- Paperback: 216 pages
- Publisher: Inner Traditions; 4th Edition, New edition (October 27, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1594770247
- ISBN-13: 978-1594770241
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 21 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #223,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Hara: The Vital Center of Man 4th Edition, New Edition
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“Hara is essential reading for all who inquire into the spiritual principles and practices that are fundamental to all wisdom traditions and natural healing professions.” (Don Stapleton, author of Self-Awakening Yoga)
"...the formalism is well worth accommodating in order to gain its gems of wisdom." (Spirit of Change, May/June 2005)
From the Back Cover
“Hara is essential reading for all who inquire into the spiritual principles and practices that are fundamental to all wisdom traditions and natural healing professions.”
Don Stapleton, author of Self-Awakening Yoga
When we speak of an individual’s state, we are actually referring to something that transcends the duality of body and soul, something that reflects the entirety of a person’s being. Because each of us is a unity of body and soul, there is no psychic structure or inner tension that is not reflected outwardly in the form and order of the body. When we find the physical center of the body we also find the psychological center of the soul. According to Zen masters, by correcting posture and breathing to balance this center, one can cultivate inner tranquillity and balance: the state called Hara.
Karlfried Graf Dürckheim shows the Western world how to overcome the physical and spiritual decay of modern life by adopting the age-old techniques of Japanese Zen masters. By leaving behind the “chest out-belly in” posture and attitude of the West and adopting the belly-centered posture and attitude of Hara, individuals can live a calm, grounded, and more balanced life. Included in this classic text are vital life force practices and translations of the wisdom teachings of three Japanese Zen masters. This book also explores how the practice of Hara emphasizes empirical learning and the cultivation of self-knowledge through the perfection of arts such as painting and archery.
Karlfried Graf Dürckheim (1896-1988) spent eight years in Japan before World War II and was a professor at the University of Kiel until Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. In Japan he discovered Zen Buddhism in its various expressions and subsequently became a Western authority on the subject.
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I prefer the first and last parts of the book. The first talks about the Hara in the context of Japanese spirituality and culture, and I like seeing examples of how it manifests throughout.
The last part gives great quotes from Japanese masters and practical information on how to build up the Hara.
Some parts of the book can be a little esoteric and there is a lot of spiritual and psychological writing style, which can be hard to comprehend at times. So I think it should be read slowly in order to digest it. To me, I skimmed over these parts. I think the parts that spoke to me were the practical pointers and explanations. But if you want to dig deeper into the theory and concept of Hara, then there is a lot of deep analysis.
I think people that meditate and do spiritual mind/body arts should definitely check this book out to broaden their views.
As a psychotherapist, the author also has the authority to assess where people with a dominance of the ego end up in life: he describes at length their struggles with an ego-based worldview and how such an attitude negatively affects the human body, leading to a suffocation of the vital instincts, a ridification of the muscles, breathing problems later in life, arteriosclerosis, loss of memory, and premature aging.
In this sense, then, without the author claiming it, Hara meditation is also a rejuvenating and tonifying practice that, as shown exemplarily in the author's long life and radiant health even in later years, has a life-sustaining value.
There is no other study than Dürckheim's about Hara in Japanese philosophy. It is really very different from Indian philosophy for Japanese philosophy is totally life-affirming while Indian philosophy is more or less life-denying.
I have myself practiced Zen meditation for more than ten years which simply consists of concentrating your energy on the hara point. It's all but that. When your consciousness descents from the 'upper parts' of the body (brain and heart) to the belly, a whole new dimension opens which has these effects long-term:
1) Integration of emotions and sexual desire into one streaming energy flow and absence of any highly bothering 'urges' and their fantasies;
2) A totally different way to sit, stand and walk, as the axis point of the body is shifted from the middle of the spine (very weak) to the lower spine (very strong). It is told as a tale in Japan that Western people standing at a party could easily be toppled by just prodding a finger into their spine, for they have no Hara stand. A Japanese can even be pushed with both hands and he will not fall, for he's grounded in the Hara point, the lower belly, and this is even so for ordinary men and women
3) Hara consciousness is different from Ego consciousness in that it is integrated into a greater 'group' or 'cosmic' consciousness which is why the Japanese are so excellent on the social level and Western people generally so poor.
Curiously enough the word "Hara" means not only such a center but abdomen, and the same word, with the same pronunciation it is used up to now in the Quechua language of the Peruvian descendants of the Inka culture.
I wish I had found this treasure earlier in my life journey. I encourage all spiritual seekers to read and study this book as it will support any path you may have chosen.