Oct 4 – 5, 2018 Xian and Huayin

Xi’an was and is no different from all ancient cities in China, in that there were three constants that brought order to people’s lives.  First, a wall around the city to protect against intruders, and both a drum and bell tower to tell us it’s time to get up in the morning or retire at night. To tell us of coming danger and then when it is all clear. Beijing still has their ancient drum and bell towers. The wall around Beijing was removed when Mao came in in 1949.

In Qufu, a replica of exact dimensions of the AAQufu Drum Towerancient wall was re-constructed several years ago. While living within the wall in Qufu, I could step out onto Guluo Street from my apartment, look to my right and on a clear day see the ancient drum tower built in the Ming dynasty a couple blocks away. The bell tower was just around the corner. I could close my eyes and imagine the bell or drum tolling for me.

Why bring this to light now… this bit of trivia? If you are safe and the structure you need to get on with your life is apparent, you can do so with out worry. It’s what we unconsciously do… we look for and spend time creating our environment and structure to take us there. It is the sanctuary we create from within that saves us. The ancients knew this as how we connect with the sun, moon, stars, and nature. That connection was the I Ching, and knowing you can tell what comes out of something by knowing what went in (cause and effect). Who are we, but an extension of these – here now to expand the universe by and through our talents for and by beneficial means. To live in a place where our own permanence and enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion. That we each have a purpose. It’s what the ancient shaman long past told us about the connection, how a confluence appears, and that we are one with it to discover and find within ourselves. As we travel over the next horizon, perhaps to our own Shangri La. To something we simply forgot already resides within us.

In Xi’an, Mingcheng Wall is located in the downtown area of ​​Xian, Shaanxi Province. 100_5374It is the largest and most preserved ancient city wall in China. The wall is 18 meters high, the top width is 12-14 meters, the bottom width is 15-18 meters, the outline is closed rectangle, and the circumference is 13.74 kilometers. People in the city walls are used to call the ancient city, covering an area of ​​11.32 square kilometers. The famous Xi’an Bell and Drum Tower is located in the center of the ancient city. There are four main gates of Xi’an City Wall: Changle Gate (East Gate), Yongning Gate (South Gate), Anding Gate (West Gate), and Anyuan Gate (North Gate). These four gates are also the original gates of the ancient city wall. Since the beginning of the Republic of China, a number of city gates have been newly opened for the convenience of access to the ancient city. So far, there are 18 gates in the Xi’an city wall.

I am walking parts of the wall here in Xian later this afternoon, to contemplate this 100_5377idea of living in a place where our own enlightenment becomes a foregone conclusion, yes it is a state of mind and living in the presence. And reminded of water surrounding the wall as extra line of defense. The water also provided drinking water for the inhabitants inside the wall.

First, a review of my journey thus far before heading tomorrow for Hua Mountain, Chengdu, and Tibet. All three to taking my spirit to places I’ve been waiting or longing for. As if a quiet comfort and excitement is just around the corner and I am ready for it.

But first three highlights thus far. It’s as if there is nothing new and nothings changed except faces in the crowds. I have to admit, I only give Confucius a cursery view here, but in fairness I have visited, lived and worked in Qufu over half of the past twenty years… I am Kongdan. Confucius contribution has been providing a sense of benevolence, structure, and virtue to Chinese culture and society for 2500 years. And equally important to me was “the first Sage”. The Duke of Zhou commonly known as Ji Dan, who resided here in Qufu five hundred years before Confucius who codified what was to become the “Book of Rites”.  Think about that. Add to that Taoism and Lao and Chuang Tzu and you have the connection to the shaman, I Ching, your environment, nature and understanding you are one with all… everything. There is no separation. We saw this on Songshan Mountain where Emperor Wuding came and announced that China’s past, present, and future depended on reliance on all three. That there was a confluence between Confucius, Taoism, and Buddhism. Then to Longman Grottoes and the Big Wild Goose Pagoda here in Xian, where Buddhism could take you there as your ultimate self. That it is in becoming universal you are one with it all and there is nothing to fear.

Getting to Huayin and Huashan Mountain

After checking out of the Han Tan Hostel, I made it by taxi to the bus station to go to Huashan Mountain and the Huashan Lanyue Youth Hostel. After a harrowing experience at the bus station where there was three options, first the bus loop for local stops, the train station, and some distance away the station I needed, I got a ticket and headed for the mountain. After a two hour bus ride we arrived and I got to my hostel. The proprietor, Ms. Yan, was great. She booked me for two nights (tonight Friday night and Monday night October 8th. She also reserved a bed for me at the East Peak Hotel at the top of the mountain for tomorrow night Oct 6 and Sunday, October 7th… I’ll have two chances at seeing the sunrise from the highest peak. Awesome. Tomorrow (Saturday morning) at 7 AM I begin with breakfast here at hostel / then go to the Huashan Visitors Center a few blocks away to 1) purchase my mountain and cable car tickets, then 2) buy bus ticket for 40 minute ride to the cable car. 3) Take the Western Cable way to the West Peak of mountain. 4) Walk up the mountain to 5) the East Peak Hotel where I will walk among all the peaks and stay Saturday and Sunday nights and see the sunrise.  6) On Monday I will make my way back down the mountain to, 7) where I will take the bus back to hotel where I will spend Monday night. 8) On Tuesday, October 9th, I will take the fast train (thanks Maria) back to Xian and go by fast train later that evening to Chengdu. That’s it – sounds like a plan. 

Unfortunately, I will not be taking my computer to the summit.  It’s too heavy and I have many steps to climb. But I will be taking lots notes and pictures. When I get to my next stop in Chengdu I will spend a day updating my mountain travels.

My initial thoughts before climbing the mountain

Just a little about Huashan Mountain and why I am here. So hard to express in words before making what is for me a lifetime achievement. As one who is a Taoist through and through, coming here is like the passageway on the mountain called Jinsuo Pass that serves as the hub of the East, West, North and South Peaks. I will crossover the pass this weekend. It is literally referred as “the Gateway to Heaven”. No kidding. The near and distant peaks seeming to reach beyond the sky. The peaks appear through the clouds as if visionary – as if all-knowing. I think this lends attraction to the Taoist nature seeing nature as all encompassing with clouds as the ultimate benchmark between heaven and earth. The seasons on the mountain appearing as a baptism of man’s spirit and place, as if here there is an experience of immortality. As you go up there is a sense that the pine trees are walking in the clouds. As if being present, using your breath as an anchor to the present moment, to cultivate ease and well-being, as you climb the mountain.

The ultimate for me is that the spirit of the dragon lives here as if rising above the clouds finding time glittering in the sun. It is as if there is no end to it. You can sense the spirit of the mountain joining as one with the sun, moon, and stars. The wind becoming music to your ears. As if time has carved memories into your heart and you have come to sing. Adjusting your temperament to what is your ultimate endeavor as your destiny becomes assured. The mountain becoming nothing more than a reminder of your own never ending conversation with nature and time. Walking up the path, climbing perilous peaks, seeing the sunrise, you are made whole once again. You have found the reason for the journey.

What remains constant here is the mountain, pine trees, and clouds. Ah the clouds. When I first began writing all those years ago, the dragons, my mentors called me“Cloud Dancing”. As if my highest endeavor now lies before me. Having dialogue with dragons is perilous at best. Always testing your mettle and simply asking are you ready and worthy. What is it we are here to do but to make the pledge to become our true selves and stay emboldened in the presence of our peers. As if we come to the mountain and entertain the peak to make a clear sound across heaven. The mountain’s role to show us piousness and to what lies ahead for us. Knowing the Tao we find the way along the footpath to the top and the sunrise, and hope, that awaits us.

The night before and I wonder “do I make the climb up the thousand foot precipice, and in doing so whatever fear that remains just evaporates like fog in the rising sun.” As if among the floating clouds and mist your mind opens and you no longer feel a separation as you become one with them. You have come home. Leaving behind a smile, a knowing, your own claim to the presence you now understand and become one with. The mountain here but a haven, a paradise for Taoism where immortality reigns supreme as your spirit is seen riding the endless sky…

I haven’t taken a step up the mountain yet – ask me again why I’m here.

As I complete my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verse 81 appear below. Verses 1 through 80 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verses 80 and 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao and his Furnace.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 81 – Remaining in High Style

Remaining satisfied with just what you have as you are content to live as the extension of the Tao which has become the reflection of who and where you are.

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Living within the Tao, the sage soon becomes aware that he is nothing more than an extension of what occurs in nature.  Enabling all to come forward to find their true place, not as the substitute for their action, but as one who empowers others to see beyond themselves as the sage stays in the background doing nothing.

Envisioning a place where there are tools that remain unused, where people have no need to move far afield, are easy with death and where it takes them, with places to go but no reason to travel, and defenses in place but no reason to defend them.  Satisfied with the fruits of their labor and content with where they find themselves as they go restfully to sleep each night.  Content with their homes and happy with their customs as they know the taste of the Tao and remain adorned with virtue. Even though others may  live close by they have no reason to visit as all they need they already have.

Su Ch’e says, “What is true is real and nothing more. Hence it isn’t beautiful. What is beautiful is pleasing to look at but nothing more. Hence it isn’t true. Those who focus on goodness don’t try to be eloquent, and those who focus on eloquence aren’t good. Those who have one thing that links everything together have no need of learning. Those who keep learning don’t understand the Tao. The sage holds onto the one and accumulates nothing”.

Chuang Tzu says, “When Lao Tan and Yin Hsi heard of people who considered accumulation as deficiency, they were delighted’ (33.5).

Wu Ch’eng says, “Help is the opposite of harm. Where there is help,  there must be harm. But when Heaven helps, it doesn’t harm. because it helps without helping. Action is the start of struggle. Where there is action, there must be struggle. But when the sage acts, he doesn’t struggle, because he acts without acting.”

 

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Oct 2 – 3, 2018 Xian

I’ve been here before in June, 2014 for just three days. I only had time for a day trip IMG_4527to see the terra cotta warriors, then the Shaanxi National Museum, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda, and the Temple of the Eight Immortals. I took hundreds of pictures then. One of the places I did not go that was of great interest was the Moslem Quarter. It’s Tuesday morning and I am here – for now – until Saturday October 5th at least. I think my next stop will be Hua Mountain, famous for Taoism and Lao Tzu…

It seems as though leaving Xian is a real problem due to holiday travel. Or maybe it’s something from long ago that needs my attention. Much of this trip was to be like leaving the world behind and now I’m pulled again to the past and can’t get away from it. Xi’an is one of the world’s great ancient cities, being most famous for its role as the starting point of the Silk Road. In the past, it was previously known as Chang’an. Xi’an is widely regarded as one of the greatest cities in Chinese history. During imperial dynasties such as the Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang, this was the DSCI0054.JPGnation’s capital city. The Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor Qin Sand Big Wild Goose Pagoda offers traces left behind by monk Xuanzang.

Xian was not the place to be as a scholar during the time of Emperor Qin when he had his terra cotta army built to protect him in immortality. Many of my friends died here, made to dig a hole and throw all the great literary works in – set them aflame – then forced to jump or be pushed in themselves… Anything representing “old” was destroyed. Many great literary works were burned and scholars killed by Emperor Qin. I think this is why when I come to Xian I walk the streets in sadness. Visiting the ancient sites that were DSCI0018here then, spending time at the museum just remembering those of us who came to such a brutal end. A sabbatical… it is a reminder of the freedom we seek to achieve our own highest endeavor, to identify with who we are in eternity and know nothing is more important than this moment and standing in the light. Any philosophy or religion to me, is only the vehicle that aids in taking you there. It is not the final be all – or end all – to where you are going.

Regardless of the time of year I am here there seems to be a chill in the air and the rain I feel is but the tears streaming down my cheeks. Sometimes I think our purpose is simply to pay tribute. Remembering both the good and the bad lest we forget, as we praise those who meant so much. As if in remembrance, returning to hear their sweet voices again, and have a place to contemplate as my voice, my writing and I gain strength from their eternal memory. Interesting hostel is playing Nora Jones “Come away with me… draggin down the road alone. You’ll be on my mind forever”. In retrospect, we are really never alone.

So I  checked with Maria and I would need to take a two hour bus to Huayin for the mountain. There is no train from Huayin to Chengdu so I would probably have to return here to Xian to then go to Chengdu. I can’t get a train to Qufu until October 9th. Maybe I could go to Qufu on the 9th and go to Chengdu on the 12th. Four stops before returning to USA. First Hauyin, then Qufu or return to Xian, Chengdu, Lhasa, then Beijing and home. Okay five. Whatever I’m going to do, time and space are of the essence.

The next time I even remotely suggest to myself or otherwise, that I come to China DSCI0049during the National Holiday (October 1-7), there should be no trouble convincing anyone that I am truly delusional. Millions of people on holiday – impossible to get a train anywhere – a taxi is impossible. Taxi stands at airports and train stations often hundreds of people long. I told staff at hostel that I wanted to go to Hua Mountain (today is October 2nd – I compromised, I plan to go on the 5th). They suggested I wait until after holiday and go on October 8th. Actually, I was hoping to be at the top of Hua Mountain on October 8th, my 66th birthday. I hope to spend it with Lao Tzu and complete my new version of the Tao Te Ching that I have been working on for a year now.

Wednesday, October, 3… Too hard to do Qufu so I will first get my fast train ticket from Xian to Chengdu hopefully on late afternoon or evening of October, 9th this morning. Then book Flipflop Hostel Oct 9 – 14th for departure to Tibet Sunday, Oct 14th. (I already have my plane ticket from Chengdu to Lhasa). Once done I will go ahead and book my return flight from Lhasa to Beijing for October 17th to arrive at Beijing airport for fight back to USA October 18th. After this is done, I will go to bus station here in Xian and purchase bus ticket for Huayin for Friday, Oct 5 and return to Xian, Tuesday morning , October, 9th so I can make my way to train station and Chengdu. And this trip is supposed to be about simplifying my life… Oh, and I need to do laundry today. Well, I got a ticket on fast train next Tuesday from Xian to Chengdu, secured reservation at Flipflop Hostel, after great effort was able to book ticket for 17th from Lhasa to Beijing, and will get bus tickets at station for Huayin on Friday.

All the great scholars and the sage ever wanted was the freedom to fill in the details of their own blank page. What it was that contributed meaning to their own path along the Way, or Tao. To have their say “for eternity’s sake”. Why climbing mountains following the way of nature has always been the closest observance of dragons, thier predecessors. As if endeavoring to get their attention and steps they should follow. They remind me now not to find sorrow in their passage here in Xian all those centuries ago. That tears to be shed, should be tears of joy, as they were simply returning home. That as the sage, you should find comfort in not always “fitting in”. As your place too will always be seen with dragons.

I wrote the below story in March, 1995. It could easily have been simply an essay meant to honor old friends.

Filling in the Details

Delight in knowing that you have always been on the edge and will remain there. Finding comfort in what would otherwise be considered chaos by others who will never travel to find their true destiny. If you have found true peace of mind, how can hardship enter the picture?  What comfort can be found in everyday events seen by others as needed to have some fleeting sense of contentment? Remain as the first word to be written on the next blank page waiting to be filled with what must come forth in truth, sincerity, and compassion.

Appreciating nature, both your own inner nature and that surrounds you. Your garden being wherever you are. Where trees grow leaves, where flowers attract bees and butterflies. Where wisps of clouds float between heaven and earth. Coming forward to know the happiness of all things nature provides and knowing where you fit in will always be present.

As all things change from instant to instant, is not remaining on the edge prepared to capture the new rays of each day’s sun, the ultimate that can ever be –  now and forever. Not found to be clinging to life’s fortunes. Knowing happiness can only be followed by sadness. That everything ebbs and flows in the balance of all things.

The ultimate that can be. Simply to be blown along with the winds of one’s life. Never knowing the outcome, only savoring the details found along the wayside. Find a place of quiet solitude where there can be no contention present. With everything around you at peace and harmony with its environment. As you come forward through your writing to fill the blank page with little or no concern for the time of your ultimate arrival.

Remaining free to continue on your way with Lieh Tzu and your old friends. Ready to begin anew the journey that you must begin again and again and again. 3/11/95

Karma can be a tough thing. Less that an hour and a half away from where I now sit is the site of Emperor Qin’s terra cotta warriors and his mausoleum. In what was seen as “fitting” by many, after the emperor’s death, his terra cotta were covered first by a wooden roof and then an earthen mound, the wooden roof was later set on fire.  The roof fell onto the terra cotta and broke his precious army into a million pieces. His Grand Library where all history was to begin with him, was also destroyed by fire ten years after his death. His legacy was not as he intended.

(I have several pictures to add here, but the internet signal is not strong enough where I am at. Once I get to another place where the signal is stronger… I will add them. I sometimes lose my entire content of a blog trying to add pictures. I’ve complained back in USA to WordPress and they say it’s the connection here in China, not their software. I find their explanation not too helpful though).

As I complete my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, on this journey, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is AT11he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are 81 verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verse 80 appears below. Verses 1 through 79 were seen here on my most recent posts. I complete this journey through Lao Tzu ( with verse 81) from the top of Huashan Mountain made famous as a respite by Lao and his Furnace.

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

Thoughts on becoming a Sage

Verse 80 – Staying in Step with the Tao

Cultivating ourselves while holding a marker as if attached and only concerned with the way of heaven.

The world is looking for the sage to come forward full of enthusiasm and direction to lead in the spirit of dragons and to show others their highest endeavor and destiny.  The world is looking to the sage once he has accepted the mantle as one enmeshed with the Tao.Making no claims on others while making demands only on ourselves as disputes come and go as if they are riding the wind. Here now only to test our direction and how far along we’ve come on our journey.

Once he has accepted his place in the scheme of things to come, nothing can stand in his way. As he simply embodies the Tao in his every thought, action and deed his every step continues to become second nature…

Ho Shang Kung says, “Although the sage governs a great state,he thinks of it as a small state and is frugal in the use of its resources. Although the people are many, he thinks of them as few and is careful not to exhaust them.”

Wang An-Shih says, “When the people are content with their lot, they don’t concern themselves with moving far away or going to war.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “People who are satisfied with their food and pleased with thier clothes cherish their lives and don’t temp death. People who are content with their homes and happy with their customs don’t move far away. They old old and die where they were born.”

Ch’eng Hsuan says, “They are satisfied with their food because they taste the Tao. They are please with their clothing because they are adorned with virtue. They are content with their homes because they are content everywhere. And they are happy with their customs because they soften the glare of the world.”

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Sept 30 – Oct 1, 2018 Longman Grottoes and on to Xian

I think the trip is catching up with me… in more ways than one. I seem to have eaten something that didn’t sit well, or not eating enough. Today is Sunday, September 30th and I’m heading by taxi to the Longman Grottoes, although I’m not sure how long I’ll last. Hopefully not too much walking today. There is lots of information on the internet as to history, and I will add more later when I feel better. It didn’t dawn on me until the next day that I may have been experiencing a far greater hunger than just filling my stomach.

For now I’m just going to try to add a few pictures I took along with some of my thoughts:

As I look at the side of the mountain and think of those who might have carved out of stone 100_5354these caves and statutes south of Luoyang all those centuries ago, quite possibly after a long trek covering several months or even years to get here over the Silk Road or from the southwest and Xian. I can only marvel at their work and their religious veracity. And what was in all likelyhood their mantra – repeated over and over again with every strike 100_5334of the hammer and chisel as they did their life’s work. As they repeated those four magic words over and over again with every strike of the hammer.

OM  MANI  PODME  HUM

These words can be translated and have a universal meaning:

OM – The Jewel in the Heart of the LOTUS! The deep resonate OM is all sound and silence throughout time, the roar of eternity and also the great stillness of pure being; when intoned with the prescribed vibrations, it evokes the ALL that is otherwise inexpressible.

The MANI is the “adamantine diamond” of the Void – the primordial, pure and 100_5348.jpgindestructible essence of existence beyond all matter or even antimatter, all change, and all becoming.

PADME – In the lotus – is the world of phenomena, samsara, unfolding with spiritual progress to reveal beneath the leaves of delusion the mani-jewel of nirvana, that lies not apart from daily life but at its heart.

HUM has no literal meaning, and is variously interpreted perhaps simply as a 100_5353rhythmic exhortation, completing the mantra inspiring the chanter as a declaration of being (like the stone carvers here at Longman Grottoes), symbolizing the Buddha’s gesture of touching the earth at a moment of enlightenment. As if saying all that is or was or will ever be is right here in this moment.

For myself, I am especially attracted to the mythical embodiment of the Buddha, called a Bodhisattva known as Avalokita Ishuara – who is seen as “The Lord that looked down in compassion”. He represents “the divine within” sought by mystics and has been called “The Lord that is seen within”.

100_5337Maybe this is the answer as to why the Buddha is always seen smiling. Could it be as though reaching the ultimate state of heart and mind within ourselves? Perhaps living within one’s own “true nature”. It is the Avalokita… ie., the Presence within each of us.

Am I becoming a Buddhist? I don’t know. I still am a Taoist at heart. But I can see how the two became intertwined in Chinese history, religion, and culture. I still have those two things called discipline and patience to work on – and a sense that I still have a way to go yet. For myself, it has always been about the freedom to breathe. Perhaps an anomaly – always the outlier. But maybe not – maybe it is the sense of ultimate freedom yet to be found – I’m just not there yet. Maybe I’ll find it on this trip. Perhaps I will look for Avalokita when I get to Lhasa in a couple weeks. Or maybe I should just ask the stone carvers here at the Longman Grottoes. They obviously knew the answer. (with excerpts from Peter Matthiessen’s The Snow Leopard).

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On Monday I had recovered somewhat and spent most of the day updating my blog. I need to leave by taxi at three for the fast train station to pick up my ticket for a 5 PM departure. (I did find a KFC at the train station in Luoyang, I’m better now). I arrived in Xian about 7:30 PM and took a long taxi ride to the Han Tang Hostel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Sept 28 – 29, 2018 Shaolin Temple and return to Luoyang

Friday, September 29 we went to the Shaolin Temple and Buddha Forest at the base of the mountain and then on Saturday I took the bus back to Luoyang and Lin headed for Shanghai. I’m reminded of the old TV series with Keith Carradine about the Shaolin Temple and Kung Fu. How he traveled the old west rescuing people from trouble and things they had gotten themselves into. Flashbacks of his time back in China at the Shaolin Temple and his mentor referring to him as “grasshopper”. We were walking in front 100_5244of the temple and I saw someone with one of the wheelchairs our sister city committee had donated to Qufu back in 2007. Christiane Francois and I came to Qufu to facilitate donating two hundred wheelchairs from The Wheelchair Foundation and the Boynton Beach Sister City Committee. It was quite a surprise. The first wheelchair I had seen in more than ten years. It was in great 100_5250condition too. My photographer friend (Lin) and I at the entrance.

Shaolin Temple, in the region of Songshan Mountain in Dengfeng, Henan Province, is reputed to be ‘the Number One Temple under Heaven’. Shaolin Temple history can date back to Northern Wei Dynasty (386 – 534), and it played an important role on the development of the Buddhism in China. Upon entering you first see Shanmen Hall. Hung on its top is a tablet reading ‘Shaolin Temple’. The tablet was inscribed by the Emperor Kangxi (1622 – 1723) during the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). Under the stairs of the hall crouches two stone lions made in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The hall enshrines the Maitreya Buddha. Two sides of the corridor behind the hall’s gate are paved with inscriptions on stone steles made during several different dynasties. Sometimes the less said the better to let the reader use pictures and their own imagination to take you there.

Shaolin Temple Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center

The Shaolin Temple Wushu (Martial Arts) Training Center comes after you have 100_5310visited the temple. The scenery adjacent to the temple makes it an ideal place for practicing the Chinese Shaolin Kung Fu. Shaolin monks have been practicing Kung Fu for over 1,500 years. The system was invented to teach the monks basic methods to improve their health and defend themselves. The martial art performance shows (which I attended), illustrate the true Chinese Shaolin Temple Kung Fu. For example, Tong Zi Gong, performed by teenagers, is a kind of martial art to train one’s flexibility and strength. Shaolin Kung Fu has a great tradition in China. Today, there are more than 50,000 students here in facilities across from the Shaolin Temple.

The Shaolin Temple has two main legacies: Chan, which refers to Chan Buddhism, the religion of Shaolin, and Quan, which refers to the martial arts of Shaolin. In Shaolin, these are not separate disciplines and monks have always pursued the philosophy of the unification of Chan and Quan. In a deeper point of view, Quan is considered part of Chan. As late Shaolin monk Suxi said in the last moments of his life, “Shaolin is Chan, not Quan.”

On the Quan (martial) side, the contents are abundant. A usual classification of contents are:

  1. Basic skills (基本功jīběn gōng): These include stamina, flexibility, and balance, which improve the body abilities in doing martial maneuvers. In Shaolin kung fu, flexibility and balance skills are known as “childish skill” (tóngzǐ gōng), which have been classified into 18 postures.
  2. Power skills (气功; qigong): These include: Qigong meditation: Qigong meditation itself has two types, internal (nèi), which is stationary meditation, and external (wài), which is dynamic meditation methods like Shaolin four-part exercise (si duan gong), eight-section brocade; bā duàn jǐn), Shaolin muscle-changing scripture (yì jīn jīng), and others.
    • The 72 arts: These Include 36 soft and 36 hard exercises, which are known as soft and hard qigong.
  3. Combat skills (quanfa “skills”): These include various barehanded, weapon, and barehanded vs. weapon routines or styles and their combat (sàndǎ) methods.

In practice, beyond the martial arts aspects of Shaolin, was that the essence of enlightenment came to be identified with the interaction between masters and students. It was through Chan Buddhism that whatever insight, or dhyana, would occur as a series of cultivated states of mind which leads to a “state of perfect equanimity and awareness,” commonly translated as meditation, that would serve as one’s verification. In effect, enlightenment came to be understood not so much as an insight, but as a way of acting in the world with other people present. Shaolin was the result of both purification of both body and mind. (some of the above from Wikipedia)

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The Pagoda Forest

The Pagoda Forest, next to the Shaolin Temple, serves as a graveyard for Buddhist dignitaries through the ages. On average, the pagodas are about 50 feet high. The layer and the shape of a pagoda depend on many factors, such as one’s status, attainment and prestige during his lifetime. The Pagoda Forest here is the largest of China’s pagoda complexes.

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Ancestor’s Monastery & the Second Ancestor’s Monastery

Outside the Shaolin Temple to the northwest, are two monasteries, named the Burn incense and prayAncestor’s Monastery and the Second Ancestor’s Monastery. The first monastery is built by a Dharma’s disciple to commemorate Dharma’s nine years of meditation in a cave. It has a big hall supported by 16 stone pillars on whose shafts are exquisitely carved warriors, dancing dragons and phoenixes. We did not have much time here as we had to return to the hostel. We had intended to climb the second adjacent mountain the following day, but the tram was not working and we would not have time to walk up and back down before returning to Luoyang.

 

 

 

 

By 1dandecarlo

Sept 28, 2018 / Songshan Mountain

Sometimes it is as if you intuit, or just know that you are one with your 100_5175surroundings. Even if initially it appears to be spontaneous, there comes a realization – the intuition that becomes knowing – it just is – as though living through and by grace. A state of grace where energy and what may be seen as precedent to your own actions. That you and you action are a small part of something much bigger. Like seeing the tip of an iceberg, not knowing what lies beneath the surface here for you to discover. As if the “I” as in you, becomes nonexistent. It is here that meditation if honed over many years can take you. It is for this; many adherents of Buddhism subscribe faithfully. To go to and for a higher truth from within. Throughout history, there has always been the premise that it is found in the silence, in solitude. It is in finding this – when you know when and how to act, there becomes a sense of what is called “non-wasted energy”DSCI0101 where indecision and regrets disappear. It is here where you can begin to get a taste of transcendence. It is in this place where “lesser traits” that was you – you past – have no place to reside and have left. It is as if you have awakened from a bad dream. It is from here you can begin to count your blessings, can see your place in the universe and begin to truly find your way home… something Chuang Tzu knew so well. As if a new beginning – where “what happens in the present” is all that matters. One legend of the mountain is the Lao Tzu spent six years at Laojun Cave here on Mt Taishi writing the Tao Te Ching. I think many mountains in China would like to make the same claim.

What is a sabbatical, retreat, spiritual journey, but a catharsis, ie., renewal of energy 100_5209from within? For myself, it has always been that I have known a greater truth, as if knowing the steps of the dance. But unwilling to come forward with the discipline and patience that will take me there. There are no real excuses, virtue and sincerity are never enough. Why Confucius alone could never be the final word without Buddhism and the Tao coming into play, and it’s why I’m here. It is as though you have moved on once self-doubt is no longer a part of your demeanor. The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into several groups. The Five Great Mountains refers to five of the most renowned mountains in Chinese history, and they were the subjects of imperial pilgrimage by emperors throughout ages. They are associated with the supreme God of Heaven and the five main cosmic deities of Chinese traditional religion. The group associated with Buddhism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Buddhism, and the group associated with Taoism is referred to as the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoism. The sacred mountains have all been important destinations for pilgrimages, in Chinese known as Chaosheng, which means  “paying respect to a holy mountain”.

Which brings us (me), to where I am today. To climb a mountain what else. Fate is a funny thing. I came to Songshan Mountain with the idea of climbing both peaks.  Songshan Scenic Area is one of the five famous mountains in China. It is composed of Taishi Mountain and Shaoshi Mountain. This area not only boasts natural landscapes such as Sanhuangzhai and Junji Peaks, but also has a number of historical and cultural landmarks such as the world famous Shaolin Temple; the Songyang Academy, one of China’s four major Confucian academies; and the Taoist Zhongyue Temple of the Quanzhen School. The first day was simply to appreciate the surrounding nature and far away vistas of Taishi Mountain, and the 100_5228second day to climb to the peak, the top of another adjacent mountain, Shaoshi Mountain. However, the cable-car is not working on the second mountain, so we would not have time (or probably energy) to climb back down after traversing several miles of paths and trails from day one.  Perhaps fate is kind after all.

Songyang Academy was one of the four greatest academies for higher education in ancient China, together with Yingtian Academy in Shangqiu of Henan, Yuelu Academy in Changsha of Hunan, and Bailudong Academy in Jiujiang of Jiangxi. The Academy was an important and unique educational organization in ancient China, somehow like today’s college. It played an important role in China’s education history and cultural transmission. Nowadays, Songyang Academy is an “example” for learning ancient academy architecture, the ancient Chinese education system and Confucianism.

On Thursday, Sept 27 we went to the Zhongyue Temple, located on Songshan Mountains in Dengfeng County, Henan Province. The temple is one of the oldest of its kind in China, originally built in the Qin Dynasty over 2,200 years ago, and moved to its present site in the Tang (618-907 AD). Although the nearby Buddhist Shaolin Monastery, with its kung fu and Chan (Zen) study, is better known and more visited, the Zhongyue Temple is arguably as good.

I like to add here what were thinking… All those centuries ago when the paths we now follow were barely, or non-existent and the journey up and back down the mountain would take several weeks perhaps a month or so. I am reminded of what I wrote in My travels with Lieh Tzu. From Chapter 1 entitled Becoming Sanctified, I wrote back in January 1995:

Becoming Sanctified

Traveling as one with the wind you become sanctified as one with Lieh Tzu.  Coming out of the security you have found as the sage forever only concerned about images and things always to remain translucent. Keeping always to new heights found only in the mountain retreat where nothing is to be found but stillness.

Everything following its natural course as heaven and earth dictates. Simply coming to know the seasons and continuity found in following day and night. Spring, Summer, Autumn and  Winter, growth and decay, birth and death. Man alone and in 100_5199knowing his true path. With only the sage knowing the proper sequence of events and the path that must be followed.

Man occupying the small unseemly place on the mountain’s trail as shown in the paintings of antiquity. Living only to come forward to find the true way to be found only by following the Tao. Without thought or purpose. Without choosing to be born or to die. Yet following the Way. Basing our every action on instinct and spontaneity.  To distinguish between benefit and harm, understand alternative courses of action and form moral and practical courses of conduct without the need to do so.

To discard knowledge unfamiliar with the Way, cease to make distinctions, refuse to impose your will on nature. To return to the innocence found in a newborn child and allow your actions to come naturally as a part of nature itself. To reflect things like a mirror and respond as an echo without intervening thought. Perfectly concentrated and perfectly relaxed as one who finds his second nature on hands and  knees pulling weeds from his garden. Cleansing one’s soul of unwanted intrusions.

Remaining fully attentive to the external situation. Responding naturally to events as they occur. Not analyzing, as if spontaneously allowing your response to just take the unified action that comes forth simply to occur.   1/10/95

From the I Ching, the essence of an eternal and internal truth that gives reason for “what do I hope to find with myself, but sincerity of purpose”. As one would climb the ridges of the mountain when not watching your step… you would contemplate…

The Ultimate Attribute

Sincerity is the ultimate commitment to nature and finding one’s purpose. The one attribute the dragons have long awaited as the true sign of the sacrifice to the never-ending journey.

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The Gate   Qingyang Temple

Everything else simply secondary to the trust and good feelings inherently found in truly good intentions discovered only when one is sincere.

Endeavors coming easy like the morning sun with birds singing to let everyone know another day has arrived. Another chance to give everything our best effort knowing that’s all there really is to give. Keep to oneself in harmony with all things knowing that events allowed to get out of control can only lead to questioning the intent of otherwise good intentions.  One’s true feeling worn on shirt sleeves for all to see makes it difficult to shelter true emotions inherently both good and bad for everyone to see again and again.

What is sincerity except a deep sense of caring and commitment of thoughts carried out through actions unthought out and unspoken. A sense of caring about the final outcome yet be determined. Yet an assured knowledge of how things will play out in the end for all to know and see.

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Simply an enthusiasm for truth and a compassion for things set free to rise up as the phoenix from the ashes of desperate discontent. So simple to find, yet so  difficult to keep. The attribute the dragons know without saying, so to speak. Clouds parting overhead as they peer down to make a final inspection only to find that you are well on your way.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching    (61 SINCERITY / Wind over Lake). 3/27/94

Finally, one of my own favorites, if such a thing exists would be also from my book about the I Ching:

The Death of the Chamois

Buckskins tanning in the bright sun light brown almost white from the ram captured on the mountain’s rim only for the delicacy of its tender loins and its superior skin.

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No matter the benefits, it is not the capture of game pursued over a long distance that is important. But simply the ultimate pursuit itself.  As the hunter respects his prey by only taking what is necessary for his own survival, fulfillment comes with the understanding of one’s place in the universe. Not the lethal release of the arrow.

Pursuing the chamois on the sheer outcropping near the  mountain’s top is as difficult as capturing the pheasant in the valley below. Both represent the ultimate challenge and losing against such an able foe is not losing but gaining the respect found to be in nature’s way.  The ram only captured because its time has come.

Having overcome the chamois there is a satisfaction in knowing the ram as an equal or better in his own territory. Fully aware of his stature in his environment and what it takes to survive on top of mountains. Always to be looking down at panoramas in every direction.

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A innate sense that each step on the craggy outcropping could be his last if improperly placed. However surefooted, he adeptly and safely bounds from rock to rock unconcerned and unafraid.

As a seasoned traveler coming across hunters coming down from higher elevations with their prize, you sense both elation and sadness accompanying the death of the chamois. All is well and as it should be.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese classic the I Ching    (56 THE TRAVELER / Fire over Mountain). 3/22/94

Pictures from Songshan Mountain:

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By 1dandecarlo

Sept 27, 2018 – Luoyang to Songyang Temple and Songshan Ramblings of an unknown sage

As if expected, serendipity came along to change my plans that would take me to Songshan Mountain and the famous Shaolin Temple about an hour and a half away. R1He came in the form of a professional film maker who was staying at my hostel and planned to stop there on his was back to Shanghai. He invited me to come along so I changed my plans. I left my suitcase and computer at hostel gathered things for my backpack and away we went… I never learned the name of the city we were going to, it didn’t seem important. (I will text him later) We were going to the Songshan Mountain Area that included the 100_5109Songyang Temple we would visit later this afternoon after arriving (pictures here today are from the temple). On Friday, climb one of the mountains we intended to climb and the Shaolin Temple and Pagoda Forest at R2it’s base. And on saturday climb to the summit of a second mountain that was adjacent to the first (we didn’t go because the tram was broken). More on all that beginning tomorrow. First, to clarify, I do not write under some false illusion of one day being published. I write simply for my own enjoyment and enlightenment because it is my writing that takes me there. If others choose to come along for the ride… you are welcome.

Today on the bus to I wasn’t sure where, I couldn’t help but think of our divine R3presence and what that means for ourselves and others. Changing from within first to the alignment with the universe we came in with and the things we am here to work on or correct this time. As if a piece of the star I am from.. to simply come into focus and let my light shine. Moving to who I am supposed to be. Simply to find and go with the flow I have always known with no pre-conceived intent or outcome and let the spirit of the Tao (the universe) guide me. First of all, it is not for me to write R4down someone else’s impressions (ie., that found in google, etc,) – but to add my own take on the environment I find. Everything is context. My travels in China are not simply going to these places for pictures.  It is in keeping with a personal journey whose purpose has not been fully revealed as yet. It is my reflecting what I see with what I write and with what I already know. As if leaving behind and much as I take. As if I am seeing what has changed since my last visit and writing about the antiquity that lies in each of us. As if the ancients don’t want to be forgotten, so that even their own immortality might come into question.

To let these images from the past take you there. Each with  a story to tell – just R5waiting to be told of when they were someone or something of importance. Something more than they are considered now. It is as if in the stillness they reside, they lie in wait for vibrations… for the storyteller. Not just being present only for your own story, but to tell the story of everything around you – with the older the story – the more there is to tell. And I don’t write fiction. With no pre-conception of where what you are here to learn may lead. As doors are waiting to open for the stories just waiting to be told. Many simply wanting to have their say.

People you meet here to take you to places you are needed – the stories are endless and your role never-ceasing. The more you write the more you need to write. You are a conveyor of ancient wisdom, use your time wisely. It making me wonder, are we moved by “divine order”. Or are we taking and receiving “divine orders”. Who is to say?

It was here at Songshan Mountain and Shaolin Temple where so much occurred R6where people came for centuries. Three religions in one body (Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism) were formed as what was seen as a “convergence” in this area. Emperor Wudi and Empress Wuzetian came here to commemorate the mountain and convey its importance to this belief. As if life is about remembering who we are yet to become before we forget.  Songshan Mountain has been famous as a place where people came with a desire to improve themselves and discover their inner virtue. The temple, a repository of ancient wisdom, here but a reminder that there was more to climbing mountains than the climb itself. It is the appreciation of the overwhelming outer nature you find with the mountain as you climb, just as life has its ups and downs your eyes remain on the horizon and the clouds above.   I am here at one of the five most famous mountains in China. Tomorrow I climb the mountain. (I have more pictures when time allows).

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By 1dandecarlo