Published on July 10, 2016
The Bardo Thodol (Tibetan: བར་དོ་ཐོས་གྲོལ, Wylie: bar do thos grol), Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State, is a text from a larger corpus of teachings, the Profound Dharma of Self-Liberation through the Intention of the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones, revealed by Karma Lingpa (1326–1386). It is the best-known work of Nyingma literature, and is known in the West as the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The Tibetan text describes, and is intended to guide one through, the experiences that the consciousness has after death, in the bardo, the interval between death and the next rebirth. The text also includes chapters on the signs of death and rituals to undertake when death is closing in or has taken place.
The bar do thos grol is known in the west as The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a title popularized by Walter Evans-Wentz’s edition, but as such virtually unknown in Tibet. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was first published in 1927 by Oxford University Press. Dr. Walter Y. Evans-Wentz chose this title because of the parallels he found with the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
According to John Myrdhin Reynolds, Evans-Wentz’s edition of the Tibetan Book of the Dead introduced a number of misunderstandings about Dzogchen. Evans-Wentz was well acquainted with Theosophy, and used this framework to interpret the translation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, which was largely provided by two Tibetan lamas who spoke English, Lama Sumdhon Paul and Lama Lobzang Mingnur Dorje. Evans-Wentz was not familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, and his view of Tibetan Buddhism was “fundamentally neither Tibetan nor Buddhist, but Theosophical and Vedantist.” He introduced a terminology into the translation which was largely derived from Hinduism, as well as from his Theosophical beliefs.
Also Jung’s introduction betrays a misunderstanding of Tibetan Buddhism, using the text to discuss his own theory of the unconsciousness.