Hindu Foundations of Dream Yogas

Hinduism And Shamanism: Similarities And Differences

Dream Yogas typically possess many attributes that can be traced back to Hindu yogic foundations. Hinduism takes from shamanism many basic characteristics, including a three-tiered cosmology, a desire to find freedom in another state of consciousness, an emphasis on purificiation as a pre-requisite to move into higher states of consciousness, a tendency to divide reality into the real and unreal, the good and the bad, and to bifurcate dreams into spiritual and secular/meaningless categories. Like Shamanism, Hinduism posits a “two-tiered reality,” in which there exists a realm that is “true” in an absolute sense.

However, Hinduism represents a major evolutionary transition from shamanism. Many of the core concepts of dream yogas are ultimately derived from Hinduism, not from shamanism. These include the concepts of yoga as an empirical, testable discipline, that life is dreamlike, containing both illusory and delusional characteristics, and the implication that the basic goal of life is to wake up not only in waking life but in other states as well. Hinduism is hardly monolithic, and when different sorts of ideas and practices are emphasized, different types of yogas are created, including different types of dream yogas. 

Instead of assuming that waking life and dreaming are real, as shamanism does, Hinduism assumes that waking life is a state of sleeping, dreaming, and sleepwalking, and that dreaming, with notable exceptions, is a double immersion in delusion. Life is a dream from which we are to awaken. Instead of viewing nature as animistically alive with spirits, Hinduism evolved such natural forces into anthropomorphic beings that fit into an overarching polytheistic mythology and rule the world. This is not, however, to imply that Hinduism discarded shamanistic principles. Instead, they continue to co-exist with positions that are different and are sometimes antithetical to the perspective of mainstream Hinduism. For example, Hinduism does not deny the existence of spirits and demons or the objective reality of at least some trance and dream events. However, Hinduism also evolved a powerful monism, advaita Vedanta, which is completely foreign to shamanism. Instead of vision-questing limited to trance states, Hinduism turns multiple lives into one large vision quest. Shamanism has nothing like the Hindu concept of dharma, or cosmic law, that regulates the universe, nor does it understand development as occurring over many lives in a process regulated by karma. Unlike shamanism, Hinduism evolved a number of highly sophisticated approaches to liberation, which was conceived as “union,” which is what the word yoga means in Sanskrit. Unlike Hinduism, shamanism did not undertake trance journeying for either liberation or union, but in order to foretell the future, implore a god to grant a blessing, or to fight and conquer forces of evil and disease. There are important differences in why a sacred ordeal is undergone. Most importantly, however, Hinduism does not accept naïve realism. It does not assume that what you see is true or accurate. While it assumes a three-tiered reality of heaven, hell, and the human condition, like shamanism, the “real” world is wholly other. It is not a “better world,” such as a heaven, although Hinduism definitely has heavens. Instead, “Reality” is a totally transcendent, non-dual space of union and freedom, something unknown in traditional shamanic accounts.

Similarities and Differences Between Hindu And Shamanic Ordeals

The following accounts describe continuities of shamanism with Hinduism, aspects of popular, mythological, and non-philosophical or yogic Hinduism, and some of the differences between Hindu and Shamanic ordeals. While an ordeal can refer to a test to prove one’s worthiness to God or gods, it can also indicate a shamanic vision-quest, death reenactment, or process of asceticism designed to purify oneself in order to enter into an ecstatic state. The purpose of the state may be, as in the case of shamanism, to learn, to communicate with spirits, to warn or foretell the future, or to bring prosperity and healing, or, as in the case of Hinduism, it may be for union with Reality, multi or moksha, generally conceived in terms of unification with a specific deity, usually Krishna or Siva, but in Vedanta with non-dual Brahman. 

Within Hinduism ordeals are often carried out to fulfill a vow in order to earn the favor of a deity. In both shamanism and Hinduism, there is clearly a masochistic element present in these ordeals, because pain is taken as a sign of the power, control, dedication, and virtue of the shaman or supplicant. In the case of shamanism, immunity from the consequences of self-torture and insensitivity to bodily torments, wounds, and loss of blood is taken as validation that the individual is worthy of vision-quest; in Hinduism as a sign that one is blessed by this or that personification of the divine. However, ritual self-torture practices are quite alien to Brahmanical religious culture and there is no clear scriptural sanction for them in the whole of the Vedas, implying that they come from traditions that are indigenous, separate, and predate it. The fact that these rituals are practiced mostly among the sudras, or untouchable lowest caste, imply that these are the vestiges of cultures of conquered peoples, predate Vedantic Hinduism, and are most likely derived from Hinduism. These groups generally worship Shiva, the god of destruction, or some personification of Shakti, the goddess of the earth and fertility, and are not followers of the ritually “purer” Vishnu cult, which opposes any form of ritual self-torture as well as blood sacrifice. In the Vaishnava cultic perspective, which is heavily conditioned by the ahimsa doctrine of non-violence, the mortification of one’s own body is a serious error because man’s and God’s body are one. The Bhagavad Gita denies the religious value of any act of penance carried out through bodily torments, which it views as inspired by demons (Eliade, 1964). If these practices are indeed shamanic holdovers, as they appear to be, then it would not be unusual at all for them to involve the propitiation of malevolent spirits.

Most of these demonstrations are not pretty and all are quite impressive: handling red-hot materials, rotating or oscillating while being suspended in the air, piercing one’s own flesh with skewers or hooks, walking on hot coals, lying on a nailed plank or swinging to and fro on a swing of thorns. Eliade believes such expressions in the great religious traditions of the world are all derived from the same shamanic practice of initiatory death (Wilber, 2000).

For example, in the Deccan region of India, initiatory and penitentiary rites of ascent, suspension, and rotation called chadak puja have been observed. These involve hanging from a pole that is being spun or rocked by others. These people are generally from the lowest castes or outcastes who have made a vow to Shiva, Shakti, or some other goddess. These rites usually take place during the celebrations of the vernal equinox, the time of the Hindu New Year. This ritual has its origins in widespread shamanic practices, perhaps best represented by the “Sun Dance” practiced among various North American Indian tribes. While whirling, the suspended Hindu men throw flowers to the underlying crowd, while invoking the names of different forms of Shiva and Shakti. The participants allegedly think that the rotation of the devotees symbolizes the sun’s revolution and the cycle of life on earth depending on it. In other parts of India iron hooks are inserted through back muscles, probably as a remnant of an earlier time when devotees were hoisted and spun in that state. It appears that the less invasive changes have occurred under the influence of Western colonizers and Western-educated members of Indian society during the late 1800’s and early part of the 1900’s.

Another example of a shamanistic hold-over that is put to different uses is the climbing of the shamanistic ladder into the Other World. The ladder is a cosmic axis mundi, or “center of the world,” connecting earth and sky. Occurring in the south of India among the Dravidian-speaking Gonds, the panda, a priest or holy man whose main religious duty is to get possessed by Marai Mata, the goddess of epidemics. At certain festivals dedicated to Marai Mata, the panda ascends a ladder whose pegs are often formed by swords and knives. Once he gets to the top he starts scourging himself publicly. This ceremony is accompanied by self-torture acts carried out by other pandas such as driving a sword through one’s own cheeks, dancing on a plank covered with nails, or walking on burning embers. The function is basically to honor a female deity by demonstrating one’s dedication to her and worthiness of her graces.

There is an entire tradition within Hinduism of “ordeal by fire,” including fire walking, but also tossing red hot coals to one another. The purposes are purification, regeneration, and demonstration of selection by the deity and their separation from the common condition of humanity. In the Himalayan region of Garhwal, another type of local panda dances on hot coals on the temple altar while possessed by Jakh, a local deity. In a condition of ritual purity due to his contact with fire, he utters oracles that are believed to be messages from the deity.

The relationship of these rituals to Siva can be found in the Puranas, indicating that at least some of these bloody practices found their way into canonical Hinduism, most strongly in the worship of Shiva: 

In the Shaiva tradition of Bengal, and seemingly in that of Orissa as well, the mythic archetype that is more often evoked to justify such self-torture acts is the grisly dance performed before Shiva by the daitya Bana – whose name, significantly enough, means an arrow – to earn the god’s mercy. It is narrated in the Shiva Purana (Rudrasamhita 5. 56) that this monstrous demoniacal being, provided with one thousand arms, went to the presence of Shiva, of whom he was an ardent devotee, after having been defeated by his enemy Krishna in an awful battle during which, on Shiva’s advice, Krishna had chopped off all of the daitya’s arms minus four, yet sparing his life. Besides, Shiva dispensed Bana from suffering because of the wounds he had received. In a mood of despair, his body streaming with blood, the demon then danced the tandava, Shiva’s cosmic dance, before the great god. He assumed varied postures, making thousands of grimaces with the mouth, wrinkling the forehead so as to assume in succession a range of different expressions, and shaking the head in different ways. Great quantities of his blood, still gushing out of the terrible wounds Krishna had inflicted on him, were poured on the ground while he danced, followed by thousands of servants of his who danced in a line. Thus, Bana forgot his own self and wicked activities and fixed his own mind on Shiva, who, being delighted by the demon’s ecstatic performance, granted him as a boon to make him all requests he wanted. Bana chose and got his wounds healed, to be forever included among Shiva’s companions, the ganas, and to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirths (moksha)” (Czaplicka, 2014).

This episode from the Shiva Purana represents a source of religious legitimation for all those Bengali and Oriya low-caste men who, before the celebration of the vishuvat day, vow themselves to bloody self-torture practices in order to obtain some grace from Shiva as well as a public acknowledgement of the privileged relationship. This Puranic narrative almost seems a description of an ecstatic rite in which a possessed devotee dances madly in a state of trance to please Shiva (as is the norm in many a Hindu votive ordeal) and inflicts some wounds on himself without showing any pain in the certainty that his elect god, being satisfied with the acts of bodily mortification performed in his honor, will prevent him from suffering, will heal all of his wounds, and will bless him for eternity. Although Bana’s wounds are caused by Krishna, it is also clear from this myth that it is Shiva himself who decrees the martyrdom of his demon devotee, his purpose being to dissuade the latter from persevering with his errors and to receive him among his retinue of spirits after a sort of initiatory ceremony during which Bana’s agony changes into ecstasy (Czaplicka, 2014).

Within Hinduism, and particularly within the Bhagavad Gita, the assimilation of shamanism into Hinduism may be represented by the death of the great warrior and ascetic Bhishma on the so-called shara-shayya, namely, the “bed of arrows”. Bhishma is not at all an asura like Bana and Idumban, rather he is the epic symbol par excellence of asceticism, bravery in battle, and moral rectitude; nevertheless, he is also the commander-in-chief of the army of the Kauravas, the archi-enemies of the five Pandava heroes protected by Vishnu. The religious ambivalence of this character of the great epic is, therefore, analogous to that of the asuras, depicted as champions of asceticism and, at one time, as the enemies of the socio-cosmic order established by the devas. We are told in the Bhishmaparva (120-123) that, on the tenth day of the great battle of Kurukshetra, Bhishma, after having opposed a strenuous resistance against his enemies, was mortally wounded by a swarm of arrows cast against him by the Pandavas and, consequently, fell from his chariot. The arrows, which entirely covered the hero’s body, kept him upheld from the ground with forming a sort of couch – verily a torture-bed – under him. Bhishma’s mortal wounds were caused by the arrows shot by Arjuna and Shikhandin, two characters who, in the Mahabharata’s complex architecture, often act as the representatives, respectively, of Shiva and the Great Goddess” (Czaplicka, 2014).

Hindu Dream Yoga

The entirety of Hinduism can be viewed as a form of dream yoga for a number of reasons. It has an ancient, sophisticated, and important theory of dreaming, both for night time dreams and waking eyperience; its various margas, or paths, involve spiritual disciplines designed to wake up, or attain first samadhi, and ultimately release from rebirth moksha. Such yogas include karma (work), bhakti (devotional), raja (meditative), jnana, (philosophical), pranayama and kundalini (breath), hatha (asanas or physical postures), and kama (sexual) spiritual disciplines.  A specific yoga of dreaming, of waking up in the dream state itself, has never been a prominent feature of Hinduism.  Its focus has been on awakening from the life dream, of which it sees night dreaming as a subcomponent – a delusion within a delusion, or a trance within a trance.  From a Hindu perspective, when we awaken from self-created illusion, we awaken in all states, waking, dreaming, and deep sleep.

We will look at some of the fundamental concepts of the Hindu worldview and consider their implication for dream yogas, lucid dreaming, mystical states of consciousness, and their relationship to both shamanism and Integral Deep Listening (IDL), which is one variety of phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism (PEM). Multi-perspectivalism, or the ability to both hold multiple perspectives in awareness at the same time, and the ability to shift identity from one locus to another, are both marks of higher order cognition, perception, and experiential depth, but for different reasons. The ability to hold different perspectives in awareness at the same time represents an affective and noospheric  adaptability that is associated with a tolerance and even favoring of ambiguity. As Atle Selberg said, …it’s very dangerous to have a fixed idea. A person with a fixed idea will always find some way of convincing himself in the end that he is right.” False confidence is easily recognized by its dislike of ambiguity and its lack of cognitive multi-perspectivalism. It is interesting to consider that Hindu polytheism is a sort of socio-cultural immersion in multi-perspectivalism. The second aspect of multi-perspectivalism, immersion through identification with alternative perspectives, is not so much cognitive as experiential, in that it involves identification with, not just conceptual consideration, of alternative perspectives. This is what differentiates experiential multi-perspectivalisms from cognitive ones. However, experiential multi-perspectivalisms can be prepersonal, as identifications with spirits and deities in shamanism and folk forms of Hinduism, or they can be transpersonal, when they include the ambiguity of cognitive multi-perspectival worldviews. Few religious observances (and spiritual practices, including yogas) rise to this level, because they remain strongly sectarian. 

Life Is Samsara

Samsara means “continuous flow” or “wandering thought” in Sanskrit and is a valuation of the repeating cycle of birth, life, and death known as reincarnation. Samsara refers to the illusion, unreality, delusion, and ignorance that separates this cycle from reality, and is therefore contrasted with moksha, or liberation. Implied by this definition is that process, change, and action are unreal when compared to unchanging, harmonious substance. Samsara implies that the nature of life is delusion, ignorance, and consequently bondage and imprisonment. It also indicates that the source of this bondage is interior and cognitive, due to our identification with the stream of our mental processes, including our emotions, images, and thoughts. The ignorance of your true self is the cause of this bondage in samsara, which indicates the antidote: finding your true self and waking up into it. Yogas are the disciplines of waking up within Hinduism, and, as samsara is being lost in the dreamlike nature of life, in the broadest sense all Hindu yogas are dream yogas, or psychospiritual disciplines of unification with your true self.

Notice that in the context of Integral AQAL, a form of cognitive multi-perspectivalism, both the diagnosis and treatment (to use a medical model) are interior quadrant. The problem is identification with false consciousness, an interior individual quadrant issue. The solution is disidentification with the contents of our awareness, which are not only interior and individual but interior and collective, in that they involve our interpretations of our experience, both subjective and objective, as well as our values. The implication is that the Hindu model is not integral, despite the fact that its highly commendable yogas  largely focus on exterior quadrant behavioral changes: right action, as in karma yoga, and right devotion, as in bhakti yoga. To be integral, this model has to give equal, interdependent weight to all four quadrants.  As an idealistic tradition of the purification of consciousness, Hinduism views other quadrants as derivative, as do all idealistically-inclined religions and philosophies, including Integral AQAL.

There Are Two Orders of Truth

Here is a description of the higher, formless truth, as expressed in the Shankaracharya:

I am not detachment nor salvation, nor anything reached by the senses;

I am behold all thought and form.  I am everywhere, and nowhere at all-

I am Consciousness and Bliss. I am Shiva! I am Shiva!

Formlessness is here defined in terms of two states – bliss and consciousness itself, or as one state, consciousness, which is marked by the attribute of bliss. This also indicates a marked tendency of Hinduism to define freedom and liberation, or moksha, in terms of states of consciousness instead of levels of development or processes. The classical expression of this is sat, cit, ananda – being, consciousness, bliss, in which the formless is described in terms of three co-existing states of Brahman, or ultimate reality. Being or sat, personified in the quote above as Shiva, is one with bliss, ananda, and consciousness itself, cit. Experience, however, is suffering, delusion or unconscious immersion in subjectivity, and non-beingness, that is, identification with a false self,  nirupadhika. These are the two orders of both truth and experience, however, it coexists with the traditional shamanic worldview of a three tiered reality. In Hinduism, all three of these worlds are conditioned and therefore delusional. The classic Hindu formulation of sat, cit, ananda is associated with Vedanta Hinduism, and in the twentieth century it takes a central place in Aurobindo’s evolutionary spirituality, and I know of nothing in the Integral AQAL formulation that contradicts it; rather Wilber expands upon it.

There Is An Absolute (Brahman)

Brahman is often defined in Hinduism as Oneness with the Ocean of being sat, consciousness, cit, and bliss, ananda. Brahman can be a polytheistic, monotheistic, non-dual, or polyperspectival concept within Hinduism, meaning it is inherently ambiguous. As a polytheistic concept within Hinduism, Brahman is the Creator, serving along side the sustainer (Vishnu) and the destroyer (Shiva). Polytheism is essentially a recognition that many forces create, sustain, and destroy life and they all need to be recognized and respected. As such, polytheism is polycentric and multiperspectival. Polytheism announces that life is polymorphic, endlessly creative and abundant, which are values both evident and important to agrarian cultures. However, in practice, polytheism is rarely polycentric or multi-perspectival because it externalizes these divine perspectives; they are not owned as my perspectives. I don’t become Sakti or Krishna, I venerate them. These perspectives don’t belong to me; they belong to deity. This is not always the case (see forms of deity mergence, such as Tibetan deity yoga), nor is it necessarily the case (since there is no reason why one cannot both venerate deity and merge with it), but it is generally the case in Hinduism and most forms of polytheism.

At other times Brahman is representative of monotheism, as is implied by the famous phrase from the Upanishads, tat avam asi, “Thou art That,” meaning, “Atman is Brahman,” and the phrase, “Brahman is one, without a second.” A monotheistic Brahman may be Saguna Brahman, or personal, with divine attributes. This is an “I-Thou” devotional relationship with deity, as found in the samkya philosophy of the Bhagavad Gita, as well as in Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. However, monotheism can also be of the impersonal, Nirguna Brahman variety, without qualities or attributes. This is the monotheism of a sage mystic like Shankara, Meister Eckhardt in the West, and Advaita Vedanta. From this perspective, “the personal God is impersonal reality reflected upon the mirror of ignorance and illusion.” This type of definition of Brahman is given by the early 20th century saint, Ramakrishna:

The Vedas compare creation to a spider’s web, that the spider creates and then lies within. God is both the container of the universe and what is contained in it.

This understanding of Brahman points to a transcendent Creator and an immanent personal deity as two faces of one identity. Psychologically, monotheism can be thought of as an externalization or projection of a unified self onto one source or point, either personal, impersonal, or both. According to Advaita, a liberated human being (jivanmukta) has realized Brahman as his or her own true self. Oneness and unity are experienced as the reality beneath all seeming diversity and individuality. All other characteristics, qualities, things, or experiences are subsumed within or below that one source. This occurs by definition; there is no arguing that there are two or more co-sourcing energies or points. Such unity reflects both the desire for and the efficacy of integration for individuals and societies; it sees multiplicity as a threat to psychological and cultural cohesion.

A third type of Brahman is non-dual. This is not simply a conceptual description of ineffability or transcendence. It is rather a perspective that transcends and includes polycentric and monocentric definitions of divinity. Radhakrishnan refers to Brahman as the absolute, or Godhead, which is the Divine Ground of all Being. This is a concept of deity that transcends and includes all dualities, including the triumvirate of Brahman, Vishnu, and Siva. Because it transcends them, it is not of them; because it includes them, it is not other than them. Therefore, it does not distinguish between the two levels of truth basic not only to Hindu and Buddhist world views, but to Western and Chinese as well. For a non-dualist conception of Brahman there are no higher and lower truths. On the ontological plane, there is no longer a perceptual differentiation between being and doing, existence and process. Such differentiations exist, but they are seen to be delusions, understandable but misleading descriptions of the Way Things Really Are.

Phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalisms (PEMs) such as IDL (IDL) do not view these various descriptions of divinity or spirit as competitive, but rather complementary, with each having its own particular advantages and disadvantages. Both polytheism and the cultures that practice it are more tolerant and inherently less exclusive than monotheism. Cultures that teach an immanent concept of divinity, as Hinduism does, are less likely to emphasize a gulf between good and evil, as Christianity and Islam do. Instead, we find Hinduism emphasizing differences in awareness of the divine as due to ignorance, not moral lapse.

IDL is experientially multi-perspectival in that it interviews dream characters and personifications of life issues, such as monsters personifying fears and cages personifying feelings of persecution. It calls these perspectives “emerging potentials” because they provide worldviews that are emerging into awareness that are not yet actualized or manifest. IDL does not view interviewed emerging potentials as deities – it is difficult to deify frogs, wash basins, and old cars. Those interviewed characters that are deities, such as God, Brahman, Siva, or Jesus, are not given reverential or preferred treatment, because their ontological status is no different from that of say, an old toothbrush. Credibility is based on the usefulness of recommendations made. When they are operationalized, are there measurable changes  that are specific, relevant, attainable, and time-based? For IDL, credibility is an epistemological, not an ontological issue. However, there is no doubt that some emerging potentials not only carry attributes that feel sacred, but which generate responses in both the interviewed and the interviewer that are associated with being in the presence of the sacred. They feel ontologically real and “other.” They may evoke a sense of awe, wonder, humility, thankfulness, love, compassion, energy, or clarity. The fact that such inspirational responses can be evoked by rubber duckies, thorns, or plastic cups is not polytheistic, in which the subject of adoration has obvious characteristics of the holy. Instead, the secular is made sacred; the profane is found to be at heart, divine.

Just as monotheistic consciousness can be found in Hinduism even though it is not preeminent, so it exists within PEMs in not so obvious ways. IDL at times discloses emerging potentials that are highly monotheistic in that they are autonomous while transcending and including all other perspectives. They can provide a presence and experience of beingness as authentic entities. That this experience is routinely duplicated with all sorts of interviewed emerging potentials takes a monotheistic consciousness and holographically distributes it to any and every center of attention. Anything and everything can become axis mundi – the Sacred Tree at the Center of the World. When you become a dream turtle or the representation of some life issue, for example a fog that personifies your confusion, it becomes the locus of your identity, your self-definition, your beingness. You are becoming one with some personal, Ishvaric “deity” that knows you and your life issues, your history, your hopes and fears better than any culturally created deity or figure possibly could. At the moment of your identification and answering questions as that character, its particular perspective is given priority; there are no gods before it; there are no other perspectives that are to be listened to. This is monotheistic consciousness, in that it is focused and singular, with a suspension of self-interest. While it could be argued that self-selected imaginal images are not monotheistic because such identifications have no intrinsic sense of veneration, reverence, or the sacred, these characteristics are not intrinsic to religion, since many devotees just go through the motions of reverence. Think of Catholic priests conducting mass. However, reverential neutrality is neither assumed or preferred; some identifications evoke an unexpected, surprising, and intense sense of the sacred while others feel whimsical or mundane.  What is more typical is surprise at the reasonableness, authenticity, and appropriateness of how issues are reframed by interviewed characters. Phenomenally-based experiential multi-perspectivalism is intrinsically therapeutic, because it is most fundamentally a movement from egocentrism to worldcentrism, which is a basic tenet of any spiritual ethic.

We also find many interviewed emerging potentials exhibiting characteristics not only of personal and impersonal conceptions of monotheistic deity, but also of non-dual deity. Some, like Sky and Space, are reliable enough to provide good teaching models. They often report perspectives that are colorless, spaceless, timeless, without content, open focused, aware, and alive, yet without beingness associated with any identity, characteristic, or quality. It is not that such perspectives are better than other perspectives; however, it is better to be able to access such perspectives when desired than to be unable to, either because we have never done so or because we have never experienced the value of doing so. As in the Dunning-Kruger Effect, we cannot conceive of the value of that which we are ignorant of. While the lack of such a competency is indeed a form of spiritual impoverishment, adaptation and balance both promote focus on current realities rather than on emerging potentials. To insist on staying in some transpersonal or non-dual perspective because it transcends and includes the others is also a form of spiritual impoverishment, because it lacks adaptability and balance. This is why all four basic approaches to divinity, polytheism, monotheism, non-dualism, and multi-perspectivalism, are valuable and necessary.

Brahman is a statement about ontology, or the reality of beingness. It makes a statement regarding what is finally real about life. IDL does not posit either processes or any thing or “beingness” as finally or ultimately real. Instead, that space is taken by holons, or part-wholes: wholes that are made up of at least four parts, or perspectives, and four perspectives that each contain parts. There exists no reality that is not a part of a greater reality, and therefore is not conditioned. There exists no reality that does not contain parts into which that reality is resolvable, meaning there is no reality that is indivisible. Consequently, beingness is for IDL indeterminate rather than ultimate or absolute, as it is in Hinduism, or merely relative, as it is in post-modernism.


The illusory nature of the world is often compared to a dream in Hinduism. This is often expressed by the concept of maya, which occurs in the Samkya sense of a cosmic dualism of spirit (purusha) and matter (prakriti) in the Shvetashvatara Upanishad, a distinction that perhaps became preeminent in Hinduism through its statement in the Bhagavad Gita:

Only he who sees that all activities are performed by the body (field), which is created of material nature, and sees that the Self (Knower of the field) does nothing, sees aright.   Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 13, Verse 29

Samsara is closely related to the concept of Maya. Based on its use in the Vedas, maya originally referred to wisdom, prajna, and extraordinary power, shakti. Only later did it become associated with its opposites, avidya (ignorance), illusion, and magic. In the Puranas maya came to be associated with sleep, and Vishnu’s maya is the sleep which envelops the world when he awakes to destroy evil. Maya surrounds Vishnu’s body. In the Atharva texts, Maya is a prominent deity of the asuras, or demon gods. This may be a way by which maya became associated with illusion and it also hints at it being associated with the outcast propitiation of demonic forces by the indigenous shamanic traditions in pre-Brahmanic India. By the time of the Upanishads, maya had many usages. Maya was magical, and an understanding of it by Brahman priests resulted in control over life’s mysteries. This became tied in to a belief central to Indian ascetic yogas, that austerities, tapas, can result in the power to control nature, including gods, acquiring objects of desire, including heaven, and immortality. To control maya was to control both karma and the future. In Samkhya philosophy, which plays a major role in the Bhagavad Gita, maya refers to prakriti, or matter, as opposed to purusha, or spirit, to Shakti, or the feminine, genitive nature of deity. In the Vedanta of the 9th century philosopher and mystic Shankara, maya, associated with karma and ahmakara, or ego-consciousness, is a binding veil to be seen through. It is the material universe of perceived duality; everything is maya. It has two functions: to veil Brahman, obscuring and concealing it from our consciousness, and to generate the material world and the veil of duality instead of Brahman.

Several famous analogies are used to explain maya. The veil of maya may be pierced, and, with diligence and grace, may be permanently rent. In the darkness a rope can be mistaken for a snake. Just as this illusion vanishes when true knowledge of the rope is perceived, similarly, maya evaporates for a person when they perceive Brahman. When the reflection of Brahman falls on maya, Brahman appears as God and maya becomes the divine magical power of the Supreme Lord.

We can begin to understand the significance of maya for dream yogas from the following quote from Shankara: 

From the experience of bliss for a long time, there arose in the Supreme Self a certain state like deep sleep. From that state maya was born, just as a dream arises in sleep.

 Shankara also says that Maya “brings forth the universe,” “is not experienced by the senses,”  is “invisible,” “like night,” “vanishes like lightening,” and is “the illusive power.” 

As the sun is hidden by clouds produced by the solar rays but surely, the character of the day is not hidden by those modified dense collection of clouds, so the Self, though pure, (or undefiled) is veiled for a long time by ignorance. But its power of Consciousness in living beings, which is established in this world, is not veiled.

In the Bhagavad Gita, maya fools us into thinking that the objects of our perception (the “field” or “body”) are real instead of the “knower of the field,” or the soul or self. Prakriti, Shakti, and matter are associated with maya while Purusha, Shiva, and the Soul are associated with Brahman. Krishna is made to say this about maya: 

I (Knower of the field) am never manifest to the foolish and ignorant. For them I am covered by my eternal creative potency (yoga-Maya); and that is why the deluded world knows me not, who is unborn and infallible.

Therefore, maya can be understood in the context of dream yoga as the delusional nature of dreams, or the belief that we are awake when we are asleep. Beyond that, it can be understood to be the very nature of perception, which thinks that it sees and knows the truth when it is in fact perceiving through a veil of ignorance. This condition would apply to all perceptual states, meaning waking, dreaming, lucid dreaming, trance states, near death and mystical experiences, to the extent that a perceptual cognitive distortion, such as the Dunning-Kruger Effect is present. In this cognitive bias we either are over-confident because we are ignorant of how much we do not know, or, in its second variety, based on our own knowledge, we under-estimate the ignorance of others. 

This is a point on which IDL differs from Shankara and most dream yogas, as well as shamanism, which hold that there are clear perceptual states that are devoid of perceptual cognitive distortions. With Wilber’s integral, IDL holds that holons, and their interdependent four quadrants of consciousness, culture, behavior, and relationship are unavoidable. Therefore, while veils, maya, and perceptual cognitive distortions can be infinitely reduced, there is something of a Zeno’s paradox about it: a certain degree of self-deception, or maya, is unavoidable.

Part of the reason why IDL takes this position is because the alternative is basically shamanic, that is, a regression to naïve realism and simple faith that I have “seen true,” and that I therefore know what is “real.” There is a profound and important difference between stating that this is relatively the case and stating that it is absolutely the case. The first is defensible and verifiable; the second raises basic questions of verifiability. Just how are you going to show that something is absolutely without delusion?

In contrast is the world of samsara and maya. Here it is as described in the Ashtavakra Gita (2: 9-10):

When the world arises in me,

It is just an illusion:

Water shimmering in the sun,

A vein of silver in mother-of-pearl,

A serpent in a strand of rope.

From me the world streams out

And in me it dissolves,

As a bracelet melts into gold,

A pot crumbles into clay,

A wave subsides into water.

For Shankara’s Vedanta, maya is illusion. Each person, each physical object, from the perspective of eternity, is like a brief, disturbed drop of water from an unbounded ocean.

Since the seed does not contain anything other than the seed, even the flowers and the fruits are of the same nature as the seed: the substance of the seed is the substance of subsequent effects, too. Even so, the homogenous mass of cosmic consciousness does not give rise to anything other than what it is in essence. When this truth is realized, duality ceases.

The relative reality of waking and dreaming

Both Hinduism and Buddhism hold as a basic principle that life is a dream of our own creation, called maya. In Hinduism, maya is a magical creative power controlled by Vishnu. Investment in the reality of this dream is a misinterpretation that causes suffering. The very reason why one undertakes any yoga in the first place is to wake up out of this dream. The illusion and delusion that is inherently associated with believing that we are awake when we are actually asleep and dreaming causes suffering. We may define the waking up process as union of Atman with Brahman, as does Vedanta, or we may define it as the inhibition of the mind as does Patanjali, or we may define it as the cessation of identification with any and all definitions of self, as do most schools of Buddhism, but basically these are distinctions in the path, not disagreements about the purpose of the path itself. The goal is awakening or enlightenment, whether called samadhi, nirvana, or something else. The goal is to wake up.

When Hinduism compares life to a dream it makes the point that dreams are a state of delusion, because you think you are awake when you are asleep and dreaming. It also makes the point that dreams are illusory, in that there is nothing substantial about them. When you awaken, they are gone. While IDL agrees with Hinduism on these points, it sees these conclusions as artifacts of waking identity rather than intrinsic descriptions of dreams themselves. When you take the perspective of a dream character you often experience truths about yourself and life that demonstrate that your waking perception is delusion, not the dream. For example, when you are scared by a dream monster your waking perception is telling you that there is something that is dangerous, like a snake in a dark forest path. When you wake up you know that it was a delusion, but that still does not change the perception that there was a threatening snake. The problem isn’t that you were dreaming, as most assume, but that dream perception, controlled by waking assumptions, is delusional. It is generally only when we interview the snake that we discover  that we totally misunderstood the nature and intention of the snake both in the dream and later, in waking, when we remember the dream. Perhaps the snake tells you that it had no intention of biting you, but came only to alert you to an upcoming health crisis or avoidable life drama. So, even though you woke up, you were still in maya and in ignorance. Notice that this holds true even in waking dreams or in trance states. Just because we know that we are dreaming does not in any way imply that we see truly what is going on, only that we are aware that we are in a self-created reality. Like going to a movie, we know full well that what we are watching is imaginary, but our perceptions define what we feel and think all the same.

The perspectives of dream characters do not lose their salience only because we awaken. We can interview the same dream character repeatedly and it will provide a perspective that is genuine enough and as stable as any waking perspective that we have. It is not too difficult for most people, with a bit of practice, to understand that labeling such perspectives, regardless of their source, as illusory is a waking projection.

Hinduism tends to discount the authenticity of dream experience and, by comparing waking reality to it, waking experience as well. Both are illusions in comparison to the reality of oneness with Brahman. What this creates is a desire to escape from the world, since it is equated with non-reality at worst, and conditioned reality at best. Because IDL does not view dreams as fundamentally illusions, it does not draw the conclusion that Hinduism does that waking experience, like a dream, is illusory. This is because there is an important difference between waking experience of dreams, which is illusory, and dreams themselves, just as there is an important difference between our filtered perception of the world and the world itself. Because our perception of the world is delusional and creates suffering it does not follow that the world itself is delusional and the source of our suffering. However, this formal cognitive distortion remains unrecognized for much of Hinduism and dream yoga, and for many lucid dreamers. Illusoriness is not intrinsic to either the waking or the dream state. In both cases, that conclusion is the projection of an arbitrary waking perspective which, when enlarged, can experience both dream and waking states as being as meaningful as mystical experience.

The “dream” in IDL dream yoga is the dream of life, of which your night time dreams are merely one subset. IDL is a practice of successively owning whatever is not self. If you think being out of control is “not self,” which Patanjali clearly did, then IDL will help you to expand your sense of self to encompass being out of control. If you think having a narrow definition of enlightenment that excludes dreams and dreaming is best, then IDL will help you to understand that you are only excluding parts of yourself and thereby waging perpetual war internally in the name of spiritual development. If you think that IDL is such a broad inclusivity as to be meaningless, then the actual experience of becoming other intrinsic perspectives will tend to cybernetically self-correct this misperception.

Hinduism divides reality into the apparent but illusory, and the underlying but genuine because it looks at life from the perspective of the self, whether in waking life or some other state, such as dreaming or meditation. Whatever state we are in, we are looking out at our experience from our perspective. When we no longer take the perspective of our waking identity this distinction between two truths disappears. You can experience this for yourself. Imagine right now that you are interstellar space. Are you real or illusory? Are you formless or do you exist in duality? Are you alive or dead? Are you existence or non-existence? As interstellar space, because you are not born and you do not die, you could easily answer, “both,” or “neither.” This is a clear example of what occurs with many interviewed dream characters or personifications of life issues. From our perspective, while we are dreaming, what we experience is real, yet illusory when we awaken. From the perspective of interstellar space neither distinction applies because its perspective does not conform to our definitions of either life or truth. The point is not that the perspective of interstellar space is correct and ours is not; the point is that the perspective of interstellar space takes into account both its perspective and ours; our perspective normally does not. Because IDL teaches us to take into account a multiplicity of perspectives that are “true,” it is polyperspectival. Epistemology is demonstrated to be conditioned by perspective.

Life Is Divine Play

the dualistic schools of Hinduism, such as Vaishnavism, lila refers to the activities of God and his devotees, which are free and spontaneous, as distinct from the working out of karma. In the non-dualistic teachings of Vedanta, lila refers to the idea that all creation is the outcome of divine play, spontaneity, and creativity, as opposed to will, or volition. The cosmos is an expression of freedom, not necessity. Lila is similar to the Western theological concept of pandeism, in which God takes physical form to experience the interplay among the elements of the cosmos.

The psychological consequences of lila are very different from those found in the Western tradition, where fate, determinism, and predestination limit man’s choices and force action. In this regard, IDL, growing out of the playful methodologies pioneered by J.L. Moreno, has much more in common with Hinduism than either Western philosophy or religion, or Buddhism, for that matter. This is because identification with alternative perspectives is fundamentally a playful activity, dating from the stage of human life in which the work of life was play. It was through that play that we explored new possibilities and took on new roles, thereby expanding our sense of who we were. We were gods playing at being God, and IDL interviewing is a revival of that mentality or orientation without regressing to a childlike Eden state of naive innocence. Instead, it attempts a higher order integration of reason and play as trans-rational cosmic humor. In IDL, you remain you, at whatever level of development you have attained, and add to it the playfulness of childhood pretend as well as the perspective of the character which presents itself. The result is the conjunction of three “selves” in one playful expression: past, present, and potential selves combine, with the present self aware and present, but silent, the past child self suspending critical analysis in playful spontaneity, and a potential self taking center stage.

There Is A Real Self (Atman)

In Hinduism, the essence of an individual, their soul, is called jiva or Atman. The Taittiriya Upanishad defines Atman as those components of identity that create self-awareness, including the body, vital breath or life energy, the mind or will, the intellect or the capacity to know, and bliss. Both Advaita, non-dualistic Vedanta, and Samkhya, a dualism represented by the Bhagavad Gita, differentiate between the ego, ahamkara, and Atman, with ahamkara the source of pleasure and pain. Liberation is a process of coming to recognize that who you are is God (Brahman). While in Christianity and Islam, man has an immortal soul, that is “creation” as distinct from Creator, in Hinduism that soul is not by nature of a different order from its Creator. Where the West divides reality between Creator and created, Hinduism sees creation as the Creator manifested. Therefore, your soul or Atman, as part of that Creation, is by nature and at its essence, one with the Creator. The result is that salvation is the liberation and freedom of coming home to your real identity, as God, through becoming one with God.

Based on many interviews with many dream characters and personifications of life issues, IDL views the self as the dominant perspective of the moment. Every perspective has at least four core sub-perspectives that must be balanced for it to evolve. These are the perspectives of consciousness, culture, behavior, and relationship. Unlike things, life itself is not born, nor does it die. The meaning for life of interviewed emerging potentials, their recommendations, their perspectives, their life force, are not dependent on concepts of self, soul, Atman, or God, creation and Creator. Whatever perspective we take at this moment is our reality, to be honored, respected, and laughed at. What we take on as our sense of self, our sense of reality is not arbitrary; all identities are not of equal value, relevance, or usefulness. Multi-perspectivalism can be a mish-mash of relativism or only extend to the depth of worldview and value. This is why an experientially-based multi-perspectivalism is superior to a cognitive one: it includes both the experiences and interpretations of the interior quadrants as well as those of the exterior quadrants. this is why a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism is superior to both cognitive and experiential multi-perspectivalisms: by surfacing, tabling, and questioning assumptions discriminations are made among those perspectives that merely serve our own priorities and those that serve life compass and evolutionary autopoiesis.

Time Is Cyclic

The puranas contain a number of stories that depict space and time as the exhalation of Vishnu, the creator god, and the dissolution of the universe as his inhalation, indicating a belief that the basic structure of reality is without beginning or ending and cyclic in nature. There exist everlasting cycles of creation, sustenance, and destruction. Hinduism uses the cycle of day and night, the seasons, and of life to emphasize the balance between forces of good and evil, creation and destruction. This view of time is found in agrarian and Bronze-age cultures that are closely tied to the soil for survival, but has not lost its salience, as for instance Wilber relies on it in his depiction of live as processes of evolution and involution. A belief in linear time seems to have arisen first and most strongly among those peoples who sought a messiah, whether it was the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Jews of Hellenic Israel, or Christians. In  religious linear conceptions of time, either progress in preparation for the messiah or increases in the wickedness of man, or both, result in His coming and the end of the world. A very good review of the histories of these two approaches to understanding time within religious/spiritual contexts is found in Eliade’s The Myth of the Eternal Return.

Some yearn for access to states where there is no time, such as experienced in trance states and NDEs. Some create vast mythologies around time, as in reincarnation and future salvation. Some people build their lives around some versions of two time-related emotional cognitive distortions, “Waiting for Santa Claus” and “Heaven’s Reward.” In “Waiting for Santa Claus” we tell ourselves we will be happy when…”When” could be anytime, when we are better lucid dreamers, when we can do nidra yoga, lucid deep sleep, when we have more money, when we graduate…you get the idea. “Heaven’s Reward” is basically the doctrine of karma: “I’ll get to heaven and you’ll be in hell, buddy.” In the meantime, while you are still alive, you remain under “Buddy’s” thumb. We know that intermittent reinforcement, meaning not knowing which gamble or behavior is going to result in a big “win,” creates an addiction to behavior in hope of a future payout. Living in the future generates anxiety and fear, since it is an incessant quest for control. Living in the past generates depression, because we are powerless to change it, and that powerlessness, when it becomes an emotional habit, throws us into helplessness associated with the Victim role in the Drama Triangle. IDL recommends to students that they spend no more than five percent of their time learning from the past and five percent of their time making concrete plans for the future. Fully ninety percent of our time needs to be spent in the present, where we are alive, powerful, and can make a difference for ourselves, others, and the world.

IDL observes that most interviewed emerging potentials, whether dream characters or the personifications of life issues, are not concerned with time and do not experience themselves as existing within it. While they will comment on events in the past, future, and present, they generally present as being remote or detached from any time sense. Therefore, it is not particularly helpful or accurate to say that they exist in the “now,” or the “here and now,” because they tend not to exist in time at all, other than when interviewed or imaginatively identified with. It is tempting to say that emerging potentials exist in a “now” that transcends and includes the past and the future, but this is only sometimes the case. Detachment from time is not usually associated with the sort of pre-or post-cognition experienced by shamans, while in trance, or in mystical experiences, which is often associated with an overarching sense of the oneness or eternal nature of time. It would probably be more accurate to describe the typical time sense of interviewed emerging potentials as appropriate to their perspective and leave it at that, since further categorization seems to only apply to some and not to all.

IDL uses cyclic time in its approach to breath meditation. The cycle of breathing is divided into six parts with each one representing life processes and associated values. In addition, the cycle of breath is considered a microcosmic depiction of the cycles of day and night, a life, the seasons, and the creation and destruction of the cosmos. In IDL breath meditation, one or another of the stages of breath are emphasized to first bring balance and then a greater breadth and depth of awareness.

There Is Cosmic Order (Dharma)

Dharma signifies behaviors that are considered to be in accord with rta, the order that makes life and universe possible. It includes duties, rights, laws, conduct, virtues and ‘‘right way of living.” It is the dharma of the bee to make honey, of cow to give milk, of sun to radiate sunshine, of river to flow. Paul Horsch suggests rta and Dharma are parallel concepts. Rta in the Vedas is the truth and cosmic principle which regulates and coordinates the operation of the universe and everything within the former being a cosmic principle, while Dharma relates to the moral and social sphere; while Maya and Dharma are also analogous concepts, the former being that which corrupts law and moral life, the later being that which strengthens law and moral life (Harner, 1980).

Central to the Bhagavad Gita is the doctrine of dharma, or duty to perform vama, or socially prescribed roles and responsibilities, in keeping with the law of karma while remaining detached from the results or “fruits” of one’s actions. Is it possible to separate actions from their consequences? Is there not a built in contradiction: observe the law of cause and effect, but be detached from the effects, when the whole point of karma is that there are very definite effects to action, i.e., “fruits,” and you had better take them into consideration because they determine your next life?

At the individual level, some texts of Hinduism outline four asramas, or stages of life as individual’s dharma. These are: (1) brahmacharya, the life of preparation as a student, (2) Grihastha, the life of the householder with family and other social roles, (3) Vanaprastha or aranyaka, the life of the forest-dweller, transitioning from worldly occupations to reflection and renunciation, and (4) Sannyasa, the life of giving away all property, becoming a recluse and devotion to moksha, spiritual matters. This is probably the most commonly understood interpretation of Hindu dharma, as one’s life calling.

Within Hinduism, dharma is externally determined by learning historical knowledge such as Vedas, Upanishads, the Epics and other Sanskrit literature with the help of one’s teacher; and if these are missing, then self-reflection and the following of what satisfies one’s heart, inner feeling, and what one feels driven to. Notice that the primary sources of dharma are, for Hinduism, external, and it is only when these fail that one looks within. However, there is no distinction here between the “within” that consists of internalized social injunctions typically called “conscience,” “intuition,” or “God’s will,” on the one hand, and one’s life compass on the other. In the absence of a yoga that allows us to access our unique life compass, how do we know if we are aligned with it or not? Cultural groupthink and prevailing worldviews are assumed to reflect our individual life compass. This is a dangerous and typically delusional assumption.

The broader and more important point is what misperception of intrinsic life direction implies for the certainty of dreamers, lucid dreamers, mystics, trance channelers, and waking sleepwalkers. Most are sure they know their dharma and are following it, but without a yoga that provides some way to test that assumption, how does one know? IDL has as its goal, as a dream yoga, not simply proclaiming what dharma is or should be for you, but the provision of methods of checking and testing your assumptions about your dharma out against the priorities of interviewed emerging potentials. These, taken together, create a collective or consensus set of priorities and recommendations that are presumed to reflect your inner compass. Following these is the test of this theory. When you do so do you become more balanced and awake or more scattered and asleep? Do you become more fixated and regressed or do you find yourself growing and evolving?

Dharma’s function is to create both intrapsychic and social order by defining both the nature and boundaries of appropriate and inappropriate behavior. As such, it is a sophisticated advance over the boundaries created by a shamanic worldview, which are imposed by the limitations of physical and psychic power (in trance) and the will of spirits. Both polytheistic and monotheistic worldviews are an intermediary position, providing an anthropomorphically projected set of role models and parent figures in a mythological setting as the creator and enforcer of boundaries in a context that makes sense to any child. The relative abstraction of dharma is much more sophisticated, and the fact that it arose in Vedic India along with polytheism is remarkable.

Something akin to dharma and rta, as the lawful principles of the universe and the laws themselves, remain today as guiding principles for contemporary scientists, atheists, and secular humanists. In the field of biology and environmental science they are reflected in the concept of trophic cascades, in which predators create natural boundaries and limits for various strata of ecosystems. They may show up today as the boundaries, both internal and external, encountered by lucid dreamers. How one conceives of the outer boundaries of their possibilities in any state largely determines what is possible, where avenues for growth lie, and what solutions for challenges are available.

Dharma And Patanjali’s Yoga

Patanjali, the famous formulator of raja yoga, explained dharma in terms of two categories, restraints, yama, and observances, niyama. The five yama are: abstain from injury to all living creatures, ahimsa, abstain from falsehood, satya, abstain from unauthorized appropriation of things-of-value from another, acastrapurvaka, abstain from coveting or sexually cheating on your partner, and abstain from expecting or accepting gifts from others. The five yama apply in action, speech and mind. In explaining yama, Patanjali clarifies that certain professions and situations may require qualification in conduct. For example, a fisherman must injure a fish, but he must attempt to do this with least trauma to fish and the fisherman must try to injure no other creature as he fishes.

The five observances, niyama, are cleanliness by eating pure food and removing impure thoughts such as arrogance or jealousy or pride, contentment in one’s means, meditation and silent reflection regardless of circumstances one faces, study and pursuit of historic knowledge, and devotion of all actions to the Supreme Teacher to achieve perfection of concentration.

Dharma Manifests Through Karma

No concept from Hinduism has defined the culture of India as has the doctrine of karma. No concept of Hinduism has influenced the consciousness of the West as much as has the doctrine of karma. It was first codified in the Manusmriti, which forbade intermarriage between castes, about 100 CE. A DNA study published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, demonstrates that it was at this time that a very long history of genetic mixing ended in India, resulting in the 4, 635 distinct genetic groups that currently exist on the subcontinent. Such has been the power of the law of karma, as manifested in the caste system, in India.

According to the Vedas, if one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. While some Hindus, particularly Vedantists, believe God, as Ishvara, dispenses karma, most Hindus explain it through an automatic process of cause and effect:

One should perform karma with nonchalance without expecting the benefits, because sooner or later one shall definitely get the fruits.

Found first in the late Vedas, karma is conceived as the creation of God. It conforms to the cosmic law of spiritual progression, rising from a belief that nature has three fundamental qualities, Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. In Sattva, purity predominates; it is in Hindu society associated with the first, priestly and scholarly caste, the Brahmans. In Rajas, energy predominates. It is associated with the second caste, the Kshatriyas, or ruling and warrior caste as well as Vaisyas, the third, business caste. Tamas is the third element of nature. In it inertia predominates. It is associated with the lowest cast, the Sudras, the laborers, or “Untouchables.” Consequently, social order is ordained from heaven; everyone is born into the station of life, the family, and the profession that their karma from past lives has generated for them. Varna dharma, or “color-caste duty,” grew out of the division between the new-coming and conquering fair-skinned Aryans and the pre-existing population in India, the dark-skinned pre-Aryans. Each person should perform the duties of their own caste and role within their families’ profession within that caste. Each follows the hereditary occupation of their family. In that way they cooperate in working for the common welfare. Good actions in this life earn you promotion to a higher caste in your next life. You are where you need to be; you are where you chose to be. Even if you do not remember such choices, you are still a product of them, and the proof of your exercise of those choices lies in your present life circumstances.

One of the first and most dramatic illustrations of karma can be found in the Bhagavad Gita.  In this poem, Arjuna, the protagonist, is preparing for battle when he realizes that the enemy consists of members of his own family and decides not to fight. His charioteer is Krishna, an avatar of god. He explains to Arjuna the concept of dharma (duty) and makes him see that it is his duty to fight.

To understand the importance of karma within Hinduism it is helpful to look at it from each of the four quadrants of a holon. From the internal individual perspective of consciousness, karma guides personal evolution. From the external individual perspective of behavior, karma dictates right action: certain actions, essentially those that are socially and religiously sanctioned, create good karma; other actions, also determined by religion and society, create bad karma. Good karma will improve your fate after death as well as in your next lifetime. Bad karma will make your life after death as well as in your next lifetime more painful. From the internal collective perspective of culture, karma explains suffering and makes it tolerable while providing the right values to govern your individual development and the workings of society. From the external collective perspective of society, karma provides stability, order, and meaning. It dictates a stable division of labor, reduces competition because people do not switch castes or family professions within castes, and supports inherited rights. This social stability has helped India absorb invading cultures and survive social upheavals. Because these four interlocking holonic aspects support each other, both individuals and society have found the doctrine of karma extremely useful. It has also proven itself to be attractive to other cultures, and has been widely adopted in the West since the 1900’s. How popular is the concept of karma? One way of gauging that would be to look at data on belief in reincarnation, which assumes a belief in karma. First, one must take into account the one billion Hindus in the world, 350 million Buddhists, or one sixth of the world’s population, and 23 million Sikhs. Demographic survey data from 1999–2002 shows a significant minority of people from Europe and America, where there is reasonable freedom of thought and access to ideas but no outstanding recent reincarnationist tradition, believe we had a life before we were born, will survive death and be born again physically. The mean for the Nordic countries is 22 percent. The belief in reincarnation is particularly high in the Baltic countries, with Lithuania having the highest figure for the whole of Europe, 44 percent. The lowest figure is in East Germany, 12 percent. In Russia, about one-third believes in reincarnation. The effect of communist anti-religious ideas on the beliefs of the populations of Eastern Europe seems to have been rather slight, if any, except apparently in East Germany. Overall, 22 percent of respondents in Western Europe believe in reincarnation. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, 20 percent of U.S. adults believe in reincarnation. Recent surveys by the Barna Group, a Christian research nonprofit organization, have found that a quarter of U.S. Christians, including 10 percent of all born-again Christians, embrace the idea.

However, there are inherent disadvantages to the doctrine of karma as well; some of these were so obvious that they led to the passing of laws outlawing the caste system in India in 1950. This, however, did not eliminate the caste system, nor did it eliminate a widespread and fundamental belief in karma among Hindus. Disadvantages of the caste system only overcame societal resistance as equality before the law came to be seen as a fundamental aspect of social justice and human rights. Karma tends to put all responsibility on the individual and make societal and cultural influences secondary. Instead of complaining about injustice or abuse, you are to accept your karma and work on fulfilling your societal role. Because karma emphasizes individual consciousness and behavior, social contributions to development are under-emphasized. The result is social stability at the cost of individual initiative, freedom, and class discrimination.

An implication of the doctrine of karma for dream yogas and lucid dreaming is that one takes responsibility for whatever happens to them in whatever state of consciousness they are in. This encourages a non-literal interpretation of events as well, which may help explain why and how Hinduism evolved away from shamanism so early. Karma implies that reality is dreamlike in that it is subject to individual perception, a concept that traditional shamanism does not embody. In shamanism, dream, lucid dream, and trance states, including mystical states are real; they are not illusions or delusions. At its extreme, a belief in karma means that dream yogas and lucid dreamers will discount the otherness of their experiences. However, in fact, the reality of trance is such that this does not appear to happen much during these experiences. It is only later, after leaving trance, that people are likely to conclude that these were self-generated experiences with karmic implications. There are notable exceptions, however. There is no reason why a lucid dreamer cannot own as a part of themselves everything that they experience in a dream or OOBE. Whether this would be wise or accurate are questions IDL submits to interviewed emerging potentials on a case-by-case basis.

Because it is phenomenological in its methodology, IDL has no relationship to the concept of karma. It suspends both belief and disbelief in deference to the perspectives of interviewed emerging potentials. Of course, outside the interviewing process individual students may or may not believe in karma. Viewing life events as wake-up calls is the closest concept within IDL to karma. However, viewing life events as wake-up calls does not assume that we are responsible for the wake-up call, or that it exists because of something that we did or did not do. It may be, but that is not known until there is an interview, and even then we must decide whether we think the perspective disclosed is evidential or not. Wake up calls are not considered to be part of a divine order or dharma, as karma is within Hinduism. Instead, events are treated as if they were wake-up calls because to do so maximizes their opportunity to serve as teaching experiences, not because they were created to be wake-up calls. They may or may not be; assuming they are is merely a useful hypothesis.

Consequently, because there is no concept of karma for IDL, human experience is not viewed as a system of rewards, self-chosen punishment, or as retribution. There is no conflict with equality or social justice. There is no default assumption of personal responsibility. The doctrine of karma can imply that we are more powerful and more in control of our lives and destiny than we are, which in turn can cause us to ignore or minimize important social and cultural factors that condition who we are, what we can and will do, and who we can become. Belief in reincarnation and transmigration can cause an overemphasis on the two individual quadrants of holons at the expense of the two collective quadrants. The result is a constipation of holonic evolution, since all four quadrants must tetra-mesh to co-evolve from one level to the next. If one or more quadrant is blocked, an individual or culture remains fixated at a specific level of development. For India, and for the majority of Hindus, this means that on a personal level cultural and societal influences tend to be underestimated as powerful conditioners of spiritual development, and on a cultural level, egalitarianism, as a basic human right, does not develop.


The Bhagavad Gita states,

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be. As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from childhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. A sober person is not bewildered by such a change. (2:12-13)

Transmigration, or Punarjanma, a belief in reincarnation that includes embodiment as animals, is generally accepted by many Hindus. It is the natural process of samsara, birth, death and rebirth. Death destroys the physical body, but not the jiva or atman (soul). While the jiva is intrinsically pure, desire creates a sense of self that craves pleasures that separate it from its intrinsic purity. Every karma produces a result that must be experienced either in this or some future life. As long as your jiva remains ignorant of its true nature, it remains attached to material desires and subject to the cycles of samsara through transmigration. It is ignorance, avidya, of your true self that leads to ego-consciousness, grounding you in desire and a perpetual chain of transmigration. One is reborn through desire: a person desires to be born because he or she wants to enjoy a body, which can never bring deep, lasting happiness or peace (ananda). There is no permanent heaven or hell in Hinduism. After death, your jiva enters the karma and rebirth system and is reborn as an animal, a human or a deity. Transmigration continues until moksha, or final liberation, is attained.

Worn-out garments are shed by the body; Worn-out bodies are shed by the dweller within the body. New bodies are donned by the dweller, like garments.     Bhagavad Gita (2:22)

Reincarnation explains the causes and solutions to suffering, a problem called theodicy. It asks, “How can suffering exist in a world governed by omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, beneficent forces?” While some schools of Hindu thought, like Vedanta, imagine the gods meting out karma, most Hindus view the rewards and punishments that occur in life as a result of choices made by each individual. You are in the life you experience not because God put you there, but because you chose it. Reincarnation, like the doctrine of karma, represents life as an evolutionary school in which you keep repeating mistakes until you learn not to make them. Because of the Grace of God you have an infinite amount of time to repeat the same grade until you pass. Reincarnation also makes allowances for the recognition that few people attain enlightenment in their life. The assumption is that stable oneness is too much to achieve in one incarnation.

There are several ways that transmigration functions within Hinduism. The main reason for rebirth is so that the jiva, or reincarnating self, experiences the fruits of its karmas. These consequences are divided into three general categories, conforming to the traditional division of reality into purity, pleasure, and evil. Sattvika karmas, which are good or righteous, reward you with the pleasures of Svarga, or heavens. Rajas karmas, which are pleasure-seeking, reward you with another incarnation in the mortal realm (mrutyuloka). Tamas karmas are actions related to inertia, laziness and evil. They condemn you to hells patala-loka. This system of three categories of consequences set up a personal, social, and cultural system of rewards for good behavior and punishment for bad.

Reincarnation is also a way to satisfy your desires. Material pleasures are addictive, leading to the desire to be reborn to experience more of them. In addition, reincarnation is a way that those desiring liberation, but who die without its attainment, may continue to pursue it. Sometimes there is a debt that needs to be repaid. In such instances, the jiva is reborn in circumstances that allow it to balance accounts. There are also occasions when a jiva has offended a God or a Master by committing a grave error or sin. They are then cursed to suffer for their offense, by undergoing transmigration into horrible circumstances, allowing them to pay their debt and repent of their bad behavior. A final reason for reincarnation is to attain final liberation, moksha. A jiva needs a human body if it is to purge itself of the layers of base instincts.

Notice how each of these reasons for transmigration serve to justify not only your current circumstances but those of others. These reasons are so broad and varied, that if one explanation does not fit, another will. The result is the same: you take responsibility for your position in life and in society. Clearly, the doctrine of karma, as a social force, depends on a belief in reincarnation, since without it there is no way to explain how actions before birth generated the circumstances of your present life. The source of your birth conditions needs to be explained if you are to take responsibility for the social roles into which you were born. 

IDL teaches people to take responsibility through triangulation, by listening to the advice and recommendations of others, by listening to and by following the recommendations of one’s life compass, and by consulting one’s own common sense, conscience, and intuition. Obligation to society, culture, or any teacher only takes us so far, because to do so places external conditions in a superior position to the council of our emerging potentials. We are following the dictates of extrinsic sources. IDL uses the concept of triangulation to teach that responsibility involves taking into account external sources of objectivity and measuring them against the worldviews and recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials as well as one’s own common sense. 

Research, such as that of Ian Stevenson has done. into many remarkable accounts strongly imply prior existence. Sometimes students report a dream or share an experience from waking life or some altered state of consciousness which they take to be evidence of reincarnation. When some character, human or otherwise, from such a memory is interviewed, the result is generally similar to that of a dream or the interview of the personification of a life issue. Interviewed perspectives generally do not differentiate between the dreamlike, delusional nature of waking and dreaming, past, present, or future. They generally could care less about past lives or the concept of karma. Life itself does not seem to be particularly interested in what is “real” or where it is located on some arbitrary, humanly constructed time line. The focus tends to be on issues like, How can you be more awake now, today? How can you deal more effectively with your current life issues using the particular blend of the six core qualities (confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, witnessing) that the interviewed emerging potential exemplifies?

From this we can draw the conclusion that neither a belief in karma or reincarnation is necessary for dream yoga or lucid dreaming. While many dream yoga practitioners and lucid dreamers may believe in these things, both the necessity and usefulness of these beliefs are probably due to other factors, such as the influence of the perceptual cognitive distortions at play, a sense of personal responsibility, or are part of a worldview that feels transformative, rather than being related to dream yoga or lucid dreaming themselves.

IDL also recognizes that while there are some stages of development in which leaning to take responsibility is vital, there are other stages in which it is equally vital to learn that you are not responsible for everything that happens to you, and that to think so is narcissistic and grandiose. IDL does not seek liberation from incarnation because, unlike Hinduism, it does not equate earthly existence with delusion, illusion, or suffering. We do not know what the nature of incarnation is, apart from our projections onto it; if we are to have any chance of knowing what life is apart from our projections, we must first recognize them, own them, and withdraw them, which is essentially a process of cultivation of objectivity, or witnessing. In is also what makes IDL a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism. Suspending our expectations and assumptions is a more important priority than exchanging one state (waking) for another (that of the perspective of this or that emerging potential), in hopes that some other perspective will be better. When we dream we take our waking dramas, worldview, and cognitive distortions into that state, and they filter our dream experience, causing us to both mis perceive and intervene in dream events in ways to exert control or that are in congruence with our expectations. In this way our waking perception and identity colonize other states of consciousness, including the dream state. 

The Root Of Karma Is Ignorance

How does Hinduism understand ignorance? Patanjali provides one description:  Ignorance is the failure to discriminate between the permanent and the impermanent, the pure and the impure, bliss and suffering, the Self and the non-Self. Notice how Patanjali defines discrimination in dualistic terms. There is a wise and an ignorant perception of things. Is discrimination necessarily dualistic? Are wisdom and ignorance the only choices available? Notice who is making the discriminations. It is assumed that discrimination is the job of the self; you have to learn to make wise discriminations. It is probably important for practitioners of dream yogas and/or lucid dreaming and nidra yoga to ask themselves, “What are my results likely to be if I enter the dream and deep sleep state emphasizing wisdom? Will it be different from what I am likely to experience and conclude if I emphasize love? Might there be a difference if I worked at integrating all six of the core qualities and took that emphasis into dreaming, lucid dreaming, and deep sleep? If so, what might that difference be?

Just as love is the transcendent and core value of Christianity, into which all other values are subsumed, wisdom is the transcendent and core value of both Hinduism and Buddhism, into which all other values are mere shades or components. Consequently, the rejected and dark side of human nature for Christianity is the opposite of love, or evil and sin, while the rejected and dark side of human nature for Hinduism is avidya, ignorance. This is not a trivial difference. When love is made paramount the consequent emphasis is on human relationships and the resolution of conflicts between others and within self. Sin implies blame and guilt, both of which cause a major secondary problem: finding who is responsible (yourself) and administering appropriate punishment yourself, which then requires redemption and forgiveness. However, if in your worldview there is no need for punishment one need not expend time  or energy in redemption and forgiveness. The doctrine of sin complicates the elimination of suffering by distracting from solving the original problem, that of ending suffering. A subtle level mystical perspective  would hold that if we are loving enough we can know God and transcend all sin and limitation.

When wisdom is made paramount the consequent emphasis is on truth rather than goodness. Discernment and clarity, characteristics of the rational mind, become much more emphasized, and as a consequence, the focus tends to shift to causal/formless and non-dual forms of mysticism: pure objectivity. If you are wise enough you can know God and transcend all ignorance and suffering born of ignorance. The consequences are different. Instead of focusing on guilt and blame, energy is directed toward knowledge of the truth as well as action (karma) that reflects that knowledge. There is a tendency to focus on what is to be done differently rather than on who or what is the source of the problem or solution in order that appropriate punishment or reward can be meted out.

Because love is an emotion for most people most of the time, despite its potential of transforming into empathetic compassion, its emphasis places positive emotionality before intelligence and knowledge. When love becomes the primary value a loving heart is more important than an intelligent mind. Belief in goodness and the truth is more important than knowledge. Because wisdom is a capacity to know rather than to feel, when it is emphasized knowledge becomes more important than emotion and loving relationships. Reason is more important than belief. Knowledge, because it leads to truth, is more important than belief and goodness.

Psychologically, most people have a distinct preference for one or the other. Those who place emphasis on love and being loving tend to view those who emphasize truth and wisdom as cold, remote, detached, non-empathetic, disengaged, anal, and elitist because they make distinctions that rank people and discriminate between people, ideas, and things. Truth seekers can easily be viewed as critical persecutors in the Drama Triangle. On the other hand, people who have a distinct preference for wisdom and truth tend to view those who emphasize love and communion as, at worst, hypocritical chameleons, who change their personality and beliefs according to what they think the current audience wants or needs. They tend to view the “love first” crowd as chronic rescuers in the Drama Triangle, who believe they are acting for the good of the other person when they are busy validating their own self-worth by demonstrating how selfless they are. Clearly, the challenge is to balance these two polarities and to integrate them, because to choose one over the other is to put one into war with the other within oneself.

That Hinduism chose wisdom over love and the abolition of ignorance over the conquest of evil had profound consequences for the evolution of Indian culture, as well as personal development. Essentially, it planted the seeds for rational enquiry, doubt, skepticism, and the questioning of systems of belief, as well as the tolerance of an incredible diversity within the society and a flourishing of many contradictory schools of thought, or darshans, including the various yogic traditions, within Hinduism. Perhaps most importantly, an emphasis on wisdom let to the prioritization of objectivity, which is a major driver, perhaps the major driver, of the development of the self. As Wilber points out, proximal selves objectify distal selves and then reincorporate these into an expanded, more inclusive proximal self. This emphasis on the importance of wisdom for liberation is stated by the great Hindu mystic of the late 1800’s, Ramakrishna:

Only two kinds of people can attain self-knowledge: those who are not encumbered at all with learning, that is to say, whose minds are not over-crowded with thoughts borrowed from others; and those who, after studying all the scriptures and sciences, have come to realize that they know nothing.

Nevertheless, because of this emphasis on wisdom, Hinduism both tolerated and encouraged strong devotional elements, from folk worship of various deities to bhakti margas, to subtle level mysticism that emphasizes mergence with God.

In contrast to Patanjali’s assumption that the self must make wise discriminations, IDL assumes that wise discriminations, the ones that you need and that are appropriate for your circumstances, are available as alternative perspectives that we are free to access. Other perspectives than those we identify can make wise discriminations, wiser perhaps than those we make. Whether we access them or not is not only a function of wisdom but of all six of the core qualities of confidence, empathy, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. IDL does not assume that ignorance is due to failure to make the particular discriminations that Patanjali lists. Permanence, purity, bliss, and the Self may not be relevant at all for you. Other factors, such as transparency, integration of the four quadrants of the human holon, the balancing of the six processes and qualities, or simply discriminating wakefulness from dreaming and sleepwalking may be more important factors.

Viewing ignorance as the source of human suffering and wisdom as its solution frames liberation in terms of only one of the six core qualities. For IDL, the source of suffering is perspectival limitation and rigidity. The solution is the amplification and balancing of the six core processes (awakening, aliveness, balance, detachment, freedom, clarity) and qualities. The qualities alone are not enough because they require the process to move from static ideals to living interventions. The processes alone are not enough because intention drives action; if you do not set intention, as the six core qualities do, then others will impose their intentions upon you.

Awakening Is Liberation

Those to whom the entity presented by the Vedantic knowledge has become fully ascertained, and who endeavor assiduously with the help of the Yoga of monasticism, become pure in mind. At the supreme moment of final departure all of them become identified with the supreme Immortality in the worlds that are Brahman, and they become freed from the cycle of Birth and Death.  Yujur Veda Mundakopanishad 3.2.6:

Whatever takes form is false.

Only the formless endures.

When you understand

The truth of this teaching,

You will not be born again.

For God is infinite,

Within the body and without,

Like a mirror,

And the image in a mirror.

As the air is everywhere,

Flowing around a pot

And filling it,

So God is everywhere,

Filling all things

And flowing through them forever.

Ashtavakra Gita 1: 18-20

A number of assumptions in this powerful verse clearly define important aspects of Hinduism:

Objects of sense are illusory; only those things that are without form are real.

The goal is not to be born or live in form.

This is because to do so is to be identified with illusion.

God is formless and non-dual.

Those who have thereby concluded that Hinduism is life-denying, nihilistic, or focused on formless, non-dual reality miss its many seemingly contradictory strands that co-exist within it, each confident that it represents “Truth” or “Reality.” These include polytheism and forms of yoga that maximize life in the body much better than traditional Western forms do, such as hatha, karma, and bhakti yogas. Hinduism also defines a number of important life goals that are short of liberation that represent a successive unfolding of awareness and intention. The entire sequence is called dharma-artha-kama-moksha, or righteousness, worldly prosperity, enjoyment, and liberation. Dharma in this practical sense requires some explanation. Setting the conditions or rules for the pursuit of enjoyment and the acquisition of wealth, dharma can be translated as law, righteousness, duty, and morality. Consequently, if one follows dharma, there is no problem with seeking either pleasure or worldly prosperity. Hindus can experience these things while working toward moksha, if they follow dharma. It would be therefore be more accurate to say that there exist within Hinduism two contradictory strands, one that focuses on bringing greater life into daily experience and the other with experiencing life completely separate from daily experience. This dual, co-existing emphasis needs to be recognized and amplified by any dream yoga.

IDL does so, on the one hand, by providing experiences of various forms of unitary consciousness, including nature, interpersonal, formless, and non-dual states, through identification with perspectives that are not alive or dead, are timeless, and have no fears based on physical or social needs or insecurities. These can be normally and routinely found in the perspectives of the vast majority of interviewed emerging potentials, and identifying with them slowly and naturally aligns identity with a similar worldview. This is not to imply that such perspectives are completely objective, formless, without preferences or devoid self-serving motivations. Anyone who follows the IDL interviewing protocols will discover that this is obviously and emphatically not true. On the other hand, it is to acknowledge what is evident: IDL interviewing does offer easy and repeatable experiencing of transpersonal states of union through identification with perspectives that demonstrate such characteristics. For example, an interviewed rib cage said, “Another part of my job is to be a hint of the truth, that it is probably the case that everything will end in the nothingness and he will die.” In another interview, “air” says,

I am alive, yet I am deathless. You can’t cut me or destroy me, although you can pollute me and change my composition. I am witnessing both the sky and my transformation by the breathing process by these people and animals. It is so normal and has been going on for so long that I normally don’t notice it. It is only because in this interview I include the consciousness of the interviewer that I am aware of these things. I am invisible and appear so “weak” as to be non-existent. Yet I am the source of life. I am unending, limitless sustenance and abundance.

I am aware in the sense that I have great knowingness that is unimpeded by language, opinions, or preferences. I have an intimate connection with life because I am life; I have the wisdom of life.

Death does not affect me; joy and happiness do not affect me; otherwise I would be fickle. I accept all things, all events, and I accept myself.

Mindlessness and thoughtlessness are symptoms of too much self awareness, too much personalization. It creates filters that keep humans from being fully present. So it’s about separating what’s happening from one’s basic nature and staying clear.

I am anything but passive. I am intimately invested in all aspects of life. I am anything but disconnected. So to confuse my disinterest with passivity and disconnectedness is a mistake.

At the other extreme, IDL emphasizes the necessity for the practical, integration into daily life of the concreteness of recommendations given. For example, in the same interview for a seventeen-year-old we find recommendations for self-assessment in:

Laziness vs. Productivity;

Avoidance and self-rescuing vs. searching for the truth;

Approaching girls and others with confidence;

Taking risks on a daily basis;

Fear vs. Confidence;

Reading Harry Potter (to raise his mood, increase his creativity, and stimulate his own writing)

Listening to rock and roll (to improve his mood);

Created good and strong feelings and use them to write stories.

Regarding the interviewed rib cage mentions above, it makes its human (we will call him Carl) anxious and gives him severe insomnia by squeezing his stomach. Why? Is it to generate the suicidal thoughts he has so that he will awaken into a formless reality? No! Quite the opposite: “When I squeeze Carl he needs to get up in the moment and start building up a better life by going to a girl and talking to her without fear or compulsive thoughts; also, to try harder to search for the truth.” This is an example of an emerging potential that scores higher than the subject of the interview but is not at all life-denying. In fact, its message is largely about embracing life.

At some point, Hinduism assumes that all humans are destined to seek a higher level of purification and wisdom, and so they will take on a spiritual practice, or  sadhana.  Through such practice they come to realize that their true “self” is the immortal soul rather than their body or their ego. Consequently, all desires for the pleasures of the world will vanish, since they will seem pointless and meaningless compared to spiritual bliss, ananda.

The problem with this formulation is that many gurus, probably all, have attained this realization but remained flawed human beings with massive blind spots, addictions, or both. The implication is that they only thought they had attained this realization, when they had not, or that they had attained state openings and assumed they had therefore attained stable stage advancement into some sort of unitary consciousness, or have excelled in this or that developmental line while ignoring and staying under-developed in other, critical lines. The common Hindu explanation is that humans deceive themselves, otherwise they would not have fallen prey to human weaknesses. IDL views bliss as a state; states are, by definition, temporary. There is a good reason for this. You may not want to slice vegetables or count your change in a state of bliss; you may need other states and other qualities at other times and for other purposes. Perhaps spiritual bliss, ananda, isn’t all that it is cranked up to be. It is extremely important as a motivator for development, but it can also be a distraction that leads to a disengagement from making the world a better place.

There does not seem to be any magic inherent in the recognition that one is an immortal soul rather than the body or ego. You can look around at those in the world that have this belief and ask yourself, “What is different about them? Are they happier? Are they more at peace? Does this belief reflect any consistent advantage over those who do not have that belief? Many people throughout history have attained this realization, to one degree or another, and there does not seem to be any inherent correlation between that realization and high level wakefulness. In fact, that awareness could be merely exchanging one delusional framework for another: psychological geocentrism is replaced with psychological heliocentrism. Many Hindus are taught to trust the testimony of purported gurus, and multiple factors, such as groupthink and cognitive biases like the halo effect cause them to either not examine their lives or character too closely or to rationalize away their limitations and failings. IDL recommends that you subject all such claims to your life compass, in the form of feedback from not one but multiple interviewed emerging potentials, because they serve as subjective sources of objectivity.

All schools of thought in Hinduism agree moksha implies the cessation of worldly desires and freedom from the cycle of birth and death, although the exact definition differs. Followers of the Advaita Vedanta school believe they will spend eternity absorbed in the perfect peace and happiness of the realization that all existence is One Brahman of which the soul is part. Dvaita schools perform worship with the goal of spending eternity in a spiritual world or heaven (loka) in the blessed company of the Supreme Being.

Are liberation and enlightenment sufficient and appropriate goals for dream yogas, including lucid dreaming? For Hinduism, the elimination of all desire is desirable, a contradiction in itself. Is the elimination of all desire desirable? If it is, doesn’t that make the elimination of all desire itself a desire to be eliminated? IDL does not have a problem with desire; it has a problem with a sense of self that defines itself in terms of its desires, because such a self is functioning in terms of its preferences, at a mid-prepersonal level of self-definition. The problem is that happiness becomes dependent on the presence of that which is desired (the cessation of desire, for instance) and the absence of that which is not desired (desires of all types). IDL prefers to maintain, respect, and use desire, but within the context of both personal reason and transpersonal multi-perspectivalism.

While Hinduism views the cessation of rebirth as a desirable goal, attained by the cessation of desire itself, IDL does not view incarnation as inherently good or bad. This is a matter of perspective. From some perspectives, for instance Hindu ones, incarnation is inherently bad; from other perspectives, for instance those of the vast majority of animals and children, incarnation is inherently good. Conditioning moksha, liberation, on the termination of desire and rebirth, means that liberation is always in the future, unless one succeeds in deceiving themselves into believing that they have transcended all desires. In such a case, they are much more likely have succeeded in transcending their ability to identify their desires, such as the desire not to have any desires, rather than to have completely succeeded in transcending all desires, as if that goal were possible, necessary, or worthwhile. From the perspective of IDL, it fails in all three counts.

This is because if you yourself do interviews, you will run into many, many high scoring emerging potentials who have clear and strong desires. This strongly implies that there is no inherent conflict between desire and enlightenment. You will also notice that these interviewed emerging potentials couldn’t care less whether you are incarnate or not. Their interest is in whether you are awake and listening to them.

For IDL, awakening from illusion is relative freedom, because holons are components of larger holons. This is not post-modern contextualization because it takes into account the three other core perspectives of holons. The relativity of perspectives reflects the reality of the internal collective quadrant, which is only one of four innate holonic perspectives. The internal individual perspective is a timeless now, relative only when you abstract your awareness from whatever perspective you occupy now. The external individual perspective is process, behavior; what is done, and epistemology, what is objectively knowable, not values and ontology. The external collective perspective is relationship, interconnectedness, system, and interdependence, whether organismic and molecular, interpersonally, socially, intrapersonally, or cosmic.

IDL does not share the goal of liberation, moksha, with Hinduism, when it is defined as some future, ultimate, and perfect state of freedom, because this is not a priority of interviewed emerging potentials. That conclusion is, however, from a limited data base, and yours may differ. Also, a broader variety of interviewed characters from a broader sample of subjects could generate different conclusions. So there is nothing absolutist about this conclusion; it is provisional. Due again to the feedback of interviewed emerging potentials, IDL does, however, value freedom as one of six core processes, the others being awakening, aliveness, balance, detachment, and clarity. Goals of IDL include balance these, as well as to move into a progressively more expansive here and now, and to find and follow one’s life compass. Another goal, often mentioned by interviewed characters, is to wake up.  Moving into a more expansive here and now finds correlates in the Hindu idea of moving out of illusion-based existence. The here and now in Hinduism is a static, always already present space: the sleeping Vishnu dreaming the world. This is different from an evolving here and now, one that expands as your sense of self develops. 

Is it better to focus on finding a teacher who is enlightened and following their guidance rather than finding and following one’s own inner truth? The concept of triangulation shows that this is a false choice; it is better to do both, and to add to these the council of multiple subjective sources of objectivity, with the priority of giving precedence to the counsel of one’s own life compass. Is it best to seek self-realization? Certainly, we can only help others to the extent that we have something to give. It is also true that if we are all one, then to help ourselves is to help others. The priority of IDL is first on the creation of a competent self and secondly, on objectifying, or dis-identifying with it so that life becomes less and less filtered by it. These are priorities that are shared by transpersonal perspectives in general and with cognitive forms of multi-perspectivalism, such as Integral AQAL, in particular. While these goals are not incompatible with those of Hinduism, they do not create a distinction between higher and lower truths or perpetuate shamanic three tiered cosmology.

Problems Created By The Two Levels Of Truth

We have seen that Hinduism recognizes two levels of truth. The first is social truth, which is comprised of truthfulness and honesty, and the second is ultimate truth, which is attachment to Reality. Dream yogas tend to support the two truths doctrine in various ways. They may view dream lucidity as a more awake state than waking, when in fact it is not the state of dreaming that is more aware or awake; it hasn’t changed. Also, waking awareness is not more awake, in the sense that its developmental perspective has changed. What is different is only our awareness that we are in a different state of consciousness.  We have awakened to that fact and therefore are able to explore what our potentials and  limits in the dream state. We can therefore conclude, from those relatively unlimited experiments in the dream state, that we are by nature unlimited, and this is a conclusion which Hinduism reached. However, none of that changes the reality that our waking identity, regardless of the state it inhabits or its lucidity in the dream or  dreamless states, remains limited by its current level of development, even if it now perceives itself as a boundless consciousness. There has been a broadening of the definition of the self without the self needing to evolve. It does not need to learn to think to come to this conclusion; it does not need to be rational to reach this conclusion; no development in ethical, empathetic, or relationship lines is necessary to reach this conclusion. The question then becomes, “So exactly what has awakened, and what does this wakefulness mean?”

The two levels of truth, absolute and relative, pursusha and prakriti, the non-dual and duality, ultimate and social, can and do conflict. Social, relative truths are conditioned by survival issues that are pressing and important; we have relational exchanges regarding physical security and emotional validation that are not going to magically disappear just because we meditate for two or more hours a day.  On the other hand, ultimate truth is not concerned with survival because there is no death. All sorts of secondary conflicts follow from this fundamental chasm in the realities of physical and non-physical existence. For example, from the conditioned truth making a living, investing in society and in human welfare makes sense; from ultimate truth these things may or may not make sense. Another profound problem with the two levels of truth doctrine is that anything can be justified, including illicit sex, apostasy, and war, as in the Bhagavad Gita, by appealing to the higher level of truth. The certainty of knowingness, from experiencing timeless, spaceless, non-dual, non-conditioned Reality and oneness with All easily creates not only dogmatism but proselytizing forms of it. People who have seen what they believe is not only their truth and reality, but Truth and Reality for everyone, generate a pre-rational belief and faith that is almost always construed to be a trans-rational and transpersonal one. There are various reasons for this cognitive distortion, but perhaps the most important one is that a transpersonal state is confused with a transpersonal level of development. If a child or criminal has a near death or mystical experience, it does not follow that they are at a transpersonal level of development. This should be easy enough for people to understand, but the combination of our desire to trust in those certain they have the answers we need combined with the need of experiencers to share their transcendent experiences in order to keep them alive and gain validation through the support of fellow believers, presents a very strong chemistry indeed. 

The nature of mundane, day-to-day reality is a difficult thing to pin down, much less Reality, as if there were only one. Therefore the question arises, “Just which reality do I need to be attached to?” The answers are multiple, depending on who you are and what is most important to you. It should be remembered that the answers are also multiple, in that we live in a multi-perspectival reality, which implies that if a worldview is Ultimate for us, it is only so because from our perspective it is an all-encompassing, unitary, over-arching infinity. However, that is the nature of perceptual cognitive distortions, otherwise known as contextual holons, until we bump up against their limits. The division of experience into conditioned and non-conditioned realities may simply be due to a degree of subjective immersion that does not allow us to appreciate the intrinsic multi-perspectivalism of the life. Some have used the analogy of holography to attempt to capture this concept.

Certainty, something that glimpses of the non-dual can provide, may be an artifact of an insecure self. As you thin and broaden that self and detach from it, the entire problem of two truths may evaporate, or solve itself. If there is no identity that requires certainty then the quest for that which provides it vanishes as well. IDL does not encounter the problem of two truths for interesting reasons. When we become an emerging potential we partake, to a greater or lesser extent, in a perspective that represents ultimate truth. This is true to the extent that this or that character cannot die, has no survival issues, is relatively autonomous, generally scores higher than we do on characteristics associated with waking up, and possess  a broader, more objective point of view than we do ourselves. It can also be observed by anyone who conducts the experiment of interviewing multiple personifications of life issues or dream characters using the IDL protocols, that they generally do not follow Shankara’s distinction of three truths, that is, ultimate, mundane, and illusory realms. These emerging potentials typically acknowledge that they are illusory while at the same time providing life framings that include yet transcend our own, indicating that in important, significant ways they are more awake and therefore more “real” than we are. We can admit this is a mind-blowing paradox while at the same time refusing to dismiss its reality. This is the nature of trans-rationality. 

This is not a very attractive or satisfying answer to those who seek certainty. However, our need for certainty is itself an indicator of identification with a self that is afraid of its dissolution. If there is no fear of death, there is no need for certainty. The ability to live with ambiguity, and in a world that is neither black nor white but contains all the colors of the rainbow, is one measure of development, and this is IDL’s response to the dilemmas produced by the two truths doctrine.


A spiritually illumined soul lives in the world, yet is never contaminated by it.     Swami Bhaskarananda

Freedom from physical, mental, emotional, interpersonal, and spiritual contamination is a very ancient, core ideal in Hinduism taught in the doctrine of the three gunas. We can be certain, from accounts of shamanism among hunter-gatherers, that it predates Hinduism and is a carry-over from a much more ancient sacred and moral tradition. Ceremonial purity through baths, appropriate foods, and relationships lays the foundation for moral purity. When purity is associated with spirituality and impurity with defilement, delusion, and suffering, a fundamental cognitive dualism and emotional conflict between the clean and unclean aspects of ourselves is established. It is enough to notice that purity is a social construct. While it has its roots in mammalian aversion to various smells and tastes, it cannot be traced back prior to the rise of human social relationships. Spiritual development then takes place, at least in part, within the context of this fundamental dualism. An emphasis on purity and purification is often perpetuated by students of yogas, because it is such a basic premise that it is assumed. For example, various purification processes are suggested to improve meditation or the ability to lucid dream or stay lucid in deep sleep. Even if such purification rituals are helpful, in that they may relax and center attention or move it into a more inspired, sacred space, are they necessary? Some sources claim success in producing lucid dreams with herbs or technology and do not mention purity at all. Because purity is not a common theme of interviewed emerging potentials, the position of IDL is that purity is over-rated. Dirty, ugly, poor, young, immature, and criminal people can still be kind, thankful, helpful, generous, empathetic, trustworthy, reciprocating, and respectful. Interviewed emerging potentials are not known to  say, “you cannot wake up until you are purified.” However, that does not mean that your own experience might not be different. I can only say that over thousands of interviews with thousands of different people, this has not, to date, announced itself as a significant issue. Instead, interviewed emerging potentials focus on specific behavioral remedies, largely because the interviewing process is structured to produce results that can be tested in waking life to either validate or refute the value of the process. While one could interpret any comment by any interviewed character in terms of a movement toward purity, that would be a projection. It would be more accurate to interpret the motivation behind most comments, interpretations, and recommendations as a movement toward awakening through the development and balancing of the six core qualities.

                                        Comparison of Hinduism and PEMs

Hinduism Phenomenologically-based Experiential Multi-Perspectivalisms
Pantheistic; Non-Dual Makes no ontological claims
Epistemological dualism No epistemological differentiation between the sacred and secular
Religious dogmas Questions assumptions
Credibility based on authority Credibility based on measurable results
Emphasis on purification Emphasis on objectivity
Emphasis on liberation/enlightenment Emphasis on balance
Emphasis on self-development Emphasis on collective development
Heliocentric  Polycentric
Identification with culturally-dictated sacred figures Identification with personally chosen identities or objects
Does not attempt to identify and table assumptions Attempts to identify and table assumptions
Reality is absolute Reality is indeterminate
Magical, in the sense of an expression of deities or spirits Magical, in the sense of transcendent of the rational
Forms, imagery, senses obscure, conceal reality Forms, imagery, senses are adaptive structures and processes that creatively generate reality
Absolute liberation from delusion (enlightenment) is attainable Only states of relative enlightenment are attainable
Discounts dream experience as more illusory than waking Does not make value judgments regarding the relative illusoriness of waking and dreaming
Life as divine play Life as sacred play
Atman There no one “real” Self or soul
Reincarnation Indeterminate
Karma Grandiose; assumes too much responsibility
Dharma Teleology is anthropomorphism, however, life compass and evolutionary autopoiesis are important orienting assumptions
Time is cyclic Time is cyclic, linear, and a category of human cognition
Responsibility to dharma and karma Responsibility through triangulation
The goal is to not to be born or to live in form. The goal is to wake up.

Values Central to Hinduism

Here is a perspective common to Hinduism cited by Morgan in The Religion of the Hindus: 

Any scheme designed by us for enhancing the spiritual values in the world is in accordance with cosmic purpose. Any scheme which reverses the order and places the lower biological or material values above the higher spiritual values goes contrary to the divine plan. (Morgan)

Within Hinduism, this assumption has created a hierarchy of values:

Material values: riches, possessions, pleasures

Biological values: health, strength, vitality

Intellectual values: clarity, cogency, subtlety, skill

Spiritual values: truth, beauty, love, righteousness.

Here are some other core values of Hinduism.


The approach to giving up self-control in Hinduism is called valragyam, detachment, and implies a sense of withdrawal. Because Hinduism values wisdom, it has also understood that detachment creates objectivity which leads to wisdom. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that the fickle mind can be controlled through dispassion: Perform all your actions with mind concentrated on the Divine, renouncing attachment and looking upon success and failure with an equal eye. Spirituality implies equanimity. Dispassion is emotional equanimity; this concept can be extended to detachment from thoughts and concepts, including your concept of who you are. Also in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna councils detachment from the fruits, or outcomes, of action:

One who performs his duty without attachment, surrendering the results unto the Supreme Lord, is unaffected by sinful action, as the lotus is untouched by water.   Bhagavad Gita 5.10

Swami Vivekananda, the pandit and student of Ramakrishna, said,

Feel nothing, know nothing, do nothing, have nothing, give up all to God, and say utterly, ‘Thy will be done.’ We only dream this bondage. Wake up and let it go.

It is mysterious that Westerners often view Hinduism as obsessed with detachment, considering its strong emphasis on self-control. Both are two aspects of one underlying growth dynamic.

Detachment is one of the six core processes within IDL. It is associated with chest exhalation, when we consciously choose to let go. We awaken to grow in aliveness and then to achieve balance. This balance is deepened and broadened with detachment, which generates freedom and clarity. As one of the six core processes, detachment lacks the centrality that it has in Hinduism and Buddhism. Detachment is viewed as essential, yet it must be balanced with other co-creative, co-essential processes in IDL dream yoga.


The self, comprised of flesh and mind, must be subjugated to the Self or Atman that is one with God, if freedom is to be attained. Notice how different this is from the shamanic impulse of pleasing powerful entities and forces of nature for a different end entirely. Freedom within a shamanistic worldview is harmony with natural forces within the natural world; it has nothing to do with escape from it. Shamanic journeying or shamanic death is for the purpose of bringing life, health, and prosperity into the world, not to find liberation from it. It is as if early Hindus accessed the timeless, boundless reality of shamanic trance states and decided that this unitary world was not only free and preferable, but its access was the purpose of life. Following from this assumption was identification with an identity that permanently dwelled in that reality, Atman. This may be a motivator for the long and impressive history of Indian asceticism.

The problem is, that while there is a strong correlation between self-awareness and freedom, the correlation between self-control and freedom is much more tenuous. There is no doubt that much evidence, primarily from research with meditators, that self-control produces massive and important changes in mood, physiology, and brain coherence. Awareness in deep sleep appears to be only a function of control of awareness and that generally a product of various meditative techniques. Yogas were developed in the belief that control of the body, emotions, and mind would lead to stable access to these states and therefore to freedom. Is that an accurate assumption? Certainly it is fundamental to Hinduism, Buddhism, and most dream yogas. While lucid dreaming can and does happen spontaneously, it can also be induced, by a number of processes, some involving more self-control and others less. We also know that the accessing of various trance and ecstatic states, whether within a shamanic context or other, occurs through the elimination of self-control whether in the context of hallucinogenic induction, accidents, meditation, or near death experiences.

We can also suspect that an emphasis on control is an artifact of childhood, in which control, whether physical, emotional, mental, social, or cultural, was necessary for survival. There is little doubt that the major script injunction most children receive from infancy until they graduate is to be in control, stay in control, and be even more controlled. Our parents, families, and society reward self-control and punish a lack of it. Control had massive adaptational value in our childhood, and its internalization was all but assured. To think that this central adaptation also asset will magically disappear simply because we reach thirty, become devout meditators, or decide ourselves from it is delusional. We want people, pets, and things to be controllable and under control. If there is a god of the secular psychological world, it is control. Disobedience or disrespect of this god is a fundamental social taboo. Shout in church? Fart in public? Pick your nose? Scratch your privates? Everyone wants to be seen as a success and “socially appropriate,” whatever than might mean. It creates a society of the timid and non-spontaneous, of people who are far too concerned about how they appear to others and in compliance with social norms to be spontaneous, much less creative. In fact, we might conclude that there is an inverse correlation between self-control and freedom. Jack Engler pointed at this paradox when he said, “You have to become somebody before you can become nobody.” We have to learn conscious competencies before we can graduate into unconscious competencies.

There is a developmental progression from unconscious incompetence to conscious incompetence, to conscious competence, to unconscious competence. For example, we can see this in learning to ride a bike or to type. First we do do not know what we do not know; that is unconscious incompetence. Then we become painfully aware of just how much we do not know, as you make many mistakes with balance, in learning to ride a bike, or in hitting the wrong keys, in learning to type. This is conscious incompetence, and it is a painful developmental stage, because practice is difficult and reminds us of our inadequacy. Next, we become proficient, or consciously competent. This can be misperceived as “in control,” but proficiency at riding a bike or typing may have very little to do with being in control. Certainly in the learning phase one has to become conscious and focused, but this is soon replaced by the last phase, becoming unconsciously competent, You want to stop, at some point, trying to ride a bike and “just ride; you want to stop trying to type at some point, and “just type.” This is unconscious competence. We can see it clearly in the improvisation of talented musicians as well as when athletes enter a state of “flow.”

The implication is that development into higher states of consciousness, as well as into higher developmental levels, are similar in that they involve a mixture of both control and letting go. We can see this in the two fundamental approaches to meditation, focus and mindfulness. The first emphasizes control while the second emphasizes observation rather than control.

Control amplifies the role of self, which is only one of many possible perspectives; on what grounds is it determined that the self is the best perspective for any particular task? Why could there not exist multiple other perspectives, any of which will work better than the one we continue to fail with? There is very little conscious control in learning to walk or talk. Children can learn multiple languages without being in control. These are not simple tasks, as anyone who has attempted to master a second language in adulthood knows. So how is it that major competencies can be learned without an awareness of the exertion of self control? Certainly genetics, physiology, and social reinforcement pay huge roles, as do desire and enthusiasm. In fact, a case can be made that any of these factors are more important to learning, developmental progression, and state access than is control. 

This is why IDL does not emphasize control or subjugation. Who is in control? Which part of yourself? Is it trustworthy? What is its track record? How do we know we are not giving control to impulse or a petty tyrant? In addition, the self that does the controlling can create problems when it remains important in the various stages of union, as Wilber points out in his essays in The Spectrum of Consciousness. Just because we have achieved consistent waking access to say, oneness with nature, it does not follow that we have dissolved our sense of self. If our sense of who we are has been an important tool for getting us to our present developmental stage, it can remain as an unnecessary, interfering, over-learned fixation, just as fear often remains as an adaptational artifact long after the conditions that required it have been transcended.

Consequently, IDL encourages balance between control and detachment, between voluntary and involuntary, between our own priorities and those of interviewed emerging potentials. I am reminded of a couple of clients that I have had who were healthy, young, and successful with young families. They had both spent years on skulling teams – rowing, five to a boat. Practice was at five every school morning and to not be there was to let down the entire team. Everyone depended on each other. All had to function in unison to win. Discipline and self-control were absolute necessities not only in the rowing but in life and time management in order to be able to train, compete, eat, go to school, study, and sleep. While these young men learned some extraordinary skills regarding discipline, teamwork, and self-control, they also learned to value competition and winning. This created major problems in their families, both in the way they communicated with their partners and in how they raised their children. Much of this was about a drive for perfection and a sense of self invested in what is done (being in control) rather than in self-acceptance. When being in control becomes a favored life script and we are surrounded by people who reinforce it, it becomes unrealistic to expect it to be outgrown. Why? How? It is not unusual to lack the objectivity to see where and how we are out of balance. These two young men, both post-formal on the cognitive line, were unable to help themselves because they were too subjectively enmeshed in perceptual cognitive distortions that were adaptive and productive for them at work and in competitive situations, although this created a complete disaster in interpersonal relationships. Consulting both internal and external sources of objectivity is an antidote to this culturally baked-in addiction to control, in addition to consciously working to balance self-control with periods of conscious surrender outside of normal surrender, such as going to sleep.

Liberation Requires A Yoga

Those who aspire to the state of yoga should seek the Self in inner solitude through meditation. With body and mind controlled they should constantly practice one-pointedness, free from expectations and attachment to material possessions.                                        Bhagavad Gita 6:10

Margas Or Yogas

A “yoga” is any spiritual discipline whose purpose is union with the divine. A multitude of yogic traditions have thrived within Hinduism. The doctrine of spiritual competence, adhikara, requires that the spiritual discipline prescribed for a man should correspond to his spiritual competence. Therefore, a multitude of yogic traditions have thrived within Hinduism. These include Raja, Hatha, Jnana, Bhakti, Karma, Mantra, Kundalini, Tantra, and Laya yogas. Each of these approaches claims to be the “real” or the “true” yoga, just as does the Jnana yoga recommended by Patanjali. While the first detailed exposition of yoga is found in Patanjali around 100 ACE, there is no doubt that at least some varieties of yoga were practiced much earlier in India, both within the context of Brahmanic religion, as it is found in the Katha, Svetasvatara, and Maitri Upanishads and in a separate, pre-Aryan type of indigenous ascetic Indian practice.

. Yogas are empirical, in that they lay out instructions, one follows them, and results are verified by objective peers in the method, that is, one’s guru. Such approaches are called injunctive, because they rely on the personal experience of instructions. A famous Hindu parable describes this approach:

A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage “Tell me then, how would you describe it?” The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying, “This is very sweet. Try eating it!”

This is why it is quite important that people do IDL interviewing and application for themselves and with others to test the method. Because it is fundamentally experiential, no amount of reading and conceptualization will substitute for identification with emerging potentials, which is the crux of any PEM. This text and all other texts on IDL are written to help to contextualize the experience of interviewing, the application of recommendations, and to provide solutions to issues that can arise during these processes. All of it assumes a personal, in depth, experiential familiarity with the yoga itself.

All Hindu yogas are found in roughly parallel manifestations throughout the sacred traditions of the world. For example, within historical Chinese culture, Confucianism is a path of unifying with the will of Heaven, T’ien, through following the Way, or Tao of truth through social propriety, li, and can be viewed as a form of karma yoga. In Taoism, the “inner elixer,” or nei-tan, is purified so that it can be liberated from identification with the body, through various breath practices that are similar to those found in kundalini yoga and concentration practices similar to those found in raja yoga. You cannot cultivate your chi if you let your jing leak away. Islamic mysticism, including but hardly limited to Sufism, is primarily a form of bhakti yoga, based on passages in the Qur’an emphasizing the centrality of love of God, mahabbah, which was introduced by Rabi’a in the 8th century. Neo-Hassidism within Judaism emphasizes worship through joy, sincha, service, avodah, and purpose, kavanah. These correlate with bhakti, karma, and raja yogas.

As explained above, IDL is a phenomenologically-based, experiential, multi-perspectives yoga, in that it is a trans-rational discipline whose purpose is oneness with the sacred. It is trans-rational in that it takes the irrationality of dream characters and events, as well as the spontaneous imagery associated with life issues, fiction, history, mystical experiences or synchronicities, subjects it to a thoroughly rational methodology, and produces reframings of both dreaming and waking life that include but transcend our waking worldviews. IDL is a dream yoga in that it views suffering as a consequence of innate human filtering in the four quadrants of consciousness, values, behavior, and interaction. These filters can be thought of generators of adaptive delusion. Some of these forms of filtering are emotional, linguistic, conceptual constructs, including cognitive distortions, cultural norms, social scripting, and physiological and behavioral habits and addictions. When these filters conflict with “reality,” “wake up calls” are produced; the yoga involves listening to them, applying their recommendations, and noting changes, if any.

IDL differentiates itself from other dream yogas that take “dream” to refer to night time dreaming only, and furthermore, focus on the discipline of waking up within dreams, or lucid dreaming. IDL, in comparison, respects lucid dreaming while emphasizing lucid living, or the waking up into higher levels of development in waking life, based on the theory that it is the level of development of waking consciousness that is the perceiver within both dreams and lucid dreams, as well as the subject of awareness in awake deep sleep. It also considers waking out of drama and learning to question dream characters as more important dream state capabilities than dream lucidity, because they both reflect a higher order of clarity within the normal, non-lucid dream state. Waking up out of drama represents detachment from emotionality; questioning dream elements while dreaming represents the emergence of mid-personal objectivity within dreaming. When these skills are mastered the quality and utility of both dreaming and lucid dreaming becomes much higher. This is important, because “integral” includes the integration of the waking and dreaming states. This is largely overlooked not only by Wilber but by Integral in general.

A fundamental difference between IDL and the Integral Life Practices of Integral AQAL, and described in a book by that name, revolves around the issue of who is running the show – who is choosing and prioritizing the yogas one undertakes. In Integral Life Practices (ILPs), as in most of life, it is assumed that the self does the choosing. Our sense of who we are is generally identified with a psychologically geocentric or, at best, psychologically heliocentric worldview. This is a problem because the stuck, subjectively enmeshed self is doing the choosing, similar to asking a child to design his or her own school curriculum. How wise is that? The typical way to address this issue is for yogans to read books like Integral Life Practice in order to learn and follow the advice of experts, that is, objective others who know things we don’t and have a broader base of experience and so can see issues and challenges that we otherwise would miss. For example, Integral Life Practice recommends we take up at least one practice from each of five major domains: physical, mental, spiritual, shadow, and interpersonal.  The problem is that objective others aren’t us. They don’t know our particular aptitudes, habits, resistances, or sabotages. Consequently, they can provide advice that is excellent in a generic but non-specific way. IDL addresses this issue by having yogic priorities chosen not only by waking identity in consultation with objective experts, such as the authors of Integral Life Practice, but also in consultation with interviewed emerging potentials. What are their priorities? What do they think of our yogic priorities? It is not that such perspectives are omnipotent or infallible, only that they are subjective sources of objectivity in that they know us at least as well as we know ourselves and are able to both state recommended priorities and propose solutions to our favorite self-sabotages that books and external others are unlikely to proffer. 

IDL is only one form of many theoretical varieties of phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalisms (PEMs) and so does not claim exclusivity, because to do so would be to contradict one of its fundamental suppositions, that multiple perspectives are necessary and legitimate and that some of these transcend and include others. However, IDL does recognize that different yogas are better at teaching different skills and releasing different developmental fixations, and that there are many different yogas that are far superior to IDL at teaching many important skills. In addition, there are prepersonal, personal, and transpersonal approaches to all yogas. Personal approaches are superior to prepersonal approaches, because they transcend and include them. Transpersonal approaches are superior to personal approaches, for the same reason. However, animals and children do not need transpersonal level perspectives. Imagining children as miniature avatars steals their childhood and places enormous pressures on them to conform to collective expectations. Ask Krishnamurti. Having a tool shed full of tools is a good idea, but then we have the issues of clutter, possible confusion, and over-identification with a self-definition of homo habilis. For example, lucid dreaming is best learned by focusing on that skill set as a specific discipline, about which considerable is known at this point and for which many aids and tools exist. The same can be said for Nidra yoga, or the practice of waking up in deep sleep. That is a specific, high level competency that assumes a great degree of meditative clarity, which requires the previous development of specific lines that are necessary for that skill set. IDL does not focus so much on the development of this or that particular line as much as learning the basic ingredients of waking up in any state and then learning to balance those components at whatever level of development we are currently inhabiting. While cognitive multi-perspectivalisms focus on changing worldview, for example, getting 10% of a population to “second tier,” PEMs focus on moving from psychological geo/heliocentrism to polycentrism, from interpretations largely by self and others to interpretations supplemented by those of interviewed subjective sources of objectivity. PEMs focus more on balance than transcendence, more on integration than transpersonal exceptionalism. IDL does so because we have observed many, many cases of people focusing on excellence in one or another line, such as the cognitive or that of spiritual intelligence, and becoming increasingly imbalanced, with the result a lack of congruency perceived at a gut level by “normal” people, and sometimes leading to a precipitous collapse in credibility. While those knowledgeable regarding the transpersonal can feel secure because they can point to their outstanding competence in understanding the integral worldview, meditating regularly and having had transformational mystical experiences, they can find themselves failing in other important areas because they have not cultivated the necessary balance. IDL has found that the development and maintenance of such balance requires a phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalism. IDL as a yoga emphasizes the development and balance not only of the cognitive and self-system but moral core lines. While the cognitive line leads in self-development, the moral line leads in collective development, including the development of the internal and external collective quadrants, both of which must tetra-mesh for development level to level to progress. 

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga has been used traditionally within Hinduism to quiet and balance the body in preparation for meditation. In the twentieth century several types of hatha yoga have become very sophisticated and distinct, emphasizing endurance, energy flows, flexibility, or breathing.

IDL encourages the use of hatha yoga in several contexts. It can be used as a stand-alone exercise routine; it is excellent preparation for meditation because it relaxes the body and focuses the mind as well as strengthens muscles used for prolonged periods of sitting. It can also be used as a yoga, or transpersonal discipline, in its own right.


It is impossible to compare IDL to pranayama, per se, because there is no one yogic tradition regarding pranayama. Experts from different types of hatha yoga, including Integral, Iyengar, Kundalini, Ashtanga, Viniyoga, and Kirpalu, teach different approaches to pranayama. This variety results in part from the brevity of the ancient texts upon which modern practices are based. Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, for example, which dates not from before the third century BCE and possibly as late as the fifth century CE, is the core source for most forms of Hindu yoga. Pranayama is the fourth ‘limb’ of the eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga mentioned in verse 2.29. Patanjali presents pranayama as essentially an exercise that is preliminary to concentration. It says that lengthening the exhalation can help to reduce disturbances of the mind, but doesn’t offer detailed techniques for doing so. Most instructions on pranayama date only from the Yogashastra, written between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries. At present, in the absence of scientific studies of competing claims, there is no one “best” approach to pranayama, and appeals to tradition or personal benefits are as easily made by one tradition as another. The approach to pranayama that you learn is probably going to be the one you favor.

What follows are some of the differences in approaches to pranayama and explanations for how IDL approaches and encourages use of breath. It then encourages you to triangulate by consulting various authorities you respect, seeking the council of high scoring interviewed emerging potentials, and weighing both sources against your own common sense to create an approach to pranayama that works for you.

Breath As Prana

Pranayam is a Sanskrit word meaning “extension of the prana or breath” or “extension of the life force.” The word is composed of two Sanskrit words, Prana, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, and “ayam,” to extend or draw out. (Not ‘restrain, or control’ as is often translated from ‘yam’ instead of ‘ayama’). In the classical Hindu sutras on pranayama, prana can refer to breath, respiration, breath of life, principle of life, energy, vigor, spirit, soul, “spirit-energy,” or “vital air.” It is not only found in air, but in blood. It is in its most concentrated form in semen and vaginal fluid. Five “vital airs” are generally assumed, but as few as three and as many as ten may be described. Five types of prana are responsible for various pranic activities in the body, they are Prana, Apana, Vyan, Udana & Samana. Out of these Prana and Apana are most important. Prana is upward flowing and Apana is downward flowing.

IDL views prana as one more emerging potential, one perceptual facet of one’s life compass. All emerging potentials are manifestations of prana, life force, vital energy, and vigor; they also contain it. Subsequently, prana does not have the ontological primacy it holds in pranayama. Breath is used in IDL to anchor awareness in the here and now, where life and choice reside. It does so with three different exercises, naming, recognition and objectification of the five skandhas adapted from Buddhism, and becoming the six core processes and qualities associated with stages of the cycle of each breath.

IDL reflects the tradition of hatha yoga in the core quality of confidence, which is associated with awakening, abdominal inhalation, birth, awakening each morning, and spring. It is the doorway to fearless action within every breath because it is the negentropic defiance of inertia, failure, and death. IDL practices the amplification of this core quality as a type of yoga when it identifies with emerging potentials that score high in confidence, honors them by acting in ways that reflect not phony, superficial confidence in self, but confidence in the priorities of one’s life compass. It also encourages the integral life practices of hatha yoga and pranayama, using an emphasis on abdominal inhalation to bring rebirth, higher levels of awareness, and fearless confidence into the here and now.

Pranayama, or the observation of breath, like dreams and dreaming, are here to stay. They are not primarily cultural or social phenomenon, although they come in and out of fashion and are approached in very different ways by different people in different centuries. This is one reason why IDL takes a deep dive into both. Everyone has an intimate, personal, and ongoing relationship with breath on a sensory level, regardless of whether or not that is expanded into emotional, cognitive, and transpersonal realms or not. However, the reality of its universality, as well as its availability for expansion into all of these realms, means that breath work is going to be more central to human awareness in five thousand years, not less. Similarly, the fact that there is no genuine integration without addressing the dream state means that dreams and dreaming are likely to become more, not less, a foci of human awareness with passing centuries. Therefore, the intersection of pranayama and dreaming represents a vast, largely unexplored ocean of human potential. Hinduism has done the best job to date, by far, of addressing this relationship, so we are wise to build on that knowledge and experience.

You will encounter emerging potentials that naturally are more capable at waking up, overcoming fear, having self-esteem, and expressing themselves assertively and confidently than you are. It has been observed that when people attempt to enact their recommendations they gain an increased ability to interface both with others and their daily activities from a space that is awake and confident. When we become emerging potentials that score higher than we do in wakefulness we are moving into trans-rational approaches to enlightenment. We can cultivate this consciousness during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation.

Observing And Becoming

As we shall see, classical pranayama watches, manipulates, controls, and stops your breath. This can be extremely valuable if your goal is to enter trance or to learn to hold your breath for extended periods of time, for example in free diving. With IDL, you are encouraged to become your breath rather than to observe it or manipulate it; you identify with its viewpoint, worldview, or perspective. The difference is that the typical dualism between breath and self is reversed; instead of breath objectified and witnessed, as in classical pranayama, in IDL self is objectified and witnessed. The result is that you no longer breathe; breathing breathes you. Breath becomes alive; you no longer live life. Life lives you.

This has major implications for our understanding of development. Growth is no longer about self-realization or becoming one with All in some future samadhi. Instead, it is about looking at your thoughts, feelings, actions, and sense of self from perspectives that more closely approximate that of life itself and coming to understand that you are not alive; life is alive. You cannot die, because you were never born any more than a character in a dream is born. To support observation of breath, IDL encourages interviewing breath, as in the example below. Doing so teaches and strengthens identification with its perspective so that practicing IDL pranayama becomes more understandable and natural. Here is an example of an interview with breath. The reader is encouraged to do their own.

What Are Three Fundamental Life Issues That You Are Dealing With Now In Your Life?

1 Not overeating!

2 Increasing balance.

3 Deepening and expanding the six core processes/qualities.

Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Not overeating.

What feelings does this issue bring up for you?

Irritation, frustration, impatience.

Now become your breath. Let your breath breathe you. Experience the room, your nostrils, throat, lungs, bloodstream, cells from its perspective. Breath, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I’m being me: a sea of potential that can be taken in and used to enliven, wake up, and evolve awareness. That’s how I’m being used by this particular configuration of stuff. The part of this “stuff” that uses language calls the whole thing “human” and, more specifically, “Joseph.”

Breath, what do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I like what I am; a source of life for anyone and anything that wants to use me to be alive and to grow.

Breath, what do you dislike most about yourself? Do you have weaknesses? What are they?

Others might view my transparency and inobtrusiveness as weaknesses, but I fill up whatever space is made for me.

Breath, what aspect of Joseph do you represent or most closely personify?

I don’t. He personifies me. I’m life. From his perspective, I also personify life.

Breath, if you could be anywhere you wanted to be and take any form you desired, would you change? If so, how?

I do change form, and I am anywhere I want to be! So why would I want to change?

Breath, how would you score yourself 0-10, in each of the following six qualities: confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing? Why?

Confidence, 0-10. Why?   10 How do you hurt or kill air? You can change my composition, but I’m still me.

Compassion, 0-10. Why?     ? I don’t give myself selflessly because I don’t have a self to give selflessly.

Wisdom, 0-10. Why?           ? I simply am what I am; when you mix me with things they tend to transform!

Acceptance, 0-10. Why?   10 Time doesn’t exist for me. I am not on a clock; I am not in a hurry.  I don’t have anything I need to accomplish before quitting time or before I get old and die, because I neither start nor quit, nor do I get old and die.

Inner Peace, 0-10. Why?    10 There’s no “me” to get stressed!

Witnessing, 0-10. Why?     10 I observe everything; through you, I can even observe myself!

Breath, if you scored tens in all six of these qualities, would you be different? If so, how?

I would be identified with a self, and I don’t want to do that because it limits me.

Breath, how would Joseph’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

Centered; awake.

Breath, if you could live Joseph’s life for him, how would you live it differently?

I DO live his life for him! I would have him get out of the way more, so I can live his life for him more fully!

Breath, if you could live Joseph’s waking life for him today, would you handle Joseph’s three life issues differently? If so, how?

Not overeating: This one is difficult for me, since I don’t eat. I flow without preference. Perhaps if he ate without preference, yet with enjoyment and awareness, things would shift.

Increasing balance: I am balanced in my expression; become me to become more in balance!

Deepening and expanding the six core processes/qualities: He knows this and does this already when he becomes me.

Breath, what life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Joseph’s life?

It’s funny – I’m life, but I’m not alive. I make life possible because I transcend and include it. If I were it, I couldn’t create it or be a potential for it to grow into. I would recommend he spend more time learning to look at life from outside of life. That would mean to be more aware of my timeless and spaceless nature and to weave that into the present moment. Let me breathe YOU!

Breath, In What Life Situations Would It Be Most Beneficial For Joseph To Imagine That He Is You And Act As You Would?

Whenever he wants to be one with everything.

Breath, do you do drama? Do you get into playing the Victim, Persecutor, or Rescuer? If not, why not?

When you have no self, when you can’t die, when you have no preferences, there is no drama.

Breath, why do you think that you are in Joseph’s life?

Better ask, why is Joseph in my life? The only possible answer is, “It’s just one more amazing thing!”

Breath, how is Joseph most likely to ignore what you are saying to him?

He loses sight of amazement easily.

Breath, what would you recommend that he do about that?

Remembering to be amazed, moment to moment, would help.

Thank you, Breath! Now here are a couple of questions for Joseph:

If this experience were a wake-up call from your life compass, what do you think it would be saying to you?

See the big picture! Don’t sweat the small stuff; Everything is small stuff!

The main advantage of doing such an interview is that it grounds the interviewee in the interviewed perspective for the period of time that they take to do the interview. The more such interviews are done, the more consciousness expands, which means our sense of self thins and broadens. It also is an education in detachment from the perceptual cognitive distortions that normally filter out life when breathing, meditating, or doing normal daily activities. The normal, daily activity of breathing is treated with respect and approached as having an unusual degree of value and relevance through the process of being interviewed, which changes and deepens our relationship with it. Of course, this is not only true for breath, but any personification or dream image and, beyond that, with those feelings, cognitions, and sensory anchoring that a particular image personifies.

Manipulation And Control Of Breath And Awareness Of Breath

This example creates a clear distinction between both the understanding and use of breath in traditional yogic pranayama and IDL. According to Taimni, hatha yogic pranayam involves manipulation of pranic currents through breath regulation to control chitt-vritti and changes in consciousness, whereas raj yog pranayam involves the control of chitt-vritti by consciousness directly through the will of the mind. Notice that in the above interview there is no attempt to manipulate or control breath, nor is the goal to change consciousness through the will of the mind on the body or its direction of prana. In the Bhagavad Gita, pranayama is mentioned in verse 4.29 as, “trance induced by stopping all breathing.” Although character identification involves some degree of disidentification and then identification with some other perspective that is perceived as “other,” “not-self,” IDL is not interested in inducing trance states because it views states as inherently temporary and in no way correlated with one’s stage of development. Psychic abilities and near death mystical experiences, for example, are not indicative of higher developmental levels, only of powerful or expanded temporary states. However, for those who do want to induce trance states, pranayama is undoubtedly an effective way of doing so. While full character identification can be powerful and quite impressive, and does happen from time to time, it is not an object of IDL interviewing.

The essential goals of traditional pranayama are transcendence, freedom from suffering, and unification with the immortal Self. While IDL also uses breath to achieve transcendence and freedom from suffering, it diverges from yoga in the third area. It views self development, including Self realization, as a component of personal stages of development. Transpersonal developmental stages involve the dissolution of identification with all definitions of self as “real,” including soul and Atman, while continuing to use them as upaya – skill in means. Disidentification occurs normally as you identify with emerging potentials, because awareness naturally expands without manipulation or control. This can be seen in the interview with Breath, an emerging potential that is fundamentally selfless and whose consciousness clearly transcends and includes that of the subject’s waking identity. You are strongly encouraged to do your own interview of Breath, using the above interviewing protocol, and see if these same conclusions hold true for you.

In contrast, traditional yogic pranayama employs a number of sophisticated practices designed to direct, control, deepen, and stop the breath. These involve the subtle psychospiritual physiology of nadis, or subtle energy channels of the body, and chakras, or vibrational and karmic energy centers in the body, alternate nostril breathing, Ujjayi breathing, rapid diaphragmatic breathing, breathing ratios, breath holding, and bandas, or energy locks. These are undertaken, for example, in kundalini yoga, to prepare the body, nervous system, and mind to handle the energy of Kundalini rising. In contrast, IDL does not focus on conditioning the body or raising the kundalini, but on listening to and applying the recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials. If your recommendations encourage such practices as part of your integral life practice, by all means, use them.

Advanced breathing practices in traditional pranayama require the preliminary purification and strengthening of the nadis through the practice of various kriyas or cleansing practices. Purification is a major priority for many forms of classical yoga, based on the assumption that it is a prerequisite for maintenance of expanded consciousness. What this can do is make a religion out of purity and generate all sorts of cult rituals based on beliefs that are largely superstitious, in that they are based on scripture rather than on triangulation. Ayurveda provides many examples.

Alternate nostril breathing is another commonly recommended pranayama exercise. I first learned about it from the Edgar Cayce readings and practiced it first in 1963 when I was thirteen. It is called Nadi Suddhi in Sanskrit. The fingers and thumb of the right hand are used to close off first one nostril and then the other. It starts with an exhalation and an inhalation through the left nostril, followed by a full breath through the right, with the whole pattern repeated several times. Kundalini Yoga uses alternate nostril breathing as a method to cleanse the nadis, or subtle channels and pathways, to help awaken Kundalini energy.

Ashtanga yoga teaches Ujjayi Pranayama (Victorious Breath) during asanas to keep the mind focused. By returning again and again to the subtle sound of breath, the mind is forced to concentrate and become quiet. Students practice Ujjayi breathing while adding a pause at the end of the exhalation, a pattern called Bahya Kumbhaka. Then they reverse that pattern and pause at the end of the inhalation, a pattern called Antara Kumbhaka.

Kapalabhati, or rapid diaphragmatic breathing, consists of multiple rounds of rapid breathing in which the breath is forcefully expelled from the lungs with a strong inward thrust of the abdomen. Students might start out with one round of fifteen breaths in quick succession and build up to several hundred breaths in one round. An important element of Kundalini Yoga is the Breath of Fire, a rapid diaphragmatic breath similar to what’s called Kapalabhati in other traditions. One teacher of Kundalini gives these instructions: “Open your mouth and pant like a dog, or pretend you’re a Saint Bernard in the Mojave Desert.”

Some types of pranayama incorporate specific breathing ratios, such as inhaling for a count of ten while exhaling for a count of twenty. It is common to recommend that exhalation be twice as long as inhalation.

Stopping the breath is known as Kumbhaka, or “retention.” It is important for Integral and Kundalini yogas because “it super-injects prana into the system and builds up tremendous vitality.” The halt after inhaling, i.e., Puraka is called Abhyantara Kumbhaka. After exhaling, i.e. rechaka, it is called Bahya Kumbhaka. Two more types of Kumbhaka are mentioned. Iyengar yoga teaches and encourages the use of Viloma, or “stop-action breathing,” in which a number of pauses are interspersed into the breath, first during the exhalation, then during the inhalation, and finally during both. The purpose is to teach students how to direct the breath into specific areas of the chest, ensuring that the entire rib cage is fully activated while breathing deeply. “Viloma allows you to work on a piece of the breath at a time, and it also allows you to be more subtle in terms of placement, developing steadiness, control, and inwardness.”_

Traditional pranayamas often teach the use of three “energy locks,” Mula Bandha (root lock), Uddiyana Bandha (abdominal lock), and Jalandhara Bandha, (chin lock). With the Mula Bandha, while breathing, the pelvic floor and the belly are gently drawn inward and upward so that the breath is directed into the upper chest. It uses the same muscles that are commonly used in cutting off the flow of urine from the bladder. The mula bandha is meant to assist in breath holding as well as maintaining certain types of spinal alignments. In Kundalini Yoga, the application of bandhas aid to release, direct and control the flow of Kundalini energy from the lower centers to the higher energetic centers. Because IDL does not emphasize either breath holding or spinal alignment exercises, it has no opinion on these. If you want to take up any of these yogic practices as part of your integral life practice, you are encouraged to experiment with them.

Variable And Cyclic Breath Order

In Yogashastra, the pranayama breathing process chiefly involves two activities, inhaling and exhaling. Of these the former is called Puraka or purak, , “taking the breath inside,” and the latter Rechak or recaka, “discharging” breath. Integral Yoga and some other forms add a third, kumbhak, or retaining the breath. Integral Yoga views three-part deep breathing as the foundation of all the yogic breathing techniques. “Studies have shown that you can take in and give out seven times as much air—that means seven times as much oxygen, seven times as much prana—in a three-part deep breath than in a shallow breath.” Various schools of pranayama further divide the breath. For example, in what is called Deergha Swasam, Integral yoga students are instructed to breathe slowly and deeply while envisioning that they are filling their lungs from bottom to top—first by expanding the abdomen, then the middle rib cage, and finally the upper chest. When exhaling, students envision the breath emptying in reverse, from top to bottom, pulling in the abdomen slightly at the end to empty the lungs completely. This is a different order of exhalation from some other forms of pranayama. For example, Kundalini teaches to first exhale from the diaphragm, then the middle rib cage, and then the upper chest. This follows the adaptive response of those life forms with autonomic nervous systems and diaphragms. The belief is that consciously imitating the unconscious and “natural” form of breathing used by animals and humans while asleep or unaware of their breathing creates a deeper, healthier, more controlled, and more powerful breath, allowing longer breath holding for free divers who can use it to learn to hold their breath for five minutes or more, or those who wish to go into trance and stop breathing. To date, there have been no studies that compare the effectiveness of the two approaches. Whichever type is learned tends to be preferred. IDL encourages you to experiment with both and decide for yourself when each works best for you.

In practice, IDL agrees with those yogic traditions, like Integral, that teach cyclical breathing. In Deergha Swasam, Integral yoga students are instructed to breathe slowly and deeply while envisioning that they are filling their lungs from bottom to top—first by expanding the abdomen, then the middle rib cage, and finally the upper chest. When exhaling, students envision the breath emptying from top to bottom, pulling in the abdomen slightly at the end to empty the lungs completely. In Iyengar yoga pranayama, the belly is kept passive, and the lower ribs are activated first, followed by the middle ribs, and finally the upper chest—as if filling the chest from the bottom to top, Ashtanga yoga advocates six different pranayama techniques practiced in a seated position with the eyes open. In the first technique, students practice Ujjayi breathing while adding a pause at the end of the exhalation, a pattern called Bahya Kumbhaka. Then they reverse that pattern and pause at the end of the inhalation, a pattern called Antara Kumbhaka. Once mastered, these practices are integrated into a single sequence: three Ujjayi breaths with no breath holding, three Ujjayi breaths with exhalation retention, and then three Ujjayi breaths with inhalation retention. Mula Bandha and Uddiyana Bandha are engaged throughout, and Jalandhara Bandha, the Chin Lock, is added only during the inhalation retention. The second practice in the Ashtanga sequence combines the retentions learned in the first sequence into each breath cycle, so that the breath is held after both the inhalation and the exhalation. The third sequence builds on the second, this time adding alternate nostril breathing, and the fourth incorporates Bhastrika (Bellows Breath), a rapid, forceful, diaphragmatic breathing that’s similar to the practice Integral Yoga calls Kapalabhati. The more advanced practices build upon the first four in ever more complicated and demanding patterns.

In Viniyoga, students are often taught to inhale from the top down, emphasizing an expansion of the upper chest first, then the middle torso, then the lower ribs, and finally the abdomen. The assumption is that chest-to-belly expansion helps deepen the flow of breath.

Most types of pranayama teach awareness of three parts of each inhalation and exhalation: abdominal/diaphragmatic, ribs, and chest. To this, pauses at the top and bottom may be added. IDL generally encourages awareness of two parts of each inhalation and exhalation, because its goal is not primarily a full breath but an aware breath. If students of IDL want to add a third component to inhalation and exhalation there is no reason why they cannot.

IDL views breathing as a microcosmic mirroring of the macrocosms of the cycles of daily life, the seasons, and life itself. It uses the round of breath to move into harmony with these cycles. This is also a goal for most forms of pranayama; those approaches that follow inhalation with chest, then abdominal exhalation follow that cycle. Processes and qualities associated with the cycle of breathing in IDL:

abdominal inhalation Awake Confidence Waking Birth Spring
Chest inhalation Alive Empathy Work Development Late spring
Pause Balanced Wisdom Competency Mastery Summer
Chest exhalation Detached Acceptance Unwinding Retirement Fall
abdominal exhalation Free At peace Going to sleep Death Winter onset
Pause Clear Witnessing Deep sleep Post-death Winter

Taught In Sequence Vs. Integrated

In the Integral yoga tradition propounded by Swami Satchidananda, pranayama is incorporated into every yoga class. A typical session starts with asana, moves on to pranayama, and ends with seated meditation. Pranayama follows asanas and precedes seated meditation. It considers Asana (hatha yoga) as meditation on the body and pranayama as meditation on the breath and subtle energy currents within us. It then works with the mind directly, with the ultimate aim of transcending body and mind and experiencing the higher Self. For Kripalu Yoga, breathing exercises are just as likely to be offered before asana practice as after. The Ashtanga practice of Pattabhi Jois is very breath-oriented, introducing a kind of pranayama from the moment one begins the practice, In Kundalini Yoga, breathing practices are integrated into all classes along with asana, chanting, meditation, and other cleansing practices designed to liberate healing flows of energy from the base of the spine. In Iyengar, pranayama is taught after grounding in asanas. In Viniyoga, breathing is the foundation upon which all other practices are built.

IDL teaches pranayama as a meditation tool. Meditation is often recommended by interviewed emerging potentials, with the suggestion that one meditate as this or that emerging potential, just as Breath recommends in the interview above.

While classical pranayama has the draw of cultural tradition behind it, the different practices do not harken back to any particular notable authority, and this process is ongoing, as can be seen in the multiple approaches in various schools of hatha yoga. Students are rarely provided with an overview of alternatives and given a choice as to how to proceed. Instead they are presented the preferred method as if it were the best, right, or only way to practice pranayama. Because IDL is multiperspectival, it believes that practice should be grounded in rational, objective information instead of simple belief and faith, whenever possible. That is why it encourages you to explore different approaches to pranayama as well as ask your interviewing emerging potentials about your own practice to attain their concurrence or recommendations for how you can improve your practice.


Consideration of the chakras, or energy centers, is also integral to the Kundalini tradition. Students are encouraged to feel the breath originating from the lowest three chakras at the base of the torso to bring forth the prana, the life force, from the source, The source is the mother, the Earth. Kundalini is the term for “a spiritual energy of life force located at the base of the spine,” conceptualized as a coiled-up serpent. The practice of Kundalini yoga is supposed to arouse the sleeping Kundalini Shakti from its coiled base through the 6 chakras, and penetrate the 7th chakra, or crown. This energy is said to travel along the ida (left), pingala (right) and central, or sushumna nadi – the main channels of pranic energy in the body. Kundalini energy is technically explained as being sparked during yogic breathing when prana and apana  blend at the 3rd chakra (naval center) at which point it initially drops down to the first and second chakras before traveling up to the spine to the higher centers of the brain to activate the golden cord – the connection between the pituitary and pineal glands – and penetrate the seven chakras.

As an adolescent I had a heavy with chakras and chakra-related meditation through my exposure to the Edgar Cayce readings, which adapted them to endocrine physiology, levels of transpersonal and meditative awareness, the Book of Revelation, and even the Lord’s Prayer. Cleansing and opening the chakras was emphasized as a “safe” road to enlightenment, in comparison to the use of hallucinogens. I cannot say that the model or practices stuck with me; they were too esoteric and metaphysical for my tastes or disposition, I suppose, and their Christian associations and adaptations lost their salience as my studies of comparative religion relativized the Christian worldview. Nevertheless, the concept is powerful and profound, and I discuss how it can be integrated with pranayama in Seven Octaves of Enlightenment: Integral Deep Listening Pranayama.

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti yoga teaches union with the divine through self-forgetting love and devotion, puja. Prominent recent Hindu practitioners of Bhakti yoga include Sri Ramakrisha and Parmahamsa Yogananda. Bhakti is a faith-based tradition that focuses on surrendering to an I-Thou relationship with the divine. Hindu family, temple, celebratory, and monastic life are full of elements of bhakti, from chanting the names of God, to pilgrimages and sacred festivals, to the offering of gifts and sacrifices.

IDL views faith as the foundation for reason, and reason-based belief as the foundation for transpersonal development. They build on each other. In the languaging of Integral, reason includes and transcends faith/belief and the transpersonal includes and transcends reason. Consequently, transpersonal life is grounded in and based on faith and belief. Those who believe that they can attain and practice a transpersonal reality without beliefs, trust, and faith are delusional. Just because beliefs, trust, and faith are made to first pass through the sieve of reason, logic, and the objective duplicatability of empiricism does not mean that they do not exist in transpersonal experience, nor does it indicate that prepersonal forms are of lesser importance as resources for healing, balancing, and transformation. While IDL does not have devotional practices per se, and therefore lacks one of the chief defining characteristics of both religions and spiritual paths, it does have beliefs that require both faith and trust. It is important to recognize that these are both belief and rationall-based choices.

Examples of IDL beliefs that require both trust and faith include listening to imaginary, fantasy, or mundane characters, such as goblins, spoons, and spit; trusting to get into and stay in role; trusting both the method and the interviewer; having faith that the effort of applying the resulting recommendations will not be wasted effort; trusting that waking up in waking life is a wise pre-requisite that will support any practice of lucid dreaming or lucid deep sleep; trusting that bad and irrational things that happen in life are best treated as wake up calls; trusting that an on-going habit of practicing IDL is a worthwhile, beneficial use of precious time and effort. All of these are genuine prepersonal examples of trust, faith, and belief. They do not go away just because students learn to question these beliefs or develop a strong sense of self separate from IDL or any other integral life practice. They sustain and direct both personal rational and transpersonal experiential effort.

IDL reflects the tradition of bhakti yoga in the core quality of acceptance, which is associated with detachment, chest exhalation, unwinding after the day’s work, retirement, and the withdrawal of life that autumn manifests in nature. Chest exhalation can be used to generate faith and belief within every breath by surrendering yourself, your priorities, your efforts, in trust. It can create a space for receptivity to deeper balance and to a broader definition of who you are. IDL practices the amplification of detachment as a type of bhakti yoga when it identifies with emerging potentials that score high in acceptance and honors them by selfless devotion. It also encourages the integral life practice of surrendering, chiefly through giving up the delusion that life is about you. In addition, we encounter emerging potentials that naturally are highly accepting. When we enact their recommendations we gain respect for ourselves and others that comes from the embodied worldview, which supports our ability to merge with others in I-Thou relationships, such as bhakti yoga advocates. When we become such emerging potentials we are moving into a subtle state of unitary, meditative oneness. This is done during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation. 

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is union with the divine attained through disinterested service. Gandhi’s satyagraha, a form of non-violent resistance, is a classical and important example of karma yoga within the Hindu tradition. The four successive stages of life within Hinduism, called asramas, can be viewed as expressions of karma yoga. These are the role of student, with a focus on study and rigorous discipline, without distractions, as childhood training in virtues associated with karma yoga, attention, obedience, and reverence. Teachers are looked upon as spiritual parents. When students marry and settle down they are called householders. They perform karma yoga by fulfilling their duties to their community and country and by pursuing wealth and pleasure within moral law. A few Hindus seek out the third stage of karma yoga, the life of a recluse. After children have been raised, Hindu society traditionally honors the right of spiritual seekers to experience freedom from all social bonds & responsibilities. They may retire to the forest, meditate on spirit and practice detachment from the fruits of their actions, a core teaching of karma yoga. This is considered a second period of preparation and probation, the first being the time spent in youth as a student. The final stage, Sannyasin, involves renunciation of all earthly possessions and ties, and is a degree of practice of karma yoga attained by very few within Hindu society. A Sannyasin operates within no caste, ceremonial, cultural, or religious ties or limitations.

The contrast of these life stages with Western culture are powerful. The three stages and roles of student, worker, and retiree are secular; they are not framed as spiritual disciplines in the West and do not occur within the context of religion, although you will find notable scattered examples, such as the Protestant work ethic, originally developed as service to God, since salvation came through works, not faith, and Mormon missionary service, in which education and work occur within the context of religious duty.

IDL is not pursued as a religious practice, nor is it pursued as a spiritual practice, if such is contrasted with secular effort, as karma yoga is in relationship to work in the West. However, it is not pursued as a secular, humanistic, psychotherapeutic, or merely pragmatic solution to some of the ills of the world either. For example, it is not about reincorporating one’s shadow. IDL attempts to spiritualize the secular not by a yoga based on spiritual doctrines such as karma, and dharma, as in Hinduism, but by a yoga based on the carrying out of the recommendations of interviewed emerging potentials that meet the conditions of triangulation. That is, they must also be reasonable to respected others and to your own common sense. The difference here is that IDL is a type of yoga that does not seek validation by a superstructure of beliefs, as religions and many spiritual practices do, nor is it a transpersonal psychotherapy invested in dissipating shadow and accessing self-actual Izard on and transcendence.

IDL reflects the tradition of karma yoga in the core quality of empathy, which is associated with aliveness, abdominal inhalation, the day’s work, career, and early summer. Empathy is the core aptitude of compassion when empathy is understood as validated right understanding of the perspective and interests of others that motivates us to both generosity and selfless service. Empathy generates excess energy in addition to that required to sustain one’s own life. It provides the motivation for giving and represents a concrete movement out of egocentrism, through ethnocentrism, to worldcentrism. IDL practices the amplification of this core quality as a type of yoga when it identifies with emerging potentials that score high in empathy and honors them by selfless service. It also encourages the integral life practices of basic life skills: parenting, communication skills, recognizing scripting, drama, and goal setting.

It is not unusual to encounter emerging potentials that naturally are more capable at living in the world, getting things done, and being in the flow during daily activities, such as work, communication, and relaxation than we are. When we attempt to enact the recommendations of such perspectives we gain an increased ability to be both alive and flowing in our expression of life through our daily activities. When we become emerging potentials that score higher than we do in compassion, or which refuse to score themselves in it at all, we move into trans-rational approaches to aliveness and service. We can cultivate this consciousness during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana yoga, or union through transcendent divine knowledge, was expounded and practiced by the great

monist Vedanta philosopher, Sankara. He famously wrote:

First I gave up action,

Then idle words,

And lastly thought itself.

Now I am here.

Ridding my mind of distraction,


I shut out sounds and all the senses,

And I am here.                                                                    Ashtavakra Gita 12:1-2

In the Ashtavakra Gita you are told to find a quiet place, free from disturbances, such as a forest, the foot of a tree, or an empty house. You should sit cross-legged with your body erect. Then you should proceed to mindful breathing, npnasati, in which you are expected to breathe in and out consciously and with awareness. The subjects of meditation are taken up when the mind is calmed and brought to a point of concentration through this meditation.

Jnana yoga emphasizes successive objectification, or cultivating the witness. It teaches the objectification first of emotions, belief, and faith, then action, then cognition itself. Rather than ceasing these activities, which is a concrete, literal interpretation that leads to extreme asceticism, a more realistic and practical reading involves the giving up of attachment to each of these. This is an important distinction, because meaningful work in the world, including service to others, requires these constituents of experience. A literal interpretation of jnana has led to types of withdrawal and detachment that amount to abandonment of the fate of community and culture. When jnana is used to access the wellsprings of life and then bring that life back into everyday relationships, it becomes an immeasurable good not just for oneself, but for society and culture.

While witnessing of belief, emotion, reason, and self may be problematic when overdone, it is difficult to argue that the ability to do so when necessary or desirable is far superior to lacking such abilities, as most people do. The inability to witness our beliefs means that they define us; the inability to witness our emotions means that they control us; the inability to witness our actions means that your reality is determined by them; the inability to objectify our thoughts means that, like Descartes and cogito, ergo sum, we never grow beyond a self-definition as a thinker. The inability to witness our sense of who we are means that we will remain a victim of our personalizations. Jnana yoga is a path that teaches liberation from all of this.

Jnana yoga is not only excellent preparation for lucid dreaming; it is absolutely essential for the cultivation of deep sleep awareness. IDL reflects the tradition of jnana yoga in its core quality of inner peace, which is associated with the freedom of radical cessation, abdominal exhalation, going to sleep, death, and early winter. Abdominal exhalation can be used to move into extreme freedom. Instead of postponing moksha to the work of the sannyasin stage of life, a more favorable incarnation, or to the end of samsara, why not experience it within each abdominal exhalation? Why not totally surrender your sense of self with each exhalation, using each of the other qualities to increase your ability to do so with the next abdominal exhalation? Doing so can create a space for radical freedom that springs from surrender and detachment from our thoughts, feelings, relationships, hopes, and dreams. IDL practices the amplification of freedom as a type of jnana yoga when it uses abdominal exhalation to completely empty oneself of oneself throughout the day.

In addition, we encounter emerging potentials that naturally are in various states of meditative consciousness. When we attempt to enact their recommendations we gain the clarity that comes from their perceptual stance, which supports our ability to meditate. When we become such emerging potentials we are moving into one or another state of unitary, meditative oneness. This is done during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation.

Raja Yoga

The Yoga Sutras were written by Patanjali about 2000 years ago and are the classical text on raja yoga. He provides a very narrow definition of yoga as “…the control of thought-waves in the mind.”_ Judge’s translation says, “Concentration, or Yoga, is the hindering of the modifications of the thinking principle.” Feurerstein has it as, “the restriction of the whirls of consciousness,” (citta-vritti-nirodha). Patanjali’s definition of yoga is narrow even by classical Hindu standards and is best understood as referring to one particular type of yoga, and is in itself one of a number of legitimate definitions of that particular branch or “limb” of yoga. For example, the Bhagavad Gita defines yoga as three separate paths, karma yoga, the path of action, bhakti yoga, the path of devotion, and jnana yoga, the path of knowledge. Much more broadly still, another classical Indian text, Yoga Bija, states, “Yoga is said to be the unification of the web of dualities.” Another, the Yoga-Yajnavalkya, states, “Yoga is the union of the individual psyche with the transcendental Self.”

Within Hinduism, the Sanskrit term yoga is most frequently interpreted as “union” of the individual self (jiva-atman) with the supreme Self (parama-atman.), as the two quotes above do. This is a Vedantic interpretation, which means it is mainstream Hinduism. Patanjali believed in dualism, not monism. As we have seen, he embraced a system of Indian metaphysics called Samkhya, which teaches a strict dualism between Spirit, purusha, and matter, prakriti. In contrast to most classical interpretations of yoga, Patanjali does not see yoga as concerning union: “In Patanjali’s Yoga-Sutra…there is no mention of a union with the transcendental Reality as the ultimate target of the yogic endeavor. Given Patanjali’s dualist metaphysics, which strictly separates the transcendental Self from Nature prakriti and its products, this would not even make any sense.”

The problem is that when you set up your world in dualistic terms of good and bad, purity and impurity, right and wrong, being in control and being out of control, you are essentially echoing the shamanistic worldview. You are going to exclude many perspectives, people, and legitimate spiritual activities that do not meet your criteria and expectations. This is in fact what religions and most spiritual paths do. Such exclusivity is usually an early personal life stance masquerading as something more evolved and more enlightened. It is not a transpersonal perspective, because the sacred transcends and includes everything, including “involuntary mind.” To inhibit it is to inhibit ourselves, which means to wage perpetual war on ourselves. Inhibition, in and of itself, is not a very loving or spiritual approach, although it can indeed produce samadhi as a state. However, it does not by itself produce samadhi as a stabilized level of development. This having been said, there is merit to Patanjali’s basic position, in that no serious work ever gets done unless we exclude distractions and learn to focus our attention. Exclusivity is an essential element in the antithetical stage of the developmental dialectic, which is how the sacred manifests in and through form. Yet another way of saying this is that exclusivity and inhibition in the name of purification are helpful, yet neither necessary nor sufficient vehicles for enlightenment.

Elements of control in IDL that can be compared to the raja yoga tradition include the paradoxical control involved in choosing to give up control when identifying with an emerging potential; the control necessary to continue to do interviews, to read them over before sleep, to create a self-scoring structure to use every day before bed, to practice naming and observation of the cycle of breath, or to hold oneself accountable for the application of chosen recommendations. All these practices are exclusionary, in that they mean giving them priority over checking emails, surfing the internet, chatting with friends, or doing countless other “essential” tasks. In this sense, all preferences and choices are exclusionary because we are necessarily rejecting alternatives. IDL also has no problem with Patanjali’s dualistic understanding of reality. It sees the basic human duality as between our sense of self and the perceived “other,” whether an internal thought/emotional/dream “other” or an external human, environmental, or mystical “other.” To pretend this dualism does not exist is not helpful. It is wiser to recognize that it is stronger and has greater adaptive value in some circumstances than others. For example, in mystical experience, few if any dualisms apply, but in diagnosing appendicitis, many distinctions are necessary. IDL practices becoming one with the other via identification, and by so doing, reducing, if not eliminating for the moment, the experience of duality. However, for IDL, the perception of duality is as necessary and genuine as that of oneness and as unnecessary and illusory as both oneness and duality.

IDL also reflects the tradition of raja yoga in the core quality of wisdom, which is associated with balance, the pause after inhalation, mastery of a day’s work by getting into the flow, proficiency, and late summer. The pause after inhalation can be used to balance alertness and relaxation, action and receptivity, male and female, within every breath by emphasizing that part of our breath that gives us what we need. If our mind is racing, we need to emphasize our exhalations to get into balance; if we are daydreaming or drowsy, we need to emphasize our inhalations to get into balance by bringing oxygen, wakefulness, and focus to our brain. The pause after inhalation can create a space for the wisdom that springs from equilibrium and homeostasis and that puts us in the right place at the right time to say and do that amplifies the six core qualities within ourselves and others. IDL practices the amplification of wisdom as a type of raja yoga when it balances inhalation and exhalation throughout the day.

In addition, we will encounter emerging potentials that naturally are more wise than we are. When we attempt to enact their recommendations we will gain greater discrimination toward views, the usefulness of different activities, and how to best proceed with different relationships that are important to us. We are more likely to find ourselves  in the right place at the right time and able to spontaneously say and do that which supports awakening. When we become emerging potentials that score higher than we do in wisdom we are moving into trans-rational consciousness of one sort or another. We can do so during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation.

Integral Yoga

The “integral yoga” referred to here is not the hatha yoga of the same name, nor is it the yoga expounded by the Hindu pandit and mystic, Sri Aurobindo, also called Integral Yoga. It is integral in the sense designated by the phrase, “integral life practice” and popularized in a book by the same name, mentioned above, by Wilber, et. al. It captures the spirit of those attempts within Hinduism, such as the amazing work of Aurobindo, to integrate all the different yogic traditions of India. It attempts a synthesis of hatha, karma, raja, bhakti, and jnana yogas. What is particularly noteworthy about Wilber’s effort is its breadth. It not only takes into account all these yogas, but adds what it calls “shadow work,” based on the discoveries of Western psychology, as well as deeply honoring interpersonal relationships. It provides excellent disciplines for the development of body, mind, spirit, shadow as well as auxiliary disciplines in the areas of ethics, sex, work, emotions, and relationships.

IDL honors the integration of yogas in the core quality of witnessing, which is associated with clarity, the pause after exhalation and before inhalation, deep sleep, life after death, and winter. It is the doorway to creativity and luminosity within every breath because it objectifies all filters, defenses, conflicts, restrictions, identities, and excuses. IDL associates this approach to yoga with both vision-logic, the stage of development following late personal and preceding nature mysticism, as well as non-dual awareness, which is the integration of all stages of development. Hinduism calls this state of non-dual awareness a separate, fourth state of consciousness, turiya. “The bliss of turiya (the fourth state of consciousness beyond the waking state, dream state and deep sleep state) arises, or is woven through all the different states of waking, dream and deep sleep.”

IDL practices the amplification of this core quality as a type of yoga when it identifies with emerging potentials that score high in witnessing and honors them by observing whatever is going on, including whatever perspective one is identified with at the moment. Regarding meditation, it encourages using first the amplification, then the balancing of all six core qualities and processes to generate an expansion of luminosity, cosmic humor, and abundance. These qualities are in turn objectified.

IDL is meant to coordinate and conduct integral life practice. This is because it takes our developmental goals, as well as the yogic disciplines we propose to use to attain our goals, and submits them to the priorities of life compass through the process of IDL interviewing. Instead of our yogas being directed by who we think we are, our locus of control, our psychological geo and heliocentrism, it is directed by triangulation, which emphasizes the input of interviewed emerging potentials. This is a very different approach to choosing yogas or integral life practices. The result is that we do not waste time pursuing goals or practices that are not priorities for how life wants to use us, for who life wants to shape us into. It reduces the likelihood that we will meet with resistance in our practice because we will have not only ongoing assurance that we are supporting the priorities of our life compass, but also engaging in yogas that it supports. An explanation for how this process works can be found in Waking Up, by this author.

In addition, we encounter emerging potentials that naturally express themselves from a perspective that can only be considered non-dual. When we attempt to enact their recommendations we gain the ability to both witness and integrate the other yogas and stages of our development. When we become such emerging potentials we are moving into a non-dual relationship with life, in which life flows through us in an increasingly non-filtered way. This is done during interviews, daily activities, as recommended by the emerging potential, and during meditation.

Dreaming, Deep Sleep, and Drama in Hinduism and IDL

Types Of Dreams In Hinduism

The doctrine of two truths shows up in Hindu dream interpretation. There are good, meaningful, and spiritual dreams, and there are bad, meaningless, and secular dreams. The first type of dream contains a deity, guru, psychism, or awareness of the sacred. These dreams tend to be literal, because they are free of delusion. The second type has a monster, trickster, delusion, or experience of daily mundane confusion or drama. These dreams tend to be metaphorical and symbolic or demonically concrete, because they are products of samsara. The dreams in the first category are to be listened to, with the help of a holy man or dream interpreter if the meaning of the dream is not obvious and literal. The second type of dream is a distraction and the creation of your impure mind.

You can see from this fundamental categorization that Hindu dream interpretation relies on the perceptual assumptions of the dreamer and/or dream interpreter, rather than suspending such assumptions and instead interviewing characters in the dream itself in order to find out if they put themselves in one or the other category. This separates most approaches to understanding dreams from that taken by phenomenologically-based experiential multi-perspectivalisms (PEMs). You may also notice that this classification schema is a manifestation of both naïve realism and psychological geocentrism, in that it assumes that the perception of the dreamer and/or the interpreter is an accurate perception of the dream. In this regard, Hindu dream interpretation is fundamentally shamanic, in that a Hindu dream interpreter and his categories would be understood by a shaman and his or her hunter-gatherer community.

IDL suspends this distinction between spiritual and non-spiritual dreams in favor of listening, in a deep and respectful way, to the perspectives of interviewed dream characters. When we do so we find that  interviewed dream characters not only do not usually make a distinction between the sacred and secular; they generally disprove this shamanistically-rooted approach. For example, most monsters and villains, when interviewed, are found to be conveyors of wake-up calls rather than menacing persecutors, as perceived and assumed by most dreamers in most nightmares. These wake up calls are usually found to be in the service of greater development. Anyone can interview characters from their most mundane dreams and see for themselves that spoons, boogers, and spirulina can have as much, if not more, to say about the sacred and enlightenment as God, Buddha, or your deceased Aunt Martha. We cannot predict what is sacred and spiritual and what is mundane in a dream from our waking perspective because we lack the objectivity of those perspectives that are authentically and intrinsically embedded in the dream. This concept can be tested by taking any dream we recall, writing associations to it, that is, what we think it means, do an interview with one or more dream character of our choice, and then compare dream interpretations made by interviewed characters with our own, initial interpretation.

Our inability to predict what is sacred or secular makes sense when we realize that our “dream self” that perceives and interprets the dream while dreaming it, is only one subset of the context that created the dream. We are a part that presumes that it has the objectivity to adequately grasp the whole of which it is only one component. It is like the tail wagging the dog, children believing they are adults, or blind men grasping different parts of an elephant and declaring they know the true nature of the entirety of the elephant. We have to become various dream perspectives before we have the objectivity to begin to see the context that transcends and includes all dream perspectives, particularly our own. Dream Sociometry is superior to normal IDL interviewing in this regard in that it typically interviews dream self, four or five dream characters, and dream consciousness, or the perspective that created the dream itself. All of this provides a basis for comparing perspectives and not only seeing how limited our waking interpretations are, but gaining a much broader picture of the dream than is otherwise available. Dream Sociometry is IDL dream yoga on steroids. Through the comparison of multiple dream character perspectives we learn that dreams are not good or bad, divine or mundane; they are perspectival; they present different relevant points of view that we need if we are to move into a more integral perspective toward our lives.

Svapna Yoga

Svapna is Hindu dream yoga. Like the Tibetan Buddhist yoga it inspired, svapna teaches lucid dreaming. The first known textual description of lucid dreaming dates to before 1000 BCE from the Upanishads, the Hindu oral tradition of spiritual lessons, philosophy and proverbs. The Vigyan Bhairav Tantra is another ancient Hindu tract that describes how best to direct consciousness within the dream and vision states of sleep. It says, in Tantra 7, “With intangible breath in center of forehead, as this reaches heart at the moment of sleep, have direction over dreams and over death itself.” Dreaming is one of four states of consciousness (avasthatraya). The other three are waking, avaboda, which is viewed as an illusion, and deep sleep susupti, which is like a state of deep, unitary unconsciousness, and turiya, which is the wakeful integration of all three states. While both dreaming and waking are considered to be illusory states, deep sleep is considered to be more real, because in it you are one with Brahman.

Svapna yoga assumes that if you learn to wake up in your dreams you will, by analogy, learn that your waking life is a similar dream and wake up out of it as well. In addition, lucid dreaming is a place to practice being the god that you are as Atman. You do so when you fly, fall and do not die, travel to heavens and hells, or seek the council and training of dream gurus. Like shamanism, Indian dream yogas tend to view such experiences as real. What you are doing in your dreams when you are lucid you really are doing; you really went to heaven or hell; you really met with this or that guru, you really did receive this or that initiation. Also like shamanism, practicing such god-like actions in lucid dreams is an expression of power.

“The Advaita explanation is that the ‘undifferentiated, distinction-less nature of sleep experience demonstrates the true non-dual nature of the consciousness that persists throughout, and remains unaffected by, all three phenomenal states’ of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. The experience of the continuity of the individuality from waking, dreaming, deep sleep and back to the waking is because of the active mind that recalls memory of the individual. Sankaracarya declares that the experience of the state of deep-sleep is a glimpse of the self’s real nature, where there exists no ‘I’, the subject of experience” (Srinivas).

The fundamental assumption of svapna yoga, is that dreams can be a source of enlightenment. Dating from at least Shankara, the assumption of Hindu dream yoga, regarding lucid dreaming is that if you learn to wake up in your dreams you will, by analogy, learn that your waking life is a similar dream and wake up out of it as well. This is exactly the reverse of the assumption of IDL, which says that if you learn to wake up out of your waking dream you will take that awakened perceiver into your dreams and wake up out of delusional perceptions of dream events. However, there is no doubt that the freedom experienced in lucid dreaming is an expansion of the capabilities of the self and therefore creates a redefinition of it that supports magical abilities as human realities. This is a conclusion that is in agreement with the shamanistic world view and is very different from the conclusions of Shankara that strive for universal wakefulness in all states as a consequence of union with Brahman, rather than through practicing specific forms of lucid dreaming. This may be one explanation for the lack of a well-developed dream yoga in Hinduism such as exists in Tibetan Buddhism. Like Wilber’s Integral AQAL, Shankara focuses more on the nature and attainment of turiya rather than the means of getting there through waking up in the dream state. Why? Brahmanism, a development that arose with the Aryan invasion of India, saw itself superior to the indigenous shamanic cultures with their emphasis on magic and power, both of which could also be associated with the magical freedoms of the self in the lucid dream state. Tibetan Buddhism, in contrast, grew up in tandem with the indigenous Bon shamanism of Tibet and actively incorporated many of its elements into Buddhism. This may explain why it, in contrast to both Hinduism and Theravadin Buddhism, has an elaborate dream yoga. As for Wilber and Integral AQAL, it follows the Hindu and Buddhist assumption that dreaming is a relatively delusional state and overlays that framing with a further assumption, derived from twentieth century psychology, that dream characters are best viewed as aspects of self. 


Because no system is immune to the deceptive and destructive dynamics of the three roles of the Drama Triangle, persecutor, victim, and rescuer, IDL does not reduce the immense value of Hinduism by pointing out ways that it is immersed in the Drama Triangle. There is nothing intrinsic to Hinduism that makes the Drama Triangle inevitable, but only various invitations to the Drama Triangle that make its indulgence likely.

For example, the concept of lila, divine play, invites analogies to games that involve victims, persecutors, and rescuers. This invitation is accepted by three cosmic game players, first Shiva, the divine persecutor of creation, second, the victim, the self, which is one with Brahman, but unaware of it, and the divine rescuer, Vishnu. To make the drama more interesting, each is accompanied by a female counterpart, Siva by Sakti, goddess of power and destruction, Braman by Sarasvati, goddess of speech and learning, and Vishnu by Lakshmi, goddess of wealth and prosperity. Together, all these provide endless possibilities for good, cosmically sanctioned drama, as readers of the Mahabarata will attest.

Drama is also provided by the human predicament. Illusion, in the form of samsara, is the persecutor, along with various asuras, or demon spirits, or the gods themselves, if they become displeased. The various yogic margas, purity, gurus, dharma, karma, moksha, and sat, cit, ananda function as rescuers of humanity from its self-created predicament. However, as in all good drama, the roles switch. Rescuers become persecutors when it is found that enlightenment is like Zeno’s paradox: you’re always half-way there. Gurus are discovered to be frauds; claims for meditation are found to be overblown. Dharma rescues, unless you fail to fulfill your vama or duty; then it will persecute you with bad karma. Of course dharma, when seen correctly, is neutral and above drama for Hinduism; you are persecuting yourself. Rescuers become persecutors when it is realized that the holiness of dharma and karma justify injustice and generations of socially-sanctioned inequality. Rescuers also become persecutors when purity is seen to be self-avoidance, self-rejection, and a perpetual creator of internal conflict.

None of this is particular to Hinduism; what does seem to be particularly strong in Hinduism, however, is a sense that the world is a persecutor and that escape from the world is freedom, rather than just another rescuer. The problem is that no matter where you are, as long as you are somebody, there you are. You generate reality based on your current sense of self. There is no reason to believe that existence as Atman is an exception to this universal rule.

This brings us to the second aspect of Hinduism that tends to support the Drama Triangle exceptionally well, its focus on Self. While self with a small “s,” ahamkara, is a persecuting prison, a formulation that guarantees that life will take place within the tender confines of the Drama Triangle, in contrast, Self is a rescuing oneness with deity. Hinduism is largely an attempt to escape the self and be rescued by the Self, with the help of those who are “Self-realized,” that is, by gods and gurus. But life is not about either the self or the Self; these concepts emerge with the evolution of consciousness and language, and fade away as empathy gives way to multi-perspectivalism.

Recognizing the Drama Triangle is one important example of such multi-perspectivalism. When we can identify all three roles at work within Hinduism, our lives, and most importantly, within our thinking and feelings right now, we are no longer identified with one perspective within the Drama Triangle. We are identified with a perspective that simultaneously sees three core aspects of samsara. From such a vantage point, moksha, or liberation, is the ability to recognize and stay out of the Drama Triangle in whatever state of consciousness we happen to be in: blissful or grumpy, meditating or day dreaming, lucid dreaming or lost in dream drama, incarnate or not. Karma is then repurposed as a description of life within the Drama Triangle. Dharma becomes the ability to access those perspectives that throws the most positively transformative mixture of the six core processes and qualities onto the problem at hand: poverty, greed, scarcity, dog training, homework, dirty dishes, breaking an addiction, having patience with the ignorant.

The challenge is to remember that unlike Hinduism, detachment from the Drama Triangle is relative. While moksha is radical and final liberation from rebirth, recognizing our immersion in the Drama Triangle and electing to stay out only kicks us into a version of the game on a higher, more subtle level. When we realize that nobody wins when we argue with our partners and swear off, we are not automatically free of arguments with ourselves, inside our heads. That is a higher order, more subtle version of the Drama Triangle.


We have investigated a number of characteristics of the four quadrants of Hindu consciousness. We have seen that in the individual internal quadrant of personal development that Hinduism emphasizes life as samsara, and moksha, freedom from rebirth by an eternal Self, as the ultimate personal developmental goal. We have seen that in the collective interior quadrant of values and interpretation that Hinduism sees life as similar to a dream in that it is illusory, and that the values of dharma, duty, karma, cause and effect, detachment, and wisdom are central to its worldview. We have seen that in the external individual quadrant of behavior that right action and empirical yogas are emphasized, and in the external collective quadrant of interaction, that following prescribed social roles, including relationships to teachers, gods, parents, and caste members, is strongly emphasized.

Hinduism shares with IDL a respect for a multiplicity of life forces and perspectives. While it is not multi-perspectival in the sense that it does not encourage believers to become a multiplicity of worldviews, it respects multiple perspectives and is extraordinarily inclusive. Hinduism tolerates within it views of many deities, one god, a personal god, a transcendent god, man as separate from God, man as one with God, and atheism. This degree of inclusiveness, respect, and acceptance is extraordinary for a religion. Consequently, Hinduism strongly expresses, among the six core values of IDL, acceptance, which is strongly associated with the process of detachment. It is also extraordinary in its cultural emphasis of both witnessing and wisdom.

From the perspective of IDL, the limitations of Hinduism come from the core values that it does not emphasize. Those are principally empathy, and secondarily, confidence to challenge limiting and abusive cultural norms. The lack of empathy is partially due to an over-emphasis of its great strengths, acceptance and detachment. This created a disregard of inequality and injustice, while its emphasis on wisdom justified a de-emphasis on human rights by a sophisticated belief system of cosmic law, karma, and duty. The lack of socio-cultural empathy meant a deficit in aliveness, its associated process. People were stuck in their social roles within the Hindu caste structure; their ability to choose individual life paths and relationships that would reflect their passions or the priorities of their inner compass were often blocked. Consequently, personal and societal potentials were not reached due to a lack of freedom of action in the social sphere. Hinduism remained trapped within the shamanistic cosmology of heaven, earth, and hell and within its dualisms, between sacred and profane, pure and impure, reality and illusion. What might Indian culture, what might Hinduism, have become, if it had emphasized empathy and confidence as much as it did acceptance, wisdom, and witnessing?” The result would have been a higher order balance that would allow all four quadrants of the societal holon to transform. Inner peace can then exist not only as a personal value, but as a societal reality. The result is that the long-hoped goal of Hinduism, moksha, could be found in the secular and mundane of a dream-like world, just as the process of freedom accompanies the value of inner peace.

Hinduism is a living religion; Indian society has transformed and continues to transform. Since the early twentieth century India has been awakening to its deficits. It has admirably recognized its imbalances and torn down caste laws, creating new opportunities for individual growth and societal aliveness. It has demonstrated a great advance in individual and societal aliveness in conjunction with a great awakening, mostly from a collision with Western cultural values. Therefore, Hinduism and India are balancing the six core qualities today in a way they never have before. New opportunities for inner peace, freedom, and moksha are available to enlighten the entire world.


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