This is the 1st of 49 Barriers from ‘The 49 Barriers of Cultivating the Dao” (available here: be posted online in their entirety. The book also features extensive endnotes as well as hundreds of pages of commentary by Daoist renunciate Li Shifu (abbot of Five Immortals Temple) as well as explanations of key Daoist concept.


Sexuality is the unceasing impetus of the procreation of life for all beings. It is also the first life-threateningly great barrier for people who cultivate the Dao to become immortals, to fully comprehend the Dao, to become Buddhas, and to serve as ancestors. To follow the flow [of lust] is mundanity, while reversing the flow is immortality. People are born from the Dao of sexual desire, and also die from the Dao of sexual desire. This sexual desire might be stirred by the heavens or might emerge from humans themselves. [In the case of sexual desire] that is stirred by the heavens, [this emerges] from the influence over aeons by sensory objects. It occurs unknowingly and imperceptibly; it arises [spontaneously] at times without [prior] thought or contemplation. [In the case of sexual desire] that emerges from humans themselves, it [arises] upon seeing forms, which [leads to] the arousal of feelings. To encounter such situations [makes] the spirit gallop away, and thus it is from oneself that this cause and effect is created. If those who cultivate the Dao [are able] completely to rid themselves of the root of sexual desire, the seedling of divinity will naturally appear. Although they may encounter the carnal temptation of physical beauty, they are also able firmly to control [their desire] at this moment, without the stirring of lustful thoughts. However, it is seldom realized that even though I myself might not experience desire, that which gives rise to the desire will [remain] inside of me. For those who are unable to eliminate and expel [the root of desire], yet still force themselves to do so, there are many methods to remove [desires]. Over the course of time, their Gong will deepen and eventually the time will come when desire has been eliminated. If the root of sexual desire has been completely pulled out, then the body of form will be firm and unwavering. The body of the law will be easy to cultivate and the remaining barriers will all be easily overcome. A renunciant or layperson wishing to become an immortal or a Buddha should act in this way. Even with a layperson who is continuing human relations and procreating the next generation, if they are able to have few sexual desires, their essence will flourish and their Qi will be ample, their post-heaven [constitution] will be rich, full and replenished, and they will naturally eliminate illness and extend their lifespan. It is important to realize that when human emotions are rich and deep, one’s feeling for the Dao will wane. The Dao makes use of human emotions without humans being aware of it. The unceasing procreation of life is called the great Dao. It is the reason for the arrival of the seed of immortality and Buddhahood. Excerpt from ‘The 49 Barriers of Cultivating the Dao’. The original text contains extensive commentaries by Xing De (Li Shifu). The commentaries are also deeply knowledgeable in Chinese tradition, bridging Daoism with Buddhism, Confucianism and even Christianity, and possess a rare mystical depth stemming from Xing De’s long-term practice.

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