comes the longing for a physical body, and yet we fail to find

one, which plunges us into further suffering.

The whole landscape and environment is molded by our

karma, just as the bardo world can be peopled by the nightmarish

images of our own delusions. If our habitual conduct

in life was positive, our perception and experience in the

bardo will be mixed with bliss and happiness; and if our lives

were harmful or hurtful to others, our experiences in the

bardo will be ones of pain, grief, and fear. So, it was said in

Tibet, fishermen, butchers, and hunters are attacked by monstrous

versions of their former victims.

Some who have studied the near-death experience in detail,

and especially the "life-review" that is one of its common features,

have asked themselves: How could we possibly imagine

the horror of the bardo experiences of a drug baron, a dictator,

or a Nazi torturer? The "life-review" seems to suggest that,

after death, we can experience all the suffering for which we

were both directly and indirectly responsible.


The whole of the bardo of becoming has an average duration

of forty-nine days and a minimum length of one week. But

it varies, just as now some people live to be a hundred years

old, and others die in their youth. Some can even get stuck in

the bardo, to become spirits or ghosts. Dudjom Rinpoche used

to explain that during the first twenty-one days of the bardo,

you still have a strong impression of your previous life, and

this is therefore the most important period for the living to be

able to help a dead person. After that, your future life slowly

takes shape and becomes the dominant influence.

We have to wait in the bardo until we can make a karmic

connection with our future parents. I sometimes think of the

bardo as something like a transit lounge, in which you can

wait for up to forty-nine days before transferring to the next

life. But there are two special cases who don't have to wait in

the intermediate state, because the intensity of the power of

their karma sweeps them immediately on to their next rebirth.

The first are those who have lived extremely beneficial and

positive lives, and so trained their minds in spiritual practice

that the force of their realization carries them directly into a

good rebirth. The second case are those whose lives have

been negative and harmful; they travel swiftly down to their

next birth, wherever that might be.

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