I remember flipping through the The Tibetan Book of the Dead at the used book store and wondering why anyone interested in Buddhism would ever read it. Mark Bearn of The New Statesman ponders that groovy gas himself and also wonders why anyone ever reads it:
“One could tolerate this if there was also profound Buddhist wisdom here; after all, anyone who has visited a Tibetan Buddhist temple knows that its arts are obsessed with demons and bodily fluids. But the paucity of philosophy in these chapters is striking. At best, one finds occasional reiterations of Buddhist principles couched in childlike terms: discard your ego, renounce the illusion of earthly attachments, act with compassion towards others. But that’s about it – those in search of an explanation of Buddhist philosophy, or any sense of the clarity and beauty of the Buddha’s teachings, could glean more from the Buddha’s Wikipedia entry than from these hundreds of pages. No wonder serious scholars of Tibetan culture view the Tibetan Book of the Dead as an amusing curiosity, a hangover from pre-Buddhist animist traditions in Tibet, targeted at superstitious rural folk.”
An obscure, unpopular and little known pop group from the sixties recorded an interesting track inspired by Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience which, as Bearn’s article mentions, was based on The Tibetan Book of The Dead. You can hear it here.
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