Third Bardo: The Period of Re-entry (Sidpa Bardo)
Only persons of extremely advanced spiritual development are able to accomplish this, by exercising the Transference Principle at the moment of ego-death. For average persons who undertake a psychedelic voyage, the return to game reality is inevitable.
Such persons can and should use this part of the manual for the following purposes:
- to free themselves from Third Bardo traps;
- to prolong the session, thus assuring a maximum degree of illumination;
- to select a favorable re-entry, i.e., to return to a wiser and more peaceful post-session personality.
The types of re-entry made can profoundly color the person's subsequent attitudes and feelings about himself and the world, for weeks or even months afterwards. A session which has been predominantly negative and fearful can still be turned to great advantage and much can be learned from it, provided the re-entry is positive and highly conscious. Conversely, a happy and revelatory experience can be made valueless by a fearful or negative re-entry.
In the following sections some of the characteristic Third Bardo experiences are described. In Part IV instructions are given appropriate to each section. At this stage in a psychedelic session the voyager is usually capable of telling the guide verbally what he is experiencing, so that the appropriate sections can be read. A wise guide can often sense the precise nature of the ego's struggle without words. The voyager will usually not experience all of these states, but only one or some of them; or sometimes the return to reality can take completely new and unusual turns. In such a case the general instructions for the Third Bardo should be emphasized Third Bardo: Preliminary Instructions.
I. General Description of the Third BardoNormally, the person descends, step by step, into lower (more constricted) states of consciousness. Each step downwards may be preceded by a swooning into unconsciousness. Occasionally the descent may be sudden, and the person will find himself jolted back to a vision of reality which by contrast with the preceding phases seems dull, static, hard, angular, ugly and puppet-like. Such changes can induce fear and horror and he may struggle desperately to regain familiar reality. He may get trapped into irrational or even bestial perspectives which then dominate his entire consciousness. These narrow primitive elements stem from aspects of his personal history which are usually repressed. The more enlightened consciousness of the first two Bardos and the civilized elements of ordinary waking life are shelved in favor of powerful, obsessive primitive impulses, which in fact are merely faded and incoherent instinctual parts of the voyager's total personality. The suggestibility of Bardo consciousness makes them seem all-powerful and overwhelming.
This then is the first recognition point of the Third Bardo. The feeling of supernormal perception and performance. Assuming that it is valid, the manual warns the voyager not to be fascinated by his heightened powers, and not to exercise them. In yogic practice, the most advanced of the lamas teach the disciple not to strive after psychic powers of this nature for their own sake; for until the disciple is morally fit to use them wisely, they become a serious impediment to his higher spiritual development. Not until the selfish, game-involved nature of man is completely mastered is he safe in using them.
Recognition is all that is necessary - and recognition depends upon preparation.
A fourth, rather common experience is the following: the person may feel stupid and full of incoherent thoughts, whereas everyone else seems to be perfectly knowing and wise. This leads to feelings of guilt and inadequacy and in extreme from to the Judgment Vision, to be described below. This feeling of stupidity is merely the natural result of the limited perspective under which the consciousness is operating in this Bardo.
Calm, relaxed acceptance and trust will enable the voyager to win liberation at this poin.
Again, such fantasies are to be recognized as the attempts of the ego to regain control. In the true state of ego-death, as it occurs in the First or Second Bardos, such complaints are never uttered.
Sixth, one may have the feeling of being oppressed or crushed or squeezed into cracks and crevices amidst rocks and boulders. Or the person may feel that a kind of metallic net or cage may encompass him. This symbolizes the attempt prematurely to enter an ego-robot which is unfitting or unequipped to deal with the expanded consciousness. Therefore one should relax the panicky desire to regain an ego.
The passages Third Bardo: Preliminary Instructions contain general instructions for the Third Bardo state and its recognizable features. Any or all of the passages may be read when the guide senses that the voyager is beginning to return to the ego.
II. Re-entry VisionsIn the preceding section the symptoms of re-entry were described, the signs that the voyager is tryihng to regain his ego. In this section are described visions of the types of re-entry one can make.
According to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, each of the six game worlds or levels of existence is associated with a characteristic sort of thralldom, from which non-game experiences give temporary freedom: (1) existence as a deva, or saint, although more desirable than the others, is concomitant with an ever-recurring round of pleasure, free game ecstasy; (2) existence as an asura, or titan, is concomitant with incessant heroic warfare; (3) helplessness and slavery are characteristic of animal existence; (4) torments of unsatisfied needs and wants are characteristic of the existence of pretas, or unhappy spirits; (5) the characteristic impediments of human existence are inertia, smug ignorance, physical or psychological handicaps or various sorts.
The chances of making a favorable re-entry are increased if the process is allowed to take its own natural course, without effort or struggle. One should avoid pursuing or fleeing any of the visions, but meditate calmly on the knowledge that all levels exist in the Buddha also.
One can recognize and examine the signs as they appear and learn a great deal about oneself in a very short time. Although it is unwise to struggle against or flee the visions that come in this period, the Instructions for Re-entry Visions are designed to help the voyager regain First Bardo transcendence. In this way, if the person finds himself about to return to a personality or ego which he finds inappropriate to his new knowledge about himself, he can, by following the instructions, prevent this and make a fresh re-entry.
III. The All-Determining Influence of ThoughtLiberation may be obtained, by such confrontation, even though previously it was not. If, however, liberation is not obtained even after these confrontations, further earnest and continued application is essential.
Should you feel attachment to material possessions, to old games and activities, or if you get any because other people are still involved in pursuits that you have renounced, this will affect the psychological balance in such a way that even if destined to return at a higher level, you will actually re-enter on a lower level in the world of unsatisfied spirits (neurosis). On the other hand, even if you do feel attached to worldly games that you have renounced, you will not be able to play them, and they will be of no use to you. Therefore abandon weakness and attachment to them; cast them away wholly; renounce them from your heart. No matter who may be enjoying your possessions, or taking your role, have no feelings of miserliness or jealousy, but be prepared to renounce them willingly. Think that you are offering them to your internal freedom and to your expaned consciousness. Abide in the feeling of non-attachment, devoid of weakness and craving.
Such thinking will not only be of no use, but it will do great harm. However improper the behavior of other, think thus: "What? How can the words of a Buddha be inappropriate? It is like the reflection of blemishes on my own face which I see in a mirror; my own thoughts must be impure. As for these others, they are noble in body, holy in speech, and the Buddha is within them: their actions are lessons for me."
Again, even if you were destined to return to a lower level and are already going into that existence, yet through the good deeds of friends, relatives, participants, learned teachers who devote themselves wholeheartedly to the correct performance of beneficent rituals, the delight from your feeling greatly cheered at seeing them will, by its own virtue, so affect the psychological balance that even though heading downwards, you may yet rise to a higher and happier level. Therefore you should not create selfish thoughts, but exercise pure affection and humble faith towards all, impartially. This is highly important. Hence be extremely careful.
The Instructions for the All-Determing Influence of Thought are useful in any phase of the Third Bardo, but particularly if the voyager is reacting with suspicion or resentment to other members of the group, or to his own friends and relatives.
IV. Judgment VisionsThe judgment vision may come: the Third Bardo blame game. "Your good genius will count up your good deeds with white pebbles, the evil genius the evil deeds with black pebbles." A judgment scene is a central part of many religious systems, and the vision can assume various forms. Westerners are most likely to see it in the well-known Christian version. The Tibetans give a psychological interpretation to this as to all the other visions. The Judge, or Lord of Death, symbolizes conscience itself in its stern aspect of impartiality and love of righteousness. The "Mirror of Karma" (the Christian Judgment Book), consulted by the Judge, is memory. Different parts of the ego will come forward, some offering lame excuses to meet accusations, others ascribing baser motives to various deeds, counting apparently neutral deeds among the black ones; still others offering justifications or requests for pardon. The mirror of memory reflects clearly; lying and subterfuge will be of no avail. Be not frightened, tell no lies, face truch fearlessly.
No you may imagine yourself surrounded by figures who wish to torment, torture or ridicule you (the "Executive Furies of the Robot Lord of Death"). These merciless figures may be internal or they may involve the people around you, seen as pitiless, mocking, superior. Remember that fear and guilt and persecuting, mocking figures are your own hallucinations. Your own guilt machine. Your personality is a collection of thought-patterns and void. It cannot be harmed or injured. "Swords cannot pierce it, fire cannot burn it." Free yourself from your own hallucinations. In reality there is no such thing as the Lord of Death, or a justice-dispensing god or demon or spirit. Act so as to recognize this.
If the voyager is struggling with guilt and penance hallucinations, the Instructions for Judgment Visions may be read.
V. Sexual VisionsSexual visions are extremely frequent during the Third Bardo. You may see or imagine males and females copulating. [According to Jung. ("Psychological Commentary" to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Evans-Wentz edition, p. xiii), "Freud's theory is the first attempt made in the West to investigate, as if from below, from the animal sphere of instinct the psychic territory that corresponds in Tantric Lamaism to the Sidpa Bardo." The vision described here, in which the person sees mother and father in sexual intercourse, corresponds to the "primal scene" in psychoanalysis. At this level, then, we begin to see a remarkable convergence of Eastern and Western psychology. Note also the exact correspondence to the psychoanalytic theory of the Oedipus Complex.] This vision may be internal or it may involve the people around you. You may hallucinate multi-person orgies and experience both desire and shame, attraction and disgust. You may wonder what sexual performance is expected of you and have doubts about your ability to perform at this time.
If you attempt to enter into your old ego because you are attracted or repulsed, if you try to join or excape from the orgy you are hallucinating, you will re-enter on an animal or neurotic level. If you become conscious of "malness," hatred of the father together with jealousy and attraction towards the mother will be experienced; if you become conscious of "femaleness," hatred of the mother together with attraction and fondness for the father is experienced.
It is perhaps needless to say that this kind of self-centered sexuality has little in common with the sexuality of transpersonal experiences. Physical union can be one expression or manifestation of cosmic union.
Whether the birth vision is constructed from memory or fantasy, the psychedelic voyager should try to recognize the signs indicating the type of personality that is being reborn.
The Instructions for Sexual Visions may be read to the voyager who is struggling with sexual hallucinations.
VI. Methods for Preventing the Re-EntryAlthough many confrontations and recognition points have been given, the person may be ill-prepared and still be wandering back to game reality. It is of advantage to postpone the return for as long as possible, thus maximizing the degree of enlightenment in the subsequent personality. For this reason four meditative methods are given for prolonging the ego-loss state. They are (1) meditation on the Buddha or guide; (2) concentration on good games; (3) meditation on illusion; and (4) meditation on the void. See the Four Methods of Preventing Re-entry. Each one attempts to lead the voyager back to the First Bardo central stream of energy from which he has been separated by game involvements. One may ask how these meditative methods, which seem difficult for the ordinary person, can be effective. The answer given in the Tibetan Bardo Thodol is that due to the increased suggestibility and openness of the mind in the psychedelic state these methods can be used by anyone, regardless of intellectual capacity, or proficiency in meditation.
VII. Methods of Choosing the Post-Session PersonalityChoosing the post-session ego is an extremely profound art and should not be undertaken carelessly or hastily. One should not return fleeing from hallucinated tormentors. Such re-entry will tend to bring the person to one of the three lower levels. One should first banish the fear by visualizing one's protective figure or the Buddha; then choose calmly and impartially.
The limited foreknowledge available to the voyager should be used to make a wise choice. In the Tibetan tradition each of the levels of game-existence is associated with a particular color and also certain geographical symbols. These may be different for twentieth-century Westerners. Each person has to learn to decode his own internal road map. The Tibetan indicators may be used as a starting point. The purpose is clear: one should follow the signs of the three higher types and shun those of the three lower. One should follow light and pleasant visions and shun dark and dreary ones.
The world of saints (devas) is said to shine with a white light and to be preceded by visions of delightful temples and jewelled mansions. The world of heroes (asuras) has a green light and is signalled by magical forests and fire images. The ordinary human world has a yellow light. Animal existence is foreshadowed by a blue light and images of caves and deep holes in the earth. The world of neurotics or unsatisfied spirits has a red light and visions of desolate plains and forest wastes. The hell world emits a smoke-colored light and is preceded by sounds of wailing, visions of gloomy lands, black and white houses and black roads along which you have to travel.
As you return you see spread out before you the world, your former life, a planet full of fascinating objects and events. Each aspect of the return trip can be a delightful discovery. Soon you will be descending to take your place in worldly events. The key to this return voyage is simply this: take it easy, slowly, naturally. Enjoy every second. Don't rush. Don't be attached to your old games. Recognize that you are in the re-entry period. Do not return with any emotional pressure. Everything you see and touch can glow with radiance. Each moment can be a joyous discovery.
Here end the Third Bardo, The Period of Re-Entry
I used to religiously (um ha ha) follow the Bardo Thodol so "guessing" that LOST was, originally, the Bardo, was no great stretch. When too many people came too close to guessing the truth, the producers and writers changed direction- which is never a good idea. And so it stumbled on and on to Season 6 and the car crash ending. Wherein it reverted to their poorly understood and poorly executed idea of the Bardo- which is a plurality of purgatories, not one. Which explains the attempt by the writers to keep sticking to the Bardo levels despite all the marketing and merchandising along the way.
What is possibly more interesting is that the different Bardos appealed to the audience to different degrees- reflecting our society's current spiritual level. Which is to say, low.