Thursday, July 25, 2013

Circulation of the Light and Tao Te Ching (2) – Mysterious Gate(s) – (A)

Of the tens of millions down the ages who have had read the Tao Te Ching or have heard of Tao, it could be fair to say that less than half would aspire to be scholars by trying to cultivate the Way. Of those who cultivate Tao, both the philosophical and mediocre scholars - those who tend to waver in their beliefs – would form the majority of these aspirants and who would either make little headway in the cultivation and/or drop out halfway.

This leaves the minority to persevere through thick and thin in the lengthy and demanding process to become top scholars of Tao. And of these first class scholars who travel on the magical far journey, only a relative few - the Zhen Ren or realized persons - could attain or have attained Tao to become Celestial Immortals or Buddhas.

Anyone who has had read Chapter One of the Tao Te Ching would be equally mystified on the one hand and on the other hand seemed to be able to grasp something of what Laozi had wanted to say. The first four verses of the chapter probably count among the most discussed online topics on Tao. What with the more than a hundred translations of Chapter One made available on the World Wide Web. So what is one more?

Tao Te Ching Chapter One

The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao,

The name that can be named is not the eternal name.

Nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;

Named is the mother of myriad things.

Without desire observe the mysterious,

With desire contemplate the manifestations.

These two things are similar,

Only differing names for the profound.

Obscure and profound; (there will be) numerous mysterious gates.

[Translated by Allan Lian]

Since most readers of the ancient classic have already formed their own opinions on the first four verses, and to avoid endless contention, it would be better to discuss in brief the remaining five verses which deal with direct experiences obtainable through the diligent practice of the Circulation of the Light.

Many theories have also been propounded for these remaining five verses of Chapter One and especially on the Mysterious Gate(s).

Therefore what is to be discussed would differ much from those who had used their intellect – whether or not they are scholars, translators, Sinologists, or the deluded – to explain these particular verses.

In my translation of Chapter One, Wu - the pinyin for the Chinese – that appear in the fifth verse has been translated as ‘Without’. And You – the pinyin for another Chinese word - that appear in the sixth verse has been translated as ‘With’. Wu and You happen to be direct opposites; and have different connotations depending on the context and the chapters of the Tao Te Ching in which they are written or used.

For example, the whiz-kid Wang Bi of the late Han had had aptly determined that Wu means Non Being while You means Being in the context and particular chapter where they both have appeared; but these meanings do not apply to Chapter One. (Theorists and ardent followers of Wang Bi could do well to take note of this, lest they implicitly use these meanings in Chapter One and try to mislead others.)

To understand the Tao Te Ching is difficult, to penetrate (tong) this ancient classic would be nigh impossible without spiritual clarity (Shen Ming) and direct experiences.

To be continued.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Circulation of the Light and Tao Te Ching

Tao is so vast and yet can also be so minute that it is beyond the intellect. However, since Tao is easy to know, readers of the Tao Te Ching down the ages – probably numbering in the tens of millions by now – could have had learned something from this ancient classic.

Per the Records of the Han Grand Historian, the Tao Te Ching is said to be written by Laozi more than 2,500 years ago upon the request of Yinxi, a Western frontier guard.

And according to Daoist celestial immortal Lu Dongbin, it was this Guan Yinxi who first revealed the ancient Circulation of the Light. There are no reasons whatsoever to doubt this claim, since those who have really practised the Circulation of the Light and have progressed far would be able to witness the numerous signposts including the eternal ones embedded in the Tao Te Ching. The practice also raises spiritual clarity (Shen Ming) and therefore makes it much easier to penetrate (tong) this Classic.

Take for example Chapter 55 of the Tao Te Ching:

Chapter 55 of the Tao Te Ching:

He who possesses virtue in abundance may be compared to an infant. Poisonous insects will not sting him. Fierce beasts will not seize him. Birds of prey will not strike him. His bones are weak, his sinews tender, but his grasp is firm.

He does not yet know the union of male and female, but his organ is aroused, this means that his essence is at its height.

He may cry all day without becoming hoarse, this means that his (natural) harmony is perfect. To know harmony means to be in accord with the eternal. To be in accord with the eternal means to be enlightened.

To force the growth of life means ill omen. For the mind to employ the vital force without restraint means violence.

After all things reach their prime, they begin to grow old, which means being contrary to Tao. Whatever is contrary to Tao will soon perish.
[Translated by Professor Wing – Tsit Chan]

This introductory article would help explain Chapter 55 of the Tao Te Ching and is written especially for current or intended students of neidan (inner alchemy) for them to learn something more about the Circulation of the Light. If read together with my various other related articles on the Circulation of the Light and on neidan, it could also assist students to discern real (neidan and/or Tao) masters from the fake.

While Laozi had neither elaborated on how a student can become good (virtuous) – as compared to the comprehensive teachings of the other two great ancient sages, Confucius and the Buddha - nor revealed - in line with established order of the ancients - how to circulate the Light; the Tao Te Ching contains many hints, indications, and signposts for achievers.

The particular chapter under discussion provides several such indications and hints to first class scholars of Tao on what to do and what to avoid. Yet few will penetrate (tong) it.

What will be discussed would invariably differ from the thoughts of translators and sinologists. Since the discussion is on the Circulation of the Light and the ancient Way. Not theories or New Age whatnots. Here goes.

1st paragraph of TTC 55

To cultivate virtues (Te) to become good or pure again is a preliminary requisite step for the Return (to Heaven / Tao / Origin). According to Mencius - human nature is good. And – according to Laozi, Confucius, and the Buddha - Heaven is on the side of the good.

And to practise the backward flow meditation for the Circulation of the Light is to learn how to breathe like an infant again. While the infant is kept safe by the parents from poisonous insects, fierce beasts, and birds of prey, Heaven protects the right person for Tao.

TTC 55 - 2nd paragraph

One of the earliest signs of the Circulation of the Light – and according to Laozi - is that when the infant’s essence is at its height, his organ is aroused. An additional sign would be that upon the union of male and female, the organ would still remain erect and stiff for several more minutes after ejaculation. (Therefore the Circulation of the Light is not recommended for young male adults since they would most likely not be able to control lust. Lust is a vice which youth has to guard against.)

TTC 55 - 3rd paragraph

When emotions have subsided, there is equilibrium. When emotions stir, but are acted upon in due degree, there is perfect harmony. To achieve equilibrium and harmony is the universal path. The achievements accord with the eternal. To accord with the eternal means to be enlightened.

TTC 55 - 4th paragraph

The Circulation of the Light and Qi (breath) are both natural. Employing forceful means for the progress towards longevity and/or using intent to direct the breath (Qi) without restraint bring on ill effects.

TTC 55 – 5th paragraph

When people hear of Tao and yet not put it into practice, except to grow old and wait for death is contrary to Tao.

While growing old and perish form a part of nature, an infant’s breathing is also natural. If those who hear of Tao cultivate virtues (Te) to become good and learn to breathe like an infant again, they can take an additional step to reverse the breath for the backward flow to circulate the Light and the Qi (Breath). By doing so, the mind would be empty and the heart still.

Then it is probable to reach the final stage of the Return where without a body, there is no death. (Celestial immortality or Buddha-hood)