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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
buddhadharma| 29 |summer 2007 times a day. Similarly, at the time of death, we will need to voice our intention again and again until we are firmly rooted in it. When we are one with that intention on the levels of both body and mind, then we have a very good and powerful practice. The Dissolving of the Elements According to the bardo teachings, our bodies are composed of five elements: earth, fire, water, air, and space. When we are born, these five elements come together and our bodies come into existence. At the time of death, these elements are departing, dissolving, or falling apart as opposed to coming together. From the perspective of Mahamudra, Dzogchen, and the Vajrayana traditions, our ordinary physi- cal body, composed of the five elements, is the coarse body. The inner essential body, also known as the subtle body, or the vajra body, is not vis- ible to the eye. The subtle body is composed of channels, or nadis; winds or energies, known as pranas; and essences of the physical body, or bin- dus. The channels are pathways through which the subtle energies, or winds, move. The winds carry the essences of the physical body. There are several examples that illustrate how the channels, winds, and essences relate to one another. In one, the channels are like a house, the winds are like the people in the house, and the essences are like the minds of those people. In another, the channels are like the body, the winds are like the breath, and the essences are like the mind. From the perspective of these teachings, the inner essential nature of mind, which is referred to as the connate wisdom of bliss-emptiness, is the basis for the development of the inner essential body (the subtle body). The inner essential body is in turn the basis for the development of the coarse body. Thus the physical body arises from mind, just like the rays of sunlight arise from the sun. This view is different from the Hinayana view that regards the formation of the physical body as the result of negative karma and as a basis for suffering, and also from the Mahayana view that regards the body as illusionlike and as a confused appearance of relative truth. During the process of death, the energies of the channels, winds, and essences in the body dissolve, as do the five elements; as a result, the systems of the body begin to function less and less effectively. As each element dissolves, the sense consciousness and wisdom to which they correspond also cease. Of course, wisdom itself does not cease, as the ultimate nature of the five wisdoms is transcendent and changeless; however, the relative or dualistic manifestation of the wisdoms ceases along with the elements with which they are associated. For example, when mirrorlike wisdom dissolves, we lose the capacity to clearly see multiple images distinctly and at once. The details of these systems and processes may be learned through a study of the Vajrayana teachings. Untitled (1996) from the series: Photomicrographs Jerry Spagnoli Courtesy of the Edwynn Houk Gallery