*Special thanks to inspiration from Mei-lan Maurits. Also, for those who may wander, my audience lies far beyond those which may be expected or encountered.
Perhaps it is the restoration of our original selves free from personal wants and ambitions that should outweigh our outer selves as we focus only on inner cultivation. It becomes the ultimate freedom to know both structure and discipline that defines our path…
Last time I ended with the thought of “realizing the Tao” by maintaining constant dedication and keeping to our highest aspiration. What can be meant by happiness, the joy, found when we find the presence that resides from within?
The symbols depicted to the left are four mythological creatures appearing among the Chinese constellations, (the big dipper and stars above) and viewed as the guardians of the four cardinal directions. They are the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Tortoise of the North. Each of the creatures additionally represents other aspects, including a season of the year, a virtue, and one of the Chinese “five elements” (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) and the essence of the I Ching.
It’s like finding and coming in tune with our true selves. What Tolstoy called “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
It is the transforming sense of virtue that does not seek reward as we move from fear – shifting ourselves to the balance found in our breath so that we can begin to dream of endeavor and destiny and what that means to then see beyond ourselves. It is what takes us there.
To breathe as the ancients taught us from the soles of our feet. To set our intention. To begin to accept everything as we are anchored in this moment. Open to vibrations that define our heart-mind. Learning to breathe through and as our grace again as the key. It is this that commends, or entrusts us to the universal Tao. Acceptance of ourselves, those around us, and finding our role through patterns of virtue that eternally defines us. To begin to enjoy the lightness of who we are, finding contentment – what is our niche – what brings us to joy.
What the Tao (Dao) teaches us is that there are stages of growth in the development of every person and each stage yields a harvest of wisdom upon which the next stage is built upon. Our foundation is what we grasp as the starting point in which we grow from. It is from here we begin to become the dream again. We are not simply keepers of the dream; we are contributors of the ultimate dream living as our true selves. What Joseph Campbell called the process of “finding our bliss”. He reminds us that it is the universal consciousness we identify with and then learn from that takes us there.
Sitting in divine meditation Shaanxi Museum Xian
What is it that sets the 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 impact of the universal teachings of Confucius, Lao Tzu, and so many others, with Confucius touting “benevolence and relationships” as Lao Tzu presses “where are we doing it from.” As they are like stars passing overhead, we simply latch onto from time to time. Perhaps the easiest and best way to relay my own thoughts describing the essence of transcendence is Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, from the verses of my book, “Thoughts on becoming a sage, the guidebook to living a virtuous life”. Something I wrote twenty years ago.
It is said of the sage that they act effortlessly and spontaneously as one with Dao and in doing so they act with de, or virtue, without deliberation or choosing to challenge the paradox life brings to our doorstep.
The Anchor of Success located in the Da Ci’en Buddhist Temple at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian
The sage lives naturally and free from desire rooted in the discriminations that human society makes.
Verse 37 – Upholding the Tao
Practicing the art of nameless simplicity, I go forth with no desires and nothing on my agenda.
With the Tao as my anchor I am guided by the virtue of heaven.
The Tao itself doing nothing yet finding that there is nothing it does not do. Yet while following the Tao, I do everything that I should do. Through effortlessness and following the natural course of events, change begins to occur. By upholding the Tao, others begin to emulate your actions and begin to see through their own desire and they too can begin to become still. In stillness, simplicity becomes nameless and seeing beyond oneself becomes self-apparent.
Stilled by nameless simplicity their desires become non-existent. Once gone the world begins to fix itself.
In keeping with the Tao – The Eight-Diagram Pavilion is a landmark of the Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu; it features a square foundation and a cylindrical body with the theory of “a square earth and spherical heavens”.
What is that guiding principle of growth we look to that produces the confluence, the coming together of our thoughts and actions, our past with our future? As relayed in the previous entry we are about becoming our authentic self, and becoming the catalyst for change. The Taoist would say to experience life just the way it is. This idea of finding effortlessness and upholding the Tao. Re-reading the above entry, taking note – internalizing its purpose is a good way to look again from the inside out. To as Chuang Tzu would say, “The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing. This is the Virtue of Heaven”.
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 eleven and twelve of twenty-six are as follows:
Nei-yeh – Inward Training
The steps – Huangshan Old Town
When your body is not aligned, the inner power will not come.
When you are not tranquil within,
your mind will not be ordered.
Align your body, assist the inner power,
then it will gradually come on its own.
The numinous [mind]: no one knows its limit;
it intuitively knows the myriad things.
Hold it within you, do not let it waver.
To not disrupt your senses with external things,
to not disrupt your mind with your senses:
this is called “grasping it within you.”
Riding the Tiger – At home at The Temple of the Immortals in Xian
What is the innate internal journey we take to transcendence once we do as Socrates taught us that “To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom?” With thoughts of “realizing the Tao”, we begin to write this on our heart-mind and live within the qi of Yin/Yang… heaven and earth as the Tao intended. It becomes effortless because it grows into nothing more than an extension of ourselves – as if to do and say without thinking.
Lao Tzu tells us, “I do nothing and the people transform themselves” in verse 57 of the Tao Te Ching. In my own version, I express it this way:
Verse 57 – Becoming one with the dust of the World
The words of the sage cannot be heard. It is through his actions that he leads the way.
Leading with simple virtue he remains quiet and unassuming.
When he talks, he does so in almost a whisper so that others have to listen carefully so that nothing is missed. By controlling his breath, he focuses on self-control and stays away from extremes. To bring forth the virtue in the world he begins by transcending his human frailties and accepting his destiny and where it takes him.
In mirroring those around him, he begins by knowing when to enter and when to exit. As if he were sealing an opening or staying behind to close the gate. He focuses on dulling the edges and untying tangles to still the spirits.
Little Yellow Dragon Duke of Zhou Qufu
He softens the light and joins the dust to adapt all things to what is the proper way. He unties all things but leaves no trace as if he was never there.
Transcending himself the sage cannot be embraced, cannot be abandoned, cannot be helped and cannot be harmed. He cannot be exalted or debased. While uniting with nothing, there is nothing that does not unite with him. Yet there is nothing he does not do or has not done.
Two Dragons Qingyang Mtn
Coming back down to earth, we ask what is it we do when we feel guided by the Tao to do our part to protect the divine nature of Heaven we find here on earth? What divine talents have we been given to expand knowledge and wisdom to take steps in doing so? What is it we are here to do? We begin as if again and again by realizing and awakening to the Tao. In doing so we gain constancy in clarity and stillness.
It is as if we are responsible for preserving the wu wei, the qi of the Tao ourselves through our own eyes and perception. In doing so, we become the pivot between heaven and earth. Its why understanding the true meaning of the internalization of the I Ching is so important.
It’s what Alan Watt taught us about Zen Buddhism – and the connections between Buddhism and Taoism. Not as a religion or philosophy, but a way of life. That we are here to attend to the activities and aspirations of the ancients… the keepers of the dream – and to contribute our own two cents worth – simply that is all. Amen.