I have written few lines about the aforementioned book when I started reading the book. I remember that I have promised all my readers that I will post final review of the book ones I complete reading it. Although my review of the book may not be that inspiring and motivating, I am pretty sure that ones you read the book, you will be overwhelmed with the writing styles of the author and the content of the book.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead written by Donald S. Lopez is about the text originally published in English by Walter Evans-Wentz in 1927. This book is one of its first kinds of groundbreaking work to bring the translations of the Tibetan-Buddhist text to the major English speaking public. In this little book Donald S. Lopez wonderfully narrates a story in the American perspectives. The story has been directly linked with the American Theosophy and spiritualism in the age of early twentieth century. The book offers a good introduction to the belief of the Tibetan Buddhist death- and rebirth-theory.
The book has four geographically titled chapters in between the introduction and the conclusion: The first chapter is titled as America. In this chapter, the author introduces Walter Evans-Wentz from Trenton, New Jersey. He is the discoverer of The Tibetan Book of the Death and also the central character in the book. The author describes him to be an eccentric scholar and a spiritual seeker. Although Evans-Wentz has never been to Tibet and he doesn’t know the Tibetan Language, the central character in this book has crafted and named The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In this regard the Author argues Walter Evans-Wentz’s book to be much more American than Tibetan.
The second chapter titled as India provides an excellent summary of Indo-Tibetan concepts of the Death experience. The chapter also offers a nice summary of how the present deeds would determine the quality of the life and the place of rebirth after death. The chapter talks about the intermediate state between the death and the rebirth which is known as Bardo in Tibetan Language.
Tibet is the title given to the third chapter. The chapter examines the evolution of the Tibetan mortuary texts which has finally resulted in the collection and that came to be edited as the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Tibet became a place of prophecy as something was buried beneath a mountain by Guru Padmasambhava – to be unearthed by prophesied Buddhist master when the time is right. The chapter presents a summary of how Buddhism entered into Tibet. In this chapter, the author narrates a story of Karma Lingpa - a treasure discoverer and his death which presents an excellent example of life after death or the intermediate state- Bardo.
The last chapter before conclusion is titled as The World. Evans-Wentz acquisition of wide range of texts can be understood in this chapter. The chapter recounts the history of Buddhist texts through numerous interpretations and translations. Several Theosophical Societies and different religious figures met by the central character in this story are also given in this chapter. Finally Evans-Wentz understands that the Bardo Todol is The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Lopez in this book has provided a very good introduction into the history of Buddhism. In particular he has provided good concepts of death, rebirth, and enlightenment. And it gives a good time to rethink about our present deeds which acts as a gateway to the next life. For the Buddhist, the book can be an excellent guide which may help to find a better path after the death.
Our life is always a sense of uncertainty and our fear of dead can certainly be one of the reasons for the book of this kind to be famous. The book has become one of the best-known works of Tibetan literature in the West and I feel the book is very much relevant for the Bhutanese- Buddhist to read it as well. The book will surely mystify and inspire readers from all walks of life for centuries to come.
Hope all will enjoy reading the book!