The Tibetan Book of the Dead tells us that bardo means the in between place. Bar means in between, and do means island or mark; most often it is thought of as the place between death and rebirth. However it isn’t only the island between death and life but also all the little in between places, the bardos, of living; for in life, death happens all the time. One thing ends, another begins. It is the point in between that is the bardo.
There are six major bardo states in Tibetan Buddhism: the Bardo of Birth, the Bardo of Dreams, the Bardo of Samadhi Meditation, the Bardo of the Moment Before Death, and Bardo of Dharmata, and the Bardo of Becoming.
At the end of one’s life a person experiences three bardo states: the Bardo of the Moment Before Death, the Bardo of Dharmata, and the Bardo of Becoming.
Tibetan Buddhists say there is a kind of uncertainty regarding one’s sanity or insanity—confusion or enlightenment—in the bardo state. There exist within the bardo, if one is prepared to enter it consciously, the potential for all sorts of visionary discoveries that occur on the way to sanity or insanity. There is definitely a quality of uncertainty, even paranoia in a bardo. It takes courage as well as one-pointed purpose of mind and heart to exist consciously in the bardo state. It takes all the strength one has.
... I couldn’t think of how to help you in any other way. In fact, the only way I knew how to “be there for you” was to not be there, to go away and let you thrash around in this alone...
I’ll walk through this with you or wait on the edge of it. But I want you always to know — even if you aren't feeling it— that I’ll be standing there with you when it’s over.
I can’t always be with you in the shadow of your fears and angers, but I’m always right on the other side, waiting for you to emerge.”
O son of noble family, now what is called the Great Luminosity has arrived. You are not alone in leaving this world. It happens to everyone, so do not feel desire and yearning for this life. Even if you feel desire and yearning, you cannot stay. You can only wander in Samsara. Do not desire, do not yearn. O son of noble family, whatever terrifying projections appear in the Bardo of Dharmata, do not forget these words but go forward remembering their meaning; the essential point is to remember them and recognize everything as projections of your own mind.
Enter now the Bardo of Dharmata and say this prayer as you tread this dangerous path: Now when the Bardo of Dharmata dawns upon me, I will abandon all thoughts of fear and terror, I will recognize whatever appears as my projection and know it to be a vision of the bardo; now that I have reached this crucial Point I will not fear the peaceful and wrathful ones, my own projections.
Is death bad? (Is there such a thing as good and bad?) ... It’s just what all human beings spend most of their life trying to overcome, avoid, or do away with. Don’t you see? We decided death is bad. Death is bad here on Earth, where all we can see and know is life. Ego likes life, hates death ... Its the value we give it on Earth, not it’s real value. It’s all the same Energy, channeled through different conduits.
The way the Energy expresses itself is affected by the conduit’s complex parts. When the conduit is a human being, it’s the person’s personality or his shape, his consciousness or ... lack of consciousness.
But the Energy itself isn’t (good or) bad. The Energy itself—even in its most humanly undesirable form—is still the same energy. And later, after time goes by, humans often find the meaning of the ’good’ stuff that was an indirect result of what they at one time judged to be ’bad stuff.’
“I don’t like the way this sounds.”
“You might be surprised. Who would ever say anything good came out of AIDS? But here you are discovering things about yourself and It that you might never have discovered had you not become sick. That’s not to say you would choose to be sick, but since your are sick you‘ve chosen—that is, directed your individual form of the Energy—towards developing yourself in the most conscious way possible. No one would ever have wished you to be sick, but that doesn’t mean that something positive hasn’t developed as a result of it.”
EG sits up in bed. The room is dark. No light comes from the window. No one is there. He tries looking about the room, but it is useless. There simply is no light in the room. There has never been such darkness, such blackness, such a vacuum of lightlessness.
... This must be it, he thinks. This must be the moment. Of course, he thinks, the panic giving way to ironic humor. I would go now, when the room is dark and everyone is gone. Of course, he thinks, the very thing I have always dreaded most comes to pass: being alone at this moment. I must remember this all is a projection of my own mind. There is nothing wrong with being alone. This is fine. This is perfectly all right. It simply doesn't matter. I have to do this alone, anyway, no matter how many people are in the room.
...I will not be afraid. There is nothing to fear. Everyone is here somewhere . I don’t see them, but I believe that they are here somewhere.
Then EG (main character in the book) hears a quiet laughter coming from he side of the bed. ... You are here after all!
It was just a little flash. Like a time blip into the future. You might think of it as a preview.
What does it mean?
Nothing. It means nothing. That happens sometimes when your getting close. You handled that very well, by the way. We’re all quite impressed.
All of us. Just lie back and rest. It’s almost over. We’ll be right here.
So I’m not alone?
Oh, my child you’ve never been alone. If you only knew the crowds you move among day in and day out. You’ll see. You’ll see. ... You’re only alone when you think you are. It’s all illusion, my boy. It always has been.
I don’t understand.
Now don’t lose confidence here at the end. Will yourself to it. You’re doing fine. Rest, child. Rest. The most difficult part is ahead.
But you’ll be here, right?
We‘ll be here, It’s up to you to remember that. Everything now is up to you.