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For the Moment of Death

From Tibetan Buddhist Encyclopedia
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by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

For the moment of death, there is an instruction described as a child jumping onto his mother's lap. A child recognizes his mother and without any doubt jumps straight onto her lap. 'The child without doubt' is an analogy for a person who has received oral instructions on Trekcho or Mahamudra from a

qualified master and has recognized 'his mother', primordial purity. The uncompounded essence of the present consciousness, free from mental constructs, is the empty luminosity of primordial purity. When dying we should recognize this empty essence. The one who recognizes such a state of empty awareness at the

moment of death attains enlightenment in dharmakaya. Our body was initially produced through causes and circumstances, namely, the white and red elements from our father and mother. Within our body is the central channel called avadhuti, that is like a pillar within a house. At the upper part of the central

channel dwells the white 'bindu' or essence inherited from our father. It has the nature of the letter HANG, white and blissful to the touch. At the lower part of this channel is the red element obtained from our mother. The red element is located at the juncture of the three nadis, four fingers below the navel. Its shape is called atung, meaning flame-shaped. It is

red in color and hot like fire. Between them is the life-wind, the life-prana, that keeps these two essences from meeting. When the last breath is expired and the life-wind ceases, then the white and red elements meet in the middle of the heart. During this process three experiences occur. The first

experience is called 'whiteness' and takes place when the letter HANG, the white element from our father, slowly descends. That experience is like the white moon slowly sinking in the sky. Then from below the navel the red element from our mother ascends like a sun. This experience is called 'redness' and

is red like the rising sun. When these two essential elements meet at the level of the heart, the experience is like the meeting of the sky and earth. This experience of blackness is the moment when a normal person falls unconscious. During the white experience the thirty-three thought states caused by anger

cease. During the red experience the forty thought states caused by passion cease. When the two essences meet, the seven thought states caused by stupidity cease. It is said that when the black experience occurs, normal people and inexperienced practitioners will faint and remain oblivious in the state of the

all-ground. At that moment they become unconscious with tears streaming from their eyes; all the eighty kinds of thought states have completely ceased. Someone who has not received instructions on how to recognize mind essence falls unconscious for three and a half days. After this period it is as if the

sky and the earth again separate. When awakening, the consciousness can leave the body either through the top of the head,, the five sense organs, or through the lower openings of the body. If it leaves through

the lower part of the body one goes to the lower realms. When the consciousness leaves the body the deceased feels confused and thinks, 'What shall I do now?" "Am I alive or dead?" The spirit will go to its former home, to its family or to its father and mother. The spirit of the deceased will pat them on

the shoulder and say "Don,t cry, I am not dead, I am right here," but they will not hear anything. Finally the dead person will become panic-stricken and realize "Oh! I am dead.', When the spirit of the deceased walks on sand he doesn,t leave footprints. The dead person can freely traverse through solid

matter and may think: "Before I could not pass through walls. What has happened to my body?" The body we have at this time is an illusory body, the same body we feel we possess while dreaming; an imagined body. Of the five aggregates, the aggregate of form is absent but the other four aggregates of

sensation, perception, conception and consciousness are still present, connected to a mental body. Because of the force of conceptual thinking, also known as the karmic wind, the spirit is unable to remain still for even an instant. It constantly moves around. At this time there are the six kinds of

uncertainties. The dwelling place is uncertain, the support is uncertain and behavior is uncertain. Food is uncertain, and one lives on different smells and odors. Companionship is uncertain and experiences are uncertain; one floats about like a feather moved by the wind. In this state, one is threatened by the three abysses corresponding to the three mind poisons. There is the pitch-black abyss of stupidity, the deep

abyss of aggression and the vast abyss of desire. Also at this time one hears loud sounds caused by the four elements of earth, water, fire and wind. There is the sound of an avalanche continuously falling behind one, the sound of a great rushing river, the sound of a huge blazing mass of fire like a volcano

and the sound of a great storm. Moreover, there is no perception of the sun and moon, which can only be seen when we have a physical body. For forty-nine days there is neither night nor day. These are some of the experiences we undergo. To reiterate, according to our master's instructions, we should

recognize our nature as primordial purity and maintain awareness free from the thoughts of the three times. In the moment of recognizing awareness not a single one of the 84,000 negative emotions is present. To recognize awareness during the three experiences, the whiteness, redness and blackness, when all

the emotions have completely ceased, makes it possible to attain stability in the state of primordial purity. Sentient beings who do not recognize mind nature fall unconscious, whereas those who do recognize mind nature and have practiced do not faint. The moment of the three experiences is the time to

apply the teaching of the child jumping onto his mother's lap. The awareness that our teacher pointed out is like the child. The primordial purity itself, the basic luminosity, is like the mother. This recognition at the very moment of death, in the bardo of dying, will ensure liberation. After the

dissolution of the five elements and the three experiences of appearance, increase and attainment, the unfolding of the bardo of dharmata begins with what is called 'consciousness dissolving into space.' Then follows 'space dissolving into lumi

nosity,' 'luminosity dissolving into union,' 'union dissolving into wisdom,' 'wisdom dissolving into spontaneous presence' and finally 'spontaneous presence dissolving into primordial purity.' The moment the luminosity dissolves into union, the one hundred peaceful and wrathful families manifest. When

one does not recognize the essence of the peaceful deities, then the wrathful deities appear. Not recognizing the essence of the wrathful deities triggers the reoccurrence of habitual tendencies, and the bardo of becoming begins. On the other hand, if we do recognize mind essence, we attain enlightenment in the sambhogakaya level during the bardo of dharmata. When one realizes one is dead, one should observe the six recollections, such as remembering one's

practice and yidam. If an individual knows how to recognize mind essence and does not have any broken samayas it will be possible to take birth from the bud of a lotus flower in one of the five emanated buddha fields, in the five directions. If one has broken samaya, the experience at this time will be like

walking in darkness, as if in thick mist. One will be totally lost. In the bardo of becoming the eighty innate thought states commence again. One starts to think "Where can I take birth?" and begins to search, experiencing immense suffering and worry. If one is going to be born in the three lower realms one's

head will not be facing up but will be facing downwards due to the power of karma. If one is going to be born in one of the three higher realms then one will walk upright, one's head held up. One searches for a place to be born, until one comes to the place where one's future mother and father are having intercourse. At the entrance of the womb there will

be many beings waiting, hovering like flies on a piece of meat. If one is going to be born as a male, one feels aggression toward the father and passion toward the mother; the opposite is true for a female. Through the power of this passion and aggression one immediately enters the womb. The consciousness

is like a fly and the red and white elements from the father and mother are like glue; one's mind sticks to that glue. Once one has entered the womb, one lacks the ability to leave; the freedom to say "I don't like this place." During the consecutive seven-day periods which follow, one's body develops from a

tiny embryo and grows bigger and bigger. First the central channel is created, joining the navel to the eyes. Slowly, slowly, every seven days a major change occurs until finally after nine months and ten days, one takes birth from the mother's womb. It is said that our kind mother carries us for nine

months and ten days. During this time the breath of mother and child is the same. When the mother is active there is much discomfort to the child. When she eats the child experiences the terror of being pressed under a big mountain. When approaching the end of these nine months and ten days, through the

special prana the baby turns upside down. During birth, one suffers pain that is similar to flesh being peeled from one's bones. The actual moment of birth is like falling from the sky and crashing down on the earth. When one is born and draws the first breath, only then is one independent from the mother's

breathing. At present we are in the bardo of this life, which lasts from the moment of taking birth until the be ginning of the death process. In this bardo we should practice what is called the bardo of meditation, through the instructions of a master. As I explained before, at the moment of death there

are the three experiences of whiteness, redness and blackness. If, through the instructions of our master, we can recognize the mind essence without fainting, then recognizing, training and attaining stability is like three snaps of the finger. We attain complete enlightenment.