The Tibetan Guidance for the Intermediate State (Bardo Thodol)

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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Follow this link to listen to recitations of the Bardo Prayer in our Sacred Audio Collection.

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.

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