The continuum of the slowly bending “arc of the moral universe”, as President-elect Joe Biden put in his recent speech, quoting Martin Luther King Jr… that each of us are to do our part.
Living life, leaving all things seen as unnecessary as if simply a continuation – to live within what takes us there. As if our dreams are fulfilled in eternity. If we are in pursuit of freedom and a profound relationship to reality, then all experiences of life must become meditation. To what is meant by living in the moment. To take a path to realize the open heart of true meditation. That what we find is not perfect. That we must first move beyond a sense of helplessness.
I find this in inspiration from a recent book I’ve been reading by Phakchok Rinpoche called, In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas, in which he teaches how the intangible essence of meditation naturally arises when we properly line-up the conditions within our lives. Going beyond a simple, one-dimensional training, the exercises and meditation methods outlined and the words of the Buddha, sourced from the King of Samadhi Sutra, that create a clear path of training according to the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. Ultimately, as I read it, it becomes living our lives as our ultimate aspiration.
** The Bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to liberate all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a Bodhisattva. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, Bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings.
With this I think about what we are here to do. How the intangible essence of how we are to move naturally with the right conditions within who we are yet to become aligning with who we have always been. An innate compassion that seems beyond our reach but is always nearby. Over the centuries many have felt the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism is the best path that takes us there. It is what takes us there that counts. It is this coming into alignment that we find so difficult in our lives and resorting to discipline and guidance from within ourselves that turns the page. Finding our authenticity and embracing the structure that help us to focus and to model ourselves accordingly.
Many years ago, back in a high school journalism class, I had an assignment in writing poetry. One of the lines I wrote that I recall so well was – “sorrowful feelings mean nothing if there is no compassion felt”. This idea of compassion is a common theme that runs throughout the core of Buddhist thought and philosophy. It seems as though liberation from suffering and emptiness to be found in ourselves and all phenomena (the universe – and what we find in it), must begin with a sense of compassion for all sentient beings. But then, just what is it we are awakening to? To this end it is when clarity arrives awareness beckons. For many a sense of empathy for others can serve as the beginning of our understanding and wisdom. It’s this contemplation and conjecture of what happens to us after we die and what could be the universal connection between ourselves, our spirit, i.e., soul and everything else, that historically takes us into the unknown that leads us to wonder. What is it that makes us immortal and are we?
It becomes easy to see how Buddhism and Taoism became so enmeshed in Eastern culture and philosophy. When viewing this as a sage, one would begin by being supple and pliable. Not seeing things as rigid with the tendency to resist change. Seeing change and not being tied to the status quo as essential to our growth. Verses 76 and 78 of the Tao Te Ching are illustrative of this:
Verse 76 – In death the Tao acknowledges the Sage
Entrance to Confucius Temple in Qufu
Before there existed the myriad of shamans, saints, priests and holy men considered to be here to lead the way, there was the Tao.
As the ten thousand things came forth from antiquity to manifest and begin the cycle of being born, dying and being born again continually as the natural extension of the way, the sage ultimately came forth as one protected by dragons. The dragons, but those who have been chosen to impart simple virtue as those who follow the correct path or way of heaven.
Stele of Confucius Confucius Temple
The sage coming forward to find that the reason there is suffering or hunger for life is that others impose too many restrictions on how we should live, therefore people remain unfulfilled. That the reason people are hard to get along with is that those who would lead the way have forgotten the path in which all should follow. However, when death follows as the natural course of events after everything has passed through him and acknowledges his ultimate place in the universe, the loving life becomes secondary as eternal life comes forth to greet the great sage.
Loving God, and what She and the Tao teaches, he simply lets his enthusiasm come naturally as the centuries have shown him the proper way.
The Ten Thousand Things Confucius Temple
Achieving clarity as to our path seems to be the eternal quest. It seems unchanging as everything continually changes in the present, or where we find ourselves at the moment as if a paradox. Clarity referring to what the ancient shaman would call celestial, or what is star driven, that would guide or determine the outcome of things. As a never-ending fixture in the night sky. Change would always return to its beginnings. What they learned was to have patience, follow the nature of things, and that most things would take care of themselves without our interference. How we transformed our thoughts guided by virtue would determine our own success or failure. The old axiom – time will tell – was always the precursor or harbinger of things to come.
The dragon shown here is thousands of years old from the Shaanxi History Museum in Xian
This fits with the Buddhist thought of – letting your mud settle. Having patience to let things occur as they may while knowing that impermanence will have the final say. While acknowledging what was known was that the stars above created a sense of permanence that we could connect to through our own innate nature. The stars would always show the way forward to universal understanding. Our role simply to find the virtue that resides within us to move in the same direction.
Verse 78 – Following the way of Heaven
The Balancing Act Confucius Temple Qingdao
Pulling down the high while lifting the low he stays on an even keel finding the natural balance of all around him.
Continually moving forward unsure or unconcerned if what he does is ultimately good or bad as long as the natural order of things are followed and are allowed to take their places. Moving without presumption or staking claim to what may be perceived as personal achievement. Choosing to remain in the background and not displaying his skills, nothing can deter or get in his way. His burden to keep his virtue to himself and not revealed to those who continually come running to his doorstep.
Modeling his actions after the way of heaven, the sage takes from the long and gives to the short so that the ten thousand things naturally find their places. For all things under heaven to find their place, it is best for heaven to sit back and do nothing allowing the nature of all things to come forward unimpeded fulfilling its ultimate endeavor and finding its true identity and destiny.
The Rites Confucius Temple Qingdao
Throughout history there was never a sense of either or between Buddhism and Taoism with what was already ingrained by centuries of understanding in what was to be known as the I Ching. That complimentary opposites would add to what was known as the strength of each.
The arrival of Buddhist sutras to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian
When the Buddhist sutras (scriptures) came to China to Xian, they were interpreted into Chinese by Taoists. As they spread, Confucian rites also added to their influence. Accommodating the status quo became the norm with change occurring continually over the centuries going forward.
With Taoism always seeming 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 twenty-three and twenty four of twenty-six are as follows:
Nei-yeh – Inward Training
Harmonious Completion Wuhan Temple Chengdu
and cause your body to deteriorate.
Over-restricting your consumption causes the bones to wither
and the blood to congeal.
The mean between overfilling and over-restricting:
this is called “harmonious completion.”
It is where the vital essence lodges
and knowledge is generated.
When hunger and fullness lose their proper balance,
you make a plan to correct this.
When full, move quickly;
when hungry, neglect your thoughts;
when old, forget worry.
If when full you don’t move quickly,
vital energy will not circulate to your limbs.
If when hungry you don’t neglect your thoughts of food,
when you finally eat you will not stop.
If when old you don’t forget your worries,
the fount of your vital energy will rapidly drain out.
When you enlarge your mind and let go of it,
when you relax your vital breath and expand it,
when your body is calm and unmoving:
And you maintain the One and discard the myriad disturbances,
you will see profit and not be enticed by it,
you will see harm and not be frightened by it.
Relaxed and unwound, yet acutely sensitive,
in solitude you delight in your own person.
This is called “revolving the vital breath”:
your thoughts and deeds seem heavenly.
Finally, what remains important to note, is that there is nothing new expressed above that has been observed by western writers and philosophers over the centuries. The continuum of thought was transparent and became transcendent. Tolstoy, Emerson, and more recently Watt, stand out as examples of illustrating what would become the key to should pieces of a puzzle that all fit into a pattern of universal philosophy or thought. This connection becomes even more real through scientific evidence recently a quantum physics. To what the shaman knew from the beginning that there is nothing new under the sun. Only new ways to express nothing as the continuum of the slowly bending “arc of the moral universe”. The ultimate more perfect union we are here to manifest and build upon.