The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a Westenrised title of the bar do thos grol, a traditional Buddhist text.
The title was coined by American anthropologist and writer Walter Evans-Wentz, who made an early translation of the text in 1927. Over time, the title has gained a great deal of popularity and has been a significant factor in the rise of Buddhist philosophies and practices which have now become ingrained in Western culture.
The ideas of karma, meditation and well being are now embedded in our language and everyday life, but the book itself delves deeper into the particulars of Buddhism, with particular focus to the acceptance and contemplative approach which is taken towards life’s end.
Narrated by Leonard Cohen, a Canadian poet and songwriter who spent several years as a practicing Buddhist monk in the 1990s, this film draws from the original text, whilst simultaneously offering an insight into the lives of Tibetan monks and practicing Buddhists.
“Death is real, it comes without warning and it cannot be escaped. An ancient source of strength and guidance, The Tibetan Book of the Dead remains an essential teaching in the Buddhist cultures of the Himalayas. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this enlightening two-part series explores the sacred text and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom.
Part 1: A Way of Life reveals the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and examines its traditional use in northern India, as well as its acceptance in Western hospices. Shot over a four-month period, the film contains footage of the rites and liturgies for a deceased Ladakhi elder and includes an interview with the Dalai Lama, who shares his views on the book’s meaning and importance.
Part 2: The Great Liberation follows an old lama and his novice monk as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The soul’s 49-day journey towards rebirth is envisioned through actual photography of rarely seen Buddhist rituals, interwoven with groundbreaking animation by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Ishu Patel.” – Top Documentary Films.