What is Daoism?
The word Dao means ‘The Way’, the way of nature and the universe, or the path of natural reality. It also refers to a way in which we can open our minds to learn more about the world, our spiritual paths, and ourselves. Sometimes the Dao is also referred to as the origin of all things, as the Source of Life, as the Wuji itself.
Daoism, especially its internal alchemy path, is not a philosophy of mind alone, but a real practice of body, mind, and spirit. When you have the true sense of its meaning, the true knowledge and wisdom, you will be able to make the right decisions in your life.
The roots of Daoism go back to the dawn of human civilization. Daoism is the cradle of Chinese culture. The Daoist cosmology and life principles are reflected in all aspects of life. In (Traditional Chinese) medicine, philosophy, religion, in painting and calligraphy, in literature and theater, in ethics and politics. Over the centuries, Daoism has developed itself in many different directions and has mixed with principles of Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, etc. Therefore, in the history of Daoism, we see a beautiful kaleidoscope of different philosophical and religious teachings. Most of them found an expression in books and pamphlets, which are collected in the Daoist canon, the Dao Tsang.
Everyone knows about the Dao De Jing, the Chuang Tzu, or the I Jing. Less with, for instance, classical works as the Tsan-tung-chi (the triplex unity) of Wei Po-yang and of the P’ao-p’u-tzu (The Sage who Embraces Simplicity) of Ko Hung of the same period. Both are early Daoist (Internal) alchemists from around 200 CE.
In the text of Wei Po Yang, we can even read about the sexual and Kan and Li practices. Our great ancestor is the immortal Lu Tung Pin the grandfather of internal alchemy. In the last few years, very good translations of classical Daoist texts and overviews of history have been published. The Universal Healing Dao training mainly follows the path of Internal Alchemy to attain health, longevity, and immortality. Although there are many different paths in Daoism to reach the Dao, they generally have more or less the same cosmology in common.
According to Daoist cosmology, before the beginning of the manifested universe, there was a state of total emptiness. In this primordial state, nothing stirred. The relative concept of time did not apply to the primordial state, because there was nothing to measure time against. All was a void. The ancient Daoists gave it a name: Wuji. Wu means absence, negation, nothing-ness. The Ji in Wuji means “highest” or “ultimate”. Wuji thus means “ultimate state of nothingness”.
The Primordial Yin and Yang.
The Wuji stirred through some unknown impulse, and the First moment of creation began. This first impulse manifested Qi through the primordial polarity of Yin and Yang, negative and positive. The interplay of Yin and Yang is the essential expression Of Wuji. The Daoists named this process Tai Ji or “Supreme Ultimate”. All the multiplicity of phenomena found in the universe, visible or invisible, are the results of the Yin and Yang interaction.
The Source of all Movement.
Qi, or life force, is the foundation of all the Daoist practices, in the same way that electricity is the foundation of modern civilization. Without electricity, practically every aspect of our modern lifestyle could come to a stop. Similarly, without Qi, one’s life would come to an abrupt halt. Qi can be defined as bio-electrical, life force, vitality, or simply energy. Qi is all of these, but none of them exclusively. Just as electricity is still incomprehensible to scientists in its total breadth and depth, Qi is beyond intellectual understanding.
According to the ancient Daoists, Qi exists in the air we breathe, yet it is not just oxygen or any of the other gaseous components of the atmosphere. Qi also exists in the food we eat, yet it is not just a vitamin, mineral, or carbohydrate that we can chemically isolate. It enters into the food we eat through the process of photosynthesis, yet it is not sunlight or any other type of ray detectable by modem scientists’ sensing devices. Qi is the essence of the food we eat and the air we breathe, the real nourishment of the body. When we breathe or eat, we are taking Qi into our bodies. Without Qi, there can be no life.
The Five Elements or Phases of Energy
The interaction of Yin and Yang is expressed though five basic phases of energy behavior, often called the Five Elements. The Five Elements refer not only to the five physical elements we find all around, but also to the ways Qi expresses itself in the universe.
The first phase is energy at rest, energy in an extreme state of quietness and concentration. This phase is named water, because water, if undisturbed, naturally becomes extremely still.
The second phase is a development of the first; if energy is extremely quiet and concentrated, it bursts into activity at some point, just like the Wuji. This second phase is that expansion of energy. This is the wood phase, because trees burst into activity in the spring after their long period of winter rest. The burst of activity in the wood phase cannot last for long; it soon stabilizes into a period of sustained energy releases.
This third phase is named fire, because fire is able to sustain a high level of energy release over a long period. As the high energy releases the fire begins to decline, it gives rise to the fourth phase, that of contracting energy.
The fourth phase is called metal, because metal is a very condensed state of energy.
The fifth phase of energy is that of central balance and harmony of all the other four phrases. This final phase is the earth phase because the earth is the ground of all the other elements.
Yin/Yang is the root and trunk of all creation; the Five Elements are the branches that bear the leaves, lowers, and fruits of the universe. The result of the five phases of energy is the manifestation and activity of the sun, moon, stars, plants, and all life on earth. This view of Daoist cosmology may seem abstract and simplistic, but modem science has arrived at essentially the same view of creation. Atomic particles are the source of all matter throughout the universe. The atoms, once believed to be the smallest indivisible particles of matter, have proved under observation to be made of subatomic particles and waves, all propelled into motion by the polarity of the positive and the negative. Scientists have also arrived at a concept of an original explosion of energy, which they refer to as the Big Bang.
Daoists view the universe as a vast ocean of interacting energy driven by the fundamental interplay of Tin and Yang. Humans are one of the most complex manifestations of such interaction.
The universe as a manifestation of the Five Elements is self-sustaining. All living creatures are constantly interacting with all the elements of creation through the processes of eating, breathing, sensing, feeling, and thinking.
The Eight Forces
Like the Five Phases of Energy, the Eight Forces of Nature are also the result of the interplay of Yin and Yang. They form the power symbol of the pakua, and combined together they form the 64 hexagrams of the I Jing. In fact, the Five phases of energy correspond with these Eight Forces of Nature. The eight forces are the basic energy formations of nature.
Where do we derive our Life Force?
The basic source of human energy, according to Daoists, comes from our parents. The Yin energy of the mother in the egg and the Yang energy of the father in the sperm provide the initial sparks that ignite the fire of life. We call this energy from the parents Prenatal Energy or Original Qi.
A second source of our energy is the air we breathe and the food we eat and the Qi we absorb. We call this postnatal energy.
Qi is radiation from the stars in the form of light and electromagnetic waves. and subsonic vibrations. The most prominent stars in this process are the sun, the North Star, and the stars in the constellation known as the Big Dipper.
Humans depend on the Qi radiated through space by the stars and planets for sustenance. The air we breathe contains cosmic energy in the form of extremely fine particles of cosmic ‘dust’. This dust is the residue of exploded stars, planets, and asteroids. It rains constantly onto the earth, forming an essential component of the soil.
Plants are the only living organisms that can directly transform light into nourishment. Humans absorb light energy indirectly by eating either vegetables or the flesh of other animals that feed on plants. The interaction of light and cosmic dust in the soil, air, and water, forms the basis for photosynthesis in plants. All life on earth depends on plant life, either directly or indirectly. The great majority of organisms feed directly on plants, and a small minority feed on other animals that eat plants.
Qi is life, and abundant energy is abundant life. If our energy supply is low due to illness or excessive emotions, we experience low vitality and lack of drive. Living ceases to be an enjoyable experience: we feel disconnected from the environment, from society, and from ourselves. Daoists therefore place extreme importance on cultivating and maintaining a high level of energy. This energy is to strengthen one’s connection with the universe and oneself.
The ultimate goal of Daoist practice is attaining a state of complete union with the source of the universe. All life emerges from Wuji unconsciously. Through Daoist practices, one can attain immortality and return to the Wuji consciously to dissolve into oneness. Daoists actively encourage any practice or point of view that helps strengthen our connection with the universe. The most direct way of sustaining our links with all creation is by cultivating the energy, the foundation of life.