By Mark Weeks – Author of Code of the Conqueror – The Journey
Many, many blood-thirsty moons ago in the year 1222, the Great Khan readied himself to meet with the Master Taoist, Changchun; who was said to be three hundred years old and held the elixir of life in his palms.
Genghis, approaching sixty, had grown painfully aware of his own mortality with every passing season. And now, intrigued by his chief-advisor, Yelu-Chucai’s incessant claims that the Master could teach him the secrets of longevity, requested an audience.
After nearly four years of traveling the grasslands of Central Asia and covering some ten-thousand kilometres from his temple on the Shandong peninsula, the time had finally arrived for the Master to reveal all.
Inside the great yurt, with the heat of early summer pressing down upon them in the Afghan mountains, the Great Khan welcomed his guest. Genghis sat cross-legged on a broad gold throne, his hair, moustache and goatee were now completely white. But, his eyes still blazed as they had always done, fierce enough to paralyse the boldest of hearts.
They spoke through an interpreter, as the frail Master described himself as a mere hermit of the mountains and pronounced it was the will of Heaven that they that they should finally meet. The privileged onlookers had difficulty in seeing who was more in awe of the other.
Genghis asked respectfully, ‘What medicine of Long Life have you brought me from afar?’ The Master replied, ‘I have means of protecting life, but no elixir that will prolong it.’
Far from being distraught, the Great Khan was pleased with the Master’s candour and instead readied himself for the main purpose of the trip, as conceived by Yelu-Chucai. And, this was to receive the Holy Immortal, as Genghis called him, and accept instruction on good living and good ruling. This, he believed would energise his whole being. The visit culminated in a discourse by Changchun on the Dao, the Way that underpins all things in Heaven and Earth.
In November 1222 Genghis had part of this discourse recorded for history in both Mongolian and Chinese, which reads…
When Man was first born, he shone with a holy radiance and his step was light. But his appetite and longing were so keen that his body grew heavy, his holy light dim, his life essence unbalanced. Those who study Dao seek to regain that balance by quietism, asceticism and meditation. In this lay the true elixir of long life.
The Master also advised the Khan to curb his appetite, live without desires, reject luscious tastes, eat only foods that are fresh and light, and abstain from lust. Genghis gave Changchun a thoughtful nod and run his forefinger and thumb through the length of his grey goatee. But it was the last piece of advice that gave cause for a slight smirk on the weathered face of the Great Khan. ‘Try sleeping alone for a month.’ The Master recommended, ‘You will be pleasantly surprised of your new-found energy levels if adhered to.’
The conqueror and the sage held a further long meeting, where Changchun tried drawing Genghis towards a more civilised way of life for his people. And, once when hunting together, Genghis fell heavily from his horse. This earned a mild reproof from the Master, who told him it was time for a man of his years to take greater care of himself and avoid such risks.
For several months, the Great Khan listened. But, for a warrior born in the saddle, he must die in the saddle. After all, everyman returns to his own truth. And after his second fall a few years later he was to die from internal injuries in the year 1227, amongst his army, his horde.
Unfortunately, as we all know today, there is no true elixir of life. Death is the one dominant trait we all share with one another.
Finally, let me share these words from my book Code of the Conqueror – The Journey, when the wise old Zhi was discussing ‘energy’ with Alex.
‘Your energy will not last forever. The time will come soon enough for you to take your last breath. When the time does arrive, be not like those whose hearts are filled with dread and fear. When their time comes, they weep and pray for a little extra time to live their lives over again— only differently. Instead, hold your head high, do not fear death. Sing your death song and let your energy fade with humility and grace. Then, and only then, die like a conquering hero returning home from your journey of life.’
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