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Kern Essential Books: The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana Doctrine: Translated from Pali by T. Rhys Davids, Edited by F. Adams Beck Rhys Davids The table of contents takes you first to the book of your choice, where the chapter links will let you to go your selected chapter.

This hierarchical structure ensures a fast browsing experience with the OCR error free texts. Kindle Edition , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Buddhism , please sign up. Lists with This Book. This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Ken rated it really liked it May 29, John Bryan Hill rated it it was amazing Sep 07, Shauna R Gilberti rated it liked it Mar 14, Dusty Peterson rated it it was ok Oct 31, James rated it it was amazing Oct 16, Meeka's Mom rated it liked it Apr 27, Amira Solmaia added it Apr 07, Byron Woolley marked it as to-read Oct 24, Austin Bunton marked it as to-read Dec 21, Compared with the goal of nirvana without suffering, which is absolute liberation in timeless eternity, everything earthly of the world of becoming must of course be characterized as unreal.

What appears to us as reality is only seemingly so, since it is transitory and always changing in form. If the human spirit remains attached to the changeable and reveres this as the real, it will have to undergo its experience of Mi-la ras-pa describes it thus: If our usual thinking becomes deeply attached, it leads to good and bad deeds and thereby creates the bardo of the world of suffering, in which one is forced to experience pleasure and pain.

Life itself is an intermediate state, namely, between earthly birth and death. In this way one bardo succeeds another in this earthly world as well as in the world beyond. Just as the material world is subject to transitoriness, so also is man in his physical form. The Tibetan Book of the Dead follows the ancient Buddhist notion of the five-fold make-up of the human personality, and its meditations on this constitute a systematic psychology that has become the basic structure of all mandalas of Mahayana Buddhism. The five groups, or skandhas S.

Phung-po lnga of the personality are the body as a physical form S. These five groups mutually interact and form what we call the human personality, or the presence of the individual in the world. All this is transitory and not absolute, for everything that arises passes away. The whole process of life, including thinking as the constant movement of consciousness, is characterized as constant flux. Nothing has real duration; everything is at every moment passing away or else is assigned to a new becoming.

Life is not static, but dynamic, and all moments of existence are intermediate states, even between two different kinds of state in the process of transformation. To recognize the changeable nature of the whole empirical world means to see its deceptive insubstantiality. Thus, there opens up the path to the unchangeable, the reality of the deathless, which is identical with the knowledge of the perfected and liberated. Mahayana Buddhism, the basis of bardo teachings, introduced quite early the terminology to facilitate comprehension of the arising of images and visionary buddhas to be experienced through concentration of the mind.

The question of transformation after death in particular lent itself to a better formulation when supported by the idea of a permanent ground of awareness. The first important concept is "emptiness" S. The empirical world is ultimately empty, since nothing is permanent or has essential being; nirvana is empty, since its all-pervading quality cannot be described or suitably characterized.

So the concept of emptiness has with respect to the world a negative, and to transcendence a positive, value. The Vijnanavada or Yogacara School of Indian Mahayana 35 posited as the absolute foundation of the world and of nirvana a "groundconsciousness" or universal awareness S. We find this idea already in the Udana: Everything is contained in awareness.

All suffering and experience of the seemingly real world comes about through perception in awareness. But nirvana too, complete salvation, is a condition in awareness, namely, emptiness and freedom from suffering, without the fluctuating processes of thought. When all contents of thought and activities of the intellect cease, which normally come to awareness from the empirical world through perception, then the stillness and absolute depth and infinity of ground-consciousness begin.

To attain this is one of the important goals of all meditative practices. Nirvana is absolute freedom from the world and from the manifestations samskaras from the alayavijnana; samsara is every step out from groundconsciousness into the world of appearances, and so also into the world of thoughts, which wells up from ground-consciousness in waves of thought.

Whatever karma is accumulated during life falls back down as a karmically or energetically charged seed S. It is not the previously existing person as a constellation of the five skandhas who appears in a new incarnation, but his karma, the consequence of actions begun and not yet worked through. In a somewhat more concrete form this idea now becomes the basis of the doctrines of the Tibetan Book of the Dead; there, whatever survives physical death is called the awareness-principle T.

It is this subtle body which stands in the intermediate state of the bardo at the central point of the process of transformation, and with whose guidance the monks who recite the ritual of the Books of the Dead concern themselves. As we shall see, this precise and uninterrupted directing of the awareness-principle of the dead person is so clear and real that it seems as if a person-to-person conversation is going on between the lamas and the dead person.

Only this phenomenological evidence allows us to fall into Western terminology and to speak of "guidance of the soul" after death. We mention this concept here only in order to show the possible relationship in technique with practices in other religions. Let us consider a few further thoughts about life and death and possible perfection within this span. Life presupposes death, and after death there again comes life.

But only in that individual span of existence between life and death can the law of individuation be consummated, in that life becomes fulfilled with meaning. In Buddhism this consummation consists in the liberation from suffering by perfection of the possibilities of human existence and virtues, through which the world can gradually be mastered in this existence. The Buddhist path and, of course, with another orientation also many other genuinely philosophically or religiously grounded paths of salvation thereby totally conforms with the development of the soul and the physical maturation of the person.

Once the step into this world has been taken, there must also be a way to come back out of it. Whoever from ignorance has not come to know himself and the world to its depths must despair of it and is unable to recognize the final step that goes beyond death. In the Ahguttara Nikaya we find the following statement: No traveling will bring one to the end of the world, and yet if one has not reached the end of the world, there is no liberation from suffering.

Indeed this end of the world is to be found; the beginning and end of all things, of all decisions in thinking and acting lie in us To overcome suffering and to attain freedom from the world in the world, means precisely "to reach the end of the world. Life in human form is the great opportunity to be and perfect oneself in it.

Thereby a host of problems can be overcome without those passions that are precisely the cause of further suffering. Another very salutary meditation towards the understanding of the problem of death is brought to us by Buddhaghosa. This is the same situation as in the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Anxiety and terror lead in the bardo to the experience of the wrathful deities as images of the opposing karmic forces which were in control of the unredeemed life even at the moment before death with its engendered great fear of the unknown.

With thoughts of transitoriness, suffering, and death, in life one should also arrive at the opposite recognition, namely, knowledge of the absolute and the transcendent. This is a totally positive attitude towards life, which values and directs what is essential. Thus Buddhaghosa affirms that one who "cannot attain the deathless in the course of his life" but has at least striven to attain it will achieve "with the disintegration of the body a more fortunate path of existence.

As this ancient text makes clear, the question of future transformation after death is of great importance.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead instructs the dead person in finding the path through the bardo, and therefore proceeds from the well-known assumption in The conditions of awareness set by previous karma fashion the awareness or spirit-body T. Yid-kyi lus which undergoes all the experiences of the after-death worlds, and these experiences in the realm beyond correspond to his karma see also chapter II, 6. It is of particular importance to the Tibetans that a person should appropriate during his earthly and fully conscious life all the knowledge which he will have to keep before his spiritual eye to guide him through the bardo.

According to an important text from the "snying-thig" tradition 38 the knowledge required for the path through the intermediate realm of the bardo is six-fold: The knowledge of his former place of birth or realm of existence T. The knowledge of dying, of the crossing over of awareness, and of new rebirth T. The knowledge of transcending spirit T. The knowledge of all hidden occurring in the realm of the non-visible appearances T.

The knowledge of the six realms of existence, i. The perfect knowledge of all liberating purifying capabilities T. Here we have a series of very subtle pieces of knowledge which all relate to how the path through the dangers of the bardo can be traversed with awareness. They are supposed to enable the spirit-body of the dead person to orient and guide itself in the realm beyond, recalling the teachings from this life.

These things are therefore to be learned during life, so that they can be helpful in the life after death. Therefore the monk reciting the Book of the Dead admonishes the awareness-principle wandering through the bardo to remember these capabilities. In order to attain a basic understanding of the nature of incarnation and the three levels of existence of human beings and buddhas, we must briefly consider the doctrine of the "three bodies" S.

Without this doctrine, fundamental to Mahayana Buddhism, the It constitutes at the same time an important background to understanding the structure of the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in which all the deities are ordered according to this principle. The three bodies together ecompass the possibilities of Being, between the highest Being in the spiritual sense and objective existence in the world of form. They constitute a spiritual order in the self-understanding of Mahayana Buddhism as the possibility of the emanation of the spiritual as well as the spiritualization of the material.

It is not a simple matter to convey the true meaning of the three bodies by means of Western concepts, but we can perhaps grasp the essential core of the doctrine by a series of paraphrases. The highest spiritual principle as cosmic order, as law or reality, interpenetrates the whole empirical world of being; it manifests on the plane of the transitory as nirmanakaya in physical form; it reveals itself in a higher sense in supernatural, transcending, and radiating form as sambhogakaya; and through timeless selfpositing, it manifests as the highest reality S.

Kaya in Sanskrit means body, not so much body as a visible form, but rather as a form of being, a plane of the working of dharma law between transcendence and immanence. Yogacara philosophy divides this realm of the reflecting human spirit in the frame of absolute reality into three bodies, or categories of being. In the reality of life, in the ordering of spiritual hierarchies, in the portrayals of the visionary deities as reflections of awareness, and in the rites of initiation as the image and primordial pattern of psychic transformation, the trikaya system constitutes an indispensable foundation.

With the help of some definitions, let us acquaint ourselves further with the nature and working of the three bodies. Chos-kyi-sku is the essence of doctrine and reality, it is highest Being as truth in itself, it has no form and is not visible. Its nature is the primordial ground of all appearances, emptiness S. As foundation, the dharmakaya is the principle of absolute totality, and in relation to pure matter it is spiritual Being. In their true essence the Buddha and all buddhas are identical with the nature of pure dharmakaya.

Since the dharmakaya is absolute reality, beyond all ideas and concepts, there is also no image or form of it. It is not even possible to form an adequate conception of its absoluteness. Yet there are symbolic representations of the dharmakaya, which are supposed to convey a certain idea. In art, there are the representations of the Adibuddha as Vajradhara T. Kun-tu bzang-po , which are taken as embodiments of the dharmakaya. We shall come back to these later. The dharmakaya in Mahayana Buddhism signifies an absoluteness in every aspect: We thereby understand dharmakaya as reality and also as embodiment in its purest form.

The Tibetan sage sgam-po-pa also called Dvags-po lha-rje , a pupil of the great Yogi Mi-la ras-pa in the 12th century, names a few qualities of the dharmakaya: In the sphere of spiritual experience beyond sensory images and perceptions, reality can appear before the spiritual eye of bodhisattvas and the perfected or spiritually advanced person in the form of the "body of bliss," the sambhogakaya T. The meaning of this concept is difficult to convey in our language and is yet of great importance for the understanding of the deities of the bardo visions.

The sambhogakaya is also called the "body of heavenly delight," of other-worldly bliss. We could characterize it as the knowable manifestation of the spiritual pervasiveness of the absolute or of buddha-nature. In the sambhogakaya, reality manifests in radiant beings like the bodhisattvas and the meditation-buddhas S. Byangchub sems-dpa' are "enlightened beings" who have passed through the earthly worlds on the path towards perfection of buddha-nature and are now living on the ten planes 40 of perfected spirituality in transcendent spaces, where they participate in the bliss of the pure buddha-lands.

The bodhisattvas have in their earthly existence made the great vow of active compassion for all beings S. In the heavenly buddha-spheres, it is supposed, they work further towards this lofty goal, until all living beings are saved. But what belongs above all to the spiritual realm of the sambhogakaya are those transcendent buddhas seen in visions or in flashes of enlightenment, that we know as Tathagatas or meditationbuddhas.

They are seen as the emanations from the absoluteness of the dharmakaya and represent certain basic forms of wisdom, of psychological and cosmological relationships, which are represented in Buddhist mandalas, where they constitute the greater part of the mystical meditation teachings of the Mahayana. The supernatural reality of the sambhogakaya, as the spiritual realm of emanations of higher intellectual sight, forms the most important In the third phase of emanation the essence of reality manifests on the earthly plane in the form of buddhas, who from compassion appear in the transitory world of existence.

They arise in a visible incarnated body S. The historical Gautama Buddha is considered such a concrete manifestation of the Law. The nirmanakaya has as its foundation the dharmakaya; the cause of its existence on the earthly plane is the compassion of the transcendent buddhas and bodhisattvas. But it is also said that earthly buddhas, as the propagators of the doctrine of salvation, are particular personalities who are distinguished from ordinary people by the 32 bodily marks and by certain supernatural powers heavenly sight and hearing, for example.

With the three bodies we have acquainted ourselves with the most important foundation for the understanding of the entire Tibetan Book of the Dead and its initiations. They are not only the basis of the initiations, which we shall soon discuss, but they also form the three planes of the death-experience, i. The Tibetan Book of the Dead shows us the dramatic events between the highest experience of the light and the deepest abysses as transformation between the absolute and its most empirical opposite.

As we shall see later, the visions of the Tibetan Book of the Dead show us the emanation of the Sacred in its threefold aspect of the trikaya doctrine. The essence of buddha-nature is to be seen in Mahayana Buddhism as a symbol of the Sacred in itself in opposition to the profane. The first emanation is the appearance, from out of the primordial Buddha, of the Sacred in the transcendent buddhas and bodhisattvas on the heavenly and visionary plane of the sambhogakaya. The second appears in earthly form as the Buddha preaching salvation in the nirmanakaya.

Among the deities of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it is only the six Buddhas from the six realms of incarnation who appear in the form of incarnated saviors. Lhan-skyes or the "great bliss" S. This experience of the unity of all things after the perfection of the "three bodies" is characterized as the "fourth body" or as the fourth stage of the mahasukhakaya T.

Ngo-bo-nyid-ki sku or as sahajakaya T. Lhan-gcig skyes-pa'i sku of the "simultaneously originated body. Ngo-bonyid and will be designated only as svabhavikakaya in the following chapters. The trinity and the one body as the fourth experience of indivisible T. Man himself then becomes the plane of activity of the subtle emanations of the Sacred or of buddha-nature. We shall again and again encounter these emanations of the Sacred from the mysterium of the diamond-nature of the Buddha, the suchness, the most perfect wisdom of the transcendent Tathagatas, when we consider the exoteric and esoteric statements of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which always present us with a wealth of symbols and symbolic relationships.

Because of the variety of traditions and schools from which we have received the teachings of the Tibetan Books of the Dead, it is difficult to provide an overview that does justice to the various systems. The language of the Buddhist texts of Tibet is usually an aggregation of symbols and notions which are often capable of several meanings.

Especially in the case of the initiations we must try to hold to one schema among the many that will prove to be of general validity. The introductory verse of the Bar-do thos-grol chen-mo the Great Book of Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo begins by From the dharmakaya comes the Buddha of the immeasurable shining light, the radiant Buddha Amitabha; in the light of the sambhogakaya shine the peaceful and wrathful deities; and as the incarnate disseminator of these teachings there appears in the nirmanakaya the Indian tantric and gum, Padmasambhava, who in the texts of the ancient Red Hat sect of Tibet is also referred to as a "second Buddha.

We shall first consider the four most important of these centers, which we shall characterize as the planes of activity of the trikaya doctrine. Many Tibetan texts agree that a lotus center S. All four cakras are connected to each other by "subtle" nerve-channels. In the center of the navel region solar plexus is a petalled lotus, the focus of the emanation of the nirmanakaya T.

This is the physical plane of the development of action and karmic activity. Above this, in the region of the heart, is the eight-petalled lotus, the jnanacakra T. Ye-shes-kyi 'khor-lo, or Thugs-kyi 'khor-lo. This is the plane of spiritual actualization in the dharmakaya. The heart-center is the place of highest experience. Above this, in the region of the throat, is a petalled lotus, the center of the activity of the sambhogakaya T.

This is the verbal plane of mantras and invocations to the transcendent buddhas. The topmost lotus center has 32 petals and is the plane of intellectual experience and of discriminating thought and is characterized as the focus of the great bliss of the svabhavikakaya T. This system will have to be supplemented later by another cakra, but this four-fold division will afford us a solid foundation for the initiation-schema of Vajrayana Buddhism, which is also applied in detail in the Tibetan Books of the Dead. We must also remark, however, that the order of the four centers can be reversed in the initiations.

Guru Padmasambhava top , the Tibetan king Khri-srong ldebtsan left , and the sage Santaraksita right. From an old block print from Western Tibet. There belongs to every ritual in Vajrayana the initiation with consecrated water, which forms the central point of a symbolic purification of the adept. This rite is called abhiseka T. Connected with this is the "dispensing" or "transmission of power" T. Only after such an initiation can the pupil himself transmit the teachings to a successor. With the abhiseka consecration the pupil is released and directed into self-responsibility for his further activity on the spiritual path.

Every transmission of Tibetan secret teachings of the Tantras and the higher doctrines of Vajrayana is accompanied by such initiations with abhiseka. They are the ritual medium of the particular circumstances for the transmission of the secret mantras, texts, and such complex doctrines as are contained in the Tibetan Books of the Dead. The whole person is included in the ritual initiations and is presented with the secret wisdom that will make comprehensible to him the path of emanations of the absolute buddha-nature. The person himself then becomes the place of the mystery, into which the planes of the trikaya will unfold.

In our case the consecrations with water and other sanctified ritual objects serve to allow the meaning of the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead to be grasped as a happening within the soul. Or, expressed in purely Buddhist terminology: To this end we have the schema of the four initiations T. They symbolize the four shapes of the realization of pure buddhanature, which can be much better grasped and actualized if the four psychic centers, or lotus cakras, are purified of the stains of ignorance, delusion, hate, greed, and false ideas. The attainment of purity of mind and spirit on the path of liberation is the symbolic task of the four kinds of abhiseka-consecration.

Each of the four initiations corresponds to a lotus center, and they are given either in the natural sequence or else in reverse order as a complement to the consecration. If we follow the course of the four abhisekas as presented already, we will recognize the manifestation of the Sa- With the kumbhabhiseka T. Bum-dbang all hindrances and contaminations on the psychic plane are removed and purified. One must thereby meditate upon the mantric syllable OM, which emanates from the forehead of the Buddha as a radiant white syllable. Then the profane human body T. Lus is transformed into a higher sanctified body T.

With the guhyabhiseka T. Ordinary speech thereby becomes the sacred Word, the mantra as the expression of the sambhogakaya. During the prajnabhiseka T. Ye-shes-kyi dbang one meditates upon the blue syllable HUM, which radiates from the heart cakra of the Buddha. This purifies with its light the level of the heart as the place of pure spirit and feeling, and the pupil attains the true center of pure spirit in the heart T.

Thugs as the origin of the dharmakaya. The fourth consecration is the sahajabhiseka, performed in the light of the red mantric syllable HRIH emanating from the navel of the Buddha , which goes to the nirmanacakra and purifies the whole trinity of body, speech, and spirit thought , and thereby leads to the actualization of the indivisible svabhavikakaya. The whole ritual of this four-fold consecration is naturally much more complex, but this paraphrase should suffice to convey the essence of the abhiseka-consecration with respect to the bardo.

The transmission of the initiations or the abhiseka consecration involves not only the ritual purification of the unenlightened awareness as described above, but each initiation is associated Thus, a concrete doctrinal content is connected with the initiation, one which relates to particular aspects of the Buddhist religion or to whole texts, such as a Tantra. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead we find a series of initiations which always relate to certain groups of aspects.

Throughout the whole ritual, the recitation of which lasts several hours, a series of systematically structured initiations is performed which have as their content the separate stages of knowledge from the visions of the Book of the Dead. These consecrations relate to, among others, the five errors and hindrances T. Nyon-mongs-lnga , the five groups of the human personality T. Phung-po-lnga , and the five elements T.

With the help of the ritual they also explain in detail the deeper meaning of the famous six-syllable mantra, om ma ni pad me hum, and the associated six Buddhas T. This wisdom is taught on the various planes of the trikaya, i. There arises from this an abundance of initiatory symbolism, which for the same content can use quite different symbols, images, signs, mudras, colors, elements, or mantras. The meanings of the most important groups of symbols, of the most significant In the Tibetan Book of the Dead "bardo" designates a state between two similar states or conditions, namely, the state "between two lines" or kinds of existence in bodily or earthly form.

Thus we see that the word "bardo" names a third thing, namely, the state of existence of a person after his death and before his rebirth. The concept of the bardo must be construed in a broader way in order to grasp its dynamics. For we are here touching upon a way of thinking common to Asia in general and particularly characteristic of Buddhism, namely, the idea of the continuity of being or of life.

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It is therefore quite natural that bardo, the intermediate state, has many more meanings than just the state of existence after death. We shall see in what follows that there are a number of defined intermediate states, and this leads us to the Buddhist recognition that there is ultimately in life, in knowledge, in every kind of existence and form or matter, nothing but intermediate states, and no definitive or final and immutable forms. We recognize all this through consciousness, which knows the empirical world or believes that it has grasped existence and is also conscious of something higher and imperishable, timeless and deathless.

In the space between the manifold evolution of the transitory forms of existence and the continuity of Being itself is situated the great polarity of human consciousness. Mahayana Buddhism and especially the Buddhist Tantras formed a further basic notion from this knowledge, which has the same importance to us as that of the bardo, namely, the paired concepts of samsara and nirvana T. Samsara is the cycle of existences, of every kind of being in the world resulting from attachment to every kind of material existence.

It is also the connection of the spiritual with matter. All persons and materials including the living bodies of humans, animals, and plants are transitory, subject to suffering through transformation and the perishability of their temporal form. Beyond all this lies the deathless realm of salvation, the totally Other, the immeasurable place of the Absolute, which is in all religions and philosophies characterized by the highest concepts of which language is capable. In Buddhism this is nirvana, the goal of the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

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Yet it is not anything beyond, in a spatial sense, but it is, as the highest liberation, a possibility of Being. The more a fulfilled person comes to inner freedom from the transitory world, the nearer he approaches the goal of enlightenment and fully conscious presence and the more he diminishes the intermediate state between the highest transcendence and the greatest attachment to the world. Samsara, the world of changes, and nirvana, the condition of highest liberation and salvation from the perishable, are two inseparable poles of Being T. This specifically tantric insight of the Indian siddhas and gurus of the Vajrayana is of considerable importance for the understanding of the bardo as a concept of dynamic Weltanschauung.

Bardo unites two states, as a continuity of forms of Only a few of the many kinds of bardo states mentioned in the Tibetan texts will be described here. They show that bardo is a central concept for continuity, a dynamic concept, which in the metaphorical sense stands for "intermediate states" in every moment of life. Every form of bardo is the recognition of an inter 1 - mediate state in the course of continuously transforming existence, for there is no eternal state in the world of existence.

Every instant, every minute, and second is a moment of the state in which a thing is situated between its past and its future. Although there are many kinds of bardo, the bardo of the world beyond between two possible earthly existences is the most important. It is the great opportunity for transformation by one's own power. Every moment is different from the previous one, but each moment is also the point of departure for the direction of future conditions of existence.

A river seems always to flow in the same way, and yet at every moment the water in the same place is different. Life, too, is a state, and so is death; both are conditions of unitary Being. If we recognize the intermediate state as a moment of change, each one is then a starting point of transformation, from which we can set about forming future becoming. All the more so when we recognize that the intermediate state binds together both ends of past and future.

In relation to the bardo in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, this means the possibility of the unfolding of life and activity without temporal restriction in the sphere of being after death. For death for the Tibetans is only a form of life without the earthly veil. We shall now confirm this from the numerous definitions in Tibetan writings about the bardo. The doctrines of the bardo emphasize that, from the Buddhist point of view, man himself can participate in the three planes of existence of the trikaya. If the buddhas and bodhisattvas have risen through earthly life to the highest form of being of the dharmakaya, this way must also be a possible spiritual path for man, on which he can experience in various forms the three kinds of Na-ro-chos-drug and, for example, from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, 44 we are acquainted with six kinds of intermediate states, which we can tabulate as follows: Chos-nyid bar-do the bardo of the experience of reality 6.

Srid-pa'i bar-do the bardo of seeking rebirth A. We can designate it as such because it is only one in a long chain of successive forms of existence of life. Life appears as a state between two death-experiences, one before birth and one at the end of life, and the state of death in the beyond always repeats itself between two forms of life on this side.

Therefore Naropa in the "Khrid-yig" 45 characterizes the first intermediate state as the bardo between life and death with the following definition: As we shall If the path of earthly life is illuminated by such practices, then the bardo of the path of life is fulfilled T. According to Mi-la ras-pa this means that the intermediate state on the earthly plane as a human being is fulfilled with meaning.

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In the "root verses of the six bardos" T. Bar-do'i rtsa-tshig 47 it is pointed out that one should dedicate oneself in the bardo of the realm of life T. Thos bsam sgom gsum. The second bardo relates to the intermediate state in the dream state T. According to Naropa in the "Khrid-yig," 48 a person is in the bardo of the dream state "when sleep has come and sleep has not yet gone. Identification with those images of the dream world would lead to the obfuscation of awareness and thereby to increasing ignorance and attachment.

Just as by means of concentrated practice a person can as an impartial onlooker guide his own awareness through the intermediate state of the dream without being affected by delusions, so he is able, later, in the Chos-nyid bar-do of the experience of reality in the beyond, to recognize and follow the path of his awareness-principle. Mi-la ras-pa said that in the rmi-lam bar-do one should meditate upon the appearance of the clear light T. Thereby the hindrances of ignorance are overcome even in the dream, and they are therefore also no longer effectual in waking consciousness.

It is interesting that the exercises from the teachings about dream consciousness work with an applied technique of opposed symbols, a polar and dynamic technique of The third bardo is the intermediate state during meditation S. Ting-nge-'dzin , the two states of concentrated awareness and ecstatic vision, in which all images and false ideas are dissolved. Here too, the yoga of meditative unfolding and of perfectly unified vision T. In samadhi, the high point of meditation, the clear light of the radiant dharmakaya is actualized. All deceptive images T. Only this yoga leads to the liberation of consciousness from the power of desire and passion, and from the attachments to the transitory world of illusion and thus constitutes the presupposition of salvation in the bardo after death.

We can therefore characterize the three kinds of bardo state already discussed as those planes on which a progressive self-actualization and overcoming of the world can take place. They are therefore the most important preliminary stages of educating awareness for the great experience of the dramatic visions and events of a world beyond, and thus they constitute access to the renewal of life in the next existence.

In the "Khrid-yig" of Naropa 50 the three intermediate states of the bardo after death are identified with the great experience of the trikaya: In the middle one the second, or Chos-nyid bar-do appears the sam- The clear and radiant white light is the highest experience of the reality of the dharmakaya see also chapter II, 6. Thereafter consciousness begins slowly to perceive the rays of the five elements, which develop into lights and visionary images of the peaceful and wrathful deities of the mandalas of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

This is the radiant, "heavenly" realm of the sambhogakaya, the descent of the Chos-nyid bar-do as experience of reality. In the third intermediate state after death, the Srid-pa'i bardo, awareness begins the descent into the concretions of the material realm, whose powers are concentrated into the potential of the nirmanakaya before rebirth. The relationship of awareness with the muddy emanations from the worlds of incarnation are taken up, and there appear the six Buddhas of the realms of existence as incarnate guides through the existences in one of the six worlds, or lokas for a detailed account, see chapter III, i.

Naropa has the following to say about these processes Khrid-yig, Fol 46 6: That is the dharmakaya in the experience of death. After this has arisen and become a certainty for the dead person in the bardo, there then appear in him as if in a dream the divine images or forms, T. Thus the clear light emerging from itself is recognized. And if it has been recognized at the right time, bliss and emptiness and the fields of divine forms namely, the transcendent buddhas then endure without interruption. At this point one should contemplate the hindrances and Thereby the liberated awareness-principle remains in the fields of bliss on the plane of the bodhisattvas in view of the radiant Buddha Amitabha, who illuminates those realms as the Buddha of immeasurable shining light.

In the last intermediate state, the awareness of the dead person experiences, in the beyond, the Srid-pa'i bar-do as the search for a new existence and there experiences the pre-formations of the arising nirmanakaya. Here, there appear from the rays of the dim lights of the six worlds all the Herukas in male and female demonic form, and as guides through these worlds the six Buddhas of the bhavacakra come before the spiritual eye of the dead person.

In his "Hundred Thousand Songs" Mi-la ras-pa says that the dharmakaya can be reached by practicing a developing and unifying yoga T. Zhi-khro , while the nirmanakaya characterizes the Srid-pa'i bar-do before the beginning of the next incarnation. In the recognition of the possibility of determining in the Srid-pa'i bar-do the way and type of the next incarnation, lies the third great opportunity for transformation after death. The awareness-principle recognizes the forms of the nirmanakaya and future conditions of being by way of particular signs, which are described in detail in the "Six Doctrines" of Naropa and in the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Mi-la ras-pa affirms that all three bodies are immanent in every human being as possibilities of spiritual transformation, but that most people through ignorance do not realize it. Ngobo-nyid sku as the fourth; these are all in us even though we are not aware of them. Please teach us about the dharmakaya, explain the dharmakaya as the clear light of death. Please teach us about the sambhogakaya by explaining the deceptive forms of the pure bardo. Please teach us about the nirmanakaya, so that we may incarnate by our own powers.

For only very few people thoroughly schooled in yoga may reach the goal of the perfect liberation of the dharmakaya in the immediacy of the great "clear light. Yid-kyi lus , it experiences the working out of its previous karmic deeds as peaceful and terrifying visions, and it comes before the judge of death, Dharmaraja, where its actions are weighed in the balance see the further descriptions in chapter III, 5.

Therefore this intermediate state is also called the bardo of karmically conditioned finding of rebirth T. We have now established that the Buddhist doctrine of the three bodies is of great importance for continuing existence and the transformations of awareness in the three-fold bardo of the world after death.

The significance of the bardo is thereby extended to conscious life, and the world beyond becomes a karmically corresponding image of earthly life. If a person in his earthly existence has not sufficiently loosened his craving attachments to the transitory world and thereby achieved a technique or practice of freedom of awareness, he will not be able to undertake the dangerous path through the bardo. The opportunity is thereby given to reach the sambhogakaya, a transcendent space.

We spoke earlier of the emanation of the Sacred, in connection with the absoluteness of the dharma, which emanates in the three or four bodies in various grades of knowledge. The teachings about the bardo show us that it is a dual process with one form of manifestation on the side of life and another on the side of death. Ordinary life is the intermediate state of the skye-gnas bar-do and is incarnate existence S. There, everything is subject to suffering P.

In the dream state one is no longer aware of the body and experiences the illusory bodies of the ambiguous dream-visions. To master these by means of yoga leads to knowledge of the visionary sambhogakaya. Whoever goes further and in clear waking awareness dedicates himself to meditation upon the great emptiness S. The experience of the transformations beyond in the threefold bardo are the reverse of the process towards renewed incarnation.

The disembodied spirit slowly finds its way through the subtle forms of the clear light back into the world of visions and manifest forms. Just as, at the hour of death, the greatest concentration and attention is necessary for an awareness free of suffering to find the best and most lucid crossing into the critical part of the bardo, so there then appears the dharmakaya as the first light. Thus the greatest spiritual experience in the life of man takes place with the highest intensity on entering death.

During earthly life man tries to raise himself from the lower plane of profane igno- We are able fully to describe this significant process with words from our Western terminology. Life on earth is a process of constant spiritualization, of the actualization of the spiritual principle in man. If we now presuppose a bardo, then the transformation in the world of the dead is from the highest beginning a constant materialization of the spiritual, until a new earthly form is fashioned as the strong shell of the spirit.

There then begins in the child, slowly at first, a continuous becoming-conscious until maturity, the mastery of awareness over the bodily principle. We can schematize the Tibetan path through life into death and again to a new life as shown in table 2, where each bardo stage of life has a corresponding stage in death and also a corresponding level in the three bodies. They are of such great importance and treated in such detail in the scriptures because the conditions through which the awareness wanders in the bardo are considerably more dif- Considered psychologically, it can be foreseen what it means for man to immerse himself, without relation to embodiment or world, in the depths of the conscious and unconscious.

We shall return to this question in chapter VII. Here in the manifest world of existence it is possible consciously to direct one's life by coming to terms with the objective world, although only a few take advantage of these possibilities. Therefore, the Tibetan Book of the Dead continually instructs the awareness-body wandering through the bardo to recall the teachings it received during earthly life, which are said to be of considerable assistance for the path beyond.

Conscious recall of wisdom previously learned and experienced in life is the best means of finding one's way through the bardo. It is believed that the practice of yoga gives awareness the ability to find its way, even in the difficult conditions of the bardo. As in all teachings of Buddhist philosophy, it is a question of man's learning not to get caught in dualistic definitions in his seeking to grasp the Absolute.

World and transcendence, conceived in static concepts and taken in themselves, lead only to man's striving to attach himself to one or the other. But the truth lies in between. Thereby even the highest concepts are relativized to such an extent that they are no longer alone capable of describing the totality.

We are acquainted with the characterization of the Absolute as "neither-nor" from the philosophical dialectic of Taoism and from the Indian Tantras.


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Also, the great emptiness as a central concept of Mahayana Buddhism does not allow any evaluation, as is clear from the comprehensive' Prajnaparamita literature. If one attains the highest experience of indescribable emptiness, this cannot even be adequately described by the emotional meaning of bliss T. Such occurrences remain, for the mind, an inexpressible phenomenon.

The intermediate state between the polar opposites remains, for experience, a mystery of the ineffable. Here also there is a bardo, as Mi-la ras-pa says in his Songs: In the bardo between the word and its meaning there is no room for practicing scholarship. The intermediate state of inseparable communities and conditioned polar opposites clearly points to the indivisibility of the whole.

Intermediate states of manifest form and emptiness T. Tshig-don gnyis-kyi bar-do point to inner duality and show the unconditioned equivalence of two essential forms of expression, which symbolically embrace both the rational and the non-rational elements. Life and the life to come form an indivisible unity, since they are bound by the bardo as an inevitable condition.

From these Tibetan experiences we recognize an unconditioned conviction, self-evident to the Asiatics, about the continued existence of life, and in addition we obtain valuable insights for the linguistic philosophy of symbolic forms, which have so far remained vital there with uninterrupted power.


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The bardo is then the inevitable connecting link between two rationally graspable states of opposite kind. Therefore, the other-worldly state of the inexplicable is a bardo. Of the various other intermediate states characterized as bardos we shall mention a few more that Mi-la ras-pa describes. ITa-ba'i bar-do ; the practice of meditation knows a bardo of meditation T. Lam bskyed-rdzogs-kyi bar-do ; dwelling upon the quintessence of spiritual teachings one finds oneself in the gnad-kyi bar-do; if the vital and dynamic relation between the physical, verbal, and spiritual planes is attained, one is in the We should mention peripherally the psychic techniques of transmission of consciousness S.

Tho-ba and the re-animation of a dead person S. The purpose of the yoga practice of transmission of consciousness is to prepare the topmost point of the skull the fontanelle by psychophysical exercises in such a way that at death it is possible for consciousness to exit unhindered.

This technique is not without its dangers and is practiced under the direction of a guru. Using meditation on the breath and on syllables, it lasts at least fourteen days, but once it has been practiced successfully it need not be repeated in life. The exercise is associated with meditation on the syllable HIG and the radiant light of the Buddha Amitabha. When blood or lymph appears at the fontanelle, the path for awareness has been opened and the yoga can be discontinued.

It is characteristic of the significance of the bardo for the Tibetans that these preparatory exercises are not performed towards the end of life, but usually at a much younger age. Then one can face the future with a clear spirit. A brief overview of the esoteric doctrine of the transmission of consciousness can be found in Evans-Wentz. The technique was brought from India to Tibet by the Tibetan sage and translator, Mar-pa chos-kyi blo-gros of Lho-brag in southern Tibet, who is known as the guru of Mi-la ras-pa. The latter gave it to his son, Dharma mdo-sde, who, however, met with an unfortunate sudden death.

Since he had not transmitted the doctrine further, the authentic secret wisdom of this technique was lost. We find that a few directions have been preserved in certain texts, in the "snying-thig" literature, for example. Ancient shamanistic practices must have persisted in this kind of yoga, which is based on the assumption that one can breathe life back into a dead person. Yoga is without doubt one of the most effective methods of psychical and physical regulation of man. We shall close our discussion of the bardo by emphasizing that in Tibet the intermediate state has had a central significance that goes beyond the Book of the Dead.

It was the moment not only of uniting past and present but also of consciously forming the future. From the bardo leads the path towards improving the conditions of one's own future being; bardo is the plane of karmic transformation.

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Whoever does not understand this experiences the bardo as the plane of suffering, of progress through the terrifying visions of the world after death with its eighteen different forms of hellish torment. For one who has not attained liberation during life, the intermediate state becomes the suffering of the torments of death T.

On The Symbolism of Tantric Polarity, the Trinity, the Quaternity and the Fivefold, and of Colors and Elements Now appear the lights of the five orders, which constitute the unity of the four wisdoms: Take care to recognize them. Mahayana Buddhism and, to an even greater extent, Vajrayana, which is more influenced by the Tantras, contain a wealth of symbolism which needs to be known in order to understand ritual and meditative practice. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, too, contains many of these symbols. There we find symbolic language mantras, for example , colors, and deities, as cos- If, before discussing the individual visions of the deities, we present the foundations of this symbolism, we will find that the various parts of the Tibetan texts dealing with bardo visions are structured according to a quite clear and systematic principle of symbolic forms which stand in manifold consistent relationships with each other.

Moreover, we shall establish that this symbolism evolves in definite stages towards the complex pantheon of all the bardo deities, who appear together on the fourteenth day in a great cosmic mandala. It should be remarked that we cannot discuss here the entire symbolism either of Vajrayana in general or of the Tibetan Book of the Dead in particular.

We shall only refer to the characteristic structure of an initiatory doctrine such as that of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, in order to facilitate understanding of the whole work. Later, in chapter III,-we shall make a closer study of the symbolism of the deities, since we shall then be setting out on the path through the bardo visions in discrete symbolic steps. It is already remarkable that the teachings of the Tibetan Book of the Dead proceed from the premise that the duration of the transformations in the bardo between two earthly forms of existence is forty-nine days. In this space of time of seven times seven days, beginning from the moment of the first vision, all the apparitions through to the moment of re-entry into earthly life the moment of conception occur in a way that corresponds to a progression of symbolic numbers and multiple values.