The Tao of Longevity by Li Qingyun

li qingyun Oct 25, 2022

Translated from An Authoritative and Genuine Record of a 250-Year Old Man ( , Er Bai Wu Shi Sui Ren Rui Shi Ji), Compiled by Yang Sen and Wang Cheng Sheng.  

© 2012 by Stuart Alve Olson. All rights reserved.

 To speak about lengthening a person’s life, you must first have an adequate understanding of these ten principles so that the subtleties can be grasped. After this, the means for longevity can be spoken of, which include the method for driving away disease in order to prolong life, the secrets of reverting old age, and the method for restoring youthfulness. All of these are interconnected.

1) Seated Contemplation: To simply put the body into a dignified posture with the eyes shut is not the true way of meditation. Nevertheless, meditation in this manner should still be performed twice daily, during two of the six two-hour periods (between 11 p.m.—1 a.m. and 11 a.m.—1 p.m.). Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, the mind must be as still as a mountain, unmovable and unswayable. The Six Roots (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and perception) must be prevented from escaping out and the Seven Passions (joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hatred, and lust) must not enter within so as not to disturb the mind. It is said: If wealthy and noble, act according to your position and be without arrogance. If poor and of low standing, act according to your station and do not engage in flattery.

There should be no experience in life that is not met with calmness, and there should be no situation in which you are not at ease. When you can be like this, then there is no need to sit absorbed in a state of Chan nor to enter samadhi, because at this point you are already a living Buddha or immortal.

2) Settling the Mind: This means that the mind becomes so deep and unmoving, so obscure and abstruse, that not even the ten-thousand things appear. The mind is so mysterious and profound that the internal is not distinguishable from the external, nor can the minutest desire or thought be produced. This is true samadhi, not necessarily the settling of just the mind.

The mind, however, moves about quickly, hither and thither, with many thoughts and desires. From above and below things are sought, even in absolute silence you hear and see things. With these innumerable illusions appearing before you, the result is that the mind deteriorates and your virtue is injured. You cannot but want to settle your mind!

3) Refining Your Nature: When adjusting the tuning mounts on a lute, you must be careful not to turn them too rapidly; otherwise, the string can be snapped. If you go too slowly, the proper note cannot be found. The string must be wound tightly yet gradually if the right pitch is to be obtained.

This is similar to casting metal in order make a sword. Steel is easily broken and iron is easily warped. Iron and steel combined can produce a strong and sharp sword. This kind of alchemical excellence must be duplicated when refining your true nature (to become a Buddha or immortal). So it is then best to always be compassionate and to transfer all your virtue and merit. This is the way of refining your nature!

4) Transcending the Realms: There are three realms in the world of existences—desire realm, form realm, and formless realm. When becoming entirely unmindful of selfish desires, you transcend the realm of desire. Being unmindful of sensual pleasures you transcend the realm of form. When voidness is realized, you transcend the realm of formlessness. Transcending these three realms results in the eradication of suffering and you will be far apart from the evil influences of mara.

5) Being Sincere and Reverent: This is the very foundation of the Dao. It is said that it is best to just master one thing and not go off on to many other things. Sincerity means to be absolutely without doubt. This is called bringing forth the genuine and not the false aspects of your true nature. Those who are able to maintain reverent sincerity are sages, immortals, and Buddhas.

Confucius said, “Reverent sincerity is brought forth from benevolence for the people and from cultivating friendships with good people.” Even sages set this principle to work.

6) Cutting Off Affinities: This means to cut off defiling causes and conditions of affinities. If defilements are not cut off, the mind will become extremely dull and all forms of wisdom will be obscured.

The layman’s mind is incapable of disassociating itself from thoughts of either purity or defilement, or gain or loss. To eradicate these, you must bring about thoughts of skillful means, yet even these must eventually be eradicated.

In all our various activities and undertakings we seek to profit and to keep with the times and trends. Therefore, from this type of behavior we become confused and disturbed. The causes and conditions of these defilements can, in a short time, find tranquility and the spirit can likewise be concentrated. Most people wait until nearly reaching the end of their years before shunning these defilements and affinities. The ancients said, “Renounce all concerns for the physical pleasures of the body and it will no longer suffer. Non-action (wu wei) will make the mind naturally tranquil. Do not disclose your virtue or skills. Uncover your true nature and don’t hinder others from doing the same.”

Altogether, the desires either for purity or defilement, or gain or loss, should not bring about attachment within your thinking. Likewise, the matters of birth and death, old age, and sickness should not be entangled within your mind. In summation, to do defiled things causes injury to your true nature. The ancients cultivated the methods of longevity according to these principles.

7) Controlling Your Thoughts: This will result in the immediate advancement of a further step towards immortality, making you master over your body and mind. Your entire spirit will become more yielding and you will be purified, bringing about wisdom. But if your mind is moved by desires you’ll only bring forth obscurity and ignorance.

Human desire is all confused, much like a dreamland — taking reality as fact and illusion as reality. Those who are attached to these illusions only stain themselves and do not acquire the merits of purification and reform. Therefore, to conceal desire internally is to hide the sun of profound wisdom. When embarking on the Dao, you must heal yourself by ridding the mind of defiled desires. You must be capable of daily reform and renewal, escaping from the circumstances of the red-dust world. Be as pure and empty as a cavern and do not attach yourself to any one thing. Unite your mind with Tao, which is called returning to the source. Once having returned to the source, you will never depart from it. This is called being absorbed in tranquility. Once having returned to the source and being absorbed in tranquility, it will follow that the mind will become peaceful and function naturally. Within, there will be emptiness and the mind will be nowhere attached externally. This is wu wei (non-action). Neither defilement nor purity, nor slander or praise will bring about disturbance. Neither wisdom nor ignorance, nor benefit or loss, nothing will be sought after. Be among those who observe propriety and be ordinary and reverent in your conduct. Allow both misfortune and fortune to come and go naturally. This is the foremost way for attaining true wisdom.

The mind is no different from the eyes, because if fine particles of debris were to enter them, irritation results. The mind is also like this. Entangled by even small trivial matters, it becomes disturbed, agitated, and unsettled. The affliction is often very subtle and difficult to detect.

It is best to adhere to these basic principles to regulate your conduct. Remain unmoved when observing and experiencing the natural order of things and the changes of phenomena. Simply experience life and make peace with it. This is self-realization and tranquility.

It is as though you were unaware of night and daytime. Whether walking, standing, sitting, or lying down, the proper deportment must be maintained in all affairs — the mind then can be tranquil. The mind must be as if in samadhi, where moment-to-moment tranquility is maintained. Without this, affliction will result. Even with small attainments of samadhi, you can find peace. Gradually, the mind will become evermore controllable, evermore clear and removed from defilements. This is the true way of controlling the thoughts.

8) Simplifying Daily Activities: It is said that it is incorrect to seek things beyond your ordinary daily activities. To do so is like placing delicacies within simple nourishing food, making all your garments from silk alone, or adding gold and jade to an already abundant treasure. These are but extras to your lot and are only meant for mere enjoyment. They do nothing more than confuse the mind and spirit, so it is best to avoid such things. The chief purpose of simplifying your daily activities is to avoid confusing the mind and spirit, nothing more.

9) Maintaining Proper Views: Each time we sleep and each time we eat there is an increase and decrease. So it is with each word and action there follows fortune and misfortune. Being able to foresee the causes of these, error can be nipped in the bud and thus eradicated from your life.

If you are unable to dispense with the idea of your existence, if you cannot put this down, you must then humbly seek out the instruction of a competent teacher. Also, pay no attention to the obstacles created by the mind, nor think that perplexities are developed through some mental defect. The eradication of these afflictions has nothing to do with anything other than simply ending carnal passions. Know that excessive lust for form and beauty are brought forth only through thoughts. Hence, if these thoughts are not produced then the matters concerning form and beauty will be extinguished. Form is nothing but emptiness, and thoughts are only deceptions. The mind should be fixed solidly as ice, otherwise how could life’s affairs be dropped? We must use our intuition to foresee these deceptions in advance. Then we will not suffer so needlessly. It is said, in order to observe the truth of something, the wise man uses his intuitive perception.

10) Entering Tranquility: This is to go beyond the worldly dust and arrive at the final stage. When cultivating the fundamental principles of Tao, we can reach the origin of things successfully through tranquility. By nourishing this tranquility all affairs can be concluded.

The body should be like dried wood, and the mind like cold ashes.

To be without thoughts is samadhi, wherein the mind is in absolute and fixed concentration. An ancient hymn called this “being absorbed in tranquility.”

The mind has the capacity for undertaking the necessary work for cultivating the Dao, and practicing the Tao brings forth a state of ultimate tranquility and the realization of wisdom. The wisdom is inherent, born within the original nature, yet existing nowhere. The ancients called this divine light because the mind is muddled and dim, but the tranquil mind is illuminated. Wisdom is light, but knowledge is considered a hindrance to samadhi. Bringing forth this wisdom is not difficult. Those who conceive it as difficult cultivate in vain.

Many are those who since ancient times have achieved the state of mind of being unmindful of the body. Few can achieve the state of being unmindful of the self. The wisdom obtained from just being unmindful of the body is not very useful, because true wisdom comes from being unmindful of the self. Zhuang Zi said, “Nourish wisdom with tranquility, but do not seek to just use the wisdom — tranquility will then be nourished by that wisdom. Therefore, wisdom and tranquility nourish each other.”

The self can then be regulated and brought into harmony with its realization of true nature. Tranquility and wisdom produce samadhi and prajna. This harmonizing and regulating is the work of cultivating virtue. With tranquility there will be peace. Otherwise, the wisdom you attain will have no value. The Dao is complete when virtue is perfected.

Knowing these ten paths and thoroughly investigating the mysteries of them will result in longevity. Then the eternal realms of the immortals become evermore accessible.



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