Spiritual transformation, yoga and the body

Spiritual Transformation, Yoga, the Rainbow Body and Resurrection 

Dr. Andreas Reimers)

When, in 1974 on my pilgrimage to India, I came to meet Fr. Bede in Shantivanam, it was a unique experience that formed my further life. The natural surrounding, the simplicity of the huts, the Sanskrit mantras sung in the liturgy, the waving of the light at the end of the prayer and the yoga classes created an atmosphere of stillness, peace and serenity. Fr. Bede radiated a kind of love, peace and a natural humility that touched my heart and made me feel at home in a deep spiritual sense. I felt myself being blessed with a vision of how the „new creation“ could be. This experience I carried with me till I got the chance to take oblation in 2014.

All the years the question behind my search was, how we can follow our destination to find GOD and bring this experience into our daily life. Looking at all the conflicts in the world and in our mind I found that many attempts to find solutions on a practical level don´t have good results. What is needed, is a spiritual transformation that includes the mind, soul and body as well as our social relations and the way we live in our environment. As long as we don´t open ourselves for this transformation, the attempt of changing our surrounding will create new troubles. What does spiritual transformation mean, and what are the ways to undergo it?

In different traditions there are various descriptions of the way and the implications of the spiritual transformation. As Fr. Bede (Meditation, Perth, 1985) mentions, there is a worldwide spiritual awakening where more and more people want to find their real self, their own identity leading to a deeper experience of God. People are seeking for practical methods of prayer and meditation to find their inner centre. Fr. Bede made Shantivanam a place where the interreligious dialogue is lived and the Christian spirituality is open to Hindu and Buddhist ways and methods of meditation and self-realization.

In the traditional yoga practice attention is given to the functions of the mind, breathing and the body. Strengthening and relaxation of the body (asana), control and observation of the breath (pranayama) and concentration and meditation (pratyahara, dharana, dhyana) are main aspects to open oneself for the transcendence and reach samadhi or nirvana/sunyata.

Mindfulness meditation without judging and suppressing our thoughts, emotions and feelings leads to the experience of pure awareness. This experience that is beyond all sensual experiences has a great transformative potential. It is this potential that makes mindfulness meditation an important method in modern psychotherapy. More than a thousand studies were made on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR by Jon Kabat-Zinn) showing that by regular practice even the structure of the brain and different parameters of the body are changed, influencing mental, emotional and behavioural disorders in a positive way.

In Christian tradition meditation is the reflection on a religious text and putting it in relation to one’s own life. Meditation can pass over into contemplation that can be described as the experience of the divine love in the depths of the heart. Thus contemplation can lead us to our deepest centre, awaking a deep unconditioned love that enables a new relation to God, the others and the whole creation. When we begin to recognize the divine spirit everywhere, then the whole creation becomes sacred for us and we don´t abuse it as done so often in our time. In this process Jesus himself can be our model: totally open to the Father and totally surrendered. He gave his life for the world, overcoming death in his resurrection.

As described by Christian saints and Hindu and Buddhist yogis the meditative experience and contemplation has the capacity to transform the way of thinking and feeling and the subtle and gross body.

In the Hindu and Buddhist Tantra the subtle inner energy (kundalini, lung) is essential for the transformation and integration of the emotional level and the physical body. Different centres (Chakras) and channels (nadis) connect the mind with the body. By the yoga practices (posture, breathing, imagination…) the energy is activated and directed to integrate the different levels of the human being. In the course of this transformational process often occur inner and outer conflicts, pain and sickness. Fr. Bede (Contemplative Prayer, Osage Monastery, 1991) says in accordance to the tantric tradition that by the flow of the energy from the base of the spine through all chakras the feminine energy (kundalini / Shakti) and the pure consciousness (Shiva) are united and every aspect of our being is integrated.

In the Dzogchen tradition (The Great Perfection) the attainment of the rainbow body is the highest realization. The realization of the rainbow body is the expression of the complete transformation and control over the elements of matter, energy and mind. It is said that accomplished yogis dissolve their body at the end of their actual life in pure light accompanied by the appearance of rainbows. There are quite a few descriptions of this phenomenon, also in our time. Francis Tiso, a Catholic priest and former Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, did extensive research on the rainbow body and compared it with the resurrection of Christ (Rainbow Body and Resurrection, Berkeley, 2016).

In the Christian view the spiritual way is a transformation by the grace of GOD. By meditation and inner prayer we purify and open ourselves for the Holy Spirit to penetrate all levels of our being. As Theresa of Avila says, that even involved in activities, she was blessed with the presence of the Holy Trinity. At the end we have to go beyond all images and concepts, receiving the uncreated light, as seen by the apostles on Mount Tabor. For Christian saints changes of the body like levitations, emitting light, stigmatisations and an uncorrupted corpse after death were described. All these changes can be seen as the expression of the inner transformation and a deeper union with GOD and the creation.

Dr. med. Dipl. Biol. Andreas Reimers
FA f. Neurologie und Psychiatrie
FA f. Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie
Hansell 19, 48341  Altenberge