Osho valued the Bardo teachings as Tibet’s greatest gift to the world. What exactly is the Bardo about?

The essential point of the Bardo is the insight that everything that happens between birth, death and afterwards is a projection, when parts of our mind are unravelling. What we perceive is not objective. It is not the case that after death we go somewhere and meet a certain being. This idea is part of our mind. And every culture teaches people different things, “You shall see this and that.” People of a particular culture see what they have been programmed to see, varied by their own minds. Heaven and hell are the Jewish-Christian hypnosis. Bardo, goddesses and gods are the Tibetan hypnosis.

How are the Bardo teachings structured?

Bardo means ‘intermediate state’. The classical doctrine says that everything is a dream – whatever we call life, death or the intermediate state. The real trick is to watch the whole movie.

There are six Bardos:

  1. between birth and death
  2. when you sleep
  3. when you are in meditation
  4. the emergence of ‘clear light’ at the moment of death
  5. projections of ‘angry and peaceful deities’
  6. moving to another womb, the ‘Bardo of becoming’

What does ‘clear light’ mean?

That’s when suddenly the mind comes to a standstill and nothing is there. The clear, enlightened universe shows itself to you. It has always been there. The mind, that has darkened it, stops. If you are conscious at this moment – then the game is over! Free ride home!

The fifth Bardo is the period of time when your mind switches on with its projections. The Tibetans call them the ‘angry and peaceful deities’. People often think that this is the Bardo because it’s so scary and dramatic. If you can remember, “This is just a projection of my mind, I create it myself and observe it…” – as Krishnamurti says, “The observer is the observed.” But we usually don’t have a clue about how to observe because we create mind movies the whole day.

The sixth Bardo state is the ‘Bardo of becoming’. You travel around and find a new womb. But the whole trip is full of dreams! None of this has reality in the sense enlightened people use the term ‘reality’.

For me, it is important to go deeper and deeper into these teachings and relax.

What is different with Osho?

As I understand it, he says, “I will not tell you what you will see when you leave your body. I will help you to prepare, be awake and know that it is your own mind that creates all of this.” Because if we realize for a moment that “this is a dream, a projection of my mind, I create it myself and observe it,” we will be enlightened or have a good rebirth.

Some Bardo methods suggest that the dying person is accompanied by a confidant or a master at the time of death. What do you think about this?

To have a person close-by can be of some help. The really big help is what you do from this moment on. Osho radically disassociates himself from all earlier traditions. Every tradition I know has a series of exercises. They’re supposed to create an alternative mind – whether mantras, visualizations or thought systems. When you see your conditionings and their counterpart, you can realize that both are mind structures.

In my understanding, Osho’s fundamental approach is: “Letting go is the way. Be careful what you let go of. As your karma unfolds, watch it.” This is Osho’s teaching for us. And: “Live naturally. Let go of everything you’ve learned and let go of the unreal.” In the end, this insight is the same as what the deep Buddhist or Hindu ways of knowing teach. We realize: “I do not exist!”

The notion of the I is a real joke. But that shouldn’t remain an intellectual idea. It must be our own experience. Well… impatience is one of our biggest obstacles. The more we try, the longer it takes. These highest teachings remind us that we have already arrived. Nothing has a real identity: yourself, there is no computer, no Germany (we spoke via Skype from Germany, ed.). It’s all dreamlike, samsara and nirvana are identical. They are temporary things arising out of the eternal ground of being.

Let’s go back to accompanying the dying friend. For example, a friend has terminal cancer. Can his inner witness be supported from the outside?

Yes, if you actually have your most conscious friend by your side. If you know who’s enlightened, it’s fantastic. But even someone who has developed their fourth body can get instructions and guidance from Osho. To my knowledge, Osho speaks of it – as well as Meher Baba – that masters are constantly reachable through their advanced disciples.

My experience with dying people is that there is always a kind of ‘psychic dialogue’. You ask and an answer comes. Even if they are in a coma the dialogue continues. I hope that Maneesha’s hospice Sammasati will take off, it will be a great thing!

How would such an ‘inner dialogue’ be?

I’ve experienced it myself. I was totally surprised when it happened to me for the first time – with my father-in-law who had liver cancer with metastases and had been in a coma for two or three days. He hated Osho and thought it was the worst thing that could have happened to his daughter and me. We sat with him during the last night, and suddenly it started; I said things from the inside of me, like: “Stay awake… you’re not one of the memories that are coming up… allow the fear… don’t fall asleep, Harold…” It went on for an hour. Then he said goodbye, and inside myself it felt as if he was saying, “Take it easy!”

My teacher in the Himalayas, an enlightened disciple of Osho, had hammered it into me once: “There is a moment to moment intelligence that can lead us.”

In 1986 I asked Osho in Bombay a question because I had the jitters about what would happen if he died or I died. I heard him say, “Go deep into your love and trust, and I will be there – anytime and anywhere. Even on the other side of the moon. And if you go deeper, also time doesn’t matter anymore.” This is becoming more and more my own experience.

Today I work as a psychiatrist in hospitals. People come to me, one or two days after an attempted suicide. Often, they go home with a new orientation. They understand that meditation can bring about a significant change in their lives. They don’t need medication. That’s Osho’s presence, not so much what I’m telling them. It’s always true. I experience that every day. Something happened to me, something unusual. I don’t know how many lives I will need. I don’t care as much as I used to. My impatience is diminishing every year.

What have your Tibetan Bardo teachers passed on to you?

I once visited my teacher Khenpo Kathar Rinpoche and asked him to teach me how I could design the Bardo teachings in a modern way. In essence, he explained to me that his way of thinking was traditional, but that I would understand the zeitgeist so well that I could update the teachings myself. The encounter with this immensely wise and revered teacher was full of love and gave me much strength.

In 1978 I participated in a workshop with Khen-chen Thrangu Rinpoche in America and I asked him, “Thrangu, when I started practicing the visualizations, I always got very clear pictures. But the more I practice Osho’s meditations, the harder it is to create and maintain these images.”

He looked at me and laughed all over his face, “Are you with Osho?”

I said,”Yes, sir!”

He said, “Then you just relax!”

I would like to emphasize that again and again. Especially Germans try so hard. Osho’s teaching is: Letting go is the way. Let the natural unfold by relaxing deeper and deeper.

I have this idea that the Tibetan way is very strenuous. Is that so?

During the first five levels of Tibetan methods you swim against the current. In the beginning you do 400,000 half-hour exercises. Then comes a retreat that lasts for three years, three months and three days. You’re in isolation, sitting in a box. During these three years, you won’t even sleep. All you see is your teacher who occasionally comes by to see if you’re still alive. I have met a few people who have participated. One, for example, had bitten into his own flesh, other people freaked out. Most of the Westerners who did these Tibetan practices are in their heads. They don’t have the deep relaxation of Osho sannyasins. We are so relaxed that we think nothing has happened to us – because we have done nothing. But, in truth, unbelievable things have happened, we become so wide and full of love. Not that we are spreading a teaching, our mere presence carries this teaching.

What can I do to become more present? I realize in rare moments how insecure my life is and how unimportant all events are. What could help me to become more aware?

A sannyasin, I think it was German Farid, once asked Osho, “What methods can I use to increase my consciousness?” In the sense of: “It feels so good to be conscious. Is there some way that it could be more?” Osho’s answer blew me away! I remember him saying something like, “What comes naturally to you, you can’t lose. With every effort it is like climbing a mountain and then falling back down into the valley.” And that is so diametrically opposite to any other tradition. They say, “Do it!” or “Try this method!” My whole education consisted of the method of trying and achieving something. Osho is about finding the trick that things can just happen. That’s great! And even if it simply happens you again say, “Okay, how will I do it next time?”

After studying Osho’s discourses on the topic of the Bardo, where he gives answers on death and dying, you created an audio compilation of essential quotes that can be downloaded from your website. Suppose someone learns that they are about to die, how can they use this platform?

Listen to them. Start at the beginning and listen to each quote at least three times. I heard Osho say that his most important instrument were his discourses – his discourses. All other methods are for people who cannot listen. But if you can listen to them, the work will go as fast as possible. Even if you’re dying, you can hear them.

Bodhicitta, as the Tibetan scriptures often end: “May all sentient beings benefit from these teachings.” Thank you!

Based on an interview by Nirbija, first published in the German Osho Times