THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE: A STAIRCASE TO HEAVEN? 331 to be instantly ... I just felt exhilarated with a sense of power. I could do what I wanted to ... It's realer than here, really. 21 "I remember all of a sudden going right back to the battlefield where I had been lost... It was almost like you materialize there and all of a sudden the next instant you were over here. It was just like you blinked your eyes." 22 Many near-death experiencers also report a clairvoyant sense of total knowledge "from the beginning of time to the end of time." 23 A woman told Raymond Moody: "All of a sudden, all knowledge of all that had started from the very beginning, that would go on without end—for a second I knew all the secrets of the ages, all the meaning of the universe, the stars, the moon—of everything." 24 'There was a moment in this thing—well, there isn't any way to describe it—but it was like I knew all things ... For a moment, there, it was like communication wasn't necessary. I thought whatever I wanted to know could be known." 25 "While I was there I felt at the center of things. I felt enlightened and cleansed. I felt I could see the point of everything. Everything fitted in, it all made sense, even the dark times. It almost seemed, too, as if the pieces of jigsaw all fitted together." 26 4. Meeting Others In the Tibetan teachings the mental body in the bardo of becoming is described as meeting other beings in the bardo. Similarly the near-death experiencer is often able to converse with others who have died. Michael Sabom's Vietnam veteran said that as he lay unconscious on the battlefield, viewing his own body: The thirteen guys that had been killed the day before that I had put in plastic bags were right there with me. And more than that, during the course of that month of May, my particular company lost forty-two dead. All forty-two of those guys were there. They were not in the form we perceive the human body ... but I know they were there. I felt their presence. We communicated without talking with our voices. 27 A woman whose heart stopped under anesthetic during a dental extraction said: Then I found myself I was in a beautiful landscape, the grass is greener than anything seen on earth, it has a special light or glow.
332 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING The colors are beyond description, the colors here are so drab by comparison... In this place I saw people that I knew had died. There were no words spoken, but it was as if I knew what they were thinking, and at the same time I knew that they knew what I was thinking 28 5. Different Realms In the bardo of becoming, as well as many other kinds of visions, the mental body will see visions and signs of different realms. A small percentage of those who have survived a neardeath experience report visions of inner worlds, of paradises, cities of light, with transcendental music. One woman told Raymond Moody: Off in the distance ... I could see a city. There were buildings— separate buildings. They were gleaming, bright. People were happy in there. There was sparkling water, fountains ... a city of light I guess would be the way to say it... It was wonderful. There was beautiful music. Everything was just glowing, wonderful ... But if I had entered into this, I think I would never have returned... I was told that if I went there I couldn't go back ... that the decision was mine. 29 Another person told Margot Grey: / seemed to find myself in what appeared to be some type of structure or building, but there were no walls that I can remember. There was only this all-pervading beautiful golden light... I noticed about me many people that seemed to be walking or milling about; they didn't even appear to walk, but seemed somehow to glide. I didn't feel apart from them at all; one of the feelings I remember most about them was the feeling of unity, of being totally a part of everything around me and about me. 30 6. Hellish Visions Not all descriptions in the near-death experience, however, are positive, as you would expect from what we have spoken of in the Tibetan teachings. Some people report terrifying experiences of fear, panic, loneliness, desolation, and gloom, vividly reminiscent of the descriptions of the bardo of becoming. One person reported by Margot Grey spoke of being sucked into "a vast black vortex like a whirlpool," and those who have negative experiences tend to feel, rather like those about to be reborn in lower realms in the bardo of becoming, that they are traveling downward instead of upward: