Differentiating the True from the Fake

Internal Alchemy is the subject I was most interested in, when I first came to the Five immortals Temple. Now, 3 years later, I had finally the chance to attend this course. It was a short, but very intense time. Full of content, theories and methods. And since the first day of class, the myths and knowledge I believed to be part of the internal Alchemy, began to fall apart. By having ShiFu showing us patiently the main framework of the way of refining the elixir and cultivating the Dao, we learned how to differentiate the truth from the fake. To differentiate the path of the great Dao from that of the small Dao, the bedchamber art, as it is often called in the west and believed to be the internal Alchemy. We were taught the methods and requirements for cultivating stillness and experienced collective meditation and longevity qi gong. We also practiced collective fasting, which gave me a deep insight in the way my body and mind changed during the three days abstaining from any type of food.

It is illusory to think to have been able to grasp the immense content of internal Alchemy in a few days. Even more, given the fact that most of the content of internal Alchemy is related to stages, that we common people are far away from being able to understand, not even mentioning to have experienced or have reached there. Nevertheless, I am truly grateful to Li ShiFu, for having given us a clear direction. Now it is up to us, to put this knowledge into practice. The path is already under our feet.

Becoming One

On the second day of abstaining from grain, I stood there early morning – feeble, shaky, alone. The mist of the mountain clouds was covering the temple grounds, and inside me – the flicker of light dim and fading. Suddenly, a wave of unknown energy washed over me. As I looked up and felt the wind on my face – the trees started to move gently, whilst staying perfectly still. Everything- the sky, the earth, the trees, the clouds, me – became one. I could feel what they feel, what they must have felt all these timeless years. All the hardships, the bitterness, the loneliness, the strength persevered by these trees. What are my own daily worries if not dust? Nature knows stillness, and in the middle of it there is movement. As the sun peaked through the clouds, suddenly I heard music softly rolling into our QiGong courtyard. It was full of light, and calmness, and indescribable hope – for this unity, for each of us, for the Universe. It’s as if, at this very moment, Shifu knew. He does.

It’s impossible to convey my experience here through common language. I could say that I learned about inclusivity, perseverance, repentance, wholeheartedness and destiny. But that would just be a list of big words. I could say that I learned about QiGong, and sitting meditation, and internal alchemy, and even the Elixir of the immortals. But that would be pretentious. I could say that I learned acceptance and gratitude through living simply, but I haven’t experienced even a yota of what this place has been through. The path is under our own feet. Thank you.

Reaching knowledge

Having been interested in various aspects of daoist arts over the years I came across many books, countless websites and very few actual teachers so I made sure to choose my first destination to ever visit in China wisely. After months and years of inquiring the search was over and the fate brought me to the Five Immortals Temple on the top of the mysterious Bai Ma Shan. Even more exciting, the course I was accepted to was Dan Dao, The Inner Alchemy.

Before applying I thought I already knew a bit on the topic and initially was just interested in clearing some of the misconceptions regarding the ever controversial Bi Gu practice and get some extra tips on the gong of sleeping meditation. First doubts about the content of my previously acquired knowledge started arising during the 10 months long preparation process before the Dan Dao course had even begun. Sitting in the comfort of my home and reading mandatory scriptures I have to confess I already had troubles digesting it properly and the literature of the past was of no help and started to seem simplistic and sometimes even childish in comparison.

Once up in the temple the very first classes made it even more clear – the popular notions of the daoist practices that I had encountered in the West in the form of books, online courses and even some actual instructors are nowhere near the richness of the full picture that Li Shifu was patiently unravelling in front of us day by day, presenting us with his detailed lectures, informative diagrams, many examples and perhaps most importantly answering our countless questions again and again.

Now having completed the course I feel like that was the most precious of the many gifts that I have received during my days spent in the temple. Coming back home with such an abundance of knowledge, practical skills and above all a much clearer perspective of what the daoist path to ascension is, the one not distorted by crooked paths or popular mistruths. Could there be ever a more valuable lesson a person can receive while still living in this human form?

 Bai Ma Shan, August 2017