The Bardo

Well, the Bardo is just a place or state where things change. A lot of westerners mistakenly think that it only relates to death, because of the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol). In fact we are always in a state of change throughout or lives and death is just another one. I’ve been thinking about this a lot because my irritable bowel thing flared up again in the night and I don’t feel like I’ve had much sleep. Pain is interesting, we feel it as a warning, but it can also be transformative. The IBS flared up because I am upset, no job, no interviews on the horizon. I also realised that at least partly it came because I was feeling for the people where I used to work because they are really up against it and I am helpless to help them.


I have discovered that I can meditate away pain at least some of the time. First you acknowledges that the pain reminds you of how others suffer, then you try to draw their pain into your own as well to reduce their suffering, then take the medicine – no point in being a fool about it! I wrote a poem about this (see The Macro and the Micro), where I tried to show that we can only feel compassion by relating what happens to others to what happens in our own little world. If you don’t have insight into how your own struggles make you the same as everybody else you can’t rise above it and help others the way they need to be helped.


I’ve just been reading The Marvellous Companion, which is a series of stories about the Buddha’s lives before he became the Buddha. You can treat them as metaphor or the literal truth, it doesn’t matter. One of the themes is giving to others, as in everything, including your own body if that’s all you have to give. Finding others’ suffering so unbearable that you will do anything to ameliorate it, giving everything you have even if you starve. I aspire to this, but am bound by the ties that bind and cannot abandon my family, nor do I want to. I know too well what it’s like to grow up without a father and I will not do that to anyone else. The interesting thing I have discovered is that now I have acknowledged the ties and seen them for what they are, temporary but enduring, I love them all even more than I ever have, and their presence in my life is even more precious and I couldn’t resent them at all (well when I’m being perfect anyway).

Buddha said that the end of all meeting is parting, which is another way of expressing the ineluctable truth of impermanence of all things, but this makes the time during the meeting even more important and beautiful because of its transience. The important thing is to not be caught up in the past when things are gone and only look to the moment. This is the hardest thing of all, renouncing your clinging to the stupid past and its tiny comforts.

(The full quote is the end of all gathering is dispersion; the end of all building is ruin; the end of all meeting is parting; the end of all birth is death.)

Blessings to you all.