Monday, February 22, 2010


Chi Kung, Tai Chi and Idolatry

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.


Anonymous said...

I would strongly recommend Pilates for people who are looking for a healthy way to attain spinal alignment,breath control, greater flexibility, strength and more energy. While there is no meditation or spiritual component it definitely leaves you feeling more calm and happy and gives you a tremendous "mind-body" connection and feeling of overall wellness. If a Jewish person is really seeking to go deeper into meditative practices, he should ask his local Orthodox Rabbi for help in deepening his understanding of the Siddur, Tehillim, etc. The deeper you get into the meaning of the words, the more you'll realize that there is no need to look outside our faith for spirituality. Aryeh Kaplan's books on meditation are a good place to start, imo.

Anonymous said...

yasher koach for your continuing emphasis of spiritual dangers one can unwittingly encounter

Anonymous said...

thank you very much for this. tai chi, due to it's slow graceful movements and breathing has helped people to queit their minds as well as excercise their bodies. we see many elderly people doing it with great benefits. is there a kosher way to do these movements w/o any problem for the soul? could you possibly post how this would be done?

josh said...

thank you and don't give up.

Yishai said...

Anonymous, well R' Lazer Brody has a video on his site of a movement meditation that looks similar to Tai Chi, which he refers to as a "ancient Hebrew meditation."

Someone could ask him where it comes from if they're interested (the martial art Abir, maybe?). You could also look at the many interesting suggestions in R' Locks' fascinating book, Taming the Raging Mind (also check out his autobiography!). Psychologists have also come up with totally secular meditation techniques for the purposes of clinical research projects, which go by various names -- but these don't tend to involve movement. These are the kinds of things the Lubavitcher Rebbe was calling for, and they do exist now.

Personally, I used to do a (totally secular) form of qigong, but nowadays I try to do some form of energy meditation that can be derived from Jewish sources. For example, sixteenth-century Tsfat kabbalist Rabbi Ezkari, in his Sefer Charedim describes, as paraphrased by Rabbi DovBer Pinson, "meditating on the divine energy of the Shechinah hovering overhead and imagining this all-encompassing, loving light pervading the immediate space until the meditator envisions himself dwelling in the heart of this light.” So sometimes I trying to imagine a holy white light above my head and feel it radiating light into me.

From an earlier blog post:

"Another example: Rebbe Nachman says that struggling to make a living can cause "the vital spirit which pulsates in the body -- the very basis of life -- [to become] weakened." This weighs down the limbs and spirit, and "can actually bring a person to the point of death… But when a person sighs with longing for the holy, moaning out of yearning for G-d, it helps to rally his strength and revitalize the pulsating spirit within him, bringing new vigor and life. In the end he will attain profound understanding and hear words from Heaven itself."

I believe what Rebbe Nachman is saying here is that work-related anxiety and depression can sap our life energy, but that a deep-breathing meditation of yearning for G-d can make us both physically stronger and more spiritually awakened, by increasing both the lower and higher forms of life energy (which are often discussed in other Jewish works in terms of different levels of the soul or different sefiros.) Since the Rebbe wanted us to turn his teachings into prayers, we should pray that our deep breaths of love and longing for Hashem fill us with holy life energy and G-dly awareness."

Again, this doesn't involve movement, but it does involve visualizing energy, which is what people often find attractive about foreign practices like qigong or reiki.

Anonymous said...

wow, thank you yishai, this is excellent, really great. maybe you could do a post for the blog on this topic? i think many people cold relate to the fatigue from struggling to make a living. the information you present is timely and needed. yasher koach!

Anonymous said...

would like to correspond on this topic. can you give your email to akiva?

Yishai said...

Okay -- just send your email to him too!

Anonymous said...

Please note the following regarding your interesting post on Tai Chi (Taijiquan)and Chi Kung (QiGong):

1) Taijiquan is a martial art whose theories are based on Taoist (Daoist) PHILOSOPHY, not Taoist (Daoist) religion.
2) Qigong is an energy/wellness exercise system also based on Daoist PHILOSOPHY, not Daoist religion.
2) Daoism is a philosophical system based on the teachings of a legendary figure called Lao Tze (Lao Zi). Lao Zi is actually not a name, but simply means "Honored Elder".
3) Chinese animists "hijacked" the philosophy and did create a religion which they call Taoism.
4) Taijiquan and Qigong have nothing to do with the Taoist religion.

For anyone interested, Aryeh Lev Breslow (a frum Tai chi teacher in Jerusalem) wrote an excellent book on the subject of Chinese culture and Jewish culture titled "Behind the Closed Door" published by Almond Blossom Press.

This being said, everyone can decide for themselves whether they feel it would be a risk to be exposed to other cultures and philosophies. Personally, I feel it is a difficult task for Am Yisrael to be a "light unto the nations" if we avoid all contact with other cultures.

Deborah Shaya said...

REMOVAL OF SOURCES OF TUMAH, and AVODAH ZARAH (spiritual ‘uncleanliness’, which is extremely damaging) FROM YOUR HOME/LIFE:


We are specifically commanded against idolatry, in the SECOND COMMANDMENT of the Asseret Hadibrot:

‘Do not have any other gods BEFORE ME.’

‘Lo yiheyeh lecha elohim acherim AL PANAI.’

And: ‘Do not represent (such gods) by any CARVED STATUE OR PICTURE of anything in the heaven above, or the earth below, or in the water below the land. Do not bow down to (such gods) or worship them.
I am G-d your Lord, A JEALOUS G-D, who demands EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP. Where My enemies are concerned, I keep in mind the sin of the fathers for (their) descendants, to the third and fourth (generation).
But for those who love Me and keep My commandments, I show love for thousands (of generations.)’

‘Lo ta’aseh lecha PESEL, vechol temunah asher bashamayim, mima’al va’asher ba’aretz, mitachat va’asher ba’mayim, mitachat la’aretz. Lo tishtachaveh lahem, ve’lo ta’avdem, KI ANI HASHEM ELOKECHA, KEL KANAH, poked avon avot al banim, al shileshim, ve’al ribe’im, le’sonay. Ve’osseh chessed la’alafim, le’ohavai, u’leshomrei mitzvotai.’ (Parsha of Yitro, Chapter 20, verses 3-6)

Hashem, our G-d, is a very “jealous G-d” who demands “exclusive worship.”

Deborah Shaya said...


Do not go into any of the following, as they are all places of idolatry, and AVODAH ZARAH (literally ‘strange worship’). They deny the Sovereignty of Hashem, the One G-d, and Creator of the World.

- Churches
- Buddist temples
- Hindu temples
- Sikh temples
- Greek temples
- Temples/buildings of any other kind of foreign worship.
- Freemasonry

There is a lot of TUMAH in them (spiritual ‘uncleanliness’ which can affect a person has veshalom, physically and spiritually in different ways). Always walk to the opposite side of the road rather than walk directly past one of these buildings e.g. a church.

If any Jew is a “Freemason,” this too is based upon Avodah Zarah. He/she must stop going to such a place, and associating with “freemasons.”


These are graven images. They should IMMEDIATELY be removed from your home and discarded, no matter how much they might have cost, or the sentimental value attached to them. They are a strong source of Tumah.

Deborah Shaya said...

3. Tefillah/Prayer – in the synagogue, and at home.

(a) There should be NO IMAGES whatsoever, inside any shul.

There should be NO IMAGES of
inside any synagogue.

Any images of a person, animal or object should be REMOVED immediately, and ENTIRELY out of the synagogue or shteibl. No matter how large or small they may be. This is against the Halachah.

(b) When praying at home, a person should endeavour to pray in a room which does not contain any images or paintings of a person, animal or object.

Deborah Shaya said...


These are a strong source of TUMAH, and bring in a lot of negativity into the home. These books and magazines negatively affect those who live in that home.

Go through every book in your home very carefully, and check for the following. If it falls into one of these categories, or you have doubt about it – sort them out into a pile, and then DISPOSE of these books as soon as possible, and take them out of your home. Or at least take them out of your home and put them in a shed if you can.

It is a very great MITZVAH to remove such sources of Tumah from your home. If some of these books were expensive – discard them anyway, and put aside how much they cost. They are a form of Avodah Zarah, and should be removed immediately.

• Instead, place your EMUNAH (faith) in Hashem, that He will bless all your endeavours, and new, good things, will now be able to come into your life. You might start to feel better in yourself.

The following are some examples:

(a) ‘New Age’ books – (e.g. Indian authors, ‘Shambhala’ publications)

(b) Philosophical books (e.g. by Indian writers such as Deepak Chopra etc)

(c) Yoga/Tai Chi books (qi gong)/yoga magazines &leaflets; tai chi (qigong) magasines & leaflets – these physical exercises are based upon AVODAH ZARAH, and come from a SOURCE OF TUMAH. Practicing yoga or tai chi is therefore harmful to a Jewish person – spiritually, and therefore physically.

Have Emunah in Hashem to find another alternative form of exercise.

(d) Meditation books - by non-Jewish or unorthodox Jewish writers.

Buddism abounds with “meditation.”

Meditation is only for Prophets – it is not for the ordinary man or woman.

(e) Books that appear ok – but contain many idolatrous images and drawings e.g. mathematical or philosophical books interspersed with pictures of dragons; snakes; mandalas; crosses; ‘third eyes’; hindu gods; hindu goddesses; buddas; tibetan gods; egyptian gods; greek gods; stone/gold idols etc etc – THESE SHOULD ALL BE REMOVED IMMEDIATELY FROM YOUR HOME.

Deborah Shaya said...

5. (a) Written “Requests” of the Igrot/Igros (letters of advice written to other people by Rabbi M. Schneerson tz”l during his lifetime);

(b) FAXES and LETTERS “SENT TO” Rabbi M. Schneersohn tz”l after he passed away in 1994 – at the Bet HaChaim (incorrectly referred to as the, “Ohel” by Lubavitch)

(c) Any other written “communications with” tzaddikim at the Bet HaChaim (cemetery), who are not physically alive.

These written requests should all be destroyed. However “nice” or “comforting” or “accurate” the “reply you received” was; or whatever “bracha you received;” or “whatever the date of the letter was;” – these writings should be destroyed. They are pure Avodah Zarah.

There should be NO MEDIATOR between a person’s tefillot (prayers) and Hashem.
If a person chooses to use intercession instead of praying directly to Hashem, this is completely Assur, and forbidden.

Deborah Shaya said...


If you have taken holiday photographs of e.g. Buddist temples, whether on the outside or inside, these are a source of Tumah, and should be discarded. Similarly for buddist celebrations. These places of AVODAH ZARAH completely DENY THE SOVREIGNTY OF HASHEM, the One and Only G-d, and Creator of the World. They should not be in your home.

The same applies to photographs of:
- Churches
- Hindu temples
- Sikh temples
- Greek temples
- Temples/buildings of any other kind of foreign worship.

Sort through your photographs, and discard those that relate to Avodah Zarah.

However attached you may feel to these photographs, they should be discarded, as they completely deny the Sovereignty of Hashem.

• Instead, place your EMUNAH (faith) in Hashem, that He will bless all your endeavours, and new, good things, will now be able to come into your life. You might start to feel better in yourself.

7. Discard any other items related in any way to Avodah Zarah. No matter how small and insignificant, or however large e.g. bookmarks with pictures of churches; jewellery and accessories.


1. Do not go into any places of idolatry.

2. Discard and remove from your home all stone/wood sculptures e.g. sculptures of:
(a) the human form (“nudes.”)
(b) the human face
(c ) statues – of the human form in particular.

3. Books – discard and destroy all books relating to Avodah Zarah.

4. Photographs – discard and destroy all photographs of Avodah Zarah.

5. Discard any other items you have relating to Avodah Zarah e.g.jewellery.

Deborah Shaya said...

HOW TO DO TESHUVAH FOR AVODAH ZARAH – once you have removed all sources of Tumah, and Avodah Zarah from your home/life.

1. Say the KETORET twice a week at least (Tefillah, prayer).

The Ketoret has great Kedushah, (holiness) and power to transform all negatives into positives. Say the full text of the Ketoret in the full “Sefarad” version.

If you can say it every day, including Shabbat, this is even better. You can say it as many times as you like during the day.

The Ketoret is said formally 3 times a day in total: twice in the Shacharit, and once during the Minchah prayer.

2. Decide on an amount to give to TZEDAKAH, (charity) in Israel, so that it ‘hurts you’ a little bit. Give to a proper registered charity, such as a hospital or emergency services.

Deborah Shaya said...

3. MEZUZOT – (Positive Mitzvah, commandment in the Shema – affirming that G-d is ONE, and warning against idolatry.)

Check that:

(a) You have properly affixed a mezuzah on EVERY DOORWAY which needs a mezuzah. This includes archways, patio doors, folding doors, side doors to garden, garden doors.

(b) If any places in your home are lacking a mezuzah, purchase one as soon as possible from a qualilfied Sofer (Scribe), and put it up as soon as possible.

(c) Check that ALL your mezuzot are kosher, as soon as you can. These should be given to a qualified Sofer (scribe) for checking.

(d) Mezuzot should ideally be checked ONCE A YEAR.

4. Travel to the KOTEL in Israel. If you can travel with a group of people who are going for the purposes of Teshuvah, this is even better. The purpose will be to pray, (Tefila and Teshuva), and ask Hashem, Hakadosh Baruch Hu, for His forgiveness, for mechilah.

If a group can be arranged, this will be a greater mitzvah for everyone who joins. If you can go individually to the Kotel, in the meantime, before the group travel, this is also very good.

5. When you have done 1-3 and/or 4 above, (summarised below as well), you should obtain the special BERACHA, (bracha, blessing) of someone who is known to be a TRUE KOHEN/COHEN. This will bring Hashem’s brachot of the material and spiritual blessings directly into your life.


1. Say the Ketoret – at least twice a week.
Say the full text of the Ketoret in the full “Sefarad” version.

2. Give Tzedakah to recognised charity in Israel

3. Mezuzot - Have you affixed a mezuzah on every doorway?
- Have you checked that all your mezuzot are kosher?

4. Kotel in Israel – in a group (and individually, if possible)

5. Bracha of a true Kohen/Cohen.

Deborah Shaya said...

Yoga/Tai Chi

These physical exercises are based upon AVODAH ZARAH, and come from a SOURCE OF TUMAH (spiritual uncleanliness).

Avodah Zarah denies the Sovereignty of Hashem, the One G-d, and Creator of the World.

Practicing yoga or tai chi is harmful to a Jewish person – spiritually, and therefore physically.

A Jewish person should dispose of:
Books on tai chi and yoga; yoga magazines &leaflets; tai chi (qigong) magasines & leaflets. There is a lot of tumah in them.

Have Emunah in Hashem to find another alternative form of exercise.

B.BarNavi said...

DS, the logical conclusion of your fundamentalist approach to Neged `Avoda Zara is to ensure that `Am Israel will remain in the dark indefinitely. If we are not even allowed to learn about the world outside the realm of Torah - not even to condemn it - we risk the loss of our God-given sekhel, and while we personally feel close to God, it is but a simple childish attachment that lacks maturity, and ultimately detrimental to our character.

Such irrational phobia is too indicative of normative haredi behavior, sadly.

And tell me - just what do a punch, a kick, a horse-stance, and a bow-stance have ANYTHING to do with Shinto or any other form of A"Z? ANYTHING?!

Anonymous said...

There is a method for moving the body in a healthy healing way called the Rosen Method Movement. It is invented by a jewish woman who was educated in physiology, Marion Rosen. On youtube it is possible to find video instructions in the method as well. It is a simple system based on a theory of getting in contact with the body in a playfull, calm and healthy way. It can be used both as a physical healing method of moving, a way of gaining contact with the body (the soul finding its place in the body), and a way of slow gymnastics for everyday life. This method has no other religious origin than the fact that Marion Rosen was jewish - so in this way it could be called of jewish origin. I am not shure that Marion Rosen was observant jew, but as the method is developed on a basis of the physiological knowledge of the human body - then its origin is at least not based on the eastern phylosophies. I hope it can become a future inspiration for healthy slow gymnastic for jews as well as non-jews - and maybe a way of protecting the next generation from to much temptations from the eastern philosophies on life and afterlife. When looking historicaly on the east asiatic cultures, I find it in many ways to be very surpresive cultures with little room for individuality in life. If this is a sideproduct of the eastern philosophies I think other cultures should be carefull what to addapt from these ideologies. Some of the movements in themselves might be unharmfull, but as the movements are put up in complex systems and explained through philosophical ideologies (that some would define as religious systems) then even the unharmfull movements can become harmfull in the bigger picture. May Hashem be mercyfull to those who have been tempted and affected spiritually already - and may He inspire people how to created and develope healthcare in a natural way that has a healthy philosophical perspective or posibility build into it. Ways of taking the good from all cultures of the world and to leave the negative behind. Ways of living Torah, no matter where we live in the world and also for those who do not belong to the nation of Yisrael. May His will be done upon this prayer of His mercy, forgiveness and inspiration for the human family. Shalom

Anonymous said...

I subscribe B.BarNavi's opinion.

Im my oppinion, a Jew can practise a non Jew martial art as much as a non Jew can be cured by a medical advance that Jewish doctors bring to the World, Thank God.

I practise Chi Kung and Tai Chi Chuan (a martial side of Chi Kung), and I feel it's good for my health and self defense. I'm not a Taoist or a Budhist, I confess I can't understand those philosophies, even if I try hard :)

Many people only has a superficial knowledge about Judaism, but they have strong negative opinions about it. Let's not make the same mistake.

P.S. - Just my oppinion.

Anonymous said...

People, let's be realistic. We are all human beings, we have the same body and the same energies with the same mechanisms. We all live in the same Universe. We only use different models, names and methods to work with them.
Let's take for exemple Daoist Qi Gong. Traditionally it was a very mystical system, but for some time now, purely techical approaches have been established. It is common knowledge that the system has a very systematic model and associated techiques to work with the energies. There is no need to touch any mystical side, but those tehcniques still remains effective

drbsd said...

Dear Rabis:
I have been practicing Tai Chi excercises for 10 moths.
-I started for health issues: cronic fatige, cronic neuropaty in the legs, back pain.
-I cant do other excersies like walking 1 mile because it causes pain
-Im 54 years, i use to ran marathons long ago and this left my joints with problems.
-Idiscovery Tai Chi throu my patients. Im a medical doctor. Tai Chi is a well known Reab method in hospitals here in Mexico and I know mayby worlwide like in Mayo clinic.
-What I do: I started with a rutine from youtube 20 minutes to 1 hour daily.
I memorize the excercises and I dont need the video any more plus I aded my new excercises which feel good.
-I push out bad emotions like anger, or envy or anxiety... (this I learn by myself and helps my a lot emotionaly to be in balance). There are some excecises that are like you are repeling something and this exercises help with emothions I dont want or for what I consider yetzer hara.
-There are some exercises like to atract something. when I do this excercises gradually I develop the capacity to atract imaginary moons, or circles of white light with my imagination and intruduce them to my body for healing purposes.
What I think when doing my ecercises: EIN OD MI LEVADO. Lev tahor bera Elokim be Ruaj Najon Jadesh Bekirvi. An Other pesukim from tehilim. I talk to Hashem that I want to feel close to him. I pray for may family, I give thanks etc. Its like the movements distract my body and I can talk more easy with Hashem.
-Wht I notice: More energy, better mood, less or no anxiety. less or no pain. I make tefila better, I study torah better, In general I fell optimistic and see spiritual, emotional, mental and fisical benefits. While am doing it I feel like a little hy, like whene I use to ran marathons, Its practical, at my ofice at home, Generaly with some smooth instrumental music. In shabat also or in the suca (with no music in Yom tov.
How I call it: Tai JEW.
As you see it helps my a lot.
Somebody told me that it can be avodazara.
I dont want to have nothing to do with avodazara.
What you tell me I will do with Hshems help.
Its just for me, I dont prescrive or recomend it to nobody because people can get confuse, and its a little adictive, and more when you tried everything and nothing helped mainly for Rehabilitation and health issues.
Please give me a good advice.
-English its not my first lenguage so sorry for gramar mistakes.
Thank you in advance.

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