“Gathering the light” — an illustration of the first stage of meditation
1. Cessation of Outflowing
If thou wouldst complete the diamond body with no outflowing.
Diligently heat the roots of consciousness and life.
Kindle light in the blessed country ever close at hand,
And there hidden, let thy true self always dwell.
The illustration found here in the Chinese text shows the body of a man. In the middle of the lower half of the body is drawn a germ cell by which the gateway of life is separated from the gateway of consciousness. In between, leading to the outside world, is the canal through which the vital fluids flow out.
The subtlest secret of the Tao is human nature and life (hsing-ming). There is no better way of cultivating human nature and life than to bring both back to unity. The holy men of ancient times, and the great sages, set forth their thoughts about unification of human nature and life by means of images from the external world; they were reluctant to speak of it openly without allegories. Therefore the secret of how to cultivate both simultaneously was lost on earth. What I show through a series of images is not a frivolous giving away of secrets. On the contrary, because I combined the notes of the Leng-yen-ching on the cessation of outflowing and the secret thoughts of Hua-yen-ching with occasional references to the other sutras, in order to summarize them in this true picture, it can be understood that consciousness and life are not anything external to the germinal vesicle. I have drawn this picture so that companions pursuing the divine workings of the dual cultivation may know that in this way the true seed matures, that in this way the cessation of outflowing is brought about, that in this way the sheli is melted out, that in this way the great Tao is completed.
But the germinal vesicle is an invisible cavern; it has neither form nor image. When the vital breath stirs, the seed of this vesicle comes into being; when it ceases it disappears again. It is the place which harbours the truth, the altar upon which consciousness and life are made. It is called the dragon castle at the bottom of the sea, the boundary region of the snow mountains, the primordial pass, the kingdom of greatest joy, the boundless country. All these different names mean this germinal vesicle. If a dying man does not know this germinal vesicle, he will not find the unity of consciousness and life in a thousand births, not in ten thousand aeons.
This germinal point is something great. Before this our body is born of our parents, at the time of conception, this seed is first created and human nature and life dwell therein. The two are intermingled and form a unity, inseparably mixed like the sparks in the refining furnace, a combination of primordial harmony and divine law. Therefore it is said: ‘In the state before the appearance there is an inexhaustible breath.’ Furthermore it is said: ‘Before the parents have begotten the child, the breath of life is complete and the embryo perfect.’ But when the embryo moves and the embryo vesicle is torn, it is as if a man lost his footing on a high mountain: with a cry the man plunges down to earth, and from then on human nature and life are divided. From this moment human nature can no longer see life nor life human nature. And now fate takes its course: youth passes over into maturity, maturity into old age, and old age into woe.
Therefore the Julai, in his great compassion, let the secret making and melting be known. He teaches one to re-enter the womb and create anew the human nature and life of the ego; he shows how spirit and soul (vital breath) enter the germinal vesicle, how they must combine to become a unity in order to complete the true fruit, just as the sperm and soul of father and mother entered this germinal vesicle and united as one being in order to complete the embryo. The principle is the same.
Within the germinal vesicle is the fire of the ruler; at the entrance of the germinal vesicle is the fire of the minister; in the whole body, the fire of the people. When the fire of the ruler expresses itself it is received by the fire of the minister. When the fire of the minister moves, the fire of the people follows him. When the three fires express themselves in this order a man develops. But when the three fires return in reverse order the Tao develops.
This is the reason that all the sages began their work at the germinal vesicle in which outflowing had ceased. If one does not establish this path, but sets up other things, it is of no avail. Therefore all the schools and sects which do not know that the ruling principle of consciousness and life is in this germinal vesicle, and which therefore seek it in the outer world, can accomplish nothing despite all their efforts to find it outside.