Under appreciated Internal Alchemy of the Tang dynasty, part two: Taishang Laojun Ri yong Nei Ri Yong Miao Jing

In this second part of the series on under appreciated Internal Alchemy documents of the Tang dynasty we will look at the Tai Shang Daily Practice Internal Subtlety Classic. The text is attributed to Lao Dan, a legendary hermit of the Zhou dynasty period. This text is written in a Tang dynasty style and discusses early concepts in the concept of internal alchemy meditation. The genuine author of the article is unknown, but it has been included within the Daoist Canon and is used by many practitioners of internal alchemy and Quanzhen Daoism.
Below we present the entire document.

The use of daily practice is in controlling the proclivity to eat and drink,
禁口独坐,莫起一念,万事俱忘,存神定意,口唇相粘,牙齿相著,眼不视物,耳不听声,一心内守,调息绵绵,微微轻出,似有如无,莫教 间断,自然心火下降,肾水上升,口内泔津自生,灵真付体,自知长生之路。十二时辰,常要清静。灵台无物为之清,一念不起为之静。
Close the mouth and sit alone, don’t allow one thought to arise, all events are completely forgotten. Contain the spirit and stabilize your intention, close the lips and align them together, allow the teeth to line up and come into contact with each other. The eyes don’t look at anything, the ears don’t listen to any sound, one mind is contained within. Gradually adjust the breath. Subtle and light, let it go, it is like everything is nothing, there is no teaching and space is broken. Naturally allow the mind to descend, the kidney water will fly up. The mouth will naturally produce sweet saliva, the spirit will naturally animate the body and you will know the road of longevity. For all twelve times of the day and night, you must always maintain clarity and quiet, the spiritual platform has the clarity of no nature, one thought does not arise in the silence.
The body is the home of Qi, the mind is the residence of consciousness.
The intention moves and the spirit moves, the spirit moves and the Qi is scattered. The intention rests and the spirit rests, the spirit rests and the Qi is full.
The true Qi of the five elements comes together and cuts the pill, naturally there is a sound in the centre of the body. Walking, resting, seated or lying down, it forever seems as though the body moves like the wind, the inside of the stomach is like the howl of thunder.
冲和气透,醍醐灌顶, 自饮刀圭,耳听仙音。
Rushing through, the Qi harmoniously passes, the refined substance floods the peak. Drink your jade pill, and hear the music of the immortals.
The music with no strings, with no stroke it sounds by itself, with no drum it howls.
The spirit and qi collect in each other, as if a man is pregnant with a child, achieving the act of looking at your internal environment, the spirit speaks its own language, it is the home of void emptiness, and comes together with the resting place of the sages, cultivating the nine turnings, collecting and transforming the great elixir.
神自出 入,与天地齐年,日月同明,脱离生灭矣。
The spirit comes and goes by itself, and meets with heaven and earth, being equal with their years. The sun and moon come together in clarity, and you can leave behind life and death.
If you don’t study every day you will begin to lose it. For all twelve times of the day and night you should remain in clarity and quiet. The qi is the mother of the spirit, the spirit is the child of the qi. It is like the chicken holding her egg, and the real secret is the contain the spirit and cultivate the qi, then you will not leave its subtlety.
玄之又玄。 人身中有七宝,事为富国安民,精炁盈满也。精是水银,血是黄金,炁是美玉,髓是水晶,脑是灵砂,肾是砗磲,心是珊瑚。此是七宝,归身不散,炼就大药,万神 尽登仙矣
the mystery contains mystery. People’s bodies have seven treasures that can be used to make a rich nation and peaceful people, their Jing and Qi robust and full.
Jing is the silver needle in water, blood is yellow gold, qi is the beautiful jade, marrow is the water crystal, the brain is the spirit sand, the kidneys are the ocean clam, the mind is the choral reef. These are the seven treasures, they return to the body and are not scattered, cultivating them can build the great medicine, the myriad spirits exhausted and rise to immortality.

Under appreciated Tang dynasty masters of internal elixir, part one: Zhang Guo

This ongoing series of short pieces is meant to highlight writers and documents in the internal alchemy meditation genre who have not had much exposure in the English language discussion of Daoism. Many of this masters left behind ideas about practice which were seminal in the construction of what would become the internal elixir school’s of the Southern and Northern lineages, which together are seen to be the genuine origin from which all Nei Dan takes its root from. Although early writings about internal alchemy are often terse and less perfectly organized than later instantiations of the school, it is important to recognize that the key precepts of the practice have roots that trace back to the earliest schools of Daoism, and that in order to understand classical nei dan, we should look at more primitive forms of the art to serve as a means to understand how the theory was established.
The most popular Tang dynasty writer in the school was Lu Dongbin, but other authors, some well known, and some who remained anonymous also contributed hugely to the development of Daoist meditation practices.

In this post we will look at Zhang Guo, who was a Tang dynasty priest whose dates are unknown. Aside from making a highly detailed commentary on the Jade Emperor Hidden Talisman Classic, he also wrote his own document called Tai Shang Discusses Nine Points of The Subtle Heart Inscription. This document sets out to categorize what Zhang felt were the nine major points which must be mastered in order to achieve internal alchemy and become immortal.
Below is a selection from the document, featuring the entire first point, which is based on the theory of “Real oneness.”

On the topic of the real one:
full and without contamination is what is called real,
vast and long lasting is called one.
Thus spake Taishang: the heaven’s grasping oneness makes the sun, moon, and stars, and constellations, forever clear. The earth grasped as one makes the pearls, jade, and treasures forever quiet. People grasped as one means the spirit, breath and essence are forever stored.
一者,本也,本乃道之体,道 本无体,强名曰体。
One is the root, the root is the body of the Dao, the Dao’s root has no body, so the strongest name available is spoken as body.
The body of that which has a body is not the real body, the body without a body is that which may be used daily with no deficit,
The real body is the real one, real thus relates to people’s spirits, one is people’s breath.
长以神抱于气,气抱于神,神气相抱,固于气 海,造化神龟,乃人之命也。
Maintaining the spirit holding the breath and the breath holding the spirit, the spirit and breath holding one another, the core will be in the ocean of energy (lower Dantian area), natural change will be born of the spiritual turtle, which is thus called the life of humanity.
The spirit is thus the nature of humanity, nature is the red snake of the south, life is thus the black turtle of the north, the turtle and the snake wind around one another, and the two energies are swallowed into one another, they rise and penetrate as one Qi, travelling around from top to bottom, without anywhere that is not connected. The real holds the original, that is protected as the one Dao.

For those familiar with Zhang ziyang’s Song dynasty book “Understanding Reality” you will see that this document sets out many of the key precepts of meditation that is discussed there. Just as religious and philosophical documents such as the Clarity and Quiet classic and Numinous Treasure Classic are essential to understanding Daoism, so are early documents such as this one by Zhang Guo. It is my hope that this and upcoming posts on this topic will be of use to those making a study of internal alchemy and Daoist meditation.

Some text from Tai Shang nine points heart inscription classic.

The body is the nation,
The breath is the people,
The mind is the emperor.
When the emperor loves the people, the people will be at peace.
If the emperor is upright, the mind will not be wild, the mind not being wild means the breath will adjust itself.
The breath adjusting itself means the spirit will be harmonious, the spirit being harmonious means the essence will be delighted. The essence being delighted means the body will be quiet and stable. This is how to make the nation rich and people calm through the practice of refining the breath.

The author’s voice


It has been several weeks since my last post on this blog and I want to update everyone who reads it as to where I’ve been, and why I haven’t posted anything for a while.

This past month or so I’ve been in China, specifically in Kaifeng city, Henan province. I’m out here doing sourcing for my tea company, as well as researching and continuing to put together material for a new book on the topic of Qi gong. I’ve also, of course, been meditating frequently and practicing Qi Gong, as well as drinking copious amounts of tea.

The reason why I haven’t written anything recently isn’t because I don’t wish to share, but rather because I have encountered a very unusual stage of writer’s block in regard to sharing on this blog.

The manner in which I have chosen to present this blog is essentially as a medium through which classical ideas about internal alchemy meditation can be transmitted to an audience of people who are interested in this genre of consciousness work.
This of course does not preclude me from writing about other topics, which I have sometimes, but it does mean that the bulk, if not the entirety of my writing here is not undertaken in my own creative voice, but rather is predicated on interpretation of the voices of the people who came before me in this genre of meditation, who I rely upon to share correct information about Daoist practices.

In a field as well developed and complex as Daoism, it would be unbecoming of me to use my own experience and my own voice to discuss practice beyond the experienced phenomena central to my own understanding of practice.
Because the phenomena associated with meditation are already clearly recorded and understood in classical Internal Alchemy literature, I can’t help but think any discussion about my own experiences would simply serve as a means by which I could use this media to affirm my own egocentric affirmation of practice, which isn’t something that has any value to either you are me.

Having said that, I have been working very hard to come to terms with certain topics pertaining to various ontological and epistemological problems which are found at the cross roads of eastern and western philosophy and religion.
I have specifically been dealing with the problem of the logos (as understood in western thought as the potential through which language may be communicated as truth) in relation to the Daoist concept that language is not sufficient to come to an accurate understanding of reality.

I feel that there is tremendous value in both topics and that it must be the case that they can be treated as complimentary rather than mutually exclusive.
This has required me to do considerable thinking, reading, and writing (much of which ends in failure) in order to attempt to work through the problem and find some resolution.

As of present, I have come to some potential understandings of how these concepts are interrelated, but have also faced an equal if not larger number of internal contradictions which make the project difficult to go ahead with.
In any event, I am trying to take a cue from Terrance McKenna, who frequently discussed the idea of leaving open space for the potential confluence of seemingly contradictory ideas.

So this should give you some idea of where I have been, what I’ve been doing, and why I haven’t made any posts recently.

As soon as I am able to get some resolution about my philosophical problem, I will be back to writing posts on this blog, hopefully not only contributing translation work, comments on texts, and meditation instructions, but also more information surrounding axiomatic concepts related to both Daoism and western thought.

Best wishes and see you soon,