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Peaceful Deities from the Mandala of Hundred Peaceful and Wrathful Deities

Bardo (Skt. antarābhava, Tib. བར་དོ་, Wyl. bar do) — commonly used to denote the intermediate state between death and rebirth, but in reality bardos are occurring continuously, throughout both life and death, and are junctures at which the possibility of liberation, or enlightenment, is heightened.

Literal Meaning

Sogyal Rinpoche writes:

Bardo is a Tibetan word that simply means a “transition” or a gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another. Bar means “in between,” and do means “suspended” or “thrown.”


The different bardos can be categorized into four or six:

The Four Bardos

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  1. the natural bardo of this life which begins when a connection with a new birth is first made and continues until the conditions that will certainly lead to death become manifest.
  2. the painful bardo of dying which begins when these conditions manifest and continues until the 'inner respiration' ceases and the luminosity of the dharmakaya dawns.
  3. the luminous bardo of dharmata which lasts from the moment the dharmakaya luminosity dawns after death and continues until the visions of precious spontaneous perfection are complete.
  4. the karmic bardo of becoming which lasts from the moment the bardo body is created and continues until the connection with a new rebirth is made.

The Six Bardos

The four above with the addition of:

5. the bardo of meditation (Skt. samādhyantarābhava; Tib. བསམ་གཏན་གྱི་བར་དོ་, Wyl. bsam gtan gyi bar do)
6. the bardo of dreaming (Skt. svapanāntarābhava; Tib. རྨི་ལམ་གྱི་བར་དོ་, Wyl. rmi lam gyi bar do)

These two bardos are part of the natural bardo of this life.


Dzogchen Tantras

  • Union of the Sun and Moon (Tib. ཉི་ཟླ་ཁ་སྦྱོར་, Wyl. nyi zla kha sbyor)
  • Self-arising Primordial Awareness (Tib. རིག་པ་རང་ཤར་, Wyl. rig pa rang shar)


Instruction Manuals


  • Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, བར་དོ་སྤྱིའི་དོན་ཐམས་ཅད་གསལ་བར་བྱེད་པ་དྲན་པའི་མེ་ལོང་, bar do spyi'i don thams cad gsal bar byed pa dran pa'i me long (see English translation below)

Alternative Translations of the Term 'Bardo'

  • transitional process (Wallace)

Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

Further Reading

  • Chögyam Trungpa, Transcending Madness: The Experience of the Six Bardos, The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Six.
  • Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, The Bardo Guidebook, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1991
  • Dudjom Rinpoche, 'An Introduction to the Bardo' in Counsels from My Heart, Shambhala 2001, pages 59-75
  • Dzogchen Ponlop, Mind Beyond Death (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 2006)
  • His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Pure Appearance—Development and Completion Stages in the Vajrayana Practice (Halifax: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 2002), Ch. 2 & 3. (restricted publication)
  • Padmasambhava, Natural Liberation—Padmasambhava’s Teachings on the Six Bardos, commentary by Gyatrul Rinpoche, translated by Allan Wallace (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1998, 2008)
  • Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, revised and updated edition, Harper San Francisco, 2002.
  • Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, Mirror of Mindfulness: The Cycle of the Four Bardos, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boston & Shaftesbury: Shambhala, 1989).
  • Tulku Thondup, Enlightened Journey—Buddhist Practice as Daily Life, edited by Harold Talbott (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1995), Ch.6 'Preparing for the Bardo'.
  • Tulku Thondup, Peaceful Death, Joyful Rebirth (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2005)
  • Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, Rainbow Painting: A Collection of Miscellaneous Aspects of Development and Completion (North Atlantic Books, 2004), 'Bardo' chapter.
  • See the Tibetan Book of the Dead article for English translations & further reading

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