Death – Are You Really Prepared?

In my last post we discussed the issue of death, and why Western culture often finds it terrifying, dark & complex. In Buddhism, the death process is also seen in a similar way, but for very different reasons.  In Buddhism one of he most significant things relating to the death process is Bardo.

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This takes place between the point of death & rebirth. The process is said to last for a 49 day period and during this time the consciousness will go through many different phases until it is finally reborn. As the process takes place, different prayers are recited from scriptures called the Bardo Thodol . These prayers are aimed to guide the consciousness to the point of rebirth without distraction. In Tibetan Buddhism, the consciousness is said to be the last thing to leave the body even when all other organs have shut down. This means technically the person is still alive right up until the point where the consciousness leaves. When this happens, a small spot of blood will usually appear on the crown of the head, or fluid will start to leave through the deceased persons nostrils. At this point, the body is ready for cremation etc.

Please see for more information on the actual process

There are 6 Bardos, but the final 3 are after death states:

1- The painful Bardo of dying (Chikai):  When consciousness of the newly deceased becomes aware of and accepts the fact it has recently died.

2 -The luminous Bardo of Dharmata (Chonyid): The consciousness reflects upon its past life and the mind is laid bare, karma is assessed in preparation for rebirth.

3- The Bardo of becoming (Sidpa): During the second state of Bardo, the consciousness will encounter terrifying images and sounds. These are only attributed to the winds as the senses start to close down. How we react to those terrifying images and sounds, determines what will happen in the third Bardo (becoming) in other words how we will be reborn. This is why we are encouraged to meditate on death whilst we are very much alive, and why we should encounter every difficult situation with a mindset of compassion and generosity so that when the battle process is happening we can hear these terrors and know exactly what to do without panicking.

Different cultures view death and dying in very different ways. Here in the West we usually lay out our loved ones in the chapel of rest for around three or four days before burial or cremation. This is so people can pay their last respects, share memories about the person’s life-who they were & what they were like etc. In Islamic culture however, it’s traditional to bury the body as quickly as possible without delay.

So here’s today’s question to ponder…. If we accept the Bardo theory as accurate, what thoughts feelings &  emotions are raised about our own traditions of burying or cremating the dead?


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