underground & groundless


The Tibetan term bardo, or intermediate state, is not just a reference to the afterlife. It also refers more generally to these moments when gaps appear, interrupting the continuity that we otherwise project onto our lives. In American culture, we sometimes refer to this as having the rug pulled out from under us, or feeling ungrounded. But to be precise, bardo refers to that state in which we have lost our old reality and it is no longer available to us. There is no ground, no certainty, and no reference point- there is, in a sense, no rest. The value of such moments is this: we are shown that the game can be given up and that when it is, the emptiness that we feared, emptiness of the void, is not what is there. What is thee is the bare face of being. Simple presence remains- breathing in and out, waking up and going to sleep. Perhaps in that ungrounded space, we are not even comforting ourselves, not even telling ourselves everything is okay; we may be too tired to do even that. It’s just total capitulation- we’re forced into non-grasping of inherent reality. What remains is new moment spontaneously meeting us again and again. There is an incredible reality that opens up to us in those gaps if we do not reject rupture. In fact, we have some reliable idea of what is happening in that intermediate, groundless space, rupture can become rapture.     ~Pema Khandro Rinpoche

when we glimpse those moments of illusory wisdom, we are humbled to sit in our spacious life……

inquiry for today~   what does it mean to be the empty vessel? to sit with “what is” and to listen and honor discomfort…..serious discomfort…….and is it possible?


In Genjokoan, Dogen says, “No trace of enlightenment remains and this traceless enlightenment continues endlessly.” We call this endless activity “filling a well with snow,” the seemingly inane occupation of the ancient sages. No one can tell whether they’re sages or whether they’re crazy, whether they’re ordinary or holy. One of them gathers a few others and they all climb the mountain to get to the snow-capped peaks. They fill their buckets with snow and carry them down and throw the snow into the well, trying to fill it. Of course, filling the down and throw the snow into the well, trying to fill it. Of course, filling the well with snow is impossible. Yet they do it, trip after trip, day after day. It is like the four bodhisattva vows that all Zen practitioners make each night:

Sentient beings are numberless; I vow to save them.

Desires are inexhaustible; I vow to put an end to them.

The dharmas are boundless; I vow to master them.

The Buddha Way is unattainable: I vow to attain it.

It is impossible to save numberless beings, yet we vow to do it. It’s impossible to exhaust inexhaustible desires; impossible to master infinite dharmas; impossible to attain the unattainable. Impossible, yet we’ll do it.

~John Daido Loori Roshis

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