Question: What are the major schools of Internal Alchemy?
A: There are many different lineages of Nei Dan which are generally grouped in a few categories: The major Nei Dan (內丹) schools include the Southern (南派, Nan Pai), Northern (北派, Bei Pai), Eastern (東派, Dong Pai), Western (西派, Xi Pai), Yin Xian (隱仙派) and the Yin-Yang (阴阳派).
Although the general principles utilized by the various schools and lineages are similar, there is often quite a bit of variation in the specific practices. This is because the specific techniques are often tailored to the needs of an individual student.
Question: Why are there so many different schools and techniques in Internal Alchemy? Which one is best?
A: The Taoist say there are 3600 doors and 72 more side doors, but only one Elixir.
The Buddhists say there are 84,000 methods.
This is because each person is different and will have affinity for different types of practices.
The Internal Alchemy teachings usually consist of three parts. Collectively they serve as a guide to inform your understanding and practice.
1. Dao (道, Great Principles): Usually available to anyone who is interested.
2. Fa (法, Methods): Generally available to most students, although occasionally certain methods are considered secrets
3. Shu (朮, Techniques): Rarely written down and when they are, certain key parts are usually omitted. These secrets are reserved for indoor students.
Question: Why are there secrets?
A: The most basic answer is for all the reasons anyone keeps secrets. But one of main reasons is because the specific techniques and methods can be varied by the teacher to suit the unique needs of the individual students.
Question: Which Internal Alchemy school is the best?
A: This question is like asking, “What is the best cuisine in the world?” The answer is unique for each person and depends upon the common affinity between the student, teacher and art.
For this reason, it is hard to say “there is only one best method/technique/school”. Not that it keeps people from saying that anyway…