To live within an ancient knowing that our spirit shall be washed with the souls of mountains. As we travel under the blue sky until the moon sees our light within the stars as reminders of our eternal beginnings.
The dragon outlined in the stars of antiquity at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha.
Let the blue waters know that a new era is to be written. Remaining loyal to nature and the Tao as your ultimate endeavor and forever patient as your destiny awaits you. The darkness that may cover the world must be enlighted by us.
What and who do we think of as the ideal person? What and who do we emulate? Who were our role models that we looked up to when we were in school, or growing up – or later when we assumed some identity for ourselves? A teacher, coach, a minister, someone we know, or read about. In America, we think of our history and can’t go back more than three maybe four hundred years. Unless speaking for the Indigenous peoples who have been here for eons…. But in China, where history can easily be traced for more than five thousand years to the earliest shaman, they’ve had a long time to think about it.
To the right the totem honoring one’s mentors who carry us through both good and bad. The eternal totem that connected us through eternity with nature and the universe we came in with.
People who stand out as exemplifying how we should live our lives, such as Confucius, The Buddha (also known as Siddhartha Gotama or Siddhārtha Gautama), Lao and Chuang Tzu.
Following them brings one not so much to a religion, but a way of life. To a philosophical understanding of our place in the world. When I write, it is not so much about what may appear as outside myself, as who I am and my place in it all. Following the thoughts and words of my mentors. To be one with those regarded as a sage, and going there.
Wuhan Temple in Chengdu Acceptance / from the Three Kingdom Culture 220–280 AD
Confucius, Chuang and Lao Tzu haves all influenced me greatly, just as Emerson, Gandhi, Tolstoy and others in the West. They are thought to be called a sage, in Chinese called a sheng ren, or the perfected person influenced in the Tao Te Ching, or the Way of Virtue, the Tao.
The Chinese word zhen 真 means to be “true; real; authentic”. It was originally written with an ideogram depicting “spiritual transformation”. It originated in the Dao De Jing. The Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) has the first recorded usages of zhenren “true person”. The sage is considered as the ultimate teacher whose endeavor reaches the destiny of all. Buddhists used it to translate as “enlightened one”.
Wenshu Monastery (文殊院 – Wen Shu Yuan) I’ve been here many times while visiting Chengdu. I especially liked the large room as you entered that encouraged sitting in meditation. Initially built in the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Wenshu Monastery was once called Xinxiang Temple. In 1681, during the reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Cidu, an accomplished Buddhist monk, came to the temple. He built a simple hut between two trees and for several years lived an ascetic life there. Legend has it when Cidu was being cremated; the statue of Wensu (Bodhisattva Manjusri in Sanskrit) appeared in the flames, staying for a long time. So people regarded Cidu as the reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri. Thereafter, Xinxiang Temple became Wenshu Monastery.
It begins with letting go of who we think we are and moving towards our authentic selves. Moving from fear to change as our consciousness, with our spirit and desire to share what we have been given with others seen as potential that’s always present that makes us immortal as well.
I’ve had the privilege of living and teaching in Qufu, the home of Confucius. I have taught and lived at the school next to the Confucius Mansion and Temple. My Chinese name is Kongdan. Kong is considered to be the Confucius family name. I was given the name Kongdan by friends in Qufu due to my love of Chinese history.
The picture to the left is said to be students at the school who were descendants of Confucius taken in 1904 or 1905. After the 1912 revolution founding the Republic of China, the school was opened to students from across China.
What is it that sets a sage apart from others? Many will say that it is something referred to as wu wei. This is a question asked over the centuries that always comes back to the teachings and impact of Confucius and Lao Tzu. Perhaps the easiest and best way to relay my own thoughts describing Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, is from the verses of my book, “Thoughts on becoming a sage, the guidebook to living a virtuous life”. Something I wrote twenty years ago.
Several traits of the sage are exemplified in the Tao Te Ching, for myself wu wei, or our natural selves, is best relayed in Verses 2 and 63 as follows:
Verse 2 – Transforming Realities
The sage transforms his feelings and returns to his true nature thus becoming one with the universe once again.
What displays beauty cannot be beautiful. What is hard must become soft.
What is our destiny and how is it we make ourselves a home for virtue? How do we attract our “better angels”, or dragons as I call them who are anxious to guide us on the path we are here to learn and follow? To live as if our souls are to wash the mountains before returning to the stars.
Verse 63 – Becoming a sanctuary to all you meet
Especially true is that the Tao resides in each of us. Thus, in showing the way the sage is good at saving and directing those around him, while abandoning no one. Since the sage in essence is simply the embodiment of the Tao, abandoning or leaving behind another person could or would never enter his mind.
The sage’s surroundings are illustrative of how he sees his place in the ten thousand things. As though he is seen creating a sanctuary that reflects his innermost sense of who he is yet to become.
Kind and reflective, still yet expansive, he competes with no one and no one competes with him. His strengths and weaknesses have become razor sharp as he uses them to cut through what is perceived to be truth and falsehood. While he remains on the edge pushing others to place they would not otherwise go, he leaves no foothold for those who would follow except by accepting and following the Tao.
When he himself becomes the sanctuary for others to take refuge and follow, finding the comfort only found in the expression of the Tao, he is reminded that he who searches will find it and those who don’t only escape to wait until another day. ##
My thought for today… It is as if we are being asked – do we have the power to change what should be seen as inevitable? Do we have within ourselves the wisdom to change on a personal level to improve the human condition that we all can share. That it is compassion, empathy, and knowing who we really are that makes us and our world a better place. That our humanity and hope lie within each of us to find and nurture.
Some events are so overwhelming you can’t simply be a witness, you can’t be above it, you can’t be neutral, you can’t be untouched by it. Simple as that. You see it. You live it. You experience it and it will be with you the rest of your days. The place where our endeavors come into alignment with our destiny.
There is nothing singular about our journey, but we are tempted to go there. We are here ultimately to teach and to learn. We can only be guided by the beauty of nature and love that the universe wants us to discover and know, i.e. the Dao, or Tao. Called by other names, it is still the Dao. We may bring brightness to our garden, but the world needs us.
Taoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters nine and ten of twenty-four are as follows:
Nei-yeh – Inward Training
Those who can transform even a single thing, call them “numinous”; those who can alter even a single situation, call them “wise.”
But to transform without expending vital energy; to alter without expending wisdom: only exemplary persons who hold fast to the One are able to do this.
Hold fast to the One; do not lose it, and you will be able to master the myriad things.
Exemplary persons act upon things, and are not acted upon by them, because they grasp the guiding principle of the One.
Listening Nanjing Museum
Then all under heaven will be well-ordered. “When one word is grasped, all under the heavens will submit. When one word is fixed,
all under heavens will listen.”
It is this [word “Way or the Dao”] to which the saying refers.
For the sage, the greatest challenge, the ultimate paradox, is living in the world with others present. Looking to stillness from within, you are drawn to mountain vistas where the stars seem ever-present. To that time just before sunrise when you can reach out and touch infinity and the suchness that fills us all.
Over time when the true way becomes clear, the hermitage… i.e., returning home, as if a mandate from heaven becomes self-evident.
Daybreak atop East Peak on Huashan Mountain. Huashan is one of the Five Great Taoist Mountains in China. It is said that there are 72 caves scattered throughout the mountainous area. These caves are hard to access, have been used for hundreds of years, and is meant to provide seclusion for Taoist hermits practicing their Qi meditations.These mountains are sometimes referred to by the cardinal directions they occupy, and Huashan, being in the west, is known also as Xiyue. These mountains have been considered sacred by the Chinese for millennia. I spent two night on the mountain in October 2018.
You are living this life as your authentic self – as who you came here to become. When patience found in yourself and others become the bell-weather that determines our progress as preferences become non-existent you come to embody transcendence.
It is said sages act as new-born infants, who move naturally without planning and reliance on the structure given to them by culture and society. This is best described in Verse 15 of the Tao Te Ching.
Verse 15 – Staying on Course
Taking stock, you stop to reflect why you are here in this place and time just now.
You have succeeded in getting the attention of many as your reflection has cast a long shadow. You have shown an uncanny ability to uncover the indiscernible and penetrated contradictions previously covered by darkness. As you become concerned your ego is bringing you to the forefront, while your nature tells you it is better to stay behind.
You are reminded to remain empty and still. That you are not here to make a show of yourself and that you are to leave no tracks. To be so conscience of the correct action that needs to be taken that you simply flow with events. That the essence of the Tao consists of nothing more than taking care, as you know that inner truth cannot be perceived, only the outward form of your actions.
Throwing Pots / The Tao Sichuan Museum in Chengdu
That it is by intuitive understanding that the darkness becomes clear and by means of movement the still becomes alive.
That it will be by letting each thought remain detached and each action well considered that your ultimate success is determined with your virtue the only measure taken home.
The Tao Te Ching tells us that the sage empties himself, becoming void of the discriminations used in conventional language and culture. Sages concentrate their internal energies (qi). They clean their vision as described in Verse 10:
Verse 10 – Exposing ever-present but forgotten traits of Virtue
Yin and Yang Dragons Huangshen
That it is your memory of who you once were and are yet to become that resides in your heart, mind and intellect. As you open your mind to see and know what comes forth, you are simply reminded of what you have forgotten.
That your energies are here to be replenished as you are transformed into the sage whose mind remains still. As you become still once again, you reflect and mirror heaven and earth and the ten thousand things.
You scoff as you know the best way to govern is without governing and using the efforts of others. If you don’t obstruct what the Tao begets at their source and suppress their true nature, things mature by themselves.
Virtue remaining ever-present, its owner unknown until you appear along the way.
The sage manifest naturalness and plainness, becoming like uncarved wood (pu) Verse 19.
Verse 19 – Truly Reflecting the Tao
Reflecting the Tao Qingyang Temple in Chengdu
That if wisdom and reason are only used for self-interest then they should be abandoned. Instead collective wisdom and reason should be used to take all to previously unknown heights.
That if kindness and justice are only shells to pursue selfish motives, then putting an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice will enable people to unite on their own.
That if our behavior with others is governed by cleverness and profits our innermost nature would be fulfilled more assuredly if we remain focused on that which remains undyed and uncarved as if driftwood washed up from the sea.
Acknowledging the Tao leads us to understand what is real and unreal, what is artificial and inappropriate and remaining wholly within ourselves. ##
For the Taoist (Daoist), it is important to remain constant and being consistent. This is where our humanness comes into play and explores why we are here. Where we are to rectify our thoughts and orient ourselves towards the path to perfection. Its why meditation is so important in clarifying our steps forward. When we think of the heart-mind, we are in effect “realizing the Tao”. Not to be perfect, but to move ourselves to our highest endeavor.
To be seen traveling with dragons above the clouds on Yellow Mountain once again.
Having the ability to transform ourselves is “realizing the Tao”. It’s always going back to the beginning that we learn our true path. Back to the oneness of nature we came in with and will return to again.
To live within an ancient knowing that our spirit shall be washed with the souls of mountains. As we travel under the blue sky until the moon sees our light with stars as reminders of our eternal beginnings. Letting the blue waters know that a new era is to be written. Remain loyal to the Tao as your ultimate endeavor and be patient. As your destiny awaits you – as you are here to add to your own transcendence and eternal story.