September 21 – 23, 2018 / Qufu


As a preface for continuing my journey, I am first directed back to the Beijing Museum and my thoughts going forward. There was an immense presence from the Buddhist statues and spirit of Chinese antiquity. I asked about my pilgrimage to connect Buddhist/ Confucius/Taoist thought with the world and asked “who am I supposed to be” the answer was to simply be who I am supposed to be. Simplify to nothing and continue on your way. It is through sincerity and compassion that your innate traits of goodness appear – Keep to the Tao. Don’t let lack of attention by others to your writing slow you down. You write only for your own enlightenment and to share this with others. Keep to your path and always remember, it is not where you are that is important. It is who you are and how your essence reflects on those around you. Go to Tibet. Continue to be inspired letting the dragons take you to new heights and know that they are pleased. Sincerity, discipline, and patience; your “work” is only these three and keep to the path as you were told in the beginning. Have faith and let your grace and goodness be your guide – love and you will be loved. From here, continue on your retreat and be filled with who you are yet to become letting go of all other things. Keep to the open road as you are living in dolpo – in the middle – when it is time to go one way or another you will know and the path will be made clear. Don’t despair or get caught up in your daydreams. Just share your goodness through your writing. This way the message to others and yourself will be evident. Follow the path you have laid out all these year ago. There can be no rush. There is nothing to rush to – just acknowledge who you are and go there.

confucius003I arrived last night by fast train from Beijing and was met by my friend Andy. (Shu) Initially my plans are to be here for three days (Friday/Saturday/Sunday), then on Monday morning leave for Luoyang. I will return to Qufu for the Confucius festivities on Thursday, September 27th.  Planning for the rest of my trip will happen this weekend, especially arrangements to go to Tibet. Stay tuned…

When I am in Qufu it is as if I walk on sacred ground. It is as Ekhart Toll, the great English philosopher said… “We are one with the universe and the universe is one with us, or better said I am one with God, and God is one with me”. It is as though we are living history when we can accept our role and to become one with it. The dragons, or sages, all came through here. Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 1000 BC, was here five hundred years before Confucius came in 500 BC, and the Yellow Emperor, Huandi, the great shaman and pervaer of what would become the I Ching one day more than a thousand years earlier in 2700 BC. All were from Qufu. How am I to add to what has already been said and written? Maybe it to to transcend the limitations of language. I am reminded again of the three things I need to work on – sincerity, discipline, and patience. But then, I am blessed to have many friends and acquaintances I have made as a teacher and my activities in the almost twenty years I have been coming to Qufu.

Today was a day for catching up with old friends and making travel arrangements. I met with the headmaster of the Confucius College, Mr. Buan Yan Ping on Friday AQ1morning (9/21) being one. After first going by to see another friend, Dr. Hua and updating my membership in the Confucius/I Ching Society, I served as Vice President of the national association last year. I then went to visit the Confucius College where they asked me to teach a couple classes and have lunch with the students. Later I met Chris and his wife Vicky at the Shangri La Hotel where they both work and with another friend Maria who helped me to book my train tickets for Luoyang for Sunday evening (9/23) and return trip to Qufu thursday evening (9/27).  Later I spoke to my friend Jenny who is a teacher. Jenny did the translation from English to Chinese for the Daily Words which we published here in Western Shandong Province in 2006 and 07. Finally, I spoke to Yak in Chengdu about my travel arrangements to go to Tibet, especially getting to Lhasa and the best dates for the tour. I am to send copies of my passport and visa information tomorrow to begin the paperwork.

By 1dandecarlo

September 18 – 20 / Beijing  

(under construction)

On Tuesday September 18 I arrived in Beijing about 2 PM went through customs at the airport, got my luggage and took a taxi to Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel where  I will spent two nights before leaving on thursday for Qufu. I spent the evening arranging my meeting with my publisher here in Beijing tomorrow to get paid for editing a book that was published was year. I also finished inserting pictures for my last post. I always seem to be both tour guide and working on my own self awareness. My focus today is on awareness. My “practice” is serenity, discipline, and patience. Accepting things as they are always seems to be the challenge.

Three things I must try do today (9/19): go by South Train Station to pick up my ticket to go to Qufu tomorrow night,  second go by publisher’s office, and third, make my way to the National Museum (I didn’t make it to the museum… maybe tomorrow). This morning I’m listening to Cardinals game against Atlanta. When games begin at 7 PM in USA… they begin at 7 AM here… GO CARDS! They won 9-1. If time, I want to make my way to Beihai Park this afternoon. It seems half my time when I am in Beijing is either waiting for or riding in a taxi. Traffic here is awful… too many cars. On my way back to USA in mid October, I hope to have time to go to the White Cloud Taoist Temple here in Beijing. I went with friends in 2005, but would like to make a return visit.

What I want to do in my full day here in Beijing is try to focus on acknowledging that both inside and outside are to same. I think that’s the serenity part and coincides with ‘inner peace”. The point of this is we will go there. That the outer is simply a reflection of our inner selves and how that is implemented through being in touch with our environment is known as feng shui… One place I especially like is adjacent to the Forbidden City called Beihai Park. It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. Beihai Park is said to be built according to a traditional Chinese legend. The story is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called ‘Penglai’, ‘Yingzhou’ and ‘Fangzhang’ located to the east of China. Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine which would help humans gain immortality. Many emperors succumbed to this desire to remain in power as long as possible. Some spent many sleepless nights pacing around the lake in Beihai Park hoping the elixir would soon be discovered. After all, the emperor was considered to be the “son of heaven”, the representative of the deity here on earth responsible for all around him.

Lessons in Feng Shui. It was believed that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects.  So from then on almost every emperor during succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with “a one pool with three hills’ layout” near his palace. Beihai Park was built after this traditionBeihei 2.jpgal style: the water of Beihai (Northern Sea) with Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) is the Taiye Pool; the Jade Flowery (Qionghua) Islet, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains. Beihai Park was initially built in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) and was repaired and rebuilt in the following dynasties including Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1115 – 1911). The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) generally established the present scale and pattern.

To the northwest in the park is the Nine-Dragon Wall, which is the only screen 9 dragon wallhaving nine huge dragons on both sides and is among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are located in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Wall is about 90 feet (27 meters) long, 21.8 feet (6.65 meters) high and 4.7 feet (1.42 meters) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the feng shui 2 (2)screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons.

I have this thing about Chinese dragons. Every time I see this depiction of dragons I think of Chinese history about the sage who embodies heavenly qualities. Adjacent to both the Forbidden City and Tienanmen, the park is extremely popular…  When I am in Beijing and have an afternoon free I like coming to Beihai. In Spring you can almost feel the immortality they were seeking in the air.

National Museum in Beijing

Opposite Tienanmen and the Forbidden City is the National Museum. This morning I begin here. Thursday (9/20) was primarily spent at the National Museum. I had forgotten that more than ten years ago I regularly visited a friend whose government office was in the restricted access area adjacent to the museum. I was most impressed with the Buddhist collection and ancient roll paintings.

Beijing’s premier museum is housed in an immense 1950’s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tienanmen Square, and claims to be the largest in the world by display space. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the outstanding Ancient China exhibition alone, with priceless artifacts displayed in modern, low-lit exhibition halls, including ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. You’ll need your passport to gain entry. The museum is located at Guangchangdongce Lu, Tienanmen Square. The hours are from 9 am to 5 pm Tue-Sun, last entry 4 pm.

What first got my attention today is the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition. I believe this is the same jade suit that I saw at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City in Spring 1975 when it was a part of the traveling exhibit from China. It was made for the Western Han dynasty king Liu Xiu. Many highlights including the life-sized bronze acupuncture statue dating from the 15th century. A 2000-year-old rhino-shaped bronze zūn (wine vessel) is another standout. The Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor, and the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are what I especially liked.

The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing (originating in the Office of the National Museum of the Revolution founded in 1950 to preserve the legacy of the 1949 revolution) and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing (with origins in both the Beijing National History Museum, founded in 1949, and the Preliminary Office of the National History Museum, founded in 1912, tasked to safeguard China’s larger historical legacy).

The building was completed in 1959 as one of the Ten Great Buildings celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It complements the Great Hall of the People that was built at the same time. The structure sits on 16 acres and has a frontal length of 1,027 feet, a height of four stories totaling 130 ft, and a width of 489 feet. The front displays ten square pillars at its center.

Front foyer with model of the Temple of Heaven.

After four years of renovation, the museum reopened on March 17, 2011, with 28 new exhibition halls, more than triple the previous exhibition space, and state of the art exhibition and storage facilities. It has a total floor space of nearly 200,000 square feet of display.

The museum, covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history), and has a permanent collection of over a million items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.

Among the most important items in the National Museum of China are the “Simuwa Ding” from the Shang Dynasty, the square shaped Shang Dynasty bronze zun decorated with four sheep heads, a large and rare inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty, bronze water pan, a gold-inlaid Qin Dynasty bronze tally in the shape of a tiger, Han Dynasty jade burial suits sewn with gold thread (mentioned above), and a comprehensive collection of Tang Dynasty tri-colored glazed sancai and Song Dynasty ceramics. They are depicted below.

By 1dandecarlo

September 17, 2018  

The Journey Continues…

As I begin this trip I am reminded that the practice of self-reflection is not a result of intellectual analysis or complex theories. Our challenge is to just see reality as it is… AT1how everything fits and connects together. Warren Buffett puts it this way, “You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and let everything pass.”

Controlling and managing our breath, or chi (qi), as it is referred to in China… learning to breathe as if all-encompassing from the soles of our feet, not simply our abdomen or stomach, the secret to finding inner peace. Setting the stage so that our mind and body follow the flow of who we are meant to be. Meshing the outer world with our inner selves while finding comfort in the details and rhythm that takes us there. As if tuning in means adapting only to what is  considered to be our “highest endeavor and destiny’.  Always setting the stage and tone for what must unknowingly come next. Letting go of any perceived idea of what outcomes may occur. Simply following what the universe and the Tao tells you along the way and to go where my writing takes me. I am reminded of William James and his work of metaphysics and especially Emerson who spoke of “the wise silence, the universal beauty, to which every part and particle is equally related to the eternal One. And to Walt Whitman who said that no God could be found “more divine than yourself.”


Walt Whitman

In the end we must transcend our fear of meaninglessness. I’ve got a feeling this is going to be a great trip. I hope you will want to tag along here on my blog.

In my previous post I mentioned this trip to China was a sabbatical. What is a sabbatical some may ask? By definition it is considered any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, especially for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc. Writing and maintaining this website and Facebook page for my foundation is my work, further clarifying what is/should be my role would be my job description. That’s a great question. What is our life’s job description? How do we as Master Oogway says, become the “master of our AT3chi”? Shouldn’t a sabbatical serve to further define the role of the sage? As with the Tao and life itself, everything is context.

As with the I Ching, you must know what comes at the beginning in order to find a rightful end. With everything in between occurring simply through cause and effect. It’s funny, after all these years of traveling to China, it is as if I live two lives. Here in USA I am simply known as Dan. In China, my friends and colleagues call me Kongdan. Amazing, one of the first things I wrote that serves as the preface of my unpublished book “My travels with Lieh Tzu” is as follows:


 It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live after that. To perchance awaken midstream in our lives, as if we have been re‑born; given an opportunity to find and follow our true destiny and endeavor. That our ultimate task is not only to discover who we are, but where we belong in history. Is not this the ultimate challenge? To simply rise up, traveling as one with the prevailing winds. Becoming one with the angels, or dragons, as they manifest before us. Letting our spirit soar. Freeing our mind, heart, and soul to go where few dare to wonder.


The Eternal One  Shaanxi Museum  Xian

I know my task as a writer will be complete when my writing is as indefinable as my subject. Just as I know my task as an individual, as I exist in the here and now, will be to simply tell the stories that I have learned along the way. That we each have a story to tell. As we free ourselves of attachments and ego and baggage we have clung to as we try to find our way. That the ultimate travel is the travel of our spirit and that the ultimate giving is to share our gift with others.

To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving on. My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self AT5is in losing myself through expressing the voices of the past. That I am here to relay that the fears and hopes of humanity rest not in where we find ourselves in the here and now. But in reality, to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again.

That all true learning is self-learning of who we ultimately are to become. That once we have awakened so that we can see beyond ourselves, then have not we found our spirits traveling the winds through eternity. This being so, could there be a more ultimate way of travel than to be found traveling with Lieh Tzu?     1/21/96

Yes, I wrote the above twenty-two years ago. Almost six months before going to China the first time in May 1997 to adopt my daughter Katie in Maoming, in Guangdong Province. So, considering the above, I could say this trip to China, a sabbatical as such, is one in keeping with an eternal desire for “constant renewal”. As if even now letting the dragons lead the way forward.

Finally, in wrapping my head around my upcoming journey, I like to think about the Lotus Sutra from Buddhism and begin with a koan and frame of mind in what may include a trip to Tibet.


The Buddha at rest  Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

A koan is a nonsensical or paradoxical question from a teacher to his student for which an answer is required. If one is meditating on the question the answer can be very illuminating. In Buddhism we can choose to take refuge in the way, or sanity of enlightenment, the Buddha; trust the process of the path, the Dharma; and rely on the experience of those who guide us along the path, the Sangha. These three are often called “the three jewels”.                                                                                                                                                                              In the Lotus Sutra the story “Manjushri Enters the Gate”, the first case from the classic collection The Iron Flute appears. In Buddhist mythology, the bodhisattva Manjushri is the embodiment of wisdom, and a statue of him sits atop the main altar in Zen AT7Buddhist meditation halls. In the koan, the Buddha calls to Manjushri, who is standing outside the temple gate, “Manjushri, Manjushri, why don’t you enter?” Manjushri answers, “I don’t see a thing outside the gate. Why should I enter?”

He is saying he does not discriminate between inside the gate and outside. But still he chooses not to enter. Maybe he should accept the Buddha’s invitation to enter the temple. Truly entering the gate—truly connecting to the Buddha’s teaching—is to directly experience that there is no inside and outside. This is not just an idea: you can’t understand it from the outside. Having entered though, don’t think you are inside and others are still outside. Everyone enters with you.

Entering the gate means entering your life. Entering the Lotus Sutra means entering your life. This is a part of Buddhist practice. Practice means allowing the Lotus Sutra to enter you. To practice this way is to risk having your understanding of things overturned, again and again. This takes faith, faith enough to risk faith itself. So, we have a choice. We can complacently watch life from the sidelines, or we can risk our pride, our ideas, and whatever else we use to separate ourselves from others and leap fully into our life. Take that leap and you will find the Lotus Sutra wherever you go. ##

The key for me, in appreciating this story, is that there is there is a gate for each of us to open and that there is no separation between you, others, and all that is found in AT8nature and the universe. Having faith enough to risk faith itself, and that we have a choice.

The Vinegar Tasters… Lao Tzu, Confucius, and the Buddha

Going forward in what comes over the coming month it’s easy to see the juxtaposition, how Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucius have existed closely together almost side by side for thousands of years in China. I hope to explore and write about this “connection”. That all life and that found in nature is sacred. From the smallest bee pollinating a flower to the largest galaxy with stars far beyond the horizon. That we are ultimately here to alleviate suffering not create more. I hope you will join me in this endeavor.

Oncoming Immortality

Remaining pretentious and keeping to ostentation in one’s actions brings unwanted attention.

Simplify! Simplify! When leaving one’s house and shutting the door to visit friends and neighbors it is important to wear and show the proper countenance about oneself.  But first you must know without knowing to succeed.


The Calling      Shanghai Museum

Strive to be of no account and be truly accounted for by all you encounter. Others will seek your favor as you are soon noted for your wise counsel, knowledge of events and as a good teacher. Remain unpretentious and find sincerity and kindness knowing that if you forget today’s lesson the only thing you’ll meet is scorn.

Propriety well placed will be received modestly by all. Making your goals and ambitions the goals and ambitions of all will bring everyone to your doorstep seeking comfort in your shadow. But first you must know without knowing to succeed.


Adulation  Shanghai Museum

Know humility and restraint. Know how to become unassuming and know constraint. Refrain from entering the fray on the side of self interest and know your true self. Enjoy a reputation and retreat into the peacefulness of all things.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching    (15 MODESTY / Earth over Heaven). 2/12/94

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 AT11he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 72 and 73 appear below. Verses 1 through 71 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks. Hopefully, I can complete this journey through Lao Tzu on this trip to China.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 72 – Understanding one’s own affliction

What can it possibly mean to say we understand something when there can be no understanding as our attachments and afflictions keep coming forward for all to see? As we spend all our time thinking we don’t understand, when what we need has been before us trying to get our attention that brings us to understanding.


Ann at Mencius Temple in Zhoucheng

How can we understand when understanding depends on things independent of each other coming together for their own sake? What can there be to understanding when the answers seem to lie beyond us?

Can we understand our true place in the universe once we know we are only here to come to know our spirit’s true affliction? Treating our affliction, or hardship, as a result our of lack of ability to see ourselves as who we ultimately are to become? If we cannot see beyond our transitory ego and self, how can we come to know why we are here?


Tributes to Mencius in Zhoucheng

Or if as we say someone can awaken midstream to understand his or her place in the universe, as if suddenly seeing the light, can that understanding be understood?

Just as trying to understand the Tao through reasoning when there is no door or entrance that defines what remains indefinable.  When often tried, the sage is seen as having an affliction. When in reality the sage is not afflicted, he simply remains above understanding so that hardship or difficulty cannot find him.


The School of Mencius Zhoucheng                                                                                  

Wang P’ang says, “When people are simple and their lives are good, they fear authority. But when those above lose the Way and enact all sorts of measures to restrict the livelihood of those below, people respond with deceit and are no longer subdued by authority. When this happens, natural calamities occur and misfortune arise.”AT15

Wang Pi says, “In tranquility and peace is where is where we should dwell. Humble and empty is where we should live. But when we forsake tranquility to pursue desires and abandon humility for authority, creatures are disturbed and people are distressed. When authority cannot restore the world. severed, and natural calamities occur.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “He knows what he has and what he doesn’t have. He doesn’t display his virtue outside but keeps it hidden inside. He loves his body and protects his essence and breath. He doesn’t exalt or glorify himself before the world.”

Verse 73 – Staying out of the way of our own Enlightenment

For the sage that is fully engaged, keeping ego at arm’s length is his reminder of how far he has yet to travel. As he steps back for a moment to review the road map that illustrates the starting point of his journey, the road he has traveled thus far and what he hopes to learn about himself in the days ahead. Letting go and letting his friends, the dragons, lead the way.AT16

Two Famous Dragons   London Museum

His journey through the Tao Te Ching is now almost complete. He’s come far enough to know that keeping his virtue in tact requires his simply knowing himself and remaining hidden from view as he leads the way.

Scoffing at the paradox that authority always brings to the table. That those who fear authority are usually better off than those who have authority to fear. Knowing that if there are no restrictions where people live and we don’t repress how they want to live, people won’t protest. If they don’t protest there is nothing to fear. Thus, the sage is mindful of his role. Careful to keep his ego in check as he knows his ultimate success will only be measured by what is left behind as he remains unattached to things outside himself.AT17

Dragon wine decanter from Yongle and Xuande reign (1403-35) made at kilns in Jingdezhen   London Museum

He focuses only his own journey letting events propel him forward to destinations as yet unknown.

His only challenge to stay out of the way of his own enlightenment.

Li His-Chai says, “Everyone knows about daring to act but not about daring not to act. Those who dare to act walk on the edge of a knife. Those who dare not to act walk down the middle of the path. Comparing these two, walking on a knife-edge is harmful, but people ignore the harm. Walking down the middle of the path is beneficial, but people are not aware of the benefit. Thus it is said, ‘People can walk on the edge of a knife but not down the middle of a path’” (Chungyung:9).

Wu Ch’eng says, “Because the sage does not lightly kill others, evildoers slip through his net, but not the Net of Heaven. Heaven does not use is strength to fight against evildoers as Man does, and yet it always triumphs. It does not speak with a mouth as Man does, and yet it answers faster than an echo. It does not have to be summoned but arrives on its own. Evil has its evil reward. Even the clever cannot escape. Heaven is unconcerned and unmindful, but its retribution is ingenious and beyond the reach of human plans. It never lets an evildoer slip through its net. The sage does not have to kill him. Heaven will do it for him.”

Wang An-Shih says, “Yin and Yang take turns, the four seasons come and go, the moon waxes and wanes. All things have their time. They don’t have to be summoned to come.”

By 1dandecarlo

September 14, 2018

Confucius says, “I study what is below and understand what is above. Who knows me? Only Heaven” (Lunyu: 14-37).

Dancing with Chi

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


Taoist Ritual / Temple of the Eight Immortals

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

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

(From The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon found here on my website. From the contents of my book I wrote in 1994 and published in China in 2004 by Blue Wind Publishing in Beijing. The book, An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond, can be found online in China at

I love the Kung Fu Panda movies. The second sequel not so much, but the first and Ch2third versions were right on the mark. People laugh when I tell them, but they don’t understand the context of inner peace, tai chi, and most importantly, finding and identifying with your inner self, your chi. In western parlance we would say your soul. Discovering who we are and identifying with our highest purpose, or endeavor, is the reason we’re here that defines our destiny. It is always a choice and takes courage to go there. The thought that it is in teaching others that helps you become who you really are… and that if you only do what you can do you will never be more than you are now.  That means when you can identify with what comes naturally to you, Ch3you follow it always assured the next step will become known to you. Master Oogway saw in the panda something he himself didn’t know existed, but was able to manifest through kung fu and becoming a master of his chi. An inherent trait that exists in all of us. Or even as Don Henley sang when we come to The end of the Innocence. The problem with chi is that what is given can be taken away and that you can only master chi by first knowing who you really are. The essence of kung fu, as if wishing upon a star, is knowing your half-way home and taking that next step.

Entering the Matrix of ultimate change/helping others to know who they were meant to be…

Knowing the above, I leave for China, and hopefully Tibet on what most people would call a sabbatical. No Facebook, no TV, no family. Only doing things that are geared to take me and my writing to the next step. As if nothing is in my backpack except the camera, paper, pen, and the Tao.


Eric Butterworth

Regardless of rather I return in a month or not, my only promise is not to return as the person I am now. It is as Eric Butterworth said in the title of his book… The universe is calling. It is as though mountaintops simply are again waiting for my arrival. Arrangements to go to Tibet are always uncertain until arriving in China and doing paperwork and securing travel. Passport and visa must be submitted at least ten days in advance prior to entry. You must travel with a group. Individual travel is frowned upon. I would not be traveling to Tibet until after the October 1st national holiday where eating Ch5mooncakes is the most common tradition. (This is the time when the annual Moon Festival is held in China) and would not go until after October 8th (my birthday). I will return to USA on October 18th, so there is time. I had planned to go last year to Tibet when I was in China for six weeks, but it proved too complicated and my planning ahead should have been better. If I do not go to Tibet, I’ve been invited to teach at the Confucius College in Qufu instead. Maybe I can do both. I cannot use Google or Facebook while in China. I will however be doing a daily blog from here on my website. I hope you will check in while I’m gone.

I begin this trip (I’ve been to China almost fifty times and in and out of Beijing what seems like a hundred) in Beijing for two days before heading for Qufu highlighted by a visit to the National Museum. I have been to many other national museums (Chengdu, Xian, and Shanghai), but this is my first visit to the museum in Beijing. I like to try to attach items to the different time periods and dynasties I’m studying and writing about.


Da Yu (ding) from the Early Western Zhou 11th-10th BC

I wanted to stay three days, but could not get a train ticket for Friday, September 21st because all train tickets had been pre-sold for the weekend,   several weeks prior to the holiday and purchasing a ticket was not possible. Fortunately, I was able to get a fast train ticket for Thursday evening the night before. Two years ago, on October 1st, due to a problem with my passport at the train station in Beijing, the only ticket was a “standing ticket”, Yes, that meant a ten-hour overnight train ride standing up in the isle. I thought then… I’m too old for this. I’ll turn 66 on this trip.

Once you have been a teacher, especially at a university in another country in my case China, others look and perceive you differently. Especially for many in China who consider me a scholar regarding Chinese history and philosophy. When I was teaching (I have more than 400 students most of them now teachers themselves), who while looking at me as their foreign teacher, ultimately my classes were about “how do I become a better person through being able to better express myself”. And for them, if I hope to become a teacher, how do I become a better citizen of the world through learning English as a second language?


Dan with students at Jining University

This coming from students coming from all over Shandong Province and Qufu, where Confucius was the ultimate teacher, and respect for teachers is considered paramount. There is even a national holiday every May to celebrate the role of teachers in China. Because of Confucius, it begins with benevolence and virtue and culminates with respect for your elders. When I was teaching, while it was ostensibly about learning English it was more about how to become a better person. How to discover and find your niche, and “mastering your chi”, that focuses on your strengths and knowing your weaknesses and then to build on that with virtue. In The Book of Lieh Tzu expressed here on my website as My Travels with Lieh Tzu, there is a chapter entitled Confucius and the following story:

Defining Virtue

What sort of man follows Confucius? Four men who served him are looked upon as examples. The first, superior in kindness, the next better in eloquence, the third stronger in courage, and the fourth exceeding in dignity. All a cut above Confucius in their endeavors. Yet they chose to serve him, why is this so?

What is virtue, but that which springs forth from one’s eternal chi or soul?  How can one man judge another when he has his own journey he must follow, his own destiny to find? What is there to possibly come to understand and know except the inner workings of ourselves and the loving kindness that subsequently follows?


Confucius with his students    Confucius Painting Society

Confucius explains: “The first is kind, but cannot check the impulse to act when it will do no good. The next is eloquent but knows not when to speak. The third is brave, but is impulsive and knows not when to be cautious, and the fourth is dignified, but cannot accept others opinions when it is their turn to speak. Even if I could exchange the virtue of these four, why would I, when they are less than my own? This is why they have chosen to serve me without question?  Each person must learn their own way in the world.  Can mine possibly be better than the path another has chosen to follow?”

Have not those who have decided to follow the ways of Confucius done so without questioning right and wrong, benefit and harm? Letting everything play out to its rightful end to discover their own true destiny. Since the establishment of government destroys the path for all but the true sage is it not best to find the way to govern properly for the benefit of all. Looking you cannot find it, listening you cannot hear it. In the end, there is nothing to be found again and again.    3/14/95

I’ve been asked many times the meaning of the comparison between yin and yang and grace and virtue since my last post. In China, when one thinks of virtue, you Ch9automatically think of Confucius and benevolence. To me, benevolence and the true meaning of kung fu and tai chi, combine both grace and virtue as one. Flowing with the movements of tai chi is not a thirty-minute exercise, but a way of life. Identifying with your chi and letting it take you there, while grace opens us to our higher consciousness and becoming translucent. As when going through every day experiences. The more self-aware you become the more you notice and recognize grace when it happens and you flow with it. Our task is to remain within this flow that connects us to the ten thousand things, to nature, and the universe.

To my thinking, they are inseparable. Asking the same question. As if able to unite both sides of the yin and yang, as if inherently becoming the residence of complimentary opposites yourself. Once you have it – what do you do with it? It’s like the hermit who lived on the mountain with no amenities just the silence found in his cave. Once discovered he was implored to come down to the village where others were seeking spiritual guidance to teach them for the benefit of all he had learned.  The hermit knew that the time of his return to the world was upon him.

As a practicing Buddhist, and with his bodhisattva vow, he must renounce the bliss of solitude for the welfare of the many. He did so and the world became a better Ch10place for it. While I consider myself a Taoist, I am pulled to the filling of the senses I find in Buddhism.

Buddhist sutras on their initial trip via elephants to China from India.  Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

When traveling around China I seem to go to as many or more Buddhist Temples as Taoist and memorials to Confucius. It seems as though they serve as if a re-discovering of what lies in every human heart, as well as, showing the journey ahead as if a road map. That its not enough to bask in the glories of the past, but to take active part in shaping the future. What is our ultimate role to be? The task as with us seems never done. Maybe even to the pull of going to Tibet this time.

Can you go back to who you were so you know what to do going forward as the shaman, I Ching, and Tao have always said? Or do we start anew each time? Maybe just filling in the blanks of inequities we are here to correct this time. Or perhaps simply coming in tune with our chi once again.  Knowing that you have always roamed the sky with dragons… that mastering your own chi will be the key to Ch11doing so again. Or maybe even to just relay to the dragons what you have learned this time as you bring them and others along for the ride too.

Giving and receiving directions   Huangshan Mountain

What is it each of us seek, but the stability of a sanctuary until we have fulfilled our own sacred purpose with energy and compassion. Perhaps to inspire, uplift, and empower others in their own journey. Maybe to become both the student and the teacher again. Or perhaps reaching the conclusion that realization can only be found in the stillness and solitude of nature. Maybe it is as Joseph Campbell described as “the stream of bliss that flows once one comes in-tune or finds his rhythm with the universe”. It is here that one finds an unspeakable peace and happiness. That the dormant powers of light are buried in every soul just waiting to come forth as our chi to find and sing out once again. As with Autumn, and this time of year, celebrating the harvest and knowing that with patience we can wait for new growth and new beginnings that begin again in the Spring.

A Plum Abundance

Learn, value and know the ways of your garden. Nature tends to care for those who tend to it. A celebration coming!


Girl in Bloom Sichuan Museum

Mother earth is plentiful. Having patience and knowing the seasons brings forth a reason to celebrate.  Keeping victory close to the chest throwing defeat through an open window.

Tending to nature has determined if we are hungry or if we will eat well until the ground thaws in the Spring.  As the plums are picked know that harmony brings forth the fruits of our labors.  Reminders that patience and discipline are but part of the cycle down the correct path.

Building great fires once again put the dragons on notice. Remembering that if failure is to be avoided, sacrifice must be made to satisfy the heavens. Remain astute following those who follow the symmetry of the seasons.


The Lynx  Sichuan Museum

An important occasion. Apples, peaches, plums and pumpkins signify abundance. Be grateful and know that success is riding on coattails through the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (14 GREAT HARVEST / Fire over Heaven). 2/12/94

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 Ch14leading 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 70 and 71 appear below. Verses 1 through 69 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 70 – Putting things in Divine Order or being the Guest at a fine Banquet 

In greeting those who would oppose him, the sage proceeds as if at a fine banquet. He responds only after his host sets the table and blessings have been received from heaven.


Coming to Terms    Home of the Eight Immortals   Xian

He advances innately ready to retreat with the slightest provocation. While the host may resist, the guest remains free to compromise. While the host toils to improve his position, the guest relaxes. While the host appears busy with much activity, he retreats in quiet. The sage remains prepared to meet resistance with agreement, toil with relaxation, pride with humility and action with quiet. Knowing in reality he has no opposition or enemy as he remains fully enmeshed in whatever outcome that may arrive.


The Sage meeting resistance with agreement      At home with the Eight Immortals

While the sage works to bring all together under the sun, as if an umbrella out of harm’s way, he is often evenly matched by those who are happy with leaving things just the way they are.

While they may be content to only expand their treasure, he is concerned with illustrating the traits of compassion and the Tao.

While remorseful about where he may find himself, the sage knows no fate is worse than having no enemy. As opposites are required for either him or the Tao to proceed, he quickly thanks his host for the sumptuous meal and then quickly and quietly recedes.

Wang P’ang says, “Because the sage teaches us to be in harmony with the course of our life, him words are simple, and his deeds are ordinary. Those who look within himself understand. Those who follow their own nature do what is right. Difficulties arise when we turn away from the trunk and follow the branches.”

Li His-Chai says, “The Tao is easy to understand and put into use. It is also hard to understand and hard to put to use. It is easy because there is no Tao to discuss, no knowledge to learn, no effort to make, no deeds to perform. And it is hard because the Tao cannot be discussed, because all words are wrong, because it cannot be learned, and because the mind only leads us astray. Effortless stillness is not necessarily right. And actionless activity is not necessarily wrong. This is why it is hard”.


Image at entrance to Confucius Temple in Qingdao

Su Ch’e says, “Words can trap the Tao, and deeds can reveal its signs. But if the Tao could be found in words, we would only have to listen to words. And if it could be seen in deeds, we would only have to examine deeds. But it cannot be found in words or seen in deeds. Only if we put aside words and look for heir ancestor, put aside deeds and look for their master, can we find it.”

Ten Tsun says, “Wild geese fly for days but don’t know what exists beyond the sky. Officials and scholars work for years, but none of them knows the extent of the Way. It’s beyond the ken and beyond the reach of narrow-minded, one-sided people.”

Verse 71 – Proceeding with little or no Fanfare

The sage’s motives are seldom understood and no one is usually very quick to Ch18employ them. Even though his words are easy to understand and put into practice.

Comprehending the Tao   The Eight Immortals

He is reminded of the old proverb. “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand”. Confucius adds that one should study what is below and understand what is above. Besides, who can know the motives of the sage, except heaven? Understanding something that cannot be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard seems beyond comprehension.


The ultimate arbiter     The Eight Immortals

However, all things have ancestors and nothing can begin unless something else moves out of the way and ends. The sage remains an enigma to those around him as he is somehow different than others. He does not simply see himself only in terms of the here and now. But acknowledges his presence in what has come. Up to now since antiquity and that he has seen it all before as he is assured that his destiny is to one day return to be one with the dragons.

While it is the Tao and one universally referred to as God that is to be exalted, the sage is often considered in high esteem because he can be seen. Knowing this he strives to wear plain clothes and attempt, however difficult, to remain unseen and let others lead the way. He remains difficult to know because he seldom reveals his true self, as once revealed his opposition would request equal billing. But then again, who could oppose the sage for long.


Remaining Unseen   Sichuan Museum  Chengdu

Confucius says, “Shall I teach you about understanding? To treat understanding as understanding and to treat not understanding as not understanding, this is understanding” (Lunyu: 2.17).

Te-Ch’ing says, “The ancients said that the word ‘understanding’ was the door to all mysteries as well as the door of all misfortune. If you realize you don’t understand, you eliminate false understanding. This is the door to all mysteries. If you cling to understanding while trying to discover what you don’t understand, you increase the obstacles to understanding. This is the door to all misfortune.”

Ts’ao Tao-Chung says, “If someone understands, but out of humility he says he doesn’t understand, this is when reality is superior to name. Hence, we call it transcendence. If someone doesn’t understand but says he does understand, this is when name surpasses reality. Hence, we call this an affliction. Those who are able to understand that affliction is affliction are never afflicted.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “To understand the Tao yet to say that we don’t is the transcendence of virtue. Not to understand the Tao and to say that we do is the affliction of virtue. Lesser people don’t understand the meaning of the Tao and vainly act according to their forced understanding and thereby harm their spirit and shorten their years. The sage doesn’t suffer the affliction of forced understanding because he is pained by the affliction of others.”


By 1dandecarlo

September 1, 2018

Finding ourselves in the state of grace… and virtue

One of the first things I had to learn once I began this journey with study of the I Ching and Taoism… was that it’s not the job we have (Ram Dass’s – that the person I am from nine to five is not who I am from five to nine). And it is not where we are (physically), but who we are and the mindset from where are doing it from.


Once found they serve as a talisman, or object, holding magical properties that bring good luck to the possessor or protect the possessor from evil or harm. By any name, it’s simply something you can’t learn you just have to acknowledge to have it; to feel, then respond and just do. Knowing grace once found is both internal and eternal. That for each of us, it is just as five thousand years of complementary opposites with yin and yang has taught us. It is the same with grace and virtue, one cannot go forward without the presence of the other.

Talisman representing the mentor and teacher in China

The talisman simply a reminder of who we are and that it is those who follow the flow of nature that win. Those who cannot see it choose as if flying headlong into the wind.

As if the universe speaks to us through as what some would say divine mind, and it sometimes takes a traumatic life experience to get our attention. For me though, it is as if I alternate between the state of living in paradox (in the world with others present), versus living in the state of virtue (living within my own sense of enlightenment). Sometimes it’s easy seeing how the reclusive lifestyle of the sage becomes so attractive. Ultimately though, it is my writing that takes me there with my asking “where did that come from”.

Those who follow me here know I attempt to separate my daily activities on Facebook into two entities. One filled with personal input on the issues of the day, and the second for The Kongdan Foundation where I am honored to have more than five hundred followers (thank you).


Jade Emperor Peak Mt Taishan

Recent events regarding “politics” serve to remind me of why I left Springfield more than thirty years ago in 1987 and finding myself once again in the vagaries of the moment as life swirls around me. Where the ego of others seems to meet with the order of the day. When and how do people begin to see beyond themselves and acknowledge the imprint they leave behind? A challenge I have lived with for my entire life where a sense of grace and virtue seems to be in scant supply. This isn’t just a reality of the moment, but serves as a reminder as to why I am here and lessons to be learned this time.


Lao Tzu

It is like what my old friend Lao Tzu, who is said to have written the Tao Te Ching, came to understand. After being driven away once again from another city where self-aggrandizement ruled where he had served as an “advisor” to the powers that be. He was given a choice of leaving either with his head attached to his body… or not. Fortunately for the world tradition says he left his thoughts with Kuan-yin below before finding a mountaintop and disappearing into the clouds. (we should all be so lucky). Kuan-yin but the repository of great philosophy and writing through the ages.  I wrote the following story many years ago that is included in my unpublished manuscript, “My travels with Lieh Tzu”, about great thinkers of the day expressing their similar sentiments very well. It can be found on my website.

The Corner Table 

Wanting to continue the dialog with Kuan-yin, others come forward with the need AS4to get involved in the discussion. To get in their own two cents worth. As many have come this way over the centuries and left with Kuan-yin bits and pieces of their knowledge and wisdom. The inn at the mountain pass the gateway to places where many have departed never to be seen as the person they were before. Many traveling this way. Not only the Taoists, but many who speak of the current thoughts of the hour. One’s entry only the desire to question authority and anything accepted by the standards or rules of the day.

Attention drawn to the table in the corner where many are speaking. Each taking his turn to add to the commentary at hand. Taoists, Confucians, Buddhists, Mohist, all. Each not questioning the legitimacy of the other, only adding to the discussion that which reaches the highest accord. Differences put aside for a while. Central themes the only point of discussion. As the plum wine flows and spirits reach higher and higher.


The Retreat  Big Wild Goose Pagoda  Xian

The discussion centering on the sage and his concern for knowledge, truth and falsehood, sincerity and where it all should lead. All agreeing on the principle that the sage knows what will go in by seeing what came out, knows what is coming by observing what has passed. This is the principle by which he knows in advance.

Concurring that when this knowledge is passed on to the world that those who cannot see beyond themselves cannot come forward to know the Way. That we judge by our own experience, verify by the experience of others. The Mohists present adding that if a man loves me, I am sure to love him; if he hates me I am sure to hate him. They all agreed that Teng and Wu became Emperors because they loved the Empire. While Chieh and Chou were ruined because they hated the Empire. With everyone nodding around the table shaking his head with this knowledge as their own verification.


Two Dragons Qingyang Mtn.

Kuan-yin then adding that Lao Tzu had told him that when judgment and verification are both plain, refusing to act on them is like refusing to go by the door when you leave or follow the path when you walk. If you do this, will it not be difficult to get the benefit you seek? Nods of agreement going around the table, all present in awe still that Kuan-yin had had such a privilege to have been the one to have taken down the words of Lao‑tzu and could even now recite them so well. In the good-natured banter that followed, they all knew the above to be true as the red faced Kuan-yin tries to step back out of the limelight. As knowing glances around the table convey a togetherness they just for this moment all share and cherish.

Several then chiming in together that they had observed this in the virtue of Shennong and Yu‑yen, verified it in the books of Shun and the Hsia, Shang and Chou dynasties. That they had reached their own conclusions by the exemplary scholars and worthy men they had each met. That they had never found a case where survival or ruin, rise and decline did not derive from this principle. With this, all those left could do was to thank the innkeeper for such great hospitality as each of those present paid their tally, went upstairs to sleep or outside to catch the wind and wonder.   7/30/95


Catching your second wind  Confucius Temple  Qufu

When I returned to Springfield more than three years ago, it was a returning home where I grew up here in southwest Missouri, graduated from then SMSU, served in the Missouri House for a couple years, and helped to found the Westside Community Betterment Association with my friend Virgil Hill. To what most people would refer to as my source… family, people, and places I knew while growing up, etc., etc. Now as I prepare to leave for China and maybe Tibet for a month, I feel the same disconnect I felt all those years ago when I left the first time. That I may be where it is considered to be my home, but I am not pursuing my own highest endeavor and destiny by being satisfied with where I am just now. Almost as if returning to Springfield was nothing more than “catching my breath on a cloud, or wind, before it passes me by”. That ultimately, it is not only where you are but who you are… and can you get to where you are going from the place you are now. And the bigger question – am I fulfilling my ultimate purpose in the context of where I now reside content to simply bringing others along for the ride through my writing?


My destination this month   Huashan  Mtn.

As if asking how can I add more to what I have already written? Or what I have found in traveling to Qufu for almost twenty years with those present asking how to put this virtue into practice. In reality, it becomes the ultimate paradox. A question I will ponder later this month while in contemplation and reflection while sitting atop Huashan Mountain in China. The place where Lao Tzu is said to have frequented and maybe just follow the footsteps of my old friend and mentor…

With Lieh Tzu leading the Way

As always Lieh Tzu, my brother, has changed his tune in immortality. While a reclusive sage on earth he now leads the way.  Laughing at the others.


Bamboo   Wangjianlou Park in Chengdu

Hoping as always to instill bits of wisdom into their eternal endeavors. As he is now found flying circles around the dragons all assembled. Ultimately showing up others who should know better than to challenge him to anything short of calling for a full accounting for anything.

The dragons are converging with Lieh Tzu leading the charge. While others, especially Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, stay behind taking up the rear guard finding humor in the procession.  Looking down on lesser clouds they see many who have taken up the challenge over the centuries who have heard their inner voice and traveled far along the way to immortality’s doorstep and beyond.  A newcomer has gotten their attention.


Wangjiang Pavilion Wangjianlou Park/Chengdu

He has listened well and conveys the words of the dragons in his writings well beyond his years.

Everything coming natural to the one they refer to among themselves as Cloud Dancing, as he seems adept to the ways of nature and has become a well-respected Master Gardener. Always tending to the ways of his garden as one eternally linked to all that the cycles encourage and in fact require.

His journey in fact is just beginning. However, great strides have the attention of all assembled.      4/12/94

All these entries written from the past are like pearls on a string that convey a story that connects all to the Tao. Moving from our human frailties, our moral weaknesses and liability to yield to temptation – to our higher selves. Ultimately, it comes down to as I said before… where are you doing it from and can you get there from where you are now. As if your present purpose is to discover why it is you find yourself where you are just now. Truly the paradox living brings each day.

As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man

As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way.


Hua Pagoda Xian Old City

Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased.

Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on your finding and staying on the road yet to be traveled.  Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before.  Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things. Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness found through both grace and virtue.

Eternity existing forever both before, now and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively over and over again. A great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.


The Crane    Xian Old City

Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge of the Tao and understanding what it means. Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow.  4/12/94

Sometimes its necessary not to question what comes next on the journey. Just setting the stage is enough as stay simply with the flow open to where it might lead. Everything nothing more than coming to terms with my own reflection. Repeating again until ingrained that both inside and outside are the same your way is guided by desire to discover what comes next. For myself, it’s just to stay in tune with eternity and follow my instincts knowing that’s all I’ll ever need.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (13 GATHERING / Heaven over Fire) 2/11/94. The below is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Forces staying in the Field

Seek refuge and gather your common forces. Nature provides character and patience. Know and use both and enhance your field of vision to your full advantage.


Marshaling your Forces Dujiangyan Waterworks

Maintain your forces but keep them busy growing vegetables and tending livestock in the field. The dragons gather to take counsel preparing for the inevitable attack. The call goes out for everyone to seek shelter.

Adhering to principle in a crisis unifies all to a common purpose. Stay alert and be prepared. Know the task at hand and know the enemy. When attacked repel with vigor and strength as one knowing the best way to preserve peace is to promote and know harmony.


Honor in Death Chongqing Museum

Death and sadness bring both honor and victory. All are the same, only different to the eyes of the beholder. Continue growing vegetables and tending the livestock. Victory certain comfort your neighbors with knowledge of the eventual outcome. Fires burning high can be seen by dragons’ dancing on clouds in the sky.

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 AS1368 and 69 appear below. Verses 1 through 67 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us.

The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 68 – Rising to the forefront with Compassion

Refraining from greatness is an obstacle the sage finds himself continually up against. As he goes forth in compassion others are drawn to his light. While he prefers to remain in the background, others are quick to recognize his virtue and vision. While he prefers not to distinguish or differentiate himself, he goes out of his way not to demean or glorify himself. Once the sage becomes useful to others, so does the means to be great. He therefore prefers to remain in the background and stay small.


Huangshen Mountain in Anhui

The sage counters this rush to judgment by upholding his sense of integrity by treasuring inner patience, frugality and humility. He does this by living a simple life based on compassion, a sense of austerity and a reluctance to excel as if life were drifting through the world without opposing others.

Just as the sage is reminded of when at the age of eighteen he wrote something that has remained the underpinning of who he was yet to become… “That sorrowful feelings mean nothing if there is no compassion felt”.


Huangshen Old Town

He has now come full circle in gaining an understanding of where and how all things in the universe fit together. That all things serve a purpose and that if we renounce compassion for valor without recognizing that being soft allows us to overcome what is most difficult, anything seen as success would be shallow or non-existent. That the sage can be austere by learning when to stop and content with just what he has this moment, thereby living in both hardship and extravagance. By standing back, or aside, as if we are reluctant to excel no one excels us.

Since the sage does not compete, what he brings to the table allows him to understand the root of all problems, or underlying contradiction and do only that which must be done. The sage is moved by compassion as the ultimate expression of the Tao.


Moved by compassion  Sichuan Museum

Compassion defined as protecting the ten thousand things under heaven and remaining prepared for and knowing any outcome that may follow.

Ho-Shang Kong says, “Those who honor the Way and Virtue are not fond of weapons. They keep hatred from their hearts. They eliminate disaster before it arrives. Hey are angered by nothing. They use kindness among neighbors and virtue among strangers. And they conquer their enemies without fighting. They command through humility.”

Lieh Tzu says, “He who governs others with worthiness never wins them over. He who serves them with worthiness never fails to gain their support” (6.3).

Wang Chen says, “You must first win their hearts before you can command others.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “Even though our wisdom and power might surpass that of others, we should act as if we possessed neither. By making ourselves lower than others, we can use their wisdom and power as our own. Thus, we can win without taking arms, without getting angry, and without making enemies. By using the virtue of nonaggression and the power of others, we are like Heaven, which overcomes without fighting and reaches its goal without moving.”

Verse 69 – Conveying the utmost virtue through non-aggression

The sage is careful not to proceed in anger or acrimony. As everything under the sun comes to pass is not it our responsibility to look for the perfect solution. He sets the example for others to follow.


The Perfect Solution    Eight Immortals  Xian

He knows full well that as quickly that anger can turn to joy, that joy can respond in anger and to what end. As he follows his mentors, he is reminded that throughout the ages those who think means can justify the ends have accomplished nothing. This is why the age-old analogy that nothing can be right if it can be right for one and wrong for another. How can the Tao support one and not the other? This is why the sage leads by example with the foremost desire to remain empty and still. That “doing nothing” is simply emptying your mind and body of anything foreign to the Tao, as no one can fight against nothing.

In ancient times, long before Lao, Chuang, Lieh and even Confucius, everything remained perfect. The perfect army was not armed, the perfect warrior was not angry, the perfect victor was not hostile and the perfect commander acted humble.


Everything is to be made Perfect  Eight Immortals   Xian

It is the sage’s highest aspiration to remind others of from where they came and to convey the utmost virtue of non-aggression by using strength and weakness of others to show the way. To be reminded of from where he came, as if from above. While his heart remains below uniting all things under heaven and the Tao.

Is not this his ultimate purpose? Maintaining ties with his old friends to move all those around him towards their proper end.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “According to the Tao of warfare, we should avoid being the first to mobilize troops, and we should go to war only after receiving Heaven’s blessing.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The host resists, and the guest agrees. The host toils, and the DSCI0033guest relaxes. One advances with pride, while the other retreats in humility. One advances with action, while the other retreats in quiet. He who meets resistance with agreement, toil with relaxation, pride with humility, and action with quiet has no enemy. Wherever he goes he conquers.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “In warfare the sage leaves no trace. He advances by retreating.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “When opponents are evenly matched, and neither is superior, the winner is hard to determine. But if one is remorseful and compassionate, he will win. For the Way of Heaven is to love life and to help those who are compassionate to overcome their enemies.”


By 1dandecarlo

August 21, 2018

Jumping the Dragon’s Gate

To paraphrase the Van Morrison song Into the Mystic:


To be found above the  clouds on Huangshen Mtn

“We were born before the wind / Smell the sea and feel the sky.
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic / Just like way back in the days of old.
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic…. you know I will be coming home.”

What does it mean to become mystical, or better said a mystic? To be characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content as seen in certain religious ceremonies, as with art, writing, or personal behavior.

The Azure Dragon was on the national flag of China during the Qing dynasty during 1889-1912. The Four Symbols discussed here literally mean “four images”. They are four A212mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermillion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Turtle of the North. Each one of them represents a direction and a season, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins. The Four Symbols were given human names after Taoism became popular. The Azure A214Dragon has the name Meng Zhang (孟章), the Vermillion Bird was called Ling Guang (陵光), the White Tiger Jian Bing (監兵), and the Black Turtle Zhi Ming (執明). Why discuss this here, many in my audience are in China and Europe not just the USA. I have learned that many Chinese are not that familiar with Chinese history. This website serves to inform wherever people reside.  In most cases this brings back memories of stories they heard when they were young. Especially in the Chinese countryside where storytelling is more common. It follows the tradition of the shaman who made everyone feel universal.

It is as if we make the connection to the universe taking on something spiritually significant, or even ethereal, as in heavenly or celestial. As if an enigma, one with the cosmos. Knowing where you have been and will return is more important than where you find yourself just now. What is it about the seeming struggle of adhering to the stability of ritual and tradition that serves to guide us as our inspiration that leads us home?

A213To the left is the Azure Dragon on a road sign at the Yangshan Quarry, an ancient stone quarry on Yangshan Mountain near Nanjing, China.  

Do we become spectators of our past or acknowledge it and move on to what is to be of our future as we fill in the details of a self-fulfilling prophesy? As if looking back in order to make progress, or move forward. For myself, between spiritual freedom and wisdom of my heart, or be pulled by knowledge of my thoughts and brain? Moving away from the herd-instinct to faith in a higher destiny through inner development and seemingly lost discipline I am here to finally find and accept. My age-old quandary… maybe to stop only listening to my friend Lieh Tzu and to follow Chuang instead. From what is considered the ‘everyday man’ epitomized by Lieh Tzu, to Chuang Tzu’s ‘perfected man’.  Their text and your own writing drawing you into an experience that is to change who you think you are and understand that your life is your work… and your work is your life. As if eternity is simply waiting for a decision on your part.

That life is truly a pilgrimage. Moving away from the mundane and to just be present as we move beyond fear and develop courage as our true self.


Twelve symbols of I Ching found at the Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Not as ego, but as authentic to our divinely guided inner recognition of who we are, have been, and are yet to become. The vision quest so often referred to here over the past several entries we all seek to find in our own way.

As the symbols of the I Ching help to define us and guide our ultimate path, we are to stay in tune with our own varied nature and the stars that show us the way.

Knowing the outer space (that found in nature) we see is simply the inner reflection of our own development or enlightenment, directed towards a still unknown, or distant aim as if intrinsically tied to the very movement we seek. That there is no separation found in the universe. That by our very nature we are connected to the stars we see above. It is from here we cross over from what is known and familiar, and we accept others and new environments as our ultimate endeavor and destiny.

Lama 1

Prayer Wheels    Lama Buddhist Temple in Beijing

In doing this we grow in confidence of the significance of all that happens to us as we find the courage and harmony that defines us. With this, we become secure with our ultimate source, the depth of our being and the universality of a greater life. This concept helps us to understand the essence of what has come to be known as Tibetan Buddhism. And why the synthesis of Buddhism and Taoism together in Eastern philosophy becomes so important.

I especially like the analogy of a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth, freely floating in 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 wells up from the depths of his being and leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight. (The above is written with inspiration from The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda.)

Finally, I am reminded that the efficacy of what Lama Surya Das says “Our actions A216will be determined by the quality of the contemplation that precedes them.” I think what precedes the whole idea of “I think I can, therefore I am”.

An example of perseverance would be a story in Chinese mythology, the Dragon’s Gate is located at the top of a waterfall cascading from a legendary mountain. Many carp swim upstream against the river’s strong current, but few are capable or brave enough for the final leap over the waterfall.  If a carp successfully makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon.  A Chinese dragon’s large, conspicuous scales indicate its origin from a carp.  The Chinese dragon has long been an auspicious symbol of great and benevolent, magical power.  The image of a carp jumping over Dragon’s Gate is an old and enduring Chinese cultural symbol for courage, perseverance, and accomplishment.

You A217know, it’s always the picture you didn’t take that you later see its value. The small rise the koi had to go over is just to the left of the bridge…    At the Wenshu Buddhist Monastery in Chengdu there is a small stream with stepping stones you have to traverse – as the large koi fish swim upstream and go over a small rise against the current. At first, watching the koi I thought little of their attempts. It was the larger fish who could  “jump the gate” to go upstream that had little difficulty and became in affect dragons. The smaller fish struggled as if not quite ready to make the great leap forward just yet. Next time I’m in Chengdu this stream and koi jumping the dragon’s gate will be on my list again…

Historically, the dragon was the exclusive symbol of the emperor of China and the expression, Liyu Tiao Long Men, was originally used as a metaphor for a person’s success in passing very difficult imperial examinations required for entry into imperial administrative service, as in they too had jumped over the dragon’s gate themselves.


Dragon on the wall entering Wushu Temple in Chendu

To this day, when a student from a remote country village passes the rigorous national university examination in China, friends and family proudly refer to the “Liyu Tiao Long Men.”  More generally, the expression is used to communicate that if a person works hard and diligently, success will one day be achieved. Similar to the salmon in the northwest along the Pacific Ocean in North America where they “jump the ladder” to lay their eggs. Once done they die. In death, they have succeeded with what was important to their life.

Once acknowledged, the question becomes where does that leave us? The difficulty of man is the seeming sense of self-importance that comes with ego. That’s the paradox living with others bring each day. As if, what is it we fill our days with but a test only we can find answers to with no answer ultimately better than another, except that found simply by cause and effect by simply letting nature find its true course. It is what lessons tending one’s garden teaches us and helps us to discover our true path, or way in letting go. Not in the typical sense of procrastinating, but waiting intuitively as if by second nature, for events themselves to convey the best way to proceed. It was this sense of patience that taught Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, A219to wait and let events foretell the future and only then to respond accordingly. To become like a leaf floating along in the breeze knowing the eventual outcome is assured and the results will be the same either way. Knowing what I know now, how could I become anything but an enigma to those who think they know me? Perhaps only here to describe the indescribable and in the A2110end to be known as unknowable myself. Maybe a mystic…

Daimiao Temple TaiShan Mountain Entrance     Once inside is the Peitian Gate and saying that is derived from Confucius, “The virtues match the heaven and the earth.” “Azure Dragon” and “White Tiger” – two of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations are enshrined here in the Main Hall of the Daimiao Temple in Tai’an north of Qufu at the base of Mount Taishan.

I wrote the below “Becoming Irrelevant” in April 1994, almost twenty-five years ago with no idea that ever actually going to China would be on the horizon. Any measure of success since then only found when others I meet don’t remember my name or if I was really present or not. Only the virtue I have left behind as I go by. I guess you could say I’ve been working on it ever since.

Becoming Irrelevant

Know that inside and outside are the same. That truth and falsehood are not the issue and begin to travel with dragons on clouds in the sky. Know that there is no way to discuss the ultimate joy found in finding the true path of virtue and the oneness to be found in all things.


Images of contemplation Qingyang Mtn

Physical descriptions become irrelevant to explanation of how all things fit together in a unifying purpose to be found as one yesterday, today and forever for all things to be found in the universe. The Tao teaches that the essential elements making up all things are to be found in everything only shaped in different ways. That sameness is the essential Tao. Coming to know this basic tenant is the underlying reason for one’s journey.

The journey is long and arduous. It is difficult to bear, hard to continue and only more impossible to endure.  You are forever blown along with the wind. As a leaf with no real destination. Only a sense of purpose brought along for the ride into eternity as the crane and tortoise are to longevity and beyond.


Becoming one with all  Qingyang Mountain

Final destinations unknown. With nothing brought along as an itinerary except as the elements dictate things to come. A randomness that foregoes any relevance to anything not essential to the true way.

Assist only with the collapse of reason and find the path blocked for everything except what can begin again to be built on a true foundation. Built solid in the words and images of the Tao and by God himself as all that will be needed to succeed.  4/11/94    An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching. The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote A2112in 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 66 and 67 appear below. Verses 1 through 65 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us.

The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 66 – Reaching Perfect Harmony

In the middle of all lies perfect harmony. When you go to extremes you lose the natural balance found in all things. It is for this reason that knowledge is frowned upon for those who have not found their way. Knowledge in the hands of a person not grounded in the way of virtue is lost to the vagaries of the moment.


In the Midst   Luohan Buddhist Temple Chongqing

Knowledge leads to deception and deception to definitions of right and wrong that are self-serving and can become secretive and divisive.

Those who remain unconcerned about knowledge look to heaven and harmony with the world around them. Once in harmony with heaven, they learn to only do that which requires no effort. Once you see that everything you need to know already lies, or exists, within yourself you can begin to understand that the lack of knowledge spreads virtue. It is by governing himself, cultivating the virtue he shares with heaven, that the sage’s place in the scheme of things becomes clear.

The sage becomes so deep that he cannot be reached and is always found to be doing the opposite of others. He goes so far as to reach perfect harmony, an image mirroring the Tao.


The Ultimate Duality    Chengdu Wuhan Temple

Te-Ch’ing says, “All rivers flow to the sea, regardless of whether they are muddy or clear. And the sea is able to contain them all because it is adept at staying below them. This is a metaphor for the sage. The world turns to him because he is selfless.”

Ten Tsun says, “Rivers don’t flow toward the sea because of its reputation or its power, but because it does nothing and seeks nothing.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “When the sage possesses the kingdom, he speaks of himself as ‘orphaned, widowed, and impoverished,’ or ‘inheritor of the country’s shame and misfortune.’ Thus, in his speech, he places himself below others. He does not act unless he is forced. He does not respond unless he is moved. He does not rise unless he has no choice. Thus, in his actions he places himself behind others.”

Chengdu dark

The Sage  Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

Ho-Shang Kung says, “When the sage rules over the people, he doesn’t oppress those below with his position. Thus, the people uphold him and don’t think of him as a burden. When he stands before them, he doesn’t blind them with his glory. Thus, the people love him as a parent and harbor no resentment. The sage is kind and loving and treats the people as if they were his children. Thus, the whole world wants him as their leader. The people never grow tired of him because he doesn’t struggle against them. Everyone struggles against something. But no one struggles against a person who doesn’t struggle against anything.”

Verse 67 – Thoughts on remaining a lower Presence

The sage’s challenge is to be present, but act as if he is not really here. Possessing the way, he sees himself as an orphan widowed and impoverished staying below those around him. He is as if the banks of a great river allowing everything to run through and past him, while he guides the way.  He is like the receptacle of everything as it meets its end, as if the ocean remaining lower and capturing the water of a hundred rivers. While they pour into him, he barely notices except to be raised up by their presence.


Dragon Vase  Shanghai Museum

For those who would benefit by the sage he must maintain a position lower than everyone around him.

If thrust to the forefront he must act as if he were behind. If seen as above others he must see that others remain unburdened by him.

While those around him continually push him forward he simply flows with events taking care not to struggle. Because he does not struggle no one can struggle against him. As no one can struggle against him he takes everything to new heights and places they would not otherwise go.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Lao Tzu says the world calls his virtue great. But if his virtue were great in name alone it would bring him harm. Hence, he acts stupid and useless. He doesn’t distinguish or differentiate. Nor does he demean others or glorify himself.”


Seeing into eternity     Huangshen Mountain

Wang Pi says, “To be useful is to lose the means to be great.”

Su Ch’e says, “The world honors daring, exalts ostentation, and emphasizes progress. What the sage treasures is patience, frugality, and humility, all of which the world considers useless.”


Ancient coming and going  Wuhan Temple Chengdu

Te Ch’ing says, “’Compassion’ means to embrace all creatures without reservation. ‘Austerity’ means not to exhaust what one already has. ‘Reluctance to excel’ means to drift through the world without opposing others.”

Wang An-Shih says, “Through compassion, we learn to be soft. When we are soft, we can overcome the hardest thing in the world. Thus, we can be valiant. Through austerity, we learn when to stop. When we learn when to stop, we are always content. Thus, we can be extravagant. Through reluctance to excel, we are excelled by no one. Thus, we can be chief of all tools. Valor, extravagance, and excellence are what everyone worries about. And because they worry, they are always on the verge of death.”

Mencius says, “He who is kind has no enemy under heaven” (7B.3).

By 1dandecarlo