Saturday, July 16, 2011

Li Daochun on the "Mysterious Barrier"


This short passage is translated from the Zhonghe ji (Anthology of Central Harmony), a work containing writings by Li Daochun, who was active at the end of the 13th century. The passage is part of a conversation between Li Daochun and one his disciples.

The scriptures on the Elixir say that the wonder of the practice essentially lies in the Mysterious Barrier (xuanguan). I don't know where exactly is the Mysterious Barrier.

Li Daochun said: The Mysterious Barrier is an utterly mysterious and wondrous function. How could it have a fixed position? If it is situated in the body, this is not correct. If it is separated from this body and is searched outside of it, this too is not correct. Those who are mired in the body situate it in the physical shape; those who are mired in the outward situate it in the external things. In any case, the Mysterious Barrier is the place where the Four Elements and the Five Agents do not cling.

(The Four Elements of Buddhism are Earth, Water, Fire, and Wind. The Five Agents of the Chinese tradition are Wood, Fire, Soil, Metal, and Water.)

3 comments:

  1. You probably mean the fourth out of the 36 questions of the Zhong he ji:

    或問:何謂玄關?
    曰:至玄至妙之機關也。初無定位,今人多指臍輪;或指頂門;或指印堂;或指兩腎中間;或指腎前臍後,已上皆是旁門。丹書云:玄關一竅不在四維上下,不在內外偏傍,亦不在當中,四大五行不著處是也。(Li Daochun, page 100)

    Translation

    Some ask: What is the mysterious pass?
    (Li Daochun) answers: (the (opening of the) mysterious pass) is the most mysterious and the utmost wonderful mechanism. The beginning has no fixed position. Today (in the Yuan-Dynasty) many (educated) people show in the direction of the navel area, some point at the space between the eyebrows, others associate the space between the two kidneys or between the kidney and the navel. The just mentioned (examples) are all side doors (= unimportant).
    An alchemical book*1 says: You cannot find the mysterious pass within the four directions, nor up or down, this pass is neither inside nor outside nor (leaned) to the one side or the other, nor in the middle. (The mysterious pass) doesn’t have an obvious place within the four Elements (of the Buddhists) nor the five (classical Chinese) Elements.

    There is a better explanation in the Zhong he ji on page 48 (in my next comment)
    Notes
    *1: probably: jindan sibai zi金丹四百字
    *2: not so sure about the translation of the two words偏傍

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  2. Thanks for your comment. There are several passages on the Mysterious Barrier in the "Zhonghe ji", slightly different from one another. Your translation is based on passage different from the one translated in my original post. (The "Zhonghe ji" was not written directly by Li Daochun, but was compiled by his disciples, and this is probably the reason of the multiple passages on this subject.)

    Please note that "side doors" (pangmen 偏傍) refers to something more than simply "unimportant". Many Neidan authors, including Li Daochun himself, use this term to mean methods that do not grant complete realization.

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