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A Taoist Alchemical Classic
by Chang Po-tuan
With a Concise Commentary
by Liu 1-ming
Translated fron1 the Chinese
by Thomas Cleary
University of Hawaii Press • Honolulu
Yi n and yang 3
The fve el ements 8
Essence and life 14
The use of I Ching signs 17
Understanding Reaity: A Direct Expl anation 23
I . Sixteen verses , representing " eight ounces " of yi n and
"eight ounces " of yang, forming " one pound" of el ixir 25
II . Sixty-four verses , modeled on the number of signs i n the
I Ching 57
1-2 On the cruci bl e and furnace 59
3-4 On the crescent moon frnace 62
5-8 On the true l ead 63
9 On using lead 67
1 0 On not using lead 68
On lead and mercury 69
On the one energy of nothingness 70
On water and fre 71
On heaven-eart and earth-earth 72
On i nverti ng water and fre 7
On the fve elements 75
On the to poles 76
19-20 On harmoni zation 77
21 On the dragon and tiger 79
22-24 On cul tivating the self 80
On the metal man 82
On the beautiful gi rl 83
On the fring process 85
On the fring process of gathering the medicine 87
On the fring process of extraction and addition 87
On the fring process of incubation 88
On the fring process of formi ng the embryo 89
On yin and yang returni ng to the center 90 ¯
On bathi ng 91
On cultural cooki ng and martial refning 92
On the meanings of hexagrams 94
On the begi nni ng of yang and culmination of yin 96
On the mysterious femal e 97
On essence and sense 100
On doing 101
On female and male 102
On being and non being 103
On ingestion of the el iir 104
On the elixir crystal lizing from within 106
On medicine coming from without 107
On the two elixirs, inner and outer JOB
On positive vitality 109
On returning to the root 110
On the sword of wisdom 111
On harmonious combination of essence and sense 112
On gradual and sudden 113
On the supreme ease of crystal l i zi ng the elixir 114
On diffcul ty and ease 115
On the mechanism of takeover 116
58 On thorough i nvestigation of principle 117
9 On seeking a teacher 117
60 On stopping machi nation 118
61 On stopping at sufficiency 119
62-63 On l ife and death 121
64 On mixing with ordi nary society and i ntegrating
III . One verse representing the Great One engul fng true energy
Twelve verses on the moon over the West River, representi ng
the telve months 129
Five verses , representi ng the fve elements , metal , wood, water,
fre , earth 15 1
The Outer Collection 157
I . Four four-line verses 159
II . Verses on vaious themes
On the essenti al ground 162
On bi rh and death 162
The three realms are only mi nd 163
Seeing mind i n thi ngs 164
Equal i zing beings 164
Mind i tself is Buddha 165
On the Heart Scnure 168
No sin or meri t 169
Complete perasion 170
Going along wi th it 170
The j ewel moon 171
Picking up the pearl 171
Poi nting out errors i n medi tati on 17 3
Song on readi ng Ch' an Master Hsueh- tou ' s Anthology on
Eminent Adepts 177
I nterpretation of discipli ne , concentration, and wisdom 179
The moon on the West River-twelve verses 181
Gl ossar 191
Readi ngs 203
Thanks are due to a number of people for their i nval uabl e asistance in
this proj ect : to Wang Po-hsueh, for unparalleled inspi ration in Taoist
studies ; to Wong Leok Yee and Liu Shih- i , for their hel p in the study and
interpretation of Taoist teachings on spiri t and energy ; and to Sha-ch ' uan
Ho-tzu, the most remarkably ordi nary person I have ever met , for unique
demonstrations of the art of i ntegrati ng being and non being.
Taoism, in many forms , has l ong had an important rol e in the develop
ment of Chinese civil i zation , particul arly i n the felds of natural science ,
medica arts , ad psychology. An extremel y compl ex phenomenon , Tao
ism has used many media of expression and i nfuenced many realms of
thought and action through its l ong history. Among i ts modes of proj ec
tion and spheres of infuence may be counted phi l osophy, poli tics , rel i
gion, folklore and mythology, satire and other forms of humor, visual art
and design, poetr, music and song, drama and fction , herbal and psy
chosomatic medici ne , physical education , martial arts , mi l i tary strategy,
and alchemy, both material and spiritual .
I n view of this remarkabl e profusion of forms , any attempt to establish
historical l inks joining every one of the forms of activity that have been
labeled Taoist meets with formidabl e probl ems . Perhaps the singl e most
widely accepted Taoist text is the famous To T Ching, but since the
meani ngs of this often cryptic work cannot be defnitel y established by
ordi nary l i terary methods , and i nterpretations var enormously at certain
points , the notion of afl i ation through association with the teachi ngs of
the To T Ching is of dubious value . Moreover, Taoist l i terature has
noted for over two thousand years the existence of degenerations and
aberrations under the rubric of the Tao; thus an assumed l i nk beteen
diferent forms of Taoism may well be one that has in fact l apsed , or one
that was from the begi nni ng fabricated by false analogy.
Nevertheless , if one were to hypothesize an i nner l i nk among qui t e dif
ferent forms of Taoism (wi thout presumi ng to encompass everything
called Taoistic in this hypothesis), a key to the rationale behi nd the enor
mous variety of frameworks through whi ch Taoist t eachings and practices
have been presented might be found i n the opening l i nes of the To T
itself. "A pat h that can be verbal i zed is not a permanent path ; ter
MinLlogy that can be desi gnated is not a constant t erminol ogy." The frst
pan of this opening statement might also be read, "A path which can be
taken as a path is not a permanent path," and understood to refer to the
disti nction between means and end. From this point of view. it might be
said that like Buddhism, a parallel teachi ng which emphasi zes ongoi ng
reformation of doctri ne and praxis to meet contemporary needs, Taoism
has appeared in many guises throughout the ages, corresponding to
changi ng conditions in its host society.
While it is beyond the scope of the present study to enter very far i nto
the maze of Taoist history, it is of some i nterest to gl ance at a few out
standing manifestations of Taoism whi l e pursuing this theme of adapta
tion to the times. For exampl e , one of the oldest texts of Taoism, pre
sented in the form of a divination manual , wa composed i n a time when
divination was formally considered a branch of government . Later, i n an
era when all serious thi nkers wrote i n the subject of political and social
science, another classic appears in a form that can be read as a treatise on
political and social theory. During a period marked by the accelerated rise
of hegemonism and tyraMnyg yet another text appears l i bertarian, even
libertine and anarchic . Under similar condi tions , with the rise of mil ita
rism, a classic manual of mi l i tary strategy advocates a policy of minimal
expenditures of l ives , energy, and material . Satire and fantastic poetry
appear duri ng a time of social upheaval and decay of an old order along
with its world view; grass roots. political organization emerges under the
same conditions . Religious texts come to the fore duri ng the growth of
Chinese Buddhist churches , and collections of sayings of Taoist adepts
paral l el similar developments in Ch' an Buddhist l iterature . Martial ars
are refned in an era marked by the overthrow of an alien dynasty a well
as by repeated popular uprisings . Col l oquial drama and fction transmi t
ting Taoist ideas appear duri ng a ti me of growth of vernacul ar literature.
Most recently, seculaized Taoistic teachings are publ ished as therapeutic
arts after an anti"rel igious communist revolution.
This is , of course , a very simpl istic picture of Taoism, somewhat in the
spirit of Taoist imager itself, designed to evoke a certain point of view
and not to defne historical fact . The historical origins of Taoism, like
nearly everything else about it , are extremel y obscure , veiled in allegory
and myth ; it may be that much of the materi al rel ating to the question of
origins consists of, or is interl arded with , i nitiatory lore , the understand
ing and application of which would vary according to ci rcumstances .
Sometimes Taoism is called the Huang-Lao teachi ng, after two important
fgureheads of the teachi ng al leged to have l ived thousands of years ago;
bur even thesC peopl C are presented in tradi tion a transmitters rather
than ori gi nators of Taoistic teachi ngs . Certain cul t ural prototypes oft en
associated with Taoism are said t o have gai ned thei r knowledge through
systematic obserati on , contempl ati on. and experi ment; other teachi ngs
are attri buted to spi ritual revel ati ons . A Taoi st encyclopedi a says that
"Taoism" antedati ng all formul ations is found in a recondi te realm of
mind where the customary divisi ons of thought do not exi st.
I n short, i t may wel l be that the ori gi ns or derivati ons of Taoi sm cannot
be positively ascertai ned by conventi onal methods ; this si tuati on i s due
not onl y to the vari ety and nature of the data i n Taoistic l i terature , but
also to the pauci ty of associated data whi ch woul d pi n the origins of Tao
ism to specifc times , peopl e , or places . What seems to be a common
theme is the idea that Taoism transcends hi story-vertical l y, so to speak ,
i n the sense that it cl aims contact with another di mension of experi ence
beyond the terrestrial , and horizontal l y i n that i t cl aims to reach back
before history. Taoist tradition general l y associ ates its earl y articul ati on on
the terrestrial pl ane with the very begi nni ngs of proto-Chi nese ci vi l i za
tion , but also cl ai ms ongoing or periodical l y renewed contact with a
higher source . It is not , of course , at all necessary to give l iteral credence
to any of the fantastic tales of Taoist histor i n order to appreciate them as
representations of the common contention that the structure of the uni
verse as perceived by the conventi onal l y soci al i zed mind , wi thin i ts
framework of time and space , is not absol ute , and tha there exists wi thin
humanity the potential for extradi mensional perception.
In a sense , it might be possi bl e to interpret the presence of so many
marels and wonders i n Taoist lore as an i ndi cation of i nterest in human
possi bi l i ties . It has often been obsered, moreover, that much the same
descriptions of extraordi nary powers al l eged to be available through eso
teric knowledge are to be found al l over the worl d. What is perhaps more
signifcant than such possi bi l ities is thei r efect on the worl d . and some
esoteric traditions stress the issue of the use and function of supernormal
knowledge and power more than the mere fact of their possi bi l ity. Wi thin
Taoism, the question of the actual i ndivi dual and col l ective beneft or
harm deriving from the exercise of knowledge and power l ed some practi
tioners to subordinate everything i n thei r path to the quest for permanent
stabil ization of consciousness .
Among these practi tioners were the Taoists of the school s which came
to be known by the name of Complete Real i ty. Compl ete Real i ty Taoism,
which arose a a distinct movement between the el eventh and thi rteenth
centuries , wa concerned wi th the total ity of experience and wi th furt her
ing human progress in the real ms of both conventi onal and ul timate
truth. This concern manifested i tsel f accordingl y in both social and mysti
cal practices , as the fol lowers of Compl ete Reality strove to encompas
what they considered to be the essence of Buddhism and Confucianism a
wel l as Taoism.
The impact of Compl ete Reality Taoism wa very powerfl , and in
some areas it superseded the aged and failing schools of Ch ' an Bud
dhism, which had for centuries exerted enormous infuence on Chinese
civilization. To be sure, Compl ete Reality Taoism had much in common
with Ch'an Buddhism, notabl y including concentrated meditation exer
cises and the practice of introducing fresh views of traditional teachings .
Among the literary formats used in the projection of Complete Reality
Taoism was the vocabulary and imagery of alchemy, one of the most
anci ent and widespread realms of interest in China, now adopted by
tese new Taoists a an al l egory for a process of inner transformation and
sublimation. The present text , Understandin
Reality, is one of the cla
sics of this spiritual alchemy, and is still considered a baic document of
Taoist mental science .
Understanding Reality (Chi nese Wu Chen P' ien) is one of the basic cl as
sics of Taoist spiritual alchemy as practiced in the Compl ete Real i ty
(Ch' uan-chen) school of Taoi sm. Writi ng i n the year 1841, the Taoist Chu
Chung-t ' ang described its status wi thi n the tradi ti on in these terms :
"Wei Po-yang of the Eastern Han dynasty (23-220 C. E.) frst revealed the
cel estial mechanism and expounded i ts esoteric truths , composi ng the
Ts 'an T' ung Ch 'i . . . . In the Sung dynasty (960-1279) Chang Tzu-yang
composed the Wu Chen P' ien. Both texts are perenni al guides to the
study of the Tao." '
Chang Po-tuan, styled Tzu-yang, l ived from approxi mately 983 to
1082. He is considered the founder of the so-called southern school of
Complete Reali ty Taoism. As he l ived before the widespread publ ic rec
ognition and i nstitutional i zation of Compl ete Real i ty Taoism that took
place under the successors and descendants of Wang Che ( 1113-1171 ) ,
founder of the northern school , l i ttl e i s known about his l ife . Indeed,
apart from his retrospective recogni tion as the frst patri arch of the south
ern school of Compl ete Reali ty Taoism, Chang is mai nl y known simply as
the author of Understanding Reality, considered a basi c text by practi
tioners of both northern and southern school s .
Chang Po-tuan origi nal l y studied Confuci anism but eventual y turned
to esoteric studies ater repeated fai l ure to pass civil serice exai nations .
He al so read widely i n secul ar subj ects , i ncl udi ng law, mathematics , med
ici ne , mi l itary sci ence , atronomy, and geography. According to one
source. he experienced an awaeni ng whi l e studyi ng Buddhi st l iterature ,
bUt a his attai nment of " the Tao of uni fcation wi th the fundament al"
was still incompl ete , he continued to travel in search of enl ightenment . "
Chang's search ended when he met the Taoist master Li u Ts ' ao i n west
ern China in the year 1069. Liu is supposed to have learned the secrets of
Taoism from Chung-li Ch ' uan and Lu Tung-pi n, who are also said to have
l ater been the teachers of Wang Che in the middl e of the twelfth cen
tury. 3 In any case, Chang is believed to have learned the esoteric l ore of
alchemy from Liu Ts 'ao and to have subsequentl y completed the process
successful ly. Final ly he became a teacher in his own right , though there is
no trace of his ever having founded any sort of organization; 4 near the
end of his life he composed Understanding Reality and entrsted it to a
patron, requesting him to circul ate it: "Al l I have learned in my l i fe is
herein,' ' he is reported to have said on this occasion. "Circul ate it , and
someday there wil l be those who arrive at the way through this book. "5
According to Chang's own preface to his Understandin
composed this text because he thought alchemical literature and its
exegesis in his time obscure and confused. He also wished to emphaize
the confuence of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, even adding an
appendix devoted to Buddhist subjects .
The present transl ation of Understanding Reality is baed on, and
includes, the commentar of Liu 1-ming, a Ch'ing dynasty Taoist who like
Chang Po- tuan wa deeply versed in Buddhism and Confcianism a well
a Taoism, and expressly dedicated his works to removing obscurities sur
rounding technical terminology in achemical literature. Liu fel t that
alchemical terminology, original l y a protective device, had become a feld
for imagination, resul ting in al sorts of aberrated cul ts; his commentaies
on Taoist clasics are thus marked by great simplicity, directness, and
unequivocal repudiation of practices he regarded a inefective or harmfl .
As with Chang Po- tuan, there is no evidence of Liu 1-ming's member
ship in any formal organization, and the details of his life are rather
obscure . According to his own writings , which date from the end of the
eighteenth century through the frst quarter of the nineteenth centur, he
left home at the age of eighteen in search of truth, and fol l owed teach
ings which he eventual l y rejected as degenerate ater meeti ng a teacher
who i nstil led in him a sense of the essential importance of bal ance . Thir
teen years l ater he met another teacher whose guidance enabl ed him to
resolve all his doubts . For twenty years he practiced conceal ment in the
world whi le working on himsel f, and in pl aces as widel y separated as
Ninghsia and Fuki en , he asumed the various guises of traveling mer
chant, Confucian schol ar, manual laborer, and recl use . Sometimes he
appeared as a mystic, sometimes he worked as a teacher, or else engaged
i n construction and repair of publ ic facilities such as roads and bridges.
Eventual l y he rebui l t an abandoned Taoist cloister and lived there for
anot her twenty years. During this period he seems to have attracted a cir
cle of di sci ples and composed commentaries on cl assics such as the I
Yin and yang
Ching, the Ts 'an T' ung Ch ' i, and Understanding Reality, al ong wi th a
considerable number of original poems and essays . "
The comparative study of Chinese achemical lore is an i mmense tak,
fll of i nconsistencies . A modern Taoist says , "Chi nese alchemical texts are
not unifed into a system; without extensive study and thorough i nvestiga
tion, i t is hard to understand them. Why i s it that no one wi th profound
learni ng in Taoism ha come for to organize them?" ' That there is a cer
tain i rony underlying tis question becomes apparent when one refects
agan on te opening statement of the Ta T Ching. In any cae , by way of
i ntroduction to te present work, I wi ll simpl y focus on the mai n points of
the teaching of Understanding Reality as Liu explains i t , 8 and append a
glossar-index to dea with speci al terms not touched upon i n the i ntroduc
tion. Te baic concept which seem to stand out for emphais here are yin
and yang, the fve elements , and essence and l ife ; i n addi tion, the use of I
Ching signs and the question of prais wi l l be briefy considered.
Yin and yang
The concept of yi n and yang forms one of the baic and peÎaive themes
of Taoist thought , used to describe all manner of opposi ti ons and comple
mentarities i n the physical and metaphysical worl ds . I n the teachings of
Complete Reali ty Taoism a we fnd them in the present work, yin and
yang have a number of associ ati ons whi ch represent various qualities and
pÎocedures invol ved i n Taoist methods of human development.
General l y speaing, three aspects or phases of Taoist practice are
expressed in terms of yin and yang. Tese are referred to as fggQg_�ng
while repelling yi n , bl encng y�n. �nd ya.ng, and transcending yin and
t��· In mterprefiig the�e phaes, the associations of yin and yang differ
acLoldi ng to the specific process being descri bed¤
In Taoism one of the basic equivalents of yin and yang is the pair of
terms "heaven and earth." At one level of interpretation, heaven refers to
a world-transcending higher consciousness, beyond the bounds of ordi
nary thought and emotion; earth refers to the experience of the everyday
W(Jrl d. The L ImplCÎC or "real" human being is considered a balanced
combination of these two levels of experience; this is expressed i n the
l�wist slogan "being beyond the world while living in the world." Thus ro
maintain umta< with the higher, vater dimension of "celest i al " con
Miousness while at the same time l i vi ng effectively in the "earthl y"
domain is one meaning of blending f¡ uniting yin and yang.
However, since the effort to achieve a harmonious union of these two
"pol es" of human potential is usually undertaken after temporal
tioning has already become ingrained, so that the "mundane" prevails
over the "celestial ," there is the work of "repelling yin" an_ c_�'fos�<�ing
yang." The aim of this practice is to bring ab
ut a balance in which celes
tial consciousness guides earthl y consciousness . I n religious terms , this is
described in Liu I-ming' s commentary as " unconsciousl y foll owing the
laws qf_Gd.'' I n secul ar terms , it is someuies d
scribed as t
obeying the mind, or desire conforming to reason .
A practical procedure for repel ling yin and fostering yang often pre
sented in Taoist texts basical l y consists of standing al oof from the domi
nant mundane aspect of the mind-that is , acquired habits of thought
and feeling-in order to increase awareness of the recessive cel estial
mind, which is considered the original , primordial mind.
Complete Reality Taoism fnds an indication of this practice in the
famous lines of the ancient classic To T Ching: " Effect emptiness to the
extreme , guard stil l ness careful l y ; as myriad things act in concert , I
thereby watch the return" (XVI) . According to the Compl ete Reality
interpretation, emptiness and still ness refer to quieting the mental tal k
which sustains the acquired world view and habitual involvement there
in. "As things act in concert, I there by watch the return" is taken to
mean that during this practice one l eaves things to themselves , not
becoming involved with external objects but instead, by means of empti
ness and stil l ness , "watching" for the " return " of yang, the original
mind which ha been obscured by acquired mental habi ts and entangl e
ment in things of the worl d. So accordi ng to the Compl ete Reality
school ' s understanding of this practi ce , stil l ness is not an end but a
means , and the practice of emptiness and stil l ness is supposed to have a
defnite climax and outcome .
The process of re_pellng yin is often cal l ed the "yin _qnvcrge��e ," and
Complete Reality texts speak of operating the yin convergence as wel l as
repelling the yin convergence. Thus it has two meanings: excl uding mu�
dane conditioni ng to the extent that it wil l not i nterfere with or imprison
hi gher potential ; yet i ncl uding mundane conditioni ng to the extent that
it is necessary or useful for life in the worl d.
A convenient il lustrati on of the bal ance of excl usi on and incl usion may
be found i n the habi t of language. Language is a form of conditioni ng
which i s both potential ly useful and potenti ally debilitating. The useful
ness of language is a matter of common experience and so needs no fur
ther comment. If one is so conditioned by l anguage , on the other hand ,
Yin and yang
that one's whole experience is molded by fxed labels and catt·gories,
compelled by the associations and structures afforded by a
guage, or by language in general, then this habit has become restrictive,
like a prison of the mind. Modern psychologists recognize thar automat i c
associations or reactions to labels, be they emot ive or intellectual, effec
tively block absorption of information, to say nothing of understanding;
this is a basic point of Taoist learning theory.
T he same point is made in the opening lines of the To T Ching-" A
path that can be verbalized is not a permanent path, terminology that
can be designated is not constant terminology." T his might be para
phrased by saying that there is always more than what can be encom
passed by any formulation, whether that formulation be a word, a lan
guage, a system of thought, or a whole culture. T his does not deny the
relative validity LÎ usefulness of any such tools; rather it affrms the exis
tence of greater potential, the possibility of progress and freedom.
T herefore Complete Reality Taoist teaching does not say that mundan
ity or conditioning is evil, only that it should be a servant rather than a
master. From this standpoint, mundane conditioning is not bad per se, it
is the source of what is bad-the suffocation of the organic living poten
tial of the individual and community. One advantage of being able to
stand aside from the mundane and recover the awareness of the uncondi
tioned primordial mind is that it allows a more objective assessment of
the value or otherise of particular habits or patterns of behavior; and it
allows leeway within which to modify behavior.
What the Complete Reality Taoist strives for is to attain autonomy, the
freedom to be or not to be, to do or not do, according to the needs of the
situation at hand. In this sense the adept is said to transcend yin and
yang, reaching an undefnable state in which one ''does nothing, yet does
anything." T his is alluded to in the present text in expressions such a
"neither being nor nonbeing, neither material nor void." T he accom
plished Taoist in this sense is neither a worldling nor an otherorldly
anchorite, but uses both involvement and withdrawal a necessary means
to an ultimate balance and completeness.
Another pair of important terms analogous to heaven and earth is "the
mind of Tao and the human mind." According to the Chung Ho Chi, the
mind of Tao is the "shining mind," while the human mind is the "wan
dering mind." What the Taoist tries to do, in these terms, is to still the
wandering and sustain the shining, effecting thereby a stabilization of
This practice is also suggested by another famous line of the To T
Ching, "Empty the mind, fll the bel l y" (I I I), which is interpreted to
mean clearing the human mind of its ramblings and preoccupations, and
fl l ing the center of the being-representing the focus of life-with the
direct awareness of reality.
The mind of Tao and the human mind are also associated with "real
knowl edge" and "conscious knowl edge ." Real knowl edge is held to be
nondiscursive, immediate knowing, original l y inherent in the human
being and not the product of l earning. Conscious knowledge is the every
day awareness of ordinary l ife, formed by training and experience . The
Taoist aim is to open consciousness and thereby al l ow greater access to
reality, bypassing mental habit, stabilizing conscious knowing by real
knowledge so that it is not subject to distorting infuences . This is also
expressed in terms of making real knowledge conscious and conscious
knowl edge real .
Real knowledge and conscious knowl edge are in turn associated with
"sense and essence ." Essence is the essence or fundamental nature of con
sciousness itsel f; sense is its function. I n the conditioned state , essence is
frozen into personality and temperament, while sense wanders into feel
ings. T he efort here is to join sense and essence; this may be described as
developing a sense of the real essence of mind, and sensing reali ty di rectly
from the essence of consciousness rather than through the acqui red psy
chological confgurations of temperament . This is said to i nvolve keeping
consciousness open and fuid while clearing sense of subjective feel i ngs;
this means transcendence of restrictive mental fxations through the
greater perspective aforded by the mind of Tao .
Yin and yang are also commonly defned a fexibility and frmness,
and these terms are then appl ied to other yi n I yang asociations . For
example, the essence of conscious knowledge in the human mi nd is said
to be fexibl e, because it has no defnite form original l y ; the sense of real
knowledge in the mind of Tao is said to be frm, because it is objective
and unequivocal . The joining of these to means that the fexibl e con
sciousness, instead of conformi ng to the arbitrary i nfuences of history
and environment, is stabil ized by the frmness of real knowledge. With
out conscious knowing, it is said, there is no point of access to real know
ing ; wi thout real knowing, on the ot her hand, there is no stable objectiv
i ty of consciousness.
The qual ities of fexibil ity and frmness, or softness and hardness, have
numerous other points of reference besi des thei r appl i cation to the
essence of conscious knowledge and the sense of real knowledge. In his
Sh�n Shih Pu Fa, Liu 1-ming describes frmness as strength, sturdiness,
decisiveness , keenness , incorrpti bi l i ty. and indomitability; he also asso
ci ates it with detachment . i ndependence . serenity. will. consistency,
dedicati on, and obj ecti vi ty. As for fexi bi l i t y. Liu defnes this in terms of
self-control . humi l i ty, consi derati on of others . simpliLity hincerity. and
modesty; he also refers to fexi bi l i ty db tolCrance. courtesy. sel f-examina
tion. freedom from compulsive habi t , contentment , and absence of ran
dom thought and i magi nation. Al l of these qual i ties and practices may
thus be suggested by the si mpl e terms yi n and yang ; in respect of these
associations, i t is the bl endi ng of yi n and yang that is the aim, and these
forms of yi n and yang are sometimes gi ven the special name of true yin
and true yang.
Speaking i n general terms about the need to balance fexi bil i ty and
frmness , Liu I - mi ng i n his Wu To Lu says that if one is always " hard ,"
one will be i mpetuous, aggressive, and impatient ; on the other hand, if
one is always " soft ," one wil l vaci l l ate and be ineffective . Balance , he
concl udes , calls for frmness of wi l l wi th fexi bil i ty in action, neither rush
i ng ahead nor lagging behi nd. The correct bal ance of yi n and yang, in
terms of these qual i ties and appl ications of frmness and fexibil i ty, is
considered important both for soci al l ife as wel l a for spiritual life .
In the context of spiri tual practice , yi n and yang also correspond to
stillness and movement, both of which are used i n Complete Reality
Taoist traini ng. Sti l l ness may mean actual physical sti l l ness , commonly
used a an aid to achieving inner stil lness ; it is also used to mean the stil l
ing of cerain undesirable qual i ties such as vi ndictiveness and greed, and
it i s used to refer to a state of inward tranquil i ty in the midst of action .
Movement ha a number of meanings in Compl ete Real i ty Taoist
pras ; it may mean travel, physical exercise, psychosomatic exercise , or
ordina activity in the worl d. Chaitable activities in particular are often
given specia emphasis as being an i mportant part of the overall process of
human development, encompassi ng inner beneft to oneself within out
ward beneft to others .
A somewhat more subtl e meani ng of stillness and movement is essence
and function of awareness . Thi s asociation appears in the context of a
specifc exercise descri bed a silencing the mind to revert from function to
esse�ce, unti l qui escence reaches a clima followed by spontaneous acti
vation of the conscious potential formerly stifed by mental routi ne . One
of the fner points of Taoist practice here i s to discern the exact qual i ty of
the movement fol lowing still ness, to determine whether i t is in fact
movement of the primordial mi nd of Tao, or whether it i s mixed wi th the
acquired human mentality.
As in Ch'an Buddhism, Complete Reality Taoist teaching aserts that
stiHness produced by concentration alone is not necessarily suffcient to
break through the boundaies of psychological conditioning, and may onl y
hold it i n temporary abeyance. Altered states thus produced are called
"phatom elixir," because they vanish in time. According to the Taoist the
or of blending and transcending yin and yang, in the fnal analysis there is
supposed to be no fxed duality beteen stillness and movement; in Liu
I-ming's commentary on Understanding Reality, this balanced integration
is referred to by means of an expression from the I Ching, "Tranquil and
unperurbed, yet sensitive and efective," and by a common Taoist phrae,
"Always calm yet aways responsive, always responsive yet always calm."
This is considered to be a basic apect of the uniting of heaven and earth
within humai ty, a primary aim of Taoist practice.
The five elements
The concept of the "fve elements," like that of yin and yang, is one of
the basic descriptive frameworks found in the Complete Reality school of
Taoism. So well established wa the notion of fve elements composing
the universe in ancient Chinese thinking that it became routine to cl assify
things in terms of fves-fve notes in music, fve viscera in physiology,
fve constants and fve virtues in sociology, fve senses and fve emotions
in psychology. It was no doubt convenient for Taoists as wel l to use this
t ime-honored scheme to structure some of their teachings .
In the Complete Reality school's projection of Taoism, one of the most
common constructs for referring to the unifcation or reconstitution of the
human being is called "asembl ing the fve elements . " The fve elements
are represented by the physical elements of fre, water, meta, wood, and
earh; these in turn stand for conscious knowledge, real knowledge, sense,
essence, and intent. Thus, substituting these equivaents, the assembling
of the fve elements represents the sae blending of yin and yang that has
been discussed above: the essence of conscious knowledge and sense of real
knowledge are uni ted, wi th this unifcation being accomplished through
the medium of intent, or wil l, the concentrated attention used to bridge
the acquired gap between the conscious and the unconscious .
Another construct based on the fve el ements is the contrast between
"going along" and "reversal ." The form of this construct derives from
the ancient idea that the fve elements in one order overcome one
another, while in another order gi ve rise to one another: Taoist "reversal "
inverts both orders. To imerpret this scheme, it is necessary to introduce
the idea of the condi ti oned versus the pri mordi al fve el ements. In Taoist
termi nol ogy, the condi ti oned fve el ements are ant agoni stic or harmful to
one another whereas the primordial fve el ement s Looperdte with and fos
ter one another ; the condi ti oned fve el ements are fragmentt·d whereas
the pri mordial fve el ements are unifed .
The cl assic order of producti on of the fve el ements is wood-fire-earth
metal-water-wood-, and so on . I n the condi ti oned state , wood stands
for temperament, " fre " for vol ati l i ty, " earth " for arbi trary i ntenti ons ,
" metal " for feel i ngs, "water" for desi re . I n these terms , temperament
produces volati l i ty, volati l i ty produces arbitrary i ntentions , i ntenti ons
produce feel i ngs, feel i ngs produce desires , desi res produce temperament .
This represents a circl e of condi ti oni ng, somewhat remi niscent of the
Buddhist idea of the twel vefold circl e of condi ti oni ng.
I n the primordi al state, wood stands for essence , fre for open con
sciousness, earh for true i ntent, metal for true sense, and water for real
knowledge . Hence, reversi ng the order of wood-fre-earth-metal-water
wood-, essence produces real knowledge, real knowledge produces tre
sense, true sense produces true i ntent , true i ntent produces open con
sciousness, open consciousness produces essence .
Te classic order of te mutua overcoming of the fve elements is wood
ear-water-fre-meta-wood-. The conditioned equival ents produce te
circle of temperaent overcomi ng will so that the l atter degenerates into
abitra intentions ; arbitray intentions overcome real knowledge so that i t
degenerates i nto desire ; desires overcome consciousness so that i t becomes
volatile and unstable ; volatil i ty overcomes sense so that it fragments i nto
feel ings ; feel ings overcome essence so that it is molded i nto temperament .
This i s another way of describing te circl e of conditioning.
Reversing the mutual-overcoming cycle , essence overcomes feel i ngs so
they return to tre sense ; true sense overcomes volatility so that it returns
to clear consciousness ; clear consciousness overcomes desire so that it
returns to real knowledge ; real knowledge overcomes willful ness so that it
returns to tre intent ; true i ntent overcomes temperament so that it
returns to essence .
In dealing with Taoist teachings, it is usefl to remember tat virualy
every didactic device employed i n Taoism, even withi n a paricular school
of Toim, can be defned in diferent ways, wit the resul t that there is no
one standard scheme that is universally applied. The imporance of this
provision i n deal i ng wit Taoist li terature may be guessed from the fact that
i t derives from the opening statement of the To T Ching. One and the
sae author may even use diferent explanations at diferent times .
This variety of i nterpretative methods is certai nl y much in evidence
when it comes to d perasive fraework such as the fve elements. I n his
Shuo P'o Hsiang Yn, for example, Liu 1-ming gives another treatment of
the reversal of the fve elements that could proftably be applied to the
present text. According to this interpretation, fre produces wood in the
sense that the essence of a human being is refned in the "frnace" of cre
ati on-that is, through experience-to become stabilized ; water produces
metal in the sense of tre sense passing through desire to become unde
fled. The reversal of earth then means the reversal of intention and orien
tation-using the world for self-refnement rather than for self-indulgence .
Another important set of associations of the fve elements is the so-called
fve bases. In the present text , the fve bases , or fndamental elements of a
human being, are referred to as baic essence, baic sense , basic vitality,
basic spirit , and basic energy. The frst to, essence and sense, have already
been discussed as the essence of consciousness and te sense of real knowl
edge; the remaining three form the so-called three jewels or three treasures,
an important trinity in Complete Real i ty Taoist tought.
Vitality, energy, and spirit might be defned a the fndamental pro
ductive , kinetic , and conscious forces of life . I n Taoism they are said to be
original l y one , yet spoken of as threefol d because of their temporal spe
cialization into t he energies of sexual i ty, metabolism, and thought . There
are practices which involve the temporal condi tioned forms of the three
treasures-sexual exercises , breathing exercises , and controlled imagina
tion; but these are said ( by numerous authors , incl uding Chang Po- tuan,
author of Understanding Reality) to be l i mi ted i n that they do not
produce permanent resul ts . In addi tion, there are said to be mental and
ysical dangers associated with such practices . Many texts therefore
make a point of dismissing them or relegati ng them to a secondar place .
The metaphysical practice based on the three treasures is generally seen
a a progressive refnement : refning vital i ty into energy, refning energy
i nto spirit , refning spirit into space, and fnal l y breaking through space
to merge with the reality of the Tao. This is sometimes descri bed as a pro
gressive detachment and shifting from awareness of the body to awareness
of breath , from awareness of breath to awareness of mi nd, from awareness
of mind to awareness of space , from awareness of space to awareness of
the Tao, or obj ective real i tyo
In certai n systems general ly clasifed a belonging to d "lesser vehicle"
of Tdoism@ t
e vitality, energy, and spirit are asociated with specifc physi
cal locati onsø The vital i ty is asociated wit the genita or umbilical region,
the energy with t
e area of the solar plexus , and the spirit with the head.
These area dC then suLLessi vely made the focus of concentration, accord-
Five elements 1 1
ing to the stage of practice; some practitioners , however, concentrate onl y
on one poi nt . I n either case, i t is commonl y noted that this type of
has the advantage of ease , but also has the disadvantages of being incapa
ble of producing fnal real i zation and also having undesi rabl e and
tially dangerous si de efects . Such are the dangers of this sort of practice. in
fact , that some teachers (such as Liu 1 - ming) appear to reject it Lltirel y.
Modern Taoist l i terature abounds with warnings in this connection.
ularly i n reference to concentration on poi nts in the head .
I n a diferent di mension of i nterpretati on, the "upward " progression of
vitality-energy- spiri t-space-Tao may be used to illustrate an important con
tention of Complete Reai ty Taoism. The degeneration of humankind from
its origina "celesti a" state , it is held, is characteri zed by a "downward"
regresion of tought i nto aggression ad greed-mundane manifestations
of spiri t , energy. and vitaity. Complete Real ity praxis attempts to reverse
tis regression, channeling vi taity and energy "upward" to boost con
sciousness . This boosting is enhanced by clarifcation and purifcation of
consciousness so as to make it "spacelike " and therefore receptive to obj ec
tive reality. Complete Reai ty Taoist literature usi ng Buddhist terminology
also equates vitality, energy, and spiri t with the realms of desire , form, and
formlessness , similarly i ndi cating a progressive refnement .
I n the present text , Liu 1-ming' s commentar on Understanding Real
ity, the " fve bases " represent the energies of the fve elements i n the pri
mordi al , unconditioned state ; in the temporal conditioned state , they
degenerate i nto fve " things " which are referred to as the wanderi ng
higher soul , the ghostlike lower soul , the earthl y vitality, the discri minat
i ng mind , and the errant i ntent .
This concept of higher and lower souls derives from an ancient Chinese
idea of mul ti pl e souls which separate from the indi vidual at death; one
group rises up, whi l e one group sinks down. Traditionall y, both higher
and lower souls are mul ti pl e , but in Complete Real i ty Taoist usage this
factor is ordinari l y irrel evant , and it is convenient to use the si ngul ar form
when translating this particul ar text . The hi gher and lower soul s tend to
be il l defned , or undefned, but in some literature , including the present
text , the association of the higher soul with imagination and the l ower
soul with emotion may suggest i tself to the modern reader. This interpre
tation accords , at any rate , with the association made here of the condi
tioned form of the essence or nature of consciousness with the hi gher
soul , and of conditioned sense or feel i ng with the lower soul. Those
famil iar with Western psychoanal ytic termi nology mi ght also be tempted
to see the ego or superego and id in the hi gher and l ower soul s.
The earthl y vi tal i ty, here cal l ed the conditioned form of the basic vi tal
i ty, general ly refers to sexual i ty. In Compl ete Reality Taoism, sexuality has
no moral associations , and i ts operation and empl oyment are treated as a
practi cal i ssue . The basic premise in this regard is that sexual activity can
ei ther boost or deplete energy ; the fundamental aim of Compl ete Reality
praxis seems to be to control and consciously direct sexuality-neither cel
i bacy nor indul gence , according to Chang Po-tuan, author of Under
standing Reality, wil l take one to the goal . I n Chang' s southern school of
Compl ete Reality Taoism, sexual intercourse (both physical and mental)
was used to cul tivate energy, bliss , and heal th, especial l y in the cae of
practitioners of advanced age. As with breathing exercises and psychoso
matic concentration practices, sexual techniques are considered hazardous
if improperly perormed . 1aoist literature abounds with warnings about
the misuse of sexuality, both technically and generally ; as with other
aspects of life in the world, the matter is presented as a question of
whether one is control l ed by one ' s energies or in control of them.
The discrimi nating mind refers to conceptualization . This is regarded
as a characteristic of the human mind, conditioned by personal and col
lective history; it is useful for everyday affairs but ul timatel y limited and
limiting. One feature of the discriminating mind is that it cognizes
mul tiplicity ; without the bal ancing factor of direct perception of organic
unity, it is prone to fragmentary awareness and bias. Furthermore , a the
patterns according to which the discriminating mind organizes and ratio
nalizes its activities are associated with and infuenced by social and cul
tural identity, they tend to become intimately bound up with emotion,
which then increases the tendency to narrowness and prejudice.
As is the cae when speaing of the human mentaity in general , Com
plete Reality Taoist teachings often appear extremely negative in their atti
tudes toward the discriminating mind; it is explaned that this is because
such teachings are addressed to those in whom the discriminating mind has
through l ong use developed into a jealous tyrant which seeks to excl ude or
discount knowledge nor within its range . I t is interesting to note in tis
connection that attainment of enlightenment in Complete Reality Taoism
is said to be easi er for women and children than for adul t maes; one reaon
for thi s coul d be that women and children in post- tribal society have tradi
tional l y had less of a stake in, and hence less compulsive need to uphold
and defend , the conceptual rationale of a given system. According to Liu
1-ming, for exampl e , fexi bility is the beginning of the practice of te Tao;
and d this quality is conventionall y demanded of women and children t o a
greater extent than it is of men , it might be said that women and children
have J he ad stan in Taoi st practice in this respect .
The errant intent is considered a degeneration or deviation of the " true
intent ." Tre intent is autonomous will or concentration, associated with
trthfulness, sincerity, and reliability, which acts as the focal point of
Taoist practice, and of life a a whole , in what is called a " real " or " free "
human being. Errant intent, on the other hand, is more willfulness than
will , and it is infuenced by external pressures and subj ective desires . In
contrast to the sober, deli berate focus of " true intent," the activity of
"errant intent " is unstable and fickle .
The fve baes and fve things are further said to contain, respectively,
fve virtues and fve thieves . The fve virtues represent qualities which are
held to simultaneously promote social health and personal development .
The fve thieves are emotions and cravings, called thieves or bandi ts
because their indulgence robs the individual of energy, reason, and inner
autonomy. This drainage is held to be the cause of physical and mental
decline . Thus the aim of Complete Real i ty Taoism is to govern the fve
things by the fve bases, and subordinate the fve thi eves to the fve vir
The ancient idea of the fve virtues seems to have taken fnal shape in
the work of the second century B.C. Confcian scholar Tung Chung-shu,
who is said to have introduced the old scheme of the fve elements into
Confucianism. Prior to this, the great Confucian thinker Mencius (3 72-
289 B.C.) had spoken of four virtues : benevolence , j ustice, courtesy, and
knowledge . He considered benevolence an outgrowth of sympathy, j us
tice an outgrowth of shame at doing evil , courtesy an outgrowth of defer
ence , and knowledge or wisdom an outgrowth of j udgment or a sense of
right and wrong. Mencius considered the baes of these virtues to be
i nherent in all peopl e .
The naes of the fve virtues are variously translated in English. i llustrat
ing diferent apect or implications of the quai ties they represent . Benev
olence i s asociated with humanity, kindness , and compasion. Justice is
asoci ated with righteousness and duty. Courtesy is asociated wi th deco
rm and social grace . Knowledge or wisdom is asociated with investigation
of thi ngs and understanding of principles . In general , these virues are not
rigidl y defned. being applied i n diferent ways by diferent i nterreters
accoÎding to contexto In Taoist texts, menti on is also made of relevant atti
tudes and actions such ð loving people, promoti ng soci al welfare, defer
ri ng U others @ and pursui ng theoreti cal and practical studies .
The ffth virtue, truthfulness, is perhaps the quality most precisely
defined in Com
lete Reality Taoism. The word tan be translJted as faith
OÎ trust g but in this srhool of 'Eist practirc it is specifitally associated
with sincerity and truth, Jnd regarded as the cenrral quality wh1ch gives
al l the other virtues authenticity. It thus is seen as consti tut i ng the core of
the i ndi vi dual .
Essence and life
The inner and outer integration of the human being is called the science of
essence and life (hsing- ming hsueh), and this term is commonly used to
i ndicate the general subj ect matter of Complete Real ity Taoist study. Thi s
expression is particul arly signifcant in that it illustrates the contention of
the Complete Reality school that both mundane and transcendental devel
opment are important for the realization of human completeness .
I n Confucian tradition , where the term seems to originate , hsing- ming
general l y means human nature and desti ny ; in Complete Real ity Taoist
usage , it means essence and life, defned as mi nd and body, or spirit and
energy. These are said to be one i n the primordi al state , then divided by
temporal conditioning; in this sense the science of essence and life is
aimed at restoration of the primal organic uni ty of mi nd and body, spirit
As in the expression ' ' essence and sense ,' ' in this cae essence aso means
the basic nature of consciousness , so it may be called mind or spi ri t . The
special study of the science of essence deas with real ization of this basic
nature. In terms of Plato's metaphor of the cave , the study of essence is
commonly practiced by turning the attention from the shadows on the wall
to the source of the light i tself. Done not by discursive thought but by a
di rect inner sense , this is what is known i n Ch' an Buddhism as "seeing
essence" (chien-hsing) , and Complete Reali ty Taoist texts often use the
Ch ' an expression " turning the attention around to look inward" to
descri be a baic practice used in both schools for this purpose .
The sci ence of life , deal i ng wi th the energy of bei ng, i ncl udes physical
exerci se , massage , psychosomatic exercise , energy conseration, and con-
duct in general . Whi l e some manifestations of t he study may thus be pri w
mari l y physical , nevertheless even physical exercises are general l y accomw
panied by certai n ment al postures or atti tudes . The special emphasis of
thi s pan of Taoist st udy i s heal th and wel l - bei ng. The pract ices i nvolved
in the sci ence of l i fe may be complex, and i t i s general l y in this area that
most di fferences among i ndi vi dual teachers and sects wi thi n Complete
Real i t y Taoi sm are found .
Among the vari ous types of physi cal exercise , the two systems best
known in the Compl et e Real i t y tradi ti on are the pa tuan chin, " eight
step brcade ," and the t 'ui chi ch ' uan, " absol ute boxi ng." The former is
Esence and lif
sai d to have been t ransmi tted by Chung- l i . ancestor of Compl ete Real i ty
Taoism; the inventi on of the l atter is at t ri buted t o the ext raordi nary Mi ng
dynasty adept Chang San- feng . whose work i s oftc· n c i t ed i n Complete
Real ity l i terature . Ei ght step brocade i s qui te s i mpl e whi l e absol ut e box
i ng is fai rl y i nt ricate ; both systems have numerous vari at i ons , and both
are stil l i n popul ar use .
There are also vari ous systems of massage . general l y i ncl uded under the
rubric of tao-yin, " i nducti on ," whi ch may combi ne stretchi ng and bend
wi th massage . I nducti on practices are noted for thei r effects on ci rcu
lation , and are recommended for mai ntai ni n
heal th . Li ke ei
ht step bro
cade and absol ute boxi ng . i nducti on practices seem to have taken on a
l i fe of thei r own i n the course of ti me , and may be presented si mpl y as
exercises for heal th , wi thout necessari l y i ncl udi n
the total context of
Complete Real i ty theory and practice .
The mai n psychosomatic exercise seen i n Compl ete Real i ty Taoism is
what is known as the " waterheel " (ho- ch 'e) . This i nvolves generation of
inner heat by concentration or sexual arousal , then ci rcul ati n
through the psychi c channels cal l ed the active and passive (tu and jen)
channel s , up the spi ne , through the head, and down the center l i ne of
the front of the torso. An abbreviated versi on of this exercise , using the
active channel up the spi ne to the brai n , is cal l ed " returni n
the vi tal i ty
to repai r the brai n" (huan ching pu nao) . This is often , thou
h not neces
saril y, pract i ced i n conj uncti on with sexual i ntercourse ; i n the mal e , ej ac
ul ation is suppressed , ei ther by muscul ar contracti on or external pressure ,
creating an extremely i ntense and prol onged orgasm, the heat of which is
then conducted by concentration up the spi ne i nto the brai n , where it
" burns " away mundane thoughts and feel i ngs by bl iss .
Some Taoists do not use the waterheel or brai n- repairing exercises ,
instead emphasi zi ng the practice of energy conseration a a means of
presering heal th and extending l i fe . Energy conservati on i nvol ves mi ni
mi zing the use of the mi nd and senses : thi s i ncl udes both exercises of
extreme withdrawal and quiescence as wel l as general reduction of unnec
essary expenditures of energy. I t is a rather common Taoist contention
that excitation of thought and emotion drains people of energy, and
thus hastens deterioration of the organi sm. Disconnection of emotion ,
thought , and even sense from obj ects is a three- level restorative exercise
bel ieved to aid in recovery of depleted energy and thus in mai ntenance of
physical health. As previously mentioned , in Complete Reali ty Taoism
withdrawal and quietude are not general life patterns or goals of Taoist
practice , but specifc techniques to be appl i ed only at appropriate times .
The general practice of avoiding fri volous waste of energy i nvolves not
onl y rel i nqui shment of compul sive mental and physical activi ty i n pursui t
of sti mul ation , but al so the harmoni zati on of the i ndi vi dual wi th the
soci al mi l i eu . In thi s sense , social ethics , i nsofar as they promote i nterper
sonal harmony, are consi dered an i ntegral part of the " sci ence of l ife ,"
hel pful in reduci ng both psychi c and physi cal wear and tear on al l con
cerned. I n hi s i nt roducti on to Understanding Reality, Chang Po-tuan
mentions the overt teachi ngs of Confuci us as bei ng mai nl y concerned
wi th " l i fe ," ci ti ng the five vi rtues and " four no' s " -no wi l l ful ness , no
fxation, no i nsi stence , no egoti sm. These atti t udes are thus consi dered
benefci al both i n the context of l i fe i n the ordi nar world and i n the con
text of higher psychological development , by fosteri ng the accumul ati on
of the energy needed to sustai n enhanced consci ousness .
I n sum, the pursui t of the "sci ence of essence and l i fe " cal l s for the
i nner and outer i ntegrati on of the total human bei ng. Thi s means the
i nward uni fcati on of the psychological and physi cal energies and thei r
facul ti es of expression , combi ned wi th outward uni fcati on of the i ndi
vi dual wi th the envi ronment . Both i nner and outer harmoni zati ons are
viewed as essenti al in formi ng a channel t hrough whi ch proceeds a con
ti nuous fow of energy between " heaven and earth ."
The use of I Ching signs
In common wi th other Taoi st al chemi cal l i terature , Understanding Real
ity uses certai n signs from the anci ent clasi c I Ching i n present i ng i ts
teachi ngs . The most common of these are the four si gns cal l ed heaven,
earth, fre, and water
The signs heaven = and earth E E are the " parent si gns " representi ng
pure yang and pure yi n, respecti vely. These two si gns thus may be used to
i ndi cate qual i ti es or modes of bei ng or prais , such as movement and
st i l l ness , associ ated wi th yi n and yang. As i n the case of the terms yi n and
yang, the associ ati ons of the signs and thei r components differ accordi ng
to the context of usage .
The si gn fre = is general l y used to refer to awareness , particul arly the
consci ousness i n the human mi nd . Fire i s treated as a modifcation of
heaven , i ndi cat i ng that awareness is ori gi nal l y " cel esti al ." The yin
component i n the mi ddl e of fre = i s understood i n two ways , according
to the specifc sense of yi n appl i ed . In one sense , yin stands for fexi bi l i ty,
adapt abi l i ty, and recept i vi ty ; i n thi s sense , i n the mi ddl e of fre ± i t rep
resents the qual i ty of openness or fexi bi l i ty that i s origi nal l y a characreri s-
Use of I Chin
tic of consciousness . Hence fre can be " open consciousness . " I n another
sense . yin stands for mundani ty. condi ti oni ng. suscepti bi l i t
; in this case
=: symbol i zes fundamental l y celestial awareness havi ng been in
vaded by mundane infuences . produci ng the human mental ity, which is
centered on and suscepti bl e to the thi ngs of the worl d .
In cont rast to the conscious knowledge of the human mi nd represented
by fre =: • the si gn wuter = = is used to refer to the real knowledge of the
mind of Tao. The yang - component i n the mi ddl e stands for the ori gi
nal ly integrated real knowledge that has become buried by mundane con
di t ioning, here represented by the two yin - - components surrounding
it . Thus a basic operation of Taoist alchemy is descri bed as taking the
solid yang - out of water = = and using i t to replace the broken yin ¯ ¯
so as to produce whole heaven = ¤ This means . in other
words . to retrieve real knowledge from the overlay of artifcial condition
ing. and use that to repl ace the mundanity infecting conscious knowl
edge . thereby restoring the basic compl eteness of the pri mordial celestial
mind . Associated nuances of this operation are expl ained in the commen
tary to the text .
Another way in which this combination is expressed is in terms of
" inversion of fre and water " I n the ordinar worl dl y human being. it is
said, fre is above water: j ust as fre rises , consciousness is volatile and
gi ven to imagination and wandering thought ; and j ust as water fows
downward, real knowledge tends to become submerged i n the uncon
scious , to si nk away into obl ivion. Thus when fre is above and water
below, consciousness and real knowledge go their separate ways and do
not combine . Therefore Taoist alchemy speaks of i nverting fre and water
so that they interact-water "cools " fre , i n the sense that real knowledge
stabi l i zes consciousness and removes vol atil i ty, whi l e fre " warms " water,
in the sense of consciousness bringing real knowledge i nto action in l i fe .
The eight basic signs of the I Ching are also used to represent funda
mental el ements i nvolved i n human devel opment ; hence the alchemi cal
expression " the cruci bl e of the eight trigrams ." I n thi s scheme , heaven
= is frmness , earth = = is fexi bi l i ty, fre == is awareness , water = = is
under = is acti on, mountain = is sti l l ness , lake E i s j oy, and
wind= is obedience .
As we have al ready seen, however, the usage of the signs i n Taoist texts
may vary j ust like that of any other symbol or expression. One of the signs
often used more or l ess i n isolation from others is thunder =, represent
ing one yang appearing under two yi ns , symbol i zi ng the appeaance of
the primordial mi nd after profound quiescence : = = turning to = stands
for the resurgence of the cel est i al after the cl i max of the stil l i ng of the
mundane ; here the "acti on " of thunder means activation of the i nnate
potential of the origi nal mi nd . In another context , however, thunder ::
represents essence , pai red wi th lake E representi ng sense : thunder as
" act i on " here refers to the excitabl e nature of temperament , which is the
condi ti oned form of essence ; and lake as "j oy" refers to emotional feel
ings , the conditiÕMal form of sense .
A number of si�- l i ne signs of the I Ching are also used in alchemi cal
texts to represent phases of pIctiLe . Among the most commonly encoun
tered are difculty � � and darkness = = , as i n the standard expression
difculty i n the morni ng, darkess at night ." Thi s maxi m is general ly
used to allude to the so- caled "manial " and "cul tural " phaes of the
alchemical work, i nvolving active stÍggl e and passive nurturance . These
complementary aspects of p¡actice are also known a doing and nondo
ing, striving and nonstriving.
Also menti oned in Understanding Reality are the pairs obstrction and
tanquzlity, settled and unsettled. Obstruction E E represents fai l ure of
yin and yang to interact and combi ne , thus obstrcting human progress ;
stands for the interaction of yi n and yang, which is the
basis of growthe SiÏi l ary, settled
symbol i zes the interaction of fre
and water conscious knowledge and real knowledge , thus producing bal
ance ; whi l e unsettled
: : indicates the isolation of fre and water from
one another. ÎebUl ting in bi as .
Fi nally, Understanding Reality also alludes to what are known as the six
yang signb and six yin signs . The six yang signs are retur
� � , overeeing
� � ,
, great power
¿ parting , and heaven . Con
versely, the six yin signs are meeting m m , withdrawal
g obstrction E E ,
obsering � � , stnpping away
, and earth � � . These signs are not used
in this cae according to their i ndividual val ues as outl i ned in the I Ching,
but siMply as representations of the gradual growth of yang fol l owed by
merging wi th yin: hence they symbol ize the " yang fre " and " yin conver
gence ," the two predomi nant operations of the alchemical process .
One of the i nteresting features of Understanding Reality is that i t does
not gi Ye details of any concrete form of practice through which the
alchemical transformation is to be accomplished. This can be easily
appreciated on the pri nci pl e that practices can have thei r i ntended efect
P 1 9
only when performed accordi ng to proper measure , which depends on
individual needs and timing. What the text does indicate is what is to be
achieved through the alchemical work; the specifc method, tailored to
the individual case, is to be learned in person from an adept .
It i sometimes sad that there are tree thousand si hundred practices
in Taoism; some writers repudiate all formal practices a "sidetracks ," hint
ing at the metaphysica nature of the Tao ad confrming the contention
that trth is formless . In his preface to Understanding Reality, Chang Po
ta mentions some common exercises such a star-gazing, visualization,
breathing exercises, masage, incantation, celibacy, fating, fxation of
attention, ad sexal yoga, and says that the efects of such practices are all
impermanent , at best leading to physica heath and well- being.
Generally speaking, the most peraive practical concern in Complete
Real i ty Taoism appears to be the purifcation and deautomi zation of the
mind so as to make it sensitive to real i ty ; and i t is well known that practi
tioners commonly practiced quiet sitting as an aid in accomplishing this .
Noneteless , Liu 1-ming, who general ly presents an i nterpretation of
Understanding Reality characteristic of the " pure serenity " approach of
the northern school of Complete Reaity Taoism, which emphasi zed quiet
sitting, still makes a point of repudiating even this a a magic key to
enlightenment . There are i ndisputable i ndications that Liu did himself
practice abstract trance i n quiet sitting, but he did not preach it a a
mechanical cure- all ; rather, he emphasi zed more the use of everything i n
life as a means of self- refnement , with abstract trance a means of fndi ng
the " medicines " of unconditioned spirit and energy, which subsequently
have to be refned in the " furnace " of everyday life . There is no i ndica
tion that he , or Chang Po- tu an for that matter, ever set up any sort of
fxed program for students to follow.
Perhaps the most provocative issue in Complete Reali ty practi ce is the
diference i n the approaches of the so-called nortern and southern
shools . As noted in the begi nning of this introduction, both schools are
bel ieved to derive from the teachings of Chung-l i Ch' uan and Lu Tung
pi n , and to have the sae goal ; nevertheless tere ae methodologica dif
erences . One modern Taoist puts i t tis way: " Whatever the school . al
prati tioners gather the uni que uncondi ti oned energ; the way of getting i t
and the pÎívenance arc not the same , but the accomplishment is one .´
The mai n di ference i n t he met hods o
the nLrthern and southern
shool s apparent l y l i e� i n t he usc or OtheÎi se of sexual yoga and t he
waterheel cxcr<. i �c . Thi s i . �uggcstcd by t he epi t het s gi vCn t o t he sc hool s
baed on thei r pra.t i tcs : t he northern school i s commonl y cal l ed t he sec 1
of " pure sereni ty," referri ng to si l ent medi tation , while the southern
school is often called the sect of "grafting" or " twi n cul tivation of yi n
and yang," in reference to the use of sexual exercises .
One modern Taoist gives an i nteresting explanation of the reason for
this di fference : "The northern school emphasi zes puri ty and sti l l ness , as
transmitted by Ch' i u Ch' ang-ch' un ( a disci ple of Wang Che) ; the south
ern school emphasizes grafting, as transmi tted by Chang Po- tuan.
Ch ' ang-ch ' un's l i neage i nvolved people who practiced the Tao i n youth
or mi ddl e age , none of whom were over sixty years ol d. Chang Po-tuan ' s
lineage mostly i ncl uded el derly people over eighty, whose temporal vi tal
ity and energy were i nsuffci ent and had to be repl enished by grafti ng;
therefore it is also call ed the method of mutual suppl ementation of yi n
and yang. However, after repl enishment , they also had to practice i n the
same way as the school of pure sereni ty. "
As usual , however, the situati on does not seem to have been qui te as
cl ear- cut as general i zations make it appear. Al though differences i n
method and emphasis apparentl y came to be exaggerated by some groups
as a basis for sectari anism, neverthel ess those Taoists who conti nued to
emphasize the uni ty of the goal i nsist that the documents of the northern
and southern schools can be i nterpreted coherently in each other ' s terms .
For example , a modern Taoist says , "The books of the southern school
may be i nterpreted perectl y well i n terms of the practi ce of pure seren
i ty. " ' ' Another says , " The southern and northern schools are extremel y
di ffcult to differenti ate . Chang Po- tuan' s Understanding Reality is , to be
sure , a speci alist book of the southern school , but i t can al so be viewed a
an al chemical classic of the northern school . What one sees in it depends
on the person . "
A further compl ication arises when we consi der the southern school to
be marked by the use of " grafti ng," sexual yoga for energy boosting,
si nce Chang Po- tuan hi mself deemphasizes sexual pract ices i n his own
preface to Understanding Reality, and so does Tao- kuang, thi rd patri arch
of the southern school , i n his commentary on thi s text . These apparent
denials may, of course , be protective camoufage , not only to guard
against outside i nterference by scandal i zed Confuci an authori ti es , but
al so to guard agai nst abuse of such practices by i gnorant i mi tators ,
because sexual yoga is hel d to be potenti al l y hazardous , as a modern
Taoist expl ai ns : " The i nteraction of yin and yang ( here meani ng femal e
and male ) is i nconcei vabl e ; if the practi ce of the southern school is nor
done properl y, it can easi l y cause i l l ness . " '
Accordi ng to other modern Taoi sts who speak of the differences and
si mi l arities of the two school s , the graft i ng practi ce of the sout her school
must be combi ned , as previ ousl y noted , wi th the pure sereni t y pract i ce of
the northern school : " I f one wants to practi ce the yi n- yang twi n cul t i va
ti on of the southern school , unl ess one has suffci ent groundi ng i n the
practi ce of pure sereni ty one wi l l be unabl e to be unmi ndi ng i n face of
objects ; many have failed i n the el eventh hour because of t hi s ." ' ¯ " I n the
practice of the southern school , even if one can obtai n el i xi r from one ' s
partner, one must then resume the practi ce of pure sereni ty, embrace the
fundamental , presere uni ty, return to empt i ness and go back to nothi ng
ness ; onl y thus can one achi eve fnal settl ement . Otherise , hopes of
attai ning real ity will in the end vanish." '
I n sum, the aim of Compl ete Real ity Taoism is to be a " real human
being" rather than a wil l y- ni l l y product of socio- cul tural acci dent , to be
. ful l y awake)autonomous , capable of exercising free wi l l and of perceiving
�ctl y wi thout artifci al constrcts . I t is not necessary to bel i eve i n
the possi bi l ity of attai ni ng thi s goal to draw the l esson from rel i gi ous hi s
tor that arbitrary adopti on of formal practices because of tradi tion or
attraction can si mpl y automati ze people i n another way, j ust " addi ng
chains to fetters ," i n the Ch ' an phrase . The value of texts l ike Under
standing Reality is not i n providing an A to Z manual of Taoist enl ighten
menp, but i n providing a theoretical basis for understandi ng the elements
of a praxis i n the context of a comprehensive framework , in rel ation to
specifc possi bi l i ties . This removes the charisma from externals and
focuses attention on efect , so that a system can be assessed in terms 0f
what it does rather than what it looks l i ke .
1 . Ting P'i Shang-yang- tzu Yuan Chu Ts 'an T' ung Ch 'i ( Hsi n Wen Feng Pub
l i shi ng Co. , Tai wan , 1 978) , p. 4 .
2 . Sec Hsuan Men Pi Tu (Tzu Yu Publ i shi ng Co. , Tai wan , 1 965 ) , and Li Ti
Shen Hsien Shih ( Hsi n Wen Feng Publ i shi ng Co. , Tai wan , 1 978) .
3 . There are obvi ous chronol ogi cal probl ems i nvol ved i n t ryi ng t o t race Com
pl ete Real i t y Taoi sm back beyond Chang Po- tuan and Wang Che . Li u Ts ' ao is sai d
to have l i ved i n the tenth cent ury, a hundred years before Chang Po- tuan met
hi m. Lu Tung- pi n , to whom a vast body of apocrypha i s at t ri buted , is sai d to have
l i ved i n the ei ght h century. Chung- l i i s general l y sai d to have been a man of t he
T' ang dynast y, but hi s teacher was supposedl y born i n t he mi ddl e of the second
century \. L. Taoi sts , of course , have l ong cl ai med that a sort of hi bernat i on Ol SUS·
pended ani mati on can be achi eved by pract i ce ; i nt erest i ngl y enough , ami d con-
temporar fears for the planet , sdentists in the West have recentl y begun to
seriously exami ne the question of whether human hi bernation is possi ble , qui te
apart from any i nterest i n Taoism. If the works of Chang Po- tuan and Wang Che
are studied on the basi s of the Ch ' an Buddhist maxim, "Refer everything to your
self," hi storical concerns subside to the relatively superfcial plane of termi nology
and organi zati onal patterns .
4 . I n general , the formation of l arge organi zations in Taoist history relates more
to economi c and pol i tical condi tions than to i ntrinsic quali ties of Taoism. Taoist
ci rcles such as that represented by Chuang Tzu were apparentl y esoteric in the
sense that they had no readi l y i dentifable social presence . Stories of the encoun
ters of Chung- l i Ch ' uan, Lu Tung-pi n , and Liu Ts ' ao are centered on individual ,
personal recogni tion and i nteracti on. I ndications of the situation i n the ti mes of
Chang Po- tuan and Wang Che seem to poi nt to i ndividuals or small groups of
asoci ates ; the organi zati onal boom of Compl ete Reality Taoism took place after
Wang's ti me and was connected wi th social factors such a alienation of the gent r
from pol i tics under forei gn rul e . di sturbed condi tions i n northern Chi na due to
mi l i tar action, and the recogni ti on and enti tlement of Wang's successor Ch' iu
Ch ' ang-ch ' un by the Mongol hegemonJenghi z Khan.
5 . Li Ti Shen Hsien Shih, scrol l 4 .
6 . Other cl asics commented on by Liu i ncl ude the Yin Fu Ching, attri buted to
Huang Ti ; Huang Ting Ching, attri buted to Tung Hua; Ch 'iao Wo Ke, attri b
uted to Lu Tung- pi n; Wu Ken Shu, by Chang San- feng; and Chin Tn Ssu Pai
Tzu, by Chang Po- tuan . For Liu 's expl anation of the I Ching, see my The Toist /
Ching ( Shambhal a, Boston , 1 986) ; for hi s explanation of Chin Tn Ssu Pai Tzu,
see my The Inner Tachings ofToism ( Shabhal a , Boston, 1 986) .
7 . Li Lo-ch ' i u, Fang To Yu Lu ( Chen Shan Mei Publishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 965 ) .
p. 2 .
8 . Agai n , i n the spirit of the To T Ching, i t must be remembered that no
cl ai ms of uni que val i di ty can be made for thi s or any other i nterpretation . For
broader studi es i n alchemi cal lore , see Joseph Needham's Science and Civzlization
in China, 5 vols . ( Cambridge Uni versi ty Press) . For some i ndication of the variety
of i nterpretative frameworks appl i ed to alchemical terms , see Chung Ho Chi in
vol ume 1 7 of To Tsang Chi Wo ( Hsi n Wen Feng Publ ishi ng Co . . Taiwan , 1 976) .
For Li u 1 - mi ng 's cri tical exami nati on of metaphysi cal and physical i nterpretations
of Taoist symbolism, see my The Inner Tachings ofToism.
9. Li Lo- ch ' i u, Fang To Yu Lu, p . 3 2 1 .
1 0. I bi d . . p . 25 1 .
1 1 . I bid .
p. 3 30.
1 2 . I bid e @ p. 349 .
1 3 . I bi d . . p . 1 1 9 .
1 4 . I bid . g p. 3 3 2 º
1 ' . I bi d .
pp. 3 2 7-3 2 8 .
A Direct Explanation
Si xteen verses ,
representi ng " eight ounces " of yi n
and "eight ounces ' ' of yang,
formi ng " one pound" of el i xi r
IF YOU DO NOT SEEK THE GREAT WAY TO LAVE THE PATH OF
DELUSION, EVEN I F YOU ARE I NTELLI GENT AND TALENTED
YOU ARE NOT GREAT A HUNDRED YEARS I S LI KE A SPARK, A
LIFETIME IS LIKE A BUBBLE. IF YOU ONLY CRAVE MATERI AL
GAIN AND PROMINENCE, WITHOUT CONSIDERI NG THE DE
TERIORATION OF YOUR BODY, I ASK YOU, EVEN I F YOU AC
CUMULATE A MOUNTAIN OF GOLD CAN YOU BUY OFF I MPER
The realm of dust is the world of sound and form, the land of name
and gai n where misery is taken for pleasure , where the artifcial is taken to
be real . Di mi nishing the vitali ty, wearing out the energy, destroying
essence and life , in it there is death only. Those who real i ze this and can
go beyond it are the people of attai nment ; those who are unaware of it
and fal into it are people astray. Therefore since anci ent times the
immorals and real people who achi eved the Tao took care of their family
and social duties when they were young, thereby fulflling human ethics ;
when they reached the age of forty they practiced the Tao of not stirring
the mind, whereby they presered their essence and life . After al l , a hun
dred years is onl y a brief interal ; a lifeti me of glory and disgrace i s a
blink of an eye . If you do not know how to return to the fundamental and
go back to the origi n, to return to the root and go back to life , when the
limit of your time here comes , even if you have a pile of gold you' Il l eave
empty-handed. Our author says , " Even if you accumulate a mountai n of
gold, can you buy of i mpermanence ? " Trly this is a golden bell , a drum
of trth, to wake everyone up.
THOUGH HMAN LIFE HAS A LIMIT OF A HDRD YARS,
THE LENGTH OF LIFE, AND WHETHR IT WILL BE DIFFICULT
OR SMOOTH, CANOT BE KOW BEFORHAND. YESTERDAY
RIDING A HORSE THROUGH TOW, TODAY A SLEEPING
CORPSE IN A COFFIN: FAMILY AND WEALTH CAST OFF, THY
AR NOT YOUR OW POSSESSIONS ; WITH EVIL DEEDS COM
ING ON, YOU CANOT FOOL YOURSELF IF YOU COME UPON
THE GREAT ELIXIR WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING FOR IT, HAVING
COME UPON IT, YOU ARE A FOOL I F YOU DO NOT REFINE IT
Worl dl y people compete and strggle for fame and proft , not resting
day or night . They assume their lives will never end, and they will be able
to go on forever enjoying happi ness . How can they real i ze that no one can
know beforehand how long they will l i ve , whether their l ives will be diff
cul t or easy, or whether their l ives wil l be fll ed with gai n or loss . Do not
say people rarel y live to be a hundred years ol d-even if they do, they stil l
cannot escape the grave . We frequentl y see peopl e who do not take life or
death seriousl y ; but after al l there are countl ess numbers of people who
die horri ble and violent deaths even as they walk along the road, a they
tal k and l augh. While your eyes are open, your fami l y and goods are
yours , but when your eyes cl ose forever everythi ng is one void . You do not
take anythi ng at all along with you when you go; onl y the demons of your
misdeeds come back to you for a thousand years . It is better to see
through worl dl y afairs as soon a possi bl e , and hasten to call on enli ght
ened teachers , whereby to seek the great elixir. If your potenti al and ci r
cumstances are meet , and you do fnd the great el ixir, this is very fortu
nate , a great basi s ; set right about refni ng i t with the best of your power,
and you can leave death and enter life , thereby comprehendi ng imper
manence . If you do not willingly and straightforardl y cul tivate i t , you
are rui ning yourself and throwi ng yourself away ; such fools are on a par
with those who cannot see through worldl y things-ater al they will die ;
then what is the vaue of knowledge ?
IF YOU ARE GOING TO STUDY I MMORTALITY, YOU SHOULD
STDY CELESTI AL IMMORTALIT; ONLY THE GOLD ELIXIR IS
WORTHWHILE. WHEN THE TWO THINGS JOIN, SENSE AND
ESSENCE MERGE; WHEN THE FIV ELEMENTS AR COMPLET,
THE TIGER AND DRAGON I NTRTINE. STARTING WITH
HEAVEN- EARTH AND EARTH-EARTH AS GO- BETEENS , FI
NALLY THEY HAVE HUSBAND AND WIFE CONOIN HAPPILY
JUST WAIT FOR THE ACHIEVEMENT TO BE COMPLETED TO PAY
COURT TO THE NORTH PALACE GATE; IN THE LIGHT OF NINE
FOLD MI ST YOU RI DE A FLYI NG PHOENIX.
Part ! 2
Te frst two sections told people to see through thi ngs of the worl d and
haten to seek the great elixr whereby to shed birh and death. The way to
shed birh and death is the way of learning immortality. But there are
numerous clases of immoral s. Tose who comprehend essence and proj ect
the yin soul ae ghost immoras . Those who understand life and keep their
bodies in te world ae eahl y immortals . Those who understand both
essence and life, who have bodies outside their bodies , who are both physi
cally and mental l y sublimated ad who j oin the Tao and merge with real ity,
ae celestial immoras . Though the spirit of ghost is the yin soul and can
ext and enter at will , still since the abode is not permanent tey still have
the afiction of abandoning one body and entering another. Though
ealy imoras keep teir bodies in te world, still tey cannot free te
spirita body ad stll have the burden of te illusory body relying on
things . Of these two, one fals into having death, one falls into having
bin-both ae equaly unable to completely shed birh and death. Only
celestial immorals shed the ilusory body ad achieve the spirital body;
tey go beyond creation, and have no bir or deat. Able to shed birh
ad deat, their life span is equal to heaven, never decaying.
If students want to shed birth and death, they should l earn celestial
immortality; if they want to l earn celestial immortal i ty, they cannot do so
but by the great science of gold elixir. Gold is something i ncorrupti ble ;
eliir is a symbol for blending without hi ndrance . Incorrupti ble , freely
blending, the undiferentiated one energy is like the measureless empty
sphere of heaven, enclosing everything, invul nerable to anythi ng. There
fore after the way is accomplished, one is called a celestial immortal ;
because of being forever incorruptible , this is also called a gold immortal ;
because of appearing and disappearing unfathomably, this is also called a
spirit immortal . In reality, gold immortals and spirit immortals are all
celestial immortals . If you want to learn celesti al i mmortal i ty, there is no
method of doing so save the science of the gold elixir.
This gold elixi r is the i nnate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty received by
humans from heaven-it is completely good, with nothing bad in i t ; the
completely perfect spi ritual facul ty, it is formed of a coagulation of pri
mordi al posi ti ve energy. Therei n are included yin and yang, therei n are
stored the fve el ements : that is , there is the energy but not the substance
-i t cannot be compared to the condi ti oned corporeal pol l uted matter of
an i ndi vi dual body. I f i t i s passed through yi n convergence and yang fre
and refned Îl perecti on , i t becomes eternal l y i ncorrupt i bl e-t hi s i s
cal l ed the great restored el i xi r o
gol d l i qui d t hrough sevenfol d revers i on
and ni nefold restorat i on .
Gold el ixi r is another name for the unfragmented original essence ;
there is no gold elixir besides the original essence . This elixir is inherent
in everyone, not more in sages or l ess in ordinary people . It is the seed of
immortals and enl ightened ones , the root of saints and sages . It is only
that as l ong as i t has not been put through fre and refned, when the pos
itive cul minates it must turn to negative, when waxing culminates i t must
wane, and it fal l s i nto the temporal : i ntellectual knowledge develops and
private desi res get mixed i n; temperament emerges and the natural good
dims , innate knowledge and i nnate capacity both lose their innocence,
and there is no more body of pristine purity.
Therefore ancient sages set up the method of reversion and restoration
of gold elixir, j ust to have peopl e return home and recognize their ances
tor, to revert to what is fundamentally i nherent . Why is it call ed reversion
and restoration? Reversion means the self comes back ater it has gone ;
restoration means the self is regained ater it has been lost .
When the spiritual root of the fundamental essence is obscured, it is
because yin and yang are not i n harmony and the fve elements harm each
other. If yin and yang are uni ted and the fve el ements are assembl ed, the
former completeness is regained.
As for the " two things " mentioned i n the text , one is hard, one sof,
one frm, one submissive , one real knowledge, one conscious knowledge,
one true sense , one conscious essence. Real knowledge is included in the
mind of Tao, and controls hardness and frmness ; it emerges as true sense.
Conscious knowledge hides in the human mi nd, ad controls softness
and submission; it is receptive as conscious essence . When real knowledge
and conscious knowledge separate , one is frm when one shoul dn' t be
frm, and submits to what one shouldn' t submi t to: hadness and softness
lose thei r proper meaure , and true sense and conscious essence turn i nto
false feeling and false nature . When real knowledge and conscious knowl
edge are conj oined one is frm where one should be frm and submits to
what one shoul d submi t to; hardness and softness are properl y timed,
and false feeling and false nature turn i nto tre sense and true essence . Is
i t not clear when the author here says , " When the two things j oi n, sense
and essence merge " ?
As for the "fve elements ," they are the fve energies of meta, wood,
water, fre, and earth . I n the primordi al state, these fve energies constitute
the fve baes-baic essence, baic sense , baic vitaity, baic spirit , and
basic energy. In the condi t ioned state, they consti tute fve things-the
wanderi ng higher soul , the ghostl ike lower soul , the earthly vi tality, the
di scri mi nati ng mind, and the errant i ntent . The fve baes contain te fve
vinues of benevolence, justice , counesy, knowledge, and truthful ness ; the
fve thing contai n te fve thieves , which are j oy, anger, sadness , happi
nes, and lust . When the fve dements are complete , the primordi al and
te temporal ae conjoined, and the fve baes control the fve thi ngs . The
"drgon" is yang; it commands the life- i mpulse . It bel ongs to the sphere
of "wood" in te eatern direction. In humans , it is the esence . The
"tger" is yin; it commands the deat-i mpulse. I t belongs to te sphere of
meta, in te western direction. In humans i t is sense . When the fve cl e
ments are not in harmony, their natures become isolated; the fve baes
tur into the fve ti ngs , and the fve vinues change i nto the fve thi eves ;
te dragon remans in te east and the tiger in te west , essence is di s
turbed and sense is awry, thus becoming temperament and errant feeling,
so that te energy of deat saps the energy of life .
When the fve dements are complete and whole , they all return to one
nature; te fve things turn i nto the fve bases , the fve thieves change
into the fve vinues . The dragon coils , the tiger sits , essence is stabi l i zed
and feelings are forgotten, thus constituting true sense and real essence ;
so the energy of death becomes the energy of life .
The path of spiritual alchemy is no more than harmoni zi ng hard and
soft , causing frmness and submissiveness to bal ance each other and
essence and sense to uni te with each other. When essence and sense
unite , yin and yang j oi n and the fve dements are complete ; this i s the
primordi al noumenon of heaven. It is wholly good, with no evil , the basic
phenomena of i nnate knowledge and capaci ty-hence the gold elixir is
But after the primordial original basis is lost and scattered, essence goes
eat whi le feel i ng goes west , and hard and soft do not i nteract . If there is
no harmonizing substance to convey communication, they wi ll be cut off
from each other and not know each other at all . The harmoni zi ng sub
stances are the two earths , the heaven- earth and the earth-earth .
The heaven- earth is i n charge of movement , and is i n the domain of
yang; the earth-earth is in charge of still ness , and is in the provi nce of yi n.
That which is quiescent and unmoving is earth- earth; that which is sensi
ti ve and efective is heaven-earth. Among the fve vi rtues , the to earths
are real truthfl ness . When real truthful ness is in the center, essence is
stable ; when the fnction of true stabi lity is externali zed, sense i s harmo
nious . When essence is stable and sense harmonious , essence and sense
return to the root , l i ke husband and wife in bl issful embrace . Benevo
lence , j ustice , courtesy, and knowledge return to one truthful ness ;
essence and sense , vitality and spiri t , j oi n i n one energy. Heaven, earth,
and humani t y mee t , t he fve energi es go back to the basi s , return to t he
ori gi n and revert to t he fundamental , and the gol d el ixi r congeal s. One
name for thi s i s the spiri tual embryo.
Then go on to advanced cul tivati on , entering from doi ng i nto nondo
i ng, nurturi ng i t warml y for ten months , maki ng i t sol i d and compl ete ,
frmly sealed . Take out the excess of frm sense , augment the i nsuffci ency
of submissive essence. Usi ng the natural true fre , begi nni ng i n the morn
ing, fowi ng on unceasingly at night , burn away the conditioned mun
dane energy. Producing substance from no substance , goi ng from subtl e
to apparent , when the energy is full and the spirit complete , with a peal
of thunder you shed the shel l , and have a body outside the body. Then
the accompl ishment is achieved, and you go to the celestial court , the
"North Palace ," ridi ng on a phoenix, fying aloft i n broad daylight ,
becoming a pure cel estial i mmortal . Wouldn' t that be pleaant ? The
original true essence is cal led the gold elixir ; with the physical el ements as
the furnace , i t is forged i nto a ball . Those who real i ze this ascend to the
ranks of sages right away ; those who do not know it are sunk for myriad
eons . How can those with will not work on this ?
THIS METHOD I S THE SUBLIME AND RAL OF THE REAL. IT
ALL DEPENDS ON ONESELF ALONE, APART FROM OTHERS .
ONE KNOWS INRSION ONESELF, STARTING FROM FIRE AND
WATER. WHO DISCERNS FLOATING AND SINKING, ESTAB
LISHES HOST AND GUEST? IN TH GOLD CRUCIBLE, I F YOU
WANT TO KEEP THE MERCURY WITHIN CINNABAR, IN THE
JADE POND FIRST SEND DOWN THE SILVR WITHIN WATER.
THE SPIRITUAL WORK OPERATING THE FIRING DOES NOT
TAKE A WHOLE DAY BEFORE IT BRINGS OUT THE ORB OF THE
SUN IN THE DEEP POOL.
The foregoing section said that cul tivating the gold elir requi res that
essence and sense be j oined i nto one , and the fve elements all be com
plete ; only then can it be accomplished. However, while the medici nal
substances are easy to know, the fring process is most difcul t .
The fring process is the process of the method of cul tivation and
refnement . Master Lu said that those of superi or virtue make their bodies
complete by means of the Tao, this being because their pure yang is not
yet broken, while those of lesser virtue extend their lives by means of
techniques , because water and fre have already formed. In general , those
of lesser virtue need artifcial methods .
Method means techni que : without method, without technique , one
cannot return to the basis and revert to the origi n ; when the l ife- founda
tion is unstable, the great Tao is difcul t to achieve . Therefore the author
says here , " This method is the sublime and real of the real . It all depends
on oneself alone, apart from others ." The method called the real and sub
lime is an utterly real and utterly sublime method. As the method leads
to the real , one can appropriate yin and yang and take over creation,
turning enlivening and killing around, reverse the working of energy. As
the method leads to the sublime , even spiri ts and ghosts cannot fathom
i t , divination cannot read i t . In the primordi al state , nature does not dif
fer from i t ; in the temporal state, i t obeys the times of nature . So i t is the
way to become a sage ; it is impenetrable by the mi nor methods of all aux
iliary techniques .
Wherein lies the marel of the real method of refnement ? The marel
is in i nversion alone . Inversion means inversion of yin and yang and rever
sal of creation. As for fre and water, fre ± is male outside and female
inside ; the female inside is true yi n , which in people is conscious knowl
edge concealed withi n the human mi nd. When the human mind stirs ,
conscious knowledge fies , like the ri sing of fames of fre . Wter = E is
dark outside and light i nside ; the l i ght inside is tre yang, which in peo
ple is real knowledge , i nherent i n the mind of Tao. When the mind of
To is obscured, real knowl edge is obscured, l ike water fowing down
By inverting these , we produce the mi nd of Tao and stabil ize the
human mind. When the mi nd of Tao emerges , real knowledge is strong
and frm, and the pure and whole water rises . When the human mi nd is
stabi l i zed , conscious knowledge is fexi bl e and adaptive , and the rising,
dryi ng fre descends . When water rises and fre descends , they equal i ze
Consci ous knowl edge is essence ; essence is in the provi nce of wood: the
essemLe of wood is soft , and it eai l y foats up. Real knowl edge i s sense ;
sense i s i n t he
roYi nce of metal : the sense of metal is hard , and i t eai l y
si nks down . Con�i ous knowl edge foat i ng up and act i ng i n afai rs i s t he
host ; t here i s art i fi Li al i t y wi t hi n t he real . Real knowl edge si nki ng and
not bei n
mani fest i s t he
uest ; t he art i fc i al LYClLOMCb i ts real i t y. Thi s
is t he usual lourse . 'J () " C't abl i sh hoM and gues t " i s Î L make t he hClbC of
real knowledge the host , causi ng that which si nks to foat up, and to
make the essence of conscious knowl edge the guest , causing that which
foats up to si nk down . Wi th host and guest i nverted, metal and wood
J Oi n.
When fre and water mi x, and metal and wood j oi n, the mi nd of Tao i s
strong, and the human mi nd submi ts to i t . Real knowledge and conscious
knowledge are joined i nto one , essence and sense commi ngle . How could
the gold el ixir then not crystal l i ze?
However, this real , sublime method is not material and not void; i t is
done unbeknownst to others , where only one can know oneself. That is
why the text says , "One knows oneself," and i t also says "Who discerns ? "
People do not discern i t-you know i t yourself. That snatching of poten
tial is i nvi si ble and unknowable to anyone .
I n this path, there is before and after, there is i ntensity and relaation;
if you do not know the subtl e function of before and after, i ntensity and
relaxation , even if you can recogni ze the medicinal substances inversion
will be impossi ble to efect and host and guest will not be determined.
Therefore the text fol l ows right up with " In the gold crci ble , if you want
to keep the mercury withi n ci nnabar, i n the j ade pond frst send down the
silver withi n water." Here, "gol d" is something hard, "j ade " is some
thing soft ; the "crucible " is something for refning the elixir, the " pond"
is something for nouri shi ng the fre . The gold crci bl e and j ade pond
symbol i ze the path of cul tivation of real i ty ; hardness and softness is its
The human mi nd belongs to fre E , which is based on the body of
heaven =. This is the gold cruci bl e , contai ni ng the fre of earth in the
second pl ace ( - - ) a conscious knowl edge ; this is that i n which te soft
ness and adaptabilty of earth E E is balanced in the center-that is , the
original i nnate capaci ty. The human mi nd is origi nal l y empty and cl ea,
i ts immaterial spiri t unclouded: because it is mixed wit condi tioned dis
cri minating consciousness , awareness i s used to produce i l lusion; perceiv
ing objects , i t arouses dust , raising waves along with the wind, without a
moment ' s rest , l ike the mercur withi n ci nnabar, which fies when it
meets fre and i s most difcul t to keep. This is what the Ts 'an T'ung Ch ' i
refers to when i t says . "The bead fowi ng in the sun always tries to leave
the person.' '
The mind of Tao bel ongs to water ± , which is based on the body of
earth E E . This is the j ade pond , containi ng the water of celestial uni ty
( -) a real knowledge ; thi s is that i n which the hadness and frmness of
heaven = is bal anced i n the center-that is , the ori ginal i nnate knowl-
edge . Because of fal ling into the temporal state , worki ng wi th condi
tioned energy. the tre energy recedes . yang fal ls i nto yi n . t he real i s cov
ered by the artifcial . one sinks in the ocean of desi re . and i nnate knowl
edge i s obscured, l ike si lver i n water, vi rtuall y nonexi stent . barely
existent . Si lver is meta; silver in water is the metal concealed i n water.
This metal primordial l y is the innate knowl edge of the origi nal essence ;
in the temporal state it is the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao. By that
real knowl edge one reaches strength and health , so i t i s represented meta
phorical ly Ü true lead. By that real knowl edge one becomes i mmortal
and attains the Tao, so it is represented metaphorically as true seed .
Sages since antiquity have all comprehended essence and l i fe by gath
ering these same medicines . Though the conscious knowledge of the
human mind is easily moved, if you get the real knowledge of the mi nd
of Tao t o control it , the consciousness wi l l return t o reality and will not fy
of. Instability i s due t o t he unsettledness of t he consciousness of the
huma mind, which in turn is due to lack of the mind of Tao. If you want
to retain te conscious knowledge of the human mi nd, you must frst set
down this rea knowl edge of the mind of Tao. Where there is the tre
seed of real knowl edge , there is inner autonomy which is unmoved by
contaminated energies ; then the conscious knowledge of the huma
mind natural l y stabilizes and does not fragment .
The mind of Tao is used to control the human mi nd, the human mind
is made to follow the mind of Tao; real knowledge governs conscious
knowledge , conscious knowledge nurtures real knowledge . Hard and soft
balance each other, frm and submissive become Ü one , essence and sense
conj oin; within a short time they crstallize i nto a single round, l umi nous
j ewel , its spiritual light shining brightly, invul nerable to any aberrant
energies . Therefore the treatise says , "The spiri tual work operating the
fring does not take a whole day before i t brings out the orb of the sun in
the deep pool ." The spiritual work is the silent operation of the light of
the spirit being careful when alone ; the fre is the harmonious energy of
real knowledge and conscious knowledge , hard and soft , merging into
one . Operating the fring means being careful and wary about the unper
ceived, operating this real knowledge and conscious knowledge so the
hard and soft unite , not letting any garbage stay in the mind. This fre of
spiritual work is like setting up a pole ad seeing i ts shadow, shouting
into a valley conveying one ' s voice ; if you do it straightforardly without
reserations , it won' t take all day before you can restore the posi tive from
within the negative , like the sun emerging in a deep pond, negative
energy receding of itself.
Tht tssc nt i al poi nÎ i n t hi s sec t i on i s t he words " i f you want to keep"
and " fi rst send down . " Therei n i s t he meani ng of " frst devel opi ng con
t rol over the person , duty not extendi ng to a guCst -i
yÔu get t he
meani ng of thi s , then i nverti ng yi n and yang and uni t i ng the four forms
i s as easy as turni ng your hand over. This i s the form of t he met hod o
outer el ixi r. "Outer el i xi r " is another name for the restored el i xi r. Because
i t is gone and comes back , is lost and restored, i t is caJ led the outer eli xi r
and also cal led the restored el i xir. After the el i xi r has been restored, i t
then is the i nner el ixi r; this is the disti ncti on between the i nner and outer
THE TIGER LEAPS . THE DRAGON SOARS , THE WIND AND
WAVES ARE ROUGH; IN THE CORRECT POSITION IN THE CEN
TER IS PRODUCED THE MYSTERIOUS JEWEL. FRUIT GROWS ON
THE BRANCHES , RIPE AT THE END OF THE SEASON; HOW
CAN THE CHILD IN THE BELLY BE ANY DIFRNT? THE
SOURCE OF NORTH AND SOUTH OVERTURNS THE TIGRM
SIGNS ; THE FIRING PROCESS OF MORNING AND EVENING
JOINS THE PIVOT OF HAVN. YOU SHOULD KOW THE
GREAT HRMIT IS CONCEALED IN THE CITY; WHAT IS TH
NECESSIT OF KEPING TO TNQUIL SOLITDE DEEP IN
THE MOUNTAINS ?
The precedi ng section spoke of the matter of restored elixi r ; tis one
speas of te way of the great elixir. The way of the great elir is the work
of one time. This one time j oins the quali ties of heaven and earth, j oins
the l ight of sun and moon, j oins the order of the four seaons . It is hard to
fnd and eay to mistake . If there is any carelessness , te energy of pri
mordial true unity is lost . The primordi al truly unifed energy is te
restored elixi r; it is formed by the combi nation of hard ad soft energies
based on the restored el ixir, so it is called the trul y unifed energy. It is not
that there is a truly unified energy apart from the restored elixir.
When the restored el ixi r is obtained, the mi nd of Tao is frm and
strong, and the human mind is soft and docile; real knowledge and con
scious knowledge merge into one, round and bright . This is te innate
knowledge and innate ability, tranquil and unperturbed, sensitive and
effective , the property of the ori gi nal sel f. This property i s cal l ed the t rue
lead because of i ts essenti al frmness ; it i s al so cal l ed the mal C t i ger
because of the robustness of i ts energy. The t rue l ead , or mal e t i ger, i s one
singl e fowi ng energy, al l good . wi th no evi l ; i t i s si mpl y preservati on of
the natural real i ty of the i nnate knowl edge and capaci t y. Once you have
managed to recover this natural real i ty, you need to return thi s natural
real ity to where the fve el ements do not reach , before your parents gave
bi rth to you; only then can it be an everl ast i ng i ncorrupti bl e natural
real i ty.
So when natural real i ty has been recovered, nurture i t , guardi ng i t
carefully and storing i t securel y. Become utterl y empty, qui et , and si n
cerely intent ; when flled with posi tive energy. from ul ti mate sti ll ness you
again go into motion, and the spi ri tual sprouts emerge .
At this time , the posi tive light emerges from i ts l ai r, l i ke the robustness
of the tiger, its momentum unstoppabl e : qui ckl y meet i t wi th the poi nt
of fre of cl ea consci ousness in t he tre essence . The fre of cl ear con
sciousness is called the female dragon. "The tiger leaps , the dragon
soas " i s a representation of the gatheri ng of yin and yang. As for " wi nd
and waves are rough," when the tiger emerges from i ts cave wind rises ,
and when the dragon emerges from its pool waves arise . This means the
contact of yi n ad yang: dragon and tiger mate . essence and sense merge .
j oi ni ng i nto one , enteri ng the center.
The primordi al energy comes from nothi ngness and congeal s i nto a
bead of j ewel : "The spi ri tual embryo asumes form." The spi ri tual
embryo is the " valley spi ri t ," the val ley spi ri t i s the spi ri t of mystery and
femaleness merging into one . The mystery of yang is the tiger, sense ; the
femaleness of yin is the dragon. essence . When essence and sense j oi n .
the spiri tual embryo forms ; when the mysterious femal e stands , the val l ey
spi ri t is born. When you get to thi s state , doi ng is ended and nondoing
appears ; it is no longer necessar to strive-leave it to nature . It is l i ke
fruit growing on the branches-eventual l y they wi l l ri pen; the chi l d i n
the bel l y wil l one day be born.
But though the consol idation of the spiri tual embro calls for nondo
ing, there is still the work of preventing danger and being wary of peri l ,
which one must know.
As for "The source of north and south overturns the trigra signs ,"
south is fre , and north is water : with the spiri tual embryo consol idated, a
harmonious energy permeates ; water and fre return to the source , natu
ral l y heating and boil i ng together. Let i t proceed natural l y; one must suc
cessfully avoid both inattentiveness and forcing the issue .
As for ' ' the fring process morning and evening j oi ns the pivot of
heaven," morning is the beginning of a day, when the yang energy works ;
evening is the beginning of a night , when the yin energy works : the pivot
of heaven is the incipience of energy, yin and yang. When yang is appro
priate, use yang; when yin is appropriate, use yin: the waxing and waning
of the fring accords with the potentials of morni ng and eveni ng. This is
the accomplishment of work by day and cautious by night .
Do not be inattentive, yet do not force; worki ng by day and cautious at
night , nurture it warml y for ten months , exchange the temporal trigrams ,
free the primordial spiritual body. Your life depends on yourself, not on
heaven. This is the Tao. I t is cultivated aong humanity, done in the
marketplace . The great function of great potenti al , the realistic work of
t rue action, is not the study of vacant , i nactive quiescence ; that is why it
says , "You should know the great hermi t is concealed in the city; what is
the necessity of keeping to tranqui l sol i tude deep in the mountains ? "
EVERYONE ORIGINALLY HAS THE HERB OF LONG LIFE: IT' S
JUST THAT THEY DON' T UNDERSTAND IT, AND THROW IT
AWAY IN VAIN. WHEN THE SWEET DEW DESCENDS, HEAVN
AND EARTH JOIN; WHERE THE YELLOW SPROUTS GROW,
WATER AND FIRE MIX. A FROG IN A WELL WOULD SAY THER
IS NO DRAGON' S DEN; HOW COULD A QUAIL IN A CAGE
KOW TER IS A PHOENIX NEST? WHEN THE ELIXIR IS
FLLY DEVELOPED, NATRALLY GOLD FILS THE ROOM;
WHAT I S THE NEED TO LOOK FOR HERBS AND PRACTICE
BURING REDS ?
The preceding three sections expl ai n the restored el ixir, the great el ixir,
the medici nal substances , and the fring process . However, i t may happen
that students may get the false idea that the gold elixir i s made by burn
i ng and forging ordi nary substances ; therefore this section fol l ows up
qui ckly wi th a warni ng about this .
The gold el i xi r is the fundaental essence of i nnate knowledge and
innate capaci ty inherent in peopl e . This essence is i ntrinsical l y complete
in everone ; i t i s not more in sages or less in ordi nar peopl e . I t is not
obtai ned from another, it is i nherent i n oneself. If you accord with i t , you
acend directly i nto the realm of sages ; essence is stabi l i zed, l i fe i s sol i di
fed, never to disi ntegrate . This fundamental essence of i nnate knowl
edge and i nnate capacity is the great el i xi r of long life.
Those who are deluded do not i nvestigate te true pri nci pl es of sages ,
do not consider the basi s of essence and life ; they abandon what is near
and seek afar, rej ect the true and accept the flse . Thus they waste thei r
lives , growing ol d wi thout fulfllment , foolishly trowing themsel ves
away. Is this not to be pitied and l amered?
The frm quality of i nnate knowledge inherent in people is received
from heaven-this is " heaven." The original adaptable quality of innate
capacity is received from eart-this is " earth ." The original bpiÍit of
open awareness wi tout obscuri ty is the spiritual essence , which is a prod
uct of te energy of ea-ts is " fre . " The origina pure, unadulter
ated vitality is tre sense , which is a product of the energy of heaven
this is "water." If people can be both frm and adaptable at once, then
the heaven and eah within themselves j oin. This is like sweet dew de
scending and washing the heÜt ; vexations are shed al at once . If people
can avoid dissipating thei vitaity and spiri t , then the water and fre in
themselves will mix, and te orgina energy will be restored.
The descent of sweet dew is purit of heart ; the growth of the yel low
sprouts is tra
uil ity of mind. The uni
ue spiritua tre essence of innate
knowledge and i nnate capaci ty hangs i n space , silent , unstirring; sensing,
it accomplishes efects . Ever responsive , i t is ever tranquil : creation can
not move it , thi ngs canot crap it . One ' s desti ny depends on onesel f,
not on heaven; the path of long life is herein.
How can a frog in a well know of the exstence of this dragon cave ?
How can a quail in a cage know of the existence of this phoenix nest ?
Those who hear tell of medicinal substaces and fri ng and imagine i t
refers to some chemical process do all kinds of strange thi ngs-they still
do not know that when the cultivation of the great elixir is complete , gold
and j ade fll the room, preseri ng life , making the body sound, riches
beyond compare . How can any material things be worthy of attachment ?
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE LOCATION OF THE RIVER
SOURCE WHICH PRODUCES THE HERB, IT IS JUST IN THE
SOUTHWEST, ITS ORIGINAL HOMELAND. WHEN LEAD MEETS
40 Understanding Reality
THE ARISING OF THE YOUNGER WATER, YOU SHOULD
GATHER QUICKY; WHEN METAL COMES TO THE PASSING OF
THE MIDDLE OF THE LUNAR MONTH, IT WON' T DO TO
TASTE. SEND IT BACK TO THE EARTHEN POT AND SEAL IT
TIGHTLY; NEXT PUT IN FOWING PEARL, TO COMBINE WITH
IT FOR THE WEIGHT OF THE MEDICINE TO BE ON POUND
REQUIRS TWO TIMES EI GHT; ADJUST THE FIRING PROCESS
HARMONIOUSLY, RLYING ON YIN AND YANG.
The preceding section says everone has the herb or medicine of
immortali ty, but i t still doesn' t say where and when this herb grows ;
therefore this section reveals the facts about the growth of the herb, to
enable students to work on i t accordi ng to the time, and be carefl with
the fring process .
The southwest is the di rection of earth = = ; i t is the realm where the
new moon returns , where yin at its extreme gives bi rth to yang. In peo
ple , this is the time of begi nni ng movement when sti l l ness has reached its
extreme . This movement from the extreme of sti l l ness is precisely when
the great medicine appears . However, this movement is not the sti rring of
emotions at external i nfuences , and it is not the stirring of thoughts in
the mind. It is the movement of the i nnate knowl edge of the natural
mind, the movement of the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao.
This innate knowledge of the natural mi nd and rea knowledge of the
mind of Tao are represented a medi ci nal substances because they are able
to transcend the ordi nary and enter i nto the spiri tual , to rise from death
and return to l i fe . Because at the time of extreme stil l ness , when al l
entanglements have ceased, the i nnate knowledge of the natural mind
and the real knowledge of the mind of Tao have a point of bri l l i ance
whi ch reveals a gl impse of them, this is represented as the pl ace where the
medicine or "herb" is produced. Because the innate knowledge of the
natural mind and real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao are whi te within
black , coming from within empty nothi ngness , movement born from
still ness , l i ke a ri ver havi ng i ts source in a spring, this is represented as the
river source where the herb is produced.
This herb, i n the pri mordi al state , is the i nnate knowledge of the natu
ral mi nd ; i n the temporal state , it is the real knowledge of the mind of
Tao. The mi nd of Tao is a refecti on of the natural mi nd , real knowledge
is a refecti on of i nnate knowledge . Because the natural mi nd falls into
the t emporal state , i t cannot abi de forever; someti mes i t appears , and is
Part I 4 1
cal led by aother nae . the mind of Tao. Because i nnate knowl edge
sinks into the sea of desire . its radiant energy is obscured ; on the occasi ons
when it is not obscured, i t is cal l ed by another name . real knowl edge .
After you have reached the point of reversi on and restorati on . the mi nd
of Tao is as before the natural mind. and real knowledge is as before
innate knowledge .
Sometimes appeari ng and sometimes not bei ng obscured is the home
land of the mind of Tao and i ts real knowledge . That is to say, i n thi s
place of sometimes appearing and sometimes not bei ng obscured there i s
a poi nt of primordial , real , unifed living potential subsisting there . If
you use this poi nt of l i vi ng potential and cul tivate i t in opposition to the
usual course of conditioning and deterioration , i t shoul dn' t be hard to
return to the natural mi nd and i ts i nnate knowledge by way of the mi nd
of Tao and i ts real knowl edge .
But for the return not to be difcul t , it is necessary to know clearl y
where the source of the river is , movement coming from the extreme of
still ness . Lao Tzu said, " Efect emptiness to the extreme , guard still ness
careful l y ; as myriad things act in concert , I thereby watch the return."
The I Ching says , "Repeating the path, coming back in seven days ." Both
of these point to this river source where the mind of Tao and i ts real
knowl edge arise .
Once you know the river source where the medici ne is produced, you
need to understand the timing for practical application . The subtl e appl i
cation of cul tivation of the el i xi r i s j ust a matter of taki ng the uni form
taste of the mind of Tao as the matrix of the el ixir. Because the mi nd of
Tao is frm and strong, contai ning withi n it the sense of real knowl edge , it
is represented as tre lead. Wi thin l ead there is si lver ; i t is bl ack outside ,
whi te i nside : wi thin the mi nd of Tao there is real knowledge , which is
dark outside and light insi de . So the i mmortals and real peopl e have all
l i kened the mind of Tao and real knowledge to el ixir and lead; they were
unwil l i ng to speak expli citl y, bei ng cautious lest the wrong people misap
propnate I t .
When the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao is covered and buried by
emotion and desire and has sunken deeply, it cannot get i tself out ; once
you know the river source , you can gradually collect it and restore i t . The
method of restoration is to be sought while in the midst of emotion and
desi re . Real knowledge is the product of heaven, pure cl ear yang " water,"
which is the " elder water." Emotional desire is the product of earth, pol
luted yin "water," which is the " younger water." The el der water is hi d
den within the younger water; but for t he arisi ng of younger water, the
42 Understanding Reality
el der water woul d not appear, and the true lead woul d not be mani fest .
"When l ead meets the arisi ng of the younger water" is the mi xi ng of the
two energi es , yin and yang, when the younger water ha j ust arisen but is
not yet used, the elder water ha not yet dispersed and real knowledge is
not yet obscured: you must gather i t qui ckl y and return it to the " cruci
ble ," which i s l i ke a womb i n suspensi on-then emoti onal desire wi l l not
be activated and will disappear of i tself.
As for "When metal comes to the passing of the middle of the lunar
month," once you have gotten real knowledge to come back , you use thi s
point of true sense of real knowledge , i ncreae and expand it , progressing
to the correct balance of frm strength, the pure unadulterated vitali ty.
This is l i ght refni ng white metal out of lead, i ts color ful l y bright and
clear. When you reach this stage , i nnate knowledge and i nnate capacity
are clear and unobscured, able to deal with thi ngs , whether i ndi rectly or
di rectly, acti ng or not acti ng, at wi l l , going along freel y, everywhere being
the Tao. This is like the bright moon i n the sky, l ighting up the world to
view, penetrating the darkness . One can then ceae to employ efort
involvi ng increase and decrease , give up doi ng and enter nondoi ng.
If you do not know the fring process , before fulfl l ment of the prepa
rations is compl ete ful l ness wi l l wane , l ight will return to darkness , l i ke
after the middl e of the l unar month , when yi n arises wi thi n yang. Real
knowledge wil l be damaged , the tre wil l go i nto obscurity and the fase
will come . What will be there is the pol l ution of temporal conditioning
-i t is not worth tasti ng. Therefore , when real knowledge ha returned to
completeness , you must quickly send i t i nto the " earth pot " i n the center
and sea it up tightl y, not letting even a l i ttl e of it l eak out . Then you take
the fowing pearl of open awareness in the fundamenta essence and mi
it in , using yi n to balance yang, using empti ness to nourish substanti al i ty.
Guardi ng agai nst danger, wary of perils , aim for attai ni ng uni ty of frm
ness and fexi bili ty, balance of yi n and yang, wi th ti ce eight ( " eight
ounces each" ) , no excess or lack, progressi ng unti l the sl ag is removed
and the gol d is pure , after there is not so much as a speck of temperament
any more .
However, if you want a full measure of the two eights , i t al l depends on
adj usti ng the fring process harmoniously, understandi ng maturity and
immaturi ty, knowing to be content with suffci ency, disti nguishi ng what
bodes well and what bodes ill , discerning when to hurr and when to
rela. When it is time to advance yang, then advance yang; when it is
ti me to operate yi n , then operate yi n . Then great and small are un
harmed , both countries are sound . The primordi al real whole energy will
natural l y come forth from nothi ngness , wi l l cÎystal l ize and not dispCrse g
and the spi ri tu3 l embryo wi l l take on form.
Adjusting the fri ng is properly harmoni zed by frmness and fexi bil ity
not becomi ng stati onary. When " the weight of the medic ine i s onC
pound," frmness and fexi bi l i ty both wi nd up in correct bal ance , t he two
eights balance each other; there is yang in yi n , there is yin in yang-yi n
and yang merge , frmness and fexi bi l i ty subl i mate . Tranquil , unstiÎri ng ,
yet sensitive and effective ; sensitive and efective , yet tranqui l and unsti r
ring-i t is somethi ng eternally i mperishabl e .
The moon waxi ng to ful l ness is a secret passed on by word of mouth;
the subtlety of the ti me reachi ng mi dni ght is transmi tted by mind. The
medici nal substances are hard to know, and the fri ng process is not easy
to understad. Students should hasten to fnd a genui ne teacher.
This section includes wi thi n i t the medi ci nal substances , the fri ng pro
cess , the subtle application of the restored el i xi r; i t is the most criti cal of
te sixteen sections i n the frst part . and shoul d be studied carefully,
wi tout pasing over a si ngle word lightly. If you actual l y have some
understanding, go to a genuine teacher for affrmation; you know myriad
things by way of a single statement .
REFINING THE THRE YLLOWS AND FOUR SPIRITS , IF YOU
LOOK FOR HERBS , IT I S NOT RAL ANYMORE. YIN AND
YANG, FINDING THIR COUTERPARTS , RTR TO INTR
COURSE; WHEN THE TWO EIGHTS MATCH, THEY NATURALLY
JOIN CLOSELY TE SUN IN THE POOL I S SCARLET, SHADES
VANISH; THE MOON ON THE MOUNTAIN WHITE, THE HERB
SPROUTS ARE NEW. IF PEOPLE OF THE TI ME WANT TO KOW
THE TRUE LEAD AND MERCUY, IT I S NOT ORDINARY CINA
BAR AND QUICKSILVR.
The precedi ng section says that the gold elixir can onl y be produced by
the combi nation of two medicines , true l ead and tre mercury ; however,
people might get the wrong idea that te gold el ixir is a material sub
stance made by refnement wi th fre , so thi s section follows up quickly
with the sayi ng, " Refni ng the three yel lows and four spirits , i you seek
herbs , it is not real anymore ." The three yel lows are sul fr and sulfur
compounds ; the four spi ri ts are ci nnabar, quicksi lver, lead, and saltpeter.
The three yel lows and four spiri ts are not of a ki nd wi th us , so how can
they extend our l i ves ? How can they enable us to understand our essence ?
If they do not functi on to extend l ife and understand essence , they are
useless , not the real path.
The Tle Analogue says , "It is easy to work wi th what is of the sae
ki nd, hard to work with what i s not of the same kind." People are born §
receivers of the twi n energies of yi n and yang of heaven and earth, so they
have the yin and yang energies in thei r bodies . As for the quali ties of yin
and yang, yang is frm and yin is yiel ding; the qual ity of frmness governs
life, the quality of yielding governs essence . This frmness of yang and
yielding of yin i s the wellspring of essence and l i fe .
As for the "counterparts " mentioned i n this section, yang has yi n as i ts
counterpart , yi n has yang as its counterpart ; so frmness and yielding
respond to each other, l ike a husband and wife suddenl y meeting after a
long separation, never fai l i ng to have i ntercourse .
As for " two eights ," yang wi thi n yi n is true yang, sound strength in
correct balance ; yin wi thi n yang is true yi n , fexi ble adaptabi l i ty in correct
balance : frmness and fexi bi l i ty both return to correct balance , yi n and
yang match each other, without partiali ty. Naturall y they j oi n i ntimately
and merge into one energy, solidifyi ng so that i t does not dissolve .
When yin and yang have their counterparts i n each other and bal ance
each other, the primordi al is restored wi thi n the temporal . The mi nd of
Tao is frm, strong and sound, the human mi nd is yi el di ng, fexi ble and
adaptabl C . Real knowledge and conscious knowl edge combi ne , and the
original spiritual root of i nnate knowledge and i nnate capacity appear
from withi n nothingness , l ike the scarlet sun at the bottom of a pool ris
ing up, shades naturall y disappearing, l i ke the crescent moon over the
mountain hanging on hi gh, the medicinal sprouts fresh and new. This is
because the sane energy arises and aberrant energy natural l y recedes , the
real returns and the false dissolves .
The scarl et of the sun i n the pond and the whi te of the moon over the
mountain both depict the emergence of true yang and the reappearance
of the natural mind . Then knowledge and capaci ty are both i nnocent
thi s i s cal l ed the gold el ixir. This gold elixir is the t rue yi n and tre yang
inherent in oneself, formed by the combi nati on of the frm and the
feXi ble . Thi s is the true t reasure which completes and perfects essence
ald l i fe-i t is not made by fri ng ci nnabar and quicksilver.
THE SUBSTANCE OF THE YIN-VITALITY WITHIN YANG I S NOT
FIRM; IF YOU ONLY CULTIVATE ONE THING, IT WILL RESULT
I INCREASING WEAKNESS . BELABORING THE BODY AND
CONCER WITH RFCTIONS IS NOT THE PATH; SWALLOW
ING AIR AND INGESTING FOG I S CR2Y. EVERYONE IDLY
SEEKS THE CONQUERING OF LEAD AND MERCURY; WHEN
WILL THEY GET TO SEE THE DRAGON AND TIGER COME
DOW? I URGE YOU TO FIND OUT THE PLACE WHRE YOUR
BODY WAS BORN; GOING BACK TO THE BASIS, RETRING
TO THE ORIGIN, THIS IS THE PRODUCTION OF THE MEDI
The preceding section says that the medicinal substances of the gold
eliir are not external chemicals or herbs , that those who cul tivate the Tao
must do it in their own bodies . What they stil l don' t know is that after
the primordial true yang has slipped away, what people have i n their
bodies is only the yin vital i ty within yang. The yin vitali ty is not only sex
ual fuid; all bodily fuids and also air are yi n vi tai ty. Their substance i s
not frm; they ae there a long as the body subsists , they disappear when
the body dies . Their exstence or nonexistence depends on the phantas
mic body: if you cultivate this one thing, the yin vitality withi n yang, and
want to presere the body thereby, you will feel increasi ngly weak , and
will ultimately not succeed. Those i n the world who bel abor their bodies ,
concerned with refections , swallow air and ingest fog, and do all sorts of
other such practices , either cul tivate yin vitality or replenish the yi n vi t al
ity, are of the right track; the more they work, the further of they wi ll
become . How can they conquer the true lead and t rue mercur and return
them to one energy, how can they chae the tre dragon ad tre tiger
and join them i nto one ?
The path of the gold el ixir is the path of givi ng l i fe to the body; the
path of giving l i fe to the body is the path of uniti ng yin and yang. When
yi n and yang uni te , there i s l i vi ng potential therei n . The way of gi ving
l i fe to humans uses the ordi nar father and mother to give birth to the
phantamiL body; the way of givi ng l i fe to immortals uses the spi Íi t ual
father and mother to gi ve bi rth to t he real body. The spi ri tual fat her i s the
sound strong real knowl edge ; t he spi ri tual mother i s the fexi bl e adapt
abl e consci ous knLWl CdgL » Gi vi ng bi rt h t o humans and gi vi ng bi r t h t o
46 Understanding Reality
i mmortal s both are i n the realm of yin and yang, but there i s a di sti nct i on
between the spiri tual and the mundane , between goi ng in reverse and
going al ong with the usual course . If people thoroughly i nvesti gate t he
principle of giving birth t o the body, and achieve great understandi ng
and great penetration, and know clearly how the father and mother can
meet , how they can mate , how conception takes pl ace , how gestat ion
takes place , how the development of the fetus takes place , how birth i s
accomplished, how nursing is done , how action is accompl ished, and how
growth and maturation are accompl ished, then the whole process of prac
tice of the Tao will be cl ear, and one can go strai ght aead, return to the
origin, arise from death and restore life , presere life and make the body
complete , becomi ng mas ter of the great medi ci ne . After all , the great
way of cul tivating reai ty is j ust this pri nci pl e of giving bi rth to the body;
there is nothing else to i t . How can those who t ake the side doors ,
cul tivati ng onl y one thing, yin alone or yang aone , sticking to emptiness
or cl i nging to forms , know this exsts ?
TAK A GOOD HOLD ON THE TU LEAD, AD SEEK ATN
TIVELY; DO NOT LET YOURSELF PASS THE TIME TAKING IT
EASY JUST USE THE EARTHLY SOUL TO CAPTURE THE RED
MERCURY; NATURALLY THER WILL BE THE HEAVNY SOUL
TO GOVER THE WATER METAL. IT COULD BE SAID THAT
WHEN TH PATH IS LOFY THE DRAGON AND TIGER SUBMIT;
ONE MIGHT SAY THAT WHEN THE VIRTE IS GRAT GHOSTS
AND SPRITES AR RSPECTUL. ONCE YOU KOW LIF IS
ETERNAL, EQUAL TO HEAVEN AND EARTH, VEXATIONS HAVE
NO WAY TO RISE IN THE MIND ANYMOR.
The preceding secti on teaches people to fnd out where the body is
born and return to the origin . But to go back to the root and return to the
origin requi res knowl edge of the uniform favored great medicine of tre
lead. When you know the true lead, you kÍo¼ the one, and myriad taks
are fnished-everthi ng else is easy.
The true lead is nothi ng else but the aforementioned real knowledge of
the mind of Tao. Real knowledge is also called the true seed. If you do not
know te true seed , there is no basis for practicing the Tao, and whatever
Part I 47
you do wi l l be a waste of efort . That is why i t says . " Take a good hol d on
the tre lead and seek attentivel y."
The words " Seek attenti vel y " contai n t he di rected work of i nvest i gat
i ng principles , exami ni ng thi ngs to bri ng about knowl edge . I f students
want to practice the great Tao, nothi ng is better than to frst i nvestigate
tre pri nci ples . The approach to practi ce fol lows natural l y. I f you do not
investigate and penetrate , you beg i n vai n for the cel est i al j ewel -thi s has
no reali ty or truth to i t , and is onl y wasti ng ti me .
The " earhl y soul " and the " water metal " are yang wi thi n yi n , both
symbols of real knowledge . The "heavenl y soul " and " red mercury " are
yin within yag, both symbols of conscious knowledge . "Just use the
eanhl y soul to capture the red mercury " means to control conscious
knowl edge by real knowledge. "Natural l y tere wi l l be the heavenly soul
to govern the water metal " means to nurture rea knowledge by conscious
Real knowledge is "frm," i n the province of yang, and is the " hus
band." Conscious knowledge is " fexible ," i n the provi nce of yin, and is
the "wife ." The husband governs the wife , the wife obeys the husband;
te wife obeys the husband, the husband l oves the wife . When husband
and wife have each other, the living potential always exists . Real knowl
edge ad conscious knowledge unite , frmness and fexi bility return to
te center, changing into i nnate knowl edge ad i nnate capacity, tranquil
and unstrring, yet sensitive and efective. The spiritua embro then
takes on form; when you reach this stage , the path is lofty and dragon
ad tiger submi t ; te virue is great and ghosts and sprites are respectful .
Ten l ife is eterna, equal to heaven and earth; how can vexations arise i n
the mind anymore ?
THE YELLOW SPROUTS AND WHITE CLOUDS ARE NOT HARD
TO SEEK; THOSE WHO ARRIVE MUST RELY ON DEPTH OF VIR
TOUS PRACTICE. THE FOUR FORMS AND FIVE ELEMENTS ALL
DEPEND ON EARTH; THE THRE BASES AND EIGHT TRI
GRAMS ARE NOT APART FROM ELDER WATER. REFINED INTO
SPIRITAL SUBSTANCE, THEY ARE INSCRUTABLE TO MEN;
HAVING DISSOLVD ALL THAT I S NEGATIVE AND HARMFL,
ONE IS INULNERABLE TO GHOSTS . I WISH TO LEAVE THE
48 Understanding Reality
SECRT AMONG HUMANKIND, BUT I HAVE NOT YET MET A
SINGLE PERCEPTIV PERSON.
The preceding section says that when the path is lofty and virtue great ,
the dragon and tiger, ghosts and sprites , all become docile and obedi ent ;
that is , where there is the Tao there must be virtue, and where there is vi r
tue there must be the Tao. The ul ti mate Tao is not complicated, the fre
and medicine are not remote ; the white clouds are right before your eyes ,
the yellow sprouts grow i n your own home . I f you are straightforard ,
you can obtain them at will ; that ' s why it says they are " not hard to seek ."
However, this path is to transcend the ordi nar and enter sagehood, to
rise from death and return to l i fe, something rare in the world. Even
though i t i s not hard to seek, it can only be known by those of great vi rtue
and great practice . Therefore it says , "Those who arrive must rel y on
depth of vi rtuous practice ." In efect , it is for the superior person of virtu
ous practice that i t is not hard to seek.
The "four forms " are the four energies of metal , wood, water, and fre;
add earth, and they mae the fve el ements . The " three bases " are the
basis of heaven, the basis of earth, and the basis of humankind. Also the
upper basis , middle basis , and lower basis constitute three baes too. The
"eight trigrams " are the yi n and yang of the four forms and fve el e
ments : heaven = is yang metal , lake E is yin metal ; water = = is yag
water, mountain E is yin water ; thunder E i s yang wood, wind = is
yin wood; fre == is yang fre , earth = = is yin fre . Al though the eight tri
grams are distri buted among the yi n and yang of the four forms , earth = =
and mountain E also contain the two earths , heaven- earh and earth
earth. Earth E E is yin earth, mountain E is yang earth. The energies of
the fve el ements are also therei n.
In humankind, the fve elements are. the fve bases-essence , sense ,
vi tali ty, spiri t , and energy ; i n action , they are the fve vi rtues-benevo
l ence , j ustice , courtesy, wisdom, and truthful ness . In humans , the three
bases are the basi c vitali ty, the basic energy, and the basic spiri t . In
humans , the ei ght trigrams are the frm and fexi bl e essences of the fve
bases and fve vi rtues . The four forms , three bases , and eight trigras are
all transformati ons of the fve el ements , and do not exist separately.
When i t says , "the four forms and fve el ements all depend on earth," i t
means that benevol ence , j ustice , courtesy, and wisdom develop baed on
truthfulness . When it says " the three bases and eight trigrams ae not
el der water," it means essence , sense , spi ri t , and energy are
not apart from vi tal uni ty.
The " yel low sprouts " are t he living potenti al of earth ; trut hful ness i s
in the center. The " whi te cl ouds " are t he l i ght clari ty of water, vital i ty
arriving at uni ty. When benevol ence , j usti ce . courtesy, and wisdom
return to trthful ness , and presere the mean , the yel l ow sprouts gradu
al l y grow. When essence , sense , spiri t , and energy return t o one , bei ng
vital i ty, bei ng unifed, the whi te clouds fy i n the sky, uni ty of vi tal i ty
keeps i n the center.
Cul tivate and refne this , growi ng i n strength the l onger you persevere ,
and the mi nd of Tao wil l always be active whi l e the human mi nd wi l l
always be tranqui l . Real knowl edge and conscious knowledge uni te , and
a round and bright pearl hangs in space . Ever responsive yet ever t ran
qui l , untrammel ed by form or empti ness , you appear and disappear
according to the times , unopposed by nature i n the primordi al state , ser
i ng the seasons of nature i n the temporal state .
Unopposed even by nature , how much l ess by peopl e , or by ghosts or
spri tes ; people cannot know you, ghosts cannot attack you. This is not
idle tal k. This pat is most simple and easy ; i t i s qui ntessenti al , uncom
plicated. Those who know i t rise at once to the rank of sages , without
awai ting twelve years of trani ng. However, there are few people i n the
world who practice virtue , there are no real tre people . Most consider the
Tao far away when i n fact i t is near at hand. The author says , " I want to
leave the secret among humanki nd, but I haven' t met a single perceptive
person yet .' ' Is it not a pi ty ?
YIN AND YANG AR ALSO EQUAL IN PLANTS AND TREES ; IF
ONE I S LACKING THEY DO NOT FLOWER. WHEN THE GREEN
LEAVES FIRST UFOLD, YANG IS ACTING FIRST; WITH THE
SUBSEQUENT BLOOMING OF SCARET FLOWERS , YIN FOL
LOWS ALONG. THE ORDINARY COURSE IS IN DAILY ACTION;
THE TRUE SOURCE REVERSES THIS , BUT WHO IS THERE WHO
KNOWS? I INORM THOSE OF YOU WHO STUDY THE TAO: IF
YOU DO NOT KNOW YIN AND YANG, DO NOT ACT AT RAN
The precedi ng section said vi rtue must be cul ti vated; thi s one says the
Tao must be understood. The I Ching says , " One yi n and one yang is
5 0 Understanding Reality
cal l ed the Tao. " I t also says , " Heaven and earth i ncubate , myri ad things
devel op; male and femal e j oin their vital i ty, myriad beings evolve ." The
path of the gol d elixir operates entirel y through the strength of yang and
the adaptivity of yin : when yin and yang unite , they produce the elixir
and prol ong l i fe ; when yin and yang are at odds , they turn away from
each other, causing l oss of l ife. Take a l ook at thi ngs like plants and trees :
"When the green l eaves frst unfold, yang is acting frst ; with the subse
quent blooming of scarlet fowers , yin follows along." Yi n and yang are
not apart from each other ; extendi ng the analogy, we fnd the ordi nary
course of al l sentient beings does not t ake place outside of yin and yang.
But while the ordi nar course follows along, the path of immort als goes
in reverse . Following along means going along with yi n and yang in the
ordinary course ; reversing means reverse operation of yi n and yang. Peo
ple of the world only know the way to go along, and do not know the way
of reverse operation. Therefore they pursue artifcial obj ects and stray
from the true source ; when yang cul mi nates , they shift to yi n, and when
yin cul mi nates they die.
For students , the frst move is to get to know both yi n and yang. When
you know yin and yang, you know the true source . The tre source is the
door of the "mysterious female ." The bi rth of yi n is herei n, the birth of
yang is herein too; fol l owing is herei n, and reversing is herei n too. When
you know the eterna and return to the root , you acend at once to the
realm of the sages .
However, there is not onl y one kind of yi n and yang. There i s primor
di al yin and yang, and there is condi tioned yin and yang. There is yin and
yang within life , and there is yi n and yang wi thi n essence . There is real
yin and yang, and there is artifcia yin and yang. There is external yin
and yang, and there is i nternal yin and yang. It is necessar to study al
these kinds of yin and yang and understand them clearly before starting
the alchemical work. If you do not know the real yin and real yang, and
act at random, you will turn away from the real and enter the artifcial ,
forgetting your own essence and l i fe .
IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE INVRSION WITHIN THE MYS
TERY, HOW CAN YOU KOW TO PLANT A LOTS IN FIR?
LADI NG THE WHIT TIGER, GO BACK HOME AND NRTR
IT; YOU WILL PRODUCE A BRIGHT PEARL ROUND AS THE
MOON. STAY RLAXED BESIDE THE ALCHEMI CAL FURNACE
AND WATCH THE FIRING PROCESS ; JUST SETLE YOUR SPI RI T
AND BREATH, AND LAVE I T UP TO NATURE. WHEN ALL
MUNDANITY HAS BEEN STRI PPED AWAY, THE ELI XI R I S COM
PLETE; LEAPING OUT OF THE CAGE OF THE ORDI NARY, LI FE
IS MYRIAD YEARS.
The preceding section tells people to recogni ze yi n and yang; this sec
tion tells people to fnd out about the work. The work is the method of
inverting yin and yang. If you don' t know the method of i nversion of yi n
and yang, how can you know the subtlety of planting a lotus i n fre ?
What is inverted? The white tiger is associated with metal , which is the
sound strong energy in te mi ddl e of the pal ace of heaven ± . This is
called the mind of Tao; in action i t is the sense of real knowledge . Because
of mixture with temporal conditioning, doing things wi th the human
mental ity, te mi nd of Tao is not manifest , true sense is obscured, and
deluded feelings arise . This is like the white tiger l eaving one ' s own home
and going out , running to another house and inj uring peopl e . Inversion
means while i n the midst of deluded feelings to restore tre sense , and
combine it wi th true essence . This is like leading the white tiger from
another' s house back to your own home and taki ng care of i t .
Once tre sense is restored, tre essence becomes mani fest; essence and
sense cleave to one another, and the primordi al tre one energy comes
from nothingness and forms a pearl like the fll moon, i ts l ight shining
bright throughout the worl d, as if i n the palm of one ' s hand. This is what
the Ts 'an T'ung Ch ' i means when it says , "When metal frst comes back
to essence , it can be called restored elixir." Once the restored elixir is crys
tali zed, innate knowledge and i nnate capacity are nonstriving when stil l ,
spontaneous when in action, equanious and serene on the path of bal
The medicine is the fre , the fre is the medicine ; the work of gathering
is efortless . Just settle the spirit and breath, letti ng them be natural .
Using the energy of the harmony of yin and yang in te frnace of cre
ation, the tre fre burns away the mundanity of conditioning, producing
pure celestial energy. This is called the completion of the elixi r; ingesti ng
this , you become liberated and transformed, leap out of the cage of the
ordinary, and live ð long ð heaven, never to die.
5 2 Understanding Reality
THREE, FIV, ONE: IT I S ALL THREE WORDS ; THOSE WHO UN
DERSTAND ARE RARE I N ALL TIMES . THREE I N THE EAST,
TWO IN THE SOUTH, TOGETHER MAKES FIVE; ONE IN THE
NORTH AND FOUR IN THE WEST ARE THE SAME. EARTH IN
ITS OWN ABODE HAS THE PRODUCTION NUMBER FIVE.
WHEN THE THREE MEET, THEY FORM AN INFANT THE IN
FANT I S ONE, CONTAINING TRUE ENERGY; IN TEN MONTHS
THE FETS I S COMPLET, AND ENTERS THE SPIRITUAL FOUN
The precedi ng section talks about the principle of reversi ng yi n and
yang; this section talks about the work of assembl i ng the fve elements . In
the begi nni ng of human l i fe, the natures of the i nherent fve el ements
are ori gi nally one energy which is undiferenti ated. Thei r natures become
indi viduated because of mixture with condi ti oni ng: metal and wood are
unj oined, water and fre are unmied, true earth is buried, false earth
grows wil dl y, essence goes awry and l ife i s shaken, posi tive energy runs
out and negative energy becomes total , so it is i mpossi bl e not to die .
The author here brings up the three words " three ," "fve ," and " one"
to teach people to assemble the fve el ements and return them to one
house , restoring i nnate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty, the whole natural
self. However, the three words " three ," "fve ," and " one " have confused
untold numbers of i ntrepi d people , past and present . Those who have
understood are few enough to count .
Thi s " three" and "fve" are the production numbers of the fve ele
ments accordi ng to the River Di agram. To the east i s the thi rd element ,
wood; south is two, fre : fre produces wood, so fre and wood are one ,
together making one fve . To the west is the fourth el ement , metal ; north
is the frst , water: water produces metal , so water and metal are one ,
together making one fve . Earth i n the center constitutes one fve by
If practi tioners of the Tao can understand these three fves , and culti
vate them i n reverse , combi ni ng the four forms and aggregati ng the fve
elements , then essence , sense , vital i ty, energy, and spi ri t congeal ; benevo
l ence , j usti ce , courtesy, wi sdom, and truthful ness are the same energy.
This is cal l ed " the three meet ." I n Confuci ani sm, this is called the Great
Ul t i mat e , Õl t he pri nci pl e of heaven, or ul ti mate good, or perect si ncer-
ity. I n Taoism this i s called the i nfant , or the primordial one energy, or the
spiritual embryo, or the restored el ixi r. In Buddhism this i s called com
pl ete awakeni ng, or true empti ness , or the real ity body, or the sacred
relic , or the wish- ful fl l i ng gem. There are vari ous such names , al l refer
ri ng to the natural l y good origi nal essence . The path restores the i nnate
knowledge and i nnate capacity of the original essence , goi ng back to the
fundamental , returning to the root : i ncubating and nurturing it for ten
months , the energy is replete , the spirit is whole ; one escapes from the
ocean of misery, has a body outside the body, and enters the unborn and
unperishing spiritua foundation .
IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE TRUE SOURCE, REAL LEAD,
WHATVER YOU DO WILL BE IN VAIN: CELIBACY WILL IDLY
CAUSE YIN AND YANG TO BE SEPARATED, FASTING WILL F
TILELY MAK YOUR STOMACH EMPTY; PLANTS AND WOOD,
GOLD AND SILVER, ARE ALL TRASH, CLOUDS AND MIST, SUN
AND MOON, ARE VACUOUS ; EVEN BREATHING EXERCISES
AND MEDITATION HAV NO RSEMBLANCE TO THE MATR
OF THE GOLD ELIXIR.
The preceding section said you onl y enter the spiritual foundation
when you have gathered the fve el ements and returned them to one
energy. But to aggregate the fve el ements requi res knowledge of the pri
mordial truly unifed energy ; onl y then c an you begi n. The one yang i n
water = = is the centrall y bal anced sound strong energy of heaven =, the
real knowl edge of the mi nd of Tao , represented a real l ead. This is a
celesti al uni ty, and contains the primordi al t rul y unifed
energy, whi ch is the generative energy that produces bei ngs . Attai nment
of sagehood is therei n, attai nment of buddhahood and i mmortality i s
therein ; i t is the root of sages , the seed of immortals and Buddhas , the
t rue source of the gold el i xi r. This is what is referred to by the saying, " If
you know that one , myriad taks are done ." If you do not know the real
true lead, you have no source , no basis of cul tivating the gold elixir. Then
whatever practices you do-cel i bacy, fasti ng, burning plants and wood to
refne gold and si lver, dri nking i n clouds and mist , sun and moonl i ght ,
breathi ng exercises , medi tation and visualizati on-ei ther sti cki ng to
54 Understanding Reality
emptiness or cl i nging to forms , i s al l a wate of efort and ha no connec
tion with the matter of the gold el ixir.
THE WORDS OF THE MYRIAD BOOKS ON IMMORTALITY ARE
ALL THE SAME-THE GOLD ELIXIR ALONE IS THE ROOT
SOURCE. T SUBSTANCE IS PRODUCED ON THE GROUD OF
THE POSITION OF EART, PLANTD IN THE CHAMBER OF
INTERCOURSE I N THE HOUSE OF HEAVN. DO NOT THINK IT
STRANGE THAT THE CELESTIAL WORKING HAS BEEN LEAKED
-IT IS BECAUSE STUDENTS ARE CONFUSED AND I GNORANT
Because the foregoi ng ffteen sections have at times spoken of going
along, at times of going in reverse, sometimes expl ai n separatel y, some
times explai n together, sometimes i ndicate the medicines , sometimes
indicate the fri ng process , distinguish t rue and fase and set forth right
and wrong, with subtl e gradations , scattered without ð yet being put
i nto order, this section sums up the i ntent of the precedi ng ffeen sec
tions , indicating to people the path of utter simpli ci ty and ease , lest they
get confused by the compl exity of the matter and fnd it difcult to
Si nce anci ent ti mes the i mmortals and real people , the alchemical texts
and Taoist books , have used a thousand similes , a hundred metaphors ,
setting up symbols and terms , exerti ng their powers of description to
bring to l ight the marrow of the Tao. Al though thei r terminology is dif
ferent , the principles are the same-al l of them explain the root source of
the gold el ixir. This is not l i ke the si tuation in later era when the more
books there were the more people got confused , each clingi ng to his own
vi ews , pursuing them i nto side tracks . They did not know the root source
of the gold el i xi r is onl y a matter of taking from water = = to fl l i n fre
� , returning eart
E E to
eaven = .
"The substance is produced on the ground of earth" is the one yag i n
the center of water E E . "The chamber of i ntercourse i n the house of
eaven" is the one yi n i n the center of fre � . Wter = = is based on the
body of earth E E , therefore it is cal l ed the position of earth. Fire � is
based on the body of
eaven =, so i t is cal l ed the house of heaven. By
heaven it is easy to know, by eart
i t is easy to do. Heaven is frm and
strong, earth is fexi bl e and obedi ent . Because of this frm strength , it is
easy to know, without getting i nto difcul ty ; because of this fexibl e obe
dience , i t is simpl e to do, wi thout forci ng. In peopl e , easy knowin
simple doing ae the original nature of the innat e knowl edge and ca
In the begi nni ng of human l i fe , strength and obedience are as one ,
frmness and fexi bility are merged. Without being consciousl y co
of it , they fol low the laws of God; round , l umi nous , cl ean , naked , there
is only the si ngl e fundaental nature of i nnate knowl edge and i nnate
capacity, without any pol l ution. Reachi ng the age of si xteen , the cel estial
culmi nates , giving rise to the mundane ; people become condi tioned and
do ti ngs wi th mundane energy. Reason and desire get mixed up,
strength and obedience do not balance each other, frmness and fexi bi l
i ty lose their proper measure .
At this poi nt te celestial is overcome by the mundane , and natura
reality is obscured. This is like heaven mixi ng wi th earth; the yang i n the
middle of heaven = enters the pal ace of earth = = , so that the tri grd of
earth is flled i n and becomes water = = . The mundane taki ng the posi
tion of the celestial , i ntel l ectual knowledge gradual y devel oping, is like
earth mixing wi th heaven: the yin i n the middl e of earth goes i nto the
palace of heaven, so the t rigra of heaven is emptied and becomes
When natural real ity is obscured, the mi nd of Tao is concealed and is
fant . When i ntell ectual knowledge develops , the human mentality
grows and is i nsecure . Bei ng fai nt means being virtually nonexistent ,
barely suri vi ng; the cel esti al does not predomi nate over the mundane.
Being i nsecure means produci ng feel i ngs i n regard to obj ects ; the mun
dane predominates over the cel estial .
However, though the mi nd of Tao is fai nt and the human mentality is
perilous , the mi nd of Tao is still not enti rely obl i terated, and the human
mentality is still not entirely prevalent . The mi nd of Tao is not enti rely
obliterated i n that sometimes i t may produce cl arity i n the midst of
obscurity ; this is called real knowledge . Nevertheless , i t is i nconsistent ,
now here , now gone . The human mi nd is not enti rely predomi nant in
that i t can adapt to situations ; this is called conscious knowledge . How
ever, i t uses consciousness to produce i l l usions .
The practice of alchemy is to restore the celestial i n the midst of the
mundane , to extract the real knowledge of the mind of Tao, to transmute
the conscious knowledge of the human mi nd so that conscious knowl edge
returns to reali ty : then real knowledge i s consummatel y conscious , the
mind of Tao is sound and strong, the human mi nd is fexi bl e and submi s-
sive , yin and yang commi ngle , hard and soft correspond, strength and
obedience are balanced . When real i ty and consciousness do not separate ,
we return to the i nnate knowledge and i nnate capacity of before , the state
of the creative foundati on . This is called taking from water to fll i n fre,
and also called planting heaven by earth.
Actual l y, " the substance is produced on the ground of the position of
earth, planted in the chamber of intercourse in heaven" means taking
from water = = and fl l ing i n fre E • Taking from water means the yang
fallen in the center of water comes out , and water = = becomes earth
flling i n fre means the yi n mixed in the center of fre changes , and fre
== becomes heaven = ·
When the bodies of heaven and earth are formed, the mysterious
female is established, and the valley spirit exists ; the gold el ixi r crystal
l i zes , and essence and l i fe come i nto our hands , not constrai ned by condi
This is the celestial mechanism transmi tted once i n ten thousand eons .
The i mmortals and real people of antiquity were unwilli ng to make it
expl icit , but our author is so ki nd and compassionate that i n sixteen
poems he reveals what the anci ents did not reveal . At the end he points
directly to the root source of the gold el i xi r ; the celestial mechanism ha
been revealed too much . If people understand the subtl e meani ng
herei n, they will ascend di rectly to the real m of sages .
model ed on the number of signs
i n the I Ching
On the crucible and furnace (2 verses)
FIRST TAKE HEAVN AND EART FOR THE CRUCI BLE, NEXT
TAKE THE MEDI CINES OF RAVEN AND RABBI T AND COOK
ONCE YOU HAVE CHASED THE TO THINGS BACK
THE YELLOW PATH, HOW COULD THE GOLD ELI XI R NOT
Heaven is strong, taki ng its symbol from the sky ; earth is submissive ,
taking its symbol from the ground. In humans , these are the natures of
frmness and fexi bili ty. In the sun there is a raven, which is the yin within
yang; among the trigrams , this is fre ==ø Fire == is yang outside and yin
inside ; the one yin inside is true yin, which i n humans is the conscious
knowledge latent i n the human mi nd. In the moon is a rabbit , which is
yang withi n yin; among the uigrams , this is water = = . wter is yin out
side and yang inside; the one yang i nside is tre yang, which in humans is
the real knowledge inherent in the mi nd of Tao.
"Fi rst take heaven and earth for te cruci bl e " means you use frmness
and fexi bility for the substance of production of the el ixir. " Next take
the medicines of raven and rabbit and cook them" means you use real
knowledge and conscious knowledge for the fnction of the production
of the elixir. Cooking and refni ng real knowledge , nothing in i t is not
real ; so frmness winds up i n correct balance . Cooking and refni ng con
scious knowledge, there is no obscurity i n it ; so fexi bility winds up in cor
rect balance . When frmness and fexi bility have both returned to correct
balance, the mind of Tao is strong and the human mind submi ts to i t ;
real knowledge and conscious knowledge , though two, are unifed. This
is likened to chasing raven ad rabbi t back i nto the yellow path; the "yel
low path" is the middle way, which is the path traveled by the sun.
The sun traverses the middle pat, the moon traverses nine paths .
There are to each of blue , red, whi te , and black pats , which are apart
from the yellow path: inside and outside , together they mae eight
paths . When sun and moon meet , sun and moon travel in concert ;
adding this , altogeter there are nine paths . When sun and moon con
verge is referred to a the to thi ngs retrning to the yellow path.
When people are frst born, they only have the single essence of real
consciousness with i nnate knowledge and innate capacity; they do not
have either the human mentality or the mind of Tao. I t is only ater mix-
60 Understanding Reality
i ng wi th the condi tioned state that there is a di vi sion between the human
mi nd and the mi nd of Tao, a di sti ncti on between real knowl edge and
conscious knowl edge . The mi nd of Tao is that which is unconfused i n all
si tuations : not bei ng confused is real knowl edge .
The human mi nd is only capable of cons(ious knowledge , not of real
knowledge ; i ts nature is weak, so it is called yi n. Si nce the mi nd of Tao
has real knowledge , i t is also capable of conscious knowl edge ; i ts energy is
strong, so i t i s called yang. Even sages have the human mi nd, and even
ordi nary people have the mi nd of Tao. Sages have the human mi nd in
that they cannot anni hi late perception; ordi nary people have the mi nd of
Tao i n that they have moments of luci di t y. The reason sages are diferent
from ordi nar people is simply that in them real ity and consciousness are
unifed, they have knowledge and percepti on, and they are capable of
permanent l ucidi ty. The reason ordi nar people are di ferent from sages is
that for them reality and consciousness are separated, and though they
have knowledge and perception they are incapable of permanent lucidity.
The human mi nd has discri mi natory awareness i n i t , which uses con
sciousness to create i ll usions : seei ng obj ects , it gives rise to feel ings , rever
berating with whatever i nfuences i t . So consciousness takes refge in the
false , and the human mi nd is i nsecure . Wi th the human mi nd insecure,
pererse energies are rampant and sane energy weakens ; the mind of Tao
does not come to the fore , and becomes fai nt .
Practice of Tao refnes the frmness of the real knowledge of the mind
of Tao, restoring it to proper balance , and refnes the fexi bility of the
conscious knowledge of the human mi nd, restoring it to proper balance.
This is the j oining of frmness and fexi bi l i ty, the matchi ng of strength
and submission: precisely unifed, one mantains tre baance ; innate
knowledge and i nnate capacity are merged in the celestia design, and
unifed energy fows . How coul d the gold el i xir not be produced ?
The gold elixir is produced by the solidifcation of to energies , strong
and yielding; true knowledge and conscious knowledge return to proper
balance , and heaven and humanity merge , a precious pearl hangs in
space , i l l umining everywhere . The gold el i xir forms , at frst subtle,
becoming manifest , at frst raw, becomi ng ripe . How could anyone not
be emdnLipated ?
SETTING UP THE FURNACE AND CRUCI BLE I S PATERNED ON
H£4VEN AND EARTH; REFI NI NG THE SUNLI GHT AND MOON
LIGHT STABI LIZES THE YANG AND YI N SOULS . CONGEALI NG
AND DI SSOLVI NG. THE I NCUBATING WARMTH PRODUCES
TRANSMUTATION; PRESUMPTOUSLY DO I I DLY DI SCUSS THE
MYSTERIOUS AND MARVELOUS .
The furnace is that whereby the fre is operated, the cruci ble is that
whereby the medici nes ae refned. The science of the gold el ixir patterns
the furnace on the fexi bl e submissiveness of earth, gradual l y progressing
in an orderly way: it models the crci bl e on the frm strength of heaven
cooking fercely and forging qui ckl y. Capable of being frm, capable of
being fexible , capable of being strong, capable of being submissive , with
a frm will , getting stronger Ü time goes on, the cruci bl e and furnace
steady. not shaki ng. not moving, one can thereby cul l the medi cine and
operate the fre .
The conscious knowledge of the human mi nd is yang outside , yi n
i nsi de ; it is l i ke sunl ight , whi ch radi ates outward. The real knowledge of
the mind of Tao is like moonlight , stored within . The external yang of
conscious knowledge belongs to the yang soul ; the external yin of real
knowledge belongs to the yi n soul . The sunl ight yang soul of conscious
knowledge is what is cal l ed the spi rit which i s spiri t ; the moonlight yin
soul of real knowledge is called the spirit which is not spiri t .
" Spirit which i s spi ri t " means there i s artifci al i ty wi thi n the real ;
"spirit which is not spirit " refers to contai ning real ity within the artif
cial . "Refning sunlight and moonlight " means mel ting away the artifci
ality withi n reality of the conscious knowledge of the human mind, and
refning out the reality withi n artifciaity of the mi nd of Tao. When false
consciousness is removed, real consciousness is steady; then the yang soul
doesn' t fy of, but is stabilized. When real knowledge is revealed, false
knowledge vanishes ; then the yin soul doesn' t dissolve , but is stabilized.
Once the yang soul and yi n soul are stabilized, then real knowledge
and conscious knowledge , sense and essence , merge i nto each other and
solidify i nto one energy, warm and gentle , transmuting by collecting and
dispersing. tranquil and unstirring yet sensitive and efective . Every step
is the celestial mechanism; the spiritual subtlety herein cannot be
described in words .
On the crescent moon furnace (2 verses)
STOP WASTING EFFORT AT AN ALCHEMICAL OVEN; TO REFINE
TH ELIXIR YOU MUST SEEK THE CRESCENT MOON FURNACE.
IT HAS OF ITSELF THE NATURAL TRUE FIRING-YOU DO NOT
NEED PURPLE COAL OR BELLOWS .
The crescent moon refers to the moon of the third day of the l unar
month, appearing H a hook of light i n the di rection of earth (southwest ) .
That light cures upward , that is why i t i s called the crescent moon. What
this crescent moon symbolizes in humans is a poi nt of yang light shining
through in the middle of extreme quiet . Among the trigrams , i t is thun
der =. This i s what is referred to by the l ines , " On the third day thunder
appears i n the west ; on the curving river bank the moonl ight gleams ."
This poi nt of yang light is nothi ng but the light of the mind of Tao. In
alchemy, what is hard to get is the mind of Tao; once the mind of Tao
appears , the principles of nature are clearl y evident , and strong energy
graduaiJ y becomes active ; then the whole world is spiritual medicine ,
which you may take freely-everywhere is the Tao. The medicine is the
fre, the fre is the medici ne ; there is of itself the furnace of natural evolu
tion, the fre of trth-what is the need for an alchemical oven, working
with coal and bellows ?
IN THE CRSCENT MOON FURNACE, JADE FLOWRS GROW; IN
THE CINNABAR CRUCIBLE, QUI CKSILVER IS LEVEL. ONLY
AFER HARMONIZATION BY MEANS OF GREAT STRNGTH
CAN YOU PLANT THE YELLOW SPROUT, WHICH GRADUALLY
The crescent moon furnace is , as mentioned before , the mi nd of Tao.
t he j ade fowers , j ade means somethi ng warm and soft , i n
provi nce of yi n,
whi l e fowers mean somethi ng l umi nous , in the provi nce
of yang ; so the j ade f
owers are yang wi thi n yi n, representing the real
knowledge in the mi nd of Tao.
The cinnabar crucibl e is the human mi nd. Quicksilver is somethi ng
fuid and unfxed. This is in the provi nce of yin, and is the yin wi thin
yang, representing the conscious knowledge of the human mi nd. When
mind of Tao is always manifest and real knowledge is not obscured,
the conscious knowledge of the human mind is natural l y level and calm,
and cannot fy off.
Then you use efort to harmoni ze , using the true fre i nherent in the
mind of Tao to burn away the false consciousness in the human mind,
and return i t to completely receptive consciousness , so that heaven and
humanity work together, real knowledge and conscious knowledge be
When knowledge arrives , the i ntent is sincere ; this is cal led the yellow
sprout . The yellow sprout is pl anted by real consciousness . When real
consciousness has earth, it develops , l ike a pl ant i n the ground; when
sprouting, i t is yellow (central ) , so i t is called the yellow sprout . After real
knowledge and conscious knowl edge are harmoni zed by the strength of
the fre , they return to balance in the proper pl ace . Once they are in the
central earth pot , then you apply true i ntent to nurture them. After ten
months , the energy is suffcient , and they naturall y mature and become
free , transmuted.
On the true lead (4 verses)
SWALLOWING SALIVA AND DOI NG BREATHING EXERCISES
ARE HUMAN ACTIONS ; ONLY WHEN YOU HAVE THE ELIIR
CAN EVOLUTION OCCUR. I F THERE IS NO TUE SEED IN THE
CRUCIBLE, THAT IS LIKE TAKING WATER AND FIR AND BOIL
I NG AN EMPTY POT
The real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao ha i n it the pri mordial true
uni fed energy, which is symbolized by l ead. This is the tre seed of
enl i ghtenment . If you want to cul tivate the great elir, there is no substi
t ute for t hi s true seed . Ignorant and confused people of the world vai nl y
cul t i vate the body i n a physical sense , swal l owing sal iva and doi ng breat h
i ng exerc i ses , thi nki ng they are t hus practi c i ng t he Tao. They sti l l do not
real i ze that what t he body produces i s al l condi t i oned and pol l ut ed : how
can that pÍoduce the primordial elixi r of highest consciousness ? This
means that if you don ' t have the true seed in the cruci ble , it is l i ke taki ng
water and fre and boiling an empty pot .
HARMONIZATION OF LEAD AND MERCURY I S NEEDED TO
PRODUCE THE ELIXI R; WITHOUT INJURY TO GRAT OR
SMALL, BOTH COUNTRIES ARE SAFE. IF YOU WONDER WHAT
THE TRUE LEAD I S , MOONLIGHT SHINES ON THE WEST RIVER
The gol d elixir is made by the true lead of real knowledge of the mind
of Tao plus the tre mercury of the conscious knowledge of the human
mi nd. If you want to cul tivate the gold el ixir, frst harmoni ze lead and
mercury. The frmness of the mi nd of Tao bel ongs to yang; this is "great ."
The fexi bility of the human mi nd belongs to yi n; this is " smal l ." If the
human mi nd l acks the mi nd of Tao, it can defeat the Tao by using con
sciousness to produce i l l usion. If you govern i t by the mind of Tao, the
conscious light is clear and can thereby help the Tao. So the mind of Tao is
not to be di mi nished, and yet the human mi nd is not to be anni hi l ated
j ust don' t l et the human mind misuse i ts consciousness . When the
ancients told people to ki l l the human mi nd, what they meant was to kill
the false consciousness of the human mi nd, not to kill the true conscious
ness of the human mi nd.
If you do not disti nguish true and false , and ki l l them both , you
become i ndifferent and ni hi l istic ; hurti ng the smal l , you i nj ure the great .
Yin and yang become isolated, and the breath of the l i vi ng mechanism
has not the means to produce the gold el ixi r. That i s why the text says ,
"Without inj ury to great or smal l , both countri es are sae ." " Both coun
tries are safe " means the conscious knowledge of the human mind and
the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao are unifed, with real knowledge
governi ng conscious knowledge , and conscious knowledge conforming to
real knowledge . When real i t y and consciousness do not separate , i nnate
knowledge and i nnate capaci ty i ntegrate with the pri nci pl es of nature ,
and the gold elixi r of the round and l umi nous fundamental essence is
After al l , real knowledge and conscious knowledge are extensions of
innate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty ; i n the pri mordi al state they are
cal led i nnate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty, i n the temporal stat e they
are cal l ed real knowledge and conscious knowl edge . When t he pri mordi al
is restored withi n the temporal . real knowl edge is i nnate knowl edge , con
scious knowledge is innate capaci ty. Ori gi nal l y they arc one , wi t hout
duali ty, but because of mi xture wi th the condi ti oned , t he natural real i t y
of innate knowledge i s lost outsi de and becomes the property of another,
and the consciousness of the i nnate capac i ty remai ni ng wi t hi n onesel f is
also adul terated and becomes unstabl e .
If you want to go back to the fundamental and return to the ori gi nal , i t
i s necessar t o seek out real ity from t he mi dst of arti fci al knowledge . and
recover i t ; onl y then can conscious knowledge be lucid . This real knowl
edge is something most frm and strong, so i t i s represented as tre lead.
As real knowledge contains the primordi al trul y unifed energy, it is also
represented as metal i n water, and also represented as light i n the moon.
Metal in water and l ight in the moon both mean the presence of yang
withi n yi n.
However, as l ong as this real knowledge has not been recovered and
restored, i t sti l l is i n another' s domain and is not one ' s own . Hence the
saying, " Moonl ight shines on the west river all day." Moonl ight repre
sents real knowl edge being dark outside and l i ght i nside . Shi ni ng al l day
on the west river and not shi ni ng on the east means the shi ni ng of the
l ight is elsewhere , in another. A later verse says , " The metal man is origi
nal ly a child of the eatern house , sent to grow up i n the western neigh
borhood." This is exactl y what " moonl i ght shi nes on the west river all
day " means . If peopl e can know that moonl ight shi nes on the west river
al day, this is t rl y knowi ng where real knowl edge rests , and they can
thereby use i t to shine on the east and meet with conscious knowledge .
Ala, going along to death, coming back to l i fe , again and again hav
ing you seek, without fndi ng-do you thi nk real knowledge is eay to
DON' T GO INTO THE MOUNTAINS BEFORE YOU HAVE RE
FINED THE RESTORD ELIXIR; IN THE MOUNTAINS , INSI DE
AND OUT, I S NOT LEAD. THI S SUPREME TREASURE I S I N
EVERYONE' S HOUSE; IT' S JUST THAT I GNORANT PEOPLE DO
NOT FULLY RECOGNIZE IT
66 Understanding Reality
Retirement from the world and goi ng i nto the mountains to cul ti vate
tranqui l i ty is somethi ng that is properly done onl y after the restorati on of
the el i xi r. People who don' t know this go i nto the mountains to cul ti vate
tranqui l i ty and thi nk they can thereby live forever. But the way of eternal
l ife requi res that one acqui re pure true lead; only then can effect be
However, the true lead must be sought out i n the midst of the social
worl d; if you go into the mountains to cul tivate the Tao, in the moun
tains , inside and outside is all yi n energy-how can there be t rue lead,
which is pure yang? The t rue lead is the primordial root of consciousness ;
it is also cal led the root of heaven, or the t rue unifed vital i ty, or the true
unifed energy, or lead from the homel and of water, or metal within
water, or black within white , or the yang soul within the yi n soul , or the
black tiger, or the metal man, or the method of immortal i ty of that
house : the ancients represented it symbolically in many ways , but when
we get back to the important poi nt , they are all j ust depicting the mind
This mi nd of Tao, when active , is the subtl e bei ng of real knowledge ;
when latent , i t is the true openness of total concentration. I t is i nherently
complete i n everyone , not more i n sages or less i n ordi nary people . Ever
one has i t , but they do not possess i t themselves ; after all , when you view
i t you cannot use i t , and when you use i t you cannot view i t . Because
everyone has it but they do not possess it themselves , ignorant people do
not recogni ze it when they encounter i t , and stumbl e pas t it even though
i t is right before their eyes .
At the end of the Mi ng dynaty, P' eng Hao- ku, who di dn' t understand
this principl e , took the phrase " is i n everybody ' s house " to refer to
woman as the alchemical cruci bl e , and in recent ti mes I don' t know how
many people have explained it as referring to sexual practice . Nothi ng is
more bl ameworthy than such ignoramuses misl eadi ng students .
WHEN BAMBOO BREAKS , YOU SHOULD USE BAMBOO TO RE
PAIR IT; TO HATCH A CHI CKEN YOU NEED AN EGG. IT' S A
WAST OF EFFORT I F YOU' RE DEALING WITH DIFFERNT SPE
CIES ; I T' S BETER TO JOI N THE SPIRITAL POTENTIAL WITH
Broken bamboo i s repai red wi th bamboo, chi ckens are hatched from
eggs-you seek to accompl ish somethi ng by what is homogeneous wi th
it . The Tn"le Analogue says , "Wi th the same s pecies , i t ' s easy Î L work ;
i t 's hard to work wi th di ferem ki nds . What is not of the same speci es is
not the true seed ; whatever you do wi t h it is a wast e of effon. " What thi s
al l means is that the great sci ence of the gol d el i xi r is the busi ness of
sages ; i f you want to l earn sagehood , you must seek the seed of sagehood .
The seed of sagehood is the real knowl edge whi ch is referred to as true
lead . If you use real knowl edge to practi ce and mai ntai n the great Tao,
you wi l l surely accord wi th the potenti al of sagehood. The potemi al of
sagehood is simpl y te i ntegral pri nci pl e of nature . Wi th real knowledge
there is nothi ng you do not know, nothi ng that is not real . You can
thereby return to the pri nci pl e of nature ; so the text speaks of j oi ni ng the
spiri tual potenti al . Once you accord wi th the spi ri tual potential , you
become a sage-why are students recal ci trant ?
On using lead
"EMPTY THE MIND, FILL THE BELLY" -THE MEANINGS AR
BOTH PROFOUND. IT I S PRECISELY IN ORDER TO EMPTY THE
MIND THAT IT I S NECESSARY TO KNOW THE MIND. IT IS BEST
WHEN RFINING THE LEAD TO FIRST FILL THE BELLY, AND
CAUSE THE GATHERING IN OF THE GOLD THAT FILLS THE
Alchemy i nvolves to taks , to empty the mi nd and fl l the bel l y. Emp
tying the mind means to empty the human mi nd; this is the tak of
cultivating essence . To fll the bel l y means to ful fl l the mi nd of Tao; this
is the tak of cul t ivating life . The two matters of emptying the mi nd and
fl l ing the bel l y, dealing wi th essence and life , are both of profound
If you want to empty the mi nd, i t is necessary to know the mind. In the
mind there is the human mi nd and there is the mind of Tao. The human
mind should be empty, not ful l , and the mi nd of Tao shoul d be ful l , not
empty. If you do not di sti nguish true and false , right and wrong, in the
mind, and empty both , not only can you not comprehend life, you can
not even comprehend essence .
If you know the mi nd , you do not need to empty the human mi nd ;
frst you shoul d refne the mi nd of Tao, the true lead, to fl l the bel l y.
When the bel l y is full , sane energy arises through accumulation of ri ght
acti on , and the energy of condi ti oni ng dissolves of i tself. The human
mi nd will spontaneously become empty, the four forms will be in har
mony, the fve elements will aggregate , gold and j ade wi l l fi ll the room,
the j ewel of life will be i n your hands . Wi th this you can empty the
human mi nd and nurture the mi nd of Tao, understand the essential
source , and return to the homel and of nothi ngness .
On not using lead
IN USING LEAD, YOU MUST NOT USE ORDINARY LEAD. EVEN
TRUE LEAD IS ABANDONED AFR ITS USE IS FINI SHED. THIS
IS THE TRUE SECRET OF USING LEAD. USING LEAD AND NOT
USING IT-THESE AR VERACIOUS WORDS .
In cul tivating the el ixir, i t is essential t o gather t rue l ead. There is also a
difference in lead-there is ordinary l ead, and there is true l ead. Ordi
nary lead is extracted from mines , and is a gross material substance , and a
pol l utant . I t has no sympathy with oursel ves . True lead is produced in
one ' s own home ; it is the forml ess mind of Tao, and i s of a kind with our
selves . The immortals since anti qui ty who have been abl e to transcend
the ordinary and enter i nto sagehood have all rel ied on the work of the
true lead, the mi nd of Tao. So the text says not to use ordi nary l ead.
However, though the mi nd of Tao is the primordi al j ewel of reaity, it is
produced from within the temporal ; there is a ti me to use it , and a time
nor to use i t . Before you have crystal l i zed the el ixir, you need to use the
real knowl edge of the mi nd of Tao to govern the conscious knowledge of
the human mi nd. When the human mind has been stabi l ized, conscious
knowledge is l uci d; the mi nd of Tao and the human mi nd are as one in
action and still ness , real knowledge and conscious knowl edge correspond
in openness and ful fl l ment .
When the spi ri tual embryo has formed, you shoul d hasten to extract
the hardness of the mi nd of Tao, and incubate the embryoni c breath . The
use of the mi nd of Tao is to govern the human mind; after the human
mi nd is qui et , and discri mi natory awareness is extinguished, innate
knowledge and i nnate capaci ty are t ranqui l and unst i rri ng yet sens i t i ve
and effect ive . Real consci ousness exi sts i ndependent l y. br i ght and l uci d ,
the mi nd of Tao then has no functi on ; i t is t hus possi bl e to not set up
ei ther bei ng or non bei ng, so t hi ngs and sel f al l ret urn t o empt i ness . One
al chemist sai d , " The rul e of usi ng l ead i s t hat i t i s l i ke a t rap t o cat ch
game . the game bei ng caught by means of the t rap; once you ' ve caught
t he game , the t rap has no furt her use ." Herei n l i es the real secret of usi ng
the l ead . I f you don' t know t he secret of usi ng t he l ead , when t he el i xi r
has crystal l i zed, yet you st i l l are concerned about t he mi nd of Tao, you
will not avoi d usi ng the mi nd of Tao to reacti vate the human mi nd. Real
consciousness will again scatter, and the gold el i xi r, once gained , wi ll be
lost agai n. Therefore the text says , " After i ts use i s fnished, the t rue lead
too is abandoned. " The secret of usi ng the l ead and not usi ng i t can be
known from this .
On lead and mercury
IN A DREAM I VISITED THE SUBLI ME ENERGY AND REACHED
THE NINE HEAVENS ; A RAL PERSON GAV ME A BOOK
POINTING TO THE ORIGIN. THE BOOK IS SIMPLE, WITHOUT
MANY WORDS ; IT JUST TEACHES PEOPLE TO REFINE MERCURY
The science of the gol d el ixir is most simpl e , without much talk-i t is
not more than refni ng the real knowledge in the mi nd of Tao and the
conscious knowl edge in the human mi nd. When the frm strength of the
mi nd of Tao i s central l y bal anced, the mi nd of Tao is always present , gov
erni ng conscious knowledge by real knowledge . When the fexi bl e recep
tivity of the human mi nd is central l y balanced , the human mi nd is al ways
calm, with conscious knowledge cleavi ng to real knowl edge . When frm
ness and fexi bi l i ty match each other, and real i ty and consci ousness are
united, this is cal l ed lead and mercury mixing and the gol d el ixir crystal
lizing. The method is very si mpl e and uncompl icated; even ordi nary peo
ple can rise di rectly to sagehood if they accompl ish i t .
However, most people are l acking i n character, so they cannot attai n i t
easi ly. I f people are rich i n virtue and get t o meet real peopl e who wi l l
show them the method of simpl e spiritual subl imation , i t i s l ike waki ng
up from a dream, fnal ly to realize the great medicine is i n onesel f, not
gotten from another, and may be taken and used at wi l l .
There is certai nl y a deep meaning i n the author' s saying that he visited
the sublime energy in a dream and received a transmission . This is not
made up. The sublime energy is where the tre gold is produced, repre
senting the radi ance of pure l ight of tre gold. The " ni ne heavens " is the
realm of pure yang with no yi n.
True gold is a representation of real knowledge : i n the midst of yin
darkness , suddenly the yang light of real knowledge appears ; take this
real knowledge and bring it home , mix i t wi th conscious knowl edge , cook
it with fre, unti l there is pure yang with no yi nthis is called the great
el ixir of gold l i qui d, reverted seven times and restored ni ne times . Is it a
drea, after all ?
On the one energy of nothingness
THE TAO PRODUCES ONE ENERGY FROM NOTHINGNESS,
THEN FROM ONE ENERGY GIVES BIRTH TO YIN AND YANG.
YIN AND YANG THEN COMBINE TO FORM THRE BODIES ;
THE THREE BODIES RPRODUCE, AND MYRIAD THINGS
The Tao of essence and l i fe is the Tao of creative evol ution; the Tao of
creative evol ution is the Tao whi ch produces and reproduces unceasingly.
When we i nvestigate the source of the Tao, we fnd i t produces one
energy from nothi ngness , and from the one energy produces heaven,
produces earth, gives birth to yi n and yang. Yi n and yang recombine
therein, and whi l e containing the one energy produce three bodies . Once
the three bodi es are formed, the one energy goes i nto motion, from yin to
yang, yang to yin ; thus myriad things and beings are born.
So this is like the growth of plants and trees : frst one sprout grows
from the earth-thi s is one energy born from nothi ngness
. Once the
sprout has emerged from the ground, it opens i nto two leaves-· tis is
producing yin and yang from one energy. Then a stem grows up from
two l eaves-this is yin and yang combi ni ng to form three
bodies . From
this branches and leaves grow-this is the three bodies
reproduci ng so that myri ad thi ngs grow.
Everthing in the world, sentient or insentient , grows out of this one
single energy of nothi ngness ; but then all follow the course of creation. If
practitioners of the Tao know about following the course of creation, they
practice it in reverse , returning the myriad to three , returning the three to
two, returning the to to one , returning the one to nothingness . Then
tat which is beyond the senses is reached.
On water and fire
WATR LIGHTNING BOILS AND TERS IN TH REGION OF
METAL WATER; FIRE ARISES IN THE K' UN-LUN, YIN AND
YANG. IF TH TO THINGS ARE RESTORD AND MIXED TO
GETHER, NATRALLY THE ELIXIR DEVLOPS , FRAGRANT
THROUGHOUT THE BODY.
wter lightning represents producing fre in water, a metaphor for the
real knowledge of the mind of Tao appearing in utter darkness . When it
appears is the " living midnight " i n our bodies . " Boi li ng and thun
dering" represents the vacillation of raptre .
As for the " region of metal water," the real knowledge of the mind of
Tao is the tre sense of total concentration, which contai ns the two ener
gies of " metal " and "water."
Te K' un-l un mountains are in the west , and are the mountain range
from which myriad mountains stem, the place where true metal is pro
When the real knowledge of the mind of Tao appears in the midst of
utter darkness , i t is like fashing lightning; al of a sudden it is light , then
at once it is dark . The rapture vacil lates ; it is hard to get and easy to lose .
Qui ckl y use the fre of open awareness to meet i t ; then real knowledge
and conscious knowl edge , essence and sense , will cleave to one another,
yi n and yang wi ll j oin . Therein is produced the primordial spiri tual elixi r:
then acti vate the natural real fre and burn away condi tioned polluted
energy. When the sl a is gone , the gol d is pure . and the gold el i xir is per
fected . I ngest t hi s , and you are rel eaed from what encloses you and you
become ÎansfOrMed revea
ng the pure spi ri tual body. Then a fragrant
brCCze fl l s the worl d-not onl y i s Î he body fl l ed wi t h fragrance .
On heaven-earth and earth-earth
I F FIRE AND WATR ARE RETURNED WITHOUT HEAVN
EARTH AND EARTH-EARTH, THOUGH THEY CONTAIN THE
FOUR FORMS , THEY WILL NOT MAKE ELIXIR. IT IS ONLY
THROUGH THESE LATR TO, EMBRACING TRUE EARTH,
THAT THE GOLD ELIXI R CAN BE RESTORED.
Wter in humans is the original vitali ty, which manifests as knowle
Wi thi n water is hidden metal ; in humans it is true sense , which manif
ð j ustice . Fire in humans is the origi nal spiri t , which mani fests ð cour
tesy. Fire produces wood; in humans this is the original essence , which
manifests ð benevol ence . The mi nd of Tao has the form of water the
human mi nd has the form of fire; so the mi nd of Tao and the human
mind contain the four natures of metal , wood, water, and fre .
But the four natures are separate ; if you want one energy to produce
them, this depends whol l y on the work of heaven- earth and earth-earth.
Heaven- earth is yang earth; i t is the ori gi nal energy, which manifests ð
truthful ness . Earth-earth is yi n earth; it is i ntention , which manifests d
desire . Wter takes i n heaven- earth; i n the mi nd of Tao this is trthfl
ness . Fire takes i n earth- earh; i n the human mi nd, this is intent . If you
want to rectify your mi nd, frst make i ntent sincere . Once intent is sin
cere , earth-earth is stabi l i zed and the human mind is cal m. If you want to
traverse the Tao, frst establ ish trthful ness . Once truthful ness is estab
l ished, heaven- earth appears and the mi nd of Tao manifests .
If the mi nd of Tao is without truthful ness and the human mind is
i nsi ncere , even if one has benevolence , j ustice , courtesy, and knowl edge ,
they do not relate to each other. How then coul d i t be possi ble to crystal
l i ze the spiri tual el ixir of consummate awareness and wisdom?
Therefore those who practice the Tao must consi der sincerity of intent
and truthful ness to be the main concern . Wi th si ncerity and truthful ness ,
the mind of Tao is manifest and the human mi nd is correctl y oriented.
When these two are j oi ned harmoniousl y, yi n and yang correspond, and
the pri mordial energy emerges from nothi ngness and crystal l i zes i nto a
bl ack pearl ; that whi ch was scattered is reassembled , that which had gone
i s restored . That is why the text says it is onl y through these two things ,
embraci ng t rue earth , t hat the gold elixi r can be restored. So the work of
heaven- earth and eart h- earth is very great i ndeed.
On int 1erting water and fi re
THE SUN, IN THE POSITION OF FIRE. TRNS INTO A WOMAN;
JTR. IN THE MOON PALACE, TURNS OUT TO BE A MAN. I F
YOU DO NOT KNOW THE MEANI NG OF INVERSION HEREI N,
STOP ENGAGING I N LOF DI SCUSSION WITH YOUR RE
STRI CTED VIEWS.
Consci ous knowledge is origi nal l y yang ; but it is l i ght outside yet dark
i nside , and al ways draws external i nfuences . This is l i ke the sun bei ng i n
the posi ti on of fre == , yang outsi de , yi n i nsi de , yet turni ng i nto a
female . Real knowl edge is origi nal l y yi n ; but i t is dark outsi de yet light
i nside , and contai ns true energy. This is l ike water = = bei ng i n the pal ace
of the moon , yin outsi de , yang i nsi de , yet after al l bei ng mal e .
The condi ti oned human mental i ty uses consci ousness to create i l l u
sions , so t he nat ural real i ty of the mi nd of Tao i s buri ed away. This i s also
l i ke a woman taki ng over the home , whereat the man retreats from his
posi tion. The path of alchemy is to govern the human mind of conscious
knowledge by means of the mi nd of Tao with real knowl edge , to fol l ow
the mi nd of Tao of real knowl edge wi th the human mi nd of conscious
knowledge . When the man ( real knowl edge) i s frm and the woman ( con
scious knowl edge) is fexi bl e , the man t aki ng charge of thi ngs and the
woman obeyi ng di rect ions , there is no great work that cannot succeed.
" I f you don ' t know the meani ng of i nversi on herei n" refers to not per
ceiving the real knowl edge of the mind of Tao and not recogni zi ng the
conscious knowl edge of the human mi nd , resul t ing i n confusion , in both
cases taki ng the false for the true ; " stop engagi ng i n lofty discussion wi th
your narrow vi ews ," or you ' l l fool yourself and deceive others .
TAKE THE SOLID IN THE HEART OF THE POSITION OF WATR,
AND CHANGE THE YIN I N THE INNARDS OF THE PALACE OF
FIRE: FROM THIS TRANSFORMATION COMES THE SOUND
BODY OF HEAVEN-TO LIE HIDDEN OR TO FLY AND LEAP IS
ALL UP TO THE MIND.
74 Understanding Reality
The sol i d i n the heart of the position of water E E is the real knowledge
i n the mi nd of Tao; the yin in the i nnards of the pal ace of fre ± is the
conscious knowl edge of the human mi nd . Take out the real i ty- knowi ng
mi nd of Tao that has fallen i nto water and wi th it repl ace the consciously
knowing mind in the pal ace of fre . In a short time the yin energy will dis
solve and the yang energy will return, and you will agai n see the origi nal
face of heaven = , recovering your original nature of i nnate knowl edge
and i nnate capaci ty, tranqui l and unperturbed yet sensitive and effective ,
sensitive and efective yet tranqui l and undisturbed. Therefore it says ,
"From this transformation comes the sound body of heaven-to lie hi d
den or to fy and leap is all up to the mind."
This " body " is not the material substance of the ephemeral mortal
body ; i t is the real body of the spiritual being. The spiritual being, or
spiritual body, is the original essence . At the start of human life , the orig
i nal essence of real consciousness i s round and bright and l ucid; frm
strength is balanced, and i t is unadul terated, pure , without a trace of pol
lution : this is l i ke the three whol e l i nes of the trigram heaven = @ the
i mage of pure yang wi thout yi n .
Subsequently, upon mixture wi th acqui red condi t ioni ng, natural
goodness is obscured, and there is artifci al i ty in conscious energy. This is
like the center of the
eaven trigram becoming hol l owed, formi ng fre
�, the center of the eart
E E becomi ng solid, formi ng water = = . The
hollow in the center means the real has l eft fre; the sol i d i n the center
means the real has fall en i nto water: t aki ng from water to fl l i n fre
means restori ng natural reali ty, recoveri ng the origi nal nature of real con
sciousness . This is l i kened to the fre trigram agai n changi ng i nto the
Once real consciousness is restored, i t is at your command , always
responsive yet always cal m, able to adapt appropri atel y to any si tuation.
Whether to l i e hidden or fy and l eap-whether to act or not-is al l up to
the mi nd.
People of later times have thought taking from water to fl l i n fre
means taki ng the energy in the geni tals and mixi ng it with the heart .
There are also those who take the geni tal energy, make it rise up the
spi ne , then draw it down the front of the body i nto the solar pl exus .
I ndeed, there is somethi ng el se , wonder of wonders . The heart and geni
tal s are actual l y not fre and water; those who consider fre and water the
heart and geni tal s are very fool ish .
On the five e/en1ents
THE THUNDER DRAGON MERCURY COMES FROM THE LAND
OF FIRE; THE LKE TIGER LAD I S BORN I N THE REGION OF
WTR. THE TO THINGS BOTH AR BASED ON THE CHI LD
GIVING BIRTH TO THE MOTHER; THE WHOLE ESSENCE OF
THE FIVE ELMENTS ENTRS THE MI DDLE.
Thunder = is a dragon. and is mercury asociated with wood. Lke =
is a tiger, ad is lead asociated wi t metal . " Dragon mercury comes from
the lad of fre " is producing wood in fre. "Tiger lead is born in the
region of water" is producing metal i n water. The wood produced i n fre is
wood that never rots ; the metal produced i n water is metal that never rsts .
Wood originall y produces fre, yet fre paradoxically produces wood;
metal origi nal l y produces water, yet water paradoxically produces metal
this is cal l ed the child giving birth to the mother. This i s what an old cla
sic means when i t says , "When the fve el ements do not go in the usual
order, the dragon emerges from the fre ; when the fve el ements go in
reverse , the tiger is born in water."
The temperament of humans is eai ly sti rred, and is l i kened to the nat
ural buoyancy of wood and mercury ; if you use the fre of the ori gi nal
spi ri t to burn away pol lutants , the temperament is converted and the true
nature becomes manifest , as a nature which i s permanentl y stabl e .
The arbitrary feel i ngs of humans are ver heavy, like the densi ty of
metal , l ead; if you use the water of total concentration to wah away the
dust and di rt , then arbitrary feel ings will vanish and true sense will soli d
i fy, becoming permanent unemotional sense .
Furthermore , when the temperament is transmuted, there is no fre i n
one' s nature; the spi ri t of discri mi nati on dies out and the origi nal spi ri t
l ives permanently. When emoti onal desires vanish, there are no thoughts
of lust ; polluted vitality is sublimated and the ori gi nal vital i ty does not
leak out .
When true nature is manifest , true sense is solidifed, the ori gi nal spi ri t
is alive , and the original vitality i s stable , then essence , sense , vitality, and
spirit return to one energy ; benevolence, j ustice , courtesy, and knowledge
return to one trthful ness . This is called the wholeness of the fve ele
ments . Once the fve elements are whole , they merge i n the center of
unity; this is called the fve elements entering the center.
When the fve el ements enter the center, wi thout i mbalance , and yi n
and yang j oi n, thi s is cal l ed the crystal l i zation of the gol d el ixir. If you
look for medici nal i ngredi ents other than these el ements to form the
el ixi r, i t wi l l be i mpossi bl e . The most i mportant part of thi s section is the
l i ne " the
whole essence of the fve elements enters the mi ddl e ." If the
fve el ements are not i n the center, they wi l l separate , and the gold el ixi r
wi l l not form. I f the fve el ements go i nto the center, then they are one
energy, and the el i xi r natural l y crystall i zes . So students shoul d frst
understand the five el ements .
On the two poles
AS SOON AS THE HALF MOON I S BRI GHT ON THE HORIZON,
ALREADY THERE I S THE SOUND OF THE DRAGON' S HOWL
AND THE TIGER' S ROAR. THEN ONE SHOULD APPLY EFFORT
TO CULTIVATE THE TO EIGHTS ; WITHIN AN HOUR SEE THE
The gold el i xi r is produced by the mixture of the energy of the two
poles of the dragon- essence and the tiger-sense . First take " eight ounces "
of the " metal " of the upper pole , for the matrix of the el i xi r ; then take
" half a pound of the "wood" of the lower pol e , to form the spiritual
What are the poles ? From the thi rd day of the l unar month the frst
yang is born ; by the ei ghth, there is half yang wi thi n yi n , so that the edge
of the moon is fat as a stretched rope , and the moon looks l i ke a strung
bow. Because te yang l i ght is above , this is call ed the upper pol e . On the
ffteenth , the moon is ful l ; on the sixteenth , the frst yi n is latent , and on
the eighteenth the frst yi n appears . On the twenty- thi rd, there is half yin
wi thi n yang , so that the edge of the moon is fat ð a stretched rope , and
the moon looks l i ke a strung bow. Because the yang l i ght is below, this is
called the lower pole .
The yang l i ght of the moon gi ves bi rth to t he ti ger from the west , in
the proYi nLe of metal , whi ch is i n the west ; therefore the moon on the
Li ghth day of the l unar month i s called the polar energy of the ti ger. The
yi n body of the moon produLes the dragon from the east , i n the province
of wood , Which is in the east ; therefore the moon on the twenty- thi rd day
of the lunar month i s Lal l ed the polar energy of the dragon.
The sense of real knowl edge is frm; represent ed db a t i ger, i t i s l i ke t he
yang l i ght of the moon . The essence of consci ous knowl edge i s fexi bl e ;
represented as a dragon , it is l i ke the yi n body of t he moon . The frm
sense of real knowl edge progressi ng to correct bal ance is l i ke t he yang
l ight produced by the upper pol e of the moon . Thi s i s " ei ght ounces of
metal . " The fexi bl e essence of consci ous knowl edge withdrawi ng t o cor
rect bal ance is l i ke the yin body of the wani ng moon at the lower pol e .
This is " eight ounces of wood. "
" As soon as the half moon is bright on the hori zon " is when the frm
sense of real knowl edge advances to correct bal ance . When real knowl
edge advances to correct bal ance , there is frmness wi thi n fexi bi l i ty ; con
scious knowl edge is governed by real knowledge and cannot become
fighty. Yang control s yi n , and yin fol l ows yang; so there is the effect of
the dragon' s howl and the tiger' s roar respondi ng to each other wi th the
At this point , one shoul d appl y efort i n cul tivation, usi ng yang to
equal i ze yi n , causi ng the fexi ble essence of conscious knowl edge also to
revert to correct bal ance . When conscious knowledge reverts to correct
bal ance , there is frmness wi thi n fexi bi l ity. When real knowledge and
conscious knowledge are both restored to correct bal ance , the " two
eights ," the twin pol ar energies , are present i n sufcient quanti ty ; yi n
and yang bal ance each other, frmness and fexi bi l i ty are uni ted-i n an
hour' s ti me you can see the el ixi r form.
However, if you do not reach sufci ency of the two ei ghts , and have
too much yang with too l ittle yi n , or too l i ttl e yang with too much yi n ,
neither can form the el ixi r. I t is onl y when yi n and yang are matched,
evenly balanced, that you can see the el ixir form i n an hour. Do you thi nk
the work of that hour is easy to do? If you do not put i n decades of dedi
cated efort , you cannot al l at once reach thi s real m.
On harmonization (2 verses)
ON THE TOP OF FLOWER CRAG MOUNTAIN, THE MALE TIGER
ROARS ; AT THE BOTOM OF SACRED TRE OCEAN, THE FE
MALE DRAGON HOWLS . THE YELLOW FEMALE NATURALLY
KNOWS HOW TO GET THEM TOGETHER, SO THEY BECOME
MAN AND WIFE AND SHARE THE SAME MIND.
The "fower crag" is i n the west , the "sacred tree" is in the eat ; the
tiger is metal , sense , the dragon is wood, essence . In the begi nning of
life, essence and sense are combined, metal and wood are together ; after
mixture wi th acqui red conditioning, the artifcial comes and the real is
obscured-essence and sense separate, l i ke the dragon going eat and the
tiger west .
The tiger is call ed male because " metal " sense is frm; the dragon is
called female because "wood" essence is fexible . Even though true sense
is blocked by artifcial feelings , and true essence is covered by artifcial
nature , true sense and true essence always want to meet . The male tiger
roari ng on the mountain and the female dragon howling in the ocean
represents subtle communication of separated yi n and yang.
Since there is subtl e communication through the barrier separati ng
them, it is possi ble for them to meet ; it is j ust because there is no har
monizing agent between them that they cannot meet . "The yel low
female " or " yellow woman" is also cal l ed tre eart, tre intent , true
sinceri ty. Once true sincerity appears , the i ntent is truthfl , and the mind
is right ; the false leaves and te rea comes , sense returns to essence. In a
short time essence and sense j oi n, like an engagement j oini ng to fai
lies , sendi ng them to become man and wife and shae the sae mi nd.
THE RD DRAGON AND BLACK TIGER TAKE TO THE WEST
AND EAST; THE FOUR FORMS MIX WITH THE TO EARTHS IN
THE CENTER. RESTORATION AND BEAUTY HENCEFORTH GO
INTO OPERATION; WHO SAYS THE GOLD ELIXIR WILL NOT BE
Wood can produce fre ; fre and wood are i n the same house , so they
are called the red dragon . Metal can produce water ; metal and water are
in the sae house , so they are call ed the black tiger. Metal , wood, water,
and fre are the four forms : earth can combi ne the four forms , and when
earth is added to the four forms they make the fve elements .
When the fve el ements proceed i n order, the universe is a pit of fre ;
when the fve elements are reversed, the world is made of j ewels . The
onl y question is how this operates in people . When the sense of real
knowledge i n t he mi nd of Tao is active , this is called restoration; one
should properly advance the yang fre to make the el ixir. When the
essence of conscious knowledge i n the human mi nd i s st i l l , t his is cal l ed
beauty; one shoul d retreat i nto yin convergence to incubate .
Using yang when yang shoul d be used . usi ng yi n when yi n shoul d be
used, yang is strong and yi n receptive ; use of yang and use of yi n each
accordi ng to the time , real knowledge and conscious knowl edge uni te
and go i nto the center. The fve el ements aggregate , and the golden el ixir
is formed. as a natural process .
On the dragon and tiger
JUST WHEN TH WHITE TIGER ON THE WEST MOUTAI N
GOES WILD, THE BLUE DRAGON IN THE EAST SEA CANOT
HANDLE IT CATCHING THEM BOTH, HAVE THEM FI GHT TO
THE DEATH, AND THEY WI LL TIRN I NTO A MASS OF VIOLET
Al though the sense of real knowl edge and the essence of conscious
knowl edge are primordial things , yet when they fal l i nto temporal condi
tioning, reaon and desire get mixed up together, and real i ty and artifci
ality get confused . When reality and consciousness have been separated
for a long time , they cannot be immediately reconciled; this is why the
text says "Just when the whi te tiger on the west mountain goes wild, the
blue dragon i n the east sea cannot handle i t ."
But in spiritual alchemy there is a method of using the artifcial to cul
tivate the real , usi ng the real to convert the artifci al . The method is to go
along with what one desires , graduall y guiding desires , making dedicated
efort on one level to lead from disharmony to harmony, so that ater a
long process of gradually increasing one' s strength, arbitrar feel i ngs will
spontaneously vanish and true sense wi l l spontaneousl y arise , tempera
ment wi l l dissolve and true essence will be exposed, the false will die out
and the true wi l l remai n.
Only unemotional sense i s true sense , only impersonal essence i s true
essence . When true sense and true essence uni te , the mind dies whi l e the
spirit l ives ; unconsciously following the l aws of God, they change into a
mas of violet gold frost . Gold is something stabl e and incorruptible :
when gold reaches violet , coming from smel ti ng i n a great frnace , it is
considered gold i n fll hue . Violet gold becoming frost represents the
80 Understanding Reality
psycho- physiological being melting i nto one unifed energy, transcendi ng
beyond yi n and yang .
On cultivating the sel (3 verses)
FIRST OBSERVE HEAVEN AND UNDERSTAND THE FIVE BAN
DITS ; THEN EXAMINE EARTH, TO PACIF THE PEOPLE. WHEN
THE PEOPLE ARE SEmED AND THE COUNTY RICH, YOU
SHOULD SEEK WAR; WHEN THE WAR IS OVER, THEN ALONE
CAN YOU SEE THE SAGE.
Obsering heaven means obsering our own celestial essence . Under
standing the fve bandits means understanding how the fve elements of
metal , wood, water, fre , and earth overcome one another. Examining
earth means exami ning the ground of our mi nd. Pacifying the people
means settling vital ity, spiri t , yang-soul , yi n-soul , and i ntent , each in its
own pl ace .
In the path of spiritual alchemy, nothing takes precedence over cul tiva
tion of the self, refnement of the self. The essenti al point of refni ng the
self is frst to obsere the cel estial essence . When the celestial essence is
not obscured, the fve bandi ts cannot fool you. Next one should exami ne
the mi nd ground; when the mi nd ground is clear and clean, the fve
thi ngs are all settled. When the fve things are settled, the vitality is frm,
the yang soul is stable , the yin soul i s cal m, the intent is sincere . This is
called the richness of the country.
At this poi nt one shoul d battle the fve bandi ts and repel all negativi
ties ; when negative energy turns i nto posi tive energy, the killing potenti al
transmutes i nto the enlivening potenti al , and one can thereby see the
The sage is the original aspect of i nnate knowledge and innate capaci ty.
I t is also cal l ed the spi ri tual embryo. When the fve bandi ts are overcome,
they change into the fve bases , which i n action become the fve vi rtues .
Tranqui l and unsti rring, yet sensitive and effective , unconsciousl y obey
ing the l aws of God , is this not the spiritual embryo?
The word "war" in the text has a profound meaning. The fve bandits
are i n the mi nd, and they go i nt o action i n heaven ; if you do not have the
great spi ri tual power to be a match for heaven , you cannot conquer them.
Part I 8 1
attle wi th them is preci sel y how to acti vate great functi on and
bri ng forth great potenti al , progressi ng vi gorously, growing st ronger as
ti me goes on , not l etti ng yourself gi ve up halfay al ong . An anci ent
i mmortal said, " As long as there is even t he sl i ghtest posi ti ve energy l eft .
you do not di e ; as long as there is even the sl i ghtest negati ve energy left .
you do not become i mmortal ." I n refni ng onesel f i t i s necessary to refne
oneself until there is no more negative energy, so that the fve el ements
fuse and transmute , the sl ag is gone and the gold is pure .
IN EMPLOYING GENERALS , YOU SHOULD DIVIDE LEFT AND
RIGHT ARMIES ; LET THE OTHER BE THE HOST AND YOU BE
THE GUEST. BRINGING THE RULER TO THE BATTLE LINE, DO
NOT TAKE THE ADVERSARY LIGHTLY; YOU MAY LOSE THE
PRICELESS TREASURE OF YOUR OWN HOUSE.
In refning oneself, one cannot achieve success i mmedi atel y ; i t is neces
sar to concede to desires , gradually gui di ng them in the right di rection.
In most people , the opening of real consciousness has been locked up
tight for a long ti me ; their accumul ated habits are deep-seated, and the
fve bandi ts have been causing afi cti ons for d l ong time , so they are most
difcul t to extermi nate .
" I n empl oying generals , you shoul d di vi de right and left armies ; l et
the other be the host , and you be the guest " means when you want to get
you must frst give . " Bri nging the rl er to the battl e l i ne , do not take the
adversary lightl y ; you may lose the pricel ess treasure of your own house "
means that you do not lose yourself i n desiring to get from the other. By
i nwardly forestall ing danger, wary of perils , and outwardl y working on
refnement , the false can be removed and the real can be preserved; why
worry that the great Tao wi l l not be achieved?
FIRE ARISING IN WOOD I NHERENTY CONTAINS DANGER; I F
YOU DO NOT KNOW HOW TO INVESTIGATE, DO NOT FORCE
THE I SSUE. THE OCCURRENCE OF CALAMITY IS ALL DUE TO
THE HARM OF THI S; IT I S NECESSARY TO CONTROL IT AND
SEEK THE METAL MAN.
When people act from acqui red condi tioning and the spirit of discri mi
nati on rules , the afictive perceptions borne all along by the energies of
the conditioned fve elements i n the body, as well as the pollution of
present habits , are active all at once ; if you haven' t great spiritual power
and great method, how can you overcome them? If you do not know how
to i nvestigate true principl e , and start out impetuously to control mind
by mi nd, attacking them too fercely, sometimes the fre of the ruler and
the fre of the mi nister fare up at once , and nor onl y are you unable to
attack the bandi ts , you are even attacked by the bandits . It is not onl y not
benefcial , i t is even harmful . It i s like fre arising in wood; when the
calami ty arises , it wi l l overcome-the wood is burnt by the fre , destroy
ing its l ife .
The Ts 'an T' ung Ch 'i says , "The fowi ng pearl of the sun always wants
to leave peopl e ; fnally fndi ng the gol den fower, they change and stay
by each other. " The gol den fower is the mi nd of Tao. The mind of Tao is
mind which is not mi nd ; it original l y emerges from the body of natural
reality and is i mbued with the sense of real knowledge . It ha indestructi
ble true energy, and nothing can deceive i t . Once the l ight of the mind of
Tao appears , all falsehood retreats . Its efcacy and frm resolution are l i ke
sharp metal , so the mind of Tao is cal l ed the metal man. Investigati ng
true principle is simpl e i nvestigati ng the true principle of using metal to
Over all , the "metal man" is the master of spiri tual alchemy : if you
want to refne yourself without the metal man, you will merel y bring on
calamity. Therefore Chang San-feng sai d, " When refni ng the self, you
must use true l ead. " True l ead and the metal man are both naes for the
mind of Tao.
On the metal man
THE METAL MAN I S ORIGINALY THE SON OF THE FAMI LY TO
THE EAST, LIVI NG I NSTEAD AT THE NEIGHBORS ' TO THE
WEST. RECOGNIZED, HE IS CALLED BACK HOME TO GROW
UP, AND ESPOUSED TO A BEAUTIFUL GI RL, BECOMING INTI
The metal man i s the real knowl edge of the mi nd of Tao, as ment i oned
before . Real knowledge consti tutes true sense . In human l i fe ori gi nal l y
essence and sense are one and not separate : i n terms of substance , i t i s
cal led essence ; i n terms of functi on , it i s called sense-sense i s essence ,
essence is sense ; they have the same origi n but di ferent names , yet they
are not two.
Mi xi ng wi th acqui red condi ti oni ng, sense and essence change ; true
sense becomes obscured and arbi trary feel i ngs arise . The i ndestructi ble
true energy is covered by external i nfuences , and is no l onger at one ' s
command. This is l i kened to the son of the fai l y to the east l i ving at the
nei ghbors ' to the west . But though he be l i vi ng at the neighbors ' to the
west , i t is not that we never meet-yet when we see hi m we don ' t recog
nize hi m.
I f one is determined and investigates truth penetrati ngl y, when one
recogni zes real truth i t comes when cal l ed, l i ke an empty val ley transmi t
ti ng a voice , without using up any energy at al l . Then one can nurture i t
i n a closed room, always protecti ng and sustai ni ng i t . Weddi ng i t t o the
" beauti ful gi rl " of true essence , yi n and yang are one energy, j oi ni ng i n
i nti macy. As before i t i s of the eastern house .
The beautiful gi rl is the essence of conscious knowledge . The reason
why essence is cal l ed a girl even though i t is ori gi nal l y yang is that essence
commands fexi bi l ity. I t is represented by wood. The reason sense is cal led
male even though i t is origi nal l y yi n is that sense commands frmness . I t
i s represented by metal . The metal man havi ng been out for a l ong ti me ,
when one day he returns home and meets the beautiful gi rl , they become
extraordi narily i ntimate , and unfai l i ngl y produce the el ixir. Therefore the
Ts 'an T' ung Ch 'i says , " When metal frst comes back to essence , it can
be called restored el ixi r." Metal and wood j oi ni ng-sense and essence
mergi ng-is the restored el i xi r. There is no other restored el i xi r.
On the beautiul girl
THE BEAUTIFUL GIRL TRAVELING HAS HER OWN DIRCTION;
THE FIRST TRIP SHOULD BE SHORT, THE NEXT TRI P LONG.
COMING BACK, SHE GOES INTO THE YLLOW WOMAN' S
HOUSE, MARRIES THE METAL MAN AND MAKES HI M HER OLD
The beau t i fu l woman i s t he essence of comc i ouc knO¼l CdgC g 35
expl ai ned i n t he precedi ng sect i on . When i t goes i nt o t emporal cond i
Í i oÕi ng @ t here i s the spi ri t of di scri mi nati on of t he human mi nd whi c h
dwel l s t here , s o there i s artifcial i ty wi thi n the real . Produci ng i l l usi on by
consci ousness , seei ng fre i t fies and wanders unsettl ed ; this i s what i s
called goi ng out and i n i rregul arly, not knowi ng where home i s . I f you
want to practice spiri tual alchemy, you must frst cause thi s consci cJus
essence to travel in the di rection it shoul d go, openi ng the awareness up
and not obscuring that consciousness , s o that i t returns to real conscious
"The frst trip shoul d be short " refers to seeki ng sense through
essence ; " the next trip shoul d be long" refers to nurturing real ity
through consciousness . Seeking sense through essence is the subtlety of
the momentary congeal i ng of the el ixir, so i t is said to be short . Nurturing
real i ty through consci ousness is the work of the ten months of i ncubation,
so i t is said to be long. Short when short is appropriate , long when long is
appropriate-this is referred to by the l i ne "she ha her own di rection." If
you go in the right di rection, the alchemy can succeed.
But you must frst dismiss i ntel l ectal ism and turn your attention
inward: take this poi nt of conscious essence and pl ace i t i n the center.
This is called "coming back and going i nto the yellow woman's house."
The yel l ow woman' s house is the abode of balance , without bi a or i ncl i
nation. When the conscious essence is correctl y balanced, the mind is
straightforard and the i ntent is sincere . When the i ntent is sincere,
truthfl ness is real ; when t rthfulness is real , it does not meander out
side . Thereby one seeks sense through essence ; when sense returns to
essence , essence and sense become attached to each other and j oi n into
one energy. This is referred to here a " marrying the metal man and mak
ing hi m her old man."
" Maing him her ol d man" is not an ordinar expression-i t ha a
deep meaning. General l y speaki ng, spiritual alchemy begins wit sum
moning true sense through conscious essence . When tre sense returns ,
the conscious essence is no more disturbed or agi tated, and it also retrns
to reality. Once the conscious essence is linked to true sense, it is necessar
to nurture true sense i n the realm of pure yang wit no yin. This is
likened to husband and wife growing ol d together, not letting there be
any rit beteen them along the way. This is i n fact the meaning of "te
l atter trip shoul d be long." Students should study this deeply.
On the firing process (2 verses)
EVEN IF YOU KOW THE RED CINNABAR AND BLACK LEAD,
IT I S USELESS IF YOU DO NOT KNOW THE FIRING PROCESS .
THE WHOLE THING DEPENDS ON THE POWR OF PRACTICE;
IF YOU DEVIATE EVEN SLIGHTY, YOU WI LL NOT FORM THE
The science of the elixir of restoration i s simply to take the two medici
nal materials , red ci nnabar and black l ead, and forge them i nto a j ewel ,
with which to extend the l ife of the essence . The ci nnabar is the energy of
open consciousness withi n fre == ; tis is conscious knowledge , which is
the realm of the human mi nd. The l ead is the energy of frm rectitude
within water = = ; this is real knowledge , which is i n the province of the
mind of Tao. Because the conscious knowledge of the human mind is
l ight outside and dark i nside , and light belongs to fre , which is red, it is
symbolized by red ci nnabar. Because the real knowledge of the mind of
Tao is dark outside and light inside , and darkness belongs to water, which
is dark, it is symboli zed by black lead. These are i mmaterial formless ci n
nabar and l ead, not the material ci nnabar and l ead of the worl d.
Once you know the ci nnabar and lead of real knowledge and conscious
knowledge , you can freel y gather them without diffcul ty. However,
when you gather them you must refne them, and if you know the medi
cines but not the method of refni ng them, i t is the same as if you didn' t
know them. Therefore the text says , " Even if you know the red ci nnabar
and black lead, it is useless if you don ' t know the fri ng process . " The for
mation of the gold el ixir total ly depends on the practice of the fring pro
cess . The " fre " is the power of efort i n practice , the " process " i s the
order of procedure of practice .
I n gathering the medi cines , one must know their levels of gravity and
energy ; i n refning the medici nes , one must know the proper timing.
There is a fri ng process of " cul tural " cooking, and a fring process of
" mart i al " refni ng; there is a fring process of getting started, and a fring
process of stoppi ng . There is a fring process of advancing yang, and a fr
i ng process of wi thdrawi ng yi n; there is a fring process of restored el i xi r,
and d fri ng process of great el i xi r. There is a fri ng process of i ncreaing
and decreai ng , and a fr i ng process of i ncubation . There are many pro
cesses of fri ng , whi ch must be t horoughl y understood from begi nni ng ÎO
end before i t is possi ble to succeed i n the work. A slight deviation
produces a great loss , making i t impossi ble to form el ixi r.
TRATISES , CLASSICS , AND SONGS EXPOUND ULTIMAT REAL
ITY, BUT DO NOT EXPRESS THE FIRING PROCESS CLEARLY IN
WRITING. IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE ORALLY TRANSMIT
TED TEACHINGS AND PENETRAT THE ARCANA, THIS RE
QUIRES CAREFUL DISCUSSION WITH THE SPIRITAL I MMOR
Si nce anci ent ti mes the wri ti ngs of the i mmortals and real people have
meti cul ousl y di scussed the medi ci nal substances and fring process of
cul tivating real i ty. What they have said i s true and not false , but though
they discuss i t , discussion cannot reach i t ; though they speak of i t , speech
cannot exhaust i t . It is not that they haven' t wri tten about the fi ring pro
cess , but the meani ngs of the wri ti ngs are deep and mysterious . Some say
essence , some say l i fe , some say medi ci ne , some say fre ; some speak of
the fring process of cul tivating l i fe , some speak of the fring process of
cul tivating essence , some speak of an external fri ng process , some speak
of an i nternal fring process .
So i t is not that they haven' t spoken of the fring process , but what
they say is not organi zed. If you do not meet an i l l umi ned teacher, who
wi ll i ndicate the order for you, you wi l l not be abl e to know i t . That is
why the text says they haven' t expressed the fring process clearly in
words , and i t also says i t i s necessar to discuss it careful l y wi th spiri tual
immortals . This i s tel l i ng peopl e to study the wri ti ngs and aso seek
i l l umined teachers for certanty. One should not j ust seek a teacher wi th
out reading texts , and one shoul d not take the wri ti ngs as one' s own
understanding and fai l to seek a teacher.
I f there were no fri ng process i n the wri ti ngs-the treatises , cl assics ,
and songs-why woul d i t say the writi ngs expound ul ti mate real i ty? Gen
eral l y speaking. students shoul d both read the alchemical wri ti ngs and
seek enl i ghtened teachers too. By readi ng the texts they can di sti nguish
false and true, genui ne and bogus , and can extend thei r knowledge and
perspect ive ; cal l i ng on enl ightened teachers , they can ascertain the verity
of the pri nci ples they have di scerned. Study on one ' s own and fndi ng a
teacher are both necessary.
On the firing process of gathering the redicine
ON THE FIFENTH DAY OF THE EIGHTH MONTH, ENJOYI NG
THE MOONLI GHT, THIS IS PRECI SELY WHEN THE GOLD ES
SENCE IS IN ITS PRIME. WHEN YOU REACH THE POINT WHERE
ONE YANG BEGINS TO MOVE, THEN YOU SHOULD ADVANCE
THE FIRE, WITHOUT DELAY.
When the moon comes to mid- aut umn , the gold essence is in its
prime ; when the path comes to proper balance of frm strength, the origi
nal nature i s compl etel y i l l umi ned, the achievement of compl ete i l l umi
nation rests compl etel y i n the mi nd of Tao . The poi nt where one yang
begins to move is when the yang light of real knowledge of the mind of
Tao stirs but is not yet very active ; onl y then is a gl impse of the root of
heaven reveaed. At this time you should quickl y set about i ncreasing the
fre , gathering the yang and putti ng it i nto the furnace of evolution,
graduall y gathering, gradual y refni ng, from vagueness to cl ari ty, from
one yang to complete puri ty of six yangs . This is also like the mi d- autumn
moon, exceptionally bright , shi ni ng through the universe .
The words "without delay" express urgency ; because the l ight of real
knowledge of the mi nd of Tao is hard to fnd and easy to lose , i f you hesi
tate and del ay, the energy of the light wi l l again dissipate , and you will
miss i t even though i t is near at hand.
On the firing process of extraction
WHEN ONE YANG STIRS , MAKING THE GOLD ELIXIR, THE
LEAD CRUCIBLE, WARM, SHINES DAZLINGLY. THE BEGIN
NING OF RECEPTION OF ENERGY IS EASILY GOTTEN; IN THE
OPERATION OF EXTRACTION AND ADDITION, IT I S URGENT
TO PRVNT DANGER.
This section foll ows up urgently on the preceding one . When one yang
stirs , you gather i t back i nto the crci bl e : the mind is peaceful , the energy
harmonious ; " bright ness arises i n the empty room," i ts radiance col l ect
ing inside , produci ng l i ght from within darkness , shi ni ng dazzl i ngl y.
Master Ts ' ui said , " Receivi ng energy is auspicious ; prevent it from
becoming unfortunate ." The return of one yang is easy ; but pure com
pl eteness is most difcul t . It is necessary to forestal l danger, aware of
perils , using the technique of extracti on and addi tion, i ncrease and
reduction, in order to accomplish the work. Extraction means reduction
of excess of the conscious knowledge of the human mind; addi tion means
increasi ng real knowl edge of the mi nd of Tao where it is lacking.
Extracting and extracting, adding and addi ng, unti l you reach the
point where there can be no more extraction or addition, then the human
mind does not arise , whi l e the mi nd of Tao is always present ; real knowl
edge and conscious knowl edge conj oi n, and i nside and outside are
i l l umined. Onl y then wil l you not be aficted by "wi nd and thunder at
midnight .' '
I n particul ar, because when the mind of Tao frst returns the yang
energy is weak while yi n energy is strong, if you do not work on extraction
and addition , as soon as you sl ack of you lose what you have gained.
Therefore the work of extraction and addition is i mportant . This work of
extraction and addi tion is the work of preventi ng danger. There is no pre
venting danger without this extraction and addi tion, and extraction and
addition is not beyond preventi ng danger. Preventing danger is extrac
tion and addition-the two are one thing. Students shoul d pay attention
to this .
On the firing process of incubation
THE MYSTIC PEARL TAKES ON FORM, BORN FOLLOWING
YANG; WHEN YANG PEAKS , YIN GROWS, GRADUALLY STRIP
PING AWAY GROSSNESS . IN TN MONTHS THE FROST FLIES ,
AND THE ELIXIR IS NOW DEVLOPED; AT THI S TIME EVN
SPIRITS AND GHOSTS WILL BE SURPRISED.
The mystic pearl is t he pearl of compl et e yang, something round and
bright and uncl ouded; it is a di fferent name for the gold el ixir, and is the
fundamental essence of i nnat e knowledge and innate capacity which
Part I 89
human bei ngs origi nal l y have . Thi s fundamental essence is si l ent and
calm, yet sensitive and efective ; it is represented as a mysti c pearl . Thi s
pearl is the stable , strong real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao, whi ch takes
on form through correct concent ration. When it grows and grows unt i l i ts
bountiful energy is al l - perasive and i ts shi ni ng l i ght waxes ful l , t hi s i s
the peak of yang.
When yang peaks , you should receive it with yi n ; yi n growing and
stripping away grossness is using yin to nurture yang, getti ng rid of the
hot energy of the adamancy of yang. Gradual stri ppi ng away requi res ten
months of work: after ten months of incubation , the dross is gone and the
gold is pure , transmuti ng into spi ri tual frost , really empty yet i ncl udi ng
subtle existence , wondro�sly existent yet contai ni ng true empti ness ,
unconsciously following the laws of God. Bei ng l ike frost fyi ng i n the sky
is a representation of not fal ling i nto bei ng or non being-now the el ixir is
developed. At this stage , creation cannot constrain you, myriad thi ngs
cannot move you; your work is done in the human worl d, your name is
recorded in heaven. How could the spirits and ghosts not be startled ?
On the firing process of forming the embryo
AIER THE PRIOR POLE, BEFORE THE LATTER POLE, THE TAST
OF THE HERB IS EVEN, THE FORM OF THE ENERGY IS COM
PLETE. GATHERING IT, RETRN IT TO THE FURACE AND
RFINE IT; WHEN IT I S REFINED, KEEP IT WARM, AND IT WILL
COOK BY ITSELF
The prior pole is yang withi n yi n, real knowledge reverting to correct
balance . The latter pole is yi n wi thi n yang, conscious knowledge return
ing to correct balance . When real knowledge and conscious knowledge
both return to correct balance , frmness and fexi bi l i ty match each other.
Where they match is called " after the prior pole , before te latter pole."
At this ti me , real knowledge and conscious knowledge , the great and the
smal l , are free from defect-" both countries are whole ." Therein is pro
duced a primordial spiri tual sprout ; the taste of the herb is even-yi n and
yang are merged: quickl y gather it and put i t i n the furnace of evol ut ion ,
refni ng i t i nto real i ty, consol idating i t i nto the spiritual embryo. At thi s
stage , the medi ci ne is the fre , the fre i s the medicine . Applying the
work of ten months of i ncubation, there wi l l spontaneously be natural
tre fre cookingg from vague to cl ear, produci ng form from no form.
On yin and yang returning to the center
JUST AS THE ELDEST SON DRINKS THE WINE OF THE WEST,
THE YOUNGEST DAUGHTER FIRST OPENS THE FLOWER OF
THE NORTH. AFTER THE MEETING WITH THE GREEN BEAUT,
LOCK THEM UP AT ONCE IN THE YELLOW HOUSE.
The eldest son is thunder =. The wine of the west is metal -water. On
the thi rd of the l unar month, the moon appears i n the west ; under yin,
one yang arises-this is represented by the trigram thunder Therefore i t
says , "Just as t he el dest son dri nks t he wine of t he west ." The youngest
daughter is lake E. The fower of the north means producing the fower
of metal within water. The development of the moonlight goes to lake
from earth E E ; within yi n, yang appears . Therefore it says , "The
youngest daughter frst opens the fower of the north. " The two lines
both symbol i ze the arising of one yang. "Just as he drinks " means he has
not drunk before , and now suddenl y dri nks . " Fi rst opens " means not
having previously opened , onl y now opened. Both describe the sense of
the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao being eay to lose and hard to fnd.
The mi nd of Tao having been long buried away, real knowledge is
obscure ; when suddenl y, i n the midst of ut ter quietude , it happens to
become manifest , this is like j ust drinking wine , or frst getting a fower
to bloom. This is the opportuni ty for restoration , a fortunate encounter
on a good night , not to be missed. You shoul d take advantage of the
opportunity to gather i t , mating it with conscious knowledge , shutting
them in the room of the central yellow court ; husband and wife meet and
naturally give bi rth to the el ixir.
Conscious knowl edge is essence , yin wi thi n yang. It is i n the province
of wood ; because the col or of wood is green , conscious knowledge is sym
bol i zed as a "green beaut y." When real knowledge and conscious knowl
edge meet , wi th t he same mi nd, one energy, they naturally return to the
center. When they return they return, but if you do not know how to lock
up, they may again separate after j oi ni ng. Havi ng shut the door, l ock it:
with the door locked tight , if they haven ' t j oi ned they wi l l j oin, and
when they have j oi ned they wi ll stay toget her al ways . This is what Chang
San-feng meant when he said , " The woman of t he eastern house and the
man of the western house mate as husband and wife and ent er t he empt y
room. The yel low woman urges t hem to dri nk wi ne of the fnest favor,
and they revel i n intoxication. "
The words " l ock up" convey the work of forestal l i ng danger. When yi n
and yang frst meet , essence and feel i ng are not yet pure and si m pi e . It i s
essenti al not to forget , yet not to force . Onl y if you guard strict l y can you
avoid leakage . The gold el ixi r crystall i zes from wi t hi n nothi ngness . This is
the celestial mechanism, whi ch cannot be known wi thout a teacher.
WHEN THE MOON IN THE EAST AND WEST RACHES ITS SEA
SON, PUNISHMENT AND RWARD AR AT HAND; THE MEDI
CINE IS PATERED ON THI S . AT THI S POINT THE GOLD ELIX
IR SHOULD BE BATHED; IF INSTEAD YOU INCRASE THE FIRE,
THAT IS DANGEROUS .
The moon in the eas t is the spring equi nox, when yang energy rises
between heaven and earth . The moon i n the west is the autumn equi nox,
when yi n energy rises between heaven and earth . The spring equi nox, in
the sphere of wood, is the enlivening energy, which is " reward." The
autumn equi nox, in the sphere of meta, is the ki l l i ng energy, which is
" punishment ." Reward is that whereby to enliven people , puni shment is
that whereby to mature people . Without punishment , reward is not per
fect ; without reward, punishment is not complete . When there is bot h
punishment and reward, the evol ution of heaven and earth can circulate
unceaingly by the fow of one energy.
In pract i tioners of the Tao, the return of the frmness of real knowledge
to proper balance is l ike the autumn solstice ; the return of the fexi bi l i ty
of conscious knowledge to proper balance is l i ke the spri ng solstice . The
reversion of both real knowledge and conscious knowledge to proper bal
ance is l i ke the reward of spri ng and the punishment of autumn . The
h of real knowledge is that whereby to control the devial l t
energy of the
human mi nd; t he fexi bl e receptivi ty of consci ous kn
edge is that whereby to nurture the right energy of the mi nd of Tao.
Being frm when i t i s appropriate to be frm, bei ng fexi bl e when i t is
appropriate to be fexi bl e , not missing the ti me , frmness and fl exi bi li ty
then are balanced, like the spring and autumn equi noxes each coming in
their time . Therefore the text says the moon in the east and west reaches
i ts season. When there is fexi bil ity in frmness , and frmness i n fexibi l
ity, frmness and fexi bi l i ty are as one ; then real ity and consciousness are
not disparate . I t is like spring reward and autumn punishment alternat
ing i n course ; therefore the text says punishment and reward are at hand,
the medicine being patterned on this .
When the path reaches correct bal ance of frmness and fexi bility, the
mind of Tao is always present , and the human mi nd is utterly quiet ; real
knowledge is compl etel y conscious , and conscious knowledge is com
pl etel y real . When reality and knowledge are uni ted, and i nnate knowl
edge and capaci ty take form i n te gold elixi r, one shoul d bathe it and
keep it warm, taking the frewood out from below the furnace . Other
wise , if one does not know when enough is enough, and still adds fre,
then frmness is excessive and fexbil ity i nsufci ent ; so frmness and fex
ibility are not balanced, the medicine dries out and the elixir is daaged
-how can danger be avoided?
On cultural cooking and martial refining
THE SUN AND MOON MEET ONCE IN THIRTY DAYS ; EX
CHANGING HOURS FOR DAYS IS THE PATERN OF THE SPIRI
TUAL WORK. GUARDING TH CASTLE, BAmiNG IN THE
FIELD, KNOWING BAD AND GOOD, YOU INCRASE THE SPIR
ITAL CINNABAR, FILING THE CRUCIBLE, RD.
The moon original l y has no light ; its light depends on the sun. In one
year it meets the sun twelve times . In one month, thirty days , they meet
once between the begi nni ng and end of the month. People 's real knowl
edge is hidden away, pure yin without yang, like the moon's having no
l ight ; it needs conscious knowledge before it can produce light . WhCn
real knowledge and conscious knowledge meet , i t i s l i ke t he sun and
moon meeti ng in thi rty days .
Developed peopl e , emul ati ng the i mage of sun and moon meet i ng,
place thi rty days wi t hi n one day, and also pl ace one day wi t hi n one hour :
i n one hour activating strong energy, they use t he human mi nd t o
produce t he mi nd of Tao, use t he mi nd of Tao t o govern t he human
mi nd, produce real knowledge by conscious knowledge , and purge con
scious knowledge by real knowledge ; they gather the undi ferent i ated
primal energy for the mother of the el i xi r, and fol l ow the spi ri tual mecha
nism of the transformations of yin and yang as the fri ng process .
This path has cul tura cooki ng and martial refni ng. " Guarding the
castl e" is cui tural cooki ng; " battling i n the fel d" is matial refni ng. To
apply the cul tural when i t is appropriate and the martial when i t is appro
priate is good; to appl y the martial when the cul tural is appropriate or the
cul tural when the martial is appropriate is bad. The cul tura fre is turn
i ng the attenti on wi thi n, di smi ssi ng i ntel l ection, nurturing the true
energy si ngl e- mi ndedly, l ike guardi ng a castl e . The martial fre is control
ling anger and desire , getting rid of falsehood and mai ntai ni ng truth,
forceful l y removi ng acqui red energies , l ike battl ing i n the fel d.
Knowi ng the cul tural and the martia cl early, understandi ng good and
bad clearl y, when there is some matter, use the martial fre , and when
there is no matter use the cul tural fre . Cul tural l y cooki ng and martial l y
refni ng, yi n energy is exausted and yang energy is puri fed; real knowl
edge and conscious knowledge j oi n, and turn i nto i nnate knowledge and
i nnate capacity-the ori gi nal nature of i nefable awareness is round and
bright , clean and naked, tranqui l and unsti rri ng yet sensi tive and efec
tive , sensitive and efective yet tranqui l and unstirri ng. I ntegrating with
the celestial design , there is no human desire . This is l ike "spi ri tual ci n
nabar fl l i ng the crcible , red ."
When the ci nnabar is spiri tual i zed, the substance of energy changes ;
being nei ther material nor immaterial , nei ther existent nor nonexistent ,
it is wholly the energy of pure yang. By i ngesting this one can get rid of
il l ness and extend li fe , nul l ify cal ami ty and avoi d problems . Restoring
one' s origi nal nature , open awareness without obscuri ty, trul y empty yet
subtly existing, creation cannot limit one , yin and yang cannot constran
one , myriad things cannot hurt one . And yet , there are also people i n the
world who know good and bad but stil l wil l not do the spiritual work .
On the meanings of hexagrams (2 verses)
WHEN OBSTRUCTION AND TANQUILITY MIX, MYRIAD
THINGS ARE FULL; THE TWO HEXAGRAMS DIFFICULT AND
DARKNESS RECEIVE LIFE AND GROWTH. GETTING THE
MEANING HEREIN, STOP SEEKING SYMBOLS ; IF YOU STDY
THE LINES , YOU USE THE MIND IN VAIN.
With heaven = above and earth E E below, the celestial energy
descends from above , whi l e the terrestrial energy acends from below; yin
and yang do not mix, so this is obstruction. Wi th earth above and heaven
below, the terrestrial energy descends from above , whi l e the celestial
energy rises from below; yi n and yang mi x, so this is tranquzlity. When
obstruction ends , tranqui l i ty comes ; a soon as yi n and yang mix, myriad
thi ngs are born, fl l i ng the universe .
Dzffculty has water ± ± above and thunder E below; wi thi n water
there is thunder-yang arises withi n yin, thereby dissolving yin and giv
ing birth to thi ngs . Darkness ha mountain E above and water ±E
below; under the mountain is water-yang fal l s i nto yin, thereby nur
turing yang and developing things .
Obstrction and tranquzlity refer to the fow or blockage of myriad
thi ngs ; difculty and darkness refer to the bi rth and development of myr
iad thi ngs . Flow or blockage , bi rt h and development , are all operated by
the coming and going of yi n and yang. The coming and going of yin and
yang, the fow and blockage , birth and development of myriad thi ngs , al
come about natural l y and are not forced.
I n the path of cul tivation of real i ty, when frmness and fexi bi lity ae
not yet j oined, thi s is obstruction: when frmness and fexi bility j oi n, this
is tranquzlity. When frmness is appropri ate , to promote frmness to cul ti
vate real ity is dzffculty; when fexi bi l i ty is appropriate , to use fexi bility
to nurture real i ty is darkness. When frmness and fexi bility are used
according to the appropriate ti mi ng, thei r variations produce the sixty
four hexagrams ; this is within our own mi nd.
General ly speaki ng, the way the hexagram symbols produce meanings ,
we can forget the symbol when we have graped the meani ng. If one does
not know the i ntent of the hexagram and j ust cl i ngs to the form of the
hexagram, ÕlC will want one yang, two yangs , three yangs to efect tran
qurlity, and wi l l want one yi n, two yi ns , t hree yi ns to prevent obstrction.
To produce three yangs to efect tranquility i s somewhat close to the pri n
ciple , but when i t comes to produci ng three yi ns to prevent obstrction,
that woul d be i mpossi bl e . Furthermore , one mi ght take t he mi dni ght
hour ð yang energy sti rring wi thi n water focusi ng the mi nd on the geni
tal region at mi dni ght , and consi deri ng t hi s " difculty i n t he morni ng,"
then tae the noon hour as yang energy havi ng a l i mi t and stoppi ng,
focusing the mi nd on the heart at noon , and consi deri ng thi s " darkness
eveni ng." If you take these to be tranqutity, obstruction, dif
culty, and darkness, how can you al ign all the l i nes of the si xty-four hexa
grams i n practice ? If you study all the l i nes and try to al i gn them all ,
would that not be a vain use of mi nd?
An ancient i mmorta said, "I t is not necessary to seek mi dnight and
noon i n the sky; i n the body one yang natural l y arises ." Thi s can be a clear
testimony for those who work on the l i nes of the hexagrams-students
should think i t over careful l y.
SETTING UP SYMBOLS IN THE HEXAGRAMS I S BASED ON DE
SCRIPTIONS OF THE MODES ; UNDERSTANDING THE SYMBOL,
FORGET THE WORDS-THE IDEA I S CLEAR OF ITSELF THE
WHOLE WORD IS ASTRY, ONLY CLINGING TO SYMBOLS ,
ACTING OUT THE ENERGIES OF THE HEXAGRAMS , HOPING
TO FLY ALOFT.
The sixty-four hexagrams of the I Ching, with three hundred and
eighty- four l i nes , only el uci date the modes of yin and yang, and the rep
resentations of bal ance and i mbal ance . If you understand the meani ng of
balance and i mbal ance of yin and yang, you can harmoni ze yin and yang,
spontaneously ftti ng i n with the symbols of the hexagrams .
Nevertheless , the deluded who do not i nvestigate this meani ng i nstead
cling to the symbols ; they i ntend to act out the energies of the hexagrams
by practicing difculty in the morni ng and practi ci ng darkness at ni ght ,
begi nni ng with dzffculty and darkness and endi ng with settled and
unsettled, hoping thereby to attain the Tao and fy aloft . They do not
know that when the adepts have spoken of "difculty in the morning .
darkness at night ,' ' this is to teach people that the arisi ng of yang is di ff
cul t and the fal l ing of yang is darkness .
The risi ng of yang is l i ke the morni ng of the day, the fal l i ng of yang is
like the eveni ng of the ni ght . To advance the yang fre to gather yang
when yang arises is called " difculty in the morni ng." To operate the yin
convergence to nurture yang when yang fal l s is called " darkness at
night . " Settled and unsettled teach people that when yi n and yang are
j oi ned, that is being settled, and when yi n and yang have not yet j oi ned,
that is bei ng unsettled. Once yi n and yang are j oi ned, the gold elixir crys
tali zes , and the work of the yang fre i s fnished. Once settled, i t is neces
sar to prevent unsettl ing. for which the work of yin convergence is
requi red. If yi n and yang have not j oi ned, and the gold elixir is not crys
tal l i zed, yin convergence i s no use-what is unsettled should speedily be
settled, and for this the work of the yang fre must be used.
The meanings concealed i n these hexagrams are the meanings of these
four hexagrams ; consi dered in thi s l i ght , the other sixty hexagrams are all
permutations of yi n and yang. That is why the text says , "Understanding
the symbol , forget the words-the i dea is clear of itself." If you under
stand the meani ng of the hexagram symbols , the pivot of heaven is in
your hand, the ais of earth depends on your mi nd. Wherever you go,
everyhere is the Tao-there is no need to cl i ng to the hexagram symbols ,
for you spontaneousl y accord with them.
On the beginning of yang and
culmination of yin
THE FILLING AND EMPTING OF HEAVN AND EARTH HAVE
THEIR OWN TIMES : IF YOU ARE DISCERNING AND CAPABLE
OF DISSOLVING AND GENERATING, THEN YOU WILL KNOW
THE MECHANISM. BASED ON THE BEGINNING OF YANG AND
CULMINATION OF YIN MAKING PLAIN THE ORDER, KILLING
OFF THE THREE VERMIN, THERE IS HOPE OF ATAINING THE
The Tao of heaven and earth is the Tao of fl l i ng and emptying. When
fl l i ng cul mi nates , then there is emptyi ng; when emptying cul mi nates ,
then there is fl l i ng-each has i ts ti me . If practi tioners of the Tao can
cl early di scern the t rue pri nci pl e of ful l ness and empti ness , and also can
dissolve thei r yin and generate thei r yang, only then can they be said to
know the mechanism of fl l i ng and emptyi ng; dissolving and generating.
Overcoming and dissolving t he yi n i s t he mechanism of empt yi ng .
generating and expanding the yang is the mechani sm of fl l i ng . But di s
solving and generating are not apart from the sense of real knowl edge and
the essence of conscious knowl edge . The sense of real knowl edge is frm.
and is in the realm of the begi nni ng of yang . assoc iated wi t h metal . The
essence of conscious knowledge is fexi bl e . and is i n t he real m of the cul
mination of yin, associated wi th wood . Usi ng frmness t o govern t he
external , overcoming acqui red energies from outsi de i nfuences , using
fexi bility to deal with the i nternal , qui etl y nurt uring natural real i t y,
frmness and fexi bil i ty are both empl oyed, the i nner and outer are both
cul tivated-this is called " the begi nni ng of yang and cul mi nation of yi n
maing pl an the order."
When the order is cl ear, frmness and fexi bility are in their proper
pl aces , dissolving and generating accord with the time ; the true energy
prevals and fase energy is transformed. Inwardl y thoughts do not
emerge, while external thi ngs do not get i n. There are no accretions defl
ing the sense faculties ; one is naked and cl ean . This is called "ki l l ing of
the three vermi n." Once the three vermi n are kil led of. al l negative el e
ments are transmuted, and there is hope of attai ni ng the great Tao.
The i mportant point of this section is i n the l i ne " If you are discerni ng
and capable of dissolving and generati ng. then you wi l l know the mecha
nism." Discernment involves thorough consideration, penetrating ever
subtlety. Only ater profound work over a long period of time can one see
real ity. When one can see reali ty, onl y after attaining correspondence of
understanding and action is one able to dissolve and generate . When one
can dissolve and generate . only then is this knowing the mechanism. If
one cannot dissolve and generate . one sti l l cannot be sai d to know the
mechanism; this means one has not thoroughl y discerned the principles
-how can one then make the order plain and kill the three vermi n?
Therefore the study of correcti ng the mi nd and maki ng the i ntent sincere
is al l a matter of investigating thi ngs and attai ni ng knowledge .
On the mysterious female (2 verses)
IF YOU WANT TO ATTAIN THE ETERNAL I MMORTALITY OF THE
VALLEY SPIRIT. YOU MUST SET THE FOUNDATION ON THE
98 Understanding Reality
MYSTERIOUS FEMALE. ONCE THE TRUE VITALITY HAS RE
TURNED TO THE ROOM OF YELLOW GOLD, THE GLOBE OF
SPI RITUAL LIGHT NEVER PARTS .
The valley spirit is the uni que energy of primordial nothi nghess ; this is
what is called the spiritual embryo. This energy is not matter or empti
ness , yet is both material and empty at the same time . I t is i n the darkness
of profound abstraction-when you look for i t you cannot see i t , when
you listen for it you cannot hear i t , when you try to grasp it you cannot
fnd i t . It is the border of the mind of Tao and the human mi nd, the root
of real knowledge and conscious knowledge , the bais of frm sense and
fexi ble essence . It gives bi rth to heaven, gives bi rth to earth, gives birth
to humani ty: Confucians cal l i t the Great Ul ti mate , or ul timate good, or
ul timate truth ; Buddhists call i t complete awareness , or the body of real
i ty, or the relic of Buddha; Taoists call i t the gold el ixir, or the spiritual
embryo, or the vall ey spiri t . I n real i ty it is the i nnate knowledge and
i nnate capaci ty fundamental to human l i fe , the spirit of open conscious
ness like an empty valley.
When this val l ey spirit falls i nto temporal conditioning, yi n and yang
separate ; the artifci al acts whi l e the real recedes , and the valey spirit is
buried away, a though dead. If you want to cultivate the gold elixir, it is
necessary to revive this val l ey spiri t ; i f you want to enliven the val ley
spiri t , it i s frst necessary to harmoni ze yi n and yang. If yin and yang are
not i n harmony, the gold elixir will not crystal l i ze .
The "mystery " is yang, which is frm strong sense . The "female " is
yi n, which is fexi ble receptive essence. When there is both frmness and
fexibili ty, the val ley spiri t l ives forever, and the foundation of immortal
ity is established. The val l ey spirit consists of the combi nation of polar
energies , with frmness and fexi bi l i ty i n proper baance . When the poles
combi ne , in the darkness of transic abstraction there is something which
is called the vital i ty of the real uni ty. The vi tal i ty of the real uni ty is
another term for the val l ey spi ri t . Before cul tivation and refnement , it
appears and disappears-then it is call ed true vi tal i ty ; after cul tivation
and refnement i t sol i difes and does not dissol ve-then it is called the
valley spi ri t .
Once true vital i ty has been returned to the room of yell ow gold , men
tal focus is restored to central balance , and the val ley spi ri t stabilizes .
When the vall ey spirit is stabl e , the mi nd of Tao is always there , and the
human mi nd obeys it docil el y : real knowledge and conscious knowl edge
uni te , and innate knowledge and capaci ty i ntegrate compl etely with the
celestial design, t ranqui l and unperturbed yet sensitive and efective , sen
si tive and efective yet tranqui l and unperturbed. Always responsive , yet
always cal m, the gl obe of spiri tual light never parts . When the spiritual
l ight never parts , this is the i mmortal ity of the valley spiri t . This is what
the author is referring to i n the statement , " When you have i ngested a
gran of the gold elixir, then you will know your destiny doesn' t depend
on heaven." The val l ey spi ri t , tre vitality, and the spiritual light are one
ting: the only diference is whether or not one ha developed i t i n one
self. Students shoul d be aware that they are not three diferent thi ngs .
RAR AR THOSE IN THE WORD WHO KNOW TH OPENING
OF THE MYSTERIOUS FEMALE; STOP FOOLING AROUND WITH
�UTH AND NOSE. EVEN IF YOU DO BRATHING EXERCISES
FOR MANY YEARS , HOW CAN YOU GET THE GOLDEN RAVN
TO CATCH THE RABBIT?
Lao-tzu said, " The val ley spirit doesn' t di e ; this i s called the mysteri
ous femal e . The opening of the mysterious femal e is called the root of
heaven and earth ." The " myster" is heaven, yang, the quality of frm
strength ; the "female " is earth, yin, the quality of fexi bl e receptivi ty.
Yang rles movement , yi n rles stil l ness ; the movement and still ness of
the valley spirit is the openi ng of the mysterious female .
This opening gives birth to heaven, earth, humans and other beings ; i t
is ul timately nonexistent yet contains ul timate existence , i t is ultimatel y
empty yet contains ul timate flfl l ment . In the human body it is the
place where the physical el ements do not adhere ; right i n the middle of
heaven and earth , one hole hangs in space , opening and closing at paric
ul ar t imes ¿ moving and resting spontaneously. Fundamentally i t has no
fxed posi tion , and no form or shape ; it is also called the aperture of the
mysterious pas . The mysterious pass is utterl y empty and utterly incon
Lei vabl e ; bei ng and Monbeing have no place there . It is also called the
door of al l marCl b . " Al l marels " means that it includes all principles
and contai ns al l vi rtues .
I f you t ake the mouth and nose to be the mysterious female and do
breathi ng exercises wi th pol l uted ai r, how can you chase the gol den laVen
and j ade rabbi t back i nto the yel l ow path and sol i di fy them i nÎo t he el i xi r
of supreme consci ousness ? The gol den raven i s a symbol for t he bLl ,
1 00 Understanding Reality
wi thi n yang
_ the.ei yi n, i n humans the qual i ty of correct bal ance of
fexi bl e receptivi ty, which is the spiri tual essence of conscious know
The j ade
rabbi t is a symbol for the moon; with}.¥f th�r�_ is yang, in
humans the quali ty of correct balance of frm strength, which is the true
sense of real knowledge .
The quality of correct balance of conscious knowledge and real knowl
edge is the energy of the twin poles of the yang mystery and the yin
female ; the valley spirit i s formed by the consol idation of the energies of
the two poles . If you do not know the mysterious female , how can you
know the raven and rabbi t ? If you do not know the raven and rabbi t , how
can you be capabl e of the immortal ity of the valley spiri t ? What openi ng
is this ? If you go along, you di e ; if you come back, you l ive . Time and
again it has had you seek without fndi ng-how coul d the mysterious
female be easy to know?
On essence and sense
FEW PEOPLE KNOW THESE ARE DIFFRENT NAMES FROM THE
SAME SOURCE; BOTH OF THEM, MYSTRIOUS , AR THE ES
SENTIAL KEY PRESERVING LIF, MAKING THE PHYSICAL
BEING WHOLE, CLARIFYING ENHANCEMENT AND REDUC
TION, THE PURPLE GOLD ELIXIR IS MOST MARVELOUS .
Spiri tual alchemy is accomplished by two medi ci nal i ngredients , one
frm, one fexi bl e-nothi ng else . Firmness belongs to the sense of real
knowledge ; fexi bi l i ty belongs to the essence of conscious knowledge.
Though essence and sense have di ferent names , real l y they both coÏe
from the primordi al energy of true uni ty i n nonbeing. This is what is
called the mysterious femal e in the precedi ng verse . Myster and female
ness , mystery upon mystery, are te essential key of the undying val l ey
In the primordia spontaneous Tao, the val l ey spirit gives birh to the
mysterious femal e; in the temporal restorative Tao, the mysterious female
becomes the valley spi Îit e If myster and receptivity do not combi ne, open
ness and consciousness do not join: the reason the mysterious female is the
essential key is siMply that it is that whereby to form the valey spirit .
1 0 1
When the mysterious female i s establ ished , the valley spi ri t forms ; thereby
can life be presered and the physical being made whole , and also enhance
ment by advancing yang and reduction by repelling yi n i s c l ari fed .
When yang is increased unti l i t cannot be i ncreased any further, and
yi n i s reduced unti l it cannot be reduced any furt her, when yi n i s
exhausted and yang i s pure , the val ley spi ri t l i ves forever, merged i nto
one energy, without any pol l ut i ng substance , round and bri ght , cl ean ,
naked, free , unconstrai ned by creation , unharmed by myri ad t hi ngs . I t i s
like the fring process forgi ng purple gol d el ixir, restori ng l i fe from death ,
most marelous .
STARTING WITH DOING, PEOPLE CAN HARDLY SEE; THEN
WHEN NONDOING IS REACHED, EVERYONE KNOWS . IF YOU
ONLY SEE NONOING AS THE ESSENTIAL MARVEL, HOW CAN
YOU KNOW THAT DOING IS TH FOUNDATION?
The real people of ancient times said that essence and l ife shoul d both
be cul tivated; so the work requi res to stages . One of the paths of spiri
tual alchemy is cul tivati ng l ife , one is cul tivating essence . The path of
cul tivati ng life i s the path of doing; the path of cul tivati ng essence is the
path of nondoing. The path of doing is prolonging life by certain arts ;
the path of nondoing is making the bei ng whole by the Tao.
" Starting with doing" means the path of doing is used to bui l d l i fe.
The science of bui l ding life i s carried out entirely accordi ng to rules , the
essential path of snatching the primal energy before the diferentiation of
chaos , gripping the mai nspring of evol ution, turning back the process of
time . Heaven and earth cannot know i t , ghosts and spi rits cannot fathom
i t , di vination cannot fgure i t out ; since even heaven and earth, ghosts
and spiri ts , and divination cannot know i t , how can people know?
Ending up in nondoing means the path of nondoing is used to cul ti
vate essence . The path of cul tivating essence is embracing the fundamen
tal , keeping to unity, all things empty, l i ke a hen incubating an egg, l ike
an oyster embraci ng a pearl . When this work reaches i ts consummation,
one becomes ul timately trthfl and ha prescience ; the mind of wisdom
1 02 Under. rtanding R ealit_
opens up, and one devel ops i nbt ant3neoub comprehensi on . One has pr i or
underst andi ng of good and bad consequences , 3O everyone knows .
However, if peopl e onl y know the path of nondoi ng i s t he essent i al
marel and do not know the path of doi ng is the foundat i on , not know
i ng doi ng, onl y nondoi ng, they are not onl y unabl e to c ul t i vat e l i fe , t hey
are also unabl e to cul tivate essence . Even if they have some cul ti vation ,
this is onl y cul tivation of the acqui red nature-how can they cul t i vate the
primordial fundamental essence ?
The fndaental essence is the essence of the life bestowed by heaven;
original y essence and life are one , with no dual i ty. Due to mi xture with
temporal condi tioning, yin and yang separate , and one becomes two
essence and life diferentiate . When essence and l i fe are separate , then
essence cannot attend to l i fe and l i fe cannot attend to essence : life is
usurped by thi ngs and cannot be autonomous ; essence too is di sturbed by
this . When essence is disturbed and l i fe shaken , false and t rue are
lumped together, reason and desire get mixed up; the artifcial handles
afairs while the real recedes from i ts posi ti on. Day by day, year by year,
negative energy strips away the positive unti l it is exausted, so essence
and life inevi tabl y break down and perish.
Therefore spiritual alchemy must start with doing, restoring the pri
mordial while i n the mi dst of the temporal , recoveri ng one' s original
j ewel of l ife . When the j ewel of l ife is i n the hand, its control depends on
oneself, and i t is not moved by creati on. At that point one embraces the
fndamental and preseres uni ty, travel i ng the path of nondoing, there
by real i zi ng the original essence of real emptiness , directly transcending
to the marelous path of the supreme one vehicle . What can be done for
all the qui etists who only know nondoing and do not know doing?
On female and male
WITHIN BLACK THERE I S WHITE, WHICH I S TH MATR OF
THE ELIIR; WITHIN THE MALE I S ENCLOSED THE FEMAL,
WHICH I S THE SPIRITAL EMBRYO. WHEN THE ABSOLUT
ONE IS I N THE FURNACE, IT SHOULD BE CAREFULLY
WATCHED; GATHERD JEWELS IN THE THREE FIELDS COR
SPOND TO THE THREE TRASURES .
Part I 1 03
"Wi thi n bl ack there is whi te " is the real knowl edge awakened by the
mi nd of Tao; i t i s the path of correct balance of frm strength , so i t i s
cal led the mat ri x of the el ixi r. " Wi t hi n the mal e i s enclosed t he femal e "
refers to the ori gi nal conscious knowledge of the human mi nd; i t i s the
qual i ty of correct bal ance of fexi bl e recepti vi ty, so i t i s cal l ed t he spi ri t ual
embryo. When strength and receptivity are j oi ned i n one , and frmness
and fexi bi l i ty are one energy, the human mi nd changes i nto the mi nd of
Tao, and conscious knowledge returns to real knowledge . Thi s i s cal led
the absol ute one , contai ni ng tre energy.
The absolute one is pure unifed spirit i n which yi n and yang are
merged together ; it is a di fferent name for the gold el i xi r. Put t i ng this
true energy of absol ute uni ty i nto the furnace of evol ution, i ncubati ng
and nurturi ng i t , careful l y keepi ng i t securel y sealed, watchi ng over i t and
not losing i t , will resul t in whol eness of vitali t y, whol eness of energy, and
wholeness of spi ri t . These j ewels gathered i n the three felds are l i ke the
" three terraces ," the three stars that surround the star representi ng the
l ord of the heavens . Then evol uti on is i n your hands .
These three felds do not refer to the peri neum, center of the torso, or
center of the brai n, nor to the umbi l ical region, solar plexus , or center of
the brow, or to the coccyx, center of the spi ne , or back of the brai n; they
are the pl aces where the three great medici nes-primordial vital i t y, pri
mordial energy, and primordi al spiri t are produced. They are forml ess
and have no location, but because they are where the vi tality, energy, and
spirit are produced, they are called felds , and because vitali ty, energy,
and spi ri t are spoken of separatel y they are cal led three felds .
In reali ty, the three felds are all one fel d, and the three j ewels are all
one j ewel . Because there are three l evels of work-refni ng vi t al i ty i nto
energy, refni ng energy into spirit , and refning spirit i nto space-three
fel ds are spoken of separatel y ; but when you reach refnement of spiri t
into space , there is only one space , and vital i ty, energy, and spirit too
return to tracklessness-how can there be any more talk of three felds ?
On being and nonbeing
SEEKING WITHIN ABSTRACTION FOR THE I MPRESSION OF
BEING, LOOKING WITHIN TRANCE FOR THE TRUE VITALITY
1 04 Understanding Reality
FROM THIS BEING AND NONBEING INTERPENETRATE-WITH
OUT HAVING SEEN IT, HOW CAN YOU IMAGINE IT?
Abstraction is an indefnable impression which is neither formal nor
void ; trance is an invisi ble realm which is utterly silent and tranquil . The
impression of being withi n ecstasy is conscious knowledge ; the true vital
ity i n trance is real knowledge . Conscious knowledge is l ight outside and
dark inside-this is nonbei ng wi thi n bei ng. Real knowledge is dark out
side and light i nside-this i s being withi n nonbeing. If practitioners of
the Tao want to make the gold elixir, they must seek conscious knowledge
in abstraction and seek real knowledge in trance . If they can actually
attain i ntel lectual understanding and spiritual real i zation, and fnd the
real truth , this is called having seen . Once one has seen cl early, one con
trols conscious knowledge by real knowledge , and nurtures real knowl
edge by conscious knowledge . Then bei ng and non being are henceforth
wed, i nterpenetrating and communi ng. The gold el ixir is thereupon
formed. Otherise , if you don ' t know the impression withi n abstraction
or the vitality wi thi n trance , you have not seen what the medicinal ingre
di ents of the gold el ixir are ; if you try to form the el ixir according to arbi
trary ideas , how can you even imagine i t ?
On ingestion of the elixir (2 verses)
WHEN THE FOUR FORMS MEET, THE MYSTIC BODY IS MADE;
WHERE THE FIVE ELEMENTS ARE COMPLETE, THE VIOLET
GOLD IS BRIGHT FREEING IT FROM THE MATRIX AND IN
GESTING IT, THE BODY REACHES SAGEHOOD; LIMITLESS DRA
GONS AND SPIRITS ALL BECOME LOST IN AMAZEMENT
The path of spi ri t ual alchemy l ies enti rel y i n aggregati ng the fve ele
ments and combi ni ng the four forms . If the four forms are j oined, then
essence , sense , vi tal ity, and spiri t unite ; thus the mystic body is made . If
one can then go on to trul y keep balance , and use the fre of natural real
i ty ro refne it , this is cal l ed the compl eteness of the fve el ements .
Once the fve elements are compl ete , benevolence , j ustice , courtesy,
and wi sdom al l return ro one t rt hful ness ; essence and sense , vitality and
spirit all t ransmute i nto one energy. Strength and receptivi ty combine ,
frmness and fexibility are traceless ; real knowledge and conscious knowl
edge aso turn i nto i nnate knowledge and i nnate capacity, ul timately
good without evil , i ntegrated with the cel estial design, all - perasive ,
unobstrcted. Open awareness unobscured, it i ncludes all principles and
responds to myriad thi ngs . This is like yellow gold refned i nto violet
gold, its light radiant . When you i ngest this , it dissolves acqui red mun
danity and exposes the primordial spiritual body. Entering i nto the foun
dation of sages , one' s fate depends on oneself and not on heaven. How
can dragons and spirits not be amazed?
The meaning of i ngestion is sudden enl ightenment ; it does not mean
swal lowing somethi ng. When the primordi al energy has been refned to
perfection, there is an abrupt shift from a gradual process to a sudden
real ization, from cl arication to trth. This is like myriad diseaes vanish
ing when medici nal elixr is i ngested. Therefore the body can reach sage
hood. Student shoul d clearly understand the i ntent which is outside the
words : if you look upon " ingesting" as swallowi ng, thi nk carefl l y about
the primordial energ-i t ha no substance , no form; what would one
swal low? This shoul d cl arify the matter.
WHEN THE PARTY I S ENDED AT TH FLOWER POND, THE
MOON SHINES CLEAR; ASTRIDE A GOLDEN DRGON, ONE
VISITS THE STAR OF TH LORD OF HEAVN. HENCEFORTH,
AFR THE MEETING OF TH IMMORTALS , LET THE OCEANS ,
HILLS AND VALES , MOV AS THEY MAY.
"Te party ended at the fower pond" refers to taking the tre yang
wi thi n water =
and putting it in the frnace of evolution; the mi nd of Tao
peaeful l y settles and "flls the belly." "The moon shines clear " meas the
mi nd of Tao i s always present , the light of real knowledge shines clearly,
wi thout conceal ment or deception. As for "atride a golden dragon,"
heaven ± is represented by gold and by a dragon: taking the mind of Tao
wi thi n water E E , the one yang of real knowledge , flling in the human
mi nd wi thi n fre ±, the one yi n of conscious knowledge , consci ous knowl
e t hen als t ransmutes i nto real knowledge , and fre = agai n becomes
heaven E . The ori
i nal self bCcomes compl etel y mani fest , whol l y i nte
rated wi th the cel est i al dCsi gn , round and bright , pure yang wi th no yi n .
As for " vi si t i ng t he star of t he l ord of heaven ," t he l ord of heaven i s t he
1 06 Understanding Reality
lord of creation ; when practice of real i ty reaches the poi nt of restoration
of the body of heaven, the l ord is i n oneself, the key of heaven is in the
hand , the axis of earth depends on the mi nd. Then creation cannot con
strai n you , myri ad things cannot move you ; you visit the lord of heaven
and become a companion of heaven. Your work is accomplished in the
human world, your fame is procl aimed in heaven above . Henceforth you
meet wi th the immortals ; even if the oceans should overturn and the hills
and val l eys shift , the spiri tual body is permanentl y i ndestructi ble .
On the elixir crystallizing from within
IF YOU WANT TO KNOW THE METHOD OF RECOVERING ELIX
IR OF GOLD LIQUID, YOU MUST CULTIVATE YOUR OWN GAR
DEN. IT DOES NOT REQUI RE HFFING AND PUFFING OR
APPLICATION OF FORCE; SPONTANEOUSLY THE ELIXIR MA
TRES AND I S RELEASED FROM THE MATRIX OF RALIT.
In the method of recovering elixr of gold l i qui d, the great medicine is
extremely close at hand, not fa away; the work is simpl e, not complicated.
Your gaden natural y ha the herbs ; you can cul tivate it any time. You
don' t need an external frnace and crci bl e, or efon to operate te fre,
hufng and pufng; the el ixr naturaly develops to maturity and comes
The " el ixir " i s the energy of tre unity, of primordial nothi ngness ; in
connection wi th the root of consciousness when chaos frst becomes dif
ferentiated, it acts a the generative energy which produces bei ngs .
Latent , it is true empti ness ; apparent , i t is i nefabl e existenc. Function
i ng, it is the mi nd of Tao; nurturing, i t is the val l ey spiri t . It is ul timate
nonbeing, yet contains ul ti mate being; it is utterl y empty, yet contains
complete ful fl l ment . In it are the energi es of the fve el ements , but not
the substances of the fve el ements . It is i mmanent i n the fve elements ,
but not trapped i n the fve el ements . Becomi ng sage , becomi ng wise ,
becoming enl i ghtened , becomi ng i mmorta-al l are based on this .
This is nothing else but our origi nal , i nherent endowment , which is
neither material nor voi d . I t is j ust because of involvement with acqui red
condi ti oni ng , worki ng wi th the spiri t of discri mi nation, that it is buried
and not apparent . If you meet a genui ne teacher who poi nts it out to you ,
for t he frst ti me you real i ze i t i s al ready i n your own garden , and i s not
obtained from another. The seed i s then settl ed , and gradual l y grows ,
natural l y developing to maturi ty. The author says , " You shoul d cul t i vate
your own garden" -maybe thi s wi l l wake up t hose on devi ated paths who
seek outsi de themselves and change t hei r mi nds .
On medicine coming from without
STOP APPLYING CLEVER ARTIFICE AT WORK, AND RCOGNIZE
THE OTHER' S METHOD OF NOT DYING. ADD LIFE-EXTEND
ING WINE TO THE POT; GATHER SOUL-RESTORING BROTH IN
The preceding section said to cul tivate your own garden; l est peopl e
cling to the individual body i n practice , this section i mmediately fol l ows
up by saying, " Stop appl yi ng cl ever artifce at work, and recogni ze the
other 's method of not dying. " The statement " cul tivate your own gar
den" refers to the fact that the medicinal substance of the gol d elixir is
not more i n sages or l ess in ordi nary people but compl ete i n everyone , not
needing to be sought from another but inherent in onesel f. The expres
sion " the other' s method of not dying" refers to the fact that the primal
energy mixes with temporal conditioning, so that the spirit of di scrimi na
tion does thi ngs and yang is trapped by yin, l i ke somethi ng of one 's own
becoming the possession of another.
If you want to return to the basis and restore the fundamental , it is nec
essar to use the method of pursui t and incorporation, so that the primor
di al true yang whi ch is gone can come back: when i t returns , it is as before
one' s own. Before it has come back, it belongs to other ; once it has come
back, it bel ongs to self. There is a distinction between other and self
because there are times when i t ha not come back and when it has come
back . Therefore in the future it is necessary to tread on the ground of real
i ty, gradually gatheri ng, gradually refning, adding more and more, col
lecti ng more and more , thereby carring out work i n which there is striv
i ng. But though we say there i s striving, i n real ity there is no stri vi ng. To
say there i s stri vi ng i s i n reference to appropriat i ng yi n and yang and tak
i ng over evol uti on ; i t does not refer to al l the other cl ever artifces . It is al l
natural functi on.
" Addi ng l i fe- extendi ng wi ne " means addi ng the real knowl edge of
the mi nd of Tao, so as to stabi l i ze l i fe . " Gathering soul - restoring broth"
means emptyi ng the consci ous knowl edge of the human mi nd, so d to
nurture essence . The l i fe- extendi ng wi ne is metal j uice ; the soul - restori ng
broth is wood l i qui d. Addi ng the metal , gathering the wood, metal and
wood j oi n-sense and essence uni te-and real knowl edge and consci ous
knowledge sol i di fy, and the basis of the el ixi r takes form.
The words " addi ng" and " gathering" have a most deep meani ng . As
yin and yang have been l ong fragmented, wi thout adding and gatheri ng,
progressively advanci ng, metal and wood cannot j oi n, sense and essence
cannot uni te . Addi ng and gatheri ng, working hard by day and bei ng
careful by ni ght , nei ther forgetti ng nor forci ng, the accompl ishment
deepening as ti me goes on , metal and wood natural l y j oi n, sense and
essence natural l y combi ne ; onl y then can one extend l i fe , restore the soul ,
and enter the realm of i mmortal i ty.
On the two elixirs, inner and outer
THE FINE GHEE OF THE SNOWY MOUNTAINS , OF ONE FLA
VOR, POURS INTO THE EASTERN SUN' S FURNACE OF EVOLU
TION. IF HE CROSSES THE K' UN- LUN, GOING NORTHEST,
CHANG CHIEN WILL FINALLY GET TO SEE MA KU.
The snowy mountains ( Hi malayas ) are i n the west ; they stand for
metal , representing basic sense . Ghee stands for water, representing baic
vi tal i tyø The eastern sun stands for woo, representing basic essence . The
furnace of evol ution stands for fre , representi ng basic spiri t . Taking the
metal and water of baic sense and basic vital ity and pouring them i nto
the wood and fre of basic essence and basic spi rit , use the wood and fre
to refne the metal and water, use the metal and water to control the
wood and fre . Usi ng disci pl i ne to perfect award, using award to complete
di sci pl i ne , when disci pl i ne and award are both empl oyed , metal and
wood j oi n , water and fre bal ance each other ; the four el ements are har
moniously combi ned , and the el i xi r is recovered . This is the model of the
outer Cl ixi Î.
The K' un- l un mountai ns are i n the northwest ; as the mountain range
from which myri ad mountains extend, it is compared to the energy of the
pri mordi al true uni ty, whi ch is the generative energy t hat gi ves bi rt h to
beings . Northwest is the provi nce of heaz• en Æ , t he hi ghest pl ace on
earth. Hei ght stands for yang. Chang Chi en , the famous traveler, i s yang ;
Ma Ku , a femal e i mmortal , is yi n . When the resrored el i xi r has c rystal
l i zed and t ransmuted i nto the true uni ti ve energy, goi ng from vagueness
to cl arity, yang energy i s repl ete and the great medi ci ne ari ses ; whol l y
integrated wi th the cel esti al desi gn , frm strength bal anced correct l y, i t
frees a grain of el i xi r of pure posi t i ve energy. Wi th thi s el i xir one subl i
mates the body ' s acqui red force of mundani ty, l i ke a cat catching a
mouse ; false yi n vanishes and true yi n appears . Yi n and yang merge and
coalesce i nro the spi ri tual embryo. Therefore the text says that i f he
crosses the K' un- l un, goi ng northwest , Chang Chi en wi l l fnall y get to
see Ma Ku .
The words " wi l l fnal l y get to see " contain the stages of the work .
Before thi s restored el i xi r reaches the peak of yang, " Chang Chien" can
not yet see " Ma Ku . " Only when i t is developed to the peak of yang will
" Chang Chien" get to see " Ma Ku . " When true yin and true yang meet ,
the mind of Tao and the human mi nd both transform i nto the original
mind; real knowl edge and conscious knowledge t ransform i nto innate
knowledge . A t i ny bl ack pearl hangs in the mi ddl e of nothingness , nei
ther material nor i mmateri al , i l l umi ni ng the universe to view, wi th no
obstruction whatsoever. This is the model of the i nner elixir.
The outer el ixir is a matter of regaining what has been l ost , returned
inside from outside . This is the " restored" or " recovered" el ixir. The
inner el ixir is a matter of refning away the force of mundanity from the
el ixir once i t ha been recovered, manifesting the tre l ight from within.
This is the " great " el ixir. When the outer el ixir is compl ete and the inner
el ixir perected, one roams in the land of nothing-whatsoever.
On positive vitality
WITHOUT KNOWING THE POSITIVE VITALITY, AS WELL AS
HOST AND GUEST, WHO KNOWS WHICH IS NEAR, WHICH
FAR? VAINLY SHUTTING THE COCCYX OPENING IN THE BED
ROOM HAS THOROUGHLY DELUDED SO MANY PEOPLE ON
1 1 0 Undertanding Reality
Yuan- t u- t zu said , " A poi nt of posi t i ve vital i ty i s hi dden i n the physi cal
body: i t is not i n the heart or geni tals , but i n the aperture of the mysteri
ous pass . " Posi ti ve vi tal i ty is so cal l ed because it is compl etel y posi t i ve and
pure , wi thout a trace of mundane pol l uted energy. This i s the ori gi nal
pure vi tal i ty, frm, strong, balanced correct l y : latent , i t is true empti ness ;
active , it is i neffable existence. This is what is cal l ed the i nnate good
mi nd; it is also called the mi nd of Tao. I t cannot be compared wi t h the
condi ti oned mundane pol l uted vital i ty.
I n the human body, the positive vi tal i ty governs creation and gets ri d of
aberrations . Anci ents cal l ed it the vitality of tre uni ty, the water of true
uni ty, and the energy of t rue uni ty. In reali ty, these are all one thing, the
positive vital i ty of the mi nd of Tao.
The posi ti ve vi tal ity i s pri mordi al , and is the " host ." The mundane
Vi tal i t y is acquired, and is the " guest . " The host is cl ose to the self, the
guest is far from the self. I f you mistake the mundane vitality for the posi
tive vital i ty, practice the art of sexual yoga, shut your coccy and control
the sexual fui d, i magi ni ng you will thereby form the el ixir, how can you
accompl ish i t ?
Though the positive energy is obtai ned i n a " room," this does not
mean an actual bedroom, but rather the " room" of the body. Simil ar
expressions , l ike " house " and " garden," are also used with the same
meaning-how can you t ake it to mean an actual room? If students want
to know the posi tive vitality, frst seek the mysterious pass . When you
know the mysterious pass , the positive vitality is herein .
On returning to the root
MYRIAD BEINGS , I N ALL THEIR MULTIPLICIT, EACH RETURN
TO THE ROOT; RETRING TO THE ROOT, RESTORING LIFE,
THEY THEN EXI ST FORVR. PEOPLE CAN HARDLY UNDER
STAND KNOWING ETERNITY AND RTRNING TO THE ROOT;
AGAIN AND AGAIN WE HEAR OF FALSE PRACTICES BRINGING
Myriad bei ngs are born in spring, grow i n summer, ae gathered in
autumn, and stored in wi nter : this is the constant Tao. Havi ng produced
and fostered them, then to gather and store them, is called returning to
Part l 1 1 1
the root . Returning them to the root is cal l ed restori ng I i fe . Resrori ng l i fe
means restoring the living energy of the natural order. Once the l i vi ng
energy is restored, it again emerges from the root and therefore can exist
forever without dying. If peopl e can know the natural mechani sm of eter
nal existence of al l bei ngs , and can return to the root and restore l i fe ,
then they also can exist forever and be i mmortals .
However, the principle of the path of knowledge of eterni ty and
returning to the root i s ver profound, and its practice i s very subt l e .
There is the matter of the density and energy level of the medicines , and
the matter of the degrees of i ntensity of the fring process . There are i nner
medicine and outer medi ci ne , i nner fring and outer fring. There is gen
tle fring and i ntense fring, there is a process of cul l ing medicine , there is
a process of refnement , there is a process of crstal l i zing the el ixir, there
is a process of freeing the el ixi r, there is a process of cul tivating l i fe , there
is a process of cul tivating essence .
These steps each must be transmi tted by a genui ne teacher before they
can be put into practice . Otherise , if you don' t know to seek and
i nqui re from others , you j ust rel y on your own i ntel l igence and percep
tion, maing your own personal assessments and taking your private
guesswork to be understanding, i mpetuously setti ng about the task, stil l
unaware that the slightest deviation produces tremendous error. I t is inev
i table that false practice , arbitrar action, will bring on disas ter.
On the sword of wisdom
OU-YEH PERSONALLY TRANSMITTED A METHOD FOR CAST
ING A SWORD; MO- YEH, WITH METAL AND WATER, ALLOYED
FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH. WHEN THE FORGING IS COM
PLETE, IT CAN READ PEOPLE' S MINDS , A FLASH OF LIGHT
NING SLAYING DEMONS FOR TN THOUSAND MILES .
A sword is somethi ng to protect the body; here i t means the tool of wi s
dom to become enl ightened and i mmortal , the means to become a sage .
Thi s is what is cal l ed the restored el ixi r; there is no "sword" other than
the restored el ixi r. The " restored el ixi r " means restorati on of the ori gi nal
i nnate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty, the tre consciousness i n which
strength and fexi bi l i ty are combi ned. " Casti ng the sword" means cast-
1 1 2
i ng this tool of wisdom of i nnate knowledge and capacity i n which
strength and fexi bility are uni ted. In terms of substance , it is cal led
el i xi r ; in terms of function i t is called a sword. In real ity the sword and
el ixir are one.
In anci ent times there was a smith named Ou- yeh: as he wa casting a
sword, i t repeatedl y fai l ed to turn out ; his wife , Mo-yeh, j umped i nto the
forge , and te work was accomplished in one fring. Peopl e cal led it the
precious sword of Mo- yeh; it wa i ncomparably sharp. In practici ng the
Tao, casting the sword is frst : tai ng energy with a proper balance of
strength and fexi bili ty, using water and fre to forge i t i nto a materpi ece ,
i t is called the sword of wisdom. Wearing i t at one' s si de, usi ng i t at wi l l ,
i n a fash of l ightni ng i t cuts through demons for ten thousand mi l es .
The author uses Ou- yeh and Mo- yeh to symbol i ze the combination of
strength and fexi bil i ty-indeed there is a subtle meaning in this . Practi
tioners of the Tao need to know strength and fexi bi l i ty must both be
properl y bal anced before i t is possi bl e to transmute the mundanity of
acquired condi ti oni ng. I f one yi el ds when i t is appropriate to be frm, or
is adamant when i t is appropriate to be fexi bl e , or is s trong but too
aggressive, or fexi bl e but too weak, this i s not correct bal ance , and so the
casting of the sword will not succeed. If the cati ng of the sword is unsuc
cessful , i nwardl y one has no mastery, and wi ll get bogged down every step
of the way-how can one compl ete the great Path then?
But the method of cating the sword is not easy to know; the combi na
tion of strength and fexi bi l i ty i s most di fcul t to understand. If you do
not meet d genui ne teacher and get personal i nstruction, you wi l l j ust be
i ndul ging in vain guesswork.
On harmonious combination of
essence and sense
DRUM ON BAMBOO TO CALL THE TORTOI SE TO SWALLOW
THE JADE MUSHROOM; STRUM A LUTE TO SUMMON THE
PHOENI X TO DRINK FROM THE ALCHEMI CAL CRUCIBLE.
SHORTY A GOLDEN LIGHT PERVADI NG THE BODY WILL
APPEAR; DO NOT SPEAK OF THIS RULE TO ORDI NARY
Part I 1 1 3
Bamboo is something empty inside ; i t sounds when you drum on i t . A
l ute is something musical ; tune i t and i t is harmoni ous . A tortoise is a
being that nurtures breath energy. A phoeni x is a concret i zat i on of c i vi l i
zation. A j ade mushroom i s somethi ng soft and tender wi th a l ong l i fe .
An alchemical crucible is somethi ng pure and unadul terated . The tor
crci bl e belong to yang , the phoeni x and j ade mushroom
belong to yin.
Spi ritual alchemy involves two things , " emptyi ng the mi nd" and "fl l
i ng the belly." There i s nothi ng el se besides this . When the human mi nd
is emptied, the mind of Tao arises and fl l s the bel l y ; this i s l i ke drum
ming bamboo t o call t he toroise . Once te bel l y i s ful l , t he fexi bi l i ty of
the human mind is governed by the frmness of the mind of Tao; this is
like the tortoise swallowing the j ade mushroom. When real knowledge
becomes manifest , conscious knowledge is quiet and the mind i s clear ;
this is like strumming the l ute and summoni ng the phoenix . Once the
mind is clear, the essence of conscious knowl edge is used to nurture the
sense of real knowledge ; this is like the phoeni x dri nking from the
alchemical cruci ble .
When the empti ness and ful lness of the real knowl edge of te Tao
mind and the conscious knowledge of the human mi nd correspond, frm
ness and fexi bil ity are uni ted; always responsive yet always cal m, round
and bright , cl ean and naked, bare and unt rammel ed, the whol e being is
crstal clear, inside and out i l l umi ned , and one enters the sages ' realm of
equani mous serenity on the mi ddl e way. This i s a matter of the path of
appropri ati ng yin and yang, taking over evol uti on , revol vi ng heaven and
earth, control l i ng potenti al and energy, pri mordi al and unopposed by
nature; how coul d it be discussed with ordi nary peopl e ?
On gradual and sudden
WHEN THE MEDICINES MEET IN ENERGY AND KIND, ONLY
THEN DO THEY TAKE ON FORM; THE TAO I S I N I MPERCEPTI
BLE SUBTETY, MERGING WITH NATUR. WHEN ONE GRAI N
OF SPIRITUAL ELIXIR I S SWALLOWED INTO THE BELLY, FOR
THE FIRST TIME YOU KNOW ONE' S DESTINY DOES NOT DE
PEND ON HEAVEN.
1 1 4 Understanding Reality
The medi ci nes whi ch are of the same energy and same kind are the true
yang of real knowledge and the true yin of conscious knowledge . Only
when they conj oi n is it possi bl e to crstal l i ze form from forml essness .
What cannot be seen or heard is called i mpercepti bl y subtle ; unseen and
unheard, the Tao returns to empti ness , one energy undi ferenti ated,
l ively and acti ve , without thought , without contrivance , silent and unstir
ri ng, yet sensiti ve and efecti ve , not dependi ng on forced efort for any
reason i n the world, merging with nature , for the frst time yin and yang
Once yi n and yang merge , a grain of spiri tual elixi r hangs i n space ,
i l l umi ni ng the whole world. If you i ngest this , l i ght arises withi n, dissolv
ing aggregated conditioni ng, changing acqui red characteristics . Then
for the frst time you know one ' s desti ny depends on oneself, not on
The frst two l i nes speak of endi ng up at naturalness by way of effort ;
the third phrase speas of endi ng up at sudden enl ightenment by way of
naturalness . The spiritual elixir entering the bel l y means sudden enl ight
enment . When practice of Tao reaches sudden enl ightenment , neither
being nor nonbeing stand, and the universe returns to emptines. Leap
ing beyond yin and yang, not constrained by yin and yang, one ' s destiny
depends on oneself, not on heaven. Before you have reached sudden
enlightenment , when you are sti l l within yin and yang, desti ny sti l l
depends on nature ; this can be known by consi dering the words of the
text , "for the frst time ."
On the supreme ease of crystallizing the elixir
SHINING BRIGHT, THE GOLD ELIXIR IS MADE IN ONE DAY;
WHAT THE ANCI ENT I MMORTALS SAID I S TRULY WORTH LIS
TNING TO. THOSE WHO SPEAK OF NINE YEARS AND THREE
YEARS ARE ALL DELAYING AND WASTING TIME.
The great medi ci ne of the gol d el ixi r is i nherent in everyone : if you can
thoroughl y i nvestigate the true pri nci pl e , call on enl i ghtened teachers ,
know the two medi ci nes of real knowl edge and conscious knowledge,
fnd the openi ng of the mysterious pass , and actual l y pl unge i n without
reserat i on to cl i mb di rect l y up onto the other shore , i n one day of work
Pari I 1 1 5
you can make the shini ng el ixir of pure yang-what ' s the necessi ty of
three years and nine years ?
This saying of ancient i mmortals is true i ndeed, but whi l e the cryst al l i
zation of t he el ixir i s done at once , i ncubati on to devel op it requi res ten
months . Without i ncubation , the gol d el i xir is not stabi l i zed , and wi l l
surel y be lost agai n after having been obtained . The statement that i t i s
completed i n one day onl y refers t o t he bl endi ng of yi n and yang , not to
the complete maturation of the gol d el ixir.
Compl ete maturation requi res the work of yin convergence and yang
fre , withdrawi ng and addi ng, i ncreasi ng and decreasi ng. I ncreasi ng and
increasing, decreasing and decreasi ng, unti l no more increase or decrease
is possi bl e , only then do you get a complete elixir of bri lli ant pure yang .
If it is really completel y devel oped el ixir, how could it be compl eted i n a
day ? A previous section of the text sai d, " Even if you know the ci nnabar
and lead, if you do not know the fring process , it 's of no use : it al l
depends on the power of practice-the slightest deviation, and you wil l
fail to crystallize the elixir." Later on i t says , " If you want to cul tivate the
nine transmutations , frst you must refne yourself and control the
mind." Here we can see the meani ng of the gold elixir being made in
On dificulty and ease
THERE IS DIFFICULTY AND EASE IN CULTIVATING THE GREAT
MEDICINE; AND IT I S KOW TO DEPEND ON ONESELF AS
WELL AS ON HEAVEN. IF YOU DO NOT CULTIVATE ACTION TO
ACCUMULATE HIDDEN VIRTE, THER ARE APT TO BE
DEMONS TO CAUSE OBSTRUCTION.
The preceding section said the elixir is made i n one day; this is not dif
fcult . But this section teaches vi rtuous action, lest students take the great
To lightly and i mproperly desire the path of i mmortal i ty without
cultivating virtuous action. What heaven enjoins on people is virtue ; and
virtue is also that whereby people requite heaven. If you have virtue ,
heaven is glad; then carring out this mandate is ver easy, and depends
on oneself. If you have no virtue , heaven is angry ; then practi ci ng this
path is very diffcul t , and depends on heaven. Why is thi s ? Without vir-
1 1 6
rue and appl i cati on , one wi l l not be countenanced by the spi ri ts , and
there are apt to be demons which cause obstructi on; sufferi ng di ffcul ty
and sickness , one wi ll i nevi tabl y give up along the way. Therefore , those
who practice the Tao must make it a priority to cul tivate vi rtue . When
one studi es and practices the Tao ri ch i n virtue , the Tao is easy to learn
and practice , particul arl y because heaven i s gl ad and the obstacles of
demons spontaneously vanish.
On the mechanism of takeover
THE THRE COMPONENTS TAKE EACH OTHER OVER WHEN
THE TI ME COMES ; THE SPIRITUAL IMMORTALS CONCEAL THIS
MECHANISM. WHEN MYRIAD TRANSFORMATIONS REST, ALL
THOUGHTS CEASE; THE WHOLE BODY I S IN ORDER, AND
NONSTRIVING IS RALIZED.
"The three components take each other over " means heaven and earth
take over myriad thi ngs g myriad t hings take over people, and people take
over myriad things . As for " when the ti me comes ," myriad thi ngs four
ish by taking the energy of heaven and earth; through the fourishing of
myÍiad thi ngs , heaven and earth absorb them when the ti me comes-so
heaven and eart take over myriad thi ngs . People see thi ngs and give rise
to greed and fol l y ; through people ' s greed and folly, when the time
comes things steal peopl e ' s vital spirit-so thi ngs t ake over people.
Things come to fruition through peopl e ' s care and cul tivation; when the
time comes , as things are developed, people take and use them-so peo
ple also take over things .
"Takeover i n time " has the meani ng of t aking before and ater. Over
the ages , spiritual immortals have hi dden and not come out i n the open;
thei r hi di ng is because of the mechanism of ti mel y takeover-appropriat
ing yin and yang, taking over evol uti on, turni ng over enl ivening and kill
i ng, control ling the worki ngs of energy, they dissolve acqui red infu
ences and foster sane energy. Therefore myriad transformations rest , all
thoughts cease , the whole body is i n order, and they real i ze the Tao of
nonstnvmg spontanei ty.
The important point in this secti on is " when the time comes ." If you
take it when the time is right , the energy of heaven, earth, and myriad
Part I 1 1 7
thi ngs becomes your own; if you t ry taking at the wrong t i me , your
energy wi ll be snatched away by heaven , earth , and myri ad t hi ngs ø When
the ti me comes , it is a takeover ; when the t i me i s not right , i t ' s not a
takeover. The word " ti me " is very subtl e .
On thorougb investigation of principle
THE PRECIOUS WORDS OF THE YIN CONVERGENCE EXCEED
THREE HUDRED, THE SPIRITAL WORDS OF THE POWER OF
TAO AR FLLY FIVE THOUSAND: THE SUPERIOR I MMORTALS
OF PAST AND PRESENT HAVE ALL ARIVED AT THE TRUE EX
The to books Yin Convergence and Power of To are basic books for
pract ice of Tao: they divul ge the mechanism of creation and evol ution of
the universe , and reveal the opening of yi n and yang, enl ivening and ki l l
ing. From ancient times t o t he present , t he adepts have all i nvestigated
the true principles in these to clasics and arrived at the real expl ana
tion, whereby they have comprehended essence and l ife . This bookg
erstanding Reality, is also composed baed on the Yin Convergence
and Power of To; if students can understand this book, they wi l l also be
able to understand the meanings of the Yin Convergence and the Power
On seeking a teacher
EVEN IF YOU ARE INTELLECTALLY BRIGHT, IF YOU HAVE
NOT MET A REAL TEACHER, DO NOT INDULGE IN GUESS
WORK. AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT HAVE PERSONAL INSTRUC
TION IN THE GOLD ELIXIR, WHERE CAN YOU LEARN TO
FORM THE SPIRITAL EMBRYO?
The preceding section menti oned the Yin Convergence and Power of
To cl assics as precious and spi ri tual wri ti ngs , which students should thor-
1 1 8 Understanding Reality
oughl y examine . However, lest students cl i ng to the al chemi cal cl assics ,
consider these enough and not seek real i zed persons , thi s section tel l s
peopl e to caJ l on t rue teachers without del ay.
The alchemical cl assics and books of the adepts teJ l about the medi
ci nes and the fri ng processes , with many metaphors , al l enabl i ng peopl e
to understand t hese principl es and know t his path . However, the science
of essence and l i fe is occul t and profound; i t is not easy to discern the real
i ty. Whatever you may perceive or understand , you shoul d seek a teacher
for verifcation e If you do not seek a teacher but rely on your i ntel l igence
to guess and make your own i nterpretations , aren ' t you taki ng on the
burden of essence and life ? Therefore the text says , " Even if you are i ntel
l ectual l y bright , if you haven' t met a real teacher, don ' t i ndul ge in guess-
k " wor .
The qui ntessence of the science of essence and life is to gater primal
energy. But prial energy is forml ess , imperceptible , ungrapable-how
can it be cultivated, how can it be recovered? The alchemical classics and
works of the adepts all speak of this energy, al speak of cultivation, al l
speak of recovery ; but no matter how much they say, words cannot describe
i t . It is necessar to rely on the persona instrction and menta transmis
sion of a tre teacher to be able to recognize the medicines , understand te
fring process , and go straight forard without impediment .
Otherise, if you don' t seek the personal i nstructi on of a tre teacher,
and onl y rel y on the words of the alchemi cal cl assics , thi nki ng you ' re
enl ightened a soon as you disti nguish some mi nor points , and i mmedi
atel y act on your ideas , either cl i nging to empti ness or sti cki ng to forms ,
where wil l you form the spiritual embro? The personal i nstructi on of a
real teacher shoul d be sought without delay.
On stopping machination
THOROUGHLY UNDERSTANDING THE MIND- MONKEY, THE
MACHINATIONS IN THE HEART, BY THREE THOUSAND
ACHIEVEMENTS ONE BECOMES A PEER OF HEAVEN. THERE
NATURALLY I S A CRUCIBLE TO COOK THE DRAGON AND
TI GER; WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO SUPPORT A HOUSEHOLD
AND BE ATTACHED TO SPOUSE AND CHILDREN?
Part I 1 1 9
Students ' fai l ure to understand the Tao and attai n the Tao is al l due to
instabi l i ty of mi nd and i nsubstanti al i ty of approach . I f you succeed i n
emptying al l obj ects , bei ng aloof of everythi ng . reduci ng and reduci ng
unti l you reach nondoing and your heart is cl ear and cal m. then the i nner
work is done. When you then go on to bui l d up vi rtue and cul ti vate
action, taki ng hardshi p on yourself for the beneft of others , doi ng what
is necessary i n each situation , unafected by weal th , poverty, authori ty, or
power, wal ki ng the earth unattached, passi ng the days accordi ng to con
di tions , all psychological affictions gone , then the outer work i s done .
When the i nner work is done and the outer work is done , " three thou
sand achievements are ful fl l ed," and one ' s vi rtue is on a par wi th heaven .
Then it is possi bl e for the l i fe span to be equal to heaven. As it is said ,
those with great virtue wi l l attain correspondi ng l ongevi ty.
Not a mote of dust is to be allowed into the human mi nd; as soon as
there is any defl ement , essence and sense do not j oi n, the dragon and
tiger are out of harmony, and various i l l s occur. If you succeed in getti ng
rid of the machi nations of mi nd so that it is open and cl ear, it is not nec
essary to seek a cruci bl e besides this-this i tself i s the crci bl e . Once the
crucible is set up, action and still ness unconsciously accord with the l aws
of God, essence and sense j oi n i nto one , and harmonious energy perades
you. This itself is the cooking of the dragon and tiger-i t is not necessary
to ask further about cooki ng the dragon and tiger.
This is the path: the medicinal substances are at hand, the crcible is
there of i tself; if those who know this practice i t dil igentl y, even be they
ordinar ignorant people , they can ascend to the ranks of sages . But
worldly people do not see through things of the worl d; accepting unreal
nature and life , they are attached to thei r spouses and children and do
not sever the bonds that entangle them. Expending all their mental
potential , when the oil is exhausted the l amp goes out , when the marrow
dries up the person dies . What a pi ty !
On stopping at sufficiency
IF YOU HAVE NOT YET RFINED AND RSTORD THE ELIXIR,
THEN QUI CKY RFINE IT; WHEN YOU HAVE REFINED IT,
THEN YOU SHOULD KNOW TO STOP AT SUFFI CIENCY. I F YOU
1 20 Understanding Reality
KEEP THE MIND GOING AT FLL BLAST. YOU WILL NOT
ESCAPE DANGER AND DEGRADATION ONE DAY.
Restoring the eli xir means restoring i nnate knowledge and capacity, in
which strength and fexi bi l i ty are unifed, the fundamental essence of
true consciousness . After yang cul mi nates i n people , giving bi rth to yin,
the primordial enters i nto the acqui red, i nnate kowledge turns i nto arti
fcial knowledge , i nnate capacity turns i nto artifcial capacity, strength
and fexi bi li ty do not match, and true consciousness is obscured. It is d if
somethi ng of one 's own were lost outsi de . Restoring means recovering
what was originally there , like regai ni ng something that was lost , return
ing something that had gone .
Generall y speaking, the method of restoring the el ixi r i nvolves a pro
cess of advance and withdrawal , i ntensifcati on and rel axation, cul tiva
tion and cessati on: i t is necessar to operate it with correct t imi ng, regu
lating i t properly dependi ng on events . I t will not do to go too far, it will
not do to fail to go far enough . So before the elixir is restored. one pro
ceeds energetically, graduall y cul l i ng and refni ng, urgently seeking its
recovery. Once the elixir has been restored, it i s Ü before i nnate knowl
edge and capacity, with strength and fexibil ity j oi ned into one tre con
sciousness without obscurity; the labor i s done, the medi ci nal energy is
replete , striving i s fnished, and nonstriving comes to the fore . At this
point one should quickly stop the fre , take the fuel out from under the
stove , and appl y incubation, gentle nurturing, guardi ng aganst danger,
presering this bit of tre consci ousness ; i n the furnace of evoluti on the
natural fre of reali ty will spontaneously cook and si mmer i t , dissipating
al l mundani ti es , extracting somethi ng i ndestrcti bl e ; only then i s there
compl ete success .
Otherise, i f you do not know to stop at sufci ency once te elixi r has
been restored, and keep goi ng at full blast , conti nui ng to pour on the
fre , the yang energy will dry up and the medi ci ne will go stale ; the real
will leave and the false wi ll ari se-what was gained will be lost . One day
danger and degradati on will be unavoi dable . There are cases of ancient
adepts fai l i ng i n their early eforts because of this .
General J y speaki ng, " cul tural cooki ng" and " martial fri ng" each has
i ts proper ti me ; the yang fre and yi n convergence each has a subtle func
tion . Even d slight deviation wi l l result in a great loss , so practi tioners of
the Tao must be careful .
Part I 1 2 1
On lie and death (2 verses)
TAKE THE DOOR OF DEATH FOR THE DOOR OF LIFE; DO NOT
T\K THE GATE OF LIFE AS THE GATE OF DEATH. IF YOU
COMPREHEND THE KILLING MECHANI SM AND UNDERSTAND
REVERSAL, THEN YOU WILL KNOW THAT BLESSI NG IS BORN
The gate of life and the door of death are basical l y one ; that is , the gate
and door of the aperture of the mysterious pas . In this gate and door, if
you go along with the energies of the fve el ements in the internal organs ,
then the fve elements destroy each other, so each one is isol ated, and the
fve virtues turn i nto the fve thieves ; then the door of l ife is the door of
death, the gate of life is the gate of death. If you reverse this , the fve ele
ments give rise to each other, all return to the same one energy, and the
fve thieves become the fve vi rtues . Then the door of death is the door of
life, the gate of death is the gate of l ife . The mechanism of life and death
is simply i n going along or reversing this .
If you understand how to seek the mechanism of l i fe in the ki l l i ng
mechanism, using it in reverse , then bl essi ng is born within i nj ury ; the
gate of death and the door of death can become the gate of l i fe and the
door of life . This is eternal life . " Door " is odd- numbered, " gate " is
even-numbered: the door of death turning i nto the door of l i fe is false
yang leaving and tre yang arisi ng; the gate of death turning i nto the
gate of life is false yin retreating and tre yin arisi ng. When tre yin and
true yang arise , both j oining in to one , this is the origi nal self which is
completely good without evil , ful l y i ntegrated into the celestial design,
fowing without ceae , the mechanism of life subsisting eternall y-how
could it not extend one' s l ife?
THE ORI GI NS OF CALAMI TY AND FORTUNE DEPEND ON AND
INHERE I N EACH OTHER, JUST AS SHADOWS AND ECHOES
FOLLOW FORMS AND SOUNDS. IF YOU CAN REVERSE THI S
MECHANI SM OF ENLIVENING AND KI LLING, CALAMI TY WI LL
1 2 2 Understanding Reality
TRN TO FOR TUNE IN THE TI ME IT TAKES TO TRN OVER
The way of reaction in the world is that calami ty comes when fortune
goes , fortune comes when calami ty goes ; cal aity and fortune are inter
dependent , much d shadows go along with forms and echoes fol low
sounds . If practitioners of Tao know cal ai ty and fortune depend on and
inhere in each other, then they can know that the enl iveni ng and ki l l i ng
of their own bodies are dependent on and inherent i n each other. If you
can reverse this mechanism of enl ivening and ki l l i ng, seeking enlivening
within ki l l i ng, then in the time i t takes to turn over your hand calamity
will turn to fortune , without expendi ng any energy.
The mechanism of enl ivening and kil l i ng is the energies of the fve ele
ments i n the body. If you go along wi th the energies of the fve el ements ,
there is punishment withi n reward, and i t is the ki l l i ng mechanism; if
you reverse this , there is reward within punishment , and i t becomes the
enlivening mechanism. Wi th the enl i veni ng mechanism one subsists ;
with the ki l l i ng mechanism one perishes . A cl assic says , "When the fve
elements go along in order, the universe is a pi t of fre ; when the fve ele
ments are reversed, the world is made of j ewels ." The diference beteen
going along and reversi ng i s a matter of life and death ; so there is great
power in ' ' reversal .' '
This reversal is only possi bl e for those who share the vi rtues of heaven
and earth, who share the i l l umi nation of sun and moon, who share the
order of the four seasons , who share the fortune and misfortune of ghosts
and spiri ts , who are aloof of everthi ng and see al l ð voi d, who tae the
Tao a their own responsi bi l i ty. It i s not difcul t to know this ; what is dif
fcul t is to carry i t out . The mechanism of enliveni ng and ki l l i ng is not
easy to reverse .
On mixing with ordinary society and
CULTIVATI NG SPI RITUAL PRACTICE I NVOLVES MIXING WITH
ORDI NARY SOCIET AND INTGRATING ILLUMINATION,
ADAPTI NG TO FIT SI TATIONS . NOW APPEARING, NOW CON-
1 2 3
CEALED, NOW OPPOSING, NOW CONFORMI NG. I NCOMPRE
HENSI BLE TO OTHERS-HOW COULD PEOPLE BE ABLE TO PER
CEIVE HOW ONE ACTS OR REMAINS HI DDEN?
The l i ght of spi ri tual alchemy, the great path of the gol d el i xi r, is t rul y
magnifcent ; it i s practiced i n the world , wi thi n society, and i s not a smal l
path of solitary quietism i n whi ch one avoids the world and l eaves society.
It is necessary to mix with ordi nary society and i ntegrate i l l umination
before one can adapt perectly to the world , now appearing , now con
cealed, now opposing, now conforming, now active , now hidden , now
passive , now efective , bei ng unpredictabl e . Onl y this is great activi ty,
As for occul tists , who sit in medi tation hal l s , contempl ate empti ness
and fx the mi nd, or ci rcul ate energy and practice visual i zations , or
manipulate vitali ty, or get involved i n other extraneous practices l i ke
material alchemy and sexual alchemy, how can they dare do what they do
out in the open? If you dare not do it out in the open, it is destructive
practice , not spiritua practice-how could you be able to comprehend
essence and life thereby ?
In ancient times , Bodhidharma obsered that Chi na had the atmo
sphere for the Great Vehicle , came to Chi na, and thus completed the
great task. Once Hui - neng had gotten the transmission of the ffth patri
arch of Ch' an, he disappeared among hunters i n Ssu-hui , thus perfecting
true real i zation. Once Tzu- hsien had gotten Hsi ng-l i n's transmission, he
went to the city and was supported by a powerful fami l y, and thus per
fected essence and l i fe. These three sages all mixed with the ordinar
world and integrated i l l umi nation; therefore they were able to become
Buddhas and i mmortals .
If you rej ect the world, there is no Tao, and if there is no Tao, what can
be practiced to return to the fundaental and revert to the origi n, to pre
sere life and make the being complete ? The cel estial mechanism of mix
ing with the ordi nary world and i ntegrating i l l umination can be spoken
of to those who know, but i t is hard to tell those who do not know.
representi ng the Great One
engul fi ng true energy
THE WOMAN PUTS ON A GREEN ROBE. THE MAN DONS PLAI N
SI LK. WHAT YOU SEE I S NOT TO BE USED; WHAT I S USED
CANNOT BE SEEN. MEETI NG I N ECSTASY, THERE I S CONJURA
TION WITHIN TRANCE. I N A MOMENT FLAMES FLY. AND THE
TRUE PERSON SPONTANEOUSLY EMERGES .
Conscious knowledge is yi n wi thi n yang. I t contains the essence of fex
i bility ; essence governs lifegivi ng , and is associ ated with wood , whi ch is
green, so the verse says " The woman puts on a green robe ." Real knowl
edge is yang wi thi n yi n. I t contains the sense of frmness ; sense governs
killing, and is associated wi th metal , whi ch i s white , so the verse says
"The man dons pl ai n si l k."
However, essence and sense are divided into primordial and acqui red.
That which is acqui red is temperament and emotion, which are the
nature and feel ings of the psycho-physical constitution. These have form
and appearance , and are visible ; these are not to be used. The primordial
is fundamental essence and fundaental sense , which are the essence and
sense of true emptiness . Having no form or appearance , that which is to
be used i s i nvisi bl e .
Being i nvisi ble , that which is to be used exists i n ecstasy and trance , i n
profound abstraction. Ecstasy and trance means there i s energy but no
material i ty ; i t is impercepti bl e , ungraspabl e . How then i s i t possibl e to
crystall i ze the elixi r? Even though imperceptible and ungraspable , the
essence of conscious knowledge and the sense of real knowledge are
sometimes encountered in ecstay, conj ured up i n trance . At this time
of encounter and conj uration, spiritual i l l umination silently operates ,
bringing them i nto the furnace of creative evol ution, refning them with
fre; in a while the primal energy comes from nothingness and crystal l i zes
into form, whereat the true person i n a dark room emerges . This repre
sentation of the method of restoring the eliir is referred to i n the saying,
" I n an hour, watch the el ixir form." This appearance of the tre person is
the appearance of the living potential when tre yin and true yang merge
within; i t is what is called the " spi ritual embryo," and is not the appear
ance of the " body outside the body," which emerges ater ten months
when the embryo is ful l y developed. As for the emergence of the " body
outside the body," how could the releae and transmutation resul ting in
the body outside the body be accomplished in a short time ?
This poem represents the Great One engulfng true energy : if someone
asks me the meaning of the appearance of the true person , I would say it
is precisely the Great One engul fng t rue energy.
1 2 7
Twel ve verses
on the moon over the West Ri ver,
represent ing the twel ve months .
The author, Tzu- yang, says ,
" The west i s the directi on of metal ,
the ri ver is a body of wat er;
the moon i s the functi on of the el ixir. "
TE INNER MEDICINE I S AFER ALL THE SAME AS THE OUTER
MEDICINE; WHEN THE I NNER IS MASTERED, THE OUTER
SHOULD BE MASTERED TOO. I N THE COMPOUNDI NG OF THE
ELIXIR, THE INGREDI ENTS ARE OF THE SAME TYPE; THE I N
CUBATION INVOLVES TO KINDS OF OPERATION. I NSI DE
THERE IS NATRAL REAL FI RE BRI GHT I N THE FURNACE,
EVER CRI MSON. THE ADJUSTMENT OF THE OUTER FRNACE
REQUIRES DILI GENT WORK. NOTHING IS MOR SUBLI ME
THAN THE TRUE SEED.
The i nner medicine is the spiritual essence of conscious knowledge ; the
outer medicine is the true sense of real knowledge . Because that conscious
knowledge is hidden i n the human mi nd , and the human mentality takes
charge of afairs , using consciousness to create i l lusion , therefore it is
caled inner medicine . Because real knowledge is i nherent in the mind of
Tao, and ð the mi nd of Tao recedes real knowledge is not manifest , there
fore i t is called outer medici ne . Real knowledge and conscious knowledge
are origi nally of one famil y-they come from the same source but have
diferent names . Therefore the verse says , " The i nner medicine is after all
the same as the outer medici ne ."
The inner medicine is that whereby one cul tivates essence , so of course
it should be understood; the outer medicine is that whereby one cul ti
vates life, so i t too shoul d be understood. An anci ent cl assic says , "To cul
tivate l ife without cul tivating essence is the number one disease of prac
tice ; if you cul tivate essence without cul tivating life, the yin spiri t wi l l
never enter sagehood." Therefore the text says , "When the inner i s mas
tered, the outer should be mastered too."
Essence is yin, life is yang: the great el ixi r of gold syrup is made by tak
ing the pol ar energies of tre yin and true yang, which are of the same
type , and bl ending them together. If you cul tivate life and not essence , or
cul tivate essence and not l ife , this is sol i tary yin or isolated yang, and the
great el ixir wil l not form. This is what is meant by the saying that essence
and life must be cul tivated together.
However, for essence there is the operation of essence , and for life there
is the operation of l ife . Essence is a matter of the spiri tual body, whi l e l i fe
is a matter of the ephemeral body. The two kinds of operation of i ncuba
tion are quite different . That is to say, the work must be of two ki nds .
1 3 1
1 3 2 Un
The path of cul tivating essence is the path of nonstri vi ng, or nondoi ng.
Nonstriving is based on sti l l ness , and doesn' t i nvolve any acti on; " keep
ing to the mi ddl e , embracing oneness ," the " i nner furnace " has of itself
a real "fre " which ever gl ows crimson . This is using the " cul tural fre"
for ' ' incubation. ' '
As for the path of cul tivating life, this is the path of striving, doing.
Striving is based on action, and requi res adjustment of the " outer fr
nace ," di ligent efort at refnement . This is using the " martial fre" for
" cooking.' ' Adj ustment means increasi ng and decreasi ng: increasing
means i ncreasing real knowl edge where it is insufcient , picking out the
good and cl eaving to i t ; decreasing means decreasing the excess of con
scious knowledge , getting rid of intellectualism.
When increase reaches the poi nt where there can be no more i ncrease ,
and decrease reaches the point where there can be no more decreae ,
essence is stabil i zed, l i fe is sol i di fed, and the " true seed" is obtained.
Onl y this is to be considered subl i me . When these two ki nds of opera
tion, of essence and l ife , and the outer el ixi r, are compl eted, when
brought i nto the " crci bl e ," this is the i nner el i xi r. That i s , before i t has
come i t is called outer, once i t ha come i t is cal l ed i nner. This is what is
meant by the saying that when meta frst comes back to essence , then it
can be called restored elixir.
THIS PATH IS MOST SPIRITUAL AND WISE; BUT I FEAR YOUR
ENDOWMENT I S MEAGER AND YOU WILL HAVE TROUBLE DI
GESTING IT. BLENDING LEAD AND MERCURY DOES NOT
TAK ALL DAY; YOU SOON SEE THE FORM OF THE ORIGINAL
JEWEL APPEAR. IF DETERMINED PEOPLE CAN PRACTICE CULTI
VATION, WHAT DOES IT MATER IF THEY LIVE IN THE CITY?
THE WORK I S EASY, THE MEDICINE I S NOT FAR OFF-IF I
TOLD ALL, PEOPLE WOULD SURLY LAUGH.
The preceding verse brought up understandi ng both the inner and
outer medici nes ; thi s one speaks of the appl i cation of the outer elixir. The
path of the gold el i xi r is most spi ri tual and wise ; those who practice are
guided by its standards and cl i mb straight up to the ranks of sages . How
ever, it may be that peopl e ' s endowments are shal low and slight , so they
are hardl y abl e to digest and absorb the teachi ng.
1 3 3
What is diffcul t to obtai n for the gol d el ixi r i s the true l ead of real
know: edge and the true mercury of conscious knowl edge . If you di scer
real knowledge and conscious knowledge and bl end them. then strength
and fexi bi l i ty balance each other, essence and sense are as one ; the form
of i nnate knowledge and innate capaci ty wi l l soon appear, wi thout taki ng
al l day. This is also like the origi nal j ewel produci ng l i ght in the dark .
Because the spiri tual root of i nnate knowledge and i nnate capaci ty has
been buried for a long ti me . i t cannot emerge of i tself: now with real
knowledge and conscious knowledge uni ti ng, though the spi ri tual root of
i nnate knowledge ad i nnate capaci ty cannot become pure and compl ete
immediately, yet i ts point of l iving potenti al ha al ready taken on form i n
abstract trance . Once there i s the poi nt of living potential , from vague
ness it becomes clea, and gradual l y can be restored to pure completeness .
The " appearance of the form" is the foretaste of pure compl eteness .
If there are people of determi nation who can di ligently practice this , i t
is not necessary for them to leave soci ety-there is no harm i n l i vi ng i n
the city. This is especial y so si nce i n the path of the gol d el i xi r the medi
cine i s at hand and the work is simpl e . It needn' t be sought outside ,
being in the i ndividual . If i t were all tol d, i t would make people laugh.
The laugh is that ordinary people and sages are on the same road, there is
one principle for heaven and earth-the only di ference is i n goi ng aong
or gomg m reverse .
THE START OF THE COURSE OF THE WHIT TIGER I S MOST
PRCIOUS ; THE SPIRITUAL WATER OF THE FLOWER POND IS
REAL GOLD. HIGHER GOOD IS BENEFICIAL AS THE WELL
SPRING IS DEEP; IT IS NOT COMPARABLE TO ORDINARY MEDI
CINES . IF YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH THE NINE TRANSMU
TATIONS , FIRST YOU SHOULD REFINE YOURSELF AND
CONTOL THE MIND. EXTRACTING AT THE RIGHT TIME, STA
BILIZING FLOATING AND SINKING, AS YOU ADVANCE THE
FIR YOU SHOULD FORESTALL DANGER.
The previous verse said when you blend lead and mercury you can form
the el ixir. But if you want to bl end lead and mercury, frst you must per
ceive the homogeneous great medicine of real knowledge which is the
true l ead; only then can you start work. Real knowledge is tre sense ; in
the symbols of this science it is called the start of the path of the white
tiger, and also called the spiritual water of the fower pond .
True sense is hi dden by random feel i ngs ; si nce sense is associated with
metal , i t is cal l ed the whi te tiger. But though true sense is hi dden by ran
dom feel i ngs , sometimes i t appeas , and the mi nd of heaven and earth is
again manifest , the living potential sprouts . Therefore it is called the start
of the path. The start is the beginning, and the course is the eternal path.
The start of the path is produci ng being withi n nonbei ng, embracing
yang withi n yi n, as the mother of al things . This is the living potential .
This bi t of living potential is the root of attai nment of sagehood and wis
dom, the bais for real ization of immortal i ty and enl ightenment ; there
fore i t is called precious .
This living potenti al is also called the spiritual water of the fower
pond. The fower pond is the openi ng of the mysterious pass , the door of
al l wonders . Because i t stores the living potenti al , i t is called the fower
pond; because that l iving potenti al orders the physical constitution and
washes the internal orgas , i t is called spi ri tual water. Because that living
potential also goes through refnement by fre ad crystal l izes so that i t
does not disperse but remains stabl e , i t is also called real gold.
The start of the course , the spiritual water, the tre gol d, are all one
thing, the l iving potential ; this is also cal l ed the essence of higher good.
Higher good is ulti mately good . Bei ng ul ti matel y good, without evil ,
embodying al trths and dealing with al events , i t i s li ke water having a
source . When the wellspring i s deep, the fow i s long, benefting all
bei ngs without exaustion. This i s te most real medi ci ne , which pre
seres life and completes the body ; i t i s not comparabl e to ordi nary mi n
eral or vegetable medi cines .
However, this medi ci ne is hi dden by acqui red condi tioning, only
appearing occasional l y ; time and agan i t i s lost as i t is found, and cannot
be kept for long. If you wish to accomplish the nine transmutations to
stabi l i ze i t permanentl y, you must frst refne yourself and control your
mi nd, erasi ng acqui red i nfuences and feel i ngs about obj ects , cull i ng the
medi ci ne at the right ti me , thus stabil i zi ng i ts foating and si nking.
Conscious knowl edge is stored i n the human mi nd; when the human
mind sti rs , conscious knowledge fi es-i t easi l y foats . Real knowledge is
inherent in the mi nd of Tao; when the mi nd of Tao is obscured, real
knowledge is conceal ed-i t easi l y si nks . To refne the self and control the
mi nd means to refne away the conscious knowledge of the human mind,
1 3 5
maki ng that which is foati ng si nk . Cul l i ng at the right t i me means cul l
i ng the rea
knowl edge of the mi nd of Tao, making that whi ch i s sunken
Floati ng and si nki ng reversed , control l i ng the human mi nd by t he
mind of Tao, t he human mi nd obeyi ng the mi nd of Tao. governi ng con
scious knowledge by real knowledge . nurturi ng real knowl edge by con
scious knowledge, the human mi nd is qui et and the mi nd of Tao
is present ; real knowledge and conscious knowledge are conti nuous
branches of the sae energy, and the gold elixir is within view.
However, the medi cine may be easy to know. but the fri ng process is
difcul t . I n worki ng to advance the fre , it is necessary to know the l evel
of gravi ty and energy of the medicinal substances , and when i t is benef
cial or harmfl to hurry or rel a. If you go to work i mpetuousl y, not only
will there be no beneft , i t wi l l even cause harm. Therefore the text savs ,
"When advanci ng the fre you shoul d forestal l danger."
IF YOU WANT THE TRUE LEAD TO STABILIZE THE MERCURY.
KEEP NEAR THE CENTR AND DO NOT LAV THE SERVANT
WHEN WOOD AND METAL ARE SEPARATED, THEY HAVE NO
MEAS OF MEETING; IT ALL DEPENDS ON THE INDUCEMENT
OF A GO- BETEN. WOOD, TH ESSENCE, LOVES THE RIGH
TEOUSNESS OF METAL; METAL, SENSE, LOVS THE BENEVO
LENCE OF WOOD. WHEN THY EMBRACE AND NRTRE
EACH OTHR IN MUTUAL INTIMACY, THN YOU RALIZE THE
MAN HAS CONCEIVD.
The precedi ng verse said tat cul l i ng the medicine depends on self
refnement ; self- refnement aims at the meeting of vital i ty, energy. and
spirit . Spiritual achemy is j ust a matter of frmness and fexi bi l ity : bal
ance and correct orientation of frmness is rea knowledge , symbol i zed by
tre lead; baance and correct orientation of fexi bil ity is conscious knowl
edge , symbolized by t rue mercur. Taki ng these two things ad blendi ng
them makes the el ixir.
However, when real knowledge is not manifest , conscious knowledge
tends to be fighty, so real knowledge is what reguhttes conscious knowl -
1 36 Understanding Reality
edge . And whi l e real knowledge can regulate and stabi l i ze conscious
knowledge , conscious knowledge can also nurture real knowledge ; so con
scious knowledge is the serant of real knowledge . If you do not settle
conscious knowledge frst , real knowledge will not appear ; therefore it
says , " If you want the true lead to stabi l i ze the mercur, keep near the
center and do not leave the serant . "
" Keeping near" means the combi ni ng of real knowledge and con
scious knowledge , the frm and the fexi bl e . Real knowledge is the mas
ter, conscious knowl edge i s the serant : if the serant is disobedient , the
master has trouble acti ng. The diference between real knowledge and
conscious knowledge is a fne l i ne : if conscious knowledge is complete ,
real knowledge is manifest ; if real knowledge is present , conscious knowl
edge is receptive . When real knowledge is present , one is frm and strong;
when conscious knowledge is cal m, one is fexi bl e and receptive . Firm
and strong, fexi bl e and receptive , essence and sense j oi n; therefore spiri
tual al chemy takes onl y two medi ci nal i ngredi ents , tre lead and true
The " lead" of real knowledge , sense , is associated with metal ; the
" mercury" of conscious knowledge , essence , is associated with wood.
When you do things on the basis of acquired conditioni ng, sense and
essence are disparate ; this i s l i kened to metal and wood being separated,
each keeping to i tself, unabl e to meet . Unless sense and essence com
mune , true sense and true essence do not manifest , and real knowledge
and conscious knowl edge do not combi ne .
Genui ne trthful ness is cal l ed tre i ntent ; i t is also cal led true earth.
Once tre earth appears , metal and wood spontaneousl y j oi n; once genu
ine trthful ness comes through, essence and sense spontaneously unite .
So genuine truthful ness is the go- beteen of true sense and tre essence .
Tre essence is "wood," and it governs receptivity and benevolence ;
tre sense is " metal ," and it governs frmness ad righteousness . Wi th
truthful ness , essence and sense are bl ended i n the center; then " wood,"
the essence , loves " metal ," sense , and accords with right ; " metal ," sense ,
loves the benevol ence of " wood," the essence . When essence and sense
uni te , and frmness and fexibil ity correspond, benevolence and righ
teousness are both compl ete : real knowledge and conscious knowledge
are the same energy, they embrace and nurture each other; the essence is
stabi li zed , feel i ngs are forgotten , and the primordial energy comes from
nothingness and crystal l izes into a bl ack bead , the spiritual embryo takes
on form-this is what is cal l ed " the man havi ng conceived."
WHOSE DAUGHTERS ARE TWO AND EI GHT? WHERE ARE THE
MEN THREE AND NINE FROM? THEY CALL THEMSELVES WOOD
LIQUI D AND METAL VI TALI TY; MEETING EARTH, THEY MAKE
THREE CLANS . GOING ON TO USE MR. FI R FOR RFINING,
HUSBAND AND WIFE BEGIN THEI R CONNUBIAL BLI SS . THE
WATERWHEEL DAR NOT BE STOPPED FOR A MOMENT, CON
VYING TO THE SUMMIT OF THE K' UN- LUN MOUNTAINS .
The precedi ng verse spoke of the meeti ng of vital ity, energy, and spiri t ,
which forms the spiritual embryo. However, the spi ri tual embryo will not
form by the meeting of vitali ty, energy, and spirit without refnement by
the true fre . Two is the number of yi n fre , ei ght is the number of yin
wood; therefore they are called women. Ni ne is the number of yang
metal , three is the number of yang wood; therefore they are cal led men .
The " l iquid" of wood is fre ; wood producing fre is one dan. The "vital
ity " of metal is water ; metal producing water is one dan. Earth in the
center makes one dan itself. These fve elements are divided i nto three
dans ; when the three dans meet , they combi ne i nto one dan-this is
called the completion of the fve el ements .
This is a metaphor for practicing the Tao: original essence and original
spirit are the dan of wood and fre , origi nal sense and original vitality are
the clan of metal and water, and the original energy is the earth clan.
These are the i nner three clans . Benevolence and courtesy form a dan
associated with wood and fre , j ustice and wisdom form a clan associated
with metal and water, and truthful ness makes a dan associated wi th
earth . These are called the outer three cl ans . Practitioners of the Tao gov
ern the outer three cl ans by the i nner three cl ans , and complete the inner
three clans by the outer three clans . The fnal outcome is to make the
three clans into one clan.
However, these three cl ans requi re vigorous practice ad i ntense work
before they can become one cl an. The " refnement of Mr. Fire " is this
vigorous practice . By vigorous practice , those who are not benevolent wil l
reach benevolence , the unj ust wil l reach j ustice, the uncourteous will
reach courtesy, the unwise wi l l reach wisdom, the untruthful will reach
truthflness . Benevolence , j ustice , courtesy, and wisdom all wind up in
one trthful ness , and essence , sense , vital i ty, and spiri t al l transmute i nto
one energy. The three clans merge , strength and fexi bi l i ty correspond ,
1 3 8 Understanding Reality
essence and sense uni te , and " husband and wi fe begi n thei r connubi al
bl i ss . "
Once husband and wi fe are j oi ned i n bl iss , t he fri ng work conti nues
steadi l y, the longer the stronger, one energy accompl i shi ng the work ,
unti l you arrive at pure yang, beyond the realm of the senses . Therefore
the text says , " The waterheel dare not stop for a moment , conveying to
the summi t of the K' un- l un mountains . " The " waterwheel " is the tre
energy, associated with the north : i t does not refer to the yogic practice of
conveying the geni tal energy i nto the spi ne and up to the top of the head.
I t means that the one energy accomplishes its work, dousi ng fre wi th
water, water and fre steami ng without i nterruption. I t is l ike a water
wheel i n a river, carrying water up and sendi ng i t down , revolving day
and night without stoppi ng. The K' un- l un mountains are the source of
myriad mountai ns : "conveyi ng to the summi t of the K' un- lun" is the
state of " the three fowers gathered on the peak ," " the fve energi es
returni ng to the origin," enteri ng i nto true emptiness and i neffabl e exis
tence , unconsci ousl y obeying the l aws of God.
THE SEVEN- RVERTED CINABAR RVERTS TO THE ORIGIN,
THE NINE- RESTORED GOLD LIQUI D RETURNS TO REALITY:
STOP COUNTING FROM THREE TO NIN AND ONE TO NINE
IT ONLY RQUIRES THE FIV ELEMENTS TO BE IN ORDER. THE
BASIS IS PURE MERCURY, FLOWING THROUGHOUT THE
TIMES : WHEN THE NUMBER OF YIN AND YANG IS COMPLET,
IT NATRALLY COMMUNES WITH THE SPIRIT; GOING I N AND
OUT, IT DOES NOT LEAV THE MYSTERIOUS FEMALE.
The precedi ng verse said that the work can be accomplished when the
fve el ements are aggregated and the fre is operated to refne them; but
the refnement requi res knowl edge of the true pri nci pl e of seven- rever
sion and ni ne- restoration . Seven is the yang number of fre , ni ne is the
yang number of metal . The essence of conscious knowledge is fexibl e ,
i nside it harbors a false fi re ; when the false fre is exti ngui shed, the true
fre arises . This i s l i ke the mercury of consci ousness sol i di fyi ng into ci nna
bar, losi ng i ts vol ati l i ty forever ; fre reverts to the origi n . The sense of real
knowledge is frm, i t has i n it dry gol d; when the dry gold mel ts , real gold
is pure . Thi s is l i ke contami nated gol d bei ng l i qui fed , permanentl y
becomi ng most pure and bright gold ; gold returns ÎL real i ty. Thi s is the
meani ng of seven- reversi on and ni ne- restorati on in t he al chemi cal c l as
In aberrated schools . they count the zodi ac si gns from t he frst to the
ni nth as " ni ne restorations ," and count from the t hi rd to the ni nth as
"seven reversions " -they do not know the meani ng of seven- reversi on
and nine- restoration. If you do not know the meani ng of seven- reversion
and ni ne- restoration, how can you know the order of the fve cl ements ?
As for the ordering of the fve el ements , when fre reverts to the ori gi n ,
wood is produced in fre , and the spiri t is aware ; when the spirit is aware ,
conscious knowledge is not obscured. When metal returns to real i ty,
metal is produced i n water and the vitality is unifed; when vitality is
unifed, real knowledge is ever present . Real knowledge being conscious
knowl edge , conscious knowledge being real knowledge , the four forms
metal , wood, water, and fre-are blended and return to the center; the
fve elements being one energy, perfectl y balanced , whol l y i ntegrated
with the celestial design, the fve el ements are i n order.
However, the accompl ishment of orderi ng the fve elements is all car
ried out by the great medicine of metal i n water. " Mercur" i s " metal in
water," which is the poi nt of true sense of real knowledge . Real knowl
edge contains within i t the primordi al real unifed energy, which is the
root of the fve el ements , the basis of the four forms . In motion i t
produces yang, i n still ness i t produces yi n, and fows throughout the
times of the four forms and fve el ements . The path of restoration is to
advance the yang fre when i t is time for yang. thereby gatheri ng this real
knowledge , and to operate the yin convergence when it is ti me for yin,
thereby nurturing this real knowledge . When the number of yi n and
yang is complete . the fve elements merge . i nnate knowl edge and i nnate
capaci ty are tranquil and unstirring yet sensitive and effective . sponta
neously communi ng with the spirit . The spirit refers to somethi ng that
cannot be assessed in terms of yin and yang.
Unfathomable by yin and yang, the spi ritual embro coal esces ; this is
called " the val l ey spirit not dying." The valley spirit not dying is called
the mysterious female . The openi ng of the mysterious female is called the
root of heaven and earth . When the number of yin and yang is complete .
this mysterious female ha been establ ished; when the mysterious femal e
is establ ished, the valley spirit goes i n and out of the opening of the mys
terious female , living forever, not dying. Then the path of reversion and
restoration is complete . This is what is meant when i t is said , " If you want
1 40 Understanding Reality
to attan the immortal i ty of the val l ey spi ri t , you must set up the basis on
the mysterious femal e . "
CONTAINING FEMALE SUBSTANCE WITHIN THE MALE, BEAR
ING YIN YET EMBRACING YANG, WHEN THE TO ARE COM
BINED THE MEDICINE I S THEN PRODUCED, CHANGING THE
SLI GHTESS IN THE YIN SPIRIT AND THE PRDOMINANCE IN
THE YANG SPIRIT TRULY IT IS SAID OF A GRAIN OF THE
GOLD ELIXIR THAT A SNAKE THAT SWALLOWS IT IS I MMEDI
ATELY TRANSFORMED INTO A DRAGON AND A CHICKEN
THAT EATS IT I S THEN CHANGED INTO A PHOENIX, FLYING
INTO THE PURE RALM OF TRUE YANG.
The precedi ng verse said the seven- reversion and ni ne- restoration
requi re the compl eteness of the number of yin and yang; but to operate
yi n and yang requi res that you recogni ze true yi n and true yang. " Con
tai ni ng female substance within the male ," i n terms of the I Ching signs ,
is the emptiness i n fre == ; i n peopl e i t is the conscious knowledge hid
den i n the human mi nd. " Bearing yi n yet embraci ng yang," i n terms of
the signs , is the ful l ness i n water = = ; i n people i t is the real knowledge
i nherent i n the mi nd of Tao. Real knowledge and consci ous knowledge ,
the two medi ci nal substances , must be combi ned before they can make
the el ixir.
The " yi n spi ri t " has yang wi thi n yi n, which is the " spi ri t " of real
knowledge ; the " yang spi ri t " ha yi n wi thi n yang, the " spi rit " of con
scious knowledge . " Sl ightness i n the yi n spi ri t " means sl i ghtness of yang;
" predomi nance i n the yang spi rit " means excess of yi n. When yang is
sl i ght and yin excessive , there is imbalance and the gol d el i xi r does not
form. Onl y when real knowl edge and conscious knowledge j oi n do the
yin spi rit and yang spi rit return to correct balance , changi ng into tre
essence and true sense .
When yi n and yang combi ne i nto one , the celestial order is clearly
revealed ; the i nnate knowledge and capaci ty whi ch had been about to
fade away in peopl e is round and bright , clean and bare . A bead of gold
el i xi r hangs i n the center of vast space , l i ghti ng up the universe to view,
unobstructed in al l di recti ons . When people ingest a grain of this el ixir,
1 4 1
they immediately become immortals ; when snakes swallow a grai n they
become dragons , when chickens eat a grain they become phoenixes , and
fy straight into the pure realm of true yang.
The "snake swallowi ng" and the " chicken eating" also ft the l aws of
alchemy : the snake is associated with fre , in the south, as fre ± . The
dragon is associated with wood, in the east , a thunder =. The chicken,
in the west , associated with metal , is lake E. The phoenix is akin to
water, in the north, as water = E . The snake swallowing and becoming a
dragon is producing wood i n fre , the chicken eating and becoming a
phoenix is the existence of metal in water. Producing wood i n fre , pro
ducing metal in water, metal and wood j oin, water and fre balance each
other ; one energy undiferentiated, being and nonbeing do not stand,
things and self return to emptiness , body and mind, both sublimated,
enter sagehood, and their unknowability is called spiri t . Escaping the
ordinary world and living in the realm of pure yang are not empty words .
AS SOON AS HEAVN AND EARTH INTERACT, WITH OBSTRUC
TION OR TANQUILITY, MORNING AND EVNING YOU WILL
DISCERN DIFFICULTY AND DARKESS . SPOKS COME TO
GETHER AT THE HUB, WATER RTURS TO THE SOURCE; THE
WONDER LIES IN THE OPERATION OF EXTRACTION AND AD
DITION. WHEN YOU GET THE ONE, THE MYRIAD AR ALL
DONE; STOP MAKING DIVI SIONS INTO SOUTH, NORTH, EAST,
WEST REDUCING AND REDUCING, BE CAREFUL WITH THE
FOREGOING ACHIEVEMENT; THE JEWEL OF LIFE IS NOT TO BE
TEATD LI GHTLY.
The path of the gold el ixir is the path of creation ; the path of creati on
i s the path of alternati on of yi n and yang. I n the frst month of the year,
the energy of heaven rises and the energy of earth descends : this makes
tranquility . I n the sixth month , the energy of earth rises and the
energy of heaven descends : this makes obstruction E E . In a day, mi dnight
is the beginning of morning ; at mi dni ght the yang energy moves wi thi n
and the yi n energy goes out side : t hi s makes difculty � � . Noon i s t he
beginni ng of evening ; at noon t he yang energy st ops outside and the yi n
energy ari ses inside : t his makes darkness : : . Obstruction and tranqurlity
1 4 2 Understanding Realit_y
mean the ri si ng and desLCndi ng of t he yi n and yang of spri ng and
aut umn i n a year ; drffculty and darkness mean t he comi ng and goi ng of
t he yi n and yang of morni ng and eveni ng i n a day+
Observi ng the vicissi tudes of obstruction and tranquzlity d heavCn and
earth i nteract , one wi l l recogni ze the process of dzfjculty i n t he morni ng
and darkness at ni ght . This is because the waxing and wani ng of yi n and
yang in a day is l i ke the waxing and waning of yi n and yang i n a year. But
the yi n and yang of a year and t he yi n and yang of a day are al l operated
by one energy comi ng and going. Practi tioners of the Tao are gui ded by
the seasons of obstruction and tranqutity of heaven and earth, and follow
the mechanism of difculty and darkness of morni ng and eveni ng: when
yang is appropriate , they advance the yang fre , when yin is appropriate
they operate the yin convergence . When the frm strength of yang and
the yieldi ng fexi bi l i ty of yin are properly ti med , there grows an accumu
lation of good, aggregati ng the fve el ements and bl ending the four
forms , l i ke thi rty spokes comi ng together at the hub, formi ng a wheel ,
l i ke a thousand streams all ret urni ng to the source and entering the
ocean, i ntegrati ng i nto one energy, so the gol d elixir crystal l izes .
However, the marel of the crystal lizati on of the gold el ixir is all a mat
ter of the operati on of extraction and addition. Extraction means remov
i ng false yin and false yang, addi tion means addi ng tre yin and true
yang. When false yi n is gone , true yin appears ; when false yang vanishes ,
tre yang arises . When tre yin and true yang retrn to central balance ,
two yet j oined i nto one , real knowledge and conscious knowledge ,
essence and sense , merge and agai n you see the original face of innate
knowledge and innate capacity. The accomplishment of extraction and
addition is i ndeed a wonder.
Overal l , cul tivating the el ixir requires recognition of tre yin and tre
yang, and also requi res recognition of the primordial trul y unifed energ.
This energy exists prior to the diferentiation of chaos , when yin and yang
are still undivided; when absorbed it is true empti ness , when activated it
is inefabl e existence . It is symbol i zed by metal in water, embodied a
i nnate natural goodness , and functions as the vital unifed mi nd of Tao.
The rl e of alchemy i s j ust t o take the uniform great medicine of the
mind of Tao. Though this mind of Tao is uniform, i t governs the energies
of the fve elements and contains the qualities of the fve elements . This
is because the mi nd of Tao is the manifestation of tre unity. One is the
frst number; the mi nd of Tao is one yet contai ns fve , fve yet ultimately
one . In reality, when the poi nt of ul ti mate oneness is reached, we cannot
even say it is the mi nd of Tao ; we can only call i t i ntegration with the
cel estial design. Thus Confuci anism cal l s i ntegrat i tn wi t h the cel est i al
design the Great Ul ti mate . Taoism cal l s i t t he gol d el i xi r, Buddhi sm cal l s
i t complete awareness . Thi s i s what t he cl assi c means when i r says ,
" When you get the one . the myriad are a l l done . "
If you get the one . this means t he j ewel of l i fe i s al ready i n your hand ;
there is no
need to di sti nguish south , north, east , and west , and use the
aggregating. Just use the mi nd of Tao to ward off t he human
mentali ty, reducing and reduci ng i t , event ual l y causi ng al l t he aLqui red
infuences in the human mi nd to vanish: When i t is puri fed i nto fexi bl e ,
harmonious conscious knowledge . then the human mi nd too turns i nt o
the mi nd of Tao.
The reason for this is that there i s discri mi nati on i n the human mind .
which carries the energies of senses and obj ects si nce ti me immemori al
plus the accumulated habi ts of personal history, al l j oined i n the aberra
tions of the i ndividual temperaent . If you do not el i mi nate each of
these roots of ill , even the slightest resi due will at some ti me act up, given
the appropriate circumstances . Then the j ewel of life will leak away. and
the foregoing work wi l l al l be i n vai n. Therefore the text says to be careful
with the foregoing achievement , and not treat the j ewel of life l ightl y. An
ancient i mmortal said that ð long ð there is any posi tive energy left one
does not die , whil e ð long ð there is any negative energy left one does
not become immortal . Therefore , after obtaining the elixir, i t is necessary
to eradicate entirely te seeds of the vicious ci rcl es that have been going
on si nce time immemorial ; only then can the j ewel of life be one 's own ,
forever indestrctibl e .
AT THE WINTER SOLSTICE ONE YANG RETRNS ; THIRTY DAYS
ADDS ONE YANG LINE. BETEEN MOONS THE HEXAGRAM
RETURN COMES IN ON THE TIDE OF THE MORNING OF THE
FIRST DAY OF THE MONTH; AFTER THE FIFTEENTH, HEAVN
ENDS AND MEETING APPEARS. A DAY IS ALSO DIVIDED INTO
COLD AND HOT: WHEN YANG I S BORN, RETURN ARISES IN
THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT; AT NOON MEETING SYMBOLIZES
THE ARRIVAL OF ONE YIN. WHEN YOU REFINE THE MEDICINE
YOU MUST KNOW DUSK AND DAWN.
1 44 Understanding Reality
The preceding verse spoke of the work of extraction and addi tion; this
teaches people to be gui ded by the evol uti on of dusk and dawn of heave
and earth . As for the dusk and dawn of a year, on the wi nter solstice , in
the el eventh l unar month , one yang arises ; each thi rty days adds another
yang l i ne : so one yang arising in the el eventh month makes return � � ,
the second yang arising i n the twelfth month makes overseeing
thi rd yang arising i n the frst month makes tranquîlity
, the fourth
yang aising in the second month makes great power
¿ the fifth yang
arising in the thi rd month makes parting
, and the sixth yang arising
in the fourth month makes heaven e These are the six yang hexagrams .
I n the ffth month , one yin arises , making meeting - - · and the thirty
days of each month add one yin l i ne ; in the sixth month the second yin
arises , making withdrawal
¿ in the seventh month the third yin arises ,
making obstruction E E , i n the eighth month the fourth yi n arises , mak
i ng obsering
§ § , i n the ni nth month the fft yi n arises , making stnp
ping away �
, and i n the tenth month the sixth yi n arises , making earth
� � . These are the six yi n hexagrams . The si x yang months are the dawn,
the six yi n months are the dusk; this is the dusk and dawn of a year.
I n between moons , i n the i nteral of the endi ng of one month and the
beginni ng of the next , sun and moon meet , the moon receives the sun' s
light , and on the third day the yang light
rst spews over the ocean; the
tide respondi ng to it makes retur. Every two and a haf days adds a yang
l i ne , unti l the fifteenth, when sun and moon face each other and the
light is round and ful l , making heaven. From te frst to the ffteent
days of the month are the six yang hexagras . After the ful l moon,
heaven ends , and from the sixteenth to the ei ghteenth one yi n arises ; the
yang light has waned, and meeting appears . Every two and a half days
adds another yin l i ne , unti l the thi rtiet, when the moon is dark and the
yang l ight is all gone ; there is onl y a dark mas , mai ng earth. From the
sixteenth to the thirtieth days are the six yin hexagras . Two and a half
days are an i nteral , twelve i nterals go through the six yang and six yin
hexagras : this is the dusk and dawn of a month.
The interal of a day is also di vi ded i nto col d and hot . I n the mi ddl e of
the night , one yang arises , maki ng retur; ever two hours adds one yang
l ine , unti l the sixth yang arises in the 1 0 am- 1 2 noon i nteral , maing
heaven. At noon , one yi n arises maki ng meeting; ever two hours adds a
yin l i ne , unt il the sixth yi n arises i n the 1 0 pm- 1 2 mi dnight i nteral ,
making earth. ThC twenty- four hours go through twel ve hexagrams , six
yin and six yang ; this is the dusk and dawn of a day.
Sages trdnsfer d year ' s dusk and dawn of yi n and yang i nto a month,
Part IV 1 4 �
transfer a month' s dusk and dawn of yi n and yang i no a day. and transfer
a day ' s dusk and dawn of yin and yang i nto an hour. An hour has ei ght
i nterals , and each i nteral has ffteen segments , s o ei ght i nterals has
one hundred and twenty segments . The si xty segments of t he frst four
interals are the six yangs , the sixty segments of t he l as t four i ntervals are
the six yins . Also, the dusk and dawn of one hour is t ransferred i nto one
interal , with ffteen segments ; the frst seven and a hal f segments arc
yang, the last seven and a half segments are yi n .
In a singl e i nteral cul l i ng the great medici ne , returni ng i t to the cruci
ble and furnace of evol ution , operating t he yang fre and yi n conver
gence . refni ng it i nto el ixir, is what is cal l ed " dividing mi dni ght and
noon in time wi thout i nterals . distinguishing heaven and earth i n a hex
agram without l i nes ." It is only necessary to know the "dusk " and
"dawn" which ae the arising of yin and yang. When you know the dusk
and dawn, then the evol ution of a day, a month, a year is right i n a singl e
hour, a single interal . The blind of the world who practice sitting medi
tation at midni ght ad noon , or circul ate energy at the new and full
moon, or practice devel opmental exercises at the winter and summer sol
stices , do not know the principl e of " dusk and dawn ."
IF YOU DO NOT DI STINGUI SH THE FIVE ELEMENTS AND FOUR
FORMS , HOW CAN YOU DI STINGUISH THE CINNABAR AND
MERCURY, LEAD AND QUICKSILVER? WITHOUT HAVING EVEN
HEARD OF THE CULTIVATION OF THE ELIXIR AND THE FIRING
PROCESS , YOU ALREADY CALL YOURSELF A HERMIT? IF YOU
ARE UNWILLING TO RFLECT ON YOUR OWN ERRORS , AND
EVEN TEACH OTHERS ERONEOUS WAYS , YOU MI SLEAD
OTHERS INTO PERPETAL CONFSION; HOW CAN YOU TAK
SUCH A DECEIVING MIND LIGHTLY?
The preceding verse said that t o refne the medicine requi res knowl
Cdge of the dusk and dawn of yi n and yang; thi s verse quickl y fol lows up
on the preceding, for those who don' t know the dawn and dusk of yin
and yang, bringing out the path of spiri tual immortals . The basic aim is
to develop others after developi ng oneself, to cul tivate virtue after
cultivating the Tao. People who ae astray do not know the tre principles
of the fve el ements and four forms , do not understand the code words
ci nnabar, mercury, l ead , and quicksilver, do not understand the medici
nal substances , do not ask about the fri ng process ; yet , having learned
some mi nor teachi ngs of si detrack methods , they i magine they have the
Tao, call themselves hermits , are unwi l l i ng to refect on their own errors ,
and even teach others erroneous paths . This is the bl i nd leading the
bl i nd, misl eadi ng others i nto confusion , never able to get out . This son
of deceiving, i ndulging mi nd will go to uni nterrupted hel l , never to
emerge-how coul d there yet be any hope of attaining the Tao?
CULTIVATING OVER EI GHT HUNDRED VIRTUOUS PRACTICES,
ACCUMULATING A FULL THREE THOUSAND HI DDEN DEEDS ,
EQUALLY SAVING SELF AND OTHERS , FRIEND AND FOE, ONLY
THEN DO YOU ACCORD WITH THE ORIGINAL VOW OF SPIRI
TUAL MORTALS . THEN TIGERS AND RHINOS , SWORDS AND
SOLDIERS , DO NOT I NJURE YOU, THE BURING HOUSE OF
I MPERMANENCE CANNOT CONSTRAIN YOU; AFTER THE PR
CIOUS DESCENDS , YOU GO PAY COURT TO HEAVN, CALMLY
RIDING A PHOENIX- DRAW CHARIOT
The precedi ng verse said that sidetracked methods and aberrant proce
dures do not clarify the great Path but onl y damage virtue , and cannot
develop virtue ; this verse speaks of the need to practice vi rtue after prac
ticing the Path .
Practi ci ng the Path is for onesel f, practi ci ng virtue is for others . Practice
of the Path has an end, but practice of vi rtue ha no end. Therefore after
spiritual i mmortals compl eted the Path, they always fulflled three thou
sand meri torious deeds and eight hundred practices , forgetti ng both
others and sel f, equani mous towards friend and foe , becoming coexten
sive wi th the universe , contai ni ng myriad things , embodyi ng all the
qual i t i Ls of the Tao, thus fnal l y accordi ng with their original vow.
e reaches this stage , all is empty, inside and out ; neither exis
tence nor nonexistence remai ns , body and mi nd are both subl i mated
ti gers and rhi nos cannot harm you , weapons cannot get at you, the burn
i ng house of i mpermanence cannot constrain you . The preci ous tal isman
comes down to summon you , and ridi ng peaceful l y in a phoenix chariot
you ascend in broad dayl i ght .
THE FELINGS OF ALTAIR AND VEGA ARE JOINED, THEIR
PATHS MEET; THE TORTOISE AND SNAKE ACT ACCORDING TO
THEIR NATRE. THE MOON AND SU JOIN THEI R CHARMS AT
THE BEGINING OF THE MONTH; THE TWO ENERGIES OPER
ATE SUSTAINED BY EACH OTHER. BASICALLY IT IS THE WON
DROUS FNCTION OF HEAVEN AND EARTH; WHO CAN COM
PRHEND THIS TRUTH? IF YIN AND YANG AR KEPT APART,
THEY BECOME MALI GNANT; HOW CAN YOU HAV THE ETER
NIT OF HEAVEN AND EARTH?
The precedi ng eleven verses all say the great way of cul tivation of the
gold el ixr requi res a combi nation of two medicines of the sae kind,
true yin and true yang, before the elixir can be made . Peopl e may wonder
if it is made by forced effort , but i t is not-i t is all a natural operation.
Therefore this verse sums up the meani ng of the foregoi ng verses , to get
students to thoroughly investigate the true principle .
It is like the stars Altair and Vega meeting on the seventh day of te
seventh month, tortoise and snae associating through similari ty, moon
and sun meeting at the turn of the month-all of these represent the nat
ural commingl ing of the two energies of yin and yang as they i nteract .
This is the wondrous fnction of the creative operation of heaven and
earth. The course of creation in heaven and earth is the course of al terna
tion of yin and yang: yi n and yang sustai ni ng each other, one energy
fows , yin to yang, yang to yin; as yin and yang come and go, the four sea
sons take place and all things grow. The mechanism of l ife never ceaes ,
so it is always there , of old and now.
If practi tioners of the Tao do not comprehend this trth , and abandon
the pri nci pl e of creation by yin and yang, they stick to emptiness or cl ing
to forms , mdki ng forced endeavors which have the contrary efect of
keepi ng yin and yang apart . This is not only of no help to essence and
li fe , it even harms essence and l i fe ; maignancy cannot be avoided. Can
you then sti l l hope for the eterni ty of heaven and earth , to become an
undying i mmortal ?
The path of et erni t y of heaven and earth is the path of blending of tre
yin and true yang . When true yin and true yang are blended, the mecha
ni sm of l i fe therei n wel l s forth and congeal s i nto a spi ri tual embro , com
i ng i nto bCi ng from nonbei ng , from bei ng i nto nonbeing , escapi ng thc
1 48 Understanding Reality
i l l usory body and bringing forth the real body : onl y then can one share
the eterni ty of heaven and earth. If practi tioners of Tao want to seek the
eternity of heaven and earth, they wi l l fi nd no means wi thout tre yin
and t rue yang.
There is one more poem on the moon over the West River, representing
the i ntercalar month. Accordi ng to the author' s own preface , this verse
and the following five verses are not part of the main body of Under
standing Reality, but belong to the collection of additions ; refecting on
the meaning of the words , this is the path of frst cul tivating life and
afterards cul tivating essence . Three commentators incl ude it in the
main collection because i t ha an explanation of cul tivating life , and I fol
low them here .
THE ELIXIR I S THE MOST PRECIOUS TEASURE OF THE PHYSI
CAL BODY; WHEN CULTIVATED TO PERFECTION, THE TRANS
MUTATIONS ARE ENDLESS . ONE CAN GO ON TO INSTIGATE
THE TRUE SOURCE IN THE REALM OF ESSENCE, AND ASCER
TAIN THE INEFFABLE FUCTION OF THE BIRTHLESS . WITHOUT
AWAITING ANOTHER BODY IN THE NXT LIF, ONE ATAINS
THE SPIRITUAL CAPACITIES OF A BUDDHA IN THE PRSENT;
AFR THE NAGA GIRL ACHIEVED THI S , WHO SINCE THEN
HAS BEEN ABLE TO FOLLOW IN HER FOOTSTEPS ?
Yuan- tu- tzu said, " A poi nt of positive vitality is hi dden i n the physical
body ; it is not in the heart or geni tals , but in the openi ng of the mysteri
ous pass ." The poi nt of positive vi tal i ty is the el i xi r ; hi dden i n the physi
cal body, i t is the most precious treasure of the body. The elixir is nothi ng
but the vi tal ity of the primordial poi nt of compl ete yag; i t is also called
the energy of primordi al real uni ty, and it i s also called the abundant sane
energy. In storage it is called true empti ness , i n action it is called inefable
existence . Its substance is natural whol esomeness , i ts function is the mind
of Tao. This most precious treasure i n the human body does not belong to
the heart or genital s ; i t i s stored i n the mysterious pass .
The openi ng of the mysterious pass has no location, no form; this el ixir
also ha no location and no form. Bei ng equanimous in action and still
ness , untrammel ed by matter or voi dness , lively and eferescent , if you
operate the fre to forge it i nto somethi ng stabl e and solid, it is always
responsive yet al ways tranqui l , always tranqui l yet always responsive,
capable of endless transformations , with unfathomabl e spi ri tual marel s ,
unfathomable even to the spi rits of heaven and earth . I t abides in the
physical body, yet can transform the physical body ; this is whdt i s Lal l ed
the spiri tual body. Therefore the author says that the evol ut i on of l i fe is
connected with the body, meaning connected wi th the spi ritual body.
When the spiri tual body is achieved, the spi ri tual embryo is compl ete ,
the foundation of life is stabl e , striving ends and nonstrivi ng appears , by
which one can cul tivate essence .
The true source of essence is the ineffabl e function of the birth l ess .
Cultivation of l i fe is the way to l ive l ong; cul tivation of essence is the way
to be birthless . With no bi rth there is no death ; no birth , no death ,
united with Space , body and mi nd both subl i mated, one is forever freed
from transmigration, and transcends beyond heaven and earth. Without
awai ting another body in the next l i fe , one attai ns the spi ri tual capaci ties
of a Buddha i n the present . This is because the path of birthl essness is
sudden enlightenment , compl etely peradi ng, all thi ngs empty, directl y
transcending t o t he beyond.
In ancient times when the Buddha was teachi ng at the assembl y on the
Spiritual Mountai n, a seven- year-old Naga girl emerged from the earth,
presented a j ewel , and attained buddhahood on the spot . The author
here cites this case of the Naga gi rl presenting a j ewel to demonstrate cul
tivation of the essence of tre empti ness . Cultivating the essence of tre
emptiness is the Naga gi rl presenting a j ewel and real i zi ng true empti
ness , unborn and imperishable ; this is attai ning the spiritual capaci ties of
But before the principle of l ife has been practiced, the principle of
essence is hard to comprehend. On the whole , if one can suddenly
awaken to complete perasion and can nurture the true essence , one stil l
has not escaped coming and going wi thi n temporal condi tioning; wi th
out having gone through the tempering of the great fre , as soon as there
is any leak one can hardly avoid the troubl e of reincarnation. If one cul ti
vates essence after having cul tivated life , one has already come forth from
refnement in the furnace of the great fre , so that all pol l ution has been
burnt away ; proceeding from here to cul tivate essence by practicing the
path of nonstriving, going from gradual to sudden, one di rectly ascends
to the stage of inefable enl ightenment of the supreme one vehicl e . How
can one be reincarnated then ? This is why the text says one gai ns the spi ri ~
tual capaciti es of a Buddha i n the present , without awating another body
i n the next l i fe . So we know the great path of the gold elixir fi rst cul ti
vates l ife before cul rivating essence .
Fi ve verses ,
representing the fi ve el ements ,
metal , wood, water, fi re, earth
EVEN IF YOU UNDERSTAND THE ESSENCE OF TRUE THUS
STILL HAVE NOT ESCAPED REINCARNATION; IT I S
BETR TO INCLUDE CULTIVATION OF THE GREAT MEDICI NE ,
I MMEDIATELY TRANSCEND TO NONLEAKI NG, AND BE A REAL
The essence of tre thusness is natural l y real being as is-there is no
efor involved at al l . It is not material , not void. It is what is called
unconsciously following the laws of God. If you want to cul tivate this
essence , you must understand this essence ; once you have understood this
essence , you must tae this essence and refne i t i nto somethi ng inde
strctible-only thus can you attain salvation . If i n spite of having under
stood it you do not know how to cul tivate and refne i t , your life does not
depend on yourself and still depends on fate-when your time is up, you
have no support , and cannot escape death and reincarnati on .
Not giving up te work of gradual cultivation after sudden enlighten
ment , using the yang fre and yin convergence to cook and refne the great
medicine , you dissolve aggregated conditioning, shed that which wi thers ,
and bring forth the real body. Then you can go into water without drown
ing, go into fre without getting burned; tigers and rhinos cannot inj ure
you, weapons cannot harm you. Then you ae a nonleaking real human.
In ancient times , after the sixth patri arch of Ch' an Buddhism had got
ten the transmission of the ffth patriarch, he hid among hunters , mi n
gling wi th ordi nary fol k, i ntegrating his i l l umi nation , thus perfecting
true attainment . Tzu- hsien real i zed complete perasion suddenly, but he
knew i n himself it wasn' t the ul ti mate , and he needed the transmission of
Hsing- l i n to attain the great achievement . Peopl e usual l y thi nk i t is j ust a
matter of cul tivating the great medicine , or that if one reali zes true thus
ness this itself is enl ightenment . Then what did the ffth patriarch trans
mit to the sixth patriarch, since the latter had already realized " there is
original l y not a single thing" ? And why did Tzu-hsien seek out Hsi ng- l i n
after having suddenl y realized compl ete perasion ?
So we know that al l - at- once understanding and gradual cul tivation are
both necessar. It may happen that one suddenly understands frst and
then gradual l y practices , or one may frst gradual l y cul tivate and then
suddenl y understand. Essence and life must both be cul tivated ; the work
requi res two stages . This verse speaks of reaching l i fe by way of essence ,
practicing the gradual from the sudden .
1 5 3
1 54 Understanding Reality
ENTERING THE WOMB, USURPING THE HOUSE, MOVING THE
ABODE, LIVING IN AN OLD RESIDENCE-THESE ARE CALLED
FOLLOWERS OF THE FOUR FRUITS . IF YOU KNOW HOW TO
CONQUER THE DRAGON AND SUBDUE THE TIGER, REAL
GOLD WILL MAKE A DWELLING THAT WILL NEVER DECAY.
" Entering the womb" means frst spotting a rich and nobl e family
with a pregnant wife i n her l ast month, so as to enter her womb. As for
" usurping the house ," when a pregnant woman is near delivery, there wi l l
always be a yi n-soul wai ti ng to enter an opening; to enter frst , before the
other does , is called usurping the house . " Moving the abode " means
when the body decli nes and fai ls , to pi ck a vigorous l i vi ng body and sur
repti tiousl y move i nto i t . " Living in an ol d residence " means when a vig
orous healthy person dies by vi ol ence , to borrow the sti l l warm corpse ,
enter an opening, and l i ve i n this " ol d resi dence . "
"Entering the womb" and " usurpi ng the house " are more or less the
same , " moving the abode " and " li vi ng in an old resi dence " are also
more or less the same . Al l four refer to cul tivati ng the yin spirit to be able
to go i n and out . Sel f-sering Buddhists are cal led followers of the four
fruits ; they are also called heretics . Derivatives of the teachi ngs of the two
l esser vehicles , they are not the supreme vehicle of Buddhism, which is
real i zation of true thusness . They are onl y diferent from ordi nary people
in that transmigration is cl ear to them.
As for the great path of the gold elixir, this involves conquering the
dragon of true essence in the eas tern house , and subdui ng the tiger of
true sense i n the western house , returning sense to essence , nurturing
sense by essence , so that sense and essence harmoni ze , dragon and tiger
meet , producing the spiri tual body, like building a house of real gold,
which l asts as l ong as heaven and earth, never to decay. Then there is no
rransmt gratt on.
THE METHODS OF MI RROR- GAZING, I MPRISONING BREATHg
AND CONTEMPLATING THE SPIRIT ARE HARD FOR BEGIN
NERS ¿ BUT LATR BECOME EASY. EVEN IF ONE CAN SUD-
Part V 1 5 5
DENLY ROAM MYRI AD LANDS . NEVERTHELESS WHEN THE
HOUSE GETS OLD ONE CHANGES THE ABODE .
Mi rror gazing i done by hanging a mi rror on the wall and keepi ng the
spirit in i t ; ater a long time at this , the yi n spiri t comes out . I mpri soni ng
the breath starts by not letting out one breath , two breaths , then ten
breaths , a hundred breaths , gradual l y reachi ng the poi nt where one never
lets out the breath-energy, which then ci rcul ates i nternally by i tself. Con
templating the spiri t may be done by si l entl y payi ng court to the supreme
God, or cl i mbi ng up i nto the clouds to discover the sages , or imagi ni ng
the spi ri t emergi ng from the top of the head, or imagi ni ng the spi rit
going out from the " hal l of brightness ," an inch behind the middle of
the brows . There are ver many such practices ; for beginners they are
hard, but later the going is easy. After many years they enable one to
proj ect the yi n-spi rit . But it is onl y soli tary yi n: when the physi cal consti
tution deteriorates , i t leaves this body and enters another-what beneft
is this for essence and life ?
BUDDHISTS TEACH PEOPLE TO CULTIVATE ULTI MATE BLISS :
JUST FOCUSING ON ULTIMATE BLISS I S THE DIRECTION OF
METAL. OF ALL MATER AND FORM, ONLY THIS I S RAL; ANY
OTHER IS UNREAL AND VAIN TO ASSAY.
Ul timate Bl iss is ( the pure l and) i n the west ; the west is the direction of
metal , which in people is the frm sense of real knowledge . This sense is
stable , uncompromising, perectly pure , and cannot be moved by any
thing. It is like the hardness of metal , which never breaks down. Cul tivat
ing Ul timate Bl iss is cul tivating this true metal of real knowledge. When
the tre metal is forged to perection, it has both frmness and fexi bi l i ty;
freed from al l pollutants , i t shines brightl y and becomes a supreme trea
sure . In ancient times Dipankara cul tivated this and made a clear j ewel
tower; Shakyamuni cul tivated this and made a sixteen- foot- tall gold
body. Of al l matter and form, the only thing that is real is cul tivating this
strong sense of real knowl edge ; anything else is unreal , not worth
ORDI NARY EXPRESSIONS AND COMMON SAYI NGS ACCORD
WITH THE PATH OF SAGES ; YOU SHOULD TURN TO THEM FOR
CAREFUL RSEARCH. IF YOU USE EVERYDAY ACTVITI ES TO
SEARCH IN RVERSE, EVERYTHING I N TE WORLD TURNS TO
The Tao is not far from peopl e ; what people consider the Tao is far from
people . The Tao of essence and life is the eternal Tao , the eternal Tao i
the Tao of daily l i fe ; i t ' s j ust tat whi l e people use it dai l y they do not
know i t .
If you want t o cul tivate essence and l ife , you shoul d thoroughly i nvesti
gate the principles of the eternal Tao. If you can carefl l y i nvestigate the
principl es , you do not need to read a thousand clasics and ten thousand
texts ; there are great revel ati ons of the cel esti al mechanism right i n ordi
nary expressions and common sayings . For exaple , good peopl e are
called real l y genui ne , trthfl , concientious , reaonabl e , respectable ,
aware of proper proportion, aware of when to go forard and when to
withdraw, circumspect , perceptive , having their feet on the ground; bad
people are said to be i nhuman , l ackng conscience , and unreaonable
they hurt others to beneft themselves , are self- deceived, violate nature
and reaon , take sufering for pleaure , take the false for the real , pick up
one thing and forget another, without knowing death and l ife , without
knowing good and bad, onl y knowing one and not two, onl y aware of the
exstence of themselves and not that of others .
Expressions like these are meaningless when said, but favorul when
refected on. Why not pi ck out one or to of these common sayings and
bore into them; in your ordinary activities , seeking against the tide ,
everything in the world is a j ewel , everhere is the Tao, everything is
useful i n this .
Ordinary scholars say the Tao cannot be spoken, so they will not mae
real eforts to exaine te principles of essence and life . Also, they can
not humble themselves to ak help from teachers and friends ; or if tey
do ak for help, they still do not trl y recogni ze reaity, ad speak of
searchi ng for the treasure from nothing at all . Those who act like this will
never accomplish anything even if they l eave home and spend their lives
travel i ng all over the world.
The Outer Collection
The outer col lect i on of Understanding Reality is based
on essence . After the author wrote Understanding Reality,
he still feared that the essence of true awareness , which is the
original source, might not yet be flly explored, so he wrote
more poems and sayings and appended them as material for
the path of tin cultivation of essence and life .
I . Four four-line verses
THE SUBT BODY OF BUDDHA I S OMNIPRSENT; MYRI AD
PHENOMENA PRESENT NO OBSTACLE. I F YOU UNDERSTAND
REALITY- EYE WHI CH I S COMPLETLY PERVASIVE
THEN YOU WIL KNOW THE TRI PLE WORLD I S YOUR HOUSE.
The Buddha is the essence of true empti ness which comes from
nowhere and goes nowhere . True empti ness is not empty ; so its body is
most subtle . The essence of true empti ness basical ly ha no body, but
because it includes subtl e existence , that subtlety is its body. Emptiness
without this subtlety is nihi l istic , i ndi ferent empti ness ; it is not the real
essence of Buddha. How can it be omnipresent , how can myriad phe
nomena present no obstacl e ? Because of i ts subtle nonvoidness , the body
is omnipresent , al - perasive ; because it is empty yet real , myriad phe
nomena cannot obstruct i t . Because it is omnipresent and unobstrcted,
it is also called the compl etely perasive reality eye . Completeness means
there is no head or tai l , no back or front , no before or after, no above or
below, no i nside or outside-thi s is realization of such ness . Peraion
means being present i n all pl aces , manifest i n all times . It is so great i t
flls the universe , so fne i t enters a hai r ; this is the subtle body. Onl y
completeness can be perasive , onl y by pervaion is i t complete . The light
shines clear and bright , invul nerable to al l situations ; therefore i t is called
the reality eye . This is why i t is called the treasury of the eye of truth. To
understand this completely perasive real i ty eye is to actually perceive the
subtle body of Buddha, which is neiter material nor void, yet is both
matter and emptiness . Heaven and hell both swept away, the triple worl d
is one house , the ten directions are the whole body.
LOOKING AT IT, YOU CANNOT SEE ITS FORM; BUT WHEN
YOU CALL, IT RSPONDS . DO NOT SAY THI S SOUND IS LIKE
A VALLEY ECHO; IF THER IS NO VALLEY, WHAT SOUND I S
1 60 Understanding Reality
" Looki ng at i t , you cannot sec i ts form" refers to empt i ness ; "cal l , and
it responds " refers to exi stence . Because of empti ness there is exi stence ,
l i ke an echo i n a vall ey. Empti ness is not empty-such i s the subtl e body
of Buddha. But the subtl e body of Buddha i s al ways empty, al ways exi s
tent , always existent , al ways empty-what need i s there to cal l before
there is response ? Response to a call means there is sti l l " emptiness ," sti l l
' ' existence ' ' -still constrai ned by empti ness , empti ness which i not per
vaive does not equal the subtle body of Buddha. I t is better to take this
" empty " thing and smah i t . Empti ness does not empty anythi ng
where does the sound come from? Si nce there is no sound, there i s natu
ral ly no emptiness . No empti ness , no sound, this is great l i beration,
which is fl l y alive . Thi s is what i s meant by the sayi ng, " The man
unmoving atop the hundred foot pole may have gained i nitiation, but it
is not yet real : step forard from the hundred foot pole , and the universe
is the whole body."
ONE THING CONTAINS SEEING, HARING, PERCEPION, AND
COGNITION: THE SENSE OBJECTS RVAL ITS WORKING.
EVN THE ONE THING EVR AWARE IS NOT EXISTNT; WHAT
COULD THE FOUR BE BASED ON?
Seeing, heari ng, perception, cogni ti on-these four are all produced by
one thi ng, the l umi nous aware discri mi nating mi nd. Since tat one thing
is ever aware , i n the mi dst of sense data the four asociate and activate one
another, without a moment ' s rest . If one can eliminate te one ting
which is ever aware , the four have no bais to rel y on, and naturaly
Deluded people cannot perceive the baic nature of enlightenment ,
which is trly empty yet subtl y existent ; they j ust take the luminous
aware discriminating mi nd as real . They may empty this thing, or guard
this thing, sti ll not knowing thi s thing is the root of repeated binh and
death, the seed of perpetual transmigration. If you don' t root this out ,
how can you perceive the baic nature of enlightenment ? This is what is
meant by the sayi ng, " The root of eons of binh and death, fools cal te
origi nal Man."
1 6 1
RACHING INDIA WITHOUT MOVING A STP. SITING
STRAIGHT. ALL PLACES AR PRESENT BEFORE THE EYES . A
HALO BEHIND THE HEAD IS STILL A PHANTOM; EVEN WHEN
CLOUDS RISE BENEATH YOUR FEET YOU ARE STI LL NOT AN
The fundaental nature of enlightenment has no head or tail , no back
or front ; when you go toward it you do not see i ts head, when you fol low
it you do not see i ts back. If you say it exists , yet it seems not to; if you say
it does not exs t , yet it does . Not fal l i ng within descriptions in terms of
existence or nonexistence , its l ight penetrates the hidden and reaches the
revealed, able to il l umine the universe . This is spontaneous inefable
awareness . Basical ly i t is not produced by sitting; al l those who study
Ch' an and practice sitting, tose who j ust play with the discriminating
consciousness , think they have actual l y attained buddhaood when they
see illusory scenes and unreal images , or dream they travel to India, or
produce lights from their heads , or see thi ngs i n trance , or wak i n the
clouds i n ecstasy. They are far off. Those who apire to the Tao should frst
sweep away all sidetracks and aberrated paths , then seek out the true inef
fable awareness where there is no form or appearance . Onl y then can the
fundamental nature be real i zed.
II . Verses on various themes
On the essential ground
THE ESSENCE OF BUDDHAHOOD IS NOT THE SAME OR
DIFFERENT: A THOUSAND LAMPS ARE TOGETHER ONE
ADDING LAMPS DOES NOT MAK MOR LIGHTS , REMOVING
LAMPS DOES NOT DAMAGE THE LIGHT
NEITHER GRASPING NOR REJECTION I MPI NGES ON IT,
NEITHER FIR NOR WATER CAN OBSTRUCT IT,
NOTHING IN PERCEPTION OR COGNITION CAN ASSESS IT
The verse uses the term " essenti al ground" because the body of t rue
essence i s unmoving l i ke the ground; be there sameness or diference ,
though ci rcumstances and events be mani fol d and various , dealing with
them all wi th an equani mous mi nd i s l i ke the shi ni ng of a thousand
l amps , shi ni ng on all wi th a si ngl e li ght , the lamps not one but the l ight
one . This essence has no i ncrease or decrease , it has nothing to grasp or
rej ect , i t cannot be obstructed by fre or water. Also, j ust a the ground
can sustai n the weight of the mountai ns , and can take the thrst of the
rivers , and can endure the i nj uri es of myri ad thi ngs , j ust a the ground is
l ike this , so too the essence is l i ke this . Percepti on and cognition have
no existence in i t ; if we force a name on i t , it is j ust emptiness . Empti
ness doesn' t mean extinction , but fexi bl e adaptivi ty applied without
mi ndi ng.
On birth and death
WHEN YOU SEEK LIFE, THER I S FUNDAMENTALLY NO BIRTH;
IF YOU FEAR DEATH, WHEN HAS THER EVER BEEN
SEEING WITH THE EYES I S NOT AS GOOD AS SEEING WITH
THE EARS ;
N TALKING WITH THE MOUTH COMPARE TO
TALKING WITH THE NOSE?
The essence of enl ightenment fundamental l y has no birth or death ; as
for those who insist on l i fe and fear death , when has there ever been l i fe
without death? When there is bi rth , there is death ; onl y the bi rth l ess is
deathl ess . Because that essence is bi rthl ess and deat hl ess , it cannot be
seen with the eyes , i t can only be seen by the ears ; i t cannot be spoken of
by the mouth, it can only be spoken of by the nose . What can be seen by
the eyes and spoken of by the mouth is the nature which has bi rth and
death; what is seen by the ears and spoken of by the nose is the nature
which has no bi rth or death . Whatever can be seen by the eyes and spo
ken of by the mouth is not essence ; what can be seen by the ears and spo
ken of by the nose , that is essence . Nonseeing seeing-that is true seei ng;
nonspoken speech i s better than that which i s spoken. Si nce thi s bi rthless
deathless essence has no head or tail and no back or front , is neither exis
tent nor nonexistent , is nei ther void nor material , what is there to see or
tell ? If you can see it or verbal i ze i t , it is not the essence of true empti ness .
The three realms are only mind
THE SUBTI PRINCIPLE OF THE THREE REALMS AS ONLY
MRIAD THINGS ARE NOT THIS , NOT THAT;
THER IS NOT A THING THAT IS NOT MY MIND,
THERE IS NOT A THING THAT IS MY SELF
The three realms are the real m of form, the realm of desire , and the
realm of no form. The realms of form and desire are realms of minding,
the realm of no form is the realm of mi ndlessness . Neither minding nor
mindlessness is the essence of buddhahood. The title of the verse says the
three realms are only mind, but what is to be called the tre mind is the
unminding mind which is nei ther existent nor nonexistent , in which nei
ther being nor nonbeing stands , and thi ngs and self are al l ul timately
empty. In the mind of the tre mi nd, myriad things are one body, with
out diviion into " this " and " that ." "There is nothing that is not my
mind" refers to not cl inging to voidness ; " there is nothing that is my
self" refers to not sticking to forms . Not cl i nging to voidness , not sticking
to forms , there is just one mind; one mind is one essence , mind is Bud
dha and Buddha is mind.
1 64 Under.rtanding Reality
Seeing mind in things
SEEI NG THI NGS , YOU SEE THE MI ND; WI THOUT THINGS ,
MI ND DOES NOT APPEAR.
IN THE TEN DI RECTIONS , OPEN OR BLOCKED, THE TUE
MIND IS OMNIPRSENT
IF YOU CONCEIV I NTLLECTAL INTERPRETATION, IT TRNS
INTO A FALSE VIEW.
IF YOU CAN SEE OBJECTS WITHOUT MINDING, THEN YOU
WILL SEE THE FACE OF ENLIGHTENMENT
" Seeing thi ngs , you see the mi nd; without thi ngs , mind does not
appear " refers to the human mind with perception and cognition. " I n
the ten directions , open or blocked, the tre mi nd is omnipresent " refers
to the true mind without perception or cognition. The human mi nd
arises and vanishes accordi ng to the presence or absence of things ; the
spiri tual l ight of the tre mind is always bright , the same whether there
are things or not-everhere is i t . I t nei ther arises nor vanishes , and can
not be assessed by the human mind with i ts l i mited facul ties of percep
tion and cognition; if you try to undCrsÎand the tre mind by the intel
l ect , you are recogni zi ng a thief ð your chil d-a false view and a serious
The true mind is round and bright , naked and free , not divorced from
obj ects yet not attached to obj ects . If people can see obj ects without
minding, this is the true mi nd, this is the origi na face of enlightenment
-there is no need to seek the original face of enlightenment anywhere
else . In sum, when tere is no human mi nd, only then can you see the
true mind. Once te true mi nd is seen, you immediately real i ze enlight
enment and suddenly transcend to the beyond.
I AM NOT DIFFERNT FROM OTHER PEOPLE; PEOPLE' S MINDS
AR THEMSELVES DIFFERENT
FOR PEOPLE THERE ARE FRIENDS AND STRANGERS ; FOR ME,
NO "THAT" OR " THIS ."
CRATURES OF WATR, LAND, AND AIR, I VIEW EQUALLY AS
WHETHER PEOPL ARE HIGH OR LOW I N RANK, THEI R
HANDS AND FEET ARE THE SAME AS MI NE.
I AM NOT EVEN ME; HOW COULD THERE EVEN BE YOU?
THAT AND " THI S " BOTH NONEXI STENT, MYRI AD BUBBLES
RTRN TO WATER.
The ti tl e of thi s verse is " Equal i zi ng bei ngs ," whi ch means equal l y see
i ng others and sel f, friends and strangers , fsh , ani mals , and bi rds , peopl e
i n high and low ranks , a one body al one . The i mport ant poi nt of thi s
verse is i n the l i ne " I am not even me ." The reaon people of the world
cannot see beings a equal is because they are egot i st ic . If one can be sel f
less , how can one know there is a second person ? Wi th " you" and " me"
bot forgotten, myriad bei ngs al l empty, they are equal of themselves
without bei ng equal i zed .
Mind itsel is Buddha
BUDDHA IS MIND, MIND IS BUDDHA: " MIND" AND
"BUDDHA" AR BASICALLY ILLUSIONS .
IF YOU KNOW THERE I S NO BUDDHA AND NO MIND, THIS AT
LAST IS THE RAL BUDDHA OF TRUE SUCHNESS .
THE REAL BUDDHA HAS NO LIKENESS ; A SINGLE ROUD
LIGHT ENGULFS MYRIAD FORMS .
THE BODYLESS BODY I S THE REAL BODY; THE FORMLESS
FORM IS THE TRUE FORM.
NOT MATERIAL, NOT VOID, NOT NONVOID, NOT MOVING,
NOT STILL, IT DOES NOT COME OR GO.
NO DIFFERENCES , NO SAMENESS , NO BEING OR NONBEING,
IT CANNOT BE GRASPED OR ABANDONED, CANNOT BE
LISTENED TO OR LOOKED AT
INSIDE AND OUTSIDE ROUND AND BRIGHT, IT PERVADES
ONE BUDDHA- LAND I S IN A GRAIN OF SAND, ONE GRAIN OF
SAND CONTAINS A UNIVERSE;
ONE BODY AND MIND, TEN THOUSAND ARE THE SAME.
KNOWING THIS , YOU SHOULD UNDERSTAND THE
PRINCIPLE OF UNMINDING:
NOT BEING CONDITIONED OR OBSESSED IS PURE WORK, NOT
DOING ANYTHING, GOOD OR BAD, IS PAYING HONOR TO
The important point of this verse is i n the l i ne , " Knowing this , you
should understand the principle of unmi ndi ng." Unmi ndi ng does not
mean i gnorance ; if it were ignorant unmi ndi ng, it woul d be the same d a
wood caring or clay statue-how could i t be said mi nd is Buddha? Gen
erall y speaki ng, the meaning of unmi ndi ng i s simply not sticking to
forms and not sticking to voidness .
The true mind has no substance or form; ori gi nal l y there is not a single
thi ng in i t , so what form coul d it have ? The l i ght of the true mi nd engulfs
myriad things , al l - perasive without obstructi on-how coul d it be void?
Not form, not voi d, round and bright , clean and naked, mi nd is Buddha,
Buddha is mind, yet neither i s " mi nd" or " Buddha." Therefore it says
"mind is Buddha, Buddha is mi nd," and i t also says " mind and Buddha
are basical l y i l lusions ." If you perceive mi nd i s Buddha, and also know it
is neither mi nd nor Buddha , the principle of unmi ndi ng can avoid falling
into nihi l ism.
WHAT A LAUGH MY MIND I S-LIKE A DUNCE, LIK A
NOW UNMOVING, NOW EBULLIENT, CALMLY LETING THINGS
BE AS THEY MAY
I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO CULTIVATE SPIRITAL PRACTICE,
YET DO NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG.
I HAVE NEVER HELPED OTHER PEOPLE, YET AM NOT
SELF- SERVING EITHER.
I DO NOT KEEP ANY RULES OF DISCIPLINE, NOR DO I
FOLLOW TABOOS .
I DO NOT KNOW RITAL OR MUSI C, I DO NOT PRACTICE
BENEVOLENCE AND DUT.
WHAT PEOPLE CAN DO I DO NOT UNDERSTAND AT AL.
WHEN HUNGRY, I EAT, WHEN THIRSTY, I DRINK,
WHEN TIRED I SLEEP. WAKI NG, I ACT
WHEN IT' S HOT I DRESS LI GHTLY. WHEN COLD. I PUT ON
MORE CLOTHES .
WITHOUT THOUGHT OR RUMINATION. WHAT SORROW,
NO REGRET, NO AMBITION, NO MEMORI ES , NO I DEAS.
THE UPS AND DOWNS OF ORDINARY LI FE ARE JUST INNS ON
A TREE I N A FORST WHERE BIRDS MAY PERCH ALSO CAN BE
IT DOES NOT TRY TO PRVENT THEIR COMING, AND DOES
NOT TRY TO STOP THEM WHEN THEY LEAV.
NOT AVOI DING, NOT SEEKI NG. NO PRAISE, NO BLAME,
I DO NOT DISLIKE UGLINESS OR EN BEAUTY.
I DO NOT RUN FOR A QUIET ROOM, OR RUN AWAY FROM THE
I DO NOT SPEAK OF OTHERS ' WRONGS OR BOAST WHEN I
I AM NOT SOLICITOUS OF THE HI GHLY PLACED, NOR DO I
SLIGHT THE LOWLY OR THE YOUNG.
FRIEND AND ENEMY, GREAT AND SMALL, INSIDE AND
SADNESS AND HAPPINESS , GAIN AND LOSS , HONOR OR
INSULT, DANGER OR EASE-
MY MIND DOES NOT SEE DUALI STICALLY, BUT IS
EQUANIMOUS , ALL THE SAME.
IT DOES NOT LEAD TO FORTNE, AND DOES NOT START
SENSING, IT RESPONDS , RTRNING, IT AGAIN ARISES .
I DO NOT FEAR WEAPONS , I AM NOT SCARD OF WILD
I RFER TO WHATEVER I S AT HAND WITHOUT BEING
RESTRICTED BY NAMES .
MY EYES DO NOT GO TO FORMS , SOUNDS DO NOT ENTER
MY EARS .
WHATEVER APPEARANCES THERE MAY BE ALL BELONG TO
1 68 Understanding Reality
THE FORMS AND VOI CES OF MEN AND WOMEN ARE NOT
FIXD ENTITIES .
MINDLESS OF PHYSICAL APPEARANCES , I AM NOT
INFLUENCED OR ATACHED;
WANDERING FREELY, NOTHING CAN GET ME DOW.
THE SPHERE OF LIGHT OF INEFFABLE AWARENESS SHINES
THROUGHOUT, INSIDE AND OUT,
ENOLDING THE FOUR QUARTERS , WITHOUT FAR OR NEAR.
THE LIGHT I S NOT LIGHT-IT I S LIKE THE MOON IN THE
SINCE YOU CANOT GRASP IT OR THROW IT OUT, HOW CAN
YOU COMPARE IT TO ANYTHING?
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND THIS SUBLIME FCTION, YOU
TRANSCEND TO THE BEYOND.
IF ANYONE ASKS MY RLI GION, IT I S JUST THI S .
This l engthy poem j ust i l l ustrates unmi nding. The marvel is in
unmi ndi ng, by which one can be beyond the world whi l e in the world,
roami ng freely, untrammel ed by things . Not a panicl e of dust is to be
admitted i nto peopl e ' s hearts , for whenever there is any dust withi n,
endl ess human mental i ty emerges . Once human mental ity arises , one
becomes capricious and loses autonomy and i ndependence , taking the
serant for the master and consi deri ng the master a serant . How then can
one be free ? If one can be total l y unmi ndi ng, i mperturbabl e and unshak
abl e , then one i s i ndependent . When i ndependent , one is autonomous .
Myriad rumi nations cease , entangl ements do not arise ; the sphere of l ight
of inefabl e awareness i s al l - perasive and al l - embraci ng, wi thout distinc
tion of far or near. This is true attai nment of freedom, the subl ime func
tion of unmi ndi ng.
On the Heart Scripture
THE CLUSTERS , THE TRUTHS , SENSE FACULTIES AND OBJECTS ,
VOI D AND FORM-
I N NONE OF THESE I S THERE A SI NGLE THING WORTH
WHEN PERVERTED VI EWS ARE ENDED,
THE BODY OF TRANQUI LI TY I S SERENE.
The clusters are the fve cl usters of matter, sensation , percept ion , pat
terning, and consciousness , whi ch form the human being . The truths are
the four t ruths of sufering, i ts cause , i ts end , and the way to end i t . The
sense facul ties are the six organs of eyes , ears , nose , tongue @ body, and
intellect . The sense obj ects are the six felds of form, sound, smel l , taste ,
tactile feel ing, and phenomena . Voi dness is ext i nction , form is attach
ment to appearances . The cl usters , tÍths , sense facul ties and obj ects ,
void and form are all phenomena proj ected by the mi nd , and al l are
related to pererted views . If you can sweep all away, then the body of
mind is tranqui l ; this is the bodhisatta Independent Seer, this is non
birth and nondeat. If anything aong these remains , then there i s birth
and deat. so you do not attan independence . If you arrive at constant
independence with no birth and death, then everthi ng i s pure .
No sin or merit
WAKING ALL DAY WITHOUT EVER WALKING, SITTING ALL
DAY WITHOUT EVER SITING,
DOING GOOD DOES NOT MAK MERIT, DOING EVIL INVOLVS
IF PEOPLE TODAY HAVE NOT CLARIFIED THE MIND, DO NOT
ACT ARBITRARILY, CLINGING TO THESE WORDS :
AFTER DYING YOU WILL SEE THE KING OF THE
UNDERWORLD, AND HAVE TROUBLE ESCAPING BEING
BOILED OR MASHED.
The title says there is no si n or merit-what does this mean? Si n and
merit both come from the mi nd: mi ndful l y doing evil is mindfully com
mitting sin; mi ndfl l y doing good is mi ndfl l y seeki ng meri t . Good and
evil , sin and meri t , all exist dependent on mind; if you reach the state of
mindlessness , you are not even conscious of walking or sitting-how
could you be conscious of good and evil , si n and meri t ? This is why i t says
doing good does not make merit and doing evil does not involve sin. It is
l ike a baby, unselfconsciously and unknowingly l aughing happily and cr
ing angrily, this all proceeding from mindlessness-what meri t or sin is
Mindlessness means there is no human mental i ty; when there is no
human mentality, there naturall y is the tre mind. The extent of the true
1 70 Understanding Reality
mi nd is the same as the universe , contai ni ng everything; not thi nki ng of
good , not thi nki ng of evil , i t does not commi t sin , does not seek merit . It
does not conceive of merit or sin. If people have not cl arifed the tre
mi nd, and j ust l et thei r ignorant , i ntransigent mi nd act up, doing all
sorts of mischi ef, and tel l themselves there is nothi ng wrong, how can
they avoi d being boiled or mashed as a resul t after they di e ?
WHEN YOU HAVE SEEN TRUE EMPTINESS , EMPTINESS I S NOT
COMPLETE ILLUMINATION PERVADES EVERYWHERE .
SENSES AND OBJECTS , MIND AND PHENOMENA-THERE I S
NO THING AT ALL;
ONLY BY SUBTLE FNCTION CAN YOU KOW HOW TO
The essence of true empti ness is all - perasive , unobstrcted; i ts light
i l l umi nes everyhere , nothing can get by i t . It is i ntrinsically empty with
out being emptied, empty yet not empty. I t i s j ust a matter of being ever
responsive yet ever tranqui l , ever tranqui l yet ever responsive .
Going along with it
MYRIAD THINGS , EVERY WHI CH WAY, CONFRONT US ;
GO ALONG WITH THEM IN ACTION AND REPOSE, LEAVE
THEM TO THEI R DEVICES :
ROUD AND BRIGHT STABILIT AND WI SDOM AR
ULTI MATELY NEVER DEFILED,
JUST AS WATER PRODUCES LOTSES , YET THE LOTS ITSELF IS
Though thi s verse has four l i nes , real l y the meani ng is in the one line
and bright stabi l i ty and wisdom are ul timately never defled.
" Round and bright " means subtl e bei ng; " stabi l i ty and wisdom" means
Î ÎC empti ness . True empti ness is natural l y i n myriad thi ngs , yet is not
defl ed by myri ad thi ngs . Subtl e bei ng natural l y encounters myriad
1 7 1
thi ngs , and can respond to myriad thi ngs . Ever respols i ve . ever t ranqui l .
goi ng along yet at peace , one is l i ke a l otus _ whi ch grows from t he mud
yet is not di rti ed.
THE BRIGHT ORB OF THE MOON I N THE SKY; ITS CLEAR
LI GHT IS UNOBSTRUCTED IN MYRI AD LANDS .
IT CANOT BE GATHERD OR DI SPELLED, IT CANNOT BE
PUSHED FORWARD OR BACKWARD.
"THERE" I S NOT FAR, " HER" I S NOT NEAR; THE EXTERIOR I S
NOT OUTSIDE, THE I NTERIOR I S NOT INSIDE.
THERE I S DIFFERENCE IN SAMENESS , SAMENESS IN
DIFFERNCE; I ASK YOU THE MECHANI SM-DO YOU
The essence of enlightenment , true emptiness , is complete peraion
of i nefable awareness , its l i ght i l l umi ning all , l ike the bright moon in
the sky shining everywhere equall y. Gather i t , and you do not see the
l ight collect ; dispel i t , and you do not see the light disperse . Ahead, you
do not see the light go forard; behind, you do not see the light recede.
As it illumines " there " i t does not seem far ; as it i l l umi nes "here " i t does
not seem near. Il l umi ning the exterior, the light is not outside ; i l l umi n
i ng the interior, the light is not inside. Gathering, dispel ling, before ,
behind, forard, backward, there, here , far, near, exterior, interior,
inside , outside-though there is diference i n the i l l umi nation, the l ight
is the same . There is diference i n saeness , saeness in diference; one
root ramifes into myriad diferences , myri ad differences return to the
one root . Release i t and it flls the universe , wrap it up and it hides in
secrecy. Lively and active , i t is like the mechanism of a marionette .
Picking up the pearl
THE PEARL IN THE POOR ONE' S CLOTHES IS ORIGINALLY
ROUND AND BRIGHT;
ONE DOES NOT KOW HOW TO FIND IT ONESELF, ONE
WILL COUNT OTHERS' TRASURS INSTAD.
1 7 2
COUNTI NG OTHERS ' TREASURES IS AFTER ALL OF NO BENEFIT
-IT JUST MAKES YOU EXPEND YOUR LABOR IN VAIN:
HOW CAN IT COMPARE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR OWN JEWEL,
WHICH IS WORTH MORE THAN BILLIONS IN GOLD?
THE SHINE OF THIS PRECIOUS PEARL IS MOST GREAT, AS IT
LI GHTS UP ALL WORDS IN THE UNIVERSE.
IT HAS NEVER BEEN SUBJECT TO DIMINUTION, BUT HAS BEEN
BLOCKD BY FLOATING CLOUDS .
AFTER HAVING RCOGNIZED THIS JEWEL, WHO WOULD CARE
FOR EPHEMERAL ILLUSIONS ANYMOR?
THE PEAR OF BUDDHA I S THE SAME AS ONE' S OWN PEARL;
ONE' S OWN ESSENCE RTRS TO THE OCEAN OF THE
ESSENCE OF BUDDHAHOOD.
THE PEAR I S NOT A PEARL, THE OCEAN I S NOT AN OCEAN.
EQUANIMOUS , THE MEASURE OF MIND EMBRACES THE
LET THE DUST AND CLAMOR FILL YOUR PURVIEW-STABILIT
AND WISDOM, ROUND AND BRIGHT, ARE ALWAYS FREE.
THI S I S NOT VOID, THIS I S NOT MATRIAL; INSIDE AND
OUTSIDE AR CLEAR, WITHOUT OBSTRUCTION.
THE SIX PSYCHI C POWERS ARE SUBTLE AND INEXHAUSTIBLE,
HELPING SELF AND OTHERS WITHOUT ANY END.
SEE AND YOU UNDERSTAND, MYRIAD TASKS ARE DONE;
BEYOND STDY, YOU PASS THE DAYS WITHOUT
CALM AS AN INFANT WITHOUT A SET CHARACTER, ACTIV
OR STILL ACCORDING TO SITUATIONS , WITHOUT
NEITHER STOPPING I LLUSION NOR CULTIVATING TRUTH, THE
IDEAS OF TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD AR AL I N THE
REALM OF DUST
MYRI AD THINGS HAV ALWAYS BEEN SI GNLSS ; IN
SI GNLESSNESS THERE I S THE BODY OF REALI TY.
THE BODY OF RALITY I S THE NATURALLY SO BUDDHA,
NEITHER A PERSON NOR A THING.
AST AS TO FILL THE UNIVERSE, I T I S RARIFIED AND
1 7 -�
FILTH CANOT DEFILE IT, ITS LI GHT IS I NHERENTLY BRI GHT
THERE IS NOTHING THAT I S NOT BOR FROM MI ND;
IF MIND I S UNBOR, THINGS PASS AWAY. THEN YOU KNOW
SIN AND MERIT ARE BASICALLY FORMLESS .
THER I S NO BUDDHAHOOD TO CULTI VATE, NO TEACHI NG
TO PRACH. THE KNOWLEDGE AND I NSI GHT OF GREAT
PEOPL IS NATURALLY DI STINCT;
WHEN THEY SPEAK, THEY MAKE THE ROAR OF A LION,
ULIKE JACKALS DISCUSSING BIRTH AND DEATH.
The important point i n this poem is the l i ne " If mi nd is unborn ,
thi ngs pass away." These " thi ngs " are the vari ous thoughts and imagina
tions in the mind. If the mi nd is unborn, al l thi ngs are empty, the pearl
of essence is always shini ng, stability and wisdom are round and bright ,
inside and outside are clear ; ephemeral il l usions are not worthy of attach
ment , dust and cl amor may fll the eyes but cannot be a hi ndrance .
Beyond study, uncontrived, one is like an unformed infant , active or still
according to circumstances , without illusory i mages of trth or falsehood,
the body of reaity always exposed, the natural l y-so Buddha is manifest .
Then i t fl ls the universe , light shi ni ng on all worlds ; what veil of foating
clouds is there ?
Pointing out errors in meditation
THE ESSENCE OF ENLIGHTENED MEDITATION IS LIKE WATER:
THE SUBSTANCE STILL, THE RIPPLES ROUSED BY THE
WIND SPONTANEOUSLY STOP;
IN ACTION AND REPOSE TRANQUIL AND EVER CLEAR, IT IS
NOT ONLY THUS WHEN SITTING.
PEOPLE NOW SIT QUIETY TO GET REALIZATION, AND DO
NOT SAY IT IS ALL IN SEEING ESSENCE.
IF ESSENCE IS CLEAR IN SEEING, SEEING IS STABLE IN
STABILITY MAKES WISDOM, ITS USE WITHOUT END; THI S IS
CALLED THE SPIRITAL POWER OF BUDDHAS.
IF YOU WANT TO STDY THEIR SUBSTANCE AND FNCTION,
JUST SEE THE SPACE OF THE TN DIRECTIONS :
1 74 Understanding Reality
I N SPACE THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THING, AND THERE IS NO
SUBTLETY OR TRANCE.
SINCE SUBTLETY OR TRANCE CANNOT BE FOUND, TO LOOK
FOR THEM THROWS YOU OFF THE TACK.
BUT DO NOT GRASP " OFF THE TACK" AS WORDS TO RELY
ON; THE ORIGINAL MIND I S LIKE SPACE-WHAT HAS IT
TO DO WITH GAIN OR LOSS ?
JUST CLEAR AWAY MYRIAD THINGS , CLEAR THEM AWAY
AND SUDDENLY COMPLET ILLUMINATION WILL APPEAR OF
ITSELF, NO DIFFERENT FROM THE BUDDHAS .
THE PHYSI CAL BODY I S A FETTR TO US , BUT THUS WE MIX
WITH THE ORDINARY WORD.
TOTALLY UNMINDING IN ACTION, WHAT RIGHT OR WRONG,
GLORY OR I GNOMINY, I S THERE TO CONTST OVR?
THE BODY I S JUST A LODGING; THE INKEPER' S NAME I S
THE ILLUMINATOR NEITHER COMES NOR GOES , SO W KNOW
IT HAS NO MOR BIRTH OR DEATH.
IF YOU ASK WHAT THE ILLUMINATOR I S LIK, ANY
DESCRIPTION IS WRONG;
EVRY ACT AND EVRY THING W SEE I S NEITHER THE SAME
SEEING THESE ACTS AND THINGS , EACH ONE IS BUDDHA
IN TRMS OF DI FFERNCE, MYRIAD PIPES ALL SOUND; IN
TERMS OF SAMENESS , ONE WIND ENLOPS ALL.
I F YOU WANT TO RECOGNIZE THE JEWL, DO NOT SAY YOU
WILL KNOW WHEN YOU GET THE TACHING:
WHEN THERE I S SI CKNESS , YOU USE MEDICINE TO CUR IT;
ONCE THE SICKNESS I S CURD, WHY SHOULD MEDICINE
BE DI SPENSED ANYMOR?
WHEN THE MIND I S DELUDED, USE THE TACHING TO
REVEAL THI S ; ONCE THE MIND I S ENLIGHTNED, THE
TEACHI NG IS NO MOR NECESSARY.
IT IS ALSO LI KE A CLOUDED MIRROR GETING POLISHED,
THE STAI NS ENCRUSTI NG IT DI SAPPEAR.
1 7 5
BASICALLY BECAUSE THINGS ARE DECEPTI VE. WE ARE TOLD
TO DETACH FROM APPEARANCES .
DETACHED FROM APPEARANCES . THEN WHAT? THIS I S
CALLED ULTI MATE REALI1. UNEXCELLED.
IF YOU WANT TO ADORN A BUDDHA LAND. PRACTI CE
COMPASSION I MPARTI ALLY, RESCUE THE SUFERING.
THOUGH THE FUNDAMENTAL VOW OF ENLI GHTNMENT IS
DEEP, DO NOT GRASP WITHIN FORMS .
THIS IS TWIN FULFILLMENT OF VIRTE AND WISDOM; THE
FUTUR ASSURANCE OF ENLI GHTENMENT TAKES PLACE
IF ONE IS AFFECTED BY ANY TRACE OF NI HILISM OR
ETRNALI SM, ONE HAS NO AFFJNI1 WITH THE
THINKING BACK TO THE DELUDED CLINGING OF THE
MUDAN, ALL AR HABITUATED TO SENSUAL
BECAUSE TIR FEELINGS OF CRAVING ARE MANY. THEY
RMAIN BOUND TO THE WORD.
STDY OF THE TAO RQUIRS FIERCENESS g AN
UNSENTI MENTAL MIND FIRM AS IRON.
EVEN OUR CHILDRN AND SPOUSES ARE NOT DIFFERNT
FROM OTHER PEOPLE.
ALWAYS MAINTAIN A SINGLE ROUND LIGHT. NOT SEEING
ANY FAVOR TO BE DESIRED;
ONCE YOU HAV NO ATTACHMENTS TO ANYTHING, WHAT
HELL OR HEAVEN I S THERE TO SPEAK OF?
AFTER THAT. OUR DESTINY I S UP TO US-THER IS NO
ASCENSION OR FALL IN EMPTINESS -
APPEARING AND DI SAPPEARING IN THE BUDDHA
LANDS , NEVER APART FROM THE SEAT OF
KUAN- YIN HAS THIRTY-1WO ADAPTATIONS , AND WE TOO
SHOULD REALIZE FROM THIS
THAT CRATIVE MANIFESTATIONS AR INCONCEIVABLE, ALL
COMING FROM THE ESSENCE OF FREEDOM.
I AM A MINDLESS MEDITATOR, AND DO NOT KNOW HOW TO
1 76 Understanding Reality
JUDGE ORDINARY THINGS . THE BLACK OX OF BEFORE
NOW IS ALL WHITE.
SOMETI MES I SING AND LAUGH TO MYSELF, AND
BYSTANDERS SAY I AM A HALFWIT.
HOW CAN THEY KNOW THIS WOOL CLOAKED FI GURE
ENBOSOMS A PRI CELESS JEWEL WITHIN?
AND IF YOU SEE ME TALKING ABOUT EMPTINESS , IT I S LIKE
SWALLOWING A DATE WHOLE;
ONLY BUDDHAS CAN KNOW THI S TRUTH-HOW CAN THE
I GNORANT EXPRESS IT?
THER ARE ALSO PRACTITIONERS OF CH' AN WHO ONLY
LEARN TO ARGUE
AND BOAST OF THEI R SWIFTNESS I N REPARTEE, STILL
BASICALLY I GNORANT OF THE TRUE SELF
IT I S BECAUSE THEY PURSUE THE BRANCHES AND PI CK THE
LEAVES , NOT KNOWING HOW TO FIND OUT THE ROOT
WHEN YOU GET THE ROOT, THE BRANCHES AND LEAVES
NATRALLY FLOURI SH; WITHOUT THE ROOT, BRANCHES
AND LEAVES CANOT SURVIVE.
IF THEY GO ON FLAUNTING THE SPIRITAL PEAR IN THEIR
GRI P, IT TRNS I NTO DISCRIMINATION BETEEN SELF
AND OTHERS , HARD TO RMOVE:
THAT I S VRY FAR AWAY FROM THE INEFFABLE AWARENESS OF
OUR SPIRITAL SOURCE.
THESE PEOPLE ARE PITIFUL, LAUGHABLE , VAINLY TALKING OF
YEARS OF STUDY,
TOO PROUD TO ASK OF OTHERS , WASTING THEIR WHOL
THIS I S THE DULLNESS OF THE IGNORANT AND DELUDED,
CAUSED BY FALSE VIEWS AND DEEP HABITS .
I F YOU DO NOT WAKE UP IN THI S LIFE, HOW CAN YOU
AVOI D SI NKI NG I N THE NEXT?
The meani ng of t hi s whol e poem is i n the frst four l i nes . The essence
of enl i ghtened nat ure is t horoughl y pure , i ts cl arity i s l i ke water. Not
arousi ng waves , not bei ng defl ed , al l acti on and repose i s it ; one is not
stabl e onl y when si t t i ng . If you take si tti ng to be medi tation, that is not
1 7 7
true medi tati on; i t is ni hi l i stic , i ndiferent medi t at i on , and cannot matc h
the essence of enl ightened medi tati on . True medi t at i on i ncl udes both
stabi l i ty and wisdom, subtl y functi oni ng endl essl y ; mi nd and phCnom~
ena both forgotten , detached from appearances , adorni ng a buddha
l and, i mparti al l y practi ci ng compassion, harmoni zi ng wi t h ordi naÎy soc i
ety, i n the world yet beyond the worl d, medi tat i ng wi thout medi t at i ng ,
stabl e without stabi l i zati on. Al l those who si t
ui etl y for real i zat i on and
those who engage i n verbal competi ti on , wi l d foxes i gnorant of the t rue
self. who wake up after medi tati on stupor onl y to have t hei r wakeful ness
cause confusi on , cannot know there is a true essence of medi t ati on , whi ch
is the i nefable awareness of the spi ri tual source .
Song on reading Ch 'an master
Hsueh-tou s Anthology on Eminent Adepts
THE ONE WATR OF CH' AN IS DI VI DED INTO A THOUSAND
ILLUMINING THE PAST AND CLARIFYING THE PRESENT, WITH
NO STAGNATION OR BLOCKAGE.
STUDENTS THESE DAYS DO NOT SEARCH OUT THE SOURCE:
THEY MISTAKENLY POINT TO A FOOTPRINT AND CALL IT
THE TEACHER HSUEH-TOU ARRIVED AT THE TRUE IMPORT; HE
BEAT THE DRUM OF TRUTH WITH A THUNDEROUS
WHEN THE LION KING COMES OUT OF THE CAVE AND
ROARS , ALL THE BEASTS AND DEVIANTS TAK FRIGHT
WITH SONGS , POEMS , AND SAYINGS . HE CAREFULLY GUIDES
PEOPLE WHO ARE LOST
HIS MANNER OF EXPRESSION IS FREE, HIS MEANINGS AR
LOFY AND PROFOUND; HIS STRIKINGLY MUSICAL NOTES
ECHO OVR THE AGES .
NEVERTHELESS THE DELUDED STOP AT CHASING OBJECTS
AND CONSIDER ONLY THE LITRARY STLE.
THE TRUE CHARACTER OF REAL SUCHNESS BASICALLY HAS
NO WORD-NO LOW, NO HIGH, IT HAS NO BOUNDS ;
NOT FORM, NOT VOID, NOT DUAL IN SUBSTANCE, THE
1 78 Understanding Reality
COUNTLESS LANDS IN THE TN DI RECTIONS ARE ITS
WHEN HAS TRUE STABILIT EVER DIVIDED SPEECH AND
SILENCE-IT CANNOT BE GRASPED, CANNOT BE
JUST DO NOT KEEP THE MIND ON APPEARANCES ; THIS I S
THE TRUE GUI DELINE OF TH BUDDHA.
TO CLEAR AWAY FALSE IDEAS , HE COUNTERPOSED THE TUE;
IF FALSEHOOD DOES NOT ARISE, " TUTH" I S INVISIBLE
IF YOU CAN KNOW TRUTH AND FALSEHOOD AR BOTH NOT
SO, THEN YOU WILL ATAIN RAL MIND WITHOUT
WITH NO OBSTRUCTION, YOU CAN BE FREE; ONE
ENLI GHTENMENT ABRUPTY DI SSOLVS THE EVILS OF THE
WITHOUT EXRTING EFORT, YOU REALIZE ENLIGHTNMENT
AND HENCEFORTH AR FORVER REMOVD FROM THE
OCEAN OF BIRTH AND DEATH.
OUR TEACHER IS NEAR AND HI S WORDS AR UPLIFTING, LEF
IN THE WORLD AS A MODEL AND GUIDE.
LAST NIGHT HE WAS CALLED FORTH BY ME, GRABBED BY
THE NOSE AND STCK ON A STAF:
I ASKED HI M ABOUT THE ULTIMAT MEANING, AND HE SAID
ALL WORDS DEN IT
Though this song is a eulogy of the book Anthology on Eminent
Adepts, in reality it is communicati ng characteristics of real suchness .
Where i t says , "Just don ' t keep the mi nd on appearances ; this is the tre
gui del i ne of the Buddha," these two phrases have already summed up the
great meani ng in the anthology. Not fxing the mi nd on appearances is
unmi ndi ng; when unmi ndi ng, " tre " and " false" do not arise . When
tre and false do not arise , there is no obstrction; when there is no
obstructi on , one attains freedom. When one attains freedom, reaity is
everpresent , and one is forever removed from the ocean of birh and
The l i ne " Last night he was cal l ed forth by me, grabbed by the nose
and stuck on a staff" i ndicates the author' s i ntent outside words . Stu-
dents are to thi nk, in cal l i ng forth, what is cal l ed; and what dOes st i cki ng
the nose refer to? Cal l i ng forth means cal l i ng the essence of t he t rue char
acter of real suchness ; pi erci ng the nose means penet rat i ng t he mi nd
which is nei ther form nor void . Understandi ng t hi s essence , knowi ng t hi s
mind, the staf is i n one ' s hands , supporti ng t he heavens above and t he
earth below. No back, no front , round and bri ght , cl ean and bare , naked
and free , this is the ul ti mate meaning of Ch ' an-what more i s t here
to say ?
Interpretation of discipline_ concentration,
DISCIPLINE, CONCENTRATION, AND WISDOM ARE SUBTLE
FUNCTIONS IN RELIGION:
THOUGH THE BUDDHAS AND CH' AN ADEPTS HAVE SPOKEN
OF THM, THOSE WHO DO NOT AS YET COMPREHEND
THEM HAVE FIXATIONS :
SO NOW I WILL BRIEFY TALK ABOUT THEM, TO HELP PEOPLE
WHEN MIND AND OBJECTS AR BOTH FORGOTTN AND NOT
A SINGLE THOUGHT STIRS , THIS IS CALLED DISCIPLINE.
AWARNESS BEING ROUND AND BRIGHT, THOROUGHLY
CLEAR INSIDE AND OUT, IS CALLED CONCENTRATION.
DEALING WITH THINGS ACCORDING TO CIRCUMSTANCES ,
SUBTLE FUNCTION INEXHAUSTIBLE, I S CALLED WISDOM.
THESE THRE REQUIRE EACH OTHER TO DEVELOP, AND ACT
AS SUBSTANCE AND FNCTION TO ONE ANOTHER.
THE THRE HAV NEVR BEEN SEPARATED: IT I S LI KE THE
SUN BEING ABLE TO SHINE BY LIGHT, LIGHT BEING ABLE
TO ILLUMINE BY SHINING-
IF NOT FOR LIGHT, THE SUN CANNOT SHINE, IF NOT FOR
SHINING THE LI GHT CANOT ILLUMINE.
WHEN WE LOOK INTO THE SOURCE OF DISCIPLINE,
CONCENTRATION, AND WISDOM, THEY AR BASED ON
LIGHT, SHINING, AND ILLUMINATION ARE BASED ON ONE
SI NCE THE ONE I S NOT EVN ONE, HOW COULD THE THRE
THREE AND ONE BOTH FORGOTEN, THER IS PROFOUNDLY
I n this i nterpretation, the author has already entered absorpti on in dis
ci pl i ne , concentrati on, and wisdom; the words are si mpl e , the meaning
clear. If students can put this i nto practi ce , they can directl y ascend to the
goal . However, though the author' s words and meaning are cl ear, it may
be that students are not very perceptive or may l ack the necessar power,
and be unable to proceed to understandi ng the fundaental , so I wi l l
add some footnotes , to gui de peopl e on behal f of the author, enabl ing
them to enter from the shal lows to the depths , and rise from lowl iness to
the heights . I hope this wi l l be possi bl e .
Discipl i ne means to forget emoti ons when confronti ng experiences ,
and not to be affected by obj ects . Concentration means utter sincerity
and truthful ness , without vagary, not moving or shifting. Wisdom means
adapti ng efci entl y accordi ng to events , without partial i ty or bi as . To be
discipl i ned, to be concentrated, to be wise , the three require one another.
Goi ng from effort to end up i n spontaneity, they merge into one essence ,
ul timatel y l eadi ng to the state of nonconscious puri ty.
I n reality, when you arrive at puri ty, even one essence is not i t-how
coul d there be three things , discipl i ne , concentration, and wisdom?
Therefore i t says , " Three and one both forgotten , there is profoundly
cal m puri ty. " Before arriving at purity, the three are necessary ; having
arrived at puri ty, the three merge and subl i mate spontaneousl y. If the
three and one are not forgotten, it sti l l is not pure medi tation. One of the
verses says , " When the mi nd is astray, the Teachi ng must be used to
reveal i t ; when the mi nd is enl ightened , the Teachi ng is no longer neces
sary. " It is so that mi nd ad teaching both be forgotten that we are told to
detach from al l appearances . This seems to be the meaning of " Three and
one both forgotten , there is profoundl y cam purity."
The moon on the West River
ERRANT THOUGHT I S NOT TO BE FORCIBLY ANNI HI LATED;
WHY SHOULD TRUE SUCHNESS BE SOUGHT?
BUDDHAS EQUALLY ACT ON THE FUNDAMENTAL ESSENCE;
DELUSION AND ENLIGHTENMENT ARE NOT CONFI NED TO
BEFORE AND AFER.
WHEN ENLIGHTNED, YOU BECOME A BUDDHA INSTANTY;
WHEN DELUDED, YOU SINK IN THE FLOW FOR MYRIAD
IF YOU CAN ACCORD WITH TUE PRACTICE FOR A MOMENT
YOU ANNIHILATE THE DEFILEMENT OF COUNTLESS
The fundamental essence is the essence of enl ightenment , in which
there is no errant thought , and no true suchness . I t is onl y because peopl e
of the world have del usi on and enl ightenment that there are the terms
"errant thought " and " true suchness ." When you are deluded about
essence , you conceive erroneous thoughts ; when you real i ze essence, you
return to true suchness . When you awaken to suchness , you instantl y
become a Buddha; when you conceive errant thoughts , you sink i n their
flow for eons . Errant thought or t rue suchness-i t is simply a matter of
the diference between delusion and enl ightenment . If you try to forci bl y
annihilate errant thought and seek true suchness without enl ightenment ,
how can you get t o see true suchness ? The concl udi ng line says , " If you
can accord with true practice for a moment , you annihil ate the defl e
ment of countless wrongs ." Then you can be perfectly clear.
FNDAMENTALLY THER I S NO ORI GINATION OR
EXTINCTION, YET WE INSIST ON SEEKING DIVISIONS
MARKING BIRTH AND DEATH.
1 8 1
AS FOR SIN AND MERIT, THESE TOO ARE BASELESS ; WHEN
HAS THE SUBTLE BODY EVER INCREASED OR DECREASED?
I HAVE A ROUND CLEAR MIRROR, WHICH HAS HITHERTO
ALWAYS BEEN COVERD;
TODAY I POLISH IT SO IT REFLECTS THE UNIVERSE, AND
MYRIAD I MAGES AR CLEARLY REVEALED.
The fundamental essence of enlightenment , true suchness , ha no orig
ination or extinction; there is no possi bility of increasing or decreaing it .
It is because of attachment to obj ects that there is origi nation and extinc
tion , birth and death. This is j ust like a mi rror being covered, that is al .
If you can pol ish away the accumulated dust of pat infuences , i t is round
and bright , without defect . Using this to refect the universe , myriad
forms are clearl y revealed. What producing or destroying them is there?
THE ESSENCE OF THE SELF ENTERS THE ESSENCE OF THE
BUDDHAS ; THE ESSENCE OF BUDDHAHOOD IS
EVERYHERE THUS .
FROM ON HIGH THE COLD LIGHT SHINES IN THE COLD
SPRINGS ; ONE MOON APPEARS IN A THOUSAND PONS.
ITS SMALLNESS IS SMALLER THAN A HAIR, ITS GRATESS
FILLS THE UIVRSE;
HIGH AND LOW DO NOT RESTRICT IT, IT MAY BE SQUARE OR
ROUND; WHAT LONG OR SHORT, DEEP OR SHALLOW CAN
YOU SAY IT HAS ?
The essence of the sel f, the essence of buddhaood , the essence of
human beings i n al l nations and lands are al the sae , not more i n sages ,
not less i n ordi nary beings . I t is l ike the si ngl e disc of the bright moon
appeari ng in a thousand ponds . This essence can be smal l , can be great ,
can be high , can be low, can be square , can be round, can be shallow, can
be deep, can be l ong , LdM be short-yet it is not confned to smal or
great , sq
uare or round , high or low, shall ow or deep. It is j ust that ordi
nary people use i t every day but do not know it .
THE PRINCIPLE GOVERNING THE TEACHING
FNDAMENTALLY HAS NO DOCTRINE; THE EMPTINESS
THAT EMPTIES EMPTI NESS ALSO I S NOT EMPT.
QUIET AND CLAMOR, SPEECH AND SI LNCE, ARE ORIGINALLY
THE SAME-WHY BOTHER TO TALK OF A DREAM I N A
THER IS NO FNCTION IN THE FUNCTION THAT HAS
FUNCTION; EFFORT IS APPLIED IN THE EFFORTSS
IT IS LIKE THE FRUIT NATRALLY RDDENING AS IT RI PENS
-DO NOT ASK HOW TO CULTIVATE THE SEED.
The Buddha' expositions of doctrine real l y have no dogma; when a
Buddha speaks of empti ness , it is real y not empty. The doctrineless doc
trine is call ed tre teachi ng; nonempty emptiness is called true empti
ness . Tre teaching, tre emptiness , quiet or cl amor, speech or silence-it
is j ust a matter of unconsciously fol lowing the l aws of God ; what doctrine
is tere to preach, what emptiness is there to expound? To insist on
preaching doctrine and expounding emptiness is like talking of a dream
in a dream-how can you know the essence of true teaching, true empti
ness ? Tranqui l and unperturbed , yet sensi tive and efective, sensi tive and
efective yet tranquil and unperturbed, this is " no function within func
tion having function, appl ying effort within efortl ess efort ." That there
is " no function within function having fnction" means that the teach
ing is based on emptiness ; that one " applies efort within effortless
efon" means that there is teaching within empti ness . The teaching basi
cally empty, emptiness having a teaching, i t is neither tre nor false . not
existent nor nonexistent . Round and bright , unobscured, ater a long
time there is spontaneous release , j ust as frui t naturally ripens on a tree.
This i tself is cul tivating the true seed of the essence of enl ightenment
there is no more need to ask how to cui tivate the seed.
GOOD OR BAD-FORGET THOUGHTS ALL AT ONCE; LET
NEITHER PROSPERITY NOR DECLINE CONCERN THE MIND.
1 84 Understanding Reality
IN DARK AND LIGHT, NOW CONCEALED, NOW REVEALED,
FLOAT OR SINK AS YOU MAY; ACCORDING TO YOUR LOT,
EAT WHEN HUNGRY, DRINK WHEN THIRST.
SPIRIT CALM, SERNE, EVER TRANQUI L, ONE MAY SIT OR
RECLINE, SING OR HM.
THE AUTUMN WATR IN ONE POND I S BLUE AND DEEP;
WHEN THE WIND BLOWS , DO NOT BE STARTLED, LET IT
BE AS IT I S .
The overal l meaning of this poem is i n the l i nes " Spirit calm, serene ,
ever tranqui l , one may sit or recl i ne , sing or hum. " Once the spirit is
calm, good and bad, prosperity and decline , dark and light , obscuri ty
and prominence , foating and sinking, do not enter the mind; passing
the days according to ci rcumstances , you si t and recline , sing and hum,
untrammel ed, free , without thought or worry, l i ke the autumn water in a
pond, bl ue and deep, wi thout waves even when there is wi nd-what fear
is there of vexation or upset ?
NO NEED TO TRY TO ANNIHILATE OBJECTS ; ENLIGHTENMENT
IS AN ARTIFICIAL DEFINITION.
MATTER AND VOIDNESS , LI GHT AND DARK, AR BASICALLY
EQUAL; STOP DIVIDING RALIT AND FALSEHOOD INTO
WHEN YOU UNDERSTAND, IT I S CALLED THE PUR LAND
-THERE IS NO MOR INDIA OR TS ' AO CH' I .
WHO SAYS PARADI SE I S THE WESTERN HEAVEN? WHEN YOU
UNDERSTAND, AMITABHA APPEARS IN THE WORLD.
The essence of enl ightenment is origi nal l y round and bright , cl ean and
naked , bare and untrammel ed, not matter, not voi d, not li ght , not dark,
not real , not false . Those who understand this attai n buddhaood on the
spot-what ' s the need to try to exti nguish feel i ngs about obj ects ? It is
because so many peopl e do not understand, that the Buddhas and bodhi
sattva provisi onal l y defned enl i ghtenment , to get peopl e to return to
the i mmedi ate by way of the gradual , so as to real i ze buddhaood.
1 8 5
Enl ightenment means the tre way, in that by returni ng from error t o
truth there is a gradual awakeni ng.
OTHERS , SELF, BEINGS , LI VES ; HOW CAN WE DIVIDE THAT
AND THIS , HI GH AND LOW?
REALITY SPONTANEOUSLY SHINES THROUGHOUT, WI TH NO
" I " OR "THEY" -ONE NEED NOT SEEK IT THOUGHT
HAS SEEING WHAT I S RIGHT EVER BEEN SEEING WHAT IS
RIGHT? HEARING WHAT IS WRONG IS NOT NECESSARILY
HEARING WHAT I S WRONG.
VARIOUS FNCTIONS HAV NEVR CONTROLLED EACH OTHER
-I LIF AND DEATH, WHO CAN HINDER YOU?
Others , self, beings , lives , that , this , high, low, I , they, seei ng, hear
ing, right , wrong-these are all atifci al characterizations . If you can
penetrate them all with shining awareness and see through them com
pletely, not being concerned with them, then l ife is a is , death is d is ,
life is all right , death is all right too; life and death present no obstacle ,
and you naturall y understand life and death.
IF YOU CULTIVAT PRACTICES AND CHARIT WHILE
DWELLING ON APPEARANCES , THE RSULTING RWARDS
WILL BE LIMITD
O CELESTIAL AND HUMAN SPHERES .
IT IS LIKE SHOOTING AN AROW UP AT
HE CLOUDS ; IT WILL
FALL, SIMPLY BECAUSE
HE FORCE COMES TO AN END.
HOW CAN THAT COMPARE TO UFABRICATED REALITY?
RETRING TO THE ORI GINAL, REVRTING TO
Y, GOING BACK TO PRI STINE PURIT,
OBJECTS FORGOTN, FEELINGS ENDED, GOING ALONG
WITH NATRAL REALITY, THERBY YOU REALIZE
ACCEPTANCE OF THE TRUTH OF NONORIGINATION.
1 86 Undentanding Reality
Forml ess form i s t re form. True form docs not come from the fri ts of
pract i ces or chari t y perormed whi l e dWel l i ng on appearances . I t comes
from reverting to pri st i ne puri ty and si mpl ici ty, forget ti ng obj ect and
endi ng feel i ngs . When you fnd the true form, every acti on , every sti l l
ness , i s natural real i ty ; you spontaneousl y attai n acceptance of t he t rth
of nonorigination. The Surangama Sutra says , "Thi s person thereupon
attains acceptance of te trth of nonorigination." A commentary on the
sutra says , "Tre suchness is caled nonorigi nation . Truth ha no contami
nation; knowledge of trth is called acceptance ."
ONCE YOU HAVE CAUGHT THE FI SH OR THE RABBIT YOU
NATURALLY FORGET THE NET AND T TP
THE RAFT TO CROSS THE RIVR, TH LADDER TO T
HEIGHTS : ONCE YOU HAVE RACHD TH GOA, THY
BEFOR YOU ARE ENLIGHTNED, YOU NEED EXPLANATONS;
AFTER ENIGHTNMENT, VRBALIZATIONS BECOME
EVN THOUGH THESE LINES BELONG TO NONCONTRIVANCE,
THEY TOO ARE TO BE SHD.
A net is a means to catch fsh; once you get the fsh, you can forget te
net . A trap is a means to catch rabbits ; when you get the rabbi t , you can
forget the trap. A raft is a means to cross a river; when you reach te
shore , you can leave the raft . A ladder is a means to climb up high; when
you reach the height you ca leave the l adder. These ae similes for words
a a means to understand principles ; when te principles are unders
one can forget the words . Though the lines about forgetting te net and
trap, abandoning the raft and l adder, are telling people to understand
true essence and fndamental l y are i n the realm of nondoing, one cannot
immediately wind matters up wit nihilistic i naction. By mere
inaction, how can one reach the state of sublime awareness of tre tus
ness ? It is necessary to shed this nondoing before one can deeply attai n
self- real i zation.
AFR ENLIGHTENMENT, DO NOT SEEK QUIESCENCE; GUIDE
THE DELUDED ACCORDING TO CONDITIONS .
WHEN VIEWS OF ANNIHILATION AND ETERNIT AR
PRSENTD, THERE AR EXPEDIENTS TO GUIDE BACK TO
FIVE EYES, THREE BODIES , FOUR KNOWLEDGES , SIX
PERFECTIONS AND MYRIAD PRACTICES CULTIVATED
ONE ORB OF ROUD LIGHT, A FINE JEWEL HELPS OTHERS
AND CAN ALSO SAV ONESELF
Buddhism considers realization of essence frst , but that does not mean
that ater enlightenment there is ten empty nothingness . It is necessary
to tae this empty essence back to reality ; only this is the tre essence of
buddhahood. Therefore the text says not to seek quiescence or extinction
after enlightenment , but to guide the deluded for the time according to
conditions . Guiding the deluded is the reason for practicing expedients
and doing good works .
The fve eyes are the cel estial eye , the eye of wisdom, the obj ective eye ,
the enlightened eye , and the physical eye . The three bodies are the pure
body of reality, the complete body of reward, and the i nnumerable
created bodies . The four knowl edges are the great round mirror knowl
edge , the knowledge of essenti al equality, the subtl y obseri ng knowl
edge , and the knowledge of practical accompl ishment . The six perec
tions are generosi ty, disci pl ine , tolerance , di l igence , meditation, and
wisdom. The myriad practices are all expedi ents and good works . The fve
eyes , three bodies , four knowledges , six perfections , and myri ad practices
simul taneously cul tivated i nwardly and outardly, the baic essence of
tre thusness becomes cl earer and clearer with refnement , l i ke a bri l l i ant
j ewel , penetrati ng obscuri ty, bringi ng the hidden to light . Helpi ng others
a wel l a oneself, i t is always useful -how could it be j ust emptiness
1 88 Un
I SEE PEOPLE THESE DAYS EXPOUNDING ESSENCE WHO JUST
BOAST OF QUICKNESS IN REPARTE;
BUT WHEN THEY MEET ACTAL SITUATIONS THEY ARE ALL
THE MORE DELUDED-HOW ARE THY ANY DIFFERNT
FROM THE I GNORANT?
WHAT I S PREACHED SHOULD BE PUT INTO PRACTICE-ONLY
THEN I S IT CALLED SPEECH AND ACTION WITHOUT
IF YOU CAN USE THE SWORD OF WISDOM TO CUT THE
JEWEL, THIS IS CALLED THE TRUE KNOWLEDGE OF THE
The important poi nt of this verse is i n the l ast l i ne . The true knowledge
of the enl ightened is all - perasive ; this is the sword of wisdom. By that
true knowledge one can get rid of error and return to t ruth, so it is called
the sword of wisdom. Because that true knowledge is round and bright ,
unobscured, ever present , i t is cal l ed a j ewel . To cut the j ewel does not
mean to obl i terate it but to t ake it i n, not al l owi ng the shining of te
l ight to operate outside . When speaking in terms of substance it is cal l ed
a j ewel , when speaki ng i n terms of functi on i t is called the sword of wis
dom. The sword of wisdom, the j ewel , and t re knowl edge are all one ,
not three thi ngs .
This true knowledge is not obtained by talking; i t can onl y be real if it
is cul tivated by personal practice . If one cannot personal l y practice i t and
onl y wants to talk about it , consi dering a qui ck wit to be insight , one will
be confused i n actual events-what wi l l be accompl ished? Therefore
when it says " If you are abl e to use the sword of wisdom to cut the j ewel ,
this is cal l ed the true knowl edge of the enl i ghtened ," onl y when the
words and acti ons are compl ete is i t real ly t rue knowl edge . Verbal quick
ness i n repartee is not t rue knowl edge .
IF YOU WANT TO UNDERSTAND THE SUBLI ME PATH OF
BI RTHLESSNESS , IT I S ALL A MAIR OF SEEI NG THE TRUE
MI ND FOR YOURSELF
THE TRUE BODY HAS NO FORM, AND NO CAUSE EITHER; THE
PURE SPIRITUAL BODY IS JUST THUS .
THIS PATH I S NOT NONBEING AND NOT BEING, NOT IN
BETEEN, NOT TO BE SOUGHT THERE EITHER.
WHEN BOTH EXTMES ARE DI SMI SSED, ABANDON THE
MIDDLE; ONCE YOU SEE IT, THI S IS CALLED SUPREME.
Once you see the true mind, this is the sublime path ; there is no need
to seek the sublime path elsewhere . The true mind is unstained, unat
tached, unperturbed, unmoved, formless and soundl ess ; this is also
called the pure spiritual body. This mind , this body, is not existent , not
nonexistent , yet both existent and nonexistent . It cannot be sought in
being, cannot be sought i n nonbeing, and cannot be found i n neither
being- nor- nonbeing. Since none of these three apply to i t , try to think
what it is . When you see this , you immediately transcend to binhlessness ;
this is called the sublime path of the supreme one vehicle .
The tre body and tre mi nd are originally one ; in terms of substance
it is called the t rue body, in terms of fnction it is called the true mind.
Substance and function ð one , body and mind forgotten , physical l y and
spiritually subl i mated, merging with the Tao in real i ty-isn' t this what
birthlessness means ?
abe"ant energy Energy produced or activated by external i nfuences , by inner
emotions , or by arbitrary conceptions . I t is called aberrant in the sense of
being condi tioned and obstrcting autonomy or preventi ng real ization of
the tre self.
absolute one The name of a god used to symbolize the unifed mi nd.
Altair and Vga Stars whose meeting symbolizes union of yin and yang.
Amitabha A Buddha representative of compassion, infni te l ight and l ife, U
the sphere of "Ultiate Bl iss " (q. v. ) .
auxJiar techniques Exercises for producing health ad bl iss .
bamboo A symbol of emptiness in the sense of emptying the mind of ordi nar
preoccupations in order to make it receptive to higher knowledge .
bathing A relaation of intensive efort in spi ritual practice , to prevent excess of
striving from resul ti ng in counterproductive impulses such 3 eagerness or
unbalanced force. The term is also used to refer to "washi ng the mind,"
which is rel ated to the former usage i n the sense that concentration is held
to also requi re "cleani ng" out mental contaminants that may be retai ned
or even exaggerated i n the efort to focus the mind on something else .
birh and death The ongoing process of material and psychic change . A com
mon Buddhist term, it is used to refer to attachments to transi ent particu
lars , with the resul ti ng subj ection to mental pressures and states caused by
a confict between the cravi ng for stability ad the actuality of evanes
cence . Hence the term is often used synonymously with bondage or sufer
birthless Obj ectivel y, this means "nonorigination," the principle that 3 al l
things are interrelated and have no independent existence in themselves ,
begi nni ngs are a matter of defnition and not of inherent real ity. Subj ec
tively, bi rhlessness means the mind is not compulsively aroused and does
not fabricate illusions .
black OX A Ch' an Buddhist term for the ignorant , unregenerate mi nd : the ox
turns "whi te" 3 the mi nd is purifed and i l l umi nated.
1 9 1
black tiger A symbol of " t rue l ead ," whi ch st ands for t he mi nd of Tao or t he pri
mal root of consci ousness .
Bodhidharma The reputed founder of Ch ' an Buddhi sm i n Chi na.
bodhisattva A Buddhi st term for an awakened person who i s consc i ousl y dedi
cated t o the total welfare of all l i vi ng bei ngs v
body of reality A Buddhist term for pure obj ecti vi ty or pure awareness .
both countMes Yi n and yang, the mundane and the cel est i al , tranqui l i t y and
buddha land The environment of ful l y awakened consciousness .
celestial and human spheres I n Buddhist terminol ogy, as used here , celestial
and human spheres refer to states of bliss and social order, consi dered a
lesser rewards of ethical and rel igi ous practices which are not thoroughl y
purged of selfshness or attachment . It shoul d be noted that " celestial "
has qui te diferent connotations in Buddhism and Taoism: in Buddhism,
it can be almost derogator, since it stands for blissful states which are con
sidered a potential hi ndrance to enl i ghtenment ; i n Taoism, it is posi tive ,
referring to the realm of enl ightened consciousness .
celestial esence The original essence of consciousness , before bei ng affected by
mundane infuences and confned wi thi n habi t .
celestial immortality A state of mental refnement in which emotional and
i ntel l ectual attachments to obj ects of the worl d, including the ego, have
been removed, and one is no longer ultimately identifed subj ectively with
the individual body or personality, so that consciousness is "spacelike"
and merged with obj ective real ity.
celestil jewel The highest state of perfection envisioned by Taoist enl ighten
center The point of balance , the state of mind before it is afected by feel ings ; it
also stands for will , sincerity, intent , and trthulness , a the hub of expe
rience . The state of balance of the celestial and the eanhly, of detachment
and involvement , of frmness and fexibility.
Chang Chien A famous traveler, used in this treatise as a symbol for yang.
Chang San-fng A faous Taoist adept of the Ming dynaty, traditionally con
sidered an inventor of the popular exercise system known as T' a Chi
cinnabar Symbol of the energy of consciousness .
cinnabar crcible The human mind.
closed room This term refers to the practice of concentration in which the
energy of awareness is not allowed to " leak" outside into distraction or
emotive eferescence .
conscious essence The essence of mind or nature of awareness .
conscious knowledge The range of awareness or data available to consciousness .
counting others ' treasures A Buddhist expression for nonpanicipatory study of
the externals of a developmental system.
crescent moon furace The mi nd of Tao; the i mage of the crescent is often used
to represent the emergence of the " l ight " of the pri mal mi nd from the
"shadow" of acqui red condi ti oni ng .
crcible The " vessel " in whi ch the " el i xi r " is " cooked ." I t is vari ous l y defned :
i t can refer to mi nd (cf. cinnabúf crcible, gold crcible) , or to the qual i
ties of frmness and fexi bi l i ty, or determi nati on and adaptabi l i t y.
cultural cooking The prac ti ce of " nonstri vi ng" or " nondoi ng," whi ch i nvolves
tranqui l preserati on of dari fed consciousness to prevent i t from scatter
i ng in di stracti on; cal ml y watchi ng over the mi nd. " Cul t ural " means gen
tle , wi thout force .
Symbol of unknowi ng: the human mi nd is said to be l i ght outside and
dark i nsi de , in that its awareness plays on obj ects and not on i nner essence ;
the mi nd of Tao is said to be dark outsi de and l ight i nsi de . i n that i t is not
fxed on externals but is aware of i nner essence . Dark can thus mean
unknowi ng in the sense of i gnorance or i n the sense of detachment .
death- impulse The force of mortal i ty, i mpermanence , decay : associated with
the dissipation of li fe energy, and wi t h habi tuation to transi ent thi ngs -
demons Obstrcti ons on the path. Accordi ng to Lu Yen in Wu Chen Pao Fa
Chiu Yu Ching, anythi ng can be the path , i ncl udi ng demons , whi l e any
thi ng can be a demon , i ndudi ng the path . There are said to be i nner
demons and outer demons ; the way to overcome them is sai d to be to
si l ence the mi nd and master thought .
Dipankara An anci ent Buddha, symbol of primordial enl ightenment .
Practi ce i nvolvi ng conscious efort and striving, such as efort to escape
the force of mental habi t so as to experi ence the origi nal mind 3nd gain
autonomy; stri vi ng to extract the pri mal energy of consciousness from
accretions of experi enti al histor.
Sense obj ects , or the realm of the ordi nary senses ; often used in a general
way to refer to the mundane world and I or the products of mental agi ta
tion arisi ng from contact wi th te world i n the absence of inner freedom.
The medi um of the j oi ni ng of the conscious human mi nd and the subcon
scious mi nd of Tao; referred to a i ntent , or wi ll . Also associated with the
" center," standi ng for si nceri ty, t ruthful ness , or fai th, as a unifyi ng force
i n the human bei ng. Note that thi s is di ferent from the I Ching sign
earth, which i s italicized i n the text of the translation.
earthen pot This term has the same meani ng as "earth," but here is represented
as a metaphysical contai ner or locus in whi ch various elements of mi nd are
concent rated and unifed . In psychosomatic Taoist yoga the "earthen pot
is assigned an actual physical location , in the regi on of the solar pl exus ,
the center of the t rnk, thi s spot bei ng used as a focus of concentrati on .
earthly soul Used i n the present text to symbol i ze real knowl edge e I t is referred
to as yang ( " soul " ) wi thi n yin ( " earth " ) because real knowl edge is pri mor
dial ( uncondi ti oned) and hence yang , but is ordi narily hi dden , hence yi n.
1 94 Glosar
east " I n the east " means wi thi n oneself.
elder water The uni fed energy of consciousness from whi ch real knowledge is
elr A general word for the energy, capaci ty, and functi on of l ife and con
sciousness : various terms such as gold el i xi r, great el i xi r, outer el i xi r, inner
el ixir, and restored el i xi r are used i n the context of different aspects or
stages of the spi ri tual " alchemy."
embronic breath An anci ent hi bernation techni que ; also refers to a state of
composure and profound t ranqui l i t y, i n whi ch the breath is i mpercepti ble
and the mi nd does not give rise to any i mpulses .
emptiness Metaphysical l y, empti ness means that phenomena are not obj ectively
just as they subj ectivel y appear to be ; practi call y speaki ng, i t refers to a
state of mi nd whi ch is not prej udiced by subj ective assessments , a state of
clari ty and di rectness . I n Taoism t his is referred to as " emptyi ng the
human mi nd."
enlivening Unifcation of mi nd, balanced combi nati on of the various elements
of mi nd in such a way that they compl ement each other and work together
harmoniously and constrcti vel y.
essence The essence or nature of mi nd .
extraction This term has several meani ngs : ( 1 ) extraction of hardness of the
mi nd of Tao; ( 2 ) extracti on of excess conscious knowledge of the human
mi nd; ( 3) extracti on of false yi n and yang. I t thus is used to mean: ( 1 )
removal of vehemence of efort associated with bypasing the human
mi nd and bri ngi ng forth the mi nd of Tao ; ( 2 ) sti l l i ng of excess i ntellectual
acti vi ty ; ( 3 ) removal of undesirable quali ties of weakness and aggression,
or other analogous extremes of pasive and active atti tudes and behavior.
I n sum, extracti on means lesseni ng or removal of qual i ties or energies
which i nhi bi t balanced development at any given poi nt in the process of
the spi ri tual alchemy.
flse feling Subjective feel ings and emotions condi tioned by physical states ,
thoughts , or external i nfuences .
false fre Vol ati l i ty, passion, i ntel lectual ly or emotional ly conditioned conscious
false nature The acqui red temperament and personal i ty formed by historical
and envi ronmental factors .
false yin and yang Extreme , isolated , or unbal anced manifestations of pas
and acti vi ty. For exapl e , weaness / force ; cowardice / aggression; quiet
ism I arbi trar action ; vaci l l ation I stubbornness .
fre Consci ousness , awareness ; also, concent ration.
fre and U'ater Conscious knowledge in the huma mi nd (fre) and real knowl
edge i n the mind of Tao (water) . These are represented by the corre
sponding I Ching trigrams :: and = = . Fire ¯ ha one yi n in the center,
representi ng the contami nant of mundane condi ti oni ng mixed into con-
sciousness . wter = has one yang in the center. representing the celestial
or pri mordial hidden inside the mundane . The standard Chi nese charac
ters for fre and water are also used to stand for anger and lust , or for spi rit
rces A general term for procedure . course of practical work; also spo
ken of in terms of specifc fring processes .
ve energies returing to the ongin A state of mental and physical collection.
used t o recover the original energy. I t is descri bed as "The body unmov
ing, the mi nd unsti rring , the nature tranquil , feel ings forgotten , the
physical elements i n harmony." It is also said to be practiced by not using
the external senses .
A Buddhist term for the rnge of potential perception available
to humans : the fesh eye . which is the ordi nary organ of sight ; the celestial
eye . which is the power of cl ai royance ; the wisdom eye . which is
the power of i ntuitive insight ; the obj ective eye , which is the power to
see things as they are in real i ty ; and the enl ightened eye , which is the
power to see both absolute and relative truth, encompasing all the other
foating clouds Thoughts , feel i ngs , obj ects ; the evanescent world.
fower pond Openness of consciousness .
fowing pear Open awareness .
four fors or four szgns Metal and wood, water and fre ; these stand for sense
and essence , vitality and spiri t . Hence combining the four forms means
unifcation of the human being, with the mi nd of Tao and the human
mind united, sense and essence j oined, and energy and consciousness
four fits A Buddhist term for stages of development culminating in individ
ual mental freedom. Various psychic powers are associated with attain
ment of these stages . The usage of the term in this text appears somewhat
four know/edges A Buddhist term for complete consciousness : the round mirror
knowledge , which means impatial awareness ; knowledge of equality,
which means insight into the relativity of all things ; obserational knowl
edge , which means discernment of paniculars ; practical knowledge, which
is application of understanding i n act ion.
frog in a wel The mind enclosed in narrow subj ective views .
furace Variousl y defned: sometimes referred to a fexi ble obedience, in the
sense of following proper procedure ; as receptivi ty, i n the sense of being
aware of the qualities of each time so a to be able to adj ust the "fring"
accordingly ; or a constant alen obseration. See also crescent moon fur
furace of evolution The inner
energy of life, kept aglow by conscious atten
tion ; also t he external world of change, used consciously for self- refne
1 96 Glossar
guld crcible The mi nd i n i t s ori gi nal , unwnt ami nat cd st at e .
gold el The pri mordi al energy of l ife ; also referred to 35 a combi nat i on of
i nnat e capaci t y and i nnat e knowl edge .
gold immortal One who has restored the ori gi nal capaci t y and energy of l i fe ,
and refned them so that they are free from contami nat i on by mundane
condi ti oni ngµ
great el The maturat ion of the spi ri tual state real i zed by uni fcati on of mi nd
and recovery of potenti al «
Great One A god used to symbol i ze unity.
Great Ultimate Primordi al uni ty of bei ng.
Great Vhicle A Buddhi st term for the overall endeavor leadi ng t o the perec
tion of both the i ndi vi dual and the communi ty.
hal of bnghtness A spot i n the brai n , used by some Taoi sts as a focus of atten-
• • ø • •
tiOn m certam concenr rauon exerCises .
Heart Scnpture The Buddhi st Prajnaparamitahrdayasutra, the shortest Bud
dhist scripture , summari zi ng the empti ness of absol ute existence .
heaVenly soul Symbol of conscious knowledge , referred to as yi n wi thi n yang, in
the sense of mundane condi ti oni ng bei ng mixed in with pri mordial con
Hsinglin A Taoist adept , disciple of Chang Po- ruan, author of Wu Chen P'ien.
Hsueh- tou An emi nent Ch' an master ( 980-1 05 2 ) , especial l y noted for his
Hui- neng The sixth patriarch of Ch' an Buddhism ( 638-7 1 3 ) .
hundred foot pole A Ch' an Buddhist term al l udi ng t o a tra'si tional state of
i nner empti ness , sti l l ness , and detachment .
increasing and decreasing Increasi ng conscious access to the mi nd of Tao,
decreasing the i nhi bi ti ng condi tioni ng of t he human mi nd.
incubation A phase of practice associated wi th " nondoing" and " bathi ng"
(q. v. ), and the " cul tural fre " : concentration may at frst be tainted wi th
eagerness , anticipation, vehemence , and so on; thus the practice of
" bathing" i n the sense of purifcation is applied, removing containation
from intense concentration in the " manial " phae . This is called " incuba
tion" i n the sense of careful l y nurturing the embronic state of initial
enl ightenment to maturi ty.
Independent Seer Name of a bodhisattva (q. v. ) in the Heart Scri pture (q. v. ).
inner el The originally inherent potenti al which has been " recovered" after
bei ng " lost " to temporal conditioning and is refned ater being
' ' returned i nsi de .' '
jackals A Buddhist term for exponents of doctri nes which hold to something rel
ative a being absol ute .
Kafyapa The name of an outstanding disciple of the founder of Buddhism, sai d
to have received the " special transmission outside the doctrine" from
which Ch' an Buddhism is supposed to derive .
Kuan-yin Chinese name of Avaloki te5vara, a Buddhist bodhisattva representi ng
the embodi ment of compassion. In the Saddharapundarkasutra, Kuan
yin is said to have thi rty- two forms , or specifc adaptations to the needs of
those ready to be l i berated . Kuan- yin is one name of the I ndependent
Seer ( q. v. ), but two names are used i n thi s text to indicate two specifc
contexts in whi ch the associations evoked are dif erent .
K' un-lun A Central Asian mountain chai n, representing: ( 1 ) west-metal - true
sense- the mind of Tao; ( 2 ) primordial unifed energy, the source of all
being. In psychosomatic meditation systems of the ' ' lesser vehicle' ' of Tao
ism, the K' un- l un al so is used as a code word for the head.
lead crucible Lead stands for real knowledge and true sense ; thus the lead crci
bl e is the receptacle of thi s knowledge , the mi nd of Tao.
leak In Buddhism, thi s term means psychological cli nging or mental contami
nation; i n Taoi sm, i t means drainage of energy.
lfe-impulse The essence of consciousness .
lion A symbol of a Buddha, parti cularly associated wi th the power of transcen
dent wisdom; the roar of the li on means the refutation of all dogmatism,
through the principle that whatever is condi tioned and dependent is
empty of i nherent real i ty.
living midnight Midnight symbol izes the state when the human mi nd and i ts
discriminatory consciousness are si l ent ; living means i t is the poi nt at
whi ch the potential of the mind of Tao is releaed . Living aso means that
properly accomplished "darkness " -cessation of the activity of the human
mental ity-i s not obl ivion, a open awareness remai ns a a channel of
access to higher experience .
martial ring Concentrated efort to master feeli ngs , get rid of delusions ,
remove acqui red condi ti oni ng, and restore the origi nal mi nd.
Master Lu Lu Yen, also known a Lu Tung-pi n, a Tang-Five Dynaties Taoist
adept , tradi ti onal l y considered an ancestor of the Complete Real i ty
schools . Regarded a a spiri tual immoral and a functionary i n the celestial
hi erarchy, Lu is believed to have retained sufci ent energy ater physical
di si ntegrat ion to be able to proj ect manifestations of himself, and is said
to have appeared repeatedl y over the centuries . Many wri t ings and sayi ngs
are attri buted to hi m.
MaJter TJ ' ui Ts ' ui Chi h- chen , a TaOisl adept said to have l i ved i n the Lat ter Han
dynat y. Hi s ju Ya Ching, a treatise on spi li îual alchemy, i s esteemed i n
t he Cmpl et e Real i t y tradi t i on .
medicinal J ubJtanceJ Essence and l i fe , C5sCncC and sense , real knowl edge and
wnsi ou<ness , i nnat <· Í ap3L i t y and knowl edge , vi t a l i t y, ener
, and s pi r i t
1 98 Glossar
are all called medici nal substances , ingredi ents of the " elixi r" of spiritual
immortal i ty.
mercur Symbol of the essence of consciousness . Also asociated with fexi bi l i ty
and wi th i nstabi l ity, the mercurial nature of the human mind ; hence it
must be stabi l i zed by combi nation with the " lead" of real knowledge of
the mind of Tao.
metal Being frm and strong, metal symbol i zes the t rue sense of real knowl
edge , whi ch is unequivocal .
metal in water Symbol of the primal root of consciousness , unifed vi tal i ty or
energy, real knowl edge in the mi nd of Tao, i nnate natural goodness . It is
referred to a yang wi thi n yi n, represented by the trigra water = = .
metal man Symbol of the mi nd of Tao.
mid-autumn The ffteenth day of the ei ghth l unar month; the ful l moon,
representing pure yang as ful l i l l umi nati on or revelation of the original
state of the mi nd of Tao.
midnight and noon Mi dnight , as the starti ng poi nt of morning, represents the
begi nni ng of activation of yang, the real knowledge of the mi nd of Tao;
noon, as t he starting point of eveni ng, represents t he begi nni ng of yin,
the conscious knowledge of the human mi nd. Mi dni ght is the mind of Tao
emerging actively, noon is the human mi nd receiving it passively ; mid
night is the beginning of transcendence , noon is the begi nni ng of reinte
grati on with the worl d.
mind- monkey The unrly mi nd, j umping from one obj ect to another.
moring and evening Active and pasive phaes of prais . Active practice is
referred to as doi ng, strivi ng, and martial fri ng. Pasive practice is referred
to a nondoing, nonstriving, and cul tural cooki ng. Hence morning and
eveni ng means breaing through the acci dental or acqui red to reach the
essential or primal , then stabi l i zi ng and presering this accompl ishment .
mysten·ous female A representation of the combi nation of yi n and yang,
fexi ble receptivity and unequivocal sense . This term, from the To T
Ching, is one of those defned i n many diferent ways . I t is sometimes
referred to as the basic mi nd , or open consciousness .
mysten·ous pass This term, one of the most i mporant i n Taoist alchemy, has
numerous defni tions . Psychosomati c medi tati on systems associate it wi th
paricul ar points i n the body, variousl y locati ng i t behind the navel and in
front of the ki dneys , between the geni tas and ki dneys , i n the umbil ical
region , on the top of the head, or on the forehead. These are considered
lower or "si detrack " systems : in the higher teachi ngs the mysterious pass
is referred to 3 t he celest i al mi nd , or the middl e , and it is also said to be
compl etel y metaphysical and to have no locati on . It is also said to be
where yi n and yang divide , where essence and l i fe abide , the lair of spiri t
and energy, found onl y i n profound abstraction. The opening of the mys
terious pass is a cri t i cal experience i n Compl ete Real i ty Taoism: descrip
tions of it resembl e those of "seeing essence" (q. v. ) i n Ch' an Buddhism.
I n sum, t he mysterious pass may be vi ewed as an orientation point in con-
centration practice : i n auxi l i ary or el ementar methods . l t l> conc ret e ,
while in advanced methods i t is abst ract .
Naga girl In the Buddhi st Saddharapundarka.rllra, a young gi rl who at t ai ned
sudden enl i ghtenment ; commonl y used to represent transcendence of
social and temporal distinctions .
natural rea fre or natural fre of realit
Spontaneous awareness wi thout con
scious efort ; equated with the "cul tural fre ." I t is cal led natural and real
because it represents the consciousness purged of artifci al i ty, the real i t y of
the original mi nd.
negattvtty Mundane conditioning, bondage to thi ngs of the world .
ninefold restoration Restoration of the origi nal celestial mi nd, freed from bond
age to accumulated habit and acqui red personal i ty.
nine heavens Ni ne is the number of yang: thus ni ne heavens stands for pure
yang, which is the celestial , unconditioned, primal state .
nine- restored gold liquid Purifed real knowledge .
nine transmutations Transmutation of conscious energy into the celestial puri
fed state , represented by the number ni ne, which stands for yang.
nine years Some presentations of Taoist practice speak of " ni ne years facing a
wall ," a stage entered into after stabili zation of consciousness , devoted to
becomi ng toroughly immune to the infuences of obj ects and feeli ngs .
nonleaking I n Buddhism, this term signifes freedom from mental contami na
tion; in Taoism, it means that energy is not wasted.
nonongination See birthless.
other This term may be used to mean 3 enl ightened teacher, whose perspective
is beyond the scope of self-centered subj ectivity; it is also used to refer to
everything outside oneself, from which one 's " investment " of concer
energ needs to be recovered in order to gain autonomy. In sexual yoga i t
is used to refer to one's partner.
other shore A Buddhist term for consummation, attainment , and transcen
outer el This term may be used to refer to minera or vegetable potions , or to
the energ-circulation exercise known as the waterheel . I n the present
commentary, "outer" i s taen to refer to t he condition of something vital
in oneself being " lost ," a it were , by becoming bound up in external
outer furace This term refers t o the use of action i n te world a a means of
self- refnement .
pearl in the poor one 's clothes An allusion to an al legor in the Buddhist Sad
dharpundarkasutra: a benefactor sews a pearl into the clothes of 3
drunken sleeper. Unaware of this , the latter lives a life of poverty and
hardship unti l he meets the benefactor agai n and ha the hidden pearl
pointed out to hi m. Discovering the pearl , he becomes wealthy. The pearl
symboli zes the buddha- nature . the potenti al of enl i ghtenment , said to be
hi dden beneath the " cl othing" of acqui red condi ti oni ng.
hantasmic body The physical body, called phantamic because i t lacks perma-
nent real i ty.
polar energies Yi n and yang.
positive Yang, as that which is " celesti al ," uncondi ti oned, pri mal .
Power of To The To T Ching¿ one of the most widely read cl assics of Taoism.
punishment and reward Punishment is " repel l i ng yin ," getti ng rid of mundane
conditioning. Repel l i ng yin to the poi nt of bal ance , bei ng i n the world yet
not bei ng controlled by thi ngs of the worl d, is symbolized by the autumn
equi nox , and by punishment and death. Reward is the emergence of the
uncondi ti oned primal mi nd; the spring equi nox represents emergence to
the poi nt of balance . being free yet remai ni ng in the world vol untarily.
quicksrlver Another term for mercury, symbol i zi ng the conscious knowledge in
the human mi nd .
quietism The habi t of taking quietude or detachment as an end rather than a
means ; this is di agnosed as a mi sunderstanding and an illness in both
Ch' an Buddhism and Compl ete Reality Taoism.
reality body The original unifed essence of the human being.
reality eye A Buddhi st term for obj ective awareness without distorting proj ec
tions on the part of the obserer.
realm of dust The realm of the senses ; the ordi nar world.
recognizing a thief as your chtld A Ch' an Buddhi st expression meaning to mis
take the condi tioned portion of the mi nd a the true mi nd, or to tae
function for essence.
retur Recovery of the origi nal mi nd.
River Diagram An ancient di agra of cosmology baed on the fve el ements .
sane energy Energy whi ch is not i nfuenced by external obj ects or by subj ective
thoughts and feeli ngs .
steing essence A Ch ' an Buddhist term for di rect experience of the original mind
wi thout the i nterenti on of conceptual i zation .
sevenfold reveîsion Seven is associated wi th yang and fre , and fre with con
sci ousness : sevenfold reversi on , or seven- reversion , is a term for restoration
of consci ousness to real i t y, removal of subjecti ve distorti ons .
seven- reverted cinnabaf St abi l ized consci ousness , restored to its pri mal state .
Shakyamuni Epi thet of the founder of Buddhism.
shutting the coccyx I n sexual yoga, contracti on of peri neal muscl es to stop the
fow of semen and prevent ej acul ation in the male is felt as pressure in the
coccyx , one of the cri t i cal poi nts on whi ch attenti on is focused i n the
waterheel exercise .
side/ruck mtlhodr Auxi l i ary techniques of l i mi ted scope . obsession with whi ch
di verts the prac t i t ioner and i nhi bi t s ful l development of human pot ential .
signlesness A Buddhist term meani ng that thi ngs in real i ty are not identi cal î O
the descriptions projected on t hem by t he mi nd which conceives of them.
stver A symbol of real knowl edge .
siver within water Real knowl edge concealed by temporal condi t i oning .
si perfections Six modes of pract ice recommended in Buddhi sm for si mul t ane
ousl y developing oneself and benefti ng others .
.i psychic powers Capaci ties bel ieved in Buddhi sm to be released in the process
of l i berati on of the mi nd : cl airoyance , cl ai raudience , total recal l , mental
telepathy, psychic t ravel , and abi l i ty to terminate al l contami nation in the
spin't of discn'mination The conceptuali zi ng mi nd.
spin'tua body The basi c essence of consciousness .
spin'tual spruts The i nci pi ent activation of the l iving, creative potenti al of the
origi nal mi nd.
suchness A Buddhist term used to refer to obj ective real i ty and to the purifed
urangama Sutra A Buddhist scripture especially favored by Ch ' an Buddhists
and Complete Reality Taoists since the Sung dynaty.
swalowing saliva A common Taoist hygiene practice for vi ti ating poisons natu
ral l y occurring i n food.
three bases Heaven, humani ty, and earh : also asociated with spirit , energy,
and vitality, which are called the upper, middle, and lower bases . These
are consi dered fundaental elements of the macrocosm and microcosm.
three bodies I n Taoist usage , this term refers to the " real origi nal body," corre
sponding to youth, the "strong body," corresponding to maturity, and the
" decl i ning body," corresponding to old age . I n Buddhist usage (written
diferentl y i n Chi nese but ordi nari ly translated the same in English) , the
term refers to three apects of the compl eted human being, corresponding
to the physical presence and actions , the psychic presence of knowledge
and bl iss , and the most subtle presence of essence .
three components Heaven , earth , and humankind.
felds Three " felds of el ii r" corresponding to the vitality, energy, and
spirit . I n psychosomatic exercises , these felds are assigned physical loca
tions in the lower trnk, midtrnk, and head.
three fowers gathered on the peak In psychosomatic Taoist practice , this refers
to t he uni ty of vi tal ity, energy, and spirit in the upper feld of el ixi r. In the
present commentar it is used fgurativel y for a state of real i zation.
three realms A Buddhist term for three domains of mundane experience : the
real m of desire , in which emotions are involved; the realm of form, purel y
aesthetic and i ntel lectual , without emotion; and the formles realm, wi th
out desire , concept , or any son of concrete form.
three vermin Consumpt ive or degenerati ve forces represented as vermi n or para
si tes anci ent l y sai d to be i n the t hree fel ds of el i xi r and to eventual l y cause
death ; thus they represent di ssi pati on of vi tal i ty, energy, and spi ri t .
thusness Suchness (q. v. ); bei ng as i s, without the i mposi ti on of artifcial defni -
ti ons ; also called true thusness .
Tnple Anúlogue San Hsiang Lei, a Taoist cl asic of the Latter Han dynaty.
tnple word The total i ty of the three realms (q. v. ) .
tre emptines A Buddhist term for pure potential , called " empty " because of
absence of l i mi tations , i nconceivabi l i ty, ungraspability, and openness .
tre lead Symbol of real knowledge and pri mordi al energy.
tre seed Real knowledge ; same as tre l ead .
Ts 'ao Ch 'i The pl ace where Hui - neng, the sixth Ch' an Buddhi st patriarch,
taught in southern Chi na; hence general l y associated with Ch' an .
Tzu- hsien A Taoist adept i n the thi rd generation of the southern school of Com
pl ete Real i ty Taoism, disciple of Hsing- lin (q. v. ) .
Ultimate Blis A Buddhist paradi se , said to be a realm free from the obstruc
tions to enl ightenment ordi nari l y encountered on earth; in Ch' an Bud
dhism i t i s said to be wi thi n oneself.
unminding A Ch' an Buddhist term for i nner freedom and equanimi ty.
valey spin't A symbol of open awareness .
war Inner struggle against the compulsive force of personality and habit .
water of celestial unity In anci ent cosmology the el ement of water wa asociated
with the sky and the number one; this is used in alchemy as a symbol for
the primal uni ty of being.
waves Mental disturbance .
Uster Heaven The " pure l and" of Ul timate Bl iss (q. v. ), nomi nal l y said to be
in the west , esoterical l y said to be i n onesel.
wzld fox A Ch ' an term for an aberrated practitioner.
wind External infuences .
wind and thunder at midnight Disturbance taing place at the critical j uncture
where the human mi nd quiesces and the mi nd of Tao emerges .
winter solstice The poi nt of quiescence of the habi t - ridden human mentality
and emergence of the mind of Tao ; equivalent to mi dni ght .
wood and metal Symbols of essence and sense .
yelow female Tre i ntent , or trthful ness , the medi um or "go- beteen"
through whose agency yi n and yang are uni ted.
yelow path The " mi ddle way " or " center" (q. v. ), stading for bal ance.
yelow sprouts The emergence of the " l iving potentia," or original energy of
l ife , as it becomes freed from preemptive habit .
Yuan- tu- tzu A Taoi st adept in the sixth generation of the northern branch of
the Compl ete Real i ty school , teacher of the faous expositor Shang- yang
For an extensive bi bl iography of works on Taoism and alchemy, see Joseph
Needham' s Science and Civiization in China, 5 vols . ( Cambridge Universi ty
For studies of Chang Po-tuan and his successors , including a translation of the
Wu Chen P'ien from the point of view of chemistry, see the works of Tenney Davis
in Prceedings of the Amencan Academy of Arts and Sciences 7 3 ( 1 939-0) , and
joural of Chemical Education 16 ( 1 939) .
For obserations of contemporary Taoism in Taiwan, see the works of M. R.
Sao; for historical and anthropological studies , see the works of H. Mapero and
For recent Chinese bi bliographical and historical studies , see Ch' en Kuo-fu 's
To Tsang Yuan Liu K'ao ( Hsiang Sheng Publishing Co. , Taiwan , 1 97 5 ) and
Ch' en Yuan-an' s Nan Sung Ch ' u Hopei Hsin To- chiao K'ao ( Hsin Wen Feng
Publishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 976) .
For information on Taoist meditation in contemporary Taiwan, see Li Lo-ch' i u's
Fang To Yu Lu (Chen Shan Mei Publ ishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 965 ) .
The works of Liu 1- ming may be found i n To Shu Shih Er Chung ( Hsin Wen
Feng Publishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 982 ) .
Other commentaries on the Wu Chen P'ien may be found i n volume 1 4 of To
Tsang Chi Wo ( Hsin Wen Feng Publ ishing Co. , Taiwan , 1 976) .
A useful compendium of Complete Reali ty Taoist lore may be found i n Chung
Ho Chi, which is in volume 1 7 of To Tsang Chi Wo, and in volume 2 of To
Tung T Ch ' eng ( Hsin Wen Feng Publishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 974) .
I nformation on the l ife of Chang Po- tuan may be found i n Hsuan Men Pi Tu
(Tzu Yu Publ ishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 965 ) , and i n Li Ti Shen Hsien Shih ( Hsin Wen
Feng Publ ishing Co. , Taiwan, 1 978) .
Some information on Toist alchemical terminology may be found i n Tai Yuan
ch ' ang's Hsien Hsueh Tzu Tien (Chen Shan Mei Publ ishing Co. , Taiwan , 1 96 1 ) ;
somewhat less speci al ized is Li Shu- huan' s To Chiao Tzu Tien (T' ien Tao Com
pany, Hong Kong, 1 980) .
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