~ The Psychedelic
A manual based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead
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
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
(DOORS OF PERCEPTION, 57-58)
A psychedelic experience is a journey to new realms of consciousness. The
scope and content of the experience is limitless, but its characteristic
features are the transcendence of verbal concepts, of space-time
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 federal
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 session.
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 patterns.
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 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 W. 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 later). 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 Evans-
Wentz edition. 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
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 Reincarnating, emphasizes.
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 many. 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 mystical.
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 astronomy.
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
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 simplifications. 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. The Bardo 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 anti-nominal 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
In still another passage Jung continues the struggle but misses again:
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 book.
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 cum mystic.
The dead man must desperately resist the dictates of reason, as we
understand it, and give up the supremacy of egohood, 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 Judgement 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
transubjective 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
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 room."
The lama then goes on to make a second poetic comment about the
potentialities of the nervous system, the complexity of the human cortical
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. But, likewise, 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 psychedelic experience.
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
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
practise and realize its teaching during their life-time.
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: (1) the earnest practitioner of these teachings should regard
every moment of his or her life as if it were the last; (2) 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 (3) 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 afterdeath, 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 universal appeal.
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 dangerous.
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 consciousness-expansion.
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 science.
THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE DEAD
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
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 the participant. 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
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 mental-conceptual activity.
[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 mixture ylem.
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
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 non-game
awareness, and in those who have happy games, this state can last from
thirty minutes to several hours.
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 reality.
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 life. 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
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. If 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:
1. Bodily pressure, which the Tibetans call earth-sinking-into-water;
2. Clammy coldness, followed by feverish heat, which the Tibetans call
3. Body disintegrating or blown to atoms, called fire-sinking-into-air;
4. Pressure on head and ears, which Americans call rocket-launching-into-
5. Tingling in extremities;
6. Feelings of body melting or flowing as if wax;
8. 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, etc.
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 achieved. 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
oneness. Unfamiliar with such a state, which is an ecstate 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
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. When 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 creativity.
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 continously 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 mind.
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 ill-educated.
. . . 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 all.
(R. C. Zaehner: Mysticism, Sacred and Profane. Oxford Univ. Press, 1957, p.
If the subjects fails to recognize the rushing flow of First Bardo phnomena,
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
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 identity.
"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
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 reash and deeply experience game
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 with them. 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
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 Ecstasy
THE PERIOD OF HALLUCINATIONS
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 the relaxation.
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
The tender, gentle, supportive huddling together of participants is a natural
development during the second phase. 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 this!"
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:
(1) Seven Peaceful Deities with their symmetrically opposed ego traps.
(2) 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
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 kaleidoscope.
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
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 by Westerners.
Following the Tibetan Thodo, we have classified Second Bardo visions into
1. The Source or Creator Vision
2. The Internal Flow of Archetypal Processes
3. The Fire-Flow of Internal Unity
4. The Wave-Vibration Structure of External Forms
5. The Vibratory Waves of External Unity
6. "The Retinal Circus"
7. "The Magic Theatre" [We owe the phrase "retinal circus" to Henri Michaux
(Miserable Miracle), and the term "magic theatre" to Hermann Hesse
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, touch, etc. 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
(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
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
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 SOURCE
Vision 2: The Internal Flow of Archetypal Processes
(Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored; intellectual aspects)
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 represents ". . . 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 thigh-bone trumpet."
"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 ink-blot 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
Another trap is that of imposing a sexual interpretation. The dancing,
playful flow of life is, in the most reverant 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 Thrid 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 SYMPTOMS.
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 and useless. 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, emotional aspects)
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 pitier ever on the lookout to discover
distress and to succour the troubled. He is joined by the Bodhisattva
"Glorious Gentle-voiced One," and the femal 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 ambitions.
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,
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 tribe.
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 concerto.
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
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 aspects)
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 efficient inorganic? 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 wave vibrations. 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 Akshobhya. 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 thing. Experiencing it - being in it - with the old, familiar,
gross, hallucinatory comfort of "solid" things gone and unavailable, is quite
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
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 robot
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, labelled 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 essense 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 consciousness.
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 visuaol references to auditory).
Vision 5: The Vibratory Waves of External Unity
(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 amintain 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 egotism." [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
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 off. 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 everything. "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
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
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 you back.
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
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, fear, ecstasy.
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 outopouring 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-levelled
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 CIRCUS".
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 impluses of
consciousness leading to break-through. The other four Knowledge-Holders,
besides the central Lord of Dance, are: the Knowledge-holder abiding in the
earth, the Knowledge-holder who has power over the duration of life, the
Knowledge-holder of the Great Symbol, and the Knowledge-holder of
Spontaneous Realization.] You may see radiating figures in human forms. 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 supr-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 ==|==>> INTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 7: "THE MAGIC
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
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
"Unattainable." 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, 202.)]
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
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 read. 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 ego-death.
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
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
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. In this 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 one.
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 reality.
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:
(1) to free themselves from Third Bardo traps;
(2) to prolong the session, thus assuring a maximum degree of illumination;
(3) to select a favorable re-entry, i.e., to return to a wiser and more
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
The key instructions of the Third Bardo are: (1) do nothing, stay calm,
passive and relaxed, no matter what happens; and (2) 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 remembered well.
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 without words. 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: PRELIMINARY INSTRUCTIONS.
I. General Description of the Third Bardo
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 fo 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
varieties. 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 experiences. 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 features.
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 tryihng 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 grovelling 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 level.
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 thraldom,
from which non-game experiences give temporary freedom: (1) existence as
a deva, or saint, although more desirable than the others, is concomitant
with an ever-recurring round of pleasure, free game ecstasy; (2) existence
as an asura, or titan, is concomitant with incessant heroic warfare; (3)
helplessness and slavery are characteristic of animal existence; (4)
torments of unsatisfied needs and wants are characteristic of the existence
of pretas, or unhappy spirits; (5) 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 detined 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 Thought
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 you. 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 expaned
consciousness. Abide in the feeling of non-attachment, devoid of weakness
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 manipulative behavior. 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
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 for me."
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-DETERMING 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. "Your good
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 thisas 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 truch 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
guilt machine. 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 lucidly. [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 Incarnation." 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 incarnates. 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 companions).
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. xiii),
"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 visons occur, remember to withhod 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 excape 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 womb. 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, etc.
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 hallucinations.
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. They
are (1) meditation on the Buddha or guide; (2) concentration on good games;
(3) meditation on illusion; and (4) meditation on the void. See the ==|==>>
FOUR METHODS OF PREVENTING RE-ENTRY. 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 meditation.
VII. Methods of Choosing the Post-Session Personality
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 signalled 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 made.
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 re-entry 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
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
Here ends the Bardo Thodol, known as
The Tibetan Book of the Dead
SOME TECHNICAL COMMENTS
ABOUT PSYCHEDELIC SESSIONS
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 be avoided.
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 Bead
2. Planning a Session
In planning a session, the first question to be decided is "what is the goal?"
Classic Hinduism suggest four possibilities:
(1) For increased personal power, intellectual understanding, sharpened
insight into self and culture, improvement of life situation, accelerated
learning, professional growth.
(2) For duty, help of others, providing care, rehabilitation, rebirth for fellow
(3) For fun, sensuous enjoyment, aesthetic pleasure, interpersonal
(4) For transcendence, liberation from ego and space-time limits;
of mystical union.
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, etc.). 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
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
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 300-500 mg
Psilocybin 40-60 mg 20-30 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
Experiences." Psychedelic Review, I, no.2, pp. 208-218, 1963.]
Psychedelic chemicals are not drugs in the usual sense of the word. There is
no specific reaction, no expected sequence of events, somatic or
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 important.
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 employed. 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 millionth power. But
all these reactions can be Third Bardo ego games: "I am having this ecstasy.
How lucky I am!" Such reactions can become tender traps, preventing the
subject from reaching pure ego-loss (First Bardo) or the glories of Second
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
psychological theory. 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
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 beforehand. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 psychedelic aid.
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 oneupmanship. 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
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 PSYCHEDELIC SESSION
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.
This is now the hour of death and rebirth;
Take advantage of this temporary death to obtain the perfect state -
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,
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.
Try to reach and keep the experience of the Clear Light.
The light is the life energy.
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.
It is part of you.
You are part of it.
Beyond the restless flowing electricity of life is the ultimate reality -
Your own awareness, not formed into anything possessing form or color,
is naturally void.
The Final Reality.
The All Good.
The All Peaceful.
The movement is the fire of life from which we all come.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
>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-
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.
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:
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.
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.
Do not struggle.
Your symptoms will disappear as soon as all trace of ego-centered striving
Accept them as the message of the body.
Welcome them. Enjoy them.
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,
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 think.
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 Pre-Eminently Happy.
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 Exultant Love.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR VISION 4:
THE WAVE-VIBRATION STRUCTURE OF EXTERNAL FORMS
(Eyes open, rapt involvement with the external
visual stimuli, intellectual aspects)
O nobly born, listen carefully:
At this point you can become aware of the wave structure of the world
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
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
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
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 game-existence.
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 CIRCUS"
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 THEATRE"
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 wanderer.
The whole divine theatre of figures representing the highest reaches of
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.
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 skull.
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
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
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 distracted.
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.
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,
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
Let this re-entry be smooth and slow.
Do not attempt to use force of will-power.
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.
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 ever return.
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.
You may now feel as if you are being oppressed and squeezed,
Like between rocks and boulders,
Or like inside a cage or prison.
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
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
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 distractedly.
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,
That you are suffering like this
Is the result of your own mental set.
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
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 hurt.
INSTRUCTIONS FOR SEXUAL VISIONS
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
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 recognize.
Reject the feelings of attraction or repulsion.
Remember the downward pull opposing enlightenment is strong in you.
Meditate upon unity with your fellow voyagers.
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 Games
(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.
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,
What advantage is there in being attached to them,
Or being afraid of them?
All these are hallucinations of the mind.
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 cities of clouds,
Like mirrored forms,
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 unceasing."
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 free.
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 come
Will appear to you in premonitory visions.
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 being.
Whatever you choose,
Without attraction or repulsion.
Enter into game-existence with good grace.
Voluntarily and freely.
Remember the teachings.