Mind Beyond Death
A discussion of the six bardos (transitions): the natural bardo of this life, the bardo of dream, the bardo of meditation, the painful bardo of death, the luminous bardo of dharmata, and the karmic bardo of becoming. Based primarily in Vajrayana (tantric) teachings, this book is broader in its focus than Luminous Emptiness, including sources like Instructions on the Six Bardos, Mirror of Mindfulness, and The Treasury of Knowledge as well as the perspective of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.
From What is bardo? Conceptual and essence bardos:
- From one perspective, bardo is an experience of a certain duration of time, marked by a clear beginning, a sense of continuity and distinct end. The duration of that interval may be as short of a finger snap, or it may be much longer, such as the duration of time between birth and death, or between birth and the achievement of enlightenment. Therefore, bardo refers to a moment of experience -- no matter how long that moment is.
- Here we can note that the duration of any moment is not the actual experience itself. From the experiential point of view -- what it felt like -- its actual duration is not definite in any sense. So when we look at bardo from the perspective of a fixed amount of time, we are seeing the relative or conceptual aspect of bardo.
- When we look at bardo from the perspective of essence, we are seeing the absolute, or nonconceptual, aspect of bardo. The essence of bardo is discovered in the experience of nowness, in the gap between the cessation of one moment and the arising of the next. That essence is nothing other than the self-aware wisdom that is the fundamental nature of our own mind. This wisdom does not exist in substantial form. It exists as pure awareness, as the light of mind. When we recognize it, we perceive the world clearly, in a way that gives rise to liberation.
- The experience of the gap between the cessation of one moment and the arising of the next is nothing less than the "moment of truth" that will determine our direction and shape our future experience.
The chapter on Pure delusion discusses the three stages of the path:
- hearing and studying the dharma, leading to the prajna (knowledge) of understanding
- contemplation or reflection on the dharma, leading to the prajna of experience
- naturally abiding meditation, leading to the prajna of realization
From The stage of contemplation:
- Milarepa said that the prajna of experience is like the mist that appears in the early morning. It looks so solid and so real, but later in the day, when the sun has risen, the mist simply disappears. Likewise, experiences of contemplation are temporary. They come and go like the morning mist. At this stage, we are developing genuine experience, but it has not yet developed into compelte realization or the full state of wisdom.
- Our experiences in contemplation may be very powerful and may seem to be experiences of realization; however, we should not mistake them for actual realization. For example, we may have experiences of emptiness, bliss, or nonthought. When such an experience occurs, it may feel quite substantial and have a powerful impact on us. We may believe that we have achieved an enduring insight; but then it is completely gone -- like mist that suddenly disappears from sight. This indicates that it is necessary for us to go on to the next stage, which develops the prajna of meditation.
From Training the illusory body: Awareness-emptiness, emphasis mine:
- In this case, we are working with the relative appearances of mind in the form of thoughts. We are transforming the way we view our thoughts altogether. Instead of regarding thoughts as something to be subdued, tamed, and overcome in order to "get to" the essence of mind, we view thoughts themselves as direct expressions of mind's pure, luminous nature. Thoughts themselves become a path to the recognition of the ultimate nature of mind.
- On a relative level, thoughts appear to our minds; they arise, abide for a fleeting moment and then they cease. What is the nature of thse thoughts? They are not physical phenomena. They are mental events, the movement of mind itself. Their nature and the nature of the mind from which they arise is the same: awareness-emptiness.
- Thoughts from this perspective are regarded as mind's ornaments; they beautify the mind in the same way that lilies make the pond they are growing in more appealing. Without the lilies, the pond is rather boring. Thus, when we do not solidify them, thoughts are a beautiful experience.
From Gaining Certainty in Liberation: Three Words that Strike the Vital Point:
- The vital point we are trying to strike is enlightenment, the experience and realizaiton of the true nature of our mind, and the three words are the pith instructions that carry one straight to the point.
- The first word is to decide directly on one thing. What are we deciding on? We are deciding that this very moment of consciousness is self-liberation; these very experiences of emotions -- of suffering and happiness that are arising -- are the expression of rigpa, our naked awareness....
- The second word is to directly recognize one's nature. We become directly introduced to rigpa, the essential nature of our mind. We recognize that, apart from this very experience of nowness, this very mind, there is nothing to be pointed out. We recognize that this is it.
- The third word is to gain conference in liberation.... We gain confidence that this very mind that we are experiencing now, in this present moment, is self-liberated....
- These instructions are taught through the "four great modes of liberation" in the Dzogchen tradition.