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We’ve All Been There
2023, January, Issue 26
We’ve all been there; and, there’s no there there. For us to understand death, we must look within, examining very carefully who we really are, where we really are, gazing at mind. We must know beyond any shadow of a doubt. We must know directly.
I really have a hard time talking about my experiences in the death bardo. I’ve given talks all over the world, and people seem very pleased with what I have to say, as if they’ve discovered someone telling them something, at last, that seemed to have been hidden. I have a difficult time talking about this, because I realize that there is really nothing special about me or my experience. We’ve all been there countless times. This death bardo is a gap between when we die and when we’ve been reborn, or come back into our body when it was revived.
It's not an unusual experience. It’s very normal. Any of us, all of us can learn about our real condition, remember the last time we died, or an endless series of lives and deaths, if we were to sit in contemplation, gazing at our very own transmigrating consciousness. It’s not really hidden, it’s just that we keep forgetting.
What it really comes down to is that you need to spend time in meditation. I can tell you answers to many things; but, that won’t help you at all. What you need to do is to gaze at mind. Spend time meditating. Learn to sit in deep contemplation of the ineffable.
The way we do this is very specific and extremely variable with each individual. Starting where you are is tremendously important. Aspiring to awaken, developing great compassion, which is Bodhicitta, is key—it’s the key to everything. If we don’t have this compassionate desire to awaken, then nothing whatsoever will matter. You, and you alone, must develop the key that will unlock all that is hidden.
If I tell you something, expecting you to believe it without any sort of investigation or a whole host of questions, then I’m not helping you in the least. I expect people to question everything I say. If you accept something, just blindly believing that it is true, then you’ve not heard what I have said. This is your Spiritual Path. This is your opportunity to discover who you really are, knowing this with absolute certainty. The only way for you to know in this way is to practice, practice removing obstacles, then practice awakening itself. It’s your spiritual journey to take, to learn, to experience directly.
Since returning from the death bardo, I feel that we are all the same. I can see this rather clearly. At first, I didn’t entirely understand why anyone would not have awakened from this grand illusion, this dream we call life and death and rebirth.
It’s very odd to see life in this way, to see how people transmigrate according to their own actions and the delusions they generate. Ignorance, attraction and aversion poison us, keeping us perpetually bound to cyclic existence. But, why? Why would we ever think that any of this is real? We can’t actually locate any of it. We can’t locate the past. The future remains a mystery. And, really, now is something that escapes our attention. We can’t find an atom, nor the ultimately smallest particle. We can’t see this gap of death, or any of the various gaps we designate. We can’t find mind. We can’t locate any of it; and, yet, we think it is all real.
That’s just blind faith, if you ask me. We have no evidence that anything at all is real, if we really examine what that is. All we have is belief, or various lies that we tell ourselves, in order to feel better.
Awakening means discovering that there’s nothing but illusion. It means seeing with clarity that there is absolutely no difference between dreams and daily life. This doesn’t mean that we must accept this notion without question—that would be ridiculous. What it means is that we must discover our real condition in order to not be trapped here any longer.
Awakening does not mean that we go someplace else. It simply means that the obstructions have been cleared, we’re no longer helpless. Infinite potentiality becomes ordinary. This is your task when you generate Bodhicitta for yourself, or yourself and others. Self is not different than others; so, it doesn’t really matter if you start simply resting in this notion of self as you generate Bodhicitta. We start where we are on the Spiritual Path. After that, infinite possibilities.
I’m not amazing simply because I came back from death, I’m ordinary. You, however, are amazing. You have been on this fantastic Spiritual Path that has led to this amazing aspiration of awakening. You’ve seen the door. No one else has done this in quite the same way.
Awaken. Awaken now, if you are able.
Blessings of Light,