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The Tibetan Book of the Dead (A Way of Life / The Great Liberation) (2004)

Leonard Cohen , Pema Ozokten , Barrie McLean  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Leonard Cohen, Pema Ozokten, Tsering Sonam, Tobten Tsering, The Dalai Lama
  • Directors: Barrie McLean
  • Writers: Shinichi Nakazawa
  • Producers: Barrie McLean, David Verrall
  • Format: Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Wellspring Media
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 90 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000YTOZS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,648 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Tibetan Book of the Dead (A Way of Life / The Great Liberation)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Death is real, it comes without warning and it cannot be escaped. An ancient source of strength and guidance, The Tibetan Book of the Dead remains an essential teaching in the Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this enlightening two-part series explores the sacred text and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom. Part 1: A Way of Life reveals the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and examines its traditional use in northern India, as well as its acceptance in Western hospices. Shot over a four-month period, the film contains footage of the rites and liturgies for a deceased Ladakhi elder and includes an interview with the Dalai Lama, who shares his views on the book's meaning and importance. Part 2: The Great Liberation follows an old lama and his novice monk as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The soul's 49-day journey towards rebirth is envisioned through actual photography of rarely seen Buddhist rituals, interwoven with groundbreaking animation by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Ishu Patel.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
105 of 106 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Neccesary viewing April 11, 2009
By kg5
This is a 2009 re-release of a earlier 2004 DVD version which has been out of print for way too long. Originally available in two parts on two VHS tapes in 1994, it was a great relief to see them finally transfered to DVD.

With a total duration of 90 minutes, the first half (titled "A Way Of Life") includes an interview with the Dalai Lama and explores the history and use of the text of the Bardo Thötröl. Anyone sincerely interested in the liturgies and rites of the Tibetan Book Of The Dead will find this first half of the documentary, shot over four months, simply fascinating. The reality behind the veil of mystery surrounding this sacred text is eloquently revealed.

The second half, titled "The Great Liberation," documents a more intimate look inside the book as it takes the viewer inside the home of a deceased man as a Lama and a younger monk perform the Buddhist ritual, rarely seen in practice. Take note that this includes footage of a deceased person - it is not gross or morbid. But in case you have any issues with this, you should at least be made aware. This actual documentation is interwoven with the thoroughly engaging animation by Ishu Patel.

For purist, this documentary lacks some production values we have come to expect in today's digital world, but that is no excuse to dismiss this entirely watchable film with it's profound insights. In a way, this film progresses along in a meditative sort of way. I know of no other documentary that explores the Tibetan Book Of The Dead with this degree of integrity, intelligence and respect. Adding to this the excellent narration by Leonard Cohen, makes this DVD a must in any library of important Buddhist films.

Steve Clorefein of Parabola Magazine writes of this film: "An extraordinary window into traditional Buddhist practices of devotion and compassion" - and I could not agree more.
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161 of 169 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A True Classic April 20, 2004
I have had the videos of this for several years and have used them in some of the classes I have taught.These are cinematic masterpieces with great scenery from the Himalayas as well as carrying forth the honest heartfelt teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. The narrative by Leonard Cohen is excellant. There are few movies or books that I can recommend more highly for both entertainment and personal growth.
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45 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great glimpse into Tibetan Buddhist beliefs. December 9, 2005
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This DVD explores two different deaths occurring in Buddhist families: one death of an ancient man who had a rich, full life and one of a young, successful man struck down in the prime of his life. It gives a great account of how Buddhists deal with grief in these two different situations. It also interviews an ancient Buddhist monk about what he desires for the rest of his life, and an investigation of a young boy who might be the reincarnation of a great spiritual figure, and why people think the boy may be the man. The narration by Leonard Cohen is stunning: I couldn't imagine a more appropriate voice and style. The only reason it's not getting 5 stars is the relatively mediocre production values, but considering the remote location and the arduous environment, it's not surprising.
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35 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Impact - well worth your time ! March 31, 2006
This is high impact film! For those who are interested in what happens after death, this film is very informative. It ties in well with the teachings of the Buddhist way of life and shows why it is important to live a proper spiritual life. Leonard Cohen's English rendition of the Tibetan scripture is commendable. The visuals are engaging and in sync with the narration.
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clear explanation of the Dying Process August 28, 2010
By Greg
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This film gives one of the clearest explanations of the dying process according to classical Buddhist teachings, particularly as it is practiced in the Tibetan culture. The clear presentation brings to life what can easily be an overly abstract theoretical knowledge of the transition process. Very highly recommended for anyone who wants to understand the Buddhist teachings on death and dying.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! March 20, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Leonard Cohen is the perfect narrator for this documentary, imparting his respect for the Tibetan ritual with his rich, soulful voice. The combination of the spectacular location, the amazing cinematography, and Cohen makes this film one that is worth owning.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Tibetan Book of the Dead for Dummies October 29, 2006
I originally saw this video in McLeod Gange, India in a funky little theatre downstairs from a curry restaurant. It so impressed me I ordered the DVD after returning to the US and shared it with interested people baffled by the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This video explains general concepts and applies them in a very concrete way to death in two Indian villages. The effect is both intimate and educational and translates itself more clearly to Westerners through the comparative use of these practices in a hospice program in San Francisco. For anybody interested in Tibetan Buddhism in particular or world religions in general, I highly recommend it!
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114 of 133 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful! December 31, 1999
Format:VHS Tape
This set is great for anyone who is intrested in the Tibetan perspcetive of life and death. If you are doing hospice work, this is a great video to share with your loved ones as they can watch it no matter where they are in their process! The cinematography is spectacular!
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A good review of the Buddhist experience of the afterlife
A good review of the Buddhist experience of the afterlife. You should read the book for deeper understanding of working with this concept.
Published 25 days ago by Rihk Sayer
5.0 out of 5 stars Good journey into other ideas about life.
I enjoy anything that takes a view into other cultures and beliefs. This left me with a sense of going somewhere and looking through a window into other ideas
Published 28 days ago by Gary
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by Diane Stelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Superbly footnoted and useful for a serious English speaking student
Published 2 months ago by James Perdue
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!
All my life I have wanted to learn the truth about what happens to us when we physically die. I found this film uplifting, encouraging, believable and blends well with the... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Patricia Bates
3.0 out of 5 stars Terrible Music
This video although is very interesting and is about an important topic, in my opinion it could be better done. When you make a video is not only about showing images. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Igor Sarmientos
5.0 out of 5 stars loved Leonard Cohen's voice
I have always been fascinated by death, this dvd has helped me to understand it better and accept it without any fear
Published 13 months ago by Troy
4.0 out of 5 stars Love these quaint,kind people....
Adore the real life persons involved in this venture....It made me wish someone would care for my body and soul the way grandpa and his protege were shown to do... Read more
Published 14 months ago by MAYA PINION
4.0 out of 5 stars It cleared up a lot of questions for me
This is a very interesting book for someone trying to get down to the nitty gritty of death and to see how others view death. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Donna Wynn
4.0 out of 5 stars leonard cohen's voice made it so much more powerful ...
and it was a very good movie but now i must re-read the book to get more understanding as has been over 30 years. Read more
Published 19 months ago by jude ranson
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Topic From this Discussion
See if you can find a copy of Rhythms of A Himalayan Village, Hugh R. Downs, Harper & Row, ISBN 0-06-250240-9. Not a specific answer to your query, but an excellent intro, and a parallel to your experience.
Feb 26, 2007 by Russell Hodin |  See all 2 posts
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