The dissolution of life forces
Human beings live on energy flows. During dying process, the earth dissolves into water and human cannot support his body weight. When the water dissolves into fire, he becomes thirsty. When the fire dissolves into wind; he felt cold. When the wind dissolves into space; the man stops breathing. Finally, the space dissolves into consciousness. His vision turns white and his consciousness enters into his heart chakra. At the same time, a red light rises from the bottom. Both red and white light united momentarily in the heart chakra. This is the moment of the union of mahamudra (大手印).
Anyone who can grasp this moment and meditate in such a situation, he will achieve enlightenment. An accomplish lama can meditate on the state of mahamudra for a few days but an ordinary people only experiences it as a flash.
If the opportunity to enter the state of mahamudra is lost, then the deceased will fall into a long sleep normally lasted for 2 to 3 days.
The deceased's consciousness remained in his heart chakra for another 7 days and experiences further energy dissolution in the heart chakra. This is the time to recognize the so-called 42 peaceful deities of intermediate state.
Failure to recognize this, the consciousness will be lifted to the crown chakra and stayed there for another 7 days where it further experiences the 58 wrathful deities.
If the deceased failed to be liberated, then his energy level will descend to the throat chakra and he must recognize the 10 vidya-raja (持明).
Then the deceased will descend to the navel chakra when it further meets with 5 dakinis.
If the dead soul yet failed, it will descend into the base chakra and faces the Vajrakila slaughter house.
All of the above narrations are symbolically speaking of course. Beyond this point, the dead soul is said to have entered into the decisive 'intermediate state'. Further journey would determine the becoming of this dead soul. After that, the dead soul just have to wait to move to the other side (reincarnation).
The intermediate beings
Ordinary people would think that an intermediate being as 'ghost' but this is not really true as it can be a prospect demon, god, human, hungry ghost, animal and hell being. The duration of intermediate beings vary.
My late father, grandmother and aunt are all still in their intermediate states and I don't know how long will they stay in their intermediate states.
Interestingly speaking, I found out that intermediate beings cannot see the presence of other intermediate beings. When I saw my late father's soul, he is always alone. So is my grandma and my aunt.
Once I was approached by a dead soul asking for food. I told it to go with others to a shrine where the food offering ceremony was held. It gave me a blank face and asked: "What others? I didn't see anyone around."
The shape of intermediate beings
I was forced by my guru to mediate beside the dead to understand the human dying process. Interestingly I found that intermediate beings are normally dark grey in color and measured about 3 feet tall.
They feed on the scent of incense or steamy hot foods. Because intermediate beings do not have a physical body, they are easily dispersed by breeze. In order to prevent being blown away by wind, these beings normally congregate in the corner of a building or a place with poor air circulations.
Most dead rituals failed to deliver dead souls
Sad to say that most dead ceremonies I have attended have failed to send the intermediate beings away. My late father, grandma and aunt are still around until today although Buddhist dead rituals were performed by experienced masters.
There are many reasons that an intermediate beings refused to leave. It could be that they have lost their golden opportunities to be liberated, or that these folks were not spiritually inclined or they have no religious beliefs.
For example: If a person who was a free thinker, his soul cannot be sent to the Pure Land that he has no interest in during his life. Likewise, if a person has no understanding of Tibetan Buddhism, his soul cannot be liberated with transference of consciousness method.
Countering the fear of intermediate states
Starting from beginning, Tibetan Buddhist rituals are meant to prepare a person for dying. It might be funny to hear that we must take a whole life time to learn how to die but there are reasons:
- We will travel alone when we die and that is absolutely sure. It doesn't matter if we are high and mighty kings or we are beggars; each of us will travel our last journey alone. Tantric rituals trained us to isolate ourselves so that we are not afraid of being alone during dying process.
- I have experienced many dying processes and I can definitely say that I was always alone walking towards the tunnel with bright light from the other end. If it had not been my Yidam that has blocked my way; I am already passed away by now. So, holding to your Yidam is of utmost important when you are alone in the intermediate state.
- During dying process, we will not be able to bring anything except our beliefs torards gurus, dakini and our thought forms such as our Yidam (本尊). Only our imaginary beings can accompany us after we died.
In short, if you are feeling lonely now; then you are blessed as you are likely to have lesser sufferings in your intermediate states. However, if you are always in a group of big companies, then it is worthwhile to take a retreat and experience what you have not experienced before.
I have many rich friends who are afraid of staying alone and at night. Then I can only pity these folks as these people will surely suffer during their dying process. I have seen many lost souls outside nightclubs and bars that failed to move on because they are afraid to accept the fact that they are already dead. Sadly, I am not obliged to help those who cannot help themselves.