UNITY OF HEAVEN-MAN-EARTH (天人合一)

Kim C Yap/ 2021.05

Introduction


The photograph shows Grandmaster Zheng standing in the Posture: Golden Pheasant Stand on One Leg. It illustrates the unity of Heaven-Man-Earth. In this posture, one sense the internal energy pressing upward to the head, uniting with the heavenly’s yang energy while the lower foot sinks downward into the Ground to unite with the yin energy, thereby uniting within one’s body the Qi from both heaven and earthly realms. One hand gesture to Heaven; one hand points to the Earth with Man being centrally located. This is the trinity (天人合一) which exists within all postures.

Why did I choose this topic?

I was inspired by Wang Shixiong comments in Shenlong Facebook on the 7 January 2021. He wrote:

吳老師晚年非常明確地教導:天人合一不只是理論而已,更不是想像,是練得到的功夫。
Translated as “In his later years, Mr. Wu taught very clearly: The unity of nature and man is not just a theory, it is not an imagination, it is a skill that can be obtained.” Bro Wang further added; “I could not understand how important this concept was until one day I was astonished to shout "原來如此" (Eureka!)”.

Background: Definition of Heaven Qi, Man Qi and Earth Qi

Let us start with the definitions of Qi of Heaven, Man and Earth to understand this important concept:

  • The heavens have Heaven Qi named “tian qi” (天氣), which is made up of forces that heavenly bodies exert on earth, such as sunshine, moonlight and the moon’s effect on tides.
  • The earth has Earth Qi named “di qi” (地氣) which absorbs the heaven qi and is influenced by it.
  • Mankind has human qi named “ren qi” (人氣) which is influenced by the other two. In ancient times, the Chinese believed it was heaven qi controlled the weather, climate, and natural disasters. When this qi or energy field loses its balance, it strives to rebalance itself. The wind must blow, rain must fall and even tornadoes and hurricanes must happen for heaven qi to reach a new energy balance. Heaven qi also affects human qi and divination and astrology are attempts to explain this.

Under the heaven qi is the earth qi. It is influenced and controlled by the heaven qi. For example, too much rain will force a river to flood or change its path. Without rain, the plants will die.

The Chinese believe earth qi is made of lines and patterns of energy as well as the earth’s magnetic field and the heat concealed underground. These energies must also balance; otherwise, disasters such as earthquakes will occur. When qi of the earth is balanced, plants will grow, and animals will prosper.

Each individual person, animal and plant has its own qi field, which always seeks to be balanced. When any individual life loses its balance, it will sicken, die, and decompose.
All-natural things, including man, grow within and are influenced by the natural cycle of heaven qi and earth qi. Since Man are part of this nature (Tao, 道), we must understand heaven qi and earth qi to fit harmoniously into the natural cycle. For thousands of years, the Chinese have researched the inter-relationships of all things in nature to bring the body’s qi circulation in harmony with the original source of energy. The original source of energy is from the universe, the sun, the moon, the earth, the air, the food, water, etc.

The Source (源頭)

Wu Laoshi asked us to find the “Source”. He wants us to find the Source or the ‘Root’, which is the theoretical foundations of taijiquan.

What is the “Source”? Tao (道) is the Source. It is the original source of all knowledge, substance, energy and awareness.

“Tao Te Ching – Chapter 42”:
Tao gives birth to One (Wuji)
One give birth to Two (Taiji)
The Two gives birth to Three
The Three gives birth to ten thousand things
The ten thousand things all carry Yin power and embrace Yang power
Yin and Yang power achieved harmony by combining their two powers through the third: The Qi.

“Tao Te Ching – Chapter 5”:
Is not the void between Heaven and Earth like a bellows?
It is empty yet infinitely capable.
The more you use it, the more it produces.
Hold fast to the Center.

“Taiji Treatise by Wang Zhongyue”:
Taiji is born from Wuji. It is the mother of Yin and Yang.
In movement, Taiji separates; in stillness, Yin and Yang reunite and return to Wuji.

Grandmaster Zheng Manqin:
Tai Chi Quan is pure Taoist martial art

Wuji is the “One”, the unmanifested aspect of Tao. Wuji is a subtle void but it is not empty; it is full of undifferentiated energy from which arise yin and yang. Wuji is the mother of Taiji. Taiji is refers to as Tao-in-motion. Taiji is the “Two” that contains elementary yang qi and elementary yin qi.

The central tenet of Taoism is that the microcosm of the human form and the macrocosm of Heaven and Earth are one and the same process. Each man and women are just a small Heaven.

In humans, there is a hidden force called Yi. It is the hidden force that lead Wuji into the division of yin and yang, and also to lead the divided yin and yang back to the unity of Wuji. Yi is the intention and the motivation to action and emptiness. Yi is the force that divides Wuji into yin and yang and Yi is also the force that combines yin and yang into Wuji. When yin and yang theory is applied to man, its root of action is Yi. It is your Yi that decides if you will change your Wuji state into yin and yang state or to lead yourself from yin and yang into Wuji.

Taiji comes from Wuji and returns to Wuji and is represented by the centre circle within the large circle of the Tai Chi symbol. (see figure below).

Each Taiji Posture is governed by the principle of Wuji becomes Taiji and Taiji (Yin and Yang) back to Wuji. Theoretically, a Taiji practitioner would like to keep his body in a state of yin and yang balance, which means the centre point of the yin and yang forces. This centre point is commonly called “no extremities”. Wuji is the original natural state where yin and yang are not distinguished. In the Wuji state, nature is peaceful and calm. In the Wuji state, all the yin and yang forces have gradually combined harmoniously and disappeared.

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 5 direct us to “Hold fast to the Centre”.

From our understanding of the terms, Wuji, Taiji, yin and yang, we can say, Taiji Principle is the harmonization of yin and yang so that Wuji can be maintained.

The Wuji state makes it possible for you to find the origin of life and to combine your Qi with the Qi of nature (i.e., Heaven and Earth) to become the trinity state of Heaven-Man-Earth.

In Chapter 5 of the Tao Te Ching, “bellows” is used as a metaphor to tell us what Tao is like. A bellow kai (open) and he’r (unify) to produce energy. Kai (open) and He’r (unify) are two fundamental concepts of taiji quan and all neijia quan practices. In Kai (open), the internal energy within one’s body radiates outward. The expression of he’r (unify) is contraction.
The essences of 虛 xu (emptiness/insubstantiality) and 實shi (fullness/substantiality) practiced within all movements mirror he’r and kai. Each is embraced within the other, as are yin and yang.

From Tao, is born the principles of taiji quan, namely:

  1. Taiji and Wuji (harmonization of yin and yang)
  2. Kai (open) and He’r (unify) – expand and contract
  3. 虛 xu (emptiness/insubstantiality) and 實shi (fullness/substantiality).

Note: Taoism forms a practical foundation for all taiji quan practices.

Taiji Zhuàngtài (太極狀態)

Wu Laoshi gave us the abstract concept of Tàijí Zhuàngtài to help us to experience the states of Taiji.

Taiji Zhuàngtài is refer to as the States of Taiji. It is the prerequisite states from which Taiji’s yin and yang are created and formalized.

When you are in Taiji Zhuàngtài, you are relaxed with no physical tension beyond the minimum to form a shape or movement. In this State, you have full mental control and your body is filled with Power/Qi/Energy.

What are the requirements to enter into Taiji Zhuàngtài?

The requirements for the upper body (Yao [腰] to the top of the head) are different from the lower body (Yao to the bottom of the feet) because the lower body must bear the weight of the body.

The upper body must be empty of all tension. Empty doesn’t mean becoming a drunk or asleep or unconscious. In these states, you have no mental control. You must be able to take on shape and make any movement. This requires the mind or Yi. Most students when engaged in mental control/Yi, to form a shape or gesture, they also intervene the mind with tension. You must also be able to decouple your mind from physical tension. The upper body must be 100% relaxed, meaning no tension at all beyond the minimum needed to form a shape or movement.

The lower body always has a little tension essential for support in the legs. Emptiness when applied to the lower body means even though there must be support tension, you are always aware of the tension and the distribution of tension between the legs – i.e., which leg has more tension. This is the Taiji basis rule about distinguishing between yin and yang in the support.

Many practioners seem to aim at relaxation itself as the goal. Relaxation is an absolute essential pre-requisite but not the final goal. It is only the starting gate.

In the Taiji State, you have the hidden force that can lead Wuji into the division of yin and yang, and to lead the divided yin and yang to the unity of Wuji. In humans, this hidden force is called Yi. Once you learnt to apply your “Yi” without tension, another kind of power/Qi/Energy fills up your body, connecting your “ren qi” downward with the earth qi and upwards towards the heaven qi.

Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng (清升濁降)

Wu Laoshi established Shenlong’s twin pillars of Taiji Quan learnings, namely Taiji Zhuàngtài and Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng and used the two energetic drills, Jin liáng huàn zhù (金樑換柱)and Jiàngmó jiàng xīn (降魔降心) to help the students to experience the abstract concepts of Taiji Zhuàngtài and Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng. He envisions taking us to the higher level of practicing Taiji Quan as pure Nei Gung and not just going through the physical motions.

What then is Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng and what is the taste and experience of it? Is it blood flow, muscle, tendons, ligaments, fascia reflexes and bone marrow? No, it is non-physical. You can experience and feel it as a surge wave, hydraulic wave, or soft wave through the arms, legs, and torso.

Where is the source of the wave energy? Some said it is the Dantian, others said it is the Niwan within the head.

Internal energy is sourced from the Niwan inside the head centre. Niwan is our body connection to Shen (spiritual energy source). However, for practical cultivation and deployment of Qi energy, it begins with the Dantian. Dantian is associated with the lower abdomen and Qi Hai. It can be thought as the stove or carburettor, where energies fuel is activated, mixed, and primed for conversion to functional power which you can apply to martial arts, healing, calligraphy, and painting.

What is the process of Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng (清升濁降)? The process is:

  • Relax the shoulder and upper body and drop the body energy down to the dantian.
  • The Qi energy flows down from the Dantian to the ground vide the legs and feet.
  • The Qi energy is connected with the ground Qi* and rebounded back up to the Dantian, where the Qi is further amplified before continue surging upward through the 5 hearts.

Notes:

  • *If you can extend your energy below the floor, the energy of the earth will naturally connect with your body’s energy. We naturally exchange qi with the earth through our movements and the earth can be a great source of qi for us. We can plug into the earth’s qi by shifting the body’s weight from one leg to the other leg like a cat, steadily and lightly. Let all the muscles of the legs, feet and hips relax, only use those muscles necessary for the movement. This will allow our feet to exchange qi with the earth.cThe way qi works in the body is that if you can cause the qi energy to sink down your body into the earth, qi will naturally rise up again as in Qīng Shēng Zhuó Jiàng.
  • Grandmaster Zheng said, “that the Qi rise up the spine and then must pass through a gate immediately below the skull and from there through the head. After passing through the gate of the neck and head, it can then easily descend to the front. The Qi can easily descend but the rise process is difficult”. Therefore, it is very important for the Qi energy to pass the gate at neck/head in order to connect with the energy of heaven. The energy needs to reach the head to experience the Trinity of Heaven-Man-Earth (天人合一).

Zhong Ding Energy – Central Channel of internal energy

The central channel flow of internal energy, Zhong Ding Energy, runs from the perineum to the top of the head and is the most elusive and difficult energy to manifest.

Don’t confuse the Zhong Ding Energy with the Zhong Mai meridian and the imaginary zhong ding vertical line. The Zhong Mai in Chinese medicine travels along the front of the spine and does not extend into the skull. The imaginary zhong ding vertical line is a meta-centre line. The Zhong Ding Energy here, refers to a central channel energy flow between the bai hui and perineum.

In nature, whenever energy moves in a spiral, it creates a central energy flow. We can see these in tornadoes and whirlpools. In smaller scale, we observe the same thing when you stir a hot drink or quickly pull out the plug in your sink or bathtub. We can use this principle to open and activate the central flow of energy (Zhong Ding Energy) when we spiral energy through our body. The energy will ascend as a pillar of energy from the hui yin to the bai hui like an internal upright light saber beam.

We are able to tap and connect with the great powers of the universe (e.g., heaven and earth Qi) to refresh, renew and recharge our personal energy by opening our central flow connection. Yin qi rises from the feet and connect to the zhong ding central channel energy at the pelvis and out through the hands. Yang qi descends from heaven through the head connect to the zhong ding central channel energy at the Shang-zhong(chest) and out through hands and the feet.

Note:

There is a surge of zhong ding central energy flow whenever my body movement cross from the 實shi (fullness/substantiality) leg towards the 虛 xu (emptiness/insubstantiality) leg at the central point of the change. This centre point of change is the harmonizing of the yin and yang forces (wuji).

Summary Example – Shi Tze Shou (十字手)

In Taijiquan, there exists a posture named, Shi Tze Shou (Ten Character Hand). The two wrists, when crossed, look like the character “ten”. Do not overlook this heavenly practice. This posture is used for smooth transition from one posture to another. It is thought of, like Yu Nu (Jade Maiden), as one of the great communicators between deities and postures.

The posture does not have equal weight in each leg, connecting to the earth’s energy with the feet and the hui yin(perineum). The hands form like deer’s antler, pointing toward Heaven to gather qi into the finger tips, where ‘yang qi’ of the Heaven unifies with the yang qi of the five fingers.

The hands cross at the wrists, the inside of one touching upon the outside of the other, that being the juncture of the yin and yang, inner and outer mixing to become One (i.e., Wuji). The crossing of the hands at the wrists embraces the chest, he’r (unify), forming essences of 虛 xu (emptiness/insubstantiality). Within the emptiness, abides the Tao. Qi attains complete expression to the exterior’s outermost regions (feet and fingers) and returns to its source within the dantian.

This posture, Shi Tze Shou and all other taiji postures embodied the practice of heaven-man-earth, connecting man with heaven and earth.

Conclusion

Somebody may ask, what is the point of learning all these, heaven-man-earth stuff? It seems so mysterious and far out of reach like a legend.

There is no great mystery to Taoist alchemy. It is simply a matter of learning how to employ the mind to harness energies to guard the health and longevity of our bodies.
Energy is the vital force that activates every function and drive every process in the human body, voluntary as well as involuntary. It is like the electrical current running through a computer, without it none of the functions works.

The Three Powers of heaven, earth and humanity each has its own locus on the body. The energy of the heaven, tian qi” (天氣) is drawn down through the crown of the head, the energy of the earth, “di qi” (地氣), comes up from the soles of the feet, and they meet and mix with human energy, “ren qi” (人氣) in the lower abdomen/dantian.

The three treasures (jing, qi and shen) originate from the three powers of heaven, earth and humans. Heaven is the source of shen and earth is the source of essential elements which constitute the human body. Humans, who stands between heaven and earth, are the source of True Human Energy, which fuses the spirit of heaven with the essence of earth to form the human body and manifest the human mind.

The Classification of Therapies, a Taoist medical text written 2,000 years ago, states: ‘Shen is sustained by Qi, and Qi is obtained from the transformation of Jing’. Jing transforms into Qi, and Qi transform into Shen. When sufficiently clarified, energized, and rejuvenated, the human mind is able to restore its long-lost connection with its own primordial powers, thereby recharging the postnatal aspects of the Three Treasures with their prenatal antecedents. This is called ‘returning to the ‘Source’.

Bro Wang had stressed the importance of the concept of heaven-man-earth. Wu Laoshi state that; “The unity of nature and man is not just a theory, it is not an imagination, it is a skill that can be obtained.”

For me, it is the thrill of learning and experiencing the possibilities and having the capacity to take full command of my own energy/qi and to connect it with the energies of heaven and earth.

References:

• Tao Te Ching
• Taiji Treatise – Wang Zhongyue
• Tai Chi Qigong – Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming
• Shenlong Facebook – Chun-Chao Wang
• Discussions with Bro Victor Kiu on the ‘Source”.
• The internal practices of Sun Lu T’ang – Sun Lu T’ang
• Guarding the Three Treasures – Daniel Reid

刊登於 2021 年〈原幾〉雜誌第五期

UNITY OF HEAVEN-MAN-EARTH (天人合一)” 有 1 則迴響

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