To be a Master Gardener – It is our gardens that define our virtue, connection to nature and divine presence.

(Part 1 To be a Master Gardener – Part 2 to follow as Creating your own space by design)

We each have a desire to discover the divine presence that defines who we are and most importantly who we are meant to become. As vibrations connect us with the flow emanating from the universe. Not simply from a religious standpoint, but from the spirit. Radiant, fully awake – we tend our gardens as we tend our life… It is that nothing that is real ever dies, only names, forms, and illusions as Eckhart Tolle teaches us. That it is through and by our virtue we create “aha moments” for both ourselves and others to follow as we discover the narrative that defines our highest attributes as if a window to our soul.

To act as if we are teaching and to start paying attention to ourselves and noticing how we live. Creating a place for deeper understanding of who we are here to become as well as attentive to the way things are. To become almost zen-like where our breathing is used as an exclusive object of attention to develop concentrated focus; where awareness grounded in our breath is used to see clearly into the impermanent and empty nature of all formations. Letting go into freedom that emerges into insight. To be in the garden is the deepest form of self-expression, release, prayer, and meditation.

When we think of Claud Monet and paintings of his gardens… it is his impressionistic approach that pulls us and takes us there. We get to define for ourselves what he was saying because the lines are blurred. An artist defines for himself where the lines will be if they exist at all. Gardeners have the greatest palates to work with as we create the structure and colors to display ourselves each season. If given a chance, I think Monet would have laughed between brush strokes and said… yes, I too am a Master Gardener.

Knowing that all forms of art are an outward expression of what is called chi, the cosmic breath or flow of energy, with which all creation must be in accord, whether it be painting, poetry, music, or the creation of a garden. Our gardens are our means of self-expression to something larger than ourselves showing compassion for all living things. What I call the work of refraining from acting, speaking, or thinking in such a way as to cause harm. Where we discover the virtue taught by Confucius as a reverence and love of nature.

The building to the left is known as the Peitian Gate located in the Dai Temple/garden as you approach Mount TaiShan in Shandong China. Every emperor for over a thousand years went through this garden on his way to ascend the mountain. It is from here that Confucius told us virtues are to match the heaven and earth. Two of the four symbols of the Chinese constellation “Azure Dragon and White Tiger” were enshrined here two thousand years ago. Confucius told us that the garden symbolizes that we are all one, just as Lao Tzu taught us that we are but one of ten thousand things found in nature. We don’t just take a packet of seeds and throw them out in the yard and wait to see what happens… we nurture them as they nurture us. Many feel that Lao Tzu was the ultimate sower of seeds who helped to define our way.

I have traveled to Qufu, the home of Confucius, many times and lived next to and taught at the school that was founded for the descendants of what is known as the “Four Families”, Confucius and those responsible for keeping his legacy alive over the centuries. The school is now used as a college prep high school for students throughout Shandong Province. In China I am known as Kongdan, the name Kong is Confucius family name. Many historic sites we would simply call parks are referred to as temples as a reminder of our reverence and connection to nature and that we are but one of ten thousand things.

As Master Gardeners we acknowledge that as with our lives our gardens and seeds we plant need structure, discipline, and what we recall when following the cause and effect of nature as Emerson taught us – that we are to have an institutional memory that aligns with and acknowledges the nature found in all things and that “Philosophically considered, the universe is composed of Nature and the Soul.” That with this we are all transformative and with our efforts and hands on approach… i.e., in the dirt – or soil – we too become universal and transcendental ourselves. A seeming universal flow we attach to that carries us and them along to the next step that needs to be taken.

Even to the parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted that best symbolizes this connection. Many feel that Olmsted was the first true Master Gardener and is recognized as the founder of American landscape architecture and the nation’s foremost park maker as he showed us how landscapes, parks, and gardens could integrate into our lives into a meaningful way. With our gardens we learn what works and what to do differently next time. Like life – we look for perfection where perfection does not exist and change. We learn that there are second and third chances to get it right next time. Becoming one with the natural order of things we intrinsically know that as we tend our garden it’s not just what we do – it exemplifies who we are yet to become.

What is it we do as Master Gardeners? What connections and vibrations do we follow? What and/or who is our inspiration? For myself – it’s this relationship that as a young boy on the farm east of Lamar about 50 miles northwest from here, that I first gained an appreciation for nature. Wading in the creek, climbing huge oak trees, and helping my grandma in her garden. Much later as a city planner doing Master Plans creating visions for others to follow. In Massachusetts and Rhode Island where I first became a Master Gardner thirty years ago, then as a planner and Neighborhood Specialist in Florida doing community gardens with the Mounts Botanical Garden and HOA’s creating those aha moments capturing the attention of people passing by, and now back home in the Ozarks. We teach others while learning to finesse wisdom we can pass along with them saying… “I can do that”.

The secret to not only finding our bliss as Joseph Campbell taught us but living it as well. When I was in Florida doing entrance design and plantings for HOA’s I would always say to develop a three-to-five-year plan that fits your budget and what you want to create will look like. It will change with your ideas and maintenance as you go. Often as a mystery to be lived, as one step tells you what the next step will be. As your own connection with nature changes you as well.

Eighteen years ago, in 2004, I had my first book published in China about the I Ching, the symbiotic nature of the dragon, and Taoism. Included at the publisher’s request was the following… My interpretation of Number 16 of the I Ching written ten years earlier. The complete book can be found on my website at thekongdanfoundation.com:

                           To Be a Master Gardener

Confined and under the weather, weariness sets in. The dead of winter. Everything is covered. Snow several feet deep. Hibernation. Waiting, waiting, waiting with listless passion. All things waiting for Spring.

As the spirit is in its deepest despair, yang ebbs into nothingness and yin springs forward. The ice melts and the crocus begin to bloom as the mother robin appears, harbinger of Spring.

Casting away the cobwebs. Shunning aside shackles of mind and body it’s time to find our gardens again. Blinded by the sun in your mind’s eye you begin by sorting through implements reluctantly put away last autumn. Sorting through seeds and preparing small plants the task begins in earnest.

Arise early, refreshed finding yourself in the garden soon to be basking in the midday sun. Do not delay showing only diligence and respect for nature.

Butterfly and Peonies     Yantai Museum

Plant wisdom and know the freedom to choose. Plant clarity and soon understanding comes to the surface. Plant harmony and be at peace with the fruits of your labor. Startled from sleep still listless, you are dreaming.  A look out the window confirms. The snow is still several feet deep, but your passion is beginning to return.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (16 WEARINESS / Thunder over Earth). 2/12/1994

Put in the proper context, our gardens are nothing more than an expression of our virtue on display and how we envision our role in the universe with nature as our teacher. When we consider the Botanical Garden here in Springfield, Missouri, it can be said that it is a display of what we find virtuous.

Our gardens are illustrative and reminders that history is not fixed in place; it is always being written. Touching the place where we feel an intimate connection with something that is greater than ourselves, to infinite openness and possibilities. Like opening the seed catalogs and deciding what to grow this year. How can you not plant all one hundred seeds instead of just the ten or twelve you can fit in your garden? Living within the virtue of life’s creation that defines us and what takes us there… as you will share with others what you don’t grow yourself. We are to live by example and do so abundantly.

(I have completed the University of Missouri Extension Service Master Gardening class and am now doing my required thirty hours to become certified as a Master Gardener in Missouri)

Part 2 to follow as Creating your own space by design

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

There is something the ancient sage, saint, and shaman have always known and taught through the ages. That leading the way by staying behind is always best….

It is in knowing that there is an underlying truth that one achieves the only real enlightenment precisely at that point when, out of compassion for the suffering of living beings, one deliberately refuses to attain the stage of final nirvana and enlightenment unless all other living beings attain it too.

Thus, the paradox is that in refusing what is traditionally considered to be the ultimate goal of Buddhism and other sacred paths, is that it is in choosing to remain behind to serve as a guide, one really acquires the only true enlightenment and nirvana. Our greatest endeavor becomes assisting others in finding and following their own way – through and by the stories we tell and the lives we live. In doing so we become free to find our own path and our destiny.

Finding ways to illustrate perfection as our own imperfections are laid bare. How does our attempts at perfection reflect our virtues? As we are here to become an expression of this highest endeavor. To create a truly compassionate and enlightened world, we must start within ourselves. And this means working with our own mind―in whatever state we find it.

Often referred to and seen as our highest aspiration…. To be the right person – with the right voice – with the right platform – at precisely the right time. So it will be that on no one’s shoulders will the burden become too great. That with every difficulty there is relief. With the virtue of good intentions directed to all things, the way becomes clear. With this we go forth and accept the mantle as our mentors – the dragons, or angels intended.

We are to seek only the path that leans on our highest attributes. Making 2022 the Year of our growth… with eternity’s blessing, leaving self-doubt as to our identity behind. Finding tranquility in doing nothing beyond or outside ourselves.

Why I love reading, writing, and gardening. Gardening and landscaping design being an expression of my own limitations and imperfections. As I move ever closer to the inner perfections within myself while creating a place attuned with nature where there is common interest and no contention present. Entering or capturing the flow of energy that opens the door and my heart/mind to see what lies beyond the status quo. Letting nature and the past teach and show me the present telling the next step forward. To enter the eternal flow of not knowing and seeming paradox. Leaving behind outcomes that keep me tethered in one place as my spirit and surroundings soar with unlimited possibilities unafraid and going there as I become nothing but an expression of the immeasurable. To know we all are the seeds of change as we are meant to simply be an expression of endless and infinite virtue.

To stand on the shoulders of our peers. Mistakes only lessons to be reminded of from where we came that serve to guide and take us there. Relationships past and present – teachers meant as expressions of who we have always been as the wisdom of the ages again flows through us.  Living as an expression of light, love, and virtue that defines who we are yet to become as our highest aspiration shines through and as us.

We begin again where we left off acknowledging that we must first establish a sense of place in our minds with structure and habits we adhere to. Always stretching beyond where we think we can go or have been before. The only constant being that we are forever in transit. How do we create this sense of place whose aim is to remind or define us to be the right person for the times as we live from the inside out while staying behind with compassion for all we encounter?

How do we do things that encourages others to change – to make their lives better? Becoming a conduit and showing them the way. I think that’s what I was reminded of while living and teaching in Qufu, the birthplace and home of Confucius. How do we define for ourselves the meaning of benevolence and virtue espoused by Confucius and Lao Tzu 2500 years ago? To endeavor to become our authentic selves as we learn how to express and become the right voice for the times we live. To raise the bar to seemingly unattainable heights.

Seeing ourselves beyond the present. For some it is to be a coach, others as teachers, and for most simply to learn what it means to be present – to have a presence. Along the way, we are to become custodians of something beyond ourselves and ultimately authentic. To be nothing special. Just finding our platform to live as if knowing who we are, why we are here, and remaining constant all the time. Simply to be present. Learning to teach – teaching to learn. Adhering to the ancient saying that when we are ready the teacher appears… and when we know the teacher departs. 

Finally, the ancient shaman taught us to look first to the stars and then to see the stars within and as ourselves. With this insight comes responsibility and ownership. That we all are to become mystical following our highest endeavor with outward compassion for all things we encounter. To act from our heart without distortion from false teachings and inadequate understanding. Remaining true to ourselves comes with the realization that honesty is the beginning of wis­dom.

To the right the ancient dragon depicted in the stars at the Taoist Cave adjacent to the Buddhist Temple and Leshan Buddha south of Chengdu in Sichuan, China.

This begins with accountability and knowing who we are. Why this acknowledgement is the beginning of the realization that we have a purpose first in aligning with innate universal truths and the stars from which we came. Stewards now of what we know to be infinite. Looking to the nighttime sky we recall our past as if the stars are the campfires of our youth lighting our journey showing us the way. It is from this place we enter the realm of compassion for all becoming the sage and the bodhisattvas.

By 1dandecarlo

Thoughts from a meandering sage i.e., embracing the inevitable with joy.

Picking up from one life to the next always seems as if the new starting point or beginning. As if a sojourn or journey taking along only memories of note. As I am found forever expanding and writing down what seems relevant to the next step. Always looking back first helping to make sense to old friends who have assembled. Looking to Chengdu and China for reasons that are yet unclear and seemingly elusive. But going there all the same. Revisiting places and re-occurring themes that may explain the way.

Living under the illusion life brings that may uncover the path and following relentlessly. Always returning to places I’ve been and seen before as they serve as rememberances that both take us back and spring forward… closing one chapter as we open another. With a desire to simply recapture the flow of our own narrative and acknowledge our highest attributes as we embody them. The end of one story becoming the beginning again before returning home to the clouds once more.

My travels always take me to museums, monasteries, and temples… stirring memories and reminders of things from the past as the way things were during my last visit. Pictures taken only to record how things have changed. Shandong and Sichuan always in the forefront and where my spirit seems to soar. There is so much to Chengdu as a part of the story. Qingyang Mountain to the north, the Taoist and Buddhist temples, museums, the Leshan Giant Buddha to the south, and so much more.

The table in the teahouse where I sit in contemplation bringing into focus both the past and future knowing I am where I belong. I often return here as the pivot in meditation reminding and recollecting who I have always been. Being physically present elsewhere becoming an afterthought. Appreciating all those things that have remained unchanged over the centuries… even to memories of Marco Polo’s visit to Chengdu more the seven hundred years ago. Things have changed oh so very little.

This is the story that I am here to tell. Why does it need to be told at all? My writing doesn’t appear good enough to be published – except for here on my own website… but what does it matter? I write from the depth of who I have always been.  Not for commercial reasons but expressing the universal flow as a way of remembering old friends I have come to call on and to know again. It is as if those who follow the story know how it ends and that’s all that matters.

What can it matter from where I am doing it now? Is what I am doing at this moment going to differ much from one place to the next? If Buddhism teaches me that life is illusion, then what am I doing here? Perhaps it is to remember and reminis with those I have always known with what we now find that propels all to greater depths of experience and understanding.

To be always found to be at arms-length because others see me as someone or something beyond themselves. Beyond equals – except in China… especially in Qufu and Jining and of course in Chengdu. Living beyond where others see themselves there is little connection because others don’t see themselves in you.

Appearing to have no friends lesser than yourself means you seemingly appear to have a lonely path to follow. Except that you and your mentors know better.

Always feeling that I am to let the universe decide where I am to go and when I am to arrive. Not always simply as a physical presence, but from where my expression is best suited. Getting closer to meditation, quiet stillness and nature, and letting it define us. In the end, it does not matter where we are doing it from as you have come to define your own universe. You have all the material you need just to do your best at translating the present as you travel.

In referencing my notes, I have left my table in the park in Chengdu, stopped for a couple days in Chongqing, and have now arrived in Shanghai where my journey to China ends on this trip. Thoughts from here are as if concluding remarks encapsulating lessons learned and what is needed going forward.

We have always been to and fro – from here to there – seen all there is to see. Our path eternal. Our own journey never-ending. I choose to return from the mountaintop in order that I may experience human emotions while my own growth determines the time of my next arrival. My traveling companion not intended to be another person. I travel as if through time but resting assured that I am not left unattended.

To live the life we are meant to live. To be natural, unafraid, kind, and gentle. To never utter a harsh word letting virtue be illustrative of patience you are here to seek and refine. In no rush knowing you’ve already arrived letting go of those things that may deprive you of ultimate joy and freedom.

Rituals going forward simply reminders that patience exemplifies and rewards our ultimate virtue. As we look to virtue mindfulness comes forth to open the next door. It always comes back to where we are doing it from… the mindset that we bring to living each day. What it is that takes us there.

Even the most basic Buddhist practices – metta meditation (“May all beings be happy and well”), the bodhisattva vow (“May I attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings”), and the vows of refuge (“I take refuge in the Buddha, dharma, and sangha”) – contain a spirit of invocation and prayer. What it is that brings us to inevitable joy, as we exemplify the person we would want the world to become.

By 1dandecarlo

Choosing equanimity and our power of observation for the long run. 

Knowing to trust our deeper insight and instincts – even when it is yet to emerge to top level of consciousness. We each have goals we are not yet aware of or know about as we vibrate as if nothing but a wisp of a cloud. The horizon beaming with an agenda we’ve only started to understand. Often with both fear and courage we cannot yet know as we find that path of purpose. Moving on to a higher place we release past faults and let go. Finding the right vibration, our soul chooses a life that expresses our presence. 

In practical terms, I like to think and see things as if I’m “looking over, above, or beyond my present life”. Living beyond the possibilities of the moment life becomes simple…  

As if the idea refers to the equanimity that arises from the power of observation – the ability to see beyond what exists in the present without being caught up by what we see. Life as meditation looking down from a thousand feet with a growing detachment. When well developed, such power gives rise to a great sense of peace. Seeing things from a bigger picture with greater understanding and what sometimes seems difficult – patience. I especially like the thought expressed below that teaching is an expression of character. Sometimes easier to write than to live. 

The qualities of equanimity are sometimes referred to “all things or what our surroundings are telling us.”

That we are to remain centered in the middle of whatever is happening. This form of balance comes from some inner strength or stability. The strong presence of inner calm, well-being, confidence, vitality, or integrity that keeps us upright, like ballast keeps a ship upright in strong winds. As inner strength develops for example, from the accumulation of mindfulness in the ordinary moments of life, equanimity follows.  

I find it is having an institutional memory of our past that stays and becomes us like a benchmark, as if a guide going forward. As we cultivate the qualities of mind that support it, or simply enhancing enough already. 

As I conclude this segment following The King of Meditation Sutra addressing the bodhisattva vow, I like to look to parallels of comparative thought. To Plato and Socrates, as well as to Emerson and Lao Tzu. Twenty years ago, I wrote my own personal version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that was later published in China in 2006. As I encapsulate, or incorporate all this, I like to refer to Verse 30 of the Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May and June 2000 and later included here on my website.  

Verse 30 – Winning when you have no Choice 

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

In keeping with your role as remaining at the foremost point of mediation you have come to a few basic tenants. First is an understanding of what it takes to win without using force.  That it is better to win, then stop – letting common sense prevail.   

Forever Young   Dujiangyan Waterworks albeit prevailing complimentary opposites 

Next to win with your humility intact letting everyone take credit for the outcome. Third, to win without being cruel to another, giving them the victory as well. And finally, to win when you have no choice. 

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

The knowing sage ages without growing old. 

  • 依靠诚实取

道教导我们如何赢得诚实,让我们的精神之运引路。因为你坚持不懈的努力,成功自然就会跟 

Flowers and Birds   Dujiangyan Waterworks north of Chengdu 

而来。宇宙最重要的规律是,种瓜得瓜,种豆得豆;善有善报,恶有恶报 

站在斡旋的顶峰,你应该牢记如下几点。第一,知道怎样不使用武力去赢。最好赢了以后就停下来,让常识获胜。第二,赢得仁慈公平,为每个人都记上一份功劳。第三,双赢,不要残酷斗争,无情打击。最后,在别无选择的情况下才赢 

最后的胜利出现在当你万事顺利,但仍然贫穷之时,感到充实但仍然空虚之时。充满活力,永葆青春,不让死神降临 

聪颖的圣人长生不老 

(The complete text in both Chinese and English can be found on thekongdanfoundation.com website under the heading of “Books” entitled Taoism and Lao Tzu). 

As stated earlier we continue with our conduct as an expression of our motivation. This idea has been the thread of the King of Meditation Sutra we have been following. What is the circle of life, as expressed so well above with the medicine wheel and mandala, but what moves us beyond where we now sit that further defines our presence? Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated by The King of Meditation Sutra, as well as others including both Aristotle and Plato, acknowledging that we are enough from within and how we are to incorporate equanimity that becomes us continues below.  

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Chapter 13B Living and upholding the Dharma, a continuing commentary. 

Key thoughts: Dedicating ourselves to the practice of the Dharma with enlightenment, virtue, and equanimity.  

(1 through 5 were included in the previous entry). Numbers 6 through 16 of Chapter 13 are found below. This concludes my commentary and review of author Phakchok Rinpoche’s book “In the Footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Buddhist Teachings on the essence of Meditation”.    

  1. The Buddha conveys that anyone who upholds The King of Meditation Sutras develops great dignity. Upholding this in our lives is far greater than offering countless gifts. We demonstrate what is taught in the sutra through our actions and the generosity of our efforts in four ways as follows: (Chapter 35 of the King of Meditation Sutra) 
  2. “May I generate the roots of the virtue of generosity in order to obtain the skillful means through which the blessed ones actualized unsurpassable, perfect, and complete awakening”. 
  3. “May I generate the roots of the virtue of generosity so that I may always be accompanied by spiritual teachers who will help me to accomplish unsurpassable, perfect, and complete awakening”. 
  4. “May I generate the roots of the virtue of generosity so that I may acquire wealth that can bring sustenance to the entire world’.
  5. “May I generate the roots of the virtue of generosity so that I become accomplished in this very life, and so that this body may become source of the two types of benefit. First as I bring beings through the Dharma and second through material aid”. 

Looking to Plato’s Theory of Recollection helps to appreciate our underlying knowledge with a sense of continuity and generosity of spirit we have looked to for centuries to develop and create our world. Since knowledge can be used as a tool of power that in many cases can control, systematize, and develop to do good or evil – remaining guided by virtue is key. It is here where the role of the teacher, master or guide is fundamental because as described by Plato, every person has innate knowledge. But it is necessary for someone to be able to remember or recall what they have always possessed internally. That with the right questions and guidance, it is possible to reach the maximum development in knowledge that is considered as intrinsic wisdom. It is here that study opens us to remembrances and determines how we are to take the next step using the innate talents we have always possessed but may have forgotten.  

For myself, Eastern philosophy has served as the bridge and the way forward that serves to take both myself and others there. The bodhisattva vow discussed here opens the door to enlightenment, mirroring both the Tao, Chuang Tzu’s pivot and “perfected man”,  and our bliss. 

  1. As bodhisattva’s, we are to make four dedications as a part of our practice or after giving generously, 1) To dedicate our merit to learning the methods that lead to realization. 2)  Bodhisattvas make the aspiration to have an authentic teacher who will always hold and protect them, who will teach them to practice correctly, and who will guide them along the path. 3) They dedicate and aspire to gain the very practical conditions of correct livelihood and material support that make it easier to practice. 4) The aspiration to give rise to generosity – both of material things and the Dharma. This dedication is to show that the teachings of the Dharma of Shakyamuni Buddha are not in conflict with the world. 

Equanimity as a practice in our lives, is a protection from what are called the Eight Worldly Winds: praise and blame, success and failure, pleasure and pain, fame, and disrepute. Becoming attached to or excessively elated with success, praise, fame, or pleasure can be a setup for suffering when the winds of change shift.  

For example, success can be wonderful, but if it leads to arrogance, we have more to lose in future challenges. Becoming personally invested in praise can tend toward conceit. Identifying with failure, we may feel incompetent or inadequate. Reacting to pain, we may become discouraged. If we understand or feel that our sense of inner well-being is independent of the Eight Winds, we are more likely to remain on an even keel in their midst. 

  1. The bodhisattva following The King of Meditation Sutra knows that appearances are but illusion and are neither right or wrong, knowing what is eternal and what is not is key. Complete enlightenment is unattainable without bringing everything as an active force of benefit to others with us along the way. Teaching virtue and offering the Dharma means planting seeds for a better world. 
  2. Teaching is a central role of our character. To have others understand the Dharma, you must first live the Dharma yourself as everything is transformed into purity simply reflected by your own persona and actions.  
  3. As relayed in Chapter 14, for those teaching the Dharma, their minds are only stirred by virtue, as they have come to understand and have realized wisdom. They abandon ignorant tendencies and teach the factors of supreme awakening. Merit gained by such activity is unmatched. 
  4. We teach others through our conduct and gain merit accordingly. For many, teaching by those on the bodhisattva path is the best way to retain, understand, uphold, read, recite, transmit, chant, and by teaching this samadhi to others we gain the following four qualities. 1) Our merit cannot be outshone, 2) We are unassailable by opponents, 3) Our wisdom becomes immeasurable, and 4) Our confidence becomes unlimited. Chapter 18.    
  5. The content of our lives is expressed through our compassion that must first recognize the equality of all things. It is through this enlightened Dharma that we gain the end of suffering. The bodhisattva who wishes to achieve unsurpassable, perfect, and complete awakening and wish to liberate all beings from samsara, must listen to this wisdom found in The King of Meditation Sutra. (Chapter 9). When we teach this, we give others the means to be free. 

Aristotle criticizes the Theory of Recollection (anamnesis) in his philosophical work, Peri Ideōn, on knowledge. According to Aristotle, knowledge can be acquired by means of experiences in the sensitive world. On the other hand, for Plato, knowledge starts from the intelligible world, the ideas, and not from the sensitive world since this only provides us with the creation of opinion. For Aristotle, knowledge is acquired over time through the experience, something that is not innate. Being his student, Aristotle developed his own theories of his way of thinking. With Aristotle’s Epagoges and study of personal morality, the sensitive experience is the basis of being able to achieve the memory. For him, if one has not lived, one cannot remember what reminiscence would then be. Knowledge is not discovered but perceived for him. 

Plato would conclude by saying that philosophy helps to put topics on the table for reflection and searching for truth. From the point of view of personal development Plato proposes knowledge as a pure value that is in each person and that can be awakened through memory, this is being possible through the contact of the objects-copies that we find. Human beings have the power to know and empower themselves with the knowledge to use it in a positive or negative way in the world.  

Sharing this knowledge that each person has in empowering knowledge in others is the process of learning and teaching that both Plato and Socrates comments on as a form of success, or merit. For the bodhisattva and sage it is as if looking to complimentary opposites, the yin/yang for the sake of eternity. 

This concludes the series here on The Kongdan Foundation website following the teachings of The King of Meditation Sutras among many others found along the Way. Remaining constant yet simply  enough. 

By 1dandecarlo

What is the spirit, the transcendent consciousness, that defines our ultimate presence? As we decide what to leave alone and to change within ourselves. Why remaining still yet present becomes essential to our joy.

How do we become the entity, or person, we are to emulate as we arrive at the home of blissful awakening? To be with the bodhisattva – as we aspire to what matters.

It is as if our future is to be adapted to the role we are to play. As we deal with flaws we are here to change. It is this inability, or lack of courage and desire to change, that inhibits our growth and keeps us tied to the present, dharma (our essential selves), and samsara (the indefinitely repeated cycles of birth, misery, and death caused by karma). As we move to correct conduct, meditation, and discerning wisdom. That emptiness plus compassion equals unconditional love.

It is returning to thoughts of what is known as aspirational bodhicitta, as in having an awakened mind. The wish to overcome our emotional afflictions and delusions to realize our full potential to bring all fellow beings to the enlightened state free from suffering.

I often refer to the teachings of Taoism, and Lao and Chuang Tzu. Even the stories found as a reference point told by Lieh Tzu. Taoism equates to our acknowledging the beginning and ending of things and what role we are here to play. Along with Buddhism, reminding us of the impermanence found in all things found in nature. As we too are teachers when we have found our way. Although in reality we are always the student moving beyond the present to who we are yet to become. There is an ancient saying that says “When we are ready the teacher will arrive at out doorstep. The lesson is that the teacher is us.” 

As if an old tree limb from above falling in a strong wind as a reminder of our own presence. It’s time in the present spent, but nutrients found in the limb ready to play a role in enriching something yet unseen or known. The eternal ebb and flow of nature’s sway. Could our role be any more or less important? Just as re-incarnation has never been simply an Eastern philosophy belief, great philosophers in Western thought have felt the same from the earliest of days as well.

Below even Plato, whose wisdom has helped to guide western civilization for over two thousand years, expresses opinions on innate verses learned reasoning. It is that we are to dedicate our lives to virtue and merit for the sake of enlightenment for both ourselves and others. Reminding us of leaving an outcome that is yet to be determined and only doing what we are here to do.

In the West, we often look to the teachings of Plato and ancient Greece. Historically, we can look to Plato’s Theory of Recollection as a key to how we view ourselves that is often called the Anamnesis Theory that was found in Plato’s Main dialogue. After reading, you will understand this theory of personal development in which the concepts of innate ideas that each human being possesses are found.

What is Plato’s Theory of Recollection? This theory was found in Plato’s epistemology, in his dialogue Main (virtue) and Phaedo (soul) as a principle of knowledge. In the Theory of Recollection, according to Plato, it is the remembrance of the ideas that each human being possesses in an innate way in the soul.

This idea reminds me so much of the writings of Chuang Tzu and his “pivot” that we all take. That knowledge is not simply found in the external world, but is intrinsically located as an institutional memory in our consciousness.

This theory affirms that the soul of the human being is immortal and knows the truth before entering the body. Therefore, man gradually remembers what the soul already knew when it inhabited the world of ideas. But which the soul, already being in the human body, buries in the depths of being as knowledge, which is gradually remembered with the physical realities of the sensible world. For Plato, knowledge is an idea that is divided into two segments: the sensitive world and the intelligible world. The sensitive world is composed of shadows, images, and objects where opinion is triggered as the intermediate between ignorance and knowledge. Mathematics and ideas are what generates knowledge. Intuition and reasoning are the pillars for knowledge. It is also considered that knowledge is reminiscence, remembering what the soul already knew, since the soul is eternal. These thoughts are continued below.

As stated earlier we continue with our conduct as an expression of our motivation. This idea has been the thread of the King of Meditation Sutra we have been following. What is the circle of life, as expressed so well above with the medicine wheel and mandala, but what moves us beyond where we now sit that further defines our presence? Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated by The King of Meditation Sutra, as well as others including Plato, continues below in Chapter 13A. The final entry 13B will follow representative of the continuing eternal journey we all take together.

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Chapter 13A Living and upholding the Dharma.

Key thoughts: Dedicate yourself to the practice of the Dharma with enlightenment and virtue.

  1. An important key in adapting to our role: To resist temptation in initiating anything not in keeping with our eternal presence – to only deal with what flows through you from the universe. This is the meaning of following your ultimate bliss. To limit yourself for appearances sake. Going from aspirational to engaged bodhicitta means engaging in the practices and behavior that bring about this goal by taking the bodhisattva vows to restrain from actions detrimental to it.

In taking the bodhisattva vow, a personal commitment is made to abstain from certain negative acts that would keep the bodhisattva from reaching enlightenment and thereby to be of as much benefit to others as is possible. For myself, it is like meditation and being continually present. In practical terms there are four areas for bodhicitta to resolve: 1) Each day and night, recalling the advantages of the bodhicitta motivation. 2) Remembering, re-affirming, and intensifying this motivation by rededicating our hearts to our enlightenment and the enlightenment of others. 3) Striving to build up positive mental states, deep awareness, and wisdom. Benefiting and helping others using all the skills and means at our disposal as effectively as we can, and doing so with as much deep awareness of reality as is possible. 4) Never giving up trying to help anyone, or at least wishing to be able to do so, no matter how difficult he or she may be.

  1. Our faith in the teachings, renunciation, and ordination are key in dedicating our mind to awakening (Chapter 25 of The King of Meditation Sutra). Understanding the intent and purpose of the dharma as the essential quality or character of the cosmos or one’s own nature. The Dharma is often seen as the doctrine or teachings of the Buddha. So that when we are practicing the Dharma, we are in effect living within the meaning and context of those teaching.
  2. We are to be dedicated to the practice of the Dharma and virtue as the path to enlightenment. We are to acknowledge our own merit in the face of the temporary conditions we find ourselves. Dharma is an important Hindu, Buddhist, and yogic concept, referring to a law or principle which governs the universe. For an individual to live out their dharma is for them to act in accordance with this law. Dharma is one of the three jewels of Buddhism, alongside sangha and buddha, together.
  3. In recalling our innate virtue we are to continue our vows, practice, and conduct with a sense of dedication and purpose. Essentially, your dharma means your purpose in life. Your dharma is your true calling – what you were put here to do.

Plato’s conception is that the soul is immortal and that it leads to reincarnation from the ethical realm. He was sure of this because in this way, one can reward just people or punish unjust people when the soul passes to another body. Another conception is reminiscence, the soul remembers what it knew before. This means that the soul exists before the birth of the human being and will not cease to exist after his death. An idea central in Buddhist teachings as well.

This means that the soul exists before the birth of the human being and will not cease to exist after his death. According to Plato, true knowledge must come from the mind/soul.

An example of this is mathematics in which one does not need to feel or experiment to arrive at a true result, but on the other hand sensations cause the person to create individual perceptions subject to subjective opinion that is not necessarily true. The solution to reach freedom according to Plato is to reach the maximum knowledge, if this is not achieved the soul will continue rotating through different bodies until finally returning to the world of ideas.

That is why the human being, despite having hidden or buried knowledge, takes charge little by little of bringing it to light, remembering the ‘knowledge’ by objects that are copies of the world of ideas, called by Plato Anamnesis which is memory or reminiscence. Like a particular act or instance of recalling or the thing remembered. In more practical terms we might call this our memory, ability to recall past events, or what we call our recollection or remembrances.

Eckhart Tole tells us that we “die before we die. Your physical form is dissolving, is no more. Yet you are still there – the divine presence that you are and fully awake. Nothing that was ever real ever dies, only names, forms, and illusions.”

I often see this as a previously learned experience of events that may have happened long ago embedded in our memory that I refer to as remembrances.

This was verified again on my first visit to Qufu in October 1999. It was like eternally coming home again. The triggers were amazing. Walking down streets I had been before.

Then years later living and teaching next to the Confucius Mansion and Temple and the school where Confucius’ descendants had lived, gone to school and taught others more than ten years later. Serving as a reminder that it is what we return to and continue that defines both our journey as well as the path of others.  

Plato teaches us that knowledge does not come from the external world but from the interior of each person as memories are awakened. This being where the teacher, master or guide can help direct this knowledge in an adequate manner. This idea was central to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s writings on nature and what was to become the transcendental movement later to be known as New Thought. Although, it was not new, only incarnated or re-packaged in another way for the benefit of a new age and audience. His poem here kind of sums it up:

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature’s throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.

The Theory of Recollection comes from philosophy, which is the study of the truth about fundamental problems that embrace knowledge, existence, truth, beauty, love, and language. Philosophy oversees making debates that make the human being reflect and, above all, to ask all kinds of questions to arrive at the truth with rational arguments.

  1. Returning to The King of Meditation Sutra we can better accept, appreciate, and understand our role along with the value of accumulated virtue and merit. With this, we are to move forward on the path that takes us to our highest endeavor.

Upholding our practice in keeping with our ultimate destiny seems to be our greatest challenge. This idea of maintaining accumulated virtue and merit is like keeping our resources (money) in an eternal bank account. How much are we here to spend, countered by how much more we are here to earn that will shape and take us there. We are to continually prepare for what comes next as we outline our lives in pencil not pen and impermanence. All the while knowing and repeating Tolle – “Nothing that was ever real ever dies”.

Numbers 6 through 18 of Chapter 13 of The King of Meditation continues in 13B to follow.

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

The joy found in blissful awakening through mindfulness, meditation, and attuning to and with our mental and physical health and well-being.

The Buddha talks a lot about awakening to our own joy.

Why? Mudita (appreciative joy) gives us a way to dismantle the usual habit loops of negativity and close-mindedness and do something different, something more life-affirming and expansive. Finding joy in acknowledging who we are in eternity.

Responding with joy can activate a host of more wholesome alternatives, such as meeting our own greatest hits of comparing, competitive, and envy-filled mind with the antidote of noticing what is working in our lives and what brings us joy, as well as finding happiness and delight in other people’s good fortune. Choosing joy takes the sting out of hearing or seeing our usual triggers. The Dalai Lama tells us that the seven billion human beings on the planet have seven billion opportunities for joy, and that we can start to allow the heart to vibrate with the quality of joy in other people.

To cultivate appreciative joy, we must first tap into the boundless joy available to us in our own life. Thich Nhat Hanh says, “How can we feel joy for another person when we do not feel joy for ourselves? Joy is for everyone.” Awakening to our own joy can be as simple as taking delight in a blooming flower or noticing the way your favorite song soothes our heart. Waking up to our own joy asks us to investigate our past and present relationships with what brings us happiness and joy.

Matthieu Ricard, the cellular geneticist turned Buddhist monk tells us of three facets of joy: 1) rejoicing in someone else’s happiness; 2) delight or enchantment as a shining kind of contentment; and 3) spiritual radiance—a serene joy born from deep well-being and benevolence. His thoughts on meditation and aging follow below.

Meditation: What brings me joy? Start to settle in. Take a few natural breaths. Softly close your eyes. Spend these next few moments scanning your body with a gentle warmth and tender care. Lightly guide your attention to the natural inflow and outflow of the breath. Let any thoughts cross through your mind, smiling at them if that feels helpful, and release them one by one.

Center your attention in your heart and start to ask today’s mudita mantra, “What brings me joy?”  Wait for the answer. Recognize it. Relish it. And ask again: “What brings me joy?” Notice the blessing of joy that comes to mind. Recognize it, savor it, then repeat again, “What brings me joy?” Keep repeating the mantra and reflecting on all the ordinary and extraordinary occurrences that bring you joy. Give yourself permission to feel good and see your life through the eyes of joy. Continue this practice until you feel complete. When you are ready, open your eyes. 

My daughters Katie and Emily ages 4 and 7… now 25 and 28.

It is thought that secluded meditation guides our meditation. To maximize the benefits of meditation, one must minimize external distractions by practicing in a secluded place. Once a practitioner advances and has achieved a higher level of meditation, there is no need to practice in a secluded place because the power of external distractions has dissipated. To what I call living as our meditation becomes us. However, until one achieves that level of practice, seclusion is a good support for beginning meditators.

To illustrate, imagine the beginner’s mind as a battlefield disturbed by afflictive emotions and assailed by inner and outer distractions. Practicing in secluded habitats provides great benefit for the meditator because external distractions are minimized. Without these distractions, the meditator can experience the physical serenity of the secluded environment, which assists in calming the mind while bringing about peace and harmony. Finding the state of mind that takes us there.

A dragon cavorting in the clouds found on a vase at the British Museum in London.

This kind of attention is quite simple. It occurs sometimes while you are hearing about something that has happened to a friend, enjoying watching your favorite sports team rather they win or lose, or just going for a walk and hearing trees murmur as they drop their leaves in autumn or observing flowers bloom and die through the season. The listening can be quiet and receptive, yet active and awake at the same time. In my experience, it is just this kind of mindfulness that can be there when hearing or reading a Buddhist text described below. Remember there is no competition of what might be considered religious thought or teachings.  They should all be seen as non-competitive. It is what takes our spirit and others to their highest endeavor that matters.

As stated earlier we begin with our conduct as an expression of our motivation. This idea has been the thread of the King of Meditation Sutra we have been following. What is the circle of life, as expressed so well above with the medicine wheel and mandala, but what moves us beyond where we now sit that further defines our presence? Mahayana Buddhism as illustrated by The King of Meditation Sutra, Lao Tzu, and others continues below in Chapter Twelve, representative of the continuing eternal journey we all take together.

In the footsteps of Bodhisattvas – Buddhist teachings on the essence of Meditation / Chapter 12 Joyful awakening… a continuing commentary. With a final chapter 13 yet to follow.

Key thoughts: Putting ourselves on the threshold of finding our bliss found in conveying our joy to others.

  1. In the Mahayana, we understand how the Buddha is endowed with inconceivable abilities and has the power to benefit us as if placing his foot on the threshold at the gate. (From Chapter 10 of The King of Meditation Sutra) When consciousness is liberated from everything, we see and experience this nature of the mind as wisdom through inner development and meditation.

Matthieu Ricard continues with teaching us how we can we act upon aging of the brain and fight against cognitive decline the same way we can act upon aging on the body itself.  That over the last several decades, scientific studies have investigated the consequences of mind-training practices – meditation – on both body and spirit.

Thanks to several studies, we know that the practice of meditation has an immediate impact on cerebral activity and, in the long term, on the very structure of the brain. We can transform ourselves on our own thanks to neuroplasticity – the mechanisms by which the brain can modify itself. This occurs through neurogenesis processes, from the embryo stage or during training, and manifests itself by the brain’s ability to create, undo or reorganize neural networks and their connections. Neuroplasticity happens throughout our lifetime. But what impact does the practice of meditation have on the brain of the elderly, particularly prone to cognitive decline?

  1. Through our daily lives, Buddhism in addition to bringing freedom to all activities, with samadhi our potential is found to be beyond our perceived imagination and comprehension. The more we reach for this potential through study and our practice, the more we reach the capacity for wisdom.
  2. The Buddha manifests itself through our own compassion in line with nature, the cosmos, and the needs of all beings.

Statute of the Buddha found at the Big Wild Goose Pagoda in Xian, China.

It is in this way we gain merit. It is understood that to know the Buddha, one must practice samadhi to gain the qualities of unconditional awakening and conditioning our minds to awareness.

  1. It is in the realization of our own divine nature that we can for ourselves gain all the powers and qualities of the Buddha. It is this awareness that empowers our compassion for all sentient beings.
  2. If we can do this from within our nature, we become like a priceless treasure. When we can rest in authentic samadhi, we gain more merit than in making countless lesser offerings. Chapter seventeen of The King of Meditation Sutra tells us: Whoever upholds this peerless, immaculate samadhi is like the boundless wealth of the buddhas, a vast ocean of wisdom.
  3. The King of Meditation Sutra tells us as we follow the footsteps of the bodhisattvas the four qualities needed for this profound samadhi are 1) they cannot be outshone – like the sun or waxing moon among the stars, 2) they are unshakable – he/she cannot be deterred due to their sublime insight, 3) their wisdom is immeasurable, and 4) their confidence and dignity becomes immovable. This is what is to become of us, as if we have the responsibility to convey and to teach to others… as though planting the seed.
  4. Samadhi is not just a stable mind. It is to understand intensely as if you were going to teach samadhi to others that grants the four treasures of the Buddha, the Dharma, wisdom, and knowing the times (past, present, and future). Why the bodhisattvas vow becomes so important in our daily lives and to our own awakening.

Ricard tells us that cognitive decline occurs frequently towards the end of life as a natural process. After the age of 40, our brain starts to slowly lose certain abilities and ages structurally. These changes may be hastened by our living conditions, which may be linked to how others perceive us, our self-image, or by the fact that we become more exposed to the deaths of loved ones and to loneliness. And sleep disorders that increase exponentially, affecting 50% of those above 65, as do neurodegenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

These pathological processes causing stress and anxiety have a significant detrimental impact on the quality of life and the health of the elderly, become prone to mental ruminations, and are often victims of depressive syndromes. When we observe the process of rumination (the act of pondering, i.e., thinking or musing on something written or spoken that expresses such pondering or musing) it is easy to see the extent to which it constitutes a factor of disturbance. So, we must free ourselves from these mental chain reactions we maintain through rumination. We need to learn to let thoughts arise and dissipate and let them go as they occur, instead of letting them take over our mind. I would add that this manifestation is often referred to as “monkey mind” in Buddhism.

  1. This priceless treasure of the Buddha includes 1) the power of vision, 2) the power of hearing, 3) and the power to know the minds of others. It is the knowing of past lives and future lives that contributes to our understanding, wisdom, and vision. Most importantly, our acknowledging the path we are here to take and follow.
  2. The treasure of the Dharma is to hear all the Buddha’s teaching in such a way that with this perception, our hearing becomes so transcendent that it is as if we can hear this teaching coming from all directions and are never separate from it. The benefit of knowing this treasure is that one sees the minds and conduct of sentient beings in the past, present, and future.
  3. When holding these treasures, our activities on behalf of others become immeasurable and infinite, as we are seen moving beyond the concept of forgetting. When we hold this wisdom (the meaning of the sutra in our body, speech, and mind) we acknowledge an enlightened dignity that becomes us. By upholding the intent of the sutra our confidence thus becomes assured.

To the right the spinning wheels found in Buddhist temples throughout China and Tibet. It is said that inside each wheel is a sutra (or saying/prayer) of the Buddha. When you spin the wheel, you are releasing the sutra for the benefit of yourself and all sentient beings.  Shown are those found in the Luohan Buddhist Temple located in the Yuzhong District, Chongqing, China.

Ricard continues – Like skills and knowledge, this ability to let thoughts arise and dissipate as they occur, instead of letting them take over our mind can be developed through training. By practicing mindfulness, we can emancipate ourselves from certain chains linked to cognitive aging and help prevent or slow down age-related degenerative illnesses.

Far from preconceived ideas, meditation is a conscious and active practice. Over time, through exercises and perseverance, meditation shapes our mind and develops our capacity for control, discernment, and clear mindedness.

One of 70,000 statutes found in the Longman Grottoes in the cliffs of Shakyamuni Buddha and his disciples. They are located seven miles south of present day Luoyang in Henan Province, China.

We spend a lot of time improving the external conditions of our lives, but in the end, it is always the mind which creates our experience of the world and translates it into well-being or suffering. Being able to act consciously on the way we perceive things is being able to transform our quality of life. It is this type of transformation, which is brought about by mind training, what we call meditation, a practice not limited to attention or what is generally referred to as mindfulness.

Most of our innate abilities lay dormant unless we do something, such as mind training, to bring them to their optimal functioning state. Through an empirical approach and a well-trained mind, the contemplatives have found efficient methods for gradually transforming emotions, moods, and character traits, as well as for eroding deeply rooted tendencies that stand in the way of an optimal mode of being.  Accomplishing this changes the quality of our lives at every moment by reinforcing fundamental human characteristics such as kindness, freedom, peace, and inner strength. I would add… to what Confucius would call benevolence and virtue.

Meditation thus opens a way to work against cellular aging and prevent cognitive deterioration. Just as we maintain our physical abilities through exercise, the mind also must continuously be trained by cultivating an attentive and kind presence to the world. When properly done, the practice of meditation unites body and mind through a discipline that fosters joy… a feeling of plenitude, promotes our health, and ultimate well-being.

For more on Matthieu Ricard the Buddhist Monk, Humanitarian, Author and Photographer refer to http://www.matthieuricard.org.

By 1dandecarlo