The State of Tien Li (Principle of Heaven) claimed by Chu Hsi and the State of Tien Tao (Tao of Heaven) by Wang Yang-Ming

by Michael Chung

Sung and Ming dynasty philosophers and practitioners used the term "tien li" to describe a state in which one is like a mirror searching in the hidden recesses of our mind for three things: problems, the truth of life and the universe. There is an external universal tien li and a hidden internal tien li in every person. We use the external tien li to locate the internal tien li in our body which will lead us to the truth between man and nature (everything outside of man), ourself and life.

Tien li is a tool like a mirror that may be placed inside or outside our mind to rationalize or justify our behavior and thoughts according to the universal moral standard (on the universal moral standard) in order to perfect ourselves. When we use tien li in this manner, we depend much more on our methods of thinking as we control how our mind works. Another, more holistic method of using tien li uses exhaustive physical and mental efforts to elicit and encounter experiences (a baptism by fire so to speak) to achieve a practical recognition of wisdom and life.

Tien li practitioners who rely on the thinking method tend to prefer the practice of sitting meditation as their path into the kingdom of eternity and truth because sitting meditation provides more "rooms" [illusions] in which they can think and feel, and so they have more to discuss with other practitioners. This is akin to modern people depending on psychedelic drugs to reach paradise, another dimension or other forms of life. These phenomena are sensational and theoretical, appearing like a movie or a spectacle with visions or spectrums of light viewed by people from a distance: a vicarious experience or a projection of our mind that is fleeting, which we cannot replicate in our lives unassisted by drugs. Examples of tien li practitioners who used their minds (relied on the thinking method) are the philosopher Chu Hsi and his followers. They spent half a day reading books and half a day in sitting meditation to gain mystical experiences, a combination which increased their thoughts and feelings toward life and the universe. We can see, however, that such inner experience practice yields resources from a mental aspect which cannot let us understand true reality, cannot let us achieve the wisdom of enlightenment, and does not develop our basic potential (yuan chi, the fundamental energy of life.)

The way Chu Hsi and his followers easily entered into a state of trance or universe traveling was way like projecting their thoughts and themselves into a movie which provides a much bigger sensory forces. This in opposition to other practioners who have the ability of distance transmission of forces and who can distinguish between truth and falseness: they practice entering into the real stream or dimension of forces. In other words, Chu Hsi and his followers' practice is something we find in some popular new religions or sects like some new age religions, the Order of the Solar Temple, Heaven's Gate, Summa Ching Hai, and God Save the World from UFO. These practices involve too much of the mental and spiritual sides in a negative way because they just make use of the imagination and illusions provided by the interaction of our subconsciousness, super consciousness, and external stimuli instead of developing your own inner forces. These inner forces enable us to open up our mind and enlighten ourselves as well as to store adequate energy to link externally with the frequencies without interference from any other internal reflections (thoughts and feelings) or external stimuli. This is a negative way because practitioners just receive and reflect forces: we do not create or generate forces. A positive way, on the other hand, is one in which you receive and reflect forces as well as store, manipulate and balance forces so you can generate forces. Positive forces are also needed for transforming forces).

In this way, it is very important to develop a positive type of practice by combining both the negative and the positive forces to create balanced and perfect forces. Wang Yang-ming, a noted philosopher of the Sung Ming philosophy school, established the Yang-ming school and theory to encourage people to develop their own conscience as a good force. His theory, drawing on Mencius before him, requires one to have enough training and practice through hardship. One seriously has to train himself first physically in order to strengthen his inner (muscle, organ, mental, coordination, and will power) power and mental power at the same time. That is why Mencius said that when you are ready to perfect yourself you should first start to strengthen your body and then learn through bitterness and frustration. Strengthening the body includes the yin skeleton (yang: internal organs) and yin tendons (yang: muscles). Learning through frustration includes physical disruptions and environmental distractions which disrupt your concentration as you search for the absolute obedience of yourself which will reveal your real self. This will allow you to keep your balance and patience despite physical and metaphysical sufferings, thus promoting your capacity in fighting (deflecting) against internal and external problems. Mencius' way of practice to perfect ourself is a good way to develop our own conscience through the training of the way towards being a superior man as Wang Yang-ming stressed in his theory of combining the universe of human beings and nature. Wang Yang-ming provided another holistic type of practice which covers both the yin and yang operations that is much more complete than the way of purely meditative type of training by Chu Hsi and his followers.

Although Wang's practice differs from the purely meditative type of practice, however, his practice fits in exactly the trio of ancient Confucian self-perfection, ancient Shaolin Buddhist chi practice and the study of Buddhist scripture. The ancient Confucian type of perfecting oneself through the holistic type of practice required the study of li (ritual), yueh (music), shi (archery), yu (horsemanship), shih (poetry), and shu (study of the I ching and other calculations). The ancient Shaolin Buddhist type of practice leads to perfecting one's chi and mental attitude. Study of the Buddhist scriptures perfects the mind and spirit.

In this way, we may see how Wang Yang-ming successfully created his theory and practice of developing one's conscience in the complete sense with the support of perfecting one's self through learning and assimilation with the implication of the changes of the universe, heaven and earth. From nature we understand that all construction comes from destruction and all creation comes from accumulation. Construction refers to a non-holistic process under development (e.g. growing up), and creation refers to a more holistic and balanced phenomena (e.g. something fully formed like giving birth to a child. The ancient Confucians, Shaolin Buddhist and Taoists all insisted in the practice which first begins with the hardship training of our self (ego) to achieve a perfect body and mind as a foundation.

Wang Yang-Ming was a military general who had made many contributions to the coutnry and the academic community. Because of these he narrowly escaped execution after he had offended the emperor. His subsequent demotion and change in circumstances afforded him the free time to refine his own practice. His daily practice followed the ancient form of martial arts, the foundation of which was the training of inner energy (something like neikung or the internal training of organs and meridians of the whole body. Our fundamental level of chikung was started by the Taoists in the first level of training to reach immortality which focused in the purification of our endocrine and hormone systems to generate a higher type of energy in our body and mind.) As a military man, Wang had endured the intensively rigorous traditional Chinese physical training which stressed the importance of strengthening the internal organs, external muscles and skeleton thus strengthening and highlighting the yuan chi (original chi) while balancing the mind and spirit at the same time. Because of this, Wang was able to enter in a state of complete harmony which combines the practice of yang (fire) operation and yin (water) operation together rather than the pure meditation (yin) way espoused by Chu Hsi and his followers.

Wang's practice was both extensive and balanced. He usually started the yang type (fire) inner and external combination movements with meditation early in the morning, studied books and made plans later in the morning, and worked out with more purely external physical training in the afternoon. At night he worked on inner strength training and meditation followed by an intuitive review of conscience and enlightenment training exercises before going to bed.

It is because Wang's practice had a lot of balanced training for his mental and spiritual sides through chi that he was able to find solutions and problems much easier and clearer than other people. Those people had just received pure meditation training which focuses much on the upper dantien (the brainwave system) that could easily lead to a hyper mental state when we are in a meditative or silent state because we have a lot of excessive or unbalanced energy which will operate automatically when our mind is forced to remain silent but the energy within our body is still active and affects our mind.

So we can see the importance of following a balanced practice. The pure meditative type of practice and the highly sensational type of movement chikung which are popular today are not balanced. They will probably lead to an imbalance in our training of perfection and create some other types of problems like deviations or malfunctions in our metabolic and circulatory systems.

Chi Kung Culture Society of TAIPEI