One friend asks how a person should find the internal centre that is mentioned by Lao Tzu and develop its hunger.
Sit with your eyes closed and think, “Where is the centre of my body?” We live through our body, but it is an unfortunate fact that we do not give any thought to the centre of our body. We are completely ignorant of the pivot on which the body functions. Many people believe the head to be the centre of all body functions because it is in the brain that all activities seem to take place.
The fact is, however, that the brain forms much later. When the child is conceived, there is no brain and yet life functions. But that which is formed later, cannot be the centre. People who are emotional, like most women, artists, poets, feel the centre to be the heart because whatever these people have known and experienced — love, beauty and the like — are things that have had a direct impact on their heart. That is why, when people talk of love, their hand inadvertently goes to their heart. So those who are emotional take the heart to be the centre of the body.
But the heart does not beat until the child takes its first breath. The child hears the mother’s heart beat within. Therefore, the sound “tick-tick” causes not only children but also adults to fall asleep. The sound of water dripping, or the ticking of a watch, induces sleep. Doctors say that the ticking of a clock is a very good tranquilizer. The heart in the embryo does not function like a heart and yet the child is alive.
Therefore, the heart also is not the centre. Lao Tzu says, “The navel is the centre and not the heart or the brain.” The child is joined to the mother by its navel. The first glimpse of life comes through the navel. This is scientifically correct.
So, search within. Lao Tzu says, “Keep searching within and bring your consciousness to the level of the navel centre. That is the first step of sadhana.” When the authentic centre and the centre of your understanding become one, you will become a united, integrated whole. When the centre of your mind, the centre of your consciousness and your authentic centre concentrate and converge into a single focus, you will find that your life has changed. You are now a new person altogether.
Lao Tzu’s disciples have, for ages, been carrying out a simple experiment to prove that you cannot grow unless you locate your centre within. The experiment is this. Take two small tanks of equal dimensions. Fill them with water. Insert an iron rod in the middle of one tank, leaving the other as it is. Put two identical fish and put one in each tank. Given the same conditions and the same diet, you will be surprised to find that the fish in the tank with the iron-rod in the centre develops quickly, whereas the growth of the fish in the other tank, which is without the central rod, is slower. The fish in the former tank swims around and around the rod, while the fish in the second tank has no centre. It swims here and there listlessly in the absence of a centre and is also more prone to illness.
This experiment has been religiously carried out by the followers of Lao Tzu for hundreds of years and it has always been found that the fish in the tank with the centre rod has always been well-developed and healthy, whereas the fish in the other tank was stunted in growth and unhealthy.
The followers of Lao Tzu maintain that a person who succeeds in locating his centre finds his consciousness revolving around and around this centre. It is only then that his consciousness begins to develop. Those who do not find their centres remain stunted and lifeless, like the fish in the second tank, because they have no centre, no base around which they can revolve and develop. They cannot find their direction: where they should go, what they should do. By revolving round the same circumference, the consciousness develops.
Lao Tzu says: “Your consciousness becomes concentrated when it discovers the navel centre. Then it begins to revolve around it.” Lao Tzu says: “When you walk, keep your attention on the navel. When you sit, keep your mind on the navel; when you get up, be aware of the navel. Do what you will, but let your consciousness always move around the navel.” Become a fish and go round and round the navel, and you will soon discover a new, powerful consciousness arising within you. The results are wondrous!
There are many experiments you carry out. You are sitting on a chair. Now, Lao Tzu says your way of sitting on the chair is wrong, therefore, you get tired. He says, “Do not sit on the chair.” This does not mean you are not actually to sit on the chair; that you should sit on the ground. Lao Tzu says, “Sit on the chair but do not put your weight on the chair. Put all your weight on the navel.”
You can carry out the experiment right away. It is only a matter of emphasis. When we put all our weight on the chair the emphasis is in the chair. The chair becomes the all in all. You are merely like a coat hanging on a peg. If the peg breaks, you fall down, like a coat which has no centre of its own and which depends on the peg for its centre. Lao Tzu says you will tire yourself this way because you are not acting like an animate, conscious being and are depending entirely on an inanimate object.
Lao Tzu says: “Sit on the chair but be fixed at your own centre at the navel.” Hang everything on the peg of the navel. Hours will go by and you will find no sign of fatigue. If a man begins to live by hanging his consciousness on the peg of the navel-centre, all mental-fatigue vanishes. A unique freshness pervades his mind, a serene calmness flows within him and he gains a self-confidence which only those who have found their centre attain.
So the first step in this sadhana is to find your centre and to continue your efforts till the consciousness reaches not only the navel but two inches below the navel. Then one should begin to keep this centre always in mind. When one breathes in, this centre should rise up; when one breathes out, this centre should go down. Then, a constant japa begins: the rising of the centre with the incoming breath and the falling of the centre with the outgoing breath. If this becomes a conscious act, it yields great results. This is very difficult of course in the beginning, because remembrance is the most difficult thing to do. Constant remembrance is even more difficult. You might say, “That is not such a difficult thing at all. I can recollect the name of a person even after six years!” This is not remembrance. This is recollection smriti.
Understand the difference. Recollection means you know something; you pass it on to your memory for recording. The memory stores this information and reproduces it on demand. Remembrance smaran means, constant, non-stop remembering. Try it a little: Observe the rising and falling of your abdomen as the breath comes and goes for just five minutes. After two seconds you will find that you have forgotten. You have started to do something else. Then you will be perturbed. You could not concentrate for even two seconds? The respiration was going on as usual; the abdomen also rose and fell accordingly, but you were not there. Then again bring back your remembrance.
If you strive continuously, your remembrance will increase — second by second. When you find that you can observe the breath constantly without a simple break for three minutes — and this short interval of three minutes will seem like three year — then you will find that you have begun to experience the centre correctly. Then you will feel the body to be separate from the centre.
This centre is the centre of energy. One who is united to this centre, reaches infinite exaltation because he is constantly receiving infinite energy. So, keep a constant remembrance of the navel centre and let your consciousness revolve around it constantly. That is the temple. Keep circling around this temple. Whatever the state within you — whether there is anger or hatred, jealousy or misery or happiness — whatever the state, your first duty is to return to the navel. Then do whatever you wish.
Someone gives you news of the death of a loved one. Go back to the navel. Then let the news go within you. “Then,” Lao Tzu says, “No one’s death will cause a blow to the mind.” You may not have observed, or perhaps you have or maybe you realised later on, recollecting the incident — that whenever you have been given news of great joy or sorrow, the first effect has always been on the navel. You are walking on the road, or cycling, or going in a car, and suddenly an accident occurs. The first impact is on the navel. It begins to tremble. Then, the whole body begins to tremble.
Lao Tzu says, “Whenever anything happens, go back first to the navel centre.” Your first work is remembrance of the navel. Then, do what you like. Then happiness will not make you mad with joy, and sorrow will fail to make you unhappy. Then your centre will stand apart from the happenings that take place on the periphery. Then you remain the witness only. Yoga says, “Practice the sadhana of witnessing.” Lao Tzu says. “Remember the navel centre constantly and the witness state will result by itself.”
You will step outside of birth and death the day you become conscious of your navel centre, because this centre arises before birth and is the only thing that remains after death, when all else is lost. So he who knows and recognizes his navel centre, knows that there is no birth for him nor death. He becomes beyond birth and death.
Keep constant remembrance. Seek the centre and keep incessant remembrance smaran. The first thing is to find the centre, second is to keep on remembering it, and third is to remember the frequent loss of the remembrance. “This is going to be rather difficult however. People come to me and say, “I try to keep my attention on the nabhi, the navel, but I cannot. What should I do?”
To this I say: Keep attention on the fact that you have lost attention. Make it a part of your meditation. Be attentive to inattention also: don’t let it pass unnoticed by you. Whenever you slip, be conscious of the slip and you will go back to remembrance, the current of meditation will join the mainstream again.
Now, the last thing. When the remembrance is complete and the centre becomes clear to you — when you experience the centre — then surrender everything to the centre. Say to the centre, “You alone are the master. Release me!” This surrender is easy.
Surrender is very difficult until the centre is experienced. People say, “Surrender to God,” but we have no knowledge of God. How is surrender to an unknown entity possible? And even if God is known, you still remain the owner of your surrender. If you feel sometime that God is not to your taste, you will withdraw your surrender. We are the givers and we are the withdrawers — what can God do? But the surrender that can be withdrawn is no surrender; in fact, it was never surrender.
Lao Tzu’s method is different. Lao Tzu says: “The day the centre is known and felt, you begin to understand and experience that the centre is the master that does not need your assistance. The breath comes and goes; sleep comes, then awakening; birth happens, then death. The current of life flows on from the centre, without your help.” Then the question of surrendering does not arise because surrender just happens.
So the third and last stage of sadhana is to experience the surrender to the centre. Then there is no way for the ego to save itself. In the state of such surrender a person reach s the highest attainment.
From The Way of Tao, Vol. 2, Chapter 7
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