Rev. Francis V. Tiso

Rainbow Body and Resurrection
Spiritual Attainment, the Dissolution of the Material Body, and the Case of khenpo A Cho

1.  Geoffrey Samuel blurb:

"A sensitive, beautifully written book that brings the contemporary Westerner into a close encounter with the heart of Tibetan Buddhism, while providing a deep and productive reflection on the relationship between Tibetan spirituality and the author's own Christian religious background. Accounts of Tibetan Buddhism often avoid real confrontation with the spiritual realities perceived by practitioners in that tradition. Francis Tiso has the sensitivity, the scholarly knowledge and above all the courage to take us much further. Tiso effortlessly negotiates the difficult lines between academic and religious perspectives, between official and popular religion, between naive belief and equally naive rejection, bringing many new insights to the analysis of phenomena such as the rainbow body. His detailed discussion of possible connections between Christian ascetics from the Syro-Oriental churches and the Tibetan Dzogchen tradition opens important new ground. This book deserves to be read widely, not only by Tibetan and Buddhist scholars, but by all those interested in the meaning and relevance of religion within human society."

Geoffrey Samuel

Body, Health and Religion Research Group

International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine

2. Endorsement by Matteo Nicolini-Zani (author of La Via Luminosa per l’Oriente)

Caro d. Francis,

ho ricevuto e già letto con molto piacere il tuo magnifico lavoro. Davvero ho apprezzato la lettura e l'interpretazione del testo cinese "Zhixuan anle jing". Finalmente vedo uno studio teologico del testo, e ne sono molto felice. Ho molto apprezzato la sua contestualizzazione sullo sfondo della teologia e della spiritualità siriaca. Io stesso vorrei iniziare, un giorno (chissà quando), una lettura dei testi cristiani di epoca Tang sullo sfondo del background spirituale siriaco e di quello delle religioni cinesi. 

Grazie davvero per avere iniziato questo affascinante e difficile lavoro di interpretazione.

[English translation:  I have received and have already read your magnificent work.  I really appreciated your reading and interpretation of the Chinese text “Zhixuan anle jing”.  In your work I am finally seeing a theological study of the text, which pleases me greatly.  I very much appreciated your contextualization of this work in its background in Syriac Christian spirituality and theology.  I would also like to start, who knows when, a similar reading of the Tang dynasty Christian works in their Syriac and Chinese contexts.  Thank you for having begun this fascinating and difficult labor of interpretation.]

A presto,


3.  Serinity Young's blurb:  

Francis Tiso has written an astonishing work of broad and deep scholarship that blends a personal spiritual journey, erudition, and on-the-ground interviews with witnesses of the rainbow body to reveal a conversation that began long ago in Central Asia about postmortem transformations of the body in a variety of religious traditions.  He has delved deeply into esoteric texts and carefully reviewed recent scholarship to present a detailed history and explanation of practices leading to the attainment of the rainbow body as well as the doctrine of the resurrection in Christianity.  General readers and scholars alike will find much of interest in it.

Serinity's short CV

Serinity Young received her PhD from Columbia University and is an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College.  She is also a Research Associate in the Division of Anthropology at the American Museum of Natural History where she works on Tibetan artifacts and iconography.  She has been awarded two Fulbrights, two Asian Cultural Council grants, was a Research Scholar in the History of Science and in Archaeology at École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, and has been elected to the Hunter College Alumni Hall of Fame.

Her research focuses on gender issues in Buddhist texts, material culture and rituals; shamanism; sacred biography; pilgrimage; healing and medicine; dream theory; and archaeology.   She has done fieldwork in India, Tibet, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, China and Russia.

She is the author of Courtesans and Tantric Consorts:  Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Ritual, & Iconography (Routledge, 2004) and Dreaming in the Lotus:  Buddhist Dream Narrative, Imagery, and Practice (Wisdom, 1999); editor-in-chief of The Encyclopedia of Women and World Religion (Macmillan 1998); editor of An Anthology of Sacred Texts By and About Women (Crossroads & HarperCollins, 1993) and most recently she has published Body & Spirit:  Tibetan Medical Paintings, (AMNH Publications and University of Washington Press, 2009) and has several electronic publications on the AMNH website (

4.  Per Kvaerne’s endorsement:

"This study be Rev. Francis V. Tiso, Ph.D., combines solid scholarship and profound spiritual insight. Based on many years of study of the original Tibetan texts and fieldwork in Tibet, a coherent presentation of the phenomenon of the 'rainbow body' is presented to Western readers for the first time, explored in the  multi-religious historical context of Central Asia and opening vistas on inter-faith dialogue and the meaning of death, bodily dissolution and resurrection."

Prof. emeritus Per Kværne, University of Oslo

Member, Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, Oslo, and Accademia Ambrosiana, Milano

5.  Dan Martin (Tibetologist, Jerusalem) endorsement:

The right medicine for people who forgot how they used to wonder about the afterlife. About this and other boundary crossings are found here many stories told well.

Many will learn to welcome the author's discomforting approach to normalizing the paranormal, and his bold yet entertainable historical claims linking Tibetan Dzogchen with Central Asian Christianity.

6.  Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo, foundress, Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India:

Rainbow Body and Resurrection by Francis V. Tiso is a work of scholarship, dedication and vision.  In comparing the spiritual practices of the early Tibetan Bon & Buddhist dzogchen teachings and that of Syrian Christianity, Father Tiso explores the possibility that both traditions mutually benefitted from their encounters along the Silk Route in the 8th century especially with reference to the dzogchen attainment of the Rainbow Body and the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection.  There is much to be learned from this erudite yet intriguing research in which the author elucidates both the principal dzogchen teachings and some mysteries of the early Byzantine Church.  A thought-provoking read!

Reviews of Liberation in One Lifetime:

1.  Francis Tiso in this book fulfills an urgent need in Tibetology that has been so long overlooked because gTsang Smyon Heruka’s version of Milarepa’s teaching and biography, though composed several centuries after Milarepa’s life, has been almost universally received without question. Fr. Tiso, after doing much research in Tibet and Nepal, supplies us his translations of biographical material—from oral traditions and from biographies that much precede Heruka’s—and accompanies them with very helpful explanations of the pertaining Kagyu spirituality. What most interests me in his book, since my own doctoral training incorporated much hermeneutical theory—is Part One, Chapter 5, which conducts a search for the "ipsissima vox" of Milarepa, a search ranging all the way from interviews of contemporary religious bards “on site” to close examinations of the ancient Tibetan texts and their history. In Chapter 6, having deployed with exemplary deftness the technical tools of textual/redactional/rescensional analysis, Tiso presents and summarizes his conclusions. Also of particular interest to me is Part Two, Chapter 15, “bKa’ brgyud pa Tantric Practice: Enlightenment ‘in One Lifetime, in One Body’.” I am an interfaith advisor and meditator at a temple in New York of Lingjiùshan Buddhist Society, the mother-monastery of which is Wu Sheng Monastery, Taiwan. Its Master Hsin Tao teaches in both Nyingmapa and Kagyu lineages, and his expositions treat “Mind only” at some length. It has been very fruitful for me to compare Master Hsin Tao’s version of “Mind only” and the version of this doctrine/practice as it is revealed in Tiso’s Chapter 15 (and passim). No doubt many readers will likewise be able to make personally relevant use of _Liberation in One Lifetime_.

-----Dr. Robert Magliola, National Taiwan U. and Assumption U. of Thailand, retired; affiliate, Vangelo e Zen (Italy); and Lingjiùshan (Taiwan and USA).

2.  Excellent! Milarepa is to Tibetans what St Patrick is to the Irish. He sang songs through which he enlightened people and he didn't mince his words either. When you read his life in this book you will understand more why Thomas Merton said that the contemplative is the most dangerous man in the world. Apart from all the magic he learned and that legend says he was able to perform what is most interesting is that he attained enlightenment in one lifetime. Milarepa ascended into the sky in much the same way as other Saints have been seen to do.

As they say behind every man their is a great woman but behind every enlightened yogi is a great Guru. In Milarepa's case this was Marpa and he is well worth knowing about too. Through Marpa's guidance (unrepayable kindness) and Milarepa's devotion to his teacher he became enlightened in one lifetime.

This is the first time anyone has taken all of the accounts of the Saint and produced a book. Some of these songs of Milarepa are memorized by Tibetans. Tiso, the author or this book, has spent over two decades and a doctoral thesis bringing all these texts together to form this amazing and ground breaking book on the life of Milarepa. Rather than satisfying himself with translating just one of the texts Tiso took on the challenge of delving deep into all the texts which was a much greater challenge making this book incredibly meaningful and opening up a number of windows into Milarepa's life that were hitherto closed. Tiso is also a meditator himself and any text that comes from a translator who has personal experience of mediation retreats and who has been immersed deeply into Tibetan as culture as Tiso has is just head and shoulders above anything else. Through reading the book you can see that he can cross reference his subject which only a great scholar can ever do. The book has extensive footnotes where Tiso gives readers commentary and explanation on the texts.

For the first time ever in history it seems that someone has fused all the texts about Milarepa together as one. This in itself is a a turning point and a miracle, if you will, to able to understand the Saint Milarepa deeper, better and closer in 'clear light'. Especially if you are a practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism.

This book in English needs to be translated into other languages where Milarepa is also known. Tiso's work most interestingly will not just be off interest to Western people but to many in Asia especially in schools of Tibetan Buddhism. There are now estimated to be over 200 million Buddhist living outside of Asia all of which will be interested in this new masterpiece.

"Rest in a natural way like a small child. Rest like an ocean without waves. Rest within clarity like a candle flame. Rest without self-concerns like a human corpse. Rest unmoving like a mountain." ~ Milarepa

Very good,scholar with a perfume of experience.  Jorge R. Stolkiner

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