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The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between Paperback – December 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Imagine that as you leave your body at death, you hear the voice of a loved one whispering in your ear explanations of everything you see in the world beyond. Unlike other translations of Bar do thos grol (or The Tibetan Book of the Dead), Robert Thurman's takes literally the entire gamut of metaphysical assumptions. Thurman translates Bar do thos grol as The Great Book of Natural Liberation through Understanding in the Between. It is one of many mortuary texts of the Nyingma sect of Tibetan Buddhism and is commonly recited to or by a person facing imminent death. Thurman reproduces it for this purpose, explaining in some depth the Tibetan conception of postmortem existence. Over as many as 12 days, the deceased person is given explanations of what he or she sees and experiences and is guided through innumerable visions of the realms beyond to reach eventual liberation, or, failing that, a safe rebirth. Like a backpacker's guide to a foreign land, Thurman's version is clear, detailed, and sympathetic to the inexperienced voyager. It includes background and supplementary information, and even illustrations (sorry, no maps). Don't wait until the journey has begun. Every page should be read and memorized well ahead of time. --Brian Bruya

From Library Journal

The Dalai Lama's blessing attends Thurman's translation of the Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding in the Between. Composed by Padma Sambhava in the late eighth century, this text minutely describes the "betweens" ( Bardos ) or after-death transition states. Thurman, who opens this work with a new section of preliminary prayers, gives a helpful commentary in terms Westerners can understand and boldface portions to be read aloud in the presence of the dead. He closes by appending Nyingma tradition works to the main text. This text has already been translated in 1927 and 1975, and some of Thurman's new translation choices are questionable. For instance, the West has adopted the term karma , which expresses the original meaning better than evolution --an alternative that obscures the personal responsibility emphasized in Buddhism. In addition, since Tibetan pronouns are sexually neutral, alternating his with her from verse to verse confuses. Still, Westerners will find this a colorful, awesome journey. For informed readers.
- Dara Eklund, Los Angeles P.L.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 278 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam Books, Inc. (December 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0553370901
  • ISBN-13: 978-0553370904
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

335 of 353 people found the following review helpful By P. Nagy on February 6, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Tibetan Book of the Dead edited by Graham Coleman, Thupten Jinpa, translated by Gyurme Dorje (Viking) is by far the most popular example of indigenous Tibetan Buddhist treasure literature. An edition was issued in 1927 by Oxford University Press under the general editorship of W. Y. Evans-Wentz. The block-print copy, he used was an abridgment obtained in Nepal and translated by a Tibetan lama. Evans-Wentz was a scholarly Theosophist who imported certain Theosophical preconceptions into his commentary on the work. Carl Jung the prominent analytical psychologist even wrote a psychological commentary on the work prompted by Evans-Wentz. Since the 1970s, beginning with Francesca Fremantle and Chogyam Trungpa's edition of the text and more recently Robert Thurman's translation, corrected versions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead are well represented in English and other European languages. The mistakes and egregious errors of the pioneering edition have been corrected and Tibetan Buddhism now in America and Europe has been flourishing with many translations and commentaries on basic Buddhist practices as well as the indigenous literatures of Tibet.

This new edition by Graham Coleman and Thupten Jinpa uses a fuller edition of the work for translating, adding new chapters and reflecting the interpretation of contemporary masters and lineage holders of this tradition. In many ways this is the first complete The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In many ways this book is both a guide for living as well as a how to consciously move on after death. The book has been extremely popular in Central Asia among Buddhists.
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236 of 259 people found the following review helpful By James Inman on April 27, 1998
Format: Paperback
I've been through three copies of this book and memorized the essence prayers.. Each night I use this in my meditation.. All my life I have had a fear of death and this book cuts right to the bone.. Padma Sambava tackels the problem head on.. I don't really remember why I started reading it.. I could never make it through the Evans-Wentz translation.. Too much esoteric mumbo jumbo.. Robert A. Thurman's version is for the everyman.. Please get this book..Life is short..

From the Root Verses.. "With mind distracted, never thinking death is coming... To slave away on the pointless buisness of mundane life, and then to come out empty is a tragic error.."
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103 of 113 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 6, 1997
Format: Paperback
The remarkable Bob Thurman offers us a new translation of the 'Tibetan Book of the Dead'. It surpasses by far the previous translation by Chogyam Trungpa and Frances Fremantle. As a text for practical use, as a source of spiritual inspiration, and as literature, this book shines. As well as the translation of the text and commentary, Professor Thurman has written an introduction which stands on its own as an introduction to Buddhism and Tibetan spirituality. If you have an interest in Buddhism, Tibet, or a concern about the after-death states, this book is essential.

Pete Folly
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108 of 120 people found the following review helpful By Scott Snyder on January 21, 2002
Format: Paperback
With this translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or Natural Liberation in the Between, Thurman fulfills the function of a Bodhisattva in helping others attain liberation. This is the most accessible, down-to-earth and learned rendering of this guide to spiritual liberation that I have encountered in modern American English. Thurman even manages to work in a little humor on the edges.
What this translation makes abundantly clear is just how many chances in the in-between we have for liberation. Apparently one has to be very non-aware to go through the in-between and miss the chance for stepping off the carousel. of samsara. (So why am I still here?)
It would be interesting to devote some time to a cross cultural/cross discipline study of death, dying and beyond. In particular, a study comparing Stan Grof's 3rd perinatal matrix; Sufi descriptions of the interworld (barzakh) and the world of Harqalya (see Corbin's Celestial Body); some schools of visualization/dream work; descriptions of the astral world (Robert Bruce's and Robert Monroe's works in particular); and shamanic traditions would be illuminating. Throw Dante in for good measure. There appear to be large areas of overlap and agreement as to what happens during death, and what happens next. (Get enough blind men together and compare their impressions of the elephant and a clearer picture may come to light.)
The best thing about this book, however, is that it invites the reader to learn the Tibetan death ritual for oneself. It helps that, as the book explains, our after-death mind is nine times more intelligent than our current mind. So just a little application now in learning these texts will go a long way later.
Face it. At some moment in the near future you will close your eyes for the last time on this world. Death is more certain than retirement - and longer. Like anything else, the more you learn about it and get acquainted with it, the less shocking and scary it will be.
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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Justin M. Teerlinck on December 2, 2005
Format: Paperback
The introduction provided by Robert Thurman provides valuable context for understanding The Book of Natural Liberation Through Understanding In the Between. Thurman is able to reach out to non-believers by calmly explaining that Tibetan Buddhism is not about belief and dogmatism, but understanding experience more fully. He likens the monks who obtained the knowledge found in the book to spiritual scientists--an oxymoron until one understands the pragmatic value of this book. Use of this book to greater good is not dependent on the particulars of one's personal religious faith or lack thereof. The author helpfully reminds us that according to the tenets of our our scientific laws energy is neither created nor destroyed. Thus it seems likely that our whole being or part of it at least will end up going somewhere, in some form after we die. The introduction and translation are valuable tools for people who want greater understanding or for those who wish to use this book for its intended purpose.
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