The Bardo of

Sipa is the last of the death bardos, and it may not be until this bardo that we begin to realize that we have died. Apparently some people don't realize it even here and may go on for a long time thinking they are still alive.

In the beginning days there will be a strong tendency in the mind to return to the former life. The world we have left is visible and audible. We may try to communicate with people, but they can neither see nor hear us because the body we now have is mental, not physical. It is a thought body. Much of the personality we had in the last life has disintegrated and fallen away with the dissolution of the elements. We go where we think: "This mental body can move at the speed of thought and in an instant reach out anywhere in the universe."

In this bardo we continue to experience powerful phenomena that arise from within our minds. In this instance they actually reflect the five elements and therefore manifest as elemental forces --- sounds of earth- quakes, crashing waves and great floods, tornadoes and infernos. The nature of these appearances depends upon our karma.

During this bardo the conditioning of our former life begins to fade away, largely because of the overwhelming experiences the mind undergoes. It is here that we begin losing memory of the former life.

If one has mastered one of the trainings during life and can remember to apply it during this time, enlightenment is still possible --- right up until the moment before the mind enters the womb, egg, or other reproductive method of the realm into which it is going to be born. If not, the mind is driven by the winds of karma, constantly experiencing the consequences of its past deeds, words, and thoughts.

A great longing to be anchored again in some manifest form develops during this bardo. The mind becomes increasingly distressed by its inability to come to rest anywhere and starts searching for a new birth. Its focus into one of the six realms begins to intensify...

For the average person, rebirth is not a matter of conscious, rational choice. Rather, it follows the predominant state of the consciousness, which of course comes down again to karma and habitual tendencies.

If, in the former life, a person developed and strengthened positive human qualities, the energy related to this would produce a strong tendency in the mind to be attracted to an appropriate human birth. If, by contrast, the former life had been one of greed, violence, and harm, the karmic energy associated with that would not predispose the person to seek human birth. Its tendencies would be more compatible with one of the "lower realms," and that is where the mind would gravitate, resulting in birth in a painful place. It follows that there is no punishing or reward involved in this process: It is pure cause and effect. We simply reap the harvest of our former actions, and none other than ourselves will deter- mine the harvest. "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

As our days stretch out in the bardo of becoming, we are drawn closer and closer to rebirth. Eventually a connection will be made, let us suppose with a human birth. We see our future parents, and at the moment of conception the mind enters the womb and becomes unconscious. This is the moment of birth. It is the moment we leave the bardo of becoming and enter into one of the six realms of the bardo of life. The wheel turns and the cycle continues; we pass out of the realms of death back into living.

--- From Living, Dreaming, Dying
Rob Nairn
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