Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

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Astus
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Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Astus »

In the introduction of Peter Alan Roberts' new book "Mahamudra and Related Instructions" it says that the energy system as it appeared in India with the chakras and nadis originates from Central Asia and it has a Taoist source. Anyone to provide more information on this?

The text says,

"The candali practice also involves the physiology of sexuality, generally described from a male perspective. It corresponds with far more ancient Taoist practices, which have a greater number of pressure points in breath control, called jade locks, and a specific female morphology that has the retention of menstruation as the parallel to the male retention of ejaculation. Candali and the cakra system appeared in the Buddhist tradition subsequent to a period of Buddhist and Taoist coexistence in Central Asia. The cakras, literally "wheels," are the points where subsidiary channels branch off into the body, but they were unknown in India before the latter centuries of the first millennium, when they first appeared in both Saivism and Buddhism."
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
Malcolm
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote:In the introduction of Peter Alan Roberts' new book "Mahamudra and Related Instructions" it says that the energy system as it appeared in India with the chakras and nadis originates from Central Asia and it has a Taoist source. Anyone to provide more information on this?

The text says,

"The candali practice also involves the physiology of sexuality, generally described from a male perspective. It corresponds with far more ancient Taoist practices, which have a greater number of pressure points in breath control, called jade locks, and a specific female morphology that has the retention of menstruation as the parallel to the male retention of ejaculation. Candali and the cakra system appeared in the Buddhist tradition subsequent to a period of Buddhist and Taoist coexistence in Central Asia. The cakras, literally "wheels," are the points where subsidiary channels branch off into the body, but they were unknown in India before the latter centuries of the first millennium, when they first appeared in both Saivism and Buddhism."
He is mistaken. Cakras and Nadis appear in pre-Buddhist upanishads. The famed number 72,000 nadis occurs in the Brihadaryanika, look up Hita. The early mentions of vāyus, cakras and nadis are all to be found in the twopre- Buddhist Upanishads, and perhaps other early Puranic literature I have not seen. There is no reason in this instance to assume an extra-Indian origin for these theories.

Candali Yoga is based again an Upanishadic verse from the Candoga which is frequently cited in Buddhist texts discussing the difference between Buddhist tantric practices and Hindu corrollaries. In actuality, Candali Yoga is based on the Indian concept of the burnt offering.

Moreover, Indian doctors were certainly aware of arteries and veins, the difference between them and so on. If anything, the notion of channels and cakras comes from Ayurveda.

Please near in mind I am not opposed to influences of this sort on genera principle -- for example, the Chinese certainly invented pulse diagnosis, which spread to Tibet and finally to India. The Greeks invered Urinalysis, which spread to Tibetan and India (via Unnani), and so on. Mercury preperation certainly originated in China, and only spread to India later, as David Gordon White shows, based on Needleman. But there is no valid reason to suppose that cakra and nadi theory is based on Taoism.

N
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Astus
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Astus »

What you say is one of the reasons that such Chinese connection surprised me. Perhaps I will contact him for clarification.

update: Except that I couldn't find any contact info for him... :thinking:
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
narraboth
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by narraboth »

Indeed chakra shouldn't be from china, because there's no such an idea in chinese medicine.
The importance of 'lower stomach' was emphasised, but the 'channel' in chinese medicine were all on body surface rather than in the middle of body.

but there might be other influence; the idea of retending ejeculation via breathing control was in 'white lady's text', which was made around 1st centry.
however, there are many cultures also all value semen, so it's hard to say how much chinese theory influence indian theory.
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Pero »

narraboth wrote:Indeed chakra shouldn't be from china, because there's no such an idea in chinese medicine.
The importance of 'lower stomach' was emphasised, but the 'channel' in chinese medicine were all on body surface rather than in the middle of body.
There is something similar to central channel, called the taiji pole and then there are the thrusting channels and thrusting vessels that go through the middle of the body. The other channels also don't go only on the surface but have their internal pathways. I suppose we think of them going on the surface only because that's where they can be accessed through acupuncture points. But anyway, I don't know much, perhaps Pema Chopel could give his expert opinion. :smile:
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by heart »

Astus wrote:What you say is one of the reasons that such Chinese connection surprised me. Perhaps I will contact him for clarification.

update: Except that I couldn't find any contact info for him... :thinking:
He is on facebook.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
narraboth
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by narraboth »

Pero wrote:
narraboth wrote:Indeed chakra shouldn't be from china, because there's no such an idea in chinese medicine.
The importance of 'lower stomach' was emphasised, but the 'channel' in chinese medicine were all on body surface rather than in the middle of body.
There is something similar to central channel, called the taiji pole and then there are the thrusting channels and thrusting vessels that go through the middle of the body. The other channels also don't go only on the surface but have their internal pathways. I suppose we think of them going on the surface only because that's where they can be accessed through acupuncture points. But anyway, I don't know much, perhaps Pema Chopel could give his expert opinion. :smile:
can you offer a chinese link of that theory...

well, as you may know, I am a chinese, and i did chinese traditional medicine exam before i came to the UK...
haven't seen of Taiji pole in really ancient books... I hope it's not newly created term.
Maybe it's just my ignorance, but i should be able to know if i can read the chinese metrials.

and yes, the two main channels (REN and DU) might have its underskin way, but mainly they were at front and back, unlike indian left and right channels.
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Pero »

narraboth wrote:
Pero wrote:
narraboth wrote:Indeed chakra shouldn't be from china, because there's no such an idea in chinese medicine.
The importance of 'lower stomach' was emphasised, but the 'channel' in chinese medicine were all on body surface rather than in the middle of body.
There is something similar to central channel, called the taiji pole and then there are the thrusting channels and thrusting vessels that go through the middle of the body. The other channels also don't go only on the surface but have their internal pathways. I suppose we think of them going on the surface only because that's where they can be accessed through acupuncture points. But anyway, I don't know much, perhaps Pema Chopel could give his expert opinion. :smile:
can you offer a chinese link of that theory...
Hehe no, since I don't speak Chinese.
well, as you may know, I am a chinese, and i did chinese traditional medicine exam before i came to the UK...
haven't seen of Taiji pole in really ancient books... I hope it's not newly created term.
Well, I learned about it in dr. Jerry Alan Johnson's book Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy, qigong explanations might not be the same as acupuncture or other.
The Taiji Pole flows from the Baihui point at the top of the head through the center core of the body to the Huiyin point at the base of the perineum. It is seen as a vertical column (or pole) of brilliant white light, full of vibration and energetic pulsation. The Taiji Pole roots the energy of the divine within the human body, envelops the spine, connects the Three Dantians, and links together the seven primary chakras.
I don't recall if I saw the reference to it elsewhere though, so I guess it could be specific to his lineage or his own invention...
and yes, the two main channels (REN and DU) might have its underskin way, but mainly they were at front and back, unlike indian left and right channels.
All channels seem to have an internal pathway (how else would they connect to the organs?).
And a little about the thrusting vessels I mentioned:
The First Branches of the Thrusting Vessels originate from the Yellow Court and ascend in two columns upwards through the Heart and Middle Dantian areas. They continue to ascend through the throat, encircle the lips and energetically connect with the Governing and Conception Vessels. The first branches of the Thrusting Vessels terminate on each side of the nasal cavity.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by narraboth »

it's a bit hard to say who influence whom in this case now, because it's hard to say what part of chi kung theory started at what time.

but I guess people do feel energy moving inside no matter which country they belong to.
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by peteralanroberts »

Hello everyone, It's exciting to see this forum. Although now I realize I have been here before as I was able to login.
The paragraph that has stirred interest was almost left out, in fact I thought it might have been left out, but was reduced from what it was, principally because the notes and sources that are mainly from lectures and meetings in Oxford are in a box in an attic in Wales! There will be a reprint of the book so I welcome any criticisms and counter proofs, and hopefully I will revise that section one way or the other.
I don't believe that any new element in a culture has to come from another culture as each has its own dynamic evolution with each successive generation and there are parallel but unrelated developments in human cultures, as the same time it is fascinating to see the way in which these influences or ingredients can travel from one culture or geographical area to another, and India is a prime example of this with Sanskrit and the Vedic deities having their European origin. The earliest record of the language and the deities being amongst the neighbors to the Hittites in what is now north west Turkey, before the arrival of the Aryans in India. It was a delight to read the Vedic hymn to Mithras and visit the ruins of his temple which are uncannily still present in the middle of London.
Also of interest is the indigenous culture and we can see its influence linguistically in the retroflexion of the consonants, but so often we only have the textual tracks of these vanished cultures and sometimes the tracks run back and fore over each other.
There is rarely a description of in one tradition of its expropriation of the elements of another, but we can see, for example how it it only after the Greek colonization of north-west India that the seven day week the twelve signs of the zodiac, the theory of atoms and of the four elements of earth, air fire and water, and a particular tradition of figurative sculpture appear in Indian culture, when they had already been such a prominent aspect of the incoming one.
But sometimes these incursions can be far less obvious, as when Richard Gombrich describes the “pizza process” in stating that just as pizza was an American import to Italy, Hinduism was a British import into India. Of course, that is put in a simplistic and deliberately provocative manner, as Richard Gombrich relishes a good combative discussion, but I hope not to raise any hackles here!
But a clearer and better known example of this is the Heart Sutra as a Chinese import into India. Of course all the ingredients that make it up have an Indian origin, but the marks of its linguistic passage through Chinese and back into hybrid Sanskrit are clear signs of the process that it went through.
This back and fore is also something that took place within one culture, as we have seen with the Shaivism and Buddhism, Vaishnavism and Buddhism ad in Tibet the Bon and Nyingma, this is really facilitated by someone being simultaneously a master of Shaivism and Buddhism or of Bon and Nyingma or Kagyu and Nyingma or Nyignma and Gelukpa (as with the Lhalung lineage). What has been little researched is what degree of interchange there was in central Asia when Taoism, Buddhism and Shaivite communities coexisted geographically.
As for the chakra system, it's not that these terms and the idea of nadis and breath control techniques and yogic practices did not exist already. The brilliant researcher in Shavitie tantra, Alexis Sanderson in Oxford had many astonishing discoveries that he revealed, and without the notes (hopefully I will obtain them before long) I am wary of misrepresenting them. In spite of his years of work he has only recently began to publish.
But to put it simply there are different and temporally consecutive levels of Shaivite tantra, and the succeeding one portrays the new form of Shiva standing on the form of the Shiva from the earlier tradition, culminating in Kali in the Kaula tradition who stand upon the Shiva from the preceding tantra. It is on one of these strata of Shaivite tantra that the now ubiquitous chakra system makes a sudden and complete appearance in the early latter half of the first millennium. Someone mentioned that there is a mention of chakra in the Chandogya Upanishad, which, though true, in that case it is only the name of a person, and does not relate to this inner mystic anatomy. Even if it is not entirely indigenous, there must be precedents. I had hoped to make a survey of these practices as they appear in the successive texts, but hopefully there will be readers here that can enlighten us further.
Although everyone lived through days and had the stars above, the similarity with the zodiac and the seven day week is too similar in its details to the Greek and combined with the time of its appearance to be a parallel coincidental development. We find such an uncanny and surprising coincidence of detail when we see the early Taoist texts. I have particularly been looking at this from the context of the chandali practices. The five chakras have their exact analogies in the five gates of such texts as... I'm not sure if this is the one we read but it would have been something like The Yellow Chamber or one of the similar texts which were in existence by the third century of the first millenium. Most striking is the idea that semen descends from the area of the brain, passes though these five gates (I notice that even modern Taoists have started using the term chakra) to the genitals and that there must be retention of ejaculation and its drawing back up to the crown of the head. Absent from the Indian versions is the inner female anatomy and the theory of menstrual blood retention, and there are also the same but less points of breath control in the Indian system. Although we all have bodies and ejaculate (well half of us do) unless one posits an inherently existing inner anatomy that can be realized through wisdom, it seems unlikely that following a period when there could be exposure to these Taoist ideas, such a similar structure and philosophy of the body would have appeared independently within Shaivism. This is not to say that this is a wholesale transposition, in all these back and fore influences, these factors are usually absorbed to express a specific and individual view and goal of a certain tradition, and therefore the various Shaivite influences on Buddhism do not affect the central premise of bodhicitta and the attainment of enlightenment, In fact the semen, or its energy, becomes called or actually is bodhicitta in these perfection stage practices. It's assumed that the influence came via Shaivism and not directly, interestingly the earlieer Guhyasamaja sexual practices did not involve semen retention. Also interesting is the specific inner anatomy of the Thogal practices in Nyingma and Bon, with a very distinctive arrangement of nadis and chakras, identical in both traditions, but as far as I know with a mysterious origin, though central asia is often posited. It is often assumed that the transposition was all one way from Nyingma to Bon, but this is complicated by the earliest termas and tertons and the earliest bardo thodrol (“Tibetan Book of the Dead”) being within the Bon tradition. Even now we see the ongoing metamorphosis of Buddhism with in some places aspects of zen and psychotherapy being subsumed to express ot facilitate Buddhist view and praxis.
Please excuse this rather hurried and late response, which is full of tangential rambling, and vague references, and squashed between two deadlines, but most important is to have any clarification or correction that anyone can provide, and it is exciting to see a website where these topics are addressed. Life is so short and there is far too much to ever know, so I look forward to any illumination of my ignorance. Best wishes,
Peter Alan Roberts

p.s. I was going through this a bit with an expert in Chinese medicine in Oxford, but she was unfamiliar with these texts. Anyway I hope any blundering ignorance and errors I make will inspire clarity and illumination.
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by heart »

Dear Peter Alan Roberts,

Nice to see you here. I know nothing of the main subject in this thread but I have to ask you about the Bon origin of the bardo thodrol. The origin of any bardo thodrol must somehow be closely connected to the origins of the Guhyagharbha Tantra and as far as I know no one have suggested that the Guhyagharba Tantra comes from Bon, are you suggesting this? Also, I must ask if you are suggesting that the the tradition of reveling Termas is imported from the Bon tradition?

We met once in Sweden when you "translated" for CR Lama. I remember your good spirits and humor despite the treatment you got.

/magnus
"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)
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Re: Taoist Origin of Tantric Energy System

Post by Malcolm »

peteralanroberts wrote:Also interesting is the specific inner anatomy of the Thogal practices in Nyingma and Bon, with a very distinctive arrangement of nadis and chakras, identical in both traditions, but as far as I know with a mysterious origin, though central asia is often posited.
These nadis (aka ba men rva) are simply poetic descriptions of the optical sheath which houses the optic nerve. In Tibetan Medicine, the terms "dar skud", silk thread, is a common alternate term for nerves (rtsa dkar po). The fact that so called "ka ti" is identified as possessing the nature of fire is merely a reflection of the fact that in Ayruveda and Tibetan Medicine the eye posseses the alocaka pitta (mthong byed mkhris pa) and so on.

There is no need to posit a mysterious central asian origin. Their origin is found in the seventeen tantras. The understanding of the seventeen tantras is wedded with a Tibetan (and perhaps earlier Indian) understanding of human anatomy based on Dissection. Tibetans not only inheritied descriptions of dissections from Hellenic Medicine; unlike Indians and Chinese culture, they did not have the same taboo around cutting up bodies. The Tibetan doctors therefore had a better grasp of anatomy in general than Indian and Chinese doctors from an early period in the history of Tibetan Medicine.
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