Thursday, 23 April 2009

The Elemental Energies of the Universe

The above is a very standard Taoist diagram on the birth of the eight trigrams, which define the famous Ba Gua of Chinese culture, and is integral to Feng Shui as well. It strikes me that there is a relationship between this energy map and the Buddhist one. I'll do brief descriptions as I talk about this, but be forewarned that this goes into some fairly involved theory:

1. The circle is Wu Ji, the originating principle. This could be called the mother principle or feminine principle in Buddhism. It is the basic emptiness space from which all arises. There is no origin and there is no destination. It disappears to whence it came.

2. The Yin and Yang will be familiar to most people. They are the active and passive principles arising by differentiation out of the emptiness. By interaction, they create the yin-yang symbol, which at first glance is a dual principle. On second thought, though, it may also be considered to be a triple principle - the third being interaction. If you do this, then you have an understanding of what it means when it is said "The One goes to the Two, the Two goes to the Three..." The "Three" is an interesting one. Some people consider it the unity of Wu Ji and Yin-Yang. Master Chunyi Lin believes that the third is consciousness. It could also be the harmony principle in the Gunas in Hindu theory. In that case, the third would be the Rajas Guna - the preservation and harmony principle. The Guna theory is important because it is also a view on manifestation.

3. The third level of energy manifestation are the Si Xiang - the four forms of energy when you add an intermixing of the yin-yang principles. This was the thing that struck me. It has a very interesting parallel to the Buddhist "Four Enlightened Activities" of pacifying, magnetising, enriching and cutting. This is new territory, as far as I am aware, so I will continue with the warning that this is speculative, but possibly insightful.

(a) I would assign the pacifying nature to Tai Yin - the grand pure yin. The pacifying nature of enlightened activity has to do, I believe (again I stress I am not a Buddhist authority) with the yin energy of surrender. When the mind and conscious awareness submerges itself towards the nature of the Feminine Principle, it releases the holding to form. Thus, the identity ego-hold on form begins to disappear, and thus the attachment. With this, obstacles are "pacified".

(b) The cutting nature is the opposite. It is assigned to Tai Yang. This has a very "hard" edge to it. Where pacifying has to do with the emotional surrender, cutting has to do with wisdom insight. It is the inquiry of thoughts which hinder and hold, forming lumps of awareness and obscuring the individual from seeing enlightenment. There is a discipline to this that is unlike the pacifying nature. Where the pacifying nature is the commitment to enter into the fear and pain of emotion against one's instinct, the cutting nature is like a diamond, revealing the irrationality of thoughts that we unconsciously hold to. Thus, with this, the root of thought is "cut".

(c) I would assign the magnetising principle to Shao Yang. This is the principle which has feminine root, but a very light hint of the yang energy of intent in it. This is the method of directing the pacified conscious awareness through the emptiness that is the Wu Ji. At this level, the individual isn't exactly sitting at the enlightenment level necessarily (although I believe that is possible), but may just be skating very close to the core. Having pacified or cut through the obstacles, the nature of experience may now be changed by a very small hint of intention. See my previous post on faith and mustard seeds.

(d) The enriching principle is the abiding principle, I think. The magnetising principle is the initial attraction. The enriching principle is when a sense of rooting into a certain energy has occurred. This allows the individual to abide, whilst still holding an openness to energy transformation, symbolised by the yin upper line. This is Shao Yin.

4. When viewed against this background, we see that we can take the interpretation closer, much closer, to physical reality. This is not to imply Buddhist theory is incomplete - not by any means. However, whereas Buddhism looks closer towards the emptiness of nature (the shunyata principle), Taoism studies also the phenomenic levels in detail.

We see eight forms of expression of the four enlightened activities. Of course the ba gua also encompasses non-enlightened activity, but this gives a really interesting equivalent. Actually, even as I speak, I wonder if it may be linked to the Noble Eightfold Path.

I do not want to go into this in detail before pondering it further, but as an initial suggestion I would make the following connections, and leave the Taoist-Buddhists to figure out why (I rather suspect I've lost the rest of the audience by this point):

Qian - Right Action
Dui - Right Speech
Li -Right Intention
Zhen - Right Effort
Xun - Right View
Kan - Right Concentration
Gen - Right Livelihood
Kun - Right Mindfulness

We'll leave it at that.

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