Basic Dan Dao

This thread is meant to talk about how to begin dan dao practice.

We have to first understand that there are many different techniques, and each master who left behind meditation practice over the years has created his own practice based on what he found to be effective.   typically though, the practice will be broken into pre and post birth methods.  What that means is that the post birth method requires constant conscious input in order to raise energy and awareness.   The other method, pre birth, will use much less effort with the mind and body, and ideally go to the point where the feelings of the mind and body merge, without the conscious control of the will.   Laozi called this “虛其心,實其腹,弱其志,強其骨” empty the mind, fill the belly, submit the will, strengthen the bones.   This can be directly translated as making the mind quiet, breathing to the belly, softening the edges of consciousness, and allowing the practice to correct the posture, muscles, breathing, and nervous system.   This is predicated upon non action and leads to the ability for the energy of the body to become dynamic.   Huang Yuanji said “close the eyes and illuminate the area below the heart and above the kidneys… this is called the middle palace.” this is one effective way to meditate.   You can simply softly use the mind to focus on the area around the solar plexus and breath naturally.   Doing this while seated upright for a long time will cause the mind to naturally slow down and the body to let go of tension.  If your mind becomes completely quiet, there is a chance to enter into the dynamic state (mystery gate).   Huang called the dynamic state “entering the goddess bird.”   The idea is that the breath and energy of the body will move naturally and accord to the needs of the body, rather than the desire of the mind to control it.    You can simply stay in that state until you feel ready to come out, don’t pay attention to time, but rather forget the world around you and keep going.   If you feel uncomfortable, just stop the practice and do something else that takes your mind away from what you were doing originally.  don’t force the breath, or the mind to do anything.  This way you can get the rest related benefits of meditation.

open Daoism

Today I came across a post on the web which was written by a prominent western Daoist scholar who has studied in China and is very knowledgeable about monastic Daoism.  He commented on the secrecy of the Chinese monastic tradition, posted some photos from his own experience studying, and documented some of the inner door teachings given to him, without saying things he was not allowed to say by the priests.

To the average observer, this type of post seems romantic and informative, but to me it left a bad taste in my mouth.  This attitude of secrecy in Daoism is what has plagued it as a practice for hundreds of years.  Priests and Nuns hide the important information of self cultivation from their followers, and simply teach them religious beliefs and prayer.  This is not enough!   There have been many books written over the years with the ideal of allowing the people to learn meditation by themselves. In fact, Wuzhen pian, which is a foundational book of Quanzhen Daoism was not written with priests in mind, nor was Daode Jing Chan Wei, Xingming guizhi, and hundreds of other classics.  They were written with lay people in mind and the goal of the writers was to make the wonder of the way available to all people.

With this in mind, I make the vow today to teach the material of Daoist Neidan meditation freely and openly as best I can and to try less to consider my own benefit in doing so.  Starting from the next post, I will begin to discuss the foundation of meditation from the basics onward.    I hope that this will prompt others to also share openly.  In this world of extreme violence and fear, we should help each other whenever we can, not hide things from each other.  The moral decision of each person is their responsibility, and bad people will not make great progress in Neidan, so we should be confident to talk about it openly.

The Way of Virtue

In past blog posts, you have probably noticed that I frequently name the Dao De Jing as “the way of observation,” and that I am building an argument here that Daoist practice at its core is  based on introspection, rather than prescription of rules or moral values.   The typical nomenclature for this book in English still remains “the way of virtue,” and I think it is very important that we spend a blog discussing the merits of this approach, in relation to the one which I have previously been promoting.

Firstly, in a rendering of Chinese language, both of these names are correct, and there is no disharmony among them in the least.   As I previously mentioned, the character “De” has an ancient reading which shows an eyeball resting over top of a waterway and in this sense has a nautical interpretation  De essentially means to observe a course or route of something.  This interpretation is quite archaic though and in modern Chinese is not typically used.  De, in modern Chinese tends to be conceptualized of as virtue or moral character.   To emphasize De in modern China means that one emphasizes upright and correct behaviour.  Confucius called this “hao ren zheng qi,” or the good, compassionate, and upright energy of the universe.  The most common reading of De stems from this concept and not from its nautical interpretation.

Now I should explain why it is that both the nautical De and the De that emphasizes morality are in fact one in the same.   Daoism has a very different opinion of morality than other mainstream religions.   Morality among many people is something which we attribute to things existing outside of ourselves.   A moral person is praised and an immoral person is slighted.  The convention of morality is like a balance by which people view the merit of other people in society.  It is extremely rare to find people who ascribe morality to being something which may be cultivated in themselves.   Typically, it is an either or argument, essentially, one is moral, or is not moral  This invokes visions of Hamorabi’s law, in that the immoral person is simply castigated and punished by society.   Laozi’s concept of “Dao De,” or the virtue of the way,  could be further decompressed into “the virtue of navigating the way.”   Laozi’s premise about morality was that the map and the territory are not the same, and if people only refer to their knowledge of morality as a socially created and rigid ideal of correct behaviour, they would lose their way when navigating the genuine experience of being alive.

Laozi did not leave us without any ideals about how behaviour should work, in fact, he left behind many clear concepts, such as retaining an open mind, observing rather than investigating, allowing things to remain natural rather than changing them, and presenting cause and effect as a central governor of fate and destiny.    These ideas, however, are not made into formulae which can be taken on as unchanging rules, but rather as fluid and changing aspects of society.  There is no section in the Dao De Jing where laozi said “thou shalt not,”  but there are many sections in which he said “if thou shalt, there will be consequences.”    This take on morality requires observation as its key principle, since it is often more important to be aware of ones’ surroundings, than to actively judge experiences and occurrences that one does not fully understand.   In this case, it is perfectly correct for De to both mean moral value and observation.  It may be most correct to interpret De as the observation of virtue, but that is rather a mouthful and I worry that if we nail it down to that, then it will already lose its value and become rigid.

A useful way to look at this is to consider the hedgehog and the fox.  Hedgehogs are one directional and when they set themselves to a task, they simply carry it out to the exclusion of all other tasks.  The fox is omni directional, and when presented with a task may try many different ways to solve the problem.   In this sense, we can view Laozi’s morality as omni directional and Laozi himself as a fox, rather than a hedgehog, like Confucius or Mencius.  This is not to say that Confucius was incorrect, it is simply to observe that Laozi’s principle of an ever changing but constant way of things is one that may only be viewed with an eye that is ever sensitive to changes in the course of travel.

Meditation, emptiness, quiet, how to observe the subtle and miraculous

Laozi talked of two concepts called “miao,” and “qiao.”

Miao 妙 refers to something subtle, minute, not easy to notice, and hard to understand.

Qiao 窍 means an aperture or small opening, or a hole through which something may be observed.

Miao and Qiao are part of the use of De 德 or observation,  and are treated as a mutally harmonious way to observe the manifestation of the Dao.

Because Daoism holds that the way things work in nature is beyond logical understanding, knowing, and speaking, it is considered that the way may only be observed through silence, and non judgement.   Using the concept of Qiao, or an aperture to view the subtle nature of silence is how Daoists believe that it is possible to access the beginning of the development of Qi, or energy.   Basically, this theory means that when we meditate, we ought to treat the mind as though we aren’t looking for anything in particular.  This might involve simply placing the mind in the body, the belly, or somewhere else,  but much like Laozi says 治大國若烹小鮮 “to rule a great country is like cooking a small fish,”  when the mind is used in meditation, it should not be focused to create a strong sensation, but instead should be allowed to rest naturally.  This phase of allowing the mind to remain calm and natural can be considered as the Qiao state, or the aperture through which to observe the natural state of the body and the mind without autonomous control of the functions of the body or thoughts.  Thoughts and feelings may come and go, but they will always return to the natural feeling of calm and silence.

After a long enough time using quiet as the portal through which to view ones own state of being through, a sensation may begin to emerge naturally.  According to Huo Yuanji in the book Dao De jing Chan Wei, the mind will go into a state of chaos or unclarity.  This chaos is not the common English meaning of violence, but rather a type of primordial state in which yin and yang are not clearly separated, and any events are not defined.   From this stage will begin to emerge a subtle feeling, which is when the Miao or wonderous stage of practice can begin.   This Miao concept is considered as subtle or wonderful because as a feeling, it is not possible to generate purely of ones’ own will.   This subtle stirring of energy is only available through the entry of the mind into silence, primordial chaos, and the exit of Chaos into the feeling of a unified energy.  This is what Laozi referred to as the mystery gate.   The mystery gate at least in this case is not a physical place, but rather a point at which the mind and body begin to act without the interference of the thoughts or impulse to act.  The genuine way to achieve this state simply builds on the concept of non action, and to rest in non action long enough,  the quiet state will turn into a feeling of energy and unified consciousness.   This may seem very unclear to people who have not studied Daoism in detail,  but it can be said that this state of entering the mystery gate by observing Qiao and Miao is similar to charging a battery.  Consider that the negative and positive charges of the battery are comparable to yin and yang.  If the body is also treated like this, then according to the theory of meditation in Daoism, yin and yang may join and recharge the body and mind.  In this case, we use Qiao and Miao to help us energize and heal ourselves.

I have relied heavily on the book Dao De Jing Chan Wei by Huo Yuanji for this post.  It was written sometime toward the end of the Ming and early Qing dynasty periods and is considered as one of the main texts of the middle school of Daoism.  the point of this essay is to introduce some ideas about how to further ones meditation practice.  It is very hard to understand, so I encourage you to also research this book by yourself.   I hope this post will shed more light about how Daoism works both theoretically and practically.

Daoism art and culture

Vinegar_tasters

This instalment of the blog is meant to be a general overview of the many ways in which Daoist ideas permeate Chinese culture and arts.

Daoism has been used as an influence for Chinese arts ever since its inception,

and has shown up under many different forms from devotional paintings, to light hearted social commentary.

Daoism has also made a vast impact on Chinese language and music culture, as well as being one of the major fabrics which holds together Chinese thought.

Having recently won a very large tea competition, and being quite in need of a rest, I want to make this post as light as possible, but still get around to all the points, but I won’t be translating any documents of doing complex research for this post. I think you will enjoy it anyway!

Arguably the most famous piece of visual art representing Daoist ideals is called the “vinegar tasters,” and contains an image of Laozi, Confucius, and Buddha all having a drink of Vinegar together.

While Confucius and Buddha are wincing and crying respectively, Laozi is laughing.

This shows to us how Daoism is a dynamic practice, concerned more with discovery than attachment to doctrine. Confucian philosophy has a very clear idea of how people’s lives should work, and believes in many rules, as such, Confucius drinking vinegar can be interpreted as the ideal of strict adherence to social rules, even when it does not suit ones needs. Buddhism believes that life is a constant return to sorrow until final enlightenment, and as such, drinking the vinegar represents pain and discomfort before the inevitable. Daoism believes in discovery and openness, so when Laozi drinks the vinegar in this picture, he is laughing, because he is having a brand new and very unusual experience.

This further goes to show how Chinese people have thought about the world over the centuries.

Confucius is representative of all things associated with social rules and fraternity, it keeps the peace among extended families, but is constrictive and uncomfortable. Confucianism is viewed as a necessary evil. Buddhism has for a long time been the national religion of China, only sometimes replaced by Daoism during times of extreme uncertainty. Buddhism is the hope that Chinese people have held in their hearts to end suffering and be delivered beyond the filth of the world.

Daoism in China is a subtle virtue which maintains the highest standard among Chinese thinkers.

As a religion, Daoism has only been extremely popular a handfull of times, and is often seen as giving birth to all kinds of strange and sometimes violent cults. Daoism as thought, however, was seen as something which must be mastered before a Chinese gentleman could truly be considered as having broad knowledge.

This is why I have been arguing that Daoism should be treated as a study first, and religion later. Religious Daoism is only a very small part of the total study that Daoism has to offer.

In the realm of music, Daoism also has a great influence on Chinese culture.

Of course, in this case there is a great deal of Daoist religious and devotional music which is a very important part of the Daoist canon. This music has two main functions,

one is for Daoists who attend temples to pray and devote themselves spiritually. The other function accords with ancient Chinese beliefs about the five note scale and how those five notes accord with the energy body. Chanting and playing music in Daoism has the dual function of being used for religion and preparing the mind for meditation practices.

Many religious adherents of Daoism have spiritual experiences during devotion and can not explain why the experience took place. They then tend to believe that they have been affected either by the power of their spiritual leader, or by the divine. My opinion is that during times when devotional music, incense burning, and group ritual are taking place, the overall effect of these things is to cause an altered perception in the minds of the participants. This may be due to a reaction of the energy of the body, endocrine or nervous function. It would be interesting to see further research about the biology of spiritual experiences as they relate to Daoism in the future.

In any event, music is a powerful medium in Daoist practice and is directly intertwined with feelings of spiritual movement.

Art and culture to cultivate beauty

文艺修美

wen yi xiu mei

My own teacher, Yang Hai has coined the four character proverb “wen yi xiu mei,” or “using art and culture to cultivate beauty.” This phrase sums up very well the Daoist perspective on the arts. To be truly accomplished requires more than meditation and belief. It also requires research, and tenacity in researching the way the universe works in relation to ones own life.

I believe this principle is of greater value than any of its parts, and to simply read books, or simply meditate, or practice art and music is not as good as combining all of them together and finding the mutual principle to which they all accord.

This type of practice will have a genuine benefit on the lives of people who practice Dao. The achievement of being a cultural renaissance person will also cause the individual to become uplifted, emotionally, and spiritually healthy.

I hope this article helps to improve your relationship with practice of culture and art to engender happiness in your own life!

laozi’s morality of continious movement without passion.

The Futility of Controlling the Way

A discussion on Laozi’s morality of the truth.

Laozi’s profound document the Dao De Jing is the gem in the crown of classical Chinese thought. His key assertion of adopting non knowing as a way of viewing the world is deep and can be researched without end.

Just like flowing water, Laozi’s concept of non contention and non assumption can never become stagnant. Imagine that the thoughts are like water and that as soon as one thought is trapped and becomes an attitude, then the flow of the consciousness has already been stopped by a dam.

上善若水。水善利萬物而不爭,處衆人之所惡,

The greatest good is like water, water’s good is how it gives benefit to all things without argument. People all stop and so become ill.

Laozi held that the greatest good in the world was the ability not to stagnate in thought and become fixated on one way of doing things. One should always be able to move from item to item without attaching so much to one item that they form a need to possess it.

A famous story of the sage Lu Dongbin is that his family member was once deathly ill and could not be helped. Lu simply went about planning the funeral arrangement for his family member without wasting time to worry or pray. When his family member miraculously recovered, Lu Dongbin simply went back to taking care of them, without showing undue elation.

This story shows that Lu’s way was pragmatic, but it draws us closer to a deeper meaning of Daoism. The events surround Lu Dongbin at this time suggest that in one way he was very practical, but some people might also think that his dispassion could be construed as aloofness and uncaring.

We should not make this mistake, but instead, understand that Lu was always assisting the situation of his family member. When his family member became so ill that he could not help, he simply made the arrangement to do the proper thing in that situation and to respect the likelihood of their death. When his family member became better, he did not celebrate and waste time that could be better used to assist his family. The subtle morality of Daoism is acting when action is appropriate, but not doing more than needed.

Laozi suggests that ruling a country is similar to cooking a small fish; it must be done without too much heat or intensity, or it will easily become injured.

The morality of Daoism is not cold and uncaring, but rather, not so hot that it scalds, and not so intense that it damages personal relationships.

Laozi also said

功遂身退天之道。

When your work has been achieved, disappear yourelf into the path of the sky.

In the context of our current discussion, this means that we should recognize that the achievement of one task is not the end of our work. We must not celebrate or be too happy in achievement, and we must not grieve in failure. If we exhibit hot emotion in regards to temporal events, we will only waste the precious energy of our spirit. Instead, if we follow the real moral of insight, the events of our life, meeting with success or failure, may always simply be part of the mysterious road on which we all travel, extending from day to day, month to month, year to year, and from the earth to the sky and back. Observe all events without hot passion or cold disdain and you may actually see some of what is really occurring. The benefit of water is that it moves through all of nature without ceasing to argue.

a dissenting view of wu wei

Wu wei, or non action in daoism is the beginning of a state referred to as Wei Wu wei, or action without action.

another reading for this is action without motivation.  Laozi says:

絕巧棄利,盜賊無有…故令有所屬:見素抱樸,少私寡欲。

discard cleverness and abandon benefit, and there will be no thieves and fraudsters.  Consider how many decrees are issued.  meet simplicity and hold humility, less personal motivations and fewer desires.

This is a good idea about how to guide oneself to a non self motivated understanding of the world.   One thing that is not well documented in the Daoist classics is that non action and action without motivation are not something which are instantaneously achievable simply by adapting the stance of a Daoist scholar as ones own.   By the time one has reached full adulthood, one already has developed a complete set of filters to view the world with.  These filters are driven by motivation to succeed in ones endeavours, the will to survive, and by ones fear of failure or humiliation.   It is not a possibility to instantly one day say to oneself “I will today choose to act completely without self motivation in order to improve myself as a person.”   Before it is possible to act without the sinful behaviour of greed, sin, avarice, spite, perversion, and so on, one must learn to accept in ones heart that they in fact carry out all of them on a daily basis!   Daoists have for many hundreds of years believed that impure thoughts cause the loss of energy and a sped up death, yet all people have impure thoughts and can not stop themselves from thinking in such ways.   Laozi also says “人之所畏,不可不畏。”  all people are afraid, they can not be unafraid!”   This can also be viewed as a way of saying that all people suffer from the condition of thinking in selfish ways that are only for their own benefit and self protection.   “我愚人之心也哉!”  “I have the foolish heart of a human!” Is a follow up statement which admits to Laozi’s own acceptance of his nature as a man, rather than as a god.   A common illness among people is to wish to view other people as being subject to the condition of being human, while viewing themselves as slightly better than human.   They practice deceit by viewing their motives as being based in honesty and having compassionate goals.  If a person truly believes their own motives, then the motive will become a way of life and they will be imprisoned by them.   Because we all suffer from this condition, the first step to non action and action without motivation must be to admit that we have motives!

The admission to oneself that one has motivations beyond those of the betterment of the world is a scary and painful thing to do the first few times.  The subtle genius of Laozi’s school is to not attempt to regulate motivation with rationalized thoughts and behaviour.  Instead, Daoism views self motivation as being negative, but also a part of life.  Instead of outright rejecting ones greedy nature, the great first step toward generosity is to admit that one is at fault.  The goal of Wu wei and wei wu wei is not sudden enlightenment, it is a gradual transformation from a fearful, deceitful, sinful human into a happy, kind, and honest person.  The way of virtue is to observe with ever increasing honesty and vigilance.   Wei wu wei is a work in progress.

Daoism the study, Daoism the practice, Daoism the religion.

Daoist thinking poses some difficult sociological queries,  principally, whether it is better to prioritize learning, practice, or belief in ones’ life and how to make them all fit together without becoming overly complicated and convoluted.   The Dao De Jing itself suggests that both extensive enquiry and blind belief are bad things and should be avoided.  In fact, Laozi said “絕聖棄智,民利百倍;絕仁棄義,民復孝慈;絕巧棄利,盜賊無有。此三者以為文不足。故令有所屬:見素抱樸,少私寡欲。

discarding saintliness and abandoning wisdom will benefit the people one hundred times.  discarding compassion and abandoning ritual will cause the people to return to loving their father (the monarch),  discarding cleverness and abandoning benefit will disable fraud and thievery from occurring .  These three things in words are not enough.  Consider how many categories of decree are made.  meet simplicity and embrace humility,  less motives and fewer desires”

In this case, Laozi is instructing us that the best way to lead our lives and influence the lives of others is through simplicity in word and action.  Within this ideology, he does not suggest we act in unkindly ways, but rather to abandon our own desire to obtain benefit from others.  This means that we have to be willing to discard divisiveness and embrace honesty in our hearts.  If we use dishonest means to ensnare others into our way of doing things, we risk forever alienating them and causing them to fear us.

Daoism as such has always had a divide in thought between those who wish to use it as a method of self cultivation and those who wish to use it as a means to control society.   This is most visibly apparent when comparing the early Xuan Xue school of Daoism and the religious kingdom in Sichuan which was founded by Zhang Daoling.   The original study of Daoism, after the time of the early sages, was confined within a school known as “xuan xue” or the mystery study school.  This school is also sometimes referred to as the Dao Jia school.  According to Alan Chan of Stanford, The Xuan Xue school was a kind of cafe scientifica that was carried out during the three kingdoms period, after the end of the spring and autumn period of Chinese history.  He refers to multiple thinkers, spanning three generations, who all interpreted Laozi, Zhuangzi, the Yijing (I-ching), and Confucius to try to discover what the genuine teaching of the Dao entailed.*  This study did not have one common consensus and seemed to be more of an ongoing philosophical and practical project based on uncovering the genuine meaning of the Daoist scholars.   This period of time was also when many seminal treatises were written to clarify the meanings of Zhuangzi and Laozi.

Shortly before this time, China had fallen into a state of chaos, and in seeing this, the great Daoist master Zhang Daoling took a group of people to sichuan and founded an empire based on the virtues of Laozi’s teachings.  Zhang Daoling is in fact seen as the founder of religious Daoism and is treated as a god in the Daoist canon.   This religious community seems to have been significantly different to the philosophical musings of the Xuanxue scholars.  Indeed, the society had rational laws, principles, and social mores which underpinned how people conducted their day to day lives.  this concept, instead of using Laozi’s cosmological ideas, as had been explored by the Xuanxue school, instead uses the ideal of kindly and non confrontational governance as its way of ruling the nation.   This is an important distinction, because although it still follows the concepts laid down in the Dao De jing, it interprets them in a very different way.

several hundred years later emerged the masters Han Zhongli and Lu Dongbin who used Daoist thought as a practical way to cultivate longevity and refinement of the spirit through meditation practice.  Lu especially was instrumental in developing meditation as a method of realization in Daoism, and helped to create the earliest school of what is commonly known as “jin dan,” or golden elixir Daoism.   The documents of Lu Dongbin represent the ideal of practice being paramount to all other things, and that Laozi’s concept of non action should be deemed as the method by which to attain enlightenment and long life.

We can see, these three methods of interpretation are dramatically different and yet bound by a common thread of being attached directly to the thinking of Laozi.   As such, it compels students and teachers of Daoism to view it as a genuinely multi faceted study which can not be tied down by one idea.   As Laozi said ” These three things in words are not enough.  Consider how many categories of decree are made.  meet simplicity and embrace humility,  less motives and fewer desires”

The teaching here is not to adhere to one way of thinking, but rather to remain open and natural.  Combining the concepts of scholarship, governance, and practice is a fine way to observe the movement of the universe, and is a path to unparallelled longevity and happiness.

*http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neo-daoism/

To view the way.

In this fourth instalment of the blog, I wish to address what it is that Daoists do.   In a sense, Daoism does not advocate any specific practice to accord oneself to, and this is the key frustration of any attempt to dissect Daoism into a set of rules and regulations, beliefs, or unwavering logical understandings of the world.

Laozi famously began the Dao De Jing by saying “the way which can be known is not the long lasting way,”  and as such, more or less directly stated that his principle of Dao is not something which can be “known,” but rather something that exists beyond the realm of knowledge.

Actually, one of the key concepts of this blog is to break Daoist thought into ever smaller pieces, revealing how the parts relate to the whole, and why it is that we may become better informed about the reality of the way simply by observing non action, than by adhering to specific sets of beliefs surrounding the way.   Because to deconstruct the whole into pieces, we have to start with a holistic principle, this post will be dedicated to speaking of Daoism in its most vast and open way, that is to use the ideas of Laozi to investigate how we may view the path which he has set out for us.

Lets have a look at the name of Laozi’s book, the Dao De Jing.  It will help us to have pictographical evidence of the Chinese name of the book:

道德經

Dao De Jing

now lets revue them independently:

道 Dao: This refers to a road or a waterway, and can also infer speech, principle, or a way that something is.

德: De:  This piece originally consisted of a pictograph of an eye based over top of a waterway.  It represents that act of observation, although it is conversely symbolized as a virtue or moral.

經 Jing:  this simply refers to the fact that this is a classical text.

A common representation of the Dao De Jing is “The Way of Virtue classic,”  but I strongly feel that the name should instead read “The Way of Observation Classic.”   Last year, I was lucky enough to see a copy of a Song Dynasty Period Dao De Jing scroll in Kaifeng, the ancient Song Capital.  The first thing I noticed was the key element of the eye present in the character De.   Many Chinese people who research Daoism refer to the research as “Dao De Nei Guan,” or the inner observation of “Dao De.”   In a sense, this translates as “The Inner Observation of Observing the Way,” which of course in English comes out quite clunky and somewhat superfluous.  In a Chinese reading sense, this is not even slightly superflous because the way must have some principle by which it may be observed, so in a sense, we could expand the idea to “The method by which is one may observe the way by using the consciousness.”  Since De also has connotations as a reference to nautical concepts, and not to a non specific use of the mind to observe a vague principle, it is important to add the extra idea that the observation of the way is something which must be done inside of the mind and body of a human being, rather than as an external persuit.

Now comes the question, how to observe the way if it is not something which may be seen, or heard as an external occurrence?

This is the crux of Laozi’s writing and is the reason why Daoism has had such a vast impression on the collective of the Chinese consciousness for so many thousands of years.  The way, in the sense of a vast ineffable, non thing, which unites all things, both living and non living, existing and non existing, is something which is not revelatory , and has no clear nature. The concept of Daoism is simply to grow to accept and accommodate oneself to simply being with and observing nature as it occurs.   The search for the genuine truth of the way, at least according to the Daoist philosophers, can only lead to confusion and ignorance.  Zhuangzi was perhaps the greatest proponent of simply existing in nature and being as is natural to be, without judgement, rational action, or self interest, and yet at the same time, always taking benefit from the clarity which this imparts on ones’ mind, body, and spirit.

The Dao viewed as a problem to be solved will always remain illusive and bitter, but the way which is allowed to simply exist without conscious input, will simply accord to itself.  Ones’ goal is not to observe the way, but instead to be the way.  Laozi believed that this was done by “emptying the mind, filling the belly, softening the will, strengthening the bones.”   Is it not true that young children are pure and natural?  Do they not simply follow their needs and requirements?  Is it not true that a baby has no sense of morality, verbal logic, derisiveness and duplicity?   As Laozi said, “focus the breath only on softness, and will you not become a child?”   This perhaps should serve as the root of our study into how we may benefit from the “inner method of observing the way.”

the skin

In this final post outlining the basic principle by which I plan to arrange the blog, I will be discussing how it is that meditation and philosophy should be reinstated as legitimate fields of enquiry in the Western daoism field.

I think there is no question that the study of Daoist philosophy has been taken quite seriously by academics here, and that there is a study of philosophy that goes beyond religion in Daoism.  I think however that not enough intention has been placed on the secular practice of meditation via Dan Dao, which I have alluded to in my past two posts.

Dan Dao, or Nei Dan, as a practice was not born of temples and monks, it was something which came about as a natural result of the work of the great Daoist philosophers Laozi and Zhuangzi.   Although the Laozi has no direct mention of meditation practices, he does detail many methods by which to observe silence and emptiness.  Zhuangzi in fact does site practices such as “sitting and forgetting” within the structure of his book.  Later Daoist scholars took these ideas and bred them with other streams of thought coming from Chinese cosmology, Confucianism, and other philosophies of the day and gave birth to many of the foundational elements of what today are considered as back bones of Daoist practice.*  This Daoist practice as such could not have been considered as a religion, since it had no major gods or strict codes of conduct, but instead simply focused on the study of emptiness and the interplay between yin and yang, among other things.  Even though these ideas all eventually became commonplace among religious Daoists, these early Daoist thinkers, who are often given the moniker “Dao Jia,” (Daoist philosophers) or “xuan xue” (mystery study), should be attributed with using the concepts left behind by Laozi and Zhuangzi in a highly practical way.

One major issue with Daoist research in the academy is that it tends toward being very historical, thought based, and deconstructive.  While this is a very valid way to build ones’ opinions on research materials, it does very little justice to the actual shape of Daoist practice and their understanding of the universe.  It is my opinion that the current academic field of Daoism must be opened to include elements of practice which have been largely left out.  It should be taken into consideration that to include such things as instructional material and explanations of meditation texts, the involvement of doctors in the neurology and endocrine research fields to research the fundamental effects of Daoist meditation practices on the human body, and openness to new avenues of research in the Daoist philosophy and practice field, would lead to a greater usefulness of the precepts of the ancient Daoist philosophers and scholars.   Daoism as such should be viewed at one time separately and holistically.  It must be broken clearly into its component parts, researched in minute detail (as is already happening in the religion and philosophy field) and put back together to represent the total effect of Daoist thinking on Chinese and Global culture.

The common infighting and self protectionism that plagues the academic field must be abandoned, and there must be room created for Daoism to exist as it always has existed, naturally and unhindered by the doings of narrow minded people.

*http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/neo-daoism/#Bib