Sūn Sīmiǎo (孫思邈) is one of the best known of ancient Chinese doctors. According historians Sūn Sīmiǎo lived between 581-682. Legends however tell that he lived more than 140 years and his body did not decay after his death. When he was buried his body was light as plain clothes. He, like many other great doctors, was also alchemist and scholar of classical Daoist scriptures like Dàodéjīng (道德經) and Yìjīng (易經).
Today every student of Chinese medicine knows his name and at least two of his works – Essential Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金要方 Qiānjīn Yàofāng) and A Supplement to Prescriptions Worth a Thousand in Gold (千金翼方 Qiānjīn Yìfāng). These works are both huge 30 volume writings combining knowledge from many classics. They are still in use today. The influences of Buddhist medicine coming from India during early Tang-dynasty are also visible in these works and his other writings. The knowledge Sūn Sīmiǎo collected was so vast and important that he became known as King of medicines (Yàowáng 藥王) and temples were later built in his honour.
Like many other great scholar doctors he also wrote about alchemy and ways of preserving life. One of these writings is Inscription of Preserving Shén and refining Qì (Cúnshén liànqì míng – 存神錬氣銘) which is found in Daoist Canon (DZ 834). Today many scholars and doctors consider these texts as mere wishful thinking. Regardless the truth studying them give us great deal of information about the philosophy and world view of the most skilled doctors in past and helps us to understand and follow their thinking through the classics.
Note: While reading the following translation please bear in mind that the Heart also means Mind, Shén is usually translated as spirit and Líng is could be roughly translated as the Great Spirit or Numinous.
Human embodiment is dwelling place of Shén and Qì
If Shén and Qì are stored the embodiment is tranquil, strong and healthy
If Shén and Qì disperse the embodiment dies
If one desires to support the embodiment [one must] first calm Shén and Qì
The Qì is mother of Shén, Shén is the child of Qì
If Shén and Qì are whole the life is long and there is no death
If one desires to calm Shén one must refine Yuánqì
[When] Qì is within embodiment
The Shén is peacefully in Qìhǎi
[When] Qìhǎi is full and overflowing
The Heart is calm and Shén is settled
If [Shén] is settled and not dispersing
The embodiment and Heart are concentrated and tranquil
Tranquility peaks to being settled completely1
The embodiment is maintained years everlasting
Always dwelling at the source of Dao and one naturally becomes a Saint
1. (定倶 term comes from Buddhist sources and is usually translated as Samadhi)
Qì is connected to condition of Shén, Shén is connected to wisdom and destiny (Mìng)
Destiny residing within [constantly] maintained embodiment unites with True nature
[Thus one obtains] age equal to Sun and Moon and Dao is obtained
According the inscriptions of refining Qì if one wishes to learn this technique
First the cereals must be renounced and Heart must be placed to Qìhǎi
Store Shén in Dāntián and collect the Heart to tranquillize [its] anxieties
When Qìhǎi is whole one is naturally satisfied
In concentrated Heart cultivation 100 days [bring] small accomplishments
Three years [bring] great accomplishments
First one enters five states [of mind] and then one can go through seven stages
Shén and Líng transform and change exiting and submerging freely
Steep cliffs or thousands miles, leave or staying without hindrances
If Qì does not disperse Qìhǎi fills to overflowing
[When] Shén is still in Dāntián, the embodiment and Heart are always constant
Naturally returns the [youthfulness of] colors to facial features and stature
The embodiment changes to immortal
The hidden and obvious [reveal their] natural origins
One understands hundreds of transformations of Líng
This is called Passing through the world
[One is then] entitled as True person (Zhēnrén)
Heaven and Earth are like his years, sun and moon like his lifespan
With this way one does not [need to] swallowing Qì or saliva nor is it exhausting or painful
[When] needs to eat one just eats, [when] requires rest one sets to rest
Naturally and spontaneously without blocking and without obstacles
Five states and seven stages [all happen by] entering the womb and fixing the contemplation
Student of Dao starts with five states
1. State: Heart has lots of movement and peace is minimal
[In mind] thoughts, green colours and 10 000 things
Conditions come and go without continuity
Jealous, anxious, considering and measuring like a wild horse is the usual human Heart
2. State: Heart has very little peacefulness but lot of movement
[When] regulating movement one enters to peace but Heart disperses and escapes often
[Mind] is difficult to control or suppress and direct it to [this] method
Here the pursuit for Dao begins
3. State: The Heart moves and is still equally
Heart is peaceful and seem directed
Heart in general is peaceful and scattered in equal amounts
[One is able to ] use Heart for the method
Gradually consciousness adjusts and becomes skilled [using the method]
4. State: Heart has lots of peace and little movement
The Heart is collected and more and more skilled in [technique]
The movement is right away directed with it
One is truly focused to the present
If [concentration is momentarily] lost then [focus is] immediately obtained
5. State: The Heart has unified direction and is pure and calm
Then doing is not doing and [even] emotional blows don’t move
[Dān]tián has gathered Heart deeply and steadfastly the scattered has made to set
This already completed ones place is clear and one enters to the seven stages
Making use of [method] one naturally obtains [Dao] without obstructions!
1. Stage: Old diseases dissolve
The embodiment becomes light and the Heart joyful
[When] Inside man the Heart is meditative Shén is tranquil and Qì is peacful
Four big (elements) are married and six passions are in profound peace
The Heart is peacefully suspended [over] circumstances and embraces unity and protects the center
Joyfully happy about every new day
This is called “Obtaining Dao”
2. Stage: Crossing over normal limits
One’s appearance returns to younger outlook, form is joyous and Heart is in peace
One opens to Líng and has [all] penetrating vision
Change [your] residence, leave [your] country, select place and settle down
Associates and relative who [once] had known one, no longer recognize him
3. Stage: Prolonging life years to thousand
This is called immortality
Traveling all famous mountains, flying and moving freely
Azure servants follow as guardians, jade women are singing praises
Rising and walking vaporous rosy clouds, green mists offer its support
4. Stage: Refining the embodiment to Qì
Qì revolves [ones] embodiment with light [and one] is called True Human (Zhēnrén)
Appearing and disappearing (living and dying) freely
Brightness and light naturally shines and day and night are constantly illuminated
One can travel all caves and palaces or attend all immortals immediately
5. Stage: Refining Qì to become Shén
One is called Spirit-human (Shénrén)
Transforming and going freely and doing and using without exhaustion
One has power to move Qián and Kūn (Heaven and Earth)
Move mountains or empty the seas
6. Stage: Refine Shén and uniting it with color (substances creating the body)
[One] is called Perfected man (Zhìrén)
[Being] Shén already one connects to Líng
Color and form are not fixed
They respond to moment by changing
And [one] reflects other beings with his shape and form
7. Stage: Embodiment transcends outside material
One distances oneself outside all normal order [of the world]
Together with Jade Emperor of Great Dao reside in Líng-realm
Saints and wise assemble spreading the greatest truth of Mother Nature and universal Líng
There is nothing that could not be reached
Cultivation culminates at the root of Dao
10 000 ways all end here and this is called The Ultimate
People of this age study Dao less [each] day and cannot [obtain even] the first stage
How could they obtain universal Líng?
Ruled with maintaining their stupidity and sentimentality
Only preserving and holding on to their filth and material [wealth]
Four seasons turn and change, their shapes distort and color (body) grows weak
Their substance declines and [they] return to the emptiness
To call this obtaining Dao is absurd!
These Daoist techniques of embryo-breathing and fixed contemplation keep Shén and halt form
[These] were transmitted orally and not written in language
Having the virtue to meet the Perfected man and this teaching
[One must] be very precise and throughout to keep the idea
These must be learnt without doubts.
Man worthy of attainment will meet this Saint
I had the great honor of being invited to China for the International Taoism Forum held during 22-25.10.2011. The forum was organized by Hunan Organizing Committee of International Taoist Forum and sponsored by Chinese Taoist Association, China Religious Culture Communication Association, Hong Kong Taoist Association, Macao Taoist Association and Chinese Taoist Society (Taipei, Taiwan)
The forum took place in China, Hunnan province, at Nanyue Hengshan mountain (南岳衡山). The mountain area was extremely beautiful. About 300 invited guests were present. The guests were Taoist leaders, internationally recognized experts and scholars, and personalities from political, economic and cultural circles. Most of the invited people were coming from China, Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore. About 20 people were from Europe. There were also people from Australia, USA, Canada and Mexico. The media was also following the forum and the reporters from newspapers and staff from TV-stations were present.
The forum itself had been organized with utmost care and consideration. There were guides and transportation between sites. The language barriers were overcome with simultaneous translations to English (and to Chinese when the speakers were not native Chinese speakers). The accommodation was in very high class hotels like five-star Changde Cohere Hotel. At the hotel there were choice between Western and Chinese food. I chose to eat Chinese food. The food was exquisite. (I miss it already). And as a foreign guest I had the luxury of having very friendly and talented personal guide arranged to help and escort me around. She informed me about everything I wished to know and organized the transportation to seminars I wished to attend.
The topics of the forums were:
The focus of discussions and presentations were mostly about Taoism and its meaning for modern world and how the ancient Taoist ideas, values and practices might benefit the modern society and ease the crisis that the whole world is currently facing. The future of the planet looks disastrous if something is not done. The forum was intended to promote Taoism and to introduce ideas for the change needed.
In the presentations the Taoist ideals of simplicity of life and quieting the over fast pace of living was seen as balancing factor for consumerism and industry. The caring of nature and the fundamental Taoist conception that the humans being are part of the nature is more and more important in modern life. Without these ideals the ever growing industrial development, expanding cities and ever growing capitalism with lack of morals will soon use up and destroy the natural resources and balance. As the people will have hard time finding balance between the desire for more luxurious life style and simplicity needed to conserve new ways of more fulfilling and satisfying lifestyle must be found. The advancements in science and ecological fields was seen as one way of creating both success and preserving the nature.
The ideal of tolerance was clearly apparent in speeches. The dialogue between East and West and between different religions was greatly encouraged. The utilization of new scientific discoveries were cherished. Instead of blaming or judging there was hope for new ways of co-operation and returning to ancient values of honoring the nature.
The essence of Taoism is harmony, purity and simplicity. The harmony between the humans and the nature is essential for well-being for humans and nature. The harmony in society is essential for success of its members and the harmony within an individual can bring spiritual and physical well-being.
The forum also held great promise for everyone interested in Chinese Medicine or should I say in this content Taoist medicine. There were many people having great concern about the loss of roots in constant modernization of Chinese medicine. The attendees, as one can guess, were well aware of broadness of the ancient philosophy and knew the Taoist basis of Chinese medicine. During the forum I spoke with many people interested in making these ancient roots more available and known. Many researcher, Taoist priests and Chinese medicine professionals were interested in translating and making public the ancient Taoist classics containing ancient medical knowledge. Many wanted include ancient classics to teaching of Chinese medicine. The promotion of ancient classics, Taoist, Buddhist and medical writings was seen as the way to help the people truly to understand the Chinese medicine. It will contribute overall quality of practice of Chinese medicine everywhere.
If we together can initiate the changes that were brought up in the discussions the Chinese medicine will in the future see more translations, publication of classics in many languages and better availability of medical classics that western people have not seen before. Many classics and other writings are currently only available in the temples but they can be made available also in electronic forms. This is great news for every researcher, translator and members of general public interested in Taoism and Chinese/Taoist medicine.
So to begin a series of contemplation (nèiguān) related articles the Tàishàng Lǎojūn Nèiguānjīng or Classic of Internal Contemplation has been translated to English. Download the English translation here: Neiguanjing.