such details, but it focuses on death as a great teaching. Death in the Buddhist and Hindu spiritual traditions, according to the author, is not confined to a particular moment but is a process that may take days even after the usual medical indications of death have appeared. The experience of death is part of discipline that these "great beings," or spiritual teachers, have practiced, and death is an opportunity for the greatest meditation and fulfillment. The 108 stories collected here show that these spiritual teachers did not fear death but rather welcomed it. These masters embrace death not in the sterility of the hospital room but in the company of students and friends, and, thus, death becomes the final lesson that the teachers teach to their students. Written in lucid prose, the book is a training manual for making graceful exits from this life.