Tibetan Book of the Dead | Part 18




[Instructions to the Officiant]:

Again, if through great weak­ness in devotions and lack of familiarity one be not able to understand, illusion may overcome one, and one will wander to the doors of wombs.

The instruction for the closing of the womb-doors becomes very important: call the deceased by name and say this:

O nobly-born, if thou have not understood the above, at this moment, through the influence of karma, thou will have the impression that thou art either ascending, or moving along on a level, or going downwards.

Thereupon, meditate upon the Compassionate One. Remember.

Then, as said above, gusts of wind, and icy blasts, hail-storms, and darkness, and impression of being pursued by many people will come upon thee.

On fleeing from these [hallucinations], those who are unendowed with meritorious karma will have the impression of fleeing into places of misery; those who are endowed with meritorious karma will have the impression of arriving in places of happiness.

Thereupon, O nobly-born, in whatever continent or place thou art to be born, the signs of that birth­place will shine upon thee then.

For this moment there are several vital profound teachings. Listen undistractedly:

Even though thou have not appre­hended by the above settings-face-to-face, here [thou will, because] even those who are very weak in devotions will recognize the signs.

Therefore listen.

[Instructions to the Officiant]:

Now it is very important to employ the methods of closing the womb-door. Where­fore it is necessary to exercise the utmost care.

There are two [chief] ways of closing: preventing the being who would enter from entering, and closing the womb-door which might be entered.

The instructions for preventing the being from entering are thus:

O nobly-born, (so-and-so by name,) whosoever may have been thy tutelary deity, tranquilly meditate upon him,—as upon the reflection of the moon in water, apparent yet non-existent [as a moon], like a magically-produced illusion.

If thou have no special tutelary, meditate either upon the Com­passionate Lord or upon me; and, with this in mind, meditate tranquilly.

Then, causing the [visualized form of the] tutelary deity to melt away from the extremities, meditate, without any thought- forming, upon the vacuous Clear Light.

This is a very profound art; in virtue of it, a womb is not entered.


In that manner meditate;

but even though this be found inadequate to prevent thee from entering into a womb, and if thou find thyself ready to enter into one, then there is the profound teaching for closing the womb-door.

Listen thou unto it:

”When, at this time, alas! the Sidpa Bardo is dawning upon oneself,
Holding in mind one single resolution,
Persist in joining up the chain of good karma;
Close up the womb-door, and remember the opposition.
This is a time when earnestness and pure love are necessary;
Abandon jealousy, and meditate upon the Guru Father- Mother.”

Repeat this, from thine own mouth, distinctly; and remember its meaning vividly, and meditate upon it. The putting of this into practice is essential.

The significance of the above teaching, “When, at this time, the Sidpa Bardo is dawning upon me [or upon oneself]“, is that now thou art wandering in the Sidpa Bardo.

As a sign of this, if thou look into water, or into mirrors, thou will see no reflection of thy face or body; nor does thy body cast any shadow. Thou have discarded now thy gross material body of flesh and blood. These are the indications that thou art wandering about in the Sidpa Bardo.

At this time, thou must form, without distraction, one single resolve in thy mind. The forming of one single resolve is very important now. It is like directing the course of a horse by the use of the reins.

Whatever thou desirest will come to pass. Think not upon evil actions which might turn the course [of thy mind].

Remember thy [spiritual] relationship with the Reader of this Bardo Thödol, or with any one from whom thou have received teachings, initiation, or spiritual authorization for reading religious texts while in the human world; and per­severe in going on with good acts: this is very essential.

Be not distracted. The boundary line between going upwards or going downwards is here now.

If thou give way to indecision for even a second, thou will have to suffer misery for a long, long time. This is the moment. Hold fast to one single purpose. Persistently join up the chain of good acts.

Thou have come now to the time of closing the womb-door:

This is a time when earnestness and pure love are necessary”,  which implies that now the time has come when, first of all, the womb-door should be closed, there being five methods of closing. Bear this well at heart.


O nobly-born, at this time thou will see visions of males and females in union. When thou see them, remember to withhold thyself from going between them.

Regarding the father and mother as thy Guru and the Divine Mother, meditate upon them and bow down; humbly exercise thy faith; offer up mental worship with great fervency; and resolve that thou will request [of them] religious guidance.

By that resolution alone, the womb ought certainly to be closed;

but if it is not closed even by that, and thou find thyself ready to enter into it, meditate upon the Divine Guru Father-Mother, as upon any tutelary deity, or upon the Compassionate Tutelary and Shakti; and meditating upon them, worship them with mental offerings.

Resolve earnestly that thou will request [of them] a boon. By this, the womb- door ought to be closed.


Still, if it be not closed even by that, and thou find thyself ready to enter the womb, the third method of re­pelling attachment and repulsion is hereby shown unto thee:

There are four kinds of birth: birth by egg, birth by womb, supernormal birth, and birth by heat and moisture. Amongst these four, birth by egg and birth by womb agree in character.

As above said, the visions of males and females in union will appear. If, at that time, one enters into the womb through the feelings of attachment and repulsion, one may be born either as a horse, a fowl, a dog, or a human being.

If [about] to be born as a male, the feeling of itself being a male dawns upon the Knower, and a feeling of intense hatred towards the father and of jealousy and attraction towards the mother is begotten.

If [about] to be born as a female, the feeling of itself being a female dawns upon the Knower, and a feeling of intense hatred towards the mother and of intense attraction and fondness towards the father is be­gotten.

Through this secondary cause—[when] entering upon the path of ether, just at the moment when the sperm and the ovum are about to unite—the Knower experiences the bliss of the simultaneously-born state, during which state it faints away into unconsciousness.

[Afterwards] it finds itself encased in oval form, in the embryonic state, and upon emerging from the womb and opening its eyes it may find itself transformed into a young dog.

Formerly it had been a human being, but now if it have become a dog it finds itself undergoing sufferings in a dog’s kennel;

or [perhaps] as a young pig in a pigsty, or as an ant in an ant-hill, or as an insect, or a grub in a hole, or as a calf, or a kid, or a lamb, from which shape there is no [immediate] returning.

Dumbness, stupidity, and miserable intellectual obscurity are suffered, and a variety of sufferings experienced. In like manner, one may wander into hell, or into the world of unhappy ghosts, or throughout the Six Lokas, and endure inconceivable miseries.

Those who are voraciously inclined towards this [i.e. samsaric existence], or those who do not at heart fear it,—O dreadful! O dreadful! Alas!—and those who have not received a guru's teachings,

will fall down into the precipitous depths of the Samsara in this manner, and suffer interminably and un­bearably.

Rather than meet with a like fate, listen thou unto my words and bear these teachings of mine at heart:

Reject the feelings of attraction or repulsion, and remember one method of closing the womb-door which I am going to show to thee. Close the womb-door and remember the opposition.

This is the time when earnestness and pure love are necessary. As has been said, “Abandon jealousy, and meditate upon the Guru Father-Mother.”

As above explained, if to be born as a male, attraction towards the mother and repulsion towards the father, and if to be born as a female, attraction towards the father and repulsion towards the mother, together with a feeling of jealousy [for one or the other] which arises, will dawn upon thee.

For that time there is a profound teaching:

O nobly-born, when the attraction and repulsion arise, meditate as follows:

Alas! what a being of evil karma am I! That I have wandered in the Samsara hitherto, has been owing to attraction and repulsion.

If I still go on feeling attraction and repulsion, then I shall wander in endless Samsara and suffer in the Ocean of Misery for a long, long time, by sinking therein.

Now I must not act through attraction and repulsion. Alas, for me! Henceforth I will never act through attraction and repulsion.”

Meditating thus, resolve firmly that thou will hold on to that [resolution]. It has been said, in the Tantras,The door of the womb will be closed up by that alone.”

O nobly-born, be not distracted. Hold thy mind one- pointedly upon that resolution.


Again, even if that does not close the womb, and one finds [oneself] ready to enter the womb, then by means of the teaching [called] ”The Untrue and the Illusory” the womb should be closed.

That is to be meditated as follows:

“O, the pair, the father and the mother, the black rain, the storm-blasts, the clashing sounds, the terrifying appari­tions, and all the phenomena, are, in their true nature, illusions.

Howsoever they may appear, no truth is there [in them]; all substances are unreal and false. Like dreams and like apparitions are they; they are non-permanent; they have no fixity.

What advantage is there in being attached [to them]! What advantage is there in having fear and terror of them!

It is the seeing of the non-existent as the existent. All these are hallucinations of one’s own mind. The illusory mind itself does not exist from eternity; therefore where should these external [phenomena] exist?

I, by not having understood these [things] in that way hitherto, have held the non-existent to be the existent, the unreal to be the real, the illusory to be the actual, and have wandered in the Samsara so long.

And even now if I do not recognize them to be illusions, then, wandering in the Samsara for long ages, [I shall be] certain to fall into the morass of various miseries.

Indeed, all these are like dreams, like hallucinations, like echoes, like the cities of the Odour-eaters, like mirage, like mirrored forms, like phantasmagoria, like the moon seen in water—not real even for a moment. In truth, they are unreal; they are false.”

By holding one-pointedly to that train of thought, the belief that they are real is dissipated; and, that being impressed upon the inner continuity [of consciousness], one turns backwards:

if the knowledge of the unreality be impressed deeply in that way, the womb-door will be closed.


Still, even when this is done, if the holding [phenomena] as real remains undissolved, the womb-door is not closed;

and, if one be ready to enter into the womb, thereupon one should close the womb-door by meditating upon the Clear Light, this being the fifth [method].

The meditation is per­formed as follows:

Lo! all substances are mine own mind; and this mind is vacuousness, is unborn, and unceasing.”

Thus meditating, allow the mind to rest in the uncreated [state]—like, for example, the pouring of water into water. The mind should be allowed its own easy mental posture, in its natural [or unmodified] condition, clear and vibrant.

By maintaining this relaxed, uncreated [state of mind], the womb-doors of the four kinds of birth are sure to be closed. Meditate thus until the closing is successfully accomplished.

[Instructions to the Officiant]:

Many very profound teach­ings for closing the womb-door have been given above. It is impossible that they should not liberate people of the highest, the average, and the lowest intellectual capacity.

If it be asked why this should be so, it is because, firstly, the con­sciousness in the Bardo possessing supernormal power of perception of a limited kind, whatever is spoken to one then is apprehended.

Secondly, because—although [formerly] deaf or blind—here, at this time, all one’s faculties are perfect, and one can hear whatever is addressed to one.

Thirdly, being continually pursued by awe and terror, one thinks, “What is best?” and, being alertly conscious, one is always coming to hear whatever may be told to one. Since the consciousness is without a prop, it immediately goes to whatever place the mind directs.

Fourthly, it is easy to direct it. The memory is nine-fold more lucid than before.

Even though stupid [before], at this time, by the workings of karma, the intellect becomes exceedingly clear and capable of meditating whatever is taught to it. [Hence the answer is], it is because it [i.e. the Knower] possesses these virtues.

That the performance of funeral rites should be efficacious, is, likewise, because of that reason.

Therefore, the perseverance in the reading of the Great Bardo Thödol for forty-nine days is of the utmost importance.

Even if not liberated at one setting-face-to-face, one ought to be liberated at another: this is why so many different settings-face-to-face are necessary.