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Daoist Thunder & Lightning Meditation 清微五雷法

I hope to return to Hsinchu, Taiwan soon, to meet and talk with young Daoists on a spiritual path. The 道教源流 manual of the 正一詞壇 lists five “pai” 五派 Daoist spiritual practices, with nine grades 九品 in each: Yujing, Tianshu, Beidou, Yufu, Shenxiao 玉景,天樞,北斗,玉府,神霄。The Yufu 玉府九品 grades include a knowledge of dramatic Shenxiao ritual, whereas Beidou, Tianshu, and Yujing rituals (based on inner contemplation) do not allow Daoist masters to use Shenxiao or Lüshan 閭山 “exorcism without inner cultivation” rituals. This is especially true when using leifa 雷法, ie, Yufu and Shenxiao Daoists use Shenxiao style Leifa神霄雷法, whereas all of the Zhengyi Citan Daoists who are grade five and above 五品以上 use only the Qingwei wuleifa 清微五雷法。It is essential for us to explain this in such a way that scholars, foreign and Chinese alike, can understand the profound difference. I will try to come to Hsinchu soon, to meet and discuss this where it is still practiced! It is my strong conviction that Tantric Buddhists in Japan and in Tibet learned wuleifa from Daoists at the end of the Tang dynasty. The zhou咒 and shouyin 手印 are the same for Zhengyi Citan Daoists, and for Tibetan Buddhists. The images and concepts are from East, not South Asia.

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Preliminary vows to receive Daoist “Lu” 籙 ordination

Rainbow apeared while writing and posting this Lu document

Jie 戒 Rules for receiving Daoist Lu 籙 registers and meditation lessons

The First Ten Rules or “vows” given to the novice, before receiving the Daoist Master’s instructions (Daoist Master Zhuang, 3rd edition, Ch.5):

1. Banish all hatred, anger, and sadness from the heart; otherwise the powers of the “Yin” Underworld (“3 worms”) will devour the internal organs;
2. Be benevolent and merciful to all living beings;
3. Do good; avoid anything that harms others;
4. Purity includes mind as well as body; banish all impure thoughts;
5. Never speak or think badly of others;
6. Breathing must be calm and regulated, during ritual as well as meditation;
7. Do not put oneself above others, always yield and take the last place;
8. Do not argue or dispute, realize that we are always in “Dao” presence
9. Life breath (Qi 炁) is diminished by seeking good as well as bad things;
10. Keep Zhuangzi’s rule, “fast in the heart, sit with empty mind” 心齋坐忘

Ten vows taken before receiving Daoist Lu Registers from a master: 收錄十戒

1. Do not kill; respect all living things;
2. Do not lust, after another’s wife, or any other person;
3. Do not steal; do not take recompense for teaching Daoism;
4. Do not use force or deceit to achieve one’s way;
5. Do not drink to excess; alcohol is forbidden during Daoist keyi ritual;
6. Treat all men and women as one’s own family;
7. See the good points of everyone; help everyone be joyful;
8. If a person is sad, fill them with good thoughts and blessings;
9. Treat all other as if their needs were your own; never seek revenge;
10. Work that all attain the Dao

The Lu 籙 registers for Daoist “Jiao” 醮 life ritual and “Zhai” 齋 post life/burial ritual, include the meditations of Inner Alchemy. (See next post).

Michael Saso, Mar 24, 2012, (with rainbow appearing over Honolulu)

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How to identify Daoist “Pai” 派 schools



Bai Yun Guan (“White Cloud”) Daoist temple in Beijing published an official list of 84 recognized Daoist Pai 派 or schools in their 1921 Gazeteer (zhi 志), each with an identifying poem;  the manual can be purchased for a nominal fee at the gateway to Baiyun Guan in Beijing 白雲觀志. It was also published in Japan, by Oyanagi Shigeta, where the cost is much higher (due to the fall in the value of the US dollar); but this edition also contains the Gazeteer of the Eastern Peak temple (東獄觀志), as well as other valuable references not found elsewhere. Each of the Pai  派 has an identifying poem; usually 40 characters; one of the characters is assigned to the Daoist’s official title each generation that it is passed on. (E.g., I received the 28th character of the 3 Mtn Alliance school – Mao Shan, Longhu Shan, Gezao Shan — Master Zhuang had the 27th, ie, 27 generations since the end of the Tang- beginning of the Song dynasty, 900-960, when the custom of using a poem to identify each Pai was begun). The Shenxiao and other heterodox orders do not always follow this rule, however, and advance one character each time a register/lu is passed on from master to disciple. When this is the case, the poem usually has 100 characters, vs 20 or 40.

When a Daoist comes to one of the 3 sacred mountains, Mao Shan, Longhu Shan, or Gezao shan for a license/register, an examination is given, to ascertain which (or how many) of the 5 traditional lu 籙 registers (Shangqing, Qingwei, Beidou, Zhengyi, Lingbao (Sanwu Dugong)上清、 清微北斗,正一盟威, 靈寶三五都攻) one knows. Grade One is given for the Shangqing  Datong Jinglu/aka Huangting Jing 上清大同黃庭經; Grade 2-3: qingwei wulei & Beidou lu 清微北斗; Grade 4-5: Zhengyi Mengwei jinglu 正一盟威經籙; grade 6-7: lingbao sanwu dugong lu 靈寶三五都攻籙。All of the registers from Grade 5 and above are given the title xianqing 仙卿;all of the titles from grade 6 and lower are given the titles 仙官 xianguan. A Daoist who practices lewd or immoral forms of “fangzhong” (“sexual hygiene” wrongly called in western book markets “the Dao of Sex”) may never advance above grade six, the ordination manual states. Grades 8 and nine are “incense bearer,” and “procession leader,” in Daoist liturgy. I hope to include below two texts as attachments from this manual; the various Lingbao and Zhengyi registers can be found in Vol. 28 of the recent Shanghai/ Shang Wu 36 volume Daoist Canon, entries 1205-1208, ie Vols 879-880 of the Taiwan/original Shanghai 1920’s edition.

The distinction between the Grade 5 pin and above, and the grade six and lower, depends on several important factors: Grade Five and above perform the Jiao rites of renewal, and inner alchemy meditation, as a way of “union with the Dao” (於道合真)for which see subsequent post.








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Tantric Ritual: The Oral Tradition

Kuden: Tantric ritual taught by an Ajari master –  1st of 3 parts:
Tantric Meditation (i.e., combined mudra-mantra-mandala 身口意 meditation, Jpn. mikkyo 密教), is traditionally taught orally (kuden 口傳), in Tibet, in Japan by Tendai and Shingon Buddhists, and in China by orthodox Daoists. In order to gain access to this highly esoteric tradition, it is necessary to receive initiation, and study for many years with an Ajari Buddhist, or licensed Daoist master 授籙道士. The Rev. Yamada Eitai, Ozasu Head of Tendai Buddhism in Kyoto, Japan, kindly gave Tokudo initiation, and an introduction to study with the Ajari Master Ikuta Koken, over an extended period of eight years, from 1980 until 1988. Some of his teachings are summarized here, showing the kuden (practice with oral teaching) system, used by Tantric Buddhists, and also by Daoists, throughout Asia.
Three tantric schools, deriving from early 9th century Tendai practice, remain active on Mt. Hiei today: the Homan, Sanmai, and Anoo. Each school maintains a group of Ajari masters on Mt. Hiei, who teach the kuden oral tradition of tantric ritual meditation to monks, nuns, and laity, who come to the mountaintop for spiritual training.
Sixty days of austerity on Mt Hiei, called shugyo 修行, which precede the Kancho 灌頂 ordination of Tendai monks and nuns, are, unfortunately, too brief a time to learn the fullness of “body-mouth-mind” 身口意 Tantric meditation. Abstinence, fasting, and harsh physical exercise, combined with brief, intensive ritual training, make it impossible to learn the depth of mikkyo prayer, during the sixty-day training period. Serious postulants spend years of private practice with an Ajari master, to learn the internal meditations.

The time spent practicing and translating the four Tantric rites with the Ajari master Rev. Ikuta Koken , in the beautiful environs of Bishamondo, at the southern foot of Mt. Hiei, remains a precious, indelible memory. This renowned monk, who taught in Mudo-ji temple on Mt. Hiei for forty-three years, and was head Ajari master of the Homan school for the past twenty years, welcomed me to join the young monks in training at the secluded Bishamondo temple, an experience for which I remain eternally grateful.
Ikuta Sensei required each student to perform the Juhachi-do (Eighteen Path meditation) daily, and the Goma Fire rite a total of thirty-six consecutive times, in his presence, until the two liturgies were perfectly mastered. The siddham Sanskrit mantra were chanted in their original pronunciation, as well as in classical Chinese, and Japanese kana transliteration. After mastering these first two Tantric rites, Ikuta Sensei gave a detailed explanation of the Lotus Mandala (Taizo Kai 胎臟界) and Vajra Mandala (Kongo Kai 金剛界) (explained in Part 2; the relevant texts shared or derived from Daoism, are shared in Part 3).

The 18 Path meditation, and the Goma Fire Rite. The first step to learning tantric prayer is the Juhachi- do, 十八道 a text found in Chinese, probably not of Indian origin. The Juhachi-do or Eighteen Path meditation is used as an entrance into, as well as the process to step out of all Tantric ritual. The Taizo-kai Womb World, the Kongo-kai Vajra World, and the Goma Fire rite, all require the 18 Path mandala for entry and exit. The meditative stages are briefly summarized here as follows (see Saso, 1991):

The rite begins by using water, light, and incense to purify the three sources of karmic deeds, while vesting, and “becoming” the Light King Kundali, (Gundari, of the Susiddhi Sutra).
The Go shimbo Purification initiates each tantric rite, inviting the spirits to be present (similar to Taoist ritual in China) after which the vows of the Bodhisattva are pronounced.
-A Samaya meditation interiorizes the entire Buddha, Lotus, and Vajra Worlds. The hands form a chariot mudra, bringing the triple vision inside the meditator.
-while visualizing the “AH” seed word, the meditator creates a sacred Mandala
(Daochang 道場), and summons the vision of Acala and Vairocana, with a vajra bell. –Six offerings (puja), of pure water, powder incense, flowers & leaves, granular incense, rice,
and flame, symbols of the six paramitas- (5 senses and intellect), are made. (In Madhyamika
philosophy, the six material objects and their spiritual aspects, shi and xiang, thus become
“sources of enlightenment,” for Tendai Tantric practice).
– Through the experience of Sam-adhi, the meditator sees the Buddha’s heart-mind, the
meditator, and all others, as united into one (i.e.,sam-a-dhi, means “same as non-dual”) .
After finishing the Lotus, Vajra, and Goma fire rite, the order of mudra and mantra is reversed, in order to step out of the sacred area and re-enter the secular world.
(The 18 Path meditation can be celebrated independently, by devout Tendai monks and
nuns; it is always used to purify the altar before the Goma Fire Rite begins).

The Goma fire rite consists of visualizing and burning away six sacred visions, as follows (Homan manual, 1931):
1. Envisioning and burning away Acala, Fudo Myo-o.
2. Envisioning and burning away Agni, identified with Buddha Locana,
and the seven sources of Northern Light (Ursa Major).
3. Envisioning and burning away the female image “Ichijikinrin”.
4. The triple envisioning and burning away of Acala and Vairocana – as
seed word, samaya symbol, and sacred image.
5. Envisioning and burning away the entire Dharma, Lotus, and Vajra worlds.
6. Envisioning and burning away the entire realm of Vedic, Shinto, Taoist,
and folk-religion deities.
7. After finishing the six stages, the meditator throws all the remaining offerings, good and bad deeds, and even the highest spiritual desires, into the fire. Everything must be burned away, leaving no attachment, not even ashes behind.

It was abundantly clear, from the beginning of the eight year long study, until finishing of the Lotus and Vajra World meditations in the spring of 1988, that the Masters oral teaching was essential at every stage of the meditation path. Three examples are given here to show the deeper understanding given by the Ajari during oral teaching.
The first example is taken from the 4th stage of the Goma Fire rite.
In the center of the fire envision two lotus blossoms. In the center of the first blossom is the seed word AH, which transforms into Vairocana. In the center of the second lotus is the seed word KAM, which changes into the image of Acala.
(Oral commentary):
“the meditator burns away all karmic deeds by an interior fire, more powerful than the external flames of the Goma. The Goma fire burn away the wood and the seed offerings, leaving only ashes. But the interior flames of the Bodhi-enlightened heart-mind are like a devouring fire that leaves behind no ashes. The seed word KAM becomes first a samaya-symbol, a sword, and then a flame, and lastly turns into Acala. The seed word purifies the mind; the sword purifies the heart; the image of Acala fills the entire body, cleansing the “mind-mouth-body” three sources of karmic action. Separated by flames from the world of words and images, the meditator enters the realm of no-birth:”
“Meditating at the gateway of AH, all the seeds of desires are prevented. Entering into this cutting wisdom, a great light diffuses in all directions. Suddenly becoming a great burning flame the image of Acala arises, holding a sword in the right hand, and a rope in the left. The swirling flames devour karmic deeds, mental images, and the altar vessels, laden with avidya ignorance, so that nothing remains, not even ashes.”

(2nd commentary, the items used in the Goma fire offerings)
“As the flames are fed with offerings, a pure, compassionate water is seen to wash the body, flowing through every pore like sweet, white dew. A lotus flower of enlightenment opens in front of the meditator, and from the center issues five seed words, namely AH, BAM, RAM, KAM, and KEN. The words change into a samaya-symbol, seen as a stupa. The stupa changes into Vairocana. The meditator offers the four items to the right of the Goma altar, i.e., oil, red beans, white beans, and coarse rice, to Vairocana, by throwing these items into the flames. These coarse offerings represent all of the ego’s evil karmic deeds. Next the six pure offerings, representing my good deeds, equally useless for enlightenment, are thrown into the flames: Soma oil, powder incense, granular incense, poppy seed, sesame seeds, and the flame from a candle (symbolizing the five senses and intellect, i.e., the six paramitas. Finally the items to the left of the Goma altar, leaves (desires of perfection), and twelve-inch long sticks of wood representing the twelve causes (nidhanas) are burned away in the flames.”

3rd commentary: (for the 7th stage) “The ultimate goal of the Goma is apophatic emptiness, of mind and senses. Only when the flames go out, and no self-glory or merit remain, can samadhi (non-duality) be truly experienced. The meditations of Tendai tantric Buddhism are therefore a threefold process wherein the vision of a seed word to purify the mind (Nirmana-kaya), changes into a symbol to purify the heart, (Sambhoda-kaya) and finally into an eidetic or moving image, unifying the meditator with the Dharma-kaya body of the Buddha.”
Whether the image is of Acala, Amida, Vairocana, or some other form of the enlightened Buddha, is not important. The meditator must not become attached to the vision, in fact must burn all images away in the interior fires of thunder and lightning, as well as the real fire of the Goma. This process is preeminently a part of the Tendai oral hermeneutic. (The Goma Fire rite as performed by Ozasu Yamada Eitai, can be seen on YouTube).

Next, the Lotus and Vara Mandala will next be explained briefly, after which a comparison will be made of Daoist Master’s oral teachings.

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Red Hat and Black Hat Daoists, mediums, and “shaman”

“Red Hat” Daoists, Mediums, and “Shaman”

In north and south Taiwan, the terms Hongtou 紅頭 “Red Hat” (in Taiwanese/ Minnan dialect pronounce Angthau), and Wutou 烏頭 “Black Hat;” (in Minnan dialect pronounce O-thao) are used to distinguish 2 kinds of Daoist priests, i.e., “Red Hat” Daoists specialize in exorcism and healing rites for the living, while “Black Hat” specialize in Jiao 醮 Rites of Cosmic renewal, and Zhai 齋 funeral ritual. Red Hat Daoists can also perform their own version of Jiao rites of renewal, and Black Hat Daoists also perform rites of healing and exorcism, each in their own ritual manner.

Taiwan “Red Hat” Daoists also act as the interpreters of the “Danggi” 童乩 (“tongji” in mandarin pronunciation), and are often themselves possessed mediums (danggi means “youth possessed by shaking, who becomes a spirit’s oracle”); they must not, however, be called “shaman”, because they do not travel into the underworld to report on things there, a totally different word is used for this role in the SE China community, ie “guan lo yim” (Guan Luo Yin in Mandarin 觀落陰, literally a person who, in deep trance, descends into the underworld to see how things are there).
Two distinct words are used for these 2 roles, ie “danggi”, means the possession of the body by a demon, after which the demon or spirit uses the mouth of the possessed spirit as a mouthpiece for his/her own messages; the role of “shaman,” a person who in a trance travels to the other world (guan luoyim) and reports what he/she sees, is a distinct role and function. Since neither of these “ritual” experts are aware of what they are doing or saying when in trance, a Red Head Daoist must be there to interpret what they are saying. A 3rd sort of possession takes place when a writing brush attached to a small spirit chair is possessed (usually the chair is held by 2 to four persons), this is called “fu luan”, ie, a spirit chair with brush attached becomes possessed of a daemon, and writes illegible characters in sand (Jordan and Overmeyer have both written about this). The Red Head Daoist is again necessary to interpret what is written.
All of these rites occur throughout Taiwan, more frequently reported on in the south, esp. Tainan, but also found in north Taiwan, ie Hsinchu, and Taipei. All of the “scholars” who have done field work in Taiwan have seen and reported on these phenomena, e.g., John Lagerwey, Schipper, Jordan, Overmeyer, etc. The Black Head Daoist is not supposed to do this, though money is always a factor, ie, making a living in the modern, and ancient world, are not that dissimilar. The same distinction is made in Mongolia, ie the “shaman” is a person who is possessed and travels into the underworld, while the Laichong (Mongolian) or “Nechong” (Tibetan) is possessed of a specific personal spirit, and foretells the future, offers advice, and most important gives counsel to Dalai Lama. The Nechong oracle from the Nechong temple to the west of Lhasa is now in Dharamsala with Dalai Lama, but the Nechong rites are still performed all over Tibet. There are 7 “ghrala” protector spirits in North Tibet, one for each of the major Amdo (North Tibet) Temples, who do this form of possession to chosen “Nechong”monks.
Those Daoists who are especially known for their abilities to control and interpret Danggi medium and Goanloyim “shaman” possessions are known “Lü Shan” 閭山 Daoists. They are found not only in Taiwan, but throughout Guangdong and Fujian province as well, on the China Mainland. John Lagerwey has done the most comprehensive study of Lü Shan Daoism, and with an extensive grant from Taiwan sources, has published a massive collection of Lü Shan practices. His book on the subject, “China, a Religious State” (Hong Kong University Press: 2010) gives a clear picture of the widespread influence of the school, including Hakka as well as Hokkien (Fujian) speaking areas, throughout SE China.
Pictures of the Pantheon of Daoist spirits, including the Lü Shan patrons, are found in bookshops throughout Taiwan. Some of the images are included in this post.

Popular spirits found in temples throughout SE China
Sanqing: Dao as gestating, mediating, and indwelling
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The Black Christ “Cristo Negro de Esquipulas”

parents carry children, in the procession
Faithful wash the "5 wounds" with white cotton
Oranges placed on the path of the crucifix
Procession enters the altar sanctuary
Incense and flowers lead the procession
Black Christ Procession, Jan 14, 2012
Closeup of the Black Christ of Equipulas
The Black Christ of Equipulas
yellow and white flowers decorate the crucifix
Nuestro Senor de esquipulasThe faithful wipe the wounds of Christ, for healingprocession of the Black Christ image El Cristo Negro image dates back to 1595oranges, fruit, flowers offered during the processionThe Parish secretary is from Chimayo, Esquipulas, GuatemalaBlack Christ on Gold cross, with woven cloth decorationparishioners prepare the float for processiondark camphor wood with red color added for the 5 woundsGuatemalan custom: incense, flowers, woven clothflowers, incense, classic native danceMass is celebrated with the Black Christ image presentGuatemalans of all ages attend the procession

El Cristo Negro de Esquipulas, a Dark Balsam wood statue of Jesus in Santuario de Chimayo, Guatemala; (see the web-site search articles of THE LEGEND OF “NUESTRO SENOR DE ESQUIPULAS” by Lynda La Rocca , and Stephen de Borhegi, for more detailed explanations. The present article is based on oral accounts given by the parishioners of the Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, CA., located on James D Wood-9th street, a block away from the downtown Loyola- Marymount Law School).)

The Santuario de Chimayo — also called the Santuario de Nuestro Senor Milagrosa (Negro) de Esquipulas — was built on a hillside famous from ancient times for the healing powers of a white, clay like substance. A strange light was seen to burst from a hillside above the Santa Cruz river, in 1595, coming from the white clay. Devout Guatemalan natives, after digging in the clay soil with their hands, uncovered a crucifix with a dark figure of Christ, to which they gave the name Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas. Three times the crucifix was taken in procession to the neighboring village and three times it disappeared, only to be found again back in the hillside cave. Deciding that “Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas” wanted to stay in Chimayo, the people built a small chapel on the site of the discovery, which became famous for its healing powers all over Quatemala, as well as Honduras, and El Salvador, and Chiapas (which today is in Mexico).
-The Guatemalan veneration of Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas or El Cristo Negro (the Black Christ) with miraculous healing powers, became famous throughout the entire Spanish colonial territories. Similar statues showing Christ carrying the cross, carved of the same dark Balsam wood, were shipped to the Philippines (now housed in Quuiapo, Manila), and Macao.

Parishioners dress in traditional Chimayo woven cloth

-The current Santuario in Chimaya, Guatemala, was rebuilt in 1816 by donations from a private family. In 1929 it was re-purchased by the devout citizens of Chimayo, and turned over to the Catholic Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The healings in Chimayo were attributed not only to the figure of the Dark Christ on the crucifix, but also to the white clay like sand, which was ‘eaten, dissolved in water and drunk, or made into a paste and smeared on the afflicted part of the body.” Those who attend the annual festival in other parts of the Americas (such as in the Immaculate Conception Church, Los Angeles, pictured here) on January 15th each year, wipe the wounds of Christ in the crucifix with pieces of white cotton, considered to be healing.
-The Guatemalan devotion to Nuestro Senor de Esquipulas and its healing soil derives, (as does Our Lady of Guadalupe), from a Native American Indian legend; the Santuario was in fact a prediction of the coming healing presence of “Nuestro Senor Milagroso (Negro).” The sand pit is the dried remains of what was originally a hot springs with healing powers. The town of Esquipulas in the Chiquimula district, is one of the most significant in Central America, second only in importance to the shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe outside Mexico City.

Antonio Huinac, sacristan, holding the Sacred Scriptures in "q'che" dialect
Black Christ procession,pat of flowers and oranges

– Esquipulas is also the seat of the Central American Parliament and, given its location just a short distance from the borders with Honduras and El Salvador, it has also been the place where several important peace agreements have been signed. The villages, forests and mountains of Mataquescuintla are home to the Pocomam Indians who produce famously colorful textiles and ceramics.

The Black Christ, in Chimaya Church, Esquipulas, Guatemala, is carved from dark balsam wood. The color “Black” (dark skinned) points to the strong native elements that influenced early Colonial Christianity throughout Meso- and Central America. In 1737 when the Archbishop of Guatemala visited and went away healed of a chronic sickness, the shrine and the devotion to the “Black Christ” was given official Church approval, (as was the shrine to the Black Christ in Quiapo, Manila whose festival is celebrated each year, on Jan. 9). While pilgrims journey to both shrines throughout the year, there are two periods when their numbers multiply greatly. One is for a week up to and culminating on January 15, the other is the week of Easter. During these times, upwards of a hundred thousand pilgrims descend upon the normally quiet mountain valley to adore the Black Christ. Great markets spring up, the hotels are over-filled, and people sleep in the church courtyard and along the city streets. These festivals are said to be the finest displays of native dress in all of the Central Americas.

mother, father, son and daughter
Babies are brought for a special blessinf