What is Neidan? Neidan (Inner Alchemy) is a generic term commonly used in the West to differentiate it from that of Waidan (Outer Alchemy).
Waidan was practised over the span of a few centuries in China by the ignorant and the foolish who misunderstood the metaphors - especially of the furnace, of the cauldron, of the medicine and the cooking of it - written in earlier Daoist texts by realized persons (Zhen Ren). They literally fired up the furnace, cooked and melted various physical metals in the cauldron to make the so-called elixir of life (Dan). Quite a number of those including royalty who took in this physically manmade elixir, slowly got poisoned over a span of time and paid with their lives for their ignorance.
The metaphors used by realized persons in earlier Daoist texts had in fact pointed to the alchemical experiences of those who have correctly practised Neidan. The furnace (Kun / Earth) and the cauldron (Qian / Heaven) and the cooking of the medicine (Kan / Water and Li / Fire) are depicted in the scanned picture accompanying the articles on “The Circulation of the Light and the Book of Changes”.
Whether you know it, accept it or not, neidan is an integral part of the dual cultivation of human nature (Ren Xing) and fate (Ming).
If neidan meditation based on the ancient Circulation of the Light is practised correctly, essence (Jing) within the body would gradually transform into breath energy (Qi). With continual practice, the Qi (and the Light) would gradually transform into Spirit (Shen).
At a later stage, those with latent talents from Heaven would witness the development of the germinal vesicle. (Liu HuaYang has described the germinal vesicle in his Hui Ming Ching as translated by W/B.) If the germinal vesicle remains undeveloped, there will be no genuine fire to fire the furnace and the medicine cannot be cooked in the cauldron – Zhong LiQuan and Zhang Boduan have had emphasized to posterity its importance in their respective texts. They have had also indicated therein the exact location of the germinal vesicle based on the Book of Changes.
Top scholars of Tao including those who have spent decades in correct neidan practice may fail or get stuck at this stage and later drop out. They could have trivialized prior important instructions given a decade or two ago by their real teacher(s) to further their studies and now remain stuck. At this advance level of neidan they probably have to penetrate (Tong) the designated books and designated ancient classic to obtain the spiritual clarity and the lucidity of a sage before they can unlock the latent talents from Heaven to witness the major eternal signposts of the Way. After all, it is not that easy to join the ranks of the likes of the wise and legendary Zhang SanFeng, and Liu HuaYang at stage two of three of the Zah Yung Ching. (Refer to previous articles which discussed this stage two of the Zah Yung Ching.)
With the continual mixing of the Qi (breath energy) and the Spirit (Shen), and the cooking of the medicine, a golden elixir of life (Jin Dan) would be produced. Upon the intake of the golden elixir, a spiritual embryo would be born. And upon this happening, there will be a non being (Wu) within being (You). Wu Wei will be reached. The exact lodging of the non being would also be witnessed. (Refer to the Secret of the Golden Flower and the Tao Te Ching.)
According to the two referred texts below, the spiritual embryo needs to be constantly nurtured so that it would eventually emerge from the top of the head into empty space (Xu). Once the embryo emerges into empty space, enlightenment is attained with rays of light shining forth. The spiritual embryo would take on the image of the immortal or of a Buddha. (Refer to the Secret of the Golden Flower and the Hui Ming Ching as translated by W/B)
The spiritual embryo has to be further nurtured so that it can return to Tao thus becoming a celestial immortal or a Buddha. Upon this eventuality happening, beings (You) will be generated by the non being (Wu). (Refer to the Hui Ming Ching.)
The penetration (Tong) of the Tao Te Ching could be something like this. The foregoing three paragraphs explain why Laozi said in Tao Te Ching Chapter 40:
“Return (reversal) is the movement to Tao
Yielding is the usefulness to Tao
Myriad things under Heaven are born from being
Being(s) born from non being.”
And that the third paragraph explains why he said in Tao Te Ching Chapter 16, “Tao last forever, without body, (there is) no death”.
There you go, in summary, these are the five alchemical transformations of neidan of Jing - Qi – Shen – Xu – Tao. Essence (Jing) is transformed to breath energy (Qi) and breath energy and the Light are transformed to Spirit (Shen). The spiritual embryo is nurtured and emerges to empty space (Xu) before it returns to the Way (Tao).
It all starts with the dual cultivation of human nature (Ren Xing) and fate (Ming); you could do well to remember that.
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