Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durckhei

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durckhei

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:12 am

Hara: The Vital Centre of Man
by Karlfried Graf Von Durckheim
Translated from the German by Sylvia-Monica von Kospoth in collaboration with Estelle R. Healey
This translation © George Allen & Unwin (Publishers) Ltd 1962, 1977, 1985
Translated from the German: Hara: Die Erdmitte des Menschen, © Otto Wilhelm Barth-Verlag, G.m.b.H., Munich, 1956



View of the Whirlpools of Naruto. Japanese print by Hiroshige. 1857. Victoria and Albert Museum. Crown copyright ISBN 0-04-290012-3


o 1. Hara in the Life if the Japanese
o 2. Hara in the Everyday Life of Japan
o 3. Hara as the Purpose of Practice
o 4. Hara in the Japanese Language
o 1. Eastern and Western Views of Hara
 (a) The General Significance of the Centre if the Body
 (b) The European Attitude to the Belly
 (c) Natural Hara
 (d) The Two Levels
o 1. The Living Form Centred in Hara
o 2. The Ego and the Vital Centre
o 3. Malformations of the I
o 4. Hara as Secular Power
o 5. Hara in Experience, Insight and Practice
o 6. The Strength, Breadth and Closeness Engendered by Hara
o 7. The Order of Life in the Symbolism of the Body
o 1. The Purpose and Pre-requisite of all Practice
o 2. The Purpose and Limits of Practice
o 3. The Pre-requisites of all Practice
o 4. Posture, Breath, Tension -- as Starting Points of Practice
o 5. The Practice of Right Posture
o 6. Sitting with Hara
o 7. Tension-Relaxation
o 8. The Practice of Breathing
• APPENDIX: Japanese Texts
o 1. Okado Torajiro
o 2. Sato Tsuji: The Teaching of the Human Body
o 3. Kaneko Shoseki: Nature and Origin of Man
• Illustrations
• 1. Horyuji-Kura, Boddhisattvis
• 2. Japanese tea ceremony: The Kabuki Choir
• 3. Horyuji-Kondo, Yumechigai-Kwannon
• 4. Master Kenran Umeji, Master Ekyo Hayashi's painting of Kwannon
• 5. Mary Magdalene: The Synagogue
• 6. Yakushiji-Kodo, Nikko Bosatsu
• 7. The Forebears of Christ: Young Zen monks in meditation
• 8. The Repentant Buddha: Kakamona Meditations
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:20 am


Western ways of life have come to the end of their fruitfulness, rationalism has made its final contribution and modem man will succumb increasingly to physical and spiritual decay unless he finds some new way of coming back to his essential self and the true sense of life. Even the transforming and redeeming power of religion is declining in the measure that the range of images in which it is presented and the concept of God which it conveys have lost their roots in man's original relation to Being. Religion today can withstand neither rationalism nor can it satisfy man's longing for inner safety. The predominance of the ego with its self-centred structure of consciousness, as well as all its claims, which obstruct and distort man's connection with the ground of Being, is also the cause of his incapacity for any real faith.

Faith is innate in every man thanks to the bond which unites him with the ground of Being. It is from this original bond that all religions spring, including the Christian religion. But once a man is estranged from his religion the gates of faith can re-open for him only if he himself has an experience of the divine ground of Being, for the hidden treasure of all mankind is there, before any interpretation of it and beyond any confession. So the way to real faith, even for the Christian who has possessed only a pseudo-faith and who has finally foundered on a rationalistic concept of God, lies through an intimate experience of Being which will renew his feeling-contact with the divine ground, as well as form in him an inner attitude which will permit him to take this experience seriously and to prove it in his daily life. The search for ways to gain this new experience of Being, and an attitude appropriate to it, is the urgent task facing us today.

The break-through to Being as well as the transformation arising from the sense of oneness with the divine ground is imperative today for all those who are standing on the 'front line' of the spirit.

The realizing of the possibility of a living faith rests, like faith of all ages, on three pillars -- experience, insight and practice. Our task today is to help the man who has come to the end of his tether, by revealing to him the latent content of his deepest and most essential experiences, by opening the door to the basic truths and laws of life, and above all by showing him a way to achieve by practice a lasting attitude in consonance with them, without which there can be no progress in faith and no inner ripening.

One way of approaching this task lies through the discovery of Hara. By Hara -- and we hold to this name -- the Japanese understand an all-inclusive general attitude which enables a man to open himself to the power and wholeness of the original life-force and to testify to it by the fulfilment, the meaningfulness and the mastery displayed in his own life. Knowledge of Hara is valid not only for the Japanese. It has universal human validity. The purpose of this book is to lead the reader to the essence and meaning of Hara. It is directed not only to professional therapists and medical men but to everyone who is a seeker, or a teacher or who is entrusted in any way with the shaping and education of others. The theoretical analysis of Hara, as well as its practice in the service of self-development, touch at every point on problems dealt with daily by spiritual advisers and professional psychologists. It may therefore be useful to make some remarks on how Hara relates to present day psychology and psycho-therapy.

It becomes clearer and clearer that every neurosis conceals a universal human problem -- the problem of ripening. In its deepest sense ripening means the same thing both for the sound and the unsound, that is, the progressive integration of the individual with his being, his essence, wherein he takes part in the great Being. For the neurotic the possibility of finding his essence is merely obstructed in a peculiar way because of his substitution mechanisms.

Immaturity, unripeness, is the cancer of our time, the incapacity to ripen the specific mark of our time. The neurosis which drives the spiritually sick to the therapist is simply the clearest expression of the universal-suffering, the suffering due to man's estrangement from Being! The specific symptoms of such suffering are, in all cases, stopping points and blind alleys on the return to Being. Healthy and unhealthy alike are to be understood as 'on the way' -- hence never statically, but always in the perspective of their becoming one with their being. So it comes to this, that as in the East since time immemorial between pupil and master, so today between a sound person and his spiritual counsellor, between a 'disturbed' person and his therapist -- all are seeking, over and above any psychological aid, a firm metaphysical foundation for life. A longing from their being moves them all. They seek resonance and guidance out of a need which is not only constitutional and personal but which involves their whole existence. Such need requires more than 'psychology'.

Modern man suffers from his immaturity and causes suffering to all around him. What we are called upon to do is to restore him to the context of the Greater Life, to unblock the door to at-one-ment with the wellsprings of his existence, and to show him the way to give expression to his contact with Being through a life-affirming attitude. For there is a way to be trodden by actual practice. In the effort to comprehend this way -- on which man can rediscover and strengthen his roots in the ground of being -- teachers and spiritual counsellors to the healthy must join hands with those who tend the mentally sick. To such a collaboration this book is dedicated.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:27 am

I. Hara in the Life of the Japanese

Chapter 1: Hara in the Life of the Japanese

'"Chest out-belly in" ... a nation capable of taking this injunction as a general rule is in great danger,' said a Japanese to me in 1938. It was during my first visit to Japan. I did not understand this sentence then. Today I know it is true, and why.

'Chest out -- belly in' is the shortest formula for expressing an attitude which is wrong in principle, to be more precise, a wrong bodily attitude which prompts and fixes a wrong mental attitude. What does this mean? That a man should stand or sit bent over or stooped or slumped together? Certainly not, but straight and erect. 'Chest out -- belly in' however leads to a posture which just misses the natural structure of the human body. Where the centre of gravity shifts upward to the chest and the middle of the body is gainsaid and constricted the natural alternation of tension and relaxation is replaced by a wrong one which forces a man to swing between hypertension and slackness.

But how can this become 'a danger to the nation'? Because this wrong posture both expresses and consolidates a false ordering of the inner forces which prevents their true order, for where everything is drawn upward there is no right centring. But is not the heart the natural centre of man? And is not man the being destined either to lift himself heavenwards and to master his life with his 'head' and 'will', or failing this, to accept and endure it with his heart? Certainly he is. But right mastery and the strength to endure will be achieved only when the forces located in the upper part of his body and their centre, the ego, operate not independently and separately but are constantly held in check and guided by those that lie at a deeper level.

Man, as a living being, is not rooted in himself. Rather is he nourished, sustained and held in order by Nature whose laws operate without his knowledge and assistance. Man sets himself in opposition to the order of life which fundamentally sustains him if, by an unnatural shifting of his centre of gravity, he denies that vital centre in his bearing which testifies to this order.

Intellect, will and emotion, the powers of head, chest and heart with which man as a conscious being has been endowed will prove his undoing if, caught in the net of his concepts, in the brilliance of his achievements and in the web of his entanglements he forgets his anchorage in the weaving and working of the Greater Life. Just as the growth and unfolding of the crown of a tree depends directly on its root-system, so also the vital development of man's spirit depends on his being true to his roots, that is, to an uninterrupted contact with the primal unity of Life, from which human life also springs. If, forgetting this, man diminishes the realm of his primal life by artificially pulling himself upwards physically he disturbs the balance of his natural forces, and the inflated I then bars access to that higher development which it is its real function humbly to prepare, protect and serve.

The ego as the centre of our natural consciousness can serve the true meaning of all human life only if instead of posing as master, it remains the servant of the Greater Life. Where 'chest out-belly in' is the maxim the little ego ascends the throne and it is this arrogant assumption of the I which is 'the danger to the nation'. Fundamentally we in the West are also aware of this danger, as the East has been since time immemorial. But the East, never having been as cut off from contact with the basic vital centre as we are, and being more perceptive than we, is still able to hear its warning voice at times when emotion, intellect or will endanger the contact with the primordial source of Life. The East heeds its warning to man ever to remember his origins, knows the secret of how to regain. contact with it when temporarily it is lost and obeys the command not to lose contact with it as consciousness increases, in fact to cherish it then more than ever. Only thus can man consciously become more and more what, as mere nature and unconsciously, he already is: a child of the all-embracing divine unity of Life wherein his own life is rooted, and in which unconsciously and with longing he is constantly seeking his true centre whenever, as an intellectually developed being, he has debarred himself from it. The Japanese term Hara means nothing other than the physical embodiment of the original Life centre in man.

Man is originally endowed and invested with Hara. But when, as a rational being, he loses what is embodied in Hara it becomes his task to regain it. To rediscover the unity concealed in the contradictions through which he perceives life intellectually is the nerve of his existence. As a rational being he feels himself suspended between the opposite poles of heaven and earth, spirit and nature. This means first the dichotomy of unconscious nature and of the mind which urges him to ever-increasing consciousness; and second, the dichotomy of his time-space reality on this earth and the Divine beyond time and space. Man's whole existence is influenced by the tormenting tension of these opposites and so he is forever in search of a life-form in which this tension will be resolved.

What is man to do when he feels himself suspended between two opposing poles? He can surrender himself to the one or to the other and so, for a time disavow the contradiction; or he can seek a third way in which it will be resolved. The only right choice is the one which will not endanger the wholeness of his being. Since man in his wholeness must include both poles his salvation lies only in choosing the way which unifies them. For man is destined to manifest anew the unity of life within all the contradictions of his existence. The way to this unity is long. The integration of these two poles -- the unconscious and the conscious life of the mind, as well as between life in space time reality and the Reality beyond space time -- constitutes the way to human maturity. Maturity is that condition in which man reaps the fruit of the union he has regained. The realization of this union means that he has found his true vital centre. Basis, symbol and proof of this is the presence of.

These few indications already show that Hara is of universal concern. And although the term Hara is of Japanese origin it is still valid for all mankind. Just as Eastern wisdom cannot be exclusive to the East but must be valid for all humanity (the East having striven for it more persistently than we) so this flower of Eastern wisdom concerns the West no less than the East, and not only in theory but in practice as well. What is meant by Eastern Wisdom is never a mere condensation of theoretical knowledge but the fruit of ripe experience, confirmed and proved by faithful, patient practice. We can grasp the full meaning of Hara only if we look into the experiences which have led to its conception and indicate the exercises which form it.

Hara is that state (Veifassung) in which the individual has found his primal centre, and has proven himself by it. When we speak of the state of an individual we mean something that concerns him in his entirety, that is, something that transcends the duality of body and soul. But because man is a unity of body and soul -- the body, as Ludwig Klages says, being the outward form of the soul and the soul the inner import of the body -- the structure of the whole individual is necessarily made apparent and legible in the form and order of his body. There is no psychic structure and no inner tension which is not reflected in the body. Hence the discovery of the inner psychological centre implies also the discovery of the physical centre.

But where is the centre of the body? In the region of the navel, or, to be precise, a little below the navel. Therefore it should not surprise us that Hara, the essence of the vital centre literally translated means belly. That the physical centre of gravity of a man who has found his equilibrium should be located in his belly sounds strange to European ears. Why the strengthened belly should be the symbol of the vital centre regained will now be shown by examples from everyday life in Japan.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:00 am

Chapter 2: Hara in the Everyday Life of Japan

Whoever gives a lecture to a Japanese audience for the first time may meet with an experience as unexpected as it is unpleasant. The audience, it seems, gradually goes to sleep. This was what happened to me. It was bewildering. The more urgently I talked, the more desperately I tried to save the situation, the more my listeners closed their eyes until finally, so It seemed to me, half the room was blissfully asleep. But when without the least emphasis I uttered the word Tenno, Emperor, all were suddenly wide awake as if struck by lightning and gazed at me with wide open and not in the least sleepy eyes. They had not slept after all. Turned in on themselves, they had been attentive in their own way and I had overlooked the fact that although their eyes were closed they had been sitting erect and controlled.

Every stranger in Japan is struck at first by the sight of people apparently asleep and submerged in themselves. In trams and trains everywhere one sees men and women, even young people, girls and students sitting with closed or half closed eyes but erect and completely still. When they open their eyes they do not look in the least sleepy, on the contrary, their glance seems to arise from deep below, completely tranquil and present, from which the world with its turbulent diversity seems to rebound. It is a look which shows that the individual is completely collected and unperturbed, awake but not over-responsive, controlled yet not rigid.

A Japanese sitting on a chair or a bench looks very often as though he were resting in himself rather than on the furniture. The way in which a Japanese sits down on a chair shows the degree of his Westernization. Crossing the legs and so throwing the small of the back out of line and compressing the abdomen is entirely un-Japanese and so is any leaning or lolling position which would eliminate the supporting strength of the back. The Japanese, to whichever class he may belong, holds himself erect and 'in form' even when sitting. That this custom is weakening today through the increasing influence of the West is doubtless true -- but this is a deviation from the traditional essentially Japanese form which alone concerns us here.

The foregoing examples show two things. The Japanese way of sitting is connected with an inner as well as an outer attitude. The Japanese rests upright and composed within himself. This combination of uprightness and resting within oneself is typical. The whole person is, as it were, gathered inward.

Another striking example of significant posture is the one that a Japanese assumes in front of the camera. The European is often surprised at how much the posture of important public men, such as high ranking army officers or newly elected Cabinet members, differs from that of Europeans when being photographed. Whereas the latter take great pains to stand 'at ease' or 'with nonchalance', or 'with dignity', shoulders drawn up and chest thrust forward, the Japanese stand quite differently, often, to our eyes, with deliberate ungainliness -- unassumingly front face with loose hung shoulders and arms but still upright and firm, the legs slightly apart. Never does the Japanese stand with his weight on the one leg while the other 'idles'. Anyone standing in this way, without centre, without axis, inspires little confidence in a Japanese.

I remember a large reception, the guests European and Japanese, stood around after dinner drinking coffee and smoking: A Japanese friend of mine who knew of my interest in the ways of his country joined me and said, 'Do you see that the Europeans standing here could be easily toppled over if one were suddenly to give them a little push from behind? But none of the Japanese would lose their balance even if they were given a much harder push.'

How is this stability achieved? The bodily centre of gravity is not drawn upward but held firmly in the middle, in the region of the navel. And that is the point. The belly is not pulled In but free-and yet slightly tensed. The shoulder region instead of being tense is relaxed but the trunk is firm. The upright bearing is not a pulling upwards but is the manifestation of an axis which stands firmly ona reliable base and which by its own strength maintains its uprightness. Whether a person is corpulent or thin is immaterial.

Upright, firm and collected -- these are the three marks of that posture which is typical of the Japanese who knows how to stand, and taken altogether, show the presence of Hara.

This Hara as the basis of posture is no less noticeable in women than in men. Only that the posture of women as observed in the street by the foreigner, where at first he mainly encounters them, is different in some ways -- the look of being self-enclosed, of deep inner collectedness is so emphasized as to suggest self-absorption. The Japanese woman emphasizes an attitude which is completely opposed to that of the pre-potent, more expanding attitude of the Western woman. 'As far as possible, not to be in evidence. To move, taking up as little space as possible. To be as though one were not there at all!'. As a result of such an inner disposition the women keep their arms pressed close to their sides, never swinging, heads slightly bent, shoulders dropped and a little pulled in, and when walking they trip along with knees scarcely separated, toes turned in and taking very small steps. The stronger the influence of tradition on the Japanese woman the more grotesque appears to her the walk of the European or American. What strikes us as especially free and at ease seems to the Japanese woman unfeminine and insolent, quasi-masculine, immodest and above all naive -- for all this expresses an inner attitude of self-assurance which takes life altogether too much for granted.

Man in his self-assurance holds too strongly to what he believes is his by his own efforts. Not only does he not hesitate to attract attention to himself but he even emphasizes his 'persona'. This means that he lacks the wise restraint suitable both in social life and towards those greater forces which are present everywhere and which may suddenly fall on him and attack him. Vis-a-vis these forces man is better prepared either to ward them off or deliberately to let them in, if the deep-centredness of the soul-body posture at least counter-balances the outward thrust and striving of the mind or, better still, slightly preponderates over it. When circumstances oblige a Japanese to show himself in public, for instance, when 'the man at the top' has to put himself forward because his office requires him to do so, or when the Headmaster of a school has to go on the platform and deliver the speech of the day, one can observe the most astonishing movements of withdrawal such a man makes when he steps down from the platform -- movements which have only one intention, that is, to demonstrate that he knows that 'one must make a personal withdrawal in the same degree as one's function required one to put oneself forward'. Hence the embarrassment, sense of shame even which a Japanese gathering feels for a European making a speech, for example if in any way he 'shows off' such behaviour, so often repeated by our Western representatives in Japan, alienates sympathy far more than we suspect. For avoiding all postures emphasizing the ego the Japanese has one sure remedy -- his firm Hara.

The sitting-still of the Japanese, especially of the Japanese woman, this completely motionless and yet inwardly alert sitting still, has baffled many a foreigner. Most Westerners have their first opportunity of observing at close range the ways of Japanese women in the tea houses where the serving girls and the geishas. are called in to grace an evening. What is most impressive is very often their way of sitting still -- knees together, resting on their heels, withdrawn into themselves and yet completely free and relaxed. If with a swift and supple motion they rise from this position to do something such as pouring out the rice wine, they return immediately and without loss of poise to the quiet sitting posture, upright and attentive, completely there, yet not there at all, and just wait until the next thing has to be done. In the same way in her own home the mistress of the house Sits by modestly while the men talk, but so also sits the ballad singer, and the singing geisha, and so sits the male choir in the Kabuki, the classical theatre, and so the Samurai -- so they all sit and so they stand like symbols of life, collected and ready for anything. And as they sit and stand so also do they walk and dance and wrestle and fence fundamentally motionless. For every movement is as though anchored in an immovable centre from which all motion flows and from which it receives its force, direction and measure. The immovable centre lies in Hara.

The spirit which determines the fundamental attitudes of the Japanese finds the realm of its practice and preservation in the temples. Evidence of this is the posture of the monk in meditation. He demonstrates the attitude-posture in which alone a man can become 'the right vessel ' -- opened on the right way and closed in the right way, ready to receive and preserve. The figure of the monk in meditation taken generally as the pattern of religious feeling is much more present to the Japanese, even in their everyday postures, than the posture of the priest in prayer is to us The bodily attitude of the monk as he opens himself to the Divine in the desire to become one with it is also the posture which the people, in so far as the great spiritual tradition is still alive in them, know as the one which should never be lost. They realize that life on earth both in its need and in its fulfilment can be rightly achieved only if a man does not fall out of the cosmic order and if he maintains his contact with the great original Unity. Enduring contact with it is shown by the man who keeps his unshakeable centre of gravity in that centre which is Hara.

It is evident that the image of the monk in meditation which lives in the people as a kind of posture-consciousness is not regarded as a dreary or oppressive ideal, exaggerated or imposed from above, but as the perfected expression of man's transformation through that Great Experience which re-unites him with his true origin. The knowledge that this experience is a practicable, attainable possibility for everyone remains a universal possession of all Eastern peoples. To the man who has not yet had it, it exists as a fore-knowledge, full of promise and implying an obligation.

Thus we have to accept, although not without a sense of shame, that in the everyday life of the Japanese the bells of eternity are, so to speak, always ringing. From the temple gongs there echoes in a sublime form the admonishing voice which, like a counterpoint giving meaning to all the sounds of daily life, unceasingly resounds within. Thus also the calm bearing of the meditating monk reminds men that to suffer from life shows only estrangement from life. The Japanese is generally aware of what is at stake fundamentally, not through intellectual concepts but from intimations brought by experience; and the images before which he prays are for him symbols and sources of the strength which he finds in the great Reality. For him, as distinct from the Westerner, origin and goal are both contained in the experience of this Reality.

The most impressive representation of the Hara attitude is found in the figures of the Buddha who, in the 'Great Experience' is completely fused with the Absolute. The Buddha statues are symbols of that state of the soul which man is called upon to manifest in his body where origin, meaning and goal of life have become one. The pictures and statues of the Buddha clearly show the centre of gravity in the centre of the body. We find this emphasis on the centre in the pictures of the Buddha sitting in deep meditation, his hands resting on his crossed legs, as well as in those where he stands upright with raised hands. We can see it in the pictures of the Boddhisattvis as well in those of Kwannon the symbol of compassion and loving kindness. Emphasis on the centre of the body has nothing to do with corpulence. The slender figures of the earlier periods also show the centre of gravity in the lower abdomen.

The posture of the monk in meditation represents something fundamentally right and as such binding for all. The same applies to the Buddha image. It is not something unattainable for the ordinary person. These images only symbolize the complete achievement of what is in principle possible for everyone. This is because basically everyone is what the Buddha expresses, and, in the course. of his development, can become it in so far as he will allow it to manifest. But only by practice and application can the state of being revealed in the Buddha effigy be achieved wherein the devotee beholds his own possibilities. A Buddha is not a transcendental god, but a human being into whom the Great Being has penetrated bringing transformation and liberation into the bright light of consciousness. And in his form is the reflection. of what, from the beginning, is given to every man to rediscover at-homeness in the Centre of Being.

Just as we see in the Buddha effigies the emphasis on the centre of gravity in the lower body we find it again in the representations of mythological figures and of sages. We find it in the pictures of the great leaders, of the popular gods of good luck and in the many illustrations of Boddhidharma, the blue-eyed monk who brought Zen Buddhism to China and became famous for his imperturbable sitting. His image is still given to children as a tumbler doll with a round, lead-weighted belly which always brings him back to his upright position no matter how often he is knocked down.

It follows as a matter of course that an understanding of the importance of the body-soul centre has influenced the Japanese ideal of beauty. It is characteristic that their 'beauty' should be different from ours. In our ideal we see beauty in the symmetry and perfect form of the body. We look for perfection and harmony of the whole and its parts. It is undoubtedly true that this ideal was originally determined by the idea of the unity of body and soul. Today, however, the popular concept of beauty as compared with this ideal has become largely superficial and externalized, and the culture of the body informed by the spirit has been replaced by a cult of the well proportioned body accentuating the erotic in the woman and the virile and masculine in the man. The more discriminating man on the other hand caring less for this merely physical beauty finds it in the expression of the soul beside which the beauty of the outward form has but little importance. Thus the Western ideal of beauty alternates in a typical way between the opposite poles of body and soul. This dichotomy plays no part in the mind of the Japanese. He regards as beautiful the figure which represents a being well grounded m his basic centre.

For this and no other reason he values a certain emphasis on the belly, and the reserved bearing which is evidence of its firmness. It is not surprising therefore that a bridegroom, if he is too thin, tries to acquire a little belly in order to please his bride and also that the strong belly (provided it emphasizes the right centre of gravity -- not to be confused with the blown-out stomach) is considered attractive and not repulsive as in the West. Indeed the idols of the people, the sumo masters (sumo is Japanese wrestling) often have enormous bellies and yet, despite their weight incredible nimbleness, a cat-like agility and elasticity. The seat of their strength is in their belly, not merely physical strength as is revealed in their often immensely developed muscles but also of a supernatural strength. They demonstrate in a spectacular way what made them masters quite apart from their technical skill -- they really demonstrate Hara.

If a man has Hara he no longer needs any physical strength at all, he wins through a quite different kind of strength. I had the opportunity to watch an impressive example of this during the last elimination round of a sumo championship.

Breathlessly awaited by thousands of spectators two masters entered the ring at the Koguki-Kan in Tokyo. With great dignity each one in turn steps out of his corner, casts consecrated rice into the ring, goes with legs wide apart into a full knee bend, then stamps mightily first with one foot then with the other. After a ceremonious bow they approach each other, squat down with hands on the ground and gaze at each other eye to eye. Then both wrestlers spring up from this position -- but not before both have inwardly assented to the start of the contest. If one of them while they have been eyeing each other closes his eyelids it means 'I am not yet ready'. And as the contest can begin only when each one is in form this is a signal for them both to stand up, separate, and again squat facing each other until both are finally fully ready. The umpire who has watched everything closely gives the sign and off they go. Both wrestlers leap into the air and the crowd is prepared to see a mighty battle.

But what happens? One, after a short struggle, simply raises his hand, on which the hand of the other lies flat and, as if he were dealing with a puppet he pushes his opponent almost without touching him and without the use of any visible effort, slowly and softly out of the ring. He wins in the true sense, without fighting. The defeated wrestler falls backwards over the ropes and the multitude goes mad with excitement while everything that is not nailed down is hurled into the air and rains down upon the victor from all sides in tribute to his prowess. That was Hara, demonstrated by a master. And as such it was applauded by the crowd.

This example shows very clearly that in Hara there is a supernatural force which makes possible extraordinary natural achievement in the world. And as Hara is ever present to the Japanese as the sign of a matured inwardness he also knows about it as a mysterious power which can produce super-normal results. From childhood the Japanese is taught the power of Hara. Hara, Hara, the father calls to the growing boy when he seems to fail in a task or when physical pain saps his morale and threatens to over-power him or when he loses his head with excitement. This Hara, Hara, however, implies and produces something different from our 'pull yourself together'. With Hara one remains balanced both in action and in endurance. All this is such a natural, basic and general knowledge for the Japanese that it is not at all easy for him if you ask him about his secret treasure to raise it to consciousness, let alone to explain it.

Another typical example from the war. Not only is the training of the soldier as a matter of course a training in Hara but the civilian population also found in Hara the strength to endure all perils. When the leader of the Japanese Women's Associations on her return from a visit to Germany, spoke in a lecture of the impressive air-raid precautions she had seen there, she added 'we have nothing of all that but we have something else, we have Hara'. The interpreter was greatly embarrassed. How should he translate that? What could he do but simply say 'belly'? Silence, laughter. Only a few of the Westerners understood what was meant, but the Japanese knew that the lecturer had quite simply meant that power which, even if it gave no protection against annihilation by bombs yet made possible an inner calm from which springs the greatest possible presence of mind and the greatest possible capacity for endurance.

He who has Hara can be prepared for anything and everything, even for death, and keep calm in any situation. He can even bow to the victor without loss of dignity and he can wait. He does not resist the turning wheel of fate but calmly bides his time. With Hara the world looks different it is as it is, always different from what one wants it to be and yet always in harmony. Self-will causes suffering. Suffering denotes deviation from the Great Unity and reveals the truth of the Whole. The ordinary eye does not see this -- the Hara sense apprehends it and only when will, feeling and intellect are 'comprehended' in Hara do they cease to resist what is, and instead, through it, serve the 'way' in which all things are contained. To discover that way, to recognize it and thereafter never to lose it is tantamount to genuine striving for Hara.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:52 pm

Chapter 3: Hara as the Purpose of Practice

Hara, it is true, is part of man's original endowment but, for that, very reason, poses a task for him -- for it is the task of man to become what he is. Man can fulfil his task of becoming a complete human being only if he overcomes again and again that within him which obstructs the way to this true becoming, and also if, at the same time, he apprehends and allows to grow within him that basic power which is always striving to carry him on to his fully human state.

The task of gaining the right basic centre can be fulfilled only by one who, with perseverance and sincerity, without fear of pain and with great patience, overcomes whatever hinders Hara, and furthers that which the developed Hara expresses. To become a complete human being without acquiring the body-soul 'centre' is not possible. But to acquire Hara through practice means also opening the gate to the way by which Man can become whole.

Only that individual is truly 'whole' whose self manifests the Being [1] embodied within him. A man is not 'whole' as long as he fails to accomplish his integration with Being, as long as, for example, he lives only in the I that is not conformable with Being, but activated always from without. For Western Man the realisation of Being within the self is inevitably connected with the unfolding of the perceiving and creative mind. But this unfolding also presupposes his re-rooting in the primal centre, which is Hara.

We in the West have over-valued achievement; the East has under-valued it, and today is determined to make up for this neglect by taking lessons from the Western countries and striving as never before to acquire the theoretical and practical knowledge necessary for mastering life on this earth. Of these things which the East has hitherto lacked we have too much. But of these things -- notably the Inner Way -- which the East has cultivated from time immemorial, we know as yet all too little. Therefore where the inner way is concerned we can take lessons from the East. And because Hara, as understood by the Japanese, leads to inner maturity, the practice of it is of special importance for the West.

By practice the Japanese mean something different from what we mean. When we hear the word 'practice' we think of doing something which will give us skill, what the Americans call know-how. A skill enabling us to do or to produce something properly. 'Practice makes perfect' or Practice makes the master as the German saying has it. But who is a master in the accepted meaning of this term? A master is one who so masters his craft that the perfect result is guaranteed. Such skill presupposes long practice. Only persistent practice leads to real ability and only real ability produces the perfect result, in deed or in work.

Every form of activity can, according to the degree of skill on which it is based, be more or less perfect, that is 'masterly'. This applies to all forms of sport and to all the activities of our dally lives. It is one of our errors to see the possibility of mastery only in achievements which presuppose a specific talent and which call for a specific training. In fact, however, every action which is repeated again and again conceals the possibility of inner perfection, making him who achieves it master of this action. In this sense 'masterly' walking, running, speaking, writing and much else is possible, and also the masterly practice of a sport, which however has nothing to do with that degradation of the idea of mastery which produces a mania for record-breaking. And so there exists the masterly command of innumerable actions, even small unimportant ones, which are repeated a thousand times a day, at home and at work, in the office and in social life, as well as the mastery of special actions.

In this inner work more is involved than the accomplishment of an outward action. Inner work is concerned with what outlasts the finished outward action. It fulfils itself in a form which 'stands alone' because it stands perfected in itself. A masterpiece is valid because nothing can be added to, nothing taken away from it. Every detail is necessary because demanded by the whole. Like the perfectly performed action, perfected work also presupposes the greatest skill and this in turn presupposes practice. Only long practice resulting in the great skill reveals the master of the perfect work. But in outward action and inner work alike the meaning of practice, so understood, is revealed by what comes out of it.

One speaks of a 'master' -- whether of an outer action or inner work--only when success is achieved not only now and then, but with absolute certainty. Certainty of success presupposes more than perfected skill alone. What is this more? It is the state or condition of the performer which makes his performance infallible. However well-performed an action may be, however well controlled a technique, as long as the man using it is subject to moods and atmosphere, unrelaxed and easily disturbed, for example, when he is being watched, then he is a master only in a very limited degree. He is master only of technique and not of himself. He controls the skill he has but not what he is in himself. And if a man can do more than he is his skill often fails him in critical moments. Real control over oneself can only be achieved by a special training, the outcome of which is not just technical skill, but an established frame of mind (Verfassung) which ensures the required result.

This is practice understood as exercise (exercitium). Its purpose is not an outer visible result but an inner achievement. In practice of this kind the person developing, not the deed or the visible work as such, is what matters. And as surely as genuine mastery of performance or skill presupposes a certain personal inner quality so, conversely, the preparing of oneself for performance or skill can be used as a way leading to inner mastery.

In this way the meaning of achieving outward and applied skill is transposed to the inner life. More important than outward success then is that personal quality which will, when developed produce not only the perfect external result, but which will have its real meaning and value within itself.

Understood thus, every art, every skill can become an opportunity to develop 'on the inner way', and so a saying of the Japanese becomes understandable; 'Archery and dancing, flower-arranging and singing, tea-drinking and wrestling -- it is all the same.' [2] From the viewpoint of performance of 'work', this saying does not make sense, but once its underlying significance has been grasped -- man's true self-becoming -- then its meaning is clear.

For the Japanese [3] every art as well as every sport has a purpose beyond mere outward achievement. In practising it he aims at that quality of the whole man which produces results that appear to be casual, unintentional, without conscious effort -- just as an apple, when ripe, drops from the tree without any help from the tree.

At the core of this attitude (Verfassung) is the imperturbability of the centre of gravity in the true centre which is Hara. I still remember my amazement when, in my early efforts to penetrate into the nature of the various Japanese 'master practises' first in talks with masters of their arts, I heard again and again the word Hara pronounced with particular emphasis. Whether I talked to a master of swordsmanship, of dancing, of puppetry, of painting or of any other art, he invariably concluded his exposition of the relevant training by emphasizing Hara as the cardinal point of all effort. Thus I soon realized that this word obviously meant more than a mere prerequisite for the unfailing exercise of any technique. Hara seemed to be connected with something fundamental, something ultimate.

My last doubts were removed by the answer of a Japanese General when I asked him what part Hara played in the training of the soldier. The General, at first surprised at being asked this question by a European, hesitated a moment, then said quite simply: 'The meaning of all military training is Hara.' A surprising sentence, comprehensible only if Hara is taken as the establishment of an inner condition which makes the achievement of a given skill no less than that of the soldierly virtue of facing every circumstance -- even and especially death -- a simple, unemotional matter of course.

Such a condition presupposes liberation from the domination of an 'I' which fears death, and this again is possible only when a man is anchored in the ground of Being which, as the Japanese say, 'lies beyond life and death'. The inner transformation of man as the sense and purpose of practice may be illustrated by the following:

It was a hot summer day in Tokyo and I was waiting for Master Kenran Umeji, my instructor in Archery. For some weeks I had been practising on my own and was looking forward to showing the master that I had learned my lesson. I was eager to see what surprise the day's lesson would bring, for every time the master came something unexpected happened.

The learning of a Japanese art -- be it archery or swordsmanship, flower-arrangement or painting, calligraphy or the art of drinking tea -- holds many curious experiences for the Western aspirant. If, for instance, he supposes that the chief thing in archery is to hit the target, he is much mistaken. But what then? Well, this was brought home to me very clearly that day.

The master arrived at the appointed time -- a short talk over a cup of tea-and then we proceeded into the garden where the target stood. This target brought me the first surprise of many that awaited me. It was a bundle of straw about three feet across, placed at eye level on a wooden stand, my feelings may be imagined when I was told that a pupil had to practice two or three years before this target and, what is more, at a distance of about three yards. To aim for three years at a wide straw bundle from a distance of three yards! Wouldn't that be boring? It proved quite the contrary. The more one realizes the purpose of the practice the more exciting it becomes; because the problem of hitting the target never arises. What then? Well, today I was going to find out.

I take up my position. The master stands before me. As custom demands I bow low first to him and then, turning left, to the target, face the master again and calmly carry out the first movements. Each movement must flow smoothly from the previous one. I place the bow on my left: knee, take up one of the arrows resting against my right leg, place it on the string; the left hand holds arrow and bow firmly together -- and then the right is slowly raised, only to be lowered again while the breath flows out completely. The hand. grasps the string and then -- slowly breathing in -- the bow is gradually drawn while being raised. This is the decisive movement which must be carried out as calmly and steadily as the moon rises in the evening sky. Before I have even reached the point where the arrow must touch the ear and cheek, and the whole bow is 'stretched to its fullest capacity, the deep voice of the master cuts right through me, 'Stop!' Surprised and a little irritated because of this interruption at the moment of utmost concentration, I lower the bow. The master takes it from my hands, winds the string once round the end of the bow and hands it back to me smiling. 'Once again, please.' Unsuspecting, I begin again to go through the same series of motions. But when it comes to drawing the bow my strength fails me. The bow has now twice the tension it had before and my strength is insufficient. My arms begin to tremble, I sway unsteadily to and fro, the posture so painstakingly won is lost. The master, however, begins to laugh. Desperately I try again, but it is hopeless. Nothing but a pitiful failure. I must have looked rather vexed for the master asks: 'What are you so annoyed about?' 'What? You can ask me that? For weeks and weeks I have practised and now, at the vital moment, you interrupt me before I have even drawn.' Once again the master laughs cheerfully, then suddenly serious, he says something like this: 'What exactly do you want? That you had accomplished the task I had given you I could see from the way you took up your bow. But the point is this -- when a man, perhaps after a long struggle, has achieved a certain form in himself, in his life, in his work, only one misfortune can then befall him -- that fate should allow him to stand still in that achievement. If fate means well by him it knocks his success out of his hands before it sets and hardens. To do just this during practice is the task of the good teacher. For what is the point of all this? Not the hitting of the target. For what ultimately matters, in learning archery or any other art, is not what comes out of it but what goes into it. Into, that is into the person. The self-practice in the service of an outward accomplishment serves, beyond it, the development of the inner man. And what endangers this inner development more than anything else? Standing still in his achievement. A man must go on increasing, endlessly increasing.

The master's voice had grown grave now and urgent, and indeed, this kind of archery is something quite different from the enjoyable sport where one competes with friends in hitting a target. It is a school of life -- or to use a modern expression, an existential practice.

At the beginning it is, of course, necessary to acquire the outward technique. But when the outward form is mastered, the real work begins, the unflagging work on oneself. The art of archery, like any other art for the Japanese, is an opportunity of penetrating the depth of his being. It can be achieved only by the arduous process of refining out the vain and ambitious I which, precisely because it is so eager for outward success, endangers success. When this I is transcended success will come -- achieved, not through the outer skill directed by an ambitious will, but through a new inner Being. It will be due then to a condition in which a deeper, one could say, a supernatural strength is released in us achieving, without our assistance as it were, the perfect result.

In this way we can understand the words of an old Japanese whose opinion I asked concerning the miracles of the Indian Yogis. He said: 'Certainly a man who has devoted years or decades to the development of certain faculties can produce results which seem miraculous to the untrained. But the question is, what is the value of such achievements? If they are nothing but the result of a technique acquired from motives of pride they have no importance. Only when they give evidence of inner mastery are they of value.'

Such were the words of the old Japanese -- surprising words for us Europeans who idolize achievement for its own sake. In the East, what is considered masterly is only that which proves inner maturity, which produces ripe fruit as a tree does, effortlessly. The way it works out in practice can be shown by an experience I once had during a visit to a Japanese monastery.

It was in Kyoto in 1941. A Japanese friend had arranged for me to meet Master Hayashi, the abbot of the famous Zen monastery, Myoshinji. In Japan they observe the charming custom of giving gifts. The guest brings the host a gift when visiting him for the first time and never departs without receiving one in return. A gift one has made oneself is valued most. And so, when, after a good long talk, it was time for me to go, Master Hayashi said: 'I should like to give you something. I will paint something for you.' Two younger monks fetched painting materials. A red cloth was spread on the mats, an extremely thin sheet of rice-paper measuring about 60 by 20 cm. was laid on it and held in place by two lead weights to prevent it from slipping. Then brush and ink were brought in -- not ink ready for use but solid ink which has to be rubbed in a hollowed out stone and made liquid by the addition of water.

Relaxed and calm, as if he had infinite time -- and a Master always has infinite inner time -- the abbot began to prepare the ink. To and fro, to and fro his hand moved until gradually the water had turned into liquid black. I wondered that the master did this task himself and asked why no one did it for him. The answer was significant: 'The steady movement of the hand carefully preparing the ink makes one completely calm. Everything becomes still inside. Only from an undisturbed, quiet heart can something perfect flower.' Now everything was ready.

Master Hayashi knelt on the floor, that is , he sat upright on his heels, his brow serene and his shoulders loose with that freedom of the upper body which is supported by strength from below, and which is characteristic of those practised in sitting. With an inimitably calm and at the same time fluid movement the master took up the brush. For a moment his eyes rested almost as if lost on the paper and then it seemed as if he completely freed himself inwardly so as to let the picture within emerge unimpeded, quite free of any fear that it might fail, or any personal determination that it had to succeed. And so it emerged.

With sure strokes there appeared a picture of Kwannon, the goddess of Mercy. First the face, with a few delicate strokes, then the flowing robe with more vigorous strokes and the petals of the lotus flower on which she sat , and then , then came the moment for the sake of which I am telling this story: the drawing of the halo surrounding the head of Kwannon, that is, the free-hand drawing of the perfect circle. All of us present held our breath, because the masterly demonstration of ultimate composure -- the proof of sovereign freedom from all fear in the perfect action that executes itself -- is always a gripping experience. It must be noted that any hesitation, any flicker of the brush produces a smudge on the skin thin paper which would spoil everything. But, without hesitating for a single moment, the master dipped his brush into the ink, wiped it a little, placed it on the paper and, as if it were the easiest thing in the world, he wrote, as it were, the perfect circle, which like an emanation of divine purity, surrounded the head of Kwannon. An unforgettable moment! The room was filled with a wonderful stillness, for the perfect circle before us expressed the stillness emanating from the master.

When Master Hayashi handed me the paper I thanked him and asked: 'How does one set about becoming a master?' Whereupon he replied with a quiet smile, 'Just by letting the master who is in us come out.' Just letting him come out! As if it were so simple.

It takes a long time to arrive at such simplicity, the way taught by the masters of the East. It is the way of practice as they mean it -- practice understood as exercitium ad integrum.

In all practice understood as exercitium man learns to conquer himself. At first, of course, intense alertness, a firm untiring will and great perseverance are needed to repeat the same thing again and again until finally the skill is perfected. But practice in the real sense begins only when technique as such has been mastered, for only then can the aspirant perceive to what extent self pride and the desire to shine, as well as fear of failure, obstruct his path. The cardinal point of all practice is the acquisition and consolidation of the vital body-centre.

The most persistent obstacle is the clinging to the I which, by its self-will, again and again prevents the manifestation of the acquired skill. Only when the interference of the I has been eliminated can the perfect achievement emerge -- but then as the fruit of inner maturity. The intellect is no longer needed, the will is silent, the heart is quiet, and happily and surely a man accomplishes his work without effort.

Then he no longer shoots at the target but 'it' shoots for him.

The masterpiece is produced by a supernatural strength from within which can act only when the 'little I' no longer pushes itself forward. A man who, in any field, has once experienced this inner power and has once learned to surrender himself to it, stands at the beginning of a way on which he is borne along by anew, free, dedicated life-feeling.

The practice of Hara is based on an insight into the region where Man's deeper possibilities and powers have their roots, and consequently where, in the practice of any art, the physical centre of gravity should be. In the strengthened Hara this centre of gravity will have become second nature.

The more technical training of Hara is based upon the following considerations: Every action relating to work or deed is controlled from that centre-point generally known as the I. This I is present in various ways in all our intentional actions.

1. The I sees the aim of an act objectively, it 'fixes' it. It determines it and clings to it. This presupposes that the I also clings to itself, that is, that it clings unwaveringly to the object desired. In short, that it remains concentrated only on its object.

2. By virtue of this concentration, this objective fixing, whereby man remains firmly conscious of the object in mind and, on the other hand, by keeping himself in constant relationship with it, the motive power for any action is changed into purposeful will. Only unflagging concentration while the I keeps its object and itself in view, produces that one-pointedness and perseverance of will and aim which is the prerequisite for any advance in technique, that is, until the technique has become automatic. But the inward gain of automatization lies eventually in the hope and possibility of withdrawing -- neutralizing -- the 'fixing' I. Only where the I-power is no longer needed can success, as it were, blossom forth of itself. And, conversely, only where perfect technique in deed or work is possible without the participation of the I can man, in the midst of his action, become aware of Being working within him, so that the act itself becomes the gateway to enlightenment.

3. The centre of consciousness to which, on the one hand we owe the ability to focus something firmly, to fix it objectively and to pursue it purposefully, but which, on the other, debars us from the deeper powers of Being, is only one -- the 'formal' side -- of the I. It is confronted by another side which determines the content aspect of self and world-experience. To experience a thing as I is therefore, dual: Man, by identifying himself with this centre of consciousness,. conceives his experiences 'objectively', while as a subject, determined by a certain relationship to the world, he experiences the world in terms of his private purposes.

Understood thus, the I is the source of actions and reactions in which man is reflected in his personal relation to himself and the world. The I, in the sense of this 'personal' I, is not only the formal, ever-unchanging condition for all objective experience, but also its own 'material' centre of experience. Imprisoned in this I, man has ultimately only one aim in view -- to preserve himself in this transient existence. When his subjective life is completely controlled by this I, man strives to maintain and to preserve himself qua himself and shows this by his continual desire for appreciation, for acknowledgment of his 'position', as well as by his continual anxiety and fear of depreciation, under-estimation or even annihilation. He feels himself always somehow threatened and in everything he does he seeks security, recognition and power, seeks to safeguard himself, to shine and to rule. All these manifestations spring from what may be called the little ego.

Every action motivated by the little ego is permeated by the fear of failure for this would endanger the ego's position, if only by loss of prestige. What a big role plays the fear of blame! Anxiety, the desire to shine, the fear of being hurt haunt all 'I' -- conditioned actions and experiences like ever active ghosts; because In all his experiences man seeks affirmation, security and self-contentment.

This material side of the I means that we can never be sure of maintaining a selfless attitude or performing a really disinterested service. As long as a task or an action depend exclusively on our capacity for outward, material constancy or on controlled will-power, and both are motivated and controlled solely by the I, all human activity rests on a weak, uncertain foundation. Firmer ground is found only where man is rooted elsewhere, that is when in his self- and his world-consciousness he is anchored, in something different. Therefore when the prime purpose of action is the perfection of an external achievement, it is imperative to find a different inner centre of gravity. When a man possesses fully developed Hara he has the. strength and precision to perform actions which otherwise he could never achieve even with the most perfect technique, the closest attention or the strongest will-power. Only what is done with Hara succeeds completely.' Just as life as a whole can be lived in full perfection only when a man is truly one with his primordial Centre, so every manifestation of it -- whether in battle in art or in love -- 'succeeds' only for him who has gained Hara.



1. By 'Being' (Wesen) is meant here the individual manner of participation in that Being which transcends time and space. 'Self' means here the subjective existence in time and space. The 'True Self' is attained when a man's subjective existence is integrated with Being. Where this is not the case man's self (e.g. the '" in its relation to the world) is a 'pseudo-self'. In the True Self man's participation in Being manifests as freedom in the world of time and space; the self-awareness of the 'I' is dependent on the world.

2. See Japan and the Cult of Tranquillity, Rider.

3. 'The Japanese' here always means not any Japanese, but one who embodies the national tradition.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:17 pm

Chapter 4: Hara in the Japanese Language

Everything that Hara stands for in Japan is reflected in the language. Knowledge of what the word Hara means in itself and in connection with other things will give a profounder insight into its essential meaning.

Hara, as we already know, means literally BELLY. For the whole region of the belly the Japanese also has the words fukubu and onaka. Onaka means literally 'the honoured middle' and is the term for belly as used by children and by the common people. Hara as well as fukubu and onaka, means roughly speaking the whole region from the stomach to the lower abdomen. And, as with us, it is divided into stomach, in Japanese i, and what is 'below the navel'. 'Below the navel' is called kikai and this word plays a certain part in connection with tanden, by which the Japanese mean the spot about two inches below the navel. And tanden means the centre of gravity as such, which is cultivated in the developed Hara.

Hara by itself and in connection with other words, has a far wider meaning than the word belly has for us. Of course there are in Japanese many phrases and idioms which refer exclusively to the physiological aspect of the belly, for example: Hara ga itai -- 'the stomach aches', or Hara ga haru -- 'the stomach is distended' (from too much food).

Further parallels to our terminology which refer to the non-physical aspects of Hara show that the belly, particularly 'the big belly' refer not only to bodily satisfactions but also to mental and emotional contentment. A big-bellied, portly, comfortable looking figure suggests to the Japanese, as it does to us, the idea of a man who lacks nothing. For the Japanese, as for us, the big belly conveys a sense of a comfortable, quiet satisfaction with life. The Japanese has also the term haratsuzumi meaning 'belly-drum': the belly in its taut fullness waiting, as it were, to be beaten like a drum -- as if it wanted to 'sound'. Haratsuzumi wo utsu means 'to beat the belly-drum', that is 'to lead a contented life'.

Another expression often used is kofuku gekijo -- known to every student of the Chinese classics-which means literally 'to beat the belly and tread on the earth'. It recalls a way of life of the ancient Chinese people during the reigns of the sacred emperors Yao and Shun, the age of the 'contented people'. Kofuku gekijo is the exact expression of this contentment. At that time the people lived peacefully without troubling much about the State, or paying attention to any political 'ideal'. That was the whole point -- that they lived as if the Emperor were unnecessary. The people were content and practised Kofuku gekijo, i.e. cheerfully they thumped their big comfortable bellies and trod the earth, standing on the same spot. (Is it not always a bad sign in any age when even the common people begin to talk big about virtue and love of the fatherland?) Less positive is the expression Hara (or Shifuku) wo koyasu, 'to fatten one's belly'. It implies ill-gotten gains, underhand dealings, or being open to bribery.

We have the expressions 'to laugh until one bursts' or to laugh so much that 'one splits one's sides'. Equivalents can be found in Japanese. Hara wo kakaeru (to hold one's sides), Hara no kawa wo yoseru (to fold the belly skin) -- both phrases indicating immoderate laughter -- and hofuku zetto sumu, to hold one's sides and fall over backwards.

All these are idiomatic expressions whose equivalents can be found in the language and daily life of Western peoples. But now for those which are quite different.

The Japanese speak of Hara no aru (nai) hito, 'the man with (or without) belly'; of the Hara no dekeita (dekite inai) hito, 'the man who has managed (not managed) his belly'. They speak of Hara no okii or okina (or chiisai or chiisana) hito, 'the man with the big (or the small) belly' and also of the Hara no hiroi or semai hito, 'the man with the broad (or narrow) belly'. None of these implies a visible physiological difference but a difference in character, a psychological disposition.

What then is the meaning of Hara no aru hito? The whole of this book is concerned with just that. Here we can give only the general translations without going into detail about their connection with the belly or their deeper spiritual meanings. For the moment we need only say this: Hara implies for the Japanese all that he considers essential to man's character and destiny. Hara is the centre of the human body -- but the body, because it is a human body, is more than a merely biological-physiological entity. It is at the same time the centre in a spiritual sense or, to be more accurate, a nature-given spiritual sense. All expressions and idioms containing the word Hara refer to the character in its totality, to the basic quality of a man's nature, his whole disposition, and hence to those special mental traits on which it depends and through which it is expressed.

What then is Hara no aru hito? The answer comprising all meanings is: a man with 'Centre'. Hara no nai hito is accordingly a man who lacks centre. The man who lacks centre easily loses his balance. Conversely, he who has it is always balanced. The man with centre has something that is tranquil and all-embracing. He has a quality of breadth. Just this is meant by the term Hara no aru hito. And when this quality is to be especially emphasised the Japanese speaks of Hara no hirio hito. This, as well as Hara no aru hito, refers to the large-minded man, one who is magnanimous and warmhearted as distinct from the Hara no nai hito or semai hito, one who is narrow-minded and petty. So understood, Hara no aru hito (and its opposite) have reference to one's attitude towards people, but they refer also to reactions, to sudden, unforeseen happenings -- the way in which a man notices them, reacts to them and judges them.

The man with centre has calm, unprejudiced judgment. He knows what is important, what unimportant. He meets reality serenely and with detachment keeping his sense of proportion. The Hara no aru hito faces life calmly, is tranquil, ready for anything. Not because he is thick-skinned or tough but because he has a certain inner attitude. The mark of it is an inner, elasticity which enables him to conduct himself with the utmost matter-of-factness and composure in any situation. Thus the phrase, Hara. no aru hito, also means, 'the man who always knows what to do'. Nothing upsets him. If suddenly fire breaks out and people begin to shout in wild confusion the Hara no aru hito does the right thing immediately and quietly, he ascertains the direction of the wind, rescues what is most important, fetches water, and behaves unhesitatingly in the way the emergency demands. The Hara no nai hito is the opposite of all this.

The Hara no nai hito applies to the man without calm judgment. He lacks the measure which should be second nature. Therefore he reacts haphazardly and subjectively, arbitrarily and capriciously. He cannot distinguish between important and unimportant, essential and unessential. His judgment is not based upon facts but on temporary conditions and rests on subjective foundations, such as moods, whims, 'nerves'. The Hara no nai hito is easily startled, is nervous, not because he is particularly sensitive but because he lacks that inner axis which would prevent his being thrown off centre and which would enable him to deal with situations realistically. He is either one-tracked and rigid, mentally or emotionally fixed, or else he has no composure at all. In an emergency he behaves either with blind obstinacy or quite erratically.

Hara is only in slight measure innate. It is above all the result of persistent self-training and discipline, in fact the fruit of responsible, individual development. That is what the Japanese means when he speaks of the Hara no dekita hito, the man who has accomplished or finished his belly, that is, himself: for he is mature. If this development does not take place we have the Hara no dekita inai hito, someone who has not developed, who has remained immature, who is too young in the psychological sense. The Japanese also say Hara no dekita inai hito wa hito no ue ni tatsu koto ga dekinai: the man who has not finished his belly cannot stand above others (is not fit for leadership). This does not depend on age alone. It is often said of a young man, Wakai keredomo hara ga dekite iru, 'although he is young he already has a finished belly'. Nevertheless Haro no dekito hito as a rule applies mainly to older people, if only because the fruit of psychological and spiritual practice needs time to ripen.

Only in connection with more mature man, the Hara no dekita hito, can one speak of the Hara no okii hito, the man with the big belly. Here the word okii, big, has its special accent only in connection with Hara. It means, as mentioned above, generous, magnanimous and warm-hearted without any implication of weakness or indulgence. In connection with the phrase Hara no okii hito there is also the saying seidaku awase nomu, literally, 'to swallow the pure together with the impure,' in the sense of 'accepting' even 'welcoming everything' and giving everything its due place. Saigo Takamori is always cited as one who exemplified this attitude. He was famous for never saying anything disparaging about another. He knew how to give the right place even to the basest of men and to learn something from him. For that reason he was able not only to endure personal ill-fortune but even to welcome it. He could profit by any experience. This attitude shows something specifically Japanese. The Japanese are not fond of making moral judgments, except in rare instances. But their characteristic attitude is to affirm life as it is, to accept it and give it its due in its uniqueness, instead of trying to compose it into rational and ethical systems. Such at least is the popular ideal, in the face of which pointless grumbling is considered weak, and narrow-minded judgment despicable. Many Japanese therefore repudiate the saying of Confucius which warns against association with evil people and also the old proverb shu ni majireba, akaku naru, 'if you touch red you become red yourself.' They consider this point of view unenlightened and paltry, and oppose it with the attitude of the Hara no okii hito meaning one who is not satisfied with trying to wipe out the ignoble but is at all times prepared to find the positive in everything.

The Hara no chiisai hito, the man with the little belly, is always also a Hara no dekite inai hito, one who has not finished his belly. He is in every respect a picture of immaturity. He is narrow in his relations with others, is easily irritated, shows himself unfavourably impressed first by this and then by that and so alienates people. On the other hand he loves flattery and likes to associate with those who agree with him. Moreover, the Hara no chiisai hito cannot deal with the dark aspects of life. He is a petty moralist who actually fears true purity. He has inferiority complexes and, as always with this type, superiority tendencies at the same time. The I-addicted who forever safeguards himself can never be a Hara no aru hito and, conversely, a real Hara no aru hito with his sturdy acceptance of whatever comes his way is always calm and relaxed no matter what happens to him personally.

Thus 'Hara' is something which puts the whole man in a specific condition (state), indeed one could say, that he is a 'whole man' only because of Hara. Where, however, Hara is lacking man is not yet 'whole'. This idea is also very obvious in other popular sayings. If one says of an action that it is done 'with the belly' one means that it is not done by any separate function, not by any specialized organ but by the 'whole' of the person, even though he may make use of this or that particular organ. In this sense, for example, one speaks of Hara-goe -- belly-voice -- or of Hara de kangaeru, 'to think with the belly.'

Hara in the true sense has nothing to do with being corpulent, that is, with having a big physical belly. Thus people with no outward belly may have belly in the psychospiritual sense and vice versa. This might give the impression that there is no physiological connection at all. In fact such a connection does exist but it is not immediately evident in relation to physical size. A first hint of this psycho-physical connection is afforded by the reality of the abdominal voice. The abdominal voice really comes from the abdomen and a person speaking from the larynx, the nose or the chest is, indeed different from one speaking from the abdomen. Everyone is familiar with these differences, and knows too that the differences in his own voice denote changing moods and mental attitudes. Terror can rob one of one's voice completely. Pain, fear and even worry can cause the voice more or less to stick in the throat or at least make it sound strained. Anyone who has learnt to pay a little attention to it, can easily distinguish changes of mood and attitude by changes in the voice of a speaker. But this is not our direct concern. here. The point is to be aware from the outset of the interrelation of inner attitude and 'belly' in the physical sense. The connotations of Hara are primarily psycho-spiritual but the inner aspect always has its outward counterpart. Thus, the Japanese distinguish in general the voice coming only from the mouth or from the heart, from the one coming from the belly, and are very sensitive to the psychological significance of these variations. The Har-goe, the voice coming from the belly, is valued as an expression of integrated wholeness and total presence. Genuine belly voices always have volume and depth. If a man utters profound truths from the larynx the Japanese do not trust him. They consider him insincere.

A master judges the pupil's level of maturity by the timbre of his voice and in general the Japanese pay close attention to voices. They will really trust only those whose voices come from the belly.

The expression Hara de kangaeru in regard to thought, like Hara-goe in regard to the voice, indicates the participation of the whole man. Hara de kangaeru is the opposite of atama de kangaeru or even atama nosaki de kangaeru, 'to think with the head' or even 'with the top of the head'. The Japanese says, tapping his forehead with his finger, 'Koko de kangzeru no wa ikemasen,' 'One must not think just with this' and often adds, 'Hara de kangaenasai' -- 'please think with your belly'. By this he means, 'not so rationally, intellectually but deeper, please, as a whole man, from the essence of your being.' But all this, of course, presupposes one thing, one has to 'have Hara'. Thus there is the phrase: Hara no nai huo wa, Hara de kangaeru koto ga dekinai, a man without belly cannot do belly-thinking. This is by no means a tautology. Even a man without belly can occasionally think with his belly. What matters, however, is not an accidental, momentary capacity, but one which has become second nature. Interesting also in this connection is the Japanese term for plan, fukuan, literally 'belly-project'. The term implies that only what comes from the belly, 'stands', has the 'long view' or 'firm ground', as distinct from the uncertain haphazard notion or the merely intellectual consideration.

Thus it becomes more and more clear that the word Hara denotes something that gives the man possessing it special faculties, active as well as passive, i.e. receptive. Hara gives rise to experiences transcending the range of the five senses but which do not necessarily coincide with those arising from instinct or intuition. 'Hara' means that entire receptive and creative organ which fundamentally is the 'whole man' -- able to prove himself as such. We have already seen how the Hara-practice lifts a man out of the prison of his little ego and frees him to live and act from his state of wholeness.

'Self-consciousness' anchored in Hara is consciousness of a self larger than the mere I and, therefore not necessarily affected where the little I is touched or hurt. It is, at the same time, wider and capable of doing more than the little I can achieve. In this connection we should mention an interesting concept which plays an important part in the Japanese world: haragei, literally 'belly art'.

Haragei is every activity made perfect through Hara. Thus it includes every form of art. Perfect art can flower only in one ' who has attained wholeness. And, in the concept haragei the Hara-consciousness of the Japanese reaches its peak. He who has mastered haragei has in a measure achieved 'that'. All the 'Ways', e.g. the Way of the Tea Ceremony the Way of Archery, the Way of Sitting, the Way of Swordsmanship, etc. are, in the ideal, and in their highest form haragei. But in daily life also all genuine relationships between people, whether fleeting or enduring are characterized by haragei. Take for example conversation. Genuine conversation should be conducted as it were from belly to belly not from mouth and head. Mouth and head should rightly be merely organs, not forces in themselves.

We will give a specific example of haragei. A man walks along a road. A few yards behind him another follows. The man in front senses, without turning round, 'that fellow behind me is up to something'. But he calmly walks on without turning round. The pursuer who is indeed planning to attack him feels, 'the man knows what I have in mind' and then he feels, 'he must be strong' and so says to himself, 'better not start anything'. In this case haragei is present in both. In the case of the one walking in front it means perception. At the same time it means a power of. radiation strong enough to reach the other. In the case of the foot-pad haragei is also his capacity, or rather his general state which makes it possible for him to sense the strength of his intended victim who, in fact, has done nothing but continues to walk on calmly. It would be easy to speak here of 'presentiment' or 'intuition' and yet these terms would not correspond to the facts of the situation. It was not a matter of a presentiment but of an exact perception, not a sudden intuition but the proof of a reliable warning-sense.

Moreover, with Haragei there is a capacity both for reception and for action, as though the man were a highly sensitive receiving set as well as a powerful transmitter.

The to and fro of question and answer in Zen is also Haragei. Here the intellect and the five senses alone are not sufficient. And yet Haragei is nothing 'supernatural', except for those to whom the 'natural' means only what they can conceive by means of their five senses and the intellect. One could put it the other way round and say that Haragei is precisely the ability of 'Nature' to express itself completely -- un-hindered by the limitations of the five senses and the intellect.

So it can be seen that, through the increase of Hara and its culmination in haragei, an all-round transformation of all man's faculties takes place. He perceives reality more sensitively, is able to take in perceptions in a different way, assimilates them and therefore reacts differently and, finally radiates something different. He affects other people differently, and through a different power. The three fundamental re-actions to life and the world -- perception, assimilation and response -- change in the direction of an expansion, deepening and intensifying of the whole personality. It becomes altogether wider, deeper and more powerful.

The example of the man who feels his enemy following him but remains undisturbed, and who, by the strength of this calm keeps the other in check, shows in a special way those spiritual qualities which the Japanese think of immediately when Hara is mentioned -- unconditional calm, that is, calm not dependant on any outward circumstances, together with heightened sensitivity and receptivity combined with an increased readiness to meet surprise, and the capacity for taking lightning decisions which can come only from genuine absence of tension.

We too have a word which well expresses a Japanese term. We speak of a 'sedate' person. In Japanese Hara ga suwatte iru (suwatte inai), means a person whose belly is sedate, 'it sits' ('does not sit'). The opposite is Hara ga tatsu (Haradachi), which means 'a person whose belly rises', who flares up, gets angry, in the same way as we say that a sedate person is not easily roused. For the Japanese Hara suwatte imasu, that is the 'sedate belly' implies not only a corresponding imperturbability of the heart, an indestructible composure and a state of relaxation but implies also a swift and certain striking power. The imperturbability characterizing the sedate man implies the steadiness of a tranquil mind prepared for anything. He is able to react appropriately in any situation and nothing throws him off balance.

Sitting, which is both outwardly and inwardly correct is possible only with Hara. Thus, Hara ga suwatte imasu, the hara-seat, not only refers to the position and weight of the belly within the whole body but also suggests the whole mood of stable sitting. This stability implies at once an outward and an inward balance: it means that the inner centre is situated in the right place in the physical body, as well as the right placing of the centre of gravity within the body. Thus the Japanese can say: Hara ga suwatte iru toki ni wa chushin ga shita ni aru ga --. 'When the belly is sedate the centre is situated below'. Hara ga tatsu to ue e utsuru -- 'When the belly rises it shifts upwards,' which also means that the unsettled centre has shifted to the upper region, therefore the over-all posture is unsure, unstable.

Suwatte iru and also tatsu has an intransitive as well as a transitive meaning. Thus one says: Hara wo sueru, 'to set the belly' or else 'to let it sit', e.g. in the phrase Hara wo suete shigoto ni kakaru -- 'with sedate belly', that is to approach something with easy imperturbability. Thus it is always a matter of developing the right centre and making it permanent, reliable. To achieve this the belly must be exercised, must be trained (Hara wo neru). In this connection Hara wo neru was much talked about during the war. It was one of the main slogans in a time when all were called upon to give of their utmost. But in every way, including the way of every art, Hara wo neru is the indispensable preparatory and constant exercise. In this sense the Hara no nereta hito, 'the man with the trained belly' is always the aim, while the Hara no nerete inai hito, 'the man with the untrained belly' is synonymous with 'beginner', one who has not yet achieved a consciously trained and strengthened Hara.

It must be pointed out again that the expression Harawo neru translated simply as 'belly training' or development does not suggest to our minds the spiritual, all-round human significance which is its actual meaning. Nevertheless it is indeed also a bodily exercise, chiefly concerned with the lower abdomen. Further, Hara si sueru means literally 'to let something sit in the belly'. It means to bear, to endure something, to hold out, to swallow, to take into oneself, to put up with what is unpleasant. For the Japanese these expressions do not imply resignation. They contrast with wrong attitudes when one's gorge rises and when one flies off. In the right frame of mind if, for an instant, something shakes a man and he almost flares up he will automatically suppress it and he does, in fact, press it down into his loins by making his lower abdomen firm. (It will be shown later that this is something quite different from what is called repression). Certainly it has its limits, depending upon the degree of one's training. The Japanese would say Ano hito no kotoba wa Hara ni suekaneta -- I could no longer keep his words in my belly (endure), and then my belly rose (Hara ga tatsu). The anger has risen, come to the surface and broken through, whereas before it was neither 'suppressed' nor 'repressed' but simply not allowed to develop. Or it may happen that one, deliberately puts 'oneself' into one's anger, rages, as it were, consciously. The Japanese call this Hara wo tateru.

The expression, Hara wo tateru, in this sense means 'wrath', particularly, if something is deeply felt as an injustice. An especially instructive phrase is the combination of Hara with mushi, worms. We know the expression, 'something is eating me', which has a quite different meaning from 'it turns my stomach'. If one says, 'it is eating me', or 'it gnaws at my vitals', something deeper is implied. To localize this deeper sensation we Westerners would not place it in the lower abdomen for it is there in the bowels that we feel sudden fright. When we say 'it is eating me up' we mean rather a feeling localised in the pit of the stomach or in the chest. That the Japanese feels this 'eating' further down may be due to the fact that he reacts less than we do in his individual ego.

The Japanese says, Hara no mushi ga osamaranai, the worms find no peace, or Harano mushi ga shochi senu, the worms will not say yes, i.e. they do not obey, in the sense that the person cannot control his feelings. This expression is used only in this negative form. Osamaru means actually 'to put in order', e.g. 'the state is in order'. The meaning of osamaru then also points to a 'total' interpretation of Hara no mushi ga osamaru. And thus Hara no mushi means the not-having-been-put-in-order of the whole man. Hara no mushi in connection with osamaranai means a disturbance which is felt as a gnawing discomfort endangering the vital centre. There is also an interesting third meaning of Hara no mushi in the sense of a disorder foretelling something. One speaks of the mushi no shirase, of the 'communication of the worms', in the sense of 'premonition', something of telepathy. For example, a friend dies and the day before one had felt somehow out of order -- in this case the Japanese says: mushi ga shiraseta or mushi no shirase ga atta, 'the worms announced it'.

If 'the worms find no peace' (Hara no mushi ga osamarani), it may happen that the 'belly swells' and then a Haraise, a fit of rage, ensues, in which one blows up in some substituted action because one cannot reach the real cause of the rage. The ise in Haraise is the noun form of the verb iyasu, to heal, to cure. When standing alone it is used only in medical terminology. But in connection with Hara it means 'to abreact' and so, in this sense, 'to still the belly'. Haraise means to act in such a way as to quell anger even though expressing it may bring relief. For example, Haraise ni mado so kowasu, 'to smash the window in order to heal the belly', (to quell the anger). But such notion is typical of the man who lacks a trained belly. Therefore, Hara no aru hito wa Haraise no koto wo shitari wa shinai, 'a man with belly' does not act from Haraise.

Hara is the seat of good and bad intentions, the hidden place where one is 'up to something'. The Japanese say: Kuchi wa warui keredomo Hara no naka ni wa nani mo nai, 'although she has a bad mouth (a sharp tongue) she has nothing evil in the belly'. Perhaps an equivalent English expression would be 'His bark is worse than his bite'. On the other hand there is the phrase: Hara ni ichimitsu aru hito, meaning one who has something in the belly, one who is hiding something either just for the time being or because it is his nature to do so, one who is deceitful or untrustworthy. The word ichimotsu in this connection also has a special meaning, it means, 'the little from which great things may come'. Kokan no ichimotsu, 'the part between the legs', is a popular term for testicles. The opposite of Hara no ichimotsu am hito is the man who Hara no naka wo watte misemasu, 'shows what is inside his belly by simply opening it,' which means he expresses himself frankly and sincerely, or Hara no naka wo watte hanashiau, 'talks while opening his abdomen'. In the same sense they say Hara wo waru or Hara wo miseru which means sincerity.

If one is uncertain about what a man is up to or whether he is up to anything and wants to find out his intentions one says, Hara wo saguru, 'to investigate his belly'. A man having no wrong intentions who is being investigated in this way may say itakunai Hara wo sagureru, 'a belly is being investigated which is not painful, that has nothing the matter with it, meaning that for no cause he is being treated with suspicion'. But only the Hara no kirei na hito has a right to protest, that is the man with a 'clean belly' who has no bad intentions whatsoever. The Hara nokuroi (haraguroi) hito, a bad man, one with a black belly full of evil intentions has no right to complain.

Finally, two more expressions which show the central Significance of the belly, the first a proverb: Seni Hara wa heerarenu, 'one cannot exchange the belly for the back' in the sense of, 'one does not give something essential for something unessential'. And finally, the famous word Harakiri Hara wo kiru means to split the belly. For the Samurai the word is seppuku, for the commoner Harakiri. The fatal incision is made in the belly because for the Japanese it is the actual seat of life.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:32 pm

II. Hara in its General Human Significance

Chapter 1: Eastern and Western Views of Hara

(a) The General Significance of the Centre of the Body

In all that has been said until now Hara has appeared as a phenomenon of Japanese life only. But if Hara were nothing but an aspect of Eastern life it would be of merely ethnological interest and the purpose of studying it would be only to obtain a deeper understanding of Eastern people and their way of life. But the longer one studies Hara as understood by the Japanese the more obvious it becomes that the term expresses not just a specifically Japanese phenomenon but one that is universal and valid for all mankind. It is a prime factor of all human life, the realization and practise of which is of equal concern to ourselves.

The over-all human Significance of Hara becomes evident in examples from Japanese life. It becomes a certainty as soon as one begins to practice it for oneself. From experiences gained through Hara one comes to see that it contains a hidden 'treasure of life' which is man's birthright, which was lost in the evolution of his consciousness, and which he must re-discover and practise as a prerequisite for all higher development.

Investigation of the over-all human significance of Hara is, for the European, overshadowed from the outset by the question of how closely the special importance given to the realization and practise of it in Japanese life is connected simply with the general Oriental character and outlook. A decision as to what importance Hara may have for us can of course be made only in relation to a Western scale of values. In exactly the same degree as the whole Western tradition and culture differs from that of the East the meaning and value of Hara will be different.

Because of the very nature of his mentality as well as because of his Christian tradition it seems to a European not only surprising but even odd that the discovery of the right bodily centre should be possible only by a downward shift of the centre of gravity. Is this really indispensable for Western man? A final answer to the question necessitates a deeper penetration into the phenomenon of Hara. For the moment let us say only this much; --

From the standpoint of the West, 'heart' and 'head' -- the spheres of the individual soul and of the objective intellect respectively -- play a completely different and more important role, not only in their secular but also in their spiritual connotation, than they do in the East where neither man's ego nor his intellectuality has ever been given the importance that they have for us. Similarly in the East 'mind' has never gained the significance it has for Western humanity, whether understood in the sense of 'ratio', or of 'objective mind' as embodied in our system of values and achievements, or of an intuitive perception of a transcendental system of 'inner images'.

But whatever may be the relation of the basic vital centre, the 'earth' centre, to the higher centres one thing is certain -- without awareness of it there can be no progressive opening of the Self to the meaning of the higher centres. (It must not be forgotten that the East also knows about the 'circulation of the Light' which indeed flows through the 'earth' centre but does not flow out or culminate there.) Where this meaning is sought in a transformation which ultimately lies in the spiritual sphere and is realized in the unfolding of the soul, there also the importance of that centre which shelters the great, primal Unity cannot be passed over. The realization of the truly spiritual Mind is possible only by a calling back of the limiting and always dualistic I-mind, that is, by merging it with the original Unity of life beyond all dichotomy. In every case where a Western man reached the highest development it was possible only because he had first traversed the 'deep dark'. The descent into the centre of the earth must always precede the ultimate ascent of the spirit.

(b) The European Attitude to the Belly

Everyone has a more or less conscious idea of how people ought to look and how he himself would like to look. He judges the figure of another accordingly, and, in his own case suffers from any disparity between his ideal and the figure he himself actually cuts. One's self-confidence is influenced more than is generally realized by an unconscious judgment of one's own appearance.

The ideal of the perfect figure, more or less conscious, differs according to character, age, outlook on life, cultural tradition and fashion. The ideal however is always determined by three factors -- size, proportion and shape. Thus a figure may conflict with an inner ideal by being too full or too lean, or because the distribution of weight does not correspond to the 'right' proportions, or because it looks tight and confined, or, on the other hand, loose and 'uncontained'.

Despite individual differences, Western man today is generally afraid of being too stout; he seeks a harmony which has its centre of gravity in the upper part of the body, and he clearly prefers the confined to the too expansive. All this manifests itself in a universal rejection of the belly. Nothing is more opposed to the modern Western ideal of beauty than the big belly.

But not content with rejecting the fat belly, we are prejudiced against any belly whatsoever. The ideal 'good figure' -- not only in the case of women -- is flat-bellied if not actually bellyless. For the young body this is justifiable, but even the perfectly natural increase of volume from a certain age onward is noted with regret, and the genial unconcern with which the landlord of the Golden Lion or the worthy vicar, the portly managing director or dear old Uncle George candidly acknowledge their abdominal centre of gravity is received with that indulgent smile generally conceded to people whose existence one willingly accepts but whom one would not wish to resemble in appearance.

The unpopularity of the belly is due to two converging factors. One is simply the unthinking acceptance of fashion, while the other is rooted in an intellectual notion. A big belly, or even a tendency to one, is regarded as a sort of mental fatty degeneration, a coarsening tantamount to a decline of all the mind's faculties. Secondly, it is equated with a loss of elasticity, particularly of mental energy; in fact, with increased materiality and cumbersomeness -- things which modern man dislikes because he is always aiming at agility, at speed and the upward thrust. High-heeled shoes and padded shoulders stress these up-going tendencies. The urge to transcend gravity is quite natural to man as a spiritual being, but the desire to break loose from the vitalizing bond with the solid earth is in conflict with the law of his terrestrial existence. Finally, many people regard the frank avowal of a prominent belly as an offence against 'good form'.

In view of these prejudices against the belly as such (which understandably reject the suggestion of excess in favour of an unnatural deficiency) it is instructive and perhaps surprising to observe how rarely European art, in the representation of the nude, shows evidence of such prejudices.

The changing representations of the human body in art reflect the changes in each period of man's outlook on life. In the classical art of antiquity we find the ideal of the unity of heaven and earth, and in different periods of European culture an alternation between the joyous-sensual affirmation of this world and the turning to the world of the spirit. But that the physical centre of gravity lying in the middle of the body should often lead to an emphasis on the belly -- particularly in the representation of the female body -- seems an instinctive thing arising naturally from a feeling for the beauty of the human form. The affirmation of this centre of gravity irrespective of the size of the body, is what matters. The present day rejection of the belly is unnatural and betokens a misguided way of thinking. It shows that the natural instinct for the true bodily centre of gravity has been lost.

But the natural affirmation of the belly which can still be found not only in art but also among the broad masses of the people does not necessarily imply any knowledge of Hara.

It is possible to speak of Hara in its full meaning solely in those cases where the natural centre not only works of itself but where it is consciously used to determine posture. An unconscious understanding of the value of the belly in no way denotes the possession of Hara. Hara means an understanding of the significance of the middle of the body as the foundation of an over-all feeling for life. Its full existence as we see it in the life of the Japanese and as, in our opinion, the European should develop it, has its precursor in the phenomenon of the 'natural Hara'. Here it is not yet realized in its full significance, let alone consolidated by conscious effort, but it has already risen above a blind, unthinking acceptance of the mere belly. A brief reference to the natural Hara as actually found in the West may help to remove any idea that an affirmation of Hara by Europeans is somehow un-Western and hence artificial.

(c) Natural Hara

The development of Hara depends on a basic factor of our ordinary human life, just like digestion, heart-beat, breathing or any other natural function by which we live. Understood thus it is beyond good and evil, as is our physical strength. And yet its existence, like the existence of natural vitality, is a necessary pre-condition for the development of the highest levels of life. Hara is the very embodiment of man's contact with the fundamental powers of the Greater Life manifested in him. It is a gift from life which is his without his having earned it. But only by preserving a right centre of gravity can it unfold its fullest meaning.

As the ego-consciousness develops, contact with primal, basic forces is usually lost and as long as a man relies mainly upon his ego he is obliged to replace the deeper forces by the use of his reason and will.

Nevertheless there are men who have not only never completely lost their original contact with Great Nature, but who are continually nourished by it both in their self-consciousness and their life-consciousness. A firm anchorage in the forces of original Nature acts like a plummet by means of which such a man will always automatically swing back into his right centre of gravity even though for a time he may fall out of it. Unconsciously he is guided by it even when his conscious life circles around other things.

Thus a man's conscious life may revolve around a beloved person, a task, a God-concept, even around his own ego, and yet, behind it, like a hidden spring from which his rational life also draws its energy, always reaching out for wholeness, this natural centre may be at work controlling and guiding him. In such a case, no matter what conditions him in his waking state he has at his disposal an elemental force which sustains, shapes and guides him, maintaining him in harmony whatever his life situations may be. Even dangers which threaten his security, his aims and his safety never completely shatter his faith and trust in life, because his basic vital centre has not been affected. What carries him through comes not from without nor is it based on his ego; it springs from a lasting contact with sustaining inner depths. In the man with natural Hara it can work unhindered and in all spheres of life, for psycho-spiritual no less than the physical forces all have their inexhaustible source of strength and order within it.

This sustaining, ordering and healing strength rooted in the fundamental unity of life is veiled, however, as soon as a man, relying on his rational powers, falls into the delusion that he can do everything by and through himself. Therefore we usually find natural Hara where rational life-consciousness is not yet formed, as for instance in the healthy-minded child whose uninhibited self and life-consciousness do not rest upon his ability or his knowledge but are simply 'given'. We find natural Hara also in certain adults, even in those with very powerful ego drives. In such cases the connection with the primordial sources of life often brings disaster, because people with natural Hara have irresistible power over others.

The man whose ego is the controlling factor of his consciousness and who at the same time draws his energies from the forces of the basic, vital centre develops magical powers. Not only does he possess inexhaustible energy, often an unbelievable resistance to disease and even an apparent immunity to death, but he also makes others fall under his spell. He easily wins a blindly devoted following on whom he imprints his stamp and whom he unites and carries with him: unites, that is, round himself. Such a man, drawing power from the primordial sources of life, to which others have little or no access, and using them in the service of his ego, invariably brings disaster in his train. But not to stress the negative, destructive exemplars, it can be said that every born leader -- whether in the sphere of politics, great enterprises or the spiritual life -- draws his strength from the primordial forces of life.

Through his contact with these forces a man with such magical powers has an elemental contact with all those people whose collective dependence makes them defenceless against the elemental forces of life, i.e. those who are not yet, or are no longer in full possession of their normal judgment as individuals. The more a man grows away from his connection with the primal Unity of life, i.e. becomes intellectually differentiated and self-sufficient, the less susceptible he is to the influence of the 'magical' man. And yet, the more he is trapped in the blind alley of his rationality the readier he may become to open himself to the irrational. The tormenting emptiness of his up-rooted mind then makes him crave for a breath from the realms of a deeper life. This inner need not only opens him to the experience of Being but it can also make him susceptible to the occult in the bad sense, which includes black magic.

The magical powers of spiritual healers, great orators and dictators are incomprehensible unless one understands natural Hara. C. G. Carus quotes the observations of one of the men in Napoleon's train which directly bears this out and shows other characteristics of the working of Hara:

'The embonpoint of the Emperor is not a symptom of illness, on the contrary, it is a sign of strength. I was almost tempted to see something peculiar in the way in which the working of his mind and the knowledge of his strength reacted on his body. His face is in complete repose and yet there is an ease of movement in all his features. There is no restlessness, no grimacing. But his facial muscles instantly express every possible nuance of pleasure or displeasure.'

The ultimate fate of many of the great 'magicians' however, clearly shows that the strength drawn from Hara, though originally beyond good and evil, becomes destructive when incorporated with a self-seeking and presumptuous ego. The more inflated it becomes the more the 'magician' loses his original secure relationship with the vital centre. If he loses the power and control coming from the deep he replaces it by the will to personal power and eventually the whole edifice collapses and destroys him with it.

There is another form of Hara, known to the ordinary man, which is not merely the expression of elemental strength but also an attribute of mature people who repose calmly in the fullness and vigour of their bodies, who are reliable and steadfast in their views and who radiate a kindly warmth. They obviously possess an imperturbable centre of gravity. Although found most often in older people with a certain degree of portliness, it has nothing in common with a paunch or a distended abdomen, or with exaggerated weight in the lower part of the body alone. The right weight shows rather in a firm fullness, an inner solidity and mature breadth. The 'man of good standing' and the 'sedate person' have their centre of gravity in the lower body. The supporting width of the trunk from the waist downwards is what often gives to old gentlemen and to matrons their essential dignity of bearing, the marks of the tranquil mind and of inner maturity. One finds this firm solidity down below in old craftsmen and master workmen whose long devotion to their craft and whose varied experience with people is, as it were, stored and preserved there.

A close observation of the whole manifestation shows that Hara means not the physical volume of the abdomen but rather the weight of an inner centre of gravity whose solidity frees its possessor from the unreliability of his ego-based forces. We recognise it in the attitude of all true kings and all truly religious people throughout the ages. It marks the appearance of the benevolent as well as the humble, expressing above all, freedom from conceit. This also throws light on the phenomenon of the 'Gothic belly'. In the Romanesque and Gothic sculpture the belly is clearly stated and expresses strength, achieved self-renunciation and calm acceptance of the bond with earth. It shows the humility in which man, from the weakness of his I and from his bondage to the earth, opens himself to the Eternal. The Gothic belly seems to say: 'You cannot win heaven if you betray Earth.'

The classical reference in German literature to an unrecognised understanding of Hara occurs in Heinrich von Kleist's treatise On the Puppet Theatre from which we quote this passage:

'And what advantage would this puppet have over living dancers? What advantage? First of all a negative one, my dear friend, and that is that he would never put on airs. For putting on airs occurs, as you know, when the soul, the vis matrix, is located anywhere but in the centre of gravity of a given movement. Just observe P ... ' he continued, 'when she plays Daphne and, being pursued by Apollo, looks round at him. Her soul is in the small of her back· she bends as if she would break, like a Naiad from the school of Bernini. Or look at young F . . . when, as Paris, he stands among the three goddesses and awards the apple to Venus; his soul (it is almost frightening to watch) is in his elbow.' 'Such errors of judgment,' he added, breaking off, 'are unavoidable since we ate of the Tree of Knowledge. But Paradise is barred to us and the Angel stands behind us. We must travel round the world and see if, perchance, there is a back door left open to us anywhere.

'We see in the organic world how in proportion as thought is dim and weak, bodily grace becomes brighter and more dominant. Just as, at the intersection of two lines, a point on one side, after passing through infinity, suddenly appears on the other side; or the image in a concave mirror, after it has withdrawn into the infinite, suddenly appears close again, so also when knowledge has, as it were, passed through the infinite grace re-appears. It appears most purely in that body-structure which has either unlimited consciousness or none at all-the god or the puppet.

'So then,' said I, somewhat lost, 'Do we have to eat of the Tree again in order to drop back into the state of innocence?' 'Assuredly,' he answered, 'that will be the last chapter in the history of the world.'

This is the last word on the subject. To find his right centre of gravity, which is Hara, man must eat for the second time from the Tree of Knowledge.

(d) The Two Levels

Consideration of the universal human value of Hara, like all questions concerning man, can be taken on two levels -- on the level of the natural world-view, or on that of the supernatural or transcendental view.

Man must live in the world of space and time but, in it, he is intended to manifest the transcendental. In his Being his nature is transcendental, but he can fulfil this Being only if he lives in the (natural) world. Therefore man can be understood only in terms of the tension between his Being beyond space and time, and his life in space and time, whether his path leads to an intensification of the tension or to a resolving of it.

On his way to increasing consciousness man alienates himself from the original unity of life, relies on himself in action and in understanding, and develops out of his ego an outlook on life which we have called the natural world-view. This includes healthy, common-sense understanding, also scientific knowledge as long as it does not transcend the ordinary comprehension of the I. Only by transcending the comprehensible and by accepting the incomprehensible yet binding content of certain inner experiences can a man attain a new vision which surpasses as well as gives new meaning to the natural world-view.

To the extent that man entrenches himself in his natural world-view the Truth of Life is veiled. And yet the unity of the Divine, of which, in his Being he has a part, even though it is concealed by the pattern of his consciousness, still contains and embraces him. It works within him unceasingly, renewing and healing. Above all it puts him under an obligation to strive for increased individual consciousness which will no longer block his feeling of the Divine but will manifest it. From his earliest experience of consciousness in childhood and at every stage of his development, man is always animated at his deepest level by the need to re-discover the primal Unity. The meaning of everything he now understands and does from the standpoint of the natural world will be revealed to him ultimately only from the transcendental standpoint. What transcendence means for man will be revealed against the background of that rational world order in which he alienates himself from the transcendental. Thus every effort to recognize the reality of the human condition drives the seeker first to one pole, then to the other. There is no valid recognition of the reality, as anchored in the ego-mind, without some awareness of the reality of the Greater Life concealed in it and straining towards the light. But man has no access to the transcendental unless he has first clarified the structure of his own ego-centred consciousness. Yet all his thinking must necessarily start from his natural world-view. Therefore we will consider Hara first as a phenomenon of the natural world-view, and only later show, by implication, its transcendental Significance.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:46 pm

III: Man with Hara

Chapter 1: The Living Form Centred in Hara

The bodily appearance of man speaks to us of a triad.

(1) A particular relation to heaven and earth. Man cannot fly nor need he crawl. He is neither bird nor worm. He stands and moves upright, based on the earth but pointing towards heaven.

(2) A living contact with the world around him. He stands in a polar relationship to the world -- on the one hand, separate from it on the other, bound to it in a living interchange.

(3) A particular relation to himself. At every stage of becoming he stands in a certain relationship to Life which constantly strives within him towards manifestation, unfoldment and oneness.

In his living outward form man revolves constantly round an inherent ideal" image of a right relationship to heaven and earth, to the world and to himself. This image is always struggling for realization. But man's actual condition at any given moment corresponds only roughly to this image. When it corresponds to it fully then he is 'in order' which means:

(1) His physical appearance if right corresponds to his pre-destined position between heaven and earth. His upright posture shows that he is directed upwards and held downwards. It expresses clearly and harmoniously that man is both rooted in the earth and related to heaven, supported by the earth and at the same time striving heavenwards.

(2) If the living form corresponds to the correct relationship with the world, with humanity, with objects and with Nature, it indicates that he is closed as well as open to the world, clearly set off from it yet in contact with it, withheld and yet open. As a living form rightly oriented he breathes the world in, as it were, and breathes himself out into it.

(3) When the outward form shows man's right relationship with himself he appears both held and released, self-contained yet animated by a living dynamism, tensed and relaxed in a right alternation and balance.

A comparison of the bodily aspects expressing. these relationships shows how and how much the man who has not yet found his vital centre, or who has lost it, violates the immanent laws of his outward form. Only where the tension of the whole is held in a true balance is it properly alive. Thus every offence against what he is meant to be appears as a disturbance of the balance between the two poles of his being.

(1) Thus we can see how people offend against the harmonious relationship between heaven and earth either by straining and stretching upwards or sagging downwards. In the latter case we get an impression of inertia or of downward pressure instead of that of a living support from the earth. What should be support then registers as an oppressive heaviness as though the figure were glued to the ground. Such a man does not walk he drags himself; he does not sit he slumps; he does not stand he just fails to collapse.

If the form errs in the opposite, the upward direction, the figure appears to strain upwards in a way that negates its vital relation to the earth. Such a man walks, stands or sits with his body hunched up. When walking he does not tread firmly but bobs up and down as if denying his natural weight. He does not straighten up naturally but twists up and. thus very often he appears cramped, conceited or 'up in the air'.

In both these cases the right centre of gravity -- the one connecting the upper and the lower -- is lacking. When it is present the energies pointing to heaven and those affirming the earth meet in harmony. What is above is supported from below. What is below has a natural upward tendency. The figure grows upwards from below as the crown of a tree rises from a vertical trunk, deeply rooted. Thus the right posture expresses man's Yes to his bi-polar wholeness, his place between heaven and earth.

(2) Similarly lack of right relationship to the world is shown in the case of the man who does not admit the world, who shuts himself off from it or who, on the other hand, yields to it helplessly. In the first instance he appears not shut but shut out, his features like those of a clay figure are not alive but rigid, inert, showing no contact with anything. His reserve is not due to easy, natural detachment but to a rigid and guarded aloofness. The whole person gives the impression of being sustained by no living breath, of being lifeless. It does not vibrate in a vital interchange of I and You, does not breathe in a rhythm of inhalation and exhalation, of yielding and withholding, of admitting and flowing out. The capacity to open to the world is obviously lacking.

A totally different picture is present in the case where there is no reserve at all. The movements of such a person reveal a helpless abandon to the world which, as it were, threatens to swallow him. Nothing from within holds the figure together, there is no strength for detachment and resistance, it seems to dissolve and drift into its surroundings, and gives the impression of melting. A person of this kind moves as if he had no bones in his body, as if he had nothing holding him in one piece. There is no delineation and none of that detachment which is the sign of self-reliance and self-collectedness.

In both these cases the root centre producing the right state of the body is what is missing -- that centre which makes possible a right independence and right contact between the self and the world. The relation to the world which man was destined for shows itself in a balanced tension between the two poles. Self and world must be able to function independently of each other and yet be related and connected. They must separate in order to find and unite with each other again, and become one in order that each may find itself. Thus right relationship to the world is shown only when the motions of yielding, of making contact and of admitting in no way suggest helpless self-surrender. The man at home in himself, that is the rightly centred man, lives in that undisturbed state where the eternal out and in of breathing goes on peacefully, in which he gives himself to the world without losing himself in it, abides there awhile without being swallowed by it, withdraws himself without thereby cutting himself. off from it and remains alone without ever hardening himself.

(3) Man's right relationship to himself is lost where in the interplay of inner life and outer form a disparity appears, either as an excess of the driving force of life or as an exaggerated reserve and self-protection. There are people whose bodily aspect conveys the impression that their inner life is so overflowing that their inner form is quite lost. Such people seem shapeless , without inner order and direction. Their gestures are loose, unrestrained and not co-ordinated.

In the opposite fault the living flow of movement is lacking. The gestures are inhibited and halting and in repose the figure appears folded in on itself. One feels no consolidated core from which movement radiates outwards, and the whole figure seems to be bundled together by force of will, and perpetually in danger of breaking up and falling apart. Excessive rightness is then replaced by formlessness so it can be said that the indwelling life-force is stronger than its containing vessel, or, on the other hand, that the containing vessel, cramps the living core and crushes it like heavy armour. In both these cases what is lacking is the active centre which can either withhold or release and in which the conflict between outer form and inner life must ultimately be resolved.

When this centre functions rightly the whole impression is one of evident harmony with inner life. The inner and the outer exist not against but for each other. The visible form seems neither forced nor slack, neither dissolving nor rigid but just what it is, maintaining itself yet constantly adapting -- in short alive. From moment to moment the inner life fulfils itself in a consistent outer form and conversely this form renews itself constantly from within. At every moment the outer appearance is the expression of a renewal of life, re-animating the whole again and again.

Always then the presence of the basic vital centre is expressed in the easy equilibrium of the two poles and if one preponderates over the other the result is a wrong relation to heaven and earth, to the world and to the self.

Just as failure to achieve the right centre always implies a disturbance of the living whole so the achievement of it demonstrates nothing less than that state in which the whole is kept alive in the right tension between the two poles.

When that centre is lacking a man falls from one extreme into the other. The hunched up type sooner or later collapses. The slack type every now and again rears up in exaggerated self-assertion. The man without centre either strongly rejects the world or weakly abandons himself to it and he who is in conflict with himself swings between inner disintegration and complete rigidity.

We have tried to show how the presence or the absence of the right bodily centre shows itself in man's whole outward appearance. In doing so it has become clear that the living form can be described only as the expression of an all-inclusive attitude (Verfassung). So the centre of gravity which can indeed be located in a definite region of the body represents nevertheless an inclination of the whole man, and which, although psychologically neutral, yet manifests itself in soul and body. This centre of gravity which reveals the overall inner attitude of man constitutes then the expression of a third element. What is this third element? Nothing less than the whole man -- to be more exact, the man whose living wholeness manifests the perfect integration of his essential being and his life pattern.

Hara, understood as the right functioning of the vital centre, is the pre-requisite and proof of the life-form of an individual who, in his psycho-physical totality corresponds to the right relationship 'heaven and earth' to the world and to himself. Only if this has been fully grasped can one estimate what the achievement of Hara means in its widest sense and set about practising it in the right spirit as a manifestation of essential (wesensgemasser Ganzheit) oneness in the world.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:51 pm

Chapter 2: The Ego and the Vital Centre

The expression of the living human form whether true and correct or untrue and incorrect reveals the fact that in the 'right form' there exists an axis around which the bipolar whole harmoniously revolves. The wrong form, lacking centre has no equilibrium and no clarity either in movement or posture. Where one of the poles predominates the vital centre is lacking.

Over-emphasis on one of the poles indicates either that the bodily centre of gravity has been shifted to the periphery (e.g. too far upwards) or the complete lack of any centre of gravity. The consequence in the former case is rigidity accumulating in the upper part of the body; and in the latter case a yielding to inner and outer forces which results in the dispersal of the whole form. It is in fact possible to show that, where no actual physical deformity exists all wrong forms can be traced to a single cause -- to a malformed I. This may mean one of two things -- that a man has either too much ego, that is, the ego is over-emphasized and the self is imprisoned in it, or that he has too little ego and is consequently defenceless and nakedly exposed to all the forces of life. When the expression of the human form carries conviction in its bearing and movement it betokens the existence of a correctly developed ego. But what is a correctly developed ego? In what way is it connected with the vital centre as betokened by Hara? What is the relationship between the ego and Hara?

The right growth of the I is a cardinal factor of human life. On it depends man's relation to the world, to himself and to the Transcendental. But as the study of psychology can yield valid results only if it is based on the metaphysical point of view so the problem of achieving a right ego, or of understanding the failure to achieve it, can be approached only from the standpoint of the Transcendental.

In the beginning and in the end, in the origin and in the unfolding of all life, stands the transcendental I AM. Behind, within and above all that exists man senses the Great I AM of all life as the 'stillness of Divine Being' from which all life proceeds and to which it returns. The Great I AM is the all embracing, divine spirit whose creative power lends forms to all beings and all things, and gives to man his consciousness. Every being is destined to live the I AM of the Divine in its own way, and man also in the way determined by his human nature. The 'lietmotiv' of man's life is determined by the different ways and degrees in which the Great I AM manifests -- and veils -- itself. When man attains the self-consciousness intended for him by Nature he not only says I am, but says, 'I am I'. The 'I' here meant is the centre. of the natural human consciousness and the first prerequisite for a fully developed human life. It is the basis of self-consciousness and the central point of the world-consciousness of the natural man. As long as no firm 'I' exists a man is passively exposed to the forces of life and has not yet become an active individual. In infancy and also where primitive man still lives organically integrated in his community and in nature, there can be no question of genuine self-consciousness or of a world consciousness.

The 'I am I' denotes awareness of a firmly held identity in which three factors are asserted:

(1) The stability of the I throughout all changes.

(2) The uniqueness of the 1 as distinct from everything else.

(3) The demarcation of the I vis-a-vis 'the other'.

Therefore in the consciousness of the man who says 'I' in this sense there is a splitting off from the primal Unity of Life which lies beyond the pairs of opposites. From the moment he says 'I am I' man experiences life through the opposites of subject and object, before and after, above and below, heaven and earth, mind and nature, etc. but above all he experiences the dichotomy between the I entrenched and latent within his consciousness pattern and his Being which strives unceasingly towards transformation and development.

In his essence every man in his individual way is part of the Great Being. His share in the unity and order of the Great Being is painfully concealed by the structure of his consciousness which is always based on the pairs of opposites. His consciousness pattern, centred in the ego and based on the opposites, not only marks a turning aside from the Greater Life but, just because of its tormenting narrowness can never still man's innate longing to return to the original Unity of Life. Yet without the right development of an ego there can be no fruitful experience of the transcendental Unity of Life. But to regain awareness of this unity is precisely man's raison d'etre, the nerve centre of all human endeavour and the background of all his longing for happiness, fulfilment and peace.

The longing for release from suffering at the boundaries of the I-entrenched consciousness drives the man who wants to cross them to reflect upon the nature and structure of what is confining him, and to seek moreover a higher form of self-realization. This reflection is the first precondition for an intuitive perception of the way which will lead him out of his ego-shell towards an integration with the Great Being, as well as the way leading to a right re-orientation of his I in cases where its growth was injured in childhood.

The strength of the ego, its main concern and active principle is what may be called fixing. Man becomes I by thinking 'I am I', that is by establishing his identity with himself. In this way he takes his position, his stand. From this position the world is then seen as "op-position' and so becomes a fixed 'object'. 'World' means a complex of things seen 'out there' as opposed to 'here' where one is oneself. Before that the world exists only as a complex web about us, as surroundings, not yet as a separate reality in itself. To find a firm stand in the ego and in an objectively established world is a necessity for man.

There are three things which belong to a well grown ego (1) the right stand, (2) the right form, and (3) the right limits. And as the component factors of living man must have necessarily not only a (1) static but also a dynamic significance, the right individual stand implies both the ability to swing back into the I-axis and to regain balance; (2) the right individual form, a preserving of the fundamental form throughout all changes; and (3) the right limits, the capacity for self-closing and self-opening. So the successful ego is (1), not a rigid point but the capacity for movement around a firm standing axis; and (2) a capacity for change without the loss of individual form; and (3) a penetrability which yet permits no breakdown of its boundaries.

With a well grown I the individual is confident of being equal to life. He also believes in an enduring sense, an established order of life in accordance with unvarying laws and values which he can deal with. And thirdly he feels in contact with the world which shelters him without extinguishing his individuality. Also with a well aspected I a man lives by values which are true and firm for him. He can deal with the never ending changeableness and transitoriness of life because his reactions are flexible. His adaptability comes from a deeper level not limited to his I. So his life because of its deeply mysterious flexibility swings around an axis which is firm. All this is lacking in the handicapped ego. In this case the axis as well as the I-shell are either too rigid or non-existent.

However the man with the correctly formed ego by no means lives solely from the strength of his I. It is true he lives as an I, but his existence springs from a level of being which reaches beyond it. Certainly the centre of his consciousness pattern is the ego, but a deeper, unconscious central force is also at work.

Through his dependence on the ego principle arises a two-fold danger. If the ego predominates too much the vital basic centre is suppressed because the static patterns of the ego bar access to the Great Being and the breath of the Greater Life. Or where no right ego has developed a man's consciousness pattern lacks the indispensable conditions for an integration with his being, and thus also for becoming aware of the form-giving and unifying basic centre. It is essential for an understanding of the significance of Hara to have an insight into the malformations of the I.
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Re: Hara:The Vital Centre of Man, by Karlfried Graf Von Durc

Postby admin » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:57 pm

Chapter 3: Malformations of the I

The malformation which can be called the 'rigidified' I is due to too much autonomy in the I's function of fixing.

The man who is caught and held fast in his I clings stubbornly to what is already established and achieved and suffers from anything that involves change. Again and again he finds his stand in apparently secure 'positions' threatened. Although he suffers from life's opposition to his self-made ideas, he cannot defend himself except by entrenching himself ever more obstinately in his own point of view and acting according to his own 'system'. All his actions and transactions are conditioned by fixed ideas about what is or what ought to be, which, in his mind, should correspond to some comprehensible and indisputable ideal of perfection. He must always catalogue, classify, correct and try to make things better.

An itch for perfection is always a symptom of a too rigid I-shell. This ego-type is constantly irritated because the world does not fall in with his ideas about what ought to be. Poisoned or driven to desperation by the injustice and meaninglessness of life, he is sooner or later threatened by a nihilism which like a whirlpool destroys even his faith in God. 'What is the sense of it all?' Life is incompatible with the idea of an all-good, all-wise God and so he discards his former faith and stubbornly asserts the non-existence of God. That his faith was a pseudo-faith -- because faith begins only where understanding ceases -- the prisoner of the too-straitened I can never realize, nor that the sense of things is revealed only when he has foundered on the non-sense of his private, egocentric understandings and expectations.

In the conduct of practical daily life the I-prisoner shows an anxious striving for demonstrable security, and as he does not possess that fundamental trust in life which comes from an openness towards Being, he has no choice but to rely upon himself alone. His self-confidence rests solely upon what he knows, has and can do. So he is always concerned with improving and preserving his position, always in fear for his material security, in society very sensitive about his dignity, and when he feels himself attacked he stiffens or turns sour -- becomes 'knotted up inside'. If the pressure of the world becomes greater than he can bear he is seized by fear.

In social relationships the I-prisoner is egoistic as well as egocentric. He finds it difficult to put himself in another's place because at bottom he is always revolving around himself. He cannot open and yield himself to another because, lacking a foothold in his being (Wesensgrund) he is always afraid of losing himself in such yielding. Disinclined to become one with others he never knows the sustaining force which a community can give. Because of the rigidity of his preconceived ideas he is not even in contact with himself. He cuts himself off from all that fullness and unifying strength in life which, deep within his being, wants to unfold and be at one with others. Thus by admitting only what does not upset his tenaciously held position he not only cuts himself off from the powers flowing towards him from the outside, but to the point of sterility, he is cut off from his own creative powers.

Integration with the wellsprings of Being is also denied him. He stagnates and cannot mature. And lastly no amount of success in the world can serve to satisfy his inner need. For every success which he attributes to his own efforts only strengthens and heightens the wall separating him from his own being. Here lies the explanation of the apparently incomprehensible fact that success in the world often brings no lasting blessings even to a 'good' person -- indeed that fear, distrust and emptiness often increase in a successful man to exactly the same extent that he makes his way in the world, admired and envied by others.

Rigidity of the ego-shell is one of the malformations of the afflicted I; the opposite one is that of the I with no protective shell whatever. If in the former case the 'vessel of life' is too tight, in the latter no proper vessel has ever been formed. Such as it is it leaks everywhere. Its contours are indefinable and everything stands open. In this case the man lacks what is necessary not only for holding his own in the world but also for perceiving and realizing his own deeper nature -- his being.

The man without ego boundaries cannot preserve his integrity against the world. He is exposed to it completely and has no support even against himself. He is helpless in the face of his own instincts and emotions. Yet in his complete dependence on his instincts and emotions he is nevertheless without constancy and direction.

Whereas the 'I-man' lives in an imaginary security and in the conviction of his own power, the man with insufficient I finds the forces of life arising over and over again as ever new problems. States of complete impotence when the world deals with him as it will alternate with aggressive or defensive attempts at self-preservation when he lashes out recklessly by way of compensation for his previous impotence. Furthermore he lacks the power to order and shape. He has disorder in him and around him and yet he suffers from the inability to organize his life and his world. He tends to adjust himself to such a degree that he loses himself. Therefore he is forced again and again to make compromises opposed to his nature. At times he escapes into generally accepted conventions and falls back on habits which he clings to pedantically, but which are really without inner life. He smarts under the pain of being misunderstood.

When he does give himself the man without an I never gives resolutely but lives uncomfortably in a state of fluid acquiescence. He loves and hates without restraint for he has nothing in himself to give him measure and balance. He lacks wise detachment. No wonder that such a man, ridden by a secret fear of being exposed, withdraws again and again into a cramped and protective aloofness just as, conversely, the I-man not only on occasion falls completely from his rigid form but even tries to break through his stony prison by means of some wild and liberating intoxication. The prisoner of the ego-shell is liable either to sudden explosive outbreaks or to equally sudden surrenders. The opposite type is liable to excesses of hardness and rigidity.

The deepest tragedy of the man with the under-developed I lies in his relation to the forces of the Great Life that are constantly striving within him towards, realization. They break in on him and though often bringing him periods of deep bliss they cannot gain a permanent foothold in him. The blissful period passes leaving no trace because of his incapacity to give it inner form. He plunges again and again from light into darkness, from joy into deep sorrow. All too defenceless and open, he is both overpowered from without and from within either by happiness or by grief but neither leaves any lasting trace. Happiness trickles away and unhappiness bears no fruit.

What the failures connected with the afflicted I really mean becomes clear if one realizes how they arise. The reason for them lies not so much in a man's innate character as in traumas experienced in early childhood. The healthy well cared-for child shows an innate confidence and sense of security in life. Innate here means ante-dating all experience, not conditioned by but pre-determining and influencing experience. The little child naturally expects the world to correspond to his feelings, and where the key figures of his infancy do not disappoint him his ego grows harmoniously into its right form. It 'succeeds' because he achieves its structure not in separation from the roots of his life, but in enduring contact with them. Out of this develops an attitude to life wherein the youth retains his natural self-confidence even when he fails or founders in the face of tasks and obstacles. Despite disappointments he retains his faith in the meaning and order of life and despite occasional isolation he still feels an immediate contact with his fellow-creatures, with God and with the world.

But when during his earliest years, the child's original, that is, the ontological feelings of confidence, trust and safety are betrayed by the failure of the key figures of his childhood he is thrown back on himself. This means that the connection between himself and his roots is henceforth twisted and that sure deep anchorage loosened which is the pre-requisite for a correctly developed ego -- for no man ever stands solely in his ego. But if the original life connection has been lost and if the man relies solely on his ego he then receives his self-feeling as it were at 'second-hand'. Either it is based exclusively on the potential of his ego or on the other hand he achieves no sure self-feeling at all. In the first case there appears a person who tries, in more or less heroic defiance, to replace with his intellect and will what was lost in childhood and in the second one who simply gives up.

The opposite types of the afflicted ego as here briefly outlined are in reality infinitely more complex. The 'too much' as well as the 'too little' is hardly ever equally marked in all spheres of life but is divided into several partial ones. There is for example the man who in one respect has too much ego and in another too little. These mutually conflicting forms of the too much and the too little may vary according to constitution or to functional changes such as those caused by puberty, by the crises of middle life, the rigidity of old age, senility, or lastly by neurosis, and they can appear as partial ego and partial non-ego complexes which although mutually contradictory can yet exist side by side.

All the malformations of the ego express an inability to master the difficulties of life. Man experiences three primary difficulties -- the danger and the transitoriness of life fill him with fear; its senselessness and injustice drive him to despair; its cruelty isolates him and plunges him into grief. Where in the midst of all these he still shows faith, trust and a feeling of being sheltered there may be a twofold cause -- it may be of an empirical nature based upon previous experiences of himself and his world. Or it may be of an 'a priori' nature, that is prior to all experience. It is the latter which reveals a contact with something otherworldly. If he has this a man holds his own in this world. If he does not have it his confidence, his faith and his sense of security rest on clay feet. Rootedness in a ground which cannot be shaken by any disturbing experience of the world is the meaning of Hara.
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