Kevin Williams' Commentary on Tibetan Buddhism and NDEs
commentary is based on the video,
The Tibetan Book of the Dead,
narrated by Leonard Cohen.
everything on Earth seems stable and solid, nothing here
is permanent. Like water, snow and ice, life is always
shifting and changing form. All existence is one kind of
state or another. This means always living in a world of
uncertainty - moving without a permanent place to rest.
In this world, we
pass through the spiritual state of physical
existence. Here, we want to make something lasting and
secure, but no one has been able to accomplish this. Our
life is always in the hands of death. At death, our
experience is completely out of our control. Our
experience is completely naked.
What is the best
path through this spiritual state? It is a question of
waking up right now, looking at our own mind. Look at it
when it is calm and still and when it is running wild.
This is what Buddha did and what he taught. This is what
Jesus meant when he said, "The Kingdom of God is within
Soon we all will
die. All our hopes and fears will be irrelevant.
Out of luminous
continuity of existence, which has no origin and which
has never died, human beings project all the images of
life and death, terror and joy, demons and gods. These
images become our complete reality. We submit without
thinking to their dance. In all the movements to this
dance, we project our greatest fears on death and we
make every effort to ignore it.
Illusions are as
various as the moon reflecting on a rippling sea. Beings
become easily caught in the net of confused pain. We
must develop compassion as boundless as the sky so that
all may rest in the clear light of our own awareness.
At death, we lose
everything we thought was real. Unless we can let go of
all the things we cherished in our life we are
terrified. We cannot stop struggling to hold on to our
old life. All our fear and yearning will drag us into
yet another painful reality.
We are always
wandering through transitional spiritual states.
Difficulty in leaving behind our old life can cause us
to wander in painful uncertainty.
state of dying lasts from the beginning of the body's
physical collapse until the body and consciousness
While we are
living, the elements of Earth, water, fire and air
together support and condition our consciousness. Death
occurs when this is no longer the case. Now, without the
screens and filters of daily life, at this time, mind
itself can be seen directly. In the spiritual state of
dying, it is important to recognize our own true nature.
At death, there
is an experience of piercing luminosity, pure white
light, the clear radiance that rises directly from our
own basic nature. Now, there is no darkness, no
separation, no direction and no shape, only brilliant
light. This boundless sparkling radiance is mind, free
from the shadows of birth and death - free from any
boundaries of any kind.
Now all pervasive
light engulfs us completely. All of space is dissolved
into pure light. This radiance is the mind of God, the
mind of all the awakened ones. Recognizing this is all
that is necessary for liberation from birth and
rebirth. If we do not recognize our divine nature, a
dreamless sleep will happen.
In three days
time, all emotions will be vivid and intense. Though it
seems we are entering into a new reality, it is still
the reality of our own mind.
Wandering back to
the familiar sites and people of our old life, our own
mind will arise before us in unfamiliar ways. We may not
know if we are alive or dead. Even so, we may see our
family crying. We must leave our former life behind if
we are to progress.
If the we are
unable to recognize the luminosity of mind itself, our
experience now takes the shape of random imagery of our
former life. We see our friends and relatives calling
out to us and they cannot hear our replies. Death has
cut us off from them and sorrow strikes our heart. We
see our family and relatives crying. We can see our bed
but we are no longer the one lying there. Instead, there
is a corpse.
Soon we will
experience the intense presence of our own emotional
states as peaceful and raging light forms. Now, we will
meet our mind in the form of projections which seem
vivid and entirely real. Now we will see penetrating
blue light shining all around us. This is the essence of
consciousness, God (Buddha). The wisdom of God is like a
mirror reflecting everything. God is the form of
consciousness in its complete purity. This wisdom is
inseparable from our own heart. But also we will see a
diffused white light which we must avoid if we are to
achieve liberation. If we follow the allure of the soft
white light, we will find ourselves ensnared in the
temporary pleasures of being born as a god, living in
Lordly ignorance of the passage of time and subject to
If this path is
taken, the wisdom of our very heart and mind takes the
form of spiritual entities. There will be peaceful
spiritual entities that emanate from our heart and
wrathful ones that emerge from our brain.
They will appear
one by one and then all together. The peaceful spiritual
entities are complete and immovable. If we cannot bear
to enter their vast benevolent space, if we cannot let
go of self-centeredness and fear, these deities will
become terrifying wrathful ones. If we recognize them as
an expression of our own mind, they are the unsparing
face of wakefulness.
forms emerging from the brain appear before us actually
and clearly as if they were real in their own right. The
terror and anger we feel are our own efforts to evade
from being completely awake. We wander uncertainly in
the landscape of our own mind. If we recognize this as
our own projections, liberation is instantaneous.
forms are the presence of our innate wisdom, the vivid
form of our own wakefulness. We must recognize them as a
reflection of our own mind. Recognition and liberation
All of us feel
sparks of anger, flickers of passion, and twinges of
jealousy during brief moments. From these seeds, we grow
to become the jealous person. We say "this is what I am"
and we act accordingly. But these are just our masks and
we forget that we are wearing them. We run from the
masks that others wear. The wrathful spiritual entities
are our own mind and it is impossible to run away from
them. They are the sharpness of our own clarity. They
are all in our mind.
and all at once, the peaceful and wrathful spiritual
entities come before us. If we do not recognize them as
our own projections, then they transform into the
terrifying image of the Lord of Death. This too is our
own projection. But if we don't accept that, our fear
and turmoil force us to wander on in terror to the
spiritual state of rebirth. We leave the spiritual state
of the nature of mind. Again we are lost and wandering,
so now we seek to end our suffering by being born into a
solid and familiar place.
Now in the
spiritual state of rebirth, all our senses have become
extremely acute. Our consciousness is like a body
without substance. In this body, we can, by a mere
thought, travel to anywhere. As if we have miraculous
powers, we can pass through mountains and circle the
universe. We can enter anywhere but nowhere can we rest.
In the pain of
our endless wandering, the thought of being born now
promises great relief. We can still see our family, but
we no longer know we are with them. We are driven on the
winds of hope and fear like a leaf that is carried in
If we are still
unable to recognize our own nature, our anger, lust and
confusion become ever more intense, ever more solid.
They at last appear to us as entire realms where we may
stop and dwell. The image of our former body becomes
faint and the image of our future body becomes
clear. Any birth seems better than his current pain.
Since everyone is
caught in these spiritual states of suffering, what can
we do? People make hell realms out of their own
anger. They make worlds out of passion. We project our
emotional states and believe it is the real world. But
no matter what, everyone longs for compassion. Everyone
wishes to be awake. The best thing is to develop genuine
compassion for all living things and for ourselves too.
If we do not truly care for others we cannot know our
own mind. We can have lofty insights and pure impulses,
but then return to our old habits without even noticing
it. We must work all the time to open our hearts and
look for the truth. Otherwise there is neither
understanding nor a purpose for understanding. Also, as
life goes by, it is a good idea to keep your sense of
We are now coming
to the end of our journey. As we reach the end of the
spiritual state of rebirth, the features of the world we
are to enter will become very clear to us. If we pay
attention now, we will find our way to a favorable
We are now on the
path to rebirth. We must choose carefully where we are
to be born. In all the possibilities that are present
before us, we must choose our new life. If we choose a
good human birth in a good place, we can continue on the
path of recognizing our own mind. Even though we are
desperate for a home, a dark cave in a forest can lead
to a birth in the animal realm. If we are consumed by
yearning, the realm of hungry ghosts can become a
never-ending realm of hunger and thirst for us. Rage,
bitterness, and anger open all the images of hell. It is
best to avoid the extremes of pleasure or pain when
selecting a new birth. It is best to be born where we
can still recognize the luminous essence of our own
We will not
remember much of our journey when we are born again. It
will be like starting out new. Though death is always
something to be mourned, being born is not something to
be celebrated. There is an old saying: "When we are
born, we cry, but the whole world is overjoyed. When we
die, the world cries and we can become overjoyed when we
find the great liberation."