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I Ching
The Tao
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I Ching Paqua
Writings on Tao by
Master Chang San Feng



Master Chan San Fang
  1. Introduction
  2. Commentary on Ancestor Lu Tzu’s
    Hundred-Character Inscription on Meditation
  3. Discourses on the Teachings of Wang Che
  4. Words on the Way
  5. Loving People
  6. On Medicine
  7. On Human Characters
Other Articles:
The Application and Practice of T'ai Chi Movement
Master Ni Hua Ching

Chang San Feng TAI CHI CHUAN



 
Introduction


Master Chang San-Feng is one of the great figures of later Taoist history and legend, believed to be master of all the arts and arcana of the Way. He is particularly famous as the alleged originator of the popular exercise system known as T’ai Chi Ch’uan (taijiquan). Like Ancestor Lu, Master Chang San-Feng is also believed to have attained immortality in more than a purely spiritual sense, and to have reappeared in the world after his supposed physical death. The works attributed to him, again like those of Ancestor Lu, are also evidently mixed with later additions and in some cases may be viewed as generic products of a school rather than works of an individual author.
It is very difficult to assign exact dates to Master Chang San-Feng’s life. One account says he lived from about 1391 to 1459, but he is also said to have lived during the Yuan dynasty (1278-1368); some even claim he was born in the Sung dynasty (960-1278) and others have claimed that he lived to be over 140 years old. A Taoist master said to be Chang San-feng is known to have been summoned to court by an emperor of the Ming dynasty in the fifteenth century, and some Western scholars regard the record of this event in the dynastic history to be the only hard data on him. No one really knows, however, who Chang San-Feng was, or even how many Chang San-Fengs there were. All that is certain is that there is a considerable body of writings attributed to him, containing a wealth of interesting and practical material.
Several of Master Chang’s works are presented below. The first selection is a commentary on Ancestor Lu’s seminal work, The Hundred-Character Tablet. This piece shows a strong trace of the psychophysical yoga practice associated with the Southern school of Complete Reality. The next selection is a set of essays on the teachings of Wang Che, founder of the Northern school, presenting an excellent summary of the principles and practices of that tradition of meditation. This is followed by Words on the Way, a collection of extracts from Chang’s own talks on meditation, which combine approaches characteristic of both Southern and Northern schools. The last three selections from Chang’s works are his fascinating essays on moral and psychological understanding: “Loving People,” “On Medicine,” and “On Human Characters.”



 

Commentary on Ancestor Lu Tzu’s
Hundred-Character Inscription on Meditation



The Hundred-Character Inscription

Nurturing energy, forget words and guard it.
Conquer the mind, do non-doing.
In activity and quietude, know the source progenitor.
There is no thing; whom else do you seek?
Real constancy should respond to people;
In responding to people, it is essential not to get confused.
When you don’t get confused, your nature is naturally stable;
When your nature is stable, energy naturally returns.
When energy returns, Elixir spontaneously crystallizes.
In the pot pairing water and fire.
Yin and yang arise, alternating over and over again,
Everywhere producing the sound of thunder.
White clouds assemble on the summit,
Sweet dew bathes the polar mountain.
Having drunk the wine of longevity,
You wander free; who can know you?
You sit and listen to the stringless tune,
You clearly understand the mechanism of creation.
The whole of these twenty verses
is a ladder straight to heaven.



Commentary


Nurturing energy, forget words and guard it
Practitioners should first nurture energy. The method of nurturing energy is in forgetting words and keeping unified. Forget words, and energy is not dispersed; keep unified, and the spirit does not go away. The secret is to quietly hold the spirit steady.


Conquer the mind, do non-doing
Ordinarily people's minds move and shift ceaselessly. If practitioners want to quiet down their minds, it is important to control their eyes. The eyes are the door of the mind, and should be nearly closed. Use the mind on all things like a sword. Think of worldly things as of no benefit to you; then both craving and irritation will disappear, without any attempt to get rid of clinging.
The secret is to look through the eyes at the nose, look through the nose at the navel, align above and below, keep mind and breath on each other; now keep your attention on the Mysterious Pass, and you can overcome thought.


In activity and quietude, know the source progenitor
Activity and quietude are yin and yang; the Source Progenitor is the place where the body is born. Practitioners should know that prior to Birth is the Mysterious Female.
This is the place where the upper and lower parts of the body, the celestial and earthly parts of the being, and all the psychological elements of human nature are all gathered together. This is made of the point of spiritual light that is prior to the separation of Heaven and Earth, and is what is called the Absolute, or the Great Ultimate.
This is the vague area below the heart and above the genitals where thoughts ceaselessly arise. This is the Source Progenitor, or Progenitor of the Clan.
In this context, activity and quietude mean tuning and harmonizing of the true breath, or true energy, and securely aligning the truly fundamental in its proper position in your life.
It is said that when you breathe out you contact the Root of Heaven and experience a sense of openness, and when you breathe in you contact the Root of Earth and experience a sense of solidity. Breathing out is associated with the fluidity of the dragon, breathing in is associated with the strength of the tiger.
As you go on breathing in this frame of mind, with these associations, alternating between movement and stillness, it is important that the focus of your mind does not shift.
Let the true breath come and go, a subtle continuum on the brink of existence. Tune the breathing until you get breath without breathing; become one with it, and then the spirit can be solidified and the elixir can be made.


There is no thing; whom else do you seek?
If you can nurture energy, forget words, and conquer body and mind, spirit returns to the lair of energy; the attention focuses on the Center of the Compass, merged with unified energy, like a hen sitting on her eggs, like a dragon nurturing a pearl.
Keep your mind on this all the time, without a moment's distraction, and after a long time, when the work becomes deep, there naturally appears a tiny pearl that shines like the sun, silently turning into the light of awareness of the original spirit, beyond conceptual measurement.


Real constancy should respond to people; in responding to people, it is essential not to get confused
This Tao is the Way of real constancy and true eternity. It is easy to get confused by things when dealing with situations, so when you come in contact with people, it will not do to get confused by what happens.
If you do not respond to people, then you are empty and silent, an open absence; when they come to you, you ought to respond, then let the thing pass when it’s past. Be clear, upright, and magnanimous, and you won’t be confused. Your true nature will then be clear and serene, while your original spirit will solidify and crystallize.
The secret is to pay attention everywhere you mistake nondoing and fall into vacuity.


When you don't get confused, your nature is naturally stable; when your nature is stable, energy naturally returns
Ordinary people's natures are fiery, emotional, exaggerated one way or another, inconstant. Any sort of stimulus will activate random mental images in them, so it is hard to quiet their natures.
It is necessary to be truly careful of anger and be truly sparing with desire. Physical calm is called refining vitality; refine your vitality, and “the tiger hisses,” the original spirit solidifies. Mental calm is called refining energy; refine your energy, and “the dragon sings,” the original energy remains safeguarded. Steadiness of attention is called refining spirit; refine your spirit, and the two energies combine, the three originals merge, and the original energy spontaneously returns.
The three originals are original vitality, energy, and spirit. The two energies are yin and yang. When you deal with people without confusion, then the original spirit naturally returns, and the fundamental nature is there of itself.
When our fundamental nature as conscious beings is present, then the primal energy in the body naturally returns. Then it is not hard to “return to life, go back to the root.”
The secret is to turn the attention around to illumine the source of consciousness, the whole unified mind remaining within, inward thoughts not coming out, outward thoughts not coming in.


When energy returns, elixir spontaneously crystallizes in the pot pairing water and fire
When practitioners are not confused by objects and events, then energy naturally returns. Thereby they see the two energies rising and descending in the center of their bodies, yin and yang pairing in the Alchemical Crucible. Suddenly they feel a thread of hot energy in their genitals, rising up into the heart. Sense comes back to the essence of consciousness, like husband and wife joining in blissful rapture.
The two energies interact to form the substance of the elixir; water and fire mix in the lair of energy. The cycle goes on and on, so that the spirit drives the energy and the energy maintains the body. Then one does not need a variety of exercises or arts to live long naturally.
The secret is that the three treasures — ears, eyes, and mouth — be closed off and not allowed to exercise their powers. “Real People dive deep into the abyss, and travel floating, keeping within the Compass.” Do this until the energy in the elixir field is full, and this forms the Medicinal Spoon, the linkage between the macrocosm and microcosm.


Yin and yang arise, alternating over and over again, everywhere producing the sound of thunder
When the work gets to this point, the spirit does not run outside, the energy does not leak out. The spirit returns to the lair of energy, water and fire have already mixed; increase the intensity of your effort, to “reach the ultimate of emptiness, and keep careful tranquillity.” Then the body is peaceful in the Middle of Unfathomable Darkness, the mind is clear in the Homeland of Nothing Whatsoever.
Then the true breath spontaneously stills, all the body's nerve channels spontaneously stop. Sun and moon halt, the stars do not revolve in the sky.
At the Extreme Limit, stillness gives rise to movement. Suddenly there is a point of spiritual light the size of a grain of rice. This is the indication of the production of the medicine.
A blazing light passes through the kidneys like boiling water; the bladder is like fire burning; in the belly there are sounds like a roaring gale and pealing thunder. This is represented by the I Ching sign “Return,” and is when the Root of Heaven appears.
When the Root of Heaven appears, it stabilizes mastery of mind; help this with the spirit, and the energy is like fire applied to metal, passing up through the coccyx. Lightly convey the energy, silently raise it, a ball of gentle energy, like the reverberation of thunder, bringing it up to the center of the brain, whence it spurts out all over the body. This is represented by the I Ching sign “Meeting.”
From the Moon Cave, which is the cessation of intense effort when the energy has filled the brain to the forehead and center of the brows, there leaks light from the origin of being.
Then at the Extreme Limit, movement gives rise to yin, which has transformed into a psychic water, like a sweet dew. Inside one there is the pearl of spiritual awareness, which has settled in the Yellow Courtyard in the center of the self, transmuting mercurial consciousness so that it becomes stable, characteristic of the sage.
Go through the developmental process of the whole cycle once, purifying and refining consciousness, and the elixir will naturally crystallize.


White clouds assemble on the summit, sweet dew bathes the Polar Mountain
When you get to this stage, the medicine has been obtained. The two energies interlock to form the medicinal spoon, which is the unification of higher and lower wills, and the nerve centers and synapses of the body and brain open up. Fire descends, water rises, and unified energy circulates all over: from within the Extreme Limit (tai-chi) it stirs the Root of Heaven, passes the Dark Valley Pass, rises up through the vertebrae until it reaches the Pass of the Valley of Heaven. In the Moon Cave, yin is born, fragrant, sweet, delicious; it goes down the Multistoried Tower without stopping. This is called sweet dew bathing the Polar Mountain.
The secret is when the mouth is filled with saliva after a period of stillness followed by rising and circulating of energy. Visualize the saliva as sweet dew, or ambrosia, what the Buddhists call the elixir of immortality, and as you swallow it, mentally send it down into the Alchemical Cauldron, where it solidifies the original energy and thus nurtures it.


Having drank the wine of longevity, you wander free; who can know you?
When development of energy reaches this degree, the bone joints are already open, and the spiritual “water” ceaselessly circulates up and down, flowing all around, coming and going without stopping; taking it in time and again, it is called the wine of longevity.
The secret is that the flowing pearl, the essence of consciousness, bathes and nurtures the spiritual nature; people who practice this know unknowing.


You sit and listen to the stringless tune, you clearly understand the mechanism of creation
When your work reaches here, you hear the sound of the music of the immortals, and there are also the tones of bells and drums. The five energies assemble at the source, the three flowers gather on the peak; that means the true sense of real knowledge of the true essence of consciousness is present in the will, and the vitality, energy, and spirit have been refined and united. It is a state like when a raven comes to roost in the evening. The mind field is open and clear, knowledge and wisdom spontaneously grow, and one clearly under-stands the writings of the three teachings, tacitly realizes one's roots in former lives, foreknows what bodes good and ill for the future; the whole world is as though in one's palm. You see for myriad miles and have the subtle psychic faculties available to complete human beings. This is real being.




 

Discourses on the Teachings of Wang Che


On Sitting
Wang Che, the real human like multiplied sunlight, said that since your body becomes fatigued when you sit for a long time, it is unreasonable to do this, and it can even cause illness. As long as the mind does not stick to things you can be imperturbable. This is the correct foundation of true stability.
Using this for stabilization, the mind and energy are harmonized, becoming lighter and clearer the longer this is practiced. Using this as a test, you can tell right from wrong.
If you can extinguish each arousal of mind, you will annihilate conscious cognition and enter into the steadiness of forgetting. If you let the mind get aroused and do not collect or control it, then you are no different from an ordinary person. If you only cut off the sense of good and bad, and your mind is aimless, floating and roaming around arbitrarily, depending on self-stabilization, you are just fooling yourself in vain. If you engage in all sorts of activities and claim your mind is not influenced by them, this is very good talk but quite wrong in practice. True learners are especially wary of this.
Now if you put a stop to delusions but do not extinguish awareness, keep calm but do not stick to voidness, practicing this with consistency, you will spontaneously attain true vision. In case you have doubts about something, go ahead and think it over, so that the matter can be settled and what is in doubt can be understood. This too is a correct basis for producing wisdom. Once you have understood, then stop thinking — if you go on thinking, you will harm essence by intellect, damaging the basis because of the offshoot. Though intellect may bring you distinction for a time, ultimately it will cause defect in the work of eternity.
All toilsome, rambling, and random thoughts are to be dismissed as soon as you become aware of them. If you hear slander or praise, or anything good or bad, brush it all off right away; don’t take it into your mind. If you take it in, your mind will be full, and there will be no room for the Tao. Whatever you see and hear, see and hear it as if you did not see or hear. Then right and wrong, good and bad will not enter your mind. When the mind does not take in externals, this is called emptying the mind. When the mind does not pursue externals, this is called pacifying the mind. When the mind is peaceful and empty, the Tao comes of itself to dwell therein.


Emptying The Mind
A classic says if people can empty the mind and remain empty, without desiring the Tao, the Tao comes of itself. Once the inner mind does not dwell fixedly on anything, outward action too is uncontrived. This is neither pure nor defiled, so there is nowhere for praise and censure to arise. It is neither knowledge nor ignorance, so gain and loss have no way to cause disturbance.
In truth, one accords with the mean as the constant; provisionally, one adapts to the time. At least one avoids entanglements; this is its wisdom. If you exercise thought and act insistently at an inappropriate time, on an inappropriate matter, and claim you are unattached, this is not real study. Why? The mind is like an eye if even a tiny hair gets in an eye, the eye is uncomfortable. Similarly, if even a small matter concerns the mind, the mind will be disturbed. Once afflicted by disturbance, it is hard to concentrate.
What is essential to practice the Tao is to get rid of afflictions. If afflictions are not removed, it is impossible to attain stability. This is like the case of a fertile field, which cannot produce good crops as long as the weeds are not cleared away. Cravings and ruminations are the weeds of the mind; if you do not clear them away, concentration and wisdom do not develop.
The mind is used to resting on objects and not used to independence. If it is not placed on anything for a while, it finds it difficult to be at ease. Even if it is peaceful for a while, it again reverts to distraction, now aroused, now quiet. If you purposely cause it to be undisturbed, taming it perfectly over a long period of time, it will naturally become peaceful and at ease.
Day and night, no matter what you are doing, you should attentively settle the mind. If you are not yet able to attain peace, then you should calmly nurture it, not letting anything vex you; then you will gain a little peace and relaxation, and so can be naturally comfortable. Gradually taming the mind, it will become increasingly clear and deep.
Oxen and horses are domestic animals, but if you let them go free and do not restrain them, they will naturally become wild and will not submit to the harness. Hawks and falcons are wild birds, but if they are tied up by people and are always perched on the wrist, they naturally become tame. So it is with the mind; if you let it run wild and do not restrain it, it will grow increasingly coarse how then will you be able to perceive that which is subtle?


Being Unaffected
Some say, “Those who practice the Tao are in the midst of things, but their minds are unaffected. Though involved in action, their spirits are undisturbed. There is nothing that they do not do, yet never are they perturbed. Now if one only avoids activity and takes to calm, seeking stability apart from action, struggling to suppress and control, then whether there is movement or stillness, one single-mindedly sticks to keeping stationary. This produces the twin illnesses of grasping and rejection, totally unawares. Is it not a mistake to consider an external fixation to be an essential step on the Way?”
The answer to this is that what we consider great is the totality of things, and what we call the Way is penetration of things. To be in the midst of things without being affected, to deal with affairs without being disturbed, is truly great, truly wonderful. But there is something as yet unclear in the view expressed in this question. What is that? It is only seeing the result without understanding the process. Just as an enormous tree grows from a tiny sprout, the stabilization of the spirit and attainment of enlightenment comes about through accumulated practice. It is useless to speak only of the qualities of sages without knowing why they have such qualities.


Simplifying Affairs
For people practicing the Way, nothing compares to simplifying affairs. Know what is essential, discern relative importance, understand what to leave and what to take. Whatever is not essential and not important, one should omit. For example, luxurious food and clothing, social distinction, and material riches are all extraneous likes of psychological desire, not good medicines that enhance life. When people pursue them, they bring about their own destruction. What could be more confused?


Genuine Observation
Genuine observation is the prescience of the wise, the perceptivity of the able. Every meal, every nap, is a potential source of gain or loss; every act, every word, can be a basis of calamity or fortune. Skillfully holding the branch is not as good as clumsily preserving the root. Observing the root and knowing the branches is not a feeling of competitive haste. Collecting the mind and simplifying affairs, day by day one reduces contrivance. When the body is calm and the mind uncluttered, only then can one observe the subtle.
Nonetheless, the body that practices the Way must be sustained by food and clothing. There are some matters that cannot be neglected, some things that cannot be abandoned. These you should accept with an open mind and manage with clear eyes. Don’t consider them obstacles, lest your mind become anxious. If you become vexed and anxious over things, mental illness has already acted up — how could that be called peace of mind?
Social relations and the necessities of life are a boat for us — if we want to cross the sea, we need the aid of a boat. How could we neglect food and clothing before we have yet crossed over? That which is unsubstantial is really not worth striving for, but in the process of freeing ourselves from that which is insubstantial we cannot get rid of it all at once.
Yet even though we work and strive, we should not think of gain and loss. Let the mind be always calm and steady, whether or not there is anything of concern. Seek the same as other people, but do not be greedy like other people; get what others get, but do not hoard like others do. Without greed, there is no anxiety; not hoarding, there is no loss. One is then like others in outward appearance, but the inner mind is always different from that of worldlings. These are basic essentials of speech and action, which should be rigorously practiced.


The Ills Of Materialism
If there is an illness that is hard to get rid of even when one has cut off entanglements and simplified affairs, one should observe it objectively. If one is seriously affected by materialism, one should realize that infection by materialism is entirely due to thoughts. If thoughts do not arise, there is no concern with material things.
One should know that when thoughts of material things are not projected outwardly, the materialistic mind is forgotten inwardly. Forgetting thoughts, the mind is empty — who plays host to material things? A scripture says that forms are only imaginations, and imaginations are all empty. Why be concerned with forms?
If you see other people doing evil and conceive aversion to them, that is like seeing people destroy themselves, stretching out their necks to the sword to kill themselves. They are doing evil on their own, and it is no business of yours. So why detest them? This is one’s own mental illness. Not only should you not detest those who do evil, you should dislike those who do good. Why? Because they are obstructing the Way.
One's deeds are done by oneself, but destiny is bestowed by heaven. The relation of deeds to destiny is like shadows and echoes following form and sound. What is unavoidable should not be resented. Only the wise accurately perceive and accurately know this; they are pleased with heaven and aware of destiny. Therefore they do not grieve over the miseries of poverty and sickness. A classic says, “Heaven and earth cannot change their operation, yin and yang cannot avert their misfortunes.” In these terms, this is true destiny — how can we resent it?
When a valiant warrior encounters brigands, he charges ahead brandishing his sword, routing the enemy. Once his achievement is accomplished, his rewards last all his life. Now when poverty and illness afflict our bodies, they are brigands; to immediately straighten the mind is to be a valiant warrior. When the burden of mental affliction is dispelled, this is victory in battle; tranquillity and eternal happiness are the rewards.
Whenever painful things oppress our minds, if we do not oppose them, we will become burdened with anxiety. This is like someone who does not do battle with brigands, but turns tail and runs, only to be punished for flight. To give up happiness and take to misery — how can this be pitied?
If you are afflicted by poverty and illness, consider this pain to proceed from having a body. Where can affliction abide? As a classic says, “When I have no body, how can I have any affliction?”


Great Stability
Great stability is the consummation of leaving mundanity, the elementary foundation of arrival at the Tao, the accomplishment of cultivation of tranquillity, the completion of maintaining calm. The body is like a dead tree, the mind is like dead ashes. Neither grasping nor rejecting, it is the arrival of utter quiescence. There is no consciousness of stabilization, yet there is total stability; therefore it is called great stability.
Chuang Tzu said, “Those whose abode is great stability emanate the light of heaven.” The abode is the mind, the light of heaven is wisdom. When emptiness and tranquillity reach the extreme, then the Tao is present and wisdom arises. Wisdom comes from fundamental essence and is not a personal possession; therefore it is called the light of heaven.
It is due to pollution and confusion by greed and craving that people become dull and muddled. When people are confused, wisdom does not arise.
Once wisdom has arisen, one should treasure it and not let intellectualism damage stability. It is not that it is hard to produce wisdom; what is hard is to have wisdom but not use it. Since ancient times there have been many people who have forgotten their bodies, but few who have forgotten their names; to have wisdom but not use it is to forget one’s name. Few people in the world reach this, so it is considered difficult.
If the highly placed can avoid arrogance and the wealthy can avoid extravagance, this is considered freedom from vulgar faults, and is a way to preserve nobility and wealth. If one is stable and does not stir, is wise but does not use it, one thereby attains profound experience of true eternity.
Chuang Tzu said, “To know the Tao is easy; not to speak of it is hard. To know but not say is that whereby one becomes divine; to know and speak of it is that whereby one becomes human. People of old were divine, not human.” He also said, “Those who cultivated the Tao in ancient times used calmness to nurture knowledge. Knowledge arose in them, but they didn’t make anything of it. This is called using knowledge to nurture calm.” Knowledge and calm nurture each other and emerge from the fundamental essence in harmony with universal principle.
Calmness and knowledge are stability and wisdom; harmony and universal principle are the Tao and its power. Having knowledge but not using it, one is peaceful and calm; when this builds up for a long time, it spontaneously develops one's Tao power. One will naturally reach a point where one is not startled even by thunder and lightning so powerful as to split a mountain, not frightened even by swords clashing right in front of one's face. One sees fame and fortune are fleeting, and knows the cycle of birth and death is like a running sore. If the will is exercised undividedly, then it solidifies the spirit; the intangible subtlety of the mind will be inconceivable.


Attaining The Tao
The Tao is something miraculous. Spiritual, it has an essence; empty, it has no form. It is unfathomable whether we follow after it or go forth to meet it. It cannot be found in shadow or echo. No one knows why it is as it is. Supreme sages attained it in antiquity; it has been transmitted to the present by subtle means.
The Tao has a profound power that gradually transforms the body and the spirit. The body is mastered along the way, becoming united with the spirit. One who has attained this is called a spiritual person. The essence of spirit is open and fluid; its substance never changes or disappears. Because the body is mastered through the Tao, it has no birth or death. In concealment, the body is the same as spirit; revealed, the spirit is the same as energy. This is how it is possible to walk on water and fire without harm, to cast no shadow in the sunlight or moonlight. Whether to remain alive or disappear is up to you at this point; there is no gap between leaving the world and entering the world.
If even the body, which is material, can reach intangible sublimation, how much the more so can spiritual knowledge, which becomes more far-reaching as it grows deeper. The Classic on the Living Spirit says, “When the body and spirit are united, that becomes the true body.” The Scripture on Rising in the West also says, “Body and mind join, thus making it possible to last forever.”
There are, however, differences in depth of power along the way of open nonreification. If the power is profound, it affects the body as well, but if it is shallow it affects only the mind. One whose body is affected is a spiritual person; one whose mind is affected only gains intelligent awareness and cannot escape physical death. Why? Intelligence is a function of the mind; when used too much, the mind is fatigued. When one first gains a little wisdom, one is joyful and becomes loquacious; spirit and energy leak out, so no spiritual light bathes the body, ultimately resulting in early death. Therefore the Tao is hard to complete. This is what the classics call liberation from the corpse.
Therefore great people hide their light and conceal their brilliance; this is how they gain complete fulfillment. Stabilizing the spirit, taking good care of energy, they study the Tao unminding. When the spirit merges with the Tao, this is called attainment of the Tao. A classic says, “Those who assimilate themselves to the Tao are also absorbed by the Tao.”
In the mountains there is a kind of jade that keeps planes and trees from withering. Similarly, if people embrace the Tao it will keep their physical bodies strong. By steeping oneself in the Tao for a long time, one can transform substance so that it is the same as spirit, refine the body into something subtle, and merge with the Tao. Then the illumination of knowledge is boundless, and the body is infinitely transcendent. One makes the totality of matter and emptiness one’s function, one sets aside creation in achieving realization, one adapts from reality without convention — this is the power of the Tao.


Sitting Forgetting: Essentials And Auxiliaries
If you wane to practice the way to attain reality, first get rid of warped behavior. After disconnecting your mind from external things, inwardly observe correct awareness. When you notice a thought arise, you should immediately extinguish it. Extinguishing thoughts as they arise, strive to effect calm quietude.
Next, even enough you may not have obvious fixations, still floating random thoughts are also to be completely eradicated.
Working diligently day and night, never wavering for a second, just extinguish the stirring mind, do not extinguish the shining mind; just stabilize the open mind, do not stabilize the dwelling mind. Do not rest on anything, yet have the mind always present.
This method is inconceivably subtle, and its benefits are very profound. It is possible only for those who already have affinity with the Tao and whose faith is undivided. If you have set your heart on the supreme Tao, and your faith is firm and in earnest, first accept three precepts, then act in accord with these three precepts with consistent heedfulness, and you will attain the true Tao.
These three precepts are as follows: one, simplify involvements; two, remove desire; three, quiet the mind. If you diligently practice these three precepts without slacking or backsliding, then the Tao will come of itself, without any intention of seeking the Tao on your part. A classic says, “If people can always be clear and pure, the whole universe will come to them.” Speaking from this point of view, should we not have faith in this quintessential method?
But the contentiousness of the ordinary mind is firmly ingrained through long habit, and it is very difficult to stop the mind by these precepts. One may be unable to stop it, or one may still it temporarily and then lose that stillness. Battling with it, now failing, now succeeding, one pours with sweat. With continued practice over a long, long time, eventually it is possible to tame the mind. Do not give up this work, which has far-reaching consequences, just because you are temporarily unable to collect the mind.
Once you have gained a bit of tranquillity, then you must consciously stabilize it at all times, whatever you are doing, even in the midst of activity and turmoil. Whether you have anything to do or not, always be as if unminding. Whether in the midst of quietude or in the midst of clamor, let your will be undivided.
If you try to control the mind too intensely, this will produce illness, a symptom of which is fits of madness. If the mind does not move, then you should let it be, so that relaxation and intensity find their balance Constantly tuning yourself, controlled yet without fixation, free yet without indulgence, you can be in the midst of clamor without aversion, you can handle affairs without vexation. This is true stability.
This does not mean you seek many affairs because you can handle them without vexation, or that you take to clamor because you can be in its midst undisturbed. Unconcern is the real home; having concerns is responsive manifestation. This may be likened to a mirror, which reflects things that come before it. Skillfully exercising expedient means, still one can enter stability.
Whether insight emerges slowly or rapidly is not up to the person. Do not be in a hurry to seek insight in concentration. If you seek insight, you will injure your essence. If you injure your essence, you will have no insight. When insight arises spontaneously without seeking, this is true wisdom. Being wise but not exercising it, true knowledge appears ignorant, thus increasingly fostering stability and wisdom, so that both are endlessly perfected.
If you think and imagine in the midst of concentration, you will experience much distraction and bedevilment, which appear according to your state of mind. Just cause there to be unlimited openness above the concentrated mind and vast buoyancy below the concentrated mind. Then past problems will vanish day by day, and new habits will not be formed, so there will be no binding obstruction, and you will shed the net of sense objects. Practice this for a long time, and you will naturally attain the Tao.
In people who attain the Tao, there are five times and seven signs of mind and body. The five mental times are: (1) when movement predominates over stillness, (2) when movement and stillness are equal, (3) when stillness predominates over movement, (4) when there is stillness in leisure and movement in work, and (5) when the mind merges with the Tao and is not stirred by impacts. When the mind reaches this last state, one finally attains peace and comfort; defilements are obliterated, and there are no more anxi-eties.
The seven physical signs are: (1) action is timely, and the countenance is peaceful and joyful; (2) chronic ailments disappear, so body and mind are light and fresh; (3) untimely wastage is compensated, so that one returns to the original and is restored to life; (4) the life span is extended thousands of years—this is called being an immortal; (5) the body is refined into energy—this is called being a real human; (6) the energy is refined into spirit— this is called being a spiritual person, and (7) the spirit is refined to merge with the Tao—this is called being a complete human.
If people practice concentration for a long time, but their minds and bodies show no evidence of the five times and seven signs, and their lives are short and their bodies are polluted, when they pass away physically they return to the void. They may consider themselves wise, and even claim to have attained the Tao, but it is not really so.

Verses On Sitting Forgetting

Always be silent, and basic energy won't be hurt;
minimize thought, and the lamp of wisdom shines within.
Avoid anger, then the spirit is peaceful and realized;
subdue vexations, and the mind is clear and cool.
Without seeking, there is no flattery or cajolery;
without fixation, one can change adaptively.
If you are not greedy, then you are rich;
if you are not presumptuous, why fear rulers?
When tasting is ended, the spiritual spring descends of itself;
when the energy is settled, true breath grows daily.
In terms of feeling, the body dies and the spirit travels;
in terms of imagination, one leaves the corpse in dreams.
When energy leaks, the body returns to the earth of the grave;
when thought leaks, the spirit heads for the realm of death.
When the mind dies, only then can the spirit live;
when the earthly soul passes away, the celestial soul is strong.
It's hard to investigate the subtle principles of all things;
responsive adaptation is not apart from true constancy.
Supreme vitality submerges into ecstasy;
great form merges with immensity.
Adaptations of the Way are like the evolution of beings;
even ghosts and spirits cannot fathom this activity.
Not drinking, not eating, not sleeping; this is called the sitting forgetting of real people

Wang Che, ancestor of the Complete Reality school, said, “When the mind forgets thoughts, it transcends the realm of desire. When the mind forgets objects, it transcends the realm of form. When the mind does not cling to emptiness, it transcends the formless realm. Detached from these three realms, the spirit abides in the homeland of immortals and sages, the essence exists in the domain of pure openness.”


 

Words on the Way


“Freezing the spirit, tune the breath; tuning the breath, freeze the spirit.” This is the starting work. This should be done single-mindedly, continuing from step to step.
Freezing the spirit means gathering in the clarified mind. As long as the mind is not yet clear, the eyes should not be closed in meditation. It is first necessary to exert oneself to restore clarity, coolness, and serenity; then one may concentrate on the pocket of energy in the body. This is called freezing the spirit.
Once you have begun to freeze the spirit, after that it is like you are sitting on a high mountain gazing down at the foothills and rivers, like a lamp illuminating the sky, lighting up every recondite obscurity. This is what is called freezing the spirit in space.
Tuning the breath is not difficult. Once the spirit of mind is quiet, breathe naturally; I just keep this naturalness, and also focus attention downward. This is tuning the breath.
Tuning the breath is tuning the breath centered on the base of the torso, joining with the energy in the mind, breath and energy meeting in the pocket of energy in the abdomen. The mind staying below the navel is called freezing the spirit; the energy returning below the navel is called tuning the breath.
When spirit and breathing stay together, keeping their clarity and naturalness is called “not forgetting,” going along with their clarity and naturalness is called “not forcing.” Not forgetting, not forcing, quietly, gently, the breath is vigorous and the mind is free.
Then apply the principle of using space as the place to store the mind, using dark silence as the abode to rest the spirit; clarify them again and again, until suddenly the spirit and breath are both forgotten, spirit and energy merge. Then unexpectedly the celestial energy will arise ecstatically, and you will be as though intoxicated.
The real experience is when the Mysterious Pass appears. Generally one finds in the alchemical teachings the words primordial, real, and original. All of these emerge from the crucible of yin and yang, all of them are produced after profound mystic silence. In attaining this, like the first opening up of primal unity, all the sages and real people are alike; after this one can figure out the alchemical classics.
There are many people who study the Way for months without making any progress at all, because their minds aren’t really on the Way. If your mind is on the Way, there will naturally be no things on your mind; if you are serious about the Way, you will naturally be lighthearted about things; and if you are engrossed in the Way, you will naturally be aloof from things.
Preserving the essence of consciousness, you don’t become fragmented and distracted; nurturing the spirit, you don’t become torpid or inattentive. How can you then be disturbed by idle thoughts? When reason prevails over desire, you live; when desire prevails over reason, you perish.
Plunge the mind into the profound abyss, and the spirit does not wander outside. When the mind is dragged by things, fire stirs within; and when fire stirs within, it destabilizes the vitality.
The Way is entered from the center. There is a center in the body, and a center that is not in the body. The work should be done in two stages, the first of which is to seek the center in the body.
Master Chu (Zhu) said, “Keep to the center, prevent wandering off.” Keeping to the center calls for turning the attention inward to concentrate on a sphere I.3 inches below the navel, neither clinging fast to it nor departing from it, with neither obsession nor indifference. This is seeking the center within the body.
Second is to seek the center that is not in the body. The Classic on Central Equilibrium speaks of “before emotions arise” as the center. In this time before arising, be careful in your innermost mind of the unperceived, and naturally the essence of consciousness will be stabilized and the spirit will be clear.
When the spirit is clear, the energy is keen; when you attain this you see your original being. This is seeking the center that is not in the body.
Using the center within the body to seek the center not in the body, after that human desires are easy to clear up, and the celestial design again becomes clear. The sages and saints, immortals and buddhas of all times, have taken this to be the first stage of the work.
Traveling around and sitting still are certainly not in themselves the Tao. But if you don't travel around in cities and mountains, you should have your energy travel around the passes and openings throughout your body; that will do. If you do not sit under withered trees or in cold halls, you should have your spirit sit in the subtle opening within the body; that will do.
Study of the Way is based on the alchemical foundation. Once the alchemical foundation is stabilized, then you can return home and work to support your family. After having fulfilled your familial and social duties, then you go into the mountains and look for a teacher, to complete the Great Way. Those who abandon their homes and leave their wives are simply wasting their days and are not worth talking about.




 

Loving People


Humans are the most intelligent of living beings. Because they are intelligent, we should love their life.
Don't connive to encompass people's downfall, don't injure people with weapons, don't poison people with chemicals.
Don't oppress people with authority and power.
Actions that are harmful to people are eventually punished in some way or another, outwardly or inwardly. Ultimately it is impossible to escape the consequences of deeds.
People like talking birds, they like beautiful and fragrant plants, they like tame animals, they like pet fish — are not other people as important as these creatures?
Just look at the way people despise each other and treat each other cruelly, even as they multiply and congregate.
Whatever you do, you should think of caring for people’s reputations and fostering their reputations, caring for people’s merits and fostering their merits, caring for people's work and fostering their work, caring for people’s benefit and fostering their benefit.
Fostering the good name of others is the way to foster your own good name. Fostering the merits of others is the way to foster your own merit. Fostering the work of others is the way to foster your own work. Fostering the benefit of others is the way to foster your own benefit. It is all love.
In fostering people’s reputation and merit, work and benefit, don’t conceal the loyalty of loyal people, don’t usurp the achievements of meritorious people. Don’t slander the virtuous, don’t cast aspersions on the chastity of virgins.
Don’t envy the able, don’t borrow the ability of others either. Don’t resent the talented, don’t be blind to people’s talents either.
Don’t conceal goodness, and don’t appropriate the goodness of others. Don’t elevate evil, don’t imitate the evil of others.
Don’t secretly inhibit the advancement of others, don’t ruin the flourishing activities of others, don’t foil the good deeds of others, don’t destroy the good plans of others.
Don’t lessen the life or wealth of others, don’t fool with others’ goods.
Don’t help evil people usurp the position of good people, don’t collaborate with petty people in seducing the offspring of good families.
Don’t defame the worthy. Don’t defraud the destitute. Don’t separate parents and children, don’t come between relatives. Don’t destroy others’ marriages. Don’t slight the handicapped.
Save people from difficulty, help them in times of need. Take pity on those who are alone. Forgive people’s faults. Help people when they are sick or suffering, feed and clothe them when they are hungry and cold.
Support your relatives and help out your neighbors. Have compassion for the orphaned and widowed, respect the aged and care for the poor. All this is love for people.
Heaven gives birth to the millions as a ground for kind people to exercise kindness, as a place for good people to accumulate goodness; as a result they can broaden their minds to protect and take care of large numbers of people.
Those with wealth and status who love people will surely enrich their descendants; the poor and lowly who love people will surely be able to attain success.
For Heaven helps the good, God enriches people. Therefore to those who want to know the way to deal with the world, I suggest, Love People.


 

On Medicine


Medical science can make a nation lively, and it can also make a nation ill. Medicine can give people life, and it can also kill people. It is necessary to be careful about its application.
Therein are principles whose study is endless, whose practice is inexhaustible. There are principal and auxiliary medicines, there are diseases of lack and excess, old and new; all doctors can talk about these things, but few really know them.
The finer the learning of sages becomes, the humbler they are; the loftier their virtue becomes, the more modest they are. This is the way physicians should be too. They should not slight themselves, mislead themselves, or deceive themselves. Those who deceive themselves deceive others, those who mislead themselves mislead others, those who slight themselves slight others. The fault devolves on oneself.
Therefore, in this field it is easy to establish good works, yet it is also easy to err; it is hard to accumulate blessings, but it is not hard to invite disaster. Those who wish for accomplishment without error, fortune without calamity, must diligently discipline themselves.
The principles of pulse taking are subtle; those of shallow learning hardly know them. I urge physicians to first ask the patients about the development of their maladies, and not test medicines on them. I urge the sick seeing a doctor to first understand basic reason, and not risk your life to test the doctor. To use one’s life to test the doctor is the fault of the patient; to test medicines on people is the fault of the doctor.
Also, physicians should take care of emergencies without concern for elevating their reputations, and should help the wretched without calculating how much they will get paid. If they can clearly perceive the symptoms, then they can proceed with treatment; if not, they should wait for the more expert. Then they will build up the virtues of calmness and truthfulness.
I also urge those who study the social sciences to include extensive and thorough study of medical arts and sciences in their curricula. Don’t keep them secret, and don’t get them wrong. Use this knowledge for your own benefit and for the benefit of others. People should not take medical science lightly.



 

On Human Characters


You should understand the distinctions between human characters that appear to be similar.
There are upright, mentally healthy people who keep to themselves, are independent and aloof from the crowd, whom others consider conceited, but I consider strong.
There are people who are modest, avoid ostentation, are in control of themselves, and appear no different from ordinary folk, whom others consider conformists, but I consider to be in harmony.
There are people who are serene and free, following natural reality, whom others consider lazy, but I consider at peace.
There are people who are ebullient and spontaneous, going along with the natural order, whom others consider eccentric, but I consider masterful.
There are people who are careful in their behavior and strict in their manner, whom others consider haughty, but I consider rigorous.
There are people who conduct themselves simply and have very stable personalities, whom others consider uncultured, but I consider unspoiled.
There are people who clearly distinguish between duty and gain, and have no selfishness, whom others consider too conservative, but I consider uncompromising.
There are people whose hearts are transcendent and detached from objects, whom others consider one-sided, but I consider high-minded.
There are people who are mild, complacent, and unlettered, whom others consider vulgar, but I consider genteel.
There are people who concentrate on purity and do not know scriptures or ceremonies, whom others consider ignorant, but I consider awakened.
There are people who are not changed by food and drink, are not bothered by heat and cold, whom others consider strange, but I consider immortal.
Whether people are sages or not may be difficult to distinguish, as there may be resemblance without real sameness. It is necessary to observe carefully.

The above texts were adapted from Vitality Energy Spirit A Taoist Sourcebook, translated and edited by Thomas Cleary 1991, Shambhala Editions, Boston. www.shambhala.com

 



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