Original Essence, Breath, and Spirit


Cultivating the Tao

Quoted from:

Cultivating the Tao: Taoism and Internal Alchemy, by Liu Yiming (1734-1821), page 23

Master Ziqing (Bai Yuchan) said:

This Essence is not the essence of the intercourse:
it is the saliva in the mouth of the Jade Sovereign.
This Breath is not the breath of inspiration and expiration:
know that it is the haze of Great Purity.
This Spirit is not the thinking spirit:
it can stand alongside the Original Commencement. (*)

These words refer to what we call Original Essence (yuanjing), Original Breath (yuanqi), and Original Spirit (yuanshen). When Essence, Breath, and Spirit are called “original,” they are meant to be something primal. They are there even before you have your body; through them, what is devoid of form generates form, and what is devoid of substance generates substance.

Source: Xiuzhen houbian (Further Discriminations in Cultivating Reality), sec. 1.



(*) These famous verses are quoted from a poem attributed to Bai Yuchan (1194–1229?), found in Xiuzhen shishu (Ten Books on the Cultivation of Reality), ch. 39.


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