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The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Thodol, is a Tibetan text that describes parts of the afterlife journey at the time of dying, to help guide the dying person through the journey their consciousness will undertake after death in the ‘bardo’ – the interval between death and the next rebirth.

The interesting two-part 1994 documentary embedded below explores the history and usage of the Tibetan Book of the Dead – and is made even more captivating by the calm, reassuring voice of the great Leonard Cohen.

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 originating in the spiritual cultures of the Himalayas. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this enlightening two-part program explores the sacred text and boldly visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom.

“Part 1: A Way of Life” explores the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead across the world, from its traditional usage in northern India through to its modern acceptance in Western hospices. It features an interview with the Dalai Lama discussing the ‘book’, and also has footage of its use in the funerary rites of a Ladakhi elder.

“Part 2: The Great Liberation” follows an experienced Buddhist lama and his teenage monk offsider as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from the book.

Part 1 – The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life

Part 2 – The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation