Qi in Essence
By Adam Wallace
The Chinese character "Qi" in its earliest forms and meanings represented a steam-like vapor that formed the clouds in the sky. Then it came to mean "breathing" (as in a cold day when you see the steam-clouds of your breath). Now, and for many past hundreds of years it has meant "energy-matter," or "breath," which is how Qigong came to be known as a "breathing exercise," since the main element of Qi is air. Qigong is also known as "energy skill" since with it you are exercising with energy.
Qi is actually not such a mystery after all as it has been registered using modern Western scientific equipment. It has been discovered to contain heat, static electricity, particle stream, ultra violet rays, alpha, beta, and gamma rays, infrared radiation, electromagnetic forces, microwaves, and infrasonic sound waves, etc. all producing physiological effects on the various bodily systems. Hence, Qi is not simply air as is often thought but rather all the invisible components which exist within the air. Thus, Qi is regarded as a kind of message together with its carrier. The carrier is a kind of matter.
However, there are various types of Qi. Sky Qi refers to the weather. Wai Qi (External Qi) refers to the body's defensive layer of energy (the immune system) which protects against pathogens. Empty Qi refers to the air we breathe. There are two types of Qi in the body: Prenatal Qi, which originates from the parents and is housed in the kidneys and governs growth and maturity; and Postnatal Qi, which comes from the air inhaled through the lungs and from the water and food transformed by the spleen and stomach. Both combine to form Genuine Qi, the motivational force behind all vital life functions. In normal conditions Qi regulates and maintains body temperature, and helps to produce and regulate blood, and stimulate its circulation.
Solid crystalized Qi as holy relics from the cremated body of Buddha Shakyamuni. Presented at the Heart Shrine Relic Tour at Jamyang Buddhist center in London, England, September 2010.
In Buddhist texts they are called Sarira (Sanskrit) or Ringsel (Tibetian). In Chinese they are called Sheli. All these words literally mean "relic," but here they represent a pearly or crystal-like residue of Qi formed in the physical bodies of highly advanced spiritual masters and found after their cremation. Further information is on Wikipedia.com and more especially on Shuang Yan Guan Zhu. Sarira and Qi at sygz2012.glogspot.com.
Evolution of the Character for Qi
Oracle bone script - circa late 2nd millennium BCE.
Bronze script - late 2nd millennium BCE.
Large Seal script – late 1s millennium BCE.
Small Seal script – late 1st millennium BCE.
Traditional script – circa 500 CE. became the standard script until the mid-20th century in mainland China. It still is the standard script in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau today. It is often defined as rice (or grain) cooking in a pot with steam rising. This is purposefully analogous to digesting food in our bellies and realizing life-energy qi as a result.
Simple (Modern) Chinese Character – became the standard script in mainland China in the 1950s and 1960s. It is also used world wide. Notice how it relates to the other earlier character forms of Qi in its portrayal of a steamy mist, or water vapor rising up to form clouds.
It is believed that Qi is colorless, odorless, and formless, but this is not strictly true. Most people in the West are not sensitive to energy vibrations so the concept of Qi is often met with skepticism. In China, Qi is simply an accepted fact, and its existence is not a topic of debate. When a person's "Sky eye" is open he or she may see other people's auras, which are merely the "colors of Qi." These are the same halos of light surrounding Jesus and the apostles depicted by artists. When Qi is abundant it radiates outwards to the surface of the body and upwards to the Upper Dantian, which is located in the center of the head. A bright and strong aura indicates a sound health and a pure mind, while an aura that is dark and dull, like a shadow, indicates sickness and ill fate.
Qi also has a scent. Negative Qi has a putrid odor like a stagnant swamp. An unpleasant odor emanating from a person next to you may have nothing to do with poor standards of personal hygiene, but may indicate that his or her internal organs are in energetic decay. Conversely, if one's Qi is good and healthy, his internal organs will emit a pleasant fragrance through the skin. High level Qigong "fragrance transmission" involves emitting Qi to produce different scents such as incense, nut, jasmine, and other flowers.
Like the acupuncture channels in our bodies, our planet possesses "dragon veins" (invisible lines running from the sky into the mountains and along the earth, known in the West as "Ley Lines.") through which cosmic Qi flows, but owing to its size these are much harder to detect. Good Qi is evidenced by the presence of mountains, lush pastures, fertile soils, and mineral deposits etc. while negative Qi is where swamps and deserts exist. Feng Shui (geomancy) is the Daoist method of studying the environment, and harmonizing with its Qi.
Just as water exists as liquid, steam, and ice, Qi is manifest in three states of existence. Within the body its coarsest form is Jing, the essence or sexual fluids (the semen in men and the blood in women). When stored and combined with breath it becomes Qi which courses through the body like steam vapor (the original meaning of the word "Qi"). When this is further cultivated in the Dantian, (the place of energy storage in the lower abdomen) the Qi becomes solid, forming crystals of energy or "Dan." These small, luminous, and virtually indestructible stones, called Sarira or Ringsels have been discovered within the ashes of high level Qigong masters, and Daoist priests and Buddhist monks and nuns following cremation of their bodies. These are not gallstones or kidney stones, nor are they present in the cremation ashes of ordinary people.
There is a basic law of physics which states that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only converted or transformed. Consequently so it begs the question: if we are all manifestations of energy what happens to our Qi at the point of death?
[Editor's note: I asked Adam Wallace to enumerate more on his ending question. He sent me the following.]
Nikola Tesla. Picture source: Wikipedia
Towards an Answer to Qi and Death. Nikola Tesla, the outstanding 20th century futuristic scientist and electrical engineer, wrote, If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.
When we practice Qigong, we unquestionably raise our energy, frequency and vibration, in other words our Qi, by cultivating, storing, and refining it. This is the real alchemy. Mind and Spirit is inextricably part of this energy. Evidence suggests that Mind exists outside of the body, as much as within it, and Spirit-Mind continue after the physical body perishes or expires. This is in line with Buddhist and Daoist thought that everything ebbs and flows in the cosmic dance. If our final minutes are spent holding onto fear, anger, anxiety etc. these negative energies we carry over with us, encoded in our Qi. Where this "bundle" of Mind-Spirit-Qi appears next is dependent upon our Karma (Cause and Effect or past Action); in other words our collective good
works (credits) and bad deeds (debits). This explains why some are born healthy, happy and with good fortune, while others find themselves in perpetual pain or mental anguish, or experience continual drama and disaster.
Of course, this concerns rebirth within the human realm of existence. Buddhist doctrine states there are higher and lower levels of existence beyond the human experience alone. We have all been through this cycle many times; so many times, in fact, that were our bones to be piled up, from every lifetime, they would stack higher than Mount Everest! If our lifetimes were represented in droplets of water, the accumulation would be greater than the Pacific Ocean. According to certain Buddhist thought, there is a transitional state between death and rebirth into a physical form, whereby the consciousness gains insight into past actions and deeds.
Back to the human, physical realm, once Qi-Mind-Spirit is raised high enough and pure enough, and all karma has been extinguished (No Cause/ No Effect), and there are no desires, attachments, and aversions, then true “Emptiness” is achieved, and Enlightenment is finally attained, then the cycle of rebirth is finally broken, and our light-energy goes to the Western Pure Land (Buddhist heaven). The Daoists believe that adepts having mastered their Qi become “Immortals,” and fly away to rejoin Dao. The Chinese say, "A Good Ending means a Good Beginning." This would appear to be true, regardless of the cycle of rebirth, or breaking that cycle once-and-for-all.
Bibliography with Editor's Comments
"Qi in Essence" originally appeared in Qi Magazine. It was used here with the copyright owner, and author's permission. Certain changes and additions were made in accordance to formatting principles of qi-encyclopedia. The original may be found here: http://www.qimagazine.com. The "Postscript: Towards an Answer to Qi and Death" is unique in that it only appears for this entry for qi-encyclopedia. It has been added by the author to further stimulate a quizzical reader's search on this ultimate question about life, death and qi.
All past issues of Qi Magazine (not to be confused with Qi Journal) may be found at http://www.qimagazine.com