by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
A reader asked if "Chi Kung" and "Tai Chi" can be taught in a kosher way.
Here is the definition of "Chi Kung" according to one of the many Web sites that promote it. There is a lot of information online about these practices. The following came from the first "indigenous" Web site, i.e. not watered-down Western, but from the Eastern source of these practices.
"If you only do the physical you are not really doing Chi Kung."
With Chi Kung you can "tap energy from the cosmos."...
3. "The mind aspect of Chi Kung enables the masters to 'perform… miracles'.
4. "Practicing Tai Chi Chuan is helpful if you are interested in spiritual cultivation... thus giving you [an] experiential result of spiritual cultivation. which many people merely read about in books."
5. "From the Taoist perspective, which constitutes the underlying philosophy in Tai Chi Chuan, these many and varied forms of spiritual fulfillment can be categorized into three major levels:
- attaining good health and longevity in this life
- become a saint or an immortal
- attaining the Tao, which is expressed in other cultures as attaining Buddha-hood, union with Brahman, return to god."
6. "The attaining of these goals is achieved through the cultivation of body, energy and mind (or spirit) --the "three treasures" of jing, qi and shen. At the elementary level, the cultivation of the three treasures, which occur in every Tai Chi Chuan exercise, results in good health and longevity. At the intermediate level, the spirit is nurtured and is emancipated from the physical body as an immortal. At the highest level, the individual spirit becomes -- IS --the Universal Spirit.
7. "However, in practical terms, the first level of attaining good health and longevity is applicable to the great majority of Tai Chi Chuan practitioners today. Their spiritual cultivation enables them to understand and to be aware that life extends far beyond our physical bodies, and they may sometimes possess extra-ordinary powers."
8. "If they have the rare opportunity to cultivate at a higher level to attain immortality, or at the highest level to attain the Tao, they will generally be known as Taoists, although they may still practice Tai Chi Chuan and at a very high standard."
9. "Must one embrace Taoism and become a Taoist to seek the highest attainment in Tai Chi Chuan? The answer is yes and no."
----------------------- end of the quotes from their Web site
Chi Kung and Tai Chi are more than simple movement meditation techniques. For instance, Tai Chi is almost always associated with Taoism. Taoism is an Eastern religion, which from its earliest roots writes of "ghosts, and deities, and wives of deities…immortals [i] "and of 'god.'" [ii] Taoism is a "reinterpretation of an ancient unnamed tradition of nature worship, divination[iii], and magic." [iv]
Can these practices be taught in a kosher way?
Even if your student only touches his toes and dances, if you tell him that he is practicing Chi Kung, or Tai Chi - or any other practice that is rooted in a religion other than the Torah - you are endangering his soul.
Beside the immediate spiritual intrusion that automatically occurs from practicing these aspects of foreign religions, students will often want to learn more about their new exercise system. They then buy books, visit Web sites, and put pictures on their walls. Then, when they move to another town, they find an "authentic" Oriental teacher. The result is that that Jewish student will soon believe in the spiritual teachings that accompany the exercises. Those names and roots are taken from Buddhism, and the Tao, and on and on.
Again, and to reiterate most clearly, any practice that is entirely physical with absolutely no association with other religions is assumed to be perfectly alright. However, the minute you include even a slight reference or association to those other religions, you are endangering your spiritual life.
Remember, there are many perfectly fine, non-spiritual systems available. There is no reason to look to the ways of the East.
[i] The Essential Tao, Harper p.166.
[ii] The Essential Tao, Harper p.163.
[iii] “Focus on Asian Studies”, Bealing Vol. 2, no. 1 p. 9-11.
[iv] “Gods, Ghosts & Ancestors”, Wolf, p 131.
BS"D - בסיעתא דשמיא