The Tibetan Book of the Dead, also known as “Bardo Thodol” or “The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State,” is a foundational source for Buddhist understandings of the afterlife. The earliest versions of The Tibetan Book of the Dead trace back to an Indian Buddhist master called Padmasambhava. Padmasambhava lived in the 8th century and is widely venerated as a second Buddha across Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Himalayan states of India. His insights into the afterlife (and the purpose of life) were written down by his primary student, Yeshe Tsogyal. After being lost for centuries, The Tibetan Book of the Dead was re-discovered in the 14th century in the Gampo hills in central Tibet by a Buddhist monk named Karma Lingpa. Over the centuries, the revered book evolved into several different versions. In 1927, one version was published by Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Went by Oxford University Press. In 1967 another version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead was published by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass).
According to Wikipedia, The Tibetan Book of the Dead “describes, and is intended to guide one through, the experiences that the consciousness has after death, in the bardo, the interval between death and the next rebirth. The text also includes chapters on the signs of death and rituals to undertake when death is closing in or has taken place.”
It’s important to note that The Tibetan Book of the Dead is based on the insights of one man. While it contains ideas that are echoed in modern-day near-death experiences, the thousands of NDE accounts that are available today go far deeper into the mysteries of life, death, and the afterlife, than any ancient manuscript. Not only do the sheer number of modern accounts, from all over the world, offer more depth, breadth, and practical insight than ancient sources of knowledge, but today’s NDE accounts also come to us directly from the people who experienced them. They are not (for the most part) being passed on as oral traditions or being filtered through large numbers of interpreters over the course of hundreds or thousands of years.
To learn more about the purpose of life according to near-death experiences, go here.
To learn more about hellish and distressing near-death experiences, go here.
To learn more about The Tibetan Book of the Dead, go here:
The Tibetan Book of the Dead (pdf version)
Bardo Thodol (Wikikpedia)
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Wikipedia)
To learn more about current past life research, go here.
To learn more about other direct, modern-day windows into the afterlife, go here:
To learn more about the differences between near-death experiences and spiritual traditions that believe “enlightenment” or “awakening from the dream of life” is the goal of life, go here:
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Loving Personhood Or Liberation From Personhood? by Robert Perry
Jesus, Near-Death Experiences, and Religion by David Sunfellow
The Purpose of Life, Jesus & NDEs by David Sunfellow
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