“If I were possessed of austere knowledge, walking on the Main Path (Tao), I would avoid the by-paths.
The main path is easy to walk on, yet people love the small by-paths.”
[TTC 53 as translated by Lin Yutan]
Return to Tao is what Laozi had advocated in the Tao Te Ching. The road to Tao is broad and easy for travelers to walk on, yet down the millennia many still prefer the narrow and/or winding bypaths. Bypaths are practices that deviate from the Way.
If we return from a short distance, after a deviation from the Way, there is great good fortune. Misfortune will arise if we missed the return. (Refer to Hexagram Fu / Return)
There are more than sufficient warnings given in the teachings of Laozi, the Buddha, and the Zhen Ren (include Zhong LiQuan, Lu Dongbin, and Zhang Boduan) to cultivators of Tao not to stray onto the bypaths, yet many students and ‘masters’ still love doing just that, knowingly or unknowingly.
Take for instance, the practice of ‘Lucid Dreaming’ where a person is conscious of his or her dreaming.
According to a Western student of a Thai Buddhist monk, he has meditated for a year in a Buddhist temple in Thailand and has been able to visit the spirit world at will through his so-called ‘one pointedness’ meditation and ‘Lucid Dreaming’.
Apparently, ‘Lucid Dreaming’ is part of the practice taught by his teacher in the Thai Buddhist temple. (It is also taught by Tibetan Buddhists according to Wikipedia.)
He goes on to describe the differences between the spiritual and the physical worlds and the realms where the demons, ghosts, humans, gods, and the Buddhas are in.
For those interested, he has started a thread in the Tao Bums fielding questions on the spirit world and his experiences. Readers would be okay if they do not venture into the spirit world like him, since his teacher or the temple can possibly handle the consequential attacks by ghosts and demons. (No, it is not Halloween!)
The subject on ‘Lucid Dreams’ is also available in the Wikipedia. Readers can Google for it if they wish. While it is interesting to know that the phrase was coined in the West more than a century ago, and why, the author (s) of the Wiki article try to mislead readers that ‘Lucid Dreaming’ is very old by linking it up with Zhuangzi’s dream of a butterfly, and embedding a picture, displaying a non being floating out of the head of a being (‘the son of Buddha’), found in the Secret of the Golden Flower as translated by Richard Wilhelm / Cary Baynes.
Apparently some modern writers have had indicated that lucid dreaming is a gateway to spiritual enlightenment. Not only is this claim misleading, it is far from the truth.
Spiritual masters go into the spirit world for specific purposes, but it has nothing to do with neidan or the return to Tao. Since the Buddha and Lu Dongbin specifically warned cultivators of Tao against any dealings with the dark realms of the spirit world, but what do I know?
No wonder, a renowned late Abbot of a Thai Buddhist temple had written in his book on meditation, published a few decades ago, that he had visitations from angels from Germany and other parts of Europe who came to praise his well spoken Dharma. According to the book, he has many followers in Thailand and various parts of South East Asia.
To me, it is clearer now why he had seen such phenomena while fellow travelers, including the great masters and the Zhen Ren who have walked on the Way before us, did not.
Perhaps readers and cultivators understand a bit better what a bypath can lead to?