November 20, 2017

Is it Values over Virtue… and why should it Matter

Many people pay little or no attention to history. Thinking all they need to know is within their own way of thinking today. Everything now seems driven by 24-hour news DSCI0112cycles and social media, and how it fits within our own ideas of “what is – and how things should become an image of our own beliefs”. We adhere to what fits with who we think we are, without truly knowing what or who that is. We seem to be lost in our own values and how our world, and everyone else’s must come into our own take on outcomes. And with positions on things without regard if virtue resides on our side or not. The problem being that our true nature and virtue do not take sides. Those who try to live with values without virtue seldom win the day. The shaman, Lao Tzu, and Confucius taught benevolence toward others leads back to ourselves and we should act with our virtue remaining intact.

This was always the first order of business in China for dynasty after dynasty and it is why the benevolence and virtue expressed by Confucius has permeated Chinese culture for more than 2500 years. Today there are more than 800 Confucius Institutes outside of China that dot the globe. They teach Chinese language, culture, and the importance of Confucian virtue. I think the USA has the equivalent in military bases. Think about that for just a moment. The Chinese see things first in five-year increments that lead to one hundred-year spans of history, while we are limited to social media and to what may happen today.


Dragon image from Nine Dragon Wall at  Beihai Park in Beijing   

If our virtue is ultimately what defines us  as individuals (and from the standpoint of the universe it is all we come into and depart with when we leave), then what values that support these virtues do we embrace? If we pre-suppose that we are a spirit having a human experience, then can we further our position in the universe by not understanding that everyone we meet, see, and yes touch… is also on a similar personal journey.                                                        

The Sage’s Ten Commitments

  • Do not ruminate over trifles – things of insignificance in the scheme of things. Losing attachments the means of letting go.
  • Reflect cause and effect – know what comes around goes around. Minimize all encounters not in keeping with your journey.
  • Be who you are yet to become – reflect the image of your highest endeavor and destiny. Resting in the assurance and reminded of from where you came and to where you will return.
  • Be the teacher of what should be done in every situation you encounter.
  • Encourage and strengthen others in defining their role befitting their own endeavor and destiny.
  • Never be the one bringing drama or self-interest to the situation.
  • Do only the minimum – leaving no tracks as to your presence. Only wisdom others can reflect on and call their own.
  • Let the world come to your doorstep. If it decides to go or look elsewhere then you were not needed or necessary to the final outcome. Remembering that the saga or circle is never-ending.
  • Celebrate and acknowledge you are on the path you are meant to be on – stay tuned in as there will always be outside influences meant to test your resolve, perseverance and intentions.
  • Stay in the moment – reflecting what is in front of you bringing it to what and where it should be as only the Tao and dragons and God would have it. 7/17/2010

A commitment is how the sage sees our place in the world and steps toward enlightenment. My last entry here focused to Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and its role on setting the stage for how we approach life.


Phoenix and Dragon / Wuhan Temple

Verse three ended with the paradox of the sage lies in rather to take action… or not. Wei Yuan explained it this way “The reason the world is in disorder is because of action. Action comes from desire. And desire comes from knowledge. The sage does not talk about things that can be known or display things that can be desire. This is how he brings order to the world.”  For myself, it is this conundrum that defines the paradox living in the world and deciding how to live our lives.

Fortunately, life and things don’t end here. There are eighty-one verses of the Tao Te Ching to evaluate and study. Why? It represents the essence of personal transformation and how the perception and connection with some sense of enlightenment permeate who we are to become.

AAAChuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu

Rather we do so this time or the next, or the next… Truth be told, it addresses how we modify our own behavior in light of what we acknowledge as internal truths. What we are here to acknowledge is that life, and yes death,  are a continuation. What Chuang Tzu called the pivot becomes how we learn to make the best if it. Awakening can occur in an instant or not at all. It is often how we are paying attention and who our travelling companions are, that determines our fate. We continue now with verse four of my interpretation and commentaries of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The complete book entitled, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, can be found on my website. Selected commentaries are from Red Pine’s Taoteching.

Verse 4 – Remaining as the Ancestor of all Things 

Reminded constantly to remain empty. To go with the flow letting events carry you onward with no sense of predetermined outcome. Yet shaping everything along the way.


Image from Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

Adjust your light to the crowd and merge with the dust of the world.  All the while lifting those around you to otherwise unattainable heights.

Appear to have no ambition, dulling edges and not insisting on anything.  Have no fear and display utmost courage thereby untying every knot and avoiding nothing. Remaining as the ancestor of all things. Clear and yielding yet ever-present. As if close by, but not making any appearances just the same. ##

Wang An-Shih says, “The Tao possesses form and function. Its form is the original breath that doesn’t move. Its function is the empty breath that alternates between Heaven and Earth.”

Li His-Chai says, “The ancient masters of the Way had no ambition, hence they dulled their edges and did not insist on anything. They had no fear, hence they untied every tangle and avoided nothing. They did not care about beauty, hence they softened their light and forgot about themselves. They did not hate ugliness; hence they merged with the dust and did not abandon others.”

Lu Nung-Shih says, “Clear describes what is deep. If it is deep, it is clear.  The Tao comes from nothing. Hence the Tao is the child of nothing.”

Verse 5 – Remaining Empty Yet Inexhaustible 

Again, reminded to remain empty.

Quiet and still, as if a bellows only responding to what fits.  Not tied to the present or attached to the past, as if heaven and man were the same lineage. As you continue to guard your inner virtue, or voice from that which would drain you.


Dujiangyan Waterworks

To know without needing to know, talk without needing to talk, hear all things without needing to hear. You are simply the essence of the one true spirit contained in all things yet remaining hidden from view.

Too many choices lead to lost chances. Divert not from the path the Tao would have you to follow.  Remain in cheerful countenance to all you encounter. Empty yet inexhaustible thereby becoming the voice of eternity. ##

Huai Nan-Tzu says, “When we make straw dogs or clay dragons, we paint them yellow and blue, decorate them with brocade, and tie a red ribbon around them. (like a modern-day Christmas tree) The shaman puts on his black robe and the lord puts on his ceremonial hat to usher them in and see them off. But once they’ve been used, they’re nothing but clay or straw.” Similar description appears in Chuang Tzu: 14.4.

Wang P’ang says, “A bellows is empty so that it can respond to things. Something moves, and it responds. It responds but retains nothing. Like Heaven and Earth in regard to the ten thousand things or the sage in regard to the people, it responds with what fits. It isn’t tied to the present or attached to the past.”

Hsin Tu-Tzu says, “When the main path has many byways, sheep lose their way. When learning leads to many directions, students waste their lives” (Lieh Tzu: 8-25).

Verse 6 – Accepting My Fate and Ultimate Aspiration

 Reflect on the words of the ancients when they remind you of the age-old axiom – you are not here to create… you are here to relate.

The ten thousand things all must have their beginning, middle and end.  Yet as they continually evolve, they remain never-ending.


The Eternal Dragon  Duke of Zhu Temple in Qufu

The cycle remaining true to form and the Tao. Remain as the valley always nourishing that which comes forth to be made new again. What remains empty continues to have form.  What has form takes shape and what take shape becomes the ten thousand things.

Everything you need is here waiting to be revealed the moment you are ready to accept your role in filling in the details. Simply embody the Tao and grow. ##

Wang Pi says, “The valley is what is in the middle, what contains nothing, no form, no shadow, no obstruction. It occupies the lowest point, remains motionless, and does not decay. All things depend on it for their development, but no one see its shape.”

Yen Fu says, “Because it is empty, we call it valley.  Because there is no limit to its responsiveness, we call it a spirit. Because it is inexhaustible, we say it never dies. These three are the virtues of the Tao.

Tu Tao-Chien says, “This verse also appears in the Lieh Tzu: 1,1, where it is attributed to the Yellow Emperor instead of Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu frequently incorporated passages from ancient texts. We see their traces in ‘thus the sage proclaims’ or ‘hence the ancients say.’ Thus, Confucius said, ‘I don’t create. I only relate. (Lunyu; 7.1).

These three verses (4, 5 and 6) of the Tao Te Ching, all are attributable to the process of setting the stage, or finding ourselves in the right frame of mind to proceed with our virtue intact. First, acknowledging who we are and that we are to remain empty. Then defining, questioning, and coming to terms with our place in the Tao. As if we are the bellows that lies in the valley. Remaining shapeless, we return to our vital essence and begin again as we learn to relate with the ten thousand things. Knowing innately what we already know, that there is no reason to create anything new. Only to learn how everything should relate with each other as our values have no place else to find. With this we become whole and become both student and teacher to our surroundings before returning home once again.



By 1dandecarlo

November 10, 2017

Bringing our Heart into Coherence

Following up from my last entry I want to talk about the Tao Te Ching, embracing change and that who we show up as is paramount. How is it we begin to be an authentic connection with who we are meant to be, to be present, and to live from the inside out? While there is much talk about mental health and anger today, what is the root cause? Is it because there is a lack of coherence, or meaning in our lives. How do we become true to ourselves? How do we learn to speak from our heart?

What does it mean to connect with and become our authentic selves? The Tao Te Ching is one of the most published books along with the Bible and Bhagavad Gita, and probably the most widely read and studied book in China along with the teachings of Confucius.

Dragon Seal entrance at Qingcheng Mountain

 It has been interpreted hundreds of times in efforts to further reach an understanding of its meaning. Lao Tzu, it’s author, is recognized as one the greatest philosophers in history and is considered to be the founder of Taoism in China. It has deep roots in shamanism that go back to 3,500 B.C. and even earlier. It is as if time is giving us a chance or allowing us to be able to make sense of it all for ourselves. Bringing what we find in our thoughts and head, down into the actions spurred by our heart. To connect wholly within our consciousness and base our actions through them.

Instead of just posting from my own thoughts, references to others who over the centuries can better express the sentiments of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching are here.  Helping me to do this, is a book of commentaries compiled by Red Pine entitled, Lao tzu’s Taoteching. You can find the book online at The commentaries are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao tzu’s Taoteching.

As mentioned before, I wrote my own version in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on Becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, was published in China in 2006. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, the prelude and first three verses follow here. Ultimately, it is what the sages have learned along the way that what guides us.


Begin approaching the Te Tao Ching and your mentor Lao Tzu by seeing beyond life’s transparencies as if sorting through the clutter clouding your mind and your way.


Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Coming to understand that your final destination lies with the angels, or dragons, you have come to know over eons of time and space as you begin to contemplate returning home once again.


Two Dragons Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Not in the physical sense as if in the here and now, but taking steps to become the sage that belies your destiny. Knowing that true destiny can only be revealed by endeavoring to get it right this time.

It is in this spirit that I come forth to pursue my final unveiling.

Confucius says, “The Tao is what we can never leave. If we can leave it,  it isn’t the Tao” (Chungyang:1).

Ho-Shang Kung says, “What we call a way is a moral or political code, while the Immortal Way takes care of the spirit without effort and bring peace to the world without struggle. It conceals its light and hides its tracks and can’t be called a way. As for the Immortal Name, it’s like a pearl inside an oyster, a piece of jade inside a rock: shiny on the inside and dull on the outside.”


Confucius as the Teacher

Ch’eng Chu say, A sage doesn’t reveal the Way, not because he keeps it secret, but because it can’t be revealed. Hence his words are like footsteps that leaves no tracks.”


Verse 1 – Just one big la ti da after another

Encountering constant renewal.


Wuhan Temple in Chendu

Understanding the paradox living brings each day. That once we find comfort in the way or direction we pursue today, we become aware that this is not the true way we are here to travel.

That when we are free of desire we can see where things begin and when we are subject of desire we can see where things end. ##

Li His-Chai says, “Things change but not the Tao. The Tao is immortal. It arrives without moving and comes without being called.”


The Winding Path Qingcheng Mountain

Su Ch’e says, “The ways of kindness and justice change but not the Tao. No name is its body. Name is its function. The sage embodies the Tao and uses it in the world. But while entering the myriad states of being, he remains in non-being.”

Wang Pi says, “From the infinitesimal all things develop. From nothing all things are born. When we free of desire, we can see the infinitesimal where things begin. When we are subject of desire. we can see where things end.

The Shuowen says,” In Shensi province, where this text was written, doors are still painted black with a thin line of red trim. And every road begins with a door”.

Verse 2 – Transforming Realities

 The sage transforms his feelings and returns to his true nature thus becoming one with the universe once again.

What displays beauty cannot be beautiful. What is hard must become soft.

Linyi 2

The Sage in Linyi

He focuses on ending distinction, getting rid of name and form and making of himself a home for virtue.  ##

Lu His-Sheng says,” What we call beautiful or ugly depends on our feelings. Nothing is necessarily beautiful or ugly until feelings make it so. But while feelings differ, they all come from our nature, and we all have the same nature. Hence the sage transforms his feelings and returns to his nature and thus becomes one again.”

Wang An-Shih says, “The sage creates but does not possess what he creates. He acts but does not presume on what he does.  He succeeds but does not claim success. These three all result from selflessness. Because the sage is selfless, he does not lose his self. Because he does not lose himself, he does not lose others.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Those who practice the Way put an end to distinctions, get rid of name and form, and make for themselves a home for the Way of Virtue.”

Verse 3 – Preparing the Way

The sage must begin again by daily ritual and purification. You must prepare an area for optimum meditation and reflection.


The Mountaintop in the Clouds  Huangshen Mountain in Anhui

You must set aside all other activities and thoughts so as to be quiet, still, able to listen and be prepared to learn.

You must instill determination, release all desires, and come to find discipline. When you are ready all will flow unimpeded through you.

You are to become the vessel when and if you remain worthy of the mantle placed upon you.  All is within you – everything you need is already here. We have been waiting for you to be fully prepared for the journey.

Clear your mind, cleanse your heart and open your mind and be prepared for the great and auspicious journey to come.

Use every moment to seek clarity. Paying attention to detail brings focus necessary for true learning. Come forward to know thyself and all will become clear.

Now go. But remain vigilant and dedicated to who you are to become. Your endeavors will bring forth your ultimate destiny. ##

Wang Chen says, “The sage empties the mind of reasoning and delusion, he fills the stomach with loyalty and honesty, he weakens the will with humility and compliance, and he strengthens the bones with what people already have within themselves.”


The Dragon

Yen Tsun says, “He empties his mind and calms his breath. He concentrates his essence and strengthens his spirit.”

Finally, Huang Yan-Chi says, “The sage purifies his ears and eyes, puts an end to dissipation and selfishness, embraces the one, and empties his mind.

And Liu Ching says, “This verse describes how the sage cultivates himself in order to transform others.”

For over two thousand years the words of Lao Tzu guided the Emperor and those who orchestrated dynasty to dynasty… Wang Pi in the Han dynasty did an interpretation that became required study for the Imperial Examination System. It was in the final sentence above… how the sage cultivates himself in order to transform others that became the order of the day. With all moving in the same direction the heart finds peace with relationships that brings the coherence that the Taoist understood and the sage found unifying…


By 1dandecarlo

November 2017

What is real and what is imagined?

How does what we see and hear thereby making us think we understand, fit into our own perception of what is right and what is wrong? Is it real or an illusion? And as previously discussed – are we living in that illusion? Are we guided by our highest self and angels… or dragons as I call them, or by magicians who try to guide us down a path often of our least resistance that encourages our lowest common denominator that feeds basic human ego and instinct over who we really are?


The Eternal Dragon

The latest  example being the Russians who used this face book platform, to interject their intent to destabilize our government and democracy. This is nothing new. Those in power and authority have always used whatever means at their disposal to widen their influence, especially when they fear losing it. Keeping it often means using others to their advantage. Always questioning what is real and what today would be called “fake news”.

In traditional China the use of commentaries, examinations, and shear force, have often been used to convey merit and both strengths and weaknesses to be overcome. But it was always the philosophical underpinnings that kept the connection between society and the individual that was

Ancient I Ching

Bronze I Ching found from 1400’s in shipwreck off India

the glue that maintained order. It was the growing up over thousands of years following shamanism, Taoism, Chan Buddhism, and Confucius, tied to the basic premise of the I Ching that promoted “complimentary opposites”, that led to the pragmatism we see in China today. Centuries later, it is why Christianity is now accepted in China. As long as it respects other religions and does not feel the necessity to convert everyone to their view of Jesus and God. And understanding that what is real and imagined is ultimately up to each person to decide for themselves, but not used to try to influence or control the function of government that must serve to respect all citizens of the country. A lesson we could all learn from. Ultimately, it would be the Confucian ideas of benevolence and ordained authority that would come to permeate Chinese society. The Confucian model relied heavily on rituals that tied the present to the past, that could then tell a foreseeable future. That began to change when China was opened to the world after the fall of the last Emperor in 1912. But the story begins much earlier…

It was not only rituals, but myths and legends as well, that would combine the natural elements of the universe with people’s spiritual development and well-bring. The shaman and what then was the beginning of the trigrams and I Ching provided direction, continuity, and a way for people to develop a connection with their highest self and to ask if their endeavors were tied to their destiny. And if they were, what responsibility did they have to nurture themselves. How to entertain man for eternity was beginning to take root. What would later be referred to as both the microcosm of the body and the macrocosm of the universe became a part of everyday life. With man’s connection to nature the pivot.

It was the stories of the day exemplified by the Taoist that was preeminent and told of the way, the way later referred to as virtue. Below is something I wrote from my as yet unpublished book from The Book of Lieh Tzu, titled My Travels with Lieh Tzu that outlines how the universe was perceived in ancient China.

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 are 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 not stories and myths 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 not these simply an attempt to give meaning and purpose to life and explain that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves.

A Nu Kua

The Embrace  Nu Kua and Huangdi

Are not heaven and earth things just as the things within them, and do not things have imperfections.  Rather it be Nu Kua smelting stones of all the 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 perhaps millions 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

During the Han Dynasty in 200 A.D. the Emperor declared the Yellow Emperor,

AAYellow Emperor

The Yellow Emperor a/k/a Huangdi

Huangdi,  who is a deity in Chinese religion and considered the founder of what would become the I Ching, was not a mythical figure in history but an actual person, a great shaman. Some say was a mythical figure who is said to have lived to 2700 B.C., three thousand years earlier. Not only that he was a real person, but the Emperor stated what he had said fit his own interpretation of history further cementing the emperor’s own claim of being Heaven sent…. They even later


Monument (Stele) to the Yellow Emperor in Qufu

built a monument in Qufu saying he was from the city that was the home of Confucius. What had been simply imagined as myth became the real thing. The Yellow Emperor in reality was a shaman who looked to the stars and nature and saw connections…

For six years after I wrote my own versions of the I Ching (1994),  An American journey through the I Ching and Beyond and My Travels with Lieh Tzu, (1995-96), the thoughts that kept coming to me was to keep approaching Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, but not to write about it just yet, or to attempt my own version. Then in May/June 2000, I spent a month focusing on little else and it came to me as if I was repeating what I had always known but simply forgotten. The outcome was a book that is entitled, Thoughts of becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life. This book was later published in China in 2006. It appears here AA Mural of Taoon my website as well.

Inquiring of the Tao at the Cave of Paradise, hanging scroll, color on silk, 210.5 x 83 cm by Dai Jin (1388–1462). This painting is based on the story, first recounted in the Zhuangzi, that the Yellow Emperor traveled to the Kongtong Mountains to inquire about the Tao with the Taoist sage Guang cheng zi. (from Wikipedia)

But my version of Lao Tzu was not simply an interpretation trying to convey only the meaning of what was said, my version was an attempt to live the Tao every day, moment to moment, as it becomes you before moving on or forward. It was directed to becoming the sage… what steps should be taken both internally and how we shape the world around us.

How do we go from just observing what occurs around us and deciding what can be real or imagined, to discovering the way to see above the clutter of what occurs on a daily basis, or perhaps to assist in shaping it? It is and becomes the ultimate paradox living brings to greet us every day. It is through what we call meditation, seeing beyond ourselves, and nourishing our inner nature that we find transformation and what in turn becomes enlightenment. Finally, it is what the challenge of the sage throughout history has always been. My book has attempted to address this. Thoughts on becoming a Sage mirrors attempts to find and nurture the virtue within. Do we retreat and live a reclusive lifestyle knowing that the world will always be beyond the reach of the wisdom of the sage? Or to try to become an agent of change that speaks to humanities strengths and weaknesses… and ultimately does it matter.

My first entry goes like this…

Irreverently Meandering through Time

Traveling on the wind once again the sage proceeds as if at home. Remaining above the clouds he looks down, unconcerned. Waiting to see if anything of importance lies beneath him.

Following dragons again and clouds beyond the horizon you reflect on mirror images of yourself and seeing that your destiny lies below.  As always when traveling with dragons, you remain irrelevant to time.

Comforted in knowing that your journey and today’s path continues to find peace and harmony and a clearer understanding of your


The Apex Qingcheng Mountain

place in the universe, as your destiny remains assured. Events only occurring to move you ever-forward as you meander as if unknowingly through time.

Your destiny tied to endeavors forever remaining a paradox. As you remain an enigma that others come to depend on and for wisdom taking them to places they otherwise would never go. As you remain a magnet for others simply showing the way.

Returning briefly home again, as if only irreverently meandering through time.

By 1dandecarlo