Riding the wind Floating with Clouds

Lieh-tzu had the immortal Old Shang for a teacher and the sage Pai-kao-tzu as a friend. After he had finished his training, he came home riding on the wind and floating on the clouds.

A man named Yin-sheng heard about Lieh-tzu’s feat and wanted to learn this skill of riding on the wind. So he went to Lieh-tzu and asked to be his student. So intent was Yin-sheng on learning this skill that he stayed at Lieh-tzu’s home and kept pestering the teacher with questions. This went on for several months, but Lieh-tzu only ignored him.

Yin-sheng began to get impatient and then angry that Lieh‐tzu was not teaching him. One day, he left in a huff.

When Yin-sheng got home, he calmed down and realized he had been stupid and impulsive, so he went toLieh-tzu and asked to be his student again. Lieh-tzu simply said, Now why did you come and then leave and then return?”

Yin-sheng said, “When I first came to ask you to teach me, you ignored me. So I got annoyed and left. Then I realized I was too impatient and reckless, so I came back to ask you to accept me as a student again.”

Lieh-tzu said, “I had thought you were intelligent, but now I can see you are quite stupid. Listen to what I went through when I learned from my teachers.”

Lieh-tzu said:

“When I asked Old Shang to be my master and Pai-kao‐ tau to be my friend, I decided to work hard to discipline my body and mind. After three years, I was afraid to have notions of right and wrong and I did not dare to speak words that might offend or please. It was only then that my master glanced at me and acknowledged my presence. Five years later, I thought freely of right and wrong, and spoke freely of approval or disapproval. My master gave me a smile. Seven years later, my thoughts came naturally without any conceptions of right and wrong, and words came naturally without any intention of pleasing or offending. For the first time, my master invited me to sit by his side. Nine years later, no matter what came to my mind or what came out of my mouth, there was nothing that was right or wrong, pleasing or offending. I did not even entertain the idea that Old Shang was my master and Pai-kao‐tzu was my friend.

“It was then I became aware that there was no barrier between what was inside and what was outside. My body was illuminated by a bright light. I heard with my eyes and saw with my ears. I used my nose as mouth and my mouth as nose. I experienced the world with the totality of my senses as my spirit gathered and my form dissolved. There was no distinction between muscles and bones. My body stopped being heavy and I felt like a floating leaf. Without knowing it, I was being carried by the wind. Drifting here and there, I did not know whether I rode on the wind or the wind rode on me.”

He then looked at Yin-sheng and said, “You had only been here for less than an hour and you got dissatisfied that you were not taught. Look at your condition. The parts of your body do not cooperate; the vapors of the sky and earth do not enter your body; your joints and bones are so heavy that you can’t even move. And you want to learn how to ride on the wind?”

When Yin-sheng heard these words he was ashamed and did not ask again about riding on the wind.

Teachings of the Tao: Readings from the Taoist Spiritual Tradition by Eva Wong p. 46-48

Reaching the bright end

as effortless as light
and as certain as time’s passing

we walk forward to a stillness
we can never know

with the clouds yawning in the distance
and the sky, forever quiet

we drift, less certain than foam
reaching the bright end

of the sea

The Voice of the Sea: Poems of the Tao by Yu Jinghai

Caterpillars and Polliwogs

Caterpillars weave cocoons, polliwogs form from cells; eventually the cocoons break open to produce moths, the cells develop to produce frogs.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of liberative transformation of the spiritual embryo.

Those who cultivate reality assemble the five forces, join the hundred spirits, merge with the ultimate; one energy coalesces, whole and pure, not consciously cognized. Now the spiritual embryo has form, like when the caterpillar weaves its cocoon or the polliwog forms its cell.

Store the spirit and energy away in mystical darkness, and the bit of spiritual root will grow from faintness to clarity,
from softness to strength. When the process is complete, suddenly you will break through space to reveal the pure spiritual body, leaping beyond the worlds. This is like when the caterpillar, having transformed into a moth. Breaks out of its cocoon and flies away, or like when the polliwog becomes a frog and leaps. There is a body beyond the body, another world.

Therefore the aftermath of accomplishment of the Way is sometimes referred to as developing the power of flight, and sometimes called shedding the shell and becoming real. These expressions mean that you reproduce a real body inside your physical body. This real body is inherent in everyone, but people are fooled by the objects of their senses, deluded by illusory appearances, so they do not recognize the real body, even though it is right there.

Anyone who can recognize the real body and earnestly cultivate it can produce substance where there was none, produce form where there was none, undergo liberative transformation and become an immortal with an indestructible body.

Awakening to the Tao Liu I-Ming translated by Thomas Cleary p. 76-77

The Crane and the Tortoise

The crane is good at nurturing the spirit, so it lives for a thousand years. The tortoise is good at nurturing energy, so it can survive a century without food.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of prolonging life. If people are able to humbly lower themselves, to be yielding, plain, and sincere, not wasting energy but always nurturing energy, then they will be full of energy. If people can be free from cogitation and rumination, have few desires and little ambition, not belabor their spirit but always maintain their spirit, then their spirit will be complete. When energy is full and the spirit is complete, the root is stable and the foundation is secure. Thus you can extend your life span, prolonging life without deterioration. The crane and the tortoise can live long, even though one only keeps its spirit complete and one only keeps its energy complete; how much the more so when both spirit and energy are kept complete – how could you fail to live long?

Awakening to the Tao Liu I-Ming translated by Thomas Cleary p. 12

The Heat of Movement The Coldness of Stillness

Generally speaking, when people are active, this gives rise to heat; when people sit quietly, this gives rise to cold. When one is cold, if one moves about this will again produce heat. When one is hot, if one sits still this will again produce coldness. In other words, cold and heat do not depend on the weather but on the person.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of taking over the creativity of yin and yang. That which is strong is associated with yang, that which is yielding is associated with yin. If one is strong but not aggressive, humbly lowering oneself, then one will not be irritable but will be peaceful, and equanimous. If one is yielding but not weak, deliberate in action, then one will not be ineffective but will ascend to high illumination.

Able to be strong, able to yield, according with truth and with the time, knowing when to advance and when to withdraw, able to be great and able to be small, able to stop and able to step down, able to be passive and able to be active, one can thereby take over Creation, turn around life and death, reverse the mechanism of energy, leave death and go to life. This is like activity producing heat and quiet sitting producing cold; human power can reverse nature.

Awakening to the Tao Liu I-Ming translated by Thomas Cleary

The Intercourse of Water and Fire

Whenever you leak vital spirit, being stirred and interacting with beings, that is all fire. Whenever you gather back spirits consciousness and quiet it down to steep in the center, that is all water. When the senses run outward, that is fire; when the senses turn around  inward, that is water.

The one yin [ inside the fire trigram ] concentrates on pursuing sense experience, while the one yang [ inside the water trigram ] concentrates on reversing and withdrawing the senses themselves.

Water and fire are yin and yang, yin and yang are body and mind, body and mind are spirit and energy. Once you withdraw to rest your vital spirit and are not influenced by objects, then this is true intercourse, as of course when you sit in profound silence.

Reference:The Secret of the Golden Flower: The Classic Chinese Book of Life new translation by Thomas Cleary XI p. 55