Sunday, January 20, 2013

Right persons for Tao

Many people who have shown interests in learning the Way invariably ask what Tao can do for them. Yet they often tend to forget to ask themselves what they have done or could do for Heaven and Tao in return for a fair exchange.

From decades old studies and observations and similar to ancient times, Heaven and Tao would just as mysteriously take back what they have granted.

Therefore if we have ever achieved supreme success through the help of Heaven and Tao, we would need to repay the favor via the Way of Man by practising benevolence (Ren) and righteousness (Yi). Failure to do so has brought on untold hardships to arrogant dragons with cause to repent (refer nine at the top of Hexagram Qian) – since in a way, these particular dragons have offended Heaven.

For those who wish to make achievements in attaining immortality as indicated in the Tao Te Ching by Laozi, they first have to become the right persons for Tao. Even if they happened to be disciples of celestial immortals, it does not necessary mean that they are the right persons for Tao since they still need to study and cultivate (siu hang) just like everyone else including the self-taught to become one.

To be a right person for Tao is not difficult. Just do not expect instant gratification, since it will take much time and real efforts to become the right person for Tao – the trails and tribulations of the Buddha before his enlightenment provide a good example.

If earnest students do not study the ancient books and classics and cultivate themselves according to what is taught therein, they would not become cultivated, learned and/or wise. If they are not learned and wise they would be unable to comprehend, let alone penetrate (Tong), the profound Book of Changes and the Tao Te Ching.

Without being cultivated, learned and wise, they will not be the right persons for Tao.

To know more about the qualifications of the right person for Tao, we turn to the definition given by Liu Huayang in his Hui Ming Ching and later to Lu Dongbin in the Secret of the Golden Flower [both texts translated by Wilhelm / Baynes]:

He who lacks the right virtue may well find something in it, but heaven will not grant him his Tao. Why not? The right virtue belongs to the Tao as does one wing of a bird to the other: if one is lacking, the other is of no use. Therefore there is needed loyalty and reverence, humaneness and justice and strict adherence to the five (Buddhist) commandments; then only does one have the prospect of attaining something.”

What Liu Huayang has indicated is that even if the meditation is correct, those without the right virtue(s) will not attain immortality or Buddha hood. While others may have reservations, Daoists in the East would agree that Liu Huayang’s indications (which include the requisite meditation) about the right person for Tao are apt. Since these personal qualities are taught in the Book of Changes and in the Tao Te Ching, in the four Confucian books, and in the Buddhist sutras – the three doctrines.

The Golden Flower is the Elixir of Life (Jindan). All changes of spiritual consciousness depend on the heart (Xin). 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.”

Even if we have the right virtue(s), but are not sufficiently learned and wise – according to Lu Dongbin-, we would not find the way to apply the secret charm since the highest degree of intelligence and understanding is required to practise the backward flow method for the Circulation of the Light. If we cannot empty our mind (Xin) and still our heart (Xin) we would not have the utmost capacity for absorption and tranquility to keep fast hold of the charm.

Therefore without the right virtue(s) and the requisite meditation how could Heaven (Tian) grant Man (Ren) his Tao?

With what had been discussed over the years, regular readers and others should know the numerous benefits of studying the ancient books and classics, and of cultivation. With this definition of right persons for Tao, they would also be able to discern real neidan masters from the fakes.

So there you go. This little, I would know.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Offending Heaven

There are quite a number of translators, sinologists and/or scholars of Ancient Chinese Philosophy who apparently do not quite understand or believe in its concept of a moral Heaven. Similar with some renowned Chinese philosophers of old, there is nothing actually wrong for being skeptical that Heaven can or will act on behalf of the good.

As long as these literati do not disparage the wise and the good in their writings, thesis, or in their translations on ancient Chinese philosophy subjects, they would not have offended against Heaven. Believe it or not, pleading ignorance that it is an offence to denigrate the wise and the good provide no excuse for offending Heaven.

Since whatever the sinologists, scholars and translators have written and/or have translated could sway their readers or students to their way of thought or bias. Even if they have had emulated past or present peers and continue to propagate their disparagements of the wise and of the good, it does not necessarily mean that Heaven will not take action on them. The same is applicable to their readers or followers. Therefore it could be to their benefit to take particular note of that.

Often without doing the necessary homework, miscreants have had casted aspersions on Richard Wilhelm - whom most Yijing aficionados consider good – and his friend, the renowned Carl Jung - whom many in the world still consider wise - for their respective translation of the Secret of the Golden Flower and commentary thereof.

They accuse Wilhelm of not crediting sources for the pictures therein and of translating a grossly corrupted text, while Jung is accused of dissuading Westerners from practising the teachings in this Daoist text.

When the so-called meditation masters in the West who have written several books on neidan or its related meditation do not really know about the backward flow method described in the Daoist text. How could the particular miscreants - which include the renowned sinologist, Joseph Needham, and the prolific translator of Daoist texts, Thomas Cleary, - know that self taught students cannot learn the ancient Circulation of the Light from Wilhelm’s translation?

Could there be a possibility, no matter how remote, that a self-taught right person for Tao has learned the Circulation of the Light via the backward flow meditation indicated in the Wilhelm translation, and has progressed further from there?

Instead of my defending the integrity of Wilhelm and Jung, their ardent followers can do their own homework and do what is best for the duo. They can also examine for themselves if Heaven will take or has taken its usual course of action. (See later)

Quoting Confucius and Laozi respectively for the esoteric and for those who should know better:

He who offends against heaven has none to whom he can pray”.

The Way of Heaven is impartial; it is on the side of the good.

If we know what to look for and investigate into those who had had disparaged ancient sages, the wise and the good in their writings or in published comments, we could find that some of the more renowned literati had been punished. The severity of such punishments depends on the gravity of each offending.

Of course, skeptical readers and the miscreants can totally disregard this, thinking this is just another rambling by a superstitious old Chinaman – since how would he know. But could he really know?

Regular readers of the blog may count themselves fortunate to have witnessed the unfolding of several phenomena – global omens, and live case studies of Yijing prognostications - related to the Book of Changes blogged before their actual occurrences over the past eight years.

Probably for this year’s gift in 2013, they could also witness the moral will of Heaven, an ancient truth. A punishment by Heaven has already occurred last year but I did not discuss it, since it took place before my article on ‘Getting to know Heaven’.

This time, the scene has already been set, let’s just wait for the probable feedbacks, if any, in due time (within months). Then the entire story will be told.

With the live feedbacks, this time round, regular readers can bear witness to the true indication by the three great ancient sages – Laozi, Confucius, and the Buddha – on what Heaven does to protect the good and/or the wise.

Let’s also see if Heaven continues to count Allan Lian amongst the good.


Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Eternal signposts of Tao

The opening two verses of the ancient Daoist classic Tao Te Ching have baffled many of its readers down the millennia and continue to do so till today. Perhaps what is said in passing or obiter dicta, so to speak, in this discussion on a profound topic can provide a simple answer to the perennial and enigmatical questions as to why Laozi, the great sage, who wrote this ancient classic more than 2,500 years ago, can tell the Tao that is eternal in eighty one chapters and yet the named name would not be eternal. For your easy reference I append below my simple translation of the chapter related to the discussion:

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]

The popularity in learning Tao in the West has grown by leaps and bounds since the Tao Te Ching was first translated into English and/or other European languages by Christian missionaries stationed in China. Probably a converse of cause and effect, in all fairness, since these missionaries have had successfully converted some Chinese in China to Christianity.

The Secret of the Golden Flower, a couple of centuries old Daoist text on neidan (inner alchemy) ascribed to Daoist celestial immortal Lu Dongbin, and first translated by Richard Wilhelm – a German Christian missionary sent to China - and introduced to the West has also gained popularity since students whether young, middle age, or old would very much like to experience the magical far journey to Tao as indicated therein.

Amidst this growing popularity, the unscrupulous, the indolent, and the ignorant falsely claim the mastery of Tao in order to entice and cheat eager students who want to learn more about the Way and/or how to attain immortality. These particular miscreants are also claiming that they have mastered the Secret of the Golden Flower and/or the way to immortality by using various alchemical formulas passed down by dubious lineages in China. However on closer scrutiny, these claimants only spout recycled information obtainable from the Web and their secret formulas to immortality, if any, tend to be upside down.

Furthermore, scholars of ancient Chinese philosophy down the ages, including whiz kid Wang Bi, would have their work cut out to comprehend the profound Tao Te Ching, if they had not actually practised the ancient method of the Holy Sages - as indicated in the Book of Changes - more popularly known in the West as neidan or inner alchemy. And what these pedant scholars have said about Tao is quite often found to be wanting.

Since those who practise this ancient method to cultivate their human nature (Xing) and fate (Ming) and by correctly practising the backward flow meditation - the Circulation of the Light – as described in the Secret of the Golden Flower would be able to witness the eternal signposts of the Way first embedded in the Book of Changes, and very much later in the Tao Te Ching, and in various Daoist texts of neidan adepts who went on to become Daoist celestial immortals. A few of these eternal signposts have also been embedded and/or inferred to by the Buddha in the Shurangama Sutra (Lengyan Ching).

All these eternal signposts have been written in metaphors using names relevant to the times in accord with established order and meant only for the right persons to progressively guide them along the Path. And the ancients had shown their wisdom by depicting the various signposts of the Way in metaphors since no one else except the right persons for Tao would understand and progressively witness these signposts.

Therefore the scholars and/or translators of ancient Chinese philosophy who often speak of Tao may not quite know what they are on about, since these vital eternal signposts are both encoded and obscure. This would also avoid plagiarism and false claims of which there are many, down the ages up till today – even Daoist immortal Zhang Sanfeng had cause to explicitly warn about its prevalence in his commentary to the Hundred Character Stele of Lu Dongbin.

If those who fancy themselves neidan adepts having already attained great achievements in Tao or have mastered the Secret of the Golden Flower and yet are unable to witness the initial eternal signpost of the Way embedded by Laozi in Chapter One of his Tao Te Ching, beware of further illusions and delusions of grandeur.

While those who perchance witnessed this particular magical signpost would have to take heed of the Buddha’s various warnings in the Shurangama Sutra on premature claims of sage-hood to avoid illusions and delusions, how much more precautions should those who have no such ability take? If there is no Circulation of the Light, many can sit until they are Yuan (round or gone) like the ignorant down the ages and still would not be able to witness this preliminary signpost, let alone all those beyond. After all, the right persons, upon witnessing it, have only taken a baby step along the far journey to Tao since there are much more eternal signposts to be progressively witnessed; therefore what great achievements have they attained?

Some of the advanced signposts remain so well hidden that even those who have attained good aptitude in neidan - as indicated in the Secret of the Golden Flower by Lu Dongbin - may not quite know what these signs are all about, nor know their exact locations along the Path.

For example, a particularly vital signpost that has been already embedded in the Book of Changes and later in the Tao Te Ching, and for which at least three Zhen Ren (realized persons) from different eras had cause to elaborate on it (using different names) in their respective texts because of its importance for those with good aptitude to progress further. The two from Quanzhen have had indicated its exact location in the South West of Kun, while the other described some of its characteristics and named several different names for it down the ages. Try figuring that out!

What has already been discussed would probably contribute towards explaining why the ever prescient Laozi in his opening two verses in the Tao Te Ching said: “The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao” and “The name that can be named is not the eternal name”. The two verses can probably serve to forewarn students of the invariable occurrences of false claims (talks) and of name changes respectively, before the great ancient sage proceeded to teach the Way in this very first chapter and in the remaining eighty chapters. Furthermore, Lu Dongbin has had mentioned that “Tao has neither name nor shape.” Therefore who can say for sure if Tao, the Way, or the Path is the eternal name?

For someone who knows a touch of Heaven, Tao and the Book of Changes, it is simple and easy to discern between those who know these profound subjects well and those who don’t. Therefore those who know seldom talk, in case secrets of Heaven and the Way inadvertently leak. This means no tells!

And when they do discuss or write something on Heaven and Tao, readers may fail to comprehend what has been said since it could be just as subtle, obscure, and profound in line with the established order set by the ancients. This also mean no tells, but at least various hints have been given!

But how would I know?