The Essentials of the Shortcut to the Great Achievement (part 1) 大成捷要
©Heavenly Horse Peak Publications 2015
« It seems that the true tradition of inner alchemy has been principally maintained, as much in Taiwan as in the People’s Republic of China, amongst masters often secluded in temples located on mountains, who generally claim to be from the Longmen school ( the « Dragon Gate », a school that has been founded by Qiu Chuji) and who state a transmission whose lineage of masters is held in a precise way. No serious research has yet been made about this transmission, but it appears that the techniques it teaches are incontestably in line with those of the origins. However, it must be noted that those techniques have a certain tendency, nowadays, to get mixed up with simple breathing techniques, so-called qigong (« breath work ») that are hugely popular in Taïwan and in Mainland China, and that are the object of numerous publications. This evolution tends to emphasize the physiological aspect of inner alchemy, that takes over the cosmological speculations and the spiritual and intellectual training, to the point of hiding them in some cases. That way, some publications that claim to be from inner alchemy do not differ anymore from qigong, about which it has to be recalled that it belongs more to the Chinese cultural background than to proper Taoism. But that is only the most visible tendency, that do not prevent some streams of pure inner alchemy to continue to exist. »
Isabelle ROBINET, 1991
Introduction: Reasons for translating
Daoism’s Elixir Way Essentials of the Shortcut to the
Great Achievement of the Upright Dao
I am just a poor Daist priest; my common name is Du Song Feng, my master blessed me with the name Xing De. I am currently residing in Hu Bei Province, Shi Yan City, Zhang Wan District, Bai Lin Town, White Horse Mountain, Five Immortals Temple [Mount Wu Dang, Heavenly Horse Peak]. From childhood I had a destiny with the Dao, I have been exploring the internal alchemy for more than 30 years in order to deeply understand the Dao, it has been very arduous, and difficult. It is not something that can be achieved in one morning or one night. However the Great Dao is extremely simple and extremely easy, one merely has to let go of the human heart; that is all. What is to be done? There are myriads of all kinds of methods. If the heart of the human does not die, it will be difficult to establish the heart of the Dao. Besides, there is vast and narrow knowledge, there are deep and shallow foundations, there are strong and weak bonds with destiny, there are wise and foolish insights, karmic afflictions differ from individual to individual. Therefore different matters cannot be treated the same. When I renounced my family, I was conceited into believing that as little as three years, five years at most would suffice to bear fruits as well as attain its completion. I personally experienced many years of trials and tempering. Reflecting upon myself I was insolent and arrogant at the beginning. I feel deeply ashamed and ignorant, naive and ridiculous. To this day I am a poor Daoist and still a common person who is diligently investigating the mysteries of the universe and life. Since we are humans, our physical body is subjected to the pull of clothing, food, shelter and travel; the entanglement of the seven emotions and the six desires, the confinements of old habits and thinking patterns, et cetera. There is merely deep and shallow confusions, the issue of letting go of more or less weight. My present physical body is inside the gate of Daoism, having the duty of making the temple prosper, taking responsibility of this space where the Dao is cultivated, also wanting to have dealings with all social circles and many societal classes and ranks. Despite the routine business and the entanglements of the toil in the dust [worldly worries and cares], I also would not dare to forget the original intention of becoming a renunciant.
A very wise master said:
“The path of awakening to the Dao is sought within bitterness;
Awaiting flowing water to grind down the stone;
Refining one’s self and waiting for maturity.”
When I have some spare time I teach a little bit of Wu Dang Kung Fu, Daoist Medicine, Qi Gong Healing, Longevity, sitting meditation and the cultivation of stillness et cetera. In recent years every now and then Western students happen to come inquiring about issues around the cultivation of the elixir way –internal alchemy. Even though many talked about the bedchamber arts being Daoism’s golden elixir and the Great Dao, I still did not pay attention at the beginning. Over time more and more questions were raised, and I felt that this could be by no means accidental.
How could there be such a biased and fragmentary knowledge?
How could they ask about these points of study?
Only then did I understand the core of the problem:
(1) The reason being is that the upright methods of the scriptures are obscure and hard to understand. Seemingly masters are unknowing of the authentic transmission, therefore nowadays cultivators in China comprehending them are few and far between
(2) These days there are no expert scholars of true cultivation and concrete verifications who thoroughly expound on the scriptures. Translations employing words can hardly obtain the scriptures’ meanings; besides Westerners not discovering the existence of these scripture translations
(3) There are translations of scripture books that are completely obtained from the books original theories, and do not come forth from any experience of concrete verifications. Many are empty talk of profound theories.
Consequently upon realizing this situation my heart at once generated a sigh of regret; promptly German Disciple Cheng Cai will translate the Founding Father’s ancient classic, in order to transmit it to everyone with destiny in each and every country in the West, in order to explicate the upright principles of cultivation, in order to ignite a heavenly light, as well as to make it unlikely for anyone to end up in misinterpretations and losing one’s direction and way. Since what has been passed down to me by my masters is finite and moreover still being en route of practicing myself, I can only translate everything that I have already grasped. This translation consumed time and energy, as well as it tired the mind. Everyone considers this work to be a benevolent deed and practice of asceticism.
While hoping for its far and wide dissemination, it is strictly prohibited to charge any fee in any shape or form for this scripture [including webpages, reprints and print-publications]!
First Article: Collection of Ancient Internal Alchemy Classics
The origin of the Dao is based on a single principle and its methods are divided into three categories called primes: Heavenly prime, earthly prime and humanly prime. Each of these three primes is further divided into three levels also referred to as three achievements: The initial achievement, the intermediate achievement and the high achievement. Therefore there is nine different ranks in total that are applied by the various internal alchemy schools. Consequently the internal alchemy scriptures can also be categorized according to the three primes. The heavenly prime scriptures deal with the great elixir, the earthly prime scriptures with the spirit elixir, the humanly prime with the golden elixir. In conclusion, the initial achievement could be compared to the first grade in school, the intermediate achievement to the second grade, and the high achievement to the third and final grade. Every grade requires graduation before one progresses to the next stage. All of the three primes are considered great internal alchemy paths, including all three elixirs: the great elixir, the spirit elixir and the golden elixir. The heavenly prime is about tempering and disciplining one’s nature and innate character and grasping one’s life-destiny. The earthly prime seizes the cinnabar sand and generates mercury. i.e. external alchemy, the humanly prime gets rid of the old and creates the new. The initial achievement takes one hundred days to lay the foundation, the intermediate achievement requires ten months just like human gestation and the high achievement takes three years likened to breastfeeding where the infant is still very feeble and has to be nurtured and protected. It could be said the heavenly prime, is equivalent to spirit and qi inside of oneself. Obtain and transform the pre-heaven treasure which is separated into yin yang. Take the yin out of the yang and put it into the main yin, take the yang out of the yin, and put it back into main yang, just like the dots in a Tai Ji diagram in order to reverse the process of birth, age, disease and death.
“Thus the principles of the three primes of internal alchemy are identical,
but their methods differ.”
Besides the results and origins of the methods are not the same.
The majority of internal alchemy practitioners’ knowledge is very limited. And there are even fewer who are capable of separating these nine ranks. There is not even one in ten thousand practitioners who has fully comprehended just one method. I have heard about people who have attained the Dao of the heavenly prime. They are only aware of the heavenly prime’s worth but do not know about of the earthly prime and the humanly prime’s wonders. I have heard about the attainment of the earthly prime. However people who ascended through the ingestion of a Daoist pill, only know about the worth of the earthly prime, but are unaware of the heavenly prime and the humanly prime’s wonders. I have heard about of the attainment of the humanly prime. But they do not know the purpose of the heavenly prime and the earthly prime. Even worse they esteem the humanly prime, yet they look down on the heavenly prime, regarding only their own path as the true one. They do not know that the humanly prime is the path for seizing one’s life-destiny. They are unaware that the heavenly prime is about grasping innate nature, and they are not conscious that the earthly prime stands for swallowing a Daoist pill. What a pity! Have a look at the past and examine who has attained the elixirs according to popular belief. The earthly and heavenly prime was attained by Immortal Master Xu and Immortal Master Yang. I have heard of the dual attainment of the earthly prime and the heavenly prime by Ge Ya Chuan, the Perfected One. I have heard of the triple attainment of all three primes by by Lü Chun Yang and Zhang San Feng. The Southern Five Patriarchs all achieved the Dao of the humanly prime and the Northern Seven Perfected Ones all ascended through the accomplishment of the heavenly prime. I have not met or heard about anyone having attained just the earthly prime. Worshipers of Sakyamuni only recite the name of the Buddha and chant Buddhist scriptures. The sages only strengthen morality between humans and follow the five Confucian virtues of benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, wisdom and faith. If one fully concentrates on one’s search, one will be able to devote whole-heartedly to the profound and one will be able to reach complete sincerity and therefore reach a heart filled with compassion and universal love. One only has to bring back one’s post-heaven thoughts and prevent them from being disorderly, then the pre-heaven’s light of the innate nature will accumulate. Beware of not losing your direction and purpose during this process. This is why worshipers, who wholeheartedly recite the name of the Buddha, are able to transcend life and ascend to the Pure Land. People with sincerity in their hearts, who strengthen moral ties between humans, are able to have a good reputation for thousands of years. All Immortal Masters and Daoist patriarchs of the past have been transmitting the scriptures, explaining the laws, establishing their theories and passing down instructions. People acquire different profound laws and transmissions, therefore they cannot return together on one path. Benevolence is paramount, refine in secrecy and try to figure things out step by step, then you will be able to understand the purpose of returning to the origin. People focus on different primes and therefore their point of view of writing differs. On the bass of this internal alchemy books can be divided according to the three primes. Different subject matters cannot be treated the same:
The heavenly prime classics [explaining purity, stillness, refinement and temptations]:
《Jin Dan Xin Fa》, 《Xing Ming Gui Zhi》, 《Tian Xian Zheng Li》, 《Xian》Fo He Zong》, 《Jin Xian Zheng Lun》《Hui Ming Jing》and so on.
The humanly Prime [clarifying the cultivation of Yin and Yang]:
The 《Jin Dan Zhen Chuan》,《Xing Dao Ya Yan》,《Xuan Yao Pian》,《Qiao Yao Ge》and so on.
The earthly prime classics [concerning the refinement of lead and cinnabar]:
《Huang Di Jiu Ding》,《Tai Qing Dan Jing》,《Di Yuan Zhen Jue》，《Cheng Zhi Lu 》,《Yu Zhuang Lu》 and so on.
The 《Dao De Jing》 and the《Yin Fu Jing》 belong to all three primes at the same time.
The 《Wu Zhen Pian》and the《Can Tong Qi》 also express ideas of the three primes simultaneously, with an emphasis on the humanly prime. The 《Long Hu Jing》 and the《Shi Han Ji》 also deals with the three primes, with a stress on the earthly prime.
The sages of the future will be thus be able to get a look at these scriptures in order to attain the Dao. The accomplishment of the Dao is divided into three primes and although the original principles are consistent, many people will not make it to the end and get lost in confusion. One has to know the internal alchemy scriptures and Daoist books even though there is so many of them. Except for these three primes being based on the same principle of the pre-heaven Great Dao, all other methods are outside the Dao and crooked side paths. They are all delusional, side doors, and have nothing to do with the Great Dao.
In Buddhism they say:
“Only one fact exists, everything else is untrue.
Reality is just the original form of all beings.
No death- no birth, no increase- no decrease, the beginning of creation.
At the start there was a true ‘I’, not affected by form and aspect.
It was not at all falling into the emptiness,
As in fact there are spirits emitting spheres of light resembling the wheel of the sun.”
Sakyamuni called it:
“The true awakening to the real and the unreal. “
In Daoism they say:
“The spirit without spirit;
People of ancient times cut themselves off from the wheel of life.
If one relies entirely on innate nature and life-destiny,
one will be able to reach completion.
The humanly prime is considered seizing the source of life.
The earthly prime is considered the Dao of ingesting the pill.
And yet the heavenly prime
is the power of the dual cultivation of
innate nature and life-destiny.”
Since I feel sorry for the younger students now, I point towards the true meaning of the scriptures by making a list as above of the internal alchemy classics which have been transmitted by immortals, Buddhas and patriarchs of the past. I wish that all benevolent people everywhere in the world who aspire to reach the Dao get to meet masters who transmits the truth to them. If one relies on the past to verify the present and confirms all points from beginning to end, then one will not stray onto the crooked path. But the points of reference have to be identical from top to bottom. In addition this scripture’s aim is to make the student observe the past to examine the present and distinguish the real from the fake. Bear in mind that one’s study determines one’s destination and outcome. After having read this scripture, the true and false can be immediately discriminated and one’s direction can be set in stone If one follows this without fail, one’s path will never become the crooked. Wicked theories are all just delusions. That is why I wrote this introduction.