What Is The Bardo?
I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.
- I Am The Walrus
The threefold revolving cycle of Life, Death, and Rebirth represents a common archetypal motif in several spiritual traditions and mythologies. The Tibetans point out a stage between Death and Rebirth which they call the Bardo. Bardo literally means " in-between." The key to conquering death lies in this stage.
What is the Bardo? It seems impossible to describe in words. Some references include: Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, Ubik and The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch by Philip K. Dick, the Nighttown scene in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, some of Aleister Crowley's poetry, The Hitchikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams ( though definitely NOT the Hollywood movie), and the film Beetlejuice.
The best way to get to know the Bardo consists of entering Bardo Spaces as much as possible and learning from experience. Multiple ways of doing this can be found sans literally dying. Lucid dream states and hypnagogic reverie open gateways to Bardo realms also called the Macrodimensions. Meditative and contemplative practices, which can include playing or listening to music, are the time tested yellow-brick road to the Macrodimensions. Online computer activities, gaming, net-surfing and so forth describe the latest, most innovative technology available for accessing and learning how to function in the Bardo. The World Wide Web is a potent tool for this kind of training.
Die Before You Die
"Who are you?" said the Catepillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied rather shyly, " I -- I hardly know, Sir, just at present -- at least I knew who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then."
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
It seems possible to enter Bardo Spaces before permanently doing so at the time of bodily death. We speak of death metaphorically as well as literally. To die before you die indicates experiencing some form of ego or personality death no matter how temporary.
Even the slightest amount of self-observation will show the tremendous influence that the environment has on our state of mind and how we function. It could even be said that we take on a (subtly) different identity as the environment changes. Oz in New York is a different character than Oz in California. Same body, relatively speaking, but a slightly different way of perceiving and interacting with the world. Whenever I travel, I die. New York Oz dies when he gets to JFK Airport in Queens and takes rebirth as a different Oz after the trip. The airports and plane rides in-between appear quite evident as Bardo Spaces.
Additional self-observation will reveal that this same kind of death occurs each time we enter a different room. In other words, the cycle of Life, Death, Bardo, Rebirth, goes on constantly if we bring ourselves to the awareness of it. It is useful to work with the hypothesis that we are always in the Macrodimensions. Perceiving Bardo Spaces seems like waking up to the awareness of where we already exist.
To maintain a thread of self-remembering consciousness, to be present as we travel from room to room, conquers the little death that happens when our attention falls asleep and completely identifies with the environment. We then find our mood and state of well-being at the sway and mercy of external circumstances. Remembering who we are as we journey through the maze of life creates a real inner eye that sees beyond death.
Death and the Internet
This next section talks about a computer video game called Quake that was the Bardo Training game of choice back when this essay was composed. Now, the game of choice has evolved to Diablo 2, Diablo 3 doesn't seem to work as well, and people are still playing Team Fortress - what Quake became. The following remarks are general enough to apply to any of these games.
The Quake that comes in eyelid's beat
to ruin, level gulf and kill,
Build's up a world for better use
to general Good bends special Ill
- The Kasidah of Haji Abdu El-Yezdi
translated by Sir Richard Burton
So where does the Internet fit in with this discussion of death? Let's start with computer gaming and a look at Quake, one of the most popular games on the Web. Quake is a fast-paced, raucous and chaotic environment. It compares with this description of the Bardo: "Strange, awesome, and frightening sounds, lights and radiation assail me." We are also told of, "shocking ambushes and unexpected vistas" likely to be encountered in the Macrodimensions. (Quotes from the American Book of the Dead, by E.J. Gold, Gateways Press, 1993)
A fundamental precept of Bardo Training holds that you can learn how to handle and function in the Macrodimensions through repeated exposure to their conditions. Many of these conditions get encountered and worked through by playing Quake. Like the Bardo, Quake can have a wildly unpredictable quality because people play it interactively and their actions will, of course, vary as opposed to a rigid machine program throwing out obstacles in a mechanical repetitive way.
An interesting attribute of the Internet in general is the experience of non-biological contact with others. Whenever sharing cyberspace with another in a Chat Room, a video game, or interacting with them online in any way, the contact with them occurs completely independently of the physical body. Unless they say, you won't know their age, gender, race, what they look like, how they smell, etc. Without these biological clues to go by, the tendency moves toward relating with others in a much more Being to Being fashion than usual. You definitely feel the contact with the presence of someone else when you encounter them on the Net. Players often report seeing each other in a game and knowing who runs each avatar without formal id.
Non-biological contact is crucial to successful labyrinth readings. When delivering Bardo instructions to a Voyager who has left its physical body, contact with the Voyager ensures they get received. This contact, of course, would have to be non-biological because one of us no longer has a biological nervous system to contact currently. Practice and experience enables the ability to sense, feel and see when this contact has been made. The gnosis of experiencing Being contact can occur through contact made with others on the Internet.
Bardo instructions appear in the American Book of the Dead (ABD) but any number of sacred texts would do as well. Generally, whatever you feel is appropriate can work. The ABD just happens to be configured in a way that allows any Newbie to pick one up and learn how to do readings in a matter of minutes, though the depths of its teachings may take many years to plumb and assimilate completely.
As an aside, I know I digress a little but that's the Bardo for you ... the ABD has been extremely useful for centering and grounding someone having anxiety and nervousness as a result of a psychedelic episode.
The person delivering the instructions is called the Guide while the Being receiving them is the Voyager. This mutually interdependent Guide/Voyager relationship finds itself in one form or another on the Internet. Tech support is one good example. Anyone wishing to solve a problem describes a Voyager in a labyrinth or maze of sorts. The person with more knowledge helping to solve the problem guides them to the solution. The guides on the Internet aren't always human such as when asking a Search Engine to find some information. It's also important to know that the guides aren't always friendly.
Quake has a limited Chat function which allows communication of a few lines at a time. This facilitates teamwork and fosters camaraderie and team spirit among gamers. Newbies will find it difficult to chat while playing as everything moves far too fast at first ... just like the Bardo. At the top of the screen in Quake you see a constant ticker-tape read-out of who was killed by whom, who has the flag, people chatting with each other, etc. At first it will seem impossible to read this while playing the game.
In Quake, one's character constantly gets killed then respawns back into the game. Actually, not quite like that. After dying in Quake, you make the decision whether to respawn, ie take rebirth, or to quit the game altogether. This seemingly unending succession of lives held together by the continuity of the player's consciousness is analogous to the relationship between Being and the human body it calls home for the moment.
Voyaging in the Labyrinth
The Bardo in its more immersive aspect frequently gets experienced as a journey through a very elaborate and, at times, treacherous maze. One has the sensation of moving from room to room or scene to scene. This apparency of traveling inspires the term Voyager to describe the Being. We can find ourselves in a vast corridor or series of corridors with rooms branching out in all directions. This describes the place of choice-point. Just as on the Net in Cyberspace, YOU decide where to go, which room to go in, which website to visit, which rebirth to take. Cyberspace, in its etymology, indicates self-directed space. Cyber comes from an ancient Greek word that means "steersman" or "governor."
This maze-like attribute seems so universal and apparent, once noticed, that we may characterize the Bardo realm as a labyrinth after the famous Cretan maze wherein abode the Minotaur from Greek Mythology. Life in the Labyrinth, by E.J. Gold, is another excellent source of Bardo teaching.
Experimentation shows that the skill learned through solving one maze may be applied and utilized with others. Maze solving ability, known as maze-brightness can get refined and developed throughout one's life. Any maze you successfully move through now will help you immensely in negotiating the maze of the Bardo.
Quake and its variants have many maze-like qualities. Each Quake map or level has its own architecture to learn. There are hiding places sometimes manned with snipers to do you in. Special weapons, reinforcements and healing salves appear in hidden locations. There are moats with underground tunnels submerged beneath and pits of lava survivable just long enough to reach the corridor or room on the other side if you know how. Of course, you always need to know where your Ammo Room is when it's time to replenish and gather strength. Just a few of the many examples I could give. Play the game, you'll see what I mean.
To Be Continued .... shortly