Collecting Elixir Drugs
"Collecting Elixir Drugs" ( 采藥 Caiyao ) is a term of Inner Alchemy ( 內丹 Neidan ). To "collect" is to "gather", and "elixir drugs" refer to the true breath activated in cultivation. This true breath is also called the "original Essential Matter" ( 精 Jing ) or the "original Vital Breath" ( 炁 Qi ) in Daoism. Therefore, to "collect elixir drugs" is to collect the "original Essential Matter" or the "original Vital Breath" indeed. Here the word "collection" is of course nothing but a metaphor. It does not mean scraping off or taking away the "original Essential Matter" or the "original Vital Breath". Instead, it indicates guiding them with the mind back to their original seat, the Elixir Field ( 丹田 Dantian ). "Collecting Elixir Drugs" includes "collecting minor elixir drugs" and "collecting major elixir drugs". The former is accomplished in the process of refining Essential Matter into Vital Breath, while the latter in the process of refining Vital Breath into Spirit ( 神 Shen ). When activating his true breath by refining the original Essential Matter, the practitioner guides the Essential Matter with the mind. This action is "collecting minor elixir drugs". When the true breath, being refined, surges, the practitioner guides it with his mind through the pass. This is called "collecting major elixir drugs". Two factors count in "Collecting Elixir Drugs". First, one must seize the right time, i.e. the moment of "one-Yang returning", the sign of the trigram Fu used to signify the production of elixir drugs. The trigram Fu comprises six hexagrammatic lines, including five Yin hexagrammatic lines above and one Yang hexagrammatic line below, which indicates that the Yang breath just comes into being. For a day, this moment refers to the Zi hour at midnight. However, we should understand that this "Zi hour" is not a strict time, but an internal feeling in the alchemical process. Hence it is also called "Flexible Zi Hour" ( 活子時 Huo Zishi ). Second, one must master the Fire Phases ( 火候 Huohou ). What is the proper fire phase has always been a secret transmitted orally from master to disciple. One cannot achieve real success in Inner Alchemy cultivation without being directed by a distinguished master.