The Tibetan Book of the Dead is the most famous Buddhist text in the West, having sold more than a million copies since it was first published in English in 1927. Acclaimed writer and scholar Donald Lopez writes, “The Tibetan Book of the Dead is not really Tibetan, it is not really a book, and it is not really about death. It is about rebirth: the rebirth of souls and the resurrection of texts….The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a remarkable case of what can happen when American Spiritualism goes abroad.”

The Tibetan Book of the Dead:
A Biography

By Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

In this compelling book, Lopez tells the strange story of how a relatively obscure and malleable collection of Buddhist texts of uncertain origin came to be so revered–and so misunderstood–in the West.

Donald S. Lopez, Jr., is the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies at the University of Michigan. His many books include The Story of Buddhism (HarperOne) and Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. He has also edited a number of books by the Dalai Lama.

We invite you to read the introduction online at:

Also now available in the Lives of Great Religious Books series:

Augustine’s Confessions:
A Biography

By Garry Wills

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison:
A Biography

By Martin E. Marty


  1. Tom Dowell says:

    Response…I have read the Tibetan Book Of The Dead and throughly enjoyed it. Donald Lopez is correct in saying that the book and it’s texts have been misunderstood in the western culture.The Tibetan Book Of The Dead is more about reincarnation and rebirth than about the process involving death.