Wisdom is like water. It resides in the lower meditation field, the belly. The head is for thinking; the heart for willing and desiring. The belly is the place for wisdom and contemplation. We “return” to Dao’s gestating presence, from the ‘inner womb’ of intuitive awareness. (Daoist Master Chuang, 3rd edition, 2012).
The history of Daoism in China is divided into four parts, or “four seasons,” spring (3000-221 BCE), summer (221 BCE – 906), autumn (906-1644) , and winter (1640-..until today).
During the “Spring” of Daoist history, what we call “Daoism” (Daojiao 道教)was seven separate streams of spiritual practice, called Daojia, 道家 (schools of Daoism) which became a powerful river (Daojiao)– combining inner cultivation + ritual, during the summer of Daoist history. The seven separate streams of Daoist “Spring” are:
Spring, 3000 BC to 221 BC, before the forming of Daojiao; see the” 道教源流“:
1. Apophatic or Wu-wei 无为meditation, based on the books of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu.
2. Yinyang Five Element cosmology, 阴阳五行的人生观, a Yu-wei “visible Dao” 有为 (kataphatic), image filled system describing cyclical change in nature.
3. Neidan, 内丹inner alchemy, or meditation, uniting seasonal changes, colors, and unseen forces as visualized spirits within the interior organs of the meditator’s body.
4. Li Yi, 礼仪Ritual meditation, used to celebrate “Rites of Passage” and annual change in nature. The founder of Celestial Master Daoism, Zhang Daoling, (ca. 145 CE), based early Daoist rituals on the Monthly Commands (Yueling月令) chapter of the Confucian Book of Rites (Li Ji 礼记), and the “Ancient Weft” writings (古纬书).
5. Fangshi方士, the ancient healers and ritual experts of fang rural villages and suburban villages, and cities. Fangshi became Daoshi 道士or Daoists in the Han Dynasty.
6. Wushu, 武术 Martial Arts; the Taiping 太平 Great Peace Martial forms of Daoism, evolved during the Han dynasty into multiple non Daoist physical formats, until today.
7. Yijing, 已经the Book of Changes, the earliest source of apophatic and kataphatic prayer images, it is used in all later Daoist rituals and meditations.
These many sources became a great river called “Daoism” (Daojiao道教) of inner cultivation and festive rites of passage, during the summer of Daoism, from the Later Han through the Tang dynasties (145-906 CE), proliferated during the “Autumn” — Song through Ming dynasties (960-1640 CE), and hibernate in the “Winter” of Daoism, 1640 on:
“Summer,” Han dynasty to the end of the Tang dynasty, 220 BCE-906 CE. The unification of 5 Daoist schools into a unified, hierarchical system: Zhengyi, Lingbao, and Shangqing (正一，靈寶，上清), then the later Pole Star and Thunder-vajra 北斗 － 雷法 ritual schools.
The first Celestial Master, Zhang Daoling, 张道陵天师received the Zhengyi Mengwei 正一盟威 经录 texts and registers (lists of spirits’ names, summons, and appearances) in the hills between Heming shan and Qingcheng Shan, Szechuan between 145-165; the school later moved to Longhu Shan in Jiangxi, where it remains until today.
The Lingbao 灵宝school, based at Gezao Shan in Jiangxi drew its registers and texts from the ancient Gu Wei Shu 古纬书writings, especially the Hotu and Luoshu chapters 灵宝派的科仪经录本与古纬书的先天河图，后天落书.The basic texts of the Lingbao tradition use the Hotu (ie the Xiantian prior heavens arrangement of the 8 trigrams, to renew Yinyang & the 5 element, in the macro-micro cosmos, by ritual and meditative “implanting” the Lingbao 5 Talismans and the Lingbao 5 True writs 灵宝五符，灵宝五真文.(1)
The Shangqing school, founded by a woman mystic Wei Hua Cun in revealed texts, was established at Mao Shan in Jiangsu province, commented on and expanded between 236 to 510 by male scholars and mystics 茅山 上请派本与女道师魏化存，黄庭内径，黄庭外经，上请经，等. The Shangqing tradition was summarized by the N-S period scholar Tao Hongjing in the early 6th century, preserved in the Zhengtong (Ming dyn.) Daoist Canon.
The Beidou Pole Star School, and the Qingwei Thunder-Vajra school 北斗经录，清微雷法经录 of esoteric nature, became a part of the Daoist Inner Alchemy Meditation, and liturgical tradition, during this time. The Thunder-Vajra system, revealed to the woman Daoist Zu Shu, was included in the Daoist Canon during the “Autumn” period.
-“Autumn,” Song thru Ming dynasties, 906-1644 CE; the “religious reformation” of China; emphasis on laity, local adaptation, and multiple “new” schools, such as Shenxiao, Lü Shan, 神霄，閭山，and monastic, as well as laity “Quanzhen” 全真七派 (7 schools) Daoism. The great Daoist master of south China, Bai Yuchan 白玉羼 helped to “rectify” and formally distinguish the later Shenxiao and earlier Qingwei schools in his canonical writings.
-“Winter,” Qing dynasty, and modern times, 1644 until today. Daoists were less involved in State affairs during the Qing dynasty and early 1911-1945 Republic, and then were made to withdraw from public life, after 1949. Daoist texts were burned, or hidden, due to official state disapproval. However, the 3rd millennium is witnessing a rebirth of Daoism throughout China and the overseas Diaspora. The ancient texts are being restored to their places of origin, and the use of “inner alchemy” contemplative prayer, with its outer expression in Daoist ritual, is once again being authentically practiced and taught by Daoist Masters.
The use of the inner, contemplative tradition with its outer expression in orthodox ritual, is more fully explained in The Teachings of Daoist Master Zhuang (Saso, Oracle Bones Press: 2012), and Mystic Shaman Oracle Priest (Saso: 2013), for which see this blogsite, www.michaelsaso.org (WordPress website).
(Footnote: orthodox Daoist rituals, which follow the meditative “return to the Wuwei Dao of Gestation” (回源反根) are listed and described in Ch 3 of Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest, i.e., as a progression from the Luoshu Jintan nine stage mandala (8 trigrams with Dao in the Center), through the Hotu 5 Stage Suqi rite in which the 5 talismans are planted in the macro and microcosm, the 3 “morning, noon, and night Audiences” in which Qi, shen, and jing are refined respectively in the 3 cinnabar fields (shang, zhong, xia dantian), and finally Union with the Dao is achieved in the Daochang Zhengjiao, on the last morning of the Jiao ritual).禁坛 － 后天八卦，宿启－先天八卦（按灵宝五真文), 早朝炼气，午朝炼神，晚朝炼精（直觉），道场正醮炼无为之道－与道合真。This process must be learned from a Daoist Master (women equally with men), of Grade 5 ordination or above 授五品经录以上。The ordination manual of the 3 Mountain schools state specifically that Grade 5 and above can only be given to those who are pure in mind, heart, and body, i.e., do not practice “fangzhong” (芳中)，celibate of a monk or nun, and loyal to one spouse, if married and living as “fireside” (home dwelling) with children. “Dao for dollars”, ie making profit from teaching Daoist registers and internal liturgical practices, is also strictly forbidden.
The word Jiao, 醮 in pre Imperial China (before 221 BCE), meant the ritual offering of wine and incense to the invisible spiritual forces that govern nature. When China was united under a single visible emperor, during the Qin-Han dynasties (221 BCE onward), concepts of the spirit world, philosophy, “inner cultivation” and “rites of passage”, were unified as well, by accepting the Yin Yang 5 Element 陰陽五行 theory of nature. The term “Three teachings, One Culture” San jiao gui yi 三教歸一 was used to describe this unifying of China into a single socio-cultural system. Confucian Teachings (Ru jiao 儒教) codified ethics for human relationships. Buddhism (Fuo jiao 佛教), imported from India and altered substantially in China, provided ritual for pacifying the souls of ancestors and other “daemon” spirits in the afterlife. Daoism (Taoism, Dao Jiao 道教) provided a ritual system to unify humans with changes in nature, and the spirit world, through spiritual cultivation. During the Han dynasty (220 BCE – 220) Jiao 醮 became a word used for a very specific kind of Daoist ritual.
Three kinds of Jiao rituals are found in today’s Daoist Canon (Dao zang 道臧): “Gold Register Jiao” (Jin lu Jiao 金籙醮) for village and temple renewal; “Yellow Register Zhai” (Huang lu Zhai 黃籙齋) for burial; and “Jade Register Jiao” (Yü lu Jiao 玉籙醮) for imperial court and State rituals. Through its colorful liturgies, Daoism was called the weft (wei 緯) and Confucianism the warp (jing 經), of the very fabric of Chinese society.
Confucianism, as the “warp” 經 or vertical threads of Chinese society, provided texts in classical literary Chinese, to define the rules for socio-political relationships. These texts became the basis for entrance by imperial examination into the upper strata of Chinese political bureaucracy. Daoism as the “weft” 緯 or horizontal threads of Chinese society, provided an explanations of the cosmos in terms of human relations to the world of nature, its seasonal changes, life cycles, and the invisible spiritual powers that effect us. Buddhism, imported from South Asia, provided subtle colors, painted on the surface of the Chinese social fabric, offering philosophical debates for the intellectual, and afterlife salvation for the masses. Thus “three teachings one culture” (三教歸一) define China’s perennial culture.
The Daoist Jiao 醮 ritual draws from all three of these Han dynasty unified systems to bless and renew Chinese family and village life, within the boundaries of social status, wealth, and political power. An analysis of the Jiao festival shows in fact a 3-fold structure and very specific content, that draws from all 3 systems.
“A” or Confucian based rituals purify the sacred ritual area, announce the coming of the Heavenly Emperor and his court, invite spirits to be present, present a memorial, receive back a “Shuwen” imperial rescript order, then thank the heavenly rulers, and send them off.
“B” Buddhist style chant, called “canons of merit and litanies of repentance,” are used to free all souls from the sufferings of an afterlife hell/-purgatory. Souls confined to the underworld are offered, raw, uncooked food, to be taken away, prepared in another place, after which they are “see off” or freed to enter a Buddhist Pure Land paradise.
“C” style Ritual acts out the Laozi Ch. 42, “Dao births One, Two, Three, Myriad creatures,” then reverse this process, proceeding from the “myriad creatures” of nature back to an audience with the Wu Wei Transcendent Dao, (by moving from 9, to 5, 3,2,1, to the Transcendent, eternally gestating Wuwei Dao). To do this, the Daoist High priest first performs the 9 stage Loshu 落书 (square) mandala, in a ritual called “jintan” 禁坛, to close the Gate of Demons in the NE, and open the Gate of Heaven in the NW; then a 5 stage circular Hotu mandala, 河图，aka 宿启，明堂 is offered, to renew the five elements, and the five inner organs of the human body; these rites are performed on the first day of the Jiao. On the second day, the Daoist high priest refine “3-2-1”, ie, Qi, shen, jing 炁神精) into hundun 混沌 or Taijji 太極，the visible female Dao that gives birth to nature. Then on the 3rd day the Daoist master has “audience” (Daochang 道場) with the Transcendent Dao, within the Tan 坛 sacred Daoist altar area, as well as in one’s own wisdom center, the human belly (i.e., the xiadantian,下丹田 lower cinnabar field, the body’s physical center of gravity). After audience with the Dao, a Shuwen 疏文 rescript from the Dao of Heaven is carried into the sacred Tan area, and presented to the Daoist High priest by the Dujiang Deacon, after which the High Priest dances the sacred nine stage “Steps of Yu the Great” Yü Bu 禹步 rejoicing that the people’s petitions have been granted, and the cosmos renewed.
On the afternoon of the 3rd day, the Daoist high priest and his assistants perform the “Pudu” 普度 rite for freeing all souls from the hell-purgatory underworld. An effigy of 马头观音 Matou Guanyin is used to protect humans from unrequited souls freed from hell, which is afterwards burned, with folded gold and silver paper money, as a way of sending off the prayers and merits of the living, to bless all humans and all of nature. All images must be eliminated, and all merit given away, nothing kept for the self, for the Jiao ritual to succeed.
The three ritual ends with a rite to thank and see off the spirits of heaven, earth, and the underworld. It is interesting to note that the head of the Confucian Board of Rites, from the Tang through the end of the Ming dynasty, was always appointed by the Emperor to a Daoist who had both passed the Jinshi doctorate of Confucian classical studies, as well as having a high rank Daoist Lu register ordination; this is because the Mingtang court ritual which had to be performed 5 times a year, and the Daoist Suqi ritual used in the Jiao, were analogous, if not identical. The manner of performing the 5 basic Jiao rites of renewal, ie the Suqi, Morning, Noon, and Night audiences, and the Daochang 宿启，早朝，午朝，晚朝，道场正醮，may not be explained to scholars or non-Daoists, foreign or Chinese, by strict Daoist jie 戒 vow or rule. The Daoist passes on the inner meditation or neigong aspects of these rituals to only one son, and one disciple, the week before his passing (death).
(Daoist Master Zhuang, M Saso, Oracle Bones Press, 2012) (Mystic, Shaman, Oracle Priest, 2013)
The new, corrected 3rd edition of Daoist Master Zhuang, in Chapters 4, 5, and 6, shows in condensed format, what one must learn before receiving a “license,” in order to be a Daoist “Rites of Passage” master. It must be noted, here, that there is no such thing as a Daoist “ordination” in the western sense of the word; instead it is called “shou lu” 收錄 ie receiving a register/list of spirits’ names, summons, and appearances, and learning where to store the spirits in the body, to be summoned out and used during ritual, exorcism, and healing. The Tantric Buddhist equivalent is the “kancho(jpn)- guanding(chn)”灌頂, which is equivalently the same process as that used by the Daoist; often with the same mudra, manta, and sacred image. One must practice many years with a master who uses Chinese language in daily life, in order to learn the mudra 手印, mantra 咒文 and mandala 道場 images, AND actually see them, store them in the body, and know how to summon them forth and use them in ritual, to heal, and sanctify others. Once these processes are learned, one can go to a licensing place, such as Hieizan in Kyoto, Longhu Shan in Jiangxi, etc, and pay for a document which certifies that you paid for a license to perform public ritual, whether or not the spirits really come when you summon them. One must first go to a licensed Daoist master who knows the music, hymns, dance steps, and rituals, to learn how to do ritual meditation correctly. The reason for doing this is to learn how to perform the Rites of Passage, in a Chinese cultural and linguistic context only (there is no equivalent in the west).
When you go to a master and he or she says “I don’t know how to do it,” “I just do it to make a living”, then you have probably found a real master, and must by lengthy presence and unassuming humility learn by attending his/her rituals as a disciple, and praying with him/her, etc. If, on the other hand, the master says “I am the best, here is the fee,” or “I will give you an ordination,” such is done at modern day Longhu Shan, and even Hieizan (sixty days of physical deprivation and rote performance of rituals), and paying the $5000 to $9000 fee, one is given a license to “legally” accept money for performing rites of passage within a Japanese or Chinese cultural context. There are no equivalent rites in English, or at least no one has created them yet. Martial Arts masters, healers, TCM doctors, do not need to learn the complicated Daoist or Buddhist rites of renewal or burial, unless the goal is to perform them in a Chinese or Japanese cultural context. Perhaps we can work out a way to do this, in western languages and cultures, on the web!
At last Daoist Master Zhuang 3rd edition has been published. It can be ordered % Oraclebones Press, 1250 Long Beach Ave, #204, Los Angeles, CA 90021, or on line. the cover photo is pictured here; updated, with Pinyin Romanization, and clear instructions how to perform Daoist rites of renewal and healing. Includes “Qimen Dunjia” rites 奇門遁甲，orthodox Zhengyi Mengwei rites of renewal 正一盟威科儀，and Qingwei Thunder-vajra ritual 清微五雷法。
Mandala as Interior Practice
A Mandala is a patterned geometric icon, drawn to assist the person contemplating its sacred images to achieve unity (Sanskrit: Adi; Chn.: Bu-er 不二; Engl. “non-duality”) of mind, heart and body with the Absolute, symbolized in the mandala’s very center. The goal of this contemplative process, to achieve awareness of Absolute Presence, is fulfilled by the simultaneous use of the mind (by viewing the mandala images), the heart (by orally chanting the mantra “seed” words), and the body (by using mudra hand dance), while contemplating the Mandala’s images. Tantric Buddhism, the ritual meditations of Daoism, and the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola, all teach that the total body (not just the mind alone) must feel, taste, and experience the “sacred” in unity, if prayer is to be effective, ie, lead to compassion, forgiveness, and empathy for others. The basic goal of contemplating a mandala, therefore, is that mind, mouth, and body experience the “sacred” by visualizing the mandala images, chanting appropriate mantra, and performing the assigned mudra, in unison.
There are two, basic mandala, in the Tantric Buddhist system: the Lotus Mandala (Gharba Datu; Chn. Lianhua 蓮花, Jpn Rengei) and the Vajra Mandala (Vajra Dhatu; Chn. Jingang 金剛, Jpn Kongo). Images of the two Mandala are shown here:
Mandala are drawn on cloth, as murals on temple walls, made into 3 dimensional gilded bronze, with statues representing the sacred figures, and in sand. When drawn in sand, the mandala is destroyed on completion; the sand is distributed to the faithful in jars, or swept away into a river or field. Whether in sand or in mental image, the mandala is always “destroyed” or emptied out of mind and body, as a third, “apophtaic” or “kenotic” step before realizing “union.” Thus, in the Tantric Buddhist, ritual Daoist, and Ignatian contemplative systems, the process of realizing “mystic” union must be done in 4 stages, ie, purification, “illumination” by means of sacred image, the emptying out of all images (kenosis), and then absolute union without image. The Daoist classic Zhuangzi calls this step “heart fasting, sitting in forgetfulness.” Only after all images, even the most sacred, and all desires, even for “perfection” or “illumination” are emptied, can absolute presence be realized. This process is described more fully in a forthcoming book “Mystic, Shaman, Oracle, Priest,” which at last is in the final process of editing, before being sent to UH press.
michael saso 9-21-12 from downtown Los Angeles,
emptied of all sacred images of Kyoto and Beijing.