By Bryan J. Cuevas

In 1927, Oxford collage Press released the 1st western-language translation of a set of Tibetan funerary texts (the nice Liberation upon listening to within the Bardo) below the identify The Tibetan publication of the Dead. seeing that that point, the paintings has proven a strong carry at the western renowned mind's eye, and is now thought of a vintage of non secular literature. through the years, The Tibetan ebook of the Dead has encouraged quite a few commentaries, an illustrated version, a play, a video sequence, or even an opera. Translators, students, and renowned devotees of the ebook have claimed to give an explanation for its esoteric principles and display its hidden that means. Few, despite the fact that, have uttered a note approximately its heritage. Bryan J. Cuevas seeks to fill this hole in our wisdom by way of providing the 1st complete old learn of the Great Liberation upon listening to within the Bardo, and by way of grounding it firmly within the context of Tibetan background and tradition. He starts by way of discussing the numerous methods the texts were understood (and misunderstood) through westerners, starting with its first editor, the Oxford-educated anthropologist Walter Y. Evans-Wentz, and carrying on with throughout the modern-day. The amazing repute of the publication within the west, Cuevas argues, is strikingly disproportionate to how the unique Tibetan texts have been perceived of their personal state. Cuevas tells the tale of ways The Tibetan publication of the Dead used to be compiled in Tibet, of the lives of these who preserved and transmitted it, and explores the heritage of the rituals wherein the lifetime of the useless is imagined in Tibetan society. This publication offers not just a desirable examine a well-liked and enduring religious paintings, but in addition a much-needed corrective to the proliferation of ahistorical scholarship surrounding The Tibetan e-book of the Dead.

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Extra resources for The Hidden History of the Tibetan Book of the Dead

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In Tibet, it was primarily the monasteries that controlled the rites for the dead, and thus the success of such liturgy depended on ecclesiastical support, as well as the support of pious laity in the form of patronage. The significance of the monastic center in the propagation of the Karling rituals cannot be overstated, although we must be careful to recognize the precise factors involved in that process. As knowledge of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, including the Liberation upon Hearing, spread throughout Tibet, it gradually became established within certain Nyingmapa and Kagyupa communities as a primary source for the performance of the Buddhist funeral rites.

The main questions I raised, however, still remain to be addressed by specialists in the field, although it would appear that some answers may soon be forthcoming. In this regard, the recent work of Robert Kritzer deserves explicit mention.

33 This new ritual tradition would later be identified retroactively with the Bonpo funeral cult known as "cemetery Bon" (dur-bon). 34 Since it was believed that the dead, the ancestral spirits (mtshun), continued to manifest a hostile power over the living, the primary and predominant function of this new cult was therefore to contain the aggressive menace of the dead by closing them off in tombs. A type of ritual expert or funeral priest (dur-gshen)3 5 served this purpose by a special ritual treatment of the corpse and by a variety of mortuary rites in general.

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