Discover more from Timeless Luminosity Newsletter
2022, July, Issue3
Think of the bardo as something very natural. It is usually a term that is used to describe the intermediate state between death and rebirth. Sometimes people will refer to the Tibetan Book of the Dead to explore deeper meanings. In reality, bardo is simply a gap. We can have a gap between this life and the next. We can have a gap between falling asleep and waking up in the morning. We can have a gap between when we are born and when we die. We’re always in the bardo, unless we fully awaken.
My book, Timeless Luminosity, is devoted to this notion that we can awaken. It doesn’t actually say much about that, it provides inspiration for you to practice waking up. Some of the poetry is very blunt. Some is humorous. Some is quite serene and serious. The point of writing such poetry is in providing the reader with a way to think about awakening, perhaps leading to teachers, teachings or practices that can help.
My root teacher, Namkhai Norbu, said that life is like a great big dream, filled with lots of little dreams. What this really means is that we think dreams are real when we are in the middle of a dream, the dream bardo. When we wake up in the morning, we think that we have entered something real called our daily life, the bardo of life. We don’t even question what we think is real in either case, unless we begin to see the illusory nature. Once we begin to see things as they are, we begin to see that this bardo of life is really just as insubstantial and impermanent as our nightly dreams. There’s no difference.
Now this examination of what is insubstantial is very important when we want to examine death. Meditations on death are extremely important, because it prepares us for the inevitable. If we can remain completely relaxed when we die, it is possible to awaken in that gap between this life and the next, the death bardo. This is why we need to sit in contemplation, becoming at ease with all phenomena, learning to have insight into the essence of all, as it is, not as we want to believe.
As I learned very well with my Near Death Experiences, much that we encounter in death could really freak the bejesus out of us, if we have not prepared ourselves through contemplations about death and our impermanent lives. If we become even the slightest bit disturbed by our own passing, we will remain completely at the mercy of our own state of mind. We have a choice if we can remain at ease. This takes practice and preparation, along with nerves of steel.
Don’t be dismayed by this notion of becoming propelled by our own mind disturbances. We’ve been doing this forever. We’re all used to it, not only in the death bardo, but also in our daily lives and dreams. These gaps are all the same. Prepare your mind, and the experiences will be much easier to handle. Life, death and dreams will all become effortless. We learn to have some control over all that by simply learning to relax completely, becoming able to accept whatever comes our way, and remaining present in that knowledge of our Real Condition. It’s not about finding peace or happiness, it’s about liberation.
For today, simply start by sitting comfortably for ten minutes, listening to breath. Before you begin, however, resolve that you want to awaken, create that intention. This is very important to do. It is the most compassionate thing that you will ever do for yourself, better than anything, by far. This is Bodhicitta. With this key of light, you will enter the bardo of meditation, which will lead to awakening.
When you are done meditating, thank all that has made it possible, all beings, all circumstances, all causes and conditions, everything and beyond. This simple act will connect you with Ultimate Bodhicitta, which is awakening itself. In this way, you will once again enter the bardo of living with new wisdom that will propel you forward. This bardo of meditation begins with the compassionate intention to awaken, is filled with whatever meditative practices are most beneficial, and ends in gratitude.
Each day, do this simple meditation at least once for ten minutes. Then meditate more than once when you are ready to do more, maybe when you wake up and then when you go to sleep at night. If you can meditate for twenty minutes per day, in small sessions, you will see results. Preparing yourself in this way for each bardo eventually becomes quite natural and effortless. Eventually, you will even be able to meditate in your dreams if you resolve to awaken.
If you are reading these words, understand that you will awaken.