Mobile Menu Button. Cover and pages from a Tibetan Book of the Dead Manuscript 19th century. Geographic Origin.
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Money Deals. The Independent Books. Voucher Codes. Minds Articles. Subscription offers. Subscription sign in. Read latest edition. UK Edition. US Edition. Log in using your social network account. Timothy Leary recast it as The Psychedelic Experience, a manual for psychedelic voyagers - the idea being to "shortcut" many years of spiritual training and discipline by dropping some acid - and William Burroughs claimed to be in telepathic contact with Tibetan adepts, subtitling his novel The Wild Boys "A Book of the Dead". In fact, Evans-Wentz's book has been so influential it is surprising to learn that he translated only three chapters of the original work which, it turns out, is not even called The Tibetan Book of the Dead - that was his idea.
Bardo Thodol: The Tibetan Book of the Dead
It's a magnificent achievement. The extra material includes an examination of the nature of mind "One's own mind is insubstantial, like an empty sky" and some beautiful verse meditations usually sung by monks performing their early morning duties. There are aspirational prayers to be read at the moment of death, as well as a translation of the sacred mantras that can be attached to a corpse in order to bring "Liberation by Wearing". An unexpected bonus is a light-hearted allegorical masque about travelling through the after-death state. Chapter 10 reveals how to transfer our consciousness at the exact moment of death.
This involves blocking up in our imagination the rectum the entrance to hell , the genitals entrance to the realm of the anguished spirits and other orifices, so that our consciousness escapes through the crown fontanelle, which we should visualise opening up. If it leaks blood, it is a sure sign the deceased has attained buddhahood.
It is said that if these ancient rituals are followed, even the unrefined and uncultured "however unseemly and inelegant their conduct" can attain enlightenment. In fact, they have a head start on those devout monks and learned philosophers who pooh-pooh such practices. Combining Tibetan folklore with traditional medicine, another chapter tells us how to recognise the signs of our impending death. These include loss of appetite and disturbed sleep, but also "if one's urine falls in two forks" and "if one urinates, defecates and sneezes simultaneously".