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Kannon (Guan Yin)

The Gap Between the Six Worlds and the Seventh, Cont.

    The stone which the builders rejected,
    This became the chief cornerstone.

       -- Matthew 2l:42

In Buddhism we sometimes imagine that between the Wheel of Samsara and the Mountain of Nirvana there lies a dark and deadly swamp, a kind of spiritual gap or bardo that teems with suffering souls. These are the people who jumped, fell or were pushed off the Wheel when their survival strategies stopped working.

As Samsara is reality as seen through the prejudicial eyes of the ego, and Nirvana is reality apprehended directly, the gap or swamp is the place where transition from one mode of awareness to the other is possible... not inevitable but merely possible.

The Gap, then, is the critical period of disillusionment a person enters whenever he suddenly discovers that his ego is malfunctioning as an arbiter of reality. The moment it dawns upon him that something is intrinsically wrong, that he is making terrible errors in judgment, and that things or people upon whom he would have bet his life are not what he thought them to be, he enters the swamp. He may previously have run his life with confidence and efficiency; but in the gap he doubts his ability to cope with life at all.

A variety of causes can catapult an individual into the swamp. Sometimes he is overwhelmed by an event which his ego views as a personal tragedy: the death of someone loved; a betrayal; a serious illness or infirmity; a humiliating failure or rejection; or perhaps even a seemingly insignificant difficulty which has brought to critical mass an accumulation of small miseries. Sometimes he simply cannot accept the natural, changing order of things as when he notices ageing's deleterious effects upon his face, physique and virility or when his children grow up and exclude him from their private lives, relegating him to lesser roles than he is accustomed to playing. Sometimes he invests himself too heavily in a job, a creed or a way of life and experiences, upon discovery that his investment was foolishly made, the mortifications of insolvency.

The Seventh World of Chan Buddhism
Chapter 6: The Gap Between the Six Worlds and the Seventh, Page 1 of 7