The Tibetan Book of the Dead, also known as the Bardo Thodol, is a sacred text in Tibetan Buddhism that is intended to guide individuals through the process of dying and into the afterlife. The text is believed to have originated in the 8th century and has been passed down through the centuries in an oral tradition.
The Bardo Thodol, which translates to “Liberation Through Hearing in the Intermediate State,” is meant to be read or recited to a dying or recently deceased person in order to guide them through the different stages of death and into the afterlife. The text is divided into three sections: the first deals with the moment of death and the experience of the “clear light of reality,” the second deals with the experience of the “intermediate state,” and the third deals with the experience of the “bardo of rebirth.”
One of the most well-known translations of the Bardo Thodol is by Chögyam Trungpa, a Tibetan meditation master and teacher who brought Tibetan Buddhism to the West in the 1970s. In his translation, Trungpa emphasizes the text’s relevance to the living as well as the dying, and emphasizes the importance of using the teachings of the Bardo Thodol to cultivate mindfulness and compassion in everyday life.
Another popular translation is by Robert Thurman, an American author, translator and academic. His version is more literal, and explains the cultural context of the text, and provides a detailed guide for the reader to understand the meaning of the text and the significance of its teachings.
The Bardo Thodol also has connections to the psychedelic experience, as it is believed that the text’s teachings can be used to prepare for and navigate a psychedelic experience. The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead is a book by Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner, and Richard Alpert that explores this connection and provides guidance for using psychedelic substances in a spiritual context.
There are many good translations of the Bardo Thodol available, but it is important to choose one that is well-researched and well-explained. Some good options include the translations by Chögyam Trungpa, Robert Thurman, Kazi Dawa-Samdup, and Graham Coleman.