The Tibetan Book of the Dead
བར་དོ་ཐོས་གྲོལ – Bardo Thodol
Or The After-Death Experiences On The Bardo Planes
English translation by Lāma Kazi Dawa-Samdup
Compiled and Edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz
From The Tibetan Death Text
– The Great Liberation Upon Hearing In The Intermediate State
Revealed By KARMA LING PA
This book is the first English language translation of the famous Tibetan death text, The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State. Also known as the Bardo Thodol which means “liberation by hearing on the after death plane” (Bardo: after death plane, Thodol or Thotrol: liberation by hearing), it was originally written in the Tibetan language and is meant to be a guide for those who have died as they transition from their former life to a new destination.
The work has been traditionally attributed to Padma-Sambhava, an Indian mystic who was said to have introduced Buddhism to Tibet in the 8th century. Legend has it that while visiting Tibet, Padma-Sambhava found it necessary to conceal sanskrit works he had arranged to be written. The Tibetans of that time were not ready for the spiritual teachings contained therein, so he hid his texts in strange and remote locations, leaving them to be discovered at a later time when their spiritual message could be received by those with an open mind.
The most famous of those that discovered and revealed Padma-Sambhava’s writings was Karma Lingpa who was born around 1350 CE. According to his biography, Karma Lingpa found several hidden texts on top of a mountain in Tibet when he was fifteen years old. Within those texts, he found a collection of teachings entitled The Self-Emergence of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities from Enlightened Awareness. These teachings contained the texts of the now famous Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Bardo.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first published in 1927 by Oxford University Press, London. Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz coined the title because of parallels he found with the writings of the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The paperback and hardcover editions of the book contain extensive notes by Evans-Wentz about the conclusions he drew from the translation which, some say, were greatly influenced by his involvement with Theosophy and neo-Vedantic Hindu views. A later edition of the book includes commentary by the renowned psychoanalyst, Dr. Carl Jung, whose insightful essay illustrates that this Tibetan text goes beyond a study of Tibetan culture and reaches into a psychology that has great relevance to the western world.
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