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“All things in moderation, even moderation.”
— Chang, from Lost Horizon
You can start practicing the Five Tibetan Rites now. If you start now and practice daily, you may even experience
benefits by the time you close the back cover of this book. If you do experience benefits in such a short time, you
might even consider that partial confirmation of the efficacy of the Rites.
This is an abbreviated introduction to the Five Rites. There’s much more to understanding the Rites than just
technique, although technique is undoubtedly the most important aspect of the Rites — and therefor a good
There are no warmup instructions in either the 1939 or 1946 editions of the Eye of Revelation. The Tibetan monks,
along with the average Westerner, led fairly active lives in 1939, more so than today. They were in better shape
than we are now.
So, it might be a good idea to do some gentle warmup exercises before practicing the Rites, especially if you have
been sedentarily affixed to your couch for awhile. Even if you don’t feel that you need it, a good warmup will not
hurt. I almost always warm up before doing the Rites, if only as part of my resolve to see what this “common
sense stuff” is all about.
Exactly what warmup exercises will work best for you is a matter best left up to you. You know your body, its
strengths and weaknesses, better than anyone else. That said, however, because the Rites place added stress on
your shoulders, lower back and knees, what ever warm up exercises you use should flex and mildly stretch your
shoulders, lower back and knees — and anything else you may have a concern about.
My own practice is to loosen up my neck, shoulders, hips and legs with gentle stretching. I also do shoulder rolls
and hip rotations, then I add an element of frustration by attempting to touch my toes.
Please check with your doctor before beginning any physical exercise. This, it is alleged, is called “common
The first Rite is unlike the other four and seems to be in a class by itself. According to Colonel Bradford, it is the
most powerful of all the Rites. Where it practiced alone, said the Colonel, one would still get remarkable results.
"The first Rite is a simple one,” states Colonel Bradford, “... [w]hen we were children we used it in our play. It
is this: Stand erect with arms outstretched, horizontal with the shoulders. Now spin around until you become
slightly dizzy. There is only one caution: you must turn from left to right. In other words, if you were to
place a clock or watch on the floor face up, you would turn in the same direction the hands are moving [i.e.
My guess is that Rite One is a “charging” exercise in which energy is gathered into the body, then utilized by the
other Rites to aid healing and renewal. Tibetan Buddhists call this energy rlung (pronounced “lung”) and it is
conceptually similar to ki, chi, mana, prana, etc. The other four Rites are range of motion exercises combined with
isometric tension and relaxation.
The second Rite is practiced lying down. According to Colonel Bradford:
To perform this Rite lie full length on a rug or bed. Place the hands flat down alongside of the hips. Fingers
should be kept close together with the finger-tip of each hand turned slightly toward one another.
Raise the feet until the legs are straight up. If possible, let the feet extend back a bit over the body toward
the head, but do not let the knees bend. Hold this position for a moment or two and then slowly lower the
feet to the floor, and for the next several moments allow all of the muscles in the entire body to relax
completely. Then perform the Rite all over again.
While the feet and legs are being raised it is a good idea also to raise the head, then while the feet and legs
are being lowered to the floor lower the head at the same time.
Rite Three is practiced while kneeling. Colonel Bradford states:
The Third Rite should be practiced immediately after one practices Rite Number Two. It, too, is a very simple
one. All one needs to do is to kneel on his "prayer rug," [or any convenient mat or carpet] place his hands on
his thighs, and lean forward as far as possible with the head inclined so that the chin rests on the chest. Now
lean backward as far as possible; at the same time the head should be lifted and thrown back as far as it will
go. Then bring the head up along with the body. Lean forward again and start the Rite all over.
For beginners, Rite 4 can be tough. Yet it does become much easier with practice. Colonel Bradford states:
Sit on the “prayer rug” [mat, etc.] with the feet stretched out in front. Then place the hands alongside the
body. Now raise the body and bend the knees so that the legs, from the knees down, are practically straight
up and down. The arms, too, will be straight up and down, while the body, from the shoulders to the knees,
will be horizontal. Before pushing the body to a horizontal position the chin should be well down on the chest.
Then, as the body is raised the head should be allowed to drop gently backward as far as it will go. Next,
return to a sitting position and relax for a moment before repeating the procedure. When the body is pressed
up to [the] complete horizontal position, tense every muscle in the body.
This rite involves raising the hips from a “sagging” position to a “peaked” position, then lowering them back down
to a sagging position. From the 1946 edition of the Eye of Revelation:
The best way to perform this Rite is to place the hands on the floor about two feet apart. Then, with the
legs stretched out to the rear with the feet also about two feet apart, push the body, and especially the hips,
up as far as possible, rising on the toes and hands. At the same time the head should be brought so far
down that the chin comes up against the chest.
Next, allow the body to come slowly down to a 'sagging' position. Bring the head up, causing it to be drawn
as far back as possible.
After a few weeks, that is after you have become quite proficient in this movement, let the body drop from
its highest position to a point almost but not quite touching the floor. The muscles should be tensed for a
moment when the body is at the highest point, and again at the lowest point.
According to Colonel Bradford, we should start with three repetitions of each Rite, adding two more each week
building up to 21 repetitions over a span of ten weeks. (Week 1 = 3, Week 2 = 5 ... Week 10 = 21.) Twenty-one
is the point, apparently, beyond which no additional benefits can be expected.
There’s reason to question having to do even 21 reps, however. While the emphasis in the Eye of Revelation is
that we work up to 21 reps, one part of the book states that the Tibetan monks got better results by limiting the
reps to “about a dozen or so times.” We will deal with this contradiction in a later chapter.
The important point is to proceed slowly. There are detox effects to the Five Rites and should you skip ahead to
doing, say, eleven repetitions when you should be doing just five, you will likely diminish or negate some of the
Five Rite benefits — at least temporarily. Putting it bluntly, you may very well be poisoning yourself in your attempt
to rejuvenate yourself. Not a good plan. So take your time. As Frank S. Smyth wrote:
“Never to hurry, unless circumstances demand haste, not only applies to mountain-climbing but to many
another pursuits. Haste and happiness do not pull at all amicably together.” -Frank S. Smythe, The Mountain
[This is a preview chapter from my forthcoming
book, "Enigma: The Five Tibetan Rites of
Rejuvenation and the Search for Shangri-La"]
The Eye of Revelation has no illustration showing the
subject "leaning forward as far as possible." This is a
photoshopped version of the previous sketch and
shows only the beginning phase of this bend. As you
bring your head as close to your knees as possible,
you will have to also lower your buttocks towards your
heels to maintain balance.