As is written in the sutras, the end of birth is death. Departing from this world is a fact that all living beings have to face one day. If we are not prepared, death can be a confusing and terrifying experience. But if we are ready, the interim between death and rebirth (bardo) can become an opportunity for attaining higher rebirth and liberation. As Tai Situ Rinpoche writes in Primordial Essence Manifests,
“…once mind exits the body then it is into the universe and if we recognize it, if we are able to be in control of it, if we are able to be aware of it, to master it, then we are truly experiencing the relative limitlessness of the ultimate mind…. So in this state, if you are mature and if you master it, you have absolute freedom. Otherwise it will be the most terrifying thing because there is no limitation and no reference point. For example, you can’t close the window, the door or shut the curtains or lie down, you can’t do anything; it is all out there…we don’t have a body that can hold onto something if we are blown by the wind. Therefore, we are totally out of control and there is no limitation to all the sounds, all the light, all the feelings and everything, so that state is a very scary thing if we do not master it, if we are not aware of it. If we are aware of it then it is truly revealing the truth of the universe, the truth of everything, limitless.”
Given that ordinary people have very little control over the appearances that arise in the bardo, it makes sense that we would want to make use of every possible method for liberation at the time of death. And fortunately, thanks to sacred terma teachings discovered hundreds of years ago, we do have access to precise instructions on navigating the otherwise terrifying bardo state. There are six ways the consciousness can attain liberation in the bardo: liberation through hearing, liberation through wearing, liberation through seeing, liberation through remembering, liberation through tasting, and liberation through touching. These methods were taught by Padmasambhava and handed down through the centuries in an unbroken lineage.
According to Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, “The Bardo Thödröl (bar-do’i-thos’grol) is one of a series of instructions on six types of liberation….They were composed by Padmasambhava and written down by his wife, Yeshe Tsogyal along with the sadhana of the two mandalas of forty-two peaceful and fifty-eight wrathful deities.
Padmasambhava buried these texts in the Gampo hills in Central Tibet, where later the great teacher Gampopa established his monastery. Many other texts and sacred objects were buried in this way in different places throughout Tibet, and are known as terma, “hidden treasures.” Padmasambhava gave the transmission of power to discover the termas to his twenty-five chief disciples. The bardo texts were later discovered by Karma Lingpa, who was an incarnation of one of these disciples.
Liberation, in this case, means that whoever comes into contact with this teaching—even in the form of doubt, or with an open mind—receives a sudden glimpse of enlightenment through the power of the transmission contained in these treasures.
Karma Lingpa belonged to the Nyingma tradition but his students were all of the Kagyu tradition. He gave the first transmission of the six liberation teachings to Dödul Dorje, the 13th Karmapa, who in turn gave it to Gyurme Tenphel, the 8th Trungpa. This transmission was kept alive in the Surmang monasteries of the Trungpa lineage, and from there it spread back into the Nyingma tradition.” — Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche
The Bardo Package
The bardo experience should be taken seriously because impermanence causes events to be precarious and unpredictable and the moment of death could occur at any time. The Bardo Package is an extremely rare collection of sacred items that have been produced with great care under the direct supervision of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche, abbot of Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) in Woodstock, New York, the western seat of the Seventeenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Khenpo Rinpoche made sure that the traditional rituals for the dying as prescribed by Padmasambhava were rendered accurately, while distilling the profound instructions into a set of procedures easily accessible to anyone. Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche personally consecrated the various items in the package and gave specific instructions on how to use each one.
The Bardo Package will bring benefit when the moment of death requires immediate action, and will enable us to take control of the death situation without fear or confusion. If we can apply what we have learned from Buddhist teachings regarding dying, death, and the bardo, and have The Bardo Package at our disposal, it will give us a greater opportunity for attaining higher rebirth and liberation. Thus, The Bardo Package is one of the most important items that we can have in this life.
For more information and to order The Bardo Package, click on the links below:
A 5-CD set of Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche’s concise teachings on “Dying, Death, and the Bardo” is available at http://www.namsebangdzo.com. Rinpoche’s book, Bardo Interval of Possibility (KTD Publications 2007) is available from http://www.namsebangdzo.com. A Chinese translation is available here: www.kkrinternational.org.