Commandments of the Orthodox Oneness Sect

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Formation of the Commandments of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition

The Orthodox Oneness Tradition ( 正一道 Zhengyi Dao ) refers to the Five Pecks of Rice Tradition founded at the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. It is also called the Celestial Masters. It was later divided into the Dragon Tiger sect, the Mt.Mao sect, the Gezhao sect, the Divine Heaven sect, the Pristine Subtlety sect, the Donghua sect, the Heavenly Heart sect, the Pure Brightness Tradition, the Supreme Oneness Tradition, etc. In the 8th year of the Dade era in the Yuan Dynasty (1304), the Chenzong emperor knighted Zhang Yucai as the Celestial Master of the 38th generation and Patriarch of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition, in charge of the Talismans and Registers of the Three Mountains. This implied that all Daoist sects characteristic of the Talismans and Registers tradition were united under the Orthodox Oneness Tradition to face with the newly established Complete Perfection Tradition. The Five Pecks of Rice Tradition had Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign ( 老子想爾注 Laozi Xiang’er Jie ) composed of three parts and nine items, which were to be abided by all Daoists no matter where they were. During the Wei and Jin dynasties and the epoch of division between South and North, Daoism was separated into numerous sects with each adding some commandments. Thus there appeared the Twenty-Seven Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign, the Thirty-Six Commandments the Venerable Sovereign, the One Hundred and Eighty Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign, the Thirteen Commandments, the Twelve Feasible Commandments, Monastic Rules and Commandments for Maids in the Highest Mystery Capital, the Seven Hundred and Twenty Essential Commandments, etc. Zhang Wanfu, a lofty Daoist of the Tang Dynasty, enumerated sixteen types of commandments in his Brief Introduction to the Three Grottoes' Magical Registers of the Scriptures and Commandments, saying "anyone initiated into Daoism as a beginner must be taught the commandments to keep away from crimes." Still, Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign were regarded as passed down from the Ritual Master of Supreme Lofty Mystery. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the Orthodox Oneness Tradition grew mature in its commandments. In the Yongle period of the Ming Dynasty, Zhang Yuchu, the Celestial Master of the 43th generation, wrote the Ten Daoist Regulations which set forth systematically the regulations for Daoists as to the various aspects of social and religious life.

The Content of Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign

The scripture contains the regulations and rules of early Daoism. Xiang'er was said to be the name of an Immortal in ancient times. It was said that the Founder of Daoism, Zhang Lin, once wrote Xiang'er's Commentary on Laozi, but it was lost. Now there is an incomplete copy rediscovered in Dunhuang. Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign consists of regulations on three types of behaviors totaling nine items. The first three items are on dealing with everything with Non-Interference by feminine forces, keeping feminine forces in mind all the time, and not taking actions first under any circumstances. Behaving oneself without hankering after fame, staying in tranquility, and doing good works are the second three items. Behaving with no desires, being content with what one has got, and declining out of modesty are the last three items. The Seven Slips of a Cloudy Satchel states that those who could follow the nine items were Immortals, those who obeyed six could enjoy longevity, and those who obeyed three could enjoy longer life expectancy. Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign focused on embodying early Daoist ideas as to the regulation of social and religious life. However, as these proposals are too simple to be acted upon, there appeared various types later on.

The Content of the 27 Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign

Derived from Xiang'er's Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign, the 27 commandments of the Venerable Sovereign can be divided into three levels. At the upper level, one should not feel happy unreasonably, which is the same as being angry unreasonably, nor waste Essential Matter or Vital Breath. Secondly, one should not sap one's vitality nor eat any uncooked food. Thirdly, one should not hanker after fame nor eliminate the false and the evil by naming the Dao after its form, and not be ready to make any trouble nor kill anything or talk about it. At the second level, one should not read unhealthy writings nor be greedy for glory. Moreover, one should not hunt for fame nor be misled by what is seen or heard or said. Besides, one should be modest and shouldn't be skittish and impetuous; one should be careful in one's actions and not be fond of eating and dressing; and lastly one should not overdo anything. At the lower level, one should not force the poor by pursuing wealth excessively nor commit any crimes. One should not have too many taboos nor offer sacrifice to ghosts. In addition, one should not be tyrannical nor be opinionated, one should not argue about right or wrong with others, nor consider oneself as holy or superior; and not take delight in arms. As the Twenty-Seven Commandments made Xiang'er's Commandments easier to carry out, they were combined into the Thirty-Six Commandments of the Venerable Sovereign.

The Content of the Ten Daoist Commandments by Zhang Yuchu

The 43rd Celestial Master Zhang Yuchu's Ten Daoist Commandments was written in the context of "Daoism day by day degenerating in principles, existing only in name without any transmission of Dao and with no powerful leaders". In the book it is claimed that "Anyone who is willing to cultivate Dao should first abide strictly by the commandments and then he can practice as his duty". There are ten sections in the book Ten Daoist Commandments. They cover the sources of Daoism, Daoist scriptures and registers, keeping quiet in temples, fasting and practicing, transmission of Daoist skills, Daoist leaders and abbots, Wandering About to visit lofty Daoists, establishment of temples and salvation of the people, self-reliance with food, temple maintenance, etc. The book provides a complete system of regulations and commandments covering all aspects of Daoist religious life based on Daoist doctrine. Zhang Yuchu advocated "modesty", "humbleness" and "delicacy", which were all inherited from the Book of Dao and its Virtue. Besides, referring to the ascetic practices of the Complete Perfection Tradition established by Wang Chongyang, Zhang Yuchu proposed: "One should get into a frame of mind to keep moral integrity and study the Daoist scriptures". Zhang continued to criticize "Zhao Guizheng and Lin Linsu who once were respected, but then went beneath their dignity by indulging in wealth and social position. They exaggerated when expressing themselves. They did not keep in mind the feminine forces of thrift and self-restraint. We should learn a lesson from them." Zhang Yuchu had really given much thought to this matter, showing great foresight. However, his ideas seem to have been ignored by the Daoists of the Orthodox Oneness Tradition of the Ming and Qing Dynasties as well as those of the Republic of China.