By Dr. Bernard Shannon
Originally presented in October 2014 at the 3rd International Daoist Forum in Longhu Shan, Jiangxi Province, China.
Reprinted in Qi Journal; Spring 2015, Volume 25, No 1 .
Daoism permeates Chinese culture and language, deeply affecting every aspect of society. Lacking saturation in this cultural wisdom, non-Chinese students of Daoism are challenged to open themselves to subtle imbedded influences in Chinese language and cultural forms without preconceptions, and assimilate them. Not having been saturated and surrounded by Daoist influences all their lives, foreign students are given the opportunity to assimilate and explore these paradigms with fresh eyes.
Jìng Xīn Shén Zhòu 淨心神咒 (Purify the Heart) is the first of the Big Eight Incantations of the Morning and Evening Prayers. Purify the Heart is the groundwork upon which subsequent Morning and Evening Prayers are built. It purifies and transforms the mind, emotions, spirit, and body while purging turbid thoughts and emotions. Without this foundation solidly in place, our journey will be without merit and we will never find true tranquility.
This incantation stabilizes and settles thoughts and the spirit of the heart. Purifying and transforming, it clears turbid and disturbing thoughts and energy, helping to protect the Hún and Pò. The incantation allows Daoists to enter a state of tranquility and enables them to envision the heart of the Dào. It prepares our heart, mind, and body to use talismans.
Ordinary people, non-Daoists, may also discover many of these blessings when reciting the Incantation correctly and with pure motivation.
Taì shàng taí xīng 太上台星
This line is an invocation of Taì Shàng 太上 which is an abbreviated form of Taì Shàng Lǎo Jūn 太上老君. It was a title given to Lǎozi 老子, the author of the Dào Dé Jīng 道德经.
The concept of an immortal is unknown to most Westerners. However, a saint as understood in the Judeo-Christian tradition is commonly believed to have cultivated and achieved a holiness attributed to only a few very special lineage holders within those traditions (Jones 2005, 8033). In this spirit we may say that Lǎozi, the man, attained the level of rén xiān 人仙, or sainthood in the Dào. In this way, the concept of the immortal can be readily accepted and understood by Westerners.
A more subtle and accurate understanding is that Lǎozi was an expression of prenatal spirit, the embodied eternal master teacher who incarnates through time, manifesting as the teacher of emperors, rulers, and kings. The manifestation of Lǎozi benefits and helps everyone he meets, regardless of his name and incarnation in that life.
Taì Shàng Lǎo Jūn’s emanations of purity, radiance, and power throughout his many manifestations differs from that of a saint in the Judeo-Christian religious model, which does not accept the concept that a saint could re-manifest.
Yīng biàn wú ting 应变无停
“Receive and transform without cease” is the literal translation of this line.
The meaning of “Receive and transform without cease” remains mysterious and obscure until we discover sufficient openness to allow the process to begin. To allow is to be receptive, which is the meaning of hòu dé zái wù 厚德载物. Hòu is generous. Dé is virtue. Zái is to support. Lastly, wù is all things. It was explained to me by Master Min He in this way--“Be low, humble, open, and receptive like the earth, and all things will manifest.”
The sun is said to be yáng 阳 in relation to the earth. The earth is yīn阴 in relation to the sun. In this dynamic, the sun radiates energy and light, and the earth has only to receive it. Thus, all life manifests. If we allow ourselves to model the behavior of the earth, allowing our minds to relax and settle, we find the Dào at our feet. We discover how to act without acting, through inspiration rather than thought, wéi wúwéi 为无为. My mother used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth. You should listen twice as much as you speak.” How little did I know that she was espousing Daoist philosophy! Without hòu dé zái wù as the foundation, no progress may be made.
In essence, hòu dé zái wù is the state of being yīn, being open and receptive. It is said, “To be yin is to be like the earth.” The earth is the yīn, which provides form: the solid, dense materials that are the building blocks upon which all life is built and the nourishment to sustain life through food, drink, and breath. The form-ness. Heaven by contrast is formless yáng, which provides the energy that brings anima to form and through the seasons allows the growth of all things. The sustaining meaning of hòu dé zái wù becomes available to us as we begin to have felt, kinesthetic experiences of the energies of heaven and earth, the first and second Treasures of the Dào.
As heavenly energy is perpetually descending towards the earth, it penetrates the tissues and brings life. However, it is only our openness to heaven that allows us to achieve the maximum benefit from yang energy. Receptivity, allowing ourselves to be hòu dé zái wù, enables us to truly “receive without cease.”
Being open to receive heavenly energy allows the vibration of our being to increase. This increased vibrational rate activates prenatal virtue. Virtue is the manifestation of the middle dantian 丹田, our innate inheritance of integrity, dignity, wisdom, compassion, etc. These are the virtues of being.
Being innate, prenatal virtues are always present as potential. Their manifestation is uncovered and increases when cultivated. Abiding in virtue, energy flows as our relationship to past karma, our parents, society, and the environment are “transformed without cease.”
Qū xié fù meì 驱邪缚魅
“Expel evil and bind magic” is the literal translation of this line.
Because the energy of the Dao is everywhere and the Daoist is allowing yīng biàn wú tíng, their body becomes penetrated by Celestial Qi and begins to radiate Celestial Qi from every cell and tissue, and on every level of being (jīng 精, qì 气, shén 神). This higher vibrational state naturally expels and clears any forms of evil energy and dark magic from the practitioner.
Expelling dark and evil from the practitioner’s body, energetic field, or local environment benefits the practitioner but may not serve humanity unless these forces are bound and rendered inoperative. This prevents them from returning to cause harm. Therefore, both of the actions to “expel” and “bind” are needed to protect the practitioner and society.
Baǒ mìng hù shēn 保命护身
“Defend fate and destiny and protect the body” is the literal translation of this line.
Although the meaning of “fate” may be easy to understand, the meaning of “destiny” needs to be clarified and the difference between the two discussed. Simply stated, fate is the accumulation of karmic implications and prenatal predispositions to which one is born, and destiny is what one does with their fate. An analogy to elucidate this point would be playing the card game poker. You are dealt a hand of cards, which is your fate. How you play the cards will determine your destiny. Ludwig van Beethoven, the composer, produced his most famous works after he became deaf at the age of 30, and Albert Einstein, one of the greatest physicists, was thought to be mentally retarded and was nearly expelled from school. Both were able to overcome the obstacles dealt to them by fate.
Mìng may be translated as either fate or destiny, but my preference is to use destiny due to its unmanifested nature. As Chapter 1 of the Dào Dé Jīng states, "the Dào that can be spoken is not the true Dào." It follows then that the known path is not the true path. It unfolds before us one step at a time with each choice we make.
Additionally, according to Chinese medicine the Kidneys house the fate and destiny. They also relate to prenatal and postnatal energies. One of the functions of the Kidneys in Chinese medicine is to act as the body’s battery. The prenatal energy of the Kidneys determines their capacity, while the postnatal energy and activities of the person determines the rate at which that energy is conserved or spent.
Due to the alchemy that has occurred thus far in the incantation, the kidney energy can be conserved, if not strengthened. The invoked primordial energy of Taì Shàng Lǎo Jūn, the eternal teacher, naturally clears us from evil influences.
Thus, fate and destiny are defended, and the body is protected.
Zhì huì míng jīng 智慧明净
"Wisdom is luminous" is the literal translation of this line.
This line evokes a bodily awareness that is profound.
As dark forces and evil have been eliminated, destiny has been protected. The fear that is rooted in the Kidneys dissipates, allowing the innate virtues of the Kidneys to come forward.
Wisdom is a prenatal virtue of the Kidneys. From one perspective, wisdom is the genetic knowledge found in our DNA that creates predispositions for intelligence, emotional patterning, and general constitution. Another perspective is that the accumulated wisdom of experiences from past incarnations becomes available when the practitioner is in a prenatal state of consciousness. A third perspective is that wisdom is pure primordial experience manifesting before the separation of yīn and yáng. Of course, the most obvious meaning is that prenatal wisdom is any and all of the three options discussed above.
As the prenatal energy in the Kidneys awakens through diligent cultivation, one's vitality increases, a deep energy begins to move, and an inner light begins to glow. This energy must be protected through proper diet, exercise, sleep, and sexual restraint. Over time and with a deepened practice, the light glowing in the Kidneys begins to radiate outward.
When the Kidneys become luminous, the awakened prenatal energy becomes stable. Metaphysically, the practitioner has now manifested a shift of consciousness moving from invoking their personal will to that of submitting their will to the will of the heavens. They have surrendered the acquired mind and the limited personal power of the body, to experience the unlimited energy of heaven and earth.
This experience marks a transition from the personal to the transpersonal, and to the service of the heavens, as yet another layer of yīng biàn wú tíng "endlessly receiving and transforming" is revealed.
Xīn shén ān níng 心神安宁
"The Heart is at peace" is the literal translation of this line.
In addition to peace, the virtues of the Heart include contentment, tranquility, and order. According to Chinese medicine, the Heart is the emperor or empress of the body. The acquired emotions of anxiety, nervousness, and agitation bring turmoil in the kingdom of the Heart, disturbing the ruler and the subjects. Calming the turmoil of acquired emotion allows the Heart to be at peace.
As the practitioner’s Kidneys have established the constant flow of Heaven and Earth, which is like a deep well or spring of water, they become a never-ending source. The emperor, the symbolic representation of the Heart, has a sense of abundance in the kingdom, free from worry over drought. There is a natural sense of confidence and contentment that the soil is fertile and rich with minerals and that the harvest will be bountiful.
The same is true for the body. The organs mutually create, feed, and control each other. When water is abundant, all the other elements of the body will be nourished. Water engenders life. With sufficient water wood can grow, enabling fire, the earth is nourished, and metal can be mined.
Sān hún yǒng jiǔ 三魂永久
“The three Hún are eternal” is the literal translation of this line.
Língshūjīng; 灵枢经 (The Spiritual Pivot) written circa 1st century BCE, describes two aspects of the soul, within a living person, called Hún 魂 and Pò 魄. The Hún descend from heaven and are animated by heavenly yáng, the Pò arise from earth and are animated by earthly yīn. Zhu Xi (12th century C.E.) summarizes this conception as follows:
Consciousness and movement are due to yáng, while physical form and body are due to yīn. The clear breath (qì) belongs to the heavenly aspect of the Hún and the body is governed by the earthly aspect of the Pò. (Nadeau)
The Hún and Pò are the comingling of Heaven and Earth in a human. Between Hún and Pò or between spirit and body there is the same relationship as between Heaven and Earth: hierarchy and interdependency. One cannot exist without the other; their interaction and co-penetration maintains life (Rochat de la Vallée 2012, 10).
As long as Hún and Pò are within the body, there is life. (Nadeau) But when they separate, and the Hún are no longer bound to the body, there is death. At the time of death, the Hún depart the body to merge into more subtle realms of existence, while the Pò stay with the body and eventually return to the earth.
Life is their embrace and death their separation.
The Hún are the Ethereal soul, or more precisely the Three Ethereal Souls. The ideogram for the Hún 魂 is comprised of two separate ideograms; Yún 云 meaning cloud and Guǐ 鬼 meaning ghost. Because of this, the Hún may be referenced as the "Cloud Ghost." The "cloud" is wind, attributed to the Wood element and Liver organ. The Hún are rooted within the Liver, specifically the Liver Yin and the Liver Blood. The Hún represent spiritual consciousness, provide the energetic movement of the mind, and are associated with the qì of Heaven (Johnson 2002, 144).
The Hún represent the psychological faculties of vision, clear direction, and imagination, especially daytime visions or nighttime dreams. They endow us with the ability to discern our path, with the capacity for justice and to stand for what we believe is right.
The Hún are classified as yang spirits and considered eternal. Through them, we have the opportunity of dissolving separation and thus, finding union. They can be cultivated and refined with the use of prayer, meditation, contemplation, incantations, and hand seals.
Although they reside in the Liver, the Hún also resonate from the three dāntiáns. The Hún have different attributes specific to their spiritual responsibilities that are associated with each dāntián. The three ethereal souls are Taí Guāng 台光, Shuǎng Líng 爽灵, and Yǒu Jīng 幽精.
The translation of Taí Guāng is “Supreme Radiance,” residing within the Upper Dāntián. Considered to be the highest expression of yīn and yáng energy in harmony within the human form, Taì Guāng expresses physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual purity (Johnson 2002, 145). From Taì Guāng, union with Heaven and Earth is discovered within perceptual gifts of awareness.
The translation of Shuǎng Líng is “Cheerful Spirit,” residing within the Middle Dāntián. As the transformed, yīn energy of the acquired mind and emotions, Shuǎng Líng’s influence gives rise to the virtues of the Five Agents. Experiencing the virtues of Shuǎng Líng, union and harmony with humanity are discovered, as our virtuous actions begin to dissolve boundaries with other.
The translation of Yǒu Jīng is “Hidden Essence,” residing within the Lower Dāntián. It manifests our desire to enjoy the pleasures of life; a walk to enjoy sunrise and draw in the early morning energy. From Yǒu Jīng, we find spiritual union while engaging in physical activities.
The gifts of the cultivated Hún are openness and pure perception, developing into union with the Dào.
Pò wú sáng qīng 魄无丧倾
“The Pò will not mourn” is the literal translation of this line.
The Pò balance the Hún. The Pò are called the corporeal soul or more precisely the Seven Corporeal Souls. The ideogram for the Pò 魄 is comprised of two separate ideograms; Bái 白 meaning white, which associates the Pò to the lunar phases (Schuessler 2007, 417) and Guǐ 鬼 meaning ghost. Because of this, the Pò may be referenced as the "White Ghost." It can also be said that the Pò are the spirits of form, of the substantial nature of existence.
They originate from Earth, reside in the Lungs, and resonate from specific areas of the body. At death, the Pò will return to the earth, dissolving with the flesh and bones.
The primal, animal instincts of survival and self-protection are the Pò’s nature. Unrestrained, their energies can be directed towards self-centeredness, self-destruction, or aggression. The Pò are responsible for the fear-based approach to life that seems to be the default perception of humanity - unless we are trained to overcome this sense of being in opposition to ourselves and the world. The Pò control and manifest the sympathetic nervous system (fight, flight, or freeze) that keeps so many members of humanity in a sense of struggle and stress with life.
The Pò are responsible for our five senses, our somatic emotional responses, our animal survival mechanism, and our inner voice of self-preservation.
Expressing the primal nature of man's instincts and drives, the Pò are passionate about engaging and experiencing life in its fullest measure. When in service to virtue, the care of others and humanity, the Seven Pò provide subtlety, delight, and restraint within the enjoyment of the sensual/sensory realms. When in service to self-centered desires, the Pò tend toward extremes of excessive indulgence, isolation, or other one-dimensional or narcissistic actions and attitudes.
Concealed Arrow – Fú Shǐ 伏矢
▪ The Pò of Spiritual Wisdom (Líng Huì 灵慧)
▪ Location: Below the Bǎihuì (GV-20) point in the Upper Dāntián
▪ Beneficial Action: Transcendence.
▪ Turbid Action: Promotes feelings of craving and lust. It seduces, tempts, and lures him or her into a desirable place or situation through manipulation and deceit. It then creates distress in the form of guilt, which generates shame. This spirit further creates anxiety and fear of being discredited, dishonored, or disgraced, and then immediately generates the foregone conclusion that attempting to correct the situation is fruitless. It also manifests in addictions and compulsions.
Remove Filth – Chú Huì 除秽
▪ The Pò of the Central Pivot (Zhōng Shū 中枢)
▪ Consciousness: Awareness (Yì Shí 意识)
▪ Location: Midpoint of the Tàijí Pole
▪ Beneficial Action: Overall awareness
▪ Turbid Action: haughty behavior and feelings of pride and arrogance
Yin Sparrow – Què Yīn 雀阴
▪ The Pò of the Bravery (Yīng Pò 英魄)
▪ Soul of the Fire Element
▪ Consciousness: Taste (Wèi Jué 味觉)
▪ Location: Anterior to the Mìngmén (GV-4) behind the Tàijí Pole
▪ Beneficial Action: Faith; trustworthiness
▪ Turbid Action: Torments the individual by causing him or her to experience severe pain and anguish by dwelling on unresolved emotional issues from the past, present anxieties, and future fears. Known as the "Night Tormentor," This Pò is especially active at night, manifesting through nightmares, insomnia, and restless sleep.
Corpse Dog – Shī Gǒu 尸狗
▪ The Pò of the Strength (Lì Pò力魄)
▪ Soul of the Earth Elements
▪ Consciousness: Touch (Chù Jué 触觉)
▪ Location: Posterior to the navel, in front of the Tàijí Pole.
▪ Beneficial Action: Conduct force
▪ Turbid Action: Expressing through feelings of greed, Corpse Dog promotes selfish desires and covetous actions.
Smelly Lung – Chǒu Fèi 臭肺
▪ The Pò of Energy (Qì Pò 气魄)
▪ Soul of the Metal Element
▪ Consciousness: Smell (Xiù Jué 嗅觉)
▪ Location: posterior of the Dànzhōng (CV-17)
▪ Beneficial Action: Justice; boldness
▪ Turbid Action: Promotes hopelessness and smells of death, destroying hope and faith and feeding on ignorance. This can lead to a sense of despair, spiritual apathy, bewilderment, or sloth. Smelly Lung expresses as victim and martyr.
Seizing Thief – Tūn Zéi 吞贼
▪ The Pò of Essence (Jīng Pò 精魄)
▪ Soul of the Water Element
▪ Consciousness: Hearing (Tīng Jué 听觉)
▪ Location: At the bottom of the feet in the Yōngquán (KD-1). This is the only Pò that is not located on the Tàijí Pole.
▪ Beneficial Action: Balance of power, honor
▪ Turbid Action: Negative judgments and bitter emotions like resentment, envy, and jealousy devour the individual's life-force energy.
Flying Poison – Fēi Dú 飞毒
▪ The Pò of Celestial Power (Tiān Chòng 天冲)
▪ Soul of the Wood Element
▪ Consciousness: Vision (Shì Jué 视觉)
▪ Location: Below the diaphragm
▪ Beneficial Action: Loyalty
▪ Turbid Action: Provokes and generates indignation and wrath to produce hostile, destructive, and violently aggressive reactions. This Pò can cause an individual to suddenly explode with venomous thoughts of negative or evil intention.
Practicing self-cultivation, we learn to calm the mind, regulate the emotions, and discern true threat from the imaginary. Genuinely dangerous and life threatening events are real, but most of our fears aren’t grounded in reality. Our response to them is a choice. We can choose to react to the event, either lashing outward at others or inward at ourselves; or we can be present to the event while allowing virtues such as openness, wisdom, and compassion to emerge. By making the second choice, we can live authentically with integrity and tranquility. We also will respond more accurately and effectively, with clarity and restraint.
Gradually accomplishing the goal of harmonizing the Hún and Pò, we find health, balance and self-realization. Cultivating Hún and Pò is a refining process. Cultivating Hún means to refine yang energy, which brings us into alignment with the heavens. Cultivating the Pò means to release and transform impure energies, which refines our connection to pure earth yīn.
In practice, we learn how to breathe properly, thereby sedating the Pò. We learn how to move and hold our bodies with good structure without pushing or straining, thereby allowing qi to flow without obstruction. We learn not to grasp, fixate, or pursue the contents of our experience, thereby staying present.
The cultivated and refined Pò supports the openness and pure perception of the cultivated Hún. This balanced state of awareness leads to union with the Dào.
Zhāng Bó Duān 張伯端 in Wùzhēn piān 悟真篇 (Understanding Reality, University of Hawaii Press, 1987) states that there are three stages of cultivation: (1) subjugating the yīn and while cultivating the yáng; (2) balancing yīn and yáng; and (3) transcending yīn and yáng (Chang 3). In Purify the Heart, all three stages are possible.
The Five Elements undergo transformational processes within the Heart Incantation.
Fire with "The Heart is at peace."
Water with "Wisdom is luminous."
Wood with “The three Hún are eternal.”
Metal with “The Pò will not mourn.”
The role of the Earth element is unnamed in the text, yet it serves the deepest function of the Five Elements.
Earth’s position relative to the other Elements is the center. It is a place of balance not only between the rational mind (acquired mind) and full presence (congenital mind), but also between survival mechanisms (acquired emotions) and the virtues (congenital emotions)
In the center position, the orientation is encompassing, viewing the totality of an environment, while not engaging in any element directly. Thus, the true self (zhēn shén 真神) comes forward, free from distraction and preconceptions.
Only when centered will our heart be open, our mind tranquil, and our alignment authentic, leading us to the vast profundity of the Dào.
When your mind is detached, simple, quiet, then all things exist in harmony, and the subtle truth is perceived.
- Huàhú Jīng 化胡经, Chapter 11
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 In Daoism, virtue is the manifestation of the middle dāntián, which is our innate inheritance of integrity, dignity, wisdom, compassion, etc. These are virtues of being. When one abides in virtue, energy flows. Being innate, prenatal virtues are always present as potential. Their manifestation increases when cultivated.
 Originally, the po were considered one entity, but they were divided in an eleventh century encyclopedia, the Seven Tablets from a Cloudy Satchel (yunji qibu zhi ying 雲笈七部之英). (Komjathy 2007, 301)
 Yan. From this website I was able to reference and translate the secondary names, locations, and beneficial actions.
 (Johnson, 2002, 157-8). Turbid actions for the Seven Pò.
 Hua Hu Ching The Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu. Walker, Brian, 2009