The human body-mind complex has many hidden secrets, some literally in plain view. While we are all subject to internal chatter and verbal “thinking,” about two-thirds of us experience images along with thoughts. And for about half of these folks, this is a dominant part of their thought process. When you say apple, they see an apple in that famous “mind’s eye.” Inner pictures can appear when we sleep, recall someone, feel love or fear or hope for a better future. Externally, we are bombarded with images and symbols that carry complex layers of meaning, values, and information. Images are typically central to cultural ideologies, norms, and belief systems. And there is no more powerful medium than visual symbols to influence or manipulate others, as modern advertisers and politicians are acutely aware. Beyond the imaginal pictures that hold people together and inspire them, they can also be a portal to greater vision and evolution. But what if this powerful picture-making ability could be harnessed toward one’s personal growth and spiritual transformation? Surprisingly, how or where we see things in our mind is not at all clear to neuroscientists, though the modern science of biophysics and biophotons begins to give new insights into both this process and our personal evolution.
Guided imagery and creative visualization
Those images that just pop up in our head, or are evoked in us, are appropriately called involuntary visualizations. On the other hand, we have voluntary visualizations, typically part of any creative or inventive process. Since time immemorial, healers, shamans, and mystics have made use of intentional images as part of coping, healing, and inner development. Modern practitioners of mind and body have also not missed the opportunity to use these readily available resources. Within the realm of psychology, visualization has been with us since Freud. Today guided imagery is a common therapeutic tool for health professionals or coaches who integrate mindfulness-based practices in their work. But it is also an important part of cognitive therapy—the backbone of modern psychological practice. Of course, it did not take long for these methods to break out of the therapy box and enter the vast marketplace of self-help books. Here it has taken on the user-friendly name of creative visualization. And so today you will find hundreds of imagery methods applied to every conceivable condition, including weight loss, depression, addiction, or getting rich quickly. Visualization is respected as a valuable tool in everything from cancer therapy to sports, the creative arts, optimizing performance, and improving relationships. However, the material world is notorious for not bending to our will. The belief that mere wishes can change everything outside ourselves is pure folly—as in the Law of Attraction or that perennial self-help bestseller, Think and Grow Rich.
The yidam paradigm
Turning to spiritual traditions, both East and West, we find that the gods, the higher powers, the objects of veneration and supplication, are often seen in the mind’s eye, but outside of oneself. The great masters of Vajrayana, arising out of the cosmic mist of northern India from 400–1200 CE, brought with them the promise of a vertical but strenuous path to enlightenment. Many of these great adepts and wandering ascetics, including the famed 84 mahasiddhas, are still revered as the pioneers of current lineages of Vajrayana Buddhism. At the core of their profound methods is a way of turning reality on its head, not just by seeing the world differently, but by perceiving oneself in a wholly new way. Suddenly the visualization includes oneself, not some outer paradise or ideal. In this method, one’s body, speech, mind, one’s very nature, is seen as an already enlightened, radiant being of light, along with a corresponding level of consciousness. This is Creation Phase practice, a dramatic approach in which one leaves behind ordinary appearances. That mundane personal reality that we escape is considered a hodgepodge of heredity, karma, happenstance, and the accumulated borrowings and leavings of thousands of years of cultural and historical values, beliefs, and mistaken views. Now, in a careful series of meditative steps, one is reborn anew, in a form, in a frequency, and in an identity that is perfected, is fully enlightened. Yet the student is continually reminded that this being is not solid, but a holographic being of translucent and radiant light.
Many deities can be used for our new “self,” each with their own very specific form, characteristics, dress, and “personality.” Collectively called yidam (literally a mind-bond), today there are many available books, both ancient and modern, that detail these meditation methods and the philosophy behind the process. On one hand we are just establishing a new habit, a habitual form and identity that can supersede our normal, ultimately false “me.” If practiced long enough, instead of myself playing at being the deity, I may become the deity who plays at being my old self. But we are also working on a physical transformation and the development of the Light or Rainbow Body, which transcends the physical form, both in life and after death. Can contemporary biophysics brings new understandings to this mysterious transformative approach?
The Light Body that Jack built
The raw materials of transformation
Building a Light Body through the Creation Phase is analogous to any other form of growth. Think about building a house. We need raw materials, we need workers, but we also need a blueprint. And wait, we need one more thing: we need financing! As far as building materials, it is clear that our normal level of energy is inadequate for such a monumental undertaking. We normally manufacture enough biochemical, hormonal, electrical, photonic, and magnetic energies for our daily grind—but that’s about all. To begin to build a storehouse, we are advised to halt the tremendous dissipation of energy spent in excess body tension, restlessness, worry, unnecessary speech, sensory overload, and distractions of all kinds. Traditionally, a retreat situation is seen as a solution to some of these energy leaks. But just simplifying our debilitating lifestyles can go a long way toward inner “energy efficiency.” On an active level, mental focus and relaxation (they are not opposites) are powerful allies. The whole field of specialized breathing exercises (pranayama), physical yogas, and just sitting still on a cushion, also help accumulate the excess energy we need for inner transformation. Traditionally, this is packed into the abdomen, not only in Buddhism, but in Shaivite and Daoist spiritual training. Interestingly, the latter, in the form of qi gong and nei dan, has far more sophisticated methods of energy conservation than Buddhism, and would benefit any modern practitioner.
We also need workers to build our new Light Body structure. Here, Creation Stage methods specialize in three areas: creating images within our mind (photonic methods), mantra recitation (phonic methods), and working with channels and energies (tsa lung). While a fair bit of Western research has been done into the effects of meditation and mantras, this has focused on brain chemistry, plasticity, and other neurological shifts. Surprisingly little has been directed into seeing what happens to biophotons, bioelectricity, and biomagnetism, or within the subtle channels of the body, the primary vascular system (PVS). What we do know is that every time we visualize light, we create photons in the brain. Meditating on areas of the body further stimulates this kind of production, with higher levels of photon activity in the DNA of cells. Also, our microchannels (the PVS) are like fiber-optics, delivering packets of light (photons) to the brain, where it accumulates in the ventricles, filled with energized and micro-illuminated cerebrospinal fluid. The more we visualize our entire body as a luminous being, the more intense we can surmise that this light field becomes. Added to this is the tremendous impact of sacred sound and the intonation of mantra.
In the Generation Phase, mantras are visualized as spinning in a circle within the heart (clockwise for male deities and counterclockwise for female deities). This spiral dance of sound and light always rotates around a special symbol at the hub of this wheel. This seed syllable is a form which expresses a single sound, one that resonates in the very core of consciousness. As opposed to what we might have learned in school, sound does not travel as wiggly waves, but as spherical, conical, three-dimensional forms, or, as described by John Reid, in the form of holographic bubbles. These bubbles spread from the human voice at 700 miles per hour, causing molecules to rub against each other and exciting them to generate infrared light radiation. In this way, sound creates light. Sound or phonons also imprint cell membranes, transmitting information and qualia (the smallest bytes of consciousness). Of course, science is far behind in understanding the effects and meanings of different sounds, colors, forms, and the messages they carry. So that is where ancient tantric sciences takes over, since each deity, mantra, chakra, and associated elements, have tried and true impacts on body and mind. Gradually biophysics may come closer to differentiating these forces and adding new explanations of what is known to be effective.
Having light photons whizzing through our cells, and sound vibrations and biomagnetic fields encompassing the space of our form does not comprise a Light Body. We normally generate what is called coherent (in phase) light, but it is amorphous light without any real structure. What is missing is organization, a true anatomy. Higher levels of integration, structure, and hierarchies go along with a more intelligent creation, like the difference between a pile of chemicals and a cell made of those same substances. To produce an organism of light, we need a blueprint, a framework. Again the yidam principles come to our rescue, acting as a veritable template for the weaving of a Rainbow Body. We are told that if we rehearse these meditations again and again, and for many years, we can expect to arise in the after-death state in precisely that form. Our meditation practice has also enabled us to step into the pure consciousness that a body of photons can support. Our created form, made of shimmering light, can engage in benevolent activity toward the pieces of consciousness still caught in the mesmerizing web of materiality. But wait, we did say something about “financing” our Light Body. Space and time dictate that we leave that essential discussion for another day.
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