Hui-Dao (會道) – Assembly of Dao

Dragon pokes its nose
Ancient wisdom door opens
Come join the circle

Hello Friends,
In the forthcoming Year of Yang-Wood Dragon, we will be introducing a practice called Hui-Dao (會道), which translates as Assembly of Dao or the Way of Council. Hui-Dao was practiced by the original Celestial Masters lineage in the Han Dynasty – they considered community an indispensable treasure of the path.
But this practice is not limited to any particular religion or sect – this is the ancient wisdom practice of human beings across myriad cultures gathering in a circle and sharing their experience in a particular way. I believe this is how the Dao De Jing and countless other wisdom paths emerged. Let’s start engaging this practice in our Wuweidao Cultivation Group.

There are many ways to hold council. But there are specific principles and protocols helpful for invoking the latent magic of true community. I am a mere beginner in this craft – I am still learning and will surely continue to stumble in my efforts to facilitate our emerging body of practice – may my sincerity merit your trust.

The Hui-Dao circle is a sacred space we set up together to invoke Dao and see what arises.  Come ready to engage. For more information, email me at

Clarity & Stillness Scripture (Qīng Jīng Jīng, 清靜經)


Laozi says:

The great Dao is without form
it gives birth and nurtures Heaven & Earth

The great Dao is without feelings
it moves and guides the sun & moon

The great Dao is without name
it raises and nourishes the ten-thousand beings

I do not know its name
forced to name it, call it Dao

Within the Dao
there is clarity, there is obscurity

Within the Dao
there is movement, there is stillness

Heaven is clarity, Earth is obscurity
Heaven is movement, Earth is stillness

Male is clarity, female is obscurity
male is movement, female is stillness

Descending from the beginning, flowing toward the end
the ten-thousand beings are born

Clarity is the source of obscurity
movement is the root of stillness

If we can be constantly clear & still
Heaven & Earth completely return


The human spirit tends toward clarity
but emotions disturb it

The human heart-mind tends toward stillness
but desires tether it

If we can constantly banish desires
then the heart-mind will become still naturally

If we can clear & still the heart-mind
then the spirit will become clear naturally

 The Six Desires will not arise
the Three Poisons will be destroyed

Whoever cannot accomplish this
has not yet cleared & stilled the heart-mind
has not yet banished desires

If we can banish desires
internally observing the heart-mind
there is no heart-mind

Externally observing form
there is no form

Remotely observing things
there are no things

When we awaken to these three
only then do we perceive emptiness


Observing emptiness with emptiness
emptiness is actually not empty

Emptiness does not actually exist
it is not nothing, yet it is nothing

It is both not nothing and nothing
these deep waters are constantly silent

When silence is actually not silence
how can desires arise?

When desires do not arise
this is true stillness

True stillness yields to things
true constancy attains true nature

Constantly yielding, constantly still
this is constant clarity, constant stillness


With such clarity & stillness
we gradually enter the true Dao

When we enter the true Dao
this is called attaining the Dao

Although this is called attaining the Dao
actually there is nothing to attain

Serving to transform all living things
this is called attaining the Dao

Those who can awaken to this
can transmit the sacred Dao


Laozi says:

The superior adept does not contend
the inferior adept tends to contend

Superior De is not De
inferior De grasps De

Those who hold attachments
are not imbued with Dao-De

All living things do not attain the true Dao
because they have deviant heart-minds

 When the heart-mind is deviant
then we startle the spirit

When we startle the spirit
then we cling to the ten-thousand things

When we cling to the ten-thousand things
then we generate craving and seeking

When we generate craving and seeking
then we have troubles and frustrations

Troubles, frustrations, deviations, and aspirations
cause anxiety and suffering in body & heart-mind


Then we meet with obscurity & defilement
drifting on the waves of life & death

Constantly drowning in the ocean of suffering
forever losing the true Dao

The Dao of true constancy
those who awaken to it will attain our true self

Attaining and awakening to the Dao
we have constant clarity & stillness

Translation by Nameless Stream (無名川)

Related: Clear & Calm: A Look at “Qing-Jing”

Taking Refuge: The Three Treasures of Ritual Daoism

As ritual Daoism developed over the past few thousand years – blending ancient shamanic practices with Laozi’s insights and coming into contact with Buddhism – the concept of “Three Treasures” or San Bao (三寶) emerged.  As with any three-fold concept in Daoism, these relate to Heaven, Earth, & Humankind – or yang, yin, & the union thereof, respectively.

The Three Treasures of ritual Daoism are Dao, Jing, & Shi.  These roughly translate as way, scripture, & mastery.  (Note there are also Three Treasures of alchemical Daoism and Three Treasures of Laozi – I’m not talking about those).

Dao (道) or way refers to the primordial origin – the hidden wellspring that gives birth to myriad worlds & creatures.  Where we come from and where we go.  It also refers to the eternal procession of birth, growth, maturation, decline, & death.  The character implies grass growing by itself – the spontaneous emergence of worlds & creatures.

Jing (經) or scripture refers to the teachings of Dao – the views & methods that our lineage ancestors have passed down to us as guidance on how to encounter & embody Dao.  The character implies woven thread, referring to written teachings and also implying fundamental principle – the common thread running through the fabric of Daoist practice.

Shi (師) or mastery refers to our resulting experience when we practice and conduct ourselves according to the teachings of Dao.  It often refers to our teachers or practice community, or even hidden immortals who bring us insights.  The character implies accumulation and exaltation.  In the view of Laozi’s Daoism, mastery is abiding continuously in the wellspring amidst myriad phenomena.  Laozi sees such abiding as our natural condition.

Dao-Jing-Shi correspond respectively to Buddha-Dharma-Sangha, and the notion of taking refuge (拜) probably comes from Buddhism.  The starting point of Buddhism is the recognition that life brings discomfort (dukkha) so let’s find a way out.  Laozi doesn’t suggest we need any refuge from reality – we’re just there, perpetually, ever-embraced and supported by the primordial origin.  But he does acknowledge that human beings have a tendency to lose our way – so the Daoist approach to the Three Treasures is, to the extent that we lose touch with reality (Dao), it’s nice to have guidance (Jing) pointing us back to our natural condition (Shi).  The character for taking refuge or paying homage shows a hand placing crops on an altar – a sacrificial offering.  Giving to receive.  Daoists don’t worship deities but in ritual practice do place Dao-Jing-Shi on a pedestal to sanctify them and place ourselves in a position to receive energy and inspiration.

A traditional ritual gesture for taking refuge is to light three sticks of incense at our altar, hold them up, and recite: “I take refuge in Dao; I take refuge in Jing; I take refuge in Shi”, then bow three times and place the incense in our burner.

Real stuff comes through when we take refuge in Dao, Jing, & Shi.

Hygiene, Meditation, & Ritual

As we’ve discussed, Daoism is a highly complex and elaborate system of cultivation.  In my 25 years of practicing with numerous teachers in different traditions, I’ve observed that most, if not all Daoist practice methods, fall primarily into one of three broad categories: hygiene, meditation, or ritual.  Although these distinctions may ultimately dissolve, as most methods are in fact forms of all three, I nevertheless think this breakdown is helpful as we approach the gate, particularly given our Western cultural context and the fractured nature of the transmission of Daoism to the West.

Hygiene.  Hygiene refers to Daoist health practices, including qigong, martial arts, acupuncture/massage, herbal medicine, and diet.  Even arts like painting, music, gardening, and fengshui can be considered ways of supporting our health and well-being.  One of the features that distinguishes Daoism from Buddhism is its greater emphasis on healing practices.  So Daoists are often known for good health and long lives.  The Daoist term for hygiene is yangsheng (养生), meaning “nourishing life”.  The majority of Daoist arts we see in the West today are various forms of yangsheng fairly disconnected from any orthodox tradition of meditation or ritual.  Westerners are increasingly interested in health & healing but not so commonly interested in ritual, so “non-religious” Daoist hygiene practices have found broad appeal here.  Traditionally yangsheng arts are indeed intended to help everyone live a better life, but for Daoist cultivators, yangsheng is more a matter of supporting and empowering our base of jing & qi so that our practices of meditation & ritual are effective.

Meditation.  There are many Chinese words for meditation, the most broad being “da-zuo” (打坐), which just means “sitting”.  There are endless methods we can undertake when sitting, from counting breaths to focusing on energy centers or pathways, reciting mantras, or visualizing deities.  There’s also the non-conceptual wuwei meditation of Laozi, which we emphasize in our school.  Many Westerners view meditation as a remedy for some problem – from high blood pressure to original sin – but for Daoists it’s either a way to enhance the power of ritual, a process of alchemical transformation, or simply a platform for appreciating our natural luminosity.  In the West today, there’s a great deal of interest in non-denominational, indeed medical meditation.  This is viewing meditation as merely a form of hygiene, which is fine, but such approach is far removed from what meditation has been in numerous traditions for millennia, and it really misses the central point.  Daoist meditation is about coming face to face with our nature – our true nature before birth.  So I distinguish it from hygiene & ritual as it has a distinct purpose.

Ritual.  Ritual – daojiao (道教) – is what many Western observers consider the “religious” aspect of Daoism.  The vast majority of Daoism throughout the ages has been a form of ritual practice.  Maintaining altars and temples, keeping precepts and chanting scriptures, casting spells and crafting talismans, and interpreting the calendar and divining auspices are central Daoist practices.  These methods are largely ways to benefit the lives of people or communities, to pacify the dead, and to help communities thrive with healthy harvests or peaceful relationships.  But they also provide a means of supporting and expressing the contemplative and alchemical experience of Daoist cultivators.  The robust traditions of Daoism have developed and maintained highly elaborate and complex ritual practices throughout the ages.  And yet there has also been a robust yet less visible hermit tradition of personalizing and distilling ritual down to its basis.  Fundamentally, ritual is a formal expression and engagement in the Dao.

From the perspective of our tradition, all human beings practice each of these categories to some extent.  Hygiene is simply taking care of ourselves – breathing, moving, and eating to support our base of jing & qi.  Formal yangsheng practices work with these natural systems to normalize and optimize jing & qi.  Meditation is also a natural inclination, driving us to find various ways to get out of our head and into the “zone”.  Daoist meditation follows this natural inclination to open us into a stable contemplative experience.  We’re also already undertaking ritual, be it conscious or not.  What we do repetitively each day, how we mark special occasions.  Daoist cultivators ritualize our everyday activities as a way of observing Dao.  Daoist ritual is an act of formally embracing the cycles of nature to acknowledge or evoke a shift in qi.  Having a focused, formal daily ritual ceremony is such a wonderful practice, it’s unfortunate how scarce it has become in our society.

Our formal engagement in each of these categories is up to us.  None of these areas is necessarily central, but certain traditions or individuals may treat one as more central than another.  Most important is the view we take into our practice methods – why are we doing this and what do we intend to “get” out of it?  There’s so much to be unpacked in the sections above – this is such a shallow scratching of the surface, but I think the context it sets is important.  I’ll be unpacking these areas a bit in future posts, but much is really more the purview of in-person training.

I hope this discussion helps to set some context about the array of methods out there and how they fit into the larger picture of Daoist cultivation.