Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Keep it simple and easy

The first time when I saw how a neidan student relate yin yang to his practice and the Book of Changes but fumbled, I had wanted to comment but I said nothing. Later the same student perhaps after checking with his teacher from a lineage in China tried to tie up the relationship between yin yang, earth and heaven but still could not convinced the audience (some discerning or skeptical Tao Bums) why a neidan practitioner cultivates towards yang instead of yin.

A few months after that, I see Yi aficionados discussing yin yang in relation to interpretations of prognostications in an I Ching Forum.

Nothing wrong with that too, except that it could complicate our studies and our explanations to self and others, if we try to be sophisticated instead of keeping it simple and easy.

The holy sages who made the Book of Changes also made it simple and easy. That is why they determined the Tao of Heaven to be the dark and the light. And they determined the Tao of Earth to be yielding and firm.

We can easily substitute yin yang for the dark and the light, yielding and firm, earth and heaven respectively. But is that what the ancients taught? And can we or others see yin yang or understand the concept with ease?

If the particular neidan student or his teacher had given it a deeper thought, it could have made understanding for both the transmitter and the receiver(s) a bit easier.

Is it not easier for the audience to understand that a neidan practitioner cultivates Tao to become a light being (an immortal, a divinity), instead of a yang being (even though the term light is often substituted by the term yang by Daoist adepts)?

If we learn to keep our Yi and/or neidan studies and practices simple and easy, we may one day emulate earth and heaven. But how would I know?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Too deep for many

What the two great sages, Laozi and Confucius, know about the Book of Changes can be too deep for many Yi students. Therefore their thoughts on this ancient Chinese classic are often missed even by those who considered themselves scholars of ancient Chinese philosophy.

Over the years, Yi students have tried linking up the Tao Te Ching to the Book of Changes without much success. It will be difficult if we do not know both the profound classics well. Another drawback would be the lack of neidan knowledge and practice.

If we are discerning enough, we may find several chapters in the Tao Te Ching relating to neidan and the Zhouyi. This means that the Book of Changes also contains layers on neidan practice which Laozi and some renowned Neo Daoists know about. But many down the ages do not.

If we look clearly at Confucius’ commentaries on certain lines of hexagrams, we may understand how deep his knowledge on the Book of Changes was. But then if we are not earnest in our Yi studies, we may not know why he interpreted those lines as he did.

As to whether he consulted the Book of Changes on occasions is another story altogether. So far I have not come across any evidence of his Yi consultation(s) in the four Confucian books.

Yet I read of a modern scholar, a fellow Malaysian, claiming that Confucius do not use the nuclear trigrams and the changed hexagram for interpretations. And that those who used them, do not or did not know their Yi studies well.

While I verily agree with the scholar that Confucius’s interpretations of the lines are based on the trigrams, we cannot conclusively determine that nuclear trigrams and changed hexagrams cannot be used for interpretations of Yi consultations, unless we have examples of consultations performed by the great sage, Confucius and his interpretation of them to form such an opinion.

Though my knowledge of the Yi is minimal compared to the two great sages, I do use the nuclear trigrams on occasions to provide more clarity to the prognostications or omens. And I use the changed hexagrams more often than not.

But does this mean that the particular modern scholar know the Yi better than me? Nope. Since down the ages, the Yi has been too deep for many.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


For thousands of years, people have searched for immortality.

The best recorded example of such a search was that of Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty. According to Sima Qian, the Grand Historian of the Han Dynasty, this emperor sent large groups of young girls and young boys to accompany the Daoists on two separate occasions in search for the mythical Peng Lai Island where immortals are rumored to live, and to bring back the elixir (of immortality or life) for him to drink.

For many including the Chinese, immortality means long life and not getting old, for others, immortality means having their (good) names etched into history or legacy.

Immortality conveys a deeper meaning to those who cultivate Tao and/or practise neidan (inner alchemy). It is not only about having a long life and not getting old, it is also about living on forever.

To live on forever is a difficult concept for people to understand and accept. Since everyone will eventually die, how can anyone live on forever, they wonder or ask?

To have a better understanding of this living forever, we turn to a definition of immortality and how one can achieve it by the great sage, Laozi in Chapter 16 of his Tao Te Ching and my simple translation follows:

Tao Te Ching Chapter 16

Achieve utmost emptiness, guard assured stillness.

(Even if) myriad things no longer active, I continue to observe return.

Man and things flourish, each will return to its root.

To return to the root require stillness, stillness brings return to destiny.

Returning to destiny is the principle; knowledge of this principle means understanding.

Not knowing this principle, delusions and disasters arise.

Know and accept the principle, upon acceptance one can be impartial, impartiality accords with completeness. Completion accords with Heaven. Heaven accords with Dao.

Dao last forever, without body, no death.

[Allan Lian]

In case, some readers still do not get it, Laozi defined celestial immortality in the final verse of Chapter 16.