Nei-yeh (Chinese Self-Cultivation Manual)

11. Aligning Body develops Inner Power (Te)
& Well-organized Mind depends upon Inner Tranquility.

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1   When your body is not aligned,

2   The inner power (te) will not come.

3   When you are not tranquil within (zhöng),

4   Your mind will not be well-ordered.

5   Align your body, assist the inner power (te),

6   Then it will gradually come on its own.


Although short, Verse 11 focuses upon two separate topics: 1) the relationship of body alignment to te, internal power; and 2) the relationship of tranquility to an organized mind (hsin).


Lines 1-2:

   1   When your body is not aligned,

   2   The inner power (te) will not come.


Recall that te, our inner power, comes and goes. Like the Tao, jing and ch’i, te is elusive, rather than permanent. These initial lines make a straightforward assertion: If our body is not aligned, then te will not come. Te’s presence is directly linked with physiology rather than purely psychological or mystical components.

Lines 3-4:

   3   When you are not tranquil within (zhöng),

   4   Your mind (hsin) will not be well-ordered.


The middle lines shift to the relationship between inner tranquility and a well-organized heart-mind (hsin). Simply put, if our core (zhöng) is not tranquil, then hsin, our heart-mind, will not be well-ordered. Tranquility is a precondition for a well-ordered mind.

This statement provides a partial answer to an implicit question from the prior verse: how do we achieve the well-organized mind that harmonizes the community naturally, i.e. without effort? Inner tranquility is certainly one component of the well-ordered mind. In such a way, this verse builds upon prior understanding, another indication of the Nei-yeh's developmental nature.

It seems that organizing our thoughts will be difficult unless we have peace of mind. Again the suggestion is counterintuitive. Rather than ‘trying’ to concentrate, the Nei-yeh implies that we should instead focus upon stilling the turbulent emotions that disturb our tranquil state. Put another way, the approach is indirect rather than direct.

The beneficent effect of tranquility is a regular theme in the Nei-yeh. Recall from prior verses that internal tranquility also attracts the positive cosmic energies.


Lines 5-6:

   5   Align your body, assist the inner power (te),

   6   Then it will gradually come on its own.


The final lines of this short song-poem shift back to te and body alignment. While the initial lines said that te (personal power) will not come when the body is out of alignment, these lines state that aligning the body assists te to naturally comes on its own. The process of aligning the body results in the process of developing personal power. The key to stabilizing te’s presence is physiological rather than psychological – physical rather than the mental.

Connecting some dots: Recall from Verse 2 that te attracts the elusive ch’i energy into our center. ‘Developing te’ stabilizes ch’i and produces wisdom. The current verse states that ‘aligning the body’ is positively correlated with ‘developing te’. Body alignment results in the development of personal power, which in turn is a factor in securing and stabilizing ch’i, the source of our vitality. In this schema, self-cultivation begins with the body, not the mind.

There is another plausible interpretation of these lines. The process of aligning our body simultaneously develops te, our will power.  To attain body alignment, we must exercise both guidance and restraint. This process strengthens our complementary mental muscles, the synergy of te and yi. The universal aspect of te could easily encompass this mental synergy.

Te: Ancient History

The word/concept ‘te’ has a long history in Chinese thought. During the Chou Dynasty 1st millennium BCE, the military aristocracy, the shih class, believed that only they, the ruling class, possessed ‘te’ as a virtue. In fact, they were rulers because of this supposed fact; ‘te’ allowed them to rule. Because the agrarian peasantry did not have ‘te’, they were considered to be closer to beasts of burden.

Although each member of the shih class was born with te, this critical virtue was more obscured in some than others. However with proper guidance and practices, it was possible to clean the mental mirror so that an individual’s innate virtue (te) might shine through.

Even under this perspective, te (personal power) is developmental. Although we have te from birth, culture and family must encourage it. It was and is the parents’ responsibility to nurture this crucial virtue.

Te eventually became one of the 5 Confucian virtues. While jen (compassion) was the prime virtue, the individual could only achieve jen through te.


Verse 11: If the core (zhöng) is not tranquil, the mind (hsin) is not well-ordered. A misaligned body compromises te (personal power). Aligning our body naturally strengthens te.


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