The Sword of Wisdom
The sword of wisdom is a symbol that is used in all esoteric traditions. It is a symbol for spiritual knowledge and effort, in particular the effort to be present in this moment.
The highest wisdom is the wisdom that awakens the original spirit.
Thirteenth century Taoist Master Li Daochun explains the meaning of the sword of wisdom in detail:
the true imperative has been upheld,
completely, truly adamant.
When students of the Tao know this secret,
The yang spirit is intensely powerful,
And the yin demons vanish.
If someone asks me about
Looking for its origin,
I say it is not ordinary iron.
This lump of iron
Comes from receptive stillness (square Earth☷) ;
When you obtain it, it rises up.
Setting to work when one yang comes back,
first have the six yangs pump the furnace bellows;
Then the six yins work the tongs and hammer.
When the work of firing is complete,
it produces the sword;
When it is first done,
it flashes like lightening.
This precious sword fundamentally has no form;
The name is set up because it has spiritual effect.
Learning the Tao and practicing reality
Depend on this sword;
Without this sword,
the Tao cannot be achieved.
The essence of the poem is having the six yangs pump the furnace bellows and the six yins working the tongs and hammer. The furnace refers to the mind of Tao, which tries to awaken the original spirit.
The furnace bellows refer to the inhalation an exhalation of the True Breath.
-- The Cultivation of Realization, by an unknown author
The physical breath is food for the physical body; the true breath is food for the spiritual body — the original spirit, which comes into being through the true breath. The six yangs and six yins refer to the Twelve Sovereign Hexagrams of the I Ching. The following verse about the six yang hexagrams is an extract of a poem from Triplex Unity, Cantong Qi, a 2nd century Taoist text..
At the new moon`s light lies Return ䷗:
The yang breath begins to spread through.
At Overseeing ䷒, the furnace issues strips of light,
Opening the way for proper radiance.
Looking upward, it forms Tranquility ䷊:
The firm and the yielding both come to hold sway.
Gradually comes the turn of Great Power ䷡,
At Parting ䷪ the time has come for yin to move into retreat,
For yang has risen and has come to the force.
Heaven ䷀ is strong, flourishing, and bright,
And lays itself over the four neighbourhoods.
-- Wei Boyang (Canton Qi - Triplex Unity)
The Yang breath begins to spread through, means that with each hexagram, yang energy is gaining strength; with each of the six breaths, self-awareness is getting stronger, until it is pure and bright with hexagram #1 Heaven.
The next six yin hexagrams represent the loss of the yang breath and the loss of the original spirit.
Meeting ䷫ begins the next sequence,
With yin becoming the host.
At Withdrawal ䷫, it leaves its position in this world
And loses the seed.
At Obstruction ䷋ there is stagnation and blockade,
and no new buds are generated.
Observation ䷓ with its equity and its balance,
examines the temper of autumn`s middle month.
Stripping Away ䷖, the body is broken,
Dismembered and its form destroyed,
The vital Breath is exhausted,
The original spirit is forgotten and lost.
The Way (道－Dao) comes to an end and turns around,
Returning to its origin in Earth ䷁.
-- Wei Boyang (Canton Qi - Triplex Unity)
In practice, although the awakening of the original spirit is usually a gradual process through keeping self-awarenes, losing self-awareness does not happen gradually, it happens in an instant. If one is lucky, one quickly becomes aware that one lost self-awareness and one can start again. If not, it may take an hour or a day before one can start again.
The six yin hexagrams, when they are seen as part of the Twelve Sovereign Hexagrams, only represent the gradual loss of yang symbolically; they also have a special meaning that is usually only passed on through word of mouth.
The six yins and six yangs are separated and need to be united.
Master Shangyang explains the meaning of the above two lines:
If the six yins and the six yangs gain the Yellow Wife, they will unite and bear a seed.
ANSWER: The true seed is the point of spiritual light which is prior to the separation of Heaven and Earth. -- Li Dao Chun, The Book of Balance and Harmony
A point of spiritual light (a flash of lightening represented by the Vajra) refers to a spark of inner awareness. As was said above, the bellows refer to the six yangs and six yins, which are a symbol for the inhalation and exhalation of six breaths in which the firing process is operating. It requires the yellow woman to unite the six yins and yangs. The Yellow Woman is a symbol that is used by all esoteric traditions. When the six yins and yangs are united they become the inhalation and exhalation of the six breaths of the firing process.
The Sword of Wisdom is a spiritual tool to awaken the original spirit by keeping self-awareness through six breaths.
If one is successful in keeping self-awareness through six breaths, one can gradually release the habitual attitudes and filters through which ones sees the world; the original spirit awakens and becomes an objective witness of the moment one is in, pure, naked and empty.