As practitioners of Life Cultivation, most of us will have read Huangdi Neijing, or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine, a book published more than a thousand years ago. It offers the most authoritative knowledge on herbal medicine, Life Cultivation, and Life Wellness.
The Neijing is one of the most important classics of Taoism, as well as the highest authority on herbal medicine. Its authorship is attributed to the great Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor, who reigned during the third millennium BCE. The book is divided into two sections. Section One is known as Suwen (Questions of Organic and Fundamental Nature). Section Two is known as Lingshu (a technical book on acupuncture).
Written in the form of a discourse between the emperor Huangdi and his ministers, Huangdi Neijing contains a wealth of knowledge, including etiology, physiology, diagnosis, therapy, and prevention of disease, as well as in-depth investigation of such diverse subjects as ethics, psychology, and cosmology. All of these subjects are discussed in a holistic context that says life is not fragmented, as in the model provided by modern science, but rather that all the pieces make up an interconnected whole. By revealing the natural laws of this holistic universe, the book offers much practical advice on how to promote a long, happy, and healthy life. This is the part that is followed by Life Cultivation practitioners like us.
As practitioners of Life Cultivation, we know modern medicine can only solve ten percent of health problems. Then, what about the remaining ninety percent?
Let us see how Huangdi Neijing answers the health question.
Chapter One of Section Suwen of Huangdi Neijing states:
People in ancient times who knew The Way will model the Yin and Yang, harmonize in calculation, eat in moderation, live a regulated life, equalize work and play, thus the body and mind co-exists in harmony, who will live to be one hundred years old and then die.
Thus, if we follow the advice in the passage, we will live a healthy and happy life to be one hundred years old before we die.
That’s why people who live a hundred years are called Knowers of the Way. What is the Way?
Lao Tzu said: “The Way is also a thing that cannot be separated for a moment. If you can leave it, it is not the Way.”
The Way is something that cannot be left for an instant. For example, you tell someone you love that he should pay attention to his health. He replied that he would think about it later because he is very busy right now. Then we know he neither knows nor follows the Way.
The Way is something that cannot be left in an instant, but what can be left is not the Way. I am holding a cup right now. If I let go of it accidentally, it will be broken into pieces right away. That’s what the Way means.
What is the Way that people who live to be a hundred years old know that we should follow so that we can also live to be that old? Neijing explores the subject matter from several angles that we will discuss right now.
In order to live a long life, we should (1) model our life according to the universe (2) harmonize our life with precision (3) control our foods and drinks (4) regulate our daily lifestyle (5) stop overextending ourselves (6) harmonize our body and soul.
Once we follow this advice, we will live to be one hundred years old actively, happily, and free of illness and medication. Let us explore the concepts in depth.
Model our life according to the Universe
The first principle on longevity is to model our life according to the Universe.
As practitioners of life cultivation, in order to live a long life, we must model our life according to the Universe, or to Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang is a big subject-matter for study. It is especially a big subject-matter in herbal medicine. In fact, it is also a big subject-matter in Chinese traditional culture and philosophy.
What is Yin-Yang? It can be said that Yin and Yang are all-encompassing. Therefore, Neijing refers to Yin and Yang as the way of Heaven and Earth. Lao Tze preaches the way of Heaven and Earth as the Law of Nature.
Why does herbal medicine use the concept of heaven and earth in its practice? It is because the ancients realized that we are closely related to Heaven and Earth, to Nature and to the sun and the moon.
Herbal medicine has two basic characteristics: one of the characteristics is the concept of overall or wholeness, which in Western culture is sometimes referred to as a holistic view. It says that a human person is a whole person. This concept is prevalent in both herbal medicine and Western medicine.
But in herbal medicine, it goes beyond the concept that a human body is a whole. It says that man and the universe, man and nature, man and heaven and earth are a whole. Thus a person must observe and obey the changes of this wholeness.
Let us look at an analogy. We have a central government. We must all obey the leadership of the central government, and our behavior must be consistent with the expectation of the central government. If our behavior is consistent with the central government, we will have a bright political future, which in turn leads to a prosperous economy.
Once our economy has a future, our life will have a future. It is all in a package of Truth, which is in line with Heaven and Earth. This is also referred to as the Law of Yin and Yang, and our health is thus guaranteed. Therefore, we must understand the laws of Heaven and Earth, and an understanding of Nature.
In Huangdi Neijing, Section One Suwen, Chapter Two The Great Theory of Four Seasons, it states that the four seasons of Yin and Yang are the beginning and ending of all matters.
A matter does not simply exist as one matter. A matter is the end result of Yin and Yang and the four seasons. How it begins, how it happens, and how it ends is determined by the four seasons and Yin and Yang which is the foundation of birth. Thus the four seasons and the Yin and Yang is the life of birth and growth.
Thus, we have to model our life according to the laws of Yin and Yang. We cannot simply ignore them. If we go against the laws of Yin and Yang, disasters will arise. If we follow the laws of Yin and Yang, we will not suffer from severe diseases. This is called attaining the Way.
Therefore, what is a person who has attained the status of a Knower, someone who knows the Way, someone who will live to be a hundred years old without illness and medication?
The answer is clear. He will obey the laws of the four seasons and the laws of Yin and Yang. He will obey Heaven and Earth and the Laws of Nature. He will consider himself as part of the Whole. He will change as the World changes around him.
Let us look at another example. Why do we have to sleep? That is because there are sunsets and nights. Human sleep-time is like night-time, the night-time of Heaven and Earth. Human work-time is like day-time, the day-time of Heaven and Earth. This is very direct and simple. This is the core philosophy underlying herbal medicine. We should follow the laws of Heaven and Earth.
However, let us dig deeper. Why does Heaven and Earth have daytime, and why do people sleep at certain times? Why can’t day and night be reversed? The answer is very clear here.
If we do not follow the laws of Heaven and Earth, disasters will strike. Reversing day and night is a rebellion, so disasters will strike. If we follow the laws, we will not suffer from acute illness. Following the laws means that we should sleep when the world is dark, and we should be awakened when the world is bright. Thus we know the Way to health.
Once we know the Way to health, we will be helped along the Way. Where does the help come from? Naturally it is self-help, but the power of Nature is great.
If we go against it, we will lose the help of Heaven and Earth. We will become helpless. If we do not become ill, who will?
Therefore, the most important principle of life cultivation is very obvious now. It is very clear to us. All we have to do is to practice.
With reference to practice, Neijing said: The sage practices the Way, and the fool just wears it.
The Way is something that a sage practices. A sage holds the Way. He knows that the four seasons of Yin and Yang will lead to severe illnesses, and if he goes against them, disasters will arise.
On the other hand, a fool will wear the Way, like a piece of necklaces. He will wear it on the body, pretending he knows the Way, but he will not derive any benefits from wearing it.
Basically, this is the law of Yin and Yang. We have only touched on the basic principle here, because we will elaborate on them in the following discussions.
Call to Action
Folks, that is all for now. If you think this article may be beneficial to your friends and loved-ones, feel free to forward this article to them. Life cultivation is mostly for older people with declining body health. If you are young and energetic, this may not be your cup of tea. However, if you have family members or friends who are middle-aged or older, they may want to practice life cultivation to maintain a life without pain or medication.
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Stay tuned for the next episode. Origin of all illnesses Part Two.
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