I have often been asked to comment on the difference between the “Taoist Water Method” promoted by B.K. Frantzis and the “Water and Fire Method” (Kan and Li) of alchemy taught in the Healing Tao, originally transmitted by Mantak Chia.
Kumar has published two books on his Taoist water meditation method in his Relax Into Your Being series (a great title, and very Taoist). The following comments are NOT a review of his books or the effectiveness of his meditation method, which I think are fine and a valuable part of the Taoist cultivation tradition. I consider Kumar Frantzis a good friend and colleague, and we have had deep discussions about this subject.
But I think Kumar?s introduction in his book is very misleading and inaccurate in its attacks on what he calls the Fire methods of alchemy in Taoism as being a false corruption of Lao Tzu?s pure water method.
Let me further preface my comments by saying I think Kumar is an excellent chi kung teacher, and has made valuable contributions to the American chi kung scene, especially on the use of movement as it relates to development of the energy body. I studied his six part chi kung system as well as his pa kua system, and edited his first book, Opening the Energy Gates of the Body. I think the Marriage of Heaven and Earth chi kung movement he got from his teacher Liu Hung Chieh is the best chi kung movement for opening the microcosmic orbit, although Kumar doesn’t use it for that since he doesn’t believe in “forcing” open those two water and fire channels.
Here are a few of the points I’ve made to Kumar in the past about his alleged water method.
Kumar has performed a valuable service by highlighting the water nature of many Taoist practices. He is not alone: see Alan Watts on Tao, The Watercourse Way. But he has performed an equal DISservice by trying to polarize the water and fire techniques into separate paths. This is essentially self-serving, a non-Taoist attempt to claim “my way is the best way, the true way of Lao Tzu” so buy my book and take my water method courses.
Kumar?s so called water method is actually not a pure water method, because no such thing exists. The core of his water teaching can be summarized as: “dissolve ice into water, dissolve water into vapor”. BUT WHAT DO YOU NEED TO MELT THE ICE, AND CHANGE THE WATER INTO MOISTURE? YOU NEED FIRE.
Kumar just doesn’t name the fire; it is left unconscious. It is the fire of the mind focusing itself like a magnifying glass on the frozen body-mind tissues that dissolves the ice. There is no such thing as water operating purely by itself. The Five Elements are all interdependent, water cannot function without fire.
In alchemy. My position is that if you are going to encourage the water-fire interaction, you are better off having both the fire and water elements made conscious.
The Healing Tao practices begin with dissolving and have plenty of dissolving thruout: the Inner Smile is the prime practice here, but the Six healing Sounds, Fusion of the Five Elements and Kan and Li practices are all focused on dissolving. Kumar’s claim that Dissolving is the trademark of the Water Method is equally true of the Water and Fire Method. Kumar is falsely separating the two. What he really is trying to say is “I use the Yin method, I don’t force anything, I just allow it”.
I sincerely thank Kumar for advertising this point. It is perhaps the only virtue I find in his labeling his approach the Water Method (as opposed to the Kan and Li label, which means the Water and Fire Method). I think that this is a good thing to highlight, especially since westerners have a tendency to force, they are overly aggressive and they injure their chi this way or exhaust themselves with their own impatience. So Kumar, like Juan li and other Healing Tao instructors, have chosen to highlight the yin methods. Many instructors feel Chia overemphasizes the yang methods, and they have correctly changed their practice to suit themselves. I include myself in this category.
But Kumar is confusing “forcing” with “Fire method”. This is just a judgement on his part, and again a self-serving one that makes water look good by default. He is confusing Fire method by linking it with False Yang, when pure fire element should be linked instead with True Yang. All of the Taoist alchemical texts are unanimous is advocating true yang be cultivated.
If I were to play Kumar’s labeling game in reverse, I would start calling his approach the FROZEN WATER METHOD of Taoism and go about pointing out all the evils of yin and water chi that is stuck in the physical plane for lack of Fire. Is this not the historical condition that women are trying to liberate themselves from? The yin energy of the planet, frozen beneath the weight of patriarchy? But I would really be talking about False Yin, not True Water or True Yin, which is never stuck. But Kumar seems to ignore these important distinctions.
Classically in China, you use both the Yin and Yang methods of regulating the Water and Fire. It depends on your body and mind type, on the season, on what you are working on, what you just ate, your phase of development, your age, your sex, etc. etc. This is the whole point of the I Ching: sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. The I Ching never says: ONLY FOLLOW.
If you only follow in the water style, this can lead to very slow progress at times. Sometimes you need more fire to transform your life or a situation. Only doing water practice can lead to stagnation and holding of water in the body. Physically, this results in overweight condition; psychically, it can result in unnecessarily slow spiritual progress. I emphasize this alternation between fire and water methods in all my Kan and Li teachings, and in the basics as well: when you don’t have the attraction to doing a yang practice of guiding and interacting with the chi or your shen, then you simply do the inner smile and follow whatever happens. Do I dissolve first, or create first? I just ask before I start my meditation.
Sometimes I start with a yang, self-guided meditation that lawfully manipulates the life force and helps to more quickly manifest my intention to work in a certain area. Then it may change in mid-stream, after I have connected to what I sought — and I surrender to it. Is this a Fire or a Water Method? Why tie your hands with the labels? When I point this out to Kumar, he hastily defends by saying that the Water people use fire and water, they just do it in a watery way. If so, the very label “Water Method” starts to self-dissolve itself!
Kumar’s own teacher Liu taught another one of his Chinese students a fire method of meditation, suggesting that different approaches may be suitable for different folks. Was Kumar so fiery as a killer martial artist that Liu heavily emphasized the water method to him? I don’t know, but it appears to have some merit. But no need to distort the entire corpus of Taoist practices to defend this choice.
Kumar’s claim that the water method has an exclusive on effortlessness is very misleading. It is the balanced interaction of Water and Fire that opens the gates of the Yuan Chi. When you practice from this energy, that is the true effortless state, wu wei, and it is neither water nor fire, yin nor yang. Again, a false advertising claim for the so called Water Method. It doesn’t matter what approach you use to return to the Original Spirit, so why claim one is superior?
The final point I wish to make about Kumar’s alleged Water method is that I believe that it ignores certain aspects of refining chi found in the Water and Fire (Kan and Li) Method. Fire has many virtues which accelerate spiritual progress when cultivated, and these are essential to forming the Elixir. Kumar tells me that at the very end of his process the Fire suddenly emerges from the Water (the hidden middle line of the water trigram). The end may mean years or decades of water method cultivation. Fair enough. But why wait that long to enjoy the benefits of fire?
It is like saying, “Don’t cook your food, just eat it raw and your stomach fluids will naturally digest (cook) it”. The Pure water method ideology, if you take it to its extreme logical end, is essentially anti-Fire technology and against all the uses Fire has brought to mankind, both internally (spiritually) and externally (spark plugs and combustion engines that “force” a change in the energy state of gasoline, etc.). Does Kumar walk everywhere to protest to use of fire combustion in car engines? Of course not. So why condemn use of fire in spiritual technology?
I think it is more prudent to say, there are dangers when you play with Fire, better to approach Fire from a place of good understanding of the Water (=body, matter). The Kan and Li methods always place Water first for this reason — it is the safest way to progress in the beginning. That is why students are better off learning through body movement (chi kung) in the beginning of their cultivation practice. But we still need to recognize the essential need for yang methods and true fire. Otherwise, you may get frozen into a position on the virtues of Water Only.
ps. I invite Kumar to respond to the issue, and will post his reply when he does so..