Immortality Theory & Practice
What is the relationship between the chakras of Hindu yoga systems and the dantians* of Taoist yoga systems? Chakras and dantians share a similar function. Both are spaces within the subtle body where energy (prana or qi) gathers. Taoist yogis – practitioners of qigong and inner alchemy – use the lower, middle and upper dantians to gather, refine and circulate qi (also spelled “chi”). Hindu and Buddhist yogis tend to use the seven chakra system to accomplish the same.
Does it matter which map we use to access the terrain of our subtle bodies? I tend to think not, but others might disagree. Many have speculated about ways in which the two systems relate to each other. In the neidan practice of the“Microcosmic Orbit”, we circulate energy/awareness in a way that traverses the dantians as well as the chakras. There are acupuncture points along this pathway that can be used also to activate these centers.
The following description of the chakra system - by the Hindu Master Sai Maa - provides a glimpse of the importance of our subtle body to every aspect of our lives. To translate this into the language of Taoist Yoga, simply think "dantian" each time Sai Maa writes "chakra," and think "meridian" each time she writes "nadi."
"If our understanding is that consciousness is primary and matter is secondary, then consciousness, the Divine, is transforming itself into matter at every point in the universe. However, at certain points, this transformation is more intense, more active. On the planet we refer to such a point as a vortex. On the human body, they are called Chakras. The word Chakras literally means wheel, so a Chakra is where the Unmanifest spins itself into the manifest. There are many Chakras in the human body but we usually focus on the seven major ones, located along the spine. Each Chakra has its own qualities which influence our physical and emotional well-being. Past karmas relating to those qualities are also stored at the level of the Chakras. In an Enlightened body, the Chakras spin freely, allowing for an effortless process of transformation and the unimpeded flow of energy throughout the body. However, for most of us, there are blockages in these areas leading to a loss of Wholeness in the quality of life.
Surrounding the physical body are the layers of subtle bodies, often collectively referred to as the aura. These subtle bodies completely mirror the physical body, and everything we experience in the physical body is first experienced in the subtle body. By keeping the subtle bodies perfectly aligned with the physical body, we can maintain balance and harmony in life. The subtle bodies also act as a kind of protective shield to the physical body, so keeping them strong and healthy is important to our well-being.
Running through all of this is a network of energy channels, known in Ayurveda as nadis. According to Ayurveda, we have 72,000 nadis in our physiology. The nadis radiate out from the Chakras, acting as the lines of communication to all parts of our physiology. Keeping these channels clear is important to the free flow of energy and information throughout the physiology. There are three major nadis in the body. The Ida Nadi is on the left side of the spine. It is cooling, feminine and purifying. The Pingala Nadi runs along the right side of the spine. It is heating, masculine and cleansing in the way fire cleanses. Balance between these two nadis creates balance in our lives. The Sushumna Nadi is located in the center of the spine and is the channel through which the spiritual energy or Kundalini Shakti will eventually rise from the Root Chakra at the base of the spine to the Crown Chakra, opening the door to Freedom."
Inner Alchemy or Neidan – a term often used synonymously with Qigong - is the Taoist art and science of gathering, storing and circulating the energies of the human body. In Inner Alchemy, our human body becomes a laboratory in which the Three Treaures of Jing, Qi, and Shen are cultivated, for the purpose of improving physical, emotional and mental health; and, ultimately, merging with the Tao, i.e. becoming an Immortal.
Each of the Three Treasures used in the practice of Inner Alchemy is associated with a particular physical/energetic location: (1) Jing, or reproductive energy, has its home in the lower dantian (and Snow Mountain area); (2) Qi, or life energy, has its home in the middledantian; and (3) Shen, or spiritual energy, has its home in the upper dantian. Taoist practitioners learn to transmute Jing into Qi into Shen, and the reverse, i.e. learn to modulate consciousness along its full spectrum of vibratory frequencies, in much the same way that we are able to tune into different radio stations. The dantians can be thought of as similar to the “chakras” of Hindu yogic systems – locations within the subtle body for the storing and transmutation of qi/prana. Of particular importance for Inner Alchemy practice is the lower dantian, referred to also as the “stove,” and the home, ultimately, of what is known as the Immortal Fetus.
Internal Alchemy understands the human body to be a precious and necessary resource for our spiritual journey, rather than as something to be ignored or transcended. Along with the dantians, the practitioner of Inner Alchemy learns to perceive and work with the meridian system, in particular the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. As we open, cleanse and balance the meridians, our Awareness flows in/as the present moment. What emerges, then – quite naturally – is good health, clarified perception and a direct experience of our connection to and embodiment of Tao.
Inner Alchemical processes are represented visually in the Nei Jing Tu, a diagram whose various components are described here by Master Mantak Chia. These processes are represented also by the Lamp, candles and other items found on the altars used in Ceremonial Taoism, and by the practice of Baibai – offering incense to the altar. Taoist ceremonies are ritual enactments not only of Taoist Cosmological principles, but also of the transformations of Inner Alchemy.
An excellent place to begin your practice of Inner Alchemy is with the “Inner Smile” and"Snow Mountain" practices. As you move deeper into this wonderful terrain, it will be important for you to receive the guidance of one or more qualified teachers…
* In Taoist Inner Alchemy practice, the three Dantian (also spelled Tan-t'ian) are the primary locations within our energetic anatomy where qi is collected, transformed and circulated. The literal translation of Dantian is "cinnabar field," and they have a function, in Taoist practice, similar to the function of the Chakras used in Hindu yoga practice. The most important of the three Dantian is the lower Dantian, located in the lower abdomen, 1.5 cun below the navel.
The energetic center which in Tibetan Yoga is called Snow Mountain, and in Taoist practice is referred to as the Golden Urn, is one of the most important energetic “spaces” in the Inner Alchemy traditions. This "Golden Urn" center – located just in front of the tailbone – is also known, in Hindu Yogic traditions, as the home of Kundalini Shakti – the “serpent power” which lies dormant there at the base of the spine, until awakened by yogic practice. Golden Urn is an important energy-source for the kidneys, the brain and the "third eye" center.
Time Required: 5 - 15 minutes, or longer if you'd like
1. Sit comfortably in a chair, with your feet flat on the floor and your spine upright. Take a couple of deep breaths, and with each exhalation release any unnecessary tension, especially in the head, neck and shoulders. Smile gently and simply relax.
2. Now, place your awareness in the Snow Mountain/Golden Urn area, just in front of the coccyx/tailbone, and about a half-inch above the center of the pelvic floor (between the anus and the genitals). Just rest your attention, very gently and with a kind of curiosity, in this part of your body.
3. In that space - deep in your belly - visualize a mountain of snow, with a very warm sun shining down from above - as though there were a sun in your lower belly, shining down on the Snow Mountain.
4. Continue the visualization by seeing/feeling that the warmth of the sun is melting the snow. As the snow melts and turns to water, the water flows down the sides of the mountain to form a lake at its base, and – at the same time - steam rises upward and nourishes your entire body.
5. Stay with this visualization - sun melting snow, water forming a lake at the base of the mountain, steam rising upward as nourishment for your body - for a couple minutes, or longer. Little by little, this visualization will create actual sensations within your body, which you can simply notice and enjoy.
6. To end, dissolve the visualization, and relax for a minute or two before continuing with your day.
1. Remember to stay relaxed, and don't try too hard - a very gentle mental focus is all you really need for this practice.
2. Different people have different ways of visualizing: for some the imagined "picture" is more kinesthetic than visual; for others it has an auditory component. So don't worry if your visualization doesn't seem precise, visually - You'll find the way that works best for you.
3. As you become more comfortable with this practice, really try to *feel* what's happening inside of your body.
What You Need
· a precious human body
· a chair in which you can sit upright, comfortably
From http://taoism.about.com/od/internalalchemy/qt/Chakra_Dantian.htm and http://taoism.about.com/od/internalalchemy/a/Alchemy.htm and http://taoism.about.com/od/snowmountain/ht/snowmountain.htm
Images – http://taoyogamaui.files.wordpress.com/2010/10/efbd94efbd81efbd8fefbd99efbd8fefbd87efbd81efbc8dday_5.jpg
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