Trinity: The Three Levels of a Yoga or Qigong Practice – part 2

Continuation of part 1 of the article by Elizabeth Reninger:

The secret level of practice is the level of non-conceptuality, and hence is, in its essence, un-knowable & un-speakable. (Yes, writing about it is paradoxical, and at best can be the proverbial “finger pointing to the moon”!) In terms of the Three Treasures, this is the level of shen/spirit. As practitioners, this is the level at which we are “stunned,” or “in awe;” the level at which we have direct (non-conceptual) experiences of a vastness, a brightness, a bliss which shatters all of our previous notions of what this level (reality!) might be like. As teachers, this is the level at which we offer what in Buddhist practice is known as “pointing out” instructions (and more specifically: pointing out the Nature of Mind). Instruction, here, takes the form of “mind to mind” transmission (something of a misnomer, since at this point in our practice, body, mind & breath are so finely braided as to be almost indistinguishable).

Even metaphor, at this level, becomes inadequate: for this terrain, though it is the essence of everything we’ve previously experienced, is not “like” anything else. (It inhabits a category all its own; It is the set that includes all other sets, and ~ in the moment of “including” them ~ transforms them completely.) Ultimately, this is the level at which teacher & student are no longer two, but rather ~ at least in certain “alchemical” moments ~ inhabit a single shared “space” (which might be called Truth & might be called Love). And in this shared space there is the felt sensation (indescribable!) of a “union” or “wholeness” which in its sweetness & intensity matches (and then far surpasses) the bliss of sexual union, of the complete dissolution of ego (and hence: in Buddhist, Taoist & Hindu traditions images of sexual union are often used as gateways, as skillful means, to access this level of practice).

In terms of our relationship to the world, this is the level at which we understand directly that we (and all other beings) are part of a single luminous emptiness, and ~ simultaneously ~ the whole of it. In fact the term “relationship” ceases to have meaning, because ideas & perceptions of “self” and “other” (“me” and “world”) have dissolved completely. The “body” of the practitioner has become the “universe.” In terms of Buddhist practice, this is the level of Dharmakaya: the body of truth ~ the radiant core of the sun.

[If you haven’t already discovered Alex Grey’s collection of paintings, Sacred Mirrors, I recommend it highly. He does a wonderful job, in this book, of portraying visually these three levels of practice, as they manifest through the human body.]

Buddhist practice also offers a fourth “body” ~ the Svabavikakaya, which points to the ultimate unity of the other three bodies. It points to the fact that once we’ve made our way through these levels, walking the path of our chosen tradition, we realize that all along all three levels were “here” ~ but just not (consciously) available to us, in their fullness. But now, having completed the journey, we are consciously aware of all three levels, and are able to “slide” between them, much as one would tune a radio dial. We’re able to project our awareness into whatever spectrum, whatever frequency-band, we wish to. Our existence as human beings at this point is, truly, a dance: a kaleidoscopic play of light & color; a perpetual love-making …

Elizabeth Reninger holds Masters degrees in Sociology & Chinese Medicine, is a published poet, and has been exploring Yoga ~ in its Taoist, Buddhisst & Hindu varieties ~ for more than twenty years. Her teachers include Eva Wong, Richard Freeman & Mingyur Rinpoche. For more yoga-related essays, please visit her website:


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