Delog: Journey to Realms beyond Death. Composed by Delog Dawa Drolma and Translated by Richard Barron (2002 ).
Summary by Gaskin Karlton
In Delog: Journey to Realms Beyond Death, Dawa Drolma provides her account of her journey through the various realms that exist after death. Born in the early 20th century, Dawa Drolma lived most of her life in Central Tibet outside of Lhasa and died in 1941. After returning from her journey through the realms beyond death, she was granted the title lama and dakini. This account provides Westerners with a vivid first-person depiction of the afterlife as described by a revered Delog.
Dawa Drolma was the daughter of Jigmed T’hrogyal of the Tromge clan, a lama who lived in the region of Washul Throm. Her early life was characterized by the predominance of visions in which the wisdom goddess Tara would appear. In these visions, the goddess would offer Dawa Drolma prophetic visions, and would serve as her protective karmic deity while she traversed other realms. At the age of sixteen, White Tara presented Dawa Drolma with a vision that she would spend six to seven days in a death-like coma during which she would journey to the realm of death. Having been moved by this vision, Dawa Drolma went on to convince her lama to aid her in this journey. The lama initially refused to help because he thought that it would be much more beneficial for Dawa Drolma to attend to more pressing matters in the realm of the living. However, he eventually became persuaded by her passion to seek what is virtuous and agreed to aid her in her journey.
Dawa Drolma gave a very specific set of instructions to her lama in order to prepare for her journey and acknowledged the fact that she might not awaken from the meditative state that she planned to enter. Her requests included removing all food from her presence, purifying her body with saffron water that had been consecrated through the practice of Vijaya, and locking the door to her room so that no one could enter. Tulku Tromge Trungpa agreed to observe these instructions to the best of his ability alongside his attendants. Then, Dawa Drolma began her journey by meditating, which led her to a state of pure bliss that she described as being different from the clarity she had previously experienced during meditation. Then, the Venerable White Tara appeared before her in the physical form and guided her into the realm of death. Dawa Drolma described the surreal landscape of the land of the dead as being full of ornate decorations and precious metals.
During her travels, the majority of figures that she encountered were women. Yeshe Tsogyal, a prominent female dakini in Tibetan Buddhism, was delighted in Dawa Drolma and offered to let her join in a feast with her. Yeshe Tsogyal was pleased with Dawa Drolma’s presence, Yeshe Tsogyal offered Dawa Drolma a guide to find her uncle. Before Dawa Drolma departed, the dakini also gave her a special prayer to aid her in her journey. Dawa Drolma then came upon the nun Kunga Monlam, otherwise known as the dakini Laykyi Wangmochhe. Laykyi Wangmochhe was also extremely pleased with Dawa Drolma and offered her a special intonation to provide her with blessings for the remainder of her journey. The dakini Tsewang Barma also met with Dawa Drolma during her journey and offered her nectar pills and a dakini’s jewel box fashioned of quartz crystal. In addition to meeting these prominent female saints, most of the gatekeepers that Dawa Drolma encountered along her journey are female as well.
During the second portion of her story, Dawa Drolma spoke directly to corrupt yet revered lamas of high stations and made evident that despite their perceived holiness, these sinful individuals would still go to hell when they died. This realization made Dawa Drolma question the tradition of blind faith since the lamas that are meant for carrying the Dharma were corrupt and often experienced the worst punishment after their deaths. Dawa Drolma also encountered individuals that are able to redeem themselves during their time in hell. She described a number of bodhisattvas that entered hell and later left. More specifically, she spoke of an encounter with a nun named Zangmo who said, “about three thousand beings connected to her through both positive and negative karma” to the Copper-Colored Mountain of Glory. During her time in hell, Dawa Drolma said many prayers to help the suffering beings, but was usually only able to give them a short respite, as they begged her to take their stories back to friends and family in the human realm.
One particularly interesting point in the journey to note is when the wisdom goddess Tara said to Dawa Drolma, “It may be necessary for you, my girl, to return to the human realm. But being only sixteen years of age, your mental capacity has not developed fully, and having taken rebirth as a woman, you will have little authority. Since sentient beings in these degenerate times will be hard put to believe that your accounts are true, the benefit you can bring them will be diminished.” After saying this to Dawa Drolma, tears fell from her eyes out of pity. Another significant moment between Tara and Dawa Drolma occurred in the Yulokod Pure Realm of Tara where Tara placed her hand on Dawa Drolma’s head saying, “O lovely maiden, Chandra Tara…when I gave rise to excellent bodhicitta, there was no one who aspired to perfect buddhahood in a woman’s body. Therefore, I conceived the following aspiration: ‘I will appear in the forms of women’.” This declaration inspired immeasurable faith and joy within Dawa Drolma.
Towards the end of her journey Dawa Drolma was confronted by Yama Dharmaraja, lord of death. Dawa Drolma noted that the brilliance radiating from his body was difficult to look at. Both White Tara and Dawa Drolma performed three prostrations and offered a hymn of praise. The god was impressed with Dawa Drolma’s virtue, finding that she had only committed one or two negative acts during her lifetime. As a result of her good nature, the god allowed Dawa Drolma to return to the land of the living so long as she recounted to others what she experienced and encouraged everyone to engage in virtuous practices. After returning to the land of the living, Dawa Drolma ended the account by saying that it is one’s duty to pray for those in hell, and she dedicated her final virtue so that, “all beings in the six classes and the bardo may easily and swiftly perfect the two great accumulations…attaining unsurpassable enlightenment.”