Tuesday, November 4, 2014

50 barriers in Daoist cultivation - by Liu Yiming 道教五十关

   Liu Yiming 刘一明(1734–1821) is a prominent Daoist master and doctor from Qing dynasty.  In Scripture of Passing through the Barriers  《通关文》 Tong Guan Wen he points out 50 obstacles - barriers in the way of Daoist cultivation and explains how to pass through them. 

Here is the list:
1. Barrier of lust and sexual desires 色欲关
“This is the first and most dangerous barrier”; “From all evils lust is number one”万恶淫为首
"Don't stare with lust, the heart will be peaceful". (Dao De Jing, ch. 3, translation: Michael Saso) 不见可欲,使心不乱

2. Barrier of passionate love 恩爱关

 Love without obsession and too much passions.

3. Barrier of  fame and reputation 荣贵关
"Fame can make one arrogant and spoiled... Since the antiquity the great sages stress the importance on cultivating Dao and don't pay attention to fame."

4. Barrier of wealth and gain 财利关
Keep apart from greed for money and profit.

5. Barrier of destitution 穷困关
 One can cultivate in all kind of conditions, despite destitution and all difficulties. 
6. Barrier of the physical body 色身关
Paying too much attention on the physical body and forgetting about the spiritual body (the real body 真身).  Zhuang Zi says: "Alas, the humans of the world think that to nourish the body is sufficient to preserve life; and when such nourishment is not sufficient to preserve the life, what can be done in the world that will be sufficient?" 悲夫!世之人以为养形足以存生,而养形果不足以存生,则世奚足为哉. ("Zhuang Zi: the Full Undestanding of Life").

Barrier of arrogance 傲气关
"Therefore the wise embrace the one and set an example to all.
Not putting on a di
splay, they shine forth.
Not ju
stifying themselves, they are distinguished.
Not boa
sting, they receive recognition.
Not bragging, they never falter."
(Dao De Jing, chapter 22; English tran
slation: Gia-fu Feng)

8. Barrier of jealousy and envy 嫉妒关

Keep the heart away from jealousy and fill it with loving kindness to the others, as is the heart of the sages; do as the sages do. 存圣贤之心,行圣贤之行
9. Barrier of irascibility and haste 暴躁关
"Before cultivating the inner elixir, first cultivate your character." 未炼还丹先炼性
Irascibility, haste, scholding and swearing are harmful much more than one may think: "the orignial spirit leaves its residence in the body, but heat burns in the body, the essence jing and the genuine qi scatter, the three treasures jing, qi, shen are depleted.

10. Barrier of speech and disputes 口舌关
Think before you talk. Talk with respect and kindness. Cultivate your speech.
The tongue is the extention of the heart. The way one speaks and writes reveals one's heart. If the speech (tongue) is not kind and right, then it means that the heart/mind is also not kind and right. And if so, then how can one achieve cultivation? One of the 10 Daoist precepts is about speech: "Don’t utter bad words or use flowery  language! Be straightforward within and without! Don’t talk excessively!"

11. Barrier of hate  瞋恨关 
Egoism, envy, anger, the shortage of money, insecurity, intolerance, rivalry - they all can create hatred. "The confused people don't know how damaging the hatred can be for their life." One of the main Daoist precepts says: “ Never harbor hatred in your heart!... The hatred diminishes your spirit and energy.”

12. Barrier of others and oneself 人我关
Putting others first and forgetting about one's ego, having awareness of the world outside one's head is a powerful aspect of cultivation. Look at the myriard things as one whole, look at the world as one family. "Seeing the others are happy, I feel happy too."

 13. Barrier of climate 冷热关 
Literally “barrier of cold and heat”. Weather is not an obstacle for cultivation.

14. Barrier of laziness  懒惰关 
If one is indolent and afraid of hard work, only seeks pleasures and comfort, then cultivation stops"One has to be active not only for oneself, but also for the others - to actively do good to others... To build bridges and roads, collect herbs and tea, open schools, help the old and support the needed and thus day after day, hour after hour accumulate inner merits."

15. Barrier of skills and intelligence 才智关
Wasting energy and life to accumulating useless and fake knowledge and skills just to gain profit for oneself, show off, do intrigues, participate in useless contests to please the ego. That's not the genuine knowledge that leads to cultivation.

16. Barrier of willfulness and the individual character  任性关
When considering oneself infalliable and not tolerating and respecting the others, one easily falls in the trap of willfulness. One of the main Daoist precepts is to be retiring and modest in all things: "Put yourself behind to serve the others".
"I have three precious things - kindness, thrift, and never preferring myself over others." (Dao De Jing, chapter 67, translation: Michael Saso)

17. Barrier of diseases and difficulties  患难关
When one is worried and afraid of diseases and difficulties, one's mind and will become unstable, which leads to even more problems. "When confined [with difficulties], one must maintain smooth progress. Persistence will be auspicious for the great lord and with no calamity." (Yi Jing, hexagram 47 "Confined")

18. Barrier of craftiness and lies  诡诈关 
Lying to others and oneself has nothing good for cultivation. Sincerity can move heaven and earth, it can reach the spirits and deities, it can touch the heart of everyone. Sincerity is the way of cultivation. 

19.  Barrier of pretense and guessing  猜议关
 Pseudo-intelligence, being smart aleck and pretending to know everything and think that oneself is always right - this is an obstacle for cultivation. "There are confused people in the world, who want by using the dim light of fireflies to break through the heavenly net. They  don't realise that there is infinite depth of wisdom".  "To find a clear-minded teacher is true happiness."

20. Barrier of mysticism  悬虚关
The insufficient understanding and practice create mystique. The beginners in the study of Dao tend to feel overly fascinated and look for mystic occurrences, which may sometimes hinder the cultivation.

21. Barrier of chimera妄想关
 Those who pretend to cultivate and follow Dao, but in reality don't make any efforts and only look for good food, beautiful clothes, comfortable sleep and life, they easily fall in the trap of chimeras. If  always postponing the genuine practice; just listening and reading about cultivation, but not practicing it - these are chimeras.

22. Barrier of life and death  生死关
As the Chinese saying goes: "They have not understood the meaning of life yet, but are afraid of death."  Free the mind completely from all worries about death.  Better focus on cultivation and actively do your work in life. Always keep at one with the Dao.

23. Barrier of complacency  自满关

When falling into the trap of complacency, one accrues no interests, loses an objective attitude toward oneself and the world, and the spiritual cultivation stops. Having a low estimate on one's own importance 低心下气 leads to success. Yi Jing hexagram Xun (57) is about humbleness and submissiveness: "Kneeling before the platform... Auspicious without misfortune." 巽在牀下。用史巫紛若。吉无咎。

24. Barrier of fear of difficulties  畏难关

Nothing in the world is difficult for one who sets his mind to it. 天下无难事,只怕有心人
25. Barrier of slow action  轻慢关
Cultivation is like climbing a high mountain, it takes a long time and one has to watch one's steps constantly. Those who want to follow Dao, first have to learn to respect Dao and its values. 

26. Barrier of feebleness  懦弱关 
If there is no determination, courage and will, one can fall into the trap of feebleness, which is also related to constant hesitation, insensitivity, self-pity, despondency, laziness and inertia.

27. Barrier of impersistence  不久关 
The reason for impersistence is mainly due to lack of internal stability (stable will and patience). The regular practice of meditation and contemplation will strengthen one's inner stability and persistence.

28. Barrier of giving oneself up  暴弃关 
Giving oneself up and dawdling the time away shows that one has not truly understood the importance of inner cultivation.  Mencius says: "With those who do violence to themselves, it is impossible to speak. With those who abandon themselves, it is impossible to do anything." 自暴者,不可与有言也;自弃者,不可与有为也。  "I am not a saint. Attained it through studying." (Scripture of Inner Observation Nei Guan Jing) 吾非圣人,学而得之。《内观经》

29. Barrier of debt accumulation  累债关
This barrier includes any debts, even unresolved relationship problems, corruption and always relying on others for money and other things.

30. Barrier of flaunting and hauteur  高大关
Those who praise themselves to be great, in the end are not great. 自大者终不大

31. Barrier of forms and ornaments  妆饰关

The external forms and ornaments are not a bad thing, but when they are given too much attention, one might lose a notion of what is most valuable in cultivation

32. Barrier of false understanding  假知关
"There are confused people in the world who don't know how to cultivate, but intentionally or unintentionally lie and mislead the others."

33. Barrier of hidden evil  阴恶关
Peacefully accept that the others are different and may disagree with you or talk in unpleasant for you manners. If you remember the little resentments of others and hide evil thoughts in your heart, then how can you cultivate and follow Dao? Kindness toward all is the key of passing through this barrier.

34. The barrier of excessive drinking  贪酒关
One of the main 5 precepts in Daoism says: "One should not take any alcoholic drinks, unless one has to take a little bit to cure an illness."

 35. Barrier of fear of hardship  怕苦关
No matter how difficult a situation can be, one still has the power to overcome it. The fear of hardship can not eliminate the problems. In the process of cultivation and unleashing of the mind, all problems can be reduced and solved.

36. Barrier of disbelief   不信关 
The sincere faith has a great power. "When a superior man hears of Dao, he cultivates himself diligently. When an average man hears of Dao, he is doubtful and doesn't believe it. When an inferior man hears of Dao, he laughs and thinks it is foolish." (Dao De Jing, chapter 41).

37. Barrier of lack of definite views  无主关 
- when one doesn’t have a clear understanding and definite views on cultivation,
one is looking at cultivation superficially, vaguely changing the mind all the time,
without a stable point. Today one studies this, tomorrow - that; in the morning one goes to worship to Mr. Li, in the evening - to worship to Mr. Wang.”

38. Barrier of search for quick results  速效关
The cultivation takes a long time, diligent practice and perseverence. "The great vessel is late in completion." (Dao De Jing, chapter 41).

39. Barrier of negligence and carelessness  粗心关
Negligence, carelessness and lack of concentration are obsacle for cultivation.

40. Barrier of waste of time  虚度关
 If one wastes the time on different things and forgets the importance of cultivation, then how can one achieve Dao?
41. Barrier of weak will  退志关

"The strong-willed, even if of old age, will attain Dao. The weak-willed, even if of young age, will not attain Dao."

42. Barrier of praise  夸扬关
More words count less, better to hold to the center.” (Dao De Jing, chapter 5).  

43. Barrier of illusions  幻景关
If in the process of cultivation one encounters some spiritual phenomena and already thinks of oneself as very highly cultivated - this is the barrier of illusions

44. Barrier of stigma and shame  耻辱关
"To be solid as a mountain and deep as the great ocean", i.e. to be able to accept and tolererate everything.
45. Barrier of karma  因果关
As you sow, so shall you reap. To harm the others to benefit oneself, to do things offensive to Heaven and reason, to stop at nothing and do evil,... then one cannot attain Dao. “Happiness or misfortune are all created by the human himself. " (Zuo Zhuan Chronicle of Zuo) 祸福无门,惟人自招《左传》

46. Barrier of bookishness  书魔关
One cannot achieve Dao only by reading books. There are books, which can confuse the mind and mislead the reader. If not asking for advice and learning from a master with real experience, clear understanding and secret oral instructions 口诀, then one will fall in the trap of bookishness and will miss the great work of cultivation. 由执书为道,不求明师,中了书魔,误了大事。
47. Barrier of emptiness 着空关
If seeking only to achieve emptiness in a secluded place in deep mountains, far away from society and people, abandoning family and children, and thinking that oneself is higher than the others, then one can easily fall in the trap of emptiness. Real emptiness is not empty.
48. Barrier of attachment to temporary tendency 执相关
Blindly following the temporary tendency in every new fashion that appears, including the different methods of Daoist exercises.

49. Barrier of the female elixir 闺丹关
 “The confused people who mistakenly listen to the heresy of sexual practices spread by 
blindfold teachers ... are making a fool of themselves hundred of times;
they are extremely impure, foul, shameless and most silly.
The “riding women” 
  and all other techniques of  [“returning the essence jing to replenish the brain” 还精补] sexual practices have nothing good for the cultivation."

50. Barrier of the stove fire 炉火关
Cultivation and attaining of Dao has nothing to do with outer alchemy wai dan 
(using elixir of immortality by concocting mineral and herbal compounds). 


Link to the complete text in Chinese: http://www.daoism.cc/dandao/fdjd/znz/tgw.htm


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