July 20, 2007
The Meditation Technique of Visualizing the Four Chakras
In my free ebook on the Western Alchemy text, The Atalanta Fugiens, I reproduce the prints and words of alchemist Michael Maier who ended up describing many of the same cultivation techniques, principles, methods and stages of accomplishment as found in the East. (In my tape set on these prints, I explain each of these diagrams in detail according to a lecture given by Master Nan Huai-chin which we translated. It’s a fascinating topic and I learned more from that lecture series than almost any other that he ever gave because it revealed the long standing indecipherable secrets behind what many of these prints represented).
Yoga, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism and the Esoteric school all commonly use the same cultivation or meditation methods, and therefore they report similar results from using these techniques though they couch these results in the words of their own tradition. So this commonality of a Western tradition coming up with the same conclusions as in the East, whether or not due to borrowing of methods or not, once again proves the path is non-denominational, the results are non-denominational.
For today’s post, this is the particular print we’ll be discussing, which refers to a common Esoteric School (form based) cultivation meditation method found across many traditions.
For instance, one thing you can do, rather than try to spin your chi in your microcosmic or macrocosmic orbits, as is done by Taoists today, is actually recite a mantra on one of the four chakra locations used in cultivation. Spinning your energy cannot open up your central chi channel (sushumna), which is why most schools use breath retention practices to FORCE chi to enter into it. Taoists never even think about that necessity or ponder the predominance of forceful breath retention techniques in the yoga, tantra and esoteric schools which also depend upon breathwork for the rudimentary stages of the cultivation path. Rather, they just blindly try to duplicate what various masters had described happened to them as a result of their cultivation practices, thinking that by trying to duplicate these sensations and chi results, it will also occur to them. The real high stage Taoism never teaches this, but people cling to the descriptions of low level masters and mistakenly think THAT is the way. They don’t even read the descriptions of high stage samadhi attainments and remember that there is no longer any discussion of chi, chakras, or even physical bliss anymore at these stages.
In most cases all you ever end up doing by imaging rotational circulations within the body is circulating dirty chi and amplifying minor sensations of wind, but never activating the real chi to arise. Who do you know has had their kundalini rise this way, and achieved samadhi? No one. It is doubtable if this even opens up the front or back chi channels of the body, too, though we know for a fact that emptiness meditation does. Why? Because from the extreme of yin (stillness), yang arises, so in cultivating empty mind, your yang chi will arise and open up the front and back chi channels.
So what can you do if you want to open up the central channel? There are better ways than spinning your chi, which for everyone I’ve ever seen represents a waste of time and an exercise in futility. Yes, people have the hopes of progress from this sort of appealing practice but , No, I’ve never seen anything I can call "success." And sitting at dinner with my teacher and his hundreds of Tao school visitors per year, including all the famous qi-gong "masters", I’ve seen A LOT.
It’s funny how what appeals to you may offer no hopes of benefit or progress, and yet we continue to partake? That seems to be the case with most areas of life, isn’t it? My own teacher, a Esoteric, Tao and Zen master, and considered enlightened by all three schools, just laughs at these people who think spinning their chi is the Way. You cannot help them because they must wake up themselves, and cling to their beliefs just as strongly as a Christian, Jew, Moslem or anyone else clings to theirs.
As a meditation technique, Tibetan Buddhism emphasizes the visualization of 4 particular chakras in the body, which incidentally are also recognized by the Hopi Indians, in Sufism, and by countless other cultivation schools as a means of cultivation. These are not ALL the chakras of the body, just the focus of a particular type of very effective meditation technique.
Now I’ve gone into how to visualize these chakras previously, and the fact you can find the best explanation in Tsong Khapa’s Commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa, readily available at amazon.com (Glenn Mullin’s translations). What I want to point out is that with mantra practice, when you recite a mantra and visualize it as if it is coming form one of these chakra locations, this will also produce gongfu (kungfu, kung-fu, gong-fu) results. This is one case where you can spin your chi on a chakra location, if you have the correct wisdom, to produce a definite result. Tao school practitioners, please do the research and then think deeply about this.
You need a good teacher if you are to do this because trouble can arise due to the chi flows that occur and the obstructions encountered as the chi channels start opening up. All I am saying is that this is effective at drawing chi to a chakra location, and therefore drawing chi into the central channel becomes possible rather than just through tu-mai or jen-mai when you know what you are doing. When combined with breath retention and visualization techniques, we’ve got a powerful meditation method here, but usually it’s only effective if people are chaste and have already been pracrticing for years so that their chi channels are already supple and partially open to some degree. You also need a clean mind to succeed.
Here’s the kicker. The effectiveness of reciting the Jesus Prayer in the Eastern Orthodox Church is testimony to the fact that this method works even if you just cultivate one chakra alone. Christian monks recite the Jesus prayer over the region of the heart continuously, it draws chi to the region, this starts to open up the channels (causing pain because they are obstructed unless you’ve been doing emptiness meditation for years prior to this), and then gongfu results. People see within their bodies, they feel the kundalni heat, etc. etc. etc.
I remember when young that I read a book by someoneon how this was dangerous because it produced heavy sensations in his chest (naturally). He felt he was going to die when the chi entered his heart channels because of this practice, and panicked because he didn’t know what was going on or the principles of the path I keep outlin ing over and over again. Reading this story, when I was 12 years old or so, scared me away from this sort of practice for years, and all for the worng reason — ignorance. Of course now I understand what went on, and because of that story I want to correct the misconceptions other people have also told me they picked up from reading the very same account.
As I always say, to cultivate the form schools you need wisdom and a good master. Without that, you don’t know what’s going on. The book Tao and Longevity by Nan Huai-chin is the best book in existence on the early gong-fu of the path, so grab it and read it to understand a bit of these things. The free download at the bottom of the Stages Course page also explains TONS more than you’re going to get in 100 books on the topic. I know, because I have those 100 books!
All the informartion on how to visualize the four chakras as a cultivation technique is something I described previously. With a good master to guide you, or good teachings on emptiness and the importance of letting go of the mind and body, you can attain samadi in this way. But you have to remember to let go of this technique once you achieve the result, and have to forget the view of the body. The problem with most esoteric school practitioners is that they always cling and hold on to some form or sensation or appearance because they USED THAT to make progress. So be careful and don’t abandon your wisdom on how to cultivate correctly and achieve emptiness from non-clinging.
You can also recite the "al ilaha ill-Allah" of Islam over the region of the heart chakra, while visualizing the chakra or something else auspiciously appropriate, to get a similar result. Surprise — yes this works for Islam too. Why not? By the way, this Ah-sound mantra is usually translated incorrectly as "There is no God but Allah," when a more proper translation is more akin to "There is no divinity if it be not the Divinity." Why is this particular phrase, seemingly meaningless, the crux of Islamic cultivation? Well just look at the sounds. A hint: most of the supremely effective mantras int hw world depend on the Ah-sound. What sounds are this mantra packed with?
Do you see how the cultivation path depends upon common principles, but you have to frame the techniques in something that’s acceptable to the culture you’re dealing with?
And by the way, Ahmad Ibn `Ata’Allah said, "The realization of al ilaha illa’llah … is one of the states of the heart that can neither be expressed by the tongue nor thought out by the mind." [The Key to Salvation: A Sufi Manual of Invocation, trans. by Mary Ann Koury Danner, (The Islamic Texts Society, Cambridge, 1996), p. 71.] Where have you heard that before? Same old, same old emphasis on attaining "emptiness" or samadhi.
Where have you heard that before? Once again – that is the true, common target of spiritual practice regardless of the religion or tradition. I know you still keep refusing to believe this, but you will find this over and over again from the saints and sages with SPIRITUAL ACCOMPLISHMENT but not from the book readers and academics and intellectuals and so forth leading their religions or traditions without any gongfu or spiritual accomplishment themselves. Saints and sages with gong-fu (not those elected to such a status without gong-fu, an honor surprising bestowed quite often in many schools) always says the same thing because it’s the same path, same target, same methods and principles that get you there and same gong-fu you achieve or experience along the way . It’s time for you to believe this and jump on the band wagon of meditation practice rather than just read about it. Time to practice.
Want a little more? Here’s a 3 minute mini audio lesson on this mantra-visualization technique: