The Golden Elixir Taoist Alchemy Texts Cultivating the Tao, Chapter 4

Cultivating the Tao (Xiuzhen houbian),
by Liu Yiming (1734-1821)

Translated by Fabrizio Pregadio

Book Icon From Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy, by Liu Yiming, 1734-1821 (Golden Elixir Press, 2013). — The translator's notes are included, but some notes refer to chapters of this book not available online.

Cultivating the Tao

The translation on this page is reproduced from:

Liu Yiming, 'Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy'

Preview this Book (PDF)

Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy

Liu Yiming (1734-1821), translated by Fabrizio Pregadio

Golden Elixir Press, 2013
Paperback

Divided into 26 short chapters, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the basic principles of Taoism and an introduction to Taoist Internal Alchemy, or Neidan, written by one of the most important masters of this tradition.

Read more on this book

Chapter 6: Precelestial and Postcelestial Yin and Yang

Neidan: Portrait of Liu Yiming (1734-1821)

Liu Yiming
Portrait by Qing-dynasty artist Tang Lian (唐璉)

The precelestial ☞ Yin and Yang are Being and Non-Being; the postcelestial Yin and Yang are the heart and the kidneys. The Yin and Yang of Being and Non-Being have no form; the Yin and Yang of the heart and the kidneys have images.

"Being" is the Yang within Kan ☵; it is the True Yang and the wondrous Being. "Non-Being" is the Yin within Li ☲; it is the True Yin and the true Emptiness. When the Yang is called "true," we know that it is not the false Yang. When the Yin is called "true," we know that it is not the false Yin.

Since there are a True Yin and a True Yang, there are necessarily a false Yin and a false Yang. The True Yin and Yang come forth from the precelestial, and operate within the Great Ultimate (taiji). The false Yin and Yang come forth from the postcelestial, and are stored within the body.

Selections from Cultivating the Tao

Chapter 4

Chapter 6

Chapter 16

Chapter 19

Selections from Liu Yiming's commentary to Awakening to Reality

Poem 3

Poem 7

Related pages

Alchemical Texts

Taoist Texts

The false Yin and Yang are preserved until the body is preserved, and are gone when the body is gone: they are subject to damage. The True Yin and Yang come forth in what has no form, and operate in what has no image: they are indestructible.

Essentially, the Yin and the Yang of the heart and the kidneys are transformations of the essence and the blood of one's father and mother at the time of their conjunction. They are provided with breath (qi) and substance; therefore they follow the body, and they either are there or are not there. Instead, the precelestial Yin and Yang come forth in the dharma-body (fashen), and thus are generated by the One Breath of Empty Non-Being. They are provided with breath but are devoid of substance; therefore their longevity equals the longevity of Heaven and Earth.

This is one of the differences between the precelestial and the postcelestial.

However, while the precelestial Yin and Yang are born in the precelestial, from the very instant in which one has a body they are stored in the postcelestial, and therefore they pertain to Kan ☵ and Li ☲. Kan is externally Yin and internally Yang. Its external Yin is the postcelestial Yin, and its internal Yang is the precelestial Yang. Li is externally Yang and internally Yin. Its external Yang is the postcelestial Yang, and its internal Yin is the precelestial Yin.

This is another difference between the precelestial and the postcelestial.

Why should you fear that you will not fulfill your Nature and your Existence? Why should you fear that you will not achieve the Great Dao?

Liu Yiming, Cultivating the Tao

Moreover, the postcelestial Yin and Yang only circulate within the body, following the course of creation and transformation. When the initial Yang is born in the zi hour, the breath (qi) of the initial Yang found in the kidneys ascends, and circulates in the blood vessels during daytime. When the initial Yin is born in the wu hour, the breath (qi) of the initial Yin found in the heart descends, and circulates in the blood vessels during nighttime. Yin and Yang alternate, and day and night move in a circle.(1)

In the human being, after the precelestial state becomes concealed, the postcelestial takes charge. Excessive thinking harms the Spirit; lascivious desires and shallow pleasures deplete the Essence. When the Essence and the Spirit are damaged, they covertly extinguish the Breath. When the Breath is exhausted, one dies.

Instead, the precelestial Yin and Yang operate in Emptiness, inverting the course of creation and transformation. When the "living zi hour" arrives, the initial Yang within Kan returns; then you should "advance the Yang Fire" (jin yanghuo) to give life and nourishment to the dharma-body.(2) When the "living wu hour" arrives, the initial Yin within Li comes across; then you should "withdraw the Yin Response" (tui yinfu) to warmly nourish the dharma-body.(3) In this way, the dharma-body is attained. In ten months the Breath becomes plentiful, and you deliver the Embryo of Sainthood (shengtai).

This is another difference between the precelestial and the postcelestial.

Alas! The postcelestial Yin and Yang within the body cannot fulfill your Nature (xing) and Existence (ming). The error made by those who perform evil practices thinking that Yin and Yang are man and woman cannot be described in words.

If students want to discern in a clear way the postcelestial Yin and Yang, they should hasten to seek the seal of verification of a true master, and they can hope to succeed. How could they do this without comprehending the true and the false Yin and Yang? How could they vainly attempt to obtain "one word or half a sentence" in order to "seize creation and transformation," to transcend the ordinary and enter sainthood?(4)

How could students not reflect on this over and over again?

Notes

1. Zi and wu are the two earthly branches that represent the beginning of the Yang and the Yin stages of a cycle, respectively. See the table on p. 133.

2. The "zi hour" and the "wu hour" (mentioned in the next sentence) represent the moment in which the Yang and the Yin principles are reborn, respectively. "Living" means that these moments are distinct from the hours formally marked by zi and wu (23–1 and 11–13).

3. There is an additional meaning in these sentences. The Yang "returning" and the Yin "coming across" refer to the hexagrams Fu ䷗ (Return) and Gou ䷫ (Encounter). These hexagrams represent the beginning of the Yang and the Yin halves of a Yin-Yang cycle, respectively. Therefore the two sentences can also be understood as: "When the living zi hour arrives, the initial Yang within Kan corresponds to the hexagram Return ䷗ . . . When the living wu hour arrives, the initial Yin within Li corresponds to the hexagram Encounter ䷫ (i.e., ‘coming across')."

4. On the expression "one word or half a sentence" see note 9 to Chapter 12. On "seizing creation and transformation" see note 6 to Chapter 19.

 

© 2013 Fabrizio Pregadio and Golden Elixir Press

Portrait of Liu Yiming reproduced from Jia Laisheng (贾来生), Tiejian daoyi: Liu Yiming dazhuan (铁肩道义 — 刘一明大传) [Carrying the Meaning of the Dao on One's Iron Shoulders: A Biography of Liu Yiming], Beijing: Zongjiao wenhua chubanshe, 2011.