One of the first spiritual books I was really drawn in by was this one. It is Eva Wong’s translation of a lesser known Taoist text, discounted by some because of it’s indiscriminate references to three religions of China: Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism. It is still as arcane as many of the more esoteric Texts in Taoism, but relates the alchemical practices conceptually.
One of the main reasons many from the Taoist tradition have not fully appreciated this book is, besides its joining of the supposedly adverse philosophies of China, is its reference to reincarnation. Reincarnation in itself is not an distasteful idea for Taoists, but what is assumed along with it: a law to which individuals are accountable. I think that Taoism is a refuge for many people because of its rejection of arbitrary standards, abstract rules and pointless regulations. Morality in thought of as an unnecessary mental fetter which impedes the natural function of life.
But what is not considered by many Taoists who reject this concept is what the unenlightened state is. As Supreme Master Ching Hai says, “we practice hard only to reach the point of relaxation”. Many Taoists read and philosophise about the this relaxation as if it is readily available to all. They accept their mind as a given, and proclaim enlightenment to be the acceptance of one’s self, faults and all. This idea comes as a result of not knowing about the higher reality beyond the mind, and also acts as a defense for the mind in rejecting philosophies which include the higher things, which, as a part of egoistic creation, it can never be part of.
This was also my only major complaint with this book. I liked the talk on desire and craving, but did not at the time have any idea how deeply rooted these things were. I wondered why they were impossible to eliminate, even with much effort. However, years later, I did what the book suggests, I approached a person who I considered to be enlightened, and requested to receive the nonverbal teaching superior to all books. I now understand Cultivating Stillness much better, and go back to read it sometimes for inspiration, if I can’t work myself up to meditate any other way. It helps!
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