December 11, 2006

The Tibetan Book Of The Dead

The Bardo Thodol, which translates as 'liberation by hearing on the after death plane', is more popularly known to the West as The Tibetan Book Of The Dead. It is a classic Buddhist funerary text that explains the process of dying and that which follows beyond.

Its key function is to provide guidance to the dying, so that they can recognise the nature of mind and attain liberation from Samsara - the wheel of life, death and rebirth. It is traditional for monks to read the text aloud to an individual who is in the last throes of their life.

When the mind is separated from the physical, it enters into a dreamlike state, in which frightening and beautiful visions appear. This can be disconcerting to a mind no longer shielded by a body, and that right choices must be made so that liberation can be attained. Too easily a mind in such flux can become easily seduced by the temptation and false security that rebirth provides, and so the cycle of suffering continues. The Bardo Thodol offers guidance so that the mind can find its way into the heavenly realms, rather than the gross lower realms.

This knowledge was passed down through an oral tradition, but was finally written as a text by Padma Sambhava in the 8th century A.D.

The following videos, provide a splendid visual explanation of this esoteric Tibetan wisdom. I would also like to draw your attention to a poem I wrote some years back, that unintentionally seems to contain many of the same themes: The Dead Man's Mass.

Part One

Part Two

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