Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The mythical history of a Taoist master - Liu Huayang (柳華陽)

Spiritual traditions have always been based on myth. The other day I discussed religious matters with a minister from Canada, he told me that the reading of the Bible should be a theological text rather than "pure history" as we learned it at secular educational institution of today. The most recent mythology is the dogmatization of the Roman Catholic Church of the Assumption of Mary (This doctrine was dogmatically and infallibly defined by Pope Pius XII on November 1, 1950, in his Apostolic Constitution Munificentissimus Deus). In this post I shall discuss the mythical history of Master Liu HuaYang (柳華陽), one of the Grandmasters of Wu-Liu Group (伍柳派), the most popular Neidan practice of today.

The first myth is: Master Liu HuaYang learned his stuff from Master Wu Shouyang (伍守陽). The fact is Master Wu died before Master Liu was born! One mythical interpretation was that Master Wu was an immortal and taught Liu his practice during the latter's meditation. This teaching during meditation had also been a myth with some other famous Taoist Neidan masters.

This myth however is not without psychological support. Like Carl Jung told us that he learned some inner concept from his guru Philemon during meditation or dream. Jung had been familiar with Philemon's theological connotations. Likewise, Master Liu had to have read the rather popular Neidan texts of Master Wu.

The second myth is: Master Liu HuaYang wrote his Hui Ming Jing (慧命經) and The theory of Golden Immortal (金仙證論) based on Master Wu's practice and further develop his practice. Such development seems only be able to come from in depth understanding of Wu's teaching, most likely to have been taught directly by the master rather than just reading his texts. The connection between Liu and Wu is therefore further mythologized. The practice (evidenced by written texts) of the two masters has been so interconnected that it is being called Wu-Liu Group (伍柳派) even though the two masters couldn't logical meet each other physically!

The clarity of Wu-Liu's practice is certainly important for its wide propagation, I do believe this myth created by Master Wu (perhaps in conjunction with other Taoists) helped its propagation by convincing students that their teachings represented the "true Dharma".

But what about the "real" history? The single evidence (i.e. not enough cross-referencing for due-diligence academic practice) I am able to obtain is the fact as related by famous Taoist master Min XiaoYin (閔小艮) who later became the Eleventh lineage grandmaster of the Dragon Gate (Wu was also from the Dragon Gate as a Eighth lineage grandmaster). In one of his books, master Min said when he was young he visited the famous Zen master Liu HuaYang in Liu's home situated at the Eastern side of Heavenly Temple (天檀) in Beijing. Min recalled that Liu showed him his two books and asked him to publish. Min said Liu's books were similar to the books written by the final student of Wu by the name of Xie NingXu 謝凝素 who learned for one year from Wu before his death. The interesting thing is Min said that Xie's books had been lost, and he didn't mind publishing the two books with Liu's names on because it could help propagate Taoist Neidan, probably because Liu was very famous and was preaching with a power myth!

Contemporary Taoists are still arguing about the saying or allegation of master Min. One thing for certain, myths are powerful and very much needed for spiritual practice. A power myth has a life of its own. For the survival and propagation of a spiritual practice, historical facts are always secondary to mythical facts. To this end, I believe Pope Pius XII and Master Min would agree with me!

One last question: where are our contemporary myths? Answer: One can find them in individual "brand history" of major consumer-brands in super-markets or brand-image shops!

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