On The Way: The Daily Zen Journal

February 13, 2006

The Secret of the Golden Flower

Lu Yan (829-874)

The Celestial Mind

Naturalness is called the Way. The Way has no name or form; it is just the essence, just the primal spirit. Essence and life are invisible, so they are associated with sky and light. Since ancient times, those who realized spiritual immortality all communicated their teaching verbally, transmitting it from individual to individual.

In obedience to a directive, I am acting as a guide to liberation. Herein we will bring light to the source message of the golden flower of absolute unity. The absolute unity refers to what cannot be surpassed. There are very many alchemical teachings, but all of them make temporary use of effort to arrive at effortlessness; they are not teachings of total transcendence and direct penetration. The doctrine transmitted here brings up working with essence and does not fall into a secondary method. That is the best thing about it.

The golden flower is light. What color is light? It is symbolized by the golden flower, which in Chinese characters also conceals the words one light within. This is absolutely unified real energy of celestial immortals.

The whole work of turning the light around uses the method of reversal. The beauties of the highest heavens and the marvels of the sublimest realms are all within the heart; this is where the perfectly open and aware spirit concentrates. Confucians call it the open center, Buddhists call it the pedestal of awareness, Taoists call it the ancestral earth, the mysterious pass, the primal opening.

The celestial mind is like a house; the light is the master of the house. Therefore, once you turn the light around, the energies throughout the body all rise. Just turn the light around; this is the unexcelled sublime truth.

The light is easily stirred and hard to stabilize. When you have turned it around for a long time, the light crystallizes. This is the natural spiritual body, and it steadies the spirit. This is what the Mind Seal Scripture refers to as “silently paying court” and “soaring upward.”

The transmutations of spiritual illumination are all guided by mind.

The Original Spirit and the Conscious Spirit

From the point of view of the universe, people are like mayflies; but from the point of view of the Way, even the universe is as an evanescent reflection. Only the true essence of the original spirit transcends the primal organization and is above it.

Vitality and energy degenerate along with the universe, but the original spirit is still there; this is the infinite. The production of the universe all derives from this. If learners can just preserve the original spirit, they live transcendentally outside of yin and yang. They are not within the three realms.

This is possible only by seeing essence. This is what is called the original face. What is most wondrous is when the light has crystallized in a spiritual body, gradually becoming consciously effective, and is on the verge of moving into action. This is the secret that has not been transmitted in a thousand ages.

Turning the Light Around and keeping to the Center

Turning the light around is not turning around the light of one body, but turning around the very energy of Creation. It is not stopping random imagination only temporarily; it is truly emptying routine compulsion for all time. Usually people wind up pursuing objects and come at age in conformity with life, never once looking back. Just observe deeply, and when your breath grows quiet you then become accurately aware. This is application of the method of reversal.

The light is neither inside nor outside the self. Mountains, rivers, sun, moon, and the whole earth are this light, so it is not only in the self. All the operations of intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom are also this light, so it is not outside the self. The light of heaven and earth fills the universe; the light of one individual also naturally extends through the heavens and covers the earth. Therefore, once you turn the light around, everything in the world is turned around.

The light rays are concentrated upward into the eyes; this is the great key of the human body. You should reflect on this. If you do not sit quietly each day, this light flows and whirls, stopping who knows where. If you can sit quietly for a while, all time-ten thousand ages, a thousand lifetimes-is penetrated from this. All phenomena revert to stillness. Truly inconceivable is this sublime truth.

Nevertheless, the actual practice goes from shallow to deep, from crude to fine. Throughout, it is best to be consistent. The practice is one from beginning to end, but its quality during the process can be known only by oneself. One winds up at the point where “heaven is open, earth is broad, and all things are just as they are.”

What has been communicated through successive sages is not beyond reversed gazing. Confucians call it ” reaching toward knowledge.” Buddhists call it “observing mind.” Taoists call it “inner observation.”

The essential teaching is summarized above; as for the rest, matters of entering and exiting stillness, the prelude and the aftermath, one should use the book Small Stopping and Seeing as a touchstone.

The words focus on the center are most sublime. The center is omnipresent; the whole universe is within it. This indicates the mechanism of Creation; you focus on this to enter the gate, that is all. To focus means to focus on this as a hint, not to become rigidly fixated. The meaning of the word focus has life to it; it is very subtle.

The terms stopping and seeing basically cannot be separated. They mean concentration and insight. Hereafter, whenever thoughts arise, you don't need to sit still as before, but you should investigate this thought: where is it? Where does this come from? Where does it disappear? Push this inquiry on and on over and over until you realize it cannot be grasped; then you will see where the thought arises. You don't need to seek out the point of arising any more. “Having looked for my mind, I realize it cannot be grasped.”

This is correct seeing; whatever is contrary to this is false seeing. Once you reach this ungraspability, then as before you continuously practice stopping and continue it by seeing; practice seeing and continue it by stopping. This is the twin cultivation of stopping and seeing. This is turning the light around.

The turning around is stopping, the light is seeing. Stopping without seeing is call turning around without light; seeing without stopping is called having light without turning it around. Remember this.

Lu Yan (829-874)

Excerpted from The Secret of the Golden Flower – The Chinese Classic book of Life

This particular translation finally makes clear the ancient lay manual of Buddhist and Taoist methods for “turning the light around.” The golden flower opens up for us at last in this piece.

“The golden flower symbolizes the quintessence of the paths of Buddhism and Taoism. Gold stand for light, the light of the mind itself; the flower represents the blossoming, or opening up, of the light of the mind. Thus the expression if emblematic of the basic awakening of the real self and its hidden potential.”

The teaching of the Golden Flower contains a number of meditation techniques and is pure poetry to read at times.

Dedicated to the Light within,

Elana, Scribe for Daily Zen

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