Inquiring into the Principles


Cultivating the Tao

Quoted from:

Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy, by Liu Yiming (1734-1821), page 158

Now, the learning of the saints and the sages consists in the learning of “inquiring into the principles and achieving one’s Nature in order to accomplish one’s Existence.” (*) Its principles are refined and subtle, and its meanings are deep and obscure. Tortoise and milfoil cannot fathom it, spirits and deities cannot know about it. It is not something to which you can awaken by means of one word or half a sentence. If you do not inquire into these principles and practice several dozens of years, you can only make conjectures about a couple of things. Unless you accumulate virtue in your conduct, unless you are bold in your progress, and unless you are single-minded and determined, you cannot come into contact with a true master. (**)

Source: Xiuzhen houbian (Further Discriminations in Cultivating Reality), sec. 26.



(*) Yijing, “Shuogua” (Explanation of the Trigrams); see Wilhelm, p. 262.

(**) The term translated as “come into contact” is gandong. This is a traditional expression, often translated as “stimulus and response” or in analogous ways. The student’s qualities—which Liu Yiming defines as virtue, determination, and single-mindedness—are what causes a master to respond by “moving” towards him or her.


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