Mike's Mantak Chia - A Modern Taoist Master
Famous for his books on cultivating male and female sexuality, Mantak Chia is probably the most quoted, misquoted and plagiarised of writers on esoteric sex. Less well known is his great work as healer and teacher. He founded the system known as The Healing Tao which today has over 700 certified instructors and thousands of practitioners throughout the world, teaching and practising the Taoist arts, from Healing to Tai Chi, offering benefits ranging from stress relief to immortality. The following interview was conducted by Christopher Larthe.
Mantak Chia with Christopher
He was born in Bangkok to Chinese parents in 1944. His father was a Baptist minister, the first break in many generations of Taoist Healers. In a land of Buddhism, with strong Hindu and animist influences, Mantak Chia was brought up as a Christian. After twenty years in the West, he now lives and works at the Tao Garden, the home and healing meditation centre he has created in Northern Thailand.
In this exclusive interview for Positive Health magazine, he talks to Christopher Larthe about healing and magic, sex and religion, mobile phones and immortality.
The traditional Taoist masters taught one-to-one, never to foreigners, and closely guarded their ancient secrets. You have written ten books and you teach Westerners in a very Western way, with workshops and group seminars. Why break with the old traditions?
My teacher, the hermit White Cloud, was last of the long lineage of masters from Long White Mountain at Chang Bai San near Manchuria. Seeing the traditional way of the Tao being repressed in his homeland, he feared the secrets of long life and good health would be lost. In exile in Hong Kong, he saw how other masters charged too much money for these secrets, just giving to one or two pupils. He felt the way to keep the Taoist practices alive was to bring them into modern society so that many could benefit. It was he who instructed me to teach Westerners but first to prove my roots with my own people.
You taught first in your home city of Bangkok and then in the Chinese community of New York. Your main work was healing, but it was the sexual practices that caught the attention of your Western students. These secret arts were originally taught to enable an Emperor to enjoy his harem of wives and concubines without depleting his energies. You were brought up a Christian. Did you not feel a conflict with the Christian ideas of sin?
No conflict, for sexual practices are healing practices, healing the self, healing relationships. It is only sin if you see it as sin. Sex is natural, not sinful. The human being has a powerful sex drive – and you cannot keep ping-pong balls under water. Sometime, somewhere, they pop back up, maybe as disease, maybe as emotional problems, causing energy blockages, leading to illness.
Are you saying we should repress nothing, have sex whenever and wherever, with whoever?
I say sex is your servant, not your master. Who am I to decide where and when, or who you do it with? This is between you and your conscience. I teach how to control and harness the sexual energy, energy powerful enough for a man to repopulate a continent with a single ejaculation. And every woman is born with enough eggs to generate hundreds of lives. Without reproduction all that power is wasted. If we are not using the hormones and nutrients of sexual activity to start a new life we can recycle it to make our own life longer, healthier, more enjoyable. Not repressing, recycling!
And the moral aspect?
All the churches make the morals, but they all say different things. Some religions say sex with corpses is a sacred path to enlightenment, with others you may have several wives at once, while in others you go to hell for impure thought. What is impure thought? Every man secretly imagines being Emperor, having many women, even monks and priests, even saints – Saint Augustine said "Lord give me chastity, but please, not just yet." Some churches try to make us feel guilty for thinking natural thoughts. Yet these urges make our human species so successful, so strong, survive so many generations. Imagine an enlightened being descending to earth now and telling us it is sinful to move our bowels. We'd all go pop! We cannot help moving bowels, it is a natural function. So is sex. In the Tao we say: no right or wrong, no good or bad, just recycling the energy.
Do you still consider yourself a Christian?
I do. These are not religious practices and you don't have to convert! You can be Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim and still enjoy the benefits in the framework of your own belief system, if you have one. I am Christian, but don't belong to any church. I may start one here in the Tao Garden – we already married three couples. No, the churches teach about it being bad to do this, bad to do that. We don't have to be taught what's bad: it comes naturally. Or doing what comes naturally – they call it bad! The Western God is dominant male, very yang, enforcing law with fear of punishment, burn in hell. Society reflects this, with laws enforced by violence. Now there is imbalance between the yang of justice and the yin of compassion. True religion is about love and compassion.
What about the balance of the sexes? You have written a best seller, MultiOrgasmic Man. What about multiorgasmic woman?
Woman naturally is multiorgasmic, and one of my earliest books was about cultivating female sexual energy. Woman is yin. Yang and yin cannot exist without each other, so it is better if they are in harmony. Taoist practice is to promote harmony, because when the man lets go of semen, he is finished, but the woman is ready for more. When both are in tune, they have increased vigour, improved stamina, enhanced sensation, unlimited whole-body orgasms. Ideal is the multiorgasmic couple. The sexual practices are self-healing for couples.
Conserving energy by seminal retention is an exclusively male practice. How does a woman obtain the benefits of health and longevity?
Woman does not normally lose energy through orgasm, but through menstruation and childbirth. Taoist practices for women recycle menstrual energy, with the same benefits, of long life, good health and painless menstruation as well. But even for man, seminal retention by itself is not enough; non-ejaculatory orgasm without opening the Microcosmic Orbit leads to blockages in the sexual centre, sometimes with aching, congestion, wet dreams, headaches. Both man and woman must redirect energy through the Microcosmic Orbit, what the classics call the Small Heavenly Cycle. As above, so below – within each one of us is also a small universe, a small cosmos, yin and yang flowing together. In the act of sex, the moment of orgasm, yin and yang unite and the two heavenly cycles become one.
The Microcosmic Orbit, as you first described it many years ago, has since appeared in books by various westerners on love, sex, tantra, sex-magic and shamanism. Some writers acknowledge you as the originator, others try – really quite hard in some cases – to disguise the origin. Have you any message for those who take credit for your work?
(Laughs): I'm glad they like it! If they help people to more fulfilled lives, they are helping me and I am grateful, and happy to help them. But some techniques can be dangerous if not done with care and preparation. For example, I am teaching Taoist Tantra, which has common roots with Hindu and Buddhist kundalini practices. The Taoist way puts safety first, working with the energy-body, making sure channels are open and clear at each stage before going on to the next. We also practise Tai Chi and Iron Shirt Chi Kung to keep grounded. With some Indo/Tibetan (Hindu/Buddhist) systems there can be danger of activating too much energy before clearing channels and without proper grounding. This can overload the nervous system, with many painful side-effects. Tantra is known as the short path to enlightenment, but this short path could actually mean one whole lifetime of preparation and practice. You cannot learn it in a weekend.
True. Indian Tantric classics advise setting aside twelve years to prepare for awakening Kundalini, but by following your Taoist teachings it took me only six. What about magic? Taoist, tantric, shamanic and wicca practices have similarities, such as the protective circle, calling the elements, ecstatic journeying and flight, power animals and so on, but the Taoists don't use drums, rattles, robes or other articles of the craft. Are there common roots?
The Taoist Canon describes how a group of Aryans were shipwrecked on the South China shore thousands of years ago. They did not die, nor have children, and became known as the Shining Ones. They transmitted their secret magical and healing practices to the shamans. When Buddhism came to China, shamans were persecuted, like witches in the west, so they became Taoists, rivals to the Buddhists, and continued their practices in secret, using only internal energy, internal alchemy, without the use of accessories to identify themselves. The saying goes "you cannot tell a sage by his clothes." They were also known as magicians, wizards and sorcerers. Yes, Taoism is magic.
What happened to the Shining Ones?
Who knows? Maybe still around but not in their physical body. They could leave when they want, astral travel, come back when they want.
Are you not afraid that you teach magical practices which could be misused?
Magic is like religion. It can be of great benefit, or cause great harm. In Taoist magic as in the Tao, there is no judgement – we are all responsible for ourselves. As long as you do not harm another being, you are free to do what you want.
Master Chia, you are a Hi-tech Taoist. You use mobile phones, computers, television. How do you protect yourself from "electronic pollution?"
Technology is very good. It releases us from drudgery. With electronics, you can keep yourself safe inside your energy bubble, and create an insulating bubble around the equipment. As you know from our Taoist Healing practices you can seal yourself from the condition of your patients, even serious contagious diseases. One healing practice is to internalise disease, then cleanse, energise and restore healthy energy to patient. Energy is vibration – we get the vibration right, nothing bad gets through. This is psychic self-defence, very important for healers. The more you work with contaminated energy, the more you need the protective practices, from Inner Smile right through to Kan & Li. This gives external protection, internal clarity and helps us live in modern society, and use the technology.
You have a genius for interpreting Chinese classics in a way that westerners can relate to. But your teaching has changed over the years, become less formulaic, more intuitive. The classics haven't changed, though. Are you re-interpreting the ancient secrets?
The old Masters taught one-to-one, reciting secret formulas obscured in codes. Many people could not read or write in those days.
They just practised the formulas, learning by experience and repetition, not asking questions, trusting the Master. That is how I learned from White Cloud, and how I started teaching. Now I've taught in the west for over twenty years, with workshops and group seminars.
Westerners have intellectual appreciation for theory. I have the benefit of feedback from my own direct students and over 700 Healing Tao instructors and their students. So we evolve and adapt. I learn from my students. The material is the same, just the delivery changes. Interpretation also changes, as modern science tells us things about the energy-field that ancient Taoists knew but did not have the vocabulary to explain and anyway wanted to keep secret. Now, for example, Deepak Chopra, investigating ageing, talks about energy-information, energy-intelligence, bio-electromagnetic force. This is a modern scientist giving real sense of the meaning to what he calls prana, and the Taoist classics call 'Qi'.
What about immortality? There are stories of ancient sages who lived for many hundreds of years. Are they true? Is this the goal of the Healing Tao?
If a sage died many hundreds of years old, then he is dead, not immortal! White Cloud told me his teacher was 250 years old. He had to go to his cave and put wax in the teacher's nose and other orifices to keep out insects and dust, and make sure the body was not eaten while his teacher's spirit was away travelling to source. What is immortality? Keeping the same body for ever, or awareness of your spirit in different incarnations? What is important is to be present in this life, learn to transform stress into vitality, develop compassion through love, recycle energy to keep the body healthy and in harmony with mind and spirit, learn to understand true nature as spirit – then you are open to possibilities beyond the cycle of life and death.
Thank you, Master Chia.
1. Reports of the National Clearinghouse for Meditation Relaxation and Related therapies. L.Young. Perma Press 1980
2. Multiorgasmic Man. M. Chia & D.A. Avara. Tree Clause 1997
3. Healing Love through the Tao. M & M Chia. Healing Tao Books 1986
4. Healing Energy through the Tao. M.Chia. Aurora 1983
Taoist Secrets of Love. M. Chia & M.Winn. Aurora 1984
5. The Tantric Tradition. A. Bharati. Rider & Co 1965
6. Principles of Tantra. A. Avalon. Ganesh & Co (Madras) 1914
7. Shamanism. M. Eliade. Arkana 1964 Dancing Shadows. Aoumiel. Llewellyn 1994
8. Taoist Canon, a still largely untranslated collection of about 4000 volumes from various sources. Ancient Chinese dating from c3000bce
9. Esotera 8/97. Institute for Applied Biocybernetics Feedback Research. Vienna 1997
10 Chi Nei Tsang. M & M. Chia. Healing Tao Books 1990 Chi Nei Tsang – Taoist Massage. C. Larthe. Positive Health December 1998
11. Ageless Body, Timeless Mind. D. Chopra. Rider & Co 1993
12. Awaken Healing Light. M & M.Chia. Healing Tao Books 1993