Second Bardo: The Period of Hallucinations (Chonyid Bardo)


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 productions.

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 form.

Read from this perspective, we see that the lamas have listed or named a thousand images which can boil up in the ever-changing jeweled mosaic of the retina (that multi-layered swamp of billions of rods and cones, infiltrated, like a Persian rug or a Mayan carving, with countless multi-colored capillaries). By preparatory reading of the manual and by its repetition during the experience, the novice is led via suggestion to recognize this fantastic retinal 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 tradition.

The aim of this manual is to make available the general outline of the Tibetan Book and to translate it into psychedelic English. For this reason we shall not present the detailed sequence of lamaist hallucinations but, rather, list some apparitions commonly reported by Westerners.

Following the Tibetan Thodo, we have classified Second Bardo visions into seven types:

  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 (Steppenwolf).

Visions 2 and 3 involve closed eyes and no contact with external stimuli. In Vision 2 the internal imagery is primarily conceptual. The experience can range from revelation and insight to confusion and chaos, but the cognitive, intellectual meaning is paramount. In Vision 3 the internal imagery is primarily emotional. The experience can range from love and ecstatic unity to fear, distrust and isolation.

Visions 4 and 5 involve open eyes and rapt attention to external stimuli, such as sounds, lights, 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 (Eyes closed, external stimuli ignored)

[The first Peaceful Deity listed by the Bardo Thodol is the Bhagavan Vairochana who occupies the center of the mandala of the five Dhyani-Buddhas. His attributes of source- power have been translated into those of the monotheistic creator of Western religions.]

The White Light, or First Bardo energy, may be interpreted as God the Creator. The Spreader of the Seed. The Power which makes all shapes visible. Seed of all that is. Sovereign Power. The All-Powerful. The Central Sun. The One Truth. The Source of all Organic Life. The Divine Mother. The Female Creative Principle. Mother of the Space of Heaven. Radiant Father-Mother. Magnificent revelations, both spiritual and philosophic, can occur at this point making the highest union of experience and intellect. But, because of bad karma (usually religious beliefs of a monotheistic or punitive nature), the glorious light of the seed wisdom it can produce awe and terror. The person will wish to flee and will beget a fondness for the dull white light symbolizing stupidity.

Persons from a Judaeo-Christian background conceive of an enormous gulf between divinity (which is "up there") and the self ("down here"). Christian mystics' claims to unity with divine radiance has always posed problems for theologians who are committed to the cosmological subject-object distinction. Most Westerners, therefore, find it difficult to attain unity with the source-light.

If the guide ascertains that the voyager is struggling with thoughts or feelings about the creative source energy, he can read the appropriate instructions. (Instructions for Vision 1: The 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 encouraged.

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, miserable.

While you are floating down the evolutionary river, there comes a sense of limitless self-less power. The delight of flowing cosmic belongingness. The astounding discovery that consciousness can tune in to an infinite number of organic levels. There are billions of cellular processes in your body, each with its universe of experience - an endless variety of ecstasies. The simple joys and pains and burdens of your ego represent one set of experiences - a repetitious, dusty set. As you slip into the fire-flow of biological energy, series after series of experiential sets flash by. You are no longer encapsulated in the structure of ego and 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 off.

The trained guide can usually sense when ego-attachment threatens to pull the person out of the unitive flow. At this time he can guide the voyager by reading the Instructions for Vision 3.

Vision 4: The Wave-Vibration Structure of External Forms (Eyes open or rapt involvement with external stimuli; intellectual 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 another matter.

If these super-real visions involve wave phenomena, then the external world takes on a radiance and a revelation that is staggeringly clear. The experienced insight that the world of phenomena exists in the form of waves, electronic images, can produce a sense of illuminated power. Everything is experienced as consciousness.

These exultant radiations should be recognized as productions of your own internal processes. You should not attempt to control or conceptualize. This can come later. There is the danger of hallucinatory freezing. The subject rushes back (sometimes literally) to the three-dimensional reality, convinced of the fixed "truth" of one experienced revelation. Many misguided mystics and many persons called insane have fallen into this ambuscade. This is like making a still photograph of a television pattern and shouting that one has finally seized the truth. All is ecstatic electric Maya, the two-billion-year dance of waves. No one part of it is more real than another. Everything at all moments is shimmering with all the meaning.

So far we have considered the positive radiance of clarity; but there are fearful negative aspects of the fourth vision. When the subject senses that his "world" is fragmenting into waves, he may become terrified. "He," "me," "I" are dissolving! The world around me is supposed to sit, static and dead, quietly awaiting my manipulation. But these passive things have changed into a shimmering dance of living energy! The Maya nature of phenomena creates panic. Where is the solid base? Every thing, every concept, every form upon which one rests one's mind collapses into electrical vibrations lacking solidity.

The face of the guide or of one's beloved friend becomes a dancing mosaic of impulses on one's cortex. "My consciousness" has created everything of which I am conscious. I have kinescoped my world, my loved ones, myself. All are just shimmering energy patterns. Instead of clarity and exultant power, there is confusion. The subject staggers around, grasping at electron-patterns, striving to freeze them back into the familiar robot forms.

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 been lost.

The experiential data of this vision are similar to that of the fourth vision. All artifactual learned structure collapses back to energy vibrations. The awareness is dominated not by revelatory clarity but by shimmering unity. The subject is entranced by the silent, whirling play of forces. Exquisite forms dance by him, all surrounding objects radiate energy, brilliant emanations. His own body is seen as a play of forces. If he looks in a mirror, he sees a shining mosaic of particles. The sense of his own wave structure becomes stronger. A feeling of melting, floating 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 revelation.

The fact of the matter is that all apparent forms of matter and body are momentary clusters of energy. We are little more than flickers on a multidimensional television screen. This realization directly experienced can be delightful. You suddenly wake up from the delusion of separate form and hook up to the cosmic dance. Consciousness slides along the wave matrices, silently at the speed of light.

The terror comes with the discovery of transience. Nothing is fixed, no form solid. Everything you can experience is "nothing but" electrical waves. You feel ultimately tricked. A victim of the great television producer. Distrust. The people around you are lifeless television robots. The world around you is a facade, a stage set. You are a helpless marionette, a plastic doll in a plastic world.

If others attempt to help, they are seen as wooden, waxen, feelingless, cold, grotesque, maniacal, space-fiction monsters. You are unable to feel. "I am dead. I will never live and feel again." In wild panic you may attempt to force feeling back - by action, by shouting. You will then enter the Third Bardo stage and be reborn in an unpleasant way.

The best method to escape from fifth vision terrors is to remember this manual, relax, and swing with the wave dance. Or to communicate to the guide that you are in a plastic doll phase, and he will guide 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 rush it.

If the guide senses that the person is experiencing plastic doll visions or is afraid of the uncontrollability of his own feeling, he should read to him the Instructions for Vision 5.

Vision 6: "The Retinal Circus"

Each of the Second Bardo visions thus far described was one aspect of the "experiencing of reality." The inner fire or outer waves, apprehended intellectually or emotionally - each vision with its correspondent traps. Each of the "Peaceful Deities" appears with its attendant "Wrathful Deities." To maintain any of these visions for any length of time requires a certain degree of concentration or "one-pointedness" of mind, as well as the ability to recognize them and not to be afraid. Thus, for most persons, the experience may pass through one or more of these phases without the voyager being able to hold them or stay with them. He may open and close his eyes, he may become alternately absorbed in internal sensations and external forms. The experience may be chaotic, beautiful, thrilling, incomprehensible, magical, ever-changing. [In the Bardo Thodol, on the sixth day appear the radiant lights of the combined Five Wisdoms of the Dhyani-Buddhas, the protective deities (gatekeepers of the mandala) and the Buddhas of the Six Realms of game-existence. According to Lama Govinda: "The Inner Way of Vajra-Sattva, consists in the combination of the rays of the Wisdoms of the four Dhyani-Buddhas and their absorption within one's own heart - in other words, in the recognition that all these radiances are the emanations of one's own mind in a state of perfect tranquility and serenity, a state in which the mind reveals its true universal nature." (Govinda, op., cit., p. 262.)]

He will travel freely through many worlds or experience - from direct contact with life-process forms and images, he may pass to visions of human game-forms. He may see and understand with unimagined clarity and brilliance various social and self-games that he and others play. His own struggles in karmic (game) existence will appear pitiful and laughable. Ecstatic freedom of consciousness is the keynote of this vision. Exploration of unimagined realms. Theatrical adventures. Plays within plays within plays. Symbols change into things symbolized and vice versa. Words become things, thoughts are music, music is smelled, sounds are touched, complete interchangeability of the senses.

All things are possible. All feelings are possible. A person may "try on" various moods like so many pieces of clothing. Subjects and objects whirl, transform, change into each other, merge, fuse, disperse again. External objects dance and sing. The mind plays upon them as upon a musical instrument. They assume any form, significance or quality upon command. They are admired, adored, analyzed, examined, changed, made beautiful or ugly, large or small, important or trivial, useful, dangerous, magical or incomprehensible. They may be reacted to with wonder, amazement, humor, veneration, love, disgust, fascination, horror, delight, 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 Theatre".

The Wrathful Visions (Second Bardo Nightmares)

Seven Second Bardo visions have been described. At each one of them, the voyager could recognize what he saw and be liberated. Multitudes will be liberated by that recognition; and although multitudes obtain liberation in that manner, the number of sentient beings being great, evil karma powerful, obscurations dense, propensities of too long standing, the Wheel of Ignorance and Illusion becomes neither exhausted nor accelerated. Despite the confrontations, there is a vast preponderance of those who wander downwards unliberated.

Thus, in the Tibetan Thodo, after the seven peaceful deities, there come seven visions of wrathful deities, fifty-eight in number, male and female, "flame-enhaloed, wrathful, blood-drinking." These Herukas as they are called, will not be described in detail, especially since Westerners are liable to experience the wrathful deities in different forms. Instead of many-headed fierce mythological demons, they are more likely to be engulfed and ground by impersonal machinery, manipulated by scientific, torturing control-devices and other space-fiction horrors. [Some general remarks about the Tibetan interpretation of these visions. The Wrathful Deities are regarded as "only the former Peaceful Deities in changed aspect." Lama Govinda writes: "The peaceful forms of Dhyani-Buddhas represent the highest ideal of Buddhahood in its completed, final, static condition of ultimate attainment or perfection, seen retrospectively as it were, as a state of complete rest and harmony. The Herukas, on the other hand, which are described as "blood-drinking," angry or "terrifying" deities - are merely the dynamic aspect of enlightenment, the process of becoming a Buddha, of attaining illumination, as symbolized by the Buddha's struggle with the Hosts of Mara.... The ecstatic figures, heroic and terrifying, express the act of breaking through towards the unthinkable, the intellectually "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 old friends.

Again, when psychologists, philosophers, and psychiatrists, who do not know these teachings, experience ego-loss - however assiduously they may have devoted themselves to academic study and however clever they may have been in expounding intellectual theories - none of the higher phenomena will appear. This is because they are unable to recognize the visions occurring in these psychedelic experiences. Suddenly seeing something they had never seen before and possessing no intellectual concepts, they view it as inimical; and, antagonistic feelings arising, they pass into miserable states. Thus, if one has not had practical experience with these teachings, the radiances and lights will not appear.

Those who believe in these doctrines even though they may seem to be unrefined, irregular in performance of duties, inelegant in habits, and perhaps even unable to practice the doctrine successfully - let no one doubt them or be disrespectful towards them, but pay reverence to their mystic faith. That alone will enable them to attain liberation. Elegance and efficiency of devotional practice are not necessary - just acquaintance with and trust in these teachings.

Well-prepared persons need not experience Second Bardo hell visions at all. Right from the beginning they can pass into paradisiacal states led by heroes, heroines, angels and super-spirits. "They will merge into rainbow radiance; there will be sun-showers, sweet scent of incense in the air, music in the skies, radiances."

This manual is indispensable to those students who are unprepared. Those proficient in meditation will recognize the Clear Light at the moment of ego-loss and will enter the Blissful Void (Dharma-Kaya). They will also recognize the positive and negative visions of the Second Bardo and obtain illumination (Sambhogha-Kaya); and being reborn on a higher level will become inspired saints or teachers (Nirmana-Kaya). The study and pursuit of enlightenment can always be taken up again at the point where it was broken by the last ego-loss, thus ensuring continuity of karma.

by the use of this manual, enlightenment can be obtained without meditation, through hearing alone. It can liberate even very heavy ego-game players. The distinction between those who know it and those who do not becomes very clear. Enlightenment follows instantly. Those who have been reached by it cannot have prolonged negative experiences.

The teaching concerning the hell-visions is the same as before; recognize them to be your own thought-forms, relax, float downstream. The Instructions for the Wrathful Visions may be 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 broadcast.

Those who meet this doctrine are fortunate. It is not easy to encounter. Even when read, it is difficult to comprehend. Liberation will be won simply through not disbelieving it upon hearing it.

Here ends the Second Bardo the Period of Hallucinations

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