The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State (Standard Tibetan: bardo "liminality"; thodol as "liberation"), sometimes translated as Liberation Through Hearing or transliterated as Bardo Thodol, is a funerary text. It is often referred to in the West by the more casual title, Tibetan Book of the Dead, a name which draws a parallel with the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, another funerary text.
The Tibetan text describes, and is intended to guide one through, the experiences that the consciousness has after death, during the interval between death and the next rebirth. This interval is known in Tibetan as the bardo. The text also includes chapters on the signs of death, and rituals to undertake when death is closing in, or has taken place. It is the most internationally famous and widespread work of TibetanNyingma literature.
This text is commonly known by its Western title: The Tibetan Book of the Dead. However, Fremantle (2001: p. 20) states:
...there is in fact no single Tibetan title corresponding to the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The overall name given to the whole terma cycle is Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation through the Intention of the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones, and it is popularly known as Karma Lingpa's Peaceful and Wrathful Ones. It has been handed down through the centuries in several versions containing varying numbers of sections and subsections, arranged in different orders, ranging from around ten to thirty-eight titles. These individual texts cover a wide range of subjects, including the dzogchen view..., meditation instructions, visualizations of deities, liturgies and prayers, lists of mantras, descriptions of the signs of death, and indications of future rebirth, as well as those that are actually concerned with the after-death state. the [sic.] Tibetan Book of the Dead as we know it in English consists of two comparatively long texts on the bardo of dharmata (including the bardo of dying) and the bardo of existence... They are called Great Liberation through Hearing: The Supplication of the Bardo of Dharmata and Great liberation through Hearing: The Supplication Pointing Out the Bardo of Existence. Within the texts themselves, the two combined are referred to as Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo, Great Liberation through Hearing, or just Liberation through Hearing,....
Background[edit source | edit]
According to Tibetan tradition, the Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State was composed in the 8th century by Padmasambhava, written down by his primary student, Yeshe Tsogyal, buried in the Gampo hills in central Tibet and subsequently discovered by a Tibetanterton, Karma Lingpa, in the 14th century. There were variants of the book among different sects.The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first published in 1927 by Oxford University Press. Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz chose this title because of the parallels he found with the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State is recited by Tibetan Buddhist lamas over a dying or recently deceased person, or sometimes over an effigy of the deceased. The name means literally "liberation through hearing in the intermediate state".
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State differentiates the intermediate state between lives into three bardos:
The chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death", which features the experience of the "clear light of reality", or at least the nearest approximation of which one is spiritually capable.
The chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality", which features the experience of visions of various Buddha forms (or, again, the nearest approximations of which one is capable).
The sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth", which features karmically impelled hallucinations which eventually result in rebirth. (Typically imagery of men and women passionately entwined.)
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State also mentions three other bardos: those of "life" (or ordinary waking consciousness), of "dhyana" (meditation), and of "dream" (the dream state during normal sleep).
Together these "six bardos" form a classification of states of consciousness into six broad types. Any state of consciousness can form a type of "intermediate state", intermediate between other states of consciousness. Indeed, one can consider any momentary state of consciousness a bardo, since it lies between our past and future existences; it provides us with the opportunity to experience reality, which is always present but obscured by the projections and confusions that are due to our previous unskillful actions.
The Bardo Thödol[Tibetan Book of the Dead] began by being a closed book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes useless books exist. They are meant for those queer folk who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day civilisation.
— Carl Jung
English translations and related teachings[edit source | edit]
Translations and summaries[edit source | edit]
Thupten Jinpa (ed.) (2005) The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Penguin Classics). London: Penguin Books (2005) ISBN 0-7139-9414-2
Thurman, Robert (trans.) (1994) The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as popularly known in the West; known in Tibet as "The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between"; composed by Padma Sambhava; discovered by Karma Lingpa; foreword by the Dalai Lama London: Harper Collins ISBN 1-85538-412-4
Line 'it's dying to take you away' from Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour" was based on the drug culture and the release of death described in the Bardo Thodol.
1985 2-part documentary filmed in Ladakh and the States, first part entitled The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life; the second part The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation was a co-production between NHK (Japan), Mistral (France) and FBC (Canada). Narration in the English version is by Leonard Cohen. See links below.
In 2007, The History Channel released a documentary film, Tibetan Book of the Dead: "The Tibetan book of the Dead is an important document that has stood the test of time and attempts to provide answers to one of mankind's greatest questions: What happens when we die? Interviews with Tibetan Lamas, American scholars, and practicing Buddhists bring this powerful and mysterious text to life. State-of-the-art computer generated graphics will recreate this mysterious and exotic world. Follow the dramatized journey of a soul from death...to re-birth. In Tibet, the "art of dying" is nothing less than the art of living."
In 1994, the Modern Rock band Live had a second album, Throwing Copper. On which, track 9, a song titled "T.B.D." (4:28) stands for Tibetan Book of the Dead.
In 1996, Delerium Records released the Liberation Thru' HearingCD which contains spoken/chanted readings from the Bardo Thodol set to music.
^Fremantle (2001: p.21) states that: Liberation is synonymous with the Sanskrit word bodhi, which means awakening, understanding, or enlightenment, and with nirvana, which means blowing out or extinction: the extinction of illusion.
^Dorje, Gyurme. The Tibetan Book of the Dead. "A Brief Literary History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 2007). Translated by Gyurme Dorje. ISBN 978-0-14-310494-0.
^Information about these texts and others relating to death can be found in Detlef Ingo Lauf, Secret Doctrines of the Tibetan Books of the Dead. Boulder, Shambhala, 1977.
^In Tibetan, zab chos zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol and kar gling zhi khro.
^In Tibetan, chos nyid bar do'i gsol 'debs thos grol chen mo and strid pa'i bar do ngo sprod gsol 'debs thos grol chen mo.
^In Tibetan, bar do thos grol, thos grol chen mo, and thos grol.
^Evans-Wentz (1960), p. liv; and, Fremantle & Trungpa (2003), p. xi.
^'Guru Rinpoche' and 'Yeshe Tsogyal' in: Forbes, Andrew; Henley, David (2013). The Illustrated Tibetan Book of the Dead. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. B00BCRLONM