April 1, 2018

Cloud dancing with the Immortals, or perhaps just re-telling the world’s memories.

Cloud Dancing

From the clouds dragons appear to those who have prepared.

To the I Ching, heaven is to found residing with dwellings of dragons who roam the sky resting in the clouds.

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View from the Top of Huangshan Mountain

Do not look for me where you have found me before.  You will not see me where you have seen me before. Dancing in the clouds with the immortals is where I am to be found.

To be seen with dragons. Cavorting above it all. Beyond earthly endeavors.  A strong personality who with compassion and caring succeeds by seeing his destiny in the clouds.

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Dragons above the Doorway at Temple of the Eight Immortals   Xian

Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the ski with chi. Cloud Dancing across the sky is easy living with dragons is not. A group of dragons are seen riding the clouds disappearing through the sky.

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Symbols of dragons were placed in tombs as means to get to heaven. Shaanxi Museum Xian

As we disappear I look back and see dragons resting on clouds dwelling in the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching  (1 HEAVEN / Heaven over Heaven). 2/3/94  (to be found on the website at I Ching – Voices of the Dragon)

In music duo Simon and Garfunkel’s song, from their Bridge over Troubled Water album, The Boxer there is a line “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Like there is a confirmation bias believing what we see or Simon & Garfunkelhear that fits our persona of ourselves. Others that know me might refer to another Paul Simon song… “Still crazy after all these years”. But I digress. Or from the Graduate album, The Sound of Silence. What great writing and music. I write here a lot about coming to find our highest self. Who is it we aspire to become, and as Joseph Campbell would say, we are to “follow our bliss”. For myself, what else could be the place other than to be seen with dragons resting on clouds in the sky. As if travelling through the clouds… finding and visiting the places where deities reside. To be or be seen beyond the brink of eternity. As if you too have been to the mountaintop and seen the other side. It’s the place I often go in meditation.

I’ve been watching Ken Burns “The West”, on Netflix and for me it is very depressing to A4.2watch America reach its manifest destiny securing the continent for white Europeans. I was especially moved by the eloquence of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce when he said, “To not be changed by foreign beliefs that descend upon us as we adjust to other beliefs and opinions not our own, without first telling our own beliefs and opinions to others”. Chief Joseph spoke as if knowing the heart of everything, as if he too can be seen dancing across the sky with dragons with stories and ancient memories to tell. Another great storyteller. What a tragedy. I stopped watching at Wounded Knee… I had friends in college whose ancestors died there.

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Our first visit to Qufu in 1999 in cave where Confucius was born. Me, Katie, my mother, and Marie

Almost twenty-five years ago, in February 1994, I wrote the above story about dancing in the clouds with dragons. The following year in 1995, I wrote below about finding Confucius. It would be two years before my first trip to China in 1997 to adopt our first Chinese daughter Katie in Guangdong Province and another two years after that before visiting Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius for the first time in October 1999, while on our way to Urumqi to adopt our second daughter Emily. A visit that would change who I thought I was and begin to be reminded of who I am yet to become.

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Celebrating Confucius Festival 

This was followed by the publishing in China of my first book, An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond in 2004, and my second book, both now here on my website and on facebook, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, two years later in 2006. Or the incorporation of The Kongdan Foundation that same year in January, 2006. Who knew… that when I wrote this “Finding Confucius”, and the city of Qufu he hails from, that it would alter so dramatically my life’s work and endeavors.

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Queli Hotel in Qufu

Asking the question, what is it that defines us? It was as if the ancient dragons had come looking for me and found me back in December 1993 while I was in Fall River, Massachusetts and there I was. As I concluded unknowingly back in March 1995… Where can all this possibly lead? Who can say? They knew and came to remind me who I had been and was yet to become and that it was time for me to get on with it… my ultimate purpose.

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Entrance of Confucius Temple – Qufu

My first night in Qufu on October 25, 1999 was spent in the Queli Hotel that is adjacent to the Confucius Mansion and Temple. For years, previous to our visit accommodations for visitors to Qufu were in the annex of the Confucius Mansion itself. Due to tourism and promotion, the Queli Hotel was built. After a night in which I could not sleep, I got up very early and went outside to take a walk.  I had this premonition that I had been here before.

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The Turtle Dragon – Qufu

Not once but many times. It was as if Qufu had always been my home and the place I would always return to.  Not only in the past, but in the future as well. As I walked that morning, a block away on Gulou Street (where the Hotel was situated), on the north side of the street was the Confucius Normal School where I would teach more than ten years later, and on the south side of the street was where my daughter Katie and I would live in the apartment we would have while I was teaching in Qufu at Jining University.

My experiences in Qufu can be found in an unpublished manuscript here on my website in the tab Qufu and Confucius. From 1999 through last year, I have made almost fifty trips to Qufu, and China and Shandong Province. Most for sister city trips, my publishing and teaching, and adopting my two daughters from China (Emily and Katie). Last year (2017) I was there for six weeks (May 12 – June 23) and traveled to fourteen cities in five different provinces. The focal point was still Qufu and reunions with my students.

In the Book of Lieh Tzu, there is a chapter entitled Confucius.

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The Sage – Qingyang Taoist Temple

I wrote my own version of “The Book of Lieh Tzu” entitled, My Travels with Lieh Tzu in 1996. It is an unpublished manuscript that appears here on my website. The Book of Lieh Tzu has served as a primer and guide for all precepts entering Taoist monasteries and for those wanting to follow the historical foundations of what was in the past that may today exist – as if acting in conjunction with the present, and knowing this, having an understanding of what may come next over time.  (The basis of I Ching). My initial entry in that chapter is as follows:

Finding Confucius

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

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The Golden Crane Confucius Temple

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 would 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.

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Confucius Mansions – Qufu

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? 3/5/95

When I wrote the above it was as if I had been preparing and studying Eastern philosophy for a very long time, as if since high school even earlier… my whole life. As if I was preparing for a long voyage from which there would be happily no return. Almost as if I was reawakened to inspire others to wake up through my own teaching, wisdom and writing.

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Conversing again with old Friends    Hungshann Mt

As if to make sacred and be here simply to tell the world’s, specifically China’s memories. The paradox and conundrum of every sage throughout the ages. To keep to himself the wisdom he has learned, the ancient memories, or share them with the world. Why many retreat to become reclusive and out of the way or view of others. To mountaintops where the only voices heard are of old friends, as if knowing and conversing with dragons once again..

From my initial writing in December 1993 forward, it was first internalizing the I Ching, then Lieh Tzu, then Lao Tzu, and the essence of Taoism with Chuang Tzu as my mentor. Never really focusing on Confucius so much. (I was Dantzu long before I became Kongdan). It was as if I didn’t need to because I already possessed all I needed to know and simply preparing myself for a long journey. Long before the thought of ever going to Qufu ever occurred to me. As if setting the stage for what was to come next. That it was more important to chronicle the past, than to re-learn something I already knew. As if needing only to be reminded, or remember. Once finding my eternal rhythm, seeing things as they were so that they may be seen in their best light again. Capturing the essence of A4.10what I knew then, who I am to be now, and who I am still yet to become. To discover how it all is to be played out in the here and now going forward.

Socrates (470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the western ethical tradition of thought. (Wikipedia)

In Eastern philosophical thought, Confucius is comparable to the Socrates of the western world, and his teachings emphasize morality as a path to understanding and enlightenment. In a famous lesson, he told a student that “reciprocity” is the one word that sums up his philosophy on life. According to Confucius, “Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” In addition to instructions on how to be a moral person, many of his quotes are revered today as personal motivation and encouragement. For example, Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Beyond his pleas to treat others with morality and respect and his encouragement to pursue a passionate life, the Confucianism philosophy can be summed up as, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in A4.11May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 38 and 39 appear below. Verses 1 through 37 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself

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

The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the way.

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Yin and Yang Dragons    Wuhan Temple

Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading others along the Way.  As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet.  Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature.  Since his every action remains effortless he does not think about it.

Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself.

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The Highest Calling Nanjing Museum

His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet to become and seeing beyond himself.  Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.

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

Han Fei says, “Virtue is the Tao at work”.

W ang Pi says, “Those who possess Higher Virtue use nothing but the Tao. They possess virtue, but they don’t give it a name”.

Yen Tsun says, “The person that embodies the Way is empty and effortless, yet he leads all creatures to the Way. The person who embodies virtue is faultless and responsive and ready to do anything. The person that embodies kindness shows love for all creatures without restriction. The person who embodies justice deals with things by matching name with reality. The person who embodies ritual is humble and reveres harmony. These five are footprints of the Tao. They are not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is not one, much less five.”

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The Power of Life    Nanjing Museum

Wang P’ang says, “Kindness is another name for virtue. It differs, though, from virtue because it involves effort. The kindness of the sage, however, does not go beyond fulfilling his nature. He isn’t interested in effort; hence he doesn’t think about it.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The Tao is like a fruit. Hanging from a tree, it contains the power of life but its womb is hidden. Once it falls, it puts forth virtue as its root, kindness as its stem, justice as its branches, ritual as its leaves, and knowledge as its flowers. All od these come from the Tao. ‘That’ refers to flowers. ‘This’ refers to fruit. Those who embody the Tao choose the fruit over the flowers.”.

Verse 39 – Moving from finding the Way to living in Virtue

 The sage takes no action but leaves nothing undone or behind as the Tao remains forever nameless.

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Celebration  Qingyang Taoist Temple

Left alone to themselves, the ten thousand things find their own way and become transformed on their own.

Once awakened, the sage moves them with nameless simplicity. Remaining true to themselves they become quiet and tranquil. As if a single oneness, or purpose, has found each one with everything finding its place.

Finding himself alone to his liking, the sage becomes as one with heaven and earth as everyone finds him on the path to virtue.

Knowing he has now found the way, the sage clings only to his virtue ultimately showing the way for everything he has left behind. ##

Wang Pi says, “One is the beginning of numbers and the end of things. All things become complete when they become one. But once they become complete, they leave oneness behind and focus on being complete. And focusing on being complete, they lose their mother. Hence, they crack, crumble, collapse, dry up, and fall. As long as, they can preserve their form. But their mother has no form.”

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Finding the Light   Qingyang Taoist Temple

Ho-Shang Kung says, “It’s because Heaven becomes one that it graces the sky with constellations and light. It’s because Earth becomes one that it remains still and immovable. It’s because spirits become one that they change shape without becoming visible. It’s because streams become one that they never stop filling up. It’s because kings become one that they pacify the world. But Heaven must move between yin and yang, between night and day. It can’t only be clear and bright. Earth must include both high and low, hard and soft, the five-fold stages of breath. It can’t only be still. Spirits must have periods of quiescence. They can’t only be active. Streams must also be empty and dry. They can’t only be full. Kings must humble themselves and never stop seeking worthies to assist them. They can’t only lord it over others. If they do, they fall from power and lose their thrones.”

Su Ch’e says, “Oneness dwells in the noble, but it is not noble. Oneness dwells in the humble, but it is not humble. Oneness is not like the lustre of jade: so noble it cannot be humble, or the coarseness of rocks: so humble it cannot be noble.”

By 1dandecarlo

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