The Wish-Fulfilling Golden Sun of the Mahayana Thought Training

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kopan Monastery, Nepal 1973 (Archive #488)

This book gives an overview of the Mahayana Buddhist path to enlightenment and outlines essential meditations and daily practices. The text was compiled from students’ notes from the second Kopan meditation course, March 1972, and first published for the third Kopan course in the fall of 1972. Over the next two-and-a-half years this version was revised several times by Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Nicholas Ribush for the various Kopan courses held during that period. An edition of the 1975 final edit was published by FPMT in 2016 and is available for download as a free PDF.

Meditation One: Perfect Human Rebirth, Impermanence and Death

From time without beginning until the present, in all my numberless previous lives, I have been dying and being reborn in the cycle of samsara, the six realms of suffering. Now I have received a perfect human rebirth which has eighteen attributes: the eight freedoms and the ten receptacles.

What Is The Perfect Human Rebirth?

The eight freedoms (Tib., D’äl.wa.gyä)
These are conditions of existence out of the eight unfree states in which beings do not have the chance to practise Dharma.

Freedom from birth

  1. in the hells (Tib., nyal.wa; Skt., narak),
  2. as a hungry spirit (Tib., yi.d’ag; Skt., preta),
  3. as an animal (Tib., d’ü.dro),
  4. as a long-life god (Tib., lha.tse.ring.po).

Although born human, freedom from being

  1. a barbarian (Tib., la.lor) in an irreligious country,
  2. deaf (Tib., wö,
  3. a heretic (Tib., log.ta.chän), or
  4. born during a time with no orders of Buddha, when Buddha has not descended (Tib., yül.t’a.k’ob).

If I am born in the three lower realms—narak, preta and animal—I have no freedom to practise Dharma because of the unimaginable suffering and deep ignorance that I continuously experience.

In the realm of the long-life gods I have no freedom to practise Dharma because I am constantly distracted by objects of the senses and higher samsaric pleasures, or because of rebirth as a cognitionless god, unconscious from birth until death.

If a barbarian, I have no opportunity to meet the Dharma. If deaf, I cannot communicate with others properly, cannot hear the Teachings and cannot be ordained. If a heretic, I have no belief in the Dharma—the existence of past and future lives, of karma, of Absolute and relative truth—and no faith in the three Jewels: these wrong views give no freedom to practise Dharma.

If born in a period without the Buddha or his Teachings there is no freedom to practise Dharma because I cannot find it.

The ten receptacles (Endowments), (Tib.,
These are the chances I have received that give me the opportunity to practise the Dharma perfectly.

  1. Birth as a human being.
  2. Birth in the centre of a religious country.
  3. Birth with perfect organs.
  4. Avoidance of creating or having others create the five extreme negative actions: killing my mother, killing my father, killing an Arhant, wounding a Tathagata or causing disunity amongst the Sangha.
  5. Belief in the practice of Dharma, the three divisions of the Teachings: The Vinaya, Sutra and Abhidharma.
  6. Birth during a non-dark period.
  7. Being shown the Teachings of the Buddha or his followers.
  8. The existence of experienced Teachings—the still living realisations of the Buddha himself.
  9. Following the path of the Buddha’s Teachings.
  10. Receiving the kindness and compassion of others, i.e., help for my Dharma practice: with temporal needs such as food or robes from a benefactor, and with Teachings from a compassionate Guru.

How Is This Perfect Human Rebirth Useful?
This perfect human rebirth is extremely useful because it gives me the chance to achieve both ultimate and temporal goals, and allows me to create much merit, in a very short time. Thus:

  1. This is the perfect chance definitely to end the continuous, beginningless suffering of bondage to the wheel of life, and to achieve Enlightenment. The perfect human rebirth makes Enlightenment possible by completing the collection of merits:
    1. in three countless great aeons,
    2. in eight great aeons,
    3. in this lifetime, by increasing its length through the co-operative practice of Sutra and Tantra,6
    4. in this lifetime, even if short, through the practice of Tantra,
    5. in twelve or even three years.
  2. I can become a great Bodhisattva, having achieved infinite Knowledge.
  3. I can become an Arhant, a supreme Being who has attained the complete cessation of suffering.
  4. I can receive the Bodhicitta, the will to become Buddha for the sake of others.
  5. I can achieve other realisations, such as true compassion, or fully renounced mind.
  6. I could become the king of many universes through realisations.
  7. As distinct from the above Dharma benefits, even worldly benefits can result, such as becoming the richest man in the world through having created good karma by being generous and giving lavishly to others.

This perfect human rebirth also gives many other possibilities, according to my interest. I could become a minister, scholar, doctor, judge, commercial artist, ski-instructor, barman, hotel porter, secretary, etc. We could lead a free and happy life without one single possession, which is impossible for those people who believe that all pleasure is derived solely from material conditions and external phenomena. Actually, some of those deeply ignorant and confused beings really believe what they did in dreams or under the effect of drugs to be real.

Wasting this very precious human rebirth is many millions of times worse than losing universes full of precious jewels because:

  1. It wastes the numberless lives spent trying to gain this precious rebirth, which has resulted from good karma, created by morality and charity. These virtues have been practised mainly in the human realms during several previous lives, each of which was the result of many others.
  2. It wastes the present opportunity of gaining Enlightenment and achieving all other realisations.
  3. It wastes the possibility of better future lives, in which I could have achieved realisations and attained Enlightenment, stopping all suffering.

Numberless jewels, as many as could fill numberless universes, could never have the value of this present perfect rebirth. If all the jewels I have possessed in all my past lives could fill an infinite space, what good would that do? If I really think deeply about it I can see that no real happiness would come from that because it is of no use in controlling this negative mind.

We must check up on our own past experiences or put ourselves in the position of a wealthy man to see how material possessions cannot help us put an end to suffering. It is important to deeply see and feel our own experience of such situations.

There are spirits called nagas, inhabiting the animal realm, who are very rich and possess many stores of jewels. (The naga spirits have bodies half-human and half-animal, or of other shapes; they can see humans but most humans cannot see them.) We ourselves have had the experience of possessing such stores of jewels numberless times; we have possessed enough jewels to fill an endless space, yet no suffering has been cured. In the narak there are similar experienced beings, in great suffering.

The eight worldly dharmas

  1. Craving for pleasures of the six senses.
  2. Craving to be free of the unpleasant.
  3. Craving to hear sweet, ego-pleasing words or sounds.
  4. Craving to not hear ugly, displeasing words or sounds.
  5. Craving to acquire material things.
  6. Craving to avoid losing or not obtaining material things.
  7. Craving for personal praise and admiration.
  8. Craving to avoid personal slander, blame and criticism.

If I use this precious human rebirth only to gain the eight worldly dharmas or higher samsaric pleasures with self-cherishing thought, I shall circle continuously in the six samsaric realms of unimaginable suffering, as I have circled since beginningless time in all my previous lives. The beginning of these lives is not even seen by the Buddha’s Omniscient Mind let alone by the minds of ordinary beings, and if I continue to work for these things I shall continue to suffer in the circle of samsara.

Usually I am afraid of the slightest temporary physical sicknesses such as colds or headaches, of suffering from heat or cold, or of the pain of a too-full or empty stomach; I find these things really unbearable and try to stop them by all kinds of temporal means.

On the other hand, I am not at all afraid of the greater sufferings I have experienced in past lives—those of rebirth and death and the many other unspeakable sufferings of the six samsaric realms that are caused by greed, ignorance and hatred. Neither to think or worry about these sufferings, merely trying to stop those of the moment, only creates the cause for more future suffering. Such actions are extremely foolish and nonsensical—like those of a crazy person. I can have human thoughts and actions, yet I behave as a dumb animal.

Shantideva said:
The perfect human rebirth, the most difficult to find and a greatly beneficial foundation is, however, received by opportunity. If, while having the wisdom to know practice and avoidance, one again leads oneself to the narak, one is purposely making oneself ignorant.

If I care so much about any momentary sufferings and sicknesses why do I not care about the tremendous, continuous suffering of my future lives; why do I not worry about and try to eliminate the true cause of suffering?

Spending this perfect human rebirth desiring only the eight worldly dharmas and working for the enjoyment of samsaric pleasures is like trading universes full of jewels for ka-ka. But even this very dirty thing is much more useful than attachment—it can be used by both people and animals.

The more I desire and enjoy the eight worldly dharmas and higher samsaric pleasures, the more I create confusion and remain ignorant.

Is It Easy To Receive The Perfect Human Rebirth?

  1. The cause of the perfect human rebirth
    This perfect human rebirth is extremely difficult to acquire because the cause that brings this result—the practise of morality and charity—is extremely difficult to create.

    It is almost impossible to practise these virtuous actions if I am not human, and even then it is not easy. Firstly, I should be born in the southern rather than the other human worlds because the humans here are more sensitive and therefore see suffering more easily (see pp. 23-25). They also have the advantage of being able to practise Tantra, being endowed with the six physical prerequisites for such practice: three of these come from the father—bone, marrow and sperm; and three from the mother—skin, flesh and blood.

    There are many other factors involved in the creation of morality and charity. For instance, if I am a heretic and believe that there is no such thing as the law of karma, I make no effort to collect merits. If I am physically handicapped by, for example, a missing limb or am deaf-mute, or am mentally retarded, I am unable to practise these two virtuous actions perfectly.

    To effectively bring the result of the perfect human rebirth I should understand that it is causative and what the cause of it is: I must understand karma and its results. Many people talk about this but, not recognising the true nature of the mind, have gross misconceptions about the practice of morality and charity. Even those who have correct knowledge of karma find these practices difficult to follow properly.

    So I must know how to practise them correctly. Many people think that sacrificing other sentient beings to the gods is the right way to relieve their own suffering and find self-happiness by being reborn in heaven. In fact, the result of such actions is rebirth in the lowest narak stages in as short a time as possible.

    It is essential that both morality and charity are created. Since rebirth in the upper realms mainly depends on moral conduct, practising charity alone cannot bring me this result.

    The highly-controlled Guru Shakyamuni said:
    The being who has a missing leg cannot follow the road. Similarly, one cannot attain Liberation without practising morality.

    Chandrakirti said:
    One who breaks the leg of the precepts and is reborn as an animal never receives enjoyments once the result of charity has finished.

    Likewise, it is insufficient to practise morality alone. The resultant poverty and difficulty in satisfying temporal needs can hinder my Dharma practice greatly. If I lack material enjoyments now it is because of my previously imperfect practice of charity. Although rich and famous, if I am very avaricious and unable to create charity, I cannot receive a perfect human rebirth despite keeping pure morality. Also, a lower being can enjoy the results of charity but never practises charity because he is too ignorant.

  2. The rarity of the perfect human rebirth
    I can understand how the perfect human rebirth is difficult to receive by considering the way the sentient beings are distributed throughout the six samsaric realms.

    The vast majority of sentient beings are in the narak. Thus the number of upper rebirths is smaller than the number of lower rebirths, and the number of perfect human rebirths is the smallest of all. 

  3. Analogies illustrating the difficulty of receiving the perfect human rebirth
    The chance of gaining the precious perfect human rebirth is that of a blind tortoise, swimming in a vast ocean and surfacing only once each one hundred years, putting its head through a small golden ring floating somewhere on the surface.

    It is more difficult than throwing grain so that it sticks to a glass wall or lands on the point of a needle.

How Should We Make Our Perfect Human Rebirth Highly Meaningful?
We should use this rebirth to free ourselves from samsara by receiving Enlightenment or by becoming a noble Bodhisattva or Arhant. At least we should be fully confident of avoiding a lower rebirth.

However, these results cannot be achieved without surmounting much hardship of body and mind. To obtain all the realisations we must purify all negativity: this is not easy, yet it is extremely worthwhile.

Most of us spend our whole life in the pursuit of temporal comfort, working hard at great cost. Consider presidents, soldiers and mercenaries, those on expeditions and scientific missions, for example, astronauts, many poor-living people and so on. They all spend and risk their lives for nothing. All their actions result in great and continual suffering in future lives. Their whole life is empty and finishes so.

Especially if we check how much suffering and its cause we have experienced since beginningless time, we can see that we are capable of giving up attachment to the momentary comforts of the temporal life, and that it is necessary and of great value for the achievement of the very precious Dharma practice, which ceases all problems.

How Long Is The Life Span?
Life is so fragile, its nature is transitory. It is easy to see how it changes in only one year, a month, a week, a day, an hour, a minute, and second by second. There are sixty-five of the shortest instants in the time it takes to snap my fingers, and even in those short split seconds life is changing.

“Why should I be surprised that life changes so much? That’s natural; let it happen!” To think in this way is very foolish and ignorant because as life is changing so quickly in those very short instants I am becoming older.

Some may say, “That’s natural, I become older; let it happen!” This is another wrong attitude, not caring about becoming old. Still others, for example many New York people, want to deny the impermanent nature of their lives; they do not want to see the true nature of it at all. They try to disguise their appearance in the eyes of others who also play the same game. This is an absolutely vain attempt and such actions are not of the potential knowledge level of the human mind, and their creation is certainly not the purpose of the human rebirth from the Dharma point of view. No artificial effort can change eighty years into sixteen years. Age can never decrease in the view of the truly Enlightened Mind, which fully realises the samsaric body’s suffering because of its impermanent nature.

These people’s minds have a double illusion: belief in artificial creation (scientific discoveries used to preserve matter and life from ruin and decay) and the wrong conception that a permanent subject-object exists. The first wrong belief causes problems to arise continually. The second wrong idea causes one to become more ignorant, lazy and careless.

There are two levels of impermanence:

  1. Gross—changes of matter happening in long periods of time.
  2. Subtle—inner changes of mind and invisible changes of matter happening in the shortest part of a second.

Our mind can’t perceive subtle changes of matter; it can see only the gross changes from day to day, hour to hour, such as ruin, death, etc.

This vessel-like world which existed at an earlier moment does not do so at a later one. That it seems to continue in the same way is because something else similar arises, like the stream of a waterfall.

I should worry about the changes of becoming old. Why should I worry? Because as years, months, days, split seconds are passing and I get older, the perfect chance of attaining Enlightenment given by my human rebirth is becoming exhausted and I’m getting closer to death. I have the right equipment, a pilot, a spaceship and enough fuel to make a trip around the universe and visit all the planets. But here I sit, engine running, burning up the fuel while my mind is distracted by other things. The longer my mind remains distracted the more I miss the chance of seeing the planets; as the fuel burns, time gets shorter. However, even this analogy does not adequately show the tragedy of wasting this precious human rebirth.

Even if the duration of my life were 100,000 years death would approach like this. With each second passed, the minutes shorten; with each minute, the hours; with each hour, the days; with each day, the months; with each month, the years. Each passing year shortens the life and the time of death draws nigh. Although well taken care of, a life of even this great length must end, so why not mine? By comparison my life is extremely short, perhaps lasting forty to fifty, certainly not more than eighty to one hundred, years. With each second, minute, hour, day, month, year, it shortens, nearing death. This human life is really short; this body of mine has not much longer to live.

Is Death Definite?
My death is inevitable because no being has ever existed in the realms of samsara without continuously suffering death and rebirth.

Is The Time Of My Death Definite?
Death has many causes and so its time is uncertain.

  1. When, according to past karma, life’s end is due,
  2. when factors sustaining life are unavailable, e.g., death by starvation, or
  3. through ignorance, e.g., suicide, or carelessness.

At this moment, if I really check up within myself, I can find neither evidence nor guarantee that my life will continue for any definite period.

Why Should I Be Afraid Of Death? d’ü.sum ky’ (Karmapa: “realising past, present and future”) said:
Why should I be afraid of death? Because when the Lord of Death comes it is difficult for the mind to be happy.

I am greatly ignorant in being unafraid of death. This lack of fear results from not understanding the suffering of the death process itself or the suffering of my future lives. After death my ignorant mind will continuously suffer in the cycle of the twelve dependent links. In one month, one day, even in an hour, I create more negative than virtuous karma and have been doing so since beginningless time, in all my previous lives. Unless I break my chain of bondage to the cycle of the twelve dependent links, I shall eventually be reborn in one of the three lower realms.

For these reasons I should start practising Dharma as soon as possible, without being lazy.

Guru Shakyamuni said:
It is unsure whether tomorrow or the next life will come first.

Therefore it is more worthwhile and wise to be prepared for the future life than for tomorrow, since tomorrow is very indefinite. This is very logical.

Shantideva, in Bodhicaryavatara, said:
It is not right to enjoy samsaric pleasures thinking, “I am not going to die today,” putting off the practice of Dharma and not confessing negative karmas.

Do People Or Material Possessions Help To Ease Or Prevent Death?
At the hour of death even universes containing numberless jewels which could bring all wishes cannot prevent death from occurring. Neither people— relatives, friends, or others—nor any amount of personal strength or fame can prevent death. Instead of helping, these things only contribute to greater suffering.

How Do My Attachments Cause Great Suffering At Death?
At the time of death I realise that I am separating from all my possessions and from my loved ones, and tremendously strong attachment and fear arise. My worry is far greater than usual worry, such as that arising from the separation of a couple or from parents. My physical body now creates much suffering and, although I have cared more for it than for any other being’s body, it now becomes my enemy.

At the hour of death, the king and the beggar are exactly equal in that no amount of relatives or possessions can affect or prevent death. But who is the richer at the time of death? If the beggar has created more merits, then although he looks materially poor he is really the rich man. From the Dharma point of view, the mind that has prepared itself for the journey into the next life has the real riches.

If material possessions and relatives and friends are so meaningless and ineffectual at the time of death and cause suffering, becoming enemies, why do I attach so much importance to them and spend so much time caring for them?

For countless lives I have been attached to my physical body, providing it with all life’s comforts, yet still this care has not ended, and my body continues to cause me problems. Has this care really any end? Wouldn’t it be better to spend my life working for something which can be finished?

Padma Sambhava said:
The vision of this life is like last night’s dream. All meaningless actions are like ripples on a lake.

By caring only for my physical body I am like the person who will die tomorrow anyway, but goes to the hospital today for much expensive treatment. Any temporal happiness is meaningless and only results in suffering, never helping to end the cycle of death and rebirth. At the time of death numberless relatives, every possession—even numberless universes full of numberless jewels—and my body, which I have cared for more than any other, must all be left. All are of as little use as a single hair, for at death neither can be taken with the mind: in effect, there is no difference between all the world’s possessions and one tiny hair.

As I am not sure to exist even from second to second, why should I be attached to my body or any possession, even at this moment?

The original human beings appeared in this world through an intuitive rebirth (i.e., without using the bodies of parents). They had bodies of light, the same as Buddha’s Holy Body, and they had a very long life, millions of years in duration. They did not depend on material food because their food was happiness (the result of good karma), and they had many karmic psychic powers.

But in spite of all this their minds were not free of the seeds of ignorance, greed and hatred. The negative mind was latent and slowly, slowly, the negative impressions ripened and began to grow, and consequently their good fortune began to decrease—the result of their good karma was diminishing.

Therefore, at that time ordinary material, impure plants began to grow. Their greedy minds made them eat this impure food, causing their bodies to become more and more gross. The impure food inside their bodies became ka-ka through the development of a digestive process, and sex organs were created to eliminate the ka-ka.

Because of greed imprints coming from previous karma and because the sex organs were there (the co-operative cause), they began to have sexual intercourse. Consequently, other beings, who had created the karma to be reborn on this earth at that time, began to be reborn in their wombs.

This evolution of the earth and beings is created mentally, through previous karma, by beginningless mind. The formation of the earth and the birth of beings on it is not a unique occasion—it is a repetitive event without beginning.

At the time of death, the elements are absorbed one after the other and the many changes appear gradually as feelings and visions. The final death comes when the subtle mind splits from the body, and this also is accompanied by physical signs.

At death, the person who has created much non-meritorious karma suffers from seeing evil omens that are the result of his past evil action. A very frightening physical situation occurs because of fearsome visions coming at that time. Dying with an indifferent mind, neither meritorious nor non-meritorious, one experiences neither pleasure nor suffering.

When the creator of evil dies the heat leaves the body starting from the head. When the creator of merit dies the heat first leaves from the feet. In each case the final loss of heat is from the heart.

At the time of death the mind is separating from the body, and the evil creator has the vision of going from light into dark.

Here follows an explanation of the process of a natural death, i.e., a death which is not sudden or traumatic:

    1. The skandha of form is absorbed.
      External sign: the physical body becomes thinner and loses power.
    2. The great mirror Wisdom is absorbed.
      This Wisdom clearly sees many objects at the same time, as a mirror reflects many objects together.
    3. The earth element is absorbed.
      External sign: the physical body becomes very thin, the hands and legs are very loose, and we feel very uncontrolled and as if being buried under a great weight of earth.
    4. The eye organ7 is-absorbed.
      External sign: it is impossible to control or move the eyes.
    5. The inner subtle form is absorbed.
      1. External sign: the colour of the physical body fades and the body loses its strength completely.
      2. The inner sign is a trembling silver-blue mirage, like water in the heat.
    1. The skandha of feeling is absorbed.
      External sign: the physical body doesn’t experience pain, pleasure or indifference.
    2. The Wisdom of equality is absorbed.
      This Wisdom sees all feelings of happiness, suffering and indifference together, as having the same nature.
      External sign: we no longer remember these feelings, i.e., the feelings perceived with the sense of mind as distinct from those perceived by the physical body.
    3. The water element is absorbed.
      External sign: all liquids of the body—urine, blood, saliva, sperm, sweat, etc.—dry up.
    4. The ear organ is absorbed.
      External sign: hearing ceases.
    5. The inner sound is absorbed.
      1. External sign: the buzzing in the ears ceases.
      2. The inner sign is a vision of smoke.
    1. The skandha of cognition (perception) is absorbed.
      External sign: there is no longer any recognition of our relatives and friends.
    2. The Wisdom of discriminating awareness is absorbed.
      This is the Wisdom which discriminates and remembers who our relatives and friends are.
      External sign: not remembering their names.
    3. The fire element is absorbed.
      External sign: the heat of the physical body disappears, and the capacity to digest food ceases.
    4. The nose organ is absorbed.
      External sign: breathing-in becomes difficult and weaker, and breathing-out becomes stronger and longer.
    5. The inner sense of smell is absorbed.
      1. External sign: the nose no longer detects smells.
      2. The inner sign is a vision of sparks of fire, trembling like starlight.
    1. The skandha of volitional formations (compounded phenomena) is absorbed.
      External sign: the physical body can no longer move.
    2. The all-accomplishing Wisdom is absorbed.
      This is the Wisdom of attainment, remembering outer work and success and their necessity.
    3. The air element is absorbed.
      External sign: breathing ceases.
      1. The taste organ is absorbed.
        External sign: the tongue contracts and thickens and its root turns blue.
      2. The tactile organ is absorbed.
        External sign: neither soft nor rough sensations can be perceived.
    5. The inner taste sense is absorbed.
      1. External sign: we can no longer detect the six different tastes.
      2. The inner sign is a vision of a dim red-blue light, like the last flickering of a candle.
  3. Finally, the skandha of consciousness is absorbed.
    This is the eighty gross superstitions and their foundations, motion (Skt., prana; Tib., lung). “Superstitions” means the gross illusive mind, the dualistic, wrong-conception mind. At this point we have the following visions:
    1. White vision
      A vision of a very clear sky, like that in autumn, full of the brightness of the moon.
      It is caused by the prana going up through the left and right nadis, opening up the head chakra, and coming down through the central nadi.
      It occurs when, as the central nadi opens, the white sperm or seed, received from the father, comes down to the heart chakra, visualised in the form of the letter (Hung reversed).
      This is called “vision and emptiness.”
    2. Red vision
      A vision of a copper-red reflection in the sky.
      It is caused by the prana going up the central nadi to the heart, opening up the navel and fifth chakras.
      It occurs when the red blood—the nature of which is fire-heat received from the mother, comes up to the heart chakra, visualised in the form of the letter (Ah reversed).


    3. Dark vision
      A vision of empty darkness, like a dark and empty space.
      At this point the sperm and the blood are absorbed into a tiny seed: the bottom half is red, the top, white.
      It occurs when these two come to the heart.
      After this vision we fall unconscious—into complete darkness. Then the subtle mind arises and momentarily all gross superstitions absorb. Then appears the
    4. Clear light vision
      A vision of complete emptiness, very clear, like the sky of an autumn dawn. This is the clear light, the vision of the final death.
      At this time, the time of the actual death, the gross mind, that which is holding the gross objects, ceases, but only momentarily. Due to karma, the seed of it is always there.
      The subtle mind having this vision is enclosed within the seed formed by the united white and red hemispheres. The seed then opens and the subtle mind goes out, leaving the body to take the intermediate form.
      Then, the white sperm goes down and comes out of the sex organ, while the blood leaves from the nostril.
      This is the final sign—the consciousness, or spirit, (Nam.she), has left the body. Now the mind has completely separated from the body. It is possible that ordinary people stay in this stage for some time, but don’t then recognise it. Highly realised yogis can stay in this stage, meditating in the void for months, and are able to recognise all the visions of the death evolution.

Until the cognition becomes unclear and powerless, the mind retains its habitual attachment to the “I.” Because of this attachment, as the cognition weakens the wrong conception arises that “I” am becoming non-existent, causing fear of losing the “I.” These thoughts create attachment to and craving for the body, which in turn leads to birth in the intermediate state.

After the clear light vision, before actually entering the Bardo, we experience the other three visions and the formation of the skandhas in the reverse order.

The evolution from death to the intermediate state is like passing from sleep to a dream. The eighty gross superstitions of the mind arise and the being takes the intermediate body. (During this time we can see the world, relatives and past dead body, but karmically do not remember any of it, so there is no desire to get back into it.)

The Bardo body is formed by previous karma and delusion. The principal cause of the intermediate state mind is the subtle mind and its co-operative cause is the prana, which comes with the subtle mind. The principal cause of the intermediate state body is the prana, and its co-operative cause is the subtle mind.

The form of the Bardo body is that of the next rebirth. Karmically it has no resistance to matter, is indestructible, and the being has many psychic powers, such as the ability to fly or do anything else it thinks of.

The length of existence in the Bardo body is seven days, after which time that intermediate being dies, taking rebirth in the same realm for a further seven days until death occurs or a physical body is found. The longest Bardo existence is forty-nine days.

To be born in the formless world, we do not pass through the Bardo.

The consciousness leaves the physical body according to the being’s karmically-determined realm of rebirth:

  • Hell: from the anus.
  • Preta: from the mouth.
  • Animal: from the sex organ.
  • Human: from the eyes.
  • Gods of the senses: from the navel.
  • Evil spirits and demons: from the nose.
  • Spirits enjoying one particular sense: from the ears.
  • World of form: from the forehead chakra.
  • Formless world: from the highest head chakra.
  • Pure land: from the highest head chakra.

So many hospitals and chemical methods are provided to prevent death, yet patients and doctors still die without control. But, since the scientific idea is of lifelessness after death, is it not better to choose death, rather than this complicated life with its many difficulties, much work in trying to solve life’s problems and its worries about death—a life without satisfaction or answers to these problems? According to this view, these problems do not exist after death, and such beliefs render the development of external methods meaningless.

Ideas limited by technical knowledge limit the power of the mind to understanding the factual, true nature of the mind’s evolution. If scientific minds are really scientific—fully understanding and completely believable—then why are scientists unable to explain clearly and logically the reasons for the Earth’s evolution? Why should there be living things on the Earth? What caused the degeneration of the mind?

With their great knowledge of physics, medicine and psychology, scientists look at all phenomena in terms of their outer material aspects rather than their inner nature. With this limited knowledge they can see no way for the development of inner perfect happiness without being materialistic or greedy. Greed replaced knowledge, and this limited knowledge is the quality or function of ignorance.

Are there any scientists or psychologists who can prove their “scientific” ideas about death? Can they see the evolution of the mind or fully see every existence? Research these questions—meditational practices are the best research: the best, quickest and most logical method of gaining full knowledge of science on every level.

Without the experience to prove their scientific understanding of death and life’s beginnings, how can they prove that there are no future or past lives? This scientific knowledge is exactly like the small mind which sees only today, forgetting yesterday, and not perceiving tomorrow.

I can’t criticise without having knowledge of science, but anyway, this matter is true for the true mind and wrong for the wrong mind.

From the Profound Tantric Text, Guru Puja

With this prayer visualise:

Guru Shakyamuni, surrounded by Vajradhara, the Infinite Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhants. Dakas and Dakinis, many other Tantric Deities, the Protecting Deities, and all the Holy Gurus in the direct and indirect Lineage of the Teachings, sending much light to me and to all sentient beings, who are visualised as surrounding me.

This light is absorbed into me and into all sentient beings, purifying all negativities and obscurations and bringing all Knowledge—especially the Knowledge that the perfect human rebirth is difficult to achieve and decays easily, and of how to be able to make my life perfectly meaningful, without wasting it in the distractions of meaningless, temporal work.

once only acquired freedom perfect receptacle rebirth
This acquire difficult soon decay nature realise and
meaningless life this work by not distracted
Having meaning essential to take please bless

(Please bless me and all sentient beings to realise that this perfect rebirth, found only once, is difficult to acquire and quickly dies, and to be able to make the life essentially meaningful, without being distracted by meaningless work.)

After this prayer, complete the visualisation as described on pp. 16-18 and dedicate the merits with the prayer on the last page.

6 The Sutra Teachings demand a gradual practice without initiation, involving ten grounds, following the Bodhisattva’s Path of Perfection. The Tantric Teachings are a short-cut, enabling one to reach Enlightenment without passing through the ten Sutra Grounds, but still requiring true understanding and pure practice of the basic Sutra Teachings. [Return to text]
7 Here, “organ” (Wang.po) means more than just the eye itself. It is the vehicle of the sense ( and is the pure physical power. As it depends on the presence of an object it works only in the present; cf. the sense-base (Wang.she) which is connected to consciousness and has memory, etc. [Return to text]