THE BARDO OF BECOMING 301 Alas! the father and mother, the great storm, the whirlwind, the thunder, the terrifying projections and all these apparent phenomena are illusory in their real nature. However they appear, they are not real. All substances are false and untrue. They are like a mirage, they are not permanent, they are not changeless. What is the use of desire? What is the use of fear? It is regarding the nonexistent as existent... TheTibetanBookof the Dead goes on to advise us: "All substances are my own mind, and this mind is emptiness, unarisen and unobstructed." Thinking this, keep your mind natural and undiluted, self-contained in its own nature like water poured into water, just as it is, loose, open and relaxed. By letting it rest naturally and loosely, you can be sure that the wombentrance to all the different kinds of birth will certainly be closed. 9 The next best method to prevent rebirth is to see your potential parents as the buddha, or your master, or yidam deity. And at the very least, you should try to generate a feeling of renunciation against being drawn into feelings of desire, and to think of the pure realms of the buddhas. This will prevent rebirth and may cause you to be reborn in one of the buddha realms. If you are unable to stabilize the mind enough to do even this kind of practice, then there remain the methods for choosing a rebirth, which are linked to the landmarks and signs of the different realms. If you must take rebirth, or you intentionally wish to be reborn in order to pursue your spiritual path and be of benefit to others, you should not enter any but the human realm. It is only there that conditions are favorable for spiritual progress. If you are going to be born in a fortunate situation in the human realm, the teachings tell us, you will feel you are arriving at a sumptuous and beautiful house, or in a city, or among a crowd of people, or you will have a vision of couples making love. Otherwise, generally we have no choice. We are drawn toward our birthplace "as inexorably as a bird lured into a cage, dry grass catching fire, or an animal sinking into a marsh." TheTibetanBookof the Dead says: "O son/daughter of an enlightened family, even though you do not want to go, you have no power of your own; you are helpless and compelled to go."
302 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING Yet, as the teachings are always so inspiringly reminding us, there is always hope; now is the time for prayer. By wishing and concentrating intensely, even at this moment, you can still be reborn in one of the buddha realms, or else you can generate a deep aspiration to be reborn in a human family where you may be able to meet the spiritual path and continue toward liberation. If you have a strong karma that impels you toward a particular realm, you may have no choice; however, your past aspiration and prayers can help you to reshape your destiny, so you may be reborn into a life that will lead one day to liberation. Even as you enter the womb, you can go on praying for this to happen. Even now, you can visualize yourself as any enlightened being, traditionally the masters say as Vajrasattva, 10 bless the womb you are entering as a sacred environment, "a palace of the gods," and continue to practice. Now when the bardo of becoming dawns upon me, I will concentrate my mind one-pointedly, And strive to prolong the results of good karma, Close the entrance to rebirth, and try to keep from being reborn. This is the time when perseverance and pure perception are needed; Abandon negative emotions, and meditate on the master. Ultimately it is the mind's urge to inhabit a particular realm that impels us toward reincarnation, and its tendency to solidify and to grasp that finds its ultimate expression in physical rebirth. This is the next stage in the process of manifestation that we have seen taking place throughout the bardos. If you succeed in directing the mind toward a human birth, you have come full circle. You are poised to be born again into the natural bardo of this life. When you see your father and mother in intercourse, your mind is ineluctably drawn in, and enters the womb. This signals the end of the bardo of becoming, as your mind rapidly reexperiences yet again the signs of the phases of dissolution and the dawning of the Ground Luminosity. Then the black experience of full attainment arises again, and at the same moment the connection to the new womb is made. So life begins, as it ends, with the Ground Luminosity.