From International Viewpoints (IVy) Issue 17 - June 1994
See Home Page at http://www.ivymag.org
By Todde Salen, Sweden
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
I have now finished my study of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
My strongest impression after reading and digesting it is that
I am very much surprised about the pan-determinism shown in this
When reading the Egyptian Book of the Dead, you were surprised
about how much they were into fixed ideas about 'Life after death'
and how little room there was for any tolerance of other viewpoints.
The Egyptian Book of the Dead left very little room for other
ideas about life after death. It is obvious that the Egyptian
Book of the Dead is very authoritarian and tolerated no other opinions
than those of the Established Authorities in ancient Egypt (actually
the beliefs held by the highest order of priests in ancient Egypt.)
It is very refreshing to find comments in the Tibetan Book of the
Dead like this one:
When an individual dies and enters the early stages
of 'Bardo' (the time between death and rebirth) he will, if
he is a Buddhist, meet Ghautama Siddartha (Buddha). If he is a
Christian he will meet Jesus. If he is a Muslim he will meet Mohammed.
Each person will enter the world that he has created for himself while
he was alive.
The person who believes (= true belief will work as a postulate and
create this) that there will only be darkness after death will
only darkness when he dies (as long as his 'true belief' maintains
this postulated reality.)
Then the Tibetan Book of the Dead goes on and informs you that
after death you will encounter the brightness (or light) of original
existence (we should call this your own true self.) If your confront
is high and you can confront this original light of your own true
beingness, you can enter it and there reach Buddha-hood. If your
is low (which it will be if you have not learned to confront your
own self and your karma while you were alive) you will not be able
to enter the light and reach the higher states of existence. The
Book of the Dead thus leaves your own true self and your human
self with the basic responsibility for this 'day of judgement.'
The Tibetan Book of the Dead does not try to give you a black
and white understanding of your existence in Bardo. It clearly
in many ways that the Bardo state is a gradient condition which goes
from almost total effect and ignorance, where you do not confront
much of anything of the life you have just lived or have any ability
to look back on earlier existences or forwards to future existences.
Awareness across many lifetimes
The more aware you are and the higher your confront is, the more able
you will be in your Bardo existence to look back at your earlier lives
as well as onto your future lives and be cause over your existences
The individual who has increased his awareness and confront can review
his earlier lives as well as plan better his future existences. Thus
it is in the Bardo existence that your ability to be cause over your
future is established by how well you have succeeded in developing
as a spiritual being.
I very much respect the only religion on this planet I have found
that really shows a sincere and basic respect for other belief
It has been one of my most valuable realizations in this life to
that the more advanced or able a being is, the more able he will be
to understand the thought processes of others. To me this is also
true for 3rd dynamics or belief systems.
And the only belief systems I have found that have a real and deep
understanding and respect for other belief systems are some advanced
forms of Buddhism (the most famous ones being Zen Buddhism and Tibetan
So I confess myself to such forms of Buddhism and I am proud to see
that those forms of Buddhism have not been possible to use as a reason
for going to war against people who hold other beliefs (and don't
think that war-mongers never tried that.)
Your Buddhist friend,
Fri Sep 15 18:06:22 EDT 2006