The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Is there value in reading the Tibetan book of the dead to someone who has passed on or is about to pass on?
This book is not an easy read. There is a lots of information for the reader to understand. The concepts do require some level of understanding of what it means to go to the after life.
Since the book is translated to English it does loses some of the meaning from the original language. There is talk of different worlds. The human world, ghost world, the God world and the formless world.
The Tibetan book off the dead is said to be written in the 14 century by Karma Lingpa. In this article the question will be explored. I will try to answer why this book is read to the dying or dead and what value if any is there?
The Two Books
The purpose of this book is to guide the dead or dying to enlightenment. The goal is to help them reach the goal of the after life journey. The Bardo’s or sacred text is read aloud in the presence of a dying or recently deceased person.
The Brados are to be read out loud over a period of weeks. The insightful words are also repeated daily in the ear of the dead or dying. The words act like a map. The map is a word for word guide to help the dead understand what they are witnessing as they ascend to the afterlife.
The godly words are designed so the dead will find enlightenment or they will have a profound realization of death.
Three Stages of Death
There are three distinct stages that are discussed in the Tibetan book of the dead. They are:
- The Moment of Death
- Realization of Death
At the moment of death, one has the opportunity, to recognize the clear light. If you do then you become enlightened. If you do not, then you move to stage 2.
The dead move to stage 2 as they do not recognize they are dead. Then comes the moment of realization. In this moment you realize after seeing the light that this was the clear light you’d see in death. Then understanding will bring liberation. If the dead does not recognize the light then they move to the 3rd stage.
The rebirth stage means you start your enlightenment journey all over again. You come back to a new existences in some unknown form based on the karma of your previous life.
What does liberation mean and now does one experience this? Liberation mean to find enlightenment and transcending in to the afterlife. It also mean to have a happy rebirth, with the possibility of reaching a higher consciousness in your new life.
If you are dying or you have passed away you have to remember to recognize the light to be liberated. This light from my understanding is Buddha consciousness.
It is said that if someone is dying or if someone is recently deceased, no one should cry. This can be very hard as death is an emotional time.
It also makes sense to not cry but celebrate the life of the person with happiness as the dead is looking to move to the light. They have not realized that they have passed.
The understanding is to let them part with words that will guide them to the clear light or enlightenment and not allow them to realize that they have passed away.
Many people meditate to gain control over the mind so you are not distracted by thoughts. One thing we must learn is to quite the mind and keep it focused, without having our thoughts wander on day-to-day activities. Meditation is a great practice to prepare yourself for the after life journey to the light.
As the reader guides the dying, the reader needs to keep in mind that the dead may not be aware of what is happening. Your voice and the message you are reading is all they have now.
The First Seven Days
Day one to three of your journey you will be guided by wisdom. The dead must believe that the Beings that they see in the light will not harm them. If they can come to this realization they will reach Buddhahood.
It the book it says the deceased is waiting for the, “Mother of the Space Of Heaven.” Who is guiding this Mothership? What is this and it’s significance? How closely related is this ship to the concepts in the book Chariots of the Gods?
In the book the dead will see three lights and the deceased is to believe that these lights are good. If they follow the light in blind faith they will find liberation from rebirth.
The book states you will be visited by Beings of different colours. One colour being Blue.
Being brought up in a Hindu household I asked many questions such as, “What is the relationship of the blue colour Gods found in Hinduism and the being that are meeting you in the after life?”
It is said, during the seven days you will be visited by different beings, If you do not reconvened them. This means you have multiple chances to fight the battle against you ego.
This is why meditation can be important while you are here in the rebirth world.
During the seven days there will come a glorious orb of light. This orb or light is explained in detail in the book. How does the writer of the Tibetan book of the dead have such knowledge? How are they able to transcend time and space and write about such a profound understanding in detail? What power are they connecting to within and outside themselves.
The writer of the book, gives a vivid explanation of what the begins you will meet on your journey, look like. It is also mentioned what the beings may say to you at each stage.
The Next Seven Days
While trying to understand the Tibetan book of the dead, it seems as the days pass, the dead will be greeted by beings which may scare the unenlightened person. These beings you meet can be seen as they are depicted in artwork found in Hinduism or the pictures that are in the book.
The sooner the dead realize they are being guided, the quicker they will find liberation and the enlightenment Buddha found here on Earth.
In Christianity, Christians proclaim the name of the living God, Jesus. It seems to me that in Buddhism you have an opportunity to recognize enlightenment in death and in life.
It is a common understanding that our journey in life is to recognize the light when we pass. On your journey you are yourself. You are the form traveling to become formless if you can understand what is happening. This is why the reader guides you each day and each step of the way.
On the thirteenth day you will come face to face with a Being that will have the head of animals. Could be one head or could be multiple heads.
Why animal heads? Why not human heads or God heads? Perhaps the animals we are supposed to live in harmony with on earth are Godly and we don’t recognize it? In the Hindu culture, animals are Gods creatures. So this seems to line up with what the book is teaching.
During the journey, the dead, which will be us one day, will come across Beings that are within us. We must recognize the evil, the pain, the hurt and the fear within ourself. By seeing this for what it is and accepting the fear you can again liberate yourself.
In the second part of the book this is where the super normal birth is talked about and explained.
This is before the rebirth stage. There is still an opportunity to get liberty without entering the door of the womb.
One of the thoughts that come too me was the release of the egg each month in women. Perhaps every time the egg is not fertilized another soul is liberated?
Each time a baby is born the journey did not go so well for someone traveling the afterlife. Is it possible each child born is a soul that was not freed and had to take form on this earth, again?
Guidance Before Rebirth
If you have a Guru or spiritual leader or if you believe in God, this is where you can ask them for guidance during the journey.
By the time you come to the guidance part you may have start to wonder and look for a physical body to enter. It is said the lord of Death may meet you and he will ask you of your sins. Your sins will be replayed for you to witness.
When reading this book I feel it is saying you get to choose the state of mind, mood and disposition you’ll be born in. Do you decide who you will be prior to your birth, based on your actions in the formless world?
One of the most powerful statements said in the footnotes of the book was, in death one can gain the power to change shape, appear and disappear at will. This means that we humans can develop this skill on earth through the practice of Yoga.
The Tibetan book of the dead also describes five ways to avoid rebirth by avoiding the womb. If you want to know more I recommend reading this part of the book.
What is a supernormal birth? It is said that it is the transference of the consciousness. Meaning moving from one realm to another.
In life we grow up hearing and feeling that we do not choose our parents. I feel this book states otherwise. It says that we must choose the womb we want to be born into wisely. This means we can dictate our own future if we are to be reborn.
Is the content of this book true or false? Can you really walk someone who has died into a better after life if they follow your instructions? How does the person reading know if the dead has reached enlightenment or if they have been reborn?
I asked a question to Lama Surya Dass on Twitter. “How does the reader of the script know when to stop reading? How does the reader know if the dead has reached enlightenment or not?
Here is his response:
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