Rainbow body

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In Dzogchen, rainbow body (Tibetan: འཇའ་ལུས་Wylie: 'ja' lus, Jalü or Jalus) is a level of realization. This may or may not be accompanied by the 'rainbow body phenomenon'. The rainbow body phenomenon has been noted for centuries, including the modern era. Other Vajrayana teachings also mention rainbow body phenomena.


Tibetan letter "A" inside a thigle. The "A", which corresponds to the sound ‘ahh’,[1] represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub.

The rainbow body phenomenon is a third person perspective of someone else attaining complete knowledge (Tibetan: རིག་པWylie: rigpa). Knowledge is the absence of delusion regarding the display of the basis.

Rigpa has three wisdoms, which are kadag, lhun grub and thugs rje. Kadag deals with tregchöd.[2] The lhun grub aspect has to do with esoteric practices, such as (but not limited to) Thödgal, that self-liberate the human body into a Sambhogakāya (rainbow body phenomenon).[2][3] The symbol of Dzogchen is a Tibetan "A" wrapped in a thigle. The "A" represents kadag while the thigle represents lhun grub. The third wisdom, thugs rje (compassion), is the inseparability of the previous two wisdoms.

In Dzogchen, a fundamental point of practice is to distinguish rigpa from sems (mind).[4]

The ultimate fruition of the thodgal practices is a body of pure light, called a rainbow body (Wylie 'ja' lus, pronounced ja lü.)[5] If the four visions of thogal are not completed before death, then during death, from the point of view of an external observer, the dying person starts to shrink until he or she disappears. Usually fingernails, toenails and hair are left behind[6] (see e.g. Togden Ugyen Tendzin, Ayu Khandro, Changchub Dorje). The attainment of the rainbow body is typically accompanied by the appearance of lights and rainbows.[5]

Exceptional practitioners are held to realize a higher type of rainbow body without dying. Having completed the four visions before death, the individual focuses on the lights that surround the fingers. His or her physical body self-liberates into a nonmaterial body of light (a Sambhogakāya) with the ability to exist and abide wherever and whenever as pointed by one's compassion.[7]

Eyewitness account

Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen's Heart Drops of Dharmakaya, a Kunzang Nyingtic Dzogchen meditation manual commentated on by Lopon Tenzin Namdak, contains an eyewitness account of his main students' bodies shrinking and rainbows appearing in the sky at death.[8]

List of those reported to have attained the rainbow body


  1. Norbu 2002, p. 56.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Garry 2005, p. 296.
  3. Dalai Lama 2004, p. 32.
  4. Kunsang 2012, p. 154.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Ray 2001, p. 323.
  6. Norbu 1999, pp. 158-161.
  7. Rangdrol & Matthieu 2001, p. 153.
  8. Gyaltsen 2002, pp. 135-137.
  9. Rabjam, Thondup & Talbot 1996, pp. 137–139.
  10. Allione 2000.
  11. Norbu 2012.
  12. Holland 2002.


  • Allione, Tsultrim (2000). Women of Wisdom. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 9781559391412. 
  • Dalai Lama (2004). Dzogchen: Heart Essence of the Great Perfection. Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1-55939-219-8. 
  • Garry, Ron (2005). Wisdom Nectar: Dudjom Rinpoche's Heart Advice. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 9781559399517. The practice is that of Cutting through Solidity (khregs chod), which is related to primordial purity (ka dag); and Direct Vision of Reality (thod rgal), which is related to spontaneous presence (Ihun grub). 
  • Gyaltsen, Shardza Tasha (2002). Heart Drops Of Dharmakaya: Dzogchen Practice Of The Bon Tradition (2nf ed.). Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1559391726. 
  • Holland, Gail (March–May 2002). "Christian Buddhist Explorations: The Rainbow Body". Institute of Noetic Sciences Review. Institute of Noetic Sciences (59). 
  • Kunsang, Erik Pema, tr. (2012). Perfect Clarity: A Tibetan Buddhist Anthology of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. Ranjung Yeshe Publications. ISBN 978-9627341697. 
  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai (1999). The Crystal and The Way of Light: Sutra, Tantra and Dzogchen (New ed.). Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-135-9. 
  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai (2002). Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light (Rev. Exp. ed.). Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1559391610. 
  • Norbu, Chögyal Namkhai (2012). Rainbow Body: The Life and Realization of a Tibetan Yogin, Togden Ugyen Tendzin. North Atlantic Books. ISBN 978-1583944912. 
  • Rabjam, Longchenpa; Thondup, Tulku, tr.; Talbot, Harold, ed. (1996). The Practice of Dzogchen (2nd ed.). Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 1-55939-054-9. 
  • Rangdrol, Shabkar Tsogdruk; Matthieu, Richard, tr. (2001). The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin. Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications. ISBN 978-1559391542. 
  • Ray, Reginald (2001). Secret of the Vajra World: The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet. Shambhala Publications. ISBN 9781570627729. 

Further reading

External links

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