In this scintillating episode of Decoding the Past, we explore one of the key scriptures of world religion, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. This twelve hundred year old document was kept secret in one of the world’s most remote regions for many years. Many religious leaders and historians claim that the mysterious text holds the key to life after death.
Based on the Buddhist belief in reincarnation, the Book of the Dead is a guidebook for the dead: a map of the afterlife that includes encounters with gods, demons and one's own future parents at the moment of conception. Written in the eighth century, its description of the Tibetan afterlife bears an uncanny similarity to modern stories of the near-death experience.
Written by a mysterious Indian sage, the text was lost for centuries and kept hidden in the remote peaks of the Himalayas. Indeed, the book was not even translated into English until the twentieth century when it was proclaimed the ideal guide to the spiritual life by everyone from Carl Jung to Timothy Leary.
Interviews with Tibetan Lamas, American scholars, and practicing Buddhists bring this powerful and mysterious text to life. The programme culminates in a computer graphic recreation of the journey of the soul from death, through the terrors and trials of the afterlife, to rebirth into a new life.