Bardo Thödol – The Tibetan Book of the Dead

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Tibet has captured the imagination of many people from all walks of life. It’s the land of wisdom, of snow, of beautiful monasteries where men and women explored and perfected what being human was all about. In Tibet lies one of the most outstanding cultures in Asia but this country remained closed for foreigners for centuries due to both physical and political barriers.
Buddhism, the true religion of peace, entered Tibet in the 7th century and the Tibetans have dedicated themselves to its peaceful non-violent teachings and created a society based on the realization that true everlasting happiness has nothing to do with materialism. The most respected individuals are the enlightened, not the wealthy.
In 1959, the Dalai Lama, along with several tens of thousands of monks, fled Lhasa to escape the Chinese who took over the Tibetan territory under the pretext that it belonged to them. Not a single word from the Dalai Lama or the other monks calls for preaching. On the contrary, whenever the Dalai Lama is asked how a person can become a Buddhist, he invariably has the same answers. It is not at all necessary, each one must follow his own religion which will direct him to the same discoveries.
Along with the Dalai Lama and the monks who were forced into exile, a lot of wisdom and a magical culture was brought into the world. One of the most fascinated books that came from Tibet is “Bardo Thödol”, which in the Tibetan language means “Liberation in the Intermediate State Through Hearing” also called “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”. This book is a funerary text read to ease the consciousness of a recently deceased person through death and assist it into a favorable rebirth.
A central principle of belief of all schools of Buddhism is that attachment to and craving for worldly things brings suffering and unease, which influence actions whose accumulated effects, or karma, bind individuals to the process of death and rebirth. Those who have attained enlightenment are thereby released from this process, attaining liberation. Those who remain unenlightened are drawn by karma, whether good or bad, into a new life in one of six modes of existence: as a sufferer in hell, enduring horrible torture, as a wandering ghost, driven by insatiable craving, as an animal, ruled by instinct, as a demigod, lustful for power, as a human being, balanced in instinct and reason or as a god, deluded by their long lives into believing they are immortal.
The concept of bardos, the intermediate or transitional states, marks an individual’s life from birth to death and rebirth. The period between death and rebirth lasts 49 days and involves three bardos. The first is the moment of death itself. The consciousness of the newly deceased becomes aware of and accepts the fact that it has recently died, and it reflects upon its past life. In the second bardo, it encounters frightening apparitions. Without an understanding that these apparitions are unreal, the consciousness becomes confused and, depending upon its karma, may be drawn into a rebirth that impedes its liberation. The third bardo is the transition into a new body.
During the bardo between life and death, the consciousness of the deceased can still understand words and prayers spoken on its behalf, which can help it to navigate through its confusion and be reborn into a new existence that offers a greater chance of attaining enlightenment. Reciting of “Bardo Thödol”, usually performed by a Lama, a religious teacher, begins shortly before death if possible and continues throughout the 49-day period leading to rebirth.
I came across this book after three deaths occurred during a very short period of time. My grandmother, my mother-in-law and also my first flight instructor died. And above all my divorce happened at the same time. I might say it was a sad time. Because I was flying and I had friends in aviation I had the chance to meet an air traffic controller of Tibetan origin, Tenam. I told him about my readings from “Bardo Thödol” and went to visit him. He told me that maybe these three persons who died experienced the real bardos, between death and a new rebirth but I was the one experiencing a bardo happening in life, between sadness and joyfulness.
“Tenam: Buddhism focuses on the mind, speaking about how one can take possession of his mind and master it. Once you can control your mind you will be able to control your body as well. To know if you’re ready to die, do an exercise. Switch off your phone, disconnect your computer and go somewhere in solitude, like now, for example. If you are haunted by what you left behind, or the fear that someone won’t be able to find you, then you have unfinished business and you are not ready to die. Sometimes, you will hear people looking for you, telepathically, on frequencies that use waves other than the telephone. If you feel you’re getting restless and you have the urge to turn on your phone and talk to that person, then I tell you the story is not finished. If you hear, but you don’t want to act, it means that from your point of view it is sorted out, but from the point of view of the other person, it’s not. This way, I can also explain the wrath or desires following the dead in the intermediary state. Now, tell me, should one get ready for departure or not? The changing or “Bardo” we pass through while we are alive, must be treated in the same manner. When you move to another city when you divorce, when you change your job or hobby, if you don’t solve all your problems beforehand, you will shift between the past and the future and it is a huge waste of energy. If you are attached to any place in the past, you can move as far as the leash allows. This happens if you have a parent or, in case of divorce, a child, or a dog. Your decisions are not entirely real, they depend on a reference point in the past. The departure, the death, the separation must be prepared in light of these factors. This is the meaning of living in the present, of lack of attachments, to be able to move easily, to be flexible and fluid.”
Sandra Sanada

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