The Bardo of ThisLife
The Bardo of Dying
The Six Liberating Actions
The Bardo Teachings - The Intermediate States

Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche, 1992 in Rodby/Denmark

In 1992 in Rødby, Denmark, Lopon Tsechu Rinpoche gave extensive teachings on the Four Bardos as explained in The Mirror of Mindfulness by Tsele Natsok Rangdrol. was a well known master of the Kagyu and Nyimga Lineages of the 17th century, and one of the greatest scholars of his time. He is also considered to be an early incarnation of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche.

When we talk about "bardo" in Tibetan Buddhism, we usually refer to the interval between one life and the next - the time period between death and rebirth. However, the true meaning of the word is "intermediate stage/interval between one thing and another." It therefore extends far beyond the general meaning.

In his explanations about this topic, the author, Tsele Natsong Rangdrol, follows the usual pattern of Dharma-teachings: there is a preparation, the actual teaching, and an end.

As a part of the preparation, one always starts with an offering to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in order to accumulate positive karma and to clear away hindrances. Then, one promises to finish what one begins - be it a retreat or the giving of a teaching. It is said that superior beings do not promise something quickly, but if they do, they stand by it at all costs. A drawing in the water will disappear quickly, but an engraving in a rock will practically remain forever. To give such a promise is part of the preparation.

The text then begins with paying respect to the qualities of the three buddha-states, the three Kayas.

1. First, to the Truth State, the Dharmakaya which is described as totally pure. In its absolute quality, it is free from any fabrication and naturally empty.

2. Not different from it is the joy State, the Sambogakaya, which manifests like the reflection of the moon in water.

3. Finally appears the Nirmanakaya, the continuous manifestation of radiance for the benefit of the ordinary beings. Tsele Natsog Rangdrol first turns to these three states and says that they are not different from the qualities of one's own mind, and that they also manifest in one's own teacher.

Whatever manifests, be it samsara or nirvana, it all is empty in its essence. This means that birth and death, happiness and suffering whatever we experience, has no true reality but contains the quality of emptiness. It is only because ordinary beings cannot realize this that they are caught in the events and, through this, suffer. They are caught in their own illusions, ideas, and concepts. If one realizes this, compassion arises. This compassion has caused many masters to teach all the methods, so that the beings may understand how things really are. The teach ings about the bardos are one part of these methods, and many masters have given teachings about their meaning. Actually, the whole concept of bardo refers to the time when we are caught in samsara, because the basis for it is our ignorance. Until we have freed ourselves from ignorance, until enlightenment, we are in a bardo state. Normally, however, "bardo" is understood as the time period from death to rebirth.

There are various ways to divide the different bardos. For example, some masters have talked about six bardos. However, the explanations about them differ with respect to the teachers. There are also discussions about the divisions, and some do not agree with the existence of a Bardo of Meditation. But this is not logical; since everything which happens, our entire existence in samasara, is a bardo, one cannot exclude any state of mind. It does not make sense to say that meditation is not a bardo.

The division into six bardos originally came from the Nyingma tradition and also occurs in other works, for instance in the teachings which Milarepa once gave to the dakini Tseringma.

The six bardos refer to:

1. The Bardo of Life

2. The Bardo of Dreaming

3. The Bardo of Meditation

4. The Bardo of Dying

5. The Bardo of Dharmadata

6. The Bardo of Becoming

 

Other masters talk about three or four main bardos. Tsele Natsog Rangdrol prefers the division into the four main bardos, because this can be understood most easily:

1. The Bardo of life

2. The Bardo of Dying

3. The Bardo of Dharmadata

4. The Bardo of Becoming

 

In his text, Tsele Natsog Rangdrol explains the meaning of these four bardo-states, describes them in detail, and explains how one can practice in order to attain liberation within the various bardos.