Connection between the body and the mind
Good morning, everyone. This is today’s Dharma Espresso on the “Connection between the Body and the Mind”.
We have talked about the Dualistic Mind and the True Mind, but we have not yet discussed the connection among the Dualistic Mind, True Mind, and Body, and how we cultivate our body to transform our mind.
I want to talk to you about an important thing that will help you understand the progression of Taoism and its followers. Taoism has existed in China for a very long time. It started with some customs and shamanism. It slowly developed into an organized religion with doctrines, Tao teachers, and gongs, which are Taoist temples. Before that time, Taoism did not have temples. Similar to Buddhist pagodas, Taoists call their house of worship a gong.
The development of Taoism was very special. It did not start with the worship of nature, but started with finding, understanding, and gaining invisible powers. Over a thousand years, reaching the Song dynasty, also called the Northern Song and the Southern Song, Taoism started to divide. There were outstanding Taoist scholars and cultivators who started asking questions as we do today:
“What is the connection between the body and the mind? Why does Taoism talk about cultivating? What is their cultivation?”
During this time, appeared a scholar and cultivator named Zhang Boduan. He was born in 987 and died in 1082, living for almost 100 years, one of the immortals. He was a direct disciple of Lu Dongbin, and he began to go against the old school of Taoist traditions.
The old school of Taoist traditions practiced shamanism and promoted superstitions amongst their followers. Zhang Boduan was, however, focusing on the culture of openness. In the old times, people often searched for means to prolong youth and to be immortal, but he said youth and immortality did not exist externally, but internally. Alchemy was the transformation of our heart and mind. Hence, he gave birth to an important notion: “cultivating the Vitality until it becomes the Energy; cultivating the Energy until it becomes the Spirit; and cultivating the Spirit until it flows into Emptiness.” This summarizes the method to cultivate the heat in our body till it becomes inner energy. This kind of heat has a great power of concentration. The Vitality is the heat outside our body, but it can be transformed into a strong inner energy. This heat can rise up to the Solar Plexus, and from there it moves to the crown of the head, which is called: “cultivating the Vitality until it becomes the Energy, and cultivating the Energy until it turns into the Spirit.” The Spirit is at the top of our head, where Nirvana exists. Nirvana is a word that is borrowed from Buddhism. From the top of our head, we can enter into the Emptiness or the Non-dualism. The cultivation is no longer an external matter.
The Taoists further introduced another special concept called “five types of energy returning to the original source.” These five types of energy are from the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys and should be cultivated in such a way so that they can come back to their source. This source is indeed our spirituality. The Taoists have, therefore, established the connection and the cultivation method for the body to overcome the dualistic mind and to achieve the True Mind. This is a unique creation in the Taoist culture and its influence has been widespread, impacting also Buddhism and its followers. The Song dynasty was heavily impacted by the Taoist terminology. Tao, or the Way, is purely a Taoist term that has been used extensively in Buddhist sutras.
When the venerable Zhang Boduan passed away, a very famous person came forth with cultivating experiences even more profound than the venerable Zhang Boduan’s. “The junior surpassed the senior.” Who was this person? He was Wang Chongyang. Do you think that this Wang Chongyang and the character in Jin Yong’s novels were the same person? They have similar names. The historical figure Wang Chongyang was not a person of remarkable martial-art capability, but a person of exceptional clarity of mind and of deep practices. He taught his disciples how to converge the energy of the five main organs in their body.
What does it mean by converging? It means making them become harmonious. This is what he said: “the heart is the home of the Spirit. The liver is the home of the Soul. The kidneys are the home of the Vitality. The lungs are the home of the Communication or Community. And the spleen is the home of the Will Power.” He said all these sources of energy need to be converged back to the original source, to when they were not yet divided into five. When the nature of one is divided into five, it becomes the five kinds of energy in the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys. Cultivate so that the five kinds of energy from the organs – heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys are converged. Then, the True Mind will manifest itself.
This is the most basic principle of Taoism, called Internal Alchemy, which means the cultivation of the internal transformation. This marked a revolutionary step in Taoism. It is regrettable that this revolution is no longer practiced today. You now see that Taoist Gongs either practice shamanism, magical powers, or preach superstitions. The Taoists no longer know how to “cultivate the Vitality until it becomes the Energy, cultivate the Energy until it becomes the Spirit, and cultivate the Spirit until it transforms into Emptiness.” They have forgotten how to converge the energy of the five organs, called “Returning to the Source”. Zhang Boduan, thus, wrote a booked entitled “Awakening to the Truth”. Awakening to the Truth means to be aware of one’s True Nature, which is the key of this cultivation path.
Wang Chongyang founded the Complete Reality School. This school taught people to be awakened and not to be ignorant. It is regretful that Jin Yong’s novels render us thinking the Complete Reality School was all about martial arts, and that it was established close to the Ancient-Tomb sect of the Little Dragon Lady. That belongs to so-called historical fiction. In reality, Wang Chongyang was a special figure, who greatly revolutionized Taoism and educated a lot of people to follow the right way.
In short, the main point of today’s talk is that the connection of Body and Mind does not exist only in Buddhism, but also in Taoism.
In Buddhism, we say that we need to sit still in order to open up the light that penetrates each Skandha, Form, Feelings, Thoughts, Habitual Energy, and Consciousness. Taoism says that “let the five kinds of energy returnto the original source”. We all talk about the connection between the Body and the Mind. That means if we don’t transform our body, we do not have a chance to transform our mind. Our mind is well founded, and it won’t listen to us. So, we must first learn rites and rituals, and then learn the culture. We have to understand the rites so that we do not go astray, and cultivate the body so that we can transform our internal energy to be more and more positive, and more and more orientedtowards goodness instead of being selfish. The beautiful thing about Buddhism is that our body has energy which can be shared with others to develop our altruism.
Today’s talk is already long. Good bye, everyone. Enjoy your morning dharma espresso with joy and awakeness.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)