Radiance of Time


For Vajrayana Buddhism, the now is an interval, a boundary, a point of tension and suspension with an atmosphere of uncertainty. It is a bifurcation point of variable length; its name is “bardo.” The bardo is immersed in the conventional, or “seeming” reality. It emerges from what is called the “unstained” ultimate or primordial emptiness or “basal clear light.” Further, the ultimate is not the sphere of cognition. Cognition, including cognition of time, belongs to conventional reality. Buddhahood, in contrast, is a condition of uncompounded knowledge where basic mind blossoms without temporal or other cognitive distinctions, unmade, unfabricated, luminous and pristine. Cyclical existence involves both the ultimate and the conventional as it moves through six bardos—all of which are the effulgent of the basal clear light—until Buddhahood. The six are: the bardo of this life ; the bardo of dream; the bardo of meditation; the bardo of dying; the bardo of dharmata ; and the bardo of existence. Each realm is both ultimate and conventional, and has specific initiation-based yogas to investigate these differences. The process of transition from one to the next involves at least three bodies, one mind, and aspects of speech. In each bardo, the character of the now as embodiment and temporal knowing varies yet a complete and consistent cross-bardo yogic wisdom leads to its total cessation in the basal clear light; the now is extinguished. The author presents, from the viewpoint of a knowledgeable practitioner of over 30 years, an essay on Vajrayana Buddhist time, drawing implications for Fraser’s time typology. The essay will draw from English translations of significant older, tantric texts on dream yoga, deity yoga, the Chod, tantric time, the bardo of death, and empowerment. Useful practices that can be applied by the audience to test the tradition and author’s assertions will be suggested

Author's Profile

Gus Koehler
University of Southern California


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