The living bardo

USEFUL KNOWLEDGE FOR FUTURE USE

5th June 2010

Learn to die and you shall learn to live. No one will learn to live who has not learned to die. — The Book of the Craft of Dying (Comperís edition), 15th century work from 1917 reprint)

[Redacted from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Evans-Wentz version, 1927, pp. 28-39.] The book of liberation by hearing.

From the moment of death and for 3 1/2 to 4 days afterwards, the Knower ó or principle of consciousness ó in the case of the ordinary person who dies, is believed to be in a sleep or trance state, unaware, as a rule, that it has been separated from the human plane body. This is the first bardo, or transitional state at the moment of death, wherein dawns the Clear Light ó first in primordial purity.

The percipient, being unable to recognize it ó that is to say, to hold onto and remain in the transcendental state of the unmodified mind concomitant with it ó perceives it shrouded in karma, which is its secondary aspect. Karma is the effect your deeds and thoughts have had on your life.

When the first bardo ends, the Knower, awakening to the fact that death has occurred, enters the second bardo, or the transitional state of glimpsing reality, and this merges into the third bardo, or the transitional state of seeking rebirth, which ends when the principle of consciousness has taken rebirth in the human or some other world, or in one of the paradise realms.

[Can you imagine how strongly your consciousness will yearn for this wonderful thing called life once it knows it has been separated from the body that gave it this life?]

The passing from one bardo to another is analagous to the process of birth. The Knower awakes from one swoon or trance state and then another until the third bardo ends. On his awakening in the second bardo there dawn on him symbolic visions, one by one, the hallucinations created by the karmic reflexes of actions done by him in the earth-plane body. What he has thought and what he has done become objective: every scene of your life parades past in a solemn and mighty panorama.

In the second bardo, the deceased is, unless otherwise enlightened, more or less under the delusion that although he is deceased he still possesses a body like the body of flesh and blood. When he comes to realize that really he has no such body, he begins to develop an overmastering desire to possess one. His karmic predilection for sangsaric [] existence becomes the only goal, and he enters into the third bardo of seeking rebirth in this or some other world, and his after death state comes to an end.

For most, this is the normal process. The most enlightened of men may rise directly into the paradise realm. Some may reincarnate immediately, never losing consciousness. A manís thoughts are the same as his actions, both here and hereafter. Thoughts are the parents of all actions; as the sowing has been, so the harvest shall be.

If escape from the intermediate state is not achieved, through rebirth into some other state ó that of Hell being possible for the very exceptional evildoer, though not for the ordinary person, who expiates normal moral delinquencies upon being reborn as a human being.


We are the victims of our very own desires, cultivated and exploited by the profitmakers to the point where we have fatally poisoned ourselves. It is a common cause of death of civilizations throughout the universe, as well as a common cause of the death of individuals in all civilizations that have not realized that the point of living is how you die, and how many other souls mourn your passing, realizing that they will no longer be graced by all the wonderful things you have done for them.


For 49 days, more or less, the deceased is immersed in the karmic illusions of the bardo, blissful or miserable, as the case may be, and progress is impossible.

Because only the great teachers ever attain immediate nirvana upon passing, the only hope for the ordinary person of reaching Buddhahood lies in being reborn as a human being. Anything else would be going away from your goal of everlasting peace.

You will have visions. The Peaceful Deities are the personified forms of the sublimest human sentiments, which proceed from your psychic heart. The heart always comes in peace. But because we are not perfect, these soon give way to the doubts that creep out from your fear-driven psychic brain, and the Peaceful Deities become the Wrathful Deities, and you will suffer mightily.

Right about this time, the intellect reemerges and the only thought becomes how can I regain this thing I have just lost.

The deceased human being becomes the sole spectator of a marvellous panorama of hallucinatory visions; each see of thought in his consciousness content karmically revives; and he, like a wonderstruck child watching moving pictures cast upon a screen, looks on, unaware, unless previously an adept at yoga, of the nonreality of what he sees dawn and set.

At first, the happy and glorious vision born of the seeds of the impulses and aspirations of the higher or divine nature awe the uninitiated; then, as they merge into the visions born of the corresponding mental elements of the lower or animal nature, they terrify him, and he wishes to flee from them; but alas, wherever he tries to flee they always follow him because they are him.

It is not necessary to suppose that all the dead in the intermediate state experience the same phenomena any more than all the living do in the human world, or in dreams.

As a man is taught, so he believes. Thoughts being things, they may be planted like seeds in the mind of a child and completely dominate his mental content. Given the favourable soil of the will to believe, whether the seed thoughts be sound or unsound, whether they be pure superstition or of realizable truth, they take root and flourish, and make a man what he is mentally.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead seems to be based on verifiable data of human physiological and and psychological experiences; and it views the problem of the after-death state as a purely psycho-physical problem; and is, therefore, in the main, scientific. It asserts repeatedly that what the percipient on the bardo plane sees is due entirely to his own mental content; that there are no visions of gods and demons, of heavens or of hells, other than those born of hallucinatory karmic thoughtforms that make up his personality, which is an impermanent product arising from the thirst for existence, and from the will to live and believe.

The whole aim of the Tibetan Book of the Dead is to cause the dreamer to awaken into reality, freed from all the shackles of karmic or sangsaric illusions, far beyond all phenomenal paradises, heavens, hells, purgatories or worlds of embodiment. In this way, it is like no other book in the world.

Since coming back real soon is chancy given the situation thatís developing on this planet for the next several hundred years, you might want to go for the Light if you get the chance. I hear itís nice there.

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