Erroneous Practices (Part 1)


Cultivating the Tao

Quoted from:

Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy, by Liu Yiming (1734-1821), pages 123-124

. . . People in later times have not understood the discourses about "doing" (youzuo). Some circulate their breath (qi) between zi and wu, others cycle the River Chariot;(1) some join [the breaths of] the heart and the kidneys to one another, and others connect the channels of Function and Control;(2) some gather their breath behind their brain, and others cause their breath to surge up to their sinciput; some harmonize the breath of inspiration and expiration, and others refine their sexual essence; some cause the Essence of Metal to ascend on the back of the body,(3) and others shake their bones causing their marrow to move up and down; some inhale the essences of the Sun and Moon, and others ingest the breaths of the clouds and the mist; some refine metals and stones in the fire of a furnace, and others "ride women" in order to collect the "female elixir" (guidan);(4) some refine the Breath of Celestial Net, and others gather the essences of the five viscera.(5)

There are more than one thousand methods like these. Although their paths are not the same, they all cling to phenomenal appearances in an identical way. If you think that this is the Way of "doing," you have missed it by far.

Source: Xiuzhen houbian (Further Discriminations in Cultivating Reality), sec. 20.



(1) The earthly branches zi and wu represent the beginning and the midpoint of the cyclical route of breath (qi) in the breathing practices. River Chariot (heche) is one of the terms that denotes that route, formed in this case by the Function and the Control vessels (renmai and dumai), which run through the front and the back of the body, respectively. Along that route, or "river," a "chariot" transports one’s breath.

(2) See the previous note.

(3) "Causing the Essence of Metal to ascend on the back of the body" (zhouhou fei jinjing) is one of the Neidan methods first described in the Lingbao bifa (Complete Methods of the Numinous Treasure).

(4) "Riding women" (yunü) is a common expression that denotes the sexual practices, or "arts of the bedroom" (fangzhong shu), which are primarily addressed to males.

(5) On Celestial Net—tiangang, one of the stars of the Northern Dipper—see Chapter 17 of this book. On the five viscera see note 5 to Chapter 2.


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