How do people become immortal as per Taoism?

  • While reading on Taoism, I came across some people who became immortal through a variety of ways. Right now, some I remember are:

    1. White Peony successfully made Lü Dongbin ejaculate and absorbed his Yang essence. Later she cultivated herself and became immortal as well.

    2. Some people eat the Peaches Of Immortality and become immortal.

    3. Nezha was brought back to life by his teacher, Taiyi Zhenren, who used lotus roots to construct a human body for his soul. His reincarnation somehow turned out to be immortal.

    4. The Jade Emperor reached his status by cultivating Tao on the Bright and Fragrant Cliff for a long period of time.

    What are all the ways to become immortal? Also, what is cultivating Tao and yourself?

  • DukeZhou

    DukeZhou Correct answer

    5 years ago

    Sun Wukong used multiple methods. These included gobbling up a bunch of Laozi's elixer pills, gobbling down all of the magic peaches before the big banquet he wasn't invited to, and slugging down all of the Jade Emperor's wine. (Although he was sort of an immortal before all that, having been born from a magic stone representing the merger of Heaven and Earth, and having cultivated his essence under the tutelage of an immortal who, wisely, declined to give his name...)

    Wukong was also refined in Laozi crucible. (Laozi was trying to extract his elixer out of Wukong, but the process only made Wukong stronger, "hardening" him significantly.)

    All of the demons he fights on his famous Journey, not having access to Heaven, seem to prefer the method of eating the Tang Priest, Xuanzang, who himself is an incarnation of the Golden Cicada. (Rumor had it that to eat the flesh of the Tang Priest would make one exceptionally immortal.)

    There is another episode involving a Monastery with a tree that produces fruit that resembles like human infants. (The fruits have different potencies based on how many thousands of years they require to ripen.) If memory serves, Sun Wukong gobbled down a bunch of these as well.

    You can validate all of this on Wikipedia, although I highly recommend reading an unabridged translation of "Journey to the West".


    Regarding an exhaustive list of methods of achieving immortality, that would probably be worthy of a thesis. Although the textual sources for Chinese Mythology are somewhat limited, the task would likely also entail delving into a rich, oral tradition.

    In terms of cultivation of the Tao, this can have many meanings. Most modern seekers seem to utilize Chi Gong and Tai Chi (the latter can be understood as a form of Chi Gong with more focus on practical, physical application.) Martial arts in general are considered a way of cultivating "internal power", which is sometimes referred to as "Chi" or "Ki", although the concept is quite nuanced, and variously interpreted. It's difficult to know with certainly how long Taoism has been associated with Chinese martial arts, but it's definitely goes back to at least the Ming Dynasty, which is where much of the more modern literature originates.

    Cultivating conduct may also involve the concept sometimes known as "right action" as it relates to conduct. (There is definitely confluence of Buddhist and Confucian ideas in regards to Taoism, with the latter almost certainly exerting the greatest influence. Master Kong was more concerned with matters involving humanity/altruism ("ren") and filial piety (xiào), while Taoists tend to emphasize acting in accordance with nature, and may actually reject family in favor of solitude. Many Chinese hermits are traditionally Taoist practitioners, and the idea of an itinerant life was often embraced, with the intent of being free of cares, in part by rejecting worldly possessions and responsibilities. (The idea of physical immortality in Taoism is somewhat archaic at this point in history, although there are definitely still some folks out there who subscribe to it;)

    It is worth noting that "Journey to the West" can, on one level, be read as an attempt to reconcile Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian ideas. For instance, the Jade Emperor is a Taoist deity who embodies Confucian ideals and acknowledges the supremacy of the Buddha. Wukong is Taoist deity retrieving a Buddhist sutra for the Confucian purpose of redeeming the souls of the ancestors.

    In the most simple, modern terms, cultivation of the self and of the Tao can be understood as striving each day to be a better you, seeking balance and practicing moderation in all things. (This is similar to the Buddhist "middle way", but comes with the caveat that Taoists may sometimes seek extremes for various reasons, usually having to do with cultivating martial or magical power, nor do Taoists, in general, reject the pleasures of the flesh.)

    It is also notable that Taoist practitioners, in popular culture, tend to reject wealth and worldly status, and these aspects can be observed in Kungfu films and Wuxia films & novels. (The legendary film director King Hu directly commented on many of these subjects in numerous films, including "A Touch of Zen", "Dragon Gate Inn", "Raining in the Mountain" and "Come Drink with Me". In terms of Wuxia novels, I'd probably recommend starting with "The Deer in the Cauldron" by Louis Cha. Even the popular comic director Steven Chow touches on these subjects in films such as "Kung Fu Hustle" and "Shaolin Soccer". But these are just a few sources. You'll find these subjects deeply ingrained in a broad swathe of Chinese narrative both in the literary and cinematic mediums.)

    Thank you for your answer but I have a few questions.Firstly,is it considered wrong/evil to steal someone Yin or Yang during intercourse?Also,is being a prostitiute(like White Peony) looked down upon?In addition to that,is it considered wrong/evil for Lü Dongbin,a sage/immortal,to lust after and eventually make love with White Peony? (I may have made some grammatical errors in this comment)

    And how and why is Nezha immortal after his rebirth?

    How does one become "exceptionally immortal"?

    The main problem is Sun Wukong is terribly not Taoist whatsoever. Journey to the west is (semi-)buddhist in nature (It shows what Buddhism was for the mass around 1500 AC, it is certainly not a canonical book). You can even say, if you take the time to read all the 100 chapters that Journey to the west is clearly anti-taoist.

    @Gibet Chinese mythology is different from Western Mythology. There's really not a huge amount of material and it's widely scattered. A lot of it resides in folk tales and the oral tradition. I respectfully, but strongly, disagree with you categorization of Journey as non-canonical and primarily Buddhist. As I mentioned, it's quite easy to to show that the book is in fact a reconcilement of Buddhist, Taoist and Confucian traditions.

    @Lauren Ipsum I pulled the term "exceptionally immortal" out of the air. What I was getting at is the idea that, many of these figures are already functionally immortal when they seek additional means to strengthen that condition, with Sun Wukong as perhaps the leading example.

    @ K Vickneshvara Sex, in and of itself, is not shunned in Taoism. In many cases it is embraced, and it does seem fairly common, in legend, to use it as a means of cultivating or stealing power. (You see that in the obsession of males with learning to have sex without ejaculating, although my understanding in purely medical terms, what is actually happening is the semen is redirected into the bladder.) Courtesans like White Peony were often romantic figures, often tragic. I suspect the stealing of Lü's "essence", in her case, is seen as clever and admirable, as opposed to evil.

    @DukeZhou What about Nezha?

    @DukeZhou Where the Hell did you get that idea??? By equality you mean when Taijan Laojun (ie Lao Tsu) is trying to fight WuKong and totally fell for it. So Buddha come and is SOOOOOOOOOOO much better that the poor WuKong is unable to even LEAVE his palm! Only ONE time, ONE, did Journey try to be political. At the very end advising the Emperor to keep the 3 religions. But it is merely political. Even when Wukong follows Taoism (he fells), it is under master Subhuti <= a Buddha's disciple btw. And the rest is the same propaganda. This is a fairly great book. Yes. But a Buddhist one.

    @Gibet I won't comment directly on the other points, but only agree that the novel does indeed tie the three major traditions together in the underlying narrative of Monkey' and his companions' path to Buddhist enlightenment.

    @DukeZhou So lust,sex and prostitutes are **not** looked down upon and viewed as "*polluting*"? And Lü Dongbin, according to your other answer,is said "to be an exceptional person, both in virtue, humanity". Isn't *lusting after a prostitute* (and a mortal one, at that) and wanting to *steal* her "Ying" essence **evil** (or wrong and immoral,at best)?

    @KVickneshvara You might find this link useful. It's important to note that in folk culture, Taoists can be good or evil, and evil Taoists are often villains in Wuxia and Kung Fu films.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM