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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