This description of the appearance of the Buddha

Ratnasambhava concludes by explaining that through this

"showing" by the master or spiritual friend, liberation is certain,

however weak the dead person's capacities may be. Yet,

even after being "shown" many times, the Tibetan Book of the

Dead says, there are those who, because of negative karma,

will not recognize and gain liberation. Disturbed by desire and

obscurations and terrified by the different sounds and lights,

they will flee. So, on the following "day," the next buddha,

Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless Light, with his mandala of

deities, will appear in all the splendor of his dazzling red light,

manifesting together with the dim, seductive, yellow light-path

of the hungry ghosts, which is created out of desire and

meanness. And so the Tibetan Book of the Dead introduces the

appearance of each of the peaceful and wrathful deities in turn

in a similar way.

I am often asked: "Will the deities appear to a Western

person? And if so, will it be in familiar, Western forms?"

The manifestations of the bardo of dharmata are called

"spontaneously present." This means that they are inherent

and unconditioned, and exist in us all. Their arising is not

dependent on any spiritual realization we may have; only the

recognition of them is. They are not unique to Tibetans; they

are a universal and fundamental experience, but the way they

are perceived depends on our conditioning. Since they are by

nature limitless, they have the freedom then to manifest in

any form.

Therefore the deities can take on forms we are most familiar

with in our lives. For example, for Christian practitioners,

the deities might take the form of Christ or the Virgin Mary.

Generally, the whole purpose of the enlightened manifestation

of the buddhas is to help us, so they may take on whatever

form is most appropriate and beneficial for us. But in whatever

form the deities appear, it is important to recognize that

there is definitely no difference whatsoever in their fundamental



In Dzogchen it is explained that just as a person will not

recognize the Ground Luminosity without a true realization of

the nature of mind and a stable experience of Trekchö prac-

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