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Ren Yuan and post heaven Qi

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Another in the ongoing little series of posts about cultivating Qi.


Many people in the Chinese health art community are not very clear about the relationship between pre and post heaven Qi, and tend to mix them up quite badly together.  One of the reasons for this is because during the Republican period (1911-1949), martial artists began to write about how the pre heaven arrangement of the bagua applied to their arts, and thus suggested that martial arts were capable to cultivating pre heaven jing qi and shen just as neidan does.  Technically, this is not possible, at least not to the same extent as neidan.  Chen Yingning specifically said in Xian xue Bi Cheng that Taiji Gongfu could be used to change jing to qi, but it would be very hard to change qi to shen, and impossible to change shen to emptiness.

Jiang Weiqiao said that in the physical realm, pre heaven is associated with some involuntary reflexes, but that any kind of learned reflex is post heaven, so again, physical exercise such as the martial arts are classified as post heaven rather than the pre heaven training of nei dan.

Having said that, martial arts and Qi gong can be used to "Xing ming shuang xiu," or "cultivate xing and ming simultaneously," and therefore have a direct and positive effect on our practice.


When you do martial arts, there are three major things occurring with your Qi.

The first is that when you do any type of movement, blood gets moves around to the four limbs, meaning that circulation is improved greatly.  the second thing is that the breath is improved dramatically when you exercise, so this also improves the quality of oxygen in the red blood, and helps you expunge more carbon dioxide on the out breath.  Finally, when you do martial arts, because you focus on the Dantian and being stable in your centre, you are in effect pushing breath more deeply into the lungs, therefore you are able to get more use from the oxygen entering your body.


Martial arts, Qi gong, and other physical energy cultivation exercises fall under the category of "ren yuan," which is the space in the sancai between heaven and earth.   ren yuan represents the power of people, and while the emptiness of the heavens and the essence of the earth give rise to life, people are what drives life.   Because Tian Yuan (meditation) is based on attaining the state of Yuanshi Tianzun, and Diyuan is meant to use earth medicines to fortify the body, ren yuan is the third and major important part of good Daoist practice.  If you were simply to sit in meditation and do waidan all the time, your body would deteriorate.  One of the special features of Quanzhen Daoism, and 20th century daoism especially is that there is a focus on doing physical practices in order to fortify the spiritual.


The relationship between pre and post heaven Qi in this sense is that the pre heaven supplies the post heaven, but the post heaven protects the pre heaven, meaning that when you meditate and cultivate pre heaven energy, you are giving yourself more energy to work with in your day to day life.  when you cultivate post heaven energy in physical practice, you are making the blood stronger, and therefore feeding the organs more efficiently so that they don't have to rely so much on pre heaven energy, and don't become damaged over time.


Much of this theory can be found in the martial arts classics as well as 20th century Daoism research books, especially Hu Haiya's xian xue yang sheng wenji, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in secular Daoist practices.


As always, I hope that this is useful, and if anyone has anything to offer, or corrections in places where I might have missed something, please feel free to chime in.

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Main goal of Taoist practice is to attain both physical and spiritual eternity , however, the old Taoists , 2,500 years ago, found that if only by relying on qi in people's bodies , which have characteristics of being limited , biased ( as yang or yin ) and impure, hardly can we attained it despite the fact that discovering qi is already a great achievement.


So they and others followed , found that there likely are 3 ways to exploit that 'medicine ' for immortality , a more refined , pure qi, enabling us to live forever :


1) Ren Yuan (人元) : Human-based way ; as Male only get yang of the qi ( yang qi ) in his body, which is incomplete , not pure, so some people think that another half of the qi, necessary for mixing that 'medicine' for eternity , likely lied in female body ( yin qi). By using the other sex's body as medium , people hope that they can attain that complete, more superb qi for everlasting life. The Ren yuan idea in fact gives rise to Taoist sexual practice afterwards...


2)Di Yuan (地元) : Earth/ Herbs and Minerals-based way ; This way says that if the human body is so limited , then maybe some other stuff, especially special compounds like mercury , lead or some other precious herbs, after having mixed and burnt together in a special way , can give us that 'medicine ' . Product obtained from this way is also called ' Waidan' ( external medicine/pill ).


3) Tian Yuan (天元) : Heaven-based way ; this way claims that only pre-heavenly qi can grant us the privilege of living forever, yet it doesn't exist in what we eat , or run in our meridians , or in other sex's body .... but in an extra-dimension hidden in space which can only be attained after our having achieved the Tian Xin ( 天心; Cosmic Mind ) ,plainly speaking , the mindless Mind, or the Buddha Mind ( in Buddhist term).


So, whenever we read those Taoist writings and come across terms such as 'Dan', 'medicine' , 'other party' , 'the oven'..etc, all have specific implications depending on what base ('Yuan') they refer to. For example, in the case of 'Ren Yuan' , the 'other party ' refers to other sex's body , yet if based on 'Tian Yuan ' , it refers to emptiness from which the pre-heavenly comes..etc.

Edited by exorcist_1699
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