K'ai Men

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K'ai Men, open door

The Path of K'ai Men

Taoist yoga has long been known as the "Open Door" (K'ai Men 开门 pinyin: Kāimén ), although at various times in its long history it has also been referred to as Ho Ping 合并 pinyin: Hébìng ("Unity") and Ho Hsieh 和谐 pinyin: Héxié ("Harmony"). K'ai Men is the most appropriate name, however, as it expresses the idea that Taoist yoga is the doorway to all the channels of the mind, the spirit and the body. All these, while retaining their separate identity, are as one, so reflecting the balance of Yin and Yang and the Dual Monism of all in the universe.
As outlined in the previous chapter, the foundations of Taoism, and, thus, of K'ai Men itself, were laid down in the Primitive Period of Chinese history. During that period, the first golden rules for all Taoists to follow were laid down, and one of the most fundamental of these was "Never harass, never hinder, never harm and never hurt anyone, either by thought or by deed. " Living and thinking this is hard, but the good sense and morality of it are undeniable.
Do fish in the water complain that it is cold or dirty? Of course not. Do they complain because the sea becomes rough, or envy or try to exploit each other? No. They live in harmony constantly, never envying or hating anything. Life for them is simply living. There are no comparisons in nature, and even love is meaningless outside the world of mankind.
It is living now that matters. The way to the spirit is through constant good thoughts and good deeds, now and every minute of each day, and through this way of life everything becomes an "open door" and the Tao becomes apparent to you in everything you do, and in every thought that passes through your head.
As the very first step towards attaining full control of yourself and deepening your consciousness and awareness, your must purify the internal and physical side of your life by sensible eating and drinking habits. Eating the Ch'ang Ming way (see Chapter 4) will purify your internal organs, bring you good health, and so make you feel fitter and more relaxed than you have ever been before. In following this course, it matters not what your religion might be, for Taoism is not a religion — not even a belief or a trend of thought — for it is the pathway, the road, the track, of your own way of life, which was laid down for you long before you were ever born. Have the good sense to follow it, have the initiative to learn, have the understanding to exercise control, and be aware not only of what is going on around you, but also, and most important, of what is going on inside yourself.
Having got on to the path of sensible eating and drinking, so learning to behave as a part of nature and become closer to it, the next step for you to take is to aid the energies of your own body to realize their true potential. These energies fall into four very simple categories.

1. Physical Energy

The physical energy of your body is utilized through the muscles and tissues of your anatomy, so that, when, for instance, you lift something, these automatically come into effect. In K'ai Men we call these "muscle changes" and it is through muscle changes within the body that the exercises of K'ai Men are most effective. Through the muscles of the body we begin to open up the channels that are necessary steps towards opening every door within us. Good eating and drinking habits help towards this by making the tissue of the body more flexible, and, whilst you slowly grow older in years, they still remain young in their texture. Revitalizing the body comes not only through our daily eating habits but also by specialized and constant deep breathing exercises, which not only help the normal channels to attain added vigour, but also assist the psychic channels of the body to be opened and strengthened.
In addition to the muscular system, we also have within us an intricate system of blood vessels, which takes the goodness to every part of the body. It is aided by a complex nervous system. Whilst being separate in their specialized fields they all operate as one within the human frame. In addition to sensible eating and drinking habits, to make the body even healthier, to gain vitality, and to assist in the cleansing of the whole system, it is essential to have an adequate supply of oxygen. So deep breathing constantly is also a must for the purification and energizing of the body.

2. Mental Energy

To enable the mind to be the constant link with the spirit, passing messages back and forwards, to have it in constant control of every thought, every emotion, every sense, and every action of the body and limbs, no matter how minute that movement might be, you will readily understand that it requires enormous energy. It is when the mind becomes depleted of vitality and energy that you begin to feel listless and tired. Concentration itself burns up terrific amounts of energy, so, if you seriously want to meditate, ensure that your body has the energy and vitalities within it to be able to feed the mind in accordance with all its needs and requirements. Good and proper eating and drinking habits, coupled with constant and regular deep breathing every minute of your life, are therefore a must.

3. Internal Energy

Apart from the physical and mental energies of the body, we have what is commonly known as "internal energy" (Neichung Ch'i pinyin: Nèi zhōng qì 内中气) or, more technically, as "intrinsic energy" (T'ien Jan Neng Li pinyin: tiān rán néng lì 天然能力), but most people who practise the Chinese arts call it the "vitality power" (Sheng Chi 生气 pinyin: shēngqì). One of the objectives of all those who practice the Chinese arts is to arouse, cultivate, develop and control its dynamic force. There is nothing mysterious about it, for it is the natural energy of the body, and everyone is born with it. You see this power come into action when, for instance, a little baby grips your finger. It has not had time to develop any muscles, yet it will grip your finger so tightly that you may wonder how it could do so. Unfortunately, when you reach five or six years of age you begin using your physical strength so much that your internal energy or vitality power becomes almost dormant, and you use very little of it as you grow older.
This natural power of your body enables you to do your everyday work without the use of physical strength, and without running yourself down and becoming tired and listless. Have you noticed how weary and run down you seem to get round about October and November of each year? This is because you have just entered a Yin period of the year, which always affects the muscles, tissues and bones of the body. If you rely too much on the physical side of your body to do your daily work, you will certainly feel the strain.
Internal energy helps to revitalize the various functional, control and psychic centres within the body so that they not only become more supple and flexible, but also become more receptive. In addition to this, it enables you to meditate much more strongly, because the mind has an unlimited source of energy that it can call upon at any time, whenever it requires it. This energy is built up through many various breathing exercises. All of these have specific jobs to do, but their main task is to heat up the Lower Stove or Cauldron (Hsia Lu) or Golden Stove (Chin Lu), as it is referred to in Taoism, which lies in a position about thirty-four millimetres below the navel. The heat so generated creates and activates the vitality force.
The benefit that the body derives from this power is beyond normal appreciation and comprehension, but in its own way it fights bacteria within the body and your body health improves enormously, so that colds and influenza, along with other complaints, become things of the past. Most Westerners, however, if confronted by a demonstration of the dynamic power of internal energy, would rather explain it away as hypnotism, or whatever, than believe the evidence of their eyes.
This vitality power is so powerful that with the use of it almost everything is possible: a woman might withstand forty or fifty men pushing against one of her hands. Besides improving the health of the human body, and one's physical powers, this vitality power helps the lift-off of your spirit when you die, and, if you desire to meditate whether internally (mentally) or externally (spiritually), this internal power will enable you to transmit or transport to the furthermost paths of the spiritual world. Without this energy, meditation will be a failure. Many people have travelled the whole world trying to seriously meditate, yet so many come back to the point from where they started disillusioned and disappointed — only to find that what they were looking for was within themselves all the time, and that they need not have taken a single step outside their door to find it.

4. Macro-cosmic Energy

The other source of energy that is vital to our own personal lives is "macro-cosmic energy" (Ching Sheng Li), which was a part of your life before you left your mother's womb. This energy comes down from the heavens, passes through all Yang things, with a centripetal circular motion, and enters the earth, where it gathers further vitality. It then returns to heaven, passing through all Yin things, with a centrifugal circular action. The general movement of the energy is thus as follows:

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In passing through Yang things on its way to earth, it passes through man — down his spine and out from his abdomen. Conversely, in passing through Yin things on its way back to heaven, it passes through woman — up her spine, round the head and out through the mouth. The two directions may be represented as follows:

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If you put the two together, the result is the famous Yin and Yang symbol of China, representing the unity and duality, the Dual Monism, of all things.

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Our bodies, the persons that we are, the food that we eat, the water that we drink, and even the illnesses that we suffer all depend on the balance or unbalance of Yin and Yang. Mentally, physically and spiritually everything is governed by these two simple elements, and nothing is totally one or the other, though some things are predominately Yin or Yang.

Macro-cosmic energy is everywhere, and it passes through you constantly. If you learn to store it, harness it, control it and learn to mix it with your vitality power you can reach the realms of immortality. This source of energy enabled many of the sages and philosophers of ancient China to live to 150 to 200 years of age, and Lao Tzu is said by some to have lived for over 300 years here on earth. But you too can join us in the knowledge that age is only the number of earth years, and at sixty you can still have the skin, the mind and the energy and vitality that you had when you were twenty. Time is nothing; it is how you use it, live it and utilize it that really matters, and your present life and your spiritual growth depend on it. Don't let precious days slip by wasted; learn to live properly, and attain some physical, mental and spiritual satisfaction in your life, and seriously take up the study of K'ai Men, so as to learn what makes you tick, and how all the energies of the body can be utilized and strengthened. There is an open door, just walk in, and start learning a little bit more about yourself.
When you have built up the internal and external energies of your body, you can then begin to develop your spiritual control, consciousness and understanding. To have this control of oneself, you must start with your way of living, always thinking good, doing good, and never harassing, hindering, harming or hurting anyone, by word, by thought or by deed, and learning to serve others here on earth, and the Supreme Spirit (God). First of all try and understand yourself every minute of every day, and try not to make any comparisons at any time. Remember that there is nothing good, and nothing bad, for it is only humans who always try and set standards by making one thing a bit better than another, or make it worse by comparing it with something else. There are no comparisons in nature. All things are equal, and we are all exactly the same, and no one or no thing is any better or worse than something else, no matter how or what or why we live from day to day.
The material things of life, the Rolls Royces, the big diamonds, the beautiful clothes, are nothing, but nothing will stop you buying them if your concern is to show others how well of you are, or that you are better than they. But remember seriously that you were born with nothing and will die with nothing, and so learn to live with nothing. In so doing you will find that all things will be found for you, and you will never have to make a decision; never have to worry about this or that; and never even give a second thought to how you are going to survive. This is the Tao, a way of life that, once you have learned to accept it, will show you how wonderful life is and how beautiful is nature, of which we all are an integral part. So try to understand the Tao, try to be a part of it constantly, and in so doing try very hard to understand and appreciate all of it within yourself.
If you scratch your hand, or stub your toe, or if you drop something, then immediately stop to think back within the last thirty seconds or one minute, and try and collect your thoughts and remember if you had a bad thought during this time, because this could possibly be what we know in Taoism as the Law of Repercussion (Yin K'uo). If you do something more serious — that is, harass or harm somebody — then you can guarantee that someone will be doing the same to you, if not quite in the same way, within a very short space of time. So learn to try and understand it, endeavour to see it and in so doing learn to appreciate it. Then your eyes will be opened and you will begin to see the Tao. This understanding takes time, but, if you get into the habit of turning your thoughts inwards, you will start to understand the outward sphere of things that happen in your life every day.
The violence in this world is only what we make it ourselves; these are the repercussions of our own deeds. There is no danger for those who truly live the way of the Tao, because if you think no evil, and do no evil, then evil will not exist.
When we no longer think of good deeds and good thoughts, then even goodness disappears. When we no longer see bad thoughts and bad deeds, then badness itself will disappear. When we no longer compare one with another then all disappear, and we understand the Tao.
Say your prayers regularly, whatever your religion; say them morning, noon and night. You are a part of the spiritual world, it is a part of you, we are one and, although we seem separate in our physical, earthly bodies, this is nonetheless true. To realize this and think along these lines is the beginning of spiritual growth, spiritual maturity, spiritual advancement within yourself, and this is the true understanding of the spiritual world, of which we are an integral part.
This is the object of the "Open Door" (K'ai Men) through the physical exercises, which will enable the whole of the body to be opened and therefore become more receptive; through the specialized breathing exercises, which will help to strengthen and revitalize the various channels and centres within our human body, which will establish the links with the mind; and through our thoughts and our deeds, which will open the way to our spiritual growth, our advancement, and our spiritual maturity. This is the true path of the Open Door, which never closes, yet many never try to open it at all.
When you have done all these things and lived the way of the Tao and have tried to understand it, become conscious of it, aware of it to the point of becoming enlightened, then, having made this circuit, you will come back to the beginning. You will have made the complete circle of the Yin and Yang of the physical, the mental and the spiritual, and will come back to the very commencement of all things — namely, yourself.

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The Taoist Art of K'ai Men

by Chee Soo

Copyright ©Seahorse Books 2006 (reproduced with permission)