To become a bridge for global understanding of Eastern history and philosophy
Sept 18 – Oct 18, 2018 / Journey to China and Tibet
In the words ascribed to the future Buddha Maitreya, when he roamed the world as a wondering monk: “Alone I wander a thousand miles… and I ask my way from the white clouds.” I rejoice that I will see him and clouds from atop many mountains and Tibet on this trip.
September 18 – 20, 2018 / Beijing
On Tuesday September 18 I arrived in Beijing about 2 PM went through customs at the airport, got my luggage and took a taxi to Chinese Box Courtyard Hostel where I will spent two nights before leaving on thursday for Qufu. I spent the evening arranging my meeting with my publisher here in Beijing tomorrow to get paid for editing a book that was published was year. I also finished inserting pictures for my last post. I always seem to be both tour guide and working on my own self awareness. My focus today is on awareness. My “practice” is serenity, discipline, and patience. Accepting things as they are always seems to be the challenge.
Three things I must try do today (9/19): go by South Train Station to pick up my ticket to go to Qufu tomorrow night, second go by publisher’s office, and third, make my way to the National Museum (I didn’t make it to the museum… maybe tomorrow). This morning I’m listening to Cardinals game against Atlanta. When games begin at 7 PM in USA… they begin at 7 AM here… GO CARDS! They won 9-1. If time, I want to make my way to Beihai Park this afternoon. It seems half my time when I am in Beijing is either waiting for or riding in a taxi. Traffic here is awful… too many cars. On my way back to USA in mid October, I hope to have time to go to the White Cloud Taoist Temple here in Beijing. I went with friends in 2005, but would like to make a return visit.
What I want to do in my full day here in Beijing is try to focus on acknowledging that both inside and outside are to same. I think that’s the serenity part and coincides with ‘inner peace”. The point of this is we will go there. That the outer is simply a reflection of our inner selves and how that is implemented through being in touch with our environment is known as feng shui… One place I especially like is adjacent to the Forbidden City called Beihai Park. It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial gardens in China. Beihai Park is said to be built according to a traditional Chinese legend. The story is that once upon a time there were three magic mountains called ‘Penglai’, ‘Yingzhou’ and ‘Fangzhang’ located to the east of China. Gods in those mountains had a kind of herbal medicine which would help humans gain immortality. Many emperors succumbed to this desire to remain in power as long as possible. Some spent many sleepless nights pacing around the lake in Beihai Park hoping the elixir would soon be discovered. After all, the emperor was considered to be the “son of heaven”, the representative of the deity here on earth responsible for all around him.
Lessons in Feng Shui. It was believed that different mountain-water combinations in ancient Chinese architecture led to totally different effects. So from then on almost every emperor during succeeding dynasties would build a royal garden with “a one pool with three hills’ layout” near his palace. Beihai Park was built after this traditional style: the water of Beihai (Northern Sea) with Zhongnanhai (Central and Southern Seas) is the Taiye Pool; the Jade Flowery (Qionghua) Islet, the island of the Circular City and the Xishantai Island represent the three magic mountains. Beihai Park was initially built in the Liao Dynasty (916 – 1125) and was repaired and rebuilt in the following dynasties including Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing (1115 – 1911). The large-scale rebuilding in the reign of Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911) generally established the present scale and pattern.
To the northwest in the park is the Nine-Dragon Wall, which is the only screen having nine huge dragons on both sides and is among the most famous three Nine-Dragon Screens in China (the other two are located in the Forbidden City and Datong, Shanxi Province). Built in 1756, the Nine-Dragon Wall is about 90 feet (27 meters) long, 21.8 feet (6.65 meters) high and 4.7 feet (1.42 meters) thick. It is composed of 424 seven-color glazed tiles that embossing the screen. There are nine huge coiling dragons on each side of the screen and big or small dragons in different postures decorating the two ends and the eaves, making a surprising total of 635 dragons.
I have this thing about Chinese dragons. Every time I see this depiction of dragons I think of Chinese history about the sage who embodies heavenly qualities. Adjacent to both the Forbidden City and Tienanmen, the park is extremely popular… When I am in Beijing and have an afternoon free I like coming to Beihai. In Spring you can almost feel the immortality they were seeking in the air.
National Museum in Beijing
Opposite Tienanmen and the Forbidden City is the National Museum. This morning I begin here. Thursday (9/20) was primarily spent at the National Museum. I had forgotten that more than ten years ago I regularly visited a friend whose government office was in the restricted access area adjacent to the museum. I was most impressed with the Buddhist collection and ancient roll paintings.
Beijing’s premier museum is housed in an immense 1950’s Soviet-style building on the eastern side of Tienanmen Square, and claims to be the largest in the world by display space. You could easily spend a couple of hours in the outstanding Ancient China exhibition alone, with priceless artifacts displayed in modern, low-lit exhibition halls, including ceramics, calligraphy, jade and bronze pieces dating from prehistoric China through to the late Qing dynasty. You’ll need your passport to gain entry. The museum is located at Guangchangdongce Lu, Tienanmen Square. The hours are from 9 am to 5 pm Tue-Sun, last entry 4 pm.
What first got my attention today is the 2000-year-old jade burial suit in the basement exhibition. I believe this is the same jade suit that I saw at the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City in Spring 1975 when it was a part of the traveling exhibit from China. It was made for the Western Han dynasty king Liu Xiu. Many highlights including the life-sized bronze acupuncture statue dating from the 15th century. A 2000-year-old rhino-shaped bronze zūn (wine vessel) is another standout.
The Ancient Chinese Money exhibition on the top floor, and the Bronze Art and Buddhist Sculpture galleries, one floor below, are what I especially liked.
The museum was established in 2003 by the merging of the two separate museums that had occupied the same building since 1959: the Museum of the Chinese Revolution in the northern wing (originating in the Office of the National Museum of the Revolution founded in 1950 to preserve the legacy of the 1949 revolution) and the National Museum of Chinese History in the southern wing (with origins in both the Beijing National History Museum, founded in 1949, and the Preliminary Office of the National History Museum, founded in 1912, tasked to safeguard China’s larger historical legacy).
The building was completed in 1959 as one of the Ten Great Buildings celebrating the ten-year anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It complements the Great Hall of the People that was built at the same time. The structure sits on 16 acres and has a frontal length of 1,027 feet, a height of four stories totaling 130 ft, and a width of 489 feet. The front displays ten square pillars at its center.
After four years of renovation, the museum reopened on March 17, 2011, with 28 new exhibition halls, more than triple the previous exhibition space, and state of the art exhibition and storage facilities. It has a total floor space of nearly 200,000 square feet of display.
The museum, covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty in Chinese history), and has a permanent collection of over a million items, with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.
Among the most important items in the National Museum of China are the “Simuwa Ding” from the Shang Dynasty, the square shaped Shang Dynasty bronze zun decorated with four sheep heads, a large and rare inscribed Western Zhou Dynasty, bronze water pan, a gold-inlaid Qin Dynasty bronze tally in the shape of a tiger, Han Dynasty jade burial suits sewn with gold thread (mentioned above), and a comprehensive collection of Tang Dynasty tri-colored glazed sancai and Song Dynasty ceramics. They are depicted below.
A Han Dynasty jade Burial suit laced with gold thread at the National Museum of China
A pastel pierced porcelain vase, from the Qianlong era of the Qing Dynasty.
Copperplate for printing the Great Ming one string banknote
Stone carving from the Eastern Han Dynasty, with depiction of a waterside pavilion overlooking a lake full of fish, turtles, and waterfowl
Bronze two-part pass (paizi) with a four character Tangut inscription inlaid in silver, from the Western Xia
A bronze vessel in the shape of a bat, from the tomb of Lady Fu Hao, from the Shang Dynasty, 13th century BC
Pottery roof tile ends from the Western Han Dynasty
Painted stone relief depicting a warrior from the Later Liang Dynasty
A Western Han Dynasty jade pillow from the tomb of the Prince of Chu in Shizishan, Xuzhou, and Jiangsu province
A bronze seal dated to the 12th year of the Dading era (1172) of the Jin Dynasty
Red lacquer box from the Qing Dynasty
Painted pottery of neolithic Yangshao culture, with depiction of a stork catching a fish and a stone axe on the side
Square zun with four sheep from late period of the Shang Dynasty
Bronze tallies with inscriptions inlaid in gold from the Chu State during the Warring States period.
Brick relief depicting two scholars and two maids, from the Southern Dynasties.
Bronze plate for printing an advertisement for the Liu family needle shop at Jinan. Song Dynasty. The earliest extant example of a commercial advertisement
Bronze cannon with inscription dated the 3rd year of the Zhiyuan Era (1332), Yuan Dynasty.
Large bronze basin of Guo Ji Zi Bai, from the Western Zhou.
Li gui, the earliest Zhou Dynasty bronze vessel to be discovered, and the only epigraphic evidence of the day of the Zhou conquest of the Shang.
Simumu Ding, the largest piece of bronze work found in the world so far. It was made in the late Shang Dynasty at Anyang where I will be next week.
Eagle-shaped pottery of neolithic Yangshao culture
A Song Dynasty copy of the Portraits of Periodic Offering of Liang, dated to the 6th century, depicting ambassadors from various tributary states.
Since visiting the Lama Temple last year here in Beijing, I have gained a better appreciation of it’s importance. Nature seems to be the focus where this connecting the inner with outer where roofs, frescoes, arches, tapestries, Tibetan prayer wheels, and tantric statues mingle with dense clouds of incense. Today is no exception. When you arrive you are handed incense and are encouraged to use it. This is considered the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. The Lama Temple was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng.
I have often talked about the influence of Confucius, Taoism and Buddhism, but now still in Beijing having gone to the Lama Temple I think I should talk a little more about Buddhism, especially since over the next few weeks Confucius will take center stage. It was inspiring to see so many people worshiping at the Lama Temple here in Beijing. In what is not meant to be definitive by any means, it is following what is known as the “Eight Fold Path” that focuses on three things that begins to move a person in the right direction and gain appreciation for Buddhist thought. Many people feel we can follow another religion and still live a life adhering to these principles. Those three are right speech, right action, and right livelihood.
We all live in one world. When on the path, it becomes a thoughtful world acting as if vibrations of energy. Our words we speak serve as a blanket for those people around us. As if saying words of loving kindness through the power of our tongue. It is important that as we give right speech, we remember the good and harm we can cause by thinking first. Think – Is it true, helpful, important, kind, and necessary. That we travel on a journey not concerned with the destination. With this we walk in a centered way. It is important that we treat ourselves with loving kindness and know the value of right speech. With this we can begin to understand the ultimate nature of reality by speaking with integrity and truth. We become an observer of those around us and our environment and speak with words of appreciation. Our role becomes one not to add to negative or bad energy. That we are here to uplift the world.
How do we do this, through right action. By doing no harm and understanding the laws of karma, i.e., the measure we give is what we get. It is not enough to know the truth, you have to begin by having control over your dominion. Staying aware as if called to a higher path and practicing consciousness. We make the right choices as if witnessing our own actions. We do this through service to others. We find ourselves in the right livelihood that helps to train us to be in conscious awareness and live through loving kindness.
I leave this evening to go to Qufu. My friend Maria will meet me at the airport.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’sTao 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 74 and 75 appear below. Verses 1 through 73 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming weeks. Hopefully, I can complete this journey through Lao Tzu on this trip to China.
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 74 – Acceding to the will of Heaven
Everything under the sun must take its turn. Impatience and ego the only deterrent from our recognizing our good when heaven comes forth to greet us. It is in daring to act without virtue that we fail when keeping still defines who will benefit and who will be harmed.
Who can know the will of heaven? Can only those who accept the path to enlightenment who live under the auspices of the Tao come closer than any other? It is as if two people are confronted with the same choice.
One will follow the instincts of heaven and the other the instincts of self-interest. Why does one see the way beginning within himself ultimately leads to virtue and the will of heaven through detachment from the world. While the other cannot see beyond himself and the material world he covets. The sage knows that all things under heaven eventually come to pass to find each one of us. It is what we grab onto that determines our way.
That is why cause and effect and yin and yang of everything imaginable must occur. Light must become dark, just as the four season’s change. All things have their time that leads to their ultimate unfolding. This underlying truth is the path to reason. The way of heaven wins easily without a fight because it already knows the outcome and will see things through to their end.
It answers with a word as the natural progression of cause and effect, comes quickly without a summons protecting those who, with grace, follow the way and plans ingeniously without a thought as the natural extension of the Tao. It’s net is all embracing and nothing escapes it.
Each beginning must follow with its rightful end just as every end is simply the beginning of something else. Death following life and life following death as we continually leave our spirit to find its own ultimate endeavor and destiny.
Tin Wen says, “Lao Tzu says if people are not afraid to die, what good is threatening to kill then? If people are not afraid to die, it is because punishments are excessive. When punishments are excessive, people don’t care about life. When they don’t care about life, the ruler’s might means nothing to them. When punishments are moderate, people are afraid to die. They are afraid to die because they enjoy life. When you know they enjoy life, you can threaten them with death” (2).
Li Hsi-Chai says, “This implies that punishments cannot be relied upon for governing. If people are not afraid of death, what use is threatening them with execution? And if they are afraid of death, and we catch someone who breaks the law, and we execute them, by killing one person we should be able to govern the rest. But the more people we kill, the ore break the law. Thus punishment is not the answer.”
Ming T’ai -Tzu says, “When I first ascended the throne, the people were unruly and officials corrupt. If ten people were rescued in the morning, a hundred were breaking the same law by evening. Being ignorant of the Way of the ancient sage kings, I turned to the Tao Te Ching. When I read: ‘If the people no longer fear death / we do we threaten to kill them,’ I decided to do away with capital punishment and put people to work instead. In the year
Verse 75 – Finding our Place in Heaven
For those who have not taken up their personal journey; for those who have not awakened midstream to find themselves embracing something beyond themselves that cannot be explained but makes perfect sense; for those who fail to pass judgment on themselves and all around them, yet see clearly, does not the final answer come forward with how they perceive their own death and innate fear of losing what life they have until they figure it out.
Throughout the ages and passed along from each generation and centuries too numerous to mention has not this overriding question of immortality and the efforts to embrace it been the endeavor of even the most devout sage with thoughts of death and destiny and questioning who are we to judge the will of heaven.
The sage is guided by the knowledge that as long as people fear death, forces close by will always be near to do them in. If we in turn substitute the will of heaven for our own, are we ourselves likely to meet our own untimely end?
If as stated earlier, the net of heaven is all-embracing its mesh remaining wide so that nothing escapes it, then does not everything eventually find its rightful place under heaven?
Li Hsi-Chai says, If those above take too much, those below will be impoverished. If those above use too much force, those below will rebel.This is a matter of course. When someone thinks his own life is more important, and he disregards the lives of others, why should others not treat death lightly. The sage doesn’t think about life unless he is forces to.”
Ho-Shang Kung says, “Only those who do nothing to say alive, who aren’t moved by titles or sinecures, who aren’t affected by wealth or advantage, who refuse to serve the emperor or run errands for lesser lords, they alone are more esteemed than those who love life.”
Ten Tsun says, “The Natural Way always turns things upside down. What has no body lives. What has a body dies. To be alive and to seek advantages is the beginning of death. Not to be alive and to get rid of advantages is the beginning of life. Those who don’t work to live live long.”
Sept 24 – Oct 1, 2018 in Luoyang…
I am posting my tentative schedule so we can book the train schedule and airfare between cities. Maria is trying to help with the fast train tickets. Very hard over the holiday.
Currently I am staying at the Luoyang Anximen Hostel until Thursday (9/27) then the Luoyang Heartland Hostel until Monday, October 1st. I would travel fromLuoyang to Xianon Monday 10/1 and stay at the Xian Hentang House until Friday, October 5th. First thing I learned in all the years I have traveled here in China is you must be flexible. Second, I should stop coming during holiday when travel is difficult.
Everything changed for the balance of my trip this afternoon (Tuesday 9/25). Travel to Tibet was moved from October 10th-13th to 14th-17th. I checked flights and I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th.
All of the dates are tentative due to difficulty in getting tickets, summary: 10/1 Luoyang to Xian and hotel there is all that is confirmed for now. I need to cancel Chengdu Flipflop booking and reschedule for later in the month if needed. Airplane tickets summary: 10/14 Need to be in Lhasa; 10/17 Lhasa to Beijing and 10/18 Beijing to USA.
Luoyang was home and capital of thirteen dynasties, until the Northern Song dynasty moved it east to Kaifeng in the 10th century. Both the Tang and Sui dynasties were centered here in what was considered the height of Buddhist influence and demonstrate how the connection between Luoyang and early Buddhism became so important. At one point there were 1300 Buddhist temples here. Luoyang was home to many emperors and had lasting importance to early Chinese history.
Luoyang was the capital city for the longest period, the most dynasties, and the earliest time compared with the other ancient capital cities. Luoyang lies in the Central Plain surrounded by mountains, which were natural barriers against invasions. Apart from its favorable geographical location, Luoyang had an agricultural advantage as several rivers flow through it. Therefore, 105 emperors of 13 dynasties set their capitals in Luoyang during China’s history.
Luoyang was the center of politics, economy, and culture in China for 1,500 years. Since the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC), Luoyang had begun its history as a capital city. In the Western Han Dynasty, Luoyang was not chosen as the capital, but the ruler still attached great importance to the city. There is so much history here that I want to come back to Luoyang for further study. It is said Lao Tzu lived here for a while and Taoism got it’s beginnings of Mount Song where I will visit while I am here.
On Monday (9/24) I went with three students by bus to the Buddhist White Horse Temple. I took several pictures until my battery stopped then I used my phone camera for a few more. Many I encounter think I am brave to travel alone where I can’t speak the language. But I counter that I generally know them by their history than they know themselves. After seeing my writing they mostly agree.
What struck me was the continuing presence as if the joining or coming together of history with one’s natural environment and connecting this with the universe, or divine spirit within us and that which surrounds us as well. To be treated as if you are coming home to visit something that is innately a part of yourself. Something you have always known, but simply needing to be reminded. This seems to be the motive behind all these ancient “temples”. What we in the west today would describe as “parks having great historical and religious significance”. They bring a sense of longevity and simplicity to it all spanning thousands of years and being reminded that both the inner and outer are the same reality we each choose to live every day. The Buddhist White Horse Temple on the outskirts of Luoyang has always been on my bucket list here in China. It’s influence in the spread of Buddhism over the centuries has been immeasurable. At some point in our lives there is something more than just knowledge and understanding. It comes with wisdom, as acceptance, and an enduring presence. What is it we’re grounded too? Others may teach, but ultimately it is something that becomes innately ourselves. It is having the presence of self-assurance knowing that kindness and simplicity are the keys that opens all doors. (something I need to work on) Keeping things simple means there are fewer doors that need to be opened as well. As if “becoming simple minded” is a good thing.
Two other overreaching influences from Buddhism to China was that Luoyang was the start of the Silk Road that headed back to Venice in Italy. It was by way of the Silk Road (and elephants going through Tibet to Xian), that Buddhism came to China. By the time Marco Polo came here with his father and uncle in 1270 AD on their way to visit Kublai Khan in Beijing, the Silk Road had been a functioning means of transportation of goods and culture between east and west for almost fifteen hundred years. The White Horse Temple and the Long man Grottoes have had the most lasting historical presence in this area of China. We will visit both later in the week. What Buddhism brought was a sense of permanence and presence that people could see as their own connection to what we would now call “becoming universal”. That you were more than your body, and a good life could lead to better things, as yet unknown, in the future. That we are one and there is no separation between the world we live in and what we might find for ourselves afterwards. This connection was what the Taoist Chuang Tzu expressed so well in what would become known as “Chan Buddhism”. (maybe even becoming a butterfly being heard the world over)
There seems to be a progression in my travels, first to Beijing and the Llama Temple, then the opening of the gate with Confucius in Qufu. Finally for now, coming the the famous White Horse Temple and Long Man Grottoes. Like stepping stones to greater appreciation, understanding, and hopefully wisdom of my own origins in Chinese history. As if midway – later heading back to Xian and Chengdu before ultimately going to Tibet. With more than a week in between to discover new mountain vistas and clouds waiting to rise above.
The White Horse Temple, one of the oldest temples in China, is located about 6 miles from the city of Luoyang in eastern China’s Henan Province. It is a place that disciples of the Buddha school recognize as the palace of Buddhist ancestors and the place where Buddhist theory was taught. It was built by Emperor Ming of the Eastern Han Dynasty (29 A.D.–75 A.D.), and there is a legend about its establishment. The scholar Fu Yi told the emperor after his dream: “Your subject has heard it said that in there is somebody who has attained the Dao and who is called Buddha; he flies in the air, his body had the brilliance of the sun; this must be that god.” According to the historical book of records that after a dream, Emperor Ming sent an envoy to Tianzhu in southern India to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named.
Early History of the White Horse Temple
The two senior monks She Moteng and Zhu Falan, preached at White Horse Temple and jointly completed the translation of the 42 chapter Sutra, the first Chinese version of Buddhist scriptures. After She Moteng passed away, Zhu Falan continued to translate a number of scriptures. Their translations of the scriptures were all treasured in the Main Hall for the monks to worship. It was said that in the Northern
Wei Dynasty (386 A.D.– 534 A.D.), when the Buddhist monks worshiped the scriptures, the scripture suddenly glowed with colored lights and lit up the Main Hall.
During the reign of Tang Dynasty Empress Wu Ze Tian (624 A.D.–705 A.D.), the White Horse Templewas very popular, and there were more than 1,000 monks living here. However, the Temple was greatly damaged during the An Si Rebellion (755 A.D.–763 A.D.) and the Huichang Suppression of Buddhism (840 A.D.–846 A.D.). The damaged White Horse Temple was only found later through broken pieces of inscriptions on the stones and ruins. Repairs to the temple were later conducted by Sung Dynasty Emperor Taizong (939–997), Ming Dynasty Emperor Jiajing (1507–1567), and Qing Dynasty Emperor Kangxi (1662–1722). The above description is why I like museums so much telling the story of what was important at the time. As if the remnants left behind have their own secrets to tell.
This is the way I like to travel. I have a week here in Luoyang to explore the area. Hopefully it will stop raining. Two main things I want to see are the Long Man Grottoes and the Shaolin Temple. Not having google is a serious detriment to my travels. I still need to try to fix my Chinese camera, or more batteries for my little canon camera. It takes excellent pictures. Almost all pictures here on my website are one’s I have taken with the canon camera.
Tuesday (9/25) appears to a day to stay inside here in Luoyang and update my blog. It looks like it will rain all day and the Cardinals are on my computer this morning. Maria got my train ticket for next Monday to Xian. (thanks Maria) It sounds like my getting to Tibet prior to October 14th will work. It seems I am alone here in Luoyang. I guess that’s what one does on a retreat to seek inner meaning to what comes next. Plus the rain makes for staying inside. I did go to the bank next door to see if they can help me to send via WeChat money for the Tibet tour. They can help. Hopefully we can do that tomorrow. Next will be confirming airfare to Lhasa and Lhasa to Beijing afterwards. Just go with the flow and what needs to occur always does…
Everything regarding the balance of the trip changed this afternoon. Due to holiday the four day tour I was about to pay for has been delayed to October 14 to October 17. I still want to do the tour, but first I must confirm I can get a flight from Lhasa to Beijing on the 17th, as I fly back to USA on the 18th. I still stay in Luoyang until next Monday, October, 1st and go to Xian. I had planned to go to Chengdu on the 5th, but now there is no hurry.
As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’sTao 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 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching. Verses 78 and 79 appear below. Verses 1 through 77 were seen here on my most recent posts. I plan to complete this journey through Lao Tzu (verses 80 and 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao himself next week. I hope I am ready.
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 78 – Following the way of Heaven
The sage endeavors to follow the way of heaven while only revealing everything for its true and natural place. Pulling down the high while lifting the low he stays on an even keel finding the natural balance of all around him.
Continually moving forward unsure or unconcerned if what he does is ultimately good or bad as long as the natural order of things are followed and are allowed to take their places. Moving without presumption or staking claim to what may be perceived as personal achievement. Choosing to remain in the background and not displaying his skills, nothing can deter or get in his way. His burden to keep his virtue to himself and not revealed to those who continually come running to his doorstep.
Modeling his actions after the way of heaven, the sage takes from the long and gives to the short so that the ten thousand things naturally find their places. For all things under heaven to find their place, it is best for heaven to sit back and do nothing. Allowing the nature of all things to come forward unimpeded fulfilling its ultimate endeavor and finding its true identity and destiny.
Hsung-Tsung says, “The nature of water is to stay low, not to struggle, and to take on the shape of its container. Thus nothing is weaker. But despite such weakness, it can bore through rocks, while rocks cannot wear down water.”
Li Hung-Fu says, “The soft and the weak do not expect to overcome the hard and the strong. They simply do.”
Chuang Tzu says, “Everyone wants to be first, while I alone want to be last; which means to endure the world’s disgrace.” (33.5). Mencius says. “If the ruler of the state is not kind, he cannot protect the spirits of the soil and grain” (4A.3).
Su Ch’e says “Upright words agree with the Tao and contradict the world. The world considers enduring grace shameful and enduring misfortune a calamity.”
Li Jung says, “The world sees disgrace and innocence, fortune and misfortune. The Taoist sees them all as empty.”
Verse 79 – Being Present at Destiny’s Table
The sage is reminded of the words of an old friend who once told him that the true nature of one who follows the Tao is like water. It is the nature of water to stay low, not to struggle and to take on the shape of its container thus appearing to be weak.
Is this not the way of the sage? Appearing weak, but in reality able to cut through any obstacle as he ultimately finds his true path.
What is perceived as weakness often wins through persistence while what appears to be hard easily becomes brittle unable to withstand the pressure of determination.
Should not we follow the ways of Chuang Tzu who decried that everyone wants to be first, while he alone waits, wanting to be last enduring to the end so that he may be present at destiny’s table.
Emulating Chuang Tzu’s perfected man cannot the sage by following the Tao and the way of heaven ultimately turn everything upside down thereby betraying conventional wisdom at every turn.
In looking beyond the present and reminding himself of what’s to come, does not the sage simply prepare to return to find this place confident that the stage has been set and his place at the table assured.
Su Ch’e says, “If we content ourselves with trimming the branches and don’t pull out the roots, things might look fine on the outside, but not on the inside. Disputes come from delusion, and delusions are the products of our nature. Those who understand their nature encounter no delusion, much less disputes.”
Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Seeking to make peace with others is the Way of Man. Not seeking to make peace but letting things make peace by themselves is the Way of Heaven. Despite the expenditure of energy and action, energy and action seldom bring peace. Thus the sage holds the left marker because he relies on inaction and the subtlety of letting things be.”
Sept 26, 2018 Luoyang cont’d… Buddhist White Horse & Zushi Taoist Temples
Below are additional pictures and comments for Luoyang. It rained and was heavily overcast today in Luoyang. Not a good day to be outside again but a good day to update and work on pictures. I paid for the Tibet tour this morning. Now I can take care of airfare to Lhasa and return afterwards to Beijing.
To the left, is a map of how Buddhism came from India to China showing the routes via the silk road (in red), and the blue to Chang’an (Xi’an) and Luoyang. This area in northern India southwest of Tibet is still the central foundational location for what in considered as Tibetan Buddhism. Once the weather clears up, I hope to go the Long Men Grottoes and Shaolin Templebefore heading to Xian next Monday. Their pictures will appear here as well. In the afternoon I decided to take a walk and get a foot bath, then walking further I came across Zushi Temple, dedicated to Lao Tzu. A brief description and a few pictures from the Buddhist White Horse Temple are below…
It is as though now that I have entered this journey, there is an acknowledgment that there is no turning back to the person I was before I left. I’ve been gone for only a week, and it seems so long ago. I have always been enamored with the stars and cosmos… what is seen as universal. It makes sense now that what is changeless and immortal is not your mind/body, but rather the Mind that is shared by all existence. Stillness that never ceases because it never becomes more than the present. It simply is. I think this is helpful in releasing ego that then dissolves into nothing. It is here that we can enter the mystic nature of who we are. A commonality that enhances… as if a cosmic field of vision that becomes you. I know that’s all pretty deep, but going there is what literally helps me to focus and see beyond myself.
It is where my Taoist beginnings are taking me now that means I must get my “mind right”. As if living a dream as the dream becomes me. All else falling away, this re-enforcement of Buddhist and Taoist thought moving me fearlessly as Van Morrison would say….”Into the Mystic”.
As if on que, I found the Zushi Taoist Temple, dedicated to Lao Tzu just around the corner from where I am staying. It was constructed in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. According to the inscription the temple underwent frequent renovations during the reigns of Hongzhi, Kangxi, Yongchan, Qianlong, and Jiaqing up to the period of the Republic of China.
Sept 27, 2018 – Luoyang to Songyang Temple and Songshan Ramblings of an unknown sage
As if expected, serendipity came along to change my plans that would take me to Songshan Mountain and the famous Shaolin Temple about an hour and a half away. He came in the form of a professional film maker who was staying at my hostel and planned to stop there on his was back to Shanghai. He invited me to come along so I changed my plans. I left my suitcase and computer at hostel gathered things for my backpack and away we went… I never learned the name of the city we were going to, it didn’t seem important. (I will text him later) We were going to the Songshan Mountain Area that included the Songyang Temple we would visit later this afternoon after arriving (pictures here today are from the temple). On Friday, climb one of the mountains we intended to climb and the Shaolin Temple and Pagoda Forest at it’s base. And on saturday climb to the summit of a second mountain that was adjacent to the first (we didn’t go because the tram was broken). More on all that beginning tomorrow. First, to clarify, I do not write under some false illusion of one day being published. I write simply for my own enjoyment and enlightenment because it is my writing that takes me there. If others choose to come along for the ride… you are welcome.
Today on the bus to I wasn’t sure where, I couldn’t help but think of our divine presence and what that means for ourselves and others. Changing from within first to the alignment with the universe we came in with and the things we am here to work on or correct this time. As if a piece of the star I am from.. to simply come into focus and let my light shine. Moving to who I am supposed to be. Simply to find and go with the flow I have always known with no pre-conceived intent or outcome and let the spirit of the Tao (the universe) guide me. First of all, it is not for me to write down someone else’s impressions (ie., that found in google, etc,) – but to add my own take on the environment I find. Everything is context. My travels in China are not simply going to these places for pictures. It is in keeping with a personal journey whose purpose has not been fully revealed as yet. It is my reflecting what I see with what I write and with what I already know. As if leaving behind and much as I take. As if I am seeing what has changed since my last visit and writing about the antiquity that lies in each of us. As if the ancients don’t want to be forgotten, so that even their own immortality might come into question.
To let these images from the past take you there. Each with a story to tell – just waiting to be told of when they were someone or something of importance. Something more than they are considered now. It is as if in the stillness they reside, they lie in wait for vibrations… for the storyteller. Not just being present only for your own story, but to tell the story of everything around you – with the older the story – the more there is to tell. And I don’t write fiction. With no pre-conception of where what you are here to learn may lead. As doors are waiting to open for the stories just waiting to be told. Many simply wanting to have their say.
People you meet here to take you to places you are needed – the stories are endless and your role never-ceasing. The more you write the more you need to write. You are a conveyor of ancient wisdom, use your time wisely. It making me wonder, are we moved by “divine order”. Or are we taking and receiving “divine orders”. Who is to say?
It was here at Songshan Mountain and Shaolin Temple where so much occurred where people came for centuries. Three religions in one body (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) were formed as what was seen as a “convergence” in this area. Emperor Wudi and Empress Wuzetian came here to commemorate the mountain and convey its importance to this belief. As if life is about remembering who we are yet to become before we forget. Songshan Mountainhas been famous as a place where people came with a desire to improve themselves and discover their inner virtue. The temple, a repository of ancient wisdom, here but a reminder that there was more to climbing mountains than the climb itself. It is the appreciation of the overwhelming outer nature you find with the mountain as you climb, just as life has its ups and downs your eyes remain on the horizon and the clouds above. I am here at one of the five most famous mountains in China. Tomorrow I climb the mountain. (I have more pictures when time allows).
Sept 28 – 29, 2018 Shaolin Temple and return to Luoyang
Friday, September 29 we went to the Shaolin Temple and Buddha Forest at the base of the mountain and then on Saturday I took the bus back to Luoyang and Lin headed for Shanghai. I’m reminded of the old TV series with Keith Carradine about the Shaolin Temple and Kung Fu. How he traveled the old west rescuing people from trouble and things they had gotten themselves into. Flashbacks of his time back in China at the Shaolin Temple and his mentor referring to him as “grasshopper”. We were walking in front of the temple and I saw someone with one of the wheelchairs our sister city committee had donated to Qufu back in 2007. Christiane Francois and I came to Qufu to facilitate donating two hundred wheelchairs from The Wheelchair Foundation and the Boynton Beach Sister City Committee. It was quite a surprise. The first wheelchair I had seen in more than ten years. It was in great condition too. My photographer friend (Lin) and I at the entrance.
Shaolin Temple, in the region of Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng, Henan Province, is reputed to be ‘the Number One Temple under Heaven’. Shaolin Temple history can date back to Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534), and it played an important role on the development of the Buddhism in China. Upon entering you first see Shanmen Hall. Hung on its top is a tablet reading ‘Shaolin Temple’. The tablet was inscribed by the Emperor Kangxi (1622 – 1723) during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Under the stairs of the hall crouches two stone lions made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The hall enshrines the Maitreya Buddha. Two sides of the corridor behind the hall’s gate are paved with inscriptions on stone steles made during several different dynasties. Sometimes the less said the better to let the reader use pictures and their own imagination to take you there.
Shaolin Temple Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center
The Shaolin Temple Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center comes after you have visited the temple. The scenery adjacent to the temple makes it an ideal place for practicing the Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. Shaolin monks have been practicing Kung Fu for over 1,500 years. The system was invented to teach the monks basic methods to improve their health and defend themselves. The martial art performance shows (which I attended), illustrate the true Chinese Shaolin Temple Kung Fu. For example, Tong Zi Gong, performed by teenagers, is a kind of martial art to train one’s flexibility and strength. Shaolin Kung Fu has a great tradition in China. Today, there are more than 50,000 students here in facilities across from the Shaolin Temple.
The Shaolin Temple has two main legacies: Chan, which refers to Chan Buddhism, the religion of Shaolin, and Quan, which refers to the martial arts of Shaolin. In Shaolin, these are not separate disciplines and monks have always pursued the philosophy of the unification of Chan and Quan. In a deeper point of view, Quan is considered part of Chan. As late Shaolin monk Suxi said in the last moments of his life, “Shaolin is Chan, not Quan.”
On the Quan (martial) side, the contents are abundant. A usual classification of contents are:
Basic skills (基本功; jīběn gōng): These include stamina, flexibility, and balance, which improve the body abilities in doing martial maneuvers. In Shaolin kung fu, flexibility and balance skills are known as “childish skill” (tóngzǐ gōng), which have been classified into 18 postures.
Power skills (气功; qigong): These include: Qigong meditation: Qigong meditation itself has two types, internal (nèi), which is stationary meditation, and external (外; wài), which is dynamic meditation methods like Shaolin four-part exercise (si duan gong), eight-section brocade; bā duàn jǐn), Shaolin muscle-changing scripture (yì jīn jīng), and others.
The 72 arts: These Include 36 soft and 36 hard exercises, which are known as soft and hard qigong.
Combat skills (quanfa “skills”): These include various barehanded, weapon, and barehanded vs. weapon routines or styles and their combat (sàndǎ) methods.
In practice, beyond the martial arts aspects of Shaolin, was that the essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students. It was through Chan Buddhism that whatever insight, or dhyana, would occur as a series of cultivated states of mind which leads to a “state of perfect equanimity and awareness,” commonly translated as meditation, that would serve as one’s verification. In effect, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting in the world with other people present. Shaolin was the result of both purification of both body and mind. (some of the above from Wikipedia)
The Pagoda Forest
The Pagoda Forest, next to the Shaolin Temple, serves as a graveyard for Buddhist dignitaries through the ages. On average, the pagodas are about 50 feet high. The layer and the shape of a pagoda depend on many factors, such as one’s status, attainment and prestige during his lifetime. The Pagoda Forest here is the largest of China’s pagoda complexes.
Ancestor’s Monastery & the Second Ancestor’s Monastery
Outside the Shaolin Temple to the northwest, are two monasteries, named the Ancestor’s Monastery and the Second Ancestor’s Monastery. The first monastery is built by a Dharma’s disciple to commemorate Dharma’s nine years of meditation in a cave. It has a big hall supported by 16 stone pillars on whose shafts are exquisitely carved warriors, dancing dragons and phoenixes. We did not have much time here as we had to return to the hostel. We had intended to climb the second adjacent mountain the following day, but the tram was not working and we would not have time to walk up and back down before returning to Luoyang.
Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2018 Longman Grottoes and on to Xian
I think the trip is catching up with me… in more ways than one. I seem to have eaten something that didn’t sit well, or not eating enough. Today is Sunday, September 30th and I’m heading by taxi to the Longman Grottoes, although I’m not sure how long I’ll last. Hopefully not too much walking today. There is lots of information on the internet as to history, and I will add more later when I feel better. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day that I may have been experiencing a far greater hunger than just filling my stomach.
For now I’m just going to try to add a few pictures I took along with some of my thoughts:
As I look at the side of the mountain and think of those who might have carved out of stone these caves and statutes south of Luoyang all those centuries ago, quite possibly after a long trek covering several months or even years to get here over the Silk Road or from the southwest and Xian. I can only marvel at their work and their religious veracity. And what was in all likelihood their mantra – repeated over and over again with every strike of the hammer and chisel as they did their life’s work. As they repeated those four magic words over and over again with every strike of the hammer.
OM MANI PODME HUM
These words can be translated and have a universal meaning:
OM – The Jewel in the Heart of the LOTUS! The deep resonate OM is all sound and silence throughout time, the roar of eternity and also the great stillness of pure being; when intoned with the prescribed vibrations, it evokes the ALL that is otherwise inexpressible.
The MANI is the “adamantine diamond” of the Void – the primordial, pure and indestructible essence of existence beyond all matter or even antimatter, all change, and all becoming.
PADME – In the lotus – is the world of phenomena, samsara, unfolding with spiritual progress to reveal beneath the leaves of delusion the mani-jewel of nirvana, that lies not apart from daily life but at its heart.
HUM has no literal meaning, and is variously interpreted perhaps simply as a rhythmic exhortation, completing the mantra inspiring the chanter as a declaration of being (like the stone carvers here at Longman Grottoes), symbolizing the Buddha’s gesture of touching the earth at a moment of enlightenment. As if saying all that is or was or will ever be is right here in this moment.
For myself, I am especially attracted to the mythical embodiment of the Buddha, called a Bodhisattva known as Avalokita Ishuara – who is seen as “The Lord that looked down in compassion”. He represents “the divine within” sought by mystics and has been called “The Lord that is seen within”.
Maybe this is the answer as to why the Buddha is always seen smiling. Could it be as though reaching the ultimate state of heart and mind within ourselves? Perhaps living within one’s own “true nature”. It is the Avalokita… ie., the Presence within each of us.
Am I becoming a Buddhist? I don’t know. I still am a Taoist at heart. But I can see how the two became intertwined in Chinese history, religion, and culture. I still have those two things called discipline and patience to work on – and a sense that I still have a way to go yet. For myself, it has always been about the freedom to breathe. Perhaps an anomaly – always the outlier. But maybe not – maybe it is the sense of ultimate freedom yet to be found – I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll find it on this trip. Perhaps I will look for Avalokita when I get to Lhasa in a couple weeks. Or maybe I should just ask the stone carvers here at the Longman Grottoes. They obviously knew the answer. (with excerpts from Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard).
On Monday I had recovered somewhat and spent most of the day updating my blog. I need to leave by taxi at three for the fast train station to pick up my ticket for a 5 PM departure. (I did find a KFC at the train station in Luoyang, I’m better now). I arrived in Xian about 7:30 PM and took a long taxi ride to the Han Tang Hostel.
Oct 2 – 3, 2018 Xian
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’sTao 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.”
Oct 4 – 5, 2018 Xian and Huayin
Xi’an was and is no different from all ancient cities in China, in that there were three constants that brought order to people’s lives. First, a wall around the city to protect against intruders, and both a drum and bell tower to tell us it’s time to get up in the morning or retire at night. To tell us of coming danger and then when it is all clear. Beijing still has their ancient drum and bell towers. The wall around Beijing was removed when Mao came in in 1949.
In Qufu, a replica of exact dimensions of the ancient wall was re-constructed several years ago. While living within the wall in Qufu, I could step out onto Guluo Street from my apartment, look to my right and on a clear day see the ancient drum tower built in the Ming dynasty a couple blocks away. The bell tower was just around the corner. I could close my eyes and imagine the bell or drum tolling for me.
Why bring this to light now… this bit of trivia? If you are safe and the structure you need to get on with your life is apparent, you can do so with out worry. It’s what we unconsciously do… we look for and spend time creating our environment and structure to take us there. It is the sanctuary we create from within that saves us. The ancients knew this as how we connect with the sun, moon, stars, and nature. That connection was the I Ching, and knowing you can tell what comes out of something by knowing what went in (cause and effect). Who are we, but an extension of these – here now to expand the universe by and through our talents for and by beneficial means. To live in a place where our own permanence and enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion. That we each have a purpose. It’s what the ancient shaman long past told us about the connection, how a confluence appears, and that we are one with it to discover and find within ourselves. As we travel over the next horizon, perhaps to our own Shangri La. To something we simply forgot already resides within us.
In Xi’an, Mingcheng Wall is located in the downtown area of Xian, Shaanxi Province. It is the largest and most preserved ancient city wall in China. The wall is 18 meters high, the top width is 12-14 meters, the bottom width is 15-18 meters, the outline is closed rectangle, and the circumference is 13.74 kilometers. People in the city walls are used to call the ancient city, covering an area of 11.32 square kilometers. The famous Xi’an Bell and Drum Tower is located in the center of the ancient city. There are four main gates of Xi’an City Wall: Changle Gate (East Gate), Yongning Gate (South Gate), Anding Gate (West Gate), and Anyuan Gate (North Gate). These four gates are also the original gates of the ancient city wall. Since the beginning of the Republic of China, a number of city gates have been newly opened for the convenience of access to the ancient city. So far, there are 18 gates in the Xi’an city wall.
I am walking parts of the wall here in Xian later this afternoon, to contemplate this idea of living in a place where our own enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion, yes it is a state of mind and living in the presence. And reminded of water surrounding the wall as extra line of defense. The water also provided drinking water for the inhabitants inside the wall.
First, a review of my journey thus far before heading tomorrow for Hua Mountain, Chengdu, and Tibet. All three to taking my spirit to places I’ve been waiting or longing for. As if a quiet comfort and excitement is just around the corner and I am ready for it.
But first three highlights thus far. It’s as if there is nothing new and nothings changed except faces in the crowds. I have to admit, I only give Confuciusa cursery view here, but in fairness I have visited, lived and worked in Qufu over half of the past twenty years… I am Kongdan. Confucius contribution has been providing a sense of benevolence, structure, and virtue to Chinese culture and society for 2500 years. And equally important to me was “the first Sage”. The Duke of Zhou commonly known as Ji Dan, who resided here in Qufu five hundred years before Confucius who codified what was to become the “Book of Rites”. Think about that. Add to that Taoism and Lao and Chuang Tzu and you have the connection to the shaman, I Ching, your environment, nature and understanding you are one with all… everything. There is no separation. We saw this on Songshan Mountain where Emperor Wuding came and announced that China’s past, present, and future depended on reliance on all three. That there was a confluence between Confucius, Taoism, and Buddhism. Then to Longman Grottoes and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda here in Xian, where Buddhism could take you there as your ultimate self. That it is in becoming universal you are one with it all and there is nothing to fear.
Getting to Huayin and Huashan Mountain
After checking out of the Han Tan Hostel, I made it by taxi to the bus station to go to Huashan Mountain and the Huashan Lanyue Youth Hostel. After a harrowing experience at the bus station where there was three options, first the bus loop for local stops, the train station, and some distance away the station I needed, I got a ticket and headed for the mountain. After a two hour bus ride we arrived and I got to my hostel. The proprietor, Ms. Yan, was great. She booked me for two nights (tonight Friday night and Monday night October 8th. She also reserved a bed for me at the East Peak Hotel at the top of the mountain for tomorrow night Oct 6 and Sunday, October 7th… I’ll have two chances at seeing the sunrise from the highest peak. Awesome. Tomorrow (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at hostel / then go to the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise. 6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan.
Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit. It’s too heavy and I have many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels.
My initial thoughts before climbing the mountain
Just a little about Huashan Mountain and why I am here. So hard to express in words before making what is for me a lifetime achievement. As one who is a Taoist through and through, coming here is like the passageway on the mountain called Jinsuo Pass that serves as the hub of the East, West, North and South Peaks. I will crossover the pass this weekend. It is literally referred as “the Gateway to Heaven”. No kidding. The near and distant peaks seeming to reach beyond the sky. The peaks appear through the clouds as if visionary – as if all-knowing. I think this lends attraction to the Taoist nature seeing nature as all encompassing with clouds as the ultimate benchmark between heaven and earth. The seasons on the mountain appearing as a baptism of man’s spirit and place, as if here there is an experience of immortality. As you go up there is a sense that the pine trees are walking in the clouds. As if being present, using your breath as an anchor to the present moment, to cultivate ease and well-being, as you climb the mountain.
The ultimate for me is that the spirit of the dragon lives here as if rising above the clouds finding time glittering in the sun. It is as if there is no end to it. You can sense the spirit of the mountain joining as one with the sun, moon, and stars. The wind becoming music to your ears. As if time has carved memories into your heart and you have come to sing. Adjusting your temperament to what is your ultimate endeavor as your destiny becomes assured. The mountain becoming nothing more than a reminder of your own never ending conversation with nature and time. Walking up the path, climbing perilous peaks, seeing the sunrise, you are made whole once again. You have found the reason for the journey.
What remains constant here is the mountain, pine trees, and clouds. Ah the clouds. When I first began writing all those years ago, the dragons, my mentors called me“Cloud Dancing”. As if my highest endeavor now lies before me. Having dialogue with dragons is perilous at best. Always testing your mettle and simply asking are you ready and worthy. What is it we are here to do but to make the pledge to become our true selves and stay emboldened in the presence of our peers. As if we come to the mountain and entertain the peak to make a clear sound across heaven. The mountain’s role to show us piousness and to what lies ahead for us. Knowing the Tao we find the way along the footpath to the top and the sunrise, and hope, that awaits us.
The night before and I wonder “do I make the climb up the thousand foot precipice, and in doing so whatever fear that remains just evaporates like fog in the rising sun.” As if among the floating clouds and mist your mind opens and you no longer feel a separation as you become one with them. You have come home. Leaving behind a smile, a knowing, your own claim to the presence you now understand and become one with. The mountain here but a haven, a paradise for Taoism where immortality reigns supreme as your spirit is seen riding the endless sky…
I haven’t taken a step up the mountain yet – ask me again why I’m here.
As I complete my own version of Lao Tzu’sTao 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 81 appear below. Verses 1 through 80 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verses 80 and 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 81 – Remaining in High Style
Remaining satisfied with just what you have as you are content to live as the extension of the Tao which has become the reflection of who and where you are.
Living within the Tao, the sage soon becomes aware that he is nothing more than an extension of what occurs in nature. Enabling all to come forward to find their true place, not as the substitute for their action, but as one who empowers others to see beyond themselves as the sage stays in the background doing nothing.
Envisioning a place where there are tools that remain unused, where people have no need to move far afield, are easy with death and where it takes them, with places to go but no reason to travel, and defenses in place but no reason to defend them. Satisfied with the fruits of their labor and content with where they find themselves as they go restfully to sleep each night. Content with their homes and happy with their customs as they know the taste of the Tao and remain adorned with virtue. Even though others may live close by they have no reason to visit as all they need they already have.
Su Ch’e says, “What is true is real and nothing more. Hence it isn’t beautiful. What is beautiful is pleasing to look at but nothing more. Hence it isn’t true. Those who focus on goodness don’t try to be eloquent, and those who focus on eloquence aren’t good. Those who have one thing that links everything together have no need of learning. Those who keep learning don’t understand the Tao. The sage holds onto the one and accumulates nothing”.
Chuang Tzu says, “When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted’ (33.5).
Wu Ch’eng says, “Help is the opposite of harm. Where there is help, there must be harm. But when Heaven helps, it doesn’t harm. because it helps without helping. Action is the start of struggle. Where there is action, there must be struggle. But when the sage acts, he doesn’t struggle, because he acts without acting.”
Oct 6 – 8, 2018 / Huashan Mountain and the Jintian Taoist Palace
Today, (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at Huashan Lotus House International Youth Hostel / then go to
the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise. 6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan.
Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit. It’s too heavy and I have too many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots of notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels. But for now, I will leave you will one of the first things I wrote back in February 1994.
Inner Chapters (The I Ching)
1. 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.
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.
Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the sky 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. 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
And now I am here. As I was leaving the mountain today (Monday, October 8th – my birthday), I was followed down a long pathway by two small bluebirds. They seemed to be trying to get my ear saying come back – come back. The pine trees, the mountain vistas, even the walkways leading up and down steep paths all seemed to say – why were you gone so long.
After three days on the mountain I return refreshed and invigorated, and feel I have walked for days (I have) up and down the five peaks of Huashan Mountain. From the initial bus ride and cable car that took me to the top, I had a feeling of being overwhelmed by the majesty of the mountains, pine trees, and nature. It is easy to see why Huashan is considered one on the five greatest mountains in China next to the Yellow River here in central China.
Coming to Huashan Mountain is for me in many ways a homecoming. It is famous for Taoist retreats and ancient sages who came to visit and stayed. It is easy to see why. I stayed the the East Peak Hotel for two nights in a room for ten people (five bunk beds). My new friend Pablo from Chile slept in a tent outside. On both days in the early morning it registered 10 to 15 degrees Celsius on both October 7 and 8 on the East Peak, also known as the Morning Sun Peak, and the hotel adjacent to the premier place on the mountain known as Mr. Yang’s Tower. I climbed twice on both days to see the sunrise.