The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead

By Bryan J. Cuevas | Go to book overview

A Note on Tibetan Words

It is now common for scholarly books on Tibet to begin with a note on how difficult and exasperating it can be for nonspecialist readers to pronounce or much less make sense of Tibetan words rendered in their proper spelling according to the standard academic system of transcription. This book is no exception. Tibetan words in their correct written form are not read phonetically. For example, the name Nam-mkha'-rdo-rje is actually pronounced Namkha Dorje. For ease of reading, therefore, I have employed throughout the main body of the text a phonetic system based generally on the pronunciation of Tibetan words in the common Lhasa dialect of Central Tibet. In this regard, I should highlight a few basic rules. The syllable “th” is never pronounced like English “think” but always hard with strong aspiration, like in “hothouse. ” Likewise, “ph” is never soft like the English “f” but aspirated as in “top-hat. ” The hanging letter “e” is never silent and should be pronounced like the French é in résumé, or English “ay” as in “play. ” For example, read “Dorjay” for Dorje, “Rinpochay” for Rinpoche, and so on.

Proper Tibetan spellings are given according to the Wylie transcription (Wylie 1959) in the notes, after each phonetic equivalent in the Tibetan word list at the end of the book, and also in the main body of the text italicized in parentheses for technical terms and the first mention of Tibetan titles. Specialists should note that in my transcriptions I capitalize initial letters only, not “foundation letters” (ming-gzhi), and follow standard English rules for the capitalization of titles, proper names, and so forth. In so doing, I have generally followed the methods outlined in Martin (1997).

-xi-

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The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Contents ix
  • A Note on Tibetan Words xi
  • 1 - Introduction: the Saga of the Tibetan Book of the Dead 3
  • I - Death and the Dead 25
  • 2 - Beginnings: Funeral Ritual in Ancient Tibet 27
  • 3 - Transitions: the Buddhist Intermediate State 39
  • 4 - From Death to Disposal 69
  • II - Prophecy, Concealment, Revelation 79
  • 5 - Prophecies of the Lotus Guru 81
  • 6 - A Tale of Fathers and Sons 91
  • 7 - The Gampodar Treasures 101
  • 8 - The Third Generation 120
  • III - Traditions in Transformation 135
  • 9 - Traditions in Eastern Tibet 137
  • 10 - Traditions in Central and Southern Tibet 158
  • IV - Text and Consolidation 177
  • 11 - Rikzin Nyima Drakpa, Sorcerer from Kham 179
  • 12 - Conclusion: Manuscripts and Printed Texts 205
  • Notes 217
  • Bibliography 271
  • List of Tibetan Spellings 303
  • Index 312
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