April 12, 2018

What is the ultimate price, or cost of Freedom… and can it matter?

 Chao Chih-Chien says, “To go back the other way means to return to the root. Those who cultivate the Tao ignore the twigs and seek the root. This is the movement of the Tao – to return to where the mind is still and empty and actions soft and weak. The Tao, however, does not actually come and go. It never leaves; hence it cannot return. Only what has form returns. ‘Something’ refers to breath. Before things have form they have breath. Hence, they all come from something. ‘Nothing’ refers to the Tao. Breath comes from the Tao. Hence, it comes from nothing. This is the movement of the Tao.”

Ultimately, the question becomes… how can we let our inner consciousness pass us by, AF1and does it truly matter if it does? Just what is it that defines us? What does it mean to be truly free? As Carl Sagan, the famous astrologer in his famous series on the cosmos once said “we are all made of star stuff”. While letting go of nothing that matters, everything simply returns to its beginning, to its source. Matter simply the substance of which any physical object consists or is composed. When do we know the freedom to find our “hearts” or soul’s desire? And most importantly do we know it when we see it and are we listening. Does freedom lie inside us or outside in the material world and in the end – can it matter, or perhaps are we here just passing time?

 Observers in several countries reported the appearance of a “new star” in 1054 A.D. in the direction of the constellation Taurus. Much has been learned about the Crab in the centuries since then. Today, astronomers know that the Crab Nebula is powered by a quickly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star called a pulsar, which was formed when a massive star ran out of its nuclear fuel and collapsed. (Photo by NASA)

In The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiess writes… In the Book of Job, the Lord demands, “Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hath understanding! Who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

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Job and his followers

My answer would be that we all were there, I know I was… All matter that existed in the universe then at the time still exists today, even as it and we take shape in the present. Even Carl Sagan, mentioned above adds, “Man is the matter of the cosmos, contemplating itself.”  Just as when we ask “How are we to treat others?” We respond “there are no others”. (Ramana Maharshi)

I would add that there seems to be a common thread, like an eternal live nerve that connects us. We keep coming back as if we have unfinished business to find or complete the connection. As if the universe is not done with us just yet and we know it. That we are to live life in the moment free of attachments, finding as Confucius said… the simplicity in everyday life. It is true as the Buddhist says, that when we are ready the teacher appears. It’s the getting ready and watching for him/her that’s the hard part, and when the door opens we must be ready to walk through. To what some may call the resurrection of our spirit. It is something best expressed in Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in Verse 41 called Contending for the Middle as expressed in my own interpretation below.

I am sure that there are things I say here that you want to just say, oh, it’s just Dan, or AF3Kongdan, if you are in China. That remaining an enigma or dwelling on the mystical to those who think they know him (me), seems the norm. That while he, Dan, is free to dwell on nothing (that’s a compliment), I live, or attempt to stay within my own reality. But as we begin to see beyond ourselves, to focus on our own place in the universe as if mapping the stars, we see that there are thousands of galaxies. That the known universe has no center or end and neither do we and AF4exist as a continuum of eternal spirit. This is something the shaman and mystic has always known. That questioning what we have always taken for granted is the key to knowing our next step and that the freedom we are searching for can only be found within ourselves. To never let pre-supposed conditions, or limitations, define who we are yet to become. It is as if we have acknowledged knowing that our origins come from the stars. As if, we acknowledge that our soul, our source, is one with all that has been and will ever be. That everything, including you and I are one. As if we are Dancing with Chi (chi is our eternal energy that never dies) as we continually are transformed by our own spiritual DNA.

It is gaining freedom in the skin we are given that often confounds us that keeps us in a state of bewilderment. I recently attended a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., at the Springfield Art Gallery on April 4th, the day he was killed fifty years ago in 1968. It was an excellent program. What struck me most was a talk given by an older gentleman focusing on the price, or cost of freedom. He spoke of pre-determined barriers imposed by others that kept him from what he felt was his highest endeavor only because of the color of his skin. Living a life without freedom that seems forever out of reach for people of color in America. What stands out at the moment is MLK’s s quote, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character”. As an historian, my take initially is where or what is it in human nature that leads us to define our individual values as not accepting others who may not look, act, or necessarily agree with us? Can freedom from bigotry exist when we see others as less than ourselves?

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The ten thousand things all come from Heaven and Earth. Heaven and Earth have position and form. Hence, we say things come from something. The light and spirit of Heaven and Earth, the flight of insects, the movement of worms, these all come from the Tao. The Tao has no form. Hence, we say things come from nothing. This means the root comes before the flower, weakness comes before strength, humility comes before conceit.”

Why do we see the advancement of the “content of another’s character” so AF5threatening? How is my own economic empowerment more important than my neighbors if we all live in the same community? It seems as if a mystery of the universe that remains unsolved. Sometimes if you watch the news, it is easy to believe there is more that divides us than binds us together. Have we evolved all that much in the fifty years since King’s death? And more importantly, what is the ultimate price of freedom? Most philosophies teach us that it is the craving of attachments that bind us to the here and now. Does life have a singular purpose or plural? Is it “all for one and one for all?” Can we define resources so finitely, that we have to fight to obtain or keep them for only ourselves when in reality we live in an infinite universe? Is man here only to feed his own aggrandizement of his own expansion of power, wealth, rank, or honor?

Fighting against inequality is an age-old endeavor and knows no color. My own ancestors were there at the signing of the Magna Carta in England. No kidding. It was, however, the right of the first-born son to property that led younger sons to migrate, to travel to the new world. To Jamestown, Plymouth Rock and beyond. It seems as though AF6some things never change…

One of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta containing the famous clause ‘to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’.

Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter’, is one of the most famous documents in the world. Originally issued by King John of England (1199-1216) as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.

Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of the Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950). (Wikipedia)

Another of my ancestors, the First King of Scotland, rallied behind William Wallace who came back to life in the movie Braveheart.  Wallace fought and died for an independent Scotland with his own immortal words of… FREEDOM.  What is it that freedom means and why does it have to be singular and not universal? How can our own wants and needs be greater than another’s, why can’t we all be free? And what can it matter in the end.

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  Reproduction of the Suzhou star chart (13th century)

The Yellow Emperor, also known as Huangdi, was a shaman, who in 2698 B.C. invented the Chinese lunar calendar, which follows the cycles of the moon. The Chinese lunar calendar begins with the reign of the Yellow Emperor.

Traditionally, he was considered to be from Qufu, more than 2,000 years before Confucius and that the I Ching began with him. The zodiac was based on Chinese astrology and was used as a way to count years, months, days, and hours in the calendar. Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) and flourished during the Han dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD).

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Yellow Emperor

During the Han period, the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture—the Yin-Yang philosophy, the theory of the 5 elements, the concepts of Heaven and Earth, and Confucian morality—were brought together to formalize the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy. The earliest intent of what would become astrology was to develop the concept of freedom. If you could know cause and effect you could predict the outcome. That if everything was tied to the sun, moon and stars some sense of predictability could be established. Over the centuries this became not just a theory, but how to structure society and a person’s individual life. That if you know what comes next you can imagine the outcome and are free to respond accordingly. We then create our world by and through our actions.

According to Chinese astrology, a person’s destiny can be determined by the position of the major planets at the person’s birth along with the positions of the sun, moon, comets, AF9the person’s time of birth, and zodiac sign. The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve-year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. It is calculated according to the Chinese lunar calendar. In other words, our fate has always been connected to our eternal vibrations with the stars, as they are seen as our ultimate source. Our connection to the universe can be traced to them in what was to become known as Heaven. Many feel that in death we are simply coming home to be made whole, to become, or be made free again. That ultimately, we are transformed by the quality of our thoughts and renewing of our minds. When I began writing all those years ago, as a part of the Preface in my first book about the I Ching and Taoism, I wrote the following:

Dancing with Chi

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Taoist Ritual / Temple of the Eight Immortals

Everything that ever was, everything now and that ever will be is within you now to find. All that there ever was to know or that there will be to know is within you to find.

You have been everywhere there has been to see, have seen all that there is to see and, in the future will see all that there ever will be to see.

You are not a know-it-all. But you know all that there is to know. Simply come to know yourself and remember what you have forgotten. Simply to find again, again and again. 2/6/94

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in B15May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 40 and 41 appear below. Verses 1 through 39 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 40 – The Guardian Angel

If an angel came down from heaven to relay that what you thought were your weaknesses were actually your strengths and your strengths your weaknesses, would you have the courage to reach out and change the way you live each day.

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To be found with Dragons   Linyi Museum

If an angel came down from heaven to relay that your only limitations were self-imposed and you could accomplish whatever you wanted as long as the beneficiary was not yourself, what would you do first?

If an angel came down from heaven and stood right here – and said that people only know the work of working and that the greatest work of all is the work of not working. Caught up thinking that everything comes from something. If they knew that something comes from nothing, they would not work so hard and enslave themselves to things. They would instead turn to God and the Tao and concentrate on cultivating spirit.

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For whom the bells toll  Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

Finally, it is when knowing that everything has its limit. That when their something gets way out here…. It has no choice but to come back the other way.  Ultimately when we do become balanced we become centered. When we become centered we can see beyond ourselves and we can discover why we are here.  God’s grace and his hand come forth to guide our way.

Those who cultivate the Tao act with humility and harmony. Those who cultivate virtue look to themselves for the truth, not to the words of others. For those who understand that what moves them is also the source of their life, they can begin to understand the gift of Heaven and live forever. ##

Confucius says, “To hear of the Tao in the morning is to die content at nightfall. (Lunyu: 4.8)

Wang An-Shih says, “The reason the Tao works through weakness is because it is empty. We see it in Heaven blowing through the great void. We see it in Earth sinking into the deepest depths.”

Te-Ching says, “People only know the work of working. They don’t know that the work of not working is the greatest work of all. They only know that everything comes from something. They don’t know that something comes from nothing. If they knew that something came from nothing, they would no longer enslave themselves to things. They would turn, instead, to the Tao and concentrate on their spirit.”

Verse 41 – Contending for the Middle

How is it that some can hear of the correct way and follow it with devotion, while others when hearing of it are content to argue whether it is real or not? And still others cannot seem to keep from laughing at such folly.

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Turtle Stele    Duke of Zhou

However, if the latter did not laugh it wouldn’t be the way.

For contentment to find its middle both extremes must be shown.  The brightest path to some seems dark, the quickest path seems slow. The smoothest path remains rough. The highest virtue low.  The whitest white seems pitch black.  The greatest virtue wanting while the staunchest virtue timid.  The truest truth remains uncertain.  The perfect square will seem to lack corners as the perfect tool remains idle and does nothing.  The perfect sound is hushed and quiet, as the perfect form remains shapeless.

It is through these opposites that the two sides of everything become clear. Once clear, the Tao remains hidden from view, except to those who can truly see. Remaining hidden from view himself, the sage can easily find beginnings and endings and know when to start and how to finish as he already knows having seen both sides many times before.  ##

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Garden  in Chongqing

Li His-Chai says, “When a great person hears of the Tao, even if people laugh at him, they can’t keep him from practicing it. When an average person hears of the Tao, even if he doesn’t disbelieve it, he can’t free himself of doubts. When a small person hears of the Tao, even the ancient sages can’t keep him from laughing. Everyone in the world thinks existence is real. Who wouldn’t shake his head and laugh if he were told that existence wasn’t real and non-existence was?”

Li Jung says, “The true Tao is not fast or slow, bright of dark. It has no form, no sound, no shape, and no name. But although it has no name, it can take any name.” Lu Hsi-Sheng says, “Name and reality are often at odds. The reality of the Tao remains hidden in no name.”

Yen Tsun says, “The quail runs and flies all day but never far from an overgrown field. The swan flies a thousand miles but never far from a pond. The phoenix, meanwhile, soars into the empty fault and thinks it is too confining. Where dragons dwell, small fish swim past. Where great birds and beasts live, dogs and chickens avoid.”

By 1dandecarlo

April 1, 2018

Cloud dancing with the Immortals, or perhaps just re-telling the world’s memories.

Cloud Dancing

From the clouds dragons appear to those who have prepared.

To the I Ching, heaven is to found residing with dwellings of dragons who roam the sky resting in the clouds.

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View from the Top of Huangshan Mountain

Do not look for me where you have found me before.  You will not see me where you have seen me before. Dancing in the clouds with the immortals is where I am to be found.

To be seen with dragons. Cavorting above it all. Beyond earthly endeavors.  A strong personality who with compassion and caring succeeds by seeing his destiny in the clouds.

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Dragons above the Doorway at Temple of the Eight Immortals   Xian

Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the ski with chi. Cloud Dancing across the sky is easy living with dragons is not. A group of dragons are seen riding the clouds disappearing through the sky.

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Symbols of dragons were placed in tombs as means to get to heaven. Shaanxi Museum Xian

As we disappear I look back and see dragons resting on clouds dwelling in the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching  (1 HEAVEN / Heaven over Heaven). 2/3/94  (to be found on the website at I Ching – Voices of the Dragon)

In music duo Simon and Garfunkel’s song, from their Bridge over Troubled Water album, The Boxer there is a line “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Like there is a confirmation bias believing what we see or Simon & Garfunkelhear that fits our persona of ourselves. Others that know me might refer to another Paul Simon song… “Still crazy after all these years”. But I digress. Or from the Graduate album, The Sound of Silence. What great writing and music. I write here a lot about coming to find our highest self. Who is it we aspire to become, and as Joseph Campbell would say, we are to “follow our bliss”. For myself, what else could be the place other than to be seen with dragons resting on clouds in the sky. As if travelling through the clouds… finding and visiting the places where deities reside. To be or be seen beyond the brink of eternity. As if you too have been to the mountaintop and seen the other side. It’s the place I often go in meditation.

I’ve been watching Ken Burns “The West”, on Netflix and for me it is very depressing to A4.2watch America reach its manifest destiny securing the continent for white Europeans. I was especially moved by the eloquence of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce when he said, “To not be changed by foreign beliefs that descend upon us as we adjust to other beliefs and opinions not our own, without first telling our own beliefs and opinions to others”. Chief Joseph spoke as if knowing the heart of everything, as if he too can be seen dancing across the sky with dragons with stories and ancient memories to tell. Another great storyteller. What a tragedy. I stopped watching at Wounded Knee… I had friends in college whose ancestors died there.

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Our first visit to Qufu in 1999 in cave where Confucius was born. Me, Katie, my mother, and Marie

Almost twenty-five years ago, in February 1994, I wrote the above story about dancing in the clouds with dragons. The following year in 1995, I wrote below about finding Confucius. It would be two years before my first trip to China in 1997 to adopt our first Chinese daughter Katie in Guangdong Province and another two years after that before visiting Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius for the first time in October 1999, while on our way to Urumqi to adopt our second daughter Emily. A visit that would change who I thought I was and begin to be reminded of who I am yet to become.

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Celebrating Confucius Festival 

This was followed by the publishing in China of my first book, An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond in 2004, and my second book, both now here on my website and on facebook, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, two years later in 2006. Or the incorporation of The Kongdan Foundation that same year in January, 2006. Who knew… that when I wrote this “Finding Confucius”, and the city of Qufu he hails from, that it would alter so dramatically my life’s work and endeavors.

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Queli Hotel in Qufu

Asking the question, what is it that defines us? It was as if the ancient dragons had come looking for me and found me back in December 1993 while I was in Fall River, Massachusetts and there I was. As I concluded unknowingly back in March 1995… Where can all this possibly lead? Who can say? They knew and came to remind me who I had been and was yet to become and that it was time for me to get on with it… my ultimate purpose.

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Entrance of Confucius Temple – Qufu

My first night in Qufu on October 25, 1999 was spent in the Queli Hotel that is adjacent to the Confucius Mansion and Temple. For years, previous to our visit accommodations for visitors to Qufu were in the annex of the Confucius Mansion itself. Due to tourism and promotion, the Queli Hotel was built. After a night in which I could not sleep, I got up very early and went outside to take a walk.  I had this premonition that I had been here before.

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The Turtle Dragon – Qufu

Not once but many times. It was as if Qufu had always been my home and the place I would always return to.  Not only in the past, but in the future as well. As I walked that morning, a block away on Gulou Street (where the Hotel was situated), on the north side of the street was the Confucius Normal School where I would teach more than ten years later, and on the south side of the street was where my daughter Katie and I would live in the apartment we would have while I was teaching in Qufu at Jining University.

My experiences in Qufu can be found in an unpublished manuscript here on my website in the tab Qufu and Confucius. From 1999 through last year, I have made almost fifty trips to Qufu, and China and Shandong Province. Most for sister city trips, my publishing and teaching, and adopting my two daughters from China (Emily and Katie). Last year (2017) I was there for six weeks (May 12 – June 23) and traveled to fourteen cities in five different provinces. The focal point was still Qufu and reunions with my students.

In the Book of Lieh Tzu, there is a chapter entitled Confucius.

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The Sage – Qingyang Taoist Temple

I wrote my own version of “The Book of Lieh Tzu” entitled, My Travels with Lieh Tzu in 1996. It is an unpublished manuscript that appears here on my website. The Book of Lieh Tzu has served as a primer and guide for all precepts entering Taoist monasteries and for those wanting to follow the historical foundations of what was in the past that may today exist – as if acting in conjunction with the present, and knowing this, having an understanding of what may come next over time.  (The basis of I Ching). My initial entry in that chapter is as follows:

Finding Confucius

Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with knowledge?  Can he possibly equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its true origin?

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The Golden Crane Confucius Temple

While Confucius may help guide those responsible for maintaining the overall scheme of things in their dealings with others, can he possibly know the true underpinnings of all there is to know that lead to logical conclusions?  Can thoughts and ideas expressed outside the true essence of the Tao have any real significance? Looking for differences to trap unseemly paradox and analogies that can confuse those not serious about finding and true way of virtue.

Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao. The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius and Taoism always present. Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground. Moving all to places they would otherwise miss. Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leading to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.

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Confucius Mansions – Qufu

Everything crystallizing over time. Can one move forward knowing the paradox found in all things that are allowed to advance in their own way? Knowing that Confucius is forever weighing benefit and harm and distinguishing between right and wrong.

Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge?  Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this possibly lead? Who can possibly say? 3/5/95

When I wrote the above it was as if I had been preparing and studying Eastern philosophy for a very long time, as if since high school even earlier… my whole life. As if I was preparing for a long voyage from which there would be happily no return. Almost as if I was reawakened to inspire others to wake up through my own teaching, wisdom and writing.

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Conversing again with old Friends    Hungshann Mt

As if to make sacred and be here simply to tell the world’s, specifically China’s memories. The paradox and conundrum of every sage throughout the ages. To keep to himself the wisdom he has learned, the ancient memories, or share them with the world. Why many retreat to become reclusive and out of the way or view of others. To mountaintops where the only voices heard are of old friends, as if knowing and conversing with dragons once again..

From my initial writing in December 1993 forward, it was first internalizing the I Ching, then Lieh Tzu, then Lao Tzu, and the essence of Taoism with Chuang Tzu as my mentor. Never really focusing on Confucius so much. (I was Dantzu long before I became Kongdan). It was as if I didn’t need to because I already possessed all I needed to know and simply preparing myself for a long journey. Long before the thought of ever going to Qufu ever occurred to me. As if setting the stage for what was to come next. That it was more important to chronicle the past, than to re-learn something I already knew. As if needing only to be reminded, or remember. Once finding my eternal rhythm, seeing things as they were so that they may be seen in their best light again. Capturing the essence of A4.10what I knew then, who I am to be now, and who I am still yet to become. To discover how it all is to be played out in the here and now going forward.

Socrates (470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the western ethical tradition of thought. (Wikipedia)

In Eastern philosophical thought, Confucius is comparable to the Socrates of the western world, and his teachings emphasize morality as a path to understanding and enlightenment. In a famous lesson, he told a student that “reciprocity” is the one word that sums up his philosophy on life. According to Confucius, “Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” In addition to instructions on how to be a moral person, many of his quotes are revered today as personal motivation and encouragement. For example, Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Beyond his pleas to treat others with morality and respect and his encouragement to pursue a passionate life, the Confucianism philosophy can be summed up as, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in A4.11May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 38 and 39 appear below. Verses 1 through 37 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself

Instilling virtue within oneself requires neither thought nor effort or action if you are truly in sync with the way of virtue.

The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the way.

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Yin and Yang Dragons    Wuhan Temple

Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading others along the Way.  As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet.  Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature.  Since his every action remains effortless he does not think about it.

Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself.

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The Highest Calling Nanjing Museum

His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet to become and seeing beyond himself.  Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.

Seeing his future, his vision matches things and names with reality.  He remains humble and reveres harmony. Seeming beyond himself he becomes the connecting between all that should be between heaven and earth. As the sage he embodies the way. ##

Han Fei says, “Virtue is the Tao at work”.

W ang Pi says, “Those who possess Higher Virtue use nothing but the Tao. They possess virtue, but they don’t give it a name”.

Yen Tsun says, “The person that embodies the Way is empty and effortless, yet he leads all creatures to the Way. The person who embodies virtue is faultless and responsive and ready to do anything. The person that embodies kindness shows love for all creatures without restriction. The person who embodies justice deals with things by matching name with reality. The person who embodies ritual is humble and reveres harmony. These five are footprints of the Tao. They are not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is not one, much less five.”

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The Power of Life    Nanjing Museum

Wang P’ang says, “Kindness is another name for virtue. It differs, though, from virtue because it involves effort. The kindness of the sage, however, does not go beyond fulfilling his nature. He isn’t interested in effort; hence he doesn’t think about it.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The Tao is like a fruit. Hanging from a tree, it contains the power of life but its womb is hidden. Once it falls, it puts forth virtue as its root, kindness as its stem, justice as its branches, ritual as its leaves, and knowledge as its flowers. All od these come from the Tao. ‘That’ refers to flowers. ‘This’ refers to fruit. Those who embody the Tao choose the fruit over the flowers.”.

Verse 39 – Moving from finding the Way to living in Virtue

 The sage takes no action but leaves nothing undone or behind as the Tao remains forever nameless.

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Celebration  Qingyang Taoist Temple

Left alone to themselves, the ten thousand things find their own way and become transformed on their own.

Once awakened, the sage moves them with nameless simplicity. Remaining true to themselves they become quiet and tranquil. As if a single oneness, or purpose, has found each one with everything finding its place.

Finding himself alone to his liking, the sage becomes as one with heaven and earth as everyone finds him on the path to virtue.

Knowing he has now found the way, the sage clings only to his virtue ultimately showing the way for everything he has left behind. ##

Wang Pi says, “One is the beginning of numbers and the end of things. All things become complete when they become one. But once they become complete, they leave oneness behind and focus on being complete. And focusing on being complete, they lose their mother. Hence, they crack, crumble, collapse, dry up, and fall. As long as, they can preserve their form. But their mother has no form.”

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Finding the Light   Qingyang Taoist Temple

Ho-Shang Kung says, “It’s because Heaven becomes one that it graces the sky with constellations and light. It’s because Earth becomes one that it remains still and immovable. It’s because spirits become one that they change shape without becoming visible. It’s because streams become one that they never stop filling up. It’s because kings become one that they pacify the world. But Heaven must move between yin and yang, between night and day. It can’t only be clear and bright. Earth must include both high and low, hard and soft, the five-fold stages of breath. It can’t only be still. Spirits must have periods of quiescence. They can’t only be active. Streams must also be empty and dry. They can’t only be full. Kings must humble themselves and never stop seeking worthies to assist them. They can’t only lord it over others. If they do, they fall from power and lose their thrones.”

Su Ch’e says, “Oneness dwells in the noble, but it is not noble. Oneness dwells in the humble, but it is not humble. Oneness is not like the lustre of jade: so noble it cannot be humble, or the coarseness of rocks: so humble it cannot be noble.”

By 1dandecarlo

March 21, 2018

Living History – matching our own ultimate aspirations… with the stars.

The sage creates a sacred space around him. He emits an aura of compassion and mindfulness and seeks only to impart the wisdom of the universe to others. The sage releases what has blocked him in eternity, as he listens to signals from the dawn of time. The sage retires from unhappiness, worry, and the pursuit of possessions. The sage fills his life with the energy of abundance, defines prosperity as the positive energy from within, and withdraws from the strain of seeking security. As he admonishes others to retire from unhappiness, as you spend every moment creating and manifesting your own eternal vibrations. Enjoy the moments given you. Love the people around you. Live the life offered you. And know that it is when you show up as authentic, that you give others permission to do the same.

Living history is said to be the task of each successive generation. It’s something we all do.  As if we are constantly reinventing ourselves to meet, or fit, the times. It is what we tell future generations what we have left behind. That we create the world as we go with what the ancients have taught us as cause and effect through the ages. We often forget that the most important thing is the evolving of our soul. The choice we have is what vehicle are we using for our personal growth. As we are not to forget, but instead build onto our spiritual identity. Becoming resilient to what we come in contact with becomes the key.

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Stone carving of Dragons Confucius Temple

As the future speaks for itself, along with and what the memories of those who came before are telling us today. It is as the Taoists say, that what goes into something must equal what comes out as the universe teaches that there are no short-cuts. It’s what the shaman learned in following what was to become or known as following nature, the I Ching, or what we would call complimentary opposites. Just whose and what aspirations do we follow, if any? As we follow the clarion call to do no harm.

Knowing this, a wise man once said that you should never AM2believe something simply because you want to believe it. Perhaps we all should examine what we think we know, as we acknowledge that the chaos and/or enlightenment we create is but a ladder.  Both for ourselves and others that goes both up and down, or maybe static and remains as if glued in place. I recall visiting StoneAARoman_Bathshenge and Bath, England in 1995 with my wife Marie and going by the sculptures of angels climbing Jacobs Ladder on the west front of Bath Abbey, whose history spans well over a thousand years. With the local Roman baths, a thousand years prior to the church that had been hidden from view for centuries.

AM3Stonehenge itself is perhaps one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. It was built in several stages: the first monument was built about 5,000 years ago, with the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC.

Stonehenge beginnings were about the same time of the Dawenkou culture in early Shandong Province in China, not too far from Zibo and even Qufu. The figure on the right is an ancient sunrise painting. The painting was a design inscribed on a big-mouthed pottery jar-a sacrificial vessel to the sun by primitive Chinese forebears in Shandong during the period when the Dawenkou culture thrived (4000-2000 BC). This painting, or design, consists of three parts: upper, middle and bottom. The upper part is a round sun. Below it is a moon. A huge mountain with five peaks is at the bottom. AM4Some experts think this might be the original of “sunrise”, with the sun above a cloud (or perhaps above the setting moon), on top of a mountain. The same character appears in inscriptions on bone or tortoise shell, on ancient bronze vessels, in lesser seal characters, in official script and in regular script in later times. The origin of the character is shown in the picture. From the angle of calligraphy, we might regard the sun in the picture as round as a circle. The moon is a bit wavelike. The mountain is drawn with the brush exerting strength.

The parallels would be the shaman’s attachment to astronomy and telling the future based on man’s early connection to nature and the moon, following the stars, and earth’s rotation around the sun and our own pull and connection to it all. Just as with the AM5astronomical finding around the history of Stonehenge. The depiction to the left is the yin/yang symbol of the I Ching in front of the Hall of the Three Purities at the Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu. Reminded even then of the cosmic principles of yin and yang as we think of the ridge pole, up verses down, dark verses light, and things seen as opposites. Of thoughts of energy and matter and the flow of all existence that we are to stay in tune with and play the role we are given. Of transformation and what it all means, ultimately for ourselves and others.

Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory, also known as the Dengfeng Observatory, is a AM6World Heritage site in Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou’s shrine, Gaocheng Town, near Dengfeng in Henan province, China. This site has a long tradition of astronomical observations, from the time of the Western Zhou up to the early Yuan dynasty. There is also a gnomon used for the Da Yan calendar in 729 AD and the great observatory of the Yuan Dynasty. It is believed that the Duke of Zhou (c. 1042 BC) had erected at this place a Ceyingtai (observatory measuring the shade or gnomon) to observe the Sun. The great observatory was expanded extensively in 1276 in the early Yuan dynasty on the order of Kublai Khan. It is definitely on my own bucket list, the next time I’m in China.

The point here is that both ancient cultures were following vibrations, or signs of the universe, perhaps a higher power, to base and make their decisions. As if saying that eternity is already etched, or ingrained, in my soul and I am already home. That the more attuned, and in line with nature I find myself, the more I am in keeping with my path. That I am happiest when I am finding my way, as if I am found returning to my source. This is the essence of what Taoism was yet to be called and become. As stated earlier, we often forget that the most important thing is the evolving of our soul and following vibrations leading back to our source. The shaman has always directed us to look to nature, the universe, and the stars knowing they are the ultimate vehicle that connects us with our spiritual identity. Staying true to ourselves once we find the path, or way, has always been the key. That the way, becoming one with the Tao, has always been within us to AM7find.

Today you can add an application to your cellphone called OSR – Star Finder that can identify your location in relation to the stars. Simply point your phone upwards and scan the stars on the horizon. The constellations will be pointed out to you. Amazing. (Aries, Cancer, Virgo, Sagittarius, I am of the Libra constellation… my own star is up there somewhere). We are all as you know simply as Carl Sagan said… “star stuff”.

Below is a portion of the Preface of my book that was published in China in 2006, that explains Taoism a little, for those who may be unfamiliar. “Thoughts on becoming a Sage” represents the author’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching in a personalized style that illustrates the way of virtue and steps one would take in seeking out those attributes most resembling a “sage like” lifestyle and ways to live in the secular world.

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The Dragon at Qingyang Mountain

The paradox being that one cannot see oneself as a sage in the here and now… This would be seen as presumptuous. That one should begin to see beyond and simply aspire to see beyond himself and whatever his shortcomings may be and in doing so he can catch glimpses of his highest endeavor and destiny.

Just as there is an underlying or unity of philosophical religious teachings throughout the world, as shown by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammed of Medina, Hindu and the Bhagavad Gita, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Confucius, and others… one who emulates or strives to live a life of virtue sees past self-imposed religious differences and intolerance found in the world around him. They see the likeness in everyday activities where virtue, or man’s highest endeavors, are reflected and accepted as universal truths; i.e., that we are all God’s children. It is when one reflects on his or her place in the scheme of things reaching an understanding of where they fit into this unity found in nature that the journey begins for real.

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Wild Goose Pagoda axd Pavilion Xian

In Chinese history there was an individual who lived in the sixth century during the Tang Dynasty that epitomized this universal sense of collective spirit and wisdom. Li Fang saw the need for Confucius teachings to be seen as compatible with Taoism, the teachings of Lao Tzu and Buddhism the teachings of Loashan Buddhism that was prevalent at the time. He professed to an understanding that all religions followed a core belief of a singular God. All religions simply served as the mechanism to help people get to a similar place and that no one process was necessarily better than another. Each simply the process of finding and following one’s natural inclination to nurture a personal relationship with God.

To begin to understand Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, you must first begin by understanding what he meant by the Tao, or what is commonly referred to as the way or path one should follow throughout one’s life.

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Directions  Qingyang Taoist Mountain

The way defines one’s path to ultimate reality. Although Lao Tzu continually throughout the Tao Te Ching re-affirms he does not know it’s true name, without a name it simply becomes the way, or better known as the “way of virtue. Albeit serving to find one’s ultimate path… That ultimate reality is to reach a commonality or understanding of one’s place in the physical universe, known as heaven and earth, and relationship with all things in it or what is commonly referred to or known as the ten thousand things.  

The author’s understanding of Taoism as reflected in today’s culture and society, is illustrative of a sense that the Tao does not simply give birth to all things. It continues to remain present in each individual thing as a power or energy.

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The Immortal Dragon Qingsheng Mountain

In a truly religious sense we refer to it as one’s eternal spirit or soul, or qi (chi). As the Tao manifests within an individual, it can remain static or awaken the person midstream to question his or her role, and what they are to be doing once they awaken to their true endeavor and destiny. Possibly even to grow in a certain way in tune with their true nature. Finding this one can develop their religious identity identifying with the path most comfortable for each individual.

What is it that more than five thousand years of uninterrupted history brings, but a collective consciousness from the days of the earliest shaman, that brings us or leads to a sense of pragmatism, i.e., choosing the middle way that serves the benefit of all?

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Symbols of the Dragon  Qingyang Taoist Temple

Common wisdom grew around the needs of all in the community being met. This is not only true of China, but every culture. We seem to have a hard time with this basic principle of life when we think some of us are more deserving than others. That it is when we acknowledge and reconcile with the past that we learn steps going forward. And what could serve as both inspiration and aspiration that serves to guide us. One of Chuang Tzu’s greatest contributions as to the impact of Confucian ideology and what was to later become Taoism, was to question what you see or believe as given. That just because you want to believe something, does not make it true. That if it defies nature it cannot last… Who can know what lies beneath the surface of things, just as in Roman bathes in England, for what is seen and unseen, what may be unknown and all possible outcomes?

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Times with the Sage

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 36 and 37 appear below. Verses 1 through 35 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 36 – Hoping weakness Prevails

What you would shorten you should lengthen instead.  What you would weaken you should spend your time strengthening.

What you would topple, you should raise and what you would take you should spend your time giving.

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Mount Nishan  Birthplace of Confucius

Most importantly do not abandon your weaknesses as it will be through your weaknesses that your strengths will prevail and endure.                  

The sage hides his light so it can be kept safe and secure.

While cultivating the Tao he speaks softly and with care. Just as a fish cannot survive out of water, the sage’s greatest asset is not meant to be seen, but should remain in humble and non-intimidating surroundings.  Keeping still as in a deep pool he remains unknown to the world. ##

Te-Ch’ing says, “Once things reach their limits, they go the other way. Hence lengthening is a portent of shortening. Strengthening is the onset of weakening. Raising is the beginning of toppling. Giving is the start of taking. This is the natural order of Heaven as well as for Man. Thus, to hide the light means the weak conquer the strong. Weakness is the greatest tool of the state. But a ruler must not show it to his people. Deep water is the best place for a fish. But once it is exposed to the air, a fish is completely helpless. And once a ruler shows weakness, he attracts enemies and shame.”

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Finding humble Surroundings  Gates of Qufu

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “To perceive shortening in lengthening, weakening in strengthening, toppling in raising, taking in giving, how could anyone do this if not through the deepest insight?”

This is the hidden light. Moreover, what causes things to be shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, toppled or raised, taken or given is invisible and weak. While what is shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, toppled or raised, taken or given is visible or strong. Thus, the weak conquer the strong. People should not abandon weakness, just as fish should not abandon the depths. When fish abandon the depths, they are caught. When a person abandons weakness, he joins the league of the dead.”

Chuang Tzu says, “The sage is the world’s greatest tool, but not one that is known to the world” (10.3).”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “According to the way of the world. The weak don’t conquer the strong. But Lao Tzu’s point is that the weak can conquer to strong by letting the strong do what they want until they become exhausted and thus weak. Those who cultivate the Tao speak softly and act with care. They don’t argue about right or wrong, better or worse. They understand the harmony of Heaven and Earth, the Way of emptiness and stillness, and become adept at using the hidden light.”

Verse 37 – Upholding the Tao

 Practicing the art of nameless simplicity, I go forth with no desires and nothing on my agenda. With the Tao as my anchor I am guided by the virtue of heaven.

The Tao itself doing nothing yet finding that there is nothing it does not do.  Yet while AM13following the Tao, I do everything that I should do.

 

Through effortlessness and following the natural course of events, change begins to occur.  By upholding the Tao, others begin to emulate your actions and begin to see through their own desire and they too can begin to become still.  In stillness, simplicity becomes nameless and seeing beyond oneself becomes self-apparent.

Stilled by nameless simplicity their desires become non-existent.  Once gone the world begins to fix itself. ##

Chuang Tzu says, “The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing. This is the Virtue of Heaven”.

Lao Tzu says, “I do nothing and the people transform themselves.”

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Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

Te Ch’ing says, “If nobles and kings could only uphold the Tao, all creatures would change by themselves without thinking about changing. This is the effect of upholding the Tao. When creatures first change, their desires disappear. But before long, their trust fades and feelings well up and begin to flow until desires reappear. When this occurs, those who are adept at saving others must block the source of desire with nameless simplicity.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “’Nameless simplicity’ refers to the Tao, which all creatures use to transform themselves and which nobles and kings use to pacify those who engage in cleverness and deceit.”

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Once the ruler uses nameless simplicity to still the desires of the masses, he must then give it up so that they don’t follow its tracks and once again enter the realm of action. Once our illness is cured, we put away the medicine. Once we are cross the river, we leave the boat behind. And once we are free of desire, we must also forget the desire to be free of desire. Serene and at peace, the ruler does nothing, while the world takes care of itself.”

By 1dandecarlo

March 12, 2018

Lent, the Art of Forgiveness and the Road Not Taken

All the qualities that the great masters found, we can attain as well. It all depends on our own efforts, our diligence, our deeper knowing, and our correct motivation.  –  Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

How do we learn to listen to, speak and write from our inner voice? How do we learn to act on our highest calling or endeavor?  We do so innately, by and through discretion, insight and wisdom.

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The Winding Road   Qingyang Mountain   Chengdu

Modeling our thoughts and behavior from what we have learned and observed, and from this we know how to proceed. How do we inspire others to do the same?

How do we learn not to be fixed in our thoughts going this way or that, when we ourselves don’t know, or are not aware of what the final outcome of where a particular path may lead? When a basic law of the universe is that all things must change. Nothing ever remains the same and as we continue to grow neither do we. That the first step to change is learning forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves, as well as those around us, for not meeting expectations that were not all that important to begin with. That it is when we become fixed in a certain way, we too begin to die. It is nature’s way of replenishing itself.

As most of those following me here know, I recently posted something about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to several hundred “likes”, I AGandhiSaltreceived four or five comments from people who had terrible things to say about Gandhi. I could not understand such vitriol for a man who changed the world and the lives of millions of people for the better.

Mahatma Gandhi during the Salt March protesting against the government monopoly on salt production. (Image: Getty Images)

Even for myself, I have quoted him in my books and writing. His line attributed to him “We must be the change we want to see in the world”, is one of the most transformative statement’s one could make or say. Were either of them perfect – no. And then we look to our own frailties and have to ask… are we, and then acknowledge that perhaps it was their struggles and greatness that may have contributed to our own awakening. To maybe take the higher path, or road, that ultimately defines us as well. History ultimately always tells the story. Gandhi’s influence lives beyond him and he will be considered immortal because of it. Who and what is it that tells the memories of times gone by as we help others to remember what they too may have forgotten?

In ancient China, as with every civilization, we learned that our actions lead to consequences. If we start a fire… things will burn. If uncontrolled then the fire will burn everything in its path.

An Early I Ching

The I Ching    Sichuan Museum

When the flood comes, there is no safely until or unless you reach higher ground. Nature re-constructs from what is left behind just as we do from those we follow. We build on the strengths and weakness of ourselves and others and gain wisdom, insight, and discretion along the way. Our words and actions express this every day. They serve to define us and have consequences as well. That it is what inspires us that guides our way. It’s like following directions will get us there so we take them.

It is as Robert Frost said, that it is the road not taken that leads us to a different reality that could have been our best way to go. Ultimately it is what we “take away” from the experience that  guides us.

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Country Road in Shandong

His poem “The Road Not Taken” begins with a dilemma, i.e., coming to a fork in the road and we have to decide which path to follow: One forest has replaced another, just as—in the poem—one choice will supplant another. The yellow leaves also evoke a sense of transience; one season will soon give way to another, just as with our lives. Wishing both paths could be taken, a choice must however be made. In the end Frost said, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’ Wow… now that’s inspiring. The point being, that we can be influenced or guided by his writing, but it doesn’t not necessitate our reflecting, or being judgmental on Frost’s character. Kind of like the line in the song by George Harrison “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. As if it’s where the attributes they emulate take us.

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George Harrison
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Jack London

Another great writer was Jack London, who wrote “Call of the Wild” and his ability to portray the wild, untamed Yukon. What he did in his life might cause some to disparage him, just do we judge him and not his contribution to the world through his writing? The list goes on and on. The point being we accept others through forgiveness and acknowledge their humanity.  We seem to want to mold others into who we think they should be, instead of accepting their awesomeness as to who they really are… warts and all.

I give Desmond Tutu the final word below. I think a part of developing forgiveness in 4.6this time of lent before Easter, is understanding that we believe what we are taught to believe. It seems as though it is through our own acts of forgiveness we are asked now to take, that we are given an opportunity for spiritual transformation.  To find and then follow a transcendent life as we learn to reverberate the energy that encompasses us and to see beyond ourselves. As if we are to be reawakened. With this we see the resentments we have grown accustomed to and remove them. It is through forgiveness we begin to see beyond personal attributes of those we look to that would demean their legacy. As if we want those we look up to be perfect, without modifying our own behavior that matches them. Since we fail to nourish the greatness in ourselves, we seem not to want to see it in others as well. Just as it is very common to have historical figures to have their personas amplified to match the cause they represent.

I especially like the words in a book by Desmond Tutu in The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. 4.7

“Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.”

A Desmond Tutu second quote I liked was “Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.”

I would add that ultimately, it is in knowing who we are, that we can only desire the best for them. That we don’t contribute to spiritual degradation. That we become an expression of light with compassion and connectedness with all things.

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Charles Filmore

That it is what we take away from our experiences with MLK, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and others that helps us to remember what we have forgotten as to who we are for eternity’s sake. The reverberations of energy that serve to help us to be willing to show up as who we are meant to be. To become as the ancient Chinese have said through the millennia. That we are one with the ten thousand things. With this we find the blossoming of our soul. To as Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity said, “We are to forgive and ask forgiveness. Seeing others as pure spirit is our own road to freedom. That with forgiveness everything becomes new again.” As though the open road awaits us.

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The teachings of Confucius

The basis of Confucius teachings was thoughts of benevolence towards all. By definition, benevolence meant to forgive and move all to higher ground through our own actions.

The Buddha awoke by recognizing that all of creation, from distraught ants to dying human beings, are unified by suffering. Recognizing this, the Buddha discovered how to best approach suffering. First, one shouldn’t bathe in luxury, nor abstain from food and comforts altogether. Instead, one ought to live in moderation (the Buddha called this “the middle way”). This allows for maximal concentration on cultivating compassion for others and seeking enlightenment. Next, the Buddha described a path to transcending suffering called “the four noble truths.”

The first noble truth is the realization that first prompted the Buddha’s journey: that there is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in the world: “Life is difficult and brief and bound up with suffering.”

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Showing the Way      Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

The second is that this suffering is caused by our desires, and thus “attachment is the root of all suffering.” The third truth is that we can transcend suffering by removing or managing these desires. The Buddha thus made the remarkable claim that we must change our outlook, not our circumstances. We are unhappy not because we have become greedy, vain, and insecure, but that we see the world through eyes looking outward, not inward. By re-orienting our mind and actions, we can grow to be content.The fourth and final noble truth the Buddha uncovered is that we can learn to move beyond suffering through what he termed “the eightfold path.” The eightfold path involves a series of aspects of behaving “right” and wisely: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. That wisdom is a habit, not merely an intellectual realization. One must exercise one’s nobler impulses. Understanding is only part of becoming a better person.

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Shakyamuni Buddha    Chengdu

Seeking these correct modes of behavior and awareness, the Buddha taught that people could transcend much of their negative individualism—their pride, their anxiety, and the desires that made them so unhappy—and in turn they would gain compassion for all other living beings who suffered as they did. With the correct behavior and what we now term a mindful attitude, people can invert negative emotions and states of mind, turning ignorance into wisdom, anger into compassion, and greed into generosity.

The ancient Taoist Li Jung says, “The Great Image has no form. What has no form is the great and empty Way. To ‘hold’ means to focus or keep. Those who can keep their body in the realm of Dark Virtue and focus their mind on the gate of Hidden Serenity possess the Way. All things come to them. Clouds appear, and all creatures are refreshed. Rain pours down, and all plants are refreshed. And all these blessings come from such a subtle thing.”

The road always seemingly coming back full circle to Lao Tzu, and thoughts of Taoism. A3.13As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 34 and 35 appear below. Verses 1 through 33 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Verse 34 – Knowing no borders you learn to lead the Way

 Living each moment in virtue through grace, while remaining unrestrained in every thought, action and deed.

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The Protector Confucius Cemetery Qufu

Coming across to others as neither weak nor strong or right or wrong, so that you may respond to all things and move them in any direction.

Knowing no borders and remaining neutral.  In control but letting everything find its own course just the same. Simply doing what you do best as if you are drifting through time. With no predetermined destination you go everywhere, see everything using the Tao as your compass and oar. Continuing by grace so that you go without bringing attention to yourself, never speaking of your power or mentioning your achievements as you endeavor to remain small.

Never acting great but doing great things. Everything eventually coming before you as you let each go by seemingly out of your control.  Recalling Chuang Tzu and his refrain that the Tao has no borders. As you sit back watching as the world comes to your doorstep. ##

Hsuan-Tsung says, “To drift means to be unrestrained. The Tao is not yin or yang, weak or strong. Unrestrained, it can respond to all things and in any direction. It is not one-sided. As Chuang Tzu says, “The Tao has no borders (2.5).”

Wang Pi says, “The Tao drifts everywhere. It can go left or right. It can go up or down. Wherever we turn to use it, it’s there.”

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Memorial to Yellow Emperor  Qufu

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Outside of the Tao there are no things. Outside of things there is no Tao. The Tao gives birth to things just as wind creates movement or water creates waves.”

Wang P’ang says, “When the Tao becomes small, it doesn’t stop being great. When it becomes great, it doesn’t stop being small. But all we see are its traces. In reality, it isn’t small and it isn’t great. It can’t be described, t can only be known.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The Tao hides in what has no name, and the sage embodies it through what has no name. He doesn’t consider himself great, and yet no one is greater. For he can go left or right. Hence, he is neither small or great. And because he is neither small or great, he can do great things.”

Ch’eng Hsung-Ying says, “The Tao produces all things, and all things turn to it. It’s like the sea. All streams empty into it, and yet it doesn’t control them.

Verse 35 – Remaining Humble Yet Inexhaustible

Holding onto the true image of myself with humility, comity and grace I remain humbled by what the Tao places before me. As I recommit my entire essence to only promoting that which comes forth as the greater image or vision that I am here to complete. All the while knowing that my highest aspiration can succeed only with the success of all around me.     

As the world comes forth to greet me each day, I remain protected, as I have no form thereby beyond whatever harm may come my way. I remain safe, serene and as one with the Tao.

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Words of the Dragon  Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

Eventually everything coming before me as an equal, I walk guided by selflessness as all things come to me. As I remain one with all things.  While forgetting myself in others, others forget themselves in me. Therefore, everyone finds his or her place and no one is not at one with me.    

Keep only to the plain and simple drawing people closer as you entertain with images of the Tao. Remaining at the point of inquiry, with no one quite sure how to love or hate, with no shape, taste or sound with which to please others. Remaining enmeshed in the Tao your role can never be exhausted. ##

Lu Tung-Pin says, “Unharmed our spirit is safe. Unharmed, our breath is serene.

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Tributes to the Ancients Yellow Emperor  Qufu

Unharmed, our nature is at one”. Te-Ch’ing says, “The sage rules the world through selflessness. All things come to him because he is one with all things. And while he forgets himself in others, others forget themselves in him. Thus, all things find their place, and there are none that are not at one.”

Chuang Tzu says, “A great man’s words are plain like water. A small man’s words are sweet like wine. The plainness of a great man brings people closer, while the sweetness of a small man drives them apart. Those who would come together for no reason, separate for no reason” (20-5).

Ho-Shang Kung says, “If someone uses the Tao to govern the country, the country would be rich, and the people prosperous. If someone used it to cultivate himself, there would be no limit to the length of his life.”

 

By 1dandecarlo

March 1, 2018

Emulating the five jades as our own aspirations and behavior

In ancient China the role of the importance of jade became very valuable. Like gold, its role in society became the real thing. As if possessing fine jade could extend its value through the virtue it’s holder had as well. Radiating that inner quiet, or quality, which is often associated with spiritual attainment. Gaining a feeling that there is a gaze, a watchful eye, watching over you.

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Receiving fine jade in antiquity   Sichuan Museum

The gaze seemingly open, calm, benign, without judgment of any kind, and yet, when we are confronted with it, it acts like a mirror and we can see what remains hollow in ourselves, all that is greedy, angry, and unwise. The jade reminding us that there is much more to ourselves than simply appearances.

As if having what was to be called the inner qualities of the “five jades”, you received praise and encouragement from your peers. This was clearly something the emperor and early kings tried to emulate and demonstrate and was a subject taught in “the art of becoming”. This also fit into the embodiment of Confucian ideals of benevolence as one attempted to modify his behavior to fit the norm. Exemplified by what became known as filial piety in Confucian philosophy, as a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors.

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Oaths of filial piety Confucius in Qufu

It was the key to maturity in every level we might attain in our family, our life, and society.  Cultured gentlemen always wore jade… In its highest estimation it would be as if you were ease-dropping on our soul’s place in the universe. As if the phoenix rising again, moving from where you find yourself to where you need to be.  Becoming free of negativity and associating with our sense of connecting to vibrations beyond the here and now.

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The Water Dragon   Dujian Water work

What could, or what is to become of, our eternal essence. To get to the point of “what shows up is who we are in relationship to our greatest endeavor and destiny”.

A great author whose writing I follow is Abraham Hicks. Several of his basic premises are that you (we) are a physical extension of that which is non-physical. Next, is that you are here in the body because you choose to be here, and third, that the basis of your life is freedom and the purpose of your life is joy. I spoke extensively about this idea of freedom in my previous blog here on my website. My sense of his ideas center around the notion that our emotions are what guides us and aligning with our desires sets in place our destination. That we are here to align with our greater truth. Finding and associating with these vibrations we allow this energy to flow through us. That when we connect to joy, and what we love, we discover the purpose of our lives. To even as Joseph Campbell would say, to discover or find our bliss. This equates even to kung fu, as I have written before, that with this we find our expansion.

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The sage in nature    Linyi Museum

That we cannot act in generalities, but find our own specific purpose. What the ancient shaman found and learned by following nature and what was to become of the I Ching, that the truth you know is the same truth you use in guiding your thoughts and actions. Once ingrained, this truth makes you unavailable to anything else.

Hicks basic premise of the “law of attraction” … is that choice is our greatest level of consciousness and fits well into what Wang Pi from the early Han Dynasty said when he updated both Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and the I Ching, the Taoist ideals of Chuang Tzu’s perfected man and “cause and effect”. With their help we learn to live the Tao catching glimpses of ourselves, as we simply continue on our way.

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Going Forward   Nanjing Museum

It’s what the Buddhist conveys when he says that every day is new and that ultimately nothing  takes us far from our path.  That when we stray, we ultimately find the freedom to return to our path to find why we are here and where we need to be. Our challenge as Chuang Tzu above was always conveying, is that it is as we learn to pivot and come back into alignment to who and what we are that counts. That it is as if our source keeps trying to reroute us… that we are never lost and that we should lean on from where we came. It is as if we are reminded that we are co-creators with the universe. It was this consciousness of choice that jade in ancient China became an emblem of life assisting us in creating our highest endeavors.

Accepting and wearing jade signified that you acknowledged your place in society.  As if you had found kung fu and a life in wu wei, or your highest endeavor, assured of your ultimate destiny… As if you were somewhat sage-like yourself, yet bound to a humble and simple lifestyle.

B4As if you were the master of knowing your place in the universe, earth, people, and perhaps even heaven itself, and were living it. Jade could symbolize you had made it.  Versus those who were afraid of not measuring up, who collected possessions and gold instead. Jade although was very rare, and those seen as the rightful owners were the very fortunate, the kings and emperor. While possessing the five jades represented the highest virtues one could obtain. They were as follows:

  1.  That mildness shows morality.
  2.  Graciousness shows righteousness. 
  3.  Modesty shows etiquette. 
  4.  Solidness shows wisdom. 
  5.  Lucidness means loyalty.                            

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    Jade broach from the Early Han / Shaanxi

Xu Shen, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD), details the five virtues describing the makeup of jade in his work Shuowen Jiezi:

Benevolence for its lustre and brilliance.                  Honesty for its translucent texture.
Wisdom for its tranquil and far-reaching tone.
Integrity and Bravery for it may be broken but cannot be twisted.           

B7        Cover of a modern reprint of a Song Dynasty edition the Shuowen Jiezi an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. (Wikipedia)

In Chinese mythology there is a character known as Bixia Yuanjun, also known as the “Heavenly Immortal Lady of Jade” or the “Lady of Mount Tai”. According to some mythological accounts, she is the daughter or the consort of the Great Deity of Mount Tai. Statues of Bixia Yuanjun often depict her holding a tablet with the Big Dipper as a symbol of her authority. 

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Jade Emperor Peak Mount Tai

 Jade Emperor Peak on Mount Tai is the holiest of Taoist pilgrimage destinations in China. For over three thousand years Taoist pilgrims have journeyed up to this peak. Thousands visit Jade Emperor Peak daily, making Tai Shan one of the most climbed mountain in the world.

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Palace of Heavenly Blessings at the top of Mt Tai Shan

There are 7,200 stairs that lead to the eastern summit, and there are many ancient temples to visit on this route. Mount Tai is a world heritage site and is the holiest of Taoism’s Five Sacred Mountains. I have been here many times. Usually walking up to the peak, then riding the tram back down.

Over thousands of years through the teachings of both sage and shaman alike these traits proved, or showed, how one’s life fit into the true meaning of longevity and a life well-lived. It meant the rise and fall of kings, emperors, and dynasties were tied to basic principles. That values mean nothing if not intrinsically tied to virtue and today’s pragmatism.

In China these virtues were illustrated by adhering to the principles expanded on by Lao Tzu and Confucius. Interestingly, it would be how Confucian philosophy was modified through commentaries that enabled those in power to convey what he really meant to say. By example, under a tab on my website is something called “The Dazhuan – The Meaning of the I Ching”. In history, it is considered to be a segment of the Ten Wings that conveyed how one should emulate the true path of one wishing to have influence in popular culture.

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Dan and Chris at annual Confucius festivities held in Qufu

As if a road map to understanding how to “fit in” with the I Ching as the ultimate guide. But it was to be Confucius, and those who followed him, that were to show the ultimate way. In the early Han Dynasty, the Han emperor, required every city in China to have what was to be called “a Temple honoring Confucius”. While trying to provide structure and “rites” that tied the present back to the past going forward.  In reality, it was this philosophical glue or melding together, that tied the rights of the Emperor and his followers to the past that gave him authority to serve and act on the people’s behalf. Confucian doctrine held it all together.

B13Sage from Three Kingdoms Culture (AD 184/220–280) was the tripartite division of China between the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu, following the Han dynasty   Jade statute from Chengdu.

Another source is my own experiences in China and Qufu found here on the website under the tab “Qufu and Confucius”. In my travels to Qufu since October 1999, I have observed many people in the birthplace of Confucius who have become close friends, as well as, traveled to many cities, towns, and villages of my students in Shandong Province. While the focus here is on Lao Tzu, most historians feel Confucius at heart was a Taoist. To the reader, some sense of Confucianism is important as we tell the story.  There is a famous stone carving of Confucius meeting Lao Tzu in Jining dating from the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) although, most feel that they probably did not meet. It is said that Lao Tzu told Confucius that… “He should not be so full of himself”. I was given an etching of the stone tablet from the Han dynasty that depicted this meeting. I gave it to the Confucius Institute at Miami Dade College in Florida where I was an adjunct professor a few years ago.

Confucianism’s primary principles are:

  1. Jen – the golden rule 
  2. Chun-tai – the gentlemanly man of virtue
  3. Cheng-ming – the proper playing of society’s roles
  4. Te – the power of virtue
  5. Li – ideal standards of conduct
  6. Wen – the peaceful arts (music, poetry, etc.)
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The Jade Dragon Protector Shaanxi Museum

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important?

I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 32 and 33 appear below. Verses 1 through 31 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months. A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on this website.

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Carving from Han Dynasty at Confucius Mansion in Qufu

Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 32 – The River of Tao runs through Me

Going through each chapter of the Tao Te Ching is as if a river is running through me. Cleansing my heart, clearing my head and satisfying my soul.

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Embracing the Simple  Qingyang Temple

As if I have become nameless and my body non-existent as I become one with the Tao. Living the life as the true sage as the Tao becomes me.

I am forever transformed.

The Way becoming simple and clear as the natural extension of your every action. Focusing on what remains small and beyond command by others except for appearance sake.  When you expand, however, it is as if you are everywhere. You become both heaven and earth combining as one.

Embracing the simple and working without effort, my true nature remains unburdened as material things and desires run through me and dissolve as if they were never really there.  Showing the way, but leaving others to discover the Tao for themselves.

You appear as if dew leaving no trace. Given a name you become distinct. Showing restraint and finding no trouble your true purpose has run its course. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says,  “The Tao can be yin or yang, it can wax or wane, it can exist or not exist. Hence it has no fixed name.”

Chiao Hung says, “We call it ‘simple’ because it has not been cut or polished. We call it ‘small’ because it is faint and infinitesimal. Those who can see the small and hold onto it are rare indeed.

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Dragon and Phoenix   Dujan Wateworks    Chengdu

Wang Pi, “If someone embraces the simple and works without effort and doesn’t burden their true nature with material goods or injure their spirit with desires, all things will come to them on their own and they will discover the Tao by themselves. To discover the Tao, nothing is better than embracing simplicity.”                         

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Buddhist Temple in Qingdao

Jen Fa-Jung says, “In terms of practice, if someone can be serene and natural, free himself of desire, and put his mind at rest, his yin and yang breaths will come together on their own and penetrate every artery and organ. Inside his mouth, the saliva of sweet dew will appear spontaneously and nourish his whole body.

Verse 33 – Living Beyond Attachments

Proceeding unconsciously, as if you are only following the whims of the Tao and playing the role that you are here to play. Knowing your place is secure and you destiny to one day return to live with dragons is assured.

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Living fully enmeshed in the Tao Huangshan Old Town

What then can occur in the here and now but to live fully enmeshed in the Tao and to be sure you complete the role you are here to play. As if to live beyond attachments while continuing to pursue your final destiny                                                                                                                                                                          The sage becomes wise by knowing himself and remaining perceptive of others by only being concerned about conquering himself and not others.

By striving to succeed at his endeavors and knowing contentment as his definition of being wealthy.  Not losing his place thereby living forever. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Perception means to distinguish. Wisdom means to remove obstruction. As long as our distinguishing mind is present, we can only know others, but not ourselves.

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The sage at the gate    Confucius Mansion

Confucius says, “Those who govern with Virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place, while the myriad stars revolve around it.”

Li His-Chan says, “Perception is external knowledge. Wisdom is internal knowledge. Force is external control. Strength is internal control. Perception and force mislead us. Wisdom and strength are true. They are the doors to the Tao.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing, “The strength of those who conquer themselves is of ten kinds: the strength of faith, the strength of charity, the strength of morality, the strength of devotion, the strength of mediation, the strength of concentration, the strength of illumination, the strength of wisdom, the strength of the Way, and the strength of Virtue.”

Lu Nung-Shih says, “Before we distinguish them, life and death share the same form, the ten thousand things dwell in the same house. Our body is like the shell of a cicada or the skin of a snake: a temporary lodging. The shell perishes but not the cicada. The skin decays but not the snake. We all have something that survives death.”

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Succeeding at life’s endeavors                                                      

Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, “Though the Great Way might be far off, if we persevere without pause, we advance. We get closer and closer, until suddenly we become one with the Way. Whoever has a role can do anything. Outside, be content with your lot. Inside, focus on the Way. And you cannot help but live long with devotion.”

Wang Pi says, “Those who strive with devotion reach their goal. Those who examine themselves and work within their capacity don’t lose their place and are able to endure. Although we die, the Tao that gave us life does not perish. Our body disappears, but the Tao remains. If our body survived, would the Tao not end?”

Wang P’ang say, “The natural endowment of all things is complete in itself. Poverty does not reduce it. Wealth does not enlarge it. But fools abandon this treasure to chase trash. Those who know contentment pay the world no heed. This is true wealth. Mencius said, “The ten thousand things are all with us (7A.4). How could we not be healthy?”

By 1dandecarlo

February 22, 2018

Keeping our integrity intact – while we find freedom from who we thought we were.

It is said that it’s not enough only to return to our source, but once you have done so you become rejuvenated and become the source over and over again. The status quo henceforth never enough because you see what can be and want to go there. Who are those among us who refuse to reside in, or conform with, what are considered norms or society’s niceties. Or as I’ve heard and told – to be like a roman candle ready to explode across the blue sky.

Their non-conformity usually to be seen or expressed in word, poetry or song. Thoughts of Patrick Henry and the American Revolution A3 2and his call to arms… “Give me liberty or give me death”. Or Chuang Tzu in China from thousands of years ago, with his butterfly dream, that exhorts others to not fall head first into what is easiest, or conformity. Saying A3 1that if there needs to be a revolution, then count me in. To not be boxed in by what remotely seems familiar to the status quo. Not only remaining outside the box, but defining it as well. To happily draw outside the lines, or even off the page itself. Acting as if every situation is unfinished until it’s your turn to speak up. As if accepting finality in any circumstance is not on the agenda. Even reminding us of Thoreau’s  civil disobedience and his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His writing influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, combining and defining both transcendentalism and peaceful change through non-violence.

Mohandas Gandhi first read Thoreau’s book  Walden in 1906 while working as a civil rights activist in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Gandhi photo from wikipedia)

Gandhi and His Spinning Wheel: the Story Behind an Iconic Photo

With Gandhi spinning was poetry in motion

He first read Civil Disobedience while he sat in a South African prison for the crime of nonviolently protesting discrimination against the Indian population in the Transvaal. The essay galvanized Gandhi, who wrote and published a synopsis of Thoreau’s argument, calling it ‘incisive logic unanswerable’ and referring to Thoreau as ‘one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced’. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his autobiography stated that his first encounter with the idea of nonviolent resistance was reading “On Civil Disobedience” in 1944 while attending Morehouse College. Both finding change through illustrating our integrity and defining the true meaning of freedom of thought and our actions that follow. As if our task is to continually re-define the true essence of virtue with the sage remaining an enigma even to those who think they know him.

In China it was always the writer, painter and poet, who could express an internal sense of A3.3kung fu that others could see and find for themselves in appreciation of bringing what could not be known, into what could be… and to go there. Having a sense of spontaneity that you could identify with and do yourself. It was as if becoming one with what you do is a true realization of the Way of Virtue, or the Tao. It’s what we do when we move beyond identifying with who we thought we were, to who we really are.

We all seem to possess an instinct for survival, a fear of death that defines, or separates us, from some sense of happiness that conveys that body, mind, and spirit are one in the same. In China, it was the ability to express this as our nature in beautiful landscapes depicting yourself as the sage or hermit in the hut on the mountain landscape, that was the ultimate escape into meditation as you yourself could go there. A3.4As well as, through calligraphy that demonstrated through the “brush stroke” your ability to convey what could be transformational.

Wang Xizhi (303–361) was a Chinese calligrapher, traditionally referred to as the Sage of Calligraphy. Born in Linyi in Shandong, I have visited his home in Linyi …

Expressing yourself from within. Great calligraphy, paintings, and human expression we have defined as art, fill museums throughout the world saying this is how it has always been.

Intricate landscapes carried over into actual reality through principles that could be depicted in nature and carried out in practice.

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Confucius Temple in Qufu

In Chinese traditional culture, moral education took the place of religion. Grounded in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucius, society could move on to expressing this through how they lived. With the aesthetic thought of Confucianism always emphasizing inquiry into ethical and moral principles and finding ways to stay within them.

Confucius made assessments through following ancient rites, virtue and benevolence towards others. This was often shown through landscapes and what was to later become of feng shui and became a major principle used in creating a traditional Chinese garden, or Temple dedicated to harmonizing with nature. Not to control, but that the man-made and natural scenes should blend together that seems to outweigh contradiction. To become complementary. This conveyed the realization that you understood the teachings of Lao Tzu who taught that the Tao gave free rein to nature. That there was no overriding, or A3.6overreaching element.  That all things, including people, developed in their own way as their nature dictated.             

Famous gardens of Suzhou. This is the Lion Grove Garden. I have given tours here, and taught at university to students who were to become tour guides.

Human elements, as shown in traditional Chinese garden design, are done at a minimum and not used to damage or change ecology.  Garden design was especially prone to focus on allowing the natural, or original shapes of plants and trees to exist. In Shandong Province, where I have traveled extensively and visited many of the examples of temples/gardens where these traits are exemplified, I have seen how all the above demonstrates what I like to call a collective vision to virtue and integrity beyond oneself.

One of my favorite gardens in China is actually referred to as the Dai Temple, also know A3.7as Daimiao, at the foot of TaiShan Mountain in Shandong Province. The temple was first built during the Qin Dynasty. Since the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), its design has been a replica of the imperial palace, which makes it one out of three extant structures in China with the features of an imperial palace A3.8(the other two are the Forbidden City in Beijing and Confucius Temple in Qufu). The Dai Temple is surrounded by the 2,100‑year‑old Han Dynasty cypresses. The oldest surviving stair may be the 6000 granite steps to the top of the mountain. (Which I have climbed). The site contains a number of well-preserved steles from the Huizong reign, some of which are mounted on bixi tortoises.

Emerson, more than any other western writer comes closest to what I call Eastern philosophy, and opened the door for others to walk through. With ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for man to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world.

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson felt philosophically speaking or considered, “the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul”, rejecting views of God as separate from the world.” In my opinion, his thinking resembled the Taoist and shaman. He as much as anyone, opened us and the west to ideas espoused by Eastern philosophy. With Emerson we could all be ourselves and become transcendental. In America, it was the early transcendental writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who moved others to see that there was a world beyond oneself that fueled westward expansion.

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Henry David  Thoreau

Telling us that the further we get from who we are, we retreat into our future. As if following the stars that were to be plotted by the surveyor, John C Fremont, the pathfinder, who served as our guide west discovering as we went the wonder of the universe, the utter awe of nature and finding our place in it. As if we had no choice but to go.  As a writer myself, I have long admired Thoreau and his saying that, “Nothing goes by luck in composition. The best you can write will be the best you are”. Just as I wrote all those years ago… “what you write is who you are to become”.

Both Emerson and Thoreau giving credence, or license, to the idea of anxiously awaiting departure to the unknown as the only path to be taken. The way once found to be defined only in order to take the next unknowable step, before then taking it. So that we too can make the unknowable knowable if only for ourselves.

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Waiting for the bell to toll for us   Confucius Temple Qingdao

To define the universe in terms of what the ancients found in stillness and go there. To live and reside (without drugs) in an altered state of consciousness. As if no longer stuck in believing or thinking we can only live within what we know, then leaving what’s knowable behind…

For myself, it’s as if to be found appreciating those who have come before us. As if through their knowledge and wisdom we can gain our own. We’ve all known people like this as they have passed though our lives like a comet streaking through our own blue sky. Here today and gone tomorrow. Their purpose to be teachers of the Way, but most often not staying long, except only to maybe get our attention.

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Keeping rhythm   Qingyang Taoist Temple

Not really, or much appreciated, until they are gone. Only here as if, as stated before, on a passing cloud. Finding joy in remaining an enigma as before. With no pre-conceived patterns. As if a snowflake celebrating its indifference. As if waiting to see if we too are ready to catch the coming wave. Or better yet, create the ripple that become a tsunami.

Looking back, it is those who we celebrate in hopes of latching onto their drawstrings as they pass us by. Their non-conformity our own ticket to ride in knowing the virtue that becomes us. It has been these throughout history in China we have called dragons. Our ancestors and mentors who have shown us the way. It truly is as if they reside on passing clouds encouraging us to come along for the ride. It’s as if remaining in silence, being drawn to our eternal rhythm and reverberations through music and meditation, that directions arrive to take us there. All that is required is to keep our integrity intact by discarding what isn’t to become of us. Thereby following and knowing final outcomes. As if we shouldn’t keep them waiting.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 30 and 31 A3.13appear below. Verses 1 through 29 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months. A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

 Thoughts on becoming a Sage

 Verse 30 – Winning when you have no Choice

 The Tao teaches us to win with our integrity intact.  To let our spiritual fortunes, guide the way.

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Forever Young Dujian Waterworks

In keeping with your role as remaining at the foremost point of mediation you have come to a few basic tenants. First is an understanding of what it takes to win without using force.  That it is better to win, then stop – letting common sense prevail.  Next to win with your humility intact letting everyone take credit for the outcome. Third, to win without being cruel to another, giving them the victory as well. And finally, to win when you have no choice.To be so caught up in the final outcome that it is only natural that events and success will follow. That the foremost law of the universe is that we reap what we sow and that what we cultivate comes back to rule the day.

Ultimate victory occurring when you appear to prosper, but remain poor. Become full yet seem empty. Keep virility at arm’s length thus remaining forever young and allowing death to make no appearances.

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TianHou Palace Temple   Qingdao

The knowing sage ages without growing old. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Those who possess the Tao prosper and yet seem poor, become full and yet seem empty. What is not virile does not become old and does not die. The virile die. This is the way things are. Using an army to control the world represent strength. But it only hastens old age and death.” 

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “To win means to defeat one’s enemies. To win without being arrogant about one’s power, to win without being boastful about one’s ability, to win without being cruel about one’s achievement, this sort of victory only comes from being forced and not from the exercise of force.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “Those who possess the Way are like children. They age without growing old.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Once a plant reaches its height of development, it withers. Once a person reaches his peak, they grow old. Force does not prevail for long. It isn’t the Tao. What is withered and old cannot follow the Tao. And what cannot follow the Tao soon dies.

Lao Tzu says, “Tyrants never choose their end” (42).

Verse 31 – Remaining Centered in the Tao

Learn not to expand your energies or passion on things of little or no consequence.

A3.17

Living by the Tao   Dujian Waterworks

Remaining still and reserved as if you are pre-occupied with your own enthusiasm. To those around you, simply smile at what living brings to greet you each day and to trouble say ah so!

Not as one considered as self-centered, but as Tao centered spreading your joy and laughter to all you meet. Letting joy for knowing your place in the universe become your foremost point of engagement.

Learn not to let situations control you. Instead, remain in control by not allowing events to cloud your vision as you lead others with dispassion, humility and self-control.

A3.18

Huangshan Mountain / Anhui

When you can respond as if events were gnats, too small to even notice, then you may begin to see over the next horizon as your destiny becomes clear. ##

A3.19

The charioteer     Xian terra cotta warriors

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The system of ritual devised by ancient kings treated the right as superior and the left as inferior. Being superior, the right represented the Way of Victory. Being inferior, the left represented the Way of Humility.   But victory entailed death and destruction. Hence those on the right were in charge of sad occasions, while those of the left were in charge of happy events.

Li His-Chai says, “Sun Tzu discussed in detail the use of strengths and weaknesses, of direction and indirection in warfare, but he did not understand their basis (5-6). Lao Tzu says dispassion is the best policy, for it secures victory without a display. This might seem odd, but dispassion means to rest, and rest is the root of victory. While passion means to act, and action is the basis of defeat.”

A3.20

The Soldier

Li Jung says, “The ancients used weapons with compassion. They honored them for their virtue and disdained them as tools. Once the enemy was defeated, the general put on plain, un-dyed clothes, presided over a funeral ceremony, and received the mourners”.

Shang Kung says, “In times of decadence and disorder, we use weapons to defend the people”. Su Che says, “We take up weapons to rescue the distressed and not as a matter of course”.

By 1dandecarlo