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Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
spring 2 0 1 5 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 45 Death is connected to rebirth. The rupture of bardo inevitably leads to whatever is next. If we appreciate these successive deaths and rebirths in our lives, then we can value the bardo for what it is—the pause that makes movement apparent, the silence that makes all sounds more vivid, the end that clarifies what exactly we will now be begin- ning. Impermanence is not just an illuminator of loss. It is an illuminator of newness, the ever- unfolding present moment and its creativity. Traditionally, we have three different possibilities for what happens after death. There is the default mode of rebirth with all these accumulated, bulky layers of previous karmic propensities. There is also the kind of reincarnation that great compassionate beings, such as the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa, consciously choose for the highest benefit of sentient beings in this world. But then there is something else: this more impersonal, ceaseless creativity that keeps multiplying itself in playful modes of being, like the image from the Avatamsaka Sutra of a radi- ant buddha oozing buddhas from every pore of his or her being, and from every pore of every one of those buddhas, more buddhas giving way to whole other universes of being. This is true compassion, a total responsiveness to what is here. That’s the kind of life after death that Vajrayana practitioners rehearse in deity yoga. It is a practice of dying to the contrived self in order to arise in the creative space of momentary presence. It is bursting forward into life, emerging with this pure primor- dial creativity at play in the shifting fields of empty identities. It’s a kind of regeneration, a total recy- cling, a complete merging and reemerging. It is a shifting ground, because compassionate responsiveness is not static; we never step into the same river twice. But this doesn’t mean that there is nothing there. It isn’t that there is something there, either—but it’s not nothing. Longchenpa calls it the “self-originating clear light” and says that in this light, “what appears is neither concretized nor latched onto, because what appears never becomes what it seems to be and is intrinsically free.” You see? It is not just another construct. It’s the ground that does not need to be contrived or maintained. It’s experience itself. ©antonygormley