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Finding a Daoist Master

Daoist Masters in China – Oral and Written Traditions

1) – Finding a Daoist Master 清道教師傅修養科儀法
Daoism as it is practiced and taught in China is like a multi-faceted “jewel,” containing multiple schools, religious orders, and spiritual teachings. Daoist teachers, male as well as women masters, classify themselves as follows:
– “recluse” (yinshi 隱居) , who practice monastic or mountain recluse celibacy,
– “fire dwelling” 火居, who live by the fireside, marry, and pass on the Daoist legacy to their children and disciples
Monastic Daoists belong to the Quan Zhen 全真 school with two major orders, the “Longmen” 龍門 Dragon Gate – celibate monks and nuns who live in monasteries, and Qingjing 清靜 women religious who follow the teachings of Sun Bu-er (a married woman who in her mature years founded a spiritual way for women).
Fire Dwelling Daoists belong to five major orders, and many minor or local systems; the 5 major orders are listed in Daoist “Mijue” manuals as follows: Shang Qing, Zhengyi Mengwei, Lingbao, Beidou, Qingwei, and Shenxiao 上清,正一盟威,靈寶,北斗,清微,神霄;Daoists who belong to one or more of these orders receive at the time of their “ordination,” or empowerment as Daoists, a Lu 籙 “register,” of spirits’ images, names, mantric seed words and mudra hand symbols specific to each school, to summon and command spirits during ritual and contemplation. They also receive a 40 character poem identifying their order, the generation of their master’s ordination, as well as their own entry into a specific order. Daoist masters are not allowed to reveal the content of the poem, or the register, to scholars, and with few exceptions, strictly follow this rule or jie 戒 which they must vow to observe at the time of ordination.
There are in all more than 85 lesser orders, 83 of which are listed, with their identity poems, in the White Cloud Monastery gazetteer 白雲觀志 of Beijing. The Lü Shan order, 閭山派, one of the most popular and widespread forms of popular Daoists in southeast China, though not included in the White Cloud Monastery’s Gazeteer, is listed in one of the Daoist Master’s privately preserved manuals, commonly known as the Daojiao Yuanliu 道教源流本 . Other heterodox sects, such as those who call themselves “Mao Shan daoists,” from HK, and more recently Honolulu, Hawai’i, have no historical or spiritual relationship to the registers or meditations of “Highest Pure” Daoism, of Mao Shan, (near Nanjing in Jiangsu).
Five major “fire-dwelling” orders are listed in the Daojiao Yuanliu, as follows:
1. Yüjing 玉景,(茅山上清派)Daoists with Highest Pure Mao Shan registers, who practice Jiao rites of renewal, Zhai rites of burial, and Yellow Court 黃庭經 meditation
2. Tianshu 天樞 Daoists, a coded name for Qingwei Thunder-Vajra 清微雷法 registers;
3. Beidou 北斗 Daoists, with Pole Star registers shared with Tantric Buddhism;*
4. Yufu 玉府 Daoists with Lingbao and Mengwei registers, who counter and rectify the often harmful magic used by Shenxiao Daoists;
5. Shenxiao 神霄 Daoists, heterodox texts from the mid Song dynasty, “rectified” and brought into the orthodox fold by Bai Yuchan, a Song-Yuan dynasty master.**

Three of the oldest, most prestigious Daoist mountains, Longhu Shan, Gezao Shan, and Mao Shan, preserve and transmit the original registers of Zhengyi, Lingbao, and Shangqing Daoism, respectively. Their meditation manual, known by the title “Sanshan Jilu Yuanke”
三山給籙元科 (Three Mountain, Original Ritual for Transmitting Daoist Registers) is still in use at Longhu Shan and Mao Shan today. Copies of the Daojiao Yuanliu, and Ji lu Yuan ke are in press, and in the process of being restored to the other great mountain monasteries of China, during the spring of 2012.

Both the Ji Lu Yuan Ke ordination manual, as well as the Daojio Yuanliu Daoist Master’s textbook, list nine grades of perfection for each of the five major orders. The highest Grade One ordination is based on knowledge of the Shang Qing Yellow Court Canon. Grade Two is awarded to those who have mastered the Qingwei Thunder-Vavjra method. Grade Three indicates knowledge of the Pole Star Rites, with mudra and mantra shared with Tantric Buddhist masters. Grade 4 and 5 are reserved for those masters who know the Zhengyi Mengwei registers. All Daoists from Grade One through Grade 5 add the words Xian Qing 仙卿 to their titles, when signing document addressed to the world of spirits.

Daoists of the lower ranks, from Grade 6 through Grade 9, must use the lesser title Xian Guan 仙官 to sign ritual documents, for performing Daoist ritual. Grade 6 indicates knowledge of the Ling Bao Sanwu Dugong”靈寶三五都攻 level of Daoist training (the much studied Daoist Chen family of Tainan bears this title). The Du Jiang chief cantor is Grade 7, the Fujiang assistant cantor is Grade 8, and the acolytes, incense bearers, and procession leaders are given grade 9 recognition. The discrimen between the lower xian guan grades 6-9, and the higher xian qing grade 5 and above, the Ji Lu Yuan Ke manual indicates (p 33b) is “purity in mind and body,” ie, those who practice or advocate fangzhong (“sexual hygiene”) are not allowed to learn about the higher Daoist orders. (Daoists and scholars included). However, when a true Daoist Master is asked, by a scholar or would be student what his/her title and grade of ordination is, he or she will always, invariably respond with the words “I am only a lowly Grade Six Daoist.” This is the sign of a true Daoist master, to become a disciple of such a person is indeed a great honor.

Michael Saso 1-5-2012 posted from HNL Hawai’i

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