May 13, 2018

Explaining how life is about conjunctions and vibrations, or how it all began to make sense…  

My ultimate wish is to return to my hometown to discuss the Analects of Confucius and debate with my dear friends Chuang, Lieh, and Lao Tzu… What a happy life indeed! Adding to the discussion, Chuang Tzu would remind us, “He who takes Heaven as his ancestor, virtue as his home, the Tao as his door and escapes change is ACon my picturea sage.”  Ah what bliss… to live a life escaping change and to be with old friends once again. To know you can be anyone. That you can do anything. It’s only a matter of going. And that you can always do it again. Thereby becoming the living manifestation of your own destiny.

Rather being in Springfield, Missouri and just writing about Qufu and China here on my blog at thekongdanfoundation.com or living it in Qufu and China. It is the above venue of living to express the virtues found in the past that fills my days. There may always be experiences found daily that fill my spare time, but time spent with my friends from the past is where I am most satisfied. It reminds me of Chuang Tzu’s admonition that we should not fear death, as we are simply returning again to experience what we have always known but may have forgotten.

Rain and Thunder, Stay Inside

Be careful the dragons are not watching. Mother Earth is busy being cleansed by rain and thunder.

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Rain and Thunder Huangshen Mountain

Stay inside.

Protect yourself with strong defenses water over thunder means a time of retrenchment. Stay inside. Go slow it is not time to advance. Get sound advice from friends and neighbors. Stay inside.

There are times when the right impression is critical and go betweens are required. Be prepared and wait until the time is right. Stay inside.

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Old Town  Huangshen

Prepare carefully and know when to act. Find clarity and reality in the Tao and know thyself. Keep your vision of the Tao and be protected. Do not rush to judgement. Wait until you know what is not real and what is. Be careful, the dragons are not watching. Stay inside.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (3 RETRENCHMENT / Water over Thunder). 2/6/94 The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

What is it that we fundamentally connect to that our consciousness is attracted to by the vibrations we ultimately follow, if and when we become awakened, and are we all looking for the same thing? It is when we come into alignment with this superior D1force and synchronize with it, that we can begin to know our way. It was this that the earliest shaman learned by following the sun, moon and stars and observing his natural environment and how things in nature reacted to them.

They learned that things happen as a direct response to an alternative action. That when acting in unison as complementary opposite’s things can naturally occur by themselves. This was the essence of Taoism. What was universal was the idea that there are not favorites. It was how to connect with this vibration that a name was needed. The Tao and the ten thousand things (everything imaginable) and God (the undefinable) were universal and that God would be the entity that determines the ultimate outcome.

The ancient Chinese answer to this phenomenon was yin/yang, the I Ching. The I Ching was/has been developed and modified over a period of five thousand years and was a direct connection to the movement of the stars, the sun, moon and D2planets, i.e., the universe and how an individual’s own personal vibrations interacted with them. Patterns emerged that verified cause and effect. What goes into something has a direct correlation to what comes out. The power of observation became and is still the key. This is the essence of astrology and following the cosmos or stars for direction. The early Chinese were very serious about this and developed the first observatory to monitor the planets, sun, moon and stars. They could predict eclipses of sun and moon and the Emperor depended on these observations to give direction for sacred rites, planting in spring and harvesting in the fall, etc… If the Emperor was wrong he could/would lose the throne to someone else, or those making erroneous prediction could lose their heads.

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Copper yin/yang symbol found on Chinese ship sunk in Indian Ocean in 1400’s

How did the I Ching begin and how could you measure what it meant as to how things were/are connected, and how do our own internal vibrations interact with it? For thousands of years the shaman had the answers. In about 200 AD the Emperor said every city must have temple and shrine to Confucius. The old shrines honoring the shaman were removed. The new world would continue to be about connections and vibrations, but modified to fit the norm, generally set by Confucius, now in place. Things set in place by time and tradition always set the stage. The power of observation was always the key to understanding events that were to come.

But, how was it all to begin? Looking to what we would call the universe to nature and how everything is connected we learn by observing the stars.

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The universe  from Hubble telescope

Can our own consciousness be, or remain singular, from our environment? Or do we enable cause and effect though our thoughts that originate in nothing. Can we empower the universe through our thoughts? The shaman knew that it was through our thoughts that begin as nothing, that something appears. But what could be the basis of this observation found in nature that could guide us? Understanding this premise allowed what could have been seen as nothing, but synthesized through the human mind could become something in what we now call consciousness.

Ancient traditions carried from generations over eons of time would serve to tell the story. It begins here:

The Hetu, Luoshu and Nine Palaces

The Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” D4are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China. This means they followed the stars, i.e., sun, moon, and planets. They knew something was moving through time. That the same constellations they saw today would re-appear a year later. This movement of the stars became known as the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces and were to be employed by both Taoists and Confucians and serve to explain the correlation of the hexagrams of the (I Ching) D5Yijing “Book of Changes” with the universe and human life. They are also used in geomancy (fengshui). The two diagrams shown here, are first mentioned in the chapter Guming of the Confucian Classic Shangshu “Book of Documents”, described earlier, where it is said that the three precious jades and the hetu are stored in the Eastern Chamber. It can thus be assumed that the Hetu was a kind of jade stone the texture of which were interpreted as the eight trigrams (bagua of the (I Ching) Yijing. It is here that it all begins with patterns that could be easily followed.

During the Han period (206 BC-220 AD) commentator Kong Anguo is the first who mention the Shangshu, one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. This, along with the legend of a dragon horse (longma) that emerged from the Yellow River and whose back was patterned with the shape of the eight trigrams. The longma was a fabled winged horse with dragon scales in Chinese mythology. Seeing a longma was an omen of a legendary sage-ruler.

Chinese-LONG-Horse-Or-Horse-DragonThe diagram seen on the back of the horse was the so-called “Yellow River Chart” that was written down by the shaman Fu Xi and preserved as the eight trigrams. As an auspicious omen, the horse regularly appeared during the reigns of the virtuous rulers, (Yao, Shun, and Yu).

Confucius would later complain that during his lifetime, the horse did not appear again, which was a bad portent of unlucky times. The Inscription of the River Luo is first mentioned in the book Guanzi, where it is said that a dragon turtle (longgui) left the waters of the River Luo, so that an inscription was seen on its back, actually also a pattern of the shell, that could be interpreted as the eight trigrams in a constellation different to that on the Hetu.

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Dragon Turtle Qingyang Temple in Qingdao

100_3085Similarly, to the dragon horse, the turtle appeared during lucky times when virtuous rulers reigned the empire and ceased to be seen when bad and selfish men governed the world. You can see depictions today in Confucius Temples throughout China. The one to the left resides in the Confucius Temple in Qufu.

Both inscriptions are mentioned in the Xici commentary of the Yijing. The sage rulers read and interpreted the River Chart and the Luo Inscription and modelled their reign according to the evidence provided in the two diagrams. Yet the same text also says that Fu Xi invented the arrangement of the trigrams after observing the starry sky and all things on earth, without referring to the River Chart.

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Yu the Great Dujiangyan Waterworks

The story of the two diagrams as representative of a golden age is repeated in the Baihu tongyi of the Han period, and the scholar Liu Xin said that the “Inscription of the Luo” was found by Yu the Great when he tamed the floods. He interpreted this inscription and came to the conclusions made in the correlative cosmology described in the chapter Hongfan of the ShangshuWhile the Hetu is connected with the eight trigrams, the Luoshu is related to the Five Processes.

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Dui from Dawenkou culture

Archeological findings from the Yangshao and Dawenkou cultures the Dawenkou were found in Shandong Province along the Yellow River and is an area I am very familiar with today have shown that the patterns to be found in the two charts and in the hexagrams date from the Neolithic age, dating from 10,000  to 3,000 BC – up to the Shang dynasty.

The distribution of the numbers is also identical to that found in the numbers in the chart on the prognostication dish of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces (taiyi jiugong zhanpan) from the Warring States period (5th century-221 BC) found in Fuyang, Anhui.

As an explanation of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces, this served as the original connection to the cosmos and universe. It often took on the personality of the shaman and how well he was able to communicate these “universal truths”. This created different resonances in divination, meditation, and medical context in what would later become Taoist traditions.

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The Great Bear

The Nine Palaces were the groupings of stars that were identified that traversed the heavens. After giving a name to these groupings (the Great Bear, also known as Ursa Major and the Milky Way for example), one could follow the movement of these stars over time and a “Great Unity” (the stars moving in unison) could be established.  In turn, these “groupings” became a useful metaphor for other sacred spaces. As referred to above, the Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China.  These were diagrams of the movement of the stars through the Nine Palaces described above.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for AC19leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 46 and 47 appear below. Verses 1 through 45 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.          

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 46 – Prevailing Contentment

How can we live within what the Tao teaches us, if we are never content with what D8the world brings to our doorstep and why should it matter? If we are busy cultivating things instead of ourselves, how can we find our true place in the ten thousand things? What can the seeds of contentment bring unless controlling our desires comes to the forefront and contentment decides to stay?  If we do not remain still, how will we know when the way comes to find us?

Cultivating the Tao through meditation, thought, D9appearance, action and deed is the key to the sage’s security. By not seeking things outside himself, he becomes an extension of the Tao. He is internally guided by the knowledge that no crime is worse than yielding to our desire, no wrong is greater than discontent and no curse greater than getting what you want when you are unprepared for the consequences.

D10Before showing the way, the sage must truly know contentment and remain confident with what the Tao teaches and exude that confidence by showing the contentment of being content.  When he can do this, others can see the folly of what external desires bring and can begin to find contentment for themselves.

Finding that the Tao has come full circle and begun to prevail in the world, the sage can be on his way.

The three above landscapes are from the Chongqing Museum. If I become published in the future, appropriate credits will be given. If only for my enjoyment just acknowledging where all photographs originate is enough.

Wang Pi says, “When the Tao prevails, contentment reigns. People don’t seek external things but cultivate themselves instead. Courier horses are sent home to manure fields. When people don’t control their desires, when they don’t cultivate themselves but seek external things instead, cavalry horses are bred on the borders.

Li His-Chai says, “When the ruler possesses the Tao, soldiers become farmers. When the ruler does not possess the Tao, farmers become soldiers. Someone who understands the Tao turns form into emptiness. Someone who does not understand the Tao turns emptiness into form. To yield to desire means to want. Not to know contentment leads to gasp. To get what you want means to possess. Want gives forth to grasping, and grasping gives forth to possessing, and there is no end to possessing. But once we know that we do not need to grasp anything outside ourselves, we know contentment. And once we know contentment, there is nothing with which we are not content.”

Lu His-Sheng says, “When the mind sets something desirable and wants it, even though it does not accord with reason, there is no worse crime. When want knows no limit, and brings harm to others, there is no greater wrong. When every desire has to be satisfied, and the mind never stops burning, there is no crueler curse. We all have enough. When we are content with enough, we are content wherever we are.”

Lu Tung-Pin says, “To know contentment means the Tao prevails. Not to know contentment means the Tao fails. What we know comes from our mind, which Lao Tzu represents as a horse. When we know contentment, our horse stays home. When we don’t know contentment, it guars the border. When the Tao prevails, we put the whip away.”

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Material contentment is not contentment. Spiritual contentment is true contentment.”

Verse 47 – Becoming endowed by the Way

When you are ready to come forth with a vision fully endowed by the way, you become the way. When you are ready to accept the mantle conferred by dragons by accepting Heaven as your ancestor, when virtue becomes your home and the Tao your door, only then can you begin to see beyond the limitations life brings each day D11as Chuang Tzu has taught you.

“Enthusiasm Garden” or “Zhan Garden” of the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu

When you can remain above change, becoming a sage becomes clear.

When you can understand others by knowing yourself and understand other families by knowing your own, nothing more in the world is needed to be known. The sage does not need to ascend to the sky or descend into the depths to understand the way of heaven and earth.

D12When you can know the world without leaving your doorstep and are able to succeed without trying by relying only on your true nature, your vision moves beyond the distant horizon. Seeing what is coming allows you to stay behind. Staying behind allows you to remain as one with the ten thousand things. Remaining as one with the ten thousand things you become empty once again. Becoming empty, the sage remains unmoved by the events that may swirl around him. xx

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The sage understands others by understanding himself. He understands other families by understanding his own family. Thus, he understands to whole world. Man, and Heaven are linked to each other. If the ruler is content, the breath of Heaven will be calm. If the ruler is greedy, Heaven’s breath will be unstable. The sage does not have to ascend into the sky or descend into the depths to understand Heaven and Earth.”

Wang Pi says, “Events have a beginning. Things have a leader. Though roads diverge, they lead back together. Though thoughts multiply they all share one thing. The Way has one constant. Reason has one principle. Holding onto the ancient Way, we are able to master the present. Though we live today we can understand the distant past. We can understand without going outside. In we don’t understand, going further only leads us further away.”

Su Ch’e says, “The reason the sages of the past understood everything without going anywhere was simply because they kept their natures whole. People let themselves be misled by things and allow their natures to be split into ears and eyes, body and mind. Their vision becomes limited to sights, and their hearing becomes limited to sounds.”

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Those who look for Heaven and Earth outside look for forms. But Heaven and Earth cannot be fathomed through form, only through reason. Once we realize reason is right here, it doesn’t matter if we close our door. For the sage, knowledge is not limited to form. Hence, he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Name is not limited to matter. Hence, he doesn’t have to look anywhere. Success is not limited to action. Hence, he doesn’t have to do anything.”

By 1dandecarlo

May 1, 2018

Moving to a higher frequency away from the Herd

Simply by turning on the light, you can instantly destroy the darkness. Likewise, even a rather simple analysis of ego-clinging and afflictive emotions can make them collapse. —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

What is it that distinguishes us but the consciousness we bring from the past. How is it that something springs forth from nothing, only to over time revert back to nothing again, and again like clouds floating on the wind. As if our DNA has imprinted our divine origins and it’s our job to re-discover and use to our and others advantage.

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Ancient coming and going    Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

Could it be awareness of our own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc., that stretches beyond the life we life today?

To as the Taoist would say, “To stand with the divine integrity of all things. With none having dominion, or a more secure place than the next.” For myself, the biggest challenge is to not “engage” in what seems to be the drama found in living with others present every day. If any trait is self-defining is that I abhor conflict. It seems the central tenet of meditation is that we find our own place setting. As if determining where we are making our contribution from… where is our heart in all this?

A place where only silence, and perhaps music, resides that seems the key to contentment. Taking us to places that move us as the Beatles or Beethoven would say. This has always been the paradox of the sage and why vistas found on mountain tops seem so appealing. But then we are brought back with the realization that there is something we are here to do. As if a tuning fork is guiding our way.

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One of the earliest depictions of the dragon  in SW China dating back to prehistory now on display at the Wuhuo Temple

To move away from what may be called the herd mentality. From that which clouds our inner vision of what defines us. Something we came into this world to grow with, to see, and perhaps to be, but get distracted or lost by attachments. I think at some point, we all look to faith in our higher destiny through consciousness and inner development, versus the paradox living brings each day.

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What we ultimately grow with   Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

To what is our “soul’s intent”. What seems to matter is connecting things to the past as a living tradition and conscious connection to our origins. Along with not being afraid of change and recognizing that it is the nature of all life to do so. What could be more in keeping with nature’s intent, than natural selection… where the ten thousand things subscribe to the idea of the most adaptable and strongest getting to go forward. Finding the harmony meant where everything and everyone finds their place. With our consciousness in unison with nature, the universe, and the Tao (God), getting to make the final call. In other words, just as the shaman said thousands of years ago – we get to have a say in our fate and our world through both our decisions and our own conscious connections with the divine.

I guess it’s partly the way of explaining what I do here… attempting to rediscover the true meaning of the teachings of the past, primarily found in ancient China and other traditions. Moving things beyond simply beginnings and endings and a literal translation, to a practical transliteration or interpretation that applies today.

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Weaving from a loom  Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

What is the responsibility of the storyteller? And can we do this only for ourselves or serve as inspiration and by example. Our own nothingness to be made into something, only to return to be made into nothing again, and again, and again. Much of what we learn we accept as an “article of faith”, or just what we allow daily as routine must be acquired and brought back to life or resuscitated by those whose interest is piqued by the past. Just as things happen twice – first as a thought which comes as DSCI0450nothing, and second in reality when we make it into something, as the conditions supporting our existence are constantly evolving and changing. As we rise above limitation, we find a greater truth, our own consciousness, perhaps even to a higher frequency. To what we call living true to ourselves, finding harmony and our divine mind. (Built in 223 AD, Wuhou Memorial Temple in Sichuan Province in Chengdu is the Emperor’s tomb integrated with his prime minister’s shrine in one temple. It is seen as the foremost museum of the Three Kingdoms Period. The above photos are believed to pre-date the date of the opening of the museum by several hundred years in antiquity. I have visited the museum several times over the years.)

My Grandmother’s Garden

She comes in peace knowing utmost harmony. Nurturing. Receptive and forgiving, restrained yet uncomplicated. The dragons flying through the sky disappear into the clouds retiring, once strong and assertive now retreating and finding a secure place.

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Two Deer Qingcheng Mountain

Looking down Mother Earth comes into focus with new growth and new beginnings. Differences occur but a connectedness of all things with the seasons begins. Yang becomes yin.

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A Gaggle of Geese / Qingcheng Mountain

Strong becomes weak, hard becomes soft, male becomes female in the oneness of Tao.

Leaving the clouds behind and finding the earth beneath my feet, I discover that I am here to find clarity, to focus, to listen and most importantly to learn. To find the ways of my garden. To know the earth as my grandmother taught me. To know beginnings and endings. Simply to know and remember what my grandmother taught me.

My Grandmother’s Garden is an original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (2 EARTH / Earth over Earth). 2/5/94. The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Who is it that takes on the task of keeping alive the remembrances of the greatness of the spirit? Who tells the history of who we have been that serves to inspire us to continually build on or make something memorable? To add on to what is known in a new or different way? Many times, as I travel around China taking pictures in museums, Buddhist and Taoist temples, holy mountains, something I’ve written about, or simply something of historic interest, etc., I ask myself – am I simply a tour guide doing a travelogue, or framing things from personal experiences and impressions as if on a pilgrimage.

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Standing at the top of Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

Favoring places off the well-worn or beaten path.  Oftentimes differing or distinguishing from the norm as if not following a laid-out plan or itinerary with a fixed aim or a limited purpose. On a whim where the path leads each day as if given a gift I am here to unwrap with my pictures and writing telling the story. The path carrying its own message, or meaning itself, just waiting to be told. As if discoveries made on the wayside seem to be more important than what you thought you were looking for. With nothing on your agenda but simply to be present. Once found, it is as if an urge has brought you to a spontaneity that connects the outer environment with your innermost being or core. When the images you experience take on a life of their own as if just waiting for you and their own story to be told. As if there is no coincidence that you yourself are a part of an undying past.

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Dan with students in Qufu

It’s like when I was teaching at the university in Qufu to students who were going to be English tour guides at historic sites throughout China. I would tell them not to just learn or memorize the story by rote, but to know enough about the subject to in effect become the story as if re-living history.        

We often see that here in USA in Branson at Silver Dollar City and in Orlando at Disney World. Becoming the person, or character that tells the story in such a way that you become the story as well. As if words and images can take on a life of their own, it’s what the storyteller does. As if you learn and can begin practicing how to internalize and personify yourself. We call it Nei-yeh – Inward Training.  The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. 

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China Pavilion at Epcot in Orlando

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. It can be found here on my website. I am often reminded in my travels of how the ancient shaman was able to transcend themselves in an effort to bring everyone along for the ride. Back when sitting around the fire gazing at the stars, he or she would mesmerize their audience. Often music would be used as we brought a certain rhythm to the rhyme that would bring a sense to the meaning of life and how everything was connected. Why immersing in a greater truth and creating relationships in and for the whole clan was important. The same songs ring true today. Their purpose to tell a story and serving as a reminder of beginnings, endings, and most important the value of being present and staying in the moment. More than anything the shaman was the teacher and way shower. He serves as a reminder of everyone’s connection to and with the stars. Reminding us that we are one with them in eternity. That we and the stars will forever be connected as our destiny unfolds. Lest we forget.

In learning the true sense of basis of tai chi and meditation today, soon you forget going simply through the motions and live the movements and spontaneity that you become. Many say this is done in silence. But for me music serves as a guide and reminder of steps yet not taken. As if having a personal experience as you live the story itself. I think my dream job would be to teach English to students who were going to by tour guides in Chengdu in Sichuan Province.  I have a friend who has a private school that teaches English there and who knows it may find its way onto my bucket list.

The Paradox

Some people go through their entire lives not knowing who they are, where they have been, or where they are going.

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Book of Rites Qingyang Taoist Temple

You are fortunate. You have a chance to see to know to understand where you are from, why you are here, and where you are going. To know who you are, who you have been, and you will be along the way.

However, you must know that to know is not to know, and to have is not to have. To see is not to be, and who you will be is not to see.

For whatever is useful by the world’s standards cannot be useful in finding the Tao. It is the eternal nature of the Tao and Te (the way of virtue) that is to be found. Reality becomes, is and will be the chance endeavor to find the Tao.   1/15/94

It is as though words have or can create a poetic vision that can take us to places we otherwise would never go. Or as described in The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda, as he relays that “what may appear as poetic imagination actually contain a deeper reality than any matter-of-fact description of outer events and situation could ever have conveyed, because these events and facts become meaningful only if seen against the background of inner experience”. In other words, what they mean to us. To what we are innately pulled to.

Thus, the pilgrimage described above, becomes or is actually a mirrored reflection of an inner movement, or awakening, directed towards an as yet unknown distant aim. As if we cross the horizons of both the familiar, as well as, the unknown. With the ultimate aim of finding the harmony that fits it all together as you find a greater life that connects you with the path you now follow.

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 Finding Harmony People’s Great Hall of Chongqing

To what many would say connecting or following our source and what could be defined as our ultimate destiny. The metaphor I use as the dragon floating on clouds in the sky is symbolic of reaching out to greater horizons, to what remains hidden from view. It is when the pilgrim abandons himself to the greater life that springs forth from within, that leads him beyond horizons as yet unseen to an aim which is already present within him. To what Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces would call the paradox of creation. Our Achilles heel as such, to find our point of limited existence, to shatter and pierce it. Thereby, transcending our limited existence and fully becoming who we are as the universe sees us. Or as Campbell continues, “It will be always the one, shapeshifting yet marvelous constant story that we find, together with the challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told”. The only question remaining will be who is here to tell the story? As if, finding glimpses of ourselves away from the herd it all simply becomes clear.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in B15May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 44 and 45 appear below. Verses 1 through 43 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 44 – Staying focused within oneself

By knowing what is vital can one hold onto fame or health?  If he has to choose would it be his health or riches, and in the end would he know which is more harmful, loss or gain. If something is loved, the more it costs, the bigger the treasure the greater the loss when it is gone.

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    Finding one’s rhythm     Chongqing Museum

The sage stays clear of that which lies outside him and focuses on enhancing his inner voice and virtue. Keeping clear of what lies outside his true nature.

Staying in tune with his own natural rhythm. While those who would shame him find nothing to shame.  He remains aware of his limits and constantly in tune with the Tao. In keeping in sync with the Tao, all flows through him and finds its proper place.

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The community   Chongqing Museum

Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start. Knowing restraint contentment soon follows. Finding happiness and wealth within himself his spirit soars and cannot be exhausted. ##

Huang Mao-Ts’ai says, “What the world calls fame is something external, and yet people abandon their bodies to fight for it. What the world calls riches are unpredictable, and yet people abandon their bodies to possess them. How can they know what is vital or precious? Even if they succeed, it’s at the cost of their health.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Heroes see fame and merchants seek riches, even at the point of giving up their lives. The one loves fame because he wants to glorify himself. But the more he loves fame, the more he loses what he would really glorify. Hence the cost is high. The other masses wealth because he wants to enrich himself. But the more wealth he amasses, the more he harms what he would truly enrich. Hence the loss is great. Meanwhile the man of virtue knows the most vital thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no fame and suffers no disgrace. He knows the most precious thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no riches and encounters no trouble. Hence he lives long.”

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Knowing Virtue   Chongqing Museum

Li His-Chai says, “If we love something, the more we love it, the more it costs us. If we treasure something, the more we treasure it, the more it exhausts us. A little results in shame. A lot results in ruin. And regret comes too late. A wise person is not like this. He knows he has everything he needs within himself. Hence, he does not seek anything outside himself. Thus, those who would shame him find nothing to shame. He knows his own limits, and his limits are the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t act unless according to the Tao. Thus, those who would trouble him find nothing to trouble. Hence, he survives and, surviving, lives long”.

Verse 45 – Becoming Translucent 

By not treating things as they are, but as they can be everything has an opportunity to complete its cycle and return empty. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever is transcendent. To do all while seeming translucent, or still, is in keeping with your highest purpose and in keeping with your place in the ten thousand things.

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The fullest thing never runs dry Chongqing

The sage is content if the greatest thing is incomplete or the fullest thing is empty for the greatest thing never wears out and the fullest thing never runs dry. He understands that the greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety hence it seems incomplete.  That the fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality hence it seems empty. That the straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. That the cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection, hence it seems clumsy.

It is when opposites complement each other that the highest order is maintained. When order is found and balance maintained we become perfectly still. When we become perfectly still the order of the universe becomes known and all becomes translucent, or clear. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “To treat the great as great, the full as full, the straight as straight, and the clever as clever is mundane. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever, this is transcendent. This is the meaning of Lao Tzu’s entire book: opposites complement each other”.

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Telling opposites

Lu Nung-Shih says, “The greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety; hence it seems incomplete. The fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality; hence it seems empty. The straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. The cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection; hence it seems clumsy.”

Han Fei says, “Ordinary people employ their spirit in activity. But activity means extravagance, and extravagance means wastefulness. The sage employs his spirit in stillness. Stillness means moderation, and moderation means frugality.”

Confucius says, “Those who govern with virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place, while the myriad stars revolve around it.

By 1dandecarlo

April 21, 2018

Just who was this guy named Confucius

One day Confucius said, “I would rather not speak. Tzu-kung asked, “If you do not speak, what do we have to record?” Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?” (Lunyu:17.19).

I am often asked in China… why don’t I write books about Confucius as I have about the shaman, I Ching and Taoism (Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu)? I think it is that in now knowing Confucius, there becomes a much bigger story to tell. Confucius had the uncanny ability to connect the dots of history and was the ultimate storyteller. It was here he left his legacy and became immortal through his virtue and traits of benevolence. He lived in the words he spoke leaving others to acknowledge his wisdom.

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The Turtle Dragon  Confucius Temple in Qufu

It is as if the work of the historian, or some would say the teacher or scholar, is never-ending. As if knowledge and wisdom cannot be foretold as a haphazard affair. What is to be remembered and what stories are to be told goes without saying. That AC2while things appear to happen simply on their own, they are in reality following the Tao. With this it becomes our own consciousness that creates the world, the universe we are here to tell about and come to know. It is like following cause and effect and building a house with a strong foundation. As if you are writing and living for the ages. Perhaps not even your immediate audience, who may only have or see glimpses of your intent. But for those who come forward to gain understanding as to what it all means to history and more importantly their own.

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Confucius as the teacher with his followers

As if all great writing ended with the Qin Dynasty in 214 BC after Emperor Qin Shi Huang burned all the books and buried the noted scholars of the age in Xian, most everything had to be re-constructed from memory. As if trying to wipe the slate clean to begin anew thinking nothing that occurred before could equal what was to come.

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Terracotta warriors in Xian

Emperor Qin was famous for the terracotta warriors who he felt would lead his way in immortality. Most feel he died of mercury poisoning in his quest. Even today, more than two thousand years later, his tomb nearby cannot be approached due to it being surrounded by mercury poisoning. What he thought would help him live forever is what killed him. All great writing was to be destroyed, except for that of Confucius.

Dujiangyan, was an irrigation project completed during the Warring States period of AC4China by the State of Qin. It is located on the Min River in Sichuan, China, north of Chengdu I visited in June 2015 before visiting Emperor Qin in Xian a few weeks later. Although a reinforced concrete weir has replaced Li Bing’s original weighted bamboo baskets, the layout of the infrastructure remains the same and is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region.  The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the Legalist reforms of Shang Yang during the Warring States period in the mid and late third cAC5entury BC. Its 15 years was the shortest major dynasty in Chinese history, consisting of only two emperors, but inaugurated an imperial system that lasted, with interruption and adaptation, until 1912. It would be the Confucian philosophy that directed that system that would serve to hold the country together over the centuries. The Qin were followed by the Han dynasty. Exemplary at the time was Wang Pi, who died a mysterious death at the age of twenty-six. Later, his works became required study in the examination system. His version of the Lao Tzu (the Tao Te Ching), became the accepted version of the proper way to govern. Thankfully, there were a few around like Wang Pi who wrote new versions of Lao Tzu’s work and I Ching. As one age of enlightenment ended, it made way for the blossoming of another that was seen later in the Han and Tang dynasties when Buddhism began to flourish. In 645 AD Master Xuanzang returned from India with Buddhist sutras to Xian to what would be known as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

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Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha… the vinegar tasters

These translations to Chinese would be called transliterations, seventy-five volumes from Sanskrit to Chinese. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was translated then to Sanskrit and sent to India at this time. Eternal truths told as if someone or something must serve as if the spark that must come forward to re-tell the stories and memories of the past, so that we now don’t forget. China would never be the same. But, it would still be adapting with Confucius that led the way.

Until recently, there were only two mediums of communication. Only the oral history passed from generation to generation, versions of what may have been said and symbols of what was to become the written word. That which is generally conveying someone else’s explanation of what was said and/or meant. But it was the oral history of the tradition of the shaman and eventually what Confucius may hAC8ave said and what is said he wrote, that ultimately carried the day. Confucius was not so much the originator but was adept as the propagator of what was important in the past that needed to be conveyed forward.  China was known as the Middle Kingdom, they had fought barbarians to the north for centuries and built small sections of what would become the Great Wall over time.

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Confucius grave in Confucius cemetary

The teachings and works of Confucius brought order and structure giving the Emperor “divine right” to guide what would come to be known as succeeding dynasties. Confucius always looked to the rites of the past in order to understand the way forward. This worked for almost two thousand years until the British came along wanting fine porcelain and tea to carry back to England. The Middle Kingdom was no longer the center of the universe as they had come to know.

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Over 100,000 descendants of Confucius buried in Confucius cemetery in Qufu

Its strength became its biggest weakness because they could not readily adjust to the influences of the outside world. Just as the Mongols had overtaken the Great Wall five hundred years earlier, China was always prone to hold onto the past. To what some would say the “feudalism” created by Confucian ideology. However, once as adjustment was made, China always reverted to it true heritage. Every age converted Confucius to match their own objectives through the use of “commentaries” to relay what Confucius really meant…  This is never truer than today. First and foremost, over time, history teaches us to become pragmatic. Learning from mistakes of the past to create a better future for ourselves and others. Remembering that there is nothing new under the sun as we acknowledge the inevitable change that must occur.

Confucius lived from 551 to 479 BC, but the history of Qufu goes back to include the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) who lived from 2698–2598 BC and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in the 11th Century BC. All three have temples, i.e., memorials in their honor here AC9in Qufu. Under Emperor Wudi, who ruled 141 to 87 BC, Confucianism was institutionalized and Wudi instituted the Imperial Academy to promote Confucian philosophy. He ruled that to be an official scholar, people had to learn the Confucian classic texts called the Five Classics. According to tradition, the Five Classics were penned by Confucius. Modern scholars, however, doubt that any of the material can really be ascribed to Confucius himself. In actuality, what Confucius did was to update versions on the above texts that had been written by others hundreds of years earlier. Most notably, was the Book of Rites and Book of Songs that were from Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou who also was from Qufu, five hundred years earlier.

The Five Classics:

  • The I Ching, also known as Classic of Changes or Book of Changes, is an ancient AC10Chinese divination text and the oldest of the Chinese classics. Possessing a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation, the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world, providing inspiration to the worlds of religion, psychoanalysis, business, literature, and art. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou period (1000–750 BC), over the course of the Warring States period and early imperial period (500–200 BC) it was transformed into a cosmological text with a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings”(It can be found here on my website under the tab The Dazhan – The meaning of the I Ching). After becoming part of the Five Classics in the 2nd century BC, the I Ching was the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East, and eventually took on an influential role in Western understanding of Eastern thought. I wrote my own version of the I Ching in AC111994, it was published in China in 2004 and appears here on my website.
  • The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of SongsBook of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC.
  •  AC12The Book of Rites, a re-creation of the original Classic of Rites of Confucius lost during the Qin book purge. The Book of Rites or Liji is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty as they were understood in the Warring States and the early Han. The Book of Rites, along with the Rites of Zhou (Zhouli) and the Book of Etiquette and Rites (Yili), which are together known as the “Three Li (Sanli),” constitute the ritual (li) section of the Five Classics which lay at the core of the traditional Confucian canon. 
  • The Book of History or Documents, (Shujing, earlier Shu-king) or Classic of AC13History, also known as the Shangshu, is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. Title page of annotated Shujingedition printed in 1279, held by Taiwan’s National Central Library.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals, or Chunqiu is an ancient Chinese chronicle that AC14has been one of the core Chinese classics since ancient times. The Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu and covers a 241-year period from 722 to 481 BC and gave examples of how, when commoners are obsessed with material wealth, instead of the idealism of a man who “makes things serve him”, they were “reduced to the service of things”.

Historically, what Confucius is most noted for were the Analects, (which literally means “Edited Conversations”), also known as the Analects of Confucius. It is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been compiled and written by Confucius followers. It is believed to have been written during the Warring States period (475–221 BC), and it achieved its final form during the mid Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD). By the early Han dynasty the Analects was considered merely a “commentary” on the Five Classics, but the status of the Analects grew to be one of the central texts of Confucianism by the end of that dynasty. Confucius “teachings” promoted the idea of the innate noble nature of man, later conveyed AC15by a Confucian scholar named Dong Zhongshu, who added some Legalist ideas to the teaching of Mencius. He and later emperors approved Dong Zhongshu’s new strain of Confucianism for its emphasis on the Mandate of Heaven. Confucianism’s Mandate of Heaven was a key concept underpinning imperial legitimacy. Heaven chose a particular man and his descendants to be mediators between heaven and the people. The man was to be like a god. This became the justification for the emperor to assume the throne at the behest of heaven giving him authority over all. Heaven’s decision was to be known through the interpreting of natural omens, circumstances, and an almanac that followed the sun, moon, and stars that would foretell the future.

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Outside the Confucius Temple in Qufu

Today Qufu is considered a major tourist destination in China because of its five thousand years of history, primarily because of Confucius. It is the only city in the world with three World Heritage sites, the Confucius Temple, the Confucius Mansion, and Confucius cemetery where over 100,000 of his descendants are buried. Qufu is also known as the home of the Yellow Emperor and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou. The City of Lu (Qufu), was always the center of attention for dynasty after dynasty with Emperors using Confucius teachings to support the claim to the Mandate of Heaven described above. It is my own home in China where I have taught and have many friends. I had an office and apartment across the street from the Confucius cemetery for a few years. I would sit in my third-floor office and look over the wall and peer into history. Or as Confucius says in the beginning of this blog… “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?”

There is a very famous picture here of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution AC18(1966-76), who came to Qufu and attempted the destroy all things pertaining to the past. Their slogan was “everything old is bad”. Meaning ancient teachings of Confucius and others must make way for new ideas and ways of thinking. The Red Guard came to Qufu as they went everywhere attempting to denigrate past history in China. It was only when Premier Chou En-lie intervened that much was saved. After the dust cleared it was recognized that the idea that “what we believe is our greatest weakness is actually our greatest strength” echoed true again. As if history was repeating itself, reminiscent of Emperor Qin of the terra cotta warriors fame, who tried to re-define history in his own image going forward. It didn’t work in 200 BC or in twentieth century China with the Red Guard and cultural revolution either.

How many times must we see extremes leaning to the right or left before we learn that it is the middle ground that saves us? That seemingly every so-called political or religious effort that seems to know how to proceed only serves to get in the way when things outside of ourselves, not our inner virtue, are allowed to guide us going forward. With the age-old axiom of cause and effect and doing unto others as we want done to us as the ultimate in nature’s sway. As we look to the shaman and sage who has seen and done it all before. With our task only to find the silence so that we too may stop and listen. Perhaps it is as nature has always told us, that extremes have endings and cannot last. And maybe just learning from the past and what becoming pragmatic can do for ourselves.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in AC19May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 42 and 43 appear below. Verses 1 through 41 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage 

Verse 42 – Emulating the Tao as you give birth to all around you

The Tao gives birth to one. One gives birth to two. Two gives birth to three and three give birth to ten thousand things. When I as one embraces the Tao and open my heart and mind to the universe I become complete as my focus remains on the horizon.

When I show another person the way, we walk in unison guided by what we have been taught. When we two brighten the path of the third all things become possible and in unison we give birth to a thousand things. As we too become the world’s teachers.

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Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

With yin at our backs and yang in our embrace we look for harmony. What the world hates we love. Just by what some gain in losing others will lose by gaining keeping the world forever in balance. Remaining fully enmeshed in the Tao, the sage simply follows his mentor, Lao Tzu, the ultimate teacher of the way.  As such, we are reminded to reduce our desires, remain humble and practice the virtue of harmony.

Letting these three be our guide we quietly give birth to all around us. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Tao given birth to the beginning. One gives birth to yin and yang.  Yin and yang gives birth to the breath between, the mixture of clear and turbid.

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Giving birth to the Tao    Xian

These three breaths divide themselves into Heaven, Earth, and Man and together give birth to the ten thousand things. These elemental breaths are what keep the ten thousand things relaxed and balanced. The organs in our chests, the marrow in our bones, the spaces inside plants allow these breaths passage and make long life possible.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Dark and unfathomable in yin. Bright and perceptible in yang. As soon as we are born, we all turn our backs on the dark and unfathomable yin and turn toward the bright and perceptible yang. Fortunately, we keep ourselves in harmony with the breath between.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “The orphans, ’the widowed, ‘and ‘the destitute’ are titles of self-effacement.  Rulers who are not self-effacing are not looked up to by the world. Thus by losing, some people gain. Rulers who are only aware of themselves might possess the world, but the world rebels against them. Thus by gaining, some people lose. We all share this Tao, but we don’t know it except through instruction. What others teach, Lao Tzu also teaches. But Lao Tzu excels others in teaching us to reduce our desires and to be humble, to practice the virtue of harmony, and to let this be our teacher.

Verse 43 – Mirroring the Tao

Go forth this day without form or substance and teach without words that otherwise may cloud the way. Remaining free to come and go even to places where appearances show no room as you lift the spirit of those around you and help all to find their way.

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Ancient Mirrors   Chongqing Museum

Appearing to do nothing. Remaining behind the scenes as the ten thousand things are transformed and completed.  Imitating the Tao. Mirroring the Tao my spirit soars with the dragons and prospers, you become speechless, following the Tao you take no action. Just as energy from the sun brings life to all it finds – it cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window.

The light of our spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything once we have opened the doors and windows of our soul to the ultimate that calls us.  Allowing the weakest to overtake the strongest and the strongest to find their true place in the universe. Succeeding without effort everything under heaven becomes one. ##

Lao Tzu says. “Nothing in the world is weaker than water, but against the hard and the strong – nothing excels it” (78).

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Opening the doors   Chongqing Museum

Huai-Nan Tzu says, “The light of the sun shines across the Four Seas but cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window. While the light of the spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything.” He then adds, “Illumination once asked Nonexistence if it actually existed or not. Nonexistence made no response. Unable to perceive any sign if its existence, Illumination sighed and said, ‘I, too, do not exist, but I cannot equal the nonexistence of Nonexistence’” (12).

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Things are not actually things. What we call ‘strong’ is a fiction. Once it reaches its limit, it returns to nothing. Thus, the weakest thing in the world is able to overcome the strongest thing in the world. Or do you think the reality of nonexistence cannot break through the fiction of existence?”

Wang Pi says, “There is nothing breath cannot enter and nothing water cannot penetrate. What does not exist cannot be exhausted. And what is perfectly weak cannot be broken. From this we can infer that doing nothing brings success.”

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Temple of the Eight Immortals    Xian

Ho-Shang Kung says, “’What doesn’t exist’ refers to the Tao. The Tao has no form or substance. Hence it can come and go, even where there is not any space. It can fill the spirit and help all creatures. We don’t see it do anything, and yet the ten thousand things are transformed and completed. Thus, we realize the benefit of mankind of doing nothing. Imitating the Tao, we don’t speak. We follow it with our bodies. Imitating the Tao, we don’t act. We care for ourselves, and our spirit prospers. We care for our country, and the people flourish. And we do this without effort of trouble. But few can match the Tao in caring for things by doing nothing.”

By 1dandecarlo

April 12, 2018

What is the ultimate price, or cost of Freedom… and can it matter?

 Chao Chih-Chien says, “To go back the other way means to return to the root. Those who cultivate the Tao ignore the twigs and seek the root. This is the movement of the Tao – to return to where the mind is still and empty and actions soft and weak. The Tao, however, does not actually come and go. It never leaves; hence it cannot return. Only what has form returns. ‘Something’ refers to breath. Before things have form they have breath. Hence, they all come from something. ‘Nothing’ refers to the Tao. Breath comes from the Tao. Hence, it comes from nothing. This is the movement of the Tao.”

Ultimately, the question becomes… how can we let our inner consciousness pass us by, AF1and does it truly matter if it does? Just what is it that defines us? What does it mean to be truly free? As Carl Sagan, the famous astrologer in his famous series on the cosmos once said “we are all made of star stuff”. While letting go of nothing that matters, everything simply returns to its beginning, to its source. Matter simply the substance of which any physical object consists or is composed. When do we know the freedom to find our “hearts” or soul’s desire? And most importantly do we know it when we see it and are we listening. Does freedom lie inside us or outside in the material world and in the end – can it matter, or perhaps are we here just passing time?

 Observers in several countries reported the appearance of a “new star” in 1054 A.D. in the direction of the constellation Taurus. Much has been learned about the Crab in the centuries since then. Today, astronomers know that the Crab Nebula is powered by a quickly spinning, highly magnetized neutron star called a pulsar, which was formed when a massive star ran out of its nuclear fuel and collapsed. (Photo by NASA)

In The Snow Leopard, Peter Matthiess writes… In the Book of Job, the Lord demands, “Where was thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? Declare if thou hath understanding! Who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?”

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Job and his followers

My answer would be that we all were there, I know I was… All matter that existed in the universe then at the time still exists today, even as it and we take shape in the present. Even Carl Sagan, mentioned above adds, “Man is the matter of the cosmos, contemplating itself.”  Just as when we ask “How are we to treat others?” We respond “there are no others”. (Ramana Maharshi)

I would add that there seems to be a common thread, like an eternal live nerve that connects us. We keep coming back as if we have unfinished business to find or complete the connection. As if the universe is not done with us just yet and we know it. That we are to live life in the moment free of attachments, finding as Confucius said… the simplicity in everyday life. It is true as the Buddhist says, that when we are ready the teacher appears. It’s the getting ready and watching for him/her that’s the hard part, and when the door opens we must be ready to walk through. To what some may call the resurrection of our spirit. It is something best expressed in Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching in Verse 41 called Contending for the Middle as expressed in my own interpretation below.

I am sure that there are things I say here that you want to just say, oh, it’s just Dan, or AF3Kongdan, if you are in China. That remaining an enigma or dwelling on the mystical to those who think they know him (me), seems the norm. That while he, Dan, is free to dwell on nothing (that’s a compliment), I live, or attempt to stay within my own reality. But as we begin to see beyond ourselves, to focus on our own place in the universe as if mapping the stars, we see that there are thousands of galaxies. That the known universe has no center or end and neither do we and AF4exist as a continuum of eternal spirit. This is something the shaman and mystic has always known. That questioning what we have always taken for granted is the key to knowing our next step and that the freedom we are searching for can only be found within ourselves. To never let pre-supposed conditions, or limitations, define who we are yet to become. It is as if we have acknowledged knowing that our origins come from the stars. As if, we acknowledge that our soul, our source, is one with all that has been and will ever be. That everything, including you and I are one. As if we are Dancing with Chi (chi is our eternal energy that never dies) as we continually are transformed by our own spiritual DNA.

It is gaining freedom in the skin we are given that often confounds us that keeps us in a state of bewilderment. I recently attended a celebration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr., at the Springfield Art Gallery on April 4th, the day he was killed fifty years ago in 1968. It was an excellent program. What struck me most was a talk given by an older gentleman focusing on the price, or cost of freedom. He spoke of pre-determined barriers imposed by others that kept him from what he felt was his highest endeavor only because of the color of his skin. Living a life without freedom that seems forever out of reach for people of color in America. What stands out at the moment is MLK’s s quote, “I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character”. As an historian, my take initially is where or what is it in human nature that leads us to define our individual values as not accepting others who may not look, act, or necessarily agree with us? Can freedom from bigotry exist when we see others as less than ourselves?

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The ten thousand things all come from Heaven and Earth. Heaven and Earth have position and form. Hence, we say things come from something. The light and spirit of Heaven and Earth, the flight of insects, the movement of worms, these all come from the Tao. The Tao has no form. Hence, we say things come from nothing. This means the root comes before the flower, weakness comes before strength, humility comes before conceit.”

Why do we see the advancement of the “content of another’s character” so AF5threatening? How is my own economic empowerment more important than my neighbors if we all live in the same community? It seems as if a mystery of the universe that remains unsolved. Sometimes if you watch the news, it is easy to believe there is more that divides us than binds us together. Have we evolved all that much in the fifty years since King’s death? And more importantly, what is the ultimate price of freedom? Most philosophies teach us that it is the craving of attachments that bind us to the here and now. Does life have a singular purpose or plural? Is it “all for one and one for all?” Can we define resources so finitely, that we have to fight to obtain or keep them for only ourselves when in reality we live in an infinite universe? Is man here only to feed his own aggrandizement of his own expansion of power, wealth, rank, or honor?

Fighting against inequality is an age-old endeavor and knows no color. My own ancestors were there at the signing of the Magna Carta in England. No kidding. It was, however, the right of the first-born son to property that led younger sons to migrate, to travel to the new world. To Jamestown, Plymouth Rock and beyond. It seems as though AF6some things never change…

One of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta containing the famous clause ‘to no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice’.

Magna Carta, meaning ‘The Great Charter’, is one of the most famous documents in the world. Originally issued by King John of England (1199-1216) as a practical solution to the political crisis he faced in 1215, Magna Carta established for the first time the principle that everybody, including the king, was subject to the law. Although nearly a third of the text was deleted or substantially rewritten within ten years, and almost all the clauses have been repealed in modern times, Magna Carta remains a cornerstone of the British constitution.

Most of the 63 clauses granted by King John dealt with specific grievances relating to his rule. However, buried within them were a number of fundamental values that both challenged the autocracy of the king and proved highly adaptable in future centuries. Most famously, the 39th clause gave all ‘free men’ the right to justice and a fair trial. Some of the Magna Carta’s core principles are echoed in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and in many other constitutional documents around the world, as well as in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the European Convention on Human Rights (1950). (Wikipedia)

Another of my ancestors, the First King of Scotland, rallied behind William Wallace who came back to life in the movie Braveheart.  Wallace fought and died for an independent Scotland with his own immortal words of… FREEDOM.  What is it that freedom means and why does it have to be singular and not universal? How can our own wants and needs be greater than another’s, why can’t we all be free? And what can it matter in the end.

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  Reproduction of the Suzhou star chart (13th century)

The Yellow Emperor, also known as Huangdi, was a shaman, who in 2698 B.C. invented the Chinese lunar calendar, which follows the cycles of the moon. The Chinese lunar calendar begins with the reign of the Yellow Emperor.

Traditionally, he was considered to be from Qufu, more than 2,000 years before Confucius and that the I Ching began with him. The zodiac was based on Chinese astrology and was used as a way to count years, months, days, and hours in the calendar. Chinese astrology was elaborated during the Zhou dynasty (1046–256 BC) and flourished during the Han dynasty (2nd century BC to 2nd century AD).

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Yellow Emperor

During the Han period, the familiar elements of traditional Chinese culture—the Yin-Yang philosophy, the theory of the 5 elements, the concepts of Heaven and Earth, and Confucian morality—were brought together to formalize the philosophical principles of Chinese medicine and divination, astrology and alchemy. The earliest intent of what would become astrology was to develop the concept of freedom. If you could know cause and effect you could predict the outcome. That if everything was tied to the sun, moon and stars some sense of predictability could be established. Over the centuries this became not just a theory, but how to structure society and a person’s individual life. That if you know what comes next you can imagine the outcome and are free to respond accordingly. We then create our world by and through our actions.

According to Chinese astrology, a person’s destiny can be determined by the position of the major planets at the person’s birth along with the positions of the sun, moon, comets, AF9the person’s time of birth, and zodiac sign. The Chinese Zodiac, known as Sheng Xiao, is based on a twelve-year cycle, each year in that cycle related to an animal sign. These signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. It is calculated according to the Chinese lunar calendar. In other words, our fate has always been connected to our eternal vibrations with the stars, as they are seen as our ultimate source. Our connection to the universe can be traced to them in what was to become known as Heaven. Many feel that in death we are simply coming home to be made whole, to become, or be made free again. That ultimately, we are transformed by the quality of our thoughts and renewing of our minds. When I began writing all those years ago, as a part of the Preface in my first book about the I Ching and Taoism, I wrote the following:

Dancing with Chi

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Taoist Ritual / Temple of the Eight Immortals

Everything that ever was, everything now and that ever will be is within you now to find. All that there ever was to know or that there will be to know is within you to find.

You have been everywhere there has been to see, have seen all that there is to see and, in the future will see all that there ever will be to see.

You are not a know-it-all. But you know all that there is to know. Simply come to know yourself and remember what you have forgotten. Simply to find again, again and again. 2/6/94

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in B15May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 40 and 41 appear below. Verses 1 through 39 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 40 – The Guardian Angel

If an angel came down from heaven to relay that what you thought were your weaknesses were actually your strengths and your strengths your weaknesses, would you have the courage to reach out and change the way you live each day.

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To be found with Dragons   Linyi Museum

If an angel came down from heaven to relay that your only limitations were self-imposed and you could accomplish whatever you wanted as long as the beneficiary was not yourself, what would you do first?

If an angel came down from heaven and stood right here – and said that people only know the work of working and that the greatest work of all is the work of not working. Caught up thinking that everything comes from something. If they knew that something comes from nothing, they would not work so hard and enslave themselves to things. They would instead turn to God and the Tao and concentrate on cultivating spirit.

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For whom the bells toll  Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

Finally, it is when knowing that everything has its limit. That when their something gets way out here…. It has no choice but to come back the other way.  Ultimately when we do become balanced we become centered. When we become centered we can see beyond ourselves and we can discover why we are here.  God’s grace and his hand come forth to guide our way.

Those who cultivate the Tao act with humility and harmony. Those who cultivate virtue look to themselves for the truth, not to the words of others. For those who understand that what moves them is also the source of their life, they can begin to understand the gift of Heaven and live forever. ##

Confucius says, “To hear of the Tao in the morning is to die content at nightfall. (Lunyu: 4.8)

Wang An-Shih says, “The reason the Tao works through weakness is because it is empty. We see it in Heaven blowing through the great void. We see it in Earth sinking into the deepest depths.”

Te-Ching says, “People only know the work of working. They don’t know that the work of not working is the greatest work of all. They only know that everything comes from something. They don’t know that something comes from nothing. If they knew that something came from nothing, they would no longer enslave themselves to things. They would turn, instead, to the Tao and concentrate on their spirit.”

Verse 41 – Contending for the Middle

How is it that some can hear of the correct way and follow it with devotion, while others when hearing of it are content to argue whether it is real or not? And still others cannot seem to keep from laughing at such folly.

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Turtle Stele    Duke of Zhou

However, if the latter did not laugh it wouldn’t be the way.

For contentment to find its middle both extremes must be shown.  The brightest path to some seems dark, the quickest path seems slow. The smoothest path remains rough. The highest virtue low.  The whitest white seems pitch black.  The greatest virtue wanting while the staunchest virtue timid.  The truest truth remains uncertain.  The perfect square will seem to lack corners as the perfect tool remains idle and does nothing.  The perfect sound is hushed and quiet, as the perfect form remains shapeless.

It is through these opposites that the two sides of everything become clear. Once clear, the Tao remains hidden from view, except to those who can truly see. Remaining hidden from view himself, the sage can easily find beginnings and endings and know when to start and how to finish as he already knows having seen both sides many times before.  ##

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Garden  in Chongqing

Li His-Chai says, “When a great person hears of the Tao, even if people laugh at him, they can’t keep him from practicing it. When an average person hears of the Tao, even if he doesn’t disbelieve it, he can’t free himself of doubts. When a small person hears of the Tao, even the ancient sages can’t keep him from laughing. Everyone in the world thinks existence is real. Who wouldn’t shake his head and laugh if he were told that existence wasn’t real and non-existence was?”

Li Jung says, “The true Tao is not fast or slow, bright of dark. It has no form, no sound, no shape, and no name. But although it has no name, it can take any name.” Lu Hsi-Sheng says, “Name and reality are often at odds. The reality of the Tao remains hidden in no name.”

Yen Tsun says, “The quail runs and flies all day but never far from an overgrown field. The swan flies a thousand miles but never far from a pond. The phoenix, meanwhile, soars into the empty fault and thinks it is too confining. Where dragons dwell, small fish swim past. Where great birds and beasts live, dogs and chickens avoid.”

By 1dandecarlo

April 1, 2018

Cloud dancing with the Immortals, or perhaps just re-telling the world’s memories.

Cloud Dancing

From the clouds dragons appear to those who have prepared.

To the I Ching, heaven is to found residing with dwellings of dragons who roam the sky resting in the clouds.

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View from the Top of Huangshan Mountain

Do not look for me where you have found me before.  You will not see me where you have seen me before. Dancing in the clouds with the immortals is where I am to be found.

To be seen with dragons. Cavorting above it all. Beyond earthly endeavors.  A strong personality who with compassion and caring succeeds by seeing his destiny in the clouds.

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Dragons above the Doorway at Temple of the Eight Immortals   Xian

Finding the Tao, finding oneness and finding myself floating across the ski with chi. Cloud Dancing across the sky is easy living with dragons is not. A group of dragons are seen riding the clouds disappearing through the sky.

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Symbols of dragons were placed in tombs as means to get to heaven. Shaanxi Museum Xian

As we disappear I look back and see dragons resting on clouds dwelling in the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching  (1 HEAVEN / Heaven over Heaven). 2/3/94  (to be found on the website at I Ching – Voices of the Dragon)

In music duo Simon and Garfunkel’s song, from their Bridge over Troubled Water album, The Boxer there is a line “Still, a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest”. Like there is a confirmation bias believing what we see or Simon & Garfunkelhear that fits our persona of ourselves. Others that know me might refer to another Paul Simon song… “Still crazy after all these years”. But I digress. Or from the Graduate album, The Sound of Silence. What great writing and music. I write here a lot about coming to find our highest self. Who is it we aspire to become, and as Joseph Campbell would say, we are to “follow our bliss”. For myself, what else could be the place other than to be seen with dragons resting on clouds in the sky. As if travelling through the clouds… finding and visiting the places where deities reside. To be or be seen beyond the brink of eternity. As if you too have been to the mountaintop and seen the other side. It’s the place I often go in meditation.

I’ve been watching Ken Burns “The West”, on Netflix and for me it is very depressing to A4.2watch America reach its manifest destiny securing the continent for white Europeans. I was especially moved by the eloquence of Chief Joseph of the Nez Pierce when he said, “To not be changed by foreign beliefs that descend upon us as we adjust to other beliefs and opinions not our own, without first telling our own beliefs and opinions to others”. Chief Joseph spoke as if knowing the heart of everything, as if he too can be seen dancing across the sky with dragons with stories and ancient memories to tell. Another great storyteller. What a tragedy. I stopped watching at Wounded Knee… I had friends in college whose ancestors died there.

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Our first visit to Qufu in 1999 in cave where Confucius was born. Me, Katie, my mother, and Marie

Almost twenty-five years ago, in February 1994, I wrote the above story about dancing in the clouds with dragons. The following year in 1995, I wrote below about finding Confucius. It would be two years before my first trip to China in 1997 to adopt our first Chinese daughter Katie in Guangdong Province and another two years after that before visiting Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius for the first time in October 1999, while on our way to Urumqi to adopt our second daughter Emily. A visit that would change who I thought I was and begin to be reminded of who I am yet to become.

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Celebrating Confucius Festival 

This was followed by the publishing in China of my first book, An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond in 2004, and my second book, both now here on my website and on facebook, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, the Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, two years later in 2006. Or the incorporation of The Kongdan Foundation that same year in January, 2006. Who knew… that when I wrote this “Finding Confucius”, and the city of Qufu he hails from, that it would alter so dramatically my life’s work and endeavors.

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Queli Hotel in Qufu

Asking the question, what is it that defines us? It was as if the ancient dragons had come looking for me and found me back in December 1993 while I was in Fall River, Massachusetts and there I was. As I concluded unknowingly back in March 1995… Where can all this possibly lead? Who can say? They knew and came to remind me who I had been and was yet to become and that it was time for me to get on with it… my ultimate purpose.

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Entrance of Confucius Temple – Qufu

My first night in Qufu on October 25, 1999 was spent in the Queli Hotel that is adjacent to the Confucius Mansion and Temple. For years, previous to our visit accommodations for visitors to Qufu were in the annex of the Confucius Mansion itself. Due to tourism and promotion, the Queli Hotel was built. After a night in which I could not sleep, I got up very early and went outside to take a walk.  I had this premonition that I had been here before.

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The Turtle Dragon – Qufu

Not once but many times. It was as if Qufu had always been my home and the place I would always return to.  Not only in the past, but in the future as well. As I walked that morning, a block away on Gulou Street (where the Hotel was situated), on the north side of the street was the Confucius Normal School where I would teach more than ten years later, and on the south side of the street was where my daughter Katie and I would live in the apartment we would have while I was teaching in Qufu at Jining University.

My experiences in Qufu can be found in an unpublished manuscript here on my website in the tab Qufu and Confucius. From 1999 through last year, I have made almost fifty trips to Qufu, and China and Shandong Province. Most for sister city trips, my publishing and teaching, and adopting my two daughters from China (Emily and Katie). Last year (2017) I was there for six weeks (May 12 – June 23) and traveled to fourteen cities in five different provinces. The focal point was still Qufu and reunions with my students.

In the Book of Lieh Tzu, there is a chapter entitled Confucius.

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The Sage – Qingyang Taoist Temple

I wrote my own version of “The Book of Lieh Tzu” entitled, My Travels with Lieh Tzu in 1996. It is an unpublished manuscript that appears here on my website. The Book of Lieh Tzu has served as a primer and guide for all precepts entering Taoist monasteries and for those wanting to follow the historical foundations of what was in the past that may today exist – as if acting in conjunction with the present, and knowing this, having an understanding of what may come next over time.  (The basis of I Ching). My initial entry in that chapter is as follows:

Finding Confucius

Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with knowledge?  Can he possibly equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its true origin?

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The Golden Crane Confucius Temple

While Confucius may help guide those responsible for maintaining the overall scheme of things in their dealings with others, can he possibly know the true underpinnings of all there is to know that lead to logical conclusions?  Can thoughts and ideas expressed outside the true essence of the Tao have any real significance? Looking for differences to trap unseemly paradox and analogies that can confuse those not serious about finding and true way of virtue.

Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao. The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius and Taoism always present. Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground. Moving all to places they would otherwise miss. Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leading to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.

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Confucius Mansions – Qufu

Everything crystallizing over time. Can one move forward knowing the paradox found in all things that are allowed to advance in their own way? Knowing that Confucius is forever weighing benefit and harm and distinguishing between right and wrong.

Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge?  Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this possibly lead? Who can possibly say? 3/5/95

When I wrote the above it was as if I had been preparing and studying Eastern philosophy for a very long time, as if since high school even earlier… my whole life. As if I was preparing for a long voyage from which there would be happily no return. Almost as if I was reawakened to inspire others to wake up through my own teaching, wisdom and writing.

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Conversing again with old Friends    Hungshann Mt

As if to make sacred and be here simply to tell the world’s, specifically China’s memories. The paradox and conundrum of every sage throughout the ages. To keep to himself the wisdom he has learned, the ancient memories, or share them with the world. Why many retreat to become reclusive and out of the way or view of others. To mountaintops where the only voices heard are of old friends, as if knowing and conversing with dragons once again..

From my initial writing in December 1993 forward, it was first internalizing the I Ching, then Lieh Tzu, then Lao Tzu, and the essence of Taoism with Chuang Tzu as my mentor. Never really focusing on Confucius so much. (I was Dantzu long before I became Kongdan). It was as if I didn’t need to because I already possessed all I needed to know and simply preparing myself for a long journey. Long before the thought of ever going to Qufu ever occurred to me. As if setting the stage for what was to come next. That it was more important to chronicle the past, than to re-learn something I already knew. As if needing only to be reminded, or remember. Once finding my eternal rhythm, seeing things as they were so that they may be seen in their best light again. Capturing the essence of A4.10what I knew then, who I am to be now, and who I am still yet to become. To discover how it all is to be played out in the here and now going forward.

Socrates (470 – 399 BC) was a classical Greek (Athenian) philosopher credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, and as being the first moral philosopher, of the western ethical tradition of thought. (Wikipedia)

In Eastern philosophical thought, Confucius is comparable to the Socrates of the western world, and his teachings emphasize morality as a path to understanding and enlightenment. In a famous lesson, he told a student that “reciprocity” is the one word that sums up his philosophy on life. According to Confucius, “Wisdom, compassion and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.” In addition to instructions on how to be a moral person, many of his quotes are revered today as personal motivation and encouragement. For example, Confucius said, “It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” Beyond his pleas to treat others with morality and respect and his encouragement to pursue a passionate life, the Confucianism philosophy can be summed up as, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in A4.11May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 38 and 39 appear below. Verses 1 through 37 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching.

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself

Instilling virtue within oneself requires neither thought nor effort or action if you are truly in sync with the way of virtue.

The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the way.

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Yin and Yang Dragons    Wuhan Temple

Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading others along the Way.  As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet.  Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature.  Since his every action remains effortless he does not think about it.

Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself.

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The Highest Calling Nanjing Museum

His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet to become and seeing beyond himself.  Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.

Seeing his future, his vision matches things and names with reality.  He remains humble and reveres harmony. Seeming beyond himself he becomes the connecting between all that should be between heaven and earth. As the sage he embodies the way. ##

Han Fei says, “Virtue is the Tao at work”.

W ang Pi says, “Those who possess Higher Virtue use nothing but the Tao. They possess virtue, but they don’t give it a name”.

Yen Tsun says, “The person that embodies the Way is empty and effortless, yet he leads all creatures to the Way. The person who embodies virtue is faultless and responsive and ready to do anything. The person that embodies kindness shows love for all creatures without restriction. The person who embodies justice deals with things by matching name with reality. The person who embodies ritual is humble and reveres harmony. These five are footprints of the Tao. They are not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is not one, much less five.”

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The Power of Life    Nanjing Museum

Wang P’ang says, “Kindness is another name for virtue. It differs, though, from virtue because it involves effort. The kindness of the sage, however, does not go beyond fulfilling his nature. He isn’t interested in effort; hence he doesn’t think about it.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The Tao is like a fruit. Hanging from a tree, it contains the power of life but its womb is hidden. Once it falls, it puts forth virtue as its root, kindness as its stem, justice as its branches, ritual as its leaves, and knowledge as its flowers. All od these come from the Tao. ‘That’ refers to flowers. ‘This’ refers to fruit. Those who embody the Tao choose the fruit over the flowers.”.

Verse 39 – Moving from finding the Way to living in Virtue

 The sage takes no action but leaves nothing undone or behind as the Tao remains forever nameless.

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Celebration  Qingyang Taoist Temple

Left alone to themselves, the ten thousand things find their own way and become transformed on their own.

Once awakened, the sage moves them with nameless simplicity. Remaining true to themselves they become quiet and tranquil. As if a single oneness, or purpose, has found each one with everything finding its place.

Finding himself alone to his liking, the sage becomes as one with heaven and earth as everyone finds him on the path to virtue.

Knowing he has now found the way, the sage clings only to his virtue ultimately showing the way for everything he has left behind. ##

Wang Pi says, “One is the beginning of numbers and the end of things. All things become complete when they become one. But once they become complete, they leave oneness behind and focus on being complete. And focusing on being complete, they lose their mother. Hence, they crack, crumble, collapse, dry up, and fall. As long as, they can preserve their form. But their mother has no form.”

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Finding the Light   Qingyang Taoist Temple

Ho-Shang Kung says, “It’s because Heaven becomes one that it graces the sky with constellations and light. It’s because Earth becomes one that it remains still and immovable. It’s because spirits become one that they change shape without becoming visible. It’s because streams become one that they never stop filling up. It’s because kings become one that they pacify the world. But Heaven must move between yin and yang, between night and day. It can’t only be clear and bright. Earth must include both high and low, hard and soft, the five-fold stages of breath. It can’t only be still. Spirits must have periods of quiescence. They can’t only be active. Streams must also be empty and dry. They can’t only be full. Kings must humble themselves and never stop seeking worthies to assist them. They can’t only lord it over others. If they do, they fall from power and lose their thrones.”

Su Ch’e says, “Oneness dwells in the noble, but it is not noble. Oneness dwells in the humble, but it is not humble. Oneness is not like the lustre of jade: so noble it cannot be humble, or the coarseness of rocks: so humble it cannot be noble.”

By 1dandecarlo

March 21, 2018

Living History – matching our own ultimate aspirations… with the stars.

The sage creates a sacred space around him. He emits an aura of compassion and mindfulness and seeks only to impart the wisdom of the universe to others. The sage releases what has blocked him in eternity, as he listens to signals from the dawn of time. The sage retires from unhappiness, worry, and the pursuit of possessions. The sage fills his life with the energy of abundance, defines prosperity as the positive energy from within, and withdraws from the strain of seeking security. As he admonishes others to retire from unhappiness, as you spend every moment creating and manifesting your own eternal vibrations. Enjoy the moments given you. Love the people around you. Live the life offered you. And know that it is when you show up as authentic, that you give others permission to do the same.

Living history is said to be the task of each successive generation. It’s something we all do.  As if we are constantly reinventing ourselves to meet, or fit, the times. It is what we tell future generations what we have left behind. That we create the world as we go with what the ancients have taught us as cause and effect through the ages. We often forget that the most important thing is the evolving of our soul. The choice we have is what vehicle are we using for our personal growth. As we are not to forget, but instead build onto our spiritual identity. Becoming resilient to what we come in contact with becomes the key.

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Stone carving of Dragons Confucius Temple

As the future speaks for itself, along with and what the memories of those who came before are telling us today. It is as the Taoists say, that what goes into something must equal what comes out as the universe teaches that there are no short-cuts. It’s what the shaman learned in following what was to become or known as following nature, the I Ching, or what we would call complimentary opposites. Just whose and what aspirations do we follow, if any? As we follow the clarion call to do no harm.

Knowing this, a wise man once said that you should never AM2believe something simply because you want to believe it. Perhaps we all should examine what we think we know, as we acknowledge that the chaos and/or enlightenment we create is but a ladder.  Both for ourselves and others that goes both up and down, or maybe static and remains as if glued in place. I recall visiting StoneAARoman_Bathshenge and Bath, England in 1995 with my wife Marie and going by the sculptures of angels climbing Jacobs Ladder on the west front of Bath Abbey, whose history spans well over a thousand years. With the local Roman baths, a thousand years prior to the church that had been hidden from view for centuries.

AM3Stonehenge itself is perhaps one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. It was built in several stages: the first monument was built about 5,000 years ago, with the unique stone circle was erected in the late Neolithic period about 2500 BC.

Stonehenge beginnings were about the same time of the Dawenkou culture in early Shandong Province in China, not too far from Zibo and even Qufu. The figure on the right is an ancient sunrise painting. The painting was a design inscribed on a big-mouthed pottery jar-a sacrificial vessel to the sun by primitive Chinese forebears in Shandong during the period when the Dawenkou culture thrived (4000-2000 BC). This painting, or design, consists of three parts: upper, middle and bottom. The upper part is a round sun. Below it is a moon. A huge mountain with five peaks is at the bottom. AM4Some experts think this might be the original of “sunrise”, with the sun above a cloud (or perhaps above the setting moon), on top of a mountain. The same character appears in inscriptions on bone or tortoise shell, on ancient bronze vessels, in lesser seal characters, in official script and in regular script in later times. The origin of the character is shown in the picture. From the angle of calligraphy, we might regard the sun in the picture as round as a circle. The moon is a bit wavelike. The mountain is drawn with the brush exerting strength.

The parallels would be the shaman’s attachment to astronomy and telling the future based on man’s early connection to nature and the moon, following the stars, and earth’s rotation around the sun and our own pull and connection to it all. Just as with the AM5astronomical finding around the history of Stonehenge. The depiction to the left is the yin/yang symbol of the I Ching in front of the Hall of the Three Purities at the Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu. Reminded even then of the cosmic principles of yin and yang as we think of the ridge pole, up verses down, dark verses light, and things seen as opposites. Of thoughts of energy and matter and the flow of all existence that we are to stay in tune with and play the role we are given. Of transformation and what it all means, ultimately for ourselves and others.

Gaocheng Astronomical Observatory, also known as the Dengfeng Observatory, is a AM6World Heritage site in Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou’s shrine, Gaocheng Town, near Dengfeng in Henan province, China. This site has a long tradition of astronomical observations, from the time of the Western Zhou up to the early Yuan dynasty. There is also a gnomon used for the Da Yan calendar in 729 AD and the great observatory of the Yuan Dynasty. It is believed that the Duke of Zhou (c. 1042 BC) had erected at this place a Ceyingtai (observatory measuring the shade or gnomon) to observe the Sun. The great observatory was expanded extensively in 1276 in the early Yuan dynasty on the order of Kublai Khan. It is definitely on my own bucket list, the next time I’m in China.

The point here is that both ancient cultures were following vibrations, or signs of the universe, perhaps a higher power, to base and make their decisions. As if saying that eternity is already etched, or ingrained, in my soul and I am already home. That the more attuned, and in line with nature I find myself, the more I am in keeping with my path. That I am happiest when I am finding my way, as if I am found returning to my source. This is the essence of what Taoism was yet to be called and become. As stated earlier, we often forget that the most important thing is the evolving of our soul and following vibrations leading back to our source. The shaman has always directed us to look to nature, the universe, and the stars knowing they are the ultimate vehicle that connects us with our spiritual identity. Staying true to ourselves once we find the path, or way, has always been the key. That the way, becoming one with the Tao, has always been within us to AM7find.

Today you can add an application to your cellphone called OSR – Star Finder that can identify your location in relation to the stars. Simply point your phone upwards and scan the stars on the horizon. The constellations will be pointed out to you. Amazing. (Aries, Cancer, Virgo, Sagittarius, I am of the Libra constellation… my own star is up there somewhere). We are all as you know simply as Carl Sagan said… “star stuff”.

Below is a portion of the Preface of my book that was published in China in 2006, that explains Taoism a little, for those who may be unfamiliar. “Thoughts on becoming a Sage” represents the author’s interpretation of the Tao Te Ching in a personalized style that illustrates the way of virtue and steps one would take in seeking out those attributes most resembling a “sage like” lifestyle and ways to live in the secular world.

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The Dragon at Qingyang Mountain

The paradox being that one cannot see oneself as a sage in the here and now… This would be seen as presumptuous. That one should begin to see beyond and simply aspire to see beyond himself and whatever his shortcomings may be and in doing so he can catch glimpses of his highest endeavor and destiny.

Just as there is an underlying or unity of philosophical religious teachings throughout the world, as shown by the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, Mohammed of Medina, Hindu and the Bhagavad Gita, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Confucius, and others… one who emulates or strives to live a life of virtue sees past self-imposed religious differences and intolerance found in the world around him. They see the likeness in everyday activities where virtue, or man’s highest endeavors, are reflected and accepted as universal truths; i.e., that we are all God’s children. It is when one reflects on his or her place in the scheme of things reaching an understanding of where they fit into this unity found in nature that the journey begins for real.

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Wild Goose Pagoda axd Pavilion Xian

In Chinese history there was an individual who lived in the sixth century during the Tang Dynasty that epitomized this universal sense of collective spirit and wisdom. Li Fang saw the need for Confucius teachings to be seen as compatible with Taoism, the teachings of Lao Tzu and Buddhism the teachings of Loashan Buddhism that was prevalent at the time. He professed to an understanding that all religions followed a core belief of a singular God. All religions simply served as the mechanism to help people get to a similar place and that no one process was necessarily better than another. Each simply the process of finding and following one’s natural inclination to nurture a personal relationship with God.

To begin to understand Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, you must first begin by understanding what he meant by the Tao, or what is commonly referred to as the way or path one should follow throughout one’s life.

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Directions  Qingyang Taoist Mountain

The way defines one’s path to ultimate reality. Although Lao Tzu continually throughout the Tao Te Ching re-affirms he does not know it’s true name, without a name it simply becomes the way, or better known as the “way of virtue. Albeit serving to find one’s ultimate path… That ultimate reality is to reach a commonality or understanding of one’s place in the physical universe, known as heaven and earth, and relationship with all things in it or what is commonly referred to or known as the ten thousand things.  

The author’s understanding of Taoism as reflected in today’s culture and society, is illustrative of a sense that the Tao does not simply give birth to all things. It continues to remain present in each individual thing as a power or energy.

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The Immortal Dragon Qingsheng Mountain

In a truly religious sense we refer to it as one’s eternal spirit or soul, or qi (chi). As the Tao manifests within an individual, it can remain static or awaken the person midstream to question his or her role, and what they are to be doing once they awaken to their true endeavor and destiny. Possibly even to grow in a certain way in tune with their true nature. Finding this one can develop their religious identity identifying with the path most comfortable for each individual.

What is it that more than five thousand years of uninterrupted history brings, but a collective consciousness from the days of the earliest shaman, that brings us or leads to a sense of pragmatism, i.e., choosing the middle way that serves the benefit of all?

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Symbols of the Dragon  Qingyang Taoist Temple

Common wisdom grew around the needs of all in the community being met. This is not only true of China, but every culture. We seem to have a hard time with this basic principle of life when we think some of us are more deserving than others. That it is when we acknowledge and reconcile with the past that we learn steps going forward. And what could serve as both inspiration and aspiration that serves to guide us. One of Chuang Tzu’s greatest contributions as to the impact of Confucian ideology and what was to later become Taoism, was to question what you see or believe as given. That just because you want to believe something, does not make it true. That if it defies nature it cannot last… Who can know what lies beneath the surface of things, just as in Roman bathes in England, for what is seen and unseen, what may be unknown and all possible outcomes?

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Times with the Sage

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 36 and 37 appear below. Verses 1 through 35 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught others along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 36 – Hoping weakness Prevails

What you would shorten you should lengthen instead.  What you would weaken you should spend your time strengthening.

What you would topple, you should raise and what you would take you should spend your time giving.

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Mount Nishan  Birthplace of Confucius

Most importantly do not abandon your weaknesses as it will be through your weaknesses that your strengths will prevail and endure.                  

The sage hides his light so it can be kept safe and secure.

While cultivating the Tao he speaks softly and with care. Just as a fish cannot survive out of water, the sage’s greatest asset is not meant to be seen, but should remain in humble and non-intimidating surroundings.  Keeping still as in a deep pool he remains unknown to the world. ##

Te-Ch’ing says, “Once things reach their limits, they go the other way. Hence lengthening is a portent of shortening. Strengthening is the onset of weakening. Raising is the beginning of toppling. Giving is the start of taking. This is the natural order of Heaven as well as for Man. Thus, to hide the light means the weak conquer the strong. Weakness is the greatest tool of the state. But a ruler must not show it to his people. Deep water is the best place for a fish. But once it is exposed to the air, a fish is completely helpless. And once a ruler shows weakness, he attracts enemies and shame.”

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Finding humble Surroundings  Gates of Qufu

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “To perceive shortening in lengthening, weakening in strengthening, toppling in raising, taking in giving, how could anyone do this if not through the deepest insight?”

This is the hidden light. Moreover, what causes things to be shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, toppled or raised, taken or given is invisible and weak. While what is shortened or lengthened, weakened or strengthened, toppled or raised, taken or given is visible or strong. Thus, the weak conquer the strong. People should not abandon weakness, just as fish should not abandon the depths. When fish abandon the depths, they are caught. When a person abandons weakness, he joins the league of the dead.”

Chuang Tzu says, “The sage is the world’s greatest tool, but not one that is known to the world” (10.3).”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “According to the way of the world. The weak don’t conquer the strong. But Lao Tzu’s point is that the weak can conquer to strong by letting the strong do what they want until they become exhausted and thus weak. Those who cultivate the Tao speak softly and act with care. They don’t argue about right or wrong, better or worse. They understand the harmony of Heaven and Earth, the Way of emptiness and stillness, and become adept at using the hidden light.”

Verse 37 – Upholding the Tao

 Practicing the art of nameless simplicity, I go forth with no desires and nothing on my agenda. With the Tao as my anchor I am guided by the virtue of heaven.

The Tao itself doing nothing yet finding that there is nothing it does not do.  Yet while AM13following the Tao, I do everything that I should do.

 

Through effortlessness and following the natural course of events, change begins to occur.  By upholding the Tao, others begin to emulate your actions and begin to see through their own desire and they too can begin to become still.  In stillness, simplicity becomes nameless and seeing beyond oneself becomes self-apparent.

Stilled by nameless simplicity their desires become non-existent.  Once gone the world begins to fix itself. ##

Chuang Tzu says, “The ancients ruled the world by doing nothing. This is the Virtue of Heaven”.

Lao Tzu says, “I do nothing and the people transform themselves.”

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Big Wild Goose Pagoda   Xian

Te Ch’ing says, “If nobles and kings could only uphold the Tao, all creatures would change by themselves without thinking about changing. This is the effect of upholding the Tao. When creatures first change, their desires disappear. But before long, their trust fades and feelings well up and begin to flow until desires reappear. When this occurs, those who are adept at saving others must block the source of desire with nameless simplicity.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “’Nameless simplicity’ refers to the Tao, which all creatures use to transform themselves and which nobles and kings use to pacify those who engage in cleverness and deceit.”

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Once the ruler uses nameless simplicity to still the desires of the masses, he must then give it up so that they don’t follow its tracks and once again enter the realm of action. Once our illness is cured, we put away the medicine. Once we are cross the river, we leave the boat behind. And once we are free of desire, we must also forget the desire to be free of desire. Serene and at peace, the ruler does nothing, while the world takes care of itself.”

By 1dandecarlo