The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life

1994, Religion  -   16 Comments
Ratings: 7.18/10 from 108 users.

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.

Directed by: Barrie McLean

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16 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Jonathan

    Surprised no one commented on Leonard Cohen being the narrator of this film with his deep calm voice :)

  2. jan

    Anyone knows where I can get the full screenplay / script?

  3. Paul Gaudette

    I found this series highly compelling, though it raises more questions than it answers. I suppose that is expected from a layman's point of view, however, as the man (Soering Sonem) lay dying, in pT2, as he is being told the Wrathful entities are a mere manifestation and projection, conceived of in and by his own mind, then am I correct in supposing that these entities benevolent or malicious are a mere hallucinatory fabrication, having no validity, or significance, substance or form, in this world, or transitional Bardo, or the next? If anything, my attention is captured, begging knowledge. I would say that is a good thing. I enjoyed the production, at any rate. My only reservation, or rather what is regrettably sadening is not having explored This, The Tibetan Buddhist Faith, and it's history sooner. I was recently diagnosed with HCC with Pvtt, which makes for a poor prognosis in my perpetuity of study, and continued physical presence, So in my search, my time and resources are indeed limited. I will of course endeavor to remain teachable all the way up to and throughout, unto the end of this life. Thank you for sharing this marvelous film. Well done. _Namaste
    The divine in me recognizes the divine in you. ?

  4. Jeanette

    Incredible teaching with such beautiful landscape . Highly recommend watching for anyone wanting to learn more about dying and the Bardo. I too found the jazz music such a disconnect for this movie and I couldn't understand why tibetan music was not used for the entirety of the film. I found it drew my focus away from the film at some points.

  5. Pam

    This is a remarkable subject and very well presented EXCEPT for the music, especially the jazzy horn. It really detracted form an otherwise haunting and beautiful journey into the realm of the Bardo. There is so much wonderful, beautiful, amazing Tibetan music available I wonder why it wasn't used in this exceptional film. It really was a big distraction and I almost turned it off because of the music, but glad I didn't. It's still a valuable watch.

  6. MG

    I learned a lot from this and was well shot. The saxaphone made me think that I should be watching a Lethal Weapon movie instead of a film about what tibetan buddhists believe happens when we die.

  7. Kristy

    Tibetan Book of the Dead : A
    Way of Life talked about the different approaches Tibetan's have towards death and follows the rituals that the Tibetans follow after someone dies. As I did my third project on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, this documentary offered a real life view into the rituals that I read about. It was interesting to see the Buddhist rituals carried out by real people and it made them much more real and relatable. The parts when the documentary cut back to a western hospital was pretty interesting as it showed how the Tibetan Book of the Dead doesn't
    only relate back to Tibetan Buddhism but also can relate to others who are searching for a meaning in death. The documentary was pretty good. I would recommend others to watch it.

  8. guru choykokkee

    Take refuge in the Buddha
    Take refuge in the Dharma
    Take refuge in the Sangha

    Thus as I heard from the buddha in The Lotus Sutra, Chapter Sixteen
    They would grow arrogant and lax.
    Unruly and attached to the five desires,
    They would tumble into the evil paths.
    I am ever aware of living beings
    Those who practice the Way and those who do not.
    I speak various Dharmas for their sakes
    To save them in an appropriate manner.
    I am always thinking,
    "How can I cause living beings
    To enter the Unsurpassed Way
    And to quickly perfect the body of a Buddha?"

    Let take this as our mission for each rebirth and work to liberate more lives through our practice of buddha compassion and wisdom.
    I am always thinking,
    "How can I cause living beings
    To enter the Unsurpassed Way
    And to quickly perfect the body of a Buddha?"

    1. paulam.artstudio

      Guru Choykokkee,
      many many thanks
      we are blessed and fortunate that you have refreshed the transcription here.

      many times when i start to awake in last part to return of sleep one part of me take note that the oder part is asking to heaven to have more awake to be more in lightness to bring more Dhamma at the waking day cycle...and during day cycle of waking and during the months in which I continued to work in the dream lucid in meditating on that part of my being to be more and more conscious, I realized that not only daytime or waking life was ordered harmonically much more, but also the passage the dream was more and more lucid, in a real BuddhicI realized that the harmonization was coming in such a subtle way and in such a sweet order to my life, that step and that type of meditation in the dream helped me understand and open the way to something else great more and different than daytime meditation.

  9. davada8

    why lye on the right side for peace not the left? wondering because I almost died in Bali from infections in my right side. I was not able to lie on my right side.

    1. Matthew Jones

      @davada8 Not 100% sure if this is right, but the left hand lies atop the right in the cosmic mudra to subdue the more dominant, active right side with the more passive left, in order to bring about balance and equanimity in meditation. Same goes for left and right leg positions in full lotus (the Buddha's are shown the opposite way in statues because he is active teaching/spreading the Dharma), so I'm betting that it's the same/similar principle for the right side being the preferable side to lie on for reclining meditation.

    2. martian

      anatomical our heart is situated on the left so you want the heart to be "on top" so to speak so as to allow full expansion and puts less pressure on the heart. enables you to reach a natural resting heart rate and blood pressure.

  10. MIchael22541

    Awesome! I know I will be watching this one over and over again. Thank you!!!

  11. Kurrrt

    (those ?question marks? are a different language the page did not accept). thank you.

  12. Kurrrt

    Great job filming and sharing secrets of our souls. The Tibetan ideals have an interisting foundation on both sides of existence. And described in a way old history intended to keep. Being closer with creation invites humanity into it.?? ??? ????? ?? ?? ????, ?? ??????

  13. meo

    The next great journey after life and birth.