What is Chi?

Discussion in 'Tao' started by iBrian, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    Chi seems to be an inherent belief within Taosim - but what does Chi actually represent?

    I appreciate the difficulties of translating concepts across the world, from entirely different cultures, but is there a reasonable analogue in the West?

    Somehow "lifeforce" seems a little too simplistic. Or is that entirely representational?
     
  2. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Brian,

    thank you for the post.

    Chi existed as a conception in China prior to the advent of Taoism.. so i would have to say that, without getting into a full blow exposition of this theory in Chinese thought, we can get close to it's meaning by sticking to some Taoist texts.

    now... as there are several flavors of Taoist thought, we must be a bit careful where we tread as the religious flavor is a bit different than the philosophical and the spiritual alchemical flavors.

    Chi, as most popularly concieved of, is the basic energy that flows through all things... humans, plants, animals, this planet and every other. recall that the Chinese worldview is that of "Li" or "organic pattern" and it starts to become a bit more clear. this chi, or "life force" is, for want of a better word, that which makes life recognizable as life.

    Chi flows through the body in "channels and drops" which, incidently, are very similar to some concepts in Tantric Buddhism. a person can learn to manipulate these channels and drops in the psychic body though various techniques that are taught in both the religious and spirtual alchemy schools of Taosim. the philosophical school pays this aspect little mind and it's really difficult to find any writings from this school that even address the subject in any depth.

    in any event... that should suffice to get some conversation started... as always, i stand to be corrected by a more knowledgable poster.
     
  3. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    qi

    well, the character means breath, light, energy, etc

    and what chi is to the chinese anyway, usually reffers to the life force vaj was talking about

    see to the chinese there are 3 things that make up a person, there is chi(energy) jing(essence) and shen(conciousness, mind etc)

    chi is what allows us to live, it is present in all things and is also representative of all things in that everything is made up of sub atomic particles and atoms

    jing is the physical the essence of what makes up you(reality) it is actually seen as just another form of chi

    and shen is the conciousness that commands the first 2, its said that the world is an illusion and that it is a creation of the mind, well this is another example of chi being expressed in a different way in that we have control over our chi

    also its interesting to add that in the martial arts there are practices to turn chi into jing as a means of producing power

    amitabha
     
  4. DT Strain

    DT Strain Spiritual Naturalist

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    I had a few questions on this as well, thanks:

    Question 1:
    By the way, is Ki just another spelling of Chi, or is there some appropriate context in which it is called Ki is used instead of Chi? Or perhaps different cultures - one calls it Ki, the other Chi? If so, which? Thanks.

    Question 2:
    Complex systems theory is currently looking at the underlying mathematical basis of how complex self sustaining systems are created in nature. This would include organisms, galaxies, brains, economies, flocks of birds, etc. In other words, they are all operating off the same mathematical basis. Would this nature of the way the universe works to build up complexity be something which could be considered synonimous to Chi?

    Question 3:
    If not, then what about energy in the technical scientific sense? Since all mass/energy are really different forms of the same thing (E=Mc2) then could this be considered Chi? Or is that just wishful retrofitting?

    Thanks :)
     
  5. icxn

    icxn New Member

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    Re: qi

    Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. It closely relates to what Christians call soul. So, jing would be the heart, that is, the essence of the soul and shen the mind, which is the [most representative] energy (~action) of the soul (chi).

    icxn
     
  6. Master Vigil

    Master Vigil New Member

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    Some great answers. I would like to take this time to introduce myself, I teach taoist meditation and philosophy. And I do not consider myself to be an expert, so feel free to disagree with what I say.

    I think the best way to understand the chinese concept of chi is to look at the character. There are two parts to the chinese character.

    One part meaning vapor, or steam, and the other meaning rice.

    The chinese gave the picture of vapor rising up off of hot rice to chi, it is the moving force connecting the whole universe. Everything is connected by chi, this is where George Lucas got his idea for the Force. You cannot contain it, you cannot destroy it, you cannot make it. You can only use it, mold it, and change it. But it can also use you, mold you, and change you. The focus of taoist meditation is to modify the way chi moves throughout the body, unblocking meridians and such. But it can also be used to modify the way chi works in your surroundings. The Tao creates chi, and since chi comes directly from the Tao it follows it properly, so a taoist must understand the way chi works, and modify theirs to it. This helps one live in accordance to the tao, wu wei, and becoming like p'u.

    As for the question about ki, yes it is the same concept, just different language. Korean, Japanese, and a few others call it that. The koreans also call Tao: Do, and Japanese To. It is all the same thing. And another question was whether it is the same as energy, I believe it to be so at its core. But science has not understood it completely. Find a monk who can smash clay pots 15 feet away with just a flick of the wrist what chi is. He will give you a better idea than just e=mc2.
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste DT STrain,

    thank you for the post.

    basically, the difference in the spellings is due to the translation that is used of the original Chinese text. typically speaking, we use the Pinyan pheonetic pronouncations, so you would see the word Tao spelled Dao.

    not really. mathmatics achieves it's proofs due to it's axioms, whereas Taoist thought does not rely upon axioms to establish proofs. mathmatics is a logical form and, in classical Taoist thought, that would not be able to address the supramundane aspects of reality.

    nevertheless, for those biengs so inclined, this would serve as a more objective affirmation of the Li view.

    sure, you can think of energy as Chi. it's a particular type of energy, but energy it is. interestingly, using the same formula... mass or matter, if you will, is the same as energy. energy is made of molecues which are comprised of atoms. atoms are, mostly, empty space. gettting it back to the Buddhist and Taoist views that "form is emptiness and emptiness is exactly form."

    one of the issues that we face when we explore different cultures is interpeting their philosophies and cultural idoms through our own cultural lens. it can often lead to confusion regading the actual nature of what is being communicated. if one can remain mindful of this, in my view, it always helps to clear misconceptions.
     
  8. DT Strain

    DT Strain Spiritual Naturalist

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    Thanks much Vigil & Vaj,

    Since Li is "organic pattern" I can see why this would be closer to the ideas of complex systems theory I spoke of. Is that pronounced "Lye" or "Lee"? I'm guessing as "Lee".
     
  9. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    "lee" is the correct pronounciation.
     
  10. Hyksos

    Hyksos Hyksos

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    I've learned a lot about chi from the short book, "Understanding The Power of Ch'i" by Michael Page, Thorsons, UK, 1988 & 1994.

    Off-hand I can't see any real difference to the Hindu prana.

    But what did strike me is that ch'i in a sense is not one thing. There are a huge number of divisions and sub-divisions of types of ch'i. We can start by saying that there's ch'i that flows through biological bodies; ch'i that makes the world function at non-biological levels; universal ch'i in all the universe and at higher levels of 'existence'; and so on - all these having many sub-divisions.

    Being no expert, that's what struck me anyway. So it's similar to the prana of Hinduism but not at all even analogous to, say, electricity, since that's just one thing with different voltages.

    From a rudimentary reading-up on ch'i, I find nothing really new to anybody who knows about prana. But am always interested to be corrected!
     
  11. Hyksos

    Hyksos Hyksos

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    Another decent and chatty source: "Taoism" by John Blofield. Pity he's now passed on; he sounds like a wonderful person.
     
  12. Master Vigil

    Master Vigil New Member

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    But it is just one thing Hyksos, it is like water thats source is the ocean. It gets evaporated as gas, falls as rain and flows down many different rivers, tributaries, streams, and finally goes back to the ocean (tao). It is one thing, it is what comprises the oneness that is Tao.
     
  13. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all,

    there are several good texts available from the traditional Taoist point of view regarding Ch'i and it's function and nature.

    there are some, however, that stand out from the rest in their lucidity. for me, these have been Awakening to the Tao, by Liu I Ming, 10,000 Words on the Gold Pill, by The Yellow Emperor and A History of Chinese Philosophy (various authors) though i tend to enjoy Cleary.

    of course... as it says in the very first stanza of the Tao Te Ching "The Tao that can be Tao'ed is not the Enteral Tao".

    usually, it's transliterated to say "The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name."
     
  14. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    this is a subject that interests me greatly, as i've seen and heard about some frankly amazing things being done by manipulating qi.

    i was actually under the impression that tai chi was issur (forbidden) because it derived from "impure sources". this was something i heard from a chasidic source (and also includes reiki, yoga and pendulum diagnosis. however, i've recently come across a sephardic source which says the following:

    in fact, the basic point about qi work that we should be aware of is that it does actually work and has medical benefits - therefore in jewish law it must be considered to be a good thing. apparently there are 15 contact points down the middle of the body used in kabbalistic healing.

    the source also says:

    however, the same source agrees with the chasidic source in saying that similar sources from india (ie yoga etc) are idolatrous. i'm not convinced by that myself, because i think it's very much a question of your PoV. i haven't found a dissenting source yet, though.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  15. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    !

    "Find a monk who can smash clay pots 15 feet away with just a flick of the wrist what chi is. He will give you a better idea than just e=mc2."

    this is the type of nonesense im talking about..ok am i going to completely disbelieve this is possible..no, because im aware of the capabilities of masters, but, this is not probable, no one does this, the best masters in the world do not do this, so please dont post that kind thing about something that is real.

    chi isnt a mystical crazy force that kung fu fighters like boasting about, and its not just some crazy energy that taoists talk about. its real and can be felt, not only have i felt chi, but i can feel it just about any time i decide to practice. in shaolin chi is integrated with the techniques, i was actually just writeing about this on another forum..

    anyway, chi is basically your life force, in shaolin we say, where the chi goes the blood goes, therefore there are tremendous health benefits to be had. its no wonder really why masters are at their peak when they are 50, and why www.blacktaoist.com the 90+ year old men at this website utilize the 8 diagram palm(baguazhang) to promote health and self defense!!

    chi not only sustains life but it promotes it, in chinese martial arts the ageing process is slowed because of the chi kung we practice. basically, the ageing process is due to cells being used and reused, each that dies another is replaced, only that cell is a little weaker then the next. the aim of the chi kung practitioner is to enhance the flow of chi, and to utilize the effects of its flow in our bodies to replenish and cleanse the internal organs and blood so that we may build more chi then we loose therefore slowing down the process of deterioration.

    ok, the aim of chi kung practitioners can be various, i shouldnt have said we all do it to slow the ageing process, really no matter what chi kung you do the effects on the ageing process will be the same.
     
  16. Master Vigil

    Master Vigil New Member

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    You have never seen someone do that? I have. Well, perhaps I should say "Ask a tibetan monk who can control their body temperature what chi is about." Is that better? I'm sure you believe they can do that, Harvard did a study a couple years ago on it.

    http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2002/04.18/09-tummo.html

    Either way, chi is more than just e=mc^2.
     
  17. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    http://www.usashaolintemple.com/

    shaolin monk shi yan ming says he would bow down to anyone and call them sifu(master, teacher, father,sir etc) if they could hit someone without touching them.

    and hes one of the good monks, there are alot of shaolin fakes and whatnot, but regardless he grew up in shaolin temple pre and post cultural revolution i believe.. either way hes the real deal, the guy licks white hot iron, he chops lettuce on his chest with a meat cleaver, he can do all the iron body qi gong like most of the monks, his skills are amazing..blablabla

    hes the one that has wu tang clans RZA as a disciple and stuff..

    either way, if some monk in tibet could nonchalantly bust a clay pot or something from a distance with a flick of his wrist..i dont see how that type of power wouldnt be harnessed by shaolin. not to say that it isnt..but shi yan ming doesnt know of it i dont know of it, really i mean its possible but still.. its sketchy
     
  18. Master Vigil

    Master Vigil New Member

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    The man I knew who could do it was actually a ninpo shidoshi. I suppose it isn't a normal thing, I guess from his humility I supposed it was normal. I apologize for making it seem like any master could do it.

    Let's forget that then. Have you read the study on the Tibetan monks doing Tum Mo?
     
  19. Zazen

    Zazen New Member

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    i read some of the study, the effects of qi gong are truly amazing, heating up a towel is a sign of discipline, and of a lama... either way, its obvious they know how to make the chi follow their intent, which is a big part of alot of meditation in shaolin and other buddhist schools. he would not be capable of those things if it werent for his understanding of qi

    banna hey listen , where else can you document the qi theory in the jewish or christian texts? id like to know more from a more western source
     
  20. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

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    i don't know about the christian ones and the jewish understanding of qi is pretty obscure. i only found out about it recently. however, maimonides is about as western as it's going to get.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     

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