In the medical tradition of Japan, hara refers to the soft belly, i.e. the area defined vertically by the lower edge of the sternum and the upper edge of the pubis and laterally by the lower border of the ribcage and the anterior iliac crest respectively. The word Hara is used as a technical term for a specific area (physical/anatomical) or energy field (physiological/energetic) of the physical/etheric body.
“Hara” is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character fu 腹, meaning abdomen. In Japanese culture, the term hara refers specifically to the lower abdomen (小腹， 丹田， 下丹田). A related Japanese word is tanden, or dantian in Chinese. In Daoist thought there are three dantian; all of them are considered to be critical energy centers. The lowest of the three, the xia dantian, is situated about two inches below the navel and corresponds to the Japanese concept of tanden. While the words hara and tanden are sometimes used interchangeably, tanden is regarded as a single point, unlike hara, which encompasses the entire abdomen. Both are associated with the development of vital energy.
Consider the following passage from Hara: The Vital Centre of Man by Karlfried Graf Von Durckheim. A copy of the book can be found below for consideration and thoughtful application.
Questions for reflection:
What words of phrases jump out while reading this?
What thoughts arise while reading this?
Do these thoughts tend toward a position of inclusivity or exclusivity?
Consider the following abstraction:
If one were to activate the directive of ones Conscience into their Hara what, in effect, would result?
"The area below the umbilicus in all its names and functions — the moving qi between the kidneys, the lower dantian, or qihai dantian — has a vitally important and central role in the body. It is as important to the body as kunlun is to the formation of qi on the earth and as the north pole star, zhong ji or tian shu, or tai yi, is to the creation of yin and yang in heaven."
~Hara Diagnosis, Reflections on the Sea
"There is no sick person whose recovery is not blocked by inner cramp or tension. And no recovery that could not be hastened by loosening of tension. To exactly the extent that such tensions are connected with the fears of a troubled ego or the defiance of an obstinate one, they are released when a man has learned to drop his I and to surrender to that deeper strength which Hara surely opens to him. Hara thus means the capacity for physical renewal and 'stepping up'. It is always astonishing to see how much a person who has Hara can renew, increase and conserve his energy. One example can serve for many: Kenran Uneji, the archery master, bade his pupils test his arm muscles at the moment when his bow was drawn to its fullest extent-a bow which nobody but himself was able to draw. His muscles were completely relaxed. He laughed and said, 'Only beginners use muscle power-I draw simply with the spirit,' and he meant by that the pow;er that comes from Hara. Whenever a physical performance results from the right use of Hara that is, 'using one's middle', all the organs work as if in play, as functions of a whole, accurately and without straining. And, even in the smallest partial action, the great whole is at work. But the whole includes more than the powers comprehended and guided by the I. If the basic centre which releases the strength of the whole is missing, the limbs then have to be consciously directed by the will. The effect is uncoordinated, without inner flow. There is fatigue and cramp soon follows. This is true of every action demanding physical strength, carrying, pushing, pulling, speaking, . singing, writing, typing, dancing, climbing, cycling, etc. It is also true of every sport and every kind of work in house, field or workshop. Wherever work is done from Hara, that is, with a tranquil I and with the strength rising from the vital centre, the effort is reduced to a minimum because the movement occurs organically and is not executed by the I.
Hara also enables one to bear pain to an unusual degree. Indeed to the extent that a man has learned to drop his anxious safety-seeking I and to collect himself in his basic physical centre, he does not feel pain. It is as if the part that suffers physical pain were not present.
The I-imprisoned man diminishes the basic strength originally given to him by nature. There are many accounts of people in great danger who, by eliminating their I and meeting all resistance with Hara, passed through barriers which would have defeated them had they relied on themselves alone. It is as if there grew out of Hara a sphere of strength from which danger rebounds, before which obstacles yield and in which attacks find no lodgement. He who has no I-position to defend offers no target to the attacker and the enemy strikes thin air. Anyone resting securely in Hara is also immune against contagious diseases.
The man who has Hara can wait. He is patient in all situations and always has time. He can also look on calmly, feels no urge to interfere constantly.· The more practised he is in Hara, and the more he has come to know this power which gives him tranquility and patience, the more quickly he recognizes, in every stirring of impatience, that he has deviated from his own true centre and has fallen under the sway of his I.
The man who has Hara is composed. Thus Hara is salutary for every form of nervousness. Unnecessary movements cease and all restless jerking and twitching of the limbs. It is as if peace had entered the body, an inner calm which is not lifelessness but the expression of a tranquil, self-collected harmony.
People without Hara easily lose 'form'. They are quickly roused, irritable and lose face in untoward situations. Irritations either fail to touch people with Hara or they know how to deal with them.
Health and recovery from illness are also connected with a person's being in form. Just as cramp and tension obstruct recovery, so also does the lack of inner form. Even a merely ethical intention to maintain a right inner attitude towards illness is helpful, but control by will-power alone prevents the development of the inner form which corresponds to the deeper nature. When man has Hara he releases in every situation-including convalescence from illness the unconscious creative forces of nature.
The bodily movements of the person with Hara are free and unforced; he sits, stands and moves with natural command. With his weight rightly placed. In the basic centre he is firm and stable, his limbs free from all rigidity and inhibition and so his own personal form emerges more clearly. From the right centre grows the right form both in repose and in movement; and that form is right which 'gives' naturally, which is instantly ready to change and adapt and yet always preserves its organic flow from within outwards.
Hara re-establishes man's unity with, himself. In regard to his body this means that he is not in constant opposition to his elementary impulses which require freedom and action, nor is he obliged to be constantly deciding whether to affirm or to deny them. It is as if Hara opened within us a completely new region where our tangled energies can swing easily without necessarily discharging themselves in action. Many life-impulses which for one reason or another have to be suppressed, can, with Hara, be dismissed into a secret inner region whence they return as increased over-all strength. When this is understood Hara gives man a legitimate power over his sexuality. When the I with its imagination takes possession of a man and demands particular forms of fulfillment his sexuality creates an unbearable tension which has to be either repressed or lived out -- alternatives often equally damaging. With Hara an inner door seems to open. Going through this door he lets fall his ego-based imagination-ridden idea of fulfillment, destructive tensions are resolved and the dammed up forces acquire positive creative significance. To summarize: anchorage in the vital centre 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 a secure existence. He seeks completeness within himself and in the world. He is in search of an accomplished form which will perfectly actualize the inner meaning residing within 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 presupposes 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-judgments 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 centre 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 centre he soon gains not only a correct perspective but he can also make the best use of his knowledge. Thus precision of functioning presupposes 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. " Using the comments section of this post - please share any responses that arise to these questions - all are invited to participate.