The Tibetan Book of the Dead edited by Graham Coleman, Thupten Jinpa, translated by Gyurme Dorje (Viking) is by far the most popular example of indigenous Tibetan Buddhist treasure literature. An edition was issued in 1927 by Oxford University Press under the general editorship of W. Y. Evans-Wentz. The block-print copy, he used was an abridgment obtained in Nepal and translated by a Tibetan lama. Evans-Wentz was a scholarly Theosophist who imported certain Theosophical preconceptions into his commentary on the work. Carl Jung the prominent analytical psychologist even wrote a psychological commentary on the work prompted by Evans-Wentz. Since the 1970s, beginning with Francesca Fremantle and Chogyam Trungpa's edition of the text and more recently Robert Thurman's translation, corrected versions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead are well represented in English and other European languages. The mistakes and egregious errors of the pioneering edition have been corrected and Tibetan Buddhism now in America and Europe has been flourishing with many translations and commentaries on basic Buddhist practices as well as the indigenous literatures of Tibet.
This new edition by Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa uses a fuller edition of the work for translating, adding new chapters and reflecting the interpretation of contemporary masters and lineage holders of this tradition. In many ways this is the first complete The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In many ways this book is both a guide for living as well as a how to consciously move on after death. The book has been extremely popular in Central Asia among Buddhists. The Tibetan Book of the Dead contains especially written guidance and practices related to transforming our experience of daily life, on how to address the process of dying in the after-death states, and on how to help those who are dying. Some of these teachings include: methods for investigating and cultivating our experience of the ultimate nature of mind in our daily practice, guidance on the recognition of the science of impending death and a detailed description of the mental and physical processes of dying, rituals for the avoidance of premature death, the now famous great liberation by hearing that is read to the dying and the dead, special prayers are read at the time of death, and allegorical masque play that lightheartedly dramatizes the journey through the intermediate state, and a translation of the sacred mantras that are attached to the body after death and are said to bring liberation by wearing. The editors have also included two additional texts are not usually included in the first chapter there is a preliminary meditation and practices related to the cycle of teachings, and in chapter 10, instructions on methods of transforming consciousness at the point of death into a enlightened state and are an essential aspect of the practices related to dying.
The editors have gone out of their way to be sure to relate what the actual masters of these traditions mean by these practices. For that reason alone, makes this new edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead authoritative in ways that previous editions have not been. Needless to say, this book should capture the imagination not only of students of Buddhism, but psychologists, philosophers, spiritual directors, and chaplains as well as anyone who wishes to entertain profound teachings about the survival of consciousness after death as well as ways to encourage the meaning of our own life in the everyday world.
Luminous Emptiness: Understanding the Tibetan Book of the Dead by Francesca Fremantle (Shambhala) The influence of the Tibetan Book of the Dead has made many byways in western thought in the 20th century, from influencing Carl Jung’s ideas about archetypes to becoming a pattern for LSD-users in the 1960s. Now Fremantle, who made a new translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead with Chogyam Trunpa in 1975, provides her considered commentary on many levels of meaning and experience that the tradition has hidden from most readers. The commentary's first part examines the text's foundations, illuminating its rich concepts, while the second applies this clarified knowledge to newly translated excerpts. As Trungpa once observed, the text could just as easily be called The Tibetan Book of Birth; it is indeed a manual about death, the "process of dissolution, but also the process of coming into being, and these two processes are continually at work in every moment of life." Fremantle wrote this for "everyone who feels attracted to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, whether they are Buddhist or not." Except for the most dedicated students, this is not a book for beginners, but it will provide expert assistance for those who yearn to contemplate Tibetan Buddhism's deeper fathoms.
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