The Six Aspects of Bardo
This morning, at the request of the Venerable Lama and the Karma Kagyud Dharma Center, I will be explaining briefly the principle of bardo. The definition of bardo in general is an intermediate state of consciousness. This is not limited to the after-death state of mind, but is inclusive of both life and death, and after death and before the next life [into which] we [will be] conceived. So this is a most comprehensive subject. To explore this principle, we practically have to go through everything about life and everything about mind, including the connection between mind and matter. So this is an enormous subject. Having said that, we can also say that the teachings of bardo, most of the time, are summarized in the texts in a comprehensive presentation that could be understood as six stages or the six aspects of bardo. So I will go briefly into this particular teaching of six aspects of bardo.
Now, the first bardo, the first aspect of bardo, actually involves life. For example, right now, we are in this state of bardo. From our birth, or since we are conceived, until we die, we follow one main stream of reality. Right now we are human beings of planet Earth of this galaxy. So this is our reality. And we perceive and we interact with everything, mentally, physically, emotionally, based on this reality. And, until we die, we will be human beings of planet Earth of this galaxy; that’s what we will be, and that’s what we are. That changes as soon as we die. So, for that, in this state of bardo, what we have to consider as the practice of bardo is to appreciate and accept the way we are. And any good things that we encounter, we take as opportunity in a positive way, so that those good things will become beneficial for us and for others who are associated with us. Then anything bad and unfavorable that we might encounter in our life, we also have to accept and face and utilize in a way that will be beneficial for us and for others that are associated with us. And we have to prevent potentially unfavorable circumstances from becoming harmful and negative to ourselves and others that are around us.
So that is the first aspect of bardo. The second aspect of bardo is a very short period of bardo, which is dream. As soon as we fall into sleep, we enter into another state of mind, another reality, which is influenced by our human reality, but which goes beyond this human reality’s limitations. In dreams what we are experiencing is the subconscious level of our mind, with its emotions and its defilements and all the other things that go with it; so it is the subconscious mind that influences our mind in the sleeping and dreaming state of mind. So the use of this particular state of consciousness, for a Vajrayana practitioner — and particularly as a practitioner of bardo — is to recognize that the interdependent manifestation of reality is a reality which is nothing more and nothing less than the interdependent manifestation of everything else. And the greatest example and most immediate example of this is the dream state.
While dreaming, when we see good things, we feel happy; when we see bad things, we feel upset; when we see something that is fearful, we get afraid; and so on and so forth. In life, it works the same way; but life is a little bit longer — several tens of thousands of times, maybe several millions times longer — than a dream. I don’t know how many times a person dreams in life. In one year a person dreams 365 times, so if a person lives ten years, it should be 3,650 times, isn’t it? And if a person lives a hundred years, then their life is 36,500 times longer. That’s it. So the only difference is that life is that much longer. But, actually, besides that, life is not anything more or less than quite a long dream. Relatively it is only a long dream. Ultimately it is not long at all.
We start to dream as humans as soon as we are conceived, and that dream ends when we die. In the next life we could be a bird, a nice bird in a Canadian forest, and that dream starts as soon as we are conceived. And then we will be hatched et cetera, et cetera, and then we will be a dead bird. So that will be the end of that dream. And then that process will go on and continue from one life to another. And so that is the second aspect of bardo.
Here, in this state of mind, the most important thing is that we appreciate that we are in this world and we are dreaming all of this. We have friends, families, and so on and so forth, and this is wonderful; we appreciate it and we help each other and we respect each other and do our best to make it as meaningful as possible. But don’t hold onto it for more than that, don’t expect too much from each other, don’t expect too much from anything else. Life is like a dream. But when we are dreaming, we should be able to make the best of it and appreciate those who are in our dream and respect them. They are dreaming us; we are dreaming them. You see? So that’s what it is. So that is the second aspect of bardo.
The third aspect of bardo is to realize the ultimate potential, the ultimate nature of everything, the ultimate nature of mind itself. Actually, there is a very particular example used in this aspect of bardo. This is about meditation or contemplation. Here, the mind is understood to be beyond any kind of dualistic identity or dualistic limitation. And the only example that is close to the nature of the mind, used here, is space. And there are some sentences which describe it. So I’d like to share this with you.
One can never find the center of space. That means every place in the entirety of space is the center of space. And, in the same way, one can never find the mind in a dualistic way. So that means that the non-dualistic aspect of clarity and profoundness, completeness, limitlessness is the true nature of mind. Therefore, once a person realizes this limitless mind, the center of the space which is everywhere, once one realizes this, then that person recognizes space, that person recognizes mind. So this is the third aspect of bardo, which is contemplation or meditation.
There is nothing that is impossible as a manifestation of mind; there is nothing that cannot manifest out of our mind. Right now, we might think that such and such things are impossible, but there is nothing which is not possible. Anything is possible. Buddha said that. He said that human beings here have two eyes, two ears, one nose, and one mouth. You see? And we walk on two feet; we work with two hands. But Buddha also said that human beings can exist who are totally opposite to the way we exist. So I don’t exactly know exactly what this could mean, but I think your people in the United States, you know, in Los Angeles, down there, they might have figured out several different ways how humans could be! Actually I am fascinated by them, you know; I think it is very, very profound, that medium. So this, the third aspect of bardo, is to realize the ultimate potential, the ultimate nature of everything, the ultimate nature of mind itself. So this is the third bardo.
And the fourth aspect of bardo is the moment before death. Now, this is actually what most people don’t want to think about and what people consider inauspicious to think about, which is incorrect, because death is not something terrible. If death is terrible, then birth also has to be terrible, because birth is the other side of death. If we are not born, we are not going to die. We die because we are born. This is very simple. Death begins the moment we are born. From birth it continues [to be the case that at] any moment we can die. After birth, at any moment we can die. We don’t have to be afraid of it, we don’t have to look at it in a negative way, we don’t have to hate it, we don’t have to constantly think of it like some kind of taboo. There is no evil in death. Life, of course, is precious. This precious human life, which we have right now [is extremely valuable], so we should live as long as we can. We have to do our best to take good care of our health, to take good care of our mind; eat well, live well, do some exercise, breathe well; we should do anything we can to live longer. We should live as long as possible, definitely — but not because death is bad, you see, not because death is bad. Death is only natural. We want to live as long as possible because we know we are human; we have our great privileges as human beings. We can learn things, we can do things, we can understand things; we have so much opportunity to improve as sentient beings in the form of a human body, in a human environment. Above all, we humans have done pretty well. Right now, we are the dominant rulers of the planet Earth. You see? It is not really fair, but we are. So there is no reason that we shouldn’t appreciate it. We should appreciate it, and we should try to live as long as possible, try to be as healthy as possible, but we should never be afraid of dying when death comes. Death is only natural. So that is the fourth aspect of bardo.
And how to deal with it? In the dharma it is taught always that in our minds and in our deeds we have to prepare for this inevitable moment. After death, our death should not become a suffering for many people. So we do our best to make things clear. Don’t leave too much unfinished business, because as soon as you die, everybody will fight over your things, you know? And that is not very nice. So take care of everything. Don’t be too attached; don’t be too suspicious of everybody; learn to trust people, learn to trust someone, learn to respect others, and don’t magnify the reality [of death] beyond proportion. Leave reality alone in its place. We have a saying: “Don’t hold your thumb against your eye.” This is a very small thing (Rinpoche holds up his thumb), but if I hold it against my eye, it can obscure the whole universe, even the whole of space. But if I just keep it at arm’s length — I don’t have to learn to do it in some kind of tricky way, I just [simply] keep it at arm’s length — then it is just a thumb, insignificant; useful, but insignificant. You know? Without a thumb, I cannot write, so I need it. But, it shouldn’t be held close to our eye. So, in the same way we need our ego, we definitely need it; if we don’t have ego, we get nowhere. The first step [in dharma study and practice] we have to make with our ego. The next step is to put a short leash on our ego. The third step is to make ego realize that whether to have that leash on or not is up to him or her. And the fourth step is get rid of that leash. And the fifth step is that ego transforms into limitlessness. These are gradual steps.
If we try to get rid of ego before we have anything [in the way of realization], then we get lost; that is the definition of confusion: lost, no confidence, no self-respect. All these things come from that. So ego is always there. And if we don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t mean that it is going to go away. I might say something like this: I will say, “I am Buddha.” Then you will say, “I don’t think so.” And I will say, “I am Buddha!” Then you will say, “I don’t think so.” Then I will get very mad, and I will say, “If you don’t stop, I will call the police. And if you don’t believe, I will sue you.” So, I mean [by this that] ego can play all kinds of roles. And we have to use the existing self, the ego, to make the first step. So we can’t say, “I don’t want to be enlightened; I don’t want you to think that I want to be enlightened, because that is attachment to enlightenment.” That is ridiculous. First we have to have the attachment and desire to be enlightened in order to make the first step. We have to overcome the attachment to serve ourselves in a selfish way. We have to overcome the attachment to fame, fortune, and all those things. We have to have desire for improvement, for betterment, for enlightenment; that is necessary. Then, once that is established, then we can get rid of that desire. Enlightenment in the end is not possible if there is an attachment to it, but that [attachment to enlightenment] is where it [our path] starts. First step is first step. It is as a final result [of traversing the path] that we overcome those kinds of final and most subtle aspects of defilement [e.g., the attachment to enlightenment, the attachment to getting enlightened]; but that final result is not a means. The means is using what we already have.
So the fourth aspect of bardo is to deal with reality [in a way] that acknowledges that we will die one day, at any moment, and we prepare for that moment all the time in a most mindful, aware, and wise, and thoughtful way, so that every moment we treat with greatest respect. If I’m going to die today, then I shouldn’t feel, “Oh, I thought I would live for some time. I did lots of wrong things. I feel sorry for myself.” That [state of mind] shouldn’t be there. All of us, when that inevitable moment happens — which can happen at any time — should be ready for it. So that is number four. The fifth and sixth bardo are, I think, what most people talk about when they talk about “the bardo.” People talk about bardo as a kind of after death experience, what happens after death. So that is actually the fifth and the sixth bardo, out of six bardos [all together]. And so I will describe these a little bit.
In this state of mind, as the bardo teachings are transmitted and taught, there are several categories of states of mind, which happen during death, after death and all the way through until you are conceived into the next life. So, during death, after death, and all the way until you are conceived into the next life, into the next physical body [is one bardo]; this bardo ends there. Now, you have heard about clear light, I think. There are books written on this [subject], many, many books, I think. So, when you talk about the clear light, actually two stages of clear light are described. It is described as clear light one and clear light two, the first stage and the second stage. But, when you talk about the bardo of that stage — the “during death and after death” bardo — there are three stages of bardo there. They’re described as first bardo, second bardo, third bardo; and you shouldn’t get these three [bardos of the fifth bardo] mixed up with the three bardos of the sixth bardo. They are totally different. These are the three bardos of the fifth and the sixth bardo. There are two clear lights: first clear light, second clear light. And that is the first clear light of the first bardo, the second clear light of the first bardo. So both of them are part of the first bardo, out of three bardos.
Okay, first, second, third bardo: the first bardo has first clear light and second clear light. Very simple. All of that is part, that is, the elaboration of the fifth bardo and sixth bardo, in the sixth bardo. So this is the key for this particular teaching about bardo. your first chance [at getting enlightened]. So that is described as the first clear light of the first bardo.
Now, as to the second clear light of the first bardo, after some time, then this unconscious mind wakes up. Now that could be just a moment after [falling unconscious], or that could be as long as three days [after falling unconscious]. So, for this reason, serious Vajrayana people try to leave the deceased person’s body alone and not tamper with it for three days. But you can never be sure whether the mind has left the body already, or if it is still there; one cannot be sure.
Great masters, when they pass away — and I myself have seen several masters who passed away in meditation posture — [after death continue to] sit just like living people, and after two days or after three days [sitting like that], then their bodies become like dead bodies; the head falls down, and there are many signs that can happen [that indicate that the mind has left the body]. And in that way we can tell if the mind is in the body or not. But with an ordinary person, we don’t know, because a few hours after death, the person’s body becomes cold and there is no sign of life in it. So, in that case, it is hard to tell; but in our tradition, in our culture, we don’t take the risk [that the mind might not have left the body]. We leave the person uninterrupted for three days [just in case the mind is still there in the body]. But, of course, one doesn’t have to worry too much [about all of this]. In your culture and your system here, for health [considerations] and many other reasons, there is some kind of formality [or legality concerning the disposition of bodies after death]. So you don’t have to worry too much. But that is the basic principle, actually, according to the bardo teaching. And now, after this moment after three days, or one day after, then when the mind awakens, the mind has to come out of the body. There is still some karmic connection because of its long association. So there is one thing still left to do, which is that our mind has to come out of the body. That is the last separation; it still has to happen. After that, then the mind becomes limitless, but until that last separation it is still trapped in the body.
Now [it is important to understand that], when that last separation happens, the different channels [and chakras] in the body, such as the crown, eye, ear, and lower chakras, et cetera, represent [entryways into] the different realms. And now, the first clear light is when our body and mind get separated. They separate inward, not outward. They separate inward. Okay. Now, our body then becomes like a house and our mind becomes like a person who lives in it. So that person goes unconscious, because of the separation. So that is the first clear light. What happens, is because our body and our mind are connected together through energy, and energy through emotion, emotion through different kinds of energy, energy through different kinds of what we call “air” or “wind.” [Sanskrit: prana; Tibetan: lung; Chinese: Chi; New Age English: energy: stuffy English, perhaps: psycho-somatic motility] This term is something that keeps our bodies alive; a living body does not rot. But as soon as we die, the body starts to decay. This is so because this energy, the wind, the circulation, stops. So the body starts to rot. That is how the connection between mind and body takes place. So, when the body is broken or the body is damaged by any kind of disease or anything [i.e. by accident or any kind of physical trauma], then the mind and body connection stops. When that happens, then the mind goes back to the center of the body.
When we first entered our body, our mind entered at the center of our body. The first thing that developed inside our mother, when we were little, is what you call the embryo. Now, according to Vajrayana teachings, a tube develops in the middle of it, which is filled with “air” or energy. That tube is the central channel and out of that central channel then, the different energies are generated that build the hands, legs, eyes, ears, senses, everything [that we are made up of], gradually. At first we don’t have any of that [those physical parts]. And when we die, we also go back to the same stage; our mind — together with its air, energy, emotions, everything — goes into the center [of our body]. But it is a tremendous shock, because the body and mind have to be separated. And because of that, we fall into an unconscious state of mind. Now, if you’re a great practitioner, if you have realization of the nature of mind, if you are able to maintain the awareness — maintain an awareness of and observe the nature of mind in that state — then you can attain liberation there [in that moment of separation of body and mind], because [at that point] the limitation that the physical body imposes on the mind is gone. So, in that moment, if you can realize your “nature of mind” [the mind’s true nature], then that would be [the mind of] the [dead] person should be able to leave the body through the higher chakras, hopefully from the crown. That is the highest and most sacred chakra to come out of. So when this happens, then if the person is aware that, “Okay, now I am dead, and now my mind is coming out of my body, I’m going out of my body,” then in that time, if you can manage to do the visualization of a deity, and the visualization of the Mandala of a deity, and the practices that you do every day, your sadhana — if you are able to do that — then you will become the embodiment of that deity. So, in that way, we have another great opportunity right there [to attain enlightenment]. So that is the second clear light. Now, with that, the first bardo is complete.
Now, [we will consider the second bardo]. At this point we are outside of our body. When we reach that state, then, technically speaking, we are totally free. We are not limited by human kinds of limitations. We are not limited to the planet Earth. We are in the universe. So we can have all kinds of experiences and the ability to affect or be affected by everything, as by the human realm, the animal realm, the gods’ realms, asuras, hells, everything. And not only of planet Earth, of the whole universe, so that we have no limitation. Right now, we only can see certain colors; we only can touch certain physical entities; we can only hear certain sounds. And also we look at things like this (indicating that he sees only what is in front of him and to the sides); I can’t see what’s behind me, I can’t see what’s up there. And hearing is also the same thing: I can’t hear what’s happening outside, I can only hear what’s happening in here, my own echo. [But in this newly arrived at disembodied state,] we don’t have this limitation. Instead, we see everything, everywhere; we hear everything, everywhere; and, whatever [location] we think about, we are [instantly] there. You know, you think of something, and you’re there; and we don’t have to be aerodynamic to get somewhere; we don’t have to struggle with gravity to move somewhere. All of these limitations don’t exist [in this disembodied state]. So many texts describe the fear [that the mind experiences in this state]. And that’s so because of this phenomenon.
Of course, it would be frightening, you know; there’s nothing, everything becomes everything. And, if we don’t realize we are dead, then this [condition or situation] will be very frightening, of course. It is not that somebody tried to frighten us; it isn’t like that. Ultimate freedom is quite frightening. If somebody tells you, in a very limited way, “Okay, you have just become the ruler of planet Earth; you have to do [and manage and decide] everything.” I would be devastated if that happened. But comparing [this rather imposing but still limited eventuality] to this state of bardo, then [being world ruler] is nothing. And to be able to have some kind of awareness during that time will be very difficult. I’m not trying to discourage you, but, in reality, it’s difficult, as I understand it. It is possible [to have awareness at that time]. My example for how it might be possible is something like this: I’m taken in an airplane to 35,000 feet high, and then [someone] puts a paper in my left hand and puts a pen in my right hand, and then throws me out of the airplane with no parachute, and I’m supposed to write the most beautiful poetry before I hit the ground. It would be possible, it would be possible, but very, very difficult. So, to remember that I am dead and to meditate and to realize or be aware of my “nature of mind,” or to have compassion for all sentient beings, or to have devotion to Buddhas and bodhisattvas and the lineage, in that state of mind, will be like that [like being thrown out of an airplane and writing poetry on the way down]; it will not be easy. But, if we practice now, then it becomes easier. If we get acquainted with these states [kinds of meditations and contemplations], and if they become habit, then it will happen that way, because whenever something really terrible happens to somebody [or to us] — some kind of serious accident or something — we will call our mother or call God or call Buddha’s name or the name of our guru. So, similarly, the same thing can happen [after the mind separates from the body]. Because this [disembodied state after the separation of the mind from the body] is the most extreme state of mind, and so one automatically turns to what one believes in most. So, in this way, [if we have a strong daily dharma practice], then in this way it will be possible [for us to experience proper awareness at that time and to attain enlightenment or a favorable rebirth].
But, if we don’t [cultivate these kinds of virtuous mind states in advance of our death], then [whatever we are accustomed or habituated to doing], this might happen. In Buddhism, we consider saying bad words is no good; thinking bad things is no good. Because, if, in your everyday life, when something happens, you say some very bad words, then when you are reaching this [disembodied] state of mind that kind of negativity is likely to arise and that would not be so good. Therefore, I think, we have to get habitual with good words and good thoughts instead of bad words and bad thoughts. We have to do our best to practice and establish some sense of devotion and compassion and awareness during our lifetime in order for us to encounter those states of mind during this time in the [disembodied state]. So that is the second state of bardo.
The third state of bardo (actually, the second and third states go all the way) is starting from our ordinary form, coming out of our body and encountering this limitless freedom, in one way [or another], up until we get conceived into the next life. So that is the third bardo. So, during the third bardo, what happens is that a human being of planet Earth (that is us), has a maximum of 49 [possible] days in the bardo. This is so because of [the nature of] our body, our mind, the energies [involved], [the nature of] the universe, and the connections and interdependence amongst these. So, we cannot have more than 49 days of bardo. We can have [a bardo experience as] short as one moment; it could be just a moment. If we attain realization during the first clear light, our bardo [experience will be only] one moment. You see? If somebody has really accumulated very, very bad karma — I don’t want to mention any names, but there have been quite a few human beings who have done lots of bad things in our history — and what will happen to them, according to the bardo teaching, is that at the very moment they die, they will be born in hell; that very same moment. There will be no bardo. So in the most extremely positive situation, [when a person attains] realization, there will be no bardo; and in the most extremely negative [situations], then there will be no bardo. But, otherwise, there will be different periods of bardo. But a human being of this planet cannot have more than 49 days of bardo. So, during this time, whatever amount of the time of bardo that you experience, it will be divided by stages into two exactly equal halves. If your bardo experience is going to last two weeks, then one stage will be one week long and the second stage will also be one week long. If your bardo experience is going to be four weeks long, then each stage will last two weeks. If your bardo experience is going to be 49 days long, then each stage will be a little longer than 24 days. During the first part or first stage, the mind will be under the influences of one’s past life; one will have the instincts and from time to time occurrences [consonant] with one’s past life. We have been humans, so that kind of thing will happen. And then the last period or the second stage will have the periodic occurrence of what you will be in your future life; you could be a bird, you could be a dog, you could be a tiger, you could be a human, whatever. So that will happen. And so during the first half, the previous life’s influence will fade away, and then during the second half, the future life’s influence will become more apparent. And then finally, you will be conceived wherever you will be born, at the end of this bardo period.
During this time, of course, there’s opportunity to attain liberation at any time. Just as in life there is opportunity to attain liberation at any moment, so in the same way in the bardo there is also opportunity to attain liberation at any moment. Now during this aspect or stage of bardo, you can somehow say you are “in the bardo,” what mainstream mentality thinks of as “the bardo,” right there. And that bardo will [likely] go on for quite a long time, as long as 49 days. And during this time the most obvious [way to take advantage of that] opportunity will be that you realize that you have died, and that then [you] try not to be afraid of all the occurrences and try to sincerely supplicate that you want to be born in a family which is positive, where you will have lots of opportunity to be a good human being, and that you will [be born into a] family not too rich, not too poor, kind of well off, and [one with a] positive [atmosphere] (i.e., both parents are happy with each other, they’re positive), and that you will be able to learn and develop positively. That would be ideal. You see? [And then you might want to supplicate that] the place where you will be born be not too cold, not too hot — [so you supplicate sincerely for whatever is] positive, whatever is your ideal. Of course, if you can pray for that, that would be wonderful, and the best would be if you can really have the awareness to choose the parents of your conception. That would be the best, but these are only possibilities; it will not be as simple as I speak here.
So this is the last part of the bardo, and then after that we will be conceived. But if we don’t have the awareness, then our conceiving will be very natural, and very simple, because all of this total exposure to everything else is frightening. And therefore, you’re always looking for some way to hide, you’re always looking for some kind of refuge. If we are being chased by 10,000 lions, then we will look for any place to hide, if we can find one. So, in the same way, in the bardo, since we have so much exposure to everything else, then [we are constantly] looking for a place. So then we find a kind of shadow, a nice place to hide; and when you find that place to hide, that becomes your next rebirth. So that is the natural way in the bardo, if you’re not aware. But if you have the awareness, then you can choose with your aspiration, with your prayer; and then some people with their kind of greater realization can even choose intentionally and technically [where and to whom] to be conceived. That is a possibility. So this is the third, the last stage of bardo. I share this with you at the request [of the lama and the dharma center], and I definitely hope that you will be able to get some benefit out of this conversation, this teaching. I hope for that.
One last thing that I want to say is that no matter how much we know about bardo, or no matter how little we know about bardo, whatever karma we have accumulated, whether it is positive or negative, that will [determine what will] happen to us. [We don’t have to worry that just] because we don’t know [all the details and ins and outs of] the bardo, because we don’t realize [what’s happening], that, therefore, something wrong will happen to us. We don’t have to worry about that. There will be no accidental misfortunate rebirth. There will be no accidental lucky enlightenment. That will never happen. Enlightenment will not happen [just because of] good luck; and being reborn in the lower realms will not happen [simply] out of bad luck. This will not happen, so about that [eventuality] you don’t have to worry. [The purpose of our practice] is realization. Through the realization which you develop through your practice, the negative karmas [you have accumulated] you can transcend. If we were to have to attain enlightenment by working out every negative karma that we have accumulated, one by one (as you say in your terminology, “an eye for an eye”), there would be no way [that anyone would ever get enlightened]. Enlightenment would never happen, because while we would be purifying our [past] karma, we would be accumulating ten times more karma. You see? So if that were [the set-up], then it would be impossible.
But because none of those karmas are ultimately bad karma, because ultimately negativity doesn’t exist [lacks permanent, substantial, singular existence, independent of causes and conditions that give rise to it], then if we realize [this directly and experientially in our practice], and if we have realization of our mind’s true nature, then all the karma that we have accumulated will be transcended. Enlightenment is only possible through inner liberation, not by “working out” [the details of our karma]; for example, say we have stolen one penny from somebody, so we [imagine that we] have to give one penny to them; okay, now my job is done. Okay, now that record is straight. If we broke somebody’s tooth in our past life, and now we say, “Okay, please break my tooth;” it doesn’t work like that. One has to attain the inner realization that will transcend. There is an example. If this room is dark and [has had] no light for 10,000 years, will it take 10,000 years to light this room up? It will not. A light shines in this room; and even if there have been 10,000,000 years of darkness, the darkness will be lit in a moment. So, in the same way, enlightenment, the realization of your mind’s true nature transcends everything. And that happens because negativity is not ultimate.
There is also another [line of] reasoning that demonstrates why we can overcome negativity, because it is not ultimate. If negativity were ultimate, then there would be even negative realization. There would be Buddha on one side, who would be the positive enlightenment, and there would be something else [on the other side] that would be the negative enlightenment. And both would be equal and fighting with each other. But that is not the case. The ultimate is perfect, the ultimate is limitless, and all the limitations and negativities are relative [i.e., they depend up causes and conditions for their existence]. Therefore, enlightenment is only possible through inner realization.
So, the thought that I’d like to share with you is that you all do your best to try to develop your inner liberation by doing practices that you receive from profound, pure lineages — not just [practices] made up by somebody — lineages that come from Buddha, that come from Guru Rinpoche, that come from master to disciple. There are many ways by which lineages come; there is not just one way. There are many ways. But it has to be a pure lineage that you follow. At the same time, also try to be kind to yourself, to others, and try to avoid doing wrong things. You should have some kind of practice that you do, if possible, every day; if not, then periodically. And above all, the most important thing is to have full confidence in the Buddha inside you. Your mind is Buddha. We Tibetan Buddhists, and Buddhists all over the world, try to build beautiful shrines for Buddha. Why do we put gold up there? Why do we put diamonds up there? Because they are the most valuable things to us. But nothing can substitute for and nothing can be equal to the Buddha that we have inside. So we [must] believe in it; that is our confidence, that is our hope, that is our potential. So [we must] always have respect for, appreciation of, and faith in, our ultimate potential, and then [we must] do our best to uphold and cherish this ultimate potential of ours. If we do this, I think then this human life will be very meaningful, and our bardo definitely will be a beneficial and positive one.
Sometimes, when we talk about bardo, some people get frightened, and that is unnecessary, because you are here; you went through bardo already, in your past life. You’re quite okay. So you will be okay in the future, too. Because you’re a Buddhist; because of that, this life’s bardo will not be terrible. Before you didn’t know, so okay; and now you know, it will be terrible? No! You see? We have gone through the bardo countless times. So we’re okay, so we will be okay. All right?
His Eminence Tai Situ Rinpoche at Toronto, Canada, January 7, 1995.