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This volume presents an explanation of the classic
based on the teachings of the Complete Reality school of Taoism, in particular that stream of the Complete Reality school known as the Clear Serene branch.
an ancient mystic teaching intimately associated with the development of proto-Chinese civilization, is believed to have inherited and transmitted the original body of knowledge from which derived the technological, medical,
psychological, and mystical arts and sciences of Chinese culture.
In time there evolved numerous specializations within Taoism, and over the course of millennia there was a scattering of the original knowledge among dozens of schools with thousands of techniques. The Complete Reality School, which arose during the Sung Dynasty (tenth–thirteenth century CE), purported to restore the central teachings of Taoism relating to elevation of consciousness.
Reality Taoism emphasized the harmonious development of the physical, social,
and spiritual elements of human life. It was a rigorous school, known for its constructive involvement in the ordinary world as well as for its production of mystics of high attainment.
Both monastic and lay forms of Complete Reality Taoism arose during the Middle Ages,
both playing an important role in Chinese society during times of severe crisis. Eventually the monastic forms absorbed alien elements, and naturally became subject to the political and economic pressures that affect any visible organization.
Reality Taoism is alive in the present without religious associations. Its practitioners are largely members of ordinary society, from many walks of life,
who combine their worldly duties with mystical practice. In addition, a number of its artifacts, such as the exercise system known as T'ai Chi Ch'uan and certain meditation techniques, have long since passed into the public domain as part of the general lore of body-mind health.
The present work was written in the year 1796 by a Taoist adept named Liu I-ming to show how the
that most ancient and revered classic, can be read as a guide to comprehensive self-realization while living an ordinary life in the world.
I-ming was well versed in both Buddhism and Confucianism as well as Taoism.
Eventually known as a Free Man with the epithet One who Has Realized the
Fundamental, during the course of his life travels he consciously adopted various roles in the world, including those of a scholar, a merchant, a coolie,
a recluse, a builder, and a teacher and writer.
In his works Liu employs the terminology of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism, of psychology, sociology, and alchemy, of history, myth, and religion. He undertook to lift the veil of mystery from the esoteric language of Taoist alchemy and yoga, and this commentary on the
is one of his major contributions to the elucidation of this ancient science.