I’ve been here before in June, 2014 for just three days. I only had time for a day trip to see the terra cotta warriors, then the Shaanxi National Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Temple of the Eight Immortals. I took hundreds of pictures then. One of the places I did not go that was of great interest was the Moslem Quarter. It’s Tuesday morning and I am here – for now – until Saturday October 5th at least. I think my next stop will be Hua Mountain, famous for Taoism and Lao Tzu…
It seems as though leaving Xian is a real problem due to holiday travel. Or maybe it’s something from long ago that needs my attention. Much of this trip was to be like leaving the world behind and now I’m pulled again to the past and can’t get away from it. Xi’an is one of the world’s great ancient cities, being most famous for its role as the starting point of the Silk Road. In the past, it was previously known as Chang’an. Xi’an is widely regarded as one of the greatest cities in Chinese history. During imperial dynasties such as the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang, this was the nation’s capital city. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Qin Sand Big Wild Goose Pagoda offers traces left behind by monk Xuanzang.
Xian was not the place to be as a scholar during the time of Emperor Qin when he had his terra cotta army built to protect him in immortality. Many of my friends died here, made to dig a hole and throw all the great literary works in – set them aflame – then forced to jump or be pushed in themselves… Anything representing “old” was destroyed. Many great literary works were burned and scholars killed by Emperor Qin. I think this is why when I come to Xian I walk the streets in sadness. Visiting the ancient sites that were here then, spending time at the museum just remembering those of us who came to such a brutal end. A sabbatical… it is a reminder of the freedom we seek to achieve our own highest endeavor, to identify with who we are in eternity and know nothing is more important than this moment and standing in the light. Any philosophy or religion to me, is only the vehicle that aids in taking you there. It is not the final be all – or end all – to where you are going.
Regardless of the time of year I am here there seems to be a chill in the air and the rain I feel is but the tears streaming down my cheeks. Sometimes I think our purpose is simply to pay tribute. Remembering both the good and the bad lest we forget, as we praise those who meant so much. As if in remembrance, returning to hear their sweet voices again, and have a place to contemplate as my voice, my writing and I gain strength from their eternal memory. Interesting hostel is playing Nora Jones “Come away with me… draggin down the road alone. You’ll be on my mind forever”. In retrospect, we are really never alone.
So I checked with Maria and I would need to take a two hour bus to Huayin for the mountain. There is no train from Huayin to Chengdu so I would probably have to return here to Xian to then go to Chengdu. I can’t get a train to Qufu until October 9th. Maybe I could go to Qufu on the 9th and go to Chengdu on the 12th. Four stops before returning to USA. First Hauyin, then Qufu or return to Xian, Chengdu, Lhasa, then Beijing and home. Okay five. Whatever I’m going to do, time and space are of the essence.
The next time I even remotely suggest to myself or otherwise, that I come to China during the National Holiday (October 1-7), there should be no trouble convincing anyone that I am truly delusional. Millions of people on holiday – impossible to get a train anywhere – a taxi is impossible. Taxi stands at airports and train stations often hundreds of people long. I told staff at hostel that I wanted to go to Hua Mountain (today is October 2nd – I compromised, I plan to go on the 5th). They suggested I wait until after holiday and go on October 8th. Actually, I was hoping to be at the top of Hua Mountain on October 8th, my 66th birthday. I hope to spend it with Lao Tzu and complete my new version of the Tao Te Ching that I have been working on for a year now.
Wednesday, October, 3… Too hard to do Qufu so I will first get my fast train ticket from Xian to Chengdu hopefully on late afternoon or evening of October, 9th this morning. Then book Flipflop Hostel Oct 9 – 14th for departure to Tibet Sunday, Oct 14th. (I already have my plane ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa). Once done I will go ahead and book my return flight from Lhasa to Beijing for October 17th to arrive at Beijing airport for fight back to USA October 18th. After this is done, I will go to bus station here in Xian and purchase bus ticket for Huayin for Friday, Oct 5 and return to Xian, Tuesday morning , October, 9th so I can make my way to train station and Chengdu. And this trip is supposed to be about simplifying my life… Oh, and I need to do laundry today. Well, I got a ticket on fast train next Tuesday from Xian to Chengdu, secured reservation at Flipflop Hostel, after great effort was able to book ticket for 17th from Lhasa to Beijing, and will get bus tickets at station for Huayin on Friday.
All the great scholars and the sage ever wanted was the freedom to fill in the details of their own blank page. What it was that contributed meaning to their own path along the Way, or Tao. To have their say “for eternity’s sake”. Why climbing mountains following the way of nature has always been the closest observance of dragons, thier predecessors. As if endeavoring to get their attention and steps they should follow. They remind me now not to find sorrow in their passage here in Xian all those centuries ago. That tears to be shed, should be tears of joy, as they were simply returning home. That as the sage, you should find comfort in not always “fitting in”. As your place too will always be seen with dragons.
I wrote the below story in March, 1995. It could easily have been simply an essay meant to honor old friends.
Filling in the Details
Delight in knowing that you have always been on the edge and will remain there. Finding comfort in what would otherwise be considered chaos by others who will never travel to find their true destiny. If you have found true peace of mind, how can hardship enter the picture? What comfort can be found in everyday events seen by others as needed to have some fleeting sense of contentment? Remain as the first word to be written on the next blank page waiting to be filled with what must come forth in truth, sincerity, and compassion.
Appreciating nature, both your own inner nature and that surrounds you. Your garden being wherever you are. Where trees grow leaves, where flowers attract bees and butterflies. Where wisps of clouds float between heaven and earth. Coming forward to know the happiness of all things nature provides and knowing where you fit in will always be present.
As all things change from instant to instant, is not remaining on the edge prepared to capture the new rays of each day’s sun, the ultimate that can ever be – now and forever. Not found to be clinging to life’s fortunes. Knowing happiness can only be followed by sadness. That everything ebbs and flows in the balance of all things.
The ultimate that can be. Simply to be blown along with the winds of one’s life. Never knowing the outcome, only savoring the details found along the wayside. Find a place of quiet solitude where there can be no contention present. With everything around you at peace and harmony with its environment. As you come forward through your writing to fill the blank page with little or no concern for the time of your ultimate arrival.
Remaining free to continue on your way with Lieh Tzu and your old friends. Ready to begin anew the journey that you must begin again and again and again. 3/11/95
Karma can be a tough thing. Less that an hour and a half away from where I now sit is the site of Emperor Qin’s terra cotta warriors and his mausoleum. In what was seen as “fitting” by many, after the emperor’s death, his terra cotta were covered first by a wooden roof and then an earthen mound, the wooden roof was later set on fire. The roof fell onto the terra cotta and broke his precious army into a million pieces. His Grand Library where all history was to begin with him, was also destroyed by fire ten years after his death. His legacy was not as he intended.
(I have several pictures to add here, but the internet signal is not strong enough where I am at. Once I get to another place where the signal is stronger… I will add them. I sometimes lose my entire content of a blog trying to add pictures. I’ve complained back in USA to WordPress and they say it’s the connection here in China, not their software. I find their explanation not too helpful though).
As I complete 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, on this journey, 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 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verse 80 appears below. Verses 1 through 79 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verse 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao and his Furnace.
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 80 – Staying in Step with the Tao
Cultivating ourselves while holding a marker as if attached and only concerned with the way of heaven.
The world is looking for the sage to come forward full of enthusiasm and direction to lead in the spirit of dragons and to show others their highest endeavor and destiny. The world is looking to the sage once he has accepted the mantle as one enmeshed with the Tao.Making no claims on others while making demands only on ourselves as disputes come and go as if they are riding the wind. Here now only to test our direction and how far along we’ve come on our journey.
Once he has accepted his place in the scheme of things to come, nothing can stand in his way. As he simply embodies the Tao in his every thought, action and deed his every step continues to become second nature…
Ho Shang Kung says, “Although the sage governs a great state,he thinks of it as a small state and is frugal in the use of its resources. Although the people are many, he thinks of them as few and is careful not to exhaust them.”
Wang An-Shih says, “When the people are content with their lot, they don’t concern themselves with moving far away or going to war.”
Wu Ch’eng says, “People who are satisfied with their food and pleased with thier clothes cherish their lives and don’t temp death. People who are content with their homes and happy with their customs don’t move far away. They old old and die where they were born.”
Ch’eng Hsuan says, “They are satisfied with their food because they taste the Tao. They are please with their clothing because they are adorned with virtue. They are content with their homes because they are content everywhere. And they are happy with their customs because they soften the glare of the world.”