INTRINSIC RADIANCE 289 tice, so without the stability of Tögal hardly anyone can recognize the bardo of dharmata. An accomplished Tögal practitioner who has perfected and stabilized the luminosity of the nature of mind has already come to a direct knowledge in his or her life of the very same manifestations that will emerge in the bardo of dharmata. This energy and light, then, lie within us, although at the moment they are hidden. Yet when the body and grosser levels of mind die, they are naturally freed, and the sound, color, and light of our true nature blaze out. However, it is not only through Tögal that this bardo can be used as an opportunity for liberation. Practitioners of Tantra in Buddhism will relate the appearances of the bardo of dharmata to their own practice. In Tantra the principle of deities is a way of communicating. It is difficult to relate to the presence of enlightened energies if they have no form or ground for personal communication. The deities are understood as metaphors, which personalize and capture the infinite energies and qualities of the wisdom mind of the buddhas. Personifying them in the form of deities enables the practitioner to recognize them and relate to them. Through training in creating and reabsorbing the deities in the practice of visualization, he or she realizes that the mind that perceives the deity and the deity itself are not separate. In Tibetan Buddhism practitioners will have a yidam, that is, a practice of a particular buddha or deity with which they have a strong karmic connection, which for them is an embodiment of the truth, and which they invoke as the heart of their practice. Instead of perceiving the appearances of the dharmata as external phenomena, the Tantric practitioners will relate them to their yidam practice, and unite and merge with the appearances. Since in their practice they have recognized the yidam as the natural radiance of the enlightened mind, they are able to view the appearances with this recognition, and let them arise as the deity. With this pure perception, a practitioner recognizes whatever appears in the bardo as none other than the display of the yidam. Then, through the power of his practice and the blessing of the deity, he or she will gain liberation in the bardo of dharmata. This is why in the Tibetan tradition the advice given to laypeople and ordinary practitioners unfamiliar with the yidam practice is that whatever appearances arise, they should consider them, and recognize them immediately and essentially as Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, or Padmasambhava, or Amitabha—whichever they have been
290 THE TIBETAN BOOK OF LIVING AND DYING most familiar with. To put it briefly, whichever way you have practiced in life will be the very same way by which you try to recognize the appearances of the bardo of dharmata. Another revealing way of looking at the bardo of dharmata is to see it as duality being expressed in its ultimately purest form. We are presented with the means to liberation, yet we are simultaneously seduced by the call of our habits and instincts. We experience the pure energy of mind, and its confusion at one and the same time. It is almost as if we were being prompted to make up our mind—to choose between one or the other. It goes without saying, however, that whether we even have this choice at all is determined by the degree and perfection of our spiritual practice in life.