Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Inner Teachings of Daoism

Zhang Boduan (Chang Po Tuan) better known as Zhang Ziyang or Ziyang Zhen Ren (Perfect Man Ziyang) is the first of the Southern Patriarchs of Quanzhen. In AD 1069 during the Northern Song Dynasty, a certain Perfect man (most likely Liu Haichan) taught Zhang a formula of Inner Alchemical Refinement, to which he devoted himself for a long time. In 1075 in order to strengthen Daoists’ religious devotion, he wrote a book On Realizing Perfection (Wuzhen Pian). In this book, he explained his personal ideas on Inner Alchemy (neidan). After that, many people came to follow him. Zhang became the founder of the Ziyang sect of the Southern Lineage. He also wrote the 400-word Golden Elixir Formula (Jindan Sibai Zi) to summarize basic knowledge of Inner Alchemy Refinement and explain its technical terms. He died at the age of 96.
(Source: (Website made available under Taoism at the Resources link.)

A summarized version of The Inner Teachings of Daoism by Chang Po-Tuan, translated by Thomas Cleary in 1986 is kindly made available by Sister Nona at her website, Daoist Reflections (Self Refinement link provided under links section.). I had stumbled onto her website today. Sister Nona is a practising Daoist and has cultivated Tao for several decades. It is definitely worthwhile to listen to her experiences and comments.

The Inner Teachings of Daoism based on Liu I Ming’s thoughts could be a summary of Zhang’s On Realizing Perfection. After briefly going through the summarized version it can be determined that the book is written by a neidan adept and also one of the better translations by Cleary. (Another good translation is his I Ching Mandalas.) The translation is clear and precise. The inner teachings by Chang Po-Tuan advised on how to cultivate both essence and bodily life in a simple and easy way. No wonder many people followed Ziyang Zhen Ren after he wrote the book.

Therefore it is good of Thomas Cleary (and Sister Nona) to make available to the West such an important neidan book made simple for practitioners.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Overestimating one's skills

Those with teenage kids of their own may have heard of cyber games and that of Counter Strike (CS) a tactical action game that challenges players to compete against opponents in mission-based campaigns across the globe. Players take the role of either terrorists (T) or counter terrorists (CT). CT will try to prevent T from planting bombs or to defuse planted bombs in online servers, LAN or in competitions. Each group will try to outwit and kill opponents to complete their stipulated mission within a fixed timeframe. Therefore CS involves strategies as well as shooting skills which require frequent practice, training, analysis of the game tactics and the opponents. CS tournaments are held nationally and worldwide every year for teams (comprising of five players each) to compete against each other for fabulous prizes and sponsorships. Total prize monies for a CS world tournament can be in excess of USD 100,000/=. A princely sum for teenagers and a dream come true for the eventual winners and runners up, before taking into account of incentives or expensive equipment provided by their own sponsors.

A couple of years ago, my son decided to pick up the CS game again when the developers came out with an improved version with better graphics, new guns and equipment. As usual one has to learn to play these types of strategy games to analyze the game strategies for him so that he can enjoy it much more, which also allow us to communicate and spend quality time together. When he acquired better skills in the game and aimed to represent the country one day to play in world tournaments, I began to study more into the technicalities of the game and pointed out the flaws in his strategies which are to be improved upon. I also suggested that he find a good local team to join and to check with me before making a final decision on the team. Once he found an acceptable team to train with, I provided all the necessary support, advice and encouragement for him to play well, notwithstanding the grumblings from his mother, uncles and aunties as he was spending more time on CS than his studies. His team (all teenagers) slowly made progress through the local rankings last year and finally won third placing in a national competition early this year, but some team members were deciding to leave the team next year to concentrate on their studies. Two months ago, the top national CS team invited him to join them and I advised him to take up the offer only after checking and clearing with his own team members. Although the team members were reluctant they decided to release him because of its uncertain future (as members will leave next year).

After two months of training with his new team, the national finals were played over the weekend with the eventual winners representing the country in the world grand finals to be held this November. As usual I would give him some moral support and a word of advice before the next day’s competition. This time as he was ready for it, I gave him a paraphrased advice from Sunzi’s Art of War (together with an explanation):

“Like a good general, do not overestimate your own skills or underestimate the skills of your opponents.”
They are equally good if not better when they can participate in the national championship. Play carefully and to the best of your abilities to win for your team. (I also explained to him how he played well when he was careful and not over eager to get top frags (number of enemies killed) in the game.) Other team members will play their part too. Credit will be given where it is due.

His team qualified for the final early under the winners’ bracket after beating the number 2 team in the country in the semis. His former team assisted by a ‘mercenary’ player (who filled the place vacated by my son) was playing under the losers’ bracket and eventually qualified for the final too. This so-called mercenary plays for various top teams in the country and a neighboring country and is considered one of the best CS snipers in this region.

Fearing my son may get too lenient with his former team mates in the final, I advised him that a champion is a champion because he is hungry to win, shows no leniency during a tournament match and concentrates on winning the competition for himself or his team.

The mercenary was on form during the final and his sniping skills won several rounds for his team in the first map, De_Dust 2. Reaching the final from the loser bracket, his team has to win another map to be the eventual champion. Overestimating his own skills, he decided to challenge my son’s sniping skills in the second map, De_ Train. To date, most top teams (in both the country and a couple of neighboring countries) have learned to avoid clashing with my son when he guards a section of the map wielding a Magnum sniper rifle. Therefore the mercenary underestimated my son’s skills. (By overestimating his own skills and underestimating the opponent’s skills, the mercenary totally ignored Sunzi’s thoughts contained in the Art of War.)

After three rounds of such challenge where he was outgunned and killed each time, the mercenary lost both his courage (he always turned back when he knew my son was guarding the area he intended to go to) and his form crucial to the winning ways of his team. Thereafter my son’s team won several rounds easily. Later, my son being sole survivor of the five men team single-handedly killed three remaining ‘enemies’ to clinch the winning round and the national championship, making him a hero of the day. Thereafter his team manager and team mates thanked him for helping the team win.

The prize package for each member of the winning team equates to a year’s salary of a stenographer. A princely sum for any teenager and a wish come true. What is more important is that my son has achieved his aim to represent the country and to play among the best in the world. An experience probably he would not forget too easily. Hopefully as he grows older, he will learn more from Sunzi’s Art of War and know how to apply ancient thoughts to his everyday life.

Yes, one must admit, he is smarter than his father in both playing CS and his studies! But that is life!

Friday, August 26, 2005

A muse on emptiness and form

The following (shortened) parable is often quoted by learned Buddhists (in Chinese movies or real life) to explain Buddhist teachings to disciples or others. Daoists would also study the parable to further their learning while Confucians contemplate on it:

‘Form, or matter, is emptiness; emptiness is not different from form, nor is form different from emptiness; indeed, emptiness is form.’

Thereupon, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara from whom the parable originates went on to explain:

"Thus, all things having the character of emptiness have no beginning nor ending; they are neither faultless nor not faultless; they are neither perfect nor imperfect. Therefore, in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, no perception, no discrimination, no consciousness. There is no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no sensitiveness to contact, no mind. There is no form, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no mental process, no object, no knowledge, no ignorance. There is no destruction of objects, no cessation of knowledge, no cessation of ignorance. There is no decay and no death, nor is there any destruction of the notions of decay and death. There is no Noble Fourfold Truth--no pain, no cause of pain, no cessation of pain, nor any Noble Path to the cessation of pain. There is no knowledge of Nirvana, there is no obtaining of Nirvana, there is no not-obtaining of Nirvana.” Diamond Sutra, Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom (sacred-texts link)

So how can we arrive at this emptiness state of mind or understanding?

From an intellectual point of view, the parable can mean something or nothing at all. For emptiness is emptiness and form is form, how could emptiness be form and form emptiness. How could things with shapes be called empty and those shapeless called form? It can only contain meaning if we willingly accept the parable that emptiness means form and form means emptiness. Only with the acceptance, is emptiness no different from form and form no different from emptiness. But as many know, esoteric studies may not be fully comprehended by intellect alone. An important point emphasized by Gautama Buddha in the Leng Yen. Neither can this parable be wholly understood just through contemplation.

The world and outer space are filled with light and darkness. Where there is light there is also darkness and where darkness is there is also light. Therefore within light there is darkness and within darkness there is light. This principle applies equally to yin (dark) and yang (light). In nature, when light (yang) change to darkness (yin) or darkness (yin) into light (yang), the process is known as changes. This natural process or phenomenon is also present in various states of meditation.

Only with meditation, where one cannot see by looking, cannot hear by listening, and cannot grasped with both hands, is it possible to see form within emptiness and emptiness within form; what was then light and what was then darkness is difficult to determine as all change into their opposites repeatedly with no time factor. (Refer Chapter 14 of the TTC.)

As they change shapes and colours, form become emptiness and emptiness becomes form. Light replaces darkness and darkness replaces light. Within these changes what is real and what is delusion is to be contemplated. When changes finally come to an end, emptiness is no different from form and form no different from emptiness. Therefore form is emptiness and emptiness is form. There is no space no time just emptiness and the Light.

If we contemplate and realized what is real and what is delusion perchance we may hear of Dharma spoken or Songs sung in open space, seen the void and reached the gate, the gate which ancients called the center. (Refer Chapter 6 of the TTC. Both Chapters 6 and 14 can be referred to in the May 1 entry on the center.)

If readers are still as confused as me after reading this muse, hearten for we are not alone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Asking the Yi about illnesses

Those who have read and study the Yi for years may on occasion wonder whether the Yi will indicate the types or causes of illnesses of their loved ones, self or friends. From one’s limited experience, the Yi will indicate the type and/or cause of each illness in detail. The Yi may also indicate a cure for the illness. As a comparison, doctors or specialists will be able to come up with a cause and prescribed a cure after they diagnosed the symptoms.

One’s experience is limited because one had only asked the Yi about illnesses on a few rare occasions over a span of two decades. After the Yi has given the answer, it will then depend on one’s interpretation skills. More information can be obtained by better interpretation skills gained from experience.

The first question back in the mid 1980s was for a family acquaintance asked on the insistence of my mother who felt compassionate enough to check whether this acquaintance’s chronic trouble of the throat can be cured at all. He had told my mum that his doctors and throat specialists had indicated they know of no cure for such illness. When I asked, the Yi indicated that the illness can be cured through a change of diet. However this acquaintance was not convinced and went his way. Nothing was heard from him since, therefore I cannot say anymore on it.

A few years later, quite a number of family members were down with flu and sore throats. All of us at the time were living with our parents in the big house. On the request of my mother, I asked the Yi and was told that the cause was water related. Therefore the water filters were changed and drinking water boiled. With that, no further family members fell ill.

In 1996 when my young son seemed ill, I asked the Yi for the reason and was given the answer (that according to Buddha, relates to his past life). Yi’s answer and what transpired after that were recorded in detail in the April 23 entry on ‘Light and dark forces’.

Probably the last question on illnesses relate to the impending demise of my late father. The question was raised because a well known Daoist deity had indicated that my father cannot live beyond a certain date. In the answer, among other things, the Yi had indicated the cause and the types of illnesses (which confirmed the doctors’ diagnoses) that will lead to his eventual death. This is a long story and may cover several aspects of Yi studies. An aspect on extending his life beyond the deadline given by the famous deity, although only for a short period of time, has been discussed in the I Ching Forum in 2002 or 03. However since the event is personal, one may not further discuss it in another entry.

With the above examples, readers can probably resolve some of their doubts as to whether the Yi will answer questions on illnesses and what can be indicated. Cures can be indicated as well but please do not place too much hope if the illnesses are deemed terminal or prove very difficult to cure. Where you want to go from here is entirely up to you.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Thoughts on Hexagram 62

Hexagram 62 Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small, may be not easy to understand for some and therefore has given rise to various interpretations as to its meaning. Without a clear understanding of what the hexagram meant, confusion arises if we then elaborate on what the Image meant, or work backwards from the Image to ascribe a meaning to the hexagram. The Image as we are aware was a later addition to the Yi text; therefore it is highly unlikely that the ancients put ‘the cart before the horse’. Or did the ancients not know about the meaning of this hexagram, at the time?

According to Hilary, “Stephen Karcher describes this hexagram as ‘the threshold of life and death’.” She went on to say, “To me, it’s always felt more like a transition back into ordinary life: the hero’s return, carrying the Inner Truth from his journeys. I wonder whether the transition might not be both of these: both death and a return to ordinary life.”

From the Judgment and the six lines one could not see why it relates to Life and Death or their threshold. The only suggestion about death was that of bereavement in the Image. One is sure; Karcher would have other reasons or explanations to come to such a conclusion or may have clarified his ascribed meaning in his book or to Hilary. Therefore, either both he and Hilary could be dead on, or with respect, completely missed the mark as to the meaning of the hexagram.

As this particular hexagram carries a special significance arising from several divinatory experiences over the years, one would like to share some thoughts with readers on two possible layers in Hexagram 62. This entry also provides an opportunity to proffer a meaning to the hexagram, as one understands it.

Let us briefly examine what the judgment says:

Preponderance of the Small. Success.
Perseverance furthers.
Small things may be done; great things should not be done.
The flying bird brings the message:
It is not well to strive upward; it is well to remain below.
Great good fortune. [W/B]

The judgment is simple and clear. Weigh more on the small it advises for success. Persevere and work on small things, with a caution not to do great things. Then ‘the message’ (my cryptic clue in the previous entry) delivered by the flying bird gives a final caution to remain below and not to strive upward, for to remain below results in great good fortune.

If we care to think about it, why did the Yi give so many cautions in the judgment? Is it because of the threshold of life and death, or a matter of life or death? No. The judgment cautions that it is not the right time to do great things, therefore time to keep to small things.

The Image supports this line of thought by telling the Junzi to keep working at what seem to be petty things to the outside world, and in external matters, to keep to the side of the lowly. In such exceptional times as depicted by the six lines, the Junzi taking heed of the warnings contained therein lies low, do small things (and cheerfully wait for better times to come as he knows they will, sooner or later).

Why, you may ask, is it not the right time to do great things?

Time is governed by Heaven and space by Earth. The Junzi learns how to master fate by overcoming both time and space (an inherent purpose of reading the Yi). Therefore by following Yi’s guidance on when or when not to do things, we learn to master time at this fundamental level or layer. That is why deriving meaning from the Image of this hexagram; the Junzi puts weight on reverence in conduct, grief in bereavement and thrift in expenditure. The Junzi therefore practises proper conduct, is upright and just, and seek no approval from others -in reference to working on seemingly petty things to the outside world. These ancient thoughts are important to earnest and sincere Yi students, although some tend to forget or ignore these thoughts. This brings to mind, an archaic truth where Confucius said, ‘By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart’. This deep insight into humanity remains applicable today.

The meaning of the hexagram goes a step further if we explore a deeper layer that is ‘the message’ brought by the flying bird. What is so important; you may ask affording a cursory glance at the Judgment, about a message brought by a flying bird that merely says not to strive upwards but to remain below?

Well, if you know something about symbols of the flying bird (in this case a small one which cannot fly high) or what roles it plays in omens then you can understand what the ‘message’ means. The flying bird in this hexagram acts as a messenger of ‘omens’. Omens can be either happy or unlucky.

From one’s analyses of the prognostications over several years where the Yi answered with this hexagram, the ‘flying bird’ brings ‘messages’ that forewarn of oncoming and on occasions, major ominous omens. Applying antiquity to current events, if one were to over invest or stay over invested during this period of time, it can bring financial ruin when the ominous omen manifest itself. If one were to remain underinvested as advised, not only one escapes the financial turmoil, opportunities will arise to increase wealth. This explains why the Yi through the judgment and the lines cautions several times to remain below and not strive upwards thereby providing a later opportunity to achieve great good fortune.

From one’s limited experience, it takes about 15 years of consistent Yi studies and practice before a completely sincere student receives an omen from the Yi. However do not presume the Yi will give an omen to anyone involved in Yi studies no matter how long the person has read the Yi or practised divination. The key issue has always been that of most complete sincerity according to the Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung).

If you possess the ability to receive omens and happen to be analytical, you can try to estimate the time span and predict when the omen will occur. If your calculation seems accurate but requires further confirmation, please drop me a note or comment here about your omen experiences and on the estimated time span between your question and the (major or published) manifested omen. From the information provided, one will be able to discern whether you are (or have been) right or wrong, but one will certainly not entertain guesses.

One recalls that my calculation was out by a few days for the Barings Merchant Bank case in early 1995 because the then Bank of England Governor decided to announce the collapse (caused by a financial fiasco) the following Monday instead of the previous Friday (the predicted date), because he frantically tried to find a buyer for Barings over the weekend to prevent the impending collapse of a ‘grand old lady’ and the resultant loss of jobs. This example depicts a Great Man (Da Ren) deferring an inevitable event because he did it for the common good. Also refer to entry on Another 9/11 revisited, for further examples of such benevolent acts. And yes, the flying bird did bring that message (the omen)!
(But one does not want to imply that only Hexagram 62 represents omens or you are given omens when the Yi answers your question(s) with it. Please take note of this statement.)

By consistently receiving omens and/or other oracles from the Yi, you may overcome space as well, since staying within your four walls; you are able to foreknow what is going to happen thousands of miles away.

In conclusion, the meaning of this hexagram as one understands it is ‘Keep to small things’, for the time is not right to do great things. Readers would notice the ascribed meaning differs little from the translated name given in the Wilhelm/Baynes translation, a reason why one has always relied on the translation all these years. However readers should take into consideration that I can be completely wrong as to the meaning of the hexagram. But do heed the cautions contained in the judgment and the lines. The warnings were placed there for a reason. If you miss the big picture (the meaning of the hexagram and the warnings), you have much to lose, but certainly not to the extent of a life threatening or death situation. Then again, who am I to know such things? Therefore take whatever you have read in this entry with a bit of salt.

On another layer, when you have the ability to foreknow, take heed of the forthcoming ominous omen(s) (the message brought by the flying bird) and stay low (or under weigh), do not invest until the omen manifests itself, then you may achieve great good fortune. By doing this, you could overcome both time and space. And by following the Yi guidance consistently over the years, perhaps one day you can become a Junzi. As I only know 1 or 2 about the Yi, you have to ask those wiser whether you have become a Junzi or not. Meanwhile, take care.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Discussion on Hexagram 62

Hilary has started an interesting discussion on Hexagram 62 Hsiao Kuo / Preponderance of the Small in her Answers blog (available at the Links section). To me, this hexagram carries a special significance arising from several divinatory experiences over the years; therefore I had posted the following comments in her blog:

‘Everyone including (an author/translator) is taking potshots and still wide of the mark. It goes to show that not too many Yi students or experts like to ponder deeply into the Yi. However with sufficient divinatory experiences hopefully they may still come to understand the real meaning behind Hexagram 62.

While you may like to make more guesses, the answer is in the message.’

To be fair, Hilary has written on the author/translator’s ascribed meaning and expanded her thoughts on the hexagram from there. (He was not present to make any comments.) My second sentence was a lamentation. The third provides a way and some hope to understand the Yi better. While the final sentence or paragraph provides a cryptic clue to those who may decide to ponder deeper into the hexagram.

Readers, who would like to put forth their viewpoints or experiences on this hexagram, can post their comments in Hilary’s Answers blog. Or they can post them in my next entry on Hexagram 62.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Three types of Man

Those who have read the Book of Changes (Zhouyi/ I Ching), Daoist texts, the Confucian books and classics, would be familiar with the three types of man referred within namely the Great Man (Da Ren), Superior Man (Junzi) and the Inferior or Mean Man (Xiao Ren).

However Yi students often get confused when they come to interpret what these terms actually mean in relation to interpretations of hexagrams and the lines. What they know is what they gleaned or learned from the various available Yi translations and online discussions with experts. It follows that when translators and experts themselves are unclear about the terms, students or readers will get confused. But if Yi students are really earnest in their studies then they could probably learn more by reading ancient books and classics. (A point also emphasized by Steve Marshall in his Biroco website in April when he commented on this author.)

Consider these two statements by Confucius and perhaps readers can see the point: ‘By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart. There are only the wise of the highest class and the stupid of the lowest class, who cannot be changed’. [Analects 17 / Legge]

Words and deeds are what a person rest on and judged by the world. If words or deeds are insincere, it reveals the person’s character as sincerity is ever so important to the good.

Ancient thoughts on the three types of man apply to a man’s words and deeds. The Da Ren can be said to rest on benevolence (humaneness/ compassion), the Junzi rests on righteousness (justice/ uprightness) while the Xiao Ren rests on gain (exploitation/ taking advantage). [Analects and The Great Learning / Legge]

The terms, Da Ren were reserved for sages and sage kings, Junzi for those upright and just, and Xiao Ren for those who sow discord, cause confusion, and do evil to people for their own selfish gains. According to Confucius, there are three things of which the Junzi stand in awe of: mandates of Heaven, Da Ren, and the words of sages. Whereas the Xiao Ren does not know Heaven’s mandates, is disrespectful to the Da Ren, and makes sport of the words of sages. Consequently how can the Xiao Ren be in awe of these things? (Laozi also has similar thoughts on Heaven, sages and of the lowest class scholars on Tao in the TTC.)

Much later, Da Ren and Xiao Ren became titles for addressing court officials as a show of respect and courtesies. Scholars and the learned will sometimes be loosely called Junzi. But the roles of a Da Ren, Junzi and Xiao Ren can interchange depending on the words and deeds of the person concerned. This effectively means that the seemingly Da Ren or Junzi can sometimes turn out to be a Xiao Ren; or a seemingly Xiao Ren can sometimes turn out to be a Junzi or even a Da Ren. (This is based on an understanding of tradition and derived from reading the ancient books and classics including the Yi.)

It is good to know that there are people who have dedicated years of their lives to study and write about the Yi and/or its related studies. While one appreciates what they do to extend the knowledge of readers and Yi students, some authors tend to inexplicably hold onto wrong ideas. For them, Junzi can mean sons of nobles and Xiao Ren can mean peasants or illiterates. Junzi according to them can be related to nobility because it was the name used for the sons (zi) of lords (Jun)? As far as one is aware, the reference to Jun (Lord) was made during the Spring and Autumn era for state royalties such as Hsinling Jun and Pingyuan Jun. If Junzi actually mean the sons of lords, one verily doubts Confucius could have chosen such a term or station in life for his students or himself to aspire to. The incorrect meanings ascribed to Xiao Ren depict a lack of knowledge of Chinese culture for even peasants or illiterates can aspire to be a Junzi if they were earnest enough and love to learn. Were all the students of Confucius issued from rich families, nobility, or scholars? Status has nothing to do with who can be considered a Xiao Ren. It is always the words and deeds that count. Did Laozi, Confucius and Buddha not caution on this aspect of cultivation?

Churning out quantities of study material with minimal quality and circumspection is definitely not proper conduct and invariably confuse readers or students. This remark equally applies to prolific translators who could have at least taken the time to fine tune some of their topsy-turvy translations of the Yi and Daoist texts. Yet to me, they are relatively better compared to authors who have written or translated books/texts with a clear intent to mislead Yi or Daoist students for gain. Surely an aspirant Junzi can be considered better than a Xiao Ren? Perhaps something to keep in mind when one discusses a topic; writes or translates a book, in future?

In line with what has been discussed so far, are the fallen and jailed senior executives of WorldCom, considered Da Ren, Junzi or Xiao Ren? After perusal on what is written and from your own experience, you can decide on this issue. (This last question also allows readers to apply ancient thoughts to current events.)

In conclusion, the ancient meanings on these three types of man are clear, simple and easy to understand, yet some translators and experts tend to cloud the meanings with their own idiosyncrasies or other pursuits, thereby confusing students instead of providing objective clarity. Do remember that the Yi represents ancient thoughts, either before or during the times of King Wen and the Duke of Chou, of more than three thousand years ago. Only later sages like Laozi, Confucius, Chuangzi, Mencius and the wise can perhaps have the deep insights on what these thoughts truly mean. And their insights are contained in various translated books, texts and classics, freely available on websites. Hopefully, by now you understand what the terms Da Ren, Junzi and Xiao Ren mean. And where you want to go from here is entirely up to you.

P.S. If only world leaders today can act like the Da Ren of old and rule with benevolence then perhaps the world can be at peace for many a year.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Safeguards in meditation practice

As more and more people practise meditation whether taught by self, masters, or Daoist immortals, a need arise for some safeguards to protect self from harm. Prevention is always better than cure, as practitioners invariably practise meditation on their own after obtaining the necessary guidance.

Regular readers may have taken note that one frequently writes about the Light, warmth (or heat) and on an occasion referred to humility in entries on neidan practice. These three factors can be considered basic safeguards against harm from any ‘yin or dark’ forces arising during meditation as the neidan practitioner progresses in his or her practice. (These safeguards can also be relevant to those who practise basic or other types of meditation.)

The Light is always present unless the practitioner inadvertently practises meditation the wrong way. For example, some prefer to close their eyes entirely for the duration of their meditation or meditate in total darkness. If they cannot visualize the Light during meditation then the practice could be wrong.

Warmth or heat is generated by the Qi (energy) flows arising from circulation of qi and the Light during meditation; and can be felt by the neidan practitioner in varying degrees depending on the level and duration of the meditation. If the Qi (energy) flows are cold then the meditation practice could again be incorrect.

Humility is important to a neidan practitioner because only then can he or she progress to higher levels without unnecessary disturbances from the yin or dark forces (and/or perhaps a knock on the head from the master). (Also refer to what Laozi said about humility.)

Although the Leng Yen Ching contains more explicit details on these so called yin or dark forces, a short passage from The Secret of the Golden Flower [W/B] can help explain why the foregoing three factors can act as safeguards:

“Furthermore, one must not fall victim to the ensnaring world. The ensnaring world is where the five kinds of dark demons disport themselves. This is the case, for example, when, after fixation, one has chiefly thoughts of dry wood and dead ashes, and few thoughts of the bright spring on the great earth. In this way one sinks into the world of the dark. The energy is cold there, breathing is rough, and many images of coldness and decay present themselves.” [Lu Dongpin]

The Light represents yang which under these circumstances acts against yin and is the direct opposite of dark. So would the warmth or heat as yin is consider cold- the opposite of hot? And according to Buddha, humility as opposed to arrogance does not attract the attention of these demonic forces, allowing the practitioner a safe passage towards progressively higher levels of neidan practice.

In conclusion, the Light, the warmth or heat, and humility will provide the basic safeguards to protect self from harm either from improper meditation or yin/ dark forces if you understand what is required for a proper (basic or neidan) meditation practice. And have a safe and enjoyable journey!

Monday, August 08, 2005

A note on Hun Po (souls)

A recent spiritual discussion on ancient Chinese thoughts on souls in a forum triggered my following thoughts and theories on the subject. (Probably not too good an idea talking about souls during the seventh lunar month- the Chinese ghosts’ festival month- which started on August 5th and to end on September 3rd but what the heck, just call in the ghosts’ busters where necessary!)

According to tradition and as one understands it; the Chinese called the human soul (s), Hun Po. It is believed that each person has three Hun and seven Po.

Hun represents the light, heavenly soul while Po represents the dark, earthly (animal) soul. Hun is written with two adjoining Chinese words, ‘cloud and demon’ while the two adjoining words for Po are ‘white and demon’. The mandarin pronunciation for Hun is the same as that for Cloud. But it differs for Po and White. However, the tonal pronunciation for Po and White differs only slightly if spoken in Cantonese or Hakka (two Chinese dialects). This means that the (co joining) word, Demon (or ghost) is left out when pronouncing both Hun and Po.

In Chapter 10 TTC, Laozi advised the keeping of Po within the body and to refine it. For if Po leaves a body, the person dies. And since Po represents the earthly and animal soul then its refinement would be necessary as part of Dao cultivation.

When a person dies, it is believed that Hun being the heavenly soul returns to heaven as Shen (spirit) and may later return to Tao, while Po, the earthly soul returns to earth as Kuei (ghost).

At this juncture, one ventures to put forth two theories which may be further developed at a later date. As part of cultivation, the often quoted Buddhist saying of ‘remove the heart (hsin) demon’ (meaning to remove objectionable desires such as revenge, greed or lust, for example) may have something to do with Hun Po. When we remove the word ‘demon’ from both Hun and Po then we are left with the Chinese words, Cloud White or White Cloud. White cloud(s) can be visualized during neidan meditation. White cloud (s) can also signify clarity, like in a clear sky?

The other theory arose from attempts in studying ancients thoughts. Buddha said that one can hear dharma being spoken (or songs of immortals) in open space when the souls interact with others and they alternate as host and guests. Laozi advised the keeping and refining of Po. (With no references made to Hun, it could mean that Hun is already in a refined state.)

As there are supposed to be three Hun and seven Po in a person, when the seven Po are refined then one will have ten Hun. By tradition, the number, ten is often referred to as completion. As indicated, Hun returns to heaven as shen (spirit) and later returns to Tao. Does it then mean that the refining in inner alchemy actually means refining the seven Po, to enable ten Hun to return as Shen (spirit) to Xu (emptiness) and to Tao?

If we delve deeper into the Daoist texts and the Leng Yen Ching, we would be able to determine whether the latter theory holds water. Even if my theory proves correct, it is only for the neidan practice and not for the entire cultivation. There are many other ingredients to be added, still lots to learn, and a long way to go. That is why Yu Ching’s poem is called, “A magical spell for the Far Journey”. But one does hope you have enjoyed this note.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Desires and vices

Every human being has desires, whether such desires are good or bad, acceptable to society or not is to be determined by the individual. Some of these desires if acted upon can be deemed undesirable; otherwise it merely remains a thought. But if we cease to think about undesirable desires and think only about the good, then perhaps we may not act on them. For acting on objectionable desires out of habit can turn them into vices. Therefore the ancients invariably exhort to hold to the right thoughts and proper conduct.

If we decide to cultivate Dao or to emulate a Junzi (superior man) then perhaps we also need to learn how to prevent ourselves from falling into the temptation of vices. Some vices which we have to guard against in our youth, manhood and old age are lust, contention, and greed, respectively. If they sound familiar or wise, then you are probably right; as only the ancients could possess that deep insight. The example is drawn from the Analects (Book 16 Chapter 7) where:

Confucius said, “There are three things which the Junzi guards against. In youth, when the physical powers are not yet settled, he guards against lust. When he is strong, and the physical powers are full of vigour, he guards against quarrelsomeness. When he is old, and the animal powers are decayed, he guards against covetousness”. [Legge]

One came across these cautions in my late teens and more than thirty years on, one on occasions can still be susceptible to these vices. Learning from antiquity and putting it into practice therefore cannot be said to be easy.

As in my youth (and before marriage), one knew many girlfriends from various cultures, countries and races. In manhood, there were many occasions for contention (and yet not get into physical fights). Now getting old, one hopes not to get too greedy by taking too much risk (in order not to lose one’s entire possessions).

The ancient sages were indeed wise in their in-depth knowledge of humanity. So where you want to go from here is entirely up to you.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Hidden treasures

One had waited until the manifestation of an oracle on ‘what has been spoiled by the mother’ in Hexagram 18 Ku, before asking the Yi again if it was alright to buy more shares in the company (say GT) in question. Since that oracle, the company’s share price has been falling for some three over months and had fallen by half, reaching for the first time a life time low (which one had foreseen and indicated to my Daoist friend some eight years ago), a price less than 2% of its 1997 high reached before the onset of the Asian financial crisis.

On GT, the Yi answered with Hexagram 26 Ta Ch’u / The Taming Power of the Great with the second, third and top lines changing which changed it to Hexagram 24 Fu / Return. So what did the Yi want to say?

26 Judgment
The Taming Power of the Great. Perseverance furthers. Not eating at home brings good fortune. It furthers one to cross the great water.

24 Judgment
Return. Success. Going out and coming in without error. Friends come without blame. To and fro goes the way. On the seventh day comes return. It furthers one to have somewhere to go.

From experience and the self-made table for investments, Hexagram 26 is good for share investments. If lucky, the return on investment could double. The image indicates hidden treasures*. But in the miscellaneous notes [Book III W/B] the hexagram depends on the time.

Hexagram 24 indicates a return from decay and depicts the time (December-January). Hexagram 18 talks about decay and work have to be done to rectify the spoilage. What has been spoiled by the mother takes a longer time to rectify as one must not be too persevering. Although not included in the equation, the three lines (2, 3 and 6) in Hexagram 26 depict wait; follow others at the right time (meanwhile practise defence daily); and attains the way of heaven; respectively.

Therefore one had waited (investing in two other counters instead), then began to buy (after selling the two counters for a profit) when someone started accumulating GT shares. (The buyer is buying slowly and had probably accumulated more than ten million shares to date, while the former CEO remains the main seller who has lots of money to burn. He still owns some 40 million shares!) And hope that the share price will reach 2005 highs by end of this year (Dec-Jan).

Surely this means not eating at home (to work for a living) and to cross the great water (to overcome major obstacles-the 40 million shares yet to be sold)? And friends come without blame as to and fro goes the way. (My friends and relatives are also accumulating GT shares.) (Under the circumstances, what comes down must go up.) Then on the seventh day comes return! And it furthers one to have somewhere to go. (One has bought back the GT shares sold earlier and still accumulating, closely following the guidance of the Yi.) Meanwhile, one cheerfully waits for the right time!

*Hidden treasures.
The share price at the time of asking represented a 560% discount of its NTA or book value of each share. The development of the huge land bank has commenced recently and has good profit potential because of its location. Foreign fund managers are currently looking at property counters in this region because of the recent de pegging of both the Chinese Renminbi and the Malaysian Ringgit.

(Relevant entries in May and June: Spoiled by the mother, Work on what has been spoiled (Decay), and The Well.)