Saturday, October 30, 2010


“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?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Free lunch for Malaysian retirees

Regular Malaysian readers probably have been waiting for a ‘free lunch’ from this blog for quite some time since the free lunch on shares investment given to readers living in Europe and the US. It is difficult to provide a free lunch on the stock market since our government has been shoring up the KLSE index instead of allowing it to ‘freefall’ like other countries. Let us then talk about something else.

If you are about to retire or have just reached the retirement age, think twice before taking the entire sum out of the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) unless you really need to use the money. Comparatively, the EPF is safer than banks. And the last paid dividend by the EPF doubled the annual rate for fixed deposits payable by banks.

Malaysian retirees who have taken their entire lifetime savings out from the EPF upon reaching the age of 55 would find it difficult in the current investment environment to park this large sum of money, relatively speaking, risk free and get the same or better returns than what the EPF pays.

Furthermore, the Malaysian government two years’ guarantee of monies held with banks and other financial institutions, if not extended, will be over by the end of 2010. The guaranteed amount will then revert to RM 60,000.

For those who had withdrawn the entire retirement sum and still have money left, unless you think that the banks are safe it is a better and a risk free bet to place the funds in special bonds issued by Bank Negara, the country’s central bank. Since the global financial crisis to date Bank Negara has issued two special bonds with a coupon rate of 5% (doubled the then annual FD rate) for retirees and/or the public.

As the lender of the last resort to banks in Malaysia, and guaranteed by the government like in all other countries, where is the risk in parking your money with Bank Negara? You are also allowed to take out the entire or smaller sum(s) from the amount invested in the bond after the conditional holding period (of three months in the case of the recent bond for retirees).

If you have missed out on the two bonds, wait for another opportunity. These special issues are, in a way, subsidies for the Malaysian retirees and the public, and subscribing for them also helps Malaysia – since at the time the foreign bond holders were taking their monies out of the country.

If finance is not your forte or if you are not savvy enough in foreign currency exchange, do not be enticed by the banks and use the retirement sum to dabble in foreign currencies or the so called carry trades, you can lose your shirt and your well earned retirement especially amid the current global currency war – where the US and the Euro zone want to lower their respective currency values to make their goods cheaper for foreign buyers.

When hedge funds or large investment funds can lose billions in foreign currency trades even before this currency war, chances are slim that you can make good gains from such investment.

Those borrowing the Japanese Yen for carry trades would be hammered when the currency last week reached its highest value in 15 years against the USD. Besides that have you considered the hidden cost of the exchange rates quoted by banks when you convert the Ringgit into foreign currency deposits and back again on maturity?

Since the banks and the industrial titans in the US and Europe are flush with trillions of cash with the recent quantitative easing (QE) by their governments, some monies have found their way to Asia including Malaysia to seek for higher returns in relative safety.

For example a 3% coupon rate payable for a Bank Negara Ringgit bond provides a better return than holding a US Treasury Bond paying half a percent or less, especially since the investors know that the US dollar will lose its value with more QE planned by their government authorities.

That is why the Malaysian Ringgit has appreciated against the USD, the Euro, and Pound Sterling, over the past few months. And some Asian countries like Thailand are already trying to slow the inflow of this hot money into their economies. These particular Asian countries have learned the lessons of the 1997/ 98 financial crisis well.

Meanwhile park your Ringgit in relative safety or in good low risk investments, as discussed above, until opportunity strikes again. And do your homework before you invest, please.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What is not Neidan?

Over the years, I have written quite a bit on neidan (inner alchemy) with numerous quotations cited from the right books, Daoist texts, and ancient classics with the hope that readers can learn something for themselves in the event they intend to practise or are already into the practice.

It seems that fellow travelers are far and few in between. Most others tend to think as they are told by their teachers that they can reach enlightenment by doing this or that. Sadly these students will be really disappointed at the end of the day, when they realize that they had been misled.

So what is considered not neidan?

All forms of martial arts whether they are of Chinese and Indian origin are not neidan. (Japanese and Korean martial arts are already included.) Some masters may argue that their martial arts for example Taijiquan and Neigong deal with internal breath (qi) control and therefore it is related to neidan. But that is far from the truth if we know what neidan practice involves.

All forms of Yoga including the so-called Daoist yoga are not neidan. Remember that yoga is Hindu? What has yoga got to do with Daoist neidan? If Daoist yoga is neidan, Zhang Boduan and Liu I Ming of Quanzhen would not have warned against it in their respective writings.

All forms of qigong exercises are not neidan. Here I find many masters making claims on the web including Daoist forums that their exercises will lead to enlightenment. Sadly these are ridiculous and false claims but many of their students do not think so. While qigong exercises can improve the health and increase the qi levels of students, neidan practice can do more than that.

Most forms of meditation are not neidan even if they happen to deal with breath control.

If the breath is not circulated, it is not neidan. If the breath is circulated but no light is seen within it is not neidan meditation. If the breath and the light circulate together but then the practitioner feels kundalini arising, that is not neidan. Kundalini, as the well read know, is a Hindu practice.

Chan and Zen Buddhists, going by the Youtube postings of a well respected master in the West teaching meditation, are not practising neidan. They just meditate. Some love to play mind games. Probably such games are good for the mind. No wonder the Chan Buddhists of old love to read Zhuangzi.

However, Zhuangzi did not practise neidan in case readers did not discern. How could he when he rejected the Ways of Earth and Man and only concentrated on the Way of Heaven?

But this has nothing to do with Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Chan Buddhism. His teachings are fine and they involve the cultivation of nature and fate which is no different from neidan as taught in the Book of Changes (Yijing). The Buddha taught the cultivation in the Buddhist sutras, the same as what is written in the Tao Te Ching by Laozi. But then you may disagree.

No wonder, I have not seen you walking along the Way!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Incorrect meditation practice (s)

The Book of Changes (I Ching / Yijing / the Yi) can be considered the oldest ancient classic of China. Most sage kings, ancient sages, the wise and the learned down the few thousand years of its history have read and studied this classic. This classic can also be considered as profound as Tao. Therefore not many down the ages can really comprehend much of what is written in it.

Some called it a Book of Wisdom while others called it a Book of Oracles. They are equally correct since the ancient classic can be used for both purposes, and more. If we look into Chinese history, how much more one can get out of the ancient classic depends on the particular student or master.

Both the Daoists and the Confucians have learned much from it as did Laozi and Confucius. Compared to the two ancient sages, the Zhen Ren (realized persons) were more specific in their written texts by referring to various hexagrams or trigrams for proper neidan (inner alchemy) practice. Yet the ignorant and those Chinese illiterate in classical Chinese (and therefore could not read the Yi) chose to practise waidan (outer alchemy) or dissed the Book of Changes as superstition.

Many of those so-called masters who came out from China or who had studied there for awhile and who are not versed with the Yi have been teaching in the US, ‘neidan’ or various forms of qigong exercises with promises of ‘enlightenment’. If Tao or enlightenment is so easily attained, heaven would be by now filled with Daoist celestial immortals and Buddhas. Yet do you know of any human immortals – the first stage of immortality according to Zhong Liquan?

In case you are learning or practising meditation whether self taught or taught by those so-called masters, whether simple or advance, whether Daoist, Buddhist, or Hindu, take heed of what I have mentioned in past entries about fast heartbeats during meditation. If your heart beats very fast, you should stop the meditation immediately, since the method or pose used could be incorrect. Or you could be ill.

If you doubt this warning, take a look at what the ancient Book of Changes by way of Hexagram Gen has to say about it:

Nine in the third place means:

Keeping his hips still.
Making his sacrum stiff.
Dangerous. The heart suffocates.

This refers to enforced quiet. The restless heart is to be subdued by forcible means. But fire when it is smothered changes into acrid smoke that suffocates as it spreads.

Therefore, in exercises in meditation and concentration, one ought not to try to force results. Rather, calmness must develop naturally out of a state of inner composure. If one tries to induce calmness by means of artificial rigidity, meditation will lead to very unwholesome results.