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Taoist Retreat and Fasting1353

Taoist Retreat and Fasting1353

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Published by Pamalicious
Taoist Retreat and Fasting
Taoist Retreat and Fasting

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Published by: Pamalicious on Feb 26, 2013
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05/05/2014

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Taoist Retreat (
闭关
) and Bi Gu (
辟谷
)
Text translated from the blue book from Jinhua 2012 by B K Wee
Bi Guan (
闭关
) literally means closing the door to worldly matters. It is a purpose-driven exercise to achieve specific results in inner alchemy. The phrase
闭关
was firstdocumented in the Jing Dynasty (
晋朝
). According to Taoist practitioners, there aremajor retreats and minor retreats. Major retreats are held in deep mountains, whileminor retreats are conducted inside Taoist temples. It is not a necessary criterion thatretreats are done in seclusion. When a group of people come together, maintainsilence, and explore the effects on one another, this can also be considered a type of retreat. However, contact with other human beings and the outside world is limitedand restricted. During a retreat, contact is maintained only with fellow retreat practitioners. From this point of view, there are group retreats, single retreats andretreats done in seclusion.Certain conditions and environments are necessary for a retreat. During a retreat, oneof the key goals is to master the ability to freely interchange and transform thefollowing three types of energy: Cosmic Energy (
宇宙能量
), Reincarnation Energy (
转世能量
), and Existential Energy (
本体能量
). More specifically, the practitioner needs to master the process to transmute Jing (
) into Qi (
), from Qi (
) intoShen (
) and finally returning Shen (
) to Qi (
) and Qi (
) back to Jing (
). If this is not achieved, then the whole process cannot be deemed to be a proper retreat.There are also different types of retreat for the Shen (
辟神谷
), Qi (
辟气谷
) and Jing (
辟精谷
).The Taoists believe that retreats have to follow certain principles and observe certainrules and methods so that the practitioner can be successful. Practitioners must attain acertain level of merit, virtue and wisdom before they are qualified to participate in aretreat. This is because their actions will have a beneficial impact on all sentient beings. Ordinary folks are only qualified to do the self-reflection and repentance practice (
悔过
).If a practitioner has liver imbalances, then, even though he undertakes fasting, he or she must consume something that will nourish the liver. Practitioners with heart
 problems must also do the “single stroke tree practice” (
单劈掌
). For those withstomach and liver issues, they are recommend
ed to also do the “double push meridiantree practice” (
双推脉
).Retreats may also be classified in the following three ways:(i)
 
self-imposed retreats,(ii)
 
master-imposed retreats,(iii)
 
retreats for breakthrough in practice.For master imposed retreats, practitioners must abide by all the rules and regulationslaid down by the master and participate in all temple activities. The retreat venue musthave a picture of the master or his physical body present. Practitioners must be silent both inwardly and outwardly. Classic texts and scriptures are covered and on the dayimmediately after the retreat, practitioners have to write 3 questions on pieces of 
 
 paper which are then placed in a box. The teacher will randomly draw from thesequestions and answer them. If a practitioner raises a question that has already beenanswered, then some sort of disciplinary action will be administered, like kneeling for a period of time.Food, if consumed, needs to be taken in a proper place like a dining hall. Practitionerstypically prepare for Taoist Bi Gu (
辟谷
) by consuming only fruit (no grains) for seven, eight, or ten days prior to the retreat. This form of preparation also has its ownrules, purposes and methods.The Taoists believe that one of the gravest acts of being unfilial (
不孝
) is not being
able to recall your parents’ faces and voices after their passing. On one’s birthday, oneshould observe certain rules, fast, and engage in the practice to remember one’s
 parents (
忆母听父
). This practice is also done on the eve of Chinese New Year.Birthday celebrations are only organized on the 70
th
birthday. To live to 80 isauspicious and one is considered to have attained longevity.The purpose of making journeys (
云游
) to different locations and sacred spots innature is to hopefully acquire more wisdom. This requires a practitioner to select theright timing, the right place, the right people and an energy spot. The right energy spotis different for different individuals and you have to listen to your heart andexperience these things directly yourself.The Taoist Bi Gu is an important part of the overall practice and can be done beforeor after Chinese New Year, similar to the case of winter hibernation, which is not easyto master.There are 3 essential types of Bi Gu.(i)
 
Bi Shen Gu (
辟神谷
): If one fasts and is sustained with Qi but is not
successful in retrieving one’s Shen, then it is not considered a proper 
retreat. Thus the key objective of this type of retreat is to cause the Shen to
return to one’s body at will (
收神
,
神归己
). One of the most accomplished practitioners of this type of retreat is Master Zhang San Feng (
张三丰
).The Shen is divided into Shi Shen (
识神
) which is loosely translated as post natal Shen, and Yuan Shen (
元神
) which refers to pre-natal Shen.More precisely, we want to still or seal off the Shi Shen so that the YuanShen is brought out. This is referenced in the Dao De Jing (
道德经
) assealing the Gu Shen (
谷神
), the Gu Shen that “does not die” (
谷神不死
) .When one speaks of the coming out of the Yang Shen (
阳神出壳
), itimplies that the Shi Shen is completely sealed off and the practitioner isable to inter-change and transform the 3 different energies at will. This isthe highest level of attainment in Bi Gu.(ii)
 
Qi Gu (
辟气谷
): If one fasts but is not able to be sustained by Qi, then thisis not considered a proper retreat. This Qi is mentioned in the Dao De Jing(
道德经
) and Master Zhang Zi Yang (
张紫阳
) is perhaps the best in thistype of Qi practice. Sealing off the external Qi means to shut off theCosmic Energy from the body and sealing off the internal Qi is to turn the body into a receptacle for Cosmic Energy. The next stage is to becomeindependent of the Cosmic Qi and internal Qi. At this stage, you willdevelop certain abilities to perform real work. In reality, the three types oQi
 – 
the external Qi, the internal body Qi and the Qi that is projectedoutside from within the body
 – 
are continuously being inter-changed and
 
transformed during one’s spiritual development. Each type of Qi is
represented by a different Chinese character although they have the sameChinese pronunciation.(iii)
 
Bi Jing Gu (
辟精谷
): This is also referenced in the Dao De Jing (
道德经
).Master Lv Zhu (
吕祖
) said that not consuming food in itself is notconsidered Bi Gu. There is internal Jing and external Jing. External Jingrefers to external food that is introduced into the body, e.g., grains, food.And these foods can be categorized according to the 5 elements (5 tastes)that will ultimately nourish the corresponding internal organs. From thisinsight, we will be able to nourish our Qi (for purposes of Jing Qi, Shen Qior physical stamina). Internal Jing is further divided into 5 types, so the practitioner is well positioned if he is sensitive enough to know whichmeridian to work on, which meridian to seal off and which meridian toopen up.Actually, these 3 types of Bi Gu are inseparable. If you do not consume any food,then your Shen needs to rule and be in charge. Our Shen regulates the function of our internal organs and the movements of the meridians so that the internal organs produce more internal Qi. If we have sufficient internal Qi, then we will be able toovercome feelings of hunger and greatly reduce the possibility of any potential problem. Therefore it is important for one to be aware of these things and toconsciously conserve the internal Qi the day before the Bi Gu starts. The followingday, this internal Qi can be released and inter-mingled with the cosmic energy before being retrieved back into the body. In the beginning this is accomplished by the ShiShen since the Yuan Shen is not yet at our beck and call. So we need to initiate withthe Shi Shen to activate and lead the Yuan Shen.The character Gu (
) in Bi Gu originates from the Dao De Jing (
道德经
). Gu Shen (
谷神
) does not refer to the commonly known definition of a mountain valley. Here itmeans no sound or complete silence. The Dao De Jing (
道德经
) also describes a
 particular scenario where, “within the mountain valley, the Qi is full so any sound cantravel very far”. There is movement in everything, even in
states of extreme quietnessand stillness. Even at the deepest places we can still perceive sounds. Master Lv Zu (
吕祖
) says that even falling leaves emit a sound and an accomplished practitioner will be able to perceive these subtle sounds. The symbolism of the character Gu (
) isthat the practitioner attains a state of extreme stillness and becomes capable of doingcertain things. So we have to Bi (
), used as a verb here.The Taoists believe that our present bodies are an illusion and a transitory vehicle.Whether you choose to be buried or cremated after you die makes little difference because the physical matter of our body will eventually be completely disintegratedwith the passage of time. Our physical existence is really very short. A hundred yearsis equivalent to roughly 30,000 plus days. However, based on the evolution anddevelopment of the human species
 – 
the human structure and metabolism
 – 
every person should have no problem living to 150 years, provided that their existence is intotal harmony with nature. If one does not live in accordance to the rhythms of theheavens, then their physical life will be greatly shortened. Even though Master LvZhu (
吕祖
) pointed out that our bodies are an illusion, it is a reality that all of us also possess a little amount of Ling Qi (
灵气
) inside our body. This Ling Qi is like the GuShen (
谷神
) found within the deepest mountain valleys and it moves within our heartsand bodies. We do not hear her and cannot see her, so we cannot determine where sheis, just as our physical internal organs and skeletal systems are very real and existwithin us, yet most of us have no awareness of them. And this total lack of self 

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