Comments on “How many bardos?”

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Context is King

I found this page interesting - thank you. It's a notable feature of what is oft termed 'the gutter press' in the UK that a writer chooses to take a comment completely out of context, and presents as if it were the quoted person's central argument - commonly to the detriment of the person being quoted. We vajrayana students do love to quote our lamas - their words or teaching anecdotes. Unfortunately occasionally students seem to do so as a blunt instrument to try to prove a point or to effectively steal their lamas' authority and wield it in some other context, sometimes to support a skewed personal agenda. It is very easy to believe someone here is quoting Kyabje Chh'imed Rig'dzin Rinpoche out of context - either willfully or because they lacked the humour to see the joke. Regardless, third hand the context is completely lost and so the words on their own can be used for whatever purpose the user might choose. Studies suggest that only a fraction of communication between human beings occurs with the understanding of words themselves. Tone of voice and body language convey far more meaning that simple language. So, dry text is a great source of confusion or misinformation. So, here I should add that 'context' has to include not just the intellectual context of the words but tone of voice, ambience, audience, level of formality in the setting, broader teaching context and so on. I only ever met Kyabjé Chhi'med Rig'dzin Rinpoche once before his passing - we were encouraged to do so by Ngak'chang Rinpoche and Khandro Déchen - to make a connection. My wife and I went up to offer katags. He saw our robes - the robes of the go-kar-chang-lo'i-dé - and smiled at our approach. As I offered the katag he asked only 'You Chogyam student?' I answered simply 'Yes Rinpoche' and he replied 'Good. Very good'. Those few moments with Chhi'med Rig'dzin Rinpoche - that bardo, as it were - confirmed without the slightest doubt Kyabje Rinpoche's deep affection for his student, Ngak'chang Chögyam Rinpoche.

Support the establishment of the gö-kar-chang-lo'i-dé in the West - www.drala-jong.blogspot.com

Bardo inspiration

I was looking around for something to teach on tonight in the Meditation top-up group and read this. Somehow it got turned into a teaching on why it's important to meditate.
Thank you - just what I needed.

Rin'dzin
Aro Naljorma

Seven Bardos?

Ngakma Nor'dzin's picture

In some parts of Transcending Madness' Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche adds gyü-lü bardo to the usual list of six, adding to our understanding that awareness of the bardos arises from realisation.

Tibetan Infighting

Many Christians may not take things literally but some will and fight vehemently over small details -- forming different churches or sects.

I would imagine, being human and diverse, that the same has happened over things like Bardos -- some taking them literal and some not. Can any come to mind for you or is everyone as loose with the Bardos as you report Dzogchen to be.

BTW, I love the explanation -- it was very good reading -- thank you

Bardo wars

I don't know of any cases in which Tibetans had a big doctrinal brawl over bardo doctrines. I wouldn't be much surprised if there were such cases.

They certainly did fight vehemently over other small details. There's an idealized image of Tibet as a peaceful, enlightened place, which has little to do with historical reality.

Is it peach or pumpkin pie?

Karmakshanti's picture

I am less concerned for the moment about dividing the pie than I am about just what the filling is. Karma Lingpa gives a very detailed description of what happens between the process of death and birth. At several points he speaks of it as the same process, with pretty much the same experiences, for an ordinary Tibetan that it would be for a practicioner of some experience, so it appears to be something that happens to you rather than a Buddhist method which you employ.

And, in fact, when my teachers give the wang of the shi-tro ["peaceful and wrathful"] they say it is to prepare you for after death events which will be beyond your control.

For example, at some point Karma Lingpa says that even if the person has only seen pictures of the deities, there is still a chance that this unlearned fellow will recognize them and trust them enough to merge with them.

Karma Lingpa's pie filling for this crucial interval consists of the following: The Mother Clear Light for about 20-30 minutes after breathing and heartbeat have ceased, then a secondary and somewhat obscured version of this Clear Light where the consciousness has exited the body but still has not coalesced into detailed perceptions, then, about 72-80 hours later, a waking up into the ordinary state where people are bustling around dealing with the death that has occurred but do not see that the deceased consciousness is still hanging around.

Then for the next seven days, an experience of various brilliant lights, and Buddha Yab/Yums, will appear that are the disintegration of the five elements in the following order: Space, Water, Earth, Fire, and Air, followed by all the lights together; this is followed by one last day where the Vidyadaras appear and then the deceased loses consciousness in a manner similar to his dying 10 days before.

Beyond this from the eighth to the fourteenth day the various terrifying and wrathful forms of the same elements appear. Then after another "little death", the deceased enters a world of uncertain phantasmagoria, from which most beings are forced into a rebirth consonant with the karma they are carrying into the after-death state. They almost all do so after a maximum of seven weeks from the point where they "wake up" out of the two Clear Lights.

Now I have been very careful not to use the Tibetan labels because they are less important than the sequence of events immediately after death.

When Ngak’chang Rinpoche speaks of this same interval of time, this is what he has to say about it in the Aro Nine Bardos Teaching:

Then we enter into the chö-nyid bardo in which the son & mother clear lights are united. In the sleeping bardo one only experiences the ‘son light’ but in the bardo of death, chö-ku & chö-ying dissolve into the ground of chö-nyid....In the teaching of the Nine Bardos, we begin with the chhi-kha’i bardo (the bardo of death); then the chö-nyid bardo; and then the nang-wa bardo (the bardo of vision)....The first is chö-nyid bardo experiencing the clear light. The second is the nang-wa bardo the section with the experience of the thig-lés....After the nang-wa bardo is the kye-né bardo (the bardo of birth)....

Now, without prejudice, I think we can say that this is an excellent description of Aro's pie slices but it's a little short on detail about the pie filling.

From the standpoint of the Kagyudpa the most important thing about the awakened after-death state is the helplessness, "blown about by the winds of karma", of the being who has died.

Generally speaking, they stress that one of the most potent things about Guru Yogas and Yidam practices is that you can actually do them in the after-death world in the crucial time after waking up and before the overt dissolution of the elements begins, and overcome this helplessness . With development stage experience of a Guru Yoga or a Yidam practice, you can call on help to get through this treacherous situation.

Thus my question are: Does Aro have more to say about the content of the nang-wa bardo than that it consists of thig-les? How much freedom does a practicioner have, and what can they do when and if they find themselves in the nang-wa bardo? And if they must pass from the nang-wa into the kye-ne bardo of a samsaric rebirth, how much choice do they have about what, where, and when?

It seems to me, at least, the interval between the Clear Light and the future rebirth is where the rubber really meets the road in Buddhism. And if you are going to die, as we all are, it is important to be as clear about this part of the nine-bardo [or six bardo] journey as you can possibly be.

Bardo questions

Thus my question are: Does Aro have more to say about the content of the nang-wa bardo than that it consists of thig-les?

Unfortunately, I have not received teachings on this, so I don't know the answer. From the bardo text you quote, the answer would seem to be "yes"—but it is part of the Togal ngöndro, and therefore far above my pay grade :-)

Perhaps someone better qualified than me, in the Aro sangha, can comment?

if they must pass from the nang-wa into the kye-ne bardo of a samsaric rebirth, how much choice do they have about what, where, and when?

I suspect you answer your own question here:

one of the most potent things about Guru Yogas and Yidam practices is that you can actually do them in the after-death world in the crucial time after waking up and before the overt dissolution of the elements begins, and overcome this helplessness.

This applies to all forms of practice. At the level of Dzogchen, if you can find rigpa in difficult situations, there will be no problem. Guru yoga and yidam practice are (from the Dzogchen point of view) Tantric methods for doing that.

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