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Master Danyang

Sayings of Ma Danyang, a famous Taoist wizard of the Song dynasty (960–1279). Danyang, whose Taoist name means Cinnabar Sunlight, was one of the great disciples of Wang Chongyang, the founder of the Northern Branch of Complete Reality Taoism, a powerful neo-Taoist movement reviving both contemplative and social elements of Taoism. The austere spirituality of the Northern Branch of Complete Reality Taoism is reminiscent of Chan, or Zen, Buddhism, which many neo-Taoists studied, but it is also an organic response to the problems and hardships of a society under foreign occupation.


Learning the Way is a matter of self-enlightenment.

Failure to realize enlightenment is caused by ignorance.

If you want to break through ignorance, first clean your mind.

This is a matter of purifying and calming it until it is perfectly clear.

When you succeed at this you attain fulfillment. You do not necessarily need to ask another for instruction.


Eat plainly to cultivate energy.

Get rid of anger to cultivate nature.

Be humble to cultivate character.

Keep unified, clear and clean, calm and serene, to cultivate the Way.

When your name is not on the rolls and your heart is not on power and profit, this is how you shed the human shell and become a companion of Heaven.


Energy is hard to master; it is swift as a galloping horse.

Only by calmness does it become easy.

Get rid of external longings. If you see the hubbub in front of your eyes as if it were deep in the mountains, in inaccessible valleys, this is the heart of a Wayfarer.

No one can exercise mastery without reaching the state of mindlessness.


When the mind is stable, feelings are forgotten.

When the body is immaterial, energy circulates.

When the mind dies, the spirit lives.

When positivity is strong, negativity vanishes.

These are natural patterns.


The subtlety of preserving nonvolatile energy is in keeping vitality complete.

It is most important to be guarded when sleeping. When you are going to sleep, keep accurate mindfulness present, so myriad thoughts disappear.

Lie on your side, breathing softly through the nose, the soul not stirring within, the spirit not roaming outside.

Do this, and your energy and vitality will naturally stabilize.


If people can master the path of purity and serenity, that is most excellent. Therefore scripture says, “If people can always be pure and serene, heaven and earth will resort to them.”

This “heaven and earth” does not mean the external sky and ground. It refers to the heaven and earth in the body.

Above the solar plexus is called heaven, below the solar plexus is called earth. If the energy of heaven descends and the vessel of earth opens, so that there is harmony above and below, then vitality and energy spontaneously stabilize.


The substance of the Way is no mind, the application is forgetting words.

The basis is softness, the foundation is purity and serenity.

If it is to be carried out among people, it is necessary to be moderate in eating and drinking, to stop musing and mulling, to sit quietly to tune your breathing, and to sleep peacefully to nurture energy.

When your mind does not race, then your nature is stable.

When your body is not belabored, then your vitality is complete.

When your spirit is not disturbed, the elixir crystallizes.

After that you extinguish feelings in emptiness and settle the spirit in the absolute.

This can be called attainment of the subtle Way without leaving home.


Everything requires preparedness, for then there is no trouble.

So if those who work on the Way would control their emotions and desires when they are young, thus making early preparations for it, then spiritual immortality is possible.

If you wait until you are old and your willpower and energy are declining, it will be too late to study the Way.


Clarity and purity mean clarifying the mind source and purifying the energy ocean.

When the mind source is clear, external things cannot disturb it, so feelings settle and spiritual illumination takes place.

When the energy ocean is pure, wrong desires cannot affect it, so vitality is complete and the belly is full.

So clarify mind as you would clarify water; nurture nonvolatile energy as you would nurture an infant.

When nonvolatile energy blossoms, the spirit is effective. When the spirit is effective, nonvolatile energy transmutes.

This is effected by clarity and purity. If you practice conscious, deliberate exercises, these are limited techniques. If you practice the principle of mindless noncontrivance, this is unlimited clear emptiness.


Noncontrivance means not musing or mulling.

Though you may act in the midst of love, desire, anger,accumulation, gain, and loss, be always uncontrived.

Even when involved in things, be always unconcerned.

If you concentrate totally, moreover, clarify your mind and purify your will, nourish your energy and make your spirit complete, you will drift into the land of freedom and enter the village of nothing-whatsoever.


Mindlessness, or no mind, does not mean being mindless like cats or dogs or bugs.

It means striving to keep the mind in the realm of clear purity, and having no warped mind.

Vulgar people have no clear pure mind, while people of the Way have no polluted dirty mind. That does not mean they are totally mindless like trees, rocks, cats, or dogs.


Students of the Way should have their minds on the Way at all times, no matter what they are doing.

When they walk, they set foot on the path of evenness.

When they stand still, they freeze their feelings in cosmic space.

When they sit, they tune the breathing in the nose.

When they recline, they embrace the jewel below the navel.

Eventually the tune of the breathing is unbroken, and you are like an imbecile all day long. This is correct practice—it has nothing to do with contrived observances.


The energy in the body should not be scattered, the spirit in the mind should not be dimmed.

How do you avoid scattering energy?

By not acting compulsively.

How do you avoid dimming the spirit?

By not keeping things on your mind.