Tricycle Film Club

Buddhist films and discussion for the
Tricycle Community

November Film Club: The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Part 2: The Great Liberation)

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Death is real, and it comes without warning. An ancient source of strength and guidance originating in the spiritual cultures of the Himalayas, The Tibetan Book of the Dead remains an essential teaching for reminding us of this fact and aiding us in dealing with it. Narrated by Leonard Cohen, this two-part series explores the sacred text and visualizes the afterlife according to its profound wisdom. We showed Part 1: A Way of Life in October and are now showing Part 2: The Great Liberation.

Part 2: The Great Liberation follows an old lama and his novice monk as they guide a Himalayan villager into the afterlife using readings from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The soul's 49-day journey towards rebirth is envisioned through actual photography of rarely-seen Buddhist rituals, interwoven with groundbreaking animation by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Ishu Patel.

If you missed Part 1, you can purchase it here.


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Dharma_Dude's picture

It is truly amazing to what extent Westerners attempt to avoid death and dying. We embrace birth, but try to out run death. More frequently than not, we shuttle the infirm members of our families and of our communities to assisted living facilities, hospitals and hospices where they (the sick) are expected to terminate their life surrounded by anonymous caregivers, white walls, and sterile environments. Once these individuals die, we then contract a service to prepare and dispose of their body. Perhaps there is a viewing of the dead person followed by short funeral service, cremation or a burial. Each step of that process is cold and distanced from the living who remain.

We try to escape, or hold at bay, our fear of death and dying by avoiding and by distancing ourselves from the inevitable mortality of our human existence. By doing this we miss a unique learning opportunity. If we were to recognize how precious and special our own human life is, and how unpredictable death can be, we might embrace a more compassionate existence-- for ourselves and for other sentient beings. However, to recognize how precious our human life is, and to become more compassionate, we must embrace death and dying and not avert it. Indeed, we must always remember "...our life is always in the hands of death." We need to be mindful of the fact that we may die today, and consequently not have tomorrow. It's time to check in with ourselves-- how are WE living NOW?

Thank you Tricycle for making the viewing of these two films possible.

heyjude4804's picture

The two films on the Tibetan Book of the Dead have had profound influence on me. As an elder and studying Buddhism I have come to face my own death. These films have opened my mind to many things concerning death. The explanations are clear and profound. Thank you, Tricycle, for allowing us to view them.

worthmoremusic's picture

~ "when you are born, you cry, but the whole world is overjoyed...when you die, the world cries.. but you may find the great liberation" ~

Thank you so much Tricycle for making this wonderful film availble to those who support you and all you do over the years !

May all sentient beings be happy
May all sentient beings be free from suffering,
and may all sentient beings know peace

roshaven's picture

Some Westerners have reported dying and then returning to life, but I don't remember any of them saying that they saw such terrible manifestations of their minds. Instead, I've heard of the dying person meeting angels and loved ones greeting them sweetly. They experienced love as they never experienced it before. I wonder if any Buddhists have died and returned to life. What have they reported?

EnkiduMauling's picture

Delog experiences.

The most famous being Delog Dawa Drolma, though I have come across a few less famous that are just as amazing.

Amazing experiences. After having a profound experience myself when I stopped breathing a few years ago, I took it upon myself to do some research for these exp in Buddhism...I came across many great books about Delogs (Tibetan Buddhist who have crossed over and come back).

"Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth" by Tulku Thondup is probably my favorite with the most experiences. He dedicated himself to collecting some of the stories.

David Gould's picture

The profound wisdom of the Bardo teachings in this beautiful film have made a great impression on me. May none of us waste the opportunity we have in this body now.

mbennison61's picture

There is the greatest risk, particularly in our current media-information overloaded age of 'over thinking"; the antithesis of meditation. Delve deeply into the nada - all is revealed - without words, thoughts or beliefs.

lotusrainfive's picture

Beautiful movie, Thank you Tricycle for showing it. _/|\_

jjmahern's picture

Really lovely film. I don't think one has to "believe" in the after death bardo to get much wisdom from the film. I found myself crying throughout. Not because I was sad but because it was so beautiful and there was so much truth in the words. Thank you again Tricycle for helping me on my path and expanding my awareness. You inspire me everytime I read or watch or listen.

myers_lloyd's picture

This was an extended trek into poetry, a truth deeper than any literal formulations we could make about life and death. I practice Zen, and my teacher asks for no allegiance to any conception. This makes it easy for me to prostrate and chant and do whatever is necessary during sesshin.

We find out for ourselves. Our work is not so different from the dead man's in this film.

Do it now or do it later?

nicoleann's picture

I liked part one and two equally. They both offered something different. Part two was especially touching. Thank you. This is my second month as a supporting member and I am enjoying watching the chosen films and video retreats. Left to my own devices, I was watching video teaching by the same people. This has already introduced me to new teachers and ideas. Wonderful.

poetess1966's picture

Welcome to Tricycle Community! I hope you find many new teachers here and many of Buddha's Teachings which you might not have seen before. This is a wonderful community and resource for the Teachings and how to incorporate them into our lives.
Namaste (The Spirit in me bows to the Spirit in you)

Mindmirror7's picture

I think these are beautiful practices and can be very helpful in going through the dying and grieving process. But I can not get away from thinking that these practices are similar to any religious practice. They all contain a significant amount of wishful thinking and belief but are not grounded in anything that can be witnessed, known or confirmed. It is a belief about something that can not be known and this is where I find my existential self loosing interest. But like someone mentioned above it is interesting anthropologically but in "reality" it is no different than fiction. I am open to being wrong about this. However, I do feel these practices can be very helpful to the living in dealing with mortality and improving quality of life.

equalshot's picture

A beautiful film, and I love what the monk tells the boy, "Seeking the truth and practicing compassion - that is the way that life becomes meaningful." Try as I may though, I can only view the belief in the Bardo and the stages of death as an interesting anthropological study. Just as some of my Christian friends take great faith in being with Jesus in Heaven after death, I view the Tibetan Book of the Dead to its believers. Can you convince me otherwise? I'm open to hearing it all!

Life_Dream's picture

I don't think there will ever be anything that can prove the Bardo. It is simply a matter of faith. I don't think anyone could ever say something to another person that will result in a light-bulb moment on the topic, either, because everyone sees this same life we all share from vastly different perspectives. The only thing you can do is just believe what you believe, search for external sources to challenge your ideas, and explore them all with silence.

That being said, I do not know if I particularly believe in the Bardo either, although the idea seems wonderful and would put a beautiful spin on life. I do, however believe there is a part of us that goes on after death. I just don't know what happens from there, but I do think, like in the Bardo it is completely a projection of your mind.

One of the things that has helped solidify my belief there is a part of us that continues after death is the concept of astral projection.

There are hundreds of videos on youtube where people talk in-depth about their experiences about how they travel out of their body and it is completely real to them. I have four friends who have claimed to successfully traveled the astral realm and a couple of them who, I am sure do not know eachother, told me almost the exact same story about their experiences. I personally have not been successful in it yet, but I have reached deep levels of meditation and experienced powerful body vibrations, which is supposed to be what you feel right before you exit your body.

I am not telling you to believe in anything or to attempt astral projection and I do not want to offend anyone, as I am a new explorer of the Buddhist faith and do not know all of the rules yet. I am just saying astral projection may be an avenue to explore in trying to explain the infinite possibilities of life after death if you are interested.

poetess1966's picture

In Buddhism, there aren't "rules" per se. I guess the only one is, if you can't help someone, at least do no harm. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are a system of contemplations and a way of being. But each person must walk the Path alone. Only you can do the work and only you can reap the benefits. A wonderful teacher once told me, "Buddhism should be a comfortable garment, not a strait jacket". I wish you much joy and love as you take the first steps along Buddha's Path.