Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Tibetan Book of the Dead is pragmatically and existentially directed toward the "dead" who are still living, and not especially toward those who are clinically dead. To reveal this less obvious meaning, we need to examine more closely some of the key features of the manifest meaning, for these indicate that both the existence of gods and the existence of an after-death bardo realm are questionable. With respect to the reality of the gods and demons that are experienced in the after-death state, we have noted that the text informs the disembodied consciousness that these deities have no substantial reality of their own. Indeed, this is the central illuminating principle of the text. Two memorable excerpts are as follows:

Through the instruction of his guru he will recognize them [the visionary deities] as his own projections, the play of the mind, and he will be liberated. It is just like seeing a stuffed lion, for instance: he feels very frightened if he does not know that it is really only a stuffed lion, but if someone shows him what it is he is astonished and no longer afraid. So here too he feels terrified and bewildered when the blood-drinking deities appear with their huge bodies and thick limbs, filling the whole of space, but as soon as he is shown he recognises them as his own projections or as yidams; the luminosity that arises later, mother and son, merge together, and, like meeting a man he used to know very well, the self-liberating luminosity of his own mind spontaneously arises before him.

[W]hatever you see, however terrifying it is, recognise it as your own projection; recognise it as the luminosity, the natural radiance of your own mind.

These excerpts confirm that the gods and demons experienced in the after-death state, although they appear with a reality equal to the material objects in the world of the living, are indeed believed to be nothing more than manifestations of the dead person's own psychological states.(6) They are merely symbolic forms that express conditions of either psychological liberation or psychological bondage and suffering. This suggests that the path to enlightenment in no way depends upon favors or obstructions issued from the realm of the gods and demons that populate the after-death state; the path depends upon initially recognizing the images of the gods as manifestations of oneself in various possible and actual forms. Self-recognition alone initiates the path to more satisfactory levels of consciousness.

Source: The therapeutic psychology of 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead'

See also:
  • Alternative Cosmologies and Altered States
  • The Varieties of Primal Experience




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