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Near death experiences: Buddhist perspectives

Near Death Experiences: Buddhist perspectives

The Tibetan tradition speaks of De-log (lit. “returning from beyond” or “returning from death”): people who appear to be dead by all accounts, but report out-of-body experiences and travels through different spheres, sometimes lasting several days in terms of our time, often guided by a personal deity, after which they return.

A quote from the foreword to “Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death” by Chagdud Tulku:

“The direct experience of other realms did indeed invest my mother with great spiritual authority when she taught of correct conduct and karmic cause and effect. No one doubted her words, not only because great lamas such as Tromge Trungpa had witnessed her corpse coming back to life, but also because she knew the whereabouts of buried coins and actions of the deceased before their deaths – things that she could not possibly have known without having been told directly by those she encountered as a delog. Later in her life one of the most generous contributors to her projects was a Tibetan businessman who had been an adamant non-practitioner of religion until my mother conveyed to him information about buried money from his deceased sister. ”

There is also a well-known American Buddhist, Sam Bercholz, who almost died twice in his life: The first time, he had a standard NDE that many Westerners have, and the second was a tour through different hells, set in a timeless eerie version of New York city. A de-log experience described in his illustrated book “A Guided Tour of Hell”.
A quote from “A Guided Tour of Hell”, by Sam Bercholz

“I was dead. I had no eyes to see. I had no ears to hear, no nose to smell, no tongue to taste, no skin to feel… no voice to speak. All I had was a memory of those senses and those sense perceptions.

Yet, though I had no eyes, a world appeared before me. My consciousness expanded from the tiny strings of light and into a complete cosmos made of sulfurous gases. Here was an alternative world, thoroughly different from the earthly world I had left behind. My senses were overwhelmed by the unbearable odor of burning flesh and extremes of heat and cold beyond imagination.

Amid these intense sensations, a second display arose in shimmering waves of agonizing pain— the images of contorted faces, writhing bodies and ghastly body parts, festering entrails, disembodied thumbs and noses, tormented animals of every kind, some of them ripped into pieces, and even ants and other insects whose extreme suffering was palpable to me. All of them — all of it — was a mass of unspeakable pain. With the constant mirage-like wavering of images, I could not discern anything as either real or unreal.

Space had no ordinary dimensionality, no up or down, no right or left. Only the habit of direction was there to produce the continuous sense of falling, but without any place to fall.

From within the chaotic shimmering emerged a being of sublime light. Was it male or female? I could not say. A wordless message was somehow conveyed to me: This is the domain of hell. You have been brought here as a guest, to witness and understand the suffering of beings of all kinds — particularly the suffering of human beings.”

Of course there is also the whole discussion in the Tibetan tradition around the “Tibetan Book of the Dead” –which is not its actual title; it is called “liberation in the intermediate state through hearing”, and describes all the stages of dying as well as what happens between this and the next life, and how rebirth is taken.

Other resources:

Video: Letting My Self Die
The Tibetan Buddhist teacher discusses what his near-death experience showed him about our ability to change.
with Helen Tworkov and Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, MAY 01, 2019, Tricycle

Mingyur Rinpoche reveals what happened during his four years as a wandering yogi
LION’S ROAR, JULY 15, 2016

What A Near-Death Experience Taught This Buddhist Master, Huffington Post
Buddhist master Mingyur Rinpoche explains how a near-death experience during a four-year long solitary retreat provided the perfect opportunity to meditate.

What the Tibetan Book of the Dead Can Teach Us About Dying Today
A series of talks at the Rubin Museum of Art this summer explores the connections between the ancient Tibetan text and modern end-of-life experiences.
By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe Agsar, Jun 09, 2017

The Mysterious Power of Near-Death Experiences
By Edwidge Danticat July 10, 2017, The New Yorker