The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The Bardo Thodol translates as ‘the Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo’. As well as exposition, discussion, and meditation, during the retreat there will be readings of the text together with ritual dramatization, allowing the imaginative myth and symbolism of the teaching to enter into our being on a non-cognitive level.

The retreat explores the text’s principal themes in light of Bhante’s presentation, enabling an entry into its spiritual world and revealing its relevance, both in our present experience and our perspective on life and death.

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Day 1

welcome and dedication

Subhuti offers a short introduction to the retreat and Prakasha leads a dedication ceremony with mantra chanting evoking the five Buddha mandala.

Day 2


Subhuti briefly introduces the text overall, before embarking on the first ritual reading which describes the moment of death.

six element practice

A ‘deconstructed’ contemplation of the six elements, incorporating readings from the text.

verses to vajrasattva

Meeting Vairocana in the bardo and ritually transforming the five poisons into the wisdom of the five jinas.

Day 3

the second luminosity

Two ritual readings: firstly, preparation for entering the second bardo – the bardo of dharmata – and secondly, the appearance of Vairocana and his retinue.

akshobhya’s appearance

A period of the six element practice, followed by a ritual reading of Akshobhya’s appearance in the bardo.

The Buddha Akshobya

Prakasha leads recitation of the verses to Vajrasattva with a reading introducing the Buddha Akshobya.

Day 4

The meaning of Reversal

Subhuti talks about the meaning of reversal. Subhadramati leads a meditation with readings and then leads the Six Element Practice. Finally, there’s a Ratnasambhava mantra, followed by more meditation with readings.

Due to a technical issue, the audio is missing for the first 7 minutes of the video. You can listen to an audio recording of Subhuti’s talk here:

Amitabha’s Appearance, and Recollecting sangharakshita’s funeral

Meditation with verses on the appearance of Amitabha, then to mark the 5th anniversary of Bhante’s funeral, we see a series of photos taken during the funeral while others circumnambulate the burial mound. The session closes with a reading of The Six Element Speak.

Puja with consecration of new padmasambhava shrine

Jnanavaca leads through a potent puja in the main shrine room, while the Adhisthana community dedicates the new Padmasambhava shrine in the library, then the two parts of the ritual come together.

Day 5

Amoghasiddhi’s Appearance

Subhadrammati comments on and leads the 6 element practice looking at how this practice has been passed down all the way from the buddha. This is followed by a reading of The Appearance of Blessed Amoghasiddhi Buddha read by Vishvantara.

Days six and seven

Subhuti introduces The Appearance of The Mandala of Peaceful Deities which holds all of the buddhas at one time. This is followed by readings of day 6 and 7 of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.

The Buddha Amitabha

Starting with a Q&A with Subhuti followed by Prakasha introducing the evening recollecting those who have died and bringing them into the evening ritual. He then leads the verses to Vajrasattva with a focus on Amitabha.

Day 6

the five herukas

A period of unled six element practice followed by a ritual reading of the text, where we encounter the five herukas.

the wrathful deities

A session of ritual readings of the text, continuing with meeting a whole host of wrathful deities.


Ritually calling upon Vajrasattva to transform the five poisons into the wisdom of the five jinas.

Day 7

TRansition to the third bardo

Ritual reading of the guidance for transitioning from the second to the third bardo and closing the womb-door.

the bardo of rebirth

The final phase of ritual reading as we enter the bardo of rebirth. This session was followed by reporting-out groups.

Closing ritual

Marking the final evening of the retreat with thank yous and a closing ritual with recitation of the inspiration prayers and mantras.