The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the texts that, according to legend, Padma-Sambhava was compelled to hide during his visit to Tibet in the late 8th century. The guru hid his books in stones, lakes, and pillars because the Tibetans of that day and age were somehow unprepared for their teachings. Now, in the form of the ever-popular Tibetan Book of the Dead , these teachings are constantly being discovered and rediscovered by Western readers of many different backgrounds--a phenomenon which began in with Oxford's first edition of Dr.
Evans-Wentz's landmark volume. While it is traditionally used as a mortuary text, to be read or recited in the presence of a dead or dying person, this book--which relates the whole experience of death and rebirth in three intermediate states of being--was originally understood as a guide not only for the dead but also for the living. As a contribution to the science of death and dying--not to mention the belief in life after death, or the belief in rebirth-- The Tibetan Book of the Dead is unique among the sacred texts of the world, for its socio-cultural influence in this regard is without comparison.
This fourth edition features a new foreword, afterword, and suggested further reading list by Donald S. Lopez traces the whole history of the late Evans-Wentz's three earlier editions of this book, fully considering the work of contributors to previous editions C. Jung among them , the sections that were added by Evans-Wentz along the way, the questions surrounding the book's translation, and finally the volume's profound importance in engendering both popular and academic interest in the religion and culture of Tibet.
Another key theme that Lopez addresses is the changing nature of this book's audience--from the prewar theosophists to the beat poets to the hippies to contemporary exponents of the hospice movement--and what these audiences have found or sought in its very old pages. Fifteen persons with whom I have spoken claim to have recalled the passage of their soul through the nonphysical worlds. In these cases a person had a remembrance in which he experienced full participation in one of his past lives. But instead of his remembrance terminating during some point within that lifetime, he believes that he reexperienced his death at the end of that lifetime, he believes that he reexperienced his death at the end of that past life, the passage of his soul through the higher worlds after his death, and his rebirth in his next incarnation.
In each of these cases of between-life remembrance, people experienced similar phenomena to note that although none of these cases persons were familiar with the Book of the Dead prior to their remembrance, their descriptions of both the order and nature of their experiences are strikingly similar to the descriptions of death and rebirth process found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Lewis Writing in regard to the Tibetan Book of the Dead :.
The consciousness of the departed has an ecstatic experience of the primary "clear light" at the death moment.
Everyone gets at least a fleeting glimpse of the light. The more spiritually developed see it longer, and are able to go beyond it to a higher level of reality.
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The average person, however, drops into the lessor state of the secondary "clear light. Unless highly developed, the individual will feel that she is still the body. The departed then encounters various apparitions, the "peaceful" and "wrathful" deities, that are actually personifications of human feelings and that, to successfully achieve nirvana, the deceased must encounter unflinchingly.
Only the most evolved individuals can skip the Bardo experience altogether and transit directly in the paradise realm. The Bardo of Death. The Tibetan Buddhist tradition has concentrated more attention on helping the dying person cross the borders of death than any other living religious tradition He goes beyond the practices of lucid dreaming that have been popularized in the West by presenting methods for guiding dream states that are part of a broader system for enhancing self-awareness called Dzogchen.
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