Rainbow Body and Color

According to an advanced spiritual practice developed by Yutok Yonten Gompo, regarded as the ‘father of Tibetan Medicine, the Rainbow Body meditation practice teaches the practitioner to dissolve the course aspects of their body and mind into light at the time of death and even during their lifetime. The Yuthok Nyingthik (Tib. གཡུ་ཐོག་སྙིང་ཐིག་), the ‘Heart Essence of Yuthok’, composed by Yuthok the Younger, is a complete cycle of Vajrayana Buddhist practice, beginning with the preliminary practices (Tib. སྔོན་འགྲོ་ “ngöndro”) and progressing through the development and completion stage practices to the highest practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. The rainbow light that is witnessed at the time of death is a manifest symbol of the energies of clear white light which the Meditator has successfully dissolved their physical elements back into.  The rainbow aspect corresponds to the five elements of earth, water, fire, air, and space, which are not just viewed as natural resources but can be considered fundamental aspects of a living universe. The ability to manifest the “rainbow body” is considered the penultimate transitional state of meditation in which matter begins to be transformed into pure light.  The enumeration of the colors may change but the number remains five.

Tibetan iconographical thangkas of deities, teachers, as well as mandalas, uses color as a visual support for meditation practice which is intended to develop the capacity to transform specific emotional and psychic delusion states into positive qualities.  In the depicition of the five Dhyani Buddhas, each is endowed with a different color: 1. Vairochana – White bodied 2. Ratnasambhava – Yellow bodied 3. Akshobhya – Blue bodied 4. Amitabha – Red bodied 5. Amoghasiddhi – Green bodied  Specifically it is believed that by meditating on the individual colors, which contain their respective essences, and the following metamorphosis can be achieved: – White transforms the delusion of ignorance into the wisdom of reality – Yellow transforms pride into wisdom of sameness – Blue transforms anger into mirror like wisdom – Red transforms the delusion of attachment into the wisdom of discernment – Green transforms jealousy into the wisdom of accomplishment Further investigation into the five colors takes us to the Mahavairochana-Sutra, which states that a mandala, should be painted in five colors. It further prescribes that one should start at the interior of the mandala with white and to be followed by red, yellow, blue and black. The Chakrasambhara-tantra prescribes that the walls of a mandala should be painted in five colors and should maintain the order of black in the interior followed by white, yellow, red and green. In certain mandalas, the four directions within the palace are indicated by different colors. The east is indicated by white, west by red, north by green and the south by yellow while the center is painted blue. The Kalachakra-tantra, however, prescribes a completely different color scheme to indicate different directions: the color black indicates east, yellow west, white north, and red stands for the south. Whatever the color association with directions, the protecting circle of a mandala is usually always drawn in red. The four elements air, fire, waterand earth are also identified in the Kalachakratantra with four different colors: blue (or black), red, white and yellow, respectively. These four elements are further depicted as semi-circular, triangular, circular, and square respectively. This is a precursor to Tantric imagery where color and geometry (not mutually exclusive) are the basic building blocks making up the whole edifice of Tantric symbolism. Even though the context may vary, Buddhism identifies the significance of a few principal colors with their import being propounded in a variety of circumstances. White: White occurs when the whole spectrum of light is seen together or when red, yellow and blue colors are mixed. Everything is present in white; nothing is hidden, secret or undifferentiated. White color is thought to have a very cold quality, as in snow, or an extremely hot quality, such as a burning metal. Either can be life threatening and can remind us of death and the end of things. White is a color that both incorporates, and set things apart from the rainbow spectrum of everyday life. Black: Black signifies the primordial darkness. Black paintings, a relatively late appearance in Buddhist art, have added yet another means by which artists can conjure up visions of mysterious transcendent worlds. Like the fierce deities who are often the subject matter of these thangkas, the blackness signifies the darkness of hate and ignorance as well as the role these qualities have to play in the awakening of clarity and truth. Black is the color of hate, transmuted by the alchemy of wisdom into compassion. Darkness represents the imminence of the absolute, the threshold of the experience. Blue: In Buddhism both light (sky blue) and dark aspects of this mysterious color are important. The significance of the light shade is reflected in the supremacy of the semi-precious stone turquoise in the daily spiritual and religious life of the devout Buddhist, who holds various beliefs about this stone. When worn in a ring, it is believed to assure a safe journey; worn in the ear it prevents reincarnation as a donkey; when found, it brings the best of luck and gives new life. Red: Red is the color of powerful rituals and deeds. It is the color of passion, transmuted to discriminating wisdom. Another dimension regarding the color red is the belief surrounding coral; coral teaches us form, also flow and flexibility within form. It is one of the five sacred stones, and symbolizes the energy of life force. It is often believed to be a protection against the evil eye. In Buddhism coral is believed to be generally good, and believe that the person who wears coral will have success in life. The color red is auspicious in Tibetan culture. It is a sacred color, one of the colors of the five Buddhas and the color of the monk’s garments. It is believed to have protective qualities and is therefore often used to paint sacred buildings. Yellow: Yellow is the color closest to daylight. It has the highest symbolic value in Buddhism through its link with the saffron robes of monks. This color, previously worn by criminals, was chosen by Buddha Shakyamuni as a symbol of his humility and renunciation of the material world.  It is the color of earth, thus a symbol of rootedness and the equanimity of the earth. Green: Green is in the middle of the visible, seven-color spectrum and thus epitomizes the qualities of balance and harmony. It is the color we relate to in nature, trees and plants. Green also denotes youthful vigor and activity. Green in Buddhist thought is the color of action. Kumar, Nitin. “Color Symbolism In Buddhist Art.” Exotic India: Article of the Month – February 2002. 10 Sept. 2004, http://www.exoticindiaart.com/article/colors 

photo: Avalokitesvara from Current Exhibition – Divine Feminine: New Masterpieces from Nepal