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What happens after we die, Tibetan Buddhism

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Lotus Born, one of the Eight Manifestations of Padmasambhava
The Bardo Thtrl (Tibetan: bar-doi-thos-grol) is one of a series of instructions on six types of liberation:

Liberation through hearing
Liberation through wearing
Liberation through seeing
Liberation through remembering
Liberation through tasting
Liberation through touching

They were composed by Padmasambhava and written down by his wife, Yeshe Tsogyal, along with the sadhana of the two mandalas of forty-two peaceful and fifty-eight wrathful deities. Padmasambhava buried these texts in the Gampo hills in central Tibet, where later the great teacher Gampopa established his monastery. Many other texts and sacred objects were buried in this way in different places throughout Tibet and are known as terma, ˜hidden treasures. Padmasambhava gave the transmission of power to discover the termas to his twenty-five chief disciples. The Bardo texts were later discovered by Karma-Lingpa, who was an incarnation of one of these disciples.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead
Translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle & Chgyam Trungpa P. XI


The quotes from The Tibetan Book of the Dead is from The Tibetan Book of the Dead translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle & Chgyam Trungpa. We recommend this book highly.

Bardo means gap

[…] Bardo means gap; it is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation; death happens in the living situation as well. The bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. There are all kinds of bardo experiences happening to us all the time, experiences of paranoia and uncertainty in everyday life; it is like not being sure of our ground, not knowing quite what we have asked for or what we are getting into. So this book is not only a message for those who are going to die and those who are already dead, but it is also a message for those who are already born; birth and death apply to everybody constantly, at every moment. […]

</poem> May we extract the meaningful essence of this life support Without being distracted by the senseless affairs of this life, Since this good foundation is hard to gain and easy to disintegrate, Presents an opportunity of choice between profit and loss, Comfort and misery.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
From Advice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama


In this lecture we endeavour to give practically, usable texts to be read for the Buddhist-interested or beginner-Buddhist We presume more advanced Buddhists will ask their guru or teacher to teach the appropriate texts.

[] the Liberation through Hearing, [] should be read clearly and precisely, close to the dead body.% If the body is not present, one should sit on the dead persons bed or seat, and proclaiming the power of truth call on his consciousness and read, imagining him sitting in front listening.

At this time sounds of crying and weeping are not good, so his relatives should be shut out. If the body is present, then during the interval between the ceasing of the breath and the ceasing of pulsation in the arteries, his guru or dharma-brother [[[disciples]] of the same guru] whom he loved and trusted should read this Great Liberation through Hearing close to his ear.%

[] An elaborate offering should be made to the Three Jewels if the materials are available.

.% this mark is [the closest we could get to] the Tibetan mark that distinguishes all terma texts, and is a symbol to seal and protect them. It is found throughout the text in place of the usual Tibetan punctuation mark [].

The Three Jewels are:
<poem>
The Buddha, or principle of enlightenment;
The Dharma or teaching which proclaims enlightenment; and
the Sangha, or community which practices the Dharma.

Consciousness in the bardo state possess
supernatural perception of worldly things.

[] It is impossible for anyone of high, average or low capacities, whichever he may be, not to be liberated by them [the teachings].

Why is this? Firstly because consciousness in the bardo state possess supernatural perception of worldly things, so he can hear what I say; secondly, even if he was deaf and blind, now he has all the senses complete, so he can hear what is said; thirdly, being continually overcome by fear he is thinking undistractedly what to do, so he listens to what I say; and fourthly, as the consciousness has no support it comes directly to wherever the concentration is directed, so it is easy to guide. The mind is nine times more clear, so even if he is stupid, by force of karma the mind becomes so clear at this time that it can meditate on whatever is taught; essential points such as these are the reason. For the same reason it is also helpful to perform the rituals for the dead.% Therefore it is very important to persevere in reading this ˜Great Liberation through Hearing for up to nine days. Even if he is not liberated at one showing he will attain liberation at another [].%

The Tibetan Book of the Dead
translated with commentary by Francesca Fremantle & Chgyam Trungpa P. 71

How to use the text

The material we suggest should be read aloud is in italics

One should say the Inspiration-Prayer Calling on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for Rescue seven or three times, Then loudly recite the Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo And the Main Verses of the Bardo. Then read The Great Liberation through Hearing seven or three times.%

I and all beings throughout space and without exception
Go for refuge until the ultimate of enlightenments
To the past, present, and future Buddhas, the Doctrine,
And the Spiritual Community.
May we be released from the frights of this life, the intermediate state,
and the next.

May we realize that there is no time to waste,
Death being definite but the time of death indefinite.
What has gathered will separate, what has been
Accumulated will be consumed without residue,
At the end of a rising comes descent, the finality of birth is death.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
FromAdvice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The Inspiration-Prayer Calling on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for Rescue At the time of ones death, one should always call on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for rescue. One should make material and mental offerings to the Three Jewels and holding fragrant incence in ones hand, say these words with intense power of concentration:%

O Buddhas and Bodhisattvas dwelling in the ten directions, compassionate, all-knowing, with the five kinds of eyes, loving, protectors of all sentient beings, come to this place by the power of compassion and accept these material and mental offerings.%

O Compassionate Ones, you possess understanding wisdom, loving compassion, effective action, and protecting power beyond the reach of thought.

The Inspiration-Prayer Calling on the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for Rescue

O Compassionate Ones, this person (name), is going from this world to the other shore, he is leaving this world, he is dying without choice, he has no friends, he is suffering greatly, he has no refuge, he has no protector, he has no allies, the light of this life has set, he is going to another world, he is entering dense darkness, he is falling down a deep precipice, he is entering a thick forest, he is pursued by the power of karma, he is entering a great wilderness, he is swept away by a great ocean, he is driven on by the wind of karma, he is going where there is no solid ground, he is embarking on a great battle, he is seized by the great evil spirit, he is terrified by the messengers of the Lord of Death, he is entering existence after existence because of his karma, he is helpless, the time has come when he must go on alone without a friend.%

O Compassionate Ones, be a refuge to him (name), who has no refuge, protect him, defend him, keep him from the great darkness of the bardo, turn him aside from the great hurricane of karma, protect him from the great fear of the Lord of Death, deliver him from the long and dangerous pathway of the bardo. O Compassionate Ones, do not let your compassion be small, rescue him, do not let him go to the three lower realms, do not forget your former vows but quickly send out the power of your compassion.% O Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, do not let your compassion and skilful means for him (name), be small, seize him with compassion, do not let a sentient being fall into the power of evil karma.% May the Three Jewels be a refuge from suffering in the bardo.%

This should be said three times with deep devotion by oneself and all others. []

Blessed Vairocana

The Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance
from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo

Homage to the gurus, yidams [a particular deity which represents the disciples innate enlightened nature, chosen by his guru [] it is said that Avalokitesvara, the Lord of Great Compassion is suitable for everyone] and dakinis, [[[Wikipedia:feminine|feminine]] energi principle, associatet with knowledge and intelligence], with their great love may they lead us on the path.%
When through confusion I wander in samsara, on the undistracted light-path of study, reflection and meditation, may the gurus of the sacred lineage go before me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%
When through intense ignorance I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of the dharmadhatu wisdom [[[dharmadhatu]] expresses the idea of the all-encompassing matrix in which all phenomena arise and cease] may Blessed Vairocana go before me, his consort the Queen of Vajra Space behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%

Blessed Vajrasattva

When through intense aggression I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of the mirror-like wisdom, may Blessed Vajrasattva go before me, his consort Buddha-Locana behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%

Blessed Ratnasambhava

When through intense pride I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of the wisdom of equality, may Blessed Ratnasambhava go before me, his consort Mamaki behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%

Blessed Amitabha

When through intense desire I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of discriminating wisdom, may Blessed Amitabha go before me, his consort Pandaravasini behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%

Blessed Amoghasiddhi

When through intense envy I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of action-accomplishing wisdom, may Blessed Amoghasiddhi go before me, his consort Samaya-Tara behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%

The Inspiration-Prayer for Deliverance from the Dangerous Pathway of the Bardo

When through strong unconscious tendencies I wander in samsara, on the luminous light-path of the innate wisdom, may the Vidyadhara warrior go before me, their consorts the hosts of dakinis behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%
When through fierce confused projections I wander in samsara, on the light-path of abandoning all fear, may the Blessed Ones, peaceful and wrathful, go before me, the host of dakinis, Queens of Space, behind me; help me to cross the bardos dangerous pathway and bring me to the perfect buddha state.%
May the element of space not rise up as an enemy, may I see the Realm of the blue buddha. May the element of water not rise up as enemy, may I see the realm of the white Buddha. May the element of earth not rise up as an enemy, may I see the realm of the yellow Buddha. May the element of fire not rise up as an enemy, may I see the realm of the red Buddha. May the element of air not rise up as an enemy, may I see the realm of the green Buddha. May the rainbow of the elements not rise up as enemies, may I see the realms of all the Buddhas. May the sounds, lights and rays not rise up as enemies, may I see the infinite realms of the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones. May I know all the sounds as my own sound, may I know all the lights as my own light, may I know all the rays as my own ray. May I spontaneously know the bardo as myself, may I attain the realms of the three kayas [the three bodies: of dharma or truth, body of enjoyment, body of creation].

The Main Verses of the Bardo

Now when the bardo of birth is dawning upon me, I will abandon laziness for which life has no time, enter the undistracted path of study, reflection and meditation, making projections and mind the path, and realise the three kayas; now that I have once attained a human body, there is no time on the path for the mind to wander.%
Now when the bardo of dreams is dawning upon me, I will abandon the corpse-like sleep of careless ignorance, and let my thoughts enter their natural state without distraction; controlling and transforming dreams in luminosity, I will not sleep like an animal but unify completely sleep and practice.%
Now when the bardo of Samadhi-meditation dawns upon me, I will abandon the crowd of distractions and confusions, and rest in the boundless state without grasping or disturbance; firm in the two practices: visualisation and complete, at this time of meditation, one-pointed, free from activity, I will not fall into the power of confused emotions.%
Now when the bardo of the moment before death dawns upon me, I will abandon all grasping, yearning and attachment, enter undistracted into clear awareness of the teaching, and eject my consciousness into the space of unborn mind; as I leave this compound body of flesh and blood I will know it to be a transitory illusion.%
Now when the bardo of dharmata dawns upon me, I will abandon all thoughts of fear and terror, I will recognise whatever appears as my projection and I will know it to be a vision of the bardo; now that I have reached this crucial point, I will not fear the peaceful and wrathful ones, my own projections.%
Now when the bardo of becoming dawns upon me, I will concentrate my mind one-pointedly, and strive to prolong the results of good karma, close the womb-entrance and think of resistance; this is the time when perseverance and pure thought are needed, abandon jealousy, and meditate on the guru with his consort.%
With mind far off, not thinking of deaths coming, performing these meaningless activities, returning empty-handed now would be complete confusion; the need is recognition, holy dharma, so why not practice dharma at this very moment? From the mouths of siddhas come these words: If you do not keep your gurus teaching in your heart will you not become your own deceiver?%

4. May we be relieved from overwhelming suffering due to the various causes of death. When in this city of erroneous conceptions of subject and object the illusory body composed of the four impure elements and consciousness are about to separate.

5. May we be relieved from mistaken appearances of non-virtue when, deceived at the time of need by this body sustained so dearly, The frightful enemies “ the lords of death manifest And we kill ourselves with the weapons of the three poisons of lust, hatred, and bewilderment.

6. May we remember instructions for practice when doctors forsake us and rites are of no avail, Friends have given up hope for our life, And we are left with nothing to do.

7. May we have the confidence of joy and delight
When food and wealth accumulated with miserliness are left behind and we separate forever from cherished and longed-for friends, going alone to a perilous situation.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
FromAdvice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The bardo of the moment before death

[] O son [daughter] of noble family (name), now the time has come for you to seek a path. As soon as your breath stops, what is called the basic luminosity of the first bardo, which your guru has already shown you, will appear to you. This is the dharmata, open and empty like space, luminous void, pure naked mind without centre or circumference. Recognise then, and rest in that state, and I too will show you at the same time.%
This should be firmly implanted in his mind by repeating it many times over in his ear until he stops breathing. []

8. May we generate a powerful mind of virtue When the elementsearth, water, fire, and wind “Dissolve in stages And physical strength is lost, mouth and nose dry and pucker, Warmth withdraws, breaths are gasped, and rattling sounds emerge.

9. May we realize the deathless mode of being When various mistaken appearances frightful and horrible And in particular mirage, smoke, and fireflies appear And the mounts of the eighty indicative conceptions cease.

10. May we generate strong mindfulness and introspection When the wind constituent begins to dissolve into consciousness And the external continuum of breath ceases, coarse dualistic appearances dissolve
And an appearance like a burning butter lamp dawns.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
FromAdvice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The bardo of the moment before death

Now the showing should be read. At this time the first bardo, which is called the luminosity of dharmat?, the undistorted mind of the dharmak?ya, arises in the mind of all beings. Ordinary people call this state unconscious because the prana sinks into the avadh?t? [[[susumna]]] during the interval between the ceasing of the breath and of the pulsation. []. As most sutras and tantras say that this unconscious state lasts for four and a half days, generally one should strive to show the luminosity for that length of time.%

11. May we know our own nature ourselves Through the yoga realizing cyclic existence and nirvana as empty When appearance, increase, and near-attainment dissolve “ The earlier into the latter “ And experiences like pervasive moonlight, sunlight, and darkness dawn.

12. May the mother and child clear lights meet When near-attainment dissolves into the all-empty And the conceptual multiplications cease and an experience Like an autumn sky free from polluting conditions dawns. Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen

From Advice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The bardo of the moment before death

[] O son of noble family, that which is called death has now arrived, so you should adopt this attitude: ˜I have arrived at the time of death, so now, by means of this death, I will adopt only the attitude of the enlightened state of mind, friendliness and compassion, and attain perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings as limitless as space. With this attitude, at this special time for the sake of all sentient beings, I will recognise the luminosity of death as the dharmak?ya, [˜the body of truth, the absolute buddha-nature] and attaining in that state the supreme realisation of the Great Symbol The Great Symbol (Tibetan phyag-rgya-chen-po, Sanskrit mahamudra) is a tantric meditation practice in which the whole of experience is transformed into the deity and the mandala; in this state the great bliss (mah?sukha) is produced from the union of the male and female aspects of practice, - skilful means or compassion, and knowledge or emptiness (up?ya and praj±£). It is direct perception of the sacredness and vividness of life. I will act for the good of all beings. If I do not attain this, I will recognise the bardo state as it is, and attaining the indivisible Great Symbol form in the bardo, I will act for the good of all beings as limitless as space in whatever way will influence them. Without letting go of this attitude you should remember and practice whatever meditation teaching you have received in the past.%

13. May we be set in one-pointed profound meditation
In the exalted wisdom of joined innate bliss and emptiness
During the four empties upon the melting of the moon-like white constituent by the fire of the lightening-like Powerful Female.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
FromAdvice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The bardo of the moment before death

These words should be spoken distinctly with the lips close to his ear, so as to remind him of his practice without letting his attention wander even for a moment. [] and remind him with these words, if he was a guru or spiritual friend higher than oneself: % Sir, now the basic luminosity is shining before you; recognise it, and rest in the practice.%
And one should show all others like this:%
O son of noble family, (name), listen. Now the pure luminosity of the dharmat? is shining before you; recognise it. O son of noble family, at this moment your state of mind is by nature pure emptiness, it does not possess any nature whatsoever, neither substance nor quality such as colour, but it is pure emptiness; this is the dharmat?, the female buddha Samantabhadr?. But this state of mind is not just blank emptiness, it is unobstructed, sparkling, pure and vibrant; this mind is the male buddha Samantabhadra.
Samantabhadra and Samantabhadr? [] symbolise the inseparability of compassion and knowledge, the two coefficients of enlightenment. As the embodiment of the dharmak?ya they are the origin of the five buddha families, who emanate from them and appear on the sambhogakaya level. In this sense, in the Nyingma tradition, Samantabhadra is known as the ?dibuddha, or primordial buddha. It is also the name of a bodhisattva, who appears on the third day of the bardo,

The bardo of the moment before death

These two, your mind whose nature is emptiness without any substance whatever, and your mind which is vibrant and luminous, are inseparable; this is the dharmakaya of the buddha. This mind of your is inseparable luminosity and emptiness in the form of a great mass of light, it has no birth or death, therefore it is the buddha of Immortal Light. To recognise this is all that is necessary. When you recognise this pure nature of your mind as the buddha, looking into your own mind is resting in the buddha-mind.%
This should be repeated three or seven times, clearly and precisely.
Firstly, it will remind him of what he has previously been shown by his guru. Secondly, he will recognise his own naked mind as the luminosity; and thirdly, having recognised himself, he will become inseparably united with the dharmak?ya and certainly attain liberation.%
If he recognises the first luminosity he will be liberated. But if it is feared that he has not recognised the first luminosity, then what is called the second luminosity will shine, and that comes when a little more than the time taken to eat a meal has passed after the respiration has ceased.%
According to good or bad karma, the prana escapes into the right or left nadi, and comes out through the apertures of the body, and the consciousness suddenly becomes clear. To say that this lasts for the time taken to eat a meal depends on whether he is sensitive or insensitive and on whether or not he has practiced. Then his consciousness emerges and he does not know whether he is dead or not. He will see his relatives gathered there just as before, and hear their cries.%
During this time, when the violent confused projections of karma have not yet appeared, and the terrors of the Lords of Death have not yet come, the instructions should be given. []

The bardo of the moment before death

[] The yidam is a particular deity which represents the disciples innate enlightened nature [] an ordinary person one who has not been given a specific yidam, should meditate on him.
And remind him with these words: O son of noble family, meditate on your yidam and do not be distracted. Concentrate intensely on your yidam. Visualise him as an appearance without substance of its own, like the moon in water; do not visualise him as having solid form. If he is an ordinary person, one should show him by saying: Meditate on the Lord of Great Compassion.%
There is no doubt that those who have not recognised the bardo will grasp it by being shown in this way. But those who were not adept in meditation, even if they were shown by their guru while they were alive, will not be able to clarify the bardo state by themselves, so that their guru or a dharma-brother must make it clear. And it is necessary for someone to instruct those who cannot remember during the bardo of the moment before death because they were confused by serious illness, even though they were adept in meditation. It is also extremely necessary for those who, although they were formerly adept in meditation on this path, may enter into lower existences because they have broken the precepts or because their samaya practice has degenerated.%
It is best if he understands during the first bardo, but if he has not understood his insight is awakened by the reminder in the second bardo, and he will be liberated.
During the second bardo, his consciousness, which did not know whether he was dead or not, suddenly becomes clear; this is called the pure illusory body. If he understands the teaching at this time, the mother and son dharmatas meet, and he is no longer dominated by karma.

15. If, due to karma, an intermediate state is established,
May erroneous appearances be purified through immediately analysing and realizing the absence of inherent existence
Of the sufferings of birth, death, and intermediate state.

Poem by the first Panchem Lama Losang Chokyi Gyeltsen
From Advice on Dying and Living a Better Life By His Holiness The Dalai Lama

The bardo of the moment before death

Just as the light of the sun overcomes darkness, so the power of karma is overcome by the luminosity of the path, and liberation is attained. This, which is called the second bardo, flashes before the mental body, and the consciousness is able to hear again just as before. If this instruction is understood at this time, its purpose is fulfilled, and since the confused projections of karma have not yet appeared, he is able to direct himself anywhere.%
In this way he is liberated by recognising the luminosity during the second bardo, even if he did not recognise the basic luminosity. But if he is not liberated by it, then what is called the third bardo, the bardo of dharmata, arises. The confused projections of karma will appear in the third bardo so it is most important that the great showing of the bardo of dharmata is read at this time, for it is very powerful and helpful.%
At this time his relatives are crying and weeping, his share of food is stopped, his clothes are removed, his bed is taken to pieces, and so on. He can see them but they cannot see him, and he can hear them calling him but they cannot hear him calling them, so he goes away in despair.

Three phenomena will appear at this time: sounds, coloured lights and rays of light, and he will grow faint with fear, terror and bewilderment, so at this moment the great showing of the bardo of dharmata should be read.

Source

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