The process of sleep and the process of death are related

The interview with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche was conducted by Dorothea Mihm (D. M.) D. M. : Rinpoche, what is the Dzogchen view about dying and death? Rinpoche : (laughs) The ultimate perspective of Dzogchen is: These is no death. From a relative point of view, we human beings have a body wherein our spirit resides and there is a separation between spirit and body and we call it death. The whole process of dying, death and the question of how one supports this process, particularly after death, is very important within Tibetan traditions. A lot of people live their whole spiritual life not specifically for this life, but for the spiritual life that follows after their demise. The process of dying and death, the dissolution and transformation of elements follows the sequence of earth, water, fire, air and space. It is a case of learning to maintain one’s consciousness during the dissolution process from the coarse to the ethereal. D. M. : Can you explain the various, so-called Bardos? Rinpoche : One usually talks about four Bardos: The life Bardo, the near-death Bardo, the Bardo of the clear light and the Bardo of existence. Bardo means intermediate state. All conditions we find ourself in, from waking life to death, are intermediate states. 1. The Bardo of life lasts from birth to terminal illness. 2. The timespan from the start of the terminal illness to the moment of dying is the near-death Bardo. 3. The Bardo of clear light follows death. It is initially an empty state from whence visions arise after a while. 4. When one begins to have visions, one find identities in regards to these visions. These identities in turn prepare a new birth, a new life. This is called the intermediate state of existence and it is the fourth Bardo. D. M. : Is this state also called the Bardo of rebirth? Rinpoche : Yes, it is the same. D. M. : In contrast to the people in the East, 99% of the people in the West direct their focus towards the Bardo of Life. Would you like to make a comment about this? Rinpoche : To begin with, there is a strong relationship to rebirth, to the next life in the East. This is why the people there have the feeling that they have a good chance to live a really long life (laughs). Maybe it’s a case where the people in the West think: “Let us live this life, because it is the only one,” They therefore direct their focus on this life only. I think that the belief in reincarnation or the doctrine of karma hardly plays a role in the Christianity dominated West. The result is that the people there concentrate on material things and on this life. And a lot of people are indeed very successful in the material world: They manage to fly to the Moon etc. These are powerful means to control the physical world or possibly the whole universe with. But once death arrives,