Friday, July 18, 2008

Chakra According To Tao Beliefs

Chakra is a term literally meaning “circle” in the original Sanskrit language in which the concept was first established. Since then this term and its meaning has been interpreted in different fashions by a number of cultures. It may refer to a circle of people, a continuous flow of power or “Shakti” as it is referred to in the texts of the Hindu religion, or different nerve plexi within the body in accordance with western science and medicine.

In Eastern and particularly Chinese beliefs, the chakra are waypoints for spiritual energy known as Qi. Pronounced as “Chee”, this energy circulates through the body in a cycle called the microcosmic orbit. In this circuit, Qi flows down through the front torso channel called the Conception Vessel Meridian to pool in the Dantian. This is roughly translated as the “elixir field” and refers to the physical center of gravity in the human body located in the abdomen directly below and behind the navel. Because it is the center of gravity it is by extension the center of the spiritual body. This is also associated with the source of what could only be referred to as our humanity. All the qualities that we associate with being human come from here. For all these reasons the Dantian is considered the seat of the soul and holds a great deal of spiritual and religious importance to many eastern cultures. For instance, Japanese ritual suicide, called Seppuku, involves driving a knife deep into this part of the abdomen and slashing it open. Westerners would wonder why a person would choose such a slow and painful way to do, but to them it is seen as the most effective way to end the life and set the soul free by destroying the Dantian.

From the Dantian, Qi travels back up to the top of the skull via the Governor Vessel Meridian at the back of the spine. At the crown of the skull the Qi then flows downward through the chakras eventually returning to the Dantian to repeat the process.
Unlike Hindu belief, Qi energy does not enter the body or leave it. It is an inherent life force within all living things. The blockage or poor flow of this energy is the cause of a great many ailments according to traditional Chinese medicine.

Also according to Chinese medicine the chakra are personified as the major organs within the body rather than being separate from the anatomy on a metaphysical plane of existence. So if one chakra point or another is believed to be ailing, the physician will prescribe herbal remedies, baths, or acupuncture to strengthen the corresponding internal organ. Acupuncture itself is based in blocking or altering the minor Qi pathways running under the skin through the judicious use of needles.

There are also other ways to influence the Qi. Taoism is an amalgamation of eastern religious beliefs and concepts that predates Buddhism. Though it has lost prevalence in the east to unified Buddhism, it still governs a number of taboos and mores among eastern society. It might be equated with western superstition. Scientifically they are not proven, yet a person is rarely able to make him/herself deliberately break such rules. A large part of Taoism is related to the governing and control of the Qi. From Taoism comes the art of Qigong. Pronounced “Chee-Kung” this term means “cosmic breath” and is a form of meditation which focuses on respiration and the flow of Qi throughout the body. One passes their awareness through the two meridians running up and down the spine connecting to the different chakra points. By doing so one enhances and governs the flow of Qi in the body. Experienced practitioners of Qigong are said to have extremely enhanced mental and physical faculties thanks to their ability to manage the Qi flow. Also very skilled martial artists are said to be able to harness their Qi to some extent. In their case this is often inadvertent. Yet a very dedicated martial artist may attain the ability through extensive physical training, purification of the body thanks to a strict diet and complete abstinence, and unswerving all-consuming mental focus.

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