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The Tibetan Book of the Dead

The After—Death Experiences
on the Bardo Plane, according
to LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup’s
English Rendering

Revealed by Karma Lingpa

Compiled and edited in English by Walter Evans-Wentz

This is the Bookwise complete ebook of The Tibetan Book of the Dead by Karma Lingpa, available to read online as an alternative to epub, mobi, kindle, pdf or text only versions. For information about the status of this work, see Copyright Notice.




‘Thou shalt understand that it is a science most profitable, and passing all other sciences, for to learn to die. For a man to know that he shall die, that is common to all men ; as much as there is no man that may ever live or he hath hope or trust thereof; but thou shalt find full few that have this cunning to learn to die. . . . I shall give tliec the mystery of this doctrine; the which shall profit thec greatly to the beginning of ghostly health, and to a stable fundament of all virtues.’

Orologium Sapnenliae.

‘Against his will he dieth that hath not learned to die. Learn to die and thou shalt learn to live, for there shall none learn to live that hath not learned to die.’— Toure of all Toures: and Teacheth a Man for to Die.

The Book of the Craft of Dying (Compcr’s Edition).

‘Whatever is here, that is there ; what is there, the same is here. He who seeth here as different, mectcth death after death.

‘By mind alone this is to be realized, and then there is no difference here. From death to death he goeth, who seeth as if there is difference here.’

Katha Upunishad, iv. io—n (Swami Sharvananda Translation).




That the living do come from the dead, as Socrates intuitively perceived as he was about to drink the hemlock and experience death, this treatise maintains, not in virtue of tradition or belief, but on the sound basis of the unequivocal testimony of yogins who claim to have died and re—entered the human womb consciously.

If this treatise, bequeathed to the West by Sages of the Snowy Ranges, be as it thus purports to be, it undoubtedly oilers trustworthy guidance at the time of death and in the after—death state into which every one of human kind must inevitably pass, but of which very few of them have enlightened understanding. It is, therefore, of inestimable value.

The exploration of Man the Unknown in a manner truly scientific and yogic such as this book suggests is incomparably more important than the exploration of outer space. To stand in the physical body on the Moon, or on Venus, or on any of the celestial spheres, will add to human knowledge, but only to knowledge of things transitory. Man’s ultimate goal is, as the Sages herein teach, transcendence over the transitory.

Today, as during the European Renaissance when Oriental influences inspired a number of remarkable treatises on the Art of Dying (to which reference is hereinafter made), there is an ever—increasing desire to know more of man’s origin and destiny. As the recently deceased Great Teacher Bhagavan Sri Ramana Ma—harshi, of Tiruvannamalai, South India, admonished me when I sojourned in his ashram, each of us should ask ourself, ‘Who, or what, am I? Why am I here incarnate? Whither am I destined? Why is there birth and why is there death?’

These are for mankind the supreme questions; and in any attempt to answer them this book offers aid, which the editor is glad to be able to report has been universally acknowledged, not only by representatives of various faiths, inclusive of both Catholic and Protestant Christians, but by scientists as well. Dr. C. G. Jung, the eminent dean of psychologists, has himself recognized the unique value of the book and in his lengthy Psychological Commentary to it, herein contained, says, Tor years, ever since it was first published in 1927J, the Bardo Thödol has been my constant companion, and to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but also many fundamental insights.’

The sponsoring by the Oxford University Press of this the fourth and American edition and the sixth printing of The Tibetan Boo of the Dead, here published as an Oxford University Press paperback, is itself indicative of the book’s ever—widening appeal. And may the book in this new edition continue to fulfil the hopes of its translator and editor, by assisting to bring about not only better understanding between the peoples of the East and West, but also in correcting, especially throughout the West, the lack of Right Knowledge concerning humanity’s paramount problem, the problem of birth and death.

The editor accepts the opportunity afforded by this American edition to thank those who more recently have given expression, in journals and in lectures, as well as by letters, of their appreciation of the book, as already he has thanked those who previously did so. It is owing to these appreciative journalists, lecturers, and readers, in all parts of the world, that the book’s marked success has been made possible.

And in conveying good wishes to all those who have read or shall hereafter read this book, particularly students, the editor has the high privilege of here directing their attention to the significant words contained in the farewell teachings of Milarepa, one of his most beloved Tibetan Gurus:

‘Combine, in a single whole, the goal of aspiration, the meditation, and the practice, and so attain Understanding by Experimentation.

‘Regard, as one, this life, the next life, and the life between, in the Bardo, and accustom thyself to them thus, as one.’

By practically applying these teachings, so the Gurus assure us, the supramundane goal revealed by this book will be, as it was for Milarepa, realizable.

San Diego, California,
Midsummer Day, 1959.


It is with a consciousness of the deepest gratitude that I write this Preface. No greater honour could be shown by the Western World to this Tibetan treatise on the Science of Death and Rebirth than that shown by the most illustrious of the West’s psychologists, Dr. Carl G. Jung, in his Psychological Commentary to it, first published in the Swiss edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Das Tibetanische Totenbuch, by Rascher Verlag, Zurich, 1938, and herein presented in English translation for the first time. And no exposition of the arcane significance of the book’s teachings could have been written more knowledgeably than that set forth in the Introductory Foreword hereto, in its original English form, by the learned LāMa Anagarika Govinda.

The Editor and all who read this book are indebted to Dr. Jung and to LāMa Govinda for having made this enlarged and greatly enriched edition possible, and to Mr. R. F. C. Hull, also, for his able translation from the German of Dr. Jung’s Psychological Commentary. Grateful acknowledgement, too, is here made to the Bollingen Foundation for the granting of permission to publish the English translation of the Psychological Commentary.

To each member of the One Human Family, now incarnate here, on the planet Earth, this book bears the greatest of all great messages. It reveals to the peoples of the Occident a science of death and rebirth such as only the peoples of the Orient have heretofore known.

Inasmuch as all mankind must relinquish their fleshly bodies and experience death, it is supremely profitable that they should know how rightly to meet death when it comes. LāMa Govinda makes comprehensible, as the Ancient Mysteries did, and as the Upanishads declare, that the unenlightened meet death after death unceasingly.

According to the Avatāra Krishna, in the Bhagavad—Gitā, only the Awakened Ones remember their many deaths and births. The Buddha sets forth the yogic method whereby all who doubt these teachings, concerning a plurality of births and deaths, can prove them to be true, as He did, by self—realization.

The argument of the unenlightened man, that, merely because he himself has no conscious memory of his many births and deaths, the teachings are untrue, is scientifically untenable. The field of the normal man’s sense perceptions is, as can be demonstrated, narrowly circumscribed and extremely limited. There are objects and colours he cannot see, sounds he cannot hear, odours he cannot smell, tastes he cannot taste, and feelings he cannot feel. And beyond his work—a—day consciousness, which he assumes to be his only consciousness, there are other consciousnesses, of which yogins and saints have cognizance, and of which psychologists are beginning to glean some, but as yet very little, understanding. As LāMa Govinda concisely explains, there exists, in completeness, in a potentially realizable consciousness, the memory of a forgotten past, in which each of us now incarnate shares.

In his Psychological Commentary, Dr. Jung points out that although Freud’s ‘is the first attempt made by the West to investigate, as if from below, from the animal sphere of instinct, the psychic territory that corresponds in Tantric Lāmaism, to the *Sidpa Bardo**, or state of reincarnating, ‘a very justifiable fear of metaphysics prevented Freud from penetrating into the sphere of the “ occult “ ‘. In this, Freud was typically non—Oriental, and fettered by his own self—imposed limitations. But such self—imposed limitations of Western Science, which are very much like those that Western Theology imposed upon itself by refusing to take into proper account the esoteric in Christian tradition, cannot always hold back psychological research. Dr. Jung himself has, indeed, gone far beyond these limitations of Freud, his predecessor. ‘It is therefore not possible’, Dr. Jung states, ‘for Freudian theory to reach anything except an essentially negative valuation of the unconscious ‘—wherein are stored, apparently imperishably, as Dr. Jung holds, the records, in completeness, of mankind’s past. At a conclusion parallel to this of Western Science, LāMa Govinda arrived by means of Eastern Science.

Dr. Jung reports that ‘psychoanalysts even claim to have probed back to memories of intra—uterine origin ‘; and that had Freudian psychoanalysis succeeded in pursuing these so—called intra—uterine experiences still further back, ‘it would surely have come out beyond the Sidpa Bardo and penetrated from behind into the lower reaches of the Chonyid Bardo. But, as he points out, ‘with the equipment of our existing biological ideas such a venture would not have been crowned with success; it would have needed a wholly different kind of philosophical preparation from that based on current scientific assumptions. But, had the journey back been consistently pursued, it would undoubtedly have led to the postulate of a pre—uterine existence, a true Bardo life, if only it had been possible to find at least some trace of an experiencing subject.’

Western psychologists have, therefore, advanced appreciably beyond Freud in the study of the psychic life of man, and will advance much further when they no longer allow the Freudian fear of metaphysics to bar their entrance into the realm of the occult. This finds ample support in Dr. Jung’s further pronouncement :

’ I think, then, we can state it as a fact that with the aid of psychoanalysis the rationalizing mind of the West has pushed forward into what one might call the neuroticism of the Sidpa or Rebirth state, and has there been brought to an inevitable standstill by the uncritical assumption that everything psychological is subjective and personal. Even so, this advance has been a great gain, inasmuch as it has enabled us to take one more step behind our conscious lives.’

Thus it is of far—reaching historical importance that the profound doctrine of pre—existence and rebirth, which many of the most enlightened men in all known epochs have taught as being realizable, is now under investigation by our own scientists of the West. And some of these scientists seem to be approaching that place, on the path of scientific progress, where, as with respect also to other findings by the Sages of Asia long before the rise of Western Science, East and West appear to be destined to meet in mutual understanding.

Apparently, however, before this much—desired understanding can be attained, there must be, as Dr. Jung observes, ‘a wholly different kind of philosophical preparation ‘from that based upon the West’s ‘existing biological ideas’. May it not be that ‘heretical’ Western psychologists who are prepared to blaze a new path of research will eventually find the lacking complement to their at present inadequate methods in the psychological techniques of oriental yoga, such as those referred to in LāMa Govinda’s Foreword? At least the writer believes that they will. According to his view, that much sought—after higher understanding of the human psyche will be won not by these admittedly inadequate Freudian methods, now in vogue, of ‘psychoanalyzing’ a subject, but by meditation and an integrating self—analysis, such as the master yogins employ and the Buddha prescribes. He believes, too, that thereby Western Science and Eastern Science will, at last, attain at—one—ment.

Then, when that long—awaited at—one—ment shall have been consummated, there will no longer be doubt, nor fallacious argumentation, nor unwise and unscientific Church—Council anathematizations directed against that paramount doctrine of pre—existence and re—birth, upon which the Bardo Thödol is based. Then, too, not only will Pythagoras and Plato and Plotinus, and the Gnostic Christians, and Krishna and the Buddha be vindicated in their advocacy of the doctrine, but, equally, the Hierophants of the Ancient Mysteries of Egypt and Greece and Rome, and the Druids of the Celtic World. And Western man will awaken from that slumber of Ignorance which has been hypnotically induced by a mistaken Orthodoxy. He will greet with wide—opened eyes his long unheeded brethren, the Wise Men of the East.

As set forth in my first important work, The Fairy—Faith in Celtic Countries, forty—four years ago, the postulate of rebirth implies a scientific extension and correction of Darwin’s conception of evolutionary law,—that alone through traversing the Cycle of Death and Birth, as taught by our revered ancestors, the Druids of Europe, twenty—five and more centuries ago, man attains in the spiritual and psychic sphere that destined perfection which all life’s processes and all living things exhibit at the end of their evolutionary course, and from which at present man is so far removed.

May this third edition of the first volume of the Oxford Tibetan Series bear to all who read it the good wishes of its compilers, not only of those of them who dwell in far—away Tibet and Hindustan, but, also, of those of them who dwell in the Western World. And may we heed the solemn admonition set forth in this book—not to fritter away in the worthless doings of this world the supreme opportunity afforded by human birth, lest by our spiritual improvidence we depart from this life spiritually empty—handed.

San Diego, California,
Easter, 1955
W. Y. E—W.


‘Many lives, Arjuna, you and I have lived,
I remember them all, but thou dost not.’

Bhagavad—Guā, iv, 5.


As a man’s desire is, so is his destiny. For as his desire is, so is his will; and as his will is, so is his deed; and as his deed is, so is his reward, whether good or bad.

‘A man acteth according to the desires to which he clingeth. After death he goeth to the next world bearing in his mind the subtle impressions of his deeds; and, after reaping there the harvest of his deeds, he returneth again to this world of action. Thus he who hath desire continueth subject to rebirth.’

Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.


‘He who lacketh discrimination, whose mind is unsteady and whose heart is impure, never reacheth the goal, but is born again and again. But he who hath discrimination, whose mind is steady and whose heart is pure, reacheth the goal, and having reached it is born no more.’

Katha Upanishad.

(Swami Prabhavananda’s and Frederick Manchester’s Translations).



As this, the second, edition of The Tibetan Book of the Dead was about to be published, its editor was invited to explain, by means of an additional Preface, what the essential message is that the book holds for peoples so enamoured of this world’s utilitarianism and physical existence and so fettered to bodily sensuousness as are the peoples of the Occident.

The message is, that the Art of Dying is quite as important as the Art of Living (or of Coming into Birth), of which it is the complement and summation; that the future of being is dependent, perhaps entirely, upon a rightly controlled death, as the second part of this volume, setting forth the Art of Reincarnating, emphasizes.

The Art of Dying, as indicated by the death—rite associated with initiation into the Mysteries of Antiquity, and referred to by Apuleius, the Platonic philosopher, himself an initiate, and by many other illustrious initiates, and as The Egyptian Book of the Dead suggests, appears to have been far better known to the ancient peoples inhabiting the Mediterranean countries than it is now by their descendants in Europe and the Americas.

To those who had passed through the secret experiencing of pre—mortem death, right dying is initiation, conferring, as does the initiatory death—rite, the power to control consciously the process of death and regeneration. Throughout the Middle Ages, and during the Renaissance that followed, Europe still retained enough of the Mystery teachings concerning death to understand the paramount importance of knowing how to die; and many treatises, hereinafter referred to, on the Art of Dying were then current there. Various primitive Churches of Christendom, notably the Roman, Greek, Anglican, Syrian, Armenian, and Coptic, and other of the Churches dating from Reformation days, wisely incorporated into their rituals and observances many principles of this pre—Christian Art of Dying. And to—day, in their efforts thus to aid the dying, these Churches are in outstanding contrast, sociologically and culturally, to an Earth—limited medical science which has no word of guidance to convey to the dying concerning the after—death state, but which, on the contrary, frequently augments rather than ameliorates, by its questionable practices, the unfounded fears and. often extreme unwillingness to die of its death—bed patients, to whom it is likely to have administered stupefying drugs and injections.

As The Tibetan Book of the Dead teaches, the dying should face death not only calmly and clear—mindedly and heroically, but with an intellect rightly trained and rightly directed, mentally transcending, if need be, bodily suffering and infirmities, as they would be able to do had they practised efficiently during their active lifetime the Art of Living, and, when about to die, the Art of Dying. When Milarepa, Tibet’s saintly master of Yoga, was preparing to die, he chose not only a favourable external environment, in the Cave of Brilche, in Chubar, Tibet, but an inner state of mental equilibrium in keeping with his approaching Nirvana. Indomitably controlling his body, which, having been poisoned by an enemy, was disease—weakened and pain—wracked, he welcomed death with song, as being natural and inevitable. After having delivered his final testamentary teachings and parting admonitions to his assembled disciples, he composed, extemporaneously, a remarkable hymn in grateful praise of his Guru Marpa, which is yet preserved in his Biography. Then, when Milarepa had completed the singing of the hymn, he entered the quiescent state of Samādhi, and relinquished his fleshly form. Thus did Milarepa die triumphantly, as do the saints and sages of all saving faiths throughout the ages.

But in the Occident, where the Art of Dying is little known and rarely practised, there is, contrastingly, the common unwillingness to die, which, as the Bardo ritual suggests, produces unfavourable results. As here in America, every effort is apt to be made by a materialistically inclined medical science to postpone, and thereby to interfere with, the death—process. Very often the dying is not permitted to die in his or her own home, or in a normal, unperturbed mental condition when the hospital has been reached. To die in a hospital, probably while under the mind—benumbing influence of some opiate, or else under the stimulation of some drug injected into the body to enable the dying to cling to life as long as possible, cannot but be productive of a very undesirable death, as undesirable as that of a shell—shocked soldier on a battle—field. Even as the normal result of the birth—process may be aborted by malpractices, so, similarly, may the normal result of the death—process be aborted.

The oriental Sages believe that, despite these unfortunate circumstances which now encompass him when dying, occidental man will, as he grows in right understanding, recognize that everywhere throughout the all—embracing universe, whose immensities he measures in millions of light years, there is the reign of unerring Law. The Cycle of Necessity, the Circle of Existence of the old Druidic faith, the Round of Life and Death, he will know to be universal, that worlds and suns, no less than he himself and every living thing, repeatedly come into the illusory manifestation of embodiment, and that each of these many manifestations is rounded by what the LāMas of Tibet call the Bardo, the state intervening between death and rebirth.

If the suggestive observations herein presented in this new Preface, which are born of the doctrines contained in the translated texts of this book, aid in any small degree to awaken the Occident to the extreme dangers into which it has been led, in large measure by a medical science ignorant for the most part of the Art of Dying, they will have furthered the prayers of the LāMas by helping to dissipate that Darkness of Ignorance which, as the Buddha realized, enshrouds the world. As the Fully Enlightened One and all the Supreme Guides of Humanity have taught, it is only by the inner Light of Wisdom, ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world that the Darkness of Ignorance can be dispersed.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead, correctly entitled, is The Coming Forth from Day, with reference to the sacred Egyptian art of the coming forth from this life into another life, or, in the language of Pharaonic Egypt, the Per em hru. Similarly, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, in the original Tibetan, is the Bardo Thödol, meaning ‘Liberation by Hearing on the After—Death Plane ‘, and implying a yogic method of coming forth into Nirvānic Liberation, beyond the Cycle of Birth and Death. Each of these two books concerning death thus inculcates, by its own peculiar method, an Art of Dying and Coming Forth into a New Life, but in a more symbolic and esoterically profound manner than do the treatises of medieval Christian Europe on the Art of Dying, among which the Ars Moriendo (’ Craft of Dying ‘) may be taken as being typical and illustrative of this contrasting difference.

It was the fervent hope of the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, the translator, and of other of the learned LāMas who directed the editor’s Tibetan research—a hope in which the editor, too, shares—that, aided by the Mystery teachings and its own Christianized versions of many principles of them, the Occident might reformulate and practise an Art of Dying, and, also, an Art of Living. For the peoples of the Occident, as it was for the initiates of antiquity and still is for the peoples of the Orient, the transition from the human plane of consciousness, in the process called death, can be and should be accompanied by solemn joyousness. Eventually, as the master yogins declare, when humanity shall have grown spiritually strong, death will be experienced ecstatically, in that state known to them as Samādhi. By right practising of a trustworthy Art of Dying, death will then, indeed, have lost its sting and been swallowed up in victory.

Whilst this Preface is being written it is Easter, in California. As was the custom in many great civilizations of yore, so here to—day, from hilltop and mountain, with prayer and joyous singing, obeisance is being paid to the new—born Sun at dawn, amidst the fresh and glistening greenery of renascent leaves and the fragrance of blossoms and the joy of Spring. It is, truly, the ever—recurrent Resurrection, the coming forth into a new life of things that had (Led; and, in like manner, are those who have—fallen asleep in the Christos to be empowered to rise from their tombs. Over the bosom of the Earth—Mother, in pulsating vibrations, radiant and energizing, flows the perennial Stream of Life; and whosoever has the power of right—seeing sees that for uneman—cipated beings death is but the necessary and Law—directed prelude to birth.

W. Y. E—W.
San Diego, California, Easter 1948.


Buddhists and Hindus alike believe that the last thought at the moment of death determines the character of the next incarnation. As the Bardo Thödol teaches, so have the Sages of India long taught, that the thought—process of a dying person should be rightly directed, preferably by the dying person if he or she has been initiated or psychically trained to meet death, or, otherwise, by a guru or a friend or relative versed in the science of death.

Sri Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gitā (viii, 6), says to Arjuna, ‘One attaineth whatever state of being one thinketh about at the last when relinquishing the body, being ever absorbed in the thought thereof.’

Our past thinking has determined our present status, and our present thinking will determine our future status; for man is what man thinks. In the words of the opening verse of the Dhatnmapāda, ‘ All that we are is thu result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.’

Likewise did the Hebrew Sages teach, as in Proverbs xxiii, 7, ‘As a man thinketh in ais heart, so is lie ‘.


In this Book I am Seeking—SO far as possible—to suppress my own views and to act simply as the mouthpiece of a Tibetan sage, of whom i was a recognized disciple.

He was quite willing that I should make known his interpretation of the higher lāmaic teachings and of the subtle csotericism underlying the Bardo T/iödol, following the private and orally transmitted instructions which he as a young man had received when living the life of an ascetic with his late hermit-guru in Bhutan. Being himself a man who possessed a considerable amount of Western learning, he took great trouble to enable me to reproduce Oriental ideas in a form which would be intelligible to the European mind. If, in amplification, I have frequently referred to Occidental parallels of various mystic or occult doctrines current in the Orient, I have done so largely because in my wanderings there, chiefly in the high Himalayas and on the Tibetan frontiers of Kashmir, Garhwal, and Sikkim, I had come across learned philosophers and holy men who have found or thought they had found beliefs and religious practices—some recorded in books, some preserved by oral tradition alone—not only analogous to their own, but so closely akin to those of the Occident as to imply some historical connexion therewith. Whether the supposed influence passed from East to West or from West to East, was not so clear to their minds. A certain similarity docs, however, seem to attach to the culture of these geographically divided provinces.

I have spent more than five years in such research, wandering from the palm—wreathed shores of Ceylon, and thence through the wonder—land of the Hindus, to the glacier—clad heights of the Himalayan Ranges, seeking out the Wise Men of the East. Sometimes I lived among city dwellers, sometimes in jungle and mountain solitudes among yogis> sometimes in monasteries with monks; sometimes I went on pilgrimages, as one of the salvation—seeking multitude. The Introduction —which in its unusual lengthiness is intended to serve as a very necessary commentary to the translation—and the annotations to the text record the more important results of this research, more especially in relation to Northern or Mahāyāna Buddhism.

Nevertheless, I have been really little more than a compiler and editor of ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead To the deceased translator—who combined in himself a greater knowledge of the Occult Sciences of Tibet and of Western Science than any Tibetan scholar of this epoch—the chief credit for its production very naturally belongs.

In addition to that greatest of all debts which the student ever owes to his preceptor, I acknowledge my indebtedness to each of my many good friends and helpers who have personally aided me herewith. Some of them are of one Faith, some of another; some are far away in Japan and in China, some in the land of my birth, America; many are in Ceylon and in India; a few are in Tibet.

Here in England I think first of ail of Dr. R. R. Marett, Reader in Social Anthropology in the University of Oxford, and Fellow of Exeter College, who ever since I first came up to Oxford, in the year 1907, has faithfully guided my anthropological research. Sir John Woodroffe, late a Judge of the High Court, Calcutta, now Reader in Indian Law in the University of Oxford, and the foremost authority in the West on the TantraSy has read through our translation, chiefly in relation to the character of the work as a ritual more or less Tantric and offered important advice. I am also very grateful to him for the Foreword.

To Sj. Atal Bihari Ghosh, of Calcutta, Joint Honorary Secretary with Sir John Woodroffe of the āgamānusandhāna Samiti, as to Sir E. Denison Ross, Director of the School of Oriental Studies, London Institution, and to Dr. F. W. Thomas, Librarian of the India Office, London, I am under a special obligation for important constructive criticism on the book as a whole. To Major W. L. Campbell, British Political Representative in Tibet, Bhutan, and Sikkim during my sojourn in Gangtok, I am indebted for much encouragement and scholarly aid, and for the gift of two valuable paintings prepared by his orders in the chief monastery of Gyantse, Tibet, to illustrate the symbolism of the Bardo Thódol text, and herein reproduced. To his predecessor and successor in the same post, Sir Charles Bell, I am also a debtor for important advice at the outset of my Tibetan research, when in Darjeeling. To Mr. K. S. Bouchier, M.A. (Oxon.), F. R. Hist, S—, author of Syria as a Roman Province ‘, A Short History of Antioch, &c, my heartiest thanks are due for the assistance which he has so kindly rendered in reading the whole of this book when in proof.

Sardar Bahadur S.W. Laden La, Chief of Police, Darjeeling, who sent me to Gangtok with a letter of introduction to the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, the translator of the *Bardo Thödol* Dr. Johan Van Manen, Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, who lent me Tibetan books which proved very helpful while the translation was taking shape, and who afterwards contributed advice concerning translations ; and Dr. Cassius A. Pereira, of Colombo, Ceylon, who criticized parts of the Introduction in the light of Thcravāda Buddhism, are among many others to whom my thanks are due.

Thus, under the best of auspices, this book is sent forth to the world, in the hope that it may contribute something to the sum total of Right Knowledge, and serve as one more spiritual strand in an unbreakable bond of good will and universal peace, binding East and West together in mutual respect and understanding, and in love such as overleaps every barrier of creed and caste and race.

W. Y. E—W.
Jesus College, Oxford, Easter, 1927.


‘Get thee away from life—lust, from conceit,
From ignorance, and from distraction’s craze;
Sunder the bonds; so only shall thou come
To utter end of III. Throw off the Chain
Of birth and death—thou knowest what they mean.
So, free from craving, in this life on earth,
Thou shalt go on thy way calm and serene.’—The Buddha.

Psalms of the Early Buddhists, I. Ivi

(Mrs. Rhys Davids’ Translation).


‘But anguish crept upon me, even me,
When as I pondered in my little cell:
Ah me! how have I come into this evil road.
Into the power of Craving have I strayed!
Brief is the span of life yet left to me;
Old age, disease, hang imminent to crush.
Now ere this body perish and dissolve,
Swift let me be; no time have I for sloth.
And contemplating, as they really are,
The Aggregates of Life that come and go,
I rose and stood with mind emancipate!
For me the Buddha’s words had come to pass’.—

Mittakal!, a Brahmin Bhikkhunl.

Psalms of the Early Buddhists, I. xliii

(Mrs. Rhys Davids’ Translation).

Commentary & Introductions

by Dr. C. G. Jung

Translated by R. F. C. Hull from Das Tibeianische Totenbuch

Before embarking upon the psychological commentary, I should like to say a few words about the text itself. The Tibetan Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Thödol, is a book of instructions for the dead and dying. Like The Egyptian Book of the Dead, it is meant to be a guide for the dead man during the period of his Bardo existence, symbolically described as an intermediate state of forty—nine days’ duration between death and rebirth. The text falls into three parts. The first part, called Chikhai Bardo, describes the psychic happenings at the moment of death. The second part, or Chönyid Bardo, deals with the dream—state which supervenes immediately after death, and with what are called ‘karmic illusions ‘. The third part, or Sidpa Bardo, concerns the onset of the birth—instinct and of prenatal events. It is characteristic that supreme insight and illumination, and hence the greatest possibility of attaining liberation, are vouchsafed during the actual process of dying. Soon afterward, the ‘illusions ‘begin which lead eventually to reincarnation, the illuminative lights growing ever fainter and more multifarious, and the visions more and more terrifying. This descent illustrates the estrangement of consciousness from the liberating truth as it approaches nearer and nearer to physical rebirth. The purpose of the instruction is to fix the attention of the dead man, at each successive stage of delusion and entanglement, on the ever—present possibility of liberation, and to explain to him the nature of his visions. The text of the Bardo Thödol is recited by the lāma in the presence of the corpse.

I do not think I could better discharge my debt of thanks to the two previous translators of the Bardo Thödol, the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup and Dr. Evans—Wentz, than by attempting, with the aid of a psychological commentary, to make the magnificent world of ideas and the problems contained in this treatise a little more intelligible to the Western mind. I am sure that all who read this book with open eyes, and who allow it to impress itself upon them without prejudice, will reap a rich reward.

The Bardo Thödol, fitly named by its editor, Dr. W. Y. Evans—Wentz, ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead ‘, caused a considerable stir in English—speaking countries at the time of its first appearance in 1927. It belongs to that class of writings which are not only of interest to specialists in Mahāyāna Buddhism, but which also, because of their deep humanity and their still deeper insight into the secrets of the human psyche, make an especial appeal to the layman who is seeking to broaden his knowledge of life. For years, ever since it was first published, the Bardo Thödol has been my constant companion, and to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but also many fundamental insights. Unlike The Egyptian Book of the Dead, which always prompts one to say too much or too little, the Bardo Thodol oñers one an intelligible philosophy addressed to human beings rather than to gods or primitive savages. Its philosophy contains the quintessence of Buddhist psychological criticism; and, as such, one can truly say that it is of an unexampled superiority. Not only the ‘wrathful ‘but also the ‘peaceful’ deities are conceived as sangsāric projections of the human psyche, an idea that seems all too obvious to the enlightened European, because it reminds him of his own banal simplifications. But though the European can easily explain away these deities as projections, he would be quite incapable of positing them at the same time as real. The Bardo Thodol can do that, because, in certain of its most essential metaphysical premises, it has the enlightened as well as the unenlightened European at a disadvantage. The ever—present, unspoken assumption of the Bardo Thodol is the antinominal character of all metaphysical assertions, and also the idea of the qualitative difference of the various levels of consciousness and of the metaphysical realities conditioned by them. The background of this unusual book is not the niggardly European ‘either—or’, but a magnificently affirmative ‘both—and’. This statement may appear objectionable to the Western philosopher, for the West loves clarity and unambiguity; consequently, one philosopher clings to the position, ‘God is ‘, while another clings equally fervently to the negation. * God is not’. What would these hostile brethren make of an assertion like the following:

‘Recognizing the voidness of thine own intellect to be Buddha—hood, and knowing it at the same time to be thine own consciousness, thou shalt abide in the state of the divine mind of the Buddha.’

Such an assertion is, I fear, as unwelcome to our Western philosophy as it is to our theology. The Bar do Thodol is in the highest degree psychological in its outlook; but, with us, philosophy and theology are still in the mediaeval, pre—psychological stage where only the assertions are listened to, explained, defended, criticized and disputed, while the authority that makes them has, by general consent, been deposed as outside the scope of discussion.

Metaphysical assertions, however, are statements of the psyche, and are therefore psychological. To the Western mind, which compensates its well—known feelings of resentment by a slavish regard for ‘rational’ explanations, this obvious truth seems all too obvious, or else it is seen as an inadmissible negation of metaphysical ‘truth’ Whenever the Westerner hears the word ‘psychological’, it always sounds to him like’ only psychological’. For him the ‘soul’ is something pitifully small, unworthy, personal, subjective, and a lot more besides. He therefore prefers to use the word ‘mind’ instead, though he likes to pretend at the same time that a statement which may in fact be very subjective indeed is made by the ‘mind’ naturally by the ‘Universal Mind’, or even—at a pinch—by the ‘Absolute’ itself. This rather ridiculous presumption is probably a compensation for the regrettable smallness of the soul. It almost seems as if Anatole France had uttered a truth which were valid for the whole Western world when, in his Penguin Island, Catherine d’ Alexandrie offers this advice to God: ‘Donnez leur une ante, mats une petite’ ! ‘Give them a soul, but a little one!’

It is the soul which, by the divine creative power inherent in it, makes the metaphysical assertion; it posits the distinctions between metaphysical entities. Not only is it the condition of all metaphysical reality, it is that reality.

With this great psychological truth the Bardo Thödol opens. The book is not a ceremonial of burial, but a set of instructions for the dead, a guide through the changing phenomena of the Bardo realm, that state of existence which continues for 49 days after death until the next incarnation. If we disregard for the moment the supra—temporality of the soul—which the East accepts as a self—evident fact—we, as readers of the Bardo Thödol, shall be able to put ourselves without difficulty in the position of the dead man, and shall consider attentively the teaching set forth in the opening section, which is outlined in the quotation above. At this point, the following words are spoken, not presumptuously, but in a courteous manner:—

‘O nobly—born (so and so), listen. Now thou art experiencing the Radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognize it. O nobly—born, thy present intellect, in real nature void, not formed into anything as regards characteristics or colour, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All—Good.

’ Thine own intellect, which is now voidness, yet not to be regarded as of the voidness of nothingness, but as being the intellect itself, unobstruced, shining, thrilling, and blissful, is the very consciousness, the All—good Buddha.’

This realization is the Dhartna—Kāya state of perfect enlightenment; or, as we should express it in our own language, the creative ground of all metaphysical assertion is consciousness, as the invisible, intangible manifestation of the soul. The ‘Voidness ‘is the state transcendent over all assertion and all predication. The fulness of its discriminative manifestations still lies latent in the soul.

The text continues:—

‘Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light—Buddha Amitabha.’

The soul or, as here, one’s own consciousness is assuredly not small, but the radiant Godhead itself. The West finds this statement either very dangerous, if not downright blasphemous, or else accepts it unthinkingly and then suffers from a theosophical inflation. Somehow we always have a wrong attitude to these things. But if we can master ourselves far enough to refrain from our chief error of always wanting to do something with things and put them to practical use, we may perhaps succeed in learning an important lesson from these teachings, or at least in appreciating the greatness of the Bardo Thödol, which vouchsafes to the dead man the ultimate and highest truth, that even the gods are the radiance and reflection of our own souls. No sun is thereby eclipsed for the Oriental as it would be for the Christian, who would feel robbed of his God; on the contrary, his soul is the light of the Godhead, and the Godhead is the soul. The East can sustain this paradox better than the unfortunate Angelus Silesius, who even today would be psychologically far in advance of his time.

It is highly sensible of the Bardo Thödol to make clear to the dead man the primacy of the soul, for that is the one thing which life does not make clear to us. We are so hemmed in by things which jostle and oppress that we never get a chance, in the midst of all these ‘given’ things, to wonder by whom they are ‘given’ It is from this world of ‘given ‘things that the dead man liberates himself; and the purpose of the instruction is to help him towards this liberation. We, if we put ourselves in his place, shall derive no lesser reward from it, since we learn from the very first paragraphs that the ‘giver’ of all ‘given’ things dwells within us. This is a truth which in the face of all evidence, in the greatest things as in the smallest, is never known, although it is often so very necessary, indeed vital, for us to know it. Such knowledge, to be sure, is suitable only for contemplatives who are minded to understand the purpose of existence, for those who are Gnostics by temperament and therefore believe in a saviour who, like the saviour of the Mandaeans, calls himself ‘gnosis of life’ (manda d’hajie). Perhaps it is not granted to many of us to see the world as something ‘given ‘. A great reversal of standpoint, calling for much sacrifice, is needed before we can see the world as ‘given by the very nature of the soul. It is so much more straight—forward, more dramatic, impressive, and therefore more convincing, to see that all the things happen to me than to observe how I make them happen. Indeed, the animal nature of man makes him resist seeing himself as the maker of his circumstances. That is why attempts of this kind were always the object of secret initiations, culminating as a rule in a figurative death which symbolized the total character of this reversal. And, in point of fact, the instruction given in the Bardo Thödol serves to recall to the dead man the experiences of his initiation and the teachings of his guru, for the instruction is, at bottom, nothing less than an initiation of the dead into the Bardo life, just as the initiation of the living was a preparation for the Beyond. Such was the case, at least, with all the mystery cults in ancient civilizations from the time of the Egyptian and Eleusinian mysteries. In the initiation of the living, however, this ‘Beyond is not a world beyond death, but a reversal of the mind’s intentions and outlook, a psychological ‘Beyond ‘or, in Christian terms, a ‘redemption ‘from the trammels of the world and of sin. Redemption is a separation and deliverance from an earlier condition of darkness and unconsciousness, and leads to a condition of illumination and releasedness, to victory and transcendence over everything ‘given ‘.

Thus far the Bardo Thödol is, as Dr. Evans—Wentz also feels, an initiation process whose purpose it is to restore to the soul the divinity it lost at birth. Now it is a characteristic of Oriental religious literature that the teaching invariably begins with the most important item, with the ultimate and highest principles which, with us, would come last—as for instance in Apuleius, where Lucius is worshipped as Helios only right at the end. Accordingly, in the Bardo Thödol, the initiation is a series of diminishing climaxes ending with rebirth in the womb. The only ‘initiation process’ that is still alive and practised today in the West is the analysis of the unconscious as used by doctors for therapeutic purposes. This penetration into the ground—layers of consciousness is a kind of rational maieutics in the Socratic sense, a bringing forth of psychic contents that are still germinal, subliminal, and as yet unborn. Originally, this therapy took the form of Freudian psychoanalysis and was mainly concerned with sexual fantasies. This is the realm that corresponds to the last and lowest region of the Bardo, known as the Sidpa Bardo, where the dead man, unable to profit by the teachings of the Chikhai and Chonyid Bardo, begins to fall a prey to sexual fantasies and is attracted by the vision of mating couples. Eventually he is caught by a womb and born into the earthly world again. Meanwhile, as one might expect, the Oedipus complex starts functioning. If his karma destines him to be reborn as a man, he will fall in love with his mother—to—be and will find his father hateful and digusting. Conversely, the future daughter will be highly attracted by her father—to—be and repelled by her mother. The European passes through this specifically Freudian domain when his unconscious contents are brought to light under analysis, but he goes in the reverse direction. He journeys back through the world of infantile—sexual fantasy to the womb. It has even been suggested in psychoanalytical circles that the trauma par excellence is the birth—experience itself—nay more, psychoanalysts even claim to have probed back to memories of intrauterine origin. Here Western reason reaches its limit, unfortunately. I say ‘unfortunately’, because one rather wishes that Freudian psychoanalysis could have happily pursued these so called intra—uterine experiences still further back; had it succeeded in this bold undertaking, it would surely have come out beyond the Sidpa Bardo and penetrated from behind into the lower reaches of the Chönyid Bardo. It is true that with the equipment of our existing biological ideas such a venture would not have been crowned with success; it would have needed a wholly different kind of philosophical preparation from that based on current scientific assumptions. But, had the journey back been consistently pursued, it would undoubtedly have led to the postulate of a pre—uterine existence, a true Bardo life, if only it had been possible to find at least some trace of an experiencing subject. As it was, the psychoanalysts never got beyond purely conjectural traces of intra—uterine experiences, and even the famous ‘birth trauma’ has remained such an obvious truism that it can no longer explain anything, any more than can the hypothesis that life is a disease with a bad prognosis because its outcome is always fatal.

Freudian psychoanalysis, in all essential aspects, never went beyond the experiences of the Sidpa Bardo; that is, it was unable to extricate itself from sexual fantasies and similar ‘incompatible ‘tendencies which cause anxiety and other affective states. Nevertheless, Freud’s theory is the first attempt made by the West to investigate, as if from below, from the animal sphere of instinct, the psychic territory that corresponds in Tantric Lāmaism to the Sidpa Bardo. A very justifiable fear of metaphysics prevented Freud from penetrating into the sphere of the ‘occult’. In addition to this, the Sidpa state, if we are to accept the psychology of the Sidpa Bardo, is characterized by the fierce wind of karma, which whirls the dead man along until he comes to the ‘womb—door’ In other words, the Sidpa state permits of no going back, because it is sealed off against the Chönyid state by an intense striving downwards, towards the animal sphere of instinct and physical rebirth. That is to say, anyone who penetrates into the unconscious with purely biological assumptions will become stuck in the instinctual sphere and be unable to advance beyond it, for he will be pulled back again and again into physical existence. It is therefore not possible for Freudian theory to reach anything except an essentially negative valuation of the unconscious. It is a’ nothing but’. At the same time, it must be admitted that this view of the psyche is typically Western, only it is expressed more blatantly, more plainly, and more ruthlessly than others would have dared to express it, though at bottom they think no differently. As to what’ mind ‘means in this connection, we can only cherish the hope that it will carry conviction. But, as even Max Scheler noted with regret, the power of this ‘mind ‘is, to say the least of it, doubtful.

I think, then, we can state it as a fact that with the aid of psychoanalysis the rationalizing mind of the West has pushed forward into what one might call the neuroticism of the Sidpa state, and has there been brought to an inevitable standstill by the uncritical assumption that everything psychological is subjective and personal. Even so, this advance has been a great gain, inasmuch as it has enabled us to take one more step behind our conscious lives. This knowledge also gives us a hint of how we ought to read the Bardo Thödol —that is, backwards. If, with the help of our Western science, we have to some extent succeeded in understanding the psychological character of the Sidpa Bardo , our next task is to see if we can make anything of the preceding Chönyid Bardo.

The Chönyid state is one of karmic illusion—that is to say, illusions which result from the psychic residua of previous existences. According to the Eastern view, karma implies a sort of psychic theory of heredity based on the hypothesis of reincarnation, which in the last resort is an hypothesis of the supra—temporality of the soul. Neither our scientific knowledge nor our reason can keep in step with this idea. There are too many if s and but’s. Above all, we know desperately little about the possibilities of continued existence of the individual soul after death, so little that we cannot even conceive how anyone could prove anything at all in this respect. Moreover, we know only too well, on epistemological grounds, that such a proof would be just as impossible as the proof of God. Hence we may cautiously accept the idea of karma only if we understand it as psychic heredity in the very widest sense of the word. Psychic heredity does exist—that is to say, there is inheritance of psychic characteristics such as predisposition to disease, traits of character, special gifts, and so forth. It does no violence to the psychic nature of these complex facts if natural science reduces them to what appear to be physical aspects (nuclear structures in cells, and so on). They are essential phenomena of life which express themselves, in the main, psychically, just as there are other inherited characteristics which express themselves, in the main, physiologically, on the physical level. Among these inherited psychic factors there is a special class which is not confined either to family or to race. These are the universal dispositions of the mind, and they are to be understood as analogous to Plato’s forms (eidola), in accordance with which the mind organizes its contents. One could also describe these forms as categories analogous to the logical categories which are always and everywhere present as the basic postulates of reason. Only, in the case of our ‘forms’, we are not dealing with categories of reason but with categories of the imagination. As the products of imagination are always in essence visual, their forms must, from the outset, have the character of images and moreover of typical images, which is why, following St. Augustine, I call them ‘archetypes’. Comparative religion and mythology are rich mines of archetypes, and so is the psychology of dreams and psychoses. The astonishing parallelism between these images and the ideas they serve to express has frequently given rise to the wildest migration theories, although it would have been far more natural to think of the remarkable similarity of the human psyche at all times and in all places. Archetypal fantasy—forms are, in fact, reproduced spontaneously anytime and anywhere, without there being any conceivable trace of direct transmission. The original structural components of the psyche are of no less surprising a uniformity than are those of the visible body. The archetypes are, so to speak, organs of the pre—rational psyche. They are eternally inherited forms and ideas which have at first no specific content. Their specific content only appears in the course of the individual’s life, when personal experience is taken up in precisely these forms. If the archetypes were not pre—existent in identical form everywhere, how could one explain the fact, postulated at almost every turn by the Bardo Thödol, that the dead do not know that they are dead, and that this assertion is to be met with just as often in the dreary, half—baked literature of European and American Spiritualism? Although we find the same assertion in Swedenborg, knowledge of his writings can hardly be sufficiently widespread for this little bit of information to have been picked up by every small—town’ medium And a connection between Swedenborg’s and the Bardo Thödol is completely unthinkable. It is a primordial, universal idea that the dead simply continue their earthly existence and do not know that they are disembodied spirits—an archetypal idea which enters into immediate, visible manifestation whenever anyone sees a ghost. It is significant, too, that ghosts all over the world have certain features in common. I am naturally aware of the unverifiable spiritualistic hypothesis, though I have no wish to make it my own. I must content myself with the hypothesis of an omnipresent, but differentiated, psychic structure which is inherited and which necessarily gives a certain form and direction to all experience. For, just as the organs of the body are not mere lumps of indifferent, passive matter, but are dynamic, functional complexes which assert themselves with imperious urgency, so also the archetypes, as organs of the psyche, are dynamic, instinctual complexes which determine psychic life to an extraordinary degree. That is why I also call them dominants of the unconscious. The layer of unconscious psyche which is made up of these universal dynamic forms I have termed the collective unconscious.

So far as I know, there is no inheritance of individual prenatal, or pre—uterine, memories, but there are undoubtedly inherited archetypes which are, however, devoid of content, because, to begin with, they contain no personal experiences. They only emerge into consciousness when personal experiences have rendered them visible. As we have seen, Sidpa psychology consists in wanting to live and to be born. (The Sidpa Bardo is the ‘Bardo of Seeking Rebirth’.) Such a state, therefore, precludes any experience of transubjective psychic realities, unless the individual refuses categorically to be born back again into the world of consciousness. According to the teachings of the Bardo Thödol, it is still possible for him, in each of the Bardo states, to reach the Dharma—Kāya by transcending the four—faced Mount Meru, provided that he does not yield to his desire to follow the ‘dim lights’. This is as much as to say that the dead man must desperately resist the dictates of reason, as we understand it, and give up the supremacy of egohood, regarded by reason as sacrosanct. What this means in practice is complete capitulation to the objective powers of the psyche, with all that this entails; a kind of symbolical death, corresponding to the Judgement of the Dead in theSidpa Bardo. It means the end of all conscious, rational, morally responsible conduct of life, and a voluntary surrender to what the Bardo Thödol calls ‘karmic illusion Karmic illusion springs from belief in a visionary world of an extremely irrational nature, which neither accords with nor derives from our rational judgements but is the exclusive product of uninhibited imagination. It is sheer dream or ‘fantasy’, and every well—meaning person will instantly caution us against it; nor indeed can one see at first sight what is the difference between fantasies of this kind and the phantasmagoria of a lunatic. Very often only a slight abaissement du niveau mental is needed to unleash this world of illusion. The terror and darkness of this moment has its equivalent in the experiences described in the opening sections of the Sidpa Bardo. But the contents of this Bardo also reveal the archetypes, the karmic images which appear first in their terrifying form. The Chönyid state is equivalent to a deliberately induced psychosis.

One often hears and reads about the dangers of yoga, particularly of the ill—reputed Kundaliniyoga. The deliberately induced psychotic state, which in certain unstable individuals might easily lead to a real psychosis, is a danger that needs to be taken very seriously indeed. These things really are dangerous and ought not to be meddled with in our typically Western way. It is a meddling with fate, which strikes at the very roots of human existence and can let loose a flood of sufferings of which no sane person ever dreamed. These sufferings correspond to the hellish torments of the Chönyid state, described in the text as follows:—

’ Then the Lord of Death will place round thy neck a rope and drag thee along; he will cut off thy head, tear out thy heart, pull out thy intestines, lick up thy brain, drink thy blood, eat thy flesh, and gnaw thy bones; but thou wilt be incapable of dying. Even when thy body is hacked to pieces, it will revive again. The repeated hacking will cause intense pain and torture.’

These tortures aptly describe the real nature of the danger: it is a disintegration of the wholeness of the Bardo body, which is a kind of ‘subtle body’ constituting the visible envelope of the psychic self in the after—death state. The psychological equivalent of this dismemberment is psychic dissociation. In its deleterious form it would be schizophrenia (split mind). This most common of all mental illnesses consists essentially in a marked abaissement du niveau mental which abolishes the normal checks imposed by the conscious mind and thus gives unlimited scope to the play of the unconscious ‘dominants’.

The transition, then, from the Sidpa state to the Chönyid state is a dangerous reversal of the aims and intentions of the conscious mind. It is a sacrifice of the ego’s stability and a surrender to the extreme uncertainty of what must seem like a chaotic riot of phantasmal forms. When Freud coined the phrase that the ego was ‘the true seat of anxiety ‘, he was giving voice to a very true and profound intuition. Fear of self—sacrifice lurks deep in every ego, and this fear is often only the precariously controlled demand of the unconscious forces to burst out in full strength. No one who strives for selfhood (individuation) is spared this dangerous passage, for that which is feared also belongs to the wholeness of the self—the sub—human, or supra—human, world of psychic ‘dominants ‘from which the ego originally emancipated itself with enormous effort, and then only partially, for the sake of a more or less illusory freedom. This liberation is certainly a very necessary and very heroic undertaking, but it represents nothing final: it is merely the creation of a subject, who, in order to find fulfilment, has still to be confronted by an object. This, at first sight, would appear to be the world, which is swelled out with projections for that very purpose. Here we seek and find our difficulties, here we seek and find our enemy, here we seek and find what is dear and precious to us; and it is comforting to know that all evil and all good is to be found out there, in the visible object, where it can be conquered, punished, destroyed or enjoyed. But nature herself does not allow this paradisal state of innocence to continue for ever. There are, and always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it really reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself, in his own transubjective reality. It is from this profound intuition, according to lāmaist doctrine, that the Chönyid state derives its true meaning, which is why the Chönyid Bardo is entitled’ The Bardo of the Experiencing of Reality \

The reality experienced in the Chönyid state is, as the last section of the corresponding Bardo teaches, the reality of thought. The ‘thought—forms ‘appear as realities, fantasy takes on real form, and the terrifying dream evoked by karma and played out by the unconscious ‘dominants’ begins. The first to appear (if we read the text backwards) is the all—destroying God of Death, the epitome of all terrors; he is followed by the 28’ power—holding’ and sinister goddesses and the 58 ‘blood—drinking’ goddesses. In spite of their daemonic aspect, which appears as a confusing chaos of terrifying attributes and monstrosities, a certain order is already discernible. We find that there are companies of gods and goddesses who are arranged according to the four directions and are distinguished by typical mystic colours. It gradually becomes clearer that all these deities are organized into mandolas, or circles, containing a cross of the four colours. The colours are co—ordinated with the four aspects of wisdom:

(1) White =the light—path of the mirror—like wisdom;

(2) Yellow =the light—path of the wisdom of equality;

(3) Red=the light—path of the discriminative wisdom;

(4) Green =the light—path of the all—performing wisdom.

On a higher level of insight, the dead man knows that the real thought—forms all emanate from himself, and that the four light—paths of wisdom which appear before him are the radiations of his own psychic faculties. This takes us straight to the psychology of the lāmaistic mandala, which I have already discussed in the book I brought out with the late Richard Wilhelm, The Secret oj the Golden Flower.

Continuing our ascent backwards through the region of the Chönyid Bardo, we come finally to the vision of the Four Great Ones: the green Amogha—Siddhi, the red Amitabha, the yellow Ratna—Sambhava, and the white Vajra—Sattva. The ascent ends with the effulgent blue light of the Dharma—Dhātu, the Buddha—body, which glows in the midst of the mandala from the heart of Vairochana.

With this final vision the karmic illusions cease; consciousness, weaned away from all form and from all attachment to objects, returns to the timeless, inchoate state of the Dharma—Kāya. Thus (reading backwards) the Chikhai state, which appeared at the moment of death, is reached.

I think these few hints will suffice to give the attentive reader some idea of the psychology of the Bardo ThödoL The book describes a way of initiation in reverse, which, unlike the eschato—logical expectations of Christianity, prepares the soul for a descent into physical being. The thoroughly intellectualistic and rationalistic worldly—mindedness of the European makes it advisable for us to reverse the sequence of the Bardo Thödol and to regard it as an account of Eastern initiation experiences, though one is perfectly free, if one chooses, to substitute Christian symbols for the gods of the Chönyid Bardo. At any rate, the sequence of events as I have described it oners a close parallel to the phenomenology of the European unconscious when it is undergoing an ‘initiation process that is to say, when it is being analyzed. The transformation of the unconscious that occurs under analysis makes it the natural analogue of the religious initiation ceremonies, which do, however, differ in principle from the natural process in that they forestall the natural course of development and substitute for thespontaneous production of symbols a deliberately selected set of symbols prescribed by tradition. We can see this in the Exercitia of Ignatius Loyola, or in the yoga meditations of the Buddhists and Tantrists.

The reversal of the order of the chapters, which I have suggested here as an aid to understanding, in no way accords with the original intention of the Bardo Thödol. Nor is the psychological use we make of it anything but a secondary intention, though one that is possibly sanctioned by lāmaist custom. The real purpose of this singular book is the attempt, which must seem very strange to the educated European of the twentieth century, to enlighten the dead on their journey through the regions of the Bardo. The Catholic Church is the only place in the world of the white man where any provision is made for the souls of the departed. Inside the Protestant camp, with its world—affirming optimism, we only find a few mediumistic ‘rescue circles’ whose main concern is to make the dead aware of the fact that they are dead. But, generally speaking, we have nothing in the West that is in any way comparable to the Bardo Thödol, except for certain secret writings which are inaccessible to the wider public and to the ordinary scientist. According to tradition, the Bardo Thödol, too, seems to have been included among the ‘hidden ‘books, as Dr. Evans—Wentz makes clear in his Introduction. As such, it forms a special chapter in the magical ‘cure of the soul’ which extends even beyond death. This cult of the dead is rationally based on the belief in the supra—temporality of the soul, but its irrational basis is to be found in the psychological need of the living to do something for the departed. This is an elementary need which forces itself upon even the most ‘enlightened’ individuals when faced by the death of relatives and friends. That is why, enlightenment or no enlightenment, we still have all manner of ceremonies for the dead. If Lenin had to submit to being embalmed and put on show in a sumptuous mausoleum like an Egyptian pharaoh, we may be quite sure it was not because his followers believed in the resurrection of the body. Apart, however, from the Masses said for the soul in the Catholic Church, the provisions we make for the dead are rudimentary and on the lowest level, not because we cannot convince ourselves of the soul’s immortality, but because we have rationalized the above—mentioned psychological need out of existence. We behave as if we did not have this need, and because we cannot believe in a life after death we prefer to do nothing about it. Simpler—minded people follow their own feelings, and, as in Italy, build themselves funeral monuments of gruesome beauty. The Catholic Masses for the soul are on a level considerably above this, because they are expressly intended for the psychic welfare of the deceased and are not a mere gratification of lachrymose sentiments. But the highest application of spiritual effort on behalf of the departed is surely to be found in the instructions of the Bardo Thödol. They are so detailed and thoroughly adapted to the apparent changes in the dead man’s condition that every serious—minded reader must ask himself whether these wise old lāmas might not, after all, have caught a glimpse of the fourth dimension and twitched the veil from, the greatest of life’s secrets.

If the truth is always doomed to be a disappointment, one almost feels tempted to concede at least that much reality to the vision of life in the Bardo. At any rate, it is unexpectedly original, if nothing else, to find the after—death state, of which our religious imagination has formed the most grandiose conceptions, painted in lurid colours as a terrifying dream—state of a progressively degenerative character. The supreme vision comes not at the end of the Bardo, but right at the beginning, in the moment of death; what happens afterward is an ever—deepening descent into illusion and obscuration, down tc the ultimate degradation of new physical birth. The spiritual climax is reached at the moment when life ends. Human life, therefore, is the vehicle of the highest perfection it is possible to attain; it alone generates the karma that makes it possible for the dead man to abide in the perpetual light of the Voidness without clinging to any object, and thus to rest on the hub of the wheel of rebirth, freed from all illusion of genesis and decay. Life in the Bardo brings no eternal rewards or punishments, but merely a descent into a new life which shall bear the individual nearer to his final goal. But this eschatological goal is what he himself brings to birth as the last and highest fruit of the labours and aspirations of earthly existence. This view is not only lofty, it is manly and heroic.

The degenerative character of Bardo life is corroborated by the spiritualistic literature of the West, which again and again gives one a sickening impression of the utter inanity and banality of communications from the ‘spirit world’. The scientific mind does not hesitate to explain these reports as emanations from the unconscious of the ‘mediums’ and of those taking part in the seance, and even to extend this explanation to the description of the Hereafter given in The Tibetan Book of the Dead. And it is an undeniable fact that the whole book is created out of the archetypal contents of the unconscious. Behind these there lie— and in this our Western reason is quite right—no physical or metaphysical realities, but ‘merely ‘the reality of psychic facts, the data of psychic experience. Now whether a thing is ‘given ‘subjectively or objectively, the fact remains that it is. The Bardo Thödol says no more than this, for its five Dhyāni Buddhas are themselves no more than psychic data. That is just what the dead man has to recognize, if it has not already become clear to him during life that his own psychic self and the giver of all data are one and the same. The world of gods and spirits is truly ‘nothing but’ the collective unconscious inside me. To turn this sentence round so that it reads: The collective unconscious is the world of gods and spirits outside me, no intellectual acrobatics are needed, but a whole human lifetime, perhaps even many lifetimes of increasing completeness. Notice that I do not say ‘of increasing perfection ‘, because those who are ‘perfect’ make another kind of discovery altogether.

The Bardo Thödol began by being a ‘closed’ book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will only open itself to spiritual understanding, and this is a capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only acquire through special training and special experience. It is good that such to all intents and purposes ‘useless ‘books exist. They are meant for those ‘queer folk ‘who no longer set much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present—day ‘civilisation ‘.

by LāMa Anagarika Govinda

It may be argued that nobody can talk about death with authority who has not died; and since nobody, apparently, has ever returned from death, how can anybody know what death is, or what happens after it?

The Tibetan will answer: ‘There is not one person, indeed, not one living being, that has not returned from death. In fact, we all have died many deaths, before we came into this incarnation. And what we call birth is merely the reverse side of death, like one of the two sides of a coin, or like a door which we call “entrance” from outside and “exit” from inside a room.’

It is much more astonishing that not everybody remembers his or her previous death; and, because of this lack of remembering, most persons do not believe there was a previous death. But, likewise, they do not remember their recent birth—and yet they do not doubt that they were recently born. They forget that active memory is only a small part of our normal consciousness, and that our subconscious memory registers and preserves every past impression and experience which our waking mind fails to recall.

There are those who, in virtue of concentration and other yogic practices, are able to bring the subconscious into the realm of discriminative consciousness and, thereby, to draw upon the unrestricted treasury of subconscious memory, wherein are stored the records not only of our past lives but the records of the past of our race, the past of humanity, and of all pre—human forms of life, if not of the very consciousness that makes life possible in this universe.

If, through some trick of nature, the gates of an individual’s subconsciousness were suddenly to spring open, the unprepared mind would be overwhelmed and crushed. Therefore, the gates of the subconscious are guarded, by all initiates, and hidden behind the veil of mysteries and symbols.

For this reason, the Bardo Thödol, the Tibetan book vouch— safing liberation from the intermediate state between life and re—birth,—which state men call death,—has been couched in symbolical language. It is a book which is sealed with the seven seals of silence,—not because its knowledge should be withheld from the uninitiated, but because its knowledge would be misunderstood, and, therefore, would tend to mislead and harm those who are unfitted to receive it. But the time has come to break the seals of silence; for the human race has come to the juncture where it must decide whether to be content with the subjugation of the material world, or to strive after the conquest of the spiritual world, by subjugating selfish desires and transcending self—imposed limitations.

According to Tibetan tradition, the Bardo Thödol is one of those works of Padma—Sambhava which were secretly hidden in order to preserve them for later generations, and which were to be revealed to the world when the time was ripe. However this may be, it is a fact that during the persecution of Buddhism by Langdarma, at the beginning of the ninth century, A.D., innumerable books of the earliest period of Tibetan Buddhism were concealed under rocks, in caves, and other places, to prevent their destruction. Since all members of the Buddhist Order and their supporters were either killed or driven out of Tibet, most of these buried scriptures remained where they had been hidden. Many of them were recovered during the succeeding centuries and designated Termas, a term derived from the Tibetan word Gter, pronounced Ter, meaning ‘Treasure ‘. Those who discovered these spiritual treasures and propagated their teachings were called Tertöns, from Tibetan Gter—bston, pronounced Tertön, meaning ‘Revealer of Treasure’.

This seems to me a far more reasonable explanation for the tradition of the Tertöns, which, significantly, is held in the oldest Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, like the Nyingmapa and Kargyütpa, than the theory advanced by certain Western critics, that these scriptures had been ‘faked ‘by people who wanted to pass off their own ideas under the guise of ancient revelations. Such critics underestimate the religious sincerity and the deep respect for the sanctity of spiritual tradition which is engrained in every Tibetan, layman and lāma alike. To add to or omit from the Sacred Scriptures a single word or letter has ever been looked upon by Tibetans as a heinous sin, which even the most impious would fear to commit.

Furthermore, these same critics underestimate the difficulties of forging and issuing such scriptures, for the forging would require a technical and critical knowledge of history and linguistics such as was not only unknown in Tibet, but such as would have required a master—mind for its execution. Had a genius of that sort existed in Tibet, he would have had no need to resort to the subterfuge of forgery, for he could have stood on his own feet, as did many scholarly geniuses who wrote and taught in their own name. Nor is it likely that men who could create and propagate such profound thoughts and lofty ideals as the Termas contain would stoop so low as to deceive their fellow—men. And when we consider that the literature in question is not a matter of a few isolated treatises but of about a hundred big volumes (according to tradition 108 volumes), running into tens of thousands of folios, then the theory of wilful deception becomes not only improbable, but absurd.

In considering the influences on the Bardo Thödol of the pre—Buddhistic religion of Tibet, namely that of the Bön—pos, there must be taken into account the fact that all of those Termas attributed to Padma—Sambhava declare, in no uncertain terms, their adherence to him, the very personage who opposed and defeated the Bön—pos. These recovered scriptures cannot, therefore, be regarded as propagating Bön ideas.

Even though Padma—Sambhava did adopt into the Buddhist system some of the local Tibetan deities, to serve as guardians of the Faith, in doing so he did not give up one inch of Buddhist ground to the Bön—pos, but acted in perfect conformity with the principles of orthodox Buddhism, wherein, in all Buddhist countries, the deities of the Earth and of space have always been honoured and propitiated, as being protectors of the Dharma. Thus, the following Pali verses are still recited, in the course of the regular pujā (or ceremony of worship), by the followers of Theravāda Buddhism, in Ceylon, Burma, Siam, Cambodia, and elsewhere:—

‘*Akāsatthā ca bhummatthā, devā nāgā mahiddhikā,
Puññantam anutnoditvā, dram rakkhantu sāsanam.’*

These verses may be rendered into English as follows:—

‘May the beings of the sky or of space and of the Earth, Devas and Nāgas i.e., gods and serpent—spirits of great power,

After having shared in the merit of this puja,

Long protect the Sacred Doctrine.’

Any cultural influence, as between Buddhism and Bönism, was more in the nature of a one—way traffic than a mutual exchange of ideas; for the Bön—pos, who had no literature of their own, took over Buddhist concepts and symbols on a vast scale, and thereby created a literature and an iconography which so greatly resemble those of the Buddhists as to be almost indistinguishable to the casual observer.

There is also current the wholly arbitrary assertion that it was the Bön influence which encouraged laxity in the observance of Buddhist monastic rules in Tibet and led to a general decline in the standard of Tibetan learning and morality. Whoever has had the opportunity to stay for even a short time in one of the still existing Bön monasteries of Tibet, will have noticed, with surprise, that the rules of celibacy and monastic discipline are stricter there than in most Buddhist monasteries, and that for many of the major scriptures of the Tibetan Buddhist Canon a parallel can be found in the scriptures of the Bön—pos. They have their Prajnāpāramitā Sutras, ‘ their ‘Pratlyasamutpāda ** (represented in a Wheel of Life of thirteen divisions), their T āntras and Mantras; and their deities more or less correspond to the various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, Devatas, and Dharmapalas of Buddhism.

It may seem paradoxical, but it is a fact, that whereas the older Schools of Tibetan Buddhism, despite their tolerance of local deities, succeeded in breaking the power of Bönism, it was the Gelugpas, the youngest and most vigorously reformed School, which re—introduced one of the most influential institutions of the Bön—pos, namely, State Oracles in Oracle—Temples, in all important monasteries of the Yellow Sect. The deities who are invoked in these Oracle—Temples are exclusively of Bön origin. Among the older Buddhist sects, and especially among the Kargyütpas, no such Oracle—Temples exist. This shows that the Old Schools, contrary to common belief, are less under the influence of Bönism than the Gelugpas, in spite of the Gelugpas’ reforms and stricter monastic discipline. This stricter monastic discipline of the Gelugpas really brings them nearer to the above—mentioned puritanism of the Bön—pos.

We must, therefore, beware of sweeping statements, as to what can be attributed to the influence of Bönism and what not. Especially is this so because we do not know of what the teachings of Bön consisted before the advent of Buddhism, although we can safely assume that they were animistic, the spiritualised forces of man and nature being worshipped, chiefly in their awe—inspiring and terrifying aspects; and certain rituals were performed for the benefit and the guidance of the dead. Such religious practices as these are commonly found in almost all early civilizations; and they prevailed in India as much as they did in Tibet. This ‘animism ‘permeates all Buddhistic texts, wherein every tree and grove, and every locality, is held to have its own peculiar deities; and the Buddha is represented as discoursing with gods and other spiritual beings, inhabiting the Earth and the realms beyond, as if that were a most natural procedure. Only a completely intellectualized and Westernized Buddhism, which attempts to separate the rational thought—content of Buddhism from its equally profound mythological elements, can deny this animistic background and with it the metaphysical foundations of Buddhism.

The Buddhist universe is alive through and through; it has no room for inert matter and mere mechanism. And what is more, the Buddhist is alert to all possibilities of existence and to all aspects of reality. If we have read of the fearful apparitions which surrounded the Buddha during the night preceding His Enlightenment, we need not search for Bön influences in relation to the animal—headed monsters that appear from the abyss of the subconscious mind in the hour of death, or in the visions of meditation. Wrathful deities, demons in animal form, and gods in demonical guise are as much at home in Indian as in Tibetan tradition. Despite the popular usages to which the Bardo Thödol has been put in connection with the death rituals—and herein, probably, is discernible the only trace of Bön influence worth considering—the central idea and the profound symbolism of the Bardo Thödol are genuinely Buddhistic.

The Tibetans themselves have put forth considerable effort to free their Scriptures from errors and non—Buddhistic accretions, and to ensure the correctness and reliability of their traditions. After the rules for the translation of Sanskrit texts and the necessary corresponding Tibetan terminology had been established by the early Tibetan translators and pioneers of the Dharma, ‘ translators were explicitly forbidden to coin new terms. When this was unavoidable, they were directed to report the matter to a special Tribunal, called “ the Tribunal of the Doctrine of the Blessed One/’ attached to the royal palace. The translation of Tantric works could be undertaken with the king’s permission only. These rules were promulgated by King Ti—de Song—tsen (Ral—pa—can, 817—36 A.D.) and have been followed by all Tibetan translators ever since.’

With the advent of wooden block—prints, similar precautions were taken, not only with regard to translations, but with regard to all religious literature. Thus it became a rule that no religious book could be published without the sanction of the highest spiritual authorities, who appointed qualified proof—readers and scholars to prevent faulty renderings or unwarranted interpolations. This, however, did not interfere with the diversity of interpretations by the various acknowledged Schools and their Teachers. The chief purpose was to prevent the degeneration of established traditions either through carelessness or ignorance of unqualified copyists and interpreters.

It is for this reason that the authorized block—prints contain the most reliable versions of the generally accepted traditional sacred texts. But hand—written books, although sometimes suffering from mistakes in spelling and from other errors of the copyist, who often shows lack of understanding of the archaic or classical language of the text, are, nevertheless, valuable, especially if they go back to originals of greater antiquity than those of the current block—prints, or if they represent some lesser known tradition handed down from guru to chela through many generations.

If, therefore, I direct the reader’s attention to certain differences between the officially accepted version of the block—print and that of the manuscript, which formed the basis of LāMa Kazi Dawa Samdup’s translation, I do not wish to question the value of the manuscript, but merely to throw light upon some important points of Buddhist tradition, which may lead to a deeper understanding, not only from the historical, but, likewise, from a spiritual point of view.

Indeed, it is the spiritual point of view that makes this book so important for the majority of its readers. If the Bardo Thödol were to be regarded as being based merely upon folklore, or as consisting of religious speculation about death and a hypothetical after—death state, it would be of interest only to anthropologists and students of religion. But the Bardo Thödol is far more. It is a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind, and a guide for initiates, and for those who are seeking the spiritual path of liberation.

Although the Bardo Thödol is at the present time widely used in Tibet as a breviary, and read or recited on the occasion of death, —for which reason it has been aptly called ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’—one should not forget that it was originally conceived to serve as a guide not only for the dying and the dead, but for the living as well. And herein lies the justification for having made The Tibetan Book of the Dead accessible to a wider public.

Notwithstanding the popular customs and beliefs which, under the influence of age—old traditions of pre—Buddhist origin, have grown around the profound revelations of the Bardo Thödol, it has value only for those who practise and realize its teaching during their life—time.

There are two things which have caused misunderstanding. One is that the teachings seem to be addressed to the dead or the dying; the other, that the title contains the expression “ Liberation through Hearing” (in Tibetan, Thos—grol). As a result, there has arisen the belief that it is sufficient to read or to recite the Bardo Thödol in the presence of a dying person, or even of a person who has just died, in order to effect his or her liberation.

Such misunderstanding could only have arisen among those who do not know that it is one of the oldest and most universal practices for the initiate to go through the experience of death before he can be spiritually reborn. Symbolically he must die to his past, and to his old ego, before he can take his place in the new spiritual life into which he has been initiated. The dead or the dying person is addressed in the Bardo Thödol mainly for three reasons: (i) the earnest practitioner of these teachings should regard every moment of his or her life as if it were the last; (2) when a follower of these teachings is actually dying, he or she should be reminded of the experiences at the time of initiation, or of the words (or mantra) of the guru, especially if the dying one’s mind lacks alertness during the critical moments; and (3) one who is still incarnate should try to surround the person dying, or just dead, with loving and helpful thoughts during the first stages of the new, or after—death, state of existence, without allowing emotional attachment to interfere or to give rise to a state of morbid mental depression. Accordingly, one function of the Bardo Thödol appears to be more to help those who have been left behind to adopt the right attitude towards the dead and towards the fact of death than to assist the dead, who, according to Buddhist belief, will not deviate from their own karmic path.

In applying the Bardo Thödol teachings, it is ever a matter of remembering the right thing at the right moment. But in order so to remember, one must prepare oneself mentally during one’s life—time; one must create, build up, and cultivate those faculties which one desires to be of deciding influence at death and in the after—death state,—in order never to be taken unawares, and to be able to react, spontaneously, in the right way, when the critical moment of death has come.

This is clearly expressed in the Root Verses of the Bardo Thödol as rendered in The Tibetan Book of the Dead:

‘O procrastinating one, who thinketh not of the coming of death,
Devoting thyself to the useless doings of this life,
Improvident art thou in dissipating thy great opportunity;
Mistaken, indeed, will thy purpose be now if thou returnest empty—handed from this life.

Since the Holy Dharma is known to be thy true need,
Wilt thou not devote thyself to the Holy Dharma even now?’

It is recognized by all who are acquainted with Buddhist philosophy that birth and death are not phenomena which happen only once in any given human life; they occur uninterruptedly. At every moment something within us dies and something is reborn. The different bardos, therefore, represent different states of consciousness of our life: the state of waking consciousness, the normal consciousness of a being born into our human world, known in Tibetan as the skyes—nas bardo; the state of dream—consciousness (rmi—lam bar—do) ; the state of dhyāna, or trance—consciousness, in profound meditation (bsam—gtan bar—do)) the state of the experiencing of death (hchhi—kha bar—do) ; the state of experiencing of Reality (chhos—nyid bar—do) ; the state of rebirth—consciousness (srid—pa bar—do).

All this is clearly described in The Root—Verses of the Six Bardos, which, together with The Paths of Good Wishes, form the authentic and original nucleus of the Bardo Thodol, around which the prose parts crystallized as commentaries. This proves that we have to do here with life itself and not merely with a mass for the dead, to which the Bardo Thodol was reduced in later times.

The Bardo Thodol is addressed not only to those who see the end of their life approaching, or who are very near death, but to those who still have years of incarnate life before them, and who, for the first time, realize the full meaning of their existence as human beings. To be born as a human being is a privilege, according to the Buddha’s teaching, because it offers the rare opportunity of liberation through one’s own decisive effort, through a ‘turning—about in the deepest seat of consciousness,’ as the Lankāvatāra Sütra puts it.

Accordingly, The Root Verses of the Six Bardos open with the words:

’ O that now, when the Bardo of Life is dawning upon me,
—After having given up indolence, since there is no time to waste in life—
May I undistractedly enter the path of listening, reflecting, and meditating,
So that, . . . once having attained human embodiment,
No time may be squandered through useless distractions.’

Listening, reflecting, and meditating are the three stages of discipleship. The Tibetan word for ‘listening ‘, or ‘hearing thos in this connection, as well as in the expression ‘Thödol (thos—grol), cannot be confused with the mere physical sense—awareness of hearing, as may be seen from the Tibetan term ‘nyan—thos, ‘ the equivalent of the Sanskrit word ‘sravaka, ‘ referring to a ‘disciple/ and, more particularly, to a personal disciple of the Buddha, and not merely to one who by chance happened to hear the Buddha’s teaching. It refers to one who has accepted this teaching in his heart and has made it his own. Thus the word ‘listening/ in this connection, implies ‘hearing with one’s heart/ that is, with sincere faith (sraddha). This represents the first stage of discipleship. In the second stage, this intuitive attitude is transformed into understanding through reason; while, in the third stage, the disciple’s intuitive feeling, as well as intellectual understanding, are transformed into living reality through direct experience. Thus intellectual conviction grows into spiritual certainty, into a knowing in which the knower is one* with the known.

This is the high spiritual state vouchsafed by the teachings set forth in the Bardo Thödol. Thereby the initiated disciple attains dominion over the realm of death, and, being able to perceive death’s illusory nature, is freed from fear. This illusoriness of death comes from the identification of the individual with his temporal, transitory form, whether physical, emotional, or mental, whence arise the mistaken notion that there exists a personal, separate egohood of one’s own, and the fear of losing it. If, however, the disciple has learned, as the Bardo Thödol directs, to identify himself with the Eternal, the Dharma, the Imperishable Light of Buddahood within, then the fears of death are dissipated like a cloud before the rising sun. Then he knows that whatever he may see, hear, or feel, in the hour of his departure from this life, is but a reflection of his own conscious and subconscious mental content; and no mind—created illusion can then have power over him if he knows its origin and is able to recognize it. The illusory Bardo visions vary, in keeping with the religious or cultural tradition in which the percipient has grown up, but their underlying motive—power is the same in all human beings. Thus it is that the profound psychology set forth by the Bardo Thödol constitutes an important contribution to our knowledge of the human mind and of the path that leads beyond it. Under the guise of a science of deathj the Bardo Thödol reveals the secret of life; and therein lies its spiritual value and its universal appeal.

The Bardo Thödol is a treatise which needs more than philological knowledge for its translation and interpretation, namely, a thorough knowledge of its traditional background and of the religious experience of one who either has grown up in the tradition or who has imbibed its tradition from a competent living guru. In times of old ‘it was not considered that the mere knowledge of language sufficed to make a man a “ translator” in any serious sense of the word; no one would have undertaken to translate a text who had not studied it for long years at the feet of a traditional and authoritative exponent of its teaching, and much less would anyone have thought himself qualified to translate a book in the teachings of which he did not believe.’

Our modern attitude, unfortunately, is a complete reversal of this; a scholar is regarded as being all the more competent (’ scholarly’) the less he believes in the teachings which he has undertaken to interpret. The sorry results are only too apparent, especially in the realm of Tibetology, which such scholars have approached with an air of their own superiority, thus defeating the very purpose of their endeavours.

LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup and Dr. Evans—Wentz were the first to re—establish the ancient method of Lotsavas (as the translators of sacred texts are called in Tibet). They approached their work in the spirit of true devotion and humility, as a sacred trust that had come into their hands through generations of initiates, a trust which had to be handled with the utmost respect for even the smallest detail. At the same time, they did not regard their translation as final, or infallible, but rather like the pioneer translations of the Bible, that is, as being a starting—point for ever deeper and more perfect renderings in accordance with our growing acquaintance with the sources of Tibetan tradition.

Such an attitude is not only the hall—mark of spiritual understanding and true scholarship, but it makes even the reader feel that he is treading on sacred ground. This explains the deep impression which The Tibetan Book of the Dead, as well as the other complementary volumes of the Oxford Tibetan Series, have made upon thoughtful readers all over the world. The outstanding success of these works was due to their convincing sincerity and seriousness of purpose. Indeed, the world owes a great debt of gratitude to these two devoted scholars. ** Sabbadānam dhatnmadānam jināti ‘* : ‘The best of all gifts is the gift of Truth/


’ In recollection all former births passed before His eyes. Born in such a place, of such a name, and downwards to His present birth, so through hundreds, thousands, myriads, all His births and deaths He knew.’

Ashvaghosha’s Life of the Buddha

(Samuel Beal’s Translation).

by Sir John Woodroffe


’Strive after the Good before thou art in danger, before pain masters thee and thy mind loses its keenness.’ —Kulārnava Tan t ra, I. 97.

The thought of death suggests two questions. The first is: ‘How may one avoid death, except when death is desired as in “death—at—will” (Ichchhāmrityn)?’ The avoidance of death is the aim when Hathayoga is used to prolong present life in the flesh. This is not, in the Western sense, a ‘yea—saying’ to ‘life’ but, for the time being, to a particular form of life. Dr. Evans—Wentz tells us that according to popular Tibetan belief no death is natural. This is the notion of most, if not of all, primitive peoples. Moreover, physiology also questions whether there is any ‘natural death’, in the sense of death through mere age without lesion or malady. This Text, however, in the language of the renouncer of fleshly life the world over, tells the nobly—born that Death comes to all, that human kind are not to cling to life on earth with its ceaseless wandering in the Worlds of birth and death (Sangsåra). Rather should they implore the aid of the Divine Mother for a safe passing through the fearful state following the body’s dissolution, and that they may at length attain all—perfect Buddhahood.

The second question then is: ‘How to accept Death and die ?’ It is with this that we are now concerned. Here the technique of dying makes Death the entrance to good future lives, at first out of, and then again in, the flesh, unless and until liberation (Nirvana) from the wandering (Sangsāra) is attained.

This Book, which is of extraordinary interest, both as regards Text and Introduction, deals with the period (longer or shorter according to the circumstances) which, commencing immediately after death, ends with ‘rebirth. In the Buddhists’ view, Life consists of a series of successive states of consciousness. The first state is the Birth—Consciousness; the last is the consciousness existing at the moment of death, or the Death—Consciousness. The interval between the two states of Consciousness, during which the transformation from the ‘old’ to a new being is effected, is called the Bardo or intermediate state (Antar åbhāva), divided into three stages, called the Chikhai) Chönyid) and Sidpa Bardo respectively.

This Manual, common in various versions throughout Tibet, is one of a class amongst which Dr. Evans—Wentz includes the Egyptian Book of the Dead, a guide for the use of the Ka or so—called ‘Double * the De Arte Moriendi and other similar medieval treatises on the craft of dying, to which may be added the Orphic Manual called The Descent into Hades (cf.’ He descended into Hell’) and other like guide—books for the use of the dead, the Pretakhanda of the Hindu Gartida Purana, Swedenborg’s Dc Coelo et dc Infer HO% Rusca’s Dc Inferno i and several other cschatological works both ancient and modern. Thus, the Gañida Purāna deals with the rites used over the dying, the death—moment, the funeral ceremonies, the building up, by means of the Pretashrāddha rite, of a new body for the Prcta or deceased in* lieu of that destroyed by fire, the Judgement, and thereafter (ch. V) the various states through which the deceased passes until he is reborn again on earth.

Both the original text and Dr. Evans—Wentz’s Introduction form a very valuable contribution to the Science of Death from the standpoint of the Tibetan Mahāyāna Buddhism of the so—called ‘Tantrik’ type. The book is welcome not merely in virtue of its particular subject—matter, but because the ritual works of any religion enable us more fully to comprehend the philosophy and psychology of the system to which they belong.

The Text has three characteristics. It is, firstly, a work on the Art of Dying ; for Death, as well as Life, is an Art, though both are often enough muddled through. There is a Bengali saying, Of what use are Japa and Tapas* (two forms of devotion) if one knoweth not how to die ?’ Secondly, it is a manual of religious therapeutic for the last moments, and a psychurgy exorcising, instructing, consoling, and fortifying by the rites of the dying, him who is about to pass on to another life. Thirdly, it describes the experiences of the deceased during the intermediate period, and instructs him in regard thereto. It is thus also a Traveller’s Guide to Other Worlds.

The doctrine of ‘Reincarnation’ on the one hand and of ‘Resurrection’ on the other is the chief difference between the four leading Religions—Brahmanism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Christianity, in its orthodox form, rejects the most ancient and widespread belief of the Kúklos geneseön, or Sangsāra, or ‘Reincarnation’, and admits one universe only— this, the first and last—and two lives, one here in the natural body and one hereafter in the body of Resurrection.

It has been succinctly said that as Metempsychosis makes the same soul, so Resurrection makes the same body serve for more than one Life. But the latter doctrine limits man’s lives to two in number, of which the first or present determines for ever the character of the second or future.

Brahmanism and Buddhism would accept the doctrine that as a tree falls so shall it lie’, but they deny that it so lies for ever. To the adherents of these two kindred beliefs this present universe is not the first and last. It is but one of an infinite scries, without absolute beginning or end, though each universe of the series appears and disappears. They also teach a series of successive existences therein until morality, devotion, and knowledge produce that high form of detachment which is the cause of Liberation from the cycle of birth and death called ‘The Wanderingf (or Sangsāra). Freedom is the attainment of the Supreme State called the Void, Nirvana, and by other names. They deny that there is only one universe, with one life for each of its human units, and then a. division of men for all eternity into those who are saved in Heaven or are in Limbo and those who are lost in Hell. Whilst they agree in holding that there is a suitable body for enjoyment or suffering in Heaven and Hell, it is not a resurrected body, for the fleshly body on death is dissolved for ever.

The need of some body always exists, except for the non—dualist who believes in a bodiless (Videha) Liberation (Mukti) and each of the four religions affirms that there is a subtle and death—surviving element—vital and psychical—in the physical body of flesh and blood, whether it be a permanent entity or Self, such as the Brahmanic Atona, the Moslem Ruh, and the Christian’ Soul’, or whether it be only a complex of activities (or Skandha), psychical and physical, with life as their function—a complex in continual change, and, therefore, a series of physical and psychical momentary states, successively generated the one from the other, a continuous transformation, as the Buddhists are said to hold. Thus to none of these Faiths is death an absolute ending, but to all it is only the separation of the Psyche from the gross body. The former then enters on a new life, whilst the latter, having lost its principle of animation, decays. As Dr. Evans—Wentz so concisely says, Death disincarnatcs the ‘soul—complex’ as Birth incarnates it In other words, Death is itself only an initiation into another form of life than that of which it is the ending.

On the subject of the physical aspect of Death, the attention of the reader is drawn to the remarkable analysis here given of symptoms which precede it. These are stated because it is necessary for the dying man and his helpers to be prepared for the final and decisive moment when it comes. Noteworthy, too, is the description of sounds heard as (to use Dr. Evans—Wcntz’s language) ‘the psychic resultants of the disintegrating process called death They call to mind the humming, rolling, and crackling noises heard before and up to fifteen hours after death, which, recognized by Greunwaldi in 1618 and referred to by later writers, were in 1862 made the subject of special study by Dr. Collingues.

But it is said that the chain of conscious states is not always broken by death, since there is Phozva, or power to project consciousness and enter the body of another. Indian occultism speaks of the same power of leaving one’s body (Svech—chhotkrānti), which, according to the TantraRāja (ch. XXVII, vv. 45—7, 72—80), is accomplished through the operation ( Vāyudhārand) of the vital activity (or Vāyu) in thirty—eight points, or junctions (Alarma), of the body. How, it may be asked, does this practice work in with the general doctrine or ‘reincarnation’? We should have been glad if Dr. Evans—Wcntz had elucidated this point. On principle, it would seem that in the case of entry into an unborn body such entry may be made into the Matrix in the same way as if it had occurred after a break of consciousness in death. But in the case of entry into beings already born the operation of the power or Siddhi would appear to be by the way of possession (āveshd) by one consciousness of the consciousness and body of another, differing from the more ordinary case by the fact that the possessing consciousness does not return to its body, which ex hypothesi is about to die when the consciousness leaves it.

If transference of consciousness is effected, there is, of course, no Bardo, which involves the break of consciousness by death. Otherwise, the Text is read.

Then, as the breathing is about to cease, instruction is given and the arteries are pressed. This is done to keep the dying person conscious with a consciousness rightly directed. For the nature of the Death—consciousness determines the future state of the ‘soul—complex’, existence being the continuous transformation of one conscious state into another. Both in Catholic and Hindu ritual for the dying there is constant prayer and repetition of the sacred names.

The pressing of the arteries regulates the path to be taken by the outgoing vital current (Frāna). The proper path is that which passes through the Brāhmarandhra or Foramen of Monro. This notion appears to have been widely held (to quote an instance) even in so remote and primitive a spot as San Cristoval in the Solomon Islands (see Threshold of the Pacific by C, E. Fox). The function of a holed—stone in a Dolmen found there (reminiscent of the Dolmen á dallepcrcée common in the Marne district of Western Europe, in South Russia, and in Southern India) is ‘to allow the free passage to its natural seat, the head, of the dead man’s adaro, or double “\

According to Hindu belief (see Pretakhanda of Garuda Purāna) there are nine apertures oí the body which are the means of experience, and which, in the divine aspect, are the Lords (Nātha) or Gurus. A good exit is one which is above the navel. Of such exits the best is through the fissure on the top of the cranium called Brāhmarandhra. This is above the physical cerebrum and the Yoga centre called ‘Lotus of the Thousand Petals’ (Sahasrāra Padma), wherein Spirit is most manifest, since it is the seat of Consciousness. Because of this, the orthodox Hindu wears a crest—lock (S/iikha) at this spot; not, as some have absurdly supposed, so that he may thereby be gripped and taken to Heaven or Hell, but because the Shikkā is, as it were, a flag and its staff, raised before and in honour of the abode of the Supreme Lord, Who is Pure Consciousness itself. (The fancy—picture in a recent work by C. Lancelin, La Vic posthume p. 96, does not show the aperture of exit, which is given in Plate 8 of the second edition of Arthur Avalon’s Serpent Power p. 93.)

Whatever be the ground for the belief and practice of primitive peoples, according to Yoga doctrine, the head is the chief centre of consciousness, regulating other subordinate centres in the spinal column. By withdrawal of the vital current through the central or Sushumnā * nerve’ (nadi) the lower parts of the body are devitalized, and there is vivid concentrated functioning at the cerebral centre.

Exotcricism speaks of the Book of Judgement. This is an objective symbol of the ‘Book ‘of Memory. The ‘reading’ of that’ Book’ is the recalling to mind by the dying man of the whole of his past life on earth before he passes from it.

The vital current at length escapes from the place where it last functioned. In Yoga, thought and breathing being interdependent, exit through the Brāhmarandhra connotes previous activity at the highest centre. Before such exit, and whilst self—consciousness lasts, the mental contents are supplied by the ritual, which is so designed as to secure a good death, and, therefore (later on), birth—consciousness.

At the moment of death the empiric consciousness, or consciousness of objects, is lost. There is what is popularly called a ‘swoon’, which is, however, the corollary of super—consciousness itself, or the Clear Light of the Void; for the swoon is in, and of, the Consciousness as knower of objects ( Vijnāna Skandha). This empiric consciousness disappears, unveiling Pure Consciousness, which is ever ready to be ‘discovered’ by those who have the will to seek and the power to find It.

That clear, colourless Light is a sense—symbol of the formless Void, ‘beyond the Light of Sun, Moon, and Fire’, to use the words of the Indian Gitā. It is clear and colourless, but māyik (or ‘form’) bodies are coloured in various ways. For colour implies and denotes form. The Formless is colourless. The use of psycho—physical chromatism is common to the Hindu and Buddhist Tantras, and may be found in some Islamic mystical systems also.

What then is this Void ? It is not absolutely nothingness. It is the A logical, to which no categories drawn from the world of name and form apply. But whatever may have been held by the Mādhyamika Bauddha, a Vcdfmtist would say that Being, or ‘Is—ness’, is applicable even in the case of the Void, which is experienced as ‘is1 (asti)*. The Void is thus, in this view, the negation of all determinations, but not of ‘Is—ness’ as such, as has been supposed in accounts given of Buddhist ‘Nihilism’; but it is nothing known to finite experience in form, and, therefore, for those who have had no other experience, it is no—thing.

A description of Buddhist Mahāyāna teaching which is at once more succinct and clear than, to my knowledge, any other, is given in the Tibetan work, The Path of Good Wishes of Samanta Bhadra, which I have published in the seventh volume of Tantrik Texts (p. xxi et seq.) and here summarize and explain.

All is either Sangsāra or Nirvana. The first is finite experience in the ‘Six Worlds’ or Loka—a. word which means ‘that which is experienced (Lokyante). The second, or Nirvana, is, negatively speaking, release from such experience, that is from the worlds of Birth and Death and their pains. The Void cannot even be strictly called Nirvana, for this is a term relative to the world, and the Void is beyond all relations. Positively, and concomitantly with such release, it is the Perfect Experience which is Buddhahood, which, again, from the cognitive aspect, is Consciousness unobscured by the darkness of Unconsciousness, that is to say, Consciousness freed of all limitation. From the emotional aspect, it is pure Bliss unaffected by sorrow; and from the volitional aspect, it is freedom of action and almighty power (Amogha—Siddhi). Perfect Experience is an eternal or, more strictly speaking, a timeless state. Imperfect Experience is also eternal in the sense that the series of universes in which it is undergone is infinite. The religious, that is practical, problem is then how from the lesser experience to pass into that which is complete, called by the Upanishads ‘the Whole’ or Puma. This is done by the removal of obscuration. At base, the two are one—the Void, uncreated, independent, uncompounded, and beyond mind and speech. If this were not so, Liberation would not be possible. Man is in fact liberated, but does not know it. When he realizes it, he is freed. The great saying of the Buddhist work the Prajnā—Påramitā runs thus : ‘Form (Rüpa) is the Void and the Void is Form.’ Realization of the Void is to be a Buddha, or ‘Knower’, and not to realize it is to be an ‘ignorant being’ in the Sangsåra. The two paths, then, are Knowledge and Ignorance. The first path leads to—and, as actual realization, is— Nirvana. The second means continuance of fleshly life as man or brute, or as a denizen of the other four Lok as. Ignorance in the individual is in its cosmic aspect Måyā, which in Tibetan (sGyutna) means a magical show. In its most generic form, the former is that which produces the pragmatic, but, in a transcendental sense, the unreal’ notion of self and otherness. This is the root cause of error (whether in knowing, feeling, or action) which becomes manifest as the’ Six Poisons’ (which Hindus call the ‘Six Enemies’) of the Six Lokas of Sangsāra (of which the Text gives five only)—pride, jealousy, sloth (or ignorance), anger, greed, and lust. The Text constantly urges upon the dying or’ dead’ man to recognize in the apparitions, which he is about to see or sees, the creatures of his own måya—governed mind, veiling from him the Clear Light of the Void. If he does so, he is liberated at any stage.

This philosophical scheme has so obvious a resemblance to the Indian Māyāvāda Vedānta that the Vaishnava Padma Parana dubs that system ‘a bad scripture and covert Buddhism ‘(måyåvādam asachchåstram prachekhannam bauddham). Nevertheless, its great scholastic, ‘the incomparable Shang—karāchāryya’, as Sir William Jones calls him. combated the Buddhists in their denial of a permanent Self (ātmā), as also their subjectivism, at the same time holding that the notion of an individual self and that of a world of objects were pragmatic truths only, superseded by and on the attainment of a state of Liberation which has little, if anything, to distinguish it from the Buddhist Void. The difference between the two systems, though real, is less than is generally supposed. This is a matter, however, which it would be out of place to discuss further here.

However this may be, the after—death apparitions are ‘real’ enough for the deceased who does not, as and when they appear, recognize their unsubstantiality and cleave his way through them to the Void. The Clear Light is spoken of in the Bardo Thödol as such a Dazzlement as is produced by an infinitely vibrant landscape in the springtide. This joyous picture is not, of course, a statement of what It is in itself, for It is not an object, but is a translation in terms of objective vision of a great, but, in itself, indescribable joyful inner experience. My attention was drawn, in this connexion, to a passage in a paper on the Avatatnsaka Sütra (ch. xv), by Mr. Hsu, a Chinese scholar, which says, ‘The Bodhisattva emits the light called “ Seeing the Buddha” in order to make the dying think about the Tathāgata and so eftable them to go to the pure realms of the latter after death’.

The dying or deceased man is adjured to recognize the Clear Light and thus liberate himself. If he does so, it is because he is himself ripe for the liberated state which is thus presented to him. If he does not (as is commonly the case), it is because the pull of worldly tendency (Sangskāra) draws him away. He is then presented with the secondary Clear Light, which is the first, somewhat dimmed to him by the general Māyå. If the mind does not find its resting—place here, the first or Chikhai Bardo, which may last for several days, or ‘for the time lhat it takes to snap a finger’ (according to the state of the deceased), comes to an end.

In the next stage (Chonyid Bardo) there is a recovery of the Death—Consciousness of objects. In one sense, that is compared with a swoon, it is a rewakening. But it is not a waking—state such as existed before death. The (soul—complex ‘emerges from its experience of the Void into a state like that of dream. This continues until it attains a new fleshly body and thus really awakes to earth—life again. For this world—experience is life in such a body.

When I first read the account of the fifteen days following recovery from the ‘swoon’, I thought it was meant to be a scheme of gradual arising of limited consciousness, analogous to that described in the thirty—six Tattvas by the Northern Shaivāgama and its Tantras, a process which is given in its ritual form in the Tantrik Bhütashuddhi rite and in Laya or Kundalini Yoga. But on closer examination I found that this was not so. After the ending of the first Bardo the scheme commences with the complete recovery, without intermediate stages, of the Death—Consciousness. The psychic life is taken up and continued from that point, that is from the stage immediately prior to the ‘swoon’. Life immediately after death is, according to this view, as Spiritists assert, similar to, and a continuation of, the life preceding it. As in Swedenborg’s account, and in the recent play Outward Bound, the deceased does not at first know that he is ‘dead’. Swedenborg, who also speaks of an intermediate state, says that, except for those immediately translated to Heaven or Hell, the first state of man after death is like his state in the world, so that he knows no other, believing that he is still in the world notwithstanding his death.

Two illustrations may be given of the doctrine of the continuity and the similarity of experience before and immediately after death. In India, on the one hand, there are reports of hauntings by unhappy ghosts or Prctas> which hauntings are said to be allayed by the performance of the Preta Shrāddha rite at the sacred town of Gaya. On the other hand, I have heard of a case in England where it was. alleged that a haunting ceased on the saying of a Requiem Mass. In this case, it was supposed that a Catholic soul in Purgatory felt in need of a rite which in its earth—life it had been taught to regard as bringing peace to the dead. The Hindu ghost craves for the Hindu rite which gives to it a new body in lieu of that destroyed on the funeral pyre. These souls do not (in an Indian view) cease to be Hindu or Catholic, or lose their respective beliefs because of their death. Nor (in this view) do those who have passed on necessarily and at once lose any habit, even though it be drinking and smoking. But in the after—death state the whisky and cigars’ of which we have heard are not gross, material things. Just as a dream reproduces waking experiences, so in the after—death state a man who was wont to drink and smoke imagines that he still docs so. We have here to deal with dream—whisky’ and ‘dream—cigars ‘which, though imaginary, are, for the dreamer, as real as the substances he drank and smoked in his waking state.

Subsequently, the deceased becomes aware that he is’ dead But as he carries over with him the recollection of his past life, he, at first, still thinks that he has such a physical body as he had before. It is, in fact, a dream—body, such as that of persons seen in dreams. It is an imagined body, which, as the Text says, is neither reflected in a mirror nor casts a shadow, and which can do such wonders as passing through mountains and the like, since Imagination is the greatest of magicians. Even in life on earth a man may imagine that he has a limb where he has none. Long after a man’s leg has been amputated above the knee he can ‘feel his toes’, or is convinced that the soles of his feet (buried days before) are tickling. In the after—death state the deceased imagines that he has a physical body, though he has been severed therefrom by the high surgery of death. In such a body the deceased goes through the experiences next described.

In the First Bardo the deceased glimpses the Clear Light, as the Dharma—Kāya, called by Professor Sylvain Levy the ‘Essential Body’. This, which is beyond form (Arüpa), is the Dharma—Dhātu, or Matrix of Dharma—substance, whence all the Blessed Ones, or Tathāgatas, issue. This is the body of a Buddha in Nirvana. The second body, or Sambhoga—Káya, has such subtle form (Rfipavān) as is visible to the Bodhisattvas and is an intermediate manifestation of the Dharma—Dhātu. In the third body, or Nirviāna—Kåya.ihQ Void, or State of Buddha—hood, is exteriorized into multiple individual appearances more material, and, therefore, visible to the gross senses of men, such as the forms in which the manifested Buddhas (for there arc many and not, as some think, only one, or Gautama) have appeared on earth. If the deceased recognizes the Clear Light of the First Bardo, he is liberated in the Dharma—Kāya. In the Second Bardo Liberation is into the Sambhoga—Kāya (the passage touching the Paradise Realms is not, I think, meant to conflict with this); and in the Third Bardo Liberation is experienced in the Ninnāna—Kāya.

During the Second and Third Bardo the deceased is in the Mayik—world (or world of forms), and if Liberation is then attained it is with form (Rupavān). The deceased being thus in the world of duality, we find that from this point onwards there is a double parallel presentation to his consciousness. There is firstly a Nirvānic line, comprising the Five Dhyāni Buddhas of the Sambhoga—Kaya, symbolized by various dazzling colours, with certain Divinities, peaceful and wrathful, emanating from them; and, secondly, a Sangsāric line, consisting of the Six Lokas. These latter, with one exception (if it be one and not due to corruption of text, viz. the association of the smoky or black light of Hell with the blue Vajra—Sattva), have the same colour as their Nirvānic counterparts, but of a dull hue. With the Lokas are given their ‘Poisons’, or the sinful characteristics of their inhabitants. The ‘soul—complex ‘is then adjured, on the one hand, to seek Liberation through the compassionate grace of the Nirvānic line oí Buddhas and Devatās (Divinities), and, on the other hand, to shun the particular Loka (World) which is concomitantly presented to his mental vision. With these Buddhas, Devatās, and Lokas are associated certain Nidānas (Causal Connexions), Skandhas (Constituent Factors), material elements, and the colours of the latter. This account appears to have suffered from corruption of the Text. Thus the Nidānas and Skandhas arc not complete. Logically, Vijnāna Skandha should go first with Vairochana, and Nāma—rupa with Vajra—Sattva. Only four out of the five elements are mentioned. Ether, which is omitted, should be associated with Vairochana and Vijnāna. The colours of the elements accord with those given in the Hindu Tantras except as regards ‘air’, to which is assigned a green colour, appropriate for Asuric jealousy, though it is not that of the Hindu colouration, which is smoky grey. Again, the order of the Six Lokas is not the usual one, viz. first the better Lokas, of Dcvas, Asuras, and Men, and then the Lohas of Ghosts (Pretas), Brutes, and Hell. Each Loka is characterized by its ‘poison ‘or besetting sin, but, of these, five only arc mentioned. The editor has, however, referred to corruption in the Text in some of these matters, and others I have noted on a careful analysis of the translated Text.

The peaceful Devatās follow on the sixth and seventh day, and the wrathful Devatās on the eighth and subsequent days. The latter arc of the terrific type, characteristic both of the Buddhist and Hindu Shākta Tantras, with their Bhairavas, B hair avis, Dākinls, Yoginis, and so on. Hinduism also makes this distinction in the nature of Divinities and interprets the wrathful orders as representative of the so—called destructive’ power of the Supreme Lord and of his lesser manifestations; though, in truth, ‘God never destroys’ (na devo nāshakah kvachit)*, but withdraws the Universe to Himself.

But Power, which thus dissolves the world, is ever terrible to those who are attached to the world. All bad action (Adhanna)> too, is dissolvent; and, according to the Text, the deceased’s evil Karma in the Sangsāra is reflected in the Nirvānic line in its forms as Divinities of the Lower Bardo, who so terrify the deceased that he flees from them and sinks therefore more and more into such a state as will eventually bring him birth in one or other of the Lokas.

The Peaceful Devatās are said to issue from the heart, and the Wrathful from the head. I do not, however, think that this statement necessarily lets in the Yoga doctrine of the ‘Serpent Power and the Six Centres, which the editor has shortly set out in Part II of the Addenda, assuming (a matter of which I have no personal knowledge) that the Tibetans both practise this Yoga and teach it in its Indian form. I myself think that the mention of the heart and head does not refer to these places as F—centres, but possibly to the fact that the Peaceful Deities reflect, as stated in the Text, the love of the deceased which springs from his heart.

I make a reservation also as regards the subject of Mantras, dealt with in Part III of the Addenda. No doubt the Tibetans employ Sanskrit Mantras, but such Mantras are often found in a sadly corrupt form in their books—a fact which suggests that the Tibetans feel little appreciation of the supposed sound—value of Mantras. But whether their theory on this subject is the same in all respects as that of the Hindus I cannot say.The Hindu theory, which I have elsewhere endeavoured to elucidate (cf. Garland of Letters) is still on several points obscure; the subject being perhaps the most difficult of any in Hinduism. Even though Tibetan Buddhism may have Mantra—Sādhanå, the presentment of it is likely to differ as much as does the general substance of these two Faiths.

About the fifteenth day, passage is made into the Third Bardo, in which the deceased, if not previously liberated, seeks ‘Rebirth’ His past life has now become dim. That of the future is indicated by certain premonitory signs which represent the first movements of desire towards fulfilment. The ‘soul—complex’ takes on the colour of the Loka in which it is destined to be born. If the deceased’s Karma leads him to Hell, thither he goes after the Judgement, in a subtle body which cannot be injured or destroyed, but in which he may suffer atrocious pain. Or he may go to the Heaven—world or other Loka, to return at length and in all cases (for neither punishment nor reward are eternal) to earth, whereon only can new Karma be made. Such return takes place after expiation of his sins in Hell, or the expiration of the term of enjoyment in Heaven which his Karma* has gained for him. If, however, the lot of the deceased is immediate rebirth on earth, he sees visions of mating men and women. He, at this final stage towards the awakening to earth—life, now knows that he has not a gross body of flesh and blood. He urgently desires to have one, in order that he may again enjoy physical life on the earth—world.

The Freudian psycho-analyst will find herein a remarkable passage supporting his doctrine of the aversion of the son for the father. The passage says that, if the deceased is to be born as a male, the feeling of its being a male comes upon the knower, and a feeling of intense aversion for the father and attraction for the mother is begotten, and vice versa as regards birth as a female. This is, however, an old Buddhist doctrine found elsewhere. Professor De la Vallée Poussin cites the following passage: ‘L’esprit trouble par désir d’amour, il va au lieu de sa destinéc. Méme tres éloigné, il voit, par né de la force de l’acte, le lieu de sa naissance; voyant la son pore et sa mere unis, il conceit désir pour la mere quand il est måle, désir pour le pére quand il est femelle, et, inversement, haine ’ (Bouddhisme: Etudes et Matériaux, Abhidharmakosha, iii. 15, p. 25). The work cited also contains other interesting details concerning the embryo, (See, too, the same author’s La Théorie de douze causes.)

At length the deceased passes out of the Bardo dreamworld into a womb of flesh and blood, issuing thence once more into the waking state of earth—experience. This is what in English is called Re—incarnation, or Re—birth in the flesh. The Sanskrit term is Sangsāra, that is, rising and rising again’ (Punarutpatti) in the worlds of birth and death. Nothing is permanent, but all is transitory. In life, the soul—complex’ is never for two consecutive moments the same, but is, like the body, in constant change. There is thus a series (Santāna)* of successive, and, in one sense, different states, which are in themselves but momentary. There is still a unifying bond in that each momentary state is a present transformation representative of all those which are past, as it will be the generator of all future transformations potentially involved in it.

This process is not interrupted by death. Change continues in the Skandhas (or constituents of the organism) other than the gross body which has been cast off and which undergoes changes of its own. But there is this difference: the after—death change is merely the result of the action of accumulated past Karma and does not, as in earthly life, create new Karma, for which a physical body is necessary. (Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity are in agreement in holding that man’s destiny is decided on Earth, though the last differs from the first two, as explained above, on the question whether there is more than one life on Earth.) There is no breach (Uckchheda) of consciousness, but a continuity of transformation. The Death—Consciousness is the starting—point, followed by the other states of consciousness already described. Karma at length generates a fully—formed desire or mental action. This last is followed by the consciousness taking up its abode in a suitable matrix, whence it is born again as a Birth—Consciousness. What is so born is not altogether different from what has gone before, because it is the present transformation of it; and has no other independent existence.

There are thus successive births of (to use Professor de la Vallée Poussin’s term) a ‘fluid soul—complex’ because the series of psychic states continues at intervals of time to enter the physical womb of living beings. It has been said by the authority cited (Way to Nirvana, p. 85) that the birth—consciousness of a new celestial or infernal being makes for itself and by itself, out of unorganized matter, the body it is to inhabit. Therefore the birth of such beings will follow immediately after the death of the being which is to be reborn as an infernal or celestial being. But the case is said to be different, as a rule, where there is to be ‘reincarnation’, that is ‘rebirth’ in the flesh. Conception and birth then presuppose physical circumstances that may not be realized at the moment of the death of the being to be re—incarnated In these cases and others it is alleged that the dying consciousness cannot be continued at once into the birth—consciousness of a new being. The Professor says that this difficulty is solved by those Schools which, maintaining the intermediary existence (Antarābhāva), hold that the dying consciousness is continued into a short—lived being called Gandharva, which lasts for seven days, or seven times seven days (cf. the forty—nine days of the Bardó). This Gandharva creates, with the help of the conceptional elements, an embryo as soon as it can find opportunity. This doctrine, if it has been rightly understood, is apparently another and cruder version of the Bardo* doctrine. There cannot, in any philosophic view of the doctrine of Karma be any ‘hold up’ of what is a continuous life—process. Such process does not consist of independent sections watting upon one another. And so a ‘soul—complex’ cannot be ready to reincarnate before the circumstances are fit for it. The law which determines that a being shall incarnate is the same as that which provides the means and conditions by, and under, which the incarnation is to take place. Nor is the body of the infernal or celestial being gross matter. This is clear from the present Text.

Dr. Evans—Wentz raises again the debated question of the transmigration of human ‘souls’ into sub—human bodies, a process which this Text, exoterically viewed, seems to assume, and which is, as he points out, the general Hindu and Buddhist belief. It seems to be an irrational, though it may be a popular, belief that a human ‘soul’ can permanently inhabit a sub—human body as its own. For the body cannot exist in such disagreement with its occupant. The right doctrine appears to be that, as man has evolved through the lowest forms of being (Hinduism speaks of 8,400,000 graded kinds of births culminating in man), so by misconduct and neglect to use the opportunity of manhood there can, equally, be a descent along the ‘downward path’ to the same low forms of being from which humanity has, with difficulty, emerged. The Sanskrit term Durlabham, meaning ‘difficult to get’ refers to this difficulty of securing human birth. But such descent involves (as Dr. Evans—Wentz says) the loss of the human nature and the enormous lengths of time of a creation epoch.

If the series (Santåna) of conscious states are determined by the past Karma, it may be asked how that liberty of choice exists which the whole Text assumes by its injunctions to the deceased to do this or to avoid that. No doubt even in one individual there are diverse tendencies (Sangskåra). But the question still remains. If the Karma ready to ripen determines the action, then advice to the accused is useless. If the ‘soul’ is free to choose, there is no determination by Karma. Hinduism holds that, notwithstanding the influence of Karma, the Åtmå is essentially free. Here the answer appears to be twofold. Apart from what is next stated, the instructions given may, by their suggestions, call up that one of several latent tendencies which tends towards the action counselled. Further, this system allows that one ‘soul’ can help another. And so there are prayers for, and application of merits to, the deceased, just as we find in Hinduism the Pretashråddka, in Catholicism the Requiem Mass, and in Islam the Moslem’s Fatiha. In this and other matters one mind can, it is alleged, influence another otherwise than through the ordinary sense channels whether before or after death. There is also a tendency to overlook collective Karma and its effects. An individual is not only affected by his own Karma, but by that of the community to which he belongs. A wider question arises as to the meaning of the Re—incarnation Doctrine itself, but this is not the place to discuss it.

There are many other points of interest in this remarkable Book, but I must now stop and let the reader discover them for himself. I would like, however, to add a word as to the manner of its making. The Text has been fortunate in finding as its editor Dr. Evans—Wcntz, whose knowledge of, and sympathy with, his subject has enabled him to give us a very comprehensible account of it. He, in his turn, was fortunate in his teacher, the translator, the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup (Tib. Zla—va—bsam—hgrub) who, when I first met him, was Chief Interpreter on the staff of His Excellency Lonchen Satra, the Tibetan Plenipotentiary to the Government of India. He was also attached to the Political Staff of His Holiness the Dalai LāMa on the latter’s visit to India. At the time of his premature and greatly regretted death LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup was Lecturer in Tibetan to the University of Calcutta. These, and the other appointments which the translator held, and to which Dr. Evans—Wentz has referred, sufficiently establish his high competency both in Tibetan and English. He had also, I may add, some knowledge of Sanskrit, which I found of much use in discussing with him the meaning of terms used in Tibetan—Buddhist doctrine and ritual. I can, then, speak personally of his attainments, for I saw a good deal of him when he was preparing for me a translation of the Tibetan Shrichakrasambhāra Tantra, which I have published as the seventh volume of the series of Tantrik Texts (Luzac & Co.). I can, likewise, from my own knowledge, associate myself with what Dr. Evans—Wentz has said as to this remarkable man. May their joint work have the success it deserves, and so encourage Dr. Evans—Wentz to publish some at least of the other Texts which he tells me he has in store.

John Woodroffe.
October 3, 1925.

to the manuscript

‘The phenomena of life may be likened unto a dream, a phantasm, a bubble, a shadow, the glistening dew, or lightning flash; and thus they ought to be contemplated/—The Buddha, in The Immutable Sutra.


As a contribution to the science of death and of the existence after death, and of rebirth, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, called, in its own language, Bardo Thödol (‘Liberation by Hearing on the After—Death Plane’), is, among the sacred books cf the world, unique. As an epitomized exposition of the cardinal doctrines of the Mahāyāna School of Buddhism, it is of very great importance, religiously, philosophically, and historically. As a treatise based essentially upon the Occult Sciences of the Yoga Philosophy, which were fundamental in the curriculum of the great Buddhist University of Nālanda, the Oxford of ancient India, it is, perhaps, one of the most remarkable works the West has ever received from the East. As a mystic manual for guidance through the Otherworld of many illusions and realms, whose frontiers are death and birth, it resembles The Egyptian Book of the Dead sufficiently to suggest some ultimate cultural relationship between the two; although we only know with certainty that the germ of the teachings, as herein made accessible to English readers, has been preserved for us by a long succession of saints and seers of the God—protected Land of the Snowy Ranges, Tibet.


The Bardo Tlwdol is unique in that it purports to treat rationally of the whole cycle of sangsāric (i. e. phenomenal) existence intervening between death and birth;—the ancient doctrine of karma or consequences (taught by Emerson as compensation), and of rebirth being accepted as the most essential laws of nature affecting human life. Often, however, its teaching appears to be quite the antithesis of rational, because much of it is recorded in an occult cipher. Dr. L. A. Waddell has declared, after careful research, that the lāmas* have the keys to unlock the meaning of much of Buddha’s doctrine which has been almost inaccessible to Europeans.

Some of the more learned lāmas, including the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, have believed that since very early times there has been a secret international symbol—code in common use among the initiates, which affords a key to the meaning of such occult doctrines as are still jealously guarded by religious fraternities in India, as in Tibet, and in China, Mongolia, and Japan.

In like manner, Occidental occultists have contended that the hieroglyphical writings of ancient Egypt and of Mexico seem to have been, in some degree, a popularized or exoteric outgrowth of a secret language. They argue, too, that a symbol—code was sometimes used by Plato and other Greek philosophers, in relation to Pythagorean and Orphic lore; that throughout the Celtic world the Druids conveyed all their esoteric teachings symbolically ; that the use of parables, as in the sermons of Jesus and of the Buddha, and of other Great Teachers, illustrates the same tendency; and that through works like Aesop’s Fables, and the miracle and mystery plays of medieval Europe, many of the old Oriental symbols have been introduced into the modern literatures of the West. Be this as it may, it is certain that none of the great systems of ancient thought, nor even vernacular literatures, have always found the ordinary work—a—day language of the world adequate to express transcendental doctrines or even to bring out the full significance of moral maxims.

The lamb, the dragon (or serpent), the dove above the altar, the triangle enclosing the all—seeing eye (common to Freemasonry as well), the sacred fish—symbol, the ever—burning fire, or the image of the risen sun upon the receptacle for the consecrated wafer in the Roman Mass, the architectural symbols and the orientation of church and cathedral, the cross itself, and even the colours and designs of the robes of priest and bishop and pope, are a few of the silent witnesses of the survival in the modern Christian churches of the symbolism of paganism. But the key to the interpretation of the inner significance of almost all such Christianized symbols was unconsciously thrown away: uninitiated ecclesiastics, gathered together in heresy—seeking councils, having regarded that primitive Christianity, so deeply involved in symbolism, called Gnosticism, as ‘Oriental imagery gone mad’ repudiated it as being ‘heretical’, whereas from its own point of view it was merely esoteric.

Similarly, Northern Buddhism, to which symbolism is so vital, has been condemned by Buddhists of the Southern School for claiming to be the custodian of an esoteric doctrine, for the most part orally transmitted by recognized initiates, generation by generation, direct from the Buddha—as well as for teaching (as, for example, in the Saddhanna—Pandartkā) recorded doctrines not in agreement with doctrines contained in the Ti—Pitaka (Skt. Tri—Pitaka), the Pali Canon. And yet, though the Southern Buddhist commonly assumes that there cannot be any but a literal interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings, the Pali Scriptures contain many parables and metaphorical expressions, some of which the lāmas regard as symbolical and confirmatory of their own esoteric tradition, and to which they thus claim to hold—perhaps not without good reason—the initiate’s key.

The lāmas grant that the Ti—Pitaka (’ Three Pitakas, or Baskets’ of the Law) are, as the Southern Buddhist holds, the recorded Word (or Doctrine) of the Ancients, the Thera—vāda ; but they claim that the Pitakas do not contain all the Word, that the Pitakas lack much of the Buddha’s yoglc teachings, and that it is chiefly these teachings which, in many instances, have been handed down esoterically to the present day. ‘Esoteric Buddhism’, as it has come to be called— rightly or wrongly—seems to depend in large measure upon ‘ear—whispered’ doctrines of this character, conveyed according to long—established and inviolable rule, from guru to shishya, by word of mouth alone.

The Pali Canon records that the Buddha held no doctrine secretly ‘in a closed fist (ef. Mahā Parinibbāna Süttanta, Dlgha NiKāya II), that is to say, withheld no essential doctrine from the members of the Sangka (Priesthood), just as no guru nowadays withholds a doctrine necessary for the spiritual enlightenment of his initiated or accepted disciples. This, however, is far from implying that all such teachings were intended to be set down in writing for the uninitiated and worldly multitude, or that they ever were so recorded in any of the Canons. The Buddha Himself wrote down nothing of His teachings, and His disciples who after His death compiled the Buddhist Scriptures may not have recorded therein all that their Master taught them. If they did not, and there are, therefore, as the lāmas contend, certain unwritten teachings of the Buddha which have never been taught to those who were not of the Sangha*, then there is, undoubtedly, an extra—canonical, or esoteric, Buddhism. An esoteric Buddhism thus conceived is not, however, to be regarded as in any wise in disagreement with canonical, or exoteric, Buddhism, but as being related to it as higher mathematics are to lower mathematics, or as being the apex of the pyramid of the whole of Buddhism.

In short, the evidence adducible gives much substantial support to the claim of the lāmas, to whom we refer, that there is—as the Bardo Thödol appears to suggest—an unrecorded body of orally transmitted Buddhistic teachings complementary to canonical Buddhism.


Turning now to our text itself, we find that structurally it is founded upon the symbolical number Forty—nine, the square of the sacred number Seven; for, according to occult teachings common to Northern Buddhism and to that Higher Hinduism which the Hindu—born Bodhisattva Who became the Buddha Gautama, the Reformer of the Lower Hinduism and the Codifier of the Secret Lore, never repudiated, there are seven worlds or seven degrees of Måyā within the Sangsāra constituted as seven globes of a planetary chain. On each globe there are seven rounds of evolution, making the forty—nine (seven times seven) stations of active existence. As in the embryonic state in the human species the foetus passes through every form of organic structure from the amoeba to man, the highest mammal, so in the after—death state, the embryonic state of the psychic world, the Knower or principle of consciousness, anterior to its re—emergence in gross matter, analogously experiences purely psychic conditions. In other words, in both these interdependent embryonic processes— the one physical, the other psychical—the evolutionary and the involutionary attainments, corresponding to the forty—nine stations of existence, are passed through.

Similarly, the forty—nine days of the Bardo may also be symbolical of the Forty and Nine Powers of the Mystery of the Seven Vowels. In Hindu mythology, whence much of the Bardo symbolism originated, these Vowels were the Mystery of the Seven Fires and their forty—nine subdivisional fires or aspects. They are also represented by the Svastika signs upon the crowns of the seven heads of the Serpent of Eternity of the Northern Buddhist Mysteries, originating in ancient India. In Hermetic writings they are the seven zones of after—death, or Bardo, experiences, each symbolizing the eruption in the Intermediate State of a particular sevenfold element of the complex principle of consciousness, thus giving the consciousness—principle forty—nine aspects, or fires, or fields of manifestation.

The number seven has long been a sacred number among Aryan and other races. Its use in the Revelation of John illustrates this, as does the conception of the seventh day being regarded as holy. In Nature, the number seven governs the periodicity and phenomena of life, as, for example, in the series of chemical elements, in the physics of sound and colour, and it is upon the number forty—nine, or seven times seven, that the Bardo Thódol is thus scientifically based.


Likewise, in a very striking manner, the esoteric teachings concerning the Five Elements, as symbolically expounded in the Bardo Tködol, parallel, for the most part, certain of the teachings of Western Science, as the following interpretation, based upon that made by the translator himself, indicates:

In the First Round of our Planet, one element alone— Fire—was evolved. In the fire—mist, which, in accordance with the karmic law governing the Sangsåfa, or cosmos, assumed a rotary motion and became a blazing globular body of undifferentiated primeval forces, all the other elements lay in embryo. Life first manifested itself clothed in robes of fire; and man, if we conceive him as then existing, was incarnate—as the Salāmanders of medieval occultism were believed to be—in a body of fire. In the Second Round, as the Element Fire assumed definite form, the Element Air separated from it and enwrapped the embryonic Planet as a shell covers an egg. The body of man, and of all organic creatures, thereupon became a compound of fire and air. In the Third Round, as the Planet, bathed in the Element Air and fanned by it, abated its fiery nature, the Element Water came forth from the vaporous air. In the Fourth Round, in which the Planet still is, air and water neutralized the activities of their Parent Fire; and the Fire, bringing forth the Element Earth, became encrusted with it. Esoterically, the same teachings are said to be conveyed by the old Hindu myth of the churning of the Sea of Milk, which was the Fire—Mist, whence came, like butter, the solid earth. Upon the earth, so formed, the gods are credited with having fed; or, in other words, they, hankering after existence in gross physical bodies, became incarnated on this Planet and so became the Divine Progenitors of the human race.

In the Bardo, on the first four days these Four Elements manifest themselves, or dawn upon the deceased, in their primordial form, although not in their true occult order. The Fifth Element, Ether, in its prima4 form, symbolized as the green light—path of the Wisdom of Perfected Actions does not dawn, for, as the text explains, the Wisdom (or Bodhic) Faculty of the consciousness of the deceased has not been perfectly developed.

The Ether Element, like the aggregate of matter (symbolical of the fire—mist), is personified in Vairochana, He Who in Shapes makes visible all things. The psychical attribute of the Ether Element is—to render the lámate conception in the language of the psychology of the West—that of the subconsciousness; and the subconsciousness, as a transcendental consciousness higher than the normal consciousness in mankind, and as yet normally undeveloped, is—as the vehicle for the manifestation of the Bodhic Faculty—believed to be destined to become the active consciousness of the humanity of the Fifth Round. The memory—records of all past experiences throughout the many states of sangsāric existence being latent in the subconsciousness, as the Buddha’s own teachings imply (see pp. 40—41), the Fifth Round races in whom it becomes active will thus be able to recall all their past existences. In place of faith or mere belief, Man will then possess Knowledge, will come to know himself in the sense implied by the Mysteries of ancient Greece; he will realize the unreality of sangsāric existence, attaining Enlightenment and Emancipation from the Sangsåra> from all the Elements; and this will come as a normal process of human evolution. It is, however, the aim in all schools of Indian and Tibetan Yoga alike—as in the Bardo Th’ódol —to outstrip this tedious process of normal evolution and win Freedom even now.

In the body of man as he is—in our present Fourth Round—there are four kingdoms of living creatures: (1) those of the Element Fire, (2) those of the Element Air, (3) those of the Element Water, and (4) those of the Element Earth. Over this collective life of innumerable myriads of lives man is king. If he be a Great King, filled with the transcendent consciousness of the triumphant Yogi (or Saint), to him the countless multitude of his elemental subjects severally reveal themselves in their true nature and place in his hand the Sceptre (symbolized by the Tibetan dorje, or thunderbolt) of Universal Dominion over Matter. Then, indeed, is he Lord of Nature, becoming in his turn Ruler by Divine Right, a Chakravartin, or Universal Emperor, God and Creator.


Also involved in symbolical language there are, as fundamental occult doctrines of the Bardo Thödol, what the translator called The Wisdom Teachings; and these—which are essential Mahāyāna doctrines—may be outlined as follows:

The Voidness. —In all Tibetan systems of yoga, realization of the Voidness (Tib. S tong—pa—ñid—pron. Tong—pa—ñid: Skt. Shunyatā) is the one great aim; for to realize it is to attain the unconditioned Dharma—Kāya, or ‘Divine Body of Truth’ (Tib. Chos—sku —pron. Chö—Ku), the primordial state of un—createdness, of the supramundane Bodhic All—Consciousness— Buddhahood. Realization of the Voidness (Pali, Suññatd) is the aim of Theravādists too.

The Three Bodies. —The Dharma—Kāya is the highest of the Three Bodies (Tib. Sku—gsum —pron. Kü—sutn : Skt. Tri—Kāya) of the Buddha and of all Buddhas and beings who have Perfect Enlightenment. The other two bodies are the Sambhoga—Kåya or ‘Divine Body of Perfect Endowment’ (Tib. Longs—spyod—rzogs—sku —pron. Long—chöd—zo—ku) and the Nirmāna—Kāya or ‘Divine Body of Incarnation’ (Tib. Sprul—pahi—sku —pron. Tul—pal—ku).

The Dharma—Kåya is symbolized—for all human word—concepts are inadequate to describe the Qualityless—as an infinite ocean, calm and without a wave, whence arise mist—clouds and rainbow, which symbolize the Sambhoga—Kåya, and the clouds, enhaloed in the glory of the rainbow, condensing and falling as rain, symbolize the Nirmāna—Kāya

The Dharma—Kāya is the primordial, formless Bohdi> which is true experience freed from all error or inherent or accidental obscuration. In it lies the essence of the Universe, including both Sangsåra and Nirvana which, as states or conditions of the two poles of consciousness, are, in the last analysis, in the realm of the pure intellect, identical.

In other words, the Dharma—Kāya (lit. ‘Law Body’) being Essential Wisdom (Bodht) unmodified, the Sambhoga—Kåya (lit ‘Compensation Body, or ‘Adorned Body’) embodies, as in the Five Dhyānī Buddhas, Reflected or Modified Wisdom, and the Nirtnåna—Kāya (lit. ‘Changeable Body’, or ‘Transformed Body’) embodies, as in the Human Buddhas, Practical or Incarnate Wisdom.

The Uncreated, the Unshaped, the Unmodified is the Dharma—Kåya. The Offspring, the Modification of the Unmodified, the manifestation of all perfect attributes in one body, is the Sambhoga—Kåya : ‘The embodiment of all that is wise, merciful and loving in the Dharvia—Kāya — as clouds on the surface of the heavens or a rainbow on the surface of the clouds—is said to be Sambhoga—Kaya. The condensation and differentiation of the One Body as many is the Nirmåna—Kāya, or the Divine Incarnations among sentient beings, that is to say, among beings immersed in the Illusion called Sang—sāra, in phenomena, in worldly existence. All enlightened beings who are reborn in this or in any other world with full consciousness, as workers for the betterment of their fellow creatures, are said to be Nirmāna—Kāya incarnates.

With the Dharma—Kåya Tantric Buddhism associates the Primordial Buddha Samanta—Bhadra (Tib. Kiin—tu—bzang—po — pron. Kun—tu—zang—po) Who is without Beginning or End, the Source of all Truth, the All—Good Father of the Lāmaistic Faith. In this same highest Buddha realm Lāmaism places Vajra—Dhāra (Tib. Rdorje—Chang —pron. Dorje—Chang), ‘The Holder of the Dorje (or Thunderbolt) V the Divine Expounder of the Mystic Doctrine called Vajra Yāna (Tib. Rdorje Theg—pa — pron. Dorje Theg—pd) or Mantra Yāna ** ; and also the Buddha Amitabha (Tib. Hod—dpag—med —pron. Wod—pag—med) or, as in the text, page 113), the Buddha of Boundless Light, Who is the Source of Life Eternal. In the Sambhoga—Kāya are placed the Five Dhyāni Buddhas (or Buddhas of Meditation), the Lotus Herukas, and the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, all of whom will appear in the Bardo visions. With the Nirmāna—Kāya is associated Padma Sambhava, who, being the first teacher in Tibet to expound the Bardo Thödol, is the Great Guru for all devotees who follow the Bardo* teachings.

The opinion commonly held by men not initiated into the higher lāmak teachings, that Northern Buddhism recognizes in the Primordial or ādi—Buddha a Supreme Deity, is apparently erroneous. The translator held that the ādi—Buddha, and all deities associated with the Dhartna—Kāya, are not to be regarded as personal deities, but as Personifications of primordial and universal forces, laws, or spiritual influences, which sustain—as the sun sustains the earth’s physical life— the divine nature of all sentient creatures in all worlds, and make man’s emancipation from all sangsāric existences possible:

‘In the boundless panorama of the existing and visible universe, whatever shapes appear, whatever sounds vibrate, whatever radiances illuminate, or whatever consciousnesses cognize, all are the play or manifestation of the Tri—Kāya the Three—fold Principle of the Cause of All Causes, the Primordial Trinity. Impenetrating all, is the All—Pervading Essence of Spirit, which is Mind. It is uncreated, impersonal, self—existing, immaterial, and indestructible.’

(Lāma Kazi Dawa—Samdup.)

Thus, the Tri—Kāya symbolizes the Esoteric Trinity of the higher Buddhism of the Northern School; the Exoteric Trinity being, as in the Southern School, the Buddha, the Dharma (or Scriptures), the Sahgha (or Priesthood). Regarded in this way—the one trinitarian doctrine as esoteric, the other as exoteric—there are direct correspondences between the two Trinities. Detailed and comprehensive understanding of the Tri—Kāya Doctrine, so the lāmas teach, is the privilege of initiates, who, alone, are fitted to grasp and to realize it.

The translator himself regarded the Tri—Kāya Doctrine as having been transmitted by a long and unbroken line of initiates, some Indian, some Tibetan, direct from the days of the Buddha. He considered that the Buddha, having re—discovered it, was merely its Transmitter from preceding Buddhas; that it was handed on orally, from guru to guru, and not committed to writing until comparatively recent times, when Buddhism began to decay, and there were not always sufficient living gurus to transmit it in the old way. The theory of Western scholars, that simply because a doctrine is not found recorded before a certain time it consequently did not exist previously, he—as an initiate—laughed at; and the rather strenuous efforts of Christian apologists to daiqi for the Tri—Kāya Doctrine a Christian origin he held, likewise, to be wholly untenable. He had been a close and sympathetic student of Christianity; and, as a young man, he had been much sought after by Christian missionaries, who looked upon him, with his remarkable learning and superior social standing, as an unusually desirable subject for conversion. He carefully examined their claims, and then rejected them, on the ground that, in his opinion, Christianity, as presented by them, is but an imperfect Buddhism, that the Asokan Buddhist missionaries to Asia Minor and Syria, as to Alexandria, must have profoundly influenced Christianity through some such probable connecting link as the Essenes, that, if Jesus were an historical character, He, being—as the LāMa interpreted the Jesus of the New Testament clearly to be—a Bodhisattva (i.e. a Candidate for Buddhahood), was, undoubtedly, well acquainted with Buddhist ethics, and taught them, as in the Sermon on the Mount.

The Doctrine of the Three Bodies conveys the esoteric teachings concerning the Path of the Teachers, their descent from the Higher to the Lower, from the threshold of Nirvana to the Sangsāra ; and progression from the Lower to the Higher, from the Sangsåra to Nirvana, is symbolized by the Five Dhyāni Buddhas, each personifying a universal divine attribute. Contained in the Five Dhyāni Buddhas lies the Sacred Way leading to At—one—ment in the Dharma—Kāya, to Buddhahood, to Perfect Enlightenment, to Nirvana — which is spiritual emancipation through Desirelessness.

The Five Wisdoms. —As the All—Pervading Voidness, the Dharma—Kāya is the shape (which is shapelessness) of the Body of Truth; the Thatness constituting it is the Dharma—Dhātu (Tib. Chös—kyi—dvyings —pron. Chö—kyi—ing), The Seed or Potentiality of Truth ; and this dawns on the First Day of the Bardo as the glorious blue light of the Dhyāni Buddha Vairochana, the Manifester, ‘He Who in Shapes Makes Visible’ the universe of matter. The Dharma—Dhåtu is symbolized as the Aggregate of Matter, From the Aggregate of Matter arise the creatures of this world, as of all worlds, in which animal stupidity is the dominant characteristic; and the mara (or illusion of shape) constitutes in all realms of the Sangsåra —as in the human kingdom where manas (or mind) begins to operate—the Bondage, emancipation from which is Nirvana. When in man, made as perfect as human life can make him, the stupidity of his animal nature and the illusion of shape, or personality, are transmuted into Right Knowledge, into Divine Wisdom, there shines forth in his consciousness the All—Pervading Wisdom of the Dharma—Dhātu, or the Wisdom born of the Voidness, which is all—pervading.

As the Aggregate of Matter, dawning in the Bardo of the First Day, produces physical bodies, so the Water—Element, dawning on the Second Day, produces the life—stream, the blood; Anger is the obscuring passion, consciousness is the aggregate, and these, when transmuted, become the Mirror—like Wisdom, personified in Vajra—Sattva (the Sambhoga—Kāya reflex of the Dhyānī Buddha Akshobhya), the ‘Triumphant One of Divine Heroic Mind’.

The Earth—Element of the Third Day, producing the chief solid constituents of the human form, and of all physical forms, gives rise to the passion of Egoism, and the aggregate is Touch; and these, when divinely transmuted, become the Wisdom of Equality, personified in Ratna—Sambhava, the * Gem—born One’, the Beautifier.

The Fire—Element of the Fourth Day, producing the animal—heat of embodied human and animal beings, gives rise to the passion of Attachment, or Lust, and the Aggregate of Feelings. Herein the transmutation gives birth to the All—Discriminating Wisdom, which enables the devotee to know each thing separately, yet all things as one; personified in the Dhyan! Buddha Amitābha, ‘He of Boundless Light’, the Illuminator, or Enlightcner.

The Element Air, of the Fifth Day, produces the breath of life. Its quality, or passions, in man is Envy, or Jealousy. Its aggregate is Volition. The transmutation is into the All—Performing Wisdom, which gives perseverance and unerring action in things spiritual, personified in Amogha—Siddhi, the ‘Almighty Conqueror’, the Giver of Divine Power.

As explained above, in Section IV, the last Element, Ether, which produces the mind, or Knower, and the desire—body of the dwellers in the Intermediate State, does not dawn for the deceased, because—as the text tells us—the Wisdom Faculty of the Consciousness, that is to say, the supramundane Buddha (or Bodhic) consciousness, has not been developed in the ordinary humanity. To it is related—as in our text— Vajra—Sattva and the Mirror—like Wisdom and the Aggregate of Bodhic Wisdom, Vajra—Sattva being then synonymous, eso—terically, with Samanta—Bhadra (who, in turn, is often personified in Vairochana, the Chief of the Five Dhyāni Buddhas), the ādi—Buddha, the Primordial, the Unborn, Unshaped, Unmodified Dharma—Kāya.

When the perfection of the Divine Body—Aggregate is attained by man, it becomes the unchanging, immutable Vajra—Sattva When the perfection of the Divine Speech—Principle is attained, with it comes the power of divine speech, symbolized by Amitābha. The perfection of the Divine Thought—Principle brings divine infallibility, symbolized by Vairochana. The perfection of the Divine Qualities of Goodness and Beauty is the realization of Ratna—Sambhava, their producer. With the perfection of Divine Actions comes the realization of Amogha—Siddhi, the Omnipotent Conqueror.

To one after another of these divine attributes, or principles, innate in every human being, the deceased is introduced, as though in a symbolic drama of initiation, to test him and discover whether or not any part of his divine (or bodhic) nature has been developed. Full development in all the bodhic powers of the Five Dhyāni Buddhas, who are the personifications of them, leads to Liberation, to Buddhahood. Partial development leads to birth in one of the happier states: deva—loka the world of the devas or gods ; asura—loka, the world of the asuras or titans; nara—loka, the world of mankind.

After the Fifth Day the Bardo visions become less and less divine; the deceased sinks deeper and deeper into the morass of sangsāric hallucinations; the radiances of the higher nature fade into the lights of the lower nature. Then—the after—death dream ending as the Intermediate State exhausts itself for the percipient, the thought—forms of his mental—content all having shown themselves to him like ghostly spectres in a nightmare—he passes on from the Intermediate State into the equally illusionary state called waking, or living, either in the human world or in one of the many mansions of existence, by being born there. And thus revolves the Wheel of Life, until the one who is bound on it breaks his own bonds through Enlightenment, and there comes, as the Buddha proclaims, the Ending of Sorrow.

In Sections I to V, above, the more prominent occult teachings underlying the Bardo Thödol have been briefly expounded. In Sections VI to XII, which are to follow, the chief Bardo rites and ceremonies, the Bardo psychology, and other of the Bardo doctrines will be explained and interpreted. The last Sections, XIII to XV, will be devoted to a consideration of our manuscript, its history, the origin of the Bardo Thodol texts, and our translating and editing.

In addition lo these fifteen sections, there are, as Addenda (see pp. 211—41), six complementary sections, addressed chiefly to the student, who, more than the ordinary reader, will be interested in certain of the more abstruse doctrines and problems which arise from a careful study of the translation and its annotations.


When the death—symptoms, as described in the first sections of our text, are completed, a white cloth is thrown over the face of the corpse ; and no person then touches the corpse, in order that the culminating process of death, which ends only upon the complete separation of the Bardo body from its earth—plane counterpart, shall not be interfered with. It is commonly held that normally the process takes from three and one—half to four days, unless assisted by a priest called the hpho—bo (pron. pho—o) or ‘extractor of the consciousness—principle’; and that, even if the priest be successful in the extracting, the deceased ordinarily does not wake up to the fact of being separated from the human body until the said period of time has expired.

The hpho—bo upon his arrival, takes a seat on a mat or chair at the head of the corpse; he dismisses all lament—making relatives from the death—chamber and orders its doors and windows to be closed, so as to secure the silence necessary for the right performance of the hpho—bo service. This consists of a mystic chant containing directions for the spirit of the deceased to find its way to the Western Paradise of Amitābha, and thus escape—if karma permits—the undesirable Intermediate State. After commanding the spirit to quit the body and its attachment to living relatives and goods, the lāma examines the crown of the head of the corpse at the line of the sagittal suture, where the two parietal bones articulate, called the Aperture of Brahma’ (Skt. Brāhma—randhra), to determine if the spirit has departed thence, as it should have done; and, if the .scalp be not bald, he pulls out a few of the hairs directly over the aperture. If through accident or otherwise there be no corpse, the lāma* mentally concentrates upon the deceased, and, visualizing the body of the deceased, imagines it to be present; and, calling the spirit of the deceased, performs the ceremony, which usually lasts about one hour.

Meanwhile, the tsi—pa, or astrologer—, has been engaged to cast a death—horoscope, based upon the moment of death of the deceased, to determine what persons may approach and touch the corpse, the proper method of disposing of the corpse, the time and manner of the funeral, and the sort of rites to be performed for the benefit of the departed. Then the corpse is tied up in a sitting posture, much the same as that in which mummies and skeletons have been found in ancient graves or tombs in various parts of the world, and sometimes called the embryonic posture, symbolical of being born out of this life into the life beyond death. The corpse, so postured, is then placed in one of the corners of the death—chamber which has not been assigned to the household daemon.

Relatives and friends, having been notified of the death, gather together at the house of the deceased; and there they are fed and lodged until the corpse is disposed of. If doubt exists concerning the complete separation of the consciousness—principle (or spirit) of the deceased from the body, there is not likely to be any disposal of the corpse until three and one—half to four days after the time of the death. So long as the entertaining of the mourners continues—usually for not less than two, but more often for three days—the spirit of the deceased is offered a part of all food, both solid and liquid, of each meal. This food is placed in a bowl in front of the corpse; and then, after the spirit of the deceased has extracted from the food thus offered the subtle invisible essences, the food is thrown away. After the corpse has been removed from the house for final disposaj, an effigy of the deceased is put in the corner of the room which the corpse had occupied ; and before this effigy food continues thus to be offered until the forty—nine days of the Bardo have expired.

Whilst the funeral rites—including the reading of the Bardo Thödol —are being performed, in the house of the deceased or at the place of death, other lāmas chant by relays, all day and night, the service for assisting the spirit of the deceased to reach the Western Paradise of Amitabha. In Tibetan, this service (which the hpho—bo also chants) is called De—wa—chan—kyi—mon—lam. If the family be well—to—do, another service of like nature may be performed at the temple wherein the deceased used to worship, by all of the monks of the temple assembled.

After the funeral, the lāmas who read the Bardo Thödol return to the house of death once a week until the forty—ninth day of the Intermediate State has ended. It is not uncommon, however, for them to intermit one day of the first week and of each of the succeeding periods in order to shorten the service, so that they return after six, five, four, three, two, and one day respectively, thereby concluding the reading in about three weeks.

From the First to the Fourteenth Day, as the arrangement of Book One of our text suggests, the Chönyid Bardo is to be read and re—read, and from the Fifteenth Day onwards the Sidpa Bardo. In poorer families the rites may cease after the Fourteenth Day ; for families in better circumstances it is usual in Sikkim to continue the rites at least until the expiration of the twenty—one—day period and sometimes during the whole period of the Forty—nine Days of the Bardo. On the first day of the funeral rites, if the deceased were a man of wealth or position, as many as one hundred lāmas may assist; at the funeral of a poor man only one or two lāmas are likely to be present. After the Fourteenth Day, as a rule for all alike, only one lāma is retained to complete the reading.

The effigy of the body of the deceased is made by dressing a stool, block of wood, or other suitable object in the clothes of the deceased; and where the face should be there is inserted a printed paper called the mtshan—spyang or spyang—pu (pronounced chaug—ku), of which the following reproduction of a specimen is typical:



(i. Mirror, a. Conch. 3. Lyre. 4. Vase with flowers. 5. Holy Cake.)

In this spyang—pUy the central figure represents the deceased with legs bound and in an attitude of adoration, surrounded by symbols of’ the five excellent sensuous things’: (i) a mirror (the first of the three objects on the left and numbered i), symbolical of the body, which reflects all phenomena or sensations, and of sight as well ; (2) a conch (numbered 2) and a lyre (numbered 3), symbolical of sound ; (3) a vase of flowers (numbered 4), symbolical of smell; (4) holy cakes in a receptacle like that employed at the Roman Catholic Eucharist (numbered 5), symbolical of essence or nutriment, and of taste; (5) the silk clothes of the central figure and the overhanging royal canopy, symbolical of dress and ornamental art, and of the sense of touch. It is before such a paper figure, inserted in the effigy as a head and face, that the food offerings to the spirit of the deceased continue to be made, and to which, when visualized by the lāma as the deceased in person, the Bardo Thödol is read.

Having begun my Tibetan researches fresh from three years of research in the ancient funeral lore of the Nile Valley, I realized as soon as I gained knowledge of the Tibetan funeral rites—which are very largely pre—Buddhistic—that the effigy of the dead, as now used in Tibet and Sikkim, is so definitely akin to the effigy of the deceased called ‘the statue of the Osiris (or deceased one)’, as used in the funeral rites of ancient Egypt, as to suggest a common origin. Furthermore, the spyang—pu taken by itself alone, as the head—piece for the efligy, has its Egyptian parallel in the images made for the Ka or spirit. These sometimes were merely heads, complete in themselves, to replace or duplicate the head of the mummy and to furnish additional assistance to the Ka when seeking— as the Knower in the Bardo seeks—a body to rest in, or that which our text calls a prop for the body (see p. 182). And even as to ‘the statue of the Osiris’ the ancient priests of Egypt read their Book of the Dead, so to the Tibetan effigy the lāmas now read the Bardo Thödol —both treatises alike being nothing more than guide—books for the traveller in the realm beyond death.

Again, the preliminary rituals of the Egyptian funeral were designed to confer upon the deceased the magic power of rising up in the ghost—body or Ka possessed of all sense faculties, the service having consisted of the opening of the mouth and eyes’ and the restoration of the use of all other parts of the body. Likewise, the lāmas* aim, at the outset, is to restore complete consciousness to the deceased after the swoon—state immediately following death, and to accustom him to the unfamiliar environment of the Otherworld, assuming that he be, like the multitude, one of the unenlightened, and thus incapable of immediate emancipation.

In conformity with our own view, that that part of the Tibetan funeral rites directly concerned with the effigy and the spyang—pu has come down to our day as a survival from pre—Buddhist, probably very ancient, times, Dr. L. A. Waddell writes of it as follows: ‘This is essentially a Bön rite, and is referred to as such in the histories of Guru Pad ma Sambhava, as being practised by the Bön i. e. the religion prevalent in Tibet before the advent of Buddhism, and, in its transcendentalism, much like Taoism, and as having incurred the displeasure of the Guru Padma Sambhava, the founder of Låmaism.’

Of the spyang—pu itself, Dr. Waddell adds: ‘Its inscription as in our copy above usually runs:

‘I, the world—departing One, . . . (and here is inserted the name of the deceased), adore and take refuge in my lāma— confessor, and all the deities, both mild translated by us as “peaceful” and wrathful; and may “the Great Pitier”forgive my accumulated sins and impurities of former lives, and show me the way to another good world !’

At the left shoulder of the central figure of the spyang—pu, as in our copy, and sometimes down the middle In other copies, are inscribed phonetic symbols referring to the six worlds of sangsāric existence, translated as follows :

S = surety or god, referring to the deva— world ;

A = asura, or titan, referring to the asura—world;

Na = nara, or man, referring to the human—world ;

Tri = trisan, or brute animal, referring to the brute—world;

Pre spreta, or unhappy ghost, referring to the hell—world.

and Hung (from hunu, meaning ‘fallen’) = hell, referring to the hell—world.

At the termination of the funeral rites the spyang—pu or face—paper is ceremoniously burned in the flame of a butter—lamp, and the spirit of the deceased given a final farewell. By the colour of the flame and the way in which the flame acts the after—death fate which the deceased has met with is determined.

The ashes of the cremated spyang—pu are collected in a plate, and then, upon being mixed with clay, are made into miniature stupas called sa—tschha usually in moulds leaving impressions either of symbolical ornamentation or of sacred letters. One is kept for the family altar in the home of the deceased, and the rest are deposited in a sheltered place at a cross—roads or on a hill—top, usually under a projecting ledge of rock, or in a cave if there happens to be a cave.

With the burning of the paper, the rest of the effigy of the deceased is taken apart, the clothes going to the lanías who carry them off and sell them to the first purchaser, keeping the proceeds as part of their fee. When one year has elapsed after the death, a feast in honour of the deceased is usually given and the service of the Medical Buddhas is performed.Thereafter, a widow of the deceased is free to remarry.3

Connected with the Tibetan funeral itself there is much interesting ritual. Thus, when the officiating lāma is preparing to assist at the removal of the corpse from the house, he presents a ‘scarf of honour’ to the corpse and, addressing the corpse as the deceased, advises it to partake freely of the food offered, warns it that it is dead and that its ghost must not haunt the place or trouble living relatives, saying in conclusion, * Remember the name of thy spiritual Jzrøø—teacher, which is ... so and so, and by his aid take the right path— the white one. Come this way!’

Then, as the lāma begins to lead the funeral procession, he takes hold of one end of the long scarf, the other end having been tied to the corpse, and begins to chant a liturgy to the accompaniment of a miniature hand—drum (having loose—hanging knotted cords attached, which, striking the drum as it is twirled by the hand of the lāma cause it to sound) and of a trumpet made of a human thigh—bone. When there are a number of priests, the chief priest, going before the rest, rings a handbell (as the Breton priest does in a Breton peasant funeral procession), and the other priests assist with the chanting and the music, one blowing at intervals the sacred conch—shell, another clashing brass cymbals, and perhaps another twirling the small drum, or blowing the thigh—bone trumpet. From time to time the chief lāma looks back to invite the spirit to accompany the body and to assure it that the route is in the right direction. After the corpse—bearers come the main body of mourners, some bearing refreshments (to be in part cast on the funeral—pyre for the benefit of the deceased and in part partaken of by the priests and mourners), and last of all the weeping and wailing relatives. Such priestly guiding of the deceased’s spirit is for the laity alone, for the spirits of deceased lāmas, having been trained in the doctrines of the Bardo Thödol, know the right path and need no guidance.

In Tibet itself all known religious methods of disposing of a corpse are in vogue; but, owing to lack of fuel for purposes of cremation, ordinarily the corpse, after having been carried to a hill—top or rocky eminence, is chopped to pieces and, much after the Parsee custom in Persia and Bombay, given to the birds and beasts of prey. If the corpse be that of a nobleman, whose family can well afford a funeral pyre, it may be cremated. In some remote districts earth burial is customary; and it is commonly employed everywhere when death has been caused by a very contagious and dangerous disease, like small—pox for example. Otherwise, Tibetans generally object to earth burial, for they believe that when a corpse is interred the spirit of the deceased, upon seeing it, attempts to re—enter it, and that if the attempt be successful a vampire results, whereas cremation, or other methods of quickly dissipating the elements of the dead body, prevent vampirism. Sometimes, too, as among the Hindus, corpses are cast into rivers or other bodies of water. In the case of the Dalái LāMa and the Tashi LāMa, and of some very great man or saint, embalming is practised; and the corpse, in a way somewhat resembling the ancient Egyptian embalming process, is packed in a box of marsh salt, usually for about three months, or until the salt has absorbed all the watery parts of the corpse. Then, after the corpse is well cured, it is coated with a cement—like substance made of clay, pulverized sandal—wood, spices, and drugs. This adheres and hardens ; and all the sunken or shrivelled parts of the body, such as the eyes, cheeks, and stomach, having been rounded out by it to their natural proportions, a very Egyptian—like mummy is produced. Finally, when thoroughly dried and then covered with a paint made of dissolved gold, the mummy is set up like an image in a sort of Tibetan Westminster Abbey.

At Shigatze, the seat of the Tashi LāMa, there are five such funereal temples. With their double roofs, resplendent with gold, they resemble the palaces or royal shrines of China. In size and embellishment they differ, in accordance with the rank and wealth of the mummies occupying them, some being inlaid with gold, some with silver. Before these enshrined mummies prayer is offered up, incense burnt, and elaborate rituals are performed, as in the ancestral cults of the Chinese and Japanese.

The four Northern Buddhist methods of disposing of a corpse correspond to those mentioned in various of the sacred books of the Hindus: a human body is said to consist of four elements,—earth, water, air, and fire,——and it should be returned to these elements as quickly as possible. Cremation is considered the best method to adopt. Earth—burial, as among Christians also, is the returning of the body to the element Earth; water—burial is the returning of the body to the element Water, air—burial, to the element Air—the birds which devour the corpse being the denizens of the air; and fire—burial, or cremation, the returning of the body to the element Fire.

When air—burial is adopted in Tibet, even the bones of the corpse, after the birds have stripped them of flesh, are disposed of by being hammered to bits in small cavities in the rocks of the funereal hill, then mixed with flour and formed into a dough and given to the birds to devour. The Tibetan air—burial is thus more thorough than that of the Parsees, who allow the bones of their dead to remain in the air and slowly decompose.

In a Tibetan funeral of the ordinary sort, neither a coffin nor any corpse—receptacle is used. The corpse after being laid upon its back on a sheet or piece of cloth spread over a framework, commonly made of a light material like wicker affixed to two poles, is covered with a pure white cloth. Two men, inserting their heads between the projecting ends of the two poles, act as pall—bearers. In Sikkim, however, the corpse is carried thus sitting, in the embryonic posture described above.

Both in Sikkim and in Tibet every funeral is conducted in strict accordance with the directions which have been given by the astrologer who cast the death—horoscope, indicating who shall touch or handle the corpse, who shall carry it, and the form of the burial. The astrologer also declares what kind of evil spirit caused the death, for in popular belief—as also among the Celtic peoples of Europe— no death is natural, but is always owing to interference by one of the innumerable death—demons. The astrologer announces, too, what ceremonies are necessary to exorcize the death—demon from the house of death, what special rituals need to be read for the benefit of the spirit of the deceased, the precautions necessary to secure for the deceased a good rebirth, and the country and sort of family in which the rebirth will occur.

In Sikkim, on the space of ground levelled for the funeral—pyre, a mystic diagram, symbolical of the Happy Realm of Sukhavati, or the Red Western Realm of Happiness (see text, p. 113), is outlined with flour and divided into compartments, the central space (upon which the funeral—pyre is built) being dedicated to the Dhyānī Buddha Amitābha. At the beginning of the cremation ceremonies the chief lāma visualizes the funeral—pyre as being the mándala of Amitābha, and the fire as being Amitābha, who, as in our text (see p. 113), personifies the element Fire. Then the corpse itself, when laid upon the pyre, is visualized as the mándala of Amitābha and its heart as the dwelling—place of Amitābha. As the fire begins to grow in volume, sweet—smelling oils and spices and sandal—wood and incense—sticks are cast into it in sacrifice, as in the Hindu ritual of Homa, or sacrifice to fire. Finally, as the cremation ceremonies end, the priests and the mourners visualize the spirit of the departed as being purged of all karmic obscurations by the fire which is Amitābha, the Incomprehensible Light.

Such, in brief, is the mysticism underlying the beautiful rites performed for the dead at the place of cremation in Sikkim.

In all other forms of burial, throughout Tibet or territories under Tibetan influence, a parallel or corresponding funeral service, based on the same symbolical rituals, is performed, with variations according to sect and province.


From the moment of death and for three and one—half or sometimes four days afterwards, the Knower, or principle of consciousness, in the case of the ordinary person deceased, is believed to be thus in a sleep or trance—state, unaware, as a rule, that it has been separated from the human—plane body. This period is the First Bardo, called the Chikhai Bardo (Tib. Hchi—khahi Bar—do) or Transitional State of the Moment of Death, wherein dawns the Clear Light, first in primordial purity, then the percipient, being unable to recognize it, that is to say, to hold on to and remain in the transcendental state of the unmodified mind concomitant with it, perceives it karmically obscured, which is its secondary aspect. When the First Bardo ends, the Knower, awakening to the fact that death has occurred, begins to experience the Second Bardo, called the Chönyid Bardo (Tib. Chös—nyid Bar—do), or ‘Transitional State of the Experiencing or Glimpsing of Reality’; and this merges into the Third Bardo, called the Sidpa (or Sidpai) Bardo (Tib. Srid—pahi Bar—do) >* or ‘Transitional State of or while seeking Rebirth’, which ends when the principle of consciousness has taken rebirth in the human or some other world, or in one of the paradise realms.

As explained in Section III, above, the passing from one Bardo to another is analogous to the process of birth ; the Knower wakes up out of one swoon or trance state and then another, until the Third Bardo ends. On his awakening in the Second Bardo, there dawn upon him in symbolic visions, one by one, the hallucinations created by the karmic reflexes of actions done by him in the earth—plane body. What he has thought and what he has done become objective: thought—forms, having been consciously visualized and allowed to take root and grow and blossom and produce, now pass in a solemn and mighty panorama, as the consciousness—content of his personality.

In the Second Bardo, the deceased is, unless otherwise enlightened, more or less under the delusion that although lie is deceased he still possesses a body like the body of flesh and blood. When he comes to realize that really he has no such body, he begins to develop an overmastering desire to possess one; and, seeking for one, the karmic predilection for sangsāric existence naturally becoming all—determining, he enters into the Third Bardo of seeking Rebirth, and eventually, with his rebirth in this or some other world, the after—death state comes to an end.

For the commonalty, this is the normal process; but for those very exceptional minds, possessed of great yogic knowledge and enlightenment, only the more spiritual stages of the Bardo of the first few days will be experienced; the most enlightened of yogis may escape all of the Bardo, passing into a paradise realm, or else reincarnating in this world as soon as the human body has been discarded, maintaining all the while unbroken continuity of consciousness. As men think, so are they, both here and hereafter, thoughts being things, the parents of all actions, good and bad alike; and, as the sowing has been, so will the harvest be.

If escape from the Intermediate State is not achieved, through rebirth into some other state—that of Hell being possible for the very exceptional evil—doer, though not for the ordinary person, who expiates normal moral delinquencies upon being reborn as a human being—within the symbolic period of Forty—nine Days, a period whose actual duration is determined by karma, the deceased remains subject to all the karmic illusions of the Bardo, blissful or miserable as the case may be, and progress is impossible. Apart from liberation by gaining Nirvana after death—thus cutting asunder for ever the karmic bonds of worldly or sangsāric existence in an illusionary body of propensities—the only hope for the ordinary person of reaching Buddhahood lies in being reborn as a human being; for birth in any other than the human world causes delay for one desirous of reaching the Final Goal.


Definite psychological significance attaches to each of the deities appearing in the Bardo Thödol; but, in order to grasp it, the student must bear in mind that—as suggested above— the apparitional visions seen by the deceased in the Intermediate State are not visions of reality, but nothing more than the hallucinatory embodiments of the thought—forms born of the mental—content of the percipient; or, in other words, they are the intellectual impulses which have assumed personified form in the after—death dream—state.

Accordingly, the Peaceful Deities (Tib. ZH—wa) are the personified forms of the sublimest human sentiments, which proceed from the psychic heart—centre. As such, they are represented as the first to dawn, because, psychologically speaking, the heart—born impulses precede the brain—born impulses. They come in peaceful aspect to control and to influence the deceased whose connexion with the human world has just been severed; the deceased has left relatives and friends behind, works unaccomplished, desires unsatisfied, and, in most cases, he possesses a strong yearning to recover the lost opportunity afforded by human embodiment for spiritual enlightenment. But, in all his impulses and yearnings, karma is all—masterful; and, unless it be his karmic lot to gain liberation in the first stages, he wanders downwards into the stages wherein the heart—impulses give way to brain—impulses.

Whereas the Peaceful Deities are the personifications of the feelings, the Wrathful Deities (Tib. To—zvo) are the personifications of the reasonings and proceed from the psychic brain—centre. Yet, just as impulses arising in the heart—centre may transform themselves into the reasonings of the brain—centre, so the Wrathful Deities are the Peaceful Deities in a changed aspect.

As the intellect comes into activity, after the sublime heart—born impulses subside, the deceased begins to realize more and more the state in which he is; and with the supernormal faculties of the Bardo—body which he begins to make use of— in much the same manner as an infant new—born in the human world begins to employ the human plane sense—faculties—he is enabled to think how he may win this or that state of existence. Karma is, however, still his master, and defines his limitations. As on the human plane the sentimental impulses are most active in youth and often lost in mature life, wherein reason commonly takes the place of them, so on the after—death plane, called the Bardo, the first experiences are happier than the later experiences.

From another aspect, the chief deities themselves are the embodiments of universal divine forces, with which the deceased is inseparably related, for through him, as being the microcosm of the macrocosm, penetrate all impulses and forces, good and bad alike. Samanta—Bhadra, the All—Good, thus personifies Reality, the Primordial Clear Light of the Unborn, Unshaped Dharina Kāya (cf. p. 95). Vairochana is the Originator of all phenomena, the Cause of all Causes. As the Universal Father, Vairochana manifests or spreads forth as seed, or semen, all things; his shakti, the Mother of Great Space, is the Universal Womb into which the seed falls and evolves as the world—systems. Vajra—Sattva symbolizes Immutability. Ratna—Sambhava is the Beautifier, the Source of all Beauty in the Universe. Amitābha is Infinite Compassion and Love Divine, the Christos. Amogha—Siddhi is the personification of Almighty Power or Omnipotence. And the minor deities, heroes, dåkinls (or ‘fairies’), goddesses, lords of death, råk—s/iasas, demons, spirits, and all others, correspond to definite human thoughts, passions, and impulses, high and low, human and sub—human and superhuman, in karmic* form, as they take shape from the seeds of thought forming the percipient’s consciousness—content (cf. p. 219).

As the Bardo Th’ódol text makes very clear by repeated assertions, none of all these deities or spiritual beings has any real individual existence any more than have human beings: ‘It is quite sufficient for thee i. e. the deceased percipient to know that these apparitions are the reflections of thine own thought—forms’ (p. 104). They are merely the consciousness—content visualized, by karmic agency, as apparitional appearances in the Intermediate State—airy nothings woven into dreams.

The complete recognition of this psychology by the deceased sets him free into Reality. Therefore is it that the Bardo Thödoly as the name implies, is The Great Doctrine of Liberation by Hearing and by Seeing.

The deceased human being becomes the sole spectator of a marvellous panorama of hallucinatory visions; each seed of thought in his consciousness—content karmically revives; and he, like a wonder—struck child watching moving pictures cast upon a screen, looks on, unaware, unless previously an adept in yoga of the non—reality of what he sees dawn and set.

At first, the happy and glorious visions born of the seeds of the impulses and aspirations of the higher or divine nature awe the uninitiated ; then, as they merge into the visions born of the corresponding mental elements of the lower or animal nature, they terrify him, and he wishes to flee from them ; but, alas, as the text explains, they are inseparable from himself, and to whatsoever place he may wish to flee they will follow him.

It is not necessary to suppose that all the dead in the Intermediate State experience the same phenomena, any more than all the living do in the human world, or in dreams. The Bardo Thödol is merely typical and suggestive of all after—death experiences. It merely describes in detail what is assumed will be the Bardo visualizations of the consciousness—content of the ordinary devotee of the Red Hat School of Padma Sambhava. As a man is taught, so he believes. Thoughts being things, they may be planted like seeds in the mind of the child and completely dominate his mental content. Given the favourable soil of the will to believe, whether the seed—thoughts be sound or unsound, whether they be of pure superstition or of realizable truth, they take root and flourish, and make the man what he is mentally.

Accordingly, for a Buddhist of some other School, as for a Hindu, or a Moslem, or a Christian, the Bardo experiences would be appropriately different: the Buddhist’s or the Hindu’s thought—forms, as in a dream state, would give rise to corresponding visions of the deities of the Buddhist or Hindu pantheon; a Moslem’s, to visions of the Moslem Paradise; a Christian’s, to visions of the Christian Heaven, or an American Indian’s to visions of the Happy Hunting Ground. And, similarly, the materialist will experience after—death visions as negative and as empty and as deityless as any he ever dreamt while in the human body. Rationally considered, each person’s after—death experiences, as the Bardo Thödol teaching implies, are entirely dependent upon his or her own mental content. In other words, as explained above, the after—death state is very much like a dream state, and its dreams are the children of the mentality of the dreamer. This psychology scientifically explains why devout Christians, for example, have had—if we are to accept the testimony of Christian saints and seers—visions (in a trance or dream state, or in the after—death state) of God the Father seated on a throne in the New Jerusalem, and of the Son at Plis side, and of all the Biblical scenery and attributes of Heaven, or of the Virgin and Saints and Archangels, or of Purgatory and Hell.

In other words, the Bardo Thödol seems to be based upon verifiable data of human physiological and psychological experiences; and it views the problem of the after—death state as being purely a psycho—physical problem; and is, therefore, in the main, scientific. It asserts repeatedly that what the percipient on the Bardo plane sees is due entirely to his own mental—content; that there are no visions of gods or of demons, of heavens or of hells, other than those born of the hallucinatory karmic thought—forms constituting his personality, which is an—impermanent product arising from the thirst for existence and from the will to live and to believe.

From day to day the Bardo visions change, concomitant with the eruption of the thought—forms of the percipient, until their karmic driving force exhausts itself; or, in other words, the thought—forms, born of habitual propensities, being mental records comparable as has already been suggested to records on a cinema—film, their reel running to its end, the after—death state ends, and the Dreamer, emerging from the womb, begins to experience anew the phenomena of the human world.

The Bible of the Christians, like the Koran of the Moslems, never seems to consider that the spiritual experiences in the form of hallucinatory visions by prophet or devotee, reported therein, may, in the last analysis, not be real. But the Bardo Thödol is so sweeping in its assertions that it leaves its reader with the clear—cut impression that every vision, without any exception whatsoever, in which spiritual beings, gods or demons, or paradises or places of torment and purgation play a part, in a Bardo or any Bardo—like dream or ecstasy, is purely illusionary, being based upon sangsāric phenomena.

The whole aim of the Bardo Thödol teaching, as otherwise stated elsewhere, is to cause the Dreamer to awaken into Reality, freed from all the obscurations of karmic or sangsāric illusions, in a supramundane or Nirvånic state, beyond all phenomenal paradises, heavens, hells, purgatories, or worlds of embodiment. In this way, then, it is purely Buddhistic and unlike any non—Buddhist book in the world, secular or religious.


The Judgement Scene as described in our text and that described in the Egyptian Book of the Dead seem so much alike in essentials as to suggest that common origin, at present unknown, to which we have already made reference. In the Tibetan version, Dharma—Raja (Tib. Shinje—ckho—gyal) King of the Dead (commonly known to Theravādists as Yama—Rāja), the Buddhist and Hindu Pluto, as a Judge of the Dead, corresponds to Osiris in the Egyptian version. In both versions alike there is the symbolical weighing: before Dharma—Rāja there are placed on one side of the balance black pebbles and on the other side white pebbles, symbolizing evil and good deeds; and similarly, before Osiris, the heart and the feather (or else in place of the feather an image of the Goddess of Truth which it symbolizes) are weighed one against the other, the— heart representing the conduct or conscience of the deceased and the feather righteousness or truth.

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the deceased, addressing his heart, says: Raise not thyself in evidence against me. Be not mine adversary before the Divine Circle; let there be no fall of the scale against me in the presence of the great god, Lord of Amenta.’ In the Egyptian Judgement Scene it is the ape—headed (less commonly the ibis—headed) Thoth, god of wisdom, who supervises the weighing; in the Tibetan Judgement Scene it is the monkey—headed Shinje ; and in both scenes there is the jury of deities looking on, some animal—headed, some human—headed. In the Egyptian version there is a monstrous creature waiting to devour the deceased should the deceased be condemned, whilst in the Tibetan version devils wait to conduct the evil—doer to the hell—world of purgation; and the record—board which Thoth is sometimes depicted as holding corresponds to the Mirror of Karma held by Dharma—Raja or, as in some versions, by one of the divine jury. Furthermore, in both Books of the Dead, the deceased when first addressing the Judge pleads that he has done no evil. Before Osiris, this plea seems to be accepted all the texts now known; before Dharma—Rāja it is subject to the test of the Mirror of Karma*, and this seems to be distinctly an Indian and Buddhist addition to the hypothetical prehistoric version, whence arose the Egyptian and the Tibetan versions, the Egyptian being the less affected.

Plato, too, in recording the other—world adventures of Er, in the tenth book of the Republic, describes a similar Judgement, in which there are judges and kannic record—boards (affixed to the souls judged) and paths—one for the good, leading to Heaven, one for the evil, leading to Hell—and demons waiting to take the condemned souls to the place of punishment, quite as in the Bardo Thödol (see p. 49).

The purgatorial lore now Christianized and associated with St. Patrick in the originally pagan St. Patrick’s Purgatory in Ireland, the whole cycle of Otherworld and Rebirth legends of the Celtic peoples connected with their Fairy—Faith, and similar Proserpine lore recorded in the Sacred Books of mankind the world over, as well as the Semitic doctrines of heaven and hell and judgement, and of resurrection as the Christianized corruption of a pre—Christian and Jewish rebirth doctrine, as also the passage in Plato, all testify to beliefs universal among mankind, probably far older than the oldest of ancient records from Babylon or from Egypt.

The painting of the Tibetan Judgement Scene as reproduced herein (see opposite p. 166) was made, in strict accord with monastic tradition, in Gangtok, Sikkim, during the year 1919, by Lharipa—Pempa—Tendup—La, a Tibetan artist then sojourning there. An early prototype of it was, until quite recently, preserved as one of the old frescoes contained within the pictorial Wheel of Life of the Tashiding temple—picture in Sikkim, which Dr, L. A. Waddell has described as follows: The judgement is in every case meted out by the impartial Shinje—chho—gyal or “ Religious King of the Dead” Dharma—Rāja a form of Yama, the Hindu god of the dead, who holds a mirror in which the naked soul is reflected, while his servant Shinje* weighs out in scales the good as opposed to the bad deeds; the former being represented by white pebbles, and the latter by black.’ And Dr. Waddell has traced back the origin of the picture to a similar Wheel of Life, commonly, though incorrectly, known as the Zodiac’ in the verandah of the Ajantā Cave No. XVII, India. (See p. 56.) This, then, establishes the antiquity of the Judgement Scene, of which our text contains one version.

Throughout the canonical and apocryphal literature of Northern Buddhism other versions are numerous. In the Pali canon of Southern Buddhism there are parallel versions, for example in the Devadüta Vagga of the Anguttara NiKāya> and in the Devadüta Süttam of the Majjhima NiKāya. The latter version may be summarized as follows: The Exalted One, the Buddha, while sojourning at the Jetavana Monastery, addresses the monks assembled therein concerning the after—death state of existence. Like a man of clear vision, sitting between two houses, each with six doors, He beholds all who come and go; the one house symbolizing the Bardo or state of disembodied existence, the other the embodied state of existence, and the twelve doors the six entrances and the six exits of the six Jokas. Then, after explaining the manner in which kanna governs all states of existence, the Buddha describes how the evil—doer is brought before the King of Death and questioned about the Five Messengers of Death.

The first messenger is symbolized by a new—born babe lying on its back; and the message is that even for it, as for all living creatures, old age and death are inevitable. The second messenger comes in the guise of an aged person, eighty, ninety, or a hundred years of age, decrepit, crooked as the curved rafter of a gabled roof, leaning on a staff, trembling as he walks, pathetically miserable, with youth entirely gone, broken—toothed, grey—haired and nearly bald, and with wrinkled brow; and his message is that the babe but grows up and matures and decays to become a victim of Death. The third messenger, a person confined by illness, rolling in his own filth, unable to rise or to lie down without the aid of an attendant, brings the message that disease, too, is inevitable, even as death. The fourth messenger, a thief undergoing most terrible punishment, bears the message that the punishment for evil—doing in this world is as nothing compared to the punishment which karma inflicts after death. The fifth messenger, to emphasize the same message of death and the corruptibility of the body, is a corpse, swollen, discoloured, and putrid.

In each instance, King Yama asks the deceased if he had seen the messenger and receives the reply,’ No Then the King explains to him who the messenger was and the meaning of the messages; and the deceased, thereby remembering, is obliged to confess that, not having done good deeds, he had not acted upon the messages, but had done evil instead, forgetting the inevitability of death. Thereupon, Yama pronounces the judgement, that since the deceased had failed to do good he must suffer the kannic consequences. Accordingly, the hell—furies take the deceased and cause him to suffer five sorts of purgatorial punishments; and, though he suffers most unbearable pains, he is, as the Bardo Th’ódol makes clear, incapable of dying

In the Angnttara NiKāya version, wherein there are but three messengers, the aged person, the man or woman overcome with disease, and the corpse, the Buddha concludes the discourse thus:

‘If men who have been warned by heavenly messengers have been indifferent as regards religion they suffer long, being born in a low condition.

‘If virtuous men have been warned by heavenly messengers in this world, they do not neglect to profess the holy doctrines. Seeing the danger of attachment, which is the cause of birth and death, they have in this life extinguished the miseries of existence by arriving at a condition free from fear, happy and free from passions and sins’


In examining the Rebirth Doctrine, more particularly as it presents itself in our text, two interpretations must be taken into account: the literal or exoteric interpretation, which is the popular interpretation; and the symbolical or esoteric interpretation, which is held to be correct by the initiated few, who claim not scriptural authority or belief, but knowledge. With respect to Tibet, these few are chiefly learned lāmas who are said to have made successful application of methods like those which the Buddha expounded for remembering past incarnations, and for acquiring the yoglc power of seeing what really takes place in the natural process of death and rebirth. To the devotee, seeking thus to know rather than merely to believe on the authority of priests or books, the Buddha has offered the following guidance:

‘If he desireth to be able to call to mind his various temporary states in days gone by, such as one birth, two births, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred, a thousand, or a hundred thousand births, his births in many an aeon of destruction, in many an aeon of renovation, in many an aeon of both destruction and renovation so as to be able to say : “ In that place such was my name, such my family, such my caste, such my subsistence, such my experience of comfort or of pain, and such the limit of my life; and when I passed from thence I took form again in that other place, where my name was so and so, such my family, such my caste, such my subsistence, such my experience of comfort or of pain, and such my term of life; and from thence I was born here—thus I am able to call to mind my various temporary states of existence in days gone by” —in that state of self—concentration, if the mind be fixed on the acquirement of any object, that object will be attained.

’ If he desireth to see with pure and heavenly vision, surpassing that of men, beings as they pass from one state of existence and take form in others—beings base or noble, good—looking or ill—favoured, happy or miserable, according to the karma they inherit—in that state of self—concentration, if the mind be fixed on the acquirement of any object, that object will be attained’ (Lonaphala Vagga, Anguttara NiKāya).

Again in the Brāhmana Vagga> Anguttara NiKāya, where the yogh method of recovering from the content of the sub—consciousness (which—in confirmation of the Buddha’s psycho logy—the science of the West has now proven ‘is the abode of everything that is latent’ ) is likewise described, there is this additional passage: Thus he callcth to mind the various appearances and forms of his previous births. This is the first stage of his knowledge; his ignorance as regards prior births hath vanished, and his knowledge as regards prior births hath arisen: darkness hath departed, and light hath arrived, the result due to one who liveth in meditation, subduing his passions promptly.’

Nowhere, to our knowledge, are there nowadays—as there are said to have been in Buddhaghosa’s time— —yogis among Southern Buddhists who have carried this practice to a successful issue. It is only among Northern Buddhists (as among Hindus) that such yoga seems to be, according to trustworthy evidence from well—informed Tibetans and Indians, a practically applied science even until now, producing modern saints, some few of whom are believed worthy to be called perfected saints, or Arhants.

As the question, What is and is not the right interpretation of the Rebirth Doctrine ? is by no means settled among the Oriental peoples who hold the Doctrine, it is necessary for us frankly to recognize the problem as highly controversial. Consequently in this Section we should try to weigh both interpretations carefully; and, if possible, arrive at a sound conclusion, in order to guide the student aright in what is the most fundamental doctrine underlying the Bardo ThödoL In doing so, it seems desirable to invoke the aid of such facts of Western Science as appear to be directly applicable.

As to the esoteric interpretation, the editor has discovered that the initiates who hold to it invariably follow the Buddha’s command as contained in the K alarna Sütta, Angttttara NiKāya, or else the Hindu equivalent in works on Yoga, not to accept any doctrine as true until it be tested, and proven true, even though it be * found written in the Scriptures’; and they hold no Scriptures to be infallible, on this or any doctrine, or free from corruptions, Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan, or others.

The exoteric interpretation, namely that the human stream of consciousness, that is to say, the human life—flux, not only can, but very often does take re—embodiment in sub—human creatures immediately after having been in human form, is accepted universally by Buddhists, both of the Northern and Southern Schools—as by Hindus—who, referring to Scriptures, invariably regard it as being incontrovertible. Their belief, being based on the authority of written records, and on untested theories of gurus and priests who consider the literally interpreted written records to be infallible and who are not adept in yoga, is nowadays considered to be the orthodox interpretation.

Over against the exoteric interpretation, which, without any doubt, the Bardo Thödol, if read literally, conveys, the esoteric interpretations may be stated—on the authority of the various philosophers, both Hindu and Buddhist, from whom the editor has received instruction—as follows:

The human form (but not the divine nature in man) is a direct inheritance from the sub—human kingdoms; from the lowest forms of life it has evolved, guided by an evergrowing and ever—changing life—flux, potentially consciousness, which figuratively may be called the seed of the life—force, connected with or overshadowing each sentient creature, being in its essence psychical. As such, it is the evolving principle, the principle of continuity, the principle capable of acquiring knowledge and understanding of its own nature, the principle whose normal goal is Enlightenment. And, just as the physical seed of a vegetable or animal organism— even man’s seed—is seen by the eyes to be capable of producing after its own kind only, so with that which figuratively may be called the psychical seed of the life—flux which the eyes cannot see—if of a human being it cannot incarnate in, or overshadow, or be intimately bound up with a body foreign to its evolved characteristics, either in this world, in Bardo, or in any realm or world of sangsāric existence This is held to be a natural law governing the manifestation of life, as inviolable as the law of karma which sets it into operation.

For a human life—flux to flow into the physical form of a dog, or fowl, or insect, or worm, is, therefore, held to be as impossible as would be—let us say—the transferring of the waters of Lake Michigan into the depression occupied by the waters of Lake Killarney, or—as the Hindu would say—as putting into the bed of the Ganges River the waters of the Indian Ocean.

Degeneration, in a highly developed flowering plant, or apple, or vegetable, or wheat, or animal, is, of course, concomitant with cultural neglect; but within this creation period—at least so far as the physical vision of science has penetrated therein—the flowering plant does not degenerate into the apple, nor into the corn, nor one species of animals into another, nor does man degenerate into anything but the savage man—never into a sub—human creature. As to the processes affecting the life—flux which the human eye cannot see, the esoteric teaching coincides with that of the ancient Greek and Egyptian mystics: ‘As below, so above’; which implies that there is one harmonious karmic law governing with unwavering and impartial justice the visible as well as the invisible operations of nature.

From this follows the corollary, which the Oriental advocates of the esoteric interpretation give out: Progression or retrogression—never an unchanging neutral state of inactivity— are the alternatives within the Sangsāra) and the one or the other, within any of the mansions of existence, cannot lead the life—flux to the threshold of that mansion—neither the sub—human to the human, nor the human to the subhuman—save step by step. And retrogression and progression alike are time—processes: ages pass ere the fire—mist becomes the solidified planet; an Enlightened One is the rare fruit of unknown myriads of embodiments; and man, the highest of the animal—beings, cannot become the lowest of the animal—beings, no matter how heinous his sins, at one bound.

Given ages of continual retrogression, the life—flux which is now human may cease to be human, the human constituents of it becoming atrophied or latent through lack of exercise, in much the same way as atrophy overcomes the activity of a bodily organ or function which is not used. Thereupon, being no longer kinetically, but merely potentially human—just as a dog or horse or elephant are potentially, but not kinetically, human—that life—flux can and ordinarily would fall back into the sub—human kingdoms, whence it may begin anew to rise upwards to the human state or continue to retrograde even below the brute world.

The late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, the translator, has left on record his own complementary opinion, as follows: ‘The forty—nine days of the Bardo symbolize ages either of evolution or of degeneration. Intellects able to grasp Truth do not fall into the lower conditions of existence.

‘The doctrine of the transmigration of the human to the sub—human may apply solely to the lower or purely brutish constituents of the human principle of consciousness; for the Knower* itself neither incarnates nor re—incarnates—it is the Spectator.

‘In the Bardo Thödol> the deceased is represented as retrograding, step by step, into lower and lower states of consciousness. Each step downwards is preceded by a swooning into unconsciousness; and possibly that which constitutes his mentality on the lower levels of the Bardo is some mental element or compound of mental elements formerly a part of his earth—plane consciousness, separated, during the swooning, from higher or more spiritually enlightened elements of that consciousness. Such a mentality ought not to be regarded as on a par with a human mentality; for it seems to be a mere faded and incoherent reflex of the human mentality of the deceased. And perhaps it is some such thing as this which incarnates in sub—human animal bodies—if anything does in a literal sense.’

This theory, coming from the translator, is unusually interesting , for he expressed it while quite unaware of its similarity to the theory held esoterically by the Egyptian priests and exoterically recorded by Herodotus, who, apparently, became their pupil in the monastic college at Heliopolis. Judging from what Herodotus and others of the ancient Greeks, and Romans as well, have written touching thereon, we arrive at the following summary: The human soul was believed to remain in the after—death state during a period of three thousand years. Its human—plane body of the moment of death disintegrating, the constituents went to form the bodies of animals and plants, transmigrating from one to another during the three thousand years. At the end of that period the soul gathers together the identical particles of matter which had thus been continually transmigrating and which had constituted its former earth—plane body of the moment of death, and from them rebuilds, through habit, as a bird its nest, a new body and is reborn in it as a human being. And this theory, when amended with certain necessary modifications, helps to illustrate the symbolical or esoteric interpretation of the Bardo Rebirth Doctrine.

In further illustration, applicable to the higher Hinduism as to the higher Buddhism, advocates of this interpretation point out that even before the final dissolution of the human body of the moment of death there is incessant transmigration of the bodily atoms. So long as the body is the receptacle of the consciousness—principle, it is said to renew itself completely every seven years. And even as the constituents of the physical man thus transmigrate throughout all organic and inorganic kingdoms and the mind remains unchangedly human during the brief cycle of one life—time, so, normally, it likewise remains human during the greater evolutionary cycle—i. e. until it reaches the end of all sangsāric evolution, namely, Nirvānic Enlightenment.

The esoteric teaching concerning this may be stated literally: That which is common to the human and to the sub—human worlds alike, namely, matter in its varied aspects as solids, liquids, and gases, eternally transmigrates. That which is specifically human and specifically sub—human remains so, in accordance with the law of nature that like attracts like and produces like, that all forces ever follow the line of least resistance, that such highly evolved mental compounds as are bound up with the complex human consciousness cannot be disintegrated instantaneously, but require due allowance of time for their degeneration and ultimate dissolution and transmigration.

Accordingly, the esotcricists hold it to be unscientific to believe that a human life—flux or consciousness—principle could re—incarnate in the body of a sub—human creature within forty—nine days after its extraction from the human form, as the exotericist believes who accepts literally such a rebirth doctrine as the Bardo Thödol, when viewed exoterically, or literally, presents.

The Bardo rebirth symbols themselves ought now to be considered from the standpoint of the esoteric interpretation; and to elucidate them innumerable parallels could be chosen from widely separated sources, but because of its recognized authority no parallel seems more appropriate than that contained in the tenth book of Plato’s Republic describing certain of the Greek Heroes in the Sidpa Bardo choosing their bodies for the next incarnations:

The Bardo legend as recorded in the Republic concerns Er the son of Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth, who, as Plato tells us, ‘was slain in battle, and ten days afterwards, when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay, and carried home to be buried. And on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile, he returned to life and told them what he had seen in the other world. He said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great company, and they came to a mysterious place at which there were two openings in the earth ; they were near together, and over against them were two other openings in the heaven above. In the intermediate space there were judges seated, who commanded the just, after they had given judgement on them and had bound their sentences in front of them, to ascend by the heavenly way on the right hand ; and in like manner the unjust were bidden by them to descend by the lower way on the left hand ; these also bore the symbols of their deeds, but fastened to their backs.’

Having thus described the otherworld Judgement—which closely resembles the Judgement described in our text—Plato goes on to describe the souls of the Greek Heroes in their Sidpa Bardo preparing for reincarnation: ‘Most curious, he said, was the spectacle—sad and laughable and strange; for the choice of the souls was in most cases based on their own experience of a previous life. There he saw the soul which had once been Orpheus choosing the life of a swan out of enmity to the race of women, hating to be born of a woman because they had been his murderers; he beheld also the soul of Thamyras choosing the life of a nightingale; birds, on the other hand, like the swan and other musicians, wanting to be men. The soul which obtained the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion, and this was the soul of Ajax the son of Telamón, who would not be a man, remembering the injustice which was done him in the judgement about the arms. The next was Agamemnon, who took the life of an eagle, because, like Ajax, he hated human nature by reason of his sufferings. About the middle came the lot of Atalanta; she, seeing the great fame of an athlete, was unable to resist the temptation : and after her there followed the soul of Epeius the son of Panopeus passing into the nature of a woman cunning in the arts; and far away among the last who chose, the soul of the jester Thersites was putting on the form of a monkey. There came also the soul of Odysseus having yet to make a choice, and his lot happened to be the last of them all. Now the recollection of former toils had disenchanted him of ambition, and he went about for a considerable time in search of the life of a private man who had no cares; he had some difficulty in finding thisy which was lying about and had been neglected by everybody else; and when he saw it he said that he would have done the same had his lot been first instead of last, and that he was delighted to have it. And not only did men pass into animals, but I must also mention that there were animals tame and wild which changed into one another and into corresponding human natures—the good into the gentle and the evil into the savage, in all sorts of combinations.’

If read superficially, this Platonic account of the rebirth process may be understood literally—even as the Bardo Thödol may be; and it is not impossible to imagine that Plato, as an initiate into the Greek Mysteries, who, like Herodotus, never refers to their esoteric teachings openly, but only in figurative and very often intentionally misleading phraseology, intended that it should be understood so by the uninitiated. Nevertheless, when the passage is examined closely, the exoteric doctrine of transmigration of the human into the sub—human, or vice versa, is evidently not the meaning underlying it.

The reference to the choice made by Odysseus, as italicized by us, gives the clue to the real meaning intended. Odysseus’ choice was last; each of the heroes preceding him in choosing their lot had neglected the lot of * the life of a private man who had no cares’, and Odysseus chooses this lot as the best of all.

If we consider the sort of life chosen by each of the Greeks who preceded Odysseus, we find it to be definitely symbolical of the character of the chooser:

Thus, Orpheus, the founder of the Orphic Mysteries, a divine teacher sent to instruct mankind by the god of song and music, Apollo, and held by the Greeks to have been the greatest of harp—players and the most enlightened of poets and singers, very appropriately chooses * the life of a swan’; for since immemorial time the swan has symbolized—as it still does—song and music; and Plato’s figurative language, correctly interpreted, implies that Orpheus was to reincarnate as a great poet and musician, as was but natural. To assume— as the exotericist may—that such a being as Orpheus could be born as a swan in reality thus appears to the esotericist to be untenable.

Likewise, Thamyras, an ancient Thracian bard, renowned as a harp—player and singer, symbolically chooses the life of the sweet—singing nightingale.

Ajax, the Homeric hero, who, next to Achilles, was the bravest of the Greeks, most fittingly chooses the life of a lion ; for the king of beasts is, and has been for unknown ages, the symbol denoting bravery or fearlessness, which almost all nations and races of men have recognized.

Agamemnon, the next to choose, selects the life of an eagle; for among Greek heroes he was the chief, as Zeus was among the gods of Olympus; and, he having been regarded as an incarnation of Zeus and worshipped as one of the divinities, there is assigned to him the symbol of Zeus, which is the eagle.

Atalanta, the most swift—footed of mortals and famous for her foot—races with her many suitors, very naturally is reborn as a great athlete; and, in her case, Plato uses no symbol. Nor is a symbol used in connexion with Epeius, who, noted for his cunning in constructing the wooden horse at the siege of Troy, and whose cowardice afterwards became proverbial, is seen ‘passing into the nature of a woman cunning in the arts’.

As to the jester Thersites, who puts on the form of a monkey, comment is unnecessary.

Accordingly, the expressions concerning the heroes’ hatred of being born of woman seem to be purely metaphorical and employed to carry out logically the literary use of the animal—symbols, just as the passages are concerning ‘animals tame and wild which changed into one another and into corresponding human natures— the good into the gentle and the evil into the savage in all sorts of combinations’, and of ‘birds, on the other hand, like the swan and other musicians, wanting to be men’.

Even the ordinary soul, the first seen by Er to make choice—although neither an incarnate divinity like Orpheus or Agamemnon, nor a hero like Ajax—and though possessed of a mind obscured by animal propensities, is not assigned by Plato, as he would be by a believer in the exoteric rebirth doctrine, to birth in sub—human form. In his case, too, no animal—symbol is made use of:

‘He who had the first choice came forward and in a momentchose the greatest tyranny; his mind having been darkenedby folly and sensuality, he had not thought out the wholematter before he chose, and did not at first perceive that hewas fated, among other evils, to devour his own children. . . .Now he was one of those who came from heaven, and ina former life had dwelt in a well—ordered State, but his virtuewas a matter of habit only and he had no philosophy.

And, as the Bardo Thödol teaches, in other language, in its insistence on the need of Right Knowledge to the devotee who follows the Bodhic Path, so Plato teaches:

‘For if a man had always on his arrival in this world dedicated himself from the first to sound philosophy, and hadbeen moderately fortunate in the number of the lot, he might, as the messenger reported, be happy here, and also his journey to another life and return to this, instead of being rough and underground, would be smooth and heavenly.’

With the assistance of symbols and metaphors, Pindar, Empedocles, Pythagoras, and Socrates, like Plato and the Greek Mysteries, also taught the rebirth doctrine.

On a golden funereal tablet dug up near the site of Sybaris there is the following line of an inscription: ‘And thus I escaped from the cycle, the painful, the misery—laden/This, like known Orphic teachings, is purely Buddhistic and Hindu, and suggests that in ancient Greece the rebirth doctrine was widespread, at least among Greeks of culture who had been initiated into the Mysteries.

Symbolism similar to that used by Plato has been used by the recorders of the Buddhist Scriptures as well, as, for example, in the account of the Northern School of the birth of the Buddha Himself. This latter from the Tibetan Vinaya Pitaka or Dulva (the most trustworthy and probably oldest part of the Bkah—hgyur) III, folio 452 of the copy in the East India Office, Calcutta, runs thus:

‘Now the future Buddha was in the Tushita Heaven, and knowing that his time had come, he made the five preliminary examinations : first, of the proper family in which to be born ; second, of the country ; third, of the time; fourth, of the race; fifth, of the woman. And having decided that Mahāmāyā was the right mother, in the midnight watch he entered her womb under the appearance of an elephant. Then the queen had four dreams: first, she saw a six—tusked white elephant enter her womb; second, she moved in space above; third, she ascended a great rocky mountain ; fourth, a great multitude bowed down to her.

‘The soothsayers predicted that she would bring forth a son with the thirty—two signs of the great man. “If he stay at home, he will become a universal monarch; but if he shave his hair and beard, and, putting on an orange—coloured robe, leave his home for the homeless state and renounce the world, he will become a Tāthagata, Arhant, a perfectly enlightened Buddha.”’

Again, the Jātaka —of the Southern School,—a compilation of folk—lore, folk—belief, and popular mythology touching the Buddha and his many incarnations, which crystallized round about His personality in much the same way as the matter of the Arthurian Legend crystallized round about King Arthur, during the third century after His death—attributes to Him many previous births in sub—human form ; and although the esotericist would concede that in remote aeons of evolution such incarnations could possibly have been really sub—human, he would give to such of them as may have occurred in this world—period a symbolical significance, whereas the orthodox Theravādist interprets all of them literally.

In any case, a literal interpretation of the Jåtaka —seeing that it is, according to the esotericist, essentially an exoteric treatise designed for the people—appears to be more plausible than that of the Dulva account of the Buddha’s birth. Furthermore, since there is a parallel account in the Pali Scriptures wherein the same animal symbol, namely, the six—tusked white elephant, is employed, we have here an example of the use of symbolism, definite in purpose, common to both Northern and Southern Buddhism, which even the exotericist could not but interpret symbolically.

Similarly, as the popular interpretation appears to have fundamentally shaped the Jātaka, so it may have also affected the compilation of the Bardo Thödol* for like all treatises which have had at least a germ—origin in very ancient times and then grown up by the ordinary process of amalgamating congenial material, the Bardo Thödo* as a Doctrine of Death and Rebirth, seems to have existed at first unrecorded, like almost all sacred books now recorded in Pali, Sanskrit, or Tibetan, and was a growth of unknown centuries. Then by the time it had fully developed and been set down in writing no doubt it had lost something of its primitive purity. By its very nature and religious usage, the Bardo Thodol would have been very susceptible to the influence of the popular or exoteric view; and in our own opinion it did fall under it, in such manner as to attempt the impossible, namely, the harmonizing of the two interpretations. Nevertheless, its original esotericism is still discernible and predominant. Let us take, for example, the animal—thrones of the Five Dhyāni Buddhas as it describes them, in harmony with Northern Buddhist symbolology: the Lion—throne is associated with Vairochana, the Elephant—throne with Vaira—Sattva, the Horse—throne with Ratna—Sambhava, the Peacock—throne with Ami—tābha, the Harpy—throne with Amogha—Siddhi. And, in interpreting the symbols, we find them to be poetically descriptive of the peculiar attributes of each deity: the Lion symbolizes courage or might, and sovereign power; the Elephant, immutability ; the Horse, sagacity and beauty of form; the Peacock, beauty and power of transmutation, because in popular belief it is credited with the power of eating poisons and transforming them into the beauty of its feathers; the Harpy, mightiness and conquest over all the elements. The deities, too, in the last analysis, are symbolical of particular Bodhic attributes of the Dharma—Kāya and of supramundane forces of Enlightenment emanating thence, upon which the devotee may depend for guidance along the Path to Buddhahood.

In attempting the esoteric interpretation of the animal symbols used in the Sidpa Bardo —and this interpretation finds its parallel in the esoteric interpretation obviously intended by the Sidpa Bardo episode in Plato, as in the Dulva account of the birth of the Buddha—we have sufficient Buddhist rebirth symbols whose esoteric interpretation is clearly known and generally accepted to guide us.

Dr. L. A. Waddell, a well—known authority on Lāmaism, in Låtnaism in Sikhim refers to the symbolism of the famous, but recently ruined, wall—painting of the Si—pa—i—khor—lo or Circle of Existence’ in the Tashiding monastery, Sikkim, as follows: *** This picture is one of the purest Buddhist emblems that the lāmas have preserved for us. And by its means I have been able to restore the fragment of a cycle in the verandah of Ajantā Cave No. XVII, hitherto uninterpreted, and merely known as “the Zodiac”. This picture portrays in symbolic and concrete form the three original sins and the recognized causes of rebirth (Nidānas), so as to ensure their being vividly perceived and avoided; while the evils of existence in its various forms and the tortures of the damned are intended to intimidate evil—doers.In it, the three original sins are depicted as a pig, a cock, and a snake, and their esoteric significance is given by Dr. Waddell thus: ‘The pig symbolizes the ignorance of stupidity; the cock, animal desire or lust; and the snake, anger.’1 In the accompanying symbolic illustrations of the Twelve Nidånas, only the third is an animal symbol, the others being human and figurative symbols; and this is a monkey eating fruit, symbolizing entire knowledge (Tib. nam—she ; Skt. Vijnāna)* of good and evil fruits, through tasting every fruit or sensuous experience in the manner of a roving non—philosophically guided libertine, thus engendering consciousness.

Accordingly, the animal forms and environments named in the Second Book of the Bardo Thódol (see pp. 178—9, 185) as possible forms and environments to be entered by the human consciousness—principle upon rebirth in this world may be interpreted as follows:

(1) The dog—form (like that oí the cock in ‘The Wheel ofLife’) symbolizes excessive sexuality or sensuality. It alsosymbolizes, in popular Tibetan lore, jealousy. And the dog—kennel environment symbolizes abiding in, or living in, a stateof sensuality.

(2) The pig symbolizes (as in ‘The Wheel of Life’) theignorance of stupidity dominated by lust; and selfishness

and uncleanliness as well. The pigsty environment symbolizes worldly existence dominated by these characteristics.

(3) The ant symbolizes (as it does amongst the nations ofthe West) industry, and the lust for worldly possessions; andthe ant—hill environment the dwelling under the correspondingconditions of life.

(4) The insect or grub symbolizes an earthly or grovellingdisposition, and its hole the dwelling in an environmentdominated by such disposition (see text, p. 179).

(5) The calf, kid, lamb, horse, and fowl forms mentioned(see text, pp. 178—9) symbolize, in like manner, correspondingcharacteristics common to those animals and to the highestof the animal beings, man, such as almost all civilized raceshave associated therewith, and popularly illustrated in animalmythology like that which Aesop made the basis of his Fables, In the Old Testament the visions of the prophet Ezekiel andin the New Testament the Revelation of John show how similaranimal symbolism affected even the Bible. And, in our view, should the Buddhist and Hindu exotericists re—read their ownScriptures in the light of the Science of Symbols their opposition to Esotertcism would probably be given up.

Accordingly, the animal symbols in the Sidpa Bardo — despite evident corruptions of the text and of the esoteric rebirth doctrine denoted by these symbols—should rightly be taken to imply that, in accordance with its karma, a human principle of consciousness, unless winning Emancipation, will, under the normal karmic conditions of gradual progression which govern the majority of mankind, continue to be born in a human form in this creation—period, with the mental traits or characteristics symbolized by animals. Under exceptional or abnormal karmic conditions of retrogression, it may, on the other hand, during the course of ages, gradually lose its human nature and fall back into sub—human kingdoms.

As the translator explained, we need but look round us in the human world to find the bloodthirsty tiger—man, the murderer; the lustful swine—man; the deceitful fox—man; the thieving and imitating monkey—man; the grovelling worm—man; the industrious and oft—times miserly ant—man; the ephemeral—sometimes professedly aesthetic—butterfly—man ; the strong ox—man; or the fearless lion—man. Human life is far richer in possibilities for the workings out of evil karma —no matter how animal—like the karma may be—than any sub—human species could possibly be. The illiterate folk—beliefs so common in Buddhist and Hindu lands, that a human murderer must inevitably be reborn as a ferocious beast of prey, or a sensualist as a pig or dog, or a miser as an ant, are, therefore, like many other popular beliefs, evidently based upon false analogies—some of which have crept into Oriental Scriptures—and upon an unduly limited view of the innumerable conditions offered by human embodiment, from the saint to the criminal, from the King—Emperor to the slum—dweller, or from the man of culture to the lowest savage.

In accordance with our findings, that higher and rational teaching concerning rebirth, which in the Bardo Thödol is, perhaps, confused because of corruptions of text, may now be summarized. If, on the Plane of Uncertainty, the influence of innate or karmic propensities of desire for the grosser sensations of sangsāric existence, such as govern life in a human body, can be dominated through the exercise of the more powerful influence of Right Knowledge, that part of the consciousness—principle capable of realizing Buddahood triumphs, and the deceased, instead of being obsessed with the frightful hallucinatory spectres of his lower or animal nature, passes the interval between human death and rebirth in one of the paradise realms instead of in the Bardo. If such a more enlightened one be very unusually developed spiritually, that is to say if he be a great yoglc saint, he may gain even the highest of the paradises and be reborn among mankind under the guiding power of the ‘Lords of Karma, who, though still sangsāric beings, are described by the lāmas as being immeasurably higher in evolution than man. When thus directed by the Guardians of the Great Law’, the earth—returning one is said to reincarnate out of compassion, to assist human kind; he comes as a Teacher, as a Divine Missionary, as a Nirmåna—Kāya incarnate. Normally, however, rebirth is of the lower or ordinary sort, unendowed—because of the lack of enlightenment of the one undergoing it—with consciousness of the process. Even as a child knowing not the higher mathematics cannot measure the velocity of light, so the animal—man cannot profit by the higher law governing the rebirth of the divine—man; and, drinking of the River of Forgetfulness, he enters the door of the womb and is reborn, direct from the desire—world called the Bardo*. This lower rebirth, almost brutish in many instances, because controlled chiefly by animal propensities such as sub—human and human creatures have in common, differs, however, from that of brutes in virtue of the functional activity of the purely human element of the consciousness, which in all sub—human creatures is latent and not active; and for this element, even in the lowest of mankind, to become latent instead of active requires approximately as long a period of cyclic time as it does for the sub—human consciousnesss to evolve its latent human element into full human activity. The popular misunderstanding of this aspect of the higher or esoteric Doctrine of Rebirth thus appears to have assisted in no small measure to give rise to the obviously irrational belief, found almost everywhere throughout the Scriptures of both Buddhism and Hinduism, that the brute principle of consciousness in its entirety and the human principle of consciousness in its entirety are capable of alternately exchanging places with one another.

It was the late Dr. E. B. Tylor, father of the modern science of Anthropology, who after a very careful examination of the data pronounced the higher doctrine of rebirth to be the more reasonable:

’ So it may seem that the original idea of transmigration was the straightforward and reasonable one of human souls being reborn in new human bodies. . . . The beast is the very incarnation of familiar qualities of man; and such names as lion, bear, fox, owl, parrot, viper, worm, when we apply them as epithets to men, condense into a word some leading feature of a human life. That this is the true interpretation is confirmed—so far as Europe is concerned—by the teachings of the Druids, the learned Brahmin—like priests of Europe’s scientific pre—Christian religion, held by the Celtic nations.

In The Fairy—Faith in Celtic Countries, in the year 1911, I suggested that the rebirth doctrine, in its straightforward, Druidic form, accords, in its essentials, with the psychological science of the West—that the subconscious mind is the storehouse of all latent memories; that these memories are not limited to one lifetime; that these memory—records, being recoverable, prove the doctrine to be based upon demonstrable facts. Since the year 1911 the whole trend of Western psychological research in the realm of the subconscious and in psycho—analysis has tended to confirm that view.

I was unaware when I wrote The Fairy—Faith that Huxley held—as he did—the theory of human reincarnation to offer the best explanation of even ordinary physiological and biological phenomena. And since the testimony of Huxley, as one of the greatest biologists, coincides with that, as above given, of the late Dr. Tylor, the foremost of modern anthropologists, and also confirms from the standpoint of our own Western Science the higher or esoteric interpretation of the Rebirth Doctrine as offered by the Occult Sciences of the East, we here record it as a fitting conclusion to this Section:

‘Everyday experience familiarizes us with the facts which are grouped under the name of heredity. Every one of us bears upon him obvious marks of his parentage, perhaps of remoter relationships. More particularly, the sum of tendencies to act in a certain way, which we call “ character “, is often to be traced through a long series of progenitors and collaterals. So we may justly say that this “character”—this moral and intellectual essence of a man—does veritably pass over from one fleshly tabernacle to another, and does really transmigrate from generation to generation. In the new—born infant, the character of the stock lies latent, and the Ego is little more than a bundle of potentialities. But, very early, these become actualities ; from childhood to age they manifest themselves in dullness or brightness,—weakness or strength, viciousness or uprightness; and with each feature modified by confluence with another character, if by nothing else, the character passes on to its incarnation in new bodies. The Indian philosophers called character, as thus defined, “karma“. . . .

‘In the theory of evolution, the tendency of a germ to develop according to a certain specific type, e.g. of the kidney—bean seed to grow into a plant having all the characters of Phaseolus vulgaris, is its “ Karma “. It is the “ last inheritor and the last result of all the conditions that have affected a line of ancestry which goes back for many millions of years, to the time when life first appeared on the earth. . . .

‘As Prof. Rhys—Davids aptly says in Hibbert Lectures, p. 114, the snowdrop “is a snowdrop and not an oak, and just that kind of snowdrop, because it is the outcome of the Karma of an endless series of past existences”.’


Buddhist cosmography as understood by the /āmas, and continually referred to throughout our text, more especially in connexion with the Doctrine of Rebirth, is a very vast and complex subject; and to consider it here in any detail would involve the esoteric as well as the exoteric interpretation of an enormous mass of doctrines, more or less of Brahmanic origin, concerning the many states of sentient existence within the Sangsāra, or cosmos—some planetary as in this world, some in the many heavens and paradises, and others in the numerous states of purgation called hells. Generalizing, it may be said that when the Brahmanic and Buddhist teachings concerning cosmography are carefully examined from the standpoint of the initiated Oriental, and not from the too—oft prejudiced standpoint of the Christian philologist, it seems to suggest far—reaching knowledge, handed down from very ancient times, of astronomy, of the shape and motion of planetary bodies, and of the interpenetration of worlds and systems of worlds, some solid and visible (such as are alone known to Western Science) and some ethereal and invisible existing in what we may perhaps call a fourth dimension of space.

Esoterically explained, Mt. Meru (Tib. Ri—rab) the central mountain of Hindu and Buddhist cosmography, round which our cosmos is disposed in seven concentric circles of oceans separated by seven intervening concentric circles of golden mountains, is the universal hub, the support of all the worlds. We may possibly regard it, like the Central Sun of Western astronomy, as the gravitational centre of the known universe. Outside the seven circles of oceans and the intervening seven circles oí golden mountains lies the circle of continents.

In illustration, an onion of fifteen layers may be taken to represent roughly the lámate conception of our universe. The core, to which the fifteen layers cohere, is Mt. Meru. Below, are the various hells ; above, supported by Mt. Meru, are the heavens of the gods, the more sensuous, like the thirty—three heavens ruled by Indra, and those under the sway of Mara, being ranged in their own regular gradation beneath the less sensuous heavens of Brāhma. As apex over all, is the final heaven, called ‘The Supreme’ (Tib. ‘Gg—min). Being the last outpost of our universe, ‘Og—min’ as the vestibule to Nirvana, is the transitional state leading from the mundane to the supramundane; and thus there presides over it the divine influence of ‘The Best of All’ (Tib. Kuntu—zang—po) Skt. Samanta—Bhadra), the lātnaic personification of Nirvana.

On a level with Indra’s realm dwell, in their own heaven worlds, the eight Mother Goddesses (Tib. Hlåmo)> all of whom appear in our text. They are the Mother Goddesses of the early Hindus, called in Sanskrit the Matris.

Within Mt. Meru itself, upon which the Heavens rest, there are four realms, one above another. Of these, the three lower are inhabited by various orders of genii; and in the fourth, immediately beneath the Heavens, from which, like the fallen angels of Christian belief, they were expelled on account of their pride, dwell the Ungodly Spirits’, the Asuras (Tib. Lha—ma—yitt)* or Titans, who, as rebels, live and die waging unending war with the gods above.

The innermost layer of the onion is the Ocean surrounding Mt. Meru. The next layer, outwardly expanding, is that of the Golden Mountains; the next beyond is another Ocean; and so on, a circle of Golden Mountains always coming after a circle of Ocean until the fifteenth layer containing the outermost Ocean, in which float the Continents and their satellites. The skin of the onion is a wall of iron enclosing the one universe.

Beyond one such universe there lies another, and so on to infinity. Each universe, like a great cosmic egg, is enclosed within the iron—wall shell, which shuts in the light of the sun and moon and stars, the iron—wall shell being symbolical of the perpetual darkness separating one universe from another. All universes alike are under the domination of natural law, with which karma is commonly made synonymous; for, in the Buddhist view, there is no scientific necessity to affirm or to deny the existence of a supreme God—Creator, the Karntic Law furnishing a complete explanation of all phenomena and being of itself demonstrable.

Each universe, like our own, rests upon ‘a warp and woof’ of blue air (i.e. ether), symbolized by crossed dorjes (such as are depicted by the emblem on the cover of our book). Upon this rests ‘the body of the waters’ of the outer Ocean. Each Ocean symbolizes a stratum of air (or ether), and each of the intervening mountains a stratum of congealed air (or ether), that is to say, material substance; or, from a more occult view—point, the Oceans are the Subtle and the Mountains the Gross, the one alternating with the other as Opposites.

Like the Seven Days of the Mosaic version of Creation, the numerical dimensions which the lāmas assign to our universe are more often to be taken as suggestive or symbolical than literal. Mt. Meru, they say, towers 80,000 miles above the Central Enchanted Ocean and extends below the surface of the waters the same distance, the Central Ocean itself being also 80,000 miles deep and 80,000 miles wide. The succeeding girdle of Golden Mountains is just half that number of miles in height and width and depth, and the next Ocean, correspondingly, 40,000 miles deep and 40,000 miles wide. The consecutive circles of alternating pairs composed of Golden Mountains and an Enchanted Ocean gradually diminish as to width, depth, and height, being respectively 20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,500, 1,250, and 625 miles. This brings us to the Continents in the Outer Ocean of Space.

Of these Continents, the four chief ones—as described in the Second Book of our Bardo Thödol—Kxz situated in the Four Directions. On either side of each of these Four Continents are smaller or satellite Continents, thus making the total number of Continents twelve, which, again, is a symbolical number, like the number seven of the cosmographical arrangement.

The Eastern Continent is called in Tibetan Lii—pah (Lus—hpags) or ‘Vast Body’ (Skt. Virat—deha). Its symbolical shape is like that of a crescent moon; and, accordingly, the colour white is assigned to it, and crescentic faces are ascribed to its inhabitants, who are said to be tranquil—minded and virtuous. Its diameter is given as being 9,000 miles.

The Southern Continent is our Planet Earth, called Jambu—ling (Skt. Jambiidvipa), probably an onomatopoeic word— as the translator held—descriptive of the fruit of a jambu—tree falling into water, ling itself meaning ‘place’, or ‘region’. The name Jatnbuling would thus mean the region or continent wherein jambu—fruit fall into the water. Its symbolic shape is like that of the shoulder—blade of a sheep, that is sub—triangular, or rather pear—shaped, to which the faces of its inhabitants conform. Blue is the colour assigned to it. Riches and plenty abound in it, along with both good and evil. It is said to be the smallest of the Four Continents, being but 7,000 miles in diameter.

The Western Continent is called Balongchöd (Ba—glang—spyöd), literally meaning cow + ox faction (Skt. Godhana, or ‘Wealth of Oxen’). In shape it is like the sun, and red of colour. Its inhabitants, whose faces are round like the sun, are believed to be very powerful and to be addicted to eating cattle, as the literal meaning of its name itself may suggest. Its diameter measures 8,000 miles.

The Northern Continent is Daminyan, or Graminyan (Sgra—mi—snyan), equivalent to the Sanskrit Uttara Kuru, meaning ‘Northern Kuru Race’. It is of square shape and green colour. Its inhabitants have corresponding faces, square like those of horses. Trees supply all their sustenance and wants, and the Kuru, on dying, haunt the trees as tree—spirits. This is the largest of the Continents, being 10,000 miles in diameter.

Each satellite Continent resembles the Continent to which it is attached, and is one—half its size. The left Satellite of our world (Jambtding), called Ngāyabling> is, for example, the world of the RåkShaas, to which Padma Sambhava, the Great Guru of Lāmaism, is believed to have gone to teach the Råk
goodness and salvation, and to be there now as their king.

Underlying this låniaic cosmology there is, as research will show, an elaborate symbolism. Take, for instance, the description of Mt. Meru as given by Dr. Waddell: Its eastern face is of silver, the south of jasper, the west of ruby, and the north of gold—which illustrates a use of ancient symbols very similar to that in the Revelation* of John. The complete rational explanation of all the symbolism connected with Hindu and in turn Buddhist cosmography would be—even if it were possible for us—quite beyond the scope of an introduction. Suffice it to say that the possession of a key to such explanation is claimed by expert professors of the Occult Sciences in India and in Tibet—compared to which, in the realm of mind and matter, our Western Science is, so they maintain, but at the Threshold of the Temple of Understanding.


Ere passing on to the final Sections of this Introduction, touching the Manuscript itself, we may now summarize the chief teachings upon which the whole of the Bardo Thödol is based, as follows:

1. That all possible conditions, or states, or realms of sang—sāric existence, heavens, hells, and worlds, are entirely dependent upon phenomena, or, in other words, are nought but phenomena;

2. That all phenomena are transitory, are illusionary, are unreal, and non—existent save in the sangsāric mind perceiving them;

3. That in reality there are no such beings anywhere asgods, or demons, or spirits, or sentient creatures—all alikebeing phenomena dependent upon a cause;

4. That this cause is a yearning or thirsting after sensation, after the unstable sangsāric existence;

5. That so long as this cause is not overcome by Enlightenment death follows birth and birth death, unceasingly—evenas the wise Socrates believed;

6. That the after—death existence is but a continuation, under changed conditions, of the phenomena—born existenceof the human world—both states alike being karmic;

7. That the nature of the existence intervening betweendeath and rebirth in this or any other world is determined byantecedent actions;

8. That, psychologically speaking, it is a prolonged dreamlike state, in what may be called the fourth dimension ofspace, filled with hallucinatory visions directly resultant from the mental—content of the percipient, happy and heaven—like if the karma be good, miserable and hell—like if the karma be bad;

9.That, unless Enlightenment be won, rebirth in the humanworld, directly from the Bardo—vrorld or from any other worldor from any paradise or hell to which karma has led, isinevitable;

10. That Enlightenment results from realizing the unrealityof the sangsāra, of existence;

11. That such realizing is possible in the human world, orat the important moment of death in the human world, orduring the whole of the after—death or Bardø—state, or incertain of the non—human realms;

12. That training in yoga, i.e. in control of the thinking processes so as to be able to concentrate the mind in an effort to reach Right Knowledge, is essential;

13. That such training can best be had under a human guru, or teacher;

14. That the Greatest of Gurus known to mankind in thiscycle of time is Gautama the Buddha ;

15. That His Doctrine is not unique, but is the same Doctrinewhich has been proclaimed in the human world for the gainingof Salvation, for the Deliverance from the Circle of Rebirthand Death, for the Crossing of the Ocean of Sangsāra, for theRealization of Nirvana, since immemorial time, by a longand illustrious Dynasty of Buddhas, who were Gautama’sPredecessors;

16. That lesser spiritually enlightened beings, Bodhisattvasand gurus, in this world or in other worlds, though still notfreed from the Net of Illusion, can, nevertheless, bestow divinegrace and power upon the shishya (i.e. the chela, or disciple)who is less advanced upon the Path than themselves;

17. That the Goal is and can only be Emancipation fromthe Sangsāra ;

18. That such Emancipation comes from the Realization of Nirvana ;

19. That Nirvana is non—sangsāric, being beyond all paradises, heavens, hells, and worlds;

20. That it is the Ending of Sorrow;

21. That it is Reality.

He who realized Nirvana, the Buddha Gautama Himself, has spoken of it to His own disciples thus:

‘There is, disciples, a Realm devoid of earth and water, fire and air. It is not endless space, nor infinite thought, nor nothingness, neither ideas nor non—ideas. Not this world nor that is it I call it neither a coming nor a departing, nor a standing still, nor death, nor birth; it is without a basis, progress, or a stay ; it is the ending of sorrow.

’ For that which dingeth to another thing there is a fall; but unto that which dingeth not no fall can come. Where no fall cometh, there is rest, and where rest is, there is no keen desire. Where keen desire is not, naught cometh or goeth ; and where naught cometh or goeth there is no death, no birth. Where there is neither death nor birth, there neither is this world nor that, nor in between—it is the ending of sorrow,

‘There is, disciples, an Unbecome, Unborn, Unmade, Unformed ; if there were not this Unbecome, Unborn, Unmade, Unformed, there would be no way out for that which is become, bom, made, and formed; but since there is an Unbecome, Unborn, Unmade, Unformed, there is escape for that which is become, born, made, and formed.’


Our manuscript copy of the Bardo Thödol was procured by the editor early in the year 1919 from a young lāma of the Kargyütpa Sect of the Red Hat School attached to the Bhutia Basti Monastery, Darjeeling, who said that it had been handed down in his family for several generations. The manuscript is unlike any other seen by the translator or editor, in that it is illustrated by paintings in colour painted on the folios of the text. All other similarly illustrated Tibetan manuscripts seen by us have had the illustrations made on separate pieces of manuscript paper or else of cotton cloth, pasted to the folios. When procured, the manuscript was in a very ragged and worn condition, now remedied by each folio being inserted in a protective frame of Tibetan paper of the same sort as that upon which the manuscript is written. Fortunately, all of the illuminated folios, though faded, were in a fair state of preservation. One of the ordinary folios, folio number 111, was missing, but this has now been replaced by a faithful copy of the same passage found in a Block—Print version of the Bardo Thödol belonging to Dr. Johan Van Manen, Secretary of the Asiatic Society, Calcutta, well known as a Tibetan scholar. Reference to this Block—Print version is made throughout our translation. In all essentials, and, generally, word for word, our manuscript and Dr. Van Manen’s Block—Print were found to be identical. In some spellings of proper names of deities of Sanskrit origin there are variations in the two versions, and in both books a number of clerical errors. The manuscript is far older than the modern Block—Print and seems to have been copied from an earlier manuscript.

The manuscript itself is undated, but the translator judged it to be from 150 to 300 years old. It has seen very much service, having been read many times over the dead; its ragged and worn condition is, therefore, no criterion—as it might seem to be—of its age. It is written in an excellent hand on the ordinary paper used for manuscripts among the Tibetans and Himalayan peoples, made from the pulped bark of the Hdal (pronounced Dåā)> otherwise known as Daphne, a kind of laurel of which one species bears a purplish white blossom, another a yellowish white. It is usually by lāmas in a monastery that the paper is manufactured. On account of the bark of the Hdal being extremely tough, the Sikkimese used it as ropes.

The total number of folios composing the manuscript is 137, each measuring about 91/2 by 31/4 inches. Excepting the first folio and the first half of the second, the space actually occupied by the text on each measures on an average 81/4 by 21/4 inches. Most of the folios contain five lines of matter, a few contain four lines. The title—page contains two lines in a space 7 by i inches; the second page of the first folio along with the first page of the second folio, which give the Obeisances, consist of three lines, occupying a space 41/4 by 21/4 inches respectively, and these, like the title—page, are written in gold (now much faded) on a black background. The illustrations are on fourteen of the folios, each illustration being in the centre of the text, on one side of the folio (see Frontispiece), as follows:

On folio 18, Vairochana embraced by his shakti, the Mother of the Space of Heaven, seated upon a lion throne, the deities of the First Day ;

On folio 20, Vajra—Sattva, embraced by his shakti, the Mother Māmakl, surrounded by their four accompanying deities of the Second Day;

On folio 23, Ratna—Sambhava, embraced by his shakti, the Mother Sangyay Chanma (’ She of the Buddha Eye’), surrounded by their four accompanying deities of the Third Day;

On folio 36, Amitābha, embraced by his shakti, the Mother Gökarmo (’ She of White Raiment’), surrounded by their four accompanying deities of the Fourth Day ;

On folio 31, Amogha—Siddhi, embraced by his skakti, the Faithful Dölma (or Skt. Tāra), surrounded by their four accompanying deities of the Fifth Day;

On folio 35, the united mándalas of the deities that dawn on the Sixth Day;

On folio 44, the mándala of the Ten Knowledge—Holding Deities of the Seventh Day;

On folio 55, the Buddha Heruka and shakti of the Eighth Day;

On folio 57, the Vajra Heruka and shakti of the Ninth Day;

On folio 58, the Ratna Heruka and skakti of the Tenth Day;

On folio 59, the Padma Heruka and shakti of the Eleventh Day;

On folio 61, the Karma Heruka and shakti of the Twelfth Day;

On folio 64, the Eight Kerima and the Eight Htamenma of the Thirteenth Day; and the Four Female Door—keepers of the Fourteenth Day;

On folio 67, the mándala of the animal—headed deities of the Fourteenth Day.

Each deity is depicted in conformity with the description given in the text as to colour, position, posture, mudra, and symbols.

All of the illustrations in the manuscript thus belong to the Chönyid Bardo of the First Book. In our translation, copious annotations contain the textual name of each deity and the Sanskrit equivalent when, as in most cases, there is one.

No attempt has been made to collate our manuscript with other manuscripts of the same text, none having been available. Such manuscripts are, no doubt, numerous in Tibet, and the production of a standard or uniform text would require years of careful labour—a task remaining for scholars of the future. The only comparison of texts attempted was with Dr. Van Manen’s Block—Print, which is probably not more than about twenty to thirty years old. The translator said that, so far as he was aware, Block—Prints of the Bardo Thödol have appeared—at least in Sikkim and Darjeeling—rather recently, although probably known in Tibet itself much longer, block—type printing having been carried on for unknown centuries in China, and thence brought to Tibet, long before printing was done in Europe.

Each Buddhist Sect in Tibet, according to the opinion of the translator, probably has its own version of the Bardo Thödol more or less changed in some details, but not in essentials, from our version, the version used by the reformed Gelugpa, otherwise known as the Yellow—Hat School, being the most altered, with all references to Padma Sambhava, the Founder of the Ñingmapa, the Red—Hat School ofLāmaism, as well as the names of deities peculiar to the Red—Hats, expurgated.

Major W. L. Campbell, who was the British Political Representative in Sikkim during my residence there, wrote to me, from the Residency in Gangtok, under date of the twelfth of July, 1919, concerning the various versions of the Bardo Thödol, as follows: The Yellow Sect have six, the Red Sect seven, and the Kar—gyut—pas* five.’

Our text being of the primitive or Red—Hat School and attributed to the Great Guru Padma Sambhava himself, who introduced Tantric Buddhism into Tibet, has been deemed by us to be substantially representative of the original version, which, on the basis of internal evidence derived from our manuscript text, was probably, at least in essentials, pre—Buddhistic.

As elsewhere noted, our manuscript is arranged as one work in two parts or books, with thirteen folios of texts of Bardo prayers as an appendix at the end. The Block—Print is arranged as two distinct books and lacks the appendix of prayers. But at the end of the first book of the Block—Print there comes a very important account of the origin of the Bardo Thödol, which is not contained in our manuscript, and this is given in translation in the following Section.


Thus, from the Block—Print, and also from other Tibetan sources, we learn that the Bardo Thödol text originated, or, what is perhaps more correct, was first committed to writing in the time of Padma Sambhava, in the eighth century A. D.; was subsequently hidden away, and then, when the time came for it to be given to the world, was brought to light by Rigzin Karma Ling—pa. The Block—Print account is as follows:

‘This has been brought from the Hill of Gampodar (Tib. Gatnpo—dar), on the bank of the Serdan (Tib. Gser—ldan, meaning ‘Possessing Gold’ or ‘Golden’) River, by Rigzin Karma Ling—pa (Tib. Rigs—hdzin Kar—ma Gling—pa).

Rigzin, as herein given, is a personal title, and Karma Ling—pa the name of a place in Tibet meaning ‘Karma Land’. The translator has pointed out that Rigs is an erroneous spelling of Rig; for, if Rigs were correct, the name Rigzin would mean Class—Holder (Rigs + hZin). That Rig is intended—thus makingthe name mean Knowledge—Holder (Rig+ hdzin), a caste or class designation—was confirmed by a small section of a Bardo Thödol manuscript in the possession of the translator, in which Rigzin Karma Ling—pa is otherwise called Tertön (Tib. Gter—bston), or ‘Taker—Out of Treasures’. The Bardo Thödol is, therefore, one of the Tibetan Lost Books recovered by Rigzin of Karma Ling—pa, who is held to be an emanation or incarnation of Padma Sambhava, the Founder of Lāmaism.

It was in the eighth century A. D. that Lāmaism, which we may define as Tantric Buddhism, took firm root in Tibet. A century earlier, under the first king to rule over a united Tibet, King Srong—Tsan—Gampo (who died in A.D. 650), Buddhism itself entered Tibet from two sources: from Nepal, the land of the Buddha’s ancestors, through the Tibetan King’s marriage with a daughter of the royal family of Nepal; and from China, through his marriage—in the year 641— with a princess of the Chinese Imperial Family. The King had been nurtured in the old Bön faith of Tibet, which, with its primitive doctrine of rebirth, was quite capable of serving as an approach to Buddhism ; and under the influence of his two Buddhist wives he accepted Buddhism, making it the state religion; but it made little headway in Tibet until a century later, when his powerful successor, ThI—Srong—Detsan, held the throne from A.D. 740 to 786. It was Thl—Srong—Detsan who invited Padma Sambhava (Tib. Pednia Jungue, i.e.’ The Lotus—Born’), better known to the Tibetans as Guru Rin—po—clie, ‘The Precious Guru’ to come to Tibet. The famous Guru was at that time a Professor of Yoga in the great Buddhist University of Nālanda, India, and far—famed for expert knowledge of the Occult Sciences. He was a native of Udyāna or Swat, in what is now a part of Afghanistan.

The Great Guru saw the wonderful opportunity which the King’s invitation offered, and promptly accepted the call, passing through Nepal and arriving at Saniye (Sam—yas) Tibet, in the year 747. It was to Samye that the King had invited him, in order to have exorcized the demons of the locality; for as soon as the walls of a monastery which the King was having erected there were raised they were overthrown by local earthquakes, which the demons opposing Buddhism were believed to have caused. When the Great Guru had driven out the demons, all the local earthquakes ceased, much to the wonder of the people; and he himself supervised the completion of the royal monastery, and established therein the first community of Tibetan Buddhist lāmas, in the year .749.

During his sojourn in Tibet at that time, and during subsequent visits, Padma Sambhava had many Tantric books translated into Tibetan out of Indian Sanskrit originals— some of which have been preserved in the monasteries of Tibet—and hidden away with appropriate mystic ceremonies in various secret places. He also endowed certain of his disciples with the yoglc power of reincarnating at the proper time, as determined by astrology, in order to take them out, along with the treasures hidden away with them and the requisites needed for properly performing the rites described in the texts. This is the generally accepted tradition; but according to another tradition the Tertons are to be regarded as various incarnations of the Great Guru himself. According to a rough estimate, the religious texts already taken out by such Tertons, from century to century, would form an encyclopaedia of about sixty—five volumes of block—prints, each, on an average, consisting of about four hundred ordinary—sized folios.

Our text, the Bardo ThödoU being one of thesp recovered apocryphal books, should, therefore, be regarded as having been compiled (for the internal evidence suggests that it was a Tibetan compilation rather than a direct translation from some unknown Sanskrit original) during the first centuries of Lāmaism, either—as it purports to have been—in the time of Padma Sambhava or soon afterwards. Its present general use all over Tibet as a funeral ritual and its acceptance by the different sects, in varying versions, could not have been the outcome of a few generations; it testifies rather convincingly to its antiquity, bears out the pre—Buddhistic and at least partially Bön origin which we attribute to it, and suggests some validity in the claims made for the Tertóns.

We are well aware of the adverse criticisms passed by European critics on the Tertön tradition. There is not lacking, nevertheless, sound reason for suspecting that the European critics are not altogether right. Therefore, it seems to us that the only sound attitude to assume towards the Tertön problem is to keep an open mind until sufficient data accumulate to pronounce judgement. Though the Tertön claim be proven false, the fact that the Bardo Thödol is now accepted as a sacred book in Tibet and has for some considerable time been used by the lāmas for reading over the dead would, of course, not be affected; only the theory concerning the textual compilation of what, in its essentials, is apparently a prehistoric ritual would be subject to revision.

As for Padma Sambhava’s own sources, apart from such congenial traditional teachings as no doubt he incorporated in some of his Tibetan treatises, we are told, by oral tradition now current among the lāmas, that he had eight gurus in India, each representing one of the eight chief Tantric doctrines

In a Tibetan block—print, which belonged to the translator, purporting to record the history, but much mixed with myth, of the Great Guru entitled Orgyan—Padmas—mzad—paJti—bkah—thang—bsdüd—pa (pronounced Ugyan Padtnay—zad—pai—ba—thang—du—pa), meaning’ The Abridged Testament made by Ugyan Padma’ (or ‘by the Lotus-Born Ugyan’—Padma Sambhava), consisting of but seventeen folios, there is recorded on the twelfth folio, sixteenth section, the following passage, confirming the historical tradition touching the origin of the Bardo Thödol text:

‘Behold! the Sixteenth Section, showing the Eight Ling—pas, the Leaders of Religion, is thus:

‘The Eight Incarnations of the Great Bodhisattvas are:

Ugyan—ling—pa, in the centre;
Dorje—ling—pa, in the east;
Rinchen—ling—pa, in the south;
‘Padma—ling—pa, in the west;
‘Karma—ling—pa, in the north;
’Samten—ling—pa and Nyinda—ling,
And Shig—po—ling (or Terdag—ling).
‘These Eight Great Tertöns shall come;
‘Mine own incarnations alone are they.’

Padma Sambhava himself is herein represented as declaring that the Tertöns ‘, or Takers—out’ of the hidden books, arc to be his own incarnations. According to this account, the Tertön of our own book, the Bardo TAödol, is the fifth, named after the place called Karma Land, thus confirming the Block—Print of the Bardo Th’ódol* and Karma Land is in the northern quarter of Tibet. We have been unable to ascertain the exact time in which this Tertön lived, although he is a popular figure in the traditional history of Tibet. The name Rigzin, given to him in the Block Print first above quoted, meaning ‘Knowledge—Holder’, riféis to his character as a religious devotee or lāma; Karma ling—pa, as given in both accounts, refers also to an ancient Tibetan monastery of primitive Lāmaism in the Kams Province, northern Tibet.

According to our view, the best attitude to take touching the uncertain history and origin of the Bardo Thödol is that of a critical truth—seeker who recognizes the anthropological significance of the passing of time, and of the almost inevitable reshaping of ancient teachings handed down at first orally and then, after having crystallized, being recorded in writing. As in the case of the Egyptian Bardo Thödol, popularly known as ‘The Egyptian Book of the Dead’, so in ‘The Tibetan Book of the Dead’, there is, no doubt, the record of the belief of innumerable generations in a state of existence after death. No one scribe could have been its author and no one generation its creator; its history as a book, if completely known, could only be the history of its compilation and recording; and the question, Whether this compilation and recording were done within comparatively recent times, or in the time of Padma Sambhava or earlier? could not fundamentally affect the ancient teachings upon which it is based.

Although it is remarkably scientific in its essentials, there is no need to consider it as being accurate in all its details; for, undoubtedly, considerable corruption has crept into the text. In its broad outlines, however, it seems to convey a sublime truth, heretofore veiled to many students of religion, a philosophy as subtle as that of Plato, and a psychical science far in advance of that, still in its infancy, which forms the study of the Society for Psychical Research. And, as such, it deserves the serious attention of the Western World, now awakening to a New Age, freed, in large measure, from the incrustations of medievalism, and eager to garner wisdom from all the Sacred Books of mankind, be they of one Faith or of another.


Although the translating of this manuscript was done wholly in the presence of the editor in Gangtok, Sikkim, the chief credit should be given to the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, the translator. The LāMa himself aptly summarized the editor’s part in the work by saying that the editor was his living English dictionary. Indeed the editor could have been little more than this, for his knowledge of Tibetan was almost as nothing.

The aim of both the translator and the editor has been to keep as closely to the sense of the text as the idiomatic structures of the Tibetan and English tongues permit. Sometimes the translator, preferring to render into English the real meaning which a lāma would derive from certain more or less technically—worded phrases, has departed from a strictly literal translation.

The Tibetan of Tantric texts, such as ours, is especially difficult to turn into good English ; and owing to the terseness of many passages it has been necessary to interpolate words and phrases, which are bracketed.

In years to come, it is quite probable that our rendering— as has been the case with the pioneer translations of the Bible —may be subject to revision. A strictly literal rendering of a work so abstruse in its real meanings as this, and written in symbolical language as well, if attempted by Europeans—who, finding it difficult to get out of their Western mentality, too often are Christians first and scholars second when working with non—Christian sacred texts—would, perhaps, be as misleading as some of their renderings of the ancient Sanskrit Vedas. Even to a Tibetan, unless he be a lāma and well versed in Tantricism, as the translator was, the Bardo Thödol is almost a sealed book.

His profound lámate training, his fervent faith in the higher yogU teachings of The Great Perfectionist School of Guru Padma Sambhava (he being an initiate of the semi—reformed sect known as Kargyutpa, founded by the great yogis Marpa and Milarepa), his practical knowledge of the Occult Sciences as taught to him by his late Guru in Bhutan, and his marvellous command both of English and of Tibetan, lead me to think that rarely, if ever again in this century, is there likely to arise a scholar more competent to render the Bardo Thödol than the late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup, the actual translator. To him each reader of this book owes a debt of gratitude; for herein he has, in part, opened to the peoples of the West the treasure—house, so long tightly locked, of Tibetan Literature and Northern Buddhism.

As his close disciple for many months, I hereby formally acknowledge that debt of gratitude and respect which is ever due from the disciple to the teacher.

Though the translation was completed and revised by the translator during the year 1919, whilst he was the Head Master of the Maharaja’s Bhutia Boarding School, chiefly for Sikkimese boys of good Tibetan ancestry, near Gangtok, Sikkim (formerly a part of Tibet), it is unfortunate for us that he is not now in this world to read the printer’s proofs of it as he had hoped to do.

As to the transliterations, it may rightly be objected by philologists that they are in some instances less technically exact than they might be. The editor, however, preferring to preserve the simpler transliterations according to the old* fashioned style—to which ordinary readers are more accustomed—just as the translator dictated them to him, has left them unchanged save for the correcting of a few obvious errors which had crept in.

The editor himself cannot expect, in a book of this nature, that his own interpretations of controversial problems will meet with universal acceptance; nor can he hope to have escaped all error. He trusts, however, that critics, in recognizing the pioneer character of the work, will be prepared to concede to the editor, as to the translator, such measure of indulgence as it may perhaps seem to deserve.

A brief account of the unusual career of the translator will, no doubt, be interesting to all who read this book. The late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup—the honorific term Kazi indicating his superior social standing as a member of a landholding family of Tibetan origin settled in Sikkim—was born on the seventeenth day of June, 1868.

From December of the year 1887 and until October, 1893, as a young man whose learning the British authorities of India had already recognized, he was stationed at Buxaduar, in Bhutan, as Interpreter to the British Government. (In later years he also acted as Interpreter to the Government of Tibet.) It was at Buxaduar that he first met his guru, commonly known there as The Hermit Guru Norbu (Slob—dpon—mt shams—pa—Norbu —pronounced Lob—on—tshatn—pa—Norbu), a man of vast knowledge and of strict ascetical habits of life; and from him, afterwards, received the mystic initiation.

The late LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup once confided to me that at that time he had made all necessary preparations, as a shishya on probation, to renounce the world completely; but his father, then an old man, called him home and requested him to perform the usual duties of an eldest son and marry, to perpetuate the family. The son had no option, and he married; two sons and one daughter being born to him.

In the year 1906 the Maharaja of Sikkim appointed him Head Master of the Gangtok School, where, in the early part of the year 1919, I first met him, through a letter of introduction from Mr. S. W. Laden La, Sardar Bahadur, Chief of Police, Darjeeling, who is a well—known Buddhist Scholar of Tibetan ancestry. About a year later, in 19 20, after our work together was finished, the LāMa was appointed Lecturer in Tibetan to the University of Calcutta ; but, very unfortunately, as is usual with peoples habituated to the high Himalayan regions, he lost his health completely in the tropical climate of Calcutta, and departed from this world on the twenty—second day of March, 1933.

As records of the LāMa’s ripe scholarship, there are his English—Tibetan Dictionary published by the University of Calcutta in 1919, and his edition of the Shrtchakrasambkara Tantra with English translation and Tibetan text, published by Sir John Woodroffe (pseudonym, Arthur Avalon) as volume ii of Tantrik Texts, London, 1919. In addition to these, and a few small works published by the Asiatic Society of Calcutta, the LāMa left behind him many important translations out of the Tibetan, as yet unpublished, some with the editor, others with Sir E. Denison Ross and with Major W. L. Campbell.

May this book help further to perpetuate the memory of him who revered the teachings of the Great Masters of Tibetan Wisdom and bequeathed this translation of the Bardo Th’ódol to the English—speaking peoples of the world.

‘The Dharma—Kāya of thine own mind thou shalt see; and seeing That, thou shalt have seen the All—The Vision Infinite, the Round of Death and Birth and the State of Freedom.’ —Milarepa.

Jetsün Kahbum, xii (LāMa Kazi Dawa—Samdup’s Translation.)





‘All they who thoughtless are, nor heed,
what time death’s messengers appear,
Must long the pangs of suffering feel
In some base body habiting.
But all those good and holy men,
What time they see death’s messengers,
Behave not thoughtless, but give heed
To what the noble doctrine says;
And in attachment frighted see
Of birth and death the fertile source,
And from attachment free themselves,
Thus birth and death extinguishing.
Secure and happy ones are they,
Released from all this fleeting show;
Exempted from all sin and fear,
All misery have they overcome.’

Atiguitara—N’kāya, iii. 35 (Warren’s Translation).


To the Divine Body of Truth, the Incomprehensible, Boundless Light;

To the Divine Body of Perfect Endowment, Who are the Lotus and the Peaceful and the Wrathful Deities;

To the Lotus—born Incarnation, Padma Sambhava, Who is the Protector of all sentient beings;

To the Gurus, the Three Bodies, obeisance.


This Great Doctrine of Liberation by Hearing, which con—ferreth spiritual freedom on devotees of ordinary wit while in the Intermediate State, hath three divisions: the preliminaries, the subject—matter, and the conclusion.

At first, the preliminaries, The Guide Series for emancipating beings, should be mastered by practice.


By The Guide, the highest intellects ought most certainly to be liberated; but should they not be liberated, then while in the Intermediate State of the Moments of Death they should practise the Transference, which giveth automatic liberation by one’s merely remembering it.

Devotees of ordinary wit ought most certainly to be freed thereby; but should they not be freed, then, while in the Intermediate State during the experiencing of Reality, they should persevere in the listening to this Great Doctrine of Liberation by Hearing.

Accordingly, the devotee should at first examine the symptoms of death as they gradually appear in his dying body, following Self—Liberation by Observing the Characteristics of the Symptoms of Death Then, when all the symptoms of death are complete he should apply the Transference, which conferreth liberation by merely remembering the process.


If the Transference hath been effectually employed, there is no need to read this Thodol; but if the Transference hath not been effectually employed, then this Thödol is to be read, correctly and distinctly, near the dead body.

If there be no corpse, then the bed or the seat to which the deceased had been accustomed should be occupied by the reader, who ought to expound the power of the Truth. Then, summoning the spirit of the deceased, imagine it to be present there listening, and read. During this time no relative or fond mate should be allowed to weep or to wail, as such is not good for the deceased ; so restrain them.

If the body be present, just when the expiration hath ceased, either a lāma who hath been as a guru to the deceased, or a brother in the Faith whom the deceased trusted, or a friend for whom the deceased had great affection, putting the lips close to the ear of the body without actually touching it, should read this Great ThödoL


Now for the explaining of the Thödol itself:

If thou canst gather together a grand offering, offer it in worship of the Trinity. If such cannot be done, then arrange whatever can be gathered together as objects on which thou canst concentrate thy thoughts and mentally create as illimitable an offering as possible and worship.

Then the ‘Path of Good Wishes Invoking the Aid of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’ * should be recited seven times or thrice.

After that, the ‘Path of Good Wishes Giving Protection from Fear in the Bardo’, and the ‘Path of Good Wishes for Safe Delivery from the Dangerous Pitfalls of the Bardo’, together with the ‘Root Words of the Bardo,’ are to be read distinctly and with the proper intonation.

Then this Great Thödol is to be read either seven times or thrice, according to the occasion. First cometh the setting—face—to—face to the symptoms of death as they occur during the moments of death ; second the application of the great vivid reminder, the setting—face—to—face to Reality while in the



The first, the setting—face—to—face with the Clear Light, during the Intermediate State of the Moments of Death, is:

Here some there may be who have listened much to religious instructions yet not recognized ; and some who, though recognizing, are, nevertheless, weak in familiarity. But all classes of individuals who have received the practical teachings called Guides will, if this be applied to them, be set face to face with the fundamental Clear Light; and, without any Intermediate State, they will obtain the Unborn Dhartna—Kaya, by the Great Perpendicular Path.

The manner of application is:

It is best if the guru from whom the deceased received guiding instructions can be had; but if the guru cannot be obtained, then a brother of the Faith; or if the latter is also unobtainable, then a learned man of the same Faith; or, should all these be unobtainable, then a person who can read correctly and distinctly ought to read this many times over. Thereby the deceased will be put in mind of what he had previously heard of the setting—face—to—face and will at once come to recognize that Fundamental Light and undoubtedly obtain Liberation.

As regards the time for the application of these instructions :

When the expiration hath ceased, the vital—force will have sunk into the nerve—centre of Wisdom and the Knower will be experiencing the Clear Light of the natural condition. Then, the vital—force, being thrown backwards and flying downwards through the right and left nerves, the Intermediate State momentarily dawns.

The above directions should be applied before the vital—force hath rushed into the left nerve after first having traversed the navel nerve—centre.

The time ordinarily necessary for this motion of the vital force is as long as the inspiration is still present, or about the time required for eating a meal.

Then the manner of the application of the instructions is:

When the breathing is about to cease, it is best if the Transference hath been applied efficiently; if the application hath been inefficient, then address the deceased thus:

O nobly—born (so and so by name), the time hath now come for thee to seek the Path in reality. Thy breathing is about to cease. Thy guru hath set thee face to face before with the Clear Light; and now thou art about to experience it in its Reality in the Bardo state, wherein all things are like the void and cloudless sky, and the naked, spotless intellect is like unto a transparent vacuum without circumference or centre. At this moment, know thou thyself; and abide in that state. I, too, at this time, am setting thee face to face.

Having read this, repeat it many times in the ear of the person dying, even before the expiration hath ceased, so as to impress it on the mind of the dying one.

If the expiration is about to cease, turn the dying one over on the right side, which posture is called the ‘Lying Posture of a Lion’. The throbbing of the arteries on the right and left side of the throat is to be pressed.

If the person dying be disposed to sleep, or if the sleeping state advances, that should be arrested, and the arteries pressed gently but firmly. Thereby the vital—force will not be able to return from the median—nerve and will be sure to pass out through the Brahmanic aperture. Now the real setting—face—to—face is to be applied.

At this moment, the first glimpsing of the Bardo of the Clear Light of Reality, which is the Infallible Mind of the Dharma—Kāya, is experienced by all sentient beings.

The interval between the cessation of the expiration and the cessation of the inspiration is the time during which the vital—force remaineth in the median—nerve.

The common people call this the state wherein the consciousness—principle hath fainted away. The duration of this state is uncertain. It dependeth upon the constitution, good or bad, and the state of the nerves and vital—force. In those who have had even a little practical experience of the firm, tranquil state of dkyāna, and in those who have sound nerves, this state continueth for a long time.

In the setting—face—to—face, the repetition of the above address to the deceased is to be persisted in until a yellowish liquid beginneth to appear from the various apertures of the bodily organs of the deceased.

In those who have led an evil life, and in those of unsound nerves, the above state endureth only so long as would take to snap a finger. Again, in some, it endureth as long as the time taken for the eating of a meal.

In various Tantras it is said that this state of swoon endureth for about three and one—half days. Most other religious treatises say for four days; and that this setting—face—to—face with the Clear Light ought to be persevered in during the whole time.

The manner of applying these directions is:

If when dying one be by one’s own self capable of diagnosing the symptoms of death, use of the knowledge should have been made ere this. If the dying person be unable to do so, then either the guru> or a skishya, or a brother in the Faith with whom the one dying was very intimate, should be kept at hand, who will vividly impress upon the one dying the symptoms of death as they appear in due order repeatedly saying, at first thus:

Now the symptoms of earth sinking into water are come.

When all the symptoms of death are about to be completed, then enjoin upon the one dying this resolution, speaking in a low tone of voice in the ear:

O nobly—born (or, if it be a priest, O Venerable Sir), let not thy mind be distracted.

If it be a brother in the Faith, or some other person, then call him by name, and say thus:

O nobly—born, that which is called death being come to thee now, resolve thus: * O this now is the hour of death. By taking advantage of this death, I will so act, for the good of all sentient beings, peopling the illimitable expanse of the heavens, as to obtain the Perfect Buddhahood, by resolving on love and compassion towards them, and by directing my entire effort to the Sole Perfection.’

Shaping the thoughts thus, especially at this time when the Dharma—Kāya of Clear Light in the state after death can be realized for the benefit of all sentient beings, know that thou art in that state; and resolve that thou wilt obtain the best boon of the State of the Great Symbol, in which thou art, as follows:

‘Even if I cannot realize it, yet will I know this Bardo, and, mastering the Great Body of Union in Bardo, will appear in whatever shape will benefit all beings whomsoever: I will serve all sentient beings, infinite in number as are the limits of the sky.’

Keeping thyself unseparated from this resolution, thou shouldst try to remember whatever devotional practices thou vvert accustomed to perform during thy lifetime.

In saying this, the reader shall put his lips close to the ear, and shall repeat it distinctly, clearly impressing it upon the dying person so as to prevent his mind from wandering even for a moment.

After the expiration hath completely ceased, press the nerve of sleep firmly; and, a lāma, or a person higher or more learned than thyself, impress in these words, thus:

Reverend Sir, now that thou art experiencing the Fundamental Clear Light, try to abide in that state which now thou art experiencing.

And also in the case of any other person the reader shall set him face—to—face thus :

O nobly—born (so—and—so), listen. Now thou art experiencing the Radiance of the Clear Light of Pure Reality. Recognize it. O nobly—born, thy present intellect, in real naturevoid, not formed into anything as regards characteristics orcolour, naturally void, is the very Reality, the All—Good.

Thine own intellect, which is now voidness, yet not to be regarded as of the voidness of nothingness, but as being the intellect itself, unobstructed, shining, thrilling, and blissful, is the very consciousness, the All—good Buddha.

Thine own consciousness, not formed into anything, in reality void, and the intellect, shining and blissful,—these two,—are inseparable. The union of them is the Dharma—Kāya state of Perfect Enlightenment.

Thine own consciousness, shining, void, and inseparable from the Great Body of Radiance, hath no birth, nor death, and is the Immutable Light—Buddha Amitābha.

Knowing this is sufficient. Recognizing the voidness of thine own intellect to be Buddhahood, and looking upon it as being thine own consciousness, is to keep thyself in the state of the divine mind of the Buddha.

Repeat this distinctly and clearly three or even seven times. That will recall to the mind of the dying one the former i. e. when living setting—face—to—face by the guru. Secondly, it will cause the naked consciousness to be recognized as the Clear Light; and, thirdly, recognizing one’s own self thus, one becometh permanently united with the Dharma—Kāya and Liberation will be certain.


Thus the primary Clear Light is recognized and Liberation attained. But if it be feared that the primary Clear Light hath not been recognized, then it can certainly be assumed there is dawning upon the deceased that called the secondary Clear Light, which dawneth in somewhat more than a mealtime period after that the expiration hath ceased.

According to one’s good or bad karma, the vital—force floweth down into either the right or left nerve and goeth out through any of the apertures of the body. Then cometh a lucid condition of the mind.

To say that the state of the primary Clear Light endureth for a meal—time period would depend upon the good or bad condition of the nerves and also whether there hath been previous practice or not in the setting—face—to—face.

When the consciousness—principle getteth outside the body, it sayeth to itself, ‘Am I dead, or am I not dead ?’ It cannot determine. It seeth its relatives and connexions as it had been used to seeing them before. It even heareth the wailings. The terrifying karmic illusions have not yet dawned. Nor have the frightful apparitions or experiences caused by the Lords of Death yet come.

During this interval, the directions are to be applied by the lāma or reader:

There are those devotees of the perfected stage and of the visualizing stage. If it be one who was in the perfected stage, then call him thrice by name and repeat over and over again the above instructions of setting—face—to—face with the Clear Light. If it be one who was in the visualizing stage, then read out to him the introductory descriptions and the text of the Meditation on his tutelary deity, and then say,

O thou of noble—birth, meditate upon thine own tutelary deity.—Here the deity’s name is to be mentioned by the reader. Do not be distracted. Earnestly concentrate thy mind upon thy tutelary deity. Meditate upon him as if he were the reflection of the moon in water, apparent yet in—existent in itself. Meditate upon him as if he were a being with a physical body.

So saying, the reader will impress it.

If the deceased be of the common folk, say,

Meditate upon the Great Compassionate Lord.

By thus being set—face—to—face even those who would not be expected to recognize the Bardo unaided are undoubtedly certain to recognize it.

Persons who while living had been set face to face with the Reality by a guru yet who have not made themselves familiar with it, will not be able to recognize the Bardo clearly by themselves. Either a guru or a brother in the Faith will have to impress vividly such persons.

There may be even those who have made themselves familiar with the teachings, yet who, because of the violence of the disease causing death, may be mentally unable to withstand illusions. For such, also, this instruction is absolutely necessary.

Again there are those who, although previously familiar with the teachings, have become liable to pass into the miserable states of existence, owing to breach of vows or failure to perform essential obligations honestly. To them, this instruction is indispensable.

If the first stage of the Bardo hath been taken by the forelock, that is best. But if not, by application of this distinct recalling to the deceased, while in the second stage of the Bardo, his intellect is awakened and attaineth liberation.

While on the second stage of the Bardo, one’s body is of the nature of that called the shining illusory—body.

Not knowing whether he be dead or not, a state of lucidity cometh to the deceased. If the instructions be successfully applied to the deceased while he is in that state, then, by the meeting of the Mother—Reality and the Offspring—Reality, karma controlleth not. Like the sun’s rays, for example, dispelling the darkness, the Clear Light on the Path dispelleth the power of karma.

The Knower hovereth within those places to which its activities had been limited. If at this time this special teaching be applied efficiently, then the purpose will be fulfilled; for the karmic illusions will not have come yet, and, therefore, he the deceased cannot be turned hither and thither from his aim of achieving Enlightenment.



But even though the Primary Clear Light be not recognized, the Clear Light of the second Bardo being recognized, Liberation will be attained. If not liberated even by that, then that called the third Bardo or the Chónyid Bardo dawneth.

In this third stage of the Bardo, the karmic illusions come to shine. It is very important that this Great Setting—face—to—face of the Chonyid Bardo be read : it hath much power and can do much good*

About this time the deceased can see that the share of food is being set aside, that the body is being stripped of its garments, that the place of the sleeping—rug 13 being swept; can hear all the weeping and wailing of his friends and relatives, and, although he can see them and can hear them calling upon him, they cannot hear him calling upon them, so he goeth away displeased.

At that time, sounds, lights, and rays—all three—are experienced. These awe, frighten, and terrify, and cause much fatigue. At this moment, this setting—face—to—face with the Bardo during the experiencing of Reality is to be applied. Call the deceased by name, and correctly and distinctly explain to him, as follows :

O nobly—born, listen with full attention, without being distracted: There are six states of Bardo, namely: the natural state of Bardo while in the womb; the Bardo of the dream—state; the Bardo of ecstatic equilibrium, while in deep meditation; the Bardo of the moment of death; the Bardo during the experiencing of Reality;the Bardo of the inverse process of sangsāric existence.These are the six.

O nobly—born, thou wilt experience three Bardos, the Bardo of the moment of death, the Bardo during the experiencing of Reality, and the Bardo while seeking rebirth. Of these three, up to yesterday, thou hadst experienced the Bardo of the moment of death. Although the Clear Light of Reality dawned upon thee, thou wert unable to hold on, and so thou hast to wander here. Now henceforth thou art going to experience the other two, the Chónyid Bardo and the Sidpa Bardo.

Thou wilt pay undistracted attention to that with which I am about to set thee face to face, and hold on:

O nobly—born, that which is called death hath now come. Thou art departing from this world, but thou art not the only one; death cometh to all. Do not cling, in fondness and weakness, to this life. Even though thou clingest out of weakness, thou hast not the power to remain here. Thou wilt gain nothing more than wandering in this Sangsāra Be not attached to this world; be not weak. Remember the Precious Trinity.

O nobly—born, whatever fear and terror may come to thee in the Chönyid Bardo forget not these words; and, bearing their meaning at heart, go forwards: in them lieth the vital secret of recognition:

‘Alas! when the Uncertain Experiencing of Reality is dawning upon me here,
With every thought of fear or terror or awe for all apparitional appearances set aside,
May I recognize whatever visions appear, as the reflections of mine own consciousness;
May I know them to be of the nature of apparitions in the Bardo:
When at this all—important moment of opportunity of achieving a great end,
May I not fear the bands of Peaceful and Wrathful Deities, mine own thought—forms.’

Repeat thou these verses clearly, and remembering their significance as thou repeatest them, go forwards, O nobly—born. Thereby, whatever visions of awe or terror appear, recognition is certain; and forget not this vital secret art lying therein.

O nobly—born, when thy body and mind were separating, thou must have experienced a glimpse of the Pure Truth, subtle, sparkling, bright, dazzling, glorious, and radiantly awesome, in appearance like a mirage moving across a landscape in spring—time in one continuous stream of vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed. That is the radiance of thine own true nature. Recognize it.

From the midst of that radiance, the natural sound of Reality, reverberating like a thousand thunders simultaneously sounding, will come. That is the natural sound of thine own real self. Be not daunted thereby, nor terrified, nor awed.

The body which thou hast now is called the thought—body of propensities. Since thou hast not a material body of flesh and blood, whatever may come,—sounds, lights, or rays, —are, all three, unable to harm thee: thou art incapable of dying. It is quite sufficient for thee to know that these apparitions are thine own thought—forms. Recognize this to be the Bardo.

O nobly—born, if thou dost not now recognize thine ownthought—forms, whatever of meditation or of devotion thoumayst have performed while in the human world—if thou hastnot met with this present teaching—the lights will dauntthee, the sounds will awe thee, and the rays will terrify thee.Shouldst thou not know this all—important key to the teachings, —not being able to recognize the sounds, lights, andrays,—thou wilt have to wander in the Sangsāra.


Assuming that the deceased is karmically bound—as the average departed one is—to pass through the forty—nine days of the Bardo existence, despite the very frequent settings—face—to—face, the daily trials and dangers which he must meet and attempt to triumph over, during the first seven days, wherein dawn the Peaceful Deities, are next explained to him in detail; the first day, judging from the text, being reckoned from the time in which normally he would be expected to wake up to the fact that he is dead and on the way back to rebirth, or about three and one—half to four days after death.


O nobly—born, thou hast been in a swoon during the last three and one—half days. As soon as thou art recovered from this swoon, thou wilt have the thought, ‘What hath happened!’

Act so that thou wilt recognize the Bardo. At that time, all the Sangsāra will be in revolution ; and the phenomenal appearances that thou wilt see then will be the radiances and deities. The whole heavens will appear deep blue.

Then, from the Central Realm, called the Spreading Forth of the Seed, the Bhagavān Vairochana, white in colour, and seated upon a lion—throne, bearing an eight—spoked wheel in his hand, and embraced by the Mother of the Space of Heaven, will manifest himself to thee.

It is the aggregate of matter resolved into its primordial state which is the blue light.

The Wisdom of the Dharma—Dhåtu, blue in colour, shining, transparent, glorious, dazzling, from the heart of Vairochana as the Father—Mother, ‘ will shoot forth and strike against thce with a light so radiant that thou wilt scarcely be able to look at it.

Along with it, there will also shine a dull white light from the devas which will strike against thee in thy front.

Thereupon, because of the power of bad karma, the glorious blue light of the Wisdom of the Dharma—Dhåtu will produce in thee fear and terror, and thou wilt wish to flee from it. Thou wilt beget a fondness for the dull white light of the devas.

At this stage, thou must not be awed by the divine blue light which will appear shining, dazzling, and glorious; and be not startled by it. That is the light of the Tathāgatacalled the Light of the Wisdom of the Dharma—Dkātu. Put thy faith in it, believe in it firmly, and pray unto it, thinking in thy mind that it is the light proceeding from the heart of the Bhagavān Vairochana coming to receive thee while in the dangerous ambuscade of the Bardo. That light is the light of the grace of Vairochana.

Be not fond of the dull white light of the devas Be not attached to it; be not weak. If thou be attached to it, thou wilt wander into the abodes of the devds and be drawn into the whirl of the Six Lokas. That is an interruption to obstruct thee on the Path of Liberation. Look not at it. Look at the bright blue light in deep faith. Put thy whole thought earnestly upon Vairochana and repeat after me this prayer:

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra, because of intense stupidity,
On the radiant light—path of the Dhartna—Dhātu Wisdom May I be led by the Bhagavān Vairochana, May the Divine Mother of Infinite Space be my rearguard ; May I be led safely across the fearful ambush of the Bardo;
May I be placed in the state of the All—Perfect Buddha—hood.’

Praying thus, in intense humble faith, thou wilt merge, in halo of rainbow light, into the heart of Vairochana, and obtain Buddhahood in the Satnbhoga—Kāya, in the Central Realm of the Densely—Packed.


But if, notwithstanding this setting—face—to—face, through power of anger or obscuring karma one should be startled at the glorious light and flee, or be overcome by illusions, despite the prayer, on the Second Day, Vajra—Sattva and his attendant deities, as well as one’s evil deeds meriting Hell, will come to receive one.

Thereupon the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Second Day the pure form of water will shine as a white light. At that time, from the deep blue Eastern Realm of Pre—eminent Happiness, the Bhagavān Akshobhya as Vajra—Sattva, blue in colour, holding in his hand a five—pronged dorje** seated upon an elephant—throne, and embraced by the Mother Māmakf, will appear to thee, attended by the Bodhisattvas Kshiti—garbha and Maitreya, with the female Bodhisattvas, Lasema and Pushpema. These six Bodhic* deities will appear to thee.

The aggregate of thy principle of consciousness, being in its pure form—which is the Mirror—like Wisdom—will shine as a bright, radiant white light, from the heart of Vajra—Sattva, the Father—Mother, with such dazzling brilliancy and transparency that thou wilt scarcely be able to look at it, and will strike against thee. And a dull, smoke—coloured light from Hell will shine alongside the light of the Mirror—like Wisdom and will also strike against thee.

Thereupon, through the power of anger, thou wilt beget fear and be startled at the dazzling white light and wilt wish to flee from it; thou wilt beget a feeling of fondness for the dull smoke—coloured light from Hell. Act then so that thou wilt not fear that bright, dazzling, transparent white light. Know it to be Wisdom. Put thy humble and earnest faith in it That is the light of the grace of the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva. Think, with faith, * I will take refuge in it’; and pray.

That is the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva coming to receive thee and to save thee from the fear and terror of the Bardo. Believe in it; for it is the hook of the rays of grace of Vajra—Sattva.

Be not fond of the dull, smoke—coloured light from Hell. That is the path which openeth out to receive thee because of the power of accumulated evil karma from violent anger. If thou be attracted by it, thou wilt fall into the Hell—Worlds; and, falling therein, thou wilt have to endure unbearable misery, whence there is no certain time of getting out. That being an interruption to obstruct thee on the Path of Liberation, look not at it; and avoid anger. Be not attracted by it; be not weak. Believe in the dazzling bright white light; and putting thy whole heart earnestly upon the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva, pray thus :

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra because of the power of violent anger,
On the radiant light—path of the Mirror—like Wisdom,
May I be led by the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva,
May the Divine Mother Māmaki be my rear—guard;
May I be led safely across the fearful ambush of the Bardo;
And may I be placed in the state of the All—perfect Buddhahood.

Praying thus, in intense humble faith, thou wilt merge, in rainbow light, into the heart of the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva and obtain Buddhahood in the Sambhoga—Kaya> in the Eastern Realm called Pre—eminently Happy.


Yet, even when set face to face in this way, some persons, because of obscurations from bad karma, and from pride, although the hook of the rays of grace striketh against them flee from it. If one be one of them, then, on the Third Day, the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava and his accompanying deities, along with the light—path from the human world, will come to receive one simultaneously.

Again, calling the deceased by name, the setting—face—to—face is thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Third Day the primal form of the element earth will shine forth as a yellow light. At that time, from the Southern Realm Endowed with Glory, the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava, yellow in colour, bearing a jewel in his hand, seated upon a horse—throne and embraced by the Divine Mother Sangyay—Chanma, will shine upon thee.

The two Bodhisattvas, ākāsha—Garbha and Samanta—Bhadra, attended by the two female Bodhisattvas, Mahlaima and Dhupema,—in all, six Bodhic forms,—will come to shine from amidst a rainbow halo of light. The aggregate of touch in its primal form, as the yellow light of the Wisdom of Equality, dazzlingly yellow, glorified with orbs having satellite orbs of radiance, so clear and bright that the eye can scarcely look upon it, will strike against thee. Side by side with it, the dull bluish—yellow light from the human world will also strike against thy heart, along with the Wisdom light.

Thereupon, through the power of egotism, thou wilt beget a fear for the dazzling yellow light and wilt wish to flee from it. Thou wilt be fondly attracted towards the dull bluish—yellow light from the human world.

At that time do not fear that bright, dazzling—yellow, transparent light, but know it to be Wisdom ; in that state, keeping thy mind resigned, trust in it earnestly and humbly. If thou knowest it to be the radiance of thine own intellect—although thou exertest not thy humility and faith and prayer to it— the Divine Body and Light will merge into thee inseparably, and thou wilt obtain Buddhahood.

If thou dost not recognize the radiance of thine own intellect, think, with faith, It is the radiance of the grace of the Bhagaván Ratna—Sambhava; I will take refuge in it’; and pray. It is the hook of the grace—rays of the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava; believe in it.

Be not fond of that dull bluish—yellow light from the human world. That is the path of thine accumulated propensities of violent egotism come to receive thce. If thou art attracted by it, thou wilt be born in the human world and have to suffer birth, age, sickness, and death; and thou wilt have no chance of getting out of the quagmire of worldly existence. That is an interruption to obstruct thy path of liberation. Therefore, look not upon it, and abandon egotism, abandon propensities; be not attracted towards it; be not weak. Act so as to trust in that bright dazzling light. Put thine earnest thought, one—pointedly, upon the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava; and pray thus:

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra because of the power of violent egotism,
On the radiant light—path of the Wisdom of Equality,
May I be led by the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava;
May the Divine Mother, She—of—the—Buddha—Eye, be my rear—guard;
May I be led safely across the fearful ambush of the Bardo;
And may I be placed in the state of the All—Perfect Buddhahood.’

By praying thus, with deep humility and faith, thou wilt merge into the heart of the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava, the Divine Father—Mother, in halo of rainbow light, and attain Buddhahood in the Satnbhoga—Kaya in the Southern Realm Eiidowed with Glory.


By thus being set face to face, however weak the mental faculties may be, there is no doubt of one’s gaining Liberation. Yet, though so often set face to face, there are classes of men who, having created much bad kartna, or having failed in observance of vows, or, their lot for higher development being altogether lacking, prove unable to recognize: their obscurations and evil karma from covetousness and miserliness produce awe of the sounds and radiances, and they flee. If one be of these classes, then, on the Fourth Day, the Bhagavān Amitābha and his attendant deities, together with the light—path from the Preta—loka proceeding from miserliness and attachment, will come tö receive one simultaneously.

Again the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Fourth Daythe red light, which is the primal form of the element fire, willshine. At that time, from the Red Western Realm of Happiness, the Bhagavān Buddha Amitābha, red in colour, bearinga lotus in his hand, seated upon a peacock—throne and embraced by the Divine Mother Gökarmo, will shine upon thee,together with the Bodhisattvas Chenrazee* and Jampal, attended by the female Bodhisattvas Ghirdhima and āloke. The six bodies of Enlightenment will shine upon thee fromamidst a halo of rainbow light.

The primal form of the aggregate of feelings as the red light of the All—Discriminating Wisdom, glitteringly red, glorified with orbs and satellite orbs, bright, transparent, glorious and dazzling, proceeding from the heart of the Divine Father—Mother Amitābha, will strike against thy heart so radiantly that thou wilt scarcely be able to look upon it. Fear it not.

Along with it, a dull red light from the Preta—loka coming side by side with the Light of Wisdom, will also shine upon thee. Act so that thou shalt not be fond of it. Abandon attachment and weakness for it.

At that time, through the influence of intense attachment, thou wilt become terrified by the dazzling red light, and wilt wish to flee from it. And thou wilt beget a fondness for that dull red light of the Preta—loka.

At that time, be not afraid of the glorious, dazzling, transparent, radiant red light. Recognizing it as Wisdom, keeping thine intellect in the state of resignation, thou wilt merge into it inseparably and attain Buddhahood.

If thou dost not recognize it, think, It is the rays of the grace of the Bhagavān Amitābha, and I will take refuge in it’; and, trusting humbly in it, pray unto it. That is the hook—rays of the grace of the Bhagavān Amitābha, Trust in it humbly; flee not. Even if thou fleest, it will follow thee inseparably from thyself. Fear it not. Be not attracted towards the dull red light of the Preta—loka. That is the light—path proceeding from the accumulations of thine intense attachment [to sangsāric* existence] which hath come to receive thee. If thou be attached thereto, thou wilt fall into the World of Unhappy Spirits and suffer unbearable misery from hunger and thirst. Thou wilt have no chance of gaining Liberation therein. That dull red light is an interruption to obstruct thee on the Path of Liberation. Be not attached to it, and abandon habitual propensities. Be not weak. Trust in the bright dazzling red light. In the Bhagavān Amitābha, the Father—Mother, put thy trust one—pointedly and pray thus:

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra because of the power of intense attachment,
On the radiant light—path of the Discriminating Wisdom
May I be led by the Bhagavān Amitābha;
May the Divine Mother, She—of—White—Raiment, be my rear—guard;
May I be safely led across the dangerous ambush of the Bardo;
And may I be placed in the state of the All—Perfect Buddhahood.’

By praying thus, humbly and earnestly, thou wilt merge into the heart of the Divine Father—Mother, the Bhagavān Amitābha, in halo of rainbow—light, and attain Buddhahood in the Sambhoga—Kāya> in the Western Realm named Happy.


It is impossible that one should not be liberated thereby. Yet, though thus set face to face, sentient beings, unable through long association with propensities to abandon propensities, and, through bad karma and jealousy, awe and terror being produced by the sounds and radiances—the hook—rays of grace failing to catch hold of them—wander down also to the Fifth Day. If one be such a sentient being, thereupon the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi, with his attendant deities and the light and rays of his grace, will come to receive one. A light proceeding from the Asura—loka, produced by the evil passion of jealousy, will also come to receive one.

The setting—face—to—face at that time is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Fifth Day, the green light of the primal form of the element air will shine upon thee. At that time, from the Green Northern Realm of Successful Performance of Best Actions, the Bhagavān Buddha Amogha—Siddhi, green in colour, bearing a crosscd—dorje in hand, seated upon a sky—traversing Harpy—throne, embraced by the Divine Mother, the Faithful Dölma, will shine upon thee, with his attendants,—the two Bodhisattvas Chag—na—Dorje and Dibpanamsel, attended by two female Bodhisattvas, Gandhema and Nidhema. These six Bodhic formsi from amidst a halo of rainbow light, will come to shine.

The primal form of the aggregate of volition, shining as the green light of the All—Performing Wisdom, dazzlingly green, transparent and radiant, glorious and terrifying, beautified with orbs surrounded by satellite orbs of radiance, issuing from the heart of the Divine Father—Mother Amogha—Siddhi, green in colour, will strike against thy heart so wondrously bright that thou wilt scarcely be able to look at it. Fear it not. That is the natural power of the wisdom of thine own intellect. Abide in the state of great resignation of impartiality.

Along with it i. e. the green light of the All—Performing Wisdom, a light of dull green colour from the Asura—loka, produced from the cause of the feeling of jealousy, coming side by side with the Wisdom Rays, will shine upon thee. Meditate upon it with impartiality,—with neither repulsion nor attraction. Be not fond of it: if thou art of low mental capacity, be not fond of it.

Thereupon, through the influence of intense jealousy, thou wilt be terrified at the dazzling radiance of the green light and wilt wish to flee from it; and thou wilt beget a fondness for that dull green light of the Asura—loka. At that time fear not the glorious and transparent, radiant and dazzling green light, but know it to be Wisdom ; and in that state allow thine intellect to rest in resignation. Or else think, ‘It is the hook—rays of the light of grace of the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi, which is the All—Performing Wisdom*. Believe thus on it. Flee not from it.

Even though thou shouldst flee from it, it will follow thee inseparably from thyself. Fear it not. Be not fond of that dull green light of the Asura—loka. That is the kartnic path of acquired intense jealousy, which hath come to receive thee. If thou art attracted by it, thou wilt fall into the Asura—loka and have to engage in unbearable miseries of quarrelling and warfare. That is an interruption to obstruct thy path of liberation. Be not attracted by it. Abandon thy propensities. Be not weak. Trust in the dazzling green radiance, and putting thy whole thought one—pointedly upon the Divine Father—Mother, the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi, pray thus:

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra because of the power of intense jealousy,

On the radiant light—path of the All—Performing Wisdom May I be led by the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi; May the Divine Mother, the Faithful Tāra, be my rearguard ; May I be led safely across the dangerous ambush of the Bardo ; And may I be placed in the state of the All—Perfect Buddhahood.’

By praying thus with intense faith and humility, thou wilt merge into the heart of the Divine Father—Mother, the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi, in halo of rainbow light, and attain Buddhahood in the Sambkoga—Kāya in the Northern Realm of Heaped—up Good Deeds.


Being thus set face to face at various stages, however weak one’s kartnic connexions may be, one should have recognized in one or the other of them ; and where one has recognized in any of them it is impossible not to be liberated. Yet, although set face to face so very often in that manner, one long habituated to strong propensities and lacking in familiarity with, and pure affection for, Wisdom, may be led backwards by the power of one’s own evil inclinations despite these many introductions. The hook—rays of the light of grace may not be able to catch hold of one: one may still wander downwards because of one’s begetting the feeling of awe and terror of the lights and rays.

Thereupon all the Divine Fathers—Mothers of the Five Orders of Dhyānī Buddhas with their attendants will come to shine upon one simultaneously. At the same time, the lights proceeding from the Six Lokas will likewise come to shine upon one simultaneously.

The setting—face—to—face for that is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, until yesterday each of the Five Orders of





Deities had shone upon thee, one by one; and thou hadst been set face to face, but, owing to the influence of thine evil propensities, thou wert awed and terrified by them and hast remained here till now.

If thou hadst recognized the radiances of the Five Orders of Wisdom to be the emanations from thine own thought—forms, ere this thou wouldst have obtained Buddhahood in the Sambhoga—Kāya) through having been absorbed into the halo of rainbow light in one or another of the Five Orders of Buddhas. But now look on undistractedly. Now the lights of all Five Orders, called the Lights of the Union of Four Wisdoms, will come to receive thee. Act so as to know them.

O nobly—born, on this the Sixth Day, the four colours of the primal states of the four elements water, earth, fire, air will shine upon thee simultaneously. At that time, from the Central Realm of the Spreading Forth of Seed, the BuddhaVairochana, the Divine Father—Mather, with the attendant deities, will come to shine upon thee. From the Eastern Realm of Pre—eminent Happiness, the Buddha Vajra—Sattva, the Divine Father—Mother, with the attendant deities will come to shine upon thee. From the Southern Realm endowed with Glory, the Buddha Ratna—Sambhava, the Divine Father—Mother, with the attendant deities will come to shine upon thee, From the Happy Western Realm of Heaped—up Lotuses, the Buddha Amitābha, the Divine Father—Mother, along with the attendant deities will come to shine upon thee. From the Northern Realm of Perfected Good Deeds, the Buddha Amogha—Siddhi, the Divine Father—Mother, along with the attendants will come, amidst a halo of rainbow light, to shine upon thee at this very moment.

O nobly—born, on the outer circle of these five pair of Dhyānl Buddhas, the four Door—Keepers, the WrathfulOnes: the Victorious One the Destroyer of the Lordof Death, the Horse—necked King, the Urn of Nectar; with the four female Door—keepers: the Goad—Bearer, theNoose—Bearer, the Chain—Bearer, and the Bell—Bearer; along with the Buddha of the Devas, named the One of Supreme Power, the Buddha of the Asuras named He of Strong Texture, the Buddha of Mankind, named the Lion of the Shākyas, the Buddha of the brute kingdom, named the Unshakable Lion, the Buddha of the Pre tas, named the One of Flaming Mouth, and the Buddha of the Lower World, named the King of Truth:—these, the Eight Father—Mother Door—keepers and the Six Teachers, the Victorious Ones—will come to shine, too.

The All—Good Father, and the All—Good Mother, the Great Ancestors of all the Buddhas: Samanta—Bhadra and Samanta—Bhadrā, the Divine Father and the Divine Mother— these two, also will come to shine.

These forty—two perfectly endowed deities, issuing from within thy heart, being the product of thine own pure love, will come to shine. Know them.

O nobly—born, these realms are not come from somewhere outside thyself. They come from within the four divisions of thy heart, which, including its centre, make the five directions. They issue from within there, and shine upon thee. The deities, too, are not come from somewhere else: they exist from eternity within the faculties of thine own intellectKnow them to be of that nature.

O nobly—born, the size of all these deities is not large, not small, but proportionate. They have their ornaments, their colours, their sitting postures, their thrones, and the emblems that each holds.

These deities are formed into groups of five pairs, each group of five being surrounded by a fivefold circle of radiances, the male Bodhisattvas partaking of the nature of the Divine Fathers, and the female Bodhisattvas partaking of the nature of the Divine Mothers. All these divine conclaves will come to shine upon thee in one complete conclave. They are thine own tutelary deities. Know them to be such.

O nobly—born, from the hearts of the Divine Fathers and Mothers of the Five Orders, the rays of light of the Four Wisdoms united, extremely clear and fine, like the rays of the sun spun into threads, will come and shine upon thee and strike against thy heart.

On that path of radiance there will come to shine glorious orbs of light, blue in colour, emitting rays, the Dkarma—Dhåtu Wisdom itself, each appearing like an inverted turquoise cup, surrounded by similar orbs, smaller in size, glorious and dazzling, radiant and transparent, each made more glorious with five yet smaller satellite orbs dotted round about with five starry spots of light of the same nature, leaving neither the centre nor the borders of the blue light—path unglorified by the orbs and the smaller satellite orbs.

From the heart of Vajra—Sattva, the white light—path of the Mirror—like Wisdom, white and transparent, glorious and dazzling, glorious and terrifying, made more glorious with orbs surrounded by smaller orbs of transparent and radiant light upon it, each like an inverted mirror, will come to shine.

From the heart of Ratna—Sambhava, the yellow light—path of the Wisdom of Equality, glorified with yellow orbs of radiance, each like an inverted gold cup, surrounded by smaller orbs, and these with yet smaller orbs, will come to shine.

From the heart of Amitābha, the transparent, bright red light—path of the Discriminating Wisdom, upon which are orbs, like inverted coral cups, emitting rays of Wisdom, extremely bright and dazzling, each glorified with five satellite orbs of the same nature,—leaving neither the centre nor the borders of the red light—path unglorified with orbs and smaller satellite orbs,—will come to shine.

These will come to shine against thy heart simultaneously.

O nobly—born, all those are the radiances of thine own intellectual faculties come to shine. They have not come from any other place. Be not attracted towards them; be not weak; be not terrified ; but abide in the mood of non— thought—formation. In that state all the forms and radiances will merge into thyself, and Buddhahood will be obtained.

The green light—path of the Wisdom of Perfected Actions will not shine upon thee, because the Wisdom—faculty of thine intellect hath not been perfectly developed.

O nobly—born, those are called the Lights of the Four Wisdoms United, whence proceeds that which is called the Inner Path through Vajra—Sattva.

At that time, thou must remember the teachings of the setting—face—to—face which thou hast had from thy guru. If thou hast remembered the purport of the settings—face—to—face, thou wilt have recognized all these lights which have shone upon thee, as being the reflection of thine own inner light, and, having recognized them as intimate friends, thou wilt have believed in them and have understood them at the meeting, as a son understandeth his mother.

And believing in the unchanging nature of the pure and holy Truth, thou wilt have had produced in thee the tranquil—flowing Santādhi and, having merged into the body of the perfectly evolved intellect, thou wilt have obtained Buddhahood in the Sambhoga—Kāya whence there is no return.

O nobly—born, along with the radiances of Wisdom, the impure illusory lights of the Six Lokas will also come to shine. If it be asked, ‘What are they ?’ they are a dull white light from the devas a dull green light from the asuras a dull yellow light from human beings, a dull blue light from the brutes, a dull reddish light from the pretas> and a dull smoke—coloured light from Hell. These six thus will come to shine, along with the six radiances of Wisdom ; whereupon, be not afraid of nor be attracted towards any, but allow thyself to rest in the non—thought condition.

If thou art frightened by the pure radiances of Wisdom and attracted by the impure lights of the Six Lokas, then thou wilt assume a body in any of the Six Lokas and suffer sang—sāric miseries; and thou wilt never be emancipated from the Ocean of Sangsāra, wherein thou wilt be whirled round and round and made to taste of the sufferings thereof.

O nobly—born, if thou art one who hath not obtained the select words of the guru, thou wilt have fear of the pure radiances of Wisdom and of the deities thereof. Being thus frightened, thou wilt be attracted towards the impure sangsāric objects. Act not so. Humbly trust in the dazzling pure radiances of Wisdom. Frame thy mind to faith, and think, * The compassionate radiances of Wisdom of the Five Orders of Buddhas have come to take hola of me out of compassion ; I take refuge in them,’

Not yielding to attraction towards the illusory lights of the Six Lokas but devoting thy whole mind one—pointedly towards the Divine Fathers and Mothers, the Buddhas of the Five Orders, pray thus:

‘Alas! when wandering in the Sangsāra through the power of the five virulent poisons,

On the bright radiance—path of the Four Wisdoms united, May I be led by the Five Victorious Conquerors, May the Five Orders of Divine Mothers be my rearguard ; May I be rescued from the impure light—paths of the Six Lokas ;

And, being saved from the ambuscades of the dread Bardo, May I be placed within the five pure Divine Realms.

By thus praying, one recognizeth one’s own inner light; and, merging one’s self therein, in at—one—ment, Buddhahood is attained : through humble faith, the ordinary devotee cometh to know himself, and obtaineth Liberation; even the most lowly, by the power of the pure prayer, can close the doors of the Six Lokas, and, in understanding the real meaning of the Four Wisdoms united, obtain Buddhahood by the hollow pathway through Vajra—Sattva.

Thus by being set face to face in that detailed manner, those who are destined to be liberated will come to recognize the Truth; thereby many will attain Liberation.

The worst of the worst, those of heavy evil karma, having not the least predilection for any religion—and some who have failed in their vows—through the power of karmic illusions, not recognizing, although set face to face with Truth, will stray downwards.


On the Seventh Day, the Knowledge—Holding Deities, from the holy paradise realms, come to receive one. Simultaneously, the pathway to the brute world, produced by the obscuring passion, stupidity, also cometh to receive one. The setting—face—to—face at that time is, calling the deceased by name, thus :

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Seventh Daythe vari—coloured radiance of the purified propensities will cometo shine. Simultaneously, the Knowledge—Holding Deities, from the holy paradise realms, will come to receive one.

From the centre of the Circle or *Mandala, enhaloed in radiance of rainbow light, the supreme Knowledge—Holding Deity, the Lotus Lord of Dance, the Supreme Knowledge—Holder Who Ripens Karmic Fruits, radiant with all the five colours, embraced by the Divine Mother, the Red Dakini** he holding a crescent knife and a skull filled with blood, dancing and making the mudrā of fascination, with his right hand held aloft, will come to shine.

To the east of that Circle, the deity called the Earth—Abiding Knowledge—Holder, white of colour, with radiant smiling countenance, embraced by the White Dåkini, the Divine Mother, he holding a crescent knife and a skull filled with blood, dancing and making the mudrā of fascination, with his right hand held aloft, will come to shine.

To the south of that Circle, the Knowledge—Holding Deity called He Having Power Over Duration of Life, ydlow in colour, smiling and radiant, embraced by the Yellow Dåkinl, the Divine Mother, he holding a crescent knife and a skull filled with blood, dancing and making the mildra of fascination, with his right hand held aloft, will come to shine.

To the west of that Circle, the deity called the Knowledge—Holding Deity of the Great Symbol, red of colour, smiling and radiant, embraced by the Red Dākini the Divine Mother, he holding a crescent—knife and a skull filled with blood, dancing and making the mndrā of fascination, with his right hand held aloft, will come to shine.

To the north of that Circle, the deity called the Self—Evolved Knowledge—Holder, green of colour, with a half—angry, half—smiling radiant countenance, embraced by the Green Dåkini, the Divine Mother, he holding a crescent—knife and a skull filled with blood, dancing and making the mudrā of fascination, with his right hand held aloft, will come to shine.

In the Outer Circle, round about these Knowledge—Holders, innumerable bands of dåkinis, — dåkinis of the eight places of cremation, dåkinis of the four classes, dåkinis of the three abodes, dåkinis of the thirty holy—places and of the twenty—four places of pilgrimage,—heroes, heroines, celestial warriors, and faith—protecting deities, male and female, each bedecked with the six bone—ornaments, having drums and thigh—bone trumpets, skull—timbrels, banners of gigantic human—like hides, human—hide canopies, human—hide bannerettes, fumes of human—fat incense, and innumerable other kinds of musical instruments, filling with music the whole world—systems and causing them to vibrate, to quake and tremble with sounds so mighty as to daze one’s brain, and dancing various measures, will come to receive the faithful and punish the unfaithful.

O nobly—born, five—coloured radiances, of the Wisdom of the Simultaneously—Born, which are the purified propensities, vibrating and dazzling like coloured threads, flashing, radiant, and transparent, glorious and awe—inspiring, will issue from the hearts of the five chief Knowledge—Hold ing Deities and strike against thy heart, so bright that the eye cannot bear to look upon them.

At the same time, a dull blue light from the brute world will come to shine along with the Radiances of Wisdom. Then, through the influence of the illusions of thy propensities, thou wilt feel afraid of the radiance of the five colours; and wishing to flee from it, thou wilt feel attracted towards the dull light from the brute—world. Thereupon, be not afraid of that brilliant radiance of five colours, nor terrified ; but know the Wisdom to be thine own.

Within those radiances, the natural sound of the Truth will reverberate like a thousand thunders. The sound will come with a rolling reverberation, amidst which will be heard, Slay! Slay!’ and awe—inspiring mantras. Fear not. Flee not. Be not terrified. Know them i. e. these sounds to be of the intellectual faculties of thine own inner light.

Be not attracted towards the dull blue light of the brute—world ; be not weak. If thou art attracted, thou wilt fall into the brute—world, wherein stupidity predominates, and suffer the illimitable miseries of slavery and dumbness and stupidness ; and it will be a very long time ere thou canst get out. Be not attracted towards it. Put thy faith in the bright, dazzling, five—coloured radiance. Direct thy mind one—pointedly towards the deities, the Knowledge—Holding Conquerors. Think, one—pointedly, thus: ‘These Knowledge—Holding Deities, the Heroes, and the Dākinis* have come from the holy paradise realms to receive me ; I supplicate them all: up to this day, although the Five Orders of the Buddhas of the Three Times have all exerted the rays of their grace and compassion, yet have I not been rescued by them. Alas, for a being like me! May the Knowledge—Holding Deities not let me go downwards further than this, but hold me with the hook of their compassion, and lead me to the holy paradises.’

Thinking in that manner, one—pointedly, pray thus:
‘O ye Knowledge—Holding Deities, pray hearken unto me ;Lead me on the Path, out of your great love.
When I am wandering in the Sangsāra> because of intensified propensities,
On the bright light—path of the Simultaneously—born Wisdom
May the bands of Heroes, the Knowledge—Holders, lead me;
May the bands of the Mothers, the Dākinis, be my rearguard ;
May they save me from the fearful ambuscades of the Bardo,
And place me in the pure Paradise Realms.’

Praying thus, in deep faith and humility, there is no doubt that one will be born within the pure Paradise Realms, after being merged, in rainbow—light, into the heart of the Knowledge—Holding Deities.

All the pandit classes, too, coming to recognize at this stage, obtain liberation ; even those of evil propensities being sure to be liberated here.

Here endeth the part of the Great Thodol concerned with the setting—face—to—face of the Peaceful Deities of the Clwnyid Bardo and the setting—face—to—face of the Clear Light of the Chikhai Bardo.



Now the manner of the dawning of the Wrathful Deities is to be shown.

In the above Bardo of the Peaceful Deities there were seven stages of ambuscade. The setting—face—to—face at each stage should have caused the deceased to recognize either at one or another stage and to have been liberated.

Multitudes will be liberated by that recognition; and although multitudes obtain liberation in that manner, the number of sentient beings being great, evil karma powerful, obscurations dense, propensities of too long standing, the Wheel of Ignorance and Illusion becometh neither exhausted nor accelerated. Although all be set face—to—face in such detail, there is a vast preponderance of those who wander downwards unliberated.

Therefore, after the cessation of the dawning of the Peaceful and the Knowledge—Holding Deities, who come to welcome one, the fifty—eight flame—enhaloed, wrathful, blood—drinking deities come to dawn, who are only the former Peaceful Deities in changed aspect—according to the place or psychic—centre of the Bardo—body of the deceased whence they proceed ; nevertheless, they will not resemble them.

This is the Bardo of the Wrathful Deities; and, they being influenced by fear, terror, and awe, recognition becometh more difficult. The intellect, gaining not in independence, passeth from one fainting state to a round of fainting states. Yet, if one but recognize a little, it is easier to be liberated at this stage. If it be asked why ? the answer is : Because of the dawning of the radiances—which produce fear, terror, and awe—the intellect is undistractedly alert in one—pointedness; that is why.

If at this stage one do not meet with this kind of teaching, one’s hearing of religious lore—although it be like an ocean in its vastness—is of no avail. There are even discipline—holding abbots or bhikkhus and doctors in metaphysical discourses who err at this stage, and, not recognizing, wander into the Sangsāra.

As for the common worldly folk, what need is there to mention them ! By fleeing, through fear, terror, and awe, they fall over the precipices into the unhappy worlds and suffer. But the least of the least of the devotees of the mystic mantrayāna doctrines, as soon as he sees these blood—drinking deities, will recognize them to be his tutelary deities, and the meeting will be like that of human acquaintances. He will trust them; and becoming merged into them, in at—one—ment, will obtain Buddhahood.

By having meditated on the description of these blood—drinking deities, while in the human world, and by having performed some worship or praise of them; or, at least, by having seen their painted likenesses and their images, upon witnessing the dawning of the deities at this stage, recognition of them will result, and liberation. In this lieth the art.

Again, at the death of those discipline—holding abbots and doctors in metaphysical discourses who remain uninstructed in these Bardo teachings, however assiduously they may have devoted themselves to religious practices, and however clever they may have been in expounding doctrines while in the human world, there will not come any phenomenal signs such as rainbow—halo at the funeral—pyre nor bone—reliques from the ashes. This is because when they lived the mystic or esoteric doctrines were never held within their heart, and because they had spoken contemptuously of them, and because they were never acquainted through initiation with the deities of the mystic or esoteric doctrines; thus, when these dawn on the Bardo, they do not recognize them. Suddenly seeing what they had never seen before, they view it as inimical; and, an antagonistic feeling being engendered, they pass into the miserable states because of that. Therefore, if the observers of the disciplines, and the metaphysicians, have not in them the practices of the mystic or esoteric doctrines, such signs as the rainbow—halo come not, nor are bone—reliques and seed—like bones ever produced from the bones of their funeral—pyre: these are the reasons for it.

The least of the least of mantrayānic devotees,—who may seem to be of very unrefined manners, unindustrious, untactful, and who may not live in accordance with his vows, and who in every way may be inelegant in his habits, and even unable, perhaps, to carry the practices of his teachings to a successful issue,—let no one feel disrespect for nor doubt him, but pay reverence to the esoteric or mystic doctrines which he holdeth. By that, alone, one obtaineth liberation at this stage.

Even though the deeds of one paying such reverence may not have been very elegant while in the human world, at his death there will come at least one kind of sign, such as rainbow—radiance, bone—images, and bone—reliques. This is because the esoteric or mystic doctrines possess great gift—waves.

Those of, and above, the mystic mantrayānic devotees of ordinary psychic development, who have meditated upon the visualization and perfection processes and practised the essences or essence mantras** need not wander down this far on the Chönyid Bardo*. As soon as they cease to breathe, they will be led into the pure paradise realms by the Heroes and Heroines and the Knowledge—Holders. As a sign of this, the sky will be cloudless; they will merge into rainbow radiance; there will be sun—showers, sweet scent of incense in the air, music in the skies, radiances; bone—reliques and images from their funeral—pyre.

Therefore, to the abbots or discipline—holders, to the doctors, and to those mystics who have failed in their vows, and to all the common people, this Thödol is indispensable.But those who have meditated upon the Great Perfection and the Great Symbol will recognize the Clear Light at the moment of death; and, obtaining the Dkanna—Kāya, all of them will be such as not to need the reading of this Thödol By recognizing the Clear Light at the moment of death, they also will recognize the visions of the Peaceful and the Wrathful during the Chönyid Bardo, and obtain the Sambhoga—Kāya* or, recognizing during the Sidpa Bardo, obtain the Nirmāna—Kāya; and, taking birth on the higher planes, will, in the next rebirth, meet with this Doctrine, and then enjoy the continuity of karma?*

Therefore, this Thödol is the doctrine by which Buddhahood may be attained without meditation; the doctrine liberating by the hearing of it alone; the doctrine which leadeth beings of great evil karma on the Secret Path; the doctrine which produceth differentiation instantaneously between those who are initiated into it and those who are not: being the profound doctrine which conferreth Perfect Enlightenment instantaneously. Those sentient beings who have been reached by it cannot go to the unhappy states.

This doctrine and the Tahdol doctrine , when joined together being like unto a mándala* of gold inset with turquoise, combine them.

Thus, the indispensable nature of the Thödol being shown, there now cometh the setting—face—to—face with the dawning of the Wrathful Deities in the Bardo.


Again, calling the deceased by name, address him thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. Not having been able to recognize when the Peaceful Deities shone upon thee in the Bardo above, thou hast come wandering thus far. Now, on the Eighth Day, the blood—drinking Wrathful Deities will come to shine. Act so as to recognize them without being distracted.






O nobly—born, the Great Glorious Buddha—Hcruka, dark—brown of colour; with three heads, six hands, and fourfeet firmly postured; the right face being white, the left, red, the central, dark—brown; the body emitting flames ofradiance; the nine eyes widely opened, in terrifying gaze ; theeyebrows quivering like lightning; the protruding teethglistening and set over one another; giving vent to sonorousutterances of ‘a—la—la’ and ‘ha—ha’, and piercing whistlingsounds; the hair of a reddish—yellow colour, standing on end, and emitting radiance; the heads adorned with dried humanskulls, and the symbols of the sun and moon; black serpentsand raw human heads forming a garland for the body ; thefirst of the right hands holding a wheel, the middle one, asword, the last one, a battle—axe; the first of the left hands, a bell, the middle one, a skull—bowl, the last one, a ploughshare; his body embraced by the Mother, Buddha—Kroti—shaurima, her right hand clinging to his neck and her leftputting to his mouth a red shell filled with blood, makinga palatal sound like a crackling and a clashing sound, anda rumbling sound as loud as thunder; emanating from the twodeities radiant flames of wisdom, blazing from every hair—poreof the body and each containing a flaming (forje ; the twodeities together thus, standing with one leg bent and theother straight and tense, on a dais supported by hornedeagles, will come forth from within thine own brain and shinevividly upon thec. Fear that not Be not awed. Know itto be the embodiment of thine own intellect. As it is thineown tutelary deity, be not terrified. Be not afraid, for inreality it is the Bhagavān Vairochana, the Father—Mother.Simultaneously with the recognition, liberation will be obtained: if they be recognized, merging thyself, in at—one—ment, into the tutelary deity, Buddhahood in the Sambhoga Kāya* will be won.


But if one flee from them, through awe and terror being begotten, then, on the Ninth Day, the blood—drinking deities of the Vajra Order will come to receive one. Thereupon, the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus :

O nobly—born, listen undistractcdly. He of the blood—drinking Vajra Order named the Bhaavfui Vajra—Heruka, dark—blue in colour; with three faces, six hands, and four feet firmly postured; in the first right hand holding a dorje, in the middle one, a skull—bowl, in the last one, a battle—axe ; in the first of the left, a bell, in the middle one, a skull—bowl, in the last one, a ploughshare: his body embraced by the Mother Vajra—Krotishaurima, her right hand clinging to his neck, her left offering to his mouth a red shell filled with blood, will issue from the eastern quarter of thy brain and come to shine upon thce. Fear it not. Be not terrified. Be not awed. Know it to be the embodiment of thine own intellect. As it Is thine own tutelary deity, be not terrified. In reality they are the Bhagavfm Vajra—Sattva, the Father and Mother. Believe in them. Recognizing them, liberation will be obtained at once. By so proclaiming them, knowing them to be tutelary deities, merging in them in at—one—ment, Buddhahood will be obtained.


Yet, if one do not recognize them, the obscurations of evil deeds being too great, and flee from them through terror and awe, then, on the Tenth Day, the blood—drinking deities of the Precious—Gem Order will come to receive one. Thereupon the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, listen. On the Tenth Day, the blood—drinking deity of the Prccious—Gem Order named Ratna—Heruka, yellow of colour; having three faces, six hands, four feet firmly postured ; the right face white, the left, red, the central, darkish yellow; enhaloed in flames; in the first of the six hands holding a gem, in the middle one, a trident—staff, in the last one, a baton; in the first of the left hands, a bell, in the middle one, a skull—bowl, in the last one, a trident—staff; his body embraced by the Mother Ratna—Krotishaurima, her right hand clinging to his neck, her left offering to his mouth a red shell filled with blood, will issue from the southern quarter of thy brain and come to shine upon thee. Fear not. Be not terrified. Be not awed. Know them to be the embodiment of thine own intellect. They being thine own tutelary deity, be not terrified. In reality they are the Father—Mother Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava. Believe in them. Recognition of them and the obtaining of liberation will be simultaneous.

By so proclaiming them, knowing them to be tutelary deities, merging in them in at—one—ment, Buddhahood will be obtained.


Yet, though set face—to—face thus, if, through power of evil propensities, terror and awe being produced, not recognizing them to be tutelary deities, one flee from them, then, on the Eleventh Day, the blood—drinking Lotus Order will come to receive one. Thereupon the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus :

O nobly—born, on the Eleventh Day, the blood—drinking deity of the Lotus Order, called the Bhagavān Padma—Heruka, of reddish—black colour; having three faces, six hands, and four feet firmly postured; the right face white, the left, blue, the central, darkish red; in the first of the right of the six hands holding a lotus, in the middle one, a trident—staff, in the last, a club; in the first of the left hands, a bell, in the middle one, a skull—bowl filled with blood, in the last, a small drum ; his body embraced by the Mother Padma—Krotishaurima, her right hand clinging to his neck, her left offering to his mouth a red shell full of blood; the Father and Mother in union ; will issue from the western quarter of thy brain and come to shine upon thee. Fear that not. Be not terrified. Be not awed. Rejoice. Recognize them to be the product of thine own intellect; as they are thine own tutelary deity, be not afraid. In reality they are the Father—Mother Bhagavān Amitābha. Believe in them. Concomitantly with recognition, liberation will come. Through such acknowledging, recognizing them to be tutelary deities, in at—one—ment thou wilt merge into them, and obtain Buddhahood.


Despite such setting—face—to—face, being still led backwards by evil propensities, terror and awe arising, it may be that one recognize not and flee. Thereupon, on the Twelfth Day, the blood—drinking deities of the Karmic Order, accompanied by the Kerima, Htamenma, and Wang—chugma, will come to receive one. Not recognizing, terror may be produced. Whereupon, the settiftg—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus :

O nobly—born, on the Twelfth Day, the blood—drinking deityof the Karmic Order, named Karma—Heruka, dark green ofcolour; having three faces, six hands, and four feet firmlypostured; the right face white, the left, red, the middle, darkgreen; majestic of appearance; in the first of the right ofthe six hands, holding a sword, in the middle one, a trident—staff, in the last, a club; in the first of the left hands, a bell, in the middle one a skull—bowl, in the last, a ploughshare; his body embraced by the Mother Karma—Kroti—shaurima, her right hand clinging to his neck, the left offering to his mouth a red shell; the Father and Mother in union, issuing from the northern quarter of thy brain, will come to shine upon thee. Fear that not. Be not terrified. Be not awed. Recognize them to be the embodiment of thine own intellect. They being thine own tutelary deity, be not afraid. In reality they are the Father—Mother Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi. Believe; and be humble; and be fond of them. Concomitantly with recognition, liberation will come. Through such acknowledging, recognizing them to be tutelary deities, in at—one—ment thou wilt merge into them, and obtain Buddhahood. Through the guru’s select teaching, one cometh to recognize them to be the thought—forms issuing from one’s own intellectual faculties. For instance, a person, upon recognizing a lion—skin to be a lion—skin, is freed from fear; for though it be only a stuffed lion—skin, if one do not know it to be so actually, fear ariseth, but, upon being told by some person that it is a lion—skin only, one is freed from fear. Similarly here, too, when the bands of blood—drinking deities, huge of proportions, with very thick—set limbs, dawn as big as the skies, awe and terror are naturally produced in one. But as soon as the setting—face—to—face is heard one recognizeth them to be one’s own tutelary deities and one’s own thought—forms. Then, when upon the Mother Clear—Light—which one had been accustomed to formerly—a secondary Clear—Light, the Offspring Clear—Light, is produced, and the Mother and Offspring Clear—Light, coming together like two intimate acquaintances, blend inseparably, and therefrom a self—emancipating radiance dawneth upon one, through sclf—enlighten—ment and self—knowledge one is liberated.


If this setting—face—to—face be not obtained, good persons on the Path, too, fall back from here and wander into the Sangsāra. Then the Eight Wrathful Ones, the Kcrimas, and the Htamenmas, having various animal heads, issue from within one’s own brain and come to shine upon one’s self. Thereupon the setting—face—to—face is, calling the deceased by name, thus:

O nobly—born, listen undistractedly. On the Thirteenth Day, from the eastern quarter of thy brain, the Eight Kerimas will emanate and come to shine upon thee. Fear that not.

From the east of thy brain, the White Kerima, holding a human corpse, as a club, in the right hand; in the left, holding a skull—bowl filled with blood, will come to shine upon thée. Fear not.

From the south, the Yellow Tseurima, holding a bow and arrow, ready to shoot; from the west, the Red Pramoha, holding a makara~>a.rmet ; from the north, the Black Petali, holding a dorje and a blood—filled skull—bowl; from the southeast, the Red Pukkase, holding intestines in the right hand and with the left putting them to her mouth; from the south—west, the Dark—Green Ghasmari, the left hand holding a blood—filled skull—bowl, with the right stirring it with a dorje) and she then drinking it with majestic relish; from the north—west, the Yellowish—White Tsandhali, tearing asunder a head from a corpse, the right hand holding a heart, the left putting the corpse to the mouth and she then eating thereof ; from the north—east, the Dark—Blue Smasha, tearing asunder a head from a corpse and eating thereof: these, the Eight Kerimas of the Abodes or Eight Directions, also come to shine upon thee, surrounding the Five Blood—drinking Fathers. Yet be not afraid.

O nobly—born, from the Circle outside of them, the Eight Htamenmas of the eight regions of the brain will come to shine upon thee: from the east, the Dark—Brown Lion—Headed One, the hands crossed on the breast, and in the mouth holding a corpse, and shaking the mane; from the south, the Red Tiger—Headed One, the hands crossed downwards, grinning and showing the fangs and looking on with protruding eyes; from the west, the Black Fox—Headed One, the right hand holding a shaving—knife, the left holding an intestine, and she eating and licking the blood therefrom; from the north, the Dark—Blue Wolf—Headed One, the two hands tearing open a corpse and looking on with protruding eyes; from the south—east, the Yellowish—White Vulture—Headed One, bearing a gigantic human—shaped corpse on the shoulder and holding a skeleton in the hand; from the south—west, the Dark—Red Ccmetery—Bird—Headed One, carrying a gigantic corpse on the shoulder; from the north—west, the Black Crow—Headed One, the left hand holding a skull—bowl, the right holding a sword, and she eating heart and lungs ; from the north—east, the Dark—Blue Owl—Headed One, holding a dorje in the right hand, and holding a skull—bowl in the left, and eating.

These tight Htamenmas ot the eight regions, likewise surrounding the Blood—Drinking Fathers, and issuing from within thy brain, come to shine upon thee. Fear that not. Know them to be the thought—forms of thine own intellectual faculties.


O nobly—born on the Fourteenth Day, the Four Female Door—Keepers, also issuing from within thine own brain, will come to shine upon thee. Again recognize. From the east quarter of thy brain will come to shine the White Tiger—Headed Goad—Holding Goddess, bearing a blood—filled skull—bowl in her left hand; from the south, the Yellow Sow—Headed Noose—Holding Goddess; from the west, the Red Lion—Headed Iron—Chain—Holding Goddess; and from the north, the Green Serpent—Headed Bell—Holding Goddess. Thus issue the Four Female Door—Keepers also from within thine own brain and come to shine upon thee; as tutelary deities, recognize them.

O nobly—born, on the outer Circle of these thirty wrathful deities, Herukas, the twenty—eight various—headed mighty goddesses, bearing various weapons, issuing from within thine own brain, will come to shine upon thce. Fear that not. Recognize whatever shineth to be the thought—forms of thine own intellectual faculties. At this vitally important time, recollect the select teachings of the guru.

O nobly—born, there will dawn from the east the Dark—Brown Yak—Headed Rakshasa—Goddess, holding a dorje and a skull; and the Reddish—Yellow Serpent—Headed Brahma—Goddess, holding a lotus in her hand ; and the Grccnish—Black Leopard—Headed Great—Goddess, holding a trident in her hand; and the Blue Monkey—Headed Goddess of In—quisitiveness, holding a wheel; and the Red Snow—Bear—Headed Virgin—Goddess, bearing a short spear in the hand; and the White Bear—Headed Indra—Goddcss, holding an intestine—noose in the hand: these, the Six Yoginls of the East, issuing from within the eastern quarter of thine own brain, will come to shine upon thee ; a fear that not.

O nobly—born, from the south will dawn the Yellow Bat—Headed Delight—Goddess, holding a shaving—knife in the hand ;and the Red Makara—Headed Peaceful—Goddcss, holding anurn in the hand; and the Red Scorpion—Headed Amrjtā—Goddcss, holding a lotus in the hand; and the White Kite—Headed Moon—Goddess, holding a dorje in the hand; and the Dark—GreenFox—Headed Baton—Goddess, flourishing a club in the hand;and the Yellowish—Black Tiger—Headed RākshasT, holdinga blood—filled skull—bowl in the hand : these the Six Yoginls of the South, issuing from within the southern quarter of thine own brain, will come to shine upon thee; fear that not.

O nobly—born, from the west will dawn the Greenish—Black Vulture—Headed Eater—Goddess, holding a baton in the hand; and the Red Horse—Headed Delight—Goddess, holding a huge trunk of a corpse; and the White Eagle—Headed Mighty—Goddess, holding a club in the hand; and the Yellow Dog—Headed RåkfhasI, holding a dorje in the hand and a shaving—knife and cutting with this; and the Red Hoopoo—Headed Desire—Goddess, holding a bow and arrow in the hand aimed; and the Green Stag—Headed Wealth—Guardian Goddess, holding an urn in the hand: these, the Six Yoginls of the West, issuing from within the western quarter of thine own brain, will come to shine upon thee; fear that not.

O nobly—born, from the north will dawn the Blue Wolf—Headed Wind—Goddess, waving a pennant in the hand; andthe Red Ibex—Headed Woman—Goddess, holding a pointedstake in the hand ; and the Black Sow—Headed Sow—Goddess, holding a noose of fangs in the hand; and the Red Crow—Headed Thunderbolt—Goddess, holding an infant corpse in thehand; and the Greenish—Black Elephant—Headed Big—NosedGoddess, holding in the hand a big corpse and drinking bloodfrom a skull; and the Blue Serpent—Headed Water—Goddess, holding in the hand a serpent noose: these, the Six Yoginlsof the North, issuing from within the northern quarter ofthine own brain, will come to shine upon thee; fear that not.

O nobly—born, the Four Yoginls of the Door, issuing from within the brain, will come to shine upon thee: from the east, the Black Cuckoo—Headed Mystic Goddess, holding an iron hook in the hand; from the south, the Yellow Goat—Headed Mystic Goddess, holding a noose in the hānd ; from the west, the Red Lion—Headed Mystic Goddess, holding an iron chain in the hand; and from the north, the Greenish—Black Serpent—Headed Mystic Goddess: these, the Four Door—Keeping Yoginls, issuing from within the brain, will come to shine upon thee.

Since these Twenty—eight Mighty Goddesses emanate from the bodily powers of Ratna—Sambhava, He of the Six Heruka Deities, recognize them,

O nobly—born, the Peaceful Deities emanate from the Void—ness of the Dharma—Kāya ; recognize them. From the Radiance of the *Dhartna—Kāya** emanate the Wrathful Deities; recognize them.

At this time when the Fifty—eight Blood—Drinking Deities emanating from thine own brain come to shine upon thee, if thou knowest them to be the radiances of thine own intellect, thou wilt merge, in the state of at—one—ment, into the body of the Blood—Drinking Ones there and then, and obtain Buddhahood.

O nobly—born, by not recognizing now, and by fleeing fromthe deities out of fear, again sufferings will come to overpowerthee. If this be not known, fear being begotten of the Blood—Drinking Deities, one is awed and terrified and fainteth away:one’s own thought—forms turn into illusory appearances, andone wandereth into the Sangsāra; if one be not awed andterrified, one will not wander into the Sangsāra.

Furthermore, the bodies of the largest of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities are equal in vastness to the limits of the heavens; the intermediate, as big as Mt. Meru; the smallest, equal to eighteen bodies such as thine own body, set one upon another. Be not terrified at that; be not awed. If all existing phenomena shining forth as divine shapes and radiances be recognized to be the emanations of one’s own intellect, Buddhahood will be obtained at that very instant of recognition. The saying, ‘Buddhahood will be obtained in a moment of time ‘is that which applieth now. Bearing this in mind, one will obtain Buddhahood by merging, in at—one—ment, into the Radiances and the Kāyas.

O nobly—born, whatever fearful and terrifying visions thou mayst see, recognize them to be thine own thought—forms.

O nobly—born, if thou recognize not, and be frightened, then all the Peaceful Deities will shine forth in the shapeof Mahā—Kāla; and all the Wrathful Deities will shineforth in the form of Dharma—Rāja, the Lord of Death; and thine own thought—forms becoming Illusions [or Māras] thou wilt wander into the Sangsāra*.

O nobly—born, if one recognize not one’s own thought—forms, however learned one may be in the Scriptures—both Sütras and Tantras —although practising religion for a ka/pa, one obtaineth not Buddhahood. If one recognize one’s ownthought—forms, by one important art and by one word, Buddhahood is obtained.

If one’s thought—forms be not recognized as soon as one dieth, the shapes of Dharma—Raja, the Lord of Death, will shine forth on the Chönyid Bardo. The largest of the bodies of Dharma—Rāja, the Lord of Death, equalling the heavens in vastness ; the intermediate, Mt. Meru ; the smallest, eighteen times one’s own body, will come filling the world—systems. They will come having their upper teeth biting the nether lip; their eyes glassy; their hairs tied up on the top of the head ; big—bellied, narrow—waisted ; holding a karmic record—board in the hand; giving utterance from their mouth to sounds of ‘Strike! Slay I’, licking human brain, drinking blood, tearing heads from corpses, tearing out the hearts: thus will they come, filling the worlds.

O nobly—born, when such thought—forms emanate, be thounot afraid, nor terrified; the body which now thou possessestbeing a mental—body of kartmc propensities, though slainand chopped to bits, cannot die. Because thy body is, in reality, one of voidness, thou ncedcst not fear. Thebodies of the Lord of Death, too, are emanations fromthe radiances of thine own intellect; they are not constitutedof matter; voidness cannot injure voidness. Beyond theemanations of thine own intellectual faculties, externally, the Peaceful and the Wrathful Ones, the Blood—DrinkingOnes, the Various—Headed Ones, the rainbow lights, theterrifying forms of the Lord of Death, exist not in reality:of this, there is no doubt. Thus, knowing this, all the fearand terror is self—dissipated; and, merging in the state ofat—one—ment, Buddhahood is obtained.

If thou recognizest in that manner, exerting thy faith and affection towards the tutelary deities and believing that they have come to receive thee amidst the ambuscades of the Bardo, think,’ I take refuge in them’; and remember the Precious Trinity, exerting towards them the Trinity fondness and faith. Whosoever thine own tutelary deity may be, recollect now; and calling him by name, pray thus :

Alas!, wandering am I in the Bardo ; run to my rescue; Uphold me by thy grace, O Precious Tutelary!’

Calling upon the name of thine own guru, pray thus:

Alas! wandering am I in the Bardo ; rescue me ; O let not thy grace forsake me !’

Have faith in the Blood—Drinking Deities, too, and offer up this prayer:

‘Alas t when I am wandering in the Sangsāra, through force of overpowering illusions,

On the light—path of the abandonment of fright, fear, and awe,
May the bands of the Bhagavāns, the Peaceful and Wrathful Ones, lead me;
May the bands of the Wrathful Goddesses Rich in Space be my rear—guard,
And save me from the fearful ambuscades of the Barda,
And place me in the state of the Perfectly—Enlightened Buddhas.

When wandering alone, separated from dear friends,
When the void forms of one’s own thoughts are shining here,
May the Buddhas, exerting the force of their grace,
Cause not to come the fear, awe, and terror in the Bardo.
When the five bright Wisdom—Lights are shining here,
May recognition come without dread and without awe;
When the divine bodies of the Peaceful and the Wrathful are shining here,

May the assurance of fearlessness be obtained and the Bardo be recognized.

When, by the power of evil karma, misery is being tasted,
May the tutelary deities dissipate the misery;
When the natural sound of Reality is reverberating like a thousand thunders,

May they be transmuted into the sounds of the Six Syllables.

When unprotected, karma having to be followed here,
I beseech the Gracious Compassionate One to protect me;
When suffering miseries of karmic propensities here,
May the blissfulness of the Clear Light dawn;
May the Five Elements not rise up as enemies;
But may I behold the realms of the Five Orders of the Enlightened Ones’

Thus, in earnest faith and humility, offer up the prayer; whereby all fears will vanish and Buddhahood in the Sambhoga—Kāya will undoubtedly be won: important is this. Being un—distracted, repeat it in that manner, three or even seven times.

However heavy the evil karma may be and however weak the remaining harina may be, it is not possible that liberation will not be obtained if one but recognize. If, nevertheless, despite everything done in these stages of the *Bardo, recognition is still not brought about, then—there being danger of one’s wandering further, into the third Bardo, called the Sidpa Bardo* —the setting—face—to—face for that will be shown in detail hereinafter.


Whatever the religious practices of any one may have been, —whether extensive or limited,—during the moments of death various misleading illusions occur; and hence this Th’ódol is indispensable. To those who have meditated much, the real Truth dawneth as soon as the body and consciousness—principle part. The acquiring of experience while living is important: they who have then recognized the true nature of their own being, and thus have had some experience, obtain great power during the Bardo of the Moments of Death, when the Clear Light dawneth.

Again, the meditation on the deities of the Mystic Path of the Mantra, both in the visualizing and the perfecting stages, while living, will be of great influence when the peaceful and wrathful visions dawn on the Chönyid Bardo. Thus the training in this Bardo being of particular importance even while living, hold to it, read it, commit it to memory, bear it in mind properly, read it regularly thrice; let the words and the meanings be very clear; it should be so that the words and the meanings will not be forgotten even though a hundred executioners were pursuing thee.

It is called the Great Liberation by Hearing, because even those who have committed the five boundless sins are sure to be liberated if they hear it by the path of the ear. Therefore read it in the midst of vast congregations. Disseminate it. Through having heard it once, even though one do not comprehend it, it will be remembered in the Intermediate State without a word being omitted, for the intellect becometh ninefold more lucid there. Hence it should be proclaimed in the ears of all living persons; it should be read over the pillows of all persons who are ill; it should be read at the side of all corpses: it should be spread broadcast.

Those who meet with this doctrine are indeed fortunate. Save for them who have accumulated much merit and absolved many obscurations, difficult is it to meet with it. Even when met with, difficult is it to comprehend it. Liberation will be won through simply not disbelieving it upon hearing it. Therefore treat this doctrine very dearly: it is the essence of all doctrines.

The Setting—Face—to—Face while experiencing Reality in the Intermediate State, called ‘The Teaching Which Liberateth By Merely Being Heard And That Which Liberateth By Merely Being Attached’, is finished.



‘The essence of all things is one and the same, perfectly calm and tranquil, and shows no sign of “becoming”; ignorance, however, is in its blindness and delusion oblivious of Enlightenment, and, on that account, cannot recognize truthfully all those conditions, differences, and activities which characterize the phenomena of the Universe.’ - Ashvaghosha. Th$ Awakening of Faith (Suzuki’s Translation).


To the assembled Deities, to the Tutelaries, to the Gurus, Humbly is obeisance paid:

May Liberation in the Intermediate State be vouchsafed by Them.


Above, in the Great Bardo—Thdol,
The Bardo called Chönyid was taught;
And now, of the Bardo called Sidpa,
The vivid reminder is brought.


Introductory Instructions to the Officiant: Although, heretofore, while in the Chönyid Bardo, many vivid re—mindings have been given,—setting aside those who have had great familiarity with the real Truth and those who have good karma, —for them of evil karma who have had no familiarity, and for them of evil karma who because of the influence thereof become stricken with fear and terror, recognition is difficult. These go down to the Fourteenth Day; and, to reimpress them vividly, that which follows is to be read.


Worship having been offered to the Trinity, and the prayer invoking the aid of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas having been recited, then, calling the deceased by name, three or seven times, speak thus:

O nobly—born, listen thou well, and bear at heart that birth in the Hell—world, in the Zføw—world, and in this Bardo—body is of the kind called supernormal birth.

Indeed, when thou wert experiencing the radiances of the Peaceful and the Wrathful, in the Chónyid Bardo, being unable to recognize, thou didst faint away, through fear, about three and one—half days after thy decease ; and, then, when thou wert recovered from the swoon, thy Knower must have risen up in its primordial condition and a radiant body, resembling the former body, must have sprung forth3—as the Tantra says,

’ Having a body seemingly fleshly resembling the former and that to be produced,
Endowed with all sense—faculties and power of unimpeded motion,
Possessing karmic miraculous powers,
Visible to pure celestial eyes of Bardo beings of like nature’

Such, then, is the teaching.

That radiant body—thus referred to as resembling ‘the former and that to be produced’ (meaning that one will have a body just like the body of flesh and blood, the former human, propensity body)—will also be endowed with certain signs and beauties of perfection such as beings of high destiny possess.

This body, born of desire, is a thought—form hallucination in the Intermediate State, and it is called desire—body.

At that time—if thou art to be born as a deva —visions of the Deva—v/orld will appear to thee; similarly—wherever thou art to be born—if as an asura, or a human being, or a brute, or a preta, or a being in Hell, a vision of the place will appear to thee.

Accordingly, the word ‘former’ in the quotation implieth that prior to the three and one—half days thou wilt have been thinking thou hadst the same sort of a body as the former body of flesh and blood, possessed by thee in thy former existence because of habitual propensities; and the word 1 produced’ is so used because, afterwards, the vision of thy future place of birth will appear to thee. Hence, the expression as a whole, ‘former and that to be produced’, referreth to these [i.e. the fleshly body just discarded and the fleshly body to be assumed at rebirth].

At that time, follow not the visions which appear to thee. Be not attracted; be not weak: if, through weakness, thou be fond of them, thou wilt have to wander amidst the Six Lokas and suffer pain.

Up to the other day thou wert unable to recognize the Chönyid B ardo > and hast had to wander down this far. Now, if thou art to hold fast to the real Truth, thou must allow thy mind to rest undistractedly in the nothing—to—do, nothing—to—hold condition of the unobscured, primordial, bright, void state of thine intellect, to which thou hast been introduced by thy guru? Thereby thou wilt obtain Liberation without having to enter the door of the womb. But if thou art unable to know thyself, then, whosoever may be thy tutelary deity and thy guru, meditate on them, in a state of intense fondness and humble trust, as overshadowing the crown of thy head.This is of great importance. Be not distracted.

Instructions to the Officiant : Thus speak, and, if recognition result from that, Liberation will be obtained, without need of the wandering in the Six Lokas. If, however, through influence of bad karma> recognition is made difficult, thereupon say as follows:

O nobly—born, again listen.’Endowed with all sense—faculties and power of unimpeded motion implieth that although thou mayst have been, when living, blind of the eye, or deaf, or lame, yet on this After—Death Plane thine eyes will see forms, and thine ears will hear sounds, and all other sense—organs of thine will be unimpaired and very keen and complete. Wherefore the Bardo—body hath been spoken of as ‘endowed with all sense—faculties That condition of existence, in which thou thyself now art is an indication that thou art deceased and wandering in the Bardo. Act so as to know this. Remember the teachings; remember the teachings.

O nobly—born,’ unimpeded motion’ implieth that thy present body being a desire—body—thine intellect having been separated from its seat—is not a body of gross matter, so that now thou hast the power to go right through any rock—masses, hills, boulders, earth, houses, and Mt. Meru itself without being impeded.3 Excepting Budh—Gayā and the mother’s womb,4 even the King of Mountains, Mt. Meru itself, can be passed through by thee, straight forwards and backwards unimpededly. That, too, is an indication that thou art wandering in the Sidpa Bardo. Remember thy guru’s teachings, and pray to the Compassionate Lord.

O nobly—born, thou art actually endowed with the power of miraculous action, which is not, however, the fruit of any samad/ti, but a power come to thee naturally; and, therefore, it is of the nature of karmic power. Thou art able in a moment to traverse the four continents round about Mt. Meru.3 Or thou canst instantaneously arrive in whatever place thou wishest; thou hast the power of reaching there within the time which a man taketh to bend, or to stretch forth his hand. These various powers of illusion and of shape—shifting desire not, desire not.4

None is there of such powers which thou mayst desire which thou canst not exhibit. The ability to exercise them unimpededly existeth in thee now. Know this, and pray to the guru.

O nobly—born, ’Visible to pure celestial eyes of like nature’ implieth that those beings of like nature, being those of similar constitution or level of knowledge in the Intermediate State, will individually see each other. For example, those beings who are destined to be born amongst devas will see each other and so on. Dote not on them seen by thee, but meditate upon the Compassionate One,

‘Visible to pure celestial eyes also implieth that the devas, being born pure in virtue of merit, are visible to the pure celestial eyes of those who practise dhyāna. These will not see them at all times: when mentally concentrated upon them they see them, when not, they see them not. Sometimes, even when practising dhyāna they are liable to become distracted and not see them.


O nobly—born, the possessor of that sort of body will see places familiarly known on the earth—plane and relatives there as one seeth another in dreams.

Thou seest thy relatives and connexions and speakest to them, but receivest no reply. Then, seeing them and thy family weeping, thou thinkest, ‘I am dead! What shall I do?’ and feelest great misery, just like a fish cast out of water on red—hot embers. Such misery thou wilt be experiencing at present. But feeling miserable will avail thee nothing now. If thou hast a divine guru pray to him. Pray to the Tutelary Deity, the Compassionate One. Even though thou feelest attachment for thy relatives and connexions, it will do thee no good. So be not attached. Pray to the Compassionate Lord; thou shalt have nought of sorrow, or of terror, or of awe.

O nobly—born, when thou art driven hither and thitherby the ever—moving wind of karma, thine intellect, havingno object upon which to rest, will be like a feather tossedabout by the wind, riding on the horse of breath. Ceaselessly and involuntarily wilt thou be wandering about. Toall those who are weeping thou wilt say, * Here I am ; weepnot.’ But they not hearing thee, thou wilt think, ‘I amdead !’ And again, at that time, thou wilt be feeling verymiserable. Be not miserable in that way.

There will be a grey twilight—like light, both by night and by day, and at all times. In that kind of Intermediate State thou wilt be either for one, two, three, four, ñve, six, or seven weeks, until the forty—ninth day. It hath been said that ordinarily the miseries of the Sidpa Bardo are experienced for about twenty—two days; but, because of the determining influence of karma, a fixed period is not assured.

O nobly—born, at about that time, the fierce wind of karma, terrific and hard to endure, will drive thee onwards, from behind, in dreadful gusts. Fear it not. That is thine own illusion. Thick awesome darkness will appear in front of thcc continually, from the midst of which there will come such terror—producing utterances as’Strike! Slay! *** and similar threats. Fear these not.

In other cases, of persons of much evil karma, karmicalty— produced flesh—eating rāk$hasas or demons bearing various weapons will utter, * Strike! Slay!’ and so on, making a frightful tumult. They will come upon one as if competing amongst themselves as to which of them should get hold of one. Apparitional illusions, too, of being pursued by various terrible beasts of prey will dawn. Snow, rain, darkness, fierce blasts of wind, and hallucinations of being pursued by many people likewise will come; and sounds as of mountains crumbling down, and of angry overflowing seas, and of the roaring of fire, and of fierce winds springing up.

When these sounds come one, being terrified by them, will flee before them in every direction, not caring whither one flecth. But the way will be obstructed by three awful precipices—white, and black, and red. They will be terror—inspiring and deep, and one will feel as if one were about to fall down them. O nobly—born, they are not really precipices ; they are Anger, Lust, and Stupidity.

Know at that time that it is the Sidpa Bardo in which thou art. Invoking, by name, the Compassionate One, pray earnestly, thus: ‘O Compassionate Lord, and my Guru, and the Precious Trinity, suffer it not that I (so—and—o by name) fall into the unhappy worlds.’ Act so as to forget this not.

Others who have accumulated merit, and devoted themselves sincerely to religion, will experience various delightful pleasures and happiness and ease in full measure. But that class of neutral beings who have neither earned merit nor created bad karma will experience neither pleasure nor pain, but a sort of colourless stupidity of indifference. O nobly—born, whatever cometh in that manner—whatever delightful pleasures thou mayst experience—be not attracted by them ; dote not on them: think, ‘May the Guru and the Trinity be worshipped with these merit—given delights’. Abandon all dotings and hankerings.

Even though thou dost not experience pleasure, or pain, but only indifference, keep thine intellect in the undistracted state of the meditation upon the Great Symbol, without thinking that thou art meditating. This is of vast importance.

O nobly—born, at that time, at bridge—heads, in temples, by stüpas of eight kinds, thou wilt rest a little while, but thou wilt not be able to remain there very long, for thine intellect hath been separated from thine earth—plane body.Because of this inability to loiter, thou oft—times wilt feel perturbed and vexed and panic—stricken. At times, thy Knower will be dim ; at times, fleeting and incoherent. Thereupon this thought will occur to thee, ‘Alas! I am dead! What shall I do ? * and because of such thought the Knower will become saddened and the heart chilled, and thou wilt experience infinite misery of sorrow.2 Since thou canst not rest in any one place, and feel impelled to go on, think not of various things, but allow the intellect to abide in its own unmodified state.

As to food, only that which hath been dedicated to thee can be partaken of by thee, and no other food. As to friends at this time, there will be no certainty.

These are the indications of the wandering about on the Sidpa Bardo of the mental—body. At the time, happiness and misery will depend upon karma.

Thou wilt see thine own home, the attendants, relatives, and the corpse, and think, ’Now I am dead! What shall I do ?’ and being oppressed with intense sorrow, the thought ‘And so thinking, thou wilt be wandering hither and thither seeking a body.

Even though thou couldst enter thy dead body nine times over—owing to the long interval which thou hast passed in the Chónyid Bardo —it will have been frozen if in winter, been decomposed if in summer, or, otherwise, thy relatives will have cremated it, or interred it, or thrown it into the water, or given it to the birds and beasts of prey. Wherefore finding no place for thyself to enter into, thou wilt be dissatisfied and have the sensation of being squeezed into cracks and crevices amidst rocks and boulders.2 The experiencing of this sort of misery occurs in the Intermediate State when seeking rebirth. Even though thou seekest a body, thou wilt gain nothing but trouble. Put aside the desire for a body; and permit thy mind to abide in the state of resignation, and act so as to abide therein.

By thus being set face to face, one obtaineth liberation from the Bardo.


Instructions to the Officiant: Yet, again, it may be possible that because of the influence of bad karma one will not recognize even thus. Therefore, call the deceased by name, and speak as follows:

O nobly—born, (so—and—so), listen. That thou art sufferingso cometh from thine own karma ; it is not due to any oneelse’s: it is by thine own karma. Accordingly, pray earnestlyto the Precious Trinity; that will protect thee. If thouneither prayest nor knowest how to meditate upon the GreatSymbol nor upon any tutelary deity, the Good Genius, who was born simultaneously with thee, will come now and count out thy good deeds with white pebbles, and the Evil Genius, who was born simultaneously with thee, will come and count out thy evil deeds with black pebbles. Thereupon, thou wilt be greatly frightened, awed, and terrified, and wilt tremble; and thou wilt attempt to tell lies, saying, * I have not committed any evil deed’.

Then the Lord of Death will say, I will consult the Mirror of Karma*’.

So saying, he will look in the Mirror, wherein every good and evil act is vividly reflected. Lying will be of no avail.

Then one of the Executive Furies of the Lord of Death will place round thy neck a rope and drag thee along; he will cut off thy head, extract thy heart, pull out thy intestines, lick up thy brain, drink thy blood, eat thy flesh, and gnaw thy bones; but thou wilt be incapable of dying. Although thy body be hacked to pieces, it will revive again. The repeated hacking will cause intense pain and torture.

Even at the time that the pebbles are being counted out, be not frightened, nor terrified ; tell no lies; and fear not the Lord of Death.

Thy body being a mental body is incapable of dying even though beheaded and quartered. In reality, thy body is of the nature of voidness; thou needst not be afraid. The Lords of Death are thine own hallucinations. Thy desire—body is a body of propensities, and void. Voidness cannot injure voidness; the qualityless cannot injure the qualityless.






Apart from one’s own hallucinations, in reality there are no such things existing outside oneself as Lord of Death, or god, or demon, or the Bull—headed Spirit of Death. Act so as to recognize this.

At this time, act so as to recognize that thou art in the Bardo. Meditate upon the Samadla of the Great Symbol. If thou dost not know how to meditate, then merely analyse with care the real nature of that which is frightening thee. In reality it is not formed into anything, but is a Voidness which is the Dharma—Kāya?

That Voidness is not of the nature of the voidness of nothingness, but a Voidness at the true nature of which thou feelest awed, and before which thine intellect shineth clearly and more lucidly: that is the state of mind of the Sambhoga—Kāya.

In that state wherein thou art existing, there is being experienced by thce, in an unbearable intensity, Voidness and Brightness inseparable,—the Voidness bright by nature and the Brightness by nature void, and the Brightness inseparable from the Voidness,—a state of the primordial or unmodified intellect, which is the Ådi—Kāya. And the power of this, shining unobstructedly, will radiate everywhere; it is the Nirmāna—Kāya.

O nobly—born, listen unto me undistractedly. By merelyrecognizing the Four Kāyas thou art certain to obtain perfectEmancipation in any of Them. Be not distracted. The lineof demarcation between Buddhas and sentient beings licthherein. This moment is one of great importance; if thoushouldst be distracted now, it will require innumerable aeonsof time for thee to come out2 of the Quagmire of Misery.

A saying, the truth of which is applicable, is:

‘In a moment of time, a marked differentiation is created; In a moment of time, Perfect Enlightenment is obtained.’

Till the moment which hath just passed, all this Bardo hath been dawning upon thee and yet thou hast not recognized, because of being distracted. On this account, thou hast experienced all the fear and terror. Shouldst thou become distracted now, the chords of divine compassion of the Compassionate Eyes will break, and thou wilt go into the place from which there is no immediate liberation. Therefore, be careful. Even though thou hast not recognized ere this—despite thus being set face to face—thou wilt recognize and obtain liberation here.

Instructions to the Officiant: If it be an illiterate boor who knoweth not how to meditate, then say this:

O nobly—born, if thou knowest not how thus to meditate, act so as to remember the Compassionate One, and the Sañgha, the Dharma, and the Buddha, and pray. Think of all these fears and terrifying apparitions as being thine own tutelary deity, or as the Compassionate One. Bring to thy recollection the mystic name that hath been given thee at the time.

‘Even though thou fallest down precipices, thou wilt not be hurt Avoid awe and terror.


Instructions to the Officiant: Say that; for by such setting—face—to—face, despite the previous non—liberation, liberation ought surely to be obtained here. Possibly, however, liberation may not be obtained even after that setting—face—to—face ; and earnest and continued application being essential, again calling the deceased by name, speak as follows:

O nobly—born, thy immediate experiences will be of momentary joys followed by momentary sorrows, of great intensity, like the taut and relaxed mechanical actions of catapults.Be not in the least attached to the joys nor displeased by the sorrows of that.

If thou art to be born on a higher plane, the vision of that higher plane will be dawning upon thee.

Thy living relatives may—by way of dedication for the benefit of thee deceased—be sacrificing many animals, and performing religious ceremonies, and giving alms. Thou, because of thy vision not being purified, mayst be inclined to grow very angry at their actions and bring about, at this moment, thy birth in Hell: whatever those left behind thee may be doing, act thou so that no angry thought can arise in thee, and meditate upon love for them.

Furthermore, even if thou feelest attached to the worldly goods thou hast left behind, or, because of seeing such worldly goods of thine in the possession of other people and being enjoyed by them, thou shouldst feel attached to them through weakness, or feel angry with thy successors, that feeling will affect the psychological moment in such a way that, even though thou wert destined to be born on higher and happier planes, thou wilt be obliged to be born in Hell, or in the world of pretas or unhappy ghosts. On the other hand, even if thou art attached to worldly goods left behind, thou wilt not be able to possess them, and they will be of no use to thee. Therefore, abandon weakness and attachment for them ; cast them away wholly; renounce them from thy heart. No matter who may be enjoying thy worldly goods, have no feeling of miserliness, but be prepared to renounce them willingly. Think that thou art offering them to the Precious Trinity and to thy guru and abide in the feeling of unattachment, devoid of weakness of desire.

Again, when any recitation of the Kamkani Mantra is being made on thy behalf as a funeral rite, or wfaen any rite for the absolving of bad karma liable to bring about thy birth in lower regions is being performed for thee, the sight of their being conducted in an incorrect way, mixed up with sleep and distraction and non—observance of the vows and lack of purity on the part of any officiant, and such things indicating levity—all of which thou wilt be able to see because thou art endowed with limited karmic power of prescience *—thou mayst feel lack of faith and entire disbelief in thy religion. Thou wilt be able to apprehend any fear and fright, any black actions, irreligious conduct, and incorrectly recited rituals. In thy mind thou mayst think, ‘Alas! they are, indeed, playing me false Thinking thus, thou wilt be extremely depressed, and, through great resentment, thou wilt acquire disbelief and loss of faith, instead of affection and humble trustfulness. This affecting the psychological moment, thou wilt be certain to be born in one of the miserable states.

Such thought will not only be of no use to thee, but will do thee great harm. However incorrect the ritual and improper the conduct of the priests performing thy funeral rites, think, ‘What! mine own thoughts must be impure! How can it be possible that the words of the Buddha should be incorrect ? It is like the reflection of the blemishes on mine own face which I see in a mirror; mine own thoughts must indeed be impure. As for these i. e. the priests, the Sañgha is their body, the Dharma their utterance, and in their mind they are the Buddha in reality: I will take refuge in them’.

Thus thinking, put thy trust in them and exercise sincere love towards them. Then whatever is done for thee by those left behind will truly tend to thy benefit. Therefore the exercise of that love is of much importance ; do not forget this.

Again, even if thou wert to be born in one of the miserable states and the light of that miserable state shone upon thee, yet by thy successors and relatives performing white religious rites unmixed with evil actions, and the abbots and learned priests devoting themselves, body, speech, and mind, to the performance of the correct meritorious rituals, the delight from thy feeling greatly cheered at seeing them will, by its own virtue, so affect the psychological moment that, even though thou deservest a birth in the unhappy states, there will be brought about thy birth on a higher and happier plane. Therefore thou shouldst not create impious thoughts, but exercise pure affection and humble faith towards all impartially. This is highly important. Hence be extremely careful.

O nobly—born, to sum up: thy present intellect in the Intermediate State having no firm object whereon to depend, being of little weight and continuously in motion, whatever thought occurs to thee now—be it pious or impious—will wield great power; therefore think not in thy mind of impious things, but recall any devotional exercises; or, if thou wert unaccustomed to any such exercises, show forth pure affection and humble faith; pray to the Compassionate One, or to thy tutelary deities; with full resolve, utter this prayer :

‘Alas! while wandering alone, separated from loving friends,
When the vacuous, reflected body of mine own mental ideas dawneth upon me,

May the Buddhas, vouchsafing their power of compassion,
Grant that there shall be no fear, awe, or terror in the Bardo.
When experiencing miseries, through the power of evil karma
May the tutelary deities dispel the miseries.

When the thousand thunders of the Sound of Reality reverberate,
May they all be sounds of the Six Syllables.
When Karma follows, without there being any protector,
May the Compassionate One protect me, I pray.
When experiencing the sorrows of karmic propensities here,
May the radiance of the happy clear light of Samādhi shine upon me.’

Earnest prayer in this form will be sure to guide thee along; thou mayst rest assured that thou wilt not be deceived. Of great importance is this: through that being recited, again recollection cometh; and recognition and liberation will be achieved.


Instructions to the Officiant : Yet—though this instruction be so oft repeated—if recognition be difficult, because of the influence of evil karma, much benefit will come from repeating these settings—face—to—face many times over. Once more, then, call the deceased by name, and speak as follows :

O nobly—born, if thou hast been unable to apprehend the above, henceforth the body of the past life will become more and more dim and the body of the future life will become more and more clear. Saddened at this thou wilt think, O what misery I am undergoing! Now, whatever body I am to get, I shall go and seek it So thinking, thou wilt be going hither and thither, ceaselessly and distractedly. Then there will shine upon thee the lights of the Six Sangsāric Lokas. The light of that place wherein thou art to be born, through power of karma, will shine most prominently.

O nobly—born, listen. If thou desirest to know what those six lights are: there will shine upon thee a dull white light from the Deva—v/orld, a dull green light from the Asura— world, a dull yellow light from the Human—world, a dull blue light from the Brute—world, a dull red light from the Preta— world, and a smoke—coloured light from the Hell—world. At that time, by the power of karma thine own body will partake of the colour of the light of the place wherein thou art to be born.

O nobly—born, the special art of these teachings is especially important at this moment: whichever light shineth upon thee now, meditate upon it as being the Compassionate One; from whatever place the light cometh, consider that place to be or to exist in the Compassionate One. This is an exceedingly profound art; it will prevent birth. Or whosoever thy tutelary deity may be, meditate upon the form for much time,— as being apparent yet non—existent in reality, like a form produced by a magician. That is called the pure illusory form. Then let the visualization of the tutelary deity melt away from the extremities, till nothing at all remaineth visible of it; and put thyself in the state of the Clearness and the Voidness—which thou canst not conceive as something— and abide in that state for a little while. Again meditate upon the tutelary deity; again meditate upon the Clear Light: do this alternately. Afterwards, allow thine own intellect also to melt away gradually,3 beginning from the extremities.

Wherever the ether pervadeth, consciousness pervadeth; wherever consciousness pervadeth, the Dharma—Kāya pervadeth. Abide tranquilly in the uncreated state of the Dharma—Kāya. In that state, birth will be obstructed and Perfect Enlightenment gained.



Instructions to the Officiant: Again, if through great weakness in devotions and lack of familiarity one be not able to understand, illusion may overcome one, and one will wander to the doors of wombs. The instruction for the closing of the womb—doors becometh very important: call the deceased by name and say this :

O nobly—born, if thou hast not understood the above, at this moment, through the influence of karma, thou wilt have the impression that thou art either ascending, or moving along on a level, or going downwards. Thereupon, meditate upon the Compassionate One. Remember. Then, as said above, gusts of wind, and icy blasts, hail—storms, and darkness, and impression of being pursued by many people will come upon thee. On fleeing from these hallucinations, those who are unendowed with meritorious karma will have the impression of fleeing into places of misery; those who are endowed with meritorious karma will have the impression of arriving in places of happiness. Thereupon, O nobly—born, in whatever continent or place thou art to be born, the signs of that birthplace will shine upon thee then.

For this moment there are several vital profound teachings. Listen undistractedly. Even though thou hast not apprehended by the above settings—face—to—face, here thou wilt, because even those who are very weak in devotions will recognize the signs. Therefore listen.

Instructions to the Officiant: Now it is very important to employ the methods of closing the womb—door. Wherefore it is necessary to exercise the utmost care. There are two chief ways of closing: preventing the being who would enter from entering, and closing the womb—door which might be entered.


The instructions for preventing the being from entering are thus:

O nobly—born, (so—and—so by name,) whosoever may have been thy tutelary deity, tranquilly meditate upon him,—as upon the reflection of the moon in water, apparent yet non—existent as a moon, like a magically—produced illusion. If thou hast no special tutelary, meditate either upon the Compassionate Lord or upon me; and, with this in mind, meditate tranquilly.

Then, causing the visualized form of the tutelary deity to melt away from the extremities, meditate, without any thought—forming, upon the vacuous Clear Light. This is a very profound art; in virtue of it, a womb is not entered.


In that manner meditate; but even though this be found inadequate to prevent thee from entering into a womb, and if thou findest thyself ready to enter into one, then there is the profound teaching for closing the womb—door. Listen thou unto it:

‘When, at this time, alas! the Sidpa Bardo is dawning upon oneself,
Holding in mind one single resolution, Persist in joining up the chain of good karma ;Close up the womb—door, and remember the opposition.This is a time when earnestness and pure love are necessary;
Abandon jealousy, and meditate upon the Guru Father—Mother/
Repeat this, from thine own mouth, distinctly; and re—
member its meaning vividly, and meditate upon it. The putting of this into practice is essential.

The significance of the above teaching,’ When, at this time, the Sidpa Bardo is dawning upon me or upon oneself’, is that now thou art wandering in the Sidpa Bardo, As a sign of this, if thou lookest into water, or into mirrors, thou wilt see no reflection of thy face or body; nor doth thy body cast any shadow. Thou hast discarded now thy gross material body of flesh and blood. These are the indications that thou art wandering about in the Sidpa Bardo.

At this time, thou must form, without distraction, one single resolve in thy mind. The forming of one single resolve is very important now. It is like directing the course of a horse by the use of the reins.

Whatever thou desirest will come to pass. Think not upon evil actions which might turn the course of thy mind. Remember thy spiritual relationship with the Reader of this Bardo T/wdol, or with any one from whom thou hast received teachings, initiation, or spiritual authorization for reading religious texts while in the human world; and persevere in going on with good acts: this is very essential. Be not distracted. The boundary line between going upwards or going downwards is here now. If thou givest way to indecision for even a second, thou wilt have to suffer misery for a long, long time. This is the moment. Hold fast to one single purpose. Persistently join up the chain of good acts.

Thou hast come now to the time of closing the womb—door. This is a time when earnestness and pure love are necessary’, which implieth that now the time hath come when, first of all, the womb—door should be closed, there being five methods of closing. Bear this well at heart.


O nobly—born, at this time thou wilt see visions of males and females in union. When thou seest them, remember to withhold thyself from going between them. Regarding the father and mother as thy Guru and the Divine Mother, meditate upon them and bow down; humbly exercise thy faith; offer up mental worship with great fervency; and resolve that thou wilt request of them religious guidance.

By that resolution alone, the womb ought certainly to be closed; but if it is not closed even by that, and thou findest thyself ready to enter into it, meditate upon the Divine Guru Father—Mother, as upon any tutelary deity, or upon the Compassionate Tutelary and *Shakti* and meditating upon them, worship them with mental offerings. Resolve earnestly that thou wilt request of them a boon. By this, the womb—door ought to be closed.


Still, if it be not closed even by that, and thou findest thyself ready to enter the womb, the third method of repelling attachment and repulsion is hereby shown unto thee :

There are four kinds of birth: birth by egg, birth by womb, supernormal birth, and birth by heat and moisture.4 Amongst these four,6 birth by egg and birth by womb agree in character.

As above said, the visions of males and females in union will appear. If, at that time, one entereth into the womb through the feelings of attachment and repulsion, one may be born either as a horse, a fowl, a dog, or a human being.

If about to be born as a male, the feeling of itself being a male dawneth upon the Knower, and a feeling of intense hatred towards the father and of jealousy and attraction towards the mother is begotten. If about to be born as a female, the feeling of itself being a female dawneth upon the Knower, and a feeling of intense hatred towards the mother and of intense attraction and fondness towards the father is begotten. Through this secondary cause—when entering upon the path of ether, just at the moment when the sperm and the ovum are about to unite—the Knower experienceth the bliss of the simultaneously—born state, during which state it fainteth away into unconsciousness. Afterwards it findeth itself encased in oval form, in the embryonic state, and upon emerging from the womb and opening its eyes it may find itself transformed into a young dóg. Formerly it had been a human being, but now if it have become a dog it findeth itself undergoing sufferings in a dog’s kennel; or perhaps as a young pig in a pigsty, or as an ant in an ant—hill, or as an insect, or a grub in a hole, or as a calf, or a kid, or a lamb, from which shape there is no immediate returning. Dumbness, stupidity, and miserable intellectual obscurity are suffered, and a variety of sufferings experienced. In like manner, one may wander into hell, or into the world of unhappy ghosts, or throughout the Six Lokas, and endure inconceivable miseries.

Those who are voraciously inclined towards this i. e. sangsaric existence, or those who do not at heart fear it,—O dreadful! O dreadful! Alas!—and those who have not received a guru’s teachings, will fall down into the precipitous depths of the Sangsāra in this manner, and suffer interminably and unbearably. Rather than meet with a like fate, listen thou unto my words and bear these teachings of mine at heart.

Reject the feelings of attraction or repulsion, and remember one method of closing the womb—door which I am going to show to thce. Close the womb—door and remember the opposition. This is the time when earnestness and pure love arc necessary. As hath been said, ‘Abandon jealousy, and meditate upon the Guru Father—Mother’

As above explained, if to be born as a male, attraction towards the mother and repulsion towards the father, and if to be born as a female, attraction towards the father and repulsion towards the mother, together with a feeling of jealousy for one or the other which ariseth, will dawn upon thee.

For that time there is a profound teaching. O nobly—born, when the attraction and repulsion arise, meditate as follows:

‘Alas! what a being of evil karma am I! That I have wandered in the Sangsāra hitherto, hath been owing to attraction and repulsion. If I still go on feeling attraction and repulsion, then I shall wander in endless Sangsāra and suffer in the Ocean of Misery for a long, long time, by sinking therein. Now I must not act through attraction and repulsion. Alas, for me! Henceforth I will never act through attraction and repulsion.

Meditating thus, resolve firmly that thou wilt hold on to that resolution. It hath been said, in the Tantras, ‘The door of the womb will be closed up by that alone/

O nobly—born, be not distracted. Hold thy mind one—pointedly upon that resolution.


Again, even if that doth not close the womb, and one findeth oneself ready to enter the womb, then by means of the teaching called * The Untrue and the Illusory’ the womb should be closed. That is to be meditated as follows:

‘O, the pair, the father and the mother, the black rain, the storm—blasts, the clashing sounds, the terrifying apparitions, and all the phenomena, are, in their true nature, illusions. Howsoever —they may appear, no truth is there in them; all substances are unreal and false. Like dreams and like apparitions are they; they are non—permanent; they have no fixity. What advantage is there in being attached to them! What advantage is there in having fear and terror of them! It is the seeing of the non—existent as the existent. All these are hallucinations of one’s own mind. The illusory mind itself doth not exist from eternity; therefore where should these external phenomena exist ?

‘I, by not having understood these things in that way hitherto, have held the non—existent to be the existent, the unreal to be the real, the illusory to be the actual, and have wandered in the Sangsāra so long. And even now if I do not recognize them to be illusions, then, wandering in the Sangsāra for long ages, I shall be certain to fall into the morass of various miseries.

‘Indeed, all these are like dreams, like hallucinations, like echoes, like the cities of the Odour—eaters, like mirage, like mirrored forms, like phantasmagoria, like the moon seen in water—not real even for a moment. In truth, they are unreal; they are false.’

By holding one—pointedly to that train of thought, the belief that they are real is dissipated ; and, that being impressed upon the inner continuity of consciousness, one turneth backwards: if the knowledge of the unreality be impressed deeply in that way, the womb—door will be closed.


Still, even when this is done, if the holding phenomena as real remaineth undissolved, the womb—door is not closed; and, if one be ready to enter into the womb, thereupon one should close the womb—door by meditating upon the Clear Light, this being the fifth method. The meditation is performed as follows:

‘Lo! all substances are mine own mind;’ and this mind is vacuousness, is unborn, and unceasing.

Thus meditating, allow the mind to rest in the uncreated state—like, for example, the pouring of water into water. The mind should be allowed its own easy mental posture, in its natural or unmodified condition, clear and vibrant. By maintaining this relaxed, uncreated state of mind, the womb—doors of the four kinds of birth are sure to be closed. Meditate thus until the closing is successfully accomplished.

Instructions to the Officiant: Many very profound teachings for closing the womb—door have been given above. It is impossible that they should not liberate people of the highest, the average, and the lowest intellectual capacity. If it be asked why this should be so, it is because, firstly, the consciousness in the Bardo possessing supernormal power of perception of a limited kind, whatever is spoken to one then is apprehended. Secondly, because—although formerly deaf or blind—here, at this time, all one’s faculties are perfect, and one can hear whatever is addressed to one. Thirdly, being continually pursued by awe and terror, one thinketh, ‘What is best?’ and, being alertly conscious, one is always coming to hear whatever may be told to one. Since the consciousness is without a prop,4 it immediately goeth to whatever place the mind directeth. Fourthly, it is easy to direct it. The memory2 is ninefold more lucid than before. Even though stupid before, at this time, by the workings of karma, the intellect becometh exceedingly clear and capable of meditating whatever is taught to it. Hence the answer is, it is because it i.e. the Knower possesseth these virtues.

That the performance of funeral rites should be efficacious, is, likewise, because of that reason. Therefore, the perseverance in the reading of the Great Bardo Thödol for forty—nine days is of the utmost importance. Even if not liberated at one setting—face—to—face, one ought to be liberated at another: this is why so many different settings—face—to—face are necessary.


Instructions to the Officiant: There are, nevertheless, many classes of those who—though reminded, and instructed to direct their thoughts one—pointedly—are not liberated, owing to the great force of evil karmic obscurations, and because of being unaccustomed to pious deeds, and of being much accustomed to impious deeds throughout the aeons. Therefore, if the womb—door hath not been closed ere this, a teaching also for the selection of a womb—door is going to be given hereinafter. Now, invoking the aid of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, repeat the Refuge; and, once more calling the deceased by name thrice, speak as follows:

O nobly—born, (so—and—so), listen. Although the above setting—face—to—face teachings have been given one—pointedly, yet thou hast not understood them. Therefore, if the womb—door hath not been closed, it is almost time to assume a body. Make thy selection of the womb according to this best teaching. Listen attentively, and hold it in mind.


O nobly—born, now the signs and characteristics of the place of birth will come. Recognize them. In observing the place of birth, choose the continent too.

If to be born in the Eastern Continent of Liipah, a lake adorned with swans, male and female, floating thereon, will be seen. Go not there. Recollect the revulsion against going there. If one goeth there, that Continent—though endowed with bliss and ease—is one wherein religion doth not predominate. Therefore, enter not therein.

If to be born in the Southern Continent of Jambu, grand delightful mansions will be seen. Enter therein, if one is to enter.

If to be born in the Western Continent of Balang—Chod, a lake adorned with horses, male and female, grazing on its shores, will be seen. Go not even there, but return here. Although wealth and abundance are there, that being a land wherein religion doth not prevail, enter not therein.

If to be born in the Northern Continent of Daminyan, a lake adorned with male and female cattle, grazing on its shores, or trees, round about it, will be seen. Although duration of life, and merits are there, yet that Continent, too, is one wherein religion doth not predominate. Therefore enter not.

These are the premonitory signs or visions of the taking rebirth in those Continents. Recognize them. Enter not.

If one is to be born as a deva> delightful temples or mansions built of various precious metals also will be seen.One may enter therein; so enter therein.

If to be born as an cisura either a charming forest will be seen or else circles of fire revolving in opposite directions. Recollect the revulsion; and do not enter therein by any means.

If to be born amongst beasts, rock—caverns and deep holes in the earth and mists will appear. Enter not therein.

If to be born amongst pretas, desolate treeless plains and shallow caverns, jungle glades and forest wastes will be seen. If one goeth there, taking birth as a preta, one will suffer various pangs of hunger and thirst. Recollect the revulsion; and do not go there by any means. Exert great energy not to enter therein.

If to be born in Hell, songs like wailings, due to evil karma will be heard. One will be compelled to enter therein unresistingly. Lands of gloom, black houses and white houses, and black holes in the earth, and black roads along which one hath to go, will appear. If one goeth there, one will enter into Hell; and, suffering unbearable pains of heat and cold, one will be very long in getting out of it Go not there into the midst of that. It hath been said,’ Exert thine energy to the utmost’: this is needed now.


O nobly—born, although one liketh it not, nevertheless, being pursued from behind by kartnic tormenting furies, one feeleth compelled involuntarily to go on; and with tormenting furies in the front, and life—cutters as a vanguard leading one, and darkness and kartnic tornadoes, and noises and snow and rain and terrifying hail—storms and whirlwinds of icy blasts occurring, there will arise the thought of fleeing from them.

Thereupon, by going to seek refuge because of fear, one beholdeth the aforesaid visions of great mansions, rock—caverns, earth—caverns, jungles, and lotus blossoms which close on entering them; and one escapeth by hiding inside one of such places and fearing to come out therefrom, and thinking, ‘To go out is not good now. And fearing to depart therefrom, one will feel greatly attracted to one’s place of refuge which is the womb. Fearful lest, by going out, the awe and terror of the Bardo* will meet one, and afraid to encounter them, if one hide oneself within the place or womb chosen, one will thereby assume a very undesirable body and suffer various sufferings.

That condition is an indication that evil spirits and råk—skasas or demons are interfering with one. For this time there is a profound teaching. Listen ; and heed it :

At that time—when the tormenting furies will be in pursuit of thee, and when awe and terror will be occurring—instantaneously visualize either the Supreme Heruka, or Haya—griva, or Vajra—Pāni, or any other tutelary deity if thou hast such, perfect of form, huge of body, of massive limbs, wrathful and terrifying in appearance, capable of reducing to dust all mischievous spirits. Visualize it instantaneously. The gift—waves and the power of its grace will separate thee from the tormenting furies and thou wilt obtain the power to select the womb—door. This is the vital art of the very profound teaching; therefore bear it thoroughly well in mind.

O nobly—born, the dhyånl and other deities are born of the power of Samådhi or meditation. Pre tas or unhappy spirits or shades and malignant spirits of certain orders are those who by changing their feeling or mental attitude while in the Intermediate State assumed that very shape which they thereafter retained, and became pretas, evil spirits, and rākskasaSy possessed of the power of shape—shifting. All pretasy who exist in space, who traverse the sky, and the eighty thousand species of mischievous sprites, have become so by changing their feelings while in the mental—body on the ÅWTjfø—plane.

At this time, if one can recollect the Great Symbol teachings concerning the Voidness, that will be best. If one be not trained in that, train the mental powers into regarding all things as illusion or *māyå* Even if this be impossible, be not attracted by anything. By meditating upon the Tutelary Deity, the Great Compassionate One, Buddhahood will be obtained in the Sambhoga—Kāya.


If, however, O nobly—born, thou hast, because of the influence of karma, Choose accordingly.

There are two alternatives: the transference of the consciousness—principle to a pure Buddha realm, and the selection of the impure sangsaric womb—door, to be accomplished as follows:


In the first—the transference to a pure paradise—the projection is directed by thinking or meditating thus :

‘Alas! how sorrowful it is that I, during all the innumerable kalpas since illimitable, beginningless time, until now, have been wandering in the Quagmire of Sangsāra ! O how painful that I have not been liberated into Buddhahood by knowing the consciousness to be the self hitherto ere this! Now doth this Sangsāra disgust me, horrify me, sicken me; now hath the hour come to prepare to flee from it. I myself will so act as to be born in The Happy Western Realm, at the feet of the Buddha Amitābha, miraculously from amidst a lotus blossom.’

Thinking thus, direct the resolution or wish earnestly to that Realm; or, likewise, to any Realm thou mayst desire,—The Pre—eminently Happy Realm, or The Thickly—Formed Realm, or The Realm of Those of Long Hair, or The Illimitable Vihāra of the Lotus Radiance, in Urgyan’s presence; or direct thy wish to any Realm which thou desirest most, in undistracted one—pointedness of mind. By doing so, birth will take place in that Realm instantaneously.

Or, if thou desirest to go to the presence of Maitreya, in the Tushita Heavens, by directing an earnest wish in like manner and thinking, ‘I will go to the presence of Maitreya in the Tushita Heavens, for the hour hath struck for me here in the Intermediate State’, birth will be obtained miraculously inside a lotus blossom3 in the presence of Maitreya.


If, however, such a supernormal birth be not possible, and one delighteth in entering a womb or hath to enter, there is a teaching for the selection of the womb—door of impure Sangsāra. Listen:

Looking with thy supernormal power of foresight over the Continents, as above, choose that in which religion prevaileth and enter therein.

If birth is to be obtained over a heap of impurities, a sensation that it is sweet—smelling will attract one towards that impure mass, and birth will be obtained thereby.

Whatsoever they the wombs or visions may appear to be, do not regard them as they are or seem; and by not being attracted or repelled a good womb should be chosen. In this, too, since it is important to direct the wish, direct it thus:

‘Ah! I ought to take birth as a Universal Emperor; or as a Brahmin, like a great sal—tree; or as the son of an adept in siddhic powers; or in a spotless hierarchical line; or in the caste of a man who is filled with religious faith; and, being born so, be endowed with great merit so as to be able to serve all sentient beings.’

Thinking thus, direct thy wish, and enter into the womb. At the same time, emit thy gift—waves of grace, or good—will upon the womb which thou art entering, transforming it thereby into a celestial mansion. And believing that the Conquerors and their Sons or Bodhisattvas of the Ten Directions, and the tutelary deities, especially the Great Compassionate One, are conferring power thereon, pray unto Them, and enter the womb.

In selecting the womb—door thus, there is a possibility of error: through the influence of karma, good wombs may appear bad and bad wombs may appear good; such error is possible. At that time, too, the art of the teaching being important, thereupon do as follows:

Even though a womb may appear good, do not be attracted ; if it appear bad, have no repulsion towards it. To be free from repulsion and attraction, or from the wish to take or to avoid, —to enter in the mood of complete impartiality,—is the most profound of arts. Excepting only for the few who have had some practical experience in psychical development, it is difficult to get rid of the remnants of the disease of evil propensities.

Instructions to the Officiant: Therefore, if unable to part with the attraction and repulsion, those of the least mentality and of evil karma will be liable to take refuge amongst brutes.The way to repel therefrom is to call the deceased by name again, thus:

O nobly—born, if thou art not able to rid thyself of attraction and repulsion, and know not the art of selecting the womb—door, whichever of the above visions may appear, call upon the Precious Trinity and take refuge therein. Pray unto the Great Compassionate One. Walk with thy head erect. Know thyself in the Bardo. Cast away all weakness and attraction towards thy sons and daughters or any relations left behind thee; they can be of no use to thee. Enter upon the White Light—Path of the devas, or upon the Yellow Light—Path of human beings; enter into the great mansions of precious metals and into the delightful gardens.

Instructions to the Officiant: Repeat that address to the deceased seven times over. Then there should be offered ‘The Invocation of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas’; The Path of Good Wishes Giving Protection from Fears in the Bardo’; ‘The Root Words or Verses of the Bardo’; and ‘The Rescuer or Path of Good Wishes for Saving from the Ambuscades or Dangerous Narrow Passage—Way of the Bardo’. These are to be read over thrice. ‘The Tatidol’, which liberateth the body—aggregate, should also be read out. Then ‘The Rite which Conferreth of Itself Liberation in Virtue of Propensity’ should be read too.


By the reading of these properly, those devotees or *yogis’ at the moment of death. They need not traverse the Intermediate State, but will depart by the Great Straight—Upward Path. Others who are a little less practised in things spiritual, recognizing the Clear Light in the Chonyid Bardo, at the moment of death, will go by the upward course. Those lower than these will be liberated—in accordance with their particular abilities and karmic connexions—when one or other of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities dawneth upon them, during the succeeding two weeks, while in the Chönyid Bardo*.

There being several turning—points, liberation should be obtained at one or other of them through recognizing. But those of very weak karmic connexion, whose mass of obscurations is great because of evil actions, have to wander downwards and downwards to the Sidpa Bardo. Yet since there are, like the rungs of a ladder, many kinds of scttings—facc—to—face or remindings, liberation should have been obtained at one or at another by recognizing. But those of the weakest karmic connexions, by not recognizing, fall under the influence of awe and terror. For them there are various graded teachings for closing the womb—door and for selecting the womb—door; and, at one or other of these, they should have apprehended the method of visualization and applied the illimitable virtues thereof for exalting one’s own condition. Even the lowest of them, resembling the brute order, will have been able—in virtue of the application of the Refuge—to turn from entering into misery; and, obtaining the great boon of a perfectly endowed and freed human body, will, in the next birth, meeting with a guru who is a virtuous friend, obtain the saving vows.

If this Doctrine arrive while one is in the Sidpa Bardo, it will be like the connecting up of good actions, resembling thus the placing of a trough in the break of a broken drain: such is this Teaching.

Those of heavy evil karma cannot possibly fail to be liberated by hearing this Doctrine and recognizing. If it be asked, why? it is because, at that time, all the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities being present to receive one, and the Māras and the Interrupters likewise coming to receive one along with them, the mere hearing of this Doctrine then tumeth one’s views, and liberation is obtained; for there is no flesh and blood body to depend upon, but a mental body, which is easily affected. At whatever distance one may be wandering in the Bardo, one heareth and cometh, for one possesseth the slender sense of supernormal perception and foreknowledge; and, recollecting and apprehending instantaneously, the mind is capable of being changed or influenced. Therefore is it i.e. the Teaching of great use here. It is like the mechanism of a catapult It is like the moving of a big wooden beam or log which a hundred men cannot carry, but which by being floated upon water can be towed wherever desired in a moment.2 It is like the controlling of a horse’s mouth by means of a bridle.3

Therefore, going near the body of one who hath passed out of this life,—if the body be there,—impress this upon the spirit of the deceased vividly, again and again, until blood and the yellowish water—secretion begin to issue from the nostrils. At that time the corpse should not be disturbed. The rules to be observed for this impressing to be efficacious are: no animal should be slain on account of the deceased; nor should relatives weep or make mournful wailings near the dead body; let the family perform virtuous deeds as far as possible.

In other ways, toó, this Great Doctrine of the Bardo Thödol, as well as any other religious texts, may be expounded to the dead or dying. If this Doctrine be joined to the end of The Guide and recited along with *The Guide* it becometh very efficacious. In yet other ways it should be recited as often as possible. The words and meanings should be committed to memory by every one; and, when death is inevitable and the death—symptoms are recognized,—strength permitting—one should recite it oneself, and reflect upon the meanings. If strength doth not permit, then a friend should read the Book and impress it vividly. There is no doubt as to its liberating.

The Doctrine is one which liberateth by being seen, without need of meditation or of sådhanā ; this Profound Teaching liberateth by being heard or by being seen. This Profound Teaching liberateth those of great evil karma through the Secret Pathway. One should not forget its meaning and the words, even though pursued by seven mastiffs.

By this Select Teaching, one obtaineth Buddhahood at the moment of death. Were the Buddhas of the Three Times the Past, the Present, and the Future to seek, They could not find any doctrine transcending this.

Thus is completed the Profound Heart—Drops of the Bardo Doctrine, called The Bardo Thödol which liberateth embodied beings.

Here endeth the Tibetan Book of the Dead


In our Manuscript (but not in the Block—Print), directly following the text of the Bardo Thödol, there are thirteen folios of rituals and prayers (lit,’ paths of good wishes’), which all professional readers of the Bardo Th’ódol must know, usually from memory, and apply as needed and they are here rendered into English as follows:


Instructions to the Officiant : The invoking of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for assistance, when any one is dying, is thus :

Offer up to the Trinity whatever actual offerings can be offered by the dying person, or by his family, together with mentally—created offerings; and, holding in the hand sweet—smelling incense, repeat, with great fervency, the following :

O ye Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, abiding in the Ten Directions, endowed with great compassion, endowed with foreknowledge, endowed with the divine eye, endowed with love, affording protection to sentient beings, condescend through the power of your great compassion to come hither; condescend to accept these offerings actually laid out and mentally created.

O yc Compassionate Ones, ye possess the wisdom of understanding, the love of compassion, the power of doing divinedeeds and of protecting, in incomprehensible measure. YeCompassionate Ones, (such—and—such a person) is passing fromthis world to the world beyond. He is leaving this world.He is taking a great leap. No friends hath he. Misery isgreat. [He without] defenders, without protectors, withoutforces and kinsmen. The light of this world hath set. He gocth to another place. He entereth thick darkness. He falleth down a steep precipice. He entereth into a jungle solitude. He is pursued by Karmic Forces. He goeth into the Vast Silence. He is borne away by the Great Ocean. He is wafted on the Wind of Karma, He goeth in the direction where stability existeth not. He is caught by the Great Conflict. He is obsessed by the Great Afflicting Spirit. He is awed and terrified by the Messengers of the Lord of Death. Existing Karma* putteth him into repeated existence. No strength hath he. He hath come upon a time when he hath to go alone.

O ye Compassionate Ones, defend (so—and—so) who is defenceless. Protect him who is unprotected. Be his forces and his kinsmen. Protect him from the great gloom of the Bardo. Turn him from the red or storm wind of Karma. Turn him from the great awe and terror of the Lords of Death. Save him from the long narrow passage—way of the Bardo.

O ye Compassionate Ones, let not the force of your compassion be weak; but aid him. Let him not go into misery or the miserable states of existence. Forget not your ancient vows; and let not the force of your compassion be weak.

O ye Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, let not the might of the method of your compassion be weak towards this one. Catch hold of him with the hook of your grace. Let not the sentient being fall under the power of evil karma.

O ye Trinity, protect him from the miseries of the Bardo.

Saying this with great humility and faith, let thyself and all others present repeat it thrice


is as follows:


O ye Conquerors and your Sons, abiding in the Ten Directions,
O ye ocean—like Congregation of the All—Good Conquerors, the Peaceful and the Wrathful,
O ye Gurus and Devas, and ye Dākinis, the Faithful Ones, Hearken now out of your great love and compassion: Obeisance,
O ye assemblage of Gurus and Dākinls, Out of your great love, lead us along the Path.


When, through illusion, I and others are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of undistracted listening, reflection, and meditation,
May the Gurus of the Inspired Line lead us,
May the bands of Mothers be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through violent anger, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the Mirror—like Wisdom,
May the Bhagavān Vajra—Sattva lead us,
May the Mother Māmaki be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.
When, through intense pride, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the Wisdom of Equality,
May the Bhagavān Ratna—Sambhava lead us,
May the Mother, She—of—the—Buddha—Eye, be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through great attachment, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the Discriminating Wisdom,
May the Bhagavān Amitābha lead us,
May the Mother, She—of—White—Raiment, be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through intense jealousy, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the All—Performing Wisdom,
May the Bhagavān Amogha—Siddhi lead us,
May the Mother, the Faithful Tāra, be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through intense stupidity, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the Wisdom of Reality,
May the Bhagavān Vairochana lead us,
May the Mother of Great Space be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through intense illusion, we are wandering in the Sangsarci)
Along the bright light—path of the abandonment of hallucinatory fear, awe, and terror,
May the bands of the Bhagavāns of the Wrathful Ones lead us,
May the bands of the Wrathful Goddesses Rich—in—Space be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardos
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


When, through intense propensities, we are wandering in the Sangsāra,
Along the bright light—path of the Simultaneously—born Wisdom,
May the heroic Knowledge—Holders lead us,
May the bands of the Mothers, the Dākinis, be our rear—guard,
May we be saved from the fearful narrow passage—way of the Bardo,
May we be placed in the state of the perfect Buddhahood.


May the ethereal elements not rise up as enemies;
May it come that we shall see the Realm of the Blue Buddha.
May the watery elements not rise up as enemies;
May it come that we shall see the Realm of the White Buddha.
May the earthy elements not rise up as enemies;
May it come that we shall see the Realm of the Yellow Buddha.
May the fiery elements not rise up as enemies;
May it come that we shall see the Realm of the Red Buddha.
May the airy elements not rise up as enemies;
May it come that we shall see the Realm of the Green Buddha.
May the elements of the rainbow colours not rise up as enemies;
May it come that all the Realms of the Buddhas will be seen.
May it come that all the Sounds in the Bardo will be known as one’s own sounds;
May it come that all the Radiances will be known as one’s own radiances;
May it come that the Tri—Kāya will be realized in the Bardo,

Here beginneth



O now, when the Birthplace Bardo upon me is dawning! Abandoning idleness—there being no idleness in a devotee’s life—
Entering into the Reality undistractedly, listening, reflecting, and meditating,
Carrying on to the Path knowledge of the true nature of appearances and of mind, may the Tri—Kāya be realized:
Once that the human form hath been attained,
May there be no time or opportunity in which to idle it or human life away.


O now, when the Dream Bardo upon me is dawning!
Abandoning the inordinate corpse—like sleeping of the sleep of stupidity,
May the consciousness undistractedly be kept in its natural state;
Grasping the true nature of dreams, may I train myself in the Clear Light of Miraculous Transformation:
Acting not like the brutes in slothfulness,
May the blending of the practising of the sleep state and actual or waking experience be highly valued by me.


O now, when the Dhyāna Bardo upon me is dawning!
Abandoning the whole mass of distractions and illusions,
May the mind be kept in the mood of endless undistracted Samādhiy
May firmness both in the visualizing and in the perfected stages be obtained :
At this time, when meditating one—pointedly, with all other actions put aside,
May I not fall under the power of misleading, stupefying passions.


O now, when the Bardo of the Moment of Death upon me is dawning!
Abandoning attraction and craving, and weakness for all worldly things,
May I be undistracted in the space of the bright enlightening teachings,
May I be able to transfuse myself into the heavenly space of the Unborn:
The hour hath come to part with this body composed of flesh and blood;
May I know the body to be impermanent and illusory.


O now, when the Bardo of the Reality upon me is dawning, Abandoning all awe, fear, and terror of all phenomena,
May I recognize whatever appeareth as being mine own thought—forms,
May I know them to be apparitions in the Intermediate State;
It hath been said, ‘There arriveth a time when the chief turning—point is reached;
Fear not the bands of the Peaceful and Wrathful, Who are thine own thought—forms’.


O now, when the Bardo of taking Rebirth upon me is dawning!
One—pointedly holding fast to a single wish,
May I be able to continue the course of good deeds through repeated efforts;
May the womb—door be closed and the revulsion recollected: The hour hath come when energy and pure love are needed; May I cast off jealousy and meditate upon the Guru, the Father—Mother.


’ O procrastinating one, who thinketh not of the coming of death,
Devoting thyself to the useless doings of this life,
Improvident art thou in dissipating thy great opportunity;
Mistaken, indeed, will thy purpose be now if thou returnest empty—handed from this life:
Since the Holy Dharma is known to be thy true need, Wilt thou not devote thyself to the Holy Dharma even now?’


Thus say the Great Adepts in devotion.
If the chosen teaching of the guru be not borne in mind, Wilt thou not O *shiskya* be acting even as a traitor to thyself?
It is of great importance that these Root Words be known.

Here beginneth



When the cast of the dice of my life hath become exhausted,
The relatives in this world avail me not;
When I wander alone by myself in the Bardo,
O ye Conquerors, Peaceful and Wrathful, exercising the power of your compassion,
Let it come that the Gloom of Ignorance be dispelled.


When wandering alone, parted from loving friends,
When the shapes of mine empty thought—forms dawn upon me here,
May the Buddhas, exerting the power of their divine compassion,
Cause it to come that there be neither awe nor terror in the Bardo.


When the bright radiances of the Five Wisdoms shine upon me now,
Let it come that I, neither awed nor terrified, may recognize them to be of myself;
When the apparitions of the Peaceful and Wrathful forms are dawning upon me here,
Let it come that I, obtaining the assurance of fearlessness, may recognize the Bardo.


When experiencing miseries, because of the force of evil karma,
Let it come that the Conquerors, the Peaceful and Wrathful, may dispel the miseries;
When the self—existing Sound of Reality reverberates like a thousand thunders,
Let it come that they be transmuted into the sounds of the Mahāyāna Doctrines.


When I am unprotected, and karmic influences have to be followed here,
I beseech the Conquerors, the Peaceful and the Wrathful, to protect me;
When suffering miseries, because of the karmic influence of propensities,
Let it come that the blissful Samadhi of the Clear Light may dawn upon me.


When assuming supernormal rebirth in the Sidpa Bardo,
Let it come that the perverting revelations of Mara occur not therein;
When I arrive wheresoever I wish to,
Let it come that I experience not the illusory fright and awe from evil karma.


When the roarings of savage beasts are uttered,
Let it come that they be changed into the sacred sounds of the Six Syllables;
When pursued by snow, rain, wind, and darkness,
Let it come that I see with the celestial eyes of bright Wisdom.


Let it come that all sentient beings of the same harmonious order in the Bardo,
Without jealousy towards one another, obtain birth on the higher planes;
When destined to suffering from intense miseries of hunger and thirst,
Let it come that I experience not the pangs of hunger and thirst, heat and cold.


When I behold the future parents in union,
Let it come that I behold them as the Divine Pair, the Conquerors, the Peaceful and the Wrathful Father and Mother;
Obtaining the power of being born anywhere, for the good of others,
Let it come that I obtain the perfect body, adorned with the signs and the graces.


Obtaining for myself the body of a male which is the better,
Let it come that I liberate all who see or hear me;
Allowing not the evil kanna to follow me,
Let it come that whatever merits be mine follow me and be multiplied.


Wherever I be born, there and then,
Let it come that I meet the Conquerors, the Peaceful and the Wrathful Deities;
Being able to walk and to talk as soon as I am born,
Let it come that I obtain the non—forgetting intellect and remember my past life or lives.


In all the various lores, great, small, and intermediate,
Let it come that I be able to obtain mastery merely upon hearing, reflecting, and seeing;
In whatever place I be born, let it be auspicious;
Let it come that all sentient beings be endowed with happiness.


Ye Conquerors, Peaceful and Wrathful, in likeness to your bodies,
Number of your followers, duration of your life—period, limit of your realms,
And in likeness to the goodness of your divine name,
Let it come that I, and others, equal your very selves in all these.


By the divine grace of the innumerable All—Good Peaceful and Wrathful Ones,
And by the gift—waves of the wholly pure Reality,
And by the gift—waves of the one—pointed devotion of the mystic devotees,
Let it come that whatsoever be wished for be fulfilled here and now.

‘The Path of Good Wishes Affording Protection from Fears in the Bardo’ is finished.


The Manuscript concludes with the following verses by the lāma or scribe who compiled it, but he—faithful to the old lāmaic teaching that the human personality should be self—abased and the Scriptures alone exalted before the gaze of sentient creatures—has not recorded his name:

Through the perfectly pure intention of mine
In the making of this, through the root of the merits thereof,
May those protectorless sentient beings, Mothers, Be placed in the State of the Buddha:
Let the radiant glory of auspiciousness come to illuminate the world;
Let this Book be auspicious;
Let virtue and goodness be perfected in every way.

Here endeth the Manuscript of the Bardo Thodol.

‘Fill up, Punnā, the orb of holy life,
E’en as on fifteenth day the full—orb’d moon.
Fill full the perfect knowledge of the Path,
And scatter all the gloom of ignorance.’—

Punnā, a Bhikkhunl.

Psalms of the Early Buddhists, I. iii

(Mrs. Rhys Davids’ Translation).

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