Tracking the Illusory Magical Wheel

Physical Yoga in Tibetan Tantra and Dzogchen

  • Ian A. Baker Independent


In Tibetan Tantric Buddhism and Bön, yoga refers to expedient means (thabs, S. upāya) for liberating oneself and others from the wheel of cyclic existence (kor ba, S. saṃsāra). Central to that agenda is mastery of a subtle physiology of energy channels (rtsa, S. nāḍī) and their nodal points at radiant “wheels” (’khor lo, S. cakra) along the body’s central axis. The method whereby subtle energy (rlung, S. prāṇa), and corresponding mental states, are brought under conscious control are known in Tibetan as Tsalung Trulkhor (rtsa rlung ’khrul ’khor), literally “illusory” or “magical” “wheel of subtle channels and vital energies.” This chapter traces the development and trajectory of the Magical Wheel in so-called Perfection (rdzogs rim) and Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) practices that Tibetan Buddhism and Bön uphold as progressively efficacious means for freeing oneself from conditioned existence through realisation of the illusory, and therefore mutable, nature of self-identity (bdag med, S. anātman).

Author Biography

Ian A. Baker, Independent

Ian Baker holds a PhD in History from the University of Strathclyde and an MPhil in Medical Anthropology from University College London, following earlier graduate work in Buddhist Studies at Columbia University and English Literature at the University of Oxford. He is the author of critically acclaimed books on Himalayan and Tibetan cultural history, environment, art, and medicine including, Tibetan Yoga: Principles and Practices, The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple, The Heart of the World, The Tibetan Art of Healing, and Buddhas of the Celestial Gallery. He was lead curator for the Wellcome Collection’s “Tibet’s Secret Temple: Body, Mind, and Meditation in Tantric Buddhism” exhibition. His field research on Tibetan “hidden lands” (beyul) led to National Geographic Society designating him as one of seven “Explorers for the Millennium.”

How to Cite
BAKER, Ian A.. Tracking the Illusory Magical Wheel. Journal of Yoga Studies, [S.l.], v. 4, p. 441 – 488, apr. 2023. ISSN 2664-1739. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 15 june 2024.