The Rainbow Body in Buddhism & Its Significance
The Rainbow Body, also known as the Vajra Rainbow Body ('ja' lus rdo rje'i sku), is based on the Tibetan terms lus (that which is left behind, ordinary body) and 'ja' (rainbow, rainbow hue). It is not so much a "body" but as a vortex of energy into which some adepts can allegedly transform themselves upon passing away.
The history of Tibet is abundant with astonishing accounts of accomplished and realized yogis and yoginis, as well as very captivating Buddhist gurus. Tibetan Buddhism places a significant focus on meditational techniques. These distinguished meditators and practitioners are proof of the system's efficacy via their lives and teachings.
The extensive collection of teachings about death and dying is another facet of Tibetan Buddhism that is exceedingly prominent—possibly more so than in any other culture. This is not some morbid fixation; Buddhist practice and a thorough grasp of death and dying are essential to living a more prosperous, happier life.
Rainbow Body is a term used in Tibetan Buddhism to describe a particular type of spiritual attainment that is said to occur at the time of death. It is a state in which the practitioner's body is said to dissolve into light, leaving behind only small remnants such as nails and hair. This phenomenon results from many years of spiritual practice and is considered one of the tradition's highest forms of realization. The concept of a "rainbow body," or the total liberation of the body, energy, and mind from all coarse aspects of the physical body into five-colored light, marks the pinnacle of spiritual development.
According to Vajrayana Buddhism, this denotes total liberation of body, energy, and mind and is only accessible to the great yogi/nis who have attained their minds and the five components via certain practices, most notably the "Great Perfection" practices of Dzogchen. The rainbow body phenomenon has traditionally been described in various spiritual traditions, while Vajrayana teachings are where it is most well-known and studied.
Highly accomplished individuals prefer to pass away in a mass of rainbow light rather than leaving a corpse behind that needs to be burnt or hacked to bits. In the words of the Tibetans, they "dissolve into space like a rainbow" (nam mkha' la 'ja' yal ba ltar). Curiously enough, it is said that the practitioners' hair and nails remain on their bodies after this procedure.
The Rainbow Body is achieved through years of dedicated spiritual practice, including meditation, visualization, and other forms of spiritual discipline. The process involves purifying the mind and body of all negative emotions and attachments and cultivating inner peace and wisdom.
The cause of the Rainbow Body is said to be the accumulation of a vast amount of spiritual merit and the cultivation of specific practices, such as Dzogchen. This teaching emphasizes the innate nature of the mind. Dzogchen is considered the highest vehicle of Buddhism in the Nyingma tradition.
While the meaning of the Rainbow Body is closely tied to its significance as a demonstration of ultimate realization, in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, the Rainbow Body is seen as the ultimate fruition of spiritual practice, and those who attain it are said to have achieved the ultimate goal of Buddhism. The rainbow body is often associated with the top state of Buddhahood, and it is said that those who attain it will no longer be reborn in samsara.
There are several stages of attainment leading up to the Rainbow Body, including the achievement of the Dharmakaya (the ultimate nature of reality), the Sambhogakaya (the blissful body of a Buddha), and the Nirmanakaya (the physical body). Through these stages of attainment, the practitioner can gradually dissolve their physical body into light and achieve the Rainbow Body.
Three Main Levels Of Rainbow Body
- Dharmakaya: The Ultimate Nature of Reality
The Dharmakaya is the highest level of the Rainbow Body, representing the ultimate nature of reality. It is the unchanging and infinite nature of all phenomena and is considered the highest level of spiritual realization. At this level, practitioners have attained a deep understanding of the true nature of reality and have transcended all limitations of the physical and mental realm. It is a state of complete liberation and transcendence, where the practitioner has overcome all negative emotions and attachments and has achieved a deep state of inner peace and wisdom.
- Sambhogakaya: The Blissful Body of a Buddha
The Sambhogakaya is the second level of the Rainbow Body, representing the blissful body of a Buddha. It manifests the Dharmakaya and is characterized by pure, radiant light. At this level, practitioners can experience a deep sense of inner peace and bliss and can communicate with other enlightened beings.
- Nirmanakaya: The Physical Body
The Nirmanakaya is the lowest level of the Rainbow Body, representing the physical body. At this level, the physical body is transformed into light, leaving behind only hair, nails, and clothing. This level, also known as the Rainbow Body, is Buddhism's ultimate goal of spiritual practice. It represents the culmination of years of dedicated spiritual practice and the ultimate achievement of enlightenment and transcendence.
Guru Rinpoche & His Rainbow Body
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One of the most famous stories of the Rainbow Body is that of Guru Rinpoche, also known as Padmasambhava, an 8th-century Indian master credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet. According to legend, Guru Rinpoche achieved the Rainbow Body at his death, dissolving his physical body into light and leaving behind only his hair, nails, and clothing.
According to legend, Guru Rinpoche's training under his spiritual teacher, Shri Singha, marked the beginning of his journey toward the Rainbow Body. Guru Rinpoche attained a profound realization and enlightenment after years of devoted practice and meditation. The Buddhist Master spent many years meditating in a cave in what is now Tibet. He spent the last three years in strict retreat when he is said to have attained the rainbow body.
He is renowned for his proficiency in the Vajrayana practices of deity yoga and Dzogchen meditation. These techniques involve meditating and visualizing oneself as a divinity to develop a profound awareness and enlightenment. Thus, when he passed away, he could employ his knowledge of these techniques to change his physical body into pure light.
According to some accounts, he attained the rainbow body while still alive, while others say that he attained it at the time of his death. His attainment of the rainbow body is said to be the result of many years of diligent practice, including the cultivation of devotion, the cultivation of the four foundations of mindfulness, and the practice of Dzogchen, which is said to be the ultimate means for attaining the rainbow body. This miraculous event is said to have inspired many other practitioners who sought to attain the rainbow body through their spiritual practice.
The attainment of the Rainbow Body by Guru Rinpoche is regarded as a significant spiritual achievement. His teachings continue to influence and direct Tibetan Buddhist practitioners worldwide. His example serves as a reminder of the transformational potential of spiritual practice and the potential for obtaining profound realization and enlightenment through consistent practice.
To sum it up, Rainbow Body is a rare and extraordinary occurrence in the history of Buddhism. It is considered to be the ultimate goal of spiritual practice and is a demonstration of the ultimate nature of reality. Years of consistent spiritual practice, such as meditation, visualization, and other types of spiritual discipline, are necessary to reach these levels of the Rainbow Body. Practitioners can build a state of inner tranquillity and knowledge by going through this practice, which helps cleanse their minds and bodies of unwanted emotions and attachments. The completion of the Rainbow Body signifies the pinnacle of spiritual enlightenment and release from the endless cycle of rebirth.