The Zah Yung Ching or Classic of the Directory for a Day is the simplest and shortest of the translated Daoist texts made available on the Web. It contains only three stages for cultivators to return to Tao. While it is easy and simple to understand, without the necessary accompanying experience, few would actually know what the neidan (inner alchemy) processes - indicated therein - encompass.
The first stage where millions of Tao cultivators down the ages start their neidan practice has been discussed in the article titled ‘The way to prolonging life’ on May 25, 2010. Without proper guidance and/or aptitude many would struggle to accomplish the way to prolong life. If we go by the indication of Zhong Liquan, the second patriarch of Quanzhen and the teacher of Lu Dongbin, that there are three types of Daoist immortals, those having achieved the way to prolong life - in stage one - could be considered human immortals. (Ren Xian)
In the second stage, it is said:
“During the twelve [Chinese double] hours of the day let one's thoughts be constantly fixed on absolute Purity. Where one thought (of a contrary kind) does not arise, we have what we call Purity; where nothing (of a contrary kind) enters the Tower of Intelligence (= the mind), we have what we call the Undefiled.
The body is the house of the breath; the mind is the lodging of the spirit. As the thoughts move, the spirit moves; as the spirit moves, the breath is distributed. As the thoughts rest, the spirit rests when the spirit rests, the breath is collected.
The true powers of the five elements unite and form the boat-like cup of jade, (after partaking of which), the body seems to be full of delicious harmony. This spreads like the unguent of the chrismal rite on the head.
Walking, resting, sitting, sleeping, the man feels his body flexible as the wind, and in his belly a sound like that of thunder. His ears hear the songs of the Immortals that need no aid from any instrument; vocal without words, and resounding without the drum.
The spirit and the breath effect a union and the bloom of childhood returns. The man beholds scenes unfolded within him; Spirits of themselves speak to him; he sees the things of vacuity, and finds himself dwelling with the Immortals.
He makes the Great Elixir, and his spirit goes out and in at its pleasure. He has the longevity of heaven and earth, and the brightness of the sun and moon. He has escaped from the toils of life and death.”
[Zah Yung King or Classic of a Directory for a day – translated by James Legge]
Whenever I read the many claims by claimants in Daoist forums on how they have reached very far with the Circulation of the Light, I shake my head from left to right. Whatever they had said about their practice is more often than not incorrect. This includes those who claimed of having ‘sudden enlightenment’ experiences which could be due in part to their wild imagination (probably a better word for delusion).
Nothing wrong with that since many of the so-called masters on the web nowadays also claimed that their methods – passed down from dubious lineages – lead to enlightenment. But from a cursory glance of their list of methods, the neidan practice is upside down.
The great Carl Jung was probably correct when he indicated in the Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Secret of the Golden Flower, that the practice is not suitable for the West because of their differences in psyche and beliefs with the Chinese and in their culture.
For most ethnic Chinese are brought up and taught by their parents (and in school) that virtues (DE) are of great importance in life. The well educated amongst them would read the four Confucian books and the five Classics as part of culture.
Deep thinkers and Yijing aficionados worth their salt would know that virtues are embedded in the Zhou Book of Changes and the Ten Wings. Yet many aficionados in the West study the Yijing as if the virtues are non-existent, not relevant, or can be ignored – since they say that these virtues belong to the Confucians. Similar arguments are proffered – if at all – by those learning Dao or practising ‘neidan’ in the West. Therefore they can be equally confused as to what constitutes Virtues (DE) in the Dao De Jing (or Tao Te Ching).
Limited by their own bias towards virtues, these Yijing aficionados together with those learning Dao or those practising ‘neidan’ in the West will probably not proceed far in their studies of the respective ancient profound fields.
For the three great ancient sages – Laozi, Confucius, and Buddha – and Mencius had had also taught that virtues are of great importance to life and mankind. (Please read the Tao Te Ching, the four Confucian books, and the Dhammapada for your own benefit and knowledge.)
Similar to the Tao Te Ching and the Yin Fu Ching, the Zah Yung Ching also indicates the importance of purity or goodness. For without virtues how can anyone become pure or good? And do remember that Heaven is on the side of the good.
While millions of Tao scholars down the ages struggle at stage one trying to prolong life, the more proficient top scholars could have squeezed through to this second stage where they try to escape the toils of life and death.
The legendary Zhang Sanfeng in his commentary on the Hundred Character Stele of Lu Dongbin had indicated that he himself had reached this second stage. Zhang Sanfeng said that he was able to hear the Songs of the Immortals and possessed the ability to know the future. At the time of the commentary, he probably had become an Earthly Immortal. (Di Xian)
In case, those who are really practising the Circulation of the Light think that this second stage can be reached easily, think again. They would have to witness several eternal signposts of Tao before they can climb out of the first stage to the second.
Proficient top scholars of Tao who have entered the Mysterious Gates and having seen the delights of Heaven similar to Guang Zhengzi - the ancient Daoist Celestial Immortal and teacher of the Yellow Emperor – may sooner or later reach this second stage.
How far these top scholars can proceed in the second stage will by and large depend on their own self cultivation and on Heaven (and therefore Fate / Destiny).
For this is the stage where top scholars have to use their deep knowledge of the Book of Changes and especially that of Heaven (Qian / Time) and of Earth (Kun / Space) to witness Change (which encompass all types of change). This is where the alchemical mixing and melting (involving Kan and Li) and transformation happen. As spiritual clarity (Shen Ming) reaches its height.
At this second stage, the more important eternal signposts of Tao – Songs of the Immortals that need no aid from any instrument; vocal without words, and resounding without the drum; and various others* – can be witnessed.
But how would I know that?
*Specifics have since been deleted on Nov 18, 2013 to conform to the ancient established order.