The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or, the after-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, According to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or, the after-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, According to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or, the after-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, According to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Or, the after-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, According to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering

Synopsis

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the texts that, according to legend, Padma-Sambhava was compelled to hide during his visit to Tibet in the late 8th century. The guru hid his books in stones, lakes, and pillars because the Tibetans of that day and age were somehow unprepared for their teachings. Now, in the form of the ever-popular Tibetan Book of the Dead, these teachings are constantly being discovered and rediscovered by Western readers of many different backgrounds--a phenomenon which began in 1927 with Oxford's first edition of Dr. Evans-Wentz's landmark volume. While it is traditionally used as a mortuary text, to be read or recited in the presence of a dead or dying person, this book--which relates the whole experience of death and rebirth in three intermediate states of being--was originally understood as a guide not only for the dead but also for the living. As a contribution to the science of death and dying--not to mention the belief in life after death, or the belief in rebirth--The Tibetan Book of the Dead is unique among the sacred texts of the world, for its socio-cultural influence in this regard is without comparison. This fourth edition features a new foreword, afterword, and suggested further reading list by Donald S. Lopez, author of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Lopez traces the whole history of the late Evans-Wentz's three earlier editions of this book, fully considering the work of contributors to previous editions (C. G. Jung among them), the sections that were added by Evans-Wentz along the way, the questions surrounding the book's translation, and finally the volume's profound importance in engendering both popular and academic interest in the religion and culture of Tibet. Another key theme that Lopez addresses is the changing nature of this book's audience--from the prewar theosophists to the beat poets to the hippies to contemporary exponents of the hospice movement--and what these audiences have found (or sought) in its very old pages.

Excerpt

Donald S. Lopez Jr.

A certain trepidation attends the decision to accept an invitation to write a foreword to new editions, published in 2000, of the four books of W. Y. Evans-Wentz: The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tibet's Great Yogī Milarepa, Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, and The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation. the four books in their old editions are already burdened with numerous prefaces, commentaries, and introductions, causing one to wonder what another preface could possibly add. It seems inevitable that the four books of Evans-Wentz will continue to outlive yet another generation of commentators, such that anything that a scholar might add today will only serve as material for a scholar some fifty years from now, who will demonstrate the biases and misunderstandings of a preface written fifty years ago, a preface that merely offers evidence of the fin de siècle zeitgeist of those who once called themselves postmoderns.

The four books of Evans-Wentz are surely ground-breaking works, the first to bring translations of Tibetan Buddhist texts to the English-speaking public. Evans-Wentz was equally avant garde in his method, collaborating closely with Tibetan scholars, a practice that would not become common for another four decades, after the Tibetan diaspora began in 1959, Yet, for the scholar of the present day, looking back now more than seventy years to the publication of the first volume of the series, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in 1927, the Tibetan tetralogy of W. Y. Evans-Wentz, although a product of our century, seems to have originated in another age. All four books assume the undifferentiated dichotomy of the materialist West and the mystic East, an East that holds the secret to the West's redemption. Few of the concerns of scholars--such as language or culture or history--are to be found in the books. Instead, the volumes are presented as . . .

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