Wang Changyue( 王常月 Wang Changyue ) (?-1680), born in Changzhi County, Shanxi province, was a famous Daoist of the Dragon Gate Sect ( 龍門派 Longmen Pai ) in the early Qing Dynasty. His original name was Ping, his Daoist name was Changyue, and he was styled Kunyang.
Wang Changyue and the Resurgence of the Dragon Gate Sect of the Complete Perfection Tradition
When he was young, at the end of the Ming dynasty, rebellion led Wang Changyue to evade into seclusion with much emotion. In his middle age, Wang revered Zhao Fuyang, the 6th-generation inheritor of the Dragon Gate Sect, as his master. Zhao taught him some commandments, and told him, 'It is easy, but also hard, to realize Dao. At first, you must lead an ascetic life to realize Dao. It is wise to get rid of everything worldly, refine yourself with absolute sincerity according to commandments, and be absorbed in Daoist books and scriptures. At the same time, you must try to understand the natural mystery of the Book of Dao and its Virtue ( 道德經 Daode Jing ) and the lively essence of the Perfect Book of Nanhua ( 南華真經 Nanhua Zhenjing ). Wang kept in mind his master's instructions to revive the Dragon Gate Sect, and took it up as his personal task. After saying farewell to his guru, Wang wandered about the mountains, following different tutors in twenty-eight or twenty-nine places for eight or nine years, and corroborating with over fifty persons. Later he cultivated Dao strenuously by reclusion on Mt. Hua. In the 12th year of Shunzhi of the Qing Dynasty (1655), Wang Changyue went to Beijing, staying in the Temple of Numinous Blessing ( 靈佑宮 Linyou Gong ). The next year, on imperial order, he preached Daoist commandments to the Daoists at the White Cloud Temple ( 白雲觀 Baiyun Guan ). He opened the Daoist altar to interpret commandments three times, and accepted over one thousand disciples. The open preaching of commandments not only attracted a lot of Daoist followers, but demonstrated the protection and support of the rulers of the Qing Dynasty, which was of great significance to the resurgence of the Dragon Gate Sect. Wang was quite appreciated by the emperor Shunzhi, who granted him the title 'Master of the State' ( 國師 Guashi ) and offered him the purple garments three times. In the 3rd year of Kangxi (1663), Wang Changyue personally moved down south with his disciples, and opened altars to preach commandments in Nanjing, Hangzhou, and Mt. Wudang. At the time, the Daoists in the south swarmed in to become his disciples. Consequently, the Dragon Gate Sect underwent a resurgence, even if Daoism tended to decline as a whole, and the Dragon Gate Sect became the most influential and powerful sect of the Complete Perfection Tradition ( 全真道 Quanzhen Dao ). Wang himself was respected as 'the founder of the resurgence'. In his The Light of the Mind on Mt. Jingai ( 金蓋心燈 Jingai Xindeng ), Min Yide said that Wang 'was first-class among the intelligent scholars of the time'. In the 19th year of Kangxi (1679), he handed down his mantle and alms bowl to his disciple Tan Shoucheng before he passed away, and he was bestowed the title 'Lofty Master Who Embraces Oneness' ( 抱一高士 Baoyi Gaoshi ).
His Thought and Works
Wang preached Daoist commandments in Nanjing. The record of his preaching was edited and preserved by his disciples in the Book of the Azure Garden Altar ( 碧苑壇經 Biyuan Tanjing ) (preserved in the Collection of Ancient Books from the Tower of the Bookish Hermit ( 古書隱樓藏書 Gushu Yinlou Cangshu )). When explaining the commandments, Wang described the order as well as the methods of cultivation and refinement. He stressed that if one wanted to learn to be an immortal through cultivation, he must practice step by step according to the following order. First, he must and find a master and proclaim himself a Daoist believer. He must believe in the Three Jewels ( 三寶 Sanbao ) of Daoism (Dao, Daoist Scriptures, and the community of Daoist masters). Then he must confess his sins, dispose of obstacles, and eliminate passions and attachments. With these severe commandments, he must endure humiliation to get peace and tranquility of mind and purity of bodily life. Moreover, he must gradually exercise severe commandments at the three levels of Elementary Perfection ( 初真 Chuzhen ), Intermediate, and Heavenly Immortality ( 天仙 Tianxian ), based on religious deiscipline, meditation, and wisdom. Wang regarded his skill of the refinement of inner elixirs as an 'invisible approach to Dao" and he objected to 'visible cultivation". He also refuted the skills of the Golden Elixir ( 金丹 Jindan ) restricted to refining the Material Essence ( 精 Jing ) and the Vital Breath ( 氣 Qi ). He thought that as long as one realized his Spiritual Nature ( 性 Xing ), one could easily refine his Bodily Life ( 命 Ming ). He especially objected to refining the Material Essence and Vital Breath to get rid of one's illness and prolong bodily life, because he considered that man must die physically sooner or later, but only the spiritual life with a perfect nature could exist eternally: 'Prolonging Life does not mean getting rid of one's illnesses to achive a longer life expectancy. Longevity is the invariable perfect nature and eternal existence of Dao." He also said, 'Buddha has a time of oblivion, while Lao Dan has a time of rising to immortalily". 'The body can only be called an evil demon, and cannot be called Dao even if it lives in the world for a thousand years. The existence of Dao is eternal. Were I to realize Dao in the morning, I would be happy to die in the evening." Wang Changyue innovated in Daoist beliefs in longevity and immortality, and as a result his thought had a tendency to be secularized or less religious. His following works have been preserved:
- The Alms Bowl Mirror ( 本鑒 Bojian ) (5 volumes),
- Commandments for Primary Perfection ( 初真戒律 Chuzhen Jielu ) (1 volume),
- preserved in the Selections of the Daoist Canon ( 道藏輯要 Daozang Jiyao ),
- The Book of the Azure Garden Altar.