Tibetan Yoga from the Bon Tradition

The following article is from the Summer, 2002 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.
images A Trul khor exercise called "Extending the four continents."

BY ALEJANDRO CHAOUL-REICH

Two years ago I wrote an article for Snow Lion about the growing interest in the Tibetan physical yoga (Trul khor or "magical wheel") in the West. At that time I announced our first Trul khor training at Ligmincha Institute, under the supervision of Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche. Now, sixteen people have completed the intensive year-and-a-half training. The members of this first class continue to deepen their practice and, with supervision, can begin to share some of the practices they have mastered with others. This September (18th-22nd) we will begin a new cycle of four retreats at Ligmincha Institute, ending in early 2004 (see information below and ad).

images The shaking of all limbs that is done at the conclusion of each Trul khor exercise.

What is Trul khor or Tibetan yoga?

You may have read or seen The Dalai Lama s Secret Temple, the book that describes the wall paintings of this special temple in Lhasa, Tibet, behind the famous Potala palace. Or you may have actually been there. Many of these paintings depict Trul khor postures. There we can see some of the external aspects of Trul khor. the physical postures. However, when we study Trul khor, we first need to understand the right context. Trul khor is not just the poses—and thus learning how to calm one's mind, how to train the breath, how to feel the subtle channels become crucial pre-requisites to the incorporation of the body movements. In Trul khor, the physical postures are in movement while the breath is still. This allows the body movement to guide the vital breath—which in turn is carrying the mind, reaching towards the places that need more nurturing and vitalizing them. Shardza Rinpoche, a great Bon meditator and scholar who attained the rainbow body, emphasized the importance of keeping one's body, breath, and mind (or visualization) together.

Our physical body, speech (or energy), and mind are said to be the three doors through which one can practice and eventually realize enlightenment. The energetic body consists of subtle channels (tsa) that are the roadways through which the vital breath (lung, prana, qi) carries the essential spheres (thigle). This is explained in careful detail in the Mother Tantra of the Bon tradition, particularly in the chapter called "the sphere of the elements" (jung we thigle). Many Bonpo masters have followed this text and based their commentaries on it. Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche's Healing with Form, Energy and Light, recently published by Snow Lion, gives a clear and accessible English explanation on the elements, and the role that body, breath, and mind play in the application of them to one's practice. These practices are those of subtle channels and vital breath or Tsa lung, and some emphasize more the external or form aspect, others the internal or energetic aspect, and yet others the secret or luminous aspect. In order to understand the relationship of body, speech and mind, the Mother Tantra uses the metaphor of a wild horse for the vital breath and a rider for the mind. The wild horse is blind so it needs a guide, and the rider is fame so it needs help to be carried. They need each other in order to flow together through the paths of the subtle channels. Thus, the Tsa lung practices are strong methods that help maintain the mind on the breath, guiding it through the different channels so that the practitioner can open and develop the qualities that are beneficial and supportive of one's practice.

images

Trul khor is not just the poses—and thus learning how to calm one's mind, how to train the breath, and how to feel the subtle channels become crucial pre-requisites to the incorporation of the body movements.

The Tsa lung practices make the practitioner familiar with one's subtle channels and with the five kinds of breath that are correlated to the five elements. Through simple body movements the vital breath guides the mind into particular locations or chakras opening and harmonizing those locations to experiences that can support one's meditative practice.

Trul khor, or the Magical Wheel Yogic Exercises, involves a more intense coordination of physical movement than Tsa lung, with the aim of directing the vital breath and the mind, without losing, and even enhancing one's meditative state of mind. Therefore Tsa lung is the basis for Trul khor in a probably similar manner to the way that pranayama is crucial for the practice of the different kinds of hatha yoga. In fact, the Trul khor practices assume, explicitly or implicitly depending on the text, that the practitioner is familiar with Tsa lung practice, in particular with making the subtle channels flexible and with the training of the vital breath.

Ligmincha Trul khor training course

Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche is quite aware of the problem of lack of context and continuity that sometimes we westerners undergo when learning meditative practices, plus our lack of willingness to get involved in foundational practices and looking instead for "higher" practices. Thus, in Ligmincha Institute he is designing ways to transmit his tradition to the western practitioners taking into account our conditions of body, speech and mind, and creating training courses accordingly.

The purpose of this course is primarily to offer an opportunity to those who are seriously interested in beginning or deepening their understanding of Trul khor to have a training program of learning and practice. The time between retreats will allow the participants to practice and study what was learnt and then apply it in the next level. A secondary purpose is to train future instructors that will be able to share with others the benefits of this practice, and this training course is one of the prerequisites to be a Trul khor instructor in this tradition.

In each of the retreats, additional cycles of Trul khor will be taught and we will deepen the understanding and practice of those previously taught. We will also have time to share experiences of our own practice and discuss skillful ways of learning and instructing.

The second retreat will be March, 2003, the third in the Fall of 2003 and the fourth in early 2004. If you are interested in joining us or receiving more information, please contact: Ligmincha Institute, P. O. Box 1892, Charlottesville, VA 22903 804-977-6161, Fax: 804-977-7020 Ligmincha@aol.com www.Ligmincha.org

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