“Like athletes who train for the Olympics to win a gold medal, the bardo of birth and life is the training ground to exercise and actualize our skills so that the other bardos—particularly the fourth, fifth and sixth bardos of dying, after death, and becoming—provide the conditions to acquire a gold, silver, or bronze medal. The first bardo is the best place to develop these valuable skills.
It is very special and precious to be human, to be surrounded by all this wealth and beauty, and to have the opportunity to realize buddhahood. This is a very crucial time. Don’t take this for granted and waste it. Actualize your true nature. The human realm is a unique place where we can work to accomplish something meaningful and develop our understanding. Buddha Shakyamuni reiterated this many times throughout his life. As we can see by observing what goes on in the world, this is not a pure land, but it’s the best place for us to learn and develop ourselves.
There are many other worlds—some are exceptionally beautiful, luxurious, and comfortable. In comparison, ours might not look that wonderful, but it’s actually a very special place. Here we can mature ourselves and transcend our limitations. There is a lot here that challenges us to grow, helping us to discover and express our buddha-nature. Qualities such as courage, confidence, and love are called forth in response to many situations. If we accomplish something meaningful here, we will also be able to go other places and enjoy higher realizations. But for now, this is the place where we must do something significant with our lives.
By practicing during the bardo of birth and life, great meditators can become enlightened within one lifetime. Yogis and yoginis with high realization are able to perceive the entire universe as the mandala of the deities, so that every form is seen as a buddha’s body and environment, all sounds are perceived as the pure speech or mantra of enlightened beings, and every thought and emotion is experienced as the wisdom mind of the buddhas. Recognizing the true nature of this continually unfolding vision is part of the spontaneous activity of pristine cognition. Ultimately, everything appears as a display of primordial wisdom, and within that realization, we can begin to help all sentient beings.
As Guru Padmasambhava said:
It is not the time to continue fooling around.”
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
The Essential Journey of Life and Death, Vol. 1 (pgs 100-101)
Photo of Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche celebrating with Sangha after concluding a fire puja ceremony in the meadow during the 2013 PSL Summer Retreat on the Dudjom Tersar Khandro Thugtik.
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