Thoughts on the Chicago Retreat, Part 1

It’s already more than 6 months since the Chicago retreat with Master Wang Li Ping. I’m writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic, self-isolating aboard my live-aboard sailboat Santorini in Vancouver on Canada’s West Coast. The retreat was a huge event for me personally. One, I got to reconnect with Renee, one of my oldest spiritual companions and friend from University of Toronto days in the 1960’s. Yah, really. As well, I got to meet Nathan Brine, also a teacher of Wang Li Ping’s system. Despite living in the same city, it was the first time our paths crossed.

I had just completed an epic sort of cruise aboard Santorini. I spent late July, all of August and the first week of September cruising the Southern Gulf Islands between Vancouver and Vancouver Island. 40 days, alone, with only myself for company. Santorini is not small and is more than enough of a handful for one person. There is not much room for error. I anchored every night. I survived on solar power, and water carried ashore in jugs, often from hand pups at wells in provincial and national parks. I picked fruit ashore and cycled to scenic lookouts. Mostly I walked around ashore and enjoyed and photographed nature. This is the land of the big tree. Temperate rain forest, it actually dries under the canopy only in the most arid conditions. There are countless trails, kayak-in camping, many islands being accessible by private boat only.

I felt silent and within myself, the cruise and the isolation had been a distinct kind of preparation. I had not been feeling well physically for most of the cruise and when I returned to Vancouver I struggled with whether I should go to the retreat or not. I really did not feel any enthusiasm. I had returned with just enough time to get the US cash I needed to pay Master Wang’s tuition. I went on-line and ordered the cash with my local bank to be picked up Friday, the last banking day before my flight.

That Friday morning, I stood somewhat anxiously at the teller’s window half expecting some problem with this last minute mission critical event. The teller was off looking for my order when I noticed a man, a big man in a motorized wheelchair device at the next window. He was dressed in shorts, tee shirt and bare feet. He was navigating the chair with a remote he held between the toes of his right foot. This was necessitated by the fact that he had no arms. Like not even stubs, or even really shoulders. And on his wide face, the biggest grin imaginable. He obviously knew his teller, and she him. He dropped the remote into the basket on the front of the cart and passed her his bank card, picking it up effortlessly. She swiped it and handed it back. I was entranced by this surreal scene. Then, this guy, folds his knee in and up, and while scratching the side of his nose with the back card, turns and looks me straight in the eye. Expressionless.

Unmoving for endless seconds. I wondered who could this person be who is manifesting right here at this moment. Why? It was weeks later before I started thinking of this as my “Meeting with an Immortal”. It was a huge lesson to me to see my own minor inconveniences that have arisen with aging (yah, hard to admit), compared with what he must have gone through and goes through on a moment to moment basis. He looked so absolutely happy, jolly in fact and composed it was hard to believe it was real. I walked away saying to myself “Yes, that really happened, remember, that really happened.”

Often now, should I feel discomfort when something arising simply from being alive is thrust in my path, I think of him, seemingly effortlessly just scratching the side of his nose. Hmm. Real, not real? The teller arrived back with all the funds I needed. My stress level immediately dropped back to some more normal range. I was committed now to the retreat which was only a few days away.

That was the context for me as I arrived in Chicago. After reconnecting with Renee, I was not really ready when the retreat started. I discovered very quickly two things right on the first day. The material the Master was presenting was mostly brand new, at least to me, and the translation being provided was far from up to the task. Renee is quick but I was often whispering, translating Richard’s mumbled Chinglish. I thought, oh no, bad combination, new material and bad translation.

On day four, Master Wang explained that he was going to review again from the beginning. He appeared exasperated. Many students were apparently not following the guiding, but doing their own practice instead. I had overheard one student saying he had no idea what was happening in the sitting so he was just doing the Inner Smile (A Mantak Chia/Healing Tao practice of active visualization). Unfortunately. this spoke volumes.

At the same time it was becoming apparent to me that the teaching being presented was at a high level, and as a practical matter not readily accessible to any but a handful of the attendees. Just too many prerequisites. Why was he doing this? He was laying down a broad framework, within which widely differing levels of accomplishment in the practice may all benefit. The overall thrust of the methods pertained to balancing left and right. Metal and Wood. Justice and Benevolence, Liver and Lungs, Hun and Po, Pre-Heaven and Post-Heaven. Certainly, virtually any practice, or level of practice can benefit from the result of this reconciliation, this balancing, if it can actually occur. If it can then this raises the exciting possibility of accomplishing “The Joining of Sun and Moon”, which is dependent on left and right consciousness actually conjoining.

So the shift was from the “An Shen Tzu Ciao” (Gathering the Shen in the Ancestral Orifice) which culminates with the practice of “Joining Sun and Moon” to an internal balancing practice within the results of which, the conditions for the conjoining might be better met. That would be good for everyone, but I’m not sure everyone understood how, why and in what context this goal might be accomplished. You got whatever you could apply to the current state of your practice. There was no mention of the “Tzu Ciao” or of “Joining Sun and Moon”

Ok, then on I believe day 6, just as the morning session was about to start, Master Wang walked over to me, and just started talking to me in Chinese. I started explaining in English that that was probably not going to result in productive communication, Fortunately David Zhang, the organizer was sitting 10 feet away, so I was able to ask him to translate. The Master had apparently (sic) said how clear and ready I was, how there were no impediments, no blockages, a “Cleared for Takeoff” kind of checkout (as it turned out, see Part 2). I shockingly had a day or two of doubting the Master. I felt physically terrible. What could he mean, clear and ready? I had been consistently constipated (new experience for me) for much of my cruise and since. I actually felt quite low and un- or even anti-energetic. I had actually blurted out to David at the time “Then I wish I felt as well as I look“. When David translated this, Master Wang looked away, snorting in disgust, like I had complained about my condition to that jolly armless immortal in the bank. But it was the way I felt. Master Wang obviously took no notice of my ‘complaint’. There is simply no way I could have imagined what was coming.

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The Tzu Ciao, Ziran and important initial steps in Opening the Heavenly Eye

What if I said that the most important ‘point’ in your Daoist body what not actually in (or even part) of your physical body. That it was almost unknown in the general public and the little written about it (more about that in a moment) was almost if not in fact completely wrong.

But, that the existence of this point or ‘aperature’ (ciao or qiao) was actually openly discussed in certain texts and circumstances, hidden in coded languages but clearly identified as the ‘mystery of mysteries’, the key to internal alchemy and immortality.

A big statement certainly. How could anyone be sure? Only through experience of course. And to claim actual experience and knowledge of this could be taken as crass egotism, madness (or worse).

I have written elsewhere about the wonders of the Tzu Ciao( zuqiao). I recommend reading (and rereading) The 5 Ling Articles for insight. The true method is described in some detail in Master Min’s edition of The Secret of the Golden Flower.

Note that is is NOT the accupuncture point Zu Qiao Yin (GB44) on the outside of the 4th toe.

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Permission to Teach

Master Wang Li Ping’s International Winter Solstice retreat, hosted by his translator Richard Liao was held in Dalian China in 2017. The venue that year was the old Hot Spring Hotel in Anbo Town, 2 hours north-east of Dalian in the arid frozen countryside. They try to ski on the barren hills, snow-making guns going non-stop for the ‘holiday’ season. The retreat is over Christmas, Dec 20 – 29, but you do not see much Christmas in China, a few Santa Claus in very Chinese red suits. Panda like. It sort of works.

The retreat was held in a carefully blacked-out room. It’s Winter Solstice. It’s cold. There is (luke warm) hot water for about 2 hours in the morning. Morning walking practice starts in the dark. It’s minus 20 or so most mornings. So in that deep yin, the yang should stand out. It is a hot spring area. The hotel is occassionally a destination for a busload of visitors on the weekend. The yang is really there, piped in from underground.

I had not seen Master Wang since 2012. 5 years and two months since the Jin Hua Retreat. Events that transpired from that retreat had in those five years, transformed my life and my sense of who I was (am). I met Randi, many thanks to the lineage. A process was initiated that culminated for me in December 2016. That year, Richard’s retreat was held in Hilo, Hawaii. That meant the evening Shui Gong (sleeping practice) sessions, that normally start at 10:00 pm started conveniently at 3:00 pm in the afternoon in Thailand where I spend my winters.

I find that it’s often possible to join the Master for shui gong from anywhere. Several evening during the 10 days I had profound experiences, that linked together many experiences I had been having in the previous months/years, and culminated with a singular ‘Joining of Sun and Moon’. I have been a student of Taoist Scripture (in translation) for as long as I have been  Taoist (50 years). One passage among many stood out “Ingest one drop if this and you know your destiny does not depend on heaven”.If you know where to look, it is all written down, so talking about it reveals nothing new.

In the weeks following the I talked to Richard about having the next retreat at Tao Garden where I live in the winter. The plans actually got quite advanced (and expensive), and it was eventually decided to hold the event in Dalian in 2017. I also committed to going to that retreat. I realized I had arrived at the point where I felt I had a grasp of the practice that previously escaped me. I felt ready. I let Richard know I would ask Master Wang for permission to teach.

The retreat started and ended up as somewhat of a trial. A few days before, I contacted an eye infection I failed to treat before leaving. The entire ten days it got worse and worse until my left eye was red, weeping and horribly itchy. Richard got some ointment once we were back in Dalian. Even that was not much help. Only antibiotic drops cured it back in Thailand. Master Wang kept putting off any meeting. The 15 Chinese students definitely kept him busy. Richard kept trying, almost despairing at one point. Only on the second last evening did I get to meet the Master.

With Chinese students running in and out, Richard and I carried out this (to me) delicate task. I wanted to talk about my experiences with Randi and the roots of dual cultivation in the Northern Branch. With Master Wang I simply assume he knows everything so you can just get right to the point. I asked if our having received the practice meant it was something for us share, to teach? He looked at me ‘sort of strangely’. “It’s only for between a male and a female. A man cannot teach a man etc. So how would we teach? He clearly did not think it appropriate for me to teach a woman. How much can you even share.

I described how we had experimented with many “arrangements”, facing one another, side by side, etc, many (most) not actual, or barely touching. He had a few pointers! Obviously he was familiar with the experiences I was describing that are not in any written form except by very abstract allusion. Hint, the image on the back of Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu is describing it. This image is of Ancestor Lu. He learned the dual cultivation practice in Sichan from a female master according to some legends.

Richard firmly brought the conversation back to permission to teach Master Wang’s system as described in the Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu. Richard’s words came out. At least I assume he knew exactly what to say. Master Wang smiled smiled. “Yes, certainly, and you must charge money”. That was it. On the way out Richard said, “You do not have to charge money”. I could only say “If the Master says charge money. I think I have to charge money”. How prescient he was.2012-10-30 12.27.35

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Master Wang Li Ping Retreat at Bayshore Weston San Francisco CA December 20 – December 29, 2018

December 20 – December 29, 2018

Master Wang Li Ping, 18th generational transmitter of Dragon Gate Daoism will teach a 10 day retreat intensive in San Francisco CA, USA December 20 – December 29 2018.

This is a unique opportunity to study with the greatest living Master of Daoist Internal Alchemy. This year Richard Liao’s annual Winter Solstice retreat will be hosted conveniently for North and South American students at the Bayshore Weston in San Francisco, California. I encourage you to read Opening The Dragon Gate to experience the simply incredible (yet true) story of Master Wang’s upbringing and training with three aging Daoist Masters before and during the Cultural Revolution in China (and since).

For yet further insight into his teaching read Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu or (roughly translated) Spirtual Jewel Arts for the Inner Development of Mental Capacities. This edition includes a rare translation of Master Min’s ‘Secret of the Golden Flower‘ with special emphasis on practical application and ChongYang’s ‘Five Ling Articles‘, the inner alchemy transmission from Master Wang to Cui Chi Qi, the founder of Dragon Gate Daoism, and Master Wang Li Ping’s ultimate grandmaster.

As a 40 year student of Daoism and a 12 year student of Wang Li Ping I can tell you honestly there is no comparable teaching available, anywhere.

As a huge bonus this year, Master Mantak Chia is going. Join in a unique opportunity to study alongside Master Chia with the modern Taoist wizard, Wang Li Ping.

Anyone interested can get full information by emailing Richard Liao,

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Inspiration from Wang Chongyang ( Wang Zhe )

I’ve been re-reading “The Teachings and Practices of the Early Quanzhen Taoist Masters” by Steven Eskildsen, available from Google Books as an ebook. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many useful and inspiring quotes from Wang Zhe and his students.

If you are not familiar with the Quanzhen (Complete Reality) school and the immense influence it has and continues to have on the development of Daoism in China sine 1100 AD this book will be an excellent introduction. It’s not well understood that almost all of the Daoism accessible in the west descends from this school and from this one master.

His students (The Seven Realized Men of the North) started most of the major existent Daoist sects.  The most famous, Qiu Chuji, (Changchunzi) founded the Longmen (DragonGate) sect of Wang Li Ping. Wang Chongyang’s transmission to Qiu Chuji is available as ‘The Five Ling Articles‘, translated by Richard Liao in the Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu

“Ask not about the dragon and the tiger.
The single point in your mind is your enlightened master.
When your qi is under control and your spirit ( shen ) is stable,
this is what is called “the copulation.”
The mind rectified in diligence and sincerity produces a warm glow.
To constantly serve all sentient beings equally is the Great Tao.
If [your mind is kept] pure and clear without relent, you will gain true compassion.
All becomes manifest to you as the circular light reaches completion,
Guiding forth the golden elixir and fetching the jade fungi.”

“If you know the good visage, do not hold on to externals.
Your mind-spirit is your true teacher.
The problems and riddles (gong’an) posed by men of old should be investigated,
But your own school of thinking must be spread about.
Little by little you come to penetrate your past enlightened nature,
More and more you show forth your compassion of old.
When your compassion and purity are both re-established,
You will attain sudden enlightenment and absolutely nothing will bind you.”

“Resolutely yearn for the Tao and have nothing [else] that binds and enwraps you.
Isolate your body and sleep in solitude. When stillness arises within the stillness, you will attain the wonders.
When calmness arrives within the calmness, you shall definitely unite with the mysterious.
Now you can act with free abandon, and know what it is to be relaxed and content.
Passing the days in refreshing coolness is the inborn saint.
Quit wishing for divine immortality, quit speaking of it!
Let yourself sit alone on the white lotus flower.”

These men led lives of extreme asceticism. Wang Zhe dug a deep hole and lived in it for three years (a symbolic grave). He then filled the hole and built a hut (Complete Realization Hut) over the whole from which his entire lineage took it’s name (QuanZhen).
One day he burned the hut in a fit of apparent madness, cutting of yet a further ‘attachment’. There were no limits to his realization of freedom.

I’ll post further snippets as I come across them and the spirit moves me.

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Further on Reading the Taoist Classics

To the great good fortune of practicing Daoists everywhere, new translations of both available texts and previously un-translated ones are becoming available.

Most importantly Fabrizio Pregadio has added his translations of The Canton Qi, Awakening to Reality, Wang Mu’s Foundations of Internal Alchemy and Lui Yiming’s Cultivating the Tao.

Foundations of Internal Alchemy is well know in China, as is Wang Mu, the author. His clear commentary on the alchemic process from the late 1800’s may hold surprises for many practitioners, but likely not as many as Cultivating the Tao.

The common theme they address at length is the difference and relationship between the pre-celestial and post-celestial. Anyone looking for success in their nei gong practice should study these texts.

Then there is the Richard Liao’ s translation of Wang Li Ping’s Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong ShuThis collection contains a new translation of a seldom translated ( Min ) version of The Secret of the Golden Flower as well as the 5 Ling Articles. This last chapter of Richard’s translation is a gem. Here, Richard’s imaginative phrasing in translating ‘impossible’ Daoist language really works. This work is the nei gong transmission Qiu Chuji, the founder of the Longmen Pai received from his master Wang Chongyang. Not something that can be approached with the mind intellectually (at all!). The author describes a process beyond purpose. With repeated reading, the aspirant may hope to find descriptions matching their own experiences in practice. This is both extraordinary affirmation and an unmatched guidepost to progress.

As far as I know this is the only English translation of this extremely useful text.

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Jin Hua Retreat, October 21 – 31 2012 — Dreaming about the ‘Immortal Realm’

On the third morning of the retreat I had a ‘vision’. This would be similar to what is referred to in the west as a vivid dreaming state. You are in a dream-like state but you are awake. You are aware that what you are experiencing is an extraordinary state.

While lying on my bed, after walking practice a light red cylindrical ‘cloud’ appeared far overhead, seeming initially to really to be as ‘far away as heaven’. Shortly a thread started to descend from the near end of this ‘cloudlike celestial object’, which I noticed was already much closer. The thread dropped lower and lower, and came over very close. Closer and closer, very quickly, and it brushed against my bare arm.

I was surprised; more, almost shaken but still found myself reaching out to touch this tempting ‘thread from heaven’. It was almost alive, pinpoint accurate in it’s mission. There was a sense of reality to it that seemed to transcend the dream state. Above it connected to some realm, objective to this one, higher, somehow containing the one I was in. (like that of the fisherman compared with that of the fish!)

Once I touched it, In a flash the cloud and thread were gone, replaced by a Chinese immortal, complete with topknot and long beard, steering a boat around in the space immediately in front of me. He quickly passed very close a few times, looking at me carefully, his dog beside him, in the stern of the boat right where I would sit (if say, I just happened to be in a boat with an immortal, just say…, myself being a Dog in Chinese astrology and all that). The dog stared right at me the entire time. Even as the Immortal Helsman made quick turns as he guided the craft around at eye level, the dog never lost sight of me. The boat was not big, just a dingy really. He steered deftly, obviously no amateur in a boat ( I really hate that, being literally raised in a boat and extremely handy on the tiller. Many can attest to this I assure you).

When I awoke, I immediately knew this was not an ordinary dream. The sense of the cloud and it’s thread were still with me. I could easily bring the vivifyingness of the chi of the thread right into my practice, and blend it with the qi I was working with, the jing chi in particular but also the chi of pore breathing, bone chi, the chi of nostril breathing and the qi that manifests as the ‘Brightness in the Empty Room’. To accomplish this it is only necessary to activate ‘the part of the shen that was awake in the dream’ and the chi from the thread activates in the practice. This aspect of the experience Master Wang later described as ‘special tricks learned in sitting practice’. I was encouraged by this as I was far from certain interacting with this chi was be considered favorible practice. ‘Do not let the thread break’ was his strongest piece of advice. I have been working with this since the experience.

I got to the dining hall and sat with Ian Johnson, fellow Canadian and Bejing resident. Ian was in a rush to get to the Chongyang ceremony at the Immortal Wang temple. He explained it was the Double Nine day, The 9th day of the 9th Chinese lunar month is the day of maximum yang, 9 being the numeric of maximum yang in the I Ching. It’s the optimium day to ascend (if you happen to already be a realized practitioner that has satisfied all the prerequisites !). On Ian’s advice quickly I gathered my things and headed to the temple with my friends.

The door was already closed when we arrived, but a few words from Kathy and we were let in. Right inside the door was Master Wang. He quickly grabbed me under one arm (Kathy stood there grinning silently) and guided me right into the middle of the ceremonial space and deposited me in from of a large sloping cushion (like I knew what I was supposed to do!). For reasons only Master Wang knows, he had me standing in his place. (what did I know). “Just do whatever the guy in the fancy robe does” Kathy whispered in my ear.

Start of Chongyang Ceremony, Immortal Wang Temple, Jin Hua Shan China, Oct 2012

Start of Chongyang Ceremony, Immortal Wang Temple, Jin Hua Shan China, Oct 2012

Up and down, bowing to “Immortal Wang”, kneeling on that hard cushion, cymbals clashing, bells ringing, drums, the organ, an and on for 1 hour and 40 minutes, ending spectacularily as I held a burning yellow paper box like it was some scared object. The priestess made sure it did not topple (my hands were shaking a bit after several long minutes), deftly balancing it with two long sticks of incense. At one point it seemed to reach critical mass and explode, showering paper ashes all over the floor as the heated air inside blew off the flaming stack of burning paper she had placed on the top. Quite a show.

The Priestess places the offering on the box and ignites it!

The Priestess places the offering on the box and ignites it!

Back in my hotel room, I immediately sketched the two part vision, the Cloud and Thread and the Immortal with Dog in the Boat. I added a few short descriptive lines which Kathy then translated in Chinese for Master Wang’s interpretation. He immediately asked for ‘more details’. I added what I could and returned the sketch.

It was a week later at the International Students private session with Master Wang that I heard his interpretation. I’m very glad I taped that session and BK’s daughter’s translation.

International Student session with Master Wang Liping, Jin Hua Shan, Oct 2012

International Student session with Master Wang Liping, Jin Hua Shan, Oct 2012

Our excellent translators, BK Wee and his daughter of Singapore

The vision indicated ‘smooth sailing’ since the boat was moving easily and not say ‘stuck in the mud’. I was thankful for that. He said this was a sign of progress in  practice,  some contact with another realm and in contacting (touching) it, I was able to see something in this realm. His advice. ‘Hold your breath’ to make the vision last longer, and get as many details as possible. Color, shape, movement, inscriptions, every detail possible. The more detail provided, the more interpretation is possible. He also said 6 or 7 other students reported having similar visions at that same time.

Later on the Double 9 day, Master Wang lectured on choosing the optimum location for ascension. Your birthplace is often the best, many immortal return to their home town to ascend. Also high mountains are good, since they are ‘closer to heaven’.


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Nei Gong Retreat at Immortal Wang Temple in Jin Hua, China

gathering of master Wang LiPing's students at Jin Hua, October 2012

gathering of master Wang LiPing’s students at Jin Hua, October 2012

Master Wang Li Ping sponsored a retreat at the Jin Hua temple from Oct. 20 – 30, 2012. For anyone looking for a deep Chinese experience of Nei Gong and Taoist cultivation at an affordable price this is a remarkable opportunity. This year marked the founding of the Lao Zi Academy of China with Master Wang as the principle. With over 400 in attendance Master Wangs popularity among mainstream Chinese is every evident.

Daoist Nei Gong Retreat, JIn Hua, China, October 2012

Morning walking practice, twice dialy lectures and sitting practice as well as evening classes and an experience of Shui Gong (Daoist Dream Practice) filled evrey day to the fullest. Delicious and plentiful (mostly vegeterian) food for both the Taoist Association guests, and attendees living in the new Alchemy aHouse at the temple nourished everyone.

Alchemy House. New Accommodation building at the Immortal Wanh Temple on Jin Hua Shan, China

Alchemy House. New Accommodation building at the Immortal Wanh Temple on Jin Hua Shan, China

Master Wang’s senior students did all the guiding of sitted meditation, inspiring the writer with the variety and flexibility of their approaches to the cooking processes. A perfect introduction to Daoist Nei Gong for any aspirant.

Kathy Li, Master Wang’s USA desciple kindly purchased and provided tour guide type radio transmitter and receiving equipment to make English translation simply and invisibly available to non Manadarin speakers. A variety of translators including Ian Johnson, a Canadian living in Beigin, BK Wee from Singapore (and his delightful daughter) as well as Kathy herself filled the translator’s role. In all 4 Westerners ( 3 Russians and myself benefiitted from this essential service. Thank you Kathy, Ian and the Wees.

The sacred mountain environment, the precious temple energy, the food and of course the presence of Master Wang added up to a fantastic experience.

Master Wang stood in the rain with us as we waited for the bus to drive down the mountain on the final day.


Main Building at Immortal Wang Temple on Jin Hua Shan, China.

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On Time and the importance of Timing for Self Cultivation and Nei Gong or Internal Alchemy

Chapter 5 of the Chung-Lu ch’uan-tao chi is devoted to Time and timing in Cultivation. This chapter follows up on the previous two, Chapter 3 covering Heaven and Earth and Chapter 4 the Sun and Moon. These preceding chapters emphasize the cyclical nature of cosmic phenomenon, and set the stage for the detailed discussion in Chapter 5.

Lu starts with a question about the interaction of the Sun and Moon and Chung responds with a broad answer about the Four Periods of Time. The Day, Month and Year are the obvious observable cycles, while the Time of the Body (personal lifetime) is the primary cycle of the individual. Each has it’s place and importance. The Yearly, Monthly and Daily cycles need little explanation. The life cycle of the human is broken down into four 30 year periods of growth, maturation, aging and decay leaving 120 years for personal cultivation.

The main focus is ON the issue of not wasting the precious time in the body, ‘difficult to hold on to, easiest to loose’. Years and Months ‘Come slowly but pass quickly’. The Days and Hours are ‘swift as lightning and short-lived as the spart of fire from flint”.

So, Lu asks, “Why is the period of time in the body the most precious and the period of time in the day the most valuable?”

The obvious answer is ‘Start when you are young when it’s easy to achieve yourself” but almost no one follows that advice and comes to the Tao only when they have a real problem or see death approaching when it’s almost always too late. Do not be like one who ‘sleeps in wet clothes in a draughty room’. like those who choose to be ill.

The real answer is a little deeper and on a first reading is likely missed.  He says “The birth of the spirit and the soul parallels the course of the sun and the moon. Their essences ebb and flow and they copulate once a month“. Then the crux of the conversation, “The moment of convergence occurs once every day and night. If you do not know the time of convergence, if you are unfamiliar with the method of gathering, if you do not know how  to replenish what is lost, if you do not gather it when it is plentiful, failing to cultivate yang during the height of yin, and refine yin during the height of yang, and failing to practice every day, each day one day of your life is lost”

So, how does one know the ‘Moment of Convergence’, what are the ‘methods of gathering’, how does one ‘refine yin at the height of yang’ and ‘cultivate yang at the height of yin’ ?

 This is the importance of timing in self cultivation. The classics speak often of ‘The Living Hour‘, superficially understood to be the hour of ‘Tzu‘, between 11:00 pm and 1:00 am, when the yang returns, represented by Hexagram 24, Return (Earth over Thunder). The real secret of the ‘living hour’ is much more subtle. The day is divided into twelve 2 hour periods, and the hour of Tzu is the first of these 12. The actual start of Tzu is experienced in solar time, not clock time, so you need to know the time of meridian passage for your location (longitude and latitude). On there is a simple widget you can use to calculate this for you. You enter your location (country, city and zipcode if available), the app uses Google geo-coding the calculate your Lat and Lng and hence the time of local noon for your location. With this you now know the actual clock time of the start of each double (or ‘big’) hour. Armed with this you can start to practice ‘the living hour’.

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Thoughts and Reflections on the Daoist Classics

Partly as an experiment in WordPress and also as a way to consolidate my ongoing work with the classics of Daoism (also spelled Taoism), I decided to utilize this domain I have held in reserve for a number of years for what I hope will be a useful purpose.

Why read the Classics ?

  • Inspiration
  • Clarifying and settling the mind
  • Understanding experiences from meditation

What makes a classic text, a Classic ?

  • Depends on the lineage and school or sect.
  • also depends on the reader and what they want to achieve.
  • Generally from antiquity or from the patriarch of the sect or lineage, ie revered

The texts I’m considering Classics
I’m interested in the Northern Branch of the Complete Reality school so I’m considering primarily classics from this lineage.  The most popular of these are widely translated and generally well know in the West, although their usefulness in self-cultivation may be less well understood

  • Chung-Lu ch’uan tao chi  –  ‘The Teachings of the Immortals Chung and Lu
  • Chin Tan Ssu Pai Tzu Chieh  –  ‘Four Hundred Words on the Gold Elixir’
  • Wu chen p’ien  –  ‘Understanding Reality’
  • T’ai i chin hua tsung chih  –  ‘The Secret of the Golden Flower’
  • Hui-Ming Ching  –  ‘Cultivating the Energy of Life’
  • The Hundred Character Tablet  
  • The Classic on the Yin Convergence
  • Hsin Ming Fa Chueh Ming Chih  –  The Secrets of Cultivating essential nature and Eternal Life –  This is a ‘modern’ classic from 1860 and should be considered in a somewhat different category, but a classic none the less.

There are numerous translations of these text in English and most Western languages. I have editions by Thomas Cleary, Eva Wong, Wang Mu, Wang Liping, David Verdesi, Lu K’uan Yu, Richard Wilhelm and others. Reading a wide variety of interpretations is useful and important in my view. With the exception of Wilhelm, who takes a clearly psychological view, I have found all the above translators or interpreters work useful and informed.

Cleary is a Buddhist and his skilled and readable translations make that obvious. He doees however need to be read in that context.

Eva Wong is a classically trained religious Daoist with the ability to interpret that comes only from long experience in the tradition.

Both Wang Mu and Wang Liping are initiates in the Longmen pai (Dragon Gate Sect). WLP is the current lineage holder. His biography is published as ‘The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard’. His version of the Chung Lu Tao Chuan Chi is available in his ‘Ling Bao Tong Zhi Neng Nei Gong Shu’ translated into English by Richard Liao. This text contains the only teaching I know of that follow up as promised in Chung and Lu’s classic with the ‘Ling Bao Bi Fa’.

Wang Mu’s commentaries are translated by Fabrizio Pregadio.

Lu K’uan Yu’s work is a translation of Chao Pi Ch’en’s classic.

I’m going to post my reflections on my ongoing work with these texts as the moment arises. I’m starting again with the Classic of Chung and  Lu. Ancestor Lu (the ‘student’ in the course of the text) is one of the Eight Immortals and perhaps best known for his closeness to humanity and renowned ‘availability’. I’m working actively with that in mind.


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