Excerpt from “The Tibetan Book of the Dead”. Translated by Gyurme Dorje, Scottish Tibetologist, and writer
Introductory Commentary by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
“May all sentient beings, children of buddha nature, realize the ultimate nature of mind: insight and compassion, in blissful union.”
I or Self: Whether or not there exists a continuity of consciousness after death has been an important aspect of philosophical reflections and debate from ancient Indian time to present. This is closely interlinked with the understanding of the nature of ‘I’ or ‘self’. What constitutes a person?
According to Buddhist classical literature, five psycho-physical aggregates: consciousness, form, feeling, discrimination, and motivational tendencies. Buddhist philosophy does not accept the existence of the soul or essence of a person, which exists independently from the body and mind of a person like several non-Buddhist philosophical schools. The Buddhist view is the self or the person is understood as a dynamic interdependent relationship of both mental and physical attributes.
According to Prasangika- Madhyamaka philosophy, which has a prevailing philosophical view of Tibetan Buddhism, this sense of self is simply a “mental construct”. From the perspective of Highest Yoga Tantra, there are two concepts of person. One is a temporary person or self that exists at the moment. The other one is a subtle person or self which is designated in dependence on the subtle body and subtle mind.
In the realm of consciousness, the Buddhist view is that there is the same causal continuum between the events of the past, present, and future. From the Buddhist perspective, rebirth in conditioned existence can take place in one of three realms: the formless, the form, or the desire realm. The form and formless realms are fruitful results of subtle states consciousness attained upon the realization of certain meditative concentrations. Our desire realm is the most gross of the three. Gods, antigods, human beings, animals, anguished spirits and hell beings are six class of beings inhabiting in the desire realm.
Mind & Consciousness: Material things come into being based on other materials such as particles, atoms, and cells and the mind comes into being based on the previous moment of mind which is luminous and has the capacity to be aware. This Buddhist logic asserts that there is at the level of subtle mind and subtle wind of beginningless continuum of mind and matter. It is through reflection on the above themes, the law of cause and effect, dependent origination, the shifts in the modalities of our consciousness between deep sleep, dreams and our waking state, etc, that the notion of continuity of consciousness may first become established.
In the literature of Highest Yoga Tantra, the three realms of conditioned existence into which human beings may be born are described in terms of different expressions or modalities of energy (rlung) and our fundamental ignorance is the root of conditioned existence and that karmic energy is its activating factor.
Death is the point at which both the physical and mental fields dissolve into inner radiance and where both consciousness and energy exist at their most subtle non-dual level, as in deep sleep. This mode is the Buddha-body of Reality or dharmakaya. Then one enters into an intermediate state where the phenomenal forms are subtle and non-substantive as in a dream, the Buddha-body of Perfect resource or sambhogakaya. Then our normal waking state is the Buddha body of Emanation or nirmanakaya.
The process of generating oneself as a meditational deity (bringing three Buddha bodies into practice) is the means by which the indivisible union of the realization of emptiness and the realization of perfect awareness is brought into fruition.
As for the forms of the meditational deity in the practice of tantra, there are two principal types: peaceful deities and wrathful deities. There are concerned with the transformation of the cognitive and emotional states associated with attachment and aversion respectively.
Buddhism and Modern Science: In modern science, the methods of analysis are principally applied to investigating the nature of material entities. Thus the ultimate nature of matter is sought through a reductive process and the macroscopic world is reduced to the microscopic world of particles. But ultimately their very existence as objects is called into question. This interface between non-substantiality and phenomena is a fundamental focus of Buddhist philosophical analysis and of experiential analysis through mediation on the nature of mind.