Tibetan Dream Yoga and Integral Deep Listening

What is Tibetan Dream Yoga?  As we have seen in our discussion of Theravada, Buddhism is different from all other major religious traditions in a number of noteworthy aspects. It is based on the concept of interdependent co-origination rather than a rescuing force, deity, or avatar. In addition to not believing in an eternal soul or self, Buddhism is atheistic.  It also does an unusually good job of balancing ontological affirmations of what is real with a deep recognition of our inability to rationally make such affirmations.  Buddhism is historically non-violent.  It supplements faith with reason, asking followers to question and test its assumptions and practices. It emphasizes prescriptive injunctions, thereby offering empirically verifiable experiments subject to evaluation by those trained in similar methods.  In this regard, the various schools of Buddhism together undoubtedly provide the most sophisticated and thorough exploration of meditation available in any religious tradition.  Buddhism is also the only major world religion which has meditation as its central practice.

What was Gautama’s understanding of yoga? Buddha subscribed to a narrow definition of yoga. He said, “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind. If a man can control his mind he can find the way to enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.” Buddhism lays out an empirically testable set of yogic injunctions to follow as a spiritual discipline, called the Eightfold Noble Path. Like both Theravadin and Mahayana Buddhism, the purpose of Tibetan Buddhism, sometimes called Vajrayana, is to awaken out of the delusion of the dream of life to end suffering and become enlightened.  In this very broad sense, all of Buddhism can be considered a dream yoga. Vajrayana generally portrays itself as the integration and transcendence of all yogas. Unlike Theravadin Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, emphasizes a dream yoga which includes lucid dreaming, something that it shares with svapna, or Hindu dream yoga. Some schools of Buddhist thought, such as Zen, view dreams and dreaming as illusory, distractions, makyo, to be ignoredHowever, if dreams are seen as sources of spiritual direction, they are to be interpreted and followed, as Milarepa does within the Tibetan tradition; if they are seen as a tool for enlightenment, then one undertakes a particular practice while dreaming. Tibetan Buddhism has developed sophisticated strategies for awakening while asleep so that one can experience the expansive freedom that accompanies waking up out of self-created delusion.

What is the ultimate goal in Tibetan dream yoga? To attain conscious awareness while dreaming, called “apprehending the dream,” and then dissolve the dream state. When deprived of physical stimulus (from the sleeping body) and conceptual stimulus (from the dreaming mind), one can observe the purest form of conscious awareness. Like waking, dreaming is to be replaced by Nirvana. Two classics edited by W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Tibet’s Great Yogi, Milarepa, and Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines, demonstrate a long tradition of interest in dreams and dreaming by Tibetan spiritual adepts.

As history advances, sacred traditions make new interpretations of old truths. Because all traditions reinterpret their traditions in terms of their present contexts, there are significant differences between how Tibetan Dream Yoga is now being taught and how it was understood in say, the time of Milarepa.  Because the context of today’s Tibetan Dream Yoga has the advantages of models from physics, other religious traditions, holism, and over two thousand years of Western philosophy as well as psychology and integral psychology, they will be broader and wider than traditional, classical teachings of Tibetan sutras.  Consequently, when sutras are cited below, it is important to remember that different students in different historical periods will interpret them in different ways and that what is said about traditional Vajrayana may not apply to how it is understood and practiced today.

If Tibetan Buddhism is your path of choice, Integral Deep Listening (IDL) wants to help you make it more alive, meaningful, and useful in your life. In the following sections we will explore some ways to do so.

How does Tibetan dream yoga view waking experience? The purpose of this Tibetan dream yoga is to learn to “wake up” in your dreams as a way to learn to “wake up” while awake, from the dream of life in all states – waking, dreaming, and deep sleep. Tibetan Dream Yoga uses waking up in dreams to teach the dreamlike nature of existence.  The purpose is to help students wake up out of dukkha, or a state of suffering that generates karma through identification with the five skandhas of body, sensations, feelings, perception, and consciousness itself.

What does it mean to be delusional in each of the four quadrants of the human holon? IDL emphasizes the sources of misery and blocked development that are found in waking identification with delusions in all four quadrants of the human holon. In the interior individual quadrant of consciousness, the delusions of your thinking and feeling, as well as your sense of who you are, are due to your level of development. Because it is subjectively immersed in experience, your sense of who you are lacks the objectivity to recognize its delusions. In the interior collective quadrant of values, and interpretations, you are delusional because you are a product of the cultural assumptions into which you were born. You act on cultural and linguistic assumptions that are completely arbitrary and have nothing to do with your inner compass. In the exterior individual quadrant of behavior, your actions do not bear fruit because they represent delusional thoughts, feelings, and values rather than your inner compass. In the exterior collective quadrant of relationship, society, and systems, your macrocosm is a delusional out-picturing of your delusional assumptions about who you are and what you need to do to be happy. That macrocosm cannot help you change because whatever it does you interpret in terms of your present level of development and your cultural filters, neither of which has anything to do with deep listening.

From the perspective of life, as revealed by IDL interviews, there is little difference between waking and dreaming. Our waking life dream has qualities of drama, myth, soap opera, and many of the characteristics of our night time dreams.  In both we assume that we are awake when we asleep in dreaming.  In both we assume that others are real and are not aspects of ourselves.  These are both delusions that are core misperceptions.  In this respect, both dreaming and waking are regressive, delusional states of consciousness. IDL emphasizes these sources of the dreamlike delusion of waking identity, while Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes karma, ignorance, craving, past life influences, and the influence of good and bad spirits. Your sociocultural scripting gets in the way of how you understand Tibetan Buddhism; it acts as colored glasses that predispose everything you see, hear, or touch to seem a certain way. However, these glasses do not only change the color of what you experience; they are fun-house glasses that change things radically. Experiments have been done with glasses that invert whatever one sees. Reality is upside down. It does not take the brain long to compensate for this and to make everything look right-side up, even though you are seeing it upside down! Your survival scripts automatically transmute what people say and what you read into information that validates your life position. If to do so it needs to see someone as a threat, it will do so; if you need to chunk your morals overboard to fulfill your social roles, you most likely will do so.

The good news is that your inner compass is relatively free of such filters. As you learn to access it, you learn how to see the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism free of biases and prejudices that largely exist outside your awareness. You move out of your delusional world view; you wake up more quickly in your practice.

What does it mean to have a “non-dual” approach to reality? Transpersonal, or mystical, states are typically differentiated into four types: energy (nature mysticism), bliss (saintly or devotional mysticism), emptiness (the Path of the Sages or formless mysticism), and non-dual.  Energy states focus on purity, power, and control.  Blissful states focus on unity and universal love.  Emptiness is about radical detachment from thinking, feeling, sensations, and, most importantly, a sense of separate self.  Transcending and including all three is the non-dual, which integrates transcendent non-being, called Nirvana by Buddhistswith the mundane and delusional world of samsara.  All four of these are emphasized in Tibetan Dream Yoga.  Instead of emphasizing any of these aspects of the transpersonal, IDL focuses on amplifying six core qualities, confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing, that are intrinsic to the round of breath and life and are associated with being awake in any state.  As such, they ground awareness regardless of your level of development or your present state. This is why: Life is fearless because it cannot die. Therefore, it is free and self-confident.  Life transcends love and its opposites, fear and hate, in the embrace of compassion.  Life is wise; it accepts itself and all others.  Life has profound inner peace.  It has the objectivity of clear witnessing. It is awake, alive, balanced, detached, free, and clear. As these qualities and processes are accessed and amplified through identification with interviewed dream characters and the personifications of your life issues, your consciousness expands to include increasingly broader, more inclusive perspectives that are not completely non-dual, but moreso than you are. Consequently they represent attainable approximations of the non-dual that keep expanding as you do. Consequently, accessing and identifying with interviewed emerging potentials supports and strengthens movement into the non-dual through the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.  In addition, application of the recommendations that they make in your day to day life ground your deep listening in action. We shall see how this practice is highly compatible with Tibetan tantric deity yoga.

In the Mahayana tradition, the principle of pratītyasamutpāda complements the concept of emptiness (sunyata). Because all things arise in dependence upon causes and conditions, they are empty of inherent existence. A classic expression of this relationship was provided by the renowned Indian scholar Nagarjuna in the twenty-fourth chapter of his Treatise on the Middle Way.

Whatever arises dependently

Is explained as empty.

Thus dependent attribution

Is the middle way.

Since there is nothing whatever

That is not dependently existent,

For that reason there is nothing

Whatsoever that is not empty.

Geshe Sonam Rinchen explains the above quote as follows: “Here Nagarjuna states the Madhyamika or middle way position. Everything that exists does so dependently and everything that is dependently existent necessarily lacks independent objective existence.” We can see this easily with dream characters; they interdependently arise and interact over the course of a dream, both in response to the presence of each other and to their interactions with our waking identity as it appears in dreams, called “dream self.” However, it is less easy to place ourselves, as we are experiencing a dream, in the same ontological status as the rocks, houses, animals, people, and spirits that occupy our dreams. They are delusions; we are real. While we are dreaming we attribute to them a waking degree of objective reality instead of attributing to ourselves the same interdependent insubstantiality that they possess. Even when people learn to lucid dream they continue to assume that they are real; it is only the dream environment that is an illusion. Although you can do things while dreaming that you cannot do when awake, such as fly, die and resurrect, or be hurt and not experience pain, you will still assume that you are real, within your illusory dream body, not only while dreaming, but also when awake and reviewing your dreams. You may look at the other characters as self-created delusions, but you yourself in the dream – you are real.

Buddhism and IDL agree that this is a misperception. The correct perspective is that you have as much reality as the characters in your dreams. They certainly possess “otherness,” autonomy, and some unpredictability, and so do you. However, their ontological status is ad hoc; their existence is dependent on the existence of the group as a whole. The fate of all is interdependent; they arise and fall together, and dream self, yourself in the dream, is no exception to this.

Seeing beneath the appearances of own-being within dreams, as within life, is a window into non-dual reality. Things do not disappear or go away; you do not evolve into a space where you no longer dream. Instead, what changes is your sense of separateness from other characters and their actions. What happens to them is seen to be occurring to you, not only because you begin to wake up and recognize them as parts of yourself, but because you recognize yourself to be part of them. 

Non-dual perspectives are not only empty, in that there is no entity or thing witnessing or possessing a perspective; they are empty in that there is no “thing” to perceive or witness.  There is no distinction between the knower and the known, emptiness and samsara.  The six core qualities that personify aspects of human potential within IDL are themselves dual.  The direct experience of these qualities is, at best, non-dual.  It is the experiencing of confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing directly, not the cognitive understanding of them, that wakes up students to more inclusive, transcendent, and transformative perspectives.

Tibetan Buddhism routinely encourages disidentification when it instructs chelas to become this or that Bodhisattva during meditation or an empowerment. IDL does so whenever a student becomes a dream character or the personification of a life issues. In IDL, disidentification with waking identity, is thanatomimetic. That is, it is imitative of death. Disidentification is a practice in dying, in that you are surrendering your sense of self so that you can deeply listen to the perspective of the emerging potential which you have chosen,  Regardless of how broad and inclusive your waking identity becomes, it can always be surrendered to access another perspective that contributes to and thereby broadens it.  Identification with other emerging potentials awakens your waking identity by broadening your sense of who you are.  The result is a greater, more profound death of self and rebirth into the non-dual. The result is more clarity, more wakefulness, more enlightenment.  This is one of the easiest and quickest ways to both dissolve and expand identity, yet without inflating it through identification with a false identity.

The emphasis of both Hinduism and Buddhism on detachment from rebirth and therefore from physical existence and the termination of dreaming does not make sense to many Western minds. They wish to psychologize this belief, out of a recoiling from the nihilism they associate with the  idea that life is something to avoid. They want to celebrate life, to view the involutional turn of the sacred as one of the two hands of life, and to therefore reinterpret the Buddhist tradition as “really” not life-denying. However, an objective reading of Buddhism makes this conclusion very difficult to maintain. There are many data points that support the opposite conclusion. First, the doctrine of skandhas makes clear that sensory experience is one of the five components that support and maintain not just identity, but another one of the skandhas, consciousness itself. You cannot have physical life without sensory experience. You cannot have non-physical life without consciousness. Detachment from sensory experience is intrinsically part of the waking up process within Buddhism. This is termination of sensory experience itself, not detachment from identification with sensory experience. Another clear indication that Buddhism intends the cessation of incarnation is the bedrock assumption that life is samsara, delusion, and dreamlike. The goal is clearly stated that you need to not only stop dreaming, because dreams are productions of samsara, but living. You can’t be physically incarnate and be fully alive, because the state of being identified with the skandhas is intrinsically a state of delusion.

How can this view not be nihilistic? The problem is not in the Buddhist view, because it is not nihilistic; the problem is in the level of development of the audience, interpreters, and commentators. This can be easily understood if one looks at the nature of mystical and near death experience. It is not uncommon for people who have these experiences to be so overwhelmed by them that earthly life is pale by comparison; they become burnt out on life; they yearn for a return to the glory, awe, majesty, love, sacredness, oneness, and light of their rapturous experience. Life is simply no more attractive; most of these people not only do not fear death; some of them welcome it with open arms.

This perspective can only be viewed as “crazy” and nihilistic to those who have not had such experiences, but it makes perfect sense to those, such as Gautama, who have had clear, unfiltered glimpses of a reality that is not conditioned by the senses or the normal filters of the mind. That is not to agree, however, that life is not worth living because its nature is samsara, or with those who have become jaded on life because of mystical experiences. The way that Buddhism typically finds the middle way on this issue is through the doctrine of upaya – incarnation after nirvana for the purpose of service, as a manifestation of compassion. Enmeshment in samsara is justified as an act of personal sacrifice, with a psychological reasoning not so different from God incarnating as Jesus to save humanity from its sins. The state of reincarnation is perilous even for Buddhas, because their actions have consequences; they are creating karma which can keep them coming back. While upaya is an ideal for every man and a way to make the best of life in prison, its purpose is to help everyone else escape prison, because from a Mahayana Buddhist point of view, you are not free until I am, since we are all interdependently co-originated. For Gautama, the world free of sensory experience is immeasurably superior to life in the world.

This fundamental problem regarding the purpose of existence does not exist from the perspective of IDL. That is because at any point you can take the perspective of emerging potentials that are already free, now, at this moment. We know they are existing in a relatively non-dual reality by their own testimony and by their scores of ten in all six core qualities of fearless confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. When you identify with such a perspective you move out of the duality of future freedom and present enslavement as well as the duality of enlightened “other” and delusional self. When you do so, there no longer is a distinction between life and death, purpose and nihilism, reality and delusion, nirvana and samsara.  As long as you stay in such a perspective, it does not matter whether you are incarnate or not. This is what is called a “non-dual” perspective, and it is generally considered to be the highest or “end” of the spectrum of developmental stages. However, it is also understood to be an always already existing state that can be accessed by anyone, here, today, now. IDL interviewing is one way to do so, perhaps not with the intensity and life-changing drama of a mystical experience, but in bite-sized, absorbable, self-chosen, repeatable doses that can gradually build toward an ongoing non-dual perspective onto life.

What are the origins of the concept of “no self” in Buddhism? It arises out of the teaching that all things are impermanent.  If this is the case, there are no lasting substantial realities, including selves.  These are understood to be processes rather than “things.”  A self becomes a verb rather than a noun, a happening rather than a static state of beingness.  The direct and personal experience of no self, is an experience of radical freedom.  While that awareness can arise as the result of decades of meditation, it is available to anyone who cares to question the nature of a dream rock, cloud, animal, or human, either while dreaming or in an IDL interview. This is not a normal recognition from an IDL interview, but it is there within almost any interview for those who choose to look for it. Personality is then seen as useful artifice, as a tool like language or one’s fingers, whose purpose and function is to create a context for a fuller expression of the spirit that animates it.

In IDL the concept of “no self” arises out of the death of one’s self sense that comes when identity is surrendered for another during identification with this or that emerging potential.  It also arises out of the thinning and broadening of the self as one identifies with more and more emerging potentials. This is extenuated when those emerging potentials themselves are directly experienced as having no self.  Consequently, the experience of “no self” is accessible to beginning students of IDL and deepens over time. Therefore, IDL interviewing can help practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism to experience and amplify an awareness of anatma. In addition, merging in meditation with emerging potentials that experience life from a non-dual perspective moves you into that space, depending on the depth of your allowance of that identification.

Why does Tibetan Buddhism emphasize waking up out of ignorance and self-delusion?  As in all Buddhism, ignorance and self-delusion are due to attachment to transient, perishable things.  This attachment is desire, craving, or clinging.  The path to the cessation of suffering is called the Eightfold Path or the Middle Way between the two extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. The Eightfold Path involves laying a foundation of wisdom through cultivating healthy perspectives and intentions, ethical conduct through cultivating healthy speech, action, and livelihood, and developing one’s mind through right effort, mindfulness, and concentration.  Buddhism says: do these things and wake up out of ignorance and self-delusion.

What is the importance of a dream yoga for the Tibetan tradition? Dreaming is viewed as a state in which one can gain access to spiritual masters from the past or in heavenly realms.  One of the reasons one would want to learn lucid dreaming is to access such teachings to discern the illusory nature of all states, and to thereby wake up, or become enlightened.  Dreams, dream yoga, and lucid dreaming have relevance and purpose if they help you wake up out of ignorance and self-delusion.  IDL also emphasizes waking up out of ignorance and self-delusion. It encourages you to listen to the advice of respected others. including your spiritual teachers. Listen to and follow those teachings that improve your life, whether from Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism, or any group or culture. Interview emerging potentials, especially high-scoring ones, regarding your life issues. Listen to interviewed emerging potentials that are more awake than you are.  This is a contribution that IDL can make to Tibetan Buddhism. Because your inner compass is more likely than anyone else to know what you need to do or not do to wake up, your practice of Tibetan Buddhism should move both more smoothly and more rapIDLy when you know you are following the priorities of your inner compass.  Other people’s solutions, or the remedies of religions and movements, are non-specific to your unique condition and circumstances.  They are cultural solutions that have been found to work, yet tend to not be specifically tailored to you and your needs. In addition to listening to emerging potentials that are more awake than you are, it is also important to listen to those that are stuck or even more asleep than you are.  That is because they will pinpoint both blocks and their solutions quickly and effectively. When you combine feedback from respected teachers of Tibetan Buddhism, interviewed emerging potentials, and your own common sense, you increase the likelihood that you will wake up more quickly. Apply those emerging potential recommendations in your life that make sense and support your practice.

How does a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism incorporate IDL? Here is an example of an interview from an American who has been a dedicated student of Tibetan Buddhism for over fifteen years. He has taken numerous empowerments more than once, including both mother and father tantra. He states, “I’ve accumulated information here and there [about Tibetan Buddhism] for decades through readings, references, some contacts and intuitional dream images. Formally though, my real studies began with meeting my main Tibetan Buddhist teacher in 1998. My meeting came at an interesting, rather intense point in my life; I was diagnosed with throat cancer and [was] coming to terms with treatment. I’ve written about it in an article called Visionary Encounters with Cancer and Buddhism. My main teacher who has taught me the most is Gelek Rimpoche.

The interview was in response to a request for subjects who had near death experiences. The purpose of the research was to see if IDL could help near death experiencers, years after their transformational experiences, to use them in their current life circumstances.

What are three fundamental life issues that you are dealing with now in your life?

1 Using my experience to help others in the mental health field.

2 Maintain my health and enhance and heal some of it

3 Connecting more with the Dharma.


Which issue brings up the strongest feelings for you?

Connecting with the dharma. Tibetan Buddhism is the foundation of my life. My connection with the Dharma is like the connection with that Being in my near death experience. It was about total liberation, being totally free of attachment, omniscient.

 If those feelings had a color (or colors), what would it be? 

A beautiful, lustrous, engaging, very rich and numinous Coral Red!

 Imagine that color filling the space in front of you so that it has depth, height, width, and aliveness.  

Now watch that color swirl, congeal, and condense into a shape. Don’t make it take a shape, just watch it and say the first thing that you see or that comes to your mind: An animal? Object? Plant? What? 

The female Buddha Vajrayogjni!

Now remember how as a child you liked to pretend you were a teacher or a doctor?  It’s easy and fun for you to imagine that you are the shape that took form from your color and answer some questions I ask, saying the first thing that comes to your mind.  If you wait too long to answer, that’s not the character answering – that’s YOU trying to figure out the right thing to say!

Vajrayogini, would you please tell me about yourself and what you are doing?

I am sitting in a chair, fully present, showing up in different positions sometimes! Showing up right in front and simultaneously in a chair! I’m sitting and interacting with you!

What do you like most about yourself? What are your strengths?

I’m here to remain in an enlightened state of profound bliss and wisdom and to help all beings without exception.  My strengths are to know where each person is at and be there for them, to offer insight into becoming free.

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


Vajrayogini, what aspect of Bob do you represent or most closely personify?

I represent his absolute nature and the parts of him that he’s working on purifying to attain my state.

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

I would stay the way I am!

(Continue, answering as the transformed object, if it chose to change.)

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

Confidence:   10; I’m enlightened; I see all of it as it as the play of sensual  nature; it’s all dependent arising appearances.  I’m  free of all of that.

Compassion: 10

Wisdom: 10

Acceptance: 10

Inner Peace: 10

Witnessing: 10

How would Bob’s life be different if he naturally scored like you do in all six of these qualities all the time?

He would have an optimum representation of my energy and my enlightened nature. He wouldn’t get hung up on situations. He would see how to be most effective. He would be able to perform actions that would be best suited in the life he has to help people in mental health and people who are suffering in so many ways.

There are many people who have been diagnosed as schizophrenic or bipolar who have had spiritual experiences. He would be able to help them and the system to get in touch with the spiritual nature of these experiences, to teach the providers that they need to pay attention to the people they are serving and there is great worth in the non-typical disorders that are diagnosed as psychotic or pathological.

If you could live Bob’s life for him, how would you live it differently?

I would focus with more concentration and let go of drama and being affected by external events and his thoughts and feelings…to put into practice what my essential nature is!

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

1 Using my experience to help others in the mental health field:

I think he’s handling it the best he’s able. He needs to follow through on his own ideas. He’s doing all right! He should cultivate more focus and attention; keep the priorities straight. Spend more time with his priorities…More effort…Make the choices that produce the results. Spend more time writing, focusing on practice while writing, studying the dharma that is related to the work he is doing. Don’t be afraid it’s too much to go straight into the practice itself with more depth and focus.

2 Maintain my health and enhance and heal some of it:

Pretty much the same! He’s doing what he can!  You never know who is going to show up, so make an effort to find more views or connections. His health challenges and physical condition is what it is. He’s been told that he’s doing pretty well by different doctors, given the situation.

3 Connecting more with the Dharma:

The same way that he’s working now but even more; staying present with the practice. Getting to the practice without delay so much; spending a little more time and more focus on the important qualities of what he’s working with.

What three life issues would you focus on if you were in charge of Bob’s life?

The same ones. There is a lifelong process of grounding from the experiences that he has had (the NDE, the cancer, his mystical experiences, etc.) His main focus is about living in the world and dealing with ordinary life issues; the importance of that. That’s his grounding process.  Dealing with them more slowly, with joy and acceptance of whatever difficulties that show up.

In what life situations would it be most beneficial for Bob to imagine that he is you and act as you would? 

He’s on the path…every moment! Sit in a more relaxed way with what is and to make decisions with wisdom and compassion.  Train in those things and recognize that his whole life is his practice in process of realizing his essential nature, which is ME!

Vajrayogini, do you do drama?  If not, why not?

Yes! But in a free way so it is the drama of the play, the dreamlike nature, unfolding circumstances and karmas! The essential nature of it is pure, actually. It is just a drama that has no substantial basis – but it does make a big difference to the people involved. Birth, sustaining, then death!

What is your secret for staying out of drama?

I am free of the dramas. I don’t get hooked that way.  I realize the essential nature of all the dramas, that they are play, bliss!

Why do you think that you are in Bob’s life? 

I have shown up for Bob today because he seeks to realize my essential nature.

How is Bob most likely to ignore what you are saying to him?

He spaces out and sort of forgets, loses awareness…The remaining attachments and negative emotions that show up…

What would you recommend that he do about that?

Keep doing my practice! Do it with more focus, not forced, enjoy the process, be relaxed, be very present with it!

What can Bob do to benefit and grow today from his near death experience?

It’s what showed up in his life for him.  Karmas ripened in his life and perhaps from other lifetimes. To take advantage of these opportunities – the NDE, the cancer, all sorts of adventures, some very disturbing. They are over; to learn from them and know what people go through and know it is a blessing because much of it has been transformed.  There is still grasping after appearances and some fears of people that remains. He was feeling overwhelmed and not connected, alone when he had his NDE. I was there then, but he couldn’t see me until he had his experience!

Vajrayogini, do you grasp after appearances at all?


How would you recommend that Bob deal with appearances so that he does not grasp after them?

Focus on my practices and know that these events are dreamlike and not to be grasped.

Vajrayogini, how would you deal with his occasional fears of some people?

As his karmas unravel the fears that appear are seen to be empty and the result of his own misperception. There is nothing in others that can hurt his essential nature at all. People act in difficult ways because of their limitations and not out of their essential nature. Stay present with me and stay with that. He is working with that; it is a process that evolves over time.

Bob, what have you heard yourself say?

Continue these practices, things are going pretty well, keep on doing what you’re doing. Enhance some of these processes

If this experience were a wake-up call from the most central part of yourself, what do you think it would be saying to you?

You’re doing pretty good! Keep on going! Don’t lose faith!  I sometimes have difficulty. January was difficulty with the weather and obstructions. But I am happier than I have ever been in my life! I am very happy to be here. I have a wonderful family and wonderful opportunities in my job and my life. I have the practices that I was looking for all my life. It’s up to me to continue and do it well.

Vajrayogini’s responses are fairly much what you would expect from a teacher of Tibetan Buddhist dharma. But what if we had talked to another character from Bob’s near death experience, such as the tunnel through which many pass? What if we had talked to some incidental character from a dream, such as a shoe or a dog? What then? What Bob would likely find is that each represents a legitimate perspective on his path, one that enhances his practice, yet focuses on the priorities that are associated with its unique perspective.


What are the opportunities and challenges of taking up a dream yoga that is based on a specific religious tradition like Tibetan yoga is? The intentions and injunctions of Tibetan dream yoga are difficult to understand, much less apply in one’s life, without a familiarity with the system of belief, practices, stories, symbols, and ethical guidelines of Buddhism that provide both context and meaning for them. Those who take up a practice of Tibetan dream yoga encounter the totality of the Buddhist tradition as well as the complexities of Tibetan culture and language, including the very sophisticated mythology of Tibetan Bodhisattvas. It is not a secular approach to lucid dreaming, such as Stephen LaBerge teaches. However, like IDL, its teachings are primarily for the waking mind and only secondarily for dreaming and sleeping consciousness.


What are the benefits and challenges of listening only to religiously valued figures? Practitioners of Tibetan Buddhists may respect and honor other paths, but they give priority to Tibetan Buddhism over other paths to enlightenment.  They maintain a primary allegiance to Tibetan Buddhism, not to some eclectic universalism, which is what makes them practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism rather than something else. Therefore, they will express preferences for respected figures in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, as Bob does toward Vajrayogini in his IDL interview. While Tibetan Buddhism can be approached and experienced as an integral life practice, it is directed by a llama or other official representative of the tradition, and by traditional practices and scriptures.

Unlike Tibetan Buddhism, IDL does not place priority on listening and following the guidance of figures from a spiritual or religious tradition. This is because its foundation is phenomenological, which means that it intentionally attempts to suspend cultural, spiritual, and social preferences. By so doing it reduces the emotional and mental filtering of life and increases deep listening to whatever wakeup call presents itself. If bodhisattvas show up to be interviewed, fine! They are accepted along with snow shovels and dog slobber!


Why does Tibetan Buddhism emphasize the guru- student relationship? As in most traditional learning structures, students are considered spiritual children in need of a spiritual parent.  These parents are llamas, dream teachers, Bodhisattvas, and the Buddha himself.  All four may be able to appear in any form, in any state of consciousness, so theoretically any dream character is an incarnation of the Buddha.  Practically speaking, the teacher-Llama is the one who decides what supports a student’s spiritual development and what does not.  The advantage to this model is that personal emotions, confusions, or reason-based resistances are circumvented.  It is built on the fact that most people are lost in the internalized cultural dream of their family, group, nation, and religion. They lack sources of wisdom and objectivity to see beyond them. This is the fundamental function of teachers of all sorts. Many people want to be dependent on strong outside authority they can trust, whether it is a parent, teacher, spouse, boss, spiritual leader, or government. They don’t trust themselves; they don’t believe that there is a reliable connection with an inner compass that can make a real difference in their life.

The disadvantage of the parental model is that at some point in your journey to enlightenment you must learn to trust yourself. The only way to do this is to learn to listen to oneself, reach decisions, act on them, and draw conclusions from the results. This has been the stance of Western psychology, rational humanism, and individualism. However, without prior allowance on the wisdom of teachers, individualism merely creates a society of grandiose egotists. If it is not transcended through interdependency, one is likely to remain stuck at pre-empathetic levels of development. The essential next step is to suspend both your individual preferences and those of respected teachers in favor of finding and following your inner compass.  You then subject what you learn to both external authority and your individuality. The advice of teachers and that of your inner compass become integrated as you learn to access, respect, and follow both.

What happens when there is a difference in the direction advised by your guru and the recommendations of your interviewed emerging potentials? Do more interviews to make sure that your interview recommendations represent a consensual view by high scoring emerging potentials and are not simply reflecting the preferences of one voice, which could be marginal, or not representative of the majority of your inner compass. If the difference in direction still exists and you are not sure, take the difference to your spiritual teacher and see if their reasoning is convincing.

I had a very powerful lesson in this regard when I was twenty one. After college I drove to southern California to study Agni Yoga, or “the light work,” in the belief that it would create spiritual openings for me, which at that time I framed in terms of awakening the Christ Consciousness. While there I had a very powerful nightmare which I took to be a warning that these practices were giving me “psychic indigestion” of a very serious sort. At that time my idea of dream interpretation was traditional, growing out of the dream interpretations of Edgar Cayce and Jung. I submitted my interpretation of my nightmare to two mentors, Hugh Lynn Cayce, son of Edgar Cayce, and the head of Agni Yoga, Russell Paul Schofeld. Cayce agreed with me; Schofeld explained that delusions were pulling me away from my true path. I didn’t know what to do; I was enmeshed in the culture of Agni Yoga and lacked objectivity. I had made a major life commitment and I didn’t want to give it up; too much of who I was had become invested in my life. Then one morning I woke up with a “dream” in which Schofeld told me that if I only waited until lesson number 23 that everything would be made clear to me. This did not feel like a dream. It felt like a clairvoyant visitation by Schofeld. He knew that I respected dreams; it felt to me as if he had chose a dream appearance as a way to influence my choice. If I had known then what I do now I would have interviewed the “Schofeld” that was a character in my dream. There would be no guarantee that I would be closer to the truth as a result, but I would have had more data points to consider. I finally disengaged from the group and limped home, feeling like a prodigal son. I did not know my path, but I knew that Agni Yoga wasn’t part of it. To this day, it amazes me that Agni Yoga remained important for two of my closest friends, yet was quite the disaster for me. It taught me not to judge the paths of others, but to provide them with the tools to validate for themselves whether or not they are headed in a direction that is supported by their inner compass.

Because the world of form is polycentric, that is, every point is its center, IDL believes that at some stages of development you will grow faster when you have a multiplicity of teachers, both outside and within yourself, while at other times you will grow faster when you commit to one teacher or path, such as Tibetan Buddhism.  The disadvantage of this model is that it provides less certainty and security and allows your mind to be overrun by a multitude of competing emotions, confusions, and thoughts.  The advantage is that this model is egalitarian, pluralistic, democratic, and consensual. It considers multiple world views simultaneously, thereby encouraging the tolerance of ambiguity.

How much knowledge of the cultural mythology of Tibetan Buddhism is required to learn its dream yoga?

“There is said to be a relationship between dreaming, on the one hand, and the gross and subtle levels of the body on the other. But it is also said that there is a ‘special dream state.’ In that state, the special dream body is created from the mind and from vital energy (prana) within the body. This special dream body is able to dissociate entirely form the gross physical body and travel elsewhere.”

His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama

The cultural mythology of Tibetan Dream Yoga is interwoven with its practice.  For example, consider the following instructions:

“Use the lion’s out-breath; breathing out with the sound “ah…” Use the lion-like posture for awakening and purifying. Sit up in bed with raised head, gazing. Emphasize your exhalations, repeating the “ah” out-breath three times. Now raise your energy by standing up, reaching your fingertips to the sky, and repeating the lion’s out-breath. Enter into mindful reflection on the transition between the states of sleeping, dreaming, and waking reality – coming into the present moment, recording dreams. Thus, you will enter the day recognizing that all things are like a dream, illusion, fantasy, or mirage.”


Such instructions would be perfectly understandable to a Tibetan student of Dream Yoga, who would be studying under a Tibetan Llama or Rimpoche.  For those who are not, there is some conceptual heavy lifting to do and some decisions to be made.  “At what point do I need to commit to using  the Buddhist iconography and mythology that accompanies the Empowerments?”

“Do I need to focus on visualizing Tibetan syllables or not?”  “Do I need to cultivate a relationship with a particular Bodhisattva?”  “What is necessary and essential and what is not?”

For Tibetan Buddhists, it makes relatively little sense to study dream yoga outside that cultural context, because the emphasis of Buddhism is not on lucid dreaming per se. It is one more tool to end suffering and to awaken to suchness, emptiness, and nirvana. The language, culture, iconography, and various “empowerments” all play more important roles in Tibetan Buddhism, than learning to lucid dream.

While all practitioners of IDL are conditioned by the cultural context in which they practice it, just as are practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism, its assumptions are not associated with a particular cultural mythology.

A Moslem, Jew, Buddhist, capitalist, child, or secular humanist can use the interviewing protocol and experience benefit, such as increased access to their own unique emerging potentials, that can then be used to align the goals of their spiritual practice or life interests with the priorities of their inner compass. This will bring them into conflict with normally non-recognized cultural assumptions, which are challenged by the perspectives of interviewed emerging potentials.

IDL teaches students to let each conflict take a color and then a shape, and to then interview that shape to illuminate the nature of the conflict to provide some objectivity regarding its possible resolution. For students of Tibetan Buddhism, this means that when conflicts with teachers or teachings arise, they have a way that they can increase their objectivity regarding how best to respond.

Is meditation central to the practice of Tibetan dream yoga? Why? Meditation is defined by the Buddha as “right concentration and right mindfulness.” Meditation is central for Tibetan dream yoga because it takes zhine, concentration and mindfulness, to become lucid in dreams and to learn to control them.  Meditation is important to IDL because so many emerging potentials recommend it as an essential tool for waking up.  All six of the core qualities associated with the round of breath and life are strengthened and expanded by meditation. Confidence increases as your sense of self detaches from the agendas, distractions, and desires of the world; compassion increases as you get out of your own way, because you are then better able to drop some of the normal filters that create misperceptions toward others; wisdom increases as you balance the six core qualities; acceptance increases as you develop objectivity not only toward your preferences and expectations but those of others; inner peace increases as you let go of stress; witnessing increases as you learn to observe the contents of your mind. When you become an emerging potential that is scoring tens in all six of these core qualities, both they and yourself are experiencing a state of relative meditation.  Increasing any of these qualities, and especially increasing all of them, is a functional definition of waking up, or enlightenment, which is the purpose of meditation. Because the zero to ten scale used in IDL interviewing is relative, your experience of meditative states deepens and broadens as you integrate the perspectives of interviewed emerging potentials into yourself. In Tibetan Buddhism this meditative process begins with concentration on an object; when mental fixation is strong enough, it moves to concentration without an object. Three types of zhine, forceful, natural, and ultimate, progressively build this core competency used in all six Tibetan yogas.

You begin zhine by sitting comfortably in meditation. Buddhism, like IDL, uses open-eyed meditation to reduce daydreaming and visualization through objective grounding, even when this is no longer necessary to concentrate. Initial, or forceful zhine, places the object of meditation externally, in the line of sight. The object of your initial practice as a Tibetan Buddhist is to allow no sight, sensation, feeling, or thought to disrupt your concentration on the object.  Choosing an inspirational object that personifies some aspect of the sacred supports the process. While Tibetan Buddhism has its favored objects, such as the written Tibetan letter “ah,” the point is the development of concentration, not the nature of the object of focus. Traditionally, the letter is white and is enclosed in five concentric colored circles: the center circle that is the direct background for the “A is indigo; around it is a blue circle, then green, red, yellow, and white ones.

When your mind becomes distracted, as it often will in the beginning, gently bring it back to a simple awareness of the object, without analysis of its nature or your practice. Because it may feel like an effort to recognize your awareness has wandered and to repeatedly return to the object, this is called “forceful zhine.” Zhine is meant to be done every day until your mind is quiet and stable. You know that you have reached the second stage, “natural zhine,” when you are able to stay absorbed in observation of the object without needing to engage in any effort to keep your awareness still, centered, and clear. This will feel relaxed and tranquil. Thoughts and feelings that arise will not distract your mind from the object.

Now that your mind can maintain itself in a relaxed, undisturbed state, shift to observation of empty space, such as the sky or a point in the air half way between your eyes and the object your are observing. Do not focus or concentrate on this empty space, but allow your mind to be diffuse, yet strong. This is called “dissolving the mind” in space, or “merging the mind with space.” You will know that you have accomplished natural zhine when you are able to maintain stable tranquility with your awareness diffuse, not concentrated on any particular object, yet strong.

The third stage, “ultimate zhine,” involves the absence of any heaviness that is associated with absorption in any object at all. It is characterized by an ongoing awareness of tranquility, lightness, relaxation, and pliability. It has none of the rigidity or resistance associated with the effort of forceful zhine. Your thoughts will dissolve spontaneously and without effort.

Within the Dzogchen Tibetan tradition, it is at this point that the master traditionally introduces the student to what is called “the natural state of mind.” Because the student has developed zhine, the master can point to what the student has already experienced rather than describing a new state that must be attained. The explanation, which is known as the “pointing out” instruction, is meant to lead the student to recognize what is already there, to discriminate the moving mind in thought and concept from the nature of mind, which is pure, non-dual awareness. This is the ultimate stage of zhine practice, abiding in rigpa, or non-dual presence itself.

The three traditional obstacles to zhine to look out for are agitation, drowsiness, and laxity. The first two are easy enough to understand, however, the third can be deceptive. You may reach spaces in your practice where you are comfortable, tranquil, and stable in emotion and thought but without strength of concentration. This is different from the effort of concentration that typifies the early practice of forceful zhine. Without power in your concentration you will reach plateaus of equanimity and can remain stuck there for years. You will mistakenly cultivate that stability without any discernible change in the quality of your consciousness. To counteract this, remember your purpose. Strengthen your intention. Wake up your focus and your practice.  In addition to these traditional recommendations, it is not difficult to see that interviewing emerging potentials, whether as resistances that arise within your meditation practice or as dream characters, will help you to defuse all three obstacles to meditative clarity.

The cultivation of zhine is of benefit to anyone who wants to learn to lucid dream; it is also not so difficult to see how lucid dreaming becomes a natural and more likely outcome for students of zhine. Even though karmic traces continue to produce dream images after falling asleep, adepts will remain in the clear awareness of ultimate zhine.  

How can IDL meditation instruction support Tantric instruction in zhine? Mostly by providing experiences of increasingly subtle target states of consciousness. One of the basic problems for any meditator is not knowing what they are supposed to be doing with their minds, what the next object of focus is, and how to differentiate it from all the other mental contents and foci that are possible. Another problem is not knowing if one is on track or not, or staying motivated when you believe you are on track, yet nothing is happening. Accessing emerging potentials can greatly assist in overcoming such common obstacles by modeling target states in ways that provide you with experiential “tastes” of states that you are working to transform into ongoing permanent stages of greater wakefulness.

What are “Empowerments?” “Empowerments” are powerful initiations that are used in Vajrayana that are central to Tibetan deity yoga. Their purpose is to internalize truths that awaken and enlighten while building cultural affiliation and support. They focus on “becoming” or “internalizing” the Buddha associated with the particular initiation. The ritual for performing an empowerment can be divided into four parts, the water, secret, wisdom, and suchness empowerments. The vase, bumpa, empowerment symbolizes purification of the body, senses, and world into the body of the deity and may include a vase filled with water or washing.

The vase empowerment purifies our obscurations of body. We are empowered to practice the development stage, visualizing the mandala of the Yidam.

The result is identification with the  manifestation body of the Buddha, the Nirmanakaya.

The secret, guhya, empowerment involves receiving nectar to purify the breath and speech into the speech of that deity. We are empowered to practice the mantra recitation, and meditations on the energy channels of the body, tsa, subtle energy currents, lung, and essential energy, thigle. The goal is identification with the Sambhogakaya, the Enjoyment Body, or Radiant Bliss Body, of a Buddha.

The knowledge-wisdom, prajna-jnana, empowerment involves uniting with a real or imaginary consort, called the prajna, is for the purification of the mind and to experience the blissful wisdom mind of the deity. Permission is granted to do practices of union with the Dharmakaya, the Truth Body of the Buddha.

The fourth, or word empowerment involves means by word, sound, or symbols to realize the union, mind essence or mind nature, or the suchness of the deity. It purifies the subtle habitual tendencies which give rise to dualistic perception. Permission, or empowerment, is granted to practice the Dzogchen, the ultimate teachings of The Great Perfection.

The object is identification with the Svabhavakaya, the union of the previous three kayas as the Vajra Body.

IDL and Tibetan Tantric Deity yoga share a desire to transcend identification with deluded definitions of self, including limited and flawed self-images.  Alexander Berzin is a talented translator, interpreter, and adherent of Tibetan Buddhism who has written an excellent description of tantric deity yoga that addresses the value of interviewing personalities in one’s spiritual tradition, whether they are historical or mythological.

IDL views every interview as an initiation into the unique perspective of this or that interviewed emerging potential. Depending on the amount of reverence you bring to the experience, how deeply you allow it to touch you, and what you do with it, an interview with Micky Mouse can be as transformative as one with Buddha. Micky Mouse can serve as a doorway to developmental empowerment. There is no comparison to the majesty or the powerful layers of cultural value and meaning that are found in Tibetan Buddhism; that is not the purpose or the value. IDL is best viewed as a support or adjunct to whatever spiritual practice you are doing. In addition, its priorities are meant to guide your integral life practice, as is discussed in a later chapter.

While IDL interviewing is generally done with one other person or by oneself, it is also commonly done in groups. The interviewing questions are read to the group, with each student becoming their character and writing down its answers. This experience and the sharing afterward of newly discovered perspectives and recommendations, build cultural affiliation and mutual support. In addition, practitioners of IDL typically feel supported by previously interviewed high-scoring emerging potentials that they become in the course of their daily lives. They also have the community of others who are using the method.

What Is the Difference between Visualizing Ourselves as a Buddhist Deity and a Deluded Person Imagining They are Mickey Mouse?”   A key to understanding both Berzin’s article and Tibetan Deity Yoga is in a close reading of this title. The focus is not on distinguishing an image of Buddha from that of Mickey Mouse, but of distinguishing a non-deluded person from a deluded one.  A deluded one will think they are the Buddha or Mickey Mouse; a non-deluded one can imagine they are either Buddha or Mickey Mouse and not think that is who they are. Berzin says as much. “One has to understand that one can receive teachings from anything – from the wind and so on – when you are at a very advanced level. But very advanced, not our ordinary level. So that means that you can receive teachings from Mickey Mouse or Snow White, but then you are at a very advanced level.” It would seem then, that Tibetan deity yoga, as understood by Berzin, is theoretically compatible with IDL although it engages practitioners within the context of the Tantric tradition, to which Micky Mouse, Snow White, chamber pots, mushrooms, stools, and Quetzacoatl are foreign.

How could such imaginings lead to enlightenment? Are the elements that you imagine real or imaginary? Berzin writes, “….you can actually receive teachings from a painting, from a statue, from these close-bonding beings, from the deep awareness beings. So it’s not just your imagination, in the sense that it can’t function as an actual Buddha. And also the other aspect: the close-bonding figure is the external figure; the deep awareness one is the one inside, in the heart, and so on. So there are so many levels of this. So eventually we can receive teachings from all of them.” IDL does not think you have to be at a very advanced level to receive advanced teachings from Micky Mouse, Snow White, a toilet brush or a gob of spit. Why would you need to be? Do you have to be highly advanced to suspend your disbelief, become, and listen to what such perspectives have to say? Do you have to be advanced to do so without becoming deluded and thinking that you are actually Micky Mouse, Buddha, or a toilet brush?

In Tibetan Deity Yoga you are merging with something that can be, may be, or is externally real. With IDL we simply call the objects of identification “emerging potentials,” in the belief that discrimination between internally created and objectively real beings are projections of waking human schemas. This distinction between internal subjective and external objective beings, as functional as it is in everyday life, withers into insignificance the more you do interviews and get in touch with high scoring emerging potentials of all varieties and origins.

Berzin does not deny the possibility that Buddha, Tara, or Enlightenment itself could not manifest as Snow White or Mickey Mouse or Napoleon, only that it is not likely, based on his world view. “There would have to be a pretty good reason for there to be such a manifestation of Tara as Snow White.” Yet life routinely manifests itself as monsters and drama in our night-time dreams. Regardless of what you dream, at that moment those illusions are your reality, just as in your waking dream your current experience is your reality, even if you know that it is a delusional, illusional distortion created by your physical, emotional, and mental matrices to support physical survival and earthly evolution. Life may or may not have good reasons to manifest as Snow White, but there is no doubt that it can and sometimes does. IDL supports the working hypothesis that whatever arises is not only a wake-up call, but a potential doorway to enlightenment, even if it is a gob of spit. It is Buddha in drag, so to speak.


Is there a real difference between identification with a Buddha or with Micky Mouse? The distinction between that which exists or has existed and that which does not exist or has never existed breaks down in the world of perception. IDL demonstrates that we can very easily become a “presently-happening” Buddha, Napoleon, Cleopatra, or Micky Mouse, and with potentially transforming and liberating results. From the perspective of life and paramartha samvriti, there is no real differentiation between these.

“…if [a student thinks] that they are Mickey Mouse or Napoleon or Cleopatra, it isn’t with the intention to use this as a framework for ethical behavior and to achieve liberation and enlightenment free from problems as a Mickey Mouse.” Bezin’s point here is that these are secular identifications, devoid of a sacred context. Does this mean that such identifications cannot be used in such a way? Is it possible to place them in a sacred context? The implication is that no, they cannot, because, it is assumed, that these are not accompanied by an ethical framework, such as accompanies becoming a bodhisattva or which the cultural context of Tibetan Buddhism provides. What if an ethical framework did accompany Micky Mouse? What then? What if the student was not using such imaginings to escape from themselves or from life?

IDL places interviewed emerging potentials within the context of six core qualities that are associated with enlightenment: fearless confidence, compassion, wisdom, acceptance, inner peace, and witnessing. Correlates of these six can be found within all the religious traditions of the world. Together, they form an ethical framework against which interviewed emerging potentials are asked to measure themselves. The result is that rather than escaping from oneself or from life, IDL challenges us to wake up to a higher ethical context for living.

For Bezin, imagining you are the Buddha is to substitute a pure self-image for a deluded one. The implication is that there are many images that cannot be pure self-images. If samsara is nirvana and the Buddha can appear in any form, then why can’t Mickey Mouse be a vehicle for accessing a pure self-image? The answer is, of course, he can be, just that this is difficult to imagine occurring and is not part of the practices of most recognized spiritual traditions. Within an IDL context there is no object of imagining that is more pure or less pure than another. Discriminations between sacred and secular, pure and impure, are self-limiting partial understandings that serve invaluable purposes at prepersonal levels of development. They arises as common sense conclusions from normal life. However, as geocentrism demonstrated a context that relativized the Ptolemaic world view, IDL interviewing provides a personally verifiable, empistemologically grounded yoga that demonstrates not only the limits of these assumptions, but the limits that they impose on your development. With IDL you can be delusional and do deity yoga, in that you believe in the reality of sacred/secular, purity/impurity dualisms, or be quite spiritually sane and imagine you are Mickey Mouse, Napoleon, or Cleopatra.

How important is motivation? Berzin writes, “ Another important difference here is the motivation. In tantra practice, our motivation is bodhichitta. We are aiming for enlightenment, for our own future enlightenment which has not yet happened. …this Buddha-figure that we are imagining ourselves to be represents that goal, that aim. …what we imagine that we’re doing is helping everybody. So imagining ourselves as this deity, as this Buddha-figure, all the time – or as often as we can – helps us to keep focused with bodhichitta on what we’re aiming for, which is enlightenment. The whole purpose of visualizing ourselves like this is to be able to benefit others as much as possible – it’s bodhichitta – so that helps us to overcome our self-preoccupation and our selfishness. Whereas a schizophrenic fantasy, on the other hand, is even more self-preoccupied, just caught in their own little world, and is not done at all to attain enlightenment and help others.”

IDL assumes that all others, in addition to possessing autonomy, are functionally aspects of ourselves. How we treat them is how we are treating those aspects of ourselves that they represent.  A moment’s reflection on the source of your dream characters, which you assume to be objectively real while you are dreaming, illustrates this truth. Is a dream monster really a demon from another dimension sent to torment you? Is it not most likely to be a personification of something within yourself? By helping others you are therefore helping those aspects of yourself that they represent. If you help a dream monster rather than ignore it, run from it, kill it, or transform it, you are helping yourself.

What this means is that IDL is selfless, in that it helps others, but for selfish reasons. When you respect and listen to the monster in your dream you are doing more than acting compassionately toward some other; you are respecting and listening to yourself. When you respect and listen to a cornflake in an IDL interview your respect does not have to be altruistically motivated; you do it because you are wanting to get unstuck, or wake up, or maybe even get enlightened, and it probably has its own perspective on what it means to do these things. However, you can make that determination for yourself. While IDL is not motivated by bodhichitta, it is motivated by interests in enlightenment and helping others that are not so different from those that motivate Tibetan Deity Yoga.

Are preliminary purification practices important? Tibetan Deity Yoga uses preliminary purifications prior to image identification these may involve cleansing with water, the wearing of particular clothes, certain body postures, gestures, and the refraining from activities deemed impure. IDL takes the mind and body as they are, both aspects that are relatively pure and relatively impure. The only criteria is, “Can you get into role and stay in role?” It has nothing to do with level of spiritual development, or degree of purity. It sets no prerequisite purification practices, because emerging potentials speak to you at your current level of purity, development, and impurity. They mostly don’t care. They generally prove to be far more accepting of you than you are of yourself. IDL only requires you to stay in role during the interview and then use what make sense and is helpful, while discarding the rest.


Do you need a spiritual teacher to become enlightened? For Tibetan Deity Yoga, teachers are important for safety. Otherwise, the practice of becoming an imagined person or thing is dangerous. Here is what Berzin says: “[Without an appropriate teacher] instead of being a crazy person imagining that they are Mickey Mouse, we are a crazy person imagining that we are Chenrezig or Tara. And rather than Deity Yoga being a path to enlightenment, it’s a path to insanity. When it is stated in all the texts that Tantra practice is dangerous, there’s a reason for that. The point is that it has to be practiced within the context of all these variables that we’ve been discussing. Otherwise, you can really go astray. And for this, we need the guidance of the spiritual master to help us to avoid going astray and stay on the correct path and inspire us.”

IDL says we need many spiritual teachers, both external and internal ones, plus our common sense to determine who to trust in what task. Giving control of your spiritual growth over to someone else borders on what Berzin would probably call “Mickey Mouse crazy,” although he would clearly not count Buddhist teachers in that category. For IDL, it is a mistake to give someone else priority over your inner compass. That’s crazy. It’s crazy because no one can possibly know you as well as your own inner compass knows you, although many religious and spiritual traditions will attempt to convince you that this is not true. IDL encourages you to listen to those you respect, including your spiritual teachers. When there is a contradiction between your inner compass and another source of guidance, your inner compass, IDL recommends that you give your inner compass priority. All external sources of support, all teachers are welcome as long as they understand and respect that central truth, one which they hopefully would reserve for themselves as well.


How important are vows and commitments? Tantra succeeds in getting people to commit to following a path to enlightenment. IDL encourages people to commit to listening to and following their inner compass, but beyond that, people are free to do as they wish.  It encourages students to create a strong internal culture built around the priorities of their inner compass, in the belief that in time they will create and surround themselves with an external culture that reflects those priorities. This is not enough structure for most people, because they have been heavily influenced from birth by their external cultures. They have internalized the cultures of their parents, country, and friends, and are subject to the mental and emotional delusions that arise because of those internalizations. Because IDL does not focus on creating an external culture it does not compete with waking systems of belief or cultural value systems. It can co-exist with Buddhism, Christianity, Integral, Islam, Judaism, Capitalism, socialism, secular humanism, or nature worship in a way not so different from how your individual dream culture, which you retreat into every night, co-exists with your external reality, regardless of when and where you live. Consequently, IDL is compatible with just about any traditional practice that has vows and commitments.


Is secrecy important? Like many spiritual traditions, Tibetan Deity Yoga values secrecy. The basic idea is that the sacred is precious and not to be taken lightly or shared casually. To do so reduces the meaning with which you hold it and therefore its transformative power for you.  In this formulation, the sacred is associated with a meaningfulness that is transformational while the secular is associated with a meaninglessness or carelessness that keeps you stuck in the mundane. Buddhism itself knows that this dualism breaks down when you look at life from the perspective of life itself, but it sees this teaching as important upaya, or “skill in means,” that creates and enhances the degree of sacred meaning that is necessary to motivate personal transformation.

Secrecy is not an issue with IDL. Interviews are regularly shared with others for the benefit of all. No one is encouraged to not disclose their work. Unlike psychotherapy, it does not start with the assumption of confidentiality, which is a form of secrecy. It assumes trust and openness; it does not begin with assumptions of distrust, separateness, special relationship, defensiveness, and fear. This is because life doesn’t do secrets, and because secrets are fear based. Most people are as sick as their secrets. Sunlight is the great disinfectant; if who you are cannot die, what is there to protect? What is there to fear losing? Humans who have to protect something out of fear of loss, or are afraid others will misunderstand them, need secrets and generate elaborate justifications for having and protecting them. Religious traditions and psychotherapeutic modalities that encourage secrecy inadvertently fuel the drama and paranoia that generates totalitarian power structures politically and rigidity within.  This is not difficult to understand when we remember that whatever we fear we are disowning; we are generating a false otherness which feeds dissociation.

Because IDL is largely self-directed, yet structured to access and amplify emerging potentials, it carries very few risks.  The main risk is that it will not seem dangerous enough, risky enough, powerful enough, to be effective, and so the danger is that people underestimate it and in the process, underestimate themselves.


How important is instruction in lucid dreaming? The Yoga of the Dream State, an ancient Tibetan manual on the practice of dream yoga and lucid dreaming teaches that we can learn five spiritually significant wisdom lessons through practicing this path of awakening:

• Dreams can be altered through will and attention

• Dreams are unstable, impermanent, and unreal, like fantasies, magical illusions, mirages, and hallucinations

• Daily perceptions in the everyday waking state are also unreal

• All life is here today and gone tomorrow, like a dream; there is nothing to hold on to

• Conscious dreamwork can lead us to the realization of wholeness, perfect balance, and unity.

Tibetan dream yoga intends to “apprehend the dream,” which means to attain conscious awareness that you are dreaming and then dissolve the dream state, as a manifestation of samsara. Tibetan dream yoga teaches lucid dreaming as a means of understanding the dreamlike nature of the mind and to gain control of it so that one can learn to be awake in all states of consciousness.  In this regard, Tibetan dream yoga is best understood as growing out of a long tradition of waking concentrative meditation exercises that have been applied to the dream and sleep states in a novel way.  For example, as a waking preparation for lucid dreaming, The Yoga of the Dream State states, “Under all conditions during the day, hold to the concept that all things are of the substance of dreams and that you must realize their true nature.”

This instruction reflects a fundamental and powerful recognition that both waking behavior and intent are dreamlike. If you want to increase awareness in your dreams, be more aware in your waking life. Pay attention to your intention. If your waking intentions are weak and diverse your dreams are more likely to be fragmented and vague. The clearer you make your waking intentions, both for your waking state and for dreaming, the more likely are your dreams to reflect that intention.

Both classical and contemporary versions of Tibetan dream yoga emphasize the expansion of waking control over the dream state.  In Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines dream yoga is one of six subtypes of yoga elaborated by the Tibetan guru Marpa and passed down by his disciple Milarepa. The practice has a number of steps, which permit the individual to gradually gain increasing amounts of control in the dream state.

First, the individual must become lucid or wake up in the dream state, that is, to experience a dream as a dream by gaining control over the delusion that the dream is real.

Second, the dreamer must overcome all fear of the contents of the dream so there is the realization that nothing in the dream can cause harm. For instance, the lucid dreamer should put out fire with his hands and realize fire cannot burn him in the dream. This is also the stage for exploring: flying and shape shifting into other creatures, communicating with yidam, enlightened beings, and visiting different places, planes and worlds, lokas. In the Buddhist literature the story of Milarepa tells how he meditated for eight years alone in a cave. Through these years of discipline he was able to remain lucid while asleep and dreaming. He says, “By night in my dreams I could traverse the summit of Mt. Meru to its base – and I saw everything clearly as I went. Likewise in my dreams I could multiply myself into hundreds of personalities, all endowed with the same powers as myself. Each of my multiplied forms could traverse space and go to some Buddha Heaven, listen to the teachings there, and then come back and teach the Dharma to many persons. I could also transform my physical body into a mass of blazing fire, or into an expanse of flowing or calm water. Seeing that I had obtained infinite phenomenal powers even though it be but in my dreams, I was filled with happiness and encouragement.”

Next the dreamer should contemplate how all phenomena both in the dream and in waking life are similar because they change, and that life is illusory in both states because of this constant change. The lucid dreamer controls what he thinks about. He chooses to remember that both the dream and waking life are empty and have no substantial nature.  I am reminded of a friend who saw a famous dancer, now deceased, in a dream, and asked her how she was able to remember all the intricate moves of her dance performances. Her answer in the dream was, “How should I know? I’m dead!” This humorous response illustrates levels of lucidity; you do not have to know you are dreaming to be aware of what is real or delusion, true or false. Both the objects in the dream and objects in the world in the Vajrayana worldview are therefore empty and have no substantial nature. This is the stage of contemplating the dream as maya, and equating this sense of maya with everyday experience in the external world.

Fourth, the dreamer should realize he has control of the dream by changing big objects into small ones, heavy objects into light ones, and many objects into one object. He should also experiment with changing things into their opposites, such as fire into water.

After gaining control over objects and their transformations, the dreamer learns to alter her body’s shape or make the dream body disappear all together, to realize that the dreamer’s dream body is as insubstantial as the other objects in the dream and that that he is not his dream body. While this realization is very difficult in normal waking existence, presumably it is quite obtainable in the dream since the dreamer who has control over dream objects could, for instance, alter the body’s shape or make the dream body disappear all together.

Finally, the images of deities (Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or Dakinis) should be visualized in the lucid dream state. These figures are frequently seen in Tibetan religious art, thangkas, and used in meditation. They are said to be linked to or resonate with the clear light of formless “suchness.” They can therefore serve as doorways to Sunyata or clear light. The dreamer is instructed to practice sadhana, or very complicated visualizations of certain Buddhas and associated symbology, by concentrating on these images without distraction or thinking about other things so that the qualities of each of these personifications of the enlightened sacred are internalized: You awaken through becoming one with them while lucid dreaming.

IDL views these exercises as the amplification of waking power and control within the dream state. There are two basic problems with this, which have been described in some depth in the chapter on the relationship between IDL and lucid dreaming. The first is that it does not involve listening; it involves taking control based on waking preferences. IDL is a type of dream yoga that involves listening, not control. The second is that children and criminals can lucid dream, indicating that whatever your waking level of development happens to be colonizes your dreams when you wake up within them. It takes over and controls another state of consciousness, dreaming, with its present level of awareness. This means that wake-up calls, such as monsters or fires, are likely to be ignored in favor of the cultivation of waking control by transforming the monster or putting out the fire. Such control and power is not inherently good, wise, or spiritual. This is one reason Tibetan dream yoga is best practiced within the context of Tibetan Buddhism.

In addition, Vajrayana recommends special concentrative, visualization, breathing, mantra, and mudra practices in the context of the Eightfold Path and in the purpose of attaining sunyata, or emptiness, and nirvana. For example, instead of references to kundalini, as occur in laya yoga, reference is made to the red and white subtle “drops” tigle in the navel and head chakras respectively, which integrate in the heart chakra. Through the dissolution of these drops and of various subtle winds, vayu, in the central channel of the spine, one attains the Clear Light.

What are the three parts of Tibetan dream yoga practice?  

• Daytime practice, designed to help you recognize the dreamlike nature of all existence and thereby prepare you to experience your dreams as vivIDLy as you do your waking activities

• Morning wake-up practices that help you recall our dreams, and confirm your determination to recall more of them

• Night time practice, which prepares the ground for lucid dreaming and spiritual awakenings.

Namkhai Norbu, in Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, provides the following instructions for incubating lucid dreams, based on classical Tibetan practices.  First, visualize and meditate on the Tibetan syllable “ah,” in the center of your body. Keep your awareness on it while you are falling asleep. Look at the visual letter in your mind as your think the sound “ahhh.” If you do so, you will fall asleep with virtually full awareness.

This will enable you to maintain awareness of the full presence of the state of natural light both while dreaming and while deeply asleep.

Norbu makes it sound easy, which it is, if you are a Tibetan Buddhist and have years of long hours of meditative practice. If this description does not fit you, you may find these instructions vague and daunting. Many people learn to lucid dream without doing these things. There is nothing intrinsically helpful about visualizing and meditating on the Tibetan syllable “ah” in the center of your body, to learn to lucid dream. However, within the context of Tibetan Buddhism these instructions make perfect sense because of what “ah” and the center of the body represent within that system. These instructions are important because they fit into a system of sacred instruction for waking up in general, not just in the dream state.

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche has descripted “Four Formal Preparations” for lucid dreaming.

First, go through the day understanding all your experiences as being of the substance of dreams. The wisdom of this recommendation is cross-cultural. If you want to remember you are dreaming, you need to first learn to question the reality of your waking experience. We find this principle in LaBerge and most secular approaches to lucid dreaming. Secondly, remember that your mundane waking experiences, such as your relationships with your family members, co-workers, animals, nature, driving, eating are of the substance of dreams. By recognizing them as a dream, you can weaken your attachment to them. This applies to anything and anyone about whom you feel desire and attachment. Notice that here Tibetan Dream yoga is again emphasizing  waking up out of the sources of suffering in your waking life, not while dreaming. The implication and assumption is, Wake up in your waking life if you want to wake up in your dreams. “We say everything is a dream,” Wangyal adds. “Anything you’re attached to, anything that holds your mind, we emphasize that those things are dreams. When you have a cup of coffee, it’s dream coffee. Drive the dream car, meet with the dream boss, have a dreamlike problem. If you see everything like a dream, things happen to you like a dream, and what results will be like a dream too, and it won’t have such a strong effect. It’s a form of detachment.” Like Svapna, Hindu dream yoga, the emphasis of Tibetan dream yoga is on recognizing the dreamlike nature of reality and thereby waking up out of it. Notice that this is different from secular approaches to dream yoga, which generally use recognition of the dreamlike nature of waking life instrumentally, to generate a mind-set that makes it more likely that you will lucid dream.

Wangyal’s next step in his instructions in lucid dreaming is to review your day, when you are lying in bed before going to sleep, as if you were reviewing a dream. Remember how dreamlike your thoughts, feelings, and actions today were. Notice how your attachment to people and outcomes were dreamlike. Create an intention to stay aware during your dreams. Here, Wangyal is not only strengthening intention; he is calling out attachment, something which is not done and is not necessary in secular approaches to lucid dreaming. You can learn to lucid dream without giving up any of your attachments. However, for Wangyal and for Tibetan Buddhism, lucid dreaming is one more tool for learning detachment, so one can wake up; lucid dreaming is not an end in itself, or an aid to improved adaptation to samsara, as it typically is for secular approaches.

Before sleep, practice specialized Tibetan breathing exercises designed to calm and purify your consciousness. Merge your mind with the mind of your spiritual teacher. Immediately upon waking, review the night to see if you remember any dreams and whether you were lucid within a dream. If you were, try to generate a sense of joy and accomplishment about the practice. If you weren’t successful, then generate an even stronger intention to be more consistent in the practice during the next night.

Of particular interest to IDL is Wangyal’s instruction to merge your mind with the mind of your spiritual teacher. The purpose of this instruction is to access help from a superior consciousness by becoming that consciousness. We shall see that Tibetan Buddhism encourages identification not only with spiritual teachers, but with Bodhisattvas, personifications of fully enlightened ones. This is very similar to what IDL teaches, with identification coming not only before sleep or during sacred rituals, but at those times recommended by this or that emerging potential.  IDL does not reserve this practice of identification for “spiritual” elements such as teachers and bodhisattvas, but encourages becoming whatever interviewed emerging potential that recommends such identification, regardless of its external form or its acceptability within this or that cultural context. Again, the result is a major clash of cultural assumptions. When you become tobacco or a centipede to wake up you are doing something that looks very different from the assumptions of Tibetan Buddhism. However, when pressed, Tibetan Buddhism will admit that there is no ontological difference between the Buddha and a dog. IDL forces this point, not as an abstract intellectualization, but as a living experience of the fusion of the sacred and the profane.

Does lucid dreaming support enlightenment? Like Tibetan Buddhism, IDL does not view lucid dreaming as intrinsically supporting enlightenment. It can, but it doesn’t have to, and usually, it doesn’t. In integral terms, it views lucid dreaming as a line of development within a particular state, dreaming. We know that people can be adepts at this or that line of development and be at any level or stage of development. For example, the personality disordered can lucid dream. There is no intrinsic relationship between lucid dreaming and enlightenment. This is why the emphasis of Buddhism on prior waking evolution into transpersonal stages is so important. Otherwise, you are accessing transpersonal states while functioning at something less than a transpersonal stage of development.  However, once this distinction is understood, and people disabuse themselves of the fantasy that lucid dreaming equates to spiritual mastery, then lucid dreaming can be undertaken as a developmental line, just as any other line.

The IDL approach to dream yoga does not emphasize achieving transpersonal dream states.  Instead, it is about lucid living, which means waking up in your daily, mundane waking life.  The assumption is that by doing so you will evolve into broader and more inclusive stages of development.  This is infinitely more beneficial than learning to wake up in your dreams, because what is critically important is what you do with your current level of awareness, regardless of the state of consciousness you are in. Do you use your current state to amplify the six core qualities in yourself and others? Do you use your current state to stay stuck in drama? If you become awake enough in your waking life you will naturally, organically, begin to wake up in your other two major states of consciousness, your dreams and finally in deep sleep.  You won’t require a practice of lucid dreaming; lucid living naturally expands into the dream state, first with avoidance of drama and delusion, then with an awareness that you did not construct your dreams; that they are interdependently co-constructed by the intentions you set and your perceptions. Your dreams reflect the intentions and priorities of the personifications of your inner compass that appear in your dreams and are perceived by your current level of development.

Your dream reality is one perspective among equally valid perspectives. These interact to create and maintain dreams. Like you the dreamer, they lack any ontological reality other than that which you give them. If you think they are real or illusory while dreaming, that’s what they are. IDL attempts to suspend such assumptions in favor of practicing IDL in the dream state. Why not work at avoiding drama in your dreams? Why not interview the characters and objects in your dreams? Why not become them and answer from their perspective? What would happen to the “you” in your dream if you did?

To attempt to wake up in your dreams and deep sleep before you have learned to wake up in your waking life tends to minimize a major reason why you have a body and a physical life.  Work at waking up in all three states at once if you want to; cultivate those qualities that will allow you to observe the delusions that keep you asleep and dreaming the dream of your life.

How important are literal dreams? A literal dream is one which you believe is real: a real visitation by a deceased relative, a real visit to a mountain temple, a real visit by a master, a real vision of an impending accident.  Most accounts of dreams in the Tibetan tradition are of this type or have symbology so obvious that the meaning is apparent.  This reveals an assumption that literal dreams are somehow more valuable than ones that are deemed non-literal, possibly because they are assumed to be less delusional.  The problem is that the assumption that waking identity can accurately determine whether a dream is literal or not, simply because it seems to be, is never questioned.  How do you know whether an apparently literal dream is more valuable than an apparently non-literal one?  IDL addresses this issue by inviting you to interview both types and draw your own conclusions.  Take a dream that you are sure is literal, such as a visitation by dearly departed Aunt Gertrude and interview her or another character in it. Then take a dream that you are sure is non-literal, that is, is not reflective of real life events. Perhaps you are being chased by giant jelly beans; perhaps you go to the bathroom and discover you are the opposite sex. Do interviews on both types of dreams, “real” and “delusional,” and then compare what you have heard. Which had more to say? Which was more valuable? Which helped you wake up more? Which was more “spiritual?” If you perform this experiment a number of times you are likely to find that you can’t predict which will be more helpful. You may, in fact, find that both are equally helpful and beneficial, but in different ways. What this does is undercut the validity of the distinction between literal and non-literal dreams. From the perspective of interviewed emerging potentials, this distinction is not important. It is an artifact of identification with your waking identity.

What IDL finds is that many dreams that we believe to be literal have a large non-literal component.  Deceased relatives, when interviewed, may say that yes, they are actually deceased Aunt Gertrude, but they often also say that they represent a part of the dreamer.  At the same time, many dreams that we believe to be pure fantasy, such as being attacked by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, turn out to contain transformational, yet practical, truths. Those dreams which definitely appear to be non-literal generally are found to be, when interviewed, as valuable as those which we assumed were literal.  The consciousness which creates our dreams does not seem to make a distinction between literal and non-literal dreams.  It seems to create dreams that appear literal as a way to get us to pay attention and wake us up.


How can you discriminate between true and false dreams? In Tibetan dream yoga the time of night that one dreams plays a large role in whether a dream is true or false. First stage dreams appear between 11:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. These dreams are influenced by daily life and phlegm humor. Second stage dreams occur between 2;00 and 4:00 a.m.  They are influenced by evil spirits or past life memories, and bile humor. Third stage dreams appear between 5:00 and 7:00 a.m. This, the last section of the night, is the most balanced state of subtle wind energy, so dreams can show the true reflection of the body/mind situation and wind humor. Therefore these are the dreams that are interpreted for spiritual and health purposes. IDL does not distinguish between true or false or good or bad dreams, nor does it focus on the time of night that you have a dream.  All dreams are considered to be more or less useful, depending on whether they are remembered, listened to, and used.

Are dreams caused by memories? Both Tibetan dream yoga and IDL assume dreams are interdependently co-originated.  More specifically, Tibetan dream yoga teaches that dreams are…”the consciousness, carried in the channels by the subtle wind energy, Srok-rLung, reaches the throat chakra, and goes to the upper, middle and lower parts of the body. It earns the favorable or unfavorable experiences and produces emotions, which are reflected as a dream by the reactivation of the memory of past and present experiences of life. The diseased people dreams are mostly negative and caused by blocked or stagnated energy in the channels by the diseases themselves.

During sleep or even during fainting, the sensory consciousnesses dissolve into the mental consciousness, the mind falls into a deep, dark and profound sleep and momentarily goes into an unconscious state. After that stage, the ‘mental affliction wind,’ Nyonmongpei-rLung, risen from the past life and karma, awakens the mind and leads it through the two channels up to the throat chakra. The dream begins when the consciousness, enters either in the right or left channel and from there manifests in dreams.”

“Depending on which wind is manifesting in a dream and moving to the chakras of the body, the color of the images can change.

If there is an Earth wind, a yellow color rises from the navel chakra;

If there is a Water wind, a light blue color is produced by the heart chakra;

If there is a Fire wind, a red color rises from the throat chakras;

If there is a Wind wind, a green color moves from the secret chakra;

If there is a Space wind, mixed colors come from the crown chakra.”


According to Tibetan Buddhism, six different dream visions and images occur in dreams, according to the journey of the consciousness through the whole body during the sleep. For example, when the consciousness goes to different parts of the body with Sog-rlung, the ‘life sustaining wind,’ different dreams are shown.

When consciousness goes to the upper part of the body, you will have dreams of heaven, sky, flying and mountain climbing;

When consciousness goes to the eyes channel, you will have dreams of very clear objects;

When consciousness goes to the ears’ channel, you will have dreams containing very clear sounds;

When consciousness goes to the middle part of the body, you will have dreams of meadows, grounds, soft wavy hills, and trips to other continents;

When consciousness goes to the lower part of the body, you will have dreams of falling down, arriving in hell, animals, preta (hungry ghosts), worlds, darkness, diving in the water, and going down in valleys.

Are negative dreams to be pacified?  Yes, in Tibetan Dream Yoga. To pacify negative dreams, you should

take part in rites and rituals that can pacify some of the bad dreams and omens;

receive long life initiation;

practice dream yoga;

study and meditate on emptiness;

go to a particular spiritual retreat; and

train yourself to recognize the dream as an illusory world.




The concept of a negative dream is foreign to IDL.  This is a consequence of its distinction between the perspectives of dream self and waking perception, on the one hand, and the perspectives of other characters within the dream, on the other. When you experience the dream from one of these other perspectives, the nature, purpose, and meaning of a dream generally expands. The result is that dreams rarely stay negative, and the ones that do, are deemed negative by dream group members for reasons often far different from those of waking identity.

Who are the best interpreters of dreams? In Tibetan Dream Yoga, as in almost every approach to dreamwork in every culture, including our own, waking identity decides why we dream and what specific dream images mean.  No one stops to question this waking narcissism.  No one considers the possibility that the dream characters themselves may not only have their own perspectives, but that their interpretations are likely to be more informed than our own, since they have a direct investment in both the dream and the dreamer in ways no interpreter or dream dictionary does.  It is difficult to understand how something so obvious and fundamental could be so pervasively overlooked by humanity. The only explanation that makes sense is that humans at both prepersonal and into personal levels of development are extraordinarily egocentric, in that they are sure that they are equipped to accurately determine the nature of a state they neither created nor understand. The result is that they simply are blind to any other approach. This chronic psychological geocentricism is indicative of a personal and cultural fixation centered at late prepersonal development.

The cognitive line may have advanced into personal levels, but it is the leading line; the center of gravity of consciousness remains much lower for most of us.

Tibetan dream yoga texts teach us that, in general, there are three types of dreams.

You may have ordinary, karmic dreams, which arise mostly from your daily activities, and your from previous life activities, thoughts, experiences, and contacts.

You may have “clear light” dreams, which contain spiritual visions, blessings, and energy openings.

A third type of dream that you may have is lucid. These are of course characterized by awareness that you are dreaming.

Tibetan dream yoga further divides these three broad divisions into six categories.

You may dream

of events that occurred while you were awake;

about other people, alive or dead;

about forgotten elements emerging from your subconscious;

about archetypal content and evocative symbols;

extrasensory perceptions, profound dreams, and omens;

or have radiant, luminous, spiritual dreams.

Recurrent dreams, nightmares, dreams of death, and other kinds of commonly reported dreams all fall within the first four dream categories.

What sort of list does Tibetan medical dream interpretation produce? It holds that there are six types of dreams that can be interpreted.

You may dream

of what you saw yesterday or recently in your life;

about dreams you have heard recently in your waking life;

reinactments of waking events;

the fulfillment your spiritual wishes and that answer your prayers;

the fulfillment of your non-spiritual, “normal” wishes; and you may dream about

dream omens or dreams of illness, including prognosis.

What are the three categories used by Tibetan medicine to explain all of these types of dreams?

The first five dream categories mentioned above apply to dreams of healthy people. Dreams of healthy people may be about devas (spirits), emperors, kings, leaders, famous men, and other subjects.

The last category applies to dreams of unhealthy people.

The last three categories mentioned above apply to positive and negative omens and premonitory dreams. This group has three main different types of dreams: general omens, dream predictions, and spiritual visions.

How do dreams reflect the humors or natures of the body? In Tibetan medicine it is assumed that the body has three humors or natures, (wind, bile, and phlegm) and constitutions, and that your dreams will reflect one or another of these.

Dreams of healthy people that contain the colors blue or black for meadows, birds, flowers, houses, or clothes, or that contain flying, riding horse or vehicles, objects moving, wind blowing, agitation, anxiety, joy, happiness, and emotions, indicate the dreamer has a wind nature.

Dreams of healthy people that contain the colors yellow and red for the earth, house, clothes, flowers, gold, copper, fire, sun, animals, sweating, or bright colors indicate a slow, stable, and clear mind, or fear, indicate the dreamer has a bilious nature.

Dreams of healthy people that contain the colors white or gray for water, snow, earth, elephant,

silver, pearl, clothes, ocean, peaceful rivers, calm and quiet, stable and slow and heavy

indicate the dreamer has a phlegmatic nature.

What about the dreams of an unhealthy person? What kind of diagnosis can you make from them?  Tibetan medicine teaches that when the consciousness channel is blocked and contaminated by a disease, dreams are influenced by the illness. Diseased dreams appear differently according to the nature and energy background and their imbalances.

Tibetan Buddhism believes that positive and negative premonitions can be found in both categories of normal dreaming and spiritual visions, and that these predictions can be understood.

What are the premises of Tibetan dream interpretation? Clearly, it is assumed that dreams can be interpreted, but that it takes a skilled interpreter that can differentiate dreams among several categories, those of healthy and the sick, secular and spiritual dreams, and the type of humor indicated. It also assumes that some waking perspective, in this case someone trained in Tibetan medicine and Tibetan dream interpretation, is the best, most authoritative, and accurate way to work with a dream. These assumptions are almost universal. You will find some version of them in Indian, Chinese, Shamanistic, Islamic, Judaic, Christian, and Western psychologically-based approaches to dreams.

The universality of this approach reflects the predominance of prepersonal consciousness and therefore its approach to dreams. It is part of the reason for disdain for dreamwork among secular humanists, whose cognitive line of development is developed enough to question the assumptions of this approach. They focus instead on behavioral studies, content analysis, physiological correlates, cultural similarities and differences. While all this information is fascinating, informative, and may even be helpful, it does little to answer the question, “Why did I dream that last night?” Theories are proposed by outside experts looking at the dream from one or another of the four quadrants.

If it is the external individual quadrant, a behavioral explanation is given (“You ate anchovy pizza last night and so dreamt of fire); if he or she is an adherent of the internal individual quadrant, a consciousness explanation is given (“You dreamt of the sky because you are attempting to still your mind in meditation.”); if he or she favors the internal collective quadrant, a symbolic interpretation is given that reflects prevailing cultural assumptions: (“You dreamt of Atilla the Hun; you are afraid of your own aggressive tendencies.”); if the exterior collective quadrant is preferred, there will be an interpersonal or social interpretation, such as, “You dream of your deceased aunt Margie means she has a message for you.”

An integral approach to dreamwork attempts to take all four of these quadrants into account, as well as the stage of development of the dreamer.

How are integral approaches still psychologically geocentric? They assume that waking identity, whether that of the dreamer or some expert, is qualified to interpret a dream. IDL does not make this assumption. Instead, it assumes that because others are not the dreamer they are less likely to know why he or she had a particular dream. It also assumes that because the dreamer is a subset of the overall dream experience that it lacks the objectivity to approach the dream accurately. In addition, it assumes that other perspectives that are invested in the dream, that is, the individual dream characters, are most likely to add perspectives that are both invested and appropriate to a particular dream. The more that are consulted the better; this is why Dream Sociometry provides more accurate results for dream interpretation than does the regular IDL dream interviewing protocol. It also assumes that none of this is dependent on authority or belief. Anyone can perform their own experiments with their own dreams using the IDL dream interviewing protocol or dream sociometry and compare the results to Tibetan dream interpretation, psychoanalysis, or any approach of their choice.

If the consciousness travels to the following areas:

• Front channel of the dreams of the Eastward direction – heart chakra

• Back side channel – Westward direction

• Left side channel – Northward direction

• Right side channel – Southward direction

• Open and wide channels – dreams of open space

• Tide and tiny channels – dreams of narrow places and appearance of space dealing trouble etc.

Can outside experts interpret your dreams? What do they know about you? What do they know about your dream? What do they know about the consciousness that created your dream? At best they can make some guesses. These are projections of their personal and cultural prejudices. Is that a type of interpretation you want to rely on? By all means, consult such sources in conjunction with interviewing emerging potentials and relying on your own common sense.

However, you are in no position to interpret your dream either. This is due to the inherent subjectivity of your perspective both within a dream and when evaluating it later, when awake.  While in the dream, your dream self is a subset of the creative context which created the dream and which has a perspective and intention that transcends and includes that of your dream self.  While awake, your waking identity is similarly a subset of the creative context that creates your waking dream.  In both cases, who you think you are not only lacks the breadth of perspective necessary to make such judgments, but, unless it is informed by other invested perspectives, that is, by other emerging potentials within the dream or by Dream Consciousness itself, it is merely reflecting its biases when it discriminates between real and self-generated dreams.

How do we awaken our stuck waking identity? Through power, discipline, concentration, awareness           For TDY discipline is in following the eightfold noble path and the practice of dream yoga.  The concentration is in meditation, both while awake and while dreaming.  Awareness involves remembering that one is dreaming, evoking Bodhisattvas and great teachers, and focusing on accessing and maintaining the clear light. IDL awakens waking identity through power sharing with other legitimate perspectives. It thereby thins and expands identity, thereby reducing its fear of death, loss, and its perception of threat. This reduction of sensory, emotional, and mental filters allows life to provide its own perspective and be the commanding experience, rather than our interpretations of life.

Why don’t Tibetan Buddhists interview dream characters? Interviewing dream characters has not made sense to most people throughout most of history, including Tibetan Buddhists.  The exceptions have been characters that were thought to be literal beings who were questioned in the dream itself, as Joseph exacting a blessing from an angel he defeated while dream wrestling.  Greek temples of dream incubation offer examples of strong pre-sleep intention followed by “literal” dream visitations, visitations, inspirational awarenesses, or spontaneous healings.  While all such events are substantial and worthy of investigation in their own right, none of them involve interviewing in the IDL sense of the term.

Because the assumption is made that the teacher knows best, there is no incentive to interview dream characters within traditional Tibetan Dream Yoga; one might hear advice that contradicts the instructions of the teacher.  In contrast, the approach of IDL is much more questioning of authority than is permissible in the traditional student-teacher relationship within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. More importantly, IDL emphasizes listening to emerging potentials rather than bending them to the will of any waking identity, regardless of how respected it may be.

In Tibetan dream yoga, while there may be questioning of spiritual masters while dreaming, these are not questioned outside of dreams, nor are objects, such as clouds, mountains, and houses questioned in dreams.  The idea of taking the memory of a dream character in the waking state, imagining that you are that character, and then asking it questions, is historically very rare.  I know of no account of it within the Tibetan Dream Yoga tradition. It is even more rare to find this done with inanimate and mundane objects like dream trees, clouds, rocks, or houses.  It is yet even more rare to have such interviewing of dream objects occur within the dream itself.  This would mean that the dreamer becomes this or that dream character and responds to questions asked of it within the dream itself.

However, Tibetan Buddhism offers the closest approximation to this among the broad historical cultural traditions, in its practice of becoming teachers and deities before and during sleep. This may result in looking at the dream from the imagined or internalized perspective the teacher or deity, or it may result in questioning the teacher or deity in the dream. However, I know of no accounts in Tibetan Buddhism of questioning the teacher or deity and then becoming the teacher or deity to answer, while dreaming. Why not? We know of no waking interviewing protocol was ever developed in Tibetan Buddhism to practice and then to take into the dream state. A high level of lucidity is required to remember to interview and then to remember to become the character being interviewed, while dreaming. More basically, what relevance would any of this have to the Tibetan Buddhist goal of enlightenment? Essentially, it is an extension of the common practice of mergence with idealized spiritual icons, sharing those same intentions. These will be discussed below with Tibetan Tantric Deity Yoga.

An example of IDL and the dreams of a Tibetan Buddhist Rinpoche

Anyone practicing Tibetan Buddhism can enhance their practice by learning IDL, regardless of their level of attainment. This is because the emerging potentials that you interview from your dreams or as the personifications of your life issues include, yet transcend your own perspective. They have their own perspective to add to yours. Here is an example of how practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism are unlikely to ever outgrow IDL. It was conducted in 2004 with a Rinpoche who remains the head of a Tibetan Buddhist center in one of the largest cities in the United States.

Dressed in deep orange/red robe and sash, our Rinpoche is kind, serene, intelligent, and articulate.  Trained in India and a student of the Dalai Lama’s, he is immediately likable.  When he learned of my interest in dreams, he volunteered several of his own. The first one centered on a twelve-foot long female cobra that was about two feet around who came into the ruin of a Buddhist monastery in which a number of monks were gathered and meditating.  She would sniff each one, looking for the “right” person.  She would then hiss, shake her head, and go to the next.  Finally she came to our Rinpoche, and could tell that he was the one.  She coiled herself around him, boa constrictor style.  He was very afraid.  With difficulty, he put his hands together and began to pray the Four Immeasurables.

When he was through he turned his head up to accept his fate.  Then she bit him on the forehead.  It scared him so much that he woke up.

He had asked other people about the dream.  Hindu priests had said that it was about the kundalini being awakened with a third-eye initiation.  His parents thought that since snakes are nagas, which are water spirits, that he had some karma with water spirits from a past incarnation.   Of course I didn’t give him an interpretation, because that is not how IDL works. Instead, we bowed to a far superior knowledge, and interviewed the snake. She said that Rinpoche had done wrong unintentionally and that he still needed to be more careful.  Its intention was not to eat or kill Rinpoche, but to punish him, despite his good intentions.  This snake scored high in the six core qualities. The naga recommended that he be it in social situations to help him to be mindful of what he says. Rinpoche related what the snake said to times when he talked to people in the course of his lectures and public events and says things that are misconstrued by them and that cause them problems.  In IDL, after the character is interviewed and the subject has an opportunity to say what they heard, interpretations can be offered by the interviewer. It sounded to me as if the snake was saying that it was a personification of Rinpoche’s own self-criticism for unintentionally offending others.  This seemed to imply that sometimes unpleasant consequences are unavoidable, despite our best intentions. Practitioners of IDL listen to interviews as if they were their own and for them. The idea is to grow personally through helping others to wake up. This does not rule out the other interpretations, and weight has to be given to what the interviewed character itself, in this case the snake, says. Notice that the snake’s comments focus on compassion and acceptance toward self, two of the six core qualities. This is an example of how interviews often identify and support the qualities of the six that we are lowest in, in an apparent attempt to bring all into balance, as a foundation within the developmental dialectic. When this balance is maintained it provides a stable grounding for first antithesis and then synthesis to the next highest developmental level.

Why doesn’t Tibetan Dream Yoga does not assume dream and lucid dream characters are emerging potentials? While Tibetan Buddhism does not use the concept, “emerging potentials,” it would recognize it. Reality is divided into the Real and the illusory for Tibetan Buddhism; you can become the Real by identifying with it, and through successive identifications with various Bodhisattvas and Buddhas, that Reality will supplant your illusory identifications with your attachments. The most obvious, parsimonious, and rational assumption would be that the characters in our dreams are created by our own minds and therefore are aspects of ourselves.  This is the self-referring psychological geocentrism of middle to late prepersonal consciousness. It says considerable about both the human mind and the human predicament that this is a relatively recent explanation for our dream life, that the majority view across cultures and throughout history is that dreams are depictions of real events that we experience while we are asleep or out of our bodies.  This is the concrete naive realism of early prepersonal consciousness.  The assumption, that dream characters are real, makes the mistake of displacing and externalizing that which is self-created, while the second makes the mistake of owning that which is not self-created. When you interview dream characters and the personifications of your life issues you are likely to discover that the perspectives of interviewed clouds, deities, extraterrestrials, shoes, and flowers find these distinctions to be relatively unimportant. While they can and will tell you what part of yourself they most closely personify, they will also demonstrate an autonomy of perspective that is clearly differentiated from your own and can only be reduced to a part of your “shadow,” “personal unconscious,” or “unconscious” by doing them violence. To say that an interviewed dream character or the personification of a life issue is an emerging potential is to say that it is intrinsic to your nature but does not belong to you. It is to point to a middle way between ownership and displacement which Buddhists could probably appreciate.  Perhaps the pervasive unawareness that dream characters are emerging potentials comes from an instinctive desire to disown both the demonic and the angelic within ourselves while dismissing the mundane as irrelevant.

1 Mr. S. C; http://dreamhawk.com

2 Bateman, Rick. Life as a human: The Buddhist view of life as a dream. http://lifeasahuman.com/2010/mind-spirit/spirituality-and-religion/the-buddhist-view-of-life-as-a-dream/

1 Walsh, R. (1990). The spirit of shamanism. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, p. 11.

2 Winkleman. 1984. A Cross-Cultural Study of Magico-Religious Practitioners. P.h.D. Dissertation, University of California, Irvine. Ann Arbor: University Microfilms; Walsh, R. The spirit of shamanism. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1990.

3 Eliade, M. (1964).Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy. Princeton,NJ: Princeton University Press.

Walsh, R. (1989b). The shamanic journey: Experiences, origins, and analogues. ReVision, 12(2), 25-32.

Walsh, R. (1994). The making of a shaman: Calling, training and culmination. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 34(3), 7-30.

4 Walsh, R. Shamanic experiences: a developmental analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 41. 31-52. 2001.

5 Walsh, R. (1990). The spirit of shamanism. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher,

6 Walsh, R. Shamanic experiences: a developmental analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 41. 31-52. 2001.

7 Potanin, Sketches of N. W. Mongolia, vol. iv, pp. 60-2 in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914] http://www.sacred-texts.com/sha/sis/sis07.htm

8 Harner, M. (1986).Comments.Current anthropology.26,452.

9 Harner, M. (1982). The way of the shaman. New York: Bantam.

10 Walsh, R. The shamanic journey: Experiences, origins, and analogues. ReVision, 12(2), 25-32. 1989.

11 Walsh, R. The spirit of shamanism. Los Angeles: J.P. Tarcher, 1990.

12 Walsh, R. What is a shaman? Definition, origin, and distribution. Journal of Transpersonal Psychology 21:1-11. 1989.

13 Winkelman. M. (1984). A cross-cultural study of magico-religious practitioners. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Califomia, Irvine.Ann Arbor. Michigan: University Microfilms. Winkelman. M. (1989). A cross-cultural study of shamanistic healers. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. 21. 17-24.

14 For example, see Mooney, J. Sacred Formulas of the Cherokees, 7th Annual report, Bureau of American Ethnology. pp. 302-97 1891. Nassau, Robert Hamill, Fetichism in West Africa. Charles Scribners Son. 1904,  Winstedt , R.O. Shaman, Saiva and Sufi A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic, 1925, Gilmore, George William,, Animism, Or, Thought Currents of Primitive Peoples, 1919.; Chamberlain, Basil Hall.  AINO FOLK-TALES. London, 1888.

15 Castren, Reiseberichte und Briefe, 1845-9. pp. 172-4.] in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

16 Potanin, Sketches of N. W. Mongolia, vol. iv, pp. 60-2. Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

17 Wilber, K. Sex, Ecology, Spirituality. Shambhala, 1995.

18 For a summary of the four quadrants of holons in Wilber’s own words, see “The Four Quadrants,” in Wilber, Ken., An integral theory of consiousness, Journal of Consciousness Studies, 4 (1), February 1997, pp. 71-92 Copyright, 1997, Imprint Academic

19 Understanding the holonic model implies a mid personal level of cognitive development. Cognition, or conceptual grounding, is usually the leading line. You can understand polyperspectivalism and still be centered in your development at late prepersonal or early personal. It is important to assume that this is the case if you are to avoid the grandiosity that often accompanies the cognitive grasp of a broader and more inclusive world view.

20 Winstedt, R. O. , Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic. 1925.

21 Winstedt, R. O. , Shaman, Saiva and Sufi: A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic. 1925.

22 Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 440, in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

23 Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 440, in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

24 Sieroszewski, 12 Lat w Kraju Yakutów, 1902, pp. 641-2.] in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

25 Barker, “Psi Information and Culture.” In Communication and Parapsychology. (B. Shapiro and L. Coly, eds.),

pp. 16.8-201. New York: Parapsychology Foundation.1980

26 Walsh, R. Beyond intuition: An examination of comparative, field, and experimental studies of psi and shamanism. Shamanism. Fall/Winter 2007Vol. 20 No. 2.

27 Bogoras, W. The Chukchee (F. Boas, ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill. Buddhagosa. 1909.

28 Walsh, R. Beyond Intuition: An Examination of Comparative, Field and Experimental Studies of Psi and Shamanism.  Shamanism -Fall/Winter 2007-Vol. 20.No.2 pp. 31-39.

29 Bogoras, W. The Chukchee (F. Boas, ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill. Buddhagosa. 1909.

30 Bogoras, W. The Chukchee (F. Boas, ed.). Leiden, Netherlands: E.J. Brill. Buddhagosa. 1909.

31 Bogoras, The Chukchee, p. 438, in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

32 [1. Jochelson, The Koryak p. 49.] in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

33 [1. Jochelson, The Koryak p. 51.] in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

34 Mooney, J. The sacred formulas of the Cherokees. 7th Annual report, Bureau of American Ethnology. pp. 302-97, 1891.

35 Sieroszewski, 12 Lat w Kraju Yakutów, 1902, p. 645. in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

36 Winstedt , R.O. Shaman, Saiva and Sufi A Study of the Evolution of Malay Magic, 1925,

37 Elkin, A. (1977).Aboriginal men of high degree. New York: St. Martin’s.

38 Jochelson, The Koryak, p. 52.] in Shamanism in Siberia, by M.A. Czaplicka, [1914]

39 Walsh, R. Shamanic experiences: a developmental analysis. Journal of Humanistic Psychology. 41. 31-52. 2001.

1 Wikipedia; “Brahman.”

2 This shouldn’t be that controversial a statement. Polytheisms are inherently more tolerant, based both on scriptural comparison and history of tolerance of other beliefs within the respective cultures. This does not mean that polytheisms are “better” than monotheisms, but it does indicate that there is a correlation between polytheism and relative tolerance and monotheism and relative exclusivism.

3 Moorjani, P.,Thangaraj, K, Genetic Evidence for Recent Population Mixture in India, The American Journal of Human Genetics, 08 August 2013.

4 Vivekjivandas, Sadhu. Hinduism: An Introduction – Part 1. (Swaminarayan Aksharpith: Ahmedabad, 2010) p. 46-47. ISBN 978-81-7526-433-5

5 Morgan, Kenneth. The Religion of the Hindus, Motilal Banarsidass, p. 15

6 Prabhavananda and Isherwood

7 Feuerstein, The Yoga Tradition, p. 4

1 http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/673

2 This translation is suspect, since Patanjali emphasizes both concentration and “the will of the mind.

3 Thereby demonstrating the lack of molecular biological information in traditional India, since the female correspondent to semen are ovum, not vaginal fluid.

4 Much good comes from practices of purification, whether from Ayurveda or other sources. Ayurveda generally bases its credibility on a belief in the truthfulness and sanctity of the Vedas and commentaries on them, based on the assumption that somehow very old and arcane writings must be particularly spiritual. In addition, there is no inherent correlation between purification and consciousness; the pursuit of purification can indicate a reverse correlation, as in Hitler’s vegetarianism, because of the interior conflict with the “impure” that it implies. While recommendations by interviewed emerging potentials often result in purification of consciousness, this is rarely a stated goal of those recommendations.

5 Dunn,  an Iyengar instructor cited in http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/673

6 Bhattacharyya, p. 429.

7 Karunananda, Integral Yoga instructor. Quoted in, http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/673

1 Jayaram V, Hinduism and Buddhism. http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_buddhism.asp

2 Professor T. W. Rhys Davids: “Gautama was born and brought up and lived and died a Hindu. Such originality as Gautama possessed lay in the way in which he adopted, enlarged, ennobled and systematized that which had already been well-said by others; in the way in which he carried out to their logical conclusion, principles of equity and justice already acknowledged by some of the most prominent Hindu thinkers. The difference between him and other teachers lay chiefly in his deep earnestness and in his broad public spirit of philanthropy.” (Davids 1896 p. 33)

Herman Oldenberg: “It is certain that Buddhism has acquired as an inheritance from Brahmanism not merely a series of its most important dogmas but what is not less significant to the historian, the bent of its religious thought and feeling, which is more easily comprehended than expressed in words.” (Buddha, p. 53)

Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan: “The Buddha did not feel that he was announcing a new religion. He was born, grew up and died a Hindu. … Buddhism was an offshoot of the more ancient faith of Hindus, perhaps a schism or a heresy.”(2500 years of Buddhism,” ed. P. V. Bapat, pp. ix and xii)

“Early Buddhism is not an absolutely original doctrine. It is not a freak in the evolution of Indian thought. Buddha did not break away completely from the spiritual ideas of his age and country. To be in open revolt against the conventional and legalistic religion of the time is one thing; to abandon the living spirit behind it is another.” (Indian Philosophy, London, 1927, Vol. I p. 360)

3 Guruge, Ananda W.P., The place of Buddhism in Indian thought. http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/indianthought.html

4 Jayaram V., http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/h_buddhism.asp

5 Tony Hawk? Dream Yoga? Buddhism? Cite source

6 (Vajiranana p. 71; VMDhtanga and Kammahna niddesas) had an effect on the development of classical Yoga, while the developed Yoga techniques subsequently influenced the evolution of the Yogcra Buddhist school. (Bapat p. 122)

7 Guruge, Ananda W. P., The place of Buddhism in Indian Thought http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma7/indianthought.html

8 S 3.142

9 This is hardly true for all dreams, but it is certainly the case for most dreamers most of the time, even lucid dreamers and long-time meditators. This can be demonstrated by keeping a dream diary and noting the percentage of dream themes that are emotionally driven or demonstrate the Drama Triangle.

10 Although many people never reach this level of objectivity. Instead they use language to validate their emotions through the use of various cognitive distortions in their speaking and thinking. These are easy to identify. The entire field of cognitive behavioral therapy has shown the relationship between cognitive distortions, depression, and anxiety, the two major categories of emotional identification.

11 http://www.lulu.com/shop/joseph-dillard/transcending-your-monkey-mind-the-five-trees-and-meditation/paperback/product-20202475.html

12 These are rules to live by. They are somewhat analogous to the second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity — that part of the Decalogue which describes behaviors to avoid.

1 Do not kill. This is sometimes translated as “not harming” or an absence of violence.

2 Do not steal. This is generally interpreted as including the avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.

3 Do not lie. This is sometimes interpreted as including name calling, gossip, etc.

4 Do not misuse sex. For monks and nuns, this means any departure from complete celibacy. For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage. The Buddha did not discuss consensual premarital sex within a committed relationship; Buddhist traditions differ on this.

5 Do not consume alcohol or other drugs. The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind. Some have included as a drug other methods of divorcing ourselves from reality — e.g. movies, television, the Internet.

13 Thanissaro Bhikku, The Buddhist Religions: An Historical Introduction, P 96.

14 MN 122. See, e.g., Maha-suññata Sutta: The Greater Discourse on Emptiness translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu,” Retrieved on 30 July 2013 from “Access to Insight” at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.122.than.html

15 cite source

16 These are described in some detail in the section comparing IDL to Wilber’s integral model, below.

17 Citation

18 Much of what Wilber calls late personal in post modern society appears, on closer examination, to be early personal, with a leading edge in mid personal reason regarding this or that developmental line. The test to determine early from late personal, both communal focused, is by asking, “Are the beliefs, practices, and sources of life meaning rationally based?” If they are not, development is stalled somewhere before mid personal. For example, much New Age thinking and writing is evidential of good minds using reason to justify a pre mid personal belief system: Tarot, astrology. A religious example would be worship of deities in Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism.  A secular example would be economics, which uses intellectually sophisticated econometrics – definitely a mid personal competency – to justify prepersonal beliefs, such as trickle down and austerity. This is not to say that all New Agers, Mahayanists, Tantric practitioners, or economists fall into this category, only that this should be your default assumption until other evidence of a strong sort is provided. That goes for IDL as well.

19 Orthodox Islam generally views Western culture as a threat, although Moslems themselves largely like it and use it. While Judaism, has done a superior job at thriving on the scientific humanism of Western culture, it is currently in a life-death struggle with Western egalitarianism and human rights. Christianity is quickly evaporating in the West; as the Internet makes higher levels of education accessible to more people, that trend can be expected to spread throughout the second and third worlds. All three of these monotheisms are fiercely struggling to regain relevance; they are failing for some of the same reasons that Buddhism has historically failed.

20 To the extent that Jews identify with Israel and Zionism they risk the same irrelevance for their own religion, because it places faith before the evolving new world religion of universal human rights.

1 Analects XV.24

2 Why did this occur? The relative absence of war in established societies with sophisticated cultures reduced a major obstacle to individual and cultural awakenings. Emerging potentials do, in fact, emerge when we, as individuals and as cultures, get out of the way.

3 Riegel, Jeffrey, “Confucius”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/confucius/>.

4 Riegel, Jeffrey, “Confucius”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/confucius/>.

5 Riegel, Jeffrey, “Confucius”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2013/entries/confucius/>.

6 See Lunyu 7.22

7 Something like this can be seen in Benjamin Franklin’s deism, in which character is a reflection of natural law, but is developed as a result of action based on the internalization of that law. Cite Franklin’s autobiographical notes; also his thinking on natural law.

8 Horrified and indignant historians and sinologists will point to Chinese inventiveness, creativity in the arts and literature. It will point to the fact that the Chinese launched a world-class fleet before Portugal or Spain did. It will point to a continuity of culture that is unrivaled anywhere else in the world, except perhaps India. But by what measures shall we assess the health and growth of any society? What if not longevity, infant mortality rates, and opportunities for personal advancement? If we use such measures, we can only conclude that China has been in a profound state of cultural hibernation for millennia, along with almost every other culture in the world. The reason we are singling out China is because of the extraordinary contributions made by Master K’ung, of China, to identifying causes of this chronic, world-wide problem of governance and thereby pointing toward intriguing, encouraging directions forward.

9 In the case of Socrates, these are Goodness, Truth, and Beauty, universalized by his student Plato in his doctrine of forms. For Buddha, it is the Eightfold Noble Path.

10 Provide examples of how both regulate life by virtue rather than by arbitrary laws.

11 All small communities of the Elect think that they have established such a utopia. Upon examination, what you generally find is a prepersonal autocracy based on the communal acceptance of some external, divinely given, code of conduct and method for enlightenment. This is not rational, much less transpersonal; this is not governance by one’s own inner compass by any stretch of the imagination, although members invariably are convinced that it is.

1 For example, Nagarjuna’s Madhyamika demonstrates the limits of reason as a foundation for dependable knowledge.

2 Cite Zimbardo and studies in giving shock, the Canadian psychiatrist of Shock. 

3 Tenzin Wangyal Rimpoche, The Tibetan yogas of dream and Sleep.

4 An empowerment is a ritual in Vajrayana which initiates a student of Tibetan Buddhism into a particular tantric deity practice. It is not considered effective or as effective until a qualified master has transmitted the corresponding power of the practice directly to the student.

5 This is only relatively, and not absolutely, true. For example, IDL relies on contexts, phenomenology, and perspectives, core values based on breathing and the round of life, multiperspectivalism, emphasis on lucid living, the power of identification with or becoming emerging potentials, non-discrimination between sacred and secular, preference for stage development over state experiences, triangulation, accountability and transparency, and democratic intrasocial governance. These are all cultural constructs that condition its relevance and limit its universality..

6 There are many of these that are quite common. Suspending the distinction between sacred and secular figures and experiences is nonsensical to many people; most people think they know their own minds; they doubt that what they seek is actually within themselves; most people want Truth; they want certainty; they are not interested in ambiguity because they are confused enough already. Most people want to boil life down to one answer: love, wisdom, inner peace; they don’t like having to live with balancing six codependent values; Most people value catharsis and insight, the quick fix of intense emotions or flashes of transformation, over the slow, almost imperceptible turtles’ crawl of stage development. While most people will readily say they need to be held accountable, most do not want to be held accountable. They want to be free to do what they want to do. Transparency is another value that many people profess but in fact run from. They don’t want to see who they really are; they fear what they will find; they fear even more that other people will discover who they really are. All of these are powerful resistances that stop most people from taking IDL seriously.

7 This account of zhine in Dzogchen is based on excerpts from Namkhai  Norbu’s Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light and Tenzin Wangyal Rimpoche’s The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep.

8 Yidam Defined by Sarah Harding The Budha Dharma

To define the concept of the yidam is to approach the essence of Tibetan Buddhism. The yidam is a special deity one works with in meditation as a means towards recognizing one’s own awakened nature. The word is said to be a contraction of yid kyi dam tshig, which essentially means to bind one’s mind (yid) by oath to a deity who embodies enlightened mind.

In Tibetan Buddhism there are innumerable kinds of deities, but the yidam is defined by the very distinctive role it plays in meditation. Yidams may be sambhogkaya buddhas, tantric deities, bodhisattvas, dharma protectors or historical figures. In all cases, the yidam is the very manifestation of enlightenment, and every aspect of it is ultimately meaningful. The yidam is one of the so-called Three Roots that are the objects of refuge in vajrayana: the guru, the yidams, and the protectors and dakinis. As such, it is said to be the root of spiritual power or accomplishment (Skt. siddhi). How does that work?

The context for practice with a yidam in meditation is called a “means of accomplishment” (Skt. sadhana). The sadhana is a liturgy that functions as a guided meditation ritual in which the process of relating to and ultimately identifying with an enlightened being (the yidam) transforms one’s ingrained, impure self-image into the embodiment of enlightenment. In Vajrayana, this ideal is always projected onto the guru, with the yidam as the medium. As a practice, it presupposes the truth of emptiness and of one’s true, or buddha, nature as radiant awareness.

In visualizing the yidam deity, we use our creative imagination to shift our natural self-imaging tendency, using imagery that is ultimately more “real” than our current conditioned rendition of reality. Thus, the re-visualized self is the yidam deity and the re-imagined world is the mandala of the yidam appearing to one’s pure perception. During the process of the sadhana, one must relate with the yidam both as an object of reverence and a source of blessing. It is also an embodiment of one’s own intrinsic pure awareness. The resolution of the seemingly contradictory status of being both externally real and intrinsically inseparable from awareness is the very stuff of enlightenment in the vajra vehicle.

So how does one get one of these yidams? Using one possible connotation of “dam” in yidam as choice, Gangteng Tulku described one’s yidam not as a conscious choice but rather a “choice of the heart,” a feeling of relationship. Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche called this a “choiceless choice.” Particular deities somehow manifest the individual’s potential enlightenment, and this might be discovered through practice. Sometimes the disciple takes on the special yidams of their teacher and the lineage. During empowerment, one throws a flower into a mandala to reveal one’s buddha family connection. If one really can’t make this choiceless choice by oneself, there is also the custom of requesting an all-knowing guru to give you a yidam to work with, as many people did with the 16th Karmapa, the head of the Kagyü lineage.

Really, any deity that one is practicing at any particular time may be considered a yidam. It would certainly be counter-productive to get attached to one yidam and wear it as a trophy or possess it as a bigger, better Self. It is to avoid that kind of misguided spiritual pride that one’s yidam is usually not flaunted in public. It is also believed that its power would thereby be diminished. At the same time, that very secrecy is quite enticing. I had always wondered about the secret yidam of Kalu Rinpoche, the teacher who guided me through the traditional three-year retreat. I imagined his yidam must be very exotic, with many arms and legs, perhaps a winged heruka (male deity) or a wrathful feminine deity. About a year into the retreat he came to visit us, going from cell to cell, sitting in the boxes we spent most of our time in, inviting questions. I thought surely this would be the time that he would share his intimate practice. I remember his exact response to my question, and I am sure he was telling the truth. He said, “Who me? I do manis.” His practice was nothing more elaborate than the recitation of Om mani padme hung, the mantra of Avlokitesvara, the most common of all Tibetan practices.

9 According to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, Dzogchen (Rdzogs chen or Atiyoga) is the natural, primordial state or natural condition, and a body of teachings and meditation practices aimed at realizing that condition. Dzogchen, or “Great Perfection”, is a central teaching of the Nyingma school also practiced by adherents of other Tibetan Buddhist sects. According to Dzogchen literature, Dzogchen is the highest and most definitive path to enlightenment.[1]

From the perspective of Dzogchen, the ultimate nature of all sentient beings is said to be pure, all-encompassing, primordial clarity or naturally occurring timeless clarity. This intrinsic clarity has no form of its own and yet is capable of perceiving, experiencing, reflecting, or expressing all form. It does so without being affected by those forms in any ultimate, permanent way. The analogy given by Dzogchen masters is that one’s nature is like a mirror which reflects with complete openness but is not affected by the reflections, or like a crystal ball that takes on the colour of the material on which it is placed without itself being changed. The knowledge that ensues from recognizing this mirror-like clarity (which cannot be found by searching nor identified[2]) is what Dzogchenpas refer to as rigpa.[3]

There is a fairly wide consensus among lamas of both the Nyingma and Sarma schools that the end state of dzogchen and mahamudra are the same.[4] The Madhyamaka teachings on emptiness are fundamental to and thoroughly compatible with Dzogchen practices.[5] Essence Mahamudra is viewed as being the same as Dzogchen, except the former doesn’t include thödgal.[6] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dzogchen

10 Bezin, A. What Is the Difference between Visualizing Ourselves as a Buddhist Deity and a Deluded Person Imagining They are Mickey Mouse? http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/advanced/tantra/level1_getting_started/what_diff_deity_mmouse/transcript.html

11 “We reply that here you have not experienced the purpose in openness [= sunyata: emptiness], and thus the use of openness is severed from openness by you. The instruction of the teachings of the buddhas are based on two truths [= satya]: the truth of common sense conventions about the world [= samvrti-satya] and truth in the higher sense of the word [= paramartha-satya]. Those who do not understand the distinction between the two truths do not understand the profound reality in the teaching of the Buddha. Higher truth [of sunyata] is not taught independently of common practice. Liberation is not accomplished by the unattainable higher truth.” –Nagarjuna, MK 24:7-10 McCagney, Nancy. 1997. Nagarjuna and the Philosophy of Openness. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., pp. 200-201)


12 Evans-Wentz, trans.,The Yoga of the Dream State, The Yoga of the Six Doctrines.

13 Evans-Wentz, trans., London: Oxford University Press, 1935.

14 Namkhai Norbu, Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light.

15 Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche “Four Formal Preparations.” 

16 This is Tenzin Wangyal’s, perspective: “The goal of dream yoga is to achieve enlightenment. That’s very clear. And I don’t think the goal of psychoanalysis is to achieve enlightenment. It’s more like [trying to achieve] a healthy samsara.” Ochiogrosso, P. Dream Yoga. Yoga Journal, Jan-Feb 1997.

17 During the day, practice these four points:

• Contemplate your body as illusory and unreal;

• Contemplating your mind, its thoughts and feelings, as similarly insubstantial;

• Regard the world and all phenomena and experience as dreamlike, insubstantial, impermanent, and unreal;

• Recognize the relativity and ungraspable nature of time, space, knowledge, and awareness

Reminding ourselves of these four truths throughout your waking hours is designed to dissolve the barrier between your dream of life and your sleeping dreams. As you become more adept at these practices, you will begin to regard your nighttime dreams as continuations of your waking dream and you will learn how to bring habitual awareness to both.

The following mirror practice is an effective way of perceiving the dreamlike nature of  reality and especially of self. The analogy of a mirror image is used in Tibetan Buddhism to describe the insubstantial nature of our everyday experience. This mirror practice helps bring that teaching to life.

1 Stand in front of a mirror and look into your own eyes.

2. Hold up a hand mirror behind your right or left ear and look at its reflection in the larger mirror. Keep angling the hand mirror so as to fragment and multiply your image as much as possible. Let your mind fragment along with the image.

3. After a few minutes, angle the hand mirror back until you return to the original, single image in the mirror in front of you.

The fragmented image is the kind you might see in a dream; yet you are seeing it while you are fully awake — or are you?

Allowing your mind to “fall apart” also helps ventilate the solidity you typically attribute to your world, and especially to your “self.” From time to time during the day, take a few minutes to do the mirror practice.


Here is a traditional dream yoga practice you can do with a partner. This is an immensely useful technique, not only for challenging the distinction between sleeping dreams and the dream of being awake, but also for applying your training to practical, everyday situations.

1 – Insult, blame, and criticize your partner. Your partner should listen to all of this as echoes; empty sounds.

2 – Trade places. Now have your partner disparage you, while you practice just hearing the sounds and not taking the words to heart

3 – Try doing this same exercise using praise and flattery instead of blame. In either case, the listening partner should practice not reacting in any way, recognizing what is being said as a dream. At first, you may find it difficult to maintain equanimity while you do this practice. Stay with it – you will find that doing so yields rich rewards over time.


The moments immediately after waking are the most fertile for recalling dreams. The following  practices are designed to support and strengthen your recall. They will also facilitate a mindful transition between the sleeping and waking dream states. Upon waking in the morning, practice:

• The lion’s out-breath  – breathing out with the sound “ah

• The lion-like posture for awakening and purifying – sitting up in bed with raised head and gazing and emphasizing the exhalation, repeating the “ah” out breath three times

• Raising the energy – standing up, reaching the fingertips to the sky, and repeating the lion’s out-breath

• Entering into mindful reflection on the transition between the states of sleeping, dreaming, and waking reality – coming into the present moment, recording dreams. Thus, you will enter the day recognizing that all things are like a dream, illusion, fantasy, mirage, and so forth.


After going to bed, practice these four points to create the conditions for mindful, lucid dreaming.

• Chant the following prayer three times to remind you of and strengthen your resolve to awaken within the dream, for the benefit of the ultimate awakening of all beings: “May I awaken within this dream and grasp the fact that I am dreaming, so that all dreamlike beings may likewise awaken from the nightmare of illusory suffering and confusion”.

• Lie on one side with your   legs together and knees slightly bent. Let your bent arm take the weight of your torso by resting your head on your open hand. This is the posture of the sleeping Buddha, as he has been traditionally depicted at the moment of passing into nirvana (death).

• Bringing your attention to your throat chakra, visualize your energy rising up out of your body. Feel it rise up from your heart chakra with your breath and pass into your “third eye” or brow chakra: the point between your eyebrows. Visualize it as a full, luminous moon behind your eyes. Go into the light.

• Visualize the letter “A” (symbolizing infinite space) on the surface of the moon.

Notice whatever images begin to appear on the sphere of light behind your eyes. 

These are excerpts from three different Dzogchen Dream Yoga books Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural light by Namkhai Norbu  – The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep by Tenzin Wangyal Rimpoche – Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying by the Dalai Lama

18 This throws the entire project of learning to lucid dream into another context. Now one asks, “How important is learning to lucid dream as a line of development, in comparison to other lines of development that also support growth, balance, and awakening to my next stage of development? The answer, when looked at from this perspective, is generally, “Not very.” How is this sacrilege possible from a dream yoga? Integral does not view all lines as equally important to development. Some, like art and mathematics, are wonderful, life-enhancing, and intrinsically valuable, but not necessary for stage development, unless they are requirements for your work. Lines that are essential include cognition, the self line, and moral development. While you can work on any and all lines in the context of one line, such as lucid dreaming (it would take a great deal of creativity!) a more practical, realistic, and productive approach is to focus on the essential developmental lines. You are not only more likely to generate the necessary thesis stage balance to sustain you through antithesis to maintain a higher order synthesis; you will gain competencies in the process which will incline you toward being more awake and more lucid in every state, including dreaming and deep sleep.

19 This account and what follows is found at: http://www.tibetanmedicine-edu.org/pdf/dreamsD1.pdf

20 Such as those that create nightmare antithesis sociograms. For more on this type of dream, see http://www.integraldeeplistening.com/learn-idl/interviewing-formats/dream-sociometry/the-dream-sociogram

21 Psychological geocentrism is contrasted with heliocentrism and polycentrism or multiperspectivalism in IDL. Psychological geocentrism is not egotism; it is consciousness centered on waking identity, egotistical or not. Psychological heliocentrism is essentially monotheism, Dharma, Brahman, or Heaven (for Taoism and Confucianism). It is the projection upon the macrocosm of the perspective of waking identity and then justifying the actions of waking identity in terms of that projection. (“I am telling you this because it is the Word of God,” when I am justifying my desires for you by crediting them to God.) Polycentrism or multiperspectivalism is holographic, in that every point and every perspective is not only the center of reality, but Truth. There is no distinction between the sacred and the secular in multiperspectivalism. Psychological geocentrism and heliocentrism are characteristic of prepersonal levels of development, because they both deify the self; Polycentrism is not likely to make sense to those at prepersonal levels; it will be seen as a threat to control, which is the work of prepersonal developmental stages. This is probably the basic reason why interviewing emerging potentials doesn’t resonate for most people.

22 http://www.tibetanmedicine-edu.org/pdf/dreamsD1.pdf

23 The “four quadrants: refers to a core assumption of integral approaches. In addition to lines, levels, and stages, every being contains four perspectives: internal consciousness, comprised of thoughts and feelings, values and interpretations, behavior, and relationships. These are described in the chapter comparing IDL and Integral.

24 Ken Wilber has proposed an integral approach to dream interpretation that considers such factors. This is addressed in the chapter comparing IDL and Integral.






“I take refuge until I am enlightened

In the Buddhas, the Dharma and the Sangha.

Through the merit I create by practicing giving

and the other perfections

May I attain Buddhahood for the sake of all

sentient beings.”

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