2021 is the Year of Transformation. Appropriately beginning today on January 20th as we embark on the inauguration of a new president and vice-president.

A time for each of us to put aside political leanings and focus not only on our own highest endeavor, but that of all others. As we look beyond what is to what can be… to live in and through divine order simply through our own every-day presence. In neither a political nor religious context, just how we transform best into the oneness of the universe we all aspire to inspire by who we are meant to be.

Lending a hand – Wuhou Shrine Temple in Chengdu

This year, on this website, The Kongdan Foundation will focus of what Alan Watts called Zen. To understand Zen, we must first understand some of the basics of Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism/Lao Tzu. To how they move us to a practice – a way to live our lives.  To do so requires us to see ourselves through meditation as bodhisattvas and the sage. Sometimes leaving behind pre-conceptions of how we see ourselves and believe things to be – maybe just for a moment of enlightening.

The Way of the Dragon – Qingyang Taoist Temple Chengdu

All the pictures of Buddhist and Taoist locations references were taken by myself. References to In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas are from a book by that title by Phakchok Kinpoche. Content is to aid in our efforts of mindfulness and meditation and living a more joyous and complete existence. The only requirement is proceeding with an open mind.

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Going Forward

To become a good teacher, you must first become a good student. This means passing many tests as you simply remember and say ah so… Becoming one with the thoughts and words of the Buddha as they simply pass through and become you… as we continue to take steps to become and reveal the true “me” as a continuity with the past looking to the future. While I don’t consider myself an expert, only a novice who wishes to know more.

What becomes permanent is the impermanence of the words of the Buddha and Lao Tzu – that we in turn take beyond the beyond as we ask only of the bliss that defines us.  It is to further in some small way, the meaning of Zen expressed so well by those who came before us. To center my own writing under the arc of teaching. For myself, there is an umbrella of wisdom we are to come under. It begins with the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and what occurs with the synthesis of Tibetan, Chan, and Mahayana commentaries over the centuries.

Jokhang Monastery is a Buddhist temple in Barkhor Square in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. Tibetans, in general, consider this temple as the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.

To Lao and Chuang Tzu – as Taoism become central to the core understanding and wisdom through time. To even Confucius who added permanence and structure to what might be considered impermanence. It is not simply to proceed as a “practitioner” of accepted scripture, but to add to the wisdom that comes before us. With this, finding the King of Meditation Sutra, with its focus on getting our mind right for proper meditation, as a good continuing place to study with my own thoughts of the dual role of the bodhisattvas in Buddhism and the image of the dragon in Taoism. The key always to be free to take the next step.

It is the presence we look to each moment that is central to going forward. Sitting meditation for many helping to focus on the proper way bringing discipline first to our thoughts that translates into how we are to live. But it is moving beyond meditation to as I like to say to live beyond the beyond that shapes our path and core being. Understanding core concepts of this path to be taken is the essential first step. It is not simply to read the words and acknowledge – but to take to heart and become what you have read that fits with the path you follow as yourself.

The teachings of the Tao Te Ching and emblem of the dragon that takes us to previously unknown heights of awareness. The bell located at the Hall of Three Purities at the Qingyang Taoist Temple

For more than twenty-five years I have studied and lived as if following instructions laid down by mentors I am here to follow. My sometimes feeble attempts letting my humanness in the mundane world seemingly get the best of me. But in glimpses of my best efforts, I can see eternity looking back at me as if waiting for me to catch up… to simply get on with it as if time is of the essence as if furthering the cause. A compassion that conveys unconditional love as the essence of our soul and finding the proper vehicle that takes us there. As if we must first with sincerity give credit its due.

A book exchange at the  Wenshu Buddhist Monastery (Manjushri Monastery) in Chengdu 2005

It was in this indivisible emptiness that the Buddha first discovered the enlightenment of compassion that was to shake us to our core. To develop the correct conduct, continuing presence, and ability to discern wisdom that guide us into realization that is free of suffering.

Over the following pages and entries several words and phrases are used where their definitions and meaning serve to take us to understanding and wisdom. Study them carefully as they have shaped the meaning of our lives and place in history. Their context and importance only limited to how we interpret them with the aim of appreciating and understanding our path, our own personal journey. The first example is the Buddhist word samadhi that refers to meditation and mindfulness that opens us to new beginnings.

Entrance to the Luohan Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Some would say the highest samadhi is beyond absorption and beyond concept. It brings together the correct view of reality, authentic meditation, and altruistic activity. Along with our own virtue and behavior. We go there with the cultivation of loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. It is with this we learn to walk the path, we can begin to understand our teachers, along with wisdom they share with us. To overflow with courage – To arrive at the blissful home of awakening… and become bodhisattvas and the sage ourselves.

What could become of our own highest endeavor and  destiny. To have courage in our own state of becoming. In Taoism, it is said that the Master (Lao Tzu) would add “If people can understand the Way of Clarity and Stillness, then virtue and refinement will be complete”. (Page 84 of The Way of Complete Perfection). Picture at left from Qingyang Temple.

What is it that our own lives should look like, except the awakening mind of compassion that ultimately defines us? In Buddhism this is called bodhicitta, or “enlightened mind”, and is the mind that strives toward awakening, empathy, and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. Just how mankind might truly live out its life becomes what we aim at as our direction. This aiming or living while moving in a certain direction is what is meant by vow. In other words, it is the motivation for living that is different for a bodhisattva. Living within this awakened mind, or bodhicitta can be divided into two truths of reality. How we train in loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity – and apply this to the present with what we encounter on our path… as our aspiration.

The ultimate path or way of the bodhisattvas at the Sera Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet.

Second, the ultimate – how we move in the direction of our highest selves, our application. This refers to training and practicing the six perfections, which are – generosity, discipline, patience, joyful effort, meditation, and wisdom. These can be utilized as methods for the intentional cultivation of both absolute and relative bodhicitta.

It is with this we can appreciate the meaning of samadhi as the essence of meditation and mindfulness. Going forward means the above attributes become you with both our aspiration and application along with an awakening mind of compassion. How do we learn and take instruction on the path we are to take? To get out of our own way so that our innate wisdom can come forward naturally and we can travel the path of complete awakening. Ultimately the question becomes do our endeavors bring us to the path defined as that taken by the bodhisattva vow – and are we ready to go there? Are we ready to embrace the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha and the message of the Mahayana sutras? Capture for our heart/mind the essence of Lao, Chuang Tzu, Confucius and so many others who have led the Way?

I have been to Lhasa, Tibet and walked the famous path between the temples and monasteries, been to numerous Buddhist locations in China… Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu and the Giant Leshan Buddha. Visited numerous museums that highlight Buddhism in China, Longman Mountain to visit the cliffs, Songshan Mountain and Shaolin Temple south of Luoyang, Xian on numerous occasions to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda to study their place in history.

Does that make me a Buddhist, a Taoist, a transmitter of the ancient shaman and I Ching? Do I speak from ego… no, but simply as someone acknowledging the past… just as when I was teaching and living next to Confucius Mansion and Temple again in Qufu as a teacher and traveling extensively around China? I was simply at home again. 

To live the practice, you must become the practice. You do not simply sit in meditation. The meditation becomes you. This is Zen. To move beyond sitting in meditation to living in the presence of who you are yet to become. What you do is nothing more than an extension of the existing virtue you possess as the world comes to greet you each day.  The ultimate feng shui and kung fu… as you initiate nothing along the way. For myself, it is the transformation of our thoughts. To enable and take the next step as the sage – you must become sage-like. To become a bodhisattva, you must learn the process that takes you there. That is what In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas, Buddhists Teachings on the Essence of Meditation and walking the path we will be following here is all about.

To understand Zen, you must first live in the essence of Zen… and that is what the year 2021 will be about.

Spinning the wheel at the Potala Palace in Lhasa, where a sutra or scripture resides in its center. Spinning the wheel is to release the sutra’s intent to bring you good fortune.

I have been to several Taoist mountains, temples, etc., and walked the walk in Qufu where Confucius lived and taught as well. Most simply serving as reminders and taking pictures of places I have been and seen before that help to define my ultimate purpose…  As if re-capturing the essence of their impact for history’s sake, having been there, seeing what may have changed, and understanding what is important to my own journey. Pictures to help tell the story throughout this series that will ultimately reach over a dozen entries.

I seem late coming to Buddhism, having first written extensively for over twenty-five years about Lao Tzu and Taoism and living in Qufu, the home of Confucius where I taught and lived next to the Confucius Temple and Mansion. There is a famous saying that to be born a Taoist, live as a Confucian, and to die a Buddhist, is the ultimate endeavor. Rather seen as Dan, Dantzu, or Kongdan, I seem to have found the path I am here to travel as I once wrote – what I write is who I am to become. It seems that the study and pursuit of Zen, that combines all three (Taoism, Confucianism, and Mahayana Buddhism) is the path that opens the door to go where I like to refer to as beyond the beyond my becoming that lead to my destination.

With some of my students at the school where I taught across the street from where I lived in Qufu adjacent to the Confucius Mansion and Temple.

Now back to Mahayana Buddhism and the footsteps of bodhisattvas… There are many sutras that depict the teachings of the Buddha. Two of the most famous are the Heart Sutra, which is a short version of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra, that expresses that “Everything is mind, mind is empty, the empty nature is clarity, and clarity is awareness. Pure awareness is Buddhahood; the state of Buddhahood does not have a path; that state does not have attainment; that state does not have nonattainment. That state is free of the five aggregates of form, feeling, perception formation, and consciousness, which constitute our entire experience.”  

The bell at the Lama Buddhist Temple in Beijing

For many of us the question becomes “How do we practically get to an enlightened state of liberated or pure awareness through meditation.” The importance of the Heart Sutra is that it described the enlightened state, but it does not teach us how to practically get to it. Our time and purpose are to learn that all experiences of our lives must become meditation that gives rise to our ultimate freedom. That we are to define for ourselves the cause of pure aspirations of happiness in our lives. Everything we see, say, hear, touch, and do, can be as meditation – what we experience as our true selves.

A second sutra is the King of Meditation Sutra that is seen as a pillar of the Tibetan meditation tradition. It is the appreciation of this sutra that is followed from this point with Chapter 1 to follow.

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

BODHISATTVA’S PRACTICE

*A bodhisattva is one who is committed to the good in everything around him. The term bodhisattva was used primarily to refer to the Buddha Shakyamuni (as Gautama Siddhartha is known) in his former lives.

Pictured to the left and below is the illustration of the sutras (Buddhist scriptures) coming from India to Xian to the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

The stories of his lives, portray the efforts of the bodhisattva to cultivate the qualities, including morality, self-sacrifice, and wisdom, which will define him as a buddha. Later, and especially in the Mahayana tradition – the major form of Buddhism in Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan – it was thought that anyone who made the aspiration to awakening – vowing to become a buddha—is therefore a bodhisattva.

To understand Zen and Buddhist teachings and meditation practice, you must first endeavor to practice pure perception…

Paramita is a Sanskrit word, which means to cross over to the other shore. It implies crossing over from the sea of suffering to the shore of happiness, from the samsara of birth and death to nirvana and from ignorance to enlightenment. As we enter a new year our focus should be moving ourselves and others to our highest endeavor and destiny. To what takes us there.

To mountain vistas – Yellow Mountain in China the famous inspiration for poets and writers for thousands of years where it was thoughts you could reach out and touch heaven.

To whom we are ultimately to become enabling our inherit nature along with divine order to manifest themselves through us.

We begin with something I saw a few weeks ago identified only as written by epc in 1956. An adaptation of which I have added to below.

A lot of what you will see here in the coming year is what I define as “defining Zen as our bliss unfolds and what takes us there” beginning with the following:

I have gone beyond to the place of no concepts and no forms…

Not even emptiness – it is just beyond beyond.                                        Two doors are there, they open from within.

On closer inspection they appear to be two gates. Moving even closer reveals that no keys are needed as there are no gates.

No doors, gateless gates – going through these gates there is a shore and a boat. The boat is empty now. No one gets in the empty boat. This nobody is on the Way to the other shore.

Suddenly, this nobody realizes that Zen’s gateless gate and Tao’s empty boat… both are on the same path. The same river, the very same Way.

It is now so noticeably clear that this nobody in an empty boat sailing through gateless gates and now seeing lights and illumination everywhere is on their way home again.

Namaste

epc 1956/dcd 2021

to be continued…

 

By 1dandecarlo

The winter solstice and yuan heng li zhen

In the spirit of the holidays and the joining of Jupiter and Saturn during the winter solstice today, we wish you yuan heng li zhen. It is said that when spoken with complete sincerity and compassion, that the universe could not help but notice and find its way to our doorstep.

Yuan heng li zhen is an ancient Chinese saying that means the following…

Yuan – The source or beginning of all things. It initiates the movement that determines the appearance and development of anything found in nature and individual being… the absolute origin of the universe.

Heng – The influence of Heaven that permeates all things, brings them to maturity, and makes them prosper. The foundation of a sense of duty and duties performed. It suggests joy when two worlds come together and are connected in harmony.

Li – To take advantage of the times. It means propitious and auspicious (things favorably inclined to your position). A realization of what is good that nourishes and provides what is necessary for all. Something that can be counted on.

Zhen – The act and result of divination, samadhi (meditation), and prayer. Something true, sincere, original to and with our authentic selves. It is the evolution of a life well lived that consciously accomplishes its destiny adapting to circumstances without losing our true nature.

Yuan heng li zhen is spoken in the essence and spirit of the cosmos, an appropriate reminder with Jupiter and Saturn looking down upon us today.

With this, we wish you a blessed holiday season and that yuan heng li zhen comes to visit and stays close by our side in the coming year.

Namaste

Dan DeCarlo

The Kongdan Foundation

By 1dandecarlo

It’s easy to forget who we are supposed to be in times of isolation due to the virus. It’s a good time to be reminded…

Learning for ourselves to be pragmatic – as we then teach that nature and history tell us that what comes to the middle has lasting endurance.

How did we get here with thoughts of Plato, Tolstoy, Emerson, Gandhi and others defining our thoughts, actions, and future? That in order to find we must first give. All echoing the mantra expressed best by Emerson that we are to step into the flow and “know thyself”. That it is when we can see ourselves through the eyes of others that we begin to see ourselves in eternity. It is in this moment that we realize who we are… as they did and that we must ultimately agree on a basic set of facts. Something we might call the laws of nature.

What does it mean to be pragmatic and move our thoughts and actions to the middle for all concerned as we begin to mirror our authentic selves? I especially like what the flow of history can teach us. Thinking of how one thing tells us what the next thing should be. What having patience means to the outcome. Four people in Western culture and history are examples of the importance of aligning with this flow of energy. Beginning with simply knowing ourselves first.

Emblematic of this flow are Plato from ancient Greece, Emerson and his thoughts and words on man’s role in nature – the unique transcendence we each possess, Tolstoy of literary fame, and Gandhi, who taught us the importance of common good and holding out for the interests of all verses that of a few.

Many others have tapped into this for their own growth and transcendence with an eye towards  others. I think of the recently deceased civil rights icon John Lewis and “good trouble” and those who guided him in the struggle for equality to be heard through non-violence and looking to those who preceded him. Often, it’s simply nurturing tranquility within ourselves as our thoughts and actions define us. Learning from mistakes of the past, both our own and those of others.

I could easily move into Eastern philosophy and thought with the I Ching and need for complimentary opposites to reconcile, (especially with Watt and Ram Doss), but for this discussion it’s important to stay in tune with how we, in western ways of thinking, come to how we define who we are. How is it we find our authentic selves? How do we find comfort in staying there, but as a way of clarifying past events when what we consider as progress means getting closer to who we are yet to become? With the caveat being that we must first see beyond our own self-interest to a higher purpose… to get there.

How do people change themselves to connect to this universality that calls us to our highest endeavor? How do we become the voice of healing tied to the expression of our spirit? How do we take the next step? How do we reconcile the past with our own actions we tie to virtue alone not solely self-interest? To live in a world of diversity of perspective and find the status quo and stability ready to change. Who are we really when we are here to simply do nature’s bidding?

Plato examined and expressed this in ways easily understood that could be followed by others. He lived in what I like to call the golden age of ancient Greece. It’s what we latch onto from the past and enter the flow of universal thought that has always had the final say for ourselves and others. Entering and moving forward with this flow of universal thought through our actions. Plato understood this. Carrying thought forward was always key. Ancient Greek philosopher Plato was a student of Socrates and a teacher of Aristotle. His writings explored justice, beauty and equality, and also contained discussions in aesthetics, political philosophy, theology, cosmology, epistemology and the philosophy of language. Plato founded the Academy in Athens, one of the first institutions of higher learning in the Western world. It was this study of language, of linguistics, that Leo Tolstoy would use to update as the flow of energy and bring together what it all meant. Tolstoy’s work inspired Gandhi to understand the power of non-violence in achieving rightful ends. Creating the benchmark for others to follow.

You may not think this is all that important, but what is it that defines your thoughts? How do you reconcile fact from fiction, what’s true and false, right from wrong – even what’s fair and balanced? Where does virtue lie in our thinking that define our actions? Where can what’s called fair and balanced exist without virtue, when what is considered as truth lies? How do we live in a moral and virtuous way that defines both ourselves, our community, and the world in which we live? Amazingly, at about the same time in history when Plato was pondering the universe over two thousand years ago,

Confucius’ teachings were following the same flow of universal thought that spoke to benevolence and virtue.

What Plato did was set forth the benchmark for those who would follow. What we must know is that we don’t live in a vacuum. That given an opportunity, all things found in nature are here to reach out to their highest endeavor. He taught us the value of having a good teacher. That we affect everything we touch as everything that touches us affects us as well. That attaching ourselves to the universal flow of our own divine nature is what ultimately defines us. Remaining open to this flow is the key aspect of meditation and becoming one with it.

I am reminded of Rumi and whirling dervishes whose goal is to reach out into the unknown to the sky and become one with the divine, with it all. With this we learn to be pragmatic – what comes to the surface of things will always come again. We are then given the chance to correct our mistakes and move on. To as he would say to become like stardust undoing the past… in order that we may brighten the future with this primordial knowing recognizing that everything is suffused by the same true nature.

Ralph Waldo Emerson would take the next step connecting thoughts and ideas with what was to become known as transcendentalism that suggested that God does not have to reveal the truth, but that the truth could be intuitively experienced directly through our innate nature. That connecting with this flow could/would lead to our own sense of enlightenment indicating and conveying that all things are universal and connected and therefore themselves divine. This idea is consistent with Indigenous peoples throughout the globe (everywhere), and ancient Chinese philosophy defined as man simply being “one of the ten thousand things”.

Emerson’s take and writings on man’s relationship with nature and that we are universal changed our view. He did not come to this in a vacuum. He read and studied history and philosophies thoroughly that preceded him. How our relationship with our divinity evolved so that seeing beyond ourselves became the door to understanding universality – that we are all transcendent as the spirit that already exists within us. Once understood, we can enter this flow ourselves as our own divine endeavor. Most importantly, there is a divine law governing our actions that corresponds to universal well-being tied to nature that we as individuals cannot possess alone. The idea that we affect all we touch, as everything that touches us affects us as well. What Taoists refer to, or call, cause and effect. He believed that everything in our world – even a drop of dew – is a microcosm of the universe. I think he was further intrigued by the four Buddhist traditions, or qualities, that expand our capacity for experience that define our nature 1) the ease of equanimity, 2) the full-heartedness of love, 3) the tenderness of compassion, and 4) the radiance of joy. All powered by our intention.

His concept of the Over-Soul—a Supreme Mind that every man and woman share—allowed Transcendentalists to disregard external authority and to rely instead on direct experience.

 “Trust thyself,” Emerson’s motto, became the code of Margaret Fuller, Bronson Alcott, Henry David Thoreau (pictured to the left), and W. E. Channing.

Emerson and other Transcendentalists edited the The Dial, a journal founded in 1840 that was named for a sundial, created to shine a light on the best contemporary ideas of the day. It became a springboard for what was later to be called New Thought in America.

It would be Emerson and a few years later Tolstoy, who would remind us of our responsibility to our own divine nature, and how it is to relate to the outer world we find in our environment following the footsteps of Plato and experiences of those who had followed him. That we learn from the experiences of others and following the flow of universal thought that is available to all who look both from within and to the sky when we are ready. Just as the I Ching and Lao Tzu (they had studied), had taught for millennia that our innate divine nature and cause and effect are the central elements of determining all that follows. I like to compare the two (Emerson and Tolstoy) because of their places in both the new and old worlds of western thought and philosophy.

It is not seeing beyond our own self-interest that eludes our own personal development and clouds the way for ourselves and others. Studying history is what tells us what the future will bring. Moving ahead from ancient Greece and Plato, Plato’s birth was around 428 B.C., to Leo Tolstoy, in the 1860’s and 70’s, in the interim, it would be the great universities of Europe that maintained order. Tolstoy’s greatest contribution in my opinion was as a linguist, skilled in language and ability to update the written word and text to their original meaning.  His literal interpretation of the ethical teachings of Jesus, centering on the Sermon on the Mount, caused him to become a fervent Christian anarchist and pacifist.

Tolstoy’s ideas on nonviolent resistance, expressed in such works as The Kingdom of God is within You (1894), had a profound impact on such pivotal 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Lewis.   

It is the continuing of the flow of universal thought that is important to note here. Carrying forth what was to come of universal thought that guides the future that maintains humanity to its highest endeavor. It becomes what we ourselves are to latch onto that carries the day. Notable for me is the writings and thoughts of Joseph Campbell and “following our bliss”, and Alan Watt and Ram Doss who taught and furthered the concept that we are all one with nature and that it begins with our understanding of becoming pragmatic, seeing things beyond ourselves. And to what Emerson found in the four Buddhist traditions, or qualities, that expand our capacity for experience that define our nature as the ease of equanimity, the full-heartedness of love, the tenderness of compassion, and the radiance of joy. That equanimity toward others comes from recognizing that everyone seeks happiness. All powered by our intention.

Doing what is necessary taking all things under consideration prior to making a decision. Taking nature into account as the central core (Confucius would tell us – our mutual virtue), as what’s good for one must be good for all as the determining factor in our decision-making. To simply become one with the flow as nothing but what defines our own eternal essence. Nothing more and nothing less with our presence in line with the universal divine order found in all things. Finding and staying within our own eternal energies and vibrational flow that takes us further on our own journey.

This brings us to the center of things, butting up against the status quo, and to pragmatism. Back to the beginning, keeping to the open road, or what Lewis so well defined as “good trouble”. That it is in giving of ourselves we receive and finding the middle, our comfort, our passion there, we can define our bliss. That in order to find, we must first give beyond what can be defined solely as self-interest and aggrandizement. The world wasn’t meant just for us, but it was meant for us too. The suchness, the oneness Plato and others tells us that defines us. How do we want to be remembered and does it matter? It is said we die three times. First when we stop breathing, second when we are put to rest (buried or created), and third, when our names are forgotten.

The idea of impermanence seems to serve to guide us back to the middle of things and moderation. As if saying that our eternal spirit isn’t done yet… Often hearing the expression to “stay within ourselves”. Which begs the question – who are we?

A question the above people attempted to answer some would say for eternity’s sake. Not simply for themselves, but once encountering this eternal flow of divine energy, to do their best for all who would follow. Finding and staying in the middle of things. Avoiding extremes. While shaping an unknowable future as nature intended as Emerson would tell us to learn to know and “trust thyself”. That as the freedom and ease in our daily life expands, we also gain access to the wisdom of our true nature.

By 1dandecarlo

Looking to the stars and commonality to mindfulness and expanding our light.

We are the manifestation of the universe as we are to meet people where they are – moving from fear and discontentment into confidence, equanimity and joy as inclusiveness and transcendence. We are all one.

 Peace… comes within the souls of men when they realize their relationship, their oneness, with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the Universe dwells Wakan-Tanka, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.” –Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa), Oglala Lakota

Picture on the right is from the book “Black Elk Speaks”. Black Elk, an Oglala Lakota medicine man was at Wounded Knee and the Battle of the Little Big Horn (Custer’s Last Stand), who saw the conclusion of his people’s way of life in a dream when he was a boy. In the end, Black Elk found himself on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation with what was left of his people. He had converted to Catholicism so that he could continue to convey the universal spirit of transcendence. He never lost sight of his elders who appeared in his dream and ultimate purpose to help his people.

What is this commonality of spirit we all share that knows no singular face? What is it that connects us to nature and to who we have always been? How do we trust ourselves to go there and why should it matter? Why is it so important to bring others to only our way of thinking? Instead of helping to open the door so that they may find their own enlightenment and not simply something mirroring our own? First, and foremost, what do our innermost thoughts tell us about who we are and how do we go there and more importantly, how do we follow our own transcendence, or instincts? To what some would say we have always known and forgotten.

What is mindfulness and the calmness it brings to our soul? Sometimes it is as if we are simply visiting with old friends who are now guiding our path, or way, to further things we’ve seen and done before. Our purpose to reach our highest endeavor, to climb the next rung on the ladder, to find what some have called our bliss. As if the journey is incomplete or never-ending. As you wonder that it seems many are asked – but few are chosen for eternity’s sake. Perhaps it comes down to getting our attention. Black Elk’s story can be seen in each of us when we acknowledge our own oneness with the universe and the peace, to what we may call eternal bliss that dwells inside us when we do.

An old Chinese caveat says… there is nothing new under the sun, only new ways to see nothing. Things that exist in the present have always existed and will exist again in the future. Fitting the quantum definition of matter continually repeating itself in the universe. What is it that defines our role, and does it matter? The question asked by the first shaman looking to the stars for answers. The stars never appeared to move, but the earth and we moved so that our role remained constant with the nature within and around us. Repeating this constancy in cycles, in the seasons gave permanence to what should occur. When the ancient holy man retreated into meditation it would be nature that provided the answers. He/she would convey that always seeing beyond ourselves to the unknown is essential. By bringing forward an institutional memory of nature to the present, acknowledging the past, and how we are to live, that we would begin to discover what meditation means and being “mindful”.

That finding our purpose brings forth our place in the universe and how we are to proceed. In mindfulness, the Chinese character is composed of two parts, the top meaning “now; this” and bottom signifying “heart; mind.”

To the left is the dragon depicted in the stars at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Leshan Giant Buddha south of Chengdu.

Still unconvinced? On some cloudless night go outside and look to the sky and the stars. What you’ll see is what the ancient shaman saw… the mirror of your soul.

Mindfulness is the quality and power of mind and our actions, to an awareness of what’s happening — without judgment and without interference. It is like a mirror that simply reflects whatever comes before it. It serves us in the humblest ways, keeping us connected to brushing our teeth or having a cup of tea. It keeps us connected to the people around us, so that we’re not simply rushing by them in the busyness of our lives. It reflects the simplicity of who we are as we go through each day. I like to say that it is as if we travel two feet off the ground. That being in the present begins with understanding our breath.

We can start the practice of mindfulness meditation with the simple observation and feeling of each breath. We call it qi, or chi. It is through our breath we express our thoughts and speak our intentions. Our practice develops mastery devoted to the divine.

We often develop what accentuate our breathing as movements often called tai chi. The picture is from Wushan Mountain in China.

Breathing in, we inhale the universe… innate matter we have always known and has known us within the context of the Tao that defines us. Breathing out, we’re breathing out what becomes what we re-construct as our actions that are transformative of and to our associations and relationships with what is to come. As we decide the world we want to live in through cause and effect and our actions. It is in this arena that our thoughts often take us to places that never happened or will ever happen that waits to define us. Living in the moment with mindfulness as our virtue simply trains us to come back to the beginning – to the serenity and peacefulness of our breath – to our divinity and to breathe again.

Chinese influence through history on meditation and mindfulness for many has centered on the influence of Chan and Mahayana Buddhism. It is to see one’s own “original nature” (benxing, 本性) and realize “authentic heartmind” (zhenxin, 眞心), and in doing so the dualities of thought and reality, of passion and enlightenment, and of the impure and pure all dissolve. Then, true suchness (zhenru, 真如) is the embodied structure (ti) of thinking, while thinking is the functioning (yong) of true suchness. (Platform Sutra, 13–17) True suchness or ultimate reality is not a pre-existent something “out there” that can be grasped intellectually or accessed through some mystical vision; it can only be enacted in the present for and through ourselves.

For thousands of years, we have known that it is in stillness that nothing arrives and as we attach to nothing, we remain connected to everything. That it’s what we do with nothing that dictates how we are to live, breathe, and ultimately die. It is in moving beyond nothing that what becomes important arrives and decides to stay, albeit both good and bad. It is through the steadying of our mind, that the benefit of living in the moment finds the space of inner calm and peace. To the commonality found in everything.

To what the Chinese from antiquity have referred to as “the ten thousand things”.  To find a normalness with all things that appears in nature, with none better or worse than the other. Each looking to find the best way to survive, to find and know peace, and to live with its neighbors in unison, in wu wei, as nature intended. This is the ultimate meaning of the Tao and Taoism.

Over twenty years ago (in 1995 and 96), when my passion for learning and understanding Taoism was at its zenith you might say, I wrote my own version (some might call it a commentary) of the Book of Lieh Tzu. This became a manuscript (never published) except here on my website entitled My travels with Lieh Tzu. This period was between the initial book on the I Ching and Taoism and another book on the Tao Te Ching. Both of these were published in China. The Book of Lieh Tzu is a classic in Chinese Taoist literature. I wrote all of these prior to even going to China, or contemplating that I would as a preface to actually going. It would be as if the Tao was passing or flowing through me as if a prelude, with more than one hundred fifty entries with Lieh Tzu. I pay tribute to them here.  My writing was to become me as my endeavors would lead the way with now almost fifty trips, hundreds of thousands of words of self-expression, and thousands of pictures that help to tell the story. Two of those entries are shown below:

Chapter Two of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – The Yellow Emperor Introduction

Windsurfing Through Time

Always to be riding the wind. Free from obstruction.

Xiantao Feng – also known as Fairy Peach Peak on Yellow Mountain. Yellow Mountain is famous for Taoist poets who have written about its beauty for thousands of years.

Not tied to things external of your true nature. Remaining free of needing to control events and knowing not to be hindered by them. Keeping the mind, spirit and body free from choices and thinking of alternative courses of action that must be taken.

Doing without thinking. Knowing without doing. Understand this parallel and remain free to simply fly away. Never conscience of the next action to be taken. Only aware of what needs to be done without thinking about or doing it. Action coming natural to current events as the natural extension of your inner chi.

Remaining as a mirror to each situation at hand. Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way.  Remaining enmeshed with harmony. Staying the same as all around you and finding an inner strength waiting to be found without interference.

Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way.

Confucius Temple  Qingdao

To be able to walk on hot coals, swim through a fast current or climb the highest mountain and find comfort in doing none of them. Remain forever adaptable to the events swirling around you. Be as the air as it finds its way into everywhere and as water that passes through everything.

Be non‑existent and exist everywhere in all things. Without the need or desire to control events, simply remain as the ever‑prevailing sage ceasing to be obstructed by them. Free from whatever consequences that may come.     1/18/95

Chapter 3 of My Travels with Lieh Tzu – King Mu of Zhou Introduction 

Transforming Reflections

Refreshing one’s memory, the world becomes more real than the nothingness from where we come and will return. However, can life be but a dream or are we dreaming; therefore, we have come alive?

    Dedications to Lao Tzu       Qingcheng Taoist Mountain

Traveling through time from one lifetime to the next, can our dreams be more than illusions we cling to along the way. When we awoke this morning from a blissful sleep, did we have any sense that what we have dreamed is less than the reality we lived yesterday or the day before or will come to know today, tomorrow or the next?

When dreaming, are we aware that we are dreaming? When awake are we truly aware that we are awake?  Or are we simply living our dreams? If both are the same, then the question becomes what can we be awakening into?

Dreaming that we are but a butterfly darting from flower to flower are we not as Chuang Tzu in his dream, or are we but the butterfly dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu? Are not our dreams living out the reality of who we are? Is not life but a dream which lasts until death, when we find our ultimate unveiling?

Is not awakening midstream in one’s life the opportunity to come closer to one’s true reality beyond the Tao? Is not all that breathes and becomes lifelike or has appearance therefore taking shape simply illusion? Where can reality and dreaming differ? Is not the ultimate truth only the reflection found in mirror images of ourselves?

If our experiences while we are awake are the same as when we sleep, then are not experiences found while we sleep the same as when we are awake? Is not true living to abolish any division between illusion and reality? Thereby becoming indifferent to the world around us. All things being equal, do we not become transformed and continue onward to vistas we have known and seen before?      2/5/95

It is through stillness that we find commonality. Slowly, our minds steady and we begin to experience some space of inner calm, peace, and re-define the importance of nothing in our lives. This environment of inner stillness makes possible a deeper investigation of our thoughts and emotions. What is a thought – what is it that bring us to nothing that can so dominate our lives? When we look directly at a thought, we see that it is little more than nothing.

Becoming aware of the thought is like waking up from a dream or watching a movie after being absorbed in the story.

Through mindfulness, we gradually awaken from the movies of our minds and return to our original selves and authenticity as the next step to transcendence by minding our breath. Breathing deeply perhaps for the first time.

 

By 1dandecarlo

In our endeavors we are but vestiges of virtue, the surviving evidence of our own authenticity. Destined to be seen as only that worth keeping in eternity. / Chapter 13

To be as water rushing over a steam bed. Cleansing away past intrusions of that which may appear to be less than what may be seen as acceptable. Continually bringing forward to the mind’s eye that which provides clarity for others in this final entry following the commentary and thoughts evoked by “Inward Training”. Trying to evoke spontaneity of both breath and spirit by visualizing the meditative connection between heaven and earth, as well as mind and body. As if giving others a passport saying its okay to go there too.

 Nishan Hill   Birthplace of Confucius

Part of being on a path that we’re on is learning to watch ourselves as if we’re some other entity and looking for patterns in the approach we take. It often seems as though life is simply about unveiling our inner nature as if the peeling back of an onion, as if sheading our skin. Layer upon layer of what appears first as personality and perhaps ego, to a core that is simply waiting to be unraveled. For myself, writing is a way of divination, perhaps perception by intuition; instinctive foresight… or simply the act of remembering.

Beyond thoughts of philosophy or religion to transcendence. Exploring the crevices of mind and soul. Clearing away intrusions and finding answers like the tortoise shells of old. As the Tao speaks through the silence of our heart. The path of virtue is found for the one that connects everything under the sun with the proper way. Enduring things found in the present with outcomes to be assured in the long-run of history.

Thoughts of emptiness and remaining shapeless always seem the basis for showing the way for the sage. The paradox always encountered by the one reaching out to the indefinable and seemingly unknown with thoughts of what was considered either the best or different.

In the end, knowing cause and effect will always determine final outcomes. Looking to the patterns of heaven found in the stars and nature the configurations on earth to be left behind, as entreaties that forever serve as guideposts along our way. What the shaman knew intrinsically that we often follow without knowing how or why. To be like water without judgment shaping things to their fullest while leaving no sign of your passing. As you assist others in finding their own place by and through their own endeavors. Always to be seen as if overcoming both the hard and the strong with suchness and suppleness with a comforting ease you have always known as the underlying current knowing that this to will pass.

To breathe deeply letting tranquility flow by as you have seen and done it all before. As you recall that a Buddhist idea of hell is being trapped in a perpetual cycle of mistakes you never get out of. Freeing ourselves again to be like water… We see this in the Tao Te Ching in Verses 8 and 81 below as excerpts of my book “Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous life”, written in 2000 and published in China in 2006.

Verse 8 – Taking shape while remaining shapeless

 Travel as if you were water taking on every shape that comes your way as you give life to everything and everyone you touch and meet. Conveying the eternal spring that comes forth from you each day as if you were just passing by.

The Han – Stone Carving from Confucius Temple

Being content to remain at the bottom of all things – free from blame. Avoiding competition while maligning no one.

Choosing humility and that which no one else chooses to do.

Travel like water as if approaching the unattainable Tao.  Remaining clear and deep. Yet constantly emptying to give life to others. Reflecting but remaining pure as you cleanse all that you touch. Having no purpose of you own, assisting truth and helping others to find their natural way as if you were all encompassing, but not really here.

8        无形之中要有形

你象流水般到处漫游,遇河成河,入溪化溪,给遇到的万物和众人以生命。

Beihai Park and the Nine Dragon Wall in Beijing are remnants of a time when the Emperors ruled China from behind the walls of the Forbidden City. The dragon connected the emperor to God and his divine nature epitomized Confucian order and benevolence. Visiting the Wall, you get a sense of the meaning of the dragon to longevity, virtue, and remaining authentic to our true selves. 

仿佛你刚刚路过,每天传递永恒的春天。甘做万物之底,就不会遭人指责。不要诽谤别人,避免竞争。

保持仁爱,为他人之不为。

象流水那样漫游,走向那似乎不可接近的道,清如镜,深如渊。保持持久的虚空,赋予众人以生命,出泥而不染。不要别有用心,维护真理,帮助别人寻找自然之路,你似乎就在附近,但实际上不在这里。

What can be the evidence from our past that is our bell-weather going forward? It becomes our extension of how we have approached life as follows: by bringing help to all without competing, choosing what others avoid while approaching the Tao, staying in tune with earth’s abundance, thinking with depth, helping with kindness, speaking with truth, governing with peace, working with skill, and moving along with time… all done while competing with no one.

The Tao Te Ching tells us:

 Verse 81 – Remaining in High Style

Remaining satisfied with just what you have as you are content to live as the extension of the Tao which has become the reflection of who and where you are.

Living within the Tao   Confucius Temple   Qingdao

Living within the Tao, the sage soon becomes aware that he is nothing more than an extension of what occurs in nature.  Enabling all to come forward to find their true place, not as the substitute for their action, but as one who empowers others to see beyond themselves as the sage stays in the background doing nothing.

Envisioning a place where there are tools that remain unused, where people have no need to move far afield, are easy with death and where it takes them, with places to go but no reason to travel, and defenses in place but no reason to defend them.  Satisfied with the fruits of their labor and content with where they find themselves as they go restfully to sleep each night.  Content with their homes and happy with their customs as they know the taste of the Tao and remain adorned with virtue. Even though others may live close by they have no reason to visit as all they need, they already have.

81节 保持高风

 满足现状,满足于做道的传人,道已经成为了你的影像。

Living in Contentment

活在道中,圣人很快就知道,他只不过是自然的延续。圣人使众人能够前来寻找他们真正的地位,众人不是行动的替身,而是能够赋予他人力量以超越自我的人。圣人身居幕后,不动声色。

想象一下,有那么一个世外桃园,在那里有未使用过的器具,人民不用长途跋涉,对死亡泰然处之。那里的人有地方可去,但没有必要去旅行。他们有防御设施,但没有防御的必要。他们安居乐业,夜夜高枕无忧。他们满意自己的风俗习惯。他们熟知道,尊崇高德。尽管他们有近邻,因为他们能够自给自足,所以互不往来。

I think a key to understanding is seeing beyond ignorance and propagating wisdom. Ultimately, self-cultivation has no other method but living with knowledge of the way of virtue found in the Tao. Meditation begins by disengaging from the status quo that enable a stream of consciousness to allow us to concentrate on stillness. To a place that defines not what you do – but who you are. It is from here that we can see life’s illusions as transitory and subjective… and non-existent.

For myself, it’s like rising above the stream of water or consciousness, that encompasses all, to the ultimate. To where the Bodhisattva resides in each of us. To an awareness of the void that becomes all-embracing. Where we find an internal state of imperturbability, to the place exempt from all external sensations. For the Buddhist in meditation this is what defines enlightenment. To reach the state beyond study knowing innately that you have arrived. For the Taoist it always returns to the shaman, Lao and Chuang Tzu and the Tao. For when you move beyond illusion, there is no longer a reason to study, as you have returned to your authentic self, and fully understand the meaning of wu wei and your journey.

As you choose to let go in order to be in control as don Miguel Ruiz Jr.’s The Mastery of Self teaches us… by simply knowing thyself  “understanding the teachings is the first step, but applying them is what makes you a Master.” or as repeatedly referred to here as one for the ages… a sage.

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 final two chapters, chapters twenty-five and twenty six of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training

Twenty-five

The vitality of all people inevitably comes from their peace of mind.

I Ching – Yin and Yang         The Eight Immortals – Xian

When anxious, you lose this guiding thread;
when angry, you lose this basic point.
When you are anxious or sad, pleased or angry,
the Way has no place to settle.
Love and desire: still them!
Folly and disturbance: correct them!
Do not push it! do not pull it!
Good fortune will naturally return to you,
and that Way will naturally come to you
So you can rely on and take counsel from it.
If you are tranquil then you will attain it;
if you are agitated then you will lose it.

Twenty-six

That mysterious vital energy within the mind:

The Sage   Shaanxi Museum  Xian

One moment it arrives, the next it departs.
So fine, there is nothing within it;
so vast, there is nothing outside it.
We lose it
because of the harm caused by mental agitation.
When the mind can hold on to tranquility,
the Way will become naturally stabilized.
For people who have attained the Way
it permeates their pores and saturates their hair.
Within their chest, they remain unvanquished.
Follow this Way of restricting sense desires
and the myriad things will not cause you harm.

Finally, it is learning to live with discernment and tranquility. Letting the world come to your doorstep, as you live wholly within what the Tao has taught you.

By 1dandecarlo