h Phoenix Qi: Daoism on Gain (Harvest)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Daoism on Gain (Harvest)

The writing I share with you is "Gain" from p. 176 of Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony by Deng Ming-Dao, Harper San Francisco, NY, 1996, ISBN 0-06-251395-8.



"Some people might say it is hard to pursue Tao without the gain to support one's endeavors. But it's important to distinguish the exact types of gain that will actually bring us profit.

"In the beginning, the ancients taught very simple and direct ways to live with Tao. But as time went on, people embellished the teachings until they became a very complicated body of knowledge that took a thousand volumes to document. Tao became the pursuit of the rich and cultured. Only they could afford the herbs, the lessons, the expensive art materials, the beautiful living locations, the servants, the travel, and the myriad other luxuries that afforded the freedom to pursue Tao. For many centuries, the simple and rustic ideals of the ancients were obscured by wealth, alchemy, artistic pursuits, and eccentricity.

"We who want Tao may imagine that we will never succeed if the wealth and cultured living of the past are required. But that is not so. Do not be misled by the trappings of those who lived in the past. Look instead to what actually exists in your own life. As long as you live and breathe, as long as your heart beats and your mind dwells on the way, Tao can be found.

"If we look at the image of 'gain,' there is a lesson for us. (Ed: the Chinese image/character for 'gain' is two characters, 'grain' and 'a knife.') Gain is simply the result of harvest. We don't need a fancy lifestyle. We need know only where to look for grain and when to harvest it. Those who harvest the ordinary are those who ultimately gain."


What do you need to attain your spiritual goals? This is something I have struggled with over the years - feeling I needed this teacher, that book, some other paraphernalia to get where I wanted to go. Many people will tell you, you need a Guru, a Master (and by the way, make sure he or she has the "right" lineage!), a special ceremony in a remote temple, or at least in the Master's home or office. There are certain books you must study, and only the Master can tell you when you've studied enough; certain skills you must learn before your practice can be effective, and the skills are often hard to come by or costly.

So, what do you really need? You need You - that is all. Sure, some guidance is in order; maybe a mentor, or maybe a few great books (and I have found that, with the exception of the I Ching, if you have four books on any spiritual topic, that is probably enough - more than four, and they start repeating themselves). But the bottom line of any spiritual practice is: how much of yourself are you willing to devote to it, and how fast do you want it?

Believe it or not, speed of acquisition is a major concern to many people. They want to be spiritual, and they want it Now! Not too long ago, I had an interesting conversation with a Reiki Master on a message board. She posted the great benefits of a Reiki attunement. I have practiced qi gong for around seven years now, and combine that energy work with what I learned about healing by studying a book about Therapeutic Touch and practicing the exercises. I was fairly amazed to learn that, as far as healing went, I could do everything the Reiki Master could do. The only difference was that she was given the healing ability quickly through attunements, and I took time to gain it through qi gong practice. I really was amazed, though. Never having had an attunement, I had long thought that I was missing out on some important facet of healing ability, only to find that was a misconception and not true at all.

In fact, it's interesting to note that originally Reiki had one level and one attunement, much like Tao was originally a simple and direct practice. Obviously, it's grown into something like the later Tao practices with their embellishments. (I am not disparaging Reiki in any way - it is a very valuable practice - I only wonder if its evolution is on the right path.)

A spiritual practice means connecting with the right energy whether you call it God, The Collective Unconscious, Universal Enlightenment, or any other name. "All paths lead up the same mountain," it is only the scenery along the way that is different. You are free to choose that scenery, and make it as fancy or as simple as you like. What practices would you like to undertake? If you love ceremony, go ahead and perform spiritual rituals; if not, spend your time meditating in a quiet way and place. The results will be the same. You may read a great book, or find a Master to mentor you - the results will be the same. You can travel around the world and pray in gilded shrines and temples, or go out into your back yard and pray under the open sky - the results will be the same. The amount of personal attention and time you devote to your practice is what matters, not the trappings.

I would like to add a few words on ceremonial items, though. We've all heard the fairy tales of the wicked witch casting an evil spell on someone when provided with a personal item from that person. I won't comment on evil spells or anything, but I do believe that items you use or wear during a spiritual practice do absorb and reflect back to you some of the energy generated during that practice - special clothing, prayer beads, a statue upon which you focus. I believe it is beneficial and enhancing to your spiritual energy if you have some sort of item - clothing, jewelry, whatever - to augment the energy generated during practice. It need not be anything fancy, but it should be the same item, and should be used at all times during prayer, meditation, or other energy work. I think you will like the results!

Everyday Tao: Living with Balance and Harmony


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