There were several factors that influenced me to begin studying/practicing the Theravada over the Zen Buddhism that I started out with. What really bothered me the most, however, was when I would read the Pālī Canon and see specific teachings of the Buddha himself that were flatly contradicted by Mahayana practice.
One of those things was the idea of an intermediate state, or bardo
as my teacher at the Zen center called it. I remember one particular Dharma talk she gave about "transitions". It was extremely insightful...until the issue of death came up (being the "ultimate" transition). She said that in the Mahayana tradition, there's an idea of the bardo
, an intermediate state that one finds oneself in after death and before taking the next birth. She stated that this is believed to be a very confusing time...the deceased person is inundated with various images and feelings that can lead to fear or clinging, and that those surrounding the recently deceased should try to project thoughts of calmness and reassurance so that the dead can peacefully make their way to the next life.
I intend no disrespect to the Mahayana, but doesn't that whole notion fly in the face of the teaching on anatta
? What is it exactly that's floating around in this intermediate state? How is it "conscious" enough to be "confused"? Does anyone know where this teaching came from, and how it can be justified when it seems IMHO to contradict the Buddha's teaching on the absence of a self that travels from life to life?
With kindest regards,
friend in the Dhamma