45) Unity of Springfield World Religions Class. April 26, 2020 – Alan Watts and the Way of Zen Part 2. / Staying in tune with the spontaneity of Zen and living from the center of our heart.

Liberation and cultural transformation and why Confucius was instrumental to the flow of benevolence and virtue. To the great Zen Master Dogen, beginner’s mind, and to what brings forth an unfolding of a new vision of reality. It begins from within each of us. With compassion and mindfulness, we see that the heart is the ground from which our speech grows. We learn to restrain our speech in moments of anger, hostility, or confusion, and over time, to train ourselves to be more frequently inclined towards wholesome states such as love, kindness and empathy. To live from the center of our heart as the starting point in which we begin again. As Gandhi told us that “We should speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

As relayed earlier by Watts reckoning and many others, Taoism was the original Chinese way of liberation which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen. This idea of liberation is something that we keep coming back to over and over again. The question and underlying contradiction have always been – what are we liberating ourselves from – and when we have a sense of it – what do we do next. What are we doing to promote this transcendent flow of energy? If the eternal essence, this flow of the universe already exists within us, then our role becomes simply to continue moving it forward. It is often said we do this with love. But how do we express this and what is our medium of expression?

The greatest contributors to the flow of transcendence, to this flow of energy for me was illustrated in the West by Plato, Emerson, Tolstoy, MLK, Eckhart Tolle, and yes, I would say Alan Watts. What is this ability to connect with the universal never-ending flow of transcendental thought and philosophy? This voice historically has also been expressed through the arts. Music and painting, have always been the best way for many to express this transcendence. As best defined by the truest sense of kung fu – the essence of our own greatest gift to ourselves and others. But Watts was unique, as all these were, in that they found a starting point and built on the idea of being liberated from convention to what amounts to the creative power of te, of virtue as discussed in my last entry. What is virtue and more importantly, how does it define us? To appreciate and understand a sense of virtue, there is no better place than to look to those who chose a path that led to a positive, what we might call, Zen outcome.

I recently used the depiction of “following the yellow brick road” as depicted in the movie classic The Wizard of Oz in my writing and how Elton John transformed the idea to say “Beyond the yellow brick road” in his music. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American-English phrase yellow brick road as denoting a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.

 We are reminded that transformation and change are the keys to our growth and longevity understanding that the person that we are today is not who we will be tomorrow. Many people could stand out as models to follow through actions that led to their success. As a sports fan, I miss baseball. Specifically, Cardinal baseball. One of my favorite players was always Ozzie Smith the shortstop known as the “Wizard of Oz”. I was fortunate to get to see Ozzie play many times in Saint Louis before he retired in 1996. In his Hall of Fame speech in 2002 he was honored as probably the greatest shortstop of all time. he said… “Ozzie Smith is not a uniquely talented person, in fact, he’s no different than any man, woman, boy or girl in this audience today. Ozzie Smith was a boy who decided to look within. A boy who discovered absolutely nothing is good enough if it could be made better. A boy who discovered an old-fashioned formula that would take him beyond the rainbow, beyond even his wildest dream. A boy who discovered a formula that was, and is still today, a mind to dream, a heart to believe and the courage to persevere.” As close a statement reflecting a Zen attitude that could be made. I miss baseball very much, as I am sure many watching do as well. Ozzie used to have a restaurant in St Louis we visited as well.

Another person whose artwork I deeply appreciate is Claude Monet who was the founder of French Impressionist painting. His paintings for me were very Zen-like as they illustrated the philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature. The term impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impressive, Sunrise. I first gained my own appreciation for Monet in a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1980 forty years ago. It is this “expressing one’s perceptions before nature” that rings true and is timeless. It is easy to find yourself and get lost in his impressionist paintings at the same time. His paintings have a lack of structure that allows you to go there on your own. Very Zen… That college class you took in Art Appreciation takes on a whole new meaning once you incorporate for yourself how what you are seeing relates to you personally.

As if we are here to find our niche as the universe would have it and spend our time going there. I would often tell my students in China that most people don’t have a clue as to who they are until the age of thirty… then with attachments already made (family and job that does not assist in taking hem there) they feel stuck. We are to use our life’s events for growth and change and go into the unknown fearless understanding of cause and effect.

A famous depiction of the three philosophies show the three men are dipping their fingers in a vat of vinegar and tasting it; one man reacts with a sour expression, one reacts with a bitter expression, and one reacts with a sweet expression. The three men are Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. Each man’s expression represents the predominant attitude of his philosophy: Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering due to desires; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally perfect in its natural state. Another interpretation of the painting is that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, the “three philosophies” are one and the same and reflect the convergence of Zen in Eastern thought and philosophy.

Alan Watts understood that in order to get to the bottom of what was to become Zen Buddhism, you must first see the adaptability of Chinese thought. For myself, there seems to be a universal connecting tissue that ties universal thought together as if a single thread. I see this especially in Tolstoy, Emerson, and Watt. In Eastern thought, there had been an integration spanning thousands of years of defining who they were before Buddhism came from India in a big way. This maturity led to workable patterns of social convention derived from Confucianism with ideas of Taoism and particularly “leaving well enough alone”. This led to a synthesis, to what would become Chan, or Zen Buddhism whose premise was “ok, how do we find a practical application that would define a way of life for everyone following normal instincts and pre-existing patterns”. Ultimately, asking – is it all that important to see yourself as the rest of the world does?

I would add that both mystical and mythic consciousness demands that certain things – sacred things – be approached not with the distance of disinterested scrutiny but in a spirit of faith. But freedom from the self comes not through the dulling of consciousness, but through its refinement, not through dissolving the ego but through moving beyond it. It’s what every great storyteller attempts to do by becoming enmeshed, or a part of, what appears as an extension of the unknown, eventually falling into a harmonious rhythm or flow that washes away extraneous thoughts and brings our senses back to life.

It seems that in practical terms that I always come back to Confucius and his hometown, Qufu. I got my Chinese name (Kongdan), from my friends in Qufu. Kong is Confucius family name. Over half of people who live in Qufu have Kong as their family name. So, the name Kongdan seemed the next step for me over the years as I kept coming back (and still do). Over the past twenty years I have made over forty trips and lived next to Confucius Mansion and Temple and taught at the school founded by his descendants adjacent to both. But the point here is the flow of divine universal thought and energy. How for over thousands of years this continuum transposed how we were to live and what we were to connect to that make us universal. That we are more than what we see – as nature gets the final call. It’s like all you need is a great Monet print on your wall at home as you sit and go there. A blending from one age to the next and deciding this is eternal and we (I) am a part of it all. A great aide in meditation by the way.

In trying to understand how it all comes together it seems each of us possess what I would call a transcendent imperative… once we know we take the next step to freedom. A certain pragmatism that honors varying ways of thinking leaning on the strengths of each of us. Like saying whatever works best to get you there will do. It’s like possessing an underlying simplicity and structure as to how we live our lives that can obscure the richness of its implications. That’s the task of all great teachers and what they leave behind for us to grab onto that will define us as well. This is what Confucius did that Watts was trying to relay. Saying wherever we are doing it from in virtue is empowering, and can enhance our capacities to find enjoyment throughout the events of daily life. For Confucius this sense of responsibility leads one to benevolence, virtue, and grace.

When I’m here, I always seem to return to thoughts of illumination, liberation, freedom, ideas of the flow of universal transcendence, and wanting to live from a state of grace. What my own mentors would have done next, and most importantly, remembering what takes us there. It’s like a grounding of eternal presence that becomes understood and acknowledged before going forward with the next step reminding us of the innate wisdom, perhaps one might say, a kind of touchstone, we have always possessed. This always seems to bring me back to moderation, and the benevolence and virtue of Confucius and Kongdan. What this means is that whatever the impermanence we find of our lives in this moment… we can change. Often, I would take the bus to a neighboring city or village to visit the home of one of my students. As we would turn the corner or see vistas of mountains or hillside there would be a sense of dejavu – I have been here before. This feeling often occurred in Qufu.

To appreciate and understand Alan Watts, there is a need to “get under the skin” of pre-existing thought as to what made Zen Zen. As if, you must understand the journey it took over the centuries to grow and manifest into something that people could see as an instrument to follow as a compilation of thought and philosophy.

It’s not only that we return to the flow of universal thought, but where we allow it to take us. Like an institutional memory we each contribute to that allows us to tap into that shows the way. A willingness to proceed into the unknown as the central element in acknowledging our own path, and that no two may be the same. As with the I Ching you must return, or go back to the beginning, before the route ahead shows you the way. Over the centuries it becomes the roadmap to eternity. For me, it’s always returning to my source and Qufu. As with seemingly all things opposites occur with Qufu in northeast China and Chengdu in Sichuan to the southwest.

When the world is experienced, as the thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen writes, “with the whole of one’s body and mind” the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life displays an intrinsic and unitive richness. This from a famous passage Dogen from Genjokoan, (whose meaning is to actualize, or to appear to become one with the whole universe.)

Dogen writes:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be illuminated by all things.

Adding that – great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily living.

Its characteristics include joy, deep concentration, emotional buoyancy, a heightened sense of mastery, a lack of self-consciousness, and self-transcendence. While living in South Florida a few years ago, I attended a Buddhist Sangha Community weekly meditation that used the book “The Essential Dogen” as a guide. I still have the book, and often find myself returning to it. I have found it both enlightening and inspirational. In a future entry as an introduction to Watt’s version of Zen, I hope to use this as another tool. Ultimately, we attain wisdom not be creating ideals, but by learning to see things clearly, as they are. That it is as Confucius said, “We are not here to create – we are here to relate”.

One of Dogen’s teachers was Rujing. What I especially liked was his idea that practice and realization cannot be divided as we proceed each moment in what Watt would call ‘the essential Now’. To acknowledge the starting point as what the Buddhist would call ‘beginners mind’. To what Eckhart Tolle calls “The Power of Now”. With this we focus on aligning with the destination that is always present.

What Watts calls when we have an experience, or find ourselves in a state of consciousness which leads to our liberation that often is referred to as self-knowledge, or the beginnings of self-awakening. It is with this state of mind we make the discovery of who or what I am (we are), when I am (we are) no longer identified with any role or conventional definition of the person we thought we were. This “self-knowledge” often leads to identifying with our own divinity. To succeed in the cultivation of mindfulness, is the highest benefit, informing all aspects of our life. The idea of a starting point has always intrigued me. With the I Ching, it always reminds us to start with the beginning. To go within as if in prayer or meditation letting our outward actions simply mirror our innermost acknowledgment of our own divinity. What I like most about Zen Buddhism, is there are no rails keeping us from actualizing who we are meant to become. I like to think this was Chuang Tzu’s contribution to Chan that later transformed into Zen.

To grow as we come to know our presence – to know ourselves. This was always the strength of Confucius teaching as it allowed the blending and structure that encouraged Taoism and Buddhism to flourish with the addition of Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen.

In China this was often called Chan Buddhism and in Japan… Zen Buddhism as exemplified by Dogen. Teachings would often vary due to structure and preferences of Masters seeped in culture and direction with the flow of wisdom they felt they needed to expand. What did Confucius do that made him so famous? He was a compiler of the history of China that came before him. For myself after more than twenty-five years of acquaintance, he was/is the ultimate storyteller. He is said to have updated what was known as “the Five Classics”, which included the Book of Rites made famous by Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, from five hundred years earlier. Also, the Analects and his take on the I Ching, plus the writings of Lao Tzu, who tradition says they once met. He did not become famous for over a hundred years after his death.

Confucius inspired people to act with benevolence and virtue that would accept the spiritual path of others. For well over two thousand years after Confucius, Qufu was considered to be the “Religious center of China”, because what Confucianism became was the way of acceptance of family, community, and the emperor. Every city from about 200 AD during the Han dynasty going forward, was required to have a “Temple of Confucius”, not so much in a spiritual sense, but a philosophical understanding of how the individual should live going forward. Much of the examination system in place for well over a thousand years required for moving up in society was centered of a thorough understanding of the teaching of Confucius.

If you are still with me, I hope you will see the value in “self-appraisal”. Modeling our heart and our thoughts, to match others we can look to as guides that help to design the path, we know instinctively we must take when we are ready. I especially like to follow what is called the oral tradition, words and stories from the East. As personified by the sage, or shaman, as a heritage embodied in what is transmitted in what we might call not necessarily a ‘religious’ sense, but one that involved directing others in a whole way of life. This is the fate of the storyteller. Creating cohesion that take us to the unknown in such away we must follow. The earliest shaman knew to follow his/her instincts into the unknown. What was it that took Alan Watts and so many others on their own journey to the knowledge of the ultimate reality? It’s where we shall endeavor to go here as well.

Finally, Watts reminds us that we are eternal. That our lives are like a Monet painting with our own canvas making impressions as if we are present, but not really here.

By 1dandecarlo

44) The great mediator Chuang Tzu, who taught freedom and liberation to think for ourselves and Elton John – just what is it that lies beyond the yellow brick road as Dorothy sang: If bluebirds fly then why oh why can’t I.

As we are found returning home to the stars above accompanied by the reality that we are the light of the world. In the earliest of times, the holy man would go off by himself to pray and look to the stars for comfort and guidence. He DSCI0370would cover himself in clay the color of red ochre before returning to others. 

He or she, would express themselves through dance and were known as wu. Red was the color of blood thought to be our connection with the universe that made each of us eternal. It would be our blood that passed from one generation to the next that would unite or bind us in eternity.  The red ochre our bridge through nature that linked it all together. The Chinese name for red, the most sacred of colors at the time translates into english as dan.

4401

Who and what were the ancient shaman and sage and those concerned with past and future talking about and why should it matter as they became transcendent philosophers who looked to the stars and found answers that were eternal just like themselves? That they were and we are the light of our soul. Calling this today “quantum or the physics of the Tao” as we were to call them dragons. As you find yourself speaking in metaphors to better explain the journey ahead.

4401I love these images of the dragon carved or created centuries ago found in Qufu at the shrine of the Yellow Emperor and the dragon in the clouds in Chengdu. Present in the clouds but barely or rarely making appearances 4402as the sage just the same.

Is there more to us than finding enough sustenance to live another day and why should it matter? Do we have a place in history and does it revolve around spirit and our intuitive nature, knowledge and wisdom?  As we learn to trust the silence and the voice from within. 4403Who is it we speak for or to, who is our audience, and who is it that speaks for and to us? Could it be where we and others left off, as if the flow of eternal conversation that is never-ending?

With our musings simply the chance to continue the dialog with the unknown and pondering the right questions to ask. What is this eternal flow of energy we speak to from within that defines us, but compassion for all things found in nature?

From Thoughts on becoming a Sage:

                             Irreverently Meandering through Time

Traveling on the wind once again the sage proceeds as if at home. Remaining 4404above the clouds he looks down, unconcerned. Waiting to see if anything of importance lies beneath him.

Traveling above the Clouds      Huangshan Mountain

Following dragons again and clouds beyond the horizon you reflect on mirror images of yourself and seeing that your destiny lies below.  As always when traveling with dragons, you remain irrelevant to time.

Comforted in knowing that your journey and today’s path continues to find peace and harmony and a clearer understanding of your place in the universe, as your own destiny remains assured. Events only occurring to move you ever-forward as you meander as if unknowingly through as time.

Your destiny tied to endeavors forever remaining a paradox. As you remain an enigma that others come to depend on and wisdom taking them to places, they 4405otherwise would never go. As you remain a magnet for others simply showing the way.

At home with Ji Dan    Qufu

Before returning home again, as if only irreverently meandering through time.

荡不羁的漫

圣人再度乘风出游,宛如闲庭信步。他在云里不经意地俯视,静观人间的变化。

随着群龙漫游,云在地平线外飘荡。你看见自己的身影,看见自己的命运就系在下面。象通常与神龙同游那样,时间与你毫不相干。

4406你对寻找安宁和谐的旅行和今天的途径都感到安慰。因为命运已定,你对自己在宇宙的位置就有了更清晰的认识。你不知时日地漫游,一路上的遭遇只能够促使你继续前行。

Following the Signs  Qingyang Taoist Temple

你维系努力的命运始终是一个悖缪。你是一个神秘人物,人们纷纷前来请你指点迷津和赐予智慧,你把人们带进了一个从未涉及的世界。你所展示的道象磁铁般吸引着人们。

若只是在云中傲散,你不妨回家休息片刻

There is so much to learn from Chuang Tzu and thoughts of freedom. How it’s important to be able to laugh at our own foibles and those of others. He 4407especially liked to find humor and laugh at the Confucians who saw life as secured by a structure of non-existent self-interest. Especially, that we should not to take ourselves so seriously. For Chuang Tzu, as a storyteller, it becomes seeing yourself in the story as it is told. Seeing inherently the premise of the story as it become you. It defines Zen, defines wu wei, defines feng shui, defines kung fu, and most importantly us along with our own divinity and human nature.

When you don’t have to explain because you know where the outcome leads or takes you. When you go into the unknown innately knowing the results before 4408you arrive. It’s becoming fearless. It is the ability to know through our endeavors, longevity, our ultimate destiny, and who we are yet to become – when we know and become this… as the unknowable Tao we are set free.

 It’s living life with virtue and méi guān xi, or by tradition (my favorite Chinese saying)… méi guān xiit doesn’t matter. Because you’ve already arrived. Ultimately, you are not just telling the story, you are relaying your own as the story becomes you. You live with thoughts of what you leave behind for others to pick up as they find the flow and learn to speak for themselves.                            

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

Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on 4409your 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 of virtue.

Hua Pagoda Xian Old City

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 4410great 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. 4/12/1994

How humbling. I wrote the above twenty-six years ago. My writing had become the self expression of my own inherent nature, endeavor, destiny, and the 4411unknowable Tao.

As if the stars of eternity, the dragons who were always present, were lighting my way telling me that it’s becoming who you are meant to be that counts.

That your writing is nothing more than simply the voice of who you have always been and will be again. Knowing the shaman and sages of old and identifying with their journey as your own you are here to emulate. What does one do or where do you go when you have received your own “Mandate from Heaven”? You certainly understand that you come to know that you are not the person you thought you were. As the you travel with compassion in your knapsack and virtue as your guiding compass.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American-English phrase yellow brick road as denoting a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.

This phrase alludes to the road paved with yellow brick that leads to the Emerald 4412City, as first described in the children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (George M. Hill Company – Chicago, 1900), by the U.S author Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) and the U.S. illustrator and cartoonist William Wallace Denslow (1856-1915). In the novel, this road is mostly referred to as the road of yellow brick.

According to the dictionary, yellow brick road was first used in, and widely popularized by, the 1939 film adapted from the novel, The Wizard of Oz, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring the U.S. singer and actress Judy Garland.

Two other famous things from the movie were the meaning and origin of the 4413phrase ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’, and the song ‘Somewhere over the rainbow… and the line ‘If bluebirds fly then why, oh why, can’t I.’ In today’s lexicon, or popular culture, we think of the Elton John’s song ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and having the freedom to move beyond what is expected that takes us there. Perhaps on the wings of bluebirds with Dorothy – or dragons. Bluebirds and dragons are to depict longevity, virtue, happiness and getting there.

In a version of Chinese myth, as the woman Gua created the cosmos three 4414bluebirds bring her food and deities are seen riding dragons through the sky.

To the right is a picture of a jar I took at the British Museum in 2011. The jar is decorated with vigorous dragons among the clouds, with a lotus panel border at the base. The inscription shows this piece was made under the auspicious of the Yuyongjian, a division of the Imperial household in Beijing. In truth, it is as if we remain as an enigma to those who think they know us as we travel our own road of yellow bricks into the unknown.

What can it mean to move beyond our status quo peace of mind, beyond the yellow brick road and what is it that takes us (our eternal spirit) there? Chuang Tzu in 300 BC led the way in early Chinese philosophy in showing us the meaning of freedom and the way there.

One’s highest destiny is not simply to ride on the back of a dragon through the 4415sky… but to become the dragon. The great sages through the ages in China were considered to become dragons when they transitioned from the here and now, to what is considered eternity. The Perfected Man… having dragons as your mentors brings an eternal sense to your own endeavors comforted with the knowledge that you will one day simply rise up into the clouds and return to join them once again.

Something I wrote back in 1995 in the still unpublished manuscript My travels 4416with Lieh Tzu’ seems to say it best. To many, it may be seen as simply a vivid imagination, for myself, it mirrors reality. What occurred both before and after only served to further my own travels as with Dorothy’s “yellow brick road” to go beyond “where bluebirds and dragons fly”. As if our destiny truly lies with the stars…

                                          A Visit with Old Friends

Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain 4417non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennium, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?

You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves.

That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve 4418humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.

18th century Chinese Scroll at RISD Museum –  Providence, Rhode Island 

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

Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/1995

It all comes back to where are we doing it from. With thoughts and writing that would provide the connection between our innate nature and what would later become the I Ching and Taoism, Chan (Zen Buddhism), along with the structure 4419of Confucianism, that together would make sense of it all. It’s getting and staying in the flow of universal thought described by Alan Watts and others, that propels us to consider the teachings of the ancients.

The underlying premise of “beyond where I find myself now – has always been there. The question has always been do we have the freedom to define and go there for ourselves?” My forever friend Chuang Tzu taught that yes, we do.

One of the best translations of the Basic Writings and Book of Chuang Tzu’ was 4420done by Burton Watson and can be found here on my website. I often refer to it as a reminder of good writing with the intent to broaden the scope of how I view things. Gaining an appreciation, almost as a leap of faith to continue into the unknown.

Chuang teaches us freedom to not become encumbered with what will change. It is entering the flow of universal thought and that each of us will always be present as a continuum of spirit that is never-ending. You don’t have to do anything but to be where you are right now. With the only secret’s worth telling being that as shared consciousness. Speaking and acting only as our heart and mind opens to the present and beyond. Perhaps the key is to reminisce on what we are here to remember.

Two of my most favorite stories from Chuang Tzu are of course first… the butterfly dream in  which he awakens no knowing if he is a butterfly thinking he is 4421Chuang Tzu, or Chuang Tzu thinking he is a butterfly. The second is the story of the cook wielding his knife cutting meat so effortlessly that he keeps his blade sharp although he has used the same knife for many years.

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. Every touch of his hand cut the meat as if he used the knife as though he was performing the Dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music. The cook relayed that what he cared about was the Way or Tao, which goes beyond skill, and said

“I cut up the ox as if by spirit and don’t look at it with my eyes.  Perception and understanding have come to a halt and spirit moves me to where it wants.  Over a period of nineteen years I have cut up thousands of oxen with it, yet the blade is as sharp as the beginning. When I see a place of difficulty, I tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I am doing, work very slowly and move the knife with the greatest subtlety completely satisfied and move on. I then wipe the knife off and put it away.”

Even as we meditate, and when we contemplate qualities such as love and 4422compassion, we dissolve emotional states and allow our mind to come to rest, find stability, and harmony. Unknowingly, our thoughts are of returning home to our eternal resting place to the stars – to where we find ultimate freedom. And for myself, thoughts and remembrances of my dear friend and mentor, Chuang Tzu. To the right is the Libra constellation… and home. In the interim with the bluebird as the Missouri state bird telling me that I’m almost there once again.

Chuang Tzu’s place in Chinese history is often overshadowed by Lao Tzu and Confucius, but he is deserving of praise (although he would laugh at the attention). His moderating presence brought more of a sense of what was to become the synthesis between competing philosophies and thoughts of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism over time.

As freedom teaching us about our soul’s eternal awareness. A continuous knowing as if from the earliest shaman, or cognizance that originates from our 4423origins, heart, and mind.  I often find myself considering Chuang, Lao, and Lieh Tzu as brothers, more than anyone I have ever known in the present.

Recognizing each task I am here to complete with appropriate pondering or thought, as if remembering and acknowledging mentors we all have known along the way. It’s presumptuous to speak for them, but it sometimes seems as if I have been asked to try.

From the Tao Te Ching and Thoughts on becoming a Sage:

Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself

Instilling virtue within oneself requires neither thought nor effort or action if you 4424are truly in sync with the Way of Virtue.

Yin and Yang Dragons    Wuhan Temple

The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the Way.  Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading other along the Way.  As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet.  Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature. Since his every action remains effortless, he does not think about it.

Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself. His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet 4425to become and seeing beyond himself.  Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.

Seeing beyond Oneself    Wuhan Temple

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

习超越自

如果你真的与大德有缘,学习大德不需要思想或行动。

道是你过去和未来的自然延续。大德只是道的化身。你须在每一个行动中保持虚空和不费气力的对话,为众人引路。看看自己,确保你是否具备了足够的慈爱和激情。但是,圣人的慈爱只够开发他的天性。这是因为他的每个行动都是毫不费力,所以他没有考虑那么多。

4426透过他的感觉,他所做的只是他的自然延续。

Two Old Goats   Qingyang Taoist Temple. It is said you are to stroke the goat’s beard through the ages for luck.

他把注意力集中在未来的最高影像和超越自我上。他变成了道的化身,前来面对他的命运

展望将来,他的憧憬与万物和真名相符。他保持谦恭,崇敬和谐。超越自我,他成为了众人在天地之间的联络点。作为圣人,他就是道。

By 1dandecarlo

43) Unity of Springfield World Religions Class. April 19, 2020 – Alan Watts and the Way of Zen Part 1. (Part 2 will follow next week)

There is so much to talk about with Alan Watts that as with our lives there seems no beginning or ending. What should be important to us, verses things of little relevance. What guided so much of his writing and books in the 1950’s and 60’s was how identifiable patterns in nature repeat themselves and correspond with our own soul’s journey. From the smallest things we encounter to the immense. His books, works and writing contributed to the understanding of who we are and most importantly, who we are yet to become.

 In so many ways looking to Watts, is like entering the flow of universal thought and transcendence and saying thank you. The first challenge is getting into the right frame of mind and simply going there. He would say “detachment means to have neither regret for the past nor fears for the future; to let life take its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of something pleasant nor to hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music, and this is called Enlightenment. In short, it is to be detached from both the past and future and to live in the eternal Now. For in truth neither past nor future have any existence apart from this Now; by themselves they are illusions. Life exists only at this very moment… You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now – otherwise you would not be here. Hence the infinite Tao is something which you can neither escape by flight nor catch by pursuit; there is no coming toward it or going away from it; it is, and you are it. So, become what you are.”

This follows the First Noble Truth of Buddhism – That we are here to move beyond suffering.

First, I am not an authority on Zen, I am a student. Simply a storyteller who tries to see how it all fits together. How is it we become transcendent in our thoughts and universal through our actions. The key for me and good writing is to allow others to see themselves and say “yes, can I come along too?” Not to try to own a particular way of thinking, but to sample our way through life finding shoes (transposed as our thoughts and actions through cause and effect) that fit. This fits in the ideas of two others attributes that exemplify Zen being impermanence and absence of any self.

I think Alan Watts speaks so well as to the essence of Zen that translates into the meaning of our lives.  It seems that on the one hand, it is necessary to be sympathetic and to experiment personally with the way of life to the limit of one’s possibilities.  On the other hand, one must resist every temptation to “join the organization”, to become involved with its institutional commitments, that say we must work, get a job, and conform or comply with the status quo. We do those things, but not in such a way that they define who we are… unless we use what we do to do so.

As Ram Dass taught us years ago, “The person we are from nine to five is not who we are from five to nine. That we get too busy doing not being….” Residing or finding a friendly neutral position, we are apt to be disowned by both sides. For the relationship between two positions becomes far clearer when there is a third with which to compare them. Thus, even if this study of Zen does no more than express a standpoint which is neither Zen nor anything Western, it will at least provide that third point of reference. This is what Alan Watts was attempting to do… to take us there. To not only be willing to “change our thoughts”, but also “decide how to get there”. As with the essence of the I Ching and what is reflected in Taoism teaches us… we must be willing to change from within ourselves. To adapt ourselves to and with the flow of universal thought and to go there acknowledging that the key to wisdom and transcendence is illumination, spontaneity, and to go or follow where our innermost thoughts want to take us. That it is as Franklin Roosevelt told America at the height of the depression back in the 1930’s, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” The context may be different, but the meaning is the same. To rise up out of where we are, we must be willing to do things differently and not to let fear of change itself or staying in the status quo define or overtake us.

The problem for many from the essential standpoint of Zen is that it refuses to be organized, or to be made the exclusive possession of any institution. If there is anything in this world which transcends the relativities of cultural conditioning, it is Zen – by whatever name it may be called. This is an excellent reason for Zen’s not being institutionalized, and for the fact that many of its ancient exponents were “universal individualists” who were never members of any Zen organization, and never sought the acknowledgment of any formal authority. They lived “outside the lines or box” of what was/is excepted at the time. Today they would be called an “outlier”. This is the ultimate paradox we all live. Staying within the lines for eternity’s sake, while living outside the lines to find life’s true meaning.

For myself, it is as if happiness, i.e., our purpose, is always present in our life. It’s just a matter of connecting to it and allowing it to flow through us that’s challenging. That we stop trying to please and start respecting our values, principles, and autonomy. It is as if we live two lives as referred to above. Watts’s fascination with the Zen (or Chan) tradition—beginning during the 1930s—developed because for him, that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East“Work”, “life”, and “art” were not to be demoted, but became the extension of a spiritual focus. In his writing, he referred to it as “the great Chan (or Zen) synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism after AD 700 in China.” Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, in 1936. Two decades later, in The Way of Zen he disparaged The Spirit of Zen as a “popularization of Suzuki’s earlier works, and besides being very unscholarly it is in many respects out of date and misleading.” A mid-course direction as if now twenty years later, knowing more he needed to re-define his take on things.

 Carl Jung said, “To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, mission done, the perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in things. Personality is Tao. The emergence of a new center in the personality, that with the Tao we can find the synchronicity of life. That synchronicity asserts that what appears as coincidence is actually connected by a similarity of meaning. What the Tao and I Ching represent is the continuous creation of a pattern that exists in all eternity”.

Watt’s continues: In contrast to spiritual teachings based on doctrine or divine revelation, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism is based on thousands of years of observing nature, especially patterns of change and transformation. How it all fit together. What may be seen as divine, already exists within you. All that is necessary is to connect your pre-existing spirit with transcending universal rhythms and vibrations that speak to your own endeavor and destiny. Over time, the Chinese came to see these patterns of change as resulting from a universal creative spirit, or energy, which they called the Tao. Similar to that found in air and water. That change is dynamic and always evolving. The Tao likened to the currents and vortices in air and water. Sometimes it was depicted as tightly coiled lines or threads; other times, as dragons, flowing along wave-like lines of change.

Carl Jung and Alan Watt’s contribution to understanding the human condition as we reconcile our “place” in nature was immeasurable once we see from where we are doing “it” from. What is important is to see knowledge and wisdom as the unending flow of nature. It’s as if there is a stepping stone of never-ending thought waiting for us to tap into.

 Living beyond what is expected of you at the moment. Sometimes it’s like being here, but not really present. For Taoist sages and Zen masters the universe that surrounds us is to be experienced as our “original face”. It’s the Source of all that exists, a living matrix of creativity that we all belong to that has brought each one of us into being. For myself, it is that we are to do the best that we can with what we have while we are here. To begin to grasp Zen, we must first take a look at both Confucianism and Taoism, then to the I Ching and Mahayana Buddhism as our teachers.

Confucianism pre-occupies itself with maintaining social order. An individual defines himself and place in society thusly. I saw this play out with many of my friends in Qufu over the years. The home of Confucius where everyone seemed intent on finding their place in what was seen as the norm. Whereas, Taoism resides more with the individual, and with older men who have the time to pursue a more inward liberation from the bounds of conventional patterns to thought and conduct. Seeing things in an unconventional way, understanding life directly instead of only rational, abstract thoughts, or ways of thinking. In short spontaneity, that may allude us when the rigors of life’s travails seem omnipresent. What keeps us from opening our minds is that the Absolute cannot be confused with abstract thinking. What can be known – verses what will be forever unknowable. It was here through the use of the I Ching, one could use what might be call “peripheral vision”, or our ability to feel a situation and act accordingly. In doing so, we often see the need to move beyond who, and where, we are now because we’ve moved beyond our present thinking. According to Watts, Taoism, is the original way of liberation, which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism produces Zen. It is the liberation from convention and of the creative power of te, or virtue. With te as the unthinkable ingenuity and creative power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning – a power which is blocked when one tries to master it in terms of formal methods and techniques. In Zen, ensō (, , “circle”) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

As Alan Watts put it: “If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…”

While this is not difficult to comprehend conceptually, it can be challenging to experience directly and frequently. Not buying into the rat race mentality of modern cultures is an essential first step. Training mindfully in an art form or sport, learning to meditate or do yoga, will provide us with a system of practice that assists greatly. With this we learn to grow beyond the emotional propensities of the past. To make the ordinary become extraordinary through the virtue that resides within each of us. Easier said than done, because in the West we become tied to the Christian concept of an Absolute, or accepted moral order. When we become at odds with this, we are denying our own nature or found rejecting God. As we learn to meet the world like an empty cup, we allow inner and outer realms of our lives to flow together. Where there had been separation before, now there is greater unity and love.  Every living being we meet, every experience we have, can be seen as magical in some way.

 Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as a deepening awareness of inter-being, the fundamental unity and interconnectedness of every “thing” in the Cosmos. In a flower exists water from clouds, energy from the sun, molecules from the earth, atoms created billions of years ago within stars…. Just like us. This understanding is very important if one wishes to grasp Buddhist teachings about emptiness, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

A flower cannot be by herself alone. To be empty is not a negative note… A flower is empty only of a separate self, but a flower is full of everything else. The whole cosmos can be seen, can be identified, can be touched, in one flower. So, to say that the flower is empty of a separate self also means that the flower is full of the cosmos.

Such an attitude and recognition bring greater peace and happiness in our lives (and wisdom in our actions) because instead of trying to manipulate outcomes and take from the world we become more aligned with Nature, moving in unison with life, like a musician or dancer. To even what embodies the true meaning of tai chi – not just to see, but to get things by the feel of them. Using intuition, our inner knowing, to decide for us how to proceed. It comes to us by what is known as ‘spontaneous action’”. “Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man [or woman] lives as he ought to live.” ― D.T. Suzuki

It is as if all divine energy is already pre-existing waiting to come forth, change, and blossom from within every atom. That what exists in all nature occurs through a process of synchronicity as these atoms constantly emerge as building blocks from one thing to the next, coming forth over and over through time. First as one thing and then the next. A blending or coalescing together that originates from within as the natural universe works mainly on the principle of growth. What we, and all things found in nature are now and yet to become.

Dao and De (The Way of Virtue)

  • The more we come to know quantum physics, the better we understand the science of how this works. Over thousands of years in both philosophical and practical terms, this grew in understanding to become the I Ching, to Taoism, to Chan Buddhism… to what we know as Zen. It became the culmination or consummation, “the blending” of all that came before it. It’s also who we are. With our essence, our soul as you might say and thoughts that take us there, co-mingling with eternity.
By 1dandecarlo

42) Alan Watts – Part 3 / Staying in tune with the spontaneity of Zen… to the structure and discipline that helps to take us there.

Liberation and cultural transformation and why Confucius was instrumental to the flow of benevolence and virtue. To the great Zen Master Dogen, beginner’s mind, and to what brings forth an unfolding of a new vision of reality.

It begins from within each of us. With compassion and mindfulness, we see that the heart is the ground from which our speech grows. We learn to restrain our speech in 4219moments of anger, hostility, or confusion, and over time, to train ourselves to be more frequently inclined towards wholesome states such as love, kindness and empathy. To live from the center of our heart as the starting point in which we begin again.

And to as Mahatma Gandhi told us that “We should speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

While we have finished the study of the Dazhuan and I Ching, the essentials of 4201Buddhist thought as it blended into Taoism in early China seems like the place to go next. As relayed earlier by Watts reckoning and many others, Taoism was the original Chinese way of liberation which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen. This idea of liberation is something that we keep coming back to over and over again.

The question and underlying contradiction have always been – what are we liberating ourselves from – and when we have a sense of it – what do we do next. What are we doing to promote this transcendent flow of energy? If the eternal essence, this flow of the universe already exists within us, then our role becomes simply to continue moving it forward. It is often said we do this with love. But how do we express this and what is our medium of expression?

The greatest con4202ributors to the flow of transcendence, to this flow of energy for me was illustrated in the West by Plato, Emerson, Tolstoy, MLK, Eckhart Tolle, and yes, I would say Alan Watts. What is this ability to connect with the universal never-ending flow of transcendental thought and philosophy? This voice historically has also been expressed through the arts. Music and painting, have always been the best way for many to express this transcendence. As best defined by the truest sense of kung fu – the essence of our own greatest gift to ourselves and others.

But Watts was unique, as all these were, in that they found a starting point and built on the idea of being liberated from convention to what amounts to the creative power of te, of virtue as discussed in my last entry. What is virtue and more importantly, how does it define us? To appreciate and understand a sense of virtue, there is no better place coming from the East, than to begin with Confucius.

Below is an entry from my manuscript My travels with Lieh Tzu:

                                         Finding Confucius

Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with 4203knowledge?  Can he possibly equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its true origin?

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

Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao.

The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius and Taoism always present. Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground. Moving all to places they 4204would otherwise miss. Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leading to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.

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

Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge? Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this possibly lead? Who can possibly say?   3/5/1995

The three men are dipping their fingers in a vat of vinegar and tasting it; one 4205man reacts with a sour expression, one reacts with a bitter expression, and one reacts with a sweet expression. The three men are Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. Each man’s expression represents the predominant attitude of his philosophy:

Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering due to desires; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally perfect in its natural state. Another interpretation of the painting is that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, the “three philosophies” are one and the same. The latter is my sentiments exactly.

Alan Watts understood that in order to get to the bottom of what was to become Zen Buddhism, you must first see the adaptability of Chinese thought. For myself, there seems to be a universal connecting tissue that ties universal thought together as if a single thread. I see this especially in Tolstoy, Emerson, and Watt.

In Eastern thought, there had been an integration spanning thousands of years 4206of defining who they were before Buddhism came from India in a big way. This maturity led to workable patterns of social convention derived from Confucianism with ideas of Taoism and particularly “leaving well enough alone”. This led to a synthesis, to what would become Chan, or Zen Buddhism whose premise was “ok, how do we find a practical application that would define a way of life for everyone following normal instincts and pre-existing patterns”.

I would add that both mystical and mythic consciousness demands that certain things – sacred things – be approached not with the distance of disinterested scrutiny but in a spirit of faith. But freedom from the self comes not through the dulling of consciousness, but through its refinement, not through dissolving the ego but through moving beyond it. Its what every great storyteller attempts to do by becoming enmeshed, or a part of, what appears as an extension of the unknown, eventually falling into a harmonious rhythm or flow that washes away extraneous thoughts and brings our senses back to life.

Verse 34 of the Tao Te Ching –from my book Thoughts on becoming a Sage / The Guidebook to Leading a virtuous Life published in China in 2006. 

                 Knowing no borders – you learn to lead the Way

Living each moment in virtue through grace, while remaining unrestrained in every 4207thought, action and deed.

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

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

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

  • 大道无边

蒙道之恩典,得以时时刻刻与大德相随。但我每个思维和行动都不受任何约束。如果做到不4208把人

   Memorial to Yellow Emperor  Qufu

按强弱是非来区分,你就能够回应万物,驾驭万物。

明白宇宙的无边无际,要谨守中立。把握全局,但同时让事物自寻出路。仿佛随时间而漂荡,只做你善做之事。因为你行踪飘忽,所以用道作为你的指南针和桨,游八方,观万物。你以道的名义,继续漫游,这样不会引人注目。你才略有成就,切忌自吹自擂。

永不充大头,但要做大事。给万物以来去的自由,这样做看起来容易失去控制,其实最终万物都回到你的面前。记得庄子曾经说过,大道无边。当你坐下时,就看见世人向你走过来。

It seems that in practical terms that I always come back to Confucius and his hometown, Qufu. I got my Chinese name (Kongdan), from my friends in Qufu. Kong is Confucius family name. Over half of people who live in Qufu have Kong as their family name. So, the name Kongdan seemed the next step for me over the years as I kept coming back (and still do). Over the past twenty years I have made over forty trips and lived next to Confucius Mansion and Temple and 4209taught at the school founded by his descendants adjacent to both. But the point here is the flow of divine universal thought and energy.

Stele of the Yellow Emperor – Qufu

How for over thousands of years this continuum transposed how we were to live and what we were to connect to that made us universal. That we are more than what we see as nature gets the final call. A blending from one age to the next that created the sense the shaman and sage knew well and decided this is eternal and we are a part of it all.

Deciding it must come from within ourselves. Confucius caused this blending to happen. Interestingly, his teachings weren’t appreciated for almost a hundred 4210years after he died. It was the flow of energy others could grab onto and add to that would illustrate his genius  just as he had done himself. Tradition says the Yellow Emperor (2700 BC) who created the I Ching was from Qufu. Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, who is considered to be the “First Sage” of China, who wrote the Book of Rites five hundred years before Confucius was from Qufu. In trying to understand how it all comes together it seems like they always possessed what I would call a transcendent imperative. A certain pragmatism that all honored as varying ways of thinking leaning on the strengths of each. Like saying whatever works best to get you there will do.

It’s like possessing an underlying simplicity and structure as to how we live our lives that can obscure the richness of its implications. That’s the task of all great teachers and what they leave behind for us to grab onto that will define us as well. This is what Confucius did that Watts was trying to relay. Saying wherever we are doing it from in virtue is empowering, and can enhance our capacities to find 4211enjoyment throughout the events of daily life. For Confucius this sense of responsibility leads one to benevolence, virtue, and grace. To appreciate Zen, you must first look to the three anchors of thought, Confucianism, Taoism, and Mayashan Buddhism, with the merging of awareness and action as the central, or essential ingredient to the experience of each. That we are at our best when we are one of many.

For a short time prior to teaching at Jining University in Qufu, I was a partner in a joint-venture shopping center with an office that overlooked the Confucius cemetery east of the city for a few years, where both over one hundred thousand of his descendants and Confucius are buried. Or I think better-said I 4212keep returning to Qufu like a homing pigeon.  Even on my fist trip to Qufu in October 1999, it was as if I was returning home where I had lived many times before as a teacher. Spending a lot of time in meditation and contemplation as to what it all could mean… and why Qufu? To return again in 2011 to teach was amazing… My time spent living and teaching in Qufu can be found in a manuscript here on my website under the tab “Books” entitled Qufu and Confucius. For almost five thousand years the city of Lu, later to be known as Qufu, has been the center of the Middle Kingdom. For the storyteller you become the scribe, the continuation of history, as if you are simply recalling or retelling what you already know and will add to this time…

When I’m here, I always seem to return to thoughts of illumination, liberation, freedom, ideas of the flow of universal transcendence, and wanting to live from a state of grace. What my own mentors would have done next, and most importantly, remembering what takes us there. It’s like a grounding of eternal 4213presence that becomes understood and acknowledged before going forward with the next step reminding us of the innate wisdom, perhaps one might say, a kind of touchstone, we have always possessed.

This always seems to bring me back to moderation, and the benevolence and virtue of Confucius and Kongdan. What this means is that whatever the impermanence we find of our lives in this moment… we can change. Often I would take the bus to a neighboring city or village to visit the home of one of my students. As we would turn the corner or see vistas of mountains or hillside there would be a sense of dejavu – I have been here before. This feeling often occurred in Qufu.  

To appreciate and understand Alan Watts, there is a need to “get under the skin” of pre-existing thought as to what made Zen Zen. As if, you must understand the journey it took over the centuries to grow and manifest into something that 4214people could see as an instrument to follow as a compilation of thought and philosophy.

To the left is an area called “Confucius Hill” next to the Si River in Qufu where Confucius was said to have given lectures to his followers over 2500 years ago.

It’s not only that we return to the flow of universal thought, but where we allow it to take us. Like an institutional memory we each contribute to that allows us to tap into that shows the way. A willingness to proceed into the unknown as the central element in acknowledging our own path, and that no two may be the same. As with the I Ching you must return, or go back to the beginning, before the route ahead shows you the way. Over the centuries it becomes the roadmap to eternity. For me, it’s always returning to my source and Qufu. As with seemingly all things opposites occur with Qufu in northeast China and Chengdu in Sichuan to the southwest.

To the right is a 13th century temple complex located in rural Fukai in Japan, considered 4215to be an important pilgrimage site by most Soto Zen practitioners known as Eiheiji, founded by Master Eihei Dogen (1200-1253) in 1244.

When the world is experienced, as the thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen writes, “with the whole of one’s body and mind” the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life displays an intrinsic and unitive richness. This from a famous passage Dogen from Genjokoan, (whose meaning is to actualize, or to appear to become one with the whole universe.)

Dogen writes:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be illuminated by all things.         

Adding that – great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily living.

Its characteristics include joy, deep concentration, emotional buoyancy, a heightened sense of mastery, a lack of self-consciousness, and self-transcendence. While living in South Florida a few years ago, I attended a Buddhist Sangha Community weekly 4216meditation that used the book “The Essential Dogen” as a guide. I still have the book, and often find myself returning to it. I have found it both enlightening and inspirational. In a future entry as an introduction to Watt’s version of Zen, I hope to use this as another tool. Ultimately, we attain wisdom not be creating ideals, but by learning to see things clearly, as they are. That it is as Confucius said, “We are not here to create – we are here to relate”.

One of Dogen’s teachers was Rujing. What I especially liked was his idea that practice and realization cannot be divided as we proceed each moment in what Watt would call ‘the essential Now’. To acknowledge the starting point as what the Buddhist would call ‘beginners mind’. 4217To what Eckhart Tolle calls “The Power of Now”. With this we focus on aligning with the destination that is always present.

What Watts calls when we have an experience, or find ourselves in a state of consciousness which leads to our liberation that often is referred to as self-knowledge, or the beginnings of self-awakening. It is with this state of mind we make the discovery of who or what I am (we are), when I am (we are) no longer identified with any role or conventional definition of the person we thought we were. This “self-knowledge” often leads to identifying with our own divinity. To succeed in the cultivation of mindfulness, is the highest benefit, informing all aspects of our life. 

The idea of a starting point has always intrigued me. With the I Ching, it always reminds us to start with the beginning. To go within as if in prayer or meditation letting our outward actions simply mirror our innermost acknowledgment of our own divinity. What I like most about Zen Buddhism, is there are no rails keeping us from actualizing who we are meant to become. I like to think ths was Chuang Tzu’s contribution to chan that later transformed into zen.  

To grow as we come to know our presence – to know ourselves. This was always the strength of Confucius teaching as it allowed the blending and structure 4218that encouraged Taoism and Buddhism to flourish with the addition of Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen

Frontispiece of the Chinese Vajracchedika Prajnaparamita Sutra, the oldest known dated printed book in the world.

In China this was often called Chan Buddhism and in Japan… Zen Buddhism as exemplified by Dogen. Teachings would often vary due to structure and preferences of Masters seeped in culture and direction with the flow of wisdom they felt they needed to expand.

Below is an entry from the Chapter entitled Confucius that appears in the book “My Travels with Lieh Tzu” called “Maintaining sage-like Endurance”, that began as a book simply entitled “Lieh Tzu” that describes the impact of Confucius teachings on others. The book here on my website is my own version I wrote back in 1995-96 that has never been published.  

What did Confucius do that made him so famous? He was a compiler of the history of China that came before him. For myself after more than twenty-five IMG_0249 (2)years of acquaintance, he was/is the ultimate storyteller. He is said to have updated what was known as “the Five Classics”, which included the Book of Rites made famous by Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, from five hundred years earlier. Also, the Analects and his take on the I Ching, plus the writings of Lao Tzu, who tradition says they once met. He did not become famous for over a hundred years after his death.

                             Maintaining sage-like Endurance

Once asked if he was a sage, Confucius responded: “How can I claim to be a sage, I am simply a man who has studying widely and remembered much.” Asked if the Kings IMG_0258 (2)were sage-like, he responded: “The kings were good at employing wisdom and courage, rather they were sages is hard to say.” Asked if the Emperors were sages, Confucius responded: “They were good at employing morality, rather that made them a sage, I do not know.” Asked if the three Highnesses were like a sage, Confucius responded: “They were good at adapting themselves to their environment, but rather this made them sage-like is difficult to know.”

Knowing the above who can be a sage? Since the time governments have been established there has been no true sage. For in bringing forward a standard for all to follow, a cleverness is established and one must lead and another follow. How can this enhance the knowledge and experience needed for one to be known as a sage?

Can a sage have true wisdom and courage, keep his sense of morality and be good at adapting to his environment once a semblance of that which is known as government IMG_0259 (2)comes into place? How can one be manifested with the other ever‑present?

The one true sage is thought to be Lao Tzu and it is said that he does not govern yet there is no disorder. Does not speak, yet is trusted simultaneously. He is so great the people cannot give a name to him so that even he is questioned as to have truly existed. Remember what you have come to know in your new found travels. Prepare to retreat into the inner workings of the Tao and leave behind all those who strive to find their place in worldly affairs. Remain forever sage-like in your endeavors and come to know eternal peace. 3/12/1995

Confucius inspired people to act with benevolence and virtue that would accept the spiritual path of others. For well over two thousand years after Confucius, Qufu was considered to be the “Religious center of China”, because what Confucianism became was the way of acceptance of family, community, and the emperor. Every city from about 200 AD during the Han dynasty going forward, was required to have 100_3041a “Temple of Confucius”, not so much in a spiritual sense, but a philosophical understanding of how the individual should live going forward. Much of the examination system in place for well over a thousand years required for moving up in society was centered of a thorough understanding of the teaching of Confucius.

If you are still with me, I hope you will see the value in “self-appraisal”. Modeling our heart and our thoughts, to match others we can look to as guides that help to design the path, we know instinctively we must take when we are ready. I especially like to follow what is called the oral tradition, words and stories from the East. As personified by the sage, or shaman, as a heritage embodied in what is transmitted in what we might call not necessarily a ‘religious’ sense, but one that involved directing others in a whole way of life. This is the fate of the storyteller. Creating cohesion that take us to the unknown in such away we must follow. The earliest shaman knew to follow his/her instincts into the unknown. What was it that took Alan Watts and so many others on their own journey to the knowledge of the ultimate reality? It’s where we shall endeavor to go here as well.

 

 

 

   

By 1dandecarlo

41) Alan Watts – Part 2 / Moving beyond our inner critic… even to the true meaning of kung fu.

(It seems I am barely scratching the surface. There is so much here with Watts. We may be spending a lot of quality time with Alan for a while.) Continuing the I Ching – On the Commentaries Keeping rhythm with the Big Dance in the Sky and final words of the Dazhuan and I Ching (Yijing).

One of the major differences in ‘Eastern verses Western thought’ is the act of creation. In the west, we often think of God creating or producing the world in 410111seven days as relayed in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. Verses in Taoism, for example, Tao produces “the ten thousand things” by not making anything. Because things already exist or occur like separate parts put together as if from within an indefinable infinite. It is as if all divine energy is already pre-existing waiting to come forth, change, and blossom from within every atom. That what exists in all nature occurs through a process of synchronicity as these atoms constantly emerge as building blocks from one thing to the next, coming forth over and over through time. First as one thing and then the next. A blending or 410112coalescing together that originates from within as the natural universe works mainly on the principle of growth. What we, and all things found in nature are now and yet to become.

Dao and De (The Way of Virtue)

  • The more we come to know quantum physics, the better we understand the science of how this works. Over thousands of years in both philosophical and practical terms, this grew in understanding to become the I Ching, to Taoism, to Chan Buddhism… to what we know as Zen. It became the culmination or consummation, “the blending” of all that came before it. It’s also who we are. With our essence, our soul as you might say and thoughts that take us there, co-mingling with eternity.

From the western view of things, I look to first understand perceived patterns and 410113ideas of freedom as Sir Isaiah Berlin, a British social and political theorist, philosopher and historian of ideas tells us in the story, “The Hedgehog and the Fox”. A title referring to a fragment of the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, that was one of Berlin’s most popular essays with the general public, reprinted in numerous editions.

Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (examples given include Plato), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea (examples given include 410114William Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt in your philosophy”. Hamlet 1.5 167–168).

Berlin argued that not all values can be jointly realized in one life, or in a single society or period of history, and that many ideals cannot even be compared on a common scale; so that there can be no single objective ranking of ends, no uniquely right set of principles by which to live. From this it follows not only that people should be free (within the crucial but rather broad limits set by the demands of sheer humanity), both individually and collectively, to adopt their own guiding priorities and visions of life.

In the East, and Zen Buddhism, it has always been to observe underlying 410115contradictions and the synchronicity of all things found in nature as outlined above. Watts takes this idea of freedom to the next step. Our challenge in meditation, or to what some refer to as zazen, is moving beyond our “inner critic” to begin to enter the flow of our universal selves as we look to the ultimate freedom 410116that exists and resides from within. To stop second guessing ourselves. Finding our path and staying true to it.

It’s when our spontaneity synchronizes with universal thought – our creativity that flows when we move beyond who we think we are that can begin to define our own transcendence. It is here that fear seems to envelop us. It is here that understanding the Tao and how we are to relate to it that becomes so 410117important. History seems to tell us that when we think of man’s instincts, fear has no rival. The challenge always to be prepared to take the next step with the knowledge and wisdom of what I like to refer to as our “inner institutional memory the defines us”.

It was Robert (Bobby) Kennedy, who was my own earliest mentor in politics, who spoke of moral courage that is such a rare commodity.  It was ultimately what Alan Watts taught us as to how we choose to connect the dots moving beyond fear for ourselves that made his writing about we know or refer to as Zen Buddhism that becomes so important. That it’s the shaman, the artist, the storyteller, who make the incoherent coherent and returns. In this Watts 410118excels. It’s like innately scratching an itch that never goes away.

One forgets the self, Zen teachers say, by becoming one with the task at hand. At such moments, released from the burdens of selfhood, one glimpses, however briefly, a state of spiritual wholeness that underlies and supports one’s everyday consciousness. The secret is that it is what we do, the activity itself and the anticipation of its outcome, that better defines who we are that becomes the story.

It is that sense of knowing we are here to summon the freedom that Taoism first speaks to. It’s like the artist or writer who flirts with the unknown finding 410135what is sacred within themselves as some might define as their niche, or even wu wei.

Interestingly, it is as the blind Taoist monk “Thousand Eyes” defines and describes the true meaning of kung fu in the Netflix series Marco Polo as follows:

Kung Fu is meant to summon the spirit of the crane and the tiger. Kung Fu means “supreme skill from hard work”.

A great poet or writer has reached kung fu. The painter and calligrapher they can be said to have kung fu. Even the cook – the one who sweeps steps – or a masterful servant 410119can have kung fu.

The image of right or correct path or proper way.

Practice – preparation – endless repetition. Until your mind is weary and your bones ache. Until you are too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe. That is the way, the only way one acquires kung fu… and I would add the secret of synchronicity and living in that state of grace.

Synchronicity only works with the spontaneity that enables change to take precedence. It becomes the experience of arriving at decisions spontaneously, letting our pre-determined approach to life (our mind) speak for itself as 410120virtue, or even what may be called “conscious conduct”. (This is the essence of wu wei or what is known as non-action). What we often lose sight of is – it is not simply attempting to “calm and quiet our mind, it is the “not graspingness”, of what lies outside of us that is so difficult. With hopes that our thoughts eventually find insight that helps to define our authenticity.  

It is the blending, or unity, of both the internal and external of who we have always been, with who we are now, and who we will ever be that matters. To what Zen calls wu-hsin or the principle that ‘true mind is no mind’. Almost what would be seen as unconsciousness, to a state of wholeness – or whole mind – in which the mind functions freely and easily, as if a second mind is almost non-existent. To be so in-tune with the Tao that original mind, or hsin, is so authentic, it works as if it isn’t present. To be integrated, spontaneous, and so natural as to show a special kind of virtue or power called Te, as with Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching verse 21…

                             Forever Replenishing our Virtue

What is this thing called virtue and value placed on emptiness and what might be 410121called effectiveness, and how can they be so inter-related?

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 410122forward.

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.

21          练大德,永无止

 大德是什么?虚空是什么?他们之间的关系又如何?如果我们不愿意保持虚空,大德就无从谈起。来自虚空的大德是可见的,除此之外所有的大德都不可见。大德时多时少,我们必须不断修练和完善。

410123           Longevity and Virtue Completed – Confucius Mansion in Qufu

仿佛受到月的盈亏的指点,我象神农那样,通过耕耘我的花园发现了万物的结构。神农是一个伟大的农夫,他很久以前就发现了农业耕作,植物的治病作用和圣人们用来记事的日历。它是道通过大德的显示吗?可以用来指导我们吗?道为大德所拥有。没有大德,道就毫无意义和力量,没有大德,道就无法表现或缺乏动力。道无形,道惟有隐于德时才会显示出来,自然规律或万物法则才变得清晰明了。

道亦有亦无,随着心灵意念来来去去。有德则有道,万物皆有道。我们要不断变革,从改变自身开始。原来的真实现在变成了虚假,原来的虚假现在变成了真实。保留的只有充满道的大德。

As the last line expressed above says, it is only our essence expressed as virtue 410124that is kept and continually replenished by the Tao, while our personality (ego) dissolving into the essence of our soul is never-ending. Think about this for a moment.

It is the sense of becoming. That continual presence that becomes the key to knowledge, wisdom, and understanding, is not simply reading the words of others.

We are to capture the essence of what is said. It’s the challenge of my friends and storytellers through the ages. Its about being able to relate to others the context, the core meaning, so that there is an aha moment from them as well. Seeing yourself in what is written or said.

Continuing with Watts and Zen… While the Confucians prescribed a virtue which depended on the artificial observance of rules and precepts, the Taoist pointed out that such virtues were conventional and not genuine. The sage judges by the content of the experience at hand and not by actions that simply Confuciu 1are to conform with the status quo.

It is this regard for virtue that serves to remind us of our transcendence and eternal essence that permeates the sense of te, or virtue. It becomes the freedom to think in terms of ingenuity and creativity that speaks to our spontaneity and ultimate nature… our own naturalness of who we are. By attempting to conform with preset rules and authority… we become bound by the artificial. It is this idea of conformity that I have always challenged and love Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu), as his writing has always laughed at contradictions and convention. Not only for his writing, humor, and as a good friend. But almost as a brother, as he reminds me of who I have always been.

It is this sense of te, of virtue, that permeates Eastern thought and philosophy. The Confucian ideal of authority, structure, yet benevolence, combined with Lao’s and Taoism’s sense of individual freedom encapsulates what was to become Zen when combined with the Indian Mahayana Buddhism. As if by 410125becoming yourself, almost by accident, you have arrived at the place that is like the staging area for liberation and true enlightenment.

Mahāyāna Buddhist triad, including Bodhiaattva Maitreya, the Buddha, and Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. 2nd–3rd century CE, Gandhara

A disclaimer… For purposes of discussion going forward, there are numerous volumes written about “Zen Buddhism” since Alan Watts wrote so much and had such significant influence following his book “The Way of Zen” in the 1950’s and 60’s. In layman’s terms, I am trying to carry forward, or convey Watts book for the semi or uninitiated… for those who want to know more about the meaning of Zen.  Like putting together a puzzle that took thousands of years to 410126design and develop with each of us responsible for adding the next piece.

It is how we begin to get there for ourselves that I want to spend time here with my foundation.  How do we grow into what is unknown? Following Watts and many others, who blaze a trail of wonderment and joy. As both a teacher, and student, I have learned that the parameters of our innate wisdom are bound only by our ability to use our imagination. To be guided by those who contributed what they could, within the limits of where they found themselves in history. To pick up the pieces left by mentors and as the earliest shaman would look to the stars and ask the same question. Now that I understand my place in history, how do I make the most of it?

Throughout history, it has always come back to the liberation from convention, the accepted status quo and of the creative power of te i.e., virtue. As if the ultimate yin and yang. In the West, we struggle with the idea that going forward the outcome must conform with pre-existing norms of self-imposed limitations, or those placed by others bound by their own limitations defining norms to suit themselves. If one is truly to know thyself and our original nature, as Emerson reminds us, our first challenge is to move beyond the accepted.

It’s hard to explain in words, because the Way, the Tao, is distorted by words as if attempting to define the undefinable. As if we are here to make the 410127undefinable definable only for ourselves.

In the words of Chuang Tzu:

“Were language adequate, it would take but a day fully to set forth Tao. It takes that time to explain material existences. Tao is something beyond material existences. It cannot be conveyed by either words or silence.” (25) Giles page 351.

Here in the Dazhuan, in the 5th and 6th Wings, it is assumed that they are not written in a vacuum and the earlier Wings especially The Commentary of the Decision, Wings 1 and 2, are already known and understood, and as with the remaining Wings (3 through 12), the materials from which the hexagrams have been constructed are explained. Concluding this part of the story are the final numbers 11 and 12.  

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 11

Keeping rhythm with the Big Dance in the Sky

From the earliest of times, we are told of the Great Yu who had received a book 410128entitled Shui-Ching, the Book of Power over Waters from sacred powers in the sky where he was able to travel to learn from celestial spirits. It would be the dance of power referred to by the ancients and called the Pace of Yu that had been passed down from the Xia to the Shang in Taoist rituals.  These movements were danced for generations by the mystics, what we would call shaman. In ancient Chinese civilization the wu, or shaman, were key and central members of the community. It would be towards the end of the Shang dynasty (about 1000BC) when the shaman was inviting the spirits, reading omens, rainmaking, and celestial divination was to be at its zenith, or peak.

Song Dynasty depiction of Yu who was said to live from 2123 to 2025 BC living to be 98 years old. He was said to have been a descendent of the Yellow Emperor.

The Shang dynasty represented a time when the personal power of kings became 410129paramount and the divine rights honoring man’s connection to heaven and earth took a back seat to this unyielding power. Into this stepped the need to convey the meaning of not only the lines representing the I Ching and its power, but it’s meaning through clear and concise statements to re-enforce this divine connection. It would be King Wen while he was imprisoned by King Zhou of the Shang (shown to the right) at Youli, who would produce the meaning of the lines. This had been the part that was missing that could expand and explain the meaning of the sixty-four hexagrams.

This had always been the paradox of the I Ching. Oftentimes, because of their connection with divine sources, the king, in this case King Wen, was seen as further personifying the connection to and with the will of Heaven. Both King Zhou of the Shang dynasty and King Wen saw themselves as this divine extension of God. Unfortunately, the Shang King was not and used his power in an unscrupulous matter. Fortunately for history’s sake, King Wen was a shaman first before becoming a king. 

The statements prepared by King Wen were meant to be an appendage to the 410130lines of the I Ching.  They spoke clearly of this danger and from a caution illustrating the intent of remaining without blame and thus gaining success. This lesson became essential to Chinese history and the benchmark of how ancient China was to progress from this time forward. The Mandate from Heaven was now secure.

It would be this line of reasoning that so enamored Confucius more than five hundred years later and caused him to focus on the need for virtue and benevolence that were to direct all his teachings. King Wen, while in prison saw that danger encourages peace and that complacency provokes one’s downfall. He embodied this eternal spirit that had been passed down from Yu the Great (shown to the right) and saw the great potential of mankind and the I Ching and what 410131would someday be referred to as the Tao. Nothing was to be omitted. It would talk of beginnings and endings and embraced the idea that we should live out our activities in life in such a way that we would be without blame. King Wen would add the statements to the lines that set the stage for so many that would follow.

For a hundred years after the fall of the Shang in 1070 BC, it was as if a renaissance of practical thinking led by Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, and others to produce the Book of Rites and the principle idea behind the Mandate of Heaven which would one day become the sole property of the emperor that was to become the benchmark for China’s development. Five to eight hundred years later after Ji Dan, during the Warring 100_4989Stated Period of Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Confucius, Mencius, and so many others during a period called the One Hundred Schools, that this would be codified as the Ten Wings, of which the Dazhuan, this book, was to be a part of. Later the Han scholars and Wang Bi would codify into the Confucian dialectic and the I Ching would become a major element of the examination system that directed the fate of China for over two thousand years.

As we read this today, we need to think of the context of history as it developed over the centuries. Most importantly, how they would have seen themselves in light of what was known at the time.

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 12 

Final Words of the Dazhuan and I Ching (Yijing)

Both Ch’ien and Kun reign supreme under heaven. The ultimate in both firmness and compliance – Ch’ien or Qian applies its power spontaneously and is alert and weary of impending danger, while Kun tries to keep things simple and free from obstruction. 

Qian is creative as it works from the ability to transcend traditional ideas, 410132rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination; and strength downward as if from heaven, thereby mastering danger.

While Kun is working from below accomplishing heavy tasks, freeing things from obstruction, i.e., something that obstructs, blocks, or closes up with an obstacle or obstacles or hindrance. With thus the Yijing can rejoice in heart and examine any anxieties going forward. It is though this joy one can gain an overall view of good and bad fortune and know how to precede in the proper way.

With this change, alternation and transformation naturally occur and auspicious or promising success; propitious; opportune; or events that meet favorable omens are furthered and the oracle is made clear. The lines of the hexagrams give guidance so that you can act in accordance with the changes and know reality as the future becomes clear. Heaven and earth remain fixed to their places as the sage continues to perfect his skill. Working in union with 410133both the counsel of humans and the spirits certain knowledge is gained that can be shared.

The eight trigrams (the bagua) show the way through images, symbols, and figures, the hexagrams and line statements then speak to circumstances. As the broken and whole lines are mingled, good fortune and bad auspices appear. In that the firm and yielding are interspersed and good fortune or bad can be discerned or known. This is the underlying basis of the I Ching.

Once known that heaven and earth know and determine the place we reside, the possibilities become endless. It’s always been the wisdom of the sage that has brought these possibilities into reality. It is the reconciling this reality into a collaboration of the thoughts of the spirits and men with the I Ching, that thing naturally occur.

It is said that when love and hate vie with each other good and bad auspicious are born; when far and near react to each other trouble and distress are born; 410134and that when true and false influence each other advantage and loss are born.

The Lynx     Confucius Mansion

In every situation of the I Ching, when two or more converge without mutual profit disaster emerges. When closely related to not harmonize, misfortune is a result; this gives rise to injury, remorse, and humiliation. Ultimately with the I Ching, it is the close relationship of the lines as illustrated by their correspondence with each other and how they hold together over time. It is according to whether the lines attract or repel one another that good fortune or bad fortune ensues.  Finally, the Dazhuan ends with the following:

 

  • Words of the rebellious are shameful;
  • Words of the shifty are diffuse;
  • Words of the fortunate are few;
  • Words of the agitated are many;
  • Words of the slanderous are evasive;
  • And, words of the faithless are twisted.
By 1dandecarlo

40) Our Journey into Transcendence / Alan Watts and the essence of Zen – Part 1.

The Dazhuan and I Ching continues… Staying within the lines for eternity’s sake and what is the Dazhuan, but to imitate the patterns of Heaven? The 4101Chinese word for the line in a hexagram is hsiao. Another meaning of hsiao came to be “to imitate the patterns of heaven”. This is what was to become the Tao. That is that the lines could imitate the connection between the three primortals – man, heaven and earth. The shaman knew the Tao represented both movement and change.

It has been said that the highest wisdom lies in detachment, or, in the words of Chuang Tzu, ‘The perfect man employs his mind as a mirror; it grasps nothing; it refuses nothing; it receives, but does not keep.’

There is so much to talk about with Alan Watts that as with our lives there 4102seems no beginning or ending. What should be important to us, verses things of little relevance. What guided so much of his writing and books in the 1950’s and 60’s was how identifiable patterns in nature repeat themselves and correspond with our own soul’s journey. From the smallest things we  encounter to the immense. His books, works and writing contributed to the understanding of who we are and most importantly, who we are yet to become.

Painting by MARINA SOTIRIOU “no copyright infringement is intended”

In so many ways looking to Watts, is like entering the flow of universal thought and transcendence and saying thank you. The first challenge is getting into the right frame of mind and simply going there.

He would say “detachment means to have neither regret for the past nor fears for the future; to let life take its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of something pleasant nor to hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to 4103move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music, and this is called Enlightenment.

In short, it is to be detached from both the past and future and to live in the eternal Now. For in truth neither past nor future have any existence apart from this Now; by themselves they are illusions. Life exists only at this very moment…

You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now – otherwise you would not be here. Hence the infinite Tao is something which you can neither escape by flight nor catch by pursuit; there is no coming toward it or going away from it; it is, and you are it. So, become what you are.”

First, I am not an authority on Zen, I am a student. Simply a storyteller who tries to see how it all fits together. How is it we become transcendent in our thoughts and universal through our actions. The key for me and good writing is to allow others to see themselves and say “yes, can I come along too?” Not to try to own a particular way of thinking, but to sample our way through life finding shoes (transposed as our thoughts and actions through cause and effect) that fit.

I think Alan Watts speaks so well as to the essence of Zen that translates into the meaning of our lives.  It seems that on the one hand, it is necessary to be sympathetic and to experiment personally with the way of life to the limit of one’s possibilities. (As Larry did in The Razor’s Edge) On the other hand, one must resist every 4104temptation to “join the organization”, to become involved with its institutional commitments, that say we must work, get a job, and conform or comply with the status quo.

As Ram Dass taught us years ago, “The person we are from nine to five is not who we are from five to nine. That we get too busy doing not being….”

Residing or finding a friendly neutral position, we are apt to be disowned by both sides. For the relationship between two positions becomes far clearer when there is a third with which to compare them. Thus, even if this study of Zen does no more than express a standpoint which is neither Zen nor anything Western, it will at least provide that third point of reference. This is what Alan Watts was attempting to do… to take us there. To not only be willing to “change our thoughts”, but also “decide how to get there”.

As with the essence of the I Ching and what is reflected in Taoism teaches us… we must be willing to change from within ourselves. To adapt ourselves to and with the flow of universal thought and to go there acknowledging that the key to wisdom and IMG_0265 (2)transcendence is illumination, spontaneity, and to go or follow where our innermost thoughts want to take us. That it is as Franklin Roosevelt told America at the height of the depression back in the 1930’s, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” The context may be different, but the meaning is the same. To rise up out of where we are, we must be willing to do things differently and not to let fear of change itself or staying in the status quo define or overtake us.

The problem for many from the essential standpoint of Zen is that it refuses to be organized, or to be made the exclusive possession of any institution. If there is anything in this world which transcends the relativities of cultural conditioning, it is Zen – by whatever name it may be called. This is an excellent reason for Zen’s not being institutionalized, and for the fact that many of its ancient exponents were “universal individualists” who were never members of any Zen organization, and never sought the acknowledgment of any formal authority. They lived “outside the lines or box” of what was/is excepted at the 100_5087time. Today they would be called an “outlier”. This is the ultimate paradox we all live. Staying within the lines for eternity’s sake, while living outside the lines to find life’s true meaning.

For myself, it is as if happiness, i.e., our purpose, is always present in our life. It’s just a matter of connecting to it and allowing it to flow through us that’s challenging. That we stop trying to please and start respecting our values, principles, and autonomy. It is as if we live two lives as referred to above. Something I wrote in the beginning of the manuscript back in 1996 here on my website as My travels with Lieh Tzu expresses this, I think.

                                           Beginnings

It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live 4105after 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.

4106I 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 4107on.

My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self is 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, 4108but 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?     1/21/1996

Watts’s fascination with the Zen (or Chan) tradition—beginning during the 1930s—developed because for him, that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East. “Work”, “life”, and “art” were not to be demoted, but became the extension of a spiritual focus. In his writing, he referred to it as “the great Chan (or Zen) synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism after AD 700 in China.” Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, in 1936. Two decades later, in The Way of Zen he disparaged The Spirit of Zen as a “popularization of Suzuki’s earlier works, and besides being very unscholarly it is in many respects out of date and misleading.” A mid-course direction as if now twenty years later, knowing more he needed to re-define his take on things.

Carl Jung said, “To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, mission done, the 4109perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in things. Personality is Tao. The emergence of a new center in the personality, that with the Tao we can find the synchronicity of life. That synchronicity asserts that what appears as coincidence is actually connected by a similarity of meaning. What the Tao and I Ching represent is the continuous creation of a pattern that exists in all eternity”.

Watt’s continues: In contrast to spiritual teachings based on doctrine or divine revelation, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism is based on thousands of years of observing nature, especially patterns of change and transformation. 100_5473

How it all fit together. What may be seen as divine, already exists within you. All that is necessary is to connect your pre-existing spirit with transcending universal rhythms and vibrations that speak to your own endeavor and destiny.

Over time, the Chinese came to see these patterns of change as resulting from a universal creative spirit, or energy, which they called the Tao. Similar to that found in air and water. That change is dynamic and always evolving. The Tao likened to the currents and vortices in air and water. Sometimes it was depicted as tightly coiled lines or threads; other times, as dragons, flowing along wave-like lines of change.

Carl Jung and Alan Watt’s contribution to understanding the human condition as we reconcile our “place” in nature was immeasurable once we see from where we are doing “it” from. What is important is to see knowledge and wisdom as the unending flow of nature. It’s as if there is a stepping stone of never-ending thought waiting for us to tap into.

                             Forever Meandering Downstream

Remain as a log adrift down a slowly meandering stream. At peace and harmony with 4110all. Knowing that as the river finds its end you will find your own place as well.

The Blue Dragon   British Museum in London

The log itself a beehive of activity with small creatures and bugs in and outside its core with birds forever flitting about. A blue jay landing to rest for a moment just to watch the scenery go by.

Forever finding ourselves. Finding our own place in the universe wholly within nature’s way for each to find and come to know. With no one’s place on the log or the log itself more important than the next.

Coming to know the seasons and the cycles they forever represent and finding comfort in the expectations that the elements constantly bring to the forefront. Always 4112reminded that the final call as to who gets their own way is nature’s alone. Always siding with the strongest as it must be in the end.   

Come to know boundaries and find the structure that is needed for everything to begin to make sense. Stay within those boundaries and be relieved of choices. As what comes forward will be only natural to your own desires. Simply by showing strength and by letting go.

There can be no river to travel or log to steady the way downstream without an awareness that we affect everything we touch and are affected by everything that touches us. As we remain forever on the journey, forever meandering downstream.   4/16/1994

Living beyond what is expected of you at the moment. Sometimes it’s like being 4113here, but not really present. For Taoist sages and Zen masters the universe that surrounds us is to be experienced as our “original face”. It’s the Source of all that exists, a living matrix of creativity that we all belong to that has brought each one of us into being. For myself, it is that we are to do the best that we can with what we have while we are here.

To begin to grasp Zen, we must first take a look at both Confucianism and Taoism, then to the I Ching and Mahayana Buddhism as our teachers.

Confucianism pre-occupies itself with maintaining social order. An individual defines himself and place in society thusly. I saw this play out with many of my friends in Qufu 4114over the years. The home of Confucius where everyone seemed intent on finding their place in what was seen as the norm. Whereas, Taoism resides more with the individual, and with older men who have the time to pursue a more inward liberation from the bounds of conventional patterns to thought and conduct. Seeing things in an unconventional way, understanding life directly instead of only rational, abstract thoughts, or ways of thinking. In short spontaneity, that may allude us when the rigors of life’s travails seem omnipresent.

What keeps us from opening our minds is that the Absolute cannot be confused with abstract thinking. What can be known – verses what will be forever unknowable. It was here through the use of the I Ching, one could use what might be call “peripheral vision”, or our ability to feel a situation and act accordingly. In doing so, we often see the need to move beyond who, and where, we are now because we’ve moved beyond our present thinking.

According to Watts, Taoism, is the original way of liberation, which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism produces Zen. It is the liberation from convention and of the creative power of te, or virtue. With te as the unthinkable ingenuity and creative 4115power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning – a power which is blocked when one tries to master it in terms of formal methods and techniques.

In Zen, ensō (, , “circle”) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

As Alan Watts put it:

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…”

While this is not difficult to comprehend conceptually, it can be challenging to experience directly and frequently. Not buying into the rat race mentality of modern cultures is an essential first step. Training mindfully in an art form or sport, learning to meditate or do yoga, will provide us with a system of practice that assists greatly. With this we learn to grow beyond the emotional propensities of the past. To make the ordinary become extraordinary through the virtue that resides within each of us. Easier said than done, because in the West we become tied to the Christian concept of an Absolute, or accepted moral order. When we become at odds with this, we are denying our own nature or found rejecting God.

As we learn to meet the world like an empty cup, we allow inner and outer realms of our lives to flow together. Where there had been separation before, now there is 4116greater unity and love.  Every living being we meet, every experience we have, can be seen as magical in some way.

 Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as a deepening awareness of inter-being, the fundamental unity and interconnectedness of every “thing” in the Cosmos. In a flower exists water from clouds, energy from the sun, molecules from the earth, atoms created billions of years ago within stars…. Just like us.

This understanding is very important if one wishes to grasp Buddhist teachings about emptiness, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

“A flower cannot be by herself alone. To be empty is not a negative note… A flower is empty only of a separate self, but a flower is full of everything else. The whole cosmos can be seen, can be identified, can be touched, in one flower. So, to say that the flower is empty of a separate self also means that the flower is full of the cosmos.

Such an attitude and recognition bring greater peace and happiness in our lives (and wisdom in our actions) because instead of trying to manipulate outcomes and take from the world we become more aligned with Nature, moving in unison with life, like a musician or dancer. To even what embodies the true meaning of tai chi – not just to see, but to get things by the feel of them. Using intuition, our inner knowing, to decide for us how to proceed. It comes to us by what is known as ‘spontaneous action’”. 

“Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man [or woman] lives as he ought to live.” ― D.T. Suzuki4117

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers. It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and in flow. I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.  Rabindranath Tagore 

Here in the Dazhuan, in the 5th and 6th Wings, it is assumed that they are not written in a vacuum and the earlier Wings especially The Commentary of the Decision, Wings 1 and 2, are already known and understood, and as with the remaining Wings (3 through 12), the materials from which the hexagrams have been constructed are explained. Continuing the story is the 9th and 10th Wings, the final numbers 11 and 12 will follow.  

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 9

 Staying within the Lines for Eternity’s sake

For one to truly understand the I Ching within the context of the Dazhuan, you 4118must begin by staying within the lines of the hexagrams. It is a text about how any person can describe their own beginnings and foreseeable future that moves towards a knowable ending. Its purpose is simply to describe the true nature of things. How the six lines intermingle to match every occasion. In reading the hexagrams you must begin from the bottom and move up to the top or sixth line that usually serves to sum things up and tries to explain. They are considered to be the root and the tip. The bottom line makes a suggestion and the top line comes to a conclusion, as if defining cause and effect.

A judgment on the first line is tentative while on the last everything has gained completion and the answer is given. It is here in-between them that distinguishing details, determining powers, and dividing true and false that would not be possible without the intervening lines that define the two. Even the four interior lines can be seen as upper and lower trigrams that add further meaning. The qualities of the interior lines remain inseparable and are intrinsically connected to what is firm or yielding. These represent parts that are always going through gradual change and 4119movement that reveal their true character and identity. This allows either right or wrong, or yes or no to be distinguishable in the time in which a question is asked.

Imagine yourself the shaman knowing what is known at the time of Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 1000 BC living in Ji Dan’s hometown of Qufu, looking to the stars and the Big Dipper with the lines and seeing the answers spread before for you.

Contemplating and trying to decipher the judgment his father, King Wen, has added 4120to the lines while still in prison of the Shang. He can now think through the greater part of the statements and draw sensible meaningful conclusions from them. This was the defining moment of what the I Ching was to become. He would have had the sixty-four hexagrams and amended judgments spread before him and to have read and seen for himself the interaction of the lines. The answers would have been as clear as the night sky he used to light his way.

During my own years of living and teaching in Qufu, I often found myself looking to the night sky and thinking of what Ji Dan and what Confucius himself would have felt as they too looked to the Big Dipper.  The Big Dipper, within the constellation Ursa Major, is an important constellation in Chinese 4121mysticism and religion. It is known as Bei Dou, the Northern Bushel or Dipper. There are many different stories about these stars, as befits something of such significance that anyone could look up and see in the night sky all those year ago wondering about how all things were forever connected to each other, to us, and what for eternity’s sake it could all mean.

How the lines of the I Ching work… With the bagua, understanding the role of the 4122bottom and top lines, the shaman would move to the second and fourth lines and see that they have the same force but have taken different positions and that their values are not the same. With the second generally approving or praising, while the fourth threatening. The lines were always to be read from the bottom up.

After years of experience and counsel by their peers, they knew that the Tao of the broken line was advantageous if it is far from the center and that no misfortune would appear in the reading, the omen needed for the broken line. He also knew that the third and fifth lines have the same force, but took different positions as well. The third line is generally ominous and the fifth if usually propitious representing 4123levels of rank and loneliness. If broken they meant danger, if whole they meant one would be triumphant.

There were also the readings of the upper and lower trigrams (the top three and the bottom three) within each hexagram that would be read. It would take years of diligent practice and trial and error to perfect the reading of the lines of the hexagrams and understanding the basic tenets of the I Ching. But knowing the way of the Tao and keeping to it would be the key to understanding how to live. This would be the greatest contribution and gift of the Dazhuan. It has taken many generations and thousands of years of diligence by both the shaman and sage to bring forth the divine wisdom of the cosmos. Legend says the Yellow Emperor had also stood here in Qufu, two thousand years earlier than Confucius and wondered the same thing. Finding ways to mesh the internal with the external.

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 10 

What is the Dazhuan, but to imitate the patterns of Heaven?

An explanation of the I Ching, a document that covers all matters under 4124heaven has covered centuries beyond measure showing the way to appreciate and honor the Tao. Vast and immense, it shows the way of the cosmos. It contains this and the Tao of earth and man. It combines all three and doubles them. This is why there are six lines in the hexagrams. The six lines are simply the ways of these three primal powers. The way of the I Ching, of change, is epitomized by perpetual motion or movement. The lines are constantly going through a process of change. It was always the rhythm of the drum and music, of the perpetual motion that brought the shaman in line with the power of the spirit world.

It was Fuxi, the great shaman and holy man, who first saw this connection in 4125Chinese early history. As the more in tune with the spirits he became, the better he could explain our connection with them. He became a great teacher at all the clan meetings up and down the Yellow River, primarily because he was a great storyteller. He learned his craft by understanding and putting words to the lines.

 Lines drawn on tortoise shells could move and tell a narrative, either true or imagined, in prose or verse, 4126designed to interest, amuse, or instruct the hearer or reader. The consistency of the lines and symbols brought meaning that could be relayed and understood.

Fuxi could fill with delight or wonder; enrapture his audience. His legacy was to have the tale to be told as the storyteller becomes the fulcrum of antiquity. Above all he was a teacher. As the centuries followed, the shaman became the conveyor of the lines. The Yellow Emperor, who lived in 2698–2598 BC, and many others learned how to convey the universal meaning that could have a meaning for everything found in nature, especially one’s beginnings and trends that foretold future events through cause and effect. But it always came back to the lines and symbols, their movement and what it all meant. Being present in the moment that opens the window to one’s past.

For generations beyond count before the shaman of Ji Dan’s time, the holy man 4128of antiquity covered himself with red ochre (the color red was also call Dan from the time of China’s pre-history), in order to identify and commune with nature and the spirit world trying to decide the makeup of these three doubled, or six lines to be known as the hexagrams. These lines were to be divided into three parts, the first and second lines as the places of earth, the third and fourth as man, and the fifth and sixth belonging to heaven. The lines have positions realized as events; events have mutual  relationships that come about as patterns.

 How the story was to be told depended on the situation at hand that portrays either good or bad things to come. Living within the realm, the whims of nature, there was always a foreboding of fire, floods and misfortune that dictated events. Knowing how to anticipate what may happen led to a knowledge that could be passed down first orally, then written.

 4129The Chinese word for the line in a hexagram is hsiao. Another meaning of hsiao came to be “to imitate the patterns of heaven”.

The image of the turtle became synonymous, or representative, of the dragon.

This is what was to become the Tao. That is that the lines could imitate the connection between the three primortals – man, heaven and earth. The shaman knew the Tao represented both movement and change.

Therefore, as the lines change their meaning through movement and a series of stages that one could see every day through nature and the evolving four 4101seasons every year, a person could modify his behavior accordingly. This diversity gives meaning and purpose to life, patterns to follow and characteristics that match them. It is here where both good and bad can occur. Unfortunately, these characteristics do not always follow or match with the way of the Tao. It would be through conscious observation and wisdom gained over the millennia that man could learn to anticipate the future and through practice develop the workings of the I Ching.

These are the ninth and tenth entries (for a total of twelve) of the Sixth Wing of the Dazhuan. The story continues as our journey in cultivating stillness. Knowing and using this induces a spiritual transformation. The lines of the I Ching, the Book of Changes becomes shorthand for transforming change that attracts the lights and energy of Heaven thereby creating a chance, an unspoken trust, to build on who we are meant to become. 

 

By 1dandecarlo