Taoist Praxis

Chinese Taoist praxis (Xiu Lian) can be traced back 5000 years to the time when Zhang Zi recorded that ¡°Xuanyuan Yellow Emperor asked Guang Chengzi for the Tao¡±. Not only Taoist devotees in temples but also ordinary people have been practicing Taoism all over the country. It has had a wide and deep influence throughout China. Unfortunately until now it has been imparted mainly by oral methods. Furthermore, good practitioners or masters usually practiced secretly as hermits. So it has been very difficult for ordinary learners to get the genuine instructions.

I came to appreciate Taoism when I was a young boy and decided to devote myself to it. I began my Taoist studies on Lao Shan Mountain when I was 18 and practiced Xiu Lian there for seven years. I read many books on Tao and Taoist praxis there, and followed both the inner way (meditation) and the outward way (martial arts). During that time, I sought out and visited many masters in China. I was trying to understand the genuine essence of the Taoist praxis.

During my sixth year in the temple, I began to understand Taoism in depth. In 1989 I started working for the Chinese Taoist Association in Beijing, and had the opportunity to read all the Tao Zhang writings and many other Taoist sutras. My inner praxis improved a lot, and I began to grasp fully the true meaning of Taoist praxis. Gradually reaching the level of Wuwei (not doing) and all the skills (Kung Fu) that I got from such praxis come naturally.

There are many ancient writings on Taoist praxis that have been kept for hundreds of years, but without any coordinated study. It¡¯s very difficult to classify all of them and distinguish between the essential and the useless. Because of its long-rooted tradition nobody has dared to ¡°reveal the secret of the nature of the Tao.¡± Nobody has ever studied the history of Taoist praxis systematically and comprehensively. Most of the ancient Xiu Lian masters wrote down their teachings using unfamiliar words and parables so it¡¯s very difficult for modern readers to understand them. Many sects are at different levels.

In order to develop the essence of the inherited traditional Chinese Taoist culture, and thereby benefit more people, we need to do away with conventionalisms and establish the real essence of Taoism. So I decided to study and rewrite the theories and methods of Taoist praxis systematically, using all my experience in sixteen years of long praxis. I described the praxis explicitly and specifically, so every lover of Taoism can learn to practice by himself or herself, with no need to leave home looking for masters as in the old days.
I think we should keep the essence of this inherited Taoist praxis and at the same time, get rid of everything that is superfluous. The ancient Xiu Lian masters lived in a society that was totally different from ours, so we don't need to follow them in every way. Modern Taoist praxis should be improved in the following aspects:

1. Don¡¯t be limited to one sect; keep your mind open to other sects.
2. Don¡¯t be negative about life; but live positively.
3. Don¡¯t live like a recluse in the mountains; but practice in society.
4. Don¡¯t stay away from earthly things; associate praxis with common life.
5. Don¡¯t turn to religious spirits; but practice scientifically.
6. Don¡¯t cling to accomplishments; keep a quiet and peaceful mind.
7. Don¡¯t seek immortality by abandoning life; follow the Tao in this life.
8. Don¡¯t practice just with your body; learn how to live with Taoist thinking.
9. Don¡¯t practice just for yourself; try to serve and help society.