A first-hand account of the path to immortality
One of the core principles of spiritual understanding is to see how everything fits together in the universe. That we acknowledge and follow the righteous path we tread upon. This was one of the underlying premises of following the stars, the big dipper being a favorite, for example. For the earliest shaman, this understanding and eventual wisdom was paramount in establishing the connection between what was to be known as heaven and earth and what man’s role was to become. Because it encompassed everything (the ten thousand things), it was unnamable but was to become known as the Tao. The advantage that China has had over the millennia has been an uninterrupted history where the dots (prefaced by the stars in the sky) could be connected over space and time. The question was and has always been what man’s connection or role between heaven and earth should be. It was to this question that Taoism was able to answer. If we are connected to a universe that is never ending, then we too are never-ending. Not simply human, we ourselves are never-ending spirits having a human experience. We are here to live and breathe our own immortality.
It would be the shaman, I Ching and their practical application of universal principles of nature that defined what Taoism would become.
A fundamental question asked by the shaman as he/she looked to the stars was – if you abandon your origins – is it possible to erase the claim they have on your body and soul. That if man is universal and eternal, then where do we begin and end.
The Book of Lieh Tzu took the esoteric, what could not be explained as the Tao, and provided a cushion that one could lean on to provide a practical application, or way, to proceed. It would be during the early Han period (200 BC-200 AD), when Confucianism was becoming the mechanism for state authority to exert itself at the end of the Warring States period that three authors of Taoist principles and thought emerged.
Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu and his book called Chuang Tzu, and Lieh Tzu, whose existence was always questioned. However, the Book of Lieh Tzu was to later become the primer for those who wanted to gain the true essence and meaning for what would become known as Taoism. My own interpretation of all three a appear here on this website.
I am deeply indebted to the book by A.C. Graham entitled “The Book of Lieh Tzu a Classic of Tao”, which is the basis for what follows. Upon completion of my own interpolation and commentary of his work, I sent a copy of my completed manuscript to his publisher in London and to Columbia University Press in New York. Sadly, Mr. Graham had passed away and neither was able to publish my book in its current form. Since that date nearly thirty years ago, my manuscript has laid dormant until now. In many places, it is historical, philosophical, and personal as it follows my own personal journey as well. Their thoughts and words must go through you as well. The numbered texts below are my own divisions of each chapter to better tell the story to give the text further meaning. The titles are my own.
For the Taoist studying the meaning of Taoism to better understand his place in the universe, capturing the essence of what was meant in the works of the early shaman, the I Ching and Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu and following historical commentaries has always been essential. The stories and references to actual historical figures juxtaposed, i.e., to place closer side-by-side, especially for comparison or contrast, is what was done over time.
Moving people to their ultimate endeavor and destiny has always been the role of the shaman, sage, and the philosophers over the centuries and in the process of doing so developed their own commentary of “take”…. on what was really meant in the writing or thought that was before them.
It is the forever quintessential as attempts at gaining the pure meaning and essential essence or embodiment of what was said. It is this that writers have tried to replicate through their own thoughts, writing, and commentaries over the centuries. In other words, what did they really mean?
Below is my own original version of The Book of Lieh Tzu.
My Travels with Lieh Tzu
Interpolations along the Way
Introduction – Your Writing becomes You
- Remaining as the Tortoise
- Embracing Change
- Keeping to the open Road
- Coming Full Circle
- Lessons to be Learned along the Way
- Changing Clothes
- Say Your Goodbyes, it’s Time to Go
- Passing the Test
- Preface to Master Lieh
- Chapter One – Heaven’s Gift
- Introduction to Chapter One – Becoming Sanctified
- Everything as it Should Be
- That Which Does Nothing
- A Conversation with the Yellow Emperor or Forever knowing the outcome
- Coming Home with Virtue
- Lost Civilizations
- Falling Away or Giving Way
- Everything Remaining Perfect
- Traveling Companions
- Chapter Two – The Yellow Emperor
- Introduction to Chapter Two – Windsurfing through Time
- Coming Home
- Finding Perfection
- Finding Yourself in Time
- Unlocking the Doorway to Heaven
- Discovering the Magic
- Animal Instincts
- Traveling with Ease
- Finding the Common Thread
- Exposing One’s Wisdom Teeth
- Maintaining Universal Appeal
- Wisdom to be shared by All
- A True Measure of Oneself
- Chapter Three – King Mu of Zhou
- An Introduction to Chapter Three – Transforming Reflections
- Going Along for the Ride
- Finding Clouds of Virtue
- The Magic of Lao Tzu or Rediscovering the Magic
- The Awakening Spirit
- The True Way of Nature
- Dreams verses Drudgery, Who Can Say?
- It’s My Deer and I’ll Cry if I Want To! or One Man’s Dream is another’s Reality
- Floating through Time Forgetting All
- Taking the Dragons Lead (An Interlude)
- Who Can Be Abnormal?
- A Conversation with Dragons
- Fine-tuning Directions
- Filling in the Details
- Chapter Four – Confucius
- An Introduction to Chapter Four – Finding Confucius
- Rejoice in Heaven and Know True Destiny
- On Becoming a Sage
- Maintaining Sage-like Endurance
- Defining Virtue
- Saying Nothing, Knowing Nothing, Knowing All
- Conversations with Old Shang
- Oh, How Perfect is Travel
- The Tale-tell Illness
- Sing only joyous Songs as I Go
- Trusting One’s Senses
- Exposing Talent
- Showing Your Strengths
- Bows and Arrows are not for Killing
- The Peddler
- The Sway of Nature
- Dan Tzu
- Tranquil Abiding
- Forever leaving Yourself Behind
- Chapter Five – The Questions of T’ang
- An Introduction to Chapter Five, Simply to Remain Indifferent
- Chuang Tzu’s Argument
- What can be Limitless or Inexhaustible
- Finding the Islands of the Blest
- Extolling Myths
- The Mountains of Tenacious Sincerity
- Chasing the Daylights
- Sagely Understanding
- Where can we go with a Satisfied Mind
- Sifting through Memories of an Age gone by
- The Ultimate Give and Take
- Mastering the Music of the Seasons
- Woeful Songs of Joy
- Matching Ambition with Energy
- Artificial Intelligence
- Hanging a Flea from a Yak’s Tail
- The Charioteer
- The Swords of the Yellow Emperor
- Forever Testing Destiny
- Traveling Southward Chapter Six – Endeavor and Destiny
- An Introduction to Chapter Six – Shaping Events along the Way
- Keeping an Empty Mind
- The Ride of Your Life
- Trusting Heaven’s Gift
- Doing Nothing more than the Right Thing by All, or the Sage’s Dilemma
- Trusting in my Own Destiny
- To Be Eternally Awakened
- Living in Paradise
- Destiny Transcending Human Endeavor
- Where Can Truth Lie, except within Ourselves
- Valuing Life and Death
- Finding Grace or Remaining an Enigma
- Chapter Seven – Yang Chu
- An Introduction to Chapter Seven – Explicit Impressions
- The Central Argument
- Looking Beyond One’s Moment in Time
- Are We Destined to Die Today
- Living and Dying in Nature’s Way
- My Brother’s Reckoning
- Taking on Airs (Heirs)
- Staying in Tune with Destiny, or Danny’s Song
- Return Engagements
- Living in the Light because it Sets us Free
- Facing up To Reality
- Continuing the Paradox
- Becoming Single Minded
- Why be concerned with Leaving Behind lasting Impressions
- Traveling in the Wake of Dragons
- Rushing Headlong into Nothing Important
- Saying goodbye to Yang Chu
- Chapter Eight – Explaining Conjunctions
- An Introduction to Chapter Eight – Coming Forward by Staying Behind
- Coming Face to Face with Immortality
- The Corner Table
- Aspiring to Great Riches
- Staying on Target
- A visit with Old Friends
- Staying in Sync
- At Home with Lieh Tzu
- Grudging Duality
- Distracting Mulberries
- Who Really Cares, who’s willing to Try
- Questions of Loyalty
- What Can Remain Unspoken
- Worrying to Ensure that Victory comes Last
- Myths on Purpose
- Lord Yuan’s Largess
- When a Yellow Mare becomes a Great Horse
- It’s too late when you’re Talking to the Tips of Branches
- To be Solicited by Dragons
- Living only to remain hidden from View
- In the Throes of Resentment
- A Decision for Eternity
- Hounded Forever by Flying Pigeons
- Serendipity to Die For
- Confusing Human Traits with Reality
- Misplaced Affections
- The Perfect Pigeon
- Defining Parables
- When a White Silk Coat becomes a Dog’s Best Friend
- Who is to Blame when you can’t stop Loving
- The Ultimate Gesture of Kindness
- Questioning Heaven’s Generosity
- Two for the Road
- Finding Truth in the most Unlikely Places
- Forgetful to the End
- Eternity’s Log or Searching for Dan Tzu
- Questioning even Lieh Tzu
References and Further Reading
It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn from and the life we live after that. To perchance awaken midstream in our lives. As if we have been reborn; given an opportunity to find and follow our true destiny and endeavor.
That our ultimate task is not only to discover who we are – but where we belong in history. Is not this the ultimate challenge? To simply rise up, traveling as one with the prevailing winds. Becoming one with the angels, or dragons, as they manifest before us and letting our spirit soar. Freeing our mind, heart, and soul to go where few dare to wonder.
I know my task as a writer will be complete when my writing is as indefinable as my subject. Just as I know my task as an individual, as I exist in the here and now, will be to simply tell the stories that I have learned along the way. That we each have a story to tell. As we free ourselves of attachments, ego, and baggage we have clung to as we try to find our way. That the ultimate travel is the travel of our spirit and the ultimate os to share our gift with others.
To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving on.
My task is only to look for constant renewal. Finally, the true expression of self is in losing myself through expressing the voices of the past. That I am here to relay that the fears and hopes of humanity rest not in where we find ourselves in the here and now, but to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again.
That all true learning is self-learning of who we are to become. That once we have awakened so that we can see beyond ourselves, then have we not found our spirits traveling the winds through eternity. This being so, could there be a more ultimate way of travel than to be found traveling with Lieh Tzu? 1/21/96
2. Remaining as the Tortoise
Maintain the thick skin of the tortoise. A hard outer shell impervious to unwanted intrusions. Stay to the one and only true path to understanding.
The only real importance found along the Way that will take you further, ever closer to your destination. Slow and steady. Ever ready to retreat within the inner workings of the Tao.
Finding comfort. Retreating as the sage to mountaintops and vistas visited only by the chamois and nesting crane. Both forever up and out of harm’s way. In a haven of craggy outcroppings too precarious who only look to advantage and tender morsels that both represent to the utmost.
The outer shell growing tougher as adversity is encountered and allowed to roll off one’s back as the danger at hand comes and goes. Finding comfort inside one’s protective shell. Keeping kicked around and badgered by those whose only advantage can be gained by putting an end to you.
Lessons to be learned with accomplishments kept simply to oneself. Moving forward all the while at an ever-moving standstill. Maintain the thick skin of the tortoise and simply keep plodding along to destinations unknown and unforeseen. Being sure to keep the wind at your back and a vision of final outcomes spread before you. 6/28/94
3. Embracing Change
The doves have arrived with Lieh Tzu to bring peace and tranquility to your environment in a time of upheaval and turmoil.
Things have been allowed to get out of skelter. Everything gone amiss. Trivial things adding together contributing to outcomes gone astray. Your next footstep along the way must be grounded in knowledge of from where you came and an overall sense of your next step to come.
Steps to the summit on Songshan Mountain south of Luoyang
There is a reason and purpose for your untimely travails. The journey ahead is not meant to be easy. The Way, or Tao, is not meant to be found without coming to understand the true meaning of compassion, sincerity, and trust that will set you free. What you were doing was not what you were meant to be doing. Finding yourself in the overall scheme of the universe is the mission that must occupy your every word, action, and deed.
Remember what has been said and written before. Anything of value by the world’s standards cannot assist you in finding your overall purpose in the journey about to come.
Change must occur. False realities must be abandoned. You must not be tied to pre-existing or conceived directions that were the results of ill winds and doors are transitory openings to success and good fortune.
They can only bring temporary success in an area fraught by ill gain and earthly endeavors. Never meant to approach the way to be followed or the path that must be taken. Keep to the open road. Complete what you have started and prepare to move on. New doors are waiting to be opened that were simply waiting for old doors to shut.
Remember your strengths and use them to your advantage. Embracing change and the transformation the dragons have been waiting for. As the doves arrive with Lieh Tzu telling you to be prepared and ready to go. 8/16/94
4. Keeping to the Open Road
Keep to the open road. The dragons are waiting for your decision to come forward or stay behind with self‑doubt. Come out of the shadows. There is a time to retreat to the inner workings of the knowing sage and another time to come forward bringing all out into the light of day. Cleansing one’s spirit is the essential first step before departing up the path to unknown destinations.
Leaving self‑doubt and criticism behind. Coming clean of past indiscretions and faults that must be dealt with before moving on. There is a light at the end of the tunnel of no return. Keep the beam of light in front of you so that you know that your next step is out of harm’s way. Problems encountered along the Way have centered around your lack of discipline. You know the right words to say. However, putting them into action and deed remains the ultimate challenge.
Coming to know the Tao cannot be a haphazard affair. Structure and knowledge gained in approaching the Way must be the ultimate direction to be followed. Discard everything not vital to your newfound direction. Things of some perceived value can only serve as chains you remain forever tied to. Letting go brings comfort in the transition that must be accounted for and observed.
New beginnings do not necessarily mean casting aside structures from where you came. Simply abandon from your itinerary anything no longer needed to travel and see the light that you must now follow.
Struggling to know the proper way is the ultimate challenge. Stay to the open road and keep the full force of the coming gale force wind behind you. Plunge into your endeavors and destiny unconcerned as to what lies ahead as only blue skies surround you. 8/19/94
5. Coming Full Circle
Walking in circles. Searching for references in the passing windows and sidewalks. Looking for things you recognize from the times you came this way before. The street ahead but a reminder of where you have been and places you have yet to see. Walking in circles. Keeping to yourself. Lost in the memories of who you thought you were when you were once considered someone important.
Forever moving ahead. Finding new patterns that lead to places where new beginnings and endings are simply waiting. As your footsteps are heard coming around again. Now running in circles. The soles of your shoes are worn with a certain knowledge of places and things important before. But now lost in the moment never to be found again. What was once seen as inevitable is now becoming only a distant memory.
Keeping to a steady pace. Knowing distances is but to be traveled if the journey is worth taking. As your breath, your inner chi, keeps everything to an even keel. Finding a rhythm is needed only for the long run. Peaks and valleys ebbing and flowing. Both coming and going with a certainty inevitable as a clean finish.
Walking in circles again. Ultimately getting nowhere except back to beginnings to be found again and again. What was important found along the Way in the end is only what you find you can carry in memories you savor and forget as you keep moving forward. Walking in circles. With no beginnings or endings.
Only time fleeting away. As you have now come full circle to where you were when you began. Nothing more ‑ nothing less. But eternally grateful to the end. 12/15/94
6. Lessons to be learned along the Way
There is no reason to leave, just as there is no reason to stay. Only your own footsteps to be found along the Way. Finding yourself is like keeping time to the ever-changing music of life that only you can hear.
Forever losing attachments.
Forever creating tests only for yourself that must be followed to the end. To remain simply as one with the universe. Following the way of dragons and the cosmos, the only thing forever present. Taking the path that leads the way. All outcomes and things possible. With nothing ever really lost or gained, everything in the end was the same.
The journey never‑ending with change the only order of the day. As situations come to the forefront, they arrive only to teach today’s lesson. The wheel of life is constantly turning. Its only purpose is to bring us closer to true understanding.
Coming in together going out together. Keeping only to your eternal rhythm and the oneness found in finding your inner chi.
Remaining simply as a clear pool and seeing the reflection as yourself. In the end, whether you go, or stay is not as important as the lessons you have learned along the way.
Keep your head in the clouds as Cloud Dancing and your feet firmly on the ground as one tending to nature and your garden.
Stay only on the road to greater understanding and the decisions to come will follow as only they can. Remaining unattached as you begin again by finding your own footsteps along the Way. 12/30/94
7. Changing Clothes
Forever reaching for the next rung on the ladder that must be followed. Beyond earthly endeavors. Attachments strewn about like dirty clothes waiting for their place in the right laundry basket.
Knocking on the door and finding benevolence / Qufu
One’s life simply the process of cleaning the clothes previously worn that must be recycled over and over again. To be constantly reborn. Anything that is seen of paramount importance is only a test to be mailed in after you have found and corrected your own mistakes.
Outcomes only determined by lessons learned with only yourself checking and knowing the right answers. Mistakes although constantly repeated. Leading only to an eternity of self‑fulfilling prophecies of our own unwillingness to follow the ultimate path we know must be taken. Finding the courage to change. Leaving behind patterns filled with adversity we have come to know as a life support.
Forever keeping us down as a one-thousand-pound weight around our shoulders. Continually given the eternal chance to change. To keep living until we get it right as we live and die simply by letting go.
Finally finding the ladder. Cautious steps of optimism leading to places previously unheard of and unseen. Knowing that eternal truth lies only in the steps that must be followed. Never looking back, thereby losing your balance the constant order of the day.
Be forever the agent of change. Knowing that the content found by others with everything as it remains is not the way things will be. Remaining forever unattached, letting finding yourself in clothes that are eternally clean. 12/30/94
8. Say your goodbyes, it’s time to go
Time will never come to know you as the person you now represent. Your presence only makes time through the universe that is yours simply to come to know forever.
The Libra constellation (my home)
Keep to the window of your mind, spirit, and body. Come forward to know the eternal truths that only you can find for yourself. All the time knowing that you are simply the wellspring of everything that ever was – is now and forever will be.
Always in retreat as the knowing sage. Finding comfort in repeating images and facsimiles of immortality. Keeping to simplicity, frugality, and clarity. Names but a mirror reflecting history, images found today and representing the future. Who are we, but an essence or spirit, here only marking time?
As we remain as an eclipse stealing the moment. Every instant a reflection of past events and realities yet to come. The truth is that your being here is simply non‑existent to time. The image seen but the form your spirit has captured only for an instant. Living and dying receives a non‑importance to the overall scheme of things. Only one’s chi, or inner spirit to go on and on.
Chance encounters with lovers and loved ones throughout history. Remaining forever unattached while we are here. Only to sojourn together as our essence remains attached to those we cling to in eternity. Finding comfort only in the decisions made as to the time of our departure. As Lieh Tzu is now telling you that it is time to go. 1/3/95
9. Passing the Test
Sharing the process of discovery. Putting your hand out and asking others to come on the journey with you. Allowing others to cross over the line and come into what you are writing.
Making what you write more available, so that others may follow. Sharing your vision and letting another’s eyes see it. Giving the reader space to see themselves, thereby creating their own.
Becoming universal and making others say: “Yes ‑ me too!” 1/7/95
10. Preface to Master Lieh
Cease to judge between alternatives and delight in the spontaneity of all that unites heaven and earth. Come travel the way others have followed over the centuries. Knowing yin and yang as all throughout the cosmos.
As others have followed various methods of ritual, magic, alchemy, and sexual pleasure; only the one of meditation to discover and know your inner self or chi will bring you before the dragons and immortality.
Stay simply within the oneness of Tao as we have said. As Chuang, Lieh, and Lao, we give you the path that must be adhered to and followed. Come to understand the transformation that nature brings in being born, dying, and being born again and again.
Each lifetime is simply an opportunity to go back to the darkness from where we came, to stay transfixed where you are now, or come to live with dragons as the ultimate that can be.
Coming to know that the central element of wuwei, “doing nothing”, Wuwei (无为 ), or non-doing, literally means ‘doing nothing’ in Chinese and is simply finding the grace within yourself that must be found, followed, and accounted for in the end. Coming to find the spontaneity and the path that must be followed as the way each life must be lived.
Following Lieh Tzu is simply coming forward to know and understand the central tenants and underpinnings as one who knows the Tao. Knowing that nothing is limitless and as something it becomes inexhaustible. Simply repeating the role given that must be played out to the end. The ultimate paradox to be learned and sought out teaches us that what we think we come to know and understand is to be challenged as the only rules must constantly change making end results never and always the same. Never competing with the reality that must come. Accepting change and continuing our way. 1/10/95
11. Chapter One – Heaven’s Gift
12. Introduction… Becoming Sanctified
Traveling as one with the wind you become sanctified as one with Lieh Tzu. Coming out of the security you have found as the sage forever only concerned about images and things always to remain translucent. Keeping always to new heights found only in the mountain retreat where nothing is to be found but stillness.
Everything following its natural course as heaven and earth dictates. Simply coming to know the seasons and continuity found in following day and night. Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, growth and decay, birth, and death. Man alone in knowing his true path. With only the sage knowing the proper sequence of events of the path that must be followed.
Man occupying the small unseemly place on the mountain’s trail as shown in the paintings of antiquity. Living only to come forward to find the true way to be found only by following the Tao. Without thought or purpose. Without choosing to be born or to die. Yet following the Way. Basing our every action on instinct and spontaneity. To distinguish between benefit and harm, understand alternative courses of action and form moral and practical courses of conduct without the need to do so.
To discard knowledge unfamiliar with the Way, cease to make distinctions, refuse to impose your will on nature. To return to the innocence found in a newborn child and allow your actions to come naturally as a part of nature itself. To reflect things like a mirror and respond as an echo without intervening thought.
Perfectly concentrated and perfectly relaxed as one who finds his second nature on hands and knees pulling weeds from his garden. Cleansing one’s soul of unwanted intrusions.
Remaining fully attentive to the external situation. Responding naturally to events as they occur. Not analyzing, as if spontaneously allowing your response to just take the unified action that comes forth simply to occur. 1/10/95
13. Everything as it should be
Nothing escaping change within the oneness of Tao. Looking you don’t see it, listening you cannot hear it, groping you cannot touch it. Lieh Tzu says heaven and earth cannot achieve everything. The sage is not capable of everything and none of te myriad things can be used for everything.
It is the responsibility of heaven to give birth and to shelter, the responsibility of earth to shape and to support; the sage to teach and reform and for each thing to perform its function. As a result, there are ways in which the earth excels heaven and ways in which each thing is smarter than the sage. Why is this?
Heaven which brings birth and shelters cannot shape and support, earth which shapes and supports cannot teach and reform. The sage that teaches and reforms cannot make things act counter to their functions, things with set places cannot leave their places.
Therefore, the way of heaven and earth must be either yin or yang. The teaching of the sage must be kindness or justice and the myriad things, whatever their function must be, either hard or soft. All these observe their functions and cannot lose their places.
Everything acts together in harmony. Everything the same and nothing the same all at the same time. Shape comes from the shapeless, form from the formless. Everything finds its essence in the way of the Tao. Everything only as it should be. 1/15/95
14. That which does Nothing
Hense there are the begotten and the begetter of the begotten. (The creator and that which is created). Shapes and the shaper of shapes. (That which is molded, and he who molds it.) Sounds and the sounder of sounds. (That which is heard and the thing or person that made the noise.) Color and the colorer of colors. (The shade or tint of things and he who gives it a specific hue.) Flavors and the flavorer of all flavors. (The character of all things and that which gives it.)
What begetting begets dies, but the begetter of the begotten never ends (What is created ends, but the creator goes on forever). What shaping shapes is real, but the shapes have never existed. (What is molded is authentic and original, but he who molds it is never present.) What sounding sounds is heard, but the sounder of sounds has never issued forth. (The noise is made, however, that which made the noise did not make it.) What coloring colors is visible, but the colorer of colors never appears. (What is given a specific tint is never seen.) What favoring flavors is tasted, but the flavorer of flavors is never discovered. (That which is given, and character is known, but that which gives character is never known.)
All are the offices of ‘That Which Does Nothing’. It can make yin and yang, soften, or harden, shorten, or lengthen. Round off or square, kill or give birth, warm or cool. Float or sink, sound the kung note or the shang. Bring forth or submerge. Blacken or yellow, make sweet or bitter, make foul or sweet. It knows nothing and is capable of nothing.
Yet there is nothing which it does not know, or of which it is incapable. 1/8/95
15. A Conversation with the Yellow Emperor or forever knowing the outcome
Knowing no origins. Finding no difference between one thing and another. Death not simply an ending, but the art of transforming from one thing to the next.
Knowing neither birth nor death. Life but a shadow, sounds but an echo. Always coming and going as if nothing was made into something, only to be made into something once again.
Somehow taking shape in the end. Simply coming forward to know the way of virtue. Being born to be reborn. Having shape to be made shapeless. Endings never escaping their end just as whatever is born again can never escape its beginning.
Living only as the eternal spirit is always merely coming and going. The only possessions that exist belong to heaven and earth. Each takes care of man’s spirit and remains. Whatever else could there be?
Hall of Great Perfection (Dacheng Hall), the main sanctuary of the Temple of Confucius
What is man, but what takes shape through infancy, old age, and death. Each simply one’s spirit working out the details along the everlasting Way. Coming in with harmony and virtue intact. Later only to find turmoil, as desires rise and fall. With challenges and lessons to be lived and learned. Each serving only as the knapsack of one’s destiny.
Knowing hunger and where morsels must be found. Keeping to one’s internal compass and staying on the course of events that must be followed. Finding comfort in one’s blanket to be kept warm by never contending with anything.
Coming to know old age and knowing that imperfections found since infancy have been simply built upon. Looking forward to death so that you may eagerly try again. 1/8/95
16. Coming home with Virtue
In death, we are simply travelers going home. Our virtue looking for shelter from the elements. Forever seeking final destinations to come. Yet somehow getting lost and finding our way back home.
Lama Buddhist Temple in Beijing
Everyone forgetting his way. With no one knowing a better way. Leading only to universal stories of emptiness and disbelief.
Finally coming forth to cherish the emptiness. Knowing not to value what remains simply to be made full again.
Value never given in the final equation. Only stillness and a vacuum finding comfort only in the details. In the give and take we become distracted and lose our place. Finding innocence, we make our way home once again.
An understanding of death interpreted from Yen Tzu in My Travels with Lieh Tzu, Heavens Gift written by DCD 1/9/95.
17. Lost Civilizations
(This was written as a tribute to the Aztecs of Central America and the Anasazi Indians of the present-day Four Corners region of the United States, comprising southeastern Utah, northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and southwestern Colorado in January 1995).
A cry carrying across the centuries. Setting out as the morning sun from beyond the clouds. Magical comings and goings. Granite columns are the only remnants of an age beyond time. A stone calendar reciting triangles and leaving shadows. Telling all the beginning of planting season and when rain and drought can be expected with life and death forever in the balance.
Constructing cities to drain away and save the rain. Temples for sacrifice are the only order of the day. Grand sculptures with giants ornately done, always to be worshiping the sun. The Gateway to Heaven is now simply a doorway to nowhere. Ruins of the metropolis, compounds of adobe with kings and commoners alike all leading to the Temple of the Dragon at the center.
The Acropolis is known simply as the sky above the roaring sea. Decorated with gold telling stories done by artisans and craftsmen of the day. All to be overrun, soon to find themselves extinct. Facades and foundations with stone walls still standing long after the death of all. Passing into oblivion.
The end is only the last stop on today’s journey. The sun fading in the twilight where life begins and ends. Worshiping the temples of life and death. Towers of silence and remaining evidence but a repository of memories. The final dirge of the unknown.
Remember us as we live on forever as the children of the morning sun. Across mountain streams and blue skies, we travel. Simply as we mourn the passing of the children of the sun. 1/10/95
18. Falling away or giving way
Imperceptible shifting of time within the elements. Things forever shrinking and swelling, maturing, decaying, being born, and forever dying all the same.
Always present in the end. Never aware of changes at the onset or the results sure to come. Our essence is taking shape as we live always changing. From birth to death our features, knowledge and bearing differing as we are but a mirror moving through time.
Always growing as we fall away. Never knowing the intervals. Only waiting for the results sure to come. How else can we ever know? 1/11/95
19. Everything remaining Perfect
Have no fear of the end of heaven and earth. Thereby lacking a place to rest or that you forget to eat or sleep. Heaven is nothing more than the air around us. Where is there that there is no air? Your own weight in it allows you to walk and stand tall breathing in through lungs filled only with it. Always breathing in and out as your inner chi or essence makes itself known to dragons.
The earth is nothing more than the soil and water that sustains us. Filling and giving shape to the place we only temporarily call home. As we walk and stand tall with feet forever attached to it. Always letting the earth be the ultimate messenger of nature’s way.
What can the air be but the rainbow, clouds and mist, wind and rain and the four seasons? Simply heaven at its purest. What can soil be but mountains and hills, rivers and seas, metal and stone, fire and wood? The essence of earth at its fullest. How can there ever be an end to it? As all things have beginnings and endings, what will happen must happen. Endings always end, bringing new beginnings that simply begin again.
Fearing the worst will happen is not as it should be. What can eternity be but the innate sense that heaven and earth are simply the same only in different forms for different reasons? Things just take shape in the end. Have no concern for final outcomes and know peace. Simply rest easy and eat and drink from the cup that living brings you. With everything remaining perfect to the end. 1/13/95
20. Traveling Companions
Possessing the Way is like knowing the unknown. It cannot be done.
Being your body is not possible. As it is the possession of heaven and earth. Simple harmony granted a time to be spent in the world as you come to know it.
Your nature and destiny do not belong to you. Only the course of events laid out only for you to follow. Constantly in ebb and flow. Belonging only to them. Everything everywhere simply belongs to them. Families and friends but a gift. Not in your possession, but heaven and earth casting off others only as they see fit.
Therefore, you travel without knowing where you are going, stay without clinging and are made secure without knowing how. You are simply the breath of heaven and earth. Nothing more and nothing less. 1/14/95
21. Chapter Two – The Yellow Emperor
22. Introduction… Windsurfing Through Time
Always to be riding the wind. Free from obstruction.
Not tied to things external to your true nature. Remaining free of needing to control events and knowing not to be hindered by them. Keeping the mind, spirit, and body free from choices and thinking of alternative courses of action that must be taken.
Doing without thinking. Knowing without doing. Understand this parallel and remain free to simply fly away. Never conscience of the next action to be taken. Only aware of what needs to be done without thinking about or doing it. Action coming natural to current events as the natural extension of your inner chi.
Remaining as a mirror to each situation at hand. Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way. Remaining enmeshed with harmony. Staying the same as all around you and finding an inner strength waiting to be found without interference.
Unaware of making distinctions between advantage and danger. Behaving with resolute assurance with nothing standing in your way.
To be able to walk on hot coals, swim through a fast current or climb the highest mountain and find comfort in doing none of them. Remain forever adaptable to the events swirling around you. Be as the air as it finds its way into everywhere and as water that passes through everything.
Be non‑existent and exist everywhere in all things. Without the need or desire to control events, they simply remain as the ever‑prevailing sage ceasing to be obstructed by them. Free from whatever consequences may come. 1/18/95
23. Coming Home
Retreating to your garden to find peace and serenity in the quiet among the day lilies and multi‑colored flowers, you soon find yourself asleep on the bench with the sweet smell of lavender overcoming your senses. Your spirit is soon traveling to a place unreachable by foot, boat, or carriage. In this place there are no teachers or leaders. Everything allowed to run its own natural course.
The people have no cravings or lust, men and women only following their natural course. Incapable of enjoying life or fearing death. Therefore no one dying before his time. With no preference of self over others. No decisions to make rather than to like or dislike.
Not knowing to go with the stream of events or against them, so that nothing benefits or harms them. Without grudge, regret, dread, or envy. Having no fear of water so they do not drown, nor fear of fire so they do not burn. Injured, they feel no pain. Scratch them and there is no itch.
They travel on air as if walking on solid ground and go without sleep as if everywhere was their bed. Clouds and mist do not stop them from seeing. Thunder does not confuse their hearing, beauty and ugliness does not enter their hearts.
Mountains and valleys do not trap their feet.
You awaken from your slumber now knowing the path you must follow. Your spirit is catching glimpses of the journey you must make. You have been reminded of where you came from and where you return. Earthly wants and desires are but as the shell of the cicada to be cast off and left behind after being reborn.
Cease to contend and know all will come streaming in your direction. As the water buffalo finds its footing on a path worn over the centuries. Each step follows the next to places you have been and seen before. 1/20/95
24. Finding Perfection
Remain as the reclusive sage refraining from earthly endeavors. As if you were in a small hut on a mountainside with a clear vista of where heaven and earth meet all around you. Inhaling the wind and drinking the dew and refraining from eating the five grains. (Oats, barley, corn, wheat, and rye).
Your mind remains as a bottomless spring. Your body remains as if it were still a virgin. Knowing not energy or love yet keeping the others and the immortals at your disposal. Bringing no attention to yourself. Never angry yet keeping the dragons at your beck and call.
Without kindness or bounty. Others have enough on their own. Never storing or saving, however never lacking. Yin and yang ever‑present. Sun and moon always shining. The four seasons are coming and going. Wind and rain forever moderate. Breeding is always timely. The harvest is always abundant. No plagues to ravage or maim. Man, not encountered by death. Animals free from disease and ghosts giving no mysterious replies.
With all as it should be remaining perfect to the end. 1/20/95
25. Finding yourself in time
Remember what you have written as you began by piquing immortality’s interest in the I Ching and One Hundred Flowers and expand the knowledge between truth and falsehood for all to see and know. What is brought forward by Lieh, Chuang and Lao cannot be a casual affair or with clouded motives apparent for all to see.
It is in continuing your journey without questioning yourself that the door opens.
Approaching the Tao must be a process of quieting your mind and opening your heart. With no motive beyond knowledge to be found along the Way. Finding a mentor and being prepared to be asked to stay and learn. Staying true to the bond between teacher and student with learning the only order of the day.
Once you have quieted your mind, in three years’ time, your mind does not think of right and wrong, and you dare not speak of benefit and harm. Only then does the Master begin to look your way. After five years you again think of right and wrong and speak of benefit and harm and for the first time the Master acknowledges you with a smile.
After seven years you begin to think of whatever comes into your mind without distinction between benefit and harm and for the first time the Master may ask you to join him. After nine years you begin to think without restraint of whatever comes into your mind and begin to say without restraint whatever comes into your mouth.
Without knowing whether the right or wrong or benefit or harm, could be yours or another’s and forget the the Master is your teacher.
Only then, when everything has passed through you, both inside and out, does it all become one. Your eyes becoming like your ears, your ears like your nose, your nose like your mouth, your mind concentrated, and your body completely relaxed. Flesh and bones fused completely. Not noticing what your body may lean against or where your feet may have traveled.
Drifting in the wind both east and west like a dry husk never knowing if the wind is riding you or you are riding the wind. Approaching the Tao cannot be a haphazard affair with one only approaching at one’s leisure. Simply remember to clear your mind and open your heart and be prepared to be asked to stay.
Time is of the essence as it is all we have been to possess. Awakening can occur in a lifetime or an instant or not at all. Remain irrelevant to time and be asked to stay. 1/21/95
26. Unlocking the doorway to Heaven
Walk under water and do not drown, on simmering coals and do not burn, or on the trembling earth and do not become rattled.
The ride of your life Shaanxi Museum Xian
Keeping to one’s internal power has nothing to do with skill or daring. For whatever has features, likeness, sound or color is a thing like that described earlier in ‘That Which Does Nothing‘. How can one put himself or itself ahead of it or another? Why should it matter? As everything remains merely form or color.
Come to know and understand the essence from which everything is created as the Tao dictates. Simply finding the comfort in one’s lot and not exceeding it. Staying behind without origin to find the beginning and ending of all things. Unifying nature and tending only to your own internal energies. Maintaining virtue as you travel full circle to where all is created again.
Finding the doorway to heaven inside you that will keep you safe and secure. As with the flawlessness found in the knowing sage. Cognizant that the keys are carried only by your inner self. Knowing this, how can other things come inside to disturb you?
Ride the wind as Lao Tzu taught you. As if a drunken man thrown from a cart. Though falling it does not harm him, he remains unharmed due to the integrity of his spirit. He rides and falls without knowing it. As life and death, astonishment and fear can find no entry into him, he shows no fear or remorse.
If the drunken man can be protected though he has drunk too much plum wine, how much more is possible for the one knowing the benefits of heaven lie solely within himself. 1/22/95
27. Discovering the Magic
Coming into the realm of others, one is asked to complete feats of magic. Poked fun of and cited as different and out of the ordinary only for the benefit of all assembled.
Dragon’s dancing above the clouds Shanghai Museum
Asked to jump off a high building for gold, you jump unknowingly to the ground unharmed. Asked to retrieve a hidden pearl from the river’s bend, you jump in and find the pearl no one knew really existed.
When the great stores burn, you are asked to save that of the highest value. You enter the flames unknowingly and retrieve what has been asked. In wonderment others marvel at your magic. However, in your heart you do not know how you accomplished such great feats. You can only reflect and wonder.
In coming, you came only with the hope of improving your lot in life. Arriving, you felt everything everyone said was true and knew no difference either way. Fearing only that you would fall short in believing and acting on whatever was already known by all, you explain: “I forgot benefit and harm, becoming single‑minded. Therefore, nothing could cause me harm. Now that I know that what you requested was in simple jest, worry and suspicions now fill me. How can I ever go near fire or water again”.
It is said that a perfect man can with faith make other things react to him. He moves heaven and earth making spirits respond to him and fills the universe in every direction with nothing standing in his way. This being so, how do you suppose that things can stand in the way when trusting a lie, much less when others are seen as sincere as oneself?
28. Animal Instincts
Having come to know the animals and birds attracted to your garden and yard, you are asked how you control wild beasts and make them find comfort in your presence.
You are asked to train another in the art of knowing your secrets. Reluctantly you relay that it is the nature of things with wild blood in its veins to have their own way and become angry when thwarted.
The man who feeds tigers does not dare give them a live animal as it can find only rage in another’s destruction. Approaching the tiger only when it is full penetrating angry feelings. Although different from man they allow the one who rears them because he allows them to have their own way. Killing him only when they cannot. Therefore, to thwart the animal would make them angry. Pleasing them would upset the balance of things and this is not done either. When joy runs its course only anger prevails, just as when anger is through, we revert to joy.
As I neither give them their way nor thwart them I am regarded as one with them in their world. How could either I or they know fear? That being so, it is only natural that when they roam my yard, they do not recall their wild ways. Just as when they find the comfort of my garden, they no longer desire or long for the wilds of the valleys and mountains from whence they came as they have found their home.
The Tao teaches that since we all are the same only taking form in different shapes, how could I be any different from them. 1/22/95
29. Traveling with Ease
Know that anyone who can swim can steer the boat. Simply because he takes the water lightly as he forgets the water’s presence. That a diver could handle the boat having never seen it before. Because the depths under it are as dry land and the boat tipping would be no worse than a cart tipping over.
An ancient junk, or boat, from the Confucius Temple in Qingdao
Though ten thousand ways in which the cart may slip may exist, they never enter his mind. Therefore, he travels with ease wherever he goes. Gambling for tiles you play skillfully. For the shirt on your back and your confidence is gone. For gold you are lost. You have not lost your skill, but in holding yourself back you have given weight to something outside yourself becoming inwardly clumsy.
The Tao teaches to simply know without knowing. Until what you do outwardly is but the reflection of what you already have come to know inwardly. Simply as an extension of yourself.
Fear never entering the picture as neither success nor failure can matter in the end. Since neither can outweigh the other, the consequences are irrelevant making your actions truly non‑existent. Being non‑existent one becomes one with the water. Steering the boat with ease. As what can occur but the extension of ourselves in the only way that could happen.
As with the cart slipping backward. How could this ever occur? As it is not an option that can enter your mind. You have become one with the path you now follow so the cart can only naturally follow behind with ease. Simply found and seen to be following Lieh Tzu with ease. 1/22/95
30. Finding the common Thread
Knowing the Way is simply coming to know what is native within ourselves. Growing up it becomes what is natural and in maturity it becomes destiny. Set your will on the aim of what is your internal truth. Outwardly knowing the highest speech is to remain quiet, just as the utmost doing is doing nothing.
Looking beyond the surface of what is brought up around you. Finding the substance to know the true way and never matching yourself against the world as you are bound to overreach your true objective.
Remain as Lieh Tzu with his own mentor Hu Tzu and not question what has yet to come forward. Just as Hu Tzu’s integrity is questioned unwittingly by the visiting shaman who flees in panic, know that your own vitality is centered only on the path you have chosen to follow. Old beings do not question where they go. They simply arrive at the place meant for them to be. Not dreaming when they sleep and with no cares when they awake. Always in the end returning to the place of their ancestors.
Just as Chuang Tzu says that the Perfect Man breathes from his heels, the common man breathes from his throat. Be the one whose breath comes from knowing the true aims of heaven and know that immortality is now within you to come to know and find.
As Lieh Tzu left Hzu Tzu to spend three years on his farm living simply, coming to know detachment and freedom of all things, so must you. Your destiny is in the clouds with dragons. Simply doing by being. 1/23/95
31. Exposing one’s wisdom teeth
Staying clear of external extractions pulling at your integrity as you would with a pulled wisdom tooth. Once it’s gone, its gone for good. Not keeping to ourselves allows others to take advantage of our inner goodness and spirit. Defeating the purpose of remaining still and indifferent to all around us. Opening ourselves up once the aura of our internal nature is exposed is like sweets in the candy store with everyone craving some.
Others come running to your doorstep asking favors and advise left and right. Laying responsibility on your front porch as the shoes they remove before entering. Signifying the sweetness, they have discovered in the place you now call home.
All this attention brings back your concern as to your proper place in the universe and questions the seriousness of the effort you must make as you continue your journey.
Questions abound as to the role you must play. The Way teaches us to be kind and gentle with others. To do good for good’s sake and for evil to return justice. To be guided by what we feel, not what the world brings forward for our eyes to see.
That our destiny is rooted in our past. Not learning from mistakes makes for repeating offenses repeatedly. What is our role?
Can we mature without awakening others to the true path that must be followed? Find nourishment in showing the way that the Tao teaches? However, in giving it away we find ourselves exposed as one’s tooth is to candy. Stay clear of allowing others to pull your wisdom teeth, as once they are gone you become exposed to ill winds causing you harm. Assist others in discovering the sweetness of the Tao for themselves but refrain from forever needing false teeth. 1/24/95
32. Maintaining universal Appeal
Is not the way we discover within ourselves to succeed or fail that controls our fate as we travel throughout the universe? That there is something inside everyone that is destined to be defeated better known as our weaknesses. Just as there is something within us destined never to be defeated. That which is known as our strengths.
So that it must be as the ancients beyond time have always told us. That the strong surpass the weak, while the weak surpass those stronger than themselves. The man who surpasses weaker men than himself is in danger when he meets someone as strong as himself. However, the man who surpasses men stronger than himself will never find danger.
Learning to control your own will and making it responsible for your inner chi and the Tao is the ultimate test and challenge. Are they not telling us that you cannot conquer or control others but must simply learn to control yourself?
Yu Hsiung tells us: “If your aim is to be hard, you must guard it by being soft. If your aim is to be strong; you must maintain it by being weak. What begins soft and accumulates must become strong. Watch them accumulate, and you will know where blessings and disaster come from. The strong conquer those weaker than themselves, and when they meet an equal have no advantage. When the weak conquer those stronger than themselves, their force is immeasurable.”
Lieh Tzu says that Lao Tzu has even more to say on the matter. Lao tells us that if a weapon is strong it will perish. If a tree is strong it will snap. Softness and weakness belong to life, hardness and strength belong to death.
Understand the two parallels of what hangs in the balance of yin and yang. Knowing the paradox that exists in coming to know all things and finding indifference to the ever‑changing events swirling around you. The sage knows that defeating one another through strength defeats one’s own as he follows the traditions of the ages and remains forever in tune with the Tao and in style. 1/25/95
33. Wisdom to be shared by All
The sage prefers conversing with those who share his wisdom.
While the ordinary man finds comfort in those who looks as he does and avoids anything that does not fit the patterns he has accepted or that may be different from himself.
Anything without a skeleton, hands or feet that do not fit the pattern, the beasts and birds of the world have been set apart from man.
Why is this so? The ordinary man who seeks knowledge and wisdom only among those with certain looks, cannot find it as they are as the racehorse with blinders running down the track. Aware only of what lies ahead. Unaware of what may be from side to side that may divert his attention from the finish. He may win the race, but he has missed what is important. And that is what he sees and learns along the way. As with the Tao, it is not the speed at which one finds his destination. But what is learned in the process and learning to appreciate that which may be different from us?
What is it that separates the others from man? They may differ in shape and voice. However, are they so different? They wish to preserve their lives as we do and only follow their own instincts in doing so. Male and female mate together, mother and the child keep close together. They avoid harm and seek shelter, avoid cold and seek out warmth, they travel together keeping their young protected. They lead each other to water and call out to each other when they find food. Are these things so different from man?
In the beginning, they were man’s equals. It is only when man found advantage could be gained by controlling the others did, he separate himself from all other things. That from ancient times man has been able to converse with animals is not lost upon the sage. The sage shares his wisdom with all those that will listen, man, beast, and bird. With no advantage given except that which nature provides. How else could it be? 1/27/95
34. A true measure of Oneself
Those knowing only courage and strength are destined to be defeated when meekness and softness are the optimum that will come to your defense. How is this so? If there is a way to protect you when someone strikes or stabs at you thereby missing, would you want to know?
Coming to know dragons Qingcheng Taoist Mountain Chengdu
Knowing the above and the resulting humiliation, wouldn’t you want to know a way to keep someone from daring to strike or stab you? What if someone who does not dare to harm you still has the will to harm you? Is there a way to ensure that no one has any desire or will to harm? Or that another person has not thought of loving or benefiting you? Suppose there was a way to make every living being joyfully desire to love and benefit you?
Isn’t this better than courage and strength? What is courage and strength, but that which is found within us without others watching? Is not true courage but the courage of our convictions and is not strength simply our inner desire to see everything through to its rightful end. How can they succeed without their opposites being present?
Is not meekness the ability to step back from external situations separating yourself from outcomes not true to the Tao? Is not softness knowing that everything has the same results and is unimportant in the end? Finding comfort solely within the details along the Way.
Come to know only acts of loving kindness. Ridding yourself of ill feelings and ego, both but a weight keeping you from becoming the person you are to come. Take pleasure and enjoy the hardships found on your journey. For they are your test. Know all four: courage, strength, meekness, and softness. Be complete and know that nothing can ever harm you. 1/29/95
35. Chapter 3 – King Mu of Zhou
36. Introduction… Transforming Reflections
Refreshing one’s memory, the world becomes more real than the nothingness from where we come and will return. However, can life be but a dream or are we dreaming, therefore we have come alive?
Traveling through time from one lifetime to the next, can our dreams be more than illusions we cling to along the way. When we awoke this morning from a blissful sleep, did we have any sense that what we have dreamed is less than the reality we lived yesterday or the day before or will come to know today, tomorrow or the next?
When dreaming are we aware that we are dreaming? When awake are we truly aware that we are awake? Or are we simply living our dreams? If both are the same, then the question becomes what can we be awakening into?
Dreaming that we are but a butterfly darting from flower to flower are we not as Chuang Tzu in his dream, or are we but the butterfly dreaming that he is Chuang Tzu? Are not our dreams living out the reality of who we are? Is not life but a dream which lasts until death, when we find our ultimate unveiling?
Is not awakening midstream in one’s life the opportunity to come closer to one’s true reality beyond the Tao? Is not all that breathes and becomes lifelike or has appearance therefore taking shape simply illusion? Where can reality and dreaming differ? Is not the ultimate truth only the reflection found in mirror images of ourselves?
If our experiences while we are awake are the same as when we sleep, then are not experiences found while we sleep the same as when we are awake? Is it not true living to abolish any division between illusion and reality? Thereby becoming indifferent to the world around us. All things being equal, do we not become transformed and continue onward to vistas we have known and seen before? 2/5/95
37. Going along for the Ride
Is it not better to become as one with all things found in nature? Our lives mirroring that as we would experience in a walk in the woods. Making no disturbance, as one with all.
Finding transcendence along the streets of Chengdu
The canopy of trees, the smell of sassafras in the air. Squirrels run to and fro through the scattered leaves on the ground. With three blue jays overhead squawking and monitoring our progress. Ants finding their home in the rotten log you turn over. Multi‑colored wildflowers brightening the path you have chosen to follow, life lived truly as a dream. Staying enmeshed within it to the end.
If as the Tao teaches that all things are equal, what does this leave for one to strive for? If no joy is real and no achievement lasting, then how can one find his or herself in the world? If life is but a dream then suddenly misery and suffering, pain and sorrow, happiness and joy, success and failure all become one and simply take turns coming forward for us to experience and know. If not true bliss and enlightenment having no attachment to lose? Having no desires, how can you be distressed when it does not come? That striving defeats one’s ultimate purpose.
That we find our ultimate comfort in our dreams and what we create within and from them. Reminded only that good and bad must be present in all things.
Come forward through an opening in the trees with both the strength and weakness that nature gave you, remaining as one with all things. Never contending.
Only by going along with the ebb and flow of the river do you come upon that you have come to know and traverse so well. Remain forever charged with your dreams and drift spontaneously as a log down the river’s current. Simply a part of the swirling events around you. Happy just to be going along for the ride. Buoyed with the knowledge that fear and regrets are as unreal as hopes and desires.
Without our dreams life becomes tedious. A lost cause battling upstream against the current of our lives. Is not our challenge to find our inner strength and who we are to become and know no greater purpose than going along for the ride. 2/5/95
38. Finding clouds of virtue
Coming forth as the one who can enter fire and water, pierce metal and stone, overturn mountains, turn back the rivers, ride the empty chair without falling and pass unhindered through solid objects without the need to do so. Able to change the shape of things and the thoughts of men.
All seeing you as something above themselves as someone to be emulated. However, the refinements and niceties brought to you are rebuked as having no real value. Trying again to please you, your host creates for you things he feels unworthy of mere mortals. As your power is above all he has previously seen or known.
Scoffing, you ask your host to come with you on a journey. Accepting, you are both drifting upwards into the sky where you come upon your own palace.
Suddenly awakened it is as if your host has returned from a dream. His feet never having left their pedestal. Built of gold and silver, strung with pearls and jades. Above the clouds. All that could be smelled, touched, tasted or the nose could inhale was above that known to man. Your guest feels that he is in heaven. When looking down his own quarters appear disheveled and remote. Again, asking to go further, you both go forward higher to heights unknown and unconsidered. Neither the sun nor moon could now be seen, or the earth below could be found as a reference. In fear, the one you brought with you asks to return to his humble abode.
As if reborn, your host asks where you and he have traveled. You tell him that he has traveled on a journey of the spirit. Why should you have moved from where you are seated? Can you really know what is real or imagined? What your hands and feet have experienced or what you have now seen in a dream?
Seemingly empowered, your host leaves behind all that he has found in comfort and cherished. Riding the four winds he now realized what he had neglected in virtue for pleasure. Much too late to gain in eternity, he can only reap his life’s rewards. 2/5/95
39. The magic of Lao Tzu or rediscovering the Magic
Traveling with Lieh Tzu, you are reminded to remember the magic of Lao Tzu. As he rode westward into eternity to become one with the wind and discover the highest clouds where only dragons fly.
Lao Tzu tells us: “The breath of all that lives, the appearance of all that has taken shape is illusion.
What is begun by the creative process and changed by yin and yang, is said to be born and to die; things which, already shaped, are displaced, and replaced by a comprehension of numbers and understanding of change are said to be transformed, to be illusions of magic. The skill of the Creator is inscrutable, his achievement profound, so that it is long before his work completes its term and comes to an end. The skill of the magician working on the shapes of things is obvious but his achievement shallow, so that his work is extinguished as soon as it is conjured up. It is when you realize that the illusions and transformations of magic are no different from birth and death that it becomes worthwhile to study magic. If you and I are also illusion, what can there be to study?”
Keeping company with dragons to reflect and rediscover the magic found in all things is difficult and arduous at best. If you and I and all we see and do are simply an illusion, then why go to the trouble? As all outcomes can only come out as the same. As you travel home and begin to ponder at great length, you start by putting into practice what you have now learned. You are soon able to appear and disappear at will, exchange the four seasons, call up thunder in winter, create ice in summer, make flying things run and running things fly. However, you soon discover that it is better to put aside conjuring tools and concentrate solely on the magic found in what is created by nature.
Is not Lao Tzu simply reminding us to identify what is real and unreal? That all there is to know is the magic waiting within you to come forward to find. Find a place of quiet solitude and listen to what comes forth. If all is the same yet an illusion, then are we not all the creation of magic? 2/6/95
40. The awakening spirit
What proof does one have of being awake or lost in a dream, and is it our rightful place to find comfort in either? Is it everyday situations that confirm we are awake?
Should we be forever tied to our life’s events and actions, gain and loss, sorrow, and joy and our birth and death? All simply allowed to occur when we involve ourselves in the here and now. Does not encountering something bring conflict to one’s true spirit?
How can we know if we are dreaming? Can there be a test or are we just searching for something we have yet to find? Are not they but illustrations of normal dreams, dreams due to alarm, thinking, memory, rejoicing, and fear that are allowed to occur when the spirit or one’s inner chi connects with something.
Does not connecting with something direct our attention from the journey that we know we must follow? Is not when we leave ourselves open to the mundane, or outside world, when we are awake that our energies fill and empty and diminish and grow?
Are we not simply becoming acquainted with all that surrounds us? By following this course, are we not allowing our yin and yang energies to become open to all sorts of confusion not true to our life force and our spirit as it travels through time?
Remember what Lieh Tzu has told you: “Our spirit chances on something and we dream and when our body encounters something it happens. Are not everyday occurrences but our imagination and dreams that our spirit and body chance upon along the Way. Should not the purpose and focus of one’s life energies be concentrated on what is known as the Tao?”
Forgetting oneself when awake and knowing no dreams while asleep. In so doing, our spirit becomes one with the immortals as we prepare to fly away. 2/8/95
41. The sway of nature
In what place can truth lie? With habits found in nature, what can we grow unaccustomed to?
In one place yin and yang do not meet so there is no distinction between hot and cold. The light of the sun and moon cannot find a place to shine so that the people know no difference between night and day. People do not eat or wear clothes. They find themselves asleep always thinking what they do in dreams is real and what they see while awake unreal.
In another place, yin and yang find constant balance. So that hot and cold and day and night find their place. Some people are wise and some foolish. People possess great skill and talent; rulers rule successfully with manners and laws supporting them. What they do and say needs no explanation. They think what they do waking up is real and what they see in dreams is unreal.
In a third place, the climate is always hot as there is an excess of light from the sun and the moon. The soil will grow no crops. The people eat herbs and roots. By nature, they have become hard and fierce. The strong oppress the weak. The only honor found is victory, with no respect for right or wrong. They travel fast and never rest. They are always awake and never sleep. Of the three, which can be right or wrong? Have not all simply grown accustomed to what natural forces have provided? Is it not following one’s true course finding the destiny provided by nature?
If, as the ancients say that living is simply an illusion, then is not adapting to the nature that surrounds us the same as discovering the true nature within ourselves? Who can know? In what place can truth lie, if not within us? 2/9/95
42. Dreams vs drudgery, who can say?
The dreams of the gate owner verses the drudgery of the gatekeeper. Who can know true peace and serenity?
Pheonix at the gate of Shanghai Royal Yangdian Taoist Temple
The gatekeeper burdened from dawn to dusk. His old and tired muscles having long ago lost their suppleness. His tasks keep him from knowing any pleasure or happiness while awake. However, while asleep each night he dreams peacefully that he is the owner of the gate. Able to determine who comes and goes with all under his control.
Someone consoled him as to the drudgery and work he did and the meagerness of any pay he received and for the lowliness of his position. He responded that by day he lived in drudgery, but by night he lived in utter joy. How could he complain?
The owner of the gate meanwhile was confused by worldly affairs.
Constantly aware of his responsibilities to and for his family fortune. He fell asleep each night fatigued. Dreaming that he was but the gatekeeper he had scolded for every conceivable task and beaten for every imaginable fault. His sleep was constant tossing and turning with no relief until he awoke each morning.
In torment he confessed to a friend his dilemma. His friend told him that with such superior rank and more property than he could ever need was he not too far above other men? Is not dreaming that you toil as a gatekeeper as he suffers complete hardship as you spend your working hours counting your fortunes, the balance that must occur with all things being equal and the same?
Recognizing his error, the gate owner eased the burden of those under him and lessened his own responsibilities which had led to his distress. In time, his dreams found comfort and the old gatekeeper suffered a little less each day. The two leaving the drudgery that kept them apart. They had finally met along the Way. 2/26/95
43. It’s my deer and I’ll cry if I want to – or one man’s Dream is another’sz Reality
Gathering firewood for the stove for the next day you stumble upon a frightened deer and kill it. Fearing someone will see the deer, you cover it ‑ later forgetting the place you have left it. Then question if you killed it at all or if you were just dreaming.
As you are coming home another man crosses your path, hears your voice, and proceeds to find the deer you left behind. When he gets home, he tells his wife that following the dream of another, he has found the deer and brought it home. The second man’s wife questions rather he read the dream of another or simply killed the deer himself and then dreamed he was reading the mind the first, since it was he who had the deer.
Later that night you are not happy with the loss of the deer and while asleep dream of where you left it and of the man who found it. The next morning you seek out the man shown in your dream, then go to the law to contest ownership of the deer.
As justice is determined it is stated that if you really killed the deer, you were wrong to think it was a dream. If it was a dream, you are wrong to say it happened. The second man took your deer but says you shouldn’t have it. His wife says he recognized the deer as belonging to another in his dream yet denies the existence of the man who caught it. All that is obvious is that there is a deer to be split between you.
In the end, is the one who finds justice going to dream he has divided someone else’s deer? Is it not beyond one to distinguish between a dream and what occurs when one is awake? If one is to benefit from another’s dream, shouldn’t we first awaken from our own? Who can know? 2/29/95
44. Floating through time forgetting all
Losing one’s memory of past events is not necessarily a bad omen of things to come.
Once there was a man who lost his memory. He would receive a gift in the morning and forget it by that night. He forgot how to walk and how to sit down once home. Today he would forget what occurred yesterday and tomorrow would not remember what happened today.
Those concerned for his well‑being called on all to determine the man’s problem. His fortune could not be told, just as the shaman could not fix what was wrong. A doctor came and left in a quandary. A Confucian who lived nearby heard of the man’s trouble and claimed that he could cure the man of what ailed him. In return, the family offered half their fortune if a cure could be discovered.
The cure was in transforming the man’s mind, thereby changing his thoughts. The Confucian took away the man’s clothes and he then looked for them. Tried starving him and the man searched for food. Tried shutting him up in the dark and he looked for the light. A cure could be found!
Within a single morning the man was well once more. Upon being awakened, the man dismissed his wife, punished his sons, and chased away the Confucian with a spear. Asked why he was not happy that his memory had returned, he responded:
“Before when I forgot I was boundless. Not noticing whether heaven and earth existed. Now suddenly, I remember all the disasters and recoveries, gains, and losses, joys and sorrows, loves and hates of a lifetime. All come rushing back to me. My forgetting allowed me to find peace and know no fear. Now I fear that all the emotions will come rushing to worry me for the rest of my days. Forgetting differences exist I could float through time forgetting all. Will I ever be able to forget that I am forgetting again.” 2/30/95
45. Taking the Dragon’s lead (An Interlude)
Unsure of your ultimate direction your travel westward to the farm from where you came and the gardens of your grandmother. Back to nature you think may bring you closer to the innocence that you feel that you must return. The land now owned by others who have their own destiny to follow and have as such become tied to the soil and all the attachments that come to it. Is your destiny any more important than theirs?
As you prepare to leave the place you have toiled for years to create with its intricate landscaping and gardens, you become distressed and forlorn that just as you cannot return to where you came ‑ you cannot stay where you are now. You now know that your ultimate direction is tied to your writing. Traveling with dragons to vistas unknown and unseen by few who can come to follow their true seeds of destiny. Finding comfort in knowing that you do not know what tomorrow brings to your doorstep.
Finding peace of mind in staying true to the course of events that you must follow. Simplifying to only basic needs and being happy with the outcome. Your answer is in your writings as they bring you closer to the place you need to be. In finding this all will be as well as it needs to be.
All that has appeared to date has been but a test. Coming to know dragons and inner accolades that follow is the ultimate key to your success. The more you lose in what may be seen as earthly acclaim, you will gain with satisfaction in the clouds.
Each has his own destiny that must be followed. Do not contend and find yours along the wayside. Simply by letting go and knowing that all that happens is meant to happen. Find comfort solely in the details and rest assured that the dragons are asking about you. Reminding you that your writing is tied to who you are, not where you are. As you now travel with them into eternity. 2/26/95
46. Who can be Abnormal?
There was a man called Dang Pang who was clever as a child but suffered from an abnormality when he grew up.
Scenes from Jining City Museum
When he heard singing, he thought it was weeping. When he saw white, he thought it was black; fragrant smells he disliked, sweet tastes he thought bitter, wrong actions he thought right. Whatever thoughts came into his mind, of heaven and earth, water and fire, heat and cold, he always turned everything to its opposite. Out of tune with the reality of others around him.
Searching for help the man’s father came upon Lao Tzu and told him of his son’s symptoms. Lao Tzu responded how could the father know that his son was abnormal?
Asking: “How do you know that that your son is abnormal? Nowadays everyone in the world is deluded about right and wrong and confused about benefit and harm. Because so many people share this sickness, no one knows that it is a sickness. Besides, one man’s abnormality is not enough to overturn his family, one families to overturn the neighborhood, one neighborhood to overturn the world. If the entire world were abnormal, how could abnormality overturn it? Supposing the minds of everyone in the world were like your son’s, then on the contrary it is you who would be abnormal. Joy and sorrow, music and beauty, smells, and tastes, right and wrong, who can straighten them out? I am not even sure that these words of mine are not abnormal. Let alone the words of the Confucians that you are seeking who are the most abnormal of all. Who am I or they to cure another’s abnormality. Return home instead of wasting your money!”
In whose eyes can we be abnormal or otherwise? What makes someone who sees things differently than the rest of us less secure? Except for how the rest of us see him, who cannot be right made for him secure in his nature. Regardless of how the world sees him. 3/1/95
47. A conversation with Dragons
Please show me the way. The Way is within yourself. Please teach me the Way. You know all that there is to know. Have no fear of the reality yet to be made clear that you must follow.
The path you must follow will be difficult to travel until you lose the attachments not needed for the journey at hand. Refrain from clinging to that which is external to yourself and the way you must travel will be made clear for you to follow. Come forward with peace in your heart, an openness of your mind, spirit, and body to find the knowledge in all things that have been, are now and are yet to be discovered.
Remember that what you write is who you are to become. Seek only truth, balance, and justice and all will be made perfect. Just as it should be. 3/4/95
48. Fine-tuning Directions
Something is out there waiting for you Cloud Dancing. You won’t find it where you are now or where you have been. Stay clear of attachments and go as if blinded by the wind. Your eyes squinting to see what cannot be seen. Leaving everyday wants and desires behind for those who cannot appreciate the way of virtue that must be followed to the end.
Remember what you have written and come forward with only the strength of your inner vision for all to see. Stop antagonizing over events past and present. Rejoice in the nature around you and your own quiet resolve to shape events as the dragons would have them and find peace and comfort within your own heart and soul. Everything that occurs must occur for your destiny to be fulfilled. Simply by falling back and letting it happen.
What there is to be known you already know. All that comes forward is simply the way of coming forward to know yourself. You travel with dragons now so what harm could possibly occur. You must conquer your own fear of the unknown. Since you know all there could be to know, how could you not know fear and what may lie behind it to see?
The path that you must take has already been determined. Live each moment to its fullest and what becomes clear will be the path that you must follow. Something is out there waiting for you Cloud Dancing. You won’t find where you are now or where you have been. Simply continue fine tuning your direction through your writing and all will be made clear. 3/8/95
49. Filling in the Details
Delight in knowing that you have always been on the edge and will remain there.
Finding comfort in what would otherwise be considered chaos by others who will never travel to find their true destiny. If you have found true peace of mind, how can hardship enter the picture? What comfort can be found in everyday events seen by others as needed to have some fleeting sense of contentment? Remain as the first word to be written on the next blank page waiting to be filled with what must come forth in truth, sincerity, and compassion.
Appreciating nature, both your own inner nature and that surrounds you. Your garden being wherever you are. Where trees grow leaves, where flowers attract bees and butterflies. Where wisps of clouds float between heaven and earth. Coming forward to knowing the happiness of all thing’s nature provides and knowing where you fit in will always be present.
As all things change from instant to instant, is it not remaining on the edge prepared to capture the new rays of each day’s sun, the ultimate that can ever be – now and forever. Not found to be clinging to life’s fortunes. Knowing happiness can only be followed by sadness. That everything ebbs and flows in the balance of all things.
The ultimate that can be. Simply to be blown along with the winds of one’s life. Never knowing the outcome, only savoring the details found along the wayside. Find a place of quiet solitude where there can be no contention present. With everything around you at peace and harmony with its environment. As you come forward through your writing to fill the blank page with little or no concern for the time of your ultimate arrival. Remain free to continue your way with Lieh Tzu and your old friends. Ready to begin anew the journey that you must begin again and again and again. 3/11/95
50. Chapter Four – Confucius
51. Introduction… Finding Confucius
Just who is this man known as Confucius and what of his obsession with knowledge? Can he equal the things brought forth by Chuang Tzu who can see through all to its original origin?
While Confucius may help guide those responsible for maintaining the overall scheme of things in their dealings with others, can he know the true underpinnings of all there is to know that lead to logical conclusions? Can thoughts and ideas expressed outside the true essence of the Tao have any real significance? Looking for differences to trap unseemly paradox and analogies that can confuse those not serious about finding and true way of virtue.
Who can be true to his own thoughts? Swaying this way and that by the Confucian suspicion of speculation without practical or moral relevance or by the comfort found in the seeming irrationality of the Tao.
The three tenants of higher consciousness, Buddhism, Confucius, and Taoism always present. Ultimately pushing everything to higher ground. Moving all to places they would not otherwise go.
Just as the seasoned traveler who breaks the mountain’s ridge to see the vast panorama spread before him. Every direction simply leads to destinations previously seen and known but forgotten.
A peak on Yellow Mountain where dragons have by tradition been known to fly.
Everything crystalizing over time. Can one move forward knowing the paradox found in all things that are allowed to advance in their own way? Knowing that Confucius is forever weighing benefit and harm and distinguishing between right and wrong.
Can there be a moral relevance to all things considered practical as found in the analytical comfort of knowing the results lie in the search for truth and knowledge? Can one following such a course of action be taken seriously? Who can know? Is not the ultimate to be born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian and die a Buddhist? Where can all this lead? Who can say? 3/5/95
52. Rejoice in Heaven and know true destiny
Can there be a careless side of rejoicing in heaven, know true destiny and still have no cares? Asked to explain, Confucius tells us:
“The training of your personal character, indifferent to failure and success; awareness that the events which have happened and will happen to you, do not depend upon yourself and should not disturb your thoughts. This is what you understand by the carelessness of rejoicing in heaven and knowing true destiny.”
However, in attempting to instill this order and make it plain for all generations to follow, everything soon deteriorates and whatever good inclinations that may have occurred soon vanishes. If this way does not work now, how can it work in the future? I now know that what comes and goes is of no help in restoring order. Can this be what the one who rejoices in heaven and knows true destiny must care about?
Nevertheless, I have discovered the true way. Keeping to earthly endeavors and desires are not what is meant to be followed.
Rejoicing in nothing and aspiring to nothing are the true rejoicing and the true knowledge. So that you rejoice in everything, know everything, care about everything, do everything. If attempting to instill order cannot be done, why attempt to replace it if it remains the true way of knowledge? Therefore, the training of your personal character, indifferent to failure and success becomes a part of nothing. As you are reminded that the events which have happened and will happen to you do not depend upon yourself and become a part of nothing. Understanding this, how can your thoughts be disturbed?
If one is true to oneself, then he can begin to come to understand the carelessness of rejoicing in heaven and abiding by his true fate. Having no cares coming in, coming to know heaven and whatever destiny that follows. 3/5/95
53. On Becoming a Sage
What is this thing about becoming a sage, that Confucius can discard his mind and use his body? Or this disciple of Lao Tzu, who can look with his ears and listen with his eyes. How can we be sure this can be done and what makes them special?
Asked to clarify his feats, Lao Tzu’s disciple responds by saying that he could look and listen without using his eyes and ears, not exchange the function of each one. How can this be done? He responds that:
“My body is in accord with my mind, my mind with my energies, my energies with my spirit, my spirit with nothing. Whenever the minute thing or the faintest sound affects me, whether it is far away beyond the eight borderlands, or close at hand between my eyebrows and eyelashes, I am bound to know it. However, I do not know whether I perceived it with the seven holes in my head and my four limbs or know it through my heart and belly and internal organs. It is simply self-knowledge.”
Is not becoming a sage simply remaining as one with all in the universe. Without conflict. With no contention between what could be considered as right and wrong. To hear without hearing. To see without seeing. To be without being. To come without going. To stay without leaving. Finding comfort solely within the details, knowing all that comes forth to be known.
What use is eyes and ears without knowing their true purpose? If one can discard either and still see and hear who needs them? If all is already known, simply waiting to come forth again and again then what difference can they possibly make? Close your eyes and ears, take a deep breath and everything suddenly becomes clear again. 3/12/95
54. Maintaining sage-like endurance
Once asked if he was a sage, Confucius responded: “How can I claim to be a sage, I am simply a man who has studying widely and remembered much.”
Asked if the Kings were sage-like, he responded: “The kings were good at employing wisdom and courage, rather they were sages is hard to say.”
Asked if the emperors were sages, Confucius responded: “They were good at employing morality, rather that made them a sage, I do not know.”
Asked if the three Highnesses were like a sage, Confucius responded: “They were good at adapting themselves to their environment, but rather this made them sage-like is difficult to know.”
Knowing the above, who can be a sage? Since the time governments have been established there has been no true sage. For in bringing forward a standard for all to follow, cleverness is established, and one must lead and another follow. How can this enhance the knowledge and experience needed for one to be known as a sage?
The immortal sage Shaanxi Museum Xian
Can a sage have true wisdom and courage, keep his sense of morality and be good at adapting to his environment once a semblance of that which is known as government comes into place? How can one be manifested with the other ever‑present?
The one true sage is thought to be Lao Tzu and it is said that he does not govern yet there is no disorder. Does not speak yet is trusted simultaneously. He is so great the people cannot give a name to him so that even he is questioned as to if he truly existed. Remember what you have come to know about your newfound travels. Prepare to retreat into the inner workings of the Tao and leave behind all those who strive to find their place in worldly affairs. Remain forever sage-like in your endeavors and come to know eternal peace. 3/12/95
55. Defining virtue
What sort of man follows Confucius? Four men who served him are looked upon as examples. The first, superior in kindness, the next better in eloquence, the third stronger in courage, and the fourth exceeding in dignity. All a cut above Confucius in their endeavors. Yet they chose to serve him, why is this so?
What is virtue, but that which springs forth from one’s eternal chi or soul? How can one man judge another when he has his own journey he must follow, his own destiny to find? What is there to come to understand and know except the inner workings of ourselves and the loving kindness that subsequently follows?
“The first is kind but cannot check the impulse to act when it will do no good. The next is eloquent but knows not when to speak. The third is brave but is impulsive and knows not when to be cautious, and the fourth is dignified, but cannot accept others’ opinions when it is their turn to speak. Even if I could exchange the virtue of these four, why would I, when they are less than my own? This is why they have chosen to serve me without question? Each person must learn their own way in the world. Can mine possibly be better than the path another has chosen to follow?”
Entrance to Nishon Hill, the birthplace of Confucius, south of Qufu. I have been here many times. Below is a picture of the cave adjacent to Nisson Hill where Confucius was born. My family and I visited here in October 1999 on our first visit to Qufu. In the picture are my wife Marie, mother, daughter Katie and I.
Have not those who have decided to follow the ways of Confucius done so without questioning right and wrong, benefit and harm? Letting everything play out to its rightful end to discover their own true destiny. Since the establishment of government destroys the path for all but the true sage, is it not best to find the way to govern properly for the benefit of all. Looking you cannot find it, listening you cannot hear it. In the end, there is nothing to be found again and again. 3/14/95
56. Saying nothing, knowing nothing, knowing All
Once on his own with many followers around him, Lieh Tzu had a neighbor with whom he hardly ever spoke. This man, Nan Kuo Tzu, also was a respected Master with his own followers. For twenty years they lived side by side and never spoke and when they chanced to meet their eyes seemed hardly to catch the other’s glance. No one could understand this chasm between them.
When Lieh Tzu was asked if he and Nan Kuo Tzu were enemies, he exclaimed:
“Nan Kuo Tzu’s face is full, but his mind void. His ears hear nothing, his eyes see nothing, his mind knows nothing, his body never alters. What is the point in visiting him? However, since you insist, I may as well take a look at him.”
Once in the home of Nan Kuo Tzu, Lieh Tzu saw that his neighbor appeared as a clay image with no apparent way to make contact. Lieh Tzu soon also took on a faraway look, his spirit having left his body. With no one able to reach him as well. Upon returning to his own house, Lieh Tzu was asked why neither of them spoke, he responded:
“Whoever gets the idea says nothing. Whoever knows it all also says nothing. Whether you think that saying nothing is saying or not saying, whether you think that knowing nothing is knowing or not knowing, you are still saying and still knowing. But there is nothing that he either does not say or says, nothing that he either does not know or knows. This is all there is to it. Why should there be anything more?”
That Lieh Tzu continued this on‑going dialog or non-discussion with his neighbor remained a mystery to all except those who truly knew both men. That these two men had been traveling great distances together for many years. Yet had never been formally introduced. Not that it mattered. 3/15/95
57. Conversations with Old Shang
Upon reflection, you are asked to find yourself in time as before to understand the true essence of knowledge as you follow the wishes of Lieh Tzu. To know beginnings and endings, repeating events and images over time to bring forth from within life’s true meaning. As the knowing sage, what use is knowledge without a firm foothold on the sheer cliff’s edge you have traveled? As you now see the top is so nearby.
Just as you cannot stay where you are now, any more than you can return down from where you have come. Your footprints lead only up and over the edge to new vistas now spread before you.
As when with what Lieh Tzu found while studying with Old Shang, after three years his mind no longer dared to think of right and wrong, his mouth no longer dared to speak of benefit and harm. It was only then that the master so much as glanced at him.
After five years, his mind was again thinking of right and wrong, his mouth was again speaking of benefit and harm and for the first time Old Shang relaxed with a smile. After seven years, Lieh Tzu thought of whatever came into his mind without any longer distinguishing between right and wrong said whatever came into his mouth without any longer distinguishing between benefit and harm and for the first time his master pulled him over to join him on the mat.
After nine years, he thought without restraint of whatever came into his mind and said without restraint whatever came into his mouth without knowing whether the right and wrong, benefit and harm, were his own or another’s. Only then when Lieh Tzu had come to the end of everything inside and outside of himself; his eyes became like his ears, his ears like his nose, his nose like his mouth, everything was the same.
His mind concentrated and his body relaxed, bones and flesh fused completely. He did not notice what his body leaned against and where his feet tread, what his mind thought, and what his words contained. If you can be like this, what principles of what is to come can be hidden from you.
As you now write this for the third time, what could be made clearer? First, as you began by ‘piquing immortality’s interest’ in the One Hundred Flowers, and then again while you were ‘finding yourself in time’. The masters, or the dragons as they have manifested before you, are telling you again what was before you the first instant as you began your travels. Simply remain as one with Lieh Tzu coming to the end of everything you once held in importance and know that there can be nothing without the Tao. Just as you quietly strengthen your inner resolve as you continue forward on your journey. With no concern for outcomes that may follow.
What Old Shang conveys to Lieh Tzu he now tells you as well. New doors are now opening. Just continue clearing your mind and opening your heart and all will follow and be as it should be. What may appear to others over several lifetimes has come to you in an instant. Rejoice in both your old and newfound friends and in the immortality yet to come. The dragons are pleased with new beginnings as you are now seen traveling with Lieh Tzu upwards through the clouds. 3/15/95
58. Oh, How Perfect is Travel!
Why should one leave one’s doorstep to travel except to see and experience how things change? While others may travel to see different sights in various places, I am only interested in seeing how nothing ever can stay the same and discover others who know the difference.
Lieh Tzu’s Master Hu Tzu asks him:
“Is not your travel really the same as other men’s? Would you insist that there can be a difference? Anything at all that we see, we always see changing. You are amused that other things never remain the same, but do not know that you yourself never remain the same. You busy yourself with outward travel and do not know how to busy yourself with inward contemplation. By outward travel, we seek what we lack in things outside us. While by inward contemplation we find sufficiency within ourselves. The latter is perfect, while the former an imperfect kind of traveling.”
From this point on Lieh Tzu stayed home thinking that he did not understand travel. Until Hu Tzu tells him: “How perfect is travel!” In perfect travel we do not know where we are going, in perfect contemplation, we do not know what we are looking at. To travel over all things without exception, contemplate all things without exception, this is what I call travel and contemplation.”
To leave one’s seat while still sitting. To travel upwards as you look down on your room, your house, the town in which you live. As if you were a thousand feet in the air and asking yourself:
“Where do I go today! North, east, south, or west. What does it matter.”
All directions are free to you as if riding the prevailing winds to nowhere special. As everything everywhere is laid out before you. Oh! How perfect is travel! How else could one ever say that he has seen all that there is to see, in the past having been there, in the present leaving to destinations unknown, and in the future going only where your destiny will find you? Oh, how perfect is travel! 3/15/95
59. The tale-telling illness
Seeking an explanation from your doctor, you relay that you have been ill and ask him if he can find a cure. The doctor explains that you only need to tell him your symptoms and he will find what ails you.
You explain that you do not think it an honor if the whole town praises you or the whole state reviles you. That you take no joy in winning and have no anxiety about losing. That you look at the same way at life and death, riches and poverty, other men, and pigs, yourself, and other men: you live in your home as if it were for sale or an inn, look out at your neighborhood as though it were a foreign and barbarous country.
Having all these ailments, titles and rewards cannot induce me, punishments and fines cannot awe me, prosperity and decline and benefit and harm cannot change me, joy and sorrow cannot influence me. Consequently, I cannot serve my chosen livelihood, have dealings with my family and friends, comfort my wife and tend to my affairs as before. What illness is this? Can there be a cure for this?
Your doctor asks you to stand with your back to the light. Stepping back, he ponders momentarily from a distance, then explains all: “Hmm, I see your heart! The place an inch square is empty. You are a sage. Six of the holes in your heart are stopped up. Can this be the reason you now think the wisdom of a sage is an illness? There is no known cure for this.”
In pondering your fate, you are now reconciled to the fact that there is nothing to be done except to live with the diagnosis. With the loving heart of the sage you have now become, how can your illness be considered life threatening? Knowing that it is only when you come to the end of everything that represents who you thought you were can you begin to be well again. 3/15/95
60. Sing only joyous Songs as I go
What is the proper way to live and die? Who can know? Who can say? To be born normally, coming from nowhere is the Way.
The bell tolls for thee
When a man follows a course consistent with life and lives so that although he dies when his term is up he does not perish before his time, this is normal; to follow a course consistent with life and perish before his time is misfortune.
To die normally in accordance with your manner in life is also the Way. When a man follows a course which leads to death and dies so that he perishes by his own fault even before his term is up, this is also normal; to live after following a course which leads to death is good luck. Therefore, to be born relying on nothing is called the Way, and to live out your term depending on the Way is called normal. Death which depends on your manner of life is also called the Way, and premature death which depends on the Way is also called normal.
You must remember that life is simply a corridor with many paths to choose from and death but a door to a new beginning.
If one can live his life in accordance with the Way of Virtue, or the Tao, then surely only good can follow. If one has lived his life in pursuit of knowing the Way, he can look to the door singing. If one dies through misfortune, there is much sadness. But then ordinary people sing when anyone is born and cry when anyone dies.
Always remember that to be born normally, coming from nowhere is the Way. Just as to die normally in accordance with your matter in life is also the Way. Seek only what lies within yourself, fine‑tuning your way and prepare to return to be born again. With no sorrow in death. With those you have left behind, only singing joyously along with you as you go. 3/16/95
61. Trusting One’s Senses
Remember what you have written about seeing, hearing smelling, tasting and touching. The five senses that keep you alert as if to let you know that you are truly alive. If the eye is about to grow dim when it can discern the tip of a hair, does one really need the eye to see? If the ear is about to go deaf when it can hear the wings of a gnat, does one really need the ear to hear?
If one’s taste is diminished to the point of not telling the difference between waters of diverse sources, can one care about the source from which he drinks? If one’s smell is clogged to much to distinguish between cooked and rotted food, would one wish to continue eating? If the body is about to stiffen when it delights in running, can one begin to understand the power of touching?
If the mind is about to go astray when it can recognize right from wrong, does one need the ability to think? What can truly define one’s limits and once they are found, how does one know to go further, stay put, or go back to from where you have come? The answer is that the true path is one of moderation in all things. If a thing does not reach its limit it cannot revert to where it came from.
If one can truly see without seeing, hear without hearing, taste without eating or drinking, smell without smelling, know the touch without having to touch, or the mind know right from wrong without thinking, then cannot one’s destination be too far away? If you have become as one with all things, then how can you go wrong trusting your senses? How much simpler can the answer be? 3/16/95
62. Exposing Talent
While Teng Hsi, who prepared the law code of the State of Cheng, was traveling through the city he chanced upon Pei Feng and others who were followers of Lieh Tzu and happened to be in town for the day.
Trying to impress those around him, Teng Hsi looked around and asked: “What would you say if I make the fellow coming forward dance for you.” They all responded that it would please them.
Teng Hsi then asked Pai Feng: “Do you know the difference between being kept like a parent supported by his sons and being kept like a dog? Such creatures as dogs and pigs are kept by man and cannot keep themselves, the effort of man keeps these animals and uses them for his own ends.
If people like you are well‑fed and comfortably clothed, you owe it to the administration. Herded together young and old as though you were animals for the sty or the kitchen how do you differ from the dogs and the pigs?”
Another disciple of Lieh Tzu came forward and asked: “Have you not heard of the skilled men in Ch’i and Lu? Some are clever at working with clay or wood, others with metal or leather; some are good singers and musicians, others good scribes and diviners; some know how to command armies, others to manage ancestral shrines; there is no shortage of any kind of talent. But they cannot give each other positions or tell each other what to do; the men who give them positions lack their knowledge, the men who tell them what to do lack their abilities, yet by these their knowledge and abilities are employed. It is we who employ you administrators; what have you to be conceited about?”
Teng Hsi could only withdraw in embarrassment. Comparing the honest craftsmanship of the artisans to that less than a man while saying they owe it all to the goodness of the State is foolish. Who can be made wiser and who can be the fool? 3/17/95
63. Showing your strengths
What is strength, but looking at things which others ignore and doing what others will not do? Confucius says there was a man referred to as the Earl of Kung Yi who was renowned for his strength. Although upon sight of him, he was weak and puny. When asked to appear before the King of Chou with great honors he was questioned closely and asked:
“Just how strong are you?” The Earl of Kung Yi responded that he could snap the leg of a grasshopper in Spring and pierce the wing of a cicada in Autumn.
The King clearly displeased responded that he had men who could rip the hide off a rhinoceros, drag nine oxen by the tail and was still displeased as they were too weak. How are you known everywhere for your strength? Ah! What a great question. My renowned teacher Shang Ch’iu Tzu’s strength was unrivaled throughout the world. But those close to him knew nothing of it because he never used his strength.
The Earl of Kung Yi continued by saying that he had braved death to serve Shang who had once confided to him:
“When other men wish to see the invisible; look at the things others ignore. When other men wish to see the unattainable, be expert in things others will not do.
So that a man who is learning to use his eyes should begin by seeing a cartload of wood; a man who is learning to use his ears should begin by hearing the clanging of bells. Whenever there is ease from within there are no difficulties from outside. The strong man meets no outside adversity or dilemma so that none, but his own family hear of him.
Now if my name is famous among the rulers of the state, it is because I have disobeyed my master’s teachings and disclosed my ability. However, I am famous, not because I am proud of my strength, but because I am able to use my strength. Is this not better than being proud of my strength?”
The King could now understand the difference between having and using strength and showing strength and was relieved. 3/19/95
64. Bows and arrows are not for killing
What is it that makes the words of a wise man beyond the comprehension of a fool? Is it a lack of understanding, or simply one’s attitude that determines what can be known?
Prince Mou, the son of the Lord of Wei, enjoyed the company of clever people and took no interest in State affairs. He delighted in the antics of the local philosopher Kung Sun Lung of Chou. Much to the chagrin of those who expected remarkable things from him.
One of those who questioned the wisdom of Kung Sun asked: “He is the kind of man who goes ahead without a teacher and studies without having friends to advise him. He is nimble with the tongue, but eccentric. He plays on words and belongs to no one school. A lover of the extraordinary who talks wildly, trying to confuse men’s minds and win verbal victories. He studies with others whose wisdom is questioned.”
The son of the Lord of Wei was unhappy at such an overblown account of his friend and asked to have it justified? That Kung Sun Lung was not fooling anyone. The man continues:
“I laugh at the way Kung Sun Lung fools others. He has said that a good archer can make the point of the arrow behind hit the notch of the arrow in front. That if he shoots so fast that each one catches up with the one in front, all the arrows stick together. When the first arrow reaches the target none of them breaks off and drops and the notch of the last arrow is still fitted to the bowstring so that to look at them you would think that there is only one arrow.”
Kung Sun coolly responded: “That is not a remarkable case. Another man, angry at his wife wanted to frighten her. He drew his bow, fitted an arrow winged with feather and shot at her eye. The point of the arrow touched her pupil without making her eyelid blink and the arrow dropped to the ground without raising the dust.” Then added, “it is often said that those who question the wisdom of a wise man are only fooling themselves.”
Kung Sun continued: “The point of the arrow behind hits the notch of the arrow in front because the archer makes each shot equal to the one before. The arrow also touches the pupil without making the eyelid blink, because the momentum of the arrow has given out. Why do you doubt it.”
The main antagonist to Kung Sun continued questioned his wisdom by stating that he had made others look like a fool and stated: “By conceiving of something you fail to identify it, by pointing it out you fail to reach it; by treating it as an object you fail to identify it.”
Kung Sun responded that without concepts your mind is the same as it; without pointing you reach everything; whoever exhausts the object exists forever. Knowing this we cease to make distinctions, become part of the universe, become immortal and become one for the ages. Yet questions continued.
Kung Sun was asked: “How can you say that a shadow does not move?” He responded: “Simply, it is replaced.” Kung Sun was asked: “How can you say that a hair will draw the weight of a thousand chun when the give and pull are exactly the same?” Kung Sun answered: “Simply, all things being equal, nothing that breaks can break.” Kung Sun was asked: “How can you say that a white horse is not a horse?” Kung Sun answered: “Simply, the horse is identified as a horse due to its shape. Since the name ‘white horse’ diverges from its shape it negates its identity.”
Finally, Kung Sun was asked: “How can you say an orphan calf has never had a mother?” Kung Sun responded: “Simply, because when it had a mother, it was not an orphan calf, so that now only the opposite can be true.”
The prince upon hearing all the above was confused by all this tongue twisting and verbal sparring from these two and asked for time to sort things out for himself. In time it all became clear for the one who was to take the place of his father as the next Lord of Wei. 3/24/95
65. The Peddler
How can one know if he rules successfully or is considered a failure? Whether the empire is in order or if those he governs would prefer his head? Asking his courtiers, all are afraid to say. Asking visitors to the court, they are afraid to offend. Asking throughout the provinces they fear for their lives.
Disguising himself as a common peddler, he takes to the road traveling to all corners of his kingdom. Talking to others, listening to what they would say. Bound and determined to learn the truth. What might be conveyed?
While in the marketplace of a small town on the fringes of the empire he heard a boy singing: “You raised us up, the multitudes; all observe your standards. Unknowing, unremembering, we obey the laws of God.”
Overwhelmed, the ruler of the empire still dressed as a common street peddler asked the boy who had taught him to repeat his saying.
The boy simply said that he had heard it from a high official who later, not knowing who he was speaking to, said that it was just an old verse known to all.
The emperor, knowing that nothing could be improved upon, returned to his palace and abdicated his throne. Leaving it to his son. Simply admonishing him to follow the old ways and his heart and all would be well. With all the riches and splendor to keep him to his end, the now free father of the emperor took back to roaming the countryside. Finding his true nature, he now knew simple ways and simple explanations of life’s mysteries. Always remembering the verse the boy in the marketplace sang with joy.
You raised us up, the multitudes all observe your standards. Unknowing, unremembering we obey the laws of God. Once revered as a God, he now found peace as a common peddler. 3/25/95
66. The Sway of Nature
Knowing and not knowing. In accord with all things, with all things remaining forever equal. The final sway of nature is never a concern in the end. To be as Kuan yin says:
“If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Moving, be like water. Still, be like a mirror. Respond as an echo.”
One asks, how can this be so? The answer is simple. The Way is in constant accord with all other things. To be like a droplet of water flowing down life’s current unconcerned with the events around you, only going along for the ride.
Following life’s current, not swimming upstream against things as they should be. Unconcerned with using eyes and ears or the mind to find the way to follow. Always letting events determine whatever outcome may come. Seeing without sight. Hearing without ears. Knowing without knowledge. Where then, can be the way?
The gatekeeper Kuan yin reminds us:
“Peer at it in front of you suddenly it is behind you. Use it, and it will fill every quarter of the void; neglect it, and you will never know where it is. It is not something that the presence of the mind can dismiss and can bring nearer. It is grasped only by one who grasps it in silence and lets it mature naturally.
To know without passion, be able but not do is truly knowing and truly being able. Discard ignorance and how can you feel passion? Discard inability and what can you do?”
To remain as the dirt beneath your feet as you walk. Yet doing nothing just doing by being. Knowing that without the dirt or earth there could be no flowers to beautify your surroundings nor food to sustain you. Remaining forever constant, simply in nature’s sway. 3/26/95
67. Dan Tzu
I had a dream of going back to Lamar. Back to the place of my father and grandmother.
That somehow this would bring me closer to a place to call home. A place and time where comfort in all things would be but a forgone conclusion. That I would call this special place Dan Tzu.
That I would establish a thriving farm and business with orchards of apples, peaches, pears, and plums. With pumpkins, strawberries and Christmas trees people could come to pick and choose from. That there would be gardens full of beautiful flowers with greenhouses full of trays of tomatoes, peppers, petunias, and impatiens. Herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary, and lavender. That this would be a place of love and harmony for family and friends to come and go at their leisure. To work without knowing it is work and to know joy and sadness and taking all as it may come from one day to the next.
To be back with the nature that I came in with. An innocence that could know no pain or suffering. To fish at the pond once again. To spend time enjoying the satisfaction found on the banks of the lake behind Grandma’s again, just fishing. Just passing time.
Suddenly awake, I discover that I am just dreaming. But could the dream be that different than if it had all really happened? As if this place known as Dan Tzu really existed. That everything imagined in the dream had in fact occurred. After the fact, looking back, could there really have been a difference?
Could being lost in time and place make any difference in the journey that must be made in the end? Having dreamed it hasn’t it occurred. Could time spent filling in the details have made any difference? Just as where you are now in remembering it, could it have mattered if it were only just a dream? 3/26/95
(I wrote the above while still living in Massachusetts in March 1995 six weeks before moving to Florida where I lived for twenty years until 2015 when we returned to Springfield and about forty miles as the crow flies from the farm in Lamar…)
68. Tranquil Abiding
Finding peace of mind from within. Striving for contentment while staying within yourself with simple simplicity and an innate sense of modesty. Finding a certain strength of character to not be challenged nor surrender to the provocative that leads to an affluent or comfortable lifestyle or way of life.
As you find the natural temperament within yourself, the stronger your will and capacity to endure hardship. With this, you will gain enthusiasm and forbearance laying a solid foundation for spiritual progress to develop a singleness of mind and penetrating insight.
Aspire only to tranquil abiding. Strive for and achieve a sense of contentment and modesty and an ethically sound and disciplined way of life. In thinking about disciples, it cannot be imposed from outside. But must come from within yourself. Discipline should be based on a clear awareness of its value and a degree of introspection and mindfulness. Once ingrained, it becomes automatic or self-imposed. You then become free to develop alertness and mindfulness.
When you have developed these two basic factors of awakening, then you can attain singleness of mind. Have no personal involvements or obligations that will direct your attention from the path you must now follow.
Transcend the limits of your human existence. Forever losing your identity and endeavoring to take care of your ultimate aspiration. Understand the role of attachments and clinging and use them in letting go. With little or no obligation and involvement remain free to fly away.
(From excerpts of an article in the May 1995 issue of the Shambhala Sun by the Dalai Lama with interjections by DCD 4/12/95)
69. Forever leaving yourself behind
Forever leaving yourself behind with no attachments to speak of. Always forgetting things while you just leave them behind. When small, always losing your glasses. Never paying attention to where you set them down. As with a BB gun lost while on a journey around the lake in Lamar with Danny Johnston when you were ten. You set it down on the ground somewhere and left it behind.
Later receiving a twenty-two rifle for Christmas where you were sixteen and shooting a woodpecker. Feeling great sadness. Putting the gun away never to be shot again. Just leaving it behind.
Becoming interested in politics. Campaigning for Jimmy Carter in Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois in 1976. Getting memorabilia then forgetting it, leaving it behind. Later running for state representative, winning, and feeling great things that you may accomplish with a campaign slogan “He cares”. Then losing my father, my stepfather, and my election two years later. Tremendous loss leaving all behind.
Working on the west side helping neighbors help themselves. With no concern for salary. VISTA volunteers making as much or more than I. Doing important things. Then after four years leaving all, you can do is done and it’s time to go as you are forever leaving yourself behind. Never concerned with fitting in with those around you. Always seen as different. Always quiet with hardly ever anything to say. Just remaining quiet. Without the need or desire to wonder why.
Always knowing that you are on the edge of something beyond yourself. Beyond time. Getting a job in a city should last forever. Leaving you and Marie secure. Then losing it as if you have finally left behind who you thought you were forever. Never to be seen again.
Finally, without identity. Being where you are in time, but not making any appearances, just the same. In the end you have just awakened, as you continue to leave yourself behind. 4/13/95
70. Chapter Five – The Questions of T’ang
71. Introduction… Simply to remain indifferent
Remaining indifferent to time and space. If the universe is infinite, then where can heaven and earth begin and end. Can human intelligence and perception begin to know all there is to become? What can remain outside the realm of human reasoning?
What is truth but a prolonged assault on the limitations of everyday knowledge? Questioning myths, legends, and customs ingrained over time. Questioning authority ‑ even Confucius. What can one make of something called common sense? All the while Confucius attempts to end for all time, the time-honored mythology enjoyed and known to all.
In the end, the Tao delights in the extraordinary as it challenges the lack of imagination and the adherence to order, and structure demanded by the Confucians.
As in the Tao, we attempt to recover an inner vision or a reversion to what may appear childlike or a simple return to innocence.
What could be known as an end to any discussion when the universe is immeasurable? When the cosmos serves as a place for the extraordinary, how can anything be seen but possible and likely to occur? What can this relativity of judgment be when everything is bigger than some things and smaller than others? What are reasonable differences if they are held good by some standards and bad by others? Is this not precisely the point?
Chuang Tzu continually reminds us that it is useless to conceive alternatives because neither can be right or wrong. What can be big or small? In the eyes of who and what can be made of common sense? In the end, the Tao delights in the extraordinary as it challenges the lack of imagination and the adherence to order, and structure demanded by the Confucians.
If everything has no beginning and no ending and simply changes in form according to space and time, then remaining indifferent is the only true path to understanding. If it is useless as Chuang says to seek alternatives because neither can be right or wrong, where can differences lie? 4/13/95
72. Chuang Tzu’s Argument
Who can think things out in analytical terms, and why should they when there can be no judgment? No determination as to what can be right or wrong in our thoughts, actions, or deeds. If alternatives are non‑existent to time and space, what could be the difference? If as the Tao says, nothing is either noble or base (good or bad) and all things say they are noble and another base, then where is judgment?
As conventional wisdom or what may be considered common sense expands, then neither good or bad can stand alone and cannot depend upon themselves. If you try to judge by degree or get the upper hand, then arguing from one position or the other can lead only to seeing one place in relation to another. If judgments are rendered from a position where something is big in relation to smaller things, then all things become big. If you argue that they are small, then all things become small. If you can argue that heaven and earth may be treated as a tiny grain of sand, then all things remain perfect and can be seen as such.
If you make judgments based on the function of something, then if you judge them from those which they have then all things have them. If you judge them from what they lack, then all things lack them. If you know that east and west are opposites, yet cannot do without each other, then is not their functions predetermined?
Faces of terra cotta warriors in Xian
What can all this mean? Can any judgment be made by what is considered rational? Who can know? Who can say?
Just as in arguing tastes. If you argue that to people who consider them to be good, then all things are good. If you argue for those who disapprove or disagree and say they are bad, then they must be bad. If you know of two people who believe the opposite has occurred, one believes he is right and the other wrong, standards of taste will be seen in proportion.
In the end if all things remain equal, or in balance as such, then who can there be to judge right and wrong? And can right and wrong truly exist? 4/14/95
73. What can be limitless or inexhaustible
Who can say which came first, day or night, spring or autumn, birth or death. Who can argue the beginning and ending of things? If at one time there was nothing, how can there be something now? And in the future can one argue or not about something that may have existed in the present?
If there are no absolute beginnings and endings, if there is no limit from which things come into being, then is not the start of one thing the end of another and the end simply the beginning of something else? Can it matter which came first?
If nothing is limitless and as something becomes inexhaustible, then is not results the signature of all things that occur that have ever been. Is that not the crux of it? What makes for this need to try to interpret something (or nothing) present in the void where everything must exist or vanish in the end?
If, as Hui Shih says:
“You daily take away half of a stick a foot long, you will not come to the end of it for ten thousand generations, then has not infinity been established as there must always be a portion, however small, to subtract from?”
If there is nothing limitless outside what is limitless and nothing exhaustible within all which is inexhaustible, and all remains the same it is on the outside or looking in, then who can question when something is to begin and end and what could have come first?
Again, Hui Shih reminds us:
“If the absolutely large has no outside; and is called the largest one and the absolutely small has no inside and therefore must be called the smallest one,” then it must be as Chi of Hsia says: “There is no limit, but neither is there anything limitless. There is no exhausting; but neither is there anything inexhaustible. That is why I know that they are limitless and inexhaustible, yet do not know whether they may be limited and exhaustible.” 4/14/95
74. Finding the Islands of the Blest
What are myths and legends but remembrances of the way we saw things once before in a way that explains the way we wish to see things now that lead to one’s destination.
“In traveling the four seas, the four borderlands, (north, south, east and west) and the four limits (up, down, and side to side) all appear to be the same as where I am today. There appears to be no difference. Therefore, it is safe to say that everything contains something smaller and is contained in something larger without bound or limit. Heaven and earth contain the myriad things and are contained in the same way as something else which contain both the myriad things and heaven and earth and is therefore unbounded and unlimited. Besides, how do I know that beyond heaven and earth there is not a greater heaven and earth”, as Chi of Hsia explains.
Is not all this an attempt to bring sense to words and phrases centuries old? Looking for the paradise of antiquity. Keeping to myths and legends that will show the way. The dragons always leading the procession into immortality and beyond as they come to rest on their Island of the Blest. A sojourn from time spent with the elements and other immortals on clouds in the sky.
As you remain as the artisan. Knowing no limits. Knowing that all things are limitless. Letting your writing be the perfection you find in your own imperfections. That although there remains something large and small in all things you simply remain where you are. With no bounds to your direction and no limits as to whom you will be.
Keeping in mind what the ancients and others recall throughout time. As they come and go as the dragons telling the way that will ultimately set you free.
Remaining simply as one with the myriad things, no better or worse than anything you encounter. Remembering the myths and legends and knowing that they remain the key to the wind blowing you onward to the Island of the Blest. That you are contained in something larger than yourself. That beyond heaven and earth there is the Tao. That as you are blown along in the wind to destinations unknown, the dragons are with you coming home once again to their island in the sea. 4/16/95
75. Extolling Myths
If it is known that the shapes and energies of things differ and are still equal by nature, that none can take the place of another, that all are born perfect in themselves, and each is allotted all that it needs, then how can one know whether they are large, small, or short, similar, or different. Who can know? Who can say? Are stories and myths not extolling feats of great strength and travels of thousands of miles in a day the same whether they are real or imagined?
As the ancient ones of every civilization have passed on the origins of heaven and earth, are these not simply an attempt to give meaning, purpose to life, and explain that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves?
Are not heaven and earth things just as the things within them, and do not things have imperfections. With Nu Kua smelting stones of all five colors to patch up the earth’s flaws and cutting off the feet of the turtle who supports its four corners. Or stories telling of a place east of the Gulf of Chihli, thousands of miles away with its bottomless valley where all the waters pour into the Milky Way.
Or the fifteen giant turtles who carry the five mountains on their lifted heads. Taking turns in three watches, each sixty thousand years long; and the immortal sages who live there. Many of the sages later to be lost when two of the mountains are roped by a giant and taken back to the Kingdom of the Dragon Earl. In God’s anger, he reduces the size of the Earl’s kingdom and the size of its people.
Or the pumalo tree that grows in the countries of Wu and Chu. An evergreen with red fruit that remains sour and causes fits when eaten. However, when planted north of the Hui River it changes into a dwarf orange tree.
All things remaining perfect in their nature, each allotted its needs. What difference be they large, small, or short, similar, or different? What difference can there possibly be? Remaining perfect in an imperfect world. The paradox that all must encounter, all must endure. Is this not what is meant by true striving to find and know perfection only within ourselves? Is this not what the Tao teaches? 4/19/95
76. The Mountains of Tenacious Sincerity
After a lifetime of going around the mountains to get to a place directly in front of him, an old man decided that this was much too far to come and go. That the mountains should be leveled and thrown into the surrounding sea. So that a road straight through could be built and travel to places a distance away could be made much closer. All agreed, except the man’s wife who argued that at the age of ninety he was too weak to raze even the smallest hill.
Soon the work began as he and his sons broke up the stones one at a time and began carrying them to the sea. Those passing by scoffed at the idea. Asking how a man in declining years could damage mountains several thousand feet high, he responded:
“Certainly your mind is set to firm for me ever to penetrate it. Even when I die, I shall have sons surviving me. My sons will beget me more grandsons, my grandsons in their turn will have sons, and these will have more sons and grandsons. My descendants will go on forever, but the mountain will get no bigger. Why should there be any difficulty in leveling it?”
All those doubting the old man’s tenacity were at a loss for words. The mountains spirit began to get irritated at those pecking at their feet and upon checking it out, heard about what was going on and were afraid the old man would not give up.
To be seen with dragons above the clouds Yellow Mountain
They reported the story to God, who was overwhelmed by the sincerity of the old man and his efforts. God commanded that the mountains be moved, one the Shuo Tung the other to Yung Nan. Since that time the area where the old man’s descendants remain is as flat as can be and can be traveled across with ease. The forbidding mountains long gone.
With the strength of one’s sincerity what task can be too overwhelming. 4/19/95
Note: “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move.” – Matthew, The Bible
77. Chasing the Daylights
Kua Fu was boastful of strengths he perceived as more than all other things. Chasing the daylights to the brink of Yu Yuan where the setting sun rests each night.
Holding to an unquestionable thirst he drank the Yellow River and the Wei. Still wanting more he ran northward intending to drink the Great Marsh. But died of thirst before reaching it. The staff he was carrying soaked up what was left of him and grew into the great Tang Forest that eventually covered several thousand miles.
What could this thirst have been? Why was it to consume him and be all‑consuming. Could it have been that this man saw more in himself than was really there? Or that he failed to see all that he already possessed? 4/19/95
78. Sagely Understanding
What can remain within the knowledge of the sage?
The Great Yu Says:
“Within the six directions, inside the four seas, everything is lit by the sun and moon, traversed by the stars, ordered by the four seasons, preside over by the year star. The things which divine intelligence begets differ in shape and in length of life; only the sage can understand their way.”
However, Chi of Hsia says:
“But there are also those which do not need the divine intelligence to beget them, nor the yin and yang to shape them, nor sun and moon to light them; which die young without needing an executioner to kill them, live long without needing anyone to welcome them or see them off; which do not need the five grains for food, nor floss silk for clothing, nor boat and car for travel. Their way is to be as they are of themselves, it is beyond the sage’s understanding.”
Which can be correct? One says only the sage can understand the ways of the universe. The other says that there are those who do not need direction, as their way is to be as they are without any intervention. Beyond the reach of understanding.
Could it be that both are correct? That the ways of the world are not to consume the time of the great sages of the day. That the sage is to remain in quiet contemplation and refrain from earthly endeavors so that he may keep to a clear path to true understanding. Is not the way of the Tao to let everything find its own place without contention? To let everything continue as it should knowing that both good and bad will occur in the world and that all will find their true way.
If something is to remain above the understanding of the sage, then should the sage simply not understand this, remain within himself, and continue his way. 4/20/95
79. Where can we go with a satisfied mind
There is a land far north known as Utmost North. Within its borders lies something special. This place has no wind and rain, frost, and dew; it does not breed any species of beast or bird, fish or insect, grass, or tree. It is flat and surrounded by high mountains.
Except for one mountain in the middle of the kingdom known as Urn Peak which is shaped like a pot with a small mouth. On its summit is a cave known as the cave of plenty, out of which bubbles the waters of the Divine Spring which smell sweeter than orchids and taste like nectar or wine. Four streams flow down the mountain in each direction irrigating every corner of the country.
The climate is mild and there are no epidemics. The people are gentle and compliant by nature, do not quarrel or contend, have soft hearts and weak bones, they are never proud or envious. Old and young live as equals, and no one is ruler or subject; men and women mingle freely without go betweens and betrothal presents. Living close to the water they have no reason to plow or sow, nor to weave or clothe themselves, since the climate is so warm. They live out their span of one hundred years without sickness and early deaths and the people proliferate in countless numbers, knowing pleasure and happiness, ignorance of decay, old age, sorrow, and anguish. By custom they are lovers of music; they hold hands and take turns singing ballads and never stop singing all day.
Hungry and tired, they drink the Divine Spring and are soothed and refreshed body and mind, and so drunk, if they drink too much, they sleep for ten days. When they bathe and wash their hair in the Divine Spring their complexion grows sleek and moist, and the fragrant smell does not leave them for ten days.
The King of Chou passed this country while traveling north and failed to return home for three years. When he returned to his royal household he yearned for this country, became restless, and distracted. Refusing his wine and his meat, never calling his concubines; it was several months before he recovered. As he and others in his court discussed this wonderful place and planned another visit, they were admonished by his subjects:
“You will be leaving the broad and populous country of Chi. The splendors of its mountains, its civilized manners and morals, its beautiful robes, and ornaments. Beauty and enchantment fill your harem, loyalty and merit fill your Court. Raise your voice and a million-foot soldiers rise. A glance, a lift of the hand and the other states obey you. Why should you long for someplace else, abandoning the alters of Chi to follow a nation of barbarians. This is a senile whim, why should you go?”
In hearing this the King responded:
“Of course, this is beyond another’s understanding. I am afraid I shall never return to that country. Why care for the wealth of Chi? Why be concerned about what others think or say? Why this desire for things and a paradise that may not truly exist except in our dreams, of something that we can never attain or have? Why have these desires that create attachments and a universe of fantasy of things unreal that we cannot have? Was this so‑called land of the Utmost North real or imagined?”
Could it have existed, or was it the supreme paradise we want to create and come to know? Is not what we have in the here and now good enough? Even though most do not live as kings, don’t we all create our own universe? Where can this kingdom of heaven be? Who can know the answer? Who can say? 4/21/95
80. Sifting through memories of an Age gone by
Adapting to the elements. People living within the constraints found within their nature and nature itself. Satisfied to make do with what is provided.
In the south people cut their hair short and go naked, in the north they wear turbans and fur, and, in the middle, they wear caps and skirts. Throughout the nine regions people finding a way to live. Whether they farm or trade, hunt, or fish. Their way becoming as second nature as wearing furs in winter and thin cloth in summer. Traveling by boat on the water and by cart by land. Everything done and grasped without speech and achieved by nature. Without knowing how, simply remembered.
In another place, in the country of Che Mu, things are different. The first son is cut up and eaten so that the mother will be made more fertile. When a grandfather dies, the grandmother is carried off and abandoned as all say that it not right to live with the wife of a ghost. In another place in a country known as Yen Jen, when a parent or kinsman dies, the person’s flesh must be stripped from his body and thrown away before his bones are buried.
And finally, in a place known as Yi Chu, when someone dies those who are left must collect a pile of firewood and burn him on it, so that when the smoke rises, they can say he has risen into the sky. All the above practices were to be considered the official and established customs among the people. Who can judge them strange? Who can be right?
What can myths and legends be, but stories of how those of long ago lived and died. As we sift through the memories of those who came before us. Sorting through the remnants of an age gone by. Establishing constraints and practices to help us to live and to die. Learning new and better ways as we go along with no one better or worse in the end. 4/22/95
81. The Ultimate Give and Take
Should not everything remain in perfect balance? Simply looking for the yin and yang of all things before making a final appearance. Matching the give and take that is expected with nature with the Tao always having the final say. Defining problems and finding solutions as those following Mo Tzu are to tell one day all in the Mohist Canons.
As with Chan Ho, making a fishing line from a single thread of silk, a rod from bamboo and baiting it with rice to go fishing. He catches a fish large enough to fill his cart after casting his line in the middle of a swift river several hundred feet deep. The line did not snap, the hook did not straighten out, and his rod did not bend because he let out and drew in the line following the give and pull of the water. The King of Ch’u marveled when he heard of this story and summoned him to tell how this feat was accomplished.
Chan Ho explained:
“I once heard my late father speak of Pu Chu Tzu’s archery with a line attached to his arrow. Using a weak bow and thin line and shaking them so that they would ride the wind, he was able to bring down two black cranes who rode on the edge of a dark cloud. He could do this because his attention was focused and the movement of his bow and arrow equalized that of the cranes who also were riding the wind. I simply followed this teaching with my fishing.
After five years of effort, I learned all there is to know about this way. When I am fishing, I think of nothing but the fish. When I cast the line and sink the hook, I do not pull too hard nor give too easily so that nothing can disturb it. When the fish see the bait, they think of nothing and swallow it without suspecting.”
Chan Ho continued by saying that this is how to use weak things to control strong ones and light ones to control heavy ones. If the Empire could be ruled this way what could be of trouble? Upon hearing this, the king was overjoyed and much relieved. 4/24/95
82. Mastering the music of the seasons
There once was a famous musician named Hu Pa who was considered an expert at playing the lute. When he played, the birds danced, and the fishes jumped from the water with joy. A young man heard of this story and left his family to become an apprentice of the famous musician. The apprentice, whose name was Wen, practiced for three years laying his fingers on the lute’s strings to tune them, but could never finish the music that lay in front of him. The master musician Hu Pa told him that he might as well go home. Wen put aside his lute and answered:
“It is not the strings that I cannot tune nor the piece that I cannot finish. What I have in mind is not the strings. Unless I grasp it inwardly in my heart it will not answer from the instrument outside me. That is why I dare not take out my hand to stir the strings. Let me stay a little longer and try to do better.”
Soon afterward Hu Pa asked Wen how he was doing, and Wen responded that he thought he had it.
As if the notes on the music scale were associated with the four seasons, Wen touched the Autumn note in Spring and suddenly the fruit ripened on the bushes and trees. When Autumn came, he touched the Spring string on his lute and warm breezes came gently forward and the bushes and trees burst into flower. During the Summer he touched the Winter string and frost, and snow came with the rivers and lakes abruptly freezing over. And when Winter came, he touched the summer note and the sun shone brightly melting all the ice at once. When he played all four together a fortunate wind blew, auspicious clouds drifted, the sweet dew fell, and fresh springs bubbled.
So masterful was his playing that Hu Pa responded:
“Even the music masters who can cause droughts and warm the climates of the far north can do no better. They would have to put their lutes away and follow behind you. Your heart is pure and nature has responded and acted accordingly.” 4/26/95
83. Woeful songs of Joy
Who can sing and bring forth the emotions and feelings of all so that others too are caught up in tone and rhythm?
The great musician and singer of songs Chin Ching allowed a young man named Hsieh Tan to study under him. Before long, after thinking he had learned it all, the young man left and set off for home. Chin Ching did not object. However, as he left, he sang such a sad song that the sound shook the trees in the entire province and the echoes stopped the clouds above. So stirred by these events was Hseih Ten that he returned to study under Chin Ching and never thought of going home again.
Relaying another incident to a friend, Chin Ching told of a woman who while traveling became hungry and traded her songs for a meal. So enthralled by her singing were the bystanders that for three days after she left, they all thought she was still there.
Chin Ching continued that as this singer and writer of songs, her name was Erh of Han, passed a local establishment the innkeeper insulted her. She began singing woefully in long drawn-out notes. Everyone upon hearing her song wept sadly and could not eat for three days. The citizens of the town ran after her, apologizing for the rudeness of only one man in their town. In her joy, Ern of Han sang another song which brought much happiness and dancing and hand‑clapping where only a brief time earlier all were filled with sadness. Afterwards, as she left, they gave her many presents and food to eat along the way.
Even as we speak today, we remember this traveling minstrel at special occasions such as weddings and funerals by singing her songs of joy and sadness. Everyone takes their cue from their memory of the Erh of Han.
Both the young man who remained to study under Chin Ching and the traveling singer of songs, Erh of Han were to become immortal. Because they could sing the songs that made everyone upon hearing them both laugh and cry, shake the trees around them and cause clouds to stop upon hearing them just to listen. Reminding spirits who heard them of their home once again. 4/27/95
84. Matching ambition with energy
Two men Kung Ho and Chi Ying were ill and after much searching found a doctor named Pien Chiao to treat them. After helping them recover from their illnesses that were evident on the outside, the doctor informed them that they both suffered an illness that had been with them from birth. That these illnesses had grown inside them as they had grown to become men and he could find a cure for them if they wished him to find it.
The men then asked the doctor why he thought this was the case and he responded: “Kung Ho, your ambition is greater than your energy so that you are capable of forming plans, but seldom come to decisions. Whereas, Chi Ying, your energy is greater than your ambition so that you rarely think ahead and come to grief by acting irresponsible. If I exchange your hearts, you both will benefit by matching your ambitions with your energy”.
Pien Chiao then drugged the two men with wine and they both lost consciousness for three days. He opened their chests, exchanged their hearts, and applied the appropriate medicine and they were soon as well as before.
When fully recovered they both set off for home. However, Kung Hu returned to Chi Ying’s house and took possession of his wife and children, who of course did not recognize him. Chi Ying did the same returning to Kung Hu’s house, took possession of Kung’s wife and children and of course they didn’t recognize him as well.
The two families went to court against each other and called on doctor Pien Chiao to explain. Upon hearing the explanation all parties were satisfied. Kung Ho and Chi Ying went back to their new homes and families.
As they all believed a person’s ability rested in their heart, Kung Ho’s new energy now allowed him to follow through on his plans and come to the right decision on things. And Chi Ying’s ambitions were now checked with energy to match them. Now understanding what had happened, both families were much happier and prospered greatly. 4/28/95
85. Artificial Intelligence
There was a craftsman named Yen‑Shih who made something that appeared to be a man made of leather, wood, glue, and lacquer. On close examination on the inside the liver, gall bladder, heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, intestines, and stomach and on the outside the muscles, bones, limbs, joints, skin, teeth, and hair were all artificial but complete without exception.
While King Mu was traveling through the countryside, he was introduced to the craftsman Yen‑Shih, who asked to show the king his invention. He was invited to return the next day and was asked who the man was that he had brought with him. Yen‑Shih responded that it was simply something he had made that could do tricks.
The king looked at it in amazement; it was striding quickly, looking up and down, undoubtedly it was a man. When the craftsman pushed its cheek, it sang a tune; when he clasped its hand it danced in time; it did innumerable tricks. Whatever it pleased the king to ask. The king really thought it was a man and watched it with his favorite concubine Song‑chi and the rest of his entourage.
As the show was about to end the man doing all the tricks winked at the concubine in waiting to the king’s left and right making the king furious. In his fury he ordered Yen‑Shih executed right then and there. Terrified, the craftsman began taking apart the contraption showing that it was not real. That it was just bits and pieces that he had put together. He then put it back together and it was the same as before. The king tried taking out its heart and the mouth could not speak, tried taking out the liver and the eyes could not see, tried taking out the kidneys and the feet could not walk. With this the king was finally satisfied.
The king then questioned whether it was within man’s capacity to recreate that of the Creator, had the apparatus loaded into his second car and took it with him. When others heard of the artificial man they could only stop and wonder. Hearing of such immense talent the great men of the day could only bow and stoop to lesser things. 5/28/95
86. Hanging a flee from a yak’s tail
A friend of Lieh Tzu’s was known as a great archer. Kan Ying was so well known among the animals and birds that when they saw him coming, they would lay down on the ground until he passed by in fear that he would shoot them. An apprentice of Kan Ying named Fei Wei learned archery from him quickly surpassing the master, then taught Chi Chang the art of the bow. Fei Wei told Chi Chang that he must learn not to blink before he could start talking about archery.
Chi Chang went home and lay down on his back under his wife’s loom with his eye next to the pedal. After two years he did not blink even when the sharp point dropped to the corner of his eye. He told Fei Wei, who replied: “You are not ready yet. I shall not be satisfied until you learn how to look. Come back and tell me when you can see the small as if it were big, the faint as if it were distinct.”
Chi Chang hung a flea at his window by a hair from a yak’s tail and watched from a distance with the sun behind it. Within ten days it was growing larger; at the end of three years, it was as big as a cartwheel. When he observed other things in the same way, they were all hills and mountains. He then shot at the flea with a bow and arrow piercing the flea’s heart without snapping the thread. He reported this to Fei Wei who exclaimed: “You’ve got it!” After Chi Chang learned all that Fei Wei could teach him, he knew that Fei Wei was his only match, so he determined to kill him.
The two men met in the valley and began shooting at each other. Their aim was so true that their arrows met halfway between them and fell to the ground. Later when Fei Wei was not looking, Chi Chang secretly took an arrow and shot it at Fei Wei. Fei caught the arrow in his teeth and shot it at Chi. Chi ran around a tree with the arrow following close behind. So overwhelmed was each one by the other man’s talents that they both set their bows aside, bowed to each other and became father and son. They vowed to never reveal their art to anyone. 4/30/95
87. The Charioteer
When a young man known as Tsau Fu began practicing learning how to control a chariot and the horses that pulled it his teacher Tai Tou paid him no mind. For three years he behaved with great humility and still his teacher told him nothing. Finally, when his behavior was straight and his mind clear, his mentor told him a version of an old poem told to him by his master that had passed down from antiquity: “The son of a good bow maker must begin by making baskets. The son of a good blacksmith must begin by making chisels. To drive a team of horses and control a chariot you must first learn to run like me.”
Tsao Fu responded that he would obey whatever Tai Tou would command. Tai Tou then set up a row of posts whose tops were well above ground and were just large enough to stand on. They could only be reached by running in stride, not by stepping from post to post. He ran backwards and forwards stepping from one to the next without stumbling, and soon, after Tsau Fu had practiced for three days he too had the post jumping down perfect.
“How nimble you are”, said Tai Tou, “you have learned quickly. Driving a chariot is the same. You have been able to respond with your mind to what you felt on your feet. Applying this to charioteering, you must control the bridle from the point where it meets the bit and pull tight or slacken feeling the corners of the lips; decisions must come from your heart and come naturally from your hand. What you feel with your heart will then accord with the horse’s temper. In this way you can advance and withdraw, wheel around as exactly as a compass. Take to the road on long journeys and have strength to spare, you will have mastered the chariot.”
Tsao Fu’s mentor Tai Tou continued: “If you can respond with the bridle to what you feel in the bit, with the hand to what you feel in the bridle, with your mind to the feel in your hand, then you will see without eyes and have no need to goad; remain relaxed in mind and straight in posture, holding the six bridles without confusing them, you will place twenty four hooves precisely where you want them and swing around, advance and withdraw with perfect precision.
Only then, will you be able to drive carving a rut no wider than the chariot’s wheel, on a cliff which drops at the edge of the horse’s hoof. Never noticing that mountains and valleys are steep, and the plains and marshlands are flat, seeing them all as the same. Remember all this, as there is no more as I will have nothing more ever to say on the matter. There is nothing more to learn.”
Tsao Fu went on to become the greatest charioteer ever known. Even surpassing his Master, Tai Tau. He could handle the reins better than anyone as he knew the horse’s path before their feet treaded upon it. Just as when jumping to and fro from the posts without falling. Success was now such a part of who he had become, how could he know failure? 5/5/95
88. The swords of the Yellow Emperor
What is to be said of strengths and weaknesses, and who can know the difference? Holding grudges can only cloud the way. A man named Hei Luan had a grudge against Chiu Ping and killed him. The dead man’s son, Lai Ten, sought some means of avenging his father’s death. He was known for having a fierce temper but was considered a weakling. Despite his weakness, he swore he would find some way to seek revenge.
Hei Luan, on the other hand, had a very mean disposition. With the strength of a hundred men his body appeared to all to be more than human. Proud of his strength, he considered Lai Ten as nothing more than a chick or fledging, a trifle as such. Lai Ten was unsure how he would ever be able to confront such a tyrant.
A friend of Lai Ten told him of an old man who possessed the treasured swords of the Yellow Emperor he had won in a battle he had fought many years earlier. This grandfather of Kung Chou of Wei told of the story where upon having these swords a small boy could defeat a whole army. Why not go ask for them?
Lai Tan found the old gentleman and offered his wife and children to him if he could use one of the powerful swords. The old man responded that he had three swords and told Lai Ten that he could use whichever he liked. But that they could not be used to kill anyone, and that Lai must understand the function of the great swords before he would be allowed to use them, and said:
“The first is called ‘Container of Light’. Look for it and it is invisible, swing it and you cannot tell it is there. When it hits something there is no cut whatsoever. It passes right through its victim without him knowing it. The second is called ‘Receiver of Shadows’. If you try to scrutinize it with your back to the sun in the twilight just before dawn, you may see a semblance of something, but no one can recognize its shape. When it hits something, there is a hissing sound, and it passes through its victim unharmed. The third is called ‘Tempered by Night’. By day you see its shadow, but not its glitter. By night you see its glitter, but not its shape. When it hits something, it passes through with a tearing sound with the wound closing as soon as the blade has passed. The victim feels pain, but there is no blood on the blade.” The old man continued: “The swords of the Yellow Emperor have been in their cases for five hundred years while their seals have remained unbroken.”
Lai Ten decided to use the third one described as ‘Tempered by Night’. Then the old and frail man made him take back his wife and children, fasted with him for seven days and then presented Lai Ten with the sword. Only then did Lai return home with his family.
Lai Ten then went looking for Hei Luan with his sword in his hand at a time when he knew Hei would be lying drunk as he did each afternoon in his courtyard. Lai Ten then slashed him three times from neck to waist as Hei Luan lay still and remained unmoved during the attack. Thinking of him dead, Lai Ten quickly left and met Hei Luan’s son at the gate and slashed him three times with his invisible sword as if he was beating the air. As he dashed out Hei Luan’s son asked him why he was beating the air in such a strange manner. Lai Ten left remembering that the sword could not kill another man and wondered what good his efforts could have had.
When Hei Luan awoke, he chastised his wife for allowing him to sleep uncovered as he now had a sore throat and his waist hurt. When his son complained of Lai Ten’s visit and of his waving his hand three times in front of him and that his throat, arms, and legs hurt as well, they both knew a curse had been rightfully delivered. Lai Ten had avenged his father’s wrongful death. 5/28/95
89. Forever testing Destiny
Traveling a short distance westward, everything serving as a vehicle for change. With the only thing lost the identity of who you thought you once were. A stopover, as such, as you prepare as Lao Tzu would do before ultimately moving on.
Concentrating only on what the Tao teaches. To simplify and remain as one with all. With no contention, no ego. Maintaining your breath in the ebb and flow of the yin and yang of all things. Remaining focused on your writing.
Putting your house in order, as you prepare to journey south to new horizons. Playing the role as the consummate bureaucrat that even Confucius would be proud of. Planning for another community once again. Helping to bring order to the situation as a Town Planner. If just for an instant in time. Using the experience to help lose the attachments that you once felt were the key to your identity. Now knowing that all that was ‑ was simply an illusion. A dream to be looked back upon before moving on.
In the end taking nothing important with you but thoughts you have entered on your notepad of life. Everything encountered, both good and bad, simply experiences to be played out with no real importance to end results yet to come. Except that which is revealed within yourself.
Forever losing attachments as you proceed ever closer each day. Leaving behind for someone else seeds to be planted, landscaping to be finished and flowers and scrubs to be added to beds here and there. Your present address soon to be a memory to be cataloged and noted as simply an important stop you needed to find out who you really are. Trials and tribulations are sent to test the essence of your very soul, as you now linger only long enough to say goodbye.
Living only a vehicle for letting go of who you thought you once were. The ultimate paradox being the more you lose, the more you must gain. As Lieh Tzu and your newfound friends look on knowingly as you now travel with them to higher clouds where you will be eternally protected. With no ego, no attachments, no clinging to things. Delighting in simply letting go. All new beginnings and endings serve simply as the vehicle for letting go.
In the end taking nothing important with you but thoughts you have entered on your notepad of life. Everything encountered, both good and bad, simply experiences to be played out with no real importance to end results yet to come. Except that which is revealed within yourself. As you now travel upwards, waiting only to discover what you already know, but has simply been waiting to be revealed. 5/10/95
90. Traveling southward
Traveling southward. The decision made to leave. Endings leading to new origins. Unsure of any consequences that may come. As you stay only on the edge where the dragons lead to places yet unseen and unknown. Assured only of end results that are yet to come. Losing attachments and what was once considered important, the only order along the way.
Traveling southward. Packing up and moving on. Remnants of who you once were to simply be left behind. With things brought along inadvertently that remind you of the past soon to be discarded. Nothing is taken along for the ride except that which you need. Leaving everything else behind. Remaining focused on finishing what you and Lieh Tzu have started. Getting ready to move to higher destinations and inner accolades that your endeavors and your destiny bring to you.
To be working as a planner again for another city. Its purpose to put into practice the efforts of the consummate Confucian. Keeping only to what you must now know is the ultimate step along your way. Working only to be set free, dismissing obligations as you prepare for the final call. Having come through travails whose only purpose has been to disclose your true identity that opens all doors that will forever matter.
Your essence now transcending your mortal self. Now living and dying only to be born again. Constantly relearning what you have known all along. Only to be forgotten again and again. Traveling southward with your place firmly established through your writings. Stay invisible to all those around you as all that is important continues to be made clear. 5/28/95
91. Chapter Six – Endeavor and Destiny
92. Introduction… Shaping events along the Way
Keeping to the refrain of doing nothing. While letting the spontaneity of each situation come forward as the ultimate invitation to remain at peace and as one with nature. Life’s events either stream forward of themselves spontaneously or as the end results of one’s efforts or endeavors. Who can say which will lead the way?
Where is the dividing line between what can be considered as heaven’s intent and where a man’s actions will begin and end?
The Confucians tell us that whether our actions are right or wrong depend upon ourselves. But whether they lead to wealth, poverty, a long life or early death is only for heaven to say. While the Mohists claim that wealth and long life also depend on us since they are heaven’s reward for righteous and moral conduct. Both having their own designs on what should become of our destiny’s moral endeavors.
However, should you not remain free of questions of destiny knowing all efforts of endeavor are useless in determining one’s fate? What can benefit and harm, right and wrong come to if all have the same results in the long run. The sage knows to take the road to spontaneity. That the Tao teaches to act instinctively. To know without knowing. To see without the need to see. To hear without needing to hear. To touch without needing to touch. To know what needs to be said but remain silent. Simply to be. Remaining lost to space and time.
Be the first to respond without conceiving alternatives. With your actions natural to the events swirling around you. Commit to your own essence of an unpremeditated oneness through simple acts of kindness. What can then come forth, but your own predictability? Training yourself so as to allow your actions to be so of themselves as to happen without conscious thought. Conscious choice and endeavor becoming one so that any destiny is assured. So that there becomes no choice only our natural response. 5/30/95
93. Keeping an empty mind
Having no need for principles. Forever staying true to the external situation. Bringing with you no regrets from the past or thoughts of any future that may come. Perfectly concentrated only on the consequences of spontaneous action while remaining always in perfect discipline.
Never quite sure if the appropriate action to be taken is an act of free will or the intent of heaven. Achievements remain outside of our control as they depend solely on the situation at hand. Choices to to be made without choosing to do anything.
Men and women throughout the ages gaining infamy as they are praised for making the correct decisions under difficult circumstances. When they had no choice. Knowing in the end that what was done could only have been a mistake if they believed there was some benefit in doing otherwise. The Tao taught us to empty our mind of all subjective principles, attend to the external situation at hand with perfect concentration and respond without seeking alternatives.
How can we know prejudice if our mind has no preconceived notion of right and wrong, benefit and harm? Why should subjective preferences be allowed to distract our vision? If we allow our mind to reflect or mirror the situation, then how can alternatives or choice exist? What distinction can there possibly be?
The sage knows the proper way simply because no other alternative is free to come forward. He remains eternally unobstructed to do whatever comes naturally to him. The essence of true spontaneity. Striving only to maintain the oneness found in each instant or moment as it comes and goes.
Remain as an inanimate object. Free from whatever the world brings to your doorstep. Staying only as a repository or empty vessel. Filling spontaneously when something is poured into it. Until then, just remaining as thin air waiting to be displaced again and again. 5/31/95
94. The ride of your Life
As there are no victims of fate only fate less victims, how can endeavor and destiny ever come together as one? Which can have greater importance and can either be as important as they would be made out to be?
Throughout time and over a multitude of generations, beyond our ability to count, each has argued its greater value over the other. Destiny verses endeavor, endeavor verses destiny. Each one forever locked in a battle of one-upmanship. Endeavor scoffing that nothing destiny could accomplish would have as great an impact as it.
Endeavor arguing that whether a man lives or dies young, has high rank or low, is rich or poor, all this remains within his reach. What could be more important? Destiny responded that if the above were true then why should endeavor grant long life to one and early death to another. Why should the sage be allowed to fail and the villain to succeed, demean an able man and exalt a fool, impoverish good men and enrich a bad man?
If, as we say something is destined to occur, then how can it be directed by one’s endeavors? Does not long life and short, failure and success, high rank and low, wealth and poverty come about without one’s prompting? Are they not just allowed to occur? Therefore, how could someone become a victim of fate?
If as Lieh Tzu says, there can be no conscious choice, then do we not simply develop the capacity to respond spontaneously to life’s events with little or no concern for end results.
If you have transcended the personality that becomes you and allowed yourself to flow through life’s events as you would meandering down a stream letting the current push you along, then have not your endeavors been allowed to simply occur? Should not your true destiny be found following along beside you? 6/2/95
95. Trusting heaven’s gift
Each person brings with them from eternity only two attributes to be known as worth and luck. Both considered the ultimate gift from heaven. Each one able to come forward as we prepare for our life’s travels. Both knowing that it will only be how we perceive our own worth as we come to know success and failure that luck comes to visit and decides to stay.
Two men who had known each other as children and grown up together were alike in every way. They were known as Pei Kung and Hsi Men. However, as alike as they seemed, they were very different. Pei Kung one day asked Hsi Men:
“We are of the same generation, but it is you whom others help to succeed. We look the same, but it is you whom they love. We talk the same, but it is you whom they employ; we act the same, but it is you whom they trust. If we work together, it is you whom they promote. If we farm together, it is you whom they enrich, if we trade together, it is you who profits. I wear course wool and eat plain millet, live in a thatch hut and go out on foot. While you wear brocades and eat fine millet and meat, live in a house with linked rafters and when you go out travel by car with four horses. At home you ignore me and in public treat me with arrogance. We never call on each other although we are neighbors and never travel together when we go out. Is this because you think your worth greater than mine?”
His Men responded that while he was unsure of the answer as to why he succeeded in everything while Pei Kung failed, it could only be because there was so much more to himself than there would ever be in Pei Kung. Deeply depressed, Pei Kung started home and came across Master Tong Kuo who asked him where he could be coming from with such a forlorn look about him. Pei Kung relayed to Master Tung Kuo his predicament and how Hsi Men succeeded in everything while he had failed.
Master Tung determined that he had some questions for Hsi Men and set out to find out for himself why Hsi Men had humiliated Pei Kung so deeply. Upon finding him Hsi Men arrogantly repeated what he had said to Pei Kung.
Master Tung Kuo answered: “You have mistaken the gifts that Heaven brings us. Saying that there is something within you that Pei Kung does not possess misses the point. What has occurred is that you both are not equally gifted.”
Continuing, Master Tung Kuo said: “Your friend simply has more worth than luck, while you possess more luck than worth. Your success is not due to wisdom, nor his failure due to foolishness. Both are gifts from Heaven. Yet you remain presumptuous because you have more luck than worth, while Pei Kung remains ashamed although he has more worth than you. You both have missed the truth that Heaven has given each of you. Those things must be as they are, that true virtue can only be found within each of us for ourselves. That Heaven’s gift is to find our own place in the world it has given to us. To know that worth and luck can only be manifested within each of us when we truly identify what we have been given. With no advantage to be found by keeping another from realizing his own destiny that Heaven has given to him as well.”
Understanding this, when Pei Kung returned home, the course wool that he wore was as warm as the fur of a fox or badger. The broad beans served to him were as tasty as rice or millet, the shelter of his hut was as sturdy as a wide hall and the wicket cart on which he rode was as handsome as an ornamental carriage. He remained content for the rest of his life, and no longer knew which was honored or despised, Hsi Men or himself. Pei Kung had simply been unaware of his own worth. He now knew that the secret to success was to simply live within himself. Since it had been all he possessed for so long he could easily identify its value. Once he had done so his luck began to change.
While Hsi Men could only doubt why he had been so lucky, he could now only question his own worthiness and his luck too began to change. Both had finally awakened to the reality of Heaven’s gift and soon found the value of sharing their God‑given talents. Now seeing their destiny relied on each other, they could live in peace as they understood what had been given by each of them. 6/4/95
96. Doing nothing more than the right thing by all, or the Sage’s dilemma
Who can stay in favor and and who can fall when we neglect them? Why can it be that some we initially favor, we later neglect and those we begin by neglecting we later choose to favor. How can we judge others by the circumstance’s life brings to their doorstep?
Two friends who served the sons of the duke got caught in the middle of much intrigue when the matter came up as to who would succeed the throne. The two sons, named Chiu and Hsiao‑po later fought with Hsiao‑po eventually winning the throne. Their closest friends and allies Kuan Chung and Pao Shu ya were caught in the middle and eventually had to take sides or be put to death for favoring the wrong son, Kuan Chang, who had served Chui and Pao Shu ya who served Hsiao‑po.
After Hsiao‑po succeeded the throne, he decided it best to have his brother Chui killed. Which he did and to have Kuan Chung imprisoned. Pao Shu ya then spoke up for Kuan Chung saying that he was too capable to dismiss and was able to rule the State. He added that a man worthy of ruling the State carried no grudges. A man capable of serving one master is certainly capable of serving another. He continued by telling Hsiao po, now the duke, that he would never obtain the Imperial throne he sought without Kuan Chung ‑ he must be let go.
Kuan Chung was released from prison, his chains undone. Hsiao‑po gave him a position above the highest families and Pao Shu ya was happy to serve him. Kuan Chung took responsibility for the State and because of his administrative acumen, the duke attained the throne he had coveted so intently.
Upon deep reflection Kuan Chung, in thinking what his friend Pao Shu ya had done for him, said: “In my youth when I was in difficulties, Pao and I traded together, I took the largest share of the profits for myself. But he did not think I was greedy as he knew of my need. I used to plan ventures for Pao and got into even worse difficulties. However, he did not think of me as a fool, because he knew the times were not favorable. I was in the office three times and evicted three times. He did not consider me worthless, because he knew my opportunity had not come. When I was in battle on three separate occasions, I showed my back and ran. But he did not consider me a coward because I had an elderly mother to support. When my Master Chui was killed by Hsiao‑po and I preferred imprisonment and chains, he did not think me shameless as he knew that I was not embarrassed by small dishonors. But I am only ashamed that my name was not renowned throughout the world. It may have been my mother and father who bore me, but it has been Pao Shu ya who understands me and has given me a chance to show myself.”
Subsequently the world praised Kuan Chung and Pao Shu ya for their skill in choosing allies and the duke for employing such valuable men. Neither was true as anyone else may have been more skillful in choosing allies as employing capable men. Simply that Pao Shu ya was able to appoint a capable man in Kuan Chung and that the duke was able to employ his enemy. They could not have considered or done otherwise.
All this ended when Kuan Chung fell ill, and a successor had to be named. The duke suggested Pao, his friend, as a replacement. But Kuan responded in dismay: “Pao Shu ya, although my dearest friend over the years, I cannot recommend it. As I know his strengths, I see his weaknesses as well. He is inflexible in his morality to the point of bigotry. Anyone who is not as upright as himself he mistreats. If a mistake is made, he never lets it be forgotten. He will eventually offend and embarrass you and would lead to your own downfall. Might I suggest Hsi Peng?”
Kuan Chung continued: “Hsi Peng is able to forget his position without those beneath becoming insubordinate. He is ashamed he is not as one with the Yellow Emperor and is sorry others are not as lucky as himself,” and further admonished the duke by adding that, is it not as Lieh Tzu says: “The highest sage shares his moral possessions with others. The next in wisdom shares his material possessions with others. The man who because of his own wisdom looks down on others has never won man’s hearts. The man who in spite of his own wisdom is humble to others has never failed to win men’s hearts.”
Some we favor initially must fall in disfavor. Just as those we may see as our enemy are our key to our own salvation. Is it not our ability to cease to make judgments and let every situation play itself out to its logical conclusion that the way is found that must be followed to the end? Does our destiny not depend on circumstances that may now appear as obscure and confused that are allowed to simply come forward to occur?
Kuan Chuang continued: “Hsi Peng does not want to be told everything which is wrong with the State, just as he does not want to notice everything which is wrong with his own family. Unless you have someone better in mind Hsi Peng will do.”
Knowing that neither favor nor neglect depend on ourselves, does not our own spontaneity to each situation as it draws near ensure our eventual success or failure? Is not falling in and out of favor with the situation that comes to greet us then the avenue in which our inner selves find its true path?
In the end it is not that Kuan Chuang neglected Pao Shu ya to whom he owed his life and favored another. It was that he could not do otherwise. How can favor and neglect depend solely upon us? Always doing nothing more than the right thing by all as the true mentor or knowing sage. Showing the way to all we encounter. What else can there possibly be? 6/8‑10/95
97. Trusting in my own Destiny
My role is not to know the answers, only the questions. To remain invisible to all with no ego or concern for any results that may come. To become a mentor to all who I may encounter.
To know my destiny is insured with the dragons always leading the way. With no striving or clinging to worldly substance. To remain spontaneous as I come and go. With no concern for any results that may come. 6/11/95
98. To be eternally awakened
How can we know who we come into the world to become? As we learn to trust our instincts and the spontaneity given to us as each moment unfolds. If it is as Lieh Tzu says: “To live and die at the right time is a blessing from heaven and not to live when it is time to live and not to die when it is time to die is a punishment from heaven, then is not our destiny predetermined?”
Why should some be favored over others? Why should some get life and death at the right time and others live and die when the time is not right? Know that it is neither other things nor ourselves that gives life when we live and death when we die as our destiny unfolds. Nor that wisdom or our endeavors can lead the way.
Could the unfolding of our life’s events be but an endless sequence that happens of themselves by way of heaven? Indifferent to the turn of events coming forward as the unbroken wheel or circle of life. Coming in, living each moment to its fullest then going out again. Could this be the way of heaven?
With no offense to heaven and earth the ultimate cardinal rule. How could the sage not go along? Continuing to clear his mind and open his heart only for eternal truths yet to unfold. His wisdom finding no time to question. Just as the demons are thwarted as they can find no footholds to follow. Each person finds truth solely for himself in silence and serenity. Without attachment, only the peace found as heaven escorts us as we go and welcomes us as we come back again.
Embrace only those things that assist in the awakening of your eternal spirit. If our destiny can be foretold as we travel from one lifetime to the next, then should we not remain awake to the events that show us the way? Living the proper way, can death matter as we are simply waiting to be born again. 6/11/95
99. Living in Paradox
Always sensitive to the lessons that nature can teach us. As we are constantly reminded that there is no point in attempting to understand the will of Heaven or in measuring the benefit or harm of what we may do. What can be the point? Can Heaven’s love or hate be universally applied to all? Are we not taught that Heaven loves all of us? However, if this were the case would not everything be favored? What sense is this, how could it be so?
What can the Taoist mean when he says some value life but cannot preserve it? That some can take care of their body but cannot do it good. That neglecting the body cannot do it harm. How can this be? If life and death and good and harm come of themselves, what can be the purpose of discovering and coming to know one’s destiny?
If life’s events and our actions come of themselves regardless of how we come forward to meet them, then how can we attempt to understand or know where they will take us? Is not the true purpose of what has been said to allow us to question the norm, to begin to trust our own spontaneity? If we say that some value life but cannot preserve it, are we not simply saying that death is the natural outcome of life and cannot be prevented?
If we say that some who take care of their body cannot do it good, are we not simply saying that others can? If some may scorn life but cannot shorten it, then cannot another be able to do so? If some neglect their body to the point of harming their health, then cannot others do the opposite and not do so?
Are we not living in paradox? Questioning what is universally accepted so that we can discover nature within ourselves and the nature that surrounds us. Always questioning convention. Never allowing another to live our lives for us. Finding the true path and living simply to uncover the paradox that becomes us. 6/15/95
100. Destiny transcending Human Endeavor
Remaining as still as the water at the bottom of a deep pool. As though at rest, watching the movement of the ripples that the wind brings to the surface. Forgetting if you are really at rest or have become a part of the movement or waves above you.
As alike as two brothers Yang Pu and his brother Yang Chu were in age, speech, talents and appearance they were different in their time of death, rank, reputation, and affection given by others. Yang Pu could never understand why.
His older brother, Yang Chu, responded by quoting an ancient saying that had guided him in his endeavors: “All that is so without us knowing why destiny is.” Yang Chu continued: “All that happens for obscure and confused reasons, however we act or do not act, coming one day and gone the next with no one knowing why destiny is. For the man who trusts destiny there is no difference between long life and short. For one who trusts the principles by which things happen, there is nothing to approve or reject. For one who trusts his mind, nothing which is agreeable or offensive. For one who trusts his nature, nothing which secures or endangers him and nothing which he trusts or distrusts. He is true, he becomes genuine. What should he shun or approach, enjoy or grieve over, say or not say, do or not do?”
He becomes one with the dragons, the sage that stays beyond earthly endeavors. He knows neither rest nor movement. Refrains from changing his feelings or expression because others may be watching or fail to change them because they may not be watching. He always comes and goes as if alone without obstruction.
As each person is born and dies following the destiny given to him, how could the two brothers Yang Chu and Yang Pu not be the same yet different? That one is allowed to see his destiny transcending human endeavor only to leave his brother behind is the only way it could be. 6/16/95
101. Where can truth lie, except within us
How do we measure the essence of completeness or deficiency within ourselves, or can we as they can only come of themselves? Is that not the initial hurtles? As we learn that there can be no effort to measure, estimate or calculate what may affect us. Does the Tao not teach us that it is only by measuring nothing that we come to measure everything, become completed and be without deficiency?
Do not lose those who measure benefit and harm, estimate fact and falsehood, and calculate the feelings of others as often as they win. Can knowledge help to bring victory where one would otherwise lose, or does lack of knowledge bring the same results? Again, with both sides winning as often as they lose.
Therefore, is it not said: “life and death depend on destiny and that riches and poverty depend on the times? He who resents being cut off in his prime does not know destiny. He who resents poverty and distress does not know the times. To meet death unafraid. To live in distress without caring is to know destiny and accept what time brings.”
Can this be what brings sense to it all? Can we be satisfied with the correctness of our own wisdom? Can we be assured with the subtlety of our own skill? Can we be convinced that our talents will bring us success? Can our ego and faults be understood, making us irreproachable? Can we not take a close look at ourselves to determine if our behavior fits the times?
While each of the above attitudes are different, are not each simply the manifestations of the destiny given to each of us? How can success be seen as success for one when it is seen as failure for another? Where can truth lie? How can wisdom by itself know when to act and when to stop? When to come forward and when to stay behind? Does not the answer lie simply within ourselves? 6/19/95
102. Valuing life and death
The Duke of Chi went on an excursion with three of his servants to review his domains and wondered how he could be so fortunate to have so much wealth and power at his disposal. Upon arriving at the thriving metropolis that was his capital he stopped and sighed: “How beautiful the city, teaming and thriving. Why cannot this go on forever? To live with such splendor and respect by all those who surround me, how can I ever deal with death when it comes?”
Two of his servants Shih Kung and Liang Ch’u both agreed and cried in unison: “We are lucky enough to have tough meat and course rice to eat, we too do not wish to die and therefore appreciate our Master’s dilemma”. The duke’s third servant, Yen Tzu was smiling to himself bringing the duke to ask him how he could be happy when he was melancholy. Because he would one day die and be forced to leave all this.
Yen tzu responded: “What can you possibly have to complain about? If it was by merit and worthiness your ancestors Tai Kung and Duke Huen would have lived forever. If by courage these two would still be alive. If one’s longevity was dependent on goodliness they would still be here, and you would be up to your knees in the rice fields wearing a grass skirt and bamboo hat. Thinking only about your quota that you must meet with no time to contemplate death. It is only by their death that you have come to rule the throne. It was this thought that made me smile and question your desire to live forever”.
The duke became ashamed of his unworthiness and his forgetfulness as to his responsibility to the empire. From that point, while he cherished his good fortune at being born at the right place and time, the duke endeavored only to show his appreciation through good works and leaving things in a better situation than when he found them. He never again questioned the timeliness of his death, only the good fortune of his birth. 6/22/95
103. Finding grace, or remaining as an enigma
Why all the conundrum about the next step along the way that you must now follow? Do you not know to trust yourself to let the dragons lead you to new heights that are simply waiting for you to come forward to find? Has not the way been made perfectly clear?
As Lieh, Chuang and Lao we have seen great promise in the one we call Cloud Dancing. Don’t you know that everything that happened in the past was for a reason? That you truly have been reborn. That it does not matter, or you should not be concerned with who you were or where you are now as you travel with us through your writings. Eternal truths and your own destiny have been within yourself all along as you come forward through choices that you have made along the way.
There is no right or wrong and it makes no difference if others intentionally set out to destroy you through their own evil incantations. To continue to do battle with them only delays your journey that you are well on the way in pursuing. Remember what you have learned in the true yin and yang. For good there must be evil. Regardless of how pure your motives and sincere your efforts, there will always be those who through their own ego and selfish intentions set out to destroy who and what you have come to represent.
That is why we are here. You are being given grace the likes few will ever know. You need not be concerned about what comes next. Just stay on the edge of your own humanity and we will always be nearby to show you the way. You must simply let go of everything that represents who you once were. Remain clear of attachments and clinging to earthly gain and just follow us along the true path of knowledge, compassion and sincerity that will set you free. Remaining as the enigma your writing leads you to become, whatever else could there be? 6/18/95
104. Chapter Seven – Yang Chu
105. Explicit Impressions
Remaining as Yang Chu. Unconcerned with the constant struggle exhibited by those around you. Wealth and power as distant from your thoughts as whatever efforts that would be required to obtain them. Yet never truly take him or yourself too seriously. Only using the impressions of Yang Chu as the metaphor for life lived in the fast lane. Constantly reminded that possessions are replaceable while your body is not. Questioning the good of any action that would lead to the least injury to who you are to become.
Everything is different than what you have written before yet somehow the same. As if Lieh Tzu’s final word on the matter is to question any preconceived idea or notion that has brought you this far on your journey. Bringing together many writings of the ancient contemporaries who took delight in questioning authority as the Taoist must do to get to the core of what is real, unreal and too familiar. Using Yang Chu as the symbol of behavior that can only challenge and be challenged by all the current schools of thought of the day.
What can there be except to question authority? Can the mere idea of not giving one hair on one’s head to gain a kingdom come from anyone but an amoral egotist? What can this obsession with saving face be when it is associated with some perceived sense of morality? Does not the Taoist remain a symbol of moderation in all things? Balancing every alternative against its opposite and avoiding any excess that may shorten his life. Does not the Taoist laugh at social convention and either elude or adapt them to suit himself?
Lieh Tzu in the end explicitly rejecting the road to the hedonism of Yang Chu, of self-aggrandizement that puts oneself above the needs of the world and all others. Always contrasting both good and bad elements each of us must choose to follow. Seeing both, do not we fall back, decide to leave our ego behind and stay. 6/22/95
106. The Central Argument
What can reputation be but the pretense of showing some concern over how others will perceive our actions and deeds? In what place can reputation care to meet the reality each of us are given?
Yang Chu was traveling in Lu and lodged with Mr. Meng. Mr. Meng asked Yang Chu: “If we are simply the men we are, then why be concerned with reputation?”
Yang Chu responded that a reputation would help one to get rich. Mr. Meng then asked: “Once you are rich, why not be done with it?” Yang Chu then added that with money we can obtain high rank.
Mr. Meng then asked: “Once you have obtained high rank, why not be done with it?” Yang Chu responded that rank would help my descendants when I die. Mr. Meng then asked: “What use could our reputations be to our descendants?”
Yang Chu then stated: “Caring about your reputation vexes the body and effects one’s heart; but the man who can take advantage of his reputation can prosper his whole family, not to speak of his descendants.” Mr. Meng then responded that: “If one cares about his reputation, he must be honest and if he is honest, he will remain poor. A man must remain humble, and if he remains humble, he will not rise in rank.”
Yang Chu then argued: “Remember when Kuan Chung was released from his chains to become Chief Minister of Chi. He was lewd when his ruler was lewd, extravagant when his ruler was extravagant. He did the right thing in thought and deed and by following his way the state won hegemony. But after his death the Kuan family remained simply as the Kuan family. However, when Tien Heng became Minister of Chi, he behaved unassumably when the ruler was arrogant, behaved generously when the ruler was grasping. The people went over to him, and he won possession of the State of Chi and his descendants have ruled to this day.”
Mr. Meng countered: “Therefore, can it be said that if you live up to your reputation you will be poor, but if your reputation is pretense, you will become rich?”
Yang Chu continued: “Reality has nothing to do with reputation and one’s reputation has nothing to do with reality. Reputation can only be pretense. Remember when Yao and Shun pretended to resign the empire to Hsu Yu and Shan Chuan but did not really give it up and were blessed with its possession for one hundred years. When Po Yi and Shu Chi, who really resigned the fief of Ku‑Chu, did end up losing the State and died of starvation on Mount Shou‑yang because they would rather live as hermits after rejecting the Imperial throne because they refused to burden themselves with worldly cares.”
Where can reality truly lie when caring for one’s reputation gets in the way? Does not striving for acceptance end with our accepting who we are to become in the end? Does it not cloud our inner vision of who we are truly to become? How can we be concerned with reputation when those we seek to impress have no concept of the proper way? How can we seek the respect of those who care not for honesty and living in a humble way of life that brings no attention to ourselves or our actions? Is it not better to care not about who we become when reputation and ego are allowed to come forward as reputation and recognition?
Are not your new‑found friends or companions peering at you now through the clouds as you come to meet them? Are not they scoffing at any sense of self acclaim you bring along the way? Is not the answer that you cannot care for a reputation in worldly affairs and any pretense that comes with it and keep to the reality of your journey? Are not the points and counterpoints made by Yang Chu and Mr. Meng the central argument that brings reality into focus. Letting the difference between reality and the worry that a reputation and its pretense becomes become you.
As the knowing sage you have now become in your travels with Lieh Tzu, you know that any concern for reputation and its pretense are now left far behind. 6/26/95
107. Looking beyond one’s moment in time
If we acknowledge we are here only for an instant and in death know we are gone for only a moment, then is not the true course of action simply to follow one’s heart? To not thwart the spontaneity of our immediate desires. To have no thoughts or be seduced by the hopes of recognition or reputation and what comes to be expected by living with others.
Yang Chu says: “A hundred years is the term of the longest life, but not one man in a thousand lives so long. If someone is lucky enough to live so long, infancy and senility take nearly half of it. Nights are lost in sleep and the days are all wasted when we are awake taking up almost half the rest. Pain and sickness, sorrow and toil, ruin and loss, anxiety and fear take all the rest. Of that which is left, if we tried to determine how long we are at ease and content, without the least care, it does not amount to the space of an hour.”
If we know that our time is limited, then what can there be to live for? Can it be to dress in fine clothes and to eat the best food? To listen to music and enjoy the company of women?
Yang Chu continued: “What can be open to the whims of society be but to be checked by punishments and seduced by rewards, led forward by the hopes of reputation, driven back by the fear of the law. We compete against each other for an hour’s empty praise and scheme for glory that will outlive our death. Even in solitude we comply with what we see others do, hear others say, and repent of what our own thoughts approve and regret. We are constantly striving for what we think we do not have, thereby losing the utmost enjoyment in the prime of our life. What kind of prison do we ourselves put ourselves into? How much different would it be than if we spent all our time in chains? “
How is it that one becomes awakened to be able to see beyond what is real and unreal and begin to understand and appreciate what is? Is not the answer that anything of real importance lies within ourselves simply waiting to come forward?
Yang Chu finishes by saying: “Have not our ancestors and the sages of antiquity told us that in life we are here for a moment and in death are gone for only an instant. Therefore, they acted as their hearts prompted, and did not rebel against their spontaneous desires; while life lasted, they did not refuse its pleasures, and so they were not seduced by the hope of reputation. They roamed as their nature prompted and did not rebel against the desires common to all things; they did not prefer a reputation after death, and so punishment did not affect them. Whether they were reputed and praised more or less than others, whether their destined years were many or few, they did not take into account.”
Knowing all this, how can we care if we are praised now or hope for a reputation after death? How could accolades or punishments affect us? How could our destined years, they be many or few, then matter? Even though Yang Chu cannot fathom how one can be traveling from one lifetime to the next, only looking at the finality of death how can he not accept that it may not occur and say so? Always seen to be questioning convention, is not Yang Chu himself simply looking beyond his own hour of freedom and what may lie ahead? 6/30/95
108. Are we destined to die Today?
Yang Chu asks: “Who among us is not destined to die?” No matter how different things are in life, in death are not they all the same? In life can it matter if we are clever or foolish, noble, or vile? When in death we all return to stench, decay, and extinction. Reminding us again that we are all the same.
However, as we are reminded of endeavor and destiny, we recall that whether we are clever or foolish, noble, or vile none can be of our own doing. Just as the stench and rot, decay and extinction cannot be of our own making either. Therefore, how do we bring about our own life and death, cleverness or foolishness, nobility, or vileness? As we are equal with all other living things, do not each bring these characteristics along for the ride for themselves? Since we all will die, some in ten years, some in eighty, some tomorrow, some today.
Saints and sages die, the wicked and foolish die. So how are they so different? In life do we not simply take on another personality? Just as in death we become rotting bones. Since rotting bones are all the same, who can tell them apart?
Mistaking purity and passion for virtue, do not our desires become the substitute for correct behavior? Where can happiness lie if one’s poverty injures his life, or another’s wealth involves him in trouble? Is not the answer to free ourselves of care? Hence, those who are poor should enjoy life and those who are good at freeing themselves from care do not become rich.
Yang Chu concludes by asserting an old saying that says: “Each of us should pity the living and abandon the dead.” This is exactly put. To pity others is not to simply feel sorry for them. We should help them, so they are eased. Feed them so they are not hungry, clothe them when they are cold and when they are troubled help them find the way. Just in abandoning the dead, we do not refuse to feel sorrow, nor should we plan elaborate funeral processions. In the end are we not all the same? Are we rich or poor, what can it matter? Who can know, who can say? What can it matter if we are destined to die today? 7/2/95
109. Living and dying in nature’s way
The ripple of the wind on the water making the reflection of clouds dance across the surface in blue and white and multi‑colored shades of gray. You have come to find the peace and harmony found in nature. As the wind blows gently at your back pushing you onward. Your thoughts one with the water and the images you become a part of.
The sounds of the small wood duck, you have named Qi Chang, as it scoots along its morning trek from one side of the lake to the other. As it looks for new grass shoots along the water’s edge. Two red‑winged blackbirds playing tag amidst the tall grass with both screaming and squawking tag your it – no ‑ tag your it! Numerous ducks and geese zig zagging this way and that as they go along for the ride with no real destination. Only going wherever, the water happens to push them. Mother goose out early this morning with ten baby ducklings keeping close by. Just out for a walk. Just taking it all in. A quietness and stillness ever‑present except for the sound of thunder booming in the distance. Rain falling to the southwest, as it begins to head your way. The dragons simply remind you that they are as always close by.
Looking for the meaning of what Yang Chu is telling you over thousands of years of space and time. Except that now he is sitting beside you guiding your thoughts and your pen as you open your heart and mind to what he is now telling you. Letting the sway of nature be your guide to what must come forth in discovering the true meaning of what is meant to be tending to one’s life.
Yang Chu telling you how one must truly live. How you must go about without restraint without succumbing to oppressive masters. Using Yen Tzu and Kuan Chuang to tell the story. Each asking the other to explain the tending of one’s life and of the death that must follow. Yen Tzu begins by asking Kuan Chuang: “How or why should we live without restrictions? Is not the answer simply to discover the satisfaction of personal needs without injuring one’s own health, life, or another’s? To live without restraint. Staying to the spontaneity of each moment without restriction, without suppression.”
Kuan Chuang responded to Yen Tzu by saying: “You must give yourself up to whatever your ears wish to listen to, your eyes wish to look upon, and your nostrils tend to turn to, your mouth has to say, your body finds to achieve”. He continues by saying: “What the ears wish to hear is music and song, what the eyes wish to see is the beauty of women, what the nose likes to smell is fine flowers and spices, what the mouth wishes to discuss is truth and falsehood. What the body wishes to achieve is freedom and leisure”.
We are not reminded of the wood duck, Qi Chang, as it is seen taking a bath letting the cleansing water be as troubles beading off his back as he comes clean of where he has been as he prepares to move on. To remain unrestricted and unrestrained to what life brings. To be as the duck letting the water bead off his feathers and to wait serenely for whatever life brings you as you wait for death and its promise of what must follow. Whether you live another day, a month a year or ten, this is what is meant by tending to one’s life.
However, if you remain bound to these pleasures in such a way that your true sense of hearing is restricted, that your true sense of sight is restricted, that your true sense of smell is restricted, that ease in and your will to your true sense of comfort is restricted and that your true nature is restricted, and in remaining so cannot escape their ban rather you lived a hundred years, a thousand years you would not be tending to your life. Kuan Chuang then asked Yen Tzu: “Now that I have told you the secrets to how one tends to life, you must tell me what is known and taking our leave in death”.
Yen Tzu responded: “What can it matter how we die. Once I am dead what concern is it of mine? It is the same to me whether you burn me or sink me in a river, bury me or leave me in the open, throw me in a ditch wrapped in grass or put me in a coffin dressed in a dragon‑blazoned jacket and embroidered shirt. I leave it all to chance”.
Kuan Chuang and Yen Tzu turned to their friends and stated that this is all there is to say about the way to live and to die. Ultimately staying within the confines of what nature brings us. Just as in the beginning as you recall the ripple of the wind on the water’s surface making the images of clouds dance across the water. Everything reminds you of your own journey Cloud Dancing as you ask yourself how your own travels through space and time could be any different. 7/3‑4/95
109. My brother’s reckoning
Who can be right in the way they live and die? Who can decide the ways of heaven and hell? Since both heaven and hell are simply the bed we choose to lie in each night, are we not just determining the content of our dreams? Rather we sleep peacefully and soundly or toss and turn with nightmares and demons accompanying our thoughts. With all things being equal, who can know what we are to awaken to?
Three brothers Chan, Chao and Mu were the talk of the province. Chan was the Chief Minister who within three years of his taking control of the government the good had submitted to his reform and the wicked dreaded his prohibitions. The state was in good order and the other states were afraid of it. Chao and Mu were different. They followed another course. Chan’s older brother Chao was fond of wine, while his younger brother Mu was fond of women.
Chao’s fondness for wine outweighed everything he did. He had collected over one thousand jars of wine in his cellar and a whole hillside of yeast for brewing. One could not come close to his house without the smell or dregs of the wine overcoming them. When Chao was overcome with wine he did not care if the world was at war or peace, he cared not about mistakes he made for which he could have repent, he took no concern over his possessions, the love of his family or that it is better to live and die.
Chan’s brother Mu, on the other hand, was a lover of women. The courtyard of his home was lined with dozens of rooms where he kept the youngest and most beautiful girls of the region. He kept to the pleasures of his harem where he may stay for months at a time. Mu would shut his door to his kinsmen and stop meeting and going out with his friends. Any young virgin brought to his attention was not safe from his grasp.
Chan was concerned about his brothers’ well‑being and discussed his predicament with his friend Teng Hsi. Teng Hsi confided he had been aware of the problem for some time and that he felt a man should influence his family by putting his own house in order. The example you set for those nearest to you is the one always seen from furthest away. Chan responded by saying that while his administration had set the state in order, his family was in anarchy. He wondered how he could do any good for the state and do nothing for his brothers, Chao and Mu. Teng Hsi then told Chan: “You should help them to set their houses in order, to help them see the importance of keeping their health. As their brother, you should appeal to their respect for propriety and duty.”
The next day Chan met with his brothers, Chen and Mu and admonished them for their behavior. He stated that it was knowledge and foresight that set men apart from beasts and birds, knowledge and foresight that led to propriety and duty. That they should learn to live dutifully, and as such, reputation and office could be theirs for the asking.
Chao and Mu responded: “They had known that that option was theirs for a long time but had long since made their choice. They did not need him to tell them to see it. Life is too precious, and death comes too soon. We wish to enjoy life to its fullest, pushing our best years to the limit. Our only misfortune is a stomach too weak to drink the best wine without restraint and potency which fails us before our lust is satisfied. We have no time to worry about reputation and health as we are having too much fun!”
Chao and Mu continued: “We have long wondered why it is you who have not seen the errors of your ways. How can you wish to disturb our hearts with hopes of glory and salary? Although you have seemed to find success in leading others, how can you say that you have done so? In the end you will only be overworked. Is it not better to find what gives scope to your nature without telling others what to do? You may find your method of ruling others fine for the short haul, but governing men is out of accord with their hearts. The anarchy that you abhor is the anarchy we will embrace to the end. We only find humor now that while we have longed to make you come over to see our way of thinking, you have instead come to us to attempt to sway us to yours.”
Chao went back to Teng Hsi and relayed to him his meeting with Chen and Mu and conveyed what they had told him. Teng Hsi could only shake his head in wonder and say: “Your brothers are the wise ones, and we are the fools. The good government of Cheng is mere chance, how can we take credit for it.” Who can be right in the way they live and die? Who can decide the ways of heaven and hell?
Since both heaven and hell are simply the bed we choose to lie in each night, are we not just determining the content of our dreams? Rather we sleep peacefully and soundly or toss and turn with nightmares and demons accompanying our thoughts. With all things remaining equal, who can know what we are to awaken to and if we do, what we are to do in the meantime? 7/6/95
111. Taking on airs (heirs)
Becoming Tuan Mu Shu of Wen living on the inheritance of my great uncle, who was a disciple of Confucius. Living life to its fullest on the good works of those who came before me. Living in complete luxury on an estate worth more than ten thousand pieces of gold. Caring not about the issues of the day, only living by impulse, and doing as I please. Living fully where my inclinations lead me. Doing what all desire to do, following my impulse and doing as I please.
Keeping my estate with its great walls and rooms, terraces and pavilions, parks and gardens, lakes and ponds, my food and drink, carriages and dress, singers and musicians, wife, and concubines the same as the rulers of Chi and Chu. Nothing whatever my passions decide staying out of my reach. With whatever my passions decide to enjoy, whatever my ears wish to hear, my ears to see or my mouth to taste only a moment away. Or if not close by, sent regardless of its distance. Traveling great distances wherever I please. However perilous the mountains and rivers, regardless of however long or distant the roads to get there. My adventures are the same as others who question stepping out of their houses a few paces. Every day my guests numbered in the hundreds, with the fires in the great kitchens never burning out and, in my halls, and chambers music that never stops playing. With leftovers from the great banquets scattered everywhere, throughout my large family and clan, the next town and all the villages throughout the district.
Keeping nothing back, living every day to its fullest with joy and sadness always present. Yet always thankful of what my predecessors have left me. Finally reaching the end, knowing in old age that my days are numbered with my health and vitality on the wane. I decided to give it all away. As I have always questioned my place in history, knowing that I could never live up to the great ideas of my uncle and his mentor, the great Confucius. Only making it up to them in the only way I know how.
In the end giving away all the precious things I have gathered through the years. My treasury and storehouses, all my carriages and robes, even my concubines. Giving everything away in a span of less than a year. Leaving nothing to my children and grandchildren except the good times they came to know as they stood by my side.
Finally falling ill and near death with hardly a needle or medicine in store for his care, Tuan Mu Shu died lacking the money for his own burial. Upon hearing this, the people throughout the whole country who had long enjoyed the great feasts and good times spent at his expense took up a collection among themselves for his burial and helped to restore his property to his children and grandchildren. Much discussion ensued by many of those with similar wealth who concluded that Tuan Mu Shu was a madman who had disgraced his ancestor Tzu‑Kung, the noted disciple of Confucius with his antics.
Others knew that Tuan Mu Shu truly knew how to live. Even surpassing the qualities of those who had brought the great wealth to his family that he had spent a lifetime spending. Everything he did astonished and flaunted the accepted mode of the day. But he knew precisely how to live and die and did so effortlessly. Those who complained could only compare Tuan Mu Shu with the manners they were brought up with. How could they judge the right or wrong way to live and to die?
As we are reminded of the initial refrain: “Becoming as Tuan Mu Shu of Wen living on the inheritance of my great uncle who was a disciple of Confucius. Living life to its fullest on the good works of those who came before me. Living in complete luxury on an estate worth more than ten thousand pieces of gold. Caring not about the issues of the day, only living by impulse and doing as I please”. As you have now come full circle with Yang Chu leading the way, how could you have done differently and what better lesson could he have taught? 7/7/95
112. Staying in tune with destiny, or Danny’s song
Striving only to make everything you write better than what you have written before. Bringing forth the words of the ancients to expose them to today’s images and realities.
Living only to become enmeshed in life’s true meaning. As you prepare to die and be reborn again. Your writings and their analogies, paradox and symbolism show the true way to eternal freedom and peace of mind. Coming forward with no agenda of self, with no agenda representing ego. Losing your identity in your writing and any sense of age as to time spent in your current life span. With no sense on you are one thousand years old, one hundred years old or a day. With no sense of concern for self or showing one’s age to space or time.
Life’s everyday events simply the path to show that you are free of attachments, free of clinging to any earthly endeavors that would get in the way of your ultimate destination. Always create free time so that it can be spent with your newfound friends. As they come and go as spirits or metaphors. Known as the dragons that lead you to higher clouds and your true destiny.
Remaining out of contention, life leads to others present. Striving only to become and remain invisible to all you encounter. With no sense of self-esteem that could become or remain apparent. Not as arrogant or to be seen as better than others. But simply remaining out of harm’s way or conflict. With a loving heart and clear mind fully focused on your one and only true endeavor. Your destiny to remain focused on the task at hand.
To remain as one with the dragons. Creating your own Island of the Blest as your newfound friends come forward to spend time telling their story through your writing. 7/7/95
113. Return Engagements
What can it matter if we live for a day, a year, until we are eighty or an instant? How or why should we attempt to prolong our life in the hope of living forever? When our spirit, or chi, shall live on regardless of what we do.
Yang Chu explains: “Valuing life cannot preserve it, just as taking care of one’s body cannot do it good. What can be the point of prolonging life? Are our passions and our likes and dislikes not the same now as they were before? Just as we have always been, are we not simply concerned with the safety and danger of our four limbs, the joy and bitterness of worldly affairs, changes of fortune, good government, and discord? Have we not heard it all before, seen it already, experienced these and all things many times before?”
Is not experiencing both good and bad is the true essence of living and dying. Could we be more satiated by living for a hundred or thousand years? If all this is so, then how can it matter how long we live and when we die? How could we desire or endure the bitterness of a long life beyond what has been prescribed for us by heaven? Are we not to remain free to die without prolonging what must be inevitable?
Again, Yang Chu tells us: “While you are alive, resign yourself and let life run its course, satisfy your desires and wait for death. When it is time to die resign yourself to it and let death run its course.”
With death, are not we simply waiting for return engagements? So that in the end we are in no place except where we are now. No more. No less. Just biding our time. Letting everything run its course. With no need to speed up or delay what will occur. Knowing all this, do we not come to know that we truly do live forever? 7/8/95
114. Living in the Light because it sets us free
Suddenly awakened at three in the morning in London she is in my head to say that she is sorry. Looking for me the dragons showed her the way. What could she say except that she was sorry for what had happened and the events that led to my embarrassment and losing it all.
She was sorry that she had allowed herself to be caught up in politics and had allowed others to use her to destroy me. It had been like a roller coaster careening downhill a hundred miles an hour, once everything started there was no looking back.
She said she was most afraid of what happened due to our meeting. As if fate had brought us together. As if she and I were destined to come together. That she now knew that she was tied to me in a way that she could not then understand. She now knew her coming was meant to help awaken my spirit to destinations that neither she nor I could then understand. That the awakening of my spirit had frightened her. That she felt she was being used in a way that she could not then understand. That it only appeared as if the conspirators who wanted you to lose this meaningless job were driving this mean thing that happened to you.
I came at your request. I stayed in your house at your request. However, I was sent at the request of the dragons who were the ones using me. I was but the messenger but did not know myself. I was sent to help set you free. Your place is where you now travel, to places they can only know. It was only when you lost everything as to who you thought you were that you could begin your journey.
Please find it in your heart to forgive me as I was only sent to set you free. Our spirits have roamed the universe for an eternity as we continue to meet over and over again. You’re asking me to come to you was your fate and was destined to occur if you were to awaken during this lifetime. Look where you now travel and ask yourself if you could ever go back.
My coming while you are now in London is no mistake as our spirits have been tied together forever. Just as they eternally will be. You have always known me as I have always prodded you to take the plunge that you finally took with your sending all the way to Japan to find me now. Do not worry about me. What happens to me now is unimportant, as I have fulfilled my own destiny. To the blind it will appear that the others have won. What can they ever know? 7/14/95
(Written while in London, England while staying at the Gore Hotel on Queen’s Way Street for a concert by Sheryl Crow and trip won by Marie as radio contest. The story came to me as a dream at 3:00 am in the morning, July 14, 1995. I got up and went in the bathroom with pen and pad and wrote what had come to me in the dream).
115. Facing up to Reality
Who can know how our lives will be looked upon when we are gone? Our endeavors lead to a lifetime of misery or wealth, how can we know? Yang Chu tells us of six men who the world either reveres or reviles. Yet the four who are revered Shun, Yu, the Duke of Chou and Confucius all lived without a day of joy, and each died a miserable death. While Chieh and Chou inherited great wealth and both sat on the Imperial Throne, they were considered villains who followed their desires and incurred the reputation of fools and tyrants. Although their reputations were undeserved. While the reputation of the four sages all exceeds the reality of their situation, they died leaving a legacy that has lasted ten thousand generations. How can this be so? Is not all this simply a reminder of who we are to become and the importance of staying within ourselves? Of having no concern for the legacy, we may leave, however we may have lived.
Shun plowed the fields at Ho‑yang and made pots at Lei-tse; he never found a moments ease and never had what would be considered good or sufficient food, he was unloved by his parents, and treated as a stranger by the rest of his family. When Yao abdicated the throne to him, he was already old, and his wits had deteriorated. Since his oldest son was incompetent, he had to abdicate the throne to Yu and died at the end of a miserable life.
Years earlier Shun had had Yu’s father killed as he had been responsible for draining the earth of the flood and had not succeeded. Yu had taken on the responsibility of draining the flood and had served his enemy thinking of nothing but his responsibility to the land. When finally Shun abdicated the throne to him his life was miserable with his body paralyzed and his feet callused. He later died having lived a miserable life, the most over driven man under the sky. After the death of King Wu, the Duke of Chou (Ji Dan) controlled the administration of the empire to the displeasure of the Duke of Shao. Rumors circulated slandering the Duke of Chou to the point that he was forced to retire for three years. He executed his older brothers and banished his younger brothers barely escaping with his own life. He died at the end of a miserable life in more fear than any man under the sky. Confucius, the best remembered of the group, understood the way of the Five Emperors and Three Kings, and accepted the invitations of the rulers of his time. In each place he was driven to the end of his resources, trapped by his enemies, humiliated by the Chi family, and insulted by Yang Hu. In the end he died a broken man, the most harried and distraught man under the sky.
Yet for all their difficulties, each of the four are immolated in our history. All coming to represent something much beyond themselves. Something much beyond who they were when they lived and died. Chieh and Chou on the other hand both inherited the wealth of successive reigns, and both sat facing south on the Imperial Throne. The highest rank and honor imaginable. Chieh had enough wit to hold down his subjects and enough authority to make everyone tremble at his merest suggestion. While Chou’s authority prevailed everywhere. They both vented their passion at will, were unconcerned about propriety and duty. Both lived and lied merrily. The most boisterous and carefree of men under the sky.
Both lived in the joy of following their desires and died incurring the reputation of fools and tyrants. Truly their reality was not what their reputation deserved. Whether they were reviled or praised Shun, Yu, the Duke of Chou and Confucius or Chieh and Chou once they are gone, what can they care? The four sages, while admired, suffered to their end. While the villains, although condemned, were happy to the end. However, they all died just the same. 7/18/95
116. Continuing the Paradox
By early morning and evening interpreting the great works of the Chinese Classics. Bringing the words of Lieh, Chuang and Lao forward for all to see. Days spent reviewing plans for proposed gas stations and McDonald’s as a city planner once again. What could be more incongruous? What could be more inconsistent to the true path, to what is correct and the proper way to live a life consistent with where your travels now lead you?
As your only desire is to lose the attachments that slow your feet down the path you must follow. Continuing this paradox only if it takes to get free to travel unhindered with the dragons. Keeping to the edge of your own humanity. Living with the desire to only discover your own true nature. Bringing forth only that that will help to uncover the Tao within yourself to be shared by all. Striving only to find a quiet place of solitude where you can travel unhindered. Where there can be no interruptions or contention present.
Not to be driven by earthly endeavors that lead to ego and clinging to that which will remain forever unreal to who you are and more importantly who you are to become. Traveling only with a clear mind and an open heart. As you are eternally grateful to be given an opportunity to see beyond yourself. Knowing all the while what remains real and unreal is unimportant and that neither can matter in the end. 7/19/95
117. Becoming Single-minded
Setting oneself apart for great enterprises requires tremendous diligence and patience. How can one remain concerned with trifles? Looking to achieve success in your endeavors you must see beyond what is small and keep from being distracted from your true destiny. How can one be impressed with what remains ordinary? Coming back into the realm of others, what can be discovered in small talk and activities not in line with extending the knowledge and experience one finds while traveling with Lieh Tzu.
Yang Chu once told the King of Liang that ruling the Empire was like rolling it in the palm of your hand. The king angrily responded: “You have one wife and one concubine whom you cannot control, and a garden of three acres which you cannot weed. How can you judge how I should rule the Empire?”
Yang Chu continued with a story illustrating his point: “Have you seen a shepherd with his flock? Send a boy four feet high with a stick on his shoulder to follow a hundred sheep, and they will go east and west as he wishes. Make Yao to lead one sheep, with Shun following behind with a stick on his shoulder, and they couldn’t make the sheep budge. Is it not the real question of knowing where you want to have some sense as to where your destination will take you?”
The King responded: “It is said that the fish which can swallow a boat do not swim in side streams, the high-flying hawk and swan do not settle in ponds and puddles. Why? Simply because their aims are extremely high. The same as with Huang Chung and Ta Lu music that cannot accompany the dance in common entertainments. Why? Because their sounds are too far above the ordinary.”
Once you have seen the horizon traveling with Lieh Tzu and the others how can you desire to look back, be concerned with trifles or consumed by small successes. Once your eyes are opened, how can they become closed? Once you have seen glimpses of your destiny, how can you become anything but single‑minded? 7/21/95
118. Why be concerned with leaving behind lasting impressions
How can it matter what events will transpire today or tomorrow, if they occurred yesterday, last month or may happen next year. Who can know? Who can say? Yang Chu says: “The events of the distinct past have vanished, who has not recorded them? The actions of the Three Highnesses are as nearly lost as surviving; the actions of the Five Emperors are as much a dream as real, the actions of the Three Kings hover in and out of sight. Of all that occurred then, one out of a hundred is all that may be remembered.”
Of the events of our own time, we have seen much and hear of many more. But we do not remember just one in ten thousand. Of events happening at this very moment, we notice some and ignore some and we shall remember not one in a thousand. From the distant past to the present day the years are indeed too many to count. Everything found everywhere has come and has always faded and vanished and will continue to do so.
For each thing does not the memory of worth and folly, beauty and ugliness, success and failure and right and wrong faded and vanished? How can what we do and say last beyond our time and why should it matter? If each of us creates our own heaven and hell as we come and go, what importance can last impressions be along the way?
Again, Yang Chu tells us: “If we presume on the praise or slander of the hour, so that we wither the spirit and vex the body, seeking a reputation which will survive our deaths by a few hundred years, how will this suffice to moisten our dry bones and renew the joys of life.”
As worldly events swirl around us what can be of importance as you have seen it all before. The names and places may have changed, but in the end, there is nothing new. Do not these re‑occurrences remind us to look no further than the perfection found only within ourselves? 7/22/95
119. Traveling in the wake of Dragons
Bringing order where none existed before, heaven and earth giving man the chance that none had had before or will have again. Giving man the responsibility to come forward to find his own destiny through knowledge. Generation after generation given the chance to travel through time and space. With no sense or attention paid to race, creed, or color. Each of us is given a body to keep intact as we look for a way to preserve ourselves.
Keeping calm and open to nature and the Tao. Knowing that neither our body nor other things are our possessions. Yang Chu continues: “Man resembles the other species between heaven and earth and like other things owes his nature to the five elements. He is the most intelligent of living things. But in man, nails and teeth are not strong enough to provide defense, skin, and flesh too soft for protection. He cannot run fast enough to escape danger and lacks fur and feathers to ward off heat and cold. He must depend on other things to tend his nature, must trust knowledge, and not rely on force. Hens the most valuable use of knowledge is for self-preservation. While the most ignoble use of force is to attack others.”
Knowing my body is not my possession, while accepting the responsibility to keep it intact. Knowing other things are not my possession, yet once here not dispensing with them. Knowing that it is through our body that we live but it is by other things we tend to it. From the beginning, knowing that neither my body nor other things can be in my possession. How can one keep for oneself that which belongs to the universe? In the end does not Lieh Tzu extort us to look beyond the seeming allure of the comforts living brings you and to challenge Yang Chu and his assault on knowledge?
Can it be only the sage, only the highest of the highest, who treats as common possessions the body and the things which belong to the world? Is not our own growth and decay common to all things found in nature? 7/24/95
120. Rushing headlong into nothing important
How can there be happiness in rushing headlong into something found outside us? What can be the true essence of knowledge except in finding that which lies only within ourselves?
What can be the purpose in becoming attached or obsessed with things and their aims or manifestations as Yang Chu calls them. The four things we all come rushing to in order that our destiny may be made secure by them. What can there be to long life, reputation, office, and possessions? When with them comes fear and dread of spirit, other men, authority, and punishment. As we are found rushing headlong into nothing important as a man found truly in flight of things.
In flight of the dread of spirits upset at our obsession with wanting a long life. In flight of the dread of other men who are obsessed with reputation. In flight of the dread of authority and the illusion that office brings to one’s ego. In flight of the dread of punishments and the need for possessions and clinging to objects foreign from us. Keeping to this is it not said: “As it is said that he can be killed, he can be given long life; the destiny which decides is outside him”.
However, if you do not go against destiny why should you yearn for a long life? If you are not conceited about honors, why should you yearn for reputation? If you do not want power, why should you yearn for an office? If you are not greedy for wealth, why should you yearn for possessions? As you now rush headlong into nothing important. A man found truly in accord with himself and other things. As nothing in the world counters him, destiny which decides is within him.
The only difference being how one sees himself and keeping to the saying of old: “Without office or marriage a man’s satisfaction would be halved. If they did not eat and wear clothes the way of ruler and subject would cease”. Whichever way can it be? 7/26/95
121. Saying good-bye to Yang Chu
In retrospect, or in looking back, Yang Chu concludes by saying what can one need outside oneself but a grand house, fine clothes, good food and beautiful women? However, one who has them but continually desires more and more with such an insatiable nature, loses his vital forces.
Has not all this simply been a way to find yourself without looking back? As if Lieh Tzu is teaching you the moderation you need as you continue your travels both here and upwards to destinations just beyond today’s reach. Beyond the edge. Something though always there that you cannot quite make out. As if a mountain peak above the clouds. From below the peak your path is obscured by clouds so that it remains unseen. However, your own common sense tells you the peak is still there. Is not the purpose of the journey to continue upwards, above the ridge line. Where the air becomes thinner and thinner. So that one day you have simply become a part of it all. Your eyes feasting on the mountain’s peak that confirms you destination.
Coming back to earth, you are torn between your place in worldly affairs and your desire to remain as the sage in his mountain retreat. As you are constantly reminded that you are not ready to leave just yet. While you are still here, is the task at hand any less than the journey you are about to take?
Questions of loyalty abound. Remaining loyal to others can only in the end endanger ourselves. Being dutiful cannot be enough to benefit others when all it can do is interfere with one’s life. When it is seen that there is no safety that comes with loyalty, a good reputation is always the first to disappear. When it is seen that duty cannot benefit others, the good reputation of the dutiful will also ends. Is it not only when both parties become safe that both others and one can benefit?
What can it all mean in the end? How can one benefit others, when in the end your journey to mountain vistas must be a solitary retreat where only you find comfort? Everything occurring in the interim is only a reminder of who you are yet to become. 7/27/95
122. Chapter Eight – Explaining Conjunctions
123. Introduction…. Coming Forward by Staying Behind
Making sense out of chance combinations which make each situation unique. Coming forward to decide both whether an action is right and how others may interpret your motives. Being led only by what you have learned from Lieh Tzu and the others. To be guided only by spontaneity. To discard any fixed standard which adheres to the status quo or anything unwilling to change. To follow each event and external situation as the shadow follows the body. Only then responding as the knowing sage either actively or passively however each situation dictates. Unconcerned with outcomes that may follow or in whose favor the results may seem.
Keeping to chance. Knowing that the combination of events as they occur will find no winners in the end. Knowing that since there can be no right or wrong way to determine who may benefit you simply follow your own inner voice and look to your own internal truths for any answers that may come.
Just as Lieh Tzu explains, as he was studying under his mentor, Hu Tzu and questioned where he should stand. Hu Tzu told him that when he learned to keep to the rear, he could then begin to teach him how to behave. Lieh Tzu asked: “Please tell me about keeping to the rear?” Hu Tzu replied that Lieh Tzu should begin by looking back at his shadow and he would then soon understand.
Lieh Tzu looked around and watched his shadow. When his figure bent, his shadow was crooked. When his figure stood upright his shadow was straight. So that we know whether to bend or stand upright rests with the shadow; and whether we should be active, or passive depends not on ourselves but other things. This is what is meant by ‘staying at the front by keeping to the rear’.
Understanding conjunctions and knowing to sit back and let events unfold for themselves. Yet always being where you should be in the end. 7/28/95
124. Coming face to face with immortality
Following in the footsteps of Lao Tzu, Lieh Tzu had journeyed to places few had ever been or seen before. In his travels he came upon Kuan‑yin, the fabled man who Lao Tzu had met years earlier at the famous pass where he left the story of the Tao Te Ching as he headed west into history and immortality.
Having become a venerable sage in his own right, Kuan‑yin had many questions for Lieh Tzu that for him still defied logic. He wondered what could come of living in a world where others placed value only on their own satisfaction and enjoyment in worldly affairs. How could a single man traveling alone through unknown vistas of self-attainment defining his true place between heaven and earth come of anything? When coming into the realm of others, all they seek is advantage at the expense of anything and everyone they meet? What could be the answer?
Kuan‑yin cited that it had been this disgust that Lao‑tzu had relayed to him as he was leaving. Lao Tzu had traveled from state to state offering his assistance to one local government after another and in the end was driven off or left in his own disgust. It had been as if no one was interested in truth, only their own self-aggrandizement. It had helped Lao Tzu to understand the fallacy of living within someone else’s definition of truth and falsehood.
Now Kuan‑yin had come full circle with his coming face‑ to‑face with his meeting Lieh Tzu. What had he learned along the way? He could say only this: “If your words are beautiful or ugly, so is their echo; if your person is tall or short, so is its shadow. Reputation is the echo; conduct is the shadow. Hens it is said that you should be careful of your words, for someone will agree with them. Be careful of your conduct, for someone will imitate it”.
As he too left heading west, Lieh‑tzu simply responded: “What can there be to life, except to live within what you already know.” 7/30/95
125. The Corner Table
Wanting to continue the dialog with Kuan-yin, others come forward with the need to get involved in the discussion. To get in their own two cents worth. Many have come this way over the centuries and left with Kuan-yin bits and pieces of their knowledge and wisdom. The inn at the mountain pass the gateway to places where many have departed never to be seen as the person they were before. Many travel this way. Not only the Taoists, but many who speak of the current thoughts of the hour. One’s entry only the desire to question authority and anything accepted by the standards or rules of the day.
Attention drawn to the table in the corner where many are speaking. Each taking his turn to add to the commentary at hand. Taoists, Confucians, Buddhists, Mohist, all. Each not questioning the legitimacy of the other, only adding to the discussion that which reaches the highest accord. Differences put aside for a while. Central themes are the only point of discussion. As the plum wine flows and spirits reach higher and higher.
The discussion centered on the sage and his concern for knowledge, truth and falsehood, sincerity and where it all should lead. All agreeing on the principle that the sage knows what will go in by seeing what came out, knows what is coming by observing what has passed. This is the principle which he knows in advance.
Concurring that when this knowledge is passed on to the world that those who cannot see beyond themselves cannot come forward to know the way. That we judge by our own experience, verify by the experience of others. The Mohists present adding that if a man loves me, I am sure to love him; if he hates me, I am sure to hate him. They all agreed that Teng and Wu became Emperors because they loved the Empire. While Chieh and Chou were ruined because they hated the Empire. With everyone nodding around the table shaking his head with this knowledge their own verification.
Kuan-yin then adding that Lao Tzu had told him that when judgment and verification are both plain, refusing to act on them is like refusing to go by the door when you leave or follow the path when you walk. If you do this, will it not be difficult to get the benefit you seek?
Nods of agreement going around the table, all present in awe still that Kuan-yin had had such a privilege to have been the one to have taken down the words of Lao‑tzu and could even now recite them so well. In the good-natured banter that followed, they all knew the above to be true as the red-faced Kuan-yin tries to step back out of the limelight. As knowing glances around the table convey a togetherness, they just for this moment all share and cherish.
Several then chiming in together that they had observed this in the virtue of Shen Nung and Yu‑yen, verified it in the books of Shun and the Hsia, Shang, and Chou dynasties. That they had reached their own conclusions by the exemplary scholars and worthy men they had each met. That they had never found a case where survival or ruin, rise and decline did not derive from this principle. With this, all those left could do was to thank the innkeeper for such great hospitality as each of those present paid their tally, went upstairs to sleep or outside to catch the wind and wonder. 7/30/95
126. Aspiring to great riches
Yen Hui came to Lieh Tzu explaining that his greatest desire was to be rich. That he wanted to inquire about the way of the Tao to become rich and thus worry free. Yen Hui went on to ask “What if I found a pearl? Then why should I need the Way?”
Lieh Tzu thought long and hard for the proper explanation so that he could temper Yen Hui’s desire to find comfort in things outside himself through becoming rich and after a short while responded: “Remember Chieh and Chou who gave weight to nothing but their own interests and therefore neglected the Way; that is why they perished. How fortunate it is that I have a chance to tell you in time.”
Lieh Tzu continued: “Men yet devoid of honor living for food and nothing else are no better than chickens and dogs. They lock their horns fighting for food, and the victor makes the rules, and as such are no better than the wild beasts and birds. If you are as lazy as a chicken or dog, or as savage as a wild beast or bird, you cannot expect other men to respect you. If others do not respect you, danger and disgrace will befall you.” Yen Hui did not understand. What could another person’s respect have to do with his situation once he was rich? Why should he care?
Lieh Tzu explained: “It is how you will choose to live after you have cashed in on the pearl you hope to find. You will use your newfound riches to acquire things letting your ego run wild. That is why I compare who you hope to become to chickens and dogs. In what way would your actions be different? Hoping to gain the respect of others whose judgment is as clouded as yours is sure to become sheer folly.
If you want to learn about the Way and follow the Tao, you must first learn that the path will remain foreign until you search only for the riches that its understanding brings you.” 7/31/95
127. Staying on target
How can there be reasons for why things take place or do not? If you have simply become one with the swirling events around you, can the sage look back to see why events may or may not have occurred? If you are truly one with them, how can you not already know?
Will competing arguments not looking for reasons as to why things occur or do not simply cloud the issue? Could our time not be better spent perfecting skills that bring forward the definition beyond who we truly are to become? Just as Yang‑tzu tells us in the following story.
Lieh Tzu was studying archery and sought advice from Kuan‑ yin as to the proper way. Kuan‑yin asked him if he knew why he hit the target? Lieh Tzu responded that he did not. Kuan‑yin admonished him that his answer would not do. Lieh Tzu went away to practice and after three years again reported to Kuan‑yin. Kuan‑yin again asked Lieh Tzu if he knew why he hit the target with his arrow.
Lieh Tzu responded that yes, he now knew the things that make up the sport of archery, and explained: “The bow, arrow and quiver had simply become an extension of himself. His focus and attention had become one with the energy that propelled the arrow towards the target. As no other alternative other than hitting the center of the target could enter his mind, how could the arrow not be true?” Kuan‑yin then told Lieh Tzu that his answer would do and that he should hold onto his knowledge and not lose it.
Kuan‑yin continued: “What you have learned not only applies to archery, but to running the state and ruling oneself. While others may look for the reasons things may or may not occur, the sage knows to look no further than himself. Focusing on his own perfection as this will always remain reason enough. Following no rhyme or reason. Beyond the need to explain, as you concentrate only on the flight of the arrow.” 8/3/95
128. A visit with old friends
Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennium but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?
You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without consideration of how they should do so themselves. That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.
As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.
Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/95
129. Staying in sync
What can be found in trusting cunning and skill when in their pursuit one falls out of sync with the way of nature and what it provides? Possessing skills so that one can win a regular salary from the government, can the sage find the time to trust the transformation he discovers in living with what the Tao teaches?
As all who have traveled this way soon discover what the sage learns in an instant, or perhaps already knows. As he puts no trust in cunning or skill and simply spends his time coming to know what he has already learned and has re‑discovered within himself.
Lieh Tzu tells of the story of the man of Sung who made a mulberry leaf out of jade to give to his prince. It took him three years to finish; and when it was mixed up with real mulberry leaves, its indentations, stalk, veins, and luster were indistinguishable from the rest. The prince was so impressed with the man’s skill and talent that he gave him a regular salary so that he could continue his fine works of jade. Lieh Tzu continued: “If heaven and earth grew things so slowly that it took them three years to finish a leaf, there would not be many things with leaves.”
How is someone to reconcile the need to live and produce things which man requires to live in an orderly state and still pursue the Way? Can the truth lie in that we all are not meant to find the Way as we live just now? That once one becomes enmeshed in worldly endeavors pursuing truth goes out the first window it sees.
That the sage trusts the transformation process of the Way, or the Tao. Pursuing only that which lies within himself. While others attempt to better themselves through earning a living and raising a family so that life and death can continue. Perhaps it is in a leaf made of jade that will last an eternity that the man of Sung seeks his own. If in the end he finds Tao, how could the government’s money have been better spent? 8/5/95.
130. At home with Lieh Tzu
What is the sage to do but remain adaptable to the situation living springs forth to greet him? As experience has taught us in our travels, the Way is an individual venture designed with the purpose of freeing us to find our ultimate destination.
As Lieh Tzu tells us to stay free of principle, looking to the spontaneity each moment brings forward culminating in today’s lesson. Lieh Tzu was satisfied to live a simple out of the way existence. Away from others, looking only to his own path, he knew he must follow. This meager existence led to much concern from his wife. Who had, at Lieh Tzu’s side, come to know many who had become important philosophers of the day and could look to a life lived by others in comfort and happiness?
However, this was not the life Lieh Tzu had chosen. He knew the transformation of his spirit was in staying within the singleness of mind of the life that the reclusive sage must follow. He knew that his writings and thoughts were best when there was no contention present. Simply remaining one with nature. Remaining free to travel with the wind as it blows overhead and off the water. To retreat into the woods to become simply at peace and one with his surroundings just at any given moment. To be present as nature provides the spontaneity his spirit craved, finding eternal peace. This was something Lieh Tzu’s wife found difficult to live with and understand.
As Lieh Tzu came to be known as a follower of the Tao, many searched him out to share their own thoughts and reflections. In so doing many became concerned for Lieh Tzu’s family as he chose to live such a meager existence. One such visitor later reported Lieh Tzu’s situation to Tzu‑yang, the Chief Minister of Chang, of the province where Lieh Tzu resided. Telling him as follows: “Lieh Tzu is known as a man who possesses the Way. If he is in need while living in your state, it may be thought that you are not a generous patron.”
After discussing this with his courtiers, Tzu‑yang immediately ordered that grain and other accouterments be sent to Lieh Tzu and his family as soon as possible. Upon its arrival Lieh thanked the messenger, bowed twice, and refused the gift. After the messenger left, Lieh Tzu’s wife glared at him saying: “I have heard that the wives and children of men who possess the Way all live comfortably and happily. But now that starvation shows on our faces and the duke hears of you and sends you food, you refuse the gift. We must be destined to misery!”
Lieh Tzu responded to his wife: “The Duke did not send us food because he knows me personally. He sent the grain because another man said I was in need. If he should someday decide to condemn me because of something that I have written, that too will be because of the word of other men.” Lieh Tzu continued: “While we may be hungry and in need, by accepting the gifts of Tzu‑yang, we become tied to him. It is known that Tzu‑yang is not an able administrator and may someday be removed from office. If we are seen to be in his favor, his downfall may lead to our own.” Lieh Tzu told his wife that while he was sorry for the life, he had chosen had not led to the comforts that she had hoped for, she must learn to live within the constraints living with him meant. Or, while it would be followed by great sadness, move on to a life she might enjoy more fully.
Within a short time of this encounter, Tzu‑yang’s troubles magnified so much that the people made trouble and Tzu‑yang was killed. That Lieh Tzu continued to live in great poverty in pursuing the Way, was well known. That he refused the grain of Tzu‑yang was widely known as well. This action raised his status among those who knew him. Unfazed, Lieh Tzu simply continued his way. 8/6/95
131. Grudging duality
When can be the proper time to live and die? When can be the proper time to come forward or stay behind when what you do or do not do or say or do not say cannot be wrong. Only the time you do them. How can any principle be right or correct in one circumstance and be wrong in another? When the method we used yesterday was wrong we may need to discard today and use tomorrow. How can there be any sense to it?
Mr. Shih of Lu had two sons: one loved learning, the other loved war. The first presented himself as a teacher to the Marquis of Chi, who admitted him to the Court as a tutor to his sons. The second went to Chu and presented himself as a strategist to the King. Who was pleased with him and put him in command of the army. The two men’s salaries enriched their family and their rank brought honor to their parents.
Mr. Shih’s neighbor, Mr. Meng, also had two sons who were trained in the same professions as the sons of Mr. Shih. However, he was extremely poor. Envying the wealth of Mr. Shih, he asked him how his family had risen so quickly in the world. Mr. Shih’s sons, who happened to be home to the time, explained what they had done. Thinking his family could do the same, Mr. Meng sent his sons to follow the example set by the sons of Mr. Shih.
One of his sons went to the province of Chin and presented himself as a teacher to the King of Chin. The King told him: “At present the princes of the states are in violent contention, and are occupied solely with arming and feeding their troops. If I rule my state in accordance with moral teaching, this will be the way to ruin and extinction.”
The King of Chin had the right arm of the son of Mr. Meng cut off as an example to others and banished him, telling him to go home. Mr. Meng’s other son went to Wei and presented himself as a strategist to the Marquis of Wei. Upon his arrival the Marquis chastised him, saying: “Mine is a weak state, situated between big states. The bigger states I serve, the smaller states I protect; this is the way to seek safety. If I rely on military force, ruin and extinction will be a question of hours. But if I let this man leave unharmed, he will go to another state and cause me serious trouble.”
For his trouble, the Marquis had the second son of Mr. Meng’s left foot cut off as an example to others and sent him back home to Wu. Upon his return home, Mr. Meng and his two crippled sons beat their chests and cursed Mr. Shih. How could such a duality occur? As if two conflicting cosmic forces deciding who could be right had acted. Both sets of sons, both those of Mr. Shih and of Mr. Meng had followed the same course of action. But with vastly different results and outcomes.
It had been as if the two families had been in a duel or even in a race against time. Not against each other, but against forces in the world they could not control. As Mr. Meng was upset with Mr. Shih, he and his sons went to him to confront him with the terrible events which had befallen their family. Mr. Shih sadly answered: “Pick the right time and flourish, miss the right time and perish.”
After a time of tense and woeful glances amongst those assembled Mr. Shih continued: “Your way was the same as ours, yet you failed where we succeeded. Not because you did the wrong thing, but because you picked the wrong time to do it. In any case, nowhere is there a principle which is right in all circumstances or an action that is wrong in all circumstances. The method we used yesterday we may discard today and use again in the future; there is no fixed right or wrong in deciding whether we use it or not. The capacity to pick times and snatch opportunities and be never at a loss how to answer events belongs to the wise. If you are not wise enough, even if you are as learned as Confucius, trouble will stay with you wherever you go.” Mr. Meng and his sons reluctantly admitted that what Mr. Shih said it was true and showed him no more ill will. They grudgingly went home knowing nothing more needed or could be said and consoled themselves as best they could.
What can be said of knowing when to act and when not to? Who can know? Who can say? Can it be that we must grudgingly trust the duality of our life’s events to lead us simply to our destiny? That good must follow bad until we stop seeking them and aspire only to our own nothingness. Knowing what may have been, what was good for another and bad for ourselves or someone else depends only on the time when we do them. Knowing this, how could the outcome have been any different? 8/8/95
132. Distracting mulberries
Before setting out to help others, we should not ensure that our own house is in proper order. Assisting those we consider our allies for worthy causes is fine. However, your enemies may be simply waiting until your weakness is exposed.
As with the story told by Lieh Tzu: “Duke Wen of Chin set out to meet his allies intending to attack Wei. His friend, Kung‑tzu Ch’u looked up at the sky and smiled as he rode on his horse next to him. The duke asked why he smiled and Kung‑tzu Ch’u responded that he was smiling at a neighbor of his who was escorting his wife on a visit to her family. He saw a woman at the roadside working on the mulberries, found her attractive and spoke to her. But when he looked around at his wife, there was another man beckoning to her. I take the liberty of smiling at this.”
The duke saw the connection between the story and his own current endeavors and turned back. But before his return home his northern border had been attacked by his foes who had been waiting secretly for his departure so they could take advantage of his absence. He returned just in time to repel the invaders who were surprised at the duke’s tenacity and that he may have become forewarned of their plans. After the Duke had driven off the intruders, he asked Kung‑tzu Ch’u how he could have foreseen such events and had warned him in time to protect his own land and property.
Kung‑tzu Ch’u responded: “How can we be that much different than the man who was distracted by the beauty of the woman picking mulberries along the roadside. If we insist on pursuing the desires of others, or in this case your allies, without shoring up our defenses here at home, how can what we already possess not become attractive to someone else? The story I told was just a premonition of what was to come. It was you who knew what to do.” 8/12/95
133. Who really Cares, who’s willing to Try
Who can know the proper way? Who really cares, who is willing to try? Who will set the example of the right or wrong way to live or to die? What kind of example do we set for others as we find ourselves making the best or worst of each day? How can we seek to capture those who choose to rob others, instead of seeking a worthy livelihood for themselves? Does Lieh Tzu not tell us in the story that follows?
There was a certain man named Hsi Yung who could read another man’s face and recognize him as a robber by scrutinizing the space between his eyebrows and eyelashes. The Marquis of Chin sent him to identify robbers throughout the countryside. His talent was so good that he did not miss one in a thousand. The Marquis was delighted and told his friend Wen‑tzu. He explained to Wen‑tzu that by discovering this one man he had brought an end to robbery throughout the country. Why should he need anyone else? An end to his problem was in sight. Wen‑tzu stated: “My Lord will never get rid of robbers if he relies on an inspector to catch them. I would certainly add that your man, Hsi Yung, will not die a natural death.”
On that very day, a few miles away the robber bands were plotting together, saying: “The man who has brought us to this situation is Hsi Yung. We must join forces, wait for the right time and kill Hsi Yung.” The bandits soon afterwards found their chance and killed Hsi Yung. Upon hearing of Hsi Yung’s premature death, the Marquis called upon Wen‑tzu who reminded him of an old proverb of Chou which went: “Scrutiny which reveals the fish in a pool is unlucky. The wisdom which guesses secrets is fatal.”
Wen‑tzu went on to say that His Yung came too close to the source and was therefore extinguished and continued: “If you wish to be done with robbers, your best course is to appoint worthy men to office and let them enlighten those below them. If the people have a sense of shame, why should they become robbers?” The Marquis followed his advice and the robbers soon fled. 8/12/95
134. Questions of Loyalty
Which can be the proper way? By staying true to the Tao or remaining loyal, true and to personal integrity as Confucius would have us do? How can we confuse loyalty, what remains true and our personal integrity with that which is found in the Tao?
Confucius sent Tzu‑lu to ask the man: “The waterfall is over two hundred feet high; the whirlpool covers ninety miles, fish and turtles cannot swim here, and crocodiles cannot live here. I would suggest it may be too difficult to cross. “The man chuckled to himself, paid no notice to Tzu‑lu and jumped in, crossed over and came out on the far side none the worst of it.
Confucius and a few of his followers were returning from Wei to Lu and rested on a bridge over a large river enjoying the view. There was a waterfall more than two hundred feet high and ninety miles of whirlpool. The place was so inhospitable that fish and turtles could not swim there, even crocodiles would not live in this place. Confucius. Just then they noticed a man about to jump in with the intent to swim across to the other side.
Confounded, Confucius questioned the man when he caught up with him: “Amazing, what skills you must possess. Have you some special talent? How could you maneuver through such difficult waters?” The man responded: “When I first enter, I start by being loyal to the water, and when I come out, I continue to be loyal and true to it. By throwing my body into the current, I do not act selfishly. That is how I can get out again once I am in.”
Overwhelmed, Confucius tells his followers that through loyalty, truth and personal integrity, we can make friends even with water, not to speak of men! While the swimmer put his faith in the Tao of the water and only his becoming one with it. 8/13/95
135. What Can Remain Unspoken
Forever crossing the threshold. Coming in with those who know what is behind the words we speak, without words ever needing to be spoken. Otherwise, forever paying consequences yet to come. Knowing that as you become one with the words you have written or will ever write that you may be giving yourself away as you speak.
This has always remained the paradox or contradiction of the true sage. Forever falling away as the person others may have come to know. As you fall away into the nothingness you are yet to become. Just as when the Duke of Pei asked Confucius: “Is it possible to hint to a man without giving yourself away to others.” Confucius listened but didn’t answer.
The duke continued: “Suppose I throw water into water. Ah, but if it were the water of the Tzu River and the Shang River wouldn’t the great cook Ya Yi know the difference. Of course, he would, simply by its taste.” The Duke of Pei then added: “What if I threw a rock into the water.” Confucius answered simply that any good diver from Wei could find it. The duke finally said that it must really be impossible to hint without giving yourself away.
Ah! Confucius laughed and added: “Why shouldn’t it be possible with men who know what is behind words. The man who knows what is behind words, speaks without words. It is said that fishermen get wet, and hunters get out of breath, but not for the fun of it. Hens the utmost in speech is to be rid of speech. While the utmost doing is doing nothing. Shallow minds will always contend for what does not matter.”
The duke could not follow the logic Confucius tried to convey to him. In revenge of the death of his father he urged others to war. In the ensuing battle that followed the Duke of Pei was himself killed. In seeking revenge for the acts of others, he failed to understand the importance of his own life and what should have remained unspoken. 8/13/95
136. Worrying to Ensure that Victory comes Last
What can be the point of needing to win and fearing loss, when neither can matter in the end? What a price for ego when worry leads to shadows and glory. How can one remain satisfied with victory when the contentment that comes with it leads to one’s ruin?
Confucius tells us that to win is not difficulty; the difficulty is to make victory last so that good fortune passes on to later generations. He tells us of Chao Hsiang‑tzu who sent Hsin‑chih Mu‑tzu to attack Ti. The general was victorious and took the towns of Tso‑jen and Chuang‑jen before lunch and sent a runner to report the good news to Chao Hsiang‑tzu. Chao Hsiang‑tzu’s courtiers were surprised at his worried look and expressed that this should be enough to make anyone content.
Hsiang‑tzu responded: “The Yangtze and the Yellow River are at high tide for only three days; stormy winds and fierce rains do not last out the morning; the sun is at high noon for less than a moment. Now I have no steady accumulation of noble deeds behind me. As two cities fall to me in the morning, ruin will surely find me!”
Upon hearing this, Confucius conveys how can Chao Hsiang‑tzu with such worry, not have success and glory? That it is by worrying that a worthy prince makes victory last. So that his good fortune passes on. Is it not said that Chi, Chu, Wu and Yueh all enjoyed victory in their time? But they were finally ruined by victory because they did not know how to make it last. That only the prince who knows the Way, or Tao, can make victory last in the end.
Can the secret to making victory last be the man who can represent his strength as weakness? Confucius was strong enough to remove the bar at the main gate but had no desire to show his strength. Mo‑tzu could build the strongest defenses but did not want to be known as a warrior. Just as we are reminded that while worrying leads to glory, contentment leads to ruin. 8/14/95
137. Myths on Purpose
Reminded of what you have already written regarding myths and legends. Knowing not to take what appears on the surface, as you look to discover what is not apparent. Using examples of metaphors and images to bring everything into focus. Using the common sense of the sage to predict all action that may simply be waiting to come forth again and again.
Conscious that what now appears as truth, may in the end be nothing near the reality yet to be made clear. As we soon will learn. There was a family in Sung that was known far and wide for its virtuous conduct over many generations. Then for no reason a black cow gave birth to a white calf. They asked Confucius about it. Confucius told them it was a fortunate omen, and they should offer it to God. A year later the father for no reason went blind. Again, the cow gave birth to a white calf and again the father ordered his son to ask Confucius. The man’s son was confused and asked: “I don’t understand, the last time we asked Confucius you went blind”.
The man who had gone blind told his son: “The words of the sage at first seem to defy the facts, later are seen to agree with them. We have not seen the end of this matter, ask him again”. The son reported this to Confucius as he was told to and upon the death of the second calf, he too soon became blind.
Soon afterward Chi attacked Sung and besieged the city. The people were forced to take desperate action, exchanged their children and ate them, then splitting their bones for fuel. All the able-bodied men mounted the walls to fight with more than half meeting their end. The father and son being blind, both escaped. Not long afterwards, the siege was lifted and they soon both regained their sight.
What could the story be telling us except that what may appear today as tragedy may in the end save us. If it helps us to see beyond today’s travails and give us hope for tomorrow, how could its purpose not be true? 8/14/95
138. Lord Yuan’s largess
There once was a vagabond of Sung who was quite an amazing fellow. He could perform a certain trick and was summoned before Lord Yuan. Lord Yuan asked him about his special talent. The man’s trick was to fasten to his legs a pair of stilts twice as long as himself and juggle seven swords which he threw in the air at the same time. Lord Yuan was astounded and gave the man a present of gold and silk.
Word got out to other drifters and wanderers of the Lord’s domain of his largess and his willingness to share his fortune with those who had some special talent. Soon others began to appear at Lord Yuan’s Court to show off similar abilities and talents.
The Lord became furious saying: “Not long ago there was a man who came to me with an extraordinary trick. There was no point to the trick, but as I happened to be in a good mood, I gave him a present of gold and silk. Now others have heard of this fellow’s good fortune and come to my Court in hopes for rewards as well.”
If I throw the one who happens to be at my doorstep in prison for a month as lesson, others will soon get the message and I will be without any entertainment whatsoever. However, if I bring him in and shower him with gifts, my stores will soon be empty from my good will.” Lord Yuan continued: “This man should be punished as he is here, I am told, not because of some extraordinary talent. But is simply the local acrobat who dances in the air at all the fairs in the vicinity. I shall have him punished as he is not really that good.”
Lord Yuan had him bound and punished and did not let him loose for a month. The word soon went out the while those with special talent could come forward and may be rewarded, they should be careful. Because if they failed to impress the Court, they could find themselves wishing they had learned their tricks and honed their skills a little better. 8/15/95
139. When a yellow Mare becomes a great Horse
Duke Mu of Chin exclaimed to his friend Po‑lo, ah, what I wouldn’t give for a great horse. You know the kind I am looking for. The one who raises no dust when he runs and leaves no tracks so that no one can follow. Yes, Po‑lo said, I see. “I am in need of such a horse,” said the duke. You know that a good horse can be identified by its shape and look, its bone and muscle. But who knows, the great horses of the world may be extinct, vanished, perished or just lost waiting to be found. The duke continued: “You are getting on in years, is there anyone in your family whom I can send to find me such a horse.”
Po‑lo answered that his sons all had lesser talents. They can pick a good horse, but not a great one. But there is a man I know who carries and hauls firewood for me. His name is Chiu fang‑Kao. He is certainly my equal. I suggest that you send him. Duke Mu found the man and explained what he wanted and sent him away to find such a horse. The duke was full of anticipation and could hardly wait for the man’s return. Finally, after three months the man returned and reported that such a horse had been found in She‑Chiu. The one I have chosen is a yellow mare.
The duke sent someone to retrieve it and when the man returned, he discovered the horse to be a stallion and black. Shocked, he sent for Po‑lo. The duke chided Po‑lo: “He’s no good, this man you sent to me to find me horses. He cannot even tell one color from another, mare from stallion. What can he know about horses?”
Po‑lo breathed a sigh of awe and exclaimed: “So now he has risen to this. It is just this that shows that he is worth a thousand, ten thousand, and any number of people like me! What such a man as Kao observes is the inner most native impulses behind the horse’s movements. He grasps the essence and forgets the drass, goes right inside it and forgets the outside. He looks for and sees what he needs to see. In the judgment of horses of a man like Kao, there is something more important than horses.”
Of course, the Duke had to confess that the horse upon further inspection did prove to be a great horse. And upon thinking the matter through he realized that he had never seen the method one used in picking a good horse himself. He had only learned to appreciate greatness, after others had discovered it for him. The duke wanted to appreciate the greatness found in a superior horse, he had just not yet discovered it and concluded: “When is a yellow mare a great horse, but when it turns out to be a black stallion.” 8/16/95
140. It’s too late when you are talking to the tips of Branches
How is one to govern oneself, and what does it say about who we are in the eyes of others and more importantly how we see ourselves. Where can our roots lie? Is not the answer to how we care for our spirit? If we endeavor to feed and nourish our internal spirit, will not our actions simply become the extension of who we are yet to become?
As the roots take hold, with proper nourishment, does not the trunk begin to flourish and take shape. Is it not from this those branches, and limbs spring forth with leaves to breathe in the rays of the sun? To one day encourage and help us to attain some sense of enlightenment, as we are reminded of in the following story.
King Chuang of Ch’u suffered from a great malady or illness. Afraid to share his problem with his peers he discussed his problem with his servant Chan Ho. King Chuang confided to Ho: “My ancestors have left me with a great responsibility that I must maintain. However, the problems of the State keep me from seeing how I can fit everything together in a way that makes sense. How am I to put the state in order so that good fortune follows me and my own posterity?” His servant Chan Ho responded that while he understood how to put one’s life in order, caring for the state was another matter. King Chuang continued: “I have inherited the shrine of my royal ancestors and the altars of state. I wish to learn how to keep them.”
The answer was difficult for Chan Ho. For as he felt honored to have been chosen to serve the king, he felt that he was in a difficult situation. He conveyed to King Chuang: “Your servant has never heard of a prince whose own life was in order, yet his state was in turmoil, nor of any whose life was in turmoil but his state was in order. Therefore, the root must lie in how you choose to govern yourself.”
Chan Ho then told the king a story that had been passed down from generation to generation amongst the poor people of the village of his father and grandfather. It went something like this: “Your life is governed as you would care for a grove of fruit trees. If you can find the time to care and nurture the trees so that you create the finest fruit in the land, then how can success not find you?” Chan Ho continued: “Giving advice to you after you are in the state your actions have found you is like talking to the tips of branches. At this late date, whatever you do may be too little, too late.
Chan Ho concluded by saying that if you can find this way, then the answer will come rushing forward to greet you as a long-lost friend who knows his association with you can only be to his benefit as well. This is all you will ever need to know. The king, now having his answer, thanked his servant and wondered how he could not have seen the answer for himself and set out to find his gardens. Upon seeing them, he saw the care Chan Ho had given them and knew it may not be too late. 8/16/95
141. To be solicited by dragons
In the beginning, the Creator was but a potter, turning on his wheel the sun and moon bringing forth man and woman. Giving his son, the emperor, the power to control the empire as the potter controls the wheel.
Next in line came Shenming, the divine husbandman, who discovered agriculture along with the healing properties of plants. Needing water to nurture life, the dragon appeared as the god of water, thunder, clouds, and rain. The harbinger of blessings and becoming the symbol of the sage, shaman and holy men. The emperor but an incarnation of the dragon completing the circle for all time to come.
However, as with all things, the dragon can destroy as water can smother, just as water can sustain and preserve all things to come.
In time, the dragons come to preside over the seasons and four directions. Blue or green in spring to the east, to the west a white dragon associated with autumn, to the north a black dragon, associated with winter and drought and to the south coming forth as two dragons. The red god presiding in summer and growth, later becoming a yellow dragon in time for the harvest.
All listen to Shenming, as they preside over the seasons and give us cures for our ailments and diseases.
The dragons cause the sun and moon to escape beyond the horizon and reappear the next day. To cause eclipses of both and protect them as they come and go into eternity. To those who win the dragons’ favor, they become protectors. To those who do their bidding, they too become immortal. However, one must be careful and forewarned. Because in seeking out dragons to come and appear before us, they too may decide to seek us out as well. 8/16/95
142. Living only to remain hidden from view
Is not the path we travel the same as that of the fish, the duck, the blue jay, and the sun? As we live, can we be sure that we have been here? How can we count on what may or may not occur? Do not each of us remain present only to remain hidden from view?
The sound of the fish splashing momentarily on the water’s surface. Grasping a bug, it finds skimming on top. You cannot see the fish. However, you know it is there because you have heard it jumping on the water’s surface. As it remains hidden from view. You see the duck dive to the depths of the lake as it forages on the bottom for food. Remaining hidden from view. However, you know it is there because you have seen it diving before. Just as it pops up to the surface once again.
You hear the blue jay singing in the wind. The blue jay hidden by the leaves of the maple tree. However, you know it is there because you can hear it singing into the wind as it stays hidden from view. The reflection of the sun on the water as it ripples in the wind. The sun itself hidden behind the maple tree. You cannot see the sun. However, you know it is there because you can see its reflection in the water as the water ripples in the wind.
Is not the path we travel the same as that of the fish, the duck, the blue jay, and the sun? As we live can we be sure that we have been here? Can we count on what may or may not occur? Do not each of us remain present only to remain hidden from view? 8/17/95
143. In the throes of Resentment
Continually coming into the realm of others one cannot help but to be attracted to attachments. Attachments that help to create the image of all things being the same. A comforting sameness creating a uniformity that finds patterns we can simply fall into. Instead of falling away losing that we cling to, we constantly are seen trying to gain them. Our only sense of self becoming how we see ourselves being seen by others. Finding comfort in the oh so too familiar. Envying others for what we may lack or have failed to find quite yet for ourselves. Always in the end finding resentment as we condition ourselves to seek that which is outside ourselves as a substitute for what lies within.
Haven’t you seen all this before on your travels with Lieh Tzu? As you are reminded of the story Lieh Tzu has told you of an old man of Fox Hill that he in turn is seen telling to his friend Sun Shu‑ao: “Sun Shu‑ao is at a loss for words and comes to the old man telling him what troubles him deep in his heart. Sun Shu‑ao has two sons who are both about the same age.
One is quite talented, and it seems that everything the boy does comes easily to him. School, girls, athletics, even the classical musical instrument, the luan he has mastered. However, his other son has trouble with everything. Even expressing himself and finding his place in the world. What was he to do as the youngest son held a deep resentment towards his older brother and his many talents?”
“There are three things which man resents, do you know them,” the old man said to Sun Shu‑ao. Sun Shu‑ao asked what did he meant and what could this have to do with his sons? The old man of Fox Hill told him: “It is wrong for your younger son to compare himself to the talents of his older brother. That in the end what can matter? If your rank is high, others will envy you. If your office is great, your prince will hate you. If your salary is large resentment will live with you. Go home and tell your youngest son that he is free of those things that would keep him from finding enlightenment that he has an opportunity to discover only through finding himself.”
Sun Shu‑ao went home and told both his sons what the old man had told him. For the first time his youngest son began to look beyond the comparisons that before he couldn’t meet and for the first time began to find himself. While Sun Sho‑ao’s oldest son in recognizing the needs of his family and his love for his younger brother, told them that the higher his rank the humbler his ambitions would be the greater his office he may someday attain, the more meticulous he would be and the larger his salary the further his bounty would extend. He would always keep his promise to remember his responsibility to his family. He concluded by saying that if he acted this way, he could not avoid the three causes of resentment.
Pleased at the direction his family now aspired to, Sun Shu‑ao went back to the old man and told him of his meeting with his sons and expressed his hope for the future. 8/18/95
144. A decision for eternity
As Sun Shu‑ao’s sons grew older they both prospered. The oldest as a respected merchant, who had an eye for a bargain and the sense to sell at the right price. His younger son went on to gain prominence as one who knew all the great philosophers of the day, able to recite their stories and convey their knowledge in a way that all could understand them.
When Sun Shu‑ao was close to death he warned his sons: “The king has several times offered me a fief, but I did not accept. When I die, he will make the same offer to you both. Be sure not to accept strategically useful land. Between Chu’u and Yueh is Graveyard Hill, which is strategically useless land with a very inauspicious name. The men of Yueh believe in omens. This is the only place which can be owned for long.” Soon after Sun Shu‑ao’s death, just as he predicted the king offered them excellent land and the two sons were torn as to the proper course of action. The son who had become wealthy saw the advantage to the land being offered and at first jumped at the chance to further extend his fortune.
His other son was familiar with the land his father had suggested and knew it to be a holy place where many had come to seek enlightenment. He knew that its reputation as Graveyard Hill was given as a misnomer to keep others away who had not yet found the way within themselves as the Tao and other religious teachings had directed. He knew that this place would be secure if he could convince his brother that they should keep their father’s last wish and accept the king’s offer.
While his brother may look to expand his wealth in the short run, he knew the family’s real fortune was tied to the preservation of Graveyard Hill. He reminded his brother of the story their father had told them when they were small. A time when everything had come easy for his brother and so difficult for him. That it had been the story told by the old man of Fox Hill that had given me the wherewithal to see beyond comparisons with you, to see beyond my own limitations. It was then that you promised to use whatever rank, honor or salary you might obtain to keep to your responsibility to your family. This you have done over the years, and you have always been my greatest friend and you have always kept your word.
His older brother sat back and thought long and hard at what had just been told him. It had always been the needs of his family that had directed his endeavors and he too could remember the story their father had told them of the old man’s story and his own promise. In the end, he knew there had been no choice. Just as he had known from the beginning.
Now we are confronted with the ultimate test our family could aspire to that will define us for eternity. Do we strive to increase the riches of our family by accepting strategically located land? Land we will always have to fight to keep for ourselves because of its importance, or do we take the land known as Graveyard Hill that nobody wants? Land more valuable than most will ever know. As neither of us has ever fallen to the resentment that could have been thrust upon us, this last wish of our dearly beloved father is one I hope we can make in total agreement.
The two sons followed the wishes of their father and instead asked the king for Graveyard Hill. A request that was quickly granted. In so doing, what they may have lost in the short term they were sure to gain in eternity. While others questioned their logic, they knew their decision was the only one they could make. As the old man of Fox Hill looked on knowing that his conversation with their father had served its purpose. 8/19/95
145. Hounded forever by flying Pigeons
Have things changed all that much? Confucius tells us of his great friend Niu Chueh from the highlands of Wu. Going down to Hen Ten, he met with robbers at Ou‑Sha. They took all that he had, clothes and equipment, a carriage and horses. After they left Niu Chueh set off on foot appearing to be quite content showing no sign of anxiety or regret. Puzzled, the robbers ran after him and asked him why. Niu Chueh responded: “How could I be concerned about possessions which merely serve as a means to support one’s life. Why would I risk my life for mere possessions?”
After leaving Niu Chueh alone at the roadside the bandits questioned their own wisdom and the obvious wisdom of this man who they had just robbed of everything he owned. They then became concerned about what such a wise man might say to others and agreed that if such a mark or target, whom they often referred to as a flying pigeon, went to see the Lord of Chao and asked him to do something about them, he would certainly get them into trouble. Their leader continued: “We will forever be on the run. We had better kill him.” So, the bandits ran back after him and killed him.
The story soon spread of the fate of the well‑respected man, who had been known as Niu Chueh. Clansmen of the area came together and questioned what they should do and agreed that if anyone met with these robbers, they should not end up like this Niu Chueh from the highlands of Wu. Soon afterward, just as could have been expected, one of the men of the clan encountered the robbers on the road to chin. Remembering what his clansmen had agreed to, he put up a struggle against the robbers. After losing most of the men in his party and his possessions he ran after the robbers and upon catching up with them begged for the return of his property.
The robbers angrily replied: “We recently encountered a Confucian fellow from Wu who we stole from, and he simply went merrily on his way. We had to kill him because of what he might say to others. Now here you are, we spare your life and you come running after us. You truly are a flying pigeon. If we let you go everyone will know what direction, we took.”
They concluded by saying that once a robber what room has a man for kindness. What choice do we have but to kill you as well? So, they did and concluded: When will these flying pigeons ever stop? Are they to haunt us forever?” One of their group confessed that perhaps if they themselves did not want to be here today and gone tomorrow, they should keep from being hounded by these flying pigeons and all find another profession. Reluctantly, they all agreed. Niu Chueh’s death would not be in vain. 8/20/95
146. Serendipity to die for
In the end it is not a series of unrelated events that always come forward to have the final say. How can something be pre‑ determined when events are out of control telling us otherwise? With serendipity telling all as it looks to explaining conjunctions along the way.
If both good and bad are simply waiting for their turn to come forward, is not the outcome the true essence of both yin and yang getting better acquainted? While everything remains the same. Does the Tao not teach us to simply stay within ourselves with no need or desire to control events? With the dragons always close by to remind us of our obligation to destiny.
Lieh Tzu tells us of the story of a rich family headed by Mr. Yu who lived in Liang. His family was at the height of prosperity, and he had more money, silk, and property than they could count. One day while at leisure, he climbed a tall house overlooking the main road leading up to his estate. Called for music and wine and played games of fish while looking down at all that he possessed. One of the players made a lucky draw and laughed as he turned over two fish. Just as they were at their most boisterous and laughter could be heard at some distance, several soldiers happened to be walking below along the road. A kite, or red‑tailed hawk, flying above dropped a moldy rat which happened to hit one of the soldiers. The soldiers thought the laughter coming from above was at their expense and thought the moldy rat may have been thrown from the rooftop.
The soldiers were incensed. They felt Yu had been rich and happy for too long and always treated others too lightly. Here they had done nothing to offend him, yet he insulted them with a moldy rat. How could they not avenge such a slight? They felt that if they failed to avenge such a slight the soldiers in this region would lose their reputation and there would be nothing Mr. Yu would feel he couldn’t do. As soldiers, their reputation was at stake in the eyes of the world. They agreed to unite, bring all their fellow men‑at‑arms, and exterminate the family. On the appointed night, they came back and killed Mr. Yu and his whole family.
A few days later it was reported to the magistrate that the soldiers had been seen close by on the night Mr. Yu and his family were killed. The soldiers were brought forward to explain their whereabouts and if they were responsible. Several witnesses had come forward to say that the soldiers were guilty and in unison asked: “What could they say for themselves for killing such a rich and respected family?”
The soldiers told what they saw as the truth. A few days before they were passing the estate of Mr. Yu and a large moldy rat came down upon them just as they passed Mr. Yu and his party. They felt, as soldiers, they could not live with such a slight to their reputation and admitted their deed to the shock of all assembled. Just then a man came forward to say that he had been present when the moldy rat hit the soldiers. He had been watching the kite struggling to carry the rat and had seen it drop onto the soldiers. He said he remembered because he laughed at the time and had gone home to tell his wife of what happened, and they had had a good laugh at the soldier’s expense. The man’s wife stepped up to confirm his story.
It was the soldiers turn for shock now as they argued that they had been hit by the moldy rat and were convinced that it had been thrown from the ramparts above. And were incited by the laughter they just knew was at their expense. The magistrate was at a loss initially for the proper punishment and decided the soldiers should be held until the next day. Then he would render his decision although he wondered what action he would take. Early the next morning the soldiers were led out to the courtyard. People from every corner of the province came as word had traveled as to the unfortunate death of Mr. Yu and his family.
Everyone strained to hear the verdict of the magistrate and could not see how the soldiers would live if justice prevailed. The magistrate began by saying that Mr. Yu and his family had been among the richest in the region and had grown a little high and mighty at the expense of others. Looks of agreement were seen throughout the crowd. Until someone yelled: “Ya, but what’s to die for. Some moldy rat he didn’t even throw!” Restoring order, the magistrate continued: “Can killing the soldiers for a mistake they made bring them back. They should be punished ‑ yes. What should their punishment be?” “Kill them all! Kill them all!” Came cries from the crowd. The magistrate said yes, yes, but… Before he could continue the soldiers said their concern for their reputation had done this, then looked at each other and out upon the crowd. Then grabbed weapons that were nearby and each in turn killed himself. 8/21/95
147. Confusing Human Traits with Reality
What traits can define us? Can the reputation we carry with us everywhere we go truly define all there is to know? What can reputation be, but how have others decided to see us and decide for themselves and how can it matter in the end? If both good and bad are present in all of us are both capable of coming forward? Can even the most hardened among us not find room in his heart for random acts that may be seen as kindness?
Does not the Tao teach us that every act springs forward in spontaneity finding its own name and its own reality? Being so, how could it be missed? Lieh Tzu tells us of a respected merchant out on his rounds who was caught by robbers at a pass in the hills of Mu Lia. They took all that he had and left him along the roadside to die.
The man, whose name was Yuan Hsing Mu lay there for what seemed to him an eternity when another robber found him. Having watched from a distance what had happened he came forward to give him food and water. Yuan Hsing Mu ate three mouthfuls before his eyesight returned. Thanking the man, he asked him his name. The man confided that he was known as Ch’iu of Hu‑fu. The merchant, now beginning to come to his senses recognized the name as one belonging to a criminal who was renowned for his evil deeds committed throughout the countryside. Shocked he exclaimed: “What, aren’t you a criminal? What do you mean by giving me food? I am a respectable man; I will not eat your food!”
Yuan Hsing Mu then pressed both hands against his stomach and tried to vomit the food he had given up. But it stuck gurgling in his throat. He then suddenly fell on his face and died. All to the shock of Chiu, who stood by unsure of what to do next? While the man Chiu of Hu‑fu was certainly a criminal, there was nothing criminal about the food.
What could have been more wrong than to confuse the man’s name with his deeds as he attempted to assist someone in need, and the random act of kindness that had been rejected? 8/23/95
148. Misplaced Affections
How can one live with resentments to die for? How can one find his own way if he is clouded by what should be considered as misplaced affections? Confusing events and reality to meet some definition of how others seen as more important than we see ourselves will find us along the way.
Governed by some real or unreal slight that can never have any real meaning. Who can make sense of it? There is a story of a man known as Chu Li‑shu, who was in the service of Duke Ao of Chu. Having toiled on the sidelines for many years he became upset that the duke took him for granted. That his ideas and actions always fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. The duke always played up to those higher than himself and to prop him up. Chu Li‑shu felt unappreciated and unwanted.
One day, Chu Li‑shu told the duke that he was tired of being forever overlooked and left to live a simple life with friends along the seashore. Eating water chestnuts and lotus seeds in the summer and chestnuts and acorns in the winter. After a few years had passed, Chu heard that the duke was in trouble and planned to leave his friends to go fight and die for the duke. Before leaving, his friends were amazed the Chu would come to the aid of Duke Ao. When not a day had gone by since he arrived, he had expressed how the duke did not appreciate him and told him that if he went now to fight and die for him, it would make no difference whether the duke appreciated him or not.
Ah! said Chu, that is precisely the point and that is why I must go now and stated: “I left because I felt that he did appreciate me, and to die for him now will prove that he did not appreciate me. I shall die for him to shame the lords of future generations who do not appreciate their vassals. What future generations must know is to die for a lord who appreciates you and refuse to die for a lord who does not. Is this not walking straight in the Way or Tao, he questioned?”
Chu Li‑shu’s friends were all at a loss for words and knew what he said was true, but only up to a point. To find one’s image only as it reflects upon another, therefore finding contentment is far from the proper way. In the end, Chu Li‑shu should have known better. 8/25/95
149. The Perfect Pigeon
Yang Chu says that if benefit goes out from you the fruits will return to you. If resentment goes forth from you only harm will come back to you. What can he be saying except that one should not contend with others? That contention can only bring resentment. That he is reminded of all the great men of letters of the day. Confucius and Lao‑tzu, the best examples of those who were driven away due to false charges and envy. Lao‑tzu learning that what may seem apparent as right and wrong only serves to show that right and wrong cannot exist for one and not another. What the shaman always has understood as the basis of the natural order ordained in the ten thousand things.
If you do not “fit in” with your contemporaries what can occur but harm that keeps you from finding your way? That whatever is required that assists in your ultimate awakening or unveiling can only lead to finding your true endeavor and destiny. Is this not often the precursor of the sage retreating to mountaintops and seclusion? With patience and perseverance and waiting for final outcomes to reveal themselves the final order of the day.
Knowing that it is only when you lose your identity and some sense of self‑importance that the way can become clear. That what comes from within and is answered from without is mere passion. Therefore, if the wise man is careful of what he lets out, cannot this but serve to make his destination become all too apparent.
Yang Chu tells of a fellow known as Yen Wu, who had just recently completed study of the early Classic the I Ching that is commonly referred to as the “Book of Change”. In the process a transformation began that would change his direction, or way, forever. He had been a well‑respected shaman giving advice to the betterment of all in the state of Chi working in a city of many thousand. Soon rising to the rank of senior adviser in anticipation of the retirement of an older gentleman who had been in the position for over forty years. These “advisers” were common in ancient China as they gave advice that corresponded to the placement of the stars and where things stood in the universe. Often adept at reading the yarrow sticks or on special occasions the cracks of the tortoise shell. Yen Wu had all the attributes of a great sage in the making.
While he was extremely capable, he was deeply resented by some he worked with who saw him as simply an outsider who was not from their community. His good advice and place were not fully appreciated by those who were bound by ego and their own vision of things to come. A city dominated by politics and an internal sense of self‑importance that put who you knew and how well you fit in far above any best intentions or talent. The major job requirement being that you were somebody’s cousin or uncle or another family member of the local politicians. Yen Wu was simply in the way.
While he was extremely capable, he was deeply resented by some he worked with because he was not from the city. A city dominated by politics and an internal sense of self-importance that put who you knew and how much you contributed to the local politicians above any real talent. In fact, the major job requirement was that you were a get along‑come along part of the system to begin with. His demise was pre-ordained. A fate common to his contemporaries who often traveled from city to city offering advice. The only reason Yen Wu had been hired to come to the city was that it had elected an enlightened leader who felt the need to continue building his political base, while bringing in a few city planners and professionals to city government from the outside. Yen Wu had been initially hired for this reason. From the beginning, Yen Wu did not fit in with the office, as the old man soon decided he wanted a younger man to succeed him. Primarily at the urging of his secretary who disliked Yen Wu and constantly conspired to make Yen Wu’s life a living hell. She had run the office while the old man slept at his desk and possessed such an overabundance of ego that she felt she was to be in charge.
Soon after Yen Wu had been hired another younger advisor lacking any sense of propriety and representing the worst traits that typified this overly proud and self-absorbed city was hired as well. He was convinced that he could do the job much better than Yen Wu. Feeling that regardless of the fact Yen Wu had been chosen over him to replace the aging shaman, he, not Yen Wu should be given the position held by the aging shaman. He and his friends at work felt he should get the job and they immediately began plotting to overcome Yen Wu. Soon afterward the aging shaman became ill and had to leave.
The secretary, he and others began efforts to undermine Yen Wu. Feeling that regardless of Yen Wu’s position, the younger shaman should have gotten the position having met the primary qualification of other city workers having been a life‑long resident and Yen Wu being just a wandering bureaucrat brought in by the previous administration. They began to plot to eliminate Yen Wu and decided to simply wait for the opportunity to do so. Their envy overshadows any good sense they may have had. The younger man had no sense of the natural order of things or the Tao. Only his sense guided by ego and sense of self-importance.
Knowing this resentment was ever‑present, Yen Wu looked elsewhere for some sense of satisfaction away from his job. He became active as the shaman beyond the city in the region and was recognized elsewhere for his talent and ability. The resentments only grew as those Yen Wu worked with in the city did what they could to destroy him. While he looked inward to discover what could come of all this. Yang Chu says that it was at this time that Yen Wu’s sense of self, of who he was to become, was about to change. A transition was beginning that would change him forever. That this transition occurred during his inward turning to the Tao and especially the I Ching was to be no accident. He was to learn initially that it was not where he was that was as important as who he was and in knowing this where it might lead. For the first time endeavor and destiny became paramount as he began writing as if the universe were calling.
Yen Wu had begun to look inward to the Tao. He had always been quiet and unassuming, with little sense of ego or sense of self-importance that dominated the city’s landscape. In the meantime, Yen Wu had purchased and created a large, beautiful home and had transformed it and its yards into awe inspiring gardens filled with flowers, fruit trees, flora, and fauna. He became a well-respected Master Gardener and put his energies into his home and gardens. While tending to work as best he could. Yen Wu finally got what he thought was a small break. The younger shaman, who was this in name only, who for years had attempted to thwart his every move was forced out due to budget constraints. Instead of helping, this only consolidated those resolved to find friends who could help them to remove this obstacle that kept them from getting their way. They looked to what the city was noted for. They turned to a local politician who was their friend to take the lead in bringing about the downfall of Yen Wu and bring back the younger man. All they needed was a plan and to bide their time. A conspiracy just waiting for events in their favor to fall into place. Conspirators who were seen as good people who had become victims of their own environment. Their only sense of right and wrong was how they could benefit in the end. Is this not what they had learned in their time growing up in the city?
Where the end justifies whatever means needed to succeed. Where anything was okay if end results could be justified. Who was this Yen Wu anyway? He was the perfect target, or pigeon. He had no political ties and no connections that mattered. They knew that he had attempted to avoid politics and just do his job. They considered him a fool. They all laughed as Yen Wu appeared to be absentminded and all they needed to do was to wait and take the advantage that they knew would eventually come.
Into this environment, Yen Wu introduced a wildcard. A foreign element. As if he naively thought he could control events. Somehow knowing that the cards had been dealt and he had to play out his hand regardless of the outcome. As he knew some change must occur. To ignite the flame that would set him free to find his ultimate endeavor and destiny. That all his troubles were connected to where he was. That his writings had taken him to places far beyond where he was now and were telling him to get on to where his destination would lead him. Only now, looking back well after a year had passed, could he begin to reflect on the events that had led to his downfall.
Yen Wu had known from the beginning that inviting this foreign element to the situation was tied to the change that must occur. Although he had no idea beforehand as to what was coming. Of what it might be or to where her being here might lead. However, he knew from the beginning she would be tied to the change that must occur. Only he didn’t know what it would be. Only events waiting for themselves to be played out as the defining moment of a lifetime.
The foreign element providing the perfect cover for the conspirator’s plan. First by convincing her that they were her friends, and that Yen Wu wasn’t. And second, it would be the perfect ruse. She would come and go, while they could be seen as simply coming to her aid. Remaining in the background, they could satisfy their real goal to eliminate Yen Wu. It was all too perfect. All they needed was someone to lie. Then all they had to do was say the lie was true and Yen Wu would be history. They knew who that someone would be. One person had been close by and knew of all the underhandedness that had been going on and had watched as the scales had tipped back and forth between Yen Wu and those who conspired against him. He was a man of limited ability and far less scruples. He was drawn to the local political scene. Constantly looking for favors and an opportunity to score. His only definition of success being that which would enrich his own pocket and build the false impression of his own self- importance he desperately sought to enhance. Enabling the final events that would later use the foreign element to destroy Yen Wu. Their plan was to occur on a day in mid-May just as Yen Wu was leaving on vacation. Events later to be rehearsed repeatedly to be re‑played and agreed to.
Accusations followed as the conspirators continued their attack. While Yen Wu, upon his return, could find no way to respond. Their word against his. The foreign element was only a pawn unable to grasp that everything had been played out to perfection, to Yen Wu’s end. Any harm suggested that may have occurred only a ruse, a sub-rosa or secret to be shared by those who had finally gotten their way. The liar coming forward right on Que.
Yen Wu was vilified in the local press, the editor being a good friend of the local politician who had orchestrated the whole sordid affair. Forced to resign his position, Yen Wu was to lose everything that defined who he once was. After losing it all, his job, his beautiful home, and gardens he had diligently maintained and his respect in the community, Yen Wu could only reflect on what it could all have meant. In the end, he knew that he was simply somewhere in a time he didn’t belong.
Yet he knew that this all had a higher, or much deeper meaning, than the events on the surface foretold. That he wasn’t the ogre, something lower than dirt and that others had orchestrated the events that defined who he had been made out to appear to be. He knew what they had done, and the conspirators all knew that Yen Wu knew that they had destroyed him. They were confident they had finally won, and Yen Wu had been defeated. They had not just wanted Yen Wu to lose his job, they really wanted to destroy him and were confident they had.
In the initial postscript to the story Yang Chu concludes by saying Yen Wu had simply been in the way of the city’s destiny. That being to have the younger assistant accede to the top. What they could not foresee was that their city was crumbling under its own weight. That they were in fact eating their own children and would soon see their population plummet to less than half that it once was. A city married to itself. Its passion for politics, a lust that would define them to their bitter end. In the final postscript, was not Yen Wu’s destruction simply to serve as the awakening that he was on the edge of discovering all along? Knowing that the conspirators were simply biding their time, did he not himself give them the dagger they used to kill him? Those resentments once corrected can lead to contentment for an eternity. In the end knowing that now since Yen Wu was traveling once again with his old friends is not Yang Chu simply reminding us that where he was yet to travel would be much more important than where he had just been. 8/29/95
150. Defining Parables
What is a legend or story but that which illustrates the direction that is to be taken? The parable that defines us all and who we are yet to become. The story that conveys what needs to be said in a way that everyone can relate to and come to understand. How can the sheep know the proper fork in the road, when there are many forks to choose from and keep from getting lost?
Why is it that while three brothers all studying what is to be known about the principles of moral duty, leave and later come home with a diverse or different answer? Or the man who was an expert swimmer who supported himself and a hundred others by ferrying people across the river but could not keep half those who come to learn from him from drowning.
In each case they need only to return to where they were once, go back to where they are the same, restore whatever is missing and find what they lost along the way. What more could there be? As there are many roads to choose from, if you become lost regardless of the fork you take, what can it matter? Which one could have been right or wrong?
Just as when a neighbor of Yang Chu lost a sheep. He not only sent everyone out to find it, but he also begged the servants of Yang Chu to join in the search. Upon their return, Yang Chu asked them if they had found the sheep. They explained that they hadn’t, and that the sheep was lost. Concerned, Yang Chu asked how they had lost the sheep. His servants explained that there were many forks inside the forks, and since they had no idea which ones to take, they had to return in disappointment.
Yang Chu became very worried and returned to his home. He did not talk to anyone or smile for the rest of the day. His disciples all found this very strange and sought him out to inquire about it. One asked Yang Chu: “A sheep is an inexpensive animal, and in any case, it was not yours. Why should this stop you from talking and smiling?” Yang Chu remained silent, and his disciples could get nothing out of him.
Concerned, Meng Sun went to get Hs’in‑tu‑tzu, a friend of Yang Chu and a respected Master in his own right and explained all that had happened. A few days later they returned to see Yang Chu and Hs’in‑tu‑tzu asked him a question through the following story. “There was a man who had three sons who felt their education was the key to his family’s future. He spent all his savings and sent them away to study under Confucius, which was the ultimate any young man of the age could aspire to. He asked them to return home when they each understood all there was to know about the principles of moral duty”.
A few years later, when all three had returned home he asked each of them to tell him what they knew about the principles of moral duty. The oldest told his father that moral duty makes me take care of my body and put it before my reputation. The next said that moral duty makes me kill my body for the sake of my reputation and the third responded in turn that moral duty makes me preserve both body and reputation.
Their father was confounded and said: “All three doctrines are contradictory yet have the same sources in Confucianism. Which is right and wrong?” Yang Chu thought for a moment then responded to Hs’in‑tu‑tzu with his own story. “There was another man who lived down by the riverside. He knew the water’s current and was an extremely good swimmer. He made his living by ferrying people across with profit enough to support a hundred people. Many others came from great distances away to learn from him in hopes of finding their own profit. However, half continually kept drowning. They came to learn how to swim not to learn how to drown, but still as many were harmed as benefited. Of which could it be said were right and which were wrong? Of course, what could it have mattered to those who chose to drown?
Hs’in‑tu‑tzu came out of his meeting with Yang Chu in total silence. Confused, Meng Sun‑Yang asked him: “Why did you ask in such a roundabout way and why did the Master give such an obscure answer? I am now more puzzled than ever.”
Continuing, Meng Sun Yang told him: “However, while you two old and venerated Masters are confounded, I think that I have found the answer and know what Yang Chu contemplating and I think that our neighbor lost his sheep on the high road because there were too many forks, the ferryman’s apprentices lost their lives because they couldn’t learn how to swim and the three sons, while all learned the basics of moral duty, in learning them, they diverged from where they began or from their roots as if branches from a single tree, each going off in his own direction.
How can you not see, Hs’in tu‑tzu, that as you have grown old as a friend and one time disciple of Yang Chu, as familiar as you have become with the Way, or Tao, that you could not see through the Master’s parable”.
What Meng Sun Yang did not yet understand was that Hs’in tu‑tzu had understood all along what Yang Chu had meant and referred to. What would have been the purpose of explaining it to Meng Sun Yang, when the parable and its meaning was up to him to find for himself? The parable that defines us all and who we are to become. The story that conveys what needs to be said without needing to be told. 8/30/95
151. When a white silk coat becomes a dog’s best friend
Why should one care about reputation when it can only lead to contention? Is not reputation but an illusion we hope others will see that leads to our benefit? If benefit only occurs when we are in contention with others, what good is whatever reputation that follows? Yang Chu explains the problem of making judgments with the following story.
My younger brother Yang Pu decided to go out to visit some friends wearing a white silk coat. It was expensive and once out, he decided to leave the coat at his friend’s house before going on to the marketplace and borrowed a black coat from his friend in its place. Later he returned home wearing his friend’s black coat, having left his expensive white silk coat at his friend’s house, planning to return to get it later.
Upon arriving home, his dog did not recognize him and barked when it came to welcome him. Yang Pu, angry at the noise made by the dog took a stick and was going to beat the dog. Being home at the time, I watched these events unfold and chastised my brother and told him not to beat the dog and explained that if the dog had gone out white and came back as black, wouldn’t you have been surprised? Yang Chu continued by telling Pu that he should not jump to conclusions and that he should think things out fully before acting impetuously and told him that if he didn’t, his reputation would proceed him wherever he went. Yang Chu concluded by admonishing him that: “It is not for the sake of reputation that you do good, but reputation follows. You expect reputation without benefit, but benefit comes. You expect benefit without contention, but contention arrives. Therefore, a gentleman must be careful when he does good.”
Yang Pu was confused by all this and asked what good it was to have the silk coat if his only benefit was contention when he wore it. He decided he would let his friend keep the expensive coat and stay home to get better acquainted with his dog. 9/1/95
152. Who is to blame when We can’t stop Living?
What can be the point of attempting to prolong one’s life if we have lived the proper way and can look forward to something better when we come back again? Is not death one’s chance or opportunity to be reborn. Why be so afraid? Have we not learned not to strive for the outside ourselves? That with contention comes confusion that only serves to help us to lose our ultimate direction. Is it not better to have no reason to contend?
Again, another story comes to mind, a favorite of Lieh Tzu’s. He has told it often when a point needs to be made. Lieh‑tzu’s says it is a story frequently told to him by his mentor and good friend Hu‑tzu. Lieh Tzu tells it this way. There was a man who said he knew the way to become immortal. The Lord of Yen sent a messenger to get the secret, but he procrastinated, and the man died before he could get there. The Lord of Yen was furious and intended to execute the messenger upon his arrival home.
However, one of his ministers told him: “None of a man’s cares is more urgent than death, just as you yourself have illustrated. And there is nothing he values more than his life. The man you seek has lost his own life; how could he have made you immortal?”
Upon hearing this the Lord of Yen decided not to kill the messenger. Another man named Chi‑tzu also wished to learn about the way to be immortal and beat his chest in vexation when he too heard the man was dead. Still another man, a philosopher named Fu‑tzu heard about this man’s vexation and said: “A man who wishes to learn how to become immortal, and is vexed when the teacher dies himself, does not know what it is he wants to learn.” Lieh Tzu stopped for a moment and exclaimed before continuing his story: “Ah! This is not true. As Hu‑tzu will explain to us, Fu‑tzu is wrong. This is not the way.”
Hu‑tzu tells us that there are always men who possess a theory they themselves cannot act on, or who can act without possessing the theory. A good example of this is a man of Wei, who was good at mathematics. When he was near death he disclosed his secrets to his son, who could remember the words but not apply them. Another man questioned the son, who told him what his father had said. The other man went by what he said and applied the theory successfully as the son’s father had done. Hu‑tzu finished the story by questioning why a mortal should not then be able to talk about the theory of living forever.
Lieh Tzu concludes by saying that it was not the fault of the man who originally said he possessed the way to become immortal. Nor the man who delayed finding him before his untimely death. The fault was with the Lord of Yen and Chi‑tzu who wanted someone else to discover the way for them, instead of finding it for themselves. Fu‑tzu was smarter than the other two in stating that those two did not know what it is he wants or needs to learn and instead looks to another to show them. However, in the end, it is Hu‑tzu who knows the correct answer to the riddle of life, death, and immortality. That one must know both the theory and how to act and in doing so had he not found the way to live forever. Lieh‑tzu sat back in his chair after telling the story and reminisced about the times he had traveled with his friend and mentor Hu‑tzu. Only to find himself drifting off to sleep to travel once again. 9/2/95
153. The Ultimate Gesture of Kindness
Chao Chien Tzu, the first minister of Duke Ting, was used to impressing others with his feats of grandeur and largess. One of those I most looked forward to being held in the city square each year. As a part of the celebration the people of Han presented him with doves on New Year’s morning.
He was most appreciative of this gesture and richly rewarded those who brought the most doves to be released. It was the yearly release of the doves, representing the spirit of all living things that represented the ultimate gesture of kindness. Of letting their spirit free to go their own way, not to remain trapped in some cage. Their release at the New Year celebration was to signify a new beginning in which they could be free to find their own way.
Just as each of those at the celebration looked to the New Year for a new chance to succeed and overcome past indiscretions and their own faults. It was both a solemn occasion as they remembered their ancestors and the good, they had done and of joyous new beginnings. Where they each had a new chance to find success and failure for themselves in the coming year.
A visitor to the city of Han, upon seeing the release of the doves asked how the doves were captured and was told that Chou Chien Tzu rewarded them richly for their capture, sometimes more than they would earn for the rest of the year. The visitor was then told that in the process of their capture, many more doves were killed than were caught for the celebration. “This is truly unfortunate, but look at all the money we make”, one confessed.
The visitor went to Chou Chien Tzu and chastised him for such a ruthless misconception. He asked Chou Chien Tzu how he could in the spirit of setting the doves free, kill more than you release in their capture and continued: “The people know you wish to release them, so they vie with each other to catch them and many of the doves die. If you wish to keep them alive, wouldn’t it be better to forbid the people from capturing them? When you release them, kindness does not make up for the mistake of their capture just for the people’s enjoyment”.
Chao Chien Tzu told the visitor that this tradition had long disturbed him, as he too thought it was wrong to kill so many of the doves just for the enjoyment of setting a few of them free. It had all started innocently enough many years earlier when an old man brought a few doves to him that he had captured, and he had thought it would be a nice gesture to release them at the New Year’s celebration. Soon everything began to get out of hand, as many others began to attempt to capture the doves who did not possess the skills of the old man. Killing as many as they had captured just for the reward, they could obtain in doing so.
Chou Chien Tzu agreed with the visitor and decided to continue the tradition only with those people who he himself knew had humanely captured the doves. Everyone was happy with the decision and the celebrations of true kindness that followed thereafter. A few weeks later before departing, the visitor stopped by to bid the First Minister of Duke Ting goodbye and told Chao Chien Tzu that he could not leave before making a confession. I came to your city as not merely a visitor but am in truth the son of the old man who made you the original gift of the doves. In the years before he died, he saw what his gift had become and was deeply disappointed as to what was happening to the doves he so dearly loved. Your corrective actions have done more for the spirits we are celebrating than you could ever know. 9/3/95
154. Questioning Heaven’s Generosity
A wealthy man of Chou had thoughts of going on a great journey. Before departing, he wanted to ensure his safe passage before he left by offering sacrifices to the god of the road and prepared a feast for a thousand of his closest friends. As he looked out over the festivities, while the fifth course of fish and fowl was being served, he graciously looked out among all his guests and said: “How generous heaven is to mankind! It provides the five grains and nourishes the fish and fowl for the use of men.”
All his guests of course agreed as they sat eating and drinking from the largess of the wealthy man except for one young boy who saw the ruse, and while only twelve, was known to be wise beyond his years. In fact, the Pao family had great hopes for their young son and hoped that by bringing him to such as august gathering could show him off as one who would be perfect to be groomed for great things. In recognizing the boy’s talent, the family had always encouraged him to not hesitate to speak his mind freely.
As all the guests were nodding in agreement and echoing the sentiment expressed by their host, the boy could not refrain from speaking up and came forward to say the following to the large crowd that was assembled and spoke directly to his host: “It is not as your lordship says. The myriad things between heaven and earth, born in the same way as we are, do not differ from us in kind. One kind is no nobler than another; it is simply that the stronger and cleverer rule the weaker and sillier. Things take it in turn to eat each other, but they are not bred for each other’s sake, Men take the things that are edible and eat them, but how can it be claimed that heaven bred them originally for the sake of man? Besides, mosquitoes and gnats bite our skin, tigers and wolves eat our flesh; did heaven originally breed man for the sake of tigers and wolves?”
While everyone was shocked at the indiscretion to their host, their host knew his trip should be postponed until he had an opportunity to question this young boy on his own. He asked the family of the young boy if he could ask him why he should come forward to question him and his authority in front of all those he had assembled. He was the richest man in the region and did not take the slight lightly. To their horror, the Pao family, who were simply lower-class merchants from a neighboring community, were afraid that the boy, who they saw as their future security, may now instead be their downfall and quickly agreed.
The boy came forward showing no remorse for his audacity and caught the man off guard by his self‑assurance. As all the dishes were now being cleared away and the other guests were all leaving, looking back over their shoulders, their host knew he must find the proper way to deal with this twelve-year-old. If the boy just didn’t look on knowingly as if he knew what he had said to be true. The lord started by saying that assembled. He was the richest, he knew him to be his family’s pride and joy and that he was surprised that as smart as he was, he would attempt to embarrass him at his farewell banquet.
The boy responded that it was not his purpose. That he had simply responded to the untruth he had stated in his toast. That being that of heaven’s generosity to mankind and the purported purpose of the fish and fowl, and by their association all living creatures being here to be used by man. I simply stated that this was not true and cited examples to prove my point. If you or your guests were offended, I am truly sorry. That was not my intent. The host motioned to the boy’s parents to take him away. He then laughed at the boy who had shown no fear and knew they would cross paths again. 9/4/95
155. Two for the Road
Two men were vagabonds commonly known to roam the streets begging for food. One a poor man in Chi and the second a man from Sung. The man from Chi, whose name was Hen Lo, could always be seen at the city market. He would go from stall-to-stall begging vendors for just enough food to get him by that day. Soon everyone at the marketplace became wary and tired of seeing Hen Lo begging for each day’s meal and stopped giving him food. Hen Lo had detested his life as a beggar and often told others he wished to find a job.
The other man, who was from Sung, was not just a common beggar. But was the son of a rich merchant whose mental handicap so embarrassed his family they could do nothing with him, so they allowed him to roam the streets. They knew that he would not harm anyone and if he got hungry could find his way back home. Hen Lo tired of going hungry and wanting to beg no more, went to the stables of the Tien family and made a living as a horse doctor’s servant. He only worked for two meals a day and a corner of the barn to sleep each night, but it was far above what he had been doing and he certainly hated to beg. People coming to the stables would make fun of him and say: “Don’t you think it a disgrace to be kept by a horse doctor?” Hen Lo responded: “There is nothing in the world more disgraceful than to beg. If even begging did not disgrace me, how can I be disgraced by a horse doctor.”
In the meantime, the man who had been turned out due to his handicap and the seeming disgrace caused to his family was walking in the street and picked up a half tally, some insignificant change someone had dropped. He took it home and stored it away, just as he had seen his father do with his own money. He became quite contented, and he was no longer a nuisance to his family.
As he sat up in his room counting the indentations on the broken edge outlining its worth, he became convinced that he would become rich any day now. How could these two vagabonds who simply wanted to be accepted for who they were, be that different from the rest of us? 9/4/95
156. Finding Truth in the Most Unlikely Places
Far out in the countryside, among thatched roofs and mud huts, where people only lived to put enough food on the table to see them through until tomorrow, there lived two sets of neighbors. The first was an old man whose bones were so brittle and frail he barely could leave his stoop that looked out over his neighbors withered wu‑ting tree. Many a wintry night passed with the old man nearly freezing to death from the chill that never left him.
The man had chopped down his tree over the objections of his wife, who had told him that the tree had been the only distinguishing feature to this humble and forbidding place, had suspected the old man all along, having watched him sit all day on his stoop eyeing their withered wu‑ting tree. She suggested that there was nothing that could be done now but to use it for firewood. They however delayed for a while the decision to share it with the old man.
Down the road lived another neighbor who was absentminded and tended to sit things down and forget them. He lost his ax and suspected his neighbor’s son had stolen it. He watched the boy carefully and was convinced that by his expression, his talk, his behavior, his manner, everything about him betrayed the fact that he had stolen the ax.
His neighbor, the owner of the withered wu‑ting tree watched the old man suspiciously every day as he eyed the tree. One day, the old man hobbled over to say that the withered wu‑ting tree was unlucky and should be cut down. No sooner had he cut the tree down that the old man came hobbling over to beg for it for firewood to keep him warm on the cold nights sure to come the following winter. Even though, he was cold now.
A few days later, the man was digging in his garden and found the ax. Later that day, he saw his neighbor’s son again and nothing in his behavior or manner suggested he would steal the ax. Was it right for the old and brittle man to ask his neighbor to cut down the withered wu‑ting tree, or the man who misplaced his ax to accuse his neighbor’s son? In each case, where could truth lie? 9/4/95
157. Forgetful to the End
What was the Duke of Pai to do? Before his own death, he continually vowed revenge for the execution of his father. He had urged the Prime Minister of Ch’u to make war on Cheng. He was always meditating on rebellion and bringing others into his cause. This day would be no different. On coming out of the Court, he could only think of what he must do next and as he stood leaning against his horse, his saber point stuck in his cheek just enough so that blood came running down his suit of clothes to the ground. He was so caught up in his thoughts he had failed to notice the blood, got up onto his horse and rode off.
The men of Cheng, who had killed the Duke of Pai’s father heard about what had happened later and one commented: “If he forgets his own head, is there anything he will not forget?” They all recalled the story of the robber of Chi, and the stunt he pulled that helped him to become a legend for his absentmindedness with the following story.
The man one day just put on his hat and coat and set out for the market. He went into the stall of the local gold dealer, snatched the man’s gold and ran. When the police caught him, they asked him: “Why would you snatch someone else’s gold in front of so many people?” The man’s only response was that when he saw the gold, he didn’t see all the people. He saw only the gold.
That the Duke suffers from similar absentmindedness only confirms his singleness of purpose to get his revenge for our killing his father. You know, his grandfather, the King of Chu, was an honorable man and the duke reminds me of him.
Their leader concluded by saying: “If the Duke is so focused on seeking revenge to the point that he walks as if stumbling over tree stumps and holes, and knocking his head on door posts and trees, even drawing his own blood from his own saber then we needn’t worry about him. His end, like that of the man who attempted to steal gold, will come soon enough on his own. We shouldn’t be bothered.” 9/4/95
158. Eternity’s Log or Searching for Dan Tzu
Where have you been Cloud Dancing? Why haven’t you been with us every morning so we can continue our on‑going dialog or conversation? I have been typing and editing our book, My Travels with Lieh Tzu that we have just finished together.
Consolidating your thoughts is important, putting them on paper essential. However, you must spend time alone each day in meditation as the ever-knowing sage you hope to become if you are to continue your journey. Decisions that you must make will be more difficult without the direction we are here to provide. Especially now that the road you must follow has been laid out and been made clear. Your thoughts of traveling back to Lamar were close to the mark, but you now know that you must create your own place. A place where there is a common interest where you can get back to nature and your garden and where you can begin to learn to tell the stories you have written.
Your coming to Florida was for a reason. You had to complete the work that you and Lieh Tzu had started in a place where there would be no contention present. As you become well‑versed in what you have written, remember that what you write is who you are to become. Just as you know there can be no rush to where the next rung on the ladder may lead. When it is time to go home, the way will be made clear. For now, just continue to lose the attachments that have accumulated over time, work to become unencumbered and continue fine‑tuning our message through your writing.
We have much to tell and you have much to learn. Great things are expected from you Cloud Dancing. Much is riding on your ability to bring forth the words of the shaman and sage from long ago. We want to be kept abreast of your progress in your writing. Coming forward to spend a little time each day with us will help to make the meaning of what you write more clearly understood. We want you to tell others our story and in time you will. 10/30/95
159. Questioning even Lieh Tzu
Some wonder or not Lieh Tzu really existed. The question is simple one. The answer is easy for me. Because in my travels and circle of friends, the only question becomes have we. 8/14/9
References and Further Reading