Taoism

First let me put to rest something that very few people know, or most people misconceive. Taoism (the Tao is usually translated as “the Way”) is not a proper term. There are two Taoisms. There is the philosophical Taoism that we know from reading Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. (This philosophical Taoism really is dead today.) However, the religion Taoism is very much alive. If you go into the interior of Taiwan, you’ll find that almost every town has a Taoist priest who officiates at births and other events and who propitiates the spirits. He deals with ghosts and spirits. Nobody likes him much and he doesn’t have very many friends, but they pay him because they want to stay on his good side. They don’t want to take any chances.

Chinese Taoism, particularly the religions, searches for immortality in the body as part of yogic practice. The eyes play a big part in Chinese Yoga. There are said to be seven yogis who have attained immortal life and live on an island off China’s shores. The book, The Secret of the Golden Flower, elucidates the discipline which enables one to build a spirit body within the regular body and which will then be immortal, indestructible. Some in Japan knew about this (particularly teachers), but the general run of Japanese people never have known about it.

One of the keys to understanding China is the yin-yang principle, which underlies all Chinese culture. There have been many articles written about this. Huang Ti, the Yellow Emperor, was the first to call attention to the principles of yin-yang. He lived about three thousand years ago, and he wrote a book about health based on yin-yang. It is still the key medical book in China today. It is the basis of all yin-yang thinking. Some of you know the yin-yang cosmology. In the yin-yang figure, there is a little black in the white side and a little white in the black side. Most of you have seen that symbol. All of you in T’ai Chi Chih have seen the Tao symbol. A synonym for Tao is T’ai Chi. It is called the Supreme Ultimate – the basis of Chinese cosmology. For those of you who have not taken T’ai Chi Chih, here we have the ineffable, the unspeakable reality, the Tao about which nothing can be said. Lao Tzu said the Tao is always in motion. The Tao breaks up into two energies, yin energy and yang energy, both of which existed before there were people or place. The first manifestation is the yin-yang energy. From the yin-yang energy come heaven, earth, and mankind. Mankind is the wedding of the yang of heaven and the yin of earth. This is why Japanese flower arrangements (ikebana) are always three pointed: heaven, earth and man.

From heaven, earth, and man, come the ten thousand things, which means the world of phenomena. Most philosophers and others try to understand life through the analysis of the ten thousand things. But there’s no end to phenomena. That isn’t the way to do it. The way the sage does it, and the T’ai Chi person does it, is to work backwards. From the world of the ten thousand things, we work back to heaven, earth, and man. Then balancing the flow of the chi, we return to the yin and yang. When it is balanced, we are back to the “Uncarved Block.” The Uncarved Block is the way things were before anything altered them, before the beginning of the world. In my friend Dr. Ch’ang Chung-yuan’s great book, Creativity and Taoism, he has a drawing of the Uncarved Block. He also has some very lush drawings by Chinese artists with it. But he says about the drawing of the Uncarved Block, “Those who like this will be heard from.” I used it for a Christmas card. Most who view the drawings prefer the very lush sketches of bamboo, but the Uncarved Block is Original Essence.

Chinese cosmology differs vastly from India’s Samkhya with its quest for knowledge through enumeration and classification of the twenty-five characteristics of our world of experience. In contrast, Chinese cosmology says first there is Reality, from that comes yin and yang energy, from that comes heaven, earth, and man, and then the ten thousand things, the world of phenomena. Work backward (which is a form of Yoga) and you come to the ineffable Reality that is the Uncarved Block.

Chinese medicine is closely tied up with religion and philosophy. It pays attention to the time of the day and the season of the year. Western medicine doesn’t pay any attention to these things. Your grandmother paid attention to them by giving you a spring tonic such as sassafras or something like that. Why does the Chinese doctor pay attention to the time of day? Because he who studies it, knows where the chi is strongest relative to the time of day. There was a form of martial art where you could paralyze someone by cutting off the flow of the chi at a particular time of day. Understanding the chi apparently does not appeal to the West; I don’t know why it doesn’t. Maybe you have seen pictures on television where someone undergoes a brain operation without anesthesia. Only acupuncture is used and the patient experiences no pain. The operation is possible because the acupuncturist knows how to control the flow of the chi.

Questioner: I find it very interesting that some of the younger doctors that I’ve worked with have told me that research is finally getting around to showing that taking different doses of medicines at different times of the day is important and different things seem to happen at different seasons of the year – not just the flu in the winter, but other kinds of chronic conditions flare-up.

Justin: I asked one doctor, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could do operations without anesthesia?” It seems to me that, with many operations, the anesthesia is worse than the operation. He answered, “Yes, but you can’t do it.” I said, “But it’s being done every day in China. It is done by turning a needle in a certain part of the ear corresponding to the body part.” Is it magic? Well, I wouldn’t call it magic. It just means that for three thousand years certain yin-yang principles have been well understood.

Everything in the body (all channels) connect to the ear, and that’s why in Seijaku we work a little bit with the ear. The lungs are female (yin) and tend to rise, whereas the heart and sun are the great yang (the male.) The liver is male (yang) and sinks; the kidney and the moon are yin and tend to rise. You don’t want the kidneys (the yin) to rise. I could go on, but I don’t want to go into an exposition on yin-yang. It’s a fascinating subject. If I could bring back my friend, Professor Huang, he could give you a talk on it. There is correspondence to yin-yang in all things.

A great Master, perhaps the last one who understood the art of Gik, which is a martial art, was 89 when I met him. I invited a woman from the Buddhist Academy to come and have lunch with me at the President Hotel. She brought along her teacher, this 89-year-old man. It was a day when they had a Chinese smorgasbord. Each table had a different kind of Chinese food. Normally, a guest would go and take food from one table only, but he took food from them all.

His skin was like that of a baby; he didn’t speak any English. He gave me some pamphlets I’ve had all these years. The diagrams are fascinating. I’ve never been able to get them translated. The average Chinese person couldn’t understand them so couldn’t translate them. When I asked Professor Huang to translate them, he laughed and gave them back to me. He wouldn’t translate them at all. The Gik Master asked me to come to his studio two days later, but I was leaving the next day. We couldn’t communicate anyhow.

Hua-Yen

I’m just going to quote and skip around because there’s so much material from China. Hua-Yen (Kegon in Japanese) is a Buddhist philosophy and I think it’s the deepest philosophy I’ve ever come across. The following illustrates the essence of Hua-Yen philosophy. “When one is absorbed by all, one penetrates into all. When all is absorbed by one, one penetrates into one. When one is absorbed by one, one penetrates into one. When all is absorbed by all, all penetrates into all.” Hua-Yen is the Buddhist philosophy of totality.

One time the daughter of the Empress asked one the great teachers of Hua-Yen to enlighten her. So he placed a candle in the center of the table; he placed mirrors under the candle, on top of the candle, and around the candle. It took him several days to set this up on all sides. There were ten directions. Here was the candle in the center, and the candle was reflected in every mirror. But also reflected in every mirror was every other mirror reflecting every other mirror with a candle to eternity. It’s mind boggling, isn’t it? You couldn’t say, “This mirror has the reflection of the candle, but this mirror has the reflection of this mirror, and so forth.” It is said that the Empress’s daughter was enlightened by that demonstration. I told that story to a graduate philosophy class at the University of Southern California, and the man in charge didn’t understand it at all. He said to the class after hearing the example, questioning the concept of enlightenment, “Well, is anybody enlightened?”

There is another story that illustrates Hua-Yen philosophy. If you take away a statue of a gilded lion, there is no lion. But if you take away the lion, the gold doesn’t have any form and it can’t appear. The gold has to appear in some form. And that form (of the gilded lion) is only possible if it is made up of gold. This is a good example of creation – with essence and function.

Do you get the point? He’s actually talking about the absolute and the relative. The absolute can only exist if it manifests in the relative. The relative can only exist if it is, in essence, the absolute. I hate to spell it out like that because it spoils it. That’s a very famous example and I think it’s wonderful. A clay statue basically is clay. It is a statue. But if you take away the statue, how can you see the clay? But if you take away the clay, how can you see the statue? This is totality. Hua-Yen.


Confucius

Now we get to K’ung-tzu. Do you know who K’ung-tzu was? K’ung- tzu was Confucius, born in 551 B.C. Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, K’ung-tzu. Why the ‘tzu’? Tzu means Master, Master K’ung. Somebody asked me once, “Who do you think was the most influential man in history?”

Without any hesitation, I said, “I think K’ung-tzu, Confucius, was because twenty-five hundred years later, the whole [East] is now Confucian. You can see Confucian social mores and his statements on the way to live reflected in Eastern culture. It isn’t well known, but in the latter part of his life, Confucius predicted a different life to come – the Great Harmony. His time of life was called the Small Harmony, the time of custom and ritual. The future day of universalism, the Great Harmony, would eliminate the need for “yours” or “mine.” But right now, in our kind of world, the Small Harmony requires that we have rules of conduct in order to get along. Of course, rules of conduct are the only way that a billion and a quarter people can live peacefully in one land.

Confucius also spoke of jen, human heartedness. Confucius said the most important thing is human heartedness. He believed in the power of inner sincerity. Here is a quotation from Confucius, “The life of the moral man is plain and yet it is not unattractive. It is simple and yet full of grace. It is easy and yet methodical. He knows that the accomplishment of great things consists in doing small things well, and that great effects are produced by small causes. He knows the evidence and reality of what cannot be perceived by the senses.”

Is there anything in Confucius’ statement you could quarrel with? Do you know anybody who has spoken more truth than Confucius? The life of the moral man is plain and yet it is not unattractive. He’s saying great things are produced by doing small things. If you do small things well, great things are done. He also knows the evidence and reality of what cannot be perceived by the senses. This is understandable. I hear sound waves from the radio but I can’t see them. To a primitive person, the sounds coming from the radio would be magic, wouldn’t they?

There are many stories of how Confucius went to Lao-tzu to talk to him. Lao-tzu lived at the same time as Confucius. In fact, we don’t even know if there was a Lao-tzu because Lao-tzu has to do with a Master, almost a cumulative Master. Lao-tzu said, “He who wants to spring, first must crouch. Push down to break attachment and lift. If something is heavy, don’t try to lift it; push down on it. He who stands on tip toe weakens himself.”

Chuang-tzu is to Lao-tzu what Plato is to Socrates. Chuang-tzu said, “The wise man considers both sides of the question without partiality, sees them both in the light of Tao. This is called following two courses at once. Can a man cling only to heaven and not to earth? They are correlative. To know one is to know the other. To refuse one is to refuse both.” Can you only live in oneness? You have to live in this world, too. Chuang-tzu went on: “Can a man cling to the positive without any negative? If he claims to do so, he is either a rogue or a mad man.” Chuang-tzu also said, “Where the fountains of passion lie deep, the heavenly springs are soon dry.” One of Chuang-tzu’s most famous statements is the following, “Only the true man can have true knowledge.” My Indian teacher once was asked, “Can you reach enlightenment through devotion?” He said, “You’ve got it backwards. Only the enlightened man is capable of devotion.” Lao-tzu said, “To realize that knowledge is ignorance, this is a noble insight. To regard our ignorance as knowledge, this is mental disease.” So some of us are diseased. There are so many stories along this line.

The essence of Chinese life is Ching Chi Shen. In the I Ching, ching is essence. Ching is also male semen. There is something very deep in that connection. Essence is the same thing that creates life, the semen. Chi, as you know, compares to Universal Energy or Divine Energy. Shen is spirit. In Ching Chi Shen we have Essence, Energy, Spirit. Both T’ai Chi Chih and T’ai Chi Chuan unite the individual chi with universal energy.

Yin-Yang

My great friend, Professor Huang, wrote:

The principle of yin and yang is the basis of the entire universe. It is the principle of everything in creation. It brings about the transformation to parenthood. It is the root and source of life and death. Heaven was created from the accumulation of yang; the earth was created by an accumulation of yin. The ways of yin and yang are to the left and to the right. Water and fire are the symbols of yin and yang. Water is yin; fire is yang. They are the sources of power of everything in creation. Yang ascends to heaven; yin descends to earth. Hence the universe, heaven and earth, represents motion and rest, controlled by the wisdom of nature. Nature grants the power to beget, to grow, to harvest, to store, to finish and to begin anew.

Professor Huang translated the principle of yin and yang beautifully, but Emperor Huang Ti originally developed the yin-yang cosmology three thousand years ago.

A Detour into Nuances of Language

Taoism, in the philosophic form, as we know it from Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, was a very deep, yet very simple path. They believed in the natural ways. Lao-tzu says the best way to live would be to have villages close enough so that you could hear the dogs barking in the neighboring village, and yet never would have the villagers visit each other. He said you don’t have to go out of your own room to see everything, to know everything. He believed in simplicity and hoped everything would return to it.

The Tao Te Ching probably is the most translated book ever written. There are over a hundred translations into English alone. Why so many translations? It’s because Chinese writing is not very definite. The characters can be interpreted many ways. Different writers have translated it in different ways, emphasizing different aspects. There is no grammar in the Chinese language, nor is there a future or past tense. For example, a great Chinese friend of mine said, “He go to Peking.”

I said, “What do you mean? ‘He will go to Peking in ten years,’ or, ‘He went to Peking five hundred years ago?’”

“Yes,” my friend responded, “He go to Peking five hundred years ago.” Everything in Chinese is always in the present tense.

Yet, the language isn’t impaired. Because of this ambiguity, there are great opportunities to make puns and double meanings in Chinese. Many feel it’s the best language for poetry. Much of Chinese poetry is very beautiful, but we know it in translation, and so, a new poem. You can’t really translate from the Chinese into English. I mean that literally. For example, the I Ching (the Book of Changes) has never had a good translation into English for that reason. So this is what the English speaking publishers did. They found that Wilhelm had made a good translation of the I Ching from Chinese into German. Then they had someone translate it from German into English.

Similarly, it is very hard to translate kanji, the Japanese system of writing, into Western Languages because it utilizes characters adopted from Chinese. It is very difficult to translate the deeper meaning because we take the words and form concepts out of them, which is not the [Eastern] way of thinking. For example, when a Chinese or Japanese see the character ishi (“stone” – my name), the character itself is stone not a sequence of sounds. They don’t divide a word up into various syllables.

The character is the object it represents. This is why it is so hard to think in [Eastern] terms. I believe that [Easterners], when they speak in their language, think in terms of symbols. We think in terms of syllables which make up words. For example, this is a table. But the syllables in table don’t have any meaning. It is just that we’ve agreed to call this series of sounds the object known as a table.

If you know any of the work of Gertrude Stein, she didn’t believe in the ordinary words that were used for things: A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose. For instance, Ruth Draper’s husband came home tired one day. Ruth and her husband were good friends of Gertrude Stein. Stein said, “Will you have a chair?” He said, “Yes.” She said, “So I mixed him one.” Why is it called a chair? The word chair doesn’t have any meaning to it at all. It’s just a word we’ve decided to accept.

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Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching can be studied on three levels: political, philosophic, and meditative. I’m not going to go into them all. Not many people realize that the Tao Te Ching is a political treatise in the same way that the Divine Comedy is – where Dante is assigning people to Purgatory and Hell, and this reveals his strong political views. Lao-Tzu talks about the shortcomings of the rulers, but he also speaks on a meditative level, on a Reality level, and on a philosophic level. How did he happen to write this book? He did not slave for years over it. Rather, he got so disgusted with the warring kingdoms of China that he decided to leave the one he was in, and he just disappeared. No one ever saw him again. When Lao-tzu came to the border, the border guard, an enlightened man who knew from certain signs that a great sage would appear, said, “I won’t let you cross the border unless you write down what you know.” Lao-tzu hastily scribbled, in five thousand characters, what he knew, which became the Tao Te Ching. Then he was allowed to pass. Twenty five hundred years later, people are still translating it. So you can take the Tao Te Ching from many levels, but if you read it from a political standpoint, it’s very meaningful.

Lao-tzu starts the Tao Te Ching by saying, “There’s a thing confusedly formed, born before heaven and earth. Silent and void, it stands alone and does not change. It goes around and does not weary; it is capable of being the mother of the world. I know not its name, so I call it ‘The Way’. As a thing, The Way is shadowy and indistinct, indistinct and shadowy; yet within it is an image, shadowy and indistinct. Yet within it is a substance, dim and dark. Yet within it is an Essence.” Those of you who have come to know chi, can realize the part chi plays in this.

Your True Home

A very famous sound in China is kui chui; that is the sound of the cuckoo bird. But in China, kui chui also means “time to return home. ” A poet wrote, “In front of my bed the moonlight shone. For a moment I took it to be frost on the floor. When I lifted my head, I saw it was the moon. When I bent my head, I dreamt of my far away home.” Kui chui, time to return home, has two meanings. But from the spiritual standpoint, it means “time to return to Essence.”

Recollection is the beginning of the interior life. I told you the story where Ramurti Mishra said, “You have been chosen for Gateway to Eastern Philosophy & Religion introspection.” For those of you who meditate, those of you who are interested in deeper things, recollection is the beginning of the interior life, recollection of that which you already know. I told you two stories – one about Dogen pouring water back into the stream and, the other about the Zen Master returning three of the six cookies every day to the young fellow who brought them. Finally the young fellow asked, “Why do you always return the cookies?” The Master said, “What’s wrong with giving you back that which was yours originally?” That has a very deep meaning to it. Zen Masters use almost anything as a means of teaching.

Both Taoism and Chinese use the expression wu wei. It means emptiness, no “thing-ness.” The Taoists use it most. Here is a writing reflective of wu wei. It may sound pessimistic, but it isn’t. It’s just expressing understanding.

When a friend starts on a journey of many miles, as he is about to leave, he delays again and again. When men part, they feel they may never meet again. When a year has gone, how will you ever find it again? I wonder where it has gone; this year that has ended. Certainly someplace, far beyond the horizon, it is gone like the river that flows to the East and empties into the sea without hope of return. My neighbors on the left are heating wine; on the right, they are roasting a fat pig. They will have one day of joy as recompense for a whole year of suffering. We leave each bygone year without regret. Will we leave so carelessly the years to come? Every thing passes, everything goes and never looks back. We grow older and feebler as the days go by.

Very human, but it’s not a good way to look at life. Poetically, it’s very beautiful.

The mind and morality of the Taoist sage are one with the Essence of the universe. Mencius (371 – 289 B.C.E.), a great Chinese Taoist philosopher, said, “What is whispered in the ear is heard a thousand miles away.” When you try to get away with something, you’re not getting away with anything. A great Sufi said, “Eventually debts will be paid. You will be paid back every farthing.” This is what is meant by, “What is whispered in the ear will be heard a thousand miles away.”

One time I went to collect my clothes at the cleaners. The man gave me my clean clothes, and I paid for them. As I was driving home I looked at my change. I turned around and went back to the cleaners. I said, “You gave me fifty cents too much.” He said, “I never would have noticed it.” I said, “Yes, but I noticed it.” He thought I was crazy: fifty cents. But didn’t Confucius say, “Great things are done by small things?” If it had been a ten-dollar error, the shopkeeper would have felt quite different.

The Taoists say that things are continually moving, restless, yet each is moving back to its origin – kui chui: time to return home. Ramana Maharshi said to go back from where you came. All of you have heard the word seijaku, stillness in the midst of activity. The description the Taoists give of seijaku is like a top rotating at high speed, appearing perfectly at rest. Have you ever spun a top? When it gets to top speed, it appears motionless. It isn’t. It’s going at a very fast pace. One of the deepest expressions I’ve heard is from Professor Huang when talking about the circulation and balancing of the chi in T’ai Chi Chih and T’ai Chi Ch’uan. “In this way, the favorable chance, which is time, and the suitable position, which is space, can be grasped.” That’s one of the deepest passages I’ve ever heard. He also said, “That which is unfathomable in the movement of the yin-yang operations is the presence of spiritual power.” Now you know why I’m sorry he is gone. Professor Huang is the one who responded, when someone asked, “What does a sage want?” “A sage wants spring to follow winter.”

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A Zen teacher is quite different from a Taoist. A Zen Master was asked, “Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causality?” There’ve been many, many answers to that. Reps, in good Zen fashion, answered it not by saying “He is or isn’t,” but by saying, “The enlightened man is One with the law of causality.”

One great Zen teacher had a monastery and gave talks on weekends. More and more people came for the talks. He grew disgusted with this. Zen isn’t done through talk. So he closed up the monastery and went to live under a bridge in Kyoto, which he shared with the other beggars there. Finally, someone showed him how to collect rice which had been thrown away, and make it into rice vinegar. That way he’d eat each day because of the small amount of money he made. He deliberately lived this life under the bridge. (It gets cold in Kyoto.) There, instead of talking to people, he spent his time working on the spirit body. This is a Zen teacher, not a Taoist teacher.

One of his disciples found him under the bridge and said, “Master, let me come and live with you.” The Master replied, “You couldn’t live this life.” “Let me try,” asked the disciple.” Okay,” said the Master, “If you can get through one day, I’ll take you back as a disciple.” That night one of the beggars died. The next morning the Master said, “Well, we won’t have to go begging today. We can eat his food, the food he had collected.” The disciple couldn’t take this, and the Master said, “Get out of here.”

Let’s throw it open for comments, questions, or anything you want. This material is not collected or digested in twenty minutes. I’d say at least thirty-five years went into the lectures that were given here. If someone steals my car or takes my clothing, well, it can be replaced. If someone took these lecture papers, and the papers from which they come, there’d be no way for me to replace them.


Questions & Answers

Questioner: Back in the first class, when you were talking about the six Dharsanas in India, I was wondering where Hinduism fits?

Justin: This is all Hinduism.

Questioner: This is a part of Hinduism?

Justin: No, Hinduism is a generic term and includes everything. It means literally, ‘A resident of the Valley of the Indus.’ So everything, really, that takes place in that land, in that vicinity, is Hindu.

Questioner: But that word, Hindu… that word comes from the river?

Justin: No. It comes from the Valley of the Indus. The great river, the Ganges, is different from that. So in India, everything is included. They even think that Buddhism and Buddha are Hindu, and the Sikh is Hindu, and Tantra is Hindu. Hinduism includes everything. But Hinduism is thought of as a world religion in the same way that India is thought of as a country. India is not a country, India is a conglomeration of many lands and many languages and many peoples, and they have nothing in common. The man who lives up in the Punjab is big and very light skinned and is completely different from the Tamil, who lives down south in Madras and is smaller, dark skinned, and has a completely different language. There’s no relationship between the two at all. There are said to be one hundred and eight major languages in India. Some of them are derived from Sanskrit and others are completely foreign to it. India is a great enigma. It’s a land that is many lands, many religions, many ways of thought. The greatest hero of India is the Buddha, yet Buddhism was driven out of India. So everyone in India says, “Ahhh, the Buddha.” But they don’t believe in anything the Buddha said at all. In the same way, all the people in India look for moksha, release, liberation from the wheel of life and death, but do you think they actually want release from the wheel of life and death?

Remember the story I told you about the woman who cried to the Buddha for release, but when she thought her request was going to be granted, said, “Can’t the Buddha take a little joke?” Yet I see people faithfully following these ways, which are aimed at moksha, release from the wheel of life and death. Do they want to get off the wheel of life and death? Are you indifferent to getting off the wheel of life and death? Be honest. Who would like to get off the wheel of life and death?

Questioner: Could you tell us what “Get off the wheel of life and death” means?

Justin: Yes, I wish you’d tell me what it means! In India it means not to be born again. India is a land of great suffering. Maybe if you were born in a little walled village in the interior and you were a particular caste and your whole life was circumscribed – never had enough to eat – maybe then you’d want to get off the wheel of life and death. But I don’t think most of the people who live in this country want to get off the wheel of life and death. They feel like those who practice the Japanese religions: life is good.

The Reciprocal Nature of Mind & Prana

For those of you who are doing T’ai Chi Chih, Seijaku, or are interested in Chinese philosophy, I want to talk about the reciprocal nature of mind and prana. I’m going to use the word prana instead of chi because it’s written that way. But prana and chi are the same thing. Wars have been fought over different words used to describe the same thing: God is Allah; no, he’s Jehovah; no, he’s called something else. It’s a difference in language. Does that mean there are three different Gods because there are three different words for it? Just go back to the Crusades and other wars to see the truth of this. People will kill for a difference in a word. It’s beyond me. The reciprocal character of mind and prana (chi) means that a certain type of mind or mental activity is invariably accompanied by a prana (or chi) of corresponding character, whether transcendental or mundane. For instance, a particular mood, feeling or thought is always accompanied by a prana of corresponding character and rhythm. This is reflected in the phenomenon of breathing. Now that is a very deep statement – a prana of corresponding character and rhythm, which is reflected in the phenomenon of breathing. When you’re angry, you take short breaths, but when you’re concentrating on a problem, your breath becomes very fine and almost passes away. Thus anger produces not only inflamed thought feeling, but also a harsh and accentuated roughness of breathing. On the other hand, when there is calm concentration on an intellectual problem, the thought and breathing exhibit a like calmness. When the concentration is deep, as in an effort to solve a subtle problem, unconsciously the breath is held. When one is in a mood of anger, pride, envy, shame, arrogance, lust and so on, this particular prana or air can be felt immediately within oneself. In deep samadhi (the super conscious state) no thought arises so there is no perceptible breathing. At the initial Gateway to Eastern Philosophy & Religion moment of enlightenment, when normal consciousness is transformed, the prana undergoes a revolutionary change. Accordingly, every mood, thought, and feeling – whether simple, subtle, or complex – is accompanied by a corresponding or reciprocal prana.

If you are sensitive enough to detect the vibrations of the other, you know all about the other person, don’t you? In the advanced state of dhyana meditation, the circulation of blood is slowed down almost to cessation. Perceptible breathing also ceases, and the yogi experiences some degree of illumination in a thought free state of mind. Then, not only a state of consciousness occurs, but also a change in the physiological functioning of the body. With enlightenment comes a physiological change in the functioning of the body. That’s why it is said in Buddhism, “When the body is mastered, the mind is mastered.” Master the mind and the body is mastered.

It’s very interesting that every emotion, every thought, is accompanied by a corresponding chi or prana. In India, they speak of five pranas. Those of you who are doing T’ai Chi Chih know as you are doing “Pulling In The Energy,” you visualize the five colored pranas coming in through the fingers: red, white, blue, black, and yellow or green. Instead, T’ai Chi Chih teachers tell you to visualize the energy from the most distant star coming through the fingertips. Unless you’re going to devote your whole life, your every moment to it, it would be hard to visualize the five pranas coming in. They talk about the prana that takes things this way, the prana that causes elimination and so forth. The study of prana is a very big one in India. I believe all the Rshi (or the sages) knew how to use the prana. It is interesting how, very often, when we meet people, we talk about “bad vibes.” Then we talk ourselves out of it. Those bad vibes have to do with the chi, the prana. Zen Masters can look at your face and not only see what you are and what you’ve been, but also tell if you are failing. Roshi Sazaki told me that Alan Watts was failing. (I don’t want to pick on Alan; he was very brilliant and a nice person.) Roshi said, “He’s giving the impression to young people that he is enlightened, and he’s going downhill very rapidly and won’t last very long.” Then he said to me, “I’d like you to write a book refuting what he has said.” I’m not a debunker! I said, “No thank you.” I wouldn’t do it. I don’t know how old Alan was when he died – 55 or something like that. A Master can look at you and see. As you do T’ai Chi Chih, you will be able to look at others, and, particularly on the cheeks, you will see pinpoints of red if the chi is flowing. Or you will see it in the eyes and be able to tell a great deal about the other person. If you look at someone who is drinking too much coffee, or who smokes a lot, you’ll see that not only the chi isn’t flowing properly, but the cells are not taking in the oxygen they need.

It’s very easy to spot someone who is a habitual smoker. It interferes with the flow of the chi.

I hope we can learn from the first lecture and the very practical Chinese teaching about the Tao. I think the one who circulates and balances the chi faithfully doesn’t have to know all that. He instinctively will know it. It will be all there without theorizing about it. But still, there are a few good points in all that I’ve said. Usually, when I close lectures, I’ll say to the audience, “Well, I hope you don’t pay any attention to all this nonsense I’ve been spouting.” But I’m not going to say that this time because I don’t think what we’ve gone over is nonsense – not by a long shot. Thanks for being a very, very good audience. I hope you’ll go back over your notes many times, and I think you’ll find things of meaning. If you do, I’ll be very happy I came here. Thank you.

This article is published in Gateway To Eastern Philosophy & Religion.