January 15, 2018

Bringing Others along for the Ride

Why do I do this? I just became friends with a very nice lady from Bucharest, Romania who saw my page. She loved the many pictures and what she read here. It is as Lieh Tzu and Bob Dillon say… The answer my friend is blowing in the wind. She said it made her smile and gave her the feeling of seeing beyond her difficulties with a young daughter and two elderly parents who both have been diagnosed with cancer. We talked for a long time and it gave me joy. After liking all my pictures on FB, she said she thought I had found my mission. Well, if that means leaving a little of myself along the Way, then I guess I have. As I wonder and ask…. how do we try to live up to the expectations we have for ourselves. Isn’t this where we sometimes get lost in our own inertia.

As we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this weekend and look back on his legacy, we give thought to his mission and divine presence, and how far we have come since his own immortal words… and ask ourselves if we too are bringing others along for the ride and living our own version of the dream.


On August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., addresses marchers during his “I Have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington

First in his “I have a Dream” speech, and later in April, 1968 saying “Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. And I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord“.  Then he was gone and Bobby too shortly after.

2013 Johns pictures 497

Picture I took from the spot MLK spoke taken January 18, 2013

As we recall this, we are reminded of the music we heard back then. It helps us to remember those times of hardship as we continue to travel to find our own mountain to climb. Collectively in the world, as a country, and as individuals, as we too look to the Promised Land, the Way of Virtue, that already exists in each of us we have overlooked thinking it is something outside ourselves. When what needs to be overcome lies within us.

Rather simply a challenge we can’t see through, or lack of courage to open the door to the great I AM that we can then walk through. We often ask ourselves why life has to be so difficult and how we, as the Beatles sang, get by with a little help from our friends. Just as there are no accidents, music at times serves to show us the way. Like the Beatles song that they rode into our lives with all those years ago simply saying., “I want to hold your hand”, then saying “She’s got a Ticket to Ride”. Well we wanted a ticket too. John Lennon’s “Imagine” and “A Day in the Life”. Paul’s “Yesterday” with the lyrics, all my troubles seemed so far away, and “Let it Be”, George’s “Here comes the Sun”, and Ringo’s “Yellow Submarine”. Bob Dillon’s genius… “Knock, Knock, Knocking on Heaven’s Door”, “Don’t Think Twice, it’s Alright”, and personal favorites, “Like a Rolling Stone” and “The Times they are A-Changin”.  What makes the Beatles and Bob Dillon’s music timeless, even immortal, is that they spoke directly to our own hopes, dreams, and fears through their own and quite ably brought us along for the ride too. All great music, art and literature does this.

Why do we study literature and history, other than to see past visages of ourselves as we express our virtue through love and our relationships with others? The essence of what the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. was telling us as we remember him now.


Stele with Confucius Classics at Confucius Temple in Qufu

Even in China, Confucius was famous for updating the five Classics of Chinese history, one was the Book of Odes, which included the music and poetry handed down for generations that proceeded him. It is as if in remembering who we were back when, that art, music and literature helps to remind us that we too are universal and helps to define and monitor who we are yet to become.

image: The Artist's Garden at Vétheuil

Monet’s       The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil    National Gallery of Art

We spend time in the great museums and art galleries of the world to obtain a greater appreciation of what… how they viewed the world in time and to see and imagine what others might have left behind. Monet impressionist paintings at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC are among my favorites where I have visited many times. To see and know where they were going and in turn, connect again with our own past.


Dragon Flask from kiln in Jingdezhen in British Museum

Through a bit of serendipity, I stayed at a bed and breakfast in London for a book fair a few years ago. It was a block from the British Museum. Spending time there with history as a historian, reminded me of the places where I have been and being there changed my itinerary… as if I was reminded of times well-spent . As I too am re-living history through my own life and writing.


Dan at British Museum in London

Our appreciation for the above comes with an acknowledgement that they serve to assist us in becoming whole, seeking transcendence, and that it encompasses us when we seek and find our own highest endeavor. It is why we celebrate the lives of those like MLK and others. What is it that great opera, Mozart and Beethoven, and for me –  Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Lao and Chuang Tzu, Confucius, and what so many others do? They take us to heights and places to where we would not otherwise go or might have forgotten. To only God knows where.  Perhaps to a preview of our own mountaintop and the other side.


Huangshan Mountain   Anhui Province

Maybe they are here to remind our soul how to sing again and know that what we struggle with today, is not meant to be the final stanza of the song we are here to write and play for ourselves and others. To find our stride, our gait, and yes even our own kung fu, once we have found our way as we too prepare to go.  Their role simply to get our attention. Ah… the first job of any great teacher.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 22, the addendum to 22, and Verse 23, appear below. Verses 1 through 21 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance can be found under the Taoism and Lao Tzu tab here on my website. Verses yet to appear here in my blog have not had additional commentary added yet.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 22 – On Becoming Whole

When all has passed through you – everything becoming the same with no opposites pulling at your attention, then you are free to follow the way of virtue.


The Final Tribute Linyi  Wang Xizhi (王羲之, 303–361)

When you can think and act as if innately following the Tao, you can become whole.

Knowing virtue and honesty are one, you make a list of those things not in keeping with the path you have chosen to follow and begin removing them, as they have become stumbling blocks to completing your endeavors as the sage.  Once encountered and accounted for, they disappear and cannot be traced back to their maker.


The Great Calligrapher

Continually redefining the role of the traditional sage. Mirroring the Tao, you become adept at sharing your vision instead of simply trusting the word of others. Instead of relying on the strength of others, you take all to otherwise unattainable heights through reluctantly displaying your own strength.

Your enthusiasm and vision carrying the day. Living in paradox, as in reality you prefer to remain hidden from view. You stand apart, not competing hens no one finding a foothold to compete with you. Remaining steadfast you become whole. ##


Excel by capturing your Voice through virtuous writing / Linyi

 Chuang Tzu says, “Lao Tzu says everyone else seeks happiness. He alone saw that partial becomes whole.” (33-5).

Wu Ch’eng says, “By exploring one side to its limits, we eventually find all sides. By grasping one thing, we eventually encompass the whole. The caterpillar bends in order to straighten itself. A hollow in the ground fills with water. The renewal of spring depends on the withering of fall. By having less, it’s easy to have more. By having more, it’s easy to become confused.

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Only those who find the one can act like this. Thus ‘less means content’. The reason most people cannot act like this is because they have not found the one. Thus ‘more means confused’.

Verse 22 Addendum – Becoming a beacon of light for All to see

Could it be that your ultimate role is to report back to the dragons the role of the sage in the here and now?


The Dragon Wall – Nanjing City Center

To take the thoughts of Lao, Lieh and Chuang and all the others to places they have not been before and to perhaps try them on for size in a different environment.

That it is not you becoming whole, as much as transitioning this ancient way into current thought and action. As your task remains internally to mirror the Tao, perhaps your role in the here and now is to rediscover for the ages how externally one can remain pure and whole in such a material world.  Keeping to eternity’s promise, but making limited appearances just the same.


Entrance to Confucius Temple, Fuzimiao, in southern Nanjing on banks of the Qinhuai River

Challenging the order of the day,  you have become the ultimate agent of change and virtue.

Coming forth to claim your place in the universe, you accept the mantle placed upon you with an ever present humble demeanor. As you prepare to move on to accept your greater destiny. ##

Li His-Chai says, “The reason the sage is able to be chief of all creatures is because he is able to hold onto the one. Holding onto the one, he never leaves the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t watch himself but relies instead on the vision of others. He doesn’t talk about his own strengths but relies instead on the strength of others. He stands apart and doesn’t compete. Hence no one can compete with him”.

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Not watching himself he becomes whole. Not displaying himself, he becomes straight. Not flattering himself, he becomes full. Not parading himself he becomes new”.

Tzu-Ssu says, “Only those who are perfectly honest can fulfill their nature and help others fulfill their nature. Next are those who are partial”. (Chung yung: 22—23)

Verse 23 – Defining True Objectivity

Finding yourself in the scheme of things so that there is nothing coming from you except the natural extension of the Tao.


The Ultimate Dragon Stele  Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum in Nanjing


Remaining quiet and speaking in whispered tones so that someone must strain to comprehend what is being said thereby confirming they are paying attention and listening.  Letting the natural order of events simply occur with events just waiting in the wings to change what has become comfortable.

Remaining natural, or neutral in effect, your endeavors simply an extension of the Tao. The Way means knowing both success and failure and using them to become one. Becoming one by leaving yourself behind to rediscover your true nature ultimately simply a seamless extension of the natural order or scheme of things, as you remain one with the universe with your objectivity leading the way.


The Ultimate Dragon Shaaanxi Museum

If you have looked beyond what success and failure may bring, you can begin to know the proper way! ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “Whispered means not heard. ‘Whispered words’ means no words. Those who reach the Tao forget about words and follow whatever is natural.”

Su Ch’e says, “The sage’s words are faint and his deeds are plain. But they are always natural. Hence he can last and not be exhausted.” Ch’eng Hsuan-Ying says, “If the greatest forces wrought by Heaven and Earth cannot last, how can the works of man.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “This verse explains how the sage forgets about words, embodies the Tao, and changes with the seasons.  Elsewhere, Lao Tzu says. ‘talking only wastes it / better to keep it inside’ (5). Those who love to argue get farther from the Way. They aren’t natural. Only those whose words are whispered are natural. Lao Tzu uses wind and rain storms as metaphors for the outbursts of those who love to argue.  They can’t maintain such a disturbance and dissipation of breath very long. Because they don’t really believe in the Tao. They haven’t learned the secret of how to be one.”


As one with nature and the Way      Sichuan Museum

Chiao Hung says, “Those who pursue the Way are natural. Natural means free from success and hence free from failure. Such people don’t succeed and don’t fail but simply go along with the successes and failures of the age. Or if they do succeed or fail, their minds are not affected.”

Kongdan says. “To proceed as if unaffected by what happens around us. For myself this is the ultimate challenge, the paradox living brings to our doorstep every day. How could one write and internalize the above and proceed as if you were not confident of the Way.”


By 1dandecarlo

January 4, 2018

We see ourselves through our intentions and judge others by their actions.

Why do we do this? Is it human nature or a learned response? Through what eyes do we see the actions of others. We presume to think their intentions are the same, or should be as ours. If we try to guide our actions through and by our inner virtue… then why doesn’t everyone else do the same. And can this thing called virtue be universally applied, as if one size fits all. When we can see disarray all around us. As many see the answer to what they perceive as life’s challenges as something outside themselves. When I look back on my own life and ask “if I only knew then what the consequences of my actions might have caused, I might or would have done things differently”. Don’t we all.


The I Ching  Yangcheng Mountain   Qingdao

Through thousands of years of observing people’s actions and how they create the world around them, the Chinese and in particular what was the guiding factor for the shaman and what was to become Taoism… is the concept of cause and effect. The I Ching saying that what goes in in the beginning tells us what must come out. While events along the way show us the ultimate meaning of one’s fortunes that are yet to come. Knowing this Confucius taught if we are led by our inner virtue and benevolence, then chances are we’re going to be okay.

Why do some people seem to stumble through life and others appear to go as if scott free not experiencing the consequences of their actions? Or even benefiting or failing through no fault of their own. If the riches of a lifetime are but a flash of lightning in eternity, then why do we spend all our time chasing them? Perhaps it is all tied to our soul’s growth and understanding the purpose of why we are here.


To be eternally Enlightened             Shaanxi Museum   Xian

Maybe we each keep coming back to lose the attachments and frailties we cling to that over time we accumulate (kind of like karma), that keep us from becoming who we really are. It’s the letting go that is difficult. Or perhaps we come back knowing the above, for the purpose of helping others overcome their strengths and weaknesses as well. We often hear the phrase to “let go and let God”, but is that not just us being guided by our own innate highest virtue that we ourselves project on others. Or as the Dali Lama tells us… we are to simply be guided by our prayers, not only for our own well-being, but for that of others as well. The ultimate test of becoming universal. Keeping to this as our mantra that defines us, our intentions and “who are we to judge others” becomes apparent. We are then guided by the virtue we already possess, as our own intentions, vis-a-vis our actions become clear.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. His Tao Te Ching written in 600 BC is considered to be the second most read and studied text in the world, after the Bible.

For well over a thousand years, understanding the Tao Te Ching was a prerequisite for passing the Imperial Examination in China. Almost all city governments in China today have a Department of Religious Affairs that monitor the activities of Confucian, Taoist, Buddhists, Moslem, and Christian religious activities in their community. Lao Tzu (Taoism), along with Confucius and Buddhism, have for centuries served as the moderators between religion and popular culture in China.  The Vice Director of the Religious Affairs office in Qufu was a joint venture partner with me with a shopping center where I had an office in Qufu for many years. It was connections through him that allowed my foundation to publish the Daily Word in Shandong Province.

vinegar tasters

Lao Tzu, Confucius and Buddha vinegar tasting…

This respect for other philosophies and religions is best depicted by a painting in 1000 BC of Lao Tzu, Confucius, and the Buddha tasting from a vat of vinegar that represented all three religions in China. Today what is called the “Family Church”, serves the Christian faith in almost every community as well. Every which way is respected… with the Tao Te Ching remaining and being the core to understanding China. It was (is) no accident that city buses have logos on their side that say “Qufu – The religious center of China for a thousand years”. Truth be told it would say three times that number.

There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 19, 20 and 21 of my book follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 19 – Truly Reflecting the Tao

As I look around to see reflections of the Tao, I am drawn to rediscover what is simple and pure and discard what is considered alien to my original nature.

Reflecting the Tao      Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

That if wisdom and reason are only used for self-interest then they should be abandoned. Instead collective wisdom and reason should be used to take all to previously unknown heights.

That if kindness and justice are only shells to pursue selfish motives, then putting an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice will enable people to unite on their own.

That if our behavior with others is governed by cleverness and profits our innermost nature would be fulfilled more assuredly if we remain focused on that which remains undyed and uncarved as if driftwood washed up from the sea. Understanding the Tao leads us to understand what is real and unreal, what is artificial and inappropriate and remaining wholly within ourselves. ##


    Looking Skyward                  Dujian Waterworks

Wang Chen says,”Put an end to wisdom that leaves tracks and reason that deceives, and people will benefit greatly. Put an end to arrogant kindness and treacherous justice, and relatives will unite on their own and will once more love and obey. Put an end to excessive cleverness and personal profit, and armies will not longer appear. And when armies no longer appear, thieves will not exist.

Wang Pi says, “Wisdom and reason are the pinnacles of reason. Kindness and justice are the pinnacles of behavior. Cleverness and profit are the pinnacles of practice.


Focusing on the undyed and uncarved        Wuhou Temple

To tell us simply to get rid of them would be inappropriate. Without giving us something else, it wouldn’t make sense. Hense we are given the undyed and the uncarved to focus our attention on.

Chiao Hung says, “The ways of the world become daily more artificial. Hence we have names like wisdom and reason, kindness and justice, cleverness and profit. Those who understand the Tao see how artificial they are and how inappropriate they are to rule the world. They aren’t as good as getting people to focus their attention on the undyed and uncarved. By wearing the undyed and holding the uncarved, our self-interest and desires wane. The undyed and uncarved refer to our original nature.”

Verse 20 – On Becoming a Sage

When yes and no becomes the same answer, perhaps you are ready to discontinue this seemingly natural inclination to retreat into a shell like a turtle…


With virtue intact and destiny assured   Wuhou Temple   Chengdu

With virtue intact and your destiny assured perhaps it’s time to live out your true destiny as the sage you have become. Living up to the virtue you know. If inequities are but reflections of your desires – cleanse away those things no longer relevant and spring forth with dynamic hope and optimism. Assured that your next step is pre-ordained by dragons who have been waiting patiently for you to join them.

Fulfill your destiny and live the life of virtue that is so obvious to all you encounter. What others love the sage loves, what others fear the sage fears, but while others may not see anything beyond or outside their own minds – the mind of the sage wanders the Tao.


The Dragon Motif   Qingyang Temple

If you want to inspire others you must remain above what living brings each day. While they choose things, you alone must remain unmoved.  Acknowledging all as the same, that there is nothing to be lost or gained. Coming forth you simply live within the Tao and accept becoming the sage.  ##

Li Hsi – Chai says, “What others love, the sage also loves. What others fear, the sage also fears. But where the sage differs is where others don’t see anything outside their own minds. The mind of the sage, meanwhile, wanders the Tao.


Wandering the Tao  Sichuan Museum

Wang P’ang says, “Everything changes into its opposite. Beginning follows end without cease.But people think everything is either lovely or ugly. How absurd. Only the sage knows that the ten thousand ages are the same, nothing is gained or lost.

Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, ” People all seek external things, while the sage alone nourishes himself on internal breath. Breath is the mother, and spirit is the child. The harmony of mother and child is the key to nourishing life.

Verse 21 – Forever Replenishing our Virtue

What is this thing called virtue and value placed on emptiness and how can they be so inter-related?

Blue 1

Remaining Hidden from View  Confucius Temple in Qufu

That virtue cannot be found unless we are willing to remain empty, that the Tao remains hidden from view except as virtue found through emptiness. Following the Tao, we are continually subject to change and are redefined as our virtue waxes and wanes.

As if guided by the phases of the moon I find structure through tending my garden just as Shen-ming, the divine husbandman, who discovered agriculture along with the healing properties of plants and a calendar to be followed by the sages of long ago. Could it be that virtue is the manifestation of the Tao, or Way, that should guide us? That the Way is what virtue contains and without it could have no meaning or power. That without virtue, the Way would have no appearance or ability to come forward.

Blue 2

Replenishing our Virtue    Confucius Temple in Qufu

Taking no form, the Tao takes expression only when it changes into virtue.  It is when the sage truly mirrors the Tao that virtue can be given an opportunity to manifest and grow and the natural course, or scheme of things, becomes apparent for all to see.

The Tao by itself neither existing or not existing. As if coming and going as the essence of one’s heart and soul – simply by maintaining its presence as… virtue. Everything in the universe held accountable to the Tao. Continually changing – with our identity the first to go.  What was once true becomes false and what was once false slips into becoming true.  It is only our essence expressed as virtue that is kept and continually replenished by the Tao. ##

Wang Pi says, “Only when we take emptiness as our virtue can our actions accord with the Tao. Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Sages have it. So does everyone else. But because others are selfish and constrained, their virtue is empty.”

Yen Ling-Feng says, “Virtue is the manifestation of the Way. The Way is what virtue contains. Without the Way, virtue would have no power. Without Virtue, the Way would have no appearance.

Chang Tao-Ling says, “Essence is like water: the body is an embankment, and virtue is its source. If the heart is not virtuous, or here is no embankment, water disappears.The immortals of the past treasured their essence and lived, while people today lose their essense and die.



Longevity and Virtue Completed – Confucius Mansion in Qufu


By 1dandecarlo

December 27, 2017

We should be the Rock others rub their lives against…

            The shaman, the teachings of the I Ching, Confucius, Lao Tzu, and many others knew that it’s not so much as who we are, as who we aspire to become.


Teaching the Art of Becoming   Huangshen Street

In doing so we look to the stars just as they did, and as Dorothy asked in the Wizard of Oz… If bluebirds fly, then why, oh why can’t I?  That we use our time here as if we too are in a dream, mirroring who we think we are, instead becoming true to ourselves. This was the secret of the Great and powerful OZ… that the secret is already within us.  Who are we but the image we create for ourselves and is it real? Our persona becoming the way we project ourselves on social media and with our family and friends. Can or do we consider that perhaps our success or failure is only determined by the number of lives we have touched and rather we helped others find their true way as well? That we in effect, pay forward conveying to others the same virtue we have always known. Interacting with others to remind us that we are here to overcome our own limitations and in doing so become transcendent. Bringing our focus into something we get and in turn give that’s still coming.

The story of Mulan was centered around an ancestor who was frowned upon who had to “earn his keep” so that he (Mushu) could enter the pantheon of respected ancestors. In the end he did. In reality, in China there is a national holiday every May to “honor our ancestors”. It’s like our Memorial Day in USA. In China, to die and become a respected ancestor, is a tribute to a life well-lived and to have been a rock for your family and others to have rubbed against.

We all have someone, either our mother or father, aunt or uncle, or maybe a teacher in high school or college who inspired us to reach for something inside us that appealed to our inner most nature. For myself it was Elaine Clugston, my journalism teacher when I was in the eleventh grade at Carl Junction High School, when I wrote a line in a poem that said “Sorrowful feelings mean nothing, if there is no compassion felt”. It was as if the line woke me up and spoke to me.  Maybe a political or spiritual figure like Bobby Kennedy or Martin Luther King, Jr., whose goal was to help us to see beyond ourselves.


The Consummate Teacher   Qingyang Taoist Temple

That’s what great teachers do. Someone who moves us towards the highest aspirations of ourselves. We’ve all known them.  I like to think it is what I left for my more than four hundred students when I taught in China. The question has always been… are we listening to that still small voice within? Are we the rock others rub their lives against? When we too become the teacher? To never settle for less than who we really are. To understand and appreciate our source and that we are here on purpose.

As I go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching here that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am amazed that now eighteen years later, it is as relevant even more so, as when I wrote it. The difference in time as if waiting to bring meaning to it all. To continue to make feeble attempts to live the Tao as I have written about it. To be given a chance now to humbly understand what it all meant. The ultimate meaning of paying forward. Even more so to consciously attempt to experience the divine and share my gift with others. To help others live inside their own kung fu, and being there, finding the happiness we have always known but perhaps forgotten. Being content in our own contentment and discovering other rocks we have learned to cherish along the way.

There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 16, 17 and 18 follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 16 – Previous Encounters

 Remaining on course, I return to the place of my youth to reflect on previously self- imposed limits as to who I am ultimately to become, as if a final cleansing of those things that made me full of myself.

Given an opportunity to further release those things that have held me back from identifying and knowing my final destiny.  To free myself of endeavors that keeps me full of ego and self-interest.

AA FarmThe farm in Lamar

Once recognized, I can let go and let the dragons, or angels, lead the way without intrusion.  Declaring my freedom and turning aside all those things that betray my true path as I declare “free at last, free at last, thank God and the Tao I’m free at last”. Finally letting go of all that has gone before me, I can see the way leads to stillness as the knowing sage. As I let go, my true path is unveiled and my enthusiasm, my greatest attribute that opens the door for all others, becomes totally and completely apparent.          


Carved Dragon Confucius Temple in Qufu

In returning to my roots, I have unconsciously re-discovered the stillness I knew at the beginning. Thereby allowing me to become shapeless once again. Knowing that the path now followed and the endeavors now cultivated can now prevail; I am reminded of my travels with Lieh Tzu.

I feel a great swoosh… As if a great gust of wind has picked me up and carried me closer to my ultimate destiny.

(Written in June 2000 during a trip home to Joplin, Missouri where I grew up. I lived there from the seventh grade through two years of college. 1964-1973).

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing say, “Emptiness is the Way of Heaven. Stillness is the way of Earth. There is nothing that is not endowed with these, and everything rises by means of them”.

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “Heaven has its fulcrum, people have their ancestors, plants have their roots. And where are these roots? When things begin but have not yet begun, namely, the Dark Gate. If you want to cultivate the Great Way, but you don’t know where this opening is, your efforts will be in vain.”


The Original I Ching Qingyang Taoist Temple in Chengdu

Te-Ch’ing says. “To know what truly endures is to know that Heaven and Earth share the same root, that the ten thousand things share one body, and that there is no difference between self and others. Those who cultivate this within themselves become sages, while those who practice this in the world become rulers. Rulers become rulers by following the Way of Heaven. And Heaven becomes Heaven by following the Tao. And the Tao becomes the Tao by lasting forever.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “To know the unchanging course of the Way is to be free of passion and desire and to be all-embracing. To be all-embracing is to be free of self-interest. To be free of self-interest is to rule the world. To rule the world is to merge your virtue with that of Heaven. And to merge your virtue with that of Heaven is to be one with the Way. If you can do this, you will last as long as Heaven and Earth and live without trouble”.

Li Jung says, “The sage enjoys a life without limits.”

Verse 17 – Governing Wisely

Let your virtue lead the way with others convinced it is their own works that prevail. Lasting success can only occur when those who have looked to you for guidance conclude they have championed their own cause.


Two Fish Sichuan Museum   Chengdu

 What the sage does to cultivate himself is what he does to govern the world.  Your greatest virtue is to initiate no action that leave traces of your presence.  So that when all goes well people can feel they are responsible.

As long as people think they have achieved greatness by themselves, they have no reason to love, praise or despise anyone.

Simply unveiling the truth and contradictions to virtue will allow others to come forward and for you to remain still.  Instilling peace and harmony along the way you can prepare to take them to places they would otherwise forego. ##

Red Pine says, “The Chinese of Lao Tzu’s day believed their greatest age of peace and harmony occurred during the reigns of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, or nearly five-thousand years ago. These early rulers exercised power so unobtrusively, the people hardy knew they were there, as we hear in a song handed down from that distant age: ‘Sunup we rise / sundown we rest / we dig wells to drink / we plough fields to eat / the emperor’s might / what is it to us?’” (Kushihyuan: I).

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Leaving All Contradictions Behind Sichuan Museum

Mencius says, “When the ruler views his ministers as his hands and feet, they regard him as their heart and soul. When he views them as dirt and weeds, they regard him as an enemy and thief”.

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “What we do to cultivate ourselves is what we do to govern the world. And among the arts we cultivate, the subtler of all is honesty, which is the beginning and end of cultivation. When we embrace the truth, the world enjoys peace. When we turn our backs on the truth, the world suffers. From the time of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors, this has never varied.

Verse 18 – When Innocence prevailed and Formlessness endured

As you contemplate returning tomorrow to the place where it all began to attend a gathering of now distant relatives, you recall time spent on the farm.     


Wang Xizhi  Learning through the gooses neck   Linyi

Returning to the place you originally called home. Returning to the place where you first caught the attention of dragons as a small boy on the farm in Lamar.  Back to the beginning, where innocence prevailed and formlessness endured.  Before details could enter to cloud your way.  You begin to wonder what drew you to the Tao and dragons that were searching for you even then.

You are reminded of the paradox that surrounded you.  The beauty and comfort found in nature – found in an old farmhouse at the end of a long circle drive.  Everything in nature finding its place.  You were affected greatly by opposites that tore at your inner most being.  Tearing away the self-identity as a small child that would reveal the formlessness of the sage.  A difficult transition revealing inequities living seemingly always bring to the forefront.  Living in a home with argument and distrust carrying the day, you were encouraged to find security and serenity deep within yourself.

Soon discovering an innate understanding that when names arise from discontent, we find distinctions like kindness, peace and harmony. Attributes formlessness can now find to spring forth and flourish. As such you have now become the conciliator, the mediator who can see through conflict brought forth by envy, ego, lack and mistrust. To those who are unsure of your identity a mystic, to those few who know, perhaps a prophet telling of things yet to come.

Opposites described above affecting you as if you were a blunt piece of metal being hammered into intricate form by blows coming from all sides.

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The White Dragon – Great Wild Goose Pagoda – Xian

Learning then to look away from good and bad and recognizing that both were the same.  So that one day when the dragons would finally get your attention – to carry you to heights previously thought unattainable you would recognize their presence and acknowledge that they had been guiding you all along. Only waiting for the opportune time to show you the path you were to follow. Reminding you of your true identity and responsibility to the Tao.

Now that I have come full circle and returned, cognizant of the road I have traveled and the one before me that I am still to follow, I am assured and thankful that virtue will lead the way.  ##        

(Written in June 2000 during a trip back to Joplin and the farm in Lamar where I was a small child. I lived on the farm from 1952 through the third grade, the summer of 1961. We then moved to my grandma’s house for a year then into town (Lamar), and then to Joplin during the summer of 1964).

Su Ch’e says, “When the Great Way (the Tao) flourishes kindness and justice are at work, but people don’t realize it. Only after the Great Way disappears do kindness and justice become visible.”

Wang An-Shih says, “The Way hides in formlessness. Names arise from discontent. When the Way hides in formlessness, there isn’t any difference between great or small. When names arise from discontent, we get distinctions like kindness, justice, reason, and so forth.

Mencius says, “Kindness means dwelling in peace. Justice means taking the right road”.

Kongdan says, “To live as if an enigma. Somewhere between this world and another. Living and dying to be the one others break their own rocks against. And when they’re ready, perhaps show them the Way as well”.


By 1dandecarlo

December 15, 2017

You must first learn to breathe inside the                         happiness of your Life

(For my friends in England, Italy, Australia, China, wherever else you may be, and of course USA, who I know will be seeing and sharing this with others… Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays. May you each know the gift of immersion and kung fu).

What is this life-long pursuit of seemingly trying to find happiness? When you reach the age of sixty-five, which I have, then the definition changes as we often ask instead… what do we have to be happy about?  And what do our children (if we are fortunate to have any) who follow us, have to be happy about as well?

The cliché has always been… well if we work hard and save our money for retirement then we will have something to retire to. At least that’s what we tell our kids. Why do we have to wait to be happy? Why do we have to work hard? Why do we think making money will be the answer when what we need already resides within us? Why have we spent our whole life doing what we do and not spending our time discovering who we are? Well, we must first learn how to breathe.


1920’s Beihai Park in Beijing next to Forbidden City

That we learn that we each eventually make a conscious attempt to experience the divinity that resides within us, as we find and follow a divine light to a holy place. In Christianity it was the star of Bethlehem and the Christmas story.  It is here that we ultimately come into a place of peace. It was from the time of the earliest shaman, who studied nature and the stars that we learned cause and effect, and that we were all connected to everything else. The earliest Chinese called this “the ten thousand things”. That it was in connecting to this, we found our own divinity waiting to be acknowledged, built upon, and lived for ourselves. That this Christ spirit and divine light, whatever it’s name, was to be found within each of us just as holy men and women have been telling us through the ages. That we are all universal and our consciousness, the essence of who we are, comes from the stars and that we each have work to do while we are here.

Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Meditation

What is the meaning of kung fu… is it simply a form of martial arts… or is it so much more? Simplified for the common man/women it often becomes tai chi.

It begins with complimentary opposites (the concept of yin and yang) that exist in who we are as a person that defines balance. Calming these forces inside ourselves, so that they can be used to our best interest has been the focus of meditation for centuries.


Mencius School in Zhoucheng

Over time in Chinese history those opposites became referred to as crane and tiger. The most famous of these forms of physical self-defense became the shaolin martial arts form and over time became the kung fu as we know it today. This calming can also be used in finding what is called our “qi energy”, and is the basis of movements in tai chi. Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan) is an ancient Chinese “internal” or “soft” martial art often practiced for its health-giving and spiritual benefits; it is non-competitive and generally slow-paced. Both center around discovering and using one’s breath going forward and knowing we are all a part of something bigger than ourselves.

However, the true meaning of kung fu means “supreme skill from hard work”. Everyone has the innate ability to achieve this. The painter, calligrapher, poet, or writer, they can be said to have kung fu. Even the one who cooks or sweeps the steps – can have kung fu. Or even the modern-day insurance or car salesman, athlete,  nurse, attorney, musician, etc. For the physical kung fu it takes practice, preparation and repetition until your mind is weary and your bones ache. Until you are too tired to sweat, too wasted to breathe.


Flowers, the deer, tea and crane Qingcheng Taoist Temple in Chengdu

This is the only way to obtain kung fu. (This explanation was assisted by the blind Taoist kung fu Master in the mini-series “Marco Polo”). In other words, it takes hard work to excel in the talents we are given. It is in this hard work we find what can be defined as happiness, or find the peace within, as we live in the eternal state of becoming closer to who we really are. Sadly, we often let others define who we are, or should become, instead of discarding those things that don’t define us.  No other person can do this for us. What we should be attracted to is being with others who are “complimentary opposites” as we learn to see  beyond ourselves. We become “happy” when we can identify and move in this direction. It is as Walt Disney once said… “It’s what you do with what you got”. This becomes the ultimate “work” of our lives, and kung fu… It is truly what we give, we get in return.

Much of Chuang Tzu’s writings used humor and parables contributing to this early Taoist thought of refining our innate talents and using them to enable our highest endeavor and destiny. This is epitomized by his tales of Cook Ting and the butterfly. His concept of the “perfected man”, and combining early Taoism with Buddhist sutras from India was the beginning of Chan Buddhism as he described how we made the “pivot” of living through our work.  But that’s a story for another day.

This idea of mastering your innate abilities through a skill that shows, or exhibits, your talents was exemplified by the efforts of those passing the Imperial examination system. And also those who tried, but failed to pass the exam necessary to move up in society, be recognized, and worthy of getting a job in China. One’s family’s future often depended on it.


Confucian Examinations

Very few could pass the exam and were bound to find another way to show their talents and skill. Just as not everyone could develop the physical skill needed to be a kung fu master in the true shaolin tradition either. But could excel in music, as a painter, or calligraphy, or writer like Pu Songling  an author from Zibo in Shandong. He could never get past the first tier of the exam, but became a famous writer during the Qing Dynasty. They all could demonstrate their own kung fu. Unfortunately for China, the examination system they viewed as their biggest strength for almost two thousand years, became over time their biggest weakness. As only those who passed the Imperial examinations moved up, while others with suitable talents in other areas were discouraged.

One of the concepts of tai chi is “rooting.” It’s fairly self-explanatory: imagine roots growing out from underneath your feet. You are a part of the ground, never losing balance, focus, or your centering.


At home with Dragons in Huangshen Mountain

Your limbs sway like branches in the wind, never hesitating for fear or apprehension. You become rooted and with this balance you take the text step from body to mind. This balance is the epicenter of coming to terms with self. The art of tai chi is said to improve the flow of chi (qi), the traditional Chinese concept of a physically intangible energy or life force. In scientific studies, tai chi has been proven to improve a host of medical conditions including, but not limited to: muscular pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular problems, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and ADHD. Though its low-impact workout is especially helpful to seniors, tai chi is for everyone and is deceptively simple in appearance. I try to do tai chi first thing every day. This along with a meditation practice, help us to focus on what is important in our lives and discard what is not.

The thing to keep in mind about Taoism as we continue to follow Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, is that it is about an attunement with nature and when we don’t, in particular our own. Not just nature outside of us, but also the nature within us. This principle, in Chinese is called Tzu Jan, or Ziran in pinyin, and it is the principle of embodying one’s own nature.” Beyond the health benefits and stress relief, Tai Chi Chuan is also a means to tap into one’s inner self. This becomes the essence of remaining within your own virtue, of meditation, controlling your breath, and knowing happiness when you find it.

As mentioned before, I wrote my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching 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, verses 13, 14 and 15 follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. Verse 14 below, goes a long way in revealing my own true identity. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 13 – Skirting Disgrace and Disaster

Be careful not to curry favor with others, as disgrace is soon to follow. Favor and honor remain external from the true path of the sage.


Skirting Disaster

He prefers to cater to neither, as both remain outside and away from the path he has chosen to follow. Possessing them can only lead to disgrace and disaster.

Seek only that which lies within yourself cultivating your own innate abilities. Remain within and all will follow. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Those who gain favor or honor should worry about being too high, as if they are on a precipice. They should not flaunt their status or wealth. And those who lose favor and live in disgrace should worry about another disaster.

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “We all possess something good and noble that we don’t have to seek outside ourselves, something that the glory of power or position can’t compare with. People need only start with this and cultivate without letting up. The ancients said, “Two or three years of hardship, ten thousand years of bliss.”

Chuang Tzu (11.2) also speaks to this by saying “when favor and disgrace are used to praise the ruler whose self-cultivation doesn’t leave him time to meddle in the lives of his subjects.

Verse 14 – Staying behind to Impart Immortality’s Wisdom

Coming home to visit with old friends, I am made whole again.  Everything there is to see I have seen and everything there is to do I have done.  I am home again to rest among old friends.


Enter the One   Buddhist Temple in Nanjing

Revisiting the thread that reveals my true identity, I rejoice in the oneness of the universe.  I am at peace as one who has found the grace to see what I must do next in His name.  Shedding my worn baggage, my friends are reminded of the light cast by my eternal coat as I sit beside them to honor our being together once again.

While most are happy to remain within the confines of enlightenment, others are a little jealous of my desire to return to the world.  Where attachments hold one down and keep their owner from attaining their true identity. Just as you are reminded that your path leads back to a place where you can help others to perhaps come forth to seek their own ultimate destiny. As you leave, you catch glimpses that convey warmth and gratitude and knowledge of the ultimate paradox…

Upon my return I begin by weaving together the fabric of shreds of a vision that has yet to become reality.  Knowing that neither my light nor my shadow will leave a lasting impression. While what is left behind for immortality’s wisdom will only be known once I have returned home once again. ##

Lu Tung-Pin says, “We can only see it inside us, hear it inside us, and grasp it inside us. When our essence becomes one, we can see it. When our breath becomes one, we can hear it. When our spirit becomes one, we can grasp it.”


Master and Student Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

Su Ch’e says, “People see things constantly changing and conclude something is there. They don’t realize everything returns to nothing.” Ch’en Ku-Ying adds, “Nothing does not mean nothing at all but simply no form or substance.”

Wang Pi says, “If we try to claim it doesn’t exist, how do the myriad things come to be? And if we try to claim it exists, why don’t we see it’s form? Hence, we call it the formless form. But although it has neither shape or form, neither sound or echo, there is nothing it cannot penetrate and nowhere it cannot go.

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “The past isn’t different from today, because we know what began in the past. And today isn’t different from the past, because we know where today came from. What neither begins or comes from anywhere else we call the thread that has no end. This is the thread of the Tao.

Verse 15 – Staying on Course

Taking stock, you stop to reflect why you are here in this place and time just now.


Portion of Vase in Doorway

You have succeeded in getting the attention of many as your reflection has cast a long shadow.  You have shown an uncanny ability to uncover the indiscernible and penetrated contradictions previously covered by darkness.

As you become concerned your ego is bringing you to the forefront, while your nature tells you it is better to stay behind.

You are reminded to remain empty and still.  That you are not here to make a show of yourself and that you are to leave no tracks. To be so conscience of the correct action that needs to be taken that you simply flow with events. That the essence of the Tao consists of nothing more than taking care, as you know that inner truth cannot be perceived, only the outward form of your actions. That it is by intuitive understanding that the darkness becomes clear and by means of movement the still becomes alive.

That it will be by letting each thought remain detached and each action well considered that your ultimate success is determined with your virtue the only measure taken home. ##

Su Ch’e says, “Darkness is what penetrates everything but cannot itself be perceived. To be careful means to act only after taking precautions. To be cautious means to refrain from acting because of doubt or suspicion. Melting ice reminds us how the myriad things arise from delusion and never stay still. Uncarved wood reminds us to put an end to human fabrication and return to our original nature. A valley reminds us how encompassing emptiness is. And a puddle reminds us that we are no different from anything else.”


Throwing Pots / The Tao  Sichuan Museum in Chengdu

Huang Yuan-Chi says, “Lao Tzu expresses reluctance at describing those who succeed in cultivating the Tao because he knows the inner truth cannot be perceived, only the outward form.  The essence of the Tao consists in nothing other than taking care. If people took care to let each thought be detached and each action well-considered, where else would they find the Tao? Hence those who mastered the Tao in the past were so careful they waited until a river froze before crossing. They were so cautious, they waited until the wind died down before venturing forth at night. They were orderly and respectful, as if they were guests arriving from a foreign land. They were relaxed and detached, as if material forms didn’t matter. They were as uncomplicated as uncarved wood and as hard to fathom as murky water. They stilled themselves to concentrate their spirit and roused themselves to strengthen their breath. In short, they guarded the center”.

Wang Pi says, “All these similes are meant to describe without actually denoting. By means of intuitive understanding the dark becomes light. By means of tranquility, the murky becomes clear. By means of movement, the still becomes alive. This is the natural Way.”


By 1dandecarlo

December 6, 2017

The Gift of Immersion 

A large part of the “Christmas spirit” for many is the hope of creating memories that immerse us into something bigger, or larger, than ourselves that are worth remembering. Our religious experiences during the holidays serve the purpose of helping us to define what that might be.

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Yin and Yang Dragons Huangshen

I often talk here on face book and my website about the paradox of the sage, as if living in two worlds. In my unpublished manuscript, My Travels with Lieh Tzu, the first line I wrote is that we each have two lives – the life we learn with and the life we live after that. And that it is from our memories that we hope to define ourselves. That we in effect become what we behold.

What we should ask ourselves is – are our experiences immersive enough that we can let our guard down? To be so fully engaged in the present, that we fuse our cognitive state with our dreams. The who I am that is yet to become. How do we balance the need for self-awareness by remaining in the moment, or state of becoming, with how we connect with our environment? Even more, how do we connect our passion and love of those around us to this? Ultimately can, or does this help to bring out our traits of virtue that defines us not only at Christmas, but every day? In my writing, I often refer to my own experiences, not so much to talk about myself, but as a way for others to see themselves as well and say if they could, yah me to.

Over the past several weeks and months we have added several new friends to the Kongdan Foundation here through the use of social media, for this I am grateful.


Universal Peace  Dujian Waterworks  Chengdu

In this holiday season as we embrace and immerse ourselves in the  spirit of the divine that resides within each of us, I am reminded of when I was growing up in Joplin and listening to shortwave radio in the late ’60’s and early 70’s (1967-71). Countries all over the world I listened to would send Christmas greetings with a card often expressing Merry Christmas and/or Happy Holidays in ten or twelve languages. As if there were no boundaries to the eternal spirit expressed around the world. Radio Peking, Radio Moscow, Havana, the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Ukraine, the Vatican in Rome, BBC, Radio Budapest, Bucharest, Radio Lisbon, South Africa, Quito, Ecuador, etc., etc.… all stations I listened to frequently as a teenager that beamed English language program to America. During the holidays, differences were set aside. As if only for a moment in time there was unity. I liked to think that regardless of country or persuasion, there was a prevailing sense of virtue that could see beyond borders and religion. It was as if every letter I would send confirming that I was listening was opening another door and for them responding it was always the same.

Many times, in China over the past several years I would take the train overnight from Beijing to Qufu, a ride that would take about ten hours. Every morning even during July and August, I would wake up on the train to American classic Christmas carols coming over the intercom and speakers. Jingle bells, Rudolph, they were all there. In every shopping center in China you will hear overhead Christmas carols now… today, and will through Christmas day. Christmas decorations are everywhere.

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Copies of China Daily Word

A favorite store window display I never quite understood was Santa playing the saxophone. When my foundation printed the Unity Daily Word in China, we always included the meaning of Christmas in the December issue with the idea that the Christ spirit was/is universal. We printed 5,000 copies a month for two years (120,000 copies in 2006-07 ) that were distributed throughout western Shandong Province. I was told last summer (summer of 2017) that those copies have now been seen by over 2.5 million people.

I found myself when teaching in the classroom, or with friends in China, in a position to often take others where they would not otherwise go.


Dan and students   Qufu Normal School

They wanted to know what the world was like outside what they thought they already knew. To take them to places they otherwise would not/or could not go. Most felt that due to the cost, they would never see America, so I, as well as many other teachers, became their eyes and ears. When they learned I had written books about the I Ching, Taoism and Confucius, then they wanted my story about China to in some way tell theirs as well.

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Dan at home with student and family in countryside

I found this even more so when I visited the countryside with my students and their village. Often a Saturday lunch that was to be with my student’s parents and grandparents, became a celebrated event with their foreign English teacher. Time and time again, it was playing the role of the storyteller to take them all to a place they would never otherwise go. Just as their telling their own story and history gave me a sense of China from the 1930’s onward would serve to do the same for me. Often their family history would go back more than five hundred years on the same plot of land. Their daughters i.e., my students who were to be English teachers as well, were often the first person in their family to go to college.

Giving someone else the ability to see beyond themselves and enabling them to tell their story through their own eyes, often in the countryside where their family has lived and died for hundreds of years can be a very humbling experience. It helps to define my own role, as well as, the role of my foundation. That it is in understanding this history, along with that of others we meet along the way, that we learn what it means to preserve and insure final outcomes for all.  That the gift of immersion for ourselves and others can be our greatest gift, as we learn the true meaning of Christmas everyday. As we leave our own virtue behind.

As mentioned before, I wrote my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching 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, verses 10, 11 and 12 follows here. Ultimately, it is what the sage has learned and then in turn taught us along the way that what guides us. The commentaries below are meant to be read as a discussion between Lao Tzu and those interested who have thought deeply about the text itself. The quotes below and references to their authors are from Red Pine’s, Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. 

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 10 – Exposing ever-present but forgotten traits of Virtue 

Remember what you have always known. That it is our virtue that lights the universe.  That it is your memory of who you once were and are yet to become that resides in your mind and intellect.


Traits of Virtue  Dujian Waterworks

As you open your mind to see and know what comes forth, you are simply reminded of what you have forgotten.

That your energies are here to be replenished as you are transformed into the sage whose mind remains still. As you become still once again, you reflect and mirror heaven and earth and the ten thousand things.

You scoff as you know the best way to govern is without governing and using the efforts of others.  If you don’t obstruct what the Tao begets at their source and suppress their true nature, things mature by themselves. Virtue remaining ever-present, its owner unknown until you appear along the way. ##

Wang P’ang says, “Life requires three things: vital essence, breath, and spirit”.


The Calling  Buddhist Temple in Chongqing

Chuang Tzu says, “The sage’s mind is so still, it can mirror Heaven and Earth and reflect the ten thousand things” (13.1).

Wang An-Shih says, “The best way to serve is by not serving. The best way to govern is by not governing. Hence Lao Tzu says ‘without effort.’ Those who act without effort make use of the efforts of others. As for Heaven’s Gate, this is the gate through which all creatures enter and leave. To be open means to be active. To be closed means to be still. Activity and stillness represent the male and the female. Just as stillness overcomes movement, the female overcomes the male.

Lao Tzu says, “The Tao begets them / Virtue keeps them” (51).

Verse 11 – Opening Doors while Staying Behind

Remaining empty to become full.  Knowing your place is to put all the cards on the table so that the proper path becomes obvious for all to see. Becoming simply the vessel from which all that represents virtue is known, endured and followed as the way by all.


Bianzhong Bells – Zeng Zi Temple in Jiaxiang, Shandong

Reminded as our breath ebbs and flows we become full by remaining empty as our mind and thoughts remain the catalyst for change and enlightenment. Our usefulness only determined by the emptiness that fills us. Employing nothing to gain advantage that would allow ego to stand in the way.

As you seek only virtue and leave only vestiges of yourself behind. Your role is to open doors for others as you nurture and prepare them to walk through.

Giving birth to virtue and letting it grow.  Nourishing what comes forth without claiming to own them. Remaining as the hub of a wheel… constant, reliable and still, yet ever-present and nonexistent. ##

Li Jung says, “It’s because the hub is empty that spokes converge on it. Likewise, it is because the sage’s mind is empty that the people turn to him for help.”

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The Way Huangshen

Te Ch’ing says, “Heaven and Earth have form, and everyone knows Heaven and Earth are useful. But they don’t know that their usefulness depends on the emptiness of the Great Way (the Tao). Likewise, we all have form and think ourselves useful but remain unaware that our usefulness depends on our empty shapeless mind. Thus, existence may have its uses, but real usefulness depends on non-existence. Nonexistence, though, doesn’t work by itself. It needs the help of existence.”

Huang Yan-Chi says, “What is beyond form is the Tao, while what has form are tools. Without tools we have no means to apprehend the Tao. And with Tao there is no place for tools.”

Verse 12 – Insuring Final Outcomes 

Staying within the realm of what our natural abilities provide as if Chuang Tzu.

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The Buddha

Drinking from the river of life only that which fills our stomach.  Maintaining an even temperament. Letting events happen for their own sake and remaining unaffected by space and time.

Letting the natural course or order of events simply occur. Knowing the final outcome will be just as it should be. While sitting back as the knowing sage, seemingly unaffected but in control.

Choose internal reality over external illusion.  As your eyes cannot truly see, your ears cannot truly hear, your mouth cannot truly taste, your mind cannot help feeling and your body cannot stop moving.

Let these attributes simply stay in the background and observe as you listen to the still small voice within as you have been taught and nothing can harm you. Do not lose your way because of what has caught your attention.  ##

Te-Ch’ing says, “When the eyes are given free rein in the realm of form, they no longer see what is real. When the ears are given free rein the realm of sound, they no longer hear what is real. When the tongue is given free rein in the realm of taste, it no longer discerns what is real. When the mid is given free rein in the realm of though, it not longer knows what is real. When our actions are given free rein in the realm of possession and profit, we no longer do what is right. Like Chuang Tzu’s tapir (1-4), the sage drinks from the river, but only enough to fill his stomach.”


The Stairway        Dujian Waterworks

Wu Ch’eng says, “Desiring external things harm our bodies. The sage nourishes his health by filling his stomach, not by chasing material objects to please his eye. Hence, he chooses internal reality over external illusion. But the eyes can’t help seeing, the ears can’t help hearing, the mouth can’t stop tasting, the mind can’t stop feeling, and the body can’t stop moving. They can’t stay still. But if we let them move without leaving stillness behind, nothing can harm us. Those who are buried by the dust of the senses, or who crave sensory stimulation lose their way. And the main villain is in the eyes. Thus, the first of Confucius warnings concerns vision (Lunyu: 12.1: not to look without propriety), and the first of the Buddha’s six sources of delusion is also the eyes”.

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “The main purpose of cultivation is to oppose the world of the senses. What the world loves, the Taoist hates. What the world wants, the Taoist rejects. Even though color, sound, material goods, wealth, or beauty might benefit a person’s body, in the end they harm a person’s mind. And once the mind wants, the body suffers. If we can ignore external temptations and be satisfied with the way we are, if we can cultivate our mind and not chase material things, this is the way of long life. All the treasures of the world are no match for this.

Finding ourselves immersed in virtue. Knowing there is no end to it, only finding ourselves eternally attached to what defines us.


By 1dandecarlo

December 1, 2017

Is it time to create a new story and even more important – what story are we telling ourselves that we stand in?

A dear friend in Florida who knows me well asked me the following… as if bravely asking a historian, “Is it time to create a new story?” She was mulling over a book by Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World We Know is Possible, that encourages us to ask the question, “What story do I stand in?”


Stele of the Immortals  – Qufu

Very often Taoism speaks of the “obstacle of the writings”: when we get caught up trying to find truth in the words themselves, rather than traveling through the words to the place whence they arose. In today’s world of social media, we often have to ask ourselves… where does truth lie? That truth often shines like a backlight through the words. Where then do we find the Truth? For myself, it has always been this way. Initially I thought as a writer, how could these words that I have written be my own. That perhaps the words were in effect passing through me in order to match that which mirrors my soul.  That all writing if true is autobiographical. The who I am yet to become, or perhaps to recall who I have always been. As if the transformation was underway and by writing the words they would become me. Scary thought… Then as if prompted I wrote. “what you write is who you are to become.” That my friends, will get your attention. As if in remembering the storyteller I have always been I would say… ah the stories I would or could tell. As if I was catching my breath and the words would simply be there.

Keeping to Lao Tzu and the Tao Te Ching, when I wrote Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life in May/June 2000, we had traveled to Qufu about six months earlier for the first time. Of course, Qufu is the home of Confucius. 


Golden Dragon      Duke of Zhou in Qufu

I had no idea that Qufu would be like a moth to a flame to me now that I have made almost fifty trips and am planning to return next Spring. The first day we were there it hit me. I had been here before. Qufu is the home of the Yellow Emperor who lived in 2700 BC, Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in 900 BC and Confucius in 450 BC. In Chinese history these three would come to be known as dragons and become immortal. Over time they have served to help make my own way clear.

I Ching7

Dan with students in Qufu

After all those trips and later living and teaching at the school founded by the descendants of Confucius, adjacent to the Confucius Temple and Mansion in Qufu a little over ten years later, well there was more here than meets the eye.

It gave real meaning to what I had written in my book mentioned above and to the verses 7, 8, and 9 below. And further defining what may be my purpose. My friends in Qufu gave me the name Kongdan. Kong is the family name of Confucius… and of course my first name is Dan.

The idea of creating a new story for ourselves can appear to be presumptuous. As if bringing an end to a myth of who we thought we were.  Perhaps it is simply updating an

AAA Confucius Descendents

Picture of descendants of the four families responsible for maintaining Confucian ideals at the school in Qufu where I taught in 2011-13. Picture above was taken in 1902. The four families were of Mencius, Si Zi, Yan Hui and Zeng Zi. The school was opened to the public in 1912 after the fall of the last Emperor and forming of the Republic of China.

old story we have always known, but simply forgotten that needed updating that is what ultimately empowers us. Even more so when we gain a sense of purpose and direction that gives meaning to the story we are here now to stand in as our original self. I think this is what Joseph Campbell meant when he referred to “finding our bliss”.

The first paragraph above speaks to the obstacle of the writings, especially when we get caught up trying to find truth and meaning behind the words themselves that reflect, or define us.

Below is the continuation of my book Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, as if following the guideposts laid down by Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching. The commentary, as before, is from Red Pine’s Lao Tzu’s Taoteching. Ultimately, the question becomes… have we found and are we living in our own story? The following three verses were intended to keep me accountable to mine and to my peers, the dragons.

IChing dragon

The First Dragon – 3,500 year old Stone Dragon / Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

Verse 7 – Keeping to Heaven’s Promise

Keeping to Heaven’s promise through finding the immortality found on earth.  Giving consent without expecting reward. Remaining humble – the only thing the sage seeking is virtue.

Forever creating an environment emulating and promoting the journey you must take to selflessness.  As you have been given an opportunity to remain immortal simply by living for today.  Truly living through grace.

Becoming adept at remaining in the background while setting the table for all who will come to eat their fill. Constantly reminded of your never-ending destiny as endeavors continue the process of your letting go.

As you remain content with who and where you find yourself. Living, dying and subject to change each moment.  As you travel with no sense of age or time.


The paradox that comes to greet the Sage

Reminded again and again that you can only move ahead by staying behind with a cheerful countenance with virtue to be shared by all. The utmost paradox living brings forth to greet you each day. ##

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Heaven and Earth help creatures fulfill there needs by not having any needs of their own. Can the sage do otherwise? By following the Way of Heaven and Earth, the sage is revered by all and harmed by none. Hence, he too, lives long.”

Jen Fa-Jung says, “The sage does not purposely seek long life but achieves it through selflessness.”

Wang Pi says, “Those who live for themselves fight with others. Those who don’t live for themselves are the refuge of others.”

Wang P’ang says, “Although the sage is a sage, he looks the same as others. But because he embodies the Way of Heaven and doesn’t fight, he alone differs from everyone else. The sage is selfless because he no longer has a self.”.

Verse 8 – Taking Shape while Remaining Shapeless

Travel as if you were water taking on every shape that comes your way as you give life to everything and everyone you touch and meet.


The World of the Dragons       Wall painting in Chengdu

Conveying the eternal spring that comes forth from you each day as if you were just passing by.

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

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

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

Wu Ch’eng says, “Among those who follow the Tao, the best are like water: content to be on the bottom and thus, free of blame. Most people hate being on the bottom and compete to be on the top. And when people compete, someone is maligned.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The best people have a nature like that of water. They’re like mist or dew in the sky, like a stream or a spring on land. Most people hate moist or muddy places, places where water alone dwells. The nature of water is like the Tao; empty, clear, and deep. As water empties it gives life to others. It reflects without becoming impure, and there is nothing it cannot wash clean. Water can take any shape, and it is never out of touch with the seasons. How could anyone malign with such qualities as this.


Ancient Fishermen  Wuhan Temple

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “Those who free themselves from care stay low and avoid heights. Those whose minds are empty can plumb the depths. Those who help others without expecting any reward are truly kind. Those whose mouths agree with their minds speak the truth. Those who make demands of themselves as well as others establish peace.

Verse 9 – Maintaining a Reservoir of Enthusiasm

Be careful of what you cultivate and prepared to let go of what fills you.


The Han – Stone Carving from Confucius Temple

Know your obstacles before you enter the room or gate to further knowledge and understanding. As if you were a waterfall, only releasing that which does not define your true motives and destination.

Since fullness leads to emptiness – remain empty prepared to become full again and again. Since sharpness leads to becoming dull, avoid zeal and maintain a reservoir of enthusiasm. Since riches lead to worry and excess avoid calling attention to yourself and maintain value within so that it cannot be taken away. When your task is done treat it as though it were nothing and move on to be reminded of the knowledge of ten thousand things.

As you let your enthusiasm carry the day. ##

Liu Shih-Li says, “Since fullness always leads to emptiness, avoid satisfaction; since sharpness leads to dullness, avoid zeal; since gold and jade always lead to worry, avoid greed; since wealth and honor encourage excess, avoid pride; since success and fame bring danger, know when to stop and where lies the mean. You don’t have to live in the mountains and forests or cut yourself off from human affairs to enter the Way. Success and fame, wealth and honor are all encouragements to practice.

Wand Chen says, “To retire doesn’t mean to abdicate your position; rather, when your task is done treat it as if it were nothing.”

Ssu-Ma Ch’ien says, “when Confucius asked about the ceremonies of the ancients, Lao Tzu sad, ‘I have heard that the clever merchant hides his wealth so his store looks empty and that the superior man acts dumb to avoid calling attention to himself. I advise you to get rid of your excessive pride and ambition. They won’t do you any good. This is all I have to say to you’”


The Immortal Turtle Wuhan Temple in Chengdu

This is a very famous quote of what was considered the only meeting what may have occurred between Confucius and Lao Tzu. Lao Tzu is considered to have felt Confucius was to “full of himself and very ambitious”. His bringing him down a notch or two, was a very significant event in Chinese history. Coming from Ssu-ma Ch’ien the storied historian of ancient China gave it credence.

When I wrote the above verses of my own version of the Tao Te Ching, I went back and tried to compare what I had written over a few days in May 2000 with other translations, and I was happy with what I had written. I felt I had captured the essence of what Lao Tzu intended to say.  It was as I mentioned in the first paragraph above, as if the conveyor of basic truths that were simply passing through me and whatever story I had been telling myself or standing in was to change.

By 1dandecarlo