Zen Contemplation Corner: What Will You Do in The Bardo?

In the book “In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, he explains that the word “Bardo” is “commonly used to describe an intermediate state between one life and the next; also understood as stages in one’s journey through life and death…” These stages could be physical processes (from birth to death, from awake to sleep, e.g.) or states of mind or being (changing jobs, moving to a new town, e.g.). Each bardo stage provides us the opportunity to recognize and experience reality.

One stage, the Bardo of Becoming, is the stage where the mind has left a familiar pattern, and seeks to re-identify in a new form. But this requires a steady mind while being submerged in a new, unfamiliar environment. Can we accept the truth of reality that everything changes and there is no firm ground beneath us, or will we implode and fall apart? This in-between time can be difficult unless we have cultivated mental equanimity, balance, evenness of thought.

We can familiarize ourselves with the concept of the bardo during meditation. We breathe in, pause, breathe out, pause. Those pauses are transitions to a new state. However miniscule that moment is, it can offer us insight into the constantly changing world around us. We don’t try to hold on to the in-breath, nor the pauses, nor the out breath. Instead, we begin to experience the subtleness of constant change.

Consider what you will do the next time your planned life is interrupted by undesired events. What will you do in the Bardo of Becoming, the time between the death of the old you and the birth of the new you?

Film: Wandering But Not Lost

In 2011, Mingyur Rinpoche left his planned, safe life to go on a solo wandering retreat throughout India to put his meditation learnings to the ultimate test. That retreat, which lasted 4 ½ years, is chronicled in the book "In Love with the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying," and in the corresponding film “Wandering but Not Lost.” 

Film will be shown on March 19, 2022, at 10:00 am.  For a Zoom link, please email zen@uufn.org.  In the meantime, check out the trailer for the film.