A student walks alongside their teacher. After a quiet period the student asks, “what do you think it’s like to die?”
There is silence for a moment from the teacher, an inward breath, and then an exhalation of words. “I think it’s like falling asleep. First there’s a gap, and then you dream something else. Or you merge with everything by becoming nothing.”
“Hmm…” A slight pause before the riposte. “But then what happens when you wake up from that sleep?”
“Something akin to all of this,” said along with a gesture to the pair and their surroundings. “Everything is just a Bardo.”
“I’ve never heard that word. What is a Bardo?”
“Something that exists between two things. Life lies between birth and death, dreaming between sleeping and waking, and so on.”
“So what is this conversation then?”
“I guess it’s just words in between silence.” The teacher stops walking.
Unsure what to do the student stops as well. The teacher sits on the ground and the student hesitantly follows suit. Finally the student breaks the silence once again. “What are we doing?”
“We are experiencing the death of walking.”
“I’m not sure I understand the symbolism.”
The teacher stands up, begins walking again, and says. “Then don’t stand up and walk until you understand the impulse to do so.”
After just a few moments the student rises and walks behind the teacher to catch up.
“Why did you start to walk again?”
“Because I had more questions, and also I just felt like it.”
“Aha.” The teacher shows positive emotion for the first time in the exchange. “Yes, that is all life and death is.”
“Hmm, okay but-”
“No, that was not symbolic. None of it is. I mean it literally.”
The student looks perplexed but nods. For quite some time the two walk in silence along the path. One contemplates, the other does not.