therefore the best, time to prepare for death: by becoming

familiar with the teaching and stabilizing the practice.

2. The painful bardo of dying lasts from the beginning of

the process of dying right up until the end of what is known

as the "inner respiration"; this, in turn, culminates in the

dawning of the nature of mind, what we call the "Ground

Luminosity," at the moment of death.

3. The luminous bardo of dharmata encompasses the afterdeath

experience of the radiance of the nature of mind, the

luminosity or "Clear Light," which manifests as sound, color,

and light.

4. The karmic bardo of becoming is what we generally call

the Bardo or intermediate state, which lasts right up until the

moment we take on a new birth.

What distinguishes and defines each of the bardos is that

they are all gaps or periods in which the possibility of awakening

is particularly present. Opportunities for liberation are

occurring continuously and uninterruptedly throughout life and

death, and the bardo teachings are the key or tool that enables

us to discover and recognize them, and to make the fullest

possible use of them.


One of the central characteristics of the bardos is that they

are periods of deep uncertainty. Take this life as a prime

example. As the world around us becomes more turbulent, so

our lives become more fragmented. Out of touch and disconnected

from ourselves, we are anxious, restless, and often

paranoid. A tiny crisis pricks the balloon of the strategies we

hide behind. A single moment of panic shows us how precarious

and unstable everything is. To live in the modern world is

to live in what is clearly a bardo realm; you don't have to die

to experience one.

This uncertainty, which already pervades everything now,

becomes even more intense, even more accentuated after we

die, when our clarity or confusion, the masters tell us, will be

"multiplied by seven."

Anyone looking honestly at life will see that we live in a

constant state of suspense and ambiguity. Our minds are perpetually

shifting in and out of confusion and clarity. If only we

were confused all the time, that would at least make for some

kind of clarity. What is really baffling about life is that some-

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