Magical movements ('phrul 'khor): Ancient yogic practices in the Bon religion and contemporary medical perspectives
Chaoul, Marco Alejandro
Klein, Anne C.
Doctor of Philosophy thesis
Magical movement is a distinctive Tibetan practice of physical yoga in which breath and concentration of the mind are integrated as crucial components in conjunction with particular body movements. Present in all five spiritual traditions of Tibet---some more prevalent than others---it has been part of their spiritual training since at least the tenth century C.E. Focusing on the magical movement from the ancient Bon tradition's Oral Transmission of Zhang Zhung and its contemporary representatives and lineageholders, this dissertation will include textual translation and analysis as well as ethnographical research reporting how it is used in Bon lay settings and monastic curricula today. In particular I will use a commentary by the famous Bonpo scholar and meditator Shardza Tashi Gyaltsen, who allegedly attained the rainbow body in 1934 (a sign, in the tradition, of the highest contemplative state). He was also part of the non-sectarian ( ris med) Tibetan movement of his time. Although this aspect does not transpire in his Commentary, I feel that Shardza's example is present as an inspiration to the spirit in which I relate to the context of the practice and material contained in his text. Examining the use of the subtle body in magical movement and the understanding of "magic" in that context, I propose that here magic can have the external meaning of magic, the internal meaning of medicine and the most internal or secret meaning of mysticism. Thus, these magical movements provide the yogin or practitioner an opportunity to break through or go beyond the limitations of the body and to bring forth the mystical experiences together with the magical and healing aspects. Finally, tracing the migration of this practice to the West, both in dharma or Buddhist centers and the contemporary Western medical settings, I report some of the benefits of using these mind-body techniques as part of a CIM (Complementary and Integrative Medicine) treatment for people with cancer. This may allow magical movement to participate in a larger dialogue, one that extends the conversation to the fields medical humanity and integrative medicine, among others.
Religion; Cultural anthropology; Rehabilitation and therapy