Tibetan Book of the Dead

Tibetan Book of the Dead
Tibetan Book of the Dead

Tibetan Book of the Dead or otherwise known as Bardo Thödol, here you can read online full text of this very important book, written in the environment of Tibetan Buddhism - what expects you, your close ones and everyone else in the after-death state of transference of Consciousness-principle from this material plane of existence to the after-death state, what happens, what you should know and what to observe.

How to reach the Ultimate Realization in the after-death Bardo, and what to avoid. What happens when the Consciousness-principle doesn't reach the full Enlightenment and Realization, but is forced to decide on new inkarnation, embodiment in one of the 6 Realms of being - among the devas, asuras, humans, rakshas, hungy ghosts and hellish realms. How exactly to treat and counsel a dying person.

All this and much more in this Book of the all Times - the Tibetan Book of the dead or Bardo Thödol.

Tibetan Book of the Dead

Kazi Dawa Samdup
& Walter Evans-Wentz
photographed circa 1919

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the title created by Walter Yeeling Evans-Wentz (1878-1965), its first Western-language editor,

for a collection of Tibetan ritual and literary texts concerned with Death, Intermediate States (Sanskrit, antarābhava; Tibetan, Bardo), and Rebirth.

In Tibetan the collection is actually titled Bardo Thödol Chenmo (Great Liberation upon Hearing in the Intermediate State) and belongs to a much larger body of ritual and yogic literature called Self Liberated Wisdom of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities.

Tradition attributes authorship of this cycle of funerary literature to the 8th century Indian yogi Padmasambhava, who is believed to have concealed it as a religious “treasure” (Tibetan, terma) so that it could later be revealed at a more appropriate time.

The basic texts of this hidden treasure were excavated by an obscure 14th century “treasure-revealer” (Tibetan, tertön) named Karma Lingpa (1326–1386):

His “Tibetan Book of the Dead” tradition originated and was initially fostered in the south-eastern Tibetan region of Dagpo and attracted followers from both the Nyingma and Kagyu traditions.

Its rituals were refined and institutionalized sometime in the late 15th century in nearby Kongpo, from where it was eventually transmitted throughout other parts of Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, India, and later Europe and the United States.

The literature of the Tibetan Book of the Dead contains esoteric yoga teachings and liturgical directives focused on a Maṇḍala of 100 peaceful and wrathful deities

and includes detailed religious instructions to be employed at the moment of death and during the perilous intermediate state leading to a new existence.

Its combination of ideas and practices are founded upon older conceptions originating in late Indian Buddhist tantra and in Tibetan Buddhist and non-Buddhist indigenous formulations that began to emerge in Tibet around the 11th century.

The literature’s fundamental conceptual premises are derived essentially from the religious doctrines of the Great Perfection tradition, an innovative Tibetan system standardized in the late 14th century and promoted especially by followers of the Nyingma and non-Buddhist Bon orders.

According to this tradition, dying persons and those already deceased are presented during their last moments and in the interim period between lives with a series of diminishing opportunities for recognizing the true nature of reality.

It is held that if the dying and deceased are capable of perceiving correctly the confusing and often terrifying death and post-mortem visions as mental projections reflective of previous habitual thoughts and Karma (Action), then Enlightened Liberation can be attained, leading directly to Buddhahood.

Failure to recognize the nature of these visions, however, leads eventually to rebirth and further suffering in the cycle of existence (Saṁsāra).

Traditionally, to help the dying and the dead regain clarity of awareness at the moment of death and in the intermediate state, a Lama or lay religious specialist will recite guiding instructions and inspirational prayers from the ritual cycle of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The Evans-Wentz edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, first published in 1927, was compiled from original Tibetan translations drawn up by the Sikkim’s teacher Kazi Dawa Samdup (1868-1923).

The book includes translations of only a small number of texts belonging to the literary tradition of the Bardo Thödol Chenmo.

The formal arrangement of this small group of texts as a unified and coherent “book” is misleading and obscures the fact that in Tibet there exists a variety of arrangements of this large ritual and literary cycle, each reflecting a different lineage of transmission and the localized interpretations of specific religious communities.

Popular enthusiasm for the Tibetan Book of the Dead has grown to such proportions that it now stands arguably as the most famous Tibetan book in the West.

The Evans-Wentz edition has gone through numerous reprints in America and Europe, and it has inspired since 1927 several new translations from the original Tibetan texts.


Tibetan Book of the Dead or Bardo Thödol

  1. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 1

    The transference of Consciousness-principle, Introduction, When and How to read this Bardo Thödol text. The Great Doctrine of Liberation by Hearing, which confers spiritual freedom on devotees of ordinary wit while in the Intermediate State.

  2. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 2

    The Bardo of the Moments of Death. Instructions on the symptoms of death, or the first stage of the chikhai bardo: the primary clear light seen at the moment of death. The manner and time of application.

  3. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 3

    Instructions concerning the second stage of the chikhai bardo: the secondary clear light seen immediately after death. When the consciousness-principle gets outside [the body, it says to itself], “Am I dead, or am I not dead?“ It cannot determine. It sees its relatives and connexions as it had been used to seeing them before.

  4. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 4

    The bardo of the experiencing of reality. Introductory instructions concerning the experiencing of reality during the third stage of the bardo, called the chönyid bardo, when the karmic apparitions appear.

  5. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 5

    The dawning of the peaceful deities, from the first to the seventh day. Days 1-3 here. Apparitions of Buddha Vairochana, Vajrasattva, and Ratnasambhava.

  6. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 6

    The dawning of the peaceful deities, from the first to the seventh day. Days 4-5 here. Apparitions of Buddha Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi.

  7. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 7

    The dawning of the peaceful deities, from the first to the seventh day. Day 6 here. Now the lights of all Five Orders, called the Lights of the Union of Four Wisdoms, will come to receive thee. Act so as to know them. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas Vairochana, Vajrasattva, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi appear together with many others.

  8. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 8

    The dawning of the peaceful deities, from the first to the seventh day. Day 7 here. On the Seventh Day, the Knowledge-Holding Deities, from the holy paradise realms, come to receive one. Simultaneously, the pathway to the brute world, produced by the obscuring passion, stupidity, also comes to receive one.

  9. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 9

    The dawning of the wrathful deities, from the eighth to the fourteenth day. Introduction. The fifty-eight flame-enhaloed, wrathful, blood-drinking deities come to dawn, who are only the former Peaceful Deities in changed aspect—according to the place [or psychic- centre of the Bardo-body of the deceased whence they proceed]; - nevertheless, they will not resemble them.

  10. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 10

    The dawning of the wrathful deities, from the eighth to the fourteenth day. Days 8-12 here. Buddha-Heruka, Vajra-Heruka, Ratna-Heruka, Padma- Heruka, Karma-Heruka will come to welcome you in their wrathful forms. Be sure to be not scared of them and recognize your own thought-forms.

  11. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 11

    The dawning of the wrathful deities, from the eighth to the fourteenth day. Days 13-14 here. The Eight Wrathful Ones, the Kerimas, and the Htamenmas, having various [animal] heads, issue from within one’s own brain and come to shine upon one’s self. On the Fourteenth Day, the Four Female Door-Keepers, also issuing from within thine own brain, will come to shine upon thee.

  12. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 12

    The conclusion about the period of 14 days of apparitions, showing the fundamental importance of the Bardo teachings. Whatever the religious practices of any one may have been, —whether extensive or limited,—during the moments of death various misleading illusions occur; and hence this Bardo Thödol is indispensable.

  13. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 13

    Book 2. The sidpa bardo - seeking Liberation while in the intermediate state seeking Rebirth. this is known as the good Introduction of that called “the profound essence of the liberation by hearing”—the reminder, the clear setting-face-to-face in the intermediate state when seeking rebirth.

  14. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 14

    Characteristics of existence in the intermediate state. Thou see thy relatives and connexions and speak to them, but receive no reply. Then, seeing them and thy family weeping, thou think, “I am dead! What shall I do?” and feel great misery.

  15. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 15

    The Judgement. Thereupon, thou will be greatly frightened, awed, and terrified, and will tremble; and thou will attempt to tell lies, saying, “I have not committed any evil deed”.Then the Lord of Death will say, “I will consult the Mirror of Karma”. Lying will be of no avail.

  16. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 16

    The all-determining influence of thought. Thou, because of thy vision not being purified, may be inclined to grow very angry at their actions of your relatives and bring about, at this moment, thy birth in Hell, act so that no angry thought can arise in thee, and meditate upon love for them.

  17. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 17

    The dawning of the lights of the Six Lokas (Realms). Saddened thou will think, “O what misery I am undergoing! Now, whatever body I am to get, I shall go and seek it”. So thinking, thou will be going hither and thither, ceaselessly and distractedly. The light of that place wherein thou art to be born, through power of karma, will shine most prominently.

  18. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 18

    The process of rebirth. The closing of the door of the womb. If one be ready to enter into the womb, thereupon one should close the womb-door by meditating upon the Clear Light: “Lo! all substances are mine own mind; and this mind is vacuousness, is unborn, and unceasing.”

  19. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 19

    The choosing of the womb-door. The premonitory visions of the place of rebirth. The protection against the tormenting furies. O nobly-born, now the signs and characteristics of the place of birth will come. Recognize them. In observing the place of birth, choose the continent too.

  20. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 20

    The alternative choosing: supernormal birth; or womb-birth. Supernormal birth by transference to a Paradise Realm. Womb-birth: the return to the human world. General Conclusion. Pray unto the Great Compassionate One. Enter upon the White Light-[Path] of the devas, or upon the Yellow Light-[Path] of human beings;

  21. Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 21

    Conclusive Prayers and wishes for the benefit of the one who has passed over and all beings. 1. The invocation of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 2. “The Path of good wishes for saving from the dangerous narrow passage-way of the Bardo” 3. The root verses of the Six Bardos.