March 12, 2018

Lent, the Art of Forgiveness and the Road Not Taken

All the qualities that the great masters found, we can attain as well. It all depends on our own efforts, our diligence, our deeper knowing, and our correct motivation.  –  Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

How do we learn to listen to, speak and write from our inner voice? How do we learn to act on our highest calling or endeavor?  We do so innately, by and through discretion, insight and wisdom.


The Winding Road   Qingyang Mountain   Chengdu

Modeling our thoughts and behavior from what we have learned and observed, and from this we know how to proceed. How do we inspire others to do the same?

How do we learn not to be fixed in our thoughts going this way or that, when we ourselves don’t know, or are not aware of what the final outcome of where a particular path may lead? When a basic law of the universe is that all things must change. Nothing ever remains the same and as we continue to grow neither do we. That the first step to change is learning forgiveness. Forgiving ourselves, as well as those around us, for not meeting expectations that were not all that important to begin with. That it is when we become fixed in a certain way, we too begin to die. It is nature’s way of replenishing itself.

As most of those following me here know, I recently posted something about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. In addition to several hundred “likes”, I AGandhiSaltreceived four or five comments from people who had terrible things to say about Gandhi. I could not understand such vitriol for a man who changed the world and the lives of millions of people for the better.

Mahatma Gandhi during the Salt March protesting against the government monopoly on salt production. (Image: Getty Images)

Even for myself, I have quoted him in my books and writing. His line attributed to him “We must be the change we want to see in the world”, is one of the most transformative statement’s one could make or say. Were either of them perfect – no. And then we look to our own frailties and have to ask… are we, and then acknowledge that perhaps it was their struggles and greatness that may have contributed to our own awakening. To maybe take the higher path, or road, that ultimately defines us as well. History ultimately always tells the story. Gandhi’s influence lives beyond him and he will be considered immortal because of it. Who and what is it that tells the memories of times gone by as we help others to remember what they too may have forgotten?

In ancient China, as with every civilization, we learned that our actions lead to consequences. If we start a fire… things will burn. If uncontrolled then the fire will burn everything in its path.

An Early I Ching

The I Ching    Sichuan Museum

When the flood comes, there is no safely until or unless you reach higher ground. Nature re-constructs from what is left behind just as we do from those we follow. We build on the strengths and weakness of ourselves and others and gain wisdom, insight, and discretion along the way. Our words and actions express this every day. They serve to define us and have consequences as well. That it is what inspires us that guides our way. It’s like following directions will get us there so we take them.

It is as Robert Frost said, that it is the road not taken that leads us to a different reality that could have been our best way to go. Ultimately it is what we “take away” from the experience that  guides us.


Country Road in Shandong

His poem “The Road Not Taken” begins with a dilemma, i.e., coming to a fork in the road and we have to decide which path to follow: One forest has replaced another, just as—in the poem—one choice will supplant another. The yellow leaves also evoke a sense of transience; one season will soon give way to another, just as with our lives. Wishing both paths could be taken, a choice must however be made. In the end Frost said, ‘Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—/ I took the one less traveled by / And that has made all the difference.’ Wow… now that’s inspiring. The point being, that we can be influenced or guided by his writing, but it doesn’t not necessitate our reflecting, or being judgmental on Frost’s character. Kind of like the line in the song by George Harrison “If you don’t know where you’re going any road will take you there”. As if it’s where the attributes they emulate take us.

George Harrison

Jack London

Another great writer was Jack London, who wrote “Call of the Wild” and his ability to portray the wild, untamed Yukon. What he did in his life might cause some to disparage him, just do we judge him and not his contribution to the world through his writing? The list goes on and on. The point being we accept others through forgiveness and acknowledge their humanity.  We seem to want to mold others into who we think they should be, instead of accepting their awesomeness as to who they really are… warts and all.

I give Desmond Tutu the final word below. I think a part of developing forgiveness in 4.6this time of lent before Easter, is understanding that we believe what we are taught to believe. It seems as though it is through our own acts of forgiveness we are asked now to take, that we are given an opportunity for spiritual transformation.  To find and then follow a transcendent life as we learn to reverberate the energy that encompasses us and to see beyond ourselves. As if we are to be reawakened. With this we see the resentments we have grown accustomed to and remove them. It is through forgiveness we begin to see beyond personal attributes of those we look to that would demean their legacy. As if we want those we look up to be perfect, without modifying our own behavior that matches them. Since we fail to nourish the greatness in ourselves, we seem not to want to see it in others as well. Just as it is very common to have historical figures to have their personas amplified to match the cause they represent.

I especially like the words in a book by Desmond Tutu in The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World. 4.7

“Forgiveness does not relieve someone of responsibility for what they have done. Forgiveness does not erase accountability. It is not about turning a blind eye or even turning the other cheek. It is not about letting someone off the hook or saying it is okay to do something monstrous. Forgiveness is simply about understanding that every one of us is both inherently good and inherently flawed. Within every hopeless situation and every seemingly hopeless person lies the possibility of transformation.”

A Desmond Tutu second quote I liked was “Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another—when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship—our suffering begins to transform.”

I would add that ultimately, it is in knowing who we are, that we can only desire the best for them. That we don’t contribute to spiritual degradation. That we become an expression of light with compassion and connectedness with all things.


Charles Filmore

That it is what we take away from our experiences with MLK, Gandhi, Desmond Tutu, and others that helps us to remember what we have forgotten as to who we are for eternity’s sake. The reverberations of energy that serve to help us to be willing to show up as who we are meant to be. To become as the ancient Chinese have said through the millennia. That we are one with the ten thousand things. With this we find the blossoming of our soul. To as Charles Fillmore, founder of Unity said, “We are to forgive and ask forgiveness. Seeing others as pure spirit is our own road to freedom. That with forgiveness everything becomes new again.” As though the open road awaits us.


The teachings of Confucius

The basis of Confucius teachings was thoughts of benevolence towards all. By definition, benevolence meant to forgive and move all to higher ground through our own actions.

The Buddha awoke by recognizing that all of creation, from distraught ants to dying human beings, are unified by suffering. Recognizing this, the Buddha discovered how to best approach suffering. First, one shouldn’t bathe in luxury, nor abstain from food and comforts altogether. Instead, one ought to live in moderation (the Buddha called this “the middle way”). This allows for maximal concentration on cultivating compassion for others and seeking enlightenment. Next, the Buddha described a path to transcending suffering called “the four noble truths.”

The first noble truth is the realization that first prompted the Buddha’s journey: that there is suffering and constant dissatisfaction in the world: “Life is difficult and brief and bound up with suffering.”


Showing the Way      Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian

The second is that this suffering is caused by our desires, and thus “attachment is the root of all suffering.” The third truth is that we can transcend suffering by removing or managing these desires. The Buddha thus made the remarkable claim that we must change our outlook, not our circumstances. We are unhappy not because we have become greedy, vain, and insecure, but that we see the world through eyes looking outward, not inward. By re-orienting our mind and actions, we can grow to be content.The fourth and final noble truth the Buddha uncovered is that we can learn to move beyond suffering through what he termed “the eightfold path.” The eightfold path involves a series of aspects of behaving “right” and wisely: right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. That wisdom is a habit, not merely an intellectual realization. One must exercise one’s nobler impulses. Understanding is only part of becoming a better person.


Shakyamuni Buddha    Chengdu

Seeking these correct modes of behavior and awareness, the Buddha taught that people could transcend much of their negative individualism—their pride, their anxiety, and the desires that made them so unhappy—and in turn they would gain compassion for all other living beings who suffered as they did. With the correct behavior and what we now term a mindful attitude, people can invert negative emotions and states of mind, turning ignorance into wisdom, anger into compassion, and greed into generosity.

The ancient Taoist Li Jung says, “The Great Image has no form. What has no form is the great and empty Way. To ‘hold’ means to focus or keep. Those who can keep their body in the realm of Dark Virtue and focus their mind on the gate of Hidden Serenity possess the Way. All things come to them. Clouds appear, and all creatures are refreshed. Rain pours down, and all plants are refreshed. And all these blessings come from such a subtle thing.”

The road always seemingly coming back full circle to Lao Tzu, and thoughts of Taoism. A3.13As 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 34 and 35 appear below. Verses 1 through 33 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.

Verse 34 – Knowing no borders you learn to lead the Way

 Living each moment in virtue through grace, while remaining unrestrained in every thought, action and deed.

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The Protector Confucius Cemetery Qufu

Coming across to others as neither weak nor strong or right or wrong, so that you may respond to all things and move them in any direction.

Knowing no borders and remaining neutral.  In control but letting everything find its own course just the same. Simply doing what you do best as if you are drifting through time. With no predetermined destination you go everywhere, see everything using the Tao as your compass and oar. Continuing by grace so that you go without bringing attention to yourself, never speaking of your power or mentioning your achievements as you endeavor to remain small.

Never acting great but doing great things. Everything eventually coming before you as you let each go by seemingly out of your control.  Recalling Chuang Tzu and his refrain that the Tao has no borders. As you sit back watching as the world comes to your doorstep. ##

Hsuan-Tsung says, “To drift means to be unrestrained. The Tao is not yin or yang, weak or strong. Unrestrained, it can respond to all things and in any direction. It is not one-sided. As Chuang Tzu says, “The Tao has no borders (2.5).”

Wang Pi says, “The Tao drifts everywhere. It can go left or right. It can go up or down. Wherever we turn to use it, it’s there.”


Memorial to Yellow Emperor  Qufu

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Outside of the Tao there are no things. Outside of things there is no Tao. The Tao gives birth to things just as wind creates movement or water creates waves.”

Wang P’ang says, “When the Tao becomes small, it doesn’t stop being great. When it becomes great, it doesn’t stop being small. But all we see are its traces. In reality, it isn’t small and it isn’t great. It can’t be described, t can only be known.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The Tao hides in what has no name, and the sage embodies it through what has no name. He doesn’t consider himself great, and yet no one is greater. For he can go left or right. Hence, he is neither small or great. And because he is neither small or great, he can do great things.”

Ch’eng Hsung-Ying says, “The Tao produces all things, and all things turn to it. It’s like the sea. All streams empty into it, and yet it doesn’t control them.

Verse 35 – Remaining Humble Yet Inexhaustible

Holding onto the true image of myself with humility, comity and grace I remain humbled by what the Tao places before me. As I recommit my entire essence to only promoting that which comes forth as the greater image or vision that I am here to complete. All the while knowing that my highest aspiration can succeed only with the success of all around me.     

As the world comes forth to greet me each day, I remain protected, as I have no form thereby beyond whatever harm may come my way. I remain safe, serene and as one with the Tao.

Words of the Dragon  Qingyang Taoist Temple  Chengdu

Eventually everything coming before me as an equal, I walk guided by selflessness as all things come to me. As I remain one with all things.  While forgetting myself in others, others forget themselves in me. Therefore, everyone finds his or her place and no one is not at one with me.    

Keep only to the plain and simple drawing people closer as you entertain with images of the Tao. Remaining at the point of inquiry, with no one quite sure how to love or hate, with no shape, taste or sound with which to please others. Remaining enmeshed in the Tao your role can never be exhausted. ##

Lu Tung-Pin says, “Unharmed our spirit is safe. Unharmed, our breath is serene.


Tributes to the Ancients Yellow Emperor  Qufu

Unharmed, our nature is at one”. Te-Ch’ing says, “The sage rules the world through selflessness. All things come to him because he is one with all things. And while he forgets himself in others, others forget themselves in him. Thus, all things find their place, and there are none that are not at one.”

Chuang Tzu says, “A great man’s words are plain like water. A small man’s words are sweet like wine. The plainness of a great man brings people closer, while the sweetness of a small man drives them apart. Those who would come together for no reason, separate for no reason” (20-5).

Ho-Shang Kung says, “If someone uses the Tao to govern the country, the country would be rich, and the people prosperous. If someone used it to cultivate himself, there would be no limit to the length of his life.”


By 1dandecarlo

March 1, 2018

Emulating the five jades as our own aspirations and behavior

In ancient China the role of the importance of jade became very valuable. Like gold, its role in society became the real thing. As if possessing fine jade could extend its value through the virtue it’s holder had as well. Radiating that inner quiet, or quality, which is often associated with spiritual attainment. Gaining a feeling that there is a gaze, a watchful eye, watching over you.


Receiving fine jade in antiquity   Sichuan Museum

The gaze seemingly open, calm, benign, without judgment of any kind, and yet, when we are confronted with it, it acts like a mirror and we can see what remains hollow in ourselves, all that is greedy, angry, and unwise. The jade reminding us that there is much more to ourselves than simply appearances.

As if having what was to be called the inner qualities of the “five jades”, you received praise and encouragement from your peers. This was clearly something the emperor and early kings tried to emulate and demonstrate and was a subject taught in “the art of becoming”. This also fit into the embodiment of Confucian ideals of benevolence as one attempted to modify his behavior to fit the norm. Exemplified by what became known as filial piety in Confucian philosophy, as a virtue of respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors.

Oaths of filial piety Confucius in Qufu

It was the key to maturity in every level we might attain in our family, our life, and society.  Cultured gentlemen always wore jade… In its highest estimation it would be as if you were ease-dropping on our soul’s place in the universe. As if the phoenix rising again, moving from where you find yourself to where you need to be.  Becoming free of negativity and associating with our sense of connecting to vibrations beyond the here and now.


The Water Dragon   Dujian Water work

What could, or what is to become of, our eternal essence. To get to the point of “what shows up is who we are in relationship to our greatest endeavor and destiny”.

A great author whose writing I follow is Abraham Hicks. Several of his basic premises are that you (we) are a physical extension of that which is non-physical. Next, is that you are here in the body because you choose to be here, and third, that the basis of your life is freedom and the purpose of your life is joy. I spoke extensively about this idea of freedom in my previous blog here on my website. My sense of his ideas center around the notion that our emotions are what guides us and aligning with our desires sets in place our destination. That we are here to align with our greater truth. Finding and associating with these vibrations we allow this energy to flow through us. That when we connect to joy, and what we love, we discover the purpose of our lives. To even as Joseph Campbell would say, to discover or find our bliss. This equates even to kung fu, as I have written before, that with this we find our expansion.

Linyi 1

The sage in nature    Linyi Museum

That we cannot act in generalities, but find our own specific purpose. What the ancient shaman found and learned by following nature and what was to become of the I Ching, that the truth you know is the same truth you use in guiding your thoughts and actions. Once ingrained, this truth makes you unavailable to anything else.

Hicks basic premise of the “law of attraction” … is that choice is our greatest level of consciousness and fits well into what Wang Pi from the early Han Dynasty said when he updated both Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, and the I Ching, the Taoist ideals of Chuang Tzu’s perfected man and “cause and effect”. With their help we learn to live the Tao catching glimpses of ourselves, as we simply continue on our way.


Going Forward   Nanjing Museum

It’s what the Buddhist conveys when he says that every day is new and that ultimately nothing  takes us far from our path.  That when we stray, we ultimately find the freedom to return to our path to find why we are here and where we need to be. Our challenge as Chuang Tzu above was always conveying, is that it is as we learn to pivot and come back into alignment to who and what we are that counts. That it is as if our source keeps trying to reroute us… that we are never lost and that we should lean on from where we came. It is as if we are reminded that we are co-creators with the universe. It was this consciousness of choice that jade in ancient China became an emblem of life assisting us in creating our highest endeavors.

Accepting and wearing jade signified that you acknowledged your place in society.  As if you had found kung fu and a life in wu wei, or your highest endeavor, assured of your ultimate destiny… As if you were somewhat sage-like yourself, yet bound to a humble and simple lifestyle.

B4As if you were the master of knowing your place in the universe, earth, people, and perhaps even heaven itself, and were living it. Jade could symbolize you had made it.  Versus those who were afraid of not measuring up, who collected possessions and gold instead. Jade although was very rare, and those seen as the rightful owners were the very fortunate, the kings and emperor. While possessing the five jades represented the highest virtues one could obtain. They were as follows:

  1.  That mildness shows morality.
  2.  Graciousness shows righteousness. 
  3.  Modesty shows etiquette. 
  4.  Solidness shows wisdom. 
  5.  Lucidness means loyalty.                            


    Jade broach from the Early Han / Shaanxi

Xu Shen, from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 221 AD), details the five virtues describing the makeup of jade in his work Shuowen Jiezi:

Benevolence for its lustre and brilliance.                  Honesty for its translucent texture.
Wisdom for its tranquil and far-reaching tone.
Integrity and Bravery for it may be broken but cannot be twisted.           

B7        Cover of a modern reprint of a Song Dynasty edition the Shuowen Jiezi an early 2nd-century Chinese dictionary from the Han Dynasty. (Wikipedia)

In Chinese mythology there is a character known as Bixia Yuanjun, also known as the “Heavenly Immortal Lady of Jade” or the “Lady of Mount Tai”. According to some mythological accounts, she is the daughter or the consort of the Great Deity of Mount Tai. Statues of Bixia Yuanjun often depict her holding a tablet with the Big Dipper as a symbol of her authority. 

Jade Emperor Peak Mount Tai

 Jade Emperor Peak on Mount Tai is the holiest of Taoist pilgrimage destinations in China. For over three thousand years Taoist pilgrims have journeyed up to this peak. Thousands visit Jade Emperor Peak daily, making Tai Shan one of the most climbed mountain in the world.


Palace of Heavenly Blessings at the top of Mt Tai Shan

There are 7,200 stairs that lead to the eastern summit, and there are many ancient temples to visit on this route. Mount Tai is a world heritage site and is the holiest of Taoism’s Five Sacred Mountains. I have been here many times. Usually walking up to the peak, then riding the tram back down.

Over thousands of years through the teachings of both sage and shaman alike these traits proved, or showed, how one’s life fit into the true meaning of longevity and a life well-lived. It meant the rise and fall of kings, emperors, and dynasties were tied to basic principles. That values mean nothing if not intrinsically tied to virtue and today’s pragmatism.

In China these virtues were illustrated by adhering to the principles expanded on by Lao Tzu and Confucius. Interestingly, it would be how Confucian philosophy was modified through commentaries that enabled those in power to convey what he really meant to say. By example, under a tab on my website is something called “The Dazhuan – The Meaning of the I Ching”. In history, it is considered to be a segment of the Ten Wings that conveyed how one should emulate the true path of one wishing to have influence in popular culture.


Dan and Chris at annual Confucius festivities held in Qufu

As if a road map to understanding how to “fit in” with the I Ching as the ultimate guide. But it was to be Confucius, and those who followed him, that were to show the ultimate way. In the early Han Dynasty, the Han emperor, required every city in China to have what was to be called “a Temple honoring Confucius”. While trying to provide structure and “rites” that tied the present back to the past going forward.  In reality, it was this philosophical glue or melding together, that tied the rights of the Emperor and his followers to the past that gave him authority to serve and act on the people’s behalf. Confucian doctrine held it all together.

B13Sage from Three Kingdoms Culture (AD 184/220–280) was the tripartite division of China between the states of Wei, Shu, and Wu, following the Han dynasty   Jade statute from Chengdu.

Another source is my own experiences in China and Qufu found here on the website under the tab “Qufu and Confucius”. In my travels to Qufu since October 1999, I have observed many people in the birthplace of Confucius who have become close friends, as well as, traveled to many cities, towns, and villages of my students in Shandong Province. While the focus here is on Lao Tzu, most historians feel Confucius at heart was a Taoist. To the reader, some sense of Confucianism is important as we tell the story.  There is a famous stone carving of Confucius meeting Lao Tzu in Jining dating from the Warring States Period (475–221 BC) although, most feel that they probably did not meet. It is said that Lao Tzu told Confucius that… “He should not be so full of himself”. I was given an etching of the stone tablet from the Han dynasty that depicted this meeting. I gave it to the Confucius Institute at Miami Dade College in Florida where I was an adjunct professor a few years ago.

Confucianism’s primary principles are:

  1. Jen – the golden rule 
  2. Chun-tai – the gentlemanly man of virtue
  3. Cheng-ming – the proper playing of society’s roles
  4. Te – the power of virtue
  5. Li – ideal standards of conduct
  6. Wen – the peaceful arts (music, poetry, etc.)

The Jade Dragon Protector Shaanxi Museum

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 32 and 33 appear below. Verses 1 through 31 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 this website.


Carving from Han Dynasty at Confucius Mansion in Qufu

Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught 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 32 – The River of Tao runs through Me

Going through each chapter of the Tao Te Ching is as if a river is running through me. Cleansing my heart, clearing my head and satisfying my soul.


Embracing the Simple  Qingyang Temple

As if I have become nameless and my body non-existent as I become one with the Tao. Living the life as the true sage as the Tao becomes me.

I am forever transformed.

The Way becoming simple and clear as the natural extension of your every action. Focusing on what remains small and beyond command by others except for appearance sake.  When you expand, however, it is as if you are everywhere. You become both heaven and earth combining as one.

Embracing the simple and working without effort, my true nature remains unburdened as material things and desires run through me and dissolve as if they were never really there.  Showing the way, but leaving others to discover the Tao for themselves.

You appear as if dew leaving no trace. Given a name you become distinct. Showing restraint and finding no trouble your true purpose has run its course. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says,  “The Tao can be yin or yang, it can wax or wane, it can exist or not exist. Hence it has no fixed name.”

Chiao Hung says, “We call it ‘simple’ because it has not been cut or polished. We call it ‘small’ because it is faint and infinitesimal. Those who can see the small and hold onto it are rare indeed.


Dragon and Phoenix   Dujan Wateworks    Chengdu

Wang Pi, “If someone embraces the simple and works without effort and doesn’t burden their true nature with material goods or injure their spirit with desires, all things will come to them on their own and they will discover the Tao by themselves. To discover the Tao, nothing is better than embracing simplicity.”                         


Buddhist Temple in Qingdao

Jen Fa-Jung says, “In terms of practice, if someone can be serene and natural, free himself of desire, and put his mind at rest, his yin and yang breaths will come together on their own and penetrate every artery and organ. Inside his mouth, the saliva of sweet dew will appear spontaneously and nourish his whole body.

Verse 33 – Living Beyond Attachments

Proceeding unconsciously, as if you are only following the whims of the Tao and playing the role that you are here to play. Knowing your place is secure and you destiny to one day return to live with dragons is assured.

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Living fully enmeshed in the Tao Huangshan Old Town

What then can occur in the here and now but to live fully enmeshed in the Tao and to be sure you complete the role you are here to play. As if to live beyond attachments while continuing to pursue your final destiny                                                                                                                                                                          The sage becomes wise by knowing himself and remaining perceptive of others by only being concerned about conquering himself and not others.

By striving to succeed at his endeavors and knowing contentment as his definition of being wealthy.  Not losing his place thereby living forever. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Perception means to distinguish. Wisdom means to remove obstruction. As long as our distinguishing mind is present, we can only know others, but not ourselves.

The sage at the gate    Confucius Mansion

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

Li His-Chan says, “Perception is external knowledge. Wisdom is internal knowledge. Force is external control. Strength is internal control. Perception and force mislead us. Wisdom and strength are true. They are the doors to the Tao.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing, “The strength of those who conquer themselves is of ten kinds: the strength of faith, the strength of charity, the strength of morality, the strength of devotion, the strength of mediation, the strength of concentration, the strength of illumination, the strength of wisdom, the strength of the Way, and the strength of Virtue.”

Lu Nung-Shih says, “Before we distinguish them, life and death share the same form, the ten thousand things dwell in the same house. Our body is like the shell of a cicada or the skin of a snake: a temporary lodging. The shell perishes but not the cicada. The skin decays but not the snake. We all have something that survives death.”

IMG_0234 (2)

Succeeding at life’s endeavors                                                      

Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, “Though the Great Way might be far off, if we persevere without pause, we advance. We get closer and closer, until suddenly we become one with the Way. Whoever has a role can do anything. Outside, be content with your lot. Inside, focus on the Way. And you cannot help but live long with devotion.”

Wang Pi says, “Those who strive with devotion reach their goal. Those who examine themselves and work within their capacity don’t lose their place and are able to endure. Although we die, the Tao that gave us life does not perish. Our body disappears, but the Tao remains. If our body survived, would the Tao not end?”

Wang P’ang say, “The natural endowment of all things is complete in itself. Poverty does not reduce it. Wealth does not enlarge it. But fools abandon this treasure to chase trash. Those who know contentment pay the world no heed. This is true wealth. Mencius said, “The ten thousand things are all with us (7A.4). How could we not be healthy?”

By 1dandecarlo

February 22, 2018

Keeping our integrity intact – while we find freedom from who we thought we were.

It is said that it’s not enough only to return to our source, but once you have done so you become rejuvenated and become the source over and over again. The status quo henceforth never enough because you see what can be and want to go there. Who are those among us who refuse to reside in, or conform with, what are considered norms or society’s niceties. Or as I’ve heard and told – to be like a roman candle ready to explode across the blue sky.

Their non-conformity usually to be seen or expressed in word, poetry or song. Thoughts of Patrick Henry and the American Revolution A3 2and his call to arms… “Give me liberty or give me death”. Or Chuang Tzu in China from thousands of years ago, with his butterfly dream, that exhorts others to not fall head first into what is easiest, or conformity. Saying A3 1that if there needs to be a revolution, then count me in. To not be boxed in by what remotely seems familiar to the status quo. Not only remaining outside the box, but defining it as well. To happily draw outside the lines, or even off the page itself. Acting as if every situation is unfinished until it’s your turn to speak up. As if accepting finality in any circumstance is not on the agenda. Even reminding us of Thoreau’s  civil disobedience and his opposition to slavery and American imperialism. His writing influenced many prominent civil rights activists, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi, combining and defining both transcendentalism and peaceful change through non-violence.

Mohandas Gandhi first read Thoreau’s book  Walden in 1906 while working as a civil rights activist in Johannesburg, South Africa.  (Gandhi photo from wikipedia)

Gandhi and His Spinning Wheel: the Story Behind an Iconic Photo

With Gandhi spinning was poetry in motion

He first read Civil Disobedience while he sat in a South African prison for the crime of nonviolently protesting discrimination against the Indian population in the Transvaal. The essay galvanized Gandhi, who wrote and published a synopsis of Thoreau’s argument, calling it ‘incisive logic unanswerable’ and referring to Thoreau as ‘one of the greatest and most moral men America has produced’. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his autobiography stated that his first encounter with the idea of nonviolent resistance was reading “On Civil Disobedience” in 1944 while attending Morehouse College. Both finding change through illustrating our integrity and defining the true meaning of freedom of thought and our actions that follow. As if our task is to continually re-define the true essence of virtue with the sage remaining an enigma even to those who think they know him.

In China it was always the writer, painter and poet, who could express an internal sense of A3.3kung fu that others could see and find for themselves in appreciation of bringing what could not be known, into what could be… and to go there. Having a sense of spontaneity that you could identify with and do yourself. It was as if becoming one with what you do is a true realization of the Way of Virtue, or the Tao. It’s what we do when we move beyond identifying with who we thought we were, to who we really are.

We all seem to possess an instinct for survival, a fear of death that defines, or separates us, from some sense of happiness that conveys that body, mind, and spirit are one in the same. In China, it was the ability to express this as our nature in beautiful landscapes depicting yourself as the sage or hermit in the hut on the mountain landscape, that was the ultimate escape into meditation as you yourself could go there. A3.4As well as, through calligraphy that demonstrated through the “brush stroke” your ability to convey what could be transformational.

Wang Xizhi (303–361) was a Chinese calligrapher, traditionally referred to as the Sage of Calligraphy. Born in Linyi in Shandong, I have visited his home in Linyi …

Expressing yourself from within. Great calligraphy, paintings, and human expression we have defined as art, fill museums throughout the world saying this is how it has always been.

Intricate landscapes carried over into actual reality through principles that could be depicted in nature and carried out in practice.


Confucius Temple in Qufu

In Chinese traditional culture, moral education took the place of religion. Grounded in Taoism, Buddhism and Confucius, society could move on to expressing this through how they lived. With the aesthetic thought of Confucianism always emphasizing inquiry into ethical and moral principles and finding ways to stay within them.

Confucius made assessments through following ancient rites, virtue and benevolence towards others. This was often shown through landscapes and what was to later become of feng shui and became a major principle used in creating a traditional Chinese garden, or Temple dedicated to harmonizing with nature. Not to control, but that the man-made and natural scenes should blend together that seems to outweigh contradiction. To become complementary. This conveyed the realization that you understood the teachings of Lao Tzu who taught that the Tao gave free rein to nature. That there was no overriding, or A3.6overreaching element.  That all things, including people, developed in their own way as their nature dictated.             

Famous gardens of Suzhou. This is the Lion Grove Garden. I have given tours here, and taught at university to students who were to become tour guides.

Human elements, as shown in traditional Chinese garden design, are done at a minimum and not used to damage or change ecology.  Garden design was especially prone to focus on allowing the natural, or original shapes of plants and trees to exist. In Shandong Province, where I have traveled extensively and visited many of the examples of temples/gardens where these traits are exemplified, I have seen how all the above demonstrates what I like to call a collective vision to virtue and integrity beyond oneself.

One of my favorite gardens in China is actually referred to as the Dai Temple, also know A3.7as Daimiao, at the foot of TaiShan Mountain in Shandong Province. The temple was first built during the Qin Dynasty. Since the time of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD), its design has been a replica of the imperial palace, which makes it one out of three extant structures in China with the features of an imperial palace A3.8(the other two are the Forbidden City in Beijing and Confucius Temple in Qufu). The Dai Temple is surrounded by the 2,100‑year‑old Han Dynasty cypresses. The oldest surviving stair may be the 6000 granite steps to the top of the mountain. (Which I have climbed). The site contains a number of well-preserved steles from the Huizong reign, some of which are mounted on bixi tortoises.

Emerson, more than any other western writer comes closest to what I call Eastern philosophy, and opened the door for others to walk through. With ideas such as individuality, freedom, the ability for man to realize almost anything, and the relationship between the soul and the surrounding world.


Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson felt philosophically speaking or considered, “the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul”, rejecting views of God as separate from the world.” In my opinion, his thinking resembled the Taoist and shaman. He as much as anyone, opened us and the west to ideas espoused by Eastern philosophy. With Emerson we could all be ourselves and become transcendental. In America, it was the early transcendental writers Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, who moved others to see that there was a world beyond oneself that fueled westward expansion.


Henry David  Thoreau

Telling us that the further we get from who we are, we retreat into our future. As if following the stars that were to be plotted by the surveyor, John C Fremont, the pathfinder, who served as our guide west discovering as we went the wonder of the universe, the utter awe of nature and finding our place in it. As if we had no choice but to go.  As a writer myself, I have long admired Thoreau and his saying that, “Nothing goes by luck in composition. The best you can write will be the best you are”. Just as I wrote all those years ago… “what you write is who you are to become”.

Both Emerson and Thoreau giving credence, or license, to the idea of anxiously awaiting departure to the unknown as the only path to be taken. The way once found to be defined only in order to take the next unknowable step, before then taking it. So that we too can make the unknowable knowable if only for ourselves.


Waiting for the bell to toll for us   Confucius Temple Qingdao

To define the universe in terms of what the ancients found in stillness and go there. To live and reside (without drugs) in an altered state of consciousness. As if no longer stuck in believing or thinking we can only live within what we know, then leaving what’s knowable behind…

For myself, it’s as if to be found appreciating those who have come before us. As if through their knowledge and wisdom we can gain our own. We’ve all known people like this as they have passed though our lives like a comet streaking through our own blue sky. Here today and gone tomorrow. Their purpose to be teachers of the Way, but most often not staying long, except only to maybe get our attention.


Keeping rhythm   Qingyang Taoist Temple

Not really, or much appreciated, until they are gone. Only here as if, as stated before, on a passing cloud. Finding joy in remaining an enigma as before. With no pre-conceived patterns. As if a snowflake celebrating its indifference. As if waiting to see if we too are ready to catch the coming wave. Or better yet, create the ripple that become a tsunami.

Looking back, it is those who we celebrate in hopes of latching onto their drawstrings as they pass us by. Their non-conformity our own ticket to ride in knowing the virtue that becomes us. It has been these throughout history in China we have called dragons. Our ancestors and mentors who have shown us the way. It truly is as if they reside on passing clouds encouraging us to come along for the ride. It’s as if remaining in silence, being drawn to our eternal rhythm and reverberations through music and meditation, that directions arrive to take us there. All that is required is to keep our integrity intact by discarding what isn’t to become of us. Thereby following and knowing final outcomes. As if we shouldn’t keep them waiting.

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 30 and 31 A3.13appear below. Verses 1 through 29 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 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 30 – Winning when you have no Choice

 The Tao teaches us to win with our integrity intact.  To let our spiritual fortunes, guide the way.


Forever Young Dujian Waterworks

In keeping with your role as remaining at the foremost point of mediation you have come to a few basic tenants. First is an understanding of what it takes to win without using force.  That it is better to win, then stop – letting common sense prevail.  Next to win with your humility intact letting everyone take credit for the outcome. Third, to win without being cruel to another, giving them the victory as well. And finally, to win when you have no choice.To be so caught up in the final outcome that it is only natural that events and success will follow. That the foremost law of the universe is that we reap what we sow and that what we cultivate comes back to rule the day.

Ultimate victory occurring when you appear to prosper, but remain poor. Become full yet seem empty. Keep virility at arm’s length thus remaining forever young and allowing death to make no appearances.


TianHou Palace Temple   Qingdao

The knowing sage ages without growing old. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Those who possess the Tao prosper and yet seem poor, become full and yet seem empty. What is not virile does not become old and does not die. The virile die. This is the way things are. Using an army to control the world represent strength. But it only hastens old age and death.” 

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “To win means to defeat one’s enemies. To win without being arrogant about one’s power, to win without being boastful about one’s ability, to win without being cruel about one’s achievement, this sort of victory only comes from being forced and not from the exercise of force.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “Those who possess the Way are like children. They age without growing old.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Once a plant reaches its height of development, it withers. Once a person reaches his peak, they grow old. Force does not prevail for long. It isn’t the Tao. What is withered and old cannot follow the Tao. And what cannot follow the Tao soon dies.

Lao Tzu says, “Tyrants never choose their end” (42).

Verse 31 – Remaining Centered in the Tao

Learn not to expand your energies or passion on things of little or no consequence.


Living by the Tao   Dujian Waterworks

Remaining still and reserved as if you are pre-occupied with your own enthusiasm. To those around you, simply smile at what living brings to greet you each day and to trouble say ah so!

Not as one considered as self-centered, but as Tao centered spreading your joy and laughter to all you meet. Letting joy for knowing your place in the universe become your foremost point of engagement.

Learn not to let situations control you. Instead, remain in control by not allowing events to cloud your vision as you lead others with dispassion, humility and self-control.


Huangshan Mountain / Anhui

When you can respond as if events were gnats, too small to even notice, then you may begin to see over the next horizon as your destiny becomes clear. ##


The charioteer     Xian terra cotta warriors

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The system of ritual devised by ancient kings treated the right as superior and the left as inferior. Being superior, the right represented the Way of Victory. Being inferior, the left represented the Way of Humility.   But victory entailed death and destruction. Hence those on the right were in charge of sad occasions, while those of the left were in charge of happy events.

Li His-Chai says, “Sun Tzu discussed in detail the use of strengths and weaknesses, of direction and indirection in warfare, but he did not understand their basis (5-6). Lao Tzu says dispassion is the best policy, for it secures victory without a display. This might seem odd, but dispassion means to rest, and rest is the root of victory. While passion means to act, and action is the basis of defeat.”


The Soldier

Li Jung says, “The ancients used weapons with compassion. They honored them for their virtue and disdained them as tools. Once the enemy was defeated, the general put on plain, un-dyed clothes, presided over a funeral ceremony, and received the mourners”.

Shang Kung says, “In times of decadence and disorder, we use weapons to defend the people”. Su Che says, “We take up weapons to rescue the distressed and not as a matter of course”.

By 1dandecarlo

February 12,2018

Going by way of the white Clouds

One of my most favorite books is by Peter Matthiess, The Snow Leopard. It references another favorite book entitled, The Way of the White Clouds. I never travel far without both in tow.


The Hand of the Buddha   Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

The Show Leopard, quotes Lama Govina as saying, “Just as a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth freely flows from the blue sky from horizon to horizon following the breath of the atmosphere – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that… leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight”.  The white cloud representing the wisdom and compassion of the guru and spiritual enfoldment, the way of the pilgrimage that leads one to the realization of final completion.

Continuing with The Snow Leopard, the mystical perception (which is only mystical if our reality is limited to what can be measured by the intellect and senses) is remarkably consistent in all places everywhere. To not merely see, but to do. The physician seeks to understand reality, while the mystic is trained to experience it directly.

Asnow leopard

Picture of snow leopard from website

That while both may have a limited view, or picture, of existence which transcends physical evidence, there remains the sense that appearances are illusionary, or illusory, i.e., temporary.  It is as if finding the elusive snow leopard itself. You’ve heard of its existence in the high mountains of Tibet. But do you need to actually see it for yourself, to acknowledge it really exists. As if something needs to be seen to be believed. That in reality, everything found in nature including our own human nature, remains in a constant state of flux. That there is in effect, no real edge to anything and therefore remains open to endless interpretation. For the Taoist, it is attaching yourself to nothing, yet influencing all you touch. That this molecular flow of the universe, this cosmic energy we define as universal consciousness is all that has ever been and also includes us. It is how AGenghiswe learn to experience this reality for ourselves that we become enamored with nothing and become mystical as well.

A famous saying from Genghis Khan, the Mongol who raided across Asia pillaging the twenty great cities left by Alexander the Great five hundred years earlier was that “we should live under the laws of the blue sky”, and of course his word was the law. The Mongols had a strong body of laws, the yasaq, based on the decrees of Genghis Khan, and in many cases it remained in place for centuries in their conquered territories. Ten of those cities are noted here in a tab describing the overreaching impact of the Mongols from the Pacific Ocean to the east to the Caspian Sea to the west. An area in size never to be replicated in human history.


Prayer wheels at the Arhat Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

But this idea of “living under the laws of the blue sky” was ingrained in his grandson Kublai Khan as the first great Mongol ruler of China after the breaching of the Great Wall.  It fit the Chinese mindset of the emperor as the embodiment of heaven. His Court embraced Tibetan Buddhism and existing Chinese culture and traditions transforming the war driven Mongol horde into a peaceful nation. He expanded China’s influence and solidified both boundaries and how multiple nationalities could unite under one banner.

A very old Chinese saying goes…  “The world is not so calm. Through the ages all conquerors have become something of the past. All dignitaries are just passers-by. But my name is (fill in your own), and it will last for a thousand generations. We heal the world through our intentions.”


Picture to the left is of entrance to Mencius Temple with student Anne

Who’s to say? Confucius was not seen as important until his own grandson, Zisi, conveyed the meaning of his words in such a way that he too was to become immortal more than a hundred years after Confucius died. It was the work of Zisi and Mencius who conveyed the value of Confucius teaching that lives on today. The Mencius Mansion and Temple (memorial) was not built for over a thousand years after his death in Zoucheng, an hour by bus south of Qufu. Now that’s immortality. What is it that lies beyond the horizon, except the white clouds that we all someday will return to? To have been and to return to live with the dragons (angels) once again. If knowing and adhering to ancient virtues are held on to as if only to live amongst the white clouds once again.

It is said that temperament which is soft and agreeable evoke similar memories, while trying to be a hero and making great achievement are just the same as a transient passing cloud.


Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

We are often seen rushing forward regardless of what may lie ahead. Only asking not to perish before fulfilling the purpose for which it was created and to be able to deliver the message which is embodied in us as our own sacred purpose is fulfilled. As if only waiting to see if anything of merit has been left behind.

I’ve often wondered why my own passion, reminiscing the past, and fascination with ancient China seems to end with the return to Italy in 1293 by Marco Polo and his father Niccolo and uncle Maffeo, after travelling through Asia and meeting Kublai Khan. In 1269, the three of them embarked on an epic journey to Asia, returning after 24 years to find Venice at war with Genoa.


Marco Polo (Wikipedia)

Upon his return, Marco was imprisoned and dictated his stories to a cellmate. He was released in 1299, became a wealthy merchant, married, and had three children. He died in 1324 and was buried in the church of San Lorenzo in Venice. Many times over the past more than twenty years of traveling throughout China, I too have been to places also visited by Marco Polo. None impacted me more so than Chengdu, near Tibet in southwest China, where Marco Polo visited and saw the same sites I have seen more than 800 years later with an eerie feeling that I have seen and done this all before.

I myself am a first generation Italian American, with my father and grandparents coming from Italy in 1906. Who’s to say we all are not riding the winds, traveling with the clouds always to new horizons… beyond what is known and the all too familiar. Here to tell a new story. To perhaps write as well of my impressions of where I too have been as he did and of remembrances along the way. As if simply just to see how things have changed. As if I have already been there and have now returned. Finally, perhaps only to see how ancient virtue has been either lost or gained.

  • Pictured here are Plato, Kant, Nietzsche, the Buddha, Confucius, and Averroes (Wikipedia)

Western philosophersWhat is it that distinguishes us but the consciousness of the past, a consciousness that lies beyond who we identify with as an individual at this moment? From the west and ancient Greece, we think of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, to Descartes, and more modern-day, Hegel, and Kierkegaard. From the East we think of Lao Tzu, Confucius and the Buddha. All would say it is creativity that makes the difference. For myself, with thoughts leaning more to Eastern philosophy, it is as if the past speaks to us conveying that through knowing our past that we create our future. As if staying behind to impart immortality’s wisdom is in effect maintaining ancient virtue through the ages.

What is our obligation to the past, but our continuity based on a living tradition and a 100_4293conscious connection with our origin. Not to oppose change, but to recognize change as the nature of all things, including us.

 This is why in China the I Ching. the Book of Change, has provided the cornerstone for Chinese philosophical thought for more the 5,000 years.  The shaman knowing to match the need to re-discover the true meaning of past teachings and symbols of the past with the present. As if through the experiences of the sage, knowing that things appearing as if a whim are often later to be conveyed as truth.

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?


Carving from Han Dynasty from Linyi

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 28 and 29 appear below. Verses 1 through 27 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 this website.


Dan on the step to top of Qingyang Mountain

Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught 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 28 – Maintaining Ancient Virtue

Showing the way can be likened to being the world’s maid.  A job on the surface seeming too menial too even consider that success may follow.


Depicting Virtue     Linyi  Museum

Once you’ve recognized your task, the way becomes even more difficult.  But it is only by experiencing the tediousness can you begin to advance and rule the day.

Advance as if you have the heart of a child without fear, without knowledge that the task is too big. Thereby always keeping your ancient virtue intact.  Simply recognizing that which lies without you while holding onto the oneness within you.  Acknowledging what is at its beginning always becomes something else at its end.


The Heart of a Child    Shaanxi Museum   Xian

That once was hard must become soft. That if we are constantly referring to what appears to be black or white, we are in reality seeing them as dark or light and if we see things as pure verses defiled we are acknowledging it as either noble or humble.

Recognizing the above, the task of the sage becomes easy. By adhering to what is soft, humble and dark the essence of the Tao is always close at hand. Advance as if you were an uncarved piece of wood waiting to be molded into what is needed with no pre-conceived outcome of what may occur. Always guided by what comes forth without limits, with the Tao always in charge.

While acting as a master tailor, sewing without seams, the job of the maid suddenly comes forth with ease and grace. The job becoming second nature as you have mastered it fully with your virtue leading the way. ##

Ared coat

Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xian

Te-Ch’ing says, “To recognize the Way is hard. Once you recognize it, to hold onto it is even harder. But only by holding onto it can you advance on the Way.”

Mencius says, “The great man does not lose his child-heart. (4B.12). Confucius says, “A great man is not a tool” (Lunyu: 2.12). Ch’eng Hsuan -Ying says, “What has no limits is the Tao”.

Wang Tao, says “The sage recognizes ‘that’ but holds onto ‘this’. ‘Male’ and ‘female’ refer to hard and ‘soft’. ’Pure’ and ‘defiled’ refer to noble and humble. ‘White’ and ‘black’ refer to light and dark.

The Phoenix   Dujian Waterworks in Chengdu

 Although hard, noble, and light certainly have their uses, hard does not come from hard but from soft. Noble does not come from noble but from humble. And light does not come from light but from dark. Hard, noble, and light are the secondary forms and farther from the Tao. Hence, the sage returns to the original: uncarved wood. Uncarved wood can be made into tools, but tools cannot be made into uncarved wood. The sage is like uncarved wood, not a tool. He is the chief official, not the functionary.

Verse 29 – Showing the way while remaining behind

 It is in stillness that the sage comes forth to govern the world. He has learned that it cannot be controlled consciously and that we must learn to trust what comes naturally.


To be in the clouds with Dragons    Wuhan Museum

That human strength and/or knowledge cannot lead us and that it is our spirit must govern us.

That nothing can be governed by force, that it is in stillness that spiritual things respond and that which is considered spiritual does not act on its own, but is guided by the Tao. When force comes into play, what is real leaves the field.

Remain transitory with your surroundings only as temporary lodging. Having no stake in the outcome you are able to determine what is not yours, lose your way, or forget why you are here.


The Power of Ritual    Wuhan Museum

Staying at the highest point of mediation letting all things come forth to find their place, the sage is at his best when he does not oppose things. Simply by letting the spirit of oneness penetrate the nature of others, he responds to them without force and follows them without effort.

He eliminates what confuses them, hens their minds become clear and each person finds their place in the scheme of things to come. By remaining calm and still letting the spirit guide your way you focus on simplicity, remaining content and eliminate extremes. It is with kindness and humility you succeed and it is with all three every situation bows to your command. ##

Te Ch’ing says, “Those who would govern the world should trust what is natural. The world cannot be controlled continuously. It is too big a thing. The world can only be governed by the spirit, not by human strength or knowledge”.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Spiritual things respond to stillness. They cannot be controlled by force”.

Li His-Chai says, “The sage considers his body transitory and the world his temporary lodging. How can he rule what is not his and lose the true and lasting way”?

Su Ch’e says, “The interchange of yin and yang, high and low, of great and small is the way  things are and cannot be avoided. Fools are selfish. They insist on having their own way and meet with disaster. The sage knows he cannot oppose things. He agrees with whatever he meets. He eliminates extremes and thereby keeps the world from harm”.


Temple of the Eight Immortals in Xian

Wu Ch’eng says. “How does someone who gains control of the world keep the world from harm? The sage understands that things necessarily move between opposites but there is a way to adjust this movement. Things that prosper too much must wither and die. By keeping things from prospering too much, he keeps them from withering and dying.”

Wand Pi says, “The sage penetrates the nature and condition of others. Hence, he responds to them without force and follows them without effort. He eliminates whatever misleads or confuses them. Hence their minds become clear, and each realizes his own nature.”

Wang An-Shih says, “Resting where you are eliminating extreme. Treasuring simplicity eliminates extravagance. Being content with less eliminates excess.

Lu Nung-Shih says, “The sage gets rid of extremes with kindness. He gets rid of extravagance with simplicity. He gets rid of excess with humility. By means of these three, the sage governs the world”.

By 1dandecarlo

February 1, 2018

The Dalai Lama, the Tao, war, and thoughts of loving kindness

I’ve heard the Dalai Lama say that having compassion for oneself is the basis for developing compassion for others. In a basic Buddhist teaching Chogyam Trungpa also taught this when he spoke about how to genuinely help others—how to work for the benefit of others without the interference of our own agendas.


Buddha and attendants – Shaanxi Museum Xian

An important step is maitri, a Sanskrit word meaning lovingkindness toward all beings. It can also mean unlimited friendliness towards ourselves, with the clear implication that this leads naturally to unlimited friendliness toward others.

Maitri also has the meaning of trusting oneself—  trusting that we have what it takes to know ourselves thoroughly and completely without feeling hopeless, without turning against ourselves because of what we see. But to build on the foundation of unconditional openness to all that arises that serves to release anger and fear.


Leshan Buddha south of Chengdu

It is my sense that we should choose what is the very most expression of our innermost nature, the Tao, not something forced upon us by circumstances.

That the only meaningful life is the life that strives for the individual realization, a realization of our own individual law. That if we remain untrue to this law of our being, we have failed to realize our own life’s meaning. What is there to this becoming sage-like, when presuming such is for naught? One cannot presume to be a sage, as though acknowledgement cannot occur until after you have returned home, and only then judged by your peers? As you remember maitri, and not be too hard on yourself. Knowing this the scholar and sage has always focused on the choosing of wise rulers and then helping them.

Even Carl Jung, the famous psychoanalyst said that there was the undiscovered vein within us as a living part of the psyche known as the Tao that flows like water to an irresistible goal.


Two old Goats Qingyang Taoist Temple   Chengdu

To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, one’s destination reached, one’s mission done; the beginning, end, and perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in all things. To a place where Zen Buddhists call our own “true nature”. To what I call… “To once there… to just be”. It’s where we go in meditation. Understanding that this irresistible source is nothing more than our desire to return to our beginnings, to return home.


Small pagoda         Chengdu Wuhan Temple

  Poets of the beat generation like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac in the 1950’s and 60’s helped to take a generation of Americans to a place that questioned authority, especially taken in context of the very unpopular Vietnam War at the time. Eastern philosophy of “lovingkindness”, even helped to spur the counter-culture with the help of the popular radio program “Way Beyond the West”. Through it Alan Watts brought listeners a practical side of Zen, which he DSCI0024prescribed as “a cure for education and culture.” Introducing Buddhism, yin/yang theory and the I Ching to millions of young people in the USA. He, more than anyone encouraged this idea of finding and returning to our source. While the closest thing resembling the “beatnik” persona of the 1960’s would be the Taoist hermit sage found on mountaintops of old, and truth be told, even today in China. The sage’s ultimate reprieve to his liking, as he remains hidden from view. Then the Beatles went to India… George Harrison soon came out with “My Sweet Lord” and took us all to the mountaintop, to a sacred place with him. When I reach my own highest aspiration, I imagine that’s where you’ll find me too.

In China, I would equate the above to the Warring States Period dating from about 450 BC to the Early Han in 221 BC. A similar time when armies of hundreds of thousands fought for power and influence. This was a time of great intellectual expansion and debate, exemplified by Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius, and Xun Zi, the legalist all vying for attention and followers. This renaissance of philosophical thought would be the framework for future generations of China.

AAAChuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu

While Chuang Tzu taught that we have nothing to fear in death, because we are simply returning to review where we have been and places we still need to go, so that we can build on progress still unattained, as yet. The Taoist Chuang Tzu, as much as anyone, contributing to the beginnings of Chan Buddhism in China.

What if you had more than five thousand years of uninterrupted history, as in China, to act and think about it. That if life is but an unending stream, is it something philosophical that is endowed over time as innate wisdom? That life is but a strand of pearls to add on to.


Buddhist Mother with children Shaanxi Museum   Xian

Value only added by what we polish when given a chance through our virtue. Like shining our shoes before stepping out with our best foot forward. That knowledge was something not to fear or reject, but simply learning how best to proceed in the present. As if guided by cause and effect to where we find ourselves just now.

What I like to call reverberations or pulses connecting us to the universe, living vibrations from the sun, moon, planets, and stars. What can innate wisdom be, but that imparted as universal love that never dies? Resonances like tones in music, or electromagnetic waves that we are eternally connected to when we ourselves are born and are pulled to follow every day as with by the seasons, etc.


The token   Sichuan Museum

Something the earliest shaman came to appreciate and understand, and that every religion has dictated through history as their own. Connections not to disparage any particular view, but to acknowledge they all are responding to the same source. Our personal challenge is simply not to be tone deaf, connecting us to ours, and how we choose to respond.

Failing to see the root cause lies deep within ourselves as to how we got to where we are in the first place.  This is what the ancient sage and shaman from every culture understood – that when we follow innately virtue found intrinsically in nature, we gain both knowledge and wisdom.


Bringing others along for the Ride   Shaanxi Museum

That we are one with the ten thousand things. Remembering this we become universal again. Once learned, or perhaps recalled, do we use this knowledge to bring others along with us for the ride as well? Doing so has always been the greatest paradox of the sage. But also, the greatest admiration among his peers for choosing to do so.

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?


Tribute to Lao Tzu Qingyang Mountain

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 26 and 27, appear below. Verses 1 through 25 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance can be found under the Taoism and Lao Tzu tab here on my website. Verses yet to appear here in my blog have not had additional commentary added yet.

Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught 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

 Chapter 2

 Verse 26 – Preparing for Your Grand Performance

 Remaining heavy and still always controlling yourself and learning to keep your place.


The Yellow Dragon – London Museum

In stillness you control those who are busy and are undeterred by what is small that cannot hold down something large.  In keeping with the path you now travel, keep your words weighty and what you have learned close to your vest.

Travel as if you are the son of heaven with ten thousand chariots at your command.

Remembering all the while that what remains external from your body; success and failure, wealth and honor will be forever fleeting. That it is in stillness that tranquility endures allowing you to remain simply within yourself and your true nature.

Remaining still, the universe comes forth at your command. ##

Han Fei says, “Heavy means controlling oneself. ‘Still’ means not leaving one’s place. Those who are heavy control those who are light. Those who are still direct those who are busy”.


Forever Fleeting    Wuhan Temple

Confucius says, “A gentleman who has no weight is not held in awe, and his learning is not secure” (Lunyu: 1.8).

Ch’eng Hsuan -Ting says, “Roots are heavy, while flowers and leaves are light. The light wither, while the heavy survive. ‘Still’ means tranquil, and ‘busy’ means excited.


Enduring Tranquility

Excitement is subject to birth and death. Tranquility endures. Hence the still rule the busy.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “’Heavy’ refers to the body, ‘light’ refers to what is external to the body: success and fame, wealth and honor.  ‘Still’ refers to our nature, ‘busy’ refers to our emotions. People forget their body and chase external things. They forget their nature and follow their emotions. The sage isn’t like this. Even though he travels all day, he doesn’t leave what sustains him.”

Verse 27 – Paradox Revealed

 As things take shape, you seemingly remain shapeless.  Out of the way, in a corner out of view.  This appears to be the greatest paradox living comes forth to greet me each day.


The Paradox   Qingyang Mountain

For in emulating the life of the true sage, good appears to flow directly from my every movement. The more I try to push it away, the easier it is to find me.  When I promote my vision, or image, of how things should unfold I become further enmeshed in life’s action.

Is this perhaps the underlying reason for your presence here at this moment in time?  To come out of the well-worn shell you have insulated yourself into to become the image, or mirror to be held up for all to follow.  Becoming a sage precludes the fact that few can follow in the same footsteps. That once you have acceded to the obvious you can truly lead the way. And is that not why you are here?

As you have seen and done it all before, can it matter if attention and attributes you bring forward bring accolades from those around you?  Is not the attention you have garnered a prod to assist you to re-define your purpose to insure it is the Tao leading the way?  With you simply putting the pieces into place.


The True Path of the Sage    Confucius Temple – Qingdao

If good walking leaves no tracks, then perhaps the way should be shown that lessens ego and individual and strengthens community.

If good talking reveals no flaws then perhaps you should let only positive re-enforcement guide your way.  If good counting counts no beads, then show how material advantage does not portend the future.

Abrown dragon

The Dragon – Yenti Family Museum

If you have closed the door properly behind you it cannot be re-opened as if there were no need for locks and if what has been put in place is secured by your light then there can be no knots to be undone and everything finds its rightful end by relying on their nature not their form.

In staying focused the true path of the sage becomes revealed and his motives defined.  He becomes good at saving the day while leaving no one behind.  By showing no favorites, everyone is allowed to find their natural place.

By remaining in the background as others come forth to claim their good they ultimately become as a cloak or outer garment to cover an inner garment thus you continue to remain unseen.  As the path becomes clear, the way remains hidden. Your light remains shining, but stays as if above the clouds.

It is in this way you are comfortable in knowing that you are as stated before like water, that you can come forth free from impurity and seemingly without effort.  By showing your true likeness, or virtue, others become ready to find their own.  Blinded by the light of your reflection in others, you are prepared to gaze off into the distance to places seldom seen or traveled. Forgetting the world, your success only determined if those who have met you have forgotten your name.##

Lu Tung – Pin says, “’Good’ refers to our original nature before our parents were born. Before anything develops within us, we possess this goodness. Good means natural.”


The Buddha – Sichuan Museum

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Someone who is good at walking finds the Way in himself, not somewhere outside. When he talks he chooses his words. When he counts, he doesn’t go beyond one. When he closes, he closes himself to desire and protects his spirit. When he ties, he ties his mind.”

Wang Pi say, “These five (good walking, good talking, good counting, good closing, and good tying) tell us not to act, but to govern things by relying on their nature rather than their form.

Hsuan-Tsung says, “The good are like water. Free of impurity and without effort on their part, they show people their true likeness. Thus they instruct the bad. But unless the student can forget his teacher, his vision will be obscured.

Kongdan says to follow the ancient teachings,  “One who wants nothing, fears nothing.”

By 1dandecarlo

January 22, 2018

Finding our eternal balance and rhythm

What was it that Mahatmas Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose life we just celebrated, taught us to honor and accept, but our own sacred mission and immortality?


The Winding Path Qingyang Mountain

That showing the way was a personal endeavor that ties each of us to our eventual destiny once we accept the mantle of who and why we are here. Teaching…. what if every person began their life knowing that they too were immortal? That we in reality come in with certain traits – strengths and weaknesses – this time to correct, or build on. That we are not here to be ordinary.  That we can make our lives beautiful if we choose to do so. To live from the point of our highest expression or consciousness, through our own divine energy just as they did.

What I like to call reverberations or pulses connecting us to the universe, in effect or reality as living vibrations of the sun, moon, and stars. What can innate wisdom be, but that imparted as universal love that never dies, or as John Lennon said… that in practice all you need is love.

Nanjing 8

Madame Sun Yet Sin (Soong Ching-Ling) meeting Gandhi

Resonances like tones in music, or electromagnetic waves that we eternally connect to when we are born and are pulled to follow every day as with by the seasons. That sadly we often come and go without acknowledging, finding, or attempting to even catch our own eternal rhythm. Or perhaps it is the opposite that is true… our eternal rhythm and history that is chasing after us. (Picture to the left of Madame Sun Yet Sin (Soong Ching-Ling) meeting Gandhi in Nanjing in 1942). An example being the Soong sisters leaving an indelible mark on the 20th century when our memories serve us correctly.

That what’s here to guide us over time is our own need for balance and following our personal intrinsic tendencies.


Dan with terra cotta warriors in Xian

The key for me, being philosophical Taoism, that re-confirms our responsibility to and connection with all found in nature. That deep within, we too possess this idea that immortality is unending life. That our own divinity can direct us to this place. Certainly, there are those in ancient China who sought to achieve it.

Elixirs and potions concocted by them led many to early death, and even by coincidence the invention of gun power. Most misguided, and best known was the excess of First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, who had the terra cotta warriors built to serve and protect him in eternity.


terra cotta warriors in Xian

His tomb in Xian of over two thousand years cannot be approached even today because of severe amounts of mercury encasing it. Today we often put a person’s name on material things thinking this may illustrate and feed their importance, their immortality. Their true legacy however, if self-centered, fading like Qin’s over the test of time. A note of interest… almost all the terra cotta warriors, horses, chariots, etc., were found broken into thousands of pieces. It is theorized that a wooden roof was put over the top of everything. It was later set, or caught on fire. It fell onto the terra cotta below and broke it, or so the story goes…


The Star Map  British Museum in  London

Instead could it be something we already possess within ourselves worth saving instead of simply pinning attributes onto someone else. To the left is the Dunhuang Map of what is known as the North Polar region from the Tang Dynasty. This map is thought to date from the reign of Emperor Zhongzong (705–710 AD) from Dunhuang, Gansu Province. Constellations of the three schools were distinguished with different colors: white, black and yellow for stars of Wu Xian, Gan De and Shi Shen respectively. The whole set of star maps contained 1,300 stars. It was brought to the British Museum in London in 1907 and is the oldest sky chart ever recorded.


Leading the Way   Qingyang Taoist Temple

The north star and Big Dipper, depicted here, are central in the sky and following them has been universal in man’s quest to find meaning to it all… and his own origins. It was the balance seen in the sky’s panorama that has entertained us for millennia as stars coming around in the sky would always return to their place of origin once every year. The beginnings of the idea “what goes around – comes around”. That we could point to the stars and see home. Adjusting our own way of travel, just as a horse find’s his gait, and return again once more.

The point being we could always look to the stars to show us the way beyond the horizon that lead us to our highest aspirations of ourselves. To learn to see farther than who we think we are. Why mountain vistas have been seen as closer to Heaven.


Huangshan Mountain in Anhui

As we rise and see ourselves above the clouds. As if in doing so we too could see and gain a sense of immortality. If what we look up in the sky and see every night is eternal and is always there, along with the sun and moon, then why aren’t we? But we are soon lost in attachments here of our own making, as we are often happy to stay within the confines of where we are just now. What if, as Carl Sagan said, we are all star stuff. Matter coming and going with a soul. Taking on different characteristics each time to fix the things that need correcting. Or maybe some are more advanced and come back by choice to move humanity in the proper way, or direction.

What if some souls, i.e. people coming into this life, were filled with misconceptions, or misdirected anger, not caused due to someone else’s shortcomings, but for their own inability to live up to intentions and expectations they have created for themselves.


Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Perhaps with issues, or things that need to be reconciled. Lacking the desire or sense of ability to see through universal falsehoods, hardships and negative attachments that keep them from their higher selves. Seemingly unable to open the door when it appears. Prisons are filled the world over with those unwilling to release what… either anger or fear, or both. Usually directed at someone or something outside themselves. The worst prisons, of course, already existing inside oneself.

This idea of letting go, i.e., finding and staying within our own eternal rhythm, and truth be told often overlooked innate wisdom, is trusting that we have what it takes to know ourselves thoroughly and completely enough to do nothing.


Prayer Wheels      Arhat Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Something called living with wu wei that Chinese for thousands of years have known we can discuss another time. As if we are once again given an opportunity to return to our original self. To a nothingness where over-inflated egos go to die. Where what defines us as what is known, what can truly never be known, and to live in the balance we find in-between.  It is this that is central to the theme I am following here with Lao Tzu.

AA Confucius

Confucius Painting Academy

It becomes the central core of what was to become the teachings of the shaman and of Taoism, and for many the practical application Confucius built on.

The Tao Te Ching becoming like a road map to better behavior. Wang Pi’s version became an integral part of the Imperial Examinations during and after the Han Dynasty. That Taoism and Buddhism, along with the virtue and benevolence taught by Confucianism became central elements of Chinese popular culture going now for thousands of years was no accident and continues to this day.

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.


A Tribute to Lao Tzu  Qingyang Mtn

There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 24 and 25 appear below and complete the first chapter. Verses 1 through 23 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 this website.

Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught 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 24 – Staying within my own Gait

Learning to shun those things not in keeping with the proper way.  Oh, the challenges and paradox life come forth to greet me each day.  As if life’s indulgences and excesses are extremely happy to continually get in my way and obscure my true path and identity.


Door ornament on Zhang Mansion Lane beside the Qinhuai River in Nanjing

Staying within the confines of who I am yet to become.  Not standing on tiptoes to see over others or walking faster than my own natural gait.  To act as if life’s reflections are translucent and bringing attention to your actions is alien from what motivates you.

Just as I have learned that it is said that he who watches himself does not appear, he who displays himself does not flourish, he who flatters himself achieves nothing and he who parades himself does not lead.

As you recall that the mind of the sage remains free of desire and selfless, you are reminded that those who cultivate the Tao yet think about themselves are like people who over eat or over work.

Food is to satisfy hunger, work should suit the task. Ultimately the way of heaven does not depend on offerings or prayers.


Entry guarding Zhang Mansion Lane beside the Qinhuai River

It is simply who follows the Tao will live long.  Remember it is as Lao Tzu says and that those who lose their way do not. ##

Te Ch’ing says, “People raise themselves up on their tiptoes to see over the heads of others, but they cannot stand like this very long. People take longer strides to stay in front of others, but they cannot walk lie this very far. Neither of these are natural.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Selfless and free of desire is the mind of the sage. Conniving and clever is the mind of the common man. Watching himself, displaying himself, parading himself, he thus hastens his end, like he who eats too much.”

Li His-Chai says, “Those who cultivate the Tao yet still think about themselves are like people who overeat or overwork. Food should satisfy the hunger. Work should suit the task. Those who keep to the Way only do what is natural.

Chang Tao-ling says, “Who follows the Way lives long. Who loses the Way dies early. This is the unbiased law of Heaven. It doesn’t depend on offerings and prayers.”

Verse 25 – Coming Home with the Tao  

Returning to where you began you find nothing, yet remain complete and indivisible. You are simply one with the Tao.


Celebrating with Dragons Confucius Temple   Nanjing

No true beginning or end, pure and impure seem unimportant, past and future become one, good and bad the same.  One with the Tao, you are unsure you exist yet are comforted by the knowledge you will live forever.

As the sage you have learned to stand-alone unwavering, travel everywhere without leaving home as you have seen and done it all before. You have become as if you were everyone and everything’s mother. As you return to the root of where it all began, you have come home to the Tao. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “Nebulous means complete and indivisible.” Su Ch’e says, “The Tao is not pure or muddy, high or low, past or future, good or bad.


Coming Home with the Tao   Wuhan Temple

Its body is a nebulous whole. In man it becomes his nature. It doesn’t know it exists, and yet it endures forever. Heaven and Earth are created within it.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The Tao does not have a name of its own. We force names on it. But we cannot find anything real in them. We would do better returning to the root from which we all began.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Tao is great because there is nothing it does not encompass. Heaven is great because there is nothing it does not cover. Earth is great because there is nothing it does not support. The king is great because there is nothing he does not control. Man should imitate Earth and be peaceful and pliant, plant it and harvest its grains, dig it and find its springs, work without exhaustion and succeed without fuss. As for Earth imitating Heaven, Heaven is still and immutable. It gives without seeking a reward. It nourishes all creatures and takes nothing for itself. As for Heaven imitating the Tao. The Tao is silent and does not speak. It directs breath and essence unseen, and thus all things come to be. As for the Tao imitating itself, the nature of the Tao is to be itself. It does not imitate anything else.”

By 1dandecarlo