13 Apr
Posted in: Books
By    Comments Off on Wow.


As a “welcome back from retreat” gift, one of my dharma friends gave me a copy of Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, which I have just finished reading, and all I can say is: WOW. (And: thank you, Christy!)

This is a novel, so of course it’s not meant to be read as an instructional text in Buddhist “doctrine” — and I have no idea whether George Saunders identifies as Buddhist or not — but it is a FABULOUS read, and clearly informed by insightful reflection on the nature of impermanence (anicca), suffering (dukkah), and not-self (anatta).

The term “bardo,” by the way, is not found in the Theravada tradition. It’s a Tibetan concept that refers to an intermediate state between death and rebirth.

“But more generally,” according to this article in Lion’s Roar, “the word bardo refers to the gap or space we experience between any two states. The lesser-known bardos described in the traditional [Tibetan] texts include the bardo of dreaming, the bardo of meditation, 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 [blog post] and look up, there will be a tiny gap following the end of one activity and preceding the start of another. If you notice them, these brados 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, non-conceptual awareness in the gap between thoughts. The bardo between death and rebirth is considered [in the Tibetan tradition] 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.”


The next time you find yourself in an everyday “bardo” — pick up this book!

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