It is in understanding that change comes and evolves from within ourselves and all other things, that the world manifests as something new again mirroring the universal divine presence of what we call Heaven and the Tao. As we look to transcendence through our own divine presence. Where does responsibility lie? It begins with each of us – while old ways of seeing and doing things must often be broken so that we can see more clearly the way ahead to change. We sometimes find ourselves living in fear and lack of what we see is here for us, when the opposite is true.
Ultimately it becomes the great leap of faith we each must take as the circle of life. What we are given to learn with only our virtue intact. With this, our divinity and bliss become one with the only nature we have ever known. As we learn not trying to make things fit where they don’t.
Throughout history, as the stars above changed over the nightly horizon, people learned they must change as well. They could view change that had occurred when the stars returned in place the following year. (Needing a word for “the indescribable past encompassing all that would lead to the way ahead” the ancient shaman came up with the word “Tao”). With this people could begin to see beyond themselves and a guidepost, as such, put in place as a starting point with identifying how things fit together over time.
Pictured is the symbol of the dragon affixed to the stars at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu that’s over a thousand years old.
By remaining indescribable as to the opinion of the multitude or others, each person can attune to their own universal presence without prejudice as to what outcome may appear. As we acknowledge that there is nothing inside us that is not outside us and nothing outside us that is not inside us. With this, life becomes simply matching our words and deeds with our internal rhythm, eternal selves, and change.
Aspiring to nothing or simply emptiness, as related by Buddhist teachings, for myself, doesn’t mean that the mind is annihilated or made void. All that’s annihilated is clinging and attachment that clear away for our better understanding of our ultimate desire and universal presence. What we have to do is to see what emptiness is like as it actually appears as we discover our own meaning of “cultivating stillness”. With Taoism, latching onto nothing denotes freedom from ideas of what may have been considered as truth that do not fit our highest aspiration of ourselves.
I like to refer as a reference and connection with the mainstream of Unity teachings and the I Ching described below illustrated from the Bible: Matthew 18:18 as follows – “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
In other words, as reflected in the Tao – Heaven is the state of consciousness we bound within us on Earth. With this, we manifest through our actions whatever we loose and/or let go of as our divine nature and become transcendent.
Trusting in that consciousness we gain mindfulness that provides the space we need. Our greatest gift is giving ourselves the freedom of trust in the universe that is already innately present. As if simply seeking to understand for ourselves how it all is reflected as universal transcendence and relates to us. We come to acknowledge that we are here with only our virtue intact, as if to re-discover within ourselves how we loose this virtue and nourish the nature around us. It is this that comes of our highest endeavor and ultimate destiny – whatever we bind on earth will be bound in heaven we set out to enhance and preserve now.
The quote above could just as easily apply to, or come from, the scriptures and teachings of Buddhism, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, the Tao, Indigenous people, etc., not only the Bible. All simply pathways between Heaven and Earth we may choose to follow as we come and go that lead to a familiar end. That there is only one power and presence active in the universe, God the good omnipotent. As if to go from the spirit – to what may be seen as mystical – to what ultimately defines us. That it’s the not knowing that tells us what we are here to find that shows the way for ourselves. That our presence is eternal – just as with all things found in nature. We lose our way when we separate ourselves and others from who they and we have always been, fail to trust universal origins, and our own divine beginnings. True mindfulness is the comfort found with the freedom of being present to find the meaning of spirit and virtue and going there.
What Alan Watts referred to as our source. He was a great writer and transformative figure known especially in the 1950’s and 60’s. His influence on his (my) generation was in many ways immeasurable taking others where they could better identify with a universal presence beyond the physical world in which we live. Watts wrote more than 25 books and articles on subjects important to both Eastern and Western religion, philosophy, and spirit. One of my favorites is The Way of Zen written in 1957. It was one of the first bestselling books on Buddhism.
When we begin to see beyond simple appearances of who we think we are, our task becomes only to find our way in going there. All simply vehicles we use in becoming universal in the spirit of God, the Tao, and love. That we are here as both transformative and transitional figures, with the purpose of illumination (bringing our own divine light into the world) and acting with intention as to what may become our highest endeavor that assists in transforming the world into what the universe, God if you like, is asking of us as well as others.
The I Ching was/is meant to assist us as a tool in clearing away those things that do not fit the journey – as we match our endeavors with our eternal, i.e., universal presence and act accordingly.
An Ancient Greek aphorism (an observation that contains a general truth) by the Greek writer Pausanias, is to “know thyself”. Its use was attributed to many, including both Plato and Socrates. I like what appeared in the Suda, a 10th-century encyclopedia of Greek knowledge, that says: “the proverb is applied to those whose boasts exceed what they are”, and that “know thyself” is a warning to pay no attention to the opinion of the multitude. In other words – it’s not enough to “know thyself”, we are here to be ourselves. To be as William Shakespeare is said to have written in Hamlet, “to thine own self be true”.
A great writer I have always admired is Leo Tolstoy. His influence at the time and ever since has been immeasurable in history. Finding the vehicle of getting closer to God became Tolstoy’s passion as a religious philosopher and metaphysician. His works became something to emulate and model as others took the next step following in his footsteps to greater understanding. Most of us know him through the great literary classics he wrote known as War and Peace and Anna Karenina. But his contribution was so much more than that. His addition to the underpinning of theological understanding was in questioning the status quo found in Christian teachings at the time. As much of what he had seen written was incoherent, poorly translated from ancient texts, and didn’t contribute as they should have the love of God, he felt we all should share.
He felt God continually spoke to mankind over time and in every country, and that Christ, while being the most profound of teachers, was not the only one. He looked for common themes in all religious thought for rational assessments and looked to a philosophy on human beings’ purpose in life.
Most importantly, for myself, he wrote themes after thorough thought and investigation, that could follow similar approaches found in Eastern thought (Buddhism, Taoism and the I Ching) which he too had studied, where a structure and method to get one with the universe and finding our place in it is essential. He felt God’s plan was rational and man’s ability to reason was given to him to understand that it must be accessible to everyone… to human understanding.
This commonality of purpose so mirrors the underpinning of basic teaching and thought of the shaman in history. Understanding that all things are eternally connected as demonstrated and shown over thousands of years of human interaction and history. History does repeat itself. Its repetitiveness becomes the teacher as we learn from cause and effect. As different things take turns, or alternate with each other, we can foretell what is in the future. It is in this knowing we can in turn respond accordingly when we are led from our innate virtue we already possess.
When we ask for our prayers to be answered, or a response corresponding with the I Ching, the universe is responding as if a reverberation with “all things considered”, not simply our own desires.
Heaven and Earth (yin and yang) looking for the middle to arrive to ensure harmony and virtue are present.
Nature tells us to wait until events unfold so that our virtue can come forward to know what fits or matches what is best for all involved, as with complementary opposites attracting each other. The universal divine presence (what unfolds from our own heart space) is all-inclusive and operates under the premise of “one size fits all” with nature responding as an echo to what it hears. When we ask what defines virtue – this is a good place to start.
Tolstoy concluded that the soul was immortal. He thought the purpose of life is to expand on our capacity to love God and our fellow beings – humans, animals, even plants. Tolstoy in many ways was a Taoist at heart. There could be no separation from God and the universe in which we lived. As we love God by loving nature, we attune with what enhances everything found in our natural environment. It’s easy to see his influence on those who followed him including us.
Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy, usually referred to in English as Leo Tolstoy, was a Russian writer who is regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. He received multiple nominations for Nobel Prize in Literature every year from 1902 to 1906, and nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1901, 1902 and 1910, and his miss of the prize is a major Nobel prize controversy. Born to an aristocratic Russian family in 1828, he is best known for the novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), often cited as pinnacles of realist fiction. I remember back in college reading Tolstoy’s novella (short story) The Death of Ivan Liayich portraying the savage winter and cold of living in Siberia.
In the 1870’s, Tolstoy experienced a profound moral crisis, followed by what he regarded as an equally profound spiritual awakening, as outlined in his non-fiction work A Confession (1882). His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist. Tolstoy’s ideas on non-violent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God is Within You (1894), were to have a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and many others.
Tolstoy believed that a true Christian could find lasting happiness by striving for inner self-perfection through following the Great Commandment of loving one’s neighbor and God rather than looking outward to the Church or state for guidance.
Gandhi and other residents of Tolstoy Farm, South Africa, 1910
His belief in non-resistance when faced by conflict is another distinct attribute of his philosophy based on Christ’s teachings. By directly influencing Mahatma Gandhi and others with this idea through his work The Kingdom of God is Within You, Tolstoy’s profound influence on the non-violent resistance movement reverberates still to this day.
I have a little personal experience. My mother had a dear friend whose family were members of the aristocracy that was very close to the Czar and his family. As I was growing up in Joplin, Missouri where she then lived (both my mother and she have since passed), my mother had become her care-giver as she grew older and visited her regularly.
My mother went to St. Petersburg, Russia in the mid 1980’s as a member of an International Civil Defense delegation and while there visited the Hermitage Museum. Her friend wanted her to go to take pictures to see what might have changed since she last was there herself.
The stories the lady told were confirmed by the memorabilia and antiques she had brought with her from Russia that were still in her possession. I met her once and she had stories to tell. Stories of her youth had always defined her. She had been in Saint Petersburg, Russia as a little girl and said she knew the Romanov girls quite well. One of my regrets is not returning to hear them because few if any were ever written down for history. It is our memories, that given the opportunity, tell us and take us to our past. It is our remembering that takes us there that tell a greater story that along the way defines who we are. I do seem to have a recollection of asking her about the writer Tolstoy, and she recalled that everyone loved his writing because it returned them to the place they had always known and been. As though reliving their own history. Count Leo Tolstoy had been a respected member of the Russian aristocracy as well.
On another personal note, in high school I listened to shortwave radio as a hobby to stations all over the world. One of them was Radio Moscow. In 1967, they had a contest celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the 1917 Russian revolution in which I entered an essay about the revolution. I was sixteen at the time. My essay was read over the air and they sent me some magazines and books thanking me. (I have no idea what I said). I guess I was destined to become a storyteller and writer even then. The connection to Tolstoy was that the powers that be at the time of the 1917 revolution felt that regardless of his fame, thoughts and writing, it didn’t matter. As Count Tolstoy and a major landowner, his influence needed to be diminished. This contributed greatly to his writings not getting the attention it deserved over time. It seems we are all simply like a strand of pearls strung together looking for harmony, but yet our own and others resistance overtakes us. After I no longer listened to shortwave when I began going to college, I continued getting mail for years at home from all over the world. The mailman would ask, “Who is this guy getting all this stuff”. My mom would laugh and say, “oh, that’s just my son”.
What the I Ching teaches demonstrates how everything is connected and comes together as one. Finding and then getting closer to not only who we have always been, but also are yet to become. But as a process of transformation in how “getting there” as described above so well by Alan Watts and Leo Tolstoy comes into play as we find our way back to our eternal source.
The key being fixtures found in Heaven and Earth we must adhere to that show and guide us the way. The Tao is the universal presence of all things. We manifest how we relate to this presence through awareness and our consciousness that brings us into alignment as a name we give by faith.
Often freeing our gift of imagination and minds to letting go of how we think things should be, or are, and being tied to an outcome tied to fear and resistance we base on who we think we are – that in reality, we are only here for our soul’s growth and to change. Almost as if asking ourselves, are we here to become more than we now see as ourselves, or are we here to play in what the world brings to our doorstep every day?
Finding and adhering to the complimentary opposites of all things is the true essence of the purpose of connecting to Heaven and Earth and the true meaning of yin and yang. They are here, as if spirit guides, to teach and show us the way forward as represented by and through the I Ching. Residing within the flow of our natural rhythm is what takes us there, to what the Tao would call “universal mind”, even what is also referred to as “divine order”.
It is here that our ultimate dreams reside. When we “follow our dreams” this becomes our destination. Moving beyond philosophy and thoughts of religion – to spirit. To what I call sage mind that can clear away what keeps us from becoming free to align with the universal presence that already resides within us as our true, essential selves. Everything you need – as you are simply here to continue fine-tuning your way through change – you already possess as virtue to be shared with others.
The Dazhuan is composed of the 5th and 6th Wings of what is known as the Ten Essential Commentaries with each having twelve entries that total twenty-four altogether. Below are numbers five and six of the 5th Wing. All told, they convey the history of the I Ching and how each of us should live our lives in such a way that conveys our own innate virtue and are considered the benchmark to all essential wisdom. I wrote my own version of the Dazhuan in 2014. Below are segments I wrote that appear here on my website. This all sounds complicated. But it’s really like learning to drive. It’s simply knowing the rules of the road, staying on course (our life), and following them. It’s like the universe asking you not to be anyone but who you are already are, building on, and going there.
Complimentary opposites coming together to find common ground. As if two drops of water at the crest of a ridge pole or middle setting a passageway for eternity to follow their lead. Setting the tone in harmony with each other. It’s finding this within ourselves that makes the I Ching and discovering our inner comfort from within most appealing.
The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part I Number 5
Tao and Yin/Yang… What the Spirits Are
As the ancients explored the universe, i.e. the mysteries of the Tao, they could see what was both beautiful and radical. What can be seen as one light (yang) and one dark (yin) and an on-going balance between the two, showing that nothing in the universe exists alone by itself.
For everything to exist it must have its opposite and that both are in continual interplay: life and death, joy and sorrow, man and women, love and hate, expansion and contraction. Everything existing in a state of flux with these qualities constantly moving, first one and then the other with one dark and one light. Where we lose our way is when we try to hold onto one when the other comes into full play.
When you can totally identify your thinking with this process, never trying to hold onto one over the other, then you can begin to fully know the Tao and to find the way of virtue (te). If you want to call it benevolent, call it benevolence. It is the gift of life. It is concealed in all that you do. Most importantly, it does not share the Confucian philosopher’s anxiety about imperfection. Understand the spontaneity of Chuang Tzu and you can see the Tao as perfect and its power and virtue as complete. Its greatness possesses all things including us. It was here that the “one light and one dark is the Way of the Tao” began to transform what was to become Chinese philosophy.
This became the essence to understanding and when the terms yin and yang were first used and appeared as a pair. The key to wisdom and understanding is to never see or hold the opposites separately; they are to be held together. By holding them together you have found the key element, i.e., what is essential. By using this, an individual can become who they are really meant to be. It is the Tao that is seen by embracing the two in the one, as the ultimate te, to what is considered as virtue, cementing power and virtue together.
Just as it is change that gives life or birth to everything that has a beginning, it is the power that moves the symbols that unfolds them into life. So, it is in using the I Ching that shows us how the symbols are unfolding to create our fate. Its greatness possesses all things and it is through its great possessions we know true prosperity. What moves and completes the symbols is called Ch’ien (Heaven) and what unfolds them into patterns is called K’un (Earth). In using the symbols found in change (the I Ching), we learn our fate through divination. It is when we penetrate our own transformation by cultivating stillness through what Lao Tzu and others teach us, that we can begin to understand the light and the dark and the spirit (shen) within ourselves. It is then as we do the work the spirit arrives.
This is always the question of the sage. As he begins looking within to his own inner virtue for guidance and remembering his innate connection first to nature and the world around him, to what he can see, touch, and feel. What his senses connect him to. And then secondly, how his inner virtue connected to the cosmos. It is for this reason a solid foundation is sought that answers to our source. Over the millennia it has been in stillness, even as the nothing described in the beginning that the universe comes calling, and it is how we respond to the inevitable spirits that know us by name that determine our fate.
Everything here, the updating of the 5th and 6th Wings, the Dazhuan; the intoning of the Taoist canon Cultivating Stillness; the references to specific locations of Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist historic sites important to Chinese philosophical and religious history, are to ignite, or re-ignite our eternal connection to our innermost origins, to what defines us and who we really are.
Ji Dan, the Duke of Chou depicted in the Ji Dan Temple in Qufu
Not for necessarily the scholar, but for Lieh Tzu’s everyday man, the common man who seeks his own fate in both the light and dark and change. This is done as if it is King Wen and Ji Dan, the Duke of Chou are here doing the updating themselves. It is being done for us.
The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part I Number 6
Becoming the voice of Change as we embrace both Heaven and Earth
Change is equated with what is broad and what is great. These two energies are linked with the primary energies of Ch’ien (Heaven) and K’un (Earth). Through Ch’ien, it can speak to what is far or outside ourselves. Through K’un, change can speak to what is near, inside us, or what is in the soul. Change, via the I Ching, encompasses both Heaven and Earth and everything in-between and remains unmoved by personal desire.
It is through cultivating stillness we can gain an understanding of Ch’ien and K’un and how they influence our lives, the lives of others, and the world around us. By using both we rediscover the virtue hidden within ourselves. First, there is Ch’ien, it manifests as if it is expressing the wishes or greatness of the universe that it comes forward. As if divine energy, alone and concentrated making its presence felt and known. It can move as if in a straight line.
Ch’ien represents yang energy; it is visionary as if knowing the intent of Heaven. But in practical terms it needs its opposite to function properly, or yin energy to be present. K’un is more practical almost structural energy. While appearing to be weak, it is resting, as if intent on taking its turn to come forward, or furthering its desire to seek or find a common way before proceeding. It focuses on the stillness within, as it waits to match its energy with its opposite. This is the Tao in action as it moves nature and all things to their recognizable middle.
It moves and unfolds what works into the here and now, it’s broken lines representing the myriad things in flux waiting to be matched with their opposite yang energy. Change always present and waiting, as if anxious to play its eternal role, matching Heaven and Earth, the four seasons, the sun and moon, and most importantly, the stars, our source or origins, from whence we came.
It is here that the central player keeps everything on an even keel and on the same page. It moves with the natural rhythm found in the sun, moon, and stars above that keeps all in check reminding us that we are a part of all other things and they us. The main aspect of change is virtue (te). Virtue is the most powerful element in the universe and is the Tao in action. When we speak of Lao Tzu’s Tao, we are speaking in no uncertain terms of its connection to Te – the Way of Virtue, becoming completed as the Tao Te Ching.
It has always been the task of harnessing this dual energy that can best be illustrated by Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man and Confucian thought of holding the reigns together for the common good guiding the status quo represented by hierarchy and authority.
It is these two opposites that have permeating Chinese philosophy for thousands of years. It becomes who gets to ask the question and whose commentary or interpretation of the meaning of the lines of change gets heard.
Who gets to be the voice of Heaven and how is that parlayed into some kind of practical application here on Earth? This has always been the question asked of the I Ching and change. Who can speak for or to the universe unhampered by desires or prejudices?
If our virtue is all that defines us and how we ultimately return in the end, then using change to see how Ch’ien, or Heaven, moves us it is how K’un, or Earth, unfolds into a pattern of life that becomes our ultimate endeavor. It was the sage as the ultimate teacher and way shower of the Tao, who learned that by cultivating stillness we can do this for ourselves.
Lastly, for now, what especially comes to mind is Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and my own Chapter 35 from Thoughts on Becoming a Sage – the Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life written in May/June 2000 and published in China in 2006 as follows:
Remaining humble yet inexhaustible
Holding onto the true image of myself with humility, comity and grace I remain humbled by what the Tao places before me. As I recommit my entire essence to only promoting that which comes forth as the greater image or vision that I am here to complete. All the while knowing that my highest aspiration can succeed only with the success of all around me.
As the world comes forth to greet me each day, I remain protected, as I have no form thereby beyond whatever harm may come my way. I remain safe, serene and as one with the Tao. Eventually everything coming before me as an equal, I walk guided by selflessness as all things come to me. As I remain one with all things. While forgetting myself in others, others forget themselves in me. Therefore, everyone finds his or her place and no one is not at one with me.
Keep only to the plain and simple drawing people closer as you entertain with images of the Tao. Remaining at the point of inquiry, with no one quite sure how to love or hate, with no shape, taste or sound with which to please others. Remaining enmeshed in the Tao and your role can never be exhausted.
(This is the third of twelve entries, each containing two of the 5th and 6th Wings outlining the origins and purpose of the I Ching, the Dazhuan. Please stay tuned as there is more to the story).