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The Tibetan Book of the Dead

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,114 ratings  ·  49 reviews
The Tibetan Book of the Dead - the Bardo Thodol - is unique among the sacred books of the world as a contribution to the science of death and of existence after death, and of rebirth. It is used in Tibet as a breviary, and is read or recited on the occasion of death, but it was originally conceived to serve as a guide not only for the dying and dead, but also for the livin ...more
Paperback, 249 pages
Published October 28th 1980 by Oxford University Press (first published 1350)
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Little Miss Esoteric
I really don't want to write reviews anymore, providing data for amazon, but I seriously wish I'd read this book earlier. Puts metaphysical concepts into context. Also, I'm really not interested in nit picking over the merit of alternate translations. It's clear enough, no matter which way it's told.
Ron Grunberg
What book do I remember reading with more fascination, more dread, more mind-boggling interest? The book takes you on a journey, from the Tibetan perspective, past death, to the journey, according to them, each of us is to take after our lives here. There are long poetic passages, songs, as it were, to be sung by those watching over your body during the aftermath of your life, to help guide you into the nettlesome spiritual world that awaits. Are you prepared? Do you want to be--in case? Well, t ...more
Unless you're a card carrying member of the undead, you might think that The Tibetan Book of the Dead or The After-death Experiences on the Bardo Plane has little to offer you. However, upon my second (now adult) reading of this translation, I see many applications of the TBD for the living as well. Those of us on this side of the grass who practice lucid dreaming, astral traveling, and Samadhi meditation- as well as those of us who have an intense yen to conquer our shadows and transcend dualit ...more
I've been intrigued but the mystery and mysticism surrounding this book since I was a young girl, but i can glady say that i've finally crossed it off my list of "occult books to read before i die"....and good riddance! i blame much of it on this edition's clunky and otherwise dry-as-a-bone translation, but there was very little about it that could hold my interest for more than a few minutes at a time (which makes for good bathroom reading, i guess? eesh).
“The Art of Dying is quite as important as the Art of Living,” writes editor W.Y. Evans-Wentz in his preface to The Tibetan Book of the Dead. An ancient Buddhist text, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Thödol, is a guide for the deceased as he or she journeys through the 49 days after the moment of death—the interval of time between death and rebirth. During this time, the deceased is instructed to resist the temptations of the material world, or Sangsara, in order to achieve enlightenm ...more
Contrail Storey
I read this the summer after my freshman year of college and I can honestly say that this book enhanced the way that I viewed life, perception, and the afterlife. A vivid concept of how the soul could transition from one state to another formed, and I saw the body as a component, or a glove of the higher self to use while visiting Earth. Easily one of my all-time favorites!
The foreword(s) in this book are particularly compelling, giving good insight into the author and his sensibilities. Being Christian, I drew parallels to my own religion, something I have always done but enjoyed seeing written out. It makes you wonder about all religious texts, and is something I would recommend to expand your mind.
Timo Walters
It is somewhat difficult to read. Reading this book changed the way I view death and life, not in that it educated me, but that it gave me a vastly different point of view than what I was raised with in a traditional christian home. A hard read with good insight to the foundation beliefs of Tibetan Buddhism.
I don't know what I was expecting from this book. I'd heard a lot of like minded people say it was one of the first books to get them started into spiritual stuff like metaphysics, afterlife, and what not. But I found it really dated. To my mind it sounded awfully Victorian, and preachy. I also kept saying, 'this is obviously written in a certain context for a certain group of people in a certain time'. I am not sure the average modern person would find it useful. Maybe it's just this edition or ...more
Jonathan Warner
This was very slow going. It was quite informative, but also very heavy. This is largely because a lot was pulled as direct translations from original texts. It took me about 50 bathroom trips to finish this.
A must read, I like the Evans-Wentz interpretation best of the 3 or 4 I've read
This is a newer translation of a book which has been popularly known as "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" in the West for the better part of a century now. The translator/editor takes great pains to explain the inaccuracy of this title and other parts of older translations, based mostly on the misunderstandings of well-meaning Western scholars. Also included is a summary of Tibetan history and culture as it relates to Buddhism, as well as numerous background notes on Buddhist terms and principles.

Martin Zook
This might come in useful, if you're going to die; given that it is a manual on dying used by people who have studied death and its processes long before those of us in the west climbed down out of the trees.

Humor aside, this manual typically was/is used by an adept to assist the being shuffling out of the body and into the next series of bardoes (suspensions) on the way either to nirvana, or rebirth/reincarntation.

I came across this particular edition - some swear by others - as a result of my
May 20, 2008 Carolyn rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: "Lunch Matters" aficionados and their ignorant hosts
Recommended to Carolyn by: C.G. Jung Foundation
I've been producing a film series on Wednesday afternoons at the Rubin Museum of Art called "Lunch Matters." We show documentaries followed by moderated discussions with folks versed in the subject matter of the film. The series is co-presented with the C.G. Jung Foundation, really wonderful people who say things like "Carl Jung popularized the mandala in the West" and "it's always a battle between the power principle and the ego."

Because my working knowledge of Jung comes from a high school cl
John Walters
Too dense! There were too many alien references. Even then, there was no transferable ideas or data. To me it might as well have been on high level language computer programming. I read the first quarter, and then gave up, skipping pages and chapters. It was not for me!
Gregory Peters
One of the greatest. A favorite that I return to often
I was interested in reading about the Tibetan Buddhist perception of the after life. The best part of this book, frankly, was the introduction which talked extensively about the basis of reincarnation and the many cultures that believed in it (ancient Greeks and Egyptians for example). The actual text of the Tibetan tradition (which they read to their dead over a period of 14 days) is bizarre and difficult to understand. Some of it is 'way out there'. It left me with some real questions about th ...more
David Tan
Oct 30, 2010 David Tan is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
One of the four books that pretty much introduced Tibetan Buddhism, Native Religions and culture to the west, W. Y. Evans-Wentz is still one of the best experts on the subject. What I found interesting is Donald S. Lopez, Jr.'s introduction that also gives a history of the various introductions and incarnations of the books through out the 20th cent..
From what I could gather, I enjoyed much of the imagery out of this text. However, I don't think that it is a good text to read all by itself without some sort of guide or discussion or understanding of the religion and culture that utilize it the most.

I would like to revisit this at some point when I have more of this kind of information.
Had to read for dissertation research, a very interesting read with a decent (if basic) introduction. Have also read that this translation is outdated, but it's available for free at if you have any interest in Buddhist mysticism. Sidenote: the film Enter The Void is partially based on the 'bardo' concept and it's AMAZING.
Ron Krumpos
"The Tibetan Book of the Dead" is one of the books in the secondary bibliography of my free ebook on comparative mysticism. "The greatest achievement in life" at has been reviewed on Goodreads.
Sarah Jacquie
Very interesting, and I have to admit I read it after hearing about certain (now taboo/unpracticed) practices the Tibetans do in death off a list. Probably not the best way to find it, but having dabbled in learning about Buddhism for years, it was time I read something more serious and "official".
Josh Phenicie
Crazy details about the afterlife. different levels and stuff like that. who knows if its true or just the cultural Tibetan version of kickin it in the AL. The parts about choosing brilliant light as opposed to dimmer light in stages, is kind of interesting. Evens-Wentz is da shiz.
Mar 30, 2009 Josh is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
hard to get through but very interesting i had to take a break from this book and do a little lighter reading. seems like most religions follow a similar concept, kind of the same fundamental principles of christianity with different representations
Jul 11, 2008 Luc rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Luc by: Dave Youmans
After reading around 30 introductions from around 30 different authors, I finally got to the actual literature. There are definitely some great ideas in here, but it gets a little redundant. Whatever. I'm ready for a good novel.
Gives one the clear sense that after you die you are exactly the same person, same consciousness, as when you are alive -- no transformations into angels or demons or any other alien state. It's all about awareness.
This was a fascinating read that not only gave insights about the Buddhist view of life after death, but also about the Tibetan culture, and the times in which this book was brought to the western world.
Tedious. I felt like I had to mine the information out with a chisel and brush. The information is the treasure, the clumsy writing and unfortunate selection of vocabulary is the sand and clay.
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Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz was an anthropologist and writer who was a pioneer in the study of Tibetan Buddhism.

He was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and as a teenager read Madame Blavatsky's Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine and became interested in the teachings of Theosophy. He received both his B.A. and M.A. from Stanford University, where he studied with William James and William Butler Yeat
More about W.Y. Evans-Wentz...

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“Our past thinking has determined our present status, and our present thinking will determine our future status; for man is what man thinks.” 0 likes
“Thine own consciousness, not formed into anything, in reality void, and the intellect, shining and blissful, --these two,-- are inseparable. The union of them is the Dharma-Kāya state of Perfect Enlightenment.” 0 likes
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