Oct 18, 2018 / The Journey Home

Notes and Postscript

One thing coming to Lhasa, Tibet has shown me is I am not to become a Tibetan Buddhist this time. Having a sense of the underlying reason why and how it came to China, and it’s impact on Chinese religion and culture is though. How it progressed over the centuries in China and what was to become Chan and Zen Buddhism is essential in understanding the convergence of philosophy and religion not only in China, but the entire world. For myself, it is a key element in reminding us that we are all universal and that understanding our origins, as well as the origins of others and where it has taken them, is central the our own enlightenment, for lack of a better term or description, as well theirs. This “convergence” begins and continues within each of us.

All of my entries here have additional thoughts, notes, and pictures in some cases to be added. My journey is never to be completed, only added on to…

It is as if all I need to know I already knew and I am simply to be reminded of my own origins and why I am here. Home is everywhere we’ve ever been and/or will be. It is not a physical place, except as we can define as what we create as our sanctuary. It is the place where our body, heart, and mind reside. Our role is simply how we have influenced what we have ever touched or will touch, as we go forth from the past, present, and future with compassion, virtue, and wisdom. That journey continues… and I have far yet to go.

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 14 – 17, 2018 / Tibet

The feeling I get in Chengdu is the same as what others have found elsewhere. I don’t want anyone reading this to feel they have to drop everything and rush off to China and Chengdu. It’s becoming universal… call it God, Lao Tzu and the Tao, Buddhism and the Buddha, etc.. It’s where all paths are universally respected and equal. For me it’s living in convergence with all others in common practice. It’s where spiritually directed people can see themselves and others in the same way. Finding the place that speaks to the sanctuary from within and going there. Dropping the pretense that your way is the only way to God. Now on to Tibet… and Buddhism.

When I write it is from my heart – that is listening to my soul’s eternal journey.

So I’m up at 4:20 AM Sunday morning for an hour taxi ride and two hour check-in for 8 AM flight from Chengdu to Lhasa. I left my notebook in carry-on so all my ideas on the plane had to wait. Anyway, I arrived in Lhasa two hours later and make it to the Lhasa Gang -Gyan Hotel on Beijing Road, where I will be for three nights (Sun/Mon/Tues), then leave Wednesday morning for Beijing and Missouri. Sunday after checking in was a free day and I did some shopping for Marie, Katie and Emily. The tour begins tomorrow.

Drupung Monastery

The tour began Monday morning at Drupung Monastery. There were ten people in our group plus our tour guide, Tashi. The plan is to visit two monastery/temples today and then two more tomorrow. The rest of the group is going to a base camp hours away from Lhasa and will be here seven to ten days. My tour is for four days and I leave the group Wednesday morning and head for Beijing and home.   I hope to add background from our guide if he has time.

Drupung Monastery, also called Tashi-Megyur-Chahju-Ling, is one of the largest monasteries of the Gelupa Sect. It was built in 1416. It had more than 10,000 monks in the 1940’s… Pictures from Lhasa are below:

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Sera Monastery

After lunch at a local restaurant (yak dumplings and butter milk) we went to Sera 100_6024Monastery, then back to hotel a little after 4 PM. Sera monastery was founded by Jamchen Choje Shakya Tesh who was a disciple of Tsongkhapa in 1419. The Sera monastery has three colleges and thirty-three 100_6014houses. It is the second biggest monastery in Tibet. The two things that got my attention were the afternoon debates in the courtyard. The second was the Circle of Life that describes Tibetan Buddhist philosophy.


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On Tuesday we first went to Potala Palace, then after lunch we went to Jokhang Temple. Pictures were limited to outside both locations.

Potala Palace

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Jokhang Temple

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By 1dandecarlo

Oct 13, 2018 / Finding yourself in Chengdu.

While I leave in the morning for Tibet, I always have a sense of melancholy as I leave 100_5699Chengdu… until planning my next visit. My writing and pictures I take always brings me back though. There is something here in Chengdu about thousands of years where the DSCI0240development of the symbiotic relationship between man (yourself), nature, and spirituality that is empowering. It comes and remains as if guiding you to your highest endeavor. You just are… nothing more – nothing less. Almost beyond definition. For myself, the presence of thousands of years of Buddhism and Taoism is everywhere. You don’t have to see it – you feel it because you are one with it.

It seems to be a haven for retirees where you can easily live within your means. 100_5861There is a rhythm here to this connection. A certain calm and peacefulness. As if you’ve arrived someplace you’re not sure of quite yet, but you can feel it in the air. It’s easy to become one with it. You get further into it by adapting to the local tea culture that is so prevalent here. Tea houses seem to be everywhere. Just as the tea seeps into the water creating a certain taste, the environment does the same to you (or does for me). You are like a sponge… with no pre-determined agenda or place to be. You just are – with nothing beyond the moment. A presence you feel that becomes you. Or as my friend Lao Tzu would say, you become one with nothing and nothing becomes you. The sanctuary your inner self searches for and wants to create wherever you are – you are then at home because you have found your source that is eternal that resides within each of us. Many others you meet here have this same feeling that creates a community like 100_5863none I have ever known. That presence, i.e., oneness is here so that once you are a part of…  you want to stay. It is the convergence of Chinese spirituality I have been feeling this whole trip that seems to culminate here in Chengdu. As if this was my ending of one phase… as I prepare to leave early tomorrow morning for Lhasa, and Tibet.

Today in Chengdu its raining, windy, and very cool. Not a good day to venture outside for long. Heavy overcast made taking pictures a challenge as everything has a solid white background. I found myself going to the Buddhist Wenshu Monastery where I have been before to take more pictures. I have some notes and background on the importance in southwest China of this Buddhist monastery I want to add later… 100_5905for now a few of the pictures I took this morning are below. People often ask me “why so many pictures when you have been here before.” I tell them, “they remind me of where I have been and tell me the path I 100_5912have yet to travel.”

If it clears up this afternoon (stops raining), I want to visit another famous tea house called Gu Niang Niang Miao. We’ll see… well, taxi drivers have a mind of their own and I ended up at Guang Sheng Palace Ancient Niangnian Taoist Temple of Shu Han… sort of a tea house with Taoist overtonesWho knows, maybe it was fate. I had a cup of tea and spoke to some of those who were there. Getting a taxi later was impossible.

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Three images below from the “Taoist coffee house”.




By 1dandecarlo

Oct. 12, 2018 / Chengdu Opera

The songs we sing and stage we play on in eternity

I think life is about nuances, as if keeping up with and writing our own living history. Like words to a song or story that define who we are, how we live, and who we DSCI0412choose to become. From the earliest era, it has been the beat of the drum, bamboo flute, and other instruments, that we DSCI0369sang and danced to as we found our own natural rhythm. As if keeping tune with the universe, the stars above, and beating of one’s heart. The music has always been the anthem carrying the vibrations that convey, or tell, our emotions.  Creating a language beyond the need to speak or write defining one’s inner meaning and nature. It has always been the essence of connections, love and the voice of the poet and past.

As if we begin each life as an old song needing a new cover and for some looking for that lost love. As if a song needing some new stanzas to play serves to remind and refine us as the characters we get to play on our own stage. Perhaps only adding nuances, as if watching a movie several times seeing something new each time, as we add a new chapter or verse.  Do we build on the past, just begin anew, or maybe both? The choice seems 100_5777ours to make as we reconcile that which came before, with where we now go and who we will be when we get there. But it has always been the music, an internal beat from within, or rhythm we find that takes us there. Just as with the music we choose to play now that serves to define us, why shouldn’t we ourselves need several takes or “performances” to get it right. The best covers often play better than the original. As with the theater and life, we get to keep doing it until we get it right or the final curtain falls…or then does it? And we even get to 100_5778choose how we interpret the role we are here to play as our own living history and letting outcomes take care of themselves.

History is not just going to museums and remembering the past,  but seeing how things play out to the end. Why things happen are many times just as important as when. Why people acted or did things at the time tells us how popular culture defined the times. It is always the storyteller who leaves the trail, along many endless mediums. Someone did once say “the world is a stage.” We should at least learn to play our part. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to be a theater critic just yet.

It’s Friday, October 12th, I think if life is just the music we play, then since I’m in 100_5780Chengdu… a visit to the Chengdu Opera is in order, or we should say theater. To me opera is just a storyteller’s dream in song on stage acting things out. This afternoon I attended the theater. Attended by over two hundred people (mostly seniors) like me, this theater could be called “old school”. The story line was said to be hundreds of years old and portrayed Chinese interaction very well between the father 100_5787who asked 200 silver coins for the hand of his daughter, the poor student suitor she would meet and fall in love with at the Buddhist Temple and later marry, the matchmaker, and the foil, an older gentleman who had eyes for the young girl for himself who “gave” the suitor the money for the bride’s father… or so it seemed with the suitor getting the last laugh.

While they sang the story on stage, my friend relayed in English what was being said 100_5797and happening in every scene, as I took pictures. My friend Mr. 100_5790Lee, who invited me and did the interpretation said most foreigners don’t appreciate the older story lines as they don’t understand the “story behind the story” or Chinese history and it sometimes gets “lost in translation”.  I would have to admit that although I have never been much of a fan of opera, its probably because I didn’t think it appeals to me. What I didn’t know is like much we see in life, once I went I enjoyed both the story and amazing talent of those on stage. Much like the people just waiting to get to know us and for us them. Knowing the depth of our own story beforehand allows context that brings the music of both the theater and us to life.

I had the benefit of arriving an hour early and going backstage to meet the director 100_5775(who was also the leading character) 100_5771and watch as they put on their make-up, go over lines and sequencing of events. It was an education for me, and gaining appreciation for history and storytelling I hadn’t really considered. The director Mr. Fu, a stage veteran of more than 36 years, said variations of the performance called Lu Yao Zhi Ma Li, or “Mr. Lu Yao gets back at his classmate in a funny way”, have been told on stage well over a hundred years and this form of opera is over three hundred years old. My interest was certainly piqued, and I would come again…

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 9 – 11, 2018 / Chengdu

Tuesday, October 9th I left Huashan Mountain (Huayin) for Xian then on to Chengdu… On the mountain I was reminded that eternity may seem remote, but it is here, right now in every precious moment, and you are one with it all, with nature. We are not here just to observe our life and the beauty that surrounds us. But be reminded that it is all simply an extension of yourself and our responsibility to and for the universe. That your world is your sanctuary. We should all become Taoists at heart. The mountain itself, the pine trees, the birds singing their song of joy and eternal wisdom just for you – always in rhythm praising what lies below and the skies above. It’s easy to see how eons ago others saw the mountain as the gateway to heaven.  That you are free and immortal as you are. If a sabbatical has something to do with finding your life’s work, I think I have come on this journey to re-enforce the one thing I am good at… to remember and write about things long forgotten by others. Maybe here just to remind us to pay attention to the details of our lives and where they may lead.

Su Ch’e says, “Lao Tzu lived during the decline of the Chou, when artifice flourished and customs suffered, and he wished to restore its virtue through doing nothing. Hence at the end of his book he wishes he had a small state to try this on. But he never got his wish”.

Perfecting the Art of Doing Nothing

If living in retirement is a state of mind… then let mine be here in Chengdu. Life is like Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream. Are we awake or living a dream – and can it have mattered in the end? I’m beginning to understand the true meaning of wu wei. Finding and living in the state of virtue and being present… i.e., awake. It seems as though my entire life has fit the scope of Taoist thought as almost everything I’ve 100_5646ever done has amounted to nothing, except for my family and friends who I care for. It seems I’ve been more successful than I thought. It’s time to let living in the state of virtue reign supreme. Simply to let your innate nature come through as you live what the Tao has taught you. So here I am talking about Taoism, and here with the Buddha. One thing for certain I know about myself – is I hate, abhor… anyplace where contention is present. It makes me wonder why, or how, I was interested in politics whatsoever. Ah – finding myself again on the mountain… or better yet the tea house on the lake at People’s Park in Chengdu once again.

Wednesday morning I find myself at the Flipflop Hostel. This is my fourth visit to Chengdu and third to the Flipflop. Seeing a few of my students, re-visiting ancient sites and new ones I haven’t see for a while is like coming home. Some things are meant to be unexplainable I think, only felt from the heart. As if living the dream of your highest aspiration and then it becoming you. For me it’s going to those places that inspire me. Ultimately getting to the place that where I am is not as important as the memories I have gained from where I have been in history. As if here only to be 100_5673continually inspired. Most importantly, am I being true to my authentic self?

My friend Pablo from Chile I met at the mountain has joined me here in Chengdu at the Flipflop. It sounds like Pablo and I are headed today by fast train to the Leshon Buddha… stay tuned.

The Leshan Buddha was impressive as it looked on the convergence of three rivers. Legend has it that he was placed here to stop the flooding that caused so much havoc. They say it did… for a while, but man continued to build.  In addition to the Buddha, I was most impressed by the Lingyan Temple adjacent to it, and especially the Cave of I 100_5685Ching. I have much to write here later when I have time. The pictures I took here were amazing.

I am continually struck by this idea of convergence of energies directed the the ultimate – where we fit in the universe. That regardless of our, what may be called 100_5699philosophical or religious leanings, there is no separation between us and all that there is now, has, or will be. How can something be good for me and bad for everyone and everything else?

Seeing this engraving of Lao Tzu here at the cave at the Lingyan Buddhist Temple heralding the I Ching says it all. This picture and it’s location here was worth the cost of the trip and I am not in Tibet yet. I think this expresses better than I could why my own Kongdan Foundation I began more than ten years ago is so important to me. It allows my the opportunity to express where I have been and illustrate the best way for me to take the next step enmeshed with the Tao.

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Its as if it’s all here. I spent about an hour last night with Yak, the tour operator here at Flipflop (its thursday morning here), discussing all this and showing him my 100_2229pictures and website. He was curious as to my take on Tibetan Buddhism after all I has done chronicling Buddhism in China over many years. His background was in ancient Chinese pottery and porcelain no less. He had spend time at the famous Jingdezhen kiln in south Jiangxi Province. (The picture here was made famous as an example of their work. It’s one I took at the British Museum in London in 2012). Anyway, visiting the famous kiln is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to China. And Yak, who spent several years in school there, has agreed to accompany me when I go.

Well, it’s Thursday (Oct 11) and calendar says I’m supposed to go with Pablo to Qingyang Mountain today but am delayed due to errands he is doing. It’s over a hour away by train to the north of Chengdu 100_5759and we’re running out of time to get there 100_5760and back today… well we didn’t make it.  We went to the Qingyang Taoist Temple, Kuan Alley for lunch, then I went to People’s Park Heming Teahouse before returning to the hostel. The teahouse was built in the 1920’s and is known as having the longest history of tea houses in Chengdu.

I made another visit to one of my favorite places in Chengdu with my friend Pablo  today, the Qingyang Taoist Temple. I think if I lived here in Chengdu, I would visit at least once or twice a week. I few pictures are below:

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Tonight I signed my “Tibet contract”… two pages requiring my signature. I have to leave for the Chengdu airport at 4:20 AM Sunday morning. I hope I don’t oversleep.



By 1dandecarlo

Oct 6 – 8, 2018 / Huashan Mountain

Today,  (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at Huashan Lotus House International Youth Hostel / then go to 100_5603the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise.  6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan.

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit.  It’s too heavy and I have too many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots of notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels. But for now, I will leave you will one of the first things I wrote back in February 1994.

Inner Chapters   (The I Ching)

1.                                  Cloud Dancing

From the clouds dragons appear to those who have prepared. To the I Ching, 100_5453heaven is to found residing with dwellings of dragons who roam the sky resting in the clouds.

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.

Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the sky 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. 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

And now I am here. As I was leaving the mountain today (Monday, October 8th – my birthday), I was followed down a long pathway by two small bluebirds. They seemed to be trying to get my ear saying come back – come back. The pine trees, the mountain vistas, even the walkways leading up and down steep paths all seemed to say – why were you gone so long.

After three days on the mountain I return refreshed and invigorated, and feel I Hua2have walked for days (I have) up and down the five peaks of Huashan Mountain. From the initial bus ride and cable car that took me to the top, I had a feeling of being overwhelmed by the majesty of the mountains, pine trees, and nature. It is easy to see why Huashan is considered one on the five greatest mountains in China next to the Yellow River here in central China.

Coming to Huashan Mountain is for me in many ways a homecoming. It is famous 100_5597for Taoist retreats and ancient sages who came to visit and stayed. It is easy to see why. I stayed the the East Peak Hotel for two nights in a room for ten people (five bunk beds). My new friend Pablo from Chile slept 100_5547in a tent outside. On both days in the early morning it registered 10 to 15 degrees celcius on both October 7 and 8 on the East Peak, also known as the Morning Sun Peak, and the hotel adjacent to the premier place on the mountain known as Mr. Yang’s Tower. I climbed twice on both days to see the sunrise.

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The makeup of the mountain is very interesting in the there are five peaks of 100_5561interest with many stops on the way to each of the peaks. I took a bus then a cable car to then top then traversed the five peaks while I was there. My friend Pablo actually walked up from the base of the mountain. The entrance at the base was only a few blocks from where I was staying. I chose the bus and cable instead. Saving my energy for when I got there. As mentioned earlier, traveling during the holiday was not a good idea. The mountain was crowded and made it difficult to get pictures and find a quiet place off the beaten path. I will return again in the future when not so busy.

Several areas caught my attention. First was the Blast Furnace, on a small peak to the west of the summit of the South Peak that is by tradition, the place where Lao 100_5595Tzu was to have 100_5517made pills for immortality.  There is a legend that says the monkey king was shut in the furnace for wrecking to much havoc in heaven.

Also by tradition, there are many man-made caves at Mt. Huashan. According to historical records more than seventy were created by a Taoist priest Ze Zhizhen for the purpose of providing other monks a secluded place to practice asceticism and understand Taoism. One in particular was called “the seeking quietness cave.”

Also on the South Peak is the Jinsuo Pass. Not far from the Central Peak, also known as the Jade Maiden Peak. Jinsuo 100_5448has great significance in Taoist history as 100_5449being called The Heavenly Gate. It sits close to the center of the four peaks near the top of the mountain. As if the dragons purposely designed a place where there was no going back. What got my attention was I was descending a section of steps after going downwards through The Heavenly 100_5596Gate, and after a couple hundred steps retraced my path back through the gate as if I had returned to earth and seen “human nature” and felt I was ready to return home to be with dragons once again. It makes me recall a story I wrote years ago in “My Travels with Lieh Tzu” as follows that sound too familiar. I find that physically, I may come down to adjust my light to the vagaries of humanity, but returning to be with dragons will always be my coming home.

A Visit with Old Friends

Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennia, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?

You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves. That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.

As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may too come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.

Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/95

Finally , of great interest was the Jintian Palace. I had a chance to speak to a couple of the monks here and take several pictures seen below.


As I complete 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, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he 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 81 verses in the Tao Te ChingThe Epilogue, final entry, appears below. Verses 1 through 81 were seen here on my most recent posts.

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.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Epilogue  – Preparing to return to utter Spontaneity

Simplicity, detachment, and virtue, the three anchors that through the ages have separated the sage from the rest of the world.  Emulating the Tao he recalls what came first, what remains empty and forever still.

The journey with Lao Tzu simply the process of coming forward to know the way of the sage is to act without struggle.  Everything coming forward to greet him to convey what was before him from the beginning.  That in the end he accumulates nothing assured that the more he does for others the greater his own abundance and that the way of heaven is to help without harming. Knowing this the sage finds his journeys complete.Preparing to return to the utter spontaneity found as one in complete harmony with the universe, the Tao Te Ching now completed.

As he prepares to depart up the familiar path to meditate in his garden pavilion seeking refuge to contemplate how far he has come, the sage is reminiscent about times spent with Lao, Chuang, and Lieh even Confucius, Mencius and all the others, he is confident that another step has now been completed.

His thoughts on becoming a sage now complete, he now thrives on virtue secure at his passing.

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By 1dandecarlo