Monday, December 16, 2013

Of students and masters (14)

Over at the Taobums, of which I am no longer a member for about a year now, there are some interesting ongoing discussions on neidan (inner alchemy) and its related meditation.

A proponent - who claims to be a master of a new ‘Daoist’ sect – advocates sitting meditation (Dazou) which leads to enlightenment while his opponent – who claims to be a student of a Wuliupai teacher in China – suggests that according to his teacher the particular meditation would dissipate yang jing (essence) and lead to death.

The proponent provided various quotations from Wang Chongyang (the founder) and some of his seven students of Quanzhen to support his contention that sitting meditation is vital to achieving immortality while the Wuliupai student quoted his teacher’s indications and challenged the real achievements of those who only sit in meditation (Dazou). (Wu-Liu-pai was co-founded by a Quanzhen disciple, Wu Chungxu and a Chan Buddhist, Liu Huayang.)

To add to the confusion, they also mentioned the opposing priority given in the cultivation of human nature (Xing) and fate (Ming) between the so-called Northern and Southern schools of Quanzhen. One school apparently cultivates Xing first while the other school starts with Ming cultivation. Of course they have also read about such priorities from translated texts – whether such priorities actually exist will by and large depend on the integrity of the respective translators and their experiential knowledge of neidan, if any.

As more and more of these translations of texts appear in the bookstores or online in years to come – since Quanzhen has taken in more students from the West over the past decade or so - the unscrupulous would venture to claim that they have learned neidan (inner alchemy) from Quanzhen and thereafter start to teach an academic version of it, if any, to unsuspecting students. If readers want to see a good example of this, read the latest threads under the Daoist discussion section between the proponent and his opponent to discern the fake.

To be fair, meditation is an integral part of neidan. But just any sitting meditation (Dazou) does not lead to enlightenment. Neither would a sitting meditation lead to death. Of course those including masters practising the incorrect type of meditation would not be able to prolong life (Ming) and therefore will die younger than many of their peers and students expect. For fate (Ming) is not that easy to change.

Little do outsiders know that neidan practice is a closely guarded secret in Quanzhen? Therefore its texts do not reveal the entire neidan process. This would accord with ancient established order. While Quanzhen has more than their fair share of Daoist celestial immortals compared to the other mainstream Daoist sects, many of their disciples down its history have also failed to attain immortality. (This upholds the closely guarded secret comment.)

Therefore anyone not from that particular school should not make false claims that they know and are able to teach the neidan practice of Quanzhen. Probably a fair warning is given to the fake and other unscrupulous persons, if they happened to read this article, in case they do not realize that Quanzhen celestial immortals could make it a point to punish and teach them a lesson. And culprits will have no place all under heaven to hide!

Among the ignorant in Taobums, some ‘Chan Buddhists’ do not even know that ‘turning the light around’ is more or less a New Age invention and so is the term, ‘sudden enlightenment’. They tend to think that ‘turning the light around’ is ancient neidan practice which is far from the truth.

Did they not read of the indication by Quanzhen Patriarch Lu Dongbin that the Chan Buddhists’ contemplation does not give rise to the witnessing of eternal signposts of Tao? (It is quite obvious they did not, since they favor the Secret of the Golden Flower translation by Thomas Cleary over that of Richard Wilhelm’s.) Did they not know that there are some eternal signposts of Tao indicated by the Buddha in the Shurangama Sutra? Did they not realize that the Taobums so-claimed expert of ‘turning the light around’ and who has had experienced ‘sudden enlightenment’ has never ever witnessed any eternal signposts of Tao – which upholds the indication by Lu Dongbin in his Secret of the Golden Flower.

So whether or not, these ‘Chan Buddhists’ are following the ancient neidan practice of the Holy Sages, Laozi and the Buddha; or some New Age inventions (which some learned Daoists consider deviant practices or bypaths for want of a better word) is for readers to determine.

When we are serious in purpose, we do not fool around with things profound. Knowing how to translate Quanzhen texts does not make one a neidan expert. The dual cultivation of human nature (Xing) and fate (Ming) is a lengthy and thorough process. And only those who have witnessed the confirmation signs of the Circulation of the Light – major eternal signposts of Tao – show good aptitude according to Lu Dongbin.

Therefore do not make out as if you are an expert or an authority on the profound subject when it is clear to those knowledgeable that you know next to nothing about neidan.

Soon it would be Christmas therefore any Chan Buddhist reading this article should exercise some restraint and not start shooting. You could shoot your foot by accident! At the very least wait for the forthcoming article titled, “Circulation of the Light and Hui Ming Ching”. If after reading it, you still insist that “turning the light around” is what the Buddha taught and what Lu Dongbin has had indicated in the Secret of the Golden Flower, by all means, stand and deliver. Your patience could turn out to be a face saver.