Friday, March 31, 2006

A simple Daoist sitting meditation

Although many websites have discussed the various benefits of and related sitting postures for meditation not much attention has been given to a simple yet effective Daoist sitting position suitable for almost everyone, male or female.

One is sure many would like to learn or practise meditation for its related benefits but put off by the various difficult sitting postures (think full lotus or half lotus positions) they have to adopt for the practice. Readers who have heard of or know this simple sitting meditation may find what is written below differs from their practice or understanding, and are welcome to comment and share their experience to teach us a thing or two.

This sitting meditation is especially suitable for the elderly; for those who find difficulties or suffer pain in bending/crossing their legs for a certain length of time and for those who have to sit in wheel chairs because of illnesses or partial paralysis.

This entry does not discuss breath control therefore the meditation described is elementary suitable for beginners and could prove useful for the more experienced meditators. Although over the years one has taught meditation to a number of friends and relatives and there had been calls for me to start a class for their friends, I have never started one, knowing my own limitations on the Circulation of the Light. Therefore take note that one does not claim to be a master of Tao or of meditation.

The simple sitting meditation:

Whenever you want to meditate, find a quiet and lighted up place and ensure you will not be disturbed for the duration of the meditation. The duration of the meditation needs to be fifteen minutes or longer to be effective. Wear loose clothing where possible. You can light incense to create the atmosphere for deep concentration but do not play any music to accompany the meditation. Do not meditate on a full stomach, or when you are tipsy or drunk, under stress, or pondering on a lot of things, since you will not be able to concentrate. There are no mantras to recite, no mandalas to look at or anything to visualize. Just do not fall asleep during meditation.

Daoist meditation is something like this. Your eyes look within, your ears hear within, there is no speech and your hands cannot grasp what is seen. Keeping your body and thoughts still, with continual practice, it can quieten your heart and empty your mind.

The elementary meditation described here does not involve breath control, just normal breathing, and therefore has no side effects. It may help reduce stress and you should feel rested and relaxed after the meditation. If you ever feel dizzy or your heart beat faster than normal during meditation, please stop the meditation immediately.

With the foregoing precaution in place, we can now proceed to the sitting posture and the elementary meditation:

1) Sit on a chair or the edge of a bed with both feet resting on the floor

2) Spread your legs out to shoulders width and point your toes forward

3) Rest your left palm and fingers face down on your left knee*

4) Rest the right palm and fingers face down on your right knee*

5) Straighten your back and neck to allow smooth breathing

6) Do not support your back with anything

7) Half close your eyes and look at the tip of your nose

8) Lightly clench your teeth together and keep your mouth close

9) Rest the tip of your tongue on the palate

10) Relax your entire body and limbs and you are ready

11) Slowly breath in and out through your nose

12) Listen to the breathing

13) Make the breathing as light as possible until you cannot hear it

14) Do not try to stop the thoughts, just focus on your breathing

15) Watch the thoughts flow in and out

16) Soon they will stop on their own accord

17) In the stillness, your heart seemed to have quieten

18) With your mind emptied

(*Your fingers to cover the respective knee caps and you will be sitting in an upright and natural position.)

For those who practise breath control and want to change their sitting posture over to this simple method, you can replace the normal breathing in #11 with your usual deep breathing techniques.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Zhuangzi on the cardinal virtues

Yes, Zhuangzi did discuss the cardinal virtues. However he held perhaps a different view from the ancient sage kings, the holy men and other sages. To him the cardinal virtues did not seem to work down the ages or during his time. But humans are humans, not all of them can be Immortals, Sages, Da Ren or Junzi. There will always be the unruly, the wicked, and the Xiao Ren whether they are Daoists, Confucians, Legalists, followers or non followers of other doctrines. It really depends on their hearts/minds (Hsin), their respective actions and nature (Xing). After his rants on the Confucians, Legalists and Mohists of his time, Zhuangzi laid out his own thoughts on Virtue, benevolence, righteousness, propriety; and on purity.

In writing this chapter, Zhuangzi seems very much in favour of meditation over the cultivation of virtues. He included a purported meeting between the Yellow Emperor and his teacher, Guangchengzi who taught the emperor meditation. (Refer April 6 entry on Longevity and Immortality) That episode has been omitted since this entry ventures to look at his discussion and thoughts on virtues:

In ancient times the Yellow Emperor first used benevolence and righteousness to meddle with the minds of men. Yao and Shun followed him and worked till there was no more down on their thighs, no more hair on their shins, trying to nourish the bodies of the men of the world.

By the time the kings of the Three Dynasties appeared, the world was in great consternation indeed. On the lowest level there were men like the tyrant Chieh and Robber Chih, on the highest, men like Tseng and Shih, and the Confucianists and Mo ists rose up all around. Then joy and anger eyed each other with suspicion, stupidity and wisdom duped each other, good and bad called one another names, falsehood and truth slandered one another, and the world sank into a decline. There was no more unity to the Great Virtue, and the inborn nature and fate shattered and fell apart.

In the world today, the victims of the death penalty lie heaped together, the bearers of cangues tread on each other's heels, the sufferers of punishment are never out of each other's sight. And now come the Confucianists and Mo-ists, waving their arms, striding into the very midst of the fettered and manacled men. Ah, that then should go this far, that they should be so brazen, so lacking in any sense of shame! Who can convince me that sagely wisdom is not in fact the wedge that fastens the cangue, that benevolence and righteousness are not in fact the loop and lock of these fetters and manacles?

He who fixed his eyes on possession - he was the "gentleman" of ancient times. He who fixes his eyes on nothingness - he is the true friend of Heaven and earth.

What is lowly and yet must be used - things. What is humble and yet must be relied on - the people. What is irksome and yet must be attended to - affairs. What is sketchy and yet must be proclaimed - laws. What seems to apply only to distant relationships and yet must be observed - righteousness. What seems to apply only to intimate relationships and yet must be broadened - benevolence. What is confining and yet must be repeatedly practiced - ritual. What is already apt and yet must be heightened - Virtue. What is One and yet must be adapted - the Way. What is spiritual and yet must be put into action - Heaven.

Therefore the sage contemplates Heaven but does not assist it. He finds completion in Virtue but piles on nothing more. He goes forth in the Way but does not scheme. He accords with benevolence but does not set great store by it. He draws close to righteousness but does not labor over it. He responds to the demands of ritual and does not shun them. He disposes of affairs and makes no excuses. He brings all to order with laws and allows no confusion. He depends upon the people and does not make light of them. He relies upon things and does not throw them aside. Among things, there are none that are worth using, and yet they must be used.

He who does not clearly understand Heaven will not be pure in Virtue. He who has not mastered the Way will find himself without any acceptable path of approach. He who does not clearly understand the Way is pitiable indeed!

What is this thing called the Way? There is the Way of Heaven, and the way of man. To rest in inaction, and command respect this is the Way of Heaven. To engage in action and become entangled in it this is the way of man. The ruler is the Way of Heaven; his subjects are the way of man. The Way of Heaven and the way of man are far apart. This is something to consider carefully!

[Section ELEVEN - LET IT BE, LEAVE IT ALONE (extracts) – ChuangTzu- Resources link]

Indeed the difference between Ways of Heaven and man is something to be considered carefully. Perhaps we also need to consider the Way of Earth? With the benefit of more than two thousand years of hindsight and the collective wisdom of sage kings, holy men, sages, immortals, buddhas and the wise, we can perhaps learn a bit more of the Three Doctrines to find the centre that leads to the Great Way (Tao).

Monday, March 27, 2006

Simple arithmetic of pure yang or pure light

Those interested in the study of neidan practice may have come across the term, pure yang or pure light in Daoist texts. The neidan adept having filled his or her body with pure yang has probably attained enlightenment.

Enlightenment not in the sense of some ‘loose’ teachings or wordings whereby disciples were enlightened after thinking through difficult koans or getting whacked by a cane or a stick, but a state attained through an extended and continual practice of dual cultivation. (Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, Twofold entrance to Tao)

The person enlightened through dual cultivation would probably have attained Immortality or Buddhahood. According to Buddha in the Leng Yen, the immortal still needs to continuously cultivate before he reaches higher stages of immortality or Nirvana.

How do neidan adepts reach this state of pure yang or pure light? One can perhaps use simple arithmetic to explain the process.

To achieve purity cultivators need to cultivate virtues to rectify the heart/mind (Hsin) to become good again before attaining a pure state of mind. To reach a yang state the Circulation of the Light meditation allows the light and energy (Qi) to circulate the entire body to melt down the slag or yin state within. (Secret of the Golden Flower) Once yin or darkness has been overcome, only yang or light remains within.

Therefore the arithmetic adds up that through continual dual cultivation, the neidan adept can perhaps reach this state of pure yang or pure light.

Although the analysis sounds simple, the practice is not. It takes a long time and therefore a far journey. According to later Daoist texts, we have to be the right person(s) to attain Tao.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Collective wisdom on the Zhouyi and Tao

Perhaps everyone can read and understand a text differently, be they masters, adepts or students. Although some rely mainly on teachers - humans or divinities – we still need to study and learn on our own to extend our knowledge and/or to deepen our cultivation. During this time of self study, it would be beneficial to learn from the collective wisdom of sages and the wise. Lest we presume we know better than the distinguished philosophers, the wise and Daoist adepts down the centuries, on the profound subjects of Yi and Tao studies. Some of these collective wisdoms are contained in the Ten Wings of the Zhouyi.

Those involved in Daoist and Yi studies may like to know about or study this technical aspect on the link between the holy sages, Zhouyi and Tao:

In ancient times the holy sages made the Book of Changes thus:

They invented the yarrow stalk oracle in order to lend aid in a mysterious way to the light of the gods. To heaven they assigned the number of three and to earth the number two; from these they computed the other numbers.

They contemplated the changes in the dark and the light and established the hexagrams in accordance with them. They brought about movements in the firm and the yielding, and thus produced the individual lines.

They put themselves in accord with Tao and its power (*De), and in conformity with this laid down the order of what is right. By thinking through the order of the outer world to the end, and by exploring the law of their nature to the deepest core, they arrived at an understanding of fate.
[Shuo Kua / Discussions of the Trigrams – Book II - W/B]

Extracts of the ensuing explanations given by Richard Wilhelm depicts his understanding of the Chinese spiritual world:

The original purpose of the hexagrams was to consult destiny. As divine beings do not give direct expression to their knowledge, a means had to be found by which they could make themselves intelligible. Supra-human intelligence has from the beginning made use of three mediums of expression—men (or women), animals, and plants, in each of which life pulsate in a different rhythm. The Book of Changes is founded on the plant oracle as manipulated by men (or women) with mediumistic powers.

In addition to its use as an oracle, the Book of Changes also serves to further intuitive understanding of conditions in the world, penetration to the uttermost depths of nature and spirit. The Book of Changes is in harmony with Tao and its power [*natural law and moral law]. Therefore it can lay down the rules of what is right for each person. The ultimate meaning of the world—fate, the world as it is, how it has come to be so through creative decision [Ming]—can be apprehended by going down to the ultimate sources in the world of outer experience and of inner experience. Both paths lead to the same goal.

Yet occasions had arisen across the WWW, where pedant scholars, deviant teachers, and New Age authors indiscriminately disagree to such collective wisdoms passed down the millenniums, otherwise they could not benefit from proffering their differing and misleading views or practices. Meanwhile hopefully those earnest and sincere continue their learning from the ancient sages, the wise and the heavenly immortals in search for collective wisdoms and excellence, which perhaps is important to our Yi and Tao studies and practice.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cultivating character

A person’s character or personality is developed over the years showing his or her mental or moral qualities and individuality. When a person is perhaps learned or cultured with good and kind qualities and helpful, the person can be considered a Junzi (Superior man) or even a Da Ren (Great man). However if the same person actually turns out to be quarrelsome, spiteful and more often than not brings harm to other human(s) with ill intent then he or she is considered a Xiao Ren (Mean man).

The ancients hold much concern for humanity, therefore they try to teach rulers and kings and the learned who listened to cultivate their character with virtues. Only when the rulers and those who help them rule are virtuous can the people enjoy their lives in peace and harmony, and not brought to harm or ruin.

However we know from experience and studies that it proves difficult for a person to change his or her character for the better. The Chinese adage: ‘changing a kingdom is easier than to move original character’ perhaps support the thought. (It has always been much easier by neglecting our own cultivation and changes it for the worse.) The adage could have been derived from the following conversation between Confucius and Duke Ai who asked about government (extracts):

The Master said "With the right men the growth of government is rapid, just as vegetation is rapid in the earth; and, moreover, their government might be called an easily-growing rush.”

"Therefore the administration of government lies in getting proper men. Such men are to be got by means of the ruler's own character. That character is to be cultivated by his treading in the ways of duty. And the treading those ways of duty is to be cultivated by the cherishing of benevolence.”

"Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity, and the great exercise of it is in loving relatives. Righteousness is the accordance of actions with what is right, and the great exercise of it is in honoring the worthy. The decreasing measures of the love due to relatives, and the steps in the honor due to the worthy, are produced by the principle of propriety.”

"Hence the sovereign may not neglect the cultivation of his own character. Wishing to cultivate his character, he may not neglect to serve his parents. In order to serve his parents, he may not neglect to acquire knowledge of men. In order to know men, he may not dispense with knowledge of Heaven.”

The Master said, "To be fond of learning is to be near to knowledge. To practice with vigor is to be near to magnanimity. To possess the feeling of shame is to be near to energy.”

"He who knows these three things knows how to cultivate his own character. Knowing how to cultivate his own character, he knows how to govern other men. Knowing how to govern other men, he knows how to govern the kingdom with all its states and families.” [Doctrine of the Mean XX – Legge – Wengu - Resources link]

In case you think it is a waste of time to cultivate our character for the better, think again. It can help change our fate or our destiny. That is why we learn from the Zhouyi that with the proper conduct of a Junzi we can master our own fate. Do take note that cultivating character for the better takes a long time. It will be a gradual and continual process. And it forms part of the far journey.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A bit of Zhuangzi and the Circulation of the Light, perhaps

Feeling bored; Earth cajoled Heaven thus: Filled with clouds, stars, planets and galaxies, you appear vast and distant yet remain empty.

Sounding a bit rattled, Heaven reproached Earth: Be broad and still. Go nurture the ten thousand things.

A voice booms across Heaven and Earth: Be quiet!

Breath, the life force, entering two darkened caves inadvertently steps into an abyss and lost its way. Not knowing how to precede Qi waited for his buddy, Light.

Winter solstice arrived before light turned up. Follow me says Light, contemplate and focus on the return via the Door of Life.

With light leading the way up, breath begins to flow backwards.
Upon reaching the prearranged place, they found Heaven and Earth waiting there patiently.

Ah, it has been a long while; did you happen to lose your way again?

The celestial forces continued: Right here resides forms and emptiness, the myriad things. No heads, no tails, the right person discerns what is false, what is real.

Breath protested: I see none too clearly in between the yin yang twilight especially on such a cloudy day. However after examining the phenomena for some time Light beamed: Ha, just like what the ancients indicated.

Seeming to reinforce that view Heaven and Earth added: We have waited here since the origin of time and will continue to help the good and virtuous in search of the Way. Sages, Buddhas and Immortals from time immemorial have sojourned or passed through here too.

The four then parted ways, on an eternal promise to meet again. Before completion they hope a mutual friend, Golden Flower will turn up in the next encounter.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Heaven’s secrets

Perhaps Heaven’s secrets are more often mentioned by the Chinese because of our beliefs. What then can be considered Heaven’s secrets? These secrets are revealed by divinities through mediums or by Zhouyi divinations to those who are supposed to know. Since Heaven favors the good, and those sincere enough can also know through the Yi.

Within my limited knowledge, the secrets can be on what is happening or has happened to some Daoist deities or immortals in Heaven; unknown or unseen phenomena; forthcoming major disasters or crises on earth; epidemics that would affect specific areas of the country or parts of the world; and on the micro level, major illnesses such as cancer that can be cured through a concoction of simple herbs; divine intervention to extend lives; pronouncement of timing of deaths of loved ones ; advices and warnings not to do certain things or venture out of the house on a particular time or date.

Sometimes these Heaven’s secrets are revealed with reasons provided but in most cases the divinities will just advised or warned the disciples or devotees without any revelations. Take for instance some published news – A Hong Kong family who had planned to holiday in a Thai island resort went to pray in a Daoist temple and was told not to go on the trip. The family heeded the warning and did not fly to the Thai island as planned. Tsunami struck the particular island and swept many holidaymakers away. They would have been holidaying there when disaster struck had there been no prior divine warning.

One has heard of or knew about such Heaven’s secrets usually at the micro level. To know secrets at the other level, one had to ask the Zhouyi, since divinities often refused to disclose them when asked. Some of the micro level and other secrets have been entered in the blog since they relate to past events and for sharing insights. Others remain in private and cannot be published, especially those revealed to friends and relatives. To maintain their trust, my lips are sealed.

Therefore Heaven’s secrets remain secrets until they are revealed.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Wide learning required

Once again one has erred on overestimating Western scholars’ knowledge on Tao and its related studies. Perhaps if my Daoist friend asks again, one would rather say that I do not know about what they have learned.

Although sad upon reading a post in Tao Speaks, it was not surprising when one Daoist scholar warned that Zhouyi divinations can be considered heresy to Tao learning. Apparently another scholar has published a similar remark on the web too. By quoting Zhuangzi, the Neiyeh and Huainanzi it seems the quotations would support his theory that Daoists with Shen (Spirit) will be privy to Heaven secrets, and therefore Zhouyi divinations can distance people from Tao.

Ha, how would these scholars know?

Have they reached or know someone who has reached that required Shen (spirit) state to hear Heaven secrets to substantiate such a belief? Perhaps to reach that pure state of mind they may need a long time to cultivate their essence through meditation. If it was so simple many neidan practitioners could have reached that state.

One has heard of mediums or spiritual masters who have direct link to divinities who would reveal some heaven secrets from time to time. But without help from the divinities how could they know. On the one hand these scholars prefer not to be seen as religious or superstitious but on the other hand they are happy to jump on the bandwagon to deride a few thousand years old tradition of Zhouyi divinations. Since through such divinations, heaven secrets and omens can be known.

Maybe these particular scholars have discounted ancient sages like King Wen, Jiang Ziya and Duke Dan of Zhou deemed more knowledgeable than Laozi and Confucius.

Can the knowledge of Zhuangzi and Prince Liu An of Huainan be really compared with those great sages?

Perhaps they think that Jiang Taigong is not Daoist? And that he together with King Wen and Duke Dan by propagating the Zhouyi do not know what is good for the Chinese? And had perhaps unwittingly also created heresy to Daoist learning?

These scholars may know about the Neo Daoists, yet they have ignored that most of the learned during the time studied the four Confucian books and the five Classics (which include the Zhouyi) before going onto Daoist studies. Among the renowned Neo Daoists versed with the Book of Changes were Wei Boyang and Chen Tuan whose related works on the hexagrams and trigrams were studied in detail by Daoists and Confucians until today for their cultivation of essence and bodily life.

Without the requisite knowledge of wide learning of Chinese culture and practices these Western scholars chose to ridicule Zhouyi divinations. It is quite obvious what class of Daoist scholars they belong to, pretending to know more than they do. So what can one say to these scholars?

Perhaps read more Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist texts, and stop spreading superficial theoretical Daoist beliefs on the web, please?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

More news on the abortive Library Tower bombing

"Our Sunday Star newspaper reported today that five Malaysians were recruited by Al Qaeda for the job of hijacking an airliner to crash into a 73 storey building in Los Angeles. They were supposed to be Al Qaeda’s second wave of suicide fighters after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks in the US but the intelligence agencies were several steps ahead of them. The detailed report was pieced together by two reporters of the Star paper.

All five men were Moslems. Four of them had met up with Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan around 2000/01. In Southeast Asia, Hambali an Indonesian, the key Al Qaeda man for the region was their contact person. The Indonesian terrorist has since been arrested by the CIA and detained in an unknown center. Soon the Al Qaeda set their eyes on the leader of the five for a big job. He was to head a team to crash a plane, which they would hijack into the 73 storey Library Tower/US Bank Tower, the tallest building in downtown Los Angeles.

No date was given for the mission but the plan was supposed to be the biggest after the 9/11 attack on the twin towers in New York. Terrorism experts have described the plan as the Second Wave to mean the follow up attacks by the various Al Qaeda suicide bombers worldwide after 9/11. Last month President Bush formally named one of the five as being picked for the attack. The named Malaysian had graduated from Western New College, Massachusetts as an electrical engineer. He was supposed to pilot the hijacked plane and crash it into the Library/US Bank tower.

In 2002 regional intelligence officers had stepped up their surveillance. The arrests of key Al Qaeda operatives shed more light on what the Malaysians had planned to do and they began watching closely the five Malaysians. Two of them sneaked back into Malaysia in 2002 and were immediately arrested. Upon interrogation the authorities learnt that they were involved in planning a second wave attack on the US. Swift action by the Malaysian intelligence officers prevented what would have been a similar incident to 9/11 according to sources. The intended pilot was arrested a few months later. Acting on the information, the Thai police picked up the remaining two of the five man team in Bangkok before arresting Hambali a couple of days later in June 2003."

The above newspaper report probably explained why the Omen on Another 9/11 did not unfold as expected in June 2003 but later. The vigilance of the authorities worldwide had effectively stopped and/or delayed the implementation of the terrorists’ plan(s). It has taken almost three years for me to learn about the truth. Although this is good news for all concerned, the Spanish and English authorities had lowered their vigilance which may have allowed the terrorists to bomb their trains and train stations in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

In case readers had not spotted the significance of the ‘within three weeks period of each incident', in the Feb 18 entry ‘To resolve lingering doubts', it had also unfolded with the two bombing incidents in London. The first successful bomb attack on the trains was on July 7 2005 followed by the failed bomb attack two weeks later on July 21 2005.

Any wonder then, why the ancients found the Book of Changes profound and studied it?

Without going out, they can know what would happen all under heaven. (TTC 47 perhaps) Heaven secrets can also be known since nothing is hidden from the Zhouyi. (The Great Treatise) All it needs is sincerity. (Doctrine of the Mean)

If readers still remain skeptical about the requirements of sincerity, just read the Jan 6 entry on ‘Will 2006 be a good or bad year for President Bush’ and look at what is happening to his current approval ratings in the US. Hopefully Mr Bush's ratings will not fall to that of former President Nixon (in the high twenties) shortly before he was forced out of office. And the Yi gave the oracle to Professor Sam Crane, not me. It shows that to the Yi, Sam is sincere too.

Further relevant entries: Update on ‘Another 9/11' Feb 15; 'Did the Yi indicate this' July 25; 'Another 9/11 revisited' July 7.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Book of Rites (Li Ki)

The Book of Rites (Li Ki) is a compilation of ancient Chinese religious ceremonies and rituals practised during the eighth to the fifth century B.C. Propriety (Li) is one of the cardinal virtues to be cultivated by a practising Confucian or Daoist.

Whether it was fate or destiny, the Book of Rites was the first Classic that I had laid my hands on while in England and read during my teens. From its study and the references, one had progressed to the four Confucian books and the remaining four classics which helped change a once prodigal son (the teenager) into a man who knows the proper conduct of a Junzi. A change in character is a way to change fate.

One has James Legge to thank for his scholarly works and dedicated efforts over several decades to ensure the West and those educated in English to gain access to these ancient classics and books. Without his sincerity, earnestness, dedication and thorough research, it would be difficult to obtain a complete reliable set of the four books and five classics to read and study.

Perhaps because of his occupation as a Jesuit Priest and therefore his beliefs, Legge did not practise divination otherwise he could have provided a deeper understanding into the Book of Changes (I Ching, Yijing, Zhouyi, or the Yi). Probably it explains why Carl Jung preferred Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Zhouyi over that of Legge. Both Jung and Wilhelm had put the Zhouyi to the test and found the divinations accurate and the Yi profound. Nonetheless James Legge stands out as one of the great Sinologists for the past century and the half. One seldom find his understanding of ancient Chinese thoughts and the Zhouyi wanting.

The various translations of ancient books, classics and Daoist texts by James Legge are included in what I call the right books to read. Perhaps those who often discourse on Confucian and Daoist doctrines in public forums may find his various translations worthy to read to gain a deeper insight to what the ancients actually thought and said.

No, you do not acquire an in depth knowledge by reading hundreds of translations of the Tao Te Ching or the I Ching over several decades. Unless you really want to fool yourself into thinking that you really know Chinese minds and their ancient cultures just by reading several translations of the same book(s). Even after reading the right books, we still need to put the acquired theoretical knowledge into practice, the reason for the far journey whether we are a trained or a self taught Confucian, Daoist or Buddhist cultivator.

In his introduction on the Book of Rites (Li Ki), Legge has written the following remarks that highlighted his thorough research and in depth knowledge of ancient Chinese thoughts and studies. Readers who want to fine tune their understanding of propriety (Li) and why both the ancient Daoists (except for Zhuangzi) and Confucians cultivate the same four cardinal virtues can possibly derive some meanings from Legge’s ensuing explanations (in italics):

Confucius said, 'It is by the Odes that the mind is aroused; by the Rules of Propriety (Li) that the character is established; from Music that the finish is received.' On another occasion he said, 'Without the Rules of Propriety, respectfulness becomes laborious bustle; carefulness, timidity; boldness, insubordination; and straightforwardness, rudeness.'

The Chinese character Li admits of a great variety of terms in translating a work where it abounds into any of our western languages. In order fully to apprehend its significance, we must try to get hold of the fundamental ideas which it was intended to convey. And these are two. First, when we consult the Shwo Wan, the oldest Chinese dictionary, we find Li defined as 'a step or act; that whereby we serve spiritual beings and obtain happiness.'

Next, the character is used, in moral and philosophical disquisitions, to designate one of the primary constituents of human nature.
Those, as set forth by Mencius, are four; 'not fused into us from without,' not produced, that is, by any force of circumstances, but 'belonging naturally to us, as our four limbs do.' They are benevolence (Ren), righteousness (Yi), propriety (Li), and understanding (Zhi).
Our possession of the first is proved by the feeling of distress at the sight of suffering; of the second, by our feelings of shame and dislike; of the third, by our feelings of modesty and courtesy; of the fourth, by our consciousness of approving and disapproving.

Thus the character Li, in the concrete application of it, denotes the manifestations, and in its imperative use, the rules, of propriety. This twofold symbolism of it--the religious and the moral--must be kept in mind in the study of our classic. A life ordered in harmony with it would realize the highest Chinese ideal, and surely a very high ideal, of human character.

But never and, nowhere has it been possible for men to maintain this high standard of living. In China and elsewhere the Li have become, in the usages of society in its various relationships, matters of course, forms without the spirit, and hence we cannot always translate the character by the same term. [Legge.]

Do note that the remarks of Confucius and Mencius uttered more than two thousand years ago are still relevant today. The Yi and the ancient sages have never indicated it was easy to become a Junzi, a Da Ren, a Sage or an Immortal. It is all up to us. Only the earnest and sincere can endure the far journey.

In mourning for my father, and in line with the Book of Rites one did not play the guitar, sing or listen to music for three years after his death in January 2001. Although I explained the required three years mourning to my young daughter, she still pestered me to play the guitar to accompany her singing. No, she did not get her wish fulfilled that Christmas nor the subsequent two. And it has nothing to do with misogyny, more to do with filial piety, if you know what I mean.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Climb up Heaven’s ladder

Lu Yen better known as Lu Dongbin has left behind a guide of twenty verses with a sum total of hundred characters or words to neidan cultivators on how to attain immortality.

Professor Lu-sheng Chong has provided the Chinese verses, his Pinyin and English translations of the Hundred Character Stele written by Lu Dongbin together with a brief history of the famous immortal in his website, Chinese Cultural Learning Series. (Resources Link) A link to the Hundred Character Stele at his website is also provided under the Recommended Sites section.

Thanks to the professor, those familiar with Lu’s Secret of the Golden Flower and the Circulation of the Light meditation will find Lu’s hundred characters useful to further their learning. Heavenly immortals nowadays still use similar prose when they speak through the planchette.

As usual I attempt to translate and understand what Lu Dongbin had wanted to say in his guide comprised of twenty verses. Except for the few verses highlighted with asterisks, the bulk of my translation falls in line with that of Professor Chong’s:

Nourish Qi forget thoughts*

Settle heart through non action (stillness)*

Quiet move knows clan ancestor,

Look no further for whom!

True eternal must respond to things

Response to things, important not to obsess

Not obsessed, human nature (Xing) dwells within*

Human nature dwells, Qi returns within*

Qi returns, Elixir forms within

Middle of jug dispenses Kan and Li (water and fire)

Yin yang produces transmutations (forms and emptiness)*

Universal transformation one sound thunder

White clouds rise towards head (Ding) top

Sweet dew sprinkle on Xumi (a Celestial Mountain)

Self drink longevity wine

Wandering; who could know!*

Sitting, listen to no string tune (songs of immortals*)

Understand clearly Mother Nature’s secrets*

All this come in twenty verses

Final aim, climb up Heaven’s ladder.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Interpretation of oracle on dark forces

Seven days is perhaps sufficient time to ponder on an oracle, even if it is an oracle on the phenomenon of dark forces. Yi studies and divinations mature over time as we continue to learn from the Book of Changes, other ancient books and classics; from holding discussions with likeminded fellows or with holy men/women or magicians.

In the previous entry on the oracle, one has hinted that when students and scholars are not ready to know about light and dark forces, how could they know? Probably this may explain why your interpretation of the oracle may differ from what is written below. And if the writing seems somewhat beyond what you can understand, it’s alright, just be aware that the Yi talks at different levels to diviners. That’s one of the reasons why the Book of Changes or Zhouyi is profound.

The question was put to the Zhouyi as a Buddha did not want to answer it since the answer involves heaven’s secrets. To maintain some privacy for my family, one would just publish the interpretation on the oracle and not detail what had actually transpired.

The question was, “Why did the dark forces wanted to harm my two children?” As stated in the entry on 25th February, Yi replied with a changing first line in Hexagram 31 Xian / Influence and a resultant Hexagram 49 Ge / Revolution:

The Judgment:
Influence. Success. Perseverance furthers. To take a maiden to wife brings good fortune.

Commentary on the Decision
“Influence means stimulation. The weak is above, the strong below. The forces of the two stimulate and respond to each other, so that they unite.” “The holy man stimulates the hearts of men, and the world attains peace and rest. If we contemplate the outgoing stimulating influences, we can know the nature of heaven and earth and all beings.” [Book III W/B]

Six at the beginning means:
The influence shows itself in the big toe.
"A movement, before it is actually carried out, shows itself first in the toes. The idea of an influence is already present, but it is not immediately apparent to others. As long as the intention has no visible effect, it is of no importance to the outside world and leads neither to good nor to evil." [Book I W/B]

The Judgment:
Revolution. On your own day you are believed. Supreme success, furthering through perseverance. Remorse disappears.

"The influences are in actual conflict, and the forces combat each other like fire and water, each trying to destroy the other. Hence the idea of revolution."

The Image:
Thus the Junzi (a magician) sets the calendar in order and makes the seasons clear.

Commentary to the Image of Revolution:
"Fire below and the lake above combat and destroy each other. So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons." [W/B]

Interpretation of what the Zhouyi wanted to say and perhaps some information on where dark forces emerge from:

1) The trigrams of Xian / Influence, Gen and Dui represent a young boy and a young girl or my children.

2) “The holy man stimulates the hearts of men, and the world attains peace and rest.”
Read together with Gen indicating a Daoist practitioner, it probably refers to me. The Circulation of Light meditation attracts both light and dark forces.

3) “The weak is above and the strong is below. The forces stimulate and respond to each other, so that they unite.”
The weak indicates my children and the strong indicates the dark forces. Because they were weak, the dark forces could possess (unite with) them easily instead of coming for me.

4) “A movement, before it is actually carried out, shows itself first in the toes. The idea of an influence is already present, but it is not immediately apparent to others. As long as the intention has no visible effect, it is of no importance to the outside world and leads neither to good nor to evil.”
Emerging from the ground the dark force(s) first touch the toes.

5) Initially the dark force remains hidden within until it is time to surface, then there will be visible effects, if you know how to read the signs on the face of a human being possessed or aware of such phenomenon.

6) “The influences are in actual conflict, and the forces combat each other like fire and water, each trying to destroy the other.”
The dark forces did try to harm my children.

7) “So too in the course of the year a combat takes place between the forces of light and the forces of darkness, eventuating in the revolution of the seasons.”
However we have the help of holy men or magicians who regulate time and space. Therefore peace and rest reigns once again as the dark forces which emerged (in 1996 and 2006) were sent away.

8) Perhaps these dark forces came with the knowledge that the holy men can help send them to a place where they rest in peace instead of forever wandering.

Over to those who have made their own interpretation of this oracle on dark forces.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Review of 'The New I Ching' by Harmen Mesker

After flourishing with her Fengshui books and ornaments, Lillian Too turns to market her ‘knowledge’ on the Plum Blossom numerology. Harmen Mesker has given a critical review of her book, The New I Ching: discover the secrets of the plum blossom oracle. His review can be found at the Biroco or the Yijing Dao links.

In his review, Harmen has provided an introduction and reliable sources on the mechanics of the Meihua Yishu (Plum Blossom numerology) and made a comparison with what Lillian Too had written in her new book. Not surprisingly, he found both her knowledge and research of the numerology wanting.

Although some of her readers have recently raved about it, the title of the book is clearly a misnomer. Shao Yong, the founder of this method of divination without the need to cast the yarrow or coins, had in-depth knowledge of the Yi yet he had merely named his method, ‘Meihua Yishu'. It is a far cry from the book title,‘the New I Ching’. A derivation method no matter how good can never replace the Book of Changes.

As a fellow Malaysian, I am really glad Lillian Too is popular with her worldwide readers and TV audience in Malaysia as well as making much money; however one had never given her Fengshui knowledge much thought.

You see when someone claims they are good in Fengshui; I always ask a simple question. How deep were they in the Yi studies? For without a working knowledge of the 64 hexagrams how much can they know in the field of Fengshui and in this case, Plum Blossom numerology? That is why it was not surprising that her lack of knowledge and minimal research of the Meihua Yishu shows up through discerning eyes of Yi scholars such as Harmen.

Just in case readers wonder, I do not read any of her books nor follow her Fengshui series on TV.