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Out-of-the-Body Experience in the Bardo
Next, you will enter into the after-death experience proper known as the intermediate state between death and rebirth. When your outer and your inner breathing have ceased, your consciousness exits your old physical body, discarding it like an old suit of clothes. However, during this time of unconsciousness, which lasts for an uncertain period of time, your memories and your past karma will begin to reawaken, like the dreams that come upon you in the night when you fall asleep. Your mind and your psyche begin to function and operate again with thoughts and emotions. Then, when you awaken from your state of unconsciousness, you will find yourself in the Bardo. You will discover yourself inhabiting a subtle body composed of psychic energy, with your mind and your sense faculties functioning intact. This mind-made body, this subtle energy structure that embodies and encompasses your consciousness, which is created for you by your memories and your past karma, is not something physical, but an immaterial spirit body. Now you are truly dead and departed this world. This spirit-body resembles in almost every way, including its clothes, your previous physical body that you possessed before you died. However, it is free of all diseases, feels no pain and suffers no infirmities or absence of limbs. At first, finding yourself in this body, you wander about your old haunts and familiar scenes. You may not even realize that you are dead. You try to speak to your friends and relatives, but they cannot see or hear you. Suddenly you see your previous body lying dead and awaiting burial or disposal. Now, indeed, you realize that you are dead. Failing in all your futile attempts to re-enter your old inert corpse, you now set out, seeking a new body and birthplace.
Visions in the Bardo of Reality
Gradually the familiar scenes begin to fade away and you find your mind increasingly distracted. You wander through many strange and alien landscapes, always searching for something, but never quite knowing what that might be. Eventually the sky opens up before you, becoming a deep blue in color. During successive cycles, you may come to experience five lesser clear lights in five extraordinary primary colors in succession-- white, blue, yellow, red, and green. Then these bright clear lights may become as big as mountains and even come to fill the entire sky before you. In these lights you may see visions of the celestial hierarchies that span the heavens. You may see whatever gods you worship, sitting on their thrones, surrounded by choirs of angels, coming to you from the heights of heaven. But failing to recognize these secondary clear lights and these peaceful serene images as the self-manifestations of your own energy of Mind, you again attempt to flee from them in fear of being overwhelmed. Thereupon, during the successive cycles you may see more vibrant and darker images of the infernal hierarchies. Again failing to recognize these archetypal images and symbols, both beautiful and terrifying, as self-manifestations of your own energy of Mind, you again attempt to flee from them in fear of being overwhelmed. But these archetypal images are only manifestations of your own purified consciousness. They come from within you, but are projected out into space. Yet, not recognizing them and fearing them in your ignorance, in terror you flee from them and therefore fall once more from the fullness of Reality into deprivation.
Once again, you will faint and find yourself in a state of unconsciousness for what may seem like many days. However, if in your present life you have been a practitioner of meditation and have experienced these clear light visions in your practice, you will greet them as old friends. Even if you do not recognize them in the Bardo to be the projections of your own Mind, they will remain before your consciousness in all their radiant splendor. But if you are not a practitioner, these clear lights will flash by you in less than a moment, like distant flashes of lightening on the dark horizon at midnight. Thus, this Second Bardo, the Bardo of the Clear Light of Reality, will pass you by. You return from the archetypal world to the world of formation that is the domain of your own personal karma.