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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 25 |summer 2007 is our possession. And, therefore, we too spring into existence, as the possessors of that continu- ity. However, upon examination we discover that that continuity is dreamlike, illusory. It is not a continuous or substantial reality. It consists of single moments, which arise, dissolve, and arise again, like waves on an ocean. Therefore, this “I” arises and dissolves in each moment as well. It does not continue from one moment to the next. The “I” of one moment dissolves and is gone. The “I” of the next moment arises afresh. These two “I”s cannot be said to be the same or different, yet they are identified by conceptual mind as a single, continuous self. When this illusion of continuity comes to an end, however briefly, we have an opportunity to glimpse the deeper reality that underlies it. This is the true and abiding nature of the mind, which is inseparable from the mind and realization of Padmasambhava. It is the primordial awareness, the luminous wisdom, from which all phenomena spontaneously arise. This wisdom is unknowable in the ordinary sense because it is beyond con- cept. Therefore it is also beyond time. It is called birthless and deathless. If we can connect with that experience, past and future are transcended, and we naturally wake up to a vast and brilliant world. When we truly know that with every ending there is also renewal, we begin to relax. Our minds become open to the process of change. We feel we can actually touch reality and are no longer afraid of death. We can learn to live well and fully now, with the understanding that death is not some- thing apart from life. So from the Buddhist point of view, we have a choice: to direct our story of living and dying now, or to wait, closing our eyes to the message of impermanence, until death itself opens them. Since we value happy endings, why choose to gamble with the Lord of Death? Embarking on a Journey Whenever we embark on a long journey, there is a sense of death and rebirth. The experiences we go through have a transitional quality. The moment we step outside our house and close the door, we begin to leave our life behind. We say goodbye to family and friends and to the familiar rooms and routines that we inhabit. We might feel regret mixed with excitement as we climb into the taxi that will take us to the airport. As our vision of home recedes, we are both sadly parted and joy- fully released from all that defines us. The further from home we go, the more focused we become on our next destination. We think less of home and more about where we are going. We begin to look at a new map; we start to think about where we will land, about the new people, new customs, and new environment – all the new sets of experiences to come. Until we reach our destination, we are in tran- sit, in between two points. One world has dis- solved, like last night’s dream, and the next has not yet arisen. In this space, there is a sense of total freedom: we are free from the business of being our ordinary selves; we are not tied to the day-to- day world and its demands in quite the same way. There is a sense of freshness and appreciation of the present moment. At the same time, we may have moments of feeling fearful and groundless because we have entered unknown territory. We do not know with certainty what will arise in the next moment or where it will take us. The moment we relax, however, our insecurity dissolves and the environment becomes friendly and supportive. We are at ease in our world once again and can move forward naturally and with confidence. Leaving this life is similar in many ways to going on a long trip. In this case, the trip we are mak- ing is a journey of mind. We are leaving behind this body, our loved ones, our possessions, and all our experiences of this life and moving on to the next. We are in transit, in between two points. We have left home but have not yet reached our next destination. We are neither in the past nor in the future. We are sandwiched between yesterday and tomorrow. Where we are now is the present, which is the only place we can be. This experience of the present moment is known as bardo in Tibetan Buddhism. Bardo in a literal sense means “interval”; it can also be trans- lated as an “intermediate” or “in-between” state. Thus, we can say that whenever we are in between two moments, we are in a bardo state. The past moment has ceased; the future moment has not yet arisen. There is a gap, a sense of nowness, of pure openness, before the appearance of the next thing, whether that is our next thought or our next lifetime. What we call life and death are simply concepts – relative designations that are attributed to a continuous state of being, an indestructible awareness that is birthless and deathless. The Shoes, Ganges River, Varanasi, India, 2000 Jeanny Tsai