Sila or ‘Moral Discipline’ as Qi Cultivation

Master Xu Yun in his 113th Year - 1952-53
Master Xu Yun in his 113th Year – 1952-53

The maintaining of physical discipline in the Buddhist sense, is a form of what is known in China today as ‘qigong’ (氣功), or to use the much older name – ‘daoyin’ (導引).  Qigong is the cultivation of inner energy (qi) through directed willpower and effort (gong), whilst daoyin is the practice of ‘directing’ and ‘leading’ (dao) inner energy (qi), whilst ‘yin’ is the wilful process of ‘pulling’ the inner energy (qi) through the body and causing it to flow to all areas without hindrance. Both terms are similar and used interchangeably with a modern preference for qigong in popular literature, and daoyin in literature of a more ancient origination. Within Chinese Buddhism, the concept of ancient Indian moral discipline (Sanskrit: ‘sila’) is written with the Chinese ideogram ‘戒’ (jie4). This character is formed using the right-hand particle ‘戈’ (ge1) which denotes a spear or lance, and the left-hand particle ‘廾’ (gong3) which signifies two-hands carrying an object. When combined together to form the ideogram ‘戒’ (jie4), the narrow martial meaning becomes that of ‘warning’, ‘defending’, ‘warding-off’, ‘admonishing’ and ‘guarding’. In the broader sense, this ideogram represents ‘abstaining’, ‘caution’, ‘refraining’, ‘giving-up’, ‘avoidance’, and ‘vow’, etc. When presented as ‘戒律’ (jie4lu4) – lit: ‘give-up law’ – the concept of ‘precepts’ is formed, or that of Buddhist monastic and lay moral discipline. This discipline is designed to ‘guard’ the mind from disturbances through behaviour modification which is designed to first reduce, and then remove all tensions, agitations, conflicts, contradictions, paradoxes, and perplexities in the mind and body – whilst actively preventing such manic energy from ever arising again. The Vinaya discipline, (and its lay counter-part), is in reality an exercise in quietening, controlling, directing, optimising, and enhancing the inner life-force (qi), so that the mind, body and spiritual essence, cease to be three separate and distinct entities, and fully unite into an all-embracing totality of awareness (i.e. Buddhist enlightenment).

(Extracted from the forthcoming article ‘Master Xu Yun and His Relationship with Daoism’ (By Adrian Chan-Wyles) – due to be published in the March 2015 edition of Patriarch’s Vision – the EJournal of the International Ch’an Buddhism Institute)

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