Dying and the Bardos
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Texts related to the process of dying and the so-called intermediate states or bardos:
One of the most famous sections of Liberation Upon Hearing in the Bardo (bar do thos grol)—the so-called Tibetan Book of the Dead—this text offers instructions on each of the six intermediate states, or bardos: 1) the bardo of this life, 2) the bardo of dreams, 3) the bardo of samādhi meditation, 4) the bardo of dying, 5) the bardo of dharmatā, and 5) the bardo of becoming.
In this profound instruction on the process of dying and the intermediate state, or bardo, the great Longchen Rabjam explains how to see death from a Dzogchen perspective and how to attain liberation either at the moment of death or thereafter in the bardos of dharmatā or becoming.
- Liberation Upon Hearing: An Explanation of the Phenomena of the Intermediate State by Minling Terchen Gyurme Dorje
This explanation of the bardos is composed so that it can be read aloud as part of a ritual to guide the deceased. The explanation begins with the meaning of bardo, or intermediate state, in general; it then goes on to describe the process of dying and the subsequent phases, the bardos of dharmatā and becoming, in detail.
In response to a question from the bodhisattva Ākāśagarbha, the Buddha explains how a bodhisattva should view the mind at the moment of death. It is important, the Buddha says, to cultivate the perception of insubstantiality, great compassion, referencelessness and non-attachment, and not to seek buddhahood anywhere other than in the mind's own wisdom.
Answers to a series of questions on the distinction between ordinary mind (sem) and pure awareness (rigpa), the dissolution of dualistic perception, mindfulness in Dzogchen, the phases of dissolution at death, and how to practise Dzogchen meditation.
- The Excellent Path to Perfect Liberation: A Guidance Practice (Nedren) for the Dukngal Rangdrol (Natural Liberation of Suffering) Practice of the Great Compassionate One from the Longchen Nyingtik by Dodrupchen Jigme Trinle Özer
This 'guidance' or nedren (gnas 'dren) practice is intended to help guide the deceased to enlightenment by purifying the various realms of saṃsāra and granting empowerment. It belongs to the Natural Liberation of Suffering (sdug bsngal rang grol) set of Avalokiteśvara practices, which, in turn, are part of the Longchen Nyingtik revelation.
This short guide can be read aloud in the presence of the dead and dying. It begins by explaining the truth of the person's situation, that they have passed away, then offers citations from the sūtras, encourages them to aim for Sukhāvatī, and finally guides them in a practice of transference (phowa).
This brief instruction on using death as an opportunity to recognize luminosity and attain the dharmakāya is part of a collection of instructions known as the five nails that dispel hindrances (gegs sel gzer lnga), a teaching that derives from Nāropa.
Sakya Paṇḍita provides the outline of a very simple meditation on Amitābha for the moment of death, summarizing the preliminaries, main part, conclusion and benefits of the practice according to the oral tradition of his uncles and their father.
Following some lines of the Prayer of Good Actions (bzang spyod smon lam), Sakya Paṇḍita here offers a simple visualisation centred upon Buddha Amitābha, to be practised each day before falling asleep in order to secure rebirth in the Sukhāvatī pure-land.
- Fostering Recollection to Dispel the Torment of Deluded Perception: An Aspiration for the Bardos by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
An aspiration to recognise the true nature of each stage of the bardo experience, from the moment of death and accompanying stages of dissolution through to the bardo of becoming, and thereby attain awakening.
An aspiration prayer to recognize the various phases of the four intermediate states, or bardos—the natural bardo of this life, the bardo of dying, the bardo of dharmatā, and the bardo of becoming—and apply the techniques and practices that will bring about realization.
Jigme Lingpa himself describes this text as "a prayer invoking and imploring Guru Rinpoche, coupled with an aspiration prayer suitable for daily recitation based on the root words of the way to attain liberation through the experiences of the bardo states." It was inspired by a sense of sorrow and renunciation when, one morning during a retreat near Samye, Jigme Lingpa glimpsed Mount Hepori in the distance and thought about the great events that had taken place there during Padmasambhava's lifetime, little or no trace of which remained.