Darpan is a healer, musician, performance artist, and vision quest facilitator in the Northern Rivers area of NSW and probably Australia’s best-known authentic shaman. He was inspired to explore ayahuasca, the South American hallucinogenic vine by the late Terence McKenna and has devoted himself to learning the ways of this most potent spiritual activator and using its wisdom to heal and enlighten a wave of Western spiritual seekers. Undergrowth’s Kathleen Williamson, Rob Bruce and Des Tramacchi caught up with Darpan to discuss the burgeoning ayahuasca culture and what it means for a planetary re-connection…
Undergrowth: Darpan, could we start by identifying just what is “ayahuasca” and a bit of its history? For instance, is it a drug, or as the South American shamans call it, “the medicine”? And what effects could one expect from ingesting it?
Darpan: Ayahuasca is a term that comes from the Quechua language, with “aya” meaning “deceased souls” or “ancestors” and “huasca” meaning rope or vine. It is sometimes known as “the vine of the dead” or “vine of the soul” and is a doorway into the astral realms where spirit entities and discarnate souls reside.
Ayahuasca has been a way for the indigenous peoples to connect with their ancestral Overmind and with the forest and the spirits which animate it. It has been used variously for divination, healing, initiation and to glean information pertaining to the physical realms via the astral. What we refer to as the “astral” or invisible realms, indigenous peoples from the Amazon call the real world. They refer to this physical world as “the shadow” of the real world.
Ayahuasca has been used as a sacrament by these indigenous peoples for centuries and probably for millennia. What’s interesting is that most of the tribes in Amazonia, whether they were in contact with each other or not (and mostly not because of the density of the jungle and vast distances involved) discovered the use of ayahuasca. Many of them developed their own unique ways of preparing and using the brew but they all shared a deep respect for the intelligence within the plants and referred to her as “mother”…..Madre Ayahuasca…..Mother Ayahuasca. Many of these tribes were very knowledgeable about the pharmaceutical qualities of the vast cornucopia of healing herbs that exist in the jungle, but they each placed ayahuasca at the very top in terms of importance.
Ayahuasca is often used by shamans as a tool of diagnosis. If a shaman wants to know how to heal a person then both the person being healed and the shaman drink the ayahuasca, and during the trance that they enter into, it is revealed to the shaman which particular herbs to prescribe in order to effect a cure and what other protocols should be observed, if any. Ayahuasca is the channel through which the shaman can access spirit helpers and allies who can assist in the healing or curing. In some traditions the shamans refer to these as “doctores”, the spirits which heal. These “helper spirits” can sometimes best be understood as an “ecology of souls” rather than an as individual entities. I have witnessed people have profound healings in the sessions that I facilitate… I cannot take the credit for it, it is a phenomenon of spiritual healing. I just create the context within which Spirit can manifest itself as a cleanser and healer.
The effects of ayahuasca vary from person to person. The vine has an innate sense of how to interface with each individual in a unique and intimate way. It seems to know where your comfort zone is and then stretches it. In my experience she never gives you more than you can handle….at times it may be fully ecstatic, opening you up to all kinds of incredible information and at others she can show you how unconscious you still are and it can be very challenging. She opens you up into a lucid dreamlike trance. This involves passing through a transition period as your perception shifts into other dimensions. This is sometimes accompanied by dizziness, light-headedness and feelings of nausea. However once it has stabilised the zone, most people, with a good brew, will develop visions. Some people are more kinesthetic or auditory and will receive information in this way and others “feel” energies and have deep personal insights.
Ayahuasca operates as a multi dimensional intelligence. She can be at times a healer, a teacher and a navigator into the many worlds which coexist with ours. She can provide you with extraordinary information about yourself, the natural environment and the galactic perspective, all depending on where you are at and how she opens up to you.
UG: You come from a performing arts and healing modalities background, studying transpersonal psychology, sound healing and other energy work. How did you end up working with the spirit of an Amazonian vine, and why do you think it is now increasing in popularity around the world?
Darpan: In my developmental years I was trained in singing, dance and mime. I was also trained in voice and speech. I spent many years working in repertory theatre doing classic and modern plays. Later I worked on numerous productions in film and television both in Australia and overseas. I also had a passion for music and worked as a solo singer/songwriter and as a singer in a rock and roll band. Later I spent some years in an ashram in India with Osho where I was able to study many therapeutic modalities including hypnotherapy and meditation. At that time in my life, I had three different hats I would wear: the musician, the actor and the therapist. I never saw myself as “being” any of these but followed my interest wherever it led me. In retrospect, I see that it was an educational playground to gain experience for what I do now.
I first came across ayahuasca while I was doing my thesis on “consciousness expansion and the nature of religious experience” to complete my Honours degree at Flinders University. This study involved looking at different religious practices and finding the experiential essence common to each of these, once all the cultural and mythological ideologies were stripped away. I was investigating Tantra, Zen, Bhuddism, Taoism. Gnosticism and Psychedelic Drugs as various pathways to “enlightenment” or “extasis”. At that time I came across a book called “Keep the River On Your Right” which gave an insight into the use of ayahuasca. What I read about it fascinated me and I remember having an intuition that one day a bit further down the track, I would develop a relationship with the sacred vine...
In fact, it was 30 years later that a friend introduced me to it… and it was just extraordinary. It opened me up in ways I hadn’t dreamed possible….in ways that hadn’t happened in my other explorations in the psychedelic arena. Very quickly, it became clear to me that working with these plants was what I was here to do; there was no question about it, it was just obvious. I didn’t choose it, it chose me. It was the plant’s will. The plant has its own agenda in liaison with the ecology of the astral.
Since then, interest in ayahuasca has opened up dramatically around the world. Everywhere I travel now, most people have heard about ayahuasca, whereas 20 years ago it was still largely unknown. I believe the western psyche has a yearning to heal itself and to reconnect with Gaia, with Nature, from which it has become separated. We in the West live a schizophrenic existence in our empirical, logical, causal world and ayahuasca and other modalities like it, are here to re-connect us to that which we have lost or forgotten.
Ayahuasca is a beautiful gift from Nature… especially for the Western psyche... and it’s entirely appropriate for these times. I don’t think it’s growing popularity is the result of shamans or churches promoting it or pushing it, I think it’s the plants themselves which are calling us. Ayahuasca seems to have its own agenda and it is part of a great awakening. It is appearing in the most unlikely places simply because it’s an opening that wants to be opened. It is happening in synchronicity with the evolutionary spirit of the times. To take the Christian analogy, its as if we were kicked out of the garden of Eden in the early mists of our becoming and having explored ourselves within the realms of separation and limitation are now being invited back into the garden… back into the primordial unity consciousness and multi dimensional reality.
UG: What does it feel like to be a Westerner and a “shaman”? Is that something you consciously call yourself and how appropriate is it for Westerners to use a South American sacramental plant?
Darpan: I prefer not to use the word ”shaman” to describe what I do. I feel that this term has been loaded with too many diverse connotations to be really useful. I simply see myself as a healer and a musician. I am not a curandero in the traditional sense. A curandero heals illnesses and cures sickness. I use the medicine to expand consciousness. I work with healthy people who have an interest in waking up to their multi-dimensional reality.
On the other hand, I have a mentor in Pucallpa, Peru, Don Jose who is a curandero par excellence and uses ayahuasca in conjunction with other herbs to heal many “incurable” diseases such as cancer and malignant tumours with great success. I have undergone several “dietas “ with him in the jungle and being with him has taught me much about working with the tea. When I first started to use ayahuasca about 12 years ago, I was introduced to it by a very dear friend, Nick Spacetree. We had a little study group at the time and would meet on a regular basis to listen to Terence McKenna tapes and share information about entheogens in general and ayahuasca in particular. We would turn each other on to appropriate books and engage in vibrant discussions together. Nick was a constant inspiration to me with his bright mind and keen shamanic awareness. He gave me my first aya experience, which was a life changing event for me. Another friend, Sahaja who had met Terence at Esalen Institute suggested that we invite Terence over for a lecture tour. This seemed like a long shot at the time but upon enquiry, Terence was happy to oblige… expressing an avid interest in investigating local acacia species renowned for their prolific DMT content.
That visit evolved into a nationaI lecture tour and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to meet him and become friends. I had read all of his books and realised a profound synchronicity of spirit with the man and his message. I saw him as a front line herald of the archaic revival with the job of reintroducing into the collective consciousness awareness of hyperspatial realms… which he managed brilliantly and with great personal flair. Here was a man able to communicate to the Western psyche ancient shamanic principles in a totally contemporary way. He was an inspiration to me and made a deep impact on my being.
After returning to Hawaii, he would regularly send me a box with little brown bottles in it, containing a red -brown viscous liquid which to this day remains one of the best brews I have ever ingested. In this way, I was able to drink alone and sometimes with one or two others, for two years. From the literature I learned that if an individual felt “called” by the tea then he or she would retreat into nature and submit themselves to what is known as a “dieta”. This involved subjecting oneself to a very plain diet, abstinence from sex and living solitary for a period of time. I observed these conditions and ingested the sacrament every second day.
Ayahuasca opened herself up to me as a catalyst and teacher and profoundly transformed me in the process. Initially, I used to worry that I lacked a human shaman to whom I could apprentice myself for instruction. I quickly learned that the Vine is the teacher and she showed me everything that I needed to know. After a few months, I received information that I could begin to share the sacred tea with my friends and other people. I was instructed by the Vine how to go about this. Because I hadn’t been indoctrinated into a traditional Amazonian cosmology and mindset (except for what I had read and studied from the literature) I was free to follow my intuition and the guidance of the Plants. I was very aware that it would have been inauthentic of me to take up a cultural practice or adopt rituals which were not my own without initiation so I devised my own. I was coming from a place of innocence and proceeded in that spirit.
She guided me to utilise my background in meditation and music and to devise a ritual that would speak to the Western mindset. She made me aware that when certain essential principles are observed, such as the importance of the circle and creating a sacred and focussed context within which she can manifest, it is largely an aesthetic choice which determines the contents of the ceremony. Intention is of prime importance, as in all magical work. As is music, song and sacred sounds. Sound becomes Vision.
I was fortunate, at a later date, to be led to a shaman (or “yatchak” as they are known in the Amazon) and be initiated into traditional methods by doing a series of dietas on the Rio Ucayali. It was a synchronous event because through him I was able to reconnect to the miraculous brew I had been receiving from Terence all those years before…they were friends and both had been taught how to brew the medicine by the same Don.
UG: What are some of your techniques when using the plant spirit? For example, music?
Darpan: Music and sacred songs are the way to navigate the ayahuasca experience. One can utilise special frequencies and cadences to invoke specific entities and regions in the astral. When I was with my teacher in the jungle he would sing Icaros, magical songs to heal and call the spirits... I use a Tibetan/Mongolian technique called “Harmonic Overtoning” commonly known as “Throatsinging”. This technique involves using pure sonic energy as a carrier-wave for Intent. It can profoundly affect the human aura and astral atmospheres. I also use specially recorded music to journey with.
UG: Peruvian shamans explain how they use ayahuasca for the manipulation of energy around that body, and the removal of pathogens by hidden means. Does ayahuasca then have a universal application?
Darpan: It's all according to Intent. When I first started taking ayahuasca, I assumed that everyone was experiencing uplifting and intense three dimensional holographic visions just as I was, but soon realised this was not the case. As I said, she seems to interface with every individual in a very unique and intimate way. She inherently knows what each bodymind requires in order to be cleansed and healed… and knows just what to do in order to effect maximum benefit. This is not always a comfortable experience.
Peruvian shamans use the tea to”see” into a client’s energy field and through the agency of the ayahuasca, extract harmful intrusions and toxic pathogens. As a protocol for working with ayahuasca to heal and transform, I learned to ask the plant questions for whatever I needed to know. You simply ask the teacher. During one session, when I was asking about taking out a pathogen and recalibrating the energy flow in the body of a friend, ayahuasca allowed me to see the flow of chi and where the obstruction lay. It was like looking at a stream of water… And if you can imagine what happens when a tree trunk or branch falls in to the stream and the way water weaves and moves around the obstruction, that’s what it looked like in the energy field. I simply used my voice to dissolve the obstruction and encourage the energy to return to its natural flow. I was able to eliminate the problem without having to know what caused it or how it got there or consider any “story” whatsoever. All I simply did was utilise harmonic sound to brush the energy down until it was once again flowing as it should. That’s all. I didn’t have to rely on any other techniques other than my own intent and my own sound.
That’s what the shamans are doing. They’re using their intent and their sound, that’s what the icaros are… often taught to them by the spirits of the plants themselves. One “receives” the right frequencies and melodies to invoke spirit allies and effect healing. I also discovered the power of prayer. Simple and sincere. It’s not the words you use or what language or what tradition. It’s the clarity and sincerity of your intention. When others try to copy shamans and their healing techniques they may not work if they are not tuning into the depth of their intent.
Some shamans use ayahuasca for healing and transformation, some for divination and scrying, some for initiation or seeing into the future, others use it for harmful purposes….it’s all according to intent.
UG: Would you say that ayahuasca travels well? Just like the Irish say that Guinness doesn’t travel well, for every mile out of Dublin it travels it loses something.
Darpan: I would say that ayahuasca does travel well, especially at this time in our planetary evolution. Until now, it has pretty much been a well kept secret in the jungles of Amazonia. But now, more than ever, we are in need of the gift of awareness that this medicine brings.
\It is a tragedy that we blindly and neurotically destroy the forests of the world seeming not to care that we are sounding our own death knell in doing so. Indiginous peoples and caretakers are suffering and being displaced from their ancestral lands because of the greed for money and oil. These stark facts have been a catalyst in mobilising awareness of the need for conservation of these unique eco systems and the precious gifts they have to offer. The jungles of the Amazon are the primordial Garden of Eden, a veritable cornucopia of all kinds of healing plants and medicines. Most of the world’s psychedelic plants occur there. It is ironic that growing awareness of this mindless destruction formed the backdrop for the emergence of ayahuasca in the West. It is testament to the old aphorism that in every dark cloud there is a silver lining. Nature was always good at providing an antidote for every poison.
A similar process can be seen at work with the tragedy of Tibetan occupation by the Chinese. For centuries the Tibetans pursued their studies in consciousness undisturbed and isolated from the rest of the world in the high altitudes of the Himalayan plateaus… as if in an ivory tower, far from the travails and mundanities of “civilised” life. And then along came the Chinese who plundered the monasteries and killed the monks as they fleed their homelands to become political refugees… it was heart breaking. It was easy to blame the Chinese and cast them as brutal imperialists, but on the other hand without them the spiritual wisdom of the Tibetans would never have been disseminated around the planet in the way that it has. We have all received the benefit of that in one way or another. Hence, in the face of disaster, redemption is not only possible but very likely. It is often the case that “the devil knows not for whom he works”. It seems that chaos and uncertainty are a prerequisite for the transformation of consciousness. It just doesn’t happen when things are solid, dependable and predictable. People are too asleep! Shock is sometimes a great awakener. The cosmic zen stick.
Ayahuasca and the healing traditions of Amazonian shamanic lore have emerged from the destruction taking place in the forests and jungles to reach out to human beings around the world and to reconnect them to the planetary Logos… bearing the fruits and flowers and gifts of awareness needed for the safe passage of a world in transition. Hence I do believe that ayahuasca travels well, just like the Tibetans travel well. And they’re very much needed at this time in our evolutionary phase...
UG: Why do you think that using ayahuasca needs to be something that’s closely associated with the earth and the environment? I know of course it’s a plant teacher and that’s one reason, but obviously there are other aspects to it.
Darpan: To me the plant, the medicine, is a very feminine experience, and to me the earth has always represented the mother, and so our connection to it, through the plant. Plants literally have roots which grow into the ground. We don’t have those roots in our feet but we have psychic connections. One of the great gifts of the medicine – we talk about the visions and the information, and of course these are really wonderful - but to me the greatest gift and the most precious gift of the medicine is the sense of non-separation.
The sense of being completely connected with the mother and completely connected with all the creatures and animals and plants and insects that make up Gaia in her multidimensional totality. We are just walking talking aspects of that Gaia consciousness looking at ourselves in a million different ways with a million different eyes but largely unaware of it because we’re caught up in our self conscious predilection of thinking that we are separate, that we have an ego therefore we are something separate from everything else. So because the medicine dissolves this veil it’s a very feminine thing – a dissolving thing. It’s like something focusing and pushing through us – reconnecting. So in that sense I see that this connection to the Earth as very important.
The other thing I see is that the Earth seems to go through many cycles. The Mayan culture talks about baktuns, 5000 year old baktuns, which keep changing polarity every 5000 years from masculine to feminine. For the last 5000 years we’ve been in predominantly a male dominated consciousness, which has been about goals, pillaging, moving tribes across the earth and holding territories and ownership, and it’s been a very interesting period. If you think about it, our written, history, which is literally “his story” is only 5000 years old so it’s only since this baktun of male dominated consciousness. Towards the very peak of it, both the male and female have things to offer but as they come toward the end things go out of balance so our male dominated consciousness has wreaked the kind of havoc that we’re experiencing on the planet today.
It is simply out of balance, and it’s interesting the same consciousness has chosen to outlaw and make illegal certain aspects of the mother, of the whole feminine. Women didn’t have any rights, vote or own property in many cultures up until just recently and certain plants are just branded illegal – as if God could have make a mistake in his creation. No cancel that out. “We believe in the God who is fearsome and certain things not allowed by him,” and that’s a very strange thing to come across.
We’re coming into the feminine so I see the ayahuasca as a symbol of the feminine spirit of Earth coming back into the consciousness of human beings and recalibrating that back into a balance between masculine and feminine. I see that it is like the breast of the mother, the milk, the nurturing ambrosia that nourishes the child – that nourishes human beings – back to spirit or back to balance. So I see it in that way since it’s very much connected to the Earth and the earth herself is orchestrating this return into a feminine mode, into a more partnership mode, a more co-creational awareness. It’s not that male domination is bad, it’s just come to its end and that consciousness is trying its best to exert as much control as possible because it feels its grip slipping.
UG: Death throes . . .
Darpan: Indeed….and after all it is a natural part of life on the third dimensional plane that all things are born and all things must die…..so no need to get upset by the death throes of a manifested illusion…..its much more fun to rejoice at that which is being born. As is revealed by the tea… the grid of awakening is already in place. It has already happened in Spirit and its our job to play it out in time in 3D reality, which is collapsing as we speak…. or rather, being ingressed by higher dimensions and frequencies.
The challenge is to stay focused in the heart and marvel at what is being birthed instead of getting fascinated by the death rattle of that which is dying. The truth is everything you get fascinated by you create more of. If you get fascinated by the fear and fascist realities which are heavily promoted by the media and abound in the society today, you will inadvertently create more of it. That’s the awful irony inherent in the “do-gooder” syndrome… People who want to save the planet and fight the system…..this is still part of separation consciousness, no matter how well intended. So why not get fascinated by how wonderful everything is and how beautifully it is unfolding and what marvellous realities are being birthed into awareness today? It’s important not to be afraid of what is happening today. It’s natural. It’s time. Existence is supporting this shift.
UG: Would you agree that ayahuasca can’t save anyone? Only people can save people?
Darpan: Yes. I try to remind people of that. Some people come to the circle thinking that ayahuasca is instant enlightenment, The truth is, although ayahuasca has been known to effect miraculous healings, you still have to do the work. She is impeccable in her ability to show you where the work needs to be done. She is the teacher but you still have to do the work. If you’re not prepared to work with her, she may stop manifesting as teacher. For example, If she’s giving you clear insights on how to deal with an issue in your life and you choose to ignore it, she may lose interest in you.. “The student’s not interested, so why bother?” You may still get nice colours and things, but perhaps you won’t go any further than this until you change your attitude and pay attention. And when you do follow her instructions, it often means facing yourself on deep levels which are not always comfortable. On the other hand, if you approach her with respect and a sincere attitude, She will reward you with good visions and deep insight.
The Medicine is a teacher and like any teacher can only show you the way. The tea is a multidimensional tool, a doorway, a presence. At essence, I perceive her to be a feminine spirit… nurturing, shapeshifting, seductive and embracing…..and yet not averse to using the “zen stick” if needed. She is in direct relationship with you and yourself. She provides the opportunity to have “darshan” with yourself in a very intimate way, she interfaces with you uniquely and utilises your own personal mythology and understanding to communicate with you. It becomes very clear that you are dealing with a profound intelligence. It is a relationship, as real and dynamic and purposeful as my relating to you now. However whilst she does provide guidance and insight, it is always people who provide redemption for themselves and for others.
UG: And yet so many people assume a universal response to ayahuasca. After I had ayahuasca I encountered the spirits of every deceased animal I’ve ever killed, every fish I’d ever eaten, and they all came to me for some sort of retribution or peace. And I thought well everyone must experience this, yet I never met a vegetarian shaman. Not one. And after that I never assumed a universality of experience, and I never said again after that, if humanity had ayahuasca all our problems would be solved.
Darpan: It’s a naïve approach to think that. There is a truth in it if people are focused enough to be in their own spirit in an ayahuasca ceremony or something like it. Doesn’t matter if it’s ayahuasca, or sitting and meditating or going to a guru or whatever it is that you have that focus of spirit – that’s what will help the world. It’s that awareness of cultivating and integrating your spirit into the larger perspective – which is “go heal the planet”. Not ayahuasca per se or Christianity per se or a guru per se. It’s always about you. How can we worry and try and fix up the world with all its problems and injustices if we don’t first start here in our own daily life? And as problems come up with our spouse and our children, and our friends, that’s it. That’s the world! And if we can’t make peace there how possibly can we make peace in the rest of the world. It all starts here and especially ayahuasca can be used as a crutch or as an excuse, as all these other modalities often are.
UG: The reason why I’m into psychedelics is because I’m “hopeful of tendencies” – in other words these plants tend to enlightenment.
Darpan: I agree. It’s the finger pointing towards the moon. Just don’t confuse the finger for the moon.
UG: They can get things moving at least so people are unblocked – it’s something that can get that change happening.
Darpan: Definitely, it’s a catalyst par excellence. As we can see around the planet it’s really opening up. The people I work with in Europe – I’m 54 – are mostly older than I am, and they’re people who are doctors, lawyers, professionals and who had never even smoked a joint in their lives. They might have a little sherry or whiskey. They had never come across entheogens but they’ve heard and read about them and respect them because of their ancient lineage and because they respect the earth. Many of these people are psychiatrists and sociologists – people who work with people – so they’re interested in finding new modalities and new ways and because of the current state of affairs on the planet with uncertainty about everything – religious, political and economic uncertainty – it makes people very open, it gives them a predilection to search within themselves – and search within tried and true modalities like shamanism, and to come up with really great stuff.
These people are really sincere and they really get a lot of benefit. I find that the equation between what benefit people derive from ayahuasca is often determined by their intent and their sincerity. To me, this element is as powerful as the tea itself. The tea is the force, the spirit. In any given session its as if we set out on a boat together. Intent is the rudder on the ship and the tea is the wind in the sails….
I was sitting with Terence once and I asked him “What’s your advice to people who go into these spaces?” We were talking about DMT. He said “Enter with a pure heart, a heart like a child and nothing will harm you.” In the hyperspatial realms linear time has collapsed. There is still duality… you can witness the Lords of Light as well as the Lords of Darkness but it’s a lot more elastic plastic than this realm and a lot less substantial.
For example, in ordinary time if you want to build a house you’ve got to imagine what it will look like, draw up plans and after a period of time, when all the requirements have been met, it will manifest in form. However in hyperspatial realms, what you feel and imagine seems to be reflected immediately. Your thoughts and feelings can take shape and form almost immediately. It is all about resonance. If you suffer from fear, paranoia or doubt, you may manifest that it in the form of demons or challenging visions… And that’s OK, if you can witness it, and understand, “This is my fear that I’m seeing”. Further, if you can surrender to those feelings and offer no resistance, they can be transformed into love and awareness, it is all up to you. But if you make the mistake of projecting your fear outwards, like “It’s the ayahuasca which is making me fearful, and these demons are out to get me” that will only exacerbate the situation.
A good practice is to stay in the centre and just witness and know that you co-create everything you see, that everything is an extrapolation of consciousness from which we are not separate…..With this attitude, one can learn, and with this understanding, nothing can harm you. It is all consciousness: the angels, the demons, the celestial realms and the denizens of the lower astral. So, if you go in with a pure heart – it doesn’t mean you can’t have fear – it just means you’re not identifying with it or letting it run you. It’s called trust.
UG: You have the courage to get rid of toxicity. It’s a horrible thing. Have the intent to want to do that. They’re there for a reason.
Darpan: That’s why, as you say, it’s not a universal panacea to take away universal suffering. It helps you to confront yourself and acknowledge it. I always say to people who are drinking for the first time, that if there is any block in any of the chakras that’s where the medicine will go first. Say for example there is an issue in the power chakra, perhaps there are scars from a childhood trauma, unresolved authority issues from a domineering parent or whatever, it will come and start cleaning there. This “cleaning” is often associated with nausea and as you purge, may be associated with insights or visions of when and how that core issue first came into being.
This gives you an opportunity to bring that which was unconscious into the light of awareness, fully experience it and let it go. This can happen with events that have occurred in this lifetime or even past life events. And purging is like a mini- catharsis, you’re letting go of that initial imprint and what has been keeping it in place. So you have to do the work with ayahuasca. It’s not the easy way out or the backdoor. You do the work and you do it rapidly…..it’s fast tracking. We need ayahuasca and other modalities like it to wake up, there’s no time to sit around for years in a cave staring at a wall focussing upon the third eye. It has to happen now. Fast because the evolutionary spirit is happening fast on this planet right now.
UG: What has ayahuasca taught you about post mortem states?
Darpan: I often say that ayahuasca is a rehearsal for death. It gives you time to get it right. There is an art to dying and with this teacher, you have to be prepared to die. Every time you have a good strong dose, you experience dissolution. It is ego dissolving. This is sometimes experienced by people as scary, but once you’re used to it you can remain conscious and stay present with the process. And then you discover that if you are prepared to “die” to the false self, you are magically “reborn” into a higher octave of yourself where you can still be operational on the third dimensional plane and simultaneously be cognizant of and interact with other dimensions.
It’s taught me not to fear death. Even though I understood intellectually from my teacher in India that there is no such thing as death, I had to experience it for myself, to grok it… to know it as a part of my being. Death is a natural process of transition and is a part of Life. Its like there’s this swinging door between the worlds with “Death” written on one side of it and “Birth” on the other….two sides of the same coin, and its all a matter of perspective how you refer to it. The foetus leaving amniotic bliss in the womb and forced into an impossibly tiny peristaltic cervix is probably convinced it is about to die, whereas the happy parents on the other side are jubilant at the birthing of the newborn child... and vice versa with what we call the death process… In essence, it may be the selfsame transition…
On a personal note, it’s not that I want to die right now because I’ve got things I’d still like to do while I’m in the body, but if I had no choice but to die in the next instant, I would hope that I could surrender and stay as conscious as possible, just as I do with ayahuasca. I know it’s not my time yet but when it does come, I’d like to lay down and fly away…I hope I have the opportunity to look forward to death when it comes and celebrate it… Tim Leary once said that it’s the ultimate psychedelic experience, an oceanic orgasmic experience.
UG: In terms of specificities, what has it taught you about negotiating your way through the bardo realms?
Darpan: I’m quite familiar with the Bardo Thodol or “Tibetan Book of the Dead” because I’m interested in Tibetan Buddhism. I find the instructions given to navigate the Bardo states an excellent guide to navigate the Ayahuasca experience. While I was in India I studied some of the texts and books in the Tibetan refugee town of McLeod Ganj near DaramSala. I hung out in the library and with the monks when I could.
I believe the Tibetans have a deep understanding of the post-mortem states that the soul passes through upon release from the body. While I was recording “Temple of Glowing Sound”, a double-CD created with my friend Bhakta, which was inspired by Ayahuasca, my father died three weeks after my son was born. Birth and death, joy and loss. These events once again brought me into deep resonance with the bardo states and we incorporated that frequency into the music.
A couple of days after my father died, I drank the tea and went to search for him. I found him in a startling vision. He was a young man and being whirled about in one of those spinning roundabout rides that are common in fairgrounds, his head flung back in excitement and laughter. It was beautiful to see him in this state because I had known him mostly as a “serious” man. It let me see that he had let go into death in a good way. One night just over a week later I heard him calling me in a dream with fear and panic in his voice. I went to help him but then woke up and realised that he was dead. I went straight to the Book of the Dead and that day was the time for his soul to enter into the “wrathful visions” where he would have to confront the darker aspects of his being, his unconscious and unlived desires and unresolved issues. I prayed for him and read the appropriate bardo instructions as reassurance to help him navigate those spaces. Our connection as father and son felt profoundly validated by him reaching out to me in that way and I felt honoured to serve him in death as he had served me in life. We had spent much of my developing years in fierce debate on issues such as religion, sacred plants, life and death… but in that moment there was real trust.
Ayahuasca helped me to understand the Bardo. Studying the texts was the intellectual part… intellectual knowledge is good to have but only if one remembers that it’s the map and not the territory. Ayahuasca is a Qechua term meaning “Vine of the Dead”. It is the territory. It’s as far as you can go into the bardo and still come back into the body.
Death and Rebirth seem to be locked into an endless cycle on the Wheel of Life. The eco-system of Earth is one big compost heap where life and death manifest as growth and decay and feed each other in an infinite loop. Energy is neither created nor destroyed but changes from one form to another. Nature is forever copulating and devouring itself to reproduce itself in endless variety. The Divine Feminine. Mother Kali.
UG: [On those big doses of aya] you [really] feel it in the kahunas…
Darpan: Definitely. It will teach you what it’s like to die. It will teach you to stay present and just witness. No matter if you’re seeing devas, and goddesses or demons drinking blood from human skulls, just watch! Don’t be attracted to the beautiful visions and don’t be repulsed by the wrathful ones. Simply watch knowing that it is all an extrapolation of your own consciousness and that there is no separation. Then what can be of harm? That’s why in the bardo they say if you are finding it difficult to remain conscious, remember your master, because if you remember your master (whoever that may be for you) you connect to your heart, to your love, to your unity, and you trust again. It’s all about trust really and just being present, and if you can be present in the bardo you don’t even need to know about the bardo. You don’t need to have read the Tibetan bardo just as long as you’re present and aware . . . and that’s it.
I recognise it as a Now experience... Now! Now! This! This! The human brain is not really equipped to deal with the really big questions… For instance, it isn’t hardwired to understand infinity and yet it can be realised in a state of consciousness which takes place beyond the mind in the timeless moment of Now. One becomes comfortable with “not knowing” and simply bows down to the mystery. I do that often with Ayahuasca. Life is not a problem to be solved but a mystery to be lived.
UG: And why becomes an unimportant question at the peak of ecstatic trance.
Darpan: it’s an interesting thing to dance with and chew on but ultimately it’s meaningless.
UG: No one will ever know the answer because there isn’t AN answer.
Darpan: Or the answer is not an answer because it’s something else. It’s an experience or a livingness or a being-ness...
UG: Or a crude symbol which appears like a sudden breath of wind over dark waters.
Darpan: Wind on water, that’s beautiful. Actually Robert Fripp did an album once called ‘Wind on water” which I love and it’s a beautiful image. Have you ever watched wind on water? Because the invisible becomes visible . . . through the water, the wind becomes visible . . .