Looking to the stars and commonality to mindfulness and expanding our light.

We are the manifestation of the universe as we are to meet people where they are – moving from fear and discontentment into confidence, equanimity and joy as inclusiveness and transcendence. We are all one.

 Peace… comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” –Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa), Oglala Lakota

Picture on the right is from the book “Black Elk Speaks”. Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man was at Wounded Knee and the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand), who saw the conclusion of his people’s way of life in a dream when he was a boy. In the end, Black Elk found himself on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with what was left of his people. He had converted to Catholicism so that he could continue to convey the universal spirit of transcendence. He never lost sight of his elders who appeared in his dream and ultimate purpose to help his people.

What is this commonality of spirit we all share that knows no singular face? What is it that connects us to nature and to who we have always been? How do we trust ourselves to go there and why should it matter? Why is it so important to bring others to only our way of thinking? Instead of helping to open the door so that they may find their own enlightenment and not simply something mirroring our own? First, and foremost, what do our innermost thoughts tell us about who we are and how do we go there and more importantly, how do we follow our own transcendence, or instincts? To what some would say we have always known and forgotten.

What is mindfulness and the calmness it brings to our soul? Sometimes it is as if we are simply visiting with old friends who are now guiding our path, or way, to further things we’ve seen and done before. Our purpose to reach our highest endeavor, to climb the next rung on the ladder, to find what some have called our bliss. As if the journey is incomplete or never-ending. As you wonder that it seems many are asked – but few are chosen for eternity’s sake. Perhaps it comes down to getting our attention. Black Elk’s story can be seen in each of us when we acknowledge our own oneness with the universe and the peace, to what we may call eternal bliss that dwells inside us when we do.

An old Chinese caveat says… there is nothing new under the sun, only new ways to see nothing. Things that exist in the present have always existed and will exist again in the future. Fitting the quantum definition of matter continually repeating itself in the universe. What is it that defines our role, and does it matter? The question asked by the first shaman looking to the stars for answers. The stars never appeared to move, but the earth and we moved so that our role remained constant with the nature within and around us. Repeating this constancy in cycles, in the seasons gave permanence to what should occur. When the ancient holy man retreated into meditation it would be nature that provided the answers. He/she would convey that always seeing beyond ourselves to the unknown is essential. By bringing forward an institutional memory of nature to the present, acknowledging the past, and how we are to live, that we would begin to discover what meditation means and being “mindful”.

That finding our purpose brings forth our place in the universe and how we are to proceed. In mindfulness, the Chinese character is composed of two parts, the top meaning “now; this” and bottom signifying “heart; mind.”

To the left is the dragon depicted in the stars at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu.

Still unconvinced? On some cloudless night go outside and look to the sky and the stars. What you’ll see is what the ancient shaman saw… the mirror of your soul.

Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind and our actions, to an awareness of what’s happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we’re not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives. It reflects the simplicity of who we are as we go through each day. I like to say that it is as if we travel two feet off the ground. That being in the present begins with understanding our breath.

We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. We call it qi, or chi. It is through our breath we express our thoughts and speak our intentions. Our practice develops mastery devoted to the divine.

We often develop what accentuate our breathing as movements often called tai chi. The picture is from Wushan Mountain in China.

Breathing in, we inhale the universe… innate matter we have always known and has known us within the context of the Tao that defines us. Breathing out, we’re breathing out what becomes what we re-construct as our actions that are transformative of and to our associations and relationships with what is to come. As we decide the world we want to live in through cause and effect and our actions. It is in this arena that our thoughts often take us to places that never happened or will ever happen that waits to define us. Living in the moment with mindfulness as our virtue simply trains us to come back to the beginning – to the serenity and peacefulness of our breath – to our divinity and to breathe again.

Chinese influence through history on meditation and mindfulness for many has centered on the influence of Chan and Mahayana Buddhism. It is to see one’s own “original nature” (benxing, 本性) and realize “authentic heartmind” (zhenxin, 眞心), and in doing so the dualities of thought and reality, of passion and enlightenment, and of the impure and pure all dissolve. Then, true suchness (zhenru, 真如) is the embodied structure (ti) of thinking, while thinking is the functioning (yong) of true suchness. (Platform Sutra, 13–17) True suchness or ultimate reality is not a pre-existent something “out there” that can be grasped intellectually or accessed through some mystical vision; it can only be enacted in the present for and through ourselves.

For thousands of years, we have known that it is in stillness that nothing arrives and as we attach to nothing, we remain connected to everything. That it’s what we do with nothing that dictates how we are to live, breathe, and ultimately die. It is in moving beyond nothing that what becomes important arrives and decides to stay, albeit both good and bad. It is through the steadying of our mind, that the benefit of living in the moment finds the space of inner calm and peace. To the commonality found in everything.

To what the Chinese from antiquity have referred to as “the ten thousand things”.  To find a normalness with all things that appears in nature, with none better or worse than the other. Each looking to find the best way to survive, to find and know peace, and to live with its neighbors in unison, in wu wei, as nature intended. This is the ultimate meaning of the Tao and Taoism.

Over twenty years ago (in 1995 and 96), when my passion for learning and understanding Taoism was at its zenith you might say, I wrote my own version (some might call it a commentary) of the Book of Lieh Tzu. This became a manuscript (never published) except here on my website entitled My travels with Lieh Tzu. This period was between the initial book on the I Ching and Taoism and another book on the Tao Te Ching. Both of these were published in China. The Book of Lieh Tzu is a classic in Chinese Taoist literature. I wrote all of these prior to even going to China, or contemplating that I would as a preface to actually going. It would be as if the Tao was passing or flowing through me as if a prelude, with more than one hundred fifty entries with Lieh Tzu. I pay tribute to them here.  My writing was to become me as my endeavors would lead the way with now almost fifty trips, hundreds of thousands of words of self-expression, and thousands of pictures that help to tell the story. Two of those entries are shown below:

Chapter Two of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – The Yellow Emperor Introduction

Windsurfing Through Time

Always to be riding the wind. Free from obstruction.

Xiantao Feng – also known as Fairy Peach Peak on Yellow Mountain. Yellow Mountain is famous for Taoist poets who have written about its beauty for thousands of years.

Not tied to things external of your true nature. Remaining free of needing to control events and knowing not to be hindered by them. Keeping the mind, spirit and body free from choices and thinking of alternative courses of action that must be taken.

Doing without thinking. Knowing without doing. Understand this parallel and remain free to simply fly away. Never conscience of the next action to be taken. Only aware of what needs to be done without thinking about or doing it. Action coming natural to current events as the natural extension of your inner chi.

Remaining as a mirror to each situation at hand. Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way.  Remaining enmeshed with harmony. Staying the same as all around you and finding an inner strength waiting to be found without interference.

Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way.

Confucius Temple  Qingdao

To be able to walk on hot coals, swim through a fast current or climb the highest mountain and find comfort in doing none of them. Remain forever adaptable to the events swirling around you. Be as the air as it finds its way into everywhere and as water that passes through everything.

Be non‑existent and exist everywhere in all things. Without the need or desire to control events, simply remain as the ever‑prevailing sage ceasing to be obstructed by them. Free from whatever consequences that may come.     1/18/95

Chapter 3 of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – King Mu of Zhou Introduction 

Transforming Reflections

Refreshing one’s memory, the world becomes more real than the nothingness from where we come and will return. However, can life be but a dream or are we dreaming; therefore, we have come alive?

    Dedications to Lao Tzu       Qingcheng Taoist Mountain

Traveling through time from one lifetime to the next, can our dreams be more than illusions we cling to along the way. When we awoke this morning from a blissful sleep, did we have any sense that what we have dreamed is less than the reality we lived yesterday or the day before or will come to know today, tomorrow or the next?

When dreaming, are we aware that we are dreaming? When awake are we truly aware that we are awake?  Or are we simply living our dreams? If both are the same, then the question becomes what can we be awakening into?

Dreaming that we are but a butterfly darting from flower to flower are we not as Chuang Tzu in his dream, or are we but the butterfly dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu? Are not our dreams living out the reality of who we are? Is not life but a dream which lasts until death, when we find our ultimate unveiling?

Is not awakening midstream in one’s life the opportunity to come closer to one’s true reality beyond the Tao? Is not all that breathes and becomes lifelike or has appearance therefore taking shape simply illusion? Where can reality and dreaming differ? Is not the ultimate truth only the reflection found in mirror images of ourselves?

If our experiences while we are awake are the same as when we sleep, then are not experiences found while we sleep the same as when we are awake? Is not true living to abolish any division between illusion and reality? Thereby becoming indifferent to the world around us. All things being equal, do we not become transformed and continue onward to vistas we have known and seen before?      2/5/95

It is through stillness that we find commonality. Slowly, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm, peace, and re-define the importance of nothing in our lives. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought – what is it that bring us to nothing that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing.

Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or watching a movie after being absorbed in the story.

Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds and return to our original selves and authenticity as the next step to transcendence by minding our breath. Breathing deeply perhaps for the first time.

 

By 1dandecarlo

In our endeavors we are but vestiges of virtue, the surviving evidence of our own authenticity. Destined to be seen as only that worth keeping in eternity. / Chapter 13

To be as water rushing over a steam bed. Cleansing away past intrusions of that which may appear to be less than what may be seen as acceptable. Continually bringing forward to the mind’s eye that which provides clarity for others in this final entry following the commentary and thoughts evoked by “Inward Training”. Trying to evoke spontaneity of both breath and spirit by visualizing the meditative connection between heaven and earth, as well as mind and body. As if giving others a passport saying its okay to go there too.

 Nishan Hill   Birthplace of Confucius

Part of being on a path that we’re on is learning to watch ourselves as if we’re some other entity and looking for patterns in the approach we take. It often seems as though life is simply about unveiling our inner nature as if the peeling back of an onion, as if sheading our skin. Layer upon layer of what appears first as personality and perhaps ego, to a core that is simply waiting to be unraveled. For myself, writing is a way of divination, perhaps perception by intuition; instinctive foresight… or simply the act of remembering.

Beyond thoughts of philosophy or religion to transcendence. Exploring the crevices of mind and soul. Clearing away intrusions and finding answers like the tortoise shells of old. As the Tao speaks through the silence of our heart. The path of virtue is found for the one that connects everything under the sun with the proper way. Enduring things found in the present with outcomes to be assured in the long-run of history.

Thoughts of emptiness and remaining shapeless always seem the basis for showing the way for the sage. The paradox always encountered by the one reaching out to the indefinable and seemingly unknown with thoughts of what was considered either the best or different.

In the end, knowing cause and effect will always determine final outcomes. Looking to the patterns of heaven found in the stars and nature the configurations on earth to be left behind, as entreaties that forever serve as guideposts along our way. What the shaman knew intrinsically that we often follow without knowing how or why. To be like water without judgment shaping things to their fullest while leaving no sign of your passing. As you assist others in finding their own place by and through their own endeavors. Always to be seen as if overcoming both the hard and the strong with suchness and suppleness with a comforting ease you have always known as the underlying current knowing that this to will pass.

To breathe deeply letting tranquility flow by as you have seen and done it all before. As you recall that a Buddhist idea of hell is being trapped in a perpetual cycle of mistakes you never get out of. Freeing ourselves again to be like water… We see this in the Tao Te Ching in Verses 8 and 81 below as excerpts of my book “Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous life”, written in 2000 and published in China in 2006.

Verse 8 – Taking shape while remaining shapeless

 Travel as if you were water taking on every shape that comes your way as you give life to everything and everyone you touch and meet. Conveying the eternal spring that comes forth from you each day as if you were just passing by.

The Han – Stone Carving from Confucius Temple

Being content to remain at the bottom of all things – free from blame. Avoiding competition while maligning no one.

Choosing humility and that which no one else chooses to do.

Travel like water as if approaching the unattainable Tao.  Remaining clear and deep. Yet constantly emptying to give life to others. Reflecting but remaining pure as you cleanse all that you touch. Having no purpose of you own, assisting truth and helping others to find their natural way as if you were all encompassing, but not really here.

8        无形之中要有形

你象流水般到处漫游,遇河成河,入溪化溪,给遇到的万物和众人以生命。

Beihai Park and the Nine Dragon Wall in Beijing are remnants of a time when the Emperors ruled China from behind the walls of the Forbidden City. The dragon connected the emperor to God and his divine nature epitomized Confucian order and benevolence. Visiting the Wall, you get a sense of the meaning of the dragon to longevity, virtue, and remaining authentic to our true selves. 

仿佛你刚刚路过,每天传递永恒的春天。甘做万物之底,就不会遭人指责。不要诽谤别人,避免竞争。

保持仁爱,为他人之不为。

象流水那样漫游,走向那似乎不可接近的道,清如镜,深如渊。保持持久的虚空,赋予众人以生命,出泥而不染。不要别有用心,维护真理,帮助别人寻找自然之路,你似乎就在附近,但实际上不在这里。

What can be the evidence from our past that is our bell-weather going forward? It becomes our extension of how we have approached life as follows: by bringing help to all without competing, choosing what others avoid while approaching the Tao, staying in tune with earth’s abundance, thinking with depth, helping with kindness, speaking with truth, governing with peace, working with skill, and moving along with time… all done while competing with no one.

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 Verse 81 – Remaining in High Style

Remaining satisfied with just what you have as you are content to live as the extension of the Tao which has become the reflection of who and where you are.

Living within the Tao   Confucius Temple   Qingdao

Living within the Tao, the sage soon becomes aware that he is nothing more than an extension of what occurs in nature.  Enabling all to come forward to find their true place, not as the substitute for their action, but as one who empowers others to see beyond themselves as the sage stays in the background doing nothing.

Envisioning a place where there are tools that remain unused, where people have no need to move far afield, are easy with death and where it takes them, with places to go but no reason to travel, and defenses in place but no reason to defend them.  Satisfied with the fruits of their labor and content with where they find themselves as they go restfully to sleep each night.  Content with their homes and happy with their customs as they know the taste of the Tao and remain adorned with virtue. Even though others may live close by they have no reason to visit as all they need, they already have.

81节 保持高风

 满足现状,满足于做道的传人,道已经成为了你的影像。

Living in Contentment

活在道中,圣人很快就知道,他只不过是自然的延续。圣人使众人能够前来寻找他们真正的地位,众人不是行动的替身,而是能够赋予他人力量以超越自我的人。圣人身居幕后,不动声色。

想象一下,有那么一个世外桃园,在那里有未使用过的器具,人民不用长途跋涉,对死亡泰然处之。那里的人有地方可去,但没有必要去旅行。他们有防御设施,但没有防御的必要。他们安居乐业,夜夜高枕无忧。他们满意自己的风俗习惯。他们熟知道,尊崇高德。尽管他们有近邻,因为他们能够自给自足,所以互不往来。

I think a key to understanding is seeing beyond ignorance and propagating wisdom. Ultimately, self-cultivation has no other method but living with knowledge of the way of virtue found in the Tao. Meditation begins by disengaging from the status quo that enable a stream of consciousness to allow us to concentrate on stillness. To a place that defines not what you do – but who you are. It is from here that we can see life’s illusions as transitory and subjective… and non-existent.

For myself, it’s like rising above the stream of water or consciousness, that encompasses all, to the ultimate. To where the Bodhisattva resides in each of us. To an awareness of the void that becomes all-embracing. Where we find an internal state of imperturbability, to the place exempt from all external sensations. For the Buddhist in meditation this is what defines enlightenment. To reach the state beyond study knowing innately that you have arrived. For the Taoist it always returns to the shaman, Lao and Chuang Tzu and the Tao. For when you move beyond illusion, there is no longer a reason to study, as you have returned to your authentic self, and fully understand the meaning of wu wei and your journey.

As you choose to let go in order to be in control as don Miguel Ruiz Jr.’s The Mastery of Self teaches us… by simply knowing thyself  “understanding the teachings is the first step, but applying them is what makes you a Master.” or as repeatedly referred to here as one for the ages… a sage.

With Taoism always seeming to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The final two chapters, chapters twenty-five and twenty six of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Twenty-five

The vitality of all people inevitably comes from their peace of mind.

I Ching – Yin and Yang         The Eight Immortals – Xian

When anxious, you lose this guiding thread;
when angry, you lose this basic point.
When you are anxious or sad, pleased or angry,
the Way has no place to settle.
Love and desire: still them!
Folly and disturbance: correct them!
Do not push it! do not pull it!
Good fortune will naturally return to you,
and that Way will naturally come to you
So you can rely on and take counsel from it.
If you are tranquil then you will attain it;
if you are agitated then you will lose it.

Twenty-six

That mysterious vital energy within the mind:

The Sage   Shaanxi Museum  Xian

One moment it arrives, the next it departs.
So fine, there is nothing within it;
so vast, there is nothing outside it.
We lose it
because of the harm caused by mental agitation.
When the mind can hold on to tranquility,
the Way will become naturally stabilized.
For people who have attained the Way
it permeates their pores and saturates their hair.
Within their chest, they remain unvanquished.
Follow this Way of restricting sense desires
and the myriad things will not cause you harm.

Finally, it is learning to live with discernment and tranquility. Letting the world come to your doorstep, as you live wholly within what the Tao has taught you.

By 1dandecarlo

To live our lives as if fullfilling our ultimate aspiration / Chapter 12

The continuum of the slowly bending “arc of the moral universe”, as President-elect Joe Biden put in DSCI0071his recent speech, quoting Martin Luther King Jr… that each of us are to do our part.

Living life, leaving all things seen as unnecessary as if simply a continuation – to live within what takes us there. As if our dreams are fulfilled in eternity. If we are in pursuit of freedom and a profound relationship to reality, then all experiences of life must become meditation. To what is meant by living in the moment. To take a path to realize the open heart of true meditation. dsci0386.jpgThat what we find is not perfect. That we must first move beyond a sense of helplessness.

I find this in inspiration from a recent book I’ve been reading by Phakchok Rinpoche called, In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvasin which he teaches how the intangible essence of meditation naturally arises when we properly line-up the conditions within our lives. Going beyond a simple, one-dimensional training, the exercises and meditation methods outlined and the words of the Buddha, sourced from the King of Samadhi Sutra, that create a clear path of training according to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. DSCI0420Ultimately, as I read it, it becomes living our lives as our ultimate aspiration.

** The Bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to liberate all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a Bodhisattva. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, Bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

With this I think about what we are here to do. How the intangible essence of how we are to move naturally with the right conditions within who we are yet to become aligning with who we have always DSCI0430been. An innate compassion that seems beyond our reach but is always nearby. Over the centuries many have felt the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism is the best path that takes us there. It is what takes us there that counts. It is this coming into alignment that we find so difficult in our lives and resorting to discipline and guidance from within ourselves that turns the page. Finding our authenticity and embracing the structure that help us to focus and to model ourselves accordingly.

Many years ago, back in a high school journalism class, I had an assignment in writing poetry. One of the lines I wrote that I recall so well was – “sorrowful feelings mean nothing if there is no compassion felt”.  This idea of compassion is a common theme DSCI0402that runs throughout the core of Buddhist thought and philosophy. It seems as though liberation from suffering and emptiness to be found in ourselves and all phenomena (the universe – and what we find in it), must begin with a sense of compassion for all sentient beings. But then, just what is it we are awakening to? To this end it is when clarity arrives awareness beckons. For many a sense of empathy for others can serve as the beginning of our understanding and wisdom. It’s this contemplation and conjecture of what happens to us after we die and what could be the universal connection between ourselves, our spirit, i.e., soul and everything else, that historically takes us into the unknown that leads us to wonder. What is it that makes us immortal and are we?

It becomes easy to see how Buddhism and Taoism became so enmeshed in Eastern culture and philosophy. When viewing this as a sage, one would begin by being supple and pliable. Not seeing things as rigid with the tendency to resist change. Seeing change and not being tied to the status quo as essential to our growth. Verses 76 and 78 of the Tao Te Ching are illustrative of this:

Verse 76 – In death the Tao acknowledges the Sage

Before there was considered to be a force in the universe that would be known as God there was the Tao.

Entrance to Confucius Temple in Qufu

Before there existed the myriad of shamans, saints, priests and holy men considered to be here to lead the way, there was the Tao.

As the ten thousand things came forth from antiquity to manifest and begin the cycle of being born, dying and being born again continually as the natural extension of the way, the sage ultimately came forth as one protected by dragons.  The dragons, but those who have been chosen to impart simple virtue as those who follow the correct path or way of heaven.

Stele of Confucius  Confucius Temple

The sage coming forward to find that the reason there is suffering or hunger for life is that others impose too many restrictions on how we should live, therefore people remain unfulfilled.  That the reason people are hard to get along with is that those who would lead the way have forgotten the path in which all should follow.  However, when death follows as the natural course of events after everything has passed through him and acknowledges his ultimate place in the universe, the loving life becomes secondary as eternal life comes forth to greet the great sage.

Loving God, and what She and the Tao teaches, he simply lets his enthusiasm come naturally as the centuries have shown him the proper way.

76节 死后道向圣人致谢

 从前,宇宙中有一种称为上帝的力量,有道。从前,出现过无数个被认为能够带领众人的术士,

The Ten Thousand Things  Confucius Temple

圣人和传教士,有道。

作为道的延续的万物从远古而来,开始出生,死亡和再出生的不断循环。圣人最终在神龙保护下出现。作为遵循正确途经或天道的神龙被挑选来传授大德。

圣人发现,苦难和饥饿的原因是有些人对我们如何生活设置了太多的限制。因此,人民的聪明才智没有得到充分的发挥。人民不团结的原因是引路的人忘记了众人应走的路。然而,在万物穿过圣人,承认他在宇宙的最高地位后,死亡作为自然规律随之而来,情欲生活成为次要,因为永恒的生命前来欢迎伟大的圣人。

热爱神,热爱神的和道的教导,圣人的热情油然而来,几百年来圣人已经找到了正确道路

Achieving clarity as to our path seems to be the eternal quest. It seems unchanging as everything continually changes in the present, or where we find ourselves at the moment as if a paradox. Clarity referring to what the ancient shaman would call celestial, or what is star driven, that would guide or determine the outcome of things. As a never-ending fixture in the night sky. Change would always return to its beginnings. What they learned was to have patience, follow the nature of things, and that most things would take care of themselves without our interference. How we transformed our thoughts guided by virtue would determine our own success or failure. The old axiom – time will tell – was always the precursor or harbinger of things to come.

The ancient dragon always depicted as representing the knowing sage. The protector of virtue. What connected us to universal truths and the stars from where we came…

The dragon shown here is thousands of years old from the Shaanxi History Museum in Xian

This fits with the Buddhist thought of – letting your mud settle. Having patience to let things occur as they may while knowing that impermanence will have the final say. While acknowledging what was known was that the stars above created a sense of permanence that we could connect to through our own innate nature. The stars would always show the way forward to universal understanding. Our role simply to find the virtue that resides within us to move in the same direction.

Verse 78 – Following the way of Heaven

The sage endeavors to follow the way of heaven while only revealing everything for its true and natural place.

The Balancing Act Confucius Temple Qingdao

Pulling down the high while lifting the low he stays on an even keel finding the natural balance of all around him.

Continually moving forward unsure or unconcerned if what he does is ultimately good or bad as long as the natural order of things are followed and are allowed to take their places. Moving without presumption or staking claim to what may be perceived as personal achievement.  Choosing to remain in the background and not displaying his skills, nothing can deter or get in his way.  His burden to keep his virtue to himself and not revealed to those who continually come running to his doorstep.

Modeling his actions after the way of heaven, the sage takes from the long and gives to the short so that the ten thousand things naturally find their places.  For all things under heaven to find their place, it is best for heaven to sit back and do nothing allowing the nature of all things to come forward unimpeded fulfilling its ultimate endeavor and finding its true identity and destiny.

78节 遵循天

圣人努力去遵循天道,并为天道的真实和自然揭示一切。圣人削峰填壑,悄悄地寻找他身边万物

100_3371

之自然平衡。

圣人继续前行。只要万物的自然秩序安排井然和遵循,圣人并不在意他的作为最终是好是坏。只管前行,不要猜测和怀有私心。

The Rites    Confucius Temple Qingdao

圣人选择置身隐处,不露锋芒,没有什么能够阻止他的前进或堵塞他的道路。他的负担是恪守大德,不把大德展示给那些不断地来到他的门阶的人。

圣人依天道行动,取长补短,以帮助万物自然地找到他们的地位。为了使万物找到他们的地位,圣人最好是坐下来,停止行动,让万物的自然力畅通无阻地前来完成他们的最高奋斗目标,找到他们的真实身份和归宿。

Throughout history there was never a sense of either or between Buddhism and Taoism with what was already ingrained by centuries of understanding in what was to be known as the I Ching. That complimentary opposites would add to what was known as the strength of each.

The arrival of Buddhist sutras to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

When the Buddhist sutras (scriptures) came to China to Xian, they were interpreted into Chinese by Taoists. As they spread, Confucian rites also added to their influence. Accommodating the status quo became the norm with change occurring continually over the centuries going forward.

With Taoism always seeming to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters twenty-three and twenty four of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Twenty-three

For all the Way of eating is that:
overfilling yourself with food will impair your vital energy

Harmonious Completion      Wuhan Temple  Chengdu

and cause your body to deteriorate.
Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither
and the blood to congeal.
The mean between overfilling and over-restricting:
this is called “harmonious completion.”
It is where the vital essence lodges
and knowledge is generated.
When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance,
you make a plan to correct this.
When full, move quickly;
when hungry, neglect your thoughts;
when old, forget worry.
If when full you don’t move quickly,
vital energy will not circulate to your limbs.
If when hungry you don’t neglect your thoughts of food,
when you finally eat you will not stop.
If when old you don’t forget your worries,
the fount of your vital energy will rapidly drain out.

Twenty-four

When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,

when you relax your vital breath and expand it,
when your body is calm and unmoving:
And you maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances,
you will see profit and not be enticed by it,
you will see harm and not be frightened by it.
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,
in solitude you delight in your own person.
This is called “revolving the vital breath”:
your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.

Finally, what remains important to note, is that there is nothing new expressed above that has been observed by western writers and philosophers over the centuries. The continuum of thought was transparent and became transcendent. Tolstoy, Emerson, and more recently Watt, stand out as examples of illustrating what would become the key to should pieces of a puzzle that all fit into a pattern of universal philosophy or thought. This connection becomes even more real through scientific evidence recently a quantum physics. To what the shaman knew from the beginning that there is nothing new under the sun. Only new ways to express nothing as the continuum of the slowly bending “arc of the moral universe”. The ultimate more perfect union we are here to manifest and build upon.

 

By 1dandecarlo

Daily reminders of lasting abundance / Volume 11

I often have the feeling that the world is busy catching up with me, or is it me catching up with the world? Not from ego or that my path seems brighter or more direct that others, but purposeful. That my circle of thought and energy always returns to origins again. My origins. Standing apart from others with impermanence and change ever-present with the status quo never appealing or sufficient.

Looking for balance in catching my breath – I am carried away with the wind to re-join old friends again. Always to be found in the present as if traveling two inches off the ground. An unevenness and your cane found again to be simply seen as a reminder.

I keep thinking about traveling in China and not having a traveling companion, except as what others may call imagination. In meditation, I often find myself rising out of my seat a hundred feet in the air and going there. Traveling to places I’ve been and seen before. As I write from thoughts that seem to come from vibrations only waiting to be heard again.

Your traveling companions often not intended as someone in the present. You travel as if unattended through time, but resting assured that you are being upheld. Living the life, as referred to before that you are meant to become – natural and unafraid.

Gentle with never a harsh word letting patience be your guide as both your virtue and voice. As if you are in no rush because you have already arrived. Again, letting patience have its way with your virtue. Letting acts of patience be illustrated by your kindness towards others. Always nudged and reminded that there can be no rush found inside yourself that you already possess. Not allowing weakness or strength to cloud your virtue. Finding what makes you happy wholly within yourself. Become the companion you want to be and this person will always be present. Letting your own happiness be the sunshine that brightens every day.

You find yourself again in the cosmos of thought, an awareness that fits the flow of innate life destiny. You look to words like suchness that will define life’s meaning and want to go there. To what stabilizes us inwardly so that we can match what others may view outwardly that defines us. A seeming transformation befitting who we have always been becomes illuminated. Self-worth becomes self-apparent as we too come to mirror the Tao as if sages.

With this we can turn the page looking again to the Tao Te Ching and Taoism and our mentor Lao Tzu looking to thoughts that those who follow the Tao do not strive, tamper, or seek to control their own lives.

Verse 64 – Finding everything too Easy

The sage knows that doing what comes naturally is not work. Therefore, he works without really working.

It’s not Working   Qingdao  TianHou Palace Temple

He acts without really acting, thereby not exhausting himself and tastes without really tasting the true meaning of the Tao through meditation. He goes forth knowing that rather we are great or small, many or few it is important to repay any slight or wrong with virtue. What the world considers hard the sage considers easy. Just as what the world considers easy the sage considers hard. How can that be so?

If one can plan for the hard when it is easy and work on the great when it is small, the hardest task in the world becomes easy. The greatest goal in the world begins, or becomes small.

Because the sage never acts, he achieves great things. He responds to others knowing instinctively that he who quickly agrees is seldom trusted and those who make it all look easy finds the way hard. Therefore, the sage travels in virtue making everything appear hard, while he himself finds nothing hard.

万事皆易

圣人知道,捡大自然的便宜不是工作。因此,他做事并非真的做事,他行动不是真的行动,这样

Achieving great things   TianHou Palace Temple

他不至于精疲力尽。他通过斡旋,品尝到没有真正品尝到道的真义。他明白不管我们是伟大还是渺小,多抑或是少,重要的是要补偿对大德所犯下的大小过失。

世人认为难的事情,圣人却认为容易。世人认为容易的事情,圣人却认为难。为什么会如此?如果一个人把易事当难事,小事当大事,这样世界上就无难事,伟大出于平凡。

圣人从来就不装作他干了什么伟大的事情。他心里明白,那些不假思索就附和他的人,很少是可以信赖的。那些把事情看得太简单的人,会明白道之艰难。因此,圣人载德而行,世上万事看来艰难之事,圣人却认为容易。

The sage thrives by staying beyond description. Standing clear of antagonism – to be the first to leave when contention appears and the first to stay when love arrives. Make your own perceived weaknesses your greatest strengths. Become the person others are looking to that soothes away fear and anger. Perhaps this Buddhist inclination is a signal to let go of self and that you are to stay within the light of your own higher consciousness or enlightenment.

Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu

To become a Buddha as they say, change yourself first – then change the world as Gandhi tells us. Become or emulate the world the universe is counting on or looking to. Surround yourself with love and be happy with what you already have. Exemplify the person that you want the world to become by acknowledging the lasting abundance you already possess.

Bring others to their highest endeavors, or selves – without judgment becoming the mentor they need. Be the companion they should have knowing selflessness, not one’s ego is what survives. Live solely within the virtue that defines you. Enlightenment is the process of self-change leaving behind traits not in keeping with who you are ultimately to become.  If you come back to experience them – then use them to lose them.

Let virtue define you. It is not an either/or…You know the path you are to follow. Just do it, leaving no one behind. Leave no one behind – not your family – not your students – not your friends – and not those waiting to be your friends. Become the road map for others to find the way for and within themselves. There is no choice to make. Live the choice you have become regardless of where you are. There is no paradox, only the paradigm you have chosen to follow.

If we want others to see beyond what they see as weaknesses in us – then we must first be able to see beyond what we perceive as the weakness we see in others. As we grow and mature, gaining wisdom and insight along the way – we must bring them along with us.  Remember your own virtue is tied to having patience for others while the world is catching up with you. (written June 2017 in Shanghai before returning to USA).

Another chapter (verse), of the Tao Te Ching I find intriguing is Verse 55 just as  with the ancient Wang P’ang stressing in 1070AD that “The nature of virtue is lasting abundance”. In my own version I would add:

Verse 55 – Gaining a firm Grip on lasting Abundance

What does it mean to have lasting abundance when we leave our virtue behind?

The Extension    Chongqing Museum

How can we be full of breath, yet not know how to make our breath endure? If our essence remains within us, why does our virility stand in the way? When you become simply an extension of the Tao, you go as if mindless through your endeavors.

Without a mind, you have no thoughts or desires. You proceed fearless unaware of what may harm you or that you could possibly harm another.

Once you become aware that you are a part of something bigger than yourself and have a firm grip on the direction you must take, only then can you begin to focus your mind and cultivate the Tao. When your mind does not stray and a certain serenity surrounds you, then your breath can become balanced.

Endurance   Chongqing Museum

The sage focuses on his breath because when it becomes balanced his essence is stable, his spirit serene and his true nature is restored.

Controlling his breath he endures and finds his true nature. Understanding his true nature he is able to impart wisdom to others. He becomes unconcerned and extending his life as his spirit is uncluttered and has already rediscovered its place in what has been what may occur now and where he will spend eternity.  The sage has no fear of death because he knows his essence, or spirit, remains eternal.

把握恒久的

如果失去了大德,拥有恒久的丰裕又如何?如果不懂得忍耐,我们又如何做到恒久?如果我们的本质仍在,为什么自尊自大挡住我们的道?

With no thoughts or desires    Images of the Han      Confucius Mansion   Qufu

当你成为道的传人,努力前行,好像无知无觉一样。没有了头脑,你就没有了思想或欲望,你就可以勇往直前,无所畏惧。不知道什么可以伤害你,也不知道你可能伤害别人。

一旦知道自己的重要性,你就要紧紧地把握方向,只有这样,你才能够专心修道。当你心无旁骛,宁静弥漫四周时,你才能够心平气静,达到平衡。

圣人凝神聚气,这因为气息达到平衡时,他的内心平稳,精神宁静,真性就可以得到恢复

控制情绪,坚忍,圣人就可以发现自己的真性,只有领悟他的真性,圣人才能够把智慧传授给别人。圣人对世事毫无牵挂,神志清晰,生命延长,并且重新发现他的过去,现在和未来在宇宙的永恒地位。圣人不惧死亡,因为他的精神永存。

It always comes back to what we are doing to emulate “the Virtue of Heaven” and acknowledging that there is no separate self.

With Taoism always seeming to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters twenty-one and twenty two of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Twenty-one

As for the life of all human beings:
the heavens bring forth their vital essence,
the earth brings forth their bodies.

Ringing the bell – Buddhist Temple in Chongching

These two combine to make a person.
When they are in harmony there is vitality;
when they are not in harmony there is no vitality. If we examine the Way of harmonizing them, its essentials are not visible,
its signs are not numerous.
Just let a balanced and aligned breathing fill your chest
and it will swirl and blend with your mind,
this confers longevity.
When joy and anger are not limited,
you should make a plan to limit them.
Restrict the five sense-desires;
cast away these dual misfortunes.
Be not joyous, be not angry,
just let a balanced and aligned breathing fill your chest.

Twenty-two

As for the vitality of all human beings:

It inevitably occurs because of balanced and aligned breathing.
The reason for its loss is inevitably pleasure and anger, worry and anxiety.

Tortoise and Rites   Qingyang Temple  Chengdu

Therefore, to bring your anger to a halt, there is nothing better than poetry;
to cast off worry there is nothing better than music;
to limit music there is nothing better than rites;
to hold onto the rites there is nothing better than reverence;
to hold onto reverence there is nothing better than tranquility.
When you are inwardly tranquil and outwardly reverent
you are able to return to your innate nature
and this nature will become greatly stable.

One of the greatest Buddhist writers I like to celebrate who lived during the Ming dynasty was Te Ch’ing. While a follower of Pure Land Buddhism, he exemplified how Buddhism and Taoism fit so well together with his commentaries on Lao and Chuang Tzu. His commentary on Verse 55 described above of the Tao Te Ching is as follows:

Te Ch’ing told us “Those who cultivate the Tao should first focus their minds. When the mind doesn’t stray it becomes calm, breath becomes balanced. When breath becomes balanced, essence becomes stable, spirit becomes serene, and our true nature is restored. Once we know how to breathe, we know how to endure. And once we know how to endure, we know our true nature. If we don’t know our true nature but only know how to nourish our body and lengthen our lives, we end up harming or body and destroying our lives. A restless mind disturbs the breath. When the breath is disturbed, the essence weakens. And when the essence weakens, the body withers.”   

By 1dandecarlo

Living within the consciousness of who we are yet to become / Volume 10

We are here to listen, to learn, and to lead. As we become like the sea everything will come to us. As our heart becomes big enough to embrace the entire world, we in turn become an adherent of the light. To live within the consciousness of who we are yet to become. When a person dies his virtue, his work and his joy, continues and remains as shown by his love of nature. Be the one destined for the road that others may follow with the Tao firmly in tow. Knowing this we will thrive.  

 The sage preserves the female (yin), meaning they know how to be receptive to Tao and its power (de) and are not unbalanced favoring assertion and action (yang) as illustrated in Verse 28 of the Tao Te Ching:

Verse 28 – Maintaining Ancient Virtue

Showing the way can be likened to being the world’s maid.  A job on the surface seeming too menial too even consider that success may follow.

Finding innate virtue     Nanjing Museum

Once you’ve recognized your task, the way becomes even more difficult.  But it is only by experiencing the tediousness can you begin to advance and rule the day.

Advance as if you have the heart of a child without fear, without knowledge that the task is too big. Thereby always keeping your ancient virtue intact.  Simply recognizing that which lies without you while holding onto the oneness within you.  Acknowledging what is at its beginning always becomes something else at its end.

That once was hard must become soft. That if we are constantly referring to what appears to be black or white, we are in reality seeing them as dark or light and if we see things as pure verses defiled, we are acknowledging it as either noble or humble.

Recognizing the above, the task of the sage becomes easy. By adhering to what is soft, humble and dark the essence of the Tao is always close at hand.

Advance as if you were an uncarved piece of wood waiting to be molded into what is needed with no pre-conceived outcome of what may occur. Always guided by what comes forth without limits, with the Tao always in charge.

While acting as a master tailor, sewing without seams, the job of the maid suddenly comes forth with ease and grace. The job becoming second nature as you have mastered it fully with your virtue leading the way.

保持古朴的美德

为众人引路如同做世界公仆。这工作低微繁琐,但未必能够做好。一旦明白你的职责,道路就越加显得崎岖曲折。但是,只有经历了沉闷乏味之后,你才能够取得进步,把握住每一天。

The Heart of a Child    Shaanxi Museum   Xian

前进吧,就装做有一颗无所畏惧的童心,不晓得任务之艰巨,永远保持古朴的美德。保持内在合一的同时,认识与你无关的事物。事物总是不断变化,坚硬终成柔软。我们经常议论黑白,实际上我们看到的是深浅。如果我们把事物分成纯洁与肮脏,就等于承认高贵和低微。

一旦承认以上事实,圣人的职责就变得容易。只要能够坚守柔弱,谦逊和无光,那么你就掌握了道的精华。

前进吧,你是一块未被雕刻的木头等待塑造,预先没有计划,自然也不知道结局如何。在道的负责下,接受万物的指导。

充当主裁缝,制作无缝天衣,公仆的工作一下子变得轻松优雅。在大德的指导下,工作就会变得轻驾就熟,得心应手。

With our virtue leading the Way     Wuhan Museum

Learning from past events and previous encounters, we go forward as if buffeted by the wind. Keeping to what we have learned with a pragmatism that overshadows our actions. What we are here to do belies our presence, as we are guided by the innate qualities that are always with us. Resting easy as we acknowledge that we have already arrived as we let events simply play out until their eventual end. Found doing nothing while leaving nothing undone.

Much has been made of the verse below of the Tao Te Ching as being the synthesis of universal understanding of what our role should be. Ho-Shang Kung, who lived in a hut next to the Yellow River in the first century AD relays it best for us I think:

“The Tao gives birth to the beginning. One gives birth to yin and yang. Yin and yang give birth to the breath between, the mixture of clear and turbid. These three breaths divide themselves into Heaven, Earth, and Man and together give birth to the ten thousand things. These elemental breaths are what keep the ten thousand things relaxed and balanced. The organs in our chest, the marrow in our bones, the spaces into plants allow these breaths passage and make long life possible.”

Heaven’s Gate on top of Huashan Mountain

As we in turn, acknowledge this divine presence from within ourselves. Opening our heart and mind to virtue it comes rushing through us as our eternal essence and presence that define both us and all other things. Bringing the thoughts of the ancients forward as they instill some sense of understanding and wisdom in line with today’s thinking enabling us to find our own highest endeavor. This Verse 42 became the underlying concept over the centuries of Taoism that was to play the central role of how everything meshes and comes back into one. Having a sense of it, what can our own role be going forward.

The sage shoulders yin and embraces yang, blends internal energies we call qi, and thereby attains harmony called he; Verse 42 of Tao Te Ching:

Verse 42 – Emulating the Tao as you give birth to all around you

The Tao gives birth to one. One gives birth to two. Two gives birth to three and three give birth to ten thousand things. When I as one embrace the Tao and open my heart and mind to the universe, I become complete as my focus remains on the horizon.

Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

When I show another person the way, we walk in unison guided by what we have been taught. When we two brighten the path of the third all things become possible and in unison, we give birth to a thousand things. As we too become the world’s teachers.

With yin at our backs and yang in our embrace we look for harmony. What the world hates we love. Just by what some gain in losing others will lose by gaining keeping the world forever in balance. Remaining fully enmeshed in the Tao, the sage simply follows his mentor, Lao Tzu, the ultimate teacher of the way.  As such, we are reminded to reduce our desires, remain humble and practice the virtue of harmony.

Letting these three be our guide we quietly give birth to all around us.

仿效道,赋予生

道生一,一生二,二生三,三生万物。当我拥抱着道,向宇宙打开我的心灵时,我把注意力集中

Dragons above the clouds reminding us to reduce our desires, remain humble and practice the virtue of harmony.    Sichuan Museum

在地平线上,终于成为一个完整的人。

当我给一人引路,我们以道为准则,和谐地前行。当我们两人为第三人照亮道路,万物随之而行。在和谐中,我们催生万物,从而成为世界级大师。

负阴抱阳,我们寻找和谐,爱人间之所恨。有得必有失,有失必有得,这样才能保持自然界的平衡。沉浸在道中,圣人跟随大师老子,道的祖师。我们必须告诫自己,减少欲求,恪守谦恭,修炼和谐大德。

我们以此三点作指导,静静地哺育芸芸众生。

It always comes back to what we are doing to emulate “the Virtue of Heaven” and acknowledging that there is no separate self. Taoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters nineteen and twenty of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Nineteen

By concentrating your vital breath as if numinous,
the myriad things will all be contained within you.
Can you concentrate? Can you unite with them?

Dujianyan Waterworks  Chengdu

Can you not resort to divining by tortoise or milfoil
yet know bad and good fortune?*
Can you stop? Can you cease?
Can you not seek it in others,
yet attain it within yourself?
You think and think about it
and think still further about it.
You think, yet still cannot penetrate it.
While the ghostly and numinous will penetrate it,
it is not due to the power of the ghostly and numinous,
but to the utmost refinement of your essential vital breath.
When the four limbs are aligned
and the blood and vital breath are tranquil,
unify your awareness, concentrate your mind,
then your eyes and ears will not be over-stimulated.
And even the far-off will seem close at hand.                                                                                                        *Note: This was written between 200-300BC

Twenty

Deep thinking generates knowledge.

Idleness and carelessness generate worry.
Cruelty and arrogance generate resentment.
Worry and grief generate illness.
When illness reaches a distressing degree, you die.
When you think about something and don’t let go of it,
internally you will be distressed, externally you will be weak.
Do not plan things out in advance
or else your vitality will cede its dwelling.
In eating, it is best not to fill up;
in thinking, it is best not to overdo.

Limit these to the appropriate degree
and you will naturally reach your vitality.

Finally, continuing with thoughts of Verse 42 of the Tao Te Ching as Te Ch’ing tells us

“What we all share is the Tao, but we don’t know it except through instruction. What others teach, Lao Tzu also teaches. But Lao Tzu excels others in teaching us to reduce our desires and to be humble, to practice the virtue of harmony, and to let this be our teacher.”

To simply become aligned with who we are becoming.

 

By 1dandecarlo

Opening doors while staying behind / Volume 9

The people of the world do not comprehend the way of the sage. Standing apart from others, he is often seen as an enigma, a person of puzzling or contradictory character. Always present, yet at times appearing as if the harvest moon in autumn fading away in the brightness of the coming winter sun. An equilibrium of yin and yang seemingly indifferent to events found in the mundane world.

Often alone with his thoughts, the sage appears to be studying the ways of virtue, almost translucent beyond reach. For a presence felt internally – to be found present looking to transformation while having compassion for sentient life. He speaks and acts as virtue as if the pivot, as the Tao.

It seems that everything in nature must go through a seemingly endless pivot – including us. Only constant as birth, finding our way as living intended, then death. As if our spirit has been given a chance to take stock of whatever progress we have made this time before given a chance to try again. Changing to meet the pull of the sun, moon, and stars as nature intended that define and guide our way. With impermanence and alternation, one step always leading to the next comforted by the change that we know must occur.

The “Blast Furnace” atop Fillial Son Peak on Huashan Mountain where Lao Tzu is said to have created the pill of immortality. Huashan was also an important place for immortality seekers, as many herbal Chinese medicines are grown and powerful drugs were reputed to be found there. Kou Qianzhi (365–448), the founder of the Northern Celestial Master School of Taoism received revelations there, as did Chen Tuan (920–989), who spent the last part of his life in hermitage here on the west peak. Ultimately, what Lao Tzu taught us was that the “pill of immortality resides within us”. The “blast furnace” is our internal nature acknowledging our eternal role we are to play.

As we will forever be in the process of becoming something else. The Taoist believes that the innate nature of heaven is best seen as ourselves, our humanity. We’re not going someplace that already resides as grace within us now. That our heart-mind becomes the pivot through and by our wisdom.

I think this idea of “eternal wisdom” is how Taoism and Buddhism came together as Zen as Alan Watts taught us.

That all things found in nature – all sentient beings everywhere (the ten thousand things) originally, from their beginning, possess the buddha nature. That nature exists eternally and is without change, meaning you cannot lose it, only not recognize as innate nature you have always possessed. The Buddha died just as Lao Tzu. However, both continue to this day as the flow of eternal life (as reflected in a never-ending circle) as the source of wisdom relayed through us continues. This “flow” is what sustains our spirit from one generation to another. Moving forward as a life well lived.

It is by stabilizing ourselves with nature we move beyond the mundane to become who we are meant to be in the present. Every day we go through a transformation defining who we are yet to become. It is why accepting the status quo is never an option for the sage, because nothing seen as done ever is meant to be finished. The continuum of life and nature is never-ending and changes as everything else is changing as well. There is nothing to agree or disagree with… only our acknowledgement of what role we are here or hope to play.

It is as Elton John sings in “The Circle of Life”.

In the circle of life
It’s the wheel of fortune
It’s the leap of faith
It’s the band of hope
‘Til we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars.

It is said that the Tao is not hard to know, but difficult to follow. For many who would follow Confucius, they would say, “The Tao is what we can never leave. If we can leave it, it isn’t the Tao”. Disney had another hit on their hands the following year with the movie Pocahontas, and once again, they made reference to the circle of life in the movie’s theme song, “Colors Of The Wind”, as the heroine sings, “we are all connected to each other, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends.” The song was inspired by Native American poetry, music and folklore, as well as a famous letter sent to the United States Congress by Chief Seattle, a Suquamish and Duwamish chief, regarding humanity’s relationship with nature.

Part of the letter reads: “The wind that gave our grandfather his first breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So, if we sell our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, as a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.”

This idea runs through all native Indigenous people, that everything is connected with and to us through its inherent nature. It is the circle of life coming to us as the immortal Way taking care of the spirit without effort that brings peace to the world as virtue. Often appearing as our highest good like water not necessarily to compete, but to transform.

A famous writer in Chinese history, Wang Pi, once said “From the infinitesimal all things develop. From nothing all things are born. When we are free of desire, we can see the infinitesimal where things begin. When we are subject to desire, we can see where things end.”

As philosophy goes, I like to follow Wang Pi’s idea of Confucian ethics and Taoist metaphysics. Looking at the Taoist absolute, or ontological substratum of the universe (the tao), as the metaphysical basis of Confucian social organization, with a single ruler and a hierarchical society harmoniously cooperating according to ritual and the traditional Confucian virtues. This idea was re-enforced on numerous occasions as I traveled around Shandong Province visiting the villages of my students where they lived in the countryside while teaching at Jining University in Qufu in 2011 – 2013.

An underlying premise of Taoism is that “Those who practice the Way put an end to distinctions, get rid of both name and form, and make for themselves a home for the Way and virtue.” To what remains constant as the heart-mind and connects us with all things. As with what is known as Zen, it becomes the naturalization of our spontaneous, original self.

The Tao Te Ching makes use of some very famous analogies to drive home its point. Sages know the value of emptiness as illustrated by how it is used in a bowl, door, window, valley or canyon, as seen in Verses 11 and 41:

 Verse 11 – Opening Doors while Staying Behind

 Remaining empty to become full.  Knowing your place is to put all the cards on the table so that the proper path becomes obvious for all to see. Becoming simply the vessel from which all that represents virtue is known, endured and followed as the way by all.

The Calling    Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Reminded as our breath ebbs and flows we become full by remaining empty as our mind and thoughts remain the catalyst for change and enlightenment. Our usefulness only determined by the emptiness that fills us. Employing nothing to gain advantage that would allow ego to stand in the way.

As you seek only virtue and leave only vestiges of yourself behind. Your role is to open doors for others as you nurture and prepare them to walk through.

Giving birth to virtue and letting it grow. Nourishing what comes forth without claiming to own them. Remaining as the hub of a wheel… constant, reliable and still, yet ever-present and nonexistent. ##

Bianzhong Bells – Zengzi Temple in Jiaxiang, Shandong. Zengzi was said to have composed and/or edited the Classic of Filial Piety under the direction of Confucius. He was also associated with transmission of the Great Learning. My daughter Katie and I visited the Zengzi Temple in 2012 with some of my students. I also taught and lived next to the Qufu Normal School in Qufu. The school was originally for the descendants of the “four families” who were responsible for continuing Confucian traditions and legacy. One of those families was Zengzi’s. The other three families were the descendants of Confucius, Yan Hui (Zhu Xi), and Mencius.

To the left is the Temple of Yan Hui. It was a few blocks down the street on Gulou Street where I lived past the drum tower.  

This idea of remaining like a hub on a wheel empty while the spokes all converge on it is as if they cannot do what is intended without the hub’s direction. Seeing beyond oneself, as if non-existent, becomes emblematic of stabilizing the way forward. Realizing the principles of the universal Tao are the same as the Way of Heaven both steadies and sustains all in nature.  Practicing the Tao, finding the middle way, we become one with the presence we are here to build on.

Tao Te Ching      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?

Luohan Buddhist Temple  Chongqing

And still others cannot seem to keep from laughing at such folly. 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.

Luohan Buddhist Temple  Chongqing

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.

Taoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters seventeen and eighteen of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Seventeen

For all [to practice] this Way:

Becoming Translucent

you must coil, you must contract,
you must uncoil, you must expand,
you must be firm, you must be regular [in this practice].
Hold fast to this excellent [practice]; do not let go of it.
Chase away the excessive; abandon the trivial.
And when you reach its ultimate limit
you will return to the Way and the inner power.

Eighteen

When there is a mind that is unimpaired within you,
it cannot be hidden.
It will be known in your countenance,
and seen in your skin color.

The Procession – Sichuan Museum

If with this good flow of vital energy you encounter others,
they will be kinder to you than your own brethren.
But if with a bad flow of vital energy you encounter others,
they will harm you with their weapons.
This is because the wordless pronouncement is more rapid than the drumming of thunder.
The perceptible form of the mind’s vital energy
is brighter than the sun and moon,
and more apparent than the concern of parents.
Rewards are not sufficient to encourage the good;
punishments are not sufficient to discourage the bad.
Yet once this flow of vital energy is achieved,
all under heaven will submit.
And once the mind is made stable,
all under heaven will listen.

All this becomes transcending the world of nature and society, what we see and hear, to combining intuitive wisdom and practical knowledge with contemplation and social action. The role of the sage has always been to affect and influence the listener. To bring them to a universal understanding often as the storyteller with suggestive images so that you can see things for yourself as well. Often writing and speaking as the storyteller bringing others to an indefinable reality, they must look to their own “blast furnace” – to within themselves to find.  

By 1dandecarlo