Eastern and Western Views of Hara
The General Significance of the Centre of the Body
In all that has been said until now Hara has appeared as a phenomenon of Japanese life only. But if Hara were nothing but an aspect of Eastern life it would be of merely ethnological interest and the purpose of studying it would be only to obtain a deeper understanding of Eastern people and their way of life. But the longer one studies Hara as understood by the Japanese the more obvious it becomes that the term expresses not just a specifically Japanese phenomenon but one that is universal and valid for all mankind. It is a prime factor of all human life, the realization and practise of which is of equal concern to ourselves.
The over-all human significance of Hara becomes evident in examples from Japanese life. It becomes a certainty as soon as one begins to practice it for oneself. From experiences gained through Hara one comes to see that it contains a hidden ‘treasure of life’ which is man’s birthright, which was lost in the evolution of his consciousness, and which he must re-discover and practise as a prerequisite for all higher development.
Investigation of the over-all human significance of Hara is, for the European, overshadowed from the outset by the question of how closely the special importance given to the realization and practise of it in Japanese life is connected simply with the general Oriental character and outlook. A decision as to what importance Hara may have for us can of course be made only in relation to a Western scale of values. In exactly the same degree as the whole Western tradition and culture differs from that of the East the meaning and value of Hara will be different.
Because of the very nature of his mentality as well as because of his Christian tradition it seems to a European not only surprising but even odd that the discovery of the right bodily centre should be possible only by a downward shift of the centre of gravity. Is this really indispensable for Western man? A final answer to the question necessitates a deeper penetration into the phenomenon of Hara. For the moment let us say only this much:
From the standpoint of the West, ‘heart’ and ‘head’--the spheres of the individual soul and of the objective intellect respectively--play a completely different and more important role, not only in their secular but also in their spiritual connotation, than they do in the East where neither man’s ego nor his intellectuality has ever been given the importance that they have for us. Similarly in the East ‘mind’ has never gained the significance it has for Western humanity, whether understood in the sense of ‘ratio’, or of ‘objective mind’ as embodied in our system of values and achievements, or of an intuitive perception of a transcendental system of ‘inner images’.
But whatever may be the relation of the basic, vital centre, the ‘earth’ centre, to the higher centres one thing is certain--without awareness of it there can be no progressive opening of the Self to the meaning of the higher centres. (It must not be forgotten that the East also knows about the ‘circulation of the Light’ which indeed flows through the ‘earth’ centre but does not flow out or culminate there.) Where this meaning is sought in a transformation which ultimately lies in the spiritual sphere Eastern and Western Views of Hara and is realized in the unfolding of the soul, there also the importance of that centre which shelters the great, primal Unity cannot be passed over. The realization of the truly spiritual Mind is possible only by a calling back of the limiting and always dualistic I-mind, that is, by merging it with the original Unity of life beyond all dichotomy. In every case where a Western man reached the highest development it was possible only because he had first traversed the ‘deep dark’. The descent into the centre of the earth must always precede the ultimate ascent of the spirit.