The Book of Consciousness and Life

Translated by Richard Wilhelm
rendered into English by Cary F. Baynes

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.

2. The Six Periods of Circulation in Conformity with the Law

If one discerns the beginning of the Buddha's path,
There will be the blessed city of the West.
After the circulation in conformity with the law, there is a turn upward towards heaven when the breath is drawn in.
When the breath flows out energy is directed towards the earth.
One time-period consists of six intervals (hou).
In two intervals one gathers Moni (Sakyamuni).
The great Tao comes forth from the centre.
Do not seek the primordial seed outside!

The most marvellous effect of the Tao is the circulation in conformity with the law. What makes the movement inexhaustible is the path. What best regulates the speed are the rhythms (kuei). What best determines the number of the exercises is the method of the intervals (hou).

This presentation contains the whole law, and the true features of the Buddha from the West are contained in it. The secrets contained in it show how one gets control of the process by exhaling and inhaling, how the alternation between decrease and increase expresses itself in closing and opening, how one needs true thoughts in order not to deviate from the way, how firm delimitation of the regions makes it possible to begin and to stop at the right time.

I sacrifice myself and serve man, because I have presented fully this picture which reveals the heavenly seed completely, so that every layman and man of the world can reach it and so bring it to completion. He who lacks the right virtue may well find something in it, but heaven will not grant him his Tao. Why not? The right virtue belongs to the Tao as does one wing of a bird to the other: if one is lacking, the other is of no use. Therefore there is needed loyalty and reverence, humaneness and justice and strict adherence to the five commandments; then only does one have the prospect of attaining something.

But all the subtleties and secrets are offered in this Book of Consciousness and Life to be pondered and weighed, so that one can attain everything in its truth.

The drawing is intended to show the circulation of the streams of energy during the movement of breathing. Inhalation is accompanied by the sinking of the abdomen and exhalation by the lifting of it, but in these exercises the point is that we have a backward-flowing movement as follows: when inhaling, one opens the lower energy-gate and allows the energy to rise upward along the rear line of energy (in the spinal cord), and this upward flow corresponds to the time-intervals indicated in the drawing. In exhaling, the upper gate is closed and the stream of energy is allowed to flow downward along the front line, likewise in the order of the time-intervals indicated. Furthermore, it is to be noted that the stations for 'washing' and 'bathing' do not lie exactly in the middle of the lines, but that 'washing' is somewhat above and 'bathing' somewhat below the middle, as the drawing shows.

3. The Two Energy-Paths of Function and Control

There appears the way of the in-breathing and out-breathing of the primordial pass.
Do not forget the white path below the circulation in conformity with the law!
Always let the cave of eternal life be nourished through the fire!
Ah! Test the immortal place of the gleaming pearl!

In the text there is another picture here which is very similar to the first. It shows again the paths of energy: the one in front leads down and is called the function-path (jen), and the one at the back leading upwards is the control-path (tu).

This picture is really the same as the one that precedes it. The reason that I show it again is so that the person striving for cultivation of the Tao may know that there is in his own body a circulation in conformity with the law. I have furnished this picture in order to enlighten companions in search of the goal. When these two paths (the functioning and the controlling) can be brought into unbroken connection, then all energy-paths are joined. The deer sleeps with his nose on his tail in order to close his controlling energy-path. The crane and the tortoise close their functioning-paths. Hence these three animals become at least a thousand years old. How much further can a man go! A man who carries on the cultivation of the Tao, who sets in motion the circulation in conformity with the law, in order to let consciousness and life circulate, need not fear that he is not lengthening his life and is not completing his path.

4. The Embryo of the Tao

According to the law, but without exertion, one must diligently fill oneself with light.
Forgetting appearance, look within and help the true spiritual power!
Ten months the embryo is under fire.
After a year the washings and baths become warm.

This picture will be found in the original edition of the Leng-yen-ching. But the ignorant monks who did not recognize the hidden meaning and knew nothing about the embryo of the Tao have for this reason made the mistake of leaving this picture out. I only found out through the explanations of adepts that the Julai (Tathagata) knows real work on the embryo of the Tao. This embryo is nothing corporeally visible which might be completed by other beings, but is in reality the spiritual breath-energy of the ego. First the spirit must penetrate the breath-energy (the soul), then the breath-energy envelops the spirit. When spirit and breath-energy are firmly united and the thoughts quiet and immobile, this is described as the embryo. The breath-energy must crystallize; only then will the spirit become effective. Therefore it is said in the Leng-yen-ching: 'Take maternal care of the awakening and the answering.' The two energies nourish and strengthen one another. Therefore it is said: 'Daily growth takes place.' When the energy is strong enough and the embryo is round and complete it comes out of the top of the head. This is what is called: the completed appearance which comes forth as embryo and begets itself as the son of the Buddha.

5. The Birth of the Fruit

Outside the body there is a body called the Buddha image.
The thought which is powerful, the absence of thoughts, is Bodhi.
The thousand-petalled lotus flower opens, transformed through breath-energy.
Because of the crystallization of the spirit, a hundred-fold splendor shines forth.

In the Leng-yen-chou it is said: 'At that time the ruler of the world caused a hundredfold precious light to beam from his hair knots. In the midst of the light shone the thousand-petalled, precious lotus flower. And there within the flower sat a transformed Julai. And from the top of his head went ten rays of white, precious light, which were visible everywhere. The crowd looked up to the out-streaming light and the Julai announced: "The divine, magic mantra is the appearance of the light-spirit, therefore his name is Son of Buddha."

If a man does not receive the teaching about consciousness and life, but merely repeats meditation formulae stolidly and in solitude, how could there develop out of his own body the Julai, who sits and shines forth in the lotus flower and appears in his own spirit-body! Many say that the light-spirit is a minor teaching; but how can that which a man receives from the ruler of the world be a minor teaching? Herewith I have betrayed the deepest secret of the Leng-yen in order to teach disciples. He who receives this way rises at once to the dark secret and no longer becomes submerged in the dust of everyday life.

6. Concerning the Retention of the Transformed Body

Every thought takes shape and becomes visible in colour and form.
The total spiritual power unfolds its traces and transforms itself into emptiness.
Going out into being and going into non-being, one completes the miraculous Tao.
All separate shapes appear as bodies, united with a true source.

7. The Face Turned to the Wall

The shapes formed by the spirit-fire are only empty colours and forms.
The light of human nature [hsing] shines back on the primordial, the true.
The imprint of the heart floats in space; untarnished, the moonlight shines.
The boat of life has reached the shore; bright shines the sunlight.

8. Empty Infinity

Without beginning, without end,
Without past, without future.
A halo of light surrounds the world of the law.
We forget one another, quiet and pure, altogether powerful and empty.
The emptiness is irradiated by the light of the heart and of heaven.
The water of the sea is smooth and mirrors the moon in its surface.
The clouds disappear in blue space; the mountains shine clear.
Consciousness reverts to contemplation; the moon-disk rests alone.