Nei-yeh — Inward Training and Mindfulness

Nei-yeh — Inward Training

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The vital essence of all things – it is this that brings them to life.
AM7It generates the five grains below
and becomes the constellated stars above.

When flowing amid the heavens and the earth
we call it ghostly and numinous. (spiritual or supernatural). When stored within the chests of human beings, we call them sages.

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Therefore, this vital energy is:

AAApictureBright! – as if ascending from the heavens;

Dark! – as if entering an abyss;

Vast! – as if dwelling in an ocean;

Lofty! – as if dwelling on a mountain peak.

Therefore, this vital energy cannot be halted by force, yet can be secured by inner power or virtue. Cannot be summoned by speech,  yet can be welcomed by awareness.

Reverently hold onto it and do not lose it: this is called “developing inner power.”

When inner power develops and wisdom emerges, the myriad things will, to the last one, be grasped.

The above translation of the Nei-yeh is by Harold Roth, and excerpted from his book, Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundation of Taoist Mysticism.

By way of introduction to the text, Mr. Roth writes:

“Nei-yeh (Inward Training) is a collection of poetic verses on the nature of the Way (Tao) and a method of self-discipline that I call “inner cultivation” — a mystical practice whose goal is a direct apprehension of this all-pervading cosmic force. It contains some of the most beautiful lyrical descriptions of this mysterious cosmic power in early Chinese literature and in both literary form and philosophical content is quite similar to the much more renowned Lao Tzu (also called the Tao Te Ching).   

The Nei-yeh is a Taoist scripture, believed to have been written in the 4th century BC, making it — alongside the 6th century BC Lao Tzu Te Tao Ching and the 4th century BC Chuang Tzu — one of the earliest articulations of Taoist mysticism.

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The Taoist Monk Qingyang Mountain

The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzu, it is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. Though belonging primarily to the Taoist Canon, the Nei-yeh resonates strongly with other non-dual spiritual traditions, Chan / Zen Buddhism in particular.

I think of it as if we are simply going home… To places we’ve been before and will see again and again. For myself, the path leads back to Lao Tzu and Taoism and ideas of convergence. What the Taoists call bianhua, or pien-hua, i.e., transformation – what becomes the underlying principle of change within the world and what it is that connects us with all things.

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Lao Tzu at Wuyou Buddhist Temple at Leshan Giant Buddha

While some say Nei yeh – Inward Training is anonymously written, many trace its beginnings back to Lao Tzu and what is defined as the essence, or beginning, of what would come to be known as Taoist philosophy.

The first two of the twenty-six chapters are found above. The entire text can be found here on my website at thekongdanfoundation.com. I plan to share this text over the coming “holiday season”. As much for my own gaining of insight and wisdom, as what I might be able to share with others. Ultimately, the question or even quest remains… how do we get there from here and where do we begin? How do we find ourselves living in the present moment reflecting the inner peace, i.e., the sanctuary within and train our thoughts and practice of daily living and actions in what we call “mindfulness?”

Opening ourselves to mindfulness… the ultimate of who we are here yet to become.

What is mindfulness? There has to be a starting point and how can we get there… A place where we simply let go and let our highest endeavor match our ultimate destiny.

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Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

The dictionary says that mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences  occurring in the present moment, which one can develop through the practice of meditation and through other training. What the ancients have always referred to as “Inward Training”. The question has always been – where do I begin? It was this question that was the genesis behind the I Ching. Seeing how everything is connected leads to answers that fit in nature’s way. This is what later was to become known as the indefinable Tao. As if you have reached the conclusion that you don’t want or need more than you already have. To the Buddhist, this is the essence of the Bodhisattva’s vow… the most important thing is to keep working for the world we long for, even when the odds seem overwhelming.

It is finding that peaceful state of awareness that we hope to meet that defines us. This becomes what I like to think of as our “sanctuary”… our state of mind where the place we reside both in the “inner world” that internally defines us… matches with the “outer world” where we find ourselves with others as becoming one and the same. As if living in the state of becoming universal, where it’s not where we are – but who we are that becomes paramount in our lives.

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Contemplation   Qufu

Finding that peace of mind where there is no separation between the two. This is not “new thought”, but found in the oldest texts of antiquity. Seeing the world, the universe as our source, as something beyond ourselves with our ultimate goal to resonate and find our place in it.  It is the smile found on the face of the Buddha, in which he is assured that each of us will ultimately find inner peace for ourselves and go there.                

The term “mindfulness” is derived from the Pali term sati, “memory,” “retention,” “mindfulness, alertness, self-possession,” which, by example, is a significant element of Buddhist traditions, while the concept is related to Zen and Tibetan meditation techniques.

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Shaolin Temple   The beginnings of Chan Buddhism in China

While “mindfulness” has been translated and interpreted as “bare cognition,” in a Buddhist context it has a wider meaning and purpose, namely the ability of discerning what is beneficial and what is not and calming the mind by this discernment. Individuals who have contributed to the popularity of mindfulness in the modern Western context include Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and Richard J. Davidson. In Eastern thought, in addition to Buddhism and Thích Nhất Hạnh, Taoism, Lao Tzu, and Confucius have played a significant role in our gaining wisdom as to our inner development that is to dictate our outer motivations.

Our life can quickly pass us by when we’re not focused on what matters. We have a bad habit of emphasizing the negative and overlooking the positive. Being mindful can help.

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Sichuan Museum Chengdu

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When we are mindful, we carefully observe our thoughts and feelings without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness can also be a healthy way to identify and manage hidden emotions that may be causing problems in our personal and professional relationships. It means living in the moment and awakening to our current experience, rather than dwelling on the past or anticipating the future. Mindfulness is frequently used in meditation and certain kinds of therapy. It has many positive benefits, including lowering stress levels, reducing harmful ruminating, improving our overall health, and protecting against depression and anxiety. There is even research suggesting that mindfulness can help people cope better with rejection and social isolation.

From mindfulness, we enter into contemplation and thoughts as to how could this all be connected, and more importantly what does this have to do with me, or those reading this? First, earlier talking about Nei yeh – Inward Training, and now finding the connection from Taoism to Buddhism in not an esoteric way, to be understood or meant for only a select few who might have special knowledge, or interest, but for everyone. Wisdom to be gained by all becomes universal in nature. N7What we would refer to as “common knowledge”, or what can be described or seen as new beginnings. Not only to refine what we feel may be existing core beliefs. But to recognize many paths, as a confluence that leads to the same place.

For myself, the purpose of acquiring mindfulness is gaining wisdom, i.e., the knowledge of what is true – coupled with compassion and virtue that leads one to judgment as to what action we should then take, if any, coupled with sagacity, discernment, or insight. Mindfulness begins with this as wisdom in tow and helps to take us there as we discover ways of accessing what may be considered as enlightenment.  For me, its communing with nature, gardening, my writing of course, planning my next trip to China and thinking of where that all may lead serves the present as what may be called inward training, or by some meditation. Reading and writing from the inside out – as if opening doors so that our heart and mind can enter to see how others have led by example, as we teach and learn along the way. The earliest shaman of every culture was always concerned more with what they didn’t know than what they thought they did.

My next entry here, chapters three and four of Nei yeh – Inward Training, will N8focus on western thought and philosophy with Christian mystics such as Meister Eckart, Saint Francis, Saint Augustine, and Catherine of Siena who spent three years in meditation, who afterward said that we should not elevate divinity above the common miracles found in every-day life…  A very Zen-like statement. Saint Catherine of Siena (March 25, 1347 – April 29, 1380), was a philosopher and theologian who had a great influence on the Catholic Church.

On my recent trip to China and Tibet, as I went through museums and Buddhist monasteries and temples, one character stood out for me over and over again. As if a certain mystical quality exemplified what I was feeling and seeing. In going there, we go from mindfulness to the mystical that serves to lift us up to somewhere we wouldn’t otherwise go. Manjushri (or manjusri) is the embodiment of all the N9Buddha’ wisdom. The word manju means “charming, beautiful, pleasing” and Shri means “glory or brilliance”. The Bodhisattva is regarded as the crown prince of Buddhist teachings, or the one who can best explain the Buddhist wisdom, that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about enlightenment. Manjushri has this title because eons ago, he was the instructor for seven different Buddhas, the last being Sakyamuni Buddha. Manjushri is often depicted with his right hand holding a double-edged flaming sword and his left hand holding a lotus flower on which rests the Prajnaparamita (Great Wisdom) Sutra. As if saying follow the lotus flower, or bare the consequences.

Wisdom is insight of the true nature of reality… as said by Shakyamuni Buddha, and what many feels is our ultimate purpose that guides and directs us. For reference, I like to refer to the Lotus Sūtra, that is one of the most popular and N10influential Mahayana sutras, and the basis on which most of Buddhism was established. According to Paul Williams, “For many East Asian Buddhists since early times the Lotus Sutra contains the final teaching of the Buddha, complete and sufficient for salvation.”

In Ch. 14, of the Lotus Sūtra – Peace and Contentment – Manjushri asks how a bodhisattva should spread the teaching. In his reply Shakyamuni Buddha describes the proper conduct and the appropriate sphere of relations of a bodhisattva. A bodhisattva should not talk about the faults of others or their teachings. He is encouraged to explain the Mahayana teachings when he answers questions. Virtues such as patience, gentleness, a calm mind, wisdom and compassion are to be cultivated. It was this premise that served as the connection between Buddhism, Taoism, and the benevolence expressed by Confucius, that came together and continues today in China.  It begins with this idea of Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and ourselves, and the vital essence of all things.

Everything remaining perfect                                                                                       

Have no fear of the end of heaven and earth. Thereby lacking a place to rest or that you forget to eat or sleep.

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The bell tolls for thee Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

Heaven nothing more than the air around us. Where is there that there is no air?  Your own weight in it allows you to walk and stand tall breathing in through lungs filled only with it. Always breathing in and out as your inner chi or essence makes itself known to dragons.

The earth nothing more than the soil and water that sustains us. Filling and giving shape to the place we only temporarily call home. As we walk and stand tall with feet forever attached to it. Always letting the earth be the ultimate messenger of nature’s way.

What can the air be but the rainbow, clouds and mist, wind and rain and the four seasons? Simply heaven at its purest. What can soil be but mountains and hills, rivers and seas, metal and stone, fire and wood? The essence of earth at its fullest. How can there ever be an end to it?

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Horizons Unknown  Huashan Mountain

As all things have beginnings and endings, what will happen must happen. Endings always ending bringing new beginnings that simply begin again. Fearing the worst will happen is not as it should be. What can eternity be but the innate sense that heaven and earth are simply the same only in different forms for different reasons?  Things just taking shape in the end.

Have no concern for final outcomes and know peace. Simply rest easy and eat and drink from the cup that living brings you. With everything remaining perfect to the end. DCD  1/13/95

 

By 1dandecarlo

Dan’s Sunday, Oct 28 Unity of Springfield China Presentation

My trip to China began and ended in Beijing… with a whole lot of stops in-between which is usually the case.

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October 8 Sunrise on Huashan Mountain

After twenty years of coming to China, I looked at this trip as sort of a sabbatical. A journey of the heart that was like coming home and finding the next step that would propel or take me further towards my ultimate destination. We all have this thing about finding and returning to our source. It’s like bringing our human conscious awareness into alignment with who we are as the universe sees us becoming… Although for most of us it’s like an unconscious pulling that we can never define well enough to go there, so we look for what we think will make us “happy” – and remain stuck where we are. Finding ourselves takes courage and 100_4894ultimately most people in the end – when it becomes too late to change – are sorry they never went there. What is our purpose… who am I to say? But it is as I always told my students in college in China – who planned to be teachers themselves … that life begins with finding our true niche and pursuing this with all our heart. You will know this by what the universe tells you is your next step. It’s the one thing in common that all great artists, teachers and philosophers of every era and generation have always come to know. That to find ourselves, we often have to suspend disbelief going forward, (our inability or refusal to believe or to accept something as true), that then leads to the transformation of who we are here to become.

Today will be more of a history lesson than simply like a tourist visiting various sites, 9 dragon walltaking pictures, and then going home. It was much more than that and hopefully you will think so after today’s presentation. After Beijing, and my spending a day at the National Museum to focus on what I am here to learn over the coming month, my trip took me to five cities, three mountains and many places in-between… The nine dragon wall depicted here at Beihai Park next to the Forbidden City in Beijing is a great place to visit. The park is very famous as it was a favorite of many emperors in China’s history. I usually come here when I have time when I’m in Beijing.

My trip focused on going to the following places:

Qufu home of Confucius, Ji Dan and Yellow Emperor (and my home when I am in China),

Luoyang and Songshan Mountain/Shaolin Temple and Longman Grottoes.

Xi’an, home of the terra cotta warriors, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and Huashan Mountain to the east,

Chengdu and the Lushan Giant Buddha, and

Lhasa, Tibet where I spent two days at four Buddhist monasteries and temples and getting to know the city and customs of the people… Of course, like everywhere else I want to go back.

A detailed account of each location is here on my thekongdanfoundation.com website following the timeline of my visit to China, so I will only try to give highlights here of my trip.

People in China often ask why I go back to places I’ve already been, like the Wenshu 100_5826Buddhist monastery, the Taoist Qingyang Mountain and Temple, and People’s Park teahouse in Chengdu where I often go. I tell them that everywhere I go is like meeting again with old friends from the past and updating our stories. It is for the stories I learn and remember that I am inspired to hear more and write – telling and reminding people about their origins and conversing again with them who we all have been.

Each stop had a specific purpose. Qufu for a few days where I Qufu4taught a few classes at the Confucius College while I was there… took lots of pictures for my books at a park I have visited frequently over the years, then left for Luoyang. I had intended to return to Qufu but couldn’t, because of all the holiday travel.

Over 105 emperors of 13 dynasties had their capitals in Luoyang during China’s history. Luoyang was the center of politics, economy, and culture in China for 1,500 years. Since the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600 BC), Luoyang had begun its history as a 100_5183capital city due to its location in relation to mountains and rivers in the area. There is so much history here that I want to come back to Luoyang for further study. An example is the Sanhuang Basilica found near the top of Songshan Mountain that by tradition housed the Three Sovereigns (the Heavenly, Earthly, and Human Sovereigns). 100_5209

It is said Lao Tzu lived here for a while and Taoism got its beginnings on Songshan Mountain where I visited and with the Shaolin Temple famous for what was to become kung fu. It was a place where Chan Buddhism got its start teaching the physical moves of the famous kung fu at what is now the Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center that 100_5310were aligned with much more than physical improvements and continued to grow over the centuries. All these things for me fit a pattern of discovery… that served as a reminder of our past. As if an archaeologist sorting through what was important and re-learning what was familiar to you at the time.

Our sister city group from Boynton Beach donated 200 wheelchairs to Qufu in 2007… the wheelchair below I saw in front of the Shaolin Temple, was the first one I’ve seen in over ten years. It was here an hour south of Luoyang, while I was at the Taoist Temple on Mt. Songshan 100_5244that I saw the inscription written by Emperor Wuding of the Han dynasty, who ruled from 141 to 87 BC, that he pointedly referenced the connection between all philosophies and gave credence to the idea of convergence, of finding or reaching 100_5140a common conclusion in living one’s life. He founded the Songyang Academyone of China’s four major Confucian academies; and the Taoist Zhongyue Temple, here dedicated to Lao Tzu and Taoism. This concept of finding and nurturing the best attributes of each was well in place prior to the arrival of Buddhism that would help to bring all three together in Chinese culture going forward. This was a very big deal.

When I visited the Shaolin Temple there were 50,000 kung fu students at the adjacent Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center that day. After returning to Luoyang, I went to the Longman Grottoes where there are as many as 100,000 statues within the 2,345 caves. The grottoes were excavated and carved with Buddhist subjects over the period from 493 AD to 1127 100_5337AD. They suffered severe damage during the cultural revolution from 1965 to 1975, as did cultural sites throughout China during that time.

What struck me was the continuing presence as if the joining or coming together of history with one’s natural environment and connecting this with the universe, or divine spirit within us and that which surrounds us as well. All this has to be something much bigger than ourselves. Perhaps it’s the sense of 4 to 5 thousand years of history that has an intrinsic meaning that helps to define 100_5353within you defining who you are, as well as, what surrounds you on the outside. You become one with it without even your acknowledging. To be treated as if you are coming home to visit something that is innately a part of yourself. Something you have always known, but simply needing to be reminded.

I got this sense especially at the Longman Grottoes where  thousands of caves and images of the Buddha were carved out of solid rock. This seems to be the motive behind all these ancient “temples”. What we in the west today would describe as “sites having great historical and religious significance”. They bring a sense of longevity and simplicity to it all spanning thousands of years and being reminded that both the inner and outer are the same 100_5037reality we each choose to live every day. The Buddhist White Horse Temple on the outskirts of Luoyang has always been on my bucket list here in China. It’s influence in the spread of Buddhism over the centuries has been immeasurable. At some point in our lives there is something more than just knowledge and understanding. It comes with wisdom, as acceptance, and an enduring presence. What is it we’re grounded too? Others may teach, but ultimately it is something that becomes innately ourselves.  It is having the presence of self-assurance knowing that kindness and simplicity are the keys that opens all doors. (something I need to work on) Keeping things simple means there are fewer doors that need to be opened as well. As if “becoming simple minded” is a good thing.

Two other overreaching influences from Buddhism to China was that Luoyang was the start of the Silk Road that headed back to Venice in Italy. It was by way of the Silk 100_5014 (1)Road (and elephants going through Tibet to Xian), that Buddhism came to China. By the time Marco Polo came here with his father and uncle in 1270 AD on their way to visit Kublai Khan in Beijing, the Silk Road had been a functioning means of transportation of goods and culture between east and west for almost fifteen hundred years. Both were here at the time and Luoyang would have been the last stop on the silk road before heading for Beijing. The White Horse Temple and the Longman Grottoes have had the most lasting historical presence in this area of China. According to tradition, the first Buddhist temple in China, established in 68 AD under the patronage of Emperor Ming in the Eastern Han dynasty was here in Luoyang and was later to become the 100_5354White Horse Temple.The grottoes were excavated and carved with Buddhist subjects over the period from 493 AD to 1127 AD.  Of special interest to me was that they are often referred to as the “Dragon’s Gate Grottoes” derives from the resemblance of the two hills that check the flow of the Yi River that once marked the entrance to Luoyang from the south.

After going to Luoyang, I went to Xi’an which is famous for the terra cotta warriors, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and Moslem Quarter among other places. IMG_4541I had been to all three on a  previous visit. I spent the Chinese Moon Festival here for four or five days more in contemplation and reflection than anything else. DSCI0140I’ve always had a love/hate relation with Xi’an. The first emperor of China (the guy who had the terra cotta warriors built and connected all the smaller walls into what would become the Great Wall), burned all the books and killed the scholars who knew of Chinese history, thinking all important 100_5360history in China was to begin with him… It is for them I come to Xi’an in their memory.  I did visit and walk on the ancient wall around the old city of Xi’an. No words just memories. Sometimes a journey of the heart is not so pleasant. It is the largest wall still standing around an ancient city in China. If you want to see 3000 years of China’s history, go to Xi’an and Luoyang. The roots of Chinese history and culture are here. DSCI0018One of my favorite places in Xi’an is the Taoist Temple Home of the Eight Immortals. The last emperor escaped from Beijing to come here to this place in Xi’an in 1912 when China ceased being a dynasty and became a republic.

After Xi’an, I went halfway back to Luoyang to Huashan Mountain. Lao Tzu was 100_5418here too. I spent two nights on top of the mountain… you saw one of the pictures I took of the sunrise at East Peak. I was here over the holiday (of course) with hundreds of other people. I should know better by now. The view from here is overwhelming. It’s easy to see man’s connection with nature, the stars and 100_5449planets from up here. Two of many highlights were the Jitian Taoist Palace, and a place on the mountain top referred to as the “Gateway to Heaven”. No kidding. Anyone thinking they have an 100_5467exclusive licensing agreement with God should come here and see how the universe works. It is you – and you are it. Everywhere you go, you see this ancient connection to the stars and sense you are one with it all. I could talk here forever, but it’s time to go back to Xi’an and take the fast train to Chengdu before going to Tibet.

Chengdu… the city famous for tea houses and the hot pot. Where Taoism and 100_5759Buddhism came together almost two thousand years ago and together left a permanent imprint. To what some later would call heaven on earth, or Shangri la. If you have a sense of Chinese history… you can just feel their calming and relaxing, come as you are, presence. This was my fourth or fifth visit to Chengdu. I love it here. When I truly retire this is where I most likely will be found. Many retirees come here for the weather, the tea houses, and the 100_5791atmosphere… I referred earlier to my favorite places in Chengdu. This trip was also highlighted by a trip to the Chengdu Opera (which I enjoyed immensely), and the 100_5671Leshan Giant Buddha. Of great surprise when I got here was the Taoist Caves adjacent to the Buddha honoring Lao Tzu and Taoism and the great stone carvings of the symbol of the I Ching. The Giant Buddha was built at the 100_5685coming together of two rivers that had flooded the area every year. Its intent was the stop the flooding with the help of the Buddha… But what I saw was the coming together of Buddhism, Taoism, and the 100_5699I Ching representing the confluence of all three for the purpose of one goal… unifying philosophical and religious ideals for one common purpose. For myself, this is what the idea of what Unity means. When you study the Filmore’s teachings, and spend time at the library at Unity Village in Kansas City, you can easily see this transcendental expression of Christian teaching and connection that became Unity in America. It was this idea of convergence that allowed The Kongdan Foundation to publish the Unity Daily Word in China over ten years ago. With this as a backdrop it was on to Lhasa and Tibet.

On Sunday morning, October 14, I got up at 4 AM and headed for the Chengdu airport and Lhasa. Several things that stood out to me after my arrival in Tibet. First, the devout and intensity of what I would call religious fervor of the local people. When your way of life has been challenged by “authorities” after thousands of years, your faith becomes inherently more real. I have written about both Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Chan Buddhism… this is an area I need to explore and study more. I arrived here in Lhasa on Sunday in what would be a “free day”.

We toured four Buddhism monasteries and temples on Monday and Tuesday, then I 100_5949went to airport on Wednesday morning to fly to Beijing and home. On Monday we went to the Drepung Monastery in the morning and Sera Monastery in the afternoon. We could not 100_5957take pictures inside.

The two things that got my attention at the Sera Monastery were first, the afternoon debates in the courtyard. The daily 100_6024debating is a class to practice and test the monks mastery of Buddhism. The second was the Circle of Life, or Wheel of Life, depicted here that describes Tibetan Buddhist 100_6014philosophy.

On Tuesday we went to the Polata Palace and Jokhang Temple. Second point was the spinning wheel we often see depicted with Buddhism. I thought the explanation was 100_6034intriguing.  Each of the spinning wheels have a sutra (what we might call a Bible verse, or scripture). Passing by spinning the wheel in the right frame of mind meant that bits of the sutras would be released and absorbed by you. Third, was the tradition of walking by the locals everyday on paths that connected the monasteries and temples in Lhasa. I give a great explanation of this on my blog. 100_6028Finally, the monasteries here in Lhasa have debating sessions in the afternoon (which you can observe), where the monks debate their own take on the meaning of Buddhist scriptures, the sutra, and take turns defending their position.

My take on my trip is on my blog. Basically, it is living in the realm of who you are yet to become. If you think you are there now, it often takes an event like the death of a family member, loss of a job that you thought defined you, a natural disaster (fire, flood, tornado, earthquake, hurricane, etc.), that redefines attachments as to who you thought you were, but in reality, wasn’t who you are meant to be. Its like the universe has to take extreme measures to get your attention. Once it does… there is no turning back.

By 1dandecarlo

My recent trip to China /Presentation and Discussion

You are invited to come to Unity of Springfield located at 2214 E Seminole at 9:15 AM this coming Sunday morning, October 28, for a presentation of my recent trip to 100_5671China and Tibet. My focus will be on ideas of “convergence”, how this idea changed China over the centuries, and how we get to where we are going with 100_5699enlightenment and our endeavors that lead to our ultimate destiny. All that is important is that we find and follow the path meant for each of us. It’s why we are here. Its finding a sanctuary from within and having a sense of following where it might lead.

In the program at Unity of Springfield Sunday morning, I will attempt to reduce a month traveling to various cities in China and to Lhasa, Tibet to 45 minutes. For me, it was taking over 1,200 pictures and through them, my impressions of where I was, and my writing… telling me where I was to go next, and what my “takeaway” should be.

For those who don’t know me that well, I have been writing about Chinese history 100_4894and philosophy for twenty-five years, made almost fifty trips (I’ve lost count) to China, and taught English at university and high school in Qufu, in Shandong Province for many years. I have been attending Unity first in Delray Beach, Florida, now in Springfield, Missouri since 1997. I am the President/CEO of my own foundation, The Kongdan Foundation, that was founded in 2006. It’s primary purpose is the be a conduit for better global understanding through conveying the history, philosophy, and culture of ancient China, and how it remains relevant to how we live our lives today.

A synopsis of Sunday’s program will appear here afterwards on this website.

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 18, 2018 / The Journey Home

Notes and Postscript

One thing coming to Lhasa, Tibet has shown me is I am not to become a Tibetan Buddhist just yet. That in many ways we become a conduit  – initially unaware of one’s own role – until we open ourselves to the universe and accept who we are truly yet to become. Having a sense of the underlying reason why and how Buddhism came to China, and it’s impact on Chinese religion and culture is though. Beyond just a cursory review, I have had an opportunity to expand my own knowledge and hopefully wisdom of some of the intricacies here on my website.  How it progressed over the centuries in China and what was to become Chan and Zen Buddhism is essential in understanding the convergence of philosophy and religion not only in China, but the entire world. For myself, it is a key element in reminding us that we are all universal and that understanding our origins, as well as the origins of others and where it has taken them, is central the our own enlightenment, for lack of a better term or description, as well theirs. This “convergence” begins and continues within each of us.

All of my entries here have additional thoughts, notes, and pictures in some cases to be added. My journey is never to be completed, only added on to…

It is as if all I need to know I already knew and I am simply to be reminded of my own origins and why I am here. Home is everywhere we’ve ever been and/or will be. It is not a physical place, except as we can define as what we create as our sanctuary. It is the place where our body, heart, and mind reside. Our role is simply how we have influenced what we have ever touched or will touch, as we go forth from the past, present, and future with compassion, virtue, and wisdom. That journey continues… and I have far yet to go.

Final Thoughts written on the way back to USA

Why do you not live in the realm of who you are yet to become? Toshi did not leave his pen with you by mistake. It was so that you would take him with you – he is your guide – your gift from the universe. He is no only a tour guide, he is one of your mentors here to show you the way forward.

The one you need is always present just wanting to be asked. You have a gift – finetune it to become your ultimate self. The way is clear – open your heart to those who are here to help you. (This was apparent on my way back from Lhasa on the plane going through Xi’an and on to Beijing). But it took me to act in my own best interest first.

Become one with the change that fits naturally within your highest image and become one with it. Become the light of your own universe – it flows from within you, Dan. Find the joy and use its energy to guide you. Create the sanctuary that your mentors find appealing and want to reside in themselves making it easier for them to make an appearance. Focus on continually restoring your energy. Your longevity counts on it. Be guided by and from the light within. Toshi is an example of the key – don’t let him go. Share your energy with him and he will stay in it’s comfort. By example, this energy has always resided as your enthusiasm. Your passion is what gives you the courage and way to see within yourself – you are not to be the Buddha – you are to be yourself.

Create the flow of energy you want the world to follow and they will do so – you are 100_5699not Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, a Confucian, the Buddha – but the convergence of all these. It was Lao Tzu and use of I Ching that go your attention. You are a child of the universe – once found – you are to manifest this as yourself. Be yourself. You have been given a gift beyond life and death. Your job is to simply stay in the flow as who you have been, are now, and are yet to become. The world is your sanctuary. Live within your highest endeavor and you will always be ready for the next step to come.

For now, complete the update of Lao Tzu you have been working on for over a year. The “account” of your journey is far from complete. Filling in the details is essential.

Become the joy as one who knows the way forward and the next step will always be readily apparent. Continually develop structure and using your innate planning talent to focus on the next three steps that show the way. Three keys to sanctuary are 1) family, 2) your surroundings, and 3) your writing. Let others live in the light that you possess – don’t keep it to yourself. Show compassion and love and you in turn will be loved. Show forgiveness and you will be forgiven. Replace regret with showing the way forward with compassion and energy directed by your heart and mindfulness. That is all. Know the ways of your garden and know the world. You have created your own mantra – just learn to live by what you have written.

Continued notes…

Why do you not live within the realm of who you are yet to become? Living in the state of becoming – I have never lived within the confines of a physical space/or place. I live in the State of Becoming. To live as if continually transformed as a mirror – reflecting from within my intent to act as a confluence of energy. Not tied to a particular philosophy or religion – but to the highest endeavor of all that come before me. To be humbled by the gifts of others and they in turn, will become humbled by your own.

As I re-consider my role, I think I have an opportunity to expand the consciousness and make connection to universal truth in regards to history of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoist philosophy, Chinese history, and how they relate with and to the world. With Tashi’s help anything is possible. I may have misjudged my role initially on my blog because I was so humbled by it all and it seemed so overwhelming. With the centuries of history in Tibet, and just as with Taoism, there needs to be an updating, a refresher. What seems to be beyond me comes in the way of my guide – the tour guide who seems steeped in Buddhism.

Perhaps this is why I have always been met with resistance in my endeavors… because there was a much bigger role I am here to play than that I attempted to limit myself to. The arena was limited and did not match abilities I am here to convey and perform. Staying within myself means not to be distracted by those things not tied to my highest endeavor. Perhaps my role is much bigger than to be limited by Qufu, for example. Th broaden my horizon to the universe and let it fill in the blanks. Maybe it is Tashi, in Lhasa, who has a superb knowledge of “connecting the dots” for my benefit as it relates to seeing Tibetan Buddhism and the key to the benevolence within each of us (the ten thousand things – as the Chinese would say).

It is as if this this so-called “sabbatical” has taken on more than I thought might be possible. Just as it is said to be careful what you open yourself to the universe – what comes forth to fill you may be more than you are ready for. Toshi is leading the group I was with in Lhasa onto the base camp in the Himalayas – I didn’t go – but we exchanged WeChat and email and he will help me fill in the blanks to my knowledge and blog… We’ve already began. Instead of having a limited vision of what our role in the universe should, or can be, we are to expand our vision to our highest endeavor. It is as if we are here to come to know who we are and to become this – unafraid as to where it may take us. As if flying at 30,000 feet… above the clouds and seeing below the steps that are needed are easy to see and coming down to enable others to do them. Not by trying to do all by myself, as I follow Lao Tzu’s model of “doing nothing”, but to show others by our virtue the way to proceed.

To become as if a monk in your own sanctuary. You have enough to do – doing nothing.

Focus on mindfulness

  • We become Buddha-mind when we become present – in the moment – with the mindset of the universe, and in turn universal truth.
  • We become one with where we are when it is as a sanctuary to our highest self – rather in Chengdu, China, or my backyard.
  • It is not where we are – but where are we doing it from.
  • It is what inspires our highest aspiration from within – and we convey this with love, compassion, sincerity, and energy for all, especially family and friends. Once we reside in this moment we convey this to all we meet and especially to who we are yet to become.
  • Our personal attributes not in keeping with our highest selves we diminish and leave behind become a reason for focus, meditation, and contemplation. For myself, it begins with lack of discipline and patience and working to enhance both.
  • My visit to Lhasa was not just for pictures, but to expose myself to aspects of mindfulness, and perhaps much more.

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 14 – 17, 2018 / Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism

The feeling I get in Chengdu is the same as what others have found elsewhere. I don’t want anyone reading this to feel they have to drop everything and rush off to China DSCI0196and Chengdu. It’s becoming universal… call it God, Lao Tzu and the Tao, Buddhism and the Buddha, etc.. It’s where all paths are universally respected and equal. For me it’s living in convergence with all others in common practice. It’s where spiritually directed people can see themselves and others in the same way. Finding the place that speaks to the sanctuary from within and going there. Dropping the pretense that your way is the only way to God.

I have been blessed here in Lhasa by a guide. Not just someone who takes our group through two days of monasteries and temples (a talent for which he has few peers), but Tashi Delek, has agreed to augment my limited knowledge with his wisdom. After the tour was over and I returned to USA, Tashi agreed to review his notes and over the next few weeks we will amend. So on to Tibet… and Tibetan Buddhism. Nothing here is meant to have or relay any political overtones. It is simply to relay it’s importance to history and provide an overview… my own.

We will break it down into five sections below. First, a very brief overview of what you find when you arrive and history of Lhasa. And second, the highlights of the 100_6026four monasteries and temples here that we went through together with our group. This will have an on-going “growth and change”, as additional information is added. For myself, it continues with the thought of developing mindfulness, that what and when I write it is from both my head and heart – that are listening to my soul’s eternal journey and my own steps into eternity. My heart tells me to be true to my own intrinsic essence towards Taoism, my head tells me that the Way will be made clearer with my serving, or being a conduit for others transformation, not simply my own. Wisdom becomes universal when it is shared by all.

Lhasa Overview

So I’m up at 4:20 AM Sunday morning for an hour taxi ride and two hour check-in for 8 AM flight from Chengdu to Lhasa. I left my notebook in carry-on so all my ideas 100_6098on the plane had to wait.

          Scene from a shop in Old Town

Anyway, I arrived in Lhasa two hours later and make it to the Lhasa Gang -Gyan Hotel on Beijing Road, where I will be for three nights (Sun/Mon/Tues), then leave Wednesday morning for Beijing and Missouri. Sunday after checking in was a free day and I did some shopping for Marie and Katie. The tour begins tomorrow. Lhasa has a unique history unlike almost any other city. It’s been at the crossroads of human travel and has served as the spiritual mecca for what was to be known as Tibetan Buddhism for thousands of years. Most of it’s late history was shaped by the influence of the mongols and connection with Mongolia. The mongols recognized Buddhism early and how the Dali Lama’s influence shaped the entire region.

Coming here is one the most humbling experiences I have ever encountered. The breadth of commitment over the centuries to mindfulness, self-awareness, and what are considered to be universal truths, (in Buddhism routinely called the four noble ATibettruths) is not something one can absorb in just a day or two beyond just appreciation in the highest possible sense. Tibetan Buddhism here in Lhasa, is all encompassing. It contains and is the fabric of all who have come before and permeates the local culture in the most positive way imaginable. It’s not something you do… it defines who you are. You can see this in the locals who take what can be called “ritual walks”  around the city that is kind of ingrained in Tibetan culture, and without it and early morning rituals by pilgrimages to Jokhang Temple among others, the Tibetan flavor would be lost. Another example is the yearly painting of the exterior of the Potala Palace that was to occur a few weeks here after our visit. Everyone either volunteers to help to paint, or provides food and money to help with the community effort.

You can’t get much closer to God physically, than here high in the Himalayas.  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). The only thing I felt in the change in elevation was a severe headache the second morning after arriving. I think it was the lack of oxygen to my brain. After a couple cups of coffee and walking around outside I was fine. I was also helped by my having gone up and down Songshan and Huashan mountains in China in the weeks prior to coming to 100_5943Tibet.

One of the best explanations of the spinning wheel you see 100_6034at every Buddhist temple and monastery was given by Tashi when he said each wheel contains copies of the Buddhist sutras. By spinning the wheel, bits and pieces of the sutras (sutras are comparable to Bible verses) are released to you… the person doing the spinning. As you focus on your highest endeavor and possible destiny, you hope to be noticed by your devout sincerity and compassion towards others on your own journey.

The four monasteries and temples below give a representative overview as to what that means to history and what Tibet has become today. There is ample additional information on all four on the internet. I asked Tashi to give me some specific details that may not be all that is considered “common knowledge”.

Drepung Monastery

The tour began Monday morning at Drepung Monastery. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries and is located on the Gambo Utse mountain, not far from the 100_5957western suburb of Lhasa. It was the home of the Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built in the 17th century. There were ten people in our group, plus our tour guide, Tashi. The plan is to visit two monastery/temples today (Drepung and Sera) and then two more tomorrow, the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. The rest of the group is going to a base camp hours away from Lhasa and will be here seven to ten days. My tour is for four days and I leave the group Wednesday morning and head for Beijing and home.

Drepung Monastery, also called Tashi-Megyur-Chahju-Ling, is one of the largest monasteries of the Gelupa Sect. It was built in 1416. It had more than 10,000 monks in the 1940’s… I think the mindset you should have is the pictures tell the story of what you see, the narrative from Tashi will be from the inside out. Pictures from Lhasa are below:

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Sera Monastery

After lunch at a local restaurant (yak dumplings and yak butter tea) we went to Sera 100_6024Monastery also known as the “Wild Roses Monastery”. Then back to hotel a little after 4 PM. Sera Monastery was founded by Jamchen Choje Shakya Tesh, who was a disciple of Tsongkhapa in 1419. The Sera Monastery has three colleges and thirty-three 100_6014houses. It is the second biggest monastery in Tibet. The two things that got my attention were first, the afternoon debates in the courtyard. The daily debating is a class to practice and test the monks mastery of Buddhism. The second was the Circle of Life, or Wheel of Life, depicted here that describes Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Tashi would add…

The Wheel of Life can be interpreted on several levels. The six major sections represent the Six Realms. These realms can be understood as forms of existence, or states of mind, into which beings are born according to their karma. The realms also can be viewed as situations in life or even personality types—hungry ghosts are addicts; devas are privileged; hell beings have anger issues.

In each of the realms the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appears to show the way to liberation from the Wheel. ( A Bodhisattva is a person who has attained prajna, or enlightenment, but who has postponed Nirvana in order to help others attain enlightenment).  But liberation is possible only in the human realm. From there, those who realize enlightenment find their way out of the Wheel to Nirvana.

The Wheel of Life is one of the most common subjects of Buddhist art. Mandalas are 100_6003works of sacred art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism. The word “mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that generally means circle – hence the concept of circle of life – and mandalas are primarily recognizable by their concentric circles and other geometric figures. There were several to be found here at the Sera monastery. A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.

The detailed symbolism of the Wheel can be interpreted on many levels. The Wheel of Life (called the Bhavachakra in Sanskrit) represents the cycle of birth and rebirth and existence in samsara. In Buddhism, samsara is the process of coming into existence as a differentiated, mortal creature. Whereas, in Hinduism, it is considered the endless series of births, deaths, and rebirths to which all beings are subject. 

Tashi explained the different parts of the Wheel and what they mean. The main sections are the hub and the six “pie wedges” depicting the Six Realms. Many Buddhists understand the Wheel in an allegorical, not literal, way. As you examine the parts of the wheel you might find yourself relating to some of it personally or recognizing people you know as Jealous Gods or Hell Beings or Hungry Ghosts.

The outer circle of the Wheel is the Paticca Samuppada. (Sanskrit, meaning the 100_6014chain, or law, of dependent origination, or the chain of causation — a fundamental concept of Buddhism describing the causes of suffering and the course of events that lead a being through rebirth, old age, and death). Traditionally, the outer wheel depicts a blind man or woman (representing ignorance); potters (formation); a monkey (consciousness); two men in a boat (mind and body); a house with six windows (the senses); an embracing couple (contact); an eye pierced by an arrow (sensation); a person drinking (thirst); a man gathering fruit (grasping); a couple making love (becoming); a woman giving birth (birth); and a man carrying a corpse (death).

The above explanation helps to understand in a brief way, the underlying concepts of the history of 100_5673Buddhism. For those who follow the “teachings of Buddhism”, being here in Lhasa, seeing these principles put into practice and how others have incorporated this into their own lives often leads to a transformation, or furthering, of one’s own journey. It’s also easy to see how religion and one’s own philosophy of life can blend into how every day should unfold and how we can/should adapt our lives into something much bigger than ourselves. Ultimately giving structure, context, and meaning to where and how everything fits together in the universe, i.e., what Sakyamuni, the Buddha intended.

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On Tuesday we first went to Potala Palace, then after lunch we went to Jokhang Temple. Pictures were limited to outside both locations.

Potala Palace

The Potala Palace (presently a museum as well as a World Heritage Site), situated Image result for thangka painting potala palacebetween the Sera and Drepung monasteries, was the former winter residence of the Dalai Lama up to the point when Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama) escaped to India because of the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion. What struck me was its division into what is known as the red palace or section and white palace of the administrative complex. To the left is one of the famous wall hangings from the Thangka Museum. Going through the museum is a Image result for maitreya statue potala palace museumrequirement prior to entering the Potala Palace. The jade carvings, esp. the Jade Phoenix, and Buddha statutes (the maitreya statute, representing the future Buddha) were highlights for me.

The palace, founded in the 7th-century, is an iconic structure that represents the role of Tibetan Buddhism in the administration of Tibet. It had been named after the Mt. Potalaka, which is believed to be the dwelling of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The Heritage Site also comprises the Jokhang Temple, that I will be this afternoon.

The historic structure has been constructed over a palace that was erected on the 100_6028Red Hill by Songtsan Gampo. The Potala Palace consists of two chapels – the Chogyel Drupuk and the Phakpa Lhakang retain some of the portions of the original 100_6040structure. Construction of the new palace was started in 1645 by the Fifth Dalai Lama (Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso) after the site was deemed suitable as the seat of the government. Gyatso was the first Dalai Lama to wield effective temporal and spiritual power over all Tibet. He is often referred to simply as the Great Fifth, being a key religious and temporal leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet. While the external structure took 3 years to complete, the palace interiors were completed in 45 years. The Dalai Lama along with his government shifted to the White Palace (Potrang Karpo) in 1649. The Red Palace (Potrang Marpo) as well as its ancillary buildings were added to the complex during 1690-1694.

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After seeing Potala Palace, we had lunch in Old Town, then continued to the Jokhang Temple.

Jokhang Temple

Jokhang Temple is considered to be the spiritual heart and holiest Buddhist site in Tibet. We visited on a Tuesday afternoon on my last full day before leaving the next morning for Beijing and home. Situated in the heart of the Old Town and 100_6079surrounded by Barkhor Street, this four-storied building was built in the seventh century by Songtsan Gambo. With roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles it demonstrates a combination of the architectural style of Han, Tibetan, India and Nepal, as well as, a Mandela world outlook of Buddhism. It was originally called the ‘Tsuklakang’ (Tsulag Khang) – ‘House of Religious Science’ or ‘House of Wisdom’ during the Bon period of Tibet, which is referred to as geomancy, astrology, and divination of Bon. Today, it is more commonly known as the Jokhang, which means the ‘House of the Buddha’.

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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 it’s history.

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 tubes, 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. (discussed above 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 13, 2018 / Finding yourself in Chengdu.

While I leave in the morning for Tibet, I always have a sense of melancholy as I leave 100_5699Chengdu… until planning my next visit. My writing and pictures I take always brings me back though. There is something here in Chengdu about thousands of years where the DSCI0240development of the symbiotic relationship between man (yourself), nature, and spirituality that is empowering. It comes and remains as if guiding you to your highest endeavor. You just are… nothing more – nothing less. Almost beyond definition. For myself, the presence of thousands of years of Buddhism and Taoism is everywhere. You don’t have to see it – you feel it because you are one with it.

It seems to be a haven for retirees where you can easily live within your means. 100_5861There is a rhythm here to this connection. A certain calm and peacefulness. As if you’ve arrived someplace you’re not sure of quite yet, but you can feel it in the air. It’s easy to become one with it. You get further into it by adapting to the local tea culture that is so prevalent here. Tea houses seem to be everywhere. Just as the tea seeps into the water creating a certain taste, the environment does the same to you (or does for me). You are like a sponge… with no pre-determined agenda or place to be. You just are – with nothing beyond the moment. A presence you feel that becomes you. Or as my friend Lao Tzu would say, you become one with nothing and nothing becomes you. The sanctuary your inner self searches for and wants to create wherever you are – you are then at home because you have found your source that is eternal that resides within each of us. Many others you meet here have this same feeling that creates a community like 100_5863none I have ever known. That presence, i.e., oneness is here so that once you are a part of…  you want to stay. It is the convergence of Chinese spirituality I have been feeling this whole trip that seems to culminate here in Chengdu. As if this was my ending of one phase… as I prepare to leave early tomorrow morning for Lhasa, and Tibet.

Today in Chengdu its raining, windy, and very cool. Not a good day to venture outside for long. Heavy overcast made taking pictures a challenge as everything has a solid white background. I found myself going to the Buddhist Wenshu Monastery where I have been before to take more pictures. I have some notes and background on the importance in southwest China of this Buddhist monastery I want to add later… 100_5905for now a few of the pictures I took this morning are below. People often ask me “why so many pictures when you have been here before.” I tell them, “they remind me of where I have been and tell me the path I 100_5912have yet to travel.”

If it clears up this afternoon (stops raining), I want to visit another famous tea house called Gu Niang Niang Miao. We’ll see… well, taxi drivers have a mind of their own and I ended up at Guang Sheng Palace Ancient Niangnian Taoist Temple of Shu Han… sort of a tea house with Taoist overtonesWho knows, maybe it was fate. I had a cup of tea and spoke to some of those who were there. Getting a taxi later was impossible.

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Three images below from the “Taoist coffee house”.

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By 1dandecarlo