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Does anyone practice calligraphy as cultivation or have more information about it?

 

I came across the following book description which some of you might find interesting:

 

Quote

Master Tu's forthcoming book is a monumental work. Culminated from over 20 years of work, it is the first book of its kind. Qigong training promotes healthy living through the art of Chinese calligraphy and painting in accordance with the theory of five phases (also known as theory of five elements). In this book, Tu reveals the secret of circulating qi through Chinese calligraphy for the first time. By practicing the five scripts of Chinese calligraphy (cursive, running, clerical, standard and seal) and painting the five flowers (lotus, bamboo, chrysanthemum, plum and orchids) you can energize the five organs (heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys). Health secrets involving the five colors and the five phases are combined with breathing exercises to eliminate toxins and open the eight extraordinary vessels (meridians). The eight extraordinary vessels are discussed in depth. You’ll learn the secrets of longevity, treatment of disease and healthy living at the highest level.

 

The book includes over one hundred of Master Tu's paintings from the last few decades. Some of these works have been featured in art books of collections of internationally acclaimed artists. Whether you are an aspiring artist, a qigong practitioner or just enjoy fine painting, you will find this book an enjoyable reading and learning experience.

 

This book is currently only available in mandarin.

 

Calligraphy, Painting, Qi Circulation and Healthy Living By Jin Sheng Tu

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I've heard somewhere, that calligraphy is the highest form of cultivation. Heard it from multiple sources.

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Posted (edited)

Neat topic. My normal handwriting is horrible so the prospect of doing calligraphy fills me with dread, but I would like to learn. It is of course considered a supreme art form in Sinosphere countries.

 

In Vietnam in recent times calligraphers have been working with Latin letters with results that, to my untrained eye at least, are beautiful.

 

 

 

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Edited by SirPalomides
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2 hours ago, SirPalomides said:

Neat topic. My normal handwriting is horrible so the prospect of doing calligraphy fills me with dread, but I would like to learn. It is of course considered a supreme art form in Sinosphere countries.

 

Yes, all the more reason to start. I guess that's why martial arts was my choice. I feared conflict, I was tense, had no flexibility, poor coordination and prone to anxiety and rage.

 

Maybe in another life, I'll work on my handwriting 😂

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On 5/31/2020 at 3:58 PM, zerostao said:

I've heard somewhere, that calligraphy is the highest form of cultivation. Heard it from multiple sources.

 

Could you please find some of these sources? Sounds very interesting claim at least.

 

Calligraphy is prized art in Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism. Everyone seems to dig it!

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I had a teacher that would use calligraphy as a kind of 'broadcaster' of transmission. He would take days to prepare - create the caligraphy reasonably quickly - and then we would sit and absorb into it. This would produce various states of consciousness and affect the qi in various ways - was an interesting way of working.

 

But he never said it was the highest form of cultivation. I think different teachers choose different skills to dive into - for this teacher it was calligraphy and the sword. Others will have their own preferences.

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Would calligraphy be practiced as a foundational skill for someone working towards creating fu talismans?

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13 minutes ago, Nintendao said:

Would calligraphy be practiced as a foundational skill for someone working towards creating fu talismans?

 

Yes, definitely.  Even the talismans that look messy (some look as though someone overturned a bowl of spaghetti on a sheet of paper and traced the imprint they left with ink) rely on a cultivated mind-intent-qi-hand-brush connection.  Without having developed this conduit one can't empower the fu.    

 

On the other hand, this connection can be developed via an entirely different practice.  Calligraphy is handy in many situations though,  one can practice in a limited space and with limited resources, and the interesting thing is, it can go both ways -- in a practitioner of taoist arts, the sword skill and the art of calligraphy are often two sides of the same cultivated skill.  You indirectly work on your calligraphy when you undertake the sword practice,  and you indirectly work on your jian skill if you undertake calligraphy.  The gongfu of it is to make the implement, be it the weapon or the brush, obey your will as a trained part of your body and express your intent with precision, guided by your qi that you learn to direct and let flow into the implement.    

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1 hour ago, Nintendao said:

Would calligraphy be practiced as a foundational skill for someone working towards creating fu talismans?

 

From my experience, there are two parts to Fu.

 

One is as @Taomeow so eloquently describes:

1 hour ago, Taomeow said:

The gongfu of it is to make the implement, be it the weapon or the brush, obey your will as a trained part of your body and express your intent with precision, guided by your qi that you learn to direct and let flow into the implement.

 

The teacher I had was a master of both the sword and the brush (and a couple of musical instruments too - he'd use those for transmission too).

 

But there is another aspect to Fu generation. It's actually to do with the 'heavenly eye' type practices that have been discussed in another thread

 

It involves firstly developing access to the light of your original spirit... Then - in that deeply absorbed state - 'reaching into the light' and 'creating a contract with heaven'... then bringing it back and representing the precise coded information into a Fu (which is where the other skill comes into play).

 

This is pretty advanced stuff. Just getting unwavering access to the light of yuan shen is tricky enough. To have 'permission' to 'request a mandate from heaven' is a whole different thing and involves various lineage initiations and empowerments. And then to 'bring it back' and transmit it from yuan shen to ink on paper in an accurate way is a whole different set of advanced skills.

 

The caligraphy my old teacher used to create wasn't quite the same thing.

 

And the majority of the Fu I've seen done outside of just a couple of masters - is at best a sort of 'automatic drawing' and mostly just a ceremonial copying of an existing Fu (and this still 'works' to an extent).

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@freeform Yup, that's the right-hand-path empowered fu. 

 

The left-hand-path (which is older) involves a different set of techniques and relies on the earliest powers of taoism, the inner gods.  Basically it entails four phases:
Self-deification – attainment of awakened, independently existing, relatively immortal supernatural intelligence.
Self-solidification – the enlightened intellect that is your own, not part of the hive bodymind.
Initiation – it is a lineage art, transmission is necessary, in the shape and form of the particular lineage.   
Magic – using your own cultivated will (gongfu) via a spiritual technology designed to cause the universe to conform to the will of the practitioner.  

 

This one is also very advanced.   And the stellar practitioner is ambidextrous. :) 

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8 minutes ago, SirPalomides said:

Yeah, most fu in Chinese culture are not up to such high standards.


The common Fu one sees in restaurants or personal shrines are ‘copies’ of ancient Fu that were created in this more ‘esoteric’ way originally.

 

Copies still work - although their power is diminished somewhat.
 

I’ve been fortunate to be part of an initiation which involves sitting with a Fu that is only revealed for the purpose of initiation. Despite it being many hundreds if not over a thousand years old - it has only ever been seen in this very controlled, reverent sort of way - and never copied by a non-initiate.

 

And I can say that - even as a relative sceptic of this sort of thing (at least I was at the time) - the effect of it left me with no doubt of the power of this sort of stuff!

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On a somewhat related note, I read some interesting things about traditional ways of making ancestral spirit tablets. According to some sources I read, one way was to consecrate a brush by having a descendent visualize the ancestors and think about their qualities, and then breathe into the brush. A professional calligrapher would be sought to write the names, or at least do the crucial last part, "dotting the zhu", referring to the bottom character 主 and the dot on top of it. This was said to complete the tablet and allow the spirit to take its seat there, so it had to be done right. Blood from the descendent was often used for this part. Then there are invocations one can use to encourage the spirits to accept the tablets as their seats.

 

 

 

 

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14 minutes ago, freeform said:

 

I’ve been fortunate to be part of an initiation which involves sitting with a Fu that is only revealed for the purpose of initiation. Despite it being many hundreds if not over a thousand years old - it has only ever been seen in this very controlled, reverent sort of way - and never copied by a non-initiate.

 

 

That's interesting. Was the fu meant to be contemplated or explained by a teacher, or was its mere presence enough?

 

I am wondering also what relationship there is, if any, between fu and cosmological diagrams like Zhou Dunyi's Taijitu

 

Dunyi, Zhou | Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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16 hours ago, SirPalomides said:

That's interesting. Was the fu meant to be contemplated or explained by a teacher, or was its mere presence enough?


Just a short ceremony and then silent sitting in it’s presence.

 

16 hours ago, SirPalomides said:

I am wondering also what relationship there is, if any, between fu and cosmological diagrams like Zhou Dunyi's Taijitu


Not really related.
 

Fu look different in different traditions - but generally they’re not meant to be ‘understood’ (although there is certainly a codified language within).
 

The diagrams are meant to be understood.

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Posted (edited)

So what is transmitted with calligraphy? Can you have specific organ health calligraphy that could be used to heal people with such specific imbalance? Can you transmit psychic powers with it? Or higher shen like yuan chi, yuan shen, etc.. / what buddhists call virtue/wisdom ?

Edited by EmeraldHead
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43 minutes ago, EmeraldHead said:

So what is transmitted with calligraphy?


Basically ‘information’.

 

just as you’re receiving information by reading these squiggles here.

 

So your energy body receives the information from a fu or calligraphy.

 

And just as when you’re reading written instructions, it’s largely up to you whether you understand what you read and what you can put into action.


The calligraphy generally doesn’t cause an ‘action’ by itself... it’s just a broadcast of information that your Qi picks up and then puts into action if it can.

 

Calligraphy won’t do your cultivation for you - but it might help align it to a certain direction.

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1 hour ago, EmeraldHead said:

So what is transmitted with calligraphy?

 

It's a well known practice in Ch'an/Zen Buddhism that calligraphy without any specific energetic imprinting nevertheless retains the snapshot signature of the author's stability of mind, or equivalently level of awareness, at the moment of painting. In other words, the master can look on pupil's and other people's calligraphy works and assess how many satori experiences they have had and how well they have progressed in realizing the stability of shunyata.

 

The same works for any recorded art, but calligraphy is particularly convenient because the format is simple and accessible.

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1 hour ago, EmeraldHead said:

So what is transmitted with calligraphy? 

 

Qi and shen

 

1 hour ago, EmeraldHead said:

Can you have specific organ health calligraphy that could be used to heal people with such specific imbalance?

 

Yes.  It used to be common for a patient prescribed some herbal treatments by a classical doctor of Chinese medicine to boil the piece of paper with the doctor's handwritten recipe in the same pot as the herbs.  The calligraphy was part of the treatment and carried/transmitted the doctor's healing qi and intent into the brew.   

 

Interesting to compare to the handwriting of our modern doctors, the butt of many jokes.  

 

1 hour ago, EmeraldHead said:

 Can you transmit psychic powers with it? Or higher shen like yuan chi, yuan shen, etc.. / what buddhists call virtue/wisdom ?

 

That's the level of the god of calligraphy.  On that level, yes.  

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Posted (edited)
45 minutes ago, Taomeow said:

That's the level of the god of calligraphy.  On that level, yes.  

why "god"...isn't it just a matter of concentration practice to wield those ?

Edited by EmeraldHead

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, EmeraldHead said:

why "god"...isn't it just a matter of concentration practice to wield those ?

 

You asked about transmitting psychic powers, yuan qi, yuan shen, virtue, wisdom.  I don't think it's possible, at least in my tradition I haven't heard of it done this way.  A transmission opens the door, the cultivator has to walk through the door -- and that, after certain prerequisite/preliminary practices, is the beginning of neidan work.  You can't transmit neidan work, you can only transmit the "work permit," so to speak.  

 

Unless you're a god and do it on a whim.  This, too, has happened, but personally I wouldn't put all my eggs into that basket. :)

 

If you meant to ask whether one can acquire those transformative "powers" for oneself rather than transmit them, then the answer is embedded in the practice and can't be extricated therefrom.  Taoist practices, as a general rule, don't yield to yes/no answers about what they can do.  The practice itself opens up what it can do for a given individual.  Not even gods can predict it with certainty.  Conceptual framework around the practices is secondary and can be formulated in many different ways.  If someone says, "I can ride my bicycle across the country from New York to San Francisco," technically yes, they could, in theory.  But what if they never learned to ride a bicycle to begin with, and don't even have a bicycle?  To prove the statement about riding a bicycle across the country correct (or not), for them personally, there's no other way than to buy a bicycle, learn to ride it, temper the body and the spirit for difficulties ahead, and get the body on the bicycle on the road. 

 

When someone does something like this, they're usually in the news, but it can also be done completely anonymously.  So, maybe there's a calligrapher out there who can transmit all those powers, but I haven't heard of such mortal.  

Edited by Taomeow
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On 5/31/2020 at 8:58 AM, zerostao said:

I've heard somewhere, that calligraphy is the highest form of cultivation. Heard it from multiple sources.


There was a long time where reading and writing in any capacity would have been considered relatively elite. Being able to fuse such a tech with spiritual pursuit is highly accomplished. Imagine a practice so refined, that with a few simple materials, in a moment of pure focus, to create an object that many generations then receive multiple levels of meaning from, just by looking at. 

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Two quality videos somewhat related on the topic. It seems quite hard to find decent material, so hopefully these serve as passable insights into what calligraphy as meditation or cultivation could be.

 

 

 

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