The city of Seattle is situated in the State of Washington in the United States. Washington is in the northwest region of America, and shares a border with Canada. This state is five times the size of Taiwan, and has a population of four million [as of 1984]. Because it is located in the north, it is freezing cold in the winter. In the winter of 1983, a heavy snow reduced the temperature to minus thirty degrees Celsius at ight, with a daytime temperature of around minus ten degrees.
At that time, the rivers and lakes were frozen. I carried a pail of water outside and it turned into a big ice cube in an instant. Everything was covered with snow and ice. Many household pipes or car radiators burst or cracked. Accidents of different kinds were visible all around, due to the difficulties of controlling the cars on ice.
Even pen ink was frozen, not to mention the dew on the windows of my True Buddha Attic that had also turned into ice. Nonetheless, I continued with my meditation, without a heater in the attic. In the severe cold winter, I had to rely on the heat generated through Mahamudra to counter the freezing cold. In my attic the cold air had consolidated into ice, yet my body was sweating lightly like a stove that was warm all over. This is the psychic heat or inner heat produced by Mahamudra practice.
Here is the method for producing psychic heat:
We stabilize ourselves with the seven-point posture of Vairocana and regulate our breathing.
Visualize a spot about four fingers beneath the navel. It is a place where the three channels, the left channel, the right channel and the middle channel converge, which is known to the Taoists as the dantian. In this spot there is the Sanskrit syllable half AH which has the width of a hair follicle and appears red. This half AH trembles and vibrates like the flame that trembles in a stove. In your visualization, feel that the little flame residing at the junction of the three channels is warm.
While one is still seated, breathe in using the complete inhalation approach, so that the wind enters the left and right channels (One may review this breathing method in my book, The Realization of the Master). When this breath of wind reaches the meeting point of the three channels, it fans the fire and increases the temperature of the red fiery flame. Consequently the short AH, that is as thin as a strand of hair, thickens and becomes even redder.
While performing complete breathing, one needs to visualize the exhalation of blue smoke. Thus each complete inhalation and exhalation is synchronized with the respective visualizations, and one continues this cycle of breathing.
Each inhalation and exhalation performed is called a breathing cycle. By performing ten such breathing cycles, the flame should reach the solar plexus chakra [located one to two inches above the navel].
With the next ten breathing cycles, the solar plexus chakra and its surrounding area should be filled with heated winds. The subsequent ten breathing cycles should cause the lower body to experience warmth all over. Another ten breathing cycles thereafter should raise the flame to the heart chakra. Another ten breathing cycles should move it further upwards to the throat chakra. Then, the next ten breathing cycles should raise the flame towards the third-eye chakra. Another ten breathing cycles should lead it to the crown chakra.
Once I heard that there was a highly adept monk who would place a teapot of cold water upon his head every time he sat in meditation. When the monk entered into meditative absorption, his body would remain very still. An hour later, the cold water in the teapot would turn hot and begin steaming. Such a feat is the yoga of psychic heat, which is the practice of drops and inner fire.
Those who are less adept in this practice may achieve a warm sensation around the region of the dantian. Even one’s lower body region feels like a stove and feels hot when touched with the hand.
When one gains mastery over the yoga of psychic heat, even the most subtle spots such as the cold tips of the fingers and toes can be penetrated by the heat of the winds. The whole body experiences a hot sensation. This is the reason why I could keep myself warm during the freezing cold winter.
When the psychic heat reaches the crown chakra, the white bodhicitta (white drops) at the crown chakra melts and drips downwards via the path of the tongue that is pressing against the upper palate. This fluid is known in Taoism as the heavenly court water, and is called nectar in Buddhism. The fluid has the characteristic of being cool and when it is mixed with the psychic heat, it produces a nurturing effect. This is known as the “mixing of water and fire.”
On the practice of psychic heat and the practice of inner fire and drops, I would like to elucidate the main points one more time:
- The first experience that marks progress on the path to at- tainment of buddhahood through Mahamudra is psychic heat. When the psychic heat is ignited, it signals success in the most elementary achievement. Without it, it is all empty talk. Some practitioners have gone astray with their practices. As a result, they have lost their glow and their limbs have become cold. These symptoms are an indication of a practice gone wrong.
- The initial practice of the Mahamudra of psychic heat re- quires one to meditate six times daily, and only after the ignition of psychic heat can one reduce the practice to three or four times a day. Each session requires at least seventy breathing cycles. One round of inhaling and ex- haling constitutes one breathing cycle.
- The syllable AH is Sanskrit, and the half AH that is as thin as a hair breath resembles the Chinese character Na with the right portion removed. During visualization, pay special attention to the blazing red syllable becoming more red and thicker, and as the flame grows, it gets hotter as the practice progresses.
- Inhale through the complete breathing method. Keep the breath slow and drawn out, so that it reaches the meeting point at the dantian. With the winds fanning the fire, the fire blazes upwards fiercely, moving through one chakra every ten breathing cycles. In total, seventy breaths are needed every meditation session for the seven chakras. Some practice one hundred and eight breathing cycles, penetrating all the meridians in the body.
- When the psychic heat blazes up to the crown chakra, the white bodhicitta (nectar) melts and drips downwards. This is a method of mixing water and fire. This is a great secret within heaven and earth, and a major celestial secret indeed. The truth of attainment in Buddhism is found within this practice, and it also contains the truth of the formation of relics (sariras).
- One must exhale through complete breathing as well. Keep the breath slow and drawn out and visualize blue smoke leaving one’s body, which is similar to how smoke from a stove leaves the chimney.
- There is a sensation associated with the cultivation of psychic heat. The coldness of the limbs is removed, and those with health problems find relief when the fire of the psychic heat burns inwardly. The circulation of the inner fire of psychic heat clears the meridians of blockages, and those who gain mastery over its application may find themselves immune to illnesses. This is certainly a vital method for balancing the spiritual energies of body and mind.
- Due to the arousal of psychic heat, the body feels warm all over and the individual finds himself bathed in the feeling of lightness. The body feels very light where the mind en- joys a state of freedom. Discursive thoughts cease, leaving the person in a condition of extreme tranquility and joy. Generally speaking, as one moves further into the practice, many stages of phenomena may be experienced, such as visions of past lives, and images of beautiful women and dream-like illusory imageries. Irrespective of the nature of these illusory visions, whether they are good or bad, we should not attach to them. Instead, we should aim for active and diligent cultivation that will naturally lead us to achieve samadhi.
Someone once asked me what psychic heat and inner fire were. The true meaning of psychic heat is the breath of life [prana]. The true meaning of inner fire is the fire of life. The survival of man hinges on psychic heat and inner fire.
What exactly is the central channel? The central channel is an in- visible channel, a pathway that facilitates the travel of psychic heat through the body. In principle, it exists and moves through the center of the spine, and some of its secondary veins fan out from the spine. Some have said that the central channel is the governing center of all spiritual veins. It is close to the mingmen meridian, the gate of life, which is the source of life itself. The Indians called it the muladhara, the seat of all drops of psychic heat. These drops are the very life drops of humans, and the body is born from these drops.
Today, the teachings of Mahamudra have clearly elucidated the basic source of life for humankind, and it explains in detail the way to produce psychic heat and inner fire. My exposition on all these teachings is geared towards delivering all sentient beings. Through fearless expedient means, I lead individuals through my teachings so that they may be liberated from the suffering of this world, and generate the causes and conditions of buddhahood to attain the path of liberation. What a great dharma affinity and secret this is! The practice of psychic heat requires perseverance, moving from the simple to deep levels, and from the deep levels one enters into the wonderful realms. From the wonderful realms one enters into the mystical realm, through which realization can be attained.
Many are aware that I am afraid of hot weather but not cold weather. This is due to the fact that I have long achieved the cultivation of psychic heat and the cultivation of drops and inner fire.
Many are also aware that Sheng-yen Lu has great supernatural power, while others have called me a con man with no ability of any sort! Yet the fact that I can write about the practice of Mahamudra is an evidence of a true and thorough understanding. There is noth- ing mystical about this, for it is the fruit of my actual practice. I have walked past this secret gate and have truly mastered its secrets.