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50 barriers in Daoist cultivation - by Liu Yiming 道教五十关

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Liu Yiming 刘一明(1734–1821) is a prominent Daoist master and doctor from Qing dynasty. In Scripture of Passing through the Barriers 《通关文》 Tong Guan Wen he points out 50 obstacles - barriers in the way of Daoist cultivation and explains how to pass through them.

Here is the list:

<>1. spoiled... Since the antiquity the great sages stress the importance on cultivating Dao and don't pay attention to fame."

4. Barrier of wealth and gain 财利关
Keep apart from greed for money and profit.

5. Barrier of destitution 穷困关
One can cultivate in all kind of conditions, despite destitution and all difficulties.

6. Barrier of the physical body 色身关
Paying too much attention on the physical body and forgetting about the spiritual body (the real body 真身). Zhuang Zi says: "Alas, the humans of the world think that to nourish the body is sufficient to preserve life; and when such nourishment is not sufficient to preserve the life, what can be done in the world that will be sufficient?" 悲夫!世之人以为养形足以存生,而养形果不足以存生,则世奚足为哉. ("Zhuang Zi: the Full Undestanding of Life").

7. Barrier of arrogance 傲气关
"Therefore the wise embrace the one and set an example to all.
Not putting on a display, they shine forth.
Not justifying themselves, they are distinguished.
Not boasting, they receive recognition.
Not bragging, they never falter."
(Dao De Jing, chapter 22; English translation: Gia-fu Feng)

8. Barrier of jealousy and envy 嫉妒关
Keep the heart away from jealousy and fill it with loving kindness to the others, as is the heart of the sages; do as the sages do. 存圣贤之心,行圣贤之行

9. Barrier of irascibility and haste 暴躁关
"Before cultivating the inner elixir, first cultivate your character." 未炼还丹先炼性
Irascibility, haste, scholding and swearing are harmful much more than one may think: "the orignial spirit leaves its residence in the body, but heat burns in the body, the essence jing and the genuine qi scatter, the three treasures jing, qi, shen are depleted.


10. Barrier of speech and disputes 口舌关
Think before you talk. Talk with respect and kindness. Cultivate your speech.
The tongue is the extention of the heart. The way one speaks and writes reveals one's heart. If the speech (tongue) is not kind and right, then it means that the heart/mind is also not kind and right. And if so, then how can one achieve cultivation? One of the 10 Daoist precepts is about speech: "Don’t utter bad words or use flowery language! Be straightforward within and without! Don’t talk excessively!"


11. Barrier of hate 瞋恨关
Egoism, envy, anger, the shortage of money, insecurity, intolerance, rivalry - they all can create hatred. "The confused people don't know how damaging the hatred can be for their life." One of the main Daoist precepts says: “ Never harbor hatred in your heart!... The hatred diminishes your spirit and energy.”

12. Barrier of others and oneself 人我关
Putting others first and forgetting about one's ego, having awareness of the world outside one's head is a powerful aspect of cultivation. Look at the myriard things as one whole, look at the world as one family. "Seeing the others are happy, I feel happy too."


13. Barrier of climate 冷热关
Literally “barrier of cold and heat”. Weather is not an obstacle for cultivation.

14. Barrier of laziness 懒惰关
If one is indolent and afraid of hard work, only seeks pleasures and comfort, then cultivation stops. "One has to be active not only for oneself, but also for the others - to actively do good to others... To build bridges and roads, collect herbs and tea, open schools, help the old and support the needed and thus day after day, hour after hour accumulate inner merits."


15. Barrier of skills and intelligence 才智关
Wasting energy and life to accumulating useless and fake knowledge and skills just to gain profit for oneself, show off, do intrigues, participate in useless contests to please the ego. That's not the genuine knowledge that leads to cultivation.

16. Barrier of willfulness and the individual character 任性关
When considering oneself infalliable and not tolerating and respecting the others, one easily falls in the trap of willfulness. One of the main Daoist precepts is to be retiring and modest in all things: "Put yourself behind to serve the others".
"I have three precious things - kindness, thrift, and never preferring myself over others." (Dao De Jing, chapter 67, translation: Michael Saso)

17. Barrier of diseases and difficulties 患难关
When one is worried and afraid of diseases and difficulties, one's mind and will become unstable, which leads to even more problems. "When confined [with difficulties], one must maintain smooth progress. Persistence will be auspicious for the great lord and with no calamity." (Yi Jing, hexagram 47 "Confined")

18. Barrier of craftiness and lies 诡诈关
Lying to others and oneself has nothing good for cultivation. Sincerity can move heaven and earth, it can reach the spirits and deities, it can touch the heart of everyone. Sincerity is the way of cultivation.

19. Barrier of pretense and guessing 猜议关
Pseudo-intelligence, being smart aleck and pretending to know everything and think that oneself is always right - this is an obstacle for cultivation. "There are confused people in the world, who want, by using the dim light of fireflies to break through the heavenly net. They don't realise that there is infinite depth of wisdom". "To find a clear-minded teacher is true happiness."


20. Barrier of mysticism 悬虚关
The insufficient understanding and practice create mystique. The beginners in the study of Dao tend to feel overly fascinated and look for mystic occurrences, which may sometimes hinder the cultivation.

21. Barrier of chimeras 妄想关
Those who pretend to cultivate and follow Dao, but in reality don't make any efforts and only look for good food, beautiful clothes, comfortable sleep and life, they easily fall in the trap of chimeras. If always postponing the genuine practice; just listening and reading about cultivation, but not practicing it - these are chimeras.
22. Barrier of life and death 生死关
As the Chinese saying goes: "They have not understood the meaning of life yet, but are afraid of death." Free the mind completely from all worries about death. Better focus on cultivation and actively do your work in life. Always keep at one with the Dao.

23. Barrier of complacency 自满关
When falling into the trap of complacency, one accrues no interests, loses an objective attitude toward oneself and the world, and the spiritual cultivation stops. Having a low estimate on one's own importance 低心下气 leads to success. Yi Jing hexagram Xun (57) is about humbleness and submissiveness: "Kneeling before the platform... Auspicious without misfortune." 巽在牀下。用史巫紛若。吉无咎。

24. Barrier of fear of difficulties 畏难关
Nothing in the world is difficult for one who sets his mind to it. 天下无难事,_只怕有心人
25. Barrier of slow action 轻慢关
Cultivation is like climbing a high mountain, it takes a long time and one has to watch one's steps constantly. Those who want to follow Dao, first have to learn to respect Dao and its values.

26. Barrier of feebleness 懦弱关
If there is no determination, courage and will, one can fall into the trap of feebleness, which is also related to constant hesitation, insensitivity, self-pity, despondency, laziness and inertia.
<>27. 28. 自暴者,不可与有言也;自弃者,不可与有为也。
"I am not a saint. Attained it through studying." (Scripture of Inner Observation Nei Guan Jing) 吾非圣人,学而得之。《内观经》

29. Barrier of debt accumulation 累债关
This barrier includes any debts, even unresolved relationship problems, corruption and always relying on others for money and other things.
<>30.external forms and ornaments are not a bad thing, but when they are given too much attention, one might lose a notion of what is most valuable in cultivation.

32. Barrier of false understanding 假知关
"There are confused people in the world who don't know how to cultivate, but intentionally or unintentionally lie and mislead the others."

33. Barrier of hidden evil 阴恶关
Peacefully accept that the others are different and may disagree with you or talk in unpleasant for you manners. If you remember the little resentments of others and hide evil thoughts in your heart, then how can you cultivate and follow Dao? Kindness toward all is the key of passing through this barrier.

34. The barrier of excessive drinking 贪酒关
One of the main 5 precepts in Daoism says: "One should not take any alcoholic drinks, unless one has to take a little bit to cure an illness."

35. Barrier of fear of hardship 怕苦关
No matter how difficult a situation can be, one still has the power to overcome it. The fear of hardship can not eliminate the problems. In the process of cultivation and unleashing of the mind, all problems can be reduced and solved.

36. Barrier of disbelief 不信关
The sincere faith has a great power. "When a superior man hears of Dao, he cultivates himself diligently. When an average man hears of Dao, he is doubtful and doesn't believe it. When an inferior man hears of Dao, he laughs and thinks it is foolish." (Dao De Jing, chapter 41).

37. Barrier of lack of definite views 无主关
- when one doesn’t have a clear understanding and definite views on cultivation,
one is looking at cultivation superficially, vaguely changing the mind all the time,
without a stable point. Today one studies this, tomorrow - that; in the morning one goes to worship to Mr. Li, in the evening - to worship to Mr. Wang.”

38. Barrier of search for quick results 速效关
The cultivation takes a long time, diligent practice and perseverence. "The great vessel is late in completion," (Dao De Jing, chapter 41).

39. Barrier of negligence and carelessness 粗心关
Negligence, carelessness and lack of concentration are obsacle for cultivation.


40. Barrier of waste of time 虚度关
If one wastes the time on different things and forgets the importance of cultivation, then how can one achieve Dao?

41. Barrier of weak will 退志关
"The strong-willed, even if of old age, will attain Dao. The weak-willed, even if of young age, will not attain Dao."

<>42.43. 44.be solid as a mountain and deep as the great sea", i.e. to be able to accept and tolererate everything.

45. Barrier of karma 因果关
As you sow, so shall you reap. To harm the others to benefit oneself, to do things offensive to Heaven and reason, to stop at nothing and do evil,... then one cannot attain Dao. “Happiness or misfortune are all created by the human himself. " (Zuo Zhuan Chronicle of Zuo) 祸福无门,惟人自招《左传》

46. Barrier of bookishness 书魔关
One cannot achieve Dao only by reading books. There are books, which can confuse the mind and mislead the reader. If not asking for advice and learning from a master with real experience, clear understanding and secret oral instructions 口诀, then one will fall in the trap of bookishness and will miss the great work of cultivation. 由执书为道,不求明师,中了书魔,误了大事。

47. Barrier of emptiness 着空关
If seeking only to achieve emptiness in a secluded place in deep mountains, far away from society and people, abandoning family and children, and thinking that oneself is higher than the others, then one can easily fall in the trap of emptiness. Real emptiness is not empty.

48. Barrier of attachment to temporary tendency 执相关
Blindly following the temporary tendency in every new fashion that appears, including the different methods of Daoist exercises.


Edited by BaguaKicksAss
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Oooh, thanks for this!

 

In particular 37, 46 and 47 resonate with me.

 

 

 

37. Barrier of lack of definite views 无主关

- when one doesn’t have a clear understanding and definite views on cultivation,
one is looking at cultivation superficially, vaguely changing the mind all the time,
without a stable point. Today one studies this, tomorrow - that; in the morning one goes to worship to Mr. Li, in the evening - to worship to Mr. Wang.”

 

So it is important to clearly understand one's goal and how to achieve it.

But on the way there is the danger of studying from too many sources and never reaching the root.

 

Leading to:

 

 

46. Barrier of bookishness 书魔关

One cannot achieve Dao only by reading books. There are books, which can confuse the mind and mislead the reader. If not asking for advice and learning from a master with real experience, clear understanding and secret oral instructions 口诀, then one will fall in the trap of bookishness and will miss the great work of cultivation. 由执书为道,不求明师,中了书魔,误了大事。

 

Basically to gain "definite views" on how to cultivate the root of tao, one needs to consult one who has found the root. Otherwise even if one is superior and able to make good progress, at some point one may reach a point where going further is confusing, or one might think they have gone all the way when they haven't. How can such a one continue towards the root without a guiding nudge from a master?

 

Perhaps some have gone all the way in a past life, and it comes naturally. Likely very rare, and those who have gone very far in a previous incarnation may feel themselves able to go it solo for a while. After all one becomes a master on one's own, not by the hand of another. And one may indeed forge a trail where there is none, but it may take time one does not have, while the guidance of a master might be simple.

 

Lui Yiming himself studied with one master until he thought he understood, and tried to do the rest of the work on his own... but realized he was still missing something, and needed to seek out another master to connect the last dots and complete his work.

 

 

 

47. Barrier of emptiness 着空关

If seeking only to achieve emptiness in a secluded place in deep mountains, far away from society and people, abandoning family and children, and thinking that oneself is higher than the others, then one can easily fall in the trap of emptiness. Real emptiness is not empty.

 

Real emptiness is not empty.

This is Zhuangzi's walking two roads.

And the second part of TTC 5.

:wub: :wub: :wub:

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Lui Yiming himself studied with one master until he thought he understood, and tried to do the rest of the work on his own... but realized he was still missing something, and needed to seek out another master to connect the last dots and complete his work.

 

It was more complicated than that. The story is , he has not believe his first master and quit. After a considerable time he has found another one, who refused to teach him explicitly, but gave him a confucian canon to read instead. Liu's understanding came from reading a confucian book. So much for the 'Barrier of bookishness'.

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It was more complicated than that. The story is , he has not believe his first master and quit. After a considerable time he has found another one, who refused to teach him explicitly, but gave him a confucian canon to read instead. Liu's understanding came from reading a confucian book. So much for the 'Barrier of bookishness'.

 

Liu Yiming, Cultivating the Tao, (tl. Pregadio), Ch 3:

 

I first met the Kangu Laoren (Old Man of the Kangu Valley), who showed me the Great Way of cultivating Reality. Everything was clear to me, except for his words on the precelestial Breath that comes from within Empty Non-Being. I was no able to see it for myself, and it remained vague and unclear to me for thirteen long years. I thoroughly read the scriptures on the Elixir, but I did not really understand the point. Then I met the Xianliu Zhangren (Great Man Who Rests in Immortality). It was as if he unlocked the source of a river, or as if he broke the iron rope with his teeth. As soon as he spoke, I understood and comprehended within my heart. For the first time I knew that Empty Non-Being is True Empty Non-Being, and that True Unity is True Unity. It is something that I do not have, but I cannot receive it from anyone else; it cannot be spoken or portrayed, and it cannot be pictured or charted. You become one with it and by means of your Intention (yi), and you comprehend it by means of your Spirit. When it expands, it fills the six poles; when it contracts, it conceals itself in the imperceptible. It pervades Heaven and permeates the Earth. Sages and worthies, Immortals and Buddhas all come forth from it.

Edited by Daeluin

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Hi Daeluin

 

its great that you are researching this. For a different angle of that story:

 

....Next year he went to Qin, and reporting to Kan-gu for the third time, respectfully asked for final clarification.

 

The old man said: the medicine come from outside, but the cinnabar incepts within.

He also said: the pre-Heavenly qi comes from the void and non-being. You should look into this very deeply, and investigate this principle with minute attention. But you still need to finish your human affairs first, and then it would be possible.

 

the Teacher (Liu) kowtowed to him, and went back unsatisfied, his doubts not dispelled, being 23 at that time.

 

....

 

 

Qi lived in Huangsha for several decades, but never revealed his real name of Qi, so eventually Suo stuck.

 

The teacher asked for audience and went to visit him, kowtowed and implored for instruction in Dao, to which Qi asked: what did your teacher teach you?

The teacher told him about ‘Poisonous snake leading the way’, about ‘medicine comes from outside, cinnabar incepts inside’, and ‘pre-Heavenly qi comes from void and non-being’ admonitions.

Qi asked: have you understood these or not?

The teacher admitted: the first method I understand, but the latter ones – still don’t.

Qi said: what you are doing is merely exercising yourself, how can you reach a better place that way? If you go and ask people nicely, then you will sure get what they have. Theirs is a true intent, it is not hard to make it yours.

The teacher could not decipher the meaning, so he implored again.

Qi said: a true man breaths continuously, a commoner breaths with his throat*.

The teacher begged again: I, your student, am stupid and lost, please clarify your guidance.

Qi replied: I have already gave you guidance, if you are not clear on it, what is the point of asking again?

 

*a quote from Zhuang-zi

 

At that time the teacher felt completely lost, and because he could not penetrate the meaning of this, he pondered it for three days and nights, rejecting food, forgetting to sleep, doubting and worrying in turns. On the fourth day, while tea was brewing, Qi took out a copy of Analects and said: give this book a read.

 

The teacher took the book and read it front and back attentively, and found that all of it contained the principles of Dao, each aphorism was in agreement with what Qi said. The teacher thought to himself: although the aphorisms add up, could it be that I still miss the secret meaning? So he kept turning it over in his mind from early morning till noon, and seeing that there is nothing that he did not understand, put down the book and came out of his room.

Qi asked: where do you think you are going?

The teacher replied: to the riverbank.

Qi asked: to the riverbank to do what?

The teacher replied: to the riverbank to fish.

Qi countered: the fish is in the water deep down, what to do?

The teacher replied: first entice it with the bait, then angle it with the hook, how could it not be caught?

 

From this, Qi saw that the teacher understood it, and on the same night transmitted him all about methods of cinnabar and phases of fire in detail; encouraging him, said: this work requires 20 years of utmost gongfu (effort), and then you will see the effect. Now, you strive with all your force, don’t be lazy, as to me, I will go into hiding.

 

In gratitude, the teacher presented him with a poem:

 

For 13 years I could not dispel the sadness of mine,

But in Saint-stay village by questioning you, I got to its root.

Nowadays I have realized the buddha-hood’s shrine,

How to raise an immaterial, yet material white ox, I understood.

 

He was 35 years old at that time.

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Thank you.

 

I get the impression that by cross referencing the aphorisms in the analects with his existing studies, he came to realize his understanding was complete, yet the key he was looking for could not be tangibly described by written words.

 

It is something that I do not have, but I cannot receive it from anyone else; it cannot be spoken or portrayed, and it cannot be pictured or charted.

 

Understanding this, he freed himself to proceed on the work, transcending the barrier of bookishness even as he became open to receive the detailed timings and methods from this master. Or something like that. The Tao guides us all in mysterious ways.

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