MysticNinjaSage

Systems and Outlines, Purpose/Goals

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Hi friends, as a beginner to the esoteric, I'm aware that there are a great many traditions, methods, systems, schools, all over the world promising one type of results or another. Like myself, I'm sure there are many people who are willing to learn but don't know what or where to search. I'm looking to compile a list of these sorts of traditions and their aims/purposes and outlines so that beginners can have an informed decision about what an art entails and what their outcomes might be.

 

Please, if you know of any esoteric/traditional schools/systems and their general overview and aims, please comment on them below so that new seekers can learn about what's out there so they can pursue what calls to them. (I will try to compile them in a word document and maybe make an edit and try to keep it all outlined simply at the top of this message as the list grows)

 

Arts outlined, so far, below: Buddhism, Tai chi, Alchemy

Edited by MysticNinjaSage
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A couple of videos that may help give context. Since you mentioned Tai Chi, Darin Hamel is a person who talks a lot about Tai Chi and Meditation as his path to awakening and has some good videos online. Another one of my favorite videos is by Sadguru...he just speaks on Raw Intensity as a crude method for awakening....just to show how slippery and wide open the path can be. Cheers. 

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, forestofemptiness said:

Groping around is part of the search, in my mind. It helps build discernment. Plus, you never know what's going to work for any particular person. 

 

 

I agree.¬† Practicing a spiritual system is more like¬†having a baby than¬†going to the grocery store.¬† With the supermarket you can make a list of things you want and then just go and get them. Spiritual practice, in my experience, isn¬īt like that.¬† There is¬†no guide that can tell you in advance: healing siddhis on aisle three.¬† Instead it is¬†more like a baby;¬†what you get is almost always different than what you planned.¬†¬†¬†

Edited by liminal_luke
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26 minutes ago, RiverSnake said:

A couple of videos that may help give context. Since you mentioned Tai Chi, Darin Hamel is a person who talks a lot about Tai Chi and Meditation as his path to awakening and has some good videos online. Another one of my favorite videos is by Sadguru...he just speaks on Raw Intensity as a crude method for awakening....just to show how slippery and wide open the path can be. Cheers. 

Darin is a very interesting guy -- he used to post here, not sure whether he's still around on this board. 

Sadhguru's foundation teaches some very powerful courses. 

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Am I wrong to assume that a system has a fundamental method and purpose? I'm not expecting a person to be able to tell me, or anyone, with any kind of certainty, that they will or will not be able to acquire x and y siddi and whether or not they will actually become enlightened by practicing it. Those are too subjective questions. The question isn't meant to attract answers like, "you'll just have to practice it and see what happens". The definition of a system is: "a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized framework or method." My question is trying to provoke answers that are very generalized and simplified, a basic overview and structure of a given system/tradition and to what end it was designed for.

 

Of course someone might become enlightened through practicing tai chi, but that might not be its aim or purpose. It might simply be made to promote energy flow and overall health and flexibility. Is it impossible to give a drop-down list of methods, maybe like Advaita Vedanta, Neigong, Neidan, Zen Buddhism, Ch'an Buddhism, Taoist Alchemy.. I don't know.. I'm just throwing words out that I read. A seeker might fall on these words with a brief overview and find it attractive enough to search for. I'm just trying to provide that kind of table of contents with this question.

 

 

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27 minutes ago, MysticNinjaSage said:

Am I wrong to assume that a system has a fundamental method and purpose? I'm not expecting a person to be able to tell me, or anyone, with any kind of certainty, that they will or will not be able to acquire x and y siddi and whether or not they will actually become enlightened by practicing it. Those are too subjective questions. The question isn't meant to attract answers like, "you'll just have to practice it and see what happens". The definition of a system is: "a set of principles or procedures according to which something is done; an organized framework or method." My question is trying to provoke answers that are very generalized and simplified, a basic overview and structure of a given system/tradition and to what end it was designed for.

Yes -- something is a "system" because it has a certain methodology and epistemology. If it did not, then it would not be a system per se. Also, the system would provide an ontology and maybe even soteriology (depending on what the objective of said system is). 

Quote

 

Of course someone might become enlightened through practicing tai chi, but that might not be its aim or purpose. It might simply be made to promote energy flow and overall health and flexibility. Is it impossible to give a drop-down list of methods, maybe like Advaita Vedanta, Neigong, Neidan, Zen Buddhism, Ch'an Buddhism, Taoist Alchemy.. I don't know.. I'm just throwing words out that I read. A seeker might fall on these words with a brief overview and find it attractive enough to search for. I'm just trying to provide that kind of table of contents with this question.

 

 

Tai chi (aka Taijiquan) is a daoist internal art, and therefore, uses the Daoist epistemology (whether it is taught that way or not is, of course, subject to variation depending on the teacher/lineage). The family styles eschew the Daoist cultivation aspect and focus on either the martial (historically) or health aspects thereof. But Taijiquan is a complete system of Daoist cultivation in and of itself - it has very profound neigong practices if one finds a teacher/school that teaches in that way. The way I learned Taijiquan is in the Temple style lineage (Master Waysun Liao's system) and it has a very clearly defined system of knowledge based on the Dao De Jing. 

 

But different people have different proclivities, and therefore what might work via the framework of "Tai Chi" for someone, might not work for another. But in general, the progress of practice as I know it (IMHO, caveat emptor) is --

 

Work with the Body/Energetic system to develop them, reduce noise, and consequently the mind becomes clear, still and radiant. Then, such a mind needs to be applied towards the deeper teachings provided in the "knowledge" part of the tradition to realize the Truth that is being pointed towards (Dao/Brahman/God/Buddha Nature and so on). 

 

One may or may not require the body/energetic if the mind already has clarity/radiance. Such a mind can dive straight into the wisdom/knowledge aspect of the teaching. Usually, contemplative systems like Advaita Vedanta will outline one or more ways to prepare the mind - Service, devotion, yogic meditation, until the student is prepared to embark on the wisdom path. 

 

Edited by dwai
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@dwai has mentioned the truth of the ‚ÄúDao/Brahman/God/Buddha Nature and so on‚ÄĚ ¬†as the end¬†goal, but in¬†both Waidan and Neidan, the practice is said to not only ‚Äúgrant transcendence (a state described by such expressions as "joining with the Dao"), [but also]¬†immortality (usually meant as a spiritual condition), longevity, [and]¬†healing (either in a broad sense or with regard to specific illnesses).‚Ä̬†https://www.goldenelixir.com/jindan.html

 

This isn’t to say that following a neidan or waidan  method will deliver these things, but I’m fairly confident in saying that this is neidan’s and waidan’s aim. 

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Religion and Spirituality is all of history.

 

Even with "intellectual frameworks" galore...it took me about 4 years of internal practice and external study of others experiences to have a holistic understanding of the field.

 

Path Notes by Glenn Morris was a pivotal book for me....as he was the first person i read whom didn't "hold back" on his experiences/studies. It might interest you as well because of your martial bent. 

Edited by RiverSnake

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Just now, MysticNinjaSage said:

Am I wrong to assume that a system has a fundamental method and purpose?

 

 

 Well, take something as simple as Buddhism.

 

Do you mean: Zen (Rinzai or Soto), Chan (Caodong, Linji, or one of the other five houses), Seon, Thien, Theravada (sutta based or Abhidhamma based? hard jhana, soft jhana, or dry insight? Thai forest tradition, Thai non-forest tradition, Burmese, or Tantric? Traced  to Goenka, Mahasi, U Pandita, Ajahn Chah etc.?), Tibetan Buddhism (Gelug, Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya, Jonang, Rime, Bon, or some mix of some or all?); Pureland, Nichiren, Tendai, Jodo Shu, Shingon, etc. 

 

This is not even going into subdivisions, schools I've forgotten or am unaware of, etc. Each of them is going to be different. Even in the same school and the same sub-set, different teachers are going to approach it differently. 

 

 

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@forestofemptiness Please understand, the answers should be generalized and simplistic. Every human being looks slightly different but the general makeup of human being follows a similar and identifiable system. Heart, lungs, spleen, etc, skin, bones, 5 senses, etc. I'm not expecting anyone to be able to give every single system in existence down to its exact teaching down to the exact teacher. Saying that it's a taoist based system relying on cultivation of chi and following xyz methods to achieve abc result is good enough. Just that you named that many different schools is wonderful and gives people something to search for, but giving a slight overview of each is the intended purpose of this thread. You don't have to be a grandmaster of the system, but if you know more or less its method, aim and purpose and can share that, it is all that's necessary. If others have corrections then it can be edited later. I suppose that the amounts of upvotes on a persons description could show something of a unanimous agreement with the overview described and we'll go with that.

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Let's give this a try. 

 

In the tradition I'm learning within Qi is necessary for transformation. Why is transformation necessary? Because without transformation all you'll have as part of your training, are experiences. Many teachers can give you this when you're near them and with them. But as soon as you come back home from retreat, everything falls back to the way it was. Why? Well, in my tradition's understanding, this is due to Qi. 

 

Now there are two (main) approaches to this - the first is top-down (or consciousness only) and the second is bottom-up. We have discussed this at length in a prior thread that I created here: 

 

 

The main idea is that bottom-up approaches build Qi as a vehicle of change. The consciousness-only schools requires direct access to samadhi and then making root changes at the level of the causal which then manifests downstream. This approach however usually only works for a very small majority of people due to the heavy karmic burdens that every one walking around you essentially has outside of prior stream-enterers or with exceptional past-life merit and thus meditative skill. 

 

So the idea within the lineage I'm following is essentially creating an incredibly strong fundamental change in the way the body functions - so that it works at such an efficient level that the body produces much, much more Qi. This allows for changes to occur within the mind as well - since the Daoist approach is that the physical body = mind. If you change the physical body (and energetic and higher bodies) the mind follows. 

 

This approach is also far less prone to delusion and error - as the changes are visible and directly discernable. You cannot fake the signs of having your front channel open and you cannot fake having your base nature transformed. 

 

How do we do it then? Well, we follow the principles contained within the YJJ - the tendon changing classic and the XSJ, the marrow-changing classic. All genuine neigong/qigong systems follow those principles. If they don't - they most likely have lost the internal generative capacity or follow a completely different system (for instance systems of health qigong). 

 

The YJJ changes the physical body so that you begin to change away from using major muscle groups for primary movement and instead begin to use the fascia or connective tissue and building it using various methods and techniques which then allow your body to essentially become a highly efficient Qi generating machine. During this period of time which usually lasts for most around 5-7 years (maybe 3 years for those that can dedicate 4 hours of intense training to it daily) you clear major pathogens, you build a little qi and have created a great foundation to go deeper in the art. There is of course some overlap with neigong in this case, but at the next stage, you begin to work on congenital aspects, including the central channel. 

 

Marrow Washing comes next and branches neigong and meditative practice. None of this has lead to spiritual change yet strictly speaking though you may have had fantastic experiences during your time of training. 

 

After this comes neidan - at this stage you're dealing with the congenital layers of energy that constitute your body. To use a computer analogy we can look at it like this. At first we're working on defragmenting your computer, clearing out junk, removing adware and malware and maybe doing some updates to the firmware. But when we get to neidan we're getting deep - now we're getting to the root level - the motherboard - we start messing around with how things directly function and transform. We work here with things like the congenital layers of energy such as congenital jing. At the "motherboard" level we then begin to "burn out" various causal chains and energetic pathogens that go beyond our current lifetime. And as you go deeper and deeper into this - we reach the so-called spiritual cultivation within these arts which is the cultivation of the Yuan Shen. 

 

Everything up to that point is essentially building the foundation - returning to youth and many other phrases that have been used to describe this stage. And each of the stages have discernable changes that should occur as signs of correct practice. 

 

I hope this helps! :) 

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On 2/2/2021 at 1:23 AM, liminal_luke said:

 

I agree.¬† Practicing a spiritual system is more like¬†having a baby than¬†going to the grocery store.¬† With the supermarket you can make a list of things you want and then just go and get them. Spiritual practice, in my experience, isn¬īt like that.¬† There is¬†no guide that can tell you in advance: healing siddhis on aisle three.¬† Instead it is¬†more like a baby;¬†what you get is almost always different than what you planned.¬†¬†¬†

 

Congratulations Luke you'll make a wonderful mother.

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On 2/1/2021 at 8:23 PM, liminal_luke said:

 

I agree.¬† Practicing a spiritual system is more like¬†having a baby than¬†going to the grocery store.¬† With the supermarket you can make a list of things you want and then just go and get them. Spiritual practice, in my experience, isn¬īt like that.¬† There is¬†no guide that can tell you in advance: healing siddhis on aisle three.¬† Instead it is¬†more like a baby;¬†what you get is almost always different than what you planned.¬†¬†¬†

 

4 hours ago, Apech said:

 

Congratulations Luke you'll make a wonderful mother.

 

May your fetus be immortal!

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Just now, MysticNinjaSage said:

@forestofemptiness Please understand, the answers should be generalized and simplistic. Every human being looks slightly different but the general makeup of human being follows a similar and identifiable system. Heart, lungs, spleen, etc, skin, bones, 5 senses, etc. I'm not expecting anyone to be able to give every single system in existence down to its exact teaching down to the exact teacher.

 

MNS, my comments are a bit tongue-in-cheek. Actually, the very idea that we can generalize and overlook the differences is something of an essentialist stance, which is often rejected in Buddhism. But the differences are significant. 

 

What tends to unite Buddhism are the 4 Noble Truths, the 5 dharma seals, and some development of mind training via some dynamic combination of shamatha (tranquility) and vipassana (insight). 

 

The 4 Noble Truths are:

1. There is suffering.

2. Suffering is a result of clinging/grasping.

3. Removing clinging/grasping removes suffering.

4. You do this by following the 8 Fold Path (Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration).

 

The Dharma Seals are:

1. All compounded things are impermanent

2. All impure phenomenon are suffering

3. All phenomenon are empty of inherent existence

4. Nirvana is the only peace

 

 

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5 minutes ago, forestofemptiness said:

1. There is suffering.

 

So happy you didn't write like most that the first noble truth is that life is suffering. :) Unfortunately I see that notion everywhere passed of as if that was what he actually said. The Buddha expounded: 

 

"Now this, monks, is the Noble Truth of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, aging is dukkha, death is dukkha; sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, & despair are dukkha; association with the unbeloved is dukkha; separation from the loved is dukkha; not getting what is wanted is dukkha. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are dukkha."

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2 hours ago, steve said:

 

 

May your fetus be immortal!

And Golden :D 

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3 hours ago, steve said:

 

 

May your fetus be immortal!

 

16 minutes ago, dwai said:

And Golden :D 

 

The "mom" thing struck me as a little off at first -- guess it touched some residual wanna-be-macho sensitivities -- but I¬īm warming up to the idea of motherhood now.¬†

 

(Becoming a mother is perhaps the original Daoist alchemical system.  It can lead to enlightenment, though not immortality.  Some of are drawn to the path, not unlike the many innocents drawn to Mo Pai, but I suggest starting with something less challenging like Spring Forest.)

Edited by liminal_luke
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5 minutes ago, liminal_luke said:

 

 

The "mom" thing struck me as a little off at first -- guess it touched some residual wanna-be-macho sensitivities -- but I¬īm warming up to the idea of motherhood now.¬†

 

(Becoming a mother is perhaps the original Daoist alchemical system.  It can lead to enlightenment, though not immortality.  Some of are drawn to the path, not unlike the many innocents drawn to Mo Pai, but I suggest starting with something less challenging like Spring Forest.)

We can all be mothers in different ways I guess. Sometimes for my child, I am both father and mother. To those who I nurse to health in sickness, I am a mother. To those in whom I imbue the quest for spiritual insight and inquiry, I am a mother. The Immortal, Eternal Mother is all-powerful, and she works through all of us :) 

 

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If you follow certain strands of Mahayana, your mind is just a giant cosmic vagina. :lol:

 

As the routine goes (often mis-attributed to Betty White):

 

Quote

A friend said to me, ‚ÄúHey you need to grow a pair. Grow a pair, Bro.‚ÄĚ It‚Äôs when someone calls you weak, but they associate it with a lack of testicles. Which is weird, because testicles are the most sensitive things in the world. If you suddenly just grew a pair, you‚Äôd be a lot more vulnerable. If you want to be tough, you should lose a pair. If you want to be real tough, you should grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding.

 

Just now, liminal_luke said:

 

 

The "mom" thing struck me as a little off at first -- guess it touched some residual wanna-be-macho sensitivities -- but I¬īm warming up to the idea of motherhood now.¬†

 

(Becoming a mother is perhaps the original Daoist alchemical system.  It can lead to enlightenment, though not immortality.  Some of are drawn to the path, not unlike the many innocents drawn to Mo Pai, but I suggest starting with something less challenging like Spring Forest.)

 

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3 hours ago, liminal_luke said:

 

 

The "mom" thing struck me as a little off at first -- guess it touched some residual wanna-be-macho sensitivities -- but I¬īm warming up to the idea of motherhood now.¬†

 

(Becoming a mother is perhaps the original Daoist alchemical system.  It can lead to enlightenment, though not immortality.  Some of are drawn to the path, not unlike the many innocents drawn to Mo Pai, but I suggest starting with something less challenging like Spring Forest.)

 

 

Sorry Luke just my stupid sense of humour.

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@anshino23 (is it lotus neigong/internal arts academy?) and @forestofemptiness awesome, thanks so much for your contributions. I didn't want to translate your descriptions into point form so I just wrote at the top of the article that these traditions have been covered so people will know what they can find by continuing to read. If anyone wants to add any relevant info to a previously mentioned tradition, feel free. I hope this will be broadly informative for seekers. The nitty-gritty stuff will come when they actually embark on a practice but this thread should wet their appetite and give them a general idea of what they're getting into.

 

I'm taking this from the mouth of a teacher of an art I know nothing of so if it's not accurate I'll just delete it but:

Vedanta: Contemplative tradition, Knowledge-based system. Must be well knowledgeable in the scriptures of the tradition (Gita). There are 4 paths: Selfless work, Meditation, Knowledge, Devotion. The Goal is understanding our Divine Nature (which is one with all of existence?)

Bhakti Yoga

Bhakti Yoga is the path of love and devotion. The devotee approaches God through a loving relationship. This path emphasizes practices such as prayer, chanting, and meditation on God as a loving presence in our lives.

Jnana Yoga

Jnana Yoga is the path of knowledge. In this path the seeker uses reason and discernment to discover the divine nature within by casting off all that is false, or unreal. This practice shows us that the Supreme Reality resides within.

Karma Yoga

Karma Yoga is the path of selfless work. Those who follow this path do work as an offering to God and expect nothing personal in return. Karma Yoga teaches us to practice detachment and equanimity in our work, and to understand that the results of any actions are beyond our control.

Raja Yoga

Raja Yoga is the path of meditation. Meditation is an important practice in all of the paths as it allows us to experience higher states of consciousness where we achieve a deeper understanding of our divine nature. Sri Ramakrishna, a modern day saint and his student Swami Vivekananda, who brought Vedanta to the western world, emphasized the use of a mantra based meditation technique and symbolic images of the divine.

Edited by MysticNinjaSage
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2 hours ago, Apech said:

 

 

Sorry Luke just my stupid sense of humour.

 

No problem, Apech.  I actually really like the spiritual mother direction your comment took us in.

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