Friday, February 27, 2015

The path of enlightenment according to Carl Jung

As an academic discipline, Carl Jung's analytical psychology is a study of the psyche. His individuation process as a development process that combine or complete a person's psyche into wholeness, or that enlightens it, with insight or wisdom. According to Jung, the three parts of our psyche consists of
  1. Ego, our conscious mind;
  2. The personal unconscious, forgotten or suppressed memories from our own personal lives;
  3. The collective unconscious, the collective memory of human thought and experience, from ancient to modern times. This includes the basic human instincts and the archetypes.
The above is academic. The practical question is: How can we facilitate the process of individuation and how does it compare with Eastern methods of enlightenment?

Concerning method, for his patients, Jung used psychoanalysis; for himself, he used meditation and his own dreams (the subject of meditator's vivid dreams I shall tackle in a future post). What is interesting to me is that his three-part construct of human psyche was empirically (in the nature of psychological perception) determined. It was true to him and apparently cross-referenced to be true to his students and/or fellow practitioners or inquirers of the subject matter (perhaps including Zen master Charles Luk, translator of Taoist Yoga, whom Jung knew personally). Such details however had not be documented, i.e. these are only my own reasoned analysis or speculation.

More interesting is that such construct can be used (and apparently was/is being used) by students of the subject as a facilitative tool to guide their inner quest through meditation (and vivid dream analysis too, for some). My contention is that Jung's method is also relevant to Taoist and Zen practitioners, for them tools are just transient objects that need to be thrown away after the next stage of Tao/Zen enlightenment is achieved.  Besides for an average educated intelligent modern man, a belief in a psyche construct (like Jung's) of good academic standing looks more palatable to his (conscious) mind than accepting the existence of mythical beings of the some Hindi tradition or colorful Lamaist mandalas, not to mention the seemingly unapproachability of some gurus in trance states!

Monday, February 23, 2015

The concept of mandala in Tibetan Buddhist and Taoist meditation

Colorful mandala is a signature symbol of Tibetan Buddhism's deep meditative practice. Different lineage has its own signature mandalas for students to meditate. Each master will select a special mandala (out of many of his lineage) for each student to meditate, according to the special individual mind-body attributes of each student. A path is laid down. A bridge is built.

According to chapter six of the Diamond Sutra:

"That's why Thatagata often told you: Monks, you must always remember my Dharma-as-a-raft metaphor: Even my Dharma can be cast away, more so for those unrelated to my Dharma."知我說法,如筏喻者,法尚應捨,何況非法

The bridge is to be cast away. What is the meaning of casting the bridge away in mandala meditation?

Carl Jung has the following interesting comment on the subject. Essential it means the master's mandala should be treated as a conceptual blue-print, rather than a concrete blue-print. In order words, the master gives a specific mandala concept (with attributes defined by a specific mandala), and from this guideline (the raft), a student builds his own unique mandala, the process of individuation according to Jung. This is Jung's passage:

In 1938, I had the opportunity, in the monastery of Bhutia Busty, near Darjeeling, of talking with a Lamaic rimposhe, Lingdam Gomchen by name, about the khilkor or mandala.

He explained it as a dmigs-pa (pronounced “migpa”), a mental image which can be built up only by a fully instructed lama through the power of imagination. He said that no mandala is like any other, they are all individually different. Also, he said , the mandalas to be found in monasteries and temps were of no particular significance because they were external representations only.

The true mandala is always an inner image, which is gradually built up through (active) imagination, at such times when psychic equilibrium is disturbed or when a thought cannot be found and must be sought for, because it is not contained in holy doctrine. The aptness of this explanation will become apparent in the course of my exposition.

The alleged free and individual formation of the mandala, however, sould be taken with a considerable grain of salt, since in all Lamaic mandalas there predominates not only a certain unmistakable style but also a traditional structure.  For instance they are all based on a quaternary system, a quadratura circuli, and their contents are invariably derived from Lamaic dogma. There are texts, such as the Shri-Chakra-Sambhara Tentra, which contain direcctions for the construction of these “mental images.”

In Taoist deep meditation tradition, the meditative process of individuation (or enlightenment) is simply conceptualized as breeding an embryo. A new being is built. It has no visualization, though Jung has mentioned the metaphor of Gold flower from the title of a classic Taoist text The secret of the Golden Flower 太乙金華宗旨. In the establishment of Zen Buddhist, a flower and a smile is also put up as definitive symbol. Round, flower, new being seem to be the key attributes of these practices, as seen from classic texts. Oral (and importantly experiential) tradition fills the unspoken words, as always in the inner practices.

With the same human psychology, the conceptual path is always the same.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Paul's revelation in the Year of the Goat

In praise of Goat:
For all you may know.
I am a goat.
Gentle and kind.
Eyes by the sides to watch.
Feet below ready to dodge.
ISIS certainly my dislike..
For all you may know.
I am a goat.
Not a totem of any race.
Except the kind Chinese
who welcomed me.
into the sacred gang of twelve..
For all you may know.
I am a goat.
the tender species of my race.
is chaste by human standard.
If she has no mate.
she will come into season only once in every 21 days.
For all you may know.
Me a gourmet of goat.
Dishes range from C to T.
Cabrito to Tsamarella.
Those who want to know.
Can always Goat-Goat (Google).
For all you may know.
I love goats.
For all you may know.
We all love goats

Saturday, February 14, 2015

101 system versus watered-down system

What are the most important courses in University? The 101 courses. This is where the fundamental concepts are taught. Well grounded with the fundamental concepts, a student can pursue with ease to professional Master degree courses or research based PhD programs.

More so for the internal arts. A student must understand the fundamental concepts (like point stretched body relax, lower dantian as control centre, pelvis as power source etc). Fundamental concepts however cannot be fully understood without application. In our higher educational institutions, a full understanding can only be had when being applied to professional disciplines (like an MBA course) or doing guided research worth publishing as a book of academic research standard. In the internal arts, it involves painstaking study, at least for certain period of time, under the tutelage of a master. Having said that with the oversupply of information (paid and unpaid), eager (and brighter) students can do good self-learning in academic subjects as well as in the internal arts.

101 is however not the same as "watered down". A "watered-down system" is a system that purports to be a "lineage" system (even THE definitive lineage system) that has neglected many (if not most) important fundamental concepts. A watered-down system in the academic world is like a bunch of courses with disparate information on the most superficial level while lacking in a thread tying the information together. For example, in the philosophy department, like learning the philosophy of various philosophers, rather than learning the concepts as how to philosophize. A "watered-down system" can be a "busy" system. When a student sits down to consider what he has learned (and how he can apply his learning), he can at best recite what his master said. Sometimes a system is not a water-downed one, but a certain student can turn it into a watered-down one. This student may be very eager and may have learned a number of systems (some good some not so good) and "magically" turned them, in his mind, into the most superficial systems, like a kid collects common pebbles on the beach. Pebbles can be many, but none being diamond-in-a-rough. This is in particular common in Chinese systems, the historical and cultural reasons of which I shall deal with in other posts.

Translated into the internal disciplines, students of "watered-down" systems can spill out loads of jargons, in particular the more poetic ones (like "tilting the last vertebrate" 收尾閭and "sinking your chi to your dantian" 氣沉丹田), but cannot appreciate that these are training sub-systems having special training methodologies. On the other hand, learning 101 means that you can grasp the concepts of these sub-systems, understanding the initial steps of training. With this understanding, you will still be at ground zero. But then you now have a pathway leading you to where you may want to go. You have seen the finger pointing at the moon, though you are still not there. The sky is the limit for an intelligent 101-system student, "now I have learned everything" is the false prize for the watered-down-system student after memorizing some "secret formula". One makes you humble, the other makes you look invincible. As with everything else in the contemporary world, everything is your own choice. Individuals make a difference.

Master Ip Man - Wing Chun zhuang with tilting last vertebrate

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why your master is better to be an ordinary guy than to be a genius

It has always be a puzzle among meditators in old Dynasty China: Why Zen meditation suddenly lost its teachings after the prominent Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng? So much so, it had been mentioned in various Taoist Neidan texts that some Zen masters learned the art of deep meditation from Taoist Neidan masters instead. After completion of such learning, many came to the revelation that what was being taught by the Fifth Patriarch (now only fragments remained) was actually the same as Neidan teachings (as with other things in the internal arts, there have been disagreement as to the similarity, but the fact remained that Zen meditation had been devoid of much of its contents after Master Hui Neng).

According to the Platform Sutra, master Hui Neng qualified as a genius. He was a woodcutter by profession. He got his immediate (probably transient) enlightenment out of hearing once the Diamond Sutra. He then determined to spend the rest of his life in pursuit of full enlightenment and for this reason entered the monastery of the Fifth Patriarch.  His master tested his patience, as well as training his body and mind, by putting him to do many low-level manual tasks. After he demonstrated his intelligence in a famous Zen poem No dusting required, his master decided to teach him the internal art of deep meditation and later passed down the lineage to him, despite the fact that Hui Neng was a low-level monk. Actually Hui Neng only took one over-night lesson from his master, and he got the techniques (and then spent years of self-training in private to perfect his art before he "reappeared" again to recoup his lineage title and began teaching). The relevant point here is that for a genius like Hui Neng, he could understand the technique in a very short period of time (albeit he had pre-conditioned his body in his woodcutting days and he still needed to practise to perfect his art). Was he a good teacher of the internal arts? He was indeed a good master on the cognitive or intellectual side of Buddhism and Buddhist enlightenment. He trained up many knowledgeable monks, perhaps the most notable one was Master Shun Hui who was a prodigy and learned well from Master Hui Neng. The funny thing is that the art of deep meditation in the Zen tradition seemed to have lost since then. There have been many speculations, though all speculation tried to avoid the speculation that our Master was not a good teacher in the internal art.

Let me fast forward to our modern era. If you are familiar with biographies of tai chi (Taoist mediation or internal martial art) masters, you might have noticed that many prominent teachers were being sent to learn tai chi etc from their respective master because their bodies were weak when they were young. After they trained up their mind-body, some of them became great masters later in their lives. The reason is simple. The internal art is all about training our sensitivity to our inner most internal sensations (we call it chi, jing, Zen or Tao depending on our training objectives), discovery of "hidden secret". In Zen, it is called Clear our heart and face our true self (明心见性). If a practitioner has to go through most paths of (otherwise hidden) internal sensations, chances are that he will be in a better position to teach his students who, in most cases, has less (hidden) blockages then him.

It comes to my mind a prominent master of chi king in the tradition of Tibetan Buddhism (he spent a good portion of his time trying to adapt in it into China-context and named his practice China-Zen 中华禅). Anyway he is a genius in chi. He said that he did not need to do any body movement exercise or anything else, except sit down and meditate. Many chi masters ventured to test his chi (in a friendly way). They could not got close to his chi level (though he didn't push people out like some tai chi masters did). The master told his audience that during his twenties, once he practised slowing his heart rate. He slowed it to such a low level that he almost killed himself because he was unable to raise it up again, not after hours of great effort!

How about his students? Once he mentioned in of his books that he met a couple of his old students (middle aged folks but still younger than their master) and they complained to him of various back pains and shoulder pains. He was an excellent healer, after he massaged them, in the right places, one by one for a short period to time, everybody was relieved of pain and was very happy. Yet, my opinion is that these students ought to be able to heal themselves instead of treating their master as doctor! The relationship in the internal arts is master and student, rather than doctor and patients.

Can't complain. Nobody can teach anything internal without experiencing the things by himself. We have a similar situation in the practice of psycho-analysis (also having the possibility of total personality change like deep meditation). Carl Jung had been psycho-analyzed by his master Simund Freud before he could psycho-analyze his own patients. A teacher of the internal arts has to put himself to the test first before he can teacher others. Unfortunately for internal artists who are prodigies or genius, they do not need to slay and dragon in the path, therefore they do not know how to teach their students to slay dragons.

Discovery of inner secret - chi kung and psychoanalysis

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Orbit and field theory of chakra activation

Metaphorically speaking, the energy of a chakra is very similar to the energy of a typhoon (tropical cyclone). Chakras are not muscle points, not chi points along chi channels, they are points of void, points of nothingness. In other words they are not points where we can feel it through sending chi energy there (like voluntary contracting the otherwise almost involuntary muscles or tendons) there. Actually in some chakras, sending chi will be counter-productive, for example, sending too much chi to the third-eye chakra will result in dizziness and heavy-headedness. The structure of typhoon is similar in this respect. The centre of the typhoon is calm. The energy of power consists of wind circulating around the centre at high speed. The power of chakra energy is the same. Here, we talk about orbit and field energy. The benefit of this conception is that, like everything else discussed in this site, it serves the objective of promoting sound (more efficient and more effective) training. Pedagogy is what I am interested in, rather than arm-chair philosophizing. Theory with a purpose, and a well defined purpose.

In a typhoon, wind travels in circular movements and can also be perceived as a field of high energy. This is a good metaphor for chakra energy training. The first stage is to create an orbit or high traveling energy. I shall use the solar plexus chakra as an example. The location is upper abdomen in the stomach area. Psychologically it is associated with confidence and in control. The orbit is the belt channel. Here the meditator shall visualize a belt channel horizontally embracing the middle part of our torso going through the solar plexus. Another orbit required is the Du Mai at the back and the Ren Mai in the front forming a closed loop - a belt channel in the vertical front/back plane. Prior training is required before building up the orbits. These two orbits defined our torso, in Neidan lingo: cauldron.

After the two orbits are built (established or activated), chi is made to fill the rest of the surface (and at the later stage, inside as well) of the cauldron. After the cauldron has been established, chi will be field like instead of orbit like. The chakra as void is always there. And it is the time when true chakra meditation begins. Meditation on the void. As for the psychological aspect, I shall leave it to other posts.

Who said chakra meditation is simple and easy?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wisdom of Zhuangzi - slaying the dragon


My translation: Mr. Zhu learned the art of dragon slaying from Mr. Zhi. Spent a fortune. Graduated after three years. Find no dragon to test his art.

Comment: It rings a bell for practitioners of traditional arts. The most deadly martial art applicable in no context, alchemists searching the occult, as smart as Newton couldn't resist the lure of divine power, as if nothing short of the highest imaginable is not worth one's effort to pursue. Japanese are more modest, they have traditional martial arts for sports training, for elderly care, and needless to say for the humblest objective of health.

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