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Adi & Praja 174

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Adi and Praja

Chapter 9

Issue 174: Confusion

Shano had never heard of such balances and feathers and tests. And Mustafa had never heard about clear lights of various colors after death. They looked at each other, and were flabbergasted. 



How could they have been taught such entirely different stories about the same thing? Had one of the stories been true and the other false? Had the stories been different possible fantasies who had no reality of their own? Or were both stories just entertainment, a kind of spiritual practical joke – but that was impossible – both Mustafa and Shano had always had had complete confidence in their teachers and teaching – and had regarded everything taught to them as unshakeable truth. Mustafa had already understood when he was in the desert that the mind could produce only illusions, but still different illusions were related in some way. Two people were both illusions of mind and therefore unreal, but still these two people could recognize each other as if they were real, and communicate with each other – we do that very day continuously, after all. But even Mustafa could not understand that the two deeper, spiritual truths about what happens after death could be completely different, apparently unrelated. Mustafa remembered that he had seen very, very old paintings in the desert caves back home with upside down human bodies and human bodies without a head. And this memory was in harmony with what his teachers had told him recently. So then, what they had told to Shano would be wrong? Shano had never seen such paintings. He had been in many temples of many different religions, but what Mustafa told he had not seen anywhere.

All the while the two young men were talking, a very austere silent monk of whom it was said that he was a very lofty soul, but never said anything, was just sitting unnoticed in a dark corner. Suddenly he spoke: “Nonsense. You both know nothing about death. You have not gone through it, have you?” That, they had to admit, they had never done. Their experiences while listening to and meditating over each of the versions of the two stories had been so realistic, that they thought they really experienced death. But in reality the experience was only a screen play played by their image-forming mind themselves. “I have died and was reborn,” added the austere monk. “And I have retained complete memory of it. I know what it is to die, to be dead, and to be reborn.” Shano and Mustafa didn’t understand, or didn’t believe the monk. If he had died, how could he live now? They had always known him as an old man, and he was older than the oldest in the monastery. He had never been a baby in the mean time.”

So they inquired, and the monk said (according to the Abbot’s order, but the two friends didn’t know) that when he died they had protected his body so that it would not decompose, and that after a number of days he had been reborn in the same body – and when he ‘woke up’ he had complete memory of what had happened to him.

It was a real mystery for Mustafa and Shano. In an effort to make it clearer the monk said: “Both stories are true, but both have nothing to do with reality.” With that he returned to his silent meditation, still sitting in the same posture in the same corner. And by the time they had forgotten about him, he suddenly spoke: “It is your punishment. You know that it is strictly forbidden for students to discuss sacred matters.” This was the last thing the monk said for the coming years.

Shano and Mustafa now realized that they had done what should not had happened. Not purposely, but in their excitement they had just forgotten and abandoned the rule. Now they were alone together. They could not talk about it anymore, because that was forbidden, and each of them had to work out his own thoughts about the matter, unable to help the other.

Now the writer of this ebook has told to you what even they should not have known of each other. And he doesn’t want you to fight with your own mind and feelings over this matter during the rest of your life. But I also don’t know. I have not been dead and was then reborn consciously, like that monk. That will happen in the very far future, I suppose. But the clue of the problem is that both stories describe death from a different angle. Actually the real experience of being dead can not be described, because it is not the type of experience we have on earth. The deeper experience of death can not be described in terms our mind can understand, because our mind in our brain is not subtle enough. Therefore such descriptions are in the form of symbols. But the symbols are not the real thing. Nevertheless the symbols, when you would be able to really enter into them, are gates to the real truth.

The teacher had told about a sacred book. The book was about the experiences after death. What Shano had learned has described in a text of perhaps some fourteen centuries ago in Tibet. It comes many from a text called bar do thos grol (Bardo Thödol) – or the liberation through hearing in the state ‘in between’ (bardo – i.e. between death and life). But until that moment Shano had not yet seen that book itself. It is full of Tibetan symbols, which Tibetans alone can understand, and then only the most educated of them, a little bit, and for all others it is more difficult. The book is exceedingly difficult to understand for outsiders – if at all – because of its symbology.” “Where can I get that book,” Shano asked immediately. “We have it in our library; I will take care that you get this book … later,” answered the teacher. “For now we will just mention the general characteristics of the intermediate states, and then how rebirth begins for those who have to be reborn.

The general outline of the bar do thos grol had already been taught to Shano. But, as might seem strange, it didn’t really seem to tell what his teacher had told him. According to this book, one would get, after physical death, the most terrible visions, meeting wrathful gods with human skulls filled with blood in their hands. Whenever the dead person would encounter such a vision, he had to make a choice between a dull light and a clear light. And this choice would determine his next incarnation. Recognizing the clear light was good, and he would be liberated from rebirth by recognizing the divine essence of the presented illusion; but not recognizing it, would send the dead one immediately back to a next death, and get another chance to recognize the divine essence of an illusion. Up to 49 times one would experience death and rebirth within the world of the dead itself. If the illusion would be recognized one would not be reborn. But if then still one would not have seen through the illusions presented one by one in the form of visions, one would immediately be reborn in one of the possible worlds within the cycle of birth and death. The book had originally been secret and hidden for many centuries, until it was found in about the 14th century, and it was then more than half a millennium old. Now however, in Shano’s days, its existed in the world and had been translated to many worldly languages. It was traditionally used by common priests, sitting at the side of a person who just past away, and whispering the text in the dead person’s ear (supposing he could still hear), read one chapter a day. It had 49 chapters, so it could last for 49 days – if the family of the died person could afford to pay the priest for all that time. It was supposed that the dead person, still in or near his dying body, would listen to the advices in this book, and if they had enough money, they would be helped to get a good rebirth, or no rebirth at all, thanks to their wisdom gained. But that is not the way the high monks, such as those of our monastery, used it, because they (at least the teacher) understood it on a much deeper level. There were seven leading deities, but the last two were not really mentioned by name – as if they were concealed. Their appearance, good enough to create nightmares for common people, was not frightening for them, just a combination of symbols which they could readily understand when initiated in their meaning. The general meaning of the book was not that a person who dies meets all these monsters, but that he would go to the right hall of learning. The monsters which the dead person recognized as illusions, he or she had conquered, i.e., understood. But the illusions he didn’t recognize yet, had still to be conquered, so he would naturally go to an incarnation or ‘school’ to learn what he had not learned as yet. But it is clear from the beginning in this book, the bar do thos grol, that everything that exists, whether in daily reality or in the visions of the bardo (which are much clearer and truer than daily reality) are created by the mind, and by nothing else than the mind. External objects and inner visions exists only from mind, and are not separate from mind.

Finally Shano was given the sacred book, as the teacher had promised a while ago, an original of which book, indeed some fifteen hundred years old, was kept in the monastery for study.

As said, this intermediate state lasts at most seven days according to the text, and if one can not find rebirth in one of the realms of existence, one dies again, and this up to seven times. The maximum duration of the intermediate states is then 49 days – though some are of opinion that with ‘days’ different periods can be meant. All the experiences one can have in these 49 days are described in the the bar do thos grol. We will tell something about this next time. The book was translated completely, with all its fourteen chapters in a new translation and a elucidating foreword by the 14th Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan and other Mahayana Buddhists throughout the world in those days.1

No doubt one could spend many subsequent human incarnations in the same ‘school’, until all was learned that had to be learned. Actually it refers the whole history and future of humankind on earth during billions of years At the same time it was clear – the core teaching of the book – that it is mind which creates illusions, and that only when one has learned enough from that illusion, one can move on. That doesn’t happen in seven or 49 human days. It happens throughout seven great cycles of evolution, what is nothing else than the production of seven subsequent illusions of the cosmic mind, each subdivided into seven smaller cycles of evolution, in which one has to face and experience the seven sub element in every element of which the cosmos exists. These seven elements, entirely consisting of living beings (not dead atoms or molecules – such don’t exist) are there to learn all that is needed to answer the question: ‘Who am I?’

D a i l y T h e o s o p h y ©


O n l I n e

  1. The Tibetan Book of the Dead; The Great Liberation by Hearing in the Intermediate States, composed by Padmasambhava, Revealed by Terton Karma Lingpa. Translated by Gyurme Dorje, Edited by Graham Coleman with Thupten Jinpa, Introductory Commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Penguin Books, London, etc. 2005, 2006 ISBN: 13: 978-0-140-45529-8 / ISBN: 10: 0-140-45529-9 []