The Tibetan Book of the Dead
The Book of the Dead is a map of the intermediary zone between life and death, it reads as a series of prayers and meditations that are a type of instruction manual for the transmigration of the soul. The book is intended to be read and memorized while living so that the images and lessons can inform the souls movement toward the Buddha Light after death. If the soul cannot leave its attachments, or is too weighed down by strong emotions, desires, addictions then the soul will reincarnate again in a level of the three-fold world and remain trapped in unending suffering. There are assemblies of peaceful and wrathful deities that attempt to guide the soul toward the Buddha Light and away from the paths of reincarnation. The peaceful deities hold flowers, books, bells and have a soothing presence, while the wrathful deities wear wreaths of snakes, drink blood from skulls and hold iron hooks. The important thing to know is that both the peaceful and wrathful deities are working to guide your soul toward the Buddha Light. The wrathful deities are blocking the paths of confusion.
A lot of the meditations use colors as markers of guideways and often these colors and deities are to be found in chambers of the heart, or located in other areas of the body during mediation. There are often several colors present, and sometimes colors appear as distractions to your higher form of attention; the book tells you when to focus on blue and not the red spot, or the large yellow light and not the small green one. Nothing is ever intrinsically good or bad, but in particular stages there are better or worse ways to go. The whole book is very repetitive; the instructions to some of the prayers are for them to be spoken to the body of someone recently deceased, so that the dead may remember the lessons as they enter the movements of metempsychosis and attempt to transmigrate to the Buddha Light, avoiding the pathways of confusion and reincarnation.
Reincarnation is to be avoided, the goal is to navigate the intermediary stages and join the Buddha Light. Reincarnation only occurs if we make mistakes in the intermediary stages. If reincarnation becomes unavoidable the Book of the Dead intructs you on how to find the better womb entrances. The better womb entrances are lives that will give one access to the great spiritual teachings, and allow a good chance of rejoining the Light after life has passed.
A few excerpts from my favorite part of the book,
Chapter 11, The Great Liberation by Hearing
“O, Child of Buddha Nature, (call the name of the individual) listen! Pure inner radiance, reality itself, is now arising before you. Recognize it! O, Child of Buddha Nature, this radiant essence that is now your conscious awareness is a brilliant emptiness. It is beyond substance, beyond characteristics and beyond color, completely empty of inherent existence in any respect whatsoever. This is the female Buddha Samantabhadrī, the essential nature of reality. The essence of your own conscious awareness is emptiness. Yet, this is not a vacuous or nihilistic emptiness; this, your very own conscious awareness, is unimpededly radiant, brilliant and vibrant. This [conscious awareness] is the male Buddha Samantabhadra. The utterly indivisible presence of these two: the essence of your own awareness, which is empty, without inherent existence with respect to any substance whatsoever, and your own conscious awareness, which is vibrant and radiantly present, is the Buddha-body of Reality. This intrinsic awareness, manifest in a great mass of light, in which radiance and emptiness are indivisible, is the buddha [nature] of unchanging light, beyond birth or death. Just to recognize this is enough! If you recognize this brilliant essence of your own conscious awareness to be the buddha [nature], then to gaze into intrinsic awareness is to abide in the enlightened intention of all the buddhas.”
“These, the forty-two assembled deities of the Buddha-body of Perfect resource, will emanate from within your heart and then appear before you. Recognize them! For they have arisen from within your own pure vision! O, Child of Buddha Nature, these buddha fields do not exist extraneously. They are the five aspects of your own heart; its four directions and centre. Emanating now from within your own heart , they have arisen before you. These buddha-bodies have not arisen extraneously. They have spontaneously arisen, atemporally, from the natural expressive power of your own awareness. Therefore recognise them as they are!
O, Child of Buddha Nature, these buddha-bodies [that you see before you] are neither large nor small, but perfectly proportioned, and they are [all adorned] with their respective ornaments, [costumes], colours, postures, thrones and hand-gestures. The array is made up of [central] couples [of male and female deities], forming five distinct clusters, and each cluster of five is encircled by an aura of five-coloured lights. All the male bodhisattvas of the [five] enlightened families who accompany the male [buddhas], all the female bodhisattvas of the [five] enlightened families who accompany the female [buddhas], and the entire mandala will arise [before you], perfectly and simultaneously. So recognise them! They are your own meditational deities!
O, Child of Buddha Nature, from the hearts of the male and femal buddhas of the five enlightened families, the light rays of the ‘four pristine cognition of reality’s expanse, will emanate from the heart of Vairocana, and touch your heart. Above this sheet of light, a white seminal point resembling a mirror facing downwards will arise, emanating light rays, extremely radiant, bright and dazzling, adorned with five distinct seminal points of like nature, each of which in turn will be adorned by greater and lesser seminal points, [forming an array] with no center or horizon.
[Second] a sheet of radiant blue light, [indicative of] the mirror-like pristine cognition, [will emanate] from the heart of Vajrasattva. Above this, like a turquoise bowl facing downwards, a radiant blue seminal point will arise, [also] adorned by [an array of] greater and lesser seminal points.
[Third] a sheet of radiant yellow light, [indicative of] the pristine cognition of sameness, [will emanate] from the heart of Ratnasambhava. Above this, like a gold cup facing downwards, a radiant yellow seminal point will arise, [also] adorned by [an array of] greater and lesser seminal points.
[Fourth] a sheet of radiant red light, [indicative of] the pristine cognition of discernment, [will emanate] from the heart of Amitabha. Above this, like a coral bowl facing downwards, a radiant red seminal point will arise, extremely luminous and dazzling, [resplendent] with the luminosity of pristine cognition. It too will be adorned with five distinct seminal points of like nature, each of which in turn will also be adorned by greater and lesser seminal points, [forming an array] with no centre or horizon. All of these [lights and seminal points] will indeed arise, and touch your heart.
O, Child of Buddha Nature, these [radiances] are arising out of the natural expressive power of your own awareness. They have not come from anywhere else. Therefore, do not be attached to them! Do not be afraid of them! Relax and rest in a non-conceptual state. [Abiding] in this state, all the buddha-bodies and light rays will merge into you, and buddhahood will then be attained.
O, Child of Buddha Nature, [during the above series] the green light [indicative] of the pristine cognition of accomplishment will not arise. The reason for this is that the natural expressive power of pristine cognition, which is your own intrinsic awareness, is not yet perfected.
O, Child of Buddha Nature, this [array of luminosities that you are now experiencing] is called: ‘the vision of the four pristine cognitions combined’. It is [also] kown as the ‘hollow passageway of Vajrasattva’.