"Bardo Teachings is an excellent pick for anyone looking for a greater understanding of the Buddhist cycle of death."—Midwest Book Review
Bardo Teachings: The Way of Death and Rebirthby Lama Lodu
A popular Tibetan Buddhist teacher based in California explains the meaning of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He presents a precise description of the process of dying, the nature of the intermediate state after death, and taking rebirth.See more details below
A popular Tibetan Buddhist teacher based in California explains the meaning of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He presents a precise description of the process of dying, the nature of the intermediate state after death, and taking rebirth.
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The Chikai Bardo
The number of beings wandering in Samsara are as endless as their perceptions, and these perceptions are as limitless as the number of Dharmas. All these Dharmas are contained in the two categories of the Worldly Dharma and the Holy Dharma.
The Worldly Dharma is endless, but as Lord Buddha taught, it is all contained in the Five Skandhas, in Tibetan called pung po nga: pung po meaning "aggregate;" nga meaning "five."
The Five Skandhas are form, feeling, perception, intention, and consciousness. The six sense organs (eyes, ears, body, nose, tongue, and consciousness) and their objects (form, sound, feeling, smelling, tasting, and sensation) are together the Twelve Born and Increasing Moment, in Tibetan called Kyi Che Chu Nyi: Kyi meaning "to be born or arise;" che meaning "to increase or flourish;" chu nyi meaning "twelve." These are the phenomena of samsaric delusion.
The Holy Dharma is endless, but it is all contained in the Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings of the Buddha. In this case, we are referring to the Vajrayana practice, particularly as it pertains to death and rebirth. With this knowledge the Five Skandhas and the five elements transcend into the Five Dhyana Buddhas (Tathagatas).
In Tibetan, the word Bardo means "intermediate state." There are six different kinds of Bardo. The first is the Bardo of Life, Kye Ne Bardo; the second is the Bardo of the Dream State, Milam Bardo; thethird is the Bardo of Meditation, Samten Bardo; the fourth is the Bardo of the Process of Death, Chikai Bardo; the fifth is the State after Death, Chonyi Bardo; and the sixth is the Bardo of the Search for Rebirth in Samsara, Sipai Bardo.
The Bardo of Life (Kye Ne Bardo) encompasses the experience of the illusion of waking reality. It includes all negative and positive actions during each lifetime from birth until death. The Bardo of the Dream State (Milam Bardo) includes all mental activity while the physical body is sleeping. The Meditation Bardo (Samten Bardo) includes the myriad of meditation experiences from the lowest levels of realization to the attainment of enlightenment. These meditative experiences range from one-pointed concentration to the states of nonmeditation.
The Bardo of the Process of Death awaits us all. Even now we should begin preparing ourselves for the enormous difficulties, the pain and anguish we will experience. Most of us do not want to die, and many of us will not even allow ourselves to think about it. Yet it is certain that we all must die. Even the Buddha and those who attained enlightenment after him, all passed away. As they did, so must we all pass away.
The great yogi of Tibet, Milarepa, was an enlightened being who could transform himself into the four elements, and yet, he also passed away. In fact, if we examine our own situation, we see that we are far from being free of illusion, ignorance, hatred and all the negative qualities that may be associated with human existence. How then can we say that we will not die?
Even as death is certain, we must also remember that it is not painless. It is not like having the flame of a candle blown out by the wind or extinguished with water. Very few people are able to die with great peace and happiness, even those who have sincerely and conscientiously practiced the Dharma and have, through meditation, achieved great power over their own minds.
So, if death is certain we must also be prepared for the consequences. How can we best face our ultimate fate? Basically, there are two ways. The first is to practice the Dharma with great compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. The second is to gain control of our mind through intense devotion. With these two we can overcome all obstacles.
Whatever we possess, our relatives, our best friends, all our wealth will be useless to us when we die. During our lives, most of what we do caters to the desires of our bodies. Yet, when death occurs we must leave the body on which we have spent so much effort. At that time only our consciousness experiences the results of past actions. When we are alive our body depends on the five basic elements for existence. We know that we get sick or feel uncomfortable if there is any slight change in the balance of the five elements. For example, if it is too hot, we get sick; if too cold, we get sick. Yet, at death these five elements upon which we depended are left behind.
Our physical existence, which relies on the five inner elements, flesh, bodily fluids, bodily heat, breathing, and bodily complexion, corresponds to the five outer elements, the earth, water, fire, wind and ether. At the time of death, the five inner elements gradually dissolve into one another and in order not to be afraid at this time you should know what stage the dissolving is in. This dissolving is called in Tibetan Thimrim. Each of these dissolving stages has the enlightened aspect represented by each of the five Female Buddhas. The female Buddha Sangye Chenma is the pure transcending element of the nature of the earth and in bodily systems, the flesh. The female Buddha Mamaki is the pure transcending element of the nature of water and in bodily systems, the body fluids. The female Buddha Go Karmo is the pure transcending element of the nature of fire and in bodily systems, the body heat. The female Buddhas Damtsik Drolma and Yingchogma are the pure transcending elements of the air and ether, respectively, and in bodily systems, breath and body complexion.
If during your lifetime you have experienced the development and completion stages in meditative concentration on the deities, then in the Bardo, by realizing mind itself is emptiness, you can recognize the dissolving stages and have the opportunity to be released from suffering and attain enlightenment.
The process begins as the element earth dissolves and is absorbed by the element water. This is accompanied by the inner experience that all phenomena take on a yellow appearance. You will envision and experience that everything is falling apart from great floods and earthquakes. You will not be able to stand because your strength is fast disappearing. At that time you should try to identify and meditate that the yellow things you see and your mind are one, without any independent existence. In other words, if you can transcend the duality, then you can attain the level of enlightenment of the female Buddha called Sangye Chenma. If you lose this great opportunity, painful experiences in Samsara will continue.
In the second phase, the element water dissolves and is absorbed by the element fire. This is associated with the inner experience of all phenomena taking on a white appearance. Externally, you will experience the sensation that the entire universe has been flooded with water. During this time, those around you perceive that your face and lips are rapidly drying up. You will also feel extremely thirsty. If, when this takes place, you are able to meditate with complete conviction that whatever you see as water and whiteness is all a product of your mind, with nothing existing independently, then you will attain enlightenment and achieve the state of the female Buddha Mamaki.
When the third element, fire, dissolves into the element air you will have the inner experience that everything is red, and will experience the sensation that everything around you is burning. During this time, the heat from your body will go away. If, at this moment, you can meditate one-pointedly that the external and internal experiences are all mind-created and that nothing exists independently of mind, then you will accomplish enlightenment and attain the state of the female Buddha Go Karmo.
However, if you do not achieve this stage, the element air will dissolve into ether itself. When this happens, you will have the inner experience of greenness and then the external experience that all phenomena in the universe are being blown away by the winds of a great storm. You will hear a grinding roar like that of a thousand thunders. At this moment, meditate one-pointedly that all the lights, sounds and colors you are experiencing are created by your mind and that nothing exists independently. If you are able to realize that the mind itself is emptiness without any independent existence, then you will attain enlightenment and achieve the state of the female Buddha Damtsik Drolma.
If you do not achieve this stage, ether will dissolve into consciousness itself. At this time, you enter a very deep darkness and lose sensory perception. Meditate one-pointedly and identify your mind as the nature of Dharmadhatu, or clear light. You will then attain enlightenment, the state of the female Buddha Yingchogma.
At this point all the five elements have dissolved and you will not be able to move any part of your body. First the external air or breath will be extinguished. Then you will see a small white bindu, the Bodhicitta, appearing at your forehead and descending slowly; this is the male Bodhicitta, the symbol of skillful means. When the white bindu descends, you will see all phenomena turning white. At that moment, all the thirty-three different kinds of anger will be extinguished in a flash, and even if you have had great anger, for example the anger you may have felt toward someone who killed your father, it will be completely extinguished. At the same time you will experience the Wisdom of Joy, which is the very essence of the Nirmanakaya. The impure body upon transcendent purification becomes the Nirmanakaya, in Tibetan Trul Ku. This is the divine body of incarnation and the body of the spiritual state in which abide all great teachers and all Bodhisattvas' incarnations on earth. The Nirmanakaya represents the Wisdom of Joy which is beyond dualistic grasping. If you can experience and recognize this joy and wisdom, you will gain enlightenment and attain the state of Dorje Sempa, the essence of the body of all the Buddhas. Then you will not be lost in the Bardo.
After this you will see a red bindu rising slowly from your navel. This is the female Bodhicitta, the symbol of wisdom. When the red bindu rises, you will see all phenomena around you turning red. During that time, all of the forty types of desire will be extinguished and even if you see the most attractive god or goddess, you will have no desire. At that moment you will experience the Wisdom of Supreme Joy, which is the esence of the Sambhogakaya. The impure speech upon transcendent purification becomes the Sambhogakaya, in Tibetan Lon Ku. It is the divine body of perfect endowment and symbolizes the state of spiritual communion in which all Bodhisattvas exist, transcending the ordinary realm. The Sambhogakaya represents the Supreme Joy, which is a deeper and more profound and permanent joy. If you can realize this extraordinary joy and wisdom, you can attain the state of Amitabha, the essence of the speech of all the Buddhas, and you will not be lost in the Bardo.
If you are not successful in meditating and attaining enlightenment in this stage, you will see the red and white bindus approaching one another and eventually meeting at your heart chakra. As they meet you will experience an opaque darkness, as on the night of the new moonvery darkand the seven kinds of ignorance and delusion will cease. At that moment you will have the supreme experience of Wisdom Beyond Joyfulness and immediately you can transform yourself into the mind of all the Buddhas, which is Vairocana. The dualistic mind upon transcendent purification becomes the Dharmakaya, in Tibetan Chö Ku. It is the fundamental truth in which all dualities merge into transcendent oneness and is beyond sensual perception. The Dharmakaya is Wisdom Beyond Joyfulness. It is beyond conceptualization, more profound and indestructable. At that moment, one does not have to make an effort to meditate; it comes spontaneously and naturally. If you are unable to realize the essence of the mind of all the Buddhas (Vairocana), then you fail back into Samsara. However, if you are able to have this realization, then you will attain enlightenment and have no need to wander further in the Bardo.
The essence of the body of all the Buddhas is Dorje Sempa, the essence of the speech of all the Buddhas is Amitabha, the essence of the mind of all the Buddhas is Vairocana. Vairocana represents the source of all Buddhas.
If you cannot attain enlightenment at this moment, then you will be lost in the Chonyi Bardo. Whether you will wander in the Bardo or catch the spark of enlightenment of the three states described depends on the practice of the Dharma and the meditation you do in this lifetime.
All sentient beings have essentially the same experiences when they die. The differences will depend on their ability to recognize the true nature of the various stages. This in turn will depend on their training and practice of meditation. When the red and white Bodhicitta meet at the heart chakra, a person who has accomplished very deep and profound meditation in this lifetime will realize the true nature of mind. There will be a spontaneous recognition that the mind which has been meditating on emptiness and the state of emptiness itself are one and the same. Each will mutually recognize the other. The mind which meditates on emptiness during the lifetime is called the son; the natural reality of the mind itself is known as the mother. The person who has accomplished very thorough and profound meditation will experience a merging of the two. This is like the encounter between a mother and a long-lost child. When the mother and child meet each other, the mother will naturally and spontaneously recognize her child and be filled with a natural joy. At that moment she will lose all other awareness and experience only the happiness of recognizing and meeting her child. When you realize the emptiness of the mind and also the emptiness of the realization, then you attain the highest enlightenment, Dharmakaya. In Tibet, some great Lamas and Yogis who have experienced the state of Dharmakaya may sit up two or three days in meditation posture after death. When very highly-realized Lamas die, they will often stay in that posture after death, meditating for from three to seven days. When the meditation is over, they have realized enlightenment, and the body will collapse. This is a sign that they have attained realization.
There are two different ways of obtaining enlightenment when you die. These two depend on two different ways of meditating. They are form meditation (Kye Rim) and formless meditation (Dzok Rim). If you meditate on form you will gain enlightenment in the following way. You will see the meeting of the two bindu in the form of deities (yidams). For example, the white bindu may be seen as a yidam with male aspects, Chakrasamvara. Similarly, you will experience the red bindu as the female deity, Vajrayogini. You will have the realization that these two deities, male and female, are your root yidams and by praying to them with faith and devotion you will receive empowerment from them. At that moment you will see vividly the forms of the two yidams and when your consciousness dissolves into the heart center of the yidam and becomes inseparable from it, you will attain enlightenment. You will receive outer, inner and secret empowerments from these two deities. Because of the virtuous power of your devotion and also by the power of compassion of the yidams on whom you meditated, you will attain enlightenment. This, of course, depends on whether or not you have profound devotion and long experience in meditating on the deities.
If you meditate on formlessness, you will experience enlightenment as the meeting of the two Bodhicitta bindus. This is the realization of high Lamas.
Uninitiated lay persons who see the meeting of the two bindus will glimpse the form of their next rebirth in the six realms. If they are to be born as human beings, animals or hungry ghosts, they will have the feeling that the white bindu is their future father and the red bindu is their future mother. If they are to be born in the lower states of existence they will react with great fear. They will become unconscious for about three and a half days, then go to the Chonyi Bardo where they will become aware that they are dead.
According to the pandit Atisha and also Ma Chik Labkyi Drolma, at the moment you see the form of your next rebirth, you will also see certain wrathful and peaceful deities. If you can recognize these deities at that moment, you will become inseparable from them and attain enlightenment. All this depends on your meditation and on your Dharma practice.
This description of the Chikai Bardo is not contained in the English translations of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol). The teachings are scattered throughout the many great Tibetan books, but do not exist in an edited form in the manner presented here. Everything that I have been talking about is part of the oral transmission which I received from my teacher. Now that you have received the teachings you are certain about the future. You have the freedom to do positive or negative actions. It is up to you to decide which will be of most benefit. You know that positive actions lead to happiness and negative actions lead to unhappiness. Now I have told you.
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During the Chikai Bardo there are three different possibilities for attaining enlightenment according to your superior, mediocre or inferior capabilities. If you have superior ability through meditation practice, you will realize that death and life are both created by the mind. If you are able to recognize that both are illusions, you will understand the nature of your mind, and achieve liberation. Mind itself is emptiness. A person of the superior state will come to the conclusion that happiness, unhappiness, death, birth, good, bad, and all such things partake in this emptiness and are mere creations of the mind. If you are able to recognize this, you can gain enlightenment.
The middle level of beings can achieve liberation by the transfer of consciousness. This method, called Phowa, or "consciousness transference," is an extremely profound teaching. It is even possible for a person who does not have deep experience of the Dharma to be liberated immediately by the Phowa that the Lama conducts during the Chikai Bardo. Tilopa, a great Yogi of the Kagyu Order, said that Phowa is the only method in the Dharma where a being can be liberated without profound meditation experience. He also said that for the proficient meditator, death is not really dying but the path to enlightenment. If you have had Phowa instruction and have practiced it faithfully, it is possible to achieve liberation through this means without the aid of a Lama.
However, before you initiate the process of consciousness transference you must be absolutely certain that you are dying. Otherwise you will kill yourself and suffer the attendant harmful karmic consequences. For those who have had some Tantric initiations and practice meditation, the body becomes a dwelling place for different Tantric deities. Premature practice of Phowa is the same as suicide, and will cut the bond with these deities. Phowa instruction can be given only by a Lama to a student who has fulfilled certain requirements. The student must have completed Ngöndro or the Eight Nyung Nes. If one has not had the Phowa instruction, his consciousness may be transferred by a Lama at the time of death. It is best if the Lama is with the dying person, but he may still perform the ceremony from a distance. The relatives must be absolutely certain he is dying before they notify the Lama. The exact time for giving the Phowa is right after the external breathing has stopped and just before the internal breathing ceases. It is important to call the Lama in time so that he can prevent the consciousness from escaping the body as there is no benefit in giving the Phowa after this.
There are nine different openings through which the consciousness can escape. The route through which the consciousness escapes determines the future rebirth. If it escapes through the anus, rebirth will be in the hell realm; if through the genital organ, the animal realm; if through the mouth, the hungry ghost realm; if through the nose, the human and yakya (spirit) realms; if through the navel, the realm of the desire gods; if through the ears, the asura or jealous god realm; if through the eyes (including the third eye), the form god realm; and if through the top of the head (four finger-widths back from the hairline), the formless god realm. If the consciousness escapes through the crown of the head (the Opening of Brahma) the being will be reborn in Dewachen, the western paradise of Amitabha. With the exception of this last opening, all the other pathways should be blocked.
Karmic accumulation also determines the length of time the consciousness remains in the body. If you have done many unskillful deeds, your consciousness will escape the moment that you stop breathing. Once it has left the body, it is very difficult to call back. In Tibet, in previous times, there have been some Lamas like Milarepa and Drugpa Kunleg who could call the consciousness back into the body, but today it may be very difficult to find such Lamas.
Once the Lama has been informed about the death of a person he will immediately meditate upon Chenrezig and himself as one, while visualizing in his heart a lotus, a moon and the letter HRI. From the HRI in the Lama's heart, eight smaller HRIs are sent forth to the dying person to block the openings through which the consciousness might escape. Only a Lama with great concentration can do this from far away. If he is on his way to the dead person, he will meditate constantly on Chenrezig and send HRIs in order to prevent the escape of the consciousness. If the consciousness is not kept within the body, it will be lost in Samsara in the cycle of existence. When the Lama arrives at the place where the person has died, he visualizes that the dead body is the body of his yidam or deity. He then goes into deep meditation and begins to give instructions to the dead person about the Bardo of the Process of Death. Following this, the Lama, by means of Phowa, will try to awaken and elevate the consciousness toward liberation. At that time the person's consciousness is many times more acute and intelligent than during his lifetime. Because of this heightened state, whatever is told to the dead person will make a very deep impression. They will also know thoughts in the minds of people around them, and understand whatever language is spoken. For example, if an American is dead and a Tibetan Lama gives instruction, does Phowa, or reads the Bardo Thodol in Tibetan, the American will be able to understand all of these. In this moment the dead person has a natural intelligence that enables him to understand many things at a level beyond the intellect. If the Phowa is successful, certain signs will appear on the top of the head. The signs are a drop of blood or perhaps a small bump. Until these external signs appear, the Lama will keep giving Phowa. If the dead person has done many unskillful deeds and has broken his commitment with the Lama, these signs may not come at all. In that case the Lama will read repeatedly the Bardo Thodol.
I have read that these Bardo teachings have been closely guarded secrets for over a thousand years. Why are you now giving them so freely?
During Venerable Kalu Rinpoche's last visit to America, the members of his San Francisco center, Kagyu Droden Kunchab, sincerely requested Rinpoche to bestow the initiation of the Hundred Deities of the Bardo. Following the initiation, many disciples asked for the Bardo teaching. Rinpoche said to me, "Now it is time." For this reason I gave the Lung and am now presenting this instruction.
Are we not going through the first three Bardo states every moment of our lives?
Yes, we experience the Bardo every instant and it is because we don't recognize it as such that we are here, in this existence. The Bardo ends when enlightenment begins.
In the part where the red and white bindus mix together is there one state of mind that is male and another female?
These are conventional symbols normally used to describe a particular stage of your realization of emptiness. Thus, they do not represent state of mind, but causative forces. If one achieves realization while meditating on white Bodhicitta, the essence of all the Buddhas' bodily attainments, the deity of Dorje Sempa is attained. If realization is achieved while meditating on the red Bodhicitta, the essence of all the Buddhas' speech attainments, the deity of Amitabha is attained. The white bindu also symbolizes the skillful method of compassion and the red bindu, wisdom. At the instant the two merge in your heart, the lifetime meditative experiences of emptiness and the all-embracing natural reality become one. If this is realized, a state of Mahamudra is achieved.
How long should the body of the person who has had some initiations be left without touching it?
The ideal time is seven days, but if that is not possible, three and one-half days is enough.
If there is no Lama available to conduct the Phowa, which is often the case in the West, what meditation can the dying person do himself, to help the consciousness exit through the highest path?
There are quite a few things that one can do to be ready to face death. While still alive, one should do very seriously the Ngöndro, or eight successive Nyung Nes. After that, one should get the Phowa instruction from a qualified Lama. If he is successful in Phowa, a sign will be observed on the top of his head. The appearance of the sign depends upon one's faith in the Lama, the strength of one's devotion and the degree of seriousness with which one has practiced purification.
What happens to a person who undergoes a rapid violent death, such as an accident or the like?
In sudden death all experiences are the same; they just occur more rapidly. The moment of death is uncertain. This is precisely why the Buddha and the Lamas preach the law of impermanence. They also say that one must practice the Dharma right now, because death is uncertain. Much depends on what one is thinking at the moment of the accident. If one's general inclination and practice is toward negative thoughts or actions, then, of course, one is likely to experience suffering and confusion. If on the other hand, one is trying to practice compassion, meditation on stilling the mind and positive actions recommended by the teachers, then of course, one will not fail.
What is the difference between internal and external breathing?
External breathing is breathing from the lungs through the nostrils to the outer air. Internal breathing is internal vital processes, centered in the heart, which continue after outer breathing stops.
Is it possible for a person to commit suicide while thinking positive thoughts?
Definitely not. It is impossible for beings to kill themselves while in a positive state of mind. This is a contradiction in terms. If through practicing meditation, a person has reached some level of understanding, he will reflect on the suffering of all beings and wish to continue working for their liberation. He will not delude himself into thinking that good will result from the evil act of killing. There are some places where ritual suicide is held in high regard. In such places, pride in one's image after death is often confused with some kind of realization. But Buddhas never kill themselves.
What happens to the consciousness of a person who dies while they are asleep, or in the astral body?
There are many subtle forces which come under the category of consciousness. Even during sleep or a trance state, while some components of consciousness may be separated from the physical body, other forces remain. If the body is disturbed, these forces cause awareness to return instantly, to participate in the fate of the physical body. For this reason, it is not possible to die without knowing that death is taking place.
What is the best way we can help someone who is approaching death if they have no experience with the Dharma?
As the person approaches death you should sit quietly with him, generate compassion for all sentient beings, and pray with devotion to all enlightened beings. Make your mind still and try to meditate on spontaneous transcending awareness. If you are unable to achieve the state of emptiness, recite quietly for his benefit the Sutra of the Thirty-five Buddhas, which will help him to purify negative karma. Then recite the mantras of the Five Dhyana Buddhas as well as those of all the other deities you know, especially "Om Mani Peme Hung." After this, it is important to repeat the Bardo Thodol as many times as possible. During the reading you must generate Bodhicitta and devotion to enlightened beings. If this is done in the proper spirit, it may be possible for him to reach enlightenment merely by hearing the teachings for the first time. But, you must have neither doubt nor hesitation or you may negate all the good you are doing.
Would you comment on the Western medical practice of maintaining a person's breathing and bodily functions by artificial means? What consequences does this have on a person's consciousness? In many cases a person who has stopped breathing and whose pulse has stopped and who does not show any vital signs can be resuscitated over many hours and can be technically brought back to life.
You must realize that it all depends on an accurate appraisal of the sick person's condition. Of course, it is good to help save the life of someone who can be saved. But, you must exercise great care in prolonging the life of someone who is certain to die within a day. Such a person is already undergoing tremendous suffering which may be increased by modern medical practices.
Does this mean that pain-killing drugs should not be used as one approaches death?
When the body is in a drugged condition, the mind, veiled with stupidity, cannot concentrate and is easily drawn into the animal realm.
What is the length of time between the stopping of the external respiration and the internal respiration?
It depends upon several different factors. Of importance are such matters as the physical condition before death, the presence or absence of disease, and of course the actual cause of death, such as an accident. It could be as short a time as a few minutes, to several hours or rare]y, a full day.
Are there some saints who can sit down and be in one place and radiate light for a number of days or for a long period of time without decaying?
Yes, it is possible. There have been some Lamas who have stayed in the meditation posture for seven days or even longer after death. On some occasions rainbows surround the body during this time. Ordinary people who die and are kept for that period of time would have a bad odor, but instead, the bodies of accomplished beings give off a pleasant fragrance.
Are the visions in the Bardo the same for a person with another religion or no religion at all?
While wandering in the Bardo, everyone has almost the same experiences. But, the degree of recognition depends on one's practice during their lifetime. When one has no religious training, the lights, deities and all the visions pass before him as mere forms and colors that may frighten and confuse him. Habitual tendencies blow his consciousness through the Bardo like feathers in the wind. Without experience and devotion there is no possibility for wise choices.
Is the "Bodhisattva Vow" broken if the physical body disappears at death?
In Tibet there were certain Lamas who were highly accomplished in meditation. Like Milarepa, they spent their lives in solitary meditation and were able to transcend ego attachments. In many cases, at the time of death they dissolved their physical bodies into the rainbow bodies and did not leave any part of the body behind except the hair and the nails. This is a sign of enlightenment and in becoming enlightened you benefit all sentient beings and do not break the Bodhisattva Vow.
After death, does the consciousness ever try to hang onto the body and feel possessive of it?
One's karmic accumulation determines the length of time the consciousness remains near the physical body. When the consciousness tries to re-enter the corpse it is a sign of negative habitual tendencies deriving from attachments to the physical body. The elements have dissolved and re-entry is impossible, but the consciousness may stay near the body or its possessions for weeks or even years.
There is a process by which people who have incurable diseases are frozen in the hope that a cure may be found for them at some future date. What happens to the consciousness when this process is employed?
If the body is frozen before the consciousness has departed, those who have done this are guilty of killing the sick man by freezing him to death. If the body is frozen after death, it is just one more method of disposing of a corpse. The consciousness can never re-enter the body even though it may remain nearby. Treatment of a corpse in this manner may also enhance the attachment of the consciousness to it and increase the suffering of the being by hindering the search for another body.
In the Evans-Wentz translation of the Bardo Thodol, there is a passage which says something about, between the cessation of the external circulation and the internal circulation whoever is present at the dying person's side should press the jugular veins on each side of the neck so as to direct the consciousness through the proper exit of the body. Is this appropriate physical action to take to help the dying person?
One who has experience should locate the two jugular veins, or channels in the neck, and press them both at the same time so that the consciousness, being pushed by the wisdom mind, will go straight up through the secret path and be liberated or be born in the upper realms. This is very dangerous for if one does not have experience doing this he may speed up the process of death and kill the person.
Is it possible for a disincarnate being to enter another's body? If this is possible, how can it be kept out?
There are a few kinds of very powerful spirits which are able to enter one's body and disturb one's mind and health. But most spirits do not have this power.
If most spirits try to enter another's body, they will not be able. However, the fact that they have such an intention will have a bad effect on the person whose body they are trying to enter. It could result in suffering and illness. There are two ways to prevent this from happening. If one has received initiation and instruction concerning a wrathful deity and can practice with true compassion, one should visualize oneself as the wrathful deity, and this will frighten the being away with compassionate energy. Otherwise, one should meditate one-pointedly on emptiness.
What is a healthy attitude toward spirits and psychic phenomena?
If you are confronted with spirits, meditate on emptiness if you are able. The spirits will realize that there is nothing for them to harm and leave you alone. If you are unable to do this, and have the appropriate initiation and instruction, meditate on a wrathful deity and recite the appropriate mantra with compassion and devotion.
How does one determine one's yidam?
You must work hard in your practice now in order to accumulate the merit and experience that will enable you to choose your yidam when that stage of your practice arrives.
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