Qigong at sunset. Photo credit: K. Kendall
Throughout history, peoples in many parts of the world have sought ways to develop their energetic potentials for improved health, martial power, and to bring themselves closer to the divine. In China these practices are called QiGong.
Man is a complex organism whose life is supported by countless metabolic changes. These changes are described as the interaction between Yin and Yang.
QiGong systems are composed of psycho pneumatic exercises that seek to balance these interactions through the regulation of the body, breath, and mind. It is believed that the correct regulation of body, breath, and mind will harmonize yin and yang, balance Qi and blood, clear the energy/information channels, increase vitality, improve resistance to disease, and transform pathological energy patterns thereby prolonging life and nourishing the spirit.
QiGong primarily trains the flow of Qi (vital energy) in the body. As Qi is the commander of blood, regulating the Qi will regulate the blood. Regulation of the body, breath, and mind utilize the complex energy systems of the body to vitalize the flow of Qi and blood.
QiGong can enhance other therapies, prevent reoccurrence of many disharmonies, shorten the duration of treatments for many illnesses, consolidate results of treatment by other modalities, involve patients in their own healing process, and be used as a primary therapy.
Foundation of QiGong
QiGong has been practiced for at least 4000 years in China. It is believed that 18 Buddha Hands QiGong was developed by Bodhidharma, the originator of Zen Buddhism, in the 6th century AD. Bodhidharma traveled from India to the Shaolin Temple in China. He found the routine of the monks at the temple to have left them in such a weakened state that they could not successfully complete their Spiritual work. After meditating for 9 years he developed three sets of QiGong exercises to augment their Spiritual practices as well as to increase their physical vitality. 18 Buddha Hands is one of those sets of exercises.
Because 18 Buddha Hands drastically increases the circulation of vital energy, several styles of Chinese Martial Arts adapted the system to develop internal power and enhance physical health. For the same reasons, healers and people on a variety of spiritual paths can make use of these exercises to augment their practices while others can use them to help prevent illness and increase vitality.
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The original set had 18 exercises. The set presented in my book has 18 sections of from one to three exercises each with a standing meditation position at the end of each. These additions to the original were made by past masters to add depth and balance to the practice.
Following the axiom, "TO FIND STILLNESS IN MOVEMENT AND MOVEMENT IN STILLNESS", the current version offers both dynamic movements with coordinated breathing and static standing with quiet mind.
18 Buddha Hands QiGong affects many different levels in the human being. Suitable for beginners and advanced practitioners alike, it positively affects the physical form of the body as well as the energy channels, organ systems, Chakras, Essences, and Spiritual qualities. It particularly works on linking the three Tan Tiens (energy centers corresponding to three of the chakras) and opening the Eight Extraordinary Vessels (these act as reservoirs of Qi and Blood in the body, absorbing excess and repleting deficiency).
Prenatal and Postnatal Qi
Qi is defined as vital energy -- in the large sense the "stuff' underlying all manifestation in the universe. Qi inside the human body is both a carrier and a message. It transfers both energy and information. Qi emitted from a QiGong Master contains infrared radiation, particle streams, static electricity, etc.
There are two general classifications of Qi inside the body, Prenatal and Postnatal.
Prenatal Qi (Source Qi) refers to the vital energy given to the human at birth from both parents. It is the basic matter (Essence) and native force that support the body's tissues and organs. This Qi is directly related to Ming Men (the first and most important energy center in the body) and the Eight Extraordinary Vessels of the body.
Postnatal Qi is a combination of Qi derived from the food we eat and the air we breathe that sustains our vital functions. This Qi is directly related to the 12 primary meridian/organ systems of the body.
Together the Prenatal and Postnatal Qi form the True Qi of the body. True Qi is the source of energy used in daily life.
QiGong was developed to balance, harmonize, and enhance the True Qi for health and longevity and to transform the True Qi for Spiritual Development. QiGong exercises can also directly impact Prenatal Qi, Postnatal Qi, Essence, and Spirit -- that which directs our life activities and links us to the divine.
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang are the two opposing, yet interdependent and complementary aspects of all existence. They can be used to describe the relationships between the qualities of all things. Imbalances in any one or more of the Yin/Yang aspects of our being results in illness. Yin/Yang balance on the other hand promotes wellness.
The basic properties of Yang are likened to fire and the basic properties of Yin are likened to water.
Yang qualities are hot, bright, rising, expanding, daytime, Spring, Summer, external, etc. In the human body Yang relates to the top, back, left side, and exterior. The bowels are considered Yang inside the body and Heaven is Yang outside the body.
Yin qualities are cold, dim, sinking, contracting, night-time, Fall, Winter, internal, etc. In the human body Yin relates to the bottom, front, right side, and interior. The viscera are considered Yin inside the body and Earth is Yin outside the body.
Because Yin and Yang are so closely connected and interdependent, any imbalance in one of them will soon affect the other. They are involved in a constantly changing energetic play called life. The play is staged within certain limits called balance. When these limits are breached by either Yin or Yang, there is sickness. Death, signifying the total divorce of the Yin/Yang relationship, is the end of the play.
QiGong for Spiritual Development
The purpose of Spiritual QiGong, from a Taoist point of view, is to reach ENLIGHTENMENT; from a Christian point of view is to become ONE WITH GOD' from a Buddhist point of view is to reach BUDDHAHOOD' and from a Yoga point of view is to reach TRANSCENDENTAL UNION. All these terms refer to the same condition -- singularity -- the state beyond subject and object, yin and yang -- beyond all duality. This is the goal of spiritual development.
The tools we have for evolving to this state are the body, mind, and spirit. The techniques we have are our energetic practices whether they be called QiGong, Meditation, Yoga, or Prayer.
As humans we all have certain obvious common physical features and less obvious common energetic/spiritual features.
If we decide to develop our gross physical bodies we can engage in a wide variety of physical disciplines such as weightlifting, swimming, calisthenics, etc. Each will develop our physical form somewhat differently depending on how it is done. However, there will be common benchmarks throughout the process. Our legs will get stronger, our arms will become more muscular, etc. If we recognize a lack of development in one area -- due to our ignorance or our participation in an incomplete system -- we can supplement that area with more exercises from our present discipline or with exercises from another discipline.
The same is true with our spiritual/energetic development. If we decide to develop our spiritual/energetic presence, we can engage in disciplines such as Yoga, Buddhist or Taoist QiGong, etc.
Each of these systems are complete in themselves, if the whole system is transmitted to the student. If for some reason the teacher is unable to transmit the whole system to the student it is sometimes possible to utilize parts of other systems to augment a partial system.
The techniques vary from discipline to discipline and each student is a unique individual so development will vary in some ways but there will he common benchmarks along the way.
These complete systems are designed to provide a path for the student to reach his goal. Because they evolved in different cultures. times, and places, each system places a unique emphasis on various aspects of the spiritual/energetic body and uses its own terminology to describe the process of cultivation, but the goal is the same.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
White Elephant Monastery. http://www.virtualguild.com/elephant.
A book on the 18 Buddha Hands Qigong practice.
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About The Author
Larry Johnson has been involved in Energetic Studies for more than 32 of his 55 years. This work began with training in Chinese Martial Arts and subsequently expanded to include Oriental Medicine, QiGong, and Meditation. He is a Licensed Acupuncturist and received his Doctor of Oriental Medicine (O.M.D.) degree from the California Acupuncture College in 1983. In 1978 Larry was given permission to teach Choy Lee Fut Kung Fu by Grandmaster Ming Jew. Larry's study of Taoist QiGong, Meditation, and Wu Style Tai Chi Chuan under the private tutelage of a Taoist Master from the Hua San Tradition began in 1976 and continues to this day.