(c) 2011 Philip T. Nicholson
Lahiri Mahasay, a clerk in the Indian civil service, got up every morning before dawn to meditate. He eventually "Realized the Self," which is to say, he merged his individual consciousness with the primordial, undifferentiated radiance of Brahman. Mahasay advised meditators to go "beyond the five senses," and then when only "mind" is present, to watch carefully, because "beyond the mind there is buddhi, that is bindu, or spot; beyond the bindu, Brahma [Satyeswarananda Giri, 1991, p. 212]."
The Hindu guru, Muktananda, described a vision that came after his vision of the Blue Pearl: "Once in meditation my eyes rolled upward, became inverted, and stayed in that position. . . . I saw an extremely beautiful, shining blue star. It was not the Blue Pearl, but it was marvelously brilliant. It looked just like the familiar planet Venus . . . . This beautiful star is located in the center of the upper space of the sahasrara, and it never moves [Play of Consciousness, 1978, p. 139]."
Men and women who survive near-death experiences sometimes report being pulled through a dark tunnel into a bright, all-encompassing light. Examples of near-death visions are listed here because the experiences resemble what happens when meditators experience the early onset of paroxysmal visions:
"There was total blackness around me. I want to say that it felt like I was moving very, very fast in time and space. I was traveling through a tunnel. It didn't look like a tunnel, but when you're in a tunnel, all you see is blackness around you. If you move very fast you can feel the sides moving in on you whether there are sides there or not because of the darkness [Sabom, 1982, p. 41."
"There was this panic, the panic of cardiac arrest. . . . Then I could feel myself going through this tunnel, being drawn through this tunnel. And there was a light at the end. God it was so bright! [Nelson, Vital Signs: A Quarterly Digest, Sept. 1981, p. 66].
"I was going down a long black tunnel with a tremendously alive sort of light bursting at the far end. I shot out of the tunnel into this light. I was in the light, I was part of it, I knew everything—a most strange feeling [Drab, Anabiosis 1, Dec. 1981, p. 68]."
"There was a dark period but I had the sense of moving through something. This must have been going through the tunnel. Then I came out. I say 'came out' because it seemed as though I came out the other side. When I came out I was drawn to this white light and I remember thinking, 'This is so peaceful. This is what heaven is.' It was just this incredible feeling. Like metal being drawn to a magnet, I was drawn to the light. / There was no face in the light like some people describe. I didn't see God or anything. It was more like energy and it was very wonderful [Darla, in Morse, 1992, pp.78-79]."
In the Yogasutras, Patañjali describes the sequence of visions that culminate in the experience of Kaivalpa ("Aloneness," i.e., Unity with Brahman). He tells meditators that "Those countless speckles striking—they have a purpose [4.23]." And what is that purpose? The next verse makes this clear: "Once the flux ends, the atman comes [4.24]." The "atman" is that tiny portion of divine light stored in latent form within every human, a light that can be kindled by meditators so that it begins to glow—a light that will be depicted in Video 4.
In the Daoist Ta-tung jing ("The Supreme Void," or "The Book of Great Profundity), meditators are told to concentrate on the visions of purple lights sent by the gods until those purple lights begin to "whirl" and "twist." This is the start of the "Whirlwind of Unitive Fusion:" "The Ta-tung ["Void"] . . . gathers the essence and concentrates the spirit, conducts . . . the primordial breath and makes it revolve (hui-hsün), purifies the spirits and rejoins with the Tao, causes a propitious wind to blow and guides the dance within the void [Robinet, 1993, pp. 109-110, 116-117]." This whirlwind is said to be piao, which means "a violent or wild or fiery wind" or a "fast chariot," which is to say, a vehicle that "carries the adept off into paradise [Ibid., pp. 113-114]." A Daoist monk once wrote that "the adept who revolves on a piao chariot within the void is someone who 'turns like a wild wind (piao), twirls around like a falling leaf, abandons himself to things and is spontaneous' [Ibid., p. 116]."
Goraksanatha, the Tantric Hindu guru who wrote Immortal Flow, describes what happens when meditators concentrate on the blue light of the ajña-chakra ("brow-chakra"). Inside this light, as one stares at the strands of "cognitive energy subtler than the hundredth part of the tip of a hair," the vision condenses into a tiny dot of light—into a bindu: "Above this energy [of the brow-chakra] dwells the dot, bindu." This dot is said to symbolize virya, or "virile potency," no doubt because of what happens next: "When the bindu explodes and shatters, it expands immediately and forms themastaka (i.e., the Brahmarandhra) [Silburn, 1988, pp. 11, 128-9]," p. 128]." The vision of the Brahmarandhra is depicted in Video 4.
In The Epitome of the Six Yogas, Naropa advises meditators that when they enter into the state of dhyana, i.e., "empty-mind consciousness," they will begin to experience internal heat, feelings of bliss, and visions of "phenomena, appearing like . . . fireflies ["Yoga of Psychic Heat," I: 98-99, Evans-Wentz, 1958, p. 195]." There are other two references to visions of "fireflies" in the Six Yogas. First, there is "The Flaring," which is one of the "Supernormal Signs" that "will appear as a yellow radiance [Ibid., p. 123]." Second, those meditators who are able to enter the Bardo, that transitional state where the soul is suspended between life and death, can expect to see "the Ignition" which manifests with an "internal sign that looks like apparitional fireflies ["Yoga of the Bardo State," 5: 15-17, Ibid., p 236]."
The Hindu guru, Ksemardaja, author of Commentary on the Shivasutras, describes how the rising of the subtle kundalini energy activates the vision of an auspicious bindu but then breaks through the bindu with spectacular results: "The subtle and supreme energy sleeps, coiled up in the manner of a snake; she encloses herself within the bindu . . . . / She gets awakened through a profound resonance full of knowledge when she is churned by the bindu, Shiva, residing in her. This churning, . . . must be performed with whirling force with a continuous movement until there appear dazzling sparks (bindu) just as the subtle energy rises . . . . [3: 3; Silburn, 1988., p. 42]." Ksemardaja's description of a "churning" and "whirling force" might refer to aspects of the vision or to body movements (kriyas) that are associated in Hindu culture with ecstatic raptures—experiencing muscle tremors, an involuntary arching of the back, and having the mouth fall slack (chakitamudra).
During the meditations of Hindu guru, Muktananda, the vision of the "Blue Star that never moved" was suddenly and dramatically transformed: "Again the blue star shone steadily before me, not moving at all. . . . the blue star passed within me into my sahasrara and exploded. Its fragments spread throughout the vast spaces of the sahasrara [Play of Consciousness, 1978, pp. 149-151]."
The hymns of the Indo-Aryan Rig Veda describe a vision of Ushas, the goddess of dawn, who manifests to those who participate in the soma ceremony as a gradual brightening and bluing that resembles a natural dawn. But this is a visionary experience, a "conscious" dawn that appears in the mind's eye: "Those ancient sages, our ancestors . . . discovered the hidden light, and, reciters of prayers, they generated the Dawn [7.76.2-3, Wilson, 1888]." Another hymn states that: ". . . our mortal forefathers departed after instituting the sacred rite . . . . they found the light, . . . . then they glorified the conscious dawns, and the purple dawn appeared with the radiance of the sun [4.1.11-17]." This vision of Ushas, the inner "dawn," occurs independently of a natural dawn and can be summoned at will: "Many are the days that have dawned before the rising of the sun, on which thou, Ushas, has been beheld like a wife repairing to an inconstant husband, and not like one deserting him [7.76.2-3, Wilson, 1888]."
The Daoist Ta-tung jing advises meditators who are caught up in the fiery "Whirlwind of Unitive Fusion" to persist in their vigils, confident that the fiery whirlwind will soon subside and that a state of calm contemplation will be restored. It is then that they will see the appearance of a vision of diffuse light: "Suddenly (hu), the respiration disperses the form of the ten thousand things and, at the height of movement, there is tranquility again—obscurely, all around, the Miracle of the Emperor One [Robinet, 1993, pp. 109, 116-117]." And what is this vision of the Miracle of the Emperor One? It is the vision of energies (chi) that illuminate all consciousness "like a white sun" [Ibid., p. 110].
The Ta-tung jing uses another metaphor to describe "the Miracle of the Emperor One:" "We now arrive in the watery lower world," writes Daoist scholar, Karl Schipper, "Here again sun and the moon are found, this time in the kidneys. They cast their light on the Great Ocean of Energies (cih'i-hai), which covers the whole of the lower body, and wherein a large turtle swims [Schipper, 1993, p. 106-7]." (The vision of a turtle's head poking above the surface of the "Ocean" is depicted in Video 4.)
In The Six Yogas, Naropa says the vision of the "yellow radiance like fireflies" will give way to the state of "Immediate Attainment" which can be recognized by its "internal sign like the light of a lamp enclosed in a semi-opaque state." This attainment is only "intermediate" because several other visions must appear before the final vision of the "Clear Light" ["Yoga of the Bardo State," 5: 15-17, Evans-Wentz, 1957, p. 236].
In the Six Yogas, Naropa uses another metaphor to describe the "Intermediate Attainment:" after seeing the vision of the "yellow radiance that looks like fireflies," meditators can expect to see "something resembling the light of dawn, / And something resembling a cloudless sky . . . ["Yoga of Psychic Heat," I: 98-99, Evans-Wentz, 1958, p. 195]." There is a some ambiguity here, because other verses in the Six Yogas state that the vision of "Clear Light," the Ultimate Attainment, has similar internal signs, which is to say, "internal signs that resemble an autumn sky without a cloud" ["Yoga of the Bardo State," 5: 16-18, Ibid., p. 236]. It seems clear, however, that if one considers all of the light visions in the prescribed sequence, it cannot be the case that the vision of the "cloudless sky" is the same as the "Clear Light," because there are several important visions that are described as appearing after the "cloudless sky" and before the "Clear Light."
In Muktananda's account of his visionary experiences, he described how the "explosion" of the "Blue Star" sent fragments radiating through his sahasrara, that dark space in the mind's eye of a meditator. When these exploding fragments of light disappeared: "There was no star in front of me now, but just an ambrosial white light. Then I passed into Tantraloka [pp. 149-151]." The word, loka, means "light," so Muktananda is claiming that his consciousness merged with the primordial radiance of Brahman and that he attained "Release" (Moksha) from all karmic entanglements. He was assured of this when the ghost of a famous Siddha appeared to tell Muktananda that "until the star explodes, the cycle of birth and rebirth is not broken, . . . . Only when that is torn is the eye of differentiation removed [Ibid., p. 151].'"