March 22, 2011

The Wisdom of Uncertainty.

“Bardo is a Tibetan word that simply means a ‘transition’ or a gap between the completion of one situation and the onset of another…

One of the central characteristics of the bardos is that they are periods of deep uncertainty. Take this life as a prime example. As the world around us becomes more turbulent, so our lives become more fragmented. Out of touch and disconnected from ourselves, we are anxious, restless, and often paranoid. A tiny crisis pricks the balloon of the strategies we hind behind. A single moment of panic shows us how precarious and unstable everything is…

Anyone looking honestly at life will see that we live in a constant state of suspense and ambiguity. Our minds are perpetually shifting in and out of confusion and clarity. If only we were confused all the time, that would at least make for some kind of clarity. What is really baffling about life is that sometimes, despite all our confusion, we can also be really wise! This shows us what the bardo is: a continuous, unnerving oscillation between clarity and confusion, bewilderment and insight, certainty and uncertainty, sanity and insanity. In our minds, as we are now, wisdom and confusion arise simultaneously, or as we say, are ‘co-emergent.’ This means that we face a continuous state of choice between the two, and that everything depends on which we will choose.

This constant state of uncertainty may make everything seem bleak and almost hopeless; but if you look more deeply at it, you will see that its very nature creates gaps, spaces in which profound chances and opportunities for transformation are continuously flowering— if, that is, they can be seen and seized… “~from The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying by Sogyal Rinpoche

Having discovered the gap between thoughts, simply rest there. This is the ground of being… The space from which all possibilities emerge. The point of meditation— that is to say, what the practice is pointing at— is this space, and resting in this space is the Meditation.

Click here for instructions in the practice of Buddhist Meditation.

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TamingAuthor Mar 22, 2011 8:47pm

Sogyal Rinpoche also addresses our earlier discussion on other posts. Here is a quote:

"The buddhas recognize their original nature and become enlightened; we do not recognize that nature and so become confused. …. Our relative condition is that our intrinsic nature is obscured, and we need to follow the teachings and practice in order to return us to the truth. … Finally, to realize our original nature is to attain complete liberation and become a buddha."

Thus the path is one of discernment regarding the difference between the aggregate self and Buddha Self (our true nature). Too often we fall into the trap of denying Self and lose sight of the fact that the practice is really about discernment, not any of the various forms of nihilism.

When we fail to discern or our discernment work remains incomplete the bardos become filled with uncertainty. In the case of more advanced practitioners they work with and in the bardo stages and move about the various realms even in this life. They become guides who help the recently deceased (and others) make their way in the bardos. In a sense, they bring certainty and calmness and light to the bardos in order to serve other beings and reduce suffering.

Aurora Mar 22, 2011 5:52pm

Love this. Another word for Bardo is Liminal. I love what that word encapsulates.

Jill Barth Mar 22, 2011 4:12pm

THIS is what we stand upon. Thank you for this.

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Benjamin Riggs

Ben Riggs is the author of Finding God in the Body: A Spiritual Path for the Modern West. He is also the director of the Refuge Meditation Group in Shreveport, LA and a teacher at Explore Yoga. Ben writes extensively about Buddhist and Christian spirituality on Elephant Journal, and his blog. Click here to listen to the Finding God in the Body Podcast. To keep up with all of his work follow him on Facebook or Twitter.