Five Principles of Ki Meditation

Onegaishimasu.  Hello everyone.  Thank you for joining us.  

This is a discussion of the Five Principles of Ki Meditation. 

  1.  A posture of holding.
  2.  A posture of letting go.
  3.  A posture of harmony.
  4.  A posture in which we can feel the creation of the universe.
  5.  A posture in which we can feel the movement of Ki of the universe.

The Japanese word that we translate into English as “posture,” is “shisei.” Shisei means more than just a physical posture. But we don’t have the exact word to match that, in English. If we were to use a phrase, we might say something like the “state of being.” In the Japanese language, the word shisei refers to a combination of our physical posture and our mind state, or attitude. 

As we see in the first principle, “A posture of holding,” our posture must be in a state that allows us to hold. “Holding” here is similar to carefully embracing. We hold our own attitude of mind and body the way we hold a baby, something very precious. Most of us would hold a baby very differently than the way we would hold a sack of groceries. 

Another way we might express this is to say that when we have a posture of holding, we are “extending Ki.” This means everything becomes treasured and is included. Nothing is judged as inadequate or unnecessary.

In this “posture of holding,” there must be no personal preference as to outcome. Whatever arises in our Ki Meditation is accepted in this way. A Vajrayana Buddhist teacher once said that meditation is like putting a chair in the middle of a room and waiting to see who comes. And when someone comes, we don’t feed them or offer them a drink. We don’t invite them to stay or ask them to leave. We simply sit and see what they do, what they are. This is metaphoric, of course. But this is very much like holding everything that arises both with great care and attention and seeing it as nothing special at the same time.

The second principle here is “A posture of letting go.” We might think of letting go as the opposite of holding. However, they are the same. This is similar to kakudaiho (expansion) and shuchuho (contraction) in Ki Meditation. These two movements may appear as the antithesis of each other, and indeed, relatively speaking, they are. However, since both produce the identical transcendent response within us, in that sense they are equivalent, and so it is possible to see something much more comprehensive through our own experience. What seems opposite in a separate, objective sense, is often not so in an inclusive, subjective sense.  When we are not bound to thinking only in a linear, objective and measurable way, we may be able to glimpse the great unity of all. 

Here again we hold everything as sacred, and yet we don’t cling to anything in particular. Whether it’s holding everything, or letting go of everything, it is in accord with the nature of the universe. Whether it is expanding to fill the universe, or the condensing of everything into the infinity of the One Point, the sense that accompanies these two opposites in the mind body is the same.

Everything is cherished in its own time, and those same things are wiped away when their time is over. This is the way of harmony in the universe.

The third principle is “A posture of harmony.” This principle can be seen as the combining of the first two principles. If we don’t follow the first two principles carefully in our practice, we will not be able to experience a posture of harmony.

Harmony is very close to equanimity; in that it is a posture in which there is no objective limiting of events or persons. This means that, when we have harmony, there is no judging of something or someone to be definitively or fully this way or that way. This does not mean that differences are not recognized or appreciated, as these certainly must be taken into account when dealing on the physical level. Instead, this means that we don’t use perceived differences as fodder for discontent or unneeded excitement. 

It is important to recognize that harmony is not something that can be developed and finally achieved. Harmony is something we come to recognize that already exists as an essential aspect of our original condition. When we cease forcing others or their actions into this or that condition, suddenly we notice a great feeling of relief, as everything appears before us already perfectly balanced and in harmony.  

The next principle is “A posture in which we can feel the creation of the universe.” The process of creation never ceases. The juices of creativity are constantly bubbling in every moment. Whether we’re out playing in the world or whether we’re sitting in meditation, there is a constant flow of creation.  If we are not paying attention, we may not notice the persistent newness of this.  We may imagine that things are being repeated, and so wonder how to locate our own power of creativity.  However, nothing is ever repeated. All things are original and created anew in each moment. As we are here in this moment, we are placed in the very center of the fountain of creation. Again, this is not something that we need to seek.  This is what we all have open access to within each moment. 

The last principle is “A posture in which we feel the movement of the Ki of the universe.” Tohei Sensei gave us his “Three Principles of the Universe.” First, the universe is an infinite sphere with an infinite radius. Second, the universe is an infinite gathering of infinitely small particles.  The third principle of the universe is that everything is always moving in a state of change. 

In the macrocosmic sense, the great suns, moons, planets, and other celestial bodies are all in a constant state of motion in relation to each other. There is a force holding them together, while at the same time a force constantly moving them apart, ever so slightly, ever so gradually. Everything is being held together and yet everything is expanding, maintaining order while allowing for change.

On the other hand, in the microcosmic sense, there is the infinitely rapid movement of the molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles, both clinging and pushing away. These tiny bodies are vibrating at tremendous speeds within our very own body, and we can experience this as a feeling of a powerful presence within. 

Tohei Sensei called this experience “Fudoshin.”  He wrote: 


True Fudoshin is not an unmoving mind, but the condition that becomes infinitely close to the still state but is never still.  In other words, a calm state arises from infinite movement.

By absorbing all things into this movement that becomes infinitely smaller and smaller, we can experience Fudoshin. This state does not fluctuate even if ten thousand mountains collapse around us.” 

This is the ‘posture’ that experiences the movement of the Ki of the universe.

Tohei Sensei often defined his understanding of Ki for us. He would point to cells, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles, and ask us to notice that no matter how many times we divide something, it never disappears.  “One can never become zero.” And that infinitely small something that never becomes nothing is what Tohei Sensei calls “Ki.” This Ki is in a constant state of change. This is what we are made of and what energizes us, both at the same time.

Student: Sensei, I was wondering, you’re discussing this in terms of physics, the material stuff itself. So, I’m wondering how that meshes with certain aspects of what we’re learning. Is Tohei Sensei saying that Ki is a physical thing? 

Yes, Tohei Sensei refers to Ki as the building block of all matter. However, let’s remember what physics says about matter. The nature of a particle of matter depends entirely upon how we look at it, how we attempt to measure it. If we test a subatomic particle in a certain way, it appears as a solid object.  If we test it in a different way, we perceive it as a wave of energy. So, is Ki matter or is it energy? Is it particle or is it wave?  It seems to be both at the same time. What I take away from this is that, knowing that it can be either depending upon how we look at it, then we don’t need to be stuck with thinking of Ki is one thing or another. That would be a moot concern since it is always all things. Again, this is our substance, and what empowers us, both at once.

When we use words and concepts to communicate, we are depending upon those words and concepts to illuminate for us that which can be known.  The difficulty here is that in this kind of discussion we must use known words and concepts to point to that which may be commonly unknown, and so perhaps cannot be adequately indicated. The result of this inherent inadequacy can be confusion. We often say that a teaching is like a finger pointing to the moon. But it may not be immediately apparent what that moon represents to us. Let’s remember that we are only aware of the moon because it is reflecting the sun.  On its own, it has no light to offer us.  

What does that tell us about the nature of teaching?  Without a teacher, a student, a pointing finger, that which is being pointed to, and that which allows the illumination and the illumination itself, there could be no awakening! This process requires all of these at once, and in the correct sequencing, for “teaching” to even exist as a complete thing. 

The creative force from which the activity of this moment is constantly arising is infinite in possibility. And even though the manifestation of creativity is all around us, no one else can reveal the feeling of this experience to us. This is something entirely unique to each of us. We don’t get this from reading a book or even listening to a teacher talk about it. However, we can awaken to this experience while reading or listening, depending upon how we are reading and listening.

The degree of our skill of open perception controls the nature of our experience, if not our very existence. Let’s think about what we use to perceive this physical world. We have our senses, smelling, tasting, touching, hearing, seeing. Then we have our thoughts and emotions. And that’s about it. folks.  That’s what we have been given to perceive within the physical, dual world. But are those the only tools we have? Is that the only source of experience for us? I would suggest that these are like the tip of an iceberg, only the smallest portion that is immediately available above the surface.

Everything in life, sooner or later becomes a conundrum/resolution, if we are paying attention and dive deeply. If we are, and if we are lucky, we will at some point begin to see that understanding and not understanding do not exist as opposites.

Why do I say this? We’re taught from when we’re very young how important it is to pursue a progressive understanding to be productive and have a good work ethic and get things done, achieve and accomplish, and so forth. These are all important skills for developing as a useful, functional person here on earth. However, these very skills that liberate us can, at the same time, bind us, if these are all we are able to perceive. We must discover when and how to move beyond these skills, at least to the extent that we are not enslaved to them. 

For example, my first teacher once told me that we must know when to “burn the book.” A book can be very useful, because it provides us with important rules of conduct. But it’s just a book with words. At some point, we must cease depending on a book, throw it away and just listen. We need a direct relationship with what’s going on with this creative spark within us. This may be what the book has been pointing out to us. But at some point, we must recognize that information is simply not enough to satisfy.  A book is like a map describing our goal and how to get there. So, the map is important, but where we are going will not be anything like the map, because the map is of one dimension, and real life is of another. A teacher is critical at this point because a teacher can interpret the map for us and help us to make real for us what is being represented. But we must know when to let go of the teacher, as painful as that sometimes may seem.

When we’re sitting in meditation, this is like going to a country that we have never entered before. Life becomes clearer and more meaningful to us only as we live this life.  And though study is essential, no amount of it will adequately prepare us for what’s to come.

We will continue with this theme from here. 

Thank you very much for joining us today. Domo arigato gozaimasu.