Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Master Dong and the Sorcerer of Yueh

There is a story about one of the great Masters: Dong Zhongshu. Dong was a master of the Confucian cultivation arts at the time of the Han Dynasty. He had reached mastery when only in his 30s. He was a strong advocate for the teachings of Confucianism, which led him at one point to be imprisoned by the Han Emperor Jing. The Han dynasty would eventually rise to be the first imperial Golden Age of China but at this time the Han Emperors were not yet so grand, and depended upon corrupt feudal lords, had an inept and nepotistic bureaucracy, and followed the teachings of the witch-doctors (“wu”, or Shamans) who dealt in what could be termed sorcery. These sorcerers used incantations to conjure up spirits they worshiped, and performed divination, and relied on talismans to bless, protect, heal or curse. They came out of a folk tradition that was itself not unhealthy, but by the time of the Han the ones who had risen to great status as the advisers to the Emperor were often wicked and corrupt, black magicians.

While Dong Zhongshu was imprisoned, the Emperor Jing died, and his 15 year old son Emperor Wu came to the throne. Dong sensed much virtue in the new emperor, but he was being manipulated into a life of hedonism by his sorcerous advisers (who were in fact acting on the orders of the Dowager Empress, who still held all the real power). In the 5th year of the new Emperor's reign, when Dong was 39 years old, he petitioned the Emperor. He advised him that the power of inner cultivation, and its ability to affect the world, was superior to the witchcraft of the Shamans and that if the Emperor were to follow his advice for reforms he would become the greatest ruler of the mightiest Empire of the world. The chief shaman, known as the 'sorcerer of Yueh', advised the Emperor that Dong Zhongshu was committing blasphemy against the spirits the young Emperor had been taught to worship and makes offerings to, and urged that Zhongshu be killed. The young Emperor, possibly torn between the lifelong conditioning of the shamans and his own desire to create reforms and fix the many injustices he'd seen in his empire when he'd traveled it in disguise (something he was known for doing), decided that the proof of which of the two (Master Zhongshu or the Sorcerer of Yueh) were speaking the truth would be determined by their relative power. He therefore told the Sorcerer that if Zhongshu is a blasphemer, the Sorcerer should use his magic to destroy Zhongshu.

The Sorcerer of Yueh was versed in a particularly malignant form of Qi Gong called the Five Animal Dance, a style from the “Refuge school” where the practitioner would enter into a trance through swaying and the recitation of mantras and vibration and then allow one of five animal spirits to possess his body.  These spirits would then use the shaman, who was really little more than a vessel (and thus cultivated no Virtue or Gong), to engage in magic, using talismans for healing or cursing or performing auguries.

As the Sorcerer began to draw into himself a tiger-spirit that would let him use a dark talisman to kill Zhongshu, the latter put on his Confucian robe and envisioned the Bagua, the pattern of the eight trigrams in a circle, directing his Qi to project these in a circle around himself. Then he recited the first four words of the I Ching: “Yuan Heng Li Zhen”. The moment he finished intoning these words (which are the four virtues: Union, Discipline, Harmony and Truth), the Sorcerer dropped dead. Zhongshu had created a field of reality that caused all of the Sorcerer's attempts to warp reality to his own desire to backfire on himself.

Having found clear evidence of the superiority of Dong Zhongshu's cultivation and wisdom, the Han Emperor took him on as his adviser and they began instituting the reforms (the criminal punishment of corrupt nobles, abolishing nepotism, institution of merit-based tests for the bureaucracy that would allow anyone worthy to serve public office regardless of social class, and adopting Confucianism as the official philosophy of the state) that assured the prosperity of the Empire for the rest of the young emperor's 54 year reign and for many generations to come in the Han Dynasty. Indeed, some of the reforms (like the merit-based exam system) remained part of Imperial China for the rest of its 2000 year history.

The lessons of this true story from history are that:
-Confidence in one's Virtue and careful cultivation are the best means to help serve and change society.

-Reliance on “spiritual” methods that ignore one's inner cultivation in favor of material trinkets is ill-advised.

-Cultivation systems that abandon personal responsibility of practice (and the development of Virtue), in favor of relying on being helped by external spirits or deities, will always be inferior to Cultivation Systems that depend on your main consciousness.

-The practice of “magick” that seeks to force your personal desires on the World will always be less effective than the Magick that relies on connecting to and adjusting the fundamental forces of Reality as it is.

As for Dong Zhongshu, he ended up imprisoned once more in his lifetime, and almost executed, when his contemplation of the I Ching led him to make the prediction that the Han Emperor's family line would come to an end when it would be overthrown by a Confucian Scholar who would take the throne. The very idea seemed insane and sounded seditious, and only the popularity Dong Zhongshu had with the court and his advanced age granted him a stay of execution and release from prison. After his death Dong Zhongshu would be remembered (as he is to this day) as one of the greatest Confucian sages of all time. 

His prophecy with the I Ching also came true, 113 years after Dong's death, when the Confucian scholar Wang Mang temporarily overthrew the Han Dynasty and created great chaos for a period of 16 years until the restoration of the Han.

No comments:

Post a Comment