Body, Mind, Spirit Magazine

What Happens in the Bardo, Stays in the Bardo: The Six Bardos of Tibetan Buddhism

By Zen_sheila @BeZensational

Years ago I immersed myself in a wide range of reading material trying to expand my mind.  I think that’s about when I actually started personal journey… or at least decided to stop thinking about taking the first step and start moving my feet.   I’ve read many works by Rudolf Steiner, Brian Weiss, Graham Hancock, Michael Newton, etc., and even The Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead as we know it in the West – and fascinating by the way.)

In general, Buddhists don’t believe in the “immortal soul”, so to speak, but more like a consciousness that is re-born.  Think of one flame from a candle lighting another.  Since that is a hard concept sometimes to grasp, I will use the word “spirit” in this post.

Now, of course the book is more complex then what I’ll talk about here, but briefly it is believed that a person travels through 6 bardos.  (“bardo” – literally meaning “in-between” or a transitional, or intermediate state)  Three of them are during life and three are after the body dies. The first bardo is our lifetime in our body and you are in the first bardo from time time your spirit enters the physical body until the time it leaves it.  The second bardo is the dream state, and the third bardo is the meditative state.  The second and third bardos are entered while in the first bardo.

When a body dies the spirit (consciousness) travels through bardos 4, 5, and 6.  Think of a holding area of sorts , where you “decompress” and figure out what you’ve learned and what you still need to learn.  Past karma plays a role in the lessons you need to learn, as well as “where you are at on the spiritual scale in the enlightenment process.”

The fourth bardo is described as a state of trance for four days.  Then, an incredibly radiant and brilliant Light (no other you’ve known) will shine.  If you welcome and enter the light you will not have to be reborn, however, most spirits are afraid of it and flee.  Then the spirit understands that he is dead and enters the next bardo. The fifth bardo is where (in the form of thought) you are shown all that you have ever done.   During this whole thing the spirit realizes he is without a physical body and longs to have one again.  Now the spirit (or consciousness) enters into the sixth bardo where it will select their parents for their new re-birth.

The selection of parent by child is made in order to help the spirit learn the lessons it needs to learn – in order to progress spiritually – until finally (after many re-births) achieving enlightenment.   You select your parents based on how they will provide an environment mentally or physically while on your higher (spiritual) journey, and that very time of conception was the exact moment your “spirit” made the parental selection.  What strikes me in all this is that it points to the “spirit” (or conscious) being very powerful right from the get-go in deciding your own future.

If your “spirit” sets out knowing what it has to achieve and sees the choices set before it, it will  try to find the best route for learning those lessons.  So one would ask then, why pick an incredibly hard life?  I think you would have to take the human concept of “difficult or suffering” out of your line of thinking, and view it merely as a means to learning.  Maybe you did something in a past life that you need to experience on the flip side, in order to learn some type of lesson or grow spiritually.  A hard life isn’t “a punishment” but a way to experience.  When you are re-born your “spirit” (consciousness) starts again in the first bardo which is your new lifetime in a physical body. Anyhow, like I said there’s a lot to this, but I’ve always found it completely fascinating and thought you would too – especially the brilliant bright light and watching your life.  Sounds a bit familiar!


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