Comments on “The Tibetan Book of the Undead”


Simply perfect

Lilpoetboy's picture

I can't believe i found this site! LOL For the past several months i've been working on my first vampire dark fantasy involving, you guessed it, a buddhist vampire and although i have a stack of reference historical material ( countless sleepy saturday mornings at the public library) i'm even more curious on what research materials you might have that could aid me. I am definitly seriously interested in any direction you want to send me as far as research materials and information and/or essays on this topic!

Buddhist vampire sources


Most of what I know has come two ways.  One is by googling for "vetala" (or "vetali" or "ro langs"/"rolang").  The other is from histories of Indian Tantra (both Buddhist and Hindu; there was a lot of overlap early on).  This is a rapidly growing field, with many new articles and books coming out.  Some starting points are on my "Back to the Future" page.  Unfortunately, those mostly deal with vetalas only in passing.  Generally, if you check the index of recent books about the history of Tantra, there will usually be a few mentions of vetalas, and you may pick up a useful tidbit or two.

The only work I have found that is devoted entirely to the subject is an article in the Tibet Journal, 29:2 (2004) "Of Corpses and Gold: Materials for the Study of the Vetal and the Ro Langs", by M. Walter, pp. 13-46.  Unfortunately it didn't add much to what I had already found piecemeal elsewhere, but is a good overview.

The novel I am writing is based on my understanding of Tantric Buddhism around 700 C.E.  One of the central characters is a vetali, and I use her as an excuse to explore the macabre aspects of Tantric Buddhism (of which there are great many).  That in turn is mostly an excuse to present a style of Buddhism that seems more relevant, in some ways, to the contemporary West than the Tibetan Buddhism of the early 20th century.

Good luck with your book.  Please let us know when it's available; I would love to read it!



I ran across a book on Rolang in Tibetan in Xining a few years ago. It contained instructions from Nagarjuna for how to make Rolang. I'll be there in a few weeks, perhaps I'll pick up a copy.

Nagarjuna and vampires

Awesome! It happens that Nagarjuna is a major character in the Tantric vampire novel I am writing. I had no idea he had actually written about them, though!

I don't know Tibetan geography in detail. I had to look up Xining. I didn't realize the Tibetan cultural region extended east of Lake Kokonor/Qinghai (a place I'd really like to visit someday).

Best wishes,


Nagarjuna and vampires, again

Well, it turns out that simply Googling the combination of Nagarjuna and vetala turns up all kinds of interesting stuff. I must once have read that he plays a major role in the Tibetan version of the Vetalapancavimsati, which is a famous collection of vampire folk stories. Maybe an unconscious memory of that is the reason that he became a character in my own story.

The book you saw may be that one. According to this cataloging, the Tibetan version (or a Tibetan version) was translated from Mongolian, which might help explain why it showed up in Xining. If you see the book again and it isn't this, I would be interested to hear more about it is. Or actually I'd be interested to hear more, anyway!

Thank you very much again for posting this -- I shall need to do some more research on the topic!


1992: nobody there

Rig'dzin Dorje's picture

I was present in 1992 when Ngak'chang Rinpoche sat and practised beside the corpse of the Nepalese man who had died of altitude sickness (water-retention on the brain) while crossing the Shingo La pass a few days after us. But I don't remember no moanin' and groanin' and settin' up doin' the Zombie Woof! After the other group of travellers allowed Rinpoche to approach the body (we were only a few yards' off) he soon returned and reported succinctly "nobody there"; the mind had already migrated. Not surprising, after the body had been slung over a mule's pack-saddle for three or four days. It sounds like the Indian men had thoroughly spooked themselves. It's interesting that their imaginings took that traditional form.
If Rinpoche remembers this all differently it wouldn't surprise me, his memory functions far better than mine over these distances, so I apologise in advance if I've misled you.

In the Now

Hi David,

You have MSN to thank for a rabbit hole link on one of their Halloween vampyre vignettes that led me to you. And I have you to thank for being a Man of Your Time saying what needs to be said in the language of the time just like Shakespeare (who I find impossible to read because he is out of my Time). Your work of melding the fictional with the historical (hysterical?) parallels my research into the first Vampyre Queen of Babylon the Lilituv that led me to an irreverent:

that I sent out to my listmembers who then returned a serious external link of:

that closed the circle on my clinical science research regarding vampyrism.

I sent out links to your pages to my list and am anxiously waiting responses from them to point things out to me in your work that I know that I have missed because I was so overwhelmed by the novelty of it the first time through.

Nice editing but...

very nice editing but most of the actors in it (if not all) don't for one second take 'Vampire-ism" seriously...