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 Energy-Master.com 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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