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Six Dharmas of Nāropa - 11 The practise of the Illusory body or Dream Yoga - Preamble



Type of Spiritual Experience



I have included this as it came with the translation .  It is a commentary rather than instructions and was not written by Naropa

A description of the experience

The practise of the Illusory body or Dream Yoga

This is to be explained in two parts.

  • First, following the Heat Yoga, other Yogas are to be discussed in general.
  • Second, each of these Yogas will be individually considered. Now, the first:

Of this school, the teaching on Entering-into-the-Central Channel through the practice of Dumo is very clear, but, the practices and instructions on the Illusory Body and Light are very obscure. These teachings are very difficult to understand; however, I shall reveal some unique pith-instructions that I have obtained.

These instructions on the Illusory Body and Light Yoga are obtained from the source of Gsan Adus given by Apags-pa, father and son. According to their teaching, before the process of entering, remaining, and dissolving into the Central Channel by the life-Prana, the three steps of the Manifestation, Augmentation, and Attainment of the Peaceful-Mind Samadhi can never be attained.

The mind-prana that perfects the genuine wisdom of the Peaceful-Mind-State is also the means through which the genuine Illusory Body is practiced. These teachings are clearly given in the pith-instructions on the Gsan Adus and are also found in the teaching of the Five Steps of the Marpa School. Therefore, though the teaching of Light Yoga and Illusory Body are not clearly given in Naropa's Six Yogas, relying on the instructions of Apags-pa, the explanations are given here:

In the Commentary of the Epitome of the Five Steps of the Marpa School, the stanza says:

"At first, (the yogi will) see the mirage-like visions
 With the five-coloured light shining.
 The next vision he will see is a moon.
 The third one is the flowing light of the sun.
 Then the vision of the brink appears.
 Through this process manifests the Illusory-Body
 That is manifested by the mind-prana."

  • Manifestation - The vision of moonlight shining from a cloudless sky appears; this is a stage of Manifestation.
  • Augmentation - Then the glowing light of the sun shines in the sky; this is the stage of Augmentation.
  • Attainment - Then the brink period that appears like the dark sky before dawn comes in sight; this is the stage of Attainment.

After the emergence of these stages, the real Illusory Body-with-light that is produced by the Mind-Prana of the Peaceful-Mind Teaching (will come to pass); but this point is not clearly stated in the Six Yogas.

Among the numerous teachings of the Illusory Body, one is to meditate on the shadow-like nature of the self-body. First let someone praise and then insult you and observe the reactions of pleasure and resentment. Thus the crude form of the delusory thoughts are subdued; this is the practice of the Impure Illusory Body. Another practice is called the Pure Illusory Body Yoga. That is to meditate on the illusory-like self-Buddha figure and let another person praise and insult you and observe the reaction of pleasure and displeasure, until an indifferent feeling toward both praise and insult arises. But this practice is not a special practice; it is the common practice of the highest Yoga and other general teachings.

Other teachings of the Illusory Body are the Three-Steps Illusory Body, or the Secret Illusory Body; and the Two-in-One Illusory Body of the Five Steps. However, the discriminations and differences among these Illusory-Body teachings are not even briefly mentioned here. Nevertheless the teaching of Illusory Body (in the Six Yogas) is an uncommon teaching of the Perfecting Yoga of the Anuttara Tantra. The former one [the practice of The Impure Illusory Body. Ed.] does not, however, fulfill all the qualifications of the real Illusory Body; the second one [the Pure Illusory Body Yoga. Ed.] is also common because this teaching can also be found in the lower Tantras.

(Through the practice of the above teachings), the thoughts of anger and lust are subdued and the mind-state of unconcern is attained. Then combining the decisive understanding of the Voidness of the Middle Way with the Innate-Bliss and the essence of meditation practice, the yogi should carefully remember this state of mind. If he can practice well in such manner, immediately after the arising of the Yi-Dam figure (or the completion of the Arising Yoga period) through the power of Samadhi, all the manifestations appear to him as insubstantial and delusory like the mirage. With this teaching of identifying the manifestations with the Mandala, one does not have to meditate on the non-self nature of the divine manifestation purposely; such feeling will arise naturally without effort.

A teaching of the pith-instruction of the Marpa School is that the yogi should stare at a mirror …and see whether his own image reflects from the mirror as the true Buddha's image. This teaching is designed for promoting the meditation of Arising Yoga. According to the pith-instructions given by gurus at the time of the bestowal of the Third Initiation, the image of the Vajrasattva reflected from a mirror is shown to the disciple to point out the non-self aspect of the Illusory Body and to illustrate its mirage-like nature.

Following carefully the teaching of the Five Steps, the instructions are given [by the guru]. A comprehensive survey of the Apags-pa pith-instruction is thus afforded, and the incompleteness of the Illusory-Body teaching of the Marpa School is also discussed fully.

Again, there are instructions such as given here: the teaching of the Two-in-One-with-Learning, the teaching of the Two-in-One-without-Learning, the principle of the four steps: Manifestation, Augmentation, Attainment and Great Light. Especially, the instructions on the following steps are given: How the illusory body is transformed from the mind-prana; how one can enter into the Absolute Light after making the Illusory Body; in what manner the Manifestation, Augmentation, Voidness, etc., come in sight; how the Two-in-One-with-Learning (Body) is transformed after the Absolute-Light is stabilized and how through it the Two-in-One-without-Learning Body can be established how, if the Yogi practices the Light-of-Sleep, he is able to make the prana enter into the Central Channel during the awakening state; then how the four Voids will successively appear as light through his capability of gathering the prana of Roma and Rkyang-ma in the Heart Center (after the light state); and how the Illusory Body of Buddha will appear in the dream—in this stage, even if the Illusory Body of Buddha does not appear in the dream, the yogi will have no doubt.

Through the power of the prana's entrance into the Central Channel, one is able to hold the light of sleep;  or, if one has attained the general Samadhis of Mahayana or Hinayana, one can also apply his Samadhi's power in the sleeping state. Thus, the deep-sleep-Samadhi state can be brought into the weaker-sleeping-state Samadhi. There is no clear explanation here on the differences of these various experiences though the various approaches. Therefore, one should carefully discriminate between the holding-of-dream through prana power and the holding-of-dream through desire; and between the coming of death-light and sleep-light through the prana power and through the power of the strong will. How the Sambhogakaya is manifested in the Bardo state should also be studied. If one wants to know this in detail, one may study the instructions of Apags-pa who provides much information.

In the practice of holding the Light-of-Sleep and the practice of holding the dream state, though the power of prana, the first step is to grasp the Light-of-Sleep and then manipulate the dream state.

If one is not able to gather the prana into the Central Channel, but with a very strong will or intention sets one's mind upon the recognizing of the dream state during the awakening time, throughout exertion of will power a Samadhi of sleeping state will arise. However, this cannot be called a decisive or actual Light-of-Sleep state.

If through both the inner and outer daytime practice, one is able to proceed with the entering, remaining, and dissolving process in the Central Channel, the well-known Four Blisses and Four Voids will arise. Then the identity of Bliss-Void during the emergence of the Innate-Born can be practised. Eventually the Illusory Body will arise. By means of this practice, one will be able to impress the Bliss-Void feeling on all manifestations at all times. Thus the  (identity) of manifestation and Mandala (practice of Tantrism) is exercised.

What is the reason for relying on the remaining two Wheels to practice the Sleep-Light and Illusory-Dream? Because in sleep the pranas will naturally gather in the Heart Center, and with the power of gathering the prana in the Central Channel and through the mental concentration on the Central Channel Heart-Center, the prana of Ro-ma and Rkyang-ma will gather in the Central Channel-Heart Center, and its power will be very great. Consequently, the Four Voids, especially the All-Void, will appear. If one can guard this light of Samadhi for a long period, through its power in daytime, one will be able to gather a greater portion of prana in the Central Channel where it will become more steady than before.

If the light-of-sleep becomes steady, it will help the path greatly. With it, the power of meditation will increase, without it, the power will decrease. This is extremely important for those who have not attained the ultimate accomplishment in this life and expect to attain the ultimate enlightenment at the time of death. This practice is superior to the teaching of (merely) recognizing the Light-of Death.

After the emergence of the light-of-sleep, if one knows how to radiate or raise up the superb Illusory Dream-Body, through its power the daytime practice on the Illusory Body will become more powerful and steady. If one cannot attain the ultimate accomplishment in this life and puts his hope in the moment of death, he must have the ability of holding the light with prana and must practice this teaching of Illusory Body of Dream. Thus he will be able to identify the Illusory Body of Bardo. Without these practices it would be impossible to do so; therefore, these two instructions are unique and of great importance.

The instructions on the actual practice of the Illusory Body and the Light Yoga follow:

In addition to the teachings given in the last chapter—the Tantric teaching of the perfect Illusory Body, the teaching of the light-of-awakening-from sleep, the teachings for the time of the reversed processes, there are other ways of practice found in the commentaries of the great teachers, which I will now relate in this chapter. First the instruction on the Illusory Body practice; second, the instructions on the Light Yoga.

The teaching of the Illusory Body will be discussed in three steps: the Illusory Body practice on the manifestations; the Illusory Body practice on the dream state; and the Illusory Body practice on the Bardo state.

With a decisive understanding or View on Sūnyatā, the yogi associates this view with the Innate-Born Bliss in meditation. After the meditation period, through remembering the View and remembering that all manifestations are Buddhahood, the yogi will naturally experience, in all daily activities, the feeling that all manifestations are immanently illusory. He will also see all manifestations illustrating themselves in the forms of Mandalas. For these (capable) yogis, of course, there is no need for any visualization practices.

But in order to benefit those who cannot do the same in their meditation, the following practice is advised: In the after-meditation period, the yogi should observe the non-self nature of all Dharmas—the sentient beings and the material world—and identify his body with his image reflected from the mirror. Through this practice, the common visions of sentient being and universe will appear as mirage without any substance or self-nature. If this experience can be stabilized, all manifestations will appear in the form of the two Mandalas. With an understanding of the mirage-like nature, or with the view of the identity of non-self-nature Voidness and manifestation, the yogi observes the pure Mandala. And then he looks into the mirror and identifies the godly image there with his own body. In this way, the mirage-like nature of Buddha's body is observed.

With such an understanding, the yogi observes the Buddha's body in the mirror and concentrates upon it. Then he should think that this image of Buddha projects itself and merges with him. Since the former practice is a complete process, its power is much greater than that of the latter.

As instructed in The Five Steps, the picture of an image of Vajrasattva is reflected in a mirror so that by looking at this reflection, the yogi may observe the nature of the Illusory Body. Following this instruction, the two gurus, Marpa and Agog Lodrawa, have established this teaching to benefit those disciples who cannot quite understand the illusory nature of beings merely through hearing it explained. For that reason, this seeing-practice is given. To practice this teaching in the Arising Yoga, a specially constructed house is required; many different drugs and other materials are also needed. After all the preparations are arranged, the yogi then proceeds to observe the reflection of the image in the mirror. These instructions are found in both Marpa's and Agog's teachings.

(Generally speaking) there are two different aspects of the illusory-like and dream-like nature of all Dharmas: the existent-but-not-real aspect, and the manifesting-yet-void aspect.

Here, the latter aspect which refers to the Illusory Body is stressed.

The manifestation and the manifestation-void should also be distinguished; and two different kinds of voidness the voidness of the utter non-existent such as the never coming-into-being of the horn of the rabbit or the son of a barren woman; and the voidness of the manifesting-yet-empty. (If one has not realized the latter, one will not be able to understand the illusory nature of manifestations.)

The illusory nature of beings is illustrated through analogies. For example, the phantasm of horses and cattle conjured by the magicians does not exist in reality, but one cannot deny the apparent reality of these phenomena (as one sees them). The same holds true in the case of sentient beings (and objects, etc.) as people see them. Although there is no immanent actuality in the self-nature of beings, (through their illusory thoughts) people see manifestations as having real existence.

The manifestations considered (by ordinary beings) as things having Dharma-form (color, shape, sound, taste, etc.) have never existed. Nevertheless, the actor and the action, the hearer and the sound, the seer and the vision, etc., are continuously manifesting themselves freely. If one realizes the Two-in-One View of "existence in voidness and voidness in existence," there will be no danger of falling into the extreme Realistic or Nihilistic views. Since all Dharmas are immanently void in nature, realizing their nature as void is quite sufficient; there is no need for creating a voidness through one's mind-effort, or a voidness of day, month, or year (past, present, and future).

If one meditates on this principle, all attachments and clinging to the actuality of beings will be subdued. This  profound principle (of voidness) is by no means imperceptible or unobservable. During the practice of the meditation on Reality Śūnyatā, and during the contemplation of the Right View, it (the Voidness) can definitely serve as an object of observation. It is utterly erroneous to say that the reality of Voidness cannot be seen or known, that it can never be practiced in the path, and that nothing of it can be understood, as claimed by some scholars of the old schools of Tibet.

The origin of all the conceptions of skandhas, self-natures, and symbols, is the very thought of I am! Therefore one should stress practicing the non-existence of the self-nature of beings. As the yogi perceives the "becomings" with his mind, he should appreciate the existence of manifestations in the mundane category. The existence of causations—the existence of the doer and receiver—should be confirmed within own mind. Though these causations are devoid of self-nature, they still manifest freely without any hindrances. Should a conflict between the two—the voidness and existence—appear in his mind, he should think on the principle of delusiveness, reflected by the parables of shadow, dream, etc., and reconcile the conflict.

We know that the reflection of the face in the mirror is in reality void. We also know that the reflection is caused by the conjunction of the face and mirror, and that the withdrawal of either of them will end the reflection. But the disappearance of the reflection does not mean the annihilation of the face and mirror themselves82. In the same way, though there is not one atom existing in sentient beings, the Karma-doer, the Karma-receiver, and the ripening of Karma through one's previous deeds can still take place. We should ponder on and practice this principle; when its understanding is stabilized one may proceed to work on the practice of the Beyond-Measure-Palace, outwardly, and the Yi-Dam image (in the Mandala). Then, he should contemplate the View of the Identity of the Bliss and Void.

Through these practices, the yogi will experience all manifestations as the Bodies of Buddha, will realize these Bodies as delusory, and will find this delusiveness absorbed in the Great Bliss. These realizations will take place successively as three steps. If the yogi attains the Great Bliss in his main-meditation stage, he should pay especial attention to the observation of Śūnyatā. Thus, by concentration on Śūnyatā-Bliss the non-discriminating Wisdom will arise.

The yogi should practice the main-meditation and after-meditation stages, alternatively.

The source of the experience

Six Dharmas of Nāropa

Concepts, symbols and science items



Science Items

Activities and commonsteps