Saturday, May 18, 2013

Taoism, Sufism, iron-body and celibacy

I have not been posting here for a month or so because I have been working on my book project. Having a bread-and-butter job to attend to, time devoted to "special interests" will necessarily be limited. And having said that, our special interests might just turn out to be of more lasting value, as the order of things develop. Who know?

There has been a puzzling idea for some serious practitioners, and it is the question of celibacy in the internal arts, in particular the importance of celibacy in building a chi-foundation, oftentimes called "100 days foundation building" (now with different meanings for different practitioners).

Let us begin our analysis with spirituality, and Sufism in particular. A sufi is a Muslim who takes on special spiritual pursuit to be at one with his Divinity through spiritual guidance from his master. Such guidance includes (but not limited to) chi-related practice, the most common one that we outsiders know of is the famous Sufi dance (interested readers can do their own research on Sufi dance). Sufis could be Sunni or Shi'i, they could be Habali or Shafji in terms of law, and the practice of Sufism in no way implies the abandonment of the basic pillars and requirements of mainstream Islam. Muslims are not celibates. As Prophet Mohammad once said, ""there is no Monkery is Islam."  Some Sufis did choose celibacy, on their own choosing rather than on their spiritual faith.

Though celibacy is not a rule for Neidan Taoist practitioners, some chose to be so. Without a commanding voice like the Muslims, some Taoist Neidan sects did practice celibacy, in particular the Northern sects. Southern sects traditionally do not keep celibacy. Some Taoist sects further mystified the issue and gave a "practical" reason to maintain celibacy: keeping primordial chi as a necessary condition to attain Immortality. Author of the famous "Taoist Yoga" held this view, which however has never been the main stream view.

But how come celibacy has anything to do with martial arts? Some martial artists have been holding the view that sexual abstinence before a fight is essential. That include the famous Rickson Gracie (ref: the film: The Choke). This idea somehow has been transposed into practice and become combined with the Taoist view that sexual activity will cause a lose of (primordial) chi, in particular during the foundation building period. And some further mystified it as a prerequisite to training an iron-body (the counterpart of Taoist Immortality). In terms of actual practice, the issue of celibacy relates to doing microcosmic orbit circulation. How does it relate to microcosmic orbit circulation? Why do some practitioners think it essential (or what practice experience leads them to such thinking)? And is it essential in the first place? These questions shall be discussed in a coming post. Interested readers stay tuned.

Sufi Dancer

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