Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet

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9780199895557: Travels in the Netherworld: Buddhist Popular Narratives of Death and the Afterlife in Tibet

In Travels in the Netherworld, Bryan J. Cuevas examines a fascinating but little-known genre of Tibetan narrative literature about the délok, ordinary men and women who claim to have died, traveled through hell, and then returned from the afterlife. These narratives enjoy audiences ranging from the most sophisticated monastic scholars to pious townsfolk, villagers, and nomads. Their accounts emphasize the universal Buddhist principles of impermanence and worldly suffering, the fluctuations of karma, and the feasibility of obtaining a favorable rebirth through virtue and merit. Providing a clear, detailed analysis of four vivid return-from-death tales, including the stories of a Tibetan housewife, a lama, a young noble woman, and a Buddhist monk, Cuevas argues that these narratives express ideas about death and the afterlife that held wide currency among all classes of faithful Buddhists in Tibet. Relying on a diversity of traditional Tibetan sources, Buddhist canonical scriptures, scholastic textbooks, ritual and meditation manuals, and medical treatises, in addition to the délok works themselves, Cuevas surveys a broad range of popular Tibetan Buddhist ideas about death and dying. He explores beliefs about the vulnerability of the soul and its journey beyond death, karmic retribution and the terrors of hell, the nature of demons and demonic possession, ghosts, and reanimated corpses. Cuevas argues that these extraordinary accounts exhibit flexibility between social and religious categories that are conventionally polarized and concludes that, contrary to the accepted wisdom, such rigid divisions as elite and folk, monastic and lay religion are not sufficiently representative of traditional Tibetan Buddhism on the ground. This study offers innovative perspectives on popular religion in Tibet and fills a gap in an important field of Tibetan literature. Readership: Scholars and students of Buddhism.

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"Travels in the Netherworld is well researched, a pleasure to read, and relevant to the interests of students, scholars, and general readers concerned with Tibetan civilization, Buddhist studies, near-death experiences, and the literary depiction of death and post-mortem itineraries. Bryan Cuevas's new book is a noteworthy addition to our knowledge of the rich Tibetan heritage of traditions exploring the life beyond." --Matthew T. Kapstein, The University of Chicago and the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris)
"The narratives explored in Travels in the Netherworld have been shared by clerics and laity alike for centuries. In this book, Cuevas convincingly demonstrates that stories of death and return were created, told, and retold by women, men, monks, aristocrats, and commoners. Perhaps more than any other form of Buddhist literature, these stories evoke Tibetan concerns about virtue, vice, life, and death in a world defined by uncertainty -- all portrayed through the drama

Biografía del autor:

Bryan J. Cuevas is John F. Priest Professor of Religion and Director of Graduate Studies at Florida State University.

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