Yueya

Cultivation

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I regularly use the term ‘cultivation’ on this forum because it’s a standard part of Daoist vocabulary. I assumed its usage was well understood and uncontroversial. Apparently that’s not the case. I’m interested in what the term means to other people; like or dislike. Do you cultivate, and if so what do you cultivate?

 

For me, it conveys a sense of natural growth. What I’m cultivating is my connection with the Dao. Though this connection is something we all innately possess -  every living organism will grow to its fullest potential if allowed to do so – it can be obstructed.

 

Hence, just like I’m not the one who needs to show plants how to bud and flower, my path is not something I create; it unfolds of itself if I allow it to do so.  It happens ‘self-so’ (ziran 自然).  What I can consciously do is remove blockages that inhibit the flow of Dao within me. For me, insight into my many inner obstructions is a slow and ongoing process of discovery. Much of it has been by trial and error. I’ve had many teachers along the way but ultimately I suspect we all must find our own unique ‘flowering’.   What I do know is the more I allow myself to harmonise with the ebb and flow of Dao, the more life seems to unfold effortlessly (wu wei  無爲).

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I personally have not heard it used as often, but the word “cultivated” does also have the usage of someone who is “refined,” “cultured,” belonging typically to the upper class-- but this thought has never crossed my mind until now.

 

I’m with you, I think-- “cultivation” being a collaborative, interdependent sort of activity as opposed to manipulating or forcing a certain situation antagonistically.  I think each being has its own natural way of coming into its own, the key is discovering that natural way and nurturing that.  Just as certain plants do well with certain amounts of sunlight or warmth, others not so much (personally, I have no green thumb at all, sad to say!).  “Cultivation” then is another way of truly caring for the ten thousand things as they are encountered in life-- and is closely related with wu wei.

 

This means having a pre-scription (a solution given in advance) for certain difficulties in life is usually an unhelpful approach.  This is why fundamentalist or other strictly ideological approaches inevitably fail-- life is far more fluid than their rigid doctrines can ever account for.  Various forms of meditation and other practices to help loosen those unhelpful habits is at the heart of cultivation.

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Well spoken.  However, I have an alternative view.

 

I'll start out talking about my gardens.  I cultivate my gardens.  The reason I do this is because if I don't the areas will revert back to their natural condition - that is, full of what I consider weeds.  So I cultivate.  I pamper the plants I want growing and pull the ones I don't want growing.

 

Now, to take this theme to the personal level.  Yes, our ziran (Tzujan) is our self-actualization.  Becoming what we feel at peace with, that is, no conflicts between our inner essence and our interaction with our external world.

 

So, to me, if our ziran has grown us into a weed then we need do some cultivation.  However, if we have become a flowering plant then no cultivation is needed.

 

Sure, the "real world" will sometimes throw weed seeds into our garden.  That would be time to cultivate.  If there are no weeds then just offer loving care of what has grown.

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David Cooper explores the topic of cultivation at length in his excellent essay titled, ‘Gardeners of the Cosmos’: The Way of the Garden in East Asian Tradition

 

"The phrase ‘gardeners of the cosmos’ is one I have borrowed from a recent book on Daoism whose author explains that a ‘key metaphor’ in Daoist texts is that of cultivation. The model for Daoist sages or adepts is the responsible gardener who plants, nourishes, weeds and then lets things grow according to nature. They may be called ‘gardeners of the cosmos’, people who ‘slowly shape their life and environment’ with a right appreciation of the relation between human activity and the order of nature."

 

".....in the Way of the garden the dualisms central to Western conceptions of humanity and its relationship to the world are abandoned in favour of more nuanced connections. It is here that the main value of the East Asian Way of the garden is to be found. The ‘gardener of the cosmos’, to recall our opening metaphor, is not a messianic figure at the head of the charge ‘to save the planet’. He or she is someone whose own life and whose relationship to the natural environment are modelled on those of good gardener. This is a man or woman whose engagement with the living world cultivates sensibility to beauty, bodily grace and discipline, spontaneity and other virtues that enable lives to flourish, and understanding of the way, and of the mystery, of things."

The Dao of the Garden.pdf

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Hi y'all,

 

Cultivation is working on something,towards some perceived goal or ambition.

Or like the author there is no goal and cultivation of self is really just a good way to relax.

Logic seems to not apply,so yeah we cultivate just small patches of the human garden,to continue metaphor or analogy.

Then these patches are again neglected,so weeds sprout because there still many seeds lying dormant.

 

There no barrier to be cultivating all day and night,24/7 to use the modern term.

So over an extended period,even the dormant weed seeds become few or even totally weed free.

Compassion,mercy,love,goodwill,trust,honesty,mindfulness,these are the seeds that can now thrive.

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In the sense of the world in which it is applied in Daoism, usually the Roman spelling would be "Xiu Dao" (pron: She-Oh Dao).

In this case, it is a term which applies equally across Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism and refers to the act of cultivating the way.  Its partners word is "Gong De" or the work of how we accumulate virtue.

Xiu Dao can literally mean any method of cultivating the Dao and not only that, it can also apply to cultivating the Dao through art, cooking, music, or virtually anything.    Usually xiu dao refers to the practices of Daoism though, and so this can loosely apply to many things, but most people use it to mean meditation.

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I like this description of cultivation from Red Pine…..

 

Despite the elusiveness and namelessness of the Tao, Lao-tzu tells us we can approach it through Te. Te means "virtue:' in the sense of "moral character" as well as "power to act.' Yen Ling-feng says, "Virtue is the manifestation of the Way. The Way is what Virtue contains. Without the Way, Virtue would have no power. Without Virtue, the Way would have no appearance:' Han Fei put it more simply: "Te is the Tao at work.' Te is our entrance to the Tao. Te is what we cultivate. Lao-tzu's Virtue, however, isn't the virtue of adhering to a moral code but action that involves no moral code, no self, no other —no action.

 

These are the two poles around which the Taoteching turns: the Tao, the dark, the body, the essence, the Way; and Te, the light, the function, the spirit, Virtue. In terms of origin, the Tao comes first. In terms of practice, Te comes first. The dark gives the light a place to shine. The light allows us to see the dark. But too much light blinds. Lao-tzu saw people chasing the light and hastening their own destruction. He encouraged them to choose the dark instead of the light, less instead of more, weakness instead of strength, inaction instead of action. What could be simpler?
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Cultivation is an interesting term. Quite often it is considered in terms of Jing, Chi, Shen, Light, or applied to anything that people consider as taking a long while to perform or complete.

 

Recently, I have been reading a bit on how cultivation at higher levels differs from low levels. After qi has been dealt with and is fairly stable, the next stage would be to cultivate virtue. That is an interesting point. Quite often the cultivation of virtue is treated very lightly; it's a trite matter that is often conformed to the norms of society.

 

The theory that I had recently encountered has juxtaposed virtue and karma. So, in this model, there is no "good karma" or "bad karma"; there is virtue and karma. They accumulate like particles.

 

This was actually something that I had considered many years ago when I first intensely began practicing. The delineations of virtue promoting activities and karma generating activities, though, were rather extreme. Since I was practicing on my own, these ideas were worn down and kicked out of me rather quickly. But, encountering them again, the principles are not wrong. In fact, I can see a little bit of it now and can recall times in my youth when I felt the mechanism at work.

 

The mechanism itself is one of an equal and opposite exchange. Whenever something immoral is done, a person's virtue is depleted and karma takes its place. The very tight holographic connections that define the universe were things that I had considered abstractly when I first pondered these things a few years ago. Now that I am finding these ideas again, it is like regaining a lost sensory faculty.

 

In the scheme of things, cultivating qi is very small. It resolves issues in the body and it can have a benefit that radiates outwards. However, the way that it deals with the body is superficial when considered relative to karma. Resolving qi can resolve things that have gone out of wack over the course of a few days or years and do so in the relatively pliable layer of qi. However, karma is deeper than qi and simply manipulating qi doesn't resolve karma.

 

So, for me (especially now), the issue is not a matter of settling qi; it's a matter of resolving the karmic dead-weight that is carried. And, in retrospect, there is a rather definitive scale-sensitive thing. We can resolve qi by moving more qi; introducing a complementary form and potentially making a change. It is qi on the level of qi, exchanging good for bad. To resolve karma requires the same direct exchange; good karma (virtue) for bad karma.

 

In this way, the cultivation that matters is entirely ethical. Likewise, it is primarily through non-action for all the karma that has been accumulated is from past action---if it is to resolve, it will be by becoming the passive agent in the same situation when it repeats itself in a person's life. If you get into fights and have something peak into activity, the virtue and karma will move from source to sink. A person with a lot of virtue will lose it when they lose their temper; a person with little virtue and a lot of karma will lose their karma and gain a bit of virtue when they receive the angry outburst.

 

And, with this, it should be entirely believable that ethical cultivation is paramount; virtue and karma directly determine the course of your life---qi is just a subset; a very tiny piece.

 

To my mind, this is an excellent post and deserves highlighting. It could well be the OP of a new topic for discussion. There's too much here to comment on specifics but I agree with the gist of what you're saying, if not the specifics of how de (te) is cultivated. (As a small criticism, I think you're perhaps applying too much light to something that must always retain darkness, to borrow from Red Pine's words I've quoted above.) 

 

It's all too easy for us Westerners to take aspects of traditional praxis (such as the ones you mention in your opening sentence) and practice them as if they're all we need to do. Unfortunately, as anyone who goes deeper eventually discovers, there's much more involved. I particularly liked David Cooper's essay I referenced above because he approaches cultivation as practiced as a whole way of life within the East Asian tradition. 

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