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Wudang Kungfu & Qigong Series:
Taoist Enlightenment Process in the Light of Ox-Herding Pictures

Writen by Xuezhi Hu, edited by Vietanh
Please follow the requirement stipulated in Copyright if you want to copy it


1. The Preface
2. Ode to Ox-Herding Pictures: Part One
3. Ord to Ox-Herding Pictures: Part Two

Ode to Ox-herding Pictures: Part Two

6. Free of hindrance

Ox herding picture 6

All at ease fall into doze or sleep in open ground as the will be,
no spur by whip any more, as free as the air is.
Well under the green pines steadily sits the shepherd boy,
Peacefully a gentle tune is aired, narrating more than any happiness.

At this point it should be termed as entering the stage where both Shen and Chi are unified to form an oneness, which lies well beyond the phase "heart-mind and breathing depending upon each other," as the consciousness has gradually blurred, leaving only a little consciousness which could almost not be conscious of anything. It is, however, not the emptiness of nothingness as described by Buddhist, but one whiff of spontaneous circulation in operation in which the sense and pre-heaven breathing both are transformed into two different types of energy---one is Shen and one is Chi, and the former entering the latter while the latter embracing the former. So, you can see the changes that has taken place throughout the process: first is to tame the wildness of the heart-mindg, then get along with the breathing, then get close to “feel” the manifestation initiated by transformation force of great nature—the spontaneous circulation. One famous Taoism scripture called 100-Word Monument reads "sit to listen to non-chord song, run unimpeded into the core mechanism of the Creation by riding of obscurity of illusion." A gentle tune is aired peacefully narrating that more than any happiness." Up to now, can you perceive something from these words or something beyond these words?

Here we borrow the poem “Admonition on Regulating Breathing” by Zhu Shih (a great philosopher in Ming Dynasty) for reference:

A whiteness, I have the view of it;
Cozy and at ease, come and stay together with it and get along with it.
Become quieter and quieter and there seems to open up all out, as like the spring marsh where fish roaming;
Get involved in motion for long whereupon all seems to draw together, as like all insects hibernate.
In diffusion, it opens up to accommodate all, while in turn close up to hibernate,
Its wonderful really stays beyond of any words!
Who is the master of it at all?
The non-mastery dominance deserves to merit such greatness.

At this time non-mastery dominance begins to play its part, naturally there comes the situation“no spur by whip any more, as free as the air is.”

7. Follow the course as it is

ox herding picture 7

Willow bank,green ripples, all dissolves into the sunset,
Gray fog stretches out leisurely, grass-green spreads out downy.
Hunger served with food, thirst with drinks, etc. at all times keeping the manner and tendency as there occur.
Up on the stone the shepherd boy remains asleep soundly.

Here the “sleeping” locates at the core meaning of the words, which apparently falls in line with the main characteristics of immortality study. From the perception in place at beginning to the unconsciousness state later on, from the combination of both Shen and Chi to the unified oneness getting involved in spontaneous motion, the success lies upon “to follow the course as it is,” without any interference, which eventually effects the "natural evaporation, natural convergence, as well as natural stop." (if there is nothing at all, what is to be followed about?)

At this point, the practitioners have come on the stage where heart-mind stops at the natural concordance, the listening stops at the ears. Therefore, we can say all perception and consciousness gradually come to a persistent standstill or a state where persistent standstill dominates. That is sleep, you may conclude. The fact is, however, when ordinary people sleep, dream is the company; when practitioners sleep, no dream at all because all consciousness comes to a stop, to rest, or to “be deprived of all functionality” (Or in another word, the difference between awakeness and sleep disappears). So, the shepherd boy is falling asleep soundly.

Here we borrow one passage from Chuang Tzu for better understanding (translated by Victor H. Mair)

“How do I know that love of life is not a delusion? How do I know that fear of death is not like being a homeless waif who does not know the way back home? When the state of Chin first got Pretty Li, the daughter of the border warden of Ai, she wept till her robe was soaked with tears. But after she arrived at the king’s residence, shared his fine bed, and could eat the tender meats of his table, she regretted that she had ever wept. How do I know that the dead may not regret their former lust for life?

“Someone who dreams of drinking wine at a cheerful banquet may wake up crying the next morning. Someone who dreams of crying may go off the next morning to enjoy the sport of the hunt. When we are in the midst of a dream, we do not know it’s a dream. Sometimes we may even try to interpret our dreams while we are dreaming, but then we awake and realize it was a dream. Only after one is greatly awakened does one realize that it was all a great dream, while the fool thinks that he is awake and presumptuously aware. ‘My excellent lord!’ ‘Oh, thou humble shepherd!’ How perverse they are!

“Both Confucius and you are dreaming, and I too am dreaming when I say that you are dreaming. This sort of language may be called enigmatic, but after myriad generations there may appear a great sage who will know how to explain it and he will appear as though overnight!”

8. Reciprocal forgetfulness

ox herding picture 8

White cattle in white clouds,
Inadvertently, man remains free of any mind, so does the cattle.
Moon has its shade penetrate through white clouds, and vice versa.
White clouds, full moon in brightness, all are as they are, either east or west as they may be.

In Chan Buddhism, white clouds is a metaphor used often to illustrate the state free of hindrance which is gained by riding of the attachment (to ego, to dharmas). So, does the white cattle. People are advised to pay more attention upon how the ox changes its color from the black to white in the pictures, and how often the white clouds, full moon or free air are used in the poems accompanying the pictures.

At this point we should term it as a reciprocal forgetfulness of both Shen and Chi, and all phenomena falling within our consciousness sphere begin to decompose and the reciprocal binding between all phenomena begin to unravel and all seems to arrive at the same root with same footing, and all becomes transparent to each other, or in another word the barrier between all phenomena begins to collapse. Yes, man forgets about ox, and ox forgets about man. Man forgets about their cognizing objects and the cognizing objects forget about man---the binding between cognizing faculty and cognizing objects begins to die away. Thus comes the reciprocal forgetfulness. In the words of Buddhism, it is the gradual disappearance of attachment to ego and the attachment to dharma---the cognition that everything has inherent nature.

Chuang-Tzu said, "fish and waters of both rivers and lakes forget about each other reciprocally, both people and all means they hold on to forget about each other reciprocally." Therefore, you can see how importantly the forgetfulness is during the enlightenment process! Furthermore, unilateral forgetfulness merits no reward whatever at this point. It should be the reciprocal forgetfulness to be in place simultaneously.

Once upon this stage, where is heart-mind? Where is the means you should adhere to? Where is ego? Where are all phenomena? White clouds, a full moon in brightness, all are as they are, either east or west as they may be. Chuang-tzu said: “undo the Jing and Shen to transcend life existence.” It is a great liberation in comparison when people think about the former bondage they cocoon themselves within due to their attachment. In fact, all enlighten process is nothing but to continue undoing the bindings and bondage, clear up the sulliness, rid of the habituation, rectify that put upsided-down, to restore our true features.

Here most people prefer to use “forget” to replace “undo.” In fact, the forgetfulness already lost its meaning and its functionality, either.

9. The shining in independence

Ox herding picture 9

Nowhere is the cattle,
Thus shepherd boy has completely nothing to be engaged in.
There is nothing at all save a slice of cloud dangling lonely between cliffs of green peaks.
Clap hands and sing a song in high tone he beckons down the moon,
Well return he does yet another mountain ridge he has to climb over!

Here we borrow one passage from Chaung Tzu for reference

Nan-po Tse-kuei said to Nu-Yu, "You are of an old age, and yet your complexion is that of a virgin. How is this?"

Nu-Yu replied, "I have obtained Tao."

"Could I get Tao by studying it?" asked Nan-po Tse-kuei.

"No! How can you?" said Nu-Yu. "You are not that type of person. There was Puliang-I. He had all the talents of becoming a sage, but not the way of becoming the sage, whereas I had way of becoming a sage but without the talents of a sage. But do you think I was able to teach him to become indeed a sage? Had it not been so, in the way of accomplishing sage’s Tao to tell one who has a sage's talents would be an easy matter. I patiently keep watch to it and talk to him. In three days, he could put the world outside himself. Again I keep watch to it for seven days more, then he could put all concerns outside himself. I waited for another nine days, after which he could put all beings outside himself. After putting all beings outside himself, he was able to achieve the thorough awakening of dawn. After he could achieve the thorough awakening of dawn, then he had the clear vision of the absolute independence, and after that, he could do away with past and present. After he could do away with past and present he was able to enter domain where life and death are no more. That which let life die out does not die; that which gives life to life does not live. This is the kind of thing it is: there's nothing it does not send off, nothing it does not welcome, nothing it does not destroy, nothing it does not complete. This is to be 'attaining peace amidst confusion and strife.' After the confusion and strife, and the completion attained.

Here let us pay attention to the following sentence: “After he could achieve the thorough awakening of dawn, then he had the clear vision of the absolute independence.” Here it is the shining in independence or independent shining. In Chinese Pin Yin it is called “Shen Du.” One subtlety is there, subject to neither decrease nor increase, shining all over heaven and earth and make up one whole ball of brightness. When one full moon is hanging high up in clear shy there are unlimited moons in rivers and lakes to shine. Talk about its exterior it is infinity, talk about it interior there has nothing to contain inside. Therefore, the barrier existing between interior and exterior disappears, which indicates the absoluteness or total independence after transcending the relativity realm where all remains relative to the other (each being is but the aggregate of other and lacks its inherent nature). Yet, it is not the end because it is still a being though at a complete different realm. So, it is still a barrier or an illusion based upon the leftovers or corpuses of the deceased.

For people who have some knowledge of Buddhism theory they can understand such stage denotes several stages within process called Cultivating-Way, the fourth of five enlightenment phases (accumulation stage, beneficial practice stage, seeing-path stage, cultivating-Way stage and gaining-fruit-of-Buddhahood stage).

10. Double annihilation

Ox herding picture 10

Both human and cattle are nowhere, free of any footprints to be traced!
A bright full moon has its light shining thoroughly, penetrating all through with no exception.
If you ask the ins and outs after all,
Wild flowers, fragrant grass all nodding as the freeze comes upon.

Here we can see all traces and deceased corpses have been rid of. You may ask what the traces and deceased corpses mean. In fact here we indicate the traces or corpses of deceased sullied habituation, afflictive hindrance as well as noetic hindrances. There are so delicate and subtle that to rid of them makes up a so challenging task that many people fail to gain success or finish only part of the work, eventually.

Here let borrow some words from Chuang Tzu: “This is the kind of thing it is: there's nothing it does not send off, nothing it does not welcome, nothing it does not destroy, nothing it does not complete.” Then you can well understand the words; If you ask the ins and outs after all, wild flowers, fragrant grass all nodding as the freeze comes upon. Why? Because the mountain still is the mountain, the river still is the river. Nothing changed, you may ask? No! wild flowers, fragrant grass all shaking their heads!

From Zhang Ziyang down on, there had been the situation where fellow students met under both Chan Buddhism and immortality study. Some students in immortality study failed to gain practical progress because of their attachment to the so-called “being”, “elixir pill”, “small water wheel”, “large water wheel”, “medicinal substance”, “firing process” and so on. Therefore, they went to Chan Buddhism to seek a breakthrough, thus bringing in many ideas typical of immortality study. In Chan poems there is little to be found concerning wind, fire, water, and earth, but often filled with the description of natural scenery. Same, many people who study Buddhism and Confucianism and fail to gain progress also go to seek solution from immortality study. Hence, in immortality poetry there often appear the terms used in Buddhism and Confucianism. Thus comes the present situation where the convergence of Taoist immortality study, Buddhism and Confucianism dominates.

Fish and waters in both the rivers and lakes reciprocally forget about each other, both people and all means they hold on to reciprocally forget about each other. Lets us do “an effort” to make Buddhism and Confucianism and Taoism all reciprocally forget about each other and walk upon the grand course leading to the eternal Tao!

| Preface | Part One | Part Two |

Wudang Taoism Kung Fu Academy
Mount Wudang Scenery Zone
ShiYan City, Hubei Province, China 442714
Tel: 0086-136-0988-6620 (foreign)
Tel: (0)-136-0988-6620 (domestic)