The Nine Bodies: Explorations in Consciousness
The Nine Bodies are a set of teachings about the nature of consciousness that were transmitted to me by the Himalayan yoga master Swami Sri Premvarni Balyogi, whom I refer to simply as Balyogi. Over 50 years ago, during a time when he was immersed in intensive samadhi (deep concentration and absorption) meditation practices, Balyogi had a series of revelations and visions about the structure of consciousness and how non-specific energetic potential manifests in both the mind and the body. He saw that there are multiple, interactive “levels” or “bodies” of being within each of us. Gradually, it became clear to him that all our experience is composed of nine such bodies and that exploring these “Nine Bodies” yields insights into the nature of body and mind, which in turn brings “happiness, joy, bliss, and the peacefulness and stillness of realizing emptiness.”
Supporting his teachings of the Nine Bodies is a series of beautiful and mysterious illustrations capturing the nature of consciousness, which Balyogi says he created during his time of intense samadhi explorations. He refers to these drawings as “scientific illustrations of consciousness.” In these images, you can literally see one man’s inner experience of the relationship between mind, spirit, and consciousness. When he uses the word “scientific,” Balyogi does not mean that his drawings belong to the world of medical anatomy, but rather that they capture dimensions of inner experience that can’t be identified by neurological science with magnetic resonance imaging.
When Balyogi first showed me his drawings, I was captivated by their insight and originality. As a long-time practitioner and teacher of meditation, I immediately saw that the illustrations reflected certain aspects of the inner experiences which occur during meditation that are almost impossible to express with language. These inner experiences are manifestations of various energetic dimensions of consciousness that are “felt” but not “thought” at times during meditation. I discovered subsequently that the illustrations have the power to elicit some of the energetic dimensions that arise when meditating, even among people who do not have a meditation practice. [Balyogi calls the drawing shown here "The Eternal Journey."]
If you practice mindfulness meditation, the Nine Bodies teachings offer you an additional means for tracking and classifying meditative experiences, which can help you stay present with whatever arises. These explorations may also increase the clarity and specificity of your mindfulness, which can help you gain insight into to how you may be causing suffering. They may also help you see the truth of anicca (the constancy of change) and anatta (not-self).
For yoga students, the Nine Bodies teachings provide a means for contextualizing and connecting with what you may have learned about the chakras (energy centers), koshas (sheaths), gunas (qualities of nature), and what are traditionally called the Three Bodies (physical, subtle, and causal levels of being). Balyogi’s teachings are strongly correlated to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra. They also relate to Samkhya thought and have commonality with Kashmir Shaivism. Moreover, his explanation of the Nine Bodies may help provide a framework for you to begin to contemplate the extraordinary claims that yogis throughout the ages have reported, but which are difficult to verify or study. Depending on the type of yoga you practice, you may be learning a variety of intense energetic practices that in turn manifest in your meditation practice where they create confusion or disturbances in the mind. If so, the Nine Bodies teachings may help you move beyond your confusion and into deeper meditative states of mind that actually bring peace and understanding.
Excerpted from a forthcoming book based on the Nine Bodies by Phillip Moffitt with his permission.
Phillip Moffitt is a Buddhist meditation teacher and writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is Co-Guiding Teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center and leads meditation retreats throughout the United States. Phillip is also the founder and director of Life Balance Institute where he trains leaders and professionals in how to skillfully make major transitions in their lives. He is the author of two books: Emotional Chaos to Clarity and Dancing with Life: Buddhist Insights for Finding Meaning and Joy in the Face of Suffering. For more information about Phillip and his work, go to www.dharmawisdom.org and www.lifebalanceinstitute.com.