The Transition From Death to Rebirth: Part II: The Doctrine of H.P.B. and Her Teachers
The Bardo Thödol is couched entirely in the sacred terminology and iconography of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. As described by the text, all of the vizualizations appearing to the deceased as natural projections of his or her surviving psyche are drawn from the colorful and vivid Vajrayana pantheon of Buddha beings and their consorts and assistants.
Yet, as unique in the literature of thanatology, or perhaps eschatology, as the Bardo Thödol may be, it nonetheless describes in Buddhist terms a process that is universal, since everyone dies, including those who have never heard of Buddhism nor seen any sacred Tibetan iconography. One account of the Bardo Thödol that excludes its denominational (Vajrayana Buddhist) expressions in favor of universal expressions was, significantly, written 45 years prior to the first English translation made in 1927 by W.Y. Evans-Wentz. In an 1882 letter to A.P. Sinnett from the Adept Koot Hoomi, he states that “‘Bardo’ is the period between death and rebirth–and may last from a few years to a kalpa. It is divided into three sub-periods….”
In this and other letters, Koot Hoomi provides detailed teachings and observation about the transition from death to rebirth that track elements of the principles found in the Bardo Thödol, but without the many references to peaceful and wrathful deities that are the simulacra of Vajrayana Buddhism found in that text. The fundamentals of the two descriptions of dying and the post-mortem transition–that of the Bardo Thödol and those of Koot Hoomi and also H.P. Blavatsky–contain meaningful correspondences. The resulting comparison of the two approaches yields positive results in terms of a single and universalized understanding the process of dying, death, and rebirth extended to cover human beings of every culture and religion worldwide.