The Bardo of Becoming

His Eminence Beru Khyentse Rinpoche

© Marpa Activities 1998

The Bardo of Becoming depends on the Bardo between Birth and Death. The stream of
consciousness in the bardo is no different from that in life, it is a continuity from one state
into another. The Bardo of Becoming is experienced by all living beings subject to birth
and death, which is every being with a dualistic mind. The exceptions to this are those
with an extraordinary collection of merit who have committed any of the five heinous
crimes; they are born directly in a hell state. So there are three types of experiences
depending on one's collection or not of good karma.

In this bardo again we have a mental body; we don't have a gross physical body. The
mental body does have a form but it is the nature of light. Objects in this state have their
own luminosity. They are not dependent on the light of the sun or moon to be seen. It is
also possible to visit faraway countries merely by wishing to visit them, and one's
consciousness has psychic awareness of other people's thoughts. Beings in this state
spent a lot of time checking up on family members, friends and possessions. If someone
has previously cultivated compassion and familiarity with the dying process they will
experience less confusion and less time worrying about things left behind. In this bardo
you also will meet with other people recently dead who have yet to take rebirth. The
dedication of merits etc, is of great benefit to someone in the bardo state at this particular

During the first three weeks one's thoughts are usually more to do with the recent
separation; in the succeeding period one's thoughts tend more towards one's life to come.
This is determined by one's accumulation of merits while living. Only those with a good
accumulation of wisdom and merit can determine who their parents will be. All other
beings take birth by force, without choice. Those who are to take birth as an animal don't
realise that necessarily. They experience going into a dark room or long glass. If one has
attachment to one's future mother and feeling of hatred towards one's future father this
predisposes one to birth as a male. The reverse holds true for birth as a female. Due to the
force of the karmic wind one is then pushed around according to one's past actions and
enters into the mother's womb (if you are so lucky) at the time of conception. Sometimes
the experience feels like light is dissolving into light. This description is based on the
recollection of enlightened beings' actual experiences. Out type of rebirth is determined
solely by our own karma. Mistakes aren't made, nor can our rebirth be decided by anyone
other than ourself. All this is determined by one's actions in this lifetime.

The best possibility if one is a good practitioner is that one will achieve the dharmakaya at
the time of one's death. If one misses this opportunity the next possibility is that one will
achieve the sambogakaya in the intermediate stage. Meditation is easier in the bardo
state so it is possible for the achievement of enlightenment to happen sooner. The lesser
practitioner will achieve the nirmanakaya at the time of rebirth. The whole purpose of
talking about this is to encourage you to practise.

The nature of the six bardos is a cycle which will never end unless you apply the remedy.
The cause of this endless cycle is (Tib : ma.rigpa) Where did this ignorance come from? It didn't come from anywhere. There are two types of ignorance; imputed ignorance and inherent ignorance, which we are born with. Alaya vijayana (Eng : consciousness-basis-of-all) itself isn't ignorance. Ignorance is likened to the green husk of wheat, and the inner part to consciousness. Enlightenment means the removal of ignorance, the removal of the green husk. When this is removed what is left is called "enlightenment". Another analogy is of a house with its blinds down. Light won't happen by itself, the light must be allowed to come in. When the sunlight enters through the windows, the house doesn't cease being a house. Ignorance is an obscuration, a defilement. It is in complete contrast to the omniscient or clear seeing of enlightenment and only leads to further ignorance.

Wrong actions accumulate by the process of the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising.
Three types of karma follow on from actions based on one's basic ignorance : good, bad
and neutral. If one plants a positive seed the fruition of that is positive. Karma accumulates
through all the actions of one's body, speech and mind. Due to the formation of negative
karma the five aggregates form. Then from those, the six senses and the six types of
objects of perception. Then name and form come about either side of the birth. During the
process of early growth the child is not able to discriminate properly. This doesn't come
about until all the organs are developed and feeling doesn't occur until the senses are
properly formed. At this stage we don't really discriminate unless we deliberately glance at
something. It is like watching a crowd, not until you deliberately look carefully do you see
your friend and feel a response to them. Similarly, you can't get angry for no reason, you
need a subject, an object and some reaction to it. Sadness and happiness in this
instance depend on something, a dependent feeling. This is what perpetuates the Bardo of
Becoming. We nurture and plant seeds to our own birth and rebirth.

Unfortunately, when we are subject to birth we are subject to sickness and decay. Our
situation is not unlike that of a beautiful flower. If you watch a flower long enough it will
completely disappear and decay, but as long as the bulb doesn't vanish and the
conditions are right the flower will regenerate again and again. Our existence is very much
like this. This process is referred to as the "Wheel of Life" or "Cyclic Existence". Nirvana,
or liberation, has a different point of view.

As long as there is ignorance, there is the accumulation of actions. So this is something
we need to purify or diminish. The only method to eliminate the root of karma is dharma,
spiritual practice. Only through this are we able to reduce and totally eradicate mistaken
conceptions and allow the more positive view to arise. The most important bardo is that
between birth and death. This is because it offers such incredible freedom and opportunity.
The Bardo of the Dream State and the Bardo of the Moment of Death don't have nearly as
much freedom. Their existence is largely determined by what we do now. So we shouldn't
waste our meaningful life. We should develop Bodhicitta and engage in sadhana practice
as much as we can because this has great purpose and meaning.