A Brief Introduction to the Bardos
As the aggregate of perception dissolves, it is no longer possible to distinguish between different creatures.
As the nose faculty dissolves, upper respiration slows.
As earth dissolves into water, the person is unable to move the body and can no longer maintain its strength. It feels as if the body is sinking into the ground. As an inner sign, there is a shimmering expanse of blue, and the impression of softly drizzling rain and flowing water.
As wind dissolves into consciousness, exhalations become longer, and, as the coarse outer breathing ceases, the person is unable to inhale. As an inner sign, there is a vision of a burning lamp, and many torches arranged in a row.
The white essence obtained from the father descends from the crown, and when it reaches the heart there is what is called ‘appearance’. As an outer sign, this is accompanied by an experience of whiteness, as when moonlight fills a completely clear sky that is entirely free from clouds.
As the subtle red element of the mother ascends from the base of the central channel, the wisdom of appearance fades into ‘increase’. As an outer sign, a red vision unfolds like a cloudless sky pervaded by sunlight.
As the subtle white and red essences meet at the heart, the wisdom of increase dissolves into ‘attainment’. Through this, as an outer sign, there is an experience of blackness, like the thick darkness which falls when the sky turns completely black.
As an inner sign, extremely subtle thoughts involving perceived objects and perceiving subject become completely absent, and all distinct concepts based on the appearance aspect of mind fade away, so that, as the ordinary dualistic mind ceases, the wisdom of attainment dawns.
When the the subtle essences of blood and breath, the bindus A and HANG and so on, which are inside the white, silken thread-like channel in the heart, all dissolve completely, the ground luminosity of the moment of death arises. As an outer sign, there is an experience of emptiness and clarity without centre or periphery, like a cloudless sky when it is completely clear.
As an inner sign, you remain in co-emergent, non-conceptual wisdom that is entirely without elaboration. If, having recognized this, you can settle into an ongoing experience of the present moment, mother and child luminosities will meet together, and you will be liberated in the first bardo.
In this context, empty luminosity is explained according to the general approach of the tantras, whereas how the forms of the deities arise out of clear light, how the tikles of light and so on appear are explained in the Dzogchen tantras. Nevertheless, it would seem to be rare for these to unfold in a way that provides an opportunity for liberation.
Next, out of the luminosity into which the three visions dissolved, appearances unfold gradually once again, and the body of the bardo of becoming is formed. For the first half of this bardo, however long that might be, you have the form of your preceding life, and for the second half you take on the appearance of your eventual rebirth.
All sensory faculties are intact, and you can travel anywhere but the mother’s womb, miraculously and without obstruction. You are invisible to all except those of the same class (i.e. other bardo beings) and those who have obtained divine vision.
It is difficult at this time to realize that you have died, so certain indications that you are in the bardo have been taught. For instance, you do not see the sun or moon when looking into the sky, and you leave no footprints and cast no shadow.
This is also the stage at which you undertake a search for a birthplace, feel craving for a home and a body, and so on. Various visions, which are indications of the entrance to a birthplace can occur, with appearances such as wheels of light, caves, empty hollows, male and female animals, male and female human beings and so on.
At these times, the crucial points of practice are as follows:
At first, when you are certain that you are going to die, you must cut all ties and attachment to this life. Confess from the depths of your heart any downfalls and breakages of samaya, harmful actions and so on.
Devote not even so much as a single moment to feeling guilty about your own negative actions, fearing death, or being attached to this life. Instead, feel happiness and joy, and say to yourself: “Now I shall recognize the clear light at death.
Or, if that is not possible, since I shall certainly use the bardo as an opportunity to travel to a pure realm such as Akaniṣṭha, Zangdokpalri or Sukhāvatī, I shall be joyful.” Maintain, without ever letting it slip away, the strong intention and thought “I shall travel to the pure realms!”
Gently, in a relaxed way, as you settle into an experience of whichever practice is the clearest and most vivid for you, let go of the constituents of this life. Since you will be unable to practise any unfamiliar pith instructions, rely only on those practices which are clearest for you at the moment.
These two points—settling into a practice in this way, and aspiring to travel to a pure land such as Zangdokpalri—are unsurpassable.
In particular, it is absolutely crucial that you repeatedly form the intention to travel to the pure land of your choosing. It is exceptionally important to understand that even now, both day and night, you must never let go of this thought.
 Literally “there is no awareness of bipeds and other creatures.”
 ཟུངས་མི་ཐུབ། zungs refers to something like the body’s vital constituents. As an indication of their degeneration, the person can no longer support themselves and remain upright. Alak Zenkar Rinpoche
 The text may be incorrect here and the outer and inner signs confused.
 In Tsele Natsok Rangdrol’s Mirror of Mindfulness (dran pa'i me long) these are referred to as the ‘four enemies’ (dgra bzhi), indicating there has been some confusion at some point over the homophonic syllables sgra/dgra.