The following (brief) presentation was given to my Buddhist Traditions class, led by Dr. Patrick Mahaffey.
I originally wanted to be assigned the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol in its original language) for sentimental reasons; it was one of the books I inherited from my cousin when she died. However, when I actually received it (through a synchronistic luck of the draw) all I could think about for some reason was Tintin in Tibet. And then of course Ginette Paris mentioned Tintin in class the very next day and I decided it had to be done: Tintin and the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
In the original 1960 comic by Hergé, Tintin makes an emergency trip to find his friend Tchang, whose airplane has crashed somewhere in the Himalayas. Struggling through a harsh landscape, sudden blizzards, and local rumors of a Yeti, Tintin is forced to presume his friend dead and eventually ends up at a Buddhist monastery.
I was originally planning on drawing panels in which the Lama reads the Bardo for Tchang’s soul as Tintin sits and listens, but as I read the Bardo for myself I instead began to picture the mandala described: that of the 42 Peaceful and 58 Wrathful deities. Obviously I didn’t have time to draw quite than many, so I kept it simple.
Behold, the Tintin Mandala of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities — better known by my roommates as the Tindala.
In the center is Tchang—who, by the way, was inspired by Hergé’s good friend Zhang Chongren who had a dramatic influence on the Tintin comics. Each color represents a different quadrant of his mind, as described in the Bardo. The inner circle has the Peaceful deities, seen here as Tintin and Snowy (originally Milou in Belgian). For me, Tintin is a champion of compassion and innocence, making him appropriate for this level.
The outer circle shows the Wrathful deities: blood-drinking, flesh-eating demons. They represent the violence of liberation, and the “murdering” of neurotic and disordered emotions that trap a soul in the cycle of death and rebirth. A terrifying face that serves a necessary purpose. When the soul in question recognizes them for what they are, it can move past the cycle of death and rebirth. I chose the Yeti to represent the Wrathful deities because in the original comic he is reviled and feared. But it is the Yeti who rescues Tchang and nurtures him back to health before Tintin eventually finds him.
Thus is the Tibetan Book of the Dead understood through Tintin.
Note: Despite my terribly drawn panels, I have posted the paper that was the follow-up project to my Tindala. You can see my comic here
Books referenced in this post: