“Take a trip through the realms of hell with a man whose temporary visitor’s pass gave him a horrifying—and enlightening—preview of its torments.
This true account of Sam Bercholz’s near-death experience has more in common with Dante’s Inferno than it does with any of the popular feel-good stories of what happens when we die. In the aftermath of heart surgery, Sam, a longtime Buddhist practitioner and teacher, is surprised to find himself in the lowest realms of karmic rebirth, where he is sent to gain insight into human suffering. Under the guidance of a luminous being, Sam’s encounters with a series of hell-beings trapped in repetitious rounds of misery and delusion reveal to him how an individual’s own habits of fiery hatred and icy disdain, of grasping desire and nihilistic ennui, are the source of horrific agonies that pound consciousness for seemingly endless cycles of time. Comforted by the compassion of a winged goddess and sustained by the kindness of his Buddhist teachers, Sam eventually emerges from his ordeal with renewed faith that even the worst hell contains the seed of wakefulness. His story is offered, along with the modernist illustrations of a master of Tibetan sacred arts, in order to share what can be learned about awakening from our own self-created hells and helping others to find relief and liberation from theirs.”
I recently read Melvin Konner’s UNSETTLED, AN ANTHROPOLOGY OF THE JEWS, an illuminating thematic approach to the history of Jewish culture. I enjoyed the writing so much I immediately purchased Konner’s more recent THE JEWISH BODY. Today, on the phone with my very dear friend and mentor, Herb Perluck, I discovered Konner and I had Herb in common. We both had the opportunity to learn under this same wonderful man, this teacher who combined intellect and heart in equal doses in the classroom, and whose wonder at what his students were capable of doing was only matched by their desire to live up to the promise he saw in them. Herb taught generations of individuals to be, each one, the kind of person on whom nothing is lost. I took that to heart, and I try to pay it forward when and how I can.
Konner was an undergraduate when he studied with Herb. Some years later, I was Herb’s graduate student. And because we both share this continuing connection, I feel a kinship that gives me special pleasure in alerting Radical Jew readers to Konner’s blog and website.
The Jewish Mark Twain – William Deresiewicz – The Atlantic.