Have you ever thought or considered that Divine Mind, our intuition, or thought originates for one source and that all sentient beings possess it? Sentient beings are composed of the five aggregates, or skandhas: matter, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness, i.e., us.
Before going forward its important to say that if you are happy with where and as you see yourself – that’s okay. It’s important to realize that you can follow another religion and still be a Buddhist… or not. It is not my intent here to denigrate, or dismiss the merits of another person’s faith or path. It is the freedom to choose what works for each of us that contributes to manifesting our soul’s growth, our opening doors, and defining from within what path we follow. It was several entries back, when we discussed Eckhart, Emerson, Fillmore, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce and others, who professed that the key to our becoming transcendental was our freedom to use our intuition, our inner spirit, as our guide. That we are all connected by and through a universal divine presence as spirit. That our “spiritual home” lies both inward and beyond the horizon where we know the only thing that exists is an extraordinary sense of bliss, tranquility, and profound peace of mind. To a place where heart and mind are in unison with the divine and with this you will always be enough.
My favorite cartoon back in the 1960’s was when a Wizard would say “Trizzle trazzle trezzle trome, time for this one to come home”. Referring to Tudor Turtle who always fancies himself doing some job or going somewhere he is as yet unprepared for. Mr. Wizard gives him the magical chance to do so, but when thing get to hot, Tudor always wanted to return home. With each journey he learned that all roads lead back to where he began.
Separation only occurs when we look to that which lies outside ourselves to a place that hides our light, or inner vision. The flow we have always known, but may have forgotten. That the universal mind that is eternal rests in all things. As if matters of the spirit were more important than worldly power and possessions. How is it that one taps into, or retains a spiritual atmosphere of serenity so that you forget all cares and fears in order to become filled with a deep sense of peace and tranquility?
The Shanmen, or Gate of Three Liberations, is the most important gate of a Chinese Chan Buddhist Temple. This is Luohan Temple in Chongqing.
It is tapping into this divine wisdom, that guides us to a place pre-determined by something beyond our own present thinking that enables us to become one with the universal flow and connect with the ethereal and our purpose.
The prayer wheels in Lhasa and Chongqing at the Buddhist temples and monasteries I visit on my trips to China and Tibet seem to serve to take me to another place. Hidden behind or inside the cylinders are sūtras (Buddhist scriptures)… One in Lhasa read “I will act for the good and the welfare of all living beings, whose numbers are as infinite as the stars in the sky, so that, following the path of love and compassion, I may attain to perfect enlightenment.” In spinning the wheel, or cylinder, you become one with it and it becomes you – in a communion of spirit that becomes everlasting, as if you have connected again with eternity.
I’ve now gone through this “metaphysical discussion” following the trail left by those inspired by Lao Tzu and many others, and Inward Training looking both to the East and West – to almost it’s end, without hardly mentioning my namesake, Confucius. Confucius family name was Kong. My close connection through traveling and teaching in Qufu over the years led my friends there to give me the name… Kongdan. Hence – The Kongdan Foundation. Many years earlier, when I began on the internet, my moniker or email name was and continues to be Dantzu, as a tribute to my Taoist companion’s Lao, Lieh, and Chuang Tzu.
I am standing at a place called “Confucius Hill” in Qufu (2012) where Confucius gathered his followers and gave instructions and lectures that later became his most famous teachings. The Yellow Emperor originator of I Ching in 2700 BC and Ji Dan who updated the Book of Rites 500 years before Confucius were from Qufu as well. I lived and taught in Qufu for many years as if walking in step with dragons… even now it seems I am still the teacher with a narrative and impelling history. As if I am here to convey thier stories with an obligation to update them as well.
I have always been more of a Taoist than Confucian. I abhor structure and authority by nature that see adhering to the status quo as essential. Without growth and change we suffer consequences of our ego. But now, as I further my own sense of self-awareness, I feel the pull of both Tibetan and Chan Buddhism in my thoughts, mind, and heart as well. With this it becomes easy for me to see the connection between all three – Buddhism, Confucius, and Taoism with my friend’s Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu leading the way. It is as if I had to walk in Confucius and the others footsteps in Qufu, before I could fully understand their role in basic fundamental Chinese thought and philosophy, and I have done that. My writing is emblematic of my inner consciousness as if never-ending and never staying the same, as if on an eternal pilgrimage. It is as George Harrison sings… I am like a fish with the river running through my soul.
They say all true writing is autobiographical, that is certainly in my own case. One of the first lines I wrote many years ago was… what you write is who you are to become. Another was… It is through you Dan we speak. Little did I know how true that was to be. What was it that pulled me to Qufu? Qufu has a well-recorded history of over five thousand years. On my first visit in October 1999, twenty years ago I knew I had been there before. The similarities and patterns I experienced were deafening, as if I was there to fine-tune knowledge and wisdom that had been gained up to the point of my entering the picture and beyond. As if I was directed to the place where my own “flow” was meant to continue as I returned to my origins.
When in Jining on that initial visit, an hour south of Qufu, I had a picture in my mind of an iron horse from the Han Dynasty from two thousand years ago. I sensed that I was here when it was first made all those years ago. My friends took me to what looked like an old barn with stone tablets from that period during the Han Dynasty. The time I was talking about. They showed me a small iron horse (depicted here) and I confirmed that this was it. I had been here before. Many times, over the next ten to fifteen years, as I traveled in Qufu and Shandong I often felt I had been and seen these places before. It was as if I was being reminded, entering again, and capturing the flow of who I have always been and of my purpose now and will be again and again.
Nei-yeh — Inward Training
For all the Way of eating is that: overfilling yourself with food will impair your vital energy and cause your body to deteriorate.
Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither and the blood to congeal. The mean between overfilling and over-restricting: this is called “harmonious completion.”
It is where the vital essence lodges and knowledge is generated. When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance, you make a plan to correct this. When full, move quickly; when hungry, neglect your thoughts; when old, forget worry.
If when full you don’t move quickly, vital energy will not circulate to your limbs. If when hungry you don’t neglect your thoughts of food, when you finally eat you will not stop.
If when old you don’t forget your worries, the fount of your vital energy will rapidly drain out.
When you enlarge your mind and let go of it, when you relax your vital breath and expand it, when your body is calm and unmoving:
And you maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances,
you will see profit and not be enticed by it, you will see harm and not be frightened by it.
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive, in solitude you delight in your own person. This is called “revolving the vital breath”: your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.
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.
Maintaining the One has always been the central core to traditional Chinese thought, philosophy and religion. Combining these three internally has always been the objective in Eastern thought. It would be the essence of Chan and later Zen Buddhism that would define the way to life in the light of Sakyamuni Buddha. Ultimately looking to, or becoming what we call a Bodhisattva ourselves, or in Taoism following the path of the Three Pure Ones described earlier. It would be those who followed Confucian ideals who re-shaped history in his name. That how we connect from within with our origins becomes the hallmark of success. Ultimately the Tao and Chan Buddhism came about through mindfulness and are about self-realization and as Chuang Tzu says “When you have got at the idea, forget about the words.”
Chan Buddhism developed in China (especially during Song Dynasty 960-1279) as a re- affirmation of the importance of meditation practice as the signal achievement of unwavering attentiveness and responsive virtuosity (knowledge and proficiency).
The fruition of Chan practice is a fluid harmony of body and mind as if a paradox that reaches out through all four limbs – benefiting what cannot be benefited and doing what can’t be done – as if beyond knowing and seeing. Building on the prevalent Chinese Buddhist conviction that all beings have/are Buddha-nature. However, practice was not advocated in Chan as a means to enlightenment, but rather as the meaning of demonstrating it. It is only in denial or ignorance of our own true nature that enlightenment can be regarded as something to seek, a destination at which we might one day arrive. In Christianity, it would be called the I am that I am… I’m already there. In sharp contrast with more scholastically-inclined schools of Buddhism, Chan did not see dispelling ignorance of our own true nature as something to be accomplished by studying canonical texts and commentaries. On the contrary, in keeping with the Buddha’s claim that the wise “do not hang onto anything, anywhere” and “do not enter into the mud of conceptual thinking” (Sabhiya Sutta, Sutta Nipāta III.6), Chan came to insist that we cannot read or reason our way out of conflict, trouble and suffering. And, in contrast with more ritually-defined schools of Buddhism, Chan also came to deny the merit of seeking help from supramundane sources. Dispelling ignorance of our own Buddha-nature does not involve cultivating or acquiring anything; we need only end the relational paralysis that prevents us from conducting ourselves as enlightening beings. This does not require special conditions or implements. It does not require extensive study or training. It can be accomplished here and now, in the midst of our own day-to-day lives.
Chan originated in and actively propagated what could easily be viewed as anti-philosophical sentiments – a view arguably supported by the apparent illogic of many of the “encounter dialogues” that purported to record the interactions of Chan masters and their students, and by the four-fold phrasing that came to be used in Song dynasty China to characterize Chan distinctiveness.
Ink painting by Fan Kuan during Song Dynasty
For myself, in trying to sort out the differences between Chan, Tibetan, and Zen is challenging to say the least. There are elements I have found in Chan that seen inherently connected to my own path, while I am still a Taoist at heart… while knowing staying in the flow is what ultimately takes me there. I am still a student and open to this wisdom of the ages.
The four-fold phrasing described above seem to fit for now. They are: 1) a special transmission outside the scriptures (jiaowai biechuan, 教外別傳); 2) not established upon words and letters (buli wenzi, 不立文字); 3) directly pointing to the human heart-mind (zhizhi renxin, 直指人心); and 4) seeing nature and becoming a Buddha (jianxing chengfo, 見性成佛). This could easily had been said by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his famous book tour in the 1840-50’s promoting “Nature”, intuition, and freedom of thought… reaching our own conclusion about things considered as universal or transcendental.
There seems to be appeals to the importance of immediacy, rather than reflection, and assertions about the limits of language and the ultimate irrelevance of thinking to the realization of truth in Chan Buddhism. It was the Sixth Chan Patriarch, Huineng (638–713), who famously proclaimed that throughout Buddhist history, those transmitting the true Dharma established “without-thinking” (wunian, 無念) as the core doctrine and should be engaged as enacting insights and inferences of considerable philosophical significance –a body of philosophical evidence rather than exposition and explanation. What I would call – doing by being. This sounds like where I have been forever, or at least a very long time.
What the anthropologist James Clifford (1988) has referred to as the “predicament of culture”—the feeling of pervasive off-centeredness that occurs when we are confronted with an unavoidable and unprecedented overlay of distinct meaning systems and compelled to choose among or reconcile different and often contrary sources of personal and cultural identity. For me, it is as if you never find yourself in shoes that seem to fit the place where you find yourself at the moment, either seen as an anomaly or enigma.
But it was through collaborative projects of translation and textual exegesis that Buddhism came to be woven so thoroughly into the fabric of Chinese culture that the emperor of Song China, Xiaozong (1162–89), would compare the three teachings of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism to the legs of a bronze ding: a ceremonial vessel associated with political unity and power and cultural authority that would be useless if any one of the three were to be removed.
Ceremonial Ding at Luoyang Wangcheng Park, the site of the ruins of the Capital City of Zhou Dynasty from 11th century to 221 BC – over a thousand years). (Picture taken by Dan in October 2018)
Four years before I went to Qufu in 1999, I wrote the following story before I ever had an inkling of going there. All I had even known about Confucius was what I had read and had never heard of Qufu, but that was about to change. It was as if my writing leads me to where I am, and more importantly to my own role and who I am supposed to become.
Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with knowledge? Can he possibly equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its true origin?
While Confucius may help guide those responsible for maintaining the overall scheme of things in their dealings with others, can he possibly know the true underpinnings of all there is to know that lead to logical conclusions? Can thoughts and ideas expressed outside the true essence of the Tao have any real significance?
Looking for differences to trap unseemly paradox and analogies that can confuse those not serious about finding and true way of virtue.
Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao.
The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius and Taoism always present. Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground.
Moving all to places they would otherwise miss. Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leading to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.
Everything crystallizing over time. Can one move forward knowing the paradox found in all things that are allowed to advance in their own way? Knowing that Confucius is forever weighing benefit and harm and distinguishing between right and wrong.
Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge? Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this possibly lead? Who can possibly say? 3/5/1995 (From my manuscript… “My travels with Lieh Tzu” found here on my website).
It is often the case that what I wrote more than twenty years ago I didn’t fully appreciate or understand. Returning to it now, I can see meaning that were hidden and just waiting for my return. Telling me the difference between knowledge, experiencing human frailties (my own and others), and wisdom to be gained that shed light to what meaning of the words were meant to be. Ah – the dragons seem to be pleased as if my work continues in earnest.