Yidum was mentioned to me today. Specifically this article by David Chapman describes the concept: https://vividness.live/2017/02/09/yidams-a-godless-approach-naturally/.
You “become” the yidam in meditation by visualizing yourself in their form, and by replacing your ordinary mind with their enlightened mind.
The article further describes the nature of appropriate Yidams to embody. These include people: dead or living (though living is tricky). Yidams don’t even have to have ‘existence’ in the first place. For instance: mythical beings, gods, fictional people.
Vajrayana Buddhism (Buddhist tantra) describe Yidam as being highly specific beings. In other words: they are not Jungian archetypes of various virtues. Instead, traditional Yidams have extremely specific characteristics. Why this is important is not immediately clear to me but may be related to ease to visualize something with detail AND to know if you’ve made a mistake.
This advice is not something to mess around with given a Yidam with an cultural/evolutionary history – try to visualize the Yidam in as much detail as it is… described? Perturbations of the Yidams are tested in different iterations of visualizations by the same and different people. Those that ‘succeed’ are passed on as successful variations of the Yidam. Otherwise the variation dies from lack of cultural transmission. Don’t mess around with an evolutionary process.
So Yidams are interesting. Minds that can take on, embody, a Yidam are weird.
What struck me when first learning about the existence of Yidam was that they are remarkably similar to the persona that actors immense themselves in during a play. The difference is in the state of mind you begin with before immersing yourself into another being. Makes me want to read Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre.
To get into the Yidam involves retreating from the world via a meditation practice. This means Yidam requires a very dormant and/or lack of self within consciousness. Unlike an actor which probably has many more levels of self in his or her awareness as they don a particular mask of a character.
What is the implications? Becoming a Yidam may involve far more speading of another being within your mind compared to that of an actor’s persona. No inhibitions from thoughts that ‘this is not I’ but acceptance. Perhaps also people under hipnosis may… suffer?… a similar state of mind as a well practiced meditator does when imagining themselves as a particular Yidam.
Particularly seems useful when asking the question “what would an enlightened person do?”. The article strongly suggests to only use enlightened Yidam. Imagining yourself as a person you’d more rather be. But in Yidam practice, there’s no ‘I’ in the way of this imagining. No fear but acceptance.
And perhaps when the practitioner returns to themselves, a bit of the enlightened Yidam remains.