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Taoist Meditation

Taoist Meditation

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by Thomas Cleary

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The ancient meditation techniques of Taoism encompass a wide range of practices—with an aim toward cultivating a healthy body as well as an enlightened mind. These selections from classic texts of Taoist meditation represent the entire range of techniques—from sitting meditation practices to internal alchemy. Most of the texts appear here in English for


The ancient meditation techniques of Taoism encompass a wide range of practices—with an aim toward cultivating a healthy body as well as an enlightened mind. These selections from classic texts of Taoist meditation represent the entire range of techniques—from sitting meditation practices to internal alchemy. Most of the texts appear here in English for the first time.

Selections are taken from the following classics:

   •  Anthology on Cultivation of Realization: A document from 1739 (Ming Dynasty) that emphasizes development of the natural, social, and spiritual elements in human life.
   •  Treatise on Sitting Forgetting: A Tang Dynasty text that sets meditation practice in terms familiar to Confucians and Buddhists.
   •  Sayings of Taoist Master Danyang: Wisdom of the Taoist wizard and representative of the Complete Reality School.
   •  Secret Writings on the Mechanism of Nature: An anthology taken from one hundred sixty-three Taoist sources, including ancient classics and works on meditation and spiritual alchemy, along with admonitions and teachings of the great Taoist luminaries.
   •  Zhang Sanfeng's Taiji Alchemy Secrets: A treatise on the inner mediation practices that are the proper foundation of the martial art Taiji.
   •  Secret Records of Understanding the Way: A rare and remarkable collection of talks by an anonymous Taoist master of the later Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Traditional teachings with a sometimes strikingly modern bent.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
These five Taoist treatises, written from the 7th to the 19th century, offer Chinese sages' thoughts on meditation, "alternative" medicine, body energy, human nature, the martial arts and life and death ("Everyone likes life but not the path of long life. Everyone dislikes death but not the things conducive to death"). The first selection, "Anthology on the Cultivation of Realization," is a vivid assortment of reflections taking up nearly half the book's text; it is long but fascinating. The esoteric "Treatise on Sitting Forgetting" is also a jewel, closing with some fundamental principles of Taoist meditation ("Arrest thoughts as they arise, in order to make your mind peaceful and quiet"). (June) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|

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Anthology on the Cultivation of Realization

human mind should be mortified, while its potential should be vivified.
Mortification means causing its desirous thoughts to die out; vivification
means enlivening its reason. Thinking is the living potential of the mind.
Freedom from error is the overall principle; the nine thoughts are the specific
principles—thinking how to see clearly, thinking how to hear keenly, thinking
how to make a warm impression, thinking how to be respectful in demeanor,
thinking how to be truthful in speech, thinking how to be serious in work,
thinking how to pose questions when in doubt, thinking what trouble may occur
when angry, and thinking about justice when seeing profit to be made.

about the Way is correct; thinking about things is error. The Way is inherent
in us; when you think about the Way inherent within us, thinking itself is the
Way. When thought reaches the realm of subtlety, the comprehending mind, clear
and clean, is buoyant and joyful. Only this can be called self-realization; if
your mental energy is exhausted in spite of the depth of your thinking, even if
you have some perception it

not self-realization.

who attain realization without thinking are sages; those who attain realization
by thinking are the wise. Not cogitating or striving is called truthfulness,
referring to the innate knowledge that infants have without study or
reflection. Choosing the good simply means choosing this noncogitative


has seven openings, most of them stopped by blood channels. If you want to open
them up, you cannot do so without learning and thinking. Thinking has the sense
of penetrating, learning has the function of confirming. When thinking and
learning are both employed, what path cannot be attained?

you have not yet penetrated a principle, it is like facing a wall. Thinking is
like boring holes in the wall. For each hole you bore all the way through, you
get that much light. Starting out small, you enlarge, until eventually the
whole wall itself is gone, and there is openness, free access, and no further

of Manners
"Think in a dignified way." That it is dignified means it is not
forced, that it is done in this way means it is not labored. When it is not
forced or labored, it can be called good thinking.

thinking of a cultivated man does not go beyond his position." This is
called thinking. Whenever it is out of place, it is called thoughts. Thinking
is a door of entry into the Way, whereas thoughts are roots of obstruction of
the Way.

because of unawareness, thoughts suddenly arise; this is called ignorance.
Because of the arising of ignorance, it seems mind becomes thoughts. Mind
really does not move; when you reach this point in observing mind, those
thoughts cease of themselves.

thoughts is not hard—if you can turn back to before a single thought has
arisen, then the preceding thought will naturally not continue.

arousal, we are merged with the infinite. But if you want to understand the
nonoccurrence of a single thought right now, you must examine where thought
comes from.

past is based on the present, the future is based on the past; if you have no
mind in the present, the past is naturally over.

of person and self are certainly thoughts, but so are views of attachment to
religion, and these must be eliminated too. If you consciously try to stop
errant thoughts, errant thoughts will instead seem to increase. Try observing
what the thoughts are and those thoughts will spontaneously vanish.

cultivate realization it is essential to stop thoughts. To stop thoughts it is
essential to observe mind. When you observe mind, mind does not exist; when
mind is nonexistent, objects are empty of themselves. Since mind and objects
are thus, there is no stopping; so how can observing be?

said, "Consciously examine very closely, observe perceptively very
intently. If habit energies arise, they will cease on the spot; do not follow
them and you will avoid falling into the emotional indulgences of ordinary
human beings. Do not destroy them either and you will avoid falling into
quietism. The all-at-once teaching of the school of completeness is after all
like this; just accord with original nature and conscious cognition will be

"The ears, eyes, and mouth are three treasures; shut them and do not allow
passage. Let go of willfulness and return to empty nothingness; freedom from
thoughts is normalcy."

who attain mindlessness in mind itself discern without annihilating the
characteristics of mind. Those who are free from thoughts after having had
thoughts occur to them realize that thoughts have no essence of their
own—being conditionally originated, they are therefore empty.

Meet the Author

Thomas Cleary holds a PhD in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University and a JD from the University of California, Berkeley, Boalt Hall School of Law. He is the translator of over fifty volumes of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian, and Islamic texts from Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese, Pali, and Arabic.

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