Nei-yeh — Inward Training
The vital essence of all things – it is this that brings them to life.
It generates the five grains below
and becomes the constellated stars above.
When flowing amid the heavens and the earth
we call it ghostly and numinous. (spiritual or supernatural). When stored within the chests of human beings, we call them sages.
Therefore, this vital energy is:
Bright! – as if ascending from the heavens;
Dark! – as if entering an abyss;
Vast! – as if dwelling in an ocean;
Lofty! – as if dwelling on a mountain peak.
Therefore, this vital energy cannot be halted by force, yet can be secured by inner power or virtue. Cannot be summoned by speech, yet can be welcomed by awareness.
Reverently hold onto it and do not lose it: this is called “developing inner power.”
When inner power develops and wisdom emerges, the myriad things will, to the last one, be grasped.
The above translation of the Nei-yeh is by Harold Roth, and excerpted from his book, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundation of Taoist Mysticism.
By way of introduction to the text, Mr. Roth writes:
“Nei-yeh (Inward Training) is a collection of poetic verses on the nature of the Way (Tao) and a method of self-discipline that I call “inner cultivation” — a mystical practice whose goal is a direct apprehension of this all-pervading cosmic force. It contains some of the most beautiful lyrical descriptions of this mysterious cosmic power in early Chinese literature and in both literary form and philosophical content is quite similar to the much more renowned Lao Tzu (also called the Tao Te Ching).
The Nei-yeh is a Taoist scripture, believed to have been written in the 4th century BC, making it — alongside the 6th century BC Lao Tzu Te Tao Ching and the 4th century BC Chuang Tzu — one of the earliest articulations of Taoist mysticism.
The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. Though belonging primarily to the Taoist Canon, the Nei-yeh resonates strongly with other non-dual spiritual traditions, Chan / Zen Buddhism in particular.
I think of it as if we are simply going home… To places we’ve been before and will see again and again. For myself, the path leads back to Lao Tzu and Taoism and ideas of convergence. What the Taoists call bianhua, or pien-hua, i.e., transformation – what becomes the underlying principle of change within the world and what it is that connects us with all things.
While some say Nei yeh – Inward Training is anonymously written, many trace its beginnings back to Lao Tzu and what is defined as the essence, or beginning, of what would come to be known as Taoist philosophy.
The first two of the twenty-six chapters are found above. The entire text can be found here on my website at thekongdanfoundation.com. I plan to share this text over the coming “holiday season”. As much for my own gaining of insight and wisdom, as what I might be able to share with others. Ultimately, the question or even quest remains… how do we get there from here and where do we begin? How do we find ourselves living in the present moment reflecting the inner peace, i.e., the sanctuary within and train our thoughts and practice of daily living and actions in what we call “mindfulness?”
Opening ourselves to mindfulness… the ultimate of who we are here yet to become.
What is mindfulness? There has to be a starting point and how can we get there… A place where we simply let go and let our highest endeavor match our ultimate destiny.
The dictionary says that mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. What the ancients have always referred to as “Inward Training”. The question has always been – where do I begin? It was this question that was the genesis behind the I Ching. Seeing how everything is connected leads to answers that fit in nature’s way. This is what later was to become known as the indefinable Tao. As if you have reached the conclusion that you don’t want or need more than you already have. To the Buddhist, this is the essence of the Bodhisattva’s vow… the most important thing is to keep working for the world we long for, even when the odds seem overwhelming.
It is finding that peaceful state of awareness that we hope to meet that defines us. This becomes what I like to think of as our “sanctuary”… our state of mind where the place we reside both in the “inner world” that internally defines us… matches with the “outer world” where we find ourselves with others as becoming one and the same. As if living in the state of becoming universal, where it’s not where we are – but who we are that becomes paramount in our lives.
Finding that peace of mind where there is no separation between the two. This is not “new thought”, but found in the oldest texts of antiquity. Seeing the world, the universe as our source, as something beyond ourselves with our ultimate goal to resonate and find our place in it. It is the smile found on the face of the Buddha, in which he is assured that each of us will ultimately find inner peace for ourselves and go there.
The term “mindfulness” is derived from the Pali term sati, “memory,” “retention,” “mindfulness, alertness, self-possession,” which, by example, is a significant element of Buddhist traditions, while the concept is related to Zen and Tibetan meditation techniques.
While “mindfulness” has been translated and interpreted as “bare cognition,” in a Buddhist context it has a wider meaning and purpose, namely the ability of discerning what is beneficial and what is not and calming the mind by this discernment. Individuals who have contributed to the popularity of mindfulness in the modern Western context include Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Richard J. Davidson. In Eastern thought, in addition to Buddhism and Thích Nhất Hạnh, Taoism, Lao Tzu, and Confucius have played a significant role in our gaining wisdom as to our inner development that is to dictate our outer motivations.
Our life can quickly pass us by when we’re not focused on what matters. We have a bad habit of emphasizing the negative and overlooking the positive. Being mindful can help.
Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage hidden emotions that may be causing problems in our personal and professional relationships. It means living in the moment and awakening to our current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation and certain kinds of therapy. It has many positive benefits, including lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, improving our overall health, and protecting against depression and anxiety. There is even research suggesting that mindfulness can help people cope better with rejection and social isolation.
From mindfulness, we enter into contemplation and thoughts as to how could this all be connected, and more importantly what does this have to do with me, or those reading this? First, earlier talking about Nei yeh – Inward Training, and now finding the connection from Taoism to Buddhism in not an esoteric way, to be understood or meant for only a select few who might have special knowledge, or interest, but for everyone. Wisdom to be gained by all becomes universal in nature. What we would refer to as “common knowledge”, or what can be described or seen as new beginnings. Not only to refine what we feel may be existing core beliefs. But to recognize many paths, as a confluence that leads to the same place.
For myself, the purpose of acquiring mindfulness is gaining wisdom, i.e., the knowledge of what is true – coupled with compassion and virtue that leads one to judgment as to what action we should then take, if any, coupled with sagacity, discernment, or insight. Mindfulness begins with this as wisdom in tow and helps to take us there as we discover ways of accessing what may be considered as enlightenment. For me, its communing with nature, gardening, my writing of course, planning my next trip to China and thinking of where that all may lead serves the present as what may be called inward training, or by some meditation. Reading and writing from the inside out – as if opening doors so that our heart and mind can enter to see how others have led by example, as we teach and learn along the way. The earliest shaman of every culture was always concerned more with what they didn’t know than what they thought they did.
My next entry here, chapters three and four of Nei yeh – Inward Training, will focus on western thought and philosophy with Christian mystics such as Meister Eckart, Saint Francis, Saint Augustine, and Catherine of Siena who spent three years in meditation, who afterward said that we should not elevate divinity above the common miracles found in every-day life… A very Zen-like statement. Saint Catherine of Siena (March 25, 1347 – April 29, 1380), was a philosopher and theologian who had a great influence on the Catholic Church.
On my recent trip to China and Tibet, as I went through museums and Buddhist monasteries and temples, one character stood out for me over and over again. As if a certain mystical quality exemplified what I was feeling and seeing. In going there, we go from mindfulness to the mystical that serves to lift us up to somewhere we wouldn’t otherwise go. Manjushri (or manjusri) is the embodiment of all the Buddha’ wisdom. The word manju means “charming, beautiful, pleasing” and Shri means “glory or brilliance”. The Bodhisattva is regarded as the crown prince of Buddhist teachings, or the one who can best explain the Buddhist wisdom, that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about enlightenment. Manjushri has this title because eons ago, he was the instructor for seven different Buddhas, the last being Sakyamuni Buddha. Manjushri is often depicted with his right hand holding a double-edged flaming sword and his left hand holding a lotus flower on which rests the Prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom) Sutra. As if saying follow the lotus flower, or bare the consequences.
Wisdom is insight of the true nature of reality… as said by Shakyamuni Buddha, and what many feels is our ultimate purpose that guides and directs us. For reference, I like to refer to the Lotus Sūtra, that is one of the most popular and influential Mahayana sutras, and the basis on which most of Buddhism was established. According to Paul Williams, “For many East Asian Buddhists since early times the Lotus Sutra contains the final teaching of the Buddha, complete and sufficient for salvation.”
In Ch. 14, of the Lotus Sūtra – Peace and Contentment – Manjushri asks how a bodhisattva should spread the teaching. In his reply Shakyamuni Buddha describes the proper conduct and the appropriate sphere of relations of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva should not talk about the faults of others or their teachings. He is encouraged to explain the Mahayana teachings when he answers questions. Virtues such as patience, gentleness, a calm mind, wisdom and compassion are to be cultivated. It was this premise that served as the connection between Buddhism, Taoism, and the benevolence expressed by Confucius, that came together and continues today in China. It begins with this idea of Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and ourselves, and the vital essence of all things.
Everything remaining perfect
Have no fear of the end of heaven and earth. Thereby lacking a place to rest or that you forget to eat or sleep.
Heaven nothing more than the air around us. Where is there that there is no air? Your own weight in it allows you to walk and stand tall breathing in through lungs filled only with it. Always breathing in and out as your inner chi or essence makes itself known to dragons.
The earth nothing more than the soil and water that sustains us. Filling and giving shape to the place we only temporarily call home. As we walk and stand tall with feet forever attached to it. Always letting the earth be the ultimate messenger of nature’s way.
What can the air be but the rainbow, clouds and mist, wind and rain and the four seasons? Simply heaven at its purest. What can soil be but mountains and hills, rivers and seas, metal and stone, fire and wood? The essence of earth at its fullest. How can there ever be an end to it?
As all things have beginnings and endings, what will happen must happen. Endings always ending bringing new beginnings that simply begin again. Fearing the worst will happen is not as it should be. What can eternity be but the innate sense that heaven and earth are simply the same only in different forms for different reasons? Things just taking shape in the end.
Have no concern for final outcomes and know peace. Simply rest easy and eat and drink from the cup that living brings you. With everything remaining perfect to the end. DCD 1/13/95