Tibetan Book of the Dead

(ca. 750)

Bardo Thodol (“Liberation through Hearing”), often known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is a funerary text, a guide for the dead and dying, and a source of inspiration and support to many interested people around the world. It is perhaps among the best-known texts in world religious literature on the afterlife and the process of reincarnation. Its first publication in the West, in 1927, was edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, who rendered the title in English as the Tibetan Book of the Dead because of its similarities to the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The legendary Indian guru Padmasambhava, credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet in the eighth century, is thought to have written the Bardo.

Ostensibly, the Tibetan Book of the Dead describes the experiences at the moment of one’s death, the premortem-death-rebirth experience. In other words, it describes the experiences that the consciousness undergoes during the interval between death and the next rebirth. In this...