Subtle body

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A Tibetan illustration of the subtle body showing the central channel and two side channels as well as five chakras.

In Buddhist Tantra, the subtle body is termed the ‘innate body’ (nija-deha) or the ‘uncommon means body’ (asadhdrana-upayadeha).[1] It is also called sūkṣma śarīra, rendered in Tibetan as traway-lu (transliterated phra ba’i lus). [2]

The subtle body consists of thousands of subtle energy channels (nadis), which are conduits for energies or "winds" (lung or prana) and converge at chakras.[1] According to Dagsay Tulku Rinpoche, there are three mains channels (nadis), central, left and right; "their beginning point is located between a person's eyebrows. From there, they run upward to the crown chakra. The passage then parallels the spine, running through all seven chakras - the centers of subtle energy - and ending about two inches below the belly button."[3]

Buddhist tantras generally describe four or five chakras in the shape of a lotus with varying petals. For example, the Hevajra Tantra (8th century) states:

In the Center [i.e. cakra] of Creation [at the sexual organ] a sixty-four petal lotus. In the Center of Essential Nature [at the heart] an eight petal lotus. In the Center of Enjoyment [at the throat] a sixteen petal lotus. In the Center of Great Bliss [at the top of the head] a thirty-two petal lotus.[4]

In contrast, the historically later Kalachakra tantra describes six chakras.[5]

In Vajrayana Buddhism, liberation is achieved through subtle body processes during Completion Stage practices such as the Six yogas of Naropa.[6]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 Wayman, Alex; Yoga of the Guhyasamajatantra: The arcane lore of forty verses : a Buddhist Tantra commentary, 1977, page 65.
  2. Lama Willa B Miller. Reviews: Investigating the Subtle Body. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 March 2018. Retrieved 18 March 2018. 
  3. Dagsay Tulku Rinpoche, The Practice of Tibetan Meditation: Exercises, Visualizations, and Mantras for Health and Well-being. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co, 2002, p. 80
  4. Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (editors). Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between Mind and Body, Routledge, 2013, p. 40.
  5. Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (editors). Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between Mind and Body, Routledge, 2013, p. 40
  6. Geoffrey Samuel, Jay Johnston (editors). Religion and the Subtle Body in Asia and the West: Between Mind and Body, Routledge, 2013, p. 38.


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