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The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Masterpiece of World Literature - Translated by Gyurme Dorje and Edited by Graham Coleman

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Guide to the Afterlife

Death is one of the most universal and inevitable experiences that humans face. Yet, it is also one of the most mysterious and unknown aspects of life. How do we cope with death? What happens after we die? Is there a way to prepare for death and make it a positive transition? These are some of the questions that many people ask themselves at some point in their lives.

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Fortunately, there is a source of wisdom and guidance that can help us answer these questions and more. It is called The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a sacred text that reveals the secrets of death and the afterlife from a Buddhist perspective. In this article, we will explore what this text is, how to read it, and how to practice it in order to gain a deeper understanding of death and life.

What is the Tibetan Book of the Dead?

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is not a single book, but a collection of texts that describe the stages of death, rebirth, and liberation according to Tibetan Buddhism. The original title in Tibetan is Bardo Thodol, which means "Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate State". The term bardo refers to any transitional state between two events, such as waking and sleeping, birth and death, or life and enlightenment. The term thodol means "liberation by hearing", which implies that one can attain freedom from suffering by listening to and following the instructions given in these texts.

The origin and history of the text

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is attributed to Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, who is considered to be the founder of Tibetan Buddhism in the 8th century CE. He is said to have composed these texts as a result of his visionary experiences and teachings from various Buddhas and bodhisattvas. He then concealed them as terma, or hidden treasures, in various places in Tibet and neighboring countries, to be discovered by future generations when they were ready to receive them.

The most famous discoverer of these texts was Karma Lingpa, a 14th century Tibetan master who found them in a cave in central Tibet. He then revealed them to his disciples and followers, who transmitted them orally and in writing for centuries. The texts were first translated into English by Walter Evans-Wentz in 1927, who gave them the title The Tibetan Book of the Dead, inspired by the ancient Egyptian funerary text The Book of Going Forth by Day. Since then, many other translations and editions have been published, each with different interpretations and commentaries.

The structure and content of the text