Tibetan Book of the Dead, Talk One




ORIGINAL SLATE: This is Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche at the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center lecturing on The Tibetan Book of the Dead. The following is lecture one, July 5th, 1973. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: I would like to welcome everybody to this seminar, and I'm glad the visitors are able to share our experience what we're trying to do here, which is tremendous lot to me personally. And I'm sure the members of community feels that way. That you're able to come here.

The subject is on The Tibetan Book of the Dead as it has been publicized in brochures and so forth. But I'm thinking of approaching from-- Tibetan Book of the Dead from the three yana principle approach, rather than purely Tibetan Book of the Dead in its mahayana-- in its vajrayana approach that does exist in the literatures alone. That I hope to present the-- the meaning of death, or experience of death, from the levels of three yana approaches. The hinayana approach of idea of death, and bardo and experience of that, and mahayana approach of bardo and experience of death, and vajrayana approach of death and bardo, which is actually-- Tibetan Book of the Dead itself is based on *that*, purely the vajrayana one. Which, I gave one seminar, probably you might have heard tapes of those and read literatures on that. But that particular seminar on The Tibetan Book of the Dead that I give some time ago here at Tail of the Tiger was based on purely vajrayana approach of meaning of bardo and meaning of death. And, consequently, the problem we find is that that wasn't quite grounded enough. That we have a lot of discrepancies in terms of understanding real meaning of death and life at the same time.

So we could call this seminar in the Buddhist approach to death, which means life, at the same time.

Since we have a certain amount of time to work together, that I would like to give certain particular topic, theme on each particular talks. So that we have a chance to-- you have a chance to listen the previous talks in tape and have discussion groups as well. And, then, as we go along that we approach one principle by another principle, rather than trying to comprehend everything at once, which seem to be rather confusing. And it would be good that if you could look at one particular aspect or many particular aspect only once at a time, which would be extremely helpful.

Most people are quite aware of the basic Buddhist approach towards life. That life consist of death or impermanency, transitoriness of life, suffering, and non-substantiality or egolessness. Those are the three basic components of our life. That we do not have our own existence, and at the same time, we suffer. At the same time, we experience discontinuity our existence at the level of consciousness, or consciousness which breed from dualistic mind, shall we say. So those are the three principles that it does exist in the basic Buddhist approach. And tonight and tomorrow, so forth, that I probably try to approach those principles from the hinayanist point of view, which is a very scientific, very basic. Which would be extremely important to approach that way. The meaning of death, shall we say, or the meaning of The Book of the Dead from the hinayanist point of view, which is very important to know. That meaning of death plays important part because that we seek for security to begin with. The security of our parental relationships, our family, friends, home, money, endless. Education, job, whatever. Goodness knows. That we have endless secure that we are programmed, we planning all along, including the spiritual search is part of that trip, so to speak, as well. So we come across with the direct contradiction right at the beginning.

When we want to learn, develop the study, and we want to approach the understanding of enlightenment approach, become enlightened person, and so forth. That we seek for a basic security, fundamental security. Real fundamental basic security. That is that I can hang on to myself, and I don't want to flip out, lose my grip on the reality. I don't want to lose my mind. I want secure my relationship with the world and the security of food, family, and everything. I want to keep together.

Spiritually, I would like to do that as well, because my inspiration is much greater than just purely domestic things alone. But, spiritually, I would like to approach my family spiritually, my security, money spiritually, my home life spiritually. And those are the problems that-- or the direct contradiction, shall we say, on the not able to understand the truth of impermanence or the discontinuity.

So it is extremely important to realize, at the beginning, that those hopes that we have are founded on no ground, none whatsoever. That those basic things are absolutely hoax. That we are dream-- we dreamt up what we wanted to see, rather than what reality is. And that is the basic point in which that the real understanding of impermanence could be approached. That realizing those trips, shall we say, are not founded on the basic sanity level at all.

I call that particular approach spiritual materialism.

The concept and idea of spiritual materialism is extremely important, very important thing, extremely important thing. That people have heard and I spent three years, three-- more than three years in this continent, North America, and I been saying the same thing each time. And I hope people will be able to comprehend the meaning of spiritual materialism to the point they are tired of hearing the same thing again and again and again.

Which would be extremely important thing. That meaning of spiritual materialism as we mentioned already-- as I've mentioned already, is that unable to see the realities of your search.

That search consist of ego-centered notion towards reality. Ego-centered notion towards reality, which is to try to sustain, maintain one's existence as basic being, which is ego-inspired thing. And that is the crux of the matter, and that is the basic point where spiritual materialism is the direct obstacle, direct contradiction to spirituality in its fullest, true, realistic point of view. And it also breeds the notion of not able to realize meaning of death at the same time, meaning of impermanence, at the same time. As I was talking about, we are going to discuss three principles: meaning of death, and meaning of egolessness, and meaning of suffering. And I would like to devote tonight as discuss meaning of death as opening approach towards seminar is consist of.

When we talk about death, people have all kinds of ideas, particularly those who are involved with the spiritual traditions of the East: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism speaks of reincarnation-- doctrines of reincarnation. And a lot of people have excited about that notion. That at last that we find that we can go on being. That's tremendous beautiful message, that our ego can go on being beyond our death, and that was the wrong or false reception, false appreciation of the teaching of karma, teaching of rebirth, reincarnation. And, in fact, lot of people fooled about that, comparing that other disciplines of Christianity, Judaic, and Islamic traditions speaks of one life and then either heaven or purgatory or hell. [laughs] People find that was very depressing. [laughter] Whereas, at the same time, the Eastern tradition teaches or talks about-- the Hinduism, Buddhism, and so forth, speaks of law of karma and rebirth. That you still have a chance. You have a chance to come back. You could-- you could regard this life as a rehearsal, and you could come back and do it properly. And even that fails, you could regard that as a rehearsal. You could come back again and again. And people took that as a delightful message. And we could do that. That's fantastic idea. And that had been problem, in fact, rather than promise, at this point, anyway. That since we do not know who we are to begin with.

That we have no idea of meaning of death. We hoping that we could constantly exist, constantly continue. I was giving talk in Anglican church once in England, and the vicar was good friend of mine. I stayed with him at his house, as guest. And he introduced me, "I'm introducing Chogyam Trungpa, who's--" he worked it out, "eleven hundred years old person". [laughter] Of the-- I'm being the eleventh incarnation of Trungpas. That I-- my ego continues that way. Eleven hundred years of ego. [laughter] The idea of impermanence is extremely important. It's basic Buddhism, which obviously ties with egolessness at the same time, which we will discuss tomorrow, day afterwards. That idea of impermanence is extremely important or the death.

That The Tibetan Book of the Dead is not particularly regarded as book which talks about how to continue yourself as human being. You could even carry on your heavy-handed ego, even throughout the bardo state and how to enter into next womb and become another heavy-handed human being, which is absolutely sacrilegious, in fact. I mean, that's really a terrible idea that you going on stronger all the time. [laughter] I mean, that's the misinterpretation of The Tibetan Book of the Dead. That basic idea of becoming stronger person all the time. You live through your death, you live through your bardo experiences, you enter into another womb, you become another heavy-handed child and another person who carry out your life, extremely heavy-handed. And you maintain your ego, thank goodness. [laughter] And such promise, beautiful. That at last I could be myself and even-- at last, the Tibetans talk about that, in fact. It's a valid thing. And I'm questioning about that validity of that type of approach. Is that we are not talking The Tibetan Book of the Dead. If you approach it that way, we are talking about Tibetan Book of the Ego. And-- which is entirely different. And it should be regarded as anti-Buddhism, anti-Buddhism.

It goes against the principles that Buddha talked about at the beginning in hinayana discipline, tradition, and, also, it goes against the mahayana discipline, tradition of is compassion. If you have heavy, strong-handed level that you have no compassion. There's no room for compassion. And it's also against of mahayana and vajrayana approach as well. That you have no inspiration to relate with the phenomenal world as living mandala. Because you are just being by yourself all the time, like solid concrete pipe that goes through all the time, invincible. So we require certain amount sense of softness, at this point, when we talk about death. When we talk about death, we mean death.

And people might question-- or you might question how could we continue our experience of inspiration of buddha mind, buddha nature, if theyre subject to death and continual discontinuity.

That's big question. And we could discuss that. Its being that basically that discontinuity of ego, personal identity is necessary, absolutely necessary in order to understand the continuity of the bodhi mind or the buddha mind, enlightened being state. It's absolutely necessary to understand the discontinuity.

As far as we are concerned, that we are like a gigantic mosaic or gigantic tapestry.

That we are consist of little stitches of tapestry. We are consist of little squares of a mosaic.

Which we think that we are complete picture. In fact, we are not. We are collections of things be put together.

In fact, we could say that as far as to the point that we already dead. We are dead already. We are dying constantly. Dead already.

And because our living being, our basic life situation is needful, it is required to discontinuity.

That in order to live, we have to breathe out and in.

In order to think, we have to think first thought and then second thought. There's gap-- there's death of the first thought and death-- birth of the second thought. So it's constant death process that we are surviving constantly. If you're driving motorcar, so to speak, and we are working with the death of the first revolution of the pistol of the engine, and we picking up the next one.

That, basically, that whole thing is based on death.

You don't have to be particularly solemn about that. [laughs] I mean, thats-- that's fact. [laughter] It may be happy fact that we know that.

The constant death, the constant discontinuity is consist of our life, all the time, basically all the time. Constantly all the time.

So conclusion that we come up is there's no promise of the next one. But, at the same time, you could say the promise is the death of the first promise presented the birth of next promise. We could look at it optimistic point of view that way.

But is constant death, decaying process all the time. I found out the very interesting expression that we have developed in the English language. We talk about when child is first born, we ask how old this child, rather than how young this child. How young are you? How old are you?

That we are constantly relating with how old we are, rather than how young we are. Which is interesting analogous. That culture we have developed that kind of expression, which is interesting.

We could say that there's nothing continuing this world at all. That everything we experience, we felt, we experience, we learn, we develop. If you're going to study in school to develop yourself, your study is constantly based on idea of death. That you have previous experience has dead, and you develop next experience, which is bound to die. So, constantly, everything's a death process. Each time that we give up our ground, we give birth to next ground. How-- that's why-- how we got here. Even the journey is brought you to death from that point of view. There's nothing really continuous as something alive or living. The living is based on the idea of death from that point of view.

And that is the first starting point of to understand the death is not regarded as something terrible or shocking, but something we experience every time, all the time. Every day we experience discontinuity all the time. That you say, "I met a fantastic person today, and I like this person, and he told me all kinds of good things to me. And I find this person is very wonderful person. He invited me to the party tonight."

Whatever. That expression of death that when you met him, that you give up the process of continual boredom, and out of that you met this person. And then that excitement died out. You are thinking of engaging in next occupation with this particular person, going to the party, or whatever, is also expression of death. And when the party's finished, that you're going to thank this person is also expression of death. The party's completed. You're going to thank this person providing such fantastic time for us. "Thank you very much." Which is saying for the-- thank you for very much for that thing which died. [laughter] And then we try to make date with this person or whatever. It's not a fear for death again. That how could we latch on to this person to try to recreate life constantly. It's expression of death all the time. And that life situation goes on all the time. So I feel that it is very important to us to realize real meaning of death in its absolute nature. That it-- it's potential energy. When we even-- when we talk about energy, it is based on the death. The energies that we are so excited about, such high energy, is because the energy is able to pick up next death from the present death and so forth.

And that seem to be one of basic point that we have to understand is meaning of death that constitutes our life constantly.

That's one of the basic point to start with from realization from hinayana's approach.

And if you're haunted by death, perhaps I should stop by talking tonight. I wanted you to have a good sleeping-- have a good sleep tonight on our-- on our land for the first time. And I don't want to be haunted by it, but nevertheless, the ground you sleeping underneath is dying constantly as well as yourself. [laughter] We could have a good discussion on that if anyone like to ask questions.

SPEAKER1: Rinpoche, what do you think DJ meant by the death is on the left side about one arm behind you?

Is he referring to impermanence, momentary death, or physical death? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: It's continual death, I think, as Don Juan said. You mean that DJ by Don Juan? [laughter] SPEAKER1: That's correct. But I-- what about the significance of the-- on the left. You know-- and just behind you, does that have a Buddhist parallel? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: I think left is regarded as usually inactive, where on the right is usually usable. Right-handed is prepared to fight or something. Left is connected with cessation of some kind.

So that we have a link with the death. We have understanding with the death. SPEAKER2: How does the nature of memory relate to discontinuity and continuity. In other words-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, yeah, and the memory is expression of discontinuity all the time. Otherwise, you can't have memory. You see what I mean? SPEAKER2: Yes. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: That in order to remember something, which is expression of that something is past, something discontinued. You recreated that thing is expression of death or the discontinuity. Yeah. SPEAKER2: But you can only see the past in terms of present, right? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah, obviously, all the time. Yeah. Otherwise, it cease to become unworkable. If it's constantly present, there's nothing to work with, because it's constantly flat, you know.

So because the present become past, therefore, it is workable. You could bring it in present situation. SPEAKER3: So then there's actually life in death, right? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: What? SPEAKER3: There's actually life in that death-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, death is living situation, which-- it's big-- big misunderstanding that we have is that death regarded as not alive. SPEAKER3: What happens when a human being comes to physical death? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, that we shocked by discontinuity of our present state of being. SPEAKER3: Well, only the people who are [ear splitting mic feedback] [UNCLEAR: dying? blind?] are shocked. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah, but because that's precisely we don't know to understand real meaning of death, and we think death is real and threat to us. That seem to be the problem. That if death is actually not threat. It's life constant-- that we lead life of death.

SPEAKER4: Don't we-- don't we live on death, Rinpoche? Don't we-- isn't the memory death? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Precisely, yeah. We do. SPEAKER4: I mean theyre our food. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: We really do, yeah. SPEAKER4: And I don't want to give that up, somehow. I know if I were in the present-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, I mean, the problem is we don't want to acknowledge that. And we give euphemism name-- euphemistic name by saying "life". That seem to be the problem. SPEAKER5: Rinpoche, is there any qualitative significant difference between physical death and this death that's happening right now? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, physical death is expression of psychological death. And-- and, in fact, physical death is really expression of continuity, rather than real death in terms of big drop. There's continuity happens constantly, because intelligence goes on-- the experience of death goes on all the time. I mean, that's one of the basic point is that understand the eternity of the experience of death is all the time happening.

SPEAKER6: Rinpoche, it sounds like you're saying that there's a style to the discontinuity or a pattern of some sort that has individuality. And I don't understand what the difference between that style is and what we call ego. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, the ego want to experience a life, rather than acknowledge-- ignore the death. That's basic ego thing is to ignore the death. And understanding death in its own innate nature is somewhat embarrassing to the ego.

And ego doesn't want to know-- to hear that language.

SPEAKER7: Rinpoche, there's seem to be like a lot of confusion around abortions. And your head gets in a confusing place around that. Is that like an ego trip, or how do you relate to that? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: I mean, that's a very personal question, you know. That we can't give philosophical approval like the Catholics have said that everybody should bore child, you know. And that is seems to be-- become problem, biggest problem, because there is a basic philosophical answer, which becomes haunting. So we can't say that kind of idea of abortion is either preferable or not preferable. It seem to be based on individual situation. And that parents to be are unable to handle their child, and they're going to give hell to their child, and it would be better to discontinue in the early point. Whereas, parents *are* able to give that kind of accommodation, hospitality, but they're afraid of it, then seem to be better to take chance. SPEAKER8: Is this discontinuity is-- is that the reason that people arrange their lives in patterns so they do the same thing over and over again? I mean, in terms of work or where they live, or things like that? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Security, yeah. Sure, we do all the time. Yeah, yeah.

SPEAKER9: Could you explain why it's against the-- why it's-- why Buddhism advocates that-- that you shouldn't kill sentient beings? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, I mean, we could say that Buddhism--

Buddhist approach to not kill sentient beings, any living beings, is that expression of-- if you're trying to kill somebody or living being is expression of we resent the discontinuity. We resent the doctrine of impermanence. That you will like see somebody dead in your hand, which is a warfare, very aggressive thing.

That seem to be the basic point. SPEAKER9: Uh-huh. I don't really understand, I mean... [inaudible] CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: That you resent somebody alive, and you want to destroy that life to prove that your life, that you overlap somebody else's life like tile roof. You want to see their death. You'll destroy it to prove that you're alive.

Seem to be very simple. SPEAKER10: The sense of the task that people have of the necessity for realization and how far they've gotten along this path, which can be stopped in their whatever, you know, how far they're getting stopped by death is like a very hard thing that people have to bear. That they don't have-- and they, in fact, they dont have enough time. That death comes and cuts them off before they can like fulfill themselves. How does the Buddhist attitude relate to this? [INAUDIBLE WORDS] CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: To the death? SPEAKER10: To somebody who is like people who here, myself, who want to, you know, have a very strong sense of unfulfillment of a long way to go. And so that death is a burden in that regard, even though one can more or less philosophically see that it's like the strongest law of reality. Nonetheless, in- in-- in a personal way it's a hard thing. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, I don't see any problems with that. That you live in order to die.

Expression of living is expression of death. SPEAKER11: Is there a proper way to die? Is there? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, sure. If you make friend with death, that's what we're talking about is you don't panic. This is not the end of the world. One of the expressions of our life, as much as you getting parking ticket.

So death could be regarded as another parking ticket. [laughter] SPEAKER12: What is ego?

CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: The answer is what isn't ego? [laughter] And that we have to work out. What isn't ego?

Ego is not regarded as a-- as a villain. SPEAKER13: You said the ego gets satisfaction out of the continuity of going through death and remaining. How does a tulku continue for eleven-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Tulku? Well, supposedly, theoretically, ideally, the notion of a tulku is supposed to rise above.

But I wouldn't say that happens with every tulku.

[laughter] Rise above.

SPEAKER13: What is held onto during the states of bardo and death? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Is that-- that you have unfulfilled projects.

Whether you regard them as expression of discontinuity, or law of impermanence, or what you regard as something solid thing that you have to do. That seem to be test of tulku. SPEAKER13: Whereas, an ordinary ego would seek to go through that for-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Try to survive. SPEAKER13: Yes, survive. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Constantly, yeah. SPEAKER13: Does that mean a tulku dies more with-- might be more conscious of projects that he was undertaking than an ordinary person? He actually dies with projects in mind? [laughter] CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah. [laughter] SPEAKER13: Is that a good way to achieve tulku-hood? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: If you can handle it. [laughter] SPEAKER14: Is there any difference in a bodhisattva or a tulku? I mean, as far as the words. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Supposedly, bodhisattva should be tulku. Tulku is synonym to a bodhisattva. SPEAKER15: Then it would seem like the whole idea of the stages, you know, of there being stages to enlightenment or being really in the world, that there's a contradiction there of you getting further along, with the whole idea of impermanence. And then, I guess I don't understand. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah, there is. If you're involved with spiritual materialism, there is. Depends on if you're able to get beyond that, then you have no problem. It's up to you. Yeah. SPEAKER16: Rinpoche, is physical death random or is there some pattern? Is there-- is there some reason that I'm alive instead of dead or someone else is dead instead of alive or alive instead of dead? Is there some sense, order? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, I mean, if you're dead, you don't have to eat food. You dont have to survive. You're freaked out about-- you're without a body. And it seem to be very easy to handle, you know. That you're suspending-- you're suspended or you are stuck in the world. There's no problem about that, you know. I don't see anything at all. SPEAKER17: She's wondering about a pattern, Rinpoche. SPEAKER16: What I'm asking is-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Hmm? SPEAKER17: She was wondering about a pattern. Is there a specifically good time to kick the bucket? Or does death just come by-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: No, I don't see any-- any time-- good time. It happens. It will take care of you. [laughter] SPEAKER16: Is there some understandable karma involved in death, in physical death-- CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah. Obviously, yeah. SPEAKER16: [UNCLEAR: -- and when people die and I lie down to sleep?] CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Yeah, but we don't have to mind that particular organization. [laughter] SPEAKER16: Why not?

CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, because we're not ruler of the world-- of the universe. We're citizen of the universe.

SPEAKER18: Rinpoche, does the law of rebirth also apply to the death of the watcher? CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Definitely so, yeah. Yeah. That the death seem to be suffers -- is watcher suffers. Watcher is uncertain as to what it is. Watcher used to be watching the body, then the watcher cease to become watching the body, but watching something else. That's the panic begins in the bardo state. SPEAKER19: How about-- what state is it when you watch the watcher?

CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: When you begin to realize there's nothing to hang onto.

Probably we should end our discussion tonight here. And was announcements were made, I think? SPEAKER20: Most of them have been, I think. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Anything else? SPEAKER21: Rinpoche? Yeah, people who haven't registered yet, and came here later tonight. I'll try and be at the desk tomorrow by eight o'clock, so that you can get your meal tickets for breakfast. And, again, on the tent team, if you want to meet in this corner if you want a tent or for us to get you one from town tomorrow. CHOGYAM TRUNGPA: Well, the program is tomorrow that evening, same time. Talk, lecture in the evening. And during the day, sitting meditation practices and discussion groups which will be good. And, in particular, I would like to invite everybody into discussion. The community members I hope will take enough consideration or responsibility and not take this as vacation. That their responsibility of relating with the newcomers who come to this land had to be worked with. And, particular, I'm talking about the community members here of both Fort Collins as well as from Boulder. That I hope everybody's members community would take responsibility discussion groups and working with visitors, which would be extremely important and good.

And, as far as the visitors are concerned, it will be extremely good to attend the discussion groups will be extremely good. And we hope to set up a certain particular time in which you can hear the first night's talk, previous talk, as seminar goes on, previous talk you could hear next day and discuss and think about it. And then some sitting meditation practice. And as everybody in this particular seminar who taking part is concerned, it is extremely good for them to meditate, sit together, and work together will be extremely good. So I would like to take everybody involve take part in properly. And we feel that philosophical discussion, talks, discussions are extremely important if we actually relate with our own practices. So sitting meditation practice becomes extremely important our life as our approach goes, extremely important. And how old you-- how young you are. You can do it. Just try to experiment. Sit and keep up the schedule if you can. That will be good. And beyond that is-- I'm extremely excited and very happy that all of you are here. It's a very good experience on behalf of members of the community and myself, is that I'm glad you're able to relate with us, you decide to acknowledge us and what we're doing is worthwhile situation, is fantastic thing. And you might find what we're doing is explosive and extremely powerful.

See what happens.

[laughter; gong]

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