Transforming the human body into Rainbow Light and ascending at the time of death. Today we discuss this amazing phenomena which has been fully documented by the Tibetans for thousands of years.
Even within the traditions associated with this phenomena some are happy to assume they are merely stories told by old men to impress the children.
But as Sogyal Rinpoche points out in his classic Tibetan Book Of Living and Dieing.
This may be very difficult for us now to believe, but the factual history of Dzogchen lineage is full of examples of individuals who attained rainbow light body, and as Dudjom Rinpoche often used to point out, this is not just ancient history. Of the many examples, I would like to choose one of the most recent, and one of with which I have a personal connection. In 1952 there was a famous instance of the rainbow body in the East of Tibet, witnessed by many people. The man who attained it, Sonam Namgyal, was the father of my tutor and the beginning of this book.
This is happening right now and has continued in an unbroken line that we can trace since the first Buddha of the Bon Tradition, according to tradition close to 10,000 years prior.
This has nothing to do with Sakyamuni Buddha who became well known 2500 years ago and whose tradition is not known to produce this phenomenon.
Hang on tight as we delve into this subject which one of my favorite areas of research.
- 1 What Is Rainbow Body?
- 2 Where Is The Evidence?
- 3 Other Manifestations Of The Rainbow Body
- 4 Summing Up
- 5 Further Information & Resources
What Is Rainbow Body?
This will sound like a movie but here it is. The Rainbow Body is the transformation of the physical body into light.
There are variations of this process.
Some, where the body is completely transformed and others where there is a partial transformation whereby the body shrinks (enough to fit into a small box) over a period of 7 days and manifest Rainbow light in the vicinity.
Many historical occurrences are well documented.
The great thing about the Nyningmapa (Red Hats – One of the four main Tibetan Buddhist Traditions, oldest and closest to the Ancient Tradition) and the Bon (The Ancient Tradition which predates Nyingmapa according to some by 10,000 years) is that they are excellent record keepers.
They both also have in common a method of practice called Dzogchen (The Great Perfection). This is a real gift to mankind.
It has it’s own identity and is free of deities and religious overtones. It is simplicity itself for the prepared student.
Dzogchen is known as the practice which brings about the Rainbow Body phenomena.
What it is and where it comes from is another highly debatable point with with lots of self interest involved.
So here I shall briefly cover both main opinions, as even within the same tradition different sub lineages have their own opinion on many things.
The Nyingmapa perspective is that the primordial Buddha Sambhogakaya made visionary contact with the first (according to them) human master Garab Dorje.
This teaching really established itself under the Guidance of Guru Padmasambhava who is called by many the second Buddha and is said to have spontaneously manifested from Lotus.
The Bon traditions tells a slightly different story. That of Tonpa Shenrab, who lived 18,000 years ago according to the Terma revealed by Loden Nyingpo.
The tradition was then taught and started to spread though out the then country of Zhang Zhung which includes western Tibet and Gangchen Tisi (Mount Kailash).
Components Of Dzogchen
This is where it gets a little tricky as Dzogchen by its very nature is non dual and outside of concepts. Concepts are what keep us here and separate from realizing the ‘View’ as discussed in Dzogchen.
Trekchö and Tögal – These two practices are what we outsiders often here of Dzogchen practice. Trekchö is one of cutting through this perceived reality to reveal something entirely new that has always been there.
While Tögal is that of leaping over to another state called lhündrup or spontaneous presence. This is built upon the previous foundation of Trekchö and cannot be started without that.
So in very layman’s terms the path is that of Trekchö and the fruition (Many debates on whether Dzogchen fits the cause and effect – fruit description) is that of Tögal which when stabilized and lived in brings about attainment of the Buddha body (ku) and wisdom (yeshé) = Rainbow Body upon death or before for some.
But without a foundation just trying to start the above practice will bring little benefit.
That is why there is something called Ngondro in both the Nyingma and the Bon Tradition. This gradually prepares and matures the student for this practice.
One of my observations is that those who are known to have achieved the fruit of this practice are very rarely in the monastic tradition.
More often than not they are the lone yogis in long retreat or even the hidden yogis that know one was aware even had a practice.
Lets now look at what proof there is that any of this actually exists outside of a DMT trip.
One last thought, Rainbow Body (Jalu) is most often associated with Dzogchen. There are rumors and other evidence to say it has been achieved in other traditions. But so far it seems only the Tibetans have the method somewhat understood.
There are many partial signs such as incorruptible bodies etc that are associated with this as seen in some Russian mystics from ‘Christian’ traditions. So lets keep our eyes open.
Where Is The Evidence?
One of the most well known recent occurrences of the Rainbow Body is that of Khenpo A-chos so we shall begin with this.
The reports come to us via Father Tsio, David Steindl-Rast and IONS (Institute Of Noetic Sciences).
This is one of the most well documented and talked about occurrences due to the hard work of Father Francis V. Tiso a Catholic Priest and David Steindl-Rast a Benedictine monk.
Neither of which have let Religious boundaries stop their search for clarity on this most mysterious of subjects.
In 1998 ateam headed out to Tibet to research what was the latest occurrence. That of Khenpo A-chos who had achieved the greater Rainbow body. They spoke with local witnesses and gathered any remaining evidence.
You can listen to Father Tsio in this post on IONS website here.
Lets now briefly look at this and other evidence that all point towards the Rainbow Body being a very real thing and not at all part of religious history but something that continues to occur right up to the present day.
In the photo above we see a frail but happy Khenpo A-Chos a few weeks before his transformation looking happy.
Witnesses report that only a few days before his death a Rainbow was seen over his small hut. Apparently he was of the opinion that this transformation was very possible while still alive (another debatable point dependent upon tradition).
At the time of death he was reciting the six syllable mantra Om Mani Padme Hung on his right side.
Then his breath stopped and his flesh became pinking or brilliant white dependent on the witness.
He was then wrapped as is tradition on the recommendation of his friend Lama A-Chos. Throughout this process those present said they could notice he was getting smaller, not just the flesh but the length of the bones.
Other signs (mentioned in the old texts) were noticed in this period such as perfume, beautiful music and more Rainbow Light.
This continued for seven days (the body once wrapped is left alone) when they then went to unwrap the body only to find he had gone! There was no more body apart from some hair and nails.
Witnesses including Lama Norta came forward saying that Khenpo A-Chos had appeared to them in dreams and visions. (This is well documented in other cases whereby final instructions were given to students)
There is another inspiring case I would like to recount.
The father of one of Sogyal Rinpoches many tutors. A super inspiring story that kept me fascinated with this phenomena.
At the beginning of his classic book Sogyal Rinpoche says the following.
He was a very simple, humble person, who made his way as an itinerant stone carver, carving mantras and sacred texts. Some say he had been a hunter in his youth, and had received a teaching from a great master. No one really knew he was a practitioner; he was truly called a ‘hidden yogin.’
“. . . he then fell ill, or seemed to, but became strangely, increasingly happy. When he illness got worse, his family called in masters and doctors… “Just before his death at seventy-nine, he said ‘All I ask is that when I die, don’t move my body for a week.’ When he died his family wrapped his body and invited Lamas and monks to come and practice for him. They placed the body in a small room in the house, and they could not help noticing that although he had been a tall person, they had no trouble getting it in, as if he were becoming smaller.
At the same time, an extraordinary display of rainbow-colored light was seen all around the house. When they looked into the room on the sixth day, they saw that the body was getting smaller and smaller.
On the eight day after his death, the morning in which the funeral had been arranged, the undertakers arrived to collect the body. When they undid its coverings, they found nothing inside but his nails and hair.”
What a beautiful story and I like it all the more because he was a hidden yogi with no external signs of practice.
Really the more we look the evidence there is. Just this year in 2016 thanks to the research of the Naldjor community.
This is what I love yet again showing that this is not just a story! Right now this year in 2016 it is happening.
Lama Thubser achieved the lesser transformation. Meaning his body did not transform entirely into light and instead significantly shrunk.
Enough that he could be fit inside a small box!
The pictures speak a thousand words in my opinion. Here is one of descriptions from Naldjor for the following pictures
These photos show the small rainbow body or Jalü Chung (‘ja’ lus chung) after seven days of continuous practice folloing the final outer breath, ordinarily called death. He was a Dzogchen practitioner affiliated with Kathog monastery, Kham, Eastern Tibet. He studied with the great Kathog Situ Rinpocheas well as with Adzom Rinpoche’s son Adzom Gyalse. Moreover he received teachings from Jamyang Khyentse Lodrö and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.
Amazing isn’t it.
Here he is in my favorite picture, a beaming smile.
Then looking frailer.
The process then began.
Looking like he is still in meditation.
Finally having shrunk to the extent that he can fit inside of a box.
But was there only one recorded occurrence in 2016? No actually there was another practitioner that also achieved this transformation.
This is another incredible transformation in moderin times. Again it was a small transformation meaning the body shrank.
Tasha Lamo was the mother of Lokgar Rinpoche which is one of the Tulku in Nyingma Katok Monastery.
On the left we can see her in life and then below we can see a significant shrinkage of the body. So much so that she fits into a small box.
This quite graphic picture for me really brings home the reality of this. It is happening!
The last transformation I wanted to talk about comes next. I left this one until last as even the photography seems to show up some strange phenomena.
Of course rigorous research is still required but I believe there is more than enough physical evidence and reliable witnesses to merit more academic research into this subject.
Lama Achuk Rinpoche
This great Rinpoche achieved the Rainbow Body at the age of 84. Having inspired his disciples in life his greatest lesson was in death.
His body shrunk from 1.8 meters to approximately 3cm tall.
A clear sign of achieving the small transformation, almost the full transformation.
Apparently the following picture showing the Rainbow light was manifest by this Lama. The Lotus was according to witnesses only visible in the picture, make your own mind up on that one.
The list could go on with other teachers I have physically met. We will now look at some other occurrences that show the practitioner actually had transformed their body already.
I hope you took the red pill!
Other Manifestations Of The Rainbow Body
I am providing just a very small sample of what has inspired me over the years. The more we look the more we find and it just convinces me more and more how little we understand of these ancient traditions.
Many thanks to Linhai of Sacrejourneys.org for his research and maintaining a site where people can still see the masters of these traditions and even travel with Linhai to Tibet.
These photos all courtesy of Sacredjourneys.org.
While not displaying the transformation at death like most practitioners. He after gathering and teaching his students some final instructions must have felt the time was right.
He then swiftly flew, yes flew straight up into the air never to be seen again!
Terton Jigme Puntsog
Known to stick his arm into solid rock to reveal Terma (Hidden Treasures).
Long been a favorite of mine. More than a decade ago he was with a group of students and to show the illusion of matter and samsara pushed a wooden staff into a mountain, plus he wears shades which make me like this even more.
This one is straight out of a comic book. At Huang Long Temple in Sichuan when the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution came to destroy the Monastery he flew into the air and despite their efforts the guards couldn’t shoot him down! In the end they ran away in repentance!
I know right! Wow. But what does this mean for us right now in life?
I think whatever you want it to. Our perception is highly influenced by our subconscious programming. In fact a lot of the preparation training in these traditions though given exotic names (Ngondro – usually 100,000 repetitions of four foundation practices will be completed before even the Vajrayana Path can be started and Dzogchen is usually started after Vajrayana) is in fact dealing with these subconscious patterns before we can even arrive at something like Dzogchen or any other means of attaining Rainbow Body.
But I do believe it is absolutely achievable and that more people than we realize are achieving it.
We all know that Henry Ford quote, ‘If we think we can……
So I choose to believe we all can with the proper mindset. At the very least just knowing of the existence of these practices opens our mind and almost forces us to contemplate what life is and how we fit into this creation called the Universe.
I really hope you have enjoyed this brief look at the amazing phenomena known as Rainbow Body (Jalu).
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on the facebook page.
Further Information & Resources
Here are some resources I have found useful in my ongoing research of this subject. Please do check them out.
These books have inspired me for years. If you would like to research this subject further then I can recommend the following for being a good balance of practicality and inspiration.
Death is not a popular subject. But here we see how Living and Dying can be part of a very wholesome cycle fully living and consciously dying.
If you buy one book, forget the methods and the techniques and just get this. It will open your mind and heart to what comes next. Truly beautiful book. Get it here on Amazon.
Healing with Form, Energy, and Light: The Five Elements in Tibetan Shamanism, Tantra, and Dzogchen: This I feel is like the next step. After reading Living and Dying people might think, okay what next?
Well this starts to give lots practices to start implementing into our lives.
It is also a little more open in its explanations as it is coming from the Bon perspective. Get it here on Amazon.
You may find these posts useful and a good addition to this subject.
Sacred Journeys – Run by Linhai adventurer and traveler.
Rigpa Wiki – Great resource run by Sogyal Rinpoches organization ‘Rigpa’/
Yundrung Bon – Excellent resource for this the Ancient Tradition.
Naldjor – Amazing resource for news on the old traditions and those still in conducting traditional retreats.
IONS – Noetic Sciences