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The Approach of Death
The time has now come for you to seek the path of light to the other shore, beyond this present life and beyond the portals of death. This is the beginning of your journey through the gateway into a new existence. So, there is nothing to fear. You have made this same journey countless times before. You will not become lost because the Guide will point the way. Yes, you must leave this present life behind, with all its joys and sorrows. You must leave behind all of your wealth and possessions, all of your friends and kin and family, all of your lovers and your enemies; you must leave behind even your present physical body to which you are so inordinately attached. But the death of your physical body is not the end-- it is a transition, a new beginning, a resurrection. The continuum of your consciousness does not cease with the death of your physical body and your material brain. Even without a physical body, your consciousness continues in space, because it is the nature of space and light. Your beginningless stream of consciousness continues to flow onward toward an unknown destiny, even after your physical death. It is like a current of warm tropical water flowing through the great ocean-- ever changing, yet ever the same current. Your karma cannot be fully exhausted in this present lifetime alone, and so karma propels your stream of consciousness into new lives and new existences. Death is not the end.
At the Time of Dying
That which is called death has finally come upon you. Therefore, you should consider matters carefully: You have arrived at the time of your death and so now, by means of this experience of death, you should adopt the attitude of the enlightened state of mind, thinking of all other living beings, whose numbers are as vast as the sky itself, with boundless thoughts of friendliness and compassion. For the sake of these living beings, at the moment of death, you should come to recognize the Clear Light of Reality as the very Nature of your own Mind. And coming to the supreme realization of who you really are, you will act only for the good of others. But if you do not attain this realization at present, then recognize the Bardo for what it is, the intermediate state between death and rebirth, and recognize all the visions seen in the lights of the Bardo to be the visible manifestations of the energy of the your own Nature of Mind. This you must remember above all else.
The Bardo of Dying and the Dissolution of the Elements
In this guided meditation you will be taken through three phases of your inevitable future, which is known as the Bardo, the intermediate state between your death and your rebirth into a new body and a new life. Traditionally, we speak here of three Bardos. First, you will contract a terminal illness and thereupon the various signs of impending death will appear for you and be visible to others. Then you will enter into the process of dying. This is characterized by experiencing the progressive dissolution of the elements of your body. These elements are the modes in which your psychic energy manifests itself and traditionally they are reckoned as five. They are called earth, water, fire, air, and ether or space. These elements correspond in your physical body to the psychic energy contained in your flesh and bones, your blood and bodily fluids, your heat and digestion, your breathing and nervous system, and your consciousness and aura, respectively. Thus, in succession, earth will dissolve into water, water into fire, fire into air, and air into space. During the course of this process of dissolution of your energies, you will have many experiences and visions. Moreover, there will occur external physical signs observable to others in your presence and internal experiences of which only you are aware. Finally, your respiration, or outer breathing, will cease and all those around you will think that you are dead. But you are not yet dead and can even be revived and resuscitated because for sometime your inner breathing, that is to say, the circulation of your psychic energy, will continue. During this time, you will have further interior experiences, such as the inner dissolution of your psyche or emotions and your mind or thought process. Although to outsiders you may appear cold, inert, and surely dead, your consciousness still remains in your body, dwelling secretly in your heart center, where a slight warmth may be detected. Finally, even your inner breathing will also come to cease as your remaining psychic energies gather in your heart center and are absorbed there.
At this time, when both your outer and your inner breathing have ceased, although your consciousness has not yet exited your old physical body, you will find yourself in a vast dark space like the sky at midnight devoid of stars. You are not really unconscious, but simply suspended in the darkness of space, as if some one has turned out the light and you find yourself in a totally dark room. How long this experience of total darkness remains depends on individual karma. But then the dawn of the Clear Light of Awareness will come inevitably upon you because now your body and your mind have all been stripped from you and you find yourself completely naked. But you have not ceased to exist. The space all about you will appear to become like the vast open cloudless sky in the east at dawn. This light grows brighter and brighter, as when the sun still invisible approaches the horizon from below. If at this time you recognize this Clear Light of Awareness to be the self-manifestation of the Nature of your own Mind, you will then merge into this light. Becoming one with it, you be delivered from the delusions of cyclical existence and from the necessity for future rebirths in the lower realms of Samsara. You will have ascended beyond the stars and returned home. And there will be no further need for you to enter into and experience the Bardo, for you have now passed beyond the beginningless cycle of death and rebirth.
But if you fail to recognize this Clear Light of dawn as your own face reflected in the mirror of empty space, you will fall away from it in confusion and in fear of loosing yourself in its radiance. You will seek to avoid it and flee from its clear brilliance. You will faint away into unconsciousness and fall back into the outer darkness. Having fled from the dawn of your own Awareness, you will descend again into the darkness of night, and you will experience a period of unconsciousness. Only at the end of this time, extending from a few minutes to three and a half days, will your consciousness leave your body and finally separate from it. Therefore, during this time, your body should not be disturbed unnecessarily nor disposed of for burial or cremation. Finally, your consciousness, as a small speck of light, being composed of both subtle mind and very subtle psychic energy, exits your body into the surrounding space through one of its orifices, such as the crown of your head, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the mouth, and so on. This period of time, from the contracting of your terminal illness until your consciousness leaves your dead body behind, is known as the First Bardo, the Bardo of Dying.