Tibetan Book of Dead & NDEs

#1
I found this article to be interesting.

The Tibetan book of the dead as the work is commonly known is an ancient text which was written for the purpose of helping the dying and indeed, the dead, navigate the many geographies and challenges of the otherworld which comes after death, the Beyond as it has been called. It is a testament to the great attention paid by our ancestors to the dying process. Death after all, is a process, and one which is as natural as any other in the world. ...
This piece is one written devoid of a thesis as such and will refrain from too much commentary orrelated analysis. Though some will be required for the sake of certain clarifications. It is acomparative and reference piece which is written in the hope the others may find some use in their own researches, related as they may be.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/174358993...dern-Accounts-of-Death-A-Comparative-Analysis
 
#2
Sometimes I worry about the concept of thoughts becoming automatic reality, because on occasion I have thoughts that are not productive or would be harmful if actually done. Those are usually discarded shortly after for the same reason, which makes me wonder if the thought has to be a conscious push or if it is automatic. (e.g. is it enough to think, "What would happen if I reincarnated?" and get shoved in to a new body despite not being serious, or is there a committal where you have to actually want the idea to go through.)
 
#3
I thought the similarities in the book of the dead and modern NDE's are quite striking. Im sure the writer just skimmed the surface and if more research were done, more likenesses would be found, or even somethings that make no sense or dont jive.
So, im not real up to date with the book of the dead. How old is the original manuscripts? Do they know who actually wrote it or how they came about their information? That would be interesting to know.
As far as what JC wrote about reincarnation, I wonder that too. It almost seems in some of the things I have read about it, that you dont seem to have a choice where or when you reincarnate but for some reason it seems to be related to the previous life. Such as being the grandfather or sibling in a past life and joining back with the same family. The really odd thing is the birthmarks they have when previously being killed in some violent or odd way. Strange stuff.
 
#4
Sometimes I worry about the concept of thoughts becoming automatic reality, because on occasion I have thoughts that are not productive or would be harmful if actually done. Those are usually discarded shortly after for the same reason, which makes me wonder if the thought has to be a conscious push or if it is automatic. (e.g. is it enough to think, "What would happen if I reincarnated?" and get shoved in to a new body despite not being serious, or is there a committal where you have to actually want the idea to go through.)
In esoteric terms there's definitely a difference between thought and intention... I guess virtual particles are in physics the equivalent of thoughts: it requires lots of them to manifest an actual particle (intention) :eek: :)
 
#5
Sometimes I worry about the concept of thoughts becoming automatic reality, because on occasion I have thoughts that are not productive or would be harmful if actually done. Those are usually discarded shortly after for the same reason, which makes me wonder if the thought has to be a conscious push or if it is automatic. (e.g. is it enough to think, "What would happen if I reincarnated?" and get shoved in to a new body despite not being serious, or is there a committal where you have to actually want the idea to go through.)
I think some of the NDE accounts show that our everyday physical lives are weighed down with inertia - in both its literal, Newtonian mechanics context, as well as a metaphorical sense. Say we think to ourselves, "I'd like to go over there". We might need to simply move the muscles in our legs and take a few steps. Or we might need to get in a car and drive to the "over there" location. But in an NDE, a person thinks, "I'd like to go over there" - and immediately finds themselves at the new location.

Although the mechanics and the time taken may not be the same, the thing which each has in common is the intention, a deliberate and conscious thought of doing something.

However, it's also possible that there are other kinds of thoughts which we may have, either here physically or during an NDE which have unintended consequences, for example we may construct a world of negative concepts around ourselves, and thus find ourselves experiencing that which we created. This is sounding a bit "new-agey", which is an area which I normally steer clear of. But I think it makes sense, so long as we bear in mind the inertia, which means that our thoughts here may take longer to manifest themselves physically than we would sometimes like (but perhaps that's also a good thing).
 
#6
Some lucid dreaming / out of body text talks about your fears coming out when you just start reaching an out of body state, and I believe its also been mentioned in reference to the Tibetan account of how the bardo works. I suspect someone actually has to experience OBEs to really know how the intent/focus works, since there isn't a wide standardization of occultist terms. Just consider that there are a dozen interpretations of what the "ego" is.

I have adopted sort of an opposing viewpoint towards some of the buddhist ideals. After a while of thinking about it, I don't see what there is to gain through the various interpretations of nirvana; depending on the interpretation you effectively have to mothball your entire psyche, and from personal experience (as well as seeing some others) that is more of a duct tape for someone who is damaged than a way to really live. Granted, there are different versions of nirvana. From the OP's article I got the impression that the Tibetan interpretation defines it as achieving sufficient focus that you are the one steering the ship during death, which means you may simply choose not to reincarnate unless you really want to again. I can definitely see the value in self control in this way, though the notion of being a permanent mental vegetable (other nirvana interpretations) aren't appealing.
 
#7
I thought the similarities in the book of the dead and modern NDE's are quite striking. Im sure the writer just skimmed the surface and if more research were done, more likenesses would be found, or even somethings that make no sense or dont jive.
So, im not real up to date with the book of the dead. How old is the original manuscripts? Do they know who actually wrote it or how they came about their information? That would be interesting to know.
As far as what JC wrote about reincarnation, I wonder that too. It almost seems in some of the things I have read about it, that you dont seem to have a choice where or when you reincarnate but for some reason it seems to be related to the previous life. Such as being the grandfather or sibling in a past life and joining back with the same family. The really odd thing is the birthmarks they have when previously being killed in some violent or odd way. Strange stuff.
The book is not what it claims to be, much like the book of mormon.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Tibetan-Book-Dead-Biography/dp/0691134359

The author of this biography is to Buddhism what Bart Ehrman is to Christianity, imho.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#8
The book is not what it claims to be, much like the book of mormon.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Tibetan-Book-Dead-Biography/dp/0691134359

The author of this biography is to Buddhism what Bart Ehrman is to Christianity, imho.
An article in the Journal of Near-Death Studies also went into this, and in parallel spelled out important differences between its content and NDEs.
Vol. 29 No. 3, Spring 2011
  • The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its History and Controversial Aspects of its Contents • Michael Nahm, Ph.D.
Part of the abstract: The summary shows that the TBD was gradually elaborated within a specific Tibetan Buddhist context, the Dzokchen tradition. In comparing features of first-hand reports of the death and dying process as reported in the TBD with those reported in four other categories - TIbetan delok, near-death experiencers, mediums, and children who remember previous lives - I find that some features are consistent but that other key features are not. Because it seems likely that inconsistent features of the TBD reflect idiosyncratic dying and afterlife concepts of the Dzokchen tradition, scholars in the field of near-death studies and others should be careful about adopting the contents of the TBD without question. (p. 373)

Nahm has the Lopez book Weedar referred to as one of his references.

I can summarize the consistent and inconsistent features, if someone's interested.
 
Last edited:

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#10
How old is the original manuscripts?
The Nahm article I just referenced mentions original short scriptures by a yogi in the 8th century and an "obscure visionary" in the 14th century. These early scripts were "embellished and supplemented to a degree that it is now impossible to trace". The texts were extended, elaborated, reordered by numerous authors. Two lamas in the 17th century were especially important in doing this. And a third person, RIzkin Nyima Drakpa, finished the redaction in the 17th as well. (The Great Liberation Upon Hearing. Only a part was translated in the 1920s, which was edited and published as The Tibetan Book of the Dead.) (p. 381-382)
 
#12
For those with interest in The Tibetan Book of The Dead should watch these two documentaries.

Death is real, it comes without warning and it cannot be escaped. An ancient source of strength and guidance, The Tibetan Book of the Dead remains an essential teaching in the Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this enlightening two-part series explores the sacred text and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom.

Part 1: A Way of Life reveals the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and examines its traditional use in northern India, as well as its acceptance in Western hospices. Shot over a four-month period, the film contains footage of the rites and liturgies for a deceased Ladakhi elder and includes an interview with the Dalai Lama, who shares his views on the book's meaning and importance.

Part 2: The Great Liberation follows an old lama and his novice monk as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The soul's 49-day journey towards rebirth is envisioned through actual photography of rarely seen Buddhist rituals, interwoven with groundbreaking animation by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Ishu Patel.




http://youtu.be/iEX5mBqa554
 
#13
The book is not what it claims to be, much like the book of mormon.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Tibetan-Book-Dead-Biography/dp/0691134359
If you don't like the Evans-Wentz version, there are others translated under direction of Tibetan monks.

Not sure how western materialists approach terma from Padmasambhava discovered by tertons?

The Buddha has noted that we should not accept something just because it is in a book or a tradition.

I am interested in similarities between Bardo Thodol and NDE reports. I am also interested in the differences.
 

Ian Gordon

Ninshub
Member
#14
When you have time, I would love to read about them.

cheers
The author, Michael Nahm, compares features of the TBD about the dying process and the afterlife with 4 other categories: delok accounts, NDErs, mediums, and children who remember past lives. In a table, he compares 12 features, which I'll summarize below. [BTW, the sources he uses for this comparison are very extensive for the Stevenson et al. children's memories literature. It's a little less so for NDErs (Crookall 1960, 70, 78; Moody 75; Holden Greyson & James '09; Ring 80; Lommel '10), and definitely insufficient for mediumship, IMO (Bozzano; Crookall; Cummins). The Tibetan delok accounts are Bailey 2001, Cuevas 2008 and Epstein 1982 and 1989.]

Consistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- Temporary bewilderment/unconsciousness (1), sense of rising from the body/OBEs (2), living on in a "subtle body" (3) and meeting deceased people/religious figures (4) he finds in all 5 categories.
- Encountering beings of light (5) and a life review/judgement (6) he finds in the TBD, NDEs, delok accounts, and mediumship, but only partially (sometimes, sometimes not) in children's past life memories.

Possible/probable inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- Seeing earth-like landscapes in the afterlife realm (7) he finds only partially in the TBD, whereas it's present in all other categories.
- It is unsure as to whether the sensation of darkness or tunnels (8) is in the TBD, but it's present in delok accounts, NDEs and mediumship, and partially (sometimes, sometimes not) in children's PL memories.

Inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- The experience of the Tibetan Clear Light (9) (featureless, colorless, experienced preceding any OBE or early-stage part of the experience, and once you experience it you can't return to physical life) that is a key feature of the TBD is not found in NDErs, mediumship and children's PL memories, and it's unsure as to whether it's found in delok accounts.
- The afterlife experiences being an "illusionary vision" (10), experiencing the mandala of the 100 deities or a cultural equivalent (11) and 49 days of afterlife existence (12) are features of the TBD only and not of the other 4 categories (including delok accounts).

In the comments, the author takes care to mention that the folklore of the delok accounts has more similarities with Asian NDE accounts than with the TBD, and that some experiences by lamas and monks are not "congruent with the TBD" (p.386).

Nahm, Michael. "The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its History and Controversial Aspects of Its Contents". Journal of Near-Death Studies 29: 3 (2011): 393-398.
 
Last edited:
#15
The author, Michael Nahm, compares features of the TBD about the dying process and the afterlife with 4 other categories: delok accounts, NDErs, mediums, and children who remember past lives. In a table, he compares 12 features, which I'll summarize below. [BTW, the sources he uses for this comparison are very extensive for the Stevenson et al. children's memories literature. It's a little less so for NDErs (Crookall 1960, 70, 78; Moody 75; Holden Greyson & James '09; Ring 80; Lommel '10), and definitely insufficient for mediumship, IMO (Bozzano; Crookall; Cummins). The Tibetan delok accounts are Bailey 2001, Cuevas 2008 and Epstein 1982 and 1989.]

Consistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- Temporary bewilderment/unconsciousness (1), sense of rising from the body/OBEs (2), living on in a "subtle body" (3) and meeting deceased people/religious figures (4) he finds in all 5 categories.
- Encountering beings of light (5) and a life review/judgement (6) he finds in the TBD, NDEs, delok accounts, and mediumship, but only partially (sometimes, sometimes not) in children's past life memories.

Possible/probable inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- Seeing earth-like landscapes in the afterlife realm (7) he finds only partially in the TBD, whereas it's present in all other categories.
- It is unsure as to whether the sensation of darkness or tunnels (8) is in the TBD, but it's present in delok accounts, NDEs and mediumship, and partially (sometimes, sometimes not) in children's PL memories.

Inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
- The experience of the Tibetan Clear Light (9) (featureless, colorless, experienced preceding any OBE or early-stage part of the experience, and once you experience it you can't return to physical life) that is a key feature of the TBD is not found in NDErs, mediumship and children's PL memories, and it's unsure as to whether it's found in delok accounts.
- The afterlife experiences being an "illusionary vision" (10), experiencing the mandala of the 100 deities or a cultural equivalent (11) and 49 days of afterlife existence (12) are features of the TBD only and not of the other 4 categories (including delok accounts).

In the comments, the author takes care to mention that the folklore of the delok accounts has more similarities with Asian NDE accounts than with the TBD, and that some experiences by lamas and monks are not "congruent with the TBD" (p.386).

Nahm, Michael. "The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its History and Controversial Aspects of Its Contents". Journal of Near-Death Studies 29: 3 (2011): 393-398.
Thank you for posting this Ian. I have a tremendous amount of faith and gratitude towards Buddhism, for the practical guidance it has enriched my life with. But the Tibetan Book of the Dead, always seemed to stand in contrast to the many reports NDEers seemed to be making, and mediums seem to convey, and it is something I must admit to wrestling with. It is interesting that someone has done a systematic analysis of the level of crossover or dissonance between different accounts of what happens after death, and the TBD.

I had often wondered if the TBD was perhaps far more symbolic than literal, and perhaps written in a language only accesible to the initiated, and whether this might account for its diversion from other accounts, however, this is not a satisfactory explanation. It is supposed to be a guide to the dead and dying, and so I reason, ought to give clear, not symbolic instruction, in the hope of guiding the dead at an incredibly important time.

That the experiences one has beyond death are all mind made, still resonates with me, in just the same way as the experiences that we have here are also mind made, but beyond death, I imagine the gloves and groin guard comes off ;)
 
Last edited:
#16
The guide they read from (TBD) - just when a person dies - is much in line with that some say; that many spirits don't dare to leave the body after death. They could be confused, scared and don't want to let go of - their only solid thing in their life - their body. They say that many are scared to go close to the light and doesn't know what it means, so they are locked in a limbo of fear and confusion, and ends up to be, what we call, a ghost. Having the TBD read for you with a step-by-step guide, almost, could inspire the spirit to go on with his journey instead of "sticking around".

I know the Egyptian Book of the Dead also describes a long journey with many "inner demons" the spirit has to face and "conquer ". But I don't know if it have many similarities with the TBD. Maybe someone else here knows.
 
#17
The author, Michael Nahm, compares features of the TBD about the dying process and the afterlife with 4 other categories: delok accounts, NDErs, mediums, and children who remember past lives. In a table, he compares 12 features, which I'll summarize below. [BTW, the sources he uses for this comparison are very extensive for the Stevenson et al. children's memories literature. It's a little less so for NDErs (Crookall 1960, 70, 78; Moody 75; Holden Greyson & James '09; Ring 80; Lommel '10), and definitely insufficient for mediumship, IMO (Bozzano; Crookall; Cummins). The Tibetan delok accounts are Bailey 2001, Cuevas 2008 and Epstein 1982 and 1989.]

Consistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
...

Possible/probable inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
...

Inconsistencies between the TBD and NDEs:
...

In the comments, the author takes care to mention that the folklore of the delok accounts has more similarities with Asian NDE accounts than with the TBD, and that some experiences by lamas and monks are not "congruent with the TBD" (p.386).
Thanks Ian, excellent summary.
I agree, the mediumship sources don't look particularly extensive. Very interesting, overall.

cheers
 
#18
Watching the youtube videos, Leonard Cohen quotes a prayer from the TBD (at least I think it is from it, or it is a related commmentary), which goes like this:

We offer this prayer - Delusions are as various as the reflections of the moon on a rippling sea. Beings so easily become caught, in a net of confused pain. May I develop compassion boundless as the sky, so that all may rest in the clear light of their own awareness."

I mention this because delusion, or 'self-delusion' plays such a central and pivotal role in Tibetan Buddhism (actually all forms of Buddhism). For me, it muddies the waters somewhat, as I am not sure if the suggestion may be then that according to the TBD, all of the other data coming from NDE, mediumship, reincarnation studies etc is some how a self delusion woven by the mind? The TBD, does seem at first instance to be greatly at odds with what those who have studied the data largely tend to conclude, that the afterlife is real (more real), and objectively existent, insofar as it is a shared reality as much like this one.

I wrestle with this, as I tend to put great stock in what Tibetan Buddhism offers, and the genarally transparent motivations which revolve around compassion and loving kindness. Padmasambhava was clearly a tremendous force in Tibetan Buddhism, and I have a deep respect for this saintly figure.
Is there some way to resolve the apparent clash? What do others feel?

I think this would be easier for me to resolve if the two were merely opposed in content rather than meaning. What I mean here is that because the TBD suggests so much of what we experience after death is pleasures and pains created by a deluded mind, whereas, the assumptions we make through other research tend to suggest that the information we have about the afterlife is fairly consistent and stable. This takes the problem to a more difficult to unravel level.

I hope people can pick out my train of thought from my disorganised ramblings, and would love to hear opinions on this.
 
#19
I wrestle with this, as I tend to put great stock in what Tibetan Buddhism offers, and the genarally transparent motivations which revolve around compassion and loving kindness. Padmasambhava was clearly a tremendous force in Tibetan Buddhism, and I have a deep respect for this saintly figure.
Is there some way to resolve the apparent clash? What do others feel?
I am not sure if the the clash is entirely resolvable, but I would point you to a interesting book that deals with the problem. It was published in 2009 by David Fontana, just one year before his passing, and it's entitled Life Beyond Death.
http://www.amazon.com/Life-Beyond-Death-Should-Expect-ebook/dp/B006T5GO1E/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384176765&sr=1-4&keywords=david fontana

He looks at various descriptions of the afterlife in Western and Eastern traditions, using all kinds of sources from exoteric, mystic and religious texts to NDE, mediumistic communications, past life memories, etc... He takes in consideration various "Books of the dead" such as the Egyptian one, Greek mythology, the "Ars bene moriendi" (The art of dying well) from the middle ages Christian tradition and the Tibetan "Bardo Thodol" or TBD as we call it here in short.

Chapter 8 is entirely reserved to an illustration of the essential teaching of the TBD and to the incongruences that a Western reader may find compared to the body of knowledge we are more familiar with (NDE, mediums etc...)

His conclusions are that some differences may be actual commanalities while other aspects are more difficult to reconcile. Here's a little teaser:
... However, the more closely we study the Bardo Thodol, the more we recognize that in itself it possesses similarities with the Plane of Illusion. Once again we are confronted with an illusory mental world in which experiences are created from the memories, the attachments, aversions and ignorance that the unenlightened mind brings with it from earth. The hallucinations seen in the bardo are 'real' in that they represent genuine mental propensities on the part of the viewer, while at the same time they are 'unreal' in that they evidence these propensities in their crude, undeveloped form. Even visions such as the peaceful and the wrathful deities are seen only through the veil of the viewer's ignorance, and not as emanations from the Ultimate Reality from which all things arise and to which all things eventually return. In Buddhism all things, including ourselves, are both what they appear to be and at the same time not what they appear to be. They exist but they are not self-existing — i.e. they are not complete and unique entities in themselves. Each person, in fact each created thing, contains all of Ultimate Reality in itself. ...
One thing I noticed that the TBD doesn't mention is the possibility of gradual learning and developing in the afterlife. It is more of a once-and-for-all chance to recognize the true nature of the "Clear Light", while over here we find coherent messages about progressive learning.
These two opposing views may not be reconciled easily but there's an important aspect that Fontana illustrate in details and that may be critical: from lower to higher planes these illusory mental worlds become formless. This in turn might explain why descriptions of very different aspects of the same "world" may seem in apparent contradiction.

It would be the equivalent of taking three aliens and make them land in three completely different areas of the world... e.g. the north pole, the soon doong caves in Vietnam and the center of London. If the three could get together after their trip to Earth they would be reporting very contrasting aspects of the "same place" and none of them could claim to have a full understanding of what the earth is like.

I think in the end this is a work of integration more than mutual exclusion and the intellect alone might get in the way with its requirement for things to "make sense" at all costs. If our world and the higher planes are indeed a majestic illusion then our intellect is too! And being part of it it cannot sit outside of it and contemplate it all :)

Check some excerpts of the book by Fontana on Google Books:
http://books.google.it/books?id=2-j...S3cLshxWPg&hl=it&pg=PT147#v=onepage&q&f=false

cheers
 
#20
I am not sure if the the clash is entirely resolvable, but I would point you to a interesting book that deals with the problem. It was published in 2009 by David Fontana, just one year before his passing, and it's entitled Life Beyond Death.
http://www.amazon.com/Life-Beyond-Death-Should-Expect-ebook/dp/B006T5GO1E/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1384176765&sr=1-4&keywords=david fontana

He looks at various descriptions of the afterlife in Western and Eastern traditions, using all kinds of sources from exoteric, mystic and religious texts to NDE, mediumistic communications, past life memories, etc... He takes in consideration various "Books of the dead" such as the Egyptian one, Greek mythology, the "Ars bene moriendi" (The art of dying well) from the middle ages Christian tradition and the Tibetan "Bardo Thodol" or TBD as we call it here in short.

Chapter 8 is entirely reserved to an illustration of the essential teaching of the TBD and to the incongruences that a Western reader may find compared to the body of knowledge we are more familiar with (NDE, mediums etc...)

His conclusions are that some differences may be actual commanalities while other aspects are more difficult to reconcile. Here's a little teaser:


One thing I noticed that the TBD doesn't mention is the possibility of gradual learning and developing in the afterlife. It is more of a once-and-for-all chance to recognize the true nature of the "Clear Light", while over here we find coherent messages about progressive learning.
These two opposing views may not be reconciled easily but there's an important aspect that Fontana illustrate in details and that may be critical: from lower to higher planes these illusory mental worlds become formless. This in turn might explain why descriptions of very different aspects of the same "world" may seem in apparent contradiction.

It would be the equivalent of taking three aliens and make them land in three completely different areas of the world... e.g. the north pole, the soon doong caves in Vietnam and the center of London. If the three could get together after their trip to Earth they would be reporting very contrasting aspects of the "same place" and none of them could claim to have a full understanding of what the earth is like.

I think in the end this is a work of integration more than mutual exclusion and the intellect alone might get in the way with its requirement for things to "make sense" at all costs. If our world and the higher planes are indeed a majestic illusion then our intellect is too! And being part of it it cannot sit outside of it and contemplate it all :)

Check some excerpts of the book by Fontana on Google Books:
http://books.google.it/books?id=2-j...S3cLshxWPg&hl=it&pg=PT147#v=onepage&q&f=false

cheers
Many many thanks for this :)
 
Top