In the bardo state, you believe you have eyes that see. However, everything is merely experience, whether it is the bardo or the hell realms or any other place. It is all your personal experience. Just because one believes one has eyes and can therefore see does not change the fact that what one is experiencing is basically mind experience. When you dream at night you see all sorts of different things. Are those things seen with the eyes? You believe you have eyes in the dream, don’t you? You walk around and look all over, yet in reality your eyes are closed and you’re in bed.
Please understand that all your experience is your personal experience rather than somebody else’s. It is your experience, and thus is different from the personal experience of others. While we are unenlightened, there is an element of shared or general experience. The mountains, the city, the roads, the sky, the five elements, all seem to unenlightened beings to be as they appear. Right now we have what is called impure experience, which means we are constantly solidifying the content of experience into a solid reality. That is the definition of ‘impure’. But it doesn’t have to remain like that.
When we are training in this practice of recognising rigpa [pristine awareness] and becoming great yogis, everything experienced is to be seen as ‘the eight analogies of illusion’. These eight are reflections in a mirror, the moon in water, echoes, rainbows, dreams, city of Gandharvas, mirages, and the magical illusions created by a magician. In other words, we are comparing our experiences and perceptions to something that seems to really be there but in reality isn’t. Once that illusory nature is seen in actuality, then the solid character that we have attached to what we experience, simply vanishes. That is how a great yogi can move freely through what other people see as solid matter. It is not that he somehow becomes really strong and can force his way through solid matter. Rather, it’s due to realising the unreality or insubstantiality of all things.
This doesn’t change how other beings experience. For them, ‘reality’ still seems solid. The way to reach the yogi’s realisation is by recognising rigpa. Once we do that, we have hold of one end of the ‘rope’. It is like a huge, heavy 100-metre thick rope that’s lying in a lake: there is no way you can lift it out all at once. But if you catch hold of one end of the rope, you can slowly pull in the rest. The ‘one end of the rope’ is the recognition of rigpa we can get right now from a qualified master. At the other end of the rope lies the state of complete realisation.
Excerpt from As It Is by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, 1999. Courtesy of Rangjung Yeshe Publications.
More posts by Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche here.
Buddhism Now November 2000