In the preceding chapter I have already mentioned some incidents that may be classified as psychic phenomena. It may be useful to take up the subject again, for the fame which Tibet enjoys in foreign countries is largely due to the belief that prodigies happen there as plentifully as wild flowers grow in the fields.
Whatever certain people may think about the matter, strange events are far from being usual in Tibet, and it is good to bear in mind that the observations which I have condensed into a few pages are the result of researches which lasted more than ten years.
The fascination exercised by Tibet as an abode of sages and magicians dates from a time long back. Even before the Buddha, Indians turned with devout awe to the Himalayas, and many were the extraordinary stories about the mysterious, cloud enshrouded northern country extending beyond their mighty snowy peaks.
The Chinese also seem to have been impressed by the strangeness of Tibetan wilds. Amongst others, the legend of her great mystic philosopher Laotze relates that, at the end of his long career, the master riding an ox started for the mysterious land, crossed its border, and never returned. The same thing is sometimes told about Boddhidharma and some of his Chinese disciples, followers of the Buddhist sect of meditation (Ts’an sect).
Even nowadays one may often meet Indian pilgrims on the paths that climb towards the passes through which one enters Tibet, dragging themselves along as in a dream; hypnotized, it seems, by an overpowering vision. When asked the motive of their journey most of them can only answer that they wish to die on Tibetan ground. And too often the cold climate, the high altitude, fatigue and starvation help them to realize their wish.
How can we explain this magnetic power in Tibet?
There is no doubt that the reputation enjoyed by the “Land of Snow” for being a country of wizards and magicians, a ground on which miracles daily occur, is the main cause of its attraction over the majority of its worshippers. But now one may ask for what reason Tibet has been credited with being the chosen land of occult lore and supernormal phenomena. Perhaps the most obvious cause is that already mentioned, the extreme remoteness of the country, enclosed between formidable mountain ranges and immense deserts.
Men compelled to abandon cherished ideals incompatible with their stern, prosaic surroundings, are eager to transplant them to a more favourable fairyland. As a last resource they build gardens in the heaven and superterrestrial paradises to shelter their day dreams, but how much more readily will they seize upon the opportunity of lodging them in an earthly country. Tibet offers that opportunity. It has all the physical features of a true wonderland. I do not think it is exaggerated to say that its landscapes surpass, in all respects, those imagined by the fanciful architects of gods’ and demons’ worlds.
No description can convey the least idea of the solemn majesty, the serene beauty, the awe-inspiring wildness, the entrancing charm of the finest Tibetan scenes. Often, when tramping across these solitary heights, one feels like an intruder. Unconsciously one slackens pace, lowers one’s voice, and words of apology for one’s unwarranted boldness come to the lips, ready to be uttered at the first sight of a legitimate superhuman master on whose ground one has trespassed.
Common Tibetan villagers and herdsmen, though born amidst such surroundings, are strongly influenced by them. Translated by their primitive mind, their impressions take the form of these fantastic demigods and spirits of a hundred kinds with whom they have densely populated the solitudes of Tibet, and whose whimsical demeanour is the inexhaustible theme of a rich folklore.
On the other hand, just as the Chaldean shepherds of yore observing the starry sky, on the shore of Euphrates laid the foundation of astronomy, so Tibetan anchorites and itinerant shamans have long pondered over the mysteries of their bewitching country and noted the phenomena which there found a favourable ground. A strange art had its origin in their contemplations and, many centuries ago, the magicians from the northern Transhimalayan land were already known and held in high repute in India.
Now, in spite of its remoteness, Tibet is not altogether inaccessible. This, I can well testify. I have several times reached its southern tableland through different Himalayan passes, travelled for years in its eastern provinces and the northern Changthang, 231 and during my last journey, I crossed the whole country from its southeastern border to Lhasa. Any robust man or woman who does not fear hardships, might do the same but for the policy which closes Tibet.
It is certain that, especially since the introduction of Buddhism, numbers of Indians, Nepalese, Chinese and other travellers have visited Tibet, seen its bewildering sites and heard about the supernormal powers with which its dubtobs are credited.
Amongst them, a few have probably approached the lamas or Bön-pos magicians and listened to the mystic doctrines of contemplative hermits. Their travellers’ tales, which inevitably grew and amplified as they were circulated, must have greatly contributed, together with the causes I have mentioned and other less apparent ones, to create around Tibet the glamorous atmosphere it now enjoys.
231.Chang, “north”; Thang, a large track of more or less level ground. The Changthang is the vast grassy desert which extends between Tibet and the Chinese Turkestan. Must we conclude that the renown of Tibet as the land in which prodigies flourish, is entirely based on delusion? This would be as great an error as the uncritical acceptance of all the native tales, or of those lately conceived by the fertile brains of some facetious Westerners.
The best way is to be guided by the rather surprising opinion of the Tibetans themselves regarding miraculous events. None in Tibet deny that such events may take place, but no one regards them as miracles, according to the meaning of that term in the West, that is to say as supernatural events.
Indeed, Tibetans do not recognize any supernatural agent. The so-called wonders, they think, are as natural as common daily events and depend on the clever handling of little-known laws and forces. All facts which, in other countries, are considered miraculous or, in any other way, ascribed to the arbitrary interference of beings belonging to other worlds, are considered by Tibetan adepts of the secret lore as psychic phenomena.
In a general way, Tibetans distinguish two categories of psychic phenomena.
1. The phenomena which are unconsciously produced either by one or by several individuals.
In that case, the author – or authors – of the phenomenon acting unconsciously, it is obvious that he does not aim at a fixed result.
2. The phenomena produced consciously, with a view of bringing about a prescribed result. These are generally – but not always – the work of a single person.
That “person” may be a man or may belong to any one of the six classes of sentient beings which lamaists acknowledge as existing in our world. Whosoever be its author, the phenomenon is produced by the same process, in accordance with some natural laws: there is no miracle.
It may be of interest to remark here that Tibetans are staunch determinists. Each volition, they believe, is brought about by a number of causes, of which some are near and others extremely remote. I shall not lay stress on that point which is outside the present subject. However, the reader must bear in mind that, according to Tibetans, each phenomenon, consciously or unconsciously generated, as well as each of our bodily or mental actions, is the fruit of manifold combined causes.
Amongst these causes, the first and more easily discernible ones are those which have arisen, in the mind of the doer of the action, the conscious will of doing it. To these causes Tibetans assimilate those which, even unknown to the doer, have put into motion some forces which have led him to perform the action. Both kinds are styled gyu, “immediate or principal cause.” Then, come the outside causes, not originating with the doer, which may have helped the accomplishment of the action. These are called kyen. (As an instance, the seed is the rgyu of the plant. The soil and the various substances which exist in it, the water, air, sun, the gardener who has sown the seed, etc., etc., are rkyen). The remote causes are often represented by their “descendants.” (for example the milk is present in the butter or cheese, or the seed is present in the tree born from it. Tibetans freely use these illustrations.)
These “descendants” are the present conditions which exist as the effects of bodily or mental actions which have been done in the past, but not, necessarily, done by the doer of the present act himself. So, when concentration of thoughts is mentioned here below as the direct cause of a phenomenon, one must remember: first that, according to Tibetan mystics, this concentration is not spontaneous, but determined; and secondly, that beside this direct apparent cause, there exist, in the background, a number of secondary causes which are equally necessary to bring about the phenomenon.
The secret of the psychic training, as Tibetans conceive it, consists in developing a power of concentration of mind greatly surpassing even that of men who are, by nature, the most gifted in this respect.
Mystic masters affirm that by the means of such concentration of mind, waves of energy are produced which can be used in different ways. The term “wave” is mine. I use it for clearness sake and also because, as the reader will see, Tibetan mystics really mean some “currents” or “waves” of force. However, they merely say shugs or tsal that is to say, “energy.” That energy, they believe, is produced every time that a physical or mental action takes place.
1. Action of the mind, of the speech and of the body, according to the Buddhist classification.
2. The production of psychic phenomena depends upon the strength of that energy and the direction in which it is pointed.
An object can be charged by these waves. It then becomes something resembling our electric accumulators and may give back, in one way or another, the energy stored in it. For instance, it will increase the vitality of one who touches it, infuse him with courage, etc.
Practices grounded on this theory and aiming at beneficial results are current in Tibet. Numbers of lamas prepare pills, holy water, knotted scarves, charms printed on paper or cloth, which are supposed to impart strength and health, or to keep away accidents, evil spirits, robbers, bullets and so on.
The lama must first purify himself by a proper diet and then concentrate his thoughts on the object which he means to empower, in order to load it with wholesome influences. Several weeks or months are sometimes deemed necessary for that preparation. However, when it is only a question of charmed scarves, these are often knotted and consecrated in a few minutes.
3. The energy which is communicated to an object, pours into it a kind of life. That inanimate object becomes able to move and can perform certain actions at the command of its maker.
The ngagspas are said to resort to these practices, to hurt or kill without arousing any suspicion that they are responsible for the casualty. Here is an instance of the way in which the sorcerer proceeds.
Taking with him the object which is to be animated – let us say a knife destined to kill someone – the ngagspa shuts himself in seclusion for a period that may last over several months. During that time he sits, concentrating his thoughts on the knife in front of him and endeavouring to transfer to the inanimated object, his will to kill the particular individual whose death has been planned.
Various rites are often performed in connection with the ngagspa’s concentration of mind. These aim at adding to the energy which the latter is capable of generating and transfusing into the knife. Beings deemed more powerful than the sorcerer are either besought to co-operate willingly with him or coerced and compelled to let their energy flow into the weapon.
These “beings” are often of a demoniacal kind, but in the case when the murder is deemed a righteous action235 useful to the welfare of many, lofty benevolent entities may be called in as helpers. These are always respectfully implored and no one attempts to coerce them. Some ngagspas think it useful to bring the weapon into touch with the man whom it is meant to kill or with objects habitually used by him.
Other adepts of the black art scoff at such a childish practice and declare that it discloses utter ignorance regarding the causes which may bring about the killing or hurting that is to appear accidental. When the sorcerer supposes that the knife is ready to perform its work, it is placed near the man who is to become its victim so that, almost always, he may be led to use it. Then, as soon as he seizes it, the knife moves, gives a sudden impulse to the hand which holds it, and the man against whom it has been prepared stabs himself.
It is said that when once the weapon has been animated in that way, it becomes dangerous for the ngagspa who, if he lacks the knowledge and cleverness required to guard himself, may fall its victim.
Auto-suggestion is likely to result from the protracted meditation and the elaborate rites performed by the sorcerer while dwelling in seclusion, and it would not be surprising if some accident occurred to him. Nevertheless, apart from the stories of demons and spirits there may be a phenomenon similar to that which is said to occur when the phantom created by a magician breaks away from its maker’s control.
Certain lamas and a few Bön-pos have told me that it is a mistake to believe, in such cases as I have just mentioned, that the knife becomes animated and kills the man. It is the man, they said, who acts on auto-suggestion as a result of the sorcerer’s concentration of thought.
Though the ngagspa only aims at animating the knife, the man against whom the rites are performed is closely associated in his mind with the idea of the weapon. And so, as that man may be a fit receiver of the occult “waves” generated by the sorcerer – (while the knife is not) he falls unconsciously under their influence. Then, when touching the prepared knife, the view and touch of the latter put into motion the suggestion existing, unknown to him, in the man’s mind, and he stabs himself.
235.As were the murders of harmful beings by King Gesar of Ling or the murder of the King Langdharma, who meant to reestablish the pre-buddhistic shamanism in Tibet. Lamaists differ on that point from ortho- dox Buddhism which expressly forbids killing.
Moreover, it is strongly believed that without any material object for transmission, proficient adepts of the secret lore can suggest, even from afar, to men or other beings, the idea of killing themselves in one way or another.
All agree in saying that any such attempt cannot be successful against an adept in psychic training because such a one detects the “waves” of forces pointed at him and is able to discriminate their nature and thrust back those which he deems harm- ful.
4. Without the help of any material object, the energy generated by the concentration of thoughts can be carried to more or less distant points. There this energy may manifest itself in various manners. For instance: It can bring about psychic phenomena. It can penetrate the goal ascribed to it and thus transfer the power generated elsewhere.
Mystic masters are said to use this process during the angkur rites. Much could be said about these rites and the spirit which pervades them. The limited space allowed in an average size volume forbids an exhaustive account of all theories and practices of mystic Lamaism and I have reluctantly had to omit for the present a number of interesting subjects. I shall confine myself to a few words.
Lamaist angkur, literally “empowerment,” is not an “initiation,” though, for lack of other words, I have sometimes used that term in the course of the present book. The various angkurs are not meant to reveal esoteric doctrines, as initiations were, among the Greeks and other peoples. They have a decidedly psychic character. The theory about them is that “energy” may be transmitted from the master – or from some more occult store of forces – to the disciple who is able to “tap” the psychic waves in transmission.
According to lamaist mystics, during the performance of the angkur rite a force is placed within the disciple’s reach. The seizing and assimilating of that force is left to his ability. In the course of talks I had on this subject with mystic initiates, they have defined angkur as “a special opportunity” offered to a disciple of “empowering himself.”
By the same method, mystic masters are said to be able to dispatch waves of energy which, in case of need, cheer, refresh and invigorate, physically and mentally, their distant disciples. The process is not always meant to enrich the goal to which the waves are directed.
On the contrary, sometimes when reaching that goal, these waves absorb a portion of its energy. Then, returning with this subtly stolen spoil, they pour it into the “post” from which they have been sent forth, and in which they are reabsorbed. Some magicians, it is said, gain great strength or prolong their lives by incorporating this stolen energy.
5. Tibetan mystics also affirm that adepts well trained in concentration are capable of visualizing the forms imagined by them and can thus create any kind of phantom: men, deities, animals, inanimate objects, landscapes, and so forth.
The reader must recall what has been said on this subject in reference to the Tulkus See “A Famous Tibetan Monastery” and the innumerable phantoms which, according to the Dalai Lama, a Changchub semspa has the power to generate. (Changchub semspa: In Sanskrit a Bodhisatva. A highly spiritually developed being nearing the perfection of a Buddha. )
These phantoms do not always appear as impalpable mirages, they are tangible and endowed with all the faculties and qualities naturally pertaining to the beings or things of which they have the appearance.
For instance, a phantom horse trots and neighs. The phantom rider who rides it can get off his beast, speak with a traveller on the road and behave in every way like a real person. A phantom house will shelter real travellers, and so on.
Such happenings abound in Tibetan stories and especially in the famous epic of King Gesar of Ling. The great hero multiplies himself. He produces phantom caravans with tents, hundreds of horses, lamas, merchants, servants and each of them plays his part. In battles he creates phantom armies which kill their enemies just as well as if they were authentic warriors.
All this appears to belong to the realm of fairy tales and one may wisely assume that ninety-nine out of a hundred of these stories are purely mythical. Yet disconcerting incidents occur, phenomena are witnessed which it is impossible to deny. Explanations of them are to be found by the observer himself, if he refuses to accept those offered by Tibetans. But often these Tibetan explanations, on account of their vaguely scientific form, attract the inquirer and become themselves a field of investigation.
Western travellers who have approached the Tibetan border and formed a superficial idea of the common folk’s superstitions will be most surprised to hear of the strangely rationalistic and sceptical opinion of prodigies which these apparently credulous simpletons harbour in the depth of their minds. Two stories, which are known and famous all over Tibet, will serve to illustrate the matter. Whether the facts related be authentic or not is of no importance to us. Our interest hangs on the explanation given of the cause of the miracle and the spirit which pervades the whole story.
Once upon a time, a trader was travailing with his caravan on a stormy day, and his hat was carried away by the wind. Tibetans believe that to pick up a hat which has fallen down in such circumstances in the course of a journey will bring bad luck. So yielding to that superstition, the merchant abandoned his hat.
It was a soft felt hat, with fur laps that can be worn turned up or covering the ears, as the weather requires. Buried between the thorny shrubs where it had been violently tossed by the wind, its shape was hardly recognizable.
A few weeks later a man passing by that place at dusk noticed an undistinguishable form which seemed to be crouched among the thickets. He was not too brave and hurriedly passed his way. On the morrow he told some villagers that he had seen “something strange” at a short distance from the path. Other travellers also remarked at that very spot, a peculiar object whose nature they could not ascertain, and spoke of it to the villagers. Then, others again and again had a look at the innocent hat and called the attention of the country people to it.
Now, sun, rain and dust helped to make the hat a stiff more mysterious-looking object. The felt had taken on a dirty yellowish-brown colour and the fur laps looked vaguely like an animal’s ears. Traders and pilgrims stopping in the village were warned that, at the skirt of the forest, a “thing,” neither man nor beast, remained in ambush and it was necessary to be on the watch. Someone suggested that the “thing” must be a demon and soon the object, anonymous till then, was promoted to the rank of a devil.
As months went by, more people cast a fearful glance at the old hat, more people spoke about it and the whole country came to talk of the “demon” hidden at the border of the wood. Then one day it happened that some passers-by saw the rag moving. Another day it tried to extricate itself from the thorns that had grown around it, and finally it followed a party of wayfarers who ran, panic-stricken, for their lives.
The hat had been animated by the many thoughts concentrated on it. That story, which Tibetans affirm to be authentic, is given as an instance of the power of concentration of mind, even when unconsciously effected, and not aiming at a prescribed result.
The second story has an the appearances of having been invented by a miscreant joker to ridicule the devotees, but it is not so. No one in Tibet finds it laughable or irreverent. The fact related is accepted as revealing a strict truth about all cults. Whatever it may be, the worshipped object is only possessed with the power, which is supplied to it by the collective concentration of thoughts and the faith of its worshippers.
The aged mother of a trader who went each year to India, asked her son to bring her a relic from the Holy Land. The trader promised to do so, but his mind being much occupied with the cares of his business, forgot his promise. The old woman felt very sad, and the next year, when her son’s caravan started again, she renewed her request for the holy relic.
Again the trader promised to bring one, and again he forgot it. The same thing happened for the third time the following year. However, this time the merchant remembered his promise before reaching his home and was much troubled at the idea of once more disappointing his aged mother’s eager expectation. As he pondered over the matter, seeking a way to mend his neglect, he caught sight of a piece of a dog’s jaw lying near the road.
A sudden inspiration came to him. He broke off a tooth of the bleached jaw-bone, wiped away the earth which covered it and wrapped it in a piece of silk. Then, having reached his house, he offered the old bone to his mother, declaring that it was a most precious relic, a tooth of the great Sariputra (A prominent personal disciple of the Buddha.).
Overjoyed, her heart filled with veneration, the good woman placed the tooth in a casket on the altar of the family shrine. Each day she worshipped before it, lighting lamps and burning incense. Other devotees joined in the worship and after a time rays of light shone from the dog’s tooth, promoted holy relic.
A popular Tibetan saying is born from that story: “Mös gus yöd na Khyi so öd tung.” Which means “If there is veneration even a dog’s tooth emits light.”
Once more we see that Tibetan theories about all phenomena are always the same at heart. All are grounded on the power of the mind and this is only logical for people who consider the world, as we see it, to be but a subjective vision. The power of becoming invisible at will, exhibited by numbers of magicians in the tales of all nations, is finally ascribed, by Tibetan occultists, to the cessation of mental activity.
Truly, Tibetan legends tell us about material contrivances for causing invisibility. Among them is the dip shing which appears in so many stories. It is the fabulous wood which a strange crow hides in its nest. The smallest fragment of it ensures complete invisibility to the man, beast or object which holds it or near which it is placed. But great naljorpas and dubchens need not possess any magic material implement to make themselves invisible.
From what I have been able to understand, adepts in psychic training do not see this prodigy in the same way as the profane. According to them, it is not a question of juggling oneself away, but of taking care not to arouse any feeling in the sentient beings by whom one is surrounded. By that means one’s presence is not detected or, at a lesser degree, one is scarcely noticed by those before whose eyes one passes; one does not excite any reflection in their mind and does not leave any impression in their memory. The explanations which have been given to me of this matter may be roughly sum- marized as follows.
When one walks, making a loud noise and many gestures, jostling against men and things, one arouses many sensations in many people. Attention is roused in those who feel these sensations and that attention is directed to the one who causes them. If, on the contrary, one steals along noiselessly without touching anybody, one arouses few sensations; these are not vivid, they awaken only slight attention in those who experience them and, consequently, one is but little noticed.
Yet, however motionless and silent one may be, the work of the mind generates an energy which spreads all around the one who produces it, and this energy is felt in various ways by those who come into touch with it. But if one succeeds in stopping all activity of the mind, one arouses no sensations in others and so one is not seen. As I thought this theory too fantastic, I objected that in any case, the material body must remain visible.
The reply was as follows: At each moment, a large number of objects are within our view, yet we only notice a few of them. The others do not make any impression on us. No “knowledge – consciousness” follows the visual contact, we do not remember that this contact has taken place. Practically, these objects have remained invisible to us.
However interested we may feel in the other strange accomplishments with which Tibetan adepts of the secret lore are credited, the creation of thought forms seems by far the most puzzling. We have already seen in the preceding chapter how the novice is trained to build up the form of his tutelary deity, but in that case the aim is a kind of philosophical enlightenment. The goal is different in other cases.
In order to avoid confusion, we will first consider another kind of phenomena which is often discussed, not only in Tibet, but in various other Eastern countries and even in the West. Some profess to see a certain analogy between these and the creation of thoughtforms, but, in fact, the process is not at all the same.
In nearly all countries there are people who believe in a subtle soul or spirit which, while the body lies asleep or in a cataleptic trance, can roam about in various places and perform different deeds, sometimes associating for that purpose with a material body other than that with which it is habitually united.
Tales of witches going to the sabbat were common during the Dark Ages and investigations proved that, generally, the witch was lying unconscious in a trance all the time. Nevertheless, when coming to her senses again, she described at length the wonders of the infernal orgy at which she believed she had been a guest. Numbers of hysterical women have been burnt at the stake for having such delusions.
In India, countless legends relate the strange adventures of men, demi-gods, or demons who enter dead bodies, act in guise of the dead man and then revert to their own frame which had meanwhile remained unconscious. The most famous of these stories is that of Shri Sankarächarya, the celebrated Vedantin philosopher to whom Indian Brahmins are indebted for having re-established them in the privileged position that had been severely shaken by the rationalist Buddhist doctrine.
His personality, as it appears to us through half-legendary biographies, must have been most remarkable. Unfortunately a sort of political caste interest seems to have dimmed his otherwise bright intelligence. It made him a champion of baneful social theories which were in complete contradiction to the lofty pantheism which he preached.
Sankarächarya – so runs the story – had challenged a rival philosopher named Mandana, who was a supporter of the ritualistic creed of Karma-mimansa,243 and it had been settled that whoever was defeated in the discussion should become his opponent’s disciple and embrace the same condition of life as his master. 243.The doctrine that salvation can only be attained through sacrifices to the deities, worship, sacraments and ritualistic performances. Sankara held the opposite view, that is to say, salvation is the fruit of knowl- edge.
Consequently – Mandana being a householder and Sankarächarya a sannyäsin ( An ascetic) – if Mandana’s arguments triumphed, Sankara would have to give up his religious garb and marry, while in the event Mandana would be compelled to renounce his wife and home and to don the orange robe – the badge of ultimate renunciation. It happened that Mandana was losing the controversy and Sankara was about to claim him as a disciple, when Mandana’s wife Bharati, who was a learned lady, interfered.
The holy Scriptures, she said, declare that wife and husband are one. So, having defeated my husband you have only defeated one-half of our being. Your victory cannot be admitted until you defeat me also.
Sankara had no reply; the objection was grounded on orthodox beliefs. He began another philosophic tournament. The lady, understanding that her knowledge and controversial ability could not vie with those of her opponent, saved herself by a clever stratagem.
Indian sacred Scriptures classify among the orthodox sciences, the art of sensual love. Bharati put certain questions on that peculiar subject to Sankara which confounded the ascetic. He excused himself for his ignorance by saying that he had been absorbed since his youth in philosophic meditations, and, as sannyäsin, being a strict celibate, women and all things connected with them were utterly unknown to him. However, he deemed himself quite capable of acquiring the knowledge which he lacked. Would not his charming adversary grant him about a month’s leave to seek enlightenment?
He was willing to resume the controversy at the end of the fixed time. Here Bharati must have imprudently undervalued the capacity of her opponent, or thought that such a short time would not be enough for him to master the required science. She acquiesced and Sankara started in quest of teachers.
Now it happened that, at about that time, a rajah named Amaruka died. Sankara, who could not have undertaken his study in the person of an already famous ascetic, here saw a convenient opportunity. He ordered his disciples to guard his body in a remote spot while he transmitted his “subtle self” into the body of the prince which was being carried to the funeral pyre. The resuscitated Amaruka was taken back to his palace to the great joy of his several Ranees, legitimate wives and a good number of pretty concubines.
Sankara showed himself a zealous scholar, pleasantly astonishing his spouses who had been somewhat neglected by the late elderly rajah. The ministers and councillors noticed, also, that since his resurrection their lord’s intelligence had astonishingly increased. This clever ruler appeared altogether most unlike the dull rajah whom they had known for years.
And so the women of the palace and members of the State council began to suspect that the spirit of some powerful siddha was using the body of the late Amaruka. Fearing that he might leave it and return to his own proper abode, they ordered a search to be made for an abandoned body in some remote spot and decreed that if any were found, it should be burnt immediately.
As for Sankara, he had become so wholly engrossed in his study, that he had entirely forgotten his personality and had no desire to reintegrate the ascetic philosopher’s body that he had left in charge of a few disciples.
When their guru did not return at the appointed time, the disciples felt rather uneasy, and on hearing of the search they were thoroughly terrified. They ran quickly to the rajah’s residency, gained admittance before him and sang a philosophic song which Sankara had composed. This aroused the guru’s memory. His spirit sprang out of the rajah’s body and swiftly entered his own, which had just been discovered and was already placed on a pyre to be burned.
Having thus completely mastered his subject, he confronted Bharati once more and astonished her by his superior knowledge. The lady had to admit she was defeated. This tale could easily take its place among those of Boccacio. Yet, for hundreds of years, it has been popular amongst Sankara’s followers without their seeing anything silly or shocking in it. However, they are apparently beginning to realize that the story is not very creditable to the memory of their teacher, and some of them have declared that it was invented by certain simple-minded zealots.
For us the story is valuable as a piece of information. It shows that the belief in the passing of some subtle self from one body to another, and even in its roaming about disembodied, was current in India. Such belief was not infrequent in Tibet, where the “translation” of the self from one body to another one is called trong jug.
Possibly the theories regarding trong jug have been imported from India. Milarespa, in his autobiography, relates that his guru Marpa was not taught the secret of trong jug by his own teacher Narota, but when already old, made a journey to India to learn it.
It is to be noted that believers in the “translation” of an ethereal self or “double,” generally depict the body from which it withdraws, as remaining inanimate. Here lies the essential difference between that supposed phenomenon and the apparitions, voluntary or unconsciously created, of a tulpa (magic, illusory creations), either alike or different from its creator.
In fact, while the translation as related in Indian or Tibetan stories, may well be regarded as a fable, the creation of tulpas seems worthy of investigation. Phantoms, as Tibetans describe them, and those that I have myself seen do not resemble the apparitions which are said to occur during spiritualist seances.
In Tibet, the witnesses of these phenomena have not been especially invited to endeavour to produce them, or to meet a medium known for producing them. Consequently, their minds are not prepared and intent on seeing apparitions. There is no table upon which the company lay their hands nor any medium in trance, nor a dark closet in which the latter is shut up. Darkness is not required, sun and open air do not keep away the phantoms.
As I have said, some apparitions are created on purpose either by a lengthy process resembling that described in the former chapter on the visualization of Yidam or, in the case of proficient adepts, instantaneously or almost instantaneously. In other cases, apparently the author of the phenomenon generates it unconsciously, and is not even in the least aware of the apparition being seen by others.
In connection with this kind of visualization or thought-form creation, I may relate a few phenomena which I have witnessed myself.
1. A young Tibetan who was in my service went to see his family. I had granted him three weeks’ leave, after which he was to purchase a food supply, engage porters to carry the loads across the hills, and come back with the caravan. Most likely the fellow had a good time with his people. Two months elapsed and still he did not return. I thought he had definitely left me.
Then I saw him one night in a dream. He arrived at my place clad in a somewhat unusual fashion, wearing a sun hat of foreign shape. He had never worn such a hat. The next morning, one of my servants came to me in haste. “Wangdu has come back,” he told me.
“I have just seen him down the hill.”
The coincidence was strange. I went out of my room to look at the traveller. The place where I stood dominated a valley. I distinctly saw Wangdu. He was dressed exactly as I had seen him in my dream. He was alone and walking slowly up the path that wound up the hill slope. I remarked that he had no luggage with him and the servant who was next me answered: “Wangdu has walked ahead, the load-carriers must be following.” We both continued to observe the man. He reached a small chörten, walked behind it and did not reappear.
The base of this chörten was a cube built in stone, less than three feet high, and from its needle-shaped top to the ground, the small monument was no more than seven feet high. There was no cavity in it. Moreover, the chörten was completely isolated: there were neither houses, nor trees, nor undulations, nor anything that could provide a hiding in the vicinity.
My servant and I believed that Wangdu was resting for a while under the shade of the chörten. But as time went by without his reappearing, I inspected the ground round the monument with my field-glasses, but discovered nobody. Very much puzzled I sent two of my servants to search for the boy. I followed their movements with the glasses but no trace was to be found of Wangdu nor of anybody else.
That same day a little before dusk the young man appeared in the valley with his caravan. He wore the very same dress and the foreign sun hat which I had seen in my dream, and in the morning vision. Without giving him or the load-carriers time to speak with my servants and hear about the phenomenon, I immediately questioned them. From their answers I learned that all of them had spent the previous night in a place too far distant from my dwelling for anyone to reach the latter in the morning. It was also clearly stated that Wangdu had continually walked with the party.
During the following weeks I was able to verify the accuracy of the men’s declarations by inquiring about the time of the caravan’s departure, at the few last stages where the porters were changed. It was proved that they had all spoken the truth and had left the last stage together with Wangdu, as they said.
2. A Tibetan painter, a fervent worshipper of the wrathful deities, who took a peculiar delight in drawing their terrible forms, came one afternoon to pay me a visit. I noticed behind him the somewhat nebulous shape of one of the fantastic beings which often appeared in his paintings.
I made a startled gesture and the astonished artist took a few steps towards me, asking what was the matter.
I noticed that the phantom did not follow him, and quickly thrusting my visitor aside, I walked to the apparition with one arm stretched in front of me. My hand reached the foggy form. I felt as if touching a soft object whose substance gave way under the slight push, and the vision vanished.
The painter confessed in answer to my questions that he had been performing a dubthab rite during the last few weeks, calling on the deity whose form I had dimly perceived, and that very day he had worked the whole morning on a painting of the same deity.
In fact, the Tibetan’s thoughts were entirely concentrated on the deity whose help he wished to secure for a rather mischievous undertaking. He himself had not seen the phantom.
In these two cases, the phenomenon was produced without the conscious co- operation of its author. Or, as a mystic lama remarked, Wangdu and the painter could hardly be termed the authors of the phenomena. They were but one cause – may be the principal one – amongst the various causes which had brought them about.
3. The third strange occurrence I have to relate belongs to the category of phenomena which are voluntarily produced. The fact that the apparition appeared in the likeness of the lama who caused it, must not lead us to think that he projected a subtle double of himself. This is not the opinion of advanced adepts in Tibetan secret lore.
According to them such phantoms are tulpas, magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought. As it had been repeatedly stated in the preceding chapters any forms may be visualized through that process. At that time I was camping near Punag ritöd in Kham. One afternoon, I was with my cook in a hut which we used as a kitchen.
The boy asked me for some provisions. I answered, “Come with me to my tent, you can take what you need out of the boxes.” We walked out and when nearing my tent, we both saw the hermit lama seated on a folding chair next my camp table. This did not surprise us because the lama often came to talk with me. The cook only said “Rinpoche is there, I must go and make tea for him at once, I will take the provisions later on.”
I replied: “All right. Make tea and bring it to us.” The man turned back and I continued to walk straight toward the lama, looking at him all the time while he remained seated motionless. When I was only a few steps from the tent, a flimsy veil of mist seemed to open before it, like a curtain that is pulled aside.
And suddenly I did not see the lama any more. He had vanished. A little later, the cook came, bringing tea. He was surprised to see me alone. As I did not like to frighten him I said: “Rinpoche only wanted to give me a message. He had no time to stay to tea.” I related the vision to the lama, but he only laughed at me without answering my questions. Yet, upon another occasion he repeated the phenomenon. He utterly disappeared as I was speaking with him in the middle of a wide bare track of land, without tent or houses or any kind of shelter in the vicinity.
The creation of a phantom Yidam as we have seen it described in the previous chapter, has two different objects. The higher one consists in teaching the disciples that there are no gods or demons other than those which his mind creates. The second aim, less enlightened, is to provide oneself with a powerful means of protection. How does the phantom of the deity protect its creator? By appearing instead of the latter.
It is the custom in Tibet that the lamas who are initiated to that peculiar practice “put on” each morning the personality of their Yidam. This being done, the evil spirits who happen to meet these lamas do not see them as men, but under the frightful shape of the terrible deities; a sight which of course prevents them from attempting any mischief. Expert magicians in this art can, it is said, hide their own real appearance under any illusory form they choose.
Among the many who, each morning, gravely take on the shape of their Yidam, probably very few are really capable of showing themselves as such. I do not know if they succeed in duping the demons, but they certainly do not create any illusion to human eyes. Yet I have heard that some lamas have been seen in the appearance of certain deities of the lamaist pantheon.
Incited by many wonderful legends regarding the power of ancient tubthobs to create tulpas, a small number of ngagspas and lamas endeavour, in great secrecy, to succeed in that peculiar branch of esoteric lore. However, the practice is considered as fraught with danger for every one who has not reached a high mental and spiritual degree of enlightenment and is not fully aware of the nature of the psychic forces at work in the process.
Once the tulpa is endowed with enough vitality to be capable of playing the part of a real being, it tends to free itself from its maker’s control. This, say Tibetan occultists, happens nearly mechanically, just as the child, when his body is completed and able to live apart, leaves its mother’s womb. Sometimes the phantom becomes a rebellious son and one hears of uncanny struggles that have taken place between magicians and their creatures, the former being severely hurt or even killed by the latter.
Tibetan magicians also relate cases in which the tulpa is sent to fulfil a mission, but does not come back and pursues its peregrinations as a half-conscious, dangerously mischievous puppet. The same thing, it is said, may happen when the maker of the tulpa dies before having dissolved it. Yet, as a rule, the phantom either disappears suddenly at the death of the magician or gradually vanishes like a body that perishes for want of food.
On the other hand, some tulpas are expressly intended to survive their creator and are specially formed for that purpose. These may be con- sidered as veritable Tulkus See “A Famous Tibetan Monastery” and, in fact, the demarcation between tulpas and Tulkus is far from being clearly drawn. The existence of both is grounded on the same theories.
Must we credit these strange accounts of rebellious “materializations,” phantoms which have become real beings, or must we reject them all as mere fantastic tales and wild products of imagination? – Perhaps the latter course is the wisest. I affirm nothing. I only relate what I have heard from people whom, in other circumstances, I had found trustworthy, but they may have deluded themselves in all sincerity.
Nevertheless, allowing for a great deal of exaggeration and sensational addition, I could hardly deny the possibility of visualizing and animating a tulpa. Besides having had few opportunities of seeing thought-forms, my habitual incredulity led me to make experiments for myself, and my efforts were attended with some success. In order to avoid being influenced by the forms of the lamaist deities, which I saw daily around me in paintings and images, I chose for my experiment a most insignificant character: a monk, short and fat, of an innocent and jolly type.
I shut myself in tsams and proceeded to perform the prescribed concentration of thought and other rites. After a few months the phantom monk was formed. His form grew gradually fixed and life-like looking. He became a kind of guest, living in my apartment. I then broke my seclusion and started for a tour, with my servants and tents.
The monk included himself in the party. Though I lived in the open riding on horseback for miles each day, the illusion persisted. I saw the fat trapa, now and then it was not necessary for me to think of him to make him appear. The phantom performed various actions of the kind that are natural to travellers and that I had not commanded. For instance, he walked, stopped, looked around him. The illusion was mostly visual, but sometimes I felt as if a robe was lightly rubbing against me and once a hand seemed to touch my shoulder.
The features which I had imagined, when building my phantom, gradually underwent a change. The fat, chubby-cheeked fellow grew leaner, his face assumed a vaguely mocking, sly, malignant look. He became more troublesome and bold. In brief, he escaped my control. Once, a herdsman who brought me a present of butter saw the tulpa in my tent and took it for a live lama.
I ought to have let the phenomenon follow its course, but the presence of that unwanted companion began to prove trying to my nerves; it turned into a “daynightmare.” Moreover, I was beginning to plan my journey to Lhasa and needed a quiet brain devoid of other preoccupations, so I decided to dissolve the phantom. I succeeded, but only after six months of hard struggle. My mind-creature was tenacious of life.
There is nothing strange in the fact that I may have created my own hallucination. The interesting point is that in these cases of materialization, others see the thought-forms that have been created. Tibetans disagree in their explanations of such phenomena; some think a material form is really brought into being, others consider the apparition as a mere case of suggestion, the creator’s thought impressing others and causing them to see what he himself sees.
In spite of the clever efforts made by the Tibetans to find rational explanations for all prodigies, a number remain unexplained, perhaps because they are pure inventions, or perhaps for other reasons. A Tibetan generally admits that highly advanced mystics need not die in the usual way, but may dissolve their bodies when and where they like and leave no traces.
It is said that Reschungpa disappeared in this way and that during a special contemplative meditation Dagmedma the wife of Lama Marpa ended her life by incorporating herself in her husband. But these are all personalities of long-past centuries: it is more interesting to hear about an occurrence of recent date. And the interest still increases when the prodigy, instead of taking place in some lonely hermitage, happened before hundreds of witnesses.
I may say at once that I was not amongst the latter and that my information is derived from the account of men who affirmed that they saw the wonder. My only connection with the miraculous event is that I personally knew the lama who is believed to have vanished in a mysterious way.
The latter, styled Kyongbu rimpoche, was one of the spiritual teachers and religious advisers of the Tashi Lama. When I visited Shigatze in 1916 he was already an old man and lived as a hermit, some miles away from that town, near the bank of the Yesru Tsangpo ( Brahmaputra). The mother of the Tashi Lama held him in high reverence and when I was her guest I heard several extraordinary stories about that venerable lama.
It was reported that as years went by, the size of the learned ascetic gradually decreased. This according to Tibetans, is a sign of great spiritual achievement and legends relate how the bodies of some dubtobs who had been tall men, became reduced to minute proportions and finally disappeared.
At that time, the new temple sheltering the huge image of the coming Buddha Maitreya was near completion and a consecration ceremony was being talked of. The Tashi Lama wished his old spiritual adviser to perform the consecration rite, but the latter declined, saying that he would have passed away before the temple could be finished.
To this the Tashi Lama replied – it is said – by beseeching the hermit to delay his death till he had blessed the new building. Though such a request may astonish the reader, it is in accord with Tibetan ideas regarding the power which high mystics possess, of choosing the time of their death. The hermit promised to perform the consecration.
Then, about one year after my visit to Shigatze, the temple being ready and a day appointed for the rabnes (To consecrate new buildings, images, etc.) solemnity, the Tashi Lama sent a beautiful sedan-chair and an escort to Kyongbu Rinpoche to bring him to Tashilumpo’s gompa. The men of the escort saw the lama sitting in the chair. The latter was closed and the porters started.
Now, thousands of people had gathered at the monastry Tashilumpo, for the religious festival of inauguration. To their utmost astonishment they saw the lama coming alone and on foot. Silently he crossed the temple threshold, walked straight towards the giant image of Maitreya until his body touched it, and then gradually became incorporated with it. Some time later the sedan-chair with the escort arrived. Attendants opened its door (…) the chair was empty.
Many believe that the lama has never been seen again. The occurrence was odd enough to hold my attention, but my interest was deepened by the fact that I had been acquainted with its hero and the initial circumstances that led up to the prodigy, that is to say with the request of the Tashi Lama regarding the consecration of the temple; and further because the place where the wonder is said to have happened, was familiar to me.
I burned with the desire of going to Shigatze, to inquire about the lama’s last days, and discover his tomb, if he was really dead. But when I heard of the bizarre miracle I was at Lhasa in disguise, and neither Yongden nor I could have kept up our incognito in Shigatze, where we both had a number of acquaintances. To be unmasked meant to be immediately escorted over the border and I intended, after my stay at Lhasa, to visit Samye monastery, and several others, in Southern Tibet.
Also to tour the historical ground of the Yarlung province. This compelled me to renounce any attempt at investigation. Yet, before we left Tibet, Yongden managed to put some discreet questions about the Shigatze wonder to a few men who seemed capable of holding somewhat enlightened views on the subject.
Unfortunately, the event was already several years old. Great changes had taken place in Tsang. Moreover, the political atmosphere was not favourable to Tsang. Men of rank had become exaggeratedly reserved about the least thing which could be interpreted as exalting the exiled Tashi Lama and those who were near to him. Nor did they dare increase the prestige of the Maitreya temple whose erection – according to the public rumour – had aroused unfriendly and jealous feelings at the Lhasa Court.
We gathered the following opinions:
1. The lama had created a phantom of himself which appeared to have entered the sedan-chair, and then acted as has been told in the temple of Maitreya. This phantom had vanished, as its master wished, when touching the image, while the lama may have all the time remained in his hermitage.
2. Or Kyongbu Rinpoche had been able to produce, from afar, a collective hallucination.
3. Some suggested that the lama was already dead when the miracle took place, but had left behind him a kind of phantom of his creation, which he sent to Tashilumpo.
4. I also remembered that a disciple of Kyongbu Rinpoche had told me that, by the means of certain kinds of concentration of mind, a phenomenon may be prepared in connection with a peculiar event which is to take place in the future. Once success is obtained with the concentration, the process goes on mechanically, without further co-operation of the man who has projected the energy required to bring about the phenomenon.
It was even said that this man is, in most cases, completely incapable of preventing the phenomenon which he had planned to take place at the appointed time. The energy generated, which has shaped itself in a certain way, is now beyond his control. Much more could be said regarding psychic phenomena in Tibet, but the account of a single inquirer cannot be very complete, especially under the difficult conditions in which researches must be pursued in that country.
I earnestly wish that my account may awaken in some scientists, more qualified than myself for such work, the desire to undertake serious investigations of the phenomena which I have briefly mentioned in the present book.
Psychic research may be guided by the same spirit as any scientific study. The discoveries which can be made in that field have nothing of supernatural, nothing which may justify the superstitious beliefs and ramblings in which some have indulged regarding the matter. On the contrary, such research may help to elucidate the mechanism of so-called miracles, and once explained, the miracle is no more a miracle.