Bardo Thodol ("Tibetan Book of the Dead")
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The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State (Tibetan: bardo "liminality"; thodol as "liberation", sometimes translated as Liberation Through Hearing or Bardo Thodol is a funerary text. It is often referred to in the West by the more casual title, "Tibetan Book of the Dead", a name which draws a parallel with the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, another funerary text.
The first complete translation of the classic Buddhist text
One of the greatest works created by any culture and overwhelmingly the most significant of all Tibetan Buddhist texts in the West, The Tibetan Book of the Dead has had a number of distinguished but partial translations. Now the entire text has not only been made available in English but also in a translation of remarkable clarity and beauty. Translated with the close support of leading contemporary masters, this complete edition faithfully presents the insights and intentions of the original work. It includes one of the most detailed and compelling descriptions of the after-death state in world literature, practices that can transform our experience of daily life, guidance on helping those who are dying, and an inspirational perspective on coping with bereavement.
According to Tibetan tradition, the Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State was composed by Padmasambhava, written down by his primary student, Yeshe Tsogyal, buried in the Gampo hills in central Tibet and subsequently discovered by a Tibetan terton, Karma Lingpa.
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State is recited by Tibetan Buddhist lamas over a dying or recently deceased person, or sometimes over an effigy of the deceased. The name means literally "liberation through hearing in the intermediate state".
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State differentiates the intermediate state between lives into three bardos:
The chikhai bardo or "bardo of the moment of death", which features the experience of the "clear light of reality", or at least the nearest approximation of which one is spiritually capable.
The chonyid bardo or "bardo of the experiencing of reality", which features the experience of visions of various Buddha forms (or, again, the nearest approximations of which one is capable).
The sidpa bardo or "bardo of rebirth", which features karmically impelled hallucinations which eventually result in rebirth. (Typically imagery of men and women passionately entwined.)
The Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State also mentions three other bardos: those of "life" (or ordinary waking consciousness), of "dhyana" (meditation), and of "dream" (the dream state during normal sleep).
Together these "six bardos" form a classification of states of consciousness into six broad types. Any state of consciousness can form a type of "intermediate state", intermediate between other states of consciousness. Indeed, one can consider any momentary state of consciousness a bardo, since it lies between our past and future existences; it provides us with the opportunity to experience reality, which is always present but obscured by the projections and confusions that are due to our previous unskillful actions.
Death is an important part of the process of natural selection. Organisms that are less adapted to their current environment than others are more likely to die having produced fewer offspring, reducing their contribution to the gene pool of succeeding generations. Their genes are thus eventually bred out of a population, leading to processes such as speciation and extinction. It should be noted however that reproduction plays an equally important role in determining survival. For example, an organism that dies young but leaves many offspring will have a much greater Darwinian fitness than a long-lived organism which leaves only one.
Extinction is the cessation of existence of a species or group of taxa, reducing biodiversity. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of that species (although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point). Because a species' potential range may be very large, determining this moment is difficult, and is usually done retrospectively. This difficulty leads to phenomena such as Lazarus taxa, where a species presumed extinct abruptly "reappears" (typically in the fossil record) after a period of apparent absence. Through evolutional theory, new species arise through the process of speciation — where new varieties of organisms arise and thrive when they are able to find and exploit an ecological niche — and species become extinct when they are no longer able to survive in changing conditions or against superior competition.
After death the remains of an organism become part of the biogeochemical cycle. Animals may be consumed by a predator or a scavenger. Organic material may then be further decomposed by detritivores, organisms which recycle detritus, returning it to the environment for reuse in the food chain. Examples of detritivores include earthworms, woodlice and dung beetles.
Microorganisms also play a vital role, raising the temperature of the decomposing matter as they break it down into yet simpler molecules. Not all material need be decomposed fully, however. Coal, a fossil fuel formed over vast tracts of time in swamp ecosystems, is one example.
Death and evolution
Enquiry into the evolution of aging aims to explain why almost all living things weaken and die with age (a notable exception being hydra, which may be biologically immortal). The evolutionary origin of senescence remains one of the fundamental puzzles of biology. Gerontology specializes in the science of human aging processes.
A death erection or terminal erectionis a post-mortem erection, technically a priapism, observed in the corpses of human males who have been executed, particularly by hanging.
Death as a sentient entity is a concept that has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In English, death is often given the name the "Grim Reaper" and from the 15th century onwards came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood.
In some cases, the Grim Reaper is able to actually cause the victim's death, leading to tales that he can be bribed, tricked, or outwitted in order to retain one's life. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving only to sever the last tie from the soul to the body and guide the deceased to the next world and having no control over the fact of their death.
In many languages Death is personified in male form (English including), while in others it is perceived as a female character (for instance, in Slavic languages, e.g. in Polish).
Scholars and the Angel of Death
Talmud teachers of the fourth century associate quite familiarly with him. When he appeared to one on the street, the teacher reproached him with rushing upon him as upon a beast; whereupon the angel called upon him at his house. To another he granted a respite of thirty days, that he might put his knowledge in order before entering the next world. To a third he had no access, because he could not interrupt the study of the Talmud. To a fourth he showed a rod of fire, whereby he is recognized as the angel of death (M. K. 28a). He often entered the house of Bibi and conversed with him (Ḥag. 4b). Often he resorts to strategy in order to interrupt and seize his victim (B. M. 86a; Mak. 10a).
The death of Joshua ben Levi in particular is surrounded with a web of fable. When the time came for him to die and the angel of death appeared to him, he demanded to be shown his place in paradise. When the angel had consented to this, he demanded the angel's knife, that the angel might not frighten him by the way. This request also was granted him, and Joshua sprang with the knife over the wall of paradise; the angel, who is not allowed to enter paradise, caught hold of the end of his garment. Joshua swore that he would not come out, and God declared that he should not leave paradise unless he was absolved from his oath; if not absolved, he was to remain. The angel of death then demanded back his knife, but Joshua refused. At this point a heavenly voice ("bat ḳol") rang out: "Give him back the knife, because the children of men have need of it" (Ket. 77b; Jellinek, l.c. ii. 48-51; Bacher, l.c. i. 192 et se
Many cultures have incorporated a god of death into their mythology or religion. As death, along with birth, is among the major parts of human life, these deities may often be one of the most important deities of a religion. In some religions with a single powerful deity as the source of worship, the death deity is an antagonistic deity against which the primary deity struggles. The related term death worship has most often been used as a derogatory term to accuse certain groups of morally-abhorrent practices which set no value on human life, or which seem to glorify death as something positive in itself.
List of death deities
* North America: Grimm Reaper (also known as death)
* Aztec: Mictlantecuhtli
* Babylonian: Ereshkigal, Nergal
* Brazil: Afro-Brazilian religions such as Umbanda and Candomblé worship Babalu Aye, god of disease and illness, who carries away the souls of the deceased.
* Buddhism: Yama
* Canaanite: Mot
* Celtic: Morrigan
* Chinese: Yanluo (transliteration of Yama)
* Ancient Egypt: Anubis and Osiris
* Finnish: Tuoni, his wife and children
* Greek: Thanatos and Hades
* Haitian Vodou: Ghede
* Hindu: Yama
* Igbo: Ogbunabali
* Islam: Azrael
* Japan: Enma (transliteration of Yama) (See Also: Shinigami)
* Maori: Hine-nui-te-pō
* Maya: Ah Puch
* Mexico: Santa Muerte
* Norse: Odin, Hel, and Freyja
* Roman: Mors, Pluto, Orcus, and Dis Pater
* Slavic: Morana
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