Alchemy and Hermeticism, in its purest and most logical form, is the nearest Western teaching to that of Chinese transformative Daoism, particularly Alchemy and Hermeticism
Having established these facts, it is important to understand that a realised monastic is not limited to his or her social role, and that realised members of lay society are equally not limited to their role. There exists enlightened freedom that functions through specific social roles, but which remains completely ‘free’ of any limitations as defined by those roles.
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.
A more extreme example of longevity belongs to that of the modern Daoist Immortal Li Qing Yun whose birth and death dates are given as 1677 – 1933. This means that he lived for 256 years and according to Chinese record, there is ample documentary evidence for this extraordinary life-span.
‘Once beyond the initial barrier of potentially bewildering terminology, Zhao Bichen’s approach involves the cultivation of awareness throughout the ‘inside’ of the body, together with an actual awareness of qi as it is distributed throughout the system. In this respect, the inside of the body is perceived (through meditation) as a number of cavities, or vacuous spaces. The breathing mechanism maintains the inflating and deflating of these cavities with qi. Awareness becomes so subtle that even the smallest of movements within the body is clearly sensed. The qi passes around the body through the action of the inward breath and the outward breath, travelling with the blood through the arteries and veins.’