The Tibetan Book of the Dead by W.Y.Evans- Wentz

The Tibetan Book of the Dead

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The Tibetan Book of the Dead
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About the Book:

The Tibetan Book of the Dead, has taken it to be a very free translation of Bardo Thodol (Liberation by Hearing on the after Death Plane'), is among the sacred book of the world. The book is pre-eminent insight into interpretations of higher 'lamaic' teachings and of the subtle exotericism underlying the Bardo Thodol. In this Oriental ideas have been put forward in a form which is intelligible to the European mind. The Occidental parallels of various mystic or occult doctrines current in Orient are frequently referred in this book, because author's personal experience gathered during years of wanderings chiefly in the high Himalayas and on the Tibetan frontiers of Kashmir, Garhwal, and Sikkim. It also contains a detailed introduction that serves as necessary commentary to the translation. The annotations to the text record are based on author's research especially in relation to Northern or 'Mahayana Buddhism'.

This book is a valuable contribution to ever expanding quest for Buddhist knowledge and serve as one more spiritual stand in an unbreakable bond of goodwill and universal peace, binding East and West together in mutual respect and understanding.


About The Author:


W. Y. Evans-Wentz was a fellow of Jesus College. Oxford.


IN this book I am seeking-so far as possible-to suppress my own views and to act simply as the mouthpiece of a Tibetan sage, of whom I was a recognized disciple.


He was quite willing that I should make known his inter- pretation of the higher lamaic teachings and of the subtle esotericism underlying the Bardo Thvdol, following the private and orally transmitted instructions which he as a young man had received when living the life of an ascetic with his late hermit-guru in Bhutan. Being himself a man who possessed a considerable amount of Western learning, he took great trouble to enable me to reproduce Oriental ideas in a form which would be intelligible to the European mind. If, in amplification, I have frequently referred to Occidental parallels of various mystic or occult doctrines current in the Orient, I have done so largely because in my wanderings there, chiefly in the high Himalayas and on the Tibetan frontiers of Kashmir, Garhwal, and Sikkim, I had come across learned philosophers and holy men who have found or thought they had found beliefs and religious practices-some recorded in books, some preserved by oral• tradition alone-not only analogous to their own, but so closely akin to those of the Occident as to imply some historical connexion therewith. Whether the supposed influence passed from East to West or from West to East, was not so clear to their minds. A certain similarity does, however, seem to attach to the culture of these geographically divided provinces.

I have spent more than five years in such research, wandering from the palm-wreathed shores of Ceylon, and thence through the wonder-land of the Hindus, to the glacier-clad heights of the Himalayan Ranges, seeking out the Wise Men of the East. Sometimes I lived among city dwellers, sometimes in jungle and mountain solitudes among yogis, sometimes in monasteries with monks; sometimes I went on pilgrimages, as one of the salvation-seeking multitude. The Introduction -which in its unusual lengthiness is intended to serve as a very necessary commentary to the translation-and the annotations to the text record the more important results of this research, more especially in relation to Northern or Mahayana Buddhism.

Nevertheless, I have been really little more than a compiler and editor of 'The Tibetan Book of the Dead '. To the deceased translator-who combined in himself a greater knowledge of the Occult Sciences of Tibet and of Western Science than any Tibetan scholar of this epoch-the chief credit for its production very naturally belongs.

In addition to that greatest of all debts which the student ever owes to his preceptor, I acknowledge my indebtedness to each of my many good friends and helpers who have personally aided me herewith. Some of them are of one Faith, some of another; some are far away in Japan and in China, some in the land of my birth, America; many are in Ceylon and in India; a few are in Tibet.

Here in England I think first of all of Dr. R. R. Marett, Reader in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Exeter College, who ever since I first came up to Oxford, in the year 1907, has faithfully guided my anthro- pological research. Sir John Woodroffe, late a Judge of the High Court, Calcutta, now Reader in Indian Law in the University of Oxford, and the foremost authority in the West on the Tantras, has read through our translation, chiefly in relation to the character of the work as a ritual more or less Tantric, and offered important advice. I am also very grateful to him for the Foreword.

To Sj. Atal Bihari Ghosh, of Calcutta, Joint Honorary Secretary with Sir John Woodroffe of the Agamanusandhana Samiti, as to Sir E. Denison Ross, Director of the School of Oriental Studies, London Institution, and to Dr. F. W. Thomas, Librarian of the India Office, London, I am under a special obligation for important constructive criticism on the book as a whole. To Major, W. L. Campbell, British Political Representative in Tibet, Bhutan, and Sikkim during my sojourn in Gangtok, I am indebted for much encouragement and scholarly aid, and for the gift of two valuable paintings prepared by his orders in the chief monastery of Gyantse, Tibet, to illustrate the symbolism of the Bardo Thodol text, and herein reproduced. To his predecessor and successor in the same post, Sir Charles Bell, I am also a debtor for important advice at the outset of my Tibetan research, when in Darjeeling. To Mr. E. S. Bouchier, M.A. (Oxon.), F. R. Hist. S., author of Syria as a Roman Province, A Short History of Antioch, &c., my heartiest thanks are due for the assistance which he has so kindly rendered in reading the whole of this book when in proof.

Sardar Bahadur S.W. Laden La, Chief of Police, Darjeeling, who sent me to Gangtok with a letter of introduction to the late Lima Kazi Dawa-Samdup, the translator of the Bardo Thodol; Dr.Johan Van Manen, Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, who lent me Tibetan books which proved very helpful while the translation was taking shape, and who afterwards contributed advice concerning transla- tions; and Dr. Cassius A. Pereira, of Colombo, Ceylon, who criticized parts of the Introduction in the light of Theravada Buddhism, are among many others to whom my thanks are due.

Thus, under the best of auspices, this book is sent forth to the world, in the hope that it may contribute something to the sum total of Right Knowledge, and serve as one more spiritual strand in an unbreakable bond of good will and universal peace, binding East and West together in mutual respect and under- standing, and in love such as overleaps every barrier of creed and caste and race.


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