On the Bardo - Stuck souls?

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On the Bardo - Stuck souls?

Postby bardoq » Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:56 pm

I tried to send these 2 questions to a monk some time ago, but have gotten
no answer. Anyone may respond.

Long intro but short questions at bottom.


Background
==========

I asked a buddhist some time ago a question. I got an answer, but it wasn't
totally clear, at least a friend of mine got a different interpretation of
the answer than I did.

So in order to make as sure as possible that my questions are as clear as
possible, enabling the answers to become equally clear, I have written
a piece of text below.

First I present some definitions, then I state some considerations,
and finally ask my questions below.


Definitions
===========

In order to make my questions more clear, I first state some definitions.
Without definitions, the response may lose some meaning to me, so I hope
my definitions are as clear as possible, in all their fuzziness.


Fixed Point = The concept a "fixed point" is a loose concept. A "fixed point"
is meant to refer to the concept that something can be defined.
Something is defined from a certain viewpoint. My questions need
some "fixed points" in order to make any sense.

Physical = That something is "physical" is a Fixed Point. Anything which
repeatedly can be detected by science in terms of particle or
quantum physics is regarded to be "physical", be it atoms
(neutrons, electrons, protons), light or electromagnetism
(photons), radiation (various particles including neutrinos),
higher order particles (higgs, other bosons, leptons, hadrons),
anti-matter (positrons, etc), dark matter and dark energy
(well, unknown so far, but measurable). Particles have
wave nature, too.

Non-Physical = Something _not_ "physical". The Non-Physical can be regarded
as a Fixed Point, but it is less well defined compared to
the Physical. The Non-Physical is for example souls/spirits
or astral worlds.

In-Between State = The bardo state between incarnations. This state is
regarded to be Non-Physical.

Consciousness = A mind/spirit/soul which is Non-Physical and over time
moves between incarnations and In-Between States. When I
use the words "person" or "human" for someone in the
In-Between State, I usually refer to the Non-Physical
Consciousness.

Physical/Non-Physical Interaction = There is some interaction between
the Physical and the Non-Physical.
I don't know how the interactions works,
I just assume the interaction exists,
otherwise incarnations and spirit
possessions would not be possible.


Considerations
==============

(A.) If my Definitions above are invalid or can be improved in any way, you
are free to make any changes in order to enhance your answers.

(B.) If there is a clear risk of misconcepts, the Fixed Point concept may
have to be changed. For example, if there are no Fixed Points regardless
of viewpoint, it may be unclear to me what answer I have got.


Questions
=========

QUESTION 1:
Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?


QUESTION 2:
Can a human in the Physical (in incarnation), help a stuck person (who is
in the In-Between State) become un-stuck? Un-Stuck = meaning that the
(previously) stuck person can now move on (possible to another incarnation)?
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 10, 2012 12:10 am

QUESTION 1:
Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?


Yes, that is a ghost realm or more accurately hungry ghost realm-this includes demi gods (not heavenly gods since they belong to the heavenly realms), spirits, mountain spirits or gods, tree, and all kinds of spirits, land gods, etc. Karma has lead sentient beings to this realm and 5 other realms.

QUESTION 2:
Can a human in the Physical (in incarnation), help a stuck person (who is
in the In-Between State) become un-stuck? Un-Stuck = meaning that the
(previously) stuck person can now move on (possible to another incarnation)?


Yes you can. With all your heart, you can recite mantras, a Buddha name, and release live animals (these animals will be cooked instantly if not rescue them, buy them and release them), donate your or his/her wealth (if there is any) to help the hungry, sick, or to help keep Dharma alive. By doing these, you are creating merits and say that you dedicate these merits to the person ( his or her name). Merits is the good thinking and the good things that you do for others. Saving live of animals has big merits because you are giving your money, givng animals their lives back, and if you take refuge for the animals, you are giving Dharma. So there are 3 type of merits there in one.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Thundering Cloud » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:07 am

bardoq wrote:
Physical = That something is "physical" is a Fixed Point. Anything which
repeatedly can be detected by science in terms of particle or
quantum physics is regarded to be "physical", be it atoms
(neutrons, electrons, protons), light or electromagnetism
(photons), radiation (various particles including neutrinos),
higher order particles (higgs, other bosons, leptons, hadrons),
anti-matter (positrons, etc), dark matter and dark energy
(well, unknown so far, but measurable). Particles have
wave nature, too.


This can be subtler than it may appear, due to interdependency. I'll try to illustrate with an example. Electric charges are detected by measuring their interaction with other electric charges. Quantities of charge are measured the same way, by observing the forces imparted on other known charges. Given that, imagine a universe with no electric charges -- say one composed only of dark matter (which in some theories is electromagnetically non-interacting). What would happen if a single charged particle were to appear in such a universe? The answer is nothing at all -- without other charged particles to interact with, the charge of this particle cannot be measured or detected within that universe in any way. It is, by your definition, non-physical. Only by adding two or more electric charges is anything measurably changed in that universe at all. Put another way: per your definitions, a set of electric charges is physical, but an individual electric charge is not. In a sense, you could say that they cause each other to be physical.

What I'm getting at is that I think the physicality of things may not be as much of a "fixed point" as it might seem. I realize this does more to undermine your questions than to answer them, but hopefully it helps. :smile:
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Tilopa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 1:34 am

bardoq wrote: Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?

According to the traditional Tibetan presentation the answer is no. The longest a being stays in the bardo is 49 days.
See this teaching by HH Dalai Lama: http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=383

Can a human ... help a stuck person (who is in the In-Between State) become un-stuck?

Beings don't get 'stuck' in the bardo they pass through it on the way to their next life but tantric rituals, pujas and prayers can help them into a better rebirth than they might otherwise get. It is also said that accomplished Lamas can hook a bardo beings consciousness and transfer it to a higher rebirth or pure land.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Josef » Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:20 am

Tilopa wrote:
bardoq wrote: Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?

According to the traditional Tibetan presentation the answer is no. The longest a being stays in the bardo is 49 days.
See this teaching by HH Dalai Lama: http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=383

Can a human ... help a stuck person (who is in the In-Between State) become un-stuck?

Beings don't get 'stuck' in the bardo they pass through it on the way to their next life but tantric rituals, pujas and prayers can help them into a better rebirth than they might otherwise get. It is also said that accomplished Lamas can hook a bardo beings consciousness and transfer it to a higher rebirth or pure land.

They can however take birth as beings that we would ordinarily consider to be "ghosts" or "spirits".
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Tilopa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:34 am

Nangwa wrote:They can however take birth as beings that we would ordinarily consider to be "ghosts" or "spirits".

Correct. Life as a spirit is one of the 6 types of desire realm rebirth but hungry ghosts and other spirits aren't stuck in the bardo - they've been born in their world just as we have been born in ours and on their journey from the last life to the present one they passed through the intermediate state.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Josef » Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:46 am

Tilopa wrote:
Nangwa wrote:They can however take birth as beings that we would ordinarily consider to be "ghosts" or "spirits".

Correct. Life as a spirit is one of the 6 types of desire realm rebirth but hungry ghosts and other spirits aren't stuck in the bardo - they've been born in their world just as we have been born in ours and on their journey from the last life to the present one they passed through the intermediate state.

In the context of the op it makes sense to acknowledge the areas of overlap as they may relate to his or her experience.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Mar 10, 2012 2:51 pm

LastLegend wrote:
QUESTION 1:
Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?


Yes, that is a ghost realm or more accurately hungry ghost realm-this includes demi gods (not heavenly gods since they belong to the heavenly realms), spirits, mountain spirits or gods, tree, and all kinds of spirits, land gods, etc. Karma has lead sentient beings to this realm and 5 other realms.
Your answer is not quite correct LastLegend. Beings are born as hungry ghosts, demi gods, etc. They belong (in the case of demi gods, hungry
ghosts, hell beings, humans and animals) in the Desire realm (Kamaloka) and in the case of heavenly gods either the Rupaloka or the Arupaloka. They are not trapped in the bardo of death.
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:01 pm

There is a bardo of death? Like Tilopa said the longest stay in bardo is 49 days. Why?
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby justsit » Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:36 pm

There are six bardos. See rigpawiki.

For a more complete explanation, see Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Mind Beyond Death.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby LastLegend » Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:51 pm

I see
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Mar 10, 2012 5:11 pm

I think this answer I gave you in FS is in line with the rest:

There is no such thing as a soul to become stuck. Here's what I understand briefly about the 'bardo of becoming' , without looking things up:

The period consciousness abides in the Bardo depends upon Karma Vipaka (the fruit of actions).

If a being experiences the results of much negative karma they move quickly on to a lower rebirth.

If a being experiences the results of much positive karma they move quickly on to a positive rebirth.

Some beings spend a long time in the Bardo. I have heard that some even take rebirth there (a view I heard from one monk but not elsewhere).

A properly executed Powa (Phowa) ritual can direct consciousness to rebirth in a Pure Land (karma vipaka determining which one).

Ideally the Phowa (transference of consciousness) takes place as soon as possible after death, but may still be effective as much as 49 days after the death of the body, according to tradition.

I have also heard that even beings who have been in the Bardo for a long period can also be helped through Phowa (again the view of one monk).

I do not believe anything physical or mental is fixed, and also conclude that the mind and consciousness are not tied to a physical being. As there is no evidence of a mind being born or dying, I believe in a mental continuum. Culturally, this may be strange for people to accept, as superficially they see 'birth' and 'death', yet even physical death is determined by signs which change over time - breathing, heartbeat, brain activity etc.

I hope that helps. ;)
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Mar 10, 2012 6:40 pm

bardoq wrote:I tried to send these 2 questions to a monk some time ago, but have gotten
no answer. Anyone may respond.

Long intro but short questions at bottom.


First let me congratulate you for such a well framed set of questions.
I'll try to help, but don't count too much on my knowledge or insight. Still, I'll try not to err.

Background
[...]
Considerations
==============

(A.) If my Definitions above are invalid or can be improved in any way, you
are free to make any changes in order to enhance your answers.

(B.) If there is a clear risk of misconcepts, the Fixed Point concept may
have to be changed. For example, if there are no Fixed Points regardless
of viewpoint, it may be unclear to me what answer I have got.


Let me try to answer without altering your definitions that I'll take in a broad sense.
Questions
=========

QUESTION 1:
Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?


Let me guess. You ask this because of ghosts?
I'll answer according to the pov of the Tibetan schools.

Once a human dies, he is no longer a human. To be a human you need to reunite a certain set of characteristics. One of them is having a body. When you die, your body will dissolve into its constituents, no longer being of use. What remains is a mental body that, according to your definition is not physical.
The after death scenarios are quite variable. But it's agreed that the being in the bardo can still see the physical world, but his senses are altered and no longer subjected to the limitations of his incarnated experience. So he can move really fast and it is said that he can perceive your thoughts, something that can also be achieved through practice during life. It's also said that he can remain at most 49 days in this intermediate bardo experience. So that would mean that next the being would have to take another rebirth. How would that leave us regarding ghosts or "spirits" or other entities that don't have a physical body? The thing is, this being can be reborn as a pretta, a hungry ghost or an asura or other form of being that can manifest without having a body that we can usually perceive. This may happen for many causes that aren't directly related to your question. There are cases of practitioners who messed up and ended up taking rebirth as malevolent spirits that can hinder others who establish a relation with them. They can deceive these practitioners and hinder their lives for self gain.
It's always important to remember that descriptions of the classes of beings are summaries. There are many variations.
QUESTION 2:
Can a human in the Physical (in incarnation), help a stuck person (who is
in the In-Between State) become un-stuck? Un-Stuck = meaning that the
(previously) stuck person can now move on (possible to another incarnation)?

Yes. The same way you can help any being, human or not. You can seed causes to help this being. There are many ways to do this. Some practices can be performed near the time of death (previously and after) to help him gain a favorable rebirth or even attain enlightenment (phowa and shitro come to mind for instance).
Even after the being takes another rebirth, we can still try to seed causes that revert in his favor. Of course the effectiveness of these practices depend on factors like the achievements of those performing them and the karma of the deceased being. The first factor can be compared to a dike and the karma of the individual to the river. The outcome will vary. If the dike is strong, it will affect the direction of the river. If the river is strong and the dike is weak, it won't help much. You get the picture.

In my answers I avoided to enter in concepts like emptiness, unsubstantiality and others, so they are from the conventional perspective. By conventional I mean teachings that apply to the temporary, the relative and not the ultimate. It wouldn't make sense otherwise since the questions you pose deal solely with it. If you, on the other hand, asked if Buddhists believe in a soul that travels from one body to the other, then I would have to give you a deeper answer that would deal with the ontology according to Buddhism. But I think this would only confuse you right now and wouldn't address your questions.
I'm sorry if my assumptions about your questions having some relation with ghosts/spirits etc are off mark, but it seemed to me that your concern somehow was related to similar topics.

I hope I helped you to clarify your doubts.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby bardoq » Sat Mar 10, 2012 7:18 pm

Thank you everyone for your answers, they are very interesting. I'm still reading the links. :)

Some of my follow-up questions and some comments of mine below:

Tilopa wrote:
bardoq wrote: Can a human, after death, get stuck in the In-Between State for several years?

According to the traditional Tibetan presentation the answer is no. The longest a being stays in the bardo is 49 days.
See this teaching by HH Dalai Lama: http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=383

That was a very interesting link. I have some questions.

Physical death in the physical world means that the physical body dies and doesn't work any more.
But how is "death" in the bardo, after those 7 days, defined? What is meant by "death" in the bardo?
What exactly dies?

Has anyone observed this death? why 7 times 7 days? It's almost too exact, like the scientific statement
that Moon orbits Earth every 28th day. Why max 49 days? How has it been confirmed? How does anyone know
that consciousness in bardo "dies" at all?

And further, how is a spirit born from the bardo state? What is the difference between the consciousness in the (max 49? day)
bardo and a spirit? To me both are spirits, meaning they are non-physical consciousness/person/individual, right?

What does it mean to "be born" (by whom as mother?) as a spirit?

Tilopa wrote:
Can a human ... help a stuck person (who is in the In-Between State) become un-stuck?

Beings don't get 'stuck' in the bardo they pass through it on the way to their next life but tantric rituals, pujas and prayers can help them into a better rebirth than they might otherwise get. It is also said that accomplished Lamas can hook a bardo beings consciousness and transfer it to a higher rebirth or pure land.

Does it have to be a Lama? What does the Lama do, to help transfer the consciousness?

What's the difference between a ghost and a spirit?

-

Also, justsit, thanks for your bardo link, I may have heard that there was more than one bardo, but didn't have that link.

-

Dechen Norbu wrote:Let me guess. You ask this because of ghosts?

. . .

How would that leave us regarding ghosts or "spirits" or other entities that don't have a physical body? The thing is, this being can be reborn as a pretta, a hungry ghost or an asura or other form of being that can manifest without having a body that we can usually perceive. This may happen for many causes that aren't directly related to your question. There are cases of practitioners who messed up and ended up taking rebirth as malevolent spirits that can hinder others who establish a relation with them. They can deceive these practitioners and hinder their lives for self gain.

Well, yes I probably think of ghosts, haunted houses, dead people showing themselves for the living in their
physical homes, etc. So my questions are related to that kind of things.

It's very common in the Western world, through TV, books or Internet to talk about helping people stuck
in some kind of afterlife close to the physical world. Usually when shown in TV, a "medium" comes to a
home which is "haunted". The medium can communicate with the dead and help that person move into
"the light", sometimes many decades after the person has passed away.

I want to know if this is true and what point of view there could be in other religions on these retrievals
of stuck dead people.


How does some people end up as malevolent spirits? And why do they become malevolent?
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Jikan » Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:15 pm

bardoq wrote:How does some people end up as malevolent spirits? And why do they become malevolent?


Bad habits in the present: afflictions such as aggression & hatred, grasping after things as "mine" and lusting after more and more, fundamental ignorance...
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Mar 10, 2012 9:20 pm

There are also Pali Canon references.

The Tibetans did not invent the idea of an intermediate state, and it should not be easily dismissed as as a cultural accretion:

http://issuu.com/shimali/docs/antarabhava
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Tilopa » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:17 pm

bardoq wrote: Physical death in the physical world means that the physical body dies and doesn't work any more.But how is "death" in the bardo, after those 7 days, defined? What is meant by "death" in the bardo? What exactly dies?

You ask good questions but the answers are very involved. This book will help: http://www.snowlionpub.com/html/product_1117.html and detailed audio teachings can be found here: http://www.archive.org/details/Tse_Chen ... dies_03_04


Has anyone observed this death? why 7 times 7 days? It's almost too exact, like the scientific statement that Moon orbits Earth every 28th day. Why max 49 days? How has it been confirmed? How does anyone know that consciousness in bardo "dies" at all?

Buddha knows everything.

What is the difference between the consciousness in the bardo and a spirit? To me both are spirits, meaning they are non-physical consciousness/person/individual, right?

It's true they have similar characteristics but they're not exactly the same thing. The book I referenced above will clarify the distinction for you.

What does it mean to "be born" (by whom as mother?) as a spirit?

After death a being arises in the bardo and after the bardo it takes rebirth in one of the 6 realms. One of those 6 is the spirit realm. I'm not sure if they have parents, it's possible some do but iirc most are spontaneously born.

Does it have to be a Lama? What does the Lama do, to help transfer the consciousness?

It has to be someone with 1. clairvoyance so they can locate the bardo being 2. spiritual power so they can hook and transfer it's mind and 3. the karmic connection with the deceased person that allows 1 & 2 to occur. Exactly what a lama does to transfer someones consciousness I do not know but if there is no lama available as has already been said prayers, rituals and practices performed by ordinary people can also be of great benefit.

What's the difference between a ghost and a spirit?

Essentially the same thing. There are hundreds of different types.
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:20 pm

bardoq wrote:Physical death in the physical world means that the physical body dies and doesn't work any more.
But how is "death" in the bardo, after those 7 days, defined? What is meant by "death" in the bardo?
What exactly dies?
Compare it to the bardo of dream/sleep. What dies and what is born in this bardo? You see physical death is not so much a ending as it is a transition for the consciousness or the state of consciousness. Like in sleep, our habitual view of our body means we maintain a rudimentary imagined physical form similar to that of our waking state, so it is in the bardo of death. Read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, it describes all this stuff in great detail. I especially reccomend the Penguin edition.
What does it mean to "be born" (by whom as mother?) as a spirit?
The Buddha described four types of birth; by egg, moisture, womb and spontaneuos birth. Non-physical beings arise through spontaneous birth.
Does it have to be a Lama?
Nope, it can also be a spiritual friend.
Well, yes I probably think of ghosts, haunted houses, dead people showing themselves for the living in their physical homes, etc. So my questions are related to that kind of things.
The 49 days spent in the bardo are not 49 calender days. Again consider dreams. You can be asleep for 30 minutes yet live a whole lifetime during those 30 minutes in the bardo of sleep. Now beings in the bardo of death can interact with the physical world to a limited degree by interacting with the minds of beings with physical form. Also there are some human beings that can influence matter with their minds, so why would a purely mental being not be able to do the same?
:namaste:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby bardoq » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:27 pm

Tilopa wrote:
Has anyone observed this death? why 7 times 7 days? It's almost too exact, like the scientific statement that Moon orbits Earth every 28th day. Why max 49 days? How has it been confirmed? How does anyone know that consciousness in bardo "dies" at all?

Buddha knows everything.

But the Bardo was not part of the Buddha teachings? Or in what document does the Buddha state
that the Bardo existence may result in 7 deaths * 7 days = 49 days maximum?
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Re: Stuck souls?

Postby bardoq » Sun Mar 11, 2012 12:03 am

gregkavarnos wrote:The 49 days spent in the bardo are not 49 calender days. Again consider dreams. You can be asleep for 30 minutes yet live a whole lifetime during those 30 minutes in the bardo of sleep.

Are you sure that the max 49 days are not same as 49 days in the physical? Do you have a reference for that?

Scientist Stephen LaBerge has shown that time in dreams progress at about the same rate as time progresses in real life for similar events.

Edit: Corrected typo.
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