The Bardo Thodol, or “Liberation Through Hearing During the Intermediate State”, usually known as the “Tibetan Book of the Dead”, is the foremost example of a fully developed Buddhist ars moriendi or “technique of dying”. The text, a prolonged and detailed “remembrance of death” (dhikr al-mawt) which at times reads like a travel guide of the liminal realm, the “isthmus” or “ford” (Ar. barzakh, Sk. tirtha), is traditionally recited for the dying, and every day for forty-nine days after someone’s death. The commentary by Chögyam Trungpa explains the relevance of these teachings to our daily deaths and rebirths.
Bardo means gap; it is not only the interval of suspension after we die but also suspension in the living situation; death happens in the living situation as well. The bardo experience is part of our basic psychological make-up. There are all kinds of bardo experiences happening to us all the time, experiences of paranoia and uncertainty in everyday life; it is like not being sure of our ground, not knowing quite what we have asked for or what we are getting into.
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The “Commentary” is an extract from Fremantle, Francesca & Chögyam Trungpa, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Bardo by Guru Rinpoche according to Karma Lingpa. Shambhala, 1975. Reproduced here with thanks.