Tibetan Book of the Death
VV Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche Teachings
1. The First of the Bardo:
The Natural Bardo of Birth and Life
The opportunity to talk about the subject of the Bardo is extremely beneficial.
You might believe that thinking about the Bardo - the time of death - or thinking about death is something that's not important, and that what's important now in the short term is to think about this life.
However, that is not quite how it is, because the Bardo is something that is definitely going to come.
It is 100% certain that we will all have to go through the Bardo.
And so for that reason, it is very important to think about the Bardo.
Also, it might seem when we think about the Bardo that there is no hope - that there is nothing we can do about it.
We might think about it that way, but that's really not how it is.
Because if we prepare ourselves well, if we have a good, stable mind and if we have a good meditation practice, then it is possible that we do not have to experience suffering in the Bardo.
It's possible that we actually might have a pleasant experience there and that we might go from that pleasantness and that happiness into other happy realms.
We can transform it into something that will bring happiness.
And so there is no need to think that there is no hope.
There are people who have complete confidence, faith and belief that the Bardo is going to happen.
They have read the words of Buddha or treatises by the great practitioners of the past and they understand the reasons for a Bardo, and believe that there is a Bardo.
Having a great confidence and strong belief that there is this Bardo, they recognize that it is important to prepare for it.
And they begin to follow a good path - the unmistaken path - because they know it is important to do so.
They study all of the instructions and they do the meditation practice.
It is possible; however, that some of you might not be quite sure.
You might not know for certain.
You may think, "Well, what is it like?
What is really going to happen to us?
What is going to come down?"
You just can't truly say that you believe.
You cannot say that you have 100% confidence.
You don't really know what's going to happen.
But even if you do not believe that there is going to be a Bardo, you are not quite certain about what is going to happen.
You don’t have a 100% belief that three definitely is not going to be a Bardo.
So maybe there will be a Bardo, and maybe there will not be a Bardo - you can't really say for sure.
You don't really know what is going to happen.
If you are someone who believes that there is going to be a Bardo, then it is important that you now do the preparations for it, that you get yourself ready for the Bardo.
So you prepare according to the instructions.
But if you are someone who does not have such belief in the Bardo, and you aren't quite certain whether or not there is the Bardo, then in case that it turns out that it's true, there is a Bardo, the it's important that you have done the preparations for it.
If you have done the preparations, when you come to that time, if it turns out to be true, then there's a great danger of things going wrong.
Therefore, if you are someone who believes that there is a Bardo, then it's important that you do the preparations; and if you are someone who does not believe that there's a Bardo, then you should also do the preparations.
In general, four different types of Bardos are taught.
And the reason for four different types are taught is that there are different types of instructions for each.
There are instructions for what to do in the first of these Bardos.
If these instructions turn out well you can be liberated there, and you don't have to go on to the second Bardo.
But if they don't turn out well, then you go to the second Bardo.
Then you need the instructions for what to do, how you do it, and what is going to happen there.
And if you follow these instructions well, then you can be liberated at that point, and you don't have to go on to the next Bardo.
But if you aren't liberated in the second Bardo, you do go on to the third Bardo, and, there again, there are instructions that you can follow, things that you can do in that Bardo, to liberate yourself.
And if you don't, then you proceed on to the fourth Bardo, and there are instructions for what you can do in this Bardo, as well.
And so, there are many specific instructions and methods that you can use in each of these four different types of Bardos.
The first of these four types of Bardos is the natural Bardo of birth and life.
Here so-called "the natural Bardo of birth and life", actually, is not really a Bardo.
But because this life is when we can do the preparations for the Bardos, it is important to think about it in this way, and so, it is called a Bardo to show how important it is to make preparations now, in this life, for the Bardos.
And this "natural Bardo of birth and life" begins when we take birth in this human realm, and it continues as we become little children, youth, elderly - right up until the time that we die.
That is what we call the "natural Bardo of birth and life" or the "natural Bardo of life".
We don't want to have any suffering come in this life, nor do we want to have any suffering come during the Bardo or during our next lives, either.
So when is it that we need to prepare, to make sure that suffering won't happen?
It is now, in this life that it is important that we follow the instructions, that we use the methods in order to make sure that in this life, in the Bardo and in future lives we do not experience suffering.
So, from the time that we are born until we die, it is important that we are careful, and that we follow these instructions in this life, therefore this is so called "natural Bardo of birth and life".
How is it that the Bardo will appear to us?
For someone who has the most excellent meditation practice, who has attained the most excellent and highest other result.
Like the great practitioners of the past, there is the possibility of attaining the "rainbow body".
The rainbow body is said to be attained when, at the time of death, the elements of the body just naturally dissolve into the "dharma expanse" or the "dharma nature" or the "Dharmata".
There is no experiencing the suffering of dying, the pain of the Bardo or future lives.
There are also some great practitioners in the past who have manages to leave their body and go with the dakinis, the spirits in the sky -- to just go off into the sky with dakinis.
So if you are able to be that diligent, and you are able to have such a good result, it is possible to do this.
But even if you aren't able to achieve that result through diligence, if you are able to accumulate vast amounts of virtue, then even without such diligence you would not be born in the lower realms.
You would not experience suffering in the Bardo.
And so for that reason, if you accumulate vast virtue, it would be very beneficial.
But even if you don't accumulate such vast virtues, even if you do a small virtue, that is very beneficial.
You might think that it's not important to do something that's small and good, but actually it is very important, because it places a latent habit in your mind, and that habit will gradually grow and expand.
And as it grows and develops, then eventually you will attain the ultimate result:
It will bring you to freedom and liberation.
You might think that this is just some sort of second-rate method, but actually it's really quite beneficial.
If you are able to be very diligent and attain a great result, that is first-rate, of course.
But if you aren't able to be that diligent or attain that sort of result, nonetheless, if you accumulate virtue, then that is extremely fortunate.
For that reason, when we enter the gate of the dharma, we need to practice the dharma as well as possible.
And so, how is it that we should practice the dharma?
What methods should we use to practice?
For beginners, we find instruction in the basket of Abhidhamma.
It says that first we need to abide in discipline.
And then we need to listen to the teachings.
Then we need to contemplate the teachings.
And then we need to do meditation.
First, we need to abide in discipline.
For us beginners, this means that in order to enter the gate of the dharma we need to arouse faith and devotions in the Three Jewels.
And so we arouse faith and devotion in the Buddha, the teacher who teaches us the path that will bring us to liberation.
We arouse faith in the dharma, the path that will bring us liberation from samsara and from the lower realms.
And we generate faith in the sangha, our companions along that path.
Having that sort of faith in the Buddha, dharma and sangha, we then take the vows of "going for refuge".
By taking these vows of "going for refuge", then we have entered the gate of dharma, and we are able to generate devotion in the dharma.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 2 of 7 First Bardo
Then we need to maintain discipline
For beginners, we talk about maintaining discipline in terms of the lay person's vows or for the Five precepts:
• four root Precepts
• one precept of carefulness
If we are people who live in a household, then we might think "we have a lot of different things to do, many different tasks we need to do, at home and at work. It might not be possible to hold all five precepts".
If we are not able to hold all five precepts, then out of his great compassion, the Buddha taught different ways that you can hold these vows.
Someone who feels that can hold all the precepts is called "someone who is holding the complete action" or "the complete conduct" of all the precepts.
And so they hold all five precepts: the four Root Precepts and the one Precept of Carefulness (the precepts of not drinking).
Then there are people who might not feel that they have the opportunity to hold all five of these precepts, but they do believe they can hold four of them. These are called "people who have the majority conduct".
These people hold four of the five precepts, any of the four which they feel they can hold.
But some people think, "well, if I try to hold all five or even four of them, that won't turn out quite so well", and so they can hold three of the precepts.
These are what we call "people who have the partial conduct".
And then there are people who think they can really only hold one of these, and so they take one of the precepts as their vow, and these are what we call people who have "the single conduct".
It is good to take whichever of these you can.
So first you take vows of refuge and then you can take any of these precepts, and maintain discipline in this way.
After that, because this is something that we are doing not just for our own benefit, but something that we are doing for the benefit of all sentient beings, we also take the Bodhisattva vows.
The Bodhisattva vows are vows that we take to train ourselves in acting not just for own benefit but for the benefit of all sentient beings.
And so, in this way, we take these vows to maintain them for the benefit of all sentient beings.
When we are thus maintaining our discipline, having entered the gate of the dharma, what we need to do next is to listen to and to contemplate the teachings.
Nowadays, we are really extremely fortunate because there are many different teachings, both on Buddhism in general and on the secret mantra/Vajrayana in particular, that have been translated into English and into Chinese.
We can now read these, and study them to come to understand them, and, through doing this, we can now come to learn the important things that we had not known before.
And when we know all those and we have clearly come to understand them, then we can practice.
It is really very important and very necessary that we do this.
It is said, "Abiding in discipline with both listening and contemplation, completely in meditation".
Now that we have the listening and contemplation, it is important to meditate.
we do this meditation not in order to become famous, or in order to become some sort of a great scholar, but rather to benefit ourselves and to benefit all other sentient beings.
And it is something that is very beneficial for both ourselves and all other sentient beings.
We should do our listening, our contemplating and our meditating with this motivation of benefiting ourselves and all other sentient beings.
When we do the meditation practice, in general, we need to do the meditation practice of samadhi or "stable mind" or "stable holding".
Doing this is very important.
Of this meditation of stable holding or samadhi, there are two types.
One type is the stable holding of shamatha or tranquility meditation.
If we can do this sort of tranquility meditation, it is really beneficial for us.
And the reason this is so very beneficial for us in the Bardo, at the time of our deaths, our minds are very unstable, and they go back and forth all over the place.
Many different worries and problems arise at that time.
Many happy or unpleasant or good or bad thoughts arise very quickly in our minds and they are unstable and do not stay in one place at any time.
So it is very beneficial to have a stable mind at that point; it is very beneficial to have a mind that can rest.
If our minds are stable, and we have the stable holding of tranquility meditation, then this is something that is extremely beneficial for us at the time of the Bardo and at the time of death.
Likewise, if we can do the particular meditations of the secret mantra/Vajrayana, then these are also very beneficial and very important for us at the time of the Bardo.
In the practices of the secret mantra/Vajrayana we have what is called "the empowerment that ripens" and the instructions that liberate.
For the empowerment that ripens we do the practices of many different yidam or meditation deities when we do these practices we request the empowerments for these first. It is important to request the empowerment of these deities
The empowerment helps us ripen our beings, it brings faith to someone who didn't have faith and of someone who has faith had not been able to be diligent about practice then they become diligent and excited and joyful about their practice.
So for that reason we say that the empowerment ripens us.
We also say that the empowerment brings us blessings of the deity during the empowerment
How is that we receive the blessings from the deity?
During the empowerment you might have some sort of a feeling that arises - a different sort of sensation that arises
but it is also possible that you don’t have such sensation but what does happen is that if you don't have faith, then you get faith and then you are able to turn your mind towards the dharma and you are able to do your practice.
And so if you are doing a practice of a particular deity you should request the empowerment of that deity in order to ripen your being in that way.
But even if it is a deity whom you are not practicing you can request the empowerment and receive the blessings and this is also beneficial.
Whether or not you are practicing a particular deity it is beneficial to receive the empowerment of that deity.
Then we also have the instructions that liberate; these re the instructions that tell us how to practice.
We might not know what we need to do to practice
How do we practice?
What preparations do we need to do?
What is the actual practice that we need to do?
So we learn these from the instructions:
There are different instructions for the different parts:
There are the instructions, for example, for the preliminary practices of going for refuge and prostrating or of by purifying one's previous misdeeds and obscurations or doing what is called the four hundred thousand.
So if you are able, for example, to go for refuge and do the prostrations, then this is something that is very beneficial and very helpful and a superior practice.
But how does this help us during the time of Bardo?
If you are able to do the preparatory practices the ngondro preparatory practice - the ngondro preparatory practice - then during the time of Bardo you will remember the Buddha, dharma and sangha.
There are what we call the six remembrances: To remember the Buddha, to remember the dharma
and to remember the sangha and so forth
And so, when you are in the Bardo practice, if you are able to remember the Buddha and the Buddha appears to your mind then you are able to go for refuge.
Or if the dharma appears in front of your mind and you are able to remember the dharma and go for the refuge in the dharma or likewise if you remember the sangha the sangha appears in your mind
and you remember the sangha then go for refuge in the sangha then that is extremely beneficial to you.
It is something that will bring you great benefits in your next life and it will help protect you and liberate you from the sufferings of samsara.
So, it is really very fortunate to be able to do that.
The second of the four preliminary or ngondro practices, the meditation on Vajrasattva is also very important in the Bardo
This is because in this human life, sometimes we have to do things that are non-virtuous or we find ourselves doing non-virtuous things.
so we do non-virtuous things with our bodies, or with our speech, or with our minds.
Also it is possible that we will have different afflictions or kleshas that arise and cause us difficulties.
We might have anger or we might have delusion or desire arise, and we might have many different coarse or bad thoughts arise.
If that happens, then this meditation of Vajrasattva is very beneficial for us now in this life, and also in the third Bardo (the Bardo that will be explained tomorrow).
During that period- the third Bardo - the peaceful and wrathful deities will appear to us.
And when these peaceful and wrathful deities appear, they are actually the essence of Vajrasattva, and so it is very important and beneficial to meditate upon Vajrasattva, now in this life.
So, doing the preliminary practices is very beneficial, now and in our future lives.
As to the main practices of meditation, whether we are doing the creation-stage meditations, or the completion-stage meditations, or the meditation of the Great Seal of Mahamudra, all of these are very beneficial and helpful for us in the Bardo, as well.
If you are doing the creation-stage meditation, then there is what we call "the remembrance of the yidam deity", or "remembering the yidam deity".
And so, at that point, in the Bardo, if you can remember that you are not necessarily these impure appearances, but remember to see yourself in the pure form of the deity, then this is very beneficial for you.
Likewise, there are the instructions on The Great seal, and you can read many of these instructions; they have been translated.
You can read them, study them and you can do the meditation on The Great Seal of Mahamudra.
If through following these instructions you actually attain the great result, then this is quite wonderful and quite beneficial!
But even if you don't attain ducj a great result immediately, it still can increase your devotion and your faith, and this will be very beneficial for you in the Bardo.
We go from birth through our lives, to death and then into the Bardo.
But it's not as though there's some sort of a road that we're following from our lives into the Bardo.
When we are born there are all of these confused appearances that arise and that shine - that we see.
These appearances are all within the dharma-nature, the Dharmata, but they are not something that we recognize, so we are confused about them.
At the time that we die all of the confused appearances gradually dissolve into the dharma nature; the appearance of the dharma nature itself arises.
This is the reason that meditating upon the Great Seal, Mahamudra is so beneficial.
If we have meditated upon The Great Seal and if we have some experience of meditation, then we will be able to recognize these appearances.
We'll be able to have some experience of them and we'll be able to understand what they are.
If we have not had any experience in meditating upon The Great Seal, then the appearances will arise but we will not know what they are.
We will miss them and we will not be able to understand them.
But if we have some experience, even if our experience in meditation is not too stable or not too great, it will appear to us.
And our experience, our meditation, will be able to become better and more stable.
When the dharma nature appears to us and the appearances of the dharma nature arise, this is called "the meeting of mother and child" - when the ground dharma nature that is within us, and the path dharma nature that we have meditated upon meet and mix.
We recognize them - like a mother and a child recognizing each other.
Even if our meditation is not so good at that time, it will become good.
So for that reason meditating on The Great Seal is an extremely beneficial spiritual instruction and advice to follow.
It is important to request the instructions on The Great Seal and to meditate upon them, since these are very beneficial, important instructions that will help you at the time of the Bardo.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 3 of 7 Second Bardo
2. The Second of the Bardo:
The Painful Bardo of Dying
During the morning session; I explained the first of the Bardos, the Bardo of this life.
This afternoon, comes the second of the Bardos, the Bardo of dying, "the painful Bardo of dying", as it's called.
During this Bardo of dying, because of our strong attachment to the appearances of this life, a lot of suffering comes to our mind.
We have a lot of fears about what's going to happen to us afterwards and in the next life.
We experience a great many different mental sufferings.
At the same time, there are also the feelings of suffering that come out of our life-stream being severed - literally, in Tibetan, it's "severing the life".
There can also be many different kinds of physical suffering.
But there are instructions that can help us to not have fear in our minds at this time, and to protect us against the sufferings and pain that we would experience with the body.
These are the instructions for the painful Bardo of death.
Our body is supported during our lives by the five different elements.
at the time of death, these five elements all condense upon each other - they dissolve into one another.
Also, all the different thoughts in our mind, the afflictions that arise, all of these dissolve.
There are these two different sequences of how things stop.
Within our body there are four main chakras or four main wheels.
There is the wheel or chakra at our navel; the one at our heart; one in out throat; and also one in our secret place, our private area.
Through those, all of the different winds move, and it is through the winds moving that our life and consciousness are supported.
But when the power of the winds is weakened at the time of death, then the chakras also are weakened, and they can no longer support the wind.
They can no longer support the body: they can no longer support the four elements of earth, water, fire and air.
And so, at the time of death, when the wheel that is at our navel is weakened, then the earth element dissolves into water.
And then the heart chakra weakens (or is destroyed), and when that happens, then the water element dissolves into fire.
And then the chakra in our throat is destroyed next, and the fire element dissolves into air.
And finally, the chakra in our secret place, in our genitals, dissolves, and at that point the air element dissolves.
And so, we gradually lose the power to sustain our lives.
However at that time, up until that point, it's possible that we can be revived.
Following the dissolution of those four elements, there comes the dissolution of all the thoughts and all of our consciousnesses.
What happens is that we have a life force wind that is held up in our central channel and it supports the central channel.
It is in the central channel and it holds the "white drop" or "bindu" that we obtain from our father.
It holds the white bindu up at the top end of that ventral channel.
And the red drop that we receive from our mother is at the bottom end of the central channel.
At the time of death, the life wind which is within our central channel can no longer support these, and so the upper white drop descends and the lower red drop ascends.
At the time that happens, as the white drop descends, we have an experience of seeing "whiteness".
And then when the red drop ascends, we see "redness".
And then when these two drops meet at the heart and the life wind disappears, we have the experience of seeing "blackness", and so we have this feeling of blackness.
And at that point all of our cognitions, all of our mid states, and all of our thoughts dissolve.
While this is happening, as the white drop from the father descends, all of the thoughts involves with anger dissolve.
When the red drop from the mother ascends, all of the thoughts that come from desire dissolve.
And when the blackness appears, then all of the thoughts that are involved in delusions stop.
Its' true that there is a lot of mental suffering and distress that we might experience at the time of death.
But we also have at that time a very good opportunity to practice the dharma.
We have a good opportunity to attain a result, and so it is a very good chance for us, if we can take advantage of it.
What we need to do in order to be able to make the most of that opportunity is:
First, we need to meditate always upon impermanence, and to remember that all composite phenomena, everything that is out together out of other things, are impermanent.
And so, all beings, all people are impermanent, and none of us knows when we are going to die.
For that reason we should not be attached or greedy for wealth.
We should not have a lot of attachment to things of wealth and to the possessions of this life.
Also, at the time of death, we should try to stay away from the things that we crave.
We should keep away from the things to which we are attached.
We should also try to keep away from the things that make us angry.
It is also possible that at the time of death, there'll be a lot of people who'll be grieving, and who'll be sobbing, or who'll be grieving loudly.
And of course these are the sufferings that ordinary sentient beings do experience at the time of death.
But it is important to try to minimize those - to try to not have them - to try not to have fear or a lot of grief or attachment in the mind.
We should not lose ourselves to anger.
We should not lose ourselves to our attachments.
Try to keep away from the discussions of what to do with your wealth and your possessions and things like after you die.
Rather we should just remain loose, and relaxed.
If we are the best sort of people, it is good to think at that time about the dharma.
It is good to consider the dharma and the reasons for practicing the dharma.
It is good to try to practice the dharma.
But if you're not able to do that, then the least you should do is try to keep away from the things to which you are attached.
You should try to avoid that sort of discussions that might make you angry.
So at the time that all of the elements dissolve, when the earth element dissolves into the water, and the water element dissolves, and the fire element dissolves, and then the air element dissolves, then gradually all of your thoughts of desire will dissolve.
All of the thoughts based on anger will dissolve.
At the time of death, there are different signs that will arise.
There are the outer or external signs and the internal signs.
The external signs are signs of confused appearances getting less and less and less.
The internal signs are the signs of the appearances of the dharma nature, of the Dharmata, getting stronger and stronger and stronger.
What happens is that the confused external appearances dissolve into the expanse of the dharma nature and so the different types of thoughts, desire, anger, and delusion all dissolve.
And then the appearances of the dharma nature become brighter and brighter.
As we discussed this morning, those who do not have much experience with meditation practice do not recognize this happening.
They cannot identify when it happens, and it just passes right by them and dissolves.
But those who have some experience in the meditation of stable holding or samadhi can rest in that, without being distracted.
By resting in this way, without losing themselves to their afflictions, without losing themselves to their thoughts, they can recognize and identify this appearance of the dharma nature and come to know it.
It is important to do that.
At this point there are four different sets of instructions that are given, for the four different types of people:
1. The people who have experience in meditation of The Great Seal and resting in the nature of The Great Seal, the Mahamudra.
And also for those who, in terms of the practice of the Great Perfection, or Dzogchen, have experience in the practice ofTrechko or "cutting through".
2. The second is for those people who have experience in the meditation on the Kalachakra or the Six Yogas or the Six Trainings.
And also for those who in terms of the Great Perfection have experience with the Togal or "crossing over" meditation.
3. The type of instruction is for those who practice the Six Yogas or, in terms of the instructions from the Sakya tradition, the instructions on Lamdre or "path and result".
4. The fourth set of instructions is for those people who do not have a whole lot of experience with meditation:
What should these people do at the time of death?
For those people of the first type, who have a lot of experience with the Great Seal, what they should do is: looking at the Great Seal, understanding the meditation resting in meditation on that basis, they should look at whatever appearance arises or whatever feeling arises and just look at the essence of that without having such attachment or craving for that, without losing oneself to the afflictions.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 4 of 7 Second Bardo
Just watch as all of the thoughts and all the afflictions dissolve.
And then as the essence of the dharma nature arises and appears, then recognize that and rest in meditation upon that.
And this is also the same for people who have experience with the Great Perfection.
People of the second type, who practice the Kalachakra, will see many different sorts of lights or drops and things that appear, or many rainbows that appear - all of these different appearances will arise.
And they will be able to recognize the appearances and see them as the appearance of the dharma nature and then rest in equipoise in relation to that.
The third type of people is those who train in the Six Yogas and the "path and result".
These are people who train in creating different feeling = feeling of pleasure, feelings of displeasure - and they train in this and they look at the feelings as they arise.
They look at what they are experiencing.
They look at the appearances that arise and they rest in equipoise without feeling any attachment to them.
Those people of the fourth type, the people who do not have a whole lot of experience with meditation and are not able to do this should mainly pray to their lamas and generate great faith and devotion.
They should pray with great faith and devotion to their lamas.
And so, at the time of death, when everything is dissolving - the earth element is dissolving into the water and the chakra in the navel is dissolving - at that time they should visualize their lama in their navel and think "my lama is here in the navel".
And when the heart chakra is dissolving they should visualize the lama as being in the heart center and think, "my lama in in the heart center".
And when the throat chakra is dissolving, visualize that the lama is in your throat center and think to yourself that the lama is in my throat center".
And then as the chakra in the secret place in your genital region is dissolving, then visualize the lama down there.
And as these different chakras dissolve, then pray to the lama with faith and devotion.
Have great faith.
Pray to the lama that you might be free from suffering and then just rest relaxed in that, and rest in equipoise.
Pray that you may have excellent realization that will arise and that you may understand the nature of these appearances.
Pray for this, and then try to maintain this as you pass away.
These instructions regarding the dissolving elements represent our first opportunity to free ourselves in that way.
In order to do this we need to be able to allow our mind to rest into naturalness, then we will be able to take advantage of this good opportunity.
But there are obstacles that can prevent us from being able to take advantage of this - the obstacles of being attached to our wealth and possessions, or being attached to our friends, loved ones and relatives.
And if we lose ourselves to that attachment, then we will not be able to rest in naturalness.
Or we might lose ourselves to the anger or aggression against people we don't like - those we perceive as our enemies and at whom we get angry.
And if that happens, we also will not be able to rest into naturalness.
And so it is important that we do not lose ourselves to the things and people we are attached to or lose ourselves to the anger.
But rather that we can take this opportunity in hand.
And in the same way, if we have a friend who is passing away, we need to try to set things up so that the friend does not feel a lot of craving and attachment and does not feel a lot of anger.
Rather we need to help the friend see that he too will be able to take advantage of the first great opportunity.
But if we aren't able to take advantage of that first opportunity, then there is a second opportunity.
This second chance is to do the practice of phowa or the practice of transferring your consciousness.
And so, if you are unable to rest within the dharma nature, if you are unable to be loose and relaxed within the dharma nature and recognize the dharma nature, and if the confused appearances once more begin to appear, then at that point then you have missed the first good opportunity to free yourself.
But there is a second opportunity - the second opportunity to free yourself through the meditation of phowa.
So what is this phowa that we're talking about?
What does it mean to say a phowa?
Our body is dependent upon the five elements of earth, wind, fire and air.
Also we're dependent upon the channels and the winds that run through it.
And so it seems like our bodies and our minds can't be divided - it's like they're together.
But at the time that we die, our bodies and our minds are separate and the body becomes just a copse and the mind has to come out from within the body.
So, when the body becomes like a corpse and the elements can no longer support the mind, then at that time, the body is like a broken down old house.
And the mind is like the person who lives in that house.
The mind has to go out from that house.
And when it goes out from that house it generally goes out through the power of karma.
There are different gates in this house.
If the mind goes out through one of the lower gates, either out through your colon or out through your secret place, then it will lead to rebirth in a lower realm, to a rebirth in hell or as an animal or a hungry ghost.
But if you are to be reborn in the high realms of a god or of a human or some high comfortable place, then you'll go out through one of the upper gates of the body:
through the eyes, or through the nose or the mouth or through one of the upper gates.
And so, it is out of the power of karma that you go out through any one of these individual gates.
And if you go out through a bad gate, then you will end up a bad rebirth.
And if you go out through a good gate, then you can end up with a good rebirth, and with a good body, a body that could support dharma practice.
In order to have a good birth, there are instructions on how to go out through the best of all the doors and this best door is what is called the Brahma aperture.
This is a small hole that is in the top of the skull, where the bones of the skull join.
At the very top of the crown of your head there is a small aperture and, if you can go out through that, then the best people- by exiting through that hole, through that gate - will be reborn in the pure realms.
And even if you aren't reborn in the pure realm, then you can be reborn in a good situation in a body that can support dharma practice.
In general the gate through which you go depends upon your karma.
However, there are methods taught that can help you go out through this good gate.
These instructions of phowa are the instructions on how to leave through that Brahma aperture.
In order to do this meditation on phowa or transference, we need to first train.
And in order to train on this, we visualize Buddha Amitabha above the crown of our head.
Then when we visualize that in our heart is the essence of our winds and of our mind and then we shoot that essence up.
We make this visualization over and over again.
And so, this is training in phowa.
In order to do this we need to rely on a good teacher and we need to request the instructions on how to do it.
And if we do it in this way then there signs of success will come - signs of the actual accomplishment of the meditation.
If we can do that, then this is really quite good.
At the time of death, we have to join it with our own karma and actually put it into action.
What is most important in order to make it work at that point is that we do not have a lot of attachment to the appearances of this life - that we do not have a lot of attachment to the confused appearances of samsara.
And so we should meditate that everything is impermanent.
And we should try to realize that the confused appearances of samsara are something that we should not be confused with and then meditate upon this.
At the time that we are dying, before all of the different elements and all the consciousnesses have dissolved, we should not meditate upon phowa.
Do not do it at this point, because at that point, it is very possible that you could create a lot of fear and suffering.
That is too early to do the phowa.
The time to do it is when all of the four different elements have completely dissolved, and that the appearances of the dharma nature arise.
And when they arise, if you recognize them, that's good.
But if you do not recognize them and cannot rest within them, then the appearances of samsara and the emotion of thoughts will happen again.
And so, at that point, if the thoughts should arise again, just let your mind rest naturally.
Then, do the visualization of shooting your consciousness up through the central channel and out through the Brahma aperture.
And this is doing phowa at the time of your death.
And so, the best among is will be reborn in the pure realm and those of moderate anilities will take a good birth, and be born with a good human body, a fortunate human body that is able to practice the dharma.
And so this is a very good method by which you are able to take a good birth or birth in the pure realms.
And so, if you train at it in this lifetime, then at the time of death, when it comes time to join with your karma, at that time it will turn out well.
So, that completes the discussion of the instructions on the painful Bardo of dying and the phowa.
We will leave the dharma session here now, but there is time for one question.
The question was, "the instructions here say that by doing the practice of phowa one can take rebirth in a pure realm.
However, the general Buddhist instructions say that rebirth in a higher realm come out of the karma cause and effect.
How is it that these two can work together? Aren’t they somehow contradictory?
The answer is that, of course, everything does come about through karma cause and effect.
Through virtuous karma we do have a happier, pleasant result and through non-virtuous karma we have an unhappy and unpleasant result.
However doing phowa itself is actually karma - karma means action.
So phowa is a type of act that produces a good result.
By doing this good action or this good karma of phowa then we can attain a good result in a pure realm.
When we do this, there are different types of karma that we might experience.
That is karma that's experienced upon rebirth, and there is karma that is not definitely experienced.
When we do the phowa meditation and take rebirth in a pure realm, we can gradually purify that karma at that time.
So this does work with the karma cause and effect.
Rinpoche, you mentioned that it's important not to do the phowa too early during the process of dying.
And so, even if someone got training in phowa, one could wait and wait and is the opportunity to do it.
So what is a good sign to know exactly when to do the phowa, or will it come naturally and be obvious to the person who is doing?
There is the external breath and there is the internal breath.
The time that the external breathing has stopped but the internal breath, the movement of winds though the channels, has not entirely stopped is when you should do the phowa meditation.
But if you wait a little bit longer, there's really not a whole lot of a problem.
You can be a little bit late when you're doing the phowa.
We will leave it here for this afternoon.
Our time is up today.
Tomorrow I will leave a little bit more time for questions.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 5 of 7 Third Bardo
3. The Third of the Bardo:
Luminous Bardo of the Dharma Nature
In general, there are the four different bardos.
Yesterday I described the first two of these four.
And so today, we have the last two.
Now we have come to the third Bardo, which us the "luminous Bardo of the dharma nature" or the "luminous Bardo of the Dharmata".
Now, during the second Bardo, gradually the different elements dissolve into each other.
So, the earth element dissolves into water.
Then the water element dissolves into fire.
Then the fire element dissolves into air.
And then the air element dissolves into consciousness.
And then finally, the consciousness dissolves into space.
And it is at that time, after the consciousness has dissolved into space that the luminous Bardo the dharma nature appears.
We have different types of consciousnesses.
Of these consciousnesses, some are stable and some are not stable.
The sixth mental consciousness, where all our thoughts happen, is unstable.
And the five consciousnesses of the five gates, the five sensory consciousnesses they're also unstable.
These all stop during the process of the different elements dissolving, and the different thoughts of desire, anger, and delusion all stop.
Then during the period of the whiteness, when the whiteness appears, the seventh consciousness, the afflicted consciousness dissolves into emptiness.
And then, during the period of the redness, the alaya or all ground consciousness dissolves into emptiness.
And when it has dissolved into emptiness the appearances of the dharma nature arise.
When the appearances of dharma nature arise, for those who have had experience in meditation and who have a good meditation practice, it is like mother and child meeting.
And so it is also said the "ground dharma nature" - that is the nature of all things - and the "child dharma nature" that you meditate upon during the path, come together like a mother and child meeting.
At that time, they recognize each other.
You recognize it.
And then, a great strength of stable holding, a great strength of samadhi arises.
For those who don't have that sort of strong meditative strength, that strong a practice, then different appearances arise and disappear without being recognized.
At that point, if you have recognized it, you have your second opportunity to free yourself, by doing phowa.
But if you don’t manage to do phowa correctly, or you can't manage to do it for some reason, then you have a third opportunity.
At that point, there is the appearance of the luminosity.
Everything dissolves into luminosity and then luminosity also dissolves.
Next, the hundred peaceful wrathful deities appear.
And when they appear, if you can recognize their nature, then you can be liberated.
So recognizing their nature is very important.
What is the reason that the peaceful and the wrathful deities appear to us at this time?
The reason is that there are pure appearances and impure appearances.
In pure terms, we have the eight collections of consciousness and the fifty-one different mental factors.
And so, at this impure time it appears to us that we have our consciousnesses and we have these consciousnesses, the essence of just knowing something is like the consciousness.
And that has a very peaceful sort of aspect to it.
In general that resides within our bodies and in particular, it resides within our heart center.
We have many different coarse thoughts.
There are virtuous thoughts, non-virtuous thoughts and afflicted thoughts.
These thoughts are what we call the fifty-one different formations or the fifty-one different mental factors.
And these mental factors or thoughts are like waves in our brains.
And so these are the impure appearances.
In our pure appearances there are the forty-two peaceful deities who are in our heart center.
And there are the fifty-one wrathful deities who are in our brains.
And so, in their pure appearances, these are the peaceful and the wrathful deities.
In their impure appearances, they are the eight consciousnesses and the fifty-one mental factors.
When the body and the mind separate and the mind has to leave the body, at that time, these peaceful and wrathful deities leave the body.
So the consciousness goes outside the body and they appear as peaceful deities in the sky in front of us.
And it's like we actually meet them.
We actually can see the deities in front of us.
And in the same way, the wrathful deities also appear in the sky in front of us, and it’s as if we are actually are meeting the wrathful deities.
Now in the Tibetan Book of Dead, or also known as the Great Liberation of Hearing, it is said that first the peaceful deities appear and then the wrathful deities appear.
But other instructions say that first the wrathful deities appear and then the peaceful deities appear.
This is probably due to the differences in the channels and the elements in the make-up of each individual, that they appear in different ways.
But in any case, the peaceful deities will appear in the sky in front of us and the wrathful deities will appear in the sky in front of us.
Now for those who have experience in the creation stage of visualizing deities and in the completion stage, for those who have experience in meditation, they will recognize these deities and it will be again like a mother and child meeting, you'll recognize these deities.
And so when the peaceful deities appear you will see them and have faith and devotion in them.
Likewise, when the wrathful deities appear you will recognize them and have faith and devotion in them.
If you can recognize them and have faith and devotion in them then you will be able to take a good birth and you will be freed from the suffering.
There will be no need for you to go through the sufferings of the bardo.
For those who do not have such experience of meditation practice, and do not have experience with the creation or the completion phases, when the peaceful deities arise, then they will be attached - they will feel greed and desire for them.
And when the wrathful deities arise, they will be frightened and terrifies and want to flee from them.
So for that reason it is important that we have experience in the meditation on the creation phase, and that we have experience in meditation on the completion phase.
Here in this life, we need to train in those.
It is also important that we see different statues of these deities now.
And it is important that we see drawings and paintings of statues and that we actually look at them, study them and become familiar with them.
If we do this, it will be very beneficial and helpful to us when these deities actually appear.
Now at this point, a lot of people have some doubts and some questions.
"Is the appearance of the gods- the peaceful and wrathful deities - something that is just the Tibetan and the Indian Tradition?
Do the deities appear in this particular way because this is how the Tibetans and Indians see them, or do they maybe appear in the form of the gods of other different cultures and traditions?
So when they appear, do they take the Tibetan form because that is just what the Tibetans say?"
When the peaceful and the wrathful deities appear, they always appear the same.
They appear with the same sort of body, the same color, the same hand implements, the same robes, and the same ornaments.
This is not because it is a Tibetan or Indian custom, but rather they appear just as they are.
They appear the way we know this is because a lot of people can do the practice of the Great Perfection, called Thogal or "crossing over".
When doing this practice, first close or squint the eyes; you can see rainbows and you can see various different drops.
And then within the drops you can see the different peaceful deities and the wrathful deities, and that is just exactly how they look.
They appear in just that way, because that is how they are within our channels and winds.
That is how they are made up, so that is how they appear.
So it doesn't appear in one way or another because of a different tradition, but whoever you might be, the peaceful deities and the wrathful deities will appear just like that.
So, during the impure appearances, they are our mind and the mental factors and then during the pure appearances, they are the peaceful and wrathful deities appearing just that way.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 6 of 7 Fourth Bardo
4. The Fourth of the Bardo:
The Karmic Bardo of Becoming
And so, that is our third opportunity.
The third of the opportunities is when the dharma nature itself appears.
And then if we don't recognize that, then we have the second opportunity, which is to do phowa.
And then if we don't manage that, we have a third opportunity which is to recognize these yidam or meditational deities; to recognize them and see that they are not something external to ourselves, but rather that they are the utterly pure aspect of our internal mind.
If we recognize them as being this utterly pure aspect of our internal mind, and if we can meditate upon stable holding or samadhi on that, then we can be liberated.
So, this is the description of "the Luminous Bardo of the Dharma Nature".
If we haven't managed to liberate ourselves in the first three Bardos, we have a fourth opportunity.
There is the fourth Bardo, called the Karmic Bardo of Becoming.
At that point, if we are not able to take all the appearances that arise,
to use them on the path and to reap any benefit from them, then all of our elements, all of our consciousnesses re-arise.
Recall that previously, we'd have the earth dissolving into water, then water dissolving into fire, fire dissolving into air, and then air dissolving.
And we'd also had all of the coarse and afflicted thoughts dissolving into each other.
Later these all arise again.
When they come up the second time, what happens is that we have the consciousness of the Bardo, the "Bardo consciousness".
With the Bardo consciousness, first, thoughts of delusions and then thoughts of desire arise.
Next, thoughts of hatred and aggression arise, and then the different elements of earth and water and so forth also arise.
So, there are the appearances of all these arising, and the sufferings we experience when these arise.
You might feel afraid, or instead you might recognize these for what they are.
If you don't recognize what's happening, then suffering or pain might arise.
You might feel depressed or sad, or you might have an experience of fear or terror.
But what you really need at this stage si to have a very stable mind.
You need to have a very stable mind, and you can't let yourself be discouraged or depressed, or have too much suffering.
You need to see that these are really all the characteristics of samsara, so there is no reason to feel a whole lot of depression or sadness or upset about this.
These are just the appearances of how samsara is.
Being upset and sad does not help at this time.
We need to look for a stable mind, and within that stable mind to be able to rest within all these appearances that we observe and to have stability.
We need to have good tranquility meditation, a good, stable tranquility meditation.
If we can maintain mindfulness and awareness at this time, if we can imagine making offerings and prayers up to the Three Jewels, and of we can imagine having compassion down for all of the sentient beings in the six realms of samsara, then we can realize that these are just the luminous appearances of the dharma nature that we confused and do not understand.
But in their essence these are nothing other than the dharma nature.
And so if we can remember these instructions, it is very important to do so.
All of the appearances of re-arising are nothing other the mind - like dreams.
We can train for this by training to recognize that we are dreaming.
Once we know that we are dreaming, we train in changing and transforming our dreams.
And after we are able to transform dreams, we look at different ways to purify and see what the actual nature of the dream is.
Then we can see that all of these dreams are nothing other than our own appearances.
And we can see how to recognize them, and to know their nature.
Training in dreams in this way is something that will be very helpful when we come to the Bardo.
It is also helpful to us in the Bardo if we train in this life in the completion phase, the visualization of oneself as a deity.
Today, in this life, our appearances of the body are very stable, very hard, very solidified, and hard to change.
But during the time of Bardo, the appearances of our body are not at all stable.
And so, it is possible that if we meditate upon the creation phase at that time and visualize ourselves as the deity, then extremely clear, pure appearances will arise.
By doing that, we will not lose ourselves to the confused impure appearances, and we will not have these confused impure appearances.
Our confused appearances will be purifies at that point.
So, it is important now to train in the creation phase.
Them at some point, we will want to take our next birth.
We will have the strong desire to take our next birth and will not want to remain in the Bardo state.
This feeling they we need to take birth, comes about because of the power of karma.
So, at that point, we need to be able to block any of the (in Tibetan: "gates of the womb"), we need to block any of gates into the womb that we do not want to take, and to be able to look, and seem and choose the good gates into the womb.
To encourage ourselves to take a good rebirth, we need to block the bad rebirths.
In order to do this, we must be able to resist the power of the confused appearances, and we must have a stable mind.
We need to have mindfulness and awareness, and we need to pray to our lamas and to the Three Jewels.
And in this way we need to prevent ourselves from taking a bad rebirth.
The quality of a new birth generally depends upon the desire, lust and anger that we take a birth.
So today, in this life, is to stop engaging in any sexual misconduct and to take vows against performing sexual misconduct.
And if we do, this will implant good habitual or latent habits within our mind.
Later, since with those habits in our mind, we will be able to block the gates to the bad wombs, and we will be able to select and open the gates that go to the good wombs and thus be able to take a good birth.
We will have mindfulness and our minds should be peaceful.
We can then make prayers and we will be able to choose to take a good birth.
And those who are bet will be able to take birth in the Pure Realms, where they can pray and contemplate the paths.
And those who are not quite that good should be able to take a precious human body, with which they'll be able to practice the dharma.
And so, it is important to do this and to be able to choose your place of birth.
We can also help our friend or relative who is in this Karmic Bardo of Beginning by not doing anything that will make him or her attached or angry.
But rather be loving and compassionate, think kindly of him, and to make good aspiration prayers on his behalf, because a being in the Karmic Bardo of Becoming has clairvoyance, out of the power of karma.
If our friend sees that we have good, kind, and loving thoughts and prayers for him, he will be happy and joyful, his mind will be stable, and things will turn out well.
On the other hand, if we do otherwise, and scheme how to get his wealth for ourselves or fight over these things or grieve loudly, then his mind will be unstable.
And this will not help.
Instead, we need to do things that will help our friend maintain his mindfulness and awareness.
We need to be kind and loving and make good prayers on his behalf.
And then there are also the chakras, the diagrams of the chakras and the seed syllables and things like that we can use to help these dying people.
These are the diagrams that you can place over the body that have indications for them.
This is very helpful.
Also you can write and recite good prayers on their behalf.
All this is taught in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
It can also be beneficial to read the Tibetan Book of the Dead to them.
But first, I would like to clarify my answer to one of yesterday's questions.
Someone asked about phowa: since in general everything depends upon karma, how is it that we can do phowa and change our karma; how is it that these two can happen?
There is phowa that one does for oneself. and there is phowa that one does for others.
Yesterday, I described phowa that one does for oneself, and how that works.
Basically, it is a method that you can use on your own, by your own force that accumulates your own karma.
That is how phowa for yourself works.
In terms of phowa that is done for others, there are in general four different types of karma that are described in the Abhidharma.
These four different types of karma are karma that is visibly experienced (that is, it is explained in THIS life), karma that is experiences upon birth (that is, that is experienced in your NEXT life), karma that is experienced in other lifetimes (so, in future lifetimes beyond the next), and karma that is not definitely experienced.
These are the four different types of karma.
Now, of these four different karmas, the karma that is visibly experienced is karma that is experienced in this life.
This is very strong karma it has a lot of force to it, and is therefore experienced in this life.
At the tie of doing phowa, the results THAT sort of karma have already been experienced, they have already ripened.
The second type of karma is experienced upon birth.
This karma that is experienced in the next birth and it is also a very strong type of karma.
In terms of non-virtuous karma, these are the karma of the inexpiable actions, such as killing your mother, killing your father, and so forth.
It is said that if you have done one of the five inexpiable actions, then it is not possible to do phowa.
But there are only a few who have done these inexpiable actions.
That is the description of the karma experienced upon birth.
The next types of karma, the third and fourth types of karma, are karma experienced in other lifetimes and karma that is not definitely experienced.
There is not any definite sort of experience for these karmas.
In these cases, we have things that come up in part because of your previous karma and in part because of the circumstantial conditions that allow that karma to ripen.
Tibetan Book of the Dead 7 of 7 Fourth Bardo
The results of the karma depend on both the previous karma and the circumstantial conditions.
At the time of doing phowa for someone, we can help to transform the previous karma by meeting it with the circumstantial condition of doing the phowa.
We have the ability to change and alter the karma a little bit, and so it is transforming the previous karma through the circumstantial conditions.
In this way it is not at all contradictory of the karma cause and effect.
Audience: I have three questions which are all basically related to each other.
My first question is how would we describe the roaming souls or the so-called "ghosts"?
Do they actually have to go through the Bardo, or don't they have to?
If they don't have to, how could their soul be restored to a body?
My second question to Rinpoche-la is that there are a lot of individuals who basically do things very unconsciously, like sleep-walkers.
These sleep walkers just do things unconsciously, without knowing what they are doing.
My question to Rinpoche is, is it possible that we can basically separate the body from the mindfulness or soul?
And my third question is that if death is defined as leaving of the body, would we describe the body of a medium as dead, if it is being possessed by the other consciousness?
The answer to the first question (about the ghosts and other beings like that are beings in the bardos), is that these beings are not different consciousnesses that are in the bardos.
These non-obstructive creatures, these ghosts and things like this, are probably different types of hungry ghosts or some of them are a type of animal or some of them may also be demi-gods, or the asuras in Sanskrit.
So these are different types of beings, rather than being bardo consciousnesses.
Now at the time that one goes to birth; it is the bardo consciousness that takes one to the next place of birth and that helps one take the birth.
So, when they have given up their old body and then wander through the bardo, it is on the basis of the bardo that they take birth as a ghost or in some other way.
So like other beings during the period of the bardo there's the transformation of going from the appearances of the body of the earlier life to the appearances of the body of the next life.
As to the second question, in the texts on the study of mind that come from the tradition of the study of validity, there are four different types of direct perception described.
These are sensory direct perception, mental direct perception, self-aware direct perception, and yogic direct perception.
The confused appearances that appear during our sleep and during dreams are mental direct perception.
When we are sleeping, we see different appearances.
And the consciousness that directly perceives those is our mental consciousness.
So these are mental direct perceptions.
It seems to us at that time that we are experiencing forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches, and so forth; but these are really the appearances that the non-obstructive mental consciousness, the mental direct perception, is seeing.
So these are really non-obstructive things that we are seeing; they're not really solid forms that we're perceiving.
So for most people, these appearances are not too strong and they do not really mix with the type of appearances that we have and the type of things we do not do in the daytime.
These different appearances arise in our dreams, but they do not affect our actions in any ways.
But sometimes when they are very strong, then they do mix with what we do in the day.
And if they mix in this way, then when the appearances are very strong, someone who is sleeping might move their body or they might say something though their mouth or so forth.
And this is because of the strength of the appearances and how strongly they are mixed with the appearances of our daily lives.
So when we are having rather weak appearances they do not make us move about during our dreams.
When they are strong and they are strongly mixed with our daily appearances, then they do.
As for the third question about someone who is possessed by some sort of a deity or like a medium for example, I am not able to give an answer that says for 100% certain exactly what it's like.
And the reason that I can't give this answer for 100% certain is that I have not had the experience of being possessed, and so I am not really quite certain exactly how it is.
But I can make a little bit of a guess about it and think "well, it’s probably like this".
Probably what happens is that sometimes the six consciousnesses get a little weak, someone gets a little weak.
Sometimes there are ghosts and deities who need a place to stay, and who are looking for a place to stay.
And when they look for a place, then there is someone whose consciousnesses have gotten a little bit weakened, or whose mind has gotten a little bit foggy, and so the six consciousnesses sort of condense.
And it's like the person has gone to sleep.
For example, when you are getting an operation, they give you anesthesia, and at that point your six consciousnesses all stop functioning for a few moments.
And so it's similar.
And when that happens, the deity can enter you and possess you.
We can see that this is how it's happening because they do sometimes have some sort of a little bit of physical memory of what happened at the time, and so it's probably something like that.
Oh, and when someone dies, at the time of death the consciousness and the body separate completely.