Darkness Does Not Exist. It is Only Us Who Do Not See the Light
Guest: Michal Habaj
AMT_project, Štetinova 1, Bratislava
26. Feb - 11. Mar 2016
Yangtik: meditation in the dark, seclusion in the dark, practice in the dark (in the present) also as a stay in the dark, therapy with the dark (creative darkness), a method of knowing oneself, which has been practiced for millennia in many cultures, predominantly in Japan, India and Tibet. The first mention of it can be found in the writings of Mahamaya-tantra. In Vajrayāna, tantric Buddhism, which combines elements of yoga, magic, Hindu mysticism and original Tibetan shamanism, a long-term stay in the dark is something that is intended and sought after. Tantric tradition reiterates the principle of being here and now. It speaks of a transmutation and it often uses an analogy with alchemistic practice. This practice in the dark has its origin most probably in pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion Bön, where it is very widespread. Meditation in the dark is called yangtik in the meditational system Dzogchen. Traces of this meditational (transmutational, initiating) practice can be identified not only in spiritual wisdoms of the East, but also in the teachings of the Native Americans, in Central American shamanism, within transitional rituals of indigenous and aboriginal cultures in many parts of the world, or in Greek mythology or in the Etruscan or Celtic culture. Darkness is used within fasting, solitude and cleansing in order to return to one’s own inner self in all contemplative methods striving for knowing oneself. Absence of external impulses and continuous night mean a radical confrontation with oneself. A deprivation of the senses leads to a strengthening of unconscious processes and a clarification of the movement of the soul; striving for one’s genuine character and a return to the true core of one’s being. Long-term meditation in the dark simulates the process of dying and death. Physical and psychological manifestations (dissolution of elementary bodily states, expertise with consciousness) are almost identical during deep meditation and during death. Tibetan method yangtik delves into the consciousness of death as its aim, so that during actual death one can have better control over the process of dying – this function and an experience with afterlife is brought on by another Tibetan practice (yoga of a dream, practice of the night etc.) as well as Tibetan literature of death (Bardo Thödöl). In Western religious tradition and in the intention of Christian teachings about heaven, hell, and purgatory an experience of the afterlife of the soul is presented e.g. Dante’s epos The Divine Comedy. A retreat in the dark, or the practice of the deprivation of the sense in combination with other methods (physical positions, breathing techniques etc.) as well as other procedures (monotonous singing or drumming, rhythmic dance, sleep deprivation, dehydration, fasting, exerting extreme physical pain, ingesting substances of plant origin with a psychoactive effect; riotous rituals etc.) belong to sacred techniques, whose aim was to mediate the experience of death and reincarnation, or rather the change of the consciousness from the usual to a shaman state of initiating a perception of an ”unusual reality” and consequently a deep psycho-spiritual metamorphosis. Healing, cleansing and transformative potential of a stay in the dark can be enhanced with for example visual deprivation, hearing deprivation (shabda yoga, nada yoga) yoga breathing exercises and meditational techniques (pranayama, asana, mudra, bundha, kundalini yoga), and partial or complete fasting. The author of this text spent the first two weeks of March 2010 in complete darkness.
*from the book Michal Habaj: Michal Habaj
photos: Andrej Žabkay, Peter Sit