March 18, 2017
Those who implore immortals won’t realize true lead and mercury.
Calmly read the alchemical books over and over again.
When you know their inner principle then arrive at what is real.
Anything coming from outside (the body) is not the real ancestor.
– Chen xiyi, pointing out the mystery essay.
A brief section from the He Shang Gong commentary of the Dao De Jing
March 16, 2017
Commentary Taken from the first chapter:
The always present name is like a child who has not yet spoken.
Like an egg, not yet opened.
Like the bright pearl in the clam.
Like beautiful Jade in the centre of stone.
Although inside it is bright and shining,
its outside is stupid and dull.
– From He Shan Gong Dao De Jing commentary, chapter one.
Four Ancient Rules for Water Selection in Tea Brewing
March 7, 2017
Even though this stream at Mao Kong in Northern Taiwan is beautiful, it isn’t the best one to get tea water from. You would be better off getting water from its origin, a spring perhaps located higher up on the mountain.
Brewing tasty tea is not a trivial task, and this is something that the tea lovers of ancient China understood very well. Throughout the history of the cultural development of tea, there have been several important works of tea literature left behind for future generations to ponder. The most famous of these is the Classic of Tea by Lu Yu, but other books such as Speaking on Tea (Cha Shuo), Discussion of Tea (Cha Lun) and others left behind much of what we need to know about the most essential elements of tea appreciation.
Something featuring prominently in every tract is the importance of water selection.
In this short essay I will touch on the four major components of water selection and what they mean.
Lets Start, shall we?
yuan means origin and it points to the origin of the water we use for brewing tea. Water can commonly be found in four major places:
a) mountain springs,
c) creeks, rivulets, rivers and so on,
d) ponds and other sitting bodies of water.
I have intentionally left rain out here because there is only a very small amount of information in the various classics of tea which refer to collecting rain water or snow, and these are mainly contained within the novel A Dream of Red Mansions, and are meant to be read in a satirical manner.
Of all of these sources, springs are considered to be the best, wells are considered acceptable, creeks and rivers are to be avoided, and sitting water is right out.
Before we explain more about why this is, lets look at the oher three major rules for selecting water. Hopefully this rules will help illustrate why the above categories of water origin are thus organized.
Huo means life and refers to the water having an “alive” feeling. The alive feeling essentially means that the water has a certain degree of oxygenation that comes from being from a moving source. This aliveness of water goes away when it is let to sit still for too long and can result in the water becoming stale and even accumulating nasty bacteria which can be unhealthy. in any event, fresh water makes better tea.
Gan Means sweet and tea water should be slightly sweet in taste. This is usually a biproduct of source and is one of the reasons why it is preferable to choose water from mountain springs and then wells. Mountain spring water generally tends to be very sweet and soft in taste and well water is at least passable. Water from rivers is usually polluted with the detritus of the river and as a result, is generally not as good as the other two sources. Again, water from pools is usually right out, since it has often been sitting and collecting garbage for a long time.
Qing means clear, but it also means clean. Tea water must be clean because any filth in the water will ultimately go on to negatively affect the taste of the tea.
So we can see by these four points that selecting water for tea starts with the source and should conform to the simple rules that it has a living quality, is sweet, and is clear of contamination. This makes it much easier for us to figure out what kind of water we ought to use to brew our favourite teas and hopefully adds an extra dimension of interest to the hobby of tea, since it gives us something to consider, experiment with, and eventually come to master.
If you liked this article, please consider visiting the tea section of my website to have a look at my catalogue of wonderful (mostly Oolong) teas.
four trigrams discussion.
March 5, 2017
The Qian Trigram represents the sky, clarity, and movement. It is the extreme of Yang energy and represents the original spirit of people.
The Li Trigram represents fire and the sun, it has a broken yin line inside of Yang and represents our consciousness, which is both made up of nature (the outside Yang lines) and feeling (the inside yin line). It also refers to the heart (Yang) and the oxygen in our blood (Yin).
The Kan Trigram represents water. It has two broken yin lines with a yang line inside it and also represents out kidneys. The solid line represents life energy which is hidden deeply within us.
The Kun trigram represents earth and the corporeal body. Any physical form without movement is represented by this element and it is considered to be representative of death but also as the root of life.
These four trigrams are very important in meditation theory, since our goal is to abandon ourselves to the deep yin state of the earth trigram in order to cause the latent energy within the water trigram to shift and replace the yin energy of the fire trigram, thus changing out regular consciousness from the mind of consciousness and emotions, to the mind of pure consciousness, in which emotional feeling is replaced with the feeling of life energy.
Because the mind has latent feeling, which is yin and considered to be heavy, we can use this feeling to allow the consciousness to sink and become heavy, allowing the latent energy hidden within the water trigram to rise up, thus allowing us to attain vitality and awareness of universal reality not polluted by our thoughts and feelings.
Quote of the day: from xing Ming fa jue Ming zhi.
March 2, 2017
Every time before you meditate,
Make it your work to dispense with all random thoughts.
Relax your belt and clothes, the body shouldn’t be hindered.
The blood meridians will naturally flow everywhere without obstruction.
– recorded by the student of Qian Feng Lao Ren.
This Daoist Life Podcast: Daoism in modern society.
February 28, 2017
This week we look into the fundamental axioms of Daoism and how we can use them to model life in a 21st century modern secular society.
Does Daoism have a political world view?
February 27, 2017
Does Daoism have a political world view:
Does Daoism have a political world view?
This is a very important question to our pursuit of a modern Daoist rationale.
It is fundamental to deciding how we will choose to interpret the teachings of Daoism, how accurate our interpretations can be, and what, if any direction Daoism will take in shaping the ongoing philosophical discussion.
Daoist ideas are used as a rationale for the views of many groups, most notably Anarcho Communists and Libertarians. These disparate groups of people see Daoist concepts such as non cultural non interference on the part of government as a legitimization of their often radical political opinions.
It is true that to some extent, Daoist ideas such as non violence, not imposing state doctrine and other various important philosophical items from the Dao De Jing and Nan Hua Jing seem to give some credence to these anti authoritarian political movements, but as the old saying goes, correlation does not indicate causality.
So what is the political view of Daoism and how can it be interpreted for the modern world?
I argue that the political view of Daoism is historically bound and anachronistic.
It is something which is trapped into each school of thought in Daoism, just as the language of the classics is bound by the grammatical conventions of the times they were written.
Perhaps the earliest Daoist writings represent a type of benevolent monarchism, tinged by the threat of folk rebellion, enemy army incursion, and other dangers. In a sense, it is a kind of bandaid for leaders to use in order to cover the wounds created by the excesses of their rule.
Daoism is anachronistic, yet it contains a latent truth to it which is the reason why it has been so worthy of studying for the last two and a half milliard.
This latent truth is the kernel of Daost thought and the foundational kernel of the Chinese cosmological world view. It is the containment of three big principles, one passive and feminine, one active and masculine, and one which is a combination of those two, the child of the heavenly mother and revered father, humanity and being itself.
So almost regardless of the world view of Daoism, native to its own times and places, and often contradictory, there is always the most basic kernel, which is that combination of still, moving, and combined stillness and movement.
Stillness and movement are expressed in yin and yang and their combination forms the grand ultimate taiji principle. The quiet and clarity classic is thus named in order to refer to the perfect alignment of yin and yang for human use. The benefit of yin is in its quiet and stability, the benefit of yang is in its clarity and free movement. If one can long be quiet and clear, one can long perceive things as they are and be one with the Dao of nature.
Does Daoism have a political ideology?
This is perhaps beyond our direct purview, but if it does, it certainly springs from this.
The small Daoist Canon: on Illness and medicine
February 24, 2017
The small Daoist canon has three chapters dedicated to methods of self control and how to cure oneself of the illnesses of consciousness.
The third section of this chapter contains two major lists, one comprised of illnesses and one comprised of medicines. A semi regular feature on this blog will be to post one or two illnesses and their remedies. The first two illnesses are:
xi nu wu chang shi yi bing:
the inconstancy of affection and anger are one disease.
wang yi qu li shi yi bing:
forgetting righteousness and grasping at benefit are one disease.
The medicine are:
Ti ruo, xing rou shi yi yao:
a supple body and softened consciousness are one medicine.
xing kuan xin he shi yi yao:
Vast in action with a harmonious heart is one medicine.
As you can see all illnesses of the mind have remedies and they are not overly complex. Simply being more calm, more relaxed, and in harmony with your environs is already enough to cure the first two diseases of excessive emotion and greed.
These types of practices are defined in Daoism as “Ren yuan” the practice of humanity, and are designed in such a way that the mind and the body are in cooperation at all times, not just on the meditation pillow.
This type of practice is not meditation, but it uses the benefit that meditation provides in order to maintain a more just and better life.
A Daoist healthcare passage from the small Daoist Canon.
February 23, 2017
He who cultivates the way of nurturing the mind
must not walk too long or sit too long.
listen too long, or watch too long,
shouldn’t eat too much or become too hungry.
he also shouldn’t let his mind wander or think about worries or sadness
if hungry, then eat, if thirsty, then drink.
After finishing eating, walk one hundred steps and you will get great benefit.
Don’t eat at night, if you eat, then walk five li (Li is an ancient Chinese unit of distance), and you won’t become sick.
day and night as though you have an “encampment” mentality, not resting is the best. but do not allow yourself to become totally fatigued, or else you will not achieve great silence and no need for action.
The Classics say: streaming water does not go foul. If the window’s hing has no worms, and it can keep working with no rest.
Modern theories in Daoist thought
February 20, 2017
Daoism is a living philosophy, it deals with real situations and problems and seeks to provide effective solutions based on its own unique conceptualization of existence.
Daoism as a concept is predicated on an old idea, but it is a very deep idea which is still as relevant today as it was at the time of its early inception.
Talking about the Dao in modernity, we find an already well established corpus left behind in the 20th century by writers such as Chen Yingning, Jiang Weiqiao, and Pang Ming.
These secular Daoists believed that the Virtue of the Dao was best expressed in the practice of meditation and the application of meditation to life.
Mr.Chen Yingning believed in first attaining physical health through Daoist practices and then attempting to break the human shell and become a spiritual immortal. His Immortality Study school gained great prominence in the 1950s and again in the 1980s and 90s, when his head disciple, Hu Haiya worked on the board of directors the Beijing Daoist research association. Chen’s method is practical and based on ancient precedent and Chen himself commented on many different Daoist texts in order to create a unified meditation theory which spanned religion, and the secular world and was available to all people wishing to study the path of the Dao.
Jiang Weiqiao attempted to combine Pavlovian psychology, the study of physiology, Daoism and Buddhism to create a scientific, modernist approach to meditation, and his three books on the subject are indispensable reading for the modern meditation student.
Pang Ming probably had the most pragmatic views on Daoist theory in modernity and created the concept of “Free social virtue of the dao” which attempts to reconcile modern social conventions with the spontaneity of the Dao of nature.
Each of these people had a different view of the value of the Dao in modern society, but one commonality between them was that the virtue of the Dao ought to be practiced and then applied to society, rather than applied without a basis in practice. This practice also ought to take the form of realizing the essential nature of the void mind and how the void mind is mixed with the natural energy of the world. That is to say, our original primordial energy and the original primordial energy of the world should be brought together in practice and after achieving these things, we could emphasize a healthier and better life style.
Although Chen Yingning and Jiang Weiqiao are no longer with us, and the influence of Pang Ming on Chinese culture has waned since the hay days of Qi gong practice in the 1980s, we are still left with a functioning corpus of knowledge relayed in their written work.
We ought to ask ourselves, regardless of whether we are secular or religious practitioners of the Dao, what should be the place of Daoism in the 21st century and how should we continue the development of Daoist Virtue into the new problems which face our world?
We are left with a very important questions, that is, is there any place for Daoism in the discussion of global political ideas and if so, how should this discussion take place.
Many Daoist bloggers, especially those with religious pretentions have recently written articles about their stances on all manner of modern political issues and have not been afraid to conflate their own political beliefs with Daoism as a whole, but no one has yet created a rationale by which the political theories of Daoism can even be applied accurately to our modern global context.
What does Daoism have to say about things like globalism, immigration, climate change, Liberal politics, democracy, Racial tensions, international conflict, or virtually any other major problem affecting the world today?
Remember, your opinion on this subject is not guaranteed to be reflective of Daoist philosophical ideas, so it isn’t as simple as just saying “I believe this therefore this is the Daoist way of thinking.” Many people have fallen into the logical trap of historical presentism, the means by which we judge the morality of history against our modern day understanding of the human landscape. Daoism is used as a rationale for politics movements as diverse as Libertarianism to Anarcho Communism, and many shades in between, and yet, there is nowhere in any of the Daoist classics in which these views are clearly espoused.
The problem of the Dao of modernity is worth thinking about seriously and collaborating on. This is both a Chinese and international project and scholars, practitioners, and students of the Dao alike should all come together and open a discussion on how the Daoist idea can be brought out of the dust of antiquity and into the living world to once again use natural virtue to guide us away from calamity and toward a balanced and peaceful existence.