You are on page 1of 46

Wang Mu FOUNDATIONS OF INTERNAL ALCHEMY The Taoist Practice of Neidan

Part 1 Introduction

Part 1: Introduction The Basis: Essence and Spirit

Introduction
The Awakening to Reality (Wuzhen pian) was written by Zhang Boduan around 1075 Contains the orthodox transmission of Taoist Neidan Has been valued within all the Three Teachings (Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism) Other works by (or attributed to) Zhang Boduan focus on the initial stage of the Neidan practice 1. Secret Text of Green Florescence (Qinghua biwen) 2. Four Hundred Words on the Golden Elixir (Jindan sibai zi) 3. Book of the Eight Vessels (Bamai jing)

Part 1: Introduction The Basis: Essence and Spirit

Nature (Xing) and Life (Ming)


In general, the cultivation of Ming (Life) should precede the cultivation of Xing (Nature) Therefore doing (youwei) should precede non-doing (wuwei) However, the priority of Xing or Ming depends on the stage of the practice 1. First stage (Laying the foundations): Dual cultivation of Xing and Ming 2. Second stage (Rening Essence to transmute it into Breath): Emphasis on Ming 3. Third stage (Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit): Emphasis on Xing 4. Fourth stage (Rening Spirit to return to Emptiness): One works only on Xing

Part 1: Introduction The Basis: Essence and Spirit

Imagery and Language


The Awakening to Reality cannot be studied on the basis of the supercial meanings of its words The large variety of terms used in the alchemical texts serves to intentionally conceal the true teachings The most important points are not committed to writing They are handed down in person from master to disciple Despite their obscure language, the Neidan texts simply take Essence, Breath, and Spirit as the foundation Essence, Breath, and Spirit are transmuted by means of the practice They coagulate in the Cinnabar Field, and form the Elixir

Part 2 Stages of the Alchemical Practice in Awakening to Reality

The Four Stages

Part 2: Stages The Four Stages

The Four Stages


The alchemical practice is generally divided into 4 stages: 1. Laying the foundations

Replenishes Original Essence, Original Breath, and Original Spirit within the body Generates a Breath made of the union of Original Essence and Breath Generates a Spirit made of the union of Original Essence, Breath, and Spirit By rening Spirit one attains Emptiness and Non-Being

2. Rening Essence to transmute it into Breath 3. Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit 4. Rening Spirit to return to Emptiness

10

1: Laying the Foundations

11

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations

Introduction
At the beginning of the Neidan practice, one should replenish the basic constituents of the body The basic constituents are Original Essence, Original Breath, and Original Spirit These are the Three Treasures (sanbao ) When the Neidan texts speak of rening the Elixir, they mean rening the Three Treasures Two main tasks at this stage 1. Preserving the state of Essence and Breath 2. Replenishing their shortage

12

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations

Superior Virtue and Inferior Virtue


Superior virtue (shangde) refers to childhood and young age

Spirit and Breath are abundant There is no need to perform any practice to build the foundation Essence, Breath, and Spirit are consumed and should be replenished One should rene oneself using the practice of laying the foundations

Inferior virtue (xiade) refers to adulthood and old age

13

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations

Essence, Breath, Spirit (jing , qi , shen )


Essence, Breath, and Spirit are a single entity they are not individual substances From the point of view of the practice, however, they are distinguished and ranked according to their importance Zhang Boduan establishes 5 levels: 1. Heart (xin) 2. Spirit (shen) 3. Breath (qi) 4. Essence (jing) 5. Intention (yi) These 5 levels actually consist of the three families of Essence, Breath, and Spirit

14

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations Main Points

The Opening (qiao )


The rst step of the practice is guarding the Opening (shouqiao) Different views of the One Opening of the Mysterious Barrier (xuanguan yiqiao) 1. It is the ancestral opening (zuqiao) between the eyebrows 2. It is the Cavity of the Yellow Court (huangting xue) above the navel 3. It is the lower Cinnabar Field (dantian) behind the navel 4. Is has no denite location Actually guarding the Opening has different meanings according to the three main stages of the practice 1. At the rst stage, one guards the lower Cinnabar Field 2. At the second stage, one guards the middle Cinnabar Field 3. At the third stage, one guards the upper Cinnabar Field

15

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations Main Points

The Vessels (mai )


The second step of the practice is clearing the barriers (tongguan) The human body contains twelve ordinary channels (zhengjing) and eight extraordinary channels (qijing), or vessels Among the Eight Vessels (bamai), the Function and the Control vessels (dumai and renmai) are the most important The Function vessel is in the front of the body The Control vessel is in the back of the body They should be cleared in order to allow Breath to circulate and to open a path for the upcoming rening of the Medicine When the Function and Control vessels have been cleared, the six other vessels are also progressively cleared

16

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations Main Points

The Vessels (mai )

The Function vessel (dumai, right) and the Control vessel (renmai, left)
17

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations Main Points

The Three Barriers (sanguan )


At the stage of Laying the Foundations, one practices the circulation of Breath along the Control and the Function vessels In the ascending path along the Control vessel, three points are arduous to overcome 1. The Barrier of the Caudal Funnel (weil), in the lowest section of the spine 2. The Barrier of the Spinal Handle (jiaji), in the back, across from the heart 3. The Barrier of the Jade Pillow (yuzhen), behind the head, across from the mouth When the circulation of Breath reaches these three points, one frequently encounters obstructions that make it hard to pass through

18

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations The Functions of Essence, Breath, and Spirit

Spirit (shen )
The whole Neidan process is ruled by Spirit Spirit is stored within the Heart Its movement in non-doing is called Original Spirit (yuanshen) Its movement in doing is called cognitive spirit (shishen) One should perform practices to eliminate the impure thoughts 1. Collecting the mind (shouxin) 2. Guarding Unity (shouyi) 3. Ceasing thoughts (zhinian) 4. Entering the state of quiescence (rujing)

19

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations The Functions of Essence, Breath, and Spirit

Breath (qi )
In Neidan, Breath involves both the breath of respiration and the precelestial Breath, or internal Breath (neiqi) At the beginning of the practice, one performs the ordinary breathing In the next stage, the inhaled breath rises along the Control vessel (dumai) and the exhaled breath descends along the Function vessel (renmai) An an even more advanced stage, one does not rely on inhaling and exhaling The spontaneous circulation of the internal Breath is called circulation of the hidden Breath (qianqi yunxing) This is also known as the embryonic breathing (taixi)

20

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations The Functions of Essence, Breath, and Spirit

Essence (jing )
In Neidan, the terms Essence, Breath, and Spirit are used in different ways compared to the medical texts The Neidan texts speak of two types of Essence 1. Original Essence (yuanjing) or precelestial Essence (xiantian jing) 2. Postcelestial essence (houtian jing) or essence of the intercourse (jiaogan jing, i.e., semen) The Essence is the mother of the Elixir (danmu)

When it is damaged, it causes weakening and aging When it is restored, it can lead to a long life Therefore Zhang Boduan uses the expression true seed (zhen zhongzi)

The essence of the postcelestial state cannot generate the Elixir

21

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations The Coagulation of the Three Treasures

Rening (lian

The term rening derives from Waidan (External Alchemy) In Waidan, the ingredients are rened by re In Neidan, the Essence (jing) is rened by the Spirit (shen) In Neidan, therefore, Spirit is represented by Fire, and Essence is represented by Water At the initial stage, rening involves both Xing (Nature) and Ming (Life)

22

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations The Coagulation of the Three Treasures

Harmonization (tiao )

The word harmonization has three meanings in Neidan

1. Harmonizing the Spirit (tiaoshen)

The Spirit is related to the eyes By looking inwardly, the Spirit is collected within This is called circulating the light and inverting the radiance (huiguang fanzhao), cessation and contemplation (zhiguan), or inner observation (neishi) Inhaling and exhaling through the nose Breathing should be subtle and long-drawn, continuous and uninterrupted Original Essence is harmonized by not wasting ones material essence

2. Harmonizing the breathing (tiaoxi)

3. Harmonizing the Essence (tiaojing)

23

Part 2: Stages 1: Laying the Foundations Conclusion

Conclusion of the Stage of Laying the Foundations


Laying the Foundations actualizes the inherent life force of the body It applies the natural, spontaneous potential of the human being When Essence is abundant, when Breath is full, and when Spirit is ourishing, they are called the three wholes (sanquan)

24

2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

25

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

Introduction
Rening Essence to transmute it into Breath is the rst level after Laying the foundations This stage of the practice is also called the Barrier of the Hundred Days (bairi guan) This is only a conventional term It does not mean that this stage of the practice requires 100 days

26

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

The Medicine (yao )


According to the stages of the alchemical practice, the Medicine is divided into three types 1. External Medicine (waiyao) The result of the stage of Rening Essence to transmute it into Breath It is then submitted to 300 cycles of rening 2. Internal Medicine (neiyao) Obtained during the stage of Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit Generated by the joining of Original Breath and Original Spirit 3. Great Medicine (dayao) The result of the stage of Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit Generated by the joining of the External and the Internal Medicines

27

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

Transmutation (hua )
Essence, Breath, and Spirit coagulate with one another and form the Medicine The practice of harmonization allows the Essence to collect itself and produce the mother of the Elixir (danmu) Through further sublimation, the mother of the Elixir becomes the material foundation of ones inner renement This is called transmutation

28

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

The River Chariot (heche )


The River Chariot is the route dened by the Function and the Control vessels At the stage of Rening Essence to transmute it into Spirit, this route is called the Lesser Celestial Circuit (xiao zhoutian) The practice consists in the circulation of the Yin and Yang Breaths along this route

29

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

The Fire Times (huohou )


In Neidan, Fire is a metaphor of Original Spirit When Original Spirit coalesces with Essence and Breath, they circulate along the Function and Control vessels As they begin to circulate, they are heated by means of the Fire Times (huohou) These are stages of advancement and withdrawal, slow and fast pace, and ascent and descent in the circulation of the External Medicine The transmission of the Fire Times from master to disciple occurs only by means of oral instructions The fast movement is called erce re (or martial re, wuhuo) The slow movement is called gentle re (or civil re, wenhuo) To collect the Medicine, one uses the erce re To heat and rene the Medicine, one uses the gentle re
30

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

Tripod and Stove (dinglu )


The terms tripod and stove derive from Waidan (External Alchemy) They represent the places where the Golden Elixir is rened The tripod is in the upper Cinnabar Field The stove is in the lower Cinnabar Field In the circulation of the River Chariot, the External Medicine rises to the Muddy Pellet, then descends and coagulates in the earthenware crucible (tufu) In other words, it rises along the Control vessel and reaches the upper Cinnabar Field, then descends along the Function vessel and enters the lower Cinnabar Field This stage of the alchemical practice is called the Great Tripod and Stove (da dinglu)

31

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

Collecting, Sealing, Rening, and Extinguishing (cai , feng , lian , zhi )


The terms collecting, sealing, rening, and extinguishing describe the completion of the process of Rening Essence and transmuting it into Breath They are called the four oral instructions (si koujue) Collection, sealing, and rening constitute a series of methods of doing (youwei) After 300 cycles of rening, a Yang radiance (yangguang) appears before ones eyes When it appears twice, the Fire must be extinguished At that time, one enters the state of non-doing (wuwei)

32

Part 2: Stages 2: Rening Essence to Transmute it into Breath

Conclusion
Laying the foundations and Rening Essence and transmuting it into Breath constitute together the rst part of the Neidan practice When they are completed, one can proceed to the higher stages of the practice

33

3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

34

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

Introduction
Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit is also called Barrier of the Ten Months (shiyue guan) The Barrier of the Ten Months uses the metaphor of the 10-month pregnancy

35

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

The Great Medicine (dayao )


Between the stages of Rening Essence to transmute it into Breath and Rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit there is an intermediate stage At this intermediate stage, the Internal Medicine and the External Medicine coalesce together in the lower Cinnabar Field and form the Great Medicine (dayao) After a further rening of 7 days, it forms the Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai)

The 7-day rening is called entering the enclosure (ruhuan) The Embryo of Sainthood is also called the Infant (yinger)

36

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

The Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai )


The Embryo of Sainthood is generated when Essence, Breath, and Spirit coagulate and coalesce one with the other According to Liu Yiming, it also called the Infant (yinger), the One Breath prior to Heaven (xiantian yiqi), and the Golden Elixir (jindan) As described by Wu Shouyang, it is the return of Spirit to the state of great stability (dading) The Neidan masters speak of pregnancy in the middle Cinnabar Field This should not be understood in a literal way

37

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

The Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai )

Generation of the Embryo Source: Xingming guizhi (Principles of Balanced Cultivation of Nature and Life)

38

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

Bathing at the Four Cardinal Points (sizheng muyu )


The four cardinal points (sizheng) refer to the four spatiotemporal markers Zi , Wu , Mao , and You Zi, Wu, Mao, and You serve to mark the practice of bathing (muyu) This term has different meanings according to the stage of the practice In the Lesser Celestial Circuit, bathing consists in pausing Breath at the positions of Mao and You. In the Greater Celestial Circuit, bathing consists in washing the mind and cleansing the thoughts, observing subtle silence and brightness with the eyes, and preventing the mind from wandering around and becoming unstable

39

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

The Greater Celestial Circuit (da zhoutian )


Seven days after the Great Medicine has been obtained, one enters the stage of rening Breath to transmute it into Spirit In the Lesser Celestial Circuit, the External Medicine is collected and is moved to the lower Cinnabar Field by means of the River Chariot It passes through the tripod above (the Palace of the Muddy Pellet), reaches the stove below (the Cinnabar Field), and is sealed there in order to be preserved In the Greater Celestial Circuit, instead, the tripod is moved below: now the Yellow Court is the tripod, and the lower Cinnabar Field is the stove This is the practice of entering stability (ruding) One proceeds from doing (youwei) to non-doing (wuwei)

40

Part 2: Stages 3: Rening Breath to Transmute it into Spirit

The True Zi Hour (zheng zishi )


The Zi hour usually denoted the time between 11 PM and 1 AM In Neidan, however, Zi hour is a code name to mean the time of the rening of the Medicine It is unrelated to time Denotes a state or a condition It is a sign that the Great Medicine has been completed

41

4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

42

Part 2: Stages 4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

Introduction
This stage is also called the Barrier of the Nine Years (jiunian guan) Nine years does not refer to the time required to achieve the Great Elixir It alludes, instead, to the story of Bodhidharma who sat facing a wall for 9 years This story is a metaphor for the stage in which one enters the practice of Xing (Inner Nature) The alchemical practice emphasizes the backward process of inverting the course (nixing) Reverting to Emptiness and Non-Being is equivalent to returning to the Dao

43

Part 2: Stages 4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

Zhang Boduan and Buddhism


Zhang Boduan describes the fourth stage of the Neidan practice using Buddhist principles to explicate the return to Emptiness In particular, he explains the meaning of returning to Emptiness by means of the Buddhist idea of the true enlightened Nature He was well-versed in the principles of the Three Teachings, and was extremely learned However, he was ultimately a master of the Taoist Golden Elixir, and did not convert to Buddhism

44

Part 2: Stages 4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

Returning to Emptiness
The Infant is moved from the lower to the middle Cinnabar Field It is further rened and nourished Then it is moved from the middle to the upper Cinnabar Field This is called moving the embryo (yitai) Finally one obtains the Yang Spirit, which exits from the Gate of Heaven (tianmen) This is called delivery of the embryo (chutai) As one dwells in constant stability and constant silence, the four elements return to emptiness, and one escapes from the cycle of birth and death This view of the return to Emptiness is the same as the view of Chan Buddhism Therefore the nal state of realization is the same in both teachings

45

Part 2: Stages 4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

Returning to Emptiness

Delivery of the Infant Source: Xingming guizhi (Principles of Balanced Cultivation of Nature and Life)

46

Part 2: Stages 4: Rening Spirit to Return to Emptiness

Body and Spirit


Zhang Boduan belongs to the Taoist alchemical tradition, and his approach to the question of form and spirit differs from Buddhism The goal of Buddhist self-cultivation is crossing to the other shore, undergoing reincarnation, and obtaining ultimate bliss through rebirth The corporeal frame is seen as a temporary lodge Taoism, instead, maintains that form and spirit should be in agreement with one another

47