Friday, April 29, 2005

50 Ting / The Cauldron

The hexagram Ting is represented by the trigram Li above the trigram Xun.

"The ting, cast of bronze, was the vessel that held the cooked viands in the temple of the ancestors and at banquets. The head of the family served the food from the ting into the bowls of the guests. The ting, as a utensil pertaining to a refined civilization, suggests the fostering and nourishing of able men, which redounded to the benefit of the state.

The ting serves in offering sacrifice to God. The supreme revelation of God appears in prophets and holy men. The will of God, as revealed through them, should be accepted in humility; this brings inner enlightenment and true understanding of the world which leads to great good fortune and success." [W/B]

Each of the eight trigrams has several attributes. At the fundamental layer, Li represents fire and Xun represents wood. Fire over Wood shows the image of wood nourishing fire based on the interaction of the five celestial elements. (Further information on this layer can be read from the Zhouyi.)

Li also represents the Sun and the Light; and Xun the wind. Fire, wood (or trees), the Sun, the Light and the wind are metaphors expressed in neidan (inner alchemy) texts; consequently references are made in the hexagram text to nourishment of the spirit, inner enlightenment and hints about fostering of life in the secret teachings of Chinese yoga.

On a deeper level of study, it is of interest to note that when Wind comes forth from Fire it is the image of 37 Chia Ren / The Family (Xun above Li) as both Xun and Li has yet another set of attributes for cardinal virtues (De). Cultivating virtues is just as important as meditation in nourishing life and attaining enlightenment. Furthermore there are no religious overtones in their cultivation for the purification of hsin (heart/mind).

Confucius probably took Chia Ren and the Ting hexagrams (together with two other related hexagrams) to arrive at the maxim of, which I paraphrase, “first regulate self, then regulate family, to regulate the country”, thereby fostering and nourishing able men which redounded to the benefit of the state.

If my rambling thoughts in the last three paragraphs are so to speak above your head, just be aware of them. They are meant for deep thinkers, neidan and Yi experts to ponder upon.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Hua Hu Ching

The Hua Hu Ching unknown teachings of Laozi translated by Brian Walker is certainly a controversial book, what with Walker claiming it to be a collection of Laozi’s oral teachings on the subject of attaining enlightenment and mastery. A doubt about its authenticity was raised in a forum recently with a link to the Hua Hu Ching provided. After going through the eighty one chapters of the text, one must say that it does contain certain wisdoms and the sections on the cultivation of virtues (De) commendable.

However the sequencing of the four cardinal virtues and ascribing Sincerity as one of them (in Chapter 51) are both incorrect. The four Confucian and Daoist cardinal virtues are benevolence (Ren), righteousness/justice (Yi), propriety/mores (Li), and perseverance/wisdom (Zhi). The ancients discussed these virtues in the Wen Yen of the Zhouyi [W/B] and in Chapters 18 and 38 of the Tao Te Ching [Legge]. (Both the original author and translator could have at the very least verified their correctness with both Classics.)

With cultivation of virtues in mind, one questions why the teachings go into depth about sexual practices between master and students (67 to 73). Indeed there was one Daoist sect who promoted sexual practices for a time only to have it banned several years later when the elders found such practices deviant. Lust has always been a major obstacle for neidan and/or ‘enlightened’ masters. Recent masters who had succumbed to lust have totally ignored Buddha’s admonishments on this desire. Both the original author and the translator are probably aware of the metaphoric “sexual intercourse” between Kan (Moon) and Li (Sun), the medicines for neidan (inner alchemy) practices. It is therefore highly inappropriate to promote sexual intercourse between a master and student; to call this practice ‘an angelic dual cultivation’ further misleads neidan students.

The allegories in the text to elaborate ideas on neidan cannot match the profound knowledge shown in the Zhuangzi and Tao Te Ching. And the neidan concepts depicted are muddled in comparison to that of the Directory for a day (refer entry on April 25).

Those familiar with Chinese history, Daoism and Yi studies will easily spot various terms and/or practices of later eras including Buddhist thoughts introduced in the text. Worshipping deities and religious institutions (17); Tai Chi, Yin and Yang (39); Tai Chi Chuan and some other practices (55) were practically unknowns during the time of Laozi (c 580 BC). Ancestors’ worship was in practice then. Zhang Daoling (c 100) started Religious Daoism, built Daoist temples to worship deities, established rituals and rules for disciples thereby founding a religious institution. The Tai Chi (Supreme Ultimate) diagram has been accredited to Chou Tun-i (c 1045). Yin and Yang were probably devised by Tsou Yen (c 300 BC) to aid his lengthy and sometimes wild discourses with kings and scholars on the Dao. And it was Zhang Sanfeng (c 1370) who founded Tai Chi Chuan.

As an overview, the Hua Hu Ching as translated by Brian Walker is a readable book. It contains certain wisdoms on the cultivation of virtues, neidan and Dao, and promotes the study of the I Ching. The terms and practices of later ages and Buddhist thoughts could have crept in because of accretions. However one doubts the teachings are Laozi’s. It is preposterous to allude that material of such importance eluded either the hundred schools of thoughts during the Warring States or (if burned or banned [by the first Chin Emperor] as alluded,) the Han historians charged with collating ancient teachings and the HuangLao officials (prevalent in the Han Court). Therefore based on the foregoing findings and an earlier discussion with a learned Daoist, one concludes with conviction that the teachings in the Hua Hu Ching are definitely not from Laozi. Fortunately, teachings by those with middling abilities can never be passed off as sagely works, notwithstanding the gimmicks used.

For those who wish to peruse the book the website is located at

Monday, April 25, 2005

Directory for a day

It is not often that one comes across a simple and clear Daoist inner alchemy text like the Zäh Yung Ching, or 'Classic of the Directory for a Day' (author unknown). When an author or poet is clear on the concept, a one page text or a few stanzas in a poem is more than sufficient to convey the idea. Such is the case in this Daoist text which one wishes to share with fellow travelers to help resolve their doubts if any:

1. As to what should be done in a day, when the eating and drinking has been arranged, let one sit straight with his mouth shut, and not allow a single thought to arise in his mind. Let him forget everything, and keep his spirit with settled purpose. Let his lips be glued together, and his teeth be firmly pressed against one another. Let him not look at anything with his eyes, nor listen to a single sound with his ears. Let him with all his mind watch over his inward feelings. Let him draw long breaths, and gradually emit them, without a break, now seeming to breathe, and now not. In this way any excitement of the mind will naturally disappear, the water from the kidneys will rise up, the saliva will be produced in the mouth, and the real efficaciousness becomes attached to the body. It is thus that one acquires the way of prolonging life.

2. During the twelve (double) hours of the day let one's thoughts be constantly fixed on absolute Purity. Where one thought (of a contrary kind) does not arise, we have what we call Purity; where nothing (of a contrary kind) enters the Tower of Intelligence (= the mind), we have what we call the Undefiled. The body is the house of the breath; the mind is the lodging of the spirit. As the thoughts move, the spirit moves; as the spirit moves, the breath is distributed. As the thoughts rest, the spirit rests when the spirit rests, the breath is collected.

The true powers of the five elements unite and form the boat-like cup of jade, (after partaking of which), the body seems to be full of delicious harmony. This spreads like the unguent of the chrismal rite on the head. Walking, resting, sitting, sleeping, the man feels his body flexible as the wind, and in his belly a sound like that of thunder. His ears hear the songs of the Immortals that need no aid from any instrument; vocal without words, and resounding without the drum. The spirit and the breath effect a union and the bloom of childhood returns. The man beholds scenes unfolded within him; Spirits of themselves speak to him; he sees the things of vacuity, and finds himself dwelling with the Immortals. He makes the Great Elixir, and his spirit goes out and in at its pleasure. He has the longevity of heaven and earth, and the brightness of the sun and moon. He has escaped from the toils of life and death.

3. Do not allow any relaxation of your efforts. During all the hours of the day strive always to be pure and undefiled. The spirit is the child of the breath; the breath is the mother of the spirit. As a fowl embraces its eggs, do you preserve the spirit and nourish the breath. Can you do this without intermission? Wonderful! Wonderful! The mystery becomes still deeper!

In the body there are seven precious organs, which serve to enrich the state, to give rest to the people, and to make the vital force of the system full to overflowing. Hence we have the heart, the kidneys, the breath, the blood, the brains, the semen, and the marrow. These are the seven precious organs. They are not dispersed when the body returns (to the dust). Refined by the use of the Great Medicine, the myriad spirits all ascend among the Immortals.

[The text together with James Legge’s explanations and comments is made available by Terebess Asia Online at or at the Terebess(TAO) link provided.]

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Light and dark forces

Although the ancients were aware of their existence they seldom elaborate about light (shen) and dark (kuei) forces, as the workings of these spiritual forces cannot be easily comprehended by the multitude. From a limited reading of ancient books, classics and texts, only the Shurangama Sutra (Leng Yen Ching) explicitly described what are considered light and dark forces. From the Leng Yen, the Yi and various Daoist texts, one understands that Buddhas, Daoist deities and immortals represent light (shen or yang) forces while demons, evil spirits and ghosts represent dark (kuei or yin) forces. This basic understanding of light and dark forces, similar with (Neo and current) Daoist thoughts and Chinese beliefs, is important to advanced Yi students and diviners lest they miss this layer of answer, if any, from the Yi.

The following true story that occurred in 1996 is an example of light and dark forces. Here, I wish to emphasize that not all similar answers from the Yi relate to these forces. According to the ancients, a skilled diviner needs to ponder Yi’s answers carefully and thoroughly to come up with a sound interpretation of the prognostications.

In relation to a question about my young son’s disturbed state of mind, the Yi answered with Hexagram 33 Retreat, and a moving third line which resulted in a change to Hexagram 12 Standstill. The answer confirmed my awareness that this eight years old boy was disturbed by many dark forces. (The word ‘many’ is indicated by the men- and maidservants in line three.) For security, the Yi advised a retreat to the Light. And Hexagram 12 signifies a withdrawal by Heaven (Light) from the Earth (Dark). According to my calculations he may not cross the 16th.

Consequently I took him to the Buddhist temple (the same one described in the Buddhas rest under trees entry on April 21) for help. The medium on duty, although in a trance, was unable to find anything wrong with my son. However on my insistence, the master took a look and noticed something amiss. The master went into a trance and a Buddha through her proceeded to heal my son. After the healing session, Buddha told me that because of his karma, there were many evil spirits (or ghosts) from my son’s previous lives coming to seek revenge and did not want to let him go. Then I asked whether he can cross the 16th. Buddha was surprised and asked how I knew. After my explanation that the answer came from the Yi, Buddha was satisfied and reassured me that my son will cross his 16th birthday! (In a way, Buddha subtly corrected my calculations as I had the 16th day in mind.) Despite a life threatening hit and run accident five years later, my son is fine today. Thanks to Buddha!

The above real life example also proves that the ancients truly know what they are on to when they say:

“The Changes illumine the past and interpret the future. They disclose that which is hidden and open that which is dark. They distinguish things by means of suitable names. Then, when the right words and decisive judgments are added, everything is complete.” (Ta Chuan) [W/B]

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Buddhas rest under trees

About twenty minutes drive from the city lays a village surrounded by hills. In this rustic village there is a row of single storey bungalows where two of them have been converted to temples. One is dedicated to the ‘thousand hands’ Kwan Yin and the other one, formerly a haunted house as I was told by the master, has a three layered altar laid full of Buddha statues of various sizes. The bungalows have flights of steps leading down to the front door as both face a slope. The Kwan Yin temple is usually quiet while there is always a bustle of activity at the other temple during night time except for weekends. The Buddhist temple is entirely staffed by volunteers including the master who work during the day and rest on Sundays. The temple accepts no donations from those who come seeking for a cure or a blessing. Although not a necessity, visitors can place flowers and fruits at the altar for Buddha and praying materials are accepted. (The temple only accepts donations during Buddha’s birthday and the donations are then passed on to the less fortunate.)

Through word of mouth many come to seek cures for their illnesses. Those who have affinity with Buddha will be given a special herbal remedy for illnesses which modern medicine cannot cure, and do recover quickly usually to the astonishment of their own specialist doctors. These cures are not the specialty of this temple. For its real specialty is healing those who are possessed, charmed by black magic or injured by evil spirits. (Please skip this blog entry if for some reasons the reader is upset or feels uncomfortable by what has been written so far.)

I have been visiting this Buddhist temple for more than a decade taking relatives and friends there to seek cures for their ailments or for spiritual healing. Probably by now some readers may want to know who actually prescribes the remedies or heal the sick. Who else in the Buddhist temple but the Holy Ones can prescribe such herbal remedies and/or heal people harmed by evil spirits or dark forces. Over the years, I have witnessed many healings by the Buddhas and some battles between these Holy Ones and unseen dark forces. At the height of these battles I have seen yellow rays emitting from the mediums’ (the master and her disciples) finger tips. (The master and her disciples have only limited knowledge of inner alchemy.) But that is not what this entry is about, actually I would like to share a little secret with the initiated and believers, something I had overheard a senior disciple teaching her junior, who was in sitting meditation at the time. This training is to groom disciples to act as mediums at a later date. None of the mediums are allowed to do healing for monetary gains or gifts whether in the temple or elsewhere, otherwise they eventually lose the spiritual power to connect to the Holy Ones. (Mediums in Taoist temples for deities or those who hold planchettes for immortals could do well to take note that corruption impairs the spirit.)

Without revealing too much, the overheard conversation between the two disciples was that both can visualize and describe which Holy Ones were resting under which tree!

As to whether the Holy Ones were in the Valley of the Gods, your guess will be as good as mine!

Joking aside, this Buddhist temple will be one of two places, the other a Quanzhen temple, where my wife will take my body to seek help in the event the capricious spirit does not return by a certain day. Such pre-arrangements for any eventuality may be necessary for fellow travelers progressing to that inner alchemy level. It is wise to plan ahead for the far journey.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Most Complete Sincerity

Serious students or those advanced in Yi studies would do well if they study ancient thoughts on the subject to better understand the Yi, to improve their own divination skills and interpretation of the prognostications. As indicated in the Sincerity post, I will now share an ancient thought which depicts how a Yi diviner using yarrow stalks (milfoil) can reach the highest level that is to divine like a spirit (shen).

The thought also underpin one’s experiences that the Yi can tell the future (the ability to foreknow) and more if one understands the multi-layered answers (omens). Although one makes no claim of having attained such a level, from experience one knows it is achievable. For the past several years, one is usually aware that the Yi wants to say something consequently one consults the yarrow oracle to obtain the omen (s). The interpretation skills then come into play to clearly understand the omen(s).

Perhaps some of those reading this post if not there already can one day reach this highest level and I do hope that they can teach me how to possess this most complete sincerity:

“It is only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can give its full development to his nature. Able to give its full development to his own nature, he can do the same to the nature of other men. Able to give its full development to the nature of other men, he can give full development to the natures of animals and things. Able to give their full development to the natures of creatures and things, he can assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth. Able to assist the transforming and nourishing powers of Heaven and Earth, he may with Heaven and Earth form a tern ion.”

“It is characteristic of the most entire sincerity to be able to foreknow. When a nation or family is about to flourish, there are sure to be happy omens; and when it is about to perish, there are sure to be unlucky omens. Such events are seen in the milfoil and tortoise, and affect the movements of the four limbs. When calamity or happiness is about to come, the good shall certainly be foreknown by him and the evil also. Therefore the individual possessed of the most complete sincerity is like a spirit.”
Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung) [James Legge]

For those who cultivates Tao, please take note of the qouted first paragraph. It may help in their far journey.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Generous Review

A generous review by Joel Biroco on April 14 on this author really made my day. Joel Biroco is better known as Steve Marshall author of The Mandate of Heaven, an acknowledged Western scholar and expert in Yi studies. Marshall or Ma Xia is one expert whom I have the honour to discuss with, who astounds me with both his clarity and in-depth knowledge of the Yi and its related studies. Beginners or serious students alike will find his works in the Yijing Dao site valuable to their Yi studies. Yi students have also found his book The Mandate of Heaven excellent.

  • Review

  • Yijing Dao
  • Friday, April 15, 2005

    A special note on Hexagram 19 Approach

    I was having a discussion with my boss when a mutual friend walked in to say good bye as he would be off to London in a couple of days and will stay there for a while. For how long he did not know. This discussion was back in October 1990. The only thing he said of interest was that he should have listened carefully to his ancestor master, a Quanzhen immortal. In January 1990 the immortal had said this about our shares market (which I translate and paraphrase):

    “Springtime brings earth full of gold; in summer, everything turns to sand.”

    My friend related how he made much money from shares trading during the months of spring but lost it all and more when Iraq invaded Kuwait that summer. He was very surprised and regretted not following his master’s advice which turned out true. When it came to my turn, I told him that the immortal’s advice was similar to the judgment in Hexagram 19 Approach. And that the Yi has advised me not to invest in the shares market since early 1990 and to invest in offshore foreign currency deposits-especially in US dollars deposits. The Yi had also indicated a major catastrophe will occur around August 2 1990 (a date based on my calculations) that will adversely affect the world financial markets. The 2nd of August was the day Iraq invaded Kuwait. (This was to be Yi’s first such omen revealed to me.) The world shares markets fell heavily, but US dollars were in good demand. The turmoil in the financial markets ended when the US led UN forces chased the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait six months later.

    Since that conversation, we have become good friends sharing many ‘heaven’ secrets revealed by the immortals and the Yi throughout the past fifteen years.

    For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the translation by Wilhelm/Baynes, the judgment of Hexagram 19 Approach is as follows.

    “Approach has supreme success. Perseverance furthers. When the eighth month comes, there will be misfortune.”

    Spring is approaching. Joy and forbearance bring high and low nearer together. Success is certain. But we must work with determination and perseverance to make full use of the propitiousness of the time. However spring does not last forever. In the eighth month the aspects are reversed. We must take heed of this change in good time. If we meet evil before it becomes reality-before it has begun to stir- we can master it. [W/B]

    Wednesday, April 13, 2005

    A choice between the Yi and a Quanzhen immortal

    Back in the middle of 1993, I went to ask an immortal in a Quanzhen temple whether the divinity can teach me how to better understand the Zhouyi. One consults the Yi whenever one intends to pay a visit on an acknowledged master. Visiting a Quanzhen immortal was no exception to the rule. And Yi’s answer on the intended visit was Hexagram 25 Innocence (The Unexpected) with three moving lines; the first, fourth and fifth, resulting in a change to Hexagram 23 Splitting Apart.

    The judgment on Hexagram 25 reads:
    Innocence. Supreme success. Perseverance furthers. If someone is not as he should be, he has misfortune, and it does not further him to undertake anything.

    The judgment on Hexagram 23 reads:
    Splitting Apart. It does not further one to go anywhere. (Book of Changes) [W/B]

    Innocence was an apt reference to the immortal, purity could be a better description but the Book of Changes has no hexagram under that name. Take note that both innocence and purity can mean, free from moral wrong. Innocence can also apply to me as one must be sinless and show sincerity in the presence of a divinity. It was also my first visit to this Taoist temple and an immortal.

    This Quanzhen immortal is known to scold sinful people before he answers their questions if any. I was pleasantly surprised that not only did the immortal not scold me; he invited me to be his disciple to learn Tao instead of studying the Yi. It was totally unexpected (see alternate name for Hexagram 25) for his disciples and I since most have to ask (some beg) the divinity to take them in. Some waited for a few years to become disciples and one has waited for fifteen years and counting. (No one wants to break the bad news to this person who is a tycoon). I was honored but given a choice I decided to follow the Yi. To become his disciple would mean splitting apart from the Yi.

    The immortal finally gave some advice which took me a whole six months to decipher, but that is another story. Meanwhile I hope you have not missed my simple interpretations on Hexagrams 25 and 23 and the significance of a yarrow-stalk oracle.

    Monday, April 11, 2005

    A case for yarrow stalks

    Both the yellow and red yarrow (milfoil) can be respectively found growing in the wild in the northern and southern hemispheres. Diviners can also buy the stalks using the net nowadays. I bought my existing bunch of fifty stalks for a token sum of 100 pence in London back in the mid 1970’s. They are long lasting if you take good care of them. After many years of casting them to consult the Yi, I find it appropriate to make a case for yarrow stalks.

    “In ancient times the holy sages made the Book of Changes and invented the yarrow-stalk oracle in order to lend aid in a mysterious way to the light of the gods.” (Shuo Kua/Discussion of the Trigrams) [W/B]

    In the Great Treatise (Ta Chuan), the process of consulting the yarrow-stalk oracle is brought into relation with cosmic processes, namely the two primal forces, three powers, four seasons, eight signs (trigrams), intercalary month (s), year and the ten thousand things. The significance of the yarrow is that it belongs to nature, considered sacred, spiritual and round consequently it represents Heaven while hexagrams made by holy sages are considered square to represent Earth. Casting yarrow stalks allows a skilled diviner to know phenomena in Heaven, thereafter its effects on Earth and on Man can be pondered from the lines, trigrams, hexagrams and the images. Furthermore the time taken for a cast (between fifteen to twenty minutes) and the manipulation of the stalks can make the unconscious in man to become active. It has been said that only individuals with a clear and tranquil mind, receptive to the cosmic influences hidden in the humble divining stalks are fitted to consult the oracle this way.

    Hopefully my foregoing thoughts can influence or challenge readers to cast yarrow stalks instead of using coins, sticks, wands, marbles or computer programs for Yi divinations. The decision to do so is theirs and theirs alone. For me to remain blameless is the highest good!

    Sunday, April 10, 2005

    One heart/mind

    I was watching a Hong Kong movie named ‘Throw Down’ yesterday on the television about a former judo champion where one was given a glimpse of an age old Chinese metaphor written on the dojo doors which triggered a train of thoughts in my mind. The metaphor only contains two simple words, ‘yi hsin’ (literally one heart/mind). To the Chinese the word ‘hsin’ can refer to the heart, the mind or both. Why then would this metaphor apply to a judoka too? It will if a martial artist wants to reach the highest level of his or her art that is the ability to manifest the spirit within and to perform his or her movements in the respective martial arts with effortless grace, skill and power.

    Only through contemplation, meditation, cultivation of virtues and hard work with intensive training can one achieve the one heart/mind. This truism pervades the inner alchemy texts of Taoist, Buddhist, or Zen schools.

    Uniting the heart and the mind takes ages as control of the mind is easier than controlling the heart less the heart gets stifled. Quieting the mind is difficult but quieting the heart is even more so. Only the qi (breath/energy) can unite the heart and the mind. Qi from the heart is used to clean the resting place for the spirit. When the heart ‘dies’ the spirit will live. Only when there is purity in the heart/mind can the spirit resides in the mind. When the spirit resides in the mind, the martial artist may have achieved unity of the one heart/mind. Meanwhile the inner alchemist continues on his far journey none the wiser.

    Friday, April 08, 2005

    Can the Book of Changes tell the future?

    If ever someone claims that the Book of Changes (I Ching/Zhou Yi/Yijing/the Yi) cannot tell the future, ask a pertinent question and probably that person will provide an inadequate answer to support this viewpoint. Also be careful of the many who claim that they have studied the Yi for several decades. From the incorrect views they hold on the Yi and related matters, and from their frequent incorrect interpretations of answers from the Yi it is obvious that some of them have left the Yi on their bookshelves for many of those claimed years of study. Such students should go deeper into Yi studies before another ten years passes by and unabashedly lay claim to a further decade of studying the Yi.

    If you are a Yi student, learn to discern between the fools and the wise especially in forums. Do not get misled into dark alleys and winding paths. It may take years to realize the mistakes and the harm done to your own studies and knowledge.

    Over the past few years while surfing the net and participating in I Ching or other forums, one has only encountered a mere handful of scholars who really knows their Yi studies well. They are equally knowledgeable on its history, its wisdoms, the images, ancient thoughts and they provide clear interpretations of hexagrams or lines. These experts are usually in a class of their own and have dedicated several years if not decades of their lives to the study of the Yi. Therefore only an earnest and dedicated student has the sincerity to go far in the Yi studies. Whether a student can reach the spiritual level to receive omens and be like a spirit (shen) will depend on his or her own level of sincerity. (One may write about this topic another time.) As additional information, I refer you to the Great Treatise (Ta Chuan) [Wilhelm/ Baynes] and to what the ancients said about telling the future:

    “In that it* serves for exploring the laws of number and thus for knowing the future, it is called revelation. In that it serves to infuse an organic coherence into the changes, it is called the work.” (Tao*)

    “The Changes illumine the past and interpret the future. They disclose that which is hidden and open that which is dark. They distinguish things by means of suitable names. Then, when the right words and decisive judgments are added, everything is complete.”

    If the Book of Changes cannot tell the future, how can the Yi indicate whether an intended action or investment will lead to good fortune, misfortune, remorse, humiliation or no blame in time to come? From a historical point of view, why would the Great Plan of the Hsia said to be written by the Great Yu (Ta Yu) require the employment of officers to use tortoise shells and the milfoil (yarrow stalks) to obtain oracles before deciding on all important matters of the state?

    It is all because the Yi can tell the future or more if one knows how to interpret the multi-layered answers.

    Wednesday, April 06, 2005

    Longevity and Immortality

    Interest in the subject of immortality has span over a few thousand years and continues till today. Over this long period of time numerous Taoist texts have been written on the subject. One of my favorites is an excerpt from Chuangzi Book XI (Legge/ Sacred Texts) on a purported discussion between Huangdi (the legendary Yellow Emperor) and his teacher, Guang Chenzi on the subject of longevity and immortality:

    Guang Chenzi hastily rose, and said, 'A good question! Come and I will tell you the perfect Tao. Its essence is (surrounded with) the deepest obscurity; its highest reach is in darkness and silence. There is nothing to be seen; nothing to be heard. When it holds the spirit in its arms in stillness, then the bodily form of itself will become correct. You must be still; you must be pure; not subjecting your body to toil, not agitating your vital force;--then you may live for long. When your eyes see nothing, your ears hear nothing, and your mind knows nothing, your spirit will keep your body, and the body will live long. Watch over what is within you, shut up the avenues that connect you with what is external;--much knowledge is pernicious. I (will) proceed with you to the summit of the Grand Brilliance, where we come to the source of the bright and expanding (element); I will enter with you the gate of the Deepest Obscurity, where we come to the source of the dark and repressing (element). There heaven and earth have their controllers; there the Yin and Yang have their Repositories. Watch over and keep your body, and all things will of themselves give it vigour. I maintain the (original) unity (of these elements), and dwell in the harmony of them. In this way I have cultivated myself for one thousand and two hundred years, and my bodily form has undergone no decay.'

    Huangdi twice bowed low with his head to the ground, and said, 'In Guang Chenzi we have an example of what is called Heaven' The other said, 'Come, and I will tell you:--(The perfect Tao) is something inexhaustible, and yet men all think it has an end; it is something unfathomable, and yet men all think its extreme limit can be reached. He who attains to my Tao, if he be in a high position, will be one of the August ones, and in a low position, will be a king. He who fails in attaining it, in his highest attainment will see the light, but will descend and be of the Earth. At present all things are produced from the Earth and return to the Earth. Therefore I will leave you, and enter the gate of the Unending, to enjoy myself in the fields of the Illimitable. I will blend my light with that of the sun and moon, and will endure while heaven and earth endure. If men agree with my views, I will be unconscious of it; if they keep far apart from them, I will be unconscious of it; they may all die, and I will abide alone!'

    1) Names of the personalities have been changed to pinyin.
    2) Guang Chenzi is acknowledged by Taoists as one of the earliest immortals.
    3) Those who practise Taoist inner alchemy may understand what this text is all about. If in doubt do more research or check with your own master.

    Monday, April 04, 2005

    The fall and return to Tao

    “When the Great Tao ceased to be observed, benevolence (ren) and righteousness (yi) came into vogue” Laozi (Tao Te Ching Chapter 18)

    “Human nature (hsing) and life (ming) separates upon birth.” Lu Tungpin (Secret of the Golden Flower)

    “…before the fall…” Liu I Ming (I Ching Mandalas)

    The above three quotes contain some examples of expressions on the fall from Tao. And each of these masters went on to discuss how to cultivate essence and bodily life in their respective ‘texts’. Students may not be able to catch their meanings until they practise and experience what is taught. The practice is known as the cultivation of Tao.

    If we are ‘connected’ to and not separated from Tao, no need arises to learn and/or to cultivate Tao. Neither would Laozi, Confucius, Buddha, Bodhidharma nor Lu Tungpin need to put forth their teachings on how to cultivate essence and bodily life. Since most will be able to connect to Tao as it is, one way or other, no efforts is required to attain Tao or Nirvana. Of course this would be the ideal situation for everyone in the world. But alas it is not so. Because from the masters own words, they said that people are separated from Tao. Therefore we have to cultivate to return to the Tao and for the earnest student such cultivation is indeed a far journey.

    Saturday, April 02, 2005

    Te in the Tao Te Ching

    The West has in the main captured the essence of Tao but invariably disagree on what is meant by Te because of various translations of the Tao Te Ching said to number more than a hundred with every translator claiming he or she is right. And that those who differ, amongst other reasons given, have been influenced by their own religious beliefs or influenced by renowned translators such as James Legge or Arthur Waley.The post below was posted in a forum last year to support my views on the meaning of Te.

    Let us not be influenced by any translator of Tao Te Ching (TTC) for the time being and try to picture the scenario when it was said to be written. During a time in between what is better known as Spring and Autumn and the Warring States eras where the Zuhou were fighting each other for hegemony over the other states since the Zhou capital in the West was razed by the barbarians in 771 BC. And the Zhou emperor whose capital has been relocated in the East had no longer any power over these states except to receive their annual ceremonial tributes of drinking straws in exchange for a piece of the ceremonial meat.
    According to the Records of the Historian (Sima Chien) Laozi indeed existed and was known as Li Erh who held a post of librarian in the Zhou Court. As a librarian he would have access to a lot of Ancient books and classics especially that of Zhou’s. Let us supposed that he had the same access to such knowledge if not more than that available to Confucius, and then Laozi may have read the same classics as Confucius, even though such classics were later known as the Confucian Classics. These Classics are the Book of History, Book of Changes, Book of Odes (Songs), Spring and Autumn Annals and the Book of Rites.
    To those familiar with the Book of History and on the assumption that the chapters within are authentic, one can find an Ancient immortal (known as Kwang Chenzi) teaching Huangdi (Yellow Emperor) how to attain the Tao.
    In the Book of Zhou, it was recorded that King Cheng (a grandson of King Wen) admonished his ministers with the following:

    “Great heaven has no partial affections; it helps only the virtuous. The people’s hearts have no unchanging attachments, they cherish only the kind. Acts of goodness are different, but they contribute in common to good order. Acts of evil are no different, but they contribute in common to disorder. Be cautious.”

    (Compare Chapter 79 of TTC: In the way of Heaven, there is no partiality of love; it is always on the side of the good man.)

    In the Zhouyi (Book of Changes of the Zhou) the first two hexagrams are Heaven and Earth and it teaches the Junzi (the superior man) proper conduct in the way of life and how to master his/her fate. It also says how a sage will act if you do meet one.
    The Spring and Autumn Annals records the good and bad deeds of various Zuhou (dukes who later called themselves kings) and their ministers.

    Under this scenario and on the request of Guan Yinzi, Laozi is said to have written the TTC.

    Let us also examine what the later eminent Tao philosophers and accomplished Taoists (among them acknowledged immortals) said about cultivation of essence (inside) and cultivation of bodily life (outside).

    Guan Yinzi said, “A man should follow the great Tao, keep pure and void, pacify his mind, correct his conduct, and be rid of the rein of desires.”

    Chang Taoling studied the five Confucian Classics and said to be a descendant of Chang Liang (a famous Taoist adviser of Liu Pang the first Han emperor). Ge Xuan and Ge Hong also studied the five classics. (Many immortals after them also studied the same classics.)

    Ge Hong or Ko Hong had written a lot of books including theories and techniques on how to achieve immortality. (Currently there are a few English translations of his collections and the studies on the lives of immortals.) He advocated that those who seek immortality must also cultivate virtues (Te) and not just practising the techniques.

    Chen Tuan (Five Dynasties and Song) was the first who integrated the study of the three doctrines (Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism) to attain the Tao and to become an immortal. His friend, Lu Dongpin (one of the eight immortals) and Zhong Liquan (another of the eight immortals) and their student Wang Chongyang (founder of the Complete Reality Religion/ Quanzhen) also advocated the study of the three doctrines.

    To me, the reason for this integration is because Chan Buddhism concentrates on the cultivation of essence that is through meditation while Taoism and Confucianism concentrate on the cultivation of bodily life that is virtues and proper conduct of the Junzi respectively. Based on this reason, the ‘later’ immortals seemingly follow the thoughts of Guan Yinzi and Ge Hong on the TTC.

    In line with these eminent Tao philosophers and accomplished Taoists’ thoughts, Te would mean virtue(s). When there is Tao there is Te.

    BTW those who follow Arthur Waley’s translation of TTC as The Way and Its Power (TWIP) need to read his explanation on Te in Appendix IV in the Book of Songs where he said, “In the first draft of my translation I left the word untranslated. But Te is not easy to acclimatize in English, and in the end I translated it power (compare my book TWIP), inner power (for it excludes physical strength); but sometimes virtue, in contexts where this is not misleading.

    Friday, April 01, 2005

    Nei Yeh

    About a month ago, there was a brief discussion on a chapter of the Nei Yeh (inner training) where the poster asked what the term, “numinous (mind)” meant. Although one has not heard of or read the text before I had said that the term meant "spirit (shen)". The original text containing 26 chapters is translated by Harold Roth in his book, Original Tao. Lately one has come across this website which hosts Roth’s translation.
    After going through the 26 chapters and reading comments by Russell Kirkland (Meditation and ‘Spiritual Hygiene” in late classical texts, 1976) one would say that both Roth and Kirkland are right in calling the Nei Yeh a text for “inner alchemy (neidan)” as it contains the usual ingredients namely essence (jing), energy (qi), spirit (shen), and virtues (te) required for an advanced meditation known as the ‘reversed flow’ or ‘Circulation of the Light’.
    What probably have caused confusion among some students and readers is that the translation may have been oversimplified resulting in a small loss of the original meanings. For example, the term “numinous (mind)” is used for spirit (shen), “vital energy” for breath (qi), and what do the terms ‘vital essence” and “vital breath” actually mean? Only by comparing Kirkland’s comments on the Nei Yeh made some of the terms used by Roth clearer.
    Hopefully Roth’s Original Tao contains explanations on the terms used in his translation to satisfy discerning student cultivators of the Tao. Thanks to him, the Western world has access to an important work on inner alchemy.