The Tibetan Book of the Dead has made been an interesting appearance in popular culture over the past couple years. I think many people fear death because of not understanding it. People want to know what happens after death, so a book like the Tibetan Book of the Dead naturally becomes a source of curiosity. The Tibetan Book of the Dead is well known for describing in detail the sometimes pleasant and other times horrifying visions that are described during the transition time between death and the next life, know as the bardo.http://clearemptymind.com/2011/09/23/the-tibetan-book-of-the-dead/
My first exposure to this book actually came through one of my favorite rap artists when I was in high school. I went through a list of books that 2pac Shakur read while he was in highschool, books that he read during his leisure time. The Tibetan Book of the Dead was one of the books that he read. In his songs, he constantly made allusions to his only fear of death was being reincarnated. In a funny indirect way, that put the book on my radar.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead is one of the texts that, according to legend, Padma-Sambhava was compelled to hide during his visit to Tibet in the late 8th century. The guru hid his books in stones, lakes, and pillars because the Tibetans of that day and age were somehow unprepared for their teachings. Now, in the form of the ever-popular Tibetan Book of the Dead, these teachings are constantly being discovered and rediscovered by Western readers of many different backgrounds--a phenomenon which began in 1927 with Oxford's first edition of Dr. Evans-Wentz's landmark volume. While it is traditionally used as a mortuary text, to be read or recited in the presence of a dead or dying person, this book--which relates the whole experience of death and rebirth in three intermediate states of being--was originally understood as a guide not only for the dead but also for the living. As a contribution to the science of death and dying--not to mention the belief in life after death, or the belief in rebirth--The Tibetan Book of the Dead is unique among the sacred texts of the world, for its socio-cultural influence in this regard is without comparison.From the book Lifetimes - True Accounts of Reincarnation by Frederick Lenz, PH.D:
This fourth edition features a new foreword, afterword, and suggested further reading list by Donald S. Lopez, author of Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Lopez traces the whole history of the late Evans-Wentz's three earlier editions of this book, fully considering the work of contributors to previous editions (C. G. Jung among them), the sections that were added by Evans-Wentz along the way, the questions surrounding the book's translation, and finally the volume's profound importance in engendering both popular and academic interest in the religion and culture of Tibet. Another key theme that Lopez addresses is the changing nature of this book's audience--from the prewar theosophists to the beat poets to the hippies to contemporary exponents of the hospice movement--and what these audiences have found (or sought) in its very old pages.
Fifteen persons with whom I have spoken claim to have recalled the passage of their soul through the nonphysical worlds. In these cases a person had a remembrance in which he experienced full participation in one of his past lives. But instead of his remembrance terminating during some point within that lifetime, he believes that he reexperienced his death at the end of that lifetime, he believes that he reexperienced his death at the end of that past life, the passage of his soul through the higher worlds after his death, and his rebirth in his next incarnation. In each of these cases of between-life remembrance, people experienced similar phenomena to note that although none of these cases persons were familiar with the Book of the Dead prior to their remembrance, their descriptions of both the order and nature of their experiences are strikingly similar to the descriptions of death and rebirth process found in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.From The Death and Afterlife Book: The Encyclopedia of Death, Near Death, and Life After Death by James R. Lewis (Writing in regard to the Tibetan Book of the Dead):
The consciousness of the departed has an ecstatic experience of the primary "clear light" at the death moment. Everyone gets at least a fleeting glimpse of the light. The more spiritually developed see it longer, and are able to go beyond it to a higher level of reality. The average person, however, drops into the lessor state of the secondary "clear light."The Bardo of Death
In stage two, the departed encounters the hallucinations resulting from the karma created during life. Unless highly developed, the individual will feel that she is still the body. The departed then encounters various apparitions, the "peaceful" and "wrathful" deities, that are actually personifications of human feelings and that, to successfully achieve nirvana, the deceased must encounter unflinchingly. Only the most evolved individuals can skip the Bardo experience altogether and transit directly in the paradise realm.
...The Tibetan Buddhist tradition has concentrated more attention on helping the dying person cross the borders of death than any other living religious tradition...
Following the process leading up to death, the person's experience of the bardo of death commences. However, for most individuals, it passes by in a split second and goes unnoticed. Only those who have undergone training in and practiced meditation, contemplative prayer, and similar spiritual disciplines will likely even be aware of the bardo of death.
One description of the kind of meditation done by advanced practitioners consists of a conscious effort to "dissolve space into light", which if successful will propel the dying soul into an a state of light and bliss beyond the continual cycles of birth and death to which most souls are subject. For those less familiar with such formal meditation practices, the act of remembering very bright light (such as, for example, remembering an experience of staring into the sun) and seeing that light as a source of pure awareness or divine love could produce a similar effect. A series of meditations and understandings that can be helpful as one enters or prepares to enter the bardo can be found on our Death Meditations page.
In Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, Chögyal Namkhai Norbu gives instructions for developing clarity within the sleep and dream states. He goes beyond the practices of lucid dreaming that have been popularized in the West by presenting methods for guiding dream states that are part of a broader system for enhancing self-awareness called Dzogchen. In this tradition, the development of lucidity in the dream state is understood in the context of generating greater awareness for the ultimate purpose of attaining liberation.http://therainbowbody.blogspot.com
This revised and expanded edition includes additional material from a profound and personal Dzogchen book, which Chögyal Namkhai Norbu wrote over many years. This material deepens the first edition's emphasis on specific exercises to develop awareness within the dream and sleep states. Also included in this book is a text written by Mipham, the nineteenth-century master of Dzogchen, which offers additional insights into this extraordinary form of meditation and awareness.
AUDIOBOOK : The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying - by Sogyal Rinpoche [ FULL ]
From The Death and Afterlife Book: The Encyclopedia of Death, Near Death, and Life After Death by James R. Lewis:
Ian Stevenson's credentials and careful research methods have led to acceptance of his work by colleges who would dismiss other psychic researchers out of hand. He was president of the international Parapsychological Association in both 1988-89. His publications include Telepathic Impressions (1970), Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation (1974), Cases of the Reincarnation Type (in four volumes, 1975-1983), and Children Who Remember Previous Lives: A Question of Reincarnation (1987).