Travels in the Netherworld [Bodish]

pp. 17-18 texts




date reprinted (in Bodish language)



Biography of gLin-bza> Chos-skyid (Linza C^o:kyi), Messengeress of the Dead and of the Living, who crossed the Border between hell and the Human World and visited the Bardo, where she met the Great King of Samsara and saw the results of his measuring out White and Black

blockprint in Ka-s^od mKhar-kha (Kas^o: Karka) anthology



bLa-ma Byams-pa bDe-legs (Lama Jampa De`lek)’s Visions of Hell and of Bardo and Messages received from Chos-kyi rGyal-po (C^o:kyi Gyelpo)




Abridged Biography of the Messengeress D.akini Kar-ma dBan->dzin (Karma Wanzin, who visited the Bardo and Hell Realms where she met Chos-rgyal Rin-po-che (C^o:gyel Rinpoc^e`), Dharma King of All Samsara, and saw the Results of his measuring out White and Black Actions

blockprint in Ka-s^od mKhar-kha (Kas^o: Karka) anthology



Visions of Heaven and of Hell of the >Das-log Byan-chub Sen-ge (De`lok Janc^up Senge`) and the Detailed Messages of gS^in-rje Chos-kyi rGyal-po (S^inje` C^o:kyi Gyelpo)




















lifespan principle









black magic



assault sorcery





















local places



human bodies



human activities



elemental daimones



cemetery daimon



living daimones



tantrik priests



daimonic possession












cheating death


lha-snan ran-grol

divine visions self-liberated

divine spirits




"two personal advocates, both believed to be born together simultaneously with each individual – a divine spirit (lhan-cig skyes-pa>i-lha) holding white pebbles representing ... virtues, and a demonic spirit (lhan-cig skyes-pa>i->dre) with black pebbles representing accumulated sins."


(quoted from Bhais.ajya-guru Sutra) "The spontaneously-born spirit (lhan-cig skyes-pa>i lha) that follows after [all] human beings wherever they are, will record in writing all virtues ... [throughout their lives] and will offer [this] written record to ... King of the Dharma."


(quoted from Liberation upon Hearing in Bardo) "If you do not make ... the Great Seal meditations [Tib. phyag-rgya-chen-po, Skt. mahamudra ...], ... then your spontaneously-born divine spirit (lhan-cig skyes-pa>i-lha) will collect all your virtuous actions and count out white pebbles. Your spontaneously-born demonic spirit (lhan-cig skyes-pa>i->dre) will collect all your sinful actions and count out black pebbles."


[Sa-skya (quoted from ATFM, p. 73)] "female spirits through which they send messages all over Tibet. ... the six most powerful are tied to a straw pillar in one of the halls; they appear to have human bodies and their heads are covered with fleas. One day in the week they take possession of six monks, who perform a dance carrying red-hot vases on the palm of their hands. At the end, they put some goat fat on a fire that seems to make any women who are watching go into hysterics."

ATFM = Tashi Khedrup : Adventures of a Tibetan Fighting Monk. Bangkok : Orchid Pr, 2006.

pp. 95-97 canonical books about vetala = ro-lans



its contents


Vetala-pan~ca-vims`ati (‘Zombie 25’)

"a yogi named [kLu-grub sN~in-po] (Skt. Nagarjuna) rescues a king named [bDe-spyod bZan-po] (Skt. S`ankarabhadra) from seven evil sorcerers. As payment for his life-saving services, the yogi asks the king to fetch for him a magic corpse (ro dngos-grub-can) from the great charnel ground Cool Grove (Tib. Bsil-ba>i-tshal, Skt. S`itavana). This ... corpse ... is composed of gold and its limbs made of turquoise; on its head sits ... a buddha with a conch top-knot."


__ corpses arising

are hindered by the spell __








little children’s



"the magic corpse will ... climb the trunk of a mango tree ... . Then, with this axe called White Moon begin to cut down the tree ... . As soon as you do this, the magic corpse will fall down. Bind that corpse with [this special] multicolored cord and place it inside [this special] multicolored sack."


Sapta-vetalaka nama Dharan.i (‘7 Zombies Spell’)

Buddha’s "disciple Ananda ... is suffering from a deadly illness brought on by the touch of seven evil rolang. These demonic corpses had been aspirated ... . ... The bulk of the text is ... filled with descriptions of ... ritual hand gestures (mudra), tantric spells (dharan.i), and magical "knots" (Tib. mdud) to be employed in ... paralyzing (Skt. stambhana, Tib. rengs-pa) the rolang and bringing them under


control. The rolang ... once bound and controlled ... can provide ... magical powers (siddhi) for the one who is able to tame them."


rN~in-ma>i rGyud->bum (‘Antients’ 100,000 Tantra-s’)

"a variety of esoteric rites of sorcery are detailed for resuscitating corpses and using their powers to accomplish magical results." ["See Gnod-sbyin ma-ru-tse ro-langs gsang-ba>i rgyud and Dpal gshin-rje nag-po >khrul->khor rgyal-mtshan melong-gi rgyud-kyi rgyal-po, esp. fols. 639.5-646.7, 783.1-815.1, 861.3-865.3, and 942.6-954.3." (p. 161, n. 4:54)]

161, n. 4:63 other traditional books about ro-lans



lHa->dre bka>-than

O-rgyan glin-pa (1323-ca. 1360 Chr.E.)

bsTan-srun dam-can

sLe-lun bZ`ad-pa>i-rdo-rje (1697-1737 Chr.E.)

bsTan-srun dam-can rgya-mtsho>i mtshan-tho

kLon-rdol bLa-ma Nag-dban-blo-bzan (1719-1794 Chr.E.)

descriptions of ro-lans




"Those ... possessed by the demonic rolang ... "speak the truth, sleep a lot, delight in gambling {would this mean Bon ritual dice-throwing?}, and [their bodies] tremble.""

"Once the corpse is animated, it walks about with tongue wagging and arms outstretched, intending to spread its "zombie sickness" ... by touching victims with the palm of its hand. {Is this a description of sleepwalking?} ... [Rising corpses] move slowly, are unable to speak, and cannot bend at the waist. Incidentally, for this reason, the main doorways of Tibetan homes are often cut low to keep rolang from entering." {Japanese doorways are often cut low to as to induce enterers to bow politely; perhaps the ro-lans is not willing to bow politely. Do sleepwalkers thus decline to bow?}

The ro-lans "can always be overcome ... by cutting the skin, making them bleed, breaking a bone, or piercing a mole." ["the ro-langs can be classified according to their vulnerable points. Thus, there are five different classes : (1) skin-zombie (lpags-langs), (2) blood-zombie (khrag-langs), (3) flesh-zombie (sha-langs), (4) bone-zombie (rus-langs), and (5) mole-zombie (rme-langs)." (p. 161, n. 4:59)]


(quoted from ST, p. 57) "If you are struck by lightning and killed, sometimes you become a ro-lang ... . Your body stands upright, with its


eyes closed, and walks. It walks straight ahead, and nobody can stop it, or make it change direction. In any case anyone who touches a ro-lang falls sick and dies. Ro-lang wander about the mountains. They stop only if someone throws a shoe at them." {This anti-zombie shoe-throwing may be connected anti-zombie low-cut doors, through the Czech folk-custom (at Christmas) to "throw a shoe toward the door (girls do this to find out what way their lover will come from)" (B). The idea is that a person at whom a shoe is thrown will duck (as did George W. Bush), just as a person entering a low-cut door will bow. "Pelting a bride and groom with old shoes when they start on their honeymoon" (F) is likewise connected with special doorway-entry (the bride being carried over the doorway’s threshhold). The Czech folk-custom for this day (Christmas) is also to cut an apple, just as peeling an apple at the event (St. Andrew’s day) of throwing a shoe at the door is the English folk-custom (DD) : the apple cut crosswise revealeth a 5-pointed star (shape of core), while in Tibetan (derived from Daoist) symbolism lightning is repraesented as 5-pointed (related to the lightning-stricken ro-lans).}

ST = Fosco Maraini : Secret Tibet. London : Harvill Pr, 2000.

B =

F = FOLKLORE, vol. 6 (1895), p. 258

DD =

translations, in this book, of postmortem experiences by the dead





25-7, 32-4, 39-42, 52-3



bKa-gdams (p. 33)

42 "You have to go back over there and wait because your lifespan isn’t over yet".




58-66, 68-9



dKar-brgyud (p. 55)

75, 77-8, 82-9, 91-4, 100, 104-6



rN~in-ma ("ecstatic visions of Padmasambhava", p. 72)

91 "girl from Dartse`ndo [Dar-rtse-mdo] is returning"




91 "girl from Kham [Khams] is returning"




111-2, 115-22



rN~in-ma (p. 107)

in some narrations, the body which is exited (and eventually re-entered) is seen as that of a beast (of which the subject may be afraid) {this is a counterpart to shamanic dreams of one’s achieving animal-guise for one’s self in those dreams}

p. just after exiting

p. when about to re-enter










unfamiliar species, having "mane" {not hound-like – perhaps a lion or zebra}








at first (p. 112) human -- "At the foot of this corpse were two terrifying hunting dogs. ... The corpse’s legs were tied behind its head." – but afterwards (p. 122) "a dog. A honey bee inside the [dog’s] mouth was counting out man.i."

The >das-log (de`lok), person returning into the as-yet-living (though seemingly dead) body, hath perhaps thrice discovered being dead : once (after having viewed own body in bestial guise, and thus not recognizing it) while being spoken of as dead by the living (or else of being so thoroughly ignored by them as to result in one’s realizing that one must be dead), once by noticing that one’s shadow and/or footsteps are imperceptible, and once being notified of being dead (in the sense of being located at that time in the world of the dead) by other personages in that world of the dead. When the >das-log is ready to speak forthrightly of herself or himself as being dead, then she or he findeth herself or himself in the praesence of Dharma-raja.


being spoken of as dead by the living

being imperceptible

being notified of being dead in the world of the dead

forthright statement by the subject admitting being dead




p. 41



p. 62 "Am I dead?"

p. 62

p. 66



p. 74 "I ... heard people saying I had died."

p. 84

p. 86 "You’ve left behind your body".



p. 112 "It seems I’ve died".


p. 115

p. 121 "I am a yogi who has died."

{Likewise, a subject while dreaming may be notified, concerning that world’s being the dream-world, by a personage in that dream. If the dreaming subject should at that point imagine and state a doubt, then the dream-personage will re-affirm that it is a dream, until the dreaming subject hath been brought to accurate realization of that actuality}

the translations





p. 25 "an experience of going under the ground. It was as though many people were holding down from above ... .

p. 58 "I had the sensation of being suppressed by a great rocky mountain. ...


p. 109 "buildings atop Mount Meru were crumbling down, and

After that, I felt I was being tossed back and forth immersed in a great ocean. ...

After that, the entire ground fell into a great ocean.


in a flash I had a vision of being overtaken by a great river.


... suddenly a large black dog with human-like [features] {cf. St. Christopher, who carried wayfarers over a river} ... came ... . ... The black dog sat there".

p. 73 "Then over yonder came the voice of a woman clear and distinct calling out ... the name given to me by my lama".


The entire earth and ground were filled with fire, ... burning within the blaze of a great thunderous roar.

p. 61 "there came a sort of thunderous roar."


Then suddenly I was engulfed in a blazing mountain of fire.

... I felt as though I arrived inside a [khug ‘corner, bend in a river’ (p. 151, n. 2:13)].


Then I was pulled by a crossed vajra (rgya-gram) into a black column of wind.

... above my head ... radiant halo".


p. 26 "Their eyes were ... like the sun and moon. ... Then came the resounding roar of a thousand thunderclaps".


Suddenly in a single moment many thousands of suns appeared ... . ... At that moment I heard ... a thousand thunderclaps simultaneously.


I had the sense that thousands of years had passed by one year at a time."

p. 33 "I was tossed about to and fro like a feather in the wind."


p. 74 "like a feather in the wind."

[p. 116 "I was picked up like a feather in the wind".]


p. 75 "I became naked."

p. 111 "Then I showed up ... behind the door." {in Ludian legend, when a man hiding behind the queen’s bedroom room was noticed by the nude queen, she made him king}


p. 62 "I could see that I hadn’t left any footprints behind and that my body didn’t cast a shadow."

p. 84 "I looked at my body to see if it cast a shadow and it didn’t. I stepped back and forth but there was no sound of footsteps."

[p. 113 "Disincarnate spirits ...their feet have trodden in the grass."]

p. 34 "Immediately, I arrived atop a mountain plateau".

p. 64 "in a region to the southwest ... [I saw] over yonder a long narrow passageway, and ... I felt I had to enter ... through ... that long narrow passageway ... the base of a mountain. ...


p. 39 "I arrived in a valley. That valley led to the north and was dark in color. ... The sun was slowly setting [behind] the mountain peaks. The rocky mountains were completely blue. .. the squawk of ravens."

Suddenly, I arrived at the summit. Then I looked over the other side

p. 85 "on the south side of that great mountain


p. 40 "I arrived on an open sandy path ... and saw a large desert valley ... . In the middle of that [desert] was a river ..., ... there was a bridge that surmounted it. On the side ... was a town".

and saw a vast plain ..., and immediately I showed up there. In that area was a large river, and ... a great bridge".

I saw a large winding river ... called Great River of Becoming (srid-pa>i chu-chen) ... . The mist of that river ... refracted rainbows. Suspended across the river was a large iron bridge. ...

p. 115 "I arrived on the banks of a large river... . ... In the river itself were the serpent-headed and fish-headed shinje` [gs`in-rje] ... . [A "human-like frog-headed" black gs`in-rje said :] "This river is called Wailing River. We use this bridge ..."


Instantly, I was led to the edge of a vast plain. When I arrived there I could feel the wind".

p. 116 "I had gone to a land were everything was dark. Pushed from behind by the strong winds of karma, ...


[it was like looking through] the eye of a needle." { camera obscura -- cf. camel (Skt. ustra) "through the eye of a needle" (Matthew 19:24)}

p. 41 "I went, arriving inside that town. ... men and women ... had ... the color of ashes. ...

p. 65 "many villages ... . Suddenly, I arrived before them. ... In those big towns were ... men and women, ... all of different classes (rigs), different languages and dress."

p. 86 "Then that woman from before showed up carrying a ritual hand drum. I grabbed onto her clothing ... . ...


[A woman from this group said :] "... This is the border between the living and the dead ... . It is called the bardo. ...""

p. 66 [a woman there said :] "... I live at the bottom of a ravine. ... I was taken to the village of the bardo ... . ... This place is the bardo ... . ..."

The woman responded : "... This plain ... is called Desert of Razors (spu-gri bye-thang). ... That large town over there is called Plain of Vast Expanse (klong-thang). That area is also called Red Element Ridge (dmar-khams-sgang), or the Great City of the Dead.


p. 49 One of those townswomen, the princess of dMar-gun who had just recently died, said that a man there, a guru who had also just recently died, asked her to have sexual intercourse with him : she refused and soon afterwards was blamed for this refusal by the deity (after examination of the karman-reflecting mirror disclosed it).


[p. 114 A "man came upon a girl all alone far from anywhere" but she neglected to ask to have sexual intercourse with him, so in exasperation of this neglect,

p. 50 For that refusal she was condemned to become "insane" for 65 – 20 = 45 years "in the Howling Hell!"


he "tied" her into "a bundle of straw" and "thrust the bundle into the fire, taking no heed to" her "begging him not to burn her."]


p. 68 "Then I came upon [another] road. ...

... There were three rocky paths ahead of me. I chose the middle road and headed west ... . I arrived at the peak of a big mountain."

p. 119 "along some road. With each and every step ... flowers popped up ... . ...


p. 87 [There, a grey-haired man holding a black rosary said :] "... the area from here to over yonder is called great mass of Fire at [the end of the Present] Age (bskal-pa>i me-dpung chen-po). ..."


p. 88 "a mountain to our west began to crumble. ... Then a great storm wind rose up and took my brother away ... . ...


At the end of the bridge was a fortress. In front of the fortress gate I got a whiff of the scent of ginger and peppercorn."


p. 52 "I crossed over to that [iron mountain in hell]".

In the middle of a circle of mountains that appeared to be made of iron, [I saw] a mansion ... . Inside [one of its] small rooms, ... with a jeweled ceiling and a gilded roof ..., I saw a large golden throne. Seated on this throne was" Dharma-raja.

p. 89 [An old woman said :] "... until now I had to live in an iron fortress without a gate. ..."

Then from the temple’s eastern gate a white iron hook appeared".


p. 91 Narratrix was told (by Dharma-raja) that in a former life she "took rebirth in India as a clairvoyant elephant."


p. 92 Narratrix was told (by Dharma-raja) that in a former life she had received from a male treasure-revealer "the sacred substance that liberates through taste (dam-rdzas myong-grol) as well as the guru’s white and red bodhicitta (gu-ru>i byang-sems dkar-dmar)."


However, the narratrix was sent back to re-enter her body in the world of the living, so as to be able to promulgate among the living the message about the punishment that would await, in the abode of the dead, any woman who would make that sort of refusal, etc.


Dharma-raja "tells her he is sending her home became she had established in a previous life an exceptional bond with the female deity Dorje` Pakmo [rDo-rje phag-mo], the "Vajra Sow" (Skt. Vajravarahi)


"I went again by way of that mountain plateau that I had come to before, and then suddenly I arrived at home."


p. 122 "Then a swallow arrived, having come out of its nest", and induced re-entry into the body.

p. 53 "Do not grieve for those who live in the bardo."


p. 61 "Mahakala’s manifestation as ... the "lord of the tent" (gur-gyi-mgon-po), a black dog by his side".

[4th >das-log] rainbow upon head of god




[dream] "a little boy dressed in white ... . ... he followed after the boy and discovered him sitting in the center of a thousand-petaled lotus blossom surrounded by a thousand other little boys of similar appearance. ...


In the boy’s hand was a conch-shell vase filled with ... elixir".


[scene witnessed in world of the dead] "an eight year old boy appeared in front of me sitting atop a layered sun, moon, and lotus heap. His body was white with a tinge of red. ... his hair was the color of a rainbow. {"mighty angel ... : ... a rainbow was upon his head" (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 10:1)} ... On the protuberance atop his head he wore a reddish green {cf. "like unto an emerald" (Apokalupsis of Ioannes 4:3)} crown ... . ... He said to me, "Boy, you’re having dream visions in the bardo ... . ...""

{cf. "little luminous boy" in Bon}

Bryan J. Cuevas : Travels in the Netherworld. Oxford U Pr, 2008.