Q: Thank you very much for this opportunity to listen to a great teacher, I’m relatively new to my Buddhist practice and I’d like to ask a question regarding consciousness after death. When it is said, that once enlightenment is gained, rebirth in samsara ends, as consciousness has no beginning and has no end, what then happens to it? Many thanks for your teachings.
A: Oh my goodness. What happens to the consciousness after death. I think Western, Eastern, doesn’t matter when it comes to that. There’s a distinction between ego state of mind and the pure consciousness. The pure consciousness is in the state of non-duality, and the state of clarity, and the continuity of the state of knowing, inseparably experiencing together. That is the state of the consciousness. Right?
But, you do not recognize the nature of the mind, simply because you have the idea saying “I want to recognize the nature of the mind”, it doesn’t work like that. You need to have a very subtle state of mind in order to recognize the nature of the mind. The reason why we have to recognize the nature of the mind is that we can break away from the cycle of illusion. That is the purpose. We can break away from the cycle of illusion. That’s the whole purpose.
So my predecessor, he says, he said in his Mahamudra teaching, he said “First you must recognize, second you must maintain, third you must realize”.
So the recognizing and realizing is quite separate. Many people when they start to have some sort of a glimpse of experience and they said “I think I reached there already” you know? They have this huge idea of themselves, and that’s not really good, you know? So there’s a state of mind that where you can and will witness the nature of the mind in the moment of death, and then also sometimes when you’re climbing on top of the hill, when you’re taking a really huge breath out, there’s a possibility.
But, the purpose of recognizing the nature of the mind is to break away from the cycle of illusion.
And Thangtong Gyalpo, he’s a great yogi, Thangtong Gyalpo, he said that, it’s quite insulting, but true, it’s bitter truth, that’s how you say it? Bitter truth. So he said “What is the point of recognizing the nature of the mind if you cannot liberate yourself from the state of the Bardo?” When I read that, my first impression was “give me a break” you know? I cannot even reach the nature of the mind, and now you’re telling me that the whole purpose of recognizing the nature of the mind is that liberating from the state of the Bardo? And then I was completely demoralized.
Anyway, jokes on the side, that is true. That’s what he said. So he said that the purpose of recognizing the nature of the mind is, in the time of death. Like an example, in the time of sleep, all our elements of our body, speech and mind, all the elements of the earth and whatever you call it, it dissolves one to another, but we can witness it if we have a very subtle awareness over the time. That requires a retreat. You don’t create a subtle awareness simply somebody tell you “a subtle awareness is a good idea/approach” You need to decompress the very rigid idea that we have about what is reality and what is not. Therefore the retreat is decompressing your perception of the reality, and then reemerging with a more profound reality. Let’s put it like this.
So then, once you develop that, even then you still cannot develop a subtle awareness. So once you develop a subtle awareness over the time of retreat, second year of retreat, by the end of second year, and then once you develop that, then you can witness all the stages of the mind that is dissolving into the elements, one after another, when you’re going to sleep. And then there’s a blackout, and then there’s an awakened state of mind, appearing in the state of the dream. That’s what we call the dream yoga practice.
So the purpose of the dream yoga practice is basically to stretch your mind as much as possible. Like when you do running, you have to do a stretching, right? Otherwise you will injure yourself. So like an example, in order to practice what is the nature of the mind, you need to practice the subtle awareness, or clear light, or the illusion practice, or the Niguma yoga or whatever the yoga may be. I’m not trying to promote “my lineage is good, better than others” I’m not trying to say that.
What I’m trying to say is that there is a certain progress of the practice that we need to prioritize over the time. There can be a very smaller percentage who may not need any of that. Possible, you know? But the larger percentage we need a progressive practice. We need a progressive practice and also a guru who doesn’t say “I’m your guru”, which is very difficult. You have to find a guru who doesn’t say “I’m your guru”, who has the experience and the qualities along with it. So that is very important.
You don’t have to find a perfect picture, of how to find a guru, the way to find a guru, and being patient for 11 years, none of that. Just make sure you have a guru, genuine enough to teach, and guide and help. Who doesn’t claim himself a guru of yours, and who doesn’t claim you as a student either. And that is a perfect relation. Perfect bond is no bond. Like Milarepa and Marpa Lotsawa, they have bond and no bond at the same time. That’s an example right there, I’m not trying to invent stuff because I have Western audience here. So that’s one thing.
So once you have this some sort of a practice, over the time, and then there’s a possibility that being mindful during the day, being mindful when you’re falling asleep, and being mindful and aware in the state of the dream as well, over the time. And what it does is you create a new dimension of reality. And then over the time, when you are introduced to the nature of the mind, you recognize it, not because you have a rigid idea of how the nature of the mind should look like, but rather you have a state of mind that is very much translucent state of mind, let’s put it like this.
So when you have that translucent state of mind, what happens is when in the time of death, as you have experienced in the day time, when you falling asleep and as you witness all the elements, the only distinction between the state of the death and the state of the dream, is in the state of the dream you do not see the Mother Nature. You just simply, after the elements are dissolved, you just simply awaken. In the state of the death, you dissolve all the elements, and then you witness all the elements dissolving and then you will have a blackout, and then after the blackout state of mind, then you will see the Mother Nature. In that very moment, you say to yourself that “that is the nature of the mind that I recognized it before”.
But of course, at the time, you don’t say “that was the time, that was the date, that was the year, that was the month, that I recognized the nature of the mind”, it doesn’t go like that. It is very subtle, like simply noticing. There’s a difference between recognizing and willing to recognize, and simply noticing.
So over the time, when you develop such a subtle awareness over the time, you will tend to develop not into the idea of reality “that I want to recognize this and I don’t want to recognize that”, you rather becomes in the state of mind that simply noticing is enough for everything, you understand?
And if you don’t have that quality, of simply, subtly noticing, you cannot recognize the nature of the mind. You cannot recognize the nature of the mind, you cannot liberate yourself from the state of the Bardo.
The reality of the Bardo is basically simple. All the accumulation of the habit that you have created, you are projecting that reality instantly. And therefore it is a suffering of Bardo. Just like when you are dreaming, in that very moment of dreaming. In the very moment of dreaming, somebody cut your head off, and you will “Oh my goodness! Somebody cut my head off! Somebody cut my head off! Oh my goodness!” but in that very moment, you believe it was real! And then when you wake up, you realise that was a dream!
When in the state of the Bardo, when you don’t have some sort of recognition to the nature of the mind, or awareness, and then every projection becomes a reality. There’s no gap in between, there’s no awaken. So some practitioners may recognize the Mother Nature, and then have good choice of next life, some recognize the nature of the mind, or at least realizing that they are in a Bardo over the time. Some they are prayed and blessed by different practitioners and so therefore they also find their way back, let’s put it like this.
So that’s it. Is it okay?
The Great Way with Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche (50′)
Zoom Meeting – November 24, 2021