That it is as Lao Tzu says, “When I let go of what I am – I become what I might be”.
Maintaining Ancient Virtue
Showing the way can be likened to being the world’s maid. A job on the surface seeming too menial too even consider that success may follow.
Stepping into Virtue Nanjing Museum
Once you’ve recognized your task, the way becomes even more difficult. But it is only by experiencing the tediousness can you begin to advance and rule the day.
Advance as if you have the heart of a child without fear, without knowledge that the task is too big. Thereby always keeping your ancient virtue intact. Simply recognizing that which lies without you while holding onto the oneness within you. Acknowledging what is at its beginning always becomes something else at its end.
That once was hard must become soft. That if we are constantly referring to what appears to be black or white, we are in reality seeing them as dark or light and if we see things as pure verses defiled, we are acknowledging it as either noble or humble.
Recognizing the above, the task of the sage becomes easy. By adhering to what is soft, humble and dark the essence of the Tao is always close at hand.
The Heart of a Child Shaanxi Museum Xian
Advance as if you were an uncarved piece of wood waiting to be molded into what is needed with no pre-conceived outcome of what may occur. Always guided by what comes forth without limits, with the Tao always in charge.
While acting as a master tailor, sewing without seams, the job of the maid suddenly comes forth with ease and grace. The job becoming second nature as you have mastered it fully with your virtue leading the way.
With only our virtue leading the Way Wuhan Museum
充当主裁缝，制作无缝天衣，公仆的工作一下子变得轻松优雅。在大德的指导下，工作就会变得轻驾就熟，得心应手. (from Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life written in May 2000 and published in China 2006).
It is as if we follow the American Indian rituals, symbols, and traditions when we live and die… as we each do our part to protect the divine nature of Heaven found here on Earth.
Although every culture has its own different mythologies and rituals, something called animism is said to describe the most common, foundational thread of Indigenous peoples’ spiritual perspective. Ultimately, it has always been about our relationship to the universe and stars above, our reflection of them through nature… our presence, and our perception of Heaven and Earth. Rituals bind us to our origins, or beginnings, and who we have always been that with structure and discipline takes us there. Resembling the shaman of every ancient culture, not just what is highlighted here in Chinese history, as referred to earlier as our totem, but in everything.
Something that might be called animism from Latin that means “breath, spirit, or life” and reflects the spirit, a religious belief, or philosophy of life, that manifests as objects, places and creatures with all possessing a distinct spiritual essence.
What Tolstoy spoke so passionately about in the previous entry as we get closer and in line with the eternal spirit. Potentially, animism perceives all things – animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather systems, human handiwork and perhaps even words – as animated and alive. Animism is used in the anthropology of religion as a term for the belief system of many Indigenous, or native peoples, especially in contrast to what can be seen as religion sometimes used as fear of knowledge and wisdom that opens us to who we are. Opposite guided solely by our innate nature and spirit, illustrated over eons of time as the power of yin/yang, understanding that it is complementary opposites that attract and complete each other as the I Ching, and demonstrated by native cultures described briefly here.
Animism encompasses the beliefs that all material phenomena have some agency or merit and that there exists no hard and fast distinction between the spiritual and physical (or material) world. That soul, spirit, or sentience, exists not only in humans, but also in other animals, plants, rocks, geographic features such as mountains or rivers or other entities of the natural environment i.e., in effect what we find in Taoism, i.e., the ten thousand things in Chinese history. Animism also attributes a life force to abstract concepts such as symbols, words, and names we give that denote a divine presence that all things possess. An existential pragmatism the universe only asks us to latch onto and expand.
As if encompassing universal transcendence and the true meaning of becoming transcendental. Transcendentalism is not only something newly discovered identified today in the West as “New Thought”. It is simply reverting back to our beginnings to our divine innate nature. To who we have always been and awakening to what we have always known, but forgotten… to what is found through the I Ching and the Tao.
Everywhere in history, this has been known, taught, and brought forward by the earliest shaman. This connection has mostly been relayed as metaphor – something used to mean or represent something else. Typically, through storytelling, mythology become something beyond description that cannot be seen, known, or fully understood except through the use of imagination and symbols. Conveying basic unexplainable, yet undeniable universal truths, that can be regularly performed, stories told, songs sung, and ceremonies conducted that provides context and a path to understanding. Most importantly, providing a mechanism for a person to see himself or herself as a part of something much greater than themselves in such a way that they can say – yes, me too! As we too can begin to look back, see ourselves sitting around the fire mesmerized by the great shaman of the day. It becomes easy to see how the universal presence begins within us. It was the role of the shaman to ensure everyone understood and could capture this presence within themselves.
This animistic perspective is widely held and inherent to most Indigenous peoples in that they often do not even have a word in their languages that corresponds to animism, an overriding philosophy, or even what would become considered religion.
This parallels beginnings found and described here to the Tao and I Ching, and is often known, or referred to as an anthropological construct, or how ancient people think and how they perceive and categorize the world, their rules for behavior, what has meaning for them, and how they imagine and explain things. Over time and history, we expand our illumination and vibrations, something we call mindfulness – as we attempt to relate to or with the present. As we each continue the next stage of our own walk – in earnest.
Many adherents to traditional American Indian ways characteristically deny that their people ever engaged in any religion at all. Insisting their whole culture and social structure was and still is infused with a spirituality that cannot be separated from nature, their natural surroundings, and relationship with the rest of the community’s life at any point. Living in the ultimate sway of nature and virtue, as if saying there can be no go between an individual and the spirit world.
Attributes found in the Green Corn Ceremony, the Snake Dance, kachinas, the Sun Dance, sweat-lodge ceremonies, and the sacred pipe are not specifically religious constructs of various tribes, but rather represent specific ceremonial aspects of a world that includes countless ceremonies in any given tribal context, ceremonies performed by whole communities, clans, families, or individuals on a daily, periodic, seasonal, or occasional basis. It’s what takes us there, whose purpose is to connect with the spirit world that is already present.
Painting by George Catlin
The Green Corn Ceremony is an annual ceremony practiced among various Native American peoples associated with the beginning of the yearly corn harvest serving to connect all to nature and the spirit world. Busk is a term given to the ceremony by white traders, the word being a corruption of the Creek word puskita for “a fast”. Giving thanks in advance for the planting and harvest yet to come. These ceremonies have been documented throughout the Eastern and Southeastern tribes of North America. Historically, it involved a first fruits rite in which the community would sacrifice the first of the green corn to ensure the rest of the crop would be successful. This mirrors the same rituals and symbolism held for thousands of years in China that denote the harbinger of Spring and a new year.
An example used as a spiritual symbol, would the ceremonial smoking pipe, used by a number of Native American cultures in their sacred ceremonies. Traditionally they are used to offer prayers in a religious ceremony, to make a ceremonial commitment, or to seal a covenant or treaty. The pipe ceremony may be a component of a larger ceremony, or held as a sacred ceremony in and of itself.
A pipe stem from the upper Missouri River area, without the pipe bowl, from the collection of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
As relayed above, Indigenous peoples of the Americas who use ceremonial pipes have names for them in each culture’s language. Not all cultures have pipe traditions, and there is no single word for all ceremonial pipes across the hundreds of diverse Native American languages. While others may identify a single ritual as the “religion” of a particular people, the people themselves will likely see that ceremony as merely an extension of their day-to-day existence. All parts of which are experienced within ceremonial parameters and should be seen as more spiritual than religious. Not so much of what they do, but extensions of who they innately are as divinely guided beings. What would be referred to today as simply having a presence that connects to an innate sense of transcendence and shared universal vibrations.
For instance, among the Osage Indians, native to Southwest Missouri, what anthropologists dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures would classify as “religion” pervades even the habitual acts of sleeping and putting on shoes. All the ceremonies and prayers of the Osage reflect the principle of the simultaneous duality and unity of all existence. A famous Osage Indian saying was/is that “We do not believe that our ancestors were really animals, birds, etc., as told by myth and tradition. These things are only symbols of connection to something greater” … this is said as one points to the sky.
Osage prayers commonly begin with an address to the Wakonda Above and the Wakonda Below (manifested in Sky and Earth, respectively), the two great enabling forces of the universe. This principle is mirrored in the architectural structure of Osage towns and in the marriage customs of the people. The same Chien and Kun – Heaven and Earth discussed here as the I Ching.
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 seven and eight 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 finding our inner comfort from within appealing.
As stated earlier, it is in matching words and symbols with our intent and actions that becomes our life. We use them to express the meaning of spirit. Others can often use our words to define their own as well. Re-defining what fits their own senses, as they re-interpret what was meant and to be following what we know as universal truth that are tied to nature and the Tao.
The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part I Number 7
Opening the Gates – the I Ching becomes Supreme
Is it not as if Lao, Chuang and Lieh Tzu along with Ji Dan and King Wen are in fact here whispering in my ear what must be said again as one considers their transformation as the essence of virtue, tranquility and change?
It is as if it is their voices reaching across the centuries conveying the true meaning of cultivating stillness and the gifts of the Way that are to be followed. As if we are putting feet on Lao Tzu’s work in a practical way by eliminating the mystery so that others can see their own future in the Tao and the cosmos. First, is the recognition that coming into virtue cannot be a haphazard affair, that true study of the Tao and change is superior to other methods of spiritual transformation.
From the earliest shaman and sage, they used this power and virtue on behalf of Heaven, Earth, and everything in between. It is in effect connecting the intuition of Heaven which lifts us to our highest good with the thought of Earth that connects us with others. With these two grounded internally within, it is as if nothing else can enter and we are henceforth protected as if gates have been erected to determine what may enter. As if Heaven has now told you your mission. Once this is done your nature becomes complete and you can find your true place in the world.
The eternal ritual urn used to connect with the universal spirit
We must give these two fundamental powers – the intuition of Heaven and thought which connects us with others and Earth – as fixed places within ourselves. It is by and through this inner discipline that we open ourselves to change. It is when we open or erect the gates that the process of transformation can begin. It is by this we go through the process of “fixing our heart”. Not running after each emotion. Not that you repress your feelings, but that you dis-identify with them. This is an underlying and fundamental aspect or teaching of change that sustains us and helps us to endure. By realizing and fixing the poles within us, we find tranquility and can set about completing our own nature and fate.
In meditation we learn to listen to our inner voice and to our teachers. Those we have always known and thought of once as dragons… or perhaps angels or bodhisattva as might be more easily defined by some, as the ultimate image and mirror of our divinity, enlightenment, or the true sage. In quiet stillness, we listen and hear Lao Tzu and other mentors we have known through eternity and only come to ask the same question we have always repeated. “Is not change above all other things?”
By observing nature and the cosmos, the sage has always used change to exalt their power and virtue to include what they gained as spirit, through Heaven. Just as they were able to broaden their field of understanding to include the expanse of Earth. It is these two connecting with the intuition of Heaven that raises us up so that we can identify with our own divinity as the connection to the universe that connects us to all other things that humbles us. What it is that further gives us humility to become who we are to be as our virtue while we are here.
The shaman taught that by exalting what we follow in Heaven, we can connect what we find on Earth. We do this by giving both Heaven and Earth fixed places or established poles within ourselves. What we allow comes and goes and is called “fixing or erecting the gates” and ultimately serves to define us.
Entering Heaven’s Gate Huashan Mountain in China
We begin to proceed with this transformation through the Taoist canon referred to as Cultivating Stillness. By following this ancient text, you can complete your nature, as it sustains you through life and gives you the perseverance to endure. This becomes the gateway to the Tao. It fixes your heart leaving little doubt as to the path you must follow and frees you from compulsion. Your thoughts and actions become but a mirror of which you see yourself as becoming. If that means that you spend your time identifying and finding ways to return to your source, then be the first to open the gates to understanding the wisdom and virtue you have always known that has been ever-present and at your beck and call.
As the ancients explored the universe, i.e., the mysteries of the Tao, they could see what was both beautiful and radical as exemplified in nature and to demonstrate the power of the I Ching by showing our connection with and to the ten thousand things and between the symbols and words we choose to represent them over time.
The building to the left is what is referred to as the “Peitian Gate” whose name is derived from the Confucian saying “The virtues match the heaven and earth” – two of the four symbols “Azure Dragon and White Tiger” representing the four constellations enshrined at the main hall at the base of Taishan Mountain in Shandong Province. The centerpiece of the Dia Temple is the Palace of Heavenly Blessings (Tian Kuang), built in 1008 AD.
It is what can be seen as light (yang) and dark (yin) and an on-going balance between the two that shows 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. This interchanging is critical to understanding what will follow with how the I Ching works, as we move into further discussion in this series of entries here on the website.
It is when we understand that the opposites are meant to complement each other that our own reality comes into focus. That when we can totally identify our thinking with this process, never trying to hold onto one over the other, that 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 the ridgepole that would define 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, 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 and what unfolds them into life.
The Eight Immortals of Chinese Taoist history
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 our connection with the divine and become transformed in tune with vibrations with who we have always been.
It is when we penetrate our own transformation by cultivating stillness through what Lao Tzu teaches us, that we can begin to understand the light and the dark and the spirit (shen), or window, within ourselves. It is then as we do the work, our eternal spirit arrives as if conveying that it’s time to awaken to our true selves, look back at our beginnings, and prepare to take the next step.
This has always the question of the shaman and sage. As he begins looking within to his inner virtue for guidance and remembering his innate connection first to nature and the world around him, to what he can see, touch, feel, and then convey to others. What his senses connect him to. And then secondly, how is it that his inner virtue connects to the cosmos. It is for this reason a solid foundation is sought that answers to his source.
Over the millennia it has been in stillness that the universe comes calling, and it is how we respond to the inevitable spirits that know us by name that determine our fate who know us by who we have always been.
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 I Ching 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. 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.
The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part I Number 8
The Sage Mind and Superior Man, the Symbols, and the Lines
It is our ability to go deep within to Sage Mind, to our capacity of enlightenment and wisdom and its relations with and to the figures and symbols that connect us to the universe. It is the calling of the lines that ignite the interest of the sage, especially with recollections of Fu Hsi and Nuwa, the Yellow Emperor or Huangdi, Ji Dan the Duke of Chou, Confucius and so many others.
Rather real, myth, or simply imagined, it was the acts of the shaman and sage that determined the future of China. And in reality, all native Indigenous peoples around the world. Best depicted by the activities described by the American Indians described above.
Others then took their symbols, words and writing translating, or representing what they “truly meant to say”, in order to fit the times they intended to create. But it was the sage and Sage Mind that set the stage for all that followed.
Just as it was then and continues to be Sage Mind that expresses the thoughts of Lao, Chuang, Lieh Tzu and the Tao. Sage Mind expresses the essence of the Tao from its beginning with an understanding beyond every day events, Sage Mind recognizes change as formative and the way there is by cultivating stillness. Others things have had their influence along the way; however, the Tao and change are what remains eternal along with our own eternal essence.
It was a desire to understand the meaning of the knowledge and wisdom with a uniform structure that led to the lines representing everything through the cosmos to yin and yang and reasoning beyond simply every day events. Sage Mind created the I Ching to tell us if the way ahead was open or closed for a particular or certain situation as everyone coalesces around what the lines, change, and oracle means to them.
By using change (the symbols and lines) the Sage Mind speaks to us. If we listen it can move both our thoughts and actions. He calculates and then speaks. He considers and then acts. If we use them, we are spontaneously transformed.
The divine use of the I Ching is an important part of spiritual discipline. Different people can receive different or unique divine portraits of a certain circumstance as all are spontaneous. The sage does not analyze the lines; he brings them inside himself to find the right fit within his heart and mind. It is as if his innate divine sense of how to respond to a symbol or how this particular event will play out in keeping with the laws of nature and the Tao are to remain open or closed. It was through understanding the enormous power of symbolic reality and the power it possesses that the Sage Mind could shape events while having no technical analysis to define it. Much later Confucian schools of analysis tried to find some systematic analysis of the numbers, line position or yin-yang relation to their advantage. It was the sage who knew that the spirit moves spontaneously through the universe as it acts on its ability to respond to a symbol, to register, understand, and convey an answer to a problem in symbolic terms.
As if the Sage Mind is only acting as the conduit or ultimate connection to the cosmos as the symbols are transmitted into words of virtue by and through us.
It is by and through cultivating stillness our tranquility and virtue become exposed that we become able to think and act intuitively through our own Sage Mind.
The Master said, “If a Superior Man stays indoors and utters good words, they are accepted a thousand leagues, or miles, away, and if they are bad words, they are rejected just the same. Words one used may influence people, deeds start from where one is and are seen from afar. Words and deeds are a Superior Man’s hinge and trigger. How he uses them decides glory or shame as his words and deeds move Heaven and Earth. How could he not be cautious?”
The Master continues, “To speak of his own merit belittles a man. If one’s own ability grows greater, one’s behavior shows respect, this is modesty and that in perfecting respect for others that we preserve our own standing”.
The Dazhuan 5th Wing Part I Number 8.1
The Goal of Change and discovering our Helping Spirit
It is change that makes the way visible. It shows spirit in action and helps you to accumulate power and virtue. Those who use change receive aid from the universe as they acquire a helping spirit similar to those who in ancient times were protected by the transcendence of universal spirit, and have often taken on the metaphor of being a dragon in Chinese history.
Chinese dragon depicted on water urn from British Museum that was originally from the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen in China. I visited the museum in April 2012 while at the book fair I attended with a Chinese literary delegation.
The dragon becoming the closest resemblance man could obtain in immortality to his innate highest self, i.e., the true and eternal sage. The question before the inquiring mind as they have continually focused on cultivating their most inner nature and spirit has been –
“If you know the way of Change (The I Ching) and virtue and the transformations that can occur, won’t you then know how the spirit acts?” This has always been the underlying precept, or quest for gaining the knowledge and wisdom of the Tao.
What Lao Tzu teaches is focusing on cultivating stillness and finding the appropriate teachers with attributes needed in making this discipline come into play. It is the process of acquiring this “helping spirit” (shen) just as in the past, like the ancient shaman and sage that one re-discovers their source.
It is through using change that you learn the Way of the Tao. It helps you to accumulate the power and virtue (te) to become an accomplished person and begin to return to what is universal, where you fit in the cosmos and eternal scheme of things.
It’s like preparing for a trip home and only taking what you have learned while you are here. It is this that makes one truly immortal; that if you know the way of change and transformation, the ways of the ancient sage and shaman are open to you as well. Who are these “helping spirits” we call shen, how do we perfect or transform these traits within ourselves and how does the Great Treatise and change, the I Ching, expand on this process?
What is important is that every living thing possesses an innate knowing of the Way by and through its own innate nature, and just as important that there is a universal presence that has known of us as well. That this “protective spirit” has always been present as if on stand-by, as if our own thoughts, words, and challenges that we encounter in the present are here to illustrate our connection with change and responsibility to and for the universe expressed as us only as our virtue.
It’s our efforts in seeking a “helping spirit” beyond ourselves in the here and now… in the present, that always seems elusive.
As if our “spirit guides” have always been here from the beginning, simply waiting. The shaman knew and felt a connection with the unknown that shows or signifies that we are in reality both different and the same as those around us depending how we define, or know of, our own divinity that is determined only by the role we are here to grow into and play. That once we can see beyond ourselves, that our goals and more importantly our attributes, i.e., what becomes of our bliss, begins to reside on a higher plane and that we possess a vision of what can be.
As if the voice of the sage from a different indefinable place has our attention, and us him/her. The gender of the sage (male/female) plays an equal role – it must for the yin/yang to complete itself. The historical shaman and sage can also appear as either as well. That clearing your mind is central to the endeavor and change itself is as if waiting until we become fully engaged and committed to what is to become our highest and best good… and what the words and most importantly the symbols of the I Ching teach us. To a place of no ego and little or no attachments. Not only for ourselves, but proceeding as if we are here to help or show others the Way of the Tao, a universal God or spirit if you like, as well. Again… what the Buddhist would refer to as following the Bodhisattva vow.
Key understanding is that yin/yang are not opposing forces (dualities), but complementary opposites that interact within a greater whole, as part of a dynamic system. This makes keeping away from extremes and to the middle, allows you to go in either direction depending on the spontaneity of the circumstances or situation at hand.
Two terms from the Hsi Tz’u Chuan (a treatise forming part of the Ten Wings) are important here. First, is hsiang, often appearing as symbols that speak to the subconscious mind of the inquirer that evokes an imaginative process which completes the ceaseless energy, or activity of Heaven. This is epitomized by the person known as the chun tzu, the ideal user of the I Ching who immerses himself in the figures obtained through divination while taking the words into his heart, as if in prayer, he allows them to symbolize his situation making it symbolic. In this way he brings forth spirit or ‘shen’ as he acts in accordance with the spontaneous changes of the universe as his own origins.
(This is the fourth 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).