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Secret of the Golden Flower

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The secret of the golden flower has translations that are radically different from each other. the Wilhelm version translates the key phrase as the "circulation of the light" whereas the Cleary translation translates the phrase as "turning the light around". the might sound similar, but they are very different.

 

Circulation of the light, also sometimes known as the microcosmic orbit or small heavenly cycle, is a energetics meditation, one that concentrates and moves chi in the body.

 

Turning the light around refers to the Ch'an buddhist practice of training consciousness to become aware of it's true nature by watching thoughts without clinging to them. Cleary also interprets the "backwards flowing method" as a Buddhist technique of mind returning to itself to realize it's true nature.

 

Cleary claims that the WIlhelm translation is corrupt, and incomplete, and gives reasonable explanations for this in the introduction to his translation. But Cleary is kind of biased in favor of the northern school of the quanzhen taoism, which is heavily influenced by zen. the one link you have there from atlantic university is a condensation or paraphrase of the key points of Cleary's translation and interprets the SOTGF as a Ch'an tradition. If you like the sound of this, pick up Cleary's book.

 

the other translation there i have not read, but it seems to be more of a southern school/microcosmic orbit interpretation or the SOTGF. It uses illustrations also used in "Taoist Yoga", a circulation book. To make matters more confusing, there is another translation by one of Wang Liping's students floating around on the internet, which seems to be a MO interpretation as well. Wang Liping teaches the SOTGF in his seminars, and one would assume he knows what he is doing, but his students text is very short, the shortest i have seen. Even if you accept Cleary's criticism of the Wilhelm translation, which he says is corrupt and incomplete, you have to wonder why Wang Liping, with a supposedly highest level transmission, would be handing out some bunk version that makes the same mistake of Wilhelm and is even more truncated. The energetic stuff of the southern school is in my opinion more dangerous to practice without a teacher. If you are really hot for this, maybe go check out one of Wang Liping's seminars this summer in China. He teaches the SOTGF in them i think.

 

I guess Cleary's work is probably the most accurate and complete translation, but that doesn't mean it's "the best". The SOTGF, like many things in Chinese meditation terminology, means different things to different schools. It depends on what part of the Taoist landscape you are most attracted to. The problem with all of these texts is they just dont appear to be the same thing at all, so it's really a choice between different schools, not two versions of the same text.

Edited by erdweir
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Also whenever you see in a western translation the terms animus/anima you should put back the originals terms hun/po which have a very different, complex and profound meaning in the taoist paradigm than the empty words animus/anima which is absurdly translated as "male soul" and "female soul".

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Do a forum search, there have been good discussions on this previously, especially some of AugustLeo's comments & reviews :)

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Guest allan

The secret of the golden flower has translations that are radically different from each other. the Wilhelm version translates the key phrase as the "circulation of the light" whereas the Cleary translation translates the phrase as "turning the light around". the might sound similar, but they are very different.

 

Circulation of the light, also sometimes known as the microcosmic orbit or small heavenly cycle, is a energetics meditation, one that concentrates and moves chi in the body.

 

Turning the light around refers to the Ch'an buddhist practice of training consciousness to become aware of it's true nature by watching thoughts without clinging to them. Cleary also interprets the "backwards flowing method" as a Buddhist technique of mind returning to itself to realize it's true nature.

 

Cleary claims that the WIlhelm translation is corrupt, and incomplete, and gives reasonable explanations for this in the introduction to his translation. But Cleary is kind of biased in favor of the northern school of the quanzhen taoism, which is heavily influenced by zen. the one link you have there from atlantic university is a condensation or paraphrase of the key points of Cleary's translation and interprets the SOTGF as a Ch'an tradition. If you like the sound of this, pick up Cleary's book.

 

the other translation there i have not read, but it seems to be more of a southern school/microcosmic orbit interpretation or the SOTGF. It uses illustrations also used in "Taoist Yoga", a circulation book. To make matters more confusing, there is another translation by one of Wang Liping's students floating around on the internet, which seems to be a MO interpretation as well. Wang Liping teaches the SOTGF in his seminars, and one would assume he knows what he is doing, but his students text is very short, the shortest i have seen. Even if you accept Cleary's criticism of the Wilhelm translation, which he says is corrupt and incomplete, you have to wonder why Wang Liping, with a supposedly highest level transmission, would be handing out some bunk version that makes the same mistake of Wilhelm and is even more truncated. The energetic stuff of the southern school is in my opinion more dangerous to practice without a teacher. If you are really hot for this, maybe go check out one of Wang Liping's seminars this summer in China. He teaches the SOTGF in them i think.

 

I guess Cleary's work is probably the most accurate and complete translation, but that doesn't mean it's "the best". The SOTGF, like many things in Chinese meditation terminology, means different things to different schools. It depends on what part of the Taoist landscape you are most attracted to. The problem with all of these texts is they just dont appear to be the same thing at all, so it's really a choice between different schools, not two versions of the same text.

 

Sigh. You have made so many claims that could be deemed misleading that I have to make an attempt to put right.

 

Firstly, one of the links comprise of a summary of Cleary's translation, while the other a summary of the Wilhelm's translation (together with some pictures) - which you clearly have not read and therefore could not recognize.

 

Secondly, I wonder how did you arrive at the conclusion that the Northern school of Quanzhen is heavily influenced by Zen or Ch'an? You seemed to make this claim all over the forum.

 

Did you not read what the author, celestial immortal Lu Dongbin, had clarified in his text written through the planchette why his practice is different from Ch'an?

 

Who told you about the differences, if any, of the meditation practice between the Northern and Southern schools?

 

How would you know that Cleary's translation is closer than others to what Lu Dongbin taught? From the summary in the link, one would say he has applied a Buddhist 'slant' to the translation. And that is not right.

 

After all, the Secret of the Golden Flower is a Daoist text.

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Secret of the Golden Flower is about Kundalini Yoga.

The 5 Tibetans (T5T) can give a fairly good step by step process of the awakening into the GF.

Here is T5T from another angle - a free book: http://www.kundaliniawakeningsystems1.com/downloads/ancient_secret_of_the_fountain_of_youth_peter_kelder.pdf

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After all, the Secret of the Golden Flower is a Daoist text.

 

But is it ?

In the Wilhelm version there is constant reference to the Leng Yen or Shurangama Sutra. So there could be a bit of Mahayana influence there.

Also, the theory that this meditation may actually have roots in Nestorian Christianity.

Something to ponder.

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Sorry for awakening a very old thread, but I was wondering what the current consensus is on this?

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11 hours ago, taoguy said:

Sorry for awakening a very old thread, but I was wondering what the current consensus is on this?

Probably not, other then its the probably better to approach it as a practitioner then a scholar, ie more time doing then studying. 

Kinda the opposite of me.  My attempts to understand the SofGF are here-

Whoa, that's new, I copied the address and the whole thread magically appeared. ..where was I.. there's books, translations, podcasts but ultimately one has to sit and get there mind, eyes and heart attuned to it, give it time and surrender. 

addon> I'm not a fan of his, but I found Osho's writing on the subject to be nice and direct.  I'm still looking for a good Westernized instruction book on it, without the poems and oblique language. 

 

P.S. I think its great to awaken old threads.  Especially the good meaty ones. 

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15 hours ago, thelerner said:

Probably not, other then its the probably better to approach it as a practitioner then a scholar, ie more time doing then studying. 

Kinda the opposite of me.  My attempts to understand the SofGF are here-

Whoa, that's new, I copied the address and the whole thread magically appeared. ..where was I.. there's books, translations, podcasts but ultimately one has to sit and get there mind, eyes and heart attuned to it, give it time and surrender. 

addon> I'm not a fan of his, but I found Osho's writing on the subject to be nice and direct.  I'm still looking for a good Westernized instruction book on it, without the poems and oblique language. 

 

P.S. I think its great to awaken old threads.  Especially the good meaty ones. 

 

Like in your mentioned thread, there is definitely a need for a simple instruction probably a mix between Golden Flower and Thogal.

 

Maybe the Golder Flower technique has been superseded by Mahamudra.

 

Funny while writing this I felt the energetic transmissions behind the traditions leading to being aware of awareness...very nice :D

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There's a small chance the simple(st) instructions would be-

1.)Sit (preferably in lotus) stare at tip of nose, while connecting middle eye and heart

2.) Don't take anything too seriously. 

3.) Repeat daily

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In the book by Loch Kelly "Shift into freedom" he mentions getting instructions to the Golden Flower technique by a Chinese doctor of acupuncture.

 

Quote

Dr. Chan appreciated energy-circulating practices, but he emphasized that these practices were not the same as turning around awareness.

I recorded what he said in my diary: "Awareness is prior to energy, and awareness is within energy. First we see what awareness is and then what awareness knows."

 

and Loch Kelly then describes some experiences of pure awareness after doing the practice as taught by Dr. Chan.

 

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I currently am reading the Cleary version and enjoying it thoroughly. I have never read older versions such as Wilhelm to cross-reference, however.

 

My Sifu would lean towards the "Turning the Light Around" process over Microcosmic orbit I believe, which is reassuring. He is heavy in the Shaolin lineage. 

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