These are very special rilbu (pills) specifically designed to enhance the practice of inner heat, or Tummo (gtum-mo/chandali). The recipe comes from the great 14th century Dzogchen master Longchen Rabjam’s collection Khandro Nyingthig, which is found in the Nyingtig Yabshi, or Four Cycles of the Heart Essence. The Khandro Nyingthig is a collection of instructions originally brought to Tibet in the eighth century by Padmasambhava, and contains some of the most esoteric and profound teachings in the whole of the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana canon.
According to the Khandro Nyingthig cycle of instructions, the body is essentially a system of energies in motion. These energies (rLung) flow throughout the body in a system of subtle energetic channels (Tib: tsa, Sanskrit: nadi), not unlike the meridian system of Chinese medicine. The most condensed form of subtle energy is tigle (Sanskrit: bindu).
This particular formula is designed to support and enhance the most essential yogic practice in all of the Vajrayana school: inner heat, or Tummo. Tummo is a powerful method of combining visualization, breath control (pranayama) and inner yogic control to cause the confused energies of the body (rLung) to gather and enter the central channel of the body. This causes duality and conceptual thinking to collapse, and reveals the true nature of the mind in its most pristine aspect. As an outward sign of such control, accomplished yogis are immune to the cold and can live on very little food, at altitudes of over 16,000 feet in the Himalayas wearing only a single piece of cloth, for years at a time. The practice of Tummo is found in all Vajrayana Buddhist schools, and detailed instructions are found in the Six Dharmas of Naropa, the Kalachakra, the Sakya Lamdre, and the Anuyoga teachings of the Nyingma school. For more about Tummo, go here.
Tummo was originally developed in India as the main yogic practice of the Mahasiddha tradition. It was absorbed into the hatha yoga school as the teachings on kundalini and chandali, while in Buddhism it became Tummo. Some of these same teachings were later absorbed into the Taoist Qigong teachings of China, where they are still practiced as the Lesser and Greater Kan and Li yogas.
To use this formula, crush one pill lightly in the mouth and swallow with warm water on an empty stomach. According to Longchenpa, after taking the pill “heat and bliss will arise like fire”. The dosage is one pill. Do not use this formula if you are not engaged in the practice of Tantric yoga. Note: the pills have a strong, unusual flavor, so over-chewing is not recommended. One pill is $9.
Taranatha, the great Tibetan 16th century scholar, historian and Kalachakra yogin, met the Indian mahasiddha Buddhaguptanatha while the latter was visiting Tibet. Buddhaguptanatha was a master of Tummo, and Taranatha’s description of him makes clear what this yogic practice is capable of bringing about at the highest level:
The signs and marks of his accomplishment as a yogin were plainly visible to ordinary eyes. Half the day he remained [in a state] whereby he cut off the flow of his breath, and at practically all times he stayed naked. Not only did he not experience any harm from this, but his immediate entourage, within a two meter radius, could feel an intense heat, by means of which he was able to protect others from the cold. By cutting off the flow of his breath through mouth and nostrils, he was able to make appear to his eyes and ears whatever he wanted. Also, his feet did not sink in water. He remained suspended about two fingers above the ground, and his bodily splendor would touch every object and remain there for a long time.
He possessed the power of seeing others’ secret designs, and in a supernatural way knowing others’ minds. His body was light: he would jump down from (a height of) two or three stories, and, like a skin that had been flung down, he landed gently like a feather. He would climb up a steep mountain as if it were flat land. Poison, quicksilver and the like were unable to harm his body. As his mind was constantly abiding in steady loving kindness, dogs and even ferocious carnivores would lick his body and in other ways show their affection. Ravens, little birds and so forth would alight on his lap or on the tips of his fingers. They didn’t flee when he petted them, but remained where they were, obviously happy. At the time of bestowing an empowerment, he was able to make the wisdom actually descend.
In the presence of worthy candidates he would show miraculous occurrences of various kinds, such as radiating light into the maṇḍala. He stood in no need for the food of humans; he lived on foods offered to him by non-human beings. When he was engaged in one-pointed deity yoga, the appearances of the present were really cut off and he was one endowed with the wisdom of at all times viewing everything outer and inner as devoid of any basis and as self-liberated. We with the scope similar to that of mayflies, how could we possibly evaluate the limit of his outstanding qualities of body, speech and mind? (Translated by David Templeman)
In spite of the practice of Tummo being well known in the world today, it should only be undertaken by those who have received empowerment, blessings and instructions from a qualified lineage holder.