“The night-time of the body is the daytime of the Soul.”
– Tantrik Saying
Each of us, according to Tantrik traditions, lives not one, but two lives, simultaneously. One is the objective, physical life of the five senses. It is our waking life, lived here and now, limited by time and space. It is the life you return to each morning when you open your eyes, and the familiar “solid” objects of your room – lamps, table, chairs – recall to you the frustrations, restraints, and insecurities of the world that dissolved in sleep.
Our “Second Life”
The second life is that which is lived “over there,” in the so-called dream world which we enter when we fall asleep. It is an existence very different from that we lead in our workaday sphere.
For, as Indo-Tibetan scriptures point out, the rational existence we know when awake does not exist there. It is, rather, a world of free exaltation. We take to the air like birds, walk through walls, change physical form as easily as smoke. We are like children at play – full of whimsy, sly mischief, and fairy-like delights.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, it is written:
“Having subdued by sleep all that belongs to the body, he not asleep himself, looks down upon the sleep-ing senses. Having taken to himself light, he goes again to his place – the golden person, the lonely swan.
“Guarding his lower nest with the vital breath, the immortal moves away from the nest. The immortal one goes wherever he likes, the golden person, the lonely bird.
“Going up and down in the dream state, the god makes many forms for himself, enjoying himself in the company of women, or laughing (with his companions), or beholding terrible sights . . .
“Here some people (object and) say:
“This state of sleep is the same as his waking state, for whatever objects he sees while awake, those too, he sees when asleep.’
“Not so, for in the dream state, the person is self-illuminated.”
It is interesting to observe that even at the early date (circa 1000 B.C.) at which this scripture was written, the sages anticipated a point of view that is commonly held today. That is the theory that the content of all our dreams is derived from impressions, incidents, and mental experiences of our waking life.
Not so, say the sacred texts. The golden person, that is, the individual self, leaves the body (called “the lower nest”) and, clothed in spiritual integument as mobile and penetrating as radio waves, exists in another dimension.
This dimension differs in many strange ways from that in which our earthly lives are unfolded. Tibetan mystics say that it closely resembles the intermediate Bardo state of the discarnate ego, between death and rebirth. For that reason they refer to it as Bardo of the Dream.
They assert that the ego’s shock of re-entry, so to speak, which occurs when we return to the dense phys-ical realm upon awakening from sleep, usually shatters and distorts accurate memory of dream experiences.
This fact, added to the wholly different conditions of life in that other sphere, make our dreams, in retrospect, seem unreal, illogical and sometimes downright silly.
One factor that contributes a great deal to the confusion of dreams is that of so-called time distortion. Time as we know it in our waking experiences, is conceived as an irreversible direction, a sequence of moments at which given events occur.
But on the inner planes, adepts report that the distinction between past, present and future does not exist. Time is simultaneous; and the vivid present as we experience it in physical realms, is at best a point of arbitrary awareness by the dreamer.
If the dreamer so desires, or if he permits astral world nature to take its course, he may view the total history of anything having measurable duration.
For example, he may see a person, or his own physical counterpart, in every stage of temporal development, from infancy to old age.
This circumstance may, to some extent, answer the question that so often puzzles the plain man when he tries to visualize life after death, either in a Christian framework of reference positing a timeless hereafter; or in the metaphysical sense, seeking to formulate some image of a disembodied ego. Each asks, What age will I be over there? A child, a youth, a middle-aged person, a Methuselah?
Any and all of these, say those who have learned how to bring back lucid interpretations of that different order of existence which obtains in other worlds than ours.
It is true that, being to some extent in control of the time flow during the dream state, most of us prefer youth, as we do in our waking state. Mark Twain, who was firmly convinced that his spiritualized body wandered the universe during the interval of sleep, wrote that he was always young in his dreams.
Another faculty denied us in the third dimension, but fully exercised in the dream state, is the ability to see through “solid” objects. Such capability is not confined to the imponderable things of the subtle planes, but apparently can function even in the gross world.
X-ray vision of this kind is well illustrated in the case, often cited amongst occultists, of the French naturalist, Jean Louis Agassiz.
Agassiz had, for two weeks, been puzzling over the faint impression of a fossil fish in a slab of stone. But, try as he might, he could not make out distinct outlines of the primordial creature’s structure. Unable to classify the specimen, he put the project aside and busied himself with other problems.
Soon afterward, however, he awakened in the small hours with the impression that during his sleep, he had again examined the stone fragment, only, this time he had clearly seen complete details of the fish’s configuration. What had it looked like? He pressed his memory for particulars. But to no avail. Only a blurred image remained.
Hoping to stimulate even this vague recollection and perhaps to recapture some of the missing features presented in his dream experience, Agassiz again studied the specimen with utmost concentration. But it was hopeless. He could remember nothing.
The following night, he again saw the fish in his dreams. But again, the “trauma” of awakening erased the details.
Determined to set down the vision if possible, the moment it occurred, Agassiz thoughtfully provided him-self with a pencil and paper on his bedside table.
In the early hours of the following morning, the dream did recur. He seemed to be peering intently at the fossil specimen. At first, only the blurred outlines, observed during his waking research, were visible to him. But gradually his gaze penetrated the stone until he could plainly see the fundamental characteristics of the ancient fish, embedded deep within the stone, beyond waking vision.
Half awake, he groped in the darkness for the paper and pencil at his bedside. Finding these, and without putting on a light, he sketched the skeletal profile of the specimen as he had just witnessed it in his dream.
His wife relates that when he awakened the following morning, he was surprised, upon examining the drawing, to discover hidden features of the fish, which he had not expected to find. They had been concealed inside the stone itself.
Realizing that only a kind of x-ray vision could have revealed these to him, M. Agassiz hurried to the Jardin des Plantes to verify his discovery.
Using his dream sketch as a guide, he patiently chiseled away a section of the stone. And there, concealed beneath its surface, was the portion of the organism hitherto invisible to him. It corresponded in every detail with the drawing he had made in the almost total darkness of his bedroom the previous night!
Yoga Of The Dream State
Thus, while ordinarily our memory of dreams is a rambling, irrational and meaningless confusion, it must be evident to the unbiased reader that in some instances, as in the case of M. Agassiz, the dream experience can and does have important meaning for the dreamer.
Such a theory provides the basis for yoga of the dream state, as we shall see in what follows.
Sometimes the dream experience is so real and overwhelming (especially in the case of vaticinal dreams) that it will overshadow our thoughts for hours or days after we emerge from sleep.
A well-known instance of such a premonitory dream is that which occurred to Abraham Lincoln a few days before he was assassinated. A vivid account of it is given in the biography, “Recollections of Abraham Lincoln,” written by Ward Hill Lamon, one of the President’s most intimate friends.
In his dream, President Lincoln told Lamon, he heard the subdued sobbing of many people, seemingly in deep grief. He arose from his bed and wandered from room to room, seeking the source of the weeping. He said every room was illuminated, and he could clearly see the familiar furnishings. But, though the sound of mourning filled the house, he did not meet a single person as he passed along.
With growing bafflement and a feeling of alarm, the President continued his search through the White House until he entered the East Room. There he was shocked to see a corpse resting upon a catafalque. It was guarded by soldiers and surrounded by a crowd of mourners. The face of the deceased was covered, and the President asked one of the soldiers:
“Who is dead in the White House?”
“The President,” he replied. “He was killed by an assassin.”
At this point, a loud outburst of weeping by the crowd awoke Mr. Lincoln. But the dream, so soon to come true, haunted his remaining days on earth.
It was not the first time, of course that a great man of destiny or genius has had a premonitory vision in his sleep. There is, running through the recorded history of every culture, a long list of prophetic dreams, beginning with the famous fat-and-lean kine dream of the Pharaoh of Egypt, accurately interpreted for him by Joseph.
Other celebrated Biblical narratives of prophetic dreams include those of Jacob and his ladder; Nebu-chadnezzar and the dream he couldn’t remember, although God revealed it to Daniel “in a night vision”; and Joseph, the husband of Mary, who was warned in a dream to take the infant Jesus and flee into Egypt.
For the reader interested in a comprehensive history of the subliminal life, there is a vast body of literature, ancient and modern, dealing with the subject in almost all its aspects.
Some accounts tell of the important role played by dreams in the creative life of writers, composers, scientists, and even financiers.
Others relate documented instances in which the dreamers were given cures for illness, locations of buried treasure or lost objects, diagnosis of an unsuspected pathology, solution of a mathematical problem, telepathic messages, and so on.
For the ancients, however, the primary importance of the dream process was that it provided a doorway into the spiritual realm, a means of communication between man and higher assisting forces. The Hebrew believed that God himself could speak to man in a dream.
“In a dream, in a vision of the night,” wrote Job (33:15-18), “when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumbering’s upon the bed; then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, that he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man, he keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword.”
Similarly, the true objective of dream yoga, as practiced by Tantrik sadhakas is to preserve a continuity of awareness in the dream state, and thereby to reach beyond the confusions and elusive images of ordinary sleep.
For the Tantrik sleep is, in fact, a form of samadhi, closely resembling that claimed by yogis who practice extreme austerities to achieve it.
Tantrik gurus point out that it is no coincidence that in inducing the classical state of samadhi, the yogi more or less duplicates the mechanism of sleep. He slows the rhythm of his breath, regulates and deepens his respiration. He effects a general relaxation of the muscles. By inhibiting the nerve centers, the threshold of awareness that responds to stimuli is raised, as it is in sleep. Moreover, the electrical activity of the brain during samadhi, as measured by the electroencephalograph, shows the same characteristics as those recorded during deep sleep.
In short, if ordinary sleep can provide a ready means of reaching higher planes of consciousness (provided the proper method is applied), the non-ascetic Tantrik believes such a technique is the proper one for men of the Kali age.
Obstacles to the successful practice of dream yoga are somewhat the same as those which confront the Western investigators of “the buried life.”
The first problem is how to separate dreams having their origin in sensuous impressions and experiences of waking life, from those of spiritual significance.
Long before modern researchers in Europe and America began an extensive study of dreams, Indo-Tibetan schools were aware that dreams can be caused by such things as over-eating or improper diet; by stimulation of any of the sleeper’s five senses; wish fulfillment, and so on.
Scientifically trained investigators in the West, who have propounded their various dream theories with the fervor of fanatics, condescendingly regard yogic dream practices as mystic nonsense, when they know anything about them at all. They assume that Tantrik teachers hold the views they do because of their ignorance of Occidental experimentation and study.
So far as the better-educated gurus are concerned, nothing could be further from the truth.
Pundit Chatterjee, for example, was fully conversant with the work of such modern authors as Freud, Jung, Janet, Adler, Brill and Lowy. He could also speak knowledgeably of studies being conducted by medical researchers, among them Hess, Mazurkiewitz, Loomis, and the Gibbses.
Three States Of Consciousness
“We who receive our light from the Sadhana Shastra do not reject the data of science,” he said. “But we say they stop short of the subtle and secret matters that concern us.
“It may well be that some dreams are confessions, as Stekel claims. And we know that dreams can be pro-duced experimentally or affected by tensor effects, orientation to surroundings, antecedent states of mind, pathology, perhaps even genetic memory from the far-distant past.
“Again: they speak truthfully when they say that dreams are often ridiculous, disconnected, trivial, repetitious, improper, and sometimes even criminal. But we believe they are wrong to affirm that they are always so.
“Our revealed literature declares that there are three states of consciousness for the embodied Jiva. One is the state of being in this world of forms; one in the other, formless world; and the third, in an intermediate realm – sandhyam, in which we experience at the same time the evils of the gross world and the joys of the subtle world. It is this intermediate state of consciousness that produces the irrational, grotesque and incongruous dreams of which science has made so careful a study.
“In the sacred text, we find it written: ‘When this person goes to sleep, he carries with him the material of this all-embracing world. In the dream condition, he tears it apart, himself builds it up. He sleeps (that is, dreams) by his own light. In that state, the person becomes self-illuminated. He is, indeed, the creator (of his dreams).’
“Is this all that is to be said of the dream state? Certainly not. Tantrik Acharyas have long taught that by the right discipline, the yogi passes beyond the irrational, intermediate state, into clear awareness of the other world.”
Dream yoga has two principal aims. One is initiatory; the other liberating.
The Secret Order Of Epoptae
The cryptic scriptures of Tantrism speak of a secret, universal order of epoptae, who can initiate a sleeping aspirant anywhere in the world.
It is said that the powerful lines of force emanating from their transcendental consciousness may be perceived at any point in the universe. In the postulant, they produce certain dream experiences, which he must remember, analyze, and absorb.
Some of these adepts embody the Shiva or male purusha principle; while others incarnate one or another of the many aspects of the Devi – the dynamic, creative female force called prakriti.
Disciplines employed in these initiations are reportedly the same as those imparted to the disciple when the guru is present in the physical body. They include purification, breath control (pranayama), mantra, nyasa or projection of divine entities into various parts of the body; dhyana (yogic meditation); and panchatattva (the secret ritual). The sexual partner for the latter practice may be the guru projecting in the guise of almost any personality, East or West; past, present, or future.
Or, according to Tibetan sources, Tantrik deities such as Dakinis or Devas may serve as consorts.
Whether these claims be true or not, all teachers of dream yoga start their instruction with techniques for remembering dreams and for analyzing dream symbols. The shishya is trained to use his waking consciousness as a cognitive mechanism, endlessly scanning for truth recorded in the memory of dreams.
In thus seeking in dreams for a source of instruction and guidance, the Tantrik tradition is not an isolated discipline. Study and interpretation of this kind has a long antecedent history.
The ancient Chaldean sages, the “Wise Men of the Magic Library” in Egypt; the Magi of Persia; the dream oracles of Greece – all held important positions in their respective societies because they had developed the techniques of comprehending dreams and of delivering messages of divine origin when they concerned the people as a whole.
The Roman Caesar Augustus believed firmly in man-tic dreams, and had a law enacted which required the citizens of certain provinces to publish in the marketplace any dream they might have concerning the State.
In the Islamic world, Mohammed, who was a reformer in some matters – social and religious – reaffirmed the dream process as part of the prophetic mission.
It is said that each morning he used to ask his followers to relate to him their dreams of the previous night and to analyze them for anything that might be of a revelatory nature. Tibetan gurus follow the same procedure today on occasions when a disciple is to receive initiation.
In the Indo-Tibetan tradition, various formulas have been developed for the purpose of removing the “defilements” that veil the true dream content, beclouding one’s awareness during initiations that occur in sleep.
The following technique, devised for Western disciples by Pundit Chatterjee, is based upon classical traditions:
The first step in the discipline of dream yoga is preparatory. That is to say, the sadhaka seeks to create the optimum conditions conducive to his comprehending and remembering dream experiences.
He should, therefore, first be mindful of his own physical and mental state. If he leads a sedentary life, he ought to take a short, brisk walk in the fresh air before retiring, in order to relax his muscles. On the other hand, strenuous exercise that results in fatigue, is to be avoided.
The final meal of the day ought to be a light one, free of rich or stimulating dishes. If coffee or tea interfere with sleep, they ought to be eschewed.
A pleasant state of mind, free of daily cares and worldly anxieties, is a sine qua non in the practice of dream yoga. Therefore, the sadhaka must achieve tranquility, either by pranayama, by reading, or by listening to the kind of music he has individually found to be relaxing and calming to his nerves.
He should also direct his attention to the room in which he is to sleep. It should be of pleasing, but subdued decor. The colors most desirable for his purpose are pastel shades of blue or green. Bright primary colors – red, yellow, blue – are the most inappropriate for a room in which to practice.
It should also be a quiet room, insulated against traffic sounds and noises that are likely to prove intrusive during hours of slumber. The auditory, more than the other physical senses, is susceptible to stimulation during sleep, owing to the fact that there is a rise and fall in its acuteness, as the sadhaka’s sleep lightens or deepens at intervals during the night.
The room should be well-ventilated, but not flooded with cold night air. The sleeper would likewise be protected against excessive light which, in controlled experiments, has been found to produce retinal images and phantasies that, of course, interfere with the yogi’s aim of contacting higher consciousness.
After a careful check of himself and of the room in which he will sleep, the aspirant examines his bed. The mattress should be neither too hard nor too soft; that is to say, it should be of a resiliency that will not affect the dreamer’s subliminal consciousness.
Squeaky springs or a bedstead that creaks and groans with the slightest movement of the sleeper’s body likewise constitutes a serious drawback to practice. A sound barely noticed in the waking state sometimes brings on alertness in a person who happens to be in a light state of sleep at the time.
An average person will move an arm or a leg perhaps twenty or thirty times during an eight-hour period of rest; and make as many as fifteen complete body turns during that same period. If his bed-springs twang, or his headboard gives forth a strident protest at each movement, the sadhaka is not likely to realize a successful sadhana.
Selection of a pillow is also important. It ought to be of a thickness that will support the head at an angle to the body that will not produce neck strain. A thin notebook, used for the present purpose only, and a pencil are placed beneath the pillow, where they can be easily found in the darkness.
The bed linens should be fresh and clean, and free of wrinkles and bulges. The pillow case may be scented with the sadhaka’s favorite fragrance, or any of the perfumes.
If blankets are tucked under the mattress at the foot of the bed, they must be loose enough so as not to be binding to the sleeper’s lower limbs.
Finally, the feet must be kept warm, even if it is necessary to wear woolen bed socks during the colder months in northern climates.
After the foregoing details have been attended to, the yogi proceeds to the second step of the discipline.
Getting into bed, and with lights extinguished, he lies at first on his back, eyes closed and hands folded over the solar plexus, as directed in the Fifth Discipline.
For a few moments, he lies quite still, breathing normally and relaxing as fully as possible, both mentally and physically. If he is accustomed to saying a prayer upon retiring, he does so now.
Then, arousing an intense desire to attract higher assisting forces from the inner planes, he resolves to retain a continuity of awareness through the dream state. This awareness will clearly enable him to recall his dreams in the waking state.
A drowsiness begins to overcome the sadhaka. He assumes the supine posture, called by Tibetan Tantriks the Lion Posture, as follows: Lying on his right side, with his head to the North, he pulls up his legs slightly until both knees are bent. In this position, the left leg lies atop the right one. He places his right cheek in the cupped palm of his right hand, and rests his left arm along the left leg.
If, during the ensuing period of sleep, he unconsciously moves out of this position, it need give him no serious concern. The important thing is to fall asleep in that posture.
Immediately upon awaking, whether it be the following morning or at different times during the night, the sadhaka records details of his dream or dreams in the notebook placed under his pillow for that purpose.
Even though only vague fragments of the dream are still present, these should be noted. The notes are made before fully opening the eyes, while still in the limbo between the svapna (sleeping) and the jagrat (waking) states.
If only a few disconnected features of the dream are available, he ought to try to start with the seemingly latest image and work backward, trying to fully relive the dream experience a second time. The complete dream scenario may, in this way, pass again through the yogi’s memory.
The image or incidents that come most sharply into focus are duly described in the notebook. This done, an earnest effort is made to recall his own participation in the dream: what he did, said, heard.
Careful attention is given to anything extraordinary about the dream content – images or identities or places which, although they seemed perfectly natural in the subliminal milieu, appear startling or impossible in the waking state.
Until he has recovered as much as possible of the total dream sequence, the sadhaka does not allow himself to return fully to wakefulness or to think of anything other than the dream he is trying to recall.
Having recaptured and revisualized his dream as fully as possible, he records the date and puts the notebook aside.
In the event that upon awaking, the sleeper is unable to recall any part of his dream, he should try to recall what his first conscious thought was, upon emerging from sleep. This thought, no matter how trivial and seemingly irrelevant, is very often closely associated with the just-concluded dream experience. It can therefore serve as a connecting link, which will bring back other details.
Tantrik teachers say that difficulty in remembering dreams may come from too sudden an awakening. They urge their disciples to check for conditions that may cause precipitous or premature awakening. These include such things as bodily tension, extremes in temperature, noise, chronic alertness.
To overcome the latter obstacle, the sadhaka is told to visualize a brilliant blue, almond-shaped flame glowing in the muladhara or sex chakra. As he meditates upon it, he pictures the electric-blue fire radiating outward along the 72,000 nadis or psychic channels of his subtle body, until it envelops his gross body in a luminous cloud.
It is not unusual for the normal person to awaken one or more times during the night. The reason for this is that our sleep is not an unbroken period of unconsciousness. It is, rather, made up of six or seven sleep intervals, separated by shallow slumber or outright wakeful-ness. Each sleep cycle lasts slightly more than an hour, in the same way that the breath flow alternates from ida to pingala.
If the yogi does come fully awake during the night, he tries each time to recall his dream and to record it in his notebook.
Most Tantrik gurus hold the view that dreams which are important from a yogic point of view, are more likely to occur between dawn and sunrise. It is not difficult to see why. At that time the physical body has had its rest, all food has been digested, and the mind has been largely cleared of “defilements,” that is, of residual sense impressions.
After faithfully recording his dreams for a week or ten days, the postulant goes over them carefully, studying each image or impression. Of particular interest are scenes that appear to be out of another age, or in surroundings that bear little resemblance to those of the dreamer’s waking life. Close attention is given to the sifting of data that include meetings, conversations, or unusual mutual activities with persons or beings unknown to the sadhaka in the physical world.
Especially noteworthy are dream experiences of a sexual nature. These may not at first be recognized for what they are. They may appear initially in symbol. In the latter form, however, they will always involve imagery representing a union of opposites, such as electric and magnetic, hot and cold, light and dark, static and kinetic. For example, the dream may be of a merry-go-round, in which a static pole supports the movement, and makes possible a variety of activity around it.
The student must bear in mind, of course, that these dreams have more than one level of significance. They may, indeed, be the expressions of unfulfilled desires, as Freud asserts; or arise from the collective unconscious, as Jung avows.
But deeper than these sources, for the Tantrik, lies another genesis of his dream: his need to reintegrate the opposite poles of his being, into a Nirvanic unity.
Eventually, if sleep sadhana is successful, the symbolization process will give way to a direct relationship with another person or being, usually of the opposite sex.
“The saha-dharmini (ritual consort) may appear to the dreamer in many guises,” Pundit Chatterjee observed. “For the Hindu man or woman, it may be as Parvati, Kali, Durga, Shiva or Vishnu. For the Tibetan, the embodiment may be of the Dakinis or the Yidam. For you of the West, it is less likely to be a goddess or religious figure. For you, the form taken may be a casual stranger, a movie star, the girl next door.
“Shastra teaches that Shiva-Shakti may take any form, being the fountainhead of all forms. Therefore, the sadhaka ought to meditate upon this before falling asleep. He ought to repeat again and again: ‘O my Shakti, come to me, come to me, come to me!’ He should also try to visualise each stage of the Secret Act with that one who has clearly manifested to him in the svapna (dream) state.”
According to Tantrik belief, if the neophyte persists in his practice, sooner or later an initiator will emerge from the shifting and amorphous experiences of his dreams.
Until he has clearly identified such an initiator, he is required to continue the dream record in his note-book, and to scan it carefully for important data he may have overlooked.
When the initiator or unifying element of the dream state has been discovered, the yogi is ready for the next step of the present discipline.
This consists of what is called the Practice of the Return. Each time the initiating element – whether it be person, symbol, color, sound – is remembered upon awakening, the aspirant with eyes still closed continues to visualize the key image and to return to the dream.
In other words, he seeks to repeat the entire dream, but to carry into it his waking consciousness, with the latter’s lucidity and self-control.
He thus becomes a detached spectator, as well as a participant in the unfolding experience. He will reason about the strange scenes before him as one might reason about a motion picture drama evolving upon a screen before him.
He may at first find this difficult to accomplish, since it means being in two worlds simultaneously. But after patient and repeated attempts, a successful transfer of mundane consciousness to the inner planes will occur.
Then, Tantrik adepts assert, the dreamer – freed of all trammels of the flesh, although still umbilical to the body by means of a nuclear ribbon – will emerge from his old, familiar surroundings and enter a universe ruled by different laws (kaivalya).
Then and there, his preceptor and guide will take over to conduct him through the rites of diksha.
Dream-state disciplines of Tibetan Buddhist Tantriks differ in some respects from those of India. The lamas teach that all sensorial impressions of both waking and dream states are equally illusory. The only distinction between the two states is that one is external, the other subjective. But, as the Hindu scripture has said, the whole world is the dream of Brahma. When Brahma wakes, the dream ends.
Only by learning to pierce this veil of unreality, by comprehending his dreams, can the sadhaka awaken to the True State of Enlightenment.
Consequently, the aim of Tibetan sleep sadhana is to prepare the disciple to recognize clearly and to hold the Four Blisses which emerge both in the dream experience and in the after-death state.
These four successive unfoldments are known as the Lights of Sleep. The first, called the Light of Revela-tion, is perceived either just before or during the early stages of sleep. It resembles effulgent, moth-white moonlight in a cloudless sky.
As the feeling of drowsiness deepens, the admixture of residual sense impressions and discriminating thoughts begins to subside. At that point the second illumination, known as the Light of Augmentation, dawns. It appears to the Jiva usually as brilliant clear sunlight. During the dying process, it marks the stage referred to as the time of Ignition.
Only advanced yogis are able to proceed beyond this stage, to comprehend the two remaining Lights. For those who can, however, the sunlight fades into total darkness, like an eclipse. This is the Light of Immediate Attainment. As the sleeping sadhaka learns to meditate upon it, he will perceive a dim glow, “like the light of a lamp enclosed in a semi-opaque vessel.”
The Light of Immediate Attainment dissolves as the yogi plunges deeper into profound slumber. It merges into the ultimate Void, or Innate Light, described as the primal radiance of all Reality. From it comes the light and heat of the sun, and the reflected brilliance of the moon.
“Here in the fourth degree of Voidness, abides the Son of Mother Clear Light,” declares a Tibetan treatise, “until he rises out of it, as a fish leaping forth from water, and passes forthwith into enlightenment.”
It must be evident to the reader that the Tibetan discipline is, in fact, a rehearsal for the final sleep called death. Lamaic scriptures teach that the Bardo of Death, which comes at the end of every human life is identical with the Bardo of the Dream. Having died nightly many times, the sadhaka who has learned the yogic art of
Emergence, passes into the after-death state with the same ease with which he enters the dream world.
Sir Thomas Browne, in his “Religio Medici,” expressed a somewhat similar view, when he wrote:
“Sleep is a death, whereby we live a middle moderating point between life and death, and so like death, I dare not trust it without my prayers and a half adieu unto the world, and take my farewell in a colloquy with God, after which I close my eyes in security, content to take my leave of him and sleep unto the resurrection.”