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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 27 |summer 2007 these instructions, that we trust in their message and that we trust our own hearts so that we can take these instructions into our lives effectively. Within this cycle of instructions, there are vari- ous systems of classification of the bardo teach- ings. The system presented here is the complete classification, consisting of six bardos.1 The first is called the natural bardo of this life. The second is called the bardo of dream. The third is called the bardo of meditation. These first three are mainly related to the appearances and practices of this life. The fourth bardo is called the painful bardo of dying. The fifth is called the luminous bardo of dharmata.2 The sixth is called the karmic bardo of becoming. These last three relate to the appear- ances and practices for the after-death states. Briefly, the natural bardo of this life is the interval between the moment of our birth and the moment that we meet with the condition that will cause our death. It contains all our experiences of joy and suffering and is the basis of our practice of the spiritual path. The bardo of dream relates to the interval between falling asleep and waking: the appearances of the waking state dissolve, there is a gap in which the illusory dream appearances arise, and then the appearances of the waking state become perceptible again. The bardo of medita- tion refers to the interval in which our minds are resting in a state of meditative absorption, or samadhi. At this time, our minds are not subject to the full power of confusion of the normal day- to-day state. The painful bardo of dying is the interval between the moment we meet with the condition that will cause our death and the actual moment of our death. During this period, all the elements of our coarse and subtle bodies and conscious- ness dissolve gradually into space, and the clear light of death manifests. The luminous bardo of dharmata is the interval that begins immediately following the moment of death and ends when we enter the bardo of becoming. At this time, the empty yet luminous appearances of the primor- dial and utterly pure nature of mind arise vividly. The bardo of becoming is the interval that begins after the luminous bardo of dharmata and ends when we enter the womb of our future parents. Having not recognized the nature of our minds, and thus having failed to achieve liberation, we “wake up” from a state of unconsciousness and wander for forty-nine days, undergoing a variety of intense experiences while our longing for a home and parents grows stronger and stronger. At the culmination of this bardo, the appearances of the natural bardo of this life arise again, as we enter the next lifetime. Thus the cycle continues, and we experience further suffering, along with further opportunities to develop our wisdom and compassion. In this discussion, I will focus on the painful bardo of dying. The Painful Bardo of Dying EMA At this time, when the bardo of death appears to you, Abandon attraction, attachment, and fixation to all. Enter into the nature of the clear oral instructions without distraction. Transfer into the unborn space of self-arising awareness.3 The painful bardo of dying begins when we are struck with some unfavorable condition that causes the dissolution of the appearances of this life, whether it is an accident, a terminal illness, or any natural cause such as old age that results in the exhaustion of our body. It ends with the cessation of our inner respiration, just before the dawning of the bardo of dharmata, which follows it. For realized beings, such as Padmasambhava, the painful bardo of dying does not exist; conse- quently, the two subsequent bardos also do not exist. However, when you are not a realized per- son – even though you may feel that you know 1 This presentation of the bardo is based primarily on the teachings of Padmasambhava in Instructions on the Six Bardos from the Shitro cycle of teachings revealed by Karma Lingpa, as well as the oral teachings that I have received personally from my own masters. 2 Dharmata (Sanskrit) refers to the inherent nature of mind and all phenomena called “suchness” or “thatness.” 3 From Padmasambhava’s Instructions on the Six Bardos. Translated by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Gerry Weiner. © 2002 Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche and Gerry Wiener. In a bardo state, there is a gap, a sense of nowness, of pure openness, before the appearance of the next thing, whether that is our next thought or our next lifetime.