The Hara: Seat of Enlightenment

About Pamir Kiciman

Teacher of Reiki Classes in the original tradition and Japanese teachings of Mikao Usui (Sensei) in South Florida. Meditation, Healing, and Spirituality training and services.

The hara is central to Reiki practice. Unlike the chakras, it’s more difficult to find information about it, although authentic Reiki Training will provide the necessary knowledge. The hara is best understood in the experience of one’s regular practice.  And while the chakras are mentioned below, Far Eastern understanding of subtle anatomy is based on the hara, not the Hindu chakras.

The following is taken from The Three Pillars of Zen, compiled and edited by Philip Kapleau, a seminal work on Zen Buddhism. While there are certain references specific to Zen, the appeal of the hara and its cultivation is obvious.

Hara literally denotes the stomach and abdomen and the functions of digestion, absorption, and elimination connected with them. But it has parallel psychic1 and spiritual significance. According to Hindu and Buddhist yogic systems, there are a number of psychic centers in the body through which vital cosmic force or energy flows. Of the two such centers embraced within the hara, one is associated with the solar plexus, whose system of nerves governs the digestive processes and organs of elimination. Hara is thus a wellspring of vital psychic energies. Harada-roshi, one of the most celebrated Zen masters of his day,in urging his disciples to concentrate their mind’seye (i.e., the attention, the summation point of the total being) in their hara, would declare: “You must realize”—i.e., make real—”that the center of the universe is the pit of your belly!

 

 

To facilitate his experience of this fundamental truth, the Zen novice is instructed to focus his mind constantly at the bottom of his hara (specifically, between the navel and the pelvis) and to radiate all mental and bodily activities from that region. With the body-mind’s equilibrium centered in the hara, gradually a seat of consciousness, a focus of vital energy, is established there which influences the entire organism.

 

 

That consciousness is by no means confined to the brain is shown by Lama Govinda, who writes as follows: “While, according to Western conceptions, the brain is the exclusive seat of consciousness, yogic experience shows that our brain-consciousness is only one among a number of possible forms of consciousness, and that these, according to their function and nature, can be localized or centered in various organs of the body. These ‘organs,’ which collect, transform, and distribute the forces flowing through them, are called cakras, or centers of force. From them radiate secondary streams of psychic force, comparable to the spokes of a wheel, the ribs of an umbrella, or the petals of a lotus. In other words, these cakras are the points in which psychic forces and bodily functions merge into each other or penetrate each other. They are the focal points in which cosmic and psychic energies crystallize into bodily qualities, and in which bodily qualities are dissolved or transmuted again into psychic forces.

 

 

Settling the body’s center of gravity below the navel, that is, establishing a center of consciousness in the hara, automatically relaxes tensions arising from the habitual hunching of the shoulders, straining of the neck, and squeezing in of the stomach. As this rigidity disappears, an enhanced vitality and new sense of freedom are experienced throughout the body and mind, which are felt more and more to be a unity.

 

 

Zazen (meditation) has clearly demonstrated that with the mind’s eye centered in the hara the proliferation of random ideas is diminished and the attainment of one-pointedness accelerated, since a plethora of blood from the head is drawn down to the abdomen, “cooling” the brain and soothing the autonomic nervous system. This in turn leads to a greater degree of mental and emotional stability. One who functions from his hara, therefore, is not easily disturbed. He is, moreover, able to act quickly and decisively in an emergency owing to the fact that his mind, anchored in his hara, does not waver.

 

 

With the mind in the hara, narrow and egocentric thinking is superseded by a broadness of outlook and a magnanimity of spirit. This is because thinking from the vital hara center, being free of mediation by the limited discursive intellect, is spontaneous and all embracing. Perception from the hara tends toward integration and unity rather than division and fragmentation. In short, it is thinking which sees things steadily and whole.

 

 

The figure of the Buddha seated on his lotus throne—serene, stable, all-knowing and all-encompassing, radiating boundless light and compassion—is the foremost example of hara expressed through perfect enlightenment. Rodin’s “Thinker,” on the other hand, a solitary figure “lost” in thought and contorted in body, remote and isolated from his Self, typifies the opposite state.

 

 

1 “Psychic” here does not relate to extrasensory phenomena or powers but to energies and body-mind states which cannot be classified either as physiological or psychological.

Buddha / The Thinker

Serene Buddha and The Thinker


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  • Gabrielle Holmefjord

    Hi, I want to thank you for this post. I have been through a dramatic and profound spiritual awakening which has been unique, and I’m only now looking for a description in the literature that matches my experience. What you write here about the Hara matches my experience very much…so much so that when I read what you have written I had to get up and leave the computer…it felt so strong. Maybe what I’ve experienced can be called a Hara Awakening? But what happened with me was not just an experience of the Hara…it’s like I ‘fell inside myself’, all the way down to the Hara, and it’s where I live my life from now. From the moment it happened nine years ago, it’s been a permanent state for me. I wanted to share this with you because I understand what you are saying SO well. 

    Again, thank you!

    Warm wishes,
    Gabrielle Holmefjord

    • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

      Thank you for sharing your story Gabrielle. Often there’s unseen grace that open doors for us. Yours is a powerful experience and when followed up on, these can be life-changing.

    • saikat

      Hi Gabrielle

      I am focusing on hara and feeling cosmic energy running through my body. Everything (especially the trees look newly fresh). Does anyone know if only hara centering can lead to enlightenment.

      Love,
      SG

      • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

        ‘Enlightenment’ is a loaded word, and there are many ways for it to happen. Certainly hara focus is very important. It’s a place of oneness.

    • http://www.facebook.com/mlersch Mark Lersch

      As a student of Aikido, a Japanese martial art where one rests in Hara, and the practice of Zen zazen, I understand and relate very well to what you describe and also have been interested in finding more info.  Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much information in the west about Hara.  My favorite western source is Karlfried Graf Durckheim who was well known in Europe but not in other parts of the world, and who wrote a book called “Hara: The Vital Centre of Man”.  I find the book to be brilliant and Durckheim to have been well ahead of his time, particularly in including the human body in his form of psychotherapy.  I also find Barbara Brennan’s information and practice of “Hara Alignment” to be beautiful and her understanding that the Hara dimension is a layer deeper than that of the chakras to resonate deeply with my own truth.  Some people have speculated that the second chakra is really the Hara, but that has not been my experience.  Anyway, glad to see there is interest and discussion in an area that has been so helpful to me, yet is still largely unexplored in the west and perhaps dying out in the east?

      • http://reikihelp.com/blog Pamir | Reiki Help Blog

        Thanks for adding to the conversation Mark. Durckheim’s book is good but not very user-friendly; it’s dense reading using an older way of writing and requires real effort to extract subtleties of meaning. Not at all sure that Hara cultivation is dying in the East. It may be more of a question of not putting that knowledge on display for casual consumption. It’s up to us really to bring the Hara into modern life and elucidate its power, benefits and beauty.