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Prayer and compassion





Being with a dying friend
-by Sam-

While my friend Anna was dying there were periods when she would hallucinate wildly. The first night I looked after her on my own was during one of these. She was seeing gremlins darting under the hospice chairs, and there were transparent little kittens and puppies which came and wagged their tails or miaouwed silently, begging for full materialisation. I was pretty shaky myself. When I tried to adjust the bed height the bed shot up as high as it would go; then I pressed the wrong thing again and the bedhead doubled forward like it was going to squish her. "Abbott and Costello meet Death" I said, but I don't think she heard it.

She wanted to play this cassette she had been listening to a lot, and finally we got the Walkman sorted out with two sets of headphones, and sat there with our heads almost touching in a tangle of cables:

Our nature is basically an emptiness With the qualities of creating and knowing. Pure consciousness not formed into anything.

This is the basic truth of existence...

The voice was quiet and reasonable; the synth music in the background eerie, but not pushing it.

The whole thing was presented in a relaxed, almost amateurish way, which somehow seemed to make it more credible.

"As our consciousness weaves in and out of the time- stream, through life, death and rebirth, we lose touch with all but the denser vibrations of human existence. We forget that non-being, the emptiness, is as much part of our existence as being. The whole aim of meditation is to make us aware of our multidimensional existence."

Anna sat up straight and became centred, listening intently, and I could feel the same trance stealing over me: it's a masterly hypnotic induction. Veetman has the faintest of accents, and that sucked me still further in: the Void having a German accent.

"Between being and becoming, between ego and emptiness, exists the world of light and thought- called by some the transit world and by others the astral plane. This world has as much reality, or unreality, as the physical plane, yet is less dense, more subtle, fluid, vibrating at a faster or higher frequency. It is less tangible to us, yet as such readily influenced by our thoughts. This world is made of the very substance of thought- thought being the primal form of matter."

What the recording does is to put you into the witness -
and not  let you budge from there.

How close it is to the Tibetan original, the Bardo Thodol , I couldn't say; but as it progresses through a distinctly scary account of physical death, through the revelation of the Clear Light, through the falling away from the Godhead into the Bardo landscape of visions, colours and sounds, what does become more and more pronounced is the existential change it is bringing about. You have been returned to your original nature, and become capable of accepting and witnessing anything whatsoever.

What the recording does is remove all fear.

Over the last few weeks of Anna's life the tape became a standby. Whenever she got really confused she'd put it on. This ability to put herself, almost at will, into a witnessing consciousness amidst the pain and fear was enormously liberating. One night, near the end, we had been listening to a Barry Long tape on Death and Dying, which seemed to me to be both wise and practical, but Anna said: "That's about death for the living - but the Bardo tape is about death for the dying..."

What higher recommendation can one give?

                                     om mani padme hum

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