Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Example of a real neidan master

This entry serves as a general reply to a reader’s recent question on how to discern a real neidan master. The question arose from my last entry titled ‘Blame it on fate?’ that touched briefly on what unscrupulous masters have done to two or possibly a third generation of Western students. Hopefully, fellow students of the Way can learn something from this entry, too.

The following general definition of a real neidan master would effectively cast out most ‘masters’ who sell their neidan skills online, in DVDs, and books:

As a rule of thumb, a real neidan master is someone healthy, very learned of the ancients and their Tao, highly cultivated, who is versed with dual cultivation – the cultivation of essence (Hsing) and that of life (Ming), and the Yijing, and can tell the student what signposts to expect along the Way with much clarity.

Think of the late Daoist, Confucian and Buddhist master, Liu I Ming (1734 – 1821) of Quanzhen, for example. Here are some of his wise thoughts on good and bad luck in terms of neidan and the Yi:

Heaven and earth can enslave whatever has form, but cannot enslave the formless. Heaven and earth can enslave the emotional but cannot enslave the unemotional. Heaven and earth can enslave those with desire but cannot enslave those without desire.
If you can find out the root source, rest your mind in open selflessness and nurture your mind in one energy, then you will find the two modes, four images, eight trigrams, and sixty four hexagrams are operating there at the root of open selflessness. None of them has ever left it.
Myriad forms are all empty – there is just an open sphere. Let us ask, how can good or bad luck affect this open selfless energy?

[Arcana section – I Ching Mandalas, Thomas Cleary]

Apart from such wisdom displayed, a real master would have a huge amount of Qi acquired through breath control meditation, and not through Taijiquan or physical Qigong exercises.

If the neidan adept really does not know the actual location of the Center or has yet to reach there, probably it could be wise to pack your bags and walk away; unless you prefer to be forever stuck at your master’s highest achievable state of neidan practice.

Probably these additional definitions of his or her capabilities would do away with the remaining balance of so-called masters that knows something about neidan, and may also help students sort out the genuine ones from the fake (and the greedy) in China.

Of course even if you happen to find a real master with whom you have affinity, it will also depend much on you, your intelligence and cultivation to be the right person. When your human master has finally attained Tao and ascended to Heaven, you may still struggle alone on Earth. I have heard of such examples.

Therefore, it does not necessarily mean that learning from a real master (a human or a Daoist heavenly immortal), a student can attain Tao. It is never that easy. A one in a million or a one in a billion chance to attain Tao perhaps, who knows, certainly not me!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Blame it on fate?

A week passed ever so quickly when you sojourned in an active Daoist forum. Membership there has increased by another 4,500 registrants to almost 13,000 in less than four months since my joining in February. Most threads of interest are constantly commented on by practitioners daily from all over the world. While most of the members comprise of Americans and Europeans, a few of them live in and post from China where they are taught by Chinese masters on Huashan and some from Quanzhen. Compared to those who live and train in the West, one can notice the subtle differences in their training and cultivation. It means that China still has many masters who cultivate and are familiar with neidan (inner alchemy) practice.

Of course like everywhere in the world, there are also unscrupulous masters in China who are out to make a fast buck and collude with Westerners to prey on innocent and gullible students. The worst thing is that from their comments, some of these students really believe that learning and doing physical qigong exercises can lead them to enlightenment or immortality. They are also charged exorbitant prices for learning basic breath control and hotchpotch meditation in China where it should be free or at the most, charged a nominal fee for the training. Those who are already learning in China have also confirmed that the training is free or at a nominal charge.

Whether my various comments on the relevant threads can help caution forum members of these snake oil peddlers or not is uncertain. It looks more like another generation of Westerners, possibly fewer than the previous generation, would be misled by unscrupulous masters from the East and the West. This would be the third generation if we count the Beatles and the so-called hippies who loved Transcendental Meditation ™; and the fast fading fad with Micro Cosmic Orbit (MCO) meditation including that of ‘angelic dual cultivation’ taught by ‘masters and grandmasters’ online and in the West. This never ending search for enlightenment and immortality continues. (Think of the times since Qin Shih Huangdi)

Few really have any inkling of what the ancients taught. When many including the so-called masters still do not understand what dual cultivation is, can they truly hope to attain immortality?

Go find a real master of neidan in China; unless fellow students willingly want to be misled, pay exorbitant fees, or get sexually abused, and at the end of the day learned nothing. If they feel traumatic or become mentally insane after learning and practising the wrong type of breath control meditation, they can always blame it on their fate, if they really want to. But is fate really to be blamed?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Vesak Day

Happy Vesak Day to Buddhist readers!

Besides receiving blessings at the temples this joyous time of the year, I hope Buddhists would give some thoughts to the poor and the needy - especially those who had recently suffered calamities like the cyclone in Myanmar and the huge earthquake in South West China where tens of thousands unfortunately lost their lives and millions have lost their homes.

Give whatever you can to help the less fortunate, if you have not done so already. The donation would add to your merits on this auspicious day, whether or not you are a Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian or of any other doctrine.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Raising cash levels

The recent big May hurdle depicted in this year's Yi annual chart was perhaps too high a bar for many to jump across. Some individuals in China had committed suicide because of huge share trading losses. Global stock markets had also fallen last week. A cyclone devastated parts of Myanmar possibly killing up to a hundred thousand of her people.

This was quickly followed by a major disaster in the form of a 7.9 Richter scale earthquake in South West China yesterday. The death toll in this part of China is now 12,000 and counting with several thousands of people still pinned under the rubble of collapsed homes and buildings waiting for rescue parties to reach them.

In Malaysia, inflation has already reared its ugly head with rising food and rice prices. Some rice prices have jumped by 50 to 60% from recent weeks hitting the pockets of the poor and the middle class.

If we read the newspapers and reliable blogs, while keeping our ears to the ground, talks of BN members of parliament crossing over to the opposition has been getting louder gathering momentum and credence as the days go by.

Under this uncertain scenario, I have decided to raise cash levels by selling stocks last week. No point allowing more 'troops' to die unnecessarily if KLSE investors, because of some surprise or bad news, decide to turn jittery and panicked.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Nothing wrong with making profits

While students of Chinese philosophy may for various reasons decide against reading ancient history recorded by Sima Qian in 91 BC, teachers and scholars if they want to broaden their views on or deepen their understanding of ancient Chinese doctrines and civilization should not give the Records of the Historian (Shiji) a miss.

Apart from the depictions of the rise and fall of empires, rulers and states, Sima Qian also commented on the practices of Daoists, Confucians, Legalists, Lords (Jun), Marquises (Hou) and various other renowned personalities of ancient times. Many of them are still referred to now and then, either as good or bad examples for the Chinese.

It seems to me that teachers and scholars tend to follow the thoughts of or are by and large influenced by their more established peers. Often they do not think out of the box when dealing with ancient Chinese philosophy.

For example, some teachers and scholars really believe that Confucius and Mencius, and the ancient Daoists were actually against making profits or gains. Since my thoughts differ, I submit two examples from the Records of the Historian - the actions of an eminent ancient Daoist and a famous Confucian - to support the case that there is nothing wrong for people, except rulers, be they Daoists or Confucians to make profits or gains:

1) When the Patriarch Lu Shang (Jiang Ziya – the adviser to King Wen) was given Yingchu as his fief, the land was swampy and brackish and sparsely inhabited; but he encouraged the women to work, developed skilled occupations and opened up trade in fish and salt, so that men and goods poured in from every side. Soon the state of Chi was supplying the whole world with caps, belts, clothes and shoes, and the states between the Eastern Sea and Mount Tai paid homage to it.

2) Tzu-kung, after studying with Confucius, went to hold office in Uei (Wei?). He made money by buying cheap and selling dear (Remember the maxim of ‘Buy low, Sell high’?) in the region of Tsao and Lu. Of the seventy disciples of Confucius, he was the richest. While Yuan Hsien had not even husks enough to fill his belly and lived hidden in a wretched lane, Tzu-kung traveled in a carriage drawn by four horses with an escort of riders bearing rolls of silk to present to the rulers of states. And wherever he went, the ruler received him as an equal. Indeed, it was thanks to Tzu-kung that the fame of Confucius spread – a clear case of power increasing reputation.
[The Money-makers – Shiji]

Jiang Ziya was a famous Daoist who lived more than five centuries before the time of Laozi. Legend has it that Jiang Ziya or Jiang Taigong fished with a straightened hook while waiting for his soon-to-be protégé, King Wen to find him.

Tzu-kung is placed third, east of the sage, from the Assessors in the temple. Confucius used to say, ‘From the time that I got Tzu, scholars from a distance came daily resorting to me.’ [Page 115 and 116 Legge]

In ancient times, greedy rulers would resort to annexing land of weaker states or raise taxes on the people to profit or gain. Heavy taxes for wars to annex land or to beautify palaces would place a heavy burden on the people. Therefore Confucius and Mencius exhorted rulers not to think about profits but instead to prosper the people and subsequently the state.

In modern times, if rulers are greedy for profits, corruption pervades. And there are too many examples of that happening in many parts of the world.

Perhaps the final word shall come from the great sage himself.

The Master said,

‘Riches and honours are what people desire. If it cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be held. Poverty and meanness are what people dislike. If it cannot be obtained in the proper way, they should not be avoided.’
[4 .5 Analects]

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Zheng Ren Junzi

I first heard of this Chinese idiom, ‘Zheng Ren Junzi’, in my teens from a girlfriend, two years my junior. In English, the idiom can be translated to ‘Upright person, superior man’. This girlfriend had been learning from those who were much older and wiser than the both of us.

The superior man possessing the quality of an upright person speaks volumes to those who cultivate. But for a teenager or a beginner, it can mean something or pretty nothing.

Being an upright person, a Junzi is honorable. The Junzi does not make promises lightly and once made, keeps them by taking the relevant follow up actions. For justice (yi), they may even give up their lives, their fortunes or their prominent stations in life to help the weak. See some similarity with the meaning of the English gentleman? The gentleman is the nearest equivalent to a Junzi.

In their upbringing, the Chinese can learn about the Junzi from their parents, elder relatives, teachers, friends, and in modern eras - through news media, TV and films. Therefore these Chinese enjoy a small advantage over others who have not heard of the term, Junzi, until they become a student of ancient Chinese philosophy. This small advantage has been emphasized upon by Carl Jung in his commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower, an esoteric Daoist text.

Almost everyone who is taught or has some knowledge about the Junzi knows the difficulty to become one. For an in-depth understanding of the term, Junzi, students even if they happen to be Chinese will have to read the same ancient books and classics as the learned to learn more about this type of exemplary persons.

The Zhouyi, as an ancient Book of Wisdom, provides a guide to earnest student on how to become a Junzi. Confucius and Mencius in their respective books or teachings also provide students with an opportunity to learn how to be a Junzi. The Book of History, the Book of Rites, the Spring and Autumn Annals describe the instructions, rituals (Li), and actions of various rulers and their ministers. From these books and classics, students can also learn how to differentiate between the actions of the Da Ren, Junzi and the Xiao Ren – if we put our hearts into the studies.

Meanwhile, there is an interesting ongoing discussion in the I Ching Forum under ‘Divination’ titled ‘Junzi and the trigrams’ where Yi aficionados with varying years of studies each give their perspective of the Junzi. If interested, find out for yourself who will provide the most in-depth answer to the term and why, by clicking the website on the ‘Recommended Sites’ section to your right.