Nei-yeh (Chinese Self-Cultivation Manual)

6. The Tao of cultivating Mind & Body leads to Success

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  1   As for the Way (Tao):

  2   It is what the mouth cannot speak of,

  3   The eyes cannot see,

  4   And the ears cannot hear.

  5   It is that with which we cultivate the mind and align the body.

  6   When people lose it they die;

  7   When people gain it they flourish.

  8   When endeavors lose it they fail;

  9   When they gain it, they succeed.

10   The Way (Tao) never has roots or trunk;

11   It never has leaves or flowers.

12   The myriad things are generated (shêng) by it.

13   The myriad things are completed by it.

14   We designate it "the Way" (Tao).

Commentary

Verse 6 continues on the topic of the Tao. The song-poem reiterates and extends some themes from the preceding verses.

 

Lines 1-5:

  1   As for the Way (Tao):

  2   It is what the mouth cannot speak of,

  3   The eyes cannot see,

  4   And the ears cannot hear.

  5   It is that with which we cultivate the mind and align the body.

 

Although the Tao can’t be sensed, we employ the Tao to cultivate hsin, our heart-mind, and align our body. This is the first time that body alignment is mentioned, but not the last. In this context, the Tao are the ideal self-cultivation practices – the Way.

Could it be that we employ te, the inner power associated with the Tao, to cultivate our mind and align our body? Could this very process be the Tao?

 

Line 6-9:

  6   When people lose it they die;

  7   When people gain it they flourish.

  8   When endeavors lose it they fail;

  9   When they gain it, they succeed.

 

Without it (the self-cultivation practices associated with the Tao), we die and our endeavors are doomed to failure. With it (the cultivation of mind and body), we flourish and succeed.

Lines 10-11:

   10   The Way (Tao) never has roots or trunk;

   11   It never has leaves or flowers.

 

The Tao doesn’t have roots or a trunk, nor does it have leaves or flowers. In other words, the Tao has no substance. As a process or energy, the Tao has no form.

 

Lines 12-14:

   12   The myriad things are generated by it.

   13   The myriad things are completed by it.

   14   We designate it "the Way" (Tao).

 

The Tao generates and completes the myriad things. Being on the Path, i.e. cultivating both mind and body, results in generating and completing myriad projects.

Summary

The Nei-yeh’s last 3 verses focused upon the Tao. Each verse stressed its ineffable nature. Formless, it can’t be sensed or understood. Paradoxical, it is beyond chaos. Due to its unknowable nature, the Nei-yeh consistently directs us to avoid trying to understand the essence of the Tao as a waste of mental energy.

Although we can’t understand, we can see its effects. The regular use of te, inner power, and surging vitality are two tests of the Tao (V4). A tranquil mind (hsin) and regular ch’i flow attract and stabilize the Tao, which then sustains and harmonizes us (V5). This verse, Verse 6 states that the Tao (presumably its te) both cultivates hsin and aligns (cheng) our body. The Tao, this practice of self-cultivation, is the source of generation (shêng) and completion of myriad projects. Without the Tao, the ideal self-cultivation practices, we fail and die. Regularly following these practices results in flourishing and succeeding.

Due to all these positive benefits, it is obvious that we want to align ourselves with the Tao. However we must take an indirect approach. Rather than attempting to understand it, we must instead practice self-cultivation – the Way. We must calm our thoughts to achieve a tranquil mind and align our body to achieve a regular ch’i flow.

 

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