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Personal and Societal Alchemy in Early Daoist Scriptures

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  1. Introduction
  2. Stephen Bokenkamp and the Celestial Masters of the Song dynasty
    1. The Upper Scripture of Purple Texts' treatment of salvation
    2. The Sage Lord of the Purple Texts as an example of the perfected man
    3. The Sage Lord's role in the Purple Texts
  3. The Shangqing text and Buddhism
  4. The object of all Daoist practice
  5. The Celestial Masters of the Inner Explanations
  6. The interiorization of Daoist practice
  7. Conclusion
  8. Works cited

The principle of interconnectedness pervades the worldviews of the Daoist and Buddhist religions originating from India and China. It is fitting that the traditions themselves are historically and textually interconnected in a way that finds traditions intermingling by borrowing teachings and practices and combining them into unique syncretisms. The often syncretic nature of religion is nowhere more apparent than in Han-period Daoist scriptures. Daoism is by no means a monolithic entity, and its many schools vary greatly in text and practice.

[...] And yet, the Celestial Masters succeed to this day even while Buddhism has long been accepted as an additionally legitimate Chinese religious practice. Perhaps such desperate distinctions between traditions are evidence of the theory that partitions can only be made at the institutional level, while less clear divisions exist in common religious practice. Works Cited: Bokenkamp, Stephen. Early Daoist Scriptures. Berkeley, CA: UCal. Press Robinet, Isabelle. Taoism: Growth of a Religion. Stanford, California: Stanford Press Williams, Paul. Mahayana Buddhism. New York: Routledge Press Stephen Bokenkamp, Early Daoist Scriptures (Berkeley, CA: U. Cal. [...]


[...] Once this meridian location is mastered by the practitioner, the Sage promises that the dualities of existence and non-existence will be conquered.[14] In this context, the use of the word nirvana for a center of energy in the body is an appropriate example of the combination of Buddhist philosophy with Daoist worldview that is present in the Shangqing. The attainment of nirvana, according to the Madhyamaka philosopher Nagarjuna, the . calming of all verbal differentiations.?[15] This expression of the Buddha's middle way is echoed in the Shangqing Sage's exhortation to attain nirvana (described in a Daoist metaphor for bodily alchemy), and thus transcend the duality of birth and death. [...]


[...] Although the Inner Explanations includes praise for each of the Three Ways (of Inaction, Pure Contract, and the Buddha), it concludes with the analysis that ultimate source of the Dao lies in this scripture,?[20] in the Way of Inaction. The Inner Explanations include a comparative hagiography of Laozi and the Buddha. Laozi, having been born from his mother's left side, is associated with yang; Sakyamuni Buddha, born from Maya's right side, is a manifestation of yin. Each opposing force represents a side of the duality of life and death: ?Laozi is the lord of living transformation; Sakyamuni is the lord of transformation by death.?[21] Thus according to this scripture of the Celestial Masters, the way of Laozi is clearly a more advantageous way, conferring upon its practitioner's life instead of death. [...]

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