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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                         Finding Confucius

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                 Knowing no borders – you learn to lead the Way

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

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

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

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

  • 大道无边


   Memorial to Yellow Emperor  Qufu




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

Stele of the Yellow Emperor – Qufu

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dogen writes:

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

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

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

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

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

The idea of a starting point has always intrigued me. With the I Ching, it always reminds us to start with the beginning. To go within as if in prayer or meditation letting our outward actions simply mirror our innermost acknowledgment of our own divinity. What I like most about Zen Buddhism, is there are no rails telling us to keep us from actualizing who we are meant to become.  

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

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

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

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

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

                             Maintaining sage-like Endurance

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

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

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

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

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

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





By 1dandecarlo

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

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

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

Dao and De (The Way of Virtue)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The image of right or correct path or proper way.

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

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

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

                             Forever Replenishing our Virtue

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

Remaining Hidden from View  Confucius Temple in Qufu

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

As if guided by the phases of the moon, I find structure through tending my garden just as Shen-ming, the divine husbandman, who discovered agriculture along with the healing properties of plants and a calendar to be followed by the sages of long ago. Could it be that virtue is the manifestation of the Tao, or Way, that should guide us? That the Way is what virtue contains and without it could have no meaning or power. That without virtue, the Way would have no appearance or ability to come 410122forward.

Replenishing our Virtue    Confucius Temple in Qufu

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

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

21          练大德,永无止


410123           Longevity and Virtue Completed – Confucius Mansion in Qufu



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the words of Chuang Tzu:

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

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

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 11

Keeping rhythm with the Big Dance in the Sky

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 12 

Final Words of the Dazhuan and I Ching (Yijing)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lynx     Confucius Mansion

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


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

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

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

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

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

Painting by MARINA SOTIRIOU “no copyright infringement is intended”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live 4105after that. To perchance awaken midstream in our lives. As if we have been re‑born; given an opportunity to find and follow our true destiny and endeavor. That our ultimate task is not only to discover who we are – but where we belong in history. Is not this the ultimate challenge? To simply rise up, traveling as one with the prevailing winds. Becoming one with the angels, or dragons, as they manifest before us. Letting our spirit soar. Freeing our mind, heart, and soul to go where few dare to wonder.

4106I know my task as a writer will be complete when my writing is as indefinable as my subject. Just as I know my task as an individual, as I exist in the here and now, will be to simply tell the stories that I have learned along the way. That we each have a story to tell. As we free ourselves of attachments and ego and baggage we have clung to as we try to find our way. That the ultimate travel is the travel of our spirit and that the ultimate giving is to share our gift with others. To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving 4107on.

My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self is in losing myself through expressing the voices of the past. That I am here to relay that the fears and hopes of humanity rest not in where we find ourselves in the here and now, 4108but in reality, to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again. 

That all true learning is self-learning of who we ultimately are to become. That once we have awakened so that we can see beyond ourselves, then have not we found our spirits traveling the winds through eternity. This being so, could there be a more ultimate way of travel than to be found traveling with Lieh Tzu?     1/21/1996

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

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

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

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

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

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

                             Forever Meandering Downstream

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

The Blue Dragon   British Museum in London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Alan Watts put it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 9

 Staying within the Lines for Eternity’s sake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 10 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


By 1dandecarlo

39)Below is an excerpt from a future entry celebrating the great teacher Alan Watts and others I would like to share.

It is that sense of knowing we are here to summon the freedom that Taoism Tao5first speaks to. It’s like the artist or writer who flirts with the unknown finding what is sacred within themselves as some might define as their niche, or even wu wei. Interestingly, it is as the blind Taoist monk “Thousand Eyes” defines the true meaning of kung fu in the Netflix series Marco Polo as follows:

Kung Fu is meant to summon the spirit of the crane and the tiger. Kung Fu means “supreme skill from hard work”.A great poet or writer has reached kung fu. The painter and calligrapher they can be said to have kung fu. Even the cook – the one who sweeps steps – or a masterful servant can have kung fu. Practice – preparation – endless repetition. Until your mind is weary and your bones ache. Until you are too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe. That is the way, the only way one acquires kung fu… and I would add the secret of Tao8synchronicity.

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

By 1dandecarlo

38) Our Journey into Transcendence – A spiritual travelogue through the mountains of China and Tibet… Part 4 Each of us are to become the way shower for those who would travel to the unknown, if and when they too are ready to become true to own their eternal presence.

Continuing the I Ching – On the Commentaries / Associating the I Ching with how to live a good life. Yin and Yang – The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They combine harmony by linking or merging these forces together.  Lao Tzu.

To know the I Ching you must be one with the Tao and you must first live as if every breath depended on its eternal wisdom. The meaning of cultivating stillness, the bagua, earlier and later Heaven and the essence of fengshui. Or 3801as Hafiz of Persia said seven hundred years ago… the words you speak become the house you live in.

What is it each of us seek, but a philosophy, perhaps a religion, and a rule of life that satisfies both head and heart? As we learn how to live to our best advantage and as the old Arab proverb 3802goes… that although the dogs are barking the caravan moves on towards its destination.

Their barking (life’s distractions) not enough to stop us from reaching the end of our journey. It is as Hafiz says… it is our words that take us there. It always seems to be the context of knowledge and wisdom having “been there done that”, and returned.

How is it we define ourselves… except to be as Larry in The Razor’s Edge… To always be on the threshold with vast lands of the spirit stretching out, beckoning before us, and eager to travel them. To others to be seen perhaps as a loafer… Someone careening through life as if having no real objective. Looking for something as yet defined worth seeking. To be always looking for the answers through observation, knowledge, and wisdom. For me, it was as if Larry was looking for the synchronicity of the universe that ties it all together. 3803This mystical approach to life is nothing new. It’s what we all look to at some level.

In ancient China, the movement of the stars in the sky was thought directly to reflect the actions of the emperor and the court on earth; a solar eclipse, for example, might be interpreted as a sign of a forthcoming coup. The emperor employed astronomers to make nightly recordings of all celestial movements, and the official histories of China’s dynasties from the second century BC onwards included a chapter on astronomy. The star chart to the left is from 700 AD and reflects additions made over a period of a thousand years prior. Calenders and almanacs based on the sun, moon, and stars and the change of seasons were followed accordingly. A wrong forecast in the weather could mean the end of the reign…. and sometimes did.

What was it the shaman and earliest astronomers learned as they gazed up into the stars and distant galaxies and wondered both what to believe and what to tell others who looked to him or her for answers that could only be seen as universal when it all looked so far away. Even before thoughts of what made mystics mystical. The answer would lie in the natural flow of things and DSCI0029synchronicity… that would later become the essence of the I Ching.

What is it that connected us and all things found in nature together? We learned that what was within each of us was a microcosm of everything found in our natural environment.

That our actions and world reflect how we see ourselves. When seeing that all nature was/is one – then believing this becomes understood as universal belief. That if you believed this from within and followed your innate nature (as we would call prayer) with sincerity and virtue, your doubt would be dispelled (as in cultivating stillness and I Ching). If you will surrender yourself to this innermost truth (that which was to become the essence of the Tao), and the power over the human spirit that has been proven over eons and generations beyond measure, inner peace will blossom from within you as the Tao, as God if you like, as faith. It becomes you – and you become it.

From “Thoughts on becoming a Sage” (my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching) published in China in 2006:

                           Verse 66 – Reaching Perfect Harmony

In the middle of all lies perfect harmony. When you go to extremes you lose the natural balance found in all things.

It is for this reason that knowledge is frowned upon for those who have not found their 3804way. Knowledge in the hands of a person not grounded in the way of virtue is lost to the vagaries of the moment.

Luohan Buddhist Temple    Chongqing

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

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

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

  • 达到完美的和


Wheels of Life    Luohan Buddhist Temple  Chongqing





A spiritual travelogue through the mountains of China and Tibet… Part 4

How Tibetan Buddhism became so much more than simply a religion, but also a philosophy of life following the Dali Lama and Sakyamuni Buddha. For myself, 3806how it made Taoism, Confucianism, and what was to become known as Chan Buddhism in China and Zen in Japan, so much more than they would have been without Tibet.

My next entry here will follow the steps of Alan Watts, and how he transformed our thinking to look first to the universe and then what our true role should be. I’m excited to re-visit and do a small sample review of what he had to teach us.

For Lhasa, south of the Himalaya mountain range, my going in October 2018, was almost a ritual to understanding where it all might lead. After more than twenty years of study and writing, going there seemed just another chapter necessary to become one again with our spirit, our universal self, and how others found their way. As a writer I often wonder how much is using my 3807imagination, verses echoes of remembrances of things I’ve seen and where I’ve been before… and could they be the same path.

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Coming I am reminded that I am here to confine myself only to such subjects that I am best suited for by intuition and temperament (what remains inherent for me to follow), training (the teachings of  Lao, Chuang, Lieh Tzu and others come to mind), and inclination (letting go of ego and attachments that might slow my way). That our actions should reflect our greatest endeavors that match the vibrations of our ultimate destiny.

It is as if the great question of “who are we” becomes “who are we yet to become”. As if on our own “ritual walk” as outlined below. That ultimately no 3808work of importance will remain unfinished as we proceed with a calm inner peace and certainty assured.

I often refer and look to the bodhisattva Manjusri, who represents the tradition and symbolizes the embodiment of prajna, or transcendent wisdom.

(I went back to the image I used describing Manjusri in my earlier entry here… Number 18. We are now on Number 38.)

What is a bodhisattva?

A bodhisattva is a person, either human or divine (occasionally animal) who has abandoned all selfish concern and seeks only the ultimate liberation and happiness of all living beings. For myself he/she doesn’t teach just what to learn, but teaches how to 3809learn. The bodhisattva understands that as long as he or she remains trapped in the cycle of birth and death (samsara) because of greed, anger and ignorance, there is no way that others can truly be helped. Therefore, driven by concern for the welfare of others, a bodhisattva pursues the spiritual path to Buddhahood, which involves:

  1. the perfection of generosity—giving to others with the pure motivation to help them
  2. the perfection of morality—avoiding all harm to others, and engaging in activities that benefit others
  3. the perfection of patience—never giving way to anger, and accepting the harm perpetrated by others
  4. the perfection of effort—persevering with enthusiastic efforts in all virtuous activities
  5. the perfection of concentration—training the mind to hold its objects with a calm, clear mind free of all distraction
  6. the perfection of wisdom/the realization of ultimate reality—seeing things as they actual are without the overlay of dualistic conceptual processes.

In Buddhist art, a bodhisattva may appear in divine form wearing crowns and jewels, as an ordinary human, or even as an animal. Avalokiteshvara is one of the most popular of the hundreds of bodhisattvas commonly depicted in Buddhist art. Many, like Avalokiteshvara, appear in a variety of distinct forms.

For myself, and some sense of self-awareness, what comes to mind is the Buddhist ideal that what the Buddha perceived was his identity with the 3810universe; that we should experience existence in this way for ourselves. For many, having a “Buddhist meditative practice”, is to move our thoughts in this way is to become the Buddha. What is changeless and immortal is not individual body/mind, but rather the Mind that is shared by all existence. That stillness, that incipience (origins) which never ceases because it never becomes but simply IS. Not simply I am that I am, but a collective We are that We are. It is also referred as our true or original nature, and thus our “Buddha nature.” I do not claim to be a Buddhist, only a student of higher learning. A traveler, a storyteller, in this case a tour guide, interested in the teachings and lifestyle of those who live the ultimate mountaintop experience. Perhaps even allowing others to see themselves in the journey.

This teaching, is central to both Hindu and Buddhist belief. And is derived from the earliest shaman, holy man, and ancient connections to all in the universe. If we’re going to the mountaintop for some sort of “spiritual awakening”, then preparing for what we can expect when we arrive is what makes the trip worthwhile. It’s returning to our source, our home, then departing again to 3811convey the wisdom we now have learned as we are renewed again. That there is no beginning or end, we are simply one with all that exists or will ever exist. We are stardust, we are golden, we are forever. We cannot fear death because it is simply our own evolution in our endeavors as we catch-up with and match our ultimate destiny.

Here there are no thoughts of looking for the mountaintop experience, because you have become the experience… you have arrived once you are in Lhasa. You walk the “ritual walk” around the rings of the city described below because its emblematic of who and what you are in your own way of communing with your highest self as who you have always been and will be again. Spinning the prayer wheels connects us to this reality.

There is no separation between what might be considered as either a “religion” and “practice”, because you embody both from within your essence. The “who you are, have been in the past, and will be again in the future” that defines your overall presence. And you don’t have to consider yourself a Buddhist to appreciate those who do.    

The Buddhist experience is as a spiritual being having a human experience. As 3812if we “practice our faith in a pro-active way”. There can be no separation between God and us because we are one and the same. In Lhasa (the name is translated to mean “the gateway to the gods”) you are considered to be as close to the divine source and still be here on earth as you can be. The Potala Palace, named after Mount Potala is the administrative center of Tibet and was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. After the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the palace was converted into a museum.  

In coming, you have the realization that you are on the same trek others have taken before you. As if renewed with our role simply to express what we find and return just as Larry did in The Razor’s Edge. The transcendence you 3813acknowledge is within your own eternal spirit. 

Lhasa has an elevation of about 3,600 m (11,800 ft) and lies in the center of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 5,500 m (18,000 ft).

It is as the Buddha said “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” What matters is the continuity of Tibet’s spiritual culture, which is based on a living tradition and a conscious connection with its origins. Buddhism recognizes change as the nature of all life. What is important is rediscovering the true meaning of the teachings and symbols of the past with a spontaneity that furthers our knowledge and wisdom that defines us all. For myself, I like to ask as the shaman has over thousands of years, “What is the synchronicity, the divine nature, that ties it and us together as one and most importantly… how do we collectively go there?”

Most Tibetans go to Buddhist Temples in the morning hours, as tourists fill the sites in the afternoon. Another thing of interest is that the number of people going through the Potala Palace must be limited each day. The thousands of 3814people streaming through the ancient corridors have caused them to be concerned about the structure’s ability to carry so much weight. Tickets to enter are measured and limited by the hour. Our time was scheduled for 12:45 (about noon) and our guide (Tashi) had to make sure we entered and left at the right time. One reason pictures are not allowed inside the monasteries and temples is that some people attempt to use photos to make copies of what they see inside and then try to sell. They frown on this.

Another interesting note was watching the local people walking around the city, 100_6032the ring roads, and the prayer path around the bottom of the Potala Palace. There you will find Tibetans from all walks of life, Lhasa folk and pilgrims, doing what many of them do every day or as often as they can, circling the Potala, praying for the long life and good health and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for all sentient beings. If I had more time, walking around the city on the paths taken for centuries by the local citizens would have been a must, just to get a better feel for Lhasa and its history. Going to Tibet requires you to be in a recognized tour group. Traveling there alone is frowned upon.

Notes on the aspects of the “Ritual Walks” in Lhasa

At the Jokhang Temple and around Lhasa, all Tibetans take the statue 3815of Sakyamuni as the core for the ritual walks, and any believer walking around Jokhang Temple clockwise can be viewed as following the center track. Tradition says you take the ritual walks in and around the Jokhang Temple three times. First, they walk the inner ring around the statue of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, in the Jokhang Temple; second, they walk the middle ring along Barkor Street, 3816skirting the temple; and third, they walk the outer ring around the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, the Yaowangshan Mountain and other parts of Lhasa.

While taking these group ritual walks in the clockwise direction, they count rosaries in  their hands, spin prayer wheels, and chant the Six Syllable Prayer. As they recite OM MANI PADME HUM, the six negative emotions, which are the cause of the six realms of samsara, are purified. This is how reciting the six syllables prevents rebirth in each of the six realms, and 3817also dispels the suffering inherent in each realm.

Pictures at the Sera Monastery as the Wheel of Life

Generally speaking, other names are referred to walking the outer ring, called “lingkor,” early in the morning, and they will walk the middle ring called “Barkor” in the evening. During the traditional Grand Summons Ceremony, which takes place in the first Tibetan month and during the Sagya Dawa Festival in the fourth Tibetan month, taking ritual walks is said to have a much better 3818effect; as a result, many more people take ritual walks at those times.

There seems to be a lot here. As if we are coming full circle back to ourselves. The idea of finding our own “edge and comfort”, and returning to it… as if from the precipice. Seeing where we may be headed – but not quite ready to leave just yet as if we have unfinished business before returning to the other side. There is a Buddhist sutra (prayer) inside each spinning wheel. When you spin the wheel the thought is that you have released the prayer that benefits you.

The question seems to be here in the story as it progresses in each entry “why keep coming back to the I Ching?” Refining our journey, our path, or way each time acknowledging we need to continue developing the inner character that defines our connection with and to our divine source. Our own synchronicity, or flow, that takes us there. Seeing the light from the mountaintop then returning below to capture its radiance from within ourselves as we go forward. As we illuminate our surroundings as we return to 3819our innate nature that defines us as being one with the Tao. It becomes easy to see how everyone fits into their own journey with no path better than your own. We honor what we find as the nature our source provides all sentient beings as we live the Tao. It’s not what we do its who we are, have been, and will ever be.

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

Continuing the story is the 8th Wing, Numbers 9 through 12 that will follow with later entries describe in greater detail the central meaning of the I Ching in keeping with cultivating stillness, our chi, feng shui, and much more.  

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 8  

To be one with the I Ching you must first live the Tao

To know the I Ching you must be one with the Tao. To know the I Ching you must first live as if every breath depended on its eternal wisdom. That 3820everything changes from moment to moment is in keeping with the divine order of the universe and you must be willing to become a part of this change as your personality returns to its origins. Because as with the Tao, you too are ever-changing as well, always alternating and without rest. Once acknowledged you are refreshed. This is why meditation and cultivating stillness is so essential. It is here “in the silence” the stillness that we recoup our energies and refocus on what is truly important.

It is here as we flow unimpeded through the six empty places, moving up and down, side to side without rules and law that would impede our movement that we encounter both the firm and the yielding. These are in essence the hexagrams themselves, appearing as both whole and broken lines forever changing places. There can be no confirming them within a rule and they have no confining or consistent principle. As such, only alternation and change, is all that can happen.

The I Ching gives life its meaning. It does not simply tell people what to do; it establishes a creative relationship between the unconscious and the cosmos. It constellates the mysterious order of personality bringing one in alignment with 3821the Tao; it creates what Jung describes above as synchronicity.

It is from this place a person can know of his beginnings or origin, and begin to fully appreciate and to know that we and the Tao are one. Both we and the ever-changing world experience constant renewal and movement.

Forever without rest we flow through the six empty places rising and sinking without fixed laws or rules. It is as if we ourselves are the hexagrams defining our world as whole or unbroken lines – sometimes firm other times yielding constantly changing places never to be confined with a rule that can define us, or finding consistent principles that would serve to confine us, saying in effect… only change at work here 3822with alternation and things in flux with all that happens.

A hexagram in this context is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines ( yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin (broken, an open line with a gap in the center).

 Hexagrams are formed by combining the original eight trigrams in different combinations.

 As we come in tune with our natural rhythm it is as if the I Ching is speaking to us to come and go without limits. Neither without nor within teaches us caution we shed our light as we come forward. We become weary of the Kuei, who represent compulsion, negative emotion and pain whose purpose is to paralyze a person or situation.

As if we have gotten the attention of our ancient spirit helpers, the dragons, our 3823old friends the shen are reminding us of what we have always known, but simply forgotten. Acting as if you have no teacher you treat others as you would your parents. As for others, they begin to see you not as a teacher or guide, but as if you are their parent at their side.

First comes knowing yourself through living the I Ching. Study the symbols of antiquity, the words of the shaman and sage. Take up the words, meditate, and ponder their meaning within your innermost being that defines you as the principles emerge and reveal themselves. If you are unprepared or not the right person intended at this moment, the Tao will not manifest in you.  To this I would say not mission done, but that the mission continues.

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

By 1dandecarlo

37) Helen Keller and The Razor’s Edge – Illumination and insight. Discovering the mountaintop and our return.  Unity of Springfield –World Religions/New Thought Class January 19 and February 2, 2020.

Helen Keller – The meaning of symbols, words and finding the light of intelligence from within or as 3701Somerset Maugham wrote in The Razor’s Edge, that we are to think out our thoughts to the very end without hindrance, seeing things in a new way and to go there.

Also continuing thoughts of cultivating stillness / The Seeds of Character that lead to Greatness begins with understanding underlying contradictions and the I Ching.

I am reminded of Helen Keller’s breakthrough in communication came with 3702what I have referred to in many entries… both symbols and words. She realized that the motions her teacher was making on the palm if her hand, while running cool water over her other hand, symbolized the idea of “water”. Keller’s mountaintop experience went no further than the pump in her front yard where she connected what she would later call “the living word that awakened her soul”.

Writing in her autobiography, The Story of My Life, Keller recalled the moment:

“I stood still; my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten — a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that w-a-t-e-r meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. The living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, set it free!” 

3703Keller then nearly exhausted Sullivan, demanding the names of all the other familiar objects in her world.

Greek icon of Second Coming, c. 1700

 Her spiritual autobiography, My Religion, was published in 1927 and then in 1994 extensively revised and re-issued under the title Light in My Darkness. It advocates the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, the Christian theologian and mystic who gave a spiritual interpretation of the teachings of the Bible and who claimed that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ had already taken place.

Helen Keller who was both deaf and blind said – “My darkness had been filled with the light of intelligence, and behold the outer day-lit world was stumbling 3704and groping in social blindness”. Anne Sullivan: “Giving up is my idea of the original sin” (from The Miracle Worker – film about deaf/blind Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan). Annie reads from the Perkins report regarding this blind, deaf, mute woman –  ‘Can nothing be done to disinter this human soul? The whole neighborhood would rush to save this woman if she were buried alive by the caving in of a pit, and labor with zeal until she was dug out. Now if there were one who had as much patience as zeal, he might awaken her to a consciousness of her immortal self.’

‘It was in coming from the darkness to the light that she might awaken to a consciousness of her immortal nature. The chance is small indeed; but with a smaller chance they would have dug desperately or her in the pit; and is the life of the soul of less import than that of the body?’ (excerpts from the play “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson.)

Could there be anything worse the adjusting our sights to the status quo? To live within the confines of how others see the world bent to their own illusions. What every philosopher of every age has told us that we must find and do for ourselves. 

Upon experiencing her “ah ha” moment, Helen Keller was able to make the transition from the darkness of being both deaf and blind and was able to make the connection with her immortal self, thereby teaching others that her perceived weaknesses served to accentuate her inner resolve and strengths. Connecting her 3705thoughts with words with the ability to express her own transcendent nature. Afterwards she spent her life conveying that each of us can come out of the darkness we find in the present to overcome what her teacher Anne Sullivan called “Our giving up as the Original Sin”Once Helen Keller left the sanctuary of the darkness she knew – she was able to illuminate the world teaching and showing us the light we each possess and that we should learn to express for ourselves. That in our own way, we each must become a sage by not giving up. Living a life of virtue that expresses who we are yet to become.

When I think about Helen Keller, and what I should include from my writing that typifies what this means, the below expresses it well as Helen Keller exemplifies the sage. It is from Thoughts on becoming a Sage (my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching) published in China in 2006:

Verse 63 of the Tao Te Ching – Becoming a Sanctuary to all you meet

The sage acknowledges and understands that there is nothing that is not in keeping 3706with the Tao.

The Offering    TianHou Palace Temple    Qingdao

Especially true is that the Tao resides in each of us. Thus, in showing the way the sage is good at saving and directing those around him, while abandoning no one. Since the sage in essence is simply the embodiment of the Tao, abandoning or leaving behind another person could or would never enter his mind.

The sage’s surroundings are illustrative of how he sees his place in the ten thousand things. As though he is seen creating a sanctuary that reflects his innermost sense of who he is yet to become. Kind and reflective, still yet expansive, he competes with no one and no one competes with him. His strengths and weaknesses have become razor sharp as he uses them to cut through what is perceived to be truth and falsehood. While he remains on the edge pushing others to places, they would not otherwise go, he leaves no foothold for those who would follow except by accepting and following the Tao.

When he himself becomes the sanctuary for others to take refuge and follow, finding the comfort only found in the expression of the Tao, he is reminded that he who searches will find it and those who don’t only escape to wait until another day. May/June 2000

  • 做众人的庇护处



The Sanctuary within Oneself       TianHou Palace Temple      Qingdao



Discovering the mountaintop and the illumination from within.

Just what does the mountaintop experience we all want look like? When we move from the sharp razor to cut through both truth and falsehood, we inevitably come to the razor’s edge to what ultimately defines us and what doesn’t. It is here we go for help in finding the answer. What is it that comes of 3708the ruling passions of our life?

The book entitled The Razor’s Edge, written by W. Somerset Maugham, first published in 1944 and the movie that followed tells the story. Many felt Maugham’s book was a forerunner of the beat generation of the 1960’s. It was said he wrote the whole book (and he agreed) so he could write about a short chapter about Eastern mysticism and the mountaintop experience towards the end.

Maugham visited Sri Ramana Ashram, (an Ashram is considered to be 3709spiritual monastery in India), where he had a direct interaction with Ramana Maharshi in Tamil Nadu, India in 1938.

In the movie The Razor’s Edge, the main character, Larry, is seen as loafing through life. It is that for each of us at first, it’s difficult to say what is our purpose.  

It’s as if thinking that if we ever acquire wisdom maybe we’ll know what to do with it as if having an affinity for universal spirit we are yet to appreciate or 3710understand.

His best friend had died in the war for what he saw as no good reason. He has a passion for learning and not simply work, so as to make money as other people do. His friends wanting to follow a normal course and keep things as they are – content to stay within the status quo, first in Chicago and then Paris. While he finds himself wanting to give something that is at first indefinable, ethereal, asking – is the quest for God real? Defined 3711only as universal wisdom others would like to take that he could share. As if having a “sixth sense”… that the satisfactions of the world are both timeless and transitory, and that only the Infinite can give enduring happiness.

Years later, after his visit to India, he was seen as having a very singular detachment, as natural, and with a sincerity that 3712was obvious. Something in him, an awareness, a sensibility, almost a force. But it becomes not simply this wisdom Larry would share, but what comes from your heart expressed as mercy, forgiveness and love. We soon find it is not someone or something else we are running away from – it is from acknowledging our eternal spirit or nature. Our own divinity and transcendence, and God, or the highest power in the universe which is latent as our potential and always present, but as yet unaccounted for, that speaks directly to and through us.

Experiencing our own “ah ha” moment we may have been deaf and blind to – as Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan taught us. The original sin that Larry so keenly 3713understood and searched for and overcame. The mountaintop we are afraid to climb and experience and find for ourselves. It’s like pursuing an ideal that is hidden in the cloud of unknowing – like looking for a star in the sky and not seeing it. But having confidence in the authenticity in the vision of your mind’s eye… and being guided to go there anyway. To be free to live the life of spirit and exhilaration, and in turn illuminating all you see, feel, and touch. While knowing we can only take the world as it comes. It’s like following a dream where many are called but few are chosen.

That we are here to learn about ourselves from within – searching for something difficult to put into words. For this we seek a teacher and guidance. Learning how to express the universal virtue we have always possessed – the eternal spirit, our soul or essence, the Tao, the Buddha, or God from within. Taking the pill of immortality outlined in the last entry here. For myself, to my friends and those who know me I’m always the outlier or an anomaly – happy to remain outside what is expected. For the character in the movie, he felt that to those he cared about, he  couldn’t even give an answer. Seen as someone 3714uncomfortable with the status quo, even a loafer afraid of responsibilities.

The book differs from the movie in that the book delves more into Hinduism as he travels to India and begins to learn about Hinduism with ideas of the conception that the universe has no beginning and no end. But passes everlasting from growth to equilibrium, from equilibrium to decline, from decline to dissolution, from dissolution to growth again, and so on to all eternity. To the transmigration of the soul (the passage of a soul into another body), and the idea that without reincarnation life would have no real meaning. To believe this implicitly as though in your blood and bones. That this is an endless re-occurrence and the nature and expression of the Absolute and its perfection. The purpose of creation is to serve as a stage for the punishment or reward of the deeds of the soul’s earlier existence.

For us it means transcending permanence and change. Unrelated to time, it is 3715truth and freedom. Beyond thoughts of religion or philosophy for comfort and encouragement in our own soul. Worship only serving as the remembrance of who we have always been and will always be.

Rumi says, “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean.”

For myself, it is perhaps that we are as a drop of water in the ocean. We then are drawn up into and embark in a cloud buffeted by the wind as a raindrop from Heaven to an as yet unknown destination to where we are needed most. Perhaps here onto the mountains of the high Himalayas depending on how far or high we have traveled. Then falling as rain from Heaven giving life as we travel down pathways, rivers, and streams back to what was our source, the ocean from where we came. As if we are both absolute and infinite with no identity separate from the universe and other 3716droplets we are forever attached or connected to. Its not enough to return to your source, once you do so you become the source again, again, and again.

Perhaps as we learn in Buddhism, Mañjuśrī, who  is depicted as a male bodhisattva wielding a flaming sword in his right hand, representing the realization of transcendent wisdom which cuts down ignorance and duality. The scripture supported by the padma (lotus) held in his left hand is a Prajñāpāramitā sūtra, representing his attainment of ultimate realization from the blossoming of wisdom and that we are each here to do so for ourselves.            

You are reminded that you are here not by chance, but by choice. That “liberation from birth” ascribed as the ultimate goal of enlightenment you’ve already attained. There is no reason not to be content in your own contentment and finding inner peace and comfort. There’s no place to go because you’ve already been there unless it’s to see what has changed since your last visit as if you have transcended impermanence. That our passion should be to know the reality that lies within ourselves. If God resides within us, who better to worship than ourselves.

Our character in The Razor’s Edge finds a holy man, or Yogi named Shri Ganesha (he used Ramana Maharshi as the model for the holy man), who he finds sitting in meditation as if aspiring only to serenity that seems to irradiate and illuminate both intellectually and spiritually goodness, peace, and selflessness.

What he taught was very simple. The holy man tells him “that you have come 3717this far through you travels proves you’re courageous, not afraid of responsibilities. It’s how to express this and share with others that is the answer. Not in the terms of what the world calls success as long as man sets his ideals on the wrong object instead of learning that a wise man lives from within and through himself. Through his own heart and the ways of calmness, compassion, forbearance and everlasting peace. With a steadfastness of mind and quest for freedom. That ultimately it is not our fear of death, but a fear of life we face and that work done with no selfish interest purifies the mind. To achieve illumination, or at least break free of ignorance and know with certainty that you and the Absolute, God, the Tao, are one.”

The holy man continues:

The path to salvation, commonly known as letting go through faith, is as 3717difficult to travel or pass through, as the sharp edge of a razor (hence the razor’s edge). It’s blazing a trail through the unknown. Identifying and becoming that spark that resides within each of us of infinite goodness much larger than ourselves that we ultimately re-unite with as if we are simply a raindrop falling from heaven. For some it is believed that there are three roads to transcendence and to God. The first is the path of faith and worship, second the works we perform, and third that we can attain reality by increasing our knowledge that gives us the ability to reason. In the end you learn that they are but one path and that wisdom is the means to freedom.

Continuing from The Razor’s Edge – It is from the mountaintop when you must 3718remove yourself from everything including the inclination to stay. Nothing above you but the sky and God. What’s really there depends on you. Your teacher tells you that you were right, something strange happens. It was just at that moment when night ends and day begins. When the whole world seems to tremble in the balance. Gradually the light begins to flicker through the darkness.

Mysterious figures appeared through the trees… then the first rays sun came 3719up. The mist is caught in the tree tops. As if you have never experienced anything before like it. Having a feeling of exaltation and such a transcendent joy. That no words could explain the ecstasy of bliss of the illumination you had been seeking. The innate knowing of acknowledging that you have arrived at your destination. Now so enlightened and free of what held you back you can return and through your actions, bring such wisdom to the world.

Larry, the character in the movie continues – I felt I had been released from my body and suspended in midair. So, light of heart that it seemed to me that I hardly touched the ground. All those things that had perplexed and confused me before – suddenly became clear to me. I had a sense of knowledge more 3720than human. I felt that I was free and if it lasted more than another minute I would die. And yet I was willing to die if I could just hold onto it.

For that one moment I had the feeling of the Infinite. No words could explain the ecstasy of my bliss. I’m sure I could stay here forever (on the Mountain) and never tire…  An understanding, an overwhelming sense of reality that you have experienced something only done by mystics and the shaman over the centuries. As if, perhaps only for a moment, becoming one with the Absolute.

The holy man told him no, you must go back. You are now ready to go back. It’s not necessary to leave where you were found. Your role is not to leave the world – but to live in the world and to love the objects of the world and to live with your own people. Not for themselves alone, but for the Infinite, what’s in 3721them and the love they are yet to know and become. The vision within you makes you one of the fortunate ones while renouncing what is viewed as the separate self and becoming by example one with the universe. You have been given the infinite beauty of the world… the true meaning of transcendence that is meant to pass along.

As if the character in the story having been to the mountaintop and returning with an innate knowing to show the way for others. Once seen, that vision that nothing could touch him remaining with him forever as a compass guiding his way. Of course, he could stay on the mountaintop concerned only with his own enlightenment, or return to help others in finding their own path as well. For myself, it is as the storyteller as you learn to be always present and content, with an even calmness – seemingly aloof envisioning having been to the mountaintop and deciding to return.

What is it about the Himalayas of India, Bhutan, Nepal, Mount Everest, Tibet and Lhasa that becomes so appealing? Perhaps it’s to find comfort in the 3722unknown and wanting to go there. You can’t get much closer to God and an idea of universal presence and still be here… and go there. For those attempting to climb, it becomes the ultimate test of exhilaration, faith and endurance. Once going there, you sense an awareness that was absent in your thinking, or mindset.

I am reminded of the phrase I love so much in a book entitled “The Way of the 3723White Clouds”, by Lama Anagarika Govinda that stresses the unity of man and nature and just letting consciousness rest in itself integrated into its own awareness. Not holding on to anything or concentrating on anything, the mind is completely free from object awareness, or from the interference of will-power and intellectual activity. But rather to be mentally and spiritually unified. How is it that we are to live except with calmness, forbearance, compassion, selflessness, and continence? That in the end, it is the self-perfection as described by Chuang Tzu earlier that lies the answer.

Here in the Dazhuan, in the 5th and 6th Wings, it is assumed that they are not written in a vacuum and the earlier Wings especially The Commentary of the Decision, Wings 1 and 2, are already known and understood, and as 3724with the remaining Wings (3 through 12), the materials from which the hexagrams have been constructed are explained. Throughout, it seems we are trying to find the middle between the claims of the body and the claims of the spirit.

Continuing the story is the 7th Wing, Numbers 8 through 12 that will follow with later entries describe in greater detail the central meaning of the I Ching in keeping with cultivating stillness, our chi, feng shui, and much more.  

The Dazhuan   6th Wing        Part II   Number 7  

The Seeds of Character that lead to Greatness begins with understanding underlying contradictions and the I Ching

The origins of the I Ching can be found in antiquity. From Fuxi onward the shaman furthered the eternal connection between man, heaven, and earth with the aim of finding and fulfilling man’s character and virtue for the benefit of those present. It was the imprisonment of King Wen and the outrageousness of the Shang that proved DSCI0085to be the final straw. The seeds of the proper way to treat others were first written on oracle bones by the shaman during the Shang dynasty.

This became “An annotated version of the Book of Rites”, dated before 907 BC, first written by Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, then codified by Confucius another five hundred years later to become a permanent fixture in Chinese culture. The two traits that best defined this effort were virtue and character with change as both our weakness and our strength. It seems we go down a lot of blind alleys without experienced teachers if we have no one to lead us. However, what may appear at first to be a blind alley is where our purpose lies.

There has always been suffering and sorrow and the need to make the right decisions that would benefit everyone and for man to see beyond his own personal 3726benefit, a constant struggle that continues even today. A struggle that always comes that can be defined as character. Something the shaman always stressed to leaders who saw in themselves the way forward. It would be King Wen, the person who added the lines to the I Ching, giving the hexagrams real meaning and Ji Dan who showed through exemplary personal character the way to proceed. He saw the value of what would later be referred to as the Book of Changes and the statements that showed the way. He knew the value of the hexagrams as a way of bringing forward a commonality among all people.

It was the structure of the hexagrams focusing on development of character later emphasized in the Dazhuan and elaborated on below that would show the way.

From the sixty-four hexagrams, eight best defines this as follows:

  • Hexagram 10 TREADING Lu shows the basis of character and powers. Lu is the basis of powers. 3727It is harmonious and effective and harmonizes conduct to outward behavior.
  • Hexagram 15 MODESTY Ch’ien is the handling of powers, to be seen as honorable and renowned and to regulate manners. To know modesty honors others and thereby obtains honors for oneself. To show the attitude that is necessary before character formation and to have the attitude of mind.
  • Hexagram 24 RETURN Fu is the root of powers. To start small with distinguishing subtleties. To know yourself and be able to prevail in its own unique character against any temptations of your surroundings. To have the 3728self-examination and self-knowledge to institute lasting reforms after acknowledging your errors along the way.
  • Hexagon 32 DURATION Heng represents the cohesion of powers. To be varied and not worrisome. To have firmness of character in the correct frame of time. To observe numerous movements and experiences from which fixed rules are derived so that a unified character result.
  • Hexagon 41 DECREASE Sun. The cultivation of powers is at first difficult but later easy and fend off harm. To depend less on lower faculties and untamed instincts, in favor of the higher life of the mind. When the instincts are tamed the essence of character training can begin and harm can be kept at a distance.
  • Hexagrams 42 INCREASE I or Yi. 3729This represents the maturity of powers, a maturity without artifice or expediency that furthers one’s advantage representing needed fullness to character, mere asceticism (a person who can attain a high spiritual and moral state by practicing self-denial, abstinence or austerity) is not enough to make good character – greatness is also needed. To show an on-going growth of personality that is not artificial and focuses on things that are useful to others, i.e., refining one’s virtue.
  • Hexagram 47 OPPRESSION Kun. To appreciate and understand the discernment of one’s powers, sometimes perplexing yet penetrating while 3730lessening resentment of others. To be able to develop the character needed to prove himself in the field where one must prove oneself. Obstacles arrive that must be overcome. He is confronted with boundaries that cannot be overcome except by recognizing them for what they are. In recognized the fate of things you cease to have adversity. By not fighting fate, resentment fades and character is purified allowing one to advance in the inner workings of the Tao.
  • Hexagram 48 THE WELL Jing or Ching. The field of powers is simply defining where you are, it is stationary yet moving upward and discerns righteousness. With this you have become the wellspring, though fixed to one spot dispensing blessing far and wide with far reaching influence. It is here where one’s character takes effect. Others can now perceive the profound influence emanating from such a personality. While the person keeps or stays in the background. Through showing what is right, the sage makes it possible for the right to take effect.
  • Hexagram 57 THE GENTLE, THE PENETRATING Xun or Sun. This represents the control of powers, premeditated yet hidden but always acting appropriately. To remain flexible in character, not rigid that holds fast to established principles that is in reality pedantry, slavish attention to the rules, but instead mobility. Thereby one weighs things and penetrates to the needs of the times without exposing oneself to attack, learning instead to take circumstances into account preserving a strong unity of character with intelligent versatility.

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


By 1dandecarlo