On becoming whole / Volume 3

We are the beacon of virtue that lights the world.

So, what is our purpose, our role, and how do we find our niche so to speak. Are we a singular version of the “I am that I am”, bent on tapping into 100_5685universal consciousness without regard to the nature that surrounds us and relationship with others? Concerned only for this space, this hermitage, in keeping with our own enfoldment. 

Are we what we do… or the person we are here to yet to become and does it matter? The reason the ideas of emptiness, mindfulness, and learning discernment are so essential, is that they serve to precede everything else. I often interchange the word Tao and Dao; they are the same. Tao is the version used in English, and Dao is the more correct version. Old habits die hard they say. But that’s the essence of it all. What we intrinsically follow is in keeping with both what we learn and our innate nature, our instincts, and the true meaning of synchronicity. It’s why we are here.

Or in that found in ancient Taoist scripture “That carrying the ethereal and corporal souls, embracing the One, can you be without separation?” Even further, thoughts of “returning to the Source is called 3513stillness; this means returning to life-destiny. Returning to life-destiny is called constancy; knowing constancy is called illumination.” (An illusion to chapter 16 of the Tao Te Ching by Guigen). This is known as following sagely advise, or the dragons. 

What habits we unconsciously do are often seen as in keeping with our second nature – what we do without thinking. It’s how we act and how others see us.  Is it something we’ve learned recently, or perhaps our virtue we’ve always known but have often forgotten or just ignored, that connects us to our Source showing us the way? That it is our virtue that lights both our way and the world. How is it we are to contribute to our environment that is to enhance both this innate divine nature and the outer world in keeping with what may be called our responsibility to our ancestral alignment or mystery? Something to ponder or think about. Perhaps even going so far as saying “We are that we are” here to build on and show respect for both. It is embracing the One, the Tao, the yin and yang that resides in all of us.

Commentary of Lao Tzu’s Te Tao Ching

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.  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. May 2000

第10节 展示大德






Virtue translates into de, which also can appear as inner power. While de may mean moral or ethical activity, it has a larger sense of being pervaded by the numinous presence of the Dao. Virtuous behavior is an expression or manifestation of that condition. This idea is constant throughout the Tao Te Ching. Hidden in form, the Tao is constantly acting through us as unified qi circulating without ceasing, and is ever-changing. Its support is what sustains us and is immeasurable. It is the essence that burns inside us looking to change who we are and will become in our travels ahead. Like a beacon of light to transform, mold, and fashion our environment. What we do, what we say, and how we act. It is our virtue that makes us immortal.  

Asking us how long will this sleep last. When will you take up your mission? If you are reading this, you may think or say – this doesn’t apply to me, or is not available to me. Therefore, making a judgment on something that I am not sure of is beyond my ability to reason. For myself, I draw inspiration from Taoist notions about living harmoniously with nature and the Tao, the cosmic order that pervades the universe. When do we move beyond philosophical thoughts and aesthetic values to join what is calling us? Perhaps we are here to illuminate the highest reached of the cosmos. To know constancy and move towards proper understanding. Transforming the clarity and stillness we know, into transparency through our own efforts. Maybe the Tao remains hidden in form so that each of us may capture it for ourselves.

Daoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my earlier entries here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters five and six of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh – Inward Training


The Way has no fixed position;
it abides within the excellent mind.
When the mind is tranquil and the vital breath is regular, the Way can thereby be halted.

That Way is not distant from us;
when people attain it they are sustained
that Way is not separated from us;
When people accord with it they are harmonious.
Therefore: Concentrated! as though you could be roped together with it.
Indiscernible! as though beyond all locations.
The true state of that Way:
How could it be conceived of and pronounced upon?

Cultivate your mind, make your thoughts tranquil, and the Way can thereby be attained.


As for the Way:
it is what the mouth cannot speak of, the eyes cannot see, and the ears cannot hear.

It is that with which we cultivate the mind and align the body.
When people lose it they die;
when people gain it they flourish.
When endeavors lose it they fail;
when they gain it they succeed.
The Way never has a root or trunk,
it never has leaves or flowers.
The myriad things are generated by it;
the myriad things are completed by it.
We designate it “the Way.”

Commentary of Lao Tzu’s Te Tao Ching

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, or Tao.

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.

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.

第22节          论合一






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?

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.

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.

第22节 (补遗)     作众人的指路明灯






Going forth seek only clarity and understanding what can be called turbidity. Clarity is what is seen and understood as coming from the cosmos. What is dictated by nature’s call. The structure in place we are here to build on and is understood as a “given” that manifests in myriad form. Turbidity refers to what is defined as the delusion of the mundane world. Clarity and turbidity are the qi of yin and yang and circulate and flow by ascending and descending within all things. This becomes the synchronicity of our spirit on our way to becoming whole.  

As Lao Tzu teaches – we are to emulate the highest in nature and the cosmos with great compassion, extend clarity and stillness, establish the teachings and guide others. Align ourselves with virtue, embody perfection, and our Source by embracing the One, the Tao.

By 1dandecarlo

The paradox… finding the flow and going there / Volume 2

It is always said that when the source is clear and the current is still that you can find your way. When your foundation is stable you can embrace the circulation of pure energy, or your qi as described in the last entry. It becomes what we fill ourselves with – then empty to our environment that defines us. It’s what Confucius called benevolence and virtue. Heaven and earth are to be seen as the origin of benefit and harm, just as we know that P201the yin and yang of I Ching are the essential forces behind all that moves in the universe.

Picture of the ancient lynx at the Confucius Family Mansion in Qufu. A lynx is a symbol of silence, balance, observation, second sight, patience, honesty, shyness, caution, intuition, solitude, poise, wisdom, loyalty, comfort, and playfulness. The wild animal as a totem guide encourages you to be flexible and cheerful while carrying out your day to day routine.

We begin by creating structure and the discipline to follow it into the P202future. To build on – as a roadmap for scripture study and reading writings of the past, the commentaries, the thoughts and directions of the ancients. Staying true to where they take us. While we get to choose our own path. Eastern philosophy seems to be my own guiding directive, with the writings of the West – Plato, Kant, Emerson, and others like a tuning fork, whose vibrations center my thoughts and writing as well. It’s staying true with Taoist thought that keeps me centered though. It’s a liturgy and confluence with scripture with hopes that my own writing and subsequent actions will suffice as an adequate commentary.

As stated before, we are here to instill a new take, a new version that carries our heart-mind forward to new places that will serve to benefit both nature and humanity. That if we want to inspire others, we must remain above what living brings each day.

Writing for me is in many ways spiritual training following many paths and finding/rediscovering, coming in tune with, the flow that is ever-present. Re-establishing and connecting with the stream of consciousness our spirit has always known. For me, this is the best unkept secret that lies out in the open for all to see. This flow of energy… vibrations of universal love we run from in order for our ego… the who we think we are… that define us. We P214are constantly confronted by people and situations placed before us to aide in finding and refining our spirit. What may be called numinosity, as if to choose unified clarity.

Monet’s Artist Garden at Giverney

This is heaven’s gift and when we are ready for serenity, we see this in the unity of nature’s abundance. It is here that the Tao becomes pervasive and we begin to transform into what Emerson coined as transcendence, or transcendentalism. To where our imagination can take us when we see with our heart and mind’s eye.

What Gandhi saw as non-violence to gain a greater purpose beyond simply P203oneself. Emerson could see how nature resonates with the universe. Seeing beyond what is known. And just as importantly, how our inner nature defines us and the cosmos – how we are all one with it. That we are all one.

Emerson did not act in a vacuum entering the flow of thought that preceded him. It was finding perfection found in nature and embodying the truism that there can be no separation. He was a true mystic and became immortal P204due to the transcendence he mirrored and epitomized. He knew that when we can see it, we should say it and to study the way of enlightenment is to study ourselves. To in effect to forget the self, who we are in the material world. To forget the self is to become actualized by the myriad things, or as the ancient Chinese believed that we are simply one of the ten thousand things. 

Among those that Emerson studied were Plato, Tolstoy, and Lao Tzu. Later it was Emerson’s writings that inspired Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and more recently John Lewis. All knew that we must become a benchmark for others to follow. That we must become focused and embody this suchness, a spontaneity, as if attuned to P205and with nature and the mysterious Dao, or Devine Origin. Continually refining our spirit and emerging with a universal presence that mirrored the oneness of Dao – that space above both heaven and earth. It is through the transformation of our spirit we enter the universal presence that we seek that accords us with the flow of divine law. That what we lack is the discipline to go there. The key is remembering who you are and from where you came.

It is when we brush up against our true ancestors, we find ourselves in paradox with distractions found in the present. When we acknowledge the emptiness needed to enter the flow of our ultimate endeavor and aspiration where clarity and stillness reside, we are changed. We are no longer the person we thought we once were as we become the teacher for just ourselves. This becomes the ultimate paradox, or self-contradictory proposition, that aligning with the transforming of our innate spirit takes us. When we can say we are in the mundane world – but not of the mundane world. We are P206in the world – but not of the world so to speak as we remain steadfast with the Dao.

For many, finding this balance is the true essence of understanding the parallels of the I Ching – the yin and yang that resides in both us and all things that nature provides that will make us universal. This is our ultimate choice. In almost all religious teachings there comes a time when your spirit rises above the here and now to a place of higher purpose. Our challenge is made more difficult by the attachments we cling to.

The Paradox

Some people go through their entire lives not knowing who they are, where P207they have been, or where they are going.

Book of Rites Qingyang Taoist Temple

 You are fortunate. You have a chance to see to know to understand where you are from, why you are here, and where you are going. To know who you are, who you have been, and you will be along the way. However, you must know that to know is not to know, and to have is not to have.

To see is not to be, and who you will be is not to see.

For whatever is useful by the world’s standards cannot be useful in finding the Tao. It is the eternal nature of the Tao and Te (the way of virtue) that is to be found. Reality becomes, is and will be the chance endeavor to find the Tao. 1/15/1994 (From the Preface of my first book – An American journey though the I Ching and beyond).

This is no different from the challenge those closely adhering to the Tao, or Buddhism face. For many following Buddhism, the admonition to “take the Bodhisattva vow” becomes the way to transcend personal wants and desires to become who we are in a much more universal arena.

The Bodhisattva vow is the vow taken by Mahayana Buddhists to liberate all sentient beings. One who has taken the vow is nominally known as a Bodhisattva. This can be done by venerating all Buddhas and by cultivating supreme moral and spiritual perfection, to be placed in the service of others. In particular, Bodhisattvas promise to practice the six perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, P208concentration and wisdom in order to fulfill their bodhicitta aim of attaining enlightenment for the sake of all beings.

Prayer wheels at the Buddhist Luohan Temple in Chongching. Each prayer wheel contains a Buddhist sutra (or prayer). Spinning the wheel is said to release the sutra for the benefit of the one doing the spinning.

It is this being placed in the service of others that we find attachments that seem to make our decisions for us. Discernment can lead us to become self-centered verses seeing the need to help others to find their own path. You don’t necessarily have to be a Buddhist or Daoist to see and feel this way.

It begins with an enlightened presence and compassion for all beings. This 715becomes the paradox of those entering the universal flow of energy when we see ourselves above the mundane world and wish to take others there too.

Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian for whom the bells tolls…

Do we stay above the mundane word as a singular effort of our highest endeavor and ultimate destiny, or are we now empowered by this higher source to take others there as well? This is the ultimate paradox that history teaches us that man has struggled with for millennia. It’s like an ancestral mystery with the universe attempting to bring us in alignment with who we are supposed to be. It is for this reason we follow the ultimate source, the mysterious Dao. What some may refer to as God. It is what Lao Tzu calls the great Dao that is without form and brings forth both heaven and earth. 

Daoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. In my first entry here, I make reference to a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It was written more than two thousand years ago. It can be found here on my website. The next two chapters, chapters three and four, of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh — Inward Training


All the forms of the mind are naturally infused and filled with it [the vital P209essence], are naturally generated and developed [because of] it.

Huangshan Mountain

It is lost
inevitably because of sorrow, happiness, joy, anger, desire, and profit-seeking.
If you are able to cast off sorrow, happiness, joy, anger, desire and profit-seeking,
your mind will just revert to equanimity.
The true condition of the mind
is that it finds calmness beneficial and, by it, attains repose.
Do not disturb it, do not disrupt it
and harmony will naturally develop.


Clear! as though right by your side.
Vague! as though it will not be attained.
Indescribable! as though beyond the limitless.
P210The test of this is not far off: daily we make use of its inner power.

I Ching – Qingyang Taoist Temple – Chengdu

The Way is what infuses the body,
yet people are unable to fix it in place.
It goes forth but does not return,
it comes back but does not stay.
Silent! none can hear its sound.
Suddenly stopping! it abides within the mind.
Obscure! we do not see its form.
Surging forth! it arises with us.
We do not see its form,
we do not hear its sound,
Yet we can perceive an order to its accomplishments.
We call it “the Way.”

It’s how we internalize and become in tune with the path we are to follow that determines our fate. Finally, from my own version… a commentary of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching entitled “Thoughts on becoming a Sage”, written in May 2000 and published in China in 2006. The book is found here on my website.

Verse 21 – Forever replenishing our virtue

 What is this thing called virtue and value placed on emptiness and how can P211they be so inter-related?

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 P212virtue, the Way would have no appearance or ability to come forward.

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.

21          练大德,永无止


P213             Longevity and Virtue Completed – Confucius Mansion in Qufu




By 1dandecarlo

Living above the clouds… as if perfecting perfection / Volume 1


As if residing in a perpetual hermitage, or retreat – as the ultimate space you call home. Our place for the moment but a cornucopia of flowers, bees, and butterflies. With thoughts and actions of the virtue that define us above the clouds, seemingly above both heaven and earth.

With the Tao teaching that our innate nature emulates the sun, moon, the earth below us, and stars. Man alone measuring time. As eternity moves through us we go forward cultivating mindfulness. Universal energy passing through the cosmos endeavoring only to simply stay present in the moment.

We are, as with all things found in nature, simply the manifestation of the Tao. With God only the definition we give to the ultimate creator of what is left unknown. As we follow and learn from our divine innate nature and scripture passed down from those who came before us. My goal to set out on a new road following old paths to destinations that return to my beginnings. The ultimate cycle of life, death, and re-birth to live and understand my role and ultimate purpose knowing that… the one who sees makes us all see. With this I say –

To those who have awakened                                                                                  re-incarnation will not have a fixed limit.

To leap beyond the realm of formlessness                                                           – to suchness… and the fundamental, intrinsic,                                               innate characteristic quality or condition that takes us there.

To reside in the world while living beyond the world.

With aspirations to return home one day                                                            to be found with old friends above the clouds.                                                  To be simply above heaven and earth, once again.

The following is but a first entry of many that will follow of my own personal account as someone adhering to the Tao and thoughts mirroring my mentors from long ago. Scratching the surface of forever truths that follow me through eternity. Bringing myself and ancient scriptures into account. Making both what I write – and what I have written – the personification of my journey. Past, present, and future. Paying close attention to my Taoist past as it consolidates the present with my future. Guided by forever friends from every persuasion who also looked upward to the stars and their innate nature that would tie it all together. All hoping to contribute to what they see as the final say.


Manjusri is the bodhisattva of wisdom and is one of the most important iconic figures in Mahayana art and literature. He represents the wisdom of prajna, which is not confined by knowledge or concepts. Images of Manjusri, as with images of other bodhisattvas are used for meditation and contemplation.

For me, this continuing dialog begins again with ancient scripture as there is so much to distract us from the journey as we travel the mundane world. (the world in the here and now with others present) Scripture can be seen as a beacon, a universal light. Classics as seen in Confucianism, Sutras in Buddhism, and in Taoism what can be referred to as Jing. Adding an omnipresent or pervasive context, one can see reference to scripture in Christianity (for myself adding Tolstoy’s commentary and Emerson’s take on Nature is enlightening), and in the Moslem world, the Koran, the Indigenous native and shaman – all found to be in tandem with who we were in the beginning. All to be lit with the same universal flame. By my own reckoning with Eastern thought… specifically Taoism, my focus is on what is commonly referred to as Jing. Jing has historically been seen in China as calligraphy and transmitted as manuscripts. Over the centuries in China, Jing are commonly written as commentaries as well.

Taoism always seems to come back to someone referred to as Master Lao, the author of the Tao Te Ching. There is a second book attributed to Lao Tzu entitled the Nei-yeh – Inward Training. It’s contribution to Taoism has been as great or greater for those who see the Taoist path as essential to living a good life. It can be found here on my website. The first two chapters of twenty-six are as follows:

Nei-yeh — Inward Training


The vital essence of all things –
it is this that brings them to life.
It generates the five grains below
and becomes the constellated stars above.

When flowing amid the heavens and the earth
we call it ghostly and numinous. (spiritual or supernatural).
When stored within the chests of human beings,
we call them sages.


Therefore, this vital energy is:
Bright! – as if ascending from the heavens;
Dark! – as if entering an abyss;
Vast! – as if dwelling in an ocean;
Lofty! – as if dwelling on a mountain peak.

Therefore this vital energy
cannot be halted by force,
yet can be secured by inner power or virtue.
Cannot be summoned by speech,
yet can be welcomed by awareness.
Reverently hold onto it and do not lose it:
this is called “developing inner power.”
When inner power develops and wisdom emerges,
the myriad things will, to the last one, be grasped.

Even my own writing spanning more than twenty-five years can be seen as inspired by the I Ching, and ideals of Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu more specifically. For the Taoist, or those seen  as following Taoist precepts, this becomes the manifestation of the Tao in the world expressing the numinous (spiritual and/or mysterious) presence of the Tao. Unifying our qi is the essential first step in aligning with who we are yet to become.

It will be our qi – our breath – our spirit – our heart/mind that defines us in eternity. The ancients saw this as our blood and color red that took us there. All the universe asks is that we do our best with what we are given.

The manuscripts (two were published in China) and several hundred thousand words here on my website are my attempts to understand an innate nature with myself that has always been present, yet mostly unaccounted for as I have gained my own voice. Ultimately, my purpose seems to be expressing what I have always known for the benefit of others and to be reminded again of my own journey. My role to express this through my writing. This culminates with what appears here through The Kongdan Foundation. Spiritual refinement being the never-ending purpose of our soul.

This study in self-reflection and refinement continues as the central practice of life. The words of Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu and many others have not only gone through me, but are now simply me expressing my highest good as if emulating the sage. Retooling what I have previously written so that I too may take the next step. Wang Chongyang, as expressed in the book The Way of Complete Perfection, tells us that it is not only reading the ancient Chinese scriptures… but more importantly to understand that the point of reading and study is to deepen practice. One endeavors to apply a given text’s insights to one’s daily life. Not only intellectually taking us to new heights, but with spiritual intent focusing on transformation and what you gain from Taoist, and/or additional scriptural readings.

It is not just one thing that guides us. It is the combination of what we study, how we practice, and what we incorporate into our daily lives. With this we learn discernment, what is relevant, and how practice carries us through each day. To what we hold as sacred. This is the essence of stillness and mindfulness and a complete meditative custom or habit. It becomes “where are we doing it from”.

As a practicing Taoist, this is because our jing, our take on things ethereal or what lies beyond us, connects us to threads that bind us to networks we have always known and simply need to be reminded of that lead us to the next step along the way. It is what the central core of the Tao… or Way, has always been over the millennia. It becomes our contract with our own heart-mind. As we seem to move through eternity at our own pace.

It is here that my friend Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man comes to mind, or at best into play. Seeing our humanness as a reminder that we are here to both teach and to learn. One of the first things I wrote in re-affirming with this path, appears in my first book that was to be my introduction to the I Ching and Taoism I called “An American Journey through the I Ching and Beyond” published in China in 2004. Something I wrote more than twenty-five years ago.

Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man

As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way.

Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased.

Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on your finding and staying on the road yet to be traveled.  Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before.  Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things. Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.

Eternity existing forever both before, now and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively, over and over again. A great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.

Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing beyond the ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge  of the Tao and understanding what it means. Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow. 4/12/94

Keeping to the open road, the ultimate challenge of the everyday or mundane world. As I proceed, it is in writing, speaking, and teaching others about the Tao and relying on scriptural teachings that are so essential. You must become it – before you can relay it to others – the essence of teaching. I love Liu Changsheng’s teachings on early Quanzhen, especially the commentary by Fan Yi in 1185AD. The thoughts below are what I aspire to do in my own writing:

“With his expansive aptitude and learning, he connects old and new. His heart/mind wanders between the Dao (Tao) and virtue. Thus, with broad-minded thinking he investigates what is essential, searching out the mysterious and making inquiries into the hidden. He puts his all into clear commentary and explanation. Providing simple understanding, he makes it easy to know and easy to practice. It is thus beneficial for all generations. It truly can be called an application of the heart-mind that is full of compassion and kindness for others”.

It is what connects what may be called Eastern Thought focusing on Taoist Cosmology and Buddhist inspired maps of consciousness that I find most intriguing. As well as the development of both the Quanzhen or Northern and Nanzong or Southern School of Taoism.  Going there, following commentaries in literature written over hundreds, even thousands of years, along with expressing the intricacies of the Tao, is where I hope to take my own “commentaries” over the next several months, perhaps years as well.

Stay tuned for Volume 2

By 1dandecarlo

45) Unity of Springfield World Religions Class. April 26, 2020 – Alan Watts and the Way of Zen Part 2. / Staying in tune with the spontaneity of Zen and living from the center of our heart.

Liberation and cultural transformation and why Confucius was instrumental to the flow of benevolence and virtue. To the great Zen Master Dogen, beginner’s mind, and to what brings forth an unfolding of a new vision of reality. It begins from within each of us. With compassion and mindfulness, we see that the heart is the ground from which our speech grows. We learn to restrain our speech in moments of anger, hostility, or confusion, and over time, to train ourselves to be more frequently inclined towards wholesome states such as love, kindness and empathy. To live from the center of our heart as the starting point in which we begin again. As Gandhi told us that “We should speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

As relayed earlier by Watts reckoning and many others, Taoism was the original Chinese way of liberation which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen. This idea of liberation is something that we keep coming back to over and over again. The question and underlying contradiction have always been – what are we liberating ourselves from – and when we have a sense of it – what do we do next. What are we doing to promote this transcendent flow of energy? If the eternal essence, this flow of the universe already exists within us, then our role becomes simply to continue moving it forward. It is often said we do this with love. But how do we express this and what is our medium of expression?

The greatest contributors to the flow of transcendence, to this flow of energy for me was illustrated in the West by Plato, Emerson, Tolstoy, MLK, Eckhart Tolle, and yes, I would say Alan Watts. What is this ability to connect with the universal never-ending flow of transcendental thought and philosophy? This voice historically has also been expressed through the arts. Music and painting, have always been the best way for many to express this transcendence. As best defined by the truest sense of kung fu – the essence of our own greatest gift to ourselves and others. But Watts was unique, as all these were, in that they found a starting point and built on the idea of being liberated from convention to what amounts to the creative power of te, of virtue as discussed in my last entry. What is virtue and more importantly, how does it define us? To appreciate and understand a sense of virtue, there is no better place than to look to those who chose a path that led to a positive, what we might call, Zen outcome.

I recently used the depiction of “following the yellow brick road” as depicted in the movie classic The Wizard of Oz in my writing and how Elton John transformed the idea to say “Beyond the yellow brick road” in his music. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American-English phrase yellow brick road as denoting a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.

 We are reminded that transformation and change are the keys to our growth and longevity understanding that the person that we are today is not who we will be tomorrow. Many people could stand out as models to follow through actions that led to their success. As a sports fan, I miss baseball. Specifically, Cardinal baseball. One of my favorite players was always Ozzie Smith the shortstop known as the “Wizard of Oz”. I was fortunate to get to see Ozzie play many times in Saint Louis before he retired in 1996. In his Hall of Fame speech in 2002 he was honored as probably the greatest shortstop of all time. he said… “Ozzie Smith is not a uniquely talented person, in fact, he’s no different than any man, woman, boy or girl in this audience today. Ozzie Smith was a boy who decided to look within. A boy who discovered absolutely nothing is good enough if it could be made better. A boy who discovered an old-fashioned formula that would take him beyond the rainbow, beyond even his wildest dream. A boy who discovered a formula that was, and is still today, a mind to dream, a heart to believe and the courage to persevere.” As close a statement reflecting a Zen attitude that could be made. I miss baseball very much, as I am sure many watching do as well. Ozzie used to have a restaurant in St Louis we visited as well.

Another person whose artwork I deeply appreciate is Claude Monet who was the founder of French Impressionist painting. His paintings for me were very Zen-like as they illustrated the philosophy of expressing one’s perceptions before nature. The term impressionism is derived from the title of his painting Impressive, Sunrise. I first gained my own appreciation for Monet in a visit to the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC in 1980 forty years ago. It is this “expressing one’s perceptions before nature” that rings true and is timeless. It is easy to find yourself and get lost in his impressionist paintings at the same time. His paintings have a lack of structure that allows you to go there on your own. Very Zen… That college class you took in Art Appreciation takes on a whole new meaning once you incorporate for yourself how what you are seeing relates to you personally.

As if we are here to find our niche as the universe would have it and spend our time going there. I would often tell my students in China that most people don’t have a clue as to who they are until the age of thirty… then with attachments already made (family and job that does not assist in taking hem there) they feel stuck. We are to use our life’s events for growth and change and go into the unknown fearless understanding of cause and effect.

A famous depiction of the three philosophies show the three men are dipping their fingers in a vat of vinegar and tasting it; one man reacts with a sour expression, one reacts with a bitter expression, and one reacts with a sweet expression. The three men are Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. Each man’s expression represents the predominant attitude of his philosophy: Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering due to desires; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally perfect in its natural state. Another interpretation of the painting is that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, the “three philosophies” are one and the same and reflect the convergence of Zen in Eastern thought and philosophy.

Alan Watts understood that in order to get to the bottom of what was to become Zen Buddhism, you must first see the adaptability of Chinese thought. For myself, there seems to be a universal connecting tissue that ties universal thought together as if a single thread. I see this especially in Tolstoy, Emerson, and Watt. In Eastern thought, there had been an integration spanning thousands of years of defining who they were before Buddhism came from India in a big way. This maturity led to workable patterns of social convention derived from Confucianism with ideas of Taoism and particularly “leaving well enough alone”. This led to a synthesis, to what would become Chan, or Zen Buddhism whose premise was “ok, how do we find a practical application that would define a way of life for everyone following normal instincts and pre-existing patterns”. Ultimately, asking – is it all that important to see yourself as the rest of the world does?

I would add that both mystical and mythic consciousness demands that certain things – sacred things – be approached not with the distance of disinterested scrutiny but in a spirit of faith. But freedom from the self comes not through the dulling of consciousness, but through its refinement, not through dissolving the ego but through moving beyond it. It’s what every great storyteller attempts to do by becoming enmeshed, or a part of, what appears as an extension of the unknown, eventually falling into a harmonious rhythm or flow that washes away extraneous thoughts and brings our senses back to life.

It seems that in practical terms that I always come back to Confucius and his hometown, Qufu. I got my Chinese name (Kongdan), from my friends in Qufu. Kong is Confucius family name. Over half of people who live in Qufu have Kong as their family name. So, the name Kongdan seemed the next step for me over the years as I kept coming back (and still do). Over the past twenty years I have made over forty trips and lived next to Confucius Mansion and Temple and taught at the school founded by his descendants adjacent to both. But the point here is the flow of divine universal thought and energy. How for over thousands of years this continuum transposed how we were to live and what we were to connect to that make us universal. That we are more than what we see – as nature gets the final call. It’s like all you need is a great Monet print on your wall at home as you sit and go there. A blending from one age to the next and deciding this is eternal and we (I) am a part of it all. A great aide in meditation by the way.

In trying to understand how it all comes together it seems each of us possess what I would call a transcendent imperative… once we know we take the next step to freedom. A certain pragmatism that honors varying ways of thinking leaning on the strengths of each of us. Like saying whatever works best to get you there will do. It’s like possessing an underlying simplicity and structure as to how we live our lives that can obscure the richness of its implications. That’s the task of all great teachers and what they leave behind for us to grab onto that will define us as well. This is what Confucius did that Watts was trying to relay. Saying wherever we are doing it from in virtue is empowering, and can enhance our capacities to find enjoyment throughout the events of daily life. For Confucius this sense of responsibility leads one to benevolence, virtue, and grace.

When I’m here, I always seem to return to thoughts of illumination, liberation, freedom, ideas of the flow of universal transcendence, and wanting to live from a state of grace. What my own mentors would have done next, and most importantly, remembering what takes us there. It’s like a grounding of eternal presence that becomes understood and acknowledged before going forward with the next step reminding us of the innate wisdom, perhaps one might say, a kind of touchstone, we have always possessed. This always seems to bring me back to moderation, and the benevolence and virtue of Confucius and Kongdan. What this means is that whatever the impermanence we find of our lives in this moment… we can change. Often, I would take the bus to a neighboring city or village to visit the home of one of my students. As we would turn the corner or see vistas of mountains or hillside there would be a sense of dejavu – I have been here before. This feeling often occurred in Qufu.

To appreciate and understand Alan Watts, there is a need to “get under the skin” of pre-existing thought as to what made Zen Zen. As if, you must understand the journey it took over the centuries to grow and manifest into something that people could see as an instrument to follow as a compilation of thought and philosophy.

It’s not only that we return to the flow of universal thought, but where we allow it to take us. Like an institutional memory we each contribute to that allows us to tap into that shows the way. A willingness to proceed into the unknown as the central element in acknowledging our own path, and that no two may be the same. As with the I Ching you must return, or go back to the beginning, before the route ahead shows you the way. Over the centuries it becomes the roadmap to eternity. For me, it’s always returning to my source and Qufu. As with seemingly all things opposites occur with Qufu in northeast China and Chengdu in Sichuan to the southwest.

When the world is experienced, as the thirteenth-century Japanese Zen master Eihei Dogen writes, “with the whole of one’s body and mind” the senses are joined, the self is opened, and life displays an intrinsic and unitive richness. This from a famous passage Dogen from Genjokoan, (whose meaning is to actualize, or to appear to become one with the whole universe.)

Dogen writes:

To study the Buddha Way is to study the self.
To study the self is to forget the self.
To forget the self is to be illuminated by all things.

Adding that – great enlightenment is the tea and rice of daily living.

Its characteristics include joy, deep concentration, emotional buoyancy, a heightened sense of mastery, a lack of self-consciousness, and self-transcendence. While living in South Florida a few years ago, I attended a Buddhist Sangha Community weekly meditation that used the book “The Essential Dogen” as a guide. I still have the book, and often find myself returning to it. I have found it both enlightening and inspirational. In a future entry as an introduction to Watt’s version of Zen, I hope to use this as another tool. Ultimately, we attain wisdom not be creating ideals, but by learning to see things clearly, as they are. That it is as Confucius said, “We are not here to create – we are here to relate”.

One of Dogen’s teachers was Rujing. What I especially liked was his idea that practice and realization cannot be divided as we proceed each moment in what Watt would call ‘the essential Now’. To acknowledge the starting point as what the Buddhist would call ‘beginners mind’. To what Eckhart Tolle calls “The Power of Now”. With this we focus on aligning with the destination that is always present.

What Watts calls when we have an experience, or find ourselves in a state of consciousness which leads to our liberation that often is referred to as self-knowledge, or the beginnings of self-awakening. It is with this state of mind we make the discovery of who or what I am (we are), when I am (we are) no longer identified with any role or conventional definition of the person we thought we were. This “self-knowledge” often leads to identifying with our own divinity. To succeed in the cultivation of mindfulness, is the highest benefit, informing all aspects of our life. The idea of a starting point has always intrigued me. With the I Ching, it always reminds us to start with the beginning. To go within as if in prayer or meditation letting our outward actions simply mirror our innermost acknowledgment of our own divinity. What I like most about Zen Buddhism, is there are no rails keeping us from actualizing who we are meant to become. I like to think this was Chuang Tzu’s contribution to Chan that later transformed into Zen.

To grow as we come to know our presence – to know ourselves. This was always the strength of Confucius teaching as it allowed the blending and structure that encouraged Taoism and Buddhism to flourish with the addition of Indian Mahayana Buddhism to produce Zen.

In China this was often called Chan Buddhism and in Japan… Zen Buddhism as exemplified by Dogen. Teachings would often vary due to structure and preferences of Masters seeped in culture and direction with the flow of wisdom they felt they needed to expand. What did Confucius do that made him so famous? He was a compiler of the history of China that came before him. For myself after more than twenty-five years of acquaintance, he was/is the ultimate storyteller. He is said to have updated what was known as “the Five Classics”, which included the Book of Rites made famous by Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou, from five hundred years earlier. Also, the Analects and his take on the I Ching, plus the writings of Lao Tzu, who tradition says they once met. He did not become famous for over a hundred years after his death.

Confucius inspired people to act with benevolence and virtue that would accept the spiritual path of others. For well over two thousand years after Confucius, Qufu was considered to be the “Religious center of China”, because what Confucianism became was the way of acceptance of family, community, and the emperor. Every city from about 200 AD during the Han dynasty going forward, was required to have a “Temple of Confucius”, not so much in a spiritual sense, but a philosophical understanding of how the individual should live going forward. Much of the examination system in place for well over a thousand years required for moving up in society was centered of a thorough understanding of the teaching of Confucius.

If you are still with me, I hope you will see the value in “self-appraisal”. Modeling our heart and our thoughts, to match others we can look to as guides that help to design the path, we know instinctively we must take when we are ready. I especially like to follow what is called the oral tradition, words and stories from the East. As personified by the sage, or shaman, as a heritage embodied in what is transmitted in what we might call not necessarily a ‘religious’ sense, but one that involved directing others in a whole way of life. This is the fate of the storyteller. Creating cohesion that take us to the unknown in such away we must follow. The earliest shaman knew to follow his/her instincts into the unknown. What was it that took Alan Watts and so many others on their own journey to the knowledge of the ultimate reality? It’s where we shall endeavor to go here as well.

Finally, Watts reminds us that we are eternal. That our lives are like a Monet painting with our own canvas making impressions as if we are present, but not really here.

By 1dandecarlo

44) The great mediator Chuang Tzu, who taught freedom and liberation to think for ourselves and Elton John – just what is it that lies beyond the yellow brick road as Dorothy sang: If bluebirds fly then why oh why can’t I.

As we are found returning home to the stars above accompanied by the reality that we are the light of the world. In the earliest of times, the holy man would go off by himself to pray and look to the stars for comfort and guidence. He DSCI0370would cover himself in clay the color of red ochre before returning to others. 

He or she, would express themselves through dance and were known as wu. Red was the color of blood thought to be our connection with the universe that made each of us eternal. It would be our blood that passed from one generation to the next that would unite or bind us in eternity.  The red ochre our bridge through nature that linked it all together. The Chinese name for red, the most sacred of colors at the time translates into english as dan.


Who and what were the ancient shaman and sage and those concerned with past and future talking about and why should it matter as they became transcendent philosophers who looked to the stars and found answers that were eternal just like themselves? That they were and we are the light of our soul. Calling this today “quantum or the physics of the Tao” as we were to call them dragons. As you find yourself speaking in metaphors to better explain the journey ahead.

4401I love these images of the dragon carved or created centuries ago found in Qufu at the shrine of the Yellow Emperor and the dragon in the clouds in Chengdu. Present in the clouds but barely or rarely making appearances 4402as the sage just the same.

Is there more to us than finding enough sustenance to live another day and why should it matter? Do we have a place in history and does it revolve around spirit and our intuitive nature, knowledge and wisdom?  As we learn to trust the silence and the voice from within. 4403Who is it we speak for or to, who is our audience, and who is it that speaks for and to us? Could it be where we and others left off, as if the flow of eternal conversation that is never-ending?

With our musings simply the chance to continue the dialog with the unknown and pondering the right questions to ask. What is this eternal flow of energy we speak to from within that defines us, but compassion for all things found in nature?

From Thoughts on becoming a Sage:

                             Irreverently Meandering through Time

Traveling on the wind once again the sage proceeds as if at home. Remaining 4404above the clouds he looks down, unconcerned. Waiting to see if anything of importance lies beneath him.

Traveling above the Clouds      Huangshan Mountain

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

Your destiny tied to endeavors forever remaining a paradox. As you remain an enigma that others come to depend on and wisdom taking them to places, they 4405otherwise would never go. As you remain a magnet for others simply showing the way.

At home with Ji Dan    Qufu

Before returning home again, as if only irreverently meandering through time.





Following the Signs  Qingyang Taoist Temple



There is so much to learn from Chuang Tzu and thoughts of freedom. How it’s important to be able to laugh at our own foibles and those of others. He 4407especially liked to find humor and laugh at the Confucians who saw life as secured by a structure of non-existent self-interest. Especially, that we should not to take ourselves so seriously. For Chuang Tzu, as a storyteller, it becomes seeing yourself in the story as it is told. Seeing inherently the premise of the story as it become you. It defines Zen, defines wu wei, defines feng shui, defines kung fu, and most importantly us along with our own divinity and human nature.

When you don’t have to explain because you know where the outcome leads or takes you. When you go into the unknown innately knowing the results before 4408you arrive. It’s becoming fearless. It is the ability to know through our endeavors, longevity, our ultimate destiny, and who we are yet to become – when we know and become this… as the unknowable Tao we are set free.

 It’s living life with virtue and méi guān xi, or by tradition (my favorite Chinese saying)… méi guān xiit doesn’t matter. Because you’ve already arrived. Ultimately, you are not just telling the story, you are relaying your own as the story becomes you. You live with thoughts of what you leave behind for others to pick up as they find the flow and learn to speak for themselves.                            

                                  As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man

As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man begins by abandoning the ways of the world, you begin by simply letting go of that which is not significant to the Tao. As you are now seen traveling with old friends who guide you along an unknowable path or way. Just as the dragons would have it, they are pleased.

Eternal sacrifice made to capture the moment knowing everything rests on 4409your finding and staying on the road yet to be traveled.  Searching for immortality and freedom to go where few have gone before.  Just as a sage would find the true reality of all things. Always leading the way. Knowing that the Tao is everywhere to be found by simply looking and understanding what is and finding one’s own standard within the oneness of virtue.

Hua Pagoda Xian Old City

Eternity existing forever both before, now and yet to come. As you continually search for your place in the overall scheme of things. With a comfort known as something done repetitively over and over again. A 4410great sense of satisfaction that all becomes and is second nature.

The Crane    Xian Old City

Remain simply within the oneness of everything and pursue nothing ethereal as the reclusive sage. Complete with the knowledge of the Tao and understanding what it means. Remember from where you have come. As we are here to remind you of where you will return with us. Everything is here within yourself to rediscover and relearn. Keep to the open road as the Perfected Man and know immortality can only follow. 4/12/1994

How humbling. I wrote the above twenty-six years ago. My writing had become the self expression of my own inherent nature, endeavor, destiny, and the 4411unknowable Tao.

As if the stars of eternity, the dragons who were always present, were lighting my way telling me that it’s becoming who you are meant to be that counts.

That your writing is nothing more than simply the voice of who you have always been and will be again. Knowing the shaman and sages of old and identifying with their journey as your own you are here to emulate. What does one do or where do you go when you have received your own “Mandate from Heaven”? You certainly understand that you come to know that you are not the person you thought you were. As the you travel with compassion in your knapsack and virtue as your guiding compass.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American-English phrase yellow brick road as denoting a course of action or series of events viewed as a path to a particular (especially positive or desired) outcome or goal.

This phrase alludes to the road paved with yellow brick that leads to the Emerald 4412City, as first described in the children’s fantasy novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (George M. Hill Company – Chicago, 1900), by the U.S author Lyman Frank Baum (1856-1919) and the U.S. illustrator and cartoonist William Wallace Denslow (1856-1915). In the novel, this road is mostly referred to as the road of yellow brick.

According to the dictionary, yellow brick road was first used in, and widely popularized by, the 1939 film adapted from the novel, The Wizard of Oz, produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, starring the U.S. singer and actress Judy Garland.

Two other famous things from the movie were the meaning and origin of the 4413phrase ‘we’re not in Kansas anymore’, and the song ‘Somewhere over the rainbow… and the line ‘If bluebirds fly then why, oh why, can’t I.’ In today’s lexicon, or popular culture, we think of the Elton John’s song ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and having the freedom to move beyond what is expected that takes us there. Perhaps on the wings of bluebirds with Dorothy – or dragons. Bluebirds and dragons are to depict longevity, virtue, happiness and getting there.

In a version of Chinese myth, as the woman Gua created the cosmos three 4414bluebirds bring her food and deities are seen riding dragons through the sky.

To the right is a picture of a jar I took at the British Museum in 2011. The jar is decorated with vigorous dragons among the clouds, with a lotus panel border at the base. The inscription shows this piece was made under the auspicious of the Yuyongjian, a division of the Imperial household in Beijing. In truth, it is as if we remain as an enigma to those who think they know us as we travel our own road of yellow bricks into the unknown.

What can it mean to move beyond our status quo peace of mind, beyond the yellow brick road and what is it that takes us (our eternal spirit) there? Chuang Tzu in 300 BC led the way in early Chinese philosophy in showing us the meaning of freedom and the way there.

One’s highest destiny is not simply to ride on the back of a dragon through the 4415sky… but to become the dragon. The great sages through the ages in China were considered to become dragons when they transitioned from the here and now, to what is considered eternity. The Perfected Man… having dragons as your mentors brings an eternal sense to your own endeavors comforted with the knowledge that you will one day simply rise up into the clouds and return to join them once again.

Something I wrote back in 1995 in the still unpublished manuscript My travels 4416with Lieh Tzu’ seems to say it best. To many, it may be seen as simply a vivid imagination, for myself, it mirrors reality. What occurred both before and after only served to further my own travels as with Dorothy’s “yellow brick road” to go beyond “where bluebirds and dragons fly”. As if our destiny truly lies with the stars…

                                          A Visit with Old Friends

Remaining as one with the universe. One’s instincts in constant tune with your surroundings. The only secrets worth telling remaining those that remain 4417non‑contending. Staying in the background as the ever‑knowing sage. As you have seen it all before, is not your time better spent seeking the wisdom and knowledge you find in conversing with your old friends that you have recently re‑discovered. As you have been away for a millennium, but have now come home again. Everyone, Lieh, Chuang, Lao and all the others waiting to hear why you have been away for so long. Or then again, was it only for just an instant?

You explain that you have been exploring human nature and trying to understand how people through the ages could become so confused and off‑centered. That those you have come across are vain in the prime of their beauty and remain impetuous in their strength. That they are quick to tell others how to live without due consideration of how they should do so themselves.

That all those you have come across seem lost in their own attachments. They remain inept in their attempts to find the Way, and even more so when they think they have. There remains this constant sense of need to remain proud and impetuous so that it remains difficult to impart and relay the true essence and goodness needed to preserve 4418humanity. Instead of remaining as one with nature, they seem intent on destroying it. Finally, they must constantly be reminded of who they ultimately are to become and need someone or something to keep them steady.

18th century Chinese Scroll at RISD Museum –  Providence, Rhode Island 

As you finish your account, knowing glances abound as others have come and gone and relayed similar stories. All want to know if you are planning to stay with your old friends or return to your writing in hopes that perhaps one in a thousand may too come forward to learn the proper way. You are amused in that it is known that the sage gives his work to others so that his own power does not diminish as he grows old. Otherwise grappling with confusion when his own knowledge runs out.

Back home after a thousand years and the only question that remains is when you leave again. 8/5/1995

It all comes back to where are we doing it from. With thoughts and writing that would provide the connection between our innate nature and what would later become the I Ching and Taoism, Chan (Zen Buddhism), along with the structure 4419of Confucianism, that together would make sense of it all. It’s getting and staying in the flow of universal thought described by Alan Watts and others, that propels us to consider the teachings of the ancients.

The underlying premise of “beyond where I find myself now – has always been there. The question has always been do we have the freedom to define and go there for ourselves?” My forever friend Chuang Tzu taught that yes, we do.

One of the best translations of the Basic Writings and Book of Chuang Tzu’ was 4420done by Burton Watson and can be found here on my website. I often refer to it as a reminder of good writing with the intent to broaden the scope of how I view things. Gaining an appreciation, almost as a leap of faith to continue into the unknown.

Chuang teaches us freedom to not become encumbered with what will change. It is entering the flow of universal thought and that each of us will always be present as a continuum of spirit that is never-ending. You don’t have to do anything but to be where you are right now. With the only secret’s worth telling being that as shared consciousness. Speaking and acting only as our heart and mind opens to the present and beyond. Perhaps the key is to reminisce on what we are here to remember.

Two of my most favorite stories from Chuang Tzu are of course first… the butterfly dream in  which he awakens no knowing if he is a butterfly thinking he is 4421Chuang Tzu, or Chuang Tzu thinking he is a butterfly. The second is the story of the cook wielding his knife cutting meat so effortlessly that he keeps his blade sharp although he has used the same knife for many years.

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. Every touch of his hand cut the meat as if he used the knife as though he was performing the Dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music. The cook relayed that what he cared about was the Way or Tao, which goes beyond skill, and said

“I cut up the ox as if by spirit and don’t look at it with my eyes.  Perception and understanding have come to a halt and spirit moves me to where it wants.  Over a period of nineteen years I have cut up thousands of oxen with it, yet the blade is as sharp as the beginning. When I see a place of difficulty, I tell myself to watch out and be careful, keep my eyes on what I am doing, work very slowly and move the knife with the greatest subtlety completely satisfied and move on. I then wipe the knife off and put it away.”

Even as we meditate, and when we contemplate qualities such as love and 4422compassion, we dissolve emotional states and allow our mind to come to rest, find stability, and harmony. Unknowingly, our thoughts are of returning home to our eternal resting place to the stars – to where we find ultimate freedom. And for myself, thoughts and remembrances of my dear friend and mentor, Chuang Tzu. To the right is the Libra constellation… and home. In the interim with the bluebird as the Missouri state bird telling me that I’m almost there once again.

Chuang Tzu’s place in Chinese history is often overshadowed by Lao Tzu and Confucius, but he is deserving of praise (although he would laugh at the attention). His moderating presence brought more of a sense of what was to become the synthesis between competing philosophies and thoughts of Mahayana Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism over time.

As freedom teaching us about our soul’s eternal awareness. A continuous knowing as if from the earliest shaman, or cognizance that originates from our 4423origins, heart, and mind.  I often find myself considering Chuang, Lao, and Lieh Tzu as brothers, more than anyone I have ever known in the present.

Recognizing each task I am here to complete with appropriate pondering or thought, as if remembering and acknowledging mentors we all have known along the way. It’s presumptuous to speak for them, but it sometimes seems as if I have been asked to try.

From the Tao Te Ching and Thoughts on becoming a Sage:

Verse 38 – Learning to see beyond Oneself

Instilling virtue within oneself requires neither thought nor effort or action if you 4424are truly in sync with the Way of Virtue.

Yin and Yang Dragons    Wuhan Temple

The Tao but a natural extension of who you have been, are now, and yet to become. Virtue simply the embodiment of an essence that embraces the Way.  Your role is to remain empty with your every action an effortless dialog leading other along the Way.  As you look inward to insure you are ready to proceed with kindness and compassion to all you meet.  Yet the kindness of the sage cannot go beyond fulfilling his own nature. Since his every action remains effortless, he does not think about it.

Seeing beyond what his senses tell him, he simply does what is the natural extension of himself. His endeavors focusing on embodying the highest images of who he is yet 4425to become and seeing beyond himself.  Seeing beyond himself, he embodies the way and comes full face with his destiny.

Seeing beyond Oneself    Wuhan Temple

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





Two Old Goats   Qingyang Taoist Temple. It is said you are to stroke the goat’s beard through the ages for luck.



By 1dandecarlo

43) Unity of Springfield World Religions Class. April 19, 2020 – Alan Watts and the Way of Zen Part 1. (Part 2 will follow next week)

There is so much to talk about with Alan Watts that as with our lives there seems no beginning or ending. What should be important to us, verses things of little relevance. What guided so much of his writing and books in the 1950’s and 60’s was how identifiable patterns in nature repeat themselves and correspond with our own soul’s journey. From the smallest things we encounter to the immense. His books, works and writing contributed to the understanding of who we are and most importantly, who we are yet to become.

 In so many ways looking to Watts, is like entering the flow of universal thought and transcendence and saying thank you. The first challenge is getting into the right frame of mind and simply going there. He would say “detachment means to have neither regret for the past nor fears for the future; to let life take its course without attempting to interfere with its movement and change, neither trying to prolong the stay of something pleasant nor to hasten the departure of things unpleasant. To do this is to move in time with life, to be in perfect accord with its changing music, and this is called Enlightenment. In short, it is to be detached from both the past and future and to live in the eternal Now. For in truth neither past nor future have any existence apart from this Now; by themselves they are illusions. Life exists only at this very moment… You may believe yourself out of harmony with life and its eternal Now; but you cannot be, for you are life and exist Now – otherwise you would not be here. Hence the infinite Tao is something which you can neither escape by flight nor catch by pursuit; there is no coming toward it or going away from it; it is, and you are it. So, become what you are.”

This follows the First Noble Truth of Buddhism – That we are here to move beyond suffering.

First, I am not an authority on Zen, I am a student. Simply a storyteller who tries to see how it all fits together. How is it we become transcendent in our thoughts and universal through our actions. The key for me and good writing is to allow others to see themselves and say “yes, can I come along too?” Not to try to own a particular way of thinking, but to sample our way through life finding shoes (transposed as our thoughts and actions through cause and effect) that fit. This fits in the ideas of two others attributes that exemplify Zen being impermanence and absence of any self.

I think Alan Watts speaks so well as to the essence of Zen that translates into the meaning of our lives.  It seems that on the one hand, it is necessary to be sympathetic and to experiment personally with the way of life to the limit of one’s possibilities.  On the other hand, one must resist every temptation to “join the organization”, to become involved with its institutional commitments, that say we must work, get a job, and conform or comply with the status quo. We do those things, but not in such a way that they define who we are… unless we use what we do to do so.

As Ram Dass taught us years ago, “The person we are from nine to five is not who we are from five to nine. That we get too busy doing not being….” Residing or finding a friendly neutral position, we are apt to be disowned by both sides. For the relationship between two positions becomes far clearer when there is a third with which to compare them. Thus, even if this study of Zen does no more than express a standpoint which is neither Zen nor anything Western, it will at least provide that third point of reference. This is what Alan Watts was attempting to do… to take us there. To not only be willing to “change our thoughts”, but also “decide how to get there”. As with the essence of the I Ching and what is reflected in Taoism teaches us… we must be willing to change from within ourselves. To adapt ourselves to and with the flow of universal thought and to go there acknowledging that the key to wisdom and transcendence is illumination, spontaneity, and to go or follow where our innermost thoughts want to take us. That it is as Franklin Roosevelt told America at the height of the depression back in the 1930’s, “The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” The context may be different, but the meaning is the same. To rise up out of where we are, we must be willing to do things differently and not to let fear of change itself or staying in the status quo define or overtake us.

The problem for many from the essential standpoint of Zen is that it refuses to be organized, or to be made the exclusive possession of any institution. If there is anything in this world which transcends the relativities of cultural conditioning, it is Zen – by whatever name it may be called. This is an excellent reason for Zen’s not being institutionalized, and for the fact that many of its ancient exponents were “universal individualists” who were never members of any Zen organization, and never sought the acknowledgment of any formal authority. They lived “outside the lines or box” of what was/is excepted at the time. Today they would be called an “outlier”. This is the ultimate paradox we all live. Staying within the lines for eternity’s sake, while living outside the lines to find life’s true meaning.

For myself, it is as if happiness, i.e., our purpose, is always present in our life. It’s just a matter of connecting to it and allowing it to flow through us that’s challenging. That we stop trying to please and start respecting our values, principles, and autonomy. It is as if we live two lives as referred to above. Watts’s fascination with the Zen (or Chan) tradition—beginning during the 1930s—developed because for him, that tradition embodied the spiritual, interwoven with the practical, as exemplified in the subtitle of his Spirit of Zen: A Way of Life, Work, and Art in the Far East“Work”, “life”, and “art” were not to be demoted, but became the extension of a spiritual focus. In his writing, he referred to it as “the great Chan (or Zen) synthesis of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism after AD 700 in China.” Watts published his first book, The Spirit of Zen, in 1936. Two decades later, in The Way of Zen he disparaged The Spirit of Zen as a “popularization of Suzuki’s earlier works, and besides being very unscholarly it is in many respects out of date and misleading.” A mid-course direction as if now twenty years later, knowing more he needed to re-define his take on things.

 Carl Jung said, “To rest in Tao means fulfillment, wholeness, mission done, the perfect realization of the meaning of existence innate in things. Personality is Tao. The emergence of a new center in the personality, that with the Tao we can find the synchronicity of life. That synchronicity asserts that what appears as coincidence is actually connected by a similarity of meaning. What the Tao and I Ching represent is the continuous creation of a pattern that exists in all eternity”.

Watt’s continues: In contrast to spiritual teachings based on doctrine or divine revelation, the ancient Chinese philosophy of Taoism is based on thousands of years of observing nature, especially patterns of change and transformation. How it all fit together. What may be seen as divine, already exists within you. All that is necessary is to connect your pre-existing spirit with transcending universal rhythms and vibrations that speak to your own endeavor and destiny. Over time, the Chinese came to see these patterns of change as resulting from a universal creative spirit, or energy, which they called the Tao. Similar to that found in air and water. That change is dynamic and always evolving. The Tao likened to the currents and vortices in air and water. Sometimes it was depicted as tightly coiled lines or threads; other times, as dragons, flowing along wave-like lines of change.

Carl Jung and Alan Watt’s contribution to understanding the human condition as we reconcile our “place” in nature was immeasurable once we see from where we are doing “it” from. What is important is to see knowledge and wisdom as the unending flow of nature. It’s as if there is a stepping stone of never-ending thought waiting for us to tap into.

 Living beyond what is expected of you at the moment. Sometimes it’s like being here, but not really present. For Taoist sages and Zen masters the universe that surrounds us is to be experienced as our “original face”. It’s the Source of all that exists, a living matrix of creativity that we all belong to that has brought each one of us into being. For myself, it is that we are to do the best that we can with what we have while we are here. To begin to grasp Zen, we must first take a look at both Confucianism and Taoism, then to the I Ching and Mahayana Buddhism as our teachers.

Confucianism pre-occupies itself with maintaining social order. An individual defines himself and place in society thusly. I saw this play out with many of my friends in Qufu over the years. The home of Confucius where everyone seemed intent on finding their place in what was seen as the norm. Whereas, Taoism resides more with the individual, and with older men who have the time to pursue a more inward liberation from the bounds of conventional patterns to thought and conduct. Seeing things in an unconventional way, understanding life directly instead of only rational, abstract thoughts, or ways of thinking. In short spontaneity, that may allude us when the rigors of life’s travails seem omnipresent. What keeps us from opening our minds is that the Absolute cannot be confused with abstract thinking. What can be known – verses what will be forever unknowable. It was here through the use of the I Ching, one could use what might be call “peripheral vision”, or our ability to feel a situation and act accordingly. In doing so, we often see the need to move beyond who, and where, we are now because we’ve moved beyond our present thinking. According to Watts, Taoism, is the original way of liberation, which combined with Indian Mahayana Buddhism produces Zen. It is the liberation from convention and of the creative power of te, or virtue. With te as the unthinkable ingenuity and creative power of man’s spontaneous and natural functioning – a power which is blocked when one tries to master it in terms of formal methods and techniques. In Zen, ensō (, , “circle”) is a circle that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create.

As Alan Watts put it: “If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…”

While this is not difficult to comprehend conceptually, it can be challenging to experience directly and frequently. Not buying into the rat race mentality of modern cultures is an essential first step. Training mindfully in an art form or sport, learning to meditate or do yoga, will provide us with a system of practice that assists greatly. With this we learn to grow beyond the emotional propensities of the past. To make the ordinary become extraordinary through the virtue that resides within each of us. Easier said than done, because in the West we become tied to the Christian concept of an Absolute, or accepted moral order. When we become at odds with this, we are denying our own nature or found rejecting God. As we learn to meet the world like an empty cup, we allow inner and outer realms of our lives to flow together. Where there had been separation before, now there is greater unity and love.  Every living being we meet, every experience we have, can be seen as magical in some way.

 Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh describes this as a deepening awareness of inter-being, the fundamental unity and interconnectedness of every “thing” in the Cosmos. In a flower exists water from clouds, energy from the sun, molecules from the earth, atoms created billions of years ago within stars…. Just like us. This understanding is very important if one wishes to grasp Buddhist teachings about emptiness, as Thich Nhat Hanh explains:

A flower cannot be by herself alone. To be empty is not a negative note… A flower is empty only of a separate self, but a flower is full of everything else. The whole cosmos can be seen, can be identified, can be touched, in one flower. So, to say that the flower is empty of a separate self also means that the flower is full of the cosmos.

Such an attitude and recognition bring greater peace and happiness in our lives (and wisdom in our actions) because instead of trying to manipulate outcomes and take from the world we become more aligned with Nature, moving in unison with life, like a musician or dancer. To even what embodies the true meaning of tai chi – not just to see, but to get things by the feel of them. Using intuition, our inner knowing, to decide for us how to proceed. It comes to us by what is known as ‘spontaneous action’”. “Zen professes itself to be the spirit of Buddhism, but in fact it is the spirit of all religions and philosophies. When Zen is thoroughly understood, absolute peace of mind is attained, and a man [or woman] lives as he ought to live.” ― D.T. Suzuki

It is as if all divine energy is already pre-existing waiting to come forth, change, and blossom from within every atom. That what exists in all nature occurs through a process of synchronicity as these atoms constantly emerge as building blocks from one thing to the next, coming forth over and over through time. First as one thing and then the next. A blending or coalescing together that originates from within as the natural universe works mainly on the principle of growth. What we, and all things found in nature are now and yet to become.

Dao and De (The Way of Virtue)

  • The more we come to know quantum physics, the better we understand the science of how this works. Over thousands of years in both philosophical and practical terms, this grew in understanding to become the I Ching, to Taoism, to Chan Buddhism… to what we know as Zen. It became the culmination or consummation, “the blending” of all that came before it. It’s also who we are. With our essence, our soul as you might say and thoughts that take us there, co-mingling with eternity.
By 1dandecarlo