Saturday, November 19, 2022

A Primer for the Tibetan Book of the Dead

Bruno Portier" wanted to make the "Tibetan Book of the Dead" more relevant and so with "The Flawless Place Between" (2012) constructed a story to illustrate it so that we could be less afraid of dying.  It was recommended to me by Vijayakumar Mk Nair who has a history of suggesting satisfying books.

 In an explanatory chapter we are given a quote by Blaise Pascal (1623-62):  "Mankind, having failed to remedy death, misery and ignorance, resolved for the sake of its happiness, never to think about them."

The author offers a perspective,.  We like to say that someone died in peace, but might it not be better to anticipate it?  "Imagining our own death as imminent  obliges us to take stock of ourselves, of our choices and actions."

In the story we are introduced to a couple, Evan and Ann who are about to embark on a trip.  Her parents are there to say goodbye and have Ann's young daughter.  In India they head towards the Himalayas, but unfortunately have an accident.   Ann is on the verge of dying when an old Tibetan man crosses them.  At the same time Evan is badly injured, but wants to contact a hospital as soon as possible.  The old man sees the situation differently.

The old man recognizes Ann is dying.  He helps guide her to the other side.  While urging her to detach from earthly concerns he performs strange rituals such as burning all her clothes and other belongings leaving her naked.  He assures her that although she will be confronted with many images she need not be afraid.

Her husband Evan, suffering from a broken leg and shock is mystified and annoyed.  The old man who introduces himself as Tseopel.  There is a language barrier, but Tseopel explains a process of detachment and choices to be made by the dead person.  He does attend to the needs of Evan. 

Reincarnation as we Westerners understand it provides a justice.  What you do in this life dictates how you will be reincarnated.  Tibetans understand it a little differently.  They see the object as not so much to gain a happier reincarnation as to free yourself from suffering.  As a footnote, the author explains a  bit about a unique being.  "Bhodhisattvas are beings who, having attained enlightenment, choose not to escape the cycle of rebirth in order to help all beings achieve enlightenment."

The Dalai Lama is the most well known Tibetan in the world.  There is a short reference to him to perhaps help appreciate the Tibetan culture.  Some powerful people are waiting for him to die so they can replace him with someone more politically supportive of their unfriendly agenda.  One thing I remember about the Dalai Lama, is that despite other religious leaders avoiding science, he welcomes it with a good example being experiments he has participated in regarding meditation.  Another thing that I have tried to adopt is his frequent laughing--life is serious as no one better understands than him, but the ability to put things in their place by laughing is a healthy way to live.

You might not expect sexual references in a book about death, but the Tibetans recognized sex is a crucial part of life.

In my title I just wanted to indicate that this book will help you become aware of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, but is only an introduction to the concept.  The author lists several books that will give deeper explanation.  

Another blog about the subject of death is:

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