Sunday, January 1, 2017

"A blueprint that sits behind creation"

Above is a remarkable and very helpful presentation from a master teacher of Daoist arts and inner alchemy, Damo Mitchell (see websites here and here and bios here and here).

A number of extremely notable points jump out from this discussion, worthy of careful consideration.

Some which strike me as especially noteworthy include the explanation of the nature of jing (Cantonese pronunciation zing, "essence") beginning at 04:45 in the clip, in which Damo Mitchell explains that jing not only functions as the base and foundation for the "Three Treasures" of jing, qi      (Cantonese pronunciation hei, "breath," "vital energy") and shen (Cantonese pronunciation san, "spirit"), but that jing itself originates in another realm of existence which is not physical, material or tangible (contrary to common misunderstanding). 

He explains:
Your jing is a frequency, a substance, an information that sits behind the realm of existence. It is not physical; it is not tangible.
He further tells us (beginning around 19:15 in the clip) that:
Jing, your essence, is a blueprint that sits behind creation -- ok, so it is not physical, it is not a thing I can grab, it's not a substance: it's an intangible information source that sits behind manifestation of physical matter. So, just like shen (your spirit) is not something you can grab, qi (your energy) is not something you can grab (it's an information source in the body), your jing is also not something that is tangible.
And further, following directly from the above, Damo Mitchell explains that jing is traditionally understood as the "fuel" which sees you through your path in life, or ming (命 Cantonese pronunciation meng). 

With this understanding of the vital importance of jing, we can better appreciate the emphasis -- present in the virtually all of the manifestations of ancient wisdom preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of humanity -- on the cultivation of practices which enhance jing, and the avoidance of habits and activities which deplete it.

As Damo Mitchell also explains in the remarkable video above (beginning around 27:00 in the clip), practices which are understood to enhance the quality of our jing are grouped under the label of Yang Sheng Fa ( literally "nourish-life-law" or "nourishing-life-principles;" Cantonese pronunciation joeng saang faat). 

These, he explains, can simply be translated as "healthy living" and include getting enough sleep (but not too much), not smoking or eating unhealthy foods, maintaining balance in terms of food, rest, and intake of alcohol -- all things that people commonly resolve to do at exactly this time of year, when we observe another circle around the sun and the beginning of a new calendar.

In addition, Damo Mitchell explains beginning around 29:30, is maintaining balance in the mind -- for which he recommends twenty minutes a day of calm, relaxed seated observation of the breath. This may be a practice you want to consider incorporating into your own daily life in 2017!

Another important aspect of the above video is Damo Mitchell's discussion of the esoteric Daoist chart known as the Neijing Tu or  -- literally the "internal warp diagram" (Cantonese pronunciation noi ging tou). This discussion begins at around 23:30 in the clip -- and continues throughout the remaining discussion.

This chart, which is discussed in greater depth in his books on Daoist internal alchemy or Nei Dan, specifically depicts the inner energetic landscape of a man or woman in terms of the external landscape of the mountains, streams, and fields -- not only providing us with a conceptual metaphor to aid our understanding, but also implicitly teaching us that our individual situation is intimately connected to the wider cycles of our planet and of nature, and even to the larger cycles of the heavens.

As Damo Mitchell writes in Heavenly Streams (2013):
It is an interesting characteristic of existence that life repeats itself on every level. That which takes place within the wider macrocosm of the universe is directly reflected within the microcosm of the human body. The same force which dictates and directs the movements of the stars and planets also shifts various energies within the human mind and body. This force is known as Qi and without it life in all its various forms would cease to exist. The ancient cultures of the world understood this intrinsic link between human beings and the wider environment. The Daoists were no exception and all of their many arts, practices and philosophies are based upon this rule of micro and macro systems. The ancient Daoists studied the shifting energies of the skies above them and grew to understand how all life upon Earth not only relies upon the movements of heaven but also how it matches it on every level. 22.
These are powerful concepts and, as the author points out in the above-cited passage, clearly present in virtually all of the world's ancient wisdom traditions -- which I believe to share a common, now-unknown, source. 

The fact that the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions are closely related is strongly argued by the evidence that virtually all of them can be shown to share a common esoteric system of allegory to convey their profound knowledge, a system based upon the awe-inspiring motions of the sun, moon, visible planets, and stars and heavenly cycles (heavenly motions which are reflected in the cycles on our earth and within our own self as well).

Even the ancient traditions of Daoism or Taoism can be shown to share important aspects of this world-wide system of celestial metaphor, even though the way these metaphors manifest themselves in Daoist texts and tradition have a very different feel from some of the more elaborate myth-systems with extended pantheons of gods and goddesses, and elaborate and adventure-filled myth-traditions such as those we find in the Mahabharata of ancient India or the Iliad of ancient Greece or the stories of the Norse gods and jotuns or the adventures of the hero-twins in the Popol Vuh.

As I discuss in Star Myths of the World, Volume One (for example), the character of Laozi (sometimes rendered as Lao Tzu or Lao-tse in the Latin alphabet) is almost certainly related to the same system of celestial metaphor found in the world's other myths and sacred traditions. For instance, he is said to have dictated the Tao Te Ching as he departed into the west, through a gate, while riding upon a water buffalo or an ox -- all of which can be seen as celestial in nature (below is a famous painting of Laozi riding on his ox):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Tao Te Ching itself explores deeply the endless cycles and unfoldings and passings and unfoldings of the "myriad things," which are allegorized in all of the world's esoteric myth traditions using related metaphors involving the heavenly cycles -- including the cycle of the year with its endless interplay of light and dark.

In many of these ancient myth-systems, for instance, there is a great battle between opposing forces representing the upper and lower halves of the great wheel, such as in the conflict at Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata (and the Bhagavad Gita), or the conflict between the Achaeans and the Trojans before the walls of Troy. Many of these involve precessional imagery as well (as the Odyssey of ancient Greece clearly does, and as the descriptions surrounding the day of Ragnarrok of the Norse myths does as well).

Laozi riding off into the west on the back of an ox clearly invokes the same metaphor, with the departure of an ox or water buffalo invoking the end of the precessional Age of Taurus.

But note also that the very name of the Old Master to whom the authorship of the Tao Te Ching is traditionally ascribed should also alert us to the fact that this ancient tradition employs the same esoteric system found in the other ancient myths in which the cycles of the cosmos in which we find ourselves embody and depict the interplay between the invisible, energetic, divine Other Realm and the physical, material, Visible Realm which unfolds out of that Other Realm and remains intimately connected to it at all times.

Lao Tzu or Laozi's name is composed of two Chinese characters, 老子, the first of which means "old" or "old man" (pronounced lou in Cantonese and actually used as an informal title of respect or affection when placed in front of the family-name, as in "Old Man Jones"), and the second of which means "child" or "son" or "scion" (pronounced jai in Cantonese, such as in the famous 1981 Hong Kong kung fu movie 敗家仔 which is usually rendered, somewhat loosely, as Prodigal Son in English).

The fact that this name is almost certainly related to the heavenly cycles is immediately apparent from the illustration below, in which I have placed the two characters which make up Laozi's name upon a New Year's postcard from 1910 showing the common tradition of depicting a youthful "Baby New Year" replacing the Old Year, who is depicted as an old man:

image: Wikimedia commons (link); Chinese characters for "Old Man"  and "child" added

The symbolism, of course, comes from the fact that on a great circle or cycle, and endpoint of one cycle is also simultaneously the beginning of another one. We can see this truth being explored in the Tao Te Ching, and its discussion of the endless unfolding and folding-in-again of the "myriad things." In the scriptures of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), we see a similar concept in the discussions of  the last who becomes the first, and in "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."

I have also published some discussions in the past of the fact that the legends surrounding the figure of Bodhidharma (whose name becomes Da Mo  in China and Daruma in Japan) can be shown to be based upon the same system of celestial metaphor which underlies virtually all of the other ancient myths and scriptures preserved by humanity around the globe.

Note that both Laozi and Da Mo are depicted near the top of the Neijing Tu diagram (the version in the White Cloud Temple in Beijing to which Damo Mitchell makes reference can be seen here -- many other later paintings and charts based upon that one can be found on the web).

Thus, such symbology would seem well-suited to the task of conveying the understanding of the principle by which that which "sits behind creation" or "behind the realm of existence" comes to manifest in the realm of physical matter, as Damo Mitchell describes it in the above video and in his writings and teachings. Note the important part of Damo Mitchell's video in which he explains that the traditional or classical terms and concepts seem to be far more helpful for conveying this information to our understanding, and for developing higher levels of mastery in our practice, than attempts to "intellectualize" or "westernize" the descriptions of the transformations taking place in the Daoist arts.

This discussion also seems to be appropriate for this particular time in the year, when we observe the end of one year and the beginning of another -- often accompanied by resolutions concerning habits and practices we want to incorporate during the upcoming year, in hopes of manifesting something in our lives.

I would humbly submit that some of the practices which Damo Mitchell writes about and teaches about, and discusses in the video above, might be good candidates for "resolutions," if you're so inclined! We should be grateful for teachers and sages who are willing to share their knowledge with us about such things.

I would like to again extend my wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone and blessings in 2017!

image: Wikimedia commons (link).