by Timothy Leary, Ph.D., Ralph
Metzner, Ph.D., & Richard Alpert, Ph.D.
The authors were engaged in a program of
experiments with LSD and other psychedelic drugs at Harvard
University, until sensational national publicity, unfairly
concentrating on student interest in the drugs, led to the
suspension of the experiments. Since then, the authors have
continued their work without academic auspices.
This version of THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD is dedicated, to
ALDOUS HUXLEY July 26, 1894 - November 22, 1963 with profound
admiration and gratitude.
“If you started in the wrong way,” I
said in answer to the investigator’s questions, “everything that
happened would be a proof of the conspiracy against you. It
would all be self-validating. You couldn’t draw a breath without
knowing it was part of the plot.”
“So you think you know where madness lies?”
My answer was a convinced and heartfelt, “Yes.”
“And you couldn’t control it?”
“No I couldn’t control it. If one began with fear and hate as
the major premise, one would have to go on the conclusion.”
“Would you be able,” my wife asked, “ to fix your attention on
what The Tibetan Book of the Dead calls the Clear Light?”
I was doubtful.
“Would it keep the evil away, if you could hold it? Or would you
not be able to hold it?” I considered the question for some
time. “Perhaps,” I answered at last, “perhaps I could - but only
if there were somebody there to tell me about the Clear Light.
One couldn’t do it by oneself. That’s the point, I suppose, of
the Tibetan ritual - somebody sitting there all the time and
telling you what’s what.” (DOORS OF PERCEPTION, 57-58)
A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of
The scope and content of the experience is limitless,
but its characteristic features are the transcendence of verbal
concepts, of spacetime dimensions, and of the ego or identity. Such
experiences of enlarged consciousness can occur in a variety of
ways: sensory deprivation, yoga exercises, disciplined meditation,
religious or aesthetic ecstasies, or spontaneously. Most recently
they have become available to anyone through the ingestion of
psychedelic drugs such as LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, DMT, etc.
[This is the statement of an ideal, not
an actual situation, in 1964. The psychedelic drugs are in the
United States classified as “experimental” drugs. That is, they are
not available on a prescription basis, but only to “qualified
investigators.” The Federal Food and Drug Administration has defined
“qualified investigators” to mean psychiatrists working in a mental
hospital setting, whose research is sponsored by either state or
Of course, the drug dose does not
produce the transcendent experience. It merely acts as a chemical
key - it opens the mind, frees the nervous system of its ordinary
patterns and structures. The nature of the experience depends almost
entirely on set and setting. Set denotes the preparation of the
individual, including his personality structure and his mood at the
time. Setting is physical - the weather, the room’s atmosphere;
social - feelings of persons present towards one another; and
cultural - prevailing views as to what is real. It is for this
reason that manuals or guide-books are necessary. Their purpose is
to enable a person to understand the new realities of the expanded
consciousness, to serve as road maps for new interior territories
which modern science has made accessible.
Different explorers draw different maps. Other manuals are to be
written based on different models - scientific, aesthetic,
therapeutic. The Tibetan model, on which this manual is based, is
designed to teach the person to direct and control awareness in such
a way as to reach that level of understanding variously called
liberation, illumination, or enlightenment. If the manual is read
several times before a session is attempted, and if a trusted person
is there to remind and refresh the memory of the voyager during the
experience, the consciousness will be freed from the games which
comprise “personality” and from positive-negative hallucinations
which often accompany states of expanded awareness.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead was called
in its own language the Bardo Thodol, which means “Liberation
by Hearing on the After-Death Plane.” The book stresses over and
over that the free consciousness has only to hear and remember the
teachings in order to be liberated.
The Tibetan Book of the Dead is ostensibly a book describing
the experiences to be expected at the moment of death, during an
intermediate phase lasting forty-nine (seven times seven) days, and
during rebirth into another bodily frame. This however is merely the
exoteric framework which the Tibetan Buddhists used to cloak their
mystical teachings. The language and symbolism of death rituals of
Bonism, the traditional pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion, were
skillfully blended with Buddhist conceptions. The esoteric meaning,
as it has been interpreted in this manual, is that it is death and
rebirth that is described, not of the body.
Lama Govinda indicates this clearly in
his introduction when he writes:
“It is a book for the living as well
as the dying.”
The book’s esoteric meaning is often
concealed beneath many layers of symbolism.
It was not intended for
general reading. It was designed to be understood only by one who
was to be initiated personally by a guru into the Buddhist mystical
doctrines, into the pre-mortem-death-rebirth experience. These
doctrines have been kept a closely guarded secret for many
centuries, for fear that naive or careless application would do
harm. In translating such an esoteric text, therefore, there are two
steps: one, the rendering of the original text into English; and
two, the practical interpretation of the text for its uses.
In publishing this practical
interpretation for use in the psychedelic drug session, we are in a
sense breaking with the tradition of secrecy and thus contravening
the teachings of the lama-gurus. However, this step is justified on
the grounds that the manual will not be understood by anyone who has
not had a consciousness-expanding experience and that there are
signs that the lamas themselves, after their recent diaspora, wish
to make their teachings available to a wider public. Following the
Tibetan model then, we distinguish three phases of the psychedelic
experience. The first period (Chikhai Bardo) is that of complete
transcendence - beyond words, beyond space-time, beyond self.
There are no visions, no sense of self,
no thoughts. There are only pure awareness and ecstatic freedom from
all game (and biological) involvements.
[”Games” are behavioral sequences
defined by roles, rules, rituals, goals, strategies, values,
language, characteristic space-time locations and characteristic
patterns of movement. Any behavior not having these nine features is
non-game: this includes physiological reflexes, spontaneous play,
and transcendent awareness.]
The second lengthy period involves self,
or external game reality (Chonyid Bardo) - in sharp exquisite
clarity or in the form of hallucinations (karmic apparitions). The
final period (Sidpa Bardo) involves the return to routine game
reality and the self. For most persons the second (aesthetic or
hallucinatory) stage is the longest. For the initiated the first
stage of illumination lasts longer. For the unprepared, the heavy
game players, those who anxiously cling to their egos, and for those
who take the drug in a non-supportive setting, the struggle to
regain reality begins early and usually lasts to the end of their
Words like these are static, whereas the psychedelic experience is
fluid and ever-changing. Typically the subject’s consciousness
flicks in and out of these three levels with rapid oscillations.
One purpose of this manual is to enable
the person to regain the transcendence of the First Bardo and to
avoid prolonged entrapments in hallucinatory or ego-dominated game
The Basic Trusts and Beliefs
You must be ready to accept the
possibility that there is a limitless range of awareness for which
we now have no words; that awareness can expand beyond range of your
ego, your self, your familiar identity, beyond everything you have
learned, beyond your notions of space and time, beyond the
differences which usually separate people from each other and from
the world around them.
You must remember that throughout human
history, millions have made this voyage. A few (whom we call
mystics, saints or buddhas) have made this experience endure and
have communicated it to their fellow men.
You must remember, too, that the
experience is safe (at the very worst, you will end up the same
person who entered the experience), and that all of the dangers
which you have feared are unnecessary productions of your mind.
Whether you experience heaven or hell, remember that it is your mind
which creates them. Avoid grasping the one or fleeing the other.
Avoid imposing the ego game on the
experience. You must try to maintain faith and trust in the
potentiality of your own brain and the billion-year-old life
process. With you ego left behind you, the brain can’t go wrong.
Try to keep the memory of a trusted friend or a respected person
whose name can serve as a guide and protection.
Trust your divinity, trust your brain, trust your companions.
Whenever in doubt, turn off your mind, relax, float downstream.
After reading this guide, the prepared person should be able, at the
very beginning of his experience, to move directly to a state of
non-game ecstasy and deep revelation. But if you are not well
prepared, or if there is game distraction around you, you will find
yourself dropping back.
If this happens, then the instructions
in Part IV should help you regain and maintain liberation.
“Liberation in this context does not
necessarily imply (especially in the case of the average person)
the Liberation of Nirvana, but chiefly a liberation of the
‘life-flux’ from the ego, in such a manner as will afford the
greatest possible consciousness and consequent happy rebirth.
Yet for the very experienced and very highly efficient person,
the [same] esoteric process of Transference [Readers interested
in a more detailed discussion of the process of “Transference”
are referred to
Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, edited by
Y. Evans-Wentz, Oxford University Press, 1958.] can be,
according to the lama-gurus, so employed as to prevent any break
in the flow of the stream of consciousness, from the moment of
the ego-loss to the moment of a conscious rebirth (eight hours
Judging from the translation made by
the late Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup, of an old Tibetan manuscript
containing practical directions for ego-loss states, the ability
to maintain a non-game ecstasy throughout the entire experience
is possessed only by persons trained in mental concentration, or
one-pointedness of mind, to such a high degree of proficiency as
to be able to control all the mental functions and to shut out
the distractions of the outside world.”
(Evans-Wentz, p. 86, note 2)
This manual is divided into four parts.
The first part is introductory. The second is a step-by-step
description of a psychedelic experience based directly on the
Tibetan Book of the Dead. The third part contains practical
suggestions on how to prepare for and conduct a psychedelic session.
The fourth part contains instructive passages adapted from the
Bardo Thodol, which may be read to the voyager during this
session, to facilitate the movement of consciousness.
In the remainder of this introductory section, we review three
commentaries on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, published with the
These are the introduction by
Evans-Wentz himself, the distinguished translator-editor of four
treatises on Tibetan mysticism; the commentary by Carl Jung,
the Swiss psychoanalyst; and by Lama Govinda, and initiate of
one of the principle Buddhist orders of Tibet.
A TRIBUTE TO W. Y. EVANS-WENTZ
“Dr. Evans-Wentz, who literally sat
at the feet of a Tibetan lama for years, in order to acquire his
wisdom... not only displays a deeply sympathetic interest in
those esoteric doctrines so characteristic of the genius of the
East, but likewise possesses the rare faculty of making them
more or less intelligible to the layman.”
[Quoted from a book review in
Anthropology on the back of the Oxford University Press edition
of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.]
W. Y. Evans-Wentz is a great scholar who
devoted his mature years to the role of bridge and shuttle between
Tibet and the west: like an RNA molecule activating the latter with
the coded message of the former. No greater tribute could be paid to
the work of this academic liberator than to base our psychedelic
manual upon his insights and to quote directly his comments on “the
message of this book.”
The message is, that the Art of Dying is
quite as important as the Art of Living (or of Coming into Birth),
of which it is the complement and summation; that the future of
being is dependent, perhaps entirely, upon a rightly controlled
death, as the second part of this volume, setting forth the Art of
The Art of Dying, as indicated by the death-rite associated
with initiation into the Mysteries of Antiquity, and referred to by
Apuleius, the Platonic philosopher, himself an initiate, and by many
other illustrious initiates, and as The
Egyptian Book of the Dead suggests,
appears to have been far better known to the ancient peoples
inhabiting the Mediterranean countries than it is now by their
descendants in Europe and the Americas.
To those who had passed through the secret experiencing of
pre-mortem death, right dying is initiation, conferring, as does the
initiatory death-rite, the power to control consciously the process
of death and regeneration. (Evans-Wentz, p. xiii-xiv)
The Oxford scholar, like his great predecessor of the eleventh
century, Marpa (“The Translator”), who rendered Indian Buddhist
texts into Tibetan, thereby preserving them from extinction, saw the
vital importance of these doctrines and made them accessible to
The “secret” is no longer hidden:
“the art of dying is quite
as important as the art of living.”
A TRIBUTE TO CARL G. JUNG
Psychology is the systematic attempt to describe and explain man’s
behavior, both conscious and non-conscious.
The scope of study is
broad - covering the infinite variety of human activity and
experience; and it is long - tracing back through the history of the
individual, through the history of his ancestors, back through the
evolutionary vicissitudes and triumphs which have determined the
current status of the species.
Most difficult of all, the scope of
psychology is complex, dealing as it does with processes which are
ever-changing. Little wonder that psychologists, in the face of such
complexity, escape into specialization and parochial narrowness.
A psychology is based on the available data and the psychologists’
ability and willingness to utilize them. The behaviorism and
experimentalism of twentieth-century western psychology is so narrow
as to be mostly trivial. Consciousness is eliminated from the field
of inquiry. Social application and social meaning are largely
neglected. A curious ritualism is enacted by a priesthood rapidly
growing in power and numbers. Eastern psychology, by contrast,
offers us a long history of detailed observation and systematization
of the range of human consciousness along with an enormous
literature of practical methods for controlling and changing
consciousness. Western intellectuals tend to dismiss Oriental
psychology. The theories of consciousness are seen as occult and
The methods of investigating
consciousness change, such as meditation, yoga, monastic retreat,
and sensory deprivation, and are seen as alien to scientific
investigation. And most damning of all in the eyes of the European
scholar, is the alleged disregard of eastern psychologies for the
practical, behavioral and social aspects of life. Such criticism
betrays limited concepts and the inability to deal with the
available historical data on a meaningful level. The psychologies of
the east have always found practical application in the running of
the state, in the running of daily life and family.
A wealth of
guides and handbooks exists: the Book of Tao, the Analects of
Confucius, the Gita, the I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, to
mention only the best-known.
Eastern psychology can be judged in terms of the use of available
evidence. The scholars and observers of China, Tibet, and India went
as far as their data allowed them. They lacked the findings of
modern science and so their metaphors seem vague and poetic. Yet
this does not negate their value. Indeed, eastern philosophic
theories dating back four thousand years adapt readily to the most
recent discoveries of nuclear physics, biochemistry, genetics, and
A major task of any present day
psychology - eastern or western - is to construct a frame of
reference large enough to incorporate the recent findings of the
energy sciences into a revised picture of man. Judged against the
criterion of the use of available fact, the greatest psychologists
of our century are William James and Carl Jung.
[To properly compare Jung with Sigmund
Freud we must look at the available data which each man appropriated
for his explorations. For Freud it was Darwin, classical
thermodynamics, the Old Testament, Renaissance cultural history, and
most important, the close overheated atmosphere of the Jewish
family. The broader scope of Jung’s reference materials assures that
his theories will find a greater congeniality with recent
developments in the energy sciences and the evolutionary sciences.]
Both of these men avoided the narrow
paths of behaviorism and experimentalism. Both fought to preserve
experience and consciousness as an area of scientific research. Both
kept open to the advance of scientific theory and both refused to
shut off eastern scholarship from consideration. Jung used for his
source of data that most fertile source - the internal. He
recognized the rich meaning of the eastern message; he reacted to
that great Rorshach inkblot, the Tao Te Ching.
He wrote perceptive brilliant forewords
to the I Ching, to the Secret of the Golden Flower, and struggled
with the meaning of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
“For years, ever since it was first
published, the Bardo Thodol has been my constant companion, and
to it I owe not only many stimulating ideas and discoveries, but
also many fundamental insights. . . Its philosophy contains the
quintessence of Buddhist psychological criticism; and, as such,
one can truly say that it is of an unexampled superiority.”
The Bardo Thodol is in the
highest degree psychological in its outlook; but, with us,
philosophy and theology are still in the mediaeval,
pre-psychological stage where only the assertions are listened to,
explained, defended, criticized and disputed, while the authority
that makes them has, by general consent, been deposed as outside the
scope of discussion.
Metaphysical assertions, however, are statements of the psyche, and
are therefore psychological. To the Western mind, which compensates
its well-known feelings of resentment by a slavish regard for
“rational” explanations, this obvious truth seems all too obvious,
or else it is seen as an inadmissible negation of metaphysical
“truth.” Whenever the Westerner hears the word “psychological,” it
always sounds to him like “only psychological.”
Jung draws upon Oriental conceptions of consciousness to broaden the
concept of “projection”:
Not only the “wrathful” but also the
“peaceful” deities are conceived as sangsaric projections of the
human psyche, an idea that seems all too obvious to the
enlightened European, because it reminds him of his own banal
But though the European can easily
explain away these deities as projections, he would be quite
incapable of positing them at the same time as real.
Thodol can do that, because, in certain of its most essential
metaphysical premises, it has the enlightened as well as the
unenlightened European at a disadvantage.
The ever-present, unspoken assumption of
the Bardo Thodol is the antinominal character of all
metaphysical assertions, and also the idea of the qualitative
difference of the various levels of consciousness and of the
metaphysical realities conditioned by them. The background of this
unusual book is not the niggardly European “either-or,” but a
magnificently affirmative “both-and.” This statement may appear
objectionable to the Western philosopher, for the West loves clarity
and unambiguity; consequently, one philosopher clings to the
position, “God is,” while another clings equally fervently to the
negation, “God is not.”
Jung clearly sees the power and breadth
of the Tibetan model but occasionally he fails to grasp its meaning
and application. Jung, too, was limited (as we all are) to the
social models of his tribe. He was a psychoanalyst, the father of a
school. Psychotherapy and psychiatric diagnosis were the two
applications which came most naturally to him.
Jung misses the central concept of the Tibetan book.
This is not (as Lama Govinda reminds us)
a book of the dead. It is a book of the dying; which is to say a
book of the living; it is a book of life and how to live. The
concept of actual physical death was an exoteric facade adopted to
fit the prejudices of the Bonist tradition in Tibet. Far from being
an embalmers’ guide, the manual is a detailed account of how to lose
the ego; how to break out of personality into new realms of
consciousness; and how to avoid the involuntary limiting processes
of the ego; how to make the consciousness-expansion experience
endure in subsequent daily life.
Jung struggles with this point. He comes close but never quite
clinches it. He had nothing in his conceptual framework which could
make practical sense out of the ego-loss experience. The Tibetan
Book of the Dead, or the Bardo Thodol, is a book of
instructions for the dead and dying. Like The Egyptian Book of
the Dead it is meant to be a guide for the dead man during the
period of his Bardo existence....
In this quote Jung settles for the exoteric and misses the esoteric.
In a later quote he seems to come closer:
... the instruction given in the Bardo Thodol serves to recall to the dead man the experience of
his initiation and the teachings of his guru, for the
instruction is, at bottom, nothing less than an initiation of
the dead into the Bardo life, just as the initiation of the
living was a preparation for the Beyond.
Such was the case, at least, with all
the mystery cults in ancient civilizations from the time of the
Egyptian and Eleusinian mysteries.
In the initiation of the living,
however, this “Beyond” is not a world beyond death, but a reversal
of the mind’s intentions and outlook, a psychological “Beyond” or,
in Christian terms, a “redemption” from the trammels of the world
and of sin.
Redemption is a separation and
deliverance from an earlier condition of darkness and
unconsciousness, and leads to a condition of illumination and
releasedness, to victory and transcendence over everything “given.”
Thus far the Bardo Thodol is, as Dr. Evans-Wentz also
feels, an initiation process whose purpose it is to restore to the
soul the divinity it lost at birth.
In still another passage Jung continues the struggle but misses
Nor is the psychological use we make
of it (the Tibetan Book) anything but a secondary intention,
though one that is possibly sanctioned by lamaist custom. The
real purpose of this singular book is the attempt, which must
seem very strange to the educated European of the twentieth
century, to enlighten the dead on their journey through the
regions of the Bardo.
The Catholic Church is the
only place in the world of the white man where any provision is
made for the souls of the departed. In the summary of Lama
Govinda’s comments which follow we shall see that the Tibetan
commentator, freed from the European concepts of Jung, moves
directly to the esoteric and practical meaning of the Tibetan
In his autobiography (written in 1960)
Jung commits himself wholly to the inner vision and to the wisdom
and superior reality of internal perceptions. In 1938 (when his
Tibetan commentary was written) he was moving in this direction but
cautiously and with the ambivalent reservations of the psychiatrist
The dead man must desperately resist the dictates of
reason, as we understand it, and give up the supremacy of ego-hood,
regarded by reason as sacrosanct. What this means in practice is
complete capitulation to the objective powers of the psyche, with
all that this entails; a kind of symbological death, corresponding
to the Judgment of the Dead in the Sidpa Bardo.
It means the end of all conscious,
rational, morally responsible conduct of life, and a voluntary
surrender to what the Bardo Thodol calls “karmic illusion.”
Karmic illusion springs from belief in a visionary world of an
extremely irrational nature, which neither accords with nor derives
from our rational judgments but is the exclusive product of
uninhibited imagination. It is sheer dream or “fantasy,” and every
well-meaning person will instantly caution us against it; nor indeed
can one see at first sight what is the difference between fantasies
of this kind and the phantasmagoria of a lunatic.
Very often only a
slight abaissement du niveau mental is needed to
unleash this world of illusion.
The terror and darkness of this moment
has its equivalent in the experiences described in the opening
sections of the Sidpa Bardo. But the contents of this Bardo
also reveal the archetypes, the karmic images which appear first in
their terrifying form. The Chonyid state is equivalent to a
deliberately induced psychosis....
The transition, then, from the Sidpa state to the Chonyid state is a
dangerous reversal of the aims and intentions of the conscious mind.
It is a sacrifice of the ego’s stability and a surrender to the
extreme uncertainty of what must seem like a chaotic riot of
phantasmal forms. When Freud coined the phrase that the ego was “the
true seat of anxiety,” he was giving voice to a very true and
profound intuition. Fear of self-sacrifice lurks deep in every ego,
and this fear is often only the precariously controlled demand of
the unconscious forces to burst out in full strength.
No one who strives for selfhood
(individuation) is spared this dangerous passage, for that which is
feared also belongs to the wholeness of the self - the sub-human, or
supra-human, world of psychic “dominants” from which the ego
originally emancipated itself with enormous effort, and then only
partially, for the sake of a more or less illusory freedom.
This liberation is certainly a very
necessary and very heroic undertaking, but it represents nothing
final: it is merely the creation of a subject, who, in order to find
fulfillment, has still to be confronted by an object. This, at first
sight, would appear to be the world, which is swelled out with
projections for that very purpose.
Here we seek and find our
difficulties, here we seek and find our enemy, here we seek and find
what is dear and precious to us; and it is comforting to know that
all evil and all good is to be found out there, in the visible
object, where it can be conquered, punished, destroyed or enjoyed.
But nature herself does not allow this
paradisal state of innocence to continue for ever. There are, and
always have been, those who cannot help but see that the world and
its experiences are in the nature of a symbol, and that it really
reflects something that lies hidden in the subject himself, in his
own tran-subjective reality. It is from this profound intuition,
according to lamaist doctrine, that the Chonyid state derives its
true meaning, which is why the Chonyid Bardo is entitled “The
Bardo of the Experiencing of Reality.”
The reality experienced in the Chonyid state is, as the last section
of the corresponding Bardo teaches, the reality of thought. The
“thought-forms” appear as realities, fantasy takes on real form, and
the terrifying dream evoked by karma and played out by the
unconscious “dominants” begins. Jung would not have been surprised
by professional and institutional antagonism to psychedelics.
He closes his Tibetan commentary with a
poignant political aside:
The Bardo Thodol began by being a
“closed” book, and so it has remained, no matter what kind of
commentaries may be written upon it. For it is a book that will
only open itself to spiritual understanding and this is a
capacity which no man is born with, but which he can only
acquire through special training and special experience. It is
good that such to all intents and purposes “useless” books
exist. They are meant for those “queer folk” who no longer set
much store by the uses, aims, and meaning of present-day
To provide “special training” for the
“special experience” provided by psychedelic materials is the
purpose of this version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
A TRIBUTE TO LAMA ANAGARIKA GOVINDA
In the preceding section the point was made that eastern philosophy
and psychology - poetic, indeterministic, experiential,
inward-looking, vaguely evolutionary, open-ended - is more easily
adapted to the findings of modern science than the syllogistic,
certain, experimental, externalizing logic of western psychology.
The latter imitates the irrelevant rituals of the energy sciences
but ignores the data of physics and genetics, the meanings and
Even Carl Jung, the most penetrating of the western psychologists,
failed to understand the basic philosophy of the Bardo Thodol.
Quite in contrast are the comments on the Tibetan manual by Lama
His opening statement at first glance would cause a Judaeo-Christian
psychologist to snort in impatience. But a close look at these
phrases reveals that they are the poetic statement of the genetic
situation as currently described by biochemists and DNA researchers.
It may be argued that nobody can talk about death with authority who
has not died; and since nobody, apparently, has ever returned from
death, how can anybody know what death is, or what happens after it?
The Tibetan will answer:
“There is not one person, indeed,
not one living being, that has not returned from death. In fact,
we all have died many deaths, before we came into this
incarnation. And what we call birth is merely the reverse side
of death, like one of the two sides of a coin, or like a door
which we call “entrance” from outside and “exit” from inside a
The lama then goes on to make a second
poetic comment about the potentialities of the nervous system, the
complexity of the human cortical computer.
It is much more astonishing that not everybody remembers his or her
previous death; and, because of this lack of remembering, most
persons do not believe there was a previous death.
they do not remember their recent birth - and yet they do not doubt
that they were recently born.
They forget that active memory is only a
small part of our normal consciousness, and that our subconscious
memory registers and preserves every past impression and experience
which our waking mind fails to recall. The lama then proceeds to
slice directly to the esoteric meaning of the Bardo Thodol - that
core meaning which Jung and indeed most European Orientalists have
failed to grasp. For this reason, the Bardo Thodol, the
Tibetan book vouchsafing liberation from the intermediate state
between life and re-birth,- which state men call death,- has been
couched in symbolical language. It is a book which is sealed with
the seven seals of silence,- not because its knowledge would be
misunderstood, and, therefore, would tend to mislead and harm those
who are unfitted to receive it.
But the time has come to break the seals
of silence; for the human race has come to the juncture where it
must decide whether to be content with the subjugation of the
material world, or to strive after the conquest of the spiritual
world, by subjugating selfish desires and transcending self-imposed
limitations. The lama next describes the effects of
consciousness-expansion techniques. He is talking here about the
method he knows-the Yogic-but his words are equally applicable to
There are those who, in virtue of
concentration and other yogic practices, are able to bring the
subconscious into the realm of discriminative consciousness and,
thereby, to draw upon the unrestricted treasury of subconscious
memory, wherein are stored the records not only of our past lives
but the records of the past of our race, the past of humanity, and
of all pre-human forms of life, if not of the very consciousness
that makes life possible in this universe.
If, through some trick of nature, the gates of an individual’s
subconsciousness were suddenly to spring open, the unprepared mind
would be overwhelmed and crushed. Therefore, the gates of the
subconscious are guarded, by all initiates, and hidden behind the
veil of mysteries and symbols. In a later section of his foreword
the lama presents a more detailed elaboration of the inner meaning
of the Thodol.
If the Bardo Thodol were to be regarded as being based merely
upon folklore, or as consisting of religious speculation about death
and a hypothetical after-death state, it would be of interest only
to anthropologists and students of religion. But the Bardo Thodol is
far more. It is a key to the innermost recesses of the human mind,
and a guide for initiates, and for those who are seeking the
spiritual path of liberation.
Although the Bardo Thodol is at present
time widely used in Tibet as a breviary, and read or recited on the
occasion of death,- for which reason it has been aptly called “The
Tibetan Book of the Dead”- one should not forget that it was
originally conceived to serve as a guide not only for the dying and
the dead, but for the living as well. And herein lies the
justification for having made The Tibetan Book of the Dead
accessible to a wider public.
Notwithstanding the popular customs and beliefs which, under the
influence of age-old traditions of pre-Buddhist origin, have grown
around the profound revelations of the Bardo Thodol, it has value
only for those who practice and realize its teaching during their
There are two things which have caused misunderstanding. One is that
the teachings seem to be addressed to the dead or the dying; the
other that the title contains the expression “Liberation through
Hearing” (in Tibetan, Thos-grol). As a result, there has arisen the
belief that it is sufficient to read or recite the Bardo Thodol in
the presence of a dying person, or even of a person who has just
died, in order to effect his or her liberation.
Such misunderstanding could only have arisen among those who do not
know that it is one of the oldest and most universal practices for
the initiate to go through the experience of death before he can be
spiritually reborn. Symbolically he must die to his past, and to his
old ego, before he can take his place in the new spiritual life into
which he has been initiated.
The dead or the dying person is addressed in the Bardo Thodol mainly
for three reasons:
the earnest practitioner of
these teachings should regard every moment of his or her
life as if it were the last;
when a follower of these
teachings is actually dying, he or she should be reminded of
the experiences at the time of initiation, or of the words
(or mantra) of the guru, especially if the dying one’s mind
lacks alertness during the critical moments; and
one who is still incarnate
should try to surround the person dying, or just dead, with
loving and helpful thoughts during the first stages of the
new, or after-death, state of existence, without allowing
emotional attachment to interfere or to give rise to a state
of morbid mental depression.
Accordingly, one function of the Bardo
Thodol appears to be more to help those who have been left behind to
adopt the right attitude towards the dead and towards the fact of
death than to assist the dead, who, according to Buddhist belief,
will not deviate from their own karmic path.... This proves that
we have to do here with life itself and not merely with a mass for
the dead, to which the Bardo Thodol was reduced in later times....
Under the guise of a science of death, the Bardo Thodol reveals the
secret of life; and therein lies its spiritual value and its
Here then is the key to a mystery which has been passed down for
over 2,500 years - the consciousness-expansion experience - the
pre-mortem death and rebirth rite.
The Vedic sages knew the secret;
the Eleusinian initiates knew it; the Tantrics knew it. In all their
esoteric writings they whisper the message: it is possible to cut
beyond ego-consciousness, to tune in on neurological processes which
flash by at the speed of light, and to become aware of the enormous
treasury of ancient racial knowledge welded into the nucleus of
every cell in your body.
Modern psychedelic chemicals provide a key to this forgotten realm
of awareness. But just as this manual without the psychedelic
awareness is nothing but an exercise in academic Tibetology, so,
too, the potent chemical key is of little value without the guidance
and the teachings. Westerners do not accept the existence of
conscious processes for which they have no operational term. The
attitude which is prevalent is: - if you can’t label it, and if it
is beyond current notions of space-time and personality, then it is
not open for investigation. Thus we see the ego-loss experience
confused with schizophrenia. Thus we see present-day psychiatrists
solemnly pronouncing the psychedelic keys as psychosis-producing and
The new visionary chemicals and the pre-mortem-death-rebirth
experience may be pushed once again into the shadows of history.
Looking back, we remember that every middle-eastern and European
administrator (with the exception of certain periods in Greece and
Persia) has, during the last three thousand years, rushed to pass
laws against any emerging transcendental process, the
pre-mortem-death-rebirth session, its adepts, and any new method of
The present moment in human history (as Lama Govinda points out) is
critical. Now, for the first time, we possess the means of providing
the enlightenment to any prepared volunteer. (The enlightenment
always comes, we remember, in the form of a new energy process, a
physical, neurological event.)
For these reasons we have prepared
this psychedelic version of The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
The secret is released once again, in a
new dialect, and we sit back quietly to observe whether man is ready
to move ahead and to make use of the new tools provided by modern
THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD
FIRST BARDO: THE PERIOD OF EGO-LOSS OR
Part I: The Primary Clear Light Seen At
the Moment of Ego-Loss
All individuals who have received the practical teachings of this
manual will, if the text be remembered, be set face to face with the
ecstatic radiance and will win illumination instantaneously, without
entering upon hallucinatory struggles and without further suffering
on the age-long pathway of normal evolution which traverses the
various worlds of game existence.
This doctrine underlies the whole of the Tibetan model. Faith is the
first step on the “Secret Pathway.” Then comes illumination and with
it certainty; and when the goal is won, emancipation. Success
implies very unusual preparation in consciousness expansion, as well
as much calm, compassionate game playing (good karma) on the part of
If the participant can be made to see
and to grasp the idea of the empty mind as soon as the guide reveals
it - that is to say, if he has the power to die consciously - and,
at the supreme moment of quitting the ego, can recognize the ecstasy
which will dawn upon him then, and become one with it, all game
bonds of illusion are broken asunder immediately: the dreamer is
awakened into reality simultaneously with the mighty achievement of
recognition. It is best if the guru (spiritual teacher), from whom
the participant received guiding instructions, is present, but if
the guru cannot be present, then another experienced person; or it
the latter is also unavailable, then a person whom the participant
trusts should be available to read this manual without imposing any
of his own games.
Thereby the participant will be put in
mind of what he had previously heard of the experience and will at
once come to recognize the fundamental Light and undoubtedly obtain
liberation. Liberation is the nervous system devoid of
Realization of the Voidness, the
Unbecome, the Unborn, the Unmade, the Unformed, implies Buddhahood,
Perfect Enlightenment - the state of the divine mind of the Buddha.
It may be helpful to remember that this ancient doctrine is not in
conflict with modern physics.
The theoretical physicist and
cosmologist, George Gamow, presented in 1950 a viewpoint which is
close to the phenomenological experience described by the Tibetan
lamas. If we imagine history running back in time, we inevitably
come to the epoch of the “big squeeze” with all the galaxies, stars,
atoms and atomic nuclei squeezed, so to speak, to a pulp. During
that early stage of evolution, matter must have been dissociated
into its elementary components.... We call this primordial
At this first point in the evolution of the present cycle, according
to this first-rank physicist, there existed only the Unbecome, the
Unborn, the Unformed. And this, according to astrophysicists, is the
way it will end; the silent unity of the Unformed. The Tibetan
Buddhists suggest that the uncluttered intellect can experience what
astrophysics confirms. The Buddha Vairochana, the Dhyani Buddha of
the Center, Manifester of Phenomena, is the highest path to
enlightenment. As the source of all organic life, in him all things
visible and invisible have their consummation and absorption.
He is associated with the Central Realm
of the Densely-Packed, i.e., the seed of all universal forces and
things are densely packed together. This remarkable convergence of
modern astrophysics and ancient lamaism demands no complicated
explanation. The cosmological awareness- and awareness of every
other natural process- is there in the cortex. You can confirm this
preconceptual mystical knowledge by empirical observation and
measurement, but it’s all there inside your skull.
Your neurons “know” because they are
linked directly to the process, are part of it.] The mind in its
conditioned state, that is to say, when limited to words and ego
games, is continuously in thought-formation activity. The nervous
system in a state of quiescence, alert, awake but not active is
comparable to what Buddhists call the highest state of dhyana (deep
meditation) when still united to a human body. The conscious
recognition of the Clear Light induces an ecstatic condition of
consciousness such as saints and mystics of the West have called
The first sign is the glimpsing of the “Clear Light of Reality,”
“the infallible mind of the pure mystic state.”
This is the awareness of energy transformations with no imposition
of mental categories. The duration of this state varies with the
individual. It depends upon experience, security, trust, preparation
and the surroundings. In those who have had even a little practical
experience of the tranquil state of nongame awareness, and in those
who have happy games, this state can last from thirty minutes to
In this state, realization of what mystics call the “Ultimate Truth”
is possible, provided that sufficient preparation has been made by
the person beforehand. Otherwise he cannot benefit now, and must
wander on into lower and lower conditions of hallucinations, as
determined by his past games, until he drops back to routine
It is important to remember that the conscious-expansion process is
the reverse of the birth process, birth being the beginning of game
life and the ego-loss experience being a temporary ending of game
But in both there is a passing from one state of consciousness
into another. And just as an infant must wake up and learn from
experience the nature of this world, so likewise a person at the
moment of consciousness expansion must wake up in this new brilliant
world and become familiar with its own peculiar conditions. In those
who are heavily dependent on their ego games, and who dread giving
up their control, the illuminated state endures only so long as it
would take to snap a finger. In some, it lasts as long as the time
taken for eating a meal.
If the subject is prepared to diagnose the symptoms of ego loss, he
needs no outside help at this point. Not only should the person
about to give up his ego be able to diagnose the symptoms as they
come, one by one, but he should also be able to recognize the Clear
Light without being set face to face with it by another person.
the person fails to recognize and accept the onset of ego loss, he
may complain of strange bodily symptoms. This shows that he has not
reached a liberated state. Then the guide or friend should explain
the symptoms as indicating the onset of ego loss.
Here is a list of commonly reported physical sensations:
Bodily pressure, which the
Tibetans call earth-sinking-into-water
Clammy coldness, followed by
feverish heat, which the Tibetans call
Body disintegrating or blown to
atoms, called fire-sinking-into-air
Pressure on head and ears, which
Americans call rocket-launching-into-space
Tingling in extremities
Feelings of body melting or
flowing as if wax
Trembling or shaking, beginning
in pelvic regions and spreading up torso
These physical reactions should be
recognized as signs heralding transcendence. Avoid treating them as
symptoms of illness, accept them, merge with them, enjoy them.
Mild nausea occurs often with the ingestion of morning-glory seeds
or peyote, rarely with mescaline and infrequently with LSD or
psilocybin. If the subject experiences stomach messages, they should
be hailed as a sign that consciousness is moving around in the body.
The symptoms are mental; the mind
controls the sensation, and the subject should merge with the
sensation, experience it fully, enjoy it and, having enjoyed it, let
consciousness flow on to the next phase. It is usually more natural
to let consciousness stay in the body - the subject’s attention can
move from the stomach and concentrate on breathing, heart beat. If
this does not free him from nausea, the guide should move the
consciousness to external events - music, walking in the garden,
The appearance of physical symptoms of ego-loss, recognized and
understood, should result in peaceful attainment of illumination. If
ecstatic acceptance does not occur (or when the period of peaceful
silence seems to be ending), the relevant sections of the
instructions can be spoken in a low tone of voice in the ear. It is
often useful to repeat them distinctly, clearly impressing them upon
the person so as to prevent his mind from wandering. Another method
of guiding the experience with a minimum of activity is to have the
instructions previously recorded in the subject’s own voice and to
flip the tape on at the appropriate moment.
The reading will recall to the mind of
the voyager the former preparation; it will cause the naked
consciousness to be recognized as the “Clear Light of the
Beginning;” it will remind the subject of his unity with this state
of perfect enlightenment and help him to maintain it. If, when
undergoing ego-loss, one is familiar with this state, by virtue of
previous experience and preparation, the Wheel of Rebirth (i.e., all
game playing) is stopped, and liberation instantaneously is
But such spiritual efficiency is so very
rare, that the normal mental condition of the person is unequal to
the supreme feat of holding on to the state in which the Clear Light
shines; and there follows a progressive descent into lower and lower
states of the Bardo existence, and then rebirth. The simile of a
needle balanced and set rolling on a thread is used by the lamas to
elucidate this condition.
So long as the needle retains its
balance, it remains on the thread. Eventually, however, the law of
gravitation (the pull of the ego or external stimulation) affects
it, and it falls. In the realm of the Clear Light, similarly, the
mentality of a person in the ego-transcendent state momentarily
enjoys a condition of balance, of perfect equilibrium, and of
Unfamiliar with such a state, which is
an ecstatic state of non-ego, the consciousness of the average human
being lacks the power to function in it. Karmic (i.e., game)
propensities becloud the consciousness-principle with thoughts of
personality, of individualized being, of dualism. Thus, losing
equilibrium, consciousness falls away from the Clear Light. It is
thought processes which prevent the realization of Nirvana (which is
the “blowing out of the flame” of selfish game desire); and so the
Wheel of Life continues to turn.
All or some of the appropriate passages in the instructions may be
read to the voyager during the period of waiting for the drug to
take effect, and when the first symptoms of ego-loss appear.
the voyager is clearly in a profound ego-transcendent ecstasy, the
wise guide will remain silent.
Part II: The Secondary Clear Light Seen
Immediately After Ego-Loss
The preceding section describes how the
Clear Light may be recognized and liberation maintained. But if it
becomes apparent that the Primary Clear Light has not been
recognized, then it can certainly be assumed there is dawning what
is called the phase of the Secondary Clear Light. The first flash of
experience usually produces a state of ecstasy of the greatest
intensity. Every cell in the body is sensed as involved in orgastic
It may be helpful to describe in more detail some of the phenomena
which often accompany the moment of ego-loss. One of these might be
called “wave energy flow.” The individual becomes aware that he is
part of and surrounded by a charged field of energy, which seems
almost electrical. In order to maintain the ego-loss state as long as
possible, the prepared person will relax and allow the forces to
flow through him.
There are two dangers to avoid: the
attempt to control or to rationalize this energy flow. Either of
these reactions is indicative of ego-activity and the First Bardo
transcendence is lost. The second phenomenon might be called
“biological life-flow.” Here the person becomes aware of
physiological and biochemical processes; rhythmic pulsing activity
within the body.
Often this may be sensed as powerful
motors or generators continuously throbbing and radiating energy. An
endless flow of cellular forms and colors flashes by. Internal
biological processes may also be heard with characteristic
swooshing, crackling, and pounding noises. Again the person must
resist the temptation to label or control these processes.
At this point you are tuned in to areas
of the nervous system which are inaccessible to routine perception.
You cannot drag your ego into the molecular processes of life. These
processes are a billion years older than the learned conceptual
Another typical and most rewarding phase of the First Bardo involves
ecstatic energy movement felt in the spine. The base of the backbone
seems to be melting or seems on fire. If the person can maintain
quiet concentration the energy will be sensed as flowing upwards.
Tantric adepts devote decades of concentrated meditation to the
release of these ecstatic energies which they call Kundalini,
the Serpent Power.
One allows the energies to travel
upwards through several ganglionic centers (chakras) to the
brain, where they are sensed as a burning sensation in the top of
the cranium. These sensations are not unpleasant to the prepared
person, but, on the contrary, are accompanied by the most intense
feelings of joy and illumination. Ill-prepared subjects may
interpret the experience in pathological terms and attempt to
control it, usually with unpleasant results.
Professor R. C. Zaehner, who as
an Oriental scholar and “expert” on mysticism should have know
better, has published an account of how this prized experience can
be lost and distorted into hypochondriacal complaint in the
... I had a curious sensation in
my body which reminded me of what Mr. Custance describes as a
“tingling at the base of the spine,” which according to him,
usually precedes a bout of mania. It was rather like that. In
the Broad Walk this sensation occurred again and again until the
climax of the experiment was reached... I did not like it at
(R. C. Zaehner: Mysticism,
Sacred and Profane. Oxford Univ. Press, 1957, p. 214)
If the subjects fails to recognize the
rushing flow of First Bardo phenomena, liberation from the ego is
lost. The person finds himself slipping back into mental activities.
At this point he should try to recall the instructions or be
reminded of them, and a second contact with these processes can be
made. The second stage is less intense.
A ball set bouncing reaches its greatest
height at the first bounce; the second bounce is lower, and each
succeeding bounce is still lower until the ball comes to rest. The
consciousness at the loss of the ego is similar to this. Its first
spiritual bound, directly upon leaving the body-ego, is the highest;
the next is lower. Then the force of karma, (i.e., past
game-playing), takes over and different forms of external reality
are experienced. Finally, the force of karma having spent itself,
consciousness returns to “normal.” Routines are taken up again and
thus rebirth occurs. The first ecstasy usually ends with a momentary
flashback to the ego condition.
This return can be happy or sad, loving
or suspicious, fearful or courageous, depending on the personality,
the preparation, and the setting.
This flashback to the ego-game is accompanied by a concern with
“Who am I now? Am I dead or not
dead? What is happening?”
You cannot determine. You see the
surroundings and your companions as you had been used to seeing them
before. There is a penetrating sensitivity. But you are on a
different level. Your ego grasp is not quite as sure as it was.
The karmic hallucinations and visions have not yet started. Neither
the frightening apparitions nor the heavenly visions have begun.
This is a most sensitive and pregnant period. The remainder of the
experience can be pushed one way or another depending upon
preparation and emotional climate. If you are experienced in
consciousness alteration, or if you are a naturally introverted
person, remember the situation and the schedule.
Stay calm and let the experience take
you where it will. You will probably re-experience the ecstasy of
illumination once again; or you may drift into aesthetic or
philosophic or interpersonal enlightenments. Don’t hold on: let the
stream carry you along. The experienced person is usually beyond
dependence on setting. He can turn off external pressure and return
to illumination. An extroverted person, dependent upon social games
and outside situations may, however, become pleasantly distracted
(colors, sounds, people).
If you anticipate extroverted
distraction and if you want to maintain a non-game state of ecstasy,
then remember the following suggestions: do not be distracted; try
to concentrate on an ideal contemplative personage, e.g., Buddha,
Christ, Socrates, Ramakrishna, Einstein, Herman Hesse or Lao Tse:
follow his model as if he were a being with a physical body waiting
for you. Join him.
If this is not successful, don’t fret or think about it. Perhaps you
don’t have a mystical or transcendental ideal. That means your
conceptual limits are within external games. Now that you know what
the mystic experience is, you can prepare for it next time. You have
lost the content-free flow and should now be ready to slip into
exciting confrontation with external reality. In the Second Bardo
you can reach and deeply experience game revelations.
We have just anticipated the reactions of the naturally mystical
introvert, the experienced person, and the extrovert. Now let’s turn
to the novitiate who shows confusion at this early stage of the
sequence. The best procedure is to make a reassuring sign and do
nothing. He will have read this manual and will have some guidepost.
Leave him alone and he will probably dive into his panic and master
it. If he indicates that he wishes guidance, repeat the
instructions. Tell him what is happening. Remind him of his phase in
the process. Urge him quietly to release his ego struggle and drift
back into contact with the Clear Light. Preparation and guidance of
this sort will allow many to reach the illuminated state who would
not be expected to recognize it.
At this point, it is necessary to inject a word of benign warning.
Reading this manual is extremely useful, but no words can
communicate experience. You are going to be surprised, startled and
delighted. A person may have heard a detailed description of the art
of swimming and yet never had the chance to swim. Suddenly diving
into the water, he finds himself unable to swim.
So with those who have tried to learn
the theory of how to experience ego-loss, and have never applied it.
They cannot maintain unbroken continuity of consciousness, they grow
bewildered at the changed condition; they fail to maintain the
mystical ecstasy; they fail to take advantage of the opportunity
unless upheld and directed by a guide. Even with all that a guide
can do, they ordinarily, because of bad karma (heavy ego games) fail
to recognize the liberation. But this is no cause for worry. At the
worst, they just slip back to shore. No one has drowned, and most of
those who have taken the voyage have been eager to try again.
Even those who have familiarized themselves with the road maps and
who previously have had illumination, may find themselves in
settings where heavy game behavior on the part of others forces them
into contact with external reality. If this happens, recall the
instructions. The person who masters this principle can block out
the external. The one who has mastered control of consciousness is
independent of setting. Again there are those, who although
previously successful, may have brought ego games into the session
They may want to provide someone else
with a particular type of experience. They may be promoting some
self goal. They may be nurturing negative or competitive or
seductive feelings towards someone in the session. If this happens,
recall the instructions. Remember the unity of all beings. One to me
is shame and fame. One to me is loss or gain. Jettison your ego
program and float back to the radiant bliss of at-one-ness.
If you reach the Clear Light immediately and maintain it, that is
best. But if not, if you have slipped down to reality concerns, by
remembering these instructions you should be able to regain what the
Tibetans call the Secondary Clear Light.
While on this secondary level, an interesting dialogue occurs
between pure transcendence and the awareness that this ecstatic
vision is happening to oneself. The first radiance knows no self, no
concepts. The secondary experience involves a certain state of
conceptual lucidity. The knowing self hovers within that
transcendent terrain from which it is usually barred. If the
instructions are remembered, external reality will not intrude. But
the flashing in and out between pure ego-less unity, and lucid,
non-game selfhood, produces an intellectual ecstasy and
understanding that defies description. Previous philosophic reading
will suddenly take on living meaning.
Thus in this secondary stage of the First Bardo, there is possible
both the mystic non-self and the mystic self experience.
After you have experienced these two states, you may wish to pursue
this distinction intellectually. We are confronted here with one of
the oldest debates in Eastern philosophy. Is it better to be part of
the sugar or to taste the sugar? Theological controversies and their
dualities are far removed from experience. Thanks to the
experimental mysticism made possible by consciousness-expanding
drugs, you may have been lucky enough to have experienced the
flashing back and forth between the two states. You may be lucky
enough to know what the academic monks could only think about.
Here ends the First Bardo, The Period of Ego-loss or Non-Game
SECOND BARDO - THE PERIOD OF
If the Primary Clear Light is not recognized, there remains the
possibility of maintaining the Secondary Clear Light. If that is
lost, then comes the Chonyid Bardo, the period of karmic
illusions or intense hallucinatory mixtures of game reality. It is
very important that the instructions be remembered - they can have
great influence and effect.
During this period, the flow of consciousness, microscopically clear
and intense, is interrupted by fleeting attempts to rationalize and
interpret. But the normal game-playing ego is not functioning
effectively. There exist, therefore, unlimited possibilities for, on
the one hand, delightful sensuous, intellectual and emotional
novelties if one floats with the current; and, on the other hand,
fearful ambuscades of confusion and terror if one tries to impose
his will on the experience.
The purpose of this part of the manual is to prepare the person for
the choice points which arise during this stage. Strange sounds,
weird sights and disturbed visions may occur. These can awe,
frighten and terrify unless one is prepared.
The experienced person will be able to maintain the recognition that
all perceptions come from within and will be able to sit quietly,
controlling his expanded awareness like a phantasmagoric
multi-dimensional television set: the most acute and sensitive
hallucinations - visual, auditory, touch, smell, physical and
bodily; the most exquisite reactions, compassionate insight into the
self, the world.
The key is inaction: passive integration
with all that occurs around you. If you try to impose your will, use
your mind, rationalize, seek explanations, you will get caught in
hallucinatory whirlpools. The motto: peace, acceptance. It is all an
ever-changing panorama. You are temporarily removed from the world
of game. Enjoy it.
The inexperienced and those to who ego
control is important may find this passivity impossible. If you
cannot remain inactive and subdue your will, then the one certain
activity which can reduce panic and pull you out of hallucinatory
mind-games is physical contact with another person.
Go to the guide or to another
participant and put your head on his lap or chest; put your face
next to his and concentrate on the movement and sound of his
inspiration. Breathe deeply and feel the air rush in and the sighing
release. This is the oldest form of living communication; the
brotherhood of breath. The guide’s hand on your forehead may add to
Contact with another participant may be misunderstood and provoke
sexual hallucinations. For this reason, helping contact should be
made explicit by prearrangement. Unprepared participants may impose
sexual fears or fantasies on the contact. Turn them off; they are
karmic illusory productions. The tender, gentle, supportive huddling
together of participants is a natural development during the second
Do not try to rationalize this contact.
Human beings and, for that matter, most all mobile terrestrial
creatures have been huddling together during long, dark confused
nights for several hundred thousand years.
Breathe in and breathe out with you companions.
We are all one! That’s what your breath
is telling you.
Explanation of the Second Bardo
The underlying problem of the Second Bardo is that any and every
shape - human, divine, diabolical, heroic, evil, animal, thing -
which the human brain conjures up or the past life recalls, can
present itself to consciousness: shapes and forms and sounds
whirling by endlessly. The underlying solution - repeated again and
again - is to recognize that your brain is producing the visions.
They do not exist. Nothing exists except as your consciousness gives
it life. You are standing on the threshold of recognizing the truth:
there is no reality behind any of the phenomena of the ego-loss
state, save the illusions stored up in your own mind either as
accretions from game (Sangsaric) experience or as gifts from organic
physical nature and its billion-year old past history. Recognition
of this truth gives liberation.
There is, of course, no way of classifying the infinite permutations
and combinations of visionary elements. The cortex contains
file-cards for billions of images from the history of the person, of
the race, and of living forms. Any of these, at the rate of a
hundred million per second (according to neuro-physiologists), can
flood into awareness. Bobbing around in this brilliant, symphonic
sea of imagery is the remnant of the conceptual mind. On the endless
watery turbulence of the Pacific Ocean bobs a tiny open mouth
shouting (between saline mouthfuls), “Order! System! Explain all
One cannot predict what visions will occur, nor their sequence. One
can only urge the participants to shut the mouth, breathe through
the nose, and turn off the fidgety, rationalizing mind.
But only the
experienced person of mystical bent can do this (and thus remain in
serene enlightenment). The unprepared person will be confused or,
worse, panicky: the intellectual struggle to control the ocean. In
order to guide the person, to help him organize his visions into
explicable units, the Chonyid Bardo was written.
There are two sections:
Seven Peaceful Deities with
their symmetrically opposed ego traps.
Eight Wrathful Deities who
can be joyfully accepted as visionary productions, or
fled from in terror.
Each of the Seven Peaceful Deities
(bisexual Father-Mother figures) are accompanied by consorts,
attendants, lesser deities, saints, angels, heroes. Each of the
Wrathful Deities is similarly accompanied. Lights, symbolic objects,
beautiful, horrid, threatening, seething, are likewise seen. If read
literally, The Tibetan Book of the Dead would have you expect the
“Master of All Visible Shapes” (or his opposite, the fondness for
stupidity) on the first day; the “Immovable Deity of Happiness” and
his consort, attendants and opposite on the second, etc. The manual
should, of course, not be used rigidly, exoterically, but should be
taken in its esoteric, allegorical form.
Read from this perspective, we see that the lamas have listed or
named a thousand images which can boil up in the ever-changing
jeweled mosaic of the retina (that multi-layered swamp of billions
of rods and cones, infiltrated, like a Persian rug or a Mayan
carving, with countless multi-colored capillaries). By preparatory
reading of the manual and by its repetition during the experience,
the novice is led via suggestion to recognize this fantastic retinal
Most important, he is told that they come from within. All deities
and demons, all heavens and hells are internal.
The student with a particular interest in Tibetan or Tantric
Buddhism should steep himself in the text of the Chonyid Bardo. He
should obtain colored plates of the fourteen dramas of the Bardo,
and he should arrange to have the guide lead him through the
prescribed sequence during the drug session. This will provide an
unforgettable series of liberations and will permit the devotee to
emerge from the experience “reincarnated” in the lamaist tradition.
The aim of this manual is to make available the general outline of
the Tibetan Book and to translate it into psychedelic English. For
this reason we shall not present the detailed sequence of lamaist
hallucinations but, rather, list some apparitions commonly reported
Following the Tibetan Thodol, we have classified Second Bardo
visions into seven types:
The Source or Creator Vision
The Internal Flow of
The Fire-Flow of Internal
The Wave-Vibration Structure
of External Forms
The Vibratory Waves of
“The Retinal Circus”
“The Magic Theatre”
We owe the phrase “retinal circus” to
Henri Michaux (Miserable Miracle), and the term “magic
theatre” to Hermann Hesse (Steppenwolf).
Visions 2 and 3 involve closed eyes and
no contact with external stimuli. In Vision 2 the internal imagery
is primarily conceptual. The experience can range from revelation
and insight to confusion and chaos, but the cognitive, intellectual
meaning is paramount.
In Vision 3 the internal imagery is
primarily emotional. The experience can range from love and ecstatic
unity to fear, distrust and isolation. Visions 4 and 5 involve open
eyes and rapt attention to external stimuli, such as sounds, lights,
In Vision 4 the external imagery is primarily conceptual and in
Vision 5 emotional factors predominate.
The sevenfold table just defined bears
some similarity to the mandalic schema of the Peaceful Deities
listed for the Second Bardo in The Tibetan Book of the Dead.
THE PEACEFUL VISIONS
Vision 1: The Source
[The first Peaceful Deity listed by the
Bardo Thodol is the Bhagavan Vairochana who occupies the
center of the mandala of the five Dhyani-Buddhas. His attributes of
source-power have been translated into those of the monotheistic
creator of Western religions.]
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored)
The White Light, or First Bardo energy, may be interpreted as God
the Creator. The Spreader of the Seed. The Power which makes all
shapes visible. Seed of all that is. Sovereign Power. The
All-Powerful. The Central Sun. The One Truth. The Source of all
Organic Life. The Divine Mother. The Female Creative Principle.
Mother of the Space of Heaven. Radiant Father-Mother. Magnificent
revelations, both spiritual and philosophic, can occur at this point
making the highest union of experience and intellect.
But, because of bad karma (usually
religious beliefs of a monotheistic or punitive nature), the
glorious light of the seed wisdom it can produce awe and terror. The
person will wish to flee and will beget a fondness for the dull
white light symbolizing stupidity.
Persons from a Judaeo-Christian background conceive of an enormous
gulf between divinity (which is “up there”) and the self (“down
here”). Christian mystics’ claims to unity with divine radiance has
always posed problems for theologians who are committed to the
cosmological subject-object distinction. Most Westerners, therefore,
find it difficult to attain unity with the source-light.
If the guide ascertains that the voyager is struggling with thoughts
or feelings about the creative source energy, he can read the
appropriate instructions. ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 1: THE
Vision 2: The Internal Flow of Archetypal
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored;
If the undifferentiated light of the First Bardo or of the Source
Energy is lost, luminous waves of differentiated forms can flood
through the consciousness. The person’s mind begins to identify
these figures, that is, to label them and experience revelations
about the life process.
[Lama Govinda tells us that Amoghasiddhi
“... the mysterious activity of
spiritual forces, which work removed from the senses, invisible
and imperceptible, with the aim of guiding the individual (or,
more properly: all living beings) towards the maturity of
knowledge and liberation. The yellow light of an (inner) sun
invisible to human eyes... (in which the unfathomable space
of the universe seems to open itself) for the serene mystic
green of Amoghasiddhi.... On the elementary plane this
all-pervading power corresponds to the element of air - the
principle of movement and extension, of life and breath (prana).”
Lama Govinda: Foundations of Tibetan
Mysticism. Lodon: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1959, p.120. The fifth
day of the Baro Thodol confronts the deceased with the Bhagavan
Buddha Amoghasiddhi, Almighty Conqueror, from the green Norther
realm of Successful Performance of Best Actions, attended by a
Divine Mother, and two Bodhisattvas representing the mental
functions of “equilibrium, immutability, and almighty power” and
“clearer of obscurations.”]
Specifically, the subject is caught up in an endless flow of colored
forms, microbiological shapes, cellular acrobatics, capillary
whirling. The cortex is turned in on molecular processes which are
completely new and strange: a Niagara of abstract designs; the
life-stream flowing, flowing. These visions might perhaps be
described as pure sensations of cellular and sub-cellular processes.
It is uncertain whether they involve the retina and/or the visual
cortex, or whether they are flashes of direct, molecular sensation
in other areas of the central nervous system. They are subjectively
described as internal visions.
Another class of internal process images involves sound. Again we do
not know whether these sensations originate in the auditory
apparatus and/or in the auditory cortex, or whether they are flashes
of direct, molecular sensations in other areas. They are
subjectively described as internal sounds: clicking, thudding,
clashing, soughing, ringing, tapping, moaning, shrill whistles.
The Tibetan Book includes a brilliant
discussion of internal process noises.
“. . . innumerable (other) kinds of
musical instruments, filling (with music) the whole
world-systems and causing them to vibrate, to quake and tremble
with sounds so mighty as to daze one’s brain....”
“Tibetan lamas, in chanting their
rituals, employ seven (or eight) sorts of musical instruments:
big drums, cymbals (commonly brass), conch shells, bells (like
the handbells used in the Christian Mass Service), timbrels,
small clarionets (sounding like Highland bagpipes), big
trumpets, and human thighbone trumpets. Although the combined
sounds of these instruments are far from being melodious, the
lamas maintain that they psychically produce in the devotee an
attitude of deep veneration and faith, because they are the
counterparts of the natural sounds which one’s own body is heard
producing when the fingers are put in the ears to shut out
external sounds. Stopping the ears thus, there are heard a
thudding sound, like that of a big drum being beaten; a clashing
sound, as of cymbals; a soughing sound, as of a wind moving
through a forest - as when a conch-shell is bone; a ringing as
of bells; a sharp tapping sound, as when a timbrel is used; a
moaning sound, like that of a clarionet; a bass moaning sound,
as if made with a big trumpet; and a shriller sound, as of a
“Not only is this interesting as a theory of Tibetan sacred
music, but it gives the clue to the esoteric interpretation of
the symbolical natural sounds of Truth (referred to in the
second paragraph following, and elsewhere in our text), which
are said to be, or to proceed from, the intellectual faculties
within the human mentality.”
- (Evans-Wentz, p. 128)]
These noises, like the visions, are
direct sensations unencumbered by mental concepts. Raw, molecular,
dancing units of energy.
The minds sweeps in and out of this evolutionary stream, creating
cosmological revelations. Dozens of mythical and Darwinian insights
flash into awareness. The person is allowed to glance back down the
flow of time and to perceive how the life energy continually
manifests itself in forms, transient, alwasy changing, reforming.
Microscopic forms merge with primal creative myths. The mirror of
consciousness is held up to the life stream.
As long as the person floats with the current, he is exposed to a
billion-year lesson in cosmology. But the drag of the mind is always
present. The tendency to impose arbitrary, isolating order on the
organic process. Sometimes the voyager feels he should report back
his vision. He converts the life flow into a cosmic inkblot test -
attempts to label each form. “Now I see a peacock’s tail. Now Muslim
knights in colored armor. Oh, now a waterfall of jewels. Now,
Chinese music. Now, gem-like serpents, etc.” Verbalizations of this
sort dull the light, stop the flow and should not be encouraged.
Another trap is that of imposing a sexual interpretation. The
dancing, playful flow of life is, in the most reverent sense,
sexual. Forms merging, spinning together, reproducing. Eros in its
countless manifestations. The Tibetans refer to the female
Bodhisattvas Pushpema, personification of blossoms, and Lasema,
the “Belle”, depicted holding a mirror in a coquettish attitude.
Keep the pure, spontaneous awareness of the Mirror-like Wisdom.
Laugh joyously at the tricks of the life process, forever decking
out forms in seductive, enticing patterns to keep the dance going.
If the voyager interprets the visions of Eros in terms of his
personal sexual game model, and attempts to think or plan - “what
should I do? what role should I play?” - he is likely to slip down
into the Third Bardo.
Sexual plots dominate his awareness, the
flow fades, the mirror tarnishes, and he is rudely reborn as a
confused, thinking being. Still another impasse is the imposition of
physical symptom games upon the biological flow. The new somatic
sensations may be interpreted as symptoms. If it is new, it must be
bad. Any organ of the body may be selected as the focus of the
“illness.” People whose primary expectation when taking a
psychedelic substance is medical, are particularly likely to fall
into this trap. Medical doctors are, in fact, extremely prone and
can imagine colorful diseases and fatal attacks.
In the case of the most widely-used psychedelics (LSD, psilocybin,
etc.), it is safe to say that such bodily effects are virtually
never the direct effect of the drug. The drug acts only on the brain
and activates central neural patterns. All physical symptoms are
created by the mind. Bodily sickness is a sign that the ego is
fighting to maintain or regain its hold over an outpouring of
feeling, over a dissolution of emotional boundaries.
If the person complains of physical symptoms such as nausea or pain,
the guide should read him the ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR PHYSICAL
The negative, wrathful counterpart to
this vision occurs if the voyager reacts with fear to the powerful
flow of life forms. Such a reaction is attributable to the cumulated
result of game playing (karma) dominated by anger or stupidity. A
nightmarish hell-world may ensue. The visual forms appear like a
confusing chaos of cheap, ugly dime-store objects, brassy, vulgar
The person may become terrified at the
prospect of being engulfed by them. The awesome sounds may be heard
as hideous, clashing, oppressive, grating noises. The person will
attempt to escape from these perceptions into restless external
activity (talking, moving around, etc.) or into conceptual,
analytic, mental activity. The experience is the same, the
intellectual interpretation is different. Instead of revelation,
there is confusion; instead of calm joy, there is fear.
The guide, recognizing the voyager to be
in such a state, can help him get free, by reading the ==|==>>
Instructions for Vision 2.
Vision 3: The Fire-Flow of Internal Unity
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored,
The First Bardo instructions should keep
you face-to-face with the void-ecstasy.
Yet there are classes of men
who, having carried over karmic conflict about feeling-inhibition,
prove unable to hold the pure experience beyond all feelings, and
slip into emotionally toned visions. The undifferentiated energy of
the First Bardo is woven into visionary games in the form of intense
feelings. Exquisite, intense, pulsating sensations of unity and love
will be felt; the negative counterpart is feelings of attachment,
greed, isolation and bodily concerns.
It comes about this way: the pure flow of energy loses its white
void quality and becomes sensed as intense feelings. An emotional
game is imposed. Incredible new physical sensations pulse through
the body. The glow of life is felt flooding along veins. One merges
into a unitive ocean of orgastic, fluid electricity, [The Peaceful
Deity of the Bardo Thodol personifying this vision is the Buddha
Amitabbha, the all-discriminating wisdom and feeling, boundless
light, representing life eternal.
Lama Govinda writes that,
“The deep red light of
discriminating inner vision shines forth from his heart...
fire corresponds to him and thus, according to the ancient
traditional symbolism, the eye and the function of seeing.”
(Govinda, op. cit., p. 120.)
With the Bhagavan Amitabbha comes
the Bodhisattva Chenrazee, embodiment of mercy or compassion,
the great pithier ever on the lookout to discover distress and to
succour the troubled. He is joined by the Bodhisattva “Glorious
Gentle-voiced One,” and the female incarnates “song” and “light.”]
the endless flow of shared-life, of love.
Visions related to the circulatory system are common. The subject
tumbles down through his own arterial network. The motor of the
heart reverberates as one with the pulsing of all life. The heart
then breaks, and red fire bleeds out to merge with all living
beings. All living organisms are throbbing together. One is joyfully
aware of the two-billion-year-old electric sexual dance; one is at
last divested of robot clothes and limbs and undulates in the
endless chain of living forms.
Dominating this ecstatic state is the feeling of intense love. You
are a joyful part of all life.
The memory of former delusions of
self-hood and differentiation invokes exultant laughter. All the
harsh, dry, brittle angularity of game life is melted. You drift off
- soft, rounded, moist, warm. Merged with all life. You may feel
yourself floating out and down into a warm sea. Your individuality
and autonomy of movement are moistly disappearing. Your control is
surrendered to the total organism. Blissful passivity. Ecstatic,
orgiastic, undulating unity. All worries and concerns wash away.
All is gained as everything is given up.
There is organic revelation. Every cell in your body is singing its
song of freedom - the entire biological universe is in harmony,
liberated from the censorship and control of you and your restricted
But wait! You, You, are disappearing into the unity.
You are being swallowed up by the
ecstatic undulation. Your ego, that one tiny remaining strand of
self, screams STOP! You are terrified by the pull of the glorious,
dazzling, transparent, radiant red light. You wrench yourself out of
the life-flow, drawn by your intense attachment to your old desires.
There is a terrible rending as your
roots tear out of the life matrix - a ripping of your fibres and
veins away from the greater body to which you were attached. And
when you have cut yourself off from the fire-flow of life the
throbbing stops, the ecstasy ceases, your limbs harden and stiffen
into angular forms, your plastic doll body has regained its
orientation. There you sit, isolated from the stream of life,
impotent master of your desires and appetites, miserable. While you
are floating down the evolutionary river, there comes a sense of
limitless self-less power.
The delight of flowing cosmic
belongingness. The astounding discovery that consciousness can tune
in to an infinite number of organic levels. There are billions of
cellular processes in your body, each with its universe of
experience - an endless variety of ecstasies. The simple joys and
pains and burdens of your ego represent one set of experiences - a
repetitious, dusty set.
As you slip into the fire-flow of
biological energy, series after series of experiential sets flash
by. You are no longer encapsulated in the structure of ego and
But through panic and a desire to latch on to the familiar, you shut
off the flow, open your eyes; then the flowingness is lost. The
potentiality to move from one level of consciousness to another is
gone. Your fear and desire to control have driven you to settle for
one static site of consciousness. To use the Eastern or genetic
metaphor, you have frozen the dance of energy and committed yourself
to one incarnation, and you have done it out of fear.
When this happens, there are several steps which can take you back
to the biological flow (and from there to the First Bardo). First,
close your eyes. Lie on you stomach and let you body sink through
the floor, merge with the surroundings. Feel the hard, square edges
of your body soften and start to move in the bloodstream. Let the
rhythm of breathing become tide flow. Bodily contact is probably the
most effective method of softening hardened surfaces. No movement.
No body games. Close physical contact with another invariably brings
about the unity of fire-flow. Your blood begins to flow into the
other’s body. His breathing pours into your lungs. You both drift
down the capillary river.
Another form of life process images is the flow of auditory
sensations. The endless series of abstract sounds (described in the
preceding vision) bounce through awareness. The emotional reaction
to these can be neutral or can involve intense feelings of unity, or
of annoyed fear.
The positive reaction occurs when the subject merges with the sound
flow. The thudding drum of the heart is sensed as the basic anthem
of humanity. The whooshing sough of the breath as the rushing river
of all life. Overwhelming feelings of love, gratitude and oneness
funnel into the moment of sound, into each note of the biological
But, as always, the voyager may intrude his personality with its
wants and opinions. He may not “like” the noise. His judgmental ego
may be aesthetically offended by the sounds of life. The heart thud
is, after all, monotonous; the natural music of the inner ear, with
its clicks and hums and whistles, lacks the romantic symmetries of
Beethoven. The terrible separation of “me” from my body occurs.
Horrible. Out of my control. Turn it off.
The trained guide can usually sense when ego-attachment threatens to
pull the person out of the unitive flow. At this time he can guide
the voyager by reading the ==|==>> Instructions for Vision 3.
Vision 4: The Wave-Vibration Structure
of External Forms
(Eyes open or rapt involvement with external stimuli; intellectual
The pure, content-free light of the First Bardo probably involves
basic electrical wave energy. This is nameless, indescribable,
because it is far beyond any concepts which we now possess. Some
future atomic physicist may be able to classify this energy. Perhaps
it will always be ineffable for a nervous system such as that of
homo sapiens. Can an organic system “comprehend” the vastly more
At any event, most persons, even the
most illuminated, find it impossible to maintain experiential
contact with this void-light and slip back to imposing mental
structures, hallucinatory and revelatory, upon the flow. Thus we are
brought to another frequent vision which involves intense, rapt,
unitive awareness of external stimuli. If the eyes are open, this
super-reality effect can be visual. The penetrating impact of other
stimuli can also set off revelatory imagery.
It comes about this way. The subject’s awareness is suddenly invaded
by an outside stimulus. His attention is captured, but his old
conceptual mind is not functioning. But other sensitivities are
engaged. He experiences direct sensation. The raw “is-ness.” He
sees, not objects, but patterns of light waves. He hears, not
“music” or “meaningful” sound, but acoustic waves. He is struck with
the sudden revelation that all sensation and perception are based on
That the world around him which
heretofore had an illusory solidity, is nothing more than a play of
physical waves. That he is involved in a cosmic television show
which has no more substantiality than the images on his TV picture
tube. [The Peaceful Deity of the Thodol personifying this vision is
According to Lama Govinda,
“In the light of the Mirror-like
Wisdom... things are freed from their “thingness,” their
isolation, without being deprived of their form; they are
divested of their materiality, without being dissolved, because
the creative principle of the mind, which is at the bottom of
all form and materiality, is recognized as the active side of
the universal Store Consciousness (alaya-vijnana), on the
surface of which forms arise and pass away, like the waves on
the surface of the ocean....”
(Govinda, op. cit., p. 119.)
The atomic structure of matter is, of
course, known to us intellectually, but never experienced by the
adult except in states of intense altered consciousness. Learning
from a physics textbook about the wave structure of matter is one
Experiencing it - being in it - with the
old, familiar, gross, hallucinatory comfort of “solid” things gone
and unavailable, is quite another matter. If these super-real
visions involve wave phenomena, then the external world takes on a
radiance and a revelation that is staggeringly clear. The
experienced insight that the world of phenomena exists in the form
of waves, electronic images, can produce a sense of illuminated
power. Everything is experienced as consciousness.
These exultant radiations should be recognized as productions of
your own internal processes. You should not attempt to control or
conceptualize. This can come later. There is the danger of
hallucinatory freezing. The subject rushes back (sometimes
literally) to the three-dimensional reality, convinced of the fixed
“truth” of one experienced revelation. Many misguided mystics and
many persons called insane have fallen into this ambuscade.
This is like making a still photograph
of a television pattern and shouting that one has finally seized the
truth. All is ecstatic electric Maya, the two-billion-year dance of
waves. No one part of it is more real than another. Everything at
all moments is shimmering with all the meaning. So far we have
considered the positive radiance of clarity; but there are fearful
negative aspects of the fourth vision. When the subject senses that
his “world” is fragmenting into waves, he may become terrified.
“He,” “me,” “I” are dissolving!
The world around me is supposed to sit,
static and dead, quietly awaiting my manipulation. But these passive
things have changed into a shimmering dance of living energy! The
Maya nature of phenomena creates panic. Where is the solid base?
Every thing, every concept, every form upon which one rests one’s
mind collapses into electrical vibrations lacking solidity.
The face of the guide or of one’s
beloved friend becomes a dancing mosaic of impulses on one’s cortex.
“My consciousness” has created everything of which I am conscious. I
have kinescoped my world, my loved ones, myself. All are just
shimmering energy patterns. Instead of clarity and exultant power,
there is confusion. The subject staggers around, grasping at
electron-patterns, striving to freeze them back into the familiar
All solidity is gone. All phenomena are paper images pasted on the
glass screen of consciousness. For the unprepared, or for the person
whose karmic residue stresses control, the discovery of the
wave-nature of all structure, the Maya revelation, is a disastrous
web of uncertainty.
We have discussed only the visual aspects of the fourth vision.
Auditory phenomena are of equal importance. Here the solid, labeled
nature of auditory patterns is lost, and the mechanical impact of
sound hitting the eardrum is registered.
In some cases, sound becomes converted
into pure sensation, and synesthesia (mixture of sense modalities)
occurs. Sounds are experienced as colors. External sensations
hitting the cortex are recorded as molecular events, ineffable.
The most dramatic auditory visions occur with music. Just as any
object radiates a pattern of electrons and can become the essence of
all energy, so can any note of music be sensed as naked energy
trembling in space, timeless.
The movement of notes, like the
shuttling of oscillograph beams. Each capturing all energy, the
electric core of the universe. Nothing existing except the
needle-clear resonance on the tympanic membrane. Unforgettable
revelations about the nature of reality occur at these moments. But
the hellish interpretation is also possible. As the learned
structure of sound collapses, the direct impact of waves can be
sensed as noise. For one who is compelled to institute order, his
order, on the world around him, it is at least annoying and often
disturbing to have the raw tattoo of sound resonating in
Noise! What an irreverent concept. Is not everything noise; all
sensation the divine pattern of wave energy, meaningless only to
those who insist on imposing their own meaning? Preparation is the
key to a serene passage through this visionary territory. The
subject who has studied this manual will be able, when face to face
with the phenomenon, to recognize and flow with it. The sensitive
guide will be ready to pick up, on any cue, that the subject is
wandering in the fourth vision.
If the voyager’s eyes are open
(indicating visual reactions), he can read the ==|==>> Instructions
for Vision 4.
If the guide senses that the voyager is experiencing the
fragmentation of external sound into wave vibrations, he can amend
the instructions appropriately (changing the visual references to
Vision 5: The Vibratory Waves of
(Eyes open, or rapt
involvement with external stimuli; emotional aspects)
As the learned perceptions disappear and the structure of the
external world disintegrates into direct wave phenomena, the aim is
to maintain a pure, conten-free awareness (First Bardo). Despite the
preparations, one is likely to be led backwards by one’s own mental
inclinations into two hallucinatory or revelatory interpretations of
reality. One reaction leads to the intellectual clarity or
frightened confusion of the fourth vision (just described).
Another interpretation is the emotional
reaction to the fragmentation of differentiated forms. One can be
engulfed in ecstatic unity, or one can slip into isolated egotism.
The Bardol Thodol calls the former the “Wisdom of Equality” and the
latter the “quagmire of worldly existence accruing from violent
[The Peaceful Deity of the fifth vision
comes in the form of the Bhagavan Ratnasambhava, born of a jewel. He
is embraced by the Divine Mother, She of the Buddha Eyes, and
accompanied by the Bodhisattvas, womb of the sky, All-good, and
those holding incense and rosary.
“On the elementary plane
Ratnasambhava corresponds to the earth, which carries and
nourishes all beings with the equanimity and patience of a
mother, in whose eyes all beings, borne by her, are equal.”
(Govinda, op. cit., p. 119.)]
In the state of radiant unity, one
senses that there is only one network of energy in the universe and
that all things and all sentient beings are momentary manifestations
of the single pattern. When egotistic interpretations are imposed on
the fifth vision, the “plastic doll” phenomena are experienced.
Differentiated forms are seen as inorganic, dull, mass-produced,
shabby, plastic, and all persons (including self) are seen as
lifeless mannequins isolated from the vibrant dance of energy, which
has been lost. The experiential data of this vision are similar to
that of the fourth vision.
All artifactual learned structure
collapses back to energy vibrations. The awareness is dominated not
by revelatory clarity but by shimmering unity. The subject is
entranced by the silent, whirling play of forces. Exquisite forms
dance by him, all surrounding objects radiate energy, brilliant
emanations. His own body is seen as a play of forces. If he looks in
a mirror, he sees a shining mosaic of particles. The sense of his
own wave structure becomes stronger. A feeling of melting, floating
The body is no longer a separate unit
but a cluster of vibrations sending and receiving energy - a phase
of the dance of energy which has been going on for millennia. A
sense of profound one-ness, a feeling of the unity of all energy.
Superficial differences of role, cast, status, sex, species, form,
power, size, beauty, even the distinctions between inorganic and
living energy, disappear before the ecstatic union of all in one.
All gestures, words, acts and events are equivalent in value - all
are manifestations of the one consciousness which pervades
“You,” “I” and “he” are gone, “my”
thoughts are “ours,” “your” feelings are “mine.” Communication is
unnecessary, since complete communion exists. A person can sense
another’s feeling and mood directly, as if they were his own.
By a glance, whole lifetimes and words
can be transmitted. If all are at peace, the vibrations are “in
phase.” If there is discord, “out of phase” vibrations will be set
up which will be felt like discordant music. Bodies melt into waves.
Objects in the environment - lights, tree, plants, flowers - seem to
open and welcome you: they are part of you. You are both simply
different pulses of the same vibrations. A pure feeling of ecstatic
harmony with all beings is the keynote of this vision.
But as before, terrors can occur. Unity requires ecstatic
self-sacrifice. Loss of ego brings fright to the unprepared. The
fragmentation of form into waves can bring the most terrible fear
known to man: the ultimate epistemological revelation.
The fact of the matter is that all apparent forms of matter and body
are momentary clusters of energy. We are little more than flickers
on a multidimensional television screen. This realization directly
experienced can be delightful. You suddenly wake up from the
delusion of separate form and hook up to the cosmic dance.
Consciousness slides along the wave matrices, silently at the speed
of light. The terror comes with the discovery of transience. Nothing
is fixed, no form solid.
Everything you can experience is
“nothing but” electrical waves. You feel ultimately tricked. A
victim of the great television producer. Distrust. The people around
you are lifeless television robots. The world around you is a
facade, a stage set. You are a helpless marionette, a plastic doll
in a plastic world. If others attempt to help, they are seen as
wooden, waxen, feelingless, cold, grotesque, maniacal, space-fiction
monsters. You are unable to feel. “I am dead. I will never live and
feel again.” In wild panic you may attempt to force feeling back -
by action, by shouting. You will then enter the Third Bardo stage
and be reborn in an unpleasant way.
The best method to escape from fifth vision terrors is to remember
this manual, relax, and swing with the wave dance. Or to communicate
to the guide that you are in a plastic doll phase, and he will guide
Another solution is to move to the internal biological flow. Follow
the instructions given in the third vision:
close your eyes, lie prone, seek
bodily contact, float down into your bodily stream. In so doing,
you are recapitulating the evolutionary sequence. For billions
of years, inorganic energy danced the cosmic round before the
biological rhythm began. Don’t rush it.
If the guide senses that the person is
experiencing plastic doll visions or is afraid of the
uncontrollability of his own feeling, he should read to him the
==|==>> Instructions for Vision 5.
Vision 6: “The Retinal Circus”
Each of the Second Bardo visions thus far described was one aspect
of the “experiencing of reality.” The inner fire or outer waves,
apprehended intellectually or emotionally - each vision with its
correspondent traps. Each of the “Peaceful Deities” appears with its
attendant “Wrathful Deities.” To maintain any of these visions for
any length of time requires a certain degree of concentration or
“one-pointedness” of mind, as well as the ability to recognize them
and not to be afraid.
Thus, for most persons, the experience
may pass through one or more of these phases without the voyager
being able to hold them or stay with them. He may open and close his
eyes, he may become alternately absorbed in internal sensations and
external forms. The experience may be chaotic, beautiful, thrilling,
incomprehensible, magical, ever-changing.
[In the Bardo Thodol, on the sixth day
appear the radiant lights of the combined Five Wisdoms of the
Dhyani-Buddhas, the protective deities (gatekeepers of the mandala)
and the Buddhas of the Six Realms of game-existence.
According to Lama Govinda:
“The Inner Way of Vajra-Sattva,
consists in the combination of the rays of the Wisdoms of the
four Dhyani-Buddhas and their absorption within one’s own heart
- in other words, in the recognition that all these radiances
are the emanations of one’s own mind in a state of perfect
tranquility and serenity, a state in which the mind reveals its
true universal nature.”
(Govinda, op., cit., p. 262.)]
He will travel freely through many
worlds or experience - from direct contact with life-process forms
and images, he may pass to visions of human game-forms. He may see
and understand with unimagined clarity and brilliance various social
and self-games that he and others play. His own struggles in karmic
(game) existence will appear pitiful and laughable.
Ecstatic freedom of consciousness is the
keynote of this vision. Exploration of unimagined realms. Theatrical
adventures. Plays within plays within plays. Symbols change into
things symbolized and vice versa. Words become things, thoughts are
music, music is smelled, sounds are touched, complete
interchangeability of the senses.
All things are possible. All feelings are possible. A person may
“try on” various moods like so many pieces of clothing. Subjects and
objects whirl, transform, change into each other, merge, fuse,
disperse again. External objects dance and sing. The mind plays upon
them as upon a musical instrument. They assume any form,
significance or quality upon command. They are admired, adored,
analyzed, examined, changed, made beautiful or ugly, large or small,
important or trivial, useful, dangerous, magical or
incomprehensible. They may be reacted to with wonder, amazement,
humor, veneration, love, disgust, fascination, horror, delight,
Like a computer with unlimited access to any programs, the mind
roams freely. Personal and racial memories bubble up to the surface
of consciousness, inter-play with fantasies, wishes, dreams and
external objects. A present event becomes charged with profound
emotional significance, a cosmic phenomenon becomes identical with
some personal quirk. Metaphysical problems are juggled and bounced
around. Pure “primary process,” spontaneous outpouring of
association, opposites merging, images fusing, condensing, shifting,
collapsing, expanding, merging, connecting.
This kaleidoscopic vision of game-reality may be frightening and
confusing to an ill-prepared subject. Instead of exquisite clarity
of many-leveled perception, he will experience a confused chaos of
uncontrollable, meaningless forms. Instead of delight at the playful
acrobatics of the free intellect, there will be anxious clinging to
an elusive order. Morbid and scatological hallucinations may occur,
evoking disgust and shame.
As before, this negative vision occurs only if the person attempts
to control or rationalize the magic panorama. Relax and accept
whatever comes. Remember that all visions are created by your mind,
the happy and the unhappy, the beautiful and the ugly, the
delightful and the horrifying. Your consciousness is creator,
performer and spectator of the “retinal circus.”
If the guide senses that the voyager is in or seems to be in the
“retinal circus” vision, he may read to him the appropriate
instructions ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 6: “THE RETINAL
Vision 7: “The Magic Theatre”
If the voyager was unable to maintain the passive serenity necessary
for the contemplation of the previous visions (the peaceful
deities), he moves now into a more dramatic and active phase. The
play of forms and things becomes the play of heroic figures,
superhuman spirits and demigods.
[In the Tibetan Handbook, this is
described as the vision of the five “Knowledge-Holding Deities,”
arranged in a mandala form, each embraced by Dakinis,
in an ecstatic dance.
The Knowledge-holding Deities symbolize,
“the highest level of individual or
humanly conceivable knowledge, as attained in the consciousness
of great Yogis, inspired thinkers or similar heroes of the
spirit. They represent the last step before the
“breaking-through” towards the universal consciousness - or the
first on the return from there to the plane of human knowledge.”
(Govinda, op. cit., p. 202.)
The Dakinis are female
embodiments of knowledge, representing the inspirational impulses of
consciousness leading to break-through.
The other four Knowledge-Holders,
besides the central Lord of Dance, are:
the Knowledge-holder abiding in
the Knowledge-holder who has
power over the duration of life,
the Knowledge-holder of the
the Knowledge holder of
You may see radiating figures in human
The “Lotus Lord of Dance”: the supreme
image of a demi-god who perceives the effects of all actions. The
prince of movement, dancing in an ecstatic embrace with his female
counterpart. Heroes, heroines, celestial warriors, male and female
demi-gods, angels, fairies - the exact form of these figures will
depend on the person’s background and tradition. Archetypal figures
in the forms of characters from Greek, Egyptian, Nordic, Celtic,
Aztec, Persian, Indian, Chinese mythology.
The shapes differ, the source is the
same: they are the concrete embodiments of aspects of the person’s
own psyche. Archetypal forces below verbal awareness and expressible
only in symbolic form. The figures are often extremely colorful and
accompanied by a variety of awe-inspiring sounds. If the voyager is
prepared and in a relaxed, detached frame of mind, he is exposed to
a fascinating and dazzling display of dramatic creativity. The
Cosmic Theatre. The Divine Comedy. If his eyes are open, he may
visualize the other voyagers as representing these figures.
The face of a friend may turn into that
of a young boy, a baby, the child-god; into a heroic stature, a wise
old man; a woman, animal, goddess, sea-mother, young girl, nymph,
elf, goblin, leprechaun. Images of the great painters arise as the
familiar representations of these spirits. The images are
inexhaustible and manifold. An illuminating voyage into the areas
where the personal consciousness merges with the super-individual.
The danger is that the voyager becomes
frightened by or unduly attracted to these powerful figures. The
forces represented by them may be more intense than he was prepared
for. Inability or unwillingness to recognize them as products of
one’s mind, leads to escape into animalistic pursuits.
The person may become involved in the
pursuit of power, lust, wealth and descend into Third Bardo rebirth
struggles. If the guide senses that the voyager is caught in this
trap, the appropriate instructions may be used ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS
FOR VISION 7: “THE MAGIC THEATRE”.
THE WRATHFUL VISIONS
(Second Bardo Nightmares)
Seven Second Bardo visions have been described. At each one of them,
the voyager could recognize what he saw and be liberated. Multitudes
will be liberated by that recognition; and although multitudes
obtain liberation in that manner, the number of sentient beings
being great, evil karma powerful, obscurations dense, propensities
of too long standing, the Wheel of Ignorance and Illusion becomes
neither exhausted nor accelerated. Despite the confrontations, there
is a vast preponderance of those who wander downwards unliberated.
Thus, in the Tibetan Thodo, after the seven peaceful deities, there
come seven visions of wrathful deities, fifty-eight in number, male
and female, “flame-enhaloed, wrathful, blood-drinking.” These
Herukas as they are called, will not be described in detail,
especially since Westerners are liable to experience the wrathful
deities in different forms. Instead of many-headed fierce
mythological demons, they are more likely to be engulfed and ground
by impersonal machinery, manipulated by scientific, torturing
control-devices and other space-fiction horrors.
[Some general remarks about the Tibetan
interpretation of these visions. The Wrathful Deities are regarded
as “only the former Peaceful Deities in changed aspect.”
Lama Govinda writes:
“The peaceful forms of
Dhyani-Buddhas represent the highest ideal of Buddhahood in its
completed, final, static condition of ultimate attainment or
perfection, seen retrospectively as it were, as a state of
complete rest and harmony. The Herukas, on the other hand, which
are described as “blood-drinking,” angry or “terrifying” deities
- are merely the dynamic aspect of enlightenment, the process of
becoming a Buddha, of attaining illumination, as symbolized by
the Buddha’s struggle with the Hosts of Mara.... The ecstatic
figures, heroic and terrifying, express the act of breaking
through towards the unthinkable, the intellectually
They represent the leap over the
chasm, which yawns between an intellectual surface consciousness
and the intuitive supra-personal depth-consciousness.”
(Govinda, op. cit., pp. 198,
The Tibetans regard the nightmare
visions as primarily intellectual products. They assign them to the
Brain chakra, whereas the peaceful deities are assigned to the Heart
chakra and the Knowledge-Holding deities to the intermediate Throat
chakra. They are the reactions of the mind to the process of
consciousness-expansion. They represent the attempts of the
intellect to maintain its threatened boundaries.
They symbolize the struggle of breaking
through to ego-loss understanding and awareness. Because of the
terror and awe they produce, recognition is difficult. Yet in a way
it is also easier in that, since these negative hallucinations
command all attention, the mind is alert and therefore through
trying to escape from fear and terror, people get involved in
psychotic states and suffer.
But with the aid of this manual and the
presence of a guide, the voyager will recognize these hell visions
as soon as he sees them, and welcome them like old friends.
Again, when psychologists, philosophers, and psychiatrists, who do
not know these teachings, experience ego-loss - however assiduously
they may have devoted themselves to academic study and however
clever they may have been in expounding intellectual theories - none
of the higher phenomena will appear. This is because they are unable
to recognize the visions occurring in these psychedelic experiences.
Suddenly seeing something they had never
seen before and possessing no intellectual concepts, they view it as
inimical; and, antagonistic feelings arising, they pass into
miserable states. Thus, if one has not had practical experience with
these teachings, the radiances and lights will not appear.
Those who believe in these doctrines
even though they may seem to be unrefined, irregular in performance
of duties, inelegant in habits, and perhaps even unable to practice
the doctrine successfully - let no one doubt them or be
disrespectful towards them, but pay reverence to their mystic faith.
That alone will enable them to attain liberation. Elegance and
efficiency of devotional practice are not necessary - just
acquaintance with and trust in these teachings.
Well-prepared persons need not experience Second Bardo hell visions
at all. Right from the beginning they can pass into paradisiacal
states led by heroes, heroines, angels and super-spirits.
“They will merge into rainbow
radiance; there will be sun-showers, sweet scent of incense in
the air, music in the skies, radiances.”
This manual is indispensable to those
students who are unprepared. Those proficient in meditation will
recognize the Clear Light at the moment of ego-loss and will enter
the Blissful Void (Dharma-Kaya). They will also recognize the
positive and negative visions of the Second Bardo and obtain
illumination (Sambhogha-Kaya); and being reborn on a higher level
will become inspired saints or teachers (Nirmana-Kaya).
The study and pursuit of enlightenment
can always be taken up again at the point where it was broken by the
last ego-loss, thus ensuring continuity of karma. by the use of this
manual, enlightenment can be obtained without meditation, through
hearing alone. It can liberate even very heavy ego-game players. The
distinction between those who know it and those who do not becomes
very clear. Enlightenment follows instantly. Those who have been
reached by it cannot have prolonged negative experiences.
The teaching concerning the hell-visions is the same as before;
recognize them to be your own thought-forms, relax, float
downstream. The ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE WRATHFUL VISIONS may be
If, after this, recognition is still impossible and liberation
is not obtained, then the voyager will descend into the Third Bardo,
the Period of Re-Entry.
CONCLUSION OF SECOND BARDO
However much experience one may have had, there is always the
possibility of delusions occurring in these psychedelic states.
Those with practice in meditation recognize the truth as soon as the
experience begins. Reading this manual beforehand is important.
Having some degree of self-knowledge is helpful at the moment of
Meditation on the various positive and negative archetypal forms is
very important for Second Bardo phases. Therefore, read this manual,
keep it, remember it, bear it in mind, read it regularly; let the
words and meanings be very clear; they should not be forgotten, even
under extreme duress. It is called “The Great Liberation by Hearing”
because even those with selfish deeds on their conscience can be
liberated if they hear it.
If heard only once, it can be
efficacious because even though not understood, it will be
remembered during the psychedelic state, since the mind is more
lucid then. It should be proclaimed to all living persons; it should
be read over the pillows of ill persons; it should be read to dying
persons; it should be broadcast. Those who meet this doctrine are
fortunate. It is not easy to encounter. Even when read, it is
difficult to comprehend. Liberation will be won simply through not
disbelieving it upon hearing it.
Here ends the Second Bardo the Period of Hallucinations
THIRD BARDO - THE PERIOD OF RE-ENTRY
If, in the second Bardo, the voyager is incapable of holding on to
the knowledge that the peaceful and wrathful visions were
projections of his own mind, but became attracted to or frightened
by one or more of them, he will enter the Third Bardo.
period he struggles to regain routine reality and his ego; the
Tibetans call it the Bardo of “seeking rebirth.” It is the period in
which the consciousness makes the transition from transcendent
reality to the reality of ordinary waking life. The teachings of
this manual are of the utmost importance if one wishes to make a
peaceful and enlightened re-entry and avoid a violent or unpleasant
In the original Bardo Thodol the aim of the teachings is
“liberation,” i.e., release from the cycle of birth and death.
Interpreted esoterically, this means that the aim is to remain at
the stage of perfect illumination and not to return to social game
Only persons of extremely advanced spiritual development are able to
accomplish this, by exercising the Transference Principle at the
moment of ego-death. For average persons who undertake a psychedelic
voyage, the return to game reality is inevitable.
Such persons can and should use this
part of the manual for the following purposes:
to free themselves from Third
to prolong the session, thus
assuring a maximum degree of illumination
to select a favorable re-entry,
i.e., to return to a wiser and more peaceful post-session
Although no definite time estimates can
be given, the Tibetans estimate that about 50% of the entire
psychedelic experience is spent in the Third Bardo by most normal
people. At times, as indicated in the Introduction, someone may move
straight to the re-entry period if he is unprepared for or
frightened by the ego-loss experiences of the first two Bardos.
The types of re-entry made can profoundly color the person’s
subsequent attitudes and feelings about himself and the world, for
weeks or even months afterwards. A session which has been
predominantly negative and fearful can still be turned to great
advantage and much can be learned from it, provided the re-entry is
positive and highly conscious. Conversely, a happy and revelatory
experience can be made valueless by a fearful or negative re-entry.
The key instructions of the Third Bardo are:
do nothing, stay calm,
passive and relaxed, no matter what happens
recognize where you are. If
you do not recognize you will be driven by fear to make
a premature and unfavorable re-entry
Only by recognizing can you maintain
that state of calm, passive concentration necessary for a favorable
re-entry. That is why so many recognition-points are given. If you
fail on one, it is always possible, up to the very end, to succeed
on another. Hence these teachings should be read carefully and
In the following sections some of the characteristic Third Bardo
experiences are described. In Part IV instructions are given
appropriate to each section. At this stage in a psychedelic session
the voyager is usually capable of telling the guide verbally what he
is experiencing, so that the appropriate sections can be read. A
wise guide can often sense the precise nature of the ego’s struggle
The voyager will usually not experience
all of these states, but only one or some of them; or sometimes the
return to reality can take completely new and unusual turns.
In such a case the general instructions
for the Third Bardo should be emphasized ==|==>> THIRD BARDO:
I. General Description of the Third
Normally, the person descends, step by step, into lower (more
constricted) states of consciousness. Each step downwards may be
preceded by a swooning into unconsciousness. Occasionally the
descent may be sudden, and the person will find himself jolted back
to a vision of reality which by contrast with the preceding phases
seems dull, static, hard, angular, ugly and puppet-like.
Such changes can induce fear and horror
and he may struggle desperately to regain familiar reality. He may
get trapped into irrational or even bestial perspectives which then
dominate his entire consciousness.
These narrow primitive elements stem
from aspects of his personal history which are usually repressed.
The more enlightened consciousness of the first two Bardos and the
civilized elements of ordinary waking life are shelved in favor of
powerful, obsessive primitive impulses, which in fact are merely
faded and incoherent instinctual parts of the voyager’s total
personality. The suggestibility of Bardo consciousness makes them
seem all-powerful and overwhelming.
On the other hand, the voyager may also feel that he possesses
supernormal powers of perception and movement, that he can perform
miracles, extraordinary feats of bodily control etc. The Tibetan
book definitely attributes paranormal faculties to the consciousness
of the Bardo voyager and explains it as due to the fact that the
Bardo-consciousness encompasses future elements as well as past.
Hence clairvoyance, telepathy, ESP, etc. are said to be possible.
Objective evidence does not indicate whether this sense of increased
perceptiveness is real or illusory. We therefore leave this as an
open question, to be decided by empirical evidence.
This then is the first recognition point of the Third Bardo. The
feeling of supernormal perception and performance. Assuming that it
is valid, the manual warns the voyager not to be fascinated by his
heightened powers, and not to exercise them. In yogic practice, the
most advanced of the lamas teach the disciple not to strive after
psychic powers of this nature for their own sake; for until the
disciple is morally fit to use them wisely, they become a serious
impediment to his higher spiritual development. Not until the
selfish, game-involved nature of man is completely mastered is he
safe in using them.
A second sign of Third Bardo existence
are experiences of panic, torture and persecution.
They are distinguished from the wrathful
visions for the Second Bardo in that they definitely seem to involve
the person’s own “skin-encapsulated ego.” Mind-controlling
manipulative figures and demons of hideous aspects may be
hallucinated. The form that these torturing demons take will depend
on the person’s cultural background. Where Tibetans saw demons and
beasts of prey, a Westerner may see impersonal machinery grinding,
or depersonalizing and controlling devices of different futuristic
Visions of world destruction, dying in
space-fiction modes, and hallucinations of being engulfed by
destructive powers will likewise come; and sounds of the
mind-controlling apparatus, of the “combine’s fog machinery,” of the
gears which move the scenery of the puppet show, of angry
overflowing seas, and of the roaring fire and of fierce winds
springing up, and of mocking laughter.
When these sounds and visions come, the first impulse will be to
flee from them in panic and terror, not caring where one goes, so
long as one goes out. In psychedelic drug experiences, the person
may at this time plead or demand to be brought “out of it” through
antidotes and tranquillizers. The person may see himself as about to
fall down deep, terrifying precipices. These symbolize the so-called
evil passions which, like narcotic drugs, enslave and bind mankind
to existence in game-networks (sangsara): anger, lust, stupidity,
pride or egoism, jealousy, and control-power.
Such experiences, just as the previous
one of enhanced power, should be regarded as recognizing features of
the Third Bardo. One should neither flee the pain nor pursue the
pleasure. Recognition is all that is necessary - and recognition
depends upon preparation.
A third sign is a kind of restless, unhappy wandering which may be
purely mental or may involve actual physical movement. The person
feels as if driven by winds (winds of karma) or shunted around
mechanically. There may be brief respites at certain places or
scenes in the “ordinary” human world. Like a person travelling alone
at night along a highway, having his attention arrested by prominent
landmarks, great isolated trees, houses, bridgeheads, temples,
hot-dog stands, etc., the person in the re-entry period has similar
He may demand to return to familiar
haunts in the human world. But any such external placation is
temporary and soon the restless wandering will recommence. There may
come a desperate desire to phone or otherwise contact your family,
your doctor, your friends and appeal to them to pull you out of the
state. This desire should be resisted. The guide and the fellow
voyagers can be of best assistance.
One should not try to involve others in
one’s hallucinatory world. The attempt will fail anyway since
outsiders are usually unable to understand what is happening. Again,
merely to recognize these desires as Third Bardo manifestations is
already the first step toward liberation.
A fourth, rather common experience is the following: the person may
feel stupid and full of incoherent thoughts, whereas everyone else
seems to be perfectly knowing and wise. This leads to feelings of
guilt and inadequacy and in extreme from to the Judgment Vision, to
be described below. This feeling of stupidity is merely the natural
result of the limited perspective under which the consciousness is
operating in this Bardo. Calm, relaxed acceptance and trust will
enable the voyager to win liberation at this point.
Another experience, the fifth recognizing feature, which is
especially impressive when it occurs suddenly, is the feeling of
being dead, cut off from surrounding life, and full of misery. The
person may with a jolt awake from some trance-like swoon and
experience himself and the others as lifeless robots, performing
wooden meaningless gestures. He may feel that he will never come
back and will lament his miserable state.
Again, such fantasies are to be
recognized as the attempts of the ego to regain control. In the true
state of ego-death, as it occurs in the First or Second Bardos, such
complaints are never uttered. Sixth, one may have the feeling of
being oppressed or crushed or squeezed into cracks and crevices
amidst rocks and boulders. Or the person may feel that a kind of
metallic net or cage may encompass him. This symbolizes the attempt
prematurely to enter an ego-robot which is unfitting or unequipped
to deal with the expanded consciousness.
Therefore one should relax the panicky
desire to regain an ego. A Seventh aspect is a kind of grey
twilight-like light suffusing everything, which is in marked
contrast to the brilliantly radiating lights and colors of the
earlier stages of the voyage. Objects, instead of shining, glowing
and vibrating, are now dully colored, shabby and angular.
The passages ==|==>> THIRD BARDO: PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS contain
general instructions for the Third Bardo state and its recognizable
Any or all of the passages may be read when the guide
senses that the voyager is beginning to return to the ego.
II. Re-entry Visions
In the preceding section the symptoms of re-entry were described,
the signs that the voyager is trying to regain his ego. In this
section are described visions of the types of re-entry one can make.
The Tibetan manual conceives of the voyager as returning eventually
to one of six worlds of game existence (sangsara). That is, the
re-entry to the ego can take place on one of six levels, or as one
of six personality types.
Two of these are higher than the normal
human, three are lower. The highest, most illuminated, level is that
of the devas, who are what Westerners would call saints, sages or
divine teachers. They are the most enlightened people walking the
earth. Gautama Buddha, Lao Tse, Christ. The second level is that of
the asuras, who may be called titans or heroes, people with a more
than human degree of power and vision. The third level is that of
most normal human beings, struggling through game-networks,
occasionally breaking free.
The fourth level is that of primitive
and animalistic incarnations. In this category we have the dog and
the cock, symbolic of hyper-sexuality concomitant with jealousy; the
pig, symbolizing lustful stupidity and uncleanliness; the
industrious, hoarding ant; the insect or worm signifying an earthy
or groveling disposition; the snake, flashing in anger; the ape,
full of rampaging primitive power; the snarling “wolf of the
steppes;” the bird, soaring freely.
Many more could be enumerated. In all
cultures of the world people have adopted identities in the image of
animals. In childhood and in dreams it is a process familiar to all.
The fifth level is that of neurotics, frustrated lifeless spirits
forever pursuing unsatisfied desires; the sixth and lowest level is
hell or psychosis. Less than one percent of ego-transcendent
experiences end in sainthood or psychosis.
Most persons return to the normal human
According to The Tibetan Book of the
Dead, each of the six game worlds or levels of existence is
associated with a characteristic sort of thralldom, from which
non-game experiences give temporary freedom:
existence as a deva, or
saint, although more desirable than the others, is
concomitant with an ever recurring round of pleasure, free
existence as an asura, or
titan, is concomitant with incessant heroic warfare
helplessness and slavery are
characteristic of animal existence
torments of unsatisfied needs
and wants are characteristic of the existence of pretas,
or unhappy spirits
the characteristic impediments
of human existence are inertia, smug ignorance, physical or
psychological handicaps or various sorts
According to the Bardo Thodol, the level
one is destined for is determined by one’s karma. During the period
of the Third Bardo premonitory signs and visions of the different
levels appear, that for which one is heading appearing most clearly.
For example, the voyager may feel full
of godlike power (asuras), or he may feel himself stirred by
primitive or bestial impulses, or he may experience that
all-pervasive frustration of the unhappy neurotics, or shudder at
the tortures of a self-created hell. The chances of making a
favorable re-entry are increased if the process is allowed to take
its own natural course, without effort or struggle. One should avoid
pursuing or fleeing any of the visions, but meditate calmly on the
knowledge that all levels exist in the Buddha also.
One can recognize and examine the signs as they appear and learn a
great deal about oneself in a very short time.
Although it is unwise to struggle
against or flee the visions that come in this period, the ==|==>>
INSTRUCTIONS FOR RE-ENTRY VISIONS are designed to help the voyager
regain First Bardo transcendence. In this way, if the person finds
himself about to return to a personality or ego which he finds
inappropriate to his new knowledge about himself, he can, by
following the instructions, prevent this and make a fresh re-entry.
III. The All-Determining Influence of
Liberation may be obtained, by such confrontation, even though
previously it was not. If, however, liberation is not obtained even
after these confrontations, further earnest and continued
application is essential.
Should you feel attachment to material possessions, to old games and
activities, or if you get any because other people are still
involved in pursuits that you have renounced, this will affect the
psychological balance in such a way that even if destined to return
at a higher level, you will actually re-enter on a lower level in
the world of unsatisfied spirits (neurosis). On the other hand, even
if you do feel attached to worldly games that you have renounced,
you will not be able to play them, and they will be of no use to
Therefore abandon weakness and
attachment to them; cast them away wholly; renounce them from your
heart. No matter who may be enjoying your possessions, or taking
your role, have no feelings of miserliness or jealousy, but be
prepared to renounce them willingly. Think that you are offering
them to your internal freedom and to your expanded consciousness.
Abide in the feeling of non-attachment,
devoid of weakness and craving.
Again, when the activities of the other members of the session are
wrong, careless, inattentive or distracting, when the agreement or
contract is broken, and when purity of intention is lost by any
participant, and frivolity and laxness take over (all of which can
clearly be seen by the Bardo voyager) you may feel lack of faith and
begin to doubt your beliefs. You will be able to perceive any
anxiety or fear, any selfish actions, ego-centric conduct and
You may think:
“Alas! they are playing me false,
they have cheated and deceived.”
If you think thus, you will become
extremely depressed, and through great resentment you will acquire
disbelief and loss of faith, instead of affection and humble trust.
Since this affects the psychological balance, re-entry will
certainly be made on an unpleasant level.
Such thinking will not only be of no
use, but it will do great harm. However improper the behavior of
other, think thus:
“What? How can the words of a Buddha
be inappropriate? It is like the reflection of blemishes on my
own face which I see in a mirror; my own thoughts must be
impure. As for these others, they are noble in body, holy in
speech, and the Buddha is within them: their actions are lessons
Thus thinking, put your trust in your
companions and exercise sincere love towards them. Then whatever
they do will be to your benefit. The exercise of that love is very
important; do not forget this! Again, even if you were destined to
return to a lower level and are already going into that existence,
yet through the good deeds of friends, relatives, participants,
learned teachers who devote themselves wholeheartedly to the correct
performance of beneficent rituals, the delight from your feeling
greatly cheered at seeing them will, by its own virtue, so affect
the psychological balance that even though heading downwards, you
may yet rise to a higher and happier level.
Therefore you should not create selfish
thoughts, but exercise pure affection and humble faith towards all,
impartially. This is highly important. Hence be extremely careful.
The ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE ALL-DETERMINING INFLUENCE OF
THOUGHT are useful in any phase of the Third Bardo, but particularly
if the voyager is reacting with suspicion or resentment to other
members of the group, or to his own friends and relatives.
IV. Judgment Visions
The judgment vision may come: the Third Bardo blame game.
genius will count up your good deeds with white pebbles, the evil
genius the evil deeds with black pebbles.”
A judgment scene is a
central part of many religious systems, and the vision can assume
various forms. Westerners are most likely to see it in the
well-known Christian version. The Tibetans give a psychological
interpretation to this as to all the other visions.
The Judge, or Lord of Death, symbolizes
conscience itself in its stern aspect of impartiality and love of
righteousness. The “Mirror of Karma” (the Christian Judgment Book),
consulted by the Judge, is memory. Different parts of the ego will
come forward, some offering lame excuses to meet accusations, others
ascribing baser motives to various deeds, counting apparently
neutral deeds among the black ones; still others offering
justifications or requests for pardon.
The mirror of memory reflects
clearly; lying and subterfuge will be of no avail.
Be not frightened, tell no lies, face
truth fearlessly. No you may imagine yourself surrounded by figures
who wish to torment, torture or ridicule you (the “Executive Furies
of the Robot Lord of Death”). These merciless figures may be
internal or they may involve the people around you, seen as
pitiless, mocking, superior. Remember that fear and guilt and
persecuting, mocking figures are your own hallucinations. Your own
Your personality is a collection of
thought-patterns and void. It cannot be harmed or injured.
“Swords cannot pierce it, fire
cannot burn it.”
Free yourself from your own
hallucinations. In reality there is no such thing as the Lord of
Death, or a justice-dispensing god or demon or spirit. Act so as to
recognize this. Recognize that you are in the Third Bardo.
Meditate upon your ideal symbol. If you
do not know how to meditate, then merely analyze with great care the
real nature of that which is frightening you: “Reality” is nothing
but a voidness (Dharma-Kaya). That voidness is not of the voidness
of nothingness, but a voidness at the true nature of which you feel
awed, and before which your consciousness shines more clearly and
That is the state of mind known as “Sambhoga-Kaya.”
In that state, you experience, with unbearable intensity, Voidness
and Brightness inseparable - the Voidness bright by nature and the
Brightness inseparable from the Voidness - a state of the primordial
or unmodified consciousness, which is the Adi-Kaya. And the power of
this, shining unobstructedly, will radiate everywhere; it is the
These refer to the fundamental Wisdom
Teachings of the Bardo Thodol. In all Tibetan systems of yoga,
realization of the Voidness is the one great aim. To realize it is
to attain the unconditioned Dharma-Kaya, or “Divine Body of Truth,”
the primordial state of uncreatedness, of the supra-mundane
All-Consciousness. The Dharma-Kaya is the highest of the three
bodies of the Buddha and of all Buddhas and beings who have perfect
enlightenment. The other two bodies are the Sambhoga-Kaya or “Divine
Body of Perfect Endowment” and the Nirmana-Kaya or “Divine Body of
Adi-Kaya is synonymous with Dharma-Kaya.
The Dharma-Kaya is primordial, formless Essential Wisdom; it is true
experience freed from all error or inherent or accidental
obscuration. It includes both Nirvana and Sangsara, which are polar
states of consciousness, but in the realm of pure consciousness
identical. The Sambhoga-Kaya embodies, as in the five Dhyani Buddhas,
Reflected or Modified Wisdom; and the Nirmana-Kaya embodies, as in
the Human Buddhas, Practical or Incarnate Widom.
All enlightened beings who are reborn in
this or any other world with full consciousness, as workers for the
betterment of their fellow creatures, are said to be Nirmana-Kaya
Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup, the translator of
the Bardo Thodol, held that the Adi-Buddha, and all deities
associated with the Dharma-Kaya, are not to be regarded as personal
deities, but as personifications of primordial and universal forces,
laws or spiritual influences.
“In the boundless panorama of the
existing and visible universe, whatever shapes appear, whatever
sounds vibrate, whatever radiances illuminate, or whatever
consciousnesses cognize, all are the play of manifestation in
the Tri-Kaya, the Three-fold Principle of the Cause of All
Causes, the Primordial Trinity. Impenetrating all, is the
All-Pervading Essence of Spirit, which is Mind. It is uncreated,
impersonal, self-existing, immaterial and indestructible.”
The Tri-Kaya is the esoteric trinity and
corresponds to the exoteric trinity of Buddha, the Scriptures and
the Priesthood (or your own divinity, this manual and your
If the voyager is struggling with guilt and penance hallucinations,
the ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR JUDGMENT VISIONS may be read.
V. Sexual Visions
Sexual visions are extremely frequent during the Third Bardo. You
may see or imagine males and females copulating.
[According to Jung. (“Psychological
Commentary” to The Tibetan Book of the Dead, Evans-Wentz edition, p.
“Freud’s theory is the first attempt
made in the West to investigate, as if from below, from the
animal sphere of instinct the psychic territory that corresponds
in Tantric Lamaism to the Sidpa Bardo.”
The vision described here, in which the
person sees mother and father in sexual intercourse, corresponds to
the “primal scene” in psychoanalysis. At this level, then, we begin
to see a remarkable convergence of Eastern and Western psychology.
Note also the exact correspondence to the psychoanalytic theory of
the Oedipus Complex.]
This vision may be internal or it may
involve the people around you. You may hallucinate multi-person
orgies and experience both desire and shame, attraction and disgust.
You may wonder what sexual performance is expected of you and have
doubts about your ability to perform at this time.
When these visions occur, remember to withhold yourself from action
or attachment. Have faith and float gently with the stream. Trust in
the unity of life and in your companions. If you attempt to enter
into your old ego because you are attracted or repulsed, if you try
to join or escape from the orgy you are hallucinating, you will
re-enter on an animal or neurotic level.
If you become conscious of “malness,”
hatred of the father together with jealousy and attraction towards
the mother will be experienced; if you become conscious of
“femaleness,” hatred of the mother together with attraction and
fondness for the father is experienced.
It is perhaps needless to say that this kind of self-centered
sexuality has little in common with the sexuality of transpersonal
experiences. Physical union can be one expression or manifestation
of cosmic union. Visions of sexual union may sometimes be followed
by visions of conception - you may actually visualize the sperm
uniting with the ovum - of intra-uterine life and birth through the
Some people claim to have re-lived their
own physical birth in psychedelic sessions and occasionally
confirming evidence for such claims has been put forward. Whether
this is so or not may be left as a question to be decided by
empirical evidence. Sometimes the birth visions will be clearly
symbolic - e.g., emergence from a cocoon, breaking out of a shell,
Whether the birth vision is constructed from memory or fantasy, the
psychedelic voyager should try to recognize the signs indicating the
type of personality that is being reborn.
The ==|==>> INSTRUCTIONS FOR SEXUAL
VISIONS may be read to the voyager who is struggling with sexual
VI. Methods for Preventing the Re-Entry
Although many confrontations and recognition points have been given,
the person may be ill-prepared and still be wandering back to game
reality. It is of advantage to postpone the return for as long as
possible, thus maximizing the degree of enlightenment in the
subsequent personality. For this reason four meditative methods are
given for prolonging the ego-loss state.
meditation on the Buddha or
concentration on good games
meditation on illusion
meditation on the void
See the ==|==>> FOUR METHODS OF
Each one attempts to lead the voyager
back to the First Bardo central stream of energy from which he has
been separated by game involvements. One may ask how these
meditative methods, which seem difficult for the ordinary person,
can be effective.
The answer given in the Tibetan Bardo
Thodol is that due to the increased suggestibility and openness of
the mind in the psychedelic state these methods can be used by
anyone, regardless of intellectual capacity, or proficiency in
VII. Methods of Choosing the
Choosing the post-session ego is an extremely profound art and
should not be undertaken carelessly or hastily. One should not
return fleeing from hallucinated tormentors. Such re-entry will tend
to bring the person to one of the three lower levels. One should
first banish the fear by visualizing one’s protective figure or the
Buddha; then choose calmly and impartially.
The limited foreknowledge available to the voyager should be used to
make a wise choice. In the Tibetan tradition each of the levels of
game-existence is associated with a particular color and also
certain geographical symbols. These may be different for
twentieth-century Westerners. Each person has to learn to decode his
own internal road map. The Tibetan indicators may be used as a
starting point. The purpose is clear: one should follow the signs of
the three higher types and shun those of the three lower. One should
follow light and pleasant visions and shun dark and dreary ones.
The world of saints (devas) is said to shine with a white light and
to be preceded by visions of delightful temples and jewelled
mansions. The world of heroes (asuras) has a green light and is
signaled by magical forests and fire images. The ordinary human
world has a yellow light. Animal existence is foreshadowed by a blue
light and images of caves and deep holes in the earth. The world of
neurotics or unsatisfied spirits has a red light and visions of
desolate plains and forest wastes. The hell world emits a
smoke-colored light and is preceded by sounds of wailing, visions of
gloomy lands, black and white houses and black roads along which you
have to travel.
Use your foresight to choose a good post-session robot. Do not be
attracted to your old ego. Whether you choose to pursue power, or
status, or wisdom, or learning, or servitude, or whatever, choose
impartially, without being attracted or repelled.
Enter into game existence with good
grace, voluntarily and freely. Visualize it as a celestial mansion,
i.e., as an opportunity to exercise game-ecstasy. Have faith in the
protection of the deities and choose. The mood of complete
impartiality is important since you may be in error. A game that
appears good may later turn out to be bad. Complete impartiality,
freedom from want or fear, ensure that a maximally wise choice is
As you return you see spread out before you the world, your former
life, a planet full of fascinating objects and events. Each aspect
of the return trip can be a delightful discovery. Soon you will be
descending to take your place in worldly events. The key to this
return voyage is simply this: take it easy, slowly, naturally. Enjoy
every second. Don’t rush. Don’t be attached to your old games.
Recognize that you are in the reentry period. Do not return with any
emotional pressure. Everything you see and touch can glow with
radiance. Each moment can be a joyous discovery.
Here end the Third Bardo, The Period of Re-Entry
Well-prepared students with advanced spiritual understanding can use
the “Transference” principle at the moment of ego-death and need not
traverse subsequent Bardo states. They will rise to a state of
illumination and remain there throughout the entire period. Others,
who are a little less experienced in spiritual discipline, will
recognize the Clear Light in the second stage of the First Bardo and
will then win liberation.
Others, at a still less advanced level,
may be liberated while experiencing one of the positive or negative
visions of the Second Bardo. Since there are several turning points,
liberation can be obtained at one or the other through recognition
at moments of confrontation. Those of very weak karmic connection,
i.e., those who have been involved in heavy ego-dominated
game-playing, will have to wander downwards to the Third Bardo.
Again, many points for liberation have
been charted. The weakest persons will fall under the influence of
guilt and terror. For weaker persons there are various graded
teachings for preventing the return to routine-reality, or at least
for choosing it wisely. Through applying the methods of
visualization described, they should be able to experience the
benefits of the session.
Even those persons whose familiar
routines are primitive and egocentric can be prevented from entering
into misery. Once they have experienced, for however short a period,
the great beauty and power of free awareness, they may, in the next
period, meet with a guide or friend who will initiate them further
into the way.
The way in which this teaching is effective, even for a voyager
already in the Sidpa Bardo, is as follows:
each person has some positive and
some negative game-residues (karma). The continuity of
consciousness has been broken by an ego-death for which the
person was not prepared. The teachings are like a trough in a
broken water drain, temporarily restoring the continuity with
positive karma. As stated before, the extreme suggestibility or
detached quality of consciousness in this state ensures the
efficacy of listening to the doctrine.
The teaching embedded in this Manual
may be compared to a catapult which can direct the person
towards the goal of liberation. Or like the moving of a big
wooden beam, which is so heavy that a hundred men cannot carry
it, but by being floated on water it can be easily moved. Or it
is like controlling a horse’s bit and course by the use of a
Therefore, these teachings should be
vividly impressed on the voyager, again and again. This Manual may
also be used more generally. It should be recited as often as
possible and committed to memory as far as possible. When ego-death
or final death comes, recognize the symptoms, recite the Manual to
yourself, and reflect upon the meaning. If you cannot do it
yourself, ask a friend to read it to you. There is no doubt as to
its liberative power.
It liberates by being seen or heard,
without need of ritual or complex meditation. This Profound Teaching
liberates those of great evil karma through the Secret Pathway. One
should not forget its meaning and the words, even though pursued by
seven mastiffs. By this Select Teaching, one obtains Buddhahood at
the moment of ego-loss. Were the Buddhas of past, present and future
to seek, they could not find any doctrine transcending this.
Here ends the Bardo Thodol, known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead
SOME TECHNICAL COMMENTS ABOUT
1. Use of This Manual
The most important use of this manual is for preparatory reading.
Having read the Tibetan Manual, one can immediately recognize
symptoms and experiences which might otherwise be terrifying, only
because of lack of understanding as to what was happening.
Recognition is the key word. Secondly, this guidebook may be used to
avoid paranoid traps or to regain the First Bardo transcendence if
it has been lost.
If the experience starts with light,
peace, mystic unity, understanding, and if it continues along this
path, then there is no need to remember this manual of have this
manual re-read to you. Like a road map, we consult it only when
lost, or when we wish to change course. Usually, however, the ego
clings to its old games. There may be momentary discomfort or
confusion. If this happens, the others present should not be
sympathetic or show alarm. They should be prepared to stay calm and
restrain their “helping games.”
In particular, the “doctor” role should
If at any time you find yourself struggling to get back to routine
reality, you can (by pre-arrangement) have a more experienced
person, a fellow-voyager, or a trusted observer read parts of this
manual to you. Passages suitable for reading during the session are
given in Part IV below. Each major descriptive section of the
Tibetan Book has an appropriate instruction text.
One may want to pre-record selected
passages and simply flick on the recorder when desired. The aim of
these instruction texts is always to lead the voyager back to the
original First Bardo transcendence and to help maintain that as long
as possible. A third use would be to construct a “program” for a
session using passages from the text. The aim would be to lead the
voyager to one of the visions deliberately, or through a sequence of
visions. The guide or friend could read the relevant passages, show
slides or pictures or symbolic figures of processes, play carefully
selected music, etc.
One can envision a high art of
programming psychedelic sessions, in which symbolic manipulations
and presentations would lead the voyager through ecstatic visionary
2. Planning a Session
In planning a session, the first question to be decided is “what is
Classic Hinduism suggest four
For increased personal power,
intellectual understanding, sharpened insight into self and
culture, improvement of life situation, accelerated
learning, professional growth.
For duty, help of others,
providing care, rehabilitation, rebirth for fellow men.
For fun, sensuous enjoyment,
aesthetic pleasure, interpersonal closeness, pure
For transcendence, liberation
from ego and space-time limits; attainment of mystical
This manual aims primarily at the latter
goal - that of liberation-enlightenment.
This emphasis does not preclude
attainment of the other goals - in fact, it guarantees their
attainment because illumination requires that the person be able to
step out beyond game problems of personality, role, and professional
status. The initiate can decide beforehand to devote the psychedelic
experience to any of the four goals. The manual will be of
assistance in any event.
If there are several people having a session together they should
either agree collaboratively on a goal, or at least be aware of each
other’s goals. If the session is to be “programmed” then the
participants should either agree on or design a program
collaboratively, or they should agree to let one member of the group
do the programming. Unexpected or undesired manipulations by one of
the participants can easily “trap the other voyagers into paranoid
Third Bardo delusions.
The voyager, especially in an individual session, may also wish to
have either an extroverted or an introverted experience. In the
extroverted transcendent experience, the self is ecstatically fused
with external objects (e.g. flowers, or other people). In the
introverted state, the self is ecstatically fused with internal life
processes (lights, energy-waves, bodily events, biological forms,
Of course, either the extroverted or the
introverted state may be negative rather than positive, depending on
the attitude of the voyager. Also it may be primarily conceptual or
primarily emotional. The eight types of experience thus derived
(four positive and four negative) have been described more fully in
Visions 2 to 5 of the Second Bardo.
For the extroverted mystic experience one would bring to the session
objects or symbols to guide the awareness in the desired direction.
Candles, pictures, books, incense, music or recorded passages. An
introverted mystic experience requires the elimination of all
stimulation; no light, no sound, no smell, no movement.
The mode of communication with the other participants should also be
agreed on beforehand. You may agree on certain signals, silently
indicating companionship. You may arrange for physical contact -
clasping hands, embracing.
These means of communication should be
pre-arranged to avoid game misinterpretations that may develop
during the heightened sensitivity of ego-transcendence.
3. Drugs and Dosages
A wide variety of chemicals and plants have psychedelic (“mind
manifesting”) effects. The most widely used substances are listed
here together with dosages adequate for a normal adult of average
size. The dosage to be taken depends, of course, on the goal of the
session. Two figures are therefore given. The first column indicates
a dosage which should be sufficient for an inexperienced person to
enter the transcendental worlds described in this manual.
The second column gives a smaller dosage
figure, which may be used by more experienced persons or by
participants in a group session.
LSD-25 (lysergic acid
diethylamide) 200-500 micrograms 100-200
Mescaline 600-800 mg
Psilocybin 040-060 mg
The time of onset, when the drugs are
taken orally on an empty stomach, is approximately 20-30 minutes for
LSD and psilocybin, and one to two hours for mescaline. The duration
of the session is usually eight to ten hours for LSD and mescaline,
and five to six hours for psilocybin.
DMT (dimethyltryptamine), when
injected intramuscularly in dosages of 50-60 mg, gives an experience
approximately equivalent to 500 micrograms of LSD, but which lasts
only 30 minutes.
Some person have found it useful to take other drugs before the
session. A very anxious person, for example, may take 30 to 40 mg of
Librium about on hour earlier, to calm and relax himself. Methedrine
has also been used to induced a pleasant, euphoric mood prior to the
session. Sometimes, with excessively nervous persons, it is
advisable to stagger the drug administration: for example, 200
micrograms of LSD may be taken initially, and a “booster” of another
200 micrograms may be taken after the person has become familiar
with some of the effects of the psychedelic state.
Nausea may sometimes occur. Usually this
is a mental symptom, indicating fear, and should be regarded as
such. Sometimes, however, particularly with the use of morning-glory
seeds and peyote, the nausea can have a physiological cause. Anti-nauseant
drugs such as Marezine, Bonamine, Dramamine or Tigan, may be taken
beforehand to prevent this.
If a person becomes trapped in a repetitive game-routine during a
session, it is sometimes possible to “break the set” by
administering 50 mg of DMT, or even 25 mg of Dexedrine or Methedrine.
Such additional dosages, of course, should only be given with the
person’s own knowledge and consent. Should external emergencies call
for it, Thorazine (100-200 mg, i.m.) or other phenothiazine-type
tranquilizers will terminate the effects of psychedelic drugs.
Antidotes should not be used simply
because the voyager or the guide is frightened. Instead, the
appropriate sections of the Third Bardo should be read.
[Further, more detailed suggestions
concerning dosage may be found in a paper by Gary M. Fisher:
“Some Comments Concerning Dosage
Levels of Psychedelic Compounds for Psychotherapeutic
Psychedelic Review, I, no.2, pp.
Psychedelic chemicals are not
drugs in the usual sense of the word. There is no specific reaction,
no expected sequence of events, somatic or psychological.
The specific reaction has little to do with the chemical and is
chiefly a function of set and setting; preparation and environment.
The better the preparation, the more ecstatic and revelatory the
session. In initial sessions and with unprepared persons, setting -
particularly the actions of others - is most important. With persons
who have prepared thoughtfully and seriously, the setting is less
There are two aspects of set: long-range and immediate.
Long-range set refers to the personal history, the enduring
personality. The kind of person you are - your fears, desires,
conflicts, guilts, secret passions - determines how you interpret
and manage any situation you enter, including a psychedelic session.
Perhaps more important are the reflex mechanisms used when dealing
with anxiety - the defenses, the protective maneuvers typically
Flexibility, basic trust, religious
faith, human openness, courage, interpersonal warmth, creativity,
are characteristics which allow for fun and easy learning. Rigidity,
desire to control, distrust, cynicism, narrowness, cowardice,
coldness, are characteristics which make any new situation
threatening. Most important is insight. No matter how many cracks in
the record, the person who has some understanding of his own
recording machinery, who can recognize when he is not functioning as
he would wish, is better able to adapt to any challenge - even the
sudden collapse of his ego.
The most careful preparation would include some discussion of the
personality characteristics and some planning with the guide as to
how to handle expected emotional reactions when they occur.
Immediate set refers to the expectations about the session itself.
Session preparation is of critical importance in determining how the
experience unfolds. People tend naturally to impose their personal
and social game perspectives on any new situation. Careful thought
should precede the session to prevent narrow sets being imposed.
Medical expectations. Some ill-prepared subjects unconsciously
impose a medical model on the experience. They look for symptoms,
interpret each new sensation in terms of sickness/health, place the
guide in a doctor-role, and, if anxiety develops, demand chemical
rebirth - i.e., tranquilizers. Occasionally one hears of casual,
ill-planned, non-guided sessions which end in the subject demanding
to be hospitalized, etc. It is even more problem-provoking if the
guide employs a medical model, watches for symptoms, and keeps
hospitalization in mind to fall back on, as protection for himself.
Rebellion against convention may be the motive of some people who
take the drug. The idea of doing something “far out” or vaguely
naughty is a naive set which can color the experience. Intellectual
expectations are appropriate when subjects have had much psychedelic
experience. Indeed, LSD offers vast possibilities for accelerated
learning and scientific-scholarly research. But for initial
sessions, intellectual reactions can become traps. The Tibetan
Manual never tires of warning about the dangers of rationalization.
“Turn you mind off” is the best advice
for novitiates. Control of your consciousness is like flight
instruction. After you have learned how to move your consciousness
around - into ego-loss and back, at will - then intellectual
exercises can be incorporated into the psychedelic experience. The
last stage of the session is the best time to examine concepts.
The objective of this particular manual
is to free you from you verbal mind for as long as possible.
Religious expectations invite the same advice as intellectual set.
Again, the subject in early sessions is best advised to float with
the stream, stay “up” as long as possible, and postpone theological
interpretations until the end of the session, or to later sessions.
Recreational and aesthetic expectations are natural. The psychedelic
experience, without question, provides ecstatic moments which dwarf
any personal or cultural game. Pure sensation can capture awareness.
Interpersonal intimacy reaches Himalayan heights. Aesthetic delights
- musical, artistic, botanical, natural - are raised to the
But all these reactions can be Third
Bardo ego games:
“I am having this ecstasy. How lucky
Such reactions can become tender traps,
preventing the subject from reaching pure ego-loss (First Bardo) or
the glories of Second Bardo creativity. Planned expectations. This
manual prepares the person for a mystical experience according to
the Tibetan model. The Sages of the Snowy Ranges have developed a
most sophisticated and precise understanding of human psychology,
and the student who studies this manual will become oriented for a
voyage which is much richer in scope and meaning than any Western
We remain aware, however, that the Bardo
Thodol model of consciousness is a human artifact, a Second Bardo
hallucination, however grand its scope.
Some practical recommendations. The subject should set aside at
least three days for his experience; a day before, the session day,
and a follow-up day. This scheduling guarantees a reduction in
external pressure and a more sober commitment to the voyage.
Talking to others who have taken the voyage is excellent
preparation, although the Second Bardo hallucinatory quality of all
descriptions should be recognized. Observing a session is another
valuable preliminary. The opportunity to see others during and after
a session shapes expectations. Reading books about mystical
experience is a standard orientation procedure. Reading the accounts
of others’ experiences is another possibility (Aldous Huxley, Alan
Watts, and Gordon Wasson have written powerful accounts).
Meditation is probably the best preparation for a psychedelic
session. Those who have spent time in the solitary attempt to manage
the mind, to eliminate thought and to reach higher stages of
concentration, are the best candidates for a psychedelic session.
When the ego-loss state occurs, they are ready.
They recognize the process as an end
eagerly awaited, rather than a strange event ill-understood.
5. The Setting
The first and most important thing to remember, in the preparation
for a psychedelic session, is to provide a setting which is removed
from one’s usual social and interpersonal games and which is as free
as possible from unforeseen distractions and intrusions. The voyager
should make sure that he will not be disturbed by visitors or
telephone calls, since these will often jar him into hallucinatory
activity. Trust in the surroundings and privacy are necessary.
A period of time (usually at least three days) should be set aside
in which the experience will run its natural course and there will
be sufficient time for reflections and meditation. It is important
to keep schedules open for three days and to make these arrangements
A too-hasty return to game-involvements
will blur the clarity of the vision and reduce the potential for
learning. If the experience was with a group, it is very useful to
stay together after the session in order to share and exchange
experiences. There are differences between night sessions and day
sessions. Many people report that they are more comfortable in the
evening and consequently that their experiences are deeper and
richer. The person should choose the time of day that seems right
according to his own temperament at first. Later, he may wish to
experience the difference between night and day sessions.
Similarly, there are differences between sessions out-of-doors and
indoors. Natural settings such as gardens, beaches, forests, and
open country have specific influences which one may or may not wish
to incur. The essential thing is to feel as comfortable as possible
in the surroundings, whether in one’s living room or under the night
sky. A familiarity with the surroundings may help one to feel
confident in hallucinatory periods. If the session is held indoors,
one must consider the arrangement of the room and the specific
objects one may wish to see and hear during the experience.
Music, lighting, the availability of food and drink, should be
considered beforehand. Most people report no desire for food during
the height of the experience, and then, later on, prefer to have
simple, ancient foods like bread, cheese, wine, and fresh fruit.
Hunger is usually not the issue. The senses are wide open, and the
taste and smell of a fresh orange are unforgettable.
In group sessions, the arrangement of the room is quite important.
People usually will not feel like walking or moving very much for a
long period, and either beds or mattresses should be provided. The
arrangement of the beds or mattresses can vary. One suggestion is to
place the heads of the beds together to form a star pattern. Perhaps
one may want to place a few beds together and keep one or two some
distance apart for anyone who wishes to remain aside for some time.
Often, the availability of an extra room is desirable for someone
who wishes to be in seclusion for a period.
If it is desired to listen to music or to reflect on paintings or
religious objects, one should arrange these so that everyone in the
group feels comfortable with what they are hearing or seeing.
In a group session, all decisions about
goals, setting, etc. should be made with collaboration and openness.
6. The Psychedelic Guide
For initial sessions, the attitude and behavior of the guide are
critical factors. He possesses enormous power to shape the
experience. With the cognitive mind suspended, the subject is in a
heightened state of suggestibility. The guide can move consciousness
with the slightest gesture or reaction. The key issue here is the
guide’s ability to turn off his own ego and social games - in
particular, to muffle his own power needs and his fears.
To be there relaxed, solid, accepting,
secure. The Tao wisdom of creative quietism. To sense all and do
nothing except to let the subject know your wise presence. A
psychedelic session lasts up to twelve hours and produces moments of
intense, intense, INTENSE reactivity. The guide must never be bored,
talkative, intellectualizing. He must remain calm during the long
periods of swirling mindlessness.
He is the ground control in the airport tower. Always there to
receive messages and queries from high-flying aircraft. Always ready
to help navigate their course, to help them reach their destination.
An airport-tower-operator who imposes his own personality, his own
games upon the pilot is unheard of. The pilots have their own flight
plan, their own goals, and ground control is there, ever waiting to
be of service.
The pilot is reassured to know that an
expert who has guided thousands of flights is down there, available
for help. But suppose the flier has reason to suspect that ground
control is harboring his own motives and might be manipulating the
plane toward selfish goals. The bond of security and confidence
would crumble. It goes without saying, then, that the guide should
have had considerable experience in psychedelic sessions himself and
in guiding others. To administer psychedelics without personal
experience is unethical and dangerous.
The greatest problem faced by human beings in general, and the
psychedelic guide in particular, is fear.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing control. Fear of trusting the
genetic process and your companions. From our own research studies
and our investigations into sessions run by others - serious
professionals or adventurous bohemians - we have been led to the
conclusion that almost every negative LSD reaction has been caused
by fear on the part of the guide which has augmented the transient
fear of the subject. When the guide acts to protect himself, he
communicates his concern to the subject. The guide must remain
passively sensitive and intuitively relaxed for several hours.
This is a difficult assignment for most
Westerners. For this reason, we have sought ways to assist the guide
in maintaining a state of alert quietism in which he is poised with
ready flexibility. The most certain way to achieve this state is for
the guide to take a low dose of the psychedelic with the subject.
Routine procedure is to have one trained person participate in the
experience and one staff member present in ground control without
The knowledge that one experienced guide is “up” and keeping the
subject company, is of inestimable value; intimacy and
communication; cosmic companionship; the security of having a
trained pilot flying at your wing tip; the scuba diver’s security in
the presence of an expert comrade in the deep. It is not recommended
that guides take large doses during sessions for new subjects. The
less experienced he is, the more likely will the subject impose
Second and Third Bardo hallucinations.
These intense games affect the
experienced guide, who is likely to be in a state of mindless void.
The guide is then pulled into the hallucinatory field of the
subject, and may have difficulty orienting himself. During the First
Bardo there are no familiar fixed landmarks, no place to put your
foot, no solid concept upon which to base your thinking. All is
flux. Decisive Second Bardo action on the part of the subject can
structure the guide’s flow if he has taken a heavy dose.
The role of the psychedelic guide is perhaps the most exciting and
inspiring role in society. He is literally a liberator, one who
provides illumination, one who frees men from their life-long
internal bondage. To be present at the moment of awakening, to share
the ecstatic revelation when the voyager discovers the wonder and
awe of the divine life-process, is for many the most gratifying part
to play in the evolutionary drama. The role of the psychedelic guide
has a built-in protection against professionalism and didactic one
upmanship. The psychedelic liberation is so powerful that it far
outstrips earthly game ambitions.
Awe and gratitude - rather than pride -
are the rewards of this new profession.
7. Composition of the Group
The most effective use of this manual will be for the experience of
one person with a guide. However, the manual will be useful in a
group also. When used in a group session, the following suggestions
will be most helpful in planning.
The important thing to remember in organizing a group session is to
have knowledge of and trust in the fellow voyagers. Trust in oneself
and in one’s companions is essential. If preparing for an experience
with strangers, it is very important to share as much time and space
as possible with them prior to the session. The participants should
set collaborative goals and explore mutually their expectations and
feelings and past experiences.
The size of the group should depend to some extent on how much
experience the participants have had. Initially, small groups are
preferable to larger ones. In any case, group experiences exceeding
six or seven people are demonstrably less profound and generate more
paranoid hallucinations. If planning for a group session of five or
six people, it is preferable to have at least two guides present.
One will take the psychedelic substance
and the other, who does not, serves as a practical guide to take
care of such concerns as changing the recordings, providing food,
etc., and if necessary or desired, reading selections from the
manual. If it is possible, one of the guides should be an
experienced woman who can provide an atmosphere of spiritual
nurturing and comfort.
It is sometimes advisable that the initial session of married
couples be separate in order that the exploration of their marriage
game not dominate the session.
With some experience in
consciousness-expansion, the marriage game like others may be
explored for any purpose - increased intimacy, clearer
communication, exploration of the foundations of the sexual, mating
INSTRUCTIONS FOR USE DURING A
FIRST BARDO INSTRUCTIONS
O (name of voyager) The time has come for you to seek new levels of
reality. Your ego and the (name) game are about to cease. Your are
about to be set face to face with the Clear Light Your are about to
experience it in its reality. In the ego-free state, wherein all
things are like the void and cloudless sky, And the naked spotless
intellect is like a transparent vacuum; At this moment, know
yourself and abide in that state.
O (name of voyager), That which is called ego-death is coming to
you. Remember: This is now the hour of death and rebirth; Take
advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect state
-Enlightenment. Concentrate on the unity of all living beings. Hold
onto the Clear Light. Use it to attain understanding and love.
If you cannot maintain the bliss of illumination and if you are
slipping back into contact with the external world, Remember:
The hallucinations which you may now
experience, The visions and insights, Will teach you much about
yourself and the world. The veil of routine perception will be torn
from you eyes. Remember the unity of all living things. Remember the
bliss of the Clear Light. Let it guide you through the visions of
this experience. Let it guide you through your new life to come. If
you feel confused; call upon the memory of your friends and the
power of the person whom you most admire. O (name), Try to reach and
keep the experience of the Clear Light. Remember: The light is the
The endless flame of life. An
ever-changing surging turmoil of color may engulf your vision. This
is the ceaseless transformation of energy. The life process. Do not
fear it. Surrender to it. Join it. It is part of you. You are part
of it. Remember also: Beyond the restless flowing electricity of
life is the ultimate reality -The Void. Your own awareness, not
formed into anything possessing form or color, is naturally void.
The Final Reality. The All Good. The All Peaceful. The Light. The
The movement is the fire of life from
which we all come. Join it. It is part of you. Beyond the light of
life is the peaceful silence of the void. The quiet bliss beyond all
transformations. The Buddha smile. The Void is not nothingness. The
Void is beginning and end itself. Unobstructed; shining, thrilling,
blissful. Diamond consciousness. The All-Good Buddha. Your own
consciousness, not formed into anything, No thought, no vision, no
color, is void.
The intellect shining and blissful and
silent -This is the state of perfect enlightenment. Your own
consciousness, shining, void and inseparable from the great body of
radiance, has no birth, nor death. It is the immutable light which
the Tibetans call Buddha Amitabha, The awareness of the formless
beginning. Knowing this is enough.
Recognize the voidness of your own
consciousness to be Buddhahood.
Keep this recognition and you will
maintain the state of the divine mind of the Buddha.
SECOND BARDO PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS
Remember: In this session you experience three Bardos, Three states
of ego-loss. First there is the Clear Light of Reality. Next there
are fantastically varied game hallucinations. Later you will reach
the stage of Re-Entry Of regaining an ego.
O friend, You may experience ego-transcendence, Departure from your
old self. But you are not the only one. It comes to all at some
time. You are fortunate to have this gratuitously given rebirth
experience. Do not cling in fondness and weakness to your old self.
Even though you cling to your mind, you have lost the power to keep
it. You can gain nothing by struggling in this hallucinatory world.
Be not attached. Be not weak. Whatever fear or terror may come to
you Forget not these words. Take their meaning into your heart. Go
forward. Herein lies the vital secret of recognition.
O friend, remember: When body and mind separate, you experience a
glimpse of the pure truth -Subtle, sparkling, bright, Dazzling,
glorious, and radiantly awesome, In appearance like a mirage moving
across a landscape in springtime. One continuous stream of
vibrations. Be not daunted thereby, Nor terrified, nor awed. That is
the radiance of your own true nature. Recognize it.
From the midst of that radiance Comes the natural sound of reality,
Reverberating like a thousand thunders simultaneously sounding. That
is the natural sound of your own life process. Be not daunted
thereby, Nor terrified, nor awed. It is sufficient for you to know
that these apparitions are your own thought-forms. If you do not
recognize your own thought forms, If you forget your preparation,
The lights will daunt you, The sounds will awe you, The rays will
terrify you, The people around you will confuse you. Remember the
key to the teachings.
O friend, These realms are not come from somewhere outside your
self, They come from within and shine upon you. The revelations too
are not come from somewhere else; They exist from eternity within
the faculties of your own intellect. Know them to be of that nature.
The key to enlightenment and serenity during this period of ten
thousand visions is simply this: Relax. Merge yourself with them.
Blissfully accept the wonders of your own creativity.
Become neither attached nor afraid,
Neither be attracted nor repulsed.
Above all, do nothing about the visions.
They exist only within you.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 1: THE SOURCE
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored)
O nobly-born, listen carefully: The Radiant Energy of the Seed >From
which come all living forms, Shoots forth and strikes against you
With a light so brilliant that you will scarcely be able to look at
it. Do not be frightened. This is the Source Energy which has been
radiating for billions of years, Ever manifesting itself in
different forms. Accept it. Do not try to intellectualize it. Do not
play games with it.
Merge with it. Let it flow through you.
Lose yourself in it. Fuse in the Halo of Rainbow Light Into the core
of the energy dance.
Obtain Buddhahood in the Central Realm
of the Densely Packed.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS
O friend, listen carefully. The bodily symptoms you are having are
not drug-effects. They indicate that you are struggling against the
awareness of feelings which surpass your normal experience.
You cannot control these universal
energy-waves. Let the feelings melt all over you. Become part of
them. Sink into them and through them. Allow yourself to pulsate
with the vibrations surrounding you. Relax. Do not struggle. Your
symptoms will disappear as soon as all trace of ego-centered
striving disappears. Accept them as the message of the body.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 2: THE INTERNAL
FLOW OF ARCHETYPAL PROCESSES
(Eyes closed, external
stimuli ignored; intellectual aspects)
O nobly born, listen carefully: The life flow is whirling through
you. An endless parade of pure forms and sounds, Dazzlingly
brilliant, Ever-changing. Do not try to control it. Flow with it.
Experience the ancient cosmic myths of creation and manifestation.
Do not try to understand; There is plenty of time for that later.
Merge with it. Let it flow through you. There is no need to act or
You are being taught the great lessons
of evolution, creation, reproduction. If you try to stop it, you may
fall into hell-worlds and endure unbearable misery generated by your
own mind. Avoid game interpretations. Avoid thinking, talking and
doing. Keep faith in the life flow. Trust your companions on this
watery journey. Merge in Rainbow Light, Into the Heart of The River
of Created Forms.
Obtain Buddhahood in the Realm called
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 3: THE
FIRE-FLOW OF INTERNAL UNITY
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored, emotional aspects)
O nobly born, listen carefully: You are flowing outward into the
fluid unity of life. The ecstasy of organic fire glows in every
cell. The hard, dry, brittle husks of your ego are washing out,
Washing out to the endless sea of creation. Flow with it. Feel the
pulse of the sun’s heart. Let the red Buddha Amitabha sweep you
along. Do not fear the ecstasy. Do not resist the flow.
Remember, all the exultant power comes
from within. Release your attachment. Recognize the wisdom of your
own blood. Trust the tide-force pulling you into unity with all
living forms. Let your heart burst in love for all life. Let your
warm blood gush out into the ocean of all life. Do not be attached
to the ecstatic power; It comes from you. Let it flow. Do not try to
hold on to your old bodily fears. Let your body merge with the warm
flux. Let your roots sink into the warm life body. Merge into the
Heart-Glow of the Buddha Amitabha. Float in the Rainbow Sea.
Attain Buddhahood in the Realm named
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 4: THE
WAVE-VIBRATION STRUCTURE OF EXTERNAL FORMS
(Eyes open, rapt involvement with the external visual stimuli,
O nobly born, listen carefully: At this point you can become aware
of the wave structure of the world around you. Everything you see
dissolves into energy vibrations. Look closely and you will tune in
on the electric dance of energy. There are no longer things and
persons but only the direct flow of particles. Consciousness will
now leave your body and flow into the stream of wave rhythm. There
is no need for talk or action.
Let your brain become a receiving set
for the radiance. All interpretations are the products of your own
mind. Dispel them. Have no fear. Exult in the natural power of your
own brain, The wisdom of your own electricity. Abide in the state of
quietude. As the three-dimensional world fragments, you may feel
panic; You may beget a fondness for the heavy dull world of objects
you are leaving. At this time, fear not the transparent, radiant,
dazzling wave energy. Allow your intellect to rest. Fear not the
hook-rays of the light of life, The basic structure of matter, The
basic form of wave communication.
Watch quietly and receive the message.
You will now experience directly the
revelation of primal forms.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 5: THE
VIBRATORY WAVES OF EXTERNAL UNITY
(Eyes open; rapt involvement with external stimuli such as lights,
or movements; emotional aspects)
O nobly born, listen carefully: You are experiencing the unity of
all living forms. If people seem to you rubbery and lifeless, like
plastic puppets, Be not afraid. This is only the attempt of the ego
to maintain its separate identity.
Allow yourself to feel the unity of all.
Merge with the world around you. Be not afraid. Enjoy the dance of
the puppets. They are created by your own mind. Allow yourself to
relax and feel the ecstatic energy-vibrations pulsing through you.
Enjoy the feeling of complete one-ness with all life and all matter.
The glowing radiance is a reflection of
your own consciousness. It is one aspect of your divine nature. Do
not be attached to your old human self. Do not be alarmed at the new
and strange feelings you are having. If you are attracted to your
old self, You will be reborn shortly for another round of
gameexistence. Exercise humble trust and remain fearless.
You will merge into the heart of the
Blessed Ratnasambhava, In a Halo of Rainbow Light, And attain
liberation in the Realm Endowed with Glory.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 6: “THE RETINAL
O nobly born, listen well: You are now witnessing the magical dance
of forms. Ecstatic kaleidoscopic patterns explode around you. All
possible shapes come to life before you eyes. The retinal circus.
The ceaseless play of elements -Earth, water, air, fire, In
ever-changing forms and manifestations, Dazzles you with its
complexity and variety. Relax and enjoy the rushing stream.
Do not become attached to any vision or
revelation. Let everything flow through you. If unpleasant
experiences come, Let them flit by with the rest. Do not struggle
against them. It all comes from within you. This is the great lesson
in the creativity and power of the brain, freed from its learned
structures. Let the cascade of images and associations take you
where it will. Meditate calmly on the knowledge that all these
visions are emanations of your own consciousness.
This way you can obtain self-knowledge
and be liberated.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 7: “THE MAGIC
O nobly born, listen well: You are now in the magic theatre of
heroes and demons. Mythical superhuman figures. Demons, goddesses,
celestial warriors, giants, Angels, Bodhisattvas, dwarfs, crusaders,
Elves, devils, saints, and sorcerers, Infernal spirits, goblins,
knights and emperors. The Lotus Lord of Dance. The Wise Old Man. The
Divine Child. The Trickster, The Shapeshifter. The tamer of
monsters. The mother of gods, the witch. The moon king. The
The whole divine theatre of figures
representing the highest reaches of human knowledge. Do not be
afraid of them. They are within you. Your own creative intellect is
the master magician of them all. Recognize the figures as aspects of
your self. The whole fantastic comedy takes place within you. Do not
become attached to the figures.
Remember the teachings.
You may still attain liberation.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE WRATHFUL VISIONS
O nobly born, listen carefully: You were unable to maintain the
perfect Clear Light of the First Bardo. Or the serene peaceful
visions of the Second. You are now entering Second Bardo nightmares.
Recognize them. They are your own thought-forms made visible and
audible. They are products of your own mind with its back to the
wall. They indicate that you are close to liberation. Do not fear
them. No harm can come to you from these hallucinations. They are
your own thoughts in frightening aspect.
They are old friends. Welcome them.
Merge with them. Join them. Lose yourself in them. They are yours.
Whatever you see, no matter how strange
and terrifying, Remember above all that it comes from within you.
Hold onto that knowledge. As soon as you recognize that, you will
obtain liberation. If you do not recognize them, Torture and
punishment will ensue. But these too are but the radiances of your
own intellect. They are immaterial. Voidness cannot injure voidness.
None of the peaceful or wrathful visions, Blood-drinking demons,
machines, monsters, or devils, Exist in reality Only within your
This will dissipate your fear.
Remember it well.
THIRD BARDO: PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS
O (name), listen well: You are now entering the Third Bardo. Before,
while experiencing the peaceful and wrathful visions of the Second
Bardo, You could not recognize them. Through fear you became
unconscious. Now, as you recover, Your consciousness rises up, Like
a trout leaping forth out of water, Striving for its original form.
Your former ego has started to operate again. Do not struggle to
figure things out. If through weakness you are attracted to action
and thinking, You will have to wander amidst the world of game
existence, And suffer pain. Relax your restless mind.
O (name), you have been unable to recognize the archetypal forms of
the Second Bardo. You have come down this far. Now, if you wish to
see the truth, Your mind must rest without distraction. There is
nothing to do, Nothing to think. Float back to the unobscured,
primordial, bright, void state of your intellect. In this way you
will obtain liberation. If you are unable to relax your mind,
Meditate on (name of protective figure) Meditate on your friends
(name) Think of them with profound love and trust, As overshadowing
the crown of your head. This is of great importance. Be not
O (name), You may now feel the power to perform miraculous feats, To
perceive and communicate with extrasensory power, To change shape,
size and number, To traverse space and time instantly. These
feelings come to you naturally, Not through any merit on your part.
Do not desire them. Do not attempt to exercise them. Recognize them
as signs that you are in the Third Bardo, In the period of re-entry
into the normal world.
O (name), If you have not understood the above, At this moment, As a
result of your own mental set, Frightening visions may come. Gusts
of wind and icy blasts, Humming and clicking of the controlling
machinery, Mocking laughter.
You may imagine terror producing
remarks: “Guilty,” “stupid,” inadequate,” “nasty.”
Such imagined taunts and paranoid
nightmares Are the residues of selfish, ego-dominated game-playing.
Fear them not. They are your own mental products. Remember that you
are in the Third Bardo. You are struggling to re-enter the denser
atmosphere of routine game existence. Let this re-entry be smooth
and slow. Do not attempt to use force of will-power.
O (name), As you are driven here and
there by the ever-moving winds of karma, Your mind, having no
resting place or focus, Is like a feather tossed about by the wind,
Or like a rider on the horse or breath, Ceaselessly and
involuntarily you will wander about, Calling in despair for your old
ego. Your mind races along until you are exhausted and miserable. Do
not hold on to thoughts. Allow the mind to rest in its unmodified
state. Meditate on the oneness of all energy. Thus you will be free
of sorrow, terror, and confusion.
O (name) You may feel confused and bewildered. You may be wondering
about your sanity. You may look at your fellow voyagers and friends,
And sense that they cannot understand you. You may think; “I am
dead! What shall I do?,” And feel great misery, Just like a fish
cast out of water on red-hot embers. You may wonder whether you will
Familiar places, relatives, people known to you appear as in a
dream, Or through a glass darkly. If you are having such
experiences, Thinking will be of no avail. Do not struggle to
explain. This is the natural result of your own mental program. Such
feelings indicate that you are in the Third Bardo. Trust your guide,
Trust your companions, Trust the Compassionate Buddha, Meditate
calmly and without distraction.
O (name), You may now feel as if you are
being oppressed and squeezed, Like between rocks and boulders, Or
like inside a cage or prison. Remember:
These are signs that you are trying to
force a return to your ego. There may be a dull, gray light
Suffusing all objects with a murky glow. These are all signs of the
Third Bardo. Do not struggle to return. The re-entry will happen by
itself. Recognize where you are.
Recognition will lead to liberation.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR RE-ENTRY VISIONS
O (name), You have still not understood what is happening So far you
have been searching for your past personality. Unable to find it,
you may begin to feel that you will never be the same again, That
you will come back a changed person. Saddened by this you will feel
self-pity, You will attempt to find your ego, to regain control. So
thinking, you will wander here and there, Ceaselessly and
Different images of your future self
will be seen by you; The one you are headed for will be seen most
clearly. The special art of these teachings is particularly
important at this moment. Whatever image you see, Meditate upon it
as coming from the Buddha -That level of existence also exists in
the Buddha. This is an exceedingly profound art. It will free you
from your present confusion. Meditate upon (name of protective
ideal) for as long as possible.
Visualize him as a form produced by a
magician, Then let his image melt away, Starting with the
extremities, Till nothing remains visible. Put yourself in a state
of Clearness and Voidness; Abide in that state for a while. Then
meditate again on your protective ideal. Then again on the Clear
Light. Do this alternately.
Afterwards, allow your own mind also to
melt away gradually. Wherever the air pervades, consciousness
pervades. Wherever consciousness pervades, serene ecstasy pervades.
Abide tranquilly in the uncreated state of serenity. In that state,
paranoid rebirth will be prevented.
Perfect enlightenment will be gained.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE ALL-DETERMINING
INFLUENCE OF THOUGHT
O (name), you may now experience momentary joy, Followed by
momentary sorrow, Of great intensity, Like the stretching and
relaxing of a catapult. You will go through sharp mood swings, All
determined by karma. Be not in the least attached to the joys nor
displeased by the sorrows. The actions of your friends or companions
may evoke anger or shame in you. If you get angry or depressed, You
will immediately have an experience of hell. No matter what people
are doing, Make sure that no angry thought can arise.
Meditate upon love for them.
Even at this late stage of the session
You are only one second away from a life-changing joyous discovery.
Remember that each of your companions is Buddha within. You mind in
its present state having no focus or integrating force, Being light
and continuously moving, Whatever thought occurs to you, Positive or
negative, Will wield great power. You are extremely suggestible
Therefore think not of selfish things.
Recall your preparation for the session. Show pure affection and
humble faith. Through hearing these words, Recollection will come.
Recollection will be followed by
recognition and liberation.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR JUDGMENT VISIONS
O (name), if you are experiencing a vision of judgment and guilt,
Listen carefully: That you are suffering like this Is the result of
your own mental set. Your karma. No one is doing anything to you.
There is nothing to do. Your own mind is creating the problem.
Accordingly float into meditation. Remember your former beliefs.
Remember the teachings of this manual. Remember the friendly
presence of you companions. If you do not know how to meditate
Concentrate on any single object or sensation. Hold this (hand the
wanderer an object), Concentrate on the reality of this, Recognize
the illusory nature of existence and phenomena.
This moment is of great importance. If
you are distracted now it will take you a long time to get out of
the quagmire of misery. Up till now the Bardo experiences have come
to you and you have not recognized them. You have been distracted.
On this account you have experienced fear and terror.
Even though unsuccessful thus far You
may recognize and obtain liberation here. Your session can still
become ecstatic and revelatory. If you do not know how to meditate,
remember (person’s ideal). Remember your companions Remember this
manual. Think of all these fears and terrifying apparitions as being
your own ideal, Or as the compassionate one. They are divine tests.
Remember your guide.
Repeat the names over and over.
Even though you fall, You will not be
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SEXUAL VISIONS
O (name), At this time you may see visions of mating couples. You
are convinced that an orgy is about to take place. Desire and
anticipation seize you, You wonder what sexual performance is
expected of you. When these visions occur, Remember to withhold
yourself from action or attachment. Humbly exercise your faith.
Float with the stream. Trust the process with great fervency.
Meditation and trust in the unity of
life are the keys. If you attempt to enter into your old personality
because you are attracted or repulsed, If you try to join the orgy
you are hallucinating, You will be reborn on an animal level. You
will experience possessive desire and jealousy, You will suffer
stupidity and misery. If you wish to avoid these miseries Listen and
Reject the feelings of attraction or
repulsion. Remember the downward pull opposing enlightenment is
strong in you. Meditate upon unity with your fellow voyagers.
Abandon jealousy, Be neither attracted nor repulsed by your sexual
hallucinations. If you are you will wander in misery a long time.
Repeat these words to yourself.
And meditate on them.
FOUR METHODS OF PREVENTING RE-ENTRY
First Method: Meditation on the Buddha
O (name), tranquilly meditate upon your protective figure (name). He
is like the reflecting of the moon in water. He is apparent yet
non-existent. Like illusion produced by magic. If you have no
special protective figure, Meditate upon the Buddha or upon me. With
this in mind meditate tranquilly.
Then causing the visualized form of your
protective ideal To melt away from the extremities, Meditate,
without any thought-forming, upon the Void Clear Light. This is a
very profound art. By virtue of it rebirth is postponed.
A more illuminated future is assured.
Second Method: Meditation on Good
(Name), You are now wandering in the Third Bardo. As a sign of this,
look into a mirror and you will not see your usual self (show the
wanderer a mirror). At this time you must form a single, firm
resolve in your mind. This is very important. It is like directing
the course of a horse by the use of the reins. Whatever you desire
will come to pass. Think not of evil actions which might turn the
course of your mind. Remember your spiritual relationship with me,
Or with anyone from whom you have received teaching.
Persevere with good games. This is
essential. Be not distracted. Here lies the boundary line between
going up or down. If you give way to indecision for even a second,
You will have to suffer misery for a long, long time, Trapped in
your old habits and games. This is the moment. Hold fast to one
single purpose. Remember good games. Resolve to act according to
your highest insight. This is a time when earnestness and pure love
are necessary. Abandon jealousy. Meditate upon laughter and trust.
Bear this well at heart.
Third Method: Meditation on Illusion
If still going down and not liberated, Meditate as follows: The
sexual activities, the manipulation machinery, the mocking laughter,
dashing sounds and terrifying apparitions, Indeed all phenomena Are
in their nature, illusions. However they may appear, in truth they
are unreal and fake. They are like dreams and apparitions,
Non-permanent, non-fixed. What advantage is there in being attached
to them, Or being afraid of them?
All these are hallucinations of the
The mind itself does not exist,
Therefore why should they? Only through taking these illusions for
real will you wander around in this confused existence. All these
are like dreams, Like echoes, Like cities of clouds, Like mirages,
Like mirrored forms, Like phantasmagoria, The moon seen in water.
Not real even for a moment. By holding one-pointedly to that train
of thought. The belief that they are real is dissipated, And
liberation is attained.
Fourth Method: Meditation on the Void
“All substances are part of my own
consciousness. This consciousness is vacuous, unborn, and
Thus meditating, Allow the mind to rest
in the uncreated state. Like the pouring of water into water, The
mind should be allowed its own easy mental posture In its natural,
unmodified condition, clear and vibrant. By maintaining this
relaxed, uncreated state of mind Rebirth into routine game-reality
is sure to be prevented. Meditate on this until you are certainly
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CHOOSING THE
It is almost time to return.
Make the selection of your
future personality according to the best teaching.
The signs and characteristics of the level of existence to
Will appear to you in
When you find that you have to return to reality,
Try to follow the pleasant delightful visions.
Avoid the dark unpleasant ones.
If you return in panic, a fearful state will follow,
If you strive to escape dark, gloomy scenes, an unhappy
state will follow,
If you return in radiance, a happy state will follow.
Your mental state now will affect your subsequent level of
Whatever you choose,
Without attraction or repulsion.
Enter into game-existence with good grace.
Voluntarily and freely.
Remember the teachings.