"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." – Karlfried Graf Durckheim


"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." 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 every art as well as every sport has a purpose beyond mere outward achievement. In practicing 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 center of gravity in the true center which is Hara. I still remember my amazement when, in my early efforts to penetrate into the nature of the various Japanese "master practices" 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."

"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."

"To summarize: anchorage in the vital center which is Hara guarantees man enjoyment of a power which enables him to master life in a new and different way. It is a mysteriously sustaining, ever renewing, ordering and forming power, as well as a liberating and integrating one.

As a spiritual being man seeks something beyond and above secure existence. He seeks completeness within himself and in the world. He is in search of an accomplished form that will perfectly actualize the inner meaning residing in it. Both in recognition and in action he is serving the "objective," the idea latent in a thing, a work accomplished. He feels himself obligated by inherent laws and in addition he seeks his fellow man for what he is. He perceives him in his unique being.

Significant and effective accomplishment of any given objective is hindered by the pre-existence of firmly fixed ideas and concepts, and fixation within the ego results in an ineradicable entanglement within the sphere of the personal – all-too-personal.

Effective recognition, action, and creation pre-supposes a detachment which will enable a man to perceive the "other" in the other's own nature and at his own value. Only real detachment from an ego clinging to its position, and freedom from fixed pre-judgements makes possible an elasticity of functioning which is indispensable for the accomplishment of any objective undertaking.

All ability is blocked when a person is bound within his little I, when he faces his tasks with and from the wrong center of gravity. For then he is either fixed or trapped. If he is able to free himself from the yoke of the ego and to place himself in the right center he soon gains not only a correct perspective but he can also make the best use of his knowledge. Thus precision of functioning pre-supposes that flexibility-in-depth which is tantamount to the ego's ability to release its grip on the steering wheel to which it clings so tenaciously.

The highest kind of skill is shown in the long run by a "letting-it-happen," which implies abandoning the already achieved, but it is blocked when each repetition calls for a conscious act of will. Such abandoning is synonymous with the letting go of the "doing" I. When it no longer interferes, when ambition and self-seeking are absent and the necessary effort is unforced, skill and ability come into full play. For then a man allows his ability, freed of all personal factors, of all fixations, to be used as an instrument in the service of the deeper power which will do the work for him. For this power to take effect there must be an anchorage in Hara, where there is no ego.

Any clinging to the ego position is also a cause of intellectual poverty. It actually blinds a man to the new perspectives which open out at every step of advancing perception or understanding. It impedes the creative powers of the mind. But the man whose ego is continually held in check is constantly discovering new possibilities.

Hara liberates the creative imagination. One who is freed from the ego becomes aware of new images arising from deeper levels. This is proved by the inexhaustible wealth of imagery arising in dreams. The tissue of established concepts and images hampering the imagination becomes penetrable, whether in sleeping or in waking, only in the degree to which the ego withdraws and to which the individual in his waking state finds his center of gravity elsewhere.

Thus in the mental realm, achieving Hara means the release of powers latent in the depths that endow man in all his activities with creative energy and a sense of actuality. Freed from the bondage of established patterns of the past, he is creatively united with the task in hand."

See Quotations from the Power of Now & A New Earth and Qigong and the Tao, the Way of Life

Source: Hara: The Vital Center of Man by Karlfried Graf Durckheim, 2004



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