Death & Transformation
In the Sacred Tarot, Arcanum 13 is pictured as a skeleton, with the Keywords of Death & Transformation. When this card appears in a reading, there is usually a certainly amount of consternation from the person receiving the reading. As part of the process of gathering cross-cultural references to this Arcanum, I think this piece by Trungpa Rinpoche adds a great deal to a wider perspective on the Nature of Arcanum 13.
STUDENT: Could you discuss what it is that reincarnates, especially in relation to the Theravadin doctrine of anatman, egolessness?
TRUNGPA RINPOCHE: Well, from the point of view of anatman, nothing reincarnates. It is more of a rebirth process rather than reincarnation. The idea of reincarnation is that a solid, living quality is being passed on to the next being. It is the idea of some solid substance being passed on. But in this case, it’s more of a rebirth. You see, something continues, but at the same time, noting continues. In a sense we’re like a running stream. You could say, such and such a river, such and such a stream. It has a name, but if you examine it carefully, that river you named three hundred years ago isn’t there at all: it is completely different, changing, passing all the time. It is transforming from one aspect to another. That complete transformation makes it possible to take rebirth. If one thing continued all the time there would be no possibilities for taking rebirth and evolving into another situation. It is the change which is important in terms of rebirth, rather than one thing continuing.
Chögyam Trungpa, Transcending Madness. The Experience of the Six Bardos, Shambhala, Boston & London, 1992, p. 20.