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The Tibetan Book Of The Dead, Transitions To The Otherworld, Page 1

The Tibetan Books of the Dead, The Bon religion of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism both maintain that crucial moments of transition are charged with great spiritual potential, especially the intervening moments between death and rebirth. This intermediate period, called bardo, is a state of suspended reality in which the deceased are presented with a series of opportunities for recognition of the true nature of Reality. If the deceased persons are capable of recognizing the confusing and often frightening bardo visions as simply their own mental projections reflective of the previous life's thoughts and deeds (karma), the ongoing cycle of birth and death will be overcome. Failure to recognize these appearances, on the other hand, leads eventually to rebirth and further suffering in cyclic existence (samsara). To help the deceased travellers gain insight into their ambiguous situation, a spiritual teacher or lama recites inspirational prayers and instructions from special funeral texts--the first stage in the ritual of the  Tibetan Books of the Dead.


The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is more correctly referred to by its actual title, The Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State (bar do thos grol chen mo), is traditionally regarded as the work of Padmasambhava, the eighth century founder of the Nyingma-pa Buddhist order and one of the first to bring Buddhism to Tibet. Padmasambhava is believed to have hidden many of his esoteric teachings as literary "treasures" or terma (gter ma) in unusual and remote locations so that they would later be recovered at a time when their spiritual message would have the most beneficial impact. The remarkable people who discovered these sacred terma texts were identified as "treasure revealers" or tertöns (gter ston). Among the most famous of these discoverers of hidden teachings was Karma Lingpa (Kar ma gling pa,, who is said to be the revealer of the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead. According to his biography, Karma Lingpa was born in southeast Tibet as the eldest son of the great Tantric practitioner Nyida Sangye (Nyi zla sangs rgyas). At an early age, he engaged in esoteric practices and was said to have achieved numerous yogic powers. When he turned fifteen, Karma Lingpa discovered several hidden texts (terma) on top of Mount Gampodar. From among these texts he found a collection of teachings entitled The Self-Emergence of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities from Enlightened Awareness (zhi khro dgongs pa rang grol), which included the texts of the now famous Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Bardo.

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