I’ve been meaning to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead for several years now. During a conversation with the person helping me out with my project, she referenced it and prompted me to finally get off my ass and read it. Since I’ve been loosely involved in Buddhism for several years, and much more so since starting Refuge Recovery a few months ago, I had some relevant context in which to process it.
It freaked me out a bit.
I obviously have no idea what happens after someone dies, but I certainly lean toward the Book of the Dead ideas more so than western Judeo-Christian ideas. In a nutshell, the Book details all the opportunities you will have for liberation while you’re in the bardo (space between) that awaits immediately after your death… and all the ways you can get it wrong. Get it right and, bam, buddhahood. Get it wrong and reincarnate, maybe in a better spot, maybe worse (karma, and all that).
Now, I feel like I’m going to be fucked when I die, especially if it’s because of an overdose or something similarly fucked up. Even if you don’t have a strong practice, you can still have a decent shot of liberation with a trusted person reading from the book when you pass. I think I’d like that done. Of course, that assumes I live out a ‘normal’ life and have a ‘normal’ death. Ain’t no one to usher you into the bardo and beyond, if you die with a needle in your arm.
Another interesting tidbit I picked up. Over the summer, I was given the book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Mate, talking about addiction. It turns out the Book of the Dead is where he derived that name from. It turns out there are six realms you can re-incarnate in: Hell, Hungry Ghosts, Animal, Human and I forget the last two. The whole subject came up because my friend referenced being in a ‘hell realm’ and I queried her more about that. Having read the Mate book, I think it’s safe to believe that, assuming the Book of the Dead has this shit right, my most recent re-incarnation landed me squarely in the realm of hungry ghosts. Not fun.
I’m not sure what to do with this now. I have tentative plans to sit down with my friend to discuss our project this weekend and I definitely want to talk to her about this as well. I think I’ll probably text her this morning, as well.