When we have no choice but to become the Light of the world
I think faith, or having faith, must be tied intrinsically to as Confucius would say benevolence and virtue, that we demonstrate this by how we treat others, and seeing things through to the change we seek. Or as the poet John Donne (1572-1631) a Jacobean poet and preacher wrote that we must know that “No man is an island unto himself” as a paraphrase of the Biblical quote of Jesus when he was said to have said “I am the Light of the world” and that each of us are capable of doing far greater works than He. Donne is referring to the principles of truth. That for a man or woman to find truth and connect to others, they must become less of themselves and more of this Light by allowing their own self-interests, desires, and thoughts, to be subservient to truth and reality. It makes one wonder just what Ronald Reagan famously meant with the reference and vision of America as a shining “city on a hill”. With such symbolism, it makes you wonder where we got lost along the way. Perhaps even asking the question – shining hill for whom? As we ask ourselves, how could thoughts of “nationalism” or “religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, or color”, get in the way of what should be seen as our “better angels and divine judgment?”
The basic premise of life as saying that something cannot be good for me unless it’s good for you as well that fits all into nature’s sway. In other words, we must share the Light. Or as Donne concludes “… any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” Or as Earnest Hemingway was later inspired in his writing… it is for whom the bell ultimately tolls. I would add benevolence and virtue is ultimately contagious, rings true and tolls for each of us.
Like a cornerstone, a benchmark, or piece of a puzzle, in which we tie our own lives to. Getting the wake-up call as Eric Butterworth tells us in, “The Universe is Calling”, and opening ourselves to the divine. Or as the baton President Obama says that we each must catch, not fumble, and do our part before handing off. Why, regardless of commentaries, or dynasties and emperors in Chinese history, it becomes a bell weather that always rings true. Or as Confucius says, “The virtue of the ruler is like the wind. The virtue of the people is like grass. When the wind blows, the grass bends” (Lunyu:12.19). In what direction does that virtue blow today? That in reality the light of the world is simply a multi-colored rainbow we all inevitably bend to. Or, as I’ve said before in the George Harrison song, philosophy and religion is nothing more than “the road that takes you there”. It’s not the journey… it’s keeping to the destination that matters. And more importantly, what we do and who we have become after we have arrived.
Benevolence and virtue. How is it we learn to listen to that still small voice within and to live this way? And why can’t we live in a world of shared abundance? That without virtue, values have no place or lasting meaning. Tell me a story that shows the way and I will follow. It has always been that the one who could tell the greatest story is most likely to be remembered and believed. That the story must appear as if coming from a sense of lasting benevolence… from the light within us, in other words from the inside out. Speaking from eternal truths as nature, the universe, and our soul dictates.
As a university teacher at Jining University and teacher at the Qufu Normal High School in China, I used to always ask my students who themselves were destined to be teachers, to write a one-page essay as to what the meaning of this line meant, “to always live as if cause and effect becomes you”. We would pick three or four and have the student come up and read their essay and then the class would discuss. My classes were always about not only learning English as a second language, but also expressing ourselves as what we really mean. That life is about measuring up to expectations we have for ourselves and investing that in others.
I am often amazed at the use of allegory and parables in storytelling used to convey what can be considered as true or false, or even something we would define as “fake news” today. From the beginning of time, especially as language developed and the written word was used to convey meaning and context to events, using one thing to demonstrate another has been commonplace. Examples of this is best demonstrated by the Bible in western thought and philosophy, and in the teachings of the Buddha in Buddhism and Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu in Taoism in eastern thought and philosophy. Other religions have multiple stories to tell as well. Ultimately, we mirror the image of who we think we are yet to become in the grand scheme of things with faith in what is generally considered as unknowable. Ah… the greatest conundrum and parable of all.
One of the principle purposes of this blog, website, and my foundation is to demonstrate the universal connection we all share. A common Christian analogy is “having the faith of a mustard seed”, that nature and God will provide assurances of success. Both references below are thousands of years old and show the reason and purpose of having perseverance and being guided by or having faith.
For myself, as a mystery of the universe, is asking why the belief that we do not encounter God through all religions? How can we ourselves become universal without an appreciation for all paths to God? An example would be that Christianity was not introduced in China until the sixteenth century and then only along the coastal and river cities (Canton, Nanjing, Peking and Shanghai). Prior to 1949 and the Communist government taking over, almost all cities in China had a Christian and/or Catholic church.
Does that mean everyone prior to this time was destined to hell? For a country like China with millions of people and thousands of years of history prior to that time… I don’t believe so. Today, the Christian “Family Church”, is commonly found in almost every city in China and baptism is frequent. What is frowned upon is not recognizing and accepting the path another person has chosen to follow.
Matthew 17:20 – He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” Later in Mark 11:23-24 – Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
Stories, something conveyed as a myth, can be used to tell a truism that helps us to understand why or how things occur. Can simply asking for something in prayer or meditation by itself make something occur without our taking steps ourselves to make it happen as if in magic?
As in reality, we are simply opening ourselves up to the universe and letting the eternal wisdom that already resides within come to the surface as us. As we develop confidence in our innate abilities and qualities and believe that these can be brought to fruition. We already have all the qualities needed for the path once we have found comfort in the shoes in which we walk. Why or how should we fear or feel challenged by the path another has chosen to follow? As I have relayed in my previous posts… things occur because and due to cause and effect. We always seem to want to know the outcome before it arrives and then bend to our personal favor. The same as, asking believing you already have it, and it is yours. Along with asking comes doing. (cause and effect) This theme runs concurrently with all ancient traditions and teachings with all things being equal in nature (the ten thousand things) and what is known as complimentary opposites (yin and yang) that answer to “universal law”. Why staying in tune with vibrations learned from the Tao are meant to become us. Why meditation, silence, and listening to that still small voice inside us are important to our ultimate destination.
I wrote a similar story to the mustard seed over twenty years ago that is famous in Taoist history in China from Chinese to English that appears in my book “My travels with Lieh Tzu”. The original pre-dates the above verse from the Bible and goes like this:
The mountains of tenacious Sincerity
After a lifetime of going around the mountains to get to a place directly in front of him, an old man decided that this was much too far to come and go. That the mountains should be leveled and thrown into the surrounding sea. So that a road straight through could be built and travel to places a distance away could be made much closer. All agreed, except the man’s wife who argued that at the age of ninety he was too weak to raze even the smallest hill.
Soon the work began as he and his sons broke up the stones one at a time and began carrying them to the sea. Those passing by scoffed at the idea. Asking how a man in declining years could damage mountains several thousand feet high, he responded: “Certainly your mind is set to firm for me ever to penetrate it. Even when I die, I shall have sons surviving me. My sons will beget me more grandsons, my grandsons in their turn will have sons, and these will have more sons and grandsons.
My descendants will go on forever, but the mountain will get no bigger. Why should there be any difficulty in leveling it?”
All those doubting the old man’s tenacity were at a loss for words. The mountains spirit began to get irritated at those pecking at their feet and upon checking it out, heard about what was going on and were afraid the old man would not give up.
They reported the story to God, who was overwhelmed by the sincerity of the old man and his efforts. God commanded that the mountains be moved, one the Shuo Tung the other to Yung Nan. Since that time the area where the old man’s descendants remain is as flat as can be and can be traveled across with ease. The forbidding mountains long gone. With the strength of one’s sincerity what task can possibly be too overwhelming. 4/19/95
NOTE: The Foolish Old Man Removes the Mountains is a well-known fable in Chinese mythology about the virtues of perseverance and willpower. The tale first appeared in Book 5 of the Liezi (Lieh Tzu), a Taoist text of the 4th century BC, and was retold in the Garden of Stories by the Confucian scholar Liu Xiang in the 1st century BC. The Shuo Yuan, variously translated as Garden of Stories, Garden of Persuasions, Garden of Talks, is a collection of stories and anecdotes from the pre-Qin period to the Western Han Dynasty. The stories were compiled and annotated by the Confucian scholar Liu Xiang. (from Wikipedia) It can also be found here on my website in tab entitled, “My travels with Lieh Tzu”.
Be careful the dragons are at play. With integrity comes peril. There is danger in knowing and conveying the truth. For those who need to hear the truth often cannot see it.
Always convey the truth. Honor will only come to those with courage to say and do what is right verses saying what others simply want to hear. Reality will always be tested by those who question what is real. Support can be given in many ways. Self-preservation is arduous to maintain. As both good and bad are exposed be careful the dragons are at play.
Teach others by doing the right thing. Be careful in conduct and illustrious of sound judgment. Know the oneness of Tao and be effective with others. Get and maintain the attention of others before speaking. Good advice wasted on someone not listening can lead to one’s own demise.
Be careful. Be careful.
But show support for those who endeavor to do the right thing.
An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (8 SUPPORT / Wind over Heaven). 2/9/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.
Why finding the silence, clearing our thoughts and mind just to be ourselves becomes so important. To live as if cause and effect becomes you.
As if simply showing up… away from distractions (we call monkey mind in Buddhism) becomes our first step and final call. But where are we doing it from? It’s a matter of connecting to and with a universal presence that is always here, there, and everywhere and in everything. It is the Tao. It is emblematic of all things and shows no preference. In earlier posts I discussed matter, and how everything is here that was present from the beginning of time, only taking on different shape as nature determines what is needed. It is our connecting with the universe and having a clear picture or map of the road ahead that determines the future.
That connection has always been to and with the stars and understanding from where we came and most important our being ready to change. The universe needs us to be awake and to do our part. Being ready to listen in silence first, observe, then to act accordingly. It truly is that the stars are waiting for us to become one with them again. Finding the right mix between ambition and humility, vision and pragmatism seems to be the eternal challenge. We are here for just a moment. It’s up to us to find the reason.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of 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 56 and 57 appear below. Verses 1 through 55 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 56 – You must be the Change you want to see in the World.
Should the path of the sage be drawn to only finding his own place in the scheme of the universe once he becomes the embodiment of the Tao, or should he depart from his first inclination and devote himself to bringing others along the way to find it for themselves?
Following his instincts, he knows he must first find comfort in where he has been, where his path leads and where his final destination will take him.
Once he is self-assured that he speaks with one voice and his actions speak for themselves, he can begin preparing for the greatest challenge the Tao and the universe can offer.
For thousands of years the sage has taken the back seat in the development of the world. Preferring to follow the traditional path to enlightenment concerned only with his own path, his own voice and his own actions.
His virtue alone carries his spirit from past encounters along destiny’s doorstep. How much greater his role could be if he could use his place in the Tao to lead the way.
Giving others his light, they too can perhaps begin to shine their own and find their own path as well. To be the door others can use to open their own spirit to find their way. This could be the ultimate role of the sage, his highest endeavor. To lead without harming others and to live as Gandhi said…
“To be the change you want to see in the world”, by doing nothing more than by simply showing the way.
Ho-Shang Kung says, “Those who know value deeds not words. A team of horses can’t overtake the tongue. More talk means more problems”.
Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, “Those who grasp the truth forget about words. Those who don’t practice what they talk about are no different from those who don’t know.”
Wang Pi says, “If something can be embraced, it can be abandoned. If something can be helped, it can be harmed. If something can be exalted, it can be debased.”
Te-Ching says, “The sage transcends the mundane and the superficial, hence he cannot be embraced. His utter honesty enables others to see, hence he cannot be abandoned. He is content and free of desires. Hence, he cannot be helped. He dwells beyond life and death; hence he cannot be harmed. He views high position as so much dust, hence he cannot be exalted. Beneath his rags he harbors jade, hence he cannot be debased. The sage walks in the world, yet his mind transcends the material realm. Hence he is exalted by the world.”
Wei Yuan says, “Those who seal the opening and close the gate don’t love or hate, hence they don’t embrace or abandon anything. Those who dull the edge and untie the tangle don’t seek help, and thus they suffer no harm. Those who soften the light and join the dust don’t exalt themselves, and thus they are not debased by others. Forgetting self and other, they experience Dark Union with the Tao. Those who have not yet experienced this Dark Union unite with ‘this’ and separate from ‘that’. To unite means to embrace, to help, to exalt. To separate means to abandon, to harm, to debase. Those who experience Dark Union unite with nothing. From what, then, could they separate.
Verse 57 – Becoming one with the dust of the World
The words of the sage cannot be heard. It is through his actions that he leads the way.
Leading with simple virtue he remains quiet and unassuming.
When he talks he does so in almost a whisper so that others have to listen carefully so that nothing is missed. By controlling his breath, he focuses on self-control and stays away from extremes. To bring forth the virtue in the world he begins by transcending his human frailties and accepting his destiny and where it takes him.
In mirroring those around him, he begins by knowing when to enter and when to exit. As if he were sealing an opening or staying behind to close the gate. He focuses on dulling the edges and untying tangles to still the spirits.
He softens the light and joins the dust to adapt all things to the proper way. He unties all things but leaves no trace as if he was never there.
Transcending himself the sage cannot be embraced, cannot be abandoned, cannot be helped and cannot be harmed.
He cannot be exalted or debased. While uniting with nothing, there is nothing that does not unite with him. Yet there is nothing he does not do or has not done.
Sun Tzu says, “In waging war, one attacks with direction, one wins with indirection” (5-5).
Su Ch’e says, “The ancients sages were kind to strangers and gentle to friends. They didn’t think about warfare. Only when they had no choice did they fight. And when they did, they used indirection. But indirection can’t be used to rule the world. The world is a mercurial thing. To conquer it is to lose it. Those who embody the Tao do nothing. They don’t rule the world, and yet the world comes to them.”
Ho-Shang Kung says, “In cultivating the Tao, the sage accepts the will of Heaven. He doesn’t change things, and the people transform themselves. He prefers not to talk or teach, and the people correct themselves. He doesn’t force others to work, and the people become rick in their occupations. He doesn’t use ornaments or luxuries, and the people emulate his simple ways.”
Wang Pi says, “Prohibitions are intended to put an end to poverty, and yet the people become poorer. Weapons are intended to strengthen the country, and yet the country becomes weaker and more confused. This is due to cultivating the branches instead of the roots.”