Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ancient method of the Holy Sages (2)

Additional notes:

Like Tao and the Book of Changes, the ancient method of the Holy Sages, aka Neidan (inner alchemy) nowadays, is also deep and profound.

Bear in mind that Laozi and the Zhen Ren in their respective writings have made references to the foremost ancient Chinese classic, The Book of Changes.

Knowing something about neidan does not mean that the practice will be correct.

If people think that neidan is only about meditation, then they have missed the mark. (Refer to the poem on what are required.)

As indicated by Laozi in the TTC, those without superior virtue should not start with neidan meditation. Illusions and delusions can arise.

If you really want to practice neidan correctly, study the four Books and the five Classics (which include the Book of Changes) in order to become learned and wise.

While becoming learned and wise, students could come across how to keep the heart still. And here are more reasons to becoming learned and wise:

The Golden Flower is the Elixir of Life (Jin Dan – Golden Pill). All changes of spiritual consciousness depend upon the heart. There is a secret charm which, although it works very accurately, is yet so fluid that it needs extreme intelligence and clarity, and the most complete absorption and tranquility. People without this highest degree of intelligence and understanding do not find the way to apply the charm; people without this utmost capacity for absorption and tranquility cannot keep fast hold of it.
[The Secret of the Golden Flower by Lu Dongbin and translated by Wilhelm/ Baynes]

Real teachers if found may not be able to teach the entire practice to students. Students would have to put in their own sincere efforts and there is much to study and learn.

If practitioners after several years or decades of practice still cannot witness or experience any of the various major signposts of the Way, then they are either not practising neidan at all, or doing it wrong; simple as that. This comment equally applies to the indolent directly taught by Daoist Celestial Immortals.

The ancient major signposts are embedded in the Book of Changes (the Zhouyi), the Tao Te Ching, and the various Daoist texts written by the Zhen Ren before or after they became Celestial Immortals. The Shurangama Sutra also contains a few of these signposts.

If you happen to be a disciple of a major Daoist sect, you can present the poem to the elders for further clarification. (This note is especially applicable to readers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.) The elders may either smile or frown after reading it. But do not ask the Celestial immortals to explain. You may get a knock on the head. The punishment is for not doing your homework after so many reminders over the years. Ha!

The temple elders would probably smile when they recognize that their cultivation is based on the same foundation as the ancient method of the Holy Sages.

They would probably frown for not having reached the higher levels of neidan practice also depicted in the poem.

How would I know?

The adepts say that sometimes they feel light (as if floating), the heat during meditation can scorch, some experiences are intense, and some very intense. On what type of experiences, they do not reveal.

Quanzhen Patriarch Lu Dongbin also mentioned in the Secret of the Golden Flower that confirmatory experiences are like drinking water. The one who drinks it would know whether the water is warm or cold.

Perhaps these two previous articles on a simple circle and the concept of duality respectively can further assist readers in understanding the poem:



Zac said...

Hi Alan,

I've just been reading the Thomas Cleary translation of The Secret of the Golden Flower. Have you seen it? Cleary is quite critical of the Wilhelm translation, and claims Wilhelm was working from a corrupted text. He suggests that some of Wilhelm's errors may prove misleading to beginners. Cleary's translation is much more straightforward; I'm not in a position to recommend it, but would appreciate your opinion if you happen to have seen it.



Allan said...

Hi Zac!

No, I have not read Thomas Cleary’s translation of the Secret of the Golden Flower. But, I have read some quotes from his translation in the Taobums forum and found them unclear. Cleary seemed to have mixed his Buddhist thoughts into this Daoist text as usual instead of a direct translation. Since this comment is also applicable to his translation of the I Ching Mandalas and the thoughts of Liu I Ming contained therein.

Richard Wilhelm did mention in his own translation that certain parts of the text appear corrupted. Therefore the missing parts are not due to Wilhelm’s errors and from experience probably are unimportant, since students can still attain some aptitude without them. At an adept level, they would be able to sense which the corrupted parts are.

To augment neidan study by beginners, Wilhelm included a Buddhist text, the Hui Ming Ching, in his translation. This is a good and appropriate addition.


Zac said...

Thanks Allan for your reply. I have to admit that I am more confused by Wilhelm's translation. For example, Wilhelm writes of 'circulating the light' and causing the light to 'move in a circle'. Cleary instead translates this as 'turning the light around'.
When I first read Wilhelm, I didn't know how to interpret this 'circulating the light', though if I remember correctly, his commentary suggested that circulating should be interpreted as 'reversing' or 'flowing backward'.

Allan said...

Good. As long as you keep rereading the correct books and/or classics over the years or decades, the real meanings can jump at you!

The ‘backward flow’ method is a key to the Circulation of the Light.