The Primordial Spirit and the Discriminating Spirit / 元神、识神


From the point of view of the universe, people are like mayflies; but from the point of view of the Way, the universe too is just like a bubble and a shadow. Only the primordial spirit or the true essence is beyond time and space.

天地视人如蜉蝣,大道视天地亦泡影。惟元神真性,则超元全而上之。

Vitality and energy degenerate along with the universe, but the primordial spirit always exists; this is the infinite. The creation of all universes is derived from this. If practitioners learn to guard and protect the primordial spirit, they live transcendentally outside of yin and yang, beyond the three realms.

其精气则随天地而败坏矣。然有元神在,即无极也。生天生地皆由此矣。学人但能守护元神,则超生在阴阳之外,不在三界之中。

This is possible only by seeing essence. This is what is called the original face.

此惟见性方可,所谓本来面目也。

When human being gets reborn, the primordial spirit presides above at the square inch (between the eyes), while the discriminating spirit dwells under in the heart. The heart of blood and flesh has the shape of a large peach, covered by the wings of the lungs, supported by the liver, and held up by the bowels. If one goes without eating for a day, the heart will feel uncomfortable. Easily, the heart gets startled hearing something terrifying, gets mad hearing something outrageous, feels sad seeing death, and feels giddy seeing beauty. While the heavenly mind in the head, does it ever flicker even slightly? You ask, how can the heavenly mind not move? I say, how can the true essence in the square inch move? If it really does move, that can be either the worst of sign or the best of sign – it’s worst if it moves when ordinary men die; it’s the most wondrous when the light has crystalized in a Dharma body, gradually becoming consciously effective, and about to move into action. This is the secret that has not yet been transmitted through the ages.

凡人投胎时,元神居方寸,而识神则居下心。下面血肉心,形如大桃,有肺以覆翼之,肝佐之,大小肠承之,假如一曰不食,心上便大不自在,至闻惊而跳,闻怒而闷,见死亡则悲,见美色则眩,头上天心何尝微微些动也。问天心不能动乎?方寸中之真意,如何能动。到动时便不妙,然亦最妙,凡人死时方动,此为不妙;最妙者,光已凝结为法身,渐渐灵通欲动矣,此千古不传之秘也。

The discriminating mind is like an unruly vassal or rebellious general, who takes the liberty of making his own laws and ruling from a distance, because the king is weak and feeble. Eventually, the state affairs turn upside down as time passes.

下识心,如强藩悍将,欺天君暗弱,便遥执纪纲,久之太阿倒置矣。

Now steadily we focus our attention on the primordial palace, like a brilliant emperor presiding over the kingdom, turning the light around to look back. This is like having two great ministers assisting wholeheartedly, from both the left and right. Once the internal affairs are in order, naturally all rebels are subdued and tamed.

今凝守元宫,如英明之主在上,二目回光,如左有大臣尽心辅弼,内政既肃,自然一切奸雄,无不倒戈乞命矣。

The highest secrets of the Way consist of three essentials: the water of vitality, the fire of spirit, and the earth of attention. What is the water of vitality? It is the primordial energy. The fire of spirit is the illuminating light. The earth of attention is the heart of the center palace, the heavenly mind. The fire of spirit is the function, the earth of attention the essence, and the water of vitality the foundation.

丹道,以精水、神火、意土三者,为无上之诀。精水云何?乃先天真一之炁,神火即光也,意土即中宫天心也。以神火为用,意土为体,精水为基。

Ordinary people function through compulsive thinking; their body is enslaved to their discriminating mind. The body is not only the seven-foot physical body, but also the lower soul residing therein. The lower soul functions in association with discriminating consciousness, and discriminating consciousness in accord with the lower soul. The lower soul is yin; it is the substance of discriminating mind. If the mind keeps making discriminations, then the transformation and transmutation of the lower soul go on endlessly, from lifetime to lifetime. Then there is the higher soul, which is where the primordial spirit is concealed. The higher soul resides in the eyes during the day, and lodges in the liver at night. When it resides in the eyes, it sees; when it lodges in the liver, it dreams.

凡人以意生身,身不止七尺者为身也。盖身中有魄焉,魄附识而用,识依魄而生。魄阴也,识之体也,识不断,则生生世世,魄之变形易质无已也。 惟有魂,神之所藏也。魂昼寓于目,夜舍于肝,寓目而视,舍肝而梦。

Dreams are the roaming of the spirit. It can traverse the nine heavens and nine earths in an instant. If you remain in a sleepy and dreamy state, you are clinging to the body and detained by the lower soul. So turning the light around is to cease the discriminating mind and rest the lower soul, a means of strengthening the primordial spirit and refining the higher soul.

梦者神游也,九天九地,刹那历遍。觉则冥冥焉,渊渊焉,拘于形也,即拘于魄也。 故回光所以炼魂,即所以保神,即所以制魄,即所以断识。

The ancients’ method of transcending the material world, is a matter of refining away the dregs of yin and restoring the pure light, in other words, abolishing the lower soul and completing the higher soul. Turning the light around is the secret of dissolving yin and disbanding the lower soul. The secret of turning the light around is the only way to bring us back to the primordial energy. The light is the trigram Qian ☰ (also the first hexagram of the I Ching, meaning Creative or Heaven; the trigram Qian contains three lines of pure yang and the hexagram Qian contains six lines of pure yang, signifying that the stages of spiritual growth unfold in a sequence, from vague to clear, from one yang to gradually reach the wholeness of six yangs; the wise man is mindful at every moment and eventually uses the six yangs as if they were six dragons on which he mounts to heaven).

古人出世法,炼尽阴滓,以返纯乾,不过消魄全魂耳。回光者,消阴制魄之诀也,虽无返乾之功,止有回光之诀,光即乾也,

To turn the light around is to return to it. Just persist in this method, and naturally the water of vitality will be full, the fire of spirit will ignite, the earth of attention will stabilize, and thus the holy embryo of wisdom, the Elixir of Life, the Golden Flower, can be solidified.

回之即返之也。只守此法,自然精水充足,神火发生,意土凝定,而圣胎可结矣。

A dung beetle rolls a pill of dung, from which life emerges, by the pure effort of concentration of spirit. If life can come from a dung ball, then where my primordial spirit resides, if I concentrate upon it and instill energy into it, how could it not be possible to cultivate life?

蜣螂转丸,而丸中生白,神注之纯功也。粪丸中尚可生胎离壳,而吾天心休息处,注神于此,安得不生身乎。

Once the spirit has descended into the chamber of the creative, it divides into higher and lower souls. The higher soul presides in the heavenly mind. It is yang energy, which is light and clear, identical in essence with the origin, the primordial spirit, coming from cosmic space, the great emptiness. The lower soul is yin energy, which is murky and unclear, in bondage to the heart of form, the discriminating mind that has clinging and attachment.

一灵真性,既落乾宫。便分魂魄。魂在天心,阳也,轻清之气也,此自太虚得来,与元始同形。魄阴也,沉浊之气也,附于有形之凡心。

The higher soul is for living, while the lower soul is prone to death. All desires and pursuits are the doing of the lower soul, the discriminating spirit. After death it feeds on blood, in life it suffers greatly. It is yin returning to yin, under the spell of the Law of Attraction. Once the practitioner refines the yin energy completely, it becomes pure light.

魂好生,魄望死。一切好色动气皆魄之所为,即识神也。死后享血食,活则大苦,阴返阴也。物以类聚也。学人炼尽阴魄,即为纯阳也