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The Tibetan Way of Life, Death and Rebirth: The Illustrated Guide to Tibetan Wisdom    by John Peacock order for
Tibetan Way of Life, Death and Rebirth
by John Peacock
Order:  USA  Can
Duncan Baird, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Tibetan Way of Life, Death and Rebirth is a beautifully presented book on Tibetan Buddhism. Its author, Dr. John Peacock, lectures on Indian religions at the University of Bristol, and is Director of Sharpham College of Buddhist Studies. The Foreword is by Dr. Geshe Thupten Jinpa, principal English translator to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The photographs of Tibet, 'landscape of the spirit', are superb, and the text is enriched by scroll-like backgrounds and elegant artwork.

We learn that Tibetan Buddhism developed from Mahayana Buddhism, and incorporates a vast literature both from its origins and from writings down the years by masters in the four main schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetans believe 'that one thing is absolutely certain (death) and one thing absolutely uncertain (its timing)'. They traditionally revere mountains as points of contact between heaven and earth, something that makes sense to anyone who has ever been awed by the views from a high peak. The author gives us insights into Tibetan history and 'The Way of Bon' - many Bon beliefs and deities have been subsumed into Tibetan Buddhism. Virtues key to this form of Buddhism are: generosity, morality, patience, vigour, advanced meditation and understanding.

Peacock tells is that meditations on the 'mandala' are at the heart of Tantric practices. 'Thangka' paintings - as well as representations in sand, rice, clay and hand gestures - portray external forms of this inner visualisation. The rebirth of 'lamas' and 'tulkus' are explained, and popular saint/poet Milarepa introduced (in his 'Song of Solitude' he says 'I contemplate the emptiness of all things and see the clear light'). We read about the desire of 'bodhisattvas' like the Dalai Lama to end suffering for all. The ubiquitous role of Buddhism in everyday Tibetan life is described, including festivals and dances, prayer, traditional medicine, and the role of the monasteries (Drepung near Lhasa once housed 10,000 monks) as educational institutions and economic centres.

I highly recommend The Tibetan Way of Life, Death and Rebirth to you as a work of art, which is also an accessible and comprehensive introduction to Tibetan life and to the spiritual beliefs that interweave with the transience of daily existence for Tibetan Buddhists.

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