There are many different beliefs about what happens at the time of death ~ A lot of them ending there, moving to heaven, emptiness, blackness…..
Who knows what happens exactly, but I have been fascinated by the beautiful way that the Tibetan Buddhists approach the subject. Without fear, or judgement (ok, maybe a little judgement 😉 ), If I were looking for a a map of the afterlife, I would go ask an old Tibetan.
It may have been the reason why I was attracted to the philosophies long before I even knew the depth that I could go into them. When I read my first Dharma Book, my mind was completely blown. I remember sitting on the subway, disappearing into this book. In the drawer at work, between customers at Tower Video, I was reading it.
I cannot say why I am so attracted to these teachings, but I am. After spending the day with the Dalai Lama and hundreds upon hundreds of Monks and Lamas, who wouldn’t be?
I was quite fortunate to have my first teachings be at a Kalachakra Initiation in the old Felt Forum. I was completely green to the whole school of Buddhism, I had no idea what to expect, but the feeling of Tibetan monks all over NYC for two weeks was fascinating and inspired me to leave the city and move into a Monastery…
I remember riding in a Taxi with my dad after one of the first days of teachings, I was being taken for rides I hadn’t signed up for, I was learning things I had no thought to even research, I was expanding before my own eyes. Of course, for him, this was old hat! I wasn’t expounding on anything he hadn’t heard, contemplated or invented himself, but he was fascinated to watch me discover such riches. Almost chuckling at how turned out I was…
Within a year, I was on my way to India to study in a Tibetan Buddhist Institute in New Delhi. I was “going to be a translator!” I was destined for a new life, but I had no idea that I would take off, hating the place I had landed… I went instead, to Mcleod Ganj, otherwise known as Dharamsala (which is actually the town at the bottom of the mountain). I fell in love with the Foothills of the Himalayas. I stood before His Holiness Dalai Lama and felt him grin so big he enveloped me. I had landed at what might still one day, be my home. Traveling from there to Banaras, Bodhgaya, Kathmandu… I blew my own mind.
When I left the US (with my dad’s help) I was planning to study the Tibetan language.
When I left the US it was expected that I would do “something great” with my time and the effort and the (most of all) money that had been spent on the trip.
When I left the US I went with my Lama’s blessing, he, making only one request: “Bring back Knowledge.”
When I returned, I came back with the understanding that I could live anywhere on the planet and rely on my own devices.
When I returned, I was not a translator, and knew little to less of the Tibetan language than I knew when I left.
But… When I returned, I had fulfilled my agreement with my teacher.
When I walked into my dad’s office, he nonchalantly asked me if I wanted to go with him to see His Holiness Dalai Lama. He had been asked to play for him at a benefit for Tibet House. Somehow they had gotten word that his daughter was Buddhist, and figured that with his charitable nature and that tidbit, that he might take the gig… He did. One of the best places my dad ever took me! Better than Dairy Queen!
We were sharing something that had changed my life for the better, and it almost felt like I got to take him on the ride. His Holiness loved my Father’s performance. I recall thinking that they were all just telling me that because they knew how special the experience was for me. But after the stories of His Holiness’ awe during my dad’s set… I was convinced. Clearly they have karma!
My dad went on to do many Tibetan Freedom events, and told stories of visiting His Holiness’ brother in the midwest. He fell in love like I did, he just didn’t feel the need to move into a Monastery or finish Ngondro.
I came home to a completely different Monastery, the shrine room had been moved, from our living space, into the main Shrine building. The Buddha in the Lhakang, who had been masked for protection from the construction when I left, was now flanked with beautiful cabinets made by dear friends to house smaller statues and the 100,11000 teachings of The Buddha and their commentaries.
I was a different me. I had gone farther than I had ever been from home, and familiar and from family. I had traveled alone in a third world country. Making my way through the mountain hills and across desert plains, risked the ride from Kathmandu to Patna, I had a new sense of myself and my capabilities.
But most of all, I recognized that It didn’t matter where I went, or what I did, My teachers were ALWAYS with me and I could count on them to take whatever form I needed them to take for me to hear them.
Today is the 49th day of my father’s Bardo. This is the point when we aspire to take new form after seven weeks of transition. I didn’t remember until my mom reminded me this afternoon.
It has been a very intense and interesting seven weeks. I have felt his tap on my shoulder these past weeks. I have heard his wisdom. I have yelled at him, shook my fists to the sky in wonderment. I have gone numb, I have struggled and continue to struggle to come back to center…
Perhaps because I have not taken much time for myself, perhaps because I can’t go too far from my house without being reminded by a loved one or a stranger…
I have tried to hide, but I need groceries…
I have tried to hide, but I am loved…
I have tried to hide, but I will never be anonymous in this little magic town…
A little curse, mostly blessing 😉
Perhaps, feeling in my heart like he may be landing somewhere safe, preparing for a new life in a new vessel.. Right about now… Clearly he is one of my teachers… no matter where I go, or what I do…
Perhaps this stage of the transition will change for me as well…
Om Ami Dewa Hri