TULKU AND TULPA: THE POWER OF THE MIND IN ACTION
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
As Alexandra David-Néel wrote in Magic and Mystery in Tibet: The power of producing magic formations, tulkus or less lasting and materialized tulpas, does not, however, belong exclusively to such mystic exalted beings. Any human, divine or demoniac being may be possessed of it. The only difference comes from the degree of power, and this depends on the strength of the concentration and the quality of the mind itself. 1 Possibly the single greatest contribution in all of David-Néel’s writings is the idea of the tulpa’s ability to develop a mind of its own. She writes, “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.” 2 Yet, while David-Néel claimed to have created a tulpa fashioned in the image of a jolly medieval monk, a creation that later developed a life of its own and had to be destroyed, she also raised the possibility that her experience was illusory. “I may have created my own hallucination,” she writes, although she also reports that others could see the visualized monk as well. 3 In The Secret Oral Teachings in Tibetan Buddhist Sects, David-Néel further elaborates on the difference between the terms tulpa and tulku. The Tibetans distinguish between tulkus and tulpas. . . . Tulpas are more or less ephemeral creations which may take different forms: man, animal, tree, rock, etc., at the will of the magician who created them, and behave like the being whose form they happen to have. These tulpas coexist with their creator and can be seen simultaneously with him. In some cases they may survive him, or, during his life, free themselves from his domination and attain a certain independence. The tulku, on the contrary, is the incarnation of a lasting energy directed by an individual with the object of continuing a given kind of activity after his death. . . . The Tibetan doubtobs [Author’s note: . . . he who has “succeeded,” who has “accomplished”; this implies, who has acquired supernormal powers . . . siddhas in Sanskrit] are considered to be experts in the art of creating tulpas [Author’s note: The belief in tulpas is universal in Tibet and there are many stories about them, some of these stories being terribly tragic], imaginary forms which are a sort of robot which they control as they wish, but which, sometimes, manage to acquire some kind of autonomous personality. It is also stated that during their periods of deep meditation the [initiates] surround themselves with an impassable occult protective zone extending at times right around their hermitage, when they adopt the life of an anchorite. Novices who are training themselves according to the methods of the Secret Teachings, are sometimes advised to exercise themselves in creating mentally around themselves an environment completely different from that which is considered real. For example . . . a forest . . . The usefulness . . . is to lead the novice to understand the superficial nature of the sensations and perceptions. . . . The relative world is close to the imaginary world because, as has been said, error and illusion dominate it. Most of humanity is unconscious of the fact that they live and move in a world of phantasmagoria. 4 In her book Magic and Mystery in Tibet, David-Néel recounts a conversation she had with a lama about the subjectivity of thoughtforms. When David-Néel expressed the notion that those who died during various rites died from fear, and the visions were of their own imagination, the lama to whom she expressed these thoughts replied: According to that it must follow that a man who does not believe in the existence of tigers may feel confident that none of them would ever hurt him even if he were confronted by such a beast. Visualizing mental formation, either voluntary or not, is a most mysterious process. What becomes of these creations? May it not be that like children born of our flesh, these children of our mind separate their lives from or escape our control, and play parts of their own? Must we not also consider that we are not the only ones capable of creating such formations? And if such entities exist in the world, are we not liable to come into touch with them, either by the will of their maker or from some other cause? Could one of these causes not be that, through our mind or through our material deeds, we bring about the conditions in which these entities are capable of manifesting some kind of activity? I will give you an illustration: . . . If you are living on a dry spot of ground at some distance from the banks of a river, fishes will never approach you. But cut a channel between the river and your dwelling-place and dig a pond in the dry spot of ground. Then, as the water runs in it, fishes will come from the river and you will see them moving before your eyes. It is only prudent to beware of opening channels without due consideration. Few, indeed, suspect what the great store-house of the world which they tap unconsciously contains. . . . One must know how to protect oneself against the tigers to which one has given birth, as well as against those that have been begotten by others. 5
Taken from Egregores: The Occult Entities that watch over Human Destiny
by Mark Stavish
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