March 18, 2005 at 12:03 am #3517
Semblance Dharma is a mental category of what I call Fundamentalist or Missionary Zen.
It is used in Nan and Bodri’s book, How to Measure and Deepn Your Spiritual Realization,
but is not clearly defined – for good reasons. They keep it vague as they don’t want to be too blatant in their judgement against all the other Buddhist sects that don’t rely on their particiular brand of Emptiness meditation. But they have no qualms about casually using Taoist alchemy as the example of it.
The book in fact has lots of valuable information about the different Buddhist schools – Nan has clearly mastered that content. I read his books decades ago and considered him a very solid buddhist teacher who had learned some Taoist methods – but was obviously anti-Taoist. That is why I stayed away from him – I could sense the over-developed mental body that I was seeking to avoid. That mental body is still filled with judgements, decades later.
Its quite common in China – Buddhists who call themselves Taoists, because Tao is the umbrella term in China for the All that Is.
But it is a different concept of Tao that the Buddhists employ – it is one with fixed or absolute states of attainment (Emptiness) sought, rather than the Taoist view of life as eternal process, a continuum from substance to chi to shen to the unknown (wu) and back again – all happening simultaneously in the present moment.
For a buddhist to label a Taoist practice as “semblance Dharma” is exactly the same as a Fundamentalist Christian calling Nan’s Zen approach “Devil Worshipping”. Workshipping “Emptiness” means the absence of Christ – therefore the Zen adept’s soul cannot be saved, since salvation is defined as
accepting Christ. To seek the illusion of emptiness instead of His Divine Love? Obviously the work of Satan. It is irrefutable logic – as is ALL religious logic. This is what Plato could not see past. He got wowed by the encyclopedic information and assumed it must all be correct.
That’s why there is so much religious hatred in the world – one form of divinity judging another by its own standards, which don’t exist in the second religion.
So Dharma can only judge Dharma, because it creates the defintion of what Dharma is. And of course it is VERY difficult to define in the case of Buddhism, because it is such an itinerant religion, mutating with each culture so that so many schools proliferate they barely can recognize each other. Yet Bodri is quite clear in his conclusion – that Nan’s Zen is the highest and truth of Dharma, because it goes straight to Emptiness and stays there, like a Dharmic Pit Bull.
Bodri admits the Buddhist esoteric schools may have something to teach us, but they are ultimately dangerous and so we should stay away from it, and only study safe Zen. Its some equivalent to saying that automobiles go very fast and can kill you, so don’t drive in them. The logic is false, as the true concusion is to learn to drive safely and still take advantage of the car’s speed.
As I mentioned in my original posting, but now confirmed by my looking at their latest book – the level of sophistication employed by Nan and Bodri in describing the vast range of Taoist esoteric practices is not even as detailed as what I offer in my rank beginner Chi Kung fundamentals 1 class.
If Nan wants to claim that he is a master of Taoist alchemy and a scholar of that topic, let hiim publish on those topics so that his level of knowledge can be openly evaluated. He lumps the vast array ofmillenia of Taoist schools and sects inito a single “the Tao School”, and proceeds to generalize from that. That particular process of imimortalization is what I would call a neo-
taoist Chan view of immortality – very physically oriented.
He glosses over the difference between the five elements of Taoism and the five elements of Buddhism, and analyzes the Tao School as if they were using the Buddhist five elements with space in the center rather than Earth.
This difference reveals the Buddhist metaphysic of trying to achieve an Enlightenment that will get them away from Earth, into the formless,
rather than seeing the two as integrated whole process that has an underlying substance, yuan jing.
There is no description of the differences between post-natal, pre-natal, and original (yuan) chi, that is so esential to true taoist alchemy.
His most common eerror of all is the translation of the Taoist term “wu” to mean emptiness. This reveals his Buddhist bias of seeing everything in the Tao in Buddhist term. the Wuji does not mean Emptiness. It means “Supreme Unknown”, the original Mystery from which life is created. We don’t know if it is Empty or full or something else completely different – because it is a mystery that is beyond human definition.
Yet Nan and Bodri claim to own that space and it apparently is ruled by the Zen Patriarchs, who strangely enough didn’t even exist until buddhism came into China and borrowed Taoist ideas about the simplicity of Nature. Apparently the wuji was empty until the Zen Missionaries arrived to claim it as their unique domain of Emptiness.
Don;t get me wrong – I love a lot of things about Zen, and respect its practitioners. But the things I love most about it came from Chinese Taoists.
And I don’t mean to imply that other Zen adepts are Fundamentalist or Missionary, as most are not.
Although the book is very ambitious – I respect the attempt to grasp and compare many different schools – the underlying bias is so vast and so fundamentalist as to render the book useless for adepts of Taoist alchemy.
You are better off spending your time practicing the tried and true methods of the Taoist Tao. In a later post I will discuss the simple sitting in Oblivion practice of early Taoists that resembels Zen, and is apparently the current practice of Plato.
michaelMarch 18, 2005 at 1:23 am #3518
I like what you said about daoist alchemy being a constant process that does not ever reach an endpoint, but is always refining the relationship between the shen and the jing.March 18, 2005 at 1:41 am #3520
I am in NO way an experienced practitioner (right at the beginning. Besides Michael. Could you possibly look into what happened to my order… my emails do not seem to get through to your store).
Plato wrote something about Semblance Dharma a few pages below and from a logical point of view I find that to be very logical… he says that “forcing the process” leads to states that are similar to what is produced by “emptiness meditation” alone, but that those are only an illusion.
He quotes Bodri by saying that in the Past certain practitioners had certain experiences and put them down and others believed they need to have the same experiences and follow a specific “formula”… this would be similar to me currently experience certain shaking and rotation movements (without will… jzst happening) while practicing Spring Forest Qigong and now making my own Qi Gong form because I believe THIS is the way to get Qi through the blocked passages in everybody, although it is only the way for MY body, which is unique (due to its very own and noncamparable blockages, experiences, problems etc.)… and it might be damaging for others if they followed it, although it could produce results in them… they might be similar to what they might have experienced on their own, but very likely not the same… and this little difference could have made the whole path “hopeless” in the end… locking them in a state that was not meant to be for them.
It is like watching one tree grow big and strong in a certain way and falsely believing all other trees get THAT big and strong if they take the same “growth path”, thereby forcing them grow in the same way as the first tree being watched. Very detrimental…
I think that the point is definitely to think about. Your point that the point is to learn to drive the way safely makes much sense to me, but isn’t the inner wisdom of the body that blossoms through making the mind empty, thereby developing in a safe way on its own, not superior but A LOT safer to any way that instructs to use certain methods???
Regarding that book on Taoist practices… I am not sure enough, but I think there was a topic over at taobums sometime ago, saying that Bodri would publish something about it…
Regarding Bodri I wish to quote him, as I don’t want to forget that being humble can be quite a precious gem: “In cultivation matters, one must be particularly careful of pride and self-deception, for in this case, a little bit of information is truly a dangerous thing. It is easy to take some of this knowledge [note: knowledge learned from the book I quote from] and extrapolate it into thinking you understand the whole picture when you have not even scratched the surfac of this topic.”
“Examine your own behavior to choose what is good and shun what is evil, and refrain from criticizing others. That is the first rule in spiritual cultivation practice, and the place where everything starts.”
(taken from “How to Measure and Deepen Your Spiritual Realization, by Huai-Chin Nan & William Bodri)
HarryMarch 18, 2005 at 10:18 am #3522
Every path has its pitfalls that need to be dealt with, and Taoist practitioners have their own safety nets they have developed for every stage of the path. That safety net is through gradual training and integration of body, mind, spirit (rough translation of jing, chi, shen) at every level.
One of the biggest differences between the many Taoists schools and the Chan/Zen schools has been the Zen insistence on “sudden enlightenment” as opposed to the gradualism of Taoist cultivation approach.
Again, this is the Zen “state”oriented approach – we have a goal that we are going to get to our idea of Emptiness as fast as possible, and we are going to bypass all the gradual cultivation of jing, chi, shen and cut direct to the “wu” (which I’ve already pointed out is NOT emptiness). That is why Bodri attacks qigong and yoga as unnecessary and false – they don’t fit into his scheme of his ultimate goal, his metaphysic of what he defines as Emptiness – not to be confused with the Taoist idea of Stillness within the Stillness that precedes a deep level of realization of Tao and the eternal movement arising from it.
For the Taoist qigong builds the foundation that allows for stable levels of self-realization. Of course, there are “forced practices” that will not produce lasting results, but that is not the way of true qigong or Taoist meditation – whether its neigong (broad classes of meditation) or neidangong (inner elixir cultivation/internal alchemy). That is why I have developed a set of qigong movement practices for every level of training – this is the yin, embodied balance to the excesses of the false yang “head” trying to tell the body what to do.
Qigong is considered a yin, feminine path to realization. You could say its an ancient Matriarchal method which does not sit well with the patriarchal approach of the Zen Patriarchs. Qigong puts you in a body-centered flow state that prevents the “male” thinking mind from interfering in the natural process of self-balancing and self-healing.
It is especially important for head-tripping westerners to have a practice that gets you into not just your physical body, but a grounded sense of your energy body. That is not dangerous – that is what prevents false forcing of the chi field by the head, as you are leading from the ground up – the jing releases its tension organically through movement. I have never had a student that went through all the progressive levels of my training – and did the qigong movement practices to balance out the meditations – tell me that it felt unsafe or was damaging to their health. That is one reason i developed a training separate from Mantak Chia’s, as I felt there was some mind-force being applied to excess.
Mind-only practices tend to suppress the body and the jing. As a qigong therapist I have had many clients who suffered from excessive
mental focus of Zen sitting, some with damage to their health. They quickly improved once they began doing gentle movement practices and allowed themselves to come into relationship with the subtle movement of the chi field.
The truth is – from the Taoist perspective – there is no such thing as absolute Emptiness. It is just a relative term. The Life Force is everywhere, in every nook and cranny of every being, every form, every dimension. The LIfe Force is not empty – it has substance, it has jing. This is what makes creation possible. That jing is vibrating it self into the “ten thousand things”.
Quieting the post-natal mind does not create emptiness – it just opens you to another level of more subtle activity happening in the pre-natal mind. When that level of subtly-embodied mind is balanced – no simple task, as you are talking about deep archetypal soul forces of the collective body-mind here – the RELATIVE stillness of the primordial mind underlying it is fully revealed.
But we cannot say that even that mind is truly empty, as it contains the Original (yuan) jing, yuan chi, and yuan shen in their potential state, what is called the primordial unity-chaos (hundun) arising from the Supreme Mystery of theTao. This potential state is Eternally transmuting itself back down the ladder of subtle to physical manifestation. In other words, it is also in movement.
That is why Life is defined by movement – its not “false” or “illustory”, it just has different levels of reality, some of which are ignored when you obsessively focus on Emptiness – and try and make that your Earth.
This brings us the problem of language and the Buddhist notion of “emptiness” that underlies Plato’s current fascination with semblance dharma.
It took me a few years to realize that Buddhism was suffering from a serious semantic failure in its use of language, at least how it is translated into English. When Buddhists talk about all appearance being Empty, and do various practices to cultivate Emptiness, they never arrive at what is meant publicly by the term “Empty”. There is always content in that state of so-called Emptiness.
This is apparent in many high leveltanric Buddhist teachings: Emptiness is ultimately the same as Fullness. Samskara (negative karma causing incaarnation) is the same as Nirvana. They have to come to this conclusion, otherwise they would be positing a dualistic cosmos which doesn’t really exist.
And since bodies and the fullness of joyful-suffering living in the physical plane exists as the common experience of humanity, it has to be included in any ultimate scheme of things. But because of the judgement (it is NOT a neutral perception) that physical reality is Empty, the adherents of this philosophy may fall into what I call a “semblance of a relationship” to truth.
My suggestion for Buddhists is to change the term Emptiiness into Openness, and then it will be semantically more accurate in its relationship to the life force. Or if you prefer, use “Great Openess”, or “Subtle Openness” and then I think you would semantically approach more accurately the legitimate experience of many Buddhist meditators. Words may not matter ultimately, but they matter a lot in the beginning to concept-driven westerners.
One reason – among many – why I switched to alchemical Taoist practices is because their language is so much clearer. Buddhists present a worldview in which “false reality” and “true reality” are dictated by an invisible Dharmic authority that everyone invokes but no one can prove exists beyond their personal religious belief.
Buddhism is an offshoot of HInduism, and shares its ultimately patriarchal, sky-worshipping Deification of the Formless as the ruler of ALL, with a pantheon of meritorious sub-deities (Arhats) who define virtue for the unclean humanity. I think every teaching arises during a cosmic time cycle and serves a purpose.
This teaching got people focused on the formless, and was essentially a Fire & Water approach to alchemy. The “fire first” method – using mind to burn away the illusion of form until the underlying Cosmic Water rises up- was favored because life was short and quick progress was wanted. Hence Bodri & Nan’s Chan School reincarnated “shortcut” of bypassing conscious jing-chi-shen cultivation to jump to “wu”.
But this Fire path left the transformation of the jing incomplete, and resulted in patriarchal forms of culture that suppressed women. So we are headed back into a matriarchal cycle now, in which the fire will arise from the female within/below/form, and Water and Fire Alchemy (favored by Taoists)
will re-emerge as the most suitable method.
So let’s not get humg up on the false semantics of “Emptiness” – for ordinary people beginning their path, it is far more valuable to cultivate your sense of Earth, of body centeredness,using theTaoist arrangement of the five elements with Earth in the center.
This earth is gradually raised up – through qigong and inner alchemy – to function in the subtle planes. it is the gift you will return to the wuji with – what theTao wants you to bring back from the physical plane – the best and most refinied essence of your Earth experience. Does it want you to come back Empty-handed? NO WAY. in my humble opinion, and in that of the elixir cultivators of inner alchemy.
Nature wants alchemical transmutation. This is the deepest spiritual danger of chasing after Emptiness as a fast escape route off the Wheel of Incarnation – you may return to source Empty Handed.
What will Source do? I believe it will send you back into the cycle of reincarnation, until you are able to embrace form fully and refine its essence. There is no short cut around it.
The Taoist cultivation of jing-chi-shen-wu can be done without getting trapped in form or fixed on “chi sensations”. You train with the constant understanding that all energetic phenomena is all just part of a Great Flowing River of Life which will never be the same again. A river that does not hold any fixed state of Emptiness or Fullness, but only the truth of the Original Presence as it evolves itself through its self-created multi-dimensional play.
So if an adept can make their notion of “emptiness” a part of their play with the Life Force, I think its great and useful. But once Emptiness becomes Dogma and an Absolute measure by which all other paths are judged, watch out. It will become someone else’s Karma to run over their Dogma.
michaelMarch 18, 2005 at 11:17 am #3524
Emptiness is such a confusing term. I’ve seen it described as ‘lack of inherent existence’ which says that even though things do exist they only exist in so far as they are the products of the causes and conditions which bring them into being. In this respect then Emptiness can also be described as limitless potential and this is where buddhist notions of interdependence and karma come into play in order to attempt to grasp at an intellectual level the ebb and flow of life.
In some schools of buddhism Emptiness is one of the key qualities of Buddha Nature and carries all the associations of Wu – unknowable, unlimited potential – and is certainly not some nihilistic void.
Buddhist notions of the ‘union of bliss and emptiness’ from my syncretist viewpoint can be seen as similar to the perpetual interaction of shen (emptines) and jing (bliss).
Anyway this is the map I’ve constructed for myself to try and make sense of the intellectual maze …
RexMarch 18, 2005 at 11:22 am #3526
Sorry, forgot to mention that prehaps the I Ching can be seen as an example of an attempt to document the workings of Emptiness …March 18, 2005 at 4:33 pm #3528
The teachers of buddhism I am most attracted to all point out somewhere in their work that translating “sunyata” as “emptiness” was an error of early Western translators that we have never recovered from/are still suffering from.
Herbert Guenther in fact does define sunyata as “openness”, and D. T. Suzuki seems to focus most, in his exposition of zen on the creative intelligence aspect of “buddha nature”, as being the key secret, i.e., that the secret is to quiet down in order to get in synch with a deeper intelligence/rhythm of life, which, as you say, comes from the influence of daoism. And the whole “zen in the art of” practicality within a certain section of the zen tradition also seems more a product of Chinese culture than of buddhism per se.
When you say: “You train with the constant understanding that all energetic phenomena is all just part of a Great Flowing River of Life which will never be the same again. A river that does not hold any fixed state of Emptiness or Fullness, but only the truth of the Original Presence as it evolves itself through its self-created multi-dimensional play.” This is, in my understanding, in complete agreement with the dzogchen approach to spiritual practice, with its “cycle of day and night” teachings (which may very well have been influenced by Chinese exposure, who knows; conversely, Guenther speculates that Padmasambhava may have taken a detour into China…). I’ve noticed that Namkhai Norbu (the dzog chen teacher) is very interested in and supported of the daoist tradition.
SimonMarch 19, 2005 at 7:32 pm #3530
Id like to shift the discussion a bit on Buddhist empty mind/daoist stillness and, in doing so, move this a bit from the philosophical to the practical.
One frustration that I have with any meditative practice is the monkey mind issue. That is, the fact that often my mind cant seem focus on anything (or nothing) for more than 15 seconds without drifting off to something else. Certainly as Ive practiced more and more meditation (daoist and otherwise) Ive gotten better at it, but its still an issue for me and (I suspect) many others.
A brief segue to make a point. Theres an old Steve Martin joke where he says to the audience: I can teach you to be a millionaire and never pay taxes. Thats right, I can teach you how to be a millionaire, and never pay taxes.
After a dramatic pause he says: OK, first, get a million dollars, then . . .
At that point there is a hearty laugh from the audience, after which he proceeds with a routine about not paying taxes. The joke of course is that none of us know how to get a million dollars and he hasnt told us.
I often think about that routine when a HT instructor (or book) says:
Now I am going to teach you this great daoist practice. First, quiet your mind, then . . .
I mean it strikes me that the ability to keep the mind quiet and focused is a HUGE and INTEGRAL part of the practice. And as Ive been frustrated at my own lack of progress along the Healing Tao formulas Ive thought that part of the problem might be that I am lacking the quiet and focused mind that is a prerequisite for effective meditation.
This frustration has been the reason for my own personal interest in zen meditation. At this point in my practice, I could really care less if the ultimate nature of the universe is emptiness, openness or the eternal interplay of yin, yang and yaun. What Im concerned about is effectively meditating. And since the whole focus of zen is on quieting the mind. I have assumed that it would provide good basic training.
The well known Buddhist technique of watching the breath to maintain focus and quiet the mind (and, without any more effort than that, move you along inch by inch on the path of spiritual growth) has, I believe, no parallel in the HT practices. I mean there I am doing Fusion and I start wondering about my Visa bill, or whether I turned the stove off or what the girl at the coffee shop would look like naked and then where am I? The mind leads the chi so where has all my chi just gone?
So there I am. I realize that Im having a fantasy about the girl at the coffee shop rather than mixing wood and metal into my pakua, and so go back to the intricate bit of mental/energetic gymnastics Ive been doing, but the damage is somewhat done Ive been taken out of the experience. Ive returned from my idle thoughts of naked breasts to find my cauldron unattended, the fire low and things a bit of a mess. AND THIS HAPPENS NUMEROUS TIMES THROUGHOUT MY MEDITATION SESSION.
Buddhisms answer to this is often comforting because their goals (and practice) is simpler than Fusion. Just watch your breath. You were thinking about the girl, no problem, just go back to the breath. The breath is always there. Theres nothing left unattended. No pakua to set up again, no shen to get re-acquainted with. Just breath and youre back exactly where youre supposed to be (stillness).
Most of the Buddhist-influenced daoism that Ive been exposed to emphasize stillness as a core practice. Here is a quote from that I love from a book called Opening the Dragon Gate:
The methods of attaining the Way are based on stillness. . . . When primal vitality, energy and spirit are full, stillness climaxes and shifts into movement. . . . The enhancement and extension of human life are also accomplished in this way.
To me this makes a bit of intuitive sense. I think its obvious that I dont buy the Bodri view that all the daoist energy practices are worthless and will happen spontaneously once quiet mind is achieved (and despite the above quote, the Dragon Gate book doesnt necessarily come down on that side). But I do think that there is something to stillness.
I view it a bit like dancing. One can learn the waltz and methodically practice the steps. But when you REALLY know how to waltz, you dance the steps without thought, almost intuitively. My guess is that once I achieve a certain level of stillness, the HT practices I struggle through will happen in an almost effortless and non-directed manner.
But again, this kind of begs the question. How does one attain stillness while, for instance, attempting to practice Fusion? And — although philosophical discussion is always appreciated — Im really looking for practical advice here. How does a someone doing Healing Tao meditations achieve the sort of stillness that keeps the mind focused and allows for the sort of effortless practice described in the quote above?
On a related note, Id be interested in Michael Winn discussing the simple sitting in Oblivion practices of early taoists that he mentioned, and how that might related to my practice question.
As always, everyones thoughts are appreciated,
spyrelxMarch 20, 2005 at 12:40 am #3532
Lifted from Eckhart Tolle, think.. I wonder what my next thought will be? wait for it quietly. Then ask the question again and wait
#2 Count breaths but don’t limit it to meditation. 1 to 4 or 1 to 10 or keep going. When I was commuting to work, I’d count the breath gets deeper, the mind quieter. Warning I have missed a few turn offs this way.
Think, I’m going to smile and watch the mind play. A more vispassana approach where you don’t reign it in or try to control it, you see and maybe smile at the minds usual games. Judge, Policeman, Lecher etc.
Glen Morris had an exercise of counting from 1 to 10. If any thought intruded you started back at 1. Its makes it easy to see how hard a quiet mind is.
Grist for the mill.
I do agree that HT needs more talk about it. A quiet mind is the ultimate warm up device.
MichaelMarch 20, 2005 at 1:38 am #3534
I think an emphasis on, “just do the simple technique, that’s all” is generally the ticket in terms of sidestepping the discursive mind; whatever comes up, just return to the technique, period. But different people have different experiences of what is simple–some find complexity simple and simplicity difficult, and vice versa; where the goal is here to cut through the discursive mind to contact deeper layers of mind/reality (i.e., not necesarily to experience more detailed kinds of visualization or whatever).
My experience is that it is a hard discipline; there is a real something there that has to be tamed, but which CAN be tamed.
I think a lot of the ancient texts, daoist, buddhist or otherwise, assumed this kind of training as a being a standard part of the education whereas now it is no longer taken for granted. So they already were able to bend their bodies into pretzels and zip their energy wherever they wanted etc., leaving them plenty of space to “groove on the highest refinements”. A generalization but I think there is some truth in it; consider the traditional education of any eastern or western aristocrat in the old school–they had to memorize whole texts and procedures and formulas, etc., learn many languages, before the age of twenty; “mind training” was taken for granted. Interesting book that touches on this line of thought: “From Intellect to Intuition”, by Alice Bailey.
So again I think different people have different inclinations. Some are attracted to complexity and get easily involved with it–they more easily become one pointed that way; while others resonate with simplicity, more easily developing one-pointedness that way. Perhaps ultimately both can learn from each other, but in the beginnings of developing the craft of mental silence, it seems to make sense to search out whatever works best for you, and then just stick with it stubbornly until solid progress is made.
SimonMarch 20, 2005 at 8:31 am #3536
There are many ways to stilling the mind. Here are four suggestions that work for me.
1. Chi Kung! If you’re whole body is engaged, then the mind stills. Good chi kung is fluid, like biking, skiing or surfing, you follow the momentum, the wave of energy. Don’t push it with the mind; follow it with the body. Slowly, different parts of the body will recognize how they can be part of it.
2. Lower Dan Tien! Settle the consciousness from the head (upper brain) to the LDT (lower brain). Let the energy settle down, or just feel a connection down there. The LDT moves more slowly than the UDT, and is centered in the whole body, and so isn’t so monkey-minded and imbalanced.
When you think, move, do anything, feel an impulse coming from the LDT. This is part of doing chi kung. For the energy to settle in the LDT, the body must be balanced. My tendency is for my UDT to be too far forward, so it doesn’t settle into the LDT through the core, but it falls in front of me. So, I then feel it back, and let it descend/connect through the core channel.
3. Lesser Kan and Li! I didn’t get the jing sense of center until doing Lesser Kan and Li. It was awesome. So, sometimes you have to go further, for the basics to come.
4. Nature! My mind stills when I am in beautiful, natural places. My being balances and gets in the flow.
5. Pure Being! In the movie “I heart Huckabees” the two main characters are searchers. In one scene you see one say “now” and get wacked in the face with a big red balloon. Then, again, “now” and “now”. And then “I think I got it…”. They found that their brain would stop working when they did that “ball thing”. Their teacher, a French woman, said that she “prefers to not call it the ball thing, but pure being.” Very funny! But, maybe it works….
hope some of this helps,
ChrisMarch 20, 2005 at 2:55 pm #3538
1.> Just watch your breath >
One of the best techniques, imo. Does a lot that Taoists would applaude. Mixes breath and awareness all down through the whole vertical length of the torso. A lot of alchemical basics are taken care of,.. at least addressed, with this very simple technique. As energies get blended, its easier to be still. And, all you had to do was the simple: watch your breath.
2. Finding the deep-center. The still place in the center of the tan tien. ..and hanging out there.
TrunkMarch 20, 2005 at 7:02 pm #3540
In most of the things I’ve read over the years, maintaining stillness while engaging in activity has always been considered very advanced. I think one of the reasons the HT forms worked so well for me in the beginning was that they gave my monkey mind so *much* to do that it was mostly silent trying to juggle it all. But over the months as I sunk deeper into the forms and practices, instead of them becoming more powerful as I expected, the monkey-mind gradually decided a lot of the visualizations and movements could be put on *auto-pilot* and it could act up and be a pain in the ass again.
Slowly I realized, exactly as you did, the importance of a daily quiescent meditation form. Nowadays if there is only one thing I do each day, it’s a sitting in stillness meditation, and I often will let standing and moving forms spontaneously arise from this stillness. In other words, I will start with 15-20 minutes of sitting anapanasati, then I might stand up and continue anapanasati in Wu Chi or Embracing the Tree for several minutes and from there if I might follow a deep desire to move into the Six Healing Sounds movements, or Kan and Li forms or Primordial Chi Kung, etc.
Here are some great resources I’ve found for cultivating an effective stillness meditation:March 20, 2005 at 8:30 pm #3542
I think Wuji Qigong is great. It takes your mind into silence without much effort. Instead of trying to get the mind to quiet down(useless) your just doing these graceful movements for 20 minutes. Also, I find when the kundalini, the real chi, the poweful chi that arises when you save your sexual energies and let go of mental clinging seems to quiet the mind itself. It’s like when the qi is in balance and arising and descending strongly that naturally clears out the system and cuts down the mental chatter.
Sometimes Zen sitting can lead to more chatter if it’s just sitting and trying to stop a process.
Winn’s take on it that it’s really the Shen and you can’t just forcefully shut them up but sort of have to work with them by playing and intergrating with larger forces sort of makes sense.
Of course then there is the question is it better to just let that happen naturally, or by doing Alchemy formulas.
Actually, my experience with Zen is that it’s not really about silencing the mind completely, that isn’t really going ever going to happen, so much as learning to understand any thoughts that arise as a temporary phenomena that will leave eventually.
In that sense it’s really about not interfering with the natural process. So, say a thought pops into your heard, you thought the girl at the Mall had a great ass, and then you start palying with that thought and sexual energies start to move and now you have a full blown scenario that may stay with you until after you watch the Late show.
The Zen thing to do would be to simply watch the thought arise, that the girl from the mall had a great ass, then let that thought leave as naturally as it came without messing with it. I think this eventually leads to a stage of Samadhi where thoughts in general are all seen in there true light..temporary illusions that arise from nowehere. You may see some level of Enlightenment but from the zen perspective that is just letting Go completely to the point that every concept, thought creation and energy you have put into who you are collapses .
I don’t think the universe ends as others have speculated and even Winn mentioned something about everything going towards Emptiness. I don’t think that’s what zen enlightenment is about at all.
As john Daido Loori says in his book, Eight Gates of zen, what happnes when you drop all your stuff and remove the seperation between yourself and the phenomenal universe? What changes? Nothing! Nothing changes everything is still right there the only difference is their is no longer a seperation between you and the universe.
Be careful, alot of people constantly spinning endless philosphies and complex mediations may in fact just be diverting people from this fundamental experience of seeing there True nature.
In fact, I am sure many so called spiritual teachers do this. Emptiness as a concept is jsut a concept and people who blab all day about emtiness are just holding on to another concept.
Actually, one of Loori’s top zen students told me straight up Emtiness isa ctually Fullness. I agree with this completely. The quietness achieved with Zen is not some temporary state but the result of seeing deeply into the very nature of thought .As long as you havent seen into the very source of thought and your mind, how are you ever going to quiet your mind? It’s always going to be a small, temporary thing untill you experience the silence that sees to the source of that thing that is creating thoughts.
From the Taoist Alchemy perspective perhaps this stage corresponds to greatest Kan and Li, sealing the senses, etc, becasue now you are filling your energy body with so much higher energies it just reaveal your true anture from a different angle. I think my eperience palying a little with Greatest kan and li and sealing the senses was leading to a similar state to the zen experience but cant’ say it with any authority because I havent spent enough time practicing those formulas.
In fact, I think just doing the microcosmic orbit has powerful results in this regard and I have had times doing the orbit where I felt the little orbit had connected to the greater energy fields of heaven and earth and was no small, kindergarden experience. I dont’ see the microcosmic orbit as a low level meditaitons but as a very profound and powerful one that has almost endless potential.
Ok, that was me mixing HT teachings with Zen teachings and no one was hurt in the process…March 21, 2005 at 2:46 am #3544
This is an excellent discussion, and totally agree the issue has been under-focused in the HT.
My own remedy has been discussed by Chris – and usually doesn’t show up on tapes, because it is long and silent.
The monkey mind jumps about because its hungry for chi. You can’t fight its hunger,you must feed it, repression doesn’t work. Letting go techniques work great, but can have side effect of HAVING to create a pattern of letting go in order to be quiet. Letting Go is a dispersion technique – disperse the chi that is disturbing you,generally letting go of a shen excess. It is sometimes appropriate, and sometimes not.
Emptiness focus is a letting go technique. I totally approve skillful use of the technique, but feel that enshrining it as a metaphysic can lead to excess dispersioin that counteracts needs for alchemical fusion. I will post more on this topic later, it gets to core of issues generating some heat around here.
Best way I’ve found is to take one simple movement and do it for minimum 15 minutes, longer if necessary. The monkey mind gets fed chi and quiets down, and at the same time entrains breath with the yin-yang pulsation of the movement. Its why I developed Ocean Chi Breathing, which does both of the above, plus a third: it focuses the head brain into the belly/dantian as well.
I prefer movement methods to counting, because mental body is used to count, and again, better to drop that body if if possible, because once it has a job it is difficult to get mental body to give it up. The counter force breathing practices in my chi kung fundamentals 3/4 are designed to both engage mind and neutralize it simultaneously, while using breath. But they require higher level of concentration, as does any method that builds chi rather than just dispersing it.
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