One of my Tibetan lama rinpoche went to visit a very famous Taoist temple in mainland China, and as soon as he entered the temple; he immediately retreated and went out of the main gate. When my brother in dharma asked him the reason, rinpoche replied: "There are foxes all over the place!!".
As we all know, taoists is are animists. The gods and goddesses in Taoism are many. Basically all of the spirits that we can think of will become the worship of Taoists. Well, this brings out a very interesting topic: animal immortals. The Chinese believe that animals too can become immortals (仙族) through meditaiton exercises and absorbing energies of the nature such as: sun, moon, stars, earth's magnetic energy etc. For the sake of clarity of explanation, I list all of the animal immortals as below:
- Fox immortals (胡太爷)
- Weasel immortals (黄太爷)
- Snake immortals (蛇太爷)
- General immortals (散仙)
- Eagle, falcon, tiger, wolf, bear, fish, turtle, insects etc.
- Wind, smoke, sorrowful ones, foreigners etc.
Amongst all of the immortals above, the most respected are the fox, weasel and snake. The fox immortal is said to be the favourite of Jade Emperor.
It is said that a special gifted animal such as a fox, will need to meditate for 100 years to be able to shapeshift. And after 500 years, then it is considered to be immortals. At this level, the immortal is said to possess the power to seek disciples or congregate other spirits for its service. In fact, many of the mediums are under the service of these animal immortals.
A gifted animal spirit practices a form of breathing exercise that will give it a golden magic pearl. It can use this magic pearl to attack its enemies or defend itself. If this animal spirit is more powerful, then it can rob other's pearl and this will make this spirit more powerful. The taoists believe however, if this spirit use its magic pearl for doing bad things; it will be strike by lightning.
I always wanted to ask rinpoche this question: "How come he didn't use his phurpa to chase away the foxes?" This question somehow always slip my mind everytime I meet with the rinpoche.