The Indian people speak of Shakti, Kundalini, and Prana. Japanese call it Ki as in aikido. And the Chinese speak of Chi, the Vital Force, or Intrinsic Energy, that makes us one with the universe. We are born with the Chi energy; indeed, we are the product of Chi. Through our breath and magnetism, we accumulate Chi. T’ai Chi Ch’uan teachers say we store it in the bones and direct it from the tan t’ien, two inches below the navel. The Zennists speak of “your face before you were born.” When we function spontaneously, what else can this be but the Chi? Those who practice the yogic Pranayama are dealing with the breath, but real Pranayama practice concerns the Chi (or Prana) associated with the breath. The Indian sage has said that this force — all the energy in the cosmos — is the Reality. Our ephemeral selves come and go, are born and die. But was there ever a beginning to the vital flow? One of the new religions in Japan worships electricity. This is not as foolish as it might seem; is not electricity a universal manifestation of this Chi?

A T’ai Chi Ch’uan or T’ai Chi Chih adept, who has practiced for many years so that the force has accumulated, trembles in his fingers when he performs. He is not nervous, the flow of Vital Energy pours through him like a faucet turned on. One of my Chinese master’s most advanced students, himself a well-known teacher, gave a demonstration of T’ai Chi Ch’uan in Taiwan, and high-speed color photographs were taken while he was doing so. When the pictures were developed, a curving bluish light coming from just below the navel surprised. This parallels the evidence I once saw in twenty photographs taken over a period of hours while a Tibetan Yogi went into deepest meditation, samadhi. By the tenth photograph, the light had begun to appear from below the yogi’s navel, and by the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth photographs, there was nothing but light perceptible. There seems to be no way these time exposures could have been faked.

One time when the author was performing T’ai Chi Ch’uan and T’ai Chi Chih in a fenced yard behind his house near the ocean, an unexpected visitor entered and cried out in astonishment.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, alarmed. “I see a lavender light all around you, like a mist,” the man in his sixties exclaimed.

Mystics, and all who meditate a great deal, are usually familiar with the amorphous lavender blue that shimmers in front of their eyes after, or sometimes during, meditation. I have seen it form a mandala, going in and out of focus like a picture projected on a screen. This is a manifestation of the Chi energy, and it is possible that the seeming blue of the sky is due to this energy. Those who practice various Chi Kung exercises — T’ai Chi Ch’uan, T’ai Chi Chih, Nei Kung — come to realize that what appears to be space is a vast continuum of energy. The secret of activating it, one of the great secrets of life, has to do with circularity.

When we hear of healing by laying-on-of-hands, or by some similar method (such as the very effective focusing of this force in the Johrei practice of the Church of World Messianity, called Sekai Kyusei Kyo in Japan), we know it is a use of this great Chi energy.

It has often been reported that Mahatma Gandhi, as he grew older, slept with young women — not with sexual motives in mind, for he insisted on strict Brahmacharya (self-restraint) from all his followers — but in order to use an ancient Tantric method of renewing vitality. (I know of no way to actually authenticate this story about Gandhi.) The Church of World Messianity has used it to facilitate the growth of fruits and vegetables in its model farm near San Diego. I have eaten them and can attest to the success of the method, where no fertilizers or insecticides were used.

This development of the Intrinsic Energy is one of the greatest secrets of life, used by Chinese Taoists (who balanced the yang and the yin, the substantial and insubstantial divisions of this force) in order to achieve great longevity. The true alchemy was spiritual and had to do with developing immortality but was misunderstood to mean the creation of gold from base metals because of the symbols the Taoists used. Those who are puzzled by such treatises as The Secret of the Golden Flower would do well to keep such meaning in mind when reading this and other esoteric works.

In Tibet and Northern India when a village has been frequently attacked by dacoits, the inhabitants go in search of a holy man of the highest caliber. It is felt that he can draw a psychic circle around the village into which those with evil intent cannot venture. This is the Chi force used constructively by a master. We must remember that for every master there are a hundred charlatans. Paul Reps once wrote me that “India is full of Saints and Aints.” And the Aints far outnumber the Saints.

It is felt that the healings by Jesus, reported in the New Testament, were examples of a master’s use of this Vital Energy. It
must be remembered that in Indian Philosophy there are basically only two essentials — akasha (space) and prana or Chi (all force or energy). Before the modern scientific era, this would not have been believed. People would have pointed to inert matter. But since Einstein, we know there is no inert substance, and what seems to be mass is really energy (the basis of the atom bomb). Twenty-five hundred years ago Buddhism proclaimed this and went even further. This energy will be found to be thought.

Eastern adepts, particularly in China, take the Chi energy on a mentally guided tour through the eight meridian channels of the body, freeing blockages, toning circulation, and greatly energizing the metabolism. This is in complete accord with acupuncture, which works through the major and minor channels (meridians) of the body in a way not yet known to Western medicine, but which is now proving out in experiments. Chinese medicine is much older than Western symptomatic medicine. Acupuncture reaches the inner organs through outer terminal endings, sometimes using needles and sometimes deep heat (moxibustion) to correct the yin-yang imbalance and bring relief to the patient.

Those who have practiced the T’ai Chi disciplines know that the flow is started by thought, followed by the Chi (very often causing a trembling of the hands), and finally, culminates with the blood. This is one basis of self-healing. When there is an ache in the body, the adept will place his thought (consciousness) right in the center of the pain rather than trying to avoid it. This will tend to bring the Prana (Chi) to that spot, as the flow of Chi follows the concentration. Then the blood will flow to the same place, and in a few minutes, it may be difficult to find the pain.

T’ai Chi Ch’uan practitioners usually keep their concentration two inches below the navel, or if this is too difficult, in the soles of the feet (called the Bubbling Spring). After a period of practice — and performers tend to gain energy as they progress rather than tiring — an internal heat develops, and the practitioner begins to feel warm, without perspiration. Knowing this will happen on cold nights when there is snow or ice outside, I have usually cautioned pupils not to go out in their shirtsleeves. The night had not turned warmer, but their metabolism had changed.

T’ai Chi students, as well as Zen meditators, are usually very thirsty after practice. The flow of Chi has dried up most
of the internal aqueous excess (the cause of much overweight and illness, according to the Chinese), and the thirst is natural. The students must be careful not to drink anything cold, as this would be a shock to the inner organs. Hot tea, also used in Zen to fight drowsiness, is the most effective drink.

Many people have seen demonstrations by karate or aikido experts, in which a rather small older man will break a log or a concrete block with his bare fist. This is a well-known phenomenon. (Indeed in Japan, a group of adepts gathered together to quickly demolish a whole building in this manner.) Onlookers are puzzled as to how a tiny man, of no great muscular development, can perform such a feat. It is to be noted that, as he draws himself up, the performer gives a sudden cry, which activates the Chi stored in the bones and tan t’ien, and then does the astounding cutting operation with his hand. It has nothing to do with muscular power; it is a functioning of the Chi energy.

There is a well-known story about a 200-pound Chinese judo expert who went with a bigger friend, also an adept, to visit a tiny aikido master in his seventies. “All my life I have been hearing about the power of the Chi,” began the Chinese man, meanwhile noting the fragile appearance of the old man.

“Would it be asking too much for you to give a practical demonstration of it?” The smaller man thought for a moment. “I’ll tell you what. You and your friend attack me from opposite sides of the room and throw me down. And do me the honor of not taking it easy with me.”

The two bigger men looked at each other and undoubtedly thought, “We’ll kill the little fellow.” Hastily they conferred and whispered together. “You flip him and I’ll catch him before he hits the mat. We don’t want to hurt him,” suggested the Chinese man, and the other readily agreed. The two adepts separated and slowly came at the tiny master. The many spectators held their breaths, hoping the little man would not be injured.

Suddenly the two big men burst into action from opposite directions, both lunging at the little fellow. The next thing apparent to the watching spectators was incredible: the Chinese man was lying dazed on the floor ten feet away, his glasses off and looking, as he put it, for the freight train that had hit him. His friend had been slammed hard against the wall and a speck of blood appeared on his nostrils. What is most remarkable? Nobody had seen the master move.

This is a spectacular demonstration of mastery of the Chi, and many similar stories have been told in Asia. When one begins to practice the Chi Kung disciplines, they feel a thrust of force through themselves, and after a while, it begins to resemble an internal bath, as though one has turned a faucet and caused the flow. The effects on health and longevity are dynamic.

To those who have been in Northern India or Tibet and Nepal, the sight of sadhus (holy men) wandering in the coldest weather and wearing nothing but a loincloth is a common one. A freezing traveler will wonder how they can maintain body heat. At 4 a.m. they may bathe in the upper portions of the Ganges, and the mountain reaches of that great river are cold at such an hour. These adepts, of course, have developed the inner heat and know how to circulate it. Japanese monks have performed the same feat under waterfalls in the coldest weather, chipping away the ice. I know one case where the monk had not developed the ability, however. After only a minute in the water, he withdrew, screaming. Later the same evening he developed a high fever and eventually had to be sent home from the monastery.

This ability to generate the inner heat is one of the prime practices of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism — and also of the white and black magicians in that unusual country. It has been said that this Dumo Heat (Dumo is the central channel, called Tummo in China) is “the essence of magic play.” Long and rigorous training is necessary to pass this barrier and develop the desired inner flow.

Finding that many Western doctors had doubts of the ability of the body to change itself in this manner, the author determined to personally test the authenticity of the training. Without a teacher to help, he spent one year on the practice and finally had the amazing experience with a flow that lasted at least twelve hours, through the night, which made sleep impossible, so intense was the heat and the manifestation of energy. Thinking he would be tired, the author arose the next day to a feeling of extraordinary vigor and well-being. It was a unique experience, but with various unpleasant internal effects during the year, the author would not advise it for most people.

Hatha Yoga, Pranayama, T’ai Chi Ch’uan, T’ai Chi Chih, the secret Nei Kung, other Chi Kung exercises, Kundalini Yoga, and various disciplines are ways to arouse and circulate this Vital Force, the Intrinsic Energy. One scholar defined the goal of the disciplines dealing with this Force: “To unite the Chi in me with the Cosmic Chi.” One surmounts their individuality and reunites with the great force of the universe.

Hakuin, one of the two greatest Zen masters in Japanese history, tells of his trip to the mountains when he was young to find a great sage (sennin). We must remember that the Japanese, and particularly Zennists, are noted for understatement. And in Hakuin’s case, we are also dealing with one of Asia’s greatest religious teachers. Was he apt to be a liar or exaggerator? He wrote that when he found the great Mountain Sage in his cave during the coldest part of the winter, the sage was wearing little clothing and had been without food for a month or two. The unbearable chill of those mountains had turned the vest-like covering completely stiff, yet the sennin felt no cold and knew no hunger. There were many stories about his age, estimated to be amazingly advanced, yet when he walked down the mountain to guide Hakuin to a nearby stream so Hakuin would not get lost, there was no hesitation in the older man’s step (he wore clogs) and no weariness in his demeanor. Hakuin referred to him as “the perfect man, like the heroes of old.” The sennin explained all this by “What is it but the power of the Chi energy?”

It would be well if the West becomes more than dimly aware of this Vital Force (how to stimulate and use it) and its part in building health, joy, and longevity. I know of no greater, more important secret.

It seems fitting to close this chapter on the great secret by quoting the Chinese Scholar and T’ai Chi Master, Professor Huang Wen-Shan. He says:

“… we seem to realize that, in the Universe, there is an ever-active, ever-creative Life, and an inexhaustible source of Energy-Life and Energy which are made available to Mankind when a fitting stage of development is achieved. It is particularly significant that it has a great Reverence for Life.”

In referring to the practices by which one masters this force, Professor Huang continues: “It must be pointed out that this particular exercise, with its emphasis on spiritual value…, is not to be compared with those systems emphasizing only the training of sinews and muscles. Exercise, in all its branches, can bring the greatest benefit to Mankind only if man recognizes a unifying principle for its creative ingenuity. Indeed, the highest dimension of human exercise concerns itself with the worldview and moral spiritual purposes of life.”

We find that the science of the Chi, the well-kept great secret of sages, is essentially spiritual in nature as, indeed, is all life.
Probably there will be scoffers, though none can deny the Vital Force of life. But those who have learned — and practiced — the disciplines know there is something great and incomprehensible, and its flow brings a joy to their lives.

This article is published in Abandon Hope

Published On: July 11th, 2024Categories: Abandon Hope

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