The deeper our sensitivity and the more acute our alertness

to the amazing opportunities for radical insight offered by

gaps and transitions like these in life, the more inwardly prepared

we will be for when they occur in an immensely more

powerful and uncontrolled way at death.

This is extremely important, because the bardo teachings

tell us that there are moments when the mind is far freer than

usual, moments far more powerful than others, which carry a

far stronger karmic charge and implication. The supreme one

of these is the moment of death. For at that moment the body

is left behind, and we are offered the greatest possible opportunity

for liberation.

However consummate our spiritual mastery may be, we

are limited by the body and its karma. But with the physical

release of death comes the most marvelous opportunity to fulfill

everything we have been striving for in our practice and

our life. Even in the case of a supreme master who has

reached the highest realization, the ultimate release, called

parinirvana, dawns only at death. That is why in the Tibetan

tradition we do not celebrate the birthdays of masters; we celebrate

their death, their moment of final illumination.

In my childhood in Tibet, and years afterward, I have heard

account after account of great practitioners, and even of seemingly

ordinary yogins and laypeople, who died in an amazing

and dramatic way. Not until that very last moment did they

finally display the depth of their realization and the power of

the teaching they had come to embody 3

The Dzogchen Tantras, the ancient teachings from which

the bardo instructions come, speak of a mythical bird, the

garuda, which is born fully grown. This image symbolizes our

primordial nature, which is already completely perfect. The

garuda chick has all its wing feathers fully developed inside

the egg, but it cannot fly before it hatches. Only at the

moment when the shell cracks open can it burst out and soar

up into the sky. Similarly, the masters tell us, the qualities of

buddhahood are veiled by the body, and as soon as the body

is discarded, they will be radiantly displayed.

The reason the moment of death is so potent with opportunity

is because it is then that the fundamental nature of

mind, the Ground Luminosity or Clear Light, will naturally

manifest, and in a vast and splendid way. If at this crucial

moment we can recognize the Ground Luminosity, the teachings

tell us, we will attain liberation.

This is not, however, possible unless you have become

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