A Discussion of Subtle Energy
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This community call was held on Thursday, April 9, 2015 in preparation for the Integral Living Room this fall.
In the call, we included a clip from Ken Wilber talking about the realm of subtle energy practice. This year’s event, Trans-Rational Soul Initiation, is planned to be an examination of the dynamics of Subtle Mysticism in the map of Integral spiritual practice.
Ken describes on the call how both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, including Zen, downplay the subtle domain. What is emphasized is the Dharmakaya — the domain of pure emptiness, pure truth, pure unmanifest formless. Ken points out that in these traditions you can’t find any kundalini or any chakras or any nadis or subtle energy currents. The idea, he says, is to go straight from this gross realm right into nirvana — bypassing the Sambhogakaya – which literally means “transformation body”.
But the subtle realms are real and important. They are the domain of the transformational processes through which consciousness awakens from the gross to the causal.
He goes on to say that the subtle realm was exactly how somebody like Gautama Buddha, the historical figure was finally decided to be connected to Ultimate Dharma. Because while he was alive, Gautama Buddha simply was Dharma, but then he died and the awkward question came up – “Okay when he died, where did dharma go?”
This is when Buddhism came up with the three bodies, the Trikaya: Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Dharmakaya – gross, subtle, causal. It was his form body (Nirmanakaya), or Gautama Buddha, that died. His truth body, Buddha Nature or Dharmakaya, was and is ever-present, timeless and therefore eternal. And what connects that gross body with that causal body is the subtle body – the Sambhogakaya.
It is the same thing in Christianity. It is how is Christ connected to God. Jesus of Nazareth, the person whose body actually died on the cross, connected with the spirit that was resurrected from that dead body. In Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth was the gross body and that died. Then the pure truth body, which was Christ’s consciousness, which was one with God the father, the Christian equivalent of the Dharmakaya. The Holy Spirit was the transforming power that connected them.
Even in all of the instances in the New Testament where there is an actual transformation, it is not God doing it and it is not Jesus doing it; it is the Holy Spirit doing it. It is subtle energy that enacts the transformation.
It shows up symbolically in the New Testament as white doves descending. It often shows up as halos of light around the head. These are the classic, standard representations of the pure subtle body. So we find this same trinity around the world. And its central connecting link is the subtle realm.
Ken expresses his feeling that this topic is important to Integral practitioners because we haven’t had clarity about the role of the subtle realm in our practice. Working with the subtle and working with the soul is extremely important to the transformative path. We want the integrative link that lies between gross and causal to be our subtle transformative heart. The heart center, he says, is the locus of the subtle dimension while the navel is the center of the gross dimension of the physical body and the head center is the locus of the causal dimension. The heart is what unites them both, just as the human being unites heaven and earth. We want our practice to include the heart that embraces them both.
Enjoy the recording and please join us for the next call, June 25th.