This Life: The Natural Bardo

LET US EXPLORE the first of the Four Bardos, the natural

bardo of this life, and all its many implications; then we

will proceed to explore the other three bardos in the appropriate

time and order. The natural bardo of this life spans the

whole of our lifetime between birth and death. Its teachings

make clear to us why this bardo is such a precious opportunity,

what it really means to be a human being, and what is

the most important and only truly essential thing for us to do

with the gift of this human life.

The masters tell us that there is an aspect of our minds that

is its fundamental basis, a state called "the ground of the ordinary

mind." Longchenpa, the outstanding fourteenth-century

Tibetan master, describes it in this way: "It is unenlightenment

and a neutral state, which belongs to the category of mind

and mental events, and it has become the foundation of all

karmas and 'traces' of samsara and nirvana." 1 It functions like

a storehouse, in which the imprints of past actions caused by

our negative emotions are all stored like seeds. When the right

conditions arise, they germinate and manifest as circumstances

and situations in our lives.

Imagine this ground of the ordinary mind as being like a

bank in which karma is deposited as imprints and habitual

tendencies. If we have a habit of thinking in a particular pattern,

positive or negative, then these tendencies will be triggered

and provoked very easily, and recur and go on recurring.

With constant repetition our inclinations and habits become

steadily more entrenched, and go on continuing, increasing,

and gathering power, even when we sleep. This is how they

come to determine our life, our death, and our rebirth.

We often wonder: "How will I be when I die?" The answer

to that is that whatever state of mind we are in now, whatever

kind of person we are now: that's what we will be like at the


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