Confucius says, “I study what is below and understand what is above. Who knows me? Only Heaven” (Lunyu: 14-37).
Dancing with Chi
Everything that ever was everything now and that ever will be is within you now to find. All that there ever was to know or that there will be to know is within you to find.
You have been everywhere there has been to see, have seen all that there is to see and, in the future, will see all that there ever will be to see.
You are not a know-it-all. But you know all that there is to know. Simply come to know yourself and remember what you have forgotten. Simply to find again, again and again. 2/6/94
(From The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon found here on my website. From the contents of my book I wrote in 1994 and published in China in 2004 by Blue Wind Publishing in Beijing. The book, An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond, can be found online in China at http://www.ecph.com.cn).
I love the Kung Fu Panda movies. The second sequel not so much, but the first and third versions were right on the mark. People laugh when I tell them, but they don’t understand the context of inner peace, tai chi, and most importantly, finding and identifying with your inner self, your chi. In western parlance we would say your soul. Discovering who we are and identifying with our highest purpose, or endeavor, is the reason we’re here that defines our destiny. It is always a choice and takes courage to go there. The thought that it is in teaching others that helps you become who you really are… and that if you only do what you can do you will never be more than you are now. That means when you can identify with what comes naturally to you, you follow it always assured the next step will become known to you. Master Oogway saw in the panda something he himself didn’t know existed, but was able to manifest through kung fu and becoming a master of his chi. An inherent trait that exists in all of us. Or even as Don Henley sang when we come to The end of the Innocence. The problem with chi is that what is given can be taken away and that you can only master chi by first knowing who you really are. The essence of kung fu, as if wishing upon a star, is knowing your half-way home and taking that next step.
Entering the Matrix of ultimate change/helping others to know who they were meant to be…
Knowing the above, I leave for China, and hopefully Tibet on what most people would call a sabbatical. No Facebook, no TV, no family. Only doing things that are geared to take me and my writing to the next step. As if nothing is in my backpack except the camera, paper, pen, and the Tao.
Regardless of rather I return in a month or not, my only promise is not to return as the person I am now. It is as Eric Butterworth said in the title of his book… The universe is calling. It is as though mountaintops simply are again waiting for my arrival. Arrangements to go to Tibet are always uncertain until arriving in China and doing paperwork and securing travel. Passport and visa must be submitted at least ten days in advance prior to entry. You must travel with a group. Individual travel is frowned upon. I would not be traveling to Tibet until after the October 1st national holiday where eating mooncakes is the most common tradition. (This is the time when the annual Moon Festival is held in China) and would not go until after October 8th (my birthday). I will return to USA on October 18th, so there is time. I had planned to go last year to Tibet when I was in China for six weeks, but it proved too complicated and my planning ahead should have been better. If I do not go to Tibet, I’ve been invited to teach at the Confucius College in Qufu instead. Maybe I can do both. I cannot use Google or Facebook while in China. I will however be doing a daily blog from here on my website. I hope you will check in while I’m gone.
I begin this trip (I’ve been to China almost fifty times and in and out of Beijing what seems like a hundred) in Beijing for two days before heading for Qufu highlighted by a visit to the National Museum. I have been to many other national museums (Chengdu, Xian, and Shanghai), but this is my first visit to the museum in Beijing. I like to try to attach items to the different time periods and dynasties I’m studying and writing about.
I wanted to stay three days, but could not get a train ticket for Friday, September 21st because all train tickets had been pre-sold for the weekend, several weeks prior to the holiday and purchasing a ticket was not possible. Fortunately, I was able to get a fast train ticket for Thursday evening the night before. Two years ago, on October 1st, due to a problem with my passport at the train station in Beijing, the only ticket was a “standing ticket”, Yes, that meant a ten-hour overnight train ride standing up in the isle. I thought then… I’m too old for this. I’ll turn 66 on this trip.
Once you have been a teacher, especially at a university in another country in my case China, others look and perceive you differently. Especially for many in China who consider me a scholar regarding Chinese history and philosophy. When I was teaching (I have more than 400 students most of them now teachers themselves), who while looking at me as their foreign teacher, ultimately my classes were about “how do I become a better person through being able to better express myself”. And for them, if I hope to become a teacher, how do I become a better citizen of the world through learning English as a second language?
This coming from students coming from all over Shandong Province and Qufu, where Confucius was the ultimate teacher, and respect for teachers is considered paramount. There is even a national holiday every May to celebrate the role of teachers in China. Because of Confucius, it begins with benevolence and virtue and culminates with respect for your elders. When I was teaching, while it was ostensibly about learning English it was more about how to become a better person. How to discover and find your niche, and “mastering your chi”, that focuses on your strengths and knowing your weaknesses and then to build on that with virtue. In The Book of Lieh Tzu expressed here on my website as My Travels with Lieh Tzu, there is a chapter entitled Confucius and the following story:
What sort of man follows Confucius? Four men who served him are looked upon as examples. The first, superior in kindness, the next better in eloquence, the third stronger in courage, and the fourth exceeding in dignity. All a cut above Confucius in their endeavors. Yet they chose to serve him, why is this so?
What is virtue, but that which springs forth from one’s eternal chi or soul? How can one man judge another when he has his own journey he must follow, his own destiny to find? What is there to possibly come to understand and know except the inner workings of ourselves and the loving kindness that subsequently follows?
Confucius explains: “The first is kind, but cannot check the impulse to act when it will do no good. The next is eloquent but knows not when to speak. The third is brave, but is impulsive and knows not when to be cautious, and the fourth is dignified, but cannot accept others opinions when it is their turn to speak. Even if I could exchange the virtue of these four, why would I, when they are less than my own? This is why they have chosen to serve me without question? Each person must learn their own way in the world. Can mine possibly be better than the path another has chosen to follow?”
Have not those who have decided to follow the ways of Confucius done so without questioning right and wrong, benefit and harm? Letting everything play out to its rightful end to discover their own true destiny. Since the establishment of government destroys the path for all but the true sage is it not best to find the way to govern properly for the benefit of all. Looking you cannot find it, listening you cannot hear it. In the end, there is nothing to be found again and again. 3/14/95
I’ve been asked many times the meaning of the comparison between yin and yang and grace and virtue since my last post. In China, when one thinks of virtue, you automatically think of Confucius and benevolence. To me, benevolence and the true meaning of kung fu and tai chi, combine both grace and virtue as one. Flowing with the movements of tai chi is not a thirty-minute exercise, but a way of life. Identifying with your chi and letting it take you there, while grace opens us to our higher consciousness and becoming translucent. As when going through every day experiences. The more self-aware you become the more you notice and recognize grace when it happens and you flow with it. Our task is to remain within this flow that connects us to the ten thousand things, to nature, and the universe.
To my thinking, they are inseparable. Asking the same question. As if able to unite both sides of the yin and yang, as if inherently becoming the residence of complimentary opposites yourself. Once you have it – what do you do with it? It’s like the hermit who lived on the mountain with no amenities just the silence found in his cave. Once discovered he was implored to come down to the village where others were seeking spiritual guidance to teach them for the benefit of all he had learned. The hermit knew that the time of his return to the world was upon him.
As a practicing Buddhist, and with his bodhisattva vow, he must renounce the bliss of solitude for the welfare of the many. He did so and the world became a better place for it. While I consider myself a Taoist, I am pulled to the filling of the senses I find in Buddhism.
Buddhist sutras on their initial trip via elephants to China from India. Big Wild Goose Pagoda Xian
When traveling around China I seem to go to as many or more Buddhist Temples as Taoist and memorials to Confucius. It seems as though they serve as if a re-discovering of what lies in every human heart, as well as, showing the journey ahead as if a road map. That its not enough to bask in the glories of the past, but to take active part in shaping the future. What is our ultimate role to be? The task as with us seems never done. Maybe even to the pull of going to Tibet this time.
Can you go back to who you were so you know what to do going forward as the shaman, I Ching, and Tao have always said? Or do we start anew each time? Maybe just filling in the blanks of inequities we are here to correct this time. Or perhaps simply coming in tune with our chi once again. Knowing that you have always roamed the sky with dragons… that mastering your own chi will be the key to doing so again. Or maybe even to just relay to the dragons what you have learned this time as you bring them and others along for the ride too.
Giving and receiving directions Huangshan Mountain
What is it each of us seek, but the stability of a sanctuary until we have fulfilled our own sacred purpose with energy and compassion. Perhaps to inspire, uplift, and empower others in their own journey. Maybe to become both the student and the teacher again. Or perhaps reaching the conclusion that realization can only be found in the stillness and solitude of nature. Maybe it is as Joseph Campbell described as “the stream of bliss that flows once one comes in-tune or finds his rhythm with the universe”. It is here that one finds an unspeakable peace and happiness. That the dormant powers of light are buried in every soul just waiting to come forth as our chi to find and sing out once again. As with Autumn, and this time of year, celebrating the harvest and knowing that with patience we can wait for new growth and new beginnings that begin again in the Spring.
A Plum Abundance
Learn, value and know the ways of your garden. Nature tends to care for those who tend to it. A celebration coming!
Mother earth is plentiful. Having patience and knowing the seasons brings forth a reason to celebrate. Keeping victory close to the chest throwing defeat through an open window.
Tending to nature has determined if we are hungry or if we will eat well until the ground thaws in the Spring. As the plums are picked know that harmony brings forth the fruits of our labors. Reminders that patience and discipline are but part of the cycle down the correct path.
Building great fires once again put the dragons on notice. Remembering that if failure is to be avoided, sacrifice must be made to satisfy the heavens. Remain astute following those who follow the symmetry of the seasons.
An important occasion. Apples, peaches, plums and pumpkins signify abundance. Be grateful and know that success is riding on coattails through the sky.
An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (14 GREAT HARVEST / Fire over Heaven). 2/12/94
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 70 and 71 appear below. Verses 1 through 69 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks.
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 70 – Putting things in Divine Order or being the Guest at a fine Banquet
In greeting those who would oppose him, the sage proceeds as if at a fine banquet. He responds only after his host sets the table and blessings have been received from heaven.
He advances innately ready to retreat with the slightest provocation. While the host may resist, the guest remains free to compromise. While the host toils to improve his position, the guest relaxes. While the host appears busy with much activity, he retreats in quiet. The sage remains prepared to meet resistance with agreement, toil with relaxation, pride with humility and action with quiet. Knowing in reality he has no opposition or enemy as he remains fully enmeshed in whatever outcome that may arrive.
While the sage works to bring all together under the sun, as if an umbrella out of harm’s way, he is often evenly matched by those who are happy with leaving things just the way they are.
While they may be content to only expand their treasure, he is concerned with illustrating the traits of compassion and the Tao.
While remorseful about where he may find himself, the sage knows no fate is worse than having no enemy. As opposites are required for either him or the Tao to proceed, he quickly thanks his host for the sumptuous meal and then quickly and quietly recedes.
Wang P’ang says, “Because the sage teaches us to be in harmony with the course of our life, him words are simple, and his deeds are ordinary. Those who look within himself understand. Those who follow their own nature do what is right. Difficulties arise when we turn away from the trunk and follow the branches.”
Li His-Chai says, “The Tao is easy to understand and put into use. It is also hard to understand and hard to put to use. It is easy because there is no Tao to discuss, no knowledge to learn, no effort to make, no deeds to perform. And it is hard because the Tao cannot be discussed, because all words are wrong, because it cannot be learned, and because the mind only leads us astray. Effortless stillness is not necessarily right. And actionless activity is not necessarily wrong. This is why it is hard”.
Su Ch’e says, “Words can trap the Tao, and deeds can reveal its signs. But if the Tao could be found in words, we would only have to listen to words. And if it could be seen in deeds, we would only have to examine deeds. But it cannot be found in words or seen in deeds. Only if we put aside words and look for heir ancestor, put aside deeds and look for their master, can we find it.”
Ten Tsun says, “Wild geese fly for days but don’t know what exists beyond the sky. Officials and scholars work for years, but none of them knows the extent of the Way. It’s beyond the ken and beyond the reach of narrow-minded, one-sided people.”
Verse 71 – Proceeding with little or no Fanfare
The sage’s motives are seldom understood and no one is usually very quick to employ them. Even though his words are easy to understand and put into practice.
Comprehending the Tao The Eight Immortals
He is reminded of the old proverb. “Tell me and I’ll forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I’ll understand”. Confucius adds that one should study what is below and understand what is above. Besides, who can know the motives of the sage, except heaven? Understanding something that cannot be seen, touched, smelled, tasted or heard seems beyond comprehension.
However, all things have ancestors and nothing can begin unless something else moves out of the way and ends. The sage remains an enigma to those around him as he is somehow different than others. He does not simply see himself only in terms of the here and now. But acknowledges his presence in what has come. Up to now since antiquity and that he has seen it all before as he is assured that his destiny is to one day return to be one with the dragons.
While it is the Tao and one universally referred to as God that is to be exalted, the sage is often considered in high esteem because he can be seen. Knowing this he strives to wear plain clothes and attempt, however difficult, to remain unseen and let others lead the way. He remains difficult to know because he seldom reveals his true self, as once revealed his opposition would request equal billing. But then again, who could oppose the sage for long.
Confucius says, “Shall I teach you about understanding? To treat understanding as understanding and to treat not understanding as not understanding, this is understanding” (Lunyu: 2.17).
Te-Ch’ing says, “The ancients said that the word ‘understanding’ was the door to all mysteries as well as the door of all misfortune. If you realize you don’t understand, you eliminate false understanding. This is the door to all mysteries. If you cling to understanding while trying to discover what you don’t understand, you increase the obstacles to understanding. This is the door to all misfortune.”
Ts’ao Tao-Chung says, “If someone understands, but out of humility he says he doesn’t understand, this is when reality is superior to name. Hence, we call it transcendence. If someone doesn’t understand but says he does understand, this is when name surpasses reality. Hence, we call this an affliction. Those who are able to understand that affliction is affliction are never afflicted.”
Ho-Shang Kung says, “To understand the Tao yet to say that we don’t is the transcendence of virtue. Not to understand the Tao and to say that we do is the affliction of virtue. Lesser people don’t understand the meaning of the Tao and vainly act according to their forced understanding and thereby harm their spirit and shorten their years. The sage doesn’t suffer the affliction of forced understanding because he is pained by the affliction of others.”