Spirituality and Chi Kung
One very practical way to classify chi kung exercises is to separate them into two groups -- those related to spiritual development and conducted specifically to achieve enlightenment and those related to physical concerns and used to condition the body and to help it resist disease.
Some exercises related to physical concerns are performed for the benefit of others and are directly related to traditional healing practices, while some are associated with personal, worldly concerns, such as winning a martial arts competition or developing great physical prowess. The most advanced styles of chi kung, such as tai chi chuan, pursue all of these goals at once.
Contemporary chi kung practice is, in a general sense, largely concerned with personal health. But there are many exercises related to spiritual development, some still held in confidence, that focus on the advancement of psychic abilities and even seek to achieve immortality and enlightenment.
Some masters often closely guard certain details of their practice, reserving them for their favorite and most trustworthy students. If followed carefully, these spiritual development practices are reputed to heighten consciousness to superhuman levels and dramatically increase the flow of chi in the acupuncture channels of the body.
One such chi kung exercise, which draws heavily on the forces of nature, is really a type of meditation called Rabbit Salutes the Goddess of Mercy.
Chinese legend has it that the Lady of Compassion, Quan Lin, lives on the moon. Her pet, a rabbit made of jade, stands on the earth saluting her. The jade rabbit, with its red eyes, is well known in the Orient. This meditation gathers energy from the moon. It is performed during the night of the full moon and for each of the three days before and after it.
While standing in some place that is very still, watch for the moon to rise above the trees. Cup your hands and raise them to ear level, placing your palms forward. Stand naturally with your knees slightly bent.
The meditation is simply to stand quietly, as if in greeting, and watch the moon as it moves through the heavens. Some people feel a breeze blowing through their palms. This is the chi essence of the moon.
Only perform the exercise in summer when it is warm. According to traditional Chinese medicine, cold weather can sometimes influence the body in a negative way, particularly when it is in a receptive state such as during the practice of chi kung.
This exercise affects your body fluids, which, like the ocean tides, respond to the gravitational pull of the moon. It promotes the flow of the chi in the feminine, or yin, acupuncture channels in the body.
Unlike Rabbit Salutes the Goddess of Mercy, many meditations are performed while seated. Some of these focus on the Du or Governing Channel, which runs along the spine, and attempt to move chi up the spine and through the Baihui point, known as the crown chakra in yogic practice.
When the Baihui point is penetrated, a stream of chi flows heavenward through the body. In this way, heaven and earth are symbolically reunited through the free-flowing chi. Those who are successful in this meditation are able to absorb and emit chi simultaneously, a very important ability for those who use chi in healing practice.
Almost unanimously, people who claim to have experienced these awakenings say they have gained insight into the nature of life and existence. By all accounts, it is practically impossible for them to relate the totality of their insights. Many of these fortunate individuals rely on demonstrating, as best they can, their revelations through various art forms such as poetry, painting, and descriptive prose.
Other chi kung practitioners concerned with spiritual development work confidently towards immortality. Some practitioners in this group understand immortality as the development of an imperishable spirit known as shen.
One indication of the presence of shen is that the practitioner possesses a heightened sense of awareness, an elevated state of mind in which new forms of perception are possible. Still other practitioners seek to prolong their lives for unusual lengths of time.
The Secret of the Golden Flower
In 1794, Liu Hua-yang, a monk from the Double Lotus Flower Monastery in Anhui Province in China, consigned an oral teaching to writing. The teachings themselves, later entitled The Secret of the Golden Flower (T'ai I Chin Hua Tsung Chih), originated sometime in the eighth century.
The teachings explain in detail some of the theory behind closely guarded chi kung methods for prolonging life. Interestingly, these explanations draw upon both Taoist and Buddhist theory, indicating that a formal exchange of ideas took place between the two movements.
These techniques were developed to preserve and supplement the chi already existing in the body. Proper circulation of the chi is believed to restore sick or degenerating tissues and keep them healthy for an indeterminate length of time.
The text makes it clear that the way to longer life, and even to immortality, is through the creation of an eternal spirit body that resides within the physical form. Later, this spirit body separates from the physical body and is born into its own existence.
According to Taoist philosophy, such a spirit has to be created individually, earned through painstaking practice and experimentation. As you might imagine, the creation of an immortal spirit body could not possibly be a simple, straightforward process.
Even when following elaborate instructions such as those hinted at in The Secret of the Golden Flower, because of individual differences, a certain degree of trial and error has always been required to achieve the desired results.
Continue reading to learn how despite being around for thousands of years, the question of authenticity in chi kung exercises is still in question.