Sunday, August 05, 2007

‘Treatise’ on the germinal vesicle

Those who are self taught in neidan often are stumped on some specific terms contained in the Daoist texts or Buddhist scriptures. Like a frog in the well, one would not know the importance of these terms until a discussion refers to it. My interest in the germinal vesicle was heightened by a young religious Daoist student from Indonesia who asked if knowing its exact location was important to neidan practice. He had overheard the elders of his Daoist temple discussed it. That discussion happened a few years ago. (Refer entry on Germinal Vesicle)

Since then one had been trying to examine, apart from the Hui Ming Ching, if Daoist texts also made references to the germinal vesicle. Only when the “Song of Dispelling Illusion and Rectifying Dao” by Zhong LiQuan was translated to English by Silfong Tsun and made available in the web recently did one really understand the importance of it. (The translation is available at:

Upon further checking on the web, apparently another Zhen Ren – Zhang BoDuan - had also referred to its importance in his works known as the Wuzhenpian (Awakening to the Real). Further examination was then made to the Tao Te Ching and from thereon this student found the link in the Zhouyi.

Clearly the source of neidan practice came from the holy sages who incorporated that into the Zhouyi for those earnest and sincere to transcend to Heaven. It is in the Zhouyi, where over the years, one had found more links to Daoist thoughts on neidan. No wonder the Quanzhen masters which include Zhong LiQuan and Zhang BoDuan often made references to the Tao Te Ching and the Zhouyi (by way of the eight trigrams and the hexagrams). They saw the truth hidden in both classics and made the covert references in the form of metaphors in their writings – Daoist texts.

For example, scholars and earnest students of Tao and neidan would be familiar with the terms of Qian and Kun being the cauldron and furnace. Quanzhen texts often refer to the firing process and the requisite levels of heat (Fou Hou) to mix and melt the medicine, represented by Kan and Li. Neidan students and/or masters may often by mistake think that the flowing Qi would generate sufficient heat to melt the medicine. It is not the Qi but actually the fire from the germinal vesicle that can do this. If neidan practitioners really think about it, what else can directly start the fire in the furnace to heat up the cauldron?

In the Hui Ming Ching, Liu Hua-Yang said:
Within the germinal vesicle is the fire of the ruler; at the entrance of the germinal vesicle is the fire of the minister; in the whole body, the fire of the people. When the fire of the ruler expresses itself, it is received by the minister. When the fire of the minister moves, the fire of the people follows him. When the three fires express themselves in this order a man develops. But when the three fires return in reverse order the Tao develops.

The secret of making and melting according to Liu was made known by Buddha who had referred to the germinal vesicle in the Leng Yen (Shurangama Sutra). Liu went on to say that:
This is the reason that all sages began their work at the germinal vesicle in which outflowing had ceased. If one does not establish this path, but sets up other things, it is of no avail.

Wise words, since Laozi had pointed to the germinal vesicle in Chapter Five of his Tao Te Ching, more than 2,500 years ago, followed by the Zhen Ren:

Between Heaven and Earth, There seems to be a Bellows: It is empty, and yet it is inexhaustible. The more it works the more comes out of it.
No amount of words can fathom it: Better look for it within you.

[TTC 5 - Wu’s translation]

It is not thinking, imagining or acting, and it is not located at any of the Three Farmlands of the upper, middle, or lower regions. It is just located at the southwest place where KWUN is produced. Concoct it slowly, and gradually move it to the YUN palace. Try to stir the Heavenly Key lightly -- the True Energy is then always congregated in the Ultra Space.
[“Song of Dispelling Illusion and Rectifying Dao” - Zhong LiQuan – translated by Silfung Tsun]

It is important to be aware of the place which is the well spring of the medicine; simply put, its home is in the south west.
[ Wuzhenpian (Awakening to the Real) - Zhang BoDuan]

The germinal vesicle is an invisible cavern; it has neither form nor image. When the vital breath stirs, the seed of this vesicle comes into being; when it ceases it disappears again.
[Liu Hua-Yang]

The great sages, Laozi and Buddha, followed by Zhong LiQuan and Zhang BoDuan who became heavenly immortals and Patriarchs of Quanzhen obviously knew the workings and/or location of this germinal vesicle. If you are not aware of it nor can locate it, your neidan practice can be considered incorrect, no matter whom your teacher is. It has nothing to do with real masters and heavenly immortals at times; it really depends on the student – which means that even a self taught student can stumble on it.

While the germinal vesicle is an invisible cavern, with neither form nor image, it manifests from time to time. The neidan cultivator can sense it upon its manifestation. And the germinal vesicle grows in size as the level of neidan practice progresses. It is an important signpost of the Way. And its location when at rest, never changes.

Readers may note that there is no link provided to the Zhouyi. By not linking up to the Yi where the germinal vesicle is mentioned, one left the truth to remain hidden on purpose. The intended omission would prevent any theft or plagiarism for profit or credit. Just be aware, it is written in the Zhouyi, I kid you not.

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