Tuesday, October 9th I left Huashan Mountain (Huayin) for Xi’an then on to Chengdu… On the mountain I was reminded that eternity may seem remote, but it is here, right now in every precious moment, and you are one with it all, with nature. We are not here just to observe our life and the beauty that surrounds us. But to be reminded that it is all simply an extension of ourselves and the steps we are here to follow and take ourselves, to our responsibility to and for nature, and in turn the universe.
That your world is your sanctuary. We should all become Taoists at heart. The mountain itself, the pine trees, the birds singing their song of joy and eternal wisdom just for you – always in rhythm praising what lies below and the skies above. It’s easy to see how eons ago others saw the mountain as the gateway to heaven. That you are free and immortal as you are. If a sabbatical has something to do with finding your life’s work, I think I have come on this journey to re-enforce the one thing I am good at… to remember and write about things long forgotten by others. Maybe here just to remind us to pay attention to the details of our lives and where they may lead.
Su Ch’e says, “Lao Tzu lived during the decline of the Chou, when artifice flourished and customs suffered, and he wished to restore its virtue through doing nothing. Hence at the end of his book he wishes he had a small state to try this on. But he never got his wish”.
Perfecting the Art of Doing Nothing
If living in retirement is a state of mind… then let mine be here in Chengdu. Life is like Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream. Are we awake or living a dream – and can it have mattered in the end? I’m beginning to understand the true meaning of wu wei. Finding and living in the state of virtue and being present… i.e., awake. It seems as though my entire life has fit the scope of Taoist thought as almost everything I’ve ever done has amounted to nothing, except for my family and friends who I care for. It seems I’ve been more successful than I thought. Perhaps just waiting for my highest endeavor to find me and to follow it. It’s time to let living in the state of virtue reign supreme. Simply to let your innate nature come through as you live what the Tao has taught you. So here I am talking about Taoism, and here with the Buddha. Or even follow the development of Chan Buddhism in China that found the best of both (Buddhism and Taoism), as if “Finding the right Shoes”. Maybe even best expressed by what I wrote all those years ago… Perhaps even better said by doing nothing.
Finding the right Shoes
Father and son, tradition and innovation. Old ways and new things. Knowing patterns of one’s life brings purpose. Finding purpose through another man’s eyes is not easy. Conflict arises. Immortality is questioned but always prevails.
Finding one’s sense of purpose can not be left to earthly whim. Finding purpose in greater things allows one to escape from individual concern. Following footsteps may be old-fashioned, however those steps are honed in tradition and value. Keeping to the right path is knowing how to find yourself in shoes that fit.
Tradition teaches that structure brings continuity. With continuity comes focus, focus brings clarity and with clarity one can find understanding in all things. Understanding patterns of one’s life brings integrity.
Well worn shoes may require soles, though once repaired the same shoes still can be left to fit the right feet. Find happiness and security in tradition and be eternally rewarded. Ancestors past and spirits yet to come will know comfort through your steps. Seek your own standards yet remain ever diligent. Remember from where you came and seek your own immortality.
An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (18 WORK / Mountain over Wind). 2/13/94
One thing for certain I know about myself – is I hate, abhor… anyplace where contention is present. It makes me wonder why, or how, I was interested in politics whatsoever. Except maybe to show the intent of heaven that reflects the best of all concerned. Maybe the world and even I are not quite ready for that yet. Ah – finding myself again on the mountain… or better yet the tea house on the lake at People’s Park in Chengdu once again away from contention and ego.
Wednesday morning I find myself at the Flipflop Hostel. This is my fourth visit to Chengdu and third to the Flipflop. Seeing a few of my students, re-visiting ancient sites and new ones I haven’t see for a while is like coming home. Some things are meant to be unexplainable I think, only felt from the heart. As if living the dream of your highest aspiration and then it becoming you. For me it’s going to those places that inspire me. Ultimately getting to the place that where I am is not as important as the memories I have gained from where and who I have been in history. As if here now only to be continually inspired. Most importantly the only question remaining is – am I being true to my authentic self?
My friend Pablo from Chile I met at the mountain has joined me here in Chengdu at the Flipflop. It sounds like Pablo and I are headed today by fast train to the Leshon Buddha… stay tuned.
The Leshan Giant Buddha was impressive as it looked down on the convergence of two rivers. Legend has it that he was placed here to stop the flooding that caused so much havoc. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-meter (233 feet) tall stone statue, built between 713 and 803, depicting Maitreya. It is carved out of a cliff face of Cretaceous red bed sandstone that lies at the confluence of the Min River and Dadu River in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. They say it did help with flooding… for a while, but man continued to build.
In addition to the Buddha, I was most impressed by the Lingyan Temple adjacent to it, and especially the Cave of I Ching. I have much to write here later when I have time. The pictures I took here were amazing. Adjacent to the temple is the Lingbao Pagoda.
I am continually struck by this idea of convergence of energies directed at the ultimate – where we fit in the universe. That regardless of our, what may be called philosophical or religious leanings, there is no separation between us and all that there is now, has, or will be. How can something be good for me and bad for everyone and everything else?
Seeing this engraving of Lao Tzu here at the cave at the Lingyan Buddhist Temple heralding the I Ching says it all. This picture and it’s location here was worth the cost of the trip and I am not in Tibet yet. I think this expresses better than I could why my own Kongdan Foundation I began more than ten years ago is so important to me. It allows my the opportunity to express where I have been and illustrate the best way for me to take the next step enmeshed with the Tao.
Its as if it’s all here. I spent about an hour last night with Yak, the tour operator here at Flipflop (its thursday morning here), discussing all this and showing him my pictures and website. He was curious as to my take on Tibetan Buddhism after all I has done chronicling Buddhism in China over many years. His background was in ancient Chinese pottery and porcelain no less. He had spend time at the famous Jingdezhen kiln in south Jiangxi Province. (The picture here was made famous as an example of their work. It’s one I took at the British Museum in London in 2012). Anyway, visiting the famous kiln is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to China. And Yak, who spent several years in school there, has agreed to accompany me when I go.
Well, it’s Thursday (Oct 11) and calendar says I’m supposed to go with Pablo to Qingyang Mountain today but am delayed due to errands he is doing. It’s over a hour away by train to the north of Chengdu and we’re running out of time to get there and back today… well we didn’t make it. We went to the Qingyang Taoist Temple, Kuan Alley for lunch, then I went to People’s Park Heming Teahouse before returning to the hostel. The teahouse was built in the 1920’s and is known as having the longest history of tea houses in Chengdu.
I made another visit to one of my favorite places in Chengdu with my friend Pablo today, the Qingyang Taoist Temple. I think if I lived here in Chengdu, I would visit at least once or twice a week. I few pictures are below:
Tonight I signed my “Tibet contract”… two pages requiring my signature. I have to leave for the Chengdu airport at 4:20 AM Sunday morning. I hope I don’t oversleep.