Our tradition emphasizes the importance of View-Method-Fruition. This trinary mechanism functions as a circle of “Great Completion” (大圓).
View is our perspective – how we see ourselves and how we see reality. The character guàn (觀) shows a heron watching something, meaning to keenly perceive – this character also means Daoist temple. Our view informs how we relate to the world, how we approach our formal practice methods, and what we expect to “get” out of our practice.
Method refers to our various formal practices of hygiene, meditation, & ritual, as well as our informal conduct. The character shù (術) seems to suggest the movement of rice. Methods are means to achieving a desired end result – like growing rice to eat.
Fruition refers to the ripening experience resulting from practicing methods with a view. The character guǒ (果) shows a tree bearing fruit – the successful achievement of the goal, the rice ready to harvest.
View-Method-Fruition correspond to Heaven, Earth, & Humankind – Heaven being the primary inspiration, Earth being the field of activity, and Humankind being the resulting fruit of the union of Heaven & Earth.
From this perspective, we can see the importance of looking into our view – what am I? What is reality? If method is a process, view is what directs that process – if we apply different views to the same process, it’s not going to have the same result. Our practice needs to align view & method in order to ripen the fruit.
In the broad suite of spiritual or energetic practices out there, each is inspired by a particular view. In the West today we have many opportunities to learn practice methods, but their transmission doesn’t always include the underlying view – the view is actually often stripped out in order to make the method more palatable to our existing views. For example, we can learn yoga, meditation, or taiji by people who tell us we are free to apply our own beliefs to them. This is the American way – show me what you’ve got, but don’t tell me how to think. Wonderful. But practicing Daoist methods without the corresponding view does not lead to the intended fruition.
This is particularly important when approaching the non-conceptual contemplative meditation & qi-cultivation of Laozi. The method is simple but the view is paramount. If we are pushing for results, Laozi’s method is futile. If we are looking to get saved or to become a superhuman being, his method is worthless. So in our school we study Laozi’s text as a “view” manual for meditation & qi-cultivation. Laozi may not include many technical points, but his view-teaching deeply informs the correct method of contemplative meditation & qi-cultivation.
As far as I can tell, not all Daoist texts and practice methods are aligned with Laozi. Alchemical Daoism has a great deal of complex concepts that are important to understand in order to practice its methods effectively. And the methods may be quite complex & elaborate. Laozi’s contemplative Daoism by comparison doesn’t rely on many concepts so much as an atmospheric qi-quality shared between mentor & disciple in the context of Laozi’s teaching. The corresponding method is simply abiding in that atmosphere.
My Daoist teacher was a view-teacher; he didn’t spend much time on method instruction. Just enough to initiate a natural process. If you’re studying a Daoist art, I encourage you to tap your teacher to ask about the underlying view of the practice. In our tradition, when our practice starts to ripen, the view becomes ever more clear and the method becomes ever more effective. This is the circle of Great Completion.