This is part of a series of posts about The Tibetan Book of The Dead. I'm reading the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, first published in Britain 2005, with introductory comments from the Dalai Lama. Includes amazingly stunning artwork.
What I now believe is that... What I'll believe tomorrow is... Concerning the peaceful and wrathful deities, they're growing on me! I'm trying to build a richer, deeper understanding of them. Part of that understanding is that I think each is an aspect or aspects of themselves, each other, and ourselves.
Much of the material is ludicrous (in my eyes at the time) and impenetrable (to me): seems to be "metaphysical mumbo-jumbo".
It's one of those books you really have to wrestle with, work at.
I'm going to dispense with "(to me)" and its cousins. Let's agree there is an invisible "IMHO" at the start of each sentence (and they're long sentences, with hard labour, for Life!).
Just one example: IMHO a lot of the Book is "idiosyncratic" folklore and ritual. And some of it could be described as a relatively pure and undistorted source of some aspects of "new age" thinking.
On page 47, for example, are a series of statements that some would say clarify and enhance the "living in the now" meme. Or, as the Book itself puts it, "Now follows the esoteric instruction which reveals the three times to be one..." (the three times being past, future and present) and closes the page with "Do not meditate at all, since there is nothing upon which to meditate.
Now, you gotta admit, that whatever your personal belief-system, and how thirsty that makes you, it's refreshing to encounter material that tells you NOT to meditate. And there's a delicious irony that so many bloody meditative words have been spilled based upon a misunderstood text that advises there is nothing to meditate upon.
I will say that in order to assess for yourself the content of the Tibetan Book, you will need to develop for yourself a truth about what it means to be a Person. Also useful would be an understanding of xenocide, or at least the hierarchy with which it's associated, and an understanding of the kinds of assistance one group of Persons might render another.
There's another category of material in the Book that I haven't yet touched upon. And this is the hard part; this is where we part company. Or rather, I speculate that many people on reading the next part will run screaming into the night, or at least to the nearest watering hole or medicine chest. They might be better off consulting a sage (below!) or six from any of the academies!
.First, in overview: You stumble on a bunch of stuff that you try to put together in a sensible way. You fail miserably. But your very failure shows you that the bunch of stuff was once a coherent whole. Because among that stuff are bits and pieces that shouldn't be there, couldn't be there, don't seem to belong there. And the mere fact they ARE there suggests the broken and distorted shape of what once might have been there.
This is an imperfect analogy. I am NOT saying the Tibetan Book is the broken and distorted shape etc; I'm NOT saying the Tibetan Book was once a coherent whole and now isn't. I'm making an analogy that I hope will enable you to read the book from a similar perspective to that which enabled me, on the third read, to achieve a tentative understanding of something that I can't tell you about, directly, right now. Maybe later.
Put it another way. You have lots of money. You put together a think-tank of the best and brightest persons on the planet. The think-tank has a research team that includes the world's best archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, physicists, philosophers, mathematicians, psychologists, astronomers and more. There's also a communication team comprising the best scriptwriters, novelists, dramatists, editors, film directors and TV producers in the world.
You brief the research team on what you hope to achieve. The research team spends a million years fulfilling the brief. Then the communications team spends a million years writing a multi-media, interactive research report. You read the Report and are bitterly disappointed. Somehow that very disappointment enables you to reach a conclusion that amazes you in its implications.
The conclusion goes something like this: Here's a pile of rubbish. But if it's a pile of rubbish, then what's this little paragraph on page 34567 doing here? It shouldn't be there. The people who produced the original rubbish could not have produced the paragraph on page 34567 and some others of its ilk.
Again, it's an analogy. I'm NOT saying the Tibetan Book is a pile of rubbish, or that those who wrote it should not have been able to write it. It's just an analogy.
I have, however, half-baked the following conclusion: that the Tibetan Book contains material that is much older than believed by those who should know better.
Now here's the same argument at greater length (skip this if you like; I've said my piece. The rest is embroidery).
Say you're a science fiction writer playing with an interesting storyline about some persons, (group A) who interact in certain ways, mainly beneficial, with other persons (group B). In B, only some persons know about the interaction.
For various reasons, the persons in group A pack up and go somewhere else, never to be heard of again, at least in that multiverse. Then something big happens (you're still working out the details) and everyone in A and B dies. Or so they think.
In another Universe, another timeslice, the sub-atomic particles of a group of people, group C, thanks to sheer random chance become quantumly entangled with some of the sub-atomic particles of a person from group B. That entanglement results in a person from group C writing down every third word of the story of the original interaction, in an unknown language, in invisible ink upon imaginary paper. That paper is bound into a phantastic Book on a high shelf in the library of Jorge Luis Borges.
The library burns down and only ashes remain. An archaeologist from the future collects the ashes and through the use of sufficiently advanced technology indistinguishable from magic (thanks Arthur), has some minor relative success restoring some disjointed bits and pieces of the story of the original interaction. Then the archaeologist writes a deliberately misleading and jargonised academic paper, which gets published in an academic journal read only by people with "X" as their middle initial.
One day, on an odd Wednesday, on your way to work, you...
Seriously, what I'm trying to say is that for me, reading the Tibetan Book is like reading a translation of that above-mentioned academic paper, into a language I don't know (but can get translated if I have enough money, which I don't).
It's like seeing the glint of a diamond amid a gigantic heap of dark and dirty ash and rubble that was once a magnificent palace. Then you see another glint. Then another. With great effort, you collect the diamonds and try to form them into a necklace (you happen to be a duellist; no, dualist; no, I meant jeweler: you make jewelry). But you can't get them to fit together into a necklace.
But in your failure you find success: you become convinced that there was once a necklace. Then you try and convince someone else, someone who has had their brain surgically removed.
I think I can see a storyline in the Tibetan Book. Have you had your brain surgically removed? It's a simple storyline of great complexity. It touches upon a whole range of aspects. I could be much clearer, but I choose not to (that's my story and I'm sticking to it!). It's best that you try to piece the storyline together for yourself. Many of the books and articles mentioned in this blog point directly to one or other aspect. And there's heaps more, including those I know about as well as those I don't.
But a good start would be to establish for yourself your truth about what it means to be a Person.