Bardos*

When I look at stars on a clear night
I know the light I see 
maybe emitted a million years past
might come from a now-extinct star
by the time its light reaches my eyes
but I notice the light 
and sigh

When awakened by the bird 
singing outside my window
I know the trill I hear 
has already ceased
by the time it reaches my ear
but I notice the song 
and sigh

When I feel my exhalation
dispersed into a breeze
I know that particular breath
is already gone forever
before I inhale again
but I notice the life 
and sigh


* Bardo is the Tibetan term for the intermediate state or gap we experience between death and our next rebirth. The Tibetan title of the fourteenth-century text published in 1927 as The Tibetan Book of the Dead is Bardo Tödöl, meaning “Liberation in the Intermediate State Through Hearing.”

More generally, the word bardo refers to the gap or space we experience between any two states. The lesser-known bardos described in the traditional texts include the bardo of dreaming, the bardo of meditating, and even the bardo of this life—which is, after all, the intermediate state between birth and death.

We actually experience bardos throughout our day. When you finish reading this article and look up, there will be a moment of bardo, a tiny gap following the end of one activity and preceding the start of another. If you notice them, these bardos of everyday life are places of potential transformation.

As it says in the London subway, “Mind the gap.” In meditation practice, you can notice the simple, nonconceptual awareness in the gap between thoughts. The bardo between death and rebirth is considered a particularly good opportunity for enlightenment.

Bardos are spaces of potential creativity and innovation, because they create breaks in our familiar routines and patterns. In that momentary space of freedom, the fresh perception of something new and awake may suddenly arise. (What’s a Bardo? by Lion’s Roar Staff)

Photo by I.am_nah courtesy of Unsplash


17 thoughts on “Bardos*

  1. I learned ages ago that, for me, experiences & thoughts & inspirations that occur during the Bardo between inhalation & exhalation (& vice-versa) while meditating are among the most valuable. Thanks for including them in your instruction here in this marvelous work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your poem had me near tears with sudden understanding of some recent insights – and then the details that follow helped fill in a few blanks. THANK YOU – what a great perspective – to notice, to trust, to now have a name for!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Tibetan Book of the Dead (I have it right on my shelf to read). Now, it will for sure be one of the next things for me to read. And also glad to have come across your blog today. Your writing is exceptional!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh,maybe you can find it. I’m sure there is lots of great things in that book. Hoping I’ll read it in the next few months after I finish up some other books I’m reading. Have a great week!

        Like

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