June 10, 2018

Finding mountains of joy for just who we are.

From a practical perspective, there is great power in intention and how it can shape the present moment and even the future—because if you approach this present moment with wisdom, kindness, and a sense of responsibility, you won’t have to worry about the future. It will take care of itself.

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Acceptance  Shaanxi Museum Xian

This sense of commonality to and with nature that seems to permeate Eastern philosophy, especially from Buddhism and Taoism, expresses the idea I like to call, “from where we are doing it from”, i.e., as if living our lives above it all with abundance and joy.

I am inspired this week by the song “True Colors” by Cindy Lauper and the lines:

J22And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
I see your true colors
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow.

One of the anthems of the LGBTQ community, Lauper’s authenticity to be true to our “souls consciousness” sings true. One does not have to be this way to respect another’s choice to be so. We ultimately teach others through our own acceptance and actions by treating others as we want to be treated ourselves. Nature and the Tao also teaches us that we are all equal in the eyes of the universe. Fitting because a rainbow represents all colors as one. It is standing for what is right that ultimately gives each of us strength to become empowered to become our true selves. It is in this way we break the bonds of doubting our own self-worth and we learn that nothing separates us from God, and the Tao. Or as if adding lyrics to the Beatles song in Two of Us, “We are simply rainbows on our way back home”.

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Diana and Marvin

I am especially inspired this week by the song “Ain’t no mountain high enough ain’t no valley low enough to keep me from loving you” sung by Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. Mountains are here to climb and in seeing the other side we discover the panorama of life, of heaven and earth, and our place in it all. Why be afraid of the unknown when it is this that makes us complete? Who are we to get in the way of another’s joy?

Finding Joy

 As with all things that must know their way, leaving things undone due to flights of fancy can lead to one’s undoing. Learn from your mistakes and know that what has come will come again.

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Golden Emblem / Xian Shaanxi Museum

Be patient, know and understand that staying close to the Tao keeps one protected. Stray and bad things can occur. Find purpose and meaning in what you do and what needs done will get done. Both good and bad are the same. However, knowing the outcome leads one to know the way of virtue.

Accept faults and accept the true fate. Once admitted you are accepted again. Remember what is now taken for granted and loosely kept can easily be taken back again.

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The Protector  Xian Shaanxi Museum

What is fundamental is that the eternal oneness of all things will change.  Yin become yang. Yang becomes yin. Leaving things undone opens chi to the unknown. Letting nature find its course leads one to finding the joy in all things.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching  (5 WAITING / Water over Heaven). 2/6/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

It has always been the need to see beyond simply language and words to the ethereal, to be closer and ultimately one with the Tao, or God. In China, it was the mountains where one could go to attempt to see beyond what could be explained into the horizon.

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Inyan Kara is a sacred mountain to the Lakota people  

In America, it was the sacredness of the Black Hills of the Dakotas, the Appalachian Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and Daniel Boone, and the travels of Lewis and Clark over the continental divide over uncharted mountains and rivers westward to the Pacific that has always intrigued me. As if there is an unconscious knowing and something more than imagination reminding us that, yes, we were there too.

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Lewis and Clark expedition

But it was the sacred and historical context and connections to mountains in China over an extended period, that I most drawn to and find most appealing. It is truly as if you are facing forward while looking back.

It is this link with and to nature and creation that triggers the ultimate connection with and to our source. That it is in the remembering we forget what diminishes us. As if the sameness of everything, meant it could return just as easily as something else. It is as if by design it is meant to be forever indefinable… it is Tao. To the Taoist and the acknowledgment of the “ten thousand things” (of which you are only one of many), you can begin to understand the universal nature of God and you.

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The ultimate Path  Qingcheng Mt.

In China, many have even gone so far as to reside here, on a mountain as what are called a “hermit”. Abandoning the ways of the world, to move beyond earthly cares to simply become one with it all. To a place where it becomes easy to find and become reclusive. Surely not meant for everyone, as if ultimately defining joy only for oneself. Well my friends it’s hard to imagine. Someday after I’ve gone missing the likely responsible suspects of where I might be found may happen to lie below. Ah, the paradox of every sage. In my heart I’m already there… as if I never left. As if found roaming the sky with dragons only stopping to catch my breath on top of mountains. Except to come down seeking others who need only encouragement to join us. All that is required is we, as Cindy Lauper said… see our true colors shining through and become them.

My favorite, of course, is Qingcheng Mountain north of Chengdu, one of the most revered Taoist holy mountains.

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The bell tolls for each of us Qingyang Taoist Temple

Historically through the millennia, it has been the ability to rise above the clouds with your feet still firmly planted on the ground that enables us to converse with the eternal.   To live or to be moving into the state of becoming who we are meant to be that has always been our primary purpose.

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Directions Qingcheng Mountain Chengdu

Like the words in the song Forever Young… May you build a ladder to the stars and climb onto every rung. May you stay forever young.

The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into several groups and were the subjects of pilgrimage by emperors and commoners alike throughout in Chinese history and dynasties. They are associated with the supreme God of Heaven and the five main cosmic deities of Chinese traditional religion. The group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism and those associated with Taoism are referred to J211as the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism, although those making the list seems to depend on the author. For myself the list can easily be expanded to six depending on personal preference. Three of which I have been to, the remaining three are on my bucket list…

Six sacred mountains of Taoism:

1)     Wudang Shan in the northwestern part of Hubei. For myself a highlight is the J212Crown Prince’s Hall at the highest point of the Fuzhen Temple (Revelation Temple) complex. If you are a kung fu enthusiast, Taizipo is also home to The Eight Immortal Temple because tai chi gets all the credit for Wudang’s martial arts. Its sometimes easy to forget the mountain is home to many other forms as well, including ones that use weapons.

Wudang derives its name from the Five Dragon Palace. Once a bustling area of Taoist J213temples, it was long the area known for cultivating the most accomplished Taoist priests. Unfortunately, it is also the area whose temples, halls, and palaces have undergone the most destruction. That being said, it is still a particularly scenic area and is the only place on the mountain that has a forest reserve. The cliffs here are quite spectacular, too. The Wudang Mountains are renowned for the practice of tai chi and Taoism as the Taoist counterpart to the Shaolin Monastery, which is affiliated with Chinese Chan Buddhism.

2)     Longhu Shan literally “Dragon and Tiger” in Jiangxi Province. The  Lónghyiǔ Shān scenic area encompasses 200 sq km, most of which is  located along the eastern bank of the Lúxī River.

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Shangqing Temple

It is particularly important to the Zhengyi Dao as it is the home of the Shangqing J219Temple and the Mansion of the Taoist Master that are located here. The temples in Shangqing are mentioned in the beginning of the famous Chinese novel “Outlaws of the Marsh”.

3)     Qiyun Shan literally “Cloud-High Mountain”, in Anhui. Mount J215Qiyun is a mountain and national park located in Xiuning County in Anhui Province, China and is noted for its numerous inscriptions and tablets, as well as monasteries and temples. Through Chinese history, Chinese poets and writers including Li Bai, Tang Yin and Yu Dafu have visited Mount Qiyun either to compose poetry or to leave an inscription. I visited here in October 2016 and climbed to the summit, it is one of my favorite spots in China.

4)     Qingcheng Shan literally “Misty Green City Wall”; (Nearby city: Dujiangyan in J217Sichuan. In ancient Chinese history, the Mount Qingcheng area was famous for being for J218“The most secluded place in China”. I came to Qingcheng in June 2015 and I am anxious the return. It is famous as a Taoist retreat over the centuries and has some of the greatest vistas of mountains anywhere. It is easy to see why the theme of getting back to nature and how closeness to the Tao and God are transposed into one’s persona as once having been there makes it difficult to leave.

5)      Hua Shan’s four major peaks, that are capped with ancient temples that have J220been the site of prayer and sacrifice since at least the period of emperor Qin Shi Huang in 200 B.C.  Famous because Lao Tzu was supposed to have resided there for a while, and number one on my bucket list to visit.

The chess pavilion, from the top of the East peak

Once called the West Mountain in ancient times it is noted for very steep and narrow trails.  East Peak (also called the Morning Sun Peak), is the best place to see the sunrise; West Peak (also called the Lotus Flower Peak), because of the a large flower shaped rock which stands in front of Cuiyun Temple; the central Peak (also called the Jade Lady Peak).

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Cloudy Terrace Peak

Legend has it that the daughter of the King Mu lived here; South Peak (also called the Wild Goose-resting Peak), towers over all other peaks on the mountains and is covered by pines and cypresses; and North Peak (also called the Cloudy Terrace Peak). From a distance, these five peaks look like a lotus flower among the mountains, hence the name of Huashan.

6)    Tai Shan in Shandong. Perhaps saving the best for last, Mount J225Tai Shan is the one I am most familiar with having been there many times. It is the most famous Taoist mountain in China because being furthest to the east, it is where from its summit you can be the first to see the sun rise to the east. For over a thousand years tradition required the emperor to make a pilgrimage to Tai Shan on his return to Beijing after visiting Qufu and paying homage to Confucius.

J226At the base of the mountain is the Daimiao Temple. One of my favorite points of interest is the ‘Peitian Gate’. It is an excellent example of how Confucian and Taoist thought resided and complemented each other over the centuries.

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‘Peitian Gate’

The stele, or entryway had a saying with the theme,” The virtues match the heaven and earth”. It highlighted the ‘Azure Dragon’ and ‘White Tiger’, two of the principal symbols of the Chinese constellation that were enshrined in the hall.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was IChing17this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 52 and 53 appear below. Verses 1 through 51 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

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

 Thoughts on becoming a Sage

 Verse 52 – When our Virtue becomes us

 When the ten thousand things came forth in the world, they did so as offspring of a great mother.

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The White Dragon   British Museum

When you know this mother, you can begin to understand her offspring understand the child and its mother becomes secure and. lives without trouble.  Begin to focus on the Tao with the path you must take becoming clear and this mother will nurture you forever.

When we block the opening from that outside ourselves and close the gate to those who would bring us misfortune, we can live without toil or struggle. When we leave the opening unprotected and meddle in affairs outside of what the way teaches us, we live without hope.

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Confucius Qufu Painting Academy

When we follow the words of Confucius when he reminds us that just as things have their roots and branches, those that know what comes first and last may approach the Tao.

When we understand what motivates those around us and events when they are small, we can be quick to change our behavior and magnify our vision.

When we learn to trust our vision, we can see beyond ourselves and live beyond our death. When we live beyond our death, we can become free to travel the universe with the dragons as our virtue becomes us.

Li His-Chai says, “The Way is the mother of all things. Things are the children of the Way. In ancient times, those who possessed the Way were able to keep mother and children from parting and the Way and things together. Since things come from the Way, they are no different from the Way, just as children are no different from their mother. And yet people abandon things when they search for the Way. Is this any different from abandoning the children while searching for the mother? If people knew that things are the Way, and children are the mother, they would find the source in everything they meet.

Confucius says, “Things have their roots and branches. Those know what comes first and last approach the Tao (Tahsueh: intro).

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Hua Pagoda  Xian

Tung Ssu-Ching says, “People are born when they receive breath. Breath is their mother. And spirit dwells in their breath. When children care for their mother, their breaths become one and their spirits become still.

Hsuan-Tsung says, “If someone can see an event while it is still small and can change his behavior, we say he has vision.”

Verse 53 – Gently guiding Others

 Slow down and let your virtue lead the way. Stay fixed to the Great Way not letting distractions lead you astray. Stay focused on doing nothing and do everything simply with that you have learned by following the Tao.

Just as others look to you for direction, you must first gather them up like laundry, put them in the same basket, wash and dry them, then sort them in an orderly fashion.  Folded and put away they await their turn to come to the forefront for all to see.

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The ancient stairs to the top of our own mountain

Instead of pushing certain things to happen, sit back and let your nature gently guide those around you. Instead of being in such a hurry, taking shortcuts and finding nothing but trouble, let events play themselves out. While the sage remains ahead by staying behind, his only concern is leading people down such a path.

However, as events play themselves out, he remains always ready to show the next step along the way.

Ku His-Ch’ou says, “The Tao is not hard to know, but it is hard to follow”.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Lao Tzu was concerned that rulers of his day did not follow the Great Way. Hence, he hypothesized that if he knew enough to conduct the affairs of a country, he would follow the Great Way and devote himself to implementing the policy of doing nothing.”

Lu Hsi-Sheng says, “The Great Way is like a grand thoroughfare: smooth and easy to travel, perfectly straight and free of detours, and there is nowhere it doesn’t lead. But people are in a hurry. They take short cuts and get into trouble and become lost and don’t reach their destination. The sage only worries about leading people down the wrong path.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “When the court ignores the affairs of state to beautify its halls and interrupts farm work to build towers and pavilions, the people’s energy ends up at court, and fields turn to weeds. Once fields turn to weeds, state taxes are not paid and granaries become empty. And once granaries are empty, the country becomes poor, and the people become rebellious. When the court dazzles the people with fine clothes, and threatens people with sharp swords, and takes from the people more that it needs, this is no different than robbing them.

 

By 1dandecarlo

June 1, 2018

To always write as if the last thing you wrote is the best thing you have ever written.

 Te-Ch’ing says, “Those who guard their life don’t cultivate life, but what controls life. What has life is form. What controls life is nature. When we cultivate our nature, we return to what is real and forget bodily form. Once we forget form, our self becomes empty. Once our self is empty, nothing can harm us. Once there is no self, there is no life. How could there be death?

What could be a greater aspiration than to be so in tune with the Tao that you become the Way? To be like the Bob Dillon song… to be always “Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door”. As if we’ve been on a long trip and just can’t wait to get home. Or the song, “It’s no use to sit and wonder why babe. As we succumb to the notion as a natural extension of ourselves we don’t think twice it’s alright”. How is it we come to live day-to-day? Who do we spend our time with? What AJ1aspirations are worth paying attention to and how can they matter? Why are we driven by fear of the unknown… when there are things that can never be known? I think it has to do with what Joseph Campbell called the eternal quest and our bliss and Jack Kerouac, of the beat generation fame who expressed, what we do in finding and becoming one with our source. As if as relayed here later… how can death possibly matter except where we find ourselves as we return to our beginnings. If we are granted two lives as expressed below, that each of us have two lives, “The one we learn with, and the one we life after that” then how do we live our lives except to find our natural rhythm that brings us closer and in tune with the Tao? And just what is this bliss thing, but contentment found in the clouds with old friends once again.

There have always been warnings by writers, philosophers, and poets against getting AJ2too caught up in the mystical approach or search for “what may be possible”. A great philosopher known as  Kierkegaard, wrote that too much “possibility” led to what he referred to as a “madhouse” in our thinking. This leads us to what can be called the “sickness of infinitude” as we wander from one path to another with no real recognition that we have even entered into or are embarking on a search at all. Or having even a clue as to what we were searching for to begin with. The key being that at the bottom of every breath there is a hallow place needing to be filled. One of Kierkegaard’s recurrent themes is the importance of subjectivity, which has to do with the way people relate themselves to (objective) truths. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, he argues that “subjectivity is truth” and “truth is subjectivity.” What he means by this is that most essentially, truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. While objective facts are important, there is a second and more crucial element of truth, which involves how one relates oneself to those matters of fact. Since how one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity.

What attracted me most to Kierkegaard, was comparisons on Eastern thought to Chuang Tzu, whose premise of challenging the status quo, especially Confucius was central to defining what could be seen as truth.

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Living with Dragons  Qingyang Taoist Mountain

A whole “industry” rose up in China over two thousand years ago in the production of “commentaries”. Whereby analyzing what Confucius and other luminaries (the voices of status quo) really said or meant, was to become “what did they really mean”. The idea that truth is only subject to the eyes of the beholder holds much the same today. Many feel it was Chuang Tzu’s attitude toward death as simply a continuum that led to Chan Buddhism’s success in becoming a fixture in Chinese thought, religion, and philosophy.

The Dragons are Waiting

Yin and yang tell us to wait without anxiety. Earth and sky, water and heaven wait for the seasons and all things that will come.

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Two Mirrors   Chongqing Museum

Knowing that waiting brings change from spring and time to plant, to summer a time to tend and autumn a time to harvest. To winter and a time to rest before beginning the cycle once more. Again, again and again.  Let nature and you garden be your teacher. Knowing what is now yields to what will be.

The Tao teaches us to be gracious, asking for help when needed and giving help when it is asked.  Know to treat good and bad the same with indifference. Knowing what is now yields to what will be.  Resolve to know the Tao and know courage and security.

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Sacrificial Rites Xian Shaanxi Museum

Let the seasons teach you cycles. Knowing cycles brings patience. The earth and sky and all in between serve to show patience to those who watch, listen and learn. The dragons are waiting. Be patient, listen and learn.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching   (5 WAITING / Water over Heaven). 2/6/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

I wrote the below “Beginnings”, in January 1996 as the preface of what became a still unpublished manuscript that opened to door to what would come to define my own journey. The book became entitled “My travels with Lieh Tzu”, one of six books now (I’ve lost count).

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The Protector at the entrance of Wuhan Temple

The Book of Lieh Tzu, written more than two thousand years ago, was to become mandatory reading for Taoist precepts in Taoist monasteries over the centuries. Writing my own version was like a continual catharsis, as if the relieving or releasing of emotional tensions, especially through gaining appreciation of certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music. As if we need a benchmark, or starting point, as we begin to learn the meaning of meditation for ourselves. As if when one door closes through death of who we thought we were, the universe rushes in to get our attention to fill the vacuum. The challenge always asking are we ready? It is not something others can do for us, except maybe to help point the way forward. As if agreeing with Chuang Tzu that we never really die, only move on to new beginnings and endings needed to transcend into our highest version of ourselves simply waiting to unfold. Making room for new personas, or doors that are simply waiting for appearances sake to be opened and just maybe asked to stay.

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Confucius at the Gate

When I wrote this, I had just finished writing my book about the Ching and change and had lost a job that I had moved to Massachusetts to do not far from where my Italian ancestors had come more than a hundred years earlier. I thought this was where I was supposed to be, bought a house, settled in and became a master gardener in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But I had now gotten the dragons attention and of course they had other plans in mind. Their idea of returning to the place of my ancestors went a little further back in time. Imprinting on me that it was not where I am, but who I am in history that is important. As if saying okay, if you wanted to return to your source, your beginnings, you can’t stop here. My interpolations of The Book of Lieh Tzu was to serve only as a reminder, perhaps an initial roadmap, as I was about to begin my own quest in earnest.

Beginnings

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

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Dragons in the Clouds  Wuhan Temple

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 wander.

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

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The scholar of Linyi

To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving on.

My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self 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, but in reality, to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again.

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

I wrote the above more than twenty years ago on January 21, 1996 when completing my own version of The Book of Lieh Tzu after moving to Boynton Beach, Florida to become a city planner. My job was to help with the city’s master plan. In reality, it was as if I had moved to south Florida to live in paradise while addressing my own. Knowing this how could I not pursue the unknown to get to a place where the pieces, like strands of pearls that would fit onto the same thread? Life becoming the process of finding and polishing pearls of virtue and wisdom brought to the surface within myself. As if life’s experiences are only an expression of time built on those who have come before us as we ourselves endeavor to become universal.

There is a saying that all great writing is autobiographical. That ultimately, what we think, say, and in turn write is emblematic of who we have been and are yet to become. That enlightenment first begins with acknowledging our origins or beginnings, then moves to how we respond or act accordingly. Only then, can we continue on course as we find ourselves and begin to challenge what might make us feel good at the moment. Or as Chuang Tzu would say in the Seven Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu – The main themes of the seven chapters called the nei-p’ien that are an advocacy of creative spontaneity, the relativity of all things, transcendental knowledge, following nature, equanimity toward life and death, the usefulness of uselessness and the blessings of emptiness and non-existence.  That living in spontaneity provides the essence to change and follow the Tao.

While Lieh Tzu represented the “everyday or common man”, Chuang Tzu was seen as the pivot to what would be known as the “perfected man.”  Both were representative of what was to become and define Taoism for centuries to come. Much more on both yet to come in future posts.

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Wang Xizhi (303-361), a famous calligrapher of Eastern Jin Dynasty is said to have mastered the brush stroke by observing the neck of his geese.

Great writing and art, mainly as calligraphy, flourished over time in China where your brush stroke was indicative of your own perception of the eternal and how you intertwined AJ11with what was seen as what philosophers such as Kierkegaard, famous in western philosophy centuries later, would call indefinable. How you presented the form would be just as, or more important than, what was stated. Defining what was real behind the image was as important. It would be considered tai chi at it’s best.

Most of what was attributed to Lieh Tzu is actually considered a repository for numerous authors/writers who wanted their work to be considered but feared that under their own name might have otherwise been overlooked. Some scholars even question whether Lieh Tzu even existed at all. Of course, in my humble opinion he certainly did.

 As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of AJ12philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 50 and 51 appear below. Verses 1 through 49 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage           

Verse 50 – Evolving with Ever-renewing Purpose

To the sage death is nothing more than an opportunity to return home once again. To assess his standing in the ten thousand things and be reassured that he remains no better or worse for the wear, that in the end only his eternal presence, or essence, in keeping with the Tao is insured.

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The Reckoning Wuhan Temple

Success or failure only determined by the number of lives he has touched and rather he helped others find their true way.  In coming home, he transcends all boundaries and exudes the virtue and grace of one who has been everywhere there is to be, seen all there is to see and transcended the Tao to and fro, up and down and is utterly complete.

   Cultivating his true nature his body is cast aside. As an innate knowing reminds him that once our body has been cast aside we are free to travel once again on the wind with dragons, as you are reminded of your eternal role in the universe and secret to your own longevity.  Just as in life you guarded your real purpose, you now are ready to be renewed before returning to be born again. xx

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The Renewal  Wuhan Temple

Ch’eng Chu says, “Of the ten thousand things we all experience, none are more important than life and death. People who are cultivate the Tao are concerned with nothing except transcending these boundaries.”

Wang Pi says, “Eels consider the depths too shallow, and eagles consider the mountains too low.  Living beyond the reach of arrows and nets, they dwell in the land of no death. But by means of bait, they are lured into the land of no life.”

Su Ch’e says, “We know how to act but not how to rest. We know how to talk but not how to keep still. We know how to remember but not how to forget. Everything we do leads to the land of death. The sage dwells where there is neither life or death.”

Chiao Hung says, “The sage has no life. Not because he slights it, but because he doesn’t possess it. If someone has no life, how could he be killed? Those who understand this can transcend change and can make of life and death a game.

Verse 51 – Honoring the Way

Honoring the Way means staying true to the Way.  Staying true to the Way means remaining humble with your virtue guiding every thought, action and deed. You have taken form in this place as the essence of the Way of Virtue.

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The Phoenix and Dragon   Dujiangyan Waterworks

While challenges and stubbing your toe may occur, they are simply to remind you of your own personas that you are here to complete.  Your affinity to nature and the natural order of things are simply ways to express and sort through those things you are here to do. Created as an image or extension of the Way, virtue guides and instructs while being shaped by events as the Tao completes them.

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Coming Forward  Wuhan Temple

Thus, all things come forward to honor the Way. Remaining transparent, your role cultivates and trains, steadies and adjusts, nurtures and protects without possessing or presuming. Without the need to control events everything reaches its fullest potential. xx

Wu Ch’ing says, “What is begotten is sprouted in spring, what is kept is collected in fall; what is shaped is raised in summer from sprouts that were grown in the spring; what is completed is stored in the winter from the harvest in the fall. Begetting, raising, harvesting, and storing all depend of the Way and Virtue.

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The Way  Wuhan Temple

Hence the ten thousand things honor the Tao as their father and glorify Virtue as their mother. The Way and Virtue are two, but also one. In spring, from one root many are begotten: the Way becomes Virtue. In fall, the many are brought back together: Virtue becomes and is also the Way.

Lu His-Sheng says, “To beget is to bestow with essence. To keep is to instill with breath. To cultivate is the adapt to form. To train is to bring forth ability. To steady is to weigh the end. To adjust is to measure the use. To nurture is to preserve the balance. To protect is to keep from harm. This is the Great Way. It begets but does not try to possess what is begets. It acts but does not presume on what it does. It cultivates but does not try to control what it cultivates. This is ‘Dark Virtue’.

AJ18Ho-Shang Kung sys, “The Way does not beget the myriad creatures to possess them for is own advantage. The actions of the Way do not depend on a reward. And the Way does not cultivate or nurture the myriad creatures to butcher them for profit. The kindness performed by the Way is dark and invisible.”

Wang Pi says “The Way is what things follow. Virtue is what they attain. ‘Dark Virtue’ man’s virtue is present, but no one knows who controls it. It comes from what is hidden.”

By 1dandecarlo

May 24, 2018

What we choose to believe can become the birth or death of reason… I wonder.

 Sailing with the wind with others in tow and alongside is difficult at best when their staying open to change falls by the wayside. Where does one begin and end with sincere values and virtue aimed at social justice for all? What example do we set, and where in our past do we look for answers that tell the way? It is as Bobby Kennedy once said “I don’t think any of us can be satisfied with suffering of our friends, our families, and our neighbors.”

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Robert F Kennedy

With shouts of “we want justice” resonating today reminding us of times in our past when similar echoes told stories of inequality. He added “When each man strikes out against racial injustice, he sends out a tiny ripple of hope.” It’s a matter of connecting with different people and seeing all men and women as equal under the laws of a just society. This is what Bobby did. It was giving people hope that things could be changed for the better.

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Alexander Pope

Sometimes I wonder why people are so afraid of equality and fear of giving others the opportunity to live a free and better life. I wonder. Just where can our beliefs fail us? It is as the line “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” that was first written by Alexander Pope in his 1711 poem An Essay on Critisism. The phrase alludes to inexperienced or rash people attempting things that more experienced people avoid. It has since entered the general English lexicon as an idiom. Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet. He is best known for his satirical verse, his translation of Homer and for his use of the heroic couplet. He is the second-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after Shakespeare.  Just as the saying… “he who gets there first doesn’t necessarily win”. History knows better and is never told less than fifty years after events have occurred. With eventual outcomes not in keeping with our own choosing, except as we ourselves have written in the stars…

This was always the dilemma of the ancient shaman. How can you teach someone else to become transcendent and universal? How does someone get to that vision seen at the mountaintop and know what it means and more importantly, that it is something they too should follow and to perhaps tell to others as well?

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Teaching transcendence?

Or that seen in the American Indian ritual of the vision quest, as a required rite of passage. Seeing beyond who you think you are, to have a sense or come to know why you’re here and how you fit into the scheme of things in the present. And more important, what you should do about it. That still small voice coming from within that transcends any human frailty that Bobby Kennedy, and so many others, have emulated and not only said… yes. But please come join us. Something I like to call “the plea of dragons”.

Perhaps this is in keeping with my own final call in becoming the storyteller. To make decisions without concern with who may benefit, or what may have been right or wrong, or to choose certain outcomes, as you live every moment within the Tao. Thusly, having no decisions left to make.

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Leading the Way   Nanjing Museum

To see and know events that foretell the future, as you have seen and done it all before. As if simply on call to be ready when there is a story worthy of being told. Just as clouds over the distant horizon tell of the coming rain. Not quite sure though of nature’s intent, and where the rain will fall. As we sow the AGenghisseeds of commonality that stresses how nature plays no favorites. Observation and the Tao teaching the role all must play and that outcomes affect everyone equally over time. Or to as the Mongols, and Genghis Khan would say simply “to live under the laws of the blue sky.”     To be truly transparent seeing through to the source of all. Knowing that when floods come everyone must find higher ground. And why the teaching of filial piety and benevolence taught by Confucius became the essence of Chinese culture and society. It begins with respect of ourselves, our family, our community, and of nations. Just as nature knows no boundaries or borders in emulating the Tao neither can we.

There’s a great story about a singer/songwriter named Sixto Rodriguez from Detroit, who was never that popular in USA whose music was from the 1960’s. A tape of his music made its way to South Africa where a radio station played it and he became an overnight sensation while Nelson Mandela was still in prison and apartheid was still in full effect. His music resonated there, while he stayed in relative obscurity here in USA.

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Sixto Rodriguez

One of his songs was entitled… I Wonder, and a line that goes I wonder when this hatred ever ends. I wonder. Another song… You can’t get away from it. Then another song… I’ll Slip AwayMending all my shattered dreams and not choosing to be like them. A movie was made about Rodriquez that I saw on a movie channel while I was teaching in China. He went to South Africa and played before three sold out concerts. I love his albums and play them often. Amazing story and great music. It reminds us that we never know where our accolades may come from, or thoughts of others that might serve to try to diminish us. One of the first things I wrote seen below carried the theme that there can be no rush. I’ve often wondered what I meant by this… Or in the words of John Lennon, Instant AB15Karma’s going to get you. Well we all shine on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun. Well we all shine on” continuing “Instant Karma’s gonna get you. Gonna knock you off your feet. Better recognize your brothers. Everyone you meet. Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear. Why on earth are you there? When you’re everywhere. Come and get your share. For Lennon, the idea of “not choosing to be like them”, resonated and living within his own skin was paramount. Just as with any artist or writer of any age. Just who can be the non-conformist in our midst and their ultimate purpose. I wonder.

There can be no Rush  

 Trying to see dragons while looking over mountains and water into the sun can cause temporary blindness. You must see beyond ignorance.  Beware of those who are not trustworthy. Pay attention they can lead you astray.

There can be no rush to judgment. Only the path to learning leaving childhood innocence behind.

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Dai Temple Taishan Mountain

Find a mentor and come to know peace and harmony. Learn to listen to your inner voice and know the Tao. All that there is to know is already here. In front, beside and behind.  Beneath you instilled in the earth and above you in the sky.

There can be no rush to knowledge. Only preparation to see and know what is important when it arrives and letting your inner virtue define you.

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From the top of Huangshan Mt in Anhui

Find and nurture patience and you can begin to look over mountains and over the sea. There can be no rush to find the symmetry to be found in the Tao. With vision you will become immortal and come to know dragons flying in the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (4 BLINDNESS / Mountains over Water). 2/6/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

 Becoming a thread that serves the Master Weaver

(Note: This is continuation of the thread I began with my last post dated May 13, 2018). Because of their enigmatic character, both charts were used by the apocryphal, or questioned, interpretation of the Confucian Classics that flourished during the Han period.

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The Luoshu

The imperial bibliography Suishu jingji zhi of the official dynastic history says that there were nine chapters of text about the Hetu and 6 chapters about the Luoshu. It lists a book Hetu with a length of 20 (including the Luoshu 24) Juan, written during the Liang period (502-557) and already lost during the early Tang period (618-907), as well as the books Hetu wei and Luoshu wei with a total length of together 45 chapters.

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The Hetu

Other books parts of which have survived until today are the Hetu longwen, Hetu kuodi xiang, Hetu xiyao gou, Hetu kaoling yao or Luoshu lingzhun ting. Today, fragments of 120 Hetu books are preserved, and those of about 20 writings to the Luoshu. Although the compilers of the Suishu purported that these books were compiled during the ages of the mythical rulers of the past, it is certain that they date from the Han period or somewhat later.

Tang period scholars were not very interested in the two charts, and they only gained prominence again during the Song period (960-1279). The Taoist scholar Chen Tuan is said to have received a dragon chart (longtu) from the Taoist Master Mayi and transmitted it to his own followers. Another branch of disciples were Mu Xiu, Li Zhicai and the mathematician Shao Yong who was one of the early Song Neo-Confucians. The great Southern Song Period Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi took over Shao Yong’s transmitted shape of the two charts and used them for his interpretation of the I Ching (Yijing), known as the Zhouyi benyi. Interestingly enough, Liu Mu’s two charts just had the opposite configuration of the trigrams as that of Shao Yong, so AB fishchartthat Shao Yong’s Hetu corresponded to Liu Mu’s Luoshu and vice versa. Apart from Shao Yong’s and Zhu Xi’s version, there is the Yinyang yutu “Fish chart of Yin and Yang”, a very popular version of the constellation of the eight trigrams, with the trigrams forming the outer frame and a black (Yin) and white (Yang) field the center. The two fields are shaped in curves and creeping into each other to express the permanent fluctuation between Yin and Yang during the seasons. It is the much more famous of the trigram charts and is widely used in Taoist circles, where it became the symbol of Taoism. Zhu Xi’s version of the two charts can be seen in the illustrations above.

Numerological speculation was very common among the Neo-Confucians. Zhu Zhen’s book Zhouyi guatu says that the white circles in the Hetu chart sum up to an odd number (25), the black circles to an even number (20), with a total sum of 45.

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One of two bronze goats sitting in front of Hall of Three Purities Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

The white circles in the Luoshu chart are 25, black circles 30, with a total sum of 55. While the Hetu symbolized the theory and substance (ti) behind all things, the congenital and innate (xiantian) nature of things, the Luoshu symbolized that practical aspect (yang) and the state of things how they are and live (houtian).

The main number of the Hetu is 10; 1 and 6 express the ancestral (zong, Celestial) nature, 2 and 7 the Way (tao), 3 and 8 friendships (peng), 4 and 9 mutual support (you), and 5 and 10 protection and safety (shou). The main number of the Luoshu in 9; head is 9, feet is 1, left is 3, right is 7, 2 and 4 are the shoulders, 6 and 8 the legs, and 5 is the number of the physical center. AB8The Hetu also expresses geographical directions, each of the nine regions of the empire represented by one symbol of the chart. The number 9 also stands for the Nine Palaces (jiugong) of the earth, while the number 5 represented in the center of the Luoshu symbolized the Five Processes.

During the Qing period (1644-1911) Confucians like Huang Zongxi or Hu Wei contradicted the cosmological interpretation of the Neo-Confucians. In his inscription Wan Gongze muzhi ming, Huang Zongxi assumed that the Hetu and Luoshu were very crude geographical maps of ancient times.

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Riding the celestial dragon/turtle Qingyang Temple

Yet it is more probable that the charts served as a theoretical illustration of the universe for the purpose of prognostication, or to symbolize the elements of which the cosmos or the body were believed to consist. Why all of the above is important, is because it establishes the benchmark for how we got to the here and now. Using the system and numbers above correlate directly with a person’s place in the universe at any given moment. “Reading a person’s chart” meant understanding from where one came, ie, his beginnings, could have a direct correlation with where their journey would finish…. hence the I Ching was born. In practical terms, it means you can find the Tao through the pragmatism followed in understanding you life’s role. In popular culture we describe this as horoscopes, but in reality it is the measurement of where we are in our ultimate journey as we become in tune with the Tao.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for B15leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 48 and 49 appear below. Verses 1 through 47 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 48 – Becoming the Master Weaver

In weaving the fabric of your surroundings together, seek only the Tao without the use of ears or eyes. It will only be by looking within yourself and following your inner nature that the answer (which incidentally you have always known), comes forth to greet you.

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Seek only that which brings everything together           Nanjing

Be guided by the answer given by the sage when he is asked “do you think I learn in order to increase my knowledge”. The sage simply replies “no, I seek only that which brings everything together”.

As you liken yourself as the master weaver, you find yourself remaining as a clean slate with neither right nor wrong guiding your actions.

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Taiping Heavenly Kingdom History Museum

As you have become the natural extension of the universe – all things become possible.  Opportunities otherwise overlooked or unknown come forth that have been waiting on cue to make their appearance. External knowledge becomes less important as the sage weaves all the pieces presented him into what becomes the natural extension of his own spirit.

Cultivating his body and spirit in the proper way the sage appears to have nothing to do.  Having nothing to do leads to nothing not getting done. Having nothing better to do, the world simply finds itself coming along for the ride.

Confucius asked Tzu Kung, “Do you think I learn in order to increase my knowledge?” Tzu Kung answered, “Well don’t you?” Confucius said, “No I only seek things that bring everything together.” (Lunyu 15.2)

Sung Ch’ang says, “Those who seek the Tao don’t use their ears or eyes. They look within not without. They obey their natures, not their desires. They don’t value knowledge. They consider gaining as losing and losing as gaining.

Wang Pi says, “Those who seek learning seek to improve their ability or to increase their mastery, while those who seek the Tao seek to return to emptiness and nothingness. When something is done, something is left out. When nothing is done, nothing is not done.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “He who seeks the Tao begins by using wisdom to eliminate desires. Thus, he loses. Once his desires are gone he eliminates wisdom. Thus, he loses again. And he goes on like this until the mind and the world are both forgotten, until selfish desires are completely eliminated and he reaches the state of doing nothing. And while he does nothing, the people transform themselves. Thus, by doing nothing, the sage can do great thing things. Hence those who would rule the world should know the value of not being busy.”

Verse 49 – Remaining True to Form

Retreat into the emptiness brought forth by the ten thousand things as if you have no mind of your own.

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Mindless  Wuhan Temple  Chengdu

Taking on the mind of all those around you and treating them as the same you become immersed in nothing.

Mindless, you convey the hopes, dreams and fears of all around you and embrace neither side of any argument.

To the good the sage is good and to the bad as well.  He supports the bad like he is good until they see the bad for what it has brought them and become good.  He illuminates like the sun and transforms the spirit.  To what is true he is true and to what is false he is true until they too become true to the Tao.

It is by seeing the real in the false and the false in the real the sage’s wisdom is different from others. By remaining empty, the sage’s mind can merge with the mind of others. Because his mind is still, he can respond accordingly. While he may appear withdrawn from the world, he moves all in the direction they should take.

Always humble, he remains transparent while letting others seemingly find their own way. xx

Su Ch’e says, “Emptiness has no form. It takes on the form of the ten thousand things.

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Han stone carving   Coming to see Confucius    Confucius Temple  Qufu

If emptiness had its own form it could not form anything else. Thus, the sage has no mind of his own. He takes on the minds of the people and treats everyone the same.

Yen Tsun says, “A mindless mind is the chief of all minds. The sage, therefore, has no mind of his own but embraces the mind of the people. Free of love and hate, he is not the enemy of evil or the friend of good. He is not the protector of truth or the attacker of falsehood.  He supports like the earth and covers the sky. He illuminates like the sun and transforms like the spirit.”

Confucius says, “In his dealings with the world, the great man is neither for or against anyone. He follows whatever is right.” (Lunyu: 4-10) Hsuan-Tsung says,” The sage covers up the tracks of his mind by blending in with others.” Ch’eng Hsuan-Ying says, “Stop the eyes and the ears, and the other senses follow.”

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

May 13, 2018

Explaining how life is about conjunctions and vibrations, or how it all began to make sense…  

My ultimate wish is to return to my hometown to discuss the Analects of Confucius and debate with my dear friends Chuang, Lieh, and Lao Tzu… What a happy life indeed! Adding to the discussion, Chuang Tzu would remind us, “He who takes Heaven as his ancestor, virtue as his home, the Tao as his door and escapes change is ACon my picturea sage.”  Ah what bliss… to live a life escaping change and to be with old friends once again. To know you can be anyone. That you can do anything. It’s only a matter of going. And that you can always do it again. Thereby becoming the living manifestation of your own destiny.

Rather being in Springfield, Missouri and just writing about Qufu and China here on my blog at thekongdanfoundation.com or living it in Qufu and China. It is the above venue of living to express the virtues found in the past that fills my days. There may always be experiences found daily that fill my spare time, but time spent with my friends from the past is where I am most satisfied. It reminds me of Chuang Tzu’s admonition that we should not fear death, as we are simply returning again to experience what we have always known but may have forgotten.

Rain and Thunder, Stay Inside

Be careful the dragons are not watching. Mother Earth is busy being cleansed by rain and thunder.

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Rain and Thunder Huangshen Mountain

Stay inside.

Protect yourself with strong defenses water over thunder means a time of retrenchment. Stay inside. Go slow it is not time to advance. Get sound advice from friends and neighbors. Stay inside.

There are times when the right impression is critical and go betweens are required. Be prepared and wait until the time is right. Stay inside.

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Old Town  Huangshen

Prepare carefully and know when to act. Find clarity and reality in the Tao and know thyself. Keep your vision of the Tao and be protected. Do not rush to judgement. Wait until you know what is not real and what is. Be careful, the dragons are not watching. Stay inside.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (3 RETRENCHMENT / Water over Thunder). 2/6/94 The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

What is it that we fundamentally connect to that our consciousness is attracted to by the vibrations we ultimately follow, if and when we become awakened, and are we all looking for the same thing? It is when we come into alignment with this superior D1force and synchronize with it, that we can begin to know our way. It was this that the earliest shaman learned by following the sun, moon and stars and observing his natural environment and how things in nature reacted to them.

They learned that things happen as a direct response to an alternative action. That when acting in unison as complementary opposite’s things can naturally occur by themselves. This was the essence of Taoism. What was universal was the idea that there are not favorites. It was how to connect with this vibration that a name was needed. The Tao and the ten thousand things (everything imaginable) and God (the undefinable) were universal and that God would be the entity that determines the ultimate outcome.

The ancient Chinese answer to this phenomenon was yin/yang, the I Ching. The I Ching was/has been developed and modified over a period of five thousand years and was a direct connection to the movement of the stars, the sun, moon and D2planets, i.e., the universe and how an individual’s own personal vibrations interacted with them. Patterns emerged that verified cause and effect. What goes into something has a direct correlation to what comes out. The power of observation became and is still the key. This is the essence of astrology and following the cosmos or stars for direction. The early Chinese were very serious about this and developed the first observatory to monitor the planets, sun, moon and stars. They could predict eclipses of sun and moon and the Emperor depended on these observations to give direction for sacred rites, planting in spring and harvesting in the fall, etc… If the Emperor was wrong he could/would lose the throne to someone else, or those making erroneous prediction could lose their heads.

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Copper yin/yang symbol found on Chinese ship sunk in Indian Ocean in 1400’s

How did the I Ching begin and how could you measure what it meant as to how things were/are connected, and how do our own internal vibrations interact with it? For thousands of years the shaman had the answers. In about 200 AD the Emperor said every city must have temple and shrine to Confucius. The old shrines honoring the shaman were removed. The new world would continue to be about connections and vibrations, but modified to fit the norm, generally set by Confucius, now in place. Things set in place by time and tradition always set the stage. The power of observation was always the key to understanding events that were to come.

But, how was it all to begin? Looking to what we would call the universe to nature and how everything is connected we learn by observing the stars.

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The universe  from Hubble telescope

Can our own consciousness be, or remain singular, from our environment? Or do we enable cause and effect though our thoughts that originate in nothing. Can we empower the universe through our thoughts? The shaman knew that it was through our thoughts that begin as nothing, that something appears. But what could be the basis of this observation found in nature that could guide us? Understanding this premise allowed what could have been seen as nothing, but synthesized through the human mind could become something in what we now call consciousness.

Ancient traditions carried from generations over eons of time would serve to tell the story. It begins here:

The Hetu, Luoshu and Nine Palaces

The Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” D4are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China. This means they followed the stars, i.e., sun, moon, and planets. They knew something was moving through time. That the same constellations they saw today would re-appear a year later. This movement of the stars became known as the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces and were to be employed by both Taoists and Confucians and serve to explain the correlation of the hexagrams of the (I Ching) D5Yijing “Book of Changes” with the universe and human life. They are also used in geomancy (fengshui). The two diagrams shown here, are first mentioned in the chapter Guming of the Confucian Classic Shangshu “Book of Documents”, described earlier, where it is said that the three precious jades and the hetu are stored in the Eastern Chamber. It can thus be assumed that the Hetu was a kind of jade stone the texture of which were interpreted as the eight trigrams (bagua of the (I Ching) Yijing. It is here that it all begins with patterns that could be easily followed.

During the Han period (206 BC-220 AD) commentator Kong Anguo is the first who mention the Shangshu, one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. This, along with the legend of a dragon horse (longma) that emerged from the Yellow River and whose back was patterned with the shape of the eight trigrams. The longma was a fabled winged horse with dragon scales in Chinese mythology. Seeing a longma was an omen of a legendary sage-ruler.

Chinese-LONG-Horse-Or-Horse-DragonThe diagram seen on the back of the horse was the so-called “Yellow River Chart” that was written down by the shaman Fu Xi and preserved as the eight trigrams. As an auspicious omen, the horse regularly appeared during the reigns of the virtuous rulers, (Yao, Shun, and Yu).

Confucius would later complain that during his lifetime, the horse did not appear again, which was a bad portent of unlucky times. The Inscription of the River Luo is first mentioned in the book Guanzi, where it is said that a dragon turtle (longgui) left the waters of the River Luo, so that an inscription was seen on its back, actually also a pattern of the shell, that could be interpreted as the eight trigrams in a constellation different to that on the Hetu.

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Dragon Turtle Qingyang Temple in Qingdao

100_3085Similarly, to the dragon horse, the turtle appeared during lucky times when virtuous rulers reigned the empire and ceased to be seen when bad and selfish men governed the world. You can see depictions today in Confucius Temples throughout China. The one to the left resides in the Confucius Temple in Qufu.

Both inscriptions are mentioned in the Xici commentary of the Yijing. The sage rulers read and interpreted the River Chart and the Luo Inscription and modelled their reign according to the evidence provided in the two diagrams. Yet the same text also says that Fu Xi invented the arrangement of the trigrams after observing the starry sky and all things on earth, without referring to the River Chart.

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Yu the Great Dujiangyan Waterworks

The story of the two diagrams as representative of a golden age is repeated in the Baihu tongyi of the Han period, and the scholar Liu Xin said that the “Inscription of the Luo” was found by Yu the Great when he tamed the floods. He interpreted this inscription and came to the conclusions made in the correlative cosmology described in the chapter Hongfan of the ShangshuWhile the Hetu is connected with the eight trigrams, the Luoshu is related to the Five Processes.

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Dui from Dawenkou culture

Archeological findings from the Yangshao and Dawenkou cultures the Dawenkou were found in Shandong Province along the Yellow River and is an area I am very familiar with today have shown that the patterns to be found in the two charts and in the hexagrams date from the Neolithic age, dating from 10,000  to 3,000 BC – up to the Shang dynasty.

The distribution of the numbers is also identical to that found in the numbers in the chart on the prognostication dish of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces (taiyi jiugong zhanpan) from the Warring States period (5th century-221 BC) found in Fuyang, Anhui.

As an explanation of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces, this served as the original connection to the cosmos and universe. It often took on the personality of the shaman and how well he was able to communicate these “universal truths”. This created different resonances in divination, meditation, and medical context in what would later become Taoist traditions.

AA The Milky Way

The Great Bear

The Nine Palaces were the groupings of stars that were identified that traversed the heavens. After giving a name to these groupings (the Great Bear, also known as Ursa Major and the Milky Way for example), one could follow the movement of these stars over time and a “Great Unity” (the stars moving in unison) could be established.  In turn, these “groupings” became a useful metaphor for other sacred spaces. As referred to above, the Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China.  These were diagrams of the movement of the stars through the Nine Palaces described above.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for AC19leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 46 and 47 appear below. Verses 1 through 45 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 46 – Prevailing Contentment

How can we live within what the Tao teaches us, if we are never content with what D8the world brings to our doorstep and why should it matter? If we are busy cultivating things instead of ourselves, how can we find our true place in the ten thousand things? What can the seeds of contentment bring unless controlling our desires comes to the forefront and contentment decides to stay?  If we do not remain still, how will we know when the way comes to find us?

Cultivating the Tao through meditation, thought, D9appearance, action and deed is the key to the sage’s security. By not seeking things outside himself, he becomes an extension of the Tao. He is internally guided by the knowledge that no crime is worse than yielding to our desire, no wrong is greater than discontent and no curse greater than getting what you want when you are unprepared for the consequences.

D10Before showing the way, the sage must truly know contentment and remain confident with what the Tao teaches and exude that confidence by showing the contentment of being content.  When he can do this, others can see the folly of what external desires bring and can begin to find contentment for themselves.

Finding that the Tao has come full circle and begun to prevail in the world, the sage can be on his way.

The three above landscapes are from the Chongqing Museum. If I become published in the future, appropriate credits will be given. If only for my enjoyment just acknowledging where all photographs originate is enough.

Wang Pi says, “When the Tao prevails, contentment reigns. People don’t seek external things but cultivate themselves instead. Courier horses are sent home to manure fields. When people don’t control their desires, when they don’t cultivate themselves but seek external things instead, cavalry horses are bred on the borders.

Li His-Chai says, “When the ruler possesses the Tao, soldiers become farmers. When the ruler does not possess the Tao, farmers become soldiers. Someone who understands the Tao turns form into emptiness. Someone who does not understand the Tao turns emptiness into form. To yield to desire means to want. Not to know contentment leads to gasp. To get what you want means to possess. Want gives forth to grasping, and grasping gives forth to possessing, and there is no end to possessing. But once we know that we do not need to grasp anything outside ourselves, we know contentment. And once we know contentment, there is nothing with which we are not content.”

Lu His-Sheng says, “When the mind sets something desirable and wants it, even though it does not accord with reason, there is no worse crime. When want knows no limit, and brings harm to others, there is no greater wrong. When every desire has to be satisfied, and the mind never stops burning, there is no crueler curse. We all have enough. When we are content with enough, we are content wherever we are.”

Lu Tung-Pin says, “To know contentment means the Tao prevails. Not to know contentment means the Tao fails. What we know comes from our mind, which Lao Tzu represents as a horse. When we know contentment, our horse stays home. When we don’t know contentment, it guars the border. When the Tao prevails, we put the whip away.”

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Material contentment is not contentment. Spiritual contentment is true contentment.”

Verse 47 – Becoming endowed by the Way

When you are ready to come forth with a vision fully endowed by the way, you become the way. When you are ready to accept the mantle conferred by dragons by accepting Heaven as your ancestor, when virtue becomes your home and the Tao your door, only then can you begin to see beyond the limitations life brings each day D11as Chuang Tzu has taught you.

“Enthusiasm Garden” or “Zhan Garden” of the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu

When you can remain above change, becoming a sage becomes clear.

When you can understand others by knowing yourself and understand other families by knowing your own, nothing more in the world is needed to be known. The sage does not need to ascend to the sky or descend into the depths to understand the way of heaven and earth.

D12When you can know the world without leaving your doorstep and are able to succeed without trying by relying only on your true nature, your vision moves beyond the distant horizon. Seeing what is coming allows you to stay behind. Staying behind allows you to remain as one with the ten thousand things. Remaining as one with the ten thousand things you become empty once again. Becoming empty, the sage remains unmoved by the events that may swirl around him. xx

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The sage understands others by understanding himself. He understands other families by understanding his own family. Thus, he understands to whole world. Man, and Heaven are linked to each other. If the ruler is content, the breath of Heaven will be calm. If the ruler is greedy, Heaven’s breath will be unstable. The sage does not have to ascend into the sky or descend into the depths to understand Heaven and Earth.”

Wang Pi says, “Events have a beginning. Things have a leader. Though roads diverge, they lead back together. Though thoughts multiply they all share one thing. The Way has one constant. Reason has one principle. Holding onto the ancient Way, we are able to master the present. Though we live today we can understand the distant past. We can understand without going outside. In we don’t understand, going further only leads us further away.”

Su Ch’e says, “The reason the sages of the past understood everything without going anywhere was simply because they kept their natures whole. People let themselves be misled by things and allow their natures to be split into ears and eyes, body and mind. Their vision becomes limited to sights, and their hearing becomes limited to sounds.”

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Those who look for Heaven and Earth outside look for forms. But Heaven and Earth cannot be fathomed through form, only through reason. Once we realize reason is right here, it doesn’t matter if we close our door. For the sage, knowledge is not limited to form. Hence, he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Name is not limited to matter. Hence, he doesn’t have to look anywhere. Success is not limited to action. Hence, he doesn’t have to do anything.”

By 1dandecarlo

May 1, 2018

Moving to a higher frequency away from the Herd

Simply by turning on the light, you can instantly destroy the darkness. Likewise, even a rather simple analysis of ego-clinging and afflictive emotions can make them collapse. —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

What is it that distinguishes us but the consciousness we bring from the past. How is it that something springs forth from nothing, only to over time revert back to nothing again, and again like clouds floating on the wind. As if our DNA has imprinted our divine origins and it’s our job to re-discover and use to our and others advantage.

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Ancient coming and going    Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

Could it be awareness of our own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc., that stretches beyond the life we life today?

To as the Taoist would say, “To stand with the divine integrity of all things. With none having dominion, or a more secure place than the next.” For myself, the biggest challenge is to not “engage” in what seems to be the drama found in living with others present every day. If any trait is self-defining is that I abhor conflict. It seems the central tenet of meditation is that we find our own place setting. As if determining where we are making our contribution from… where is our heart in all this?

A place where only silence, and perhaps music, resides that seems the key to contentment. Taking us to places that move us as the Beatles or Beethoven would say. This has always been the paradox of the sage and why vistas found on mountain tops seem so appealing. But then we are brought back with the realization that there is something we are here to do. As if a tuning fork is guiding our way.

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One of the earliest depictions of the dragon  in SW China dating back to prehistory now on display at the Wuhuo Temple

To move away from what may be called the herd mentality. From that which clouds our inner vision of what defines us. Something we came into this world to grow with, to see, and perhaps to be, but get distracted or lost by attachments. I think at some point, we all look to faith in our higher destiny through consciousness and inner development, versus the paradox living brings each day.

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What we ultimately grow with   Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

To what is our “soul’s intent”. What seems to matter is connecting things to the past as a living tradition and conscious connection to our origins. Along with not being afraid of change and recognizing that it is the nature of all life to do so. What could be more in keeping with nature’s intent, than natural selection… where the ten thousand things subscribe to the idea of the most adaptable and strongest getting to go forward. Finding the harmony meant where everything and everyone finds their place. With our consciousness in unison with nature, the universe, and the Tao (God), getting to make the final call. In other words, just as the shaman said thousands of years ago – we get to have a say in our fate and our world through both our decisions and our own conscious connections with the divine.

I guess it’s partly the way of explaining what I do here… attempting to rediscover the true meaning of the teachings of the past, primarily found in ancient China and other traditions. Moving things beyond simply beginnings and endings and a literal translation, to a practical transliteration or interpretation that applies today.

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Weaving from a loom  Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

What is the responsibility of the storyteller? And can we do this only for ourselves or serve as inspiration and by example. Our own nothingness to be made into something, only to return to be made into nothing again, and again, and again. Much of what we learn we accept as an “article of faith”, or just what we allow daily as routine must be acquired and brought back to life or resuscitated by those whose interest is piqued by the past. Just as things happen twice – first as a thought which comes as DSCI0450nothing, and second in reality when we make it into something, as the conditions supporting our existence are constantly evolving and changing. As we rise above limitation, we find a greater truth, our own consciousness, perhaps even to a higher frequency. To what we call living true to ourselves, finding harmony and our divine mind. (Built in 223 AD, Wuhou Memorial Temple in Sichuan Province in Chengdu is the Emperor’s tomb integrated with his prime minister’s shrine in one temple. It is seen as the foremost museum of the Three Kingdoms Period. The above photos are believed to pre-date the date of the opening of the museum by several hundred years in antiquity. I have visited the museum several times over the years.)

My Grandmother’s Garden

She comes in peace knowing utmost harmony. Nurturing. Receptive and forgiving, restrained yet uncomplicated. The dragons flying through the sky disappear into the clouds retiring, once strong and assertive now retreating and finding a secure place.

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Two Deer Qingcheng Mountain

Looking down Mother Earth comes into focus with new growth and new beginnings. Differences occur but a connectedness of all things with the seasons begins. Yang becomes yin.

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A Gaggle of Geese / Qingcheng Mountain

Strong becomes weak, hard becomes soft, male becomes female in the oneness of Tao.

Leaving the clouds behind and finding the earth beneath my feet, I discover that I am here to find clarity, to focus, to listen and most importantly to learn. To find the ways of my garden. To know the earth as my grandmother taught me. To know beginnings and endings. Simply to know and remember what my grandmother taught me.

My Grandmother’s Garden is an original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (2 EARTH / Earth over Earth). 2/5/94. The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Who is it that takes on the task of keeping alive the remembrances of the greatness of the spirit? Who tells the history of who we have been that serves to inspire us to continually build on or make something memorable? To add on to what is known in a new or different way? Many times, as I travel around China taking pictures in museums, Buddhist and Taoist temples, holy mountains, something I’ve written about, or simply something of historic interest, etc., I ask myself – am I simply a tour guide doing a travelogue, or framing things from personal experiences and impressions as if on a pilgrimage.

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Standing at the top of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

Favoring places off the well-worn or beaten path.  Oftentimes differing or distinguishing from the norm as if not following a laid-out plan or itinerary with a fixed aim or a limited purpose. On a whim where the path leads each day as if given a gift I am here to unwrap with my pictures and writing telling the story. The path carrying its own message, or meaning itself, just waiting to be told. As if discoveries made on the wayside seem to be more important than what you thought you were looking for. With nothing on your agenda but simply to be present. Once found, it is as if an urge has brought you to a spontaneity that connects the outer environment with your innermost being or core. When the images you experience take on a life of their own as if just waiting for you and their own story to be told. As if there is no coincidence that you yourself are a part of an undying past.

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Dan with students in Qufu

It’s like when I was teaching at the university in Qufu to students who were going to be English tour guides at historic sites throughout China. I would tell them not to just learn or memorize the story by rote, but to know enough about the subject to in effect become the story as if re-living history.        

We often see that here in USA in Branson at Silver Dollar City and in Orlando at Disney World. Becoming the person, or character that tells the story in such a way that you become the story as well. As if words and images can take on a life of their own, it’s what the storyteller does. As if you learn and can begin practicing how to internalize and personify yourself. We call it Nei-yeh – Inward Training.  The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. 

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China Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando

Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. It can be found here on my website. I am often reminded in my travels of how the ancient shaman was able to transcend themselves in an effort to bring everyone along for the ride. Back when sitting around the fire gazing at the stars, he or she would mesmerize their audience. Often music would be used as we brought a certain rhythm to the rhyme that would bring a sense to the meaning of life and how everything was connected. Why immersing in a greater truth and creating relationships in and for the whole clan was important. The same songs ring true today. Their purpose to tell a story and serving as a reminder of beginnings, endings, and most important the value of being present and staying in the moment. More than anything the shaman was the teacher and way shower. He serves as a reminder of everyone’s connection to and with the stars. Reminding us that we are one with them in eternity. That we and the stars will forever be connected as our destiny unfolds. Lest we forget.

In learning the true sense of basis of tai chi and meditation today, soon you forget going simply through the motions and live the movements and spontaneity that you become. Many say this is done in silence. But for me music serves as a guide and reminder of steps yet not taken. As if having a personal experience as you live the story itself. I think my dream job would be to teach English to students who were going to by tour guides in Chengdu in Sichuan Province.  I have a friend who has a private school that teaches English there and who knows it may find its way onto my bucket list.

The Paradox

Some people go through their entire lives not knowing who they are, where they have been, or where they are going.

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Book of Rites Qingyang Taoist Temple

You are fortunate. You have a chance to see to know to understand where you are from, why you are here, and where you are going. To know who you are, who you have been, and you will be along the way.

However, you must know that to know is not to know, and to have is not to have. To see is not to be, and who you will be is not to see.

For whatever is useful by the world’s standards cannot be useful in finding the Tao. It is the eternal nature of the Tao and Te (the way of virtue) that is to be found. Reality becomes, is and will be the chance endeavor to find the Tao.   1/15/94

It is as though words have or can create a poetic vision that can take us to places we otherwise would never go. Or as described in The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda, as he relays that “what may appear as poetic imagination actually contain a deeper reality than any matter-of-fact description of outer events and situation could ever have conveyed, because these events and facts become meaningful only if seen against the background of inner experience”. In other words, what they mean to us. To what we are innately pulled to.

Thus, the pilgrimage described above, becomes or is actually a mirrored reflection of an inner movement, or awakening, directed towards an as yet unknown distant aim. As if we cross the horizons of both the familiar, as well as, the unknown. With the ultimate aim of finding the harmony that fits it all together as you find a greater life that connects you with the path you now follow.

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 Finding Harmony People’s Great Hall of Chongqing

To what many would say connecting or following our source and what could be defined as our ultimate destiny. The metaphor I use as the dragon floating on clouds in the sky is symbolic of reaching out to greater horizons, to what remains hidden from view. It is when the pilgrim abandons himself to the greater life that springs forth from within, that leads him beyond horizons as yet unseen to an aim which is already present within him. To what Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces would call the paradox of creation. Our Achilles heel as such, to find our point of limited existence, to shatter and pierce it. Thereby, transcending our limited existence and fully becoming who we are as the universe sees us. Or as Campbell continues, “It will be always the one, shapeshifting yet marvelous constant story that we find, together with the challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told”. The only question remaining will be who is here to tell the story? As if, finding glimpses of ourselves away from the herd it all simply becomes clear.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in B15May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 44 and 45 appear below. Verses 1 through 43 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 44 – Staying focused within oneself

By knowing what is vital can one hold onto fame or health?  If he has to choose would it be his health or riches, and in the end would he know which is more harmful, loss or gain. If something is loved, the more it costs, the bigger the treasure the greater the loss when it is gone.

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    Finding one’s rhythm     Chongqing Museum

The sage stays clear of that which lies outside him and focuses on enhancing his inner voice and virtue. Keeping clear of what lies outside his true nature.

Staying in tune with his own natural rhythm. While those who would shame him find nothing to shame.  He remains aware of his limits and constantly in tune with the Tao. In keeping in sync with the Tao, all flows through him and finds its proper place.

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The community   Chongqing Museum

Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start. Knowing restraint contentment soon follows. Finding happiness and wealth within himself his spirit soars and cannot be exhausted. ##

Huang Mao-Ts’ai says, “What the world calls fame is something external, and yet people abandon their bodies to fight for it. What the world calls riches are unpredictable, and yet people abandon their bodies to possess them. How can they know what is vital or precious? Even if they succeed, it’s at the cost of their health.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Heroes see fame and merchants seek riches, even at the point of giving up their lives. The one loves fame because he wants to glorify himself. But the more he loves fame, the more he loses what he would really glorify. Hence the cost is high. The other masses wealth because he wants to enrich himself. But the more wealth he amasses, the more he harms what he would truly enrich. Hence the loss is great. Meanwhile the man of virtue knows the most vital thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no fame and suffers no disgrace. He knows the most precious thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no riches and encounters no trouble. Hence he lives long.”

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Knowing Virtue   Chongqing Museum

Li His-Chai says, “If we love something, the more we love it, the more it costs us. If we treasure something, the more we treasure it, the more it exhausts us. A little results in shame. A lot results in ruin. And regret comes too late. A wise person is not like this. He knows he has everything he needs within himself. Hence, he does not seek anything outside himself. Thus, those who would shame him find nothing to shame. He knows his own limits, and his limits are the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t act unless according to the Tao. Thus, those who would trouble him find nothing to trouble. Hence, he survives and, surviving, lives long”.

Verse 45 – Becoming Translucent 

By not treating things as they are, but as they can be everything has an opportunity to complete its cycle and return empty. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever is transcendent. To do all while seeming translucent, or still, is in keeping with your highest purpose and in keeping with your place in the ten thousand things.

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The fullest thing never runs dry Chongqing

The sage is content if the greatest thing is incomplete or the fullest thing is empty for the greatest thing never wears out and the fullest thing never runs dry. He understands that the greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety hence it seems incomplete.  That the fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality hence it seems empty. That the straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. That the cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection, hence it seems clumsy.

It is when opposites complement each other that the highest order is maintained. When order is found and balance maintained we become perfectly still. When we become perfectly still the order of the universe becomes known and all becomes translucent, or clear. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “To treat the great as great, the full as full, the straight as straight, and the clever as clever is mundane. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever, this is transcendent. This is the meaning of Lao Tzu’s entire book: opposites complement each other”.

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Telling opposites

Lu Nung-Shih says, “The greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety; hence it seems incomplete. The fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality; hence it seems empty. The straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. The cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection; hence it seems clumsy.”

Han Fei says, “Ordinary people employ their spirit in activity. But activity means extravagance, and extravagance means wastefulness. The sage employs his spirit in stillness. Stillness means moderation, and moderation means frugality.”

Confucius says, “Those who govern with virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place, while the myriad stars revolve around it.

By 1dandecarlo

April 21, 2018

Just who was this guy named Confucius

One day Confucius said, “I would rather not speak. Tzu-kung asked, “If you do not speak, what do we have to record?” Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?” (Lunyu:17.19).

I am often asked in China… why don’t I write books about Confucius as I have about the shaman, I Ching and Taoism (Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu)? I think it is that in now knowing Confucius, there becomes a much bigger story to tell. Confucius had the uncanny ability to connect the dots of history and was the ultimate storyteller. It was here he left his legacy and became immortal through his virtue and traits of benevolence. He lived in the words he spoke leaving others to acknowledge his wisdom.

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The Turtle Dragon  Confucius Temple in Qufu

It is as if the work of the historian, or some would say the teacher or scholar, is never-ending. As if knowledge and wisdom cannot be foretold as a haphazard affair. What is to be remembered and what stories are to be told goes without saying. That AC2while things appear to happen simply on their own, they are in reality following the Tao. With this it becomes our own consciousness that creates the world, the universe we are here to tell about and come to know. It is like following cause and effect and building a house with a strong foundation. As if you are writing and living for the ages. Perhaps not even your immediate audience, who may only have or see glimpses of your intent. But for those who come forward to gain understanding as to what it all means to history and more importantly their own.

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Confucius as the teacher with his followers

As if all great writing ended with the Qin Dynasty in 214 BC after Emperor Qin Shi Huang burned all the books and buried the noted scholars of the age in Xian, most everything had to be re-constructed from memory. As if trying to wipe the slate clean to begin anew thinking nothing that occurred before could equal what was to come.

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Terracotta warriors in Xian

Emperor Qin was famous for the terracotta warriors who he felt would lead his way in immortality. Most feel he died of mercury poisoning in his quest. Even today, more than two thousand years later, his tomb nearby cannot be approached due to it being surrounded by mercury poisoning. What he thought would help him live forever is what killed him. All great writing was to be destroyed, except for that of Confucius.

Dujiangyan, was an irrigation project completed during the Warring States period of AC4China by the State of Qin. It is located on the Min River in Sichuan, China, north of Chengdu I visited in June 2015 before visiting Emperor Qin in Xian a few weeks later. Although a reinforced concrete weir has replaced Li Bing’s original weighted bamboo baskets, the layout of the infrastructure remains the same and is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region.  The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the Legalist reforms of Shang Yang during the Warring States period in the mid and late third cAC5entury BC. Its 15 years was the shortest major dynasty in Chinese history, consisting of only two emperors, but inaugurated an imperial system that lasted, with interruption and adaptation, until 1912. It would be the Confucian philosophy that directed that system that would serve to hold the country together over the centuries. The Qin were followed by the Han dynasty. Exemplary at the time was Wang Pi, who died a mysterious death at the age of twenty-six. Later, his works became required study in the examination system. His version of the Lao Tzu (the Tao Te Ching), became the accepted version of the proper way to govern. Thankfully, there were a few around like Wang Pi who wrote new versions of Lao Tzu’s work and I Ching. As one age of enlightenment ended, it made way for the blossoming of another that was seen later in the Han and Tang dynasties when Buddhism began to flourish. In 645 AD Master Xuanzang returned from India with Buddhist sutras to Xian to what would be known as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

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Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha… the vinegar tasters

These translations to Chinese would be called transliterations, seventy-five volumes from Sanskrit to Chinese. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was translated then to Sanskrit and sent to India at this time. Eternal truths told as if someone or something must serve as if the spark that must come forward to re-tell the stories and memories of the past, so that we now don’t forget. China would never be the same. But, it would still be adapting with Confucius that led the way.

Until recently, there were only two mediums of communication. Only the oral history passed from generation to generation, versions of what may have been said and symbols of what was to become the written word. That which is generally conveying someone else’s explanation of what was said and/or meant. But it was the oral history of the tradition of the shaman and eventually what Confucius may hAC8ave said and what is said he wrote, that ultimately carried the day. Confucius was not so much the originator but was adept as the propagator of what was important in the past that needed to be conveyed forward.  China was known as the Middle Kingdom, they had fought barbarians to the north for centuries and built small sections of what would become the Great Wall over time.

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Confucius grave in Confucius cemetary

The teachings and works of Confucius brought order and structure giving the Emperor “divine right” to guide what would come to be known as succeeding dynasties. Confucius always looked to the rites of the past in order to understand the way forward. This worked for almost two thousand years until the British came along wanting fine porcelain and tea to carry back to England. The Middle Kingdom was no longer the center of the universe as they had come to know.

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Over 100,000 descendants of Confucius buried in Confucius cemetery in Qufu

Its strength became its biggest weakness because they could not readily adjust to the influences of the outside world. Just as the Mongols had overtaken the Great Wall five hundred years earlier, China was always prone to hold onto the past. To what some would say the “feudalism” created by Confucian ideology. However, once as adjustment was made, China always reverted to it true heritage. Every age converted Confucius to match their own objectives through the use of “commentaries” to relay what Confucius really meant…  This is never truer than today. First and foremost, over time, history teaches us to become pragmatic. Learning from mistakes of the past to create a better future for ourselves and others. Remembering that there is nothing new under the sun as we acknowledge the inevitable change that must occur.

Confucius lived from 551 to 479 BC, but the history of Qufu goes back to include the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) who lived from 2698–2598 BC and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in the 11th Century BC. All three have temples, i.e., memorials in their honor here AC9in Qufu. Under Emperor Wudi, who ruled 141 to 87 BC, Confucianism was institutionalized and Wudi instituted the Imperial Academy to promote Confucian philosophy. He ruled that to be an official scholar, people had to learn the Confucian classic texts called the Five Classics. According to tradition, the Five Classics were penned by Confucius. Modern scholars, however, doubt that any of the material can really be ascribed to Confucius himself. In actuality, what Confucius did was to update versions on the above texts that had been written by others hundreds of years earlier. Most notably, was the Book of Rites and Book of Songs that were from Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou who also was from Qufu, five hundred years earlier.

The Five Classics:

  • The I Ching, also known as Classic of Changes or Book of Changes, is an ancient AC10Chinese divination text and the oldest of the Chinese classics. Possessing a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation, the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world, providing inspiration to the worlds of religion, psychoanalysis, business, literature, and art. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou period (1000–750 BC), over the course of the Warring States period and early imperial period (500–200 BC) it was transformed into a cosmological text with a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings”(It can be found here on my website under the tab The Dazhan – The meaning of the I Ching). After becoming part of the Five Classics in the 2nd century BC, the I Ching was the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East, and eventually took on an influential role in Western understanding of Eastern thought. I wrote my own version of the I Ching in AC111994, it was published in China in 2004 and appears here on my website.
  • The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of SongsBook of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC.
  •  AC12The Book of Rites, a re-creation of the original Classic of Rites of Confucius lost during the Qin book purge. The Book of Rites or Liji is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty as they were understood in the Warring States and the early Han. The Book of Rites, along with the Rites of Zhou (Zhouli) and the Book of Etiquette and Rites (Yili), which are together known as the “Three Li (Sanli),” constitute the ritual (li) section of the Five Classics which lay at the core of the traditional Confucian canon. 
  • The Book of History or Documents, (Shujing, earlier Shu-king) or Classic of AC13History, also known as the Shangshu, is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. Title page of annotated Shujingedition printed in 1279, held by Taiwan’s National Central Library.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals, or Chunqiu is an ancient Chinese chronicle that AC14has been one of the core Chinese classics since ancient times. The Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu and covers a 241-year period from 722 to 481 BC and gave examples of how, when commoners are obsessed with material wealth, instead of the idealism of a man who “makes things serve him”, they were “reduced to the service of things”.

Historically, what Confucius is most noted for were the Analects, (which literally means “Edited Conversations”), also known as the Analects of Confucius. It is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been compiled and written by Confucius followers. It is believed to have been written during the Warring States period (475–221 BC), and it achieved its final form during the mid Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). By the early Han dynasty the Analects was considered merely a “commentary” on the Five Classics, but the status of the Analects grew to be one of the central texts of Confucianism by the end of that dynasty. Confucius “teachings” promoted the idea of the innate noble nature of man, later conveyed AC15by a Confucian scholar named Dong Zhongshu, who added some Legalist ideas to the teaching of Mencius. He and later emperors approved Dong Zhongshu’s new strain of Confucianism for its emphasis on the Mandate of Heaven. Confucianism’s Mandate of Heaven was a key concept underpinning imperial legitimacy. Heaven chose a particular man and his descendants to be mediators between heaven and the people. The man was to be like a god. This became the justification for the emperor to assume the throne at the behest of heaven giving him authority over all. Heaven’s decision was to be known through the interpreting of natural omens, circumstances, and an almanac that followed the sun, moon, and stars that would foretell the future.

AC16

Outside the Confucius Temple in Qufu

Today Qufu is considered a major tourist destination in China because of its five thousand years of history, primarily because of Confucius. It is the only city in the world with three World Heritage sites, the Confucius Temple, the Confucius Mansion, and Confucius cemetery where over 100,000 of his descendants are buried. Qufu is also known as the home of the Yellow Emperor and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou. The City of Lu (Qufu), was always the center of attention for dynasty after dynasty with Emperors using Confucius teachings to support the claim to the Mandate of Heaven described above. It is my own home in China where I have taught and have many friends. I had an office and apartment across the street from the Confucius cemetery for a few years. I would sit in my third-floor office and look over the wall and peer into history. Or as Confucius says in the beginning of this blog… “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?”

There is a very famous picture here of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution AC18(1966-76), who came to Qufu and attempted the destroy all things pertaining to the past. Their slogan was “everything old is bad”. Meaning ancient teachings of Confucius and others must make way for new ideas and ways of thinking. The Red Guard came to Qufu as they went everywhere attempting to denigrate past history in China. It was only when Premier Chou En-lie intervened that much was saved. After the dust cleared it was recognized that the idea that “what we believe is our greatest weakness is actually our greatest strength” echoed true again. As if history was repeating itself, reminiscent of Emperor Qin of the terra cotta warriors fame, who tried to re-define history in his own image going forward. It didn’t work in 200 BC or in twentieth century China with the Red Guard and cultural revolution either.

How many times must we see extremes leaning to the right or left before we learn that it is the middle ground that saves us? That seemingly every so-called political or religious effort that seems to know how to proceed only serves to get in the way when things outside of ourselves, not our inner virtue, are allowed to guide us going forward. With the age-old axiom of cause and effect and doing unto others as we want done to us as the ultimate in nature’s sway. As we look to the shaman and sage who has seen and done it all before. With our task only to find the silence so that we too may stop and listen. Perhaps it is as nature has always told us, that extremes have endings and cannot last. And maybe just learning from the past and what becoming pragmatic can do for ourselves.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in AC19May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 42 and 43 appear below. Verses 1 through 41 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage 

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

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

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

AC20

Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

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

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

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Tao given birth to the beginning. One gives birth to yin and yang.  Yin and yang gives birth to the breath between, the mixture of clear and turbid.

AC21

Giving birth to the Tao    Xian

These three breaths divide themselves into Heaven, Earth, and Man and together give birth to the ten thousand things. These elemental breaths are what keep the ten thousand things relaxed and balanced. The organs in our chests, the marrow in our bones, the spaces inside plants allow these breaths passage and make long life possible.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Dark and unfathomable in yin. Bright and perceptible in yang. As soon as we are born, we all turn our backs on the dark and unfathomable yin and turn toward the bright and perceptible yang. Fortunately, we keep ourselves in harmony with the breath between.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “The orphans, ’the widowed, ‘and ‘the destitute’ are titles of self-effacement.  Rulers who are not self-effacing are not looked up to by the world. Thus by losing, some people gain. Rulers who are only aware of themselves might possess the world, but the world rebels against them. Thus by gaining, some people lose. We all share this Tao, but we don’t know it except through instruction. What others teach, Lao Tzu also teaches. But Lao Tzu excels others in teaching us to reduce our desires and to be humble, to practice the virtue of harmony, and to let this be our teacher.

Verse 43 – Mirroring the Tao

Go forth this day without form or substance and teach without words that otherwise may cloud the way. Remaining free to come and go even to places where appearances show no room as you lift the spirit of those around you and help all to find their way.

AC23

Ancient Mirrors   Chongqing Museum

Appearing to do nothing. Remaining behind the scenes as the ten thousand things are transformed and completed.  Imitating the Tao. Mirroring the Tao my spirit soars with the dragons and prospers, you become speechless, following the Tao you take no action. Just as energy from the sun brings life to all it finds – it cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window.

The light of our spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything once we have opened the doors and windows of our soul to the ultimate that calls us.  Allowing the weakest to overtake the strongest and the strongest to find their true place in the universe. Succeeding without effort everything under heaven becomes one. ##

Lao Tzu says. “Nothing in the world is weaker than water, but against the hard and the strong – nothing excels it” (78).

AC24

Opening the doors   Chongqing Museum

Huai-Nan Tzu says, “The light of the sun shines across the Four Seas but cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window. While the light of the spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything.” He then adds, “Illumination once asked Nonexistence if it actually existed or not. Nonexistence made no response. Unable to perceive any sign if its existence, Illumination sighed and said, ‘I, too, do not exist, but I cannot equal the nonexistence of Nonexistence’” (12).

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Things are not actually things. What we call ‘strong’ is a fiction. Once it reaches its limit, it returns to nothing. Thus, the weakest thing in the world is able to overcome the strongest thing in the world. Or do you think the reality of nonexistence cannot break through the fiction of existence?”

Wang Pi says, “There is nothing breath cannot enter and nothing water cannot penetrate. What does not exist cannot be exhausted. And what is perfectly weak cannot be broken. From this we can infer that doing nothing brings success.”

AC25

Temple of the Eight Immortals    Xian

Ho-Shang Kung says, “’What doesn’t exist’ refers to the Tao. The Tao has no form or substance. Hence it can come and go, even where there is not any space. It can fill the spirit and help all creatures. We don’t see it do anything, and yet the ten thousand things are transformed and completed. Thus, we realize the benefit of mankind of doing nothing. Imitating the Tao, we don’t speak. We follow it with our bodies. Imitating the Tao, we don’t act. We care for ourselves, and our spirit prospers. We care for our country, and the people flourish. And we do this without effort of trouble. But few can match the Tao in caring for things by doing nothing.”

By 1dandecarlo