The Secret of the Golden Flower (太乙金華宗旨), is a Chinese classic about meditation, a comprehensive instruction manual that offers practical techniques and essential tips for practitioners of all levels. Meditation is an alchemy practice, a firing process to realize the elixir of life, the only way possible for us to reunite with our original light and pure essence – the Golden Flower. For many people, meditation can seem unworkable, leading only to a lifetime of sporadic and fruitless attempts. Now with this book’s directions at hand, we can afford to feel hopeful that great concentration and perfect liberation are within our reach.
(On a side note, the book uses the imagery of golden flower to help us relate to a certain central experience – that ineffable experience of inner enlightenment, which only arises in deep meditation. But as we know, ‘Names are just names’, so the golden flower may as well be called the Buddha nature, or the hidden essence, the primordial Buddha, the eternal light, the original spirit, God, the Great Way, the true self …)
The purpose of meditation is to free the mind from the confinement of conceptual distinctions and discriminations, to free the mind from the ensnarement of endless distractions, and to free the mind from its habitual entanglement with all those perpetual manifestations of delusion we see in the world. Ultimately, meditation empowers our mind not only to cease being a prisoner, but also to become a creator of its eternal life force.
The beauty of the Golden Flower is that it is NOT an exclusive Heaven; it is approachable for people of all religions, or with no religion at all. Practicing meditation and realizing the Golden Flower do not require people to change beliefs; on the contrary, the process actually strengthens your connection with your own spiritual haven.
The English translation I share here is an integrated version, consolidating the best elements of Richard Wilhelm’s original translation, Thomas Cleary’s later version, as well as the wonderful version presented on this inspiring site – The Secret of the Golden Flower, which I so gratefully happened to come across. By learning from those different sources, hopefully, the translation concluded here would be accurate and therefore helpful:
Chapter 1: Heavenly Mind / 天心
Chapter 2: The Primordial Spirit and the Discriminating Spirit / 元神、识神
Chapter 3: Turning Around the Light and Keeping It to the Center / 回光守中
Chapter 4: Turning Around the Light and Tuning the Breathing / 回光调息
Chapter 5: Errors in Turning Around the Light / 回光差谬
Chapter 6: Signs of Verification of Turning Around the Light / 回光证验
Chapter 7: The Living Method of Turning Around the Light / 回光活法
Chapter 8: The Secret of Freedom / 逍遥诀
Chapter 9: Setting Up the Foundation in a Hundred Days / 百曰筑基
Chapter 10: The Light of Essence and the Light of Discriminating Awareness / 性光识光
Chapter 11: The Intercourse of Water and Fire / 坎离交媾
Chapter 12: The Heavenly Cycle / 周天
Chapter 13: A Song to Inspire the World / 劝世歌
(The original Chinese texts are incorporated into each chapter.)
“If, as in a dream, you see a light brighter than the sun, your remaining attachments will suddenly come to an end and the nature of reality will be revealed. Such an occurrence serves as the basis for enlightenment. But this is something only you know. You can’t explain it to others.
Or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in a quiet grove, you see a light, regardless of whether it’s bright or dim, don’t tell others and don’t focus on it. It’s the light of your own nature.
Or if, while you’re walking, standing, sitting, or lying in the stillness and darkness of night, everything appears as though in daylight, don’t be startled. It’s your own mind about to reveal itself.
Or if, while you’re dreaming at night, you see the moon and stars in all their clarity, it means the workings of your mind are about to end. But don’t tell others.”
~ Bodhidharma ~