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Read a little about metaphysics and the subtle body model, but still not quite understanding all the terms being thrown around?
Curious about the difference between dan’tiens (in Chinese internal alchemy) and chakras (in Indian, Tibetan, and new age works)?
What the difference is between Kundalini (shakti) and qi/chi/prana (vital energy) — in terms of how they feel to the practitioner?
This video by KAP Instructor Tao Semko explains a lot in under 10 minutes…
Kundalini: Hindu chakra system vs Taoist dan ‘tien system – Pt.1 / Tao Semko
and more here…
Kundalini: Hindu chakra system vs Taoist dan ‘tien system – Pt.2 / Tao Semko
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Kundalini: Hindu chakra system vs Taoist dan ‘tien system – Pt.1
“[The question says] I would really like your opinion in the relation between the chakra system and the Taoist system i.e. the microcosmic orbit, specifically the origin physiologically (spine, vagus nerve, etc.)”
Well, I actually spoke on this a little bit already, about the vagus nerve. I don’t know whether you caught that part of the talk a little bit earlier, but I’d be happy to talk about that stuff. First of all, you should know that a number of the Taoist lineages actually use chakras in addition to speaking about the dan’tiens and the various meridians that are used in Chinese medicine.
So, the chakra system isn’t foreign to Taoism. They speak about chakras a little bit differently than some of the other lineages, but they do refer to them as centers. They talk about the “sea bottom chakra,” or the “earth chakra,” etc.
The color schemes, color systems that they use for symbolism are sometimes a little bit different, but if you look, for instance, in some of the books of Kenneth Cullen, and some of his recorded works, he actually speaks about the various chakra systems as they’re used in some of the Taoist Alchemy.
Now, there are other systems of Taoist practice that don’t use any reference to the chakras whatsoever. Keep in mind that all of these terms are just ideas, models, of experiences, and the map is never exactly the territory.
So any model that we use of the electrical movements in the body through the lines of lesser resistance that we call meridians, or nadis in the Hindu terminology, or for instance in Western Hermeticism they call the Central Channel — or Sushumna Nadi which the Sanskrit term, or the Thrusting Vessel which is what the Chinese call it — Western Hermeticists call it the Middle Pillar. They do the Middle Pillar technique
But, chakras in essence are where meridians come together and pass each other. Meridians are areas of the body, they’re not actual veins, they don’t have physical structure.
Meridians are basically lines in the body along which electrical transmissions take place, along which if you put the electrodes of an EKG or an EEG machine and put one electrode at one end of the meridian and one at the other end, there is much less resistance to electricity going along that line than say if you shift the electrode over just a little bit under the area that’s not on that meridian in the various charts and maps that have been made through the centuries.
So it’s an area of deceased resistance, and, in some cases, of increased capacitance in terms of the movements of electrons, protons, etc., through the body along the various cellular membrane pumps that actually pump those fields.
Now is qi directly the same thing as electricity? No. The model of the human body’s energy as qi or as prana is a little bit different. But there is often correlation between people who can demonstrate higher electrical capacitance and higher — or I should say decreased resistance along those pathways.
People who do a lot of pranayama or a lot of Qi Gong or Neigong typically decrease the electrical resistance along those pathways, and can also cause surges that can control actual electrical surges that are readable on instrumentation. Is that the same thing as qi? Not exactly, but it correlates with it.
Now, chakras take place when you have multiple meridians crossing each other at a point. You have major chakras along the center line of the body because you’ve got so many nerves bundled there: both spinal nerves, and the vagus nerves.
In other parts of the body you have minor chakras which are often corresponding with acupuncture points or marma points on the body. You know, where there’s several smaller meridians crossing, and at these points where the meridians cross, you get a field, not unlike an electrical field, not unlike the magnetic field that is generated around an electromagnet.
An electromagnet you have a little iron bar, you wrap it with copper wire, you send a current through the copper wire, (just like the current that’s going through the meridians) and it creates a magnetic field.
Chakras are basically little spinning vortexes of fields of vital energy that are generated by the movement of vital energy through the meridians that cross or wrap around each other at that point. That’s different from the dan’tien. There are three major dan’tiens in the body.
You have the lower dan’tien, that’s the big one in the lower abdomen and pelvis — this is in Chinese theory. The big dan’tien, then you have the middle dan’tien in the middle of the torso. And the upper dan’tien which is very small right between the two brain hemispheres.
The sizes of the dan’tiens are not based on a physical structure, but rather on the quantity and diameter of energy that’s being radiated in a field in that space. Those areas, those three dan’tiens, are basically empty spaces. Physically, there’s actually internal organs and other stuff there.
But in terms of how your inner awareness, your meditative awareness, experiences the body it is three places along the central line of the body where you can drop your kinesthetic awareness, drop your visual awareness, and it is experienced as if you are in a vast open space. You can experience spaciousness in the lower dan’tien providing that your intestinal digestion is in good shape.
Even though your intestines are physically taking up that space down there, you can learn to drop all of your sensory awareness down into your lower belly and experience vast openness. So for contemplative meditators that is one view or one use of the dan’tien. You can abide in tranquility in those three spaces.
Now, the other use is for cultivators who intentionally do a lot of deep breathing with awareness of the feeling of the breath, and they cultivate energy into those spaces. Not quite the same as a chakra where the energy is being caused by energy moving through various meridians wrapping around each other, creating a whirling vortex. Instead the dan’tiens can be controlled by the movements of the awareness, the mind, and the breath to cultivate breath energy in those spaces.
On a biological level, rather than on the meridian level of the body, if you go back to a Western biological model, the proton pumps and electron pumps of the actual intestine, the small intestine, are being tuned to a high level so that they can actually maintain actual electrical potentials in that space, in the belly, that are increased by the dynamism of the abdominal movement during abdominal breathing, whether it is what they call the Buddhist breath, or whether it’s a reverse breathing where the abdomen is held taut but the breath pressure is brought in to the dent of the abdomen.
So, now: the orbit, the microcosmic orbit, is basically the movement of awareness and energy using the rhythm of the breath to run energy up and down the two widest, biggest, channels in the body which are the Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel in Chinese medicine. One runs up the back and over the top of the head, the other one runs down the front from the sinuses back down to your perineum.
Together, when you bring them together with the tongue, it creates a single circuit of electrical potential. You can, by learning to do that orbit, first slowly in order to really activate every last centimeter, every last millimeter of that space, you can gradually build up large electrical potentials and actually move those potentials in the body so that they are measurable on an EKG machine or an EEG machine.
It is possible during that process for Kundalini to start to awaken in the base of the body. But mostly you are dealing with prana or qi. The difference between Kundalini, and the experience of Kundalini, and the experience of prana or qi is that prana or qi feels like a tingling fluid flowing through the body most of the time. Whereas Kundalini typically feels like something that is much more electrically alive.
It can either feel like you’ve actually plugged your finger into a light socket, or an electrical outlet, and it feels like it’s surging through you. Or it can feel like a supercharged fluid moving through the body as if it has little sparkles of aliveness actually moving through your whole body. So, [Kundalini] is
considerably more electric in nature than prana or qi which does feel electric, but it’s sort of a slow, tingly, fluid or plasmic feeling in the body except when it’s moved faster by your awareness.”
— Transcription by Spencer Stevens
Kundalini: Hindu chakra system vs Taoist dan ‘tien system – Pt.2
“Now, you’re questioning spine versus vagus nerve: you can move Kundalini up the spine, but ultimately it’s going to dead-end your development, meaning that in order to open all of the chakras — the chakras are located along the central line of the body.
Your spine curves in and out. At the area of your sacrum, the spine is right in the central core of your body, if you see a cutaway of the human body. As your spine makes it’s way up into the thorax, it curves away from the body, away from the heart, away from the vagus nerves, away from your thymus gland.
If you were to continually just try to move your awareness, and move the various sensations up your spine, if you manage to get Kundalini awake by any method we’ve talked about so far — and some people do manage to get Kundalini opening in the perineum area just by running a lot of the orbit first slowly then faster, it is a possibility to get it started.
But the orbit alone won’t open everything else unless you either simultaneously work with various emotional and physiological states in the body, or unless you happen to go into those emotional and physiological states just because of external circumstances in your life.
The orbit will take the energy around your thoracic spine, and up into the head and over the top. It can create changes in the brain, but you’re going to skip over the heart. You’re going to skip over that wonderful opening of compassion, oneness with humanity, the desire to do right by not only yourself but by everyone.
So there are a lot of people who do use methods like the orbit and either spontaneously or accidentally awaken Kundalini, and they have a partial awakening where it opens the lower centers of the body that have to do with vitality and confidence and charisma, magnetism, and drive, and force of personality, going up to the solar plexus and then they skip over the heart, and they go up into the brain into the pituitary and pineal, and then they start being able to actually influence other people’s minds too, through resonance.
Through sort of having a deeper understanding of things like hypnosis, and rapport inductions, and stuff like that. All they the while they haven’t really opened themselves up in the one way that would make them truly more connected to others, and having a more beneficent feeling towards others.
So, yes you do have to run energy through the vagus nerves. You have to run your awareness through the nerves until the nerves actually come to life. If you want to open all of the centers, and actually go through all of the various stages of Kundalini awakening. And again, as each part of the body opens both on the subtle level, and on the physiological level, new changes take place.
As the energy moves its way up, you get changes until you finally get this feeling of cosmic fusion as the brain opens up in what the Chinese call the Greater Enlightenment of Kan & Li, or the Greatest Enlightenment of Kan & Li as you start to merge with the various subtle structures that are above your crown. And then, in Chinese Alchemy, they have typically further stages like the Reunification of Heaven and Man or the Reunification of Heaven and Earth where you are bringing the energy back down.
Just like in Esoteric Christianity after the rise of the apostolic flame, the flame that you see in statues of the apostles, you then get the descent of the dove, the descent of the Holy Spirit coming back down to the sacred heart, grounding the person back into physical reality while at the same time bringing an increase of what might be called more universal wisdom.
And again, there’s both physiological aspects to this, and aspects that one might say are completely spiritual in terms of the way that they’re experienced. So it is an ever evolving event. You can go through several of the major experiences all at once, like Dr. Morris did. Or you can go through them slowly and progressively.
I have some friends who are Qigong practitioners who, without even trying to do the various internal alchemy practices, just because of their own good nature, and the way that they were thinking and feeling as they were doing their Qigong practices they went through the Lesser Enlightenment of Kan & Li, and then were easily able to go through the Greater and Greatest Enlightenment of Kan & Li.
Which, in Hindu terminology, the Lesser Enlightenment of Kan & Li in the Chinese terminology corresponds to the piercing of all of the centers, through the heart center, and possibly through the throat center (the experience of sort of time and space being something fluid).
The Greater Kan & Li in Chinese practice is any practice designed to create the Greater Enlightenment of Kana & Li which is when the upper dan’tien is integrated in — when the third eye becomes truly opened, not just being energized, and getting some effects, but is pierced right through its center.
And then the Greatest Enlightenment of Kan & Li, and all the various stages that follow that in Taoist Alchemy, are associated with the opening of the crown and the upper centers above that and then the descent of cosmic wisdom, cosmic energy back down through the body so to speak.
If you object to any of the names that I used from classical models here, that’s fine. This stuff still works whether you believe in the terminology or the various belief systems that were originally cobbled on to the experiences.”
— Transcription by Spencer Stevens
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