Thursday, November 24, 2005

A simple note on breath control

The myriad things whether living on earth, in water or fly through the air need to breathe to survive. Without breath most will die quickly just like fish out of water, gasping twisting and turning until they stop moving and lay stiff, drawing in the last few breaths. Of course whether humans continue to breathe or not, we will die eventually. But we can try to be healthy and live longer where possible to enjoy living on earth. If by chance and through our efforts we can attain Tao that would be a blessing.

The ancients by studying the various types of animals found that the deer, the crane and the tortoise tend to live much longer than the myriad things. On further studies and examination, they realized that the deer sleeps with his nose on his tail in order to close his controlling energy-path. The crane and the tortoise close their functioning-paths. When the functioning and the controlling paths can be brought into unbroken connection, then all energy-paths are joined. The path in the front of the body that leads down is called the function-path and the one at the back leading upwards is the control-path. (Hui Ming Ching [W/B])

To bring these two paths into an unbroken connection, the ancients devised a method to control the movements of the breath (qi) and the light through meditation whereby breath is made to go down the function-path (front of the body) before going up the control-path (back of the body) in one continuous circle or cycle. According to Lu Dongbin, this meditation is called the “Circulation of the Light” and was revealed by Guan Yinshi (for whom Laozi wrote the TTC). The actual starting point of this breath control meditation may be discussed in another entry.

Through continuous practice of this meditation, the practitioner will become healthier as the qi gradually becomes stronger over time. When the qi is strong, it is the time for a male practitioner to guard against lust since his penis erection will become stiffer because of qi flows. It is therefore easier for celibate monks without the temptations of flesh to progress faster and further into inner alchemy (neidan) practice. The Buddha had to discourse the entire Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen) to straighten Ananda’s incorrect thoughts. Ananda was earlier tempted by lust and had also used his intellect to learn Buddha’s teachings. Do note that ancient Daoist texts and/or Buddhist sutras on meditation do not encourage sex or ‘outflows’. Neither did Neo Daoist texts.

When one has reached a further stage and can feel the deeper flow of breath during meditation, one may realize why the adepts taught conservation of the essence (jing) and where possible to stop all outflows. Is it not that the neidan practitioner tries to convert essence into energy (qi), energy into spirit (shen) and spirit into emptiness (shu)?

Whatever stage we are at in breath control is not the point, it is ever so important that we learn and practise the correct method. Since this type of meditation is known to be full of risks and pitfalls for undiscerning students. And many have been maimed spiritually or physically throughout the millenniums. One may not know much but one can rely on the ancients to teach the correct things especially about important matters such as breath control. Not forgetting about the Daoist immortals’ teachings on the meditation too.

Meanwhile, take care.

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