Dissolution of the physical form causes a release of the awareness-principle from the body and expands the consciousness to enfold a higher state. The absorption of the four elements are spiritually related to the activities of their subtle counterpart personified as goddesses:
1) Buddhalocana – Earth
2) Mamaki – Water
3) Pandaravasini – Fire
4) Samayatara – Air
After the absorption of the elements, what is called the “Three Paths” commences. Whereas the above is known as the “gross dissolution,” the Three Paths is known as the “subtle dissolution.” The Three Paths is associated with inner processes called by lamas the stages of “appearance,” “increase” and “attainment.” They are associated with the three “tigle,” or “bindu.” The tigles are described as being the essences of one’s parents and possessing certain colours related to the male and female seed. The male tigle is white in colour and resides at the top of the head. It represents “skillful means.” It is also related to the nirmanakaya–one of the three bodies often referred to in Mahayana Buddhism. The female tigle is red in colour and has its abode at the base of the spine. It represents “wisdom,” and is related to the sambhogakaya. The third tigle is a neutral essence, it is a combination of both male-female tigles when they meet in the heart; it results in the black tigle. This tigle is related to the dharmakaya. The movements of the three tigles in the physical body result in the stages of one’s realization of “emptiness,” or the Clear Light of the Void, which in the average person goes unrecognized. During the death process the white tigle descends into the heart center followed by the ascent of the red tigle into the same locality. These are the stages of “appearance” and “increase.” The stage of “attainment” or the “black path” occurs when both male and female bindus meet in the heart center to form the black tigle and give rise to the actual moment of death. The appearance of the Clear Light follows at that precise moment. In the black stage the average person usually falls unconscious, the Buddhist initiate of such teachings as Dzogchen or Mahamudra, however, is able to maintain awareness and recognize the Clear Light as it appears. Concerning the nature and movements of the tigles, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche in the Bardo Guidebook comments:
“Whiteness or appearance is due to the descent of the white element, obtained from one’s father at the moment of conception. At that time there is a white shimmering light like moonshine. The outer sign is similar to the moon descending or rising. The inner sign is that one’s consciousness feels hazy like a mirage. This should be acknowledged as the experience of the whiteness.
“The experience of redness involving the ascent of the red element obtained from one’s mother at conception is like sunshine in a place filled with dust so that the sun appears very red. The outer sign is a red sun either rising or setting. The inner sign is scintillating sparks that appear and disappear like fireflies. The experience of blackness is like the darkness of the night sky. At this point one’s consciousness alternates between being clear and hazy.” (1991:92-93)
The phenomena of the three tigles should be considered symbolic. They represent psychological processes that purifies, as much as possible, the psyche from emotional and mental stains. Our primordial nature is the Clear Light of the Void, in Christian terms this corresponds to one’s “Father” in heaven or Nur Illahi, as muslims would call it.. This shining divine spark within is clouded by negative emotional and mental qualities, recognized my muslim mystics as the “hijab” or veil. Once freed from those negative toxins of the psyche, one’s true nature may be easily apperceived. The “movements” of the tigles facilitates this process. In the Bardo Guidebook the author refers to the psychological cessation of thoughts related to sensual desire, anger and delusions and in connection with the stages of the three tigles:
“During the white experience the thirty-three thought states caused by anger cease. During the red experience the forty thought states caused by passions cease. When the two essences meet, the seven thought states caused by stupidity cease.” (1991:12)
And once freed from the above negative, deluded thoughts of anger, passion and stupidity, what remains is the Clear Light of the Dharmakaya–one’s divine nature.
When the dying’s last expiration is about to cease, lamas make it a practice to turn the pilgrim’s dying body over to the right side. This they call the “Lying Posture of the Lion.” The carotid arteries of the left and right side of the throat are pressed simultaneously. By such a practice it is hoped that the “awareness-principle” would emerge from the crown chakra. By pressing the arteries the remaining life-force in the body no longer re-circulates within the physical system–it is forced out through the crown portal. Pressure on the arteries prevents the soul, or awareness-principle from falling unconscious, or into the death-swoon. It also triggers the experience of the Clear Light of the first phase of the Bardo and the hoped-for recognition of it. Incidentally, it is likewise believed that the arterial pressure stimulates kundalini, or the serpent-force lying at the base of the spine, just as the death-hormone is believed to by Chaney. This occult writer also believes that kundalini is an active cause of the appearances of the bardos. Kundalini as it rises to the dying brain via sushumna, or the subtle spinal nerve, is believed by lamas to be an important factor in manifesting the Clear Light of the Void. The pressure on the carotid arteries is maintained for about six minutes after the last breath–the time that it takes for the Clear Light to dawn. We are also advised by Bardo teachings not to touch a corpse for at least an hour after death, for, it is said, that the awareness-principle is attracted to the area being touched. This would only cause the mind of the soul to be distracted and to wander away from the important bardo experiences.
Although soul-emergence out of the crown chakra is the desire of every well-informed Tibetan, the incarnated soul may also exit, according to Lamas, through any of the other eight different openings of the body, the route of which, it is said, determines the place of abode of one’s awareness-principle in the after-life. Below we give the nine portals of exit and their associated realms:
Anus – Hell realm
Genital – Animal realm
Mouth – Hungry ghost realm
Nose – Human realm
Navel – Desire-gods realm
Ears – Asura/Titan realm
Eyes – Form realms of the gods
Top of head – Formless realms of the gods
Crown of head – Devachan
We shall now consider the three bardos, or the three phases of the Bardo–the Chikai, Chonyid, and Sidpa. Below we give the bardo-phases and stages, and the approximate number of days that the soul may linger in them:
1) Chikai Bardo, first stage – First to third day
2) Chikai Bardo, second stage – Third to fourth day
3) Chonyid Bardo, first stage – Fourth to eleventh day
4) Chonyid Bardo, second stage – Eleventh to nineteenth day
5) Sidpa Bardo, first stage – Nineteenth to fortieth day
6) Sidpa Bardo, second stage – Fortieth to forty-ninth day
It should be noted that not all of these bardos may be experienced by the one undergoing transition. Liberation and illumination may occur in the first or second phase making the undergoing of the succeeding stages unnecessary; it all depends upon the purity, the spirituality, and the karma of the dying pilgrim. Each succeeding stage makes it more improbable that liberation be gained; however, with the correct faith, humility, knowledge, attitude, behaviour, and awareness, the grace of the Cosmos may pour upon the one experiencing the bardo and offer attainment of the long sought-for salvation. Our understanding, awareness and reactions in the Bardo determines whether we attain enlightenment or prolong our existence in samsara.
Chikai Bardo, First Stage
In this first stage of the bardo the Clear Light of the Void dawns upon the consciousness or awareness-principle. In Vajrayana teachings this Clear Light is none other than the dharmakaya, the highest principle within the microcosmic being of man. In Theosophy, this is the Monad; or the “I AM Presence,” as some esoteric schools of thought would call it; or “Yechidah” in the Qaballa, the oral tradition of Judaism.
The Clear Light is like a mirror that reflects our Divine Self, our true Buddha nature. This Clear Light is said to be resplendent and scintillating, of a brightness that surpasses a thousand suns. Recognizing, being aware, and merging with one’s true nature confers upon one a new spiritual status. The experience expands one’s consciousness, not unlike the “Cosmic Consciousness” of Richard M. Bucke. Fundamentally, the Clear Light is experienced when one abides in one’s true primordial nature in stillness without being moved by thoughts or emotions. This usually occurs in a deep state of meditation. Experiencing the Clear Light in full awareness liberates oneself from samsara, from Maya, and the dualistic state of mind and conception. The Clear Light and liberation implies a non-dual state, a non-thought-formation, and an abidance in one’s Divine nature.
According to Vajrayana teachings, the Chikai stage is the first opportunity given to us to be free from the world of birth and rebirth, of the cycle of reincarnation with its concomitant sufferings and pain. Our main problem here is maintaining consciousness while undergoing the process of soul-release and recognizing the Clear Light when it appears. Most people pass through this stage unconsciously, in a state of slumber. Various factors causes the awareness-principle to fall into a stupor and not recognize its true nature as represented by the Clear Light. Impurity of thoughts and emotions, guilt, unforgivingness, attachment to the world of form and possessions, ignorance of the bardo states and its liberating potential, karmic stains, and the influence of drugs are just some of the many causes that prevents the soul from achieving salvation in the Clear Light. Earlyne Chaney in her book, “The Mysteries of Death & Dying” comments on why the Light may not be seen:
“If there is darkness within the consciousness, it is reflected on the mirror of your mind and the mirror cannot then reflect the radiance of the Clear Light itself. At this moment when the Clear Light dawns, the mind is like a mirror and only when it is cleared of karmic obstacles can the mind reflect the ultimate light of reality. This is why it is so difficult for most of us to imagine that we may merge with the Clear Light, because the mind must be completely cleared of all karmic darkness.” (1989:70)
In order to prepare oneself for the Clear Light experience, we are advised by lamas to meditate daily, and to undergo certain purifying, detoxifying processes–mental, emotional, physical and spiritual–that clears the skandhas, the aggregates of the lower constitution of the microcosm, from all psycho-physical dross that hangs like a veil over the Clear Light preventing its shimmering brilliance from emerging and contacting the soul-in-transition. The more karmic stains in the skandhas, the less we see of the Clear Light. Purifying practices such as the Heruka Vajrasattva sadhana, for instance, are often resorted to, to clear one’s mental and emotional continuum of karmic stains. The necessity for purity in one’s nature in order to see the Clear Light is also to be found in Christian teachings where it is said that only the pure shall see “God.” Surat An-Nur of the Quran alludes poetically to the Clear Light, to Nur Illahi and how it is perceived.
Basically, one has to be detached from the five skhandas (essence of form, sensation, volition, consciousness, and deluded perception) in order to recognize the Clear Light and its transformative qualities. It takes a perfectly detached mind and a pure awareness, free from karmic stains to merge with the high energies of the Divine flame of the Clear Light of the Void. Only then is one free from all mortal states and is born into a realm beyond the laws of change, of becoming. Immortality is attained in such a manner. Bokar Rinpoche, in the book Death & the Art of Dying tells us the significance of the consummation of one’s mergence with the Clear Light:
“Recognizing this fundamental Clear Light means `becoming’ Buddha in the absolute body at the moment of death! It is said that it also means `being liberated as a Buddha in the first Bardo.’ When awakening is attained, the bardo no longer continues.” (1993:19-20)
Chikai Bardo, Second Stage
While the first stage of Chikai occurs in the swoon state approaching death, this second stage occurs after clinical death–usually half an hour after the occurrence. From the occult point of view, it occurs after the heart seed-atom departs from the physical body and the severance of the sutratma. The duration of this stage is a little longer than the previous one. In this stage the Clear Light seemingly reduces its intensity to some degree. It actually does so because of the obscurations of one’s ignorance and karma. Although the Clear Light may not be recognized in the primary stage, there is still a chance for the awareness-principle, when awakened from its stupor or dream-like state to take notice of the Clear Light in this secondary phase of the Chikai. This is usually done with the assistance of the presiding guide, the Reciter of the “death manual,” or the Bardo Thodol. The bardo ritual also helps awaken the deceased person to recognize the fact that it had passed through the portal of death and that it should now pay attention to the subsequent psychological phenomena. In the Tibetan Book of the Dead, the awareness-principle in the Chikai stage is advised to recognize its own primordial Self:
“O nobly-born, when the body and mind were separating, thou must have experienced a glimpse of the Pure Truth, subtly, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in spring-time in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. This is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it.” (1975:104)
Like the first stage, liberation is also offered here as a gift of the Divine Intelligence; it is, however, an incomplete liberation, not as totally or as fully as the liberation of the first stage. To ensure the attainment of liberation, as said before, it is necessary to practice meditation every day where a glimpse of the Clear Light may be seen and experienced in an altered-state of awareness in order to aid us to recognize its full power in the Chikai. Experience of the Clear Light in the meditative state help us to experience it in the Chikai state. Spiritual exercises such as visualizing one’s physical body and aura surrounded with white light assists us greatly to recognize the Clear Light when it emerges from the depth of our being. Recollection of teachings pertaining to the bardo also increases considerably the chances that the soul would realize the Clear Light and to know the manner of correct approach toward the following bardos. The marifat or gnostic techniques of Islamic and Hindu mystics allows the practitioner to evoke the presence of the Clear Light, as does the techniques of Dzogchen.
The intensity of the Clear Light that appears to one’s consciousness is dependent upon the quality of light within one’s own consciousness. An impure consciousness taints the Clear Light of the Void. Normally, the average person would not experience or recognize the Clear Light of the Chikai stage; and those who experience violent deaths go through the first stages of the bardos very quickly, likewise without recognizing the Clear Light.
While experiencing the Chikai stage, it is possible for the awareness-principle to be distracted from the Clear Light by loud physical noises, or the lamenting of relatives and friends. It is for this reason that the room of the dying one should be free from any conditions that may disturb its mental focus.
Should one successfully recognize the Clear Light, one should merge into it, or absorb its radiance. This will lead one to the Buddhic or higher worlds. Otherwise, if unsuccessful in recognizing and merging with the Clear Light, one would simply fall into slumber and awaken to the subsequent bardos. It is to be noted that in this Secondary Light of the Chikai that the deceased may often catch a glimpse of awaiting relatives and friends on the Otherside, or see their presiding deity or guru, or even hear heavenly music. This phenomena is substantiated in Near-Death Experiences as recorded by doctors and researchers of the paranormal.
Chonyid Bardo, First Stage
As the awareness-principle sink deeper into the depths of the bardo–because of lack of spiritual attainment–the Clear Light of the Void lessens its shining brilliance, or to be more accurate, heavier veils enshroud it. In the previous Chikai stage, the Clear Light was a manifestation of the dharmakaya. In this Chonyid stage, the Bardo of Dharmata, the Light filters through the sambogakaya, which may be interpreted to mean the causal body. In terms of psychology, this sambogakaya may correspond to the superconsciousness, whereas the former corresponds to Cosmic Consciousness. One’s consciousness at this stage sees the refracted Clear Light of the sambogakaya as coloured rays which are moulded according to the nature of the spiritual side of our psychic contents. What one sees in the Chonyid are, basically, hallucinations.
In this phase and stage one’s mental and subconscious contents of a spiritual nature are projected externally onto the sambogakaya lights as psychic images. These images may take the form of gods, devas, masters, or angels–anything that reflects our spiritual conscious state. Teachings of Tibetan Buddhism refer to this stage as the appearance of the “42 peaceful deities,” or the appearance of karmic illusions of a spiritual nature. It is said that these peaceful deities emanate from the heart center. The spiritual forms of these deities usually appear in the guise of the being that we often pray to and seek spiritual refuge. It is, however, important to realize that all forms that appear in the Chonyid and Sidpa are mental creations, and are, therefore, unreal. Concerning the nature of these deities, Tsele Rangorol in The Mirror of Mindfulness says that,
“. . . the deities are an expression of one’s spontaneously present wakefulness; they are automatically there, inherent in one’s nature.” (1993:10)
Visions within this and the following bardos are reflections of our habitual thought patterns. The spiritual inclined will see spiritual images at this stage, while the mind with habitual carnal thoughts would probably bypass this bardo stage as it would have done so with the previous Chikai stage and go onto the next to see visions of its based thoughts. The primary aim in this and in the following stages is to realize the “emptiness” of these images, and to grasp their real essence as being that of the Clear Light. In this manner we transform our consciousness by realizing the true basis of these visions and integrating them into our own being. Failure to do so simply results in a rebirth in one of the lower six realms. Not recognizing the psychic images as one’s own thoughtforms in this bardo and in the next results in a continued existence in samsara.
Copyright © 2006 Luxamore