This is a professional spiritual practice within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition called the Rainbow Body practice. It involves the practitioner being able to dissolve the major areas of their body and mind into light at the time of death and even during their lifetime. Thousands of people have seen the wonderful happenings including stunned Chinese prison guards who have locked meditation masters away in prison cells only to find they’ve absolutely disappeared.
The rainbow light that is observed during the time of death is a manifest sign of the energies of clear white light which the Meditator has successfully dissolved their physical particles back into. According to the ancient Tibetan spiritual traditions, our planet is alive and sacred; and the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space are not just natural resources but can be called fundamental aspects of a living universe. These five elements also correspond to the five wisdoms of enlightenment which are all aspects of a universal consciousness. As I noted this is an advanced practise but I would like to provide an overview here to encourage people to what’s possible within the human condition. The rainbow body phenomena could be a universal experience not just for Tibetan Meditation Masters. The Christians have become extremely fascinated in these cases and a Catholic priest – Father Francis Tiso has researched it in-depth and even traveled to Tibet in the mid 90’s to study it deeper. He documented his discovery in a Christian publication about the universal potential and implications of the phenomena:
Tibetan Buddhist teachings explain we are all children of light and the Rainbow Body practice is mostly to eliminate the blockages and obstacle that stop this reality from manifesting in full view. The Tibetan Buddhist explanation of who we really are involves a trinity, as appears in so many other spiritual traditions. The trinity we consist of is: an omnipresent formless filed of consciousness, a subtle light/sound/bliss energy body and the individual expression of physical appearance. Just like what I see as God, the holy spirit and the son to represent. This trinity is a seamless whole that represent various aspects of the one thing. Greatly realized beings who reach the rainbow body at the time of death leave behind only nails, hair, and sometimes cartilage. They dissolve into the middling level of the trinity; the light/sound/bliss level; represented by the holy spirit in Christianity. The dissolution process may take up to seven days, during which time the body shrinks progressively. There are incidents of “partial rainbow body attainments” in which the master or yogi halts the dissolution process before it is complete in order to leave behind holy relics for their students. These relics have also been witnessed transforming into crystals or multiplying. I have to admit such a thing occurred at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery I was living at when the pearl like relics seemingly multiplied over night.
Remarkable and as yet scientifically unexplainable things happen to these great Masters at the time of death.
A further example is found in the study of Friar Francis Tiso of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, who collected eyewitness accounts of the death of Khenpo A-chos in 1998:
If you hadn’t thought of it already it’s what happened to Obi Wan Kenobi when he let himself be struck down by Darth Vader. His body immediately vanishes into space, however he merged with the force and keeps guiding and mentoring Luke on his journey to Jedi enlightenment. I know Star Wars is only a film, but it is a pop culture example that millions are aware of, and yet another idea that George Lucas borrowed from Eastern Mysticism.
There are many stories and legends of the great beings who reach the rainbow body within Tibetan culture. While it is known that only highly realized beings achieve that state, the many individuals whose storied deaths left the signs and traces that they had attained the body of light are people from peasants and farmers all the way up to the highest lamas and rinpoches. Particular famous historical figures in Tibetan history, including Padmasambhava and Milarepa, are often demonstrated in paintings in rainbow body form. However, not only do teachers in the modern day recount incidents of the rainbow body from their memories from Tibet, but contemporary masters have reached the rainbow body themselves. It has been unofficially claimed that 13 incidents of the rainbow body have been witnessed in the last hundred years within just one tradition. Dudjom Rinpoche is one such example, among others, including the 16th Karmapa. David Wiclock reports that there are over 180,000 recorded events of people turning into a “light body” after death. He has made an interesting presentation detailing the events and demonstrating evidence of footprints left behind by numerous Masters who when they reach a level of realisation in the Rainbody Body practise they can also manipulate matter and leave hand or feet marks in solid rock. This is another widely known phenomena in Tibet and thousands of Buddhists each year go on pilgrimage to the caves where these Masters have literally left their mark: you can watch Wilcock’s presentation in the video below:
In fact Tibetan Buddhists widely venerate masters and yogis who have reached this level of realization, for the rainbow body is known to make the enlightened body of the Buddha visible to practitioners who are able to see them. Thus it is a manifestation of the Buddha’s big love and compassion, and gives hope and faith to practitioners. Westerners too, may be reassured by mention of an American who achieved full rainbow body attainment found in Bokar Rinpoche’s book Tara: The Feminine Divine. These esoteric rainbow or light body teachings are still available today, and great masters who have attained this state still exist. So, the rainbow light body is not just an interesting historical phenomenon, but a living tradition. Part of the training is to visualise yourself as made of rainbow light and is relatively simple to do. I have found this practice very rewarding and allows a feeling of lightness and joy to emerge. The psychological reason for this certain visualisation is to pause and replace our everyday projection of who we are, in other words replace our mundane projections of ego and imagine something much closer to the truth of our who we are. This visualisation has huge potential for unlocking immense love, universal wisdom and the unlimited power to achieve our dreams here on earth.
“It shows that the alleged resurrection of Jesus Christ was not an isolated event, but shines as an instance of what may be possible for all people.”
“The elements of the body shrink as the light aspect of the elements become more apparent and the gross aspect become lessened. The body becomes small and takes on a younger and more luminous quality. Sometimes the process is incomplete before the consciousness completely leaves the body. In that case the corpse can be pretty small and young looking. Such was the case with H.H. Dudjom Rinpoche, if you go to his stupa (grave) you see he’s pretty small looking the size of an 8 years old.”
“A week before the Khenpo died, a flat rainbow appeared over his house. Those present at his death told Fr. Francis that they saw the wrinkles on his skin vanish and the skin become smooth and shiny like that of a young boy’s…Everyone present noticed a sweet fragrance, like perfume. Outside the hermitage they saw rainbows in the sky…the body was shrinking but [his disciples] saw no signs of decomposition.”