Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light

The following article is from the Spring, 2002 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, ed. & intro. by Michael Katz.

This revised and enlarged edition includes additional material from a profoiuid and personal Dzogchen book which Chogyal Namkhai Norbu has been writing for many years. This material expands and deepens the first edition's emphasis on specific exercises to develop awareness within the dream and sleep states.

Rinpoche gives instructions for developing clarity within the sleep and dream states. He goes beyond the practices of lucid dreaming that have been popularized in the West, by presenting methods for guiding dream states that are part of a broader system for enhancing self-awareness called Dzogchen. In this tradition, the development of lucidity in the dream state is understood in the context of generating greater awareness for the ultimate purpose of attaining liberation.

Also included in this book is a text written by Mipham, the nineteenth- century master of Dzogchen, which offers additional insights into this extraordinary form of meditation and awareness.

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche is one of the greatest Tibetan meditation masters and scholars teaching in the West today. His luminous Dream Yoga teachings are invaluable. I myself read this book with great interest, and recommend it to my own students.Lama Surya Das, author of Awakening the Buddha Within

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu is a Tibetan master of the Dzogchen tradition. He has authored many books including The Crystal and the Way of Light, The Supreme Source, and Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State.

The following is an excerpt from the chapter The Practice of the Night from Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light.

When we start to dream, as previously mentioned, we may have one of two general types of dreams. One type is karmic dreams and the other is dreams of clarity. In addition to those dreams reflecting karma from our current life, karmic dreams can also be linked to our past lives.

The other type of dreams are dreams of clarity. Why do we have dreams of clarity? Because everybody, since the beginning, has infinite potentiality; that is a quality of the natural mind that we all possess. Sometimes, even if we are not doing a particular practice, a dream of clarity will manifest because we have that nature. If you are doing the practice of the night and becoming more familiar with it, then not only occasionally, but on a regular basis, you will become familiar with manifestations of dreams of clarity.

You may now understand what the theory is and its importance. Now I will explain how you practice it.

If you are an agitated person, then before you go to sleep, you can do a little deep breathing to regulate the flow of air and calm yourself. Then concentrate on a white Tibetan syllable at the center of your body. If you prefer an English A, it is acceptable. The important thing is that it corresponds in your mind to the sound ahh. It is important that when you see that letter, you automatically know what its sound is.

If you do not succeed in concentrating and seeing this US at first, it may be that you do not know how to visualize. Try writing an US on a piece of paper, put it in front of you and stare at it for a while. Close your eyes and this 1*1 will appear before your mind immediately. In this way you will get a more precise image.

So, you try to concentrate on this white 1*1. Or you fix on the presence of this white US, and you stay with it as long as you can.

You can also do a kind of training to have greater precision in feeling this presence: imagine that from the central US, which is viewed at heart level within your body, a second arises, and from the second, a third arises, until you can see a chain of USs going up to the crown of the head. Then you visualize these USs coming back down. You can repeat this a number of times if you do not fall asleep immediately. Whenever you have difficulty in feeling the presence of the it is very useful and important to do this chain. This is a way of charging your clarity.

The most important point is that when you fall asleep, you try to have this 1*1 present. Initially, it should be accurate and sharp; afterwards, you relax. Relaxing does not mean you drop the 1*1 or that you give it up. You retain a sense of its presence, and you relax, and thus you fall asleep. You should try to do the practice of natural light each night, just as you should try to be in the state of contemplation continually. For every moment and every activity there are ways to do Dzogchen practice. If, however, Dzogchen practice of the night is difficult for you, and you have had more experience doing Tantric style dream practice, and you have had an initiation on a particular deity, then perhaps it would be useful for you to continue with your Tantric practice. For example, if you do the practice of Vajrayogini, then upon sleeping, you should try to visualize a very tiny Vajrayogini at the center of your body. We call this tiny being Jnanasattva, which means wisdom manifestation.


If you are doing the practice of the night and I becoming more familiar with it, then not only occasionally, but on a regular basis, you will become familiar with manifestations of dreams of clarity.

You keep this presence and continue your sleep. There are other visualization practices similar to Guruyoga in tantric dream practices. For example, you might visualize Vajradhara as the unification of all your gurus and manifest that visualization in the center of your body. You would keep the presence of this visualization, relax, and slowly, slowly go to sleep. Because these are tantric exercises, you should practice only the special instructions you receive from your master.

By contrast, in Dzogchen we generally do the visualization of the white as described above, for the purpose of coordinating the energy. We visualize the white 1*1 at the center of the body. After having manifested this white, luminous US, we slowly relax. We relax slowly but completely when we do this visualization so as not to have tension. If we do not relax completely, we will be unable to sleep. We must spontaneously manifest the white US without thinking, without creating, and then relax all effort and go to sleep.

In order to remind yourself to visualize this white US and to do the Dzogchen practice of the night, it is very useful to put a picture or a sign of a white US near your bed. No one will know what it is; perhaps they will think it is a piece of artwork. You, however, will know its precise function.

It is also very important to remember the practice of the white when you awaken in the morning. If possible, you may sound ahh immediately. If you cannot sound loudly because there is someone else sleeping, it is enough that you exhale with ahh. As long as you can hear yourself and feel the presence of that white this is a method of Gurayoga, It is not necessary to say many words or prayers; simply having the presence of the white ifcj and recognizing that the is the unification of the mind of all your gurus is sufficient. Then you integrate this into a state of contemplation, or rigpa.

Starting your morning yoga in this way is wonderful and will help you very much with all your practices and particularly your practice of the night. There is a kind of a connection that you make by remembering the white US when you are going to sleep and, then again, in the morning.

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