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Body and Mind

In the Tibetan view, there are three levels of body and mind, which are explained very clearly in Lama Tsongkhapa’s secret teachings on Yamantaka. The three levels are the gross, subtle and great subtle body and mind.

The functioning of the gross body and mind are addressed in great detail in the system of Tibetan Medicine. The gross body is that with which we are very familiar. It is composed of the seven constituents: nutrients, blood, flesh, fat, bone, marrow and essence. The seven constituents can then be further concluded in the three humors and the five elements. The gross mind, or gross consciousness, is our five senses. Maintaining the balance of our senses and body constituents is the main concern of Tibetan Medicine.

Once we start talking about the subtle body, Tibetan Medicine automatically begins to incorporate the Tantrayana teachings. So it is not possible to understand the subtle body by simply studying normal medical books. One must study Tantrayana as well. They are not separate, but support each other, creating a fuller understanding.

Tantrayana explains that the subtle body has three aspects: channels, winds and essences. If the functioning of any of these is impaired in any way, then there will surely be a problem in the overall health of the individual.

Briefly, channels [Tibetan: tsa] are anything through which a substance flows in the body. This includes blood, lymph, oxygen, subtle winds and even consciousness. The channels can easily become blocked, twisted, dry or broken and this affects one’s health, energy and mental state. Knots in the channels, called chakras, need to be opened. It is important to do daily practices, such as Lu Jong, to maintain open, flexible channels.

The wind [Tibetan: lung] which travels through the channels is not simply the breath or the wind humor. The subtle wind is very connected with our consciousness. Problems with the wind are deeply related to problems on the emotional level. This also leads to physical and energetic problems which are not easily cured by a conventional doctor.

The third aspect of the subtle body is essence [Tibetan: tigle]. Essence is necessary for experiencing any feeling and it is very connected to compassion. There are many kinds of essence, but they conclude in the red essence and the white essence. Although everyone has both essences, the red essence is connected with female and the white is connected with male. Essence is a very big subject. Basically, if the essence is out of balance, then without reason one will be unhappy, and fear and depression will easily arise.

The subtle mind consists of our 80 various thoughts and emotions. If all three aspects of the subtle body are in harmony, then the subtle mind will be harmonious as well. They are totally interdependent.

Finally, we come to the great subtle body and mind. These are difficult to understand; they only make sense to a higher practitioner. To speak about the great subtle body and mind we need to discuss emptiness itself. Basically, the great subtle body is a special energy, a very special wind that is inseparable from the mind. It is the wind that is experienced by the consciousness itself. It is enough to know that by working with the gross and subtle body and mind, one is also working with the great subtle body and mind, creating balance, health and harmony at all levels.