Chapter 28: The Varying States of Existence
|28. The Varying States of Existence
Written by Sheng-yen Lu
Translated and edited by True Buddha Foundation Translation Team
Someone once asked me, `The bardo includes all states of existence. Will these states be exactly as the Nyingma School described them, that from the first day to the seventh day, the bardo spirit will see the appearance of the Peaceful Deities, followed by the appearance of the Wrathful Deities from the eighth to fourteenth day? What about the judgment of the netherworld, and the states as experienced by the bardo spirit during the forty-nine days: are they similarly experienced by everyone?`
I replied, `The Bardo Thodol as taught in Tantric Buddhism describes the states as experienced by the minds of Padmasambhava and most followers, and can be regarded as bardo states described by the Nyingma School. To my knowledge, these states vary in shades of differences, and not all beings experience the same states!`
`How can it be?` He was puzzled.
I replied, `Do you dream?`
`Are the dreams similar?`
`No, they aren`t.`
I said, `So it is with the bardo states, although the bardo states are more varied and complex than those of the dream states, and include all kinds of expression.`
The individual asked again, `What do you mean by this?`
I replied, `The mind of man is similar to the bardo spirit, where it changes by the moment. What is planted as a seed will grow into its fullest form, and this is the principle behind all manifestations. The followers of Padmasambhava did experience the appearance of the Peaceful and Wrathful Deities. However, for the Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Taoists, their experiences in the bardo would naturally be different.`
The person asked, `What about a materialist? What would he see?`
I replied, `Nothing.`
`There is simply nothing; no states whatsoever. He will simply fall into a world of nothingness, yet he is still subjected to his karma, and will be pulled towards the six realms of Samsara like a person who is swept under the current of a mighty torrent. There will be no salvation possible for him, and this is the materialist`s misery.`
`Is the ideology of materialism right or wrong?`
I replied, `What a person normally dreams constitutes his bardo state. The idea of materialism rules a materialist`s mind, which leaves absolutely no chance for salvation.`
`So the materialist would not need to go through judgment and experience the presence of hell?`
I laughed and said, `The six realms of reincarnation are based on karma, regardless of any belief systems that speak only of materialism or only of the mind.`
He further asked, `If the materialist has never believed in cause and effect, then wouldn`t he not be subject to karmic retributions?`
I replied, `It is all about seeds, which are the karmic seeds as explained in Buddhism. The modern way of saying it is: you reap what you sow.`
The Sutra of the Original Vows of Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva says: `Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva told the saintly mother, `The criminal retributions are as follows: anyone who is not filial or does not respect his parents, or anyone who kills or hurts his parents, will fall into Endless Hell for an indefinite period of time.
`Anyone who hurts or injures Buddha, slanders the Triple Jewels or disrespects the sutras, will fall into Endless Hell for an indefinite period of time.
`Anyone who damages or steals from a temple, makes a monk or nun disobey the rules, practices sexual acts in a temple or kills people, will fall into Endless Hell for an indefinite period of time.
`Anyone who pretends to be a monk or a nun but fails to keep the rules of Buddha in his or her heart, wastes objects in a temple, cheats a follower of Buddha, or goes against the Buddha`s disciplines, will fall into Endless Hell for an indefinite period of time.
`Anyone who steals money, food, clothing, or takes anything from a temple without permission, will fall into Endless Hell for an indefinite period of time......`
(Hence, what you reap is what you sow.)
It has nothing to do with what you believe or not believe in. I will illustrate with the following example: a chicken merchant had chickens slaughtered and sold to every major market. The chickens that had been slaughtered numbered in tens of millions. After he died, tiny holes and bruises were found all over his body, and the person was suffering badly prior to his death, like he was being pecked by chickens. He saw billions of chickens surrounding him, yelling, `Give me back my life! Give me back my life!` Before the chicken merchant died, he yelled, `The chickens are coming for my life!`
Here`s a second example: a woman was hospitalized for cancer of the uterus. While she was sleeping, she saw the spirits of her unborn babies who had been aborted, holding hands and dancing around her bed, crying, `Mommy, give me back my life! Mommy, give me back my life!`
This woman would witness this whenever she fell asleep, and she was horrified. She had felt that having a few abortions was a trivial matter, and since many people had already done so, there was no cause for worry. However, ever since she was hospitalized, she saw baby spirits dancing and screaming around her bed. Eventually, she couldn`t take it anymore and committed suicide.
A third case: a person did not believe in the existence of Buddha, of a god, nor of the law of cause and effect. He had committed murder and arson, and had raped many women. Subsequently, he was caught, judged and sentenced to death. When he died, he saw all those whom he had killed appear before him to demand payment, and he was judged and sentenced to the endless Avici Hell.
Let me say this to you. The images of Buddhas, gods, ghosts, heaven and hell, and so forth, are born out of the states of mind of sentient beings, and differ from person to person. It depends on the condition of one`s body, speech and mind.
The belief of materialism is that there is nothing to believe in. Yet, whatever seed the individual has planted will grow into a fruit that is in accordance with his mind.
This is how the varying states of bardo are determined.
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