Tricycle Film Club

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October Film Club: The Tibetan Book of the Dead (Part 1: A Way of Life)

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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'll be showing Part 1: A Way of Life in October and Part 2: The Great Liberation in November.

Part 1: A Way of Life reveals the history of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and examines its traditional use in Ladakh, a region in northern India, as well as its newfound acceptance in Western hospices. Shot over a four-month period, the film contains footage of the rites and liturgies for a deceased Ladakhi elder and includes an interview with H.H. the Dalai Lama, who shares his views on the book's meaning and importance.

Part 2: The Great Liberation (shown in November) 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.

Please keep in mind that if you tune in to see Part 2 in November, you will no longer be able to view Part 1. So watch Part 1 before the month of October runs out!

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JigmeMipham's picture

Do you know if this film is available for sale somewhere??

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

You can also order the film from Alive Mind Cinema here:
Emma Varvaloucas

michaelwahenderson's picture

You can order a DVD from the National Film Board of Canada.
I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post links, so if you Google: National Film Board of Canada Film Collection, you'll be able to do a search which brings up info on the film and a link to order a copy of the DVD.

David Gould's picture

The fidelity of so many Buddhists in this film to the Dharma - and to the Buddha are truly inspiring. May we all cling to the Dharma and make it as real in our own lives.

nimbleberry's picture

Thank you very much. In Gassho,from the island of Jersey.
Thank you for this offering

Stephanie Ford's picture

For those who have not opened their heart or eyes to the way of the Tibetan people, it is my hope that someday you will come to understand the true loving and kind nature of these peaceful people. I hope that we can take away a lesson from this film and realize that we need to treat all sentient beings with the love and respect that they deserve. Peace comes from within. Each day when we awake, may we say to ourselves, " Today I will treat everyone the way that I would like to be treated."
Thank you for sharing this beautiful film with us. Om mani padme om.

nicoleann's picture

Recently I lost someone very close to me. I loved the ceremonies performed in this video. I love the idea of taking care of they body for days, with the readings and the final ceremony. What we do here in the west seems so distant from the experience. The body is removed immediately and buried in the ground. This being my second major grieving process in my life, I can see the benefit for the living to have the time after the death with the body for days up until the creation ceremony. The entire process on the film seems so much more moral and healthy for the deceased (knowing what will come for him at death and the support he will receive) and for the living to begin the greiving process unseperated from the body. Beautiful film.

anno's picture

Thank you. Very powerful.

Tracy Ormond's picture

What an amazing and powerful film. The strength of believe shown in the people will stay with me forever. Thank you for sharing this. Looking forward to Part 2.'s picture


TSaf23's picture

Fascinating! As with most Buddhist teachings I've encountered, it's left me with as many questions as answers... the most poignant of which is: what about suicide or euthanasia? Take the 96 year-old man who's last wish in life is death. What is preventing him from climbing up that mountain and jumping from a cliff (besides severe arthritis)??

littlestbird's picture

it seems that part of the teachings are also patience and equanimity. I think perhaps waiting for it to happen naturally would be apart of the practice at that point as well. but this is purely my guess as I do not consider myself an expert by any means, but when i asked myself that question, that is what i came up with.

nicoleann's picture

I like your questions and would like further explanation on those things as well. Those are very good questions. If anyone has any comments about suicide or euthanasia, I would like to hear them as well. I have recently lost someone that was very ill to suicide.

Paul Stevenson's picture

TL;DR: If there is nothing else you can do for someone (as it obviously is for someone no longer alive), turn it over to the Buddha, God, or whatever. Then try to just rest in that "mind", that "awareness", between thoughts, emotions, and feelings, when you can to the best of your ability.

Long answer: It's not a bad idea to take the same approach for the rest of your friends, family, colleagues, religious community, etc. There is nothing you can do, mentally or physically, that is better for anyone or anything than doing your tradition's meditation with the goal of realizing Buddha-hood. There are many valid traditions, schools, etc, each having some truly wonderful teachers. (only a few teachers are in the "wonderful" category, so be careful.) Think of the whole universe as the "Holy Guru" teaching you. Everything, everyone, and every moment in your life then becomes part of your meditation.

Danzen's picture

thank you Yohan Girault for being generous and giving us the Youtube link.I just watched part 1 and part 2 and i enjoyed them both.Together they were 1hr. and 32min.Everyone should watch them both, what a journey life is.

glowingorangeglass's picture

Very inspirational. Thank you.

Danzen's picture

Tricycle thank you again for bringing us another film , "The Tibetan Book of the Dead". part 1. Can`t wait to see part 2.

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hello everyone,
If you are having any technical difficulties in watching this film, please call our support services at 1-800-873-9871 or email them at They will be able to help you!
Best wishes,
Emma Varvaloucas

koshin's picture

A wonderful documentary.
as one in my 70's, I will watch this many times more.
Does anyone know where one can find a DVD of these two films, part 1 and 2? thanks, ko shin Bob Hanson

Emma Varvaloucas's picture

Hi Bob,
We're glad you enjoyed it! You can buy a DVD of the film here:
Best wishes,
Emma Varvaloucas

koshin's picture

thanks i just tried to call
I guess I should have read down the page.
These movies, documentaries are wonderful many thanks
I use them when I can buy them, for my prison Sangha in WI
Metta, peace, ko shin

tcgomez83's picture

I am having difficulty viewing the film. I seem to have trouble accessing films regularly.Please help.

Anicca1956's picture

I am a sustaining member but can't view the entire film. I can only view the trailer. I checked out the previous films but again can only view the trailers. My membership is up to date. Please help.'s picture

I can't view it!? It stops right after the title. Anyone else has problems???

suelqq's picture

Call Tricycle; I had trouble last month & they addressed it.

meditatortoo's picture

Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this film to us.

Stephen's picture

I am journeying toward death with my 93 year old mother at this time. Like everything in my life, this film has appeared to me at exactly the right time. Thank you Tricycle.

Philvfenty's picture

Thank you very much for this wonderful film and a look into the lives and death as experienced by the Tibetan people. Leonard Cohens voice brought a soothing tone to the story.

Philvfenty's picture

A wonderful look at the way of life and death as seen through the eyes and ears of the Tibetan people. Leonard Cohens voice brings a proper tone to the story, thank you very much for this look into the culture.

laurenphelps1's picture

What a beautiful and moving film. Many thanks for bringing this to our community!

shikantasean's picture

Indeed, a way of life.

dominic.gadoury's picture

Eye opening and beautiful. Look forward to Part 2.

slawton2006's picture

Can't wait for Part 2 .

yohan_girault's picture

Ok, I want to be generous with you:

Like many movies on Tricycle, you find them on Youtube ;)

tjfryberger's picture

Thanks, you read my mind, I was thinking that as soon as I saw that only part 1 was available, so the link is appreciated. I saw this film awhile back and I'm not sure if I ever made it to part 2 or not. Why not just another film in November?

Helene Wong's picture

Inspirational. Thank you.