The Practices of
The Six Yogas
Of Naropa

Glenn H. Mullin,

(Snow Lion)
    From within the sphere of emptiness there manifests a multicolored lotus with a sun disk. Instantly you appear on it as Bhagavan Heroka Chakrasamvara, your body dark blue in color. You have four faces, the main one is black, the left one is green, the rear one is red, and the right one is yellow. Each of the faces has three eyes. You have twelve arms, and your forehead is adorned with a band of five-pointed vajras.

As you can see from this, it ain't no lark being a Tibetan Buddhist, especially when it comes to growing faces, eyes and arms. However, fortunately, the original six Yogas of Mahasiddha Naropa are somewhat more accessible, especially as the practice with regards to dreams --- being not unlike dreamwork in modern psychotherapy.

Naropa says,

    "All night, strive to invoke the self-purification of confused dreams;
    Guard the three doors with the hook of mindfulness.
    Retain, purify, increase and transform the contents of dreams,
    And eliminate all obstacles to the practice.
    One rides, on the sun and moon, travels to all buddhafields,
    And behold! All "good" and "bad" illusions become self-liberated."

Except for that business about the sun and the moon, this might have been taken direct from the directives Jungian psychotherapists used to give to their patients, and then as I say that, I recall that Jung, once, close to death, traveled to a small moon not far from the earth, found two angels guarding a cleft in the rock who told him to go right back, that he had too much work to do on earth to be allowed to depart. He did.

The old-time Jungians told their patients --- they didn't bother to call them "clients" --- to have pen and notebook on the bedtable, and the moment they awoke, they were to note down their dreams and bring them to the next session. I remember thinking that I didn't have that much in the way of dreams hanging around, but, lo and behold, the moment I started noting them, they went from being sketchy, often lurid one-liners, to four or five or six pages in length. They brought up things for me and Dr. Clark that would have been, so to speak, undreamed of before; they also offered us a rich selection of symbols, puns, and gently-veiled references to my past and present, which the good doctor, and his wondering patient, explored in depth. And to think that, over 900 years ago, Naropa was telling his followers to use dreams to banish the concepts of "good" and "bad." For those of us who are experienced dreamophiles, we learn that what Nabokov called "the dream-machine" is completely amoral, filled with symbols as rich as any play out of Shakespeare. Some vulgar and obscene acts come in dreams in ho-hum forms; some (apparently) innocent acts seem to have a fine touch of evil.

§     §     §

Naropa's Yogas, according to his students and followers and translators, may have numbered anywhere from two to ten. Tibetan Buddhists, as you can judge from the introductory quote, were obsessed with numbers. The key is the spirit, which involves meditation and chanting (AH and HAM --- and don't be thinking piggies; we Tibetans only eat yak). We are, also to remember that the world is an illusion "like a rainbow and the moon's reflection in water." We are also invited to practice out-of-body exercises "like a snake shedding its skin." And don't forget to do your dream work.

The best place for that is the mysterious place between wakefulness and sleep that you may have stumbled into, where "an inexpressable and unhindered experience of clear light arises." Modern dreamers call it "the hypnogogic state." Some are terrified by it since one can neither open the eyes or move a finger, merely hear a large buzzing in the ears. However, if you surrender to it ("don't fight it") you will find it a very interesting place to visit, if not to stay for awhile.

--- Indira Ghosh

Brooklyn Is
Southeast of
the Island:
Travel Notes

James Agee
(Fordham University Press)
The Denizens of Manhattan like to think of themselves as island-dwellers: people and places beyond the Hudson or the East River are on another planet. Thus James Agee was commissioned in 1939 by Fortune Magazine to come up with a Think Piece: to cross the fearful reaches of the Brooklyn Bridge, make notes, and thus pass judgment on what he found there ... as if he were traveling to Bulgaria, Turkministan, or Zamboanga.

"Students in careful suits, hard ties, toxic books..." he reports. "The fumed and whining factories, the pitiless birds, the animals, and

    that Bridge which stands up like God and makes music to himself by night and by day: all in the lordly idiot light...

Toxic books. The idiot light. God coming at us in the form of the twanging of cables on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Agee created great art in Now Let Us Praise Famous Men when he and photographer Walker Evans went into Hobe's Hill in the hot summer of 1936 to paint the barren and pitilessly poor life of the hill country of Alabama in the depths of depression. But, apparently, all he was able to find when he crossed the East River were "the negroid breath of a molasses factory" and about 200 colons. Yes the


which, for some reason, here replaces the comma, the period, and the paragraph: a mark: I guess: for those of us: who want a change: of pace: in our drab lives.
--- Bruce Cleveland

AA Gill
Is Away

A. A. Gill
(Simon & Schuster)
"Stories get a momentum of their own."

    The need, the desire to go with them, transcends almost everything else and that's what gets journalists killed,

Gill tells us. He takes us into the lives of the starving in the Sudan, the scandals of the big drug companies, the mix of politics of Ethiopia. He doesn't like Japan, thinks all Japanese are from outer space --- thinks the bombing of Hiroshima was perhaps a Good Thing.

He loves L. A., or at least respects it: "We may not like to think it, but it is the twentieth century incarnation of classical Athens, of Rome, Constantinople or Renaissance Florence."

    Even if you have never been here, this place has touched you --- more than that, it has run its smoggy, soft hands all over you. This is where up to 90 percent of the world's culture comes from: movies, television, recorded music, pornography, and all their myriad spin-off industries.

He fell in love with horse-back riding in Patagonia, figured it was English horses who had driven him away from it. He learns to fear, and fear for his life, in a rainstorm in the Kalahari. "The bedroll flooded and the person I was with sobbed, and the crack and flash zigzagged hour after hour echoing through the towers of rock ... I knew, and I wished I didn't, that granite is conductive rock with an unhealthily high metal content, and this place was the highest point for hundreds and hundreds of miles. There was nowhere to run, nowhere to hide."

§     §     §

Gill is a top-notch writer and, more to the point, a realist. He can capture a world in a few lines. On Cuba, "The sex, of course, is why most of the tourists come to Havana. Have no doubts about this. They're not here to show solidarity with forty years of continuous revolution, or to study architecture, and they certainly aren't here for the food."

    Cuba has a glut of just two things: musical instruments made out of coconuts, and erections.

He offers the thought that present-day Cuba is the country that "Joni Mitchell, Timothy Leary, and Bob Dylan would have designed if anyone had been foolish enough to give them a country to tinker with."

Gill is at his most persuasive when he is reporting simply but elegantly. For instance, in the midst of a famine in the Sudan: "A gaggle of girls walk beside me, straight backs and high breasts. They move with an easy, undulating rhythm. Little plumes of dust are kicked up by their feet."

    They flirt. Nobody prepares you for flirting in a famine. While there is life, there is still living. One strides close and does a rolling lumpen imitation of my gait, and her friends bridle and shimmy in peals of laughter. With long strong fingers, she touches her heart and then her lips and gives me a glowing white smile.

At one point, Gill gets waylaid in Van Nuys, California. Just for a lark, he authors and directs a pornographic film, Hot House Tales for a company called Metro. Pornography, he reports, grosses a half a trillion dollars a year, worldwide. "The cozy, liberal assumption that pornography is a sad, solitary, under-the mattress toss-aid for the socially inept, underclass old men is patently untrue."

    A few low-rent, dirty old wankers and some hairy-palmed students simply don't generate that sort of money. But then, no one does know actually who's watching this stuff --- although we all assume we know why.

Porn's boom came with video. It is also assumed that porn killed Betamax by choosing VHS. "Certainly it is the porn industry that is driving DVD --- for every mainstream video, there are twelve porn titles available.

    An American computer company wanted to advertise the power of the internet by listing the top ten most popular sites. It gave up, because all of them were porn. In fact, the top twenty are porn with the single exception of the Mormon's Doomsday Census.

He ends the tale "When DD Met AA" with the startling thought that the industry is a matriarchal one.

We once read that a great travel writer is one who tells the story so well that the reader wants to be right there with him on his journey. The next time I go to the Kalahari (or Cuba, or Van Nuys for god's sakes) I plan to ask Gill along.

--- Inge Ramsey

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