Saturday, January 09, 2010

Shen Gui

The duality of spirits, Shen Gui has been briefly touched upon in the Da Zhuan (the Great Treatise – Chapter 4.2). According to the ancients, Shen (gods) the light spirits are outgoing while Gui (ghosts including demons) the dark spirits are returning.

Shen Gui are also mentioned and carefully differentiated in the Leng Yen Ching (Shurangama Sutra) by the Buddha and in the Secret of the Golden Flower by Lu Dongbin.

The three great sages, Laozi, Confucius and the Buddha, while acknowledging the presence of such spirits, do not delve on them in their respective teachings. Since both the light and the dark spirits remain invisible to most human eyes, it would be a very difficult subject to teach. Except that Yi students and Daoists know the light spirits represent yang while the dark spirits represent yin.

In real life, gods and ghosts seldom manifest for people to see. We may have heard of or read about possessions by ghosts or demons – the dark spirits. Some are related to Karma of previous lives, others because the victims were weak at the time of possession. With the help and power from the divine – the light spirits, possessions can be cured.

In China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and some countries in South East Asia, disciples and devotees often have the opportunity in Daoist temples to consult gods and celestial immortals through mediums and/or the planchette. Even then these Daoist divinities do not manifest for all to see.

According to what I understand, Daoists who have cultivated Tao (and Te) to a high level may be given an opportunity during meditation to see their ancestor master(s) – celestial immortal(s). However it does not mean that any high level cultivator of Tao can see real divinities and/or hear them speak or sing. It depends.

If you are a Daoist, Confucian, or Buddhist cultivator of Tao (and Te) reading this and think that you have reach a high level it pays to study the Shurangama Sutra and/or the Secret of the Golden Flower to clarify and confirm what you hear from or see are real divinities (Shen) and not that of demons (Gui - Mo). Many a Tao cultivator of a high level has been seduced by the dark spirits without realizing it. That is the danger of bypaths which Laozi, Buddha, and Lu Dongbin had warned against.

The cultivation of Te or virtues is easier than that of Tao or essence through meditation. If you just meditate and not cultivate virtues, you may not reach the higher levels. If you just cultivate virtues and do not meditate, you would become a good person but not necessary a cultivator of Tao.

If you cultivate both Tao and Te, by and by over several years or decades, you may attain something of value and receive confirmatory experiences.

These confirmatory experiences include that of hearing gods in the valley. Prior to and after these confirmations, you may experience or see many other signposts of the Way. Except for simple signs - like good health and conduct, no trouble in sleeping, no dreams – most of the important signposts have been documented by the ancients and the Zhen Ren (realized persons) in the classics (include sutras) and Daoist texts.

Signposts of various stages are also highlighted in this blog. Cultivators of Tao may not have seen or are aware about them until they have raised their own spiritual experiences to the required level of cultivation. In the main, how far one can go is up to each cultivator.

Try not to rush your cultivation by inviting or asking spirits (Shen Gui) to teach unless they are your actual ancestor masters. (Take note Tao Bums!)

Do not make the fatal mistake of getting seduced by the dark realms. Even high level cultivators had succumbed to it by not closely following the advice given in the classics and texts.

Remember my earlier blog entry on the elderly venerable Thai Buddhist abbot who forty years ago wrote a book about his meditation experiences of European angels coming up to praise him about his well spoken dharma? If any of his students or student’s students happens to read this entry, ask yourself this question:

Did the Buddha, Laozi, Bodhidharma, Lu Dongbin or any Zhen Ren ever mention such experiences in their classics, texts or teachings?

To the knowledgeable, what is real what is false can be differentiated and determined.


Anonymous said...


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Thomas Hood said...

In the Yi shen and gui are aspects of the self that separate at death. Shen may be translated as 'spirit' and gui as 'ghost'. The shen is symbolized by the crane, thus the crane in hexagrams 61 and 62. The gui is symbolized by the fox, thus the fox in hexagrams 63 and 64. My understanding, of course.

Allan said...


It appears to me you could have mixed up shen gui with that of Hun Po.

When a person dies, Hun being light floats up to Heaven while Po being heavy sinks down to Earth.