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.
Religions tend to organize people around group events, they tend to institutionalize spirituality and give a more or less strong direction to their ‘believers’ what to do and what to abstain from. This results in many individuals losing their sense of individual sufficiency or what I use to call ‘soul power’ or ‘primary power.’ * Master Ni explains:
Hua-Ching Ni But can we, in modern times, enjoy what is by nature self-contained? We cannot, because psychologically we are conditioned not to. People are struggling to prove their worth. They ‘need’ to fight for recognition from other people. However, the true nature of life has not changed since ancient times, only our vision and our understanding of life have changed. In the last 2,500 years of human history, / I do not see any spiritual progress. Human insensitivity has increased, and people are looking for cheap external salvation rather than developing themselves spiritually. This problem has never happened before in the 2, 700,000 years of prehistory. People now beg help from imaginary religious or spiritual images and ignore the internal spiritual sufficiency that is each person’s birthright. This inner source of love and help, that can be increased through personal spiritual cultivation, brings true spiritual independence and self-containment. (Ni, The Power of Natural Healing, 1991, 1995, 16-17)
The perhaps most valuable that gets lost through religion becoming a dogma is personal accountability, the fact that through involving authority in the spiritual quest, many individuals become alienated from their own inner source and thereby lose a sense of responsibility for their lives, behaviors, and attitude. The further result of this impoverishment of masses of people is that they lose out on self-direction and then ask religions and political leaders to give them direction.
To the modern reader it may sound strange to even question the authority of group leadership; yet it is a fact that genuine spirituality is based upon self-containment and the quest for spiritual truth that is one of the fundamental urges of the human since times immemorial. In fact, many references could be quoted that show that the religious urge in man is as strong or even stronger than the urge for survival and the urge for food and sex. This urge, to repeat it, is originally an individual quest and becomes a group endeavor only because of the fact that religions act as power-holder conglomerates, after masses of individual humans have projected their primary inner power upon them, thereby giving most of their power away. This is why even in modern democracies many people, while they may question the authority of political leaders, and elect others in their place, hardly ever question the authority of religions, or the specific religion they have inherited as a result of group karma and that they consider as ‘their’ religion.
In this sense it can be said that integral spirituality is non-religious while it is not anti-religious. It simply recognizes that the individual human has the power to choose their spiritual path, and should do so, and was it only for sanitary reasons, for the maintenance of mental health.
Master Ni also stresses the fact that the individual spiritual quest furthers a certain objective relationship of the individual with himself or herself, while the path of religions tends to lead to projections and loss of mental clarity as to who we are. He explains:
Hua-Ching Ni Some of you are more advanced and do understand these truths immediately. In spiritual learning, it does not matter whether you are advanced or a beginner. You must start where you are. If you think you are more advanced than you truly are, you cannot make any real progress. You must start from where you really are—not from where you think you are. (Ni, Internal Alchemy, 1992, 49)
Let me inquire a bit more deeply into this. How can we know where we are spiritually if we do not measure ourselves against others? And if that is true, what then is the measurement that is to be taken here?
I cannot give a clear-cut answer to this intriguing question. But one thing is sure. A real achieved one, a sage, bears a clear sense of where they are spiritually. They know this intuitively, without needing any measurement or comparison with others—which anyway would easily be misleading. This is why they know what is right action and what is wrong action, for it needs wisdom to know what is right and what is wrong. While religions and ordinary people believe there are clear-cut standards of what is right and what is wrong, fact is there are few of such standards. Remember, there are only 10 Commandments. And how many paragraphs has the penal code of your country? Surely more than 100. And if you take the oldest measurement for genuine morality, the Golden Rule, you got only one single rule. This rule is to never do onto others what you don’t wish to be done onto yourself. One rule for genuinely moral behavior, think about it! And then inquire how many rules your religion imposes upon you, as a dogma, for your living, loving and behaving?
Hence, to get on an individually self-contained spiritual path, I must find out who I am and where I am on this path? Without finding this out, I am going around in the dark, and in circles, the circular movement namely of my thought process. To say it with J. Krishnamurti**, thought is always in the past, hence the spiritual quest is a quest for novelty, not based upon thought but upon intuition***. Intuitively I know where I am spiritually. I know for example from my dreams that my spiritual light can easily be disturbed through negativity, and negative thoughts of others projected upon me. Even if I am honest with myself, and not self-deluded, as to know that I am a beginner on the spiritual path, I am never sure of anything or any progress I may be making on this path because I am not alone here and we are all connected. Hence, the thoughts around me, through my relationships with others, do have an impact upon me.
So here we have a measurement. I can see to what degree I am independent of what others project upon me. The more independent I am from being manipulated by others, their thoughts, expectations or standards projected upon me, the stronger I am spiritually, the more developed I am spiritually.
Now, we may want to ask what it is, within us, that makes us conform to standards set by others or a group? To turn the question around, we may wonder what was first, natural self-regulation or the individual being regulated by the group? Master Ni gives a clear answer:
Hua-Ching Ni Humans have lost their connection with the earth, and because they feel disconnected from the earth, they feel lost and insecure. This spiritual and emotional insecurity drives them to look for a source of strength outsides themselves to solve their problems. (Ni, The Power of Natural Healing, 1991, 1995, 17)
We must admit that our lives are not natural any more. When we have trouble, we do not know how to handle it emotionally. Maybe we pray, but prayer is self-deceiving if we do not let ourselves see the problem and the solution clearly. Self-deception comes from the psychological habit of being dependent. (Id, 18)
The more we are natural, the more we tend to be self-contained and master over our own destiny. To be the ruler of one’s own kingdom seems to be the natural condition; dependence upon sense-givers is the unnatural condition, brought about by disempowerment and spiritual impoverishment in the form of organized religion. Master Ni expresses this truth in a very simple and clear manner:
Hua-Ching Ni There is also a dividing line between being religious and being spiritual. Being religious means to be attached to dogmatic teachings. Being spiritual means to be open to true knowledge and one’s own spiritual inspiration in a realistic process of improving oneself. (Ni, Life and Teaching of Two Immortals, II, 1993, 132)
As a result, we may see at this point, applying this terminology, if we are more ‘religious’ or more ‘spiritual’ in character. There may be a tendency to be one or the other; you may find you are more ‘this’ or ‘that’. This tells you something about yourself, namely where you are now! Master Ni gives an example:
Hua-Ching Ni The old religion of one God was the attempt of social leaders who wished to establish their religion as a conquering force in denial of all others. Monotheistic religions in the past used the concept of one God to establish social control through uniformity. Their use of uniformity is echoed by the use of uniformity in communistic pursuits later. Neither the old religions nor the communists allow the existence of differences. (Ni, Life and Teaching of Two Immortals, II, 1993, 148)
This example shows the doctrinaire aspect of religions, in their striving to conquer man and subdue the human under the quest of religious imperialism; not unlike the modern state that tries to subdue the human under, for example, the notion and agenda of ‘national security’. Master Ni writes:
Hua-Ching Ni The big mistake of recent times is the use of social force to strip individuals of their natural rights. Some social welfare programs have replaced the role which conventional religions did not fulfill. Such programs appear attractive to people with an idealistic nature, but they are not practical. They could serve some people on a small scale, like the ancient type of family or some religious group, etc., better than they could the people of an entire nation. When something like this is imposed upon a society, the organic condition of the society is naturally damaged. (Ni, Life and Teaching of Two Immortals, II, 1993, 100)
Thus what might be called the ‘collective trend’ in our patriarchal history brings about alienation from our natural origins together with indoctrination and political tyranny that at the end of the day results in loss of human potential, while it may serve the security agenda of the state and the prevailing religion of the place. It thus only serves group interests when looked at superficially; when seeing through the veil, we recognize that stripping the individual of both their natural spirituality and their natural citizenship, with all the freedom inherent in this original condition, damages the human potential and thereby damages also the group, and the metagroup. Hence, there is not really anything positive in this condition, there is no gain in it, only loss.
From this example, which may be extreme, it may become clear that returning to self-containment in spiritual life is a must for the honest seeker of truth. What does that imply in practice? It may imply to say no to both religious and political tyranny and look for truth inside, not outside, in the world. It may imply to start afresh, innocently, so to speak, to find out where one is right now, and where one wants to head.
It may imply to leave the conundrum religion-spirituality behind as well, as just another kind of casing, and connect, for example, with our Inner Child****, as an individual religious quest. It may imply looking at the world, getting at the world, with other eyes, with eyes of true wonder, with the eyes of a child. It may imply to develop tolerance toward oneself, to acknowledge one’s imperfection rather than striving for perfection, as a means of personal sanity versus collective insanity. It may imply to open up to the idea of spiritual sufficiency, by denying the need to be guided spiritually by anything outside of oneself.
* Soul Power, which I synonymously call Primary Power or Self-Power is a concept I have created to connote our original power, and which is distinct from the harmful secondary powers or worldly powers that profoundly mark our current society, and which are clearly violence-inducing, and in the long run damaging the human potential and natural human spirituality.
** J. Krishnamurti (1895–1986) was born in a small village in south India. Soon after moving to Madras with his family in 1909, he was adopted by Annie Besant, President of the Theosophical Society. She was convinced that he was to become a great spiritual teacher, and Reverend Charles Webster Leadbeater became his personal tutor. Three years later she took him to England to be educated in preparation for his future role. An organization called The Order of the Star was set up to promote Krishnamurti’s anticipated role as a World Teacher and Maitreya. In 1929, however, after many years of questioning the destiny imposed upon him, Krishnamurti disbanded this organization, turning away all followers saying that: ‘Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular spiritual path.’ From that time until his death in February 1986 at the age of ninety, he traveled around the world speaking as a private person, teaching and giving talks and having discussions. His aim was to set people psychologically free so that they might be in harmony with themselves, with nature and with others. K taught that humanity has created the environment in which we live and that nothing can ever put a stop to the violence and suffering that has been going on for thousands of years except a transformation in the human psyche. If only a dozen people are transformed, it would change the world. He used to call this transformation ‘psychological revolution’.
*** Intuition is inner knowledge that typically manifests spontaneously and that is all-wise and non-judgmental, broad in scope and wistful; typically, intuition is transpersonal in intent, not ego-based, thus manifesting something like cosmic intention. In the old wisdom traditions, intuition was more highly valued than in modern consumer culture; it was typically called ‘the knowledge of the heart’.
**** Inner Child is a psychic entity, part-personality, or psychic energy, created between our 7th and 14th year of life, and that is part of our inner triangle. Positively, the inner child energy is primarily emotional and wistful, predominantly creative. It is the motor of every human being’s creativity. It can be said to be the creative motor, the very source energy in humans that makes that we can be spontaneous, creative and sometimes a little mad, to go beyond the limiting framework of the rational and repetitive mind. Negatively, the inner child is either mute or cataleptic so that its energy cannot manifest, or else its energy is dominant in the psyche or turned upside-down which makes an inner child that is rebellious, capricious, willful or overbearing, producing the ‘clochard’ personality, the ‘hippie’, the ‘anarchist’, the ‘eternal student’ and abuser of the social system.
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
Hua-Ching Ni I Ching, The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth Revised First Edition Santa Barbara: Seven Star Communications, 1990