Wednesday, May 14, 2008

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This is an article on a Buddhist concept. For other meanings of the word Bardo, see: Bardo (disambiguation)
Wylie: bar do
intermediate state
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The Tibetan word Bardo means literally "intermediate state" - also translated as "transitional state" or "in-between state" or "liminal state". In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva.
Fremantle (2001) states that there are six traditional bardo states known as the Six Bardos: the Bardo of This Life (p.55); the Bardo of Meditation (p.58); the Bardo of Dream (p.62); the Bardo of Dying (p.64); the Bardo of Dharmata (p.65); and the Bardo of Existence (p.66).
Shugchang, et. al. (2000: p.5) discuss the Zhitro (Tibetan: Zhi-khro) teachings which subsume the Bardo Thodol and mention Karma Lingpa, terma and Padmasambhava and list the Six Bardo:
In the terma discovered by Karma Lingpa, Guru Padmasambhava introduces six different bardos. The first bardo begins when we take birth and endures as long as we live. The second is the bardo of dreams. The third is the bardo of concentration or meditation. The fourth occurs at the moment of death. The fifth is known as the bardo of the luminosity of the true nature. The sixth is called the bardo of transmigration or karmic becoming.[1]
1 Six Bardos
2 Exegesis
3 See also
4 Notes
5 Further reading
[edit]Six Bardos
Shinay bardo (Tibetan): is the first bardo of birth and life. This bardo commences from conception until the last breath, when the mindstream withdraws from the body.
Milam bardo (Tibetan): is the second bardo of the dream state. The Milam Bardo is a subset of the first Bardo. Dream Yoga develops practices to integrate the dream state into Buddhist sadhana.
Samten bardo (Tibetan) is the third bardo of meditation. This bardo is generally only experienced by meditators, though individuals may have spontaneous experience of it. Samten Bardo is a subset of the Shinay Bardo.
Chikkhai bardo (Tibetan): is the fourth bardo of the moment of death. According to tradition, this bardo is held to commence when the outer and inner signs presage that the onset of death is nigh, and continues through the dissolution or transmutation of the Mahabhuta until the external and internal breath has completed.
Chönyid bardo (Tibetan): is the fifth bardo of the luminosity of the true nature which commences after the final 'inner breath' (Sanskrit: prana, vayu; Tibetan: rlung). It is within this Bardo that visions and auditory phenomena occur. In the Dzogchen teachings, these are known as the spontaneously manifesting Thödgal (Tibetan: thod-rgyal) visions. Concomitant to these visions, there is a welling of profound peace and pristine awareness. Sentient beings who have not practiced during their lived experience and/or who do not recognize the clear light (Tibetan: od gsal) at the moment of death are usually deluded throughout the fifth bardo of luminosity.
Sidpai bardo (Tibetan): is the sixth bardo of becoming or transmigration. This bardo endures until the inner-breath commences in the new transmigrating form determined by the 'karmic seeds' within the storehouse consciousness.

Fremantle (2001: p.53-54) charts the development of the bardo concept through the Himalayan tradition:
Originally bardo referred only to the period between one life and the next, and this is still its normal meaning when it is mentioned without any qualification. There was considerable dispute over this theory during the early centuries of Buddhism, with one side arguing that rebirth (or conception) follows immediately after death, and the other saying that there must be an interval between the two. With the rise of mahayana, belief in a transitional period prevailed. Later Buddhism expanded the whole concept to distinguish six or more similar states, covering the whole cycle of life, death, and rebirth. But it can also be interpreted as any transitional experience, any state that lies between two other states. Its original meaning, the experience of being between death and rebirth, is the prototype of the bardo experience, while the six traditional bardos show how the essential qualities of that experience are also present in other transitional periods. By refining even further the understanding of the essence of bardo, it can then be applied to every moment of existence. The present moment, the now, is a continual bardo, always suspended between the past and the future.
Used somewhat loosely, the term "bardo" may refer to the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, to, later on, terrifying hallucinations arising from the impulses of one's previous unskillful actions. For the spiritually advanced the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality, while for others it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth.
In the West, the term bardo may also refer to times when our usual way of life becomes suspended, as, for example, when we are on retreat. Such times can prove fruitful for spiritual progress, as external constraints diminish, although they offer challenges because our unskillful impulses can come to the fore, just as in the sidpa bardo.


Dr. Desiree said...

I'm not sure I can condone this.

paul said...

i too, do not know if i can condone the bardo.

Dr. Desiree said...


Dr. Desiree said...


Tormas (Skt.: bali) are offering cakes. They symbolize the food offering. Originally made of dough (in Tibet, roasted barley flour is used,) and also sculpted from butter, they have evolved into elaborately decorated objects. Since making them is time-consuming and uses resources, people have begun to use clay, wood and more recently, synthetic substances. These include resin modeling products, and at least one Asian company produces small, injection-molded plastic tormas.

Symbolic offerings at one time (pre-Buddhism, naturally,) may have been substitutes for living beings. However, the Tibetan word, spelled, has an etymology that is especially revealing. Lama Tashi Dondrup once explained that the word, composed of two parts, stands for "something that is thrown out" + "mother" (a signifier that is female.) The implication is one of cutting of attachment combined with care and generosity without limitation.

Although a torma has specific characteristics that depend upon the deity to whom it is being offered, all tormas have three fundamental elements to their construction: foundation, body, and decoration. These symbolize respectively the qualities of body, speech, and mind.

The energies of these qualities are represented by two or three small, rather flat, discs applied to the front of the conical body. Usually they are in the form of flowers; the rims can be pressed to create the scalloped effect of petals.

Finally, one or more dabs of coloured butter known as gyab gyen are sometimes pressed onto the "back" (Tib. gyab) of the torma. This action dedicates the offering:

. . . it seals the torma offering so that its essence won't be lost or stolen before you get a chance to offer it. I've also heard that it's a gesture, as if you were saying, "thus, I offer." ~ ani Yeshe Wangmo

A torma of elaborate design may be decorative, but it is not as important as the action of generosity which it represents. The colours reflect the nature of the deity to which it is being offered, and can also correspond to traditional yogic principles.
Tormas at Rumtek Monastery [bottom left of page.]
See the Tersar lineage tormas (Nyingmapa denomination.)

Shalzey tormas (Skt. naividya bali) intended for a personal shrine are usually between 4 and 6 inches high, but they can be any size. It takes a large snowball-sized ball of dough to make one that is in the small range with a three-inch diameter base.

Since the bala or torma is intended for a deity, we take care to keep its ingredients pure, and the surface on which we are working clean. The hands must be washed and the maker should avoid breathing on the project. Any bits that fall to the floor are unusable and must be discarded.

The ingredients to make sixteen six-inch tormas are as follows. A five-pound bag of flour without yeast, one cup of butter or shortening (it can be colored with food dye), and a large pot one-third full of water. First, bring the water to boil. Next, add the butter. Then add flour. Stir and let boil for three to five minutes.

Mix, then let it sit to cool a little. It should be just sticky enough to be easily kneaded.

The dough (which may still be hot -- be careful) is removed from the pot and placed on the clean surface where it is kneaded until it is uniformly soft and smooth. (If it sticks too much, dust your hands and/or the surface with flour.)
Making tormas at Gampo Abbey, Nova Scotia
Tobin Butcher's article in a 1999 Sakya.Org newsletter has instructions for:

1. peaceful deity torma (Tib: shalzay) eg., for Green Tara or White Tara.
2. local deity torma . . . .
3. 2 kinds of wrathful deity tormas -- for Mahakala & Four-armed Vajrakila.

If you intend to use real food tormas, they must be kept intact. If they show signs of age -- bits falling off, etc. -- then they need to be repaired or replaced. Tormas made of food are never tossed in the garbage but are left outside in a clean place for birds and other animals to enjoy.

NB. If you are going to use a synthetic substance instead of flour, include some grains of rice or other cereal in the torma so that it still has integrity in the sense of a food offering.
Hints and suggestions at the Kagyu email list include adding olive oil, using beet juice for red colouring and using marzipan.
Near the end of the account of the Ponlop Rinpoche lineage, read how a torma was the cause of insult to a king.
Artist Robert Rauschenberg evokes a torma using a fiddle: Tibetan Garden Song (1986)

Ani Yeshe Wangmo (Mary Young) helped produce a video showing how to work with synthetic products such as Sculpey or Fimo. Called Making the Karma Pakshi Tormas with Lama Tashi Dhondup, it sells for $25 instructional booklet included.
HH the 17th Karmapa participates in torma film
Lama Karma Sherab of the Jamgon Kongtrul labrang will make a "permanent" torma for your personal practice or as a gift. [pictures to follow] Sugg. donation: 25$ and up, depending upon size and complexity. You can order via Khandro.Net
Butter Sculpture

Butter tormas are usually made by Buddhist monastics for a special occasion. They used to be made only where conditions were cool enough for them to survive for a while without melting. The monks had to keep dipping their hands into cold water to do the modeling. Nowadays, the butter is mixed with candle wax before colouring is added. They use aids such as hollow bones or straws for making long threads, and molds for making the chakras /flowers and leaves that are applied to the main form. The sculpted forms are often displayed on bats [wooden boards] that have been gold-leafed.
Kumbum (est. 14th C.) or in Chinese, Ta'er (now considered to be in Xining, Qinghai province, P. R. China) is renowned for its collection of butter sculptures.
See also, second photo from end of "lesson" on Chinese civ.
Dip Tse Chok Ling gompa's (Dharmshala) butter reliefs [scroll past 12th image.]

In Lhasa, for the new year's Butter Lamp Festival (15th of the first Tibetan month) all sorts of fantastic figures are made for display alongside the lamps that traditionally use butter as fuel.

On the 19th, at the end of the festival, the torma and the zur are burnt in the ceremony, thus burning the evil that has been attracted to them. Though this is called the torma festival, the actual object to be thrown was called the zur. The zur was an eight or nine-foot high tripod of sticks . . . decorated with butter sculptures of flames, clouds, gems and other symbols. On the top was a big skull from which flames are issued. Many ribbons or strings are tied to the top of the tripod. Inside the legs of the tripod was a torma, and depending on the purpose, its size and color varied.

~ Thubten Norbu ("Festivals of Tibet," J. of Popular Culture 16, #1 (Summer 1982) 126-134.)

paul said...

sounds like witches' brew to me.

neobuddhist mama said...

Okay, so a nun and a kasong walk into a bardo, with torma under one arm and a kripalu under the other....

paul said...

(three minutes later) the kasong turns to the nun and dropping the abhidharma swizzle stick says: "Kripalu? I don't even know you!"

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