Review: Bardo Teachings – Venerable Lama Lodo

Bardo Teachings: The Way of Death and Rebirth – Venerable Lama Lödo
Snow Lion. 1982. 73pp. 0937938602.

I believe no religion has put as much thought and study into death, dying, and rebirth as Tibetan Buddhism has. The Bardo Thodol, or The Great Liberation through Hearing in the Between is the well-known (if poorly understood) Tibetan text on the process of dying, what is seen after death, and what happens to the consciousness. This book represents an expansion of the thoughts from the Bardo Thodol from an oral lineage granted by the Very Venerable Kalu Rinpoche.

While there are six Bardos, or Between States, only three of them relate to death; the Chikai Bardo, the Chonyi Bardo, and the Sipai Bardo. The Chonyi Bardo is the Bardo after death, and receives most of the focus in the Bardo Thodol, and as such is glazed over in this text. The Chikai Bardo, the Bardo of dying, and the Sipai Bardo, the Bardo of preparing and searching for the next rebirth, on the other hand are the main focus of the text. This book is not for people without a grounding in Tibetan Buddhism, it assumes a basic understanding exists of Buddhist principles, the Bardo Thodol and of the esoteric Buddhist symbolism used in Tibetan Buddhism.

There is little about the core of the teachings that can be easily explained, it is simply a detailed look at the process of dying and the state of the mind during death, and then an exploration of the experiences and processes that lead to rebirth. For those interested in the tradition, it is definitely an intriguing and insightful read. Lama Lödo finishes each chapter with a Question-Answer section, which contain many interesting points. The ones I found most interesting included that being under medication while dying is detrimental to rebirth because of the confusion it creates (16) which as someone with my medical history has often been a concern of mine, and that the experiences of the Bardos will be different without the religious background of Tibetan Buddhism (17). He says simply that the figures, deities, and images of the Bardo will be just colours and forms that will frighten and confuse people who aren’t Buddhist, where as I feel, considering the system, that without the background it would still be a relevant religious experience, instead of just a confusing light show.

Either way this is an interesting text, if you’ve read the Bardo Thodol and would like to see some aspects explained clearly and discussed this is probably a good place to start.

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