A student who really pays attention and studies in-depth my writings on the Li family philosophy of Xinfu Dao (acceptance of the way) wrote me to ask some questions. I though my answers might be of interest to our group members.
Question: What is meant by spirituality in the internal arts and especially in the Li family methods.
This is a multi-layered subject because of the connotation each individual puts on the word. Most use it in the dictionary definition which is
1. sensitivity or attachment to religious values
2. A concern for and sensitivity to the spirit and soul.
3. A concern for religion and God.
4. The state of being ethereal, otherworldly.
Whereas the root word Spiritual in English means
1. Relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit;
2. not material; supernatural: spiritual power.
3. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul: spiritual guidance; spiritual growth.
4. Not concerned with material or worldly things: led a spiritual life.
5. Of or belonging to a religion; sacred: spiritual practices; spiritual music.
I do not think that the Li family, Master Jou or most of the Chinese philsophers were using these meanings when they said something was “spiritual” in fact they were more than likely trying to express an ethereal feeling
I think they were trying to describe an indescribable feeling that may go beyond being felt with the senses which could be classified as a Noumenon.
The noumenon is a posited object or event that exists without sense or perception. The term noumenon is generally used in contrast with or in relation to phenomenon, which refers to anything that can be apprehended by or is an object of the senses.
Modern philosophy has generally been skeptical of the possibility of knowledge independent of the senses, and Immanuel Kant gave this point of view its expression: that the noumenal world may exist, but it is completely unknowable through human sensation.
This word noumenon has been the subject of much debate among philosophers and it has taken on numerous other meanings that may or may not be a part of Kantian philosophy. In the context in which I am using the word it describes a feeling found in Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism especially Dzogchen where we suddenly experience the stillness beyond stillness and recognize it as the truth. Not our truth or my truth but the unchanging truth that one can only find in meditation.
To Li, Long-dao and Jou,Tsung-Hwa this is what they called a feeling of some action or event being “very spiritual” it is not related in this context to religion or necessarily the belief in a God, supreme being or s spiritual entities. The term could be used in a very deep way when as I said we recognizing the truth in meditation or in a smaller ways it could be a state of transcendence experienced when performing circle walking or some special Qigong practice.
There is a feeling that you and everything is connected to everything else or in perhaps a lesser experience that time has been altered during practice. These phenomena are related to many physical transformations that occur while circle walking especially but also in other so called internal exercises.
Question: Would reaching this state of Wuhuo (no fire) as you discuss in your lectures also mean that one has developed (and/or is on the path to developing) Shen (indomitable spirit)?
Answer: Wuhuo translates as nothing too much on fire and refers to a state of balance or homeostasis in which we are basically in a neutral state. This means one is not angry or happy one just is. Being too stressed or angry is a Yang state, being too happy upbeat consistently is also a Yang state. Being depressed is a Yin state the idea is to be able to experience these states because it is human to do so but not to be trapped by any of them. To realize that we have choices in how we respond to incoming activities and ideas. Through learning this we can achieve Wuhuo.
However it is important to understand that just like tending a camp fire this is an ongoing process. One never builds a perfect fire. It has to be stoked and fuel added when it is burning low and dampened when it is burning too hot. This is the balancing act we all have to accomplish. As Laozi says, “So long as we have a physical body we must accept that nothing will every be perfect.” That does not mean we do not strive for perfection just that we realize it is the journey not the destination that beings us those moments of feeling “very spiritual” about life, ourselves and the universe. Shen often translated as spirit is the highest state of mental evolution in Daoist concepts. A state in which one has transcended the ideas of right and wrong, good and bad and just sees things as being what they are without judgmental attitudes. This is an almost incomprehensible state for anyone who has not achieved it and even though I write this it still puzzles me so I have not reached it either. But working on it.
Question: Also, where does the attainment of the Eight Principles of Acceptance come in?
Answer: The eight principles of acceptance are the tools along with the four virtues that one uses to achieve Wuhuo and regain it when it is lost.
Question – is it in your Golden Vigor Qigong + Eight Principles of Acceptance => balance of yin-yang => Wuhuo
Answer: It could be our Golden Vigor Qigong combined with the Eight Principles and Four Virtues. It could be nine healing circles combined with the Eight Principles and Four Virtues. It could be meditation (not quiet sitting) that brings about this state. There are many roads to the same destination.
The Four Virtues
It is easy to recite the four virtues; it is hard to live them. To live them does not mean that we are always at all times perfect in applying the Si-de to our every action. It means that we are trying to do these at all times. No one is perfect; if they were there would be no reason to exist on this plane. Each day we start with an attempt to follow the Si-de and we should make note each time we fail, then decide how we could have done better.
Zhong 忠 Honest or loyal
To my self and others at all times
It is very difficult to be totally honest with yourself. We all create little falsehoods that we tell ourselves about our friends, lovers, family or other people. It is very easy to lie to others even in small ways. One should be careful because small falsehoods grow into larger ones and then you have to keep track of to whom you have told one thing and to whom another. This creates fear and tension which inhibits correct functioning of qi and longevity energy. Being true to the self allows you to be able to notice your faults and work on them. Being dishonest with yourself keeps you in the dust of illusion /Huan Chen (幻塵)
Qianbe 謙卑 Humble or modest
To all people in thoughts words and deeds
Being humble means to avoid arrogance and be simple in action and deed. When we lack humility we suffer from Zida (自大) a state of inflated self-important. The person of humility will not rest on his present abilities no matter how far they develop he will always feel there is more progress to achieve. It is a never ending journey.
Naifan 耐性 Patient
I serve others according to their needs
Patience is the ability to wait until the time is right and to act out of a need for correct action not influenced by personal desires. When you fail learn to rise again like the phoenix and do better the next time you practice. Understand that you are human and that making mistakes is a part of life not an indication of your lack of ability.
Su 愫 Sincerity, sincere feeling
Sincerity is the foundation of my every action
Sincerity training comes from the heart and a deep need to achieve a higher standard. The virtue of sincerity means one does things because they need to be done and not for a thought of reward. Sincerity means to be honest in the expression of ones true deep feelings. When we are honest, humble and patient we can open our hearts to others without fear. Insincere people want to impress others and so set unrealistic goals they can never reach and are soon discouraged.
Eight philosophical theories of acceptance / Ba Xinfu Zheli (八 信 服 哲理)
These eight concepts are based on the idea of learning to accept ourselves and to understand that we are ultimately responsible for what we choose in life. To embrace these ideas in our lives is difficult yet at the same time liberating. While each principle listed here is simple the attainment of each is a difficult path at best. Each simple statement has multiple layers that descend deep into the human psyche. They challenge our view of the world and ourselves.
1. I accept full responsibility for my actions and thoughts
2. No one may do anything tome or for me without my consent.
3. Growth is accompanied by or preceded by discomfort.
4. Illness of mind and body is the price paid for moving against the will of nature (Dao).
5.I am not responsible for others actions, thoughts, or feelings about the world or myself. Each person chooses his or her own path whether consciously or unconsciously.
6. I do not exist in the past or future except in my imagination. Only now is real!
7Any thoughts, emotions or actions that produce tension from mental or physical sources create Qi stagnation, which hastens illness and death.
8.The material world and all in it is merely an illusion of the true reality.
There is more to Daoqiquan that meets the casual eye.