The Sublime Book of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign's Teachings on Eternal Purity and Tranquility

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The Sublime Book of the Supreme Venerable Sovereign's Teachings on Eternal Purity and Tranquility ( 《太上老君常說清靜妙經》 Taishang Laojun Shuochang Qingjing Jing ) , also known as the Book of Purity and Tranquility ( 《清靜經》 Qingjing Jing ) or the Book of Eternal Purity and Tranquility ( 《常清靜經》 Chang Qingjing Jing ), was written by an unknown author. It may have been finished in the Tang, for the earliest version with notes and commentaries known to us was by Du Guangting, who lived at the end of the Tang and during the Five Dynasties (907-960). Though only 391 characters long, the book had a great influence on later developments of Daoist philosophy. The three encomiums at the end of the book are attributed by scholars to Immortal Elder Ge, Perfect Man Zuo Xuan and the Perfect Man of Orthodox Oneness are considered by scholars to be attributed to them.


The book has 2 chapters. The first chapter tells about attaining Dao through enjoying purity and tranquility while the second tells about sinking in the sea of sufferings through chasing after lust. With purity and tranquility as its main theme, the book holds that the great Dao, though formless, nameless and emotionless, can create Heaven and Earth, move the sun and the moon, and nourish all beings. Human nature is originally pure and tranquil. "Human nature is eternally pure and tranquil, Heaven and Earth returns to it." However, though the human spirit loves purity, the heart disturbs it. The heart loves tranquility, but desire distracts it. The key to returning to our original nature of purity and tranquility lies in "dispelling desires". The way to dispel desires is through meditation: seeing no heart through inward meditation of the heart; seeing no form through outward meditation of form; seeing no objects through far meditation of objects. Through seeing no heart, no form and no objects, one can realize the void of the meditator as well as the void of the void. Further, even the "void of the void" is dispelled. One thus achieves the realm of eternal purity and tranquility where there is no desire. Since there is no desire, it is true tranquility. Responding to things with a mind of true tranquility, one attains the true and eternal nature. Eternally responding to things with eternal tranquility, one achieves the realm of eternal purity and tranquility and thus enters Dao gradually till he finally attains it.


The second chapter analyzes the reasons why man can't attain Dao. Man has an untrue mind, which discords with the Great Dao and man's original nature. The untrue mind, disturbing the spirit and clinging to objects, gives birth to desires and consequently becomes attached. Man thus wanders in a sea of cycles of life and death. Only through realizing the true Dao can one attain Dao and achieve the realm of eternal purity and tranquility.


Though very short, the book was very influential. The Complete Perfection lineage especially attaches great importance to it. Most of the commentaries of the book now existing in the Daoist Canon are by Complete Perfection Daoists. The book is a must in the morning and evening recitation and practices ( 功課 Gongke ) of the Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真 Quanzhen ). The book, teaching man to purify his mind through dispelling his desires, is a valuable reference for modern people to analyse their psychology.