Thus I have heard. At one time, on Eagle Peak, the Blessed One climbed to the Dharma seat to address an assembly of Bodhisattvas, monks, and laypeople. It was a cold and windy afternoon, and rain mixed with hailstones was falling in blasts, interspersed with deafening lightning bolts, but the Blessed One appeared cheerful, relaxed, content and warm as ever. Manjusri rose in the audience and, bowing respectfully with one shoulder bared, asked:
"Mahatma, Great One, how is it that you alone, of all those gathered here today, are not hunched over and shivering from the cold, the rain and the hail? How is it that the lightning strikes nearby do not cause you to jump with fright? In fact, you appear to be as serene, alert and composed as an owl sitting in its nest."
The World Honored Once smiled and replied as follows:
"Manjusri, in response to your excellent question I will now preach to you and to this Dharma assembly the sutra of Haragei. Please listen with all of your attention.
As soon as I attained Nirvana sitting under the Bodhi tree, I saw in a flash that all compounded things are subject to decay. Thus, these bodies of ours, made of the four great elements, are not immortal. Yet what is it that moves my body, or yours, Manjusri?"
"It is the mind, O Bhagawan."
"That is correct. Yet where is the mind, that it can move the body as it does?"
"This I do not know. Perhaps it is inside the body, for example in the chest, in the heart-center."
"The Tathagata has taught that the body is empty of all self. How, then, can the mind be inside the body? If it were in the heart-center it would be very small, smaller than your thumb. How could it cause your hands to grasp, and your feet to walk?"
Manjusri, shook his head, dumbfounded.
At that instant, a blast of thunder caused some in the crowd to cry out, and many to shift uneasily.
The World Honored One continued:
"When I saw the morning star and attained Nirvana, although I saw that all formations are transient, I did not feel sad, Manjusri, but was filled with a blissful energy. Why? It was as if I had begun breathing for the first time. I felt this clear and brilliant energy pervade me, from the crown of my head to my toes. And thinking on it, I remembered that, as a boy, I had been instructed in the Vedas by a tutor who spoke to me of Prana, a formless invisible energy that moves ceaselessly in the subtle channels of the body, and is connected to breathing.
Do not look startled, Manjusri. In my all-night meditation under the Bodhi tree, I attained perfect Enlightenment and clarity of mind, but I also experienced a blazing vitality of energy, and gained the ability to sense the brilliant Prana moving unobstructed through the channels of my body. This Prana was not different from the Prana in the air, in the grasses and trees, in the snakes, in the birds, in animals, and in other human beings.
At the instant I gained Enlightenment, the Prana flowing through the separate subtle channels of my body suddenly joined and united in the central channel, producing a flash of bliss that turned into a whirlwind. It rose to the crown of my head and unfolded like a thousand petaled lotus, and then it began to seep and to circulate with the calm rhythm of my breathing back down as a precious nectar, filling my body with light.
As I sat still longer under the Bodhi tree, I no longer meditated in any formal way, yet it seemed to me that the seat of this blissful Mind of Enlightenment was a point resting about two inches below my navel and about an inch inside. Why? Because this point seemed to be nothing whatever.
By turning my mind to various parts of my body, I could feel and experience them clearly -- my fingers, toes, ears, and so on -- but when I tried to look into the Tanden (the One Point in the Hara), I found only unfathomable space extending in all directions.
As the sense of the Prana flowing in my body vitalized and made it blissful, the ground of this Prana, the center from which it sprang and to which it returned in a powerful ebb and flow, seemed to be this One Point, which is also a Zero Point. Some ancient sages have called this point in the Hara 'the gateless gate,' 'the mountain barrier.' Others have called it 'the cinnabar field,' the dark palace where the golden elixer is made. The Hara is the place of no mind, where nothing is, yet everything mysteriously arises.
As I sat under the Bodhi tree, I boldly dropped my mental formations and even my thinking itself into the Hara, and it all vanished, leaving me in a state of absolute clarity that cannot be described in words. Indeed, it seemed to me that at this instant I experienced infinity. By experimenting like this, I came to realize that the Hara is like a deep, cool forest grove where one can rest from all effort and all thought, and gain sudden enlightenment. In that grove is a waterfall that sings delightfully all day and night, without overwhelming the ears. This waterfall, Manjusri, is the Prana of the whole universe.
It is from the Hara that Prana flows through the body like a powerful vibration from a drum. It is the center of vitality.
When I got up from my seat under the Bodhi tree, I knew that I could draw on the reservoir of Prana in the Tanden for the energy to walk across India, for the power to speak and project my voice in these great assemblies, and for the ability to withstand hunger and thirst and the extremes of heat and cold.
Do you hear that thunder crashing? By relaxing my body and dropping any sense of fear or alarm into the Hara, I instantly become calm and gain the courage and stability of a lion.
I do not shiver from the rain and hail, because the Prana rising from the Tanden with every breath fills me with delightful warmth.
So you, too, Manjusri -- and all those gathered here today to hear my words -- should spend as many of your waking hours as possible practicing this wonderful art of 'dropping' thoughts, sensations, emotions, and mental formations into the void of the Hara. Thereby you will realize for yourself the voidness of the whole universe, void yet overflowing with energy!"