Lama Jigme Gyatso
The Dangerous Myth of the Rainbow Body
Some of the Buddha’s teachings are literal,
and others are figurative.
Those who have been conditioned
to view the world
through the mid-brain’s lens
of empathy and cooperation
often have the intellectual flexibility required
to discern the figurative from the literal.
However those who habitually view the world
through the brain-stem’s lens
of fear, and aggression
are often so blinded by the rigidity it generates
as to mistake the figurative teachings for their literal counterparts.
The tragedy of this confusion
is that it waists colossal amounts
of time and energy
while also concocting strange doctrines:
bizarre and disempowering,
in an attempt to somehow codify
Let us contrast the literal with the figurative
by way of three examples.
John is tenacious.
Figurative statement – simile:
John is as tenacious
as if he was a dog with a bone.
Figurative statement – metaphor:
John is a dog with a bone.
Is John literally a dog with a bone?
Does he really prance about
on all fours
striving to sniff the butts of strangers?
Of course not!
For such things are frowned upon
in polite society.
We see the same type of confusion
occurring in the myth of the Rainbow body.
Literally a rainbow can be seen with our eyes,
and, also literally, a rainbow can NOT be grasped
by our hands.
A rainbow is therefore a great example
of an object being seen YET non-graspable.
This is a great illustration of the Mahayana concept
of the two truths.
What are the two truths?
Conventionally – any: thing, being, or phenomena
we notice during our inhalation
is an object of mindfulness.
Ultimately – as we physically relax
into each exhalation
we begin to mentally release
and as such, that (which we previously noticed)
could now seem to be as non-graspable
as if were a rainbow.
Neither the ultimate nor the conventional
are superior to one another
for just as a bird requires both of its wings
to take to the skies
likewise we require
both inhalation’s mindfulness
as well as exhalations insight
to taste of Nirvana’s freedom.
From the figurative point of view,
supported by our empathetic and cooperative mid-brains
we could use the simile of the Rainbow
to explore how during our inhalation
we could mindfully experience our body
as appearing as a rainbow
and then during our exhalation
we could insightfully relax into the experience
of our exact same body
as being as non-graspable as a rainbow.
Or, to add an additional layer of figurative language;
as we breathe out we could experience our body
as being as non-graspable
as a vast, empty void;
like the illusion of the infinite azure sky
on a bright and beautiful, cloudless morn.
But what about the literal point of view?
Those whose perceptions and cognitions
are limited by the rigidity of their brain-stems:
frightened and competitive,
subscribe to the elitist myth
that at the very end of a great yogi’s life
they will be sewn into a tent
and perform, the so-called, “Rainbow meditation.”
When their acolytes later cut open the tent
all that they find
may be their teacher’s clothes, teeth, finger nails, and toenails;
inferring that the rest of their enchanted teacher
had magically transformed into a literal rainbow
and was now in the mythical realm of the Dakinis.
The folly of such magical thinking
is that is supports the elitist assumptions
that enlightenment is difficult to obtain
and only for the chosen few.
But the Buddha taught the opposite.
The Buddha taught that once one has learned
to blend the four bases of mindfulness
with the seven enlightenment factors
if one enthusiastically applies them
actively as contemplation, Vajrayana, or Togal’s leap-over
and passively as meditation, Mahamudra or Trekchöd’s slice through
for as little as seven years, or
seven quarters, or seven months, or
seven fortnights, or seven weeks, or
even seven days
one could master the true knowledge
that comes from the inhalation’s mindfulness
and the liberation
that comes from exhalation’s insight.
When the fundamentalists
of any spiritual path
are confronted with evidence
of their techniques’ impotence
they spin fairytales:
elitist, and disempowering,
claiming that their flaccid techniques really do work
but only in special circumstances
and for special people
of which we, dear reader, are not.
Come, let us dispense
with the greasy kid-stuff of our Brain-stem’s lies of patriarchy
and instead practice the Buddha’s love meditations
that we might fall under the sway of our mid-brain:
empathetic, cooperative, and flexible.
Let us conclude
with a simple
call to action
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