Near-Death Experiences and Buddhism

By Kevin Williams
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The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an intermediate phase lasting forty-nine days, and during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the esoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning is that it is death and rebirth of the ego that is described, not of the body. Tibetan lama Govinda indicates this clearly in his introduction when he writes: "It is a book for the living as well as for the dying."  The book's esoteric meaning is often concealed beneath many layers of symbolism. It was not intended for general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical doctrines, into the pre-mortem death-rebirth experience. These doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do harm. In publishing this practical interpretation, we are in a sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy and thus contravening the teachings of the lama-gurus.

Buddhism NDEs Index
1.  Tibetan Book of the Dead 3.  Commentary on Buddhism
2.  Lingza Chokyi 4.  Buddhist Afterlife Beliefs

"By giving away food we get more strength. By bestowing clothing on others we gain more beauty. By donating abodes of purity and truth we acquire great treasures."  – Buddha

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