Dream and bardo

Dream and bardo

The dream practice and analysis has been used in Tibet since ancient time and is considered as an important part of the medical analysis and mind training. Tibetan Bon faith healers (ancient shamans) used dreams to read the relationship between the spirits and humans, and diagnose diseases. After Buddhism came to Tibet in the 7th century, dream analyzing culture developed along with medical knowledge and spiritual practice and became a more important subject. The practice of dream analysis increased with the use of healthy dream interpretation and dream omens as a diagnosis in medical practice, according to the Gyud-shi (the Four medical tantras), and with Yoga tantra as a spiritual practice for transformation of the body/mind.

In Tibetan medicine and Psychology, dream is considered as being a secret language of the mind, but also the messenger of channels blockage due to disorders.

In Tantra, dream is also regarded as an illusion but this illusion is considered an experience similar to the Bardo state, or ‘intermediate state‘, experienced by the mind after death. According to Buddhism, from the moment of death until there is a new life, the consciousness enters a state called Bardo. Relating to one’s karma, this state lasts from few minutes or few days to a maximum of 49 days. During the death, the dream-like mental body sees many aspects of its new world with uncertainty and fear. It is a world of lights, colors and sounds, and the mind experiences it like going through nightmares or adventures in the dream. The mind also sees his previous house, family and work, etc. and tries to continue to engage in daily life but without being able to interact with others. Such experiences occur and it is very difficult for the consciousness to recognize that death had happened.

The situation is very similar to the dream state, where we feel ‘normal‘, with a body and life that looks real. Friends come to meet us, events happen and all these aspects are perceived as external factors rather than as our own mind’s creation. We have to go through the dream and follow its progression without having much impact on it.

Because of the similarity between the Bardo and dream processes, the tantric Buddhist spiritual practice uses dream as a path of spiritual transformation for the mind in a training called ‘Dream yoga‘, to prepare the consciousness to recognize these illusory states for what they are, and so to develop useful capacities for the moment of death.

In the dream and bardo seminars, Prof. Pasang Y. Arya presents the Tibetan concepts on dream and bardo, the use of dream interpretation in the Tibetan medical practice, and the dream practice in the bardo context.