Continuing the I Ching – On the Commentaries / Associating the I Ching with how to live a good life. Yin and Yang – The ten thousand things carry yin and embrace yang. They combine harmony by linking or merging these forces together. Lao Tzu.
To know the I Ching you must be one with the Tao and you must first live as if every breath depended on its eternal wisdom. The meaning of cultivating stillness, the bagua, earlier and later Heaven and the essence of fengshui. Or as Hafiz of Persia said seven hundred years ago… the words you speak become the house you live in.
What is it each of us seek, but a philosophy, perhaps a religion, and a rule of life that satisfies both head and heart? As we learn how to live to our best advantage and as the old Arab proverb goes… that although the dogs are barking the caravan moves on towards its destination.
Their barking (life’s distractions) not enough to stop us from reaching the end of our journey. It is as Hafiz says… it is our words that take us there. It always seems to be the context of knowledge and wisdom having “been there done that”, and returned.
How is it we define ourselves… except to be as Larry in The Razor’s Edge… To always be on the threshold with vast lands of the spirit stretching out, beckoning before us, and eager to travel them. To others to be seen perhaps as a loafer… Someone careening through life as if having no real objective. Looking for something as yet defined worth seeking. To be always looking for the answers through observation, knowledge, and wisdom. For me, it was as if Larry was looking for the synchronicity of the universe that ties it all together. This mystical approach to life is nothing new. It’s what we all look to at some level.
In ancient China, the movement of the stars in the sky was thought directly to reflect the actions of the emperor and the court on earth; a solar eclipse, for example, might be interpreted as a sign of a forthcoming coup. The emperor employed astronomers to make nightly recordings of all celestial movements, and the official histories of China’s dynasties from the second century BC onwards included a chapter on astronomy. The star chart to the left is from 700 AD and reflects additions made over a period of a thousand years prior. Calenders and almanacs based on the sun, moon, and stars and the change of seasons were followed accordingly. A wrong forecast in the weather could mean the end of the reign…. and sometimes did.
What was it the shaman and earliest astronomers learned as they gazed up into the stars and distant galaxies and wondered both what to believe and what to tell others who looked to him or her for answers that could only be seen as universal when it all looked so far away. Even before thoughts of what made mystics mystical. The answer would lie in the natural flow of things and synchronicity… that would later become the essence of the I Ching.
What is it that connected us and all things found in nature together? We learned that what was within each of us was a microcosm of everything found in our natural environment.
That our actions and world reflect how we see ourselves. When seeing that all nature was/is one – then believing this becomes understood as universal belief. That if you believed this from within and followed your innate nature (as we would call prayer) with sincerity and virtue, your doubt would be dispelled (as in cultivating stillness and I Ching). If you will surrender yourself to this innermost truth (that which was to become the essence of the Tao), and the power over the human spirit that has been proven over eons and generations beyond measure, inner peace will blossom from within you as the Tao, as God if you like, as faith. It becomes you – and you become it.
From “Thoughts on becoming a Sage” (my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching) published in China in 2006:
Verse 66 – Reaching Perfect Harmony
In the middle of all lies perfect harmony. When you go to extremes you lose the natural balance found in all things.
It is for this reason that knowledge is frowned upon for those who have not found their way. Knowledge in the hands of a person not grounded in the way of virtue is lost to the vagaries of the moment.
Luohan Buddhist Temple Chongqing
Knowledge leads to deception and deception to definitions of right and wrong that are self-serving and can become secretive and divisive.
Those who remain unconcerned about knowledge look to heaven and harmony with the world around them. Once in harmony with heaven, they learn to only do that which requires no effort. Once you see that everything you need to know already lies, or exists, within yourself you can begin to understand that the lack of knowledge spreads virtue. It is by governing himself, cultivating the virtue he shares with heaven, that the sage’s place in the scheme of things becomes clear.
The sage becomes so deep that he cannot be reached and is always found to be doing the opposite of others. He goes so far as to reach perfect harmony, an image mirroring the Tao.
Wheels of Life Luohan Buddhist Temple Chongqing
A spiritual travelogue through the mountains of China and Tibet… Part 4
How Tibetan Buddhism became so much more than simply a religion, but also a philosophy of life following the Dali Lama and Sakyamuni Buddha. For myself, how it made Taoism, Confucianism, and what was to become known as Chan Buddhism in China and Zen in Japan, so much more than they would have been without Tibet.
My next entry here will follow the steps of Alan Watts, and how he transformed our thinking to look first to the universe and then what our true role should be. I’m excited to re-visit and do a small sample review of what he had to teach us.
For Lhasa, south of the Himalaya mountain range, my going in October 2018, was almost a ritual to understanding where it all might lead. After more than twenty years of study and writing, going there seemed just another chapter necessary to become one again with our spirit, our universal self, and how others found their way. As a writer I often wonder how much is using my imagination, verses echoes of remembrances of things I’ve seen and where I’ve been before… and could they be the same path.
The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Coming I am reminded that I am here to confine myself only to such subjects that I am best suited for by intuition and temperament (what remains inherent for me to follow), training (the teachings of Lao, Chuang, Lieh Tzu and others come to mind), and inclination (letting go of ego and attachments that might slow my way). That our actions should reflect our greatest endeavors that match the vibrations of our ultimate destiny.
It is as if the great question of “who are we” becomes “who are we yet to become”. As if on our own “ritual walk” as outlined below. That ultimately no work of importance will remain unfinished as we proceed with a calm inner peace and certainty assured.
I often refer and look to the bodhisattva Manjusri, who represents the tradition and symbolizes the embodiment of prajna, or transcendent wisdom.
(I went back to the image I used describing Manjusri in my earlier entry here… Number 18. We are now on Number 38.)
What is a bodhisattva?
A bodhisattva is a person, either human or divine (occasionally animal) who has abandoned all selfish concern and seeks only the ultimate liberation and happiness of all living beings. For myself he/she doesn’t teach just what to learn, but teaches how to learn. The bodhisattva understands that as long as he or she remains trapped in the cycle of birth and death (samsara) because of greed, anger and ignorance, there is no way that others can truly be helped. Therefore, driven by concern for the welfare of others, a bodhisattva pursues the spiritual path to Buddhahood, which involves:
- the perfection of generosity—giving to others with the pure motivation to help them
- the perfection of morality—avoiding all harm to others, and engaging in activities that benefit others
- the perfection of patience—never giving way to anger, and accepting the harm perpetrated by others
- the perfection of effort—persevering with enthusiastic efforts in all virtuous activities
- the perfection of concentration—training the mind to hold its objects with a calm, clear mind free of all distraction
- the perfection of wisdom/the realization of ultimate reality—seeing things as they actual are without the overlay of dualistic conceptual processes.
In Buddhist art, a bodhisattva may appear in divine form wearing crowns and jewels, as an ordinary human, or even as an animal. Avalokiteshvara is one of the most popular of the hundreds of bodhisattvas commonly depicted in Buddhist art. Many, like Avalokiteshvara, appear in a variety of distinct forms.
For myself, and some sense of self-awareness, what comes to mind is the Buddhist ideal that what the Buddha perceived was his identity with the universe; that we should experience existence in this way for ourselves. For many, having a “Buddhist meditative practice”, is to move our thoughts in this way is to become the Buddha. What is changeless and immortal is not individual body/mind, but rather the Mind that is shared by all existence. That stillness, that incipience (origins) which never ceases because it never becomes but simply IS. Not simply I am that I am, but a collective We are that We are. It is also referred as our true or original nature, and thus our “Buddha nature.” I do not claim to be a Buddhist, only a student of higher learning. A traveler, a storyteller, in this case a tour guide, interested in the teachings and lifestyle of those who live the ultimate mountaintop experience. Perhaps even allowing others to see themselves in the journey.
This teaching, is central to both Hindu and Buddhist belief. And is derived from the earliest shaman, holy man, and ancient connections to all in the universe. If we’re going to the mountaintop for some sort of “spiritual awakening”, then preparing for what we can expect when we arrive is what makes the trip worthwhile. It’s returning to our source, our home, then departing again to convey the wisdom we now have learned as we are renewed again. That there is no beginning or end, we are simply one with all that exists or will ever exist. We are stardust, we are golden, we are forever. We cannot fear death because it is simply our own evolution in our endeavors as we catch-up with and match our ultimate destiny.
Here there are no thoughts of looking for the mountaintop experience, because you have become the experience… you have arrived once you are in Lhasa. You walk the “ritual walk” around the rings of the city described below because its emblematic of who and what you are in your own way of communing with your highest self as who you have always been and will be again. Spinning the prayer wheels connects us to this reality.
There is no separation between what might be considered as either a “religion” and “practice”, because you embody both from within your essence. The “who you are, have been in the past, and will be again in the future” that defines your overall presence. And you don’t have to consider yourself a Buddhist to appreciate those who do.
The Buddhist experience is as a spiritual being having a human experience. As if we “practice our faith in a pro-active way”. There can be no separation between God and us because we are one and the same. In Lhasa (the name is translated to mean “the gateway to the gods”) you are considered to be as close to the divine source and still be here on earth as you can be. The Potala Palace, named after Mount Potala is the administrative center of Tibet and was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama. After the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959, the palace was converted into a museum.
In coming, you have the realization that you are on the same trek others have taken before you. As if renewed with our role simply to express what we find and return just as Larry did in The Razor’s Edge. The transcendence you acknowledge is within your own eternal spirit.
Lhasa has an elevation of about 3,600 m (11,800 ft) and lies in the center of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 5,500 m (18,000 ft).
It is as the Buddha said “You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.” What matters is the continuity of Tibet’s spiritual culture, which is based on a living tradition and a conscious connection with its origins. Buddhism recognizes change as the nature of all life. What is important is rediscovering the true meaning of the teachings and symbols of the past with a spontaneity that furthers our knowledge and wisdom that defines us all. For myself, I like to ask as the shaman has over thousands of years, “What is the synchronicity, the divine nature, that ties it and us together as one and most importantly… how do we collectively go there?”
Most Tibetans go to Buddhist Temples in the morning hours, as tourists fill the sites in the afternoon. Another thing of interest is that the number of people going through the Potala Palace must be limited each day. The thousands of people streaming through the ancient corridors have caused them to be concerned about the structure’s ability to carry so much weight. Tickets to enter are measured and limited by the hour. Our time was scheduled for 12:45 (about noon) and our guide (Tashi) had to make sure we entered and left at the right time. One reason pictures are not allowed inside the monasteries and temples is that some people attempt to use photos to make copies of what they see inside and then try to sell. They frown on this.
Another interesting note was watching the local people walking around the city, the ring roads, and the prayer path around the bottom of the Potala Palace. There you will find Tibetans from all walks of life, Lhasa folk and pilgrims, doing what many of them do every day or as often as they can, circling the Potala, praying for the long life and good health and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for all sentient beings. If I had more time, walking around the city on the paths taken for centuries by the local citizens would have been a must, just to get a better feel for Lhasa and its history. Going to Tibet requires you to be in a recognized tour group. Traveling there alone is frowned upon.
Notes on the aspects of the “Ritual Walks” in Lhasa
At the Jokhang Temple and around Lhasa, all Tibetans take the statue of Sakyamuni as the core for the ritual walks, and any believer walking around Jokhang Temple clockwise can be viewed as following the center track. Tradition says you take the ritual walks in and around the Jokhang Temple three times. First, they walk the inner ring around the statue of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, in the Jokhang Temple; second, they walk the middle ring along Barkor Street, skirting the temple; and third, they walk the outer ring around the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, the Yaowangshan Mountain and other parts of Lhasa.
While taking these group ritual walks in the clockwise direction, they count rosaries in their hands, spin prayer wheels, and chant the Six Syllable Prayer. As they recite OM MANI PADME HUM, the six negative emotions, which are the cause of the six realms of samsara, are purified. This is how reciting the six syllables prevents rebirth in each of the six realms, and also dispels the suffering inherent in each realm.
Pictures at the Sera Monastery as the Wheel of Life
Generally speaking, other names are referred to walking the outer ring, called “lingkor,” early in the morning, and they will walk the middle ring called “Barkor” in the evening. During the traditional Grand Summons Ceremony, which takes place in the first Tibetan month and during the Sagya Dawa Festival in the fourth Tibetan month, taking ritual walks is said to have a much better effect; as a result, many more people take ritual walks at those times.
There seems to be a lot here. As if we are coming full circle back to ourselves. The idea of finding our own “edge and comfort”, and returning to it… as if from the precipice. Seeing where we may be headed – but not quite ready to leave just yet as if we have unfinished business before returning to the other side. There is a Buddhist sutra (prayer) inside each spinning wheel. When you spin the wheel the thought is that you have released the prayer that benefits you.
The question seems to be here in the story as it progresses in each entry “why keep coming back to the I Ching?” Refining our journey, our path, or way each time acknowledging we need to continue developing the inner character that defines our connection with and to our divine source. Our own synchronicity, or flow, that takes us there. Seeing the light from the mountaintop then returning below to capture its radiance from within ourselves as we go forward. As we illuminate our surroundings as we return to our innate nature that defines us as being one with the Tao. It becomes easy to see how everyone fits into their own journey with no path better than your own. We honor what we find as the nature our source provides all sentient beings as we live the Tao. It’s not what we do its who we are, have been, and will ever be.
Here in the Dazhuan, in the 5th and 6th Wings, it is assumed that they are not written in a vacuum and the earlier Wings especially The Commentary of the Decision, Wings 1 and 2, are already known and understood, and as with the remaining Wings (3 through 12), the materials from which the hexagrams have been constructed are explained.
Continuing the story is the 8th Wing, Numbers 9 through 12 that will follow with later entries describe in greater detail the central meaning of the I Ching in keeping with cultivating stillness, our chi, feng shui, and much more.
The Dazhuan 6th Wing Part II Number 8
To be one with the I Ching you must first live the Tao
To know the I Ching you must be one with the Tao. To know the I Ching you must first live as if every breath depended on its eternal wisdom. That everything changes from moment to moment is in keeping with the divine order of the universe and you must be willing to become a part of this change as your personality returns to its origins. Because as with the Tao, you too are ever-changing as well, always alternating and without rest. Once acknowledged you are refreshed. This is why meditation and cultivating stillness is so essential. It is here “in the silence” the stillness that we recoup our energies and refocus on what is truly important.
It is here as we flow unimpeded through the six empty places, moving up and down, side to side without rules and law that would impede our movement that we encounter both the firm and the yielding. These are in essence the hexagrams themselves, appearing as both whole and broken lines forever changing places. There can be no confirming them within a rule and they have no confining or consistent principle. As such, only alternation and change, is all that can happen.
The I Ching gives life its meaning. It does not simply tell people what to do; it establishes a creative relationship between the unconscious and the cosmos. It constellates the mysterious order of personality bringing one in alignment with the Tao; it creates what Jung describes above as synchronicity.
It is from this place a person can know of his beginnings or origin, and begin to fully appreciate and to know that we and the Tao are one. Both we and the ever-changing world experience constant renewal and movement.
Forever without rest we flow through the six empty places rising and sinking without fixed laws or rules. It is as if we ourselves are the hexagrams defining our world as whole or unbroken lines – sometimes firm other times yielding constantly changing places never to be confined with a rule that can define us, or finding consistent principles that would serve to confine us, saying in effect… only change at work here with alternation and things in flux with all that happens.
A hexagram in this context is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines (爻 yáo), where each line is either Yang (an unbroken, or solid line), or Yin (broken, an open line with a gap in the center).
Hexagrams are formed by combining the original eight trigrams in different combinations.
As we come in tune with our natural rhythm it is as if the I Ching is speaking to us to come and go without limits. Neither without nor within teaches us caution we shed our light as we come forward. We become weary of the Kuei, who represent compulsion, negative emotion and pain whose purpose is to paralyze a person or situation.
As if we have gotten the attention of our ancient spirit helpers, the dragons, our old friends the shen are reminding us of what we have always known, but simply forgotten. Acting as if you have no teacher you treat others as you would your parents. As for others, they begin to see you not as a teacher or guide, but as if you are their parent at their side.
First comes knowing yourself through living the I Ching. Study the symbols of antiquity, the words of the shaman and sage. Take up the words, meditate, and ponder their meaning within your innermost being that defines you as the principles emerge and reveal themselves. If you are unprepared or not the right person intended at this moment, the Tao will not manifest in you. To this I would say not mission done, but that the mission continues.
This is the eighth entry (for a total of twelve) of the Sixth Wing of the Dazhuan. The story continues as our journey in cultivating stillness. Knowing and using this induces a spiritual transformation. The lines of the I Ching, the Book of Changes becomes shorthand for transforming change that attracts the lights and energy of Heaven thereby creating a chance, an unspoken trust, to build on who we are meant to become.