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Internal Alchemy

Neidan, or internal alchemy is an array of esoteric doctrines and physical, mental, and spiritual practices that Taoist initiates use to prolong life and create an immortal spiritual body that would survive after death. Also known as Jindan ("golden elixir"), internal alchemy combines theories derived from external alchemy (waidan), correlative cosmology (including the Five Phases), the emblems of the Yijing, and medical theory, with techniques of Daoist meditation, daoyin gymnastics, and sexual hygiene.

In Neidan the human body becomes a cauldron (or "ding") in which the Three Treasures of Jing ("Essence"), Qi ("Breath") and Shen ("Spirit") are cultivated for the purpose of improving physical, emotional and mental health, and ultimately returning to the primordial unity of the Tao, i.e., becoming an Immortal. It is believed the Xiuzhen Tu is such a cultivation map. In China, it is an important form of practice for most schools of Taoism.

History & Development 

Neidan is part of the Chinese alchemical meditative tradition that is said to have been separated into internal and external (Waidan) at some point during the Tang dynasty. The Cantong qi (The Kinship of the Three) is the earliest known book on theoretical alchemy in China; it was written by the alchemist Wei Boyang in 142 AD. This text influenced the formation of Neidan, whose earliest existing texts date from the first half of the 8th century. The authors of several Neidan articles refer to their teachings as the Way of the Golden Elixir (jindan zhi dao). The majority of Chinese alchemical sources is found in the Daozang (Taoist Canon), the largest collection of Taoist texts.

Neidan shares a significant portion of its notions and methods with classical Chinese medicine, fangshi and with other bodies of practices, such as meditation and the methods for "nourishing life" (yangsheng). What distinguishes alchemy from these related traditions is its unique view of the elixir as a material or immaterial entity that represents the original state of being and the attainment of that state. The Neidan tradition of internal alchemy is practiced by working with the energies that were already present in the human body as opposed to using natural substances, medicines or elixirs, from outside of the body. The Shangqing (Supreme Clarity) tradition of Daoism played an important role in the emergence of Neidan alchemy, after using Waidan mainly as a meditative practice, and therefore turning it from an external to an internal art.

General Concepts

Daoism focuses on the balance of yin and yang in one's life. Internal alchemy focuses on the body and how you are able to use the Three Treasures, Qi, Jing and Shen, to bring this balance to your life. These are the energy that makes up life. Each individual is able to practice internal alchemy on their own, the religious leaders of Taoism are there for guidance.

Qi is defined as the "natural energy of the universe" and can be found in everything, including each individual person. Throughout Daoists' lives, they strive to obtain a positive flow of Qi, which flows through the body in paths moving to each individual organ, from the perspective of internal alchemy . Daoists map out the body according to these paths. If a path is blocked, the Qi does not flow properly; this blockage disrupts the balance of yin and yang. Daoists developed methods to help get rid of these harmful blockages so that the body's balance can be restored.

The second treasure, jing, is essential for humans to live; it is referred to as the energies of the body. It corresponds most closely to the energy of the physical body. The conserving of jing in the body is heavily focused on internal alchemy. It is thought that a person dies when they lost, or ran out of jing. Daoists believed that preserving jing allowed people to live longer, if not to achieve immortality. The idea of immortality came about because Daoists believed that if jing in the body could be preserved the energies in the body could be saved, which allowed you to stay alive.

Shen, the third and final treasure, is the original spirit of the body. This is all that happens in the body without the acknowledgment of the human. Daoists try to become conscious of shen through meditation. Shen is the energy that each organ, in the body, possesses. Each organ in the body has an element associated with it, fire, wood, water, metal, or earth (The Five Shen). When the "three treasures" are maintained in the body, along with a balance of yin and yang, it is possible to achieve a healthy body, and longevity; which are the main goals of internal alchemy.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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