The oneness of the body and the soul, the eternal state of Tao, and the sadhana of the vital breath
WHEN THE INTELLIGENT SOUL AND THE ANIMAL SOUL ARE HELD TOGETHER IN ONE EMBRACE, THEY CAN BE KEPT FROM SEPARATING.
WHEN ONE GIVES UNDIVIDED ATTENTION TO THE (VITAL) BREATH AND BRINGS IT TO THE UTMOST DEGREE OF FLEXIBILITY, HE CAN BECOME LIKE A (TENDER) BABE.
WHEN HE HAS CLEANSED AWAY THE MOST MYSTERIOUS SIGHTS (OF HIS IMAGINATION), HE CAN BECOME WITHOUT FLAW.
We are told about the one indivisible truth. Yet those who talk of the indivisible truth also divide the soul and the body into two; they also believe the body and the soul to be separate. If there is a difference between the body and the soul, then the world and God are bound to be apart. The slightest assumption of a difference gives place to duality, so a very contradictory situation takes place: the believer of indivisible oneness, also believes in the duality of things.
In this sutra, Lao Tzu is laying the foundation stone of advaita (the indivisible). Lao Tzu says: "God and the universe cannot be one unless there is oneness between the body and the soul." Unless there is an experience of oneness between the body and the soul, there can be no unison between matter and consciousness.
The so-called religious person will find this hard to accept. If a person believes himself to be divided within, he cannot accept existence to be one. Only one who is integrated within himself SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH can know existence to be one, indivisible whole. The world is the expanded body; consciousness is the enormous universal spirit. If my consciousness is apart from my body, God's consciousness also is bound to be aloof and apart from the world. Lao Tzu says: "If the body and soul can be kept in union, then alone is the Indivisible possible" - then alone can the integrated whole blossom.
How does this discrimination between the body and the soul take place? If we know this, we shall understand their union also.
When a child is born, it is not conscious of any differentiation between the body and the soul. The body and the soul develop as one existence. But the necessities of life - culture, society. security - begin to teach us to discriminate between the body and the soul. When a child feels hunger, he is taught that it is not necessary that he must eat whenever he is hungry; it is necessary to control hunger This is an inevitable arrangement of life. The child needs to be taught self-control. He has to learn that it is not incumbent on him to satisfy his bodily needs as and when they arise. It is not essential that he must sleep when he is sleepy or quench his thirst as soon as it arises.
As soon as a child learns self-restraint, he begins to feel himself to be apart from his body. The body feels hungry and he restrains is hunger; the body feels sleepy and he forbids it to sleep. Then he believes himself to be apart and different from that which he controls.
As the child develops the power to control, the unison of the body and soul develops a crack. As the control increases, the split becomes bigger and bigger. The bigger the gulf, the more difficult it becomes for him to feel one with existence, because one who finds it difficult to be one with his own self finds it impossible to be one with the larger body of the universe.
This deep-rooted duality arises out of the necessities of life. It is useful, but is not the reality. It is not essential that all that is useful in life is the truth. Many times, untruth turns out to be more useful.
This untruth is very useful. So it has to be cultivated. But if our minds are forever in control and we find it difficult to extricate ourselves from these useful untruths, they will prove suicidal.
It is necessary to develop restraint and forbearance. Necessities of the body arise and the power to control them needs to be developed. By and by the one in whom the needs arise becomes differentiated from the one who controls the needs. The moment intellect and desire appear distinct from each other things split into two within us. Then, for our whole life, we are tormented by the conflict between these two parts within us. Our whole life becomes an inner struggle. Desires forever assert themselves and the intellect forever asserts its own requirements. Then slowly and slowly, everything within us divides into two.
Psychologists say that we begin to look upon the part of our body below the navel as the lesser part of us not only because it is situated in a lower position but also because we think of it as inferior. We establish an identity with the upper half of the body and sever all connections with the lower half.
We feel as if the lower part of the body does not belong to us and that only the upper half is us, the lower part gradually being identified with desire. Eventually, intellect gets centered in the head. This is why we recognise ourselves only by our faces.
The rest of the body we hide. Not from rain or heat or snow, but because we do not want to identify ourselves with any other part of ourselves except the head, where the intellect is located. It is an SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH interesting fact that if you are asked to identify your body minus the head, you yourself will fail to recognise it. Our recognition is connected with our intellect only. The rest of the body we have cast aside as being a victim of our desires. This has produced far-reaching effects about which we shall talk later.
In this first sutra Lao Tzu says: "IF THE INTELLECTUAL SOUL AND THE ANIMAL SOUL ARE HELD TOGETHER IN ONE EMBRACE. THEY CAN BE SAVED FROM SEPARATION." If my intelligence and my senses are interlocked, no duality, no turmoil from contradictions, can form within me. But if these two are not amalgamated, if the intellect and the senses are divided and I destroy all bridges between them, the 'I' cannot help the disintegration that will occur within myself.
This is the state of schizophrenia the psychologist speaks of, a state which exists in each one of us to some extent. When a person becomes too disintegrated within himself, he goes mad. We manage somehow to keep ourselves below the danger level. The scales balance precariously between sanity and insanity. We are embroiled in a deep struggle within ourselves. There is a constant conflict, an opposition, an enmity within. We are at war with everything within ourselves.
A new movement has just been started in the West, especially in America. This movement is an attempt to increase the sensitivity of people. It is found that man has almost lost his sensitivity. We touch, but our touch is dead; we see, but our look is blind; we hear, but it is just a sound that passes through the ears. Nothing reaches the heart. We talk of love, we make love, but our love is lifeless.
The heart that loves seems devoid of passion. Our love is artificial. We do everything, but all our actions are void, inert, mechanical, devoid of all sensitivity Sensitivity has to be brought back.
Psychologists say that if we fail to restore man's sensitivity, it will be difficult to save him from extinction by the end of this century. As yet, only a few people are becoming insane, but soon large numbers will begin to lose their sanity. Sensitivity has got to be restored. But how?
If you have any memories of childhood, you will remember that a flower in bloom held an inexplicable fascination for you once. Its beauty evoked a deep response within you. Flowers bloom even now but their beauty has lost all meaning for you. They might as well not be there at all. The sun rises now as it always did, but it no longer fills you with exuberance. The moon comes out in the sky every night too, but it rarely touches you. What has happened? Lao Tzu says, "The embrace is broken."
The intellect and the senses stand at different levels. Sensitivity arises in the senses, The intellect experiences it. If these two are separated, sensitivity is lost. Then the senses become inert and dull, and the intellect is left uninformed. Then the poetry, the music, the essence of life, is all dried up.
Children appear to be living in heaven here, on this very earth where we live. This is because their animal soul and their intellectual soul are still one. When a child eats, it is not only the body that eats; his very soul derives pleasure out of the act of eating. When he dances, his very soul dances with the body; when he runs, his soul runs with him. He is, as yet, united, integrated within himself.
No crack has yet developed within him. He is still an indivisible whole.
We cannot experience the bliss of a child or the love of a child. It should actually be the other way around: our greater ability, backed by our experiences of a lifetime, should qualify us. But this is not so because the process of experience is disrupted within us. When I touch your hand, it is only a hand touching a hand. If my hand is inert, the intellect remains unaffected.
SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH One of the three gurus of Mahatma Gandhi was a person by the name of Handiaro. It is said of him that when anyone touched his hand, they got the feeling of touching a dead man's hand. His friends have recorded that if anyone were to touch Handiaro's hand with his eyes closed, it was difficult to tell whether they were touching a piece of wood or a live hand.
His hands were devoid of all sensitivity.
Perhaps this is an exaggeration, but in our case it is very true. If the hand is alive, if it is very sensitive, then every hair on the hand, every pore on the skin, is filled with a current of electricity.
Then only can the intellect take in the experience, the bliss, of the touch.
If the hand is lifeless, no message reaches the intellect, because the intellect has no direct means of its own. The senses are the gates of intelligence and the body is the medium of the soul. The body is the extension of the soul in the world of matter. If we become enemies of our bodies, we sever all our connections with the world. Our connection too breaks in existence in the same proportion as our connection to the body.
We live, but there is always a distance between us and existence. Go where we may, this distance always remains. When we love, this distance remains, when we are friendly or kind, the distance remains; whatever we do, this distance remains and is very difficult to cross. Lao Tzu says:
"Duality forms within us because of this disparity between the senses and intelligence." This disparity, however, is also useful. Distance should be formed at one time and broken at another time. That is why Jesus has said: "Only those who have become like children can enter the kingdom of God."
To become like children once more is to be so sensitive that each experience reaches to the core.
Children possess an indivisibility (advaita) but it is born out of ignorance. The wise regain this advaita but this time it is born out of wisdom. There is an innocence about children, but it is an ignorant innocence. This same innocence has to be re-attained by the sage. But then it is an innocence that results from wisdom and full awakening. An awakened state of innocence has to be established. The advaita of the child does not last because it is not his attainment. His surroundings and situations bring about a conflict within him and break his innocence, his indivisibility. It is, however, not necessary for man to die with this duality within him. Advaita can be re-established during his lifetime. When this happens, the advaita thus established is richer and sounder than the advaita of childhood. The experiences of a lifetime add greater dignity to it.
What should be done so that we can embrace advaita with ourselves? How can we be one within? In Lao Tzu's method of sadhana there are very easy methods to develop this unison within ourselves.
Let us talk of one method and then we shall take up the sadhana in greater detail.
Lao Tzu believed that whatever we do - whether we sit or stand, eat or sleep - we should be absolutely immersed in our acting, be completely one with it. If you are walking on the road, become the walking itself. There should not be any difference between you and the act. "I am the walking!"
Not even the method of witnessing that we talk about can lead to advaita. At a certain point, even the witness has to be dropped.
Krishnamurti talks of awareness, but even this does not lead to advaita; it has to be discarded later.
Lao Tzu says, "Neither awareness nor witnessing but oneness, complete absorption. Become the SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH act itself." When you walk, become the walking itself; the walker should not remain. Similarly, when you eat, become the very act of eating itself; when you look, become the looking itself. Whatever you do, do it with such wholehearted totality, that you are completely one with the act. There should be no difference between the act as the doer.
When the distance between the act and the doer be;,ins to shrink, it is possible to create bridges once again between the animal and the intellect, between the senses and discretion, between the body and the soul. They can then be bound in one embrace. This embrace is referred to in tantra as the inner intercourse, where the consciousness within becomes one with the desire.
Tantra refers to intelligence as the male element and to the nature of the body as the female element.
When the male and the female within become one, bound in a single embrace, the highest peak of samadhi is attained. It is this embrace that Lao Tzu speaks of.
The 'I' within me should be totally absent in whatever I do. The act may be as insignificant as possible, but, I should be thoroughly immersed in it; I should be completely one with it. I should be so perfectly absorbed in the act that the 'I' is no more. The 'I' within me is the cause of all duality.
Being completely one and integrated is becoming unbiased, free. It is only then that the embrace is possible. But then this process has to be spread all over one's life. This is difficult because there are certain inherent distances between you and the body and until these distances are broken, it is difficult to practise the sadhana of complete absorption.
Let us understand these differences. They have become so mechanical, but unless we break these mechanical arrangements it is useless to practise the sadhana of absorption. It is possible that the very thought that you should be one with what you do may create fresh dualities within you. This very thought will keep you from becoming one with your actions. However hard you may try - say, to be absorbed in the act of eating - your very effort will keep you out of it.
Certain mechanical errors have taken place within us. These have to be understood and eradicated.
If you observe a child sleeping in his cot, one thing which should be noted by you, but which does not strike us normally, is that it is the child s abdomen that goes up and down as he breathes and not his chest which is absolutely relaxed. In our case, we breathe through the chest. Lao Tzu says - and now even science agrees with him - that as the animal consciousness and mental consciousness of man begin to separate, the seat of the breath is changed from the navel to the chest. The greater the distance between mind and body, the higher the seat of the breath goes. When the child begins to breathe from the chest, we know that his animal consciousness and his mental consciousness have broken apart.
When an adult sleeps, he too breathes through his stomach and his chest is relaxed because in sleep this distance between the mind and the body cannot be maintained. In the state of unconsciousness, the distance is broken and the natural process begins. There is a Japanese word (no other language has its equivalent) for the initial source of breath. That word is "tanden".
Right breathing is connected with tanden, which is located two inches below the navel. The further a man is away from existence, the further his breath moves away from tanden.
The higher your centre of breathing is, the more tense you are; the lower the point of your breath, the more you are relaxed. If your breathing is from tanden, there will be no tensions in your life.
SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH This is the very reason why children are free from tension. Observe your breath in a moment of relaxation. You will find it coming from tanden. When you are filled with tension and anxiety, observe your breath. It will become short, and it will come from the chest. Short breath is an indication that you are far removed from your original nature.
There is a reason why we breathe from the chest. A very wrong concept has pervaded in the world.
According to this, the chest should be well developed and large, and the abdomen should be flat, almost against the back. This mad tendency has created a terrible disturbance within the human body. In order to inflate the chest, the breath has to fill the chest and not be allowed to go down further. This brings about the dangerous state of segregation of the animal level and the mental level. You will be surprised to see paintings of Buddha or Lao Tzu in Japanese or Chinese art. They are shown with big stomachs. unlike our depictions of them where their chests are full and stomachs small.
Tao recognises three centres: one is the tanden (the navel centre), the second is the centre of the heart and the third is the centre of the head (the centre of intelligence). The tanden is the highest and most profound centre of Existence). Next comes the heart and the last and least profound is the centre of the head. Intellectuals, therefore, are the farthest removed from existence. An emotional person is nearer to existence than a rationalist. A devotee is much nearer to existence than the so-called intellectual. He who takes the intellect to be everything lives only on the surface of existence. His calculations are correct, his logic clear, but he never goes deep down because there it is dangerous; there all logic is lost and all calculations fade.
The rationalist lives on the surface, where everything is clear-cut and straight. As soon as we descend to the heart, this clear-cut world of logic and reason is lost. Therefore, the intellectual is afraid to talk of the heart; for with it comes illogic and disorder. But it is here that desire and love may arise, and devotion also. Anything can happen here, for which no explanation can be given.
The more rationalistic a person is, the higher is his centre of breathing. By observing the point of breath of a person, we can find out his type. The more emotional a person, the deeper his breath will go. "But," says Lao Tzu, "the heart is not the ultimate depth. It is necessary to go down even further - to the tanden."
The breath should arise from tanden. Then a person is united with the existence, just as infants are. When a person, through concentration, carries his breath to the ultimate depth, he becomes as tender as a child. This happens only when he attains a tensionless simplicity and innocence.
Observe yourself sometimes as you sit quietly by yourself on a chair. Let yourself loose, - there should be no tension - and you will feel the breath rising from your navel. But we do not let ourselves relax even when we rest. Is the idea of having an expanded chest so ingrained in us, or is there some other reason?
There are many deep-seated reasons. The most important of these will come to your mind if you give it a thought. When does a child become conscious of his body? According to Freud (who has done extensive and useful research in this direction) a child becomes conscious of his body when he touches his genitals for the first time. When he touches his nose or his ear or his eye his mother takes delight in his action; but as soon as he touches his genitals, he is stopped, - forbidden to do so. It is then that the child realises that there is a part of his body which is not to be touched, which SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH is dangerous, which is sinful. The child comes to feel this from the look in his mother's eyes; and she in her turn had come to know from her parents. The sense of sin is thus traditional. But this sin does not exist.
But now a distinction begins within the child. Through the gestures of his parents, he begins to feel that there is a part of his body which does not belong to him. This is why, till our dying day, we fail to consider this part of the body as our own. It cannot be; the distance remains Then, with the separation of the genitals from the rest of the body, the lower part of the body becomes off-limits.
The body above the genitals is accepted and below the genitals is not accepted.
No sooner does this differentiation take place than the seat of the breath rises up from the navel to the chest. There is a reason for this. If the breath reaches the tanden, it affects the genitals. So, as soon as we feel that the genitals are not a part of us, the tanden is suppressed. Then we are always afraid, lest the breath reaches the Tanden.
Do you know that an erection takes place about twelve to eighteen times in every man when he sleeps at night? This is a regular happening. Freud was under the impression that this happened because of the unsatisfied desires which were triggered off in dreams. Dreams of copulation and the satisfaction of the sexual urge cause the organ to stiffen, Freud believed. But further deeper research has proven Lao Tzu to be correct. Lao Tzu says that this happens because in sleep, the breath beats against the tanden and the genitals are affected. It is not necessarily because of sexual dreams. We breathe fully in sleep and this full breath knocks against the tanden.
The sex-energy centre and the tanden lie side by side, and it is the impact of the breath that activates the sex-centre. Therefore, you cannot breathe from the chest during the sex act. You have to breathe from the stomach. Quick breathing makes the breath knock against the sex-centre and keeps it activated. If the breath is controlled at this stage, ejaculation can be put off. Tantra has methods of controlling the breath so that copulation can take place without ejaculation. The act can thus be prolonged for hours but then care must be taken that the breath does not reach the tanden.
The child grows up with the idea that the sex organs are taboo, that they are contemptible and sinful; and with this feeling, the breath shifts from the tanden to the chest. This is because our impact on the tanden produces a sensation on the sex organs, and this sensation is very gratifying. This pleasure-giving sensation attracts the child and makes him desirous and restless. But his parents' attitude and the attitude of the society is not favourable towards this. So a distance is created and eventually every joyful experience carries a type of guilt within us.
Whenever we are happy, you must have noted we feel a slight feeling of guilt within. Some people take great pleasure in being unhappy, because then the sense of guilt is not there. This feeling of guilt rises from the very first sense of guilt that the child experiences in his first movement of pleasure. Then we live, divided within ourselves.
Impotency can result if the breath does not reach the tanden. Many research workers who follow the Lao-Tzu theory believe that impotency is the result of the breath not reaching the tanden. Hence, a very interesting thing happens: Wrestlers and body-builders become impotent. The reason is obvious. They breathe :so entirely from the chest, in order to expand it, and they draw their stomachs in so much, that all possibilities of the breath reaching the tanden are destroyed. Thus, though a SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH wrestler looks very virile, he is not so. The connection between the breath and his manliness gets severed.
The breath can rise from the tanden only if you accept your sexual desires. In fact, advaita cannot be born within you unless you accept your desires in their totality, just like a little child. And let me tell you, as soon as a person accepts all his desires completely, he is freed from them. Desire thrives on contradictions. It writhes in non-fulfillment, it torments you, but it is never satisfied. The desire becomes a painful hell but the person is never freed from it. We find ourselves going further and further away from what we desire. The more we suppress ourselves, the greater the distance is between us and the desired goal.
Lao Tzu says: "Entwine yourself in an embrace. Accept your animal senses in their totality." You become the master of your senses the moment you accept them. The duality is destroyed and the essence is realised. The intellect that accepts its desires completely goes beyond them, transcends them. This transcendence is possible only in a non-struggling, non-dual state.
To bring the vital breath to its most adaptable level is the first experiment. Those who wish to practise the Tao-sadhana have, at the very outset, to stop breathing from the chest and begin breathing from the navel. This means that when the breath goes in. the abdomen should rise, and when the breath goes out, the abdomen should fall and the chest should remain still.
Perhaps men could be persuaded to do abdominal breathing because all men do not have the craze to be athletes or he-men: but is very difficult to make women agree to breathe through their abdomens. Women are obsessed with yet another craze; that of developing big, firm and shapely breasts. This craze is so strong that no women would agree to follow Lao Tzu theory. The fact, is such breasts are biologically unsuited to perform their natural function of nursing a baby because the fear is there that the child may get suffocated. Psychologists say that many men are unnerved by large, round breasts. The basic reason is the remembrance of the suffocation the infant feels which leaves a deep mark on the tender mind.
Psychologists may give a hundred other reasons why women are eager to possess large, firm breasts, but the profound and widespread effect has been that no women is prepared to breathe from the navel. If we cannot breathe from the navel, we can never be as innocent and artless as children. It is only breathing from the navel that can bring about child-like flexibility and fluidity.
So, first and foremost, see that your breath arises from the navel. When you sit or stand or walk, in all your activities, keep an eye on the breath and see that it starts from the navel. Tao-sadhana consists of three parts, of which this is the first: the breath should rise from the navel. Practise for three weeks and you will be surprised to find that your anger has subsided, your jealousies are lost, your tensions are gone and you can sleep like a child. Your personality becomes balanced.
Breath is not an ordinary thing. All arrangements of life are connected with it; so as you breathe, the arrangements within yon change.
Your breath cannot be rhythmic when you are angry, and you cannot be angry if your breath is rhythmic. It is necessary that the breath becomes erratic in the moment of anger, because only then does the mind get excited and only then can the glands secrete poison into the system.
SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH So the very first sutra is: Bring the breath slowly, slowly, to the navel and use the chests less and less in breathing, and finally, stop breathing from the chest.
The second part of the breath-sadhana is: Focus your mind on the outgoing breath and do not pay attention to the incoming breath at all. Try and empty your breath as much as possible but make no extra effort to breathe in. As much as the breath goes in by itself is enough. This has wonderful results. We all are very eager to breathe in, but have no interest in the out-going breath. If you watch yourself, you will find that your emphasis is on the incoming breath and not the outgoing one.
If you investigate further, you will find that throughout life we have a tendency to take and never to give. He who makes a sustained effort to breathe out fully, and does not interfere with the natural course of the incoming breath, develops the profound quality of giving charity and his desire to receive will disappear by and by. By observing a person's breath, you can see whether he takes more pleasure in giving or taking. You cannot escape from breathing.
A miser takes no pleasure in letting his breath go; he only takes pleasure in taking it in. Psychologists say that it is not money alone that the miser cannot let go off in life but everything else also. He lives in a sort of state of constipation throughout his life. Ninety-nine per cent of the cause of constipation is the miserliness of the mind. A miser desires to keep everything to himself so he cannot even let his bowels empty. He even tries to stop his outgoing breath. He is eager to take and very much afraid to give. But the law of life is - that the More you give, the more you will attain. If you are niggardly in letting out your breath, you will attain nothing. How can you? You will only succeed in collecting foul air within, carbon dioxide. There are about six thousand air-sacs in our lungs. We make use of about fifteen hundred to two thousand of them only. Two thousand air-sacs are always filled with carbon dioxide. We never empty these out. We thus collect filth within us and live merely on the surface.
The Tao-sadhana believes that the breath should be thrown out as much as possible and we should ignore the incoming breath because it happens by itself. The greater the quantity of breath thrown out, the greater the quantity of fresh air that will go in.
This emphasis on throwing out is in order to increase the possibilities of giving in your life. All the anger, the greed, the jealousy within us, is because of the fact that we want to take but we do not want to give. All the complications and involvements in our lives come from this fact that we are greedy to take and have no wish to give. But one who cannot give receives nothing, and one who gives, receives back a thousand-fold. Another thing: if we give iron, we receive gold in return. Exhale carbon dioxide and fill yourself with the life-giving oxygen. This is a scripture for our whole life.
Lao Tzu's second sutra is: Always throw the breath out, forget about taking it in. You only have to empty yourself and leave an empty space. It will get filled by itself. If your emphasis is not on breathing in at all, the mind becomes absolutely calm and relaxed. For in taking in the breath there is tension, there is violence; whereas in letting the breath out, there is only a sense of lightening your burden. Filling is a burden. Emptying is to become burdenless, because it reduces the load.
So the second sutra is: to place all your effort in exhaling the breath and do not worry about taking the breath in.
Now, what is the third sutra? The first is to make the navel the seat of the breath. The second is to concentrate on breathing out. The third is: To be one with the process of respiration and not to think SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH of it as happening apart from you. When the breath goes out, feel 'I am going out'; when the breath comes in, feel 'I am coming in'. Be one with the life-breath.
We feel that the breath has gone out of us and the breath has come within us. Lao Tzu says the opposite. He says, "I go out with the breath; I come in with the breath. It is I who am in and I who am out. With the breath, I enter the body; and with the breath I go out and merge in the vast body of the universe." This constant japa should be practised when we sit or stand or walk or sleep, that I go in and out of my body with every breath. Then only is advaita experienced. If these three steps are carried out with utmost care and if a person thus raises his life-breath by one-pointed concentration to the highest point of flexibility he becomes as tender as a child. The greater this tenderness, the greater life is. The lesser this tenderness the more dead the person is. To become hard is to stand at the gate of death and to remain tender is to stand at the gate of life So tender, like a newly formed bud! It looks weak, but that in itself is its strength. An old man may look strong, but he is not stronger than a child. Death is forever drawing near and the harder he gets the closer he is to death. The child looks very fragile but in his fragility lies his power. Existence has yet to grow in him and spread.
This flexibility is not possible without this experiment in breathing. But if this is brought about with the breath, it can easily be brought about in all facets of life. Your breath influences your personality in every dimension; it is a complete mirror of you. What you do with your breath is an indication of what you do with yourself; it indicates what kind of person you are. When anyone approached Lao Tzu for sadhana, he would tell the person to stay with him a while so that he could observe his breathing.
If the seeker happened to be an intellectual who had come to imbibe Brahma-jnana (the ultimate knowledge), he would be perplexed. For seven days, Lao Tzu would observe the new comer's every movement and see the state of his respiration. Only when he understood the state of his respiration completely, would he give him any instructions. The whole sadhana can be completely determined by this breath method.
You must have heard the Japanese word 'HARAKIRI'. It is generally understood to mean suicide.
But in the Japanese language, it means much more. Hara means the centre - the supreme centre from which life is born. One who stabs himself in this centre is supposed to have committed harakiri.
But not everyone can commit harakiri because in order to do this, the hara first has to be recognised.
We spoke before about the tanden. If you begin to breathe from the navel, by and by you will come to feel a place, two inches below the navel. That is the centre. When it becomes clear to you that this centre burns like the flame of a lamp within you, then it is called the hara. For such a person, whose hara centre burns like a flame, there is no death. Harakiri means to separate this centre from the body. Then the flame of hara merges with the eternal flame.
This hara centre is not within the intellect, nor is in the heart. It is near the navel. This is why an infant in the womb is not joined with the mother by the heart or the head but by the navel. It is a miracle that the child neither breathes in the mother's womb nor does its heart beat and yet it is kept alive by the umbilical cord that joins it to the placenta. This clearly shows that neither the heartbeat nor the breath is essential for life, but it is impossible to be alive without the navel. Therefore the first thing we do when a child is born is to cut the umbilical cord. Until this is done, the child does not begin to breathe. Now the infant is on his own on the threshold of life.
We can understand it this way, Just as a thread from the navel connects us to the mother, another thread from the same place connects us to God, to existence. The connecting point of this thread SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH which joins us to existence, is called the hara. Tao says: "He who attains this centre becomes tender like a flower, like the stars in heaven, like little babes. His eyes are as liquid and innocent as those of animals."
If this liquidity and innocence is to be attained, then, Lao Tzu says in his third sutra; "WHEN HE HAS CLEANSED AWAY THE MOST MYSTERIOUS SIGHTS (OF HIS IMAGINATION), HE CAN BECOME WITHOUT FLAW." The breath should become fluid and it should be based at the hara centre. One should then cleanse away the entire web of imagination.
We do not know how many kinds of webs of the imagination we have woven. Not only in the name of samsara but also in the name of religion, we have woven webs of illusion. We have created countless Gods, countless heavens and hells by our imagination. We have known nothing, realised nothing; we have only let our imagination run wild. Our imagination is a library where we have collected all kinds of illusions from many births, and amongst these we live. All these cobwebs are in the mind only. If a person tries to rid himself from the entanglements of his intellect, he will fail. It is necessary to go right down to the centre of existence and establish oneself there. As soon as a person reaches the tanden, he becomes so strong and powerful that it becomes easy to throw away the cob-webs of imagination.
Some people try to achieve this by their intellect. One logic can be defeated by another but then the second logic grips you. The same is true with the imagination. The difficulty here is that it is the very intellect that has to be destroyed or else nothing is changed. But we do otherwise. We find people changing from one religion to another; going from one guru to another, changing their shastras, their doctrines. Some under the illusion that they have left all doctrines, have even, in the process, created new ones of their own - which are bound to be poorer than the ones they have left.
This has happened with Krishnamurti. He exhorts his followers to break all webs of imagination.
This sounds very good to the ears, it is appealing, but then the follower places his self in the centre of imagination and begins weaving new webs. Unless you step out of the centre of imagination you will keep on weaving cobwebs.
The power of the imagination is so great that it can fill you with negative illusions also. Krishnamurti says, "There is no guru." The listener accepts that there is no guru and promptly begins to look upon Krishnamurti as his guru. This happens in his deep unconscious self, of which he is not even aware. A friend had come to me some time ago. He told me, "I believe in no guru because I heard Krishnamurti." I told him that if he has arrived at this solution by listening to Krishnamurti, then the guru is already established. I also told him that this concept was not his and that he was accepting the words of others just as he had been doing before. "I do not take Krishnamurti as my guru," he retorted.
"Then why do you listen to him?" I asked.
"I go to listen in order to understand." "That is what I am saying", I said. The guru is one to whom we go in order to understand, and that is the meaning of guru: One to whom we go in order to understand. If man listens only to his intellect, he will have to use his intellect only to cleanse his imagination. This is only natural. The real thing is not to cleanse the intellect of all its imaginations, because it will promptly produce fresh illusions. The real thing is to stand apart from the intellect.
SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH How is the jump to be taken so that we can step out of our imaginations? There are two methods of stepping out of the mind. One method is to leave all thoughts and become emotional, like Meera.
She does not think; she is drowned in her feelings, her emotions. She dances, she sings. But feelings also do not take you very far. It takes you deeper than intelligence and hence it is better, but Lao Tzu says, "The heart is nearer to the mind." I take you where there are no thoughts, no feelings; no mind, no heart; no knowledge, no devotion. I take you to where the intellect becomes flawless, where only pure existence remains. And for this, all cobwebs of the imagination have to be swept away.
But how is this to be done? If you empty your intellect for this purpose, you will be making a mistake.
It may sweep out the old cobwebs but will promptly weave new ones. Remember, the new webs are more dangerous than the old. When the new are created we easily let go the old ones; but the new webs we tend to conserve because they are still fresh. New gurus become more dangerous than the old, and so also new shastras because in the new there is the lure of novelty. Also, if a person develops the notion that he is strong enough to destroy all the webs of the imagination, his ego is strengthened. So it is important to avoid this entanglement.
It is interesting to note that if you begin to breathe from the navel you lose your ego. There is no way to uphold the ego at the centre of the navel because the ego is a tension and there is no tension if the breath is at the navel. Then one day we find that all is quiet within.
Lao Tzu used to test his disciples from time to time. He would ask them questions. They brought the right answers but Lao Tzu would tear the paper up and throw it away. He would put his hand on their stomach and declare: "The question was asked in vain. The answer is wrong!"
One sadhaka told him: "But this is what you taught!"
Lao Tzu replied: "Yes, that is what I taught you but the one who answered, his breath does not rise from the navel. This answer can only come from within if the breath is established in the navel. You have merely reproduced what you heard from me. You have heard with your intellect and answered with your intellect. There is no experience within you."
When Chuang-Tse, who was his most prominent disciple approached Lao Tzu tor the first time, Lao Tzu gave him the same instructions as he gave to others. When the time of examination approached, Chuang-Tse came and quietly took his seat with others. "Today I shall ask you some questions. But you have brought no pen or paper with you?" Lao Tzu asked him. Chuang-Tse replied: "If I myself am not the answer, what good would my written answers do?" He quietly stripped himself and lay before Lao Tzu: "Examine my breath," he told Lao Tzu.
Remember, if your breath does not genuinely come from the navel and you are merely making an attempt to breathe from the abdomen the moment you become unconscious of your breath, the breath will slip back to the chest. The genuinely navel based breath comes only when you become as artless and as innocent as a child. Then, let anyone examine you; it makes no difference. When the physician holds your hand to examine your pulse, it is bound to increase because you are now conscious and worried. So the doctor always allows a certain margin when he examines a patient.
Chuang-Tse lay down before Lao Tzu like a little child and his stomach was rising and falling SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH rhythmically. Lao Tzu looked at him and said, "You have passed the test. I have no more to ask, because that which has the power to answer is now within you."
The consciousness has to be shifted and brought towards the navel. All our impressions, our education and our society work in the direction of taking our consciousness towards the intellect.
This has its own uses as I told you before but one day we shall have to retrace our steps away from this world where it is useful.
To lose the original centre is very dangerous from any point of view and it is comparatively so easy to do. So, regard this sutra of Lao Tzu as a sadhana sutra. Keep an eye on your breath and try to transform it. A change in your breath brings a change within you. A Revolutionary change in the breath brings a revolution in your own personality. As your breath deepens, your character also becomes profound; all superficialities in your nature fall off.
And the day your breath reaches the centre of tanden, you shall merge with the whole world at the point of advaita. One who reaches his own centre reaches the centre of the universe. When a person merges with his own centre, he becomes one with the centre of the vast cosmos. It is then that the supreme embrace of the advaita takes place.
As your breath becomes deeper and deeper and penetrates within, the curtain lifts and many unusual mysteries reveal themselves, and new doors to truth begin to open. What lies hidden within man extends and spreads out into the vast world. He who delves deep within himself rises high in the supreme Brahma. Christian saints have said, "As above, so below." Indian saints have said: "What is in the body is in the universe." Plotinus has said, "Man is the measure of all things."
Man is a miniature of the vast universe. Whatever is in the universe exists in him. Therefore, when he reaches his own centre, he attains the universal centre. Says Lao Tzu: "When a man fulfils these three requirements of the prana sadhana, he attains the universe as well as advaita."
Please note: Lao Tzu's breath sadhana is different from the Indian pranayama, because the latter is based on the intellect. It is an organised endeavour, the breath is controlled by the intellect. Lao Tzu's pranayama is absolutely natural. It is not mind-oriented.
Rather, all the arrangements that have developed between the breath and the intelligence are to be severed. We have to discover the natural movement of breath within the body, the movement that is with us from birth. So there is a fundamental difference between the Indian pranayama and Lao Tzu's prana sadhana. And Lao Tzu's sadhana is more profound. The Indian pranayama follows man-made calculations: close one nostril, then another, hold the breath for so long in suspension, then so much exhalation. This is all mind-oriented. It has its uses and advantages, but they are only useful for the body. A person attains g!owing health through pranayama and also gains strength.
Lao Tzu's sadhana is totally different. Through it, man attains his true nature - that which was before his mind and intellect came into being and that which will remain after the mind and intellect are extinct. The Indian pranayama is dangerous without the help of a guru because it entails a lot of discipline. Lao Tzu's sadhana can proceed without the help of guru. In his sadhana, there is little to learn and more to forget. We have to drop all the false practices we have learned. Then that which is natural will appear by itself. No new order is to be created. In fact, all rules and regulations of the past are to be abandoned so that nature is given full scope to act as it wills.
SADHANA OF THE VITAL BREATH But as I told you before, if you do not accept your body and by that I mean, unless and until you accept your organs of reproduction you cannot feel one with the body. If you have a feeling of censure and scorn towards a part of yourself, how will the embrace come about? When we create walls within our own selves, the question of meeting others is absolutely out. He who is afraid to meet his own self within can never claim to have the courage to meet God.
Accept all that is within. Accept it as a gift of God. Shun all censure and scorn. Nothing is sin, nothing is crime. What is within is part of God. As this all-round acceptance comes within you, all obstructions between your body and your mind are removed. The body and the intelligence then merge and flow in a simple stream. Then the body is experienced as part of our very own self that has extended outwards into the world and the atman is that dimension of our body that has gone within. The body is the manifested atman and the atman is the unmanifested body. The body is the visible atman and the atman is the invisible body. Thus they are the two ends of the same thing.
When this experience dawns on a person, all the world becomes one. Then he sees no difference between a stone and God. Those who carved images of God out of stone, were wise people. The message they wished to convey was that as long as you cannot see God in a piece of stone, know that you have known nothing. But when we cannot see God in a living body how can we see God in a dead piece of rock? Those who bow before stone images do so, perhaps, because there are no desires, no sense organs in a stone. It is a dead piece of matter. Therefore, perhaps, they see a little of God in them. But if they were to meet a live God they would raise a hundred doubts about him. "You eat also? You feel hungry like an ordinary man? You shiver in the cold and need a fan in summer?" they would exclaim. The God within the man would be completely lost - He is not there, He cannot be! They return to their homes, fully convinced that this man is a fraud and their trip was in vain. But those who carved images in stones had an altogether different reason. Their reasoning was that if you begin to see God even in a piece of rock, then there can be nowhere that you cannot see Him. A all-embracing acceptance of life is the first characteristic of a religious person. Through this acceptance, serenity ensues childlike innocence. It is this innocent eye that sees the Lord in everything and the whole world becomes divine.