Temple on mountain

The joy of self-recollection

In Insight and Experience, Places, Travel and Retreats by LivingNowLeave a Comment

In the spring of 1981, I was fortunate enough to find myself living alone as caretaker of a small Taoist temple in Taiwan. Tang Ming, the Master of the temple, had met me in Taipei under auspicious circumstances. After a short conversation, he discerned that I was the person for the job of looking after his newly established temple in the remote mountains to the east. He seemed to sense that this was my dream-come-true. I spent 5 years there, mainly on my own, taking advantage of unlimited time for meditation and the study of Chinese language and calligraphy, plus long walks in the exquisite, wild countryside.

Every weekend Tang would drive up from Taipei with a retinue of his followers. During that time, he gradually taught me the inner practices of Taoism. One day, after about a year of this training, he introduced me to a local yokel who I had seen on occasion gathering herbs in the forest nearby. His simple, scruffy style of dressing had me believing that he was a farmer. Tang introduced him as Jwen De Tao. Upon meeting me, Jwen gave a shy nod and a quiet guffaw as he looked me over. But it was only when he looked me directly in the eyes that I realised that this man was certainly no farmer. What felt like an electric shock ran through my entire body, and I experienced momentary paralysis. He was gone before I could recover. Tang was looking at me in the most bemused way, but said nothing. I sensed that I was about to experience a “changing of the guards.” My new spiritual guardian turned out to be a true Hsien, or “Immortal,” a high-level adept of the ancient science of Ling Shiou (“Soul Recovery”). Over the next 3 years, Jwen took over my training, which shifted from meditative to mystical. Without question, he became my true Master, guiding me through a myriad of internal practices and through Ling Shiou. Some of these awakened in me a deep love and appreciation of myself and all life, and some were terrifying in their depth and power. My apprenticeship began shortly after Tang’s introduction. He began to appear in my dreams. These were very lucid dreams—if anything more lucid than my waking state! Later on, he would pay me “visits” in the waking state when it was time for the next step. The odd thing is, in his case, the experience of being with him was exactly the same in both states. When questioned about this, he explained that this was to help me loose my preference for embodiment. I didn’t understand what he meant until later. From the beginning, and all through the first year he developed the same agenda: the cultivation and expansion of the energy of the Heart chakra, in the centre of the chest. This was an extraordinary teaching which I later began to teach under the title “Heart Radiance.” He explained to me that the real purpose of this instruction was to fully develop intentional compassion, which would always guide and protect me through any trial. With this skill, I would be able to meet even the most confronting challenge with implacable courage. Little did I know then that I would soon be able to put his claim to the test.

It was late on a midsummer’s eve—July 14th according to my journal. I was happily practicing my calligraphy, with a bottle of rice wine on the go. The temple doors were flung open to let the cool evening air circulate through the building. A night bird repeated its haunting moon song off in the nearby bamboo grove, and the incense I had recently offered to the temple effigies was wafting a sacred fragrance into my little room. Gradually, I became aware that the hair on the back of my neck was beginning to stand up, alerting me to the shift of energy in the room. Jwen always made his appearances in this way. No shuffling footsteps of the ordinary Chinese, no throat clearing, or any of the “civilised” niceties. Yet his presence permeated the room as unmistakably as the fragrance of the incense. I put down my brush and turned slowly to find him standing nearby, dressed as usual, eyes sparkling, with an ironic smile on his lips. He greeted me with a nod, taking a seat in a nearby chair. I could immediately feel my Heart chakra opening to fill my whole body with radiance. By now the response had become spontaneous. I embraced him in the energy as he had trained me to do, saturating him with graceful and loving intention. I could see his whole body beginning to glow and vibrate in the golden spectrum that this practice evokes. As this continued, he began to speak slowly, in a hypnotic tone.

“You have learned well over the past year, Mas. Most of your negative, addictive karma has dissipated. This year has been somewhat of an initiation. I have come tonight to tell you that you are now ready to take the next step.” He paused. I could feel that he was returning the heart radiance, but with redoubled intensity. The love energy coursed through my system, nearly overwhelming me with its power. I let it flow through my energy channels without restraint, as I had been taught. Then it bubbled up my spine and exploded in my brain, then coursed out my spinal nerves like ambrosia, saturating my whole body.

“You can now feel your light body.” His voice now drifted across to me as if from afar… or perhaps from the very centre of my head. “First, I want you to inhabit that radiant energy body. Everything depends on your intention. You must fully unite your intention with the power of consciousness.” I began to breathe more deeply into the concentration. I could feel his energy extending out to me, like the walls of a moat, forcing my efforts to move in only one channel, yet surrounding and protecting my inner being. “Now, take a slow, deep inhalation.” His voice had transformed, becoming more deep and commanding. “As you inhale, hold the intention to stand up in your energy body! Stand up! Stand up above your physical body! Feel that!!” He paused, and in a softer tone, almost a whisper, he directed me, “Now, as you slowly exhale, sit back down in your physical body.” As I followed his directions, I felt as if I were pouring liquid light through my entire energy system, but this time it was cool and soothing, natural, yet exhilarating. But we had just begun.

Jwen soon had me stand up once again, in my light body. As I paused on the full inhalation, I could “see” my physical body below me. “Now,” his voice became commanding once again. “Now, as you exhale, step forward and turn around to face your physical body.” Without time to consider the impossibility of such a thing, I merely followed his instructions. As I completed my exhalation, there it was! The image of myself sat directly in front of me, as if I were gazing into a mirror—only it was sitting. Jwen resumed his guidance: “Relax the breath as you send loving and grateful energy to your physical body. With your full intention, reassure your physical body that it is safe. Let it know that you’ll soon return.” As soon as I had completed these suggestions, Jwen resumed, “Now turn around and observe the presence of the luminous glow in front of you, expanding in all directions. You can call this The Cloud of Unknowing. Once you enter in with full trust, you will be able, for the first time, to fully release all worldly attributes. Up till now you have considered these you/yours.”

Jwen paused for what seemed like an eon, then, in a different voice that seemed very far away, he continued, “Now, you are ready to proceed…” I felt a forward movement and then some sort of dissolution, as if I had become this expansive cloud. The experience was radiant, blissful, timeless, and totally without content. “Time” had become eternity. ~ Eventually—somehow– I found the wherewithal to open my eyes. All seemed “normal,” yet I knew immediately that everything had changed forever. Although aware that I was back within my body, I knew for the first time that I was no longer of a body. This wisdom teaching was to eventually lead me to a domain of freedom I had formerly only dreamed of. But, as I returned from my first experience, the main question on my mind was, “How could it all be so simple?!” As my eyes adjusted to the dim light of the room, I realised that the chair before me was now empty. Master Jwen had once again left me alone to ponder and to practice.

Over the following year, I learned that my remarkable experience that night was merely the preamble to something altogether more magnificent. Jwen patiently guided me deeper and deeper into The Cloud as I could maintain my awareness longer and longer. Finally I discovered the enchanted Seat of Origin, at the very centre of The Cloud. It was there that I learned the true meaning of Soul Recovery. To my full satisfaction, I also found out the true meaning of eternity. The “Original Domain” within The Cloud is timeless. This understanding and experiencing is of the utmost importance, because it allows one to engage with a timeless Being called “Sacred Ideal Self,” synonymous with “Soul Self.” This is the Self who conceived the scripts and agreements for the present lifetime. My observation, based on the presentation of this agenda over the past 15 years is that, upon encountering this primal aspect of Self, life ceases to be a drama and a mystery. The age-old question “What am I here for?” ceases to be a question, as the answer is obvious. As a result, the life pattern is likely to change radically. Three qualities highlight the shifts that take place: Peace, Joy, and Harmony. These are underscored with a preponderance of Love of self and of all life. As a result, happiness prevails, and become the normal state of being.

With Jwen’s compassionate support, I spent the remaining 3 years at the temple refining my practice of Soul Recovery. In the process, I came to understand the deeper meaning of these words. For the Chinese, the fundamental concept of Soul (Ling) is quite similar to that of the West, i.e., that primal aspect of ourselves which is immortal, or, if you will, that “piece of God” in all of us which unites us as transcendent beings, at one in the universal Love energy. Yet, we soon forget these things when tossed into the dualistic, sense-based fires of earthly incarnation. The intrinsic meaning of “Recovery” (Shiou) as used in this practice is recovery of (our) wholeness. We learn to remember Who we are and have always been. There is a huge joy in this remembrance, thus I have titled my retreat “The Joy of Self-Recollection.”

One day, towards the end of my apprenticeship, as I was contemplating my re-entry into the “normal” world, I asked Jwen if I might one day be able to share this extraordinary method of Ling Shiou with others. “That is the intention!” he answered matter-of-factly. “You will continue to practice the way I have taught you, and eventually you will understand. You will understand that, in order to continue to deepen your own Soul wisdom, you must offer the teaching to others.” He continued, “You may have asked yourself the question: ‘How could I ever repay Jwen for his so-called kindness?’ That is how… by eventually offering Ling Shiou to all who come forward, ready for the answers that this teaching provides. Every time you offer in this way, with true sincerity, I shall be there too. You shall always have my full support. Trust me—you should know by now that miracles do happen!”

Mas_RogersI left the temple 3 months later, bearing his words in mind and heart. Over the next 5 years, I continued to practice with diligence. True, I occasionally fell back into “world sickness,” habits of sensation-seeking and egotism, but each time I managed to get up and dust myself off with the help of my practice, and Jwen’s patient encouragement—for he never left me. Finally in 1991 while living in Hong Kong, I got confirmation that the time had come to begin sharing Ling Shiou openly. Over the last 15 years, I have continued to teach Ling Shiou in small groups, as Jwen directed. Of course, as promised, he always makes his remarkable presence known.

 

Mas Rogers passed away in Melbourne on 3/1/2011. His gentle nature will be remembered by all his friends and workshop participants and his contribution to the holistic niche is substantial.

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