I often like to read from the works of the writer George Santayana. One of his most famous lines is “It is not wisdom to be only wise – and on the inner vision close the eyes – but it is wisdom to believe the heart.” It’s like finding the pattern of our life and following its hidden roots. A more famous quote of his that I think most people know is – “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” Except that some things in the past are worth repeating. Some feel it is only in our ability to remember can we make amends and become present as our ultimate selves. I’ve thought a lot recently about the transformation of consciousness. For many, it is felt that meditation and yoga can assist in taking us there. Quantum physics today tells us that our consciousness never dies – that consciousness exists in our mind and continues beyond the constraints of our body, space, and time. That nothing that is observed is unaffected by the observer – that everyone sees a different truth because everyone is creating what they see. I would add, based on where we’ve been, what we’ve seen and what we’ve done before.
For myself for now, meditation is best when I picture me being in the rarefied air of high altitudes and catching the prevailing jet-stream or wind. Seeing where it may take me today almost as if I am contemplating or dreaming of times spent with old friends again. As if I am entering an even higher reality, born from visions and inner experience with only my thoughts brought along to take mental notes along the way. For many it is yoga. Yoga is based on the interaction of physical, spiritual, and psychic phenomena. That controlling our breath and body postures can be combined with mental concentration, spiritual awareness, and emotional equanimity (mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper). As if with the two, bringing ourselves into alignment with a tranqilling and energizing effect that equates us with perfect harmony. Like listening to John Lennon’s Instant Karma again, as if for the first time, as we all shine on like the moon, the stars and the sun… on and on and on.
How to ignite the spark, that sense of enlightenment/consciousness, that eternal presence that is already present within us? It’s what the I Ching and Great Treatise has taught for millennia. Something I will discuss later here. That to know what is to come out of something, we must first know what entered as in defining the nature of things.
The Great Treatise Qingyang Taoist Temple
Not as popular culture might define as fortune-telling, but as nature telling the way of things based on their beginnings and propensity, or natural inclination, for probable outcomes and endings based on cause and effect. To an affinity towards what comforts us as we find ourselves in exactly the life that we deserve in the cosmos of our own creation.
Perhaps it is that our dreams are more real than the plans of our brains, provided our dreams are a mirror of the deepest yearnings of our soul who knows us as the very center of our being – not only our deepest desires and ambitions that hide behind the reasons provided by our intellect. Where is it our intuition and consciousness take us when we let go of who we thought we were and become the extension of the transcendental universal we are here to add to, emulate, equal and/or surpass? That all roads lead to where I now stand.
For those who preserve and naturally generate vital essence on the outside a calmness will flourish.
Stored inside, we take it to be the well-spring.
Flood like, it harmonizes and equalizes and we take it to be the fountain of the vital energy.
When the fountain is not dried up, the four limbs are firm. When the spring is not drained, vital energy freely circulates through the nine apertures.
You can then exhaust the heavens and the earth and spread over the four seas.
When you have no delusions within you, externally there will be no disasters. Those who keep their minds unimpaired within, externally keep their bodies unimpaired. Who do not encounter heavenly disasters or meet with harm at the hands of others, call them sages.
If people can be aligned and tranquil, their skin will be ample and smooth. Their eyes and ears will be acute and clear, their muscles will be supple and their bones will be strong, they will then be able to hold up the Great Circle of the heavens and tread firmly over the Great Square of the earth.
They will mirror things with great purity and they will perceive things with great clarity.
Reverently be aware of the Way and do not waver, and you will daily renew your inner power. Thoroughly understand all under the heavens and exhaust everything within the Four Directions. To reverently bring forth the effulgence of the Way:
This is called “inward attainment.” If you do this but fail to return to it, this will cause a wavering in your vitality.
The above translation of the Nei-yeh is by Harold Roth, and excerpted from his book, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism.
By way of introduction to the text, Mr. Roth writes:
“Nei-yeh (Inward Training) is a collection of poetic verses on the nature of the Way (Tao) and a method of self-discipline that I call “inner cultivation” — a mystical practice whose goal is a direct apprehension of this all-pervading cosmic force. It contains some of the most beautiful lyrical descriptions of this mysterious cosmic power in early Chinese literature and in both literary form and philosophical content is quite similar to the much more renowned Lao Tzu (also called the Tao Te Ching).
The Nei-yeh is a Taoist scripture, believed to have been written in the 4th century BC, making it — alongside the 6th century BC Lao Tzu Te Tao Ching and the 4th century BC Chuang Tzu — one of the earliest articulations of Taoist mysticism. The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. Though belonging primarily to the Taoist Canon, the Nei-yeh resonates strongly with other non-dual spiritual traditions, Chan / Zen Buddhism in particular. This connection between the mind, space, and time is evident in old ways, traditions, and cultures that are shown and epitomized as if by replicating history as we build on the past if only to learn from it. It’s what we do by example if seemingly only for the first time.
Regardless of time or place, it is as if grace provides the framework by which a meaningful life is lived. To live a spiritual life, then, is essentially to do things spontaneously “for the love of it” — to do things without attachment to a result or reward. For myself, it comes back to this idea of wu wei, and Chinese thoughts of endeavoring to live by identifying with your highest endeavor. In China, Confucianism would become just another layer (geared to virtue and benevolence) to be added to pre-existing thought. Becoming a way to structure religious and practical everyday thought in such a way that it both shaped, mirrored, and becomes the status quo. To what we would call becoming transcendental and simply not interfering with governing, as those governing were to be seen as only reflecting the same unity you were also attached to as well. With the thought that all would simply flow through time following an ever-prevailing wind. Traditions continuing to be followed today where the Moon Festival and “moon cakes” are celebrated in the fall, and Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and “dumplings” are considered as ageless, or beyond time, signifying this connection to ancient China. In 2019, Chinese New Year in February 5 and is the Year of the Pig. As if traditions aligning with higher truths keep us centered within the realm of consciousness that best serve our next step, define us and our world.
Respecting our ancestors includes honoring what has come before us found in nature as well i.e., in the spirit of the Great Unity… This respect of nature and our simply being a part of it all is also found with indigenous people everywhere. Examples would be Indian populations in North America. Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, would exemplify this unity and oneness through his own words and deeds. The Nez Perce are a Native American tribe of the interior Pacific Northwest region of the United States. He understood that concentration will bring stability, stillness, and spaciousness; inquiry will bring alertness, vividness, brightness, and clarity. Combined, they will help you to develop creative awareness, and an ability to bring a meditative mind to all aspects of your daily life and it was one’s connection with nature that takes you there.
You find the connection to nature with the Lakota Sioux and in Black Hills in what is now South Dakota.
According to Oglala Lakota cosmology, their ancestors descend from the spirits of the sky – the star people. Their fundamental spiritual and cultural self-understanding stems from recognizing the connection between the stars and the land. (Heaven and earth) This connection to the stars is similar to that found in ancient China and teachings of the shaman and what one finds on top of mountains when you go directly to your source.
The stories of the landscape of the Black Hills are best told by the people who interpret its sacredness. In her article Mirror of Heaven: Cross-Cultural Transference of the Sacred Geography of the Black Hills, Linea Sundstrom traces the indigenous history of the land with regard to various tribes’ spiritual connection to it. She writes, “Recorded history suggests a complicated series of movements into and out of the Black Hills by various peoples”, but, she argues, the landscape maintained its sacred character since incumbent tribes adopted traditions from their predecessors: “As one group replaced another over the last several centuries, these locations in the Black Hills continued to be recognized as sacred locales and to operate within a system of ethno-astronomical and mythological beliefs”.
The Lakota, the last native people to inhabit the Black Hills, were thus the recipients of the stories of the land, which they incorporated into their own cultural and spiritual identity.
According to Oglala Lakota cosmology, their ancestors descend from the spirits of the sky – the star people. Their fundamental spiritual and cultural self-understanding stems from recognizing the connection between the stars and the land. As Sundstrom explains, “the falling star myth cycle clearly illustrates a belief in a dual universe, wherein star people in the sky and humans on earth occupied analogous and sometimes interchangeable roles”.
Their intimate relationship with astrology drew the Lakota to the sacred landscape of the Black Hills, where they identified several natural features with corresponding constellations. Manifestly, the Lakota people and the Black Hills are deeply connected through stories that demonstrate the sacredness of the land. It is inherent in Lakota spiritual and cultural understanding that this land holds infinite significance, and it is thus the obligation of the people of the earth to protect and preserve its sanctity. The Lakota appeal to the Hills’ sacredness through ritual and ceremony.
There is a certain symmetry, reciprocal, as if corresponding reaction to the universe that is inherent, i.e., existing in everything, including us. You can see that in what was to become central to Chinese thought and philosophy in what was to become known as Chinese cosmology and the Ten Wings.
The Ten Wings were composed during the Warring States and Early Han Periods of China in about 500 to 200 BC. The Ten Wings were “commentaries” attempting to convey the “true meaning” of the I Ching that were to direct the way we lived our lives. The Fifth and Sixth Wings were of great interest to me and you can find my version of them here on my website at the tab The Dazhuan – The Meaning of the I Ching.
Part 1 of the Dazhuan 1.1 The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part 1 Number 1
A cosmic analogy – How Heaven and Earth define Change
There is a symbolic reality of what lies between figures formed in Heaven and are shapes on Earth as high and low places are spread about as both movement and stillness. Just as with in the face of Heaven each person stands alone, there are limits to what is knowable. Just as there are gates in which things come and go always transforming into being something new. The energies that are at work in Heaven and Earth also drive the symbols of change as we observe that events never happen alone and that all changes and the transformation of Heaven and Earth reside in the Yijing, or I Ching.
Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate, from the Compendium of Diagrams (detail), 1623
Zhang Huang (1527-1608)
Woodblock-printed book; ink on paper
26.3 x 15.5 cm (each page)
© The University of Chicago Library, East Asian Collection
The Taiji diagram (taiji tu) first appeared in a Taoist context at the beginning of the Song dynasty (960-1279). … Prior to this, yin and yang were symbolized by the tiger and the dragon, and this symbolism has continued throughout the history of later Taoism [Daoism]. The diagram symbolizes the unity of the forces of yin and yang within the Tao. Taiji means “supreme ultimate,” and as such the diagram symbolizes the fundamental Taoist view of the structure of reality, namely that beyond the duality of phenomenal existence, created through the interaction of yin and yang, is the unity of the Tao [Dao], which exists beyond time and space. … The Compendium of Diagrams (Tushubian) is a 127-chapter encyclopedia on cosmology, geography, and human life compiled in the early Wanli reign (1573-1620) by the scholar Zhang Huang.
* Text above excerpted from Stephen Little, et al. Taoism and the Arts of China. (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, in association with University of California Press, 2000), p. 131.
The symbols of change found in the I Ching contain the formative power of both Heaven and Earth as whole and broken lines that distinguish that events are both different and the same and can be interpreted and understood.
These transformations can be seen in the movement found in the Eight Diagrams, the bagua. These three-line figures contain the energy of natural processes: as thunder and lightning stimulate, wind and rain fertilize, sun and moon move on their prescribed courses and after cold comes heat.
The fundamental symbols of change are chien and kun. They contain the power of Heaven and Earth and serve to connect us directly with change.
Chien (Heaven) helps us to change spontaneously letting us know change in our hearts. Kun (Earth) makes and completes everything. This gives us the ability to act without complications or pride (ego) and lets us follow change in life with simplicity and spontaneity. When we open ourselves to the influence of change, we acquire the ability to gain both the deep affection of others and ability to lead our own life as an independent person.
The Great Treatise (the 5th and 6th Wings described above) tells us, “What is readily recognized is accepted. What is readily followed brings success. What is accepted can endure and what brings success can grow great. Endurance is the wise man’s power; greatness is the wise man’s task. Being spontaneous and simple means grasping the principles of all under Heaven; grasping the principles of all under chien, or Heaven, means finding one’s place in the midst of kun, or earth”. How we do this is called the “Great Enterprise”. The key to initiating a sense of understanding change is becoming aware of what is known as symbolic reality that teaches you to see the pattern of things. It is this symbolic reality that becomes our own reflection. Staying in the middle is a step towards freedom from compulsive emotion, the fear of anticipation, and sorrow over the unexpected. The I Ching gives you direct access to the symbolic world behind appearances and with practice the ability to know that lies ahead. (2014)
The parallels between east and west are amazing as reflected above by the Nez Perce and Oglala Sioux of North America and the I Ching and yin/yang cosmology from China, but for now this from my manuscript… “My travels with Lieh Tzu” found here on my website.
Simply to remain Indifferent
Remaining indifferent to time and space. If the universe is infinite, then where can heaven and earth begin and end. Can human intelligence and perception possibly begin to know all there is to become? What can possibly remain outside the realm of human reasoning?
What is truth but a prolonged assault on the limitations of everyday knowledge? Questioning myths and legends and customs ingrained over time. Questioning authority ‑ even Confucius. What can one make of something called common sense? While all the while, Confucius attempts to end for all time the time-honored mythology enjoyed and known to all. As in the Tao, we attempt to recover an inner vision or a reversion to what may appear as childlike or a simple return to innocence.
What could possibly be known as an end all to any discussion when the universe is immeasurable? When the cosmos serves as a place for the extraordinary, how can anything be seen but possible and likely to occur? What can this relativity of judgment be when everything is bigger than some things and smaller than others? What are reasonable differences if they are held good by some standards and bad by others? Is not this precisely the point?
As Chuang Tzu continually reminds us that it is useless to conceive alternatives because neither can be right or wrong. What can be big or small? In the eyes of who and what can be made of common sense? In the end the Tao delights in the extraordinary as it challenges the lack of imagination and the adherence to order and structure demanded by the Confucians.
If everything has no beginning and no ending and simply changes in form according to space and time, then remaining indifferent is the only true path to understanding. If it is useless as Chuang says to seek alternatives because neither can be right or wrong, where can differences lie? 4/13/1995