Taoist Lao Tzu's "Hua Hu Ching"

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"Into the Realm of Bliss and Wholeness"

One of my favorite accounts of sacred sexuality is contained in a little-known text by Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese Taoist. In the Hua Hu Ching,1 Lao Tzu warns that,

Although most people spend their entire lives following the biological impulse, it is only a tiny portion of our beings. If we remain obsessed with seeds and eggs, we are married to the fertile Great Wall of China reproductive valley of the Mysterious Mother but not to her immeasurable heart and all-knowing mind.

He says that,

If you wish to unite with her heart and mind, you must integrate yin and yang within and refine their fire upward. Then you have the power to merge with the whole being of the Mysterious Mother.

He explains further that,

The first integration of yin and yang is the union of seed and egg within the womb. The second integration of yin and yang is the sexual union of the mature male and female. Both of these are concerned with flesh and blood, and all that is conceived in this realm must one day disintegrate and pass away.

So far we are on familiar ground, but then he suggests that there is an entirely different level of existence open to us through union.

It is only the third integration which gives birth to something immortal....The new life created by the final integration is self-aware yet without ego, capable of inhabiting a body yet not attached to it, and guided by wisdom rather than emotion. Whole and virtuous, it can never die.

Here he refers to the state of enlightenment that the Taoists called Immortality.

Remarkably, Lao Tzu explains that this mystical union of yin and yang can be achieved through sexual intercourse.

Because higher and higher unions of yin and yang are necessary for the conception of higher life, some students may be instructed in the art of dual cultivation, in which yin and yang are directly integrated in the tai chi of sexual intercourse....If genuine virtue and true mastery come together…the practice can bring about a profound balancing of the student's gross and subtle energies [otherwise it can have a destructive effect].

Lao Tzu insists that

The result of this is improved health, Lao Tzu & Tao harmonized emotions, the cessation of cravings and impulses, and, at the highest level, the transcendent integration of the entire energy body.

While my husband and I cannot yet claim to have achieved transcendence, we have already experienced the other benefits he mentions as a result of making love frequently without conventional orgasm. For example, we have noticed definite improvements in our heath, greater emotional balance and harmony, and decreased cravings. In fact, within several months of beginning this practice, my husband was able to give up a long-term addiction. Also, some months later, he no longer needed the prescription anti-depressants that he had been taking for years due to chronic depression that ran in his family.

Ancient wisdom and modern science converge in the bedroom. In the last decade neuroscientists' research has revealed that oxytocin, the cuddle hormone, does indeed counteract the effects of stress, which improves health, calms us, and relieves depression. Oxytocin is also the bonding hormone that connects us with others at a heart level. Indeed, we cannot fall in love, or stay in love, without it.

Finally when oxytocin was injected into the key portions of the brains of rodents who were already addicted to substances like heroin, cocaine and marijuana, they voluntarily decreased their use of the drugs, and showed fewer symptoms of withdrawal when deprived of the drugs. In short, there's a good chance that the increase in oxytocin levels in the brain due to this less-driven, consciously-generous approach to lovemaking is behind the improvements catalogued by both the ancient sage Lao Tzu and by us.

So how is Lao Tzu's tai chi of sexual intercourse different from today's emphasis on hot sex? Well, we already know that his recommended approach was not geared toward procreation ("seeds and eggs"). He also provides other clues:

A person's approach to sexuality is a sign of his level of evolution. Unevolved persons practice ordinary sexual intercourse. Placing all emphasis upon the sexual organs, they neglect the body's other organs and systems. Whatever physical energy is accumulated is summarily discharged, and the subtle energies are similarly dissipated and disordered.

Before I continue with his insights, I want to point out that, again, modern neuroscience is demonstrating exactly how conventional sex leads to subtle energies that are "dissipated and disordered." Intense, hungry passion sends levels of dopamine (the compelling neurochemical behind all addictions) soaring. This encourages us to engage impulsively in fertilization behavior.

Unfortunately it also over-stimulates the pleasure/reward circuitry of the primitive brain. For Self-stimulating ratexample, rats that were wired so that they could push a lever in their cages to stimulate the pleasure/reward circuit tapped that lever incessantly…until they dropped. They didn't stop to eat, to investigate sexually receptive mates…or feed the kids.

High levels of dopamine are also associated with schizophrenia, sexual fetishes, and all addictions. So now you see why your body swiftly lowers your dopamine levels. Unfortunately that protective shutdown is disquieting, leading to a host of unpleasant symptoms. While it is in effect, people may feel irritable, needy, anti-social, emotionally over-reactive, or experience extreme cravings. Lao Tzu noticed this over two-thousand years ago. As he said, ordinary sexual intercourse is a great backward leap.

So what does this savvy sage recommend instead?

Where ordinary intercourse is effortful, angelic cultivation is calm, relaxed, quiet, and natural. Where ordinary intercourse unites sex organs with sex organs, angelic cultivation unites spirit with spirit, mind with mind, and every cell of one body with every cell of the other body.

Lao Tzu explains that the practice moves couples away from separation, toward oneness and transcendence.

Culminating not in dissolution but in integration, it is an opportunity for a man and woman to mutually transform and uplift each other into the realm of bliss and wholeness.

Clearly Lao Tzu believes there is much at stake in our lovemaking.

The cords of passion and desire weave a binding net around you....The trap of duality is tenacious. Bound, rigid, and trapped, you cannotTaoist master Lao Tzu experience liberation. Through dual cultivation [careful sexual intercourse] it is possible to unravel the net, soften the rigidity, dismantle the trap. Dissolving your yin energy into the source of universal life, attracting the yang energy from that same source, you leave behind individuality and your life becomes pure nature. Free of ego, living naturally, working virtuously, you become filled with inexhaustible vitality and are liberated forever from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Finally, he advises that the desired metamorphosis will not just happen without our focused participation.

Understand this if nothing else: spiritual freedom and oneness with the Tao are not randomly bestowed gifts, but the rewards of conscious self-transformation and self-evolution.

Ready to give it a try?

  • 1. Hua Hu Ching: Unknown Teachings of Lao Tzu, trans. Brian Walker, Harper SanFrancisco (1995), sections 65-70.