‘Yin-Yang Symbol’

What is Integral Spirituality?

A Holistic Notion of Spiritual Life


Hua-Ching Ni is a Taoist Master, Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Tai Chi teacher living in Los Angeles, United States. His son, Dr. Maoshing Ni or simply Dr. Mao has gained international fame as a natural healer and author.


In modern language, integral spirituality is a holistic notion of spiritual life, while religions, useful or not for the individual truth seeker, offer more or less fragmented spiritual views. They miss out on what may be the most essential in spirituality, a broad-minded, tolerant, integrative, all-encompassing perspective that is yet based upon a methodologically sound, intelligent and attentive observation of nature, and the human within nature!

Such a holistic view of spirituality has direct implications, for example in the domain of healing. Master Ni points this out in all detail in several of his books about natural healing. For example, he writes:

Hua-Ching Ni
So the basic principle of Chinese medicine and spiritual cultivation is integral beingness. It does not treat people like machines. Nor does it take the attitude that if you have a pain, I can simply cut the nerve so you don’t feel it, or if you have a cold, I can give you a medication to suppress the symptoms. (Ni, The Power of Natural Healing, 1991, 1995, 6)

The point of departure, so to speak, of the integral view of life, is the insight that all life is energy, and that all life originates from energy as the prime mover in the universe. Master Ni points out:

Hua-Ching Ni
To the ancient ones, there was no problem about whether the universe started by mind or matter. An energy egg cannot be defined as either mind or matter, because it is just energy. Energy is life. If the universe is not energy, it is a dead, empty shell. It could not be you and me; it could not be life. (Ni, Power of Natural Healing, 1991, 1995, 11)

Another ingredient in integral spirituality is that it is natural, based upon nature, not culture. Master Ni points this out in much detail and I may give some quotations here that show how he shows what is natural, by first showing what is not natural:

Hua-Ching Ni
It is not necessarily helpful to emulate or appreciate leaders who are motivated to start a religion or give spiritual teachings in order to organize followers, to group people or to rule a society. No religion or teaching can include all teachers and all sages. Not only that, it is suitable to learn only from those who were natural in spirit. It is not necessary to focus upon those who organized programs and teachings unless, of course, that is also your interest. If you do so, be sure to examine the teachers’ motivations. Natural inspiration can still be organized and is provable to certain people. (Ni, Life and Teaching of Two Immortals, II, 1993, 136)

The simple reason why Master Ni is against retreating from the world as a path to self-cultivation is that such behavior is by and large not natural:

Hua-Ching Ni
My experience and spiritual attainment still reveal to me that renouncing the world is self-deception. Perhaps it is helpful for a short time in one’s learning, but no one can really renounce life. I advise my friends to live differently from the worldly pattern, to be selective and wise. A person can still be active in the world during the daytime or business hours, and renounce the world during your quiet time or meditation at home. Any person who wishes can thus alternate between a worldly and a spiritual life each day without moving or retreating. (Ni, Internal Alchemy, 1992, xi)

The third ingredient in integral spirituality is a thorough understanding of the spirit world, the world of the spirits of nature. Master Ni asks:

Hua-Ching Ni
Can you understand and communicate with your own spirit? It takes a little time, but it can be done. Sometimes we do many stupid things against our spirit. Our spirit may know something that our mind does not know, but we foolishly go ahead to do many things against ourselves. Seeing our mistakes in these instances can be a catalyst for further understanding and growth. Since doing some of those things can harm us if we are not careful, I recommend that you not do anything against your own spiritual nature. (Ni, The Power of Natural Healing, 28)

Reading this quote attentively, we become aware that there is another notion to be observed in integral spirituality, it is ‘spiritual nature’, a notion not ordinarily to be found within religions. This view namely implies that each of us, each individual, bears his or her own spiritual nature. We could also describe it as ‘spiritual identity’. What does that mean?

Hua-Ching Ni explains at various occasions that each human being is a microcosm who bears essentially three spiritual centers where spirits gather, the belly, the heart region and the head. The belly is the center of the body spirits, the heart region is the center of the mind spirits and the head is the center of the spirit spirits. There is a hierarchy set for these spirits in that the latter ones, the spirit spirits, are the highest among them. Now, when Master Ni says we should never do something against our spiritual nature, he means that we should never offend any of those spirits that are part of our microcosm as a human.

Integral spirituality as a special teaching of the more than 8000-years old Taoist* school of wisdom, not to be confounded with folk Taoism. It is a non-religious, philosophical teaching that is down-to-earth, free of beliefs, free of magic rituals and free of the need for credulity. Its main representatives in ancient times were the sages Lao-tzu** and Chuang-Tzu.

Master Hua-Ching Ni and his family are since at least 14 generations a modern-day representative voice of this ancient integral teaching.

Glossary

* Taoism is a philosophical school from ancient China. One of its foremost sources are the Tao Te Ching, by Lao-tzu. Tao means path or way, but in Chinese religion and philosophy it has taken on abstract meanings. Some of the foremost qualities that characterize Taoism are a non- biased and non-judgmental mindset, acceptance of all-that-is, including the world, integration of emotions, magnanimity, patience and tolerance toward the uneducated and ‘brute’ and the ‘perverse’ majority of humans who are caught in innumerable projections due to their refusal to face what-is and their entanglement in possessions, status and time- bound concepts. Lao-Tzu is considered, together with Chuang-tzu, as the primary representative of Taoism. Very similar to Taoism is Chang Buddhism, which after its propagation in Japan was termed as Zen. Like Taoism it is a philosophical school that warns of the conceptual trap by saying in a metaphor that the finger that points to the moon is not the moon. Both philosophies stress the importance of daily life as a plane of sharpening the mind through developing attention.

* Lao-tzu (604 BC–531 BC) was a Chinese classical philosopher. The reputed founder of Taoism, he preached conformity to the Tao, or eternal spirit of right conduct, and is considered one of the great figures of Chinese history. He is the author of the Tao Te Ching. According to the legend Lao-tzu was a contemporary of Confucius, and worked as an archivist in the Imperial Library of the Zhou Dynasty (1122–256 BC).

Bibliography

Hua-Ching Ni
The Taoist Inner View of the Universe and the Immortal Realm
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1979, 1996

Hua-Ching Ni
The Power of Natural Healing
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1991, 1995

Hua-Ching Ni
The Complete Works of Lao Tzu
Tao Teh Ching & Hua Hu Ching
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1991, 1995

Hua-Ching Ni
Life and Teaching of Two Immortals
Volume I, Kou Hong
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1992

Hua-Ching Ni
Life and Teaching of Two Immortals
Volume II, Chen Tuan
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1993

Hua-Ching Ni
Internal Alchemy
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1992

Hua-Ching Ni
Nurture Your Spirits
Santa Monica: Seven Stars Communications, 1990