Cultivation Stories about Ancient Chinese Poets
(Minghui.org) Many poets in Chinese history not only wrote great verses but also developed supernormal abilities in cultivation. Such abilities often found their way into the poems they wrote and enhanced the brilliance of their words.
Tao Yuanming's Views on Life and Death
Tao Yuanming, a poet of the Eastern Jin Dynasty, not only predicted the exact time of his death but the day before, he wrote three elegies in which he described his family’s reaction to his death. Later generations praised his attitude toward death, saying that he “looked upon death as returning home” and that he truly fulfilled what he said in one of his poems:
“In the midst of big waves, with no joy or fear:Should one die, then die, without any concerns.”
The message can be interpreted as, “My body will become dust, but it is not the end of life. I won't rejoice at finally leaving the earthly world, nor will I be fearful of death. Things will end when it is time for them to end, and there is no need to feel sad about it.”
Bai Juyi and Reincarnation
Around the peak period of the Tang Dynasty, many court officials and scholars practiced Buddhism, and some of them knew what they did in their past lives. Bai Juyi wrote in the poem “Self-Explanation:”
“Fang was said to be a Buddhist monk in his previous life, while Wang a painting artist;I also looked at my life in meditation, and found my lives were connected with poetry......”
When the poem says that “Fang Guan (a friend of Bai) was said to be a Buddhist monk in his previous life,” while poet Wang Wei was an artist, Bai is implying that his talent as a poet was accumulated life after life. His explanation offered a natural explanation for “genius,” which has also been confirmed by the current scientific research on reincarnation.
For example, a child only a few years old and with no such experience was able to drive a motorboat. Detailed research revealed that, in his previous life, he was a captain of a motorboat with decades of experience.
Wei Yingwu's Search for the Dao
Wei Yingwu was a well-known poet in the Daizong Period of the Tang Dynasty. He had already made up his mind to be a Daoist when he resigned at the age of 42 from his official post due to poor health. He went to live in a temple. No one knows exactly how far he went in his cultivation, but one of his poems may offer some clues:
“Although I am placed as a divine being, my heart kept away from earthly things;I conduct myself in the same way as cultivating in a cave, I won't violate the sacred truth.”
Wei Yingwu's life was very rocky, with many ups and downs, but he was determined to search for the Dao. He felt that he had already obtained the Dao when he let go of fame and gain in the earthly world and reached a state of returning to his true self. For one to be considered a divine being is an eternal honor.
Zhang Zhihe's Cultivation of the Dao
Revelations about Zhang Zhihe's cultivation state can be found in the book Xu Xian Zhuan (Immortals' Biographies, Continued), in which he was said to be a person who “kept to truth and cultivated qi,” who could “lie in the snow without feeling cold and jump into water without getting wet. He traveled to all mountains and rivers under heaven.”
From an everyday person's point of view, his abilities were already extraordinary. Still, they were only abilities developed in the cultivation of the Dao school. From Zhang's poems and paintings, we can see that he had far surpassed the level of mere abilities and his mind had already reached a very high level.
In fact, any way that one can cultivate one's heart, or character, according to the righteous Fa is cultivation – a process whereby a person strives to constantly let go of his attachments to earthly things and improve his mind step by step to ultimately reach the standards required by that particular school of cultivation. Of course, burning incense, worshiping Buddha, meditating, or setting up a furnace and collecting medicines to make elixir are also cultivation methods in the Buddhist and Daoist schools, but they are only superficial methods at an elementary stage.
“The great way is formless”—those superficial methods will disappear at high levels, and everything in cultivation progresses with the “cultivation of one's heart.” In ancient times, poets cultivated themselves by writing poetry, and ancient poetry was also part of the divine culture of China. Through the constant elevation of the poets’ state of mind, their moral standards were also improving along with their skills in writing poetry. In the community of cultivators, such a state can be called being “In the Dao without cultivating the Dao” (Zhuan Falun, Volume II). It was just such a natural process.