Swift to liberate: teachings on the stages leading to rebirth and the initiation of Green Tara

On the first day of October, we welcomed Lama Jampa Thaye to the Future Inn, Bristol, for a day of teachings on liberation. Well over 100 people gathered together from the UK and farther afield to hear teachings on dying, the intermediate state and rebirth, along with receiving the initiation of the goddess Tara, the one who protects from all fears.

For the morning teachings on the intermediate state between death and rebirth (bardo in Tibetan), Lama Jampa taught ‘Liberation Through Hearing in the Bardo’, a text by the great 19th century Nyingma master, Chogyur Dechen Lingpa. This treasure revealer (Tibetan: terton) was the last of the 108 tertons prophesied by the 8th century Indian master Padmasambhava, whose teachings were concealed as treasures and then later revealed by the future emanations of his disciples.

In introducing the teachings, Lama Jampa highlighted the special connection with the author through his teacher, Karma Thinley Rinpoche, whose family is related to that of the great terton himself. He then explained that the purpose of the text is to guide Buddhist practitioners through the various stages before taking birth, so that one can use the bardo state to achieve enlightenment to benefit others. Whilst the text is briefer than the more detailed presentations, for example those by Karma Lingpa and in the great ‘Path and its Fruit’ system in Sakya, it contains all that is needed to bring the experience of dying onto the path.

The text itself begins with the fundamental teachings in Buddhism, in particular impermanence, which at death shows itself in the most dramatic way possible. Following the dissolution of our body and the withdrawal of our senses, we then navigate the dreamlike state of the bardo, unfettered by a physical form, yet encountering intense sounds and visual experiences. If we are able to see these as the clear light nature of our own mind, it is possible to achieve liberation, closing the door to further rebirth in the cycle of birth and death.

In the afternoon, Lama Jampa gave the initiation of Green Tara from the lineage of the great master Shakya Shribhadra. The goddess Tara is renowned for protecting practitioners from fear; in fact her very name means ‘She who liberates’.

Lama Jampa closed by reflecting how wonderful it was that everyone came together for the recent visit of His Holiness Kyabgon Gongma Trichen Rinpoche in London, along with expressing the wish that we are able to welcome him and his sons, HH Ratna Vajra Rinpoche and HH Gyana Vajra Rinpoche (the current and 43rd head of the Sakya tradition) back to England soon.

We also learnt that, from 19 November in London – further details can be found here – Lama Jampa will give the incredibly important work by Sakya Pandita called ‘Discriminating the Three Vows’. This teaching will then continue in both Bristol and London during the coming year, so we look forward to receiving this text when Lama Jampa returns in January.