Commentary to the Bonpo Book of the Dead


by John Myrdhin Reynolds



Introduction

The title of the text examined here is given in Tibetan as the rDzogs pa chen po zhang zhung snyan rgyud las 'khor lo bzhi sbrag bzhugs so, which may be translated as "Here is contained 'The Setting Side by Side of the Four Wheels' from the Oral Tradition of Zhang-zhung for the Great Perfection Teachings. The text opens with a Homage to the Masters of the Lineage. The Preface, which follows the Homage, commences with a quotation from the sNyan rgyud sems kyi me long, "The Mirror of the Mind belonging to the Oral Transmission," to the effect that "If one does not know the instructions for setting side by side the Four Wheels, then the teacher who elucidates the mind-stream is only like a guest without any kin or attendants."

There are four parts to this text, each being called a wheel or a cycle of teaching ('khor lo). These wheels or cycles have nothing to do with the Indian Tantric system of Chakras located in the human body and employed in yoga praxis. In the text, these wheels are set side by side, much as one would do with the four wheels of a wagon or vehicle.
These Four Wheels are as follows:

1. the Wheel of the Base that abides (gnas pa gzhi'i 'khor lo),
2. the Wheel of the Interdependent Origination due to either Understanding or to Delusion (rtogs 'khrul rten 'brel gyi 'khor lo),
3. the Wheel of the Channels that represents the Essential Points of the Body (lus gnad rtsa'i 'khor lo), and
4. the Wheel of the Time of the Bardo (bar do dus kyi 'khor lo).


The Wheel of the Time of the Bardo

The fourth cycle of teaching found in this text concerns the time of the onset of the Bardo experience after death (bar do dus kyi 'khor lo). The description in the preceding cycle of teaching concerning the mystical anatomy and physiology of the human body, which is the foundation for the practice of vision both in sunlight and in the dark retreat, pertains to the preparations made in advance during one's lifetime for death and the Bardo experience. Just as may be the case in practice, both with sunlight and with total darkness, following upon the onset of the Bardo after physical and psychical death, the archetypal sacred visions of the celestial hierarchies of Nirvana may be experienced in the Bardo of the Clear Light of Reality (bon nyid 'od gsal gyi bar do) and then the profane visions of the various destinies of rebirth in Samsara will be experienced. However, it is likely that the experience of the Clear Light after death will occur so rapidly, almost instantaneously like a flash of lightning, that the individual will fail to recognize it unless one has done practice during one's life time, including both Dzogchen and Tantric practice. So, not every deceased consciousness will experience this Bardo of the Clear Light. That is the reason why prior preparation and practice during the course of one's lifetime is so important. And failing to recognize the Clear Light of Reality, or even to catch a brief glimpse of it, the stream of consciousness flows relentlessly onward, driven on by its individual karma, into the experiences of the Bardo of Existence (srid pa'i bar do).

The experiences that the individual undergoes in this Bardo are determined by that individual's particular karma. Even so, there exist practices, especially those of dream yoga or lucid dreaming and the practices of Tantric transformation into a Yidam or meditation deity, that serve as preparation for the experiences of the Bardo of Existence. The latter practice would culminate in the creation and realization of a subtle body of mind (sems) and psychic energy or prana (srog) in the form of one's Yidam. This is technically known as the Illusion Body (sgyu lus). However, realization of such a subtle body is not synonymous with enlightenment and liberation from Samsara, for, even though its form represents a pure vision of one's own being, there yet remain many layers of subtle spiritual obscurations that need to be purified. However, to accomplish this, one does not need to take on again a human existence. Furthermore, even though the visions seen in this Bardo represent impure karmic visions, nevertheless they can be transformed as the result of the previous practice of the Yidam.

Again, the Preface to the text states that if one does not know this teaching cycle concerning the advent of the Bardo, one will not, while in the Bardo, be able to separate and distinguish liberation, that is, recognizing the Clear Light, from the delusions or illusory karmic visions that arise after death. These karmic visions represent both the residues of past existences and the precognitions of future existences. Moreover, time in the Bardo does not operate in the same mode as does the perception of time in the normal waking state, that is to say, time as rigidly sequential and chronometric. Rather, time in the Bardo resembles time in the dream state where past and future come to be mixed up together. In many ways, the Bardo of Existence is like an extended dream state. For this reason, dream yoga and the practice of lucid dreaming can serve as preparation for death and the Bardo experience in general. In everyday life, the process of falling asleep may be equated with the Chikhai Bardo, the experience of dying, and the moment after falling asleep, but before the onset of the dream process, may be equated with the Bardo of the Clear Light because, at that moment, one may catch a glimpse of the Clear Light of the Nature of Mind. Finally, the dream state itself may be said to correspond to the Bardo of Existence, where one comes again under the sway of karmic visions and re-enters the holographic labyrinth.

Again, as the Conclusion to the text asserts, it is by means of this cycle of teaching concerning the time of the Bardo, that one is able to separate and distinguish liberation, by way of recognizing the Clear Light, from delusion, which is the falling once more under the sway and dominion of the dull lights of Samsara which lead back to the various destinies of rebirth within cyclical existence. Whereas liberation represents ascent into the Clear Light of Reality brought about by gnosis or understanding, delusion represents a descent into the lower worlds of generation ruled over by the kleshas or passions, in this case brought about by a lack of gnosis or understanding.

Practitioners of the spiritual path are divided into those of a superior capacity (dbang po rab), those of an intermediate capacity (dbang po 'bring po), and those of an inferior capacity (dbang po tha ma). In addition to these three, the individual possessing an exceedingly superior spiritual capacity (yang rab) may obtain liberation without the need to undergo death and the Bardo experience because such an individual has attained liberation from Samsara in one's present lifetime. This process is known as Phowa Chenpo or the Great Transfer ('pho ba chen po), where one transforms directly into a Body of Light without the prior necessity of going through the death process.

However, the individual of a merely superior spiritual capacity can obtain liberation following physical death when one enters into and remains in the Natural State experienced in the Bardo of Emptiness before the onset of the visions of the Bardo of the Clear Light. Furthermore, the individual of an intermediate spiritual capacity may obtain liberation after death in the Bardo of the Clear Light. In terms of the level of Phowa practice, the consciousness of the superior individual is said to transfer directly into the Dharmakaya which is the Natural State, whereas the consciousness of the intermediate individual transfers into the Sambhogakaya which is the Clear Light. The Phowa practiced by the individual of inferior capacity is spoken of as being in the Nirmanakaya style since he transfers into the visualization of the Buddha or the Yidam.

During the process of dying, the consciousness of the individual experiences the progressive disintegration of the elements of the physical body. The various signs that appear, both externally and internally, marking the inevitable onset of the death process, are described in some detail in the different versions of the Tibetan Books of the Dead and this actual process of dissolution of the elements begins after the cessation of the external breath or breathing. At this time, the corpse of the deceased individual appears to the external observer as senseless and dead. There is no detectable breathing nor brain activity, but this does not mean that the consciousness or Namshe (rnam shes) does not continue to function and be aware of its surroundings. Although the consciousness remains linked to the body, now dead, it undergoes an out-of-the-body experience, moving about the vicinity of its former body and observing the efforts of medical practitioners to resuscitate him and the activities of grieving relatives. At first, the consciousness of the deceased may not even be aware that one is dead and be frustrated by the failure of one's efforts to attract the attention of those present. This is also not uncommonly experienced during near-death experiences. The sight of one's own corpse may come as a complete shock.

During this period, the individual inhabits a subtle mind-made body (yid lus) which is an exact double or replica of one's dead physical body. There exist many accounts where this subtle body is experienced to separate from the sleeping individual and float above it, suspended in the air, although still connected to the physical body at such points as the medulla oblongata or the solar plexus by a slender silvery psychic thread. Some psychics have been able to awaken in this subtle body and move about the vicinity at will, an experience related to the process of lucid dreaming. Nevertheless, this subtle mind-made body serves as the vehicle for the deceased consciousness for a certain period. It has all of its psychic senses fully operational, including the Manas (yid) or functional mind, so that it is aware of what transpires in its immediate environment. However, it is still linked to the circulation of psychic energy that continues for a time in the physical body of the deceased-- this circulation being known as the inner breath or breathing. Not only does the consciousness of the deceased witness scenes that go on around him in the normal world, but one has various auditory and visual experiences as the elements of the physical body progressively disintegrate and dissolve back into space. These experiences are described in the Tibetan Books of the Dead literature. Thus, psychic life and the circulation of psychic energy continue for a time after the death of the physical body, traditionally said to last a least three days. For this reason, the Tibetans do not cremate the corpse immediately upon death, but only three days afterwards.

According to Tibetan folk beliefs, the Bardo lasts for a duration of forty-nine days for the deceased before that individual goes on to a rebirth. For this period there exists a system of puja offerings for the dead, including butter lamps, as well as tsampa or roasted barley flour, rice, flowers, figurines, and so on, which are burned in a fire. This is done in the belief that the deceased, being now like an ethereal Driza or smell-eating spirit (dri za, Skt. Gandharva) can partake of the subtle essences of these burnt offerings contained in the smoke rising from the fire. Moreover, it is believed that the deceased will keep company with the living for a time, returning at meals times out of past habit and sitting down with the family, to partake of these offerings and food.

Since the deceased would be upset if he were not offered a share of food, a special ritual is performed by a Lama who is invited for the purpose. Generally these rituals and text readings are done during the requisite three days of vigil over the corpse of the deceased. Only thereafter is the body dispatched for cremation or sky burial. First the Lama does the Phowa practice, the transferring of consciousness, while sitting near the head of the corpse while reciting the liturgy and visualizing the Namshe of the deceased exiting the body. After kindling a sacrificial fire with sticks, the Lama reads various ritual texts from the Tibetan Book of the Dead cycle, does certain visualizations, and shows various picture cards. All the time, the consciousness of the deceased witnesses and is aware of these activities. Another person, acting as an assistant to the Lama, puts rice on the picture card and then this rice is put into the fire. When the rice burns, its smoke goes directly to the spirit of the dead in the vicinity and he comes to feel he has actually received that object. For example, the Lama may tell the spirit of the deceased that he needs a house while the assistant puts some rice on that house picture card and then pours the rice into the fire. Thus, the dead person receives the smoke and comes to feel he now has a house. In this way, there exists actual communication between the world of the living and the world of the dead.

Then the Lama begins to read the instructions from the texts of the Tibetan Book of the Dead cycle known as the Bar do thos grol, or "Liberation through Hearing while in the Bardo." The Lama instructs the deceased, saying, "Listen to me, O fortunate son or daughter! You have now died and you will see visions before you. Do not be frightened by them. They are merely self-manifestations of your own Nature of Mind. You will see glorious mandalas and radiant deities....." and so on. These instructions from the Bar-do thos-grol are heard by the deceased because at this time one inhabits a subtle mind-made body wherein the mind and all the psychic sense faculties are fully operational. During these first three days before the corpse is disposed of properly, the Lama performs the Phowa rite and gives the instructions concerning the Chikhai Bardo, the Bardo of Dying. After that time, on various occasions during the forty-nine day extended duration of the Bardo, he will make certain puja offerings and read aloud the instructions for the Bardo of the Clear Light and the Bardo of Existence while the deceased consciousness is experienced these visionary landscapes. Moreover, these same instructions are read aloud during the first three days of the funeral ceremonies in order to prepare the deceased for what lies ahead when one departs from the Bardo of Dying. Even in the subsequent Bardos, the deceased can hear the voice of the Lama, provided one thinks of and recalls the Lama and his instructions given previously. For this reason, the Lama, whether Buddhist or Bonpo, becomes an expert in funeral ceremonies and exorcising and dispatching onward to their next life the spirits of the dead. The Lama is pre-eminently a psychopomp, or guide to the souls of the dead traversing the perilous inner psychic landscapes of the Bardo.

This whole process of the dying of the psyche and the dissolving of the personality of the individual, as well as the prolonged process of the disintegration of the gross and subtle elements of the body, from the cessation of the outer breathing to the cessation of the inner breathing, or circulation of psychic energy that sustains the life of the subtle body, is known as the Chikhai Bardo ('chi kha'i bar do), "the intermediate state of dying." The actual death of the psyche, sometimes known as the second death, represents the culmination of this process. This is followed by three Bardos or intermediate states that span the duration between this actual psychic death and actual rebirth in the womb following upon conception. These are as follows:

1. the intermediate state of emptiness (stong pa'i bar do),
2. the intermediate state of the Clear Light of Reality (bon-nyid 'od-gsal kyi bar-do), and
3. the intermediate state of existence or becoming (srid pa'i bar do) which represents the actual process leading up to rebirth.


All three of these Bardos are experienced in one way or other by the individual. However, if one is not a practitioner of a spiritual tradition, the first and the second Bardo experiences will be exceedingly brief, especially the second. The experience of the Clear Light may be no more than a distant flash of lightning in the dark night of the void. This is the fleeting and insubstantial experience of the unregenerate individual who has not been initiated into the Mysteries. The whole point of the Ancient Mysteries, such as those at Eleusis, was to prepare the individual candidate for the experience of death and rebirth. Then follows the Bardo of Existence with its inexhaustible multitude of karmic visions, elsewhere elaborately described in various traditions, such as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Conventionally, this experience of the Bardo is said to last forty-nine days, that is, seven weeks, but these are only symbolic days. But as we have said before, time in the Bardo is not the same as the conventional chronometric time of the normal waking state of consciousness. It is more like the time in dreams. The duration that any particular individual spends in the Bardo and rebirth process, measured in terms of the outer world, varies according to the particular karma of that individual. For an individual, the Bardo may last for barely an instant before rebirth is taken up or it may extend for thousands of years.

The first Bardo cited above, the Bardo of the State of Emptiness, which in some versions of the Tibetan Books of the Dead is described as the culmination of the preceding Chikhai Bardo and therefore included within it, represents the moment of psychic death or reabsorption. It is a complete black-out of individual consciousness and dissolution of individuality. This is sometimes compared to the eclipse of the sun and the moon, where the solar female energies and the lunar male energies dissolve into empty space. The practice of Tummo (gtum mo) or internal psychic heat, where the two polar energies within the body of the single individual, the feminine and the masculine, or the solar and the lunar, are integrated, also serves as a preparation for this experience. It brings about a realization of the gnosis of bliss and emptiness (bde stong ye shes), which represents the culmination of the Tantric practice of transformation. The eclipse of the solar and the lunar energies is also experienced in the process of dying. This moment of total eclipse or black-out follows upon the moment of the cessation of the inner breathing. It is an experience of total emptiness or void, but at the same time blissful. As said previously, according to the Dzogchen teachings, this emptiness is not merely a cold dark nothingness, as modern scientific materialism and nihilism would have it, but another mode of consciousness. Consciousness is not totally annihilated at death when the brain ceases functioning, like turning off the power switch on one's computer.

Although during the normal waking state, the electro-chemical activity of the nerve-net of the brain does serve as the physical support for mind and consciousness, its actual support is space itself. And so, consciousness persists even after the bio-computer of the brain has been shut down. It continues to subsist in the very fabric of space itself, where it is part of a far greater organism than its former physical body. It is enfolded back into the dimension of the great space of the Kunzhi. For this reason, Dzogchen possesses many meditation exercises to bring about in terms of individual practice the realization of this co-extensiveness of space and awareness. Our three-dimensional world of the waking state, our conventional reality, is only the surface of the great ocean of the Kunzhi (kun gzhi), only one facet of space, which possesses its own deep structures in terms of multi-dimensionality. These other dimensions become accessible under conditions of certain altered states of consciousness (bsam gtan). Like the dream state itself and out-of-the-body experiences, the Bardo experience is one such alternative dimension. It is part of the total multi-dimensionality of Kuntu Zangpo (kun bzang klong drug) which is, in fact, the Primordial State of the individual (kun bzang dgongs pa).

When the six consciousnesses of mind and the senses, as well as the internal psychic energies cease their activities, the psyche of the individual finally dies and enters the black-out condition of totally empty space. This is like drowning in the great ocean or like the dissolving a crystal of salt in a vessel of water. As the famous poem by Sir Edward Arnold, The Light of Asia, puts it, "..... the dew drop slips into the shining sea." But this is really not a final dissolution and ultimate loss of individuality. Even though, at that moment, there only exists the water, the waters of primeval chaos, just as it was at the time of the beginning, yet there remains the possibility of once more precipitating and recrystalizing the salt which is now in solution. So, the individual mind-stream or consciousness, carried onward by the momentum of its karma, reconstitutes itself and re-emerges out of the great waters of universal space. Therefore, this death of the psyche is actually an open, limitless condition pregnant with all possibilities. It is not just an empty void, cold and dead, a mere nothingness, but a state of latency and potentiality.
Within this openness to all possibilities, this pure potentiality which is Shunyata, there dawns the Clear Light of Reality (bon nyid 'od gsal) which is the inherent luminosity and clarity of the indestructible diamond-like Nature of Mind. This interior light that never fades, the inherent clear luminosity of the Nature of Mind (sems nyid kyi rang gsal), is the inseparability from the very beginning of space and awareness, Kunzhi and Rigpa. There has been no time when they have not been inseparable. And this inseparability (dbyer med) is not some event that occurs in history, for it preceded ontologically the advent of sequential time which is itself the creation of the thought process of the observer. Moreover, Awareness comes to recognize its own face in the first presence of this primordial Clear Light, having previously encountered it in one's past life, both in sleep and in vision practice, as the Son Clear Light, now one meets it in actuality and in its total fullness as the Mother Clear Light. This revelation of the primordial light in the pristine darkness of the adyton, the subterranean innermost sanctuary of the Bardo, thereupon unfolds into fractiles and a psychedelic concophany of brilliant colors, eventually unfolding into an infinity of universes of pure visions of Nirvana, as described in the texts. For the practitioner, this is the experience of the Bardo of the Clear Light and it is precisely at this moment, known as the Boundary between liberation and delusion (grol 'khrul gnyis kyi so mtshams), between Nirvana due to understanding and Samsara due to not understanding, that the maximum opportunity to realize Buddhahood presents itself. It is the parting of the two ways.

Once consciousness has separated from the physical body and the brain as its material support, Rigpa or intrinsic Awareness now abides without any physical support whatsoever. It remains suspended in the middle of space, its only support being space itself. At that moment, freed from all physical restraints and conditionings, it is now possible that anything could come into manifestation. Rigpa is, at that moment, not located at any particular point in space, but it finds itself at the very center of existence, a point which is nowhere and yet everywhere at the same time. It is now at the center where creation began in the time of the beginning, the time of the first dawning of the Clear Light over the dark waters of chaos. Thus, the disembodied consciousness, now freely suspended in the pure potentiality of empty space, comes to experience the first dawn, the initial vibrations, lights, and rays that arise in the dark infinite void of space. This is the Fiat Lux, the precise moment of the new creation, as explained previously.

If the deceased individual has previously been a practitioner of Dzogchen and Tantra, that is, of recognition and transformation, one will readily come to recognize the nature of these clear lights as being self-manifestations of one's own Nature of Mind. Like the crystal and the rainbows of refracted light it casts, the mirror is the source for projecting the very images its reflects. The Nature of Mind is compared both to the crystal and to the mirror. The metaphor is not perfect because here the crystal and the mirror must here also be the source of the light, the inherent light or inner light (nang 'od), for this light is not due to another and does not come from outside of them. The initial manifestations of light will arise as the pure realms of the five clear lights, as described in the Tibetan Books of the Dead. And from the rays there will arise magical apparitions or holograms (cho 'phrul) in an uncertain manner. That is to say, they are uncertain because they come into existence as probabilities, not as events predetermined according to some plan or as things brought about by antecedent causes. And the sounds or initial vibrations in the fabric of space arise as the inherent sounds of emptiness which is the Ultimate Reality. These primal vibrations are the first manifestations of existence, yet all of these manifestations lack any inherent existence. They are sometimes called Nada or subtle sound.

In terms of the practice of the individual, these sounds arise discontinuously as the sounds of alternating breathing with inhalation and exhalation and as other spontaneously produced sounds in the body. They are pointed out by the Guru as examples in order to give a direct introduction to the inherent sounds (rang sgra) of space itself. And if the practitioner of Dzogchen has been previously prepared by way of the habitual practice of vision and the dark retreat, this primordial chaotic display of colored lights and fractiles will spontaneously constellate into the visions of divine forms and mandalas. In general, these divine forms are known as the Peaceful and the Wrathful Deities (zhi khro lha tshogs). As indicated previously, these mandalas, having a center (dkyil) and a boundary ('khor), represent a structured pentadic sacred space, the archetype of eternity. These mandalas come to appear as bubbles or as tiny spheres of rainbow light (thig-le), which spontaneously link up in chains of Awareness (rig pa'i lu gu rgyud), like long strands of DNA. The whole molecular cosmos becomes reconstituted and seated in each atom where Buddha figures are seen. Eventually these chains become networks that fill all of space, reminiscent of the bubble-like great wall of galaxies seen through the mightiest telescopes at the edge of the known universe. These are the visions of the beginning of time and when one looks far enough, one sees the reflection of one's own face.

And within all of these bindus or tiny spheres of rainbow light (thig le) are seen the pure spiritual forms of the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas, the mandalas and the celestial palaces, the holy places and the great saints, and so on. These divine forms of enlightened beings are the pure visions of Nirvana. The text goes on to describe in what way this display occurs to the consciousness of the deceased practitioner of Dzogchen, whose previous practice of Thodgal represented a preparation for one's experience of the visions seen in the Bardo of the Clear Light. At this time, Rigpa is the basis for the arising in the experience of the individual of a Body of Light having a miniature size, approximately the size of one's thumb. This is like a crystal of salt precipitating out of solution. Whereupon one will feel an aura of light around this body extending for one full fathom and having neither a front nor a back since it is spherical in shape. Then, in the spaces of the ten directions of that spherical aura, there will arise incalculable numbers of fivefold pavilions or bubbles of bindus or tiny spheres of rainbow light. Within these spherical pavilions or bubbles of light are seen an infinitude of much smaller ones clustered in fives and in the centers of all of them are seen images of the pure realms of Nirvana, the sacred order. These are the fivefold mandalas of the Body, the divine forms of enlightened beings, the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas.

Rigpa is the basis for the arising of the Body of Light ('od kyi sku), which is sometimes spoken of as a thumb-sized or miniature-sized human figure of light residing in the heart. And because the basis for the arising of this miniature-sized Body of Light having been present in the middle of one's physical heart while one was alive in the physical body, this display described above arises in this way in the spaces of the ten directions. Even though the mind and the body have separated at death and latter has disintegrated, Rigpa, the core of one's being, again becomes the center of one's individuality, reconstituting itself as a Body of Light. It is like the crystal lying in the bright sunlight and projecting countless rainbows into space. Having attained the enlightenment of a Buddha by way of the practice of contemplation (khregs chod) and coming to remain in the Natural State, then, in turn, by way of the practice of vision (thod rgal), one will come to realize the Rupakaya as these Bodies of Light which are projections of the Nature of Mind. They are like the rainbows thrown out by the crystal. In this way, one may proceed as an enlightened being to benefit and instruct other sentient beings. This can be accomplished by projecting Nirmanakaya forms into all dimensions and times. Those disciples of the teachings who have faith, who are spiritually ripe, and who are attuned, whether they find themselves in this present life or in the Bardo, can come to perceive these Nirmanakaya forms and receive their blessings and teachings. Even though the sun shines equally everywhere on the surface of the earth, nevertheless, one must come out of the darkness of the cave in order to receive the benefits of the warm sunshine.

At that moment, on the threshold of enlightenment in the Bardo, one comes to realize spontaneously the six clairvoyant powers or knowledges (mngon shes drug) and the six recollections (rjes dran drug). These are described in the texts. The requisite secondary causes having been provided by the presence of these three manifestations, the King who is Rigpa, that is, intrinsic Awareness, comes to see in them his own face. This is like a man who sees his own reflection in a mirror. But realizing that they represent only one's own projections, one now comes to live in the condition of the mirror, which is the Natural State of the Nature of Mind, rather than in the reflections which represent illusory holographic projections. With this self-recognition, the delusory appearance, which represent the manifestations of ignorance, are purified or awakened into their own original condition which is Shunyata. Moreover, the King who is Rigpa comes to remain thereafter in his own original condition , which is that of the condition of the mirror. In this way, it may be said that the King who is Rigpa vanquishes and brings under his dominion all visions and delusory appearances and thereby he realizes his own sovereign power and independence with regard to the visions experienced in the Bardo and thereafter. These three manifestations now present the character of the Trikaya, namely, the sounds correspond to the Dharmakaya, the lights to the Sambhogakaya, and the rays to the Nirmanakaya. Whereupon the whole manifest universe, all of creation, becomes sacralized as the dimension of the Nirmanakaya. All forms become deities and mandalas. All sounds become mantras. And all thoughts and memories become contemplation. This is the realization of the Great Seal, the Mahamudra.

Thereupon, the Trikaya having come into manifestation in this self-arising fashion, they now come to accomplish the benefits of countless beings. Unlike the practice of Tantra, where this transformation of one's total being and environment into pure vision requires the deliberate effort of the mind in terms of visualization, mantra recitation, and so on, here in Dzogchen the transformation occurs as vision, naturally and spontaneously, without effort. In this way, Dzogchen realizes the ultimate goal of Tantra. One may now accomplish the welfare and instruction of all sentient beings, spontaneously and without effort, by simply being, that is to say, by manifesting one's enlightened nature through spontaneously emanating an infinity of Nirmanakaya manifestations. This occurs naturally, effortlessly, and spontaneously, without discursive thoughts, as the free expression of one's inherent energy or compassion, like the sun radiating countless rays of light into the clear open sky, thereby illuminating the entire surface of the earth.

[This commentary to the translation of the text was composed by Vajranatha, John Myrdhin Reynolds, Holte, Denmark, November 1997. Excerpted from Selections from the Bonpo Book of the Dead by John Myrdhin Reynolds, Vidyadhara Publications 1997]