On Padmasambhava, Trikaya (Tri-Body), and relation to Shaivism. (Author: Vidur Mishra)
On 7th August, Padmasambhava’s Jayanti was celebrated. He was one of the foremost great Gurus from India who established the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism, especially the Dzogchen school, in Tibet and Bhutan. Padmasambhava is known for transmuting into Rainbow Body (“Jalu” in Tibetan). In Rainbow Body, all body layers—from densest to subtlest—dematerialize into a Pure Light-Energy Body. Rainbow Body is pre-Buddhist in origins. In Sanskrit, it is known by many other names such as Sambhogakaya (Bliss Enjoyment Body), Divya Deha (Divine Body), Jyoti Deha (Light Body), Gnana Deha (Intelligence Body), Kaya Siddhi (Body Siddhi), etc. It allows one to deathlessly exist in Pure Subtle Light-Energy Form at the thin line between Nirvana (complete dissolution) and Samsara (cyclical embodiment). With Rainbow Body, one can consciously choose to 1) completely dissolve one’s entire local existence (without leaving any material trace) into the Ultimate Formless-Attributeless-Undifferentiated Cognizant Voidness underlying all existence or 2) exist indefinitely in a Pure Subtle Light-Energy Form chilling outside the loop of cyclical existence until one wishes to also disperse and dissolve that pure form. One is not bound to unconsciously or compulsively reincarnate (driven by karmic predisposition, impression, information, memory, and desire). One also need not pass into Nirvana to transcend Samsara. While the rest of Rainbow Body chills outside the loop of Samsara, one can also consciously reincarnate a portion into an embodied being or multiple portions of one’s subtle energy form into embodied beings. It brings one mastery over the process of Samsara and Nirvana itself. The signs of coming close to Rainbow Body: the body stops casting a shadow, the need for sleep-food-water-excretion is almost or completely gone, breath reaches a moment-to-moment state of minimum or complete non-breathing, age-reversal, can start passing through solid objects, etc.
Rainbow Body should not be confused with subtle Akashic (etheric) or Vayu (air) form that also allows Yogi to temporarily de-solidify (not “dematerialize”) the gross physical layer (not all the subtle layers) to perform things such as disappear/reappear, pass through solid objects, float/walk over water, levitate, teleport from one spot to another within a specific range, etc. In Full Rainbow Body, the entire body (all layers from gross to subtlest) is dematerialized into a “Pure Energy (Shakti) Form” once and for all. People who know about the “Rainbow Body Phenomenon” use words like “light” or “rainbow” to describe it because it flashes like a light, blaze, or rainbow at disappearance. But, in general, people throw the word “light” a lot without realizing that “light” (Jyoti) is a particular kind of “energy” (Shakti). Rainbow Body beings can only be felt and experienced in depth by other Rainbow Body beings, a variety of subtle divine/demonic non-human beings, high-level Yogis, and rare sensitive humans connected to the energies of a particular Rainbow Body Master.
To further understand Rainbow Body, it is important to look into the framework of Trikaya (Tri-Body). The “Trikaya” scheme can be used in a few different ways depending on the context. Below I explain it in the context of Rainbow Body.
1) Nirmanakaya: Nirmanakaya is a physical emanation body of an enlightened consciousness that manifests in the Samsaric world (of time and space) in gross physical form to help people with the Dharmic path of liberation. Gautama Buddha was one such being among millions of others. After completing its earthly role, depending on its capability/choice and circumstance, such a being can either transmute into Sambhogakaya (Rainbow Body) or pass into Nirvana (Complete Dissolution into Cognizant Voidness). If such a being passes into Nirvana instead of transmuting into Rainbow Body, then he dismantles and dissolves all the subtle dynamic layers of his local existence into emptiness but leaves the densest gross physical body behind on the planet. That dense physical body can be buried or burned.
2) Sambhogakaya: Beings like Padmasambhava that transmute or exist in Pure Subtle Light-Energy Form are referred to as Sambhogakayas. Sambhogakaya (Bliss Enjoyment Body) is a Sanskrit word for Rainbow Body (“Jalu” in Tibetan). Some who transmuted into Rainbow Body described it as “deathless,” which should not be confused with “immortality” in the usual overliteral sense. Deathless does not mean indissoluble. It can be very much dissolved back into emptiness or voidsource. But being immune to five elements, it cannot be damaged in any ordinary sense. It cannot be buried. It cannot be drowned. It cannot be burned. It can levitate. It can pass through solid. It can project any form. It can create multiple illusory projected copies. It can take over multiple gross-physical bodies at once. It can manipulate five elements and various energies in all sorts of ways at will. It can not merely go toe-to-toe with Gods and Demons but also completely tame some of them if needed. In theory, as long as there is a decent energy source and some other factors in check, Rainbow Body can exist indefinitely until Mahapralaya (Great Final Complete Dissolution of All Existence) goes back into Primordial Undifferentitated Cognizant Emptiness/Potential). However, most (if not all) Rainbow Body beings dissolve themselves instead of chilling till Mahapralaya. They exist until they wish to, depending on their mastery over Rainbow Body and their purpose (usually considered to provide prepared receptive sentient beings with power, ecstasy, knowledge, realization, and liberation). Then, they dissolve Rainbow Body into emptiness. Also, since Rainbow Body beings chill outside the loop of time (and cyclical existence), there is no such thing as “this much or that much” amount of time for them. Experientially, it does not matter if they exist for a day or thousands of years per human time standards (calendar years). A moment or eternity, both are null and void in their experience. There is no temporality (or a few subtle moments/variations of temporality with again no temporality) in their experience. So, thinking in terms of the amount of time for which “Rainbow Body” exists is not quite valid. Hence, I say it can exist “indefinitely.” In Mahapralaya, all existence—including mortal sentient beings, godly Devas and Devis, demonic Asuras and celestial Yakshas, Rainbow Body beings, and much more—is supposed to dissolve into cognizant void source.
3) Dharmakaya: It literally means “Dharmic Body.” Dharmakaya is another way to refer to Ultimate Undifferentiated Formless Dharmic Reality, Pure Primordial Potential, VoidSource, Boundless Undifferentiated Empty Awareness/Cognizance, etc. Liberated beings, whether Nirmanakayas like Gautama Buddha or Sambhogakayas like Padmasambhava, manifest from and dissolve back into Dharmakaya after their roles. All beings, places, phenomena, processes, happenings, and more emerge from, abide in, and dissolve back into the boundless field of Dharmakaya.
Among non-sectarian scholars and practitioners, it is well-known that many things in Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism (like vocabulary, many Deities, various Mahasiddhas, some methods, the dress-up of some masters like Padmasambhava himself, and overall tone and practice style) are directly inspired or taken as they are from Shaivism (and Hindu Tantra in general). Dalai Lama is famous for his “Kalachakra” (Wheel of TimeSpaceDeathDarknessEmptiness) initiation, which was originally inspired by the Shaivite Tantric practice of “Maha Kala” (Great TimeSpaceDeathDarknessEmptiness). The word and imagery of “Maha Kala” were used for Shiva before there was Buddha and any form of Buddhism. Many Tibetans worship Shiva in the form of “Maha Kala.” “Chakra” and “Kundalini” (of which “Tummo” is the soft version) are also words that emerged from Shaivism and Shaktism. Tibetan “Chod” is a diluted version of real Aghori kapala and khanda manda practices, where a Shaiva Tantric actually chops off their body parts (including the head), burns them in a fire to purify karmic-elemental impurities, and rejoins them to renew as a divine being with esoteric powers and knowledge. Dalai Lama himself says that the Himalayan Kundalini Yogis are the most mysterious. Even great Tibetan Dzogchen Master Chatrul Rinpoche said, “We are all Shiva Bhaktas (devotees).” It is because of such things many Theravada Buddhists (strict followers of Gautama Buddha’s original teachings) consider Tibetan Buddhists to be heretics. Many Shaivite sects like the deadliest fearsome Aghoris, raging warrior Naga Sadhus, devotional wisest Tamil Shaivas and Veera Shaivas, extensive skillful Kashmir Shaivas and Kaulas, fearless intense Nathas and Pashupatas, other obscure Kapalika sects, and ancient tribal (unorganized) predecessor sects have produced Rainbow Body beings before, during, and after Padmasambhava (and Tibetan Buddhism). These sects are not well-known to the Western audience because they are more unorthodoxly tribal, wild, strict (with discipline requirements), and unavailable to the common public. They are less formal, not the kind that can be neatly organized into a package for the public. Given all this, we will now look into Light-Energy Body in the context of Shaivism.
Roughly: In the framework of Shaivism, existence is primarily based on Shiva (Unmoved Cognizant VoidSource), Shakti (Limitless Energetic Mover of Existence), Kala (Time, Space, Blackness/Colorlessness), Jyoti (Light), and Five Elements (Akasha, Air, Fire, Water, Earth).
Oversimplified Metaphysics: Shiva neither exists nor not-exists. Yet, Shiva (Cognizant VoidSource) is full of limitless undifferentiated potential Shakti (Energy). The itching by Shakti (Energy) awakens Shiva from its timeless absolute rest or stillness. Shiva is at absolute rest but not unconscious. It is not self-conscious either. It is simply cognizant (Chit) in its rawest. It self-abides in and as “Pure Primordial Raw Empty Cognizance.” That waking automatically or spontaneously self-starts (self-causes) the process of recursive differentiation of Shiva’s “limitless undifferentiated potential” (into multiples) that continues explosively. Because of the itching and spontaneous waking, the unmoved Shiva gets pissed and lets out an explosive roar (Rudra). This roar is also the primordial raw thunderous sound (Nada). This roar further excites playful Shakti. Shakti concentrates on a singularity to launch itself like a living elliptical rocket in order to explode itself into endless orders of infinities. The first moving concentrated yet subtlest form of that limitless creative Energy (Shakti) before differentiation is an ellipsoid (Linga). It is penetrative like a phallus. From the first subtlest form of ellipsoidal energy, all change goes into a loop of motion—a loop of manifestation, sustenance, and dissolution back into the source. Like modern science, Light is considered a specific form of Energy. The first differentiated form of Energy (Shakti) is Light (Jyoti). The birth of Light (and Color) happens alongside the background (backdrop) of Kala (Colorless TimeSpace). Kala’s “temporal” aspect has linear, cyclical, and non-linear/non-cyclical dimensions. “Maha Kala” or “Great TimeSpace” refers to the non-linear/non-cyclical dimension of TimeSpace. The play of Light in Kala (Colorless TimeSpace) gives rise to the Non-local Mind, the mental space of which is the first element called Akasha. Akasha is popularly translated as either “space” or “ether.” But, both translations can be inappropriate because 1) “space” can get mixed with “empty space” in the context of Kala (Colorless TimeSpace) while Akasha is more like “spaciousness of cosmic mind,” and 2) “ether” has been used by people in all sorts of ways that have very less to do with true Yoga. Akasha is not an empty space. It is a subtle mental elemental space (note the word “mental” in “elemental”). Akasha is the infinite spaciousness of Divya Manas (Non-Local Mind). In a very subtle way, Akasha contains collective living information about the past-present-future of all creation. All beings (embodied/disembodied or human/non-human) in all of time and space share the same single Akasha. Because of the distributed intelligence of Akasha, information in any “part/process/aspect” or “position” in TimeSpace is instantly shared with every other “part/process/aspect” or “position” in TimeSpace. Akasha is like a vast active living intelligence library of creation. Hence, a being of a heightened degree of awareness, like a human, can possibly consciously access information from Akasha regarding the general past-present-future of all creation—its processes, places, events, and beings (the pool of their intentions, desires, emotions, memory, etc.). From and within the space of the Non-Local Mind, the rest of the physical/material creation emerges as the potent attributes-properties inherent in the cosmic Non-Local Mind start condensing into unique locals. Divya Shakti (Divine Energy) fuels Divya Manas (Divine Non-Local Mind). Shakti (Energy) actualizes various potentials of the Non-Local Mind into unique local instances through its diverse play or movements. Each unique creative movement of Energy gives rise to a unique local physical instance. Each local instance (expression-extension) of existence is a unique whole in itself that uniquely and recursively reincludes or recapitulates the whole existence. Here, elements like Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are not always meant to be taken literally (though they can also be used literally, depending on the context). Air ≡ Expansiveness, Floatiness, Gas, etc. Fire ≡ Heat, Temperature, Plasma, etc. Water ≡ Motion, Flow, Liquid, etc. Earth ≡ Crystallization, Solid, etc. Within the infinite lap of Akasha fueled by Shakti, material creation continuously arises due to the dynamic play of the various parallel permutations and combinations of these four elements in different proportions.
The most potent local expression (instance) of Shakti (Energy) in the human mind-body complex is called Kundalini (coiled-up serpent Energy). There are 114 chakras, 72,000ish prana nadis (life-wind-energy channels/nerves), and 5 sheaths/bodies. The five sheaths that make up the human mind-body-energy complex from gross to subtlest: 1) gross-physical sheath (annmayakosha), 2) life-wind-energy sheath (pranamayakosha), 3) mental-memory sheath (manomayakosha), 4) unsullied-intelligence sheath (vijnanamayakosha), and 5) bliss sheath (anandamayakosha). While consciously shedding the body, the Yogi can dismantle these five koshas, leave the gross physical body in one place, and leave/dissolve the remaining sheaths/bodies in different places. Out of 114 chakras, 112 chakras (along with 10 prana-vayus/life-wind-energies) are in pranamayakosha (life-wind-energy body) within the frame of annmayakosha (gross physical body). These 112 chakras were grouped into 7 chakras (for convenience and encoding purposes), with each major chakra representing 16 chakras (7 x 16 = 112). The remaining super subtle 2 chakras are outside the entire body’s frame. The 114th is the subtlest chakra and pulsates in the vortex of the Ouroboros, continuously folding back upon itself. By continuously eating itself, it contains itself. It keeps itself still on one spot and prevents dispersion. But in every iteration, by eating itself, it also again triggers its reverberation. So, it keeps whirling in one spot like a whirlpool wheel of energy. Activating it brings unbridled intense multidimensional access to cosmic mysteries. But, it must be done safely because many insufficiently prepared people die during or soon after its activation. As such, most Shaivas wrap super long matted hair or wear a turban over their heads (like Sadhguru JV) for safety purposes to keep the super intense energetic motion of the outer 2 subtlest chakras in check. Most serpent Kundalini is coiled-up and reserved in Muladhara (Root) Chakra for most beings. The journey of serpent Kundalini from Muladhara (Root) to Sahasrara (Crown) and Beyond is the explosive launch of Energy (Shakti) to re-unite with Divine Consciousness (Shiva). The central 7 chakras correspond to the 7 colors of the rainbow or white light. These 7 chakras can be explosively used at once to instantly dematerialize the entire body into Light-Energy Body.
Unmoved Shiva (Cognizant VoidSource) & Mover Shakti (Limitless Energy) -> Kala (Colorless TimeSpace) & Jyoti (Blazing LightColor) -> Akasha (Non-Local MindSpace) -> Air, Fire, Water, Earth
The Yogi, who transmutes into a complete Rainbow Body (Pure Light-Energy Body), consciously reverses this process. First, the five elements comprising and around the mind-body-energy system are purified. Then, the physical body is dematerialized into Akashic Body (which also corresponds to the vibration of Primordial Sound). Akashic Body transmutes into Light-Energy Body. As a result, the physical body of the Yogi disappears into the emptiness of thin air without leaving any gross material trace at all. Further, the Light-Energy Body can be dispersed and dissolved into Cognizant VoidSource. If Yogi also dissolves Rainbow (Light-Energy) Body, Yogi’s entire powerful “subtlest energetic bubble of existence” pops and dissolves into Cognizant VoidSource. Ramalinga Swamigal (in the image) was one recently known great Tamil Shaiva Yogi who transmuted into Light-Energy Body. Kumaradevar and Sadhguru Sri Brahma were other such beings. Their esoteric methods were much faster than what Dzogchen Buddhism offers (which requires many years of entire day-night practice with no guarantee). These Shaiva Yogis did it in half the amount of time or less compared to what it took Padmasambhava (and other rare Tantric Buddhist masters).
Image Source: Google Images. No ownership to image claimed