The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its History and Controversial Aspects of its Contents

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Abstract: In recent decades, the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) has attracted much attention from Westerners interested in Eastern spirituality and has been discussed in the literature on dying and near-death experiences. However, the history of the TBD has practically been ignored in that literature up to now. This history has been elaborated in detail by Tibetologist Bryan Cuevas (2003). To bring this history to the attention of scholars in the field of near-death studies, I present in this paper a summary of the TBD's development based primarily on the work of Cuevas (2003). The summary shows that the ... continued below

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26 p.

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Nahm, MIchael Spring 2011.

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Abstract: In recent decades, the Tibetan Book of the Dead (TBD) has attracted much attention from Westerners interested in Eastern spirituality and has been discussed in the literature on dying and near-death experiences. However, the history of the TBD has practically been ignored in that literature up to now. This history has been elaborated in detail by Tibetologist Bryan Cuevas (2003). To bring this history to the attention of scholars in the field of near-death studies, I present in this paper a summary of the TBD's development based primarily on the work of Cuevas (2003). The summary shows that the TBD was gradually elaborated within a specific Tibetan Buddhist context, the Dzokchen tradition. In comparing features of first-hand reports of the death and dying process as reported in the TBD with those reported in four other categories -- Tibetan délok, near-death experiencers, mediums, and children who remember previous lives -- I find that some features are consistent but that other key features are not. Because it seems likely that inconsistent features of the TBD reflect idiosyncratic dying and afterlife concepts of the Dzokchen tradition, scholars in the field of near-death studies and others should be careful about adopting the contents of the TBD without question.

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26 p.

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"[The Journal of Near-Death Studies] is the only peer-reviewed scholarly journal (ISSN 0891-4494) devoted exclusively to the field of near-death studies. It is cross-disciplinary and published quarterly."

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  • Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29(3), International Association for Near-Death Studies, Spring 2011, pp. 373-398

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  • OCLC: 14781775 | External Link
  • ISSN: 0891-4494
  • Library of Congress Control Number: 88-648131
  • Library of Congress Control Number: sn 86-2701
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc461682

Publication Information

  • Publication Title: Journal of Near-Death Studies
  • Volume: 29
  • Issue: 3
  • Page Start: 373
  • Page End: 398
  • Pages: 26

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Journal of Near-Death Studies

The Journal of Near-Death Studies is a scholarly peer-reviewed journal devoted to the field of near-death studies. It is published on a quarterly basis by the International Association for Near-Death Studies. The Journal began publication in 1982 under the name Anabiosis which was changed to its current title in 1986 with the start of Volume 6.

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  • Spring 2011

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Dec. 4, 2014, 2:16 p.m.

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  • Jan. 28, 2016, 6:01 p.m.

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Nahm, MIchael. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its History and Controversial Aspects of its Contents, article, Spring 2011; Durham, North Carolina. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc461682/: accessed July 23, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .