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  • The Tibetan Book of theDead



    Translated with commentary by

    Francesca Fremantle &Chgyam Trungpa

    SHAMBHALABoston & London


  • SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS, INC.Horticultural Hall300 Massachusetts AvenueBoston, Massachusetts 1975 by Francesca Fremantle and Diana Mukpo All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced inany form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, includingphotocopying, recording, or by any information storage andretrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. The Library of Congress catalogues the original edition ofthis work as follows:Karma-glin-pa, 14th cent.The Tibetan book of the dead: the great liberation through hearingin the Bardo/by Guru Rinpoche according to Karma Lingpa: anew translation with commentary by Francesca Fremantle andChgyam Trungpa.Berkeley: Shambhala, 1975.XX,119p.: ill.; 24 cm.(The Clear light series)Translation of the authors Bar do thos grol.Bibliography: p. 111112. / Includes index.eISBN 978-0-8348-2147-7ISBN 978-0-87773-074-3 / ISBN 978-1-57062-747-7ISBN 978-1-59030-059-61. Intermediate stateBuddhism. 2. Funeral rites andceremonies, BuddhistTibet. 3. Death (Buddhism). I.Fremantle, Francesca. II. Chgyam Trungpa, Trungpa Tulku,19391987. III. Title. BQ4490.K3713 294.3423 74-29615MARC

  • DEDICATED TOHis Holiness the XVI Gyalwa Karmapa

    Rangjung Rigpi Dorje


    List of IllustrationsForeword, by Chgyam Trungpa, RinpocheIntroduction, by Francesca Fremantle

    Commentary The Great Liberation through Hearing in theBardo

    Inspiration-PrayersInspiration-Prayer Calling on the Buddhasand Bodhisattvas for RescueThe Main Verses of the Six BardosInspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from theDangerous Pathway of the BardoThe Bardo Prayer which Protects from Fear

    Pronunciation of Sanskrit WordsGlossary of Sanskrit WordsBibliographyIndex


    SAMANTABHADRA YANTRA This yantra is of a sort known in Tibetan astagdrol, which means liberated by wearing.Wearing is one of the six liberations alongwith hearing, seeing, remembering, touching andtasting. This yantra is placed on the body of adead person to inspire him in the bardo ofdharmat. The central figure Samantabhadra isthe supreme dharmakya buddha and representsthe dharmat. He is surrounded by the maalasof the peaceful deities, the vidydharas and thewrathful deities represented by their mantras. Inthe outermost circle are the mantras of thebuddhas of the six realms. Opening page, TheGreat Liberation through Hearing in theBardo: Commentary.

    PERNAGCHEN Pernagchen, the Black-Gowned One, is thespecial protector of the Karma Kagy order ofTibetan Buddhism. The Karma Kagys inherited

  • Pernagchen from the family of Karma Pakshi, thesecond Gyalwa Karmapa, whose father was atantric priest. Pernagchen, half of whose body ishead and half of whose head is mouth, hasrepeatedly appeared in visions to holders of theKarma Kagy lineage. His crescent knifedestroys the perverters of the teaching. His skullcup holds wealth, both spiritual and material, forpractitioners of the teaching. Drawing by GlenEddy. End page.


    THE BARDO THTRL (Bar-doi-thos-grol) isone of a series of instructions on six types ofliberation: liberation through hearing, liberationthrough wearing, liberation through seeing,liberation through remembering, liberationthrough tasting, and liberation through touching.They were composed by Padmasabhava andwritten down by his wife, Yeshe Tsogyal, alongwith the sdhana of the two maalas of forty-two peaceful and fifty-eight wrathful deities.

    Padmasabhava buried these texts in theGampo hills in central Tibet, where later thegreat teacher Gampopa established hismonastery. Many other texts and sacred objectswere buried in this way in different placesthroughout Tibet, and are known as terma,hidden treasures. Padmasabhava gave thetransmission of power to discover the termas tohis twenty-five chief disciples. The Bardo textswere later discovered by Karma-Lingpa, whowas an incarnation of one of these disciples.

  • Liberation, in this case, means that whoevercomes into contact with this teachingeven inthe form of doubt, or with an open mindreceives a sudden glimpse of enlightenmentthrough the power of the transmission containedin these treasures.

    Karma-Lingpa belonged to the Nyingmatradition but his students were all of the Kagytradition. He gave the first transmission of thesix liberation teachings to Ddl-Dorje, thethirteenth Karmapa, who in turn gave it toGyurme-Tenphel, the eighth Trungpa. Thistransmission was kept alive in the Surmangmonasteries of the Trungpa lineage, and fromthere it spread back into the Nyingma tradition.

    The student of this teaching practices thesdhana and studies the texts so as to becomecompletely familiar with the two maalas aspart of his own experience.

    I received this transmission at the age of eight,and was trained in this teaching by my tutors,who also guided me in dealing with dyingpeople. Consequently I visited dying or deadpeople about four times a week from that timeonwards. Such continual contact with theprocess of death, particularly watching onesclose friends and relatives, is considered

  • extremely important for students of this tradition,so that the notion of impermanence becomes aliving experience rather than a philosophicalview.

    This book is a further attempt to make thisteaching applicable to students in the West. Ihope that the sdhana may also be translated inthe near future, so that this tradition may be fullycarried out.



    BY COINCIDENCE, this introduction was writtenat Rumtek Monastery in Sikkim, looking acrossthe valley to Gangtok where, half a century ago,Kazi Dawa-Samdup translated and W. Y. Evans-Wentz edited the first English version of theBardo Thtrl. A further link with them isprovided by the fact that this new translationappeared as part of a series dedicated to Evans-Wentz.

    Since their work is so widely known and hasbeen the cause of so much interest in Buddhism,it may be asked why there is any need for a newversion. Evans-Wentz himself gives part of theanswer in his own Introduction, where herecognizes the pioneer character of the work.Since then, especially after the flight from Tibetof many of the highest lamas, information aboutTibetan Buddhism and interest in it have greatlyincreased. It is no longer purely a subject ofacademic study, but a living tradition which isnow putting down roots in the West. This makes

  • possible a new approach to translation, in whichgreat importance is given to the practicalapplication of the text, and to conveying its spiritof vitality and directness.

    In the summer of 1971 at the Tail of the TigerContemplative Community in Vermont (nowcalled Karme-Chling), Chgyam Trungpa,Rinpoche, gave a seminar entitled The TibetanBook of the Dead, which is included here as acommentary. During the seminar he used aTibetan text, while the audience followed in theEvans-Wentz edition. Questions about thetranslation and style of expression continuallycame up, and as a result of these questions it wasdecided to prepare a new version.

    In making this translation, the Tibetan editionpublished by E. Kalsang (Varanasi, 1969) wasused, together with three blockprints. A fewminor omissions and errors have been correctedby reference to the blockprints, but there are nodisagreements on any essentials among thesefour texts. Therefore it is rather surprising to findconsiderable disagreement with the earliertranslation. Without going into great detail, thereare a few outstanding points which should bementioned.

    Kazi Dawa-Samdup has several times

  • changed the translation from the originalwording, considering it to be mistaken. In thenotes the editor quotes the Tibetan texts usedone manuscript and one block-printoftenadding that the translator has corrected certainwords which are in error. Most of thesealterations seem to have been made in order toreconcile the system of correspondences ofdeities, symbolic colors, and so on, with thosefound in other texts. The most striking examplesare the following (references are to thepaperback edition, Oxford University Press,1960):

    On page 95, note 3, the feminine Kuntu-Zang-mo (Samantabhadr) is changed to the masculineKuntu-Zang-po (Samantabhadra), who thusappears twice. But the whole point of thispassage lies in the symbolism of the union of themale and female aspects of mind. As Evans-Wentz himself refers to this in the same note, andagain in note 3 on the following page, it is hardto understand how he, or the translator, couldhave considered the text to be mistaken.

    On pages 106 and 109, matter (which wetranslate as form) and consciousness arereversed, so as to make them appear on the firstand second days respectively, although in the

  • blockprint they appear the other way round.Similarly, on pages 108 and 111, the consortsSangyay-Chanma (Buddha-Locan) andMmak are exchanged.

    On page 114, the fourth day, the light of thepretas (hungry ghosts) is described as red, andon page 117, the fifth day, the light of the asuras(jealous gods) is given as green, while in thisversion these lights are yellow and redrespectively. The colors of the six realms occuragain on pages 124 and 174, where Evans-Wentznotes the Tibetan and explains the changes madeby the translator to make the colors correspondto the colors of the buddhas.

    Buddhist iconography is not absolutelyconsistent, however. Apparent irregularities suchas these occur frequently, always with somereason behind them. In all