The Tibetan Book of the Dead
When I first picked up the book, The Tibetan book of the dead, I wondered if there was any value in reading this book.
I had a vague idea of what this book was going to cover. It would talk about the living and about those who have passed on to the afterlife.
As I started to read the book, it quickly became apparent that this was not going to be an easy read. There is a lot of information for the reader to understand and try to comprehend.
Since the book is translated to English it does loses some of the meaning from the original language.
The concepts in the book do require one to think about what it means to go to the afterlife. 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, I want to explore if there is value for you to read this book. Second, if there any value in reading the book to the dying or dead.
The Two Books
The purpose of reading this book is to guide the recently deceased or dying toward enlightenment. The goal is to help each person who passes the ultimate afterlife, Nirvana.
The Bardo’s or sacred text, is read aloud in the presence of a dying or recently deceased person. When you read the text, you are preparing the death for reincarnation or Nirvana.
The Brado’s are read out loud over a period of a few weeks. The insightful words are also repeated daily in the ear of the dead or dying.
The words which are repeated, act as a visual diagram for the dead to follow. The map is a word for word guide to help the dead understand what they are witnessing as they ascend to the afterlife.
The scripture is designed to help the dead find enlightenment or have a profound realization of death, in 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 because they do not recognize they are dead. This bring the moment of realization. In this moment, the dying or dead realize, after seeing the light, that this was the clear light you would see in death.
If they understand this it 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 existence, in some unknown form, based on the karma of your earlier life.
What does liberation mean and now does one experience this?
Liberation mean to find enlightenment and transcend in to the afterlife. It also means 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 must remember to recognize the light to be liberated.
The way I understand this light is that it is Buddha consciousness.
It is said that if someone is dying or if someone recently is deceased, no one should cry for this person.
This is not very easy to do. When someone dies, we use our tears to express pain, hurt and sadness.
It makes sense to not cry, as well. Many believe that death should be celebrated. When you celebrate death, the person begins to look for and move towards the clear light.
The book says, when we do not cry we allow the person to continue their journey without them realizing that they have passed on. The understanding I got is, we must let them travel with words that will guide them to enlightenment.
Many people meditate to gain control over the mind, so they 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 afterlife 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 day three of your journey, the reader of the book guides by the words of wisdom. The dead must believe that the Beings that they meet in the light will not harm them.
If they can come to this realization, they will reach Buddhahood and total enlightenment.
It the book it says the deceased is waiting for the, “Mother of the Space of Heaven.”
Makes me wonder, who is guiding this Mothership to heaven? What is this ship and its significance in death?
If you have read the book, Chariots of the Gods, then you may also wonder how closely related the ship is to ships talked about in the book.
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 colors. One being is Blue.
Being brought up in a Hindu household I asked many questions to my parents. One question I asked then when I was young, “What is the relationship of the blue color Gods found in Hindu religion and the being that we meet you in the afterlife?”
My parents had no answers for me.
It is said, during the seven days you will be visited by different beings. If you do not recognize them that is ok. You will have multiple chances to recognize these being and fight the battle against your ego.
Therefore, meditation can be important while you are here on earth awaiting the rebirth world.
During the seven days, there will come a glorious orb of light. This orb of light is explained in detail in the book.
As I read section about the orb, I ask myself, how could the writer of the Tibetan book of the Dead have such detailed knowledge?
How is he writer able to transcend time and space and write about such a profound understanding in detail?
What powers is the author connecting to within and outside themselves to write such a detailed encounter?
The writer of the book, gives a comprehensive description of what the Begins, you will meet on your journey, look like.
There is also mention of what the Beings may say to you at each stage that you travel through.
The Next Seven Days
While trying to understand the Tibetan book of the Dead, it seems to me that as the day’s pass, the dead will be greeted by Beings which my scare the unenlightened person from being enlightened.
These Beings you will meet can be seen in different depictions of artwork found in Hinduism and the pictures in the book.
The sooner the dead realize they are being guided by someone reading the book, 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.
The understanding I get after reading this book is that, life’s journey in about recognizing the light when we pass.
The journey we take in the afterlife is the journey your true self-will take. You are the form traveling to become formless. This is a little hard to understand but this is what is happening.
This is why the deceased has someone read the book and guides them day by day and each step of the way.
On the thirteenth day, you come face to face with a Being that will have the head of animals. It could be a one head Being or a Being with multiple animal heads.
Why the head of different animals?
Why not human heads or by God?
Perhaps the animals are those we harmed while we were on Earth. The same ones we are supposed to live in harmony with.
In the Hindu culture, animals are God’s creatures. So, this seems to line up with what the book is teaching.
In Egyptian culture the God’s were also depicted with the head of animals. In many of the hieroglyphics, these Gods can be seen attending the to the dead.
Maybe both cultures had knowledge of this and are trying to show us what happens to us in the afterlife.
During the journey, the dead, which may join us back on Earth again one day, will come across Beings that are within us.
We must recognize evil, pain, hurt and the fear within ourselves. By seeing this for what it is and accepting the fear you have, you can once again find liberation for yourself.
The second part of the book is where the super normal birth is talked about and explained.
The super normal is the stage before the rebirth stage. There is where the dead still have an opportunity to be liberated without entering the door of the womb.
One of the thoughts that come to me, as I read this was, women release an egg each month, 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.
It is possible that each child born is a soul that was not freed. That soul must take on a new form, on earth, and redo the whole process.
Guidance Before Rebirth
If you have a Guru, spiritual leader or if you believe in God, this is where you can ask them for guidance during the journey.
By the time you reach the guidance part of your journey, you may start to 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 before you enter the womb.
Maybe this is the same thing we when people go to heaven or hell. Their life will be replayed for them to be a witness to.
While reading this book, I felt it was saying you get to choose the state of mind, mood and disposition you’ll be born into.
Do you really 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 may also be able to develop this skill on Earth, through the practice of Yoga and Meditation.
The Tibetan book of the Dead also describes five ways to avoid rebirth. It gives details on how to avoid the womb.
If you want to know more I recommend reading this part of the book.
What is a supernormal birth?
The way I am beginning to understand it is like this, 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 dictate the future we want to be reborn into.
Is the content of this book true or false?
Can you really walk someone who has died into a better afterlife, if they follow your instructions?
How does the person reading know if the dead has reached enlightenment or if they have been reborn?
There is a lot of questions that the book leave open.
I decided to go on to Twitter and asked a question to Lama Surya Dass.
My question to him was, “How does the reader of the script know when to stop reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead? How does the reader know if the dead has reached enlightenment or not?”
Here is his response:
Leave a comment and tell us what your thoughts are on the concepts discussed in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
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