February 22, 2018

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

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

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

Mohandas Gandhi first read Thoreau’s book  Walden in 1906 while working as a civil rights activist in Johannesburg, South Africa. He first read Civil Disobedience while he sat in a South African prison for the crime of nonviolently protesting discrimination against the Indian population in the Transvaal. The essay galvanized Gandhi, who wrote and published a synopsis of Thoreau’s argument, calling it ‘incisive logic unanswerable’ and referring to Thoreau as ‘one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced’. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his autobiography that his first encounter with the idea of nonviolent resistance was reading “On Civil Disobedience” in 1944 while attending Morehouse College. Finding change through illustrating our integrity and defining the true meaning of freedom of thought and our actions that follow. As if our task is to continually re-define the true essence of virtue with the sage remaining an enigma even to those who think they know him.

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

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

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

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

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


Confucius Temple in Qufu

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ralph Waldo Emerson

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


Henry David  Thoreau

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

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


Waiting for the bell to toll for us   Confucius Temple Qingdao

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

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


Keeping rhythm   Qingyang Taoist Temple

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

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

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

 Thoughts on becoming a Sage

 Verse 30 – Winning when you have no Choice

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


Forever Young Dujian Waterworks

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

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


Pyramid of Yellow Emperor   Qufu

The knowing sage ages without growing old. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Those who possess the Tao prosper and yet seem poor, become full and yet seem empty. What is not virile does not become old and does not die. The virile die. This is the way things are. Using an army to control the world represent strength. But it only hastens old age and death.” Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “To win means to defeat one’s enemies. To win without being arrogant about one’s power, to win without being boastful about one’s ability, to win without being cruel about one’s achievement, this sort of victory only comes from being forced and not from the exercise of force.”

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

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

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

Verse 31 – Remaining Centered in the Tao

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


Living by the Tao   Dujian Waterworks

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

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

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


Huangshan Mountain / Anhui

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


The charioteer     Xian terra cotta warriors

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

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


The Soldier

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

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

By 1dandecarlo

February 12,2018

Going by way of the white Clouds

One of my most favorite books is by Peter Matthiess, The Snow Leopard. It references another favorite book entitled, The Way of the White Clouds. I never travel far without both in tow.


The Hand of the Buddha   Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

The Show Leopard, quotes Lama Govina as saying, “Just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely flows from the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that… leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight”.  The white cloud representing the wisdom and compassion of the guru and spiritual enfoldment, the way of the pilgrimage that leads one to the realization of final completion.

Continuing with The Snow Leopard, the mystical perception (which is only mystical if our reality is limited to what can be measured by the intellect and senses) is remarkably consistent in all places everywhere. To not merely see, but to do. The physician seeks to understand reality, while the mystic is trained to experience it directly.

Asnow leopard

Picture of snow leopard from Owlcation.com website

That while both may have a limited view, or picture, of existence which transcends physical evidence, there remains the sense that appearances are illusionary, or illusory, i.e., temporary.  It is as if finding the elusive snow leopard itself. You’ve heard of its existence in the high mountains of Tibet. But do you need to actually see it for yourself, to acknowledge it really exists. As if something needs to be seen to be believed. That in reality, everything found in nature including our own human nature, remains in a constant state of flux. That there is in effect, no real edge to anything and therefore remains open to endless interpretation. For the Taoist, it is attaching yourself to nothing, yet influencing all you touch. That this molecular flow of the universe, this cosmic energy we define as universal consciousness is all that has ever been and also includes us. It is how AGenghiswe learn to experience this reality for ourselves that we become enamored with nothing and become mystical as well.

A famous saying from Genghis Khan, the Mongol who raided across Asia pillaging the twenty great cities left by Alexander the Great five hundred years earlier was that “we should live under the laws of the blue sky”, and of course his word was the law. The Mongols had a strong body of laws, the yasaq, based on the decrees of Genghis Khan, and in many cases it remained in place for centuries in their conquered territories. Ten of those cities are noted here in a tab describing the overreaching impact of the Mongols from the Pacific Ocean to the east to the Caspian Sea to the west. An area in size never to be replicated in human history.


Prayer wheels at the Arhat Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

But this idea of “living under the laws of the blue sky” was ingrained in his grandson Kublai Khan as the first great Mongol ruler of China after the breaching of the Great Wall.  It fit the Chinese mindset of the emperor as the embodiment of heaven. His Court embraced Tibetan Buddhism and existing Chinese culture and traditions transforming the war driven Mongol horde into a peaceful nation. He expanded China’s influence and solidified both boundaries and how multiple nationalities could unite under one banner.

A very old Chinese saying goes…  “The world is not so calm. Through the ages all conquerors have become something of the past. All dignitaries are just passers-by. But my name is (fill in your own), and it will last for a thousand generations. We heal the world through our intentions.”


Picture to the left is of entrance to Mencius Temple with student Anne

Who’s to say? Confucius was not seen as important until his own grandson, Zisi, conveyed the meaning of his words in such a way that he too was to become immortal more than a hundred years after Confucius died. It was the work of Zisi and Mencius who conveyed the value of Confucius teaching that lives on today. The Mencius Mansion and Temple (memorial) was not built for over a thousand years after his death in Zoucheng, an hour by bus south of Qufu. Now that’s immortality. What is it that lies beyond the horizon, except the white clouds that we all someday will return to? To have been and to return to live with the dragons (angels) once again. If knowing and adhering to ancient virtues are held on to as if only to live amongst the white clouds once again.

It is said that temperament which is soft and agreeable evoke similar memories, while trying to be a hero and making great achievement are just the same as a transient passing cloud.


Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

We are often seen rushing forward regardless of what may lie ahead. Only asking not to perish before fulfilling the purpose for which it was created and to be able to deliver the message which is embodied in us as our own sacred purpose is fulfilled. As if only waiting to see if anything of merit has been left behind.

I’ve often wondered why my own passion, reminiscing the past, and fascination with ancient China seems to end with the return to Italy in 1293 by Marco Polo and his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo, after travelling through Asia and meeting Kublai Khan. In 1269, the three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa.


Marco Polo (Wikipedia)

Upon his return, Marco was imprisoned and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married, and had three children. He died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice. Many times over the past more than twenty years of traveling throughout China, I too have been to places also visited by Marco Polo. None impacted me more so than Chengdu, near Tibet in southwest China, where Marco Polo visited and saw the same sites I have seen more than 800 years later with an eerie feeling that I have seen and done this all before.

I myself am a first generation Italian American, with my father and grandparents coming from Italy in 1906. Who’s to say we all are not riding the winds, traveling with the clouds always to new horizons… beyond what is known and the all too familiar. Here to tell a new story. To perhaps write as well of my impressions of where I too have been as he did and of remembrances along the way. As if simply just to see how things have changed. As if I have already been there and have now returned. Finally, perhaps only to see how ancient virtue has been either lost or gained.

  • Pictured here are Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, the Buddha, Confucius, and Averroes (Wikipedia)

Western philosophersWhat is it that distinguishes us but the consciousness of the past, a consciousness that lies beyond who we identify with as an individual at this moment? From the west and ancient Greece, we think of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, to Descartes, and more modern-day, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. From the East we think of Lao Tzu, Confucius and the Buddha. All would say it is creativity that makes the difference. For myself, with thoughts leaning more to Eastern philosophy, it is as if the past speaks to us conveying that through knowing our past that we create our future. As if staying behind to impart immortality’s wisdom is in effect maintaining ancient virtue through the ages.

What is our obligation to the past, but our continuity based on a living tradition and a 100_4293conscious connection with our origin. Not to oppose change, but to recognize change as the nature of all things, including us.

 This is why in China the I Ching. the Book of Change, has provided the cornerstone for Chinese philosophical thought for more the 5,000 years.  The shaman knowing to match the need to re-discover the true meaning of past teachings and symbols of the past with the present. As if through the experiences of the sage, knowing that things appearing as if a whim are often later to be conveyed as truth.

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


Carving from Han Dynasty from Linyi

I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 28 and 29 appear below. Verses 1 through 27 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months. A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on this website.


Dan on the step to top of Qingyang Mountain

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 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.


Depicting Virtue     Linyi  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.


The Heart of a Child    Shaanxi Museum   Xian

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. ##

Ared coat

Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xian

Te-Ch’ing says, “To recognize the Way is hard. Once you recognize it, to hold onto it is even harder. But only by holding onto it can you advance on the Way.”

Mencius says, “The great man does not lose his child-heart. (4B.12). Confucius says, “A great man is not a tool” (Lunyu: 2.12). Ch’eng Hsuan -Ying says, “What has no limits is the Tao”.

Wang Tao, says “The sage recognizes ‘that’ but holds onto ‘this’. ‘Male’ and ‘female’ refer to hard and ‘soft’. ’Pure’ and ‘defiled’ refer to noble and humble. ‘White’ and ‘black’ refer to light and dark.

The Phoenix   Dujian Waterworks in Chengdu

 Although hard, noble, and light certainly have their uses, hard does not come from hard but from soft. Noble does not come from noble but from humble. And light does not come from light but from dark. Hard, noble, and light are the secondary forms and farther from the Tao. Hence, the sage returns to the original: uncarved wood. Uncarved wood can be made into tools, but tools cannot be made into uncarved wood. The sage is like uncarved wood, not a tool. He is the chief official, not the functionary.

Verse 29 – Showing the way while remaining behind

 It is in stillness that the sage comes forth to govern the world. He has learned that it cannot be controlled consciously and that we must learn to trust what comes naturally.


To be in the clouds with Dragons    Wuhan Museum

That human strength and/or knowledge cannot lead us and that it is our spirit must govern us.

That nothing can be governed by force, that it is in stillness that spiritual things respond and that which is considered spiritual does not act on its own, but is guided by the Tao. When force comes into play, what is real leaves the field.

Remain transitory with your surroundings only as temporary lodging. Having no stake in the outcome you are able to determine what is not yours, lose your way, or forget why you are here.


The Power of Ritual    Wuhan Museum

Staying at the highest point of mediation letting all things come forth to find their place, the sage is at his best when he does not oppose things. Simply by letting the spirit of oneness penetrate the nature of others, he responds to them without force and follows them without effort.

He eliminates what confuses them, hens their minds become clear and each person finds their place in the scheme of things to come. By remaining calm and still letting the spirit guide your way you focus on simplicity, remaining content and eliminate extremes. It is with kindness and humility you succeed and it is with all three every situation bows to your command. ##

Te Ch’ing says, “Those who would govern the world should trust what is natural. The world cannot be controlled continuously. It is too big a thing. The world can only be governed by the spirit, not by human strength or knowledge”.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Spiritual things respond to stillness. They cannot be controlled by force”.

Li His-Chai says, “The sage considers his body transitory and the world his temporary lodging. How can he rule what is not his and lose the true and lasting way”?

Su Ch’e says, “The interchange of yin and yang, high and low, of great and small is the way  things are and cannot be avoided. Fools are selfish. They insist on having their own way and meet with disaster. The sage knows he cannot oppose things. He agrees with whatever he meets. He eliminates extremes and thereby keeps the world from harm”.


Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xian

Wu Ch’eng says. “How does someone who gains control of the world keep the world from harm? The sage understands that things necessarily move between opposites but there is a way to adjust this movement. Things that prosper too much must wither and die. By keeping things from prospering too much, he keeps them from withering and dying.”

Wand Pi says, “The sage penetrates the nature and condition of others. Hence, he responds to them without force and follows them without effort. He eliminates whatever misleads or confuses them. Hence their minds become clear, and each realizes his own nature.”

Wang An-Shih says, “Resting where you are eliminating extreme. Treasuring simplicity eliminates extravagance. Being content with less eliminates excess.

Lu Nung-Shih says, “The sage gets rid of extremes with kindness. He gets rid of extravagance with simplicity. He gets rid of excess with humility. By means of these three, the sage governs the world”.

By 1dandecarlo

February 1, 2018

The Dalai Lama, the Tao, war, and thoughts of loving kindness

I’ve heard the Dalai Lama say that having compassion for oneself is the basis for developing compassion for others. In a basic Buddhist teaching Chogyam Trungpa also taught this when he spoke about how to genuinely help others—how to work for the benefit of others without the interference of our own agendas.


Buddha and attendants – Shaanxi Museum Xian

An important step is maitri, a Sanskrit word meaning lovingkindness toward all beings. It can also mean unlimited friendliness towards ourselves, with the clear implication that this leads naturally to unlimited friendliness toward others.

Maitri also has the meaning of trusting oneself—  trusting that we have what it takes to know ourselves thoroughly and completely without feeling hopeless, without turning against ourselves because of what we see. But to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises that serves to release anger and fear.


Leshan Buddha south of Chengdu

It is my sense that we should choose what is the very most expression of our innermost nature, the Tao, not something forced upon us by circumstances.

That the only meaningful life is the life that strives for the individual realization, a realization of our own individual law. That if we remain untrue to this law of our being, we have failed to realize our own life’s meaning. What is there to this becoming sage-like, when presuming such is for naught? One cannot presume to be a sage, as though acknowledgement cannot occur until after you have returned home, and only then judged by your peers? As you remember maitri, and not be too hard on yourself. Knowing this the scholar and sage has always focused on the choosing of wise rulers and then helping them.

Even Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst said that there was the undiscovered vein within us as a living part of the psyche known as the Tao that flows like water to an irresistible goal.


Two old Goats Qingyang Taoist Temple   Chengdu

To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things. To a place where Zen Buddhists call our own “true nature”. To what I call… “To once there… to just be”. It’s where we go in meditation. Understanding that this irresistible source is nothing more than our desire to return to our beginnings, to return home.


Small pagoda         Chengdu Wuhan Temple

  Poets of the beat generation like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1950’s and 60’s helped to take a generation of Americans to a place that questioned authority, especially taken in context of the very unpopular Vietnam War at the time. Eastern philosophy of “lovingkindness”, even helped to spur the counter-culture with the help of the popular radio program “Way Beyond the West”. Through it Alan Watts brought listeners a practical side of Zen, which he DSCI0024prescribed as “a cure for education and culture.” Introducing Buddhism, yin/yang theory and the I Ching to millions of young people in the USA. He, more than anyone encouraged this idea of finding and returning to our source. While the closest thing resembling the “beatnik” persona of the 1960’s would be the Taoist hermit sage found on mountaintops of old, and truth be told, even today in China. The sage’s ultimate reprieve to his liking, as he remains hidden from view. Then the Beatles went to India… George Harrison soon came out with “My Sweet Lord” and took us all to the mountaintop, to a sacred place with him. When I reach my own highest aspiration, I imagine that’s where you’ll find me too.

In China, I would equate the above to the Warring States Period dating from about 450 BC to the Early Han in 221 BC. A similar time when armies of hundreds of thousands fought for power and influence. This was a time of great intellectual expansion and debate, exemplified by Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius, and Xun Zi, the legalist all vying for attention and followers. This renaissance of philosophical thought would be the framework for future generations of China.

AAAChuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu

While Chuang Tzu taught that we have nothing to fear in death, because we are simply returning to review where we have been and places we still need to go, so that we can build on progress still unattained, as yet. The Taoist Chuang Tzu, as much as anyone, contributing to the beginnings of Chan Buddhism in China.

What if you had more than five thousand years of uninterrupted history, as in China, to act and think about it. That if life is but an unending stream, is it something philosophical that is endowed over time as innate wisdom? That life is but a strand of pearls to add on to.


Buddhist Mother with children Shaanxi Museum   Xian

Value only added by what we polish when given a chance through our virtue. Like shining our shoes before stepping out with our best foot forward. That knowledge was something not to fear or reject, but simply learning how best to proceed in the present. As if guided by cause and effect to where we find ourselves just now.

What I like to call reverberations or pulses connecting us to the universe, living vibrations from the sun, moon, planets, and stars. What can innate wisdom be, but that imparted as universal love that never dies? Resonances like tones in music, or electromagnetic waves that we are eternally connected to when we ourselves are born and are pulled to follow every day as with by the seasons, etc.


The token   Sichuan Museum

Something the earliest shaman came to appreciate and understand, and that every religion has dictated through history as their own. Connections not to disparage any particular view, but to acknowledge they all are responding to the same source. Our personal challenge is simply not to be tone deaf, connecting us to ours, and how we choose to respond.

Failing to see the root cause lies deep within ourselves as to how we got to where we are in the first place.  This is what the ancient sage and shaman from every culture understood – that when we follow innately virtue found intrinsically in nature, we gain both knowledge and wisdom.


Bringing others along for the Ride   Shaanxi Museum

That we are one with the ten thousand things. Remembering this we become universal again. Once learned, or perhaps recalled, do we use this knowledge to bring others along with us for the ride as well? Doing so has always been the greatest paradox of the sage. But also, the greatest admiration among his peers for choosing to do so.

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


Tribute to Lao Tzu Qingyang Mountain

I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 26 and 27, appear below. Verses 1 through 25 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance can be found under the Taoism and Lao Tzu tab here on my website. Verses yet to appear here in my blog have not had additional commentary added yet.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

 Chapter 2

 Verse 26 – Preparing for Your Grand Performance

 Remaining heavy and still always controlling yourself and learning to keep your place.


The Yellow Dragon – London Museum

In stillness you control those who are busy and are undeterred by what is small that cannot hold down something large.  In keeping with the path you now travel, keep your words weighty and what you have learned close to your vest.

Travel as if you are the son of heaven with ten thousand chariots at your command.

Remembering all the while that what remains external from your body; success and failure, wealth and honor will be forever fleeting. That it is in stillness that tranquility endures allowing you to remain simply within yourself and your true nature.

Remaining still, the universe comes forth at your command. ##

Han Fei says, “Heavy means controlling oneself. ‘Still’ means not leaving one’s place. Those who are heavy control those who are light. Those who are still direct those who are busy”.


Forever Fleeting    Wuhan Temple

Confucius says, “A gentleman who has no weight is not held in awe, and his learning is not secure” (Lunyu: 1.8).

Ch’eng Hsuan -Ting says, “Roots are heavy, while flowers and leaves are light. The light wither, while the heavy survive. ‘Still’ means tranquil, and ‘busy’ means excited.


Enduring Tranquility

Excitement is subject to birth and death. Tranquility endures. Hence the still rule the busy.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “’Heavy’ refers to the body, ‘light’ refers to what is external to the body: success and fame, wealth and honor.  ‘Still’ refers to our nature, ‘busy’ refers to our emotions. People forget their body and chase external things. They forget their nature and follow their emotions. The sage isn’t like this. Even though he travels all day, he doesn’t leave what sustains him.”

Verse 27 – Paradox Revealed

 As things take shape, you seemingly remain shapeless.  Out of the way, in a corner out of view.  This appears to be the greatest paradox living comes forth to greet me each day.


The Paradox   Qingyang Mountain

For in emulating the life of the true sage, good appears to flow directly from my every movement. The more I try to push it away, the easier it is to find me.  When I promote my vision, or image, of how things should unfold I become further enmeshed in life’s action.

Is this perhaps the underlying reason for your presence here at this moment in time?  To come out of the well-worn shell you have insulated yourself into to become the image, or mirror to be held up for all to follow.  Becoming a sage precludes the fact that few can follow in the same footsteps. That once you have acceded to the obvious you can truly lead the way. And is that not why you are here?

As you have seen and done it all before, can it matter if attention and attributes you bring forward bring accolades from those around you?  Is not the attention you have garnered a prod to assist you to re-define your purpose to insure it is the Tao leading the way?  With you simply putting the pieces into place.


The True Path of the Sage    Confucius Temple – Qingdao

If good walking leaves no tracks, then perhaps the way should be shown that lessens ego and individual and strengthens community.

If good talking reveals no flaws then perhaps you should let only positive re-enforcement guide your way.  If good counting counts no beads, then show how material advantage does not portend the future.

Abrown dragon

The Dragon – Yenti Family Museum

If you have closed the door properly behind you it cannot be re-opened as if there were no need for locks and if what has been put in place is secured by your light then there can be no knots to be undone and everything finds its rightful end by relying on their nature not their form.

In staying focused the true path of the sage becomes revealed and his motives defined.  He becomes good at saving the day while leaving no one behind.  By showing no favorites, everyone is allowed to find their natural place.

By remaining in the background as others come forth to claim their good they ultimately become as a cloak or outer garment to cover an inner garment thus you continue to remain unseen.  As the path becomes clear, the way remains hidden. Your light remains shining, but stays as if above the clouds.

It is in this way you are comfortable in knowing that you are as stated before like water, that you can come forth free from impurity and seemingly without effort.  By showing your true likeness, or virtue, others become ready to find their own.  Blinded by the light of your reflection in others, you are prepared to gaze off into the distance to places seldom seen or traveled. Forgetting the world, your success only determined if those who have met you have forgotten your name.##

Lu Tung – Pin says, “’Good’ refers to our original nature before our parents were born. Before anything develops within us, we possess this goodness. Good means natural.”


The Buddha – Sichuan Museum

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Someone who is good at walking finds the Way in himself, not somewhere outside. When he talks he chooses his words. When he counts, he doesn’t go beyond one. When he closes, he closes himself to desire and protects his spirit. When he ties, he ties his mind.”

Wang Pi say, “These five (good walking, good talking, good counting, good closing, and good tying) tell us not to act, but to govern things by relying on their nature rather than their form.

Hsuan-Tsung says, “The good are like water. Free of impurity and without effort on their part, they show people their true likeness. Thus they instruct the bad. But unless the student can forget his teacher, his vision will be obscured.

Kongdan says to follow the ancient teachings,  “One who wants nothing, fears nothing.”

By 1dandecarlo

January 22, 2018

Finding our eternal balance and rhythm

What was it that Mahatmas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we just celebrated, taught us to honor and accept, but our own sacred mission and immortality?


The Winding Path Qingyang Mountain

That showing the way was a personal endeavor that ties each of us to our eventual destiny once we accept the mantle of who and why we are here. Teaching…. what if every person began their life knowing that they too were immortal? That we in reality come in with certain traits – strengths and weaknesses – this time to correct, or build on. That we are not here to be ordinary.  That we can make our lives beautiful if we choose to do so. To live from the point of our highest expression or consciousness, through our own divine energy just as they did.

What I like to call reverberations or pulses connecting us to the universe, in effect or reality as living vibrations of the sun, moon, and stars. What can innate wisdom be, but that imparted as universal love that never dies, or as John Lennon said… that in practice all you need is love.

Nanjing 8

Madame Sun Yet Sin (Soong Ching-Ling) meeting Gandhi

Resonances like tones in music, or electromagnetic waves that we eternally connect to when we are born and are pulled to follow every day as with by the seasons. That sadly we often come and go without acknowledging, finding, or attempting to even catch our own eternal rhythm. Or perhaps it is the opposite that is true… our eternal rhythm and history that is chasing after us. (Picture to the left of Madame Sun Yet Sin (Soong Ching-Ling) meeting Gandhi in Nanjing in 1942). An example being the Soong sisters leaving an indelible mark on the 20th century when our memories serve us correctly.

That what’s here to guide us over time is our own need for balance and following our personal intrinsic tendencies.


Dan with terra cotta warriors in Xian

The key for me, being philosophical Taoism, that re-confirms our responsibility to and connection with all found in nature. That deep within, we too possess this idea that immortality is unending life. That our own divinity can direct us to this place. Certainly, there are those in ancient China who sought to achieve it.

Elixirs and potions concocted by them led many to early death, and even by coincidence the invention of gun power. Most misguided, and best known was the excess of First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, who had the terra cotta warriors built to serve and protect him in eternity.


terra cotta warriors in Xian

His tomb in Xian of over two thousand years cannot be approached even today because of severe amounts of mercury encasing it. Today we often put a person’s name on material things thinking this may illustrate and feed their importance, their immortality. Their true legacy however, if self-centered, fading like Qin’s over the test of time. A note of interest… almost all the terra cotta warriors, horses, chariots, etc., were found broken into thousands of pieces. It is theorized that a wooden roof was put over the top of everything. It was later set, or caught on fire. It fell onto the terra cotta below and broke it, or so the story goes…


The Star Map  British Museum in  London

Instead could it be something we already possess within ourselves worth saving instead of simply pinning attributes onto someone else. To the left is the Dunhuang Map of what is known as the North Polar region from the Tang Dynasty. This map is thought to date from the reign of Emperor Zhongzong (705–710 AD) from Dunhuang, Gansu Province. Constellations of the three schools were distinguished with different colors: white, black and yellow for stars of Wu Xian, Gan De and Shi Shen respectively. The whole set of star maps contained 1,300 stars. It was brought to the British Museum in London in 1907 and is the oldest sky chart ever recorded.


Leading the Way   Qingyang Taoist Temple

The north star and Big Dipper, depicted here, are central in the sky and following them has been universal in man’s quest to find meaning to it all… and his own origins. It was the balance seen in the sky’s panorama that has entertained us for millennia as stars coming around in the sky would always return to their place of origin once every year. The beginnings of the idea “what goes around – comes around”. That we could point to the stars and see home. Adjusting our own way of travel, just as a horse find’s his gait, and return again once more.

The point being we could always look to the stars to show us the way beyond the horizon that lead us to our highest aspirations of ourselves. To learn to see farther than who we think we are. Why mountain vistas have been seen as closer to Heaven.


Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

As we rise and see ourselves above the clouds. As if in doing so we too could see and gain a sense of immortality. If what we look up in the sky and see every night is eternal and is always there, along with the sun and moon, then why aren’t we? But we are soon lost in attachments here of our own making, as we are often happy to stay within the confines of where we are just now. What if, as Carl Sagan said, we are all star stuff. Matter coming and going with a soul. Taking on different characteristics each time to fix the things that need correcting. Or maybe some are more advanced and come back by choice to move humanity in the proper way, or direction.

What if some souls, i.e. people coming into this life, were filled with misconceptions, or misdirected anger, not caused due to someone else’s shortcomings, but for their own inability to live up to intentions and expectations they have created for themselves.


Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Perhaps with issues, or things that need to be reconciled. Lacking the desire or sense of ability to see through universal falsehoods, hardships and negative attachments that keep them from their higher selves. Seemingly unable to open the door when it appears. Prisons are filled the world over with those unwilling to release what… either anger or fear, or both. Usually directed at someone or something outside themselves. The worst prisons, of course, already existing inside oneself.

This idea of letting go, i.e., finding and staying within our own eternal rhythm, and truth be told often overlooked innate wisdom, is trusting that we have what it takes to know ourselves thoroughly and completely enough to do nothing.


Prayer Wheels      Arhat Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Something called living with wu wei that Chinese for thousands of years have known we can discuss another time. As if we are once again given an opportunity to return to our original self. To a nothingness where over-inflated egos go to die. Where what defines us as what is known, what can truly never be known, and to live in the balance we find in-between.  It is this that is central to the theme I am following here with Lao Tzu.

AA Confucius

Confucius Painting Academy

It becomes the central core of what was to become the teachings of the shaman and of Taoism, and for many the practical application Confucius built on.

The Tao Te Ching becoming like a road map to better behavior. Wang Pi’s version became an integral part of the Imperial Examinations during and after the Han Dynasty. That Taoism and Buddhism, along with the virtue and benevolence taught by Confucianism became central elements of Chinese popular culture going now for thousands of years was no accident and continues to this day.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China.


A Tribute to Lao Tzu  Qingyang Mtn

There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 24 and 25 appear below and complete the first chapter. Verses 1 through 23 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months. A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on this website.

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

 Thoughts on becoming a Sage

 Verse 24 – Staying within my own Gait

Learning to shun those things not in keeping with the proper way.  Oh, the challenges and paradox life come forth to greet me each day.  As if life’s indulgences and excesses are extremely happy to continually get in my way and obscure my true path and identity.


Door ornament on Zhang Mansion Lane beside the Qinhuai River in Nanjing

Staying within the confines of who I am yet to become.  Not standing on tiptoes to see over others or walking faster than my own natural gait.  To act as if life’s reflections are translucent and bringing attention to your actions is alien from what motivates you.

Just as I have learned that it is said that he who watches himself does not appear, he who displays himself does not flourish, he who flatters himself achieves nothing and he who parades himself does not lead.

As you recall that the mind of the sage remains free of desire and selfless, you are reminded that those who cultivate the Tao yet think about themselves are like people who over eat or over work.

Food is to satisfy hunger, work should suit the task. Ultimately the way of heaven does not depend on offerings or prayers.


Entry guarding Zhang Mansion Lane beside the Qinhuai River

It is simply who follows the Tao will live long.  Remember it is as Lao Tzu says and that those who lose their way do not. ##

Te Ch’ing says, “People raise themselves up on their tiptoes to see over the heads of others, but they cannot stand like this very long. People take longer strides to stay in front of others, but they cannot walk lie this very far. Neither of these are natural.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Selfless and free of desire is the mind of the sage. Conniving and clever is the mind of the common man. Watching himself, displaying himself, parading himself, he thus hastens his end, like he who eats too much.”

Li His-Chai says, “Those who cultivate the Tao yet still think about themselves are like people who overeat or overwork. Food should satisfy the hunger. Work should suit the task. Those who keep to the Way only do what is natural.

Chang Tao-ling says, “Who follows the Way lives long. Who loses the Way dies early. This is the unbiased law of Heaven. It doesn’t depend on offerings and prayers.”

Verse 25 – Coming Home with the Tao  

Returning to where you began you find nothing, yet remain complete and indivisible. You are simply one with the Tao.


Celebrating with Dragons Confucius Temple   Nanjing

No true beginning or end, pure and impure seem unimportant, past and future become one, good and bad the same.  One with the Tao, you are unsure you exist yet are comforted by the knowledge you will live forever.

As the sage you have learned to stand-alone unwavering, travel everywhere without leaving home as you have seen and done it all before. You have become as if you were everyone and everything’s mother. As you return to the root of where it all began, you have come home to the Tao. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “Nebulous means complete and indivisible.” Su Ch’e says, “The Tao is not pure or muddy, high or low, past or future, good or bad.


Coming Home with the Tao   Wuhan Temple

Its body is a nebulous whole. In man it becomes his nature. It doesn’t know it exists, and yet it endures forever. Heaven and Earth are created within it.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The Tao does not have a name of its own. We force names on it. But we cannot find anything real in them. We would do better returning to the root from which we all began.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Tao is great because there is nothing it does not encompass. Heaven is great because there is nothing it does not cover. Earth is great because there is nothing it does not support. The king is great because there is nothing he does not control. Man should imitate Earth and be peaceful and pliant, plant it and harvest its grains, dig it and find its springs, work without exhaustion and succeed without fuss. As for Earth imitating Heaven, Heaven is still and immutable. It gives without seeking a reward. It nourishes all creatures and takes nothing for itself. As for Heaven imitating the Tao. The Tao is silent and does not speak. It directs breath and essence unseen, and thus all things come to be. As for the Tao imitating itself, the nature of the Tao is to be itself. It does not imitate anything else.”

By 1dandecarlo

January 15, 2018

Bringing Others along for the Ride

Why do I do this? I just became friends with a very nice lady from Bucharest, Romania who saw my page. She loved the many pictures and what she read here. It is as Lieh Tzu and Bob Dillon say… The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. She said it made her smile and gave her the feeling of seeing beyond her difficulties with a young daughter and two elderly parents who both have been diagnosed with cancer. We talked for a long time and it gave me joy. After liking all my pictures on FB, she said she thought I had found my mission. Well, if that means leaving a little of myself along the Way, then I guess I have. As I wonder and ask…. how do we try to live up to the expectations we have for ourselves. Isn’t this where we sometimes get lost in our own inertia.

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend and look back on his legacy, we give thought to his mission and divine presence, and how far we have come since his own immortal words… and ask ourselves if we too are bringing others along for the ride and living our own version of the dream.


On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., addresses marchers during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington

First in his “I have a Dream” speech, and later in April, 1968 saying “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord“.  Then he was gone and Bobby too shortly after.

2013 Johns pictures 497

Picture I took from the spot MLK spoke taken January 18, 2013

As we recall this, we are reminded of the music we heard back then. It helps us to remember those times of hardship as we continue to travel to find our own mountain to climb. Collectively in the world, as a country, and as individuals, as we too look to the Promised Land, the Way of Virtue, that already exists in each of us we have overlooked thinking it is something outside ourselves. When what needs to be overcome lies within us.

Rather simply a challenge we can’t see through, or lack of courage to open the door to the great I AM that we can then walk through. We often ask ourselves why life has to be so difficult and how we, as the Beatles sang, get by with a little help from our friends. Just as there are no accidents, music at times serves to show us the way. Like the Beatles song that they rode into our lives with all those years ago simply saying., “I want to hold your hand”, then saying “She’s got a Ticket to Ride”. Well we wanted a ticket too. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “A Day in the Life”. Paul’s “Yesterday” with the lyrics, all my troubles seemed so far away, and “Let it Be”, George’s “Here comes the Sun”, and Ringo’s “Yellow Submarine”. Bob Dillon’s genius… “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright”, and personal favorites, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times they are A-Changin”.  What makes the Beatles and Bob Dillon’s music timeless, even immortal, is that they spoke directly to our own hopes, dreams, and fears through their own and quite ably brought us along for the ride too. All great music, art and literature does this.

Why do we study literature and history, other than to see past visages of ourselves as we express our virtue through love and our relationships with others? The essence of what the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. was telling us as we remember him now.


Stele with Confucius Classics at Confucius Temple in Qufu

Even in China, Confucius was famous for updating the five Classics of Chinese history, one was the Book of Odes, which included the music and poetry handed down for generations that proceeded him. It is as if in remembering who we were back when, that art, music and literature helps to remind us that we too are universal and helps to define and monitor who we are yet to become.

image: The Artist's Garden at Vétheuil

Monet’s       The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil    National Gallery of Art

We spend time in the great museums and art galleries of the world to obtain a greater appreciation of what… how they viewed the world in time and to see and imagine what others might have left behind. Monet impressionist paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC are among my favorites where I have visited many times. To see and know where they were going and in turn, connect again with our own past.


Dragon Flask from kiln in Jingdezhen in British Museum

Through a bit of serendipity, I stayed at a bed and breakfast in London for a book fair a few years ago. It was a block from the British Museum. Spending time there with history as a historian, reminded me of the places where I have been and being there changed my itinerary… as if I was reminded of times well-spent . As I too am re-living history through my own life and writing.


Dan at British Museum in London

Our appreciation for the above comes with an acknowledgement that they serve to assist us in becoming whole, seeking transcendence, and that it encompasses us when we seek and find our own highest endeavor. It is why we celebrate the lives of those like MLK and others. What is it that great opera, Mozart and Beethoven, and for me –  Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Lao and Chuang Tzu, Confucius, and what so many others do? They take us to heights and places to where we would not otherwise go or might have forgotten. To only God knows where.  Perhaps to a preview of our own mountaintop and the other side.


Huangshan Mountain   Anhui Province

Maybe they are here to remind our soul how to sing again and know that what we struggle with today, is not meant to be the final stanza of the song we are here to write and play for ourselves and others. To find our stride, our gait, and yes even our own kung fu, once we have found our way as we too prepare to go.  Their role simply to get our attention. Ah… the first job of any great teacher.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 22, the addendum to 22, and Verse 23, appear below. Verses 1 through 21 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance can be found under the Taoism and Lao Tzu tab here on my website. Verses yet to appear here in my blog have not had additional commentary added yet.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 22 – On Becoming Whole

When all has passed through you – everything becoming the same with no opposites pulling at your attention, then you are free to follow the way of virtue.


The Final Tribute Linyi  Wang Xizhi (王羲之, 303–361)

When you can think and act as if innately following the Tao, you can become whole.

Knowing virtue and honesty are one, you make a list of those things not in keeping with the path you have chosen to follow and begin removing them, as they have become stumbling blocks to completing your endeavors as the sage.  Once encountered and accounted for, they disappear and cannot be traced back to their maker.


The Great Calligrapher

Continually redefining the role of the traditional sage. Mirroring the Tao, you become adept at sharing your vision instead of simply trusting the word of others. Instead of relying on the strength of others, you take all to otherwise unattainable heights through reluctantly displaying your own strength.

Your enthusiasm and vision carrying the day. Living in paradox, as in reality you prefer to remain hidden from view. You stand apart, not competing hens no one finding a foothold to compete with you. Remaining steadfast you become whole. ##


Excel by capturing your Voice through virtuous writing / Linyi

 Chuang Tzu says, “Lao Tzu says everyone else seeks happiness. He alone saw that partial becomes whole.” (33-5).

Wu Ch’eng says, “By exploring one side to its limits, we eventually find all sides. By grasping one thing, we eventually encompass the whole. The caterpillar bends in order to straighten itself. A hollow in the ground fills with water. The renewal of spring depends on the withering of fall. By having less, it’s easy to have more. By having more, it’s easy to become confused.

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Only those who find the one can act like this. Thus ‘less means content’. The reason most people cannot act like this is because they have not found the one. Thus ‘more means confused’.

Verse 22 Addendum – Becoming a beacon of light for All to see

Could it be that your ultimate role is to report back to the dragons the role of the sage in the here and now?


The Dragon Wall – Nanjing City Center

To take the thoughts of Lao, Lieh and Chuang and all the others to places they have not been before and to perhaps try them on for size in a different environment.

That it is not you becoming whole, as much as transitioning this ancient way into current thought and action. As your task remains internally to mirror the Tao, perhaps your role in the here and now is to rediscover for the ages how externally one can remain pure and whole in such a material world.  Keeping to eternity’s promise, but making limited appearances just the same.


Entrance to Confucius Temple, Fuzimiao, in southern Nanjing on banks of the Qinhuai River

Challenging the order of the day,  you have become the ultimate agent of change and virtue.

Coming forth to claim your place in the universe, you accept the mantle placed upon you with an ever present humble demeanor. As you prepare to move on to accept your greater destiny. ##

Li His-Chai says, “The reason the sage is able to be chief of all creatures is because he is able to hold onto the one. Holding onto the one, he never leaves the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t watch himself but relies instead on the vision of others. He doesn’t talk about his own strengths but relies instead on the strength of others. He stands apart and doesn’t compete. Hence no one can compete with him”.

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Not watching himself he becomes whole. Not displaying himself, he becomes straight. Not flattering himself, he becomes full. Not parading himself he becomes new”.

Tzu-Ssu says, “Only those who are perfectly honest can fulfill their nature and help others fulfill their nature. Next are those who are partial”. (Chung yung: 22—23)

Verse 23 – Defining True Objectivity

Finding yourself in the scheme of things so that there is nothing coming from you except the natural extension of the Tao.


The Ultimate Dragon Stele  Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing


Remaining quiet and speaking in whispered tones so that someone must strain to comprehend what is being said thereby confirming they are paying attention and listening.  Letting the natural order of events simply occur with events just waiting in the wings to change what has become comfortable.

Remaining natural, or neutral in effect, your endeavors simply an extension of the Tao. The Way means knowing both success and failure and using them to become one. Becoming one by leaving yourself behind to rediscover your true nature ultimately simply a seamless extension of the natural order or scheme of things, as you remain one with the universe with your objectivity leading the way.


The Ultimate Dragon Shaaanxi Museum

If you have looked beyond what success and failure may bring, you can begin to know the proper way! ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “Whispered means not heard. ‘Whispered words’ means no words. Those who reach the Tao forget about words and follow whatever is natural.”

Su Ch’e says, “The sage’s words are faint and his deeds are plain. But they are always natural. Hence he can last and not be exhausted.” Ch’eng Hsuan-Ying says, “If the greatest forces wrought by Heaven and Earth cannot last, how can the works of man.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “This verse explains how the sage forgets about words, embodies the Tao, and changes with the seasons.  Elsewhere, Lao Tzu says. ‘talking only wastes it / better to keep it inside’ (5). Those who love to argue get farther from the Way. They aren’t natural. Only those whose words are whispered are natural. Lao Tzu uses wind and rain storms as metaphors for the outbursts of those who love to argue.  They can’t maintain such a disturbance and dissipation of breath very long. Because they don’t really believe in the Tao. They haven’t learned the secret of how to be one.”


As one with nature and the Way      Sichuan Museum

Chiao Hung says, “Those who pursue the Way are natural. Natural means free from success and hence free from failure. Such people don’t succeed and don’t fail but simply go along with the successes and failures of the age. Or if they do succeed or fail, their minds are not affected.”

Kongdan says. “To proceed as if unaffected by what happens around us. For myself this is the ultimate challenge, the paradox living brings to our doorstep every day. How could one write and internalize the above and proceed as if you were not confident of the Way.”


By 1dandecarlo

January 4, 2018

We see ourselves through our intentions and judge others by their actions.

Why do we do this? Is it human nature or a learned response? Through what eyes do we see the actions of others. We presume to think their intentions are the same, or should be as ours. If we try to guide our actions through and by our inner virtue… then why doesn’t everyone else do the same. And can this thing called virtue be universally applied, as if one size fits all. When we can see disarray all around us. As many see the answer to what they perceive as life’s challenges as something outside themselves. When I look back on my own life and ask “if I only knew then what the consequences of my actions might have caused, I might or would have done things differently”. Don’t we all.


The I Ching  Yangcheng Mountain   Qingdao

Through thousands of years of observing people’s actions and how they create the world around them, the Chinese and in particular what was the guiding factor for the shaman and what was to become Taoism… is the concept of cause and effect. The I Ching saying that what goes in in the beginning tells us what must come out. While events along the way show us the ultimate meaning of one’s fortunes that are yet to come. Knowing this Confucius taught if we are led by our inner virtue and benevolence, then chances are we’re going to be okay.

Why do some people seem to stumble through life and others appear to go as if scott free not experiencing the consequences of their actions? Or even benefiting or failing through no fault of their own. If the riches of a lifetime are but a flash of lightning in eternity, then why do we spend all our time chasing them? Perhaps it is all tied to our soul’s growth and understanding the purpose of why we are here.


To be eternally Enlightened             Shaanxi Museum   Xian

Maybe we each keep coming back to lose the attachments and frailties we cling to that over time we accumulate (kind of like karma), that keep us from becoming who we really are. It’s the letting go that is difficult. Or perhaps we come back knowing the above, for the purpose of helping others overcome their strengths and weaknesses as well. We often hear the phrase to “let go and let God”, but is that not just us being guided by our own innate highest virtue that we ourselves project on others. Or as the Dali Lama tells us… we are to simply be guided by our prayers, not only for our own well-being, but for that of others as well. The ultimate test of becoming universal. Keeping to this as our mantra that defines us, our intentions and “who are we to judge others” becomes apparent. We are then guided by the virtue we already possess, as our own intentions, vis-a-vis our actions become clear.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? 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. His Tao Te Ching written in 600 BC is considered to be the second most read and studied text in the world, after the Bible.

For well over a thousand years, understanding the Tao Te Ching was a prerequisite for passing the Imperial Examination in China. Almost all city governments in China today have a Department of Religious Affairs that monitor the activities of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhists, Moslem, and Christian religious activities in their community. Lao Tzu (Taoism), along with Confucius and Buddhism, have for centuries served as the moderators between religion and popular culture in China.  The Vice Director of the Religious Affairs office in Qufu was a joint venture partner with me with a shopping center where I had an office in Qufu for many years. It was connections through him that allowed my foundation to publish the Daily Word in Shandong Province.

vinegar tasters

Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha vinegar tasting…

This respect for other philosophies and religions is best depicted by a painting in 1000 BC of Lao Tzu, Confucius, and the Buddha tasting from a vat of vinegar that represented all three religions in China. Today what is called the “Family Church”, serves the Christian faith in almost every community as well. Every which way is respected… with the Tao Te Ching remaining and being the core to understanding China. It was (is) no accident that city buses have logos on their side that say “Qufu – The religious center of China for a thousand years”. Truth be told it would say three times that number.

There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 19, 20 and 21 of my book follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 19 – Truly Reflecting the Tao

As I look around to see reflections of the Tao, I am drawn to rediscover what is simple and pure and discard what is considered alien to my original nature.

Reflecting the Tao      Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

That if wisdom and reason are only used for self-interest then they should be abandoned. Instead collective wisdom and reason should be used to take all to previously unknown heights.

That if kindness and justice are only shells to pursue selfish motives, then putting an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice will enable people to unite on their own.

That if our behavior with others is governed by cleverness and profits our innermost nature would be fulfilled more assuredly if we remain focused on that which remains undyed and uncarved as if driftwood washed up from the sea. Understanding the Tao leads us to understand what is real and unreal, what is artificial and inappropriate and remaining wholly within ourselves. ##


    Looking Skyward                  Dujian Waterworks

Wang Chen says,”Put an end to wisdom that leaves tracks and reason that deceives, and people will benefit greatly. Put an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice, and relatives will unite on their own and will once more love and obey. Put an end to excessive cleverness and personal profit, and armies will not longer appear. And when armies no longer appear, thieves will not exist.

Wang Pi says, “Wisdom and reason are the pinnacles of reason. Kindness and justice are the pinnacles of behavior. Cleverness and profit are the pinnacles of practice.


Focusing on the undyed and uncarved        Wuhou Temple

To tell us simply to get rid of them would be inappropriate. Without giving us something else, it wouldn’t make sense. Hense we are given the undyed and the uncarved to focus our attention on.

Chiao Hung says, “The ways of the world become daily more artificial. Hence we have names like wisdom and reason, kindness and justice, cleverness and profit. Those who understand the Tao see how artificial they are and how inappropriate they are to rule the world. They aren’t as good as getting people to focus their attention on the undyed and uncarved. By wearing the undyed and holding the uncarved, our self-interest and desires wane. The undyed and uncarved refer to our original nature.”

Verse 20 – On Becoming a Sage

When yes and no becomes the same answer, perhaps you are ready to discontinue this seemingly natural inclination to retreat into a shell like a turtle…


With virtue intact and destiny assured   Wuhou Temple   Chengdu

With virtue intact and your destiny assured perhaps it’s time to live out your true destiny as the sage you have become. Living up to the virtue you know. If inequities are but reflections of your desires – cleanse away those things no longer relevant and spring forth with dynamic hope and optimism. Assured that your next step is pre-ordained by dragons who have been waiting patiently for you to join them.

Fulfill your destiny and live the life of virtue that is so obvious to all you encounter. What others love the sage loves, what others fear the sage fears, but while others may not see anything beyond or outside their own minds – the mind of the sage wanders the Tao.


The Dragon Motif   Qingyang Temple

If you want to inspire others you must remain above what living brings each day. While they choose things, you alone must remain unmoved.  Acknowledging all as the same, that there is nothing to be lost or gained. Coming forth you simply live within the Tao and accept becoming the sage.  ##

Li Hsi – Chai says, “What others love, the sage also loves. What others fear, the sage also fears. But where the sage differs is where others don’t see anything outside their own minds. The mind of the sage, meanwhile, wanders the Tao.


Wandering the Tao  Sichuan Museum

Wang P’ang says, “Everything changes into its opposite. Beginning follows end without cease.But people think everything is either lovely or ugly. How absurd. Only the sage knows that the ten thousand ages are the same, nothing is gained or lost.

Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, ” People all seek external things, while the sage alone nourishes himself on internal breath. Breath is the mother, and spirit is the child. The harmony of mother and child is the key to nourishing life.

Verse 21 – Forever Replenishing our Virtue

What is this thing called virtue and value placed on emptiness and how can they be so inter-related?

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Remaining Hidden from View  Confucius Temple in Qufu

That virtue cannot be found unless we are willing to remain empty, that the Tao remains hidden from view except as virtue found through emptiness. Following the Tao, we are continually subject to change and are redefined as our virtue waxes and wanes.

As if guided by the phases of the moon I find structure through tending my garden just as Shen-ming, the divine husbandman, who discovered agriculture along with the healing properties of plants and a calendar to be followed by the sages of long ago. Could it be that virtue is the manifestation of the Tao, or Way, that should guide us? That the Way is what virtue contains and without it could have no meaning or power. That without virtue, the Way would have no appearance or ability to come forward.

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Replenishing our Virtue    Confucius Temple in Qufu

Taking no form, the Tao takes expression only when it changes into virtue.  It is when the sage truly mirrors the Tao that virtue can be given an opportunity to manifest and grow and the natural course, or scheme of things, becomes apparent for all to see.

The Tao by itself neither existing or not existing. As if coming and going as the essence of one’s heart and soul – simply by maintaining its presence as… virtue. Everything in the universe held accountable to the Tao. Continually changing – with our identity the first to go.  What was once true becomes false and what was once false slips into becoming true.  It is only our essence expressed as virtue that is kept and continually replenished by the Tao. ##

Wang Pi says, “Only when we take emptiness as our virtue can our actions accord with the Tao. Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Sages have it. So does everyone else. But because others are selfish and constrained, their virtue is empty.”

Yen Ling-Feng says, “Virtue is the manifestation of the Way. The Way is what virtue contains. Without the Way, virtue would have no power. Without Virtue, the Way would have no appearance.

Chang Tao-Ling says, “Essence is like water: the body is an embankment, and virtue is its source. If the heart is not virtuous, or here is no embankment, water disappears.The immortals of the past treasured their essence and lived, while people today lose their essense and die.



Longevity and Virtue Completed – Confucius Mansion in Qufu


By 1dandecarlo