Ni, Hua Ching may be the most prolific author on Taoism and related subjects in English. Born in China, he later emigrated to Taiwan and then the United States, where he currently resides in L.A., teaching spiritual practices and traditional Chinese medicine. His book jacket biographies give somewhat varied impressions of his background, on the one hand stating that he is "heir to an unbroken succession of Taoist wisdom passed down to him through many generations of his family," and on the other hand that he "is fully acknowledged and empowered as a true teacher of natural spiritual truth by his own spiritual attainment rather than by external authority."
One quirk of Ni's writing is that he rarely identifies the sources of his ideas and practices. He refers to his teaching as the Integral Way, because he has assimilated common elements of the world's religious traditions in addition to Taoism. Some of his practices were apparently passed down as oral traditions within his family and might not be typical of other Taoist practitioners. Nevertheless, a number of interesting ideas and techniques are scattered through the large and somewhat rambling body of his writings. A number of these are what he calls "invocations," or short Chinese phrases used for contemplation and meditation. Several of these are discussed below. You can find more information on these techniques in his books, listed under Sources at the end of this page.
In his book Nurture Your Spirits, Ni calls this "the unified secret and sacred code," and says
In the book Mysticism, Ni identifies this invocation with something called the Jade Pivotal Power, but does not explain further.
This invocation is also given on a cassette tape by Ni's son, Maoshing Ni, as discussed on the page on this website called Most Accessible Chants.
Lieu Huh Yu Woh Tong Cheung
In the book Eternal Light: Teachings of My Father, Grandmaster Ni Yo-San, Ni explains this invocation as follows:
In Nurture Your Spirits , Ni calls this Lao Tzu's invocation, and translates it as "The essence of the mystery is the gate of all wonders." Ni explains: "It means, the universal and your spiritual nature are one."
This phrase is taken from the end of Chapter 1 of Lao Tzu's Tao te Ching.
Tien Di Yu O Wei I
The capital "I" at the end is pronounced "ee." In Nurture Your Spirits, Ni attributes the above invocation to Chuang Tzu and translates it as "The Universe and I are One." While Ni does not identify the exact source of this quote, a kindly correspondent, Kwan-Yuk Sit, has pointed out to me that it appears to be an abridgement of the following statements from the second chapter of Chuang-Tzu:
Another translation reads as follows:
The Chinese text, provided by Kwan-Yuk Sit, reads
The pinyin converter at www.purpleculture.net renders this as
The trailing numbers on each word indicate the tones. For those, like me, who don't know how to pronounce the tones, the following transliteration may be easier to read:
The Three Treasures
Taoist philosophy, metaphysics and practice often have reference to the three treasures of Ching, Chi, and Shen, which can be loosely translated as sexual essence, energy, and spirit. In the body, these are said to reside especially in the three Tan Tien (elixir fields). Thus, Ching is associated with the lower Tan Tien in the abdomen, a bit lower than the navel and midway between your front and back. Chi is associate with the middle Tan Tien or heart center. And shen is associated with the upper Tan Tien between the eyebrows, often called the "Third Eye" in Yoga. The three levels are also referred to as body, mind and spirit. The colors white, gold, and purple are usually associated with these three centers, from lowest to highest. Much of Taoist inner alchemy is devoted to causing energy to ascend from the lower Tan Tien to the higher ones. (See Jou, Tsung Hwa, The Tao of Meditation: Way to Enlightenment .)
Ni provides a number of different three-word invocations relating to these three energy centers. In the book Eternal Light: Teachings of My Father, Grandmaster Ni Yo-San, he gives the syllables Yi Shi Vi to invokes these energies in descending order. He also talks about various hand gestures and visualizations that can be used to associate these syllables with four spots on the hand or four positions in the body, a practice which follows a somewhat complex pattern since three sounds are being alternated among four different positions. (To my ear, Yi Shi Vi sounds more like a cabalistic Hebrew phrase than a Chinese one!)
Ni adds that "You can also use the words Ahng - Lah - Fuh if you prefer."
In the same book, Ni identifies the three treasures signified by Yi Shi Vi with the gods called the Three Stars in the popular pantheon: Fu Luh Soh. This is interesting, as these gods are not usually regarded as particularly Taoist in character. However, Ni explains:
For further information on the Three Stars, see The Three Stars (Fu, Lu, and Shou).
In Workbook for Spiritual Development of All People, Ni describes a meditation for opening up the three Tan Tien, in which the syllables Chia Shen Yeo are associated with the three centers in descending order. You visualize the Chinese character for each syllable at the corresponding position in the body while chanting that syllable; the characters are
In Eternal Light: Teachings of My Father, Grandmaster Ni Yo-San , Ni also identifies the Buddhist mantra Om Ah Hung with the same three energies. This is a bit surprising, as in Buddhism these syllables are normally associated with three slightly different meanings (body, speech, and mind), subtle energy centers (third eye, throat, and heart), and colors (white, red, and blue). Interestingly, in The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing: Guarding the Three Treasures , Daniel Reid also implies that these syllables might be related in some way to Taoist practice:
The authors Chen Zhiming, Stephen Jackowicz, and Symon Stanley describe a similar mantra practice in their article on Fire Dragon Qigong:
The sounds are listed in reverse order because they discuss the sounds for the dantien in order from lowest to highest. If you read the sounds in order from highest to lowest dantien, mmmm, ahhh, and hunn sound a lot like Om Ah Hung.
Chyan Yuan Heng Li Ching
In his book Mysticism, Ni explains this phrase as follows:
He also describes the five characters as "the Five Energies produced by the spiral movement of the Primal Energy," which suggests a relationship to the Five Phase cycle of Chinese metaphysics. It is not 100% clear which of these characters is supposed to relate to which of the Five Phases, but I would interpret the various illustrations from the book as meaning that Chyan = Earth, Yuan = Wood, Heng = Fire, Li = Metal, and Ching = Water. The oddity is that the cyclic movement on p. 17 is shown as placing Earth after Water and before Wood, rather than in its more common position after Fire and before Metal. This is not entirely without precedent in Chinese tradition however, as in the After Heaven arrangement of the Eight Trigrams or bagua, the element of Earth shows up in both of those positions (corresponding to the start of Spring and the start of Autumn), at the two points in the cycle when the movement of Yin toward Yang or Yang toward Yin is just reversing direction.
It turns out that this invocation originated as the Decision text for the first hexagram of the I Ching. Alfred Huang discusses these characters in more detail in Chapter 9, "Four Most Auspicious Situations" in The Numerology of the I Ching: A Sourcebook of Symbols, Structures, and Traditional Wisdom. Also, the Willhelm/Baynes edition of the I Ching or Book of Changes gives the meanings of the Decision as
Willhelm's commentary states:
Willhelm/Baynes translate the relevant portion of the the Wen Yen, or Seventh Wing of the I Ching or Book of Changes, as follows:
Shing Chu Yuan Ming Wu Nie
In his book The Mystical Universal Mother: The Teachings of the Mother of Yellow Altar, Ni describes this invocation that was given to many people by his mother. The words mean:
Thus, "The mind is like a bright pearl that rolls smoothly with no obstruction." However, it is not necessary to think about the meaning. Ni says that this practice is helpful for calming negative thoughts or emotions, and for bringing the smoothly rolling state of mind that is common to all achieved people. You can practice this invocation using a string of beads, or else repeat it mentally whenever you have a bit of free time. "There is no need for a complicated system or ritual," says Ni.
Ni calls this invocation the Six True Words or the Six Words of Truth. (This is not to be confused with the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, which is also known among the Chinese as the Six True Words.)
Note that in China, the family name is traditionally listed before a person's given, "first" name. Many of Ni's books thus list his name as Ni, Hua Ching, with others follow the more English ordering of Hua-Ching Ni.
Alfred Huang, The Numerology of the I Ching. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 2000.
Jou, Tsung Hwa, The Tao of Meditation: Way to Enlightenment. Scottsdale, AZ: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1991.
Hua-Ching Ni, The Mystical Universal Mother: The Teachings of the Mother of Yellow Altar. Los Angeles, CA: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1991.
Hua-Ching Ni, Mysticism. Santa Monica, CA: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1992. This book includes a number of interesting visual diagrams and calligraphy. A small correction: the labels of the Lo Shu diagram on p. 35 and the Ho Tu diagram on p. 52 are reversed.
Ni, Hua Ching. Workbook for Spiritual Development of All People. Malibu, CA: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1984.
Ni, Hua Ching. Nurture Your Spirits. Malibu, CA: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1990.
Ni, Hua-Ching. Eternal Light: Teachings of My Father, Grandmaster Ni Yo-San. Malibu, CA: Shrine of the Eternal Breath of Tao, 1989.
Daniel Reid, The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing. New York: Barnes & Nobel Books, 1998.
Richard Willhelm and Cary F. Baynes (translators), I Ching or Book of Changes. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1950 (reprinted 1980).
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