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The Bardo States


The Tibetan Book of the Dead (an ancient Tibetan Buddhist text) talks of the "bardo states" - realms of being we pass into (and hopefully out of again) between death and rebirth. In these realms, our thoughts become solid and appear to us in the form of separate, external beings and situations. It is the usual process of projection (of fears, desires, anger, etc), but, once we are cut loose from the moderating, grounding effect of outer reality, the tendency is to get totally lost in our own projections. If you're paranoid, then everyone really is out to get you - and if you are dissatisfied, then there really is nothing to eat but rocks.

One of the major thrusts of Tibetan Buddhist training is to prepare for this journey from the world into the self - and back again - so that one can navigate it safely and fruitfully. One could compare it to lucid dreaming. If one can recognise the content of a dream as one's own projections - if one can identify not only with the experiencer, but also with the things experienced in the dream - then the whole quality of the dream is turned around and it becomes 'lucid'.

A dream which has become lucid is an expression of freedom: one can direct the flow of events without restriction. A lucid 'bardo state traveller' or 'dead person' not only realises enlightenment, but also gains control over the between-lives process, and can choose whether to be reborn - and where - and to which parents.

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Copyright 2000 Paul Mackilligin