Sunday, December 31, 2006


Just when I was thinking about taking a nice long rest for the next few days, Sam Crane tagged me to talk about five things you do not know about Allan. Well, here goes the high fives.

In the 1960s, I studied in Methodist Boys School, KL and was a classmate of Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, the current CEO of Genting Berhad. I knew his younger brother, Chee Wah and had chatted with their sisters too when their father, Lim Goh Tong, was not around in our school.

I failed my Cambridge School Certificate – O levels – because I had one too many pretty girlfriends.

In 1974 even with similar distractions – a pretty Norwegian girlfriend in Bergen, a lovely English girlfriend in Brighton, and an attractive Maltese girlfriend in London, one managed to obtain a few distinctions and a Business Studies diploma from Brighton Technical College. My English rose likened me to Jason King, an English actor, while my Malaysian girlfriends likened me to Hong Kong film stars – David Chiang, and later George Lam – because of my moustache. Yes, they had loved my moustache more than me! Of course the sleepy eyes, high cheek bones, sharp nose, strong jaw, broad shoulders tapered down to a slim waist helped a bit. An English artist friend had approached me to pose as one of the three musketeers for his painting but I was too shy for that.

1984 was a year of achievement of sorts. One had completed the fastest receivership – within half a day – for a financial institution in Malaysia. Allan Lian was mentioned in the Board minutes of a foreign bank because the directors liked our recovery work. The Arthur Young partners in Hong Kong were so impressed with my technical knowledge that they requested for my transfer to assist them in the Carrian liquidation (the largest insolvency job then) in Hong Kong. But my senior partner disallowed the transfer because the Malaysian partnership was fast becoming the number one receivership firm in town. A few months later, I left the firm and joined Ernst and Whiney.

I came to know the Quanzhen Daoist in 1987 when he visited his friend, the owner of a group where one was helping to turnaround. Twenty years has gone by so fast. Except for most weekends and overseas trips, we chat almost daily since mid 1992. Over the years, he told me some secrets of Quanzhen and I revealed to him heaven’s secrets. Fair exchange, no?

Not wanting to break the ‘meme’ chain, one tags Steve Marshall and Harmen Mesker, if they are reading this entry, to reveal five things we do not know about them. If they do not want to, they can always call upon Confucius for help!


Friday, December 29, 2006

Translations of the Zhouyi

Sometimes when we already have a precious gem (in this case, the Wilhelm translation) at home instead of enjoying and earnestly studying it, we try to mine for or produce another. Some Yi aficionados apparently do not see the great wealth and wisdoms contained in the Wilhelm translation.

At Hilary’s Answers blog, one’s attention was drawn to yet another English translation of the Zhouyi, this time rendered possibly by a professor of Shandong University, China, involved in teaching the Zhouyi and Ancient Chinese Philosophy. (The translation can be accessed through the Answers blog.) After briefly running through the translation – with no commentary -, it appears that the translation can be improved upon.

If we compare his translation to Wilhelm’s, the Chinese professor has left out important Daoist and Confucian messages in some judgments and lines of the hexagrams. (For example, the second line of Hexagram 2 Kun and the Judgment of Hexagram 24 Fu.) With different nuances used, earnest students will not discern from the translation where renowned Neo Daoists and Confucians like Chen Tuan, Shao Yong, Chou Tun-I, and Zhu Xi probably drew their inspirations for the Wu Qi, Tai Qi and deeper implications of the Zhouyi made available by Wilhelm and Baynes in theirs.

At best, the translation is suitable for those who just want to divine. And for Yi scholars to compare notes on why the Zhouyi was translated this way and not that – one leaves it to the scholars to examine the nuances and why some translated lines had referred to ancient tribes.

With the benefit of reading past reviews by Joel Biroco (Steve Marshall) of numerous English translations of the Zhouyi, one can only make a suggestion to those who are keen to render their own translation from the Classical Chinese.

Spend a decade reading the four Confucian books and five classics - which include the Book of Changes. Then spend another decade understanding them and the ten wings. Read some Daoist classics like the Tao Te Ching and Zhuangzi in between or later. Unless you happen to be as wise as Wang Bi, you may need those two or three decades of related studies before you know ‘one or two’ about the Zhouyi. (Think about the lifelong studies and efforts of Legge and Wilhelm.) If you do not cultivate, contemplate and/or meditate, perhaps you could miss the deeper implications of this great classic. (Think of the renowned Neo Daoists and Confucians.)

When you know a thing or two about the Zhouyi and hopefully your knowledge of Classical Chinese is as good as the professor of Shandong University, find a foremost scholar in ancient Chinese philosophy as a guide and mentor just like Legge and Wilhelm did, before you proceed to translate the Yi. Otherwise you may still not have adequate knowledge to produce an above average translation of the Zhouyi.

Great wisdoms are contained in the Zhouyi, if you mistranslate like so many translators before you, not only will it mislead others and self, it may also show that you are not earnest and sincere, no matter what qualifications you hold. Do not emulate the new age translators out to make a fast buck or to gain some fame. It may not be worth the effort.

Students faithful to the Wilhelm translation will not go far wrong in their Yi studies. The Zhouyi was explained in great detail to Wilhelm by his teacher, Lao Nai-hsuan, a foremost Chinese scholar of ancient philosophy. In reading Wilhelm’s commentary, Yi students may also learn from the wisdoms and deep insights on Chinese culture shared by both teacher and student.

If you are unable to understand the deeper meanings of each line, image and judgment, do not lay the blame on Wilhelm or Baynes. It is most likely your own flawed perspectives. Since Steve Marshall, Harmen Mesker, and Sam Crane who occasionally use the Wilhelm translation had shown time and time again that they know a thing or two about the Zhouyi. It is quite obvious that these three gentlemen have also read the four Confucian books, the five classics, and some Daoist classics/texts; therefore my suggested readings.

However, this does not say that there are no minor flaws in the W/B translation. Which polished diamond is perfect?

Even Wang Bi and Zhu Xi may have made some mistakes in their (published and paraphrased) understanding of the Yi and Tao. If you could not discern it, how would I know?

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

A short Boxing Day story

This story is only for Christians and Daoists who believe in the existence of Jesus Christ and Heavenly immortals respectively. It is not meant for skeptics. Please do not sue me if you do not believe in their existence or do not like the story!

Sometime last year my Daoist friend and I had a chat on which immortals usually frequent his temple and affiliated temples in Hong Kong. While the main divine visitors were the ancestor master(s) and the northern patriarchs of Quanzhen, many other divinities had also graced the temples. According to him, Jesus Christ had once graced an affiliated temple in Hong Kong. To the surprise of those disciples present, Jesus announced his presence – all divinities identify themselves the same way – and began speaking in that Quanzhen temple. When asked, my Daoist friend had forgotten what Jesus said on that eventful day. It had been too many years ago.

Since it is hearsay, one would suggest readers take this story in with a pinch of salt. But if it is true, then Jesus did become a divinity. Whether he had attained heavenly immortality status or became a god is not for me to say. Perhaps the present Pope or past Holy Sees may have spoken to Jesus Christ and would probably know?

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Lines 1 and 3 of Hexagram 6 Song / Conflict

For various reasons, one seldom interpret for others since Yi diviners should strive to learn more about the Book of Changes and related studies to improve upon their knowledge and to become more sincere. The most important thing to know is whether the Yi did speak to the diviner, for if the Yi did not speak, any interpretation on or given on the received ‘oracle’ could be a sheer waste of time. Interpreters may also realize that Yi masters often turn up in forums or to read blogs. Therefore it could be embarrassing for one to speak out of turn unless something of significance in Yi’s message has been left out or missed by various interpreters including that of the diviner. After all it is not difficult to interpret a few Yi’s messages to the same diviner in one go if we know how to ‘connect the lines’. (There is a previous blog entry on that.)

Since it is Christmas and to bring some cheer to others, one will make an interpretation of Hexagram 6 Song / Conflict, based on a simple understanding of the hexagram, the first and third lines, for a fellow diviner. Let us assume the question was not given, and that the Yi wanted to tell the sincere diviner something important.

The Judgment
Conflict. You are sincere and are being obstructed. A cautious halt halfway brings good fortune. Going through to the end brings misfortune. It furthers one to see the great man. It does not further one to cross the great water.

The judgment talks about a sincere person whose progress is being blocked by others. It is not the right time for big undertakings such as a crossing of great water that is in this context, not to start or continue a conflict. It is timely to stop halfway since going to the bitter end brings misfortune. A great man can resolve the issue at hand, if the diviner seeks his help.

The first line:
If one does not perpetuate the affair, there is little gossip. In the end, good fortune comes.

If the diviner drops the issue at this initial stage, there will be good fortune in the end. While this is a good time to drop the matter, it actually depends if the diviner wants to follow Yi’s guidance. It appears that the diviner still intends to proceed further with the conflict since there is a higher moving third line (the ruling line in this prognostication).

The third line:
To nourish oneself on ancient virtue induces perseverance. Danger. In the end, good fortune comes. If by chance you are in the service of a king, seek not works.

The Chinese believe that what one learns through studies and from experience can never be taken away or robbed by others. Danger may arise from holding onto a wrong attitude. If our superior (the king) wants to take all the credit for work done by us, it is alright. Sooner or later our working knowledge and experience – our merit - will be recognized. There is no need for further conflict with the superior. If the diviner understands this truism and drop the issue then the end result could be similar to the Judgment in Hexagram 1 Qian / The Creative: The Creative works sublime success, furthering through perseverance.

If the diviner has faith in the Yi and its guidance, the expected ending will become more important than the means. In times like this, it is better to wait cheerfully and patiently (think Hexagram 5 Xu / Waiting) rather than mobilize the army (think Hexagram 7 Shi / The Army) to perpetuate the conflict. What is the point of continuing a conflict that one cannot win? (Think Iraq War.)

A Merry Christmas to all and to the diviner who asked for an interpretation!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Sun sets in the water

Bali has been voted the best island resort in the world a few times over, and our family went there for a well earned holiday the past few days. The religious fervor in Bali, Indonesia, is almost similar to those witnessed in Thailand, temples (Hindu instead of Buddhist) and shrines adorn the scenery and visible almost everywhere during the short trips to various popular tourist spots and centuries old Hindu temples. If you happen to visit Bali do not miss the magnificent sunsets in Tanah Lot, where the sun 'sinks' into the sea. I wonder whether neidan adepts can see the same high intensity of the light when the sun sets in water.

We flew to Bali on Tuesday and see what happened? States in Malaysia get flooded with several thousands of people displaced. Thailand announced controls for capital outflows on the same day and its share market fell 15% causing reverberations across the jittery Southeast Asian stock markets. No, while Allan has regained some Tao magic to foreknow, he does not have any power to move markets and cause havoc with the weather. Everything was coincidental or synchronized?

Nice to be back!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Will be away for a few days

I will be gone for a few days, taking my wife and children to an island resort for holidays. We had planned to visit the North and South Islands of New Zealand, but the five airlines serving the KL/NZ (direct and transit) route were fully booked from mid December to early January. No luck with the waiting list on Malaysian Airlines, the only airline which provide direct flights between KL and Auckland. One could not book the flights early without knowing the exact time table for my son’s public exams, and the date of his cyber games finals to be held in Singapore.

These are the rare times when one has some money to burn but no airlines wanted it! Probably the airlines are happy with their fully booked status and their super profits during this peak season for the route, a yearly occurrence – who really wants the hassle to fly a few more planeloads of fare paying passengers?

Well, we can always go next year, at the lower off-peak fare which will save a few thousand ringgits and spend the savings in NZ. Seeing the way they run their flight schedules, it would be sometime before I invest in shares of airlines again.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sitting posture of Buddha

Various people have advanced their own theories or those from the books in the internet on the correct posture for sitting meditation. I have read a number written in the net but few seemed to have hit the mark. Just because a million people have used the ‘lotus’ position before does not mean it is the right one for us. It really depends on what a meditator wants to achieve from the meditation and whether he or she can withstand the pain in contorting both legs. Do we really have to contort part of our bodies and limbs for the sake of meditation and thereafter suffer the consequences?

One has earlier recommended a simple sitting meditation posture suitable for the learner, the elderly, and for those who have to sit on wheel chairs. It is time to discuss a sitting posture for the more advanced student since a good sitting position recommended by a past Chan master (with some fine tuning required) has been taken down from the web.

It is important to know and understand that the Buddha is a great meditator and one who has actually reached enlightenment - Nirvana. It is not just talk. Therefore his posture for the sitting meditation must be correct.

Perhaps Chan/Zen Buddhist and/or Daoist masters down the ages may have thought that they know more than the Buddha on meditation and therefore introduced various variations to his simple sitting posture. The accompanying explanations that often go with the various postures depicted in the web, frankly looked like idiosyncratic legacies left behind by unenlightened masters. Zhuangzi may have occasion to add, ‘they chose to sit like this’, ‘they chose to sit like that’ that they simply forgot about the purpose of meditation and the natural state. A later Daoist may joke that ‘they sat until round’ (Chinese pun intended).

On a more serious note, if we want to practice neidan, the sitting position must first be simple and correct. We do not want to be distracted by thoughts and pains during the meditation, unless you prefer to suffer. I verily doubt the Buddha wants his disciples and others to suffer.

The sitting posture of a neidan practitioner is similar to the ‘horse riding’ stance of a martial arts exponent. When the posture is correct, it allows the Qi and light to circulate, with the body firmly planted to earth. How the legs are crossed and where to place the hands are also important – the earnest practitioner may understand why as he or she progresses in the practice.

Since Buddha is a great meditator according to Daoist immortal, Lu Dongbin, we cannot go far wrong to follow his sitting posture. If we ever walked into any Buddhist temple, we will see an image of Buddha in a sitting meditation in the main hall:

He will be sitting up straight on a terrace.*

His legs will be crossed – his right foot rests on his left thigh - his left leg is tucked below the right leg and thigh. The soles of his feet face (or slightly face) upwards. **

His opened right hand with palm facing upwards rests on (or is supported by) his opened left palm. ***

His hands are placed below the Dantien, with his wrists resting on the thighs.

His eyes will be slightly opened as if he is looking at the tip of his nose. *

His mouth is closed. The tip of his tongue would be touching the palate of his mouth. *

That would be the correct and simple sitting posture for a male neidan practitioner. (If your right leg hurts using this posture, it still works if you tuck the right foot below the left thigh. The soles of both feet must still face or slightly face upwards.) If what has been described above is unclear, double check my descriptions with an image of the Buddha in a sitting position.

What is difficult to understand is why many meditators chose much more difficult sitting postures when the image of this Great Master in a sitting meditation is easily available to the world. Unless you enjoy excruciating pain from using other recommended postures and/or think that such suffering is required in the quest for perfection, one recommends that neidan students follow Buddha’s simple posture for the sitting meditation. It works.

Now that you have a correct sitting posture for your meditation, the rest is up to you. If you happen to meet Buddha in the street, ‘follow him, not kill him!’

Just like what the Yi and the ancients recommended, if we really want to emulate heaven and earth, we have to make things easy and simple for everyone. That will surely include us?



* Refer to ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’.

** The female meditator being yin has to put her left foot on her right thigh and her right leg is tucked below the left leg and thigh. (That is the exact opposite of what her male counterpart would do.)

*** For the same reason, she has to rest her opened left hand with palm facing upwards on top of her opened right palm. (Also the opposite of what his male counterpart does.)

One has double checked this with a female Buddhist spiritual master, but if in doubt it would be advisable to clarify these two matters with a female neidan master.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Golden Flower

According to Daoist immortal, Lu Dongbin, “the Golden Flower is the light. What color is the light? One uses the golden Flower as a symbol. It is the true energy of the transcendent great One.

The Golden Flower is the Elixir of Life (Jin Dan). All changes of spiritual consciousness depend upon the heart. There is a secret charm which, although it works very accurately, is yet so fluid that it needs extreme intelligence and clarity, and the most complete absorption and tranquility. People without this highest degree of intelligence and understanding do not find the way to apply the charm; people without this utmost capacity for absorption and tranquility cannot keep fast hold of it.**

The work on the circulation of the light depends entirely on the backward-flowing movement, so that the thoughts are gathered together. The heavenly heart lies between sun and moon.

Since when has the expression ‘circulation of the light’ been revealed? It was revealed by the ‘True men of the Beginning of Form’ – Guan Yin-shi. (The one for whom legend said that Laozi wrote the Tao Te Ching.) When the light is made to move in a circle, all the energies of heaven and earth, of the light and the dark, are crystallized. That is what is termed seed-like thinking, or purification of the energy, or purification of the idea. When one begins to apply this magic it is as if, in the middle of being, there were non-being. When in the course of time the work is completed, and beyond the body there is a body, it is as if, in the middle of non-being, there were being.

The radiation and dissipation of spiritual consciousness is chiefly brought about by this energy when it is directed outward. Therefore the Way of the Golden Flower depends wholly on the backward-flowing method.” [The Secret of the Golden Flower – W/B]

The above extracts about summarized the gist of what a neidan practitioner needs to do to see the Golden Flower. To circulate the light, he or she has to use the backward flow method. After a lengthy continuous practice, the energies of heaven and earth, of the light and the dark will crystallized to form the Golden Flower. Later in the middle of being, there will be non-being, and when the work is completed, that is attaining Tao, in the middle of non-being, there were being.

If your neidan practice differs much from the Way of the Golden Flower, you may not see the various signposts indicated by the ancients – Laozi and Buddha - and the Quanzhen Daoist immortals in their classics and texts. Whatever method you are using, if during meditation you do not feel the heat and see the light, your neidan practice can be said to be incorrect. Good luck.

This is a higher level of the right person for Tao, perhaps applicable to the neidan adept. Sages will have already reached the level of extreme intelligence and clarity to fathom human nature and humanity. Whether they had the most complete absorption and tranquility to keep hold of it is another thing, altogether. Perhaps their absorption is most complete but without the necessary cultivation of virtues to rectify the heart could they reached the utmost tranquility to hold on to the secret charm until completion?

Friday, December 08, 2006

The meanness of Zhuangzi?

If you are an ardent follower of Zhuangzi, one suggests that you skip this entry as what is written below could upset you.

While it may be fun to ridicule another doctrine or religion, it was really mean (Xiao) of Zhuangzi to defame and slander illustrious ancients and paragons of virtue. The meanness of the minor sage can be seen when he implied in Chapter 29 of his book about the wrong doings of sage kings and it could well have misled uninformed followers and admirers of his down the ages. Since only those familiar with ancient Chinese history can know for sure that what Zhuangzi had painted about the ancient sage kings was not true.

Could his not so well informed followers differentiate between falsehood and truth? One has on occasions found that some of them accept everything Zhuangzi wrote about the Confucians to be true. It had been an uphill struggle trying to convince some Western Daoists in Tao forums that Zhuangzi can be wrong and that Daoists do cultivate virtues similar to those of the Confucians. The virtues emanated from the sage kings, not Confucius. Confucius merely compiled them (Analects).

The narrow-mindedness of Zhuangzi by rejecting the Confucians’ belief in the cultivation of virtues probably proved costly to him in his never ending search for perfection. He did not attain the Way. How could anyone attain Tao without dual cultivation? Little wonder the Han literati styled themselves followers of the Huang-Lao tradition (Shiji) and not that of Zhuangzi. Perhaps what he had written transgressed the tolerance of most learned Daoists and Confucians or literati of the times and probably even today?

Let us examine what Zhuangzi said in the chapter which was used to mock the Confucians and in so doing gone beyond what is considered just and right. The extract is after Robber Chih had seemingly worsted ‘Confucius’ in a discourse on virtues:

“Dze-kang said, 'If you do not follow the usual course of what is held to be right, but observe no distinction between the near and remote degrees of kin, no difference between the noble and the mean, no order between the old and the young, then how shall a separation be made of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)?'

Mân Kâu-teh replied, 'Yâo killed his eldest son, and Shun banished his half-brother :--did they observe the rules about the different degrees of kin? Tang deposed Kieh; king Wu overthrew Chou:--did they observe the righteousness that should obtain between the noble and the mean? King Kî took the place of his elder brother, and the duke of Zhou killed his :--did they observe the order that should obtain between the elder and the younger?

The Literati make hypocritical speeches; the followers of Mo hold that all should be loved equally:--do we find in them the separation of the fivefold arrangement (of the virtues), and the six parties (in the social organisation)? And further, you, Sir, are all for reputation, and I am all for gain; but where the actual search for reputation and gain may not be in accordance with principle and will not bear to be examined in the light of the right way,” [James Legge]

Without the relevant knowledge of the actual historical events, many students of Zhuangzi can easily be misled by his misrepresentation(s) merely to mock the Confucians. Perhaps it is timely to clarify, since Zhuangzi emphasized clarity as the way to understand the teachings of ancient sages.

Yao and Shun were the two illustrious sage kings who passed over their own sons to hand over the reign to the virtuous and worthy. Based on such merits, Yao passed the reign to Shun who in turn passed it to Da Yu who went on to found the Xia Dynasty. According to Yao, his own son and heir was an unworthy man who was insincere and quarrelsome (Shujing - Book of History). Therefore he was bypassed. Shun also had his own sons bypassed.

Despite what Zhuangzi indicated, there was no record whatsoever that Yao killed his son, in fact his son was very much alive when Yao died. Shun did not banish his half brother even after several futile attempts to kill Shun (Book of Mencius). Both Yao and Shun had displayed exemplary conduct in their respective reigns, what made Zhuangzi maligned them is up to readers (of this entry) to deduce. Did Zhuangzi ignored his roots, or was he bias, just to vilify the Confucian paragons of virtue?

Both Tang and Wu had overthrown the respective tyrants Kieh and Chou to bring relief to the oppressed people. Which was of more importance, loyalty to one’s ruler, or benevolence (Ren) and righteousness (Yi) for the common good? (Even Guan Yu, a Han general – before he became the God of War – chose righteousness when he released his ruler’s enemy, Cao Cao.)

Exactly the same question on Tang and Wu was put to Mencius by King Hsuan of Chi, and Mencius replied: “He who outrages the benevolence proper to his nature, is called a robber; he who outrages righteousness, is called a ruffian. The robber and ruffian we called a mere fellow. I have heard of the cutting off of the fellow Chou, but I have not heard of putting a sovereign to death, in his case.” (Mencius 2.8 Legge)
(I wonder if King Hsuan had also read this Chapter 29 or have heard the question from Zhuangzi, a contemporary of Mencius.)

King Ki (Jili), the father of King Wen, was the most capable son and was given the throne by his father. This bypassed the eldest son, the elder brother of Jili. Three brothers of the Duke of Zhou colluded with a prince of Yin and revolted against their own nephew, King Zheng of Zhou. After three years of fighting and finally subduing the uprising, the Duke of Zhou killed one of his own brothers and the Yin prince, and banished the others.

Does propriety (Li) come before benevolence (Ren) and justice (Yi)? Did Zhuangzi ever consider the ill intention of the three brothers who colluded with a powerful outsider to overthrow their own kin, and the effect on the common people who suffered during the revolt?

Since the Confucians and Daoists have probably contended over what Zhuangzi said about Confucian virtues for the past two thousand or more years, what is one more ‘cut and thrust’ over this contentious issue? After all one is not a sage. One has already faced some contention over the issue in a Daoist forum, TaoSpeaks. If truth grates on their ears or they wish to whitewash or cover it up without substantiated evidence to the contrary, what can one do? Maybe with a friend like me, they will no longer need enemies.

If we study and follow the ancients, we must also take a look at their intent. If they have to malign other sages and established ways of life to promote their own ways, it transgresses what is just and right.

My Daoist friend has this to add to this entry: “If readers compare how many Chinese had followed the way of Zhuangzi and how many had followed Confucius, they can determine for themselves whether Zhuangzi or Confucius had found the correct way towards life.”

The billion or more Chinese over the past two thousand years that chose to follow the Confucian way of life cannot be wrong. Can they? Borrowing a famous phrase from Zhuangzi, “How would I know?”


According to Legge, Sima Qian had also referred to Robber Chih and ascribed Chapter 29 to Zhuangzi in the Shiji (Records of the Historian). Legge noted: “Sima Qian seems to have been acquainted with them all. In his short biographical notice of Zhuangzi, he says, 'He made the Old Fisherman, the Robber Chih, and the Cutting Open Satchels, to defame and calumniate the disciples of Confucius.'”

After several attempts to convince me that Zhuangzi had inferred other things than what one read, one has lately been told in TaoSpeak that Legge is outdated, and one could be jumping to conclusions. Well, anything is possible, it could be this or it could be that. With their over eagerness to defend Zhuangzi, perhaps they missed my point that Zhuangzi was wrong to defame and slander the sage kings and to mislead the uninformed, if indeed he wrote Chapter 29. Did one just build a house of cards or made an informed criticism of Zhuangzi? With my limited knowledge of historical facts and Zhuangzi, how would I know?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Right person for Tao

Millions of people down the ages must have sought for immortality, a Buddhahood or Daoist immortality but only a few have succeeded. What is the main reason for the minimal success?

According to Wang Chungyang and Liu I Ming both masters of Quanzhen (separated by a span of 700 years), many generations of Daoists, Buddhists and Confucians in China have incorrectly cultivated. Most of them if not all based their practice on a singular cultivation instead of the requisite dual cultivation. The Buddhists during the times of the two Quanzhen masters had plumbed for the cultivation of essence through meditation, while Daoists and Confucians favored the cultivation of bodily life through cultivating virtues. If the practice was not right in the first place how any of these cultivators could hope to attain Tao and achieve immortality?

With reference to ancient thoughts in the Tao Te Ching, Dhammapada, Shurangama Sutra, and the Upanishads, one often remind neidan practitioner(s) of the need to practice dual cultivation without which he or she could not make much progress. While later Daoist or Buddhist tracts may concentrate on meditation, they do make subtle references to the cultivation of virtues as well. Without the necessary dual cultivation, a neidan practitioner will not be the right person and therefore can never hope to attain Tao to become a Daoist immortal or to reach Buddhahood. Perhaps it would be better for a neidan adept to explain.

Liu Huayang in his Hui Ming Ching or Book of Consciousness and life which depicted a Buddhist meditation method to cultivate essence has this to say about the right person:
I sacrifice myself and serve man, because I have presented fully this picture which reveals the heavenly seed completely, so that every layman and man of the world can reach it and so bring it to completion. He who lacks the right virtue may well find something in it, but heaven will not grant him his Tao. Why not?

The right virtue belongs to Tao as does one wing of a bird to the other: if one is lacking, the other is of no use. Therefore there is needed loyalty and reverence, humaneness and justice and strict adherence to the five commandments; then only does one have the prospect of attaining something.

While Daoist immortal Lu Dongbin did not mention the importance of the cultivation of virtues in both his Secret of the Golden Flower and the Hundred Characters stele, he did later inform through his temple in Hong Kong that the cultivation of virtues is required and equally important to that of meditation.

Therefore if readers are currently concentrating on a singular cultivation – either meditation or virtues - it would be time to cultivate both if they ever want to be a right person for Tao.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nourish Qi, forget thoughts

In interpreting the thoughts of ancients or those of Daoist immortals, we need to understand their intent and the gist of the writings otherwise we could easily misinterpret them since written Chinese often convey different meanings. That is why in messages communicated through the planchette, Daoist immortals speak aloud (through the medium) as the medium uses a rod to write the words down in the sandbox. This ensures that their transmission is properly received. Then it will be up to disciples and/or devotees to interpret the meaning of the flowery message.

Just like his Secret of the Golden Flower, the Hundred Characters stele written by Daoist immortal Lu Dongbin is focused on meditation. In twenty verses, he talked about what a neidan practitioner needs to do and what will happen during meditation as one progresses in stages before finally climbing up Heaven’s ladder.

Lu Dongbin started the hundred characters stele with the verse: ‘Yang Qi Wang Yan Shou’. (Literal translation: Nourish Qi forget speech keeping)

The first stage a neidan practitioner needs to learn is to ‘nourish Qi’ through meditation. Qi is the life force inside every human being. Once the original Qi has dissipated a person will die. (Think of the last breath of a dying person?) If more Qi is accumulated and circulated through meditation, the healthier the practitioner.

The second part of the verse is to ‘forget speech keeping’. How and where do we keep speech? Is it not correct to say that, we store speech (in words and/or symbols) in our brains? If speech is kept there the only thing to recall it is through thinking.

But if thoughts (in words or speech) come to the fore during meditation, the neidan practitioner loses concentration. Therefore Lu Dongbin suggested that the student forgets thoughts during the meditation to nourish Qi. This also ties in with the ‘focus on the breath’ method to forget thoughts.

Bearing in mind that the tract is about neidan meditation, one translated this verse to mean: Nourish Qi, forget thoughts.

Whether one’s translation sounds right or wrong, readers can feel free to disagree.

If we misinterpret ancient thoughts or those of the Daoist immortals at the beginning, we could miss the ending by a mile. If someone has already transgressed into bypaths, nothing can be said to turn them back. They will be too fixated on wrong concepts to return to Light. Therefore one can only just shake the head wherever one reads their unsubstantial posts in the internet.

Hopefully you can learn something today about where wrong interpretations of ancient thoughts and those of the Daoist immortals can lead students to. And learn to be a bit more circumspect.