From the New Book (Copyrighted Material)
Introduction to Section V
Energetic Traditions in Meditation
In some spiritual traditions, it is believed that a person who masters the flow of energy within the body can attain not only enlightened spiritual insight, but also awaken supernatural powers. The chapters in this section look to those traditions for more clues that might reveal the meaning of “internal energy.”
The previous three sections focused on the meaning of internal energy in the disciplines devoted to healing one’s self and others. Section II considered healing in the context of traditional Chinese medicine, Section III looked at the mental and physical techniques of Taoist energetic yoga, and Section IV focused on the controversial question of whether it might be possible to heal without physical contact. The present section examines how practitioners within select energetic meditation traditions learn to master the flow of subtle energy in and around their bodies. It will also examine how it might be possible for one to gain the kind of control over the flow of internal energy within the body that leads to expanded consciousness.
Consider, for example, the belief shared among the energetic meditation traditions that life functions along a continuum which ranges from the physical, to the etheric, to the spiritual. Accordingly, those traditions rely on various mechanisms within the body to convert physical energy into spiritual energy.
That conversion of the physical to the spiritual takes place along a set of structures. Some of these, such as the spine, are physical, whereas others, such as the energetic centers along the central axis of the body, known as chakras in Sanskrit, are etheric. Founded on the principle that the mind is inseparable from the body,[i] this belief underlies the energetic yoga traditions covered in Section III.
Since there is no clear demarcation between the mind and body,[ii] the influence is bi-directional. Mind influences body; body influences mind. Thus, as suggested in the quote from Dudjom Rinpoche which introduces this section, postures that facilitate the flow of energy also influence the mind and spirt, and in the same manner, a person's thoughts also influence their physical body.
For the Tibetan tantric Buddhists, the most advanced level of spiritual attainment is enlightenment. For the ancient Taoist[iii] neidan (內丹) practitioner, mastery of the currents that make up the mind-body energy system leads to immortality. In another Taoist meditation tradition, the ultimate expression of spiritual understanding is to attain the state of ho Tao (合道), mystical union, or “harmony with the Tao.”
As described in the opening pages, in general, Chinese characters are transliterated using the pinyin system. However, there are exceptions where Wade-Giles transliteration of Chinese is relied on. Examples of Wade-Giles usage in the present section include Tao instead of Dao, and for consistency of style, ho Tao for “union with the Tao” is used instead of he Dao. Other examples of Wade-Giles transliteration in this chapter includes Tao Te Ching, and Te.