Taoist Spirit Immortality Books

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Hi Everyone!


I recently began doing some thinking into taoism and would like to know if anyone has any suggestions for books i could research on and study for becoming spiritually immortal through taoism?


I'm also wondering if anyone here has yet completed the theory of growing a spiritual body through doing 3-6 months of jing work, 9 months of chi work and 13 years of shen work? im interested to know what differences are made from doing this that show noticeably 



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This is actually a tricky thing to answer because it depends what you mean.  To my knowledge there are two meanings to being a Taoist Immortal...one relates to energy practices so that you grow very old and the other is the realisation that you are That which does not die...which can also have something to do with energy, in that when it settles, the presence of True-Self can be realised.


If you want the first there are two books I recommend below...the Thomas Cleary one also relates to the True-Self realisation, otherwise, TTC, Chuang Tsu, Huai Nan Tsu and the Louis Komjathy collection.   


I think from what you said you will like this, I bought it but to be honest I cannot bear to read the book:




This one is great however:



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dao de jing


yi jing


less is more. be sure to investigate principle thoroughly, but also beware carrying yourself away from the mystery.


where sincerity is, the way is open.

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Please start from the bottom.


Read this info:




Good luck! :)

If spiritual cultivation was martial arts we could all be kung Fu heroes. Breathing and martial arts are fun but they don't lead to tao. Don't think you have to learn them as a 'foundation' in order to cultivate tao. I'd anything it'll just get in the way if you get too into it.

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From https://sites.google.com/site/delawareteasociety/yoked-to-earth-a-treatise-on-corpse-demons-and-bigu


Yoked to Earth: A Treatise on Corpse-Demons and Bigu

keywords: Daoist Diet, Bigu, abstention from grains, abstention from cereals, Three Worms and grains, abstaining from grains, energized fasting


Yoked to Earth: A Treatise on Corpse-Demons and Bigu or “abstention from grains”


By Frederick R. Dannaway


This paper was written to gather, as much as possible, the scattered and often contradictory lore of an elusive practice rooted in ancient China. The materials available on the subject seem incomplete and are largely unavailable in English or online or are hidden amongst larger works on Daoism or China. I make no claim to any original scholarship on the subject, but hope that it  may humbly aid those interested in but who are lacking access to certain texts.  I was going to entitle  this paper with the rather “on the nose” Against the Grain as it subtly expresses the Daoist paradox of integrating with a higher order rather than “going with the grain” of society both in metaphors of food and carpentry. But there is a diet book on the subject entitled “Against the Grain”   and well-argued books on agricultural “creation of culture of scarcity” (Manning 2005) and many articles on various subjects with that title with which I did not want to be “unequally yoked.” The Wade-Giles/Pinyin situation is usually dependent on the author cited.


Curses and Culture Bearers


“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life”


Mysticism and diet have always had a complicated relationship from ritual meals to food taboos. The shaman or priest’s knowledge of stars and seasons dictated planting and harvesting as well as the precise time of hunting expeditions or nomadic wanderings. As “civilization” emerged from loose-knit horticultural hunter/gatherers to hierarchical agriculture settlements the accumulated wisdom, from plant/animal husbandry to medical knowledge, would form part of the basis for an authority literally rooted in the peasants struggle against the earth.  The Daoist Immortals are often described as “abstaining from grain” (bigu) as part of their training and progression in the Dao. Many scattered and contradictory writings have appeared on this elusive practice of bigu from reducing it to another ascetic practice to modern works touting it as the next weight loss and health panacea. This paper seeks to brave the wild tangle of references and to separate out the chaff. I wish to immediately point out that cultivated cereal grains are a relatively recent addition to the human diet and “represent a radical departure from the foods to which we are genetically adapted (Cordain 1999.) Likewise, the “abstention from grain” of Saints must be seen to be a fundamental technique of achieving immortality, perhaps only inferior to a magical plant or elixir that would instantly fulfill the same function as the practice of bigu.


Beyond the tension of the “raw and the cooked” is the fundamental dreariness and difficulty of an agricultural existence. The book of Genesis, already in chapter 2, implies man’s very creation was anticipated to work the fields possibly indicating that it was his sole purpose at that early stage of creation, “and there was not a man to till the ground.” Adam, of the red dirt, is punished for tasting the forbidden fruit with the odious warning that “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” Many ancient myths describe rituals and rites seeking to arbitrate and articulate the deep sense of misery of man’s fall from a garden of plenty. One such example is the Gardens of Adonis of ancient Greece that represent, as Detienne (1994) writes, an “anti-agriculture” where the “frivolous” female potted cereals stand in marked contrast to the “serious” farming of the males.


Detienne’s research reveals the complex relationships between families, bloodlines, human and plant husbandry and the wilder side of weeds, harlots and sex outside the state/reproductive paradigms that informed the Greek reality. His discussion on vegetarianism as an act of political revolt outside the communal sharing of blood sacrifice (Detienne 1998) as refusing society is extremely relevant as context to this discussion of the Daoist practice of Bigu. As I have discussed elsewhere (Dannaway, Piper and Webster 2006), there is a significant body of literature in Jewish and Islamic sources that identify the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden as wheat. There is surely some statement for a prejudice against agriculture in the refusal of Cain’s offering. Cain was the “tiller of the soil” whose name means “to acquire, get, or possess,” identical to the word for “sprear” and cognate with “to forge” and “reed or stalk” in associations that are found in this Chinese context.


Of course not all agricultural myths tend towards the depressing. Many involve gods or legendary heroes who spread the beneficent technologies in civilizing acts of mercy to a wild, desperate and starving population. Shennong (literally: Divine Farmer) , the legendary Emperor of the Five Grains, helped the masses of starving huddled in the bush to learn the secrets of plants organizing a pharmacopoeia as well as teaching agriculture.  There is an organizing principle at work combining the idea of a hierarchy (an Emperor and dynastic families that trace their origins to them) and the subservient collective that must "join together...in order to root out and destroy the weeds that covered the land (they must) cut down the flea-bane, the mug-wort, the false-hemp, the star-thistle"  (Granet 1930). Contrasted to the cursed punishment of agriculture of Biblical myths is the Chinese notion of a divine nutritional salvation that rescued the population from living the savaged lives of beasts and scavengers. Hereo/divinities such as Shennong and Hou Chi, the Lord of Millet Grains, would receive special sacrifices as tribute that would be collected by families (such as the Chou house) and tribes that appropriated the gods’ clout to legitimize their rule (Cannadine and Price 1992).  Millet appears to be only grain to have been deified in ancient China (Girardot 1983). There is also broader evidence of Indo-European “praise of famous grains” in various mythological contexts (Watkins 1977).


What becomes evident in the study of the tensions between Confucians and Daoists is a fundamental difference in their assessments of the prehistorical period of China. The Confucian’s viewed primordial times as period of starvation, of violence and wilderness, to loosely paraphrase and translate Levi (1982), contrasted to the Daoist view of a golden-age of uncontrived Eden-like bliss. “Zhuangzi praises that idyllic age with these words: ‘Spirits and gods show their good will and nobody dies before his time’” (Levi 1982). This is anathema to the Confucian view that it took a civilizing divine-potentate to rescue humanity from it’s own ignorance and helplessness in a brutal wilderness. This expresses a fundamental cosmological orientation that is the foundation for much of the social movements in China, perhaps even into modern times. “Ancient man imbibed dew” and “fed on primordial breath and drink harmony” and ate not the toilsome, vulgar crops of the red dust that are exemplified in the Five Sacred Grains (wu ku).


Cereal Killers, Celestial Snitches and Agrarian Crisis


"Now, the people of mysterious antiquity, they reached old age because they remained in leisure and never ate any grains.” From Most High Numinous Treasure


“Cutting stalks at noon time, Perspiration drips to the earth. Know you that your bowl of rice, Each grain from hardship comes?”

Cheng Chan-Pao


            The peasant was yoked to the earth in a diabolical scheme of death and taxes and back breaking labor in furtherance of the state agenda. When famine or natural disaster altered the already precarious relationship between man and the land it was the poor who bore the brunt of the burden, this eventually birthed  the “esculentist  movement” (Gwei-djen and Needham 1968). When the situation became critical there was exodus to the mountains. The sedentary existence of an agricultural society was thus at the mercy of the elements and prey to all manner of social ills and class exploitation. The gifts of beneficent legendary emperors is bitter-sweet and the paradox at the heart of this relationship informs much of Daoist cosmology and practice. If the “Five Grains” are taken literally as representing rice, glutinous millet, panicled millet, wheat and soybeans then it must be noted that all these foods require significant cultivation, “farming” and converted land. This must be kept in mind when discussing the wild, uncultivated foods of the Daoist adepts such as pine resin, needles and nuts and fantastic mushrooms and minerals. As Mollier (2008) writes, “the damaging effects of cereals were denounced in 3rd century BCE in the documents of Mawangdui.”


            Famines, plagues, wars and corrupt/ineffectual governments characterized much of China’s history from the pre-historical period (Schipper 1993). Scholars note that after the fall of the Han dynasty more and more people refrained from eating cereals (Pregadio 2008).   In 1406, a famine or 'Salvation-in-the-midst-of-desolation- herbal,'  was compiled by Chu Hsiao (Reid 1977)who also set up “famine gardens” (Christopher 1985). The options were few in such a predicament and something of a spiritual ultimatum arose that continued to characterize Chinese religion. This can be distilled to the choice of either armed revolt or social activism of sorts or “dropping out” into autonomous reclusion. Armed revolts by peasants are many, the most famous perhaps being the Yellow Turban Rebellion initiated by Daoist adepts who proposed an alternative world view to restructure society from the Yellow Heaven. The struggle was not against society per se as much as it was frustration at the loss of an “idealized, primitive agricultural community…or a nostalgia for a prefeudal or Neolithic communal society” (Girardot 1983). Needham’s discussions of the Hun Tun myths as the formation of class distinctions and imposing of a feudal system describe the atmosphere that crystallized some of core facets of the Daoist Immortal. Zou Yan of the 4th century wrote of his cosmological theories that related grain to earth (square) and qi to heaven (round) thus making them incompatible.Therefore the adept sought to ingest a higher or more refined type of qi connected with the heavens. Beypnd  this, the leisurly Daoist might ake a dismal view of the cost/benefit ratio of labor-intensive agriculture.


            A quasi-mystical primitivism that was essentially pragmatic would be ill-served to be labeled as asceticism, a point I will return to later. Chinese mystics were not “above” ascetic practices and self-mortification but  generally they certainly do not approach the level of, say, Indian yogis who undergo severe austerities and mutilations (though there are exceptions). Even if Needham’s theories prove narrow and exclusive of esoteric implications  (as some allege, though this an unfair and uniformed criticism of his work) they must be seen to elegantly describe a crucible of strife that permanently altered, or even created, this expression of Daoist arts. The uncertain situation of a tumultuous social order would eventually leave all classes from Emperor down to some degree at the mercy of fate ultimately linked to diet. The nostalgia for a primitive golden age inspired mass revolts on one level, often resulting in disaster for all parties, and a hermit’s seclusion on the other. As more and more land was converted to agrarian pursuits the mountains become the potent symbols of the wild, natural and untainted source of power. Eventually monastic orders arose as a compromise between the secular  and spiritual realms, marking an important point when a cult or movement must reach a  compromise with society. This is especially true in Daoism particularly during periods in and out of court favor. This would reflect the influence and competition of Buddhism as well as no other alternative other than to establish non-confrontational communes after all the rebellions basically failed.


            Retiring to a mountain, then as now, would require an inordinate amount of training, planning and discipline. Following Maslow, the aspirant’s first concern, especially in times of famine and strife, would be nourishment. This essentially puts the person back in the same situation as before the advent of agriculture. The Daoist masters in some sense decide that in the face of continually crumbling social orders, with intermittent prosperity, to have done with the charade and to face the situation on their own terms. To be able to minimize or abstain from food (especially the Five Grains) and to thrive by way of subtle arts would be tantamount to freedom from the feudal system. I emphasize “to thrive” here because it is quite different from some forced fast where the person simply wastes away. Modern mystics, such as the “Buddha Boy” Ram Bahadur Bomjam of Nepal claim to abstain from food and a recent documentary on him featured an Indian yogi who underwent 24/7 CCTV scrutiny by doctors and was found to not have ingested anything. There are also Chinese practitioners who perform Bigu for lengths of time enclosed in glass in public to prove the practice is possible, though a discussion of modern Bigu will be found at the end of this paper. 


            The Daoist, turning his back on the feudal power structure, must be self-sufficient or to join groups that formed, especially later as monastic orders, in small utopian communities modeled after the “primitive agrarian collectivism” that is well described by Needham. From the time of the Yellow Emperor, and an especially in a Confucian context, there existed the “legendary rebels” who “would not submit” and thus were exiled by force to remote lands. These mystic incorrigibles are the prototypical source for eccentric and lunatic adepts that inhabit Chinese history. The legendary rebels were part of “metal-working confraternities” or “metallurgical initiatory brotherhoods” who were “leaders of pre-feudal collectivist society…[and] would have attempted to resist the earliest feudal lords, and to prevent them from acquiring metal-working as the basis of their power” (Girardot 1983). This provides much of the symbolism and vocabulary for the various mystical alchemies, inner and outer, that used metallurgical technical terms as code.


            Intersecting this mythological complex, that weighed on the collective unconscious of China much like the doctrine of “original sin” in the West, was a system of “magical medicine” that fought pathogenic corpse-demon-worms that were bent on their hosts destruction. These parasites, which sometimes took the form of actual worms in the body, also existed on a more subtle dimension and were of great concern to Daoist aspirants (though it may well be presumptuous to refer to them in past tense). Gradually there was conceived as being an equally grand heavenly hierarchy—as above, so below—that was to torment the ethereal souls in a multidimensional fashion. There are many variations and numbers, but the majority of Daoist schools recognize three major “worms” (san-ch’ung) or “corpse demons” (san-shih) that feed on the cereals, or “The Five Grains,” ingested by their human host. The three worms shorten the lifespan of their host by snitching to the celestial bureaucracy of his or her misdeeds. Each infraction, depending on if it’s a misdemeanor or major offense, will accordingly result in time deducted from the host’s allotted days on earth. The worms are motivated to incite such transgressions to hasten their own salvation from being a parasitic demon-informer. This may have been deduced from crop infestations to the observation that organic parasites entered through feet and inhabited intestines.


            The three worms, or again three corpses. depending on the text, reside in the head, torso and lower body (three elixir fields  dantian) and are assisted by a pernicious group of nine worms that do everything they can “to incite people to evil or ill.” Upon his death the host is cast into hells and the worms are rewarded by feast of the poor soul’s corpse. The Upper Worm is named Peng Ju, is white and blue color, and focuses on tempting the adept to long for delicious food and other “physical” delights. The Middle Worm, Peng Zhi, is white and yellow and incites the adept to greed and excessive emotions of joy and anger. The Lower Worm, Peng Jiao is white and black conspires to entice the mystic to the worldly pleasures of sex, alcohol and fancy attire (Eskildsen 1998) or vitality-sapping wet dreams (Eskildsen 2004).


            Ko Hung (283-343) writes of five sorts of corpse-demons in his Prescriptions Within Arm’s Reach for Use in Emergencies that according to Strickmann (2002) “enter as the invitation of the three corpses that are the regular residents of the body’s interior.”

  1. Flying corpses, roam about a person’s skin and bore through to his inner organs. Their action is manifested in intermittent stabbing pains.
  2. Reclusive Corpse, attaches to bones and enters flesh from within, burrows into veins and arteries and blood, symptoms break when it beholds a funeral or hears the sound of wailing.
  3. Wind-corpses, course “exuberantly” through four limbs until person is unable to pinpoint pain, leading to dizziness and blackouts, outbreaks provoked by wind and snow.
  4. Sinking corpses, enwraps the vital rogans and strikes the heart and ribs, causing knotting, slicing sensations, when ever cold is encountered.
  5. Corpse-infusion or corpse-infestation (shih-chu) and “is the dire culmination of the series. Victim’s body feels “sunken and weighted down” with confused vital spirit and oppressive feelings of dullness and exhaustion, vital breaths are shifting and changing in body’s every joint, leading to major illness. (Strickmann 2002).

Strickmann’s often witty research reveals a further relationship with other demonic villains, the seven p’o, who have appropriately terrifying names such as: corpse-dog, hidden dung, sparrow-sex, greedy-guts, flying venom, filth-for-removal, and rot-lung. This complex of corpse-demon-worms also invades the aspirant’s dreams, appearing in the guise of three men in “rather old-fashioned costumes.” As the treatment, exercises and drugs take effect, the ascetic is tortured with nightmares of horrible murders of his kith and kin or that he is being mutilated by the five types of punishments which are taken to mean that the demons are about to be destroyed (Strickmann 2002). Depression, incubi/sucubi scenarios and other types of sinister mischief can ensue to try and shake the adept’s determination.



The Three Cadavers and Nine worms (san-shih chiu-ch'ung):



The scrolls in their hands likely hold information on your misdeeds.


The Baopuzi (320 AD) states: There are three corpses in our bodies. The three Corpses are made of matter, yet they are not fully corporeal: they are real like heavenly souls, numinous powers, ghosts, and spirits. They desire to cause people to die early, at which time these Corpses are able to act as ghosts, to move around freely, and to partake of peoples sacrifices and libations.


The Chu sanshi jiuchong baoshen jing (Scripture on Expelling the Three Corpses and Nine Worms to Protect Life) prob. 9th century gives the following details:


1. The Upper Corpse, Pengju lives in the head, symptoms of its attack include a feeling of heaviness in the head, blurred vision, deafness, and excessive flow of tears and mucus.


2. The middle corpse, Peng Zhi, dwells in the heart and stomach. It attacks the heart and makes its host crave sensual pleasures.


3. The lower corpse, Peng Jiao, resides in the stomach and legs. It causes the Ocean of Pneuma ((qihai) corresponds to lower dantian) to leak, and make host lust after women.


In Japanese theory:


1. The “superior worm, is black and three inches long and lives in head,  stimulates love  of horses, carriages and luxury clothes


2. The green middle, lives in the back, stimulates love of foods


3. The third, is white and lives in stomach, it stimulates sexual desires (Blacker 1999).



Nine worms, which cause corpse-malady (shih-chai) or corpse-exhaustion (shih-lao) [(Strickmann 2002):


1. The "ambush worm" (fuchong) saps people's strength by feeding off their essence and blood.


2. The "coiling worm" (huichong) infests the body in pairs of male and female that live above and below the heart, consuming the host's blood.


3. The "inch-long white worm" (cun baichong) chews into the stomach, weakening the inner organs and damaging the digestive track


4. The "flesh worm" (rouchong) causes itching and weakens the sinews and back.


5. The "lung worm" (feichong) causes coughing, phlegm buildup, and difficulty in breathing.


6. The "stomach worm" (weichong) consumes food from its host's stomach, causing hunger.


7. The "obstructing worm" (gechong) dulls the senses induces drowsiness and causes nightmares.


8. The "red worm" (chichong) causes stagnation of the blood and pneuma, heaviness in the waist, and ringing in the ear.


9. The "wriggling worm" (qiaochong) causes itching sores on the skin and tooth decay.


 (Pregadio 2008)

Nine Worms


One wonders if these represent actual parasites found inside corpses or in feces as they resemble real parasites more than Three Corpses above.


            Yet another source of concern in this demonical situation would have been relationship with the Stove God (Zaoshen). Since at least Han times, worship of the Stove God and abstention of cereals had a clear link (Pregadio 2008) which is logical if the idea of raw and cooked is excepted because the cooking was done on the family stove or hearth. A certain adept, Li Shapjun taught to his disciples, 1st century BCE, the “method of worshipping the furnace and abstaining from cereals to prevent old age (cizao gudao quelao fang) .” This Stove or Furnace God, also known as King of the Stove (Zaowang) Lord of the Stove or Royal Lord of the Stove, would likewise snitch on the family, of good or bad deeds, to the Jade Sovereign once a year, either the 23rd or 24th day of the 13th Lunar month. The family would paste up paper images on him on the New Year and then burn them. Prior to this, on his days of informing, his face is smeared with food to shut him up or with sweet stuffs to sweeten his words. The cult of the Stove God first referred to in the Lunyu (Analects) of Confucius and is a sacrificial cult that held placating ritual son the 8th lunar month. Like the other tattling worm-demons his reports to the Director of Destinies (Siming),the two became conflated in Tang dynasty, could lead to demerits and life units could be reduced by 100 day units (suan) or 12 year units (ji) (Pregadio 2008). Thus the individual is the likely victim of actual imperial spies in repressive regimes, inner-demonic worm informers and even a spy in his very hearth and home and there are a litany of prohibitions to observe when near the stove.



The Three Worms, as mentioned, feed off the 5 Grains (rice, millet, wheat, oats, and beans) and bloody foods while yoking the body “firmly to the earthly realm and to prevent any refinement of internal energies or attainment of immortality (Arthur 2006).” A primary method of eliminating the Three Corpses was to simply cut off their chief source of nourishment, namely the 5 Grains. This is essentially the bigu practice which in practicality varied in any given context. Arthur (2006) believes that the simple avoidance of grains was the original intention that gradually evolved to mean a complete avoidance of ordinary, or any, food. Other terms such as duangu “to cut off grains” or quegu “to eliminate grains” or xiulang “to cease cereals” and jueli “to abandon staples” would corroborate this assumption. Arthur (2006) believes that prior to the Tan dynasty (618-907) the practice was for short rituals fasts for ritual purifications “while long-term bigu practice did not avoid but merely limited food intake” while “ideally combined with other cultivation methods.” One my speculate that given the Stove Gods function and the cult of incense in Daoism if foods were accepted or rejected based on what was good for the inner stove or furnace of inner-alchemical Daoism. Many Daoist alchemists describe a sacrifice to the Stove God as being the first step in transmuting cinnabar (Welch 1966; Schafer 1975, Needham 1980). On gengshen day, a ritual day spoken of at length below, the three worms “ascend to heaven and file a report on our misdeeds with the Department of Destiny. Similarly during the last night of the month, the Stove God makes a journey to heaven and reports on our behavior. For the more important misdeeds, three hundred days are deducted from our lives. For lesser sins, three days are deducted from our lives.”


            Arthur’s view of bigu original objectives and practices cast it as a balanced approach to magico-medical system of real parasites and demonic cadaver-worms that were thought to feed off staples. Eskildsen (1998) views the earlier practices as much more intense and radical in the objective of ceasing all eating with the idea that such a practice itself could lead to immortality. He cites texts that use bigu “to avoid grains” with bushi “do not eat” and concludes that when it is said that grain or cereals are avoided what is really meant is food in general. This becomes a rather complicated issue when the full implications of total abstinence from eating food are understood as a means to immortality by way of depriving the Three Worms of sustenance. No food at all would be ideal as the production of feces was particularly odious to inner gods and the constant cycle of hunger and defecation just seemed frivolous to spiritual pursuits. The adepts bewail the people’s diets and lack of Daoist cultivation with such as verse as “Lamenting That People Only Know How to Eat and Deficate, without Ever Assigning Their Minds to Their Nature and Life that went:


            The grain cart enters, the manure cart exits.

            They take turns coming and going.

            When will it come to an end?

            Even if [people can] cause their life to span over a hundred years,

            This is only 36,000 days (Eskildsen 2004).


            Although the next section and appendix will deal with specific techniques and recipes for accomplishing bigu and suppressing hunger, there are divergent methods that must be articulated. If the goal was abstinence from food, not as Eskildsen suggests from a particular food taboo (like Pythagoras and beans for example) but rather from a magico-medical standpoint of eliminating disease causing pathogens, then it may indeed be proper to call bigu an ascetic practice. This is more in line with the severe austerities of penitents or certain Hindu sages who starve themselves or live on a bit of milk or a few hemps seeds as did the Buddha in his more severe stages of the path. But the Daoist adept, ideally anyway, employed all manner of practices to achieve this end from herbal formula to alchemical elixirs to body cultivation. In the past, it was a spiritual elite that could successfully, and situationally, remain in the sanctified state heedless of bodily concerns:


                        “Commoners eat grain, and when the grain is gone, they die. The Transcendent nobility eat grain when they have it, and when they do not, they ingest pneumas (Bokencamp 1997).         


            The Three Worms eventually obtained a heightened state of power and their obstinacy was no match for the old ways and “can no longer be expelled by mere concoctions of crude herbs but require rituals measures and ethical purity” (Arthur 2006) or some great elixir or esoteric technique to cease eating. But the cessation of ingesting food, or the restriction as Arthur suggests of its earliest intentions, was not meant to plunge the adept into starvation and physical discomfort, though this was no doubt the result for some who attempted such an arduous practice. The Daoist cultivation techniques of “eliminating grain and eating qi” (Quegu shiqi) when accomplished with success is ascetic in the original Greek sense of “exercises”  that enabled one to replace, not just abstain, food with the more subtle spiritual nourishment of qi. Daoists did follow regimes of asceticism that were similar to the Greek Christian practices of repression (especially of lust in the Christian and certain Daoists contexts) and abstinence but bigu posits a higher form of sustenance, qi, available to those who “go against the grains” of civilization. The Five Grains are replaced by the Five Sprouts of celestial essences.


            The term qi presents its paradoxes as well in terms of bigu and Daoist cultivations that could range from alchemical or macrobiotic treatments, to sexual arts and gymnastics (or practices very similar to yoga). There is a massive amount of data on Daoist arts and absorbing qi from the above mentioned techniques to talismanic waters and rituals that will aid the adept on in his task. Again, the initial stages of bigu  are fraught with dangers and there is a period of “weakening and decay” until “orthopathic qi” becomes dominant and illness vanishes (Englehardt 1987). The adept must purge the wayward, defiling “grain qi” of ordinary foodstuffs with the refined “primal qi” (yuanqi). It is interesting to note that certain immortals, as mentioned above, are intimately linked with the discovery of agriculture and that many were thought to be essential to a good harvest by means of their supernatural powers. As Schipper (1993) notes, “one of the most recurrent themes in the legends of the Immortals is that they don’t eat grains” and yet “from Antiquity on” there are terms like ku-hsien or “immortals of grains” that combine the hsien concept of forest spirits with the rites of slash and burn agriculture of ancient China. Schipper (1993) posits a taboo “based on the fact that the spirits who help the cereals grow do not themselves partake of these foods.” The Daoist goal of zhenren defined as lightness, luminescence and causing levitation would incompatible with grain diet that produced much fecal matter and “putrid exhalations” which appeal to three worms (Mollier 2008).


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Edited by Sionnach
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In the qigong science, the bigu-fasting is known from the profound antiquity in China as a method for additional purification of the body in order to make conditions for further development. It can be compared with a nice cleaning of a house.


In the system of qigong, the economy of energy - both physical and mental - is especially valued. In Chinese, the fasting is called bi gu, which literally means 'abstence from cereals'. It represents a complimentary method in the qigong system, in which the qigong practitioners achieve a state at which they are able to avoid eating cereals and solid food for certain periods of time (weeks, months, or years), while maintaining normal functions of daily life. By this, they clean the body and expel the turbid qi, in order to reach an advanced level.


An important characteristic of the bigu-fasting is that practitioner's overall condition improves rather than weakens. Before the fasting, a practical training is performed for accumulation of qi in the body and for mastering techniques for how to not damage the mind. The fasting always is preceded by a period of quantitative and qualitative development of the energy in the body through the practice of the qigong quiet exercise (meditation).


When the qigong teacher estimates that his students are ready enough, he takes them somewhere in the nature and determines an individual program for each of them, according to the level of their development. To the less advanced students, the professional qigong teacher determines a free menu, but without rice, wheat, oat, corn and other cereal products. The next level is a nutritional intake, that constists only of vegetables and/or fruits. Those, who have achieved a higher level of energy accumulation and development, are left only with wild fruits, and only on water. For the students of the highest level of evolution is set a complete abstence of food, and even without liquid intake. The length and degree of bigu-fasting is determined by a professional qigong teacher.


During the whole term, the students are consistently observed by their teacher and seriously practice the quiet exercise, in order to not experience hunger, mental discomforts and decrease of the vital forces. In this way, the bigu-fasting is treated as a complimentary method for purifying the body from long-time accumulated pathogens, mucus and pollutants, which to this moment the energy has not yet melt and transformed into useful qi or excreted from the body.


The scientific study of the state of bigu-fasting not only is helpful for the advance of the biological and medical research, but also has a certain practical meaning. It can purify and rejuvenate the body, improve the immune system, the energy and blood circlunation, and has an action of regulatory bilateral adjustment of the bodily functions. However, we should not forget that the deepest genuine purification of the body, the treatment of diseases and overall development comes only through the practice of the qigong quiet exercise (meditation).



Edited by Sionnach
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Why do you say that?


Very simple dear friend,


Most people today don't have the grounding energy to go through something like that.


Activating kundalini?


Sweet Mother of Jesus Christ!! You are calling yourself for trouble that not even the most accomplished Taoist doctor will be able to fix. As a matter of fact, I know a Daoist practitioner (35 years of experience) and Chinese Medicine doctor (25 years of clinical practice) living in the United Sates who treated a guy who engaged in these kind of practices for a long time. Guess what? He ended up living like a vegetable on a wheelchair. That doctor wasn't able to help him unfortunately. He told me, Gerard this patient of mine fried all his higher centres, the only thing I can do his offering some paliative care, but he is finished for sure.


Kind regards. :)

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If spiritual cultivation was martial arts we could all be kung Fu heroes. Breathing and martial arts are fun but they don't lead to tao. Don't think you have to learn them as a 'foundation' in order to cultivate tao. I'd anything it'll just get in the way if you get too into it.

I see your point and agree. But...

Unlike breathing, martial arts are no necessity and neither cultivate spirit per se, although there is a lot to learn from the article.

The fact that one needs to stay honest about ones foundation-work and be mindful of the stuff that is "hidden" in the techniques.

This, in as little i've seen of them, seems true for neigong, classical mo seut/wu shu, sitting practices etc.

None of them lead anywhere, but all that hard work is not for nothing if the student and teacher are both smart.

Even someone with no talent for using their martial arts for combat can learn many things beneficial to spiritual cultivation from it if their perspective and focus allow it.

Being mindful of the fundamentals will aid in that...


I dont want to argue semantics but imo nothing leads to Tao.

It's hardly lost or in need of finding from what i gather. What needs to be unearthed from it's confinement is ones true nature, right?

Isn't that the whole deal with the equinoxes, solistices, planting and harvesting?

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If spiritual cultivation was martial arts we could all be kung Fu heroes. Breathing and martial arts are fun but they don't lead to tao. Don't think you have to learn them as a 'foundation' in order to cultivate tao.


I am sorry to hear you haven't had a good experience with Internal Martial Arts.


Some Daoist mountain Kung Fu:


"Standing with his feet at shoulder width, knees slightly bent, the mentor held his upper body in

an erect position. Raising his arms, he extended them in front of him, straight but not stiff, his sides

open, his palms toward the tree. Gazing straight ahead with his eyes nearly closed, the old wizard

slowly bent and straightened his legs, moving up and down while maintaining his torso upright, both

hands slowly sweeping up and down along the trunk of the tree. 


As he demonstrated the movements, the Wayfarer explained, "Pay attention to the attunement

of the breathing. When you move upward you breathe in, and when you move downward you breathe

out. As the physical movements are performed slowly, the breathing must be slow, subtle, deep, long,

and even. At the same time, certain conscious thought needs to be added to this combination. The

attention is placed in the palms of the hands, and you imagine the tree to be an enormous pillar of

energy of a particular color. In this case, the pine tree I am using is a pillar of green energy. Imagine

your palms emitting a mass of energy of the same color, exchanging it with the tree's energy mass."


 Liping's  mentor  wanted  him  to  establish  a  solid  foundation  once  he  started  working  on

equilibrium  exercises,  so  he  pursued  a  new  tack  with  this  subject.  The  three  old  wizards  had

discovered an extremely good place on the mountain. It was not a large spot, but it had five huge trees

of different species, one in each of the four cardinal directions and one in the center. In the east was a

pine tree, in the south was a paulownia, in the west was an aspen, in the north was a cedar, and in the

center was a willow. Felicitously, they formed a natural array of the five elements and their associated

directions, so it was a natural place for using the external five elements to refine the five elements

within the human body.


When the three old wizards discovered this spot, they spontaneously looked at each other in

amazement. The grand master, the Wayfarer of the Infinite, clapped his hands and said, "This is a

boon from heaven!" Subsequently they rigged up a rope net among these trees, about half the height

of a man; then they had Wang Liping walk under the net, his legs crouching but his upper body erect,

the crown of his head just touching the net, so he could neither stand tall nor squat too low.


After practicing like this for two months, Liping could walk in this "horse step" all around the

area within the five trees. He could even carry a bowl of water on his head, prancing about at a rapidpace without spilling a drop, keeping the surface of the water level as a mirror.


With the five trees arrayed around the spot, as one walked among them, the five elements in

the human body corresponded to the external five elements in the trees. Liping's mentor had him walk

along a certain prescribed route, based on the interrelations of the five elements to tune the internal

five elements within the human body, using the external five elements to exert a pull on the internal

five elements, so as to arrive at equilibrium of the internal five elements, in order to get rid of diseases

and prolong life. By varying the route, and adding different hand positions and matching breathing

patterns, it was also possible to bring out latent capacities hidden in the human body and cultivate

extraordinary  powers.  From  these  very  ordinary  trees  in  the  natural  world,  Wang  Liping  was

ultimately able to elicit and to absorb unusual capacities." (Opening the Dragon Gate: The Making of a Modern Taoist Wizard)


Some of you guessed already that this last exercise was Bagua neigong.


Kung Fu and Chinese medicine (Shamanism) are the foundations of Taoism. :)



The ego is a concept that can take many forms, not only MA.


There are many ways of reaching the Dao.


Gurdjieff taught that most humans do not possess a unified mind-body consciousness and thus live their lives in a state of hypnotic "waking sleep", but that it is possible to transcend to a higher state of consciousness and achieve full human potential. Gurdjieff described a method attempting to do so, calling the discipline "The Work"(connoting "work on oneself") or "the Method".


This is Kung Fu as well.


The last Buddha came from a clan of warriors. He mastered his body really well before he could venture into and understand the Mind. Master your Body and you'll tackle the Mind. There is a Sutta that discusses this but I can't remember right now, will post it later when I find it.



Some pearls of wisdom:


There are as many paths to the Lord as there are grains of sand and drops of rain…whomever seeks, eventually finds his way There (The Soul and a Loaf of Bread: The Teachings of Sheikh Abol-Hasan of Kharaqan)



Edited by Gerard
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But the translation at the website is imo a very good start for the journey of widespread study that is necessary for the serious person who wants to achieve immortality.





Let me give you some good news and save you from some bad apples, which I and many others encountered on this road:


You are an immortal already.


Secondly, if you though that real practice is learnt from books or online manuals, you are completely wrong as well. Hence second piece of advice:


1. Go find a good teacher (not easy either) and learn an Internal Martial Art, or

2. Alternatively, attend a Buddhist Vipassana retreat that includes walking meditation as part of the whole practice.


I have done both and in both instances the teachers:


1. Stressed the importance of physical rather than intelectual cltivation, in fact, anything intellectual in spiritual development is a hindrance.

2. In the second case, they asked me to avoid any sort of reading or discussion during the entire retreat, which had to be maintained in silence (3 weeks). I was only allowed to speak to my allocated teacher to discuss points strictly related to the progress of my meditation, nothing else. Not an easy feat, trust me. I broke the second rule (talking) many times. I regreat it today and fully understand now the importance of being silent at all times when engaged in serious meditation practice.


This brings us the topic of the Rhinoceros Sutra, a philosophy that Wandering Taoists (and ascetics from other spiritual traditions) also follow.


An example of someone who follows this extraordinary lifestyle which is highly conducive to spiritual liberation.


Good luck! :)

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Practices might allow you more body awareness and experience some chi, and that is useful.

But then again many people dont get anywhere with the practices spiritually, or choose the wrong ones.


What is the foundation except ur own life and life path, finding the right positive direction to go in? And that is different for everyone. it may or may not be doing energy practices, and no matter how much practices you do, you still have to live your life.


People only ever talk about the foundation for something... but foundation for what? For more advanced practices and qigong, for being a kungfu spiritual master like in some exciting tales. All side paths and side achievements. Attractive and flowery experiences are described and appeal to those who really just want them. Probably a waste of time if one is really only looking for tao, but perhaps if that is your "foundation" that is what you must experience first.


If you do a terrible practice, live unnaturally, and have many underlying mental issues, don't blame a lack of grounding energy for "frying" your higher centres. Fix the common sense stuff first. A person living naturally can get all they need without training years to be a warrior.


Who wants to be like a baby and experience formlessness and be emptied out? Why do you need to prepare so hard to even begin going in that direction?

Edited by munky

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Sweet Mother of Jesus Christ!! You are calling yourself for trouble that not even the most accomplished Taoist doctor will be able to fix. As a matter of fact, I know a Daoist practitioner (35 years of experience) and Chinese Medicine doctor (25 years of clinical practice) living in the United Sates who treated a guy who engaged in these kind of practices for a long time. Guess what? He ended up living like a vegetable on a wheelchair. That doctor wasn't able to help him unfortunately. He told me, Gerard this patient of mine fried all his higher centres, the only thing I can do his offering some paliative care, but he is finished for sure.



What kind of practices?


There are many ways in which the golden flower method is understood by meditators: some say it's third eye meditation, some say it's anapana, some say it's river chariot, some say it's dantien meditation, etc...

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Please start from the bottom.


Read this info:




Good luck! :)

A foundation had been shown, and was ignored, but behind closed doors there was actually something else being taught. Something even more basic and consequently even more boring. These became known as the ‘before basic basics’. They were simple, and yet VERY hard to do. Together with the basic exercises they developed a foundation, that was then taken into training the basic movements.

“The exotic exercises than many beings are so anxious to get into are really meant to be a capstone, to be placed on a background of established awareness. They are not a starting point but a tool with which to probe more deeply into the nature of mind.”

Dr Kenneth Fish publically opined about the loss of genuine Chinese martial arts ‘jiben gong’ (foundation training) being taught let alone practiced.

according to Dr Fish, what is commonly referred to today as jiben gong is actually jiben dongzuo (basic movements training), or jiben cao (basic drills). It seems the lines between this have been blurred. Largely because teachers began teaching more openly and for a living, and few students want to be taught ‘simple’ but hard to do exercises that are boring! I recognised, at least in part, the point that Dr Fish seemed to be trying to make. Not because I know the jiben gong he speaks of, but because I had become aware previously of the reality of such ‘hidden’ before basic basics.

“Dan Miller and I made the point that most if not all traditional martial artists in China had been peasants and farmers – they did manual labor – digging the fields by hand, using hand held hoes, spades, and shovels to move earth, lifting and carrying sacks of grain, tossing bales of silage and so on. This kind of existence builds a lot of muscular strength and, by default, connection.”

The foundation skills, the things that my teachers spent 2 or 3 years on before being taught forms and such, are for the most part no longer publicly taught. In part this is because teachers are either less fully trained than the generations before them and are themselves ignorant, or because they are teaching what students ask for. In either case, the students and the arts are given short shrift.”

What do I mean by foundation skills? A vast series of exercises designed to stretch, strengthen, develop balance, agility, and endurance. These included exercises with weights and other equipment, as well as myriad deep stance and mobility exercises, jumping exercises, and what might be considered as basic gymnastic maneuvers. Not until one had this foundation firmly in place could on go on to learning the movements, techniques, and usage of the system – but progress would be relatively fast, as the foundation skills would find expression in the movements and applications of the system.”

“As for Qi and “internal strength”? To some degree the Qi would manifest itself as a result of proper training, and Internal Strength was already being laid down with the foundation work. Trying to work in the other direction is like trying to run water through weak and rusty pipes.”

“They are far more like a mix of very grueling Chinese Opera, Shuaijiao, and classical Gymnastics exercises

“jibengong are “building blocks” upon which everything else, including stance work, is built. There is really no difference between systems on these – the exercises are the same whether the system is “internal” or “external”.

After a student had mastered the jibengong, to go on to learn the movements and techniques of a system was relatively easy – the student’s body was fully prepared and capable of performing the demands of the techniques. My Wing Chun teacher spent 3 years doing jibengong before being taught the basics of his family’s art. My Shaolin teacher spent his first year in jibengong, and most teachers of the older (70+) generation (at the time when I was starting to learn) had travelled the same route. Lam Sang, who taught my room mate in Taipei, told us of his first few years doing mostly jibengong – it was so demanding he considered running away.

The exercises are not secret, they are simply no longer widely taught, and were generally not taught in open, commercial schools. The “secrets”, if you wish to call them that, lie in the details of doing them properly – something which can only be taught one-on – one.”

I came to the same conclusion myself (after trying the top-down opposite) - your physical condition is your foundational base level for further energetic/emotional/spiritual development.  That's why all this traditional jiben gong is basically entirely bodycentric.


Sure, you may momentarily balance a precarious Jenga tower to briefly glimpse some greater "peak/ecstatic experience" heights...  But for sustained, stable growth & consistent, repeatable results - you need to spend much more time upfront laying a wiiiddeeee, flat foundation for your pyramid first!

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