December 15, 2017

You must first learn to breathe inside the                         happiness of your Life

(For my friends in England, Italy, Australia, China, wherever else you may be, and of course USA, who I know will be seeing and sharing this with others… Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays. May you each know the gift of kung fu).

What is this life-long pursuit of seemingly trying to find happiness? When you reach the age of sixty-five, which I have, then the definition changes as we often ask instead… what do we have to be happy about? And what do our children (if we are fortunate to have any) who follow us, have to be happy about as well? The cliché has always been… well if we work hard and save our money for retirement then we will have something to retire to. At least that’s what we tell our kids. Why do we have to wait to be happy? Why do we have to work hard? Why do we think making money will be the answer when what we need already resides within us? Why have we spent our whole life doing what we do and not spending our time discovering who we are? Well, we must first learn how to breathe.

Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Meditation

What is the meaning of kung fu… is it simply a form of martial arts… or is it so much more? Simplified for the common man/women it often becomes tai chi.

It begins with complimentary opposites (the concept of yin and yang) that exist in who we are as a person that defines balance. Calming these forces inside ourselves, so that they can be used to our best interest has been the focus of meditation for centuries.

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Mencius School in Zhoucheng

Over time in Chinese history those opposites became referred to as crane and tiger. The most famous of these forms of physical self-defense became the shaolin martial arts form and over time became the kung fu as we know it today. This calming can also be used in finding what is called our “qi energy”, and is the basis of movements in tai chi. Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) is an ancient Chinese “internal” or “soft” martial art often practiced for its health-giving and spiritual benefits; it is non-competitive and generally slow-paced. Both center around discovering and using one’s breath going forward and knowing we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves.

However, the true meaning of kung fu means “supreme skill from hard work”. Everyone has the innate ability to achieve this. The painter, calligrapher, poet, or writer, they can be said to have kung fu. Even the one who cooks or sweeps the steps – can have kung fu. Or even the modern-day insurance or car salesman, athlete,  nurse, attorney, musician, etc. For the physical kung fu it takes practice, preparation and repetition until your mind is weary and your bones ache. Until you are too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe.

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Flowers, the deer, tea and crane Qingcheng Taoist Temple in Chengdu

This is the only way to obtain kung fu. (This explanation was assisted by the blind Taoist kung fu Master in the mini-series “Marco Polo”). In other words, it takes hard work to excel in the talents we are given. It is in this hard work we find what can be defined as happiness as we live in the eternal state of becoming closer to who we really are. Sadly, we often let others define who we are, or should become, instead of discarding those things that don’t define us.  No other person can do this for us. What we should be attracted to is being with others who are “complimentary opposites” of ourselves as we learn to see  beyond ourselves. We become “happy” when we can identify and move in this direction. It is as Walt Disney once said… “It’s what you do with what you got”. This becomes the ultimate “work” of our lives, and kung fu… It is truly what we give, we get in return.

Much of Chuang Tzu’s writings used humor and parables contributing to this early Taoist thought of refining our innate talents and using them to enable our highest endeavor and destiny, epitomized by his tales of the butcher and butterfly. His concept of the “perfected man”, and combining early Taoism with Buddhist sutras from India was the beginning of Chan Buddhism as he described how we made the “pivot” of living through our work.  But that’s a story for another day.

This idea of mastering your innate abilities through a skill that shows, or exhibits, your talents was exemplified by the efforts in Chinese history also by those passing the examination system, and also those who tried, but failed to pass the exam necessary to move up in society, be recognized, and get a good job in China.

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Confucian Examinations

Very few could pass the exam, and were bound to find another way to show their talents and skill. Just as not everyone could develop the physical skill needed to be a kung fu master in the true shaolin tradition either. But could excel in music, as a painter, or calligraphy that demonstrated their own kung fu anyway. Unfortunately for China, the examination system they viewed as their biggest strength for almost two thousand years, became over time their biggest weakness. As only those who passed the examination system moved up, while others with suitable talents in other areas were discouraged.

One of the concepts of tai chi is “rooting.” It’s fairly self-explanatory: imagine roots growing out from underneath your feet. You are a part of the ground, never losing balance, focus, or your centering.

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At home with Dragons in Huangshen Mountain

Your limbs sway like branches in the wind, never hesitating for fear or apprehension. You become rooted and with this balance you take the text step from body to mind. This balance is the epicenter of coming to terms with self. The art of tai chi is said to improve the flow of chi (qi), the traditional Chinese concept of a physically intangible energy or life force. In scientific studies, tai chi has been proven to improve a host of medical conditions including, but not limited to: muscular pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and ADHD. Though its low-impact workout is especially helpful to seniors, tai chi is for everyone and is deceptively simple in appearance. I try to do tai chi first thing every day. This along with a meditation practice, help us to focus on what is important in our lives and discard what is not.

The thing to keep in mind about Taoism as we continue to follow Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, is that it is about an attunement with nature and when we don’t, in particular our own. Not just nature outside of us, but also the nature within us. This principle, in Chinese is called Tzu Jan, or Ziran in pinyin, and it is the principle of embodying one’s own nature.” Beyond the health benefits and stress relief, Tai Chi Chuan is also a means to tap into one’s inner self. This becomes the essence of remaining within your own virtue, of meditation, controlling your breath, and knowing happiness when you feel, and see it.

As mentioned before, I wrote my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on Becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, was published in China in 2006. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 13, 14 and 15 follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. Verse 14 below, goes a long way in revealing my own true identity. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Verse 13 – Skirting Disgrace and Disaster

Be careful not to curry favor with others, as disgrace is soon to follow. Favor and honor remain external from the true path of the sage.

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Skirting Disaster

He prefers to cater to neither, as both remain outside and away from the path he has chosen to follow. Possessing them can only lead to disgrace and disaster.

Seek only that which lies within yourself cultivating your own innate abilities. Remain within and all will follow. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Those who gain favor or honor should worry about being too high, as if they are on a precipice. They should not flaunt their status or wealth. And those who lose favor and live in disgrace should worry about another disaster.

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “We all possess something good and noble that we don’t have to seek outside ourselves, something that the glory of power or position can’t compare with. People need only start with this and cultivate without letting up. The ancients said, “Two or three years of hardship, ten thousand years of bliss.”

Chuang Tzu (11.2) also speaks to this by saying “when favor and disgrace are used to praise the ruler whose self-cultivation doesn’t leave him time to meddle in the lives of his subjects.

Verse 14 – Staying behind to Impart Immortality’s Wisdom

Coming home to visit with old friends, I am made whole again.  Everything there is to see I have seen and everything there is to do I have done.  I am home again to rest among old friends.

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Enter the One   Buddhist Temple in Nanjing

Revisiting the thread that reveals my true identity, I rejoice in the oneness of the universe.  I am at peace as one who has found the grace to see what I must do next in His name.  Shedding my worn baggage, my friends are reminded of the light cast by my eternal coat as I sit beside them to honor our being together once again.

While most are happy to remain within the confines of enlightenment, others are a little jealous of my desire to return to the world.  Where attachments hold one down and keep their owner from attaining their true identity. Just as you are reminded that your path leads back to a place where you can help others to perhaps come forth to seek their own ultimate destiny. As you leave, you catch glimpses that convey warmth and gratitude and knowledge of the ultimate paradox…

Upon my return I begin by weaving together the fabric of shreds of a vision that has yet to become reality.  Knowing that neither my light nor my shadow will leave a lasting impression. While what is left behind for immortality’s wisdom will only be known once I have returned home once again. ##

Lu Tung-Pin says, “We can only see it inside us, hear it inside us, and grasp it inside us. When our essence becomes one, we can see it. When our breath becomes one, we can hear it. When our spirit becomes one, we can grasp it.”

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Master and Student Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

Su Ch’e says, “People see things constantly changing and conclude something is there. They don’t realize everything returns to nothing.” Ch’en Ku-Ying adds, “Nothing does not mean nothing at all but simply no form or substance.”

Wang Pi says, “If we try to claim it doesn’t exist, how do the myriad things come to be? And if we try to claim it exists, why don’t we see it’s form? Hence, we call it the formless form. But although it has neither shape or form, neither sound or echo, there is nothing it cannot penetrate and nowhere it cannot go.

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The past isn’t different from today, because we know what began in the past. And today isn’t different from the past, because we know where today came from. What neither begins or comes from anywhere else we call the thread that has no end. This is the thread of the Tao.

 Verse 15 – Staying on Course

Taking stock, you stop to reflect why you are here in this place and time just now.

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Portion of Vase in Doorway

You have succeeded in getting the attention of many as your reflection has cast a long shadow.  You have shown an uncanny ability to uncover the indiscernible and penetrated contradictions previously covered by darkness.

As you become concerned your ego is bringing you to the forefront, while your nature tells you it is better to stay behind.

You are reminded to remain empty and still.  That you are not here to make a show of yourself and that you are to leave no tracks. To be so conscience of the correct action that needs to be taken that you simply flow with events. That the essence of the Tao consists of nothing more than taking care, as you know that inner truth cannot be perceived, only the outward form of your actions. That it is by intuitive understanding that the darkness becomes clear and by means of movement the still becomes alive.

That it will be by letting each thought remain detached and each action well considered that your ultimate success is determined with your virtue the only measure taken home. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Darkness is what penetrates everything but cannot itself be perceived. To be careful means to act only after taking precautions. To be cautious means to refrain from acting because of doubt or suspicion. Melting ice reminds us how the myriad things arise from delusion and never stay still. Uncarved wood reminds us to put an end to human fabrication and return to our original nature. A valley reminds us how encompassing emptiness is. And a puddle reminds us that we are no different from anything else.”

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Throwing Pots / The Tao  Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “Lao Tzu expresses reluctance at describing those who succeed in cultivating the Tao because he knows the inner truth cannot be perceived, only the outward form.  The essence of the Tao consists in nothing other than taking care. If people took care to let each thought be detached and each action well-considered, where else would they find the Tao? Hence those who mastered the Tao in the past were so careful they waited until a river froze before crossing. They were so cautious, they waited until the wind died down before venturing forth at night. They were orderly and respectful, as if they were guests arriving from a foreign land. They were relaxed and detached, as if material forms didn’t matter. They were as uncomplicated as uncarved wood and as hard to fathom as murky water. They stilled themselves to concentrate their spirit and roused themselves to strengthen their breath. In short, they guarded the center”.

Wang Pi says, “All these similes are meant to describe without actually denoting. By means of intuitive understanding the dark becomes light. By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear. By means of movement, the still becomes alive. This is the natural Way.”

 

By 1dandecarlo

December 6, 2017

The Gift of Immersion 

A large part of the “Christmas spirit” for many is the hope of creating memories that immerse us into something bigger, or larger, than ourselves that are worth remembering. Our religious experiences during the holidays serve the purpose of helping us to define what that might be.

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Yin and Yang Dragons Huangshen

I often talk here on face book and my website about the paradox of the sage, as if living in two worlds. In my unpublished manuscript, My Travels with Lieh Tzu, the first line I wrote is that we each have two lives – the life we learn with and the life we live after that. And that it is from our memories that we hope to define ourselves. That we in effect become what we behold.

What we should ask ourselves is – are our experiences immersive enough that we can let our guard down? To be so fully engaged in the present, that we fuse our cognitive state with our dreams. The who I am that is yet to become. How do we balance the need for self-awareness by remaining in the moment, or state of becoming, with how we connect with our environment? Even more, how do we connect our passion and love of those around us to this? Ultimately can, or does this help to bring out our traits of virtue that defines us not only at Christmas, but every day? In my writing, I often refer to my own experiences, not so much to talk about myself, but as a way for others to see themselves as well and say if they could, yah me to.

Over the past several weeks and months we have added several new friends to the Kongdan Foundation here through the use of social media, for this I am grateful.

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Universal Peace  Dujian Waterworks  Chengdu

In this holiday season as we embrace and immerse ourselves in the  spirit of the divine that resides within each of us, I am reminded of when I was growing up in Joplin and listening to shortwave radio in the late ’60’s and early 70’s (1967-71). Countries all over the world I listened to would send Christmas greetings with a card often expressing Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays in ten or twelve languages. As if there were no boundaries to the eternal spirit expressed around the world. Radio Peking, Radio Moscow, Havana, the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Ukraine, the Vatican in Rome, BBC, Radio Budapest, Bucharest, Radio Lisbon, South Africa, Quito, Ecuador, etc., etc.… all stations I listened to frequently as a teenager that beamed English language program to America. During the holidays, differences were set aside. As if only for a moment in time there was unity. I liked to think that regardless of country or persuasion, there was a prevailing sense of virtue that could see beyond borders and religion. It was as if every letter I would send confirming that I was listening was opening another door and for them responding it was always the same.

Many times, in China over the past several years I would take the train overnight from Beijing to Qufu, a ride that would take about ten hours. Every morning even during July and August, I would wake up on the train to American classic Christmas carols coming over the intercom and speakers. Jingle bells, Rudolph, they were all there. In every shopping center in China you will hear overhead Christmas carols now… today, and will through Christmas day. Christmas decorations are everywhere.

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Copies of China Daily Word

A favorite store window display I never quite understood was Santa playing the saxophone. When my foundation printed the Unity Daily Word in China, we always included the meaning of Christmas in the December issue with the idea that the Christ spirit was/is universal. We printed 5,000 copies a month for two years (120,000 copies in 2006-07 ) that were distributed throughout western Shandong Province. I was told last summer (summer of 2017) that those copies have now been seen by over 2.5 million people.

I found myself when teaching in the classroom, or with friends in China, in a position to often take others where they would not otherwise go.

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Dan and students   Qufu Normal School

They wanted to know what the world was like outside what they thought they already knew. To take them to places they otherwise would not/or could not go. Most felt that due to the cost, they would never see America, so I, as well as many other teachers, became their eyes and ears. When they learned I had written books about the I Ching, Taoism and Confucius, then they wanted my story about China to in some way tell theirs as well.

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Dan at home with student and family in countryside

I found this even more so when I visited the countryside with my students and their village. Often a Saturday lunch that was to be with my student’s parents and grandparents, became a celebrated event with their foreign English teacher. Time and time again, it was playing the role of the storyteller to take them all to a place they would never otherwise go. Just as their telling their own story and history gave me a sense of China from the 1930’s onward would serve to do the same for me. Often their family history would go back more than five hundred years on the same plot of land. Their daughters i.e., my students who were to be English teachers as well, were often the first person in their family to go to college.

Giving someone else the ability to see beyond themselves and enabling them to tell their story through their own eyes, often in the countryside where their family has lived and died for hundreds of years can be a very humbling experience. It helps to define my own role, as well as, the role of my foundation. That it is in understanding this history, along with that of others we meet along the way, that we learn what it means to preserve and insure final outcomes for all.  That the gift of immersion for ourselves and others can be our greatest gift, as we learn the true meaning of Christmas everyday. As we leave our own virtue behind.

As mentioned before, I wrote my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on Becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, was published in China in 2006. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 10, 11 and 12 follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that what guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life – continued… 

Verse 10 – Exposing ever-present but forgotten traits of Virtue 

Remember what you have always known. That it is our virtue that lights the universe.  That it is your memory of who you once were and are yet to become that resides in your mind and intellect.

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Traits of Virtue  Dujian Waterworks

As you open your mind to see and know what comes forth, you are simply reminded of what you have forgotten.

That your energies are here to be replenished as you are transformed into the sage whose mind remains still. As you become still once again, you reflect and mirror heaven and earth and the ten thousand things.

You scoff as you know the best way to govern is without governing and using the efforts of others.  If you don’t obstruct what the Tao begets at their source and suppress their true nature, things mature by themselves. Virtue remaining ever-present, its owner unknown until you appear along the way. ##

Wang P’ang says, “Life requires three things: vital essence, breath, and spirit”.

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The Calling  Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Chuang Tzu says, “The sage’s mind is so still, it can mirror Heaven and Earth and reflect the ten thousand things” (13.1).

Wang An-Shih says, “The best way to serve is by not serving. The best way to govern is by not governing. Hence Lao Tzu says ‘without effort.’ Those who act without effort make use of the efforts of others. As for Heaven’s Gate, this is the gate through which all creatures enter and leave. To be open means to be active. To be closed means to be still. Activity and stillness represent the male and the female. Just as stillness overcomes movement, the female overcomes the male.

Lao Tzu says, “The Tao begets them / Virtue keeps them” (51).

Verse 11 – Opening Doors while Staying Behind

Remaining empty to become full.  Knowing your place is to put all the cards on the table so that the proper path becomes obvious for all to see. Becoming simply the vessel from which all that represents virtue is known, endured and followed as the way by all.

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Bianzhong Bells – Zeng Zi Temple in Jiaxiang, Shandong

Reminded as our breath ebbs and flows we become full by remaining empty as our mind and thoughts remain the catalyst for change and enlightenment. Our usefulness only determined by the emptiness that fills us. Employing nothing to gain advantage that would allow ego to stand in the way.

As you seek only virtue and leave only vestiges of yourself behind. Your role is to open doors for others as you nurture and prepare them to walk through.

Giving birth to virtue and letting it grow.  Nourishing what comes forth without claiming to own them. Remaining as the hub of a wheel… constant, reliable and still, yet ever-present and nonexistent. ##

Li Jung says, “It’s because the hub is empty that spokes converge on it. Likewise, it is because the sage’s mind is empty that the people turn to him for help.”

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The Way Huangshen

Te Ch’ing says, “Heaven and Earth have form, and everyone knows Heaven and Earth are useful. But they don’t know that their usefulness depends on the emptiness of the Great Way (the Tao). Likewise, we all have form and think ourselves useful but remain unaware that our usefulness depends on our empty shapeless mind. Thus, existence may have its uses, but real usefulness depends on non-existence. Nonexistence, though, doesn’t work by itself. It needs the help of existence.”

Huang Yan-Chi says, “What is beyond form is the Tao, while what has form are tools. Without tools we have no means to apprehend the Tao. And with Tao there is no place for tools.”

Verse 12 – Insuring Final Outcomes 

Staying within the realm of what our natural abilities provide as if Chuang Tzu.

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The Buddha

Drinking from the river of life only that which fills our stomach.  Maintaining an even temperament. Letting events happen for their own sake and remaining unaffected by space and time.

Letting the natural course or order of events simply occur. Knowing the final outcome will be just as it should be. While sitting back as the knowing sage, seemingly unaffected but in control.

Choose internal reality over external illusion.  As your eyes cannot truly see, your ears cannot truly hear, your mouth cannot truly taste, your mind cannot help feeling and your body cannot stop moving.

Let these attributes simply stay in the background and observe as you listen to the still small voice within as you have been taught and nothing can harm you. Do not lose your way because of what has caught your attention.  ##

Te-Ch’ing says, “When the eyes are given free rein in the realm of form, they no longer see what is real. When the ears are given free rein the realm of sound, they no longer hear what is real. When the tongue is given free rein in the realm of taste, it no longer discerns what is real. When the mid is given free rein in the realm of though, it not longer knows what is real. When our actions are given free rein in the realm of possession and profit, we no longer do what is right. Like Chuang Tzu’s tapir (1-4), the sage drinks from the river, but only enough to fill his stomach.”

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The Stairway        Dujian Waterworks

Wu Ch’eng says, “Desiring external things harm our bodies. The sage nourishes his health by filling his stomach, not by chasing material objects to please his eye. Hence, he chooses internal reality over external illusion. But the eyes can’t help seeing, the ears can’t help hearing, the mouth can’t stop tasting, the mind can’t stop feeling, and the body can’t stop moving. They can’t stay still. But if we let them move without leaving stillness behind, nothing can harm us. Those who are buried by the dust of the senses, or who crave sensory stimulation lose their way. And the main villain is in the eyes. Thus, the first of Confucius warnings concerns vision (Lunyu: 12.1: not to look without propriety), and the first of the Buddha’s six sources of delusion is also the eyes”.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The main purpose of cultivation is to oppose the world of the senses. What the world loves, the Taoist hates. What the world wants, the Taoist rejects. Even though color, sound, material goods, wealth, or beauty might benefit a person’s body, in the end they harm a person’s mind. And once the mind wants, the body suffers. If we can ignore external temptations and be satisfied with the way we are, if we can cultivate our mind and not chase material things, this is the way of long life. All the treasures of the world are no match for this.

Finding ourselves immersed in virtue. Knowing there is no end to it, only finding ourselves eternally attached to what defines us.

 

By 1dandecarlo

December 2017

Is it time to create a new story and even more important – what story are we telling ourselves that we stand in?

A dear friend in Florida who knows me well asked me the following… as if bravely asking a historian, “Is it time to create a new story?” She was mulling over a book by Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World We Know is Possible, that encourages us to ask the question, “What story do I stand in?”

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Stele of the Immortals  – Qufu

Very often Taoism speaks of the “obstacle of the writings”: when we get caught up trying to find truth in the words themselves, rather than traveling through the words to the place whence they arose. In today’s world of social media, we often have to ask ourselves… where does truth lie? That truth often shines like a backlight through the words. Where then do we find the Truth? For myself, it has always been this way. Initially I thought as a writer, how could these words that I have written be my own. That perhaps the words were in effect passing through me in order to match that which mirrors my soul.  That all writing if true is autobiographical. The who I am yet to become, or perhaps to recall who I have always been. As if the transformation was underway and by writing the words they would become me. Scary thought… Then as if prompted I wrote. “what you write is who you are to become.” That my friends, will get your attention. As if in remembering the storyteller I have always been I would say… ah the stories I would or could tell. As if I was catching my breath and the words would simply be there.

Keeping to Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching, when I wrote Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life in May/June 2000, we had traveled to Qufu about six months earlier for the first time. Of course, Qufu is the home of Confucius. 

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Golden Dragon      Duke of Zhou in Qufu

I had no idea that Qufu would be like a moth to a flame to me now that I have made almost fifty trips and am planning to return next Spring. The first day we were there it hit me. I had been here before. Qufu is the home of the Yellow Emperor who lived in 2700 BC, Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 900 BC and Confucius in 450 BC. In Chinese history these three would come to be known as dragons and become immortal. Over time they have served to help make my own way clear.

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Dan with students in Qufu

After all those trips and later living and teaching at the school founded by the descendants of Confucius, adjacent to the Confucius Temple and Mansion in Qufu a little over ten years later, well there was more here than meets the eye.

It gave real meaning to what I had written in my book mentioned above and to the verses 7, 8, and 9 below. And further defining what may be my purpose. My friends in Qufu gave me the name Kongdan. Kong is the family name of Confucius… and of course my first name is Dan.

The idea of creating a new story for ourselves can appear to be presumptuous. As if bringing an end to a myth of who we thought we were.  Perhaps it is simply updating an

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Picture of descendants of the four families responsible for maintaining Confucian ideals at the school in Qufu where I taught in 2011-13. Picture above was taken in 1902. The four families were of Mencius, Si Zi, Yan Hui and Zeng Zi. The school was opened to the public in 1912 after the fall of the last Emperor and forming of the Republic of China.

old story we have always known, but simply forgotten that needed updating that is what ultimately empowers us. Even more so when we gain a sense of purpose and direction that gives meaning to the story we are here now to stand in as our original self. I think this is what Joseph Campbell meant when he referred to “finding our bliss”.

The first paragraph above speaks to the obstacle of the writings, especially when we get caught up trying to find truth and meaning behind the words themselves that reflect, or define us.

Below is the continuation of my book Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, as if following the guideposts laid down by Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The commentary, as before, is from Red Pine’s Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. Ultimately, the question becomes… have we found and are we living in our own story? The following three verses were intended to keep me accountable to mine and to my peers, the dragons.

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The First Dragon – 3,500 year old Stone Dragon / Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

Verse 7 – Keeping to Heaven’s Promise

Keeping to Heaven’s promise through finding the immortality found on earth.  Giving consent without expecting reward. Remaining humble – the only thing the sage seeking is virtue.

Forever creating an environment emulating and promoting the journey you must take to selflessness.  As you have been given an opportunity to remain immortal simply by living for today.  Truly living through grace.

Becoming adept at remaining in the background while setting the table for all who will come to eat their fill. Constantly reminded of your never-ending destiny as endeavors continue the process of your letting go.

As you remain content with who and where you find yourself. Living, dying and subject to change each moment.  As you travel with no sense of age or time.

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The paradox that comes to greet the Sage

Reminded again and again that you can only move ahead by staying behind with a cheerful countenance with virtue to be shared by all. The utmost paradox living brings forth to greet you each day. ##

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Heaven and Earth help creatures fulfill there needs by not having any needs of their own. Can the sage do otherwise? By following the Way of Heaven and Earth, the sage is revered by all and harmed by none. Hence, he too, lives long.”

Jen Fa-Jung says, “The sage does not purposely seek long life but achieves it through selflessness.”

Wang Pi says, “Those who live for themselves fight with others. Those who don’t live for themselves are the refuge of others.”

Wang P’ang says, “Although the sage is a sage, he looks the same as others. But because he embodies the Way of Heaven and doesn’t fight, he alone differs from everyone else. The sage is selfless because he no longer has a self.”.

Verse 8 – Taking Shape while Remaining Shapeless

Travel as if you were water taking on every shape that comes your way as you give life to everything and everyone you touch and meet.

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The World of the Dragons       Wall painting in Chengdu

Conveying the eternal spring that comes forth from you each day as if you were just passing by.

Being content to remain at the bottom of all things – free from blame.  Avoiding competition while maligning no one.

Choosing humility and that which no one else chooses to do.

Travel like water as if approaching the unattainable Tao.  Remaining clear and deep. Yet constantly emptying to give life to others. Reflecting but remaining pure as you cleanse all that you touch. Having no purpose of your own, assisting truth and helping others to find their natural way as if you were all encompassing, but not really here. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “Among those who follow the Tao, the best are like water: content to be on the bottom and thus, free of blame. Most people hate being on the bottom and compete to be on the top. And when people compete, someone is maligned.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The best people have a nature like that of water. They’re like mist or dew in the sky, like a stream or a spring on land. Most people hate moist or muddy places, places where water alone dwells. The nature of water is like the Tao; empty, clear, and deep. As water empties it gives life to others. It reflects without becoming impure, and there is nothing it cannot wash clean. Water can take any shape, and it is never out of touch with the seasons. How could anyone malign with such qualities as this.

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Ancient Fishermen  Wuhan Temple

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Those who free themselves from care stay low and avoid heights. Those whose minds are empty can plumb the depths. Those who help others without expecting any reward are truly kind. Those whose mouths agree with their minds speak the truth. Those who make demands of themselves as well as others establish peace.

Verse 9 – Maintaining a Reservoir of Enthusiasm

Be careful of what you cultivate and prepared to let go of what fills you.

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The Han – Stone Carving from Confucius Temple

Know your obstacles before you enter the room or gate to further knowledge and understanding. As if you were a waterfall, only releasing that which does not define your true motives and destination.

Since fullness leads to emptiness – remain empty prepared to become full again and again. Since sharpness leads to becoming dull, avoid zeal and maintain a reservoir of enthusiasm. Since riches lead to worry and excess avoid calling attention to yourself and maintain value within so that it cannot be taken away. When your task is done treat it as though it were nothing and move on to be reminded of the knowledge of ten thousand things.

As you let your enthusiasm carry the day. ##

Liu Shih-Li says, “Since fullness always leads to emptiness, avoid satisfaction; since sharpness leads to dullness, avoid zeal; since gold and jade always lead to worry, avoid greed; since wealth and honor encourage excess, avoid pride; since success and fame bring danger, know when to stop and where lies the mean. You don’t have to live in the mountains and forests or cut yourself off from human affairs to enter the Way. Success and fame, wealth and honor are all encouragements to practice.

Wand Chen says, “To retire doesn’t mean to abdicate your position; rather, when your task is done treat it as if it were nothing.”

Ssu-Ma Ch’ien says, “when Confucius asked about the ceremonies of the ancients, Lao Tzu sad, ‘I have heard that the clever merchant hides his wealth so his store looks empty and that the superior man acts dumb to avoid calling attention to himself. I advise you to get rid of your excessive pride and ambition. They won’t do you any good. This is all I have to say to you’”

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The Immortal Turtle Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

This is a very famous quote of what was considered the only meeting what may have occurred between Confucius and Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu is considered to have felt Confucius was to “full of himself and very ambitious”. His bringing him down a notch or two, was a very significant event in Chinese history. Coming from Ssu-ma Ch’ien the storied historian of ancient China gave it credence.

When I wrote the above verses of my own version of the Tao Te Ching, I went back and tried to compare what I had written over a few days in May 2000 with other translations, and I was happy with what I had written. I felt I had captured the essence of what Lao Tzu intended to say.  It was as I mentioned in the first paragraph above, as if the conveyor of basic truths that were simply passing through me and whatever story I had been telling myself or standing in was to change.

By 1dandecarlo