Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” as Want to Read:
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  9,045 ratings  ·  151 reviews
The first complete translation of a classic Buddhist text on the journey through living and dying. Graced with opening words by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the Penguin Deluxe Edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead is "immaculately rendered in an English both graceful and precise." Translated with the close support of leading contemporary masters and hailed as “a tremendo ...more
Paperback, Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 535 pages
Published January 30th 2007 by Penguin Classics (first published 800)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Tibetan Book of the Dead, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Kathy Gill I give you this 2005 review from TheGuardian:

"vans-Wentz's book has been so influential it is surprising to learn that he translated only three chapte…more
I give you this 2005 review from TheGuardian:

"vans-Wentz's book has been so influential it is surprising to learn that he translated only three chapters of the original work which, it turns out, is not even called The Tibetan Book of the Dead - that was his idea. Its real title is The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States, and this is the first complete English translation. It's a magnificent achievement."

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.12  · 
Rating details
 ·  9,045 ratings  ·  151 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Ebblibs Thekstein
Aug 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Important deluxe edition of a new translation of the full version. This book is not a toy, so it's predictable that a lot of readers will get little or nothing out it, especially if they are looking for entertainment/amusement or a highspeed broadband route to 'enlightenment'.

It is a bit like a person who comes across a roasted fish, eats the bones and leaves the flesh untouched and concludes 'well that wasn't very nourishing'. So ,yes for those people, this book would be useless for them and a
John Brooke
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: inspirational
It was a hard slugging away at the heightened language but well worth my persistence. Many of the thoughts about life and death have stayed with me since I read it the first time 65 years ago. Valuable insights now that I'm 80 and death is looking for me. I intend on reading a modern translated version soon.

A valuable guide to living and dying.
Thierry Sagnier
Aug 16, 2013 rated it liked it
I'm one of those delinquent Buddhists who does not formally practice his faith. I started reading this 30 years ago and recently, after a health scare, picked it up again.

Life, it is said, is a terminal disease. You always die from it. There are no overwhelming revelations here, just a wonderfully coherent manual describing how to prepare yourself for the next Big Event. Whether you believe in reincarnation or transmografying (see Calvin & Hobbes), the book should be read by anyone with an inter
What in the world did I just read? This was really weird. I hate to sound insulting, but coming from an atheistic point of view, this read like someone was on a drug trip rather than dying. I should point out that this is a manual for Buddhist when they are going to die, when they are dead, and when they are reborn. I wouldn't read this unless you've read a few things about Buddhism. However, regardless of faith you are going to be thinking of death, keep that in mind before reading Tibetan Book ...more
A teaching ostensibly for guiding a dying person through the death-trip by talking them through it, sort of like an air traffic controller. Timothy Leary thought that the esoteric content of this book refers to any natural state of ego-loss, including death, psychedelic experiences and meditation.

The book vividly describes several states of mind that the student passes through, each with their pitfalls and possible escape routes to enlightenment. If the practitioner is skilled, she or he attain
Simon Robs
Nov 11, 2018 rated it liked it
The life of a book is always subjective; the death of ego in reading, objective. "Is" is always/mostly Maybe.

My first near death experience came via a broken neck while diving into a desert reservoir in Grandview, ID, (Black Sands Beach) August '91 instantaneously paralyzing me from neck down, felt and heard the snap, face down floating immediately disoriented and panicked, quickly moving on into a gonna die review of life and release, then the tunnel of light and calm, all contained in the minu
Cassandra Kay Silva
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: religion
I am doing a personal comparative study of this and the Egyptian book of the dead simultaneously. After the first two read throughs of this work I was extremely glad for the notes and appendixes provided for the study. I adore Tibetan Buddhism as a religion and culture and can relate very well to their ideas of mind projection in the afterlife, it gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "come into the light". I highly suggest if you read this book not to skip over the introduction and so forth i ...more
Jul 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Spot on what I learned in Tibetan monasteries. For your own personal journey about why we are living, and dying, pick it up.

It is a hard read. It is logical and scientific, so if you're not used to Eastern religious text and thinking, it can be too methodical and rigorous. It's not the normal soft tone the Dalai Lama uses in his books, but does so to drive home the deep thought Buddhism has surfaced for this text.
So much better—more accurate, more complete, more scholarly, more Buddhist—than the classic first translation by Theosophist Evans-Wentz, which really only covered one chapter of this authoritative tome. Essential for anyone familiar with what amounts to the granddaddy of Tibetan grimoires whose interest extends beyond mere curiosity.

That said, if what one wants to be doing is "reading the Book of the Dead to one who is deceased," this is probably not the edition to use unless one also has been
Steven Walle
Mar 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a great complete translation of a classic Budist text. These writings teach us how to go through life and death. I recommend this book to all.
Enjoy and be blessed.
Emma Helvete
Oct 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mohit Misra
Jan 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Wow wow wow What a classic.Tibetan philosophy explained with simplicity.Wow wow wow is what I have to say about this book .
Sep 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Tibetan Book of the Dead was extracted from a much larger body of the teachings of the TAO master Padmasambhava entitled " The Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation" . According to Tibetan tradition, the Bardo Thodol (commonly referred to as the Tibetan Book of the Dead) was among many treasures hidden by the TAO Master Padmasambhava,Tibet (742–797), subsequently discovered by a Tibetan terton by Karma Lingpa (1326–1386)

Tertön (Tibetan: གཏེར་སྟོན་) is a term within Tibetan Buddhism. It means a
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Not for a beginner....But, if you have a base of Tibetan Buddhism understanding, there is much to ponder...
Ibrahim Niftiyev
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
ENG: Reading this book was very interesting due to its narrative and bright episodes. As we know, every religion has its own approach to the afterlife, however, Tibet is very different in this case. The book really represents the Buddhist philosophy and motivated trip and search ideas for my spiritual way. Somehow, I was exactly thinking like the book depicts some stages of the afterlife and they just overlapped and I felt amazing feelings. Without any doubt, it is not an ordinary book. Every pe ...more
Skylar Burris
Dec 23, 2007 rated it it was ok
I've made it a point to read a number of different religious writings from a variety of religions. I'm obviously not expecting to agree, religiously, with what I read; I just want to learn about the various religions of the world, enjoy the poetry, and glean what insights I can. Of all the sacred texts I've read, this one possessed the least literary quality and offered the least aesthetic pleasure as well as the fewest insights to me personally. It was somewhat dull and the reading was really s ...more
Kevin J. Rogers
Jan 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I'm actually always reading this--it's my bedtime book. At some point I'm sure I'll do a thorough review of it, or at least as thorough as would be appropriate for something of this nature. I will say, however, that this translation is excellent, and the Introduction by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is alone worth the price of admission. Truly a lovely book, and very, very inspirational. ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book arrived seamlessly into my life at the right moment. Experiencing death close-up a few times in my life, and spending a summer reading on Buddhism, yoga philosophy and psychedelics prepared me beyond what I had imagined for living at peace with death. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, wether you read it as a profound philosophical journey, or as an acid-trip (refer to Leary), will hopefully bring you comfort of what is yet unknown. I will carry this one a long way with me.
May 18, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: religion, philosophy
Having just recently suffered from my annual existential crisis, I was in need of some philosophical sustenance. This recent crisis was particularly acute; I was laying awake every night for several weeks, obsessing over the inevitability of my non-existence following the moment of death.

I've always been both impressed and slightly perturbed by the Buddhist idea that non-existence is precisely the goal one should aspire to, through dissolution of the ego into some eternally blissful Monist awar
Feb 27, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: buddhism
The Tibetan Book of the Dead, written by Padmasambhava, is a sobering, concise and even poetic manual on preparing for death and ultimately how to recognize the “inner radiance” and escape cyclic existence (or saṃsāra).
The title of this book, in its original language (Tibetan), is Bardo Thödol which can be translated to “The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Intermediate State”. We know from other sources that this book was read over the deceased while they are in the intermediate state
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: everyone
First new translation of the complete Tibetan Book of the Dead. The important thing to know is that there is probably a reason why it wasn't completely translated before. The long symptom lists of "how you can tell you're dying," might have been useful back when the book came into being but now, they seem either sad, laughable, or a good basis for hypochondria. The part of the book that is most useful are the chapters dealing with the worlds and beings that one encounters after death, and the be ...more
Jesse | Rude Tech
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Whelp. That was weird.

This is basically a recipe for how to die.

1) As a non-buddhist, I was surprised to see the text tell you that you are going to meet hundreds of deities... and then remind you not to be afraid of them, because everything you are hearing and seeing is just manufactured by your own mind. As I understand it (with my rudimentary understanding of buddhism in general) this was a way to get people to accept buddhism even if they were afraid of turning away their traditional family
Gregory Peters
Sep 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my preferred translation of the entire cycle of the bardo teachings. Inspiring on multiple levels, this is one I return to again and again - an all time favorite
Christopher Manske
Apr 11, 2020 rated it liked it
The cover suggests that reading The Tibetan Book of the Dead will reveal the secrets of enlightened living, but readers will instead find that the text suggests daily practice and hard-won transformation is a difficult journey that encompasses both life and death. This work is voluminous and probably inappropriate for readers who aren't specifically interested in the subject matter. The Tibetan Book of the Dead offers great depth surrounding how to live well and gracefully accept the afterlife a ...more
Andrew MacDonald
Jan 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I figure anyone who picks up the Book of the Dead know what they're looking for, so assuming that, I thought this was a lovely edition, coherently translated, and with enough notes to help turnips like me understand what's going down.

I already had a pretty competent understanding of Buddhism from a World Religions class I had in college, plus I made sure to watch a documentary narrated by Leonard Cohen going into my reading, so I wasn't going into this blind, exactly, but I have to say, the seco
Rose Fuller
May 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Read it twice. Cant bear reading it again, it's harrowing. (I read the version with forward by Karl Jung. ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I'm not going to sugarcoat this: this was a difficult read. However, I suspect that if you just wade into a religious text with little or no background in the religion, that is what you will experience. The book's actual title is The Great Liberation Upon Hearing in the Intermediate State or Bardo Thodol. Used in Tibetan Buddhism as a guide for the dead in the time between death and the next rebirth or liberation, the book is believed to be the work of Padma Sambhava, who lived in the 8th centur ...more
Jan 24, 2020 rated it liked it
Some good messages about how actions affect the purity of the soul. Mythological rambling can get in the way for those who are not Buddhist (I am it knocked a few stars off).
Wade Duvall
Aug 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
First let me start by saying I'm not a Buddhist. I must confess I read this because it's one of the primary influences on Philip K Dick (yes I know, I'm a huge Dickhead). I am also curious about Buddhism. I have taken two classes which have covered Buddhism but it's a huge religion with tons of schools, it's hard to fit it all into a class. I will say I learned a lot about (Tibetan) Buddhism reading this.

Let me briefly discuss the translation and presentation. First of all, I dislike the name Ti
Ken Cruickshank
Sep 25, 2015 rated it liked it
My brain hurt during and after reading this book; it's an exercise in focus and memorization – at least it was for me. But interesting! I lost a very good friend of mine when he was forty, and I commented to a work associate regarding something my friend's father observed at the moment of his son's last breath. That work associate told me that the way my friend left this world would have been deeply meaningful to Tibetan monks (as it was to my friend's Catholic parents), and that I should read t ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The I Ching or Book of Changes
  • The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying
  • The Way of the Bodhisattva
  • The Dhammapada
  • The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
  • DMT: The Spirit Molecule
  • I Am That: Talks with Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Tao Te Ching
  • What Makes You Not a Buddhist
  • Awakening the Buddha Within: Eight Steps to Enlightenment
  • Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings
  • Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism
  • The Perennial Philosophy
  • What the Buddha Taught
  • The Essential Rumi
  • Be Here Now
  • Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge
  • The Heart Sutra
See similar books…
According to tradition, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Uddiyana, traditionally identified with the Swat Valley in present-day Pakistan. His special nature was recognized by the local king who married him to one of his daughters, Mandarava. She and Padmasambhava's other main consort, Yeshe Tsogyal, ...more

News & Interviews

The beauty of a paperback novel is multidimensional. Allow me to explain: The format allows you to catch up on some of 2020's biggest books...
83 likes · 7 comments
“  Are you oblivious to the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness and death? There is no guarantee that you will survive, even past this very day! The time has come [for you] to develop perseverance in [your] practice. For, at this singular opportunity, you could attain the everlasting bliss [of nirvāṇa]. So now is [certainly] not the time to sit idly, But, starting with [the reflection on] death, you should bring your practice to completion!3   The moments of our life are not expendable, And the [possible] circumstances of death are beyond imagination. If you do not achieve an undaunted confident security now, What point is there in your being alive, O living creature?” 18 likes
“In modern science the methods of analysis are principally applied to investigating the nature of material entities. Thus, the ultimate nature of matter is sought through a reductive process and the macroscopic world is reduced to the microscopic world of particles. Yet, when the nature of these particles is further examined, we find that ultimately their very existence as objects is called into question.” 13 likes
More quotes…