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Painting of dralas

The Lust of Experiencing Reality: Knowing Dralas


The principle of Drala appeals to the elemental presence of the world, available through different perceptions.

There are moments in our lives when the most insignificant things remind us of reality’s extravagant nature. We can walk and feel a gust of wind, for example, as it goes through the leaves of a tree; in that magical moment, the product of the simplest event, we remain enchanted (as if under a spell). We understand it as if it were something that lies in the tree, the wind and ourselves, everything at the same time. These simple and witch-like events are known as “Dralas” within the Tibetan tradition of Shambhala.

Dralas name something that is so impalpable that perhaps we would never have considered they have a term (like everything that lacking a name is destined to remain in the world of dreams). It was Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche, who in Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, recovered the principle of Dralas, which precede the introduction of Tibetan Buddhism as part of the country’s indigenous traditions, and put them at the service of the entire world as a magical realm; that which you name is. Thanks to Trungpa, then, we can include Dralas in our metaphysical phenomena archive and pay them the attention they deserve. When water reminds us of water, Trungpa says, the fire of fire or the earth of earth, and we feel something like a universal gust, we we become acquainted with Dralas of reality.

Dralas are elements of reality-water of water, fire of fire, earth of earth. Anything that connects you with the elemental quality of reality, anything that reminds you or the depth of perception.  Dralas [are] in the rocks…trees…mountains… a snowflake or a clod of dirt. Whatever is there…those are the Dralas of reality.  When you make that connection…you are meeting the Dralas on the spot.

In other words, Drala is the unveiling of the world which is at our disposal through the perception of the things that comprise it. When we feel the trees, rivers, cracks, clouds, as they are, we are finding a wisdom that is not separated from our own. It is an intimate connection with reality; it reconciles us with everything, in a sudden moment.

Perhaps to understand them better we can think of them as if they were ghosts that peek out from behind things we do pay attention to. They are brilliant specters and the elegance of the world of phenomena, which they require from us, is a type of silence or opening to make themselves visible. They are in each one of the elements of nature (where perhaps it is easier to find them), but they are also in a chair, a rock, a face.

The vastness of perception can be captured in simplicity, a single perception, on the spot. When we allow vastness to enter our perception, then it becomes Drala.

Simply by remembering that we have felt them is enough to know that they exist, but naming them grants them the ability to transcend time. And like the entire catalogue of ghosts, we can also summon Dralas. This is how our tangible world becomes populated —and sometimes overpopulated— by people and other feeling creatures, their intangible or invisible counterpart is inhabited by all sorts of beings, or characteristics of the being, and some of these are Dralas. Contemplating a river is more than merely looking at it; we are potentially getting to know the dralas. And “To make a stone stonier, that is the purpose of art,” Trungpa says.

The principle of Drala is not only applicable to the practitioners of Buddhism, but to all. Viktor Shklovski once stated that the principle of art is to make stone more “stoney,” summoning Drala. Re-enchanting the world.

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