The supreme vision comes not at the end of the Bardo, but right at the beginning, at the moment of death; what happens afterward is an ever deepening descent into illusion and obscuration, down to the ultimate degradation of new physical birth.

The spiritual climax is reached at the moment when life ends. Human life, therefore, is the vehicle of the highest perfection it is possible to attain; it alone generates the karma that makes it possible for the dead man to abide in the perpetual light of the Voidness without clinging to any object, and thus to rest on the hub of the wheel of rebirth, freed from all illusion of genesis and decay.

Life in the Bardo brings no eternal rewards or punishments, but merely a descent into a new life which shall bear the individual nearer to his final goal.

But this eschatological goal is what he himself brings to birth as the last and highest fruit of the labors and aspirations of earth ~Carl Jung; Commentary on the Tibetan Book of the Dead; Psychology and Religion, Pages 524-525.

 

It is highly sensible of the Bardo Thodol to make clear to the dead man the primacy of the psyche, for that is the one thing which life does not make clear to us. We are so hemmed in by things which jostle and oppress that we never get a chance, inthe midst of all these “given” things, to wonder by whom they are “given.”

It is from this world of “given” things that the dead man liberates himself; and the purpose of the instruction is to help him towards this liberation. We, if we put ourselves in his place, shall derive no lesser reward from it, since we learn from the very first paragraphs that the “giver” of all “given” things dwells within us.

This is a truth which in the face of all evidence, in the greatest things as in the smallest, is never known, although it is often so very necessary, indeed vital, for us to know it.

Such knowledge, to be sure, is suitable only for contemplatives who are minded to understand the purpose of existence, for those who are Gnostics by temperament and therefore believe in a savior who, like the savior of the Mandaeans, is called “knowledge of life” (Manda d’Hayye).

Perhaps it is not granted to many of us to see the world as something “given.” A great reversal of standpoint, calling for much sacrifice, is needed before we can see the world as “given” by the very nature of the psyche.

It is so much more straightforward, more dramatic, impressive, and therefore more convincing, to see all the things that happen to me than to observe how I make them happen. Indeed, the animal nature of man makes him resist seeing himself as the maker of his circumstances.

That is why attempts of this kind were always the object of secret initiations, culminating as a rule in a figurative death which symbolized the total character of this reversal.

And, in point of fact, the instruction given in the Bardo Thodol serves to recall to the dead man the experiences of his initiation and the teachings of his guru, for the instruction is, at bottom, nothing less than an initiation of the dead into the Bardo life, just as the initiation of the living was a preparation for the Beyond. Such was the case, at least, with all the mystery cults in ancient civilizations from the time of the Egyptian and Eleusinian mysteries.

In the initiation of the living, however, this “Beyond” is not a world beyond death, but a reversal of the mind’s intentions and outlook, a psychological “Beyond” or, in Christian terms, a “redemption” from the trammels of the world and of sin.

Redemption is a separation and deliverance from an earlier condition of darkness and unconsciousness, and leads to a condition of illumination and releasedness, to victory and transcendence over everything “given.” ~Carl Jung, Psychology and Religion, Pages 513 – 514.