As we are found returning home to the stars above accompanied by the reality that we are the light of the world. In the earliest of times, the holy man would go off by himself to pray and look to the stars for comfort and guidence. He would cover himself in clay the color of red ochre before returning to others.
He or she, would express themselves through dance and were known as wu. Red was the color of blood thought to be our connection with the universe that made each of us eternal. It would be our blood that passed from one generation to the next that would unite or bind us in eternity. The red ochre our bridge through nature that linked it all together. The Chinese name for red, the most sacred of colors at the time translates into english as dan.
Who and what were the ancient shaman and sage and those concerned with past and future talking about and why should it matter as they became transcendent philosophers who looked to the stars and found answers that were eternal just like themselves? That they were and we are the light of our soul. Calling this today “quantum or the physics of the Tao” as we were to call them dragons. As you find yourself speaking in metaphors to better explain the journey ahead.
I love these images of the dragon carved or created centuries ago found in Qufu at the shrine of the Yellow Emperor and the dragon in the clouds in Chengdu. Present in the clouds but barely or rarely making appearances as the sage just the same.
Is there more to us than finding enough sustenance to live another day and why should it matter? Do we have a place in history and does it revolve around spirit and our intuitive nature, knowledge and wisdom? As we learn to trust the silence and the voice from within. Who is it we speak for or to, who is our audience, and who is it that speaks for and to us? Could it be where we and others left off, as if the flow of eternal conversation that is never-ending?
With our musings simply the chance to continue the dialog with the unknown and pondering the right questions to ask. What is this eternal flow of energy we speak to from within that defines us, but compassion for all things found in nature?
From Thoughts on becoming a Sage:
Irreverently Meandering through Time
Traveling on the wind once again the sage proceeds as if at home. Remaining above the clouds he looks down, unconcerned. Waiting to see if anything of importance lies beneath him.
Traveling above the Clouds Huangshan Mountain
Following dragons again and clouds beyond the horizon you reflect on mirror images of yourself and seeing that your destiny lies below. As always when traveling with dragons, you remain irrelevant to time.
Comforted in knowing that your journey and today’s path continues to find peace and harmony and a clearer understanding of your place in the universe, as your own destiny remains assured. Events only occurring to move you ever-forward as you meander as if unknowingly through as time.
Your destiny tied to endeavors forever remaining a paradox. As you remain an enigma that others come to depend on and wisdom taking them to places, they otherwise would never go. As you remain a magnet for others simply showing the way.
At home with Ji Dan Qufu
Before returning home again, as if only irreverently meandering through time.
Following the Signs Qingyang Taoist Temple
There is so much to learn from Chuang Tzu and thoughts of freedom. How it’s important to be able to laugh at our own foibles and those of others. He especially liked to find humor and laugh at the Confucians who saw life as secured by a structure of non-existent self-interest. Especially, that we should not to take ourselves so seriously. For Chuang Tzu, as a storyteller, it becomes seeing yourself in the story as it is told. Seeing inherently the premise of the story as it become you. It defines Zen, defines wu wei, defines feng shui, defines kung fu, and most importantly us along with our own divinity and human nature.
When you don’t have to explain because you know where the outcome leads or takes you. When you go into the unknown innately knowing the results before you arrive. It’s becoming fearless. It is the ability to know through our endeavors, longevity, our ultimate destiny, and who we are yet to become – when we know and become this… as the unknowable Tao we are set free.
It’s living life with virtue and méi guān xi – 没关系, or by tradition 沒關係 (my favorite Chinese saying)… méi guān xi – it doesn’t matter. Because you’ve already arrived. Ultimately, you are not just telling the story, you are relaying your own as the story becomes you. You live with thoughts of what you leave behind for others to pick up as they find the flow and learn to speak for themselves.
As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man
As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way. Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased.
Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on your finding and staying on the road yet to be traveled. Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before. Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things. Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.
Hua Pagoda Xian Old City
Eternity existing forever both before, now and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively over and over again. A great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.
The Crane Xian Old City
Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge of the Tao and understanding what it means. Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow. 4/12/1994
How humbling. I wrote the above twenty-six years ago. My writing had become the self expression of my own inherent nature, endeavor, destiny, and the unknowable Tao.
As if the stars of eternity, the dragons who were always present, were lighting my way telling me that it’s becoming who you are meant to be that counts.
That your writing is nothing more than simply the voice of who you have always been and will be again. Knowing the shaman and sages of old and identifying with their journey as your own you are here to emulate. What does one do or where do you go when you have received your own “Mandate from Heaven”? You certainly understand that you come to know that you are not the person you thought you were. As the you travel with compassion in your knapsack and virtue as your guiding compass.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American-English phrase yellow brick road as denoting a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.
This phrase alludes to the road paved with yellow brick that leads to the Emerald City, as first described in the children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (George M. Hill Company – Chicago, 1900), by the U.S author Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) and the U.S. illustrator and cartoonist William Wallace Denslow (1856-1915). In the novel, this road is mostly referred to as the road of yellow brick.
According to the dictionary, yellow brick road was first used in, and widely popularized by, the 1939 film adapted from the novel, The Wizard of Oz, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring the U.S. singer and actress Judy Garland.
Two other famous things from the movie were the meaning and origin of the phrase ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’, and the song ‘Somewhere over the rainbow’… and the line ‘If bluebirds fly then why, oh why, can’t I.’ In today’s lexicon, or popular culture, we think of the Elton John’s song ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and having the freedom to move beyond what is expected that takes us there. Perhaps on the wings of bluebirds with Dorothy – or dragons. Bluebirds and dragons are to depict longevity, virtue, happiness and getting there.
In a version of Chinese myth, as the woman Gua created the cosmos three bluebirds bring her food and deities are seen riding dragons through the sky.
To the right is a picture of a jar I took at the British Museum in 2011. The jar is decorated with vigorous dragons among the clouds, with a lotus panel border at the base. The inscription shows this piece was made under the auspicious of the Yuyongjian, a division of the Imperial household in Beijing. In truth, it is as if we remain as an enigma to those who think they know us as we travel our own road of yellow bricks into the unknown.
What can it mean to move beyond our status quo peace of mind, beyond the yellow brick road and what is it that takes us (our eternal spirit) there? Chuang Tzu in 300 BC led the way in early Chinese philosophy in showing us the meaning of freedom and the way there.
One’s highest destiny is not simply to ride on the back of a dragon through the sky… but to become the dragon. The great sages through the ages in China were considered to become dragons when they transitioned from the here and now, to what is considered eternity. The Perfected Man… having dragons as your mentors brings an eternal sense to your own endeavors comforted with the knowledge that you will one day simply rise up into the clouds and return to join them once again.
Something I wrote back in 1995 in the still unpublished manuscript ‘My travels with Lieh Tzu’ seems to say it best. To many, it may be seen as simply a vivid imagination, for myself, it mirrors reality. What occurred both before and after only served to further my own travels as with Dorothy’s “yellow brick road” to go beyond “where bluebirds and dragons fly”. As if our destiny truly lies with the stars…
A Visit with Old Friends
Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennium, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?
You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves.
That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.
18th century Chinese Scroll at RISD Museum – Providence, Rhode Island
As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may too come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.
Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/1995
It all comes back to where are we doing it from. With thoughts and writing that would provide the connection between our innate nature and what would later become the I Ching and Taoism, Chan (Zen Buddhism), along with the structure of Confucianism, that together would make sense of it all. It’s getting and staying in the flow of universal thought described by Alan Watts and others, that propels us to consider the teachings of the ancients.
The underlying premise of “beyond where I find myself now – has always been there. The question has always been do we have the freedom to define and go there for ourselves?” My forever friend Chuang Tzu taught that yes, we do.
One of the best translations of the ‘Basic Writings and Book of Chuang Tzu’ was done by Burton Watson and can be found here on my website. I often refer to it as a reminder of good writing with the intent to broaden the scope of how I view things. Gaining an appreciation, almost as a leap of faith to continue into the unknown.
Chuang teaches us freedom to not become encumbered with what will change. It is entering the flow of universal thought and that each of us will always be present as a continuum of spirit that is never-ending. You don’t have to do anything but to be where you are right now. With the only secret’s worth telling being that as shared consciousness. Speaking and acting only as our heart and mind opens to the present and beyond. Perhaps the key is to reminisce on what we are here to remember.
Two of my most favorite stories from Chuang Tzu are of course first… the butterfly dream in which he awakens no knowing if he is a butterfly thinking he is Chuang Tzu, or Chuang Tzu thinking he is a butterfly. The second is the story of the cook wielding his knife cutting meat so effortlessly that he keeps his blade sharp although he has used the same knife for many years.
Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. Every touch of his hand cut the meat as if he used the knife as though he was performing the Dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music. The cook relayed that what he cared about was the Way or Tao, which goes beyond skill, and said
“I cut up the ox as if by spirit and don’t look at it with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a halt and spirit moves me to where it wants. Over a period of nineteen years I have cut up thousands of oxen with it, yet the blade is as sharp as the beginning. When I see a place of difficulty, I tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I am doing, work very slowly and move the knife with the greatest subtlety completely satisfied and move on. I then wipe the knife off and put it away.”
Even as we meditate, and when we contemplate qualities such as love and compassion, we dissolve emotional states and allow our mind to come to rest, find stability, and harmony. Unknowingly, our thoughts are of returning home to our eternal resting place to the stars – to where we find ultimate freedom. And for myself, thoughts and remembrances of my dear friend and mentor, Chuang Tzu. To the right is the Libra constellation… and home. In the interim with the bluebird as the Missouri state bird telling me that I’m almost there once again.
Chuang Tzu’s place in Chinese history is often overshadowed by Lao Tzu and Confucius, but he is deserving of praise (although he would laugh at the attention). His moderating presence brought more of a sense of what was to become the synthesis between competing philosophies and thoughts of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism over time.
As freedom teaching us about our soul’s eternal awareness. A continuous knowing as if from the earliest shaman, or cognizance that originates from our origins, heart, and mind. I often find myself considering Chuang, Lao, and Lieh Tzu as brothers, more than anyone I have ever known in the present.
Recognizing each task I am here to complete with appropriate pondering or thought, as if remembering and acknowledging mentors we all have known along the way. It’s presumptuous to speak for them, but it sometimes seems as if I have been asked to try.
From the Tao Te Ching and Thoughts on becoming a Sage:
Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself
Instilling virtue within oneself requires neither thought nor effort or action if you are truly in sync with the Way of Virtue.
Yin and Yang Dragons Wuhan Temple
The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the Way. Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading other along the Way. As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet. Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature. Since his every action remains effortless, he does not think about it.
Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself. His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet to become and seeing beyond himself. Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.
Seeing beyond Oneself Wuhan Temple
Seeing his future, his vision matches things and names with reality. He remains humble and reveres harmony. Seeming beyond himself, he becomes the connection between all that should be between heaven and earth. As the sage, he embodies the Way of Virtue and Tao.
Two Old Goats Qingyang Taoist Temple. It is said you are to stroke the goat’s beard through the ages for luck.
A fascinating series of articles, images and thoughts – thank you. Here’s some of my own work ……. .