The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

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The-Tibetan-Book-of-Living-and-Dying

IN THE MIRROR OF DEATH 11THE JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE AND DEATHAccording to the wisdom of Buddha, we can actually useour lives to prepare for death. We do not have to wait for thepainful death of someone close to us or the shock of terminalillness to force us into looking at our lives. Nor are we condemnedto go out empty-handed at death to meet theunknown. We can begin, here and now, to find meaning inour lives. We can make of every moment an opportunity tochange and to prepare—wholeheartedly, precisely, and withpeace of mind—for death and eternity.In the Buddhist approach, life and death are seen as onewhole, where death is the beginning of another chapter of life.Death is a mirror in which the entire meaning of life isreflected.This view is central to the teachings of the most ancientschool of Tibetan Buddhism. Many of you will have heard ofthe Tibetan Book of the Dead. What I am seeking to do in thisbook is to explain and expand the Tibetan Book of the Dead, tocover not only death but life as well, and to fill out in detailthe whole teaching of which the Tibetan Book of the Dead isonly a part. In this wonderful teaching, we find the whole oflife and death presented together as a series of constantlychanging transitional realities known as bardos. The word"bardo" is commonly used to denote the intermediate statebetween death and rebirth, but in reality bardos are occurringcontinuously throughout both life and death, and are junctureswhen the possibility of liberation, or enlightenment, is heightened.The bardos are particularly powerful opportunities for liberationbecause there are, the teachings show us, certainmoments that are much more powerful than others and muchmore charged with potential, when whatever you do has acrucial and far-reaching effect. I think of a bardo as being likea moment when you step toward the edge of a precipice;such a moment, for example, is when a master introduces adisciple to the essential, original, and innermost nature of hisor her mind. The greatest and most charged of thesemoments, however, is the moment of death.So from the Tibetan Buddhist point of view, we can divideour entire existence into four continuously interlinked realities:(1) life, (2) dying and death, (3) after death, and (4) rebirth.These are known as the four bardos: (1) the natural bardo ofthis life, (2) the painful bardo of dying, (3) the luminous bardoof dharmata, and (4) the karmic bardo of becoming.

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