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OBITUARIES FOR RICK FIELDS

Whole Earth Review obit for Rick Fields


6/10/99--San Francisco Chronicle, June 9, 1999

Don Lattin

Rick Fields, a respected journalist and leading authority on American Buddhism, died Sunday at his home in Fairfax, ending a four-year battle with lung cancer. He was 57.

Mr. Fields was the author of a half-dozen books, including "How the Swans Came to the Lake A Narrative History of Buddhism in America," and served as an editor and regular contributor to many magazines, including Yoga Journal, New Age Journal and Tricycle The Buddhist Review.

Marin County writer Anne Lamott, who lives down the street, loved his "Zen hippie elegance," and the way Mr. Fields was both a wide-eyed boy and a grown-up man." Lamott devoted a chapter to her friend and neighbor in her recent best-seller, "Traveling Mercies."

Mr. Fields was born Frederick Douglas Fields in New York City and was a track star at Andrew Jackson High School. His friend at Harvard University in 1964, Peter Warshall, recalled that Mr. Fields was "kicked out of Harvard for sleeping with a Radcliffe girl, off campus on a weekend." Warshall, who is now editor of Whole Earth magazine, said Mr. Fields "set the tone for a muscular American Buddhism."

Mr. Fields was an early instructor at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, where he was an associate and friend of the school's co-founder, Allen Ginsberg. Tricycle magazine founder Helen Tworkov said Mr. Fields "came to terms with the fact that he would die, but he never accepted cancer."

"I don't have a life-threatening disease," he said in an interview in the fall of 1997, "I have a disease-threatening life."

He is survived by his wife, Marcia; his parents Allen and Reva Fields of Keene, N.H.; and his sisters Laura Jawitz of Madison, N.H., and Joanna Bogin, of New Hartford, Conn. Plans are being made for a memorial service.


New York Times, Friday, June 11, 1999 (Page C21/national; A31/metro)

Rick Fields, 57, Poet and Expert on Buddhism
by Nick Ravo

Rick Fields, a journalist, poet and leading authority on Buddhism's history and development in the United States, died on Sunday at his home in Fairfax, Calif. He was 57.

The cause was lung cancer, said Helen Tworkov, a longtime friend and the editor in chief of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a magazine that Mr. Fields helped found in 1991 and that he had worked for as a contributing editor.

Mr. Fields wrote several books, the best known of which is "How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America" (Shambhala, 1981).

The book traces Buddhism's origins in the United States from Chinese railroad workers and American transcendentalists like Henry David Thoreau in the mid-19th century, to Japanese immigrants on the West Coast at the turn of the century, to the writer Alan Watts and Beat poets like Allen Ginsberg in the 1950's, to the mass popularity of Zen Buddhism and the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism in the 1960's and 70's.

In a revised edition of "How the Swans Came to the Lake" that was published by Shambhala in 1991, an additional chapter details the fast growth of and broadening interest in Buddhism in the 80's and early 90's.

"Rick Fields was one of our foremost interpreters of Buddhism for Americans," said Robert A. F. Thurman, professor of Indo-Tibetan Studies at Columbia University and the nation's pre-eminent scholar on Tibetan Buddhism.

Mr. Fields started his journalism career at the Whole Earth Catalog in 1969. In recent years, he was editor of Yoga Journal and a contributing editor of New Age Journal. He had previously founded the Loka Journal and was editor in chief of the Vajradhatu Sun, which later became the Shambhala Sun. He was also a teacher for several years at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colo.

His othe books include "Code of the Warrior" (HarperCollins 1991), "The Awakened Warrior" (Tarcher, 1994), "Chop Wood, Carry Water" (Tarcher, 1984), "The Turquoise Bee--Love Poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama" with Brian Cutillo (HarperCollins 1994) and "Instructions to the Cook--A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters" with Bernard Glassman (Bell Tower, 1996).

Born Frederick Douglas Fields in Queens, he was a track star at Andrew Jackson High School and attended Harvard University. He was expelled from the university in 1964, his wife, Marcia, said, after an illicit off-campus liason with a Radcliffe College student.

"The dean told him he was a danger to Western civilization," Mrs. Fields said.

After college, Mr. Fields, who was raised an athiest, drifted to New York and became friendly with Ginsberg and the poet Gary Snyder. Shortly afterward, he moved to California and became part of the Zen centers in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

In the early 70's, he developed an interest in Tibetan Buddhism. Since 1973, he had been a student of Trungpa Rinpoche and other teachers in the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his parents, Al and Reva Fields of Keene, N.H., and his sisters, Laura Jawitz of Madison, N.H., and Joanna Bogin of New Hartford, Conn.

Mr. Field's most recent book, published in 1997 by Crooked Cloud Projects, consists of poetry dealing with his cancer. He spent much of his final five years grappling with the subject from a Buddhist perspective.

"I don't have a life-threatening disease," he said in an interview with Ms Tworkov in Tricycle in 1997. "My life is threatening my disease, in that it is keeping the disease from taking over. I have a disease-threatening life."


Los Angeles Times Sunday, June 13, 1999 (not in national edition on Sunday; possibly Monday)

Rick Fields; Authority on Buddhism in America
                                            

Rick Fields, 57, a journalist, poet and authority on the history of Buddhism in the United States. Fields wrote several books including "How the Swans Came to the Lake: A Narrative History of Buddhism in America." In it, Fields traces the religion's roots from Chinese railroad workers in the last century to beat poets like Allen Ginsberg in the 1950s to its broadening interest today.

Born in the borough of Queens in New York City, Frederick Douglas Fields was a track star in high school. He was kicked out of Harvard, reportedly for sleeping with a Radcliffe girl. He began his journalism career at the Whole Earth Catalog in 1969. In recent years he was an editor and regular contributor to alternative publications including Yoga Journal, New Age Journal and Tricycle: The Buddhist Review. He was also a teacher for many years at the Naropa Institute's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics in Boulder, Colo. It was there that he formed a friendship with Ginsberg, the school's co-founder.

In a 1997 interview with Helen Tworkov, editor of Tricycle, Fields came to terms with the fact that he would die but he never accepted cancer. "I don't have a life-threatening disease, he said. "I have a disease-threatening life." Tworkov recalled Fields as being a "charming, smart and funny" man. His last book of poetry, titled "F. . . You, Cancer and Other Poems," was published last year. On June 6 in Fairfax, Calif., of cancer.

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