What is real and what is imagined?
How does what we see and hear thereby making us think we understand, fit into our own perception of what is right and what is wrong? Is it real or an illusion? And as previously discussed – are we living in that illusion? Are we guided by our highest self and angels… or dragons as I call them, or by magicians who try to guide us down a path often of our least resistance that encourages our lowest common denominator that feeds basic human ego and instinct over who we really are?
The latest example being the Russians who used this face book platform, to interject their intent to destabilize our government and democracy. This is nothing new. Those in power and authority have always used whatever means at their disposal to widen their influence, especially when they fear losing it. Keeping it often means using others to their advantage. Always questioning what is real and what today would be called “fake news”.
In traditional China the use of commentaries, examinations, and shear force, have often been used to convey merit and both strengths and weaknesses to be overcome. But it was always the philosophical underpinnings that kept the connection between society and the individual that was
the glue that maintained order. It was the growing up over thousands of years following shamanism, Taoism, Chan Buddhism, and Confucius, tied to the basic premise of the I Ching that promoted “complimentary opposites”, that led to the pragmatism we see in China today. Centuries later, it is why Christianity is now accepted in China. As long as it respects other religions and does not feel the necessity to convert everyone to their view of Jesus and God. And understanding that what is real and imagined is ultimately up to each person to decide for themselves, but not used to try to influence or control the function of government that must serve to respect all citizens of the country. A lesson we could all learn from. Ultimately, it would be the Confucian ideas of benevolence and ordained authority that would come to permeate Chinese society. The Confucian model relied heavily on rituals that tied the present to the past, that could then tell a foreseeable future. That began to change when China was opened to the world after the fall of the last Emperor in 1912. But the story begins much earlier…
It was not only rituals, but myths and legends as well, that would combine the natural elements of the universe with people’s spiritual development and well-bring. The shaman and what then was the beginning of the trigrams and I Ching provided direction, continuity, and a way for people to develop a connection with their highest self and to ask if their endeavors were tied to their destiny. And if they were, what responsibility did they have to nurture themselves. How to entertain man for eternity was beginning to take root. What would later be referred to as both the microcosm of the body and the macrocosm of the universe became a part of everyday life. With man’s connection to nature the pivot.
It was the stories of the day exemplified by the Taoist that was preeminent and told of the way, the way later referred to as virtue. Below is something I wrote from my as yet unpublished book from The Book of Lieh Tzu, titled My Travels with Lieh Tzu that outlines how the universe was perceived in ancient China.
If it is known that the shapes and energies of things differ and are still equal by nature, that none can take the place of another, that all are born perfect in themselves and each are allotted all that it needs, then how can one know whether they are large, small or short, similar or different. Who can know? Who can say? Are not stories and myths extolling feats of great strength and travels of thousands of miles in a day the same whether they are real or imagined? As the ancient ones of every civilization have passed on the origins of heaven and earth, are not these simply an attempt to give meaning and purpose to life and explain that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.
Are not heaven and earth things just as the things within them, and do not things have imperfections. Rather it be Nu Kua smelting stones of all the five colors to patch up the earth’s flaws and cutting off the feet of the turtle who supports its four corners. Or stories telling of a place east of the Gulf of Chihli, thousands perhaps millions of miles away with its bottomless valley where all the waters pour into the Milky Way.
Or the fifteen giant turtles who carry the five mountains on their lifted heads. Taking turns in three watches, each sixty thousand years long; and the immortal sages who live there. Many of the sages later to be lost when two of the mountains are roped by a giant and taken back to the Kingdom of the Dragon Earl. In God’s anger, he reduces the size of the Earl’s kingdom and the size of its people. Or the pumalo tree that grows in the countries of Wu and Chu. An evergreen with red fruit that remains sour and causes fits when eaten. However, when planted north of the Hui River it changes into a dwarf orange tree.
All things remaining perfect in their nature, each allotted its needs. What difference be they large, small or short, similar or different? What difference can there possibly be? Remaining perfect in an imperfect world. The paradox that all must encounter, all must endure. Is this not what is meant by true striving to find and know perfection only within ourselves? Is this not what the Tao teaches? 4/19/95
During the Han Dynasty in 200 A.D. the Emperor declared the Yellow Emperor,
Huangdi, who is a deity in Chinese religion and considered the founder of what would become the I Ching, was not a mythical figure in history but an actual person, a great shaman. Some say was a mythical figure who is said to have lived to 2700 B.C., three thousand years earlier. Not only that he was a real person, but the Emperor stated what he had said fit his own interpretation of history further cementing the emperor’s own claim of being Heaven sent…. They even later
built a monument in Qufu saying he was from the city that was the home of Confucius. What had been simply imagined as myth became the real thing. The Yellow Emperor in reality was a shaman who looked to the stars and nature and saw connections…
For six years after I wrote my own versions of the I Ching (1994), An American journey through the I Ching and Beyond and My Travels with Lieh Tzu, (1995-96), the thoughts that kept coming to me was to keep approaching Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, but not to write about it just yet, or to attempt my own version. Then in May/June 2000, I spent a month focusing on little else and it came to me as if I was repeating what I had always known but simply forgotten. The outcome was a book that is entitled, Thoughts of becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life. This book was later published in China in 2006. It appears here on my website as well.
Inquiring of the Tao at the Cave of Paradise, hanging scroll, color on silk, 210.5 x 83 cm by Dai Jin (1388–1462). This painting is based on the story, first recounted in the Zhuangzi, that the Yellow Emperor traveled to the Kongtong Mountains to inquire about the Tao with the Taoist sage Guang cheng zi. (from Wikipedia)
But my version of Lao Tzu was not simply an interpretation trying to convey only the meaning of what was said, my version was an attempt to live the Tao every day, moment to moment, as it becomes you before moving on or forward. It was directed to becoming the sage… what steps should be taken both internally and how we shape the world around us.
How do we go from just observing what occurs around us and deciding what can be real or imagined, to discovering the way to see above the clutter of what occurs on a daily basis, or perhaps to assist in shaping it? It is and becomes the ultimate paradox living brings to greet us every day. It is through what we call meditation, seeing beyond ourselves, and nourishing our inner nature that we find transformation and what in turn becomes enlightenment. Finally, it is what the challenge of the sage throughout history has always been. My book has attempted to address this. Thoughts on becoming a Sage mirrors attempts to find and nurture the virtue within. Do we retreat and live a reclusive lifestyle knowing that the world will always be beyond the reach of the wisdom of the sage? Or to try to become an agent of change that speaks to humanities strengths and weaknesses… and ultimately does it matter.
My first entry goes like this…
Irreverently Meandering through Time
Traveling on the wind once again the sage proceeds as if at home. Remaining above the clouds he looks down, unconcerned. Waiting to see if anything of importance lies beneath him.
Following dragons again and clouds beyond the horizon you reflect on mirror images of yourself and seeing that your destiny lies below. As always when traveling with dragons, you remain irrelevant to time.
Comforted in knowing that your journey and today’s path continues to find peace and harmony and a clearer understanding of your
place in the universe, as your destiny remains assured. Events only occurring to move you ever-forward as you meander as if unknowingly through time.
Your destiny tied to endeavors forever remaining a paradox. As you remain an enigma that others come to depend on and for wisdom taking them to places they otherwise would never go. As you remain a magnet for others simply showing the way.
Returning briefly home again, as if only irreverently meandering through time.