Inward Training (Neiye)
The Original Dao?
Cover of Harold Roth's "Original Tao"
Taiji with Heaven and Earth
A survey of the full range of Warring States and early Han texts usually thought of as Taoist, in both traditional bibliographies and recent scholarship, yields three general categories under which the distinctive ideas of these texts could be subsumed:

1. cosmology: a cosmology based on the Tao as the predominant unifying power in the cosmos;

2. inner cultivation: the attainment of the Tao through a process of emptying out the usual contents of the conscious mind until a profound experience of tranquility is attained;

3. political thought: the application of this cosmology and this method of self-cultivation to the problems of rulership. (Original Tao, 7)

Based on which of the above layers appear in a particular tradition,
we can distinguish between three types of Daoism that evolved
in roughly chronological order (cf.
Original Tao, 7-8):
Exemplified by the Inner Chapters (1-7) of the Zhuangzi, portions of the Daodejing, and the Neiye (Inward Training), which provides detailed information about the meditation/breath control practices used to bring about the state of union with the Dao. In this context, “Individualist” does not mean that the practitioner is self-centered, but rather that the focus is on individual self-cultivation, as opposed to social transformation; indeed, it is precisely by eliminating all self-centered thoughts and feelings that the practitioner opens up to the “inner power” (de) of the Dao, which allows one to live in harmony with the world.
  • Combines the first and second elements.
"Primitivit" Daoism: portrait of Shennong (the Divine Farmer)
Exemplified by various passages in the Daodejing (e.g. 19, 57, 65, 80), as well as portions of the Zhuangzi (most notably Chapters 8-11). This approach includes the self-emptying practices of the Individualist, but combines it with an emphasis on a “primitive” socio-political order, which is characterized by a minimalist government that promotes a simple, agrarian lifestyle in order to minimalize the desires of the people.
  • Combines the first, second and third elements.
Exemplified by the “Syncretist” chapters of the Zhuangzi as well as the Lushi Chunqiu, the Huainanzi, and the Huangdi Sijing (Four Classics of the Yellow Emperor). This approach is rooted in Daoist cosmology and meditation, but incorporates elements of Confucian morality and Legalist principles of government.
  • Combines the first, second and third elements, though the cosmology is more fully developed and the political dimension differs significantly from the ideals established in the “Primitivist” sections of the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi.
We can add to Roth’s organization of early Daoist textual traditions a fourth tradition that would develop in the late Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE):
Daoist priests performing a temple ritual to the "Three Pure Ones"
Organized Daoism
2nd century CE to the present
Represents the refinement of a Daoist cosmology as well as the development of corresponding techniques of inner cultivation that lead to the “perfection” of the spirit with the ultimate goal of attaining “immortality.” It also develops a priesthood to serve the lay (i.e. non-ordained) community by performing rituals for health, social harmony, and well-being in the afterlife.
  • Combines the first three elements plus a concern for religious organization.
Taiji with Heaven and Earth
Technical Terminology

Qi (Ch’i): Vital Energy/Vital Breath
Original Tao, 41-2
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Jing (Ching): Vital Essence
Original Tao, 42 and 101-3
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Xin (Hsin): Mind
Original Tao, 42-3
Taiji with Heaven and Earth

Shen: Numen/Numinous
Original Tao, 43-4, 106-9
Taiji with Heaven and Earth

Tian (T’ien): The Heavens
Original Tao, 44
Taiji with Heaven and Earth

Dao (Tao): The Way
Original Tao, 44 and 101-3
Taiji with Heaven and Earth

De (Te): Inner Power
Original Tao, 104-6
Taiji with Heaven and Earth
By focusing on the one word “Way” while “revolving the vital breath” in the practice of inner cultivation you gradually calm the mind (verse XXIV). Through calming the mind and emptying it of its normal conscious contents, you “clearn out the lodging place of the numinous mind” (verse XIII). This cleaning out enables you to realize the nondual awareness of the Way that is the “mind within the mind” and that releases you from the human perspective in verse XIV. After being released from this perspective, you inevitably return to the dualistic world, but retain a sense of your union with the Way by the “holding fast to the One” of verse IX. (Original Tao, 118)