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After-Death States

Oct 04, 1994 08:40 PM
by Jerry Schueler

 Nancy< I am curious  about a comment you made
about the Tibetan Buddhist vision of the 6 realms
one could be reborn in.  You wrote < HPB also
describes these six realms, almost as if she
believed in it.>  I am trying to understand the TB
idea of the after death bardos and the 6 realms.
Do you remember here she wrote about it?  I have
all the indexes so can look it up if you can
narrow it down to which books to look n.  Thanks.>

     HPB gives the six "objective modes of
existence" as Devas, Men, Asauras, Men in Hell,
pretas, and animals, and she defines pretas as
"devouring demons on earth."  You can find this
list on page 106 of THE INNER GROUP TEACHINGS.
She also lists 7 esoteric modes on the same page.

     A good description of the six realms can be
found in all three versions of the Tibetan Book of
the Dead.  See p 29 of the new version by Robert
A.F. Thurman, for example.  He has:  hell, the
"pretans" or hungry ghosts, humans, animals,
asauras or titans, and the gods or devas.  HPB
mentions all of these throughout her writings, but
gives us precious little detail.  For the details,
we must consult the Tibetans themselves.  Here is
a good account of these realms:

     "Do these realms actually exist
     externally?  They may, in fact, exist
     beyond the range of the perception of
     our karmic vision... Looking at the
     world around us, and into our own minds,
     we can see that the six realms
     definitely do exist.  They exist in the
     way we unconsciously allow our negative
     motions to project and crystallize
     entire realms around us, and to define
     the style, form, flavor, and context of
     our life in those realms.  And they
     exist also inwardly as the different
     seeds and tendencies of the various
     negative emotions within our psycho-
     physical system, always ready to
     germinate and grow, depending on what
     influences them and how we choose to
     live."  (Sogyul Rinpoche, THE TIBETAN
     BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING, pp 112-113)

     By the way, Sogyul Rinpoche's book
(considered a New Age Best Seller) is outstanding,
and if you haven't read it yet, I strongly
recommend it.

     I apologize for my 'tongue in cheek' quip
that "HPB also describes these six realms, almost
as if she believed in it."  Of course she believed
it.  Its just that almost no theosophical writer
after her has written much about these realms.
The story of how they fit into the Gupta Vidya
Model, for example, is interesting, but beyond my
ability to present here.  Actually, the six realms
of Buddhism make as much sense as the Lokas and
Talas of Hinduism.  One big difference between the
theosophical view and the Tibetan view has to do
with the fact that the Tibetans believe that we
can go to any of these realms and that we do, in
fact, go in and out of them depending on our
karma.  Even H.H. the Dali Lama states that we can
enter the animal kingdom in a future life.  This
is transmigration, and HPB was definitely against
it.  Perhaps this is why theosophists have down-
played the six kingdoms.

Nancy <Regarding the after death states, the Tib
Bud have a very different perspective on them than
we do -- theirs being that it is a powerful
opportunity to reach enlightenment.  Have you any
thoughts that might bridge the two?  Why might
they be so different? I was also a little troubled
by their idea of being reborn 49 days after death.

     Actually, the Tibetan teaching is in very
good accord with the theosophical teaching
concerning the after-death states.  The teaching
that death "is a powerful opportunity to reach
enlightenment" is generally accepted in the yoga
community (excluding hatha, or pure physical
yoga), not just by Tibetans.  In fact, G de P
refers to this on page 807 of THE ESOTERIC
TRADITION where he says that immediately following
death, "the higher part of the Ego is then indrawn
back and up into the Spiritual Monad."  He then
goes on to talk about Devachan, but Devachan only
comes about because of the missed opportunity of
the indrawing of the Ego into the Spiritual Monad.
Here theosophy and Tibetan Buddhism use different
words, but both are saying exactly the same thing.
If we die while our consciousness is focused in
our higher Ego (i.e., in Samadhi), then we will
see the "Clear Light" of the Tibetans and reach
enlightenment.  I have carefully compared the
Bardo Thodol with the theosophical teachings and
have found a remarkable similarity.  Nor am I the
only one - see LETTERS TO A DYING FRIEND, by Anton
Grosz, Quest Books.  For various reasons, most
theosophical writers and leaders have not
emphasized the opportunity of death for spiritual
advancement.  I don't know of any, however, who
have said that it wasn't true.

     As to the 49 days, remember that 49=7x7.  The
number is symbolic.  Each "day" in the Bardo
Thodol is simply a separate phase of the after-
death state.  But people, being what they are,
wanted to know "yeah, but how long does it take?"
So, as with all things written, the esoteric
became the exoteric, and yes, some people have a
literal interpretation of the Bardo Thodol.  But
the number of days was originally intended to be
symbolic of the number of phases or stages that we
all go through.

Nancy < As we all live on earth, but each find it
a different world, I imagine experiences in the
after death states may be too subjective to
translate to the living . . .>

     Yes.  Imagine that you are in a pre-birth
state with a good friend who is about to take
birth on Earth.  Your friend asks you, "What will
life on Earth in a physical body be like?"  How
would you answer?  No one answer is likely to
cover all of the possibilities.  The same is true
with the after-death states.

 Nancy <I have always felt that much of what is
called evil today, might have been appropriate
behavior when we were on the downward arc, and the
habits we built then -- which were life affirming
then, are so strong they are with us still, but
are now life/spirit denying.  In addition to the
importance of motive, is the importance of time. >

     Yes.  G de P outlines this very well.  What
is good and what is evil depends on our situation
in both time and space.

Hope that this helps some.

             Jerry S.

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