Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

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Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby himalayanspirit » Tue Jan 24, 2012 7:50 pm

What are the parallels between the energy practices of Tantra and Taoism? As far as I know, in Taoism they use body postures, slow dynamic movements (Qi Gong), circle walking etc to cultivate the Qi/Chi, Jing and Shen of the body for various purposes. Even Chinese acupuncturists have a standard chart of various channels and meridians for the flow of Qi through these for healing purposes. In fact, there are lots of theories like microcosmic orbit, macrocosmic orbit, five elements, Yi Jing etc that are used by Taoist or Taoist-derived arts.

From the little I am aware of Tantra (Buddhist), theory usually tend to be much less "physical" compared to the Taoists and rather use chanting, visualization and other religious methods to cultivate the "winds". Moreover, they tend to be dependent on deities, spirits and other beings for the cultivation of their life-force. Yet, it appears that most Tibetan Buddhist Yogins find it difficult to reach high levels of control over the winds even after many years of secluded retreats and practice. Compare this with the Taoists or practitioner of Taoist-derived arts. Even a martial artist will be able to open microcosmic orbit within 100 days if he practices regularly and naturally for the same time period.

So my questions are :

1. Is there at least a conformity between these traditions with regard to the theory of human body, its channels, the Qi/prana/winds etc or they are completely different from each other? Since both the traditions deliver what they offer, it seems that the theory - i.e the channels, meridiens, five organs etc - are similar, if not the same.

2. Are Taoist methods superior? I am saying this because they do not require the help of a higher being, they can cultivate the Qi, Jing and Shen just through physical postures and exercises, aided with mental relaxation and visualization. Moreover, they tend to reach the goal faster than the Tibetan Buddhist. I was reading the bio of a Tibetan Buddhist who lived in a cave for decades in the recent thread created for that sub-forum. This Yogin lived in seclusion for years and years, and still when he was observed in a lab in the west by scientists, mere external factors like the scientific environment, setup, scientists etc were big impediments for his control of his "inner heat". On the other hand, Taoists and martial artists, who have also volunteered for such experiments, usually showed much better control of their Qi.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Tue Jan 24, 2012 8:28 pm

himalayanspirit wrote:From the little I am aware of Tantra (Buddhist), theory usually tend to be much less "physical" compared to the Taoists and rather use chanting, visualization and other religious methods to cultivate the "winds". Moreover, they tend to be dependent on deities, spirits and other beings for the cultivation of their life-force.

Vajrayana methods are certainly not dependent on any spirits.

Yet, it appears that most Tibetan Buddhist Yogins find it difficult to reach high levels of control over the winds even after many years of secluded retreats and practice. Compare this with the Taoists or practitioner of Taoist-derived arts. Even a martial artist will be able to open microcosmic orbit within 100 days if he practices regularly and naturally for the same time period.

Yes well, the goal of a Vajrayana practitioner is Buddhahood, not just some cultivation of "life-force". So what is opening the MO in comparison? Nothing.

1. Is there at least a conformity between these traditions with regard to the theory of human body, its channels, the Qi/prana/winds etc or they are completely different from each other? Since both the traditions deliver what they offer, it seems that the theory - i.e the channels, meridiens, five organs etc - are similar, if not the same.

I suppose you can find similarities but they're not the same.

2. Are Taoist methods superior?

Again, Vajrayana methods lead to Buddhahood. How could Taoist ones be superior?

On the other hand, Taoists and martial artists, who have also volunteered for such experiments, usually showed much better control of their Qi.

This is the first I heard of it. Tibetan practitioners became famous for their tummo done in labs, never heard of any Taoists doing something similar.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Jan 25, 2012 9:01 am

Pero wrote:1. Is there at least a conformity between these traditions with regard to the theory of human body, its channels, the Qi/prana/winds etc or they are completely different from each other? Since both the traditions deliver what they offer, it seems that the theory - i.e the channels, meridiens, five organs etc - are similar, if not the same.


There are some parallels. Some chakras are similar in both systems - e.g. head, heart, lower abdomen. IMO, the Buddhist center channel (uma) is essentially the same as the Taoist "penetrating vessel" (chong mai) - although some may disagree. The other meridians of the Taoist system are not used in Buddhist practice, as far as i know. And the Buddhist left and right channels have no parallel in Taoist anatomy. I have heard there is a Taoist version of Tummo.

himalayanspirit wrote:2. Are Taoist methods superior? I am saying this because they do not require the help of a higher being, they can cultivate the Qi, Jing and Shen just through physical postures and exercises, aided with mental relaxation and visualization. Moreover, they tend to reach the goal faster than the Tibetan Buddhist. I was reading the bio of a Tibetan Buddhist who lived in a cave for decades in the recent thread created for that sub-forum. This Yogin lived in seclusion for years and years, and still when he was observed in a lab in the west by scientists, mere external factors like the scientific environment, setup, scientists etc were big impediments for his control of his "inner heat". On the other hand, Taoists and martial artists, who have also volunteered for such experiments, usually showed much better control of their Qi.

Other than the singular anecdotal report of the Buddhist yogi you mentioned, on what do you base your conclusion that Taoist practices produce faster results? Also, it is a dualistic reduction to say that Buddhist methods require the help of a "higher being."
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Wed Jan 25, 2012 10:35 am

dakini_boi wrote:There are some parallels. Some chakras are similar in both systems - e.g. head, heart, lower abdomen. IMO, the Buddhist center channel (uma) is essentially the same as the Taoist "penetrating vessel" (chong mai) - although some may disagree.

Yes since penetrating vessels don't go through the center... It seems to me that if you wanted to make a comparison they're actually more corresponding to the left and right channels instead.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:06 pm

The main (prenatal) branch of the chong mai goes through the core of the body, all the way from the perineum to the crown. Most of the acupuncture points associated with the chong mai are on the kidney channels, which go up the sides of the abdomen and chest - this is the postnatal chong, and this is how the chong is usually accessed through acupuncture and shown in illustrations. If you read descriptions of the pathways of the chong mai in acupuncture texts, it is very difficult to follow - but it will describe that it goes from the lower abdomen up to the head. I don't have a textual reference for the distinction between prenatal and postnatal chong mai, but my information comes from an oral tradition through a student of Jeffrey Yuen.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Wed Jan 25, 2012 5:45 pm

dakini_boi wrote:The main (prenatal) branch of the chong mai goes through the core of the body, all the way from the perineum to the crown. Most of the acupuncture points associated with the chong mai are on the kidney channels, which go up the sides of the abdomen and chest - this is the postnatal chong, and this is how the chong is usually accessed through acupuncture and shown in illustrations. If you read descriptions of the pathways of the chong mai in acupuncture texts, it is very difficult to follow - but it will describe that it goes from the lower abdomen up to the head.

Yes I knew they go inside but missed that they go through the spine up to the crown too. I still don't think this corresponds to the central channel though, which to me seems to be the taiji pole that goes through the center of the body from the perineum till the crown of the head. J.A. Johnson says that the thrusting vessels are more superficial than the taiji pole even though they lie in the center of the body.


I don't have a textual reference for the distinction between prenatal and postnatal chong mai, but my information comes from an oral tradition through a student of Jeffrey Yuen.

Cool.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby AilurusFulgens » Wed Jan 25, 2012 6:50 pm

In my opinion it is very risky to make comparisons between such rather different system as Daoism and Vajrayana. There might have been mutual influences to a certain extent, but please do consider the following:

- the Daoists aim at achieving: merging with the Dao, ascending to Heaven in broad daylight, to live as long as the Sun and the Moon, to attain immortality, etc.

- the Buddhists aim at achieving: enlightenment

Buddhism in general and Vajrayana specifically have very particular views and goals. If the goals are different then the discussion about "superiority" or "inferiority" become futile. Please also consider the great importance that Buddhism attributes to the "view" itself. If the "view" is faulty, then reaching the goal of enlightenment could be problematic (to put it mildly).

Let me give a rather silly example: we have two tourists - one wants to go to Canada and the other to Mexico. They may both use similar modes of travel, but the goals are entirely different. Someone who has taken leave from his job just for the purpose of going to Canada will not be interested of going to Mexico and vice-versa.

Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:19 pm

Pero wrote:Yes I knew they go inside but missed that they go through the spine up to the crown too. I still don't think this corresponds to the central channel though, which to me seems to be the taiji pole that goes through the center of the body from the perineum till the crown of the head. J.A. Johnson says that the thrusting vessels are more superficial than the taiji pole even though they lie in the center of the body.


Yes, there are differing opinions re. meridian pathways, especially in the case of the 8 extra vessels.

Here's how I was taught: in Taoist embryology, the chong mai is the first vessel to form. That is why it is called "the sea of the primary meridians," because all the meridians come from the chong. The chong is considered the primordial vessel, because it forms prior to the differentiation between yin and yang (front/back, up/down). In the case of a single-cell embryo (or any single-cell organism), the chong is the central pole of the cell. When a cell splits, the dna lines up along this central pole. Then as the cell splits and the organism becomes more complex, there is a distinction of front and back (ren mai & du mai), as well as circumference (dai mai). The central pole of a single cell eventually becomes the central channel in the fully-formed organism. All the other pathways that you read about the chong mai are descriptions of how the central channel can be accessed through other meridians, as this is the most effective way of approaching the chong through acupuncture.

btw, just to clarify - the chong does have branches that trace both the ren mai and du mai. But the main pathway goes from the perineum through the diaphragm, heart, throat, and crown - not the same as the branch that goes up the spine.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Jan 25, 2012 7:22 pm

AilurusFulgens wrote:- the Daoists aim at achieving: merging with the Dao, ascending to Heaven in broad daylight, to live as long as the Sun and the Moon, to attain immortality, etc.

- the Buddhists aim at achieving: enlightenment


great point about differing goals. It would be nice to have an erudite Taoist on here to help clarify the significance of the goals of Taoist practice.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:07 pm

dakini_boi wrote:
Pero wrote:Yes I knew they go inside but missed that they go through the spine up to the crown too. I still don't think this corresponds to the central channel though, which to me seems to be the taiji pole that goes through the center of the body from the perineum till the crown of the head. J.A. Johnson says that the thrusting vessels are more superficial than the taiji pole even though they lie in the center of the body.


Yes, there are differing opinions re. meridian pathways, especially in the case of the 8 extra vessels.

Here's how I was taught: in Taoist embryology, the chong mai is the first vessel to form. That is why it is called "the sea of the primary meridians," because all the meridians come from the chong. The chong is considered the primordial vessel, because it forms prior to the differentiation between yin and yang (front/back, up/down). In the case of a single-cell embryo (or any single-cell organism), the chong is the central pole of the cell. When a cell splits, the dna lines up along this central pole. Then as the cell splits and the organism becomes more complex, there is a distinction of front and back (ren mai & du mai), as well as circumference (dai mai). The central pole of a single cell eventually becomes the central channel in the fully-formed organism. All the other pathways that you read about the chong mai are descriptions of how the central channel can be accessed through other meridians, as this is the most effective way of approaching the chong through acupuncture.

btw, just to clarify - the chong does have branches that trace both the ren mai and du mai. But the main pathway goes from the perineum through the diaphragm, heart, throat, and crown - not the same as the branch that goes up the spine.

Interesting, thanks.

It would be nice to have an erudite Taoist on here to help clarify the significance of the goals of Taoist practice.

If I remember right, Jeffrey Yuen said that the goal of Taoist Alchemy is the redemption of spirit from matter.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:34 pm

Pero wrote:If I remember right, Jeffrey Yuen said that the goal of Taoist Alchemy is the redemption of spirit from matter.


So I guess from a Buddhist POV, the only problem with this goal is that it is not a permanent attainment. Probably would correspond to form or formless god realms. Do Taoists consider this outcome permanent?
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby AilurusFulgens » Wed Jan 25, 2012 8:57 pm

dakini_boi wrote:So I guess from a Buddhist POV, the only problem with this goal is that it is not a permanent attainment. Probably would correspond to form or formless god realms. Do Taoists consider this outcome permanent?


And this my friend is the key point. The confusion is also due to translations from Chinese into various Western languages, where the terms "immortality" and "immortals" are consistently used.

Immortality in my book means that you exist eternally i.e. for "gazillion" years, throughout all of the great pralayas, etc., etc. Nothing can destroy you, you do not cease to exist - ever.

Everything less than that is not permanent. Even if you live for 1 billion years it is still not immortality - it is merely extreme longevity which looks to us ordinary humans as immortality.

And even if Daoists would claim that they are indeed able to achieve immortality in the proper sense of the word it would have to be by definition permanent, since impermanent immortality is an oxymoron and self-contradictory. This though would be completely irreconcilable with the most basic Buddhist notion of anitya (Pali: anicca) or impermanence.

If on the other hand the Chinese had in mind extreme longevity and not immortality, then you have basically the problem that even if you live for 1 billion years you will still one day have to leave your body. The solution would be of course that you would have methods through which you could acquire or enter into a new body with your memories, mental, spiritual and other faculties intact.

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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby himalayanspirit » Thu Jan 26, 2012 8:57 am

Buddhism in general and Vajrayana specifically have very particular views and goals.


I dont think we can conclusively call Vajrayana as Buddhism. It doesn't follow anything of the early Buddhism - Tripitika and other early scriptures. Moreover, if my personal opinion means anything, Vajrayana could as well be the work of Mara to delude the Buddhists away from the path. For example, it is well known that none of the Vajrayana scriptures came from Buddha but some beings of other planes. These beings, Yidams, and others could be Mara masquerading as "other Buddhas". Mara had tried to influence even Buddha during his struggle for enlightenment and it is well known that in deep Samadhi Buddhists tend to see various beings and planes, sometimes even getting attached to them. In any case, Vajrayana came from "Hindu" religions like Yoga, Tantras, Kapalikas, Aghoris etc. At some point in time probably the Yogins or sages succeeded in persuading the Bhikhshus of giving up the renunciate's life to enjoy worldly desires.

Coming back to the topic, I do practice a Taoist art (Tai Chi) and could already feel the "Dantien" and inner heat within two months of disciplined practice. But from what I have gathered of Vajrayana, it takes years and years for Vajrayanists to gain any control of their psychic channels. Which is why I thought Taoism must be superior to Tantric methods. Moreover, Taoist practices are simple physical exercises along with mind-integration that lead to "quick" (relative) results where as Vajrayana seems to be a practice based on devotion, occultism and rituals (something our Buddha Shakyamuni did not admire much). Also you must know that some Tantric practices were present in early China as well among the general Mahayanists (from which sects like Shingon sprang up), but still the Mahayanists were not impressed much with the Taoists. On the contrary, many Taoists ended up converting to Buddhism.


Can an Arhat gain control of his psychic channels automatically by attaining arhathood? Or it still requires specific practices present in Vajrayana and Taoism?
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Jan 26, 2012 9:46 am

himalayanspirit wrote:I do practice a Taoist art (Tai Chi) and could already feel the "Dantien" and inner heat within two months of disciplined practice. But from what I have gathered of Vajrayana, it takes years and years for Vajrayanists to gain any control of their psychic channels. Which is why I thought Taoism must be superior to Tantric methods.


I'm glad to hear of your success in Tai Chi practice. Please understand that complete control of one's psychic channels is very different from having some signs that the practice is working. Many practitioners of Buddhist yoga also experience early signs of success, but this doesn't mean they have full control of their psychic channels.

As for your speculations about the source of Vajrayana, and whether or not it is authentic Buddhism, I understand where you are coming from. On the surface, certain aspects of Vajrayana seem incongruous with Shakyamuni's root vehicle. And I'm sure you can find many full-blown discussions about it on this board. If you have no interest or attraction to Vajrayana, that's certainly ok - it's definitely not for everyone. But if you do have any interest in discovering how Vajrayana might be an authentic Buddhist path, study it with an open mind and you may be surprised.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:02 am

AilurusFulgens wrote:
dakini_boi wrote:So I guess from a Buddhist POV, the only problem with this goal is that it is not a permanent attainment. Probably would correspond to form or formless god realms. Do Taoists consider this outcome permanent?


And this my friend is the key point. The confusion is also due to translations from Chinese into various Western languages, where the terms "immortality" and "immortals" are consistently used. ...

Yes I think permanent too. And after all, why would one follow something to achieve an impermanent result?
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:16 am

Pero,
Pero wrote:Yes I think permanent too. And after all, why would one follow something to achieve an impermanent result?


Are you saying that you believe the results of Taoist alchemy are permanent, or just that Taoists themselves believe that? If it is permanent, then it would be Buddhahood. I've often speculated on whether or not Taoists methods were capable of resulting in complete Buddhahood.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby Pero » Thu Jan 26, 2012 10:24 am

dakini_boi wrote:Pero,
Pero wrote:Yes I think permanent too. And after all, why would one follow something to achieve an impermanent result?


Are you saying that you believe the results of Taoist alchemy are permanent, or just that Taoists themselves believe that? If it is permanent, then it would be Buddhahood. I've often speculated on whether or not Taoists methods were capable of resulting in complete Buddhahood.

I'm saying that Taoists believe that. I have wondered the same in the past.
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby shum » Tue Nov 05, 2013 7:39 am

Hello everyone, very new here and enjoying all the discussions so far. I am particularly interested to know if anyone knows of any extant scholarly research on the connection between Daoism and Buddhist Tantra. Please let me know, thank you!
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Re: Taoism and Buddhist Tantra

Postby bryandavis » Tue Nov 05, 2013 4:01 pm

Good post so far, this subject interest me greatly as it was Daoist philosophy and Martial Arts and TCM that really magnatized me toward contemplative practice.

From my experience, I studied Traditional Chinese Martial Arts (Choy Lee Fut, as taught by a direct descendant in this style, so a strong unbroken "lineage") intensively for ten years, I can say that "chi gung" and working with that energy has some cross over with winds and channels and drops but only on a very surface level. Literally. Remember there are different kinds of "chi" in the Daoist systems, Heavenly chi, earth chi, yin, yang, then all the branches in the body like kidey, heart, lung, etc....

Taoist methods like Tai'Chi or E'mei mountain daoist methods, as well as Shaolin / Sil Lum gung fu is working with mainly WEI CHI or the energy that spreads in the body for protective and restorative functions. For body longevity and for physical health. Of course there are deeper internal methods but that is hard to find. There is "warmth" that comes with practicing the martial methods but I think that comes from movement and the blood flowing and good breathing techniques.

I have had the opportunity to engage in retreat and to some extent practice for a decent length tsa lung in the Buddhist context. And I can say they are not aiming at the same goal, at all. Perhaps the more esoteric Taoist methods are more subtle, I'm sure they are but 99% of what is readily accessible for people to engage in when it comes to Daoist or Chan'Buddhist martial practices / energy practices don't develop the same qualities that Tsa Lung practices do.

Of course I'm not an expert, this is from my own limited efforts and experiences. I would like to hear more from advanced Daoist practitioners in terms of chi cultivation though. Quite interesting.

all the best,
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