Volume II – The Tao Te Ching as Living History

Bringing our Sage Mind and Heart into coherence with the way of the Tao.

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

Just who was this guy named Confucius

Verses 42 and 43 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

One day Confucius said, “I would rather not speak. Tzu-kung asked, “If you do not speak, what do we have to record?” Confucius replied, “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?” (Lunyu:17.19).

I am often asked in China… why don’t I write books about Confucius as I have about the shaman, I Ching and Taoism (Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu)? I think it is that in now knowing Confucius, there becomes a much bigger story to tell. Confucius had the uncanny ability to connect the dots of history and was the ultimate storyteller. It was here he left his legacy and became immortal through his virtue and traits of benevolence. He lived in the words he spoke leaving others to acknowledge his wisdom.

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It is as if the work of the historian, or some would say the teacher or scholar, is never-ending. As if knowledge and wisdom cannot be foretold as a haphazard affair. What is to be remembered and what stories are to be told goes without saying. That AC2while things appear to happen simply on their own, they are in reality following the Tao. With this it becomes our own consciousness that creates the world, the universe we are here to tell about and come to know. It is like following cause and effect and building a house with a strong foundation. As if you are writing and living for the ages. Perhaps not even your immediate audience, who may only have or see glimpses of your intent. But for those who come forward to gain understanding as to what it all means to history and more importantly their own.

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As if all great writing ended with the Qin Dynasty in 214 BC after Emperor Qin Shi Huang burned all the books and buried the noted scholars of the age in Xian, most everything had to be re-constructed from memory. As if trying to wipe the slate clean to begin anew thinking nothing that occurred before could equal what was to come.

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Emperor Qin was famous for the terracotta warriors who he felt would lead his way in immortality. Most feel he died of mercury poisoning in his quest. Even today, more than two thousand years later, his tomb nearby cannot be approached due to it being surrounded by mercury poisoning. What he thought would help him live forever is what killed him. All great writing was to be destroyed, except for that of Confucius.

Dujiangyan, was an irrigation project completed during the Warring States period of AC4China by the State of Qin. It is located on the Min River in Sichuan, China, north of Chengdu I visited in June 2015 before visiting Emperor Qin in Xian a few weeks later. Although a reinforced concrete weir has replaced Li Bing’s original weighted bamboo baskets, the layout of the infrastructure remains the same and is still in use today to irrigate over 5,300 square kilometers of land in the region.

The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the Legalist reforms of Shang Yang during the Warring States period in the mid and late third cAC5century BC. Its 15 years was the shortest major dynasty in Chinese history, consisting of only two emperors. But inaugurated an imperial system that lasted, with interruption and adaptation, until 1912. It would be the Confucian philosophy that directed that system that would serve to hold the country together over the centuries. The Qin were followed by the Han dynasty.

Exemplary at the time was Wang Pi, who died a mysterious death at the age of twenty-six. Later, his works became required study in the examination system. His version of the Lao Tzu (the Tao Te Ching), became the accepted version of the proper way to govern. Thankfully, there were a few around like Wang Pi who wrote new versions of Lao Tzu’s work and I Ching. As one age of enlightenment ended, it made way for the blossoming of another that was seen later in the Han and Tang dynasties when Buddhism began to flourish. In 645 AD Master Xuanzang returned from India with Buddhist sutras to Xian to what would be known as the Big Wild Goose Pagoda.

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These translations to Chinese would be called transliterations, seventy-five volumes from Sanskrit to Chinese. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was translated then to Sanskrit and sent to India at this time. Eternal truths told as if someone or something must serve as if the spark that must come forward to re-tell the stories and memories of the past, so that we now don’t forget. China would never be the same. But, it would still be adapting with Confucius that led the way.

Until recently, there were only two mediums of communication. Only the oral history passed from generation to generation, versions of what may have been said and symbols of what was to become the written word. That which is generally conveying someone else’s explanation of what was said and/or meant. But it was the oral history of the tradition of the shaman and eventually what Confucius may hAC8ave said and what is said he wrote, that ultimately carried the day. Confucius was not so much the originator but was adept as the propagator of what was important in the past that needed to be conveyed forward.  China was known as the Middle Kingdom, they had fought barbarians to the north for centuries and built small sections of what would become the Great Wall over time.

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The teachings and works of Confucius brought order and structure giving the Emperor “divine right” to guide what would come to be known as succeeding dynasties. Confucius always looked to the rites of the past in order to understand the way forward. This worked for almost two thousand years until the British came along wanting fine porcelain and tea to carry back to England. The Middle Kingdom was no longer the center of the universe as they had come to know.

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Its strength became its biggest weakness because they could not readily adjust to the influences of the outside world. Just as the Mongols had overtaken the Great Wall five hundred years earlier, China was always prone to hold onto the past. To what some would say the “feudalism” created by Confucian ideology. However, once as adjustment was made, China always reverted to it true heritage.

Every age converted Confucius to match their own objectives through the use of “commentaries” to relay what Confucius really meant…  This is never truer than today. First and foremost, over time, history teaches us to become pragmatic. Learning from mistakes of the past to create a better future for ourselves and others. Remembering that there is nothing new under the sun as we acknowledge the inevitable change that must occur.

Confucius lived from 551 to 479 BC, but the history of Qufu goes back to include the Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) who lived from 2698–2598 BC and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou in the 11th Century BC. All three have temples, i.e., memorials in their honor here AC9in Qufu. Under Emperor Wudi, who ruled 141 to 87 BC, Confucianism was institutionalized and Wudi instituted the Imperial Academy to promote Confucian philosophy. He ruled that to be an official scholar, people had to learn the Confucian classic texts called the Five Classics. According to tradition, the Five Classics were penned by Confucius. Modern scholars, however, doubt that any of the material can really be ascribed to Confucius himself. In actuality, what Confucius did was to update versions on the above texts that had been written by others hundreds of years earlier. Most notably, was the Book of Rites and Book of Songs that were from Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou who also was from Qufu, five hundred years earlier.

The Five Classics:

  • The I Ching, also known as Classic of Changes or Book of Changes, is an ancient AC10Chinese divination text and the oldest of the Chinese classics. Possessing a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation, the I Ching is an influential text read throughout the world, providing inspiration to the worlds of religion, psychoanalysis, business, literature, and art. Originally a divination manual in the Western Zhou period (1000–750 BC), over the course of the Warring States period and early imperial period (500–200 BC) it was transformed into a cosmological text with a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings”.  (It can be found here on my website under the tab The Dazhan – The meaning of the I Ching). After becoming part of the Five Classics in the 2nd century BC, the I Ching was the subject of scholarly commentary and the basis for divination practice for centuries across the Far East, and eventually took on an influential role in Western understanding of Eastern thought. I wrote my own version of the I Ching in AC111994, it was published in China in 2004 and appears here on my website.
  • The Classic of Poetry, also Shijing or Shih-ching, translated variously as the Book of Songs, Book of Odes, or simply known as the Odes or Poetry is the oldest existing collection of Chinese poetry, comprising 305 works dating from the 11th to 7th centuries BC.
  •  AC12The Book of Rites, a re-creation of the original Classic of Rites of Confucius lost during the Qin book purge. The Book of Rites or Liji is a collection of texts describing the social forms, administration, and ceremonial rites of the Zhou dynasty as they were understood in the Warring States and the early Han. The Book of Rites, along with the Rites of Zhou (Zhouli) and the Book of Etiquette and Rites (Yili), which are together known as the “Three Li (Sanli),” constitute the ritual (li) section of the Five Classics which lay at the core of the traditional Confucian canon. 
  • The Book of History or Documents, (Shujing, earlier Shu-king) or Classic of AC13History, also known as the Shangshu, is one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China, and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. Title page of annotated Shujingedition printed in 1279, held by Taiwan’s National Central Library.
  • The Spring and Autumn Annals, or Chunqiu is an ancient Chinese chronicle that AC14has been one of the core Chinese classics since ancient times. The Annals is the official chronicle of the State of Lu and covers a 241-year period from 722 to 481 BC and gave examples of how, when commoners are obsessed with material wealth, instead of the idealism of a man who “makes things serve him”, they were “reduced to the service of things”.

Historically, what Confucius is most noted for were the Analects, (which literally means “Edited Conversations”), also known as the Analects of Confucius. It is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to the Chinese philosopher and his contemporaries, traditionally believed to have been compiled and written by Confucius followers. It is believed to have been written during the Warring States period (475–221 BC), and it achieved its final form during the mid Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD).

By the early Han dynasty the Analects was considered merely a “commentary” on the Five Classics, but the status of the Analects grew to be one of the central texts of Confucianism by the end of that dynasty. Confucius “teachings” promoted the idea of the innate noble nature of man, later conveyed AC15by a Confucian scholar named Dong Zhongshu, who added some Legalist ideas to the teaching of Mencius. He and later emperors approved Dong Zhongshu’s new strain of Confucianism for its emphasis on the Mandate of Heaven. Confucianism’s Mandate of Heaven was a key concept underpinning imperial legitimacy. Heaven chose a particular man and his descendants to be mediators between heaven and the people. The man was to be like a god. This became the justification for the emperor to assume the throne at the behest of heaven giving him authority over all. Heaven’s decision was to be known through the interpreting of natural omens, circumstances, and an almanac that followed the sun, moon, and stars that would foretell the future.

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Today Qufu is considered a major tourist destination in China because of its five thousand years of history, primarily because of Confucius. It is the only city in the world with three World Heritage sites, the Confucius Temple, the Confucius Mansion, and Confucius cemetery where over 100,000 of his descendants are buried. Qufu is also known as the home of the Yellow Emperor and Ji Dan, the Duke of Zhou. The City of Lu (Qufu), was always the center of attention for dynasty after dynasty with Emperors using Confucius teachings to support the claim to the Mandate of Heaven described above. It is my own home in China where I have taught and have many friends. I had an office and apartment across the street from the Confucius cemetery for a few years. I would sit in my third-floor office and look over the wall and peer into history. Or as Confucius says in the beginning of this blog… “Does Heaven speak? The seasons travel their course, and creatures all flourish. What does Heaven say?”

There is a very famous picture here of the Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution AC18(1966-76), who came to Qufu and attempted the destroy all things pertaining to the past.

Their slogan was “everything old is bad”. Meaning ancient teachings of Confucius and others must make way for new ideas and ways of thinking.

The Red Guard came to Qufu as they went everywhere attempting to denigrate past history in China. It was only when Premier Chou En-lie intervened that much was saved. After the dust cleared it was recognized that the idea that “what we believe is our greatest weakness is actually our greatest strength” echoed true again. As if history was repeating itself, reminiscent of Emperor Qin of the terra cotta warriors fame, who tried to re-define history in his own image going forward. It didn’t work in 200 BC or in twentieth century China with the Red Guard and cultural revolution either.

How many times must we see extremes leaning to the right or left before we learn that it is the middle ground that saves us? That seemingly every so-called political or religious effort that seems to know how to proceed only serves to get in the way when things outside of ourselves, not our inner virtue, are allowed to guide us going forward. With the age-old axiom of cause and effect and doing unto others as we want done to us as the ultimate in nature’s sway. As we look to the shaman and sage who has seen and done it all before. With our task only to find the silence so that we too may stop and listen. Perhaps it is as nature has always told us, that extremes have endings and cannot last. And maybe just learning from the past and what becoming pragmatic can do for ourselves.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in AC19May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 42 and 43 appear below. Verses 1 through 41 were seen here on Volume I. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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.

Verse 42 – Emulating the Tao as you give birth to all around you

The Tao gives birth to one. One gives birth to two. Two gives birth to three and three give birth to ten thousand things. When I as one embraces the Tao and open my heart and mind to the universe I become complete as my focus remains on the horizon.

When I show another person the way, we walk in unison guided by what we have been taught. When we two brighten the path of the third all things become possible and in unison we give birth to a thousand things. As we too become the world’s teachers.

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With yin at our backs and yang in our embrace we look for harmony. What the world hates we love. Just by what some gain in losing others will lose by gaining keeping the world forever in balance. Remaining fully enmeshed in the Tao, the sage simply follows his mentor, Lao Tzu, the ultimate teacher of the way.  As such, we are reminded to reduce our desires, remain humble and practice the virtue of harmony.

Letting these three be our guide we quietly give birth to all around us. ##

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Tao given birth to the beginning. One gives birth to yin and yang.  Yin and yang gives birth to the breath between, the mixture of clear and turbid.

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These three breaths divide themselves into Heaven, Earth, and Man and together give birth to the ten thousand things. These elemental breaths are what keep the ten thousand things relaxed and balanced. The organs in our chests, the marrow in our bones, the spaces inside plants allow these breaths passage and make long life possible.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Dark and unfathomable in yin. Bright and perceptible in yang. As soon as we are born, we all turn our backs on the dark and unfathomable yin and turn toward the bright and perceptible yang. Fortunately, we keep ourselves in harmony with the breath between.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “The orphans, ’the widowed, ‘and ‘the destitute’ are titles of self-effacement.  Rulers who are not self-effacing are not looked up to by the world. Thus by losing, some people gain. Rulers who are only aware of themselves might possess the world, but the world rebels against them. Thus by gaining, some people lose. We all share this Tao, but we don’t know it except through instruction. What others teach, Lao Tzu also teaches. But Lao Tzu excels others in teaching us to reduce our desires and to be humble, to practice the virtue of harmony, and to let this be our teacher.

Verse 43 – Mirroring the Tao

Go forth this day without form or substance and teach without words that otherwise may cloud the way. Remaining free to come and go even to places where appearances show no room as you lift the spirit of those around you and help all to find their way.

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Appearing to do nothing. Remaining behind the scenes as the ten thousand things are transformed and completed.  Imitating the Tao. Mirroring the Tao my spirit soars with the dragons and prospers, you become speechless, following the Tao you take no action. Just as energy from the sun brings life to all it finds – it cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window.

The light of our spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything once we have opened the doors and windows of our soul to the ultimate that calls us.  Allowing the weakest to overtake the strongest and the strongest to find their true place in the universe. Succeeding without effort everything under heaven becomes one. ##

Lao Tzu says. “Nothing in the world is weaker than water, but against the hard and the strong – nothing excels it” (78).

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Huai-Nan Tzu says, “The light of the sun shines across the Four Seas but cannot penetrate a closed door or a covered window. While the light of the spirit reaches everywhere and nourishes everything.” He then adds, “Illumination once asked Nonexistence if it actually existed or not. Nonexistence made no response. Unable to perceive any sign if its existence, Illumination sighed and said, ‘I, too, do not exist, but I cannot equal the nonexistence of Nonexistence’” (12).

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Things are not actually things. What we call ‘strong’ is a fiction. Once it reaches its limit, it returns to nothing. Thus, the weakest thing in the world is able to overcome the strongest thing in the world. Or do you think the reality of nonexistence cannot break through the fiction of existence?”

Wang Pi says, “There is nothing breath cannot enter and nothing water cannot penetrate. What does not exist cannot be exhausted. And what is perfectly weak cannot be broken. From this we can infer that doing nothing brings success.”

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Ho-Shang Kung says, “’What doesn’t exist’ refers to the Tao. The Tao has no form or substance. Hence it can come and go, even where there is not any space. It can fill the spirit and help all creatures. We don’t see it do anything, and yet the ten thousand things are transformed and completed. Thus, we realize the benefit of mankind of doing nothing. Imitating the Tao, we don’t speak. We follow it with our bodies. Imitating the Tao, we don’t act. We care for ourselves, and our spirit prospers. We care for our country, and the people flourish. And we do this without effort of trouble. But few can match the Tao in caring for things by doing nothing.”

Moving to a higher frequency away from the Herd

Verses 54 and 55 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

Simply by turning on the light, you can instantly destroy the darkness. Likewise, even a rather simple analysis of ego-clinging and afflictive emotions can make them collapse. —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

What is it that distinguishes us but the consciousness we bring from the past. How is it that something springs forth from nothing, only to over time revert back to nothing again, and again like clouds floating on the wind. As if our DNA has imprinted our divine origins and it’s our job to re-discover and use to our and others advantage.

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Could it be awareness of our own existence, sensations, thoughts, surroundings, etc., that stretches beyond the life we life today?

To as the Taoist would say, “To stand with the divine integrity of all things. With none having dominion, or a more secure place than the next.”

For myself, the biggest challenge is to not “engage” in what seems to be the drama found in living with others present every day. If any trait is self-defining is that I abhor conflict. It seems the central tenet of meditation is that we find our own place setting. As if determining where we are making our contribution from… where is our heart in all this?

A place where only silence, and perhaps music, resides that seems the key to contentment. Taking us to places that move us as the Beatles or Beethoven would say. This has always been the paradox of the sage and why vistas found on mountain tops seem so appealing. But then we are brought back with the realization that there is something we are here to do. As if a tuning fork is guiding our way.

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To move away from what may be called the herd mentality. From that which clouds our inner vision of what defines us. Something we came into this world to grow with, to see, and perhaps to be, but get distracted or lost by attachments. I think at some point, we all look to faith in our higher destiny through consciousness and inner development, versus the paradox living brings each day. To what is our “soul’s intent”. What seems to matter is connecting things to the past as a living tradition and conscious connection to our origins.

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What we ultimately grow with   Wuhou Temple in Chengdu

 Along with not being afraid of change and recognizing that it is the nature of all life to do so. What could be more in keeping with nature’s intent, than natural selection… where the ten thousand things subscribe to the idea of the most adaptable and strongest getting to go forward. Finding the harmony meant where everything and everyone finds their place. With our consciousness in unison with nature, the universe, and the Tao (God), getting to make the final call. In other words, just as the shaman said thousands of years ago – we get to have a say in our fate and our world through both our decisions and our own conscious connections with the divine.

I guess it’s partly the way of explaining what I do here… attempting to rediscover the true meaning of the teachings of the past, primarily found in ancient China and other traditions. Moving things beyond simply beginnings and endings and a literal translation, to a practical transliteration or interpretation that applies today.

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What is the responsibility of the storyteller? And can we do this only for ourselves or serve as inspiration and by example. Our own nothingness to be made into something, only to return to be made into nothing again, and again, and again. Much of what we learn we accept as an “article of faith”, or just what we allow daily as routine must be acquired and brought back to life or resuscitated by those whose interest is piqued by the past. Just as things happen twice – first as a thought which comes as DSCI0450nothing, and second in reality when we make it into something, as the conditions supporting our existence are constantly evolving and changing. As we rise above limitation, we find a greater truth, our own consciousness, perhaps even to a higher frequency. To what we call living true to ourselves, finding harmony and our divine mind. (Built in 223 AD, Wuhou Memorial Temple in Sichuan Province in Chengdu is the Emperor’s tomb integrated with his prime minister’s shrine in one temple. It is seen as the foremost museum of the Three Kingdoms Period. The above photos are believed to pre-date the date of the opening of the museum by several hundred years in antiquity. I have visited the museum several times over the years.)

My Grandmother’s Garden

She comes in peace knowing utmost harmony. Nurturing. Receptive and forgiving, restrained yet uncomplicated. The dragons flying through the sky disappear into the clouds retiring, once strong and assertive now retreating and finding a secure place.

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Looking down Mother Earth comes into focus with new growth and new beginnings. Differences occur but a connectedness of all things with the seasons begins. Yang becomes yin.

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Strong becomes weak, hard becomes soft, male becomes female in the oneness of Tao.

Leaving the clouds behind and finding the earth beneath my feet, I discover that I am here to find clarity, to focus, to listen and most importantly to learn. To find the ways of my garden. To know the earth as my grandmother taught me. To know beginnings and endings. Simply to know and remember what my grandmother taught me.

My Grandmother’s Garden is an original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (2 EARTH / Earth over Earth). 2/5/94. The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Who is it that takes on the task of keeping alive the remembrances of the greatness of the spirit? Who tells the history of who we have been that serves to inspire us to continually build on or make something memorable? To add on to what is known in a new or different way? Many times, as I travel around China taking pictures in museums, Buddhist and Taoist temples, holy mountains, something I’ve written about, or simply something of historic interest, etc., I ask myself – am I simply a tour guide doing a travelogue, or framing things from personal experiences and impressions as if on a pilgrimage.

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Favoring places off the well-worn or beaten path.  Oftentimes differing or distinguishing from the norm as if not following a laid-out plan or itinerary with a fixed aim or a limited purpose. On a whim where the path leads each day as if given a gift I am here to unwrap with my pictures and writing telling the story. The path carrying its own message, or meaning itself, just waiting to be told. As if discoveries made on the wayside seem to be more important than what you thought you were looking for. With nothing on your agenda but simply to be present. Once found, it is as if an urge has brought you to a spontaneity that connects the outer environment with your innermost being or core. When the images you experience take on a life of their own as if just waiting for you and their own story to be told. As if there is no coincidence that you yourself are a part of an undying past.

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Dan with students in Qufu

It’s like when I was teaching at the university in Qufu to students who were going to be English tour guides at historic sites throughout China. I would tell them not to just learn or memorize the story by rote, but to know enough about the subject to in effect become the story as if re-living history.        

We often see that here in USA in Branson at Silver Dollar City and in Orlando at Disney World. Becoming the person, or character that tells the story in such a way that you become the story as well. As if words and images can take on a life of their own, it’s what the storyteller does. As if you learn and can begin practicing how to internalize and personify yourself. We call it Nei-yeh – Inward Training.  The Nei-yeh has been translated into English variously as: Inner Cultivation, Inward Training, Inner Enterprise or Inner Development. 

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Though less known than the Te Tao Ching and Chuang Tzuit is increasingly being recognized and honored as a foundational text of early Taoism. It can be found here on my website. I am often reminded in my travels of how the ancient shaman was able to transcend themselves in an effort to bring everyone along for the ride. Back when sitting around the fire gazing at the stars, he or she would mesmerize their audience. Often music would be used as we brought a certain rhythm to the rhyme that would bring a sense to the meaning of life and how everything was connected. Why immersing in a greater truth and creating relationships in and for the whole clan was important. The same songs ring true today. Their purpose to tell a story and serving as a reminder of beginnings, endings, and most important the value of being present and staying in the moment. More than anything the shaman was the teacher and way shower. He serves as a reminder of everyone’s connection to and with the stars. Reminding us that we are one with them in eternity. That we and the stars will forever be connected as our destiny unfolds. Lest we forget.

In learning the true sense of basis of tai chi and meditation today, soon you forget going simply through the motions and live the movements and spontaneity that you become. Many say this is done in silence. But for me music serves as a guide and reminder of steps yet not taken. As if having a personal experience as you live the story itself. I think my dream job would be to teach English to students who were going to by tour guides in Chengdu in Sichuan Province.  I have a friend who has a private school that teaches English there and who knows it may find its way onto my bucket list.

The Paradox

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

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You are fortunate. You have a chance to see to know to understand where you are from, why you are here, and where you are going. To know who you are, who you have been, and you will be along the way.

However, you must know that to know is not to know, and to have is not to have. To see is not to be, and who you will be is not to see.

For whatever is useful by the world’s standards cannot be useful in finding the Tao. It is the eternal nature of the Tao and Te (the way of virtue) that is to be found. Reality becomes, is and will be the chance endeavor to find the Tao.   1/15/94

It is as though words have or can create a poetic vision that can take us to places we otherwise would never go. Or as described in The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda, as he relays that “what may appear as poetic imagination actually contain a deeper reality than any matter-of-fact description of outer events and situation could ever have conveyed, because these events and facts become meaningful only if seen against the background of inner experience”. In other words, what they mean to us. To what we are innately pulled to.

Thus, the pilgrimage described above, becomes or is actually a mirrored reflection of an inner movement, or awakening, directed towards an as yet unknown distant aim. As if we cross the horizons of both the familiar, as well as, the unknown. With the ultimate aim of finding the harmony that fits it all together as you find a greater life that connects you with the path you now follow.

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To what many would say connecting or following our source and what could be defined as our ultimate destiny. The metaphor I use as the dragon floating on clouds in the sky is symbolic of reaching out to greater horizons, to what remains hidden from view. It is when the pilgrim abandons himself to the greater life that springs forth from within, that leads him beyond horizons as yet unseen to an aim which is already present within him.

To what Joseph Campbell in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces would call the paradox of creation. Our Achilles heel as such, to find our point of limited existence, to shatter and pierce it. Thereby, transcending our limited existence and fully becoming who we are as the universe sees us. Or as Campbell continues, “It will be always the one, shape-shifting yet marvelous constant story that we find, together with the challengingly persistent suggestion of more remaining to be experienced than will ever be known or told”. The only question remaining will be who is here to tell the story? As if, finding glimpses of ourselves away from the herd it all simply becomes clear.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in B15May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 44 and 45 appear below.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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.

Verse 44 – Staying focused within oneself

By knowing what is vital can one hold onto fame or health?  If he has to choose would it be his health or riches, and in the end would he know which is more harmful, loss or gain. If something is loved, the more it costs, the bigger the treasure the greater the loss when it is gone.

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The sage stays clear of that which lies outside him and focuses on enhancing his inner voice and virtue. Keeping clear of what lies outside his true nature.

Staying in tune with his own natural rhythm. While those who would shame him find nothing to shame.  He remains aware of his limits and constantly in tune with the Tao. In keeping in sync with the Tao, all flows through him and finds its proper place.

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Knowing when to stop is as important as knowing when to start. Knowing restraint contentment soon follows. Finding happiness and wealth within himself his spirit soars and cannot be exhausted. ##

Huang Mao-Ts’ai says, “What the world calls fame is something external, and yet people abandon their bodies to fight for it. What the world calls riches are unpredictable, and yet people abandon their bodies to possess them. How can they know what is vital or precious? Even if they succeed, it’s at the cost of their health.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “Heroes see fame and merchants seek riches, even at the point of giving up their lives. The one loves fame because he wants to glorify himself. But the more he loves fame, the more he loses what he would really glorify. Hence the cost is high. The other masses wealth because he wants to enrich himself. But the more wealth he amasses, the more he harms what he would truly enrich. Hence the loss is great. Meanwhile the man of virtue knows the most vital thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no fame and suffers no disgrace. He knows the most precious thing is within himself. Thus, he seeks no riches and encounters no trouble. Hence he lives long.”

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Li His-Chai says, “If we love something, the more we love it, the more it costs us. If we treasure something, the more we treasure it, the more it exhausts us. A little results in shame. A lot results in ruin. And regret comes too late. A wise person is not like this. He knows he has everything he needs within himself. Hence, he does not seek anything outside himself. Thus, those who would shame him find nothing to shame. He knows his own limits, and his limits are the Tao. Hence, he doesn’t act unless according to the Tao. Thus, those who would trouble him find nothing to trouble. Hence, he survives and, surviving, lives long”.

Verse 45 – Becoming Translucent 

By not treating things as they are, but as they can be everything has an opportunity to complete its cycle and return empty. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever is transcendent. To do all while seeming translucent, or still, is in keeping with your highest purpose and in keeping with your place in the ten thousand things.

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The sage is content if the greatest thing is incomplete or the fullest thing is empty for the greatest thing never wears out and the fullest thing never runs dry. He understands that the greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety hence it seems incomplete.  That the fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality hence it seems empty. That the straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. That the cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection, hence it seems clumsy.

It is when opposites complement each other that the highest order is maintained. When order is found and balance maintained we become perfectly still. When we become perfectly still the order of the universe becomes known and all becomes translucent, or clear. ##

Wu Ch’eng says, “To treat the great as great, the full as full, the straight as straight, and the clever as clever is mundane. To treat what seems incomplete as great, what seems empty as full, what seems crooked as straight, what seems clumsy as clever, this is transcendent. This is the meaning of Lao Tzu’s entire book: opposites complement each other”.

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Lu Nung-Shih says, “The greatest thing cannot be seen in its entirety; hence it seems incomplete. The fullest thing cannot be seen in its totality; hence it seems empty. The straightest thing cannot be seen in its completeness; hence it seems crooked. The cleverest thing cannot be seen in its perfection; hence it seems clumsy.”

Han Fei says, “Ordinary people employ their spirit in activity. But activity means extravagance, and extravagance means wastefulness. The sage employs his spirit in stillness. Stillness means moderation, and moderation means frugality.”

Confucius says, “Those who govern with virtue are like the North Star, which remains in its place, while the myriad stars revolve around it.

Explaining how life is about conjunctions and vibrations, or how it all begins to make sense…

Verses 46 and 47 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries  

My ultimate wish is to return to my hometown to discuss the Analects of Confucius and debate what may seem as transcendent with my dear friends Chuang, Lieh, and Lao Tzu… What a happy life indeed! Adding to the discussion, Chuang Tzu would remind us, “He who takes Heaven as his ancestor, virtue as his home, the Tao as his door and escapes change is ACon my picturea sage.”  Ah what bliss… to live a life escaping change and to be with old friends once again. To know you can be anyone. That you can do anything. It’s only a matter of going. And that you can always do it again. Thereby becoming the living manifestation of your own destiny.

Rather being in Springfield, Missouri and just writing about Qufu and China here on my blog at thekongdanfoundation.com or living it in Qufu and China. It is the above venue of living to express the virtues found in the past that fills my days. There may always be experiences found daily that fill my spare time, but time spent with my friends from the past is where I am most satisfied. It reminds me of Chuang Tzu’s admonition that we should not fear death, as we are simply returning again to experience what we have always known but may have forgotten.

Rain and Thunder, Stay Inside

Be careful the dragons are not watching. Mother Earth is busy being cleansed by rain and thunder.

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Stay inside.

Protect yourself with strong defenses water over thunder means a time of retrenchment. Stay inside. Go slow it is not time to advance. Get sound advice from friends and neighbors. Stay inside.

There are times when the right impression is critical and go betweens are required. Be prepared and wait until the time is right. Stay inside.

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Prepare carefully and know when to act. Find clarity and reality in the Tao and know thyself. Keep your vision of the Tao and be protected. Do not rush to judgement. Wait until you know what is not real and what is. Be careful, the dragons are not watching. Stay inside.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (3 RETRENCHMENT / Water over Thunder). 2/6/94 The above is found on the website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

What is it that we fundamentally connect to that our consciousness is attracted to by the vibrations we ultimately follow, if and when we become awakened, and are we all looking for the same thing? It is when we come into alignment with this superior D1force and synchronize with it, that we can begin to know our way. It was this that the earliest shaman learned by following the sun, moon and stars and observing his natural environment and how things in nature reacted to them.

They learned that things happen as a direct response to an alternative action. That when acting in unison as complementary opposite’s things can naturally occur by themselves. This was the essence of Taoism. What was universal was the idea that there are not favorites. It was how to connect with this vibration that a name was needed. The Tao and the ten thousand things (everything imaginable) and God (the undefinable) were universal and that God would be the entity that determines the ultimate outcome.

The ancient Chinese answer to this phenomenon was yin/yang, the I Ching. The I Ching was/has been developed and modified over a period of five thousand years and was a direct connection to the movement of the stars, the sun, moon and D2planets, i.e., the universe and how an individual’s own personal vibrations interacted with them. Patterns emerged that verified cause and effect. What goes into something has a direct correlation to what comes out. The power of observation became and is still the key. This is the essence of astrology and following the cosmos or stars for direction. The early Chinese were very serious about this and developed the first observatory to monitor the planets, sun, moon and stars. They could predict eclipses of sun and moon and the Emperor depended on these observations to give direction for sacred rites, planting in spring and harvesting in the fall, etc… If the Emperor was wrong he could/would lose the throne to someone else, or those making erroneous prediction could lose their heads.

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How did the I Ching begin and how could you measure what it meant as to how things were/are connected, and how do our own internal vibrations interact with it? For thousands of years the shaman had the answers. In about 200 AD the Emperor said every city must have temple and shrine to Confucius. The old shrines honoring the shaman were removed. The new world would continue to be about connections and vibrations, but modified to fit the norm, generally set by Confucius, now in place. Things set in place by time and tradition always set the stage. The power of observation was always the key to understanding events that were to come.

But, how was it all to begin? Looking to what we would call the universe to nature and how everything is connected we learn by observing the stars.

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Can our own consciousness be, or remain singular, from our environment? Or do we enable cause and effect though our thoughts that originate in nothing. Can we empower the universe through our thoughts? The shaman knew that it was through our thoughts that begin as nothing, that something appears. But what could be the basis of this observation found in nature that could guide us? Understanding this premise allowed what could have been seen as nothing, but synthesized through the human mind could become something in what we now call consciousness. Ancient traditions carried from generations over eons of time would serve to tell the story. It begins here:

The Hetu, Luoshu and Nine Palaces

The Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” D4are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China. This means they followed the stars, i.e., sun, moon, and planets. They knew something was moving through time. That the same constellations they saw today would re-appear a year later. This movement of the stars became known as the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces and were to be employed by both Taoists and Confucians and serve to explain the correlation of the hexagrams of the (I Ching) D5Yijing “Book of Changes” with the universe and human life. They are also used in geomancy (fengshui). The two diagrams shown here, are first mentioned in the chapter Guming of the Confucian Classic Shangshu “Book of Documents”, described earlier, where it is said that the three precious jades and the hetu are stored in the Eastern Chamber. It can thus be assumed that the Hetu was a kind of jade stone the texture of which were interpreted as the eight trigrams (bagua of the (I Ching) Yijing. It is here that it all begins with patterns that could be easily followed.

During the Han period (206 BC-220 AD) commentator Kong Anguo is the first who mention the Shangshu, one of the Five Classics of ancient Chinese literature. It is a collection of rhetorical prose attributed to figures of ancient China and served as the foundation of Chinese political philosophy for over 2,000 years. This, along with the legend of a dragon horse (longma) that emerged from the Yellow River and whose back was patterned with the shape of the eight trigrams. The longma was a fabled winged horse with dragon scales in Chinese mythology. Seeing a longma was an omen of a legendary sage-ruler.

Chinese-LONG-Horse-Or-Horse-DragonThe diagram seen on the back of the horse was the so-called “Yellow River Chart” that was written down by the shaman Fu Xi and preserved as the eight trigrams. As an auspicious omen, the horse regularly appeared during the reigns of the virtuous rulers, (Yao, Shun, and Yu).

Confucius would later complain that during his lifetime, the horse did not appear again, which was a bad portent of unlucky times. The Inscription of the River Luo is first mentioned in the book Guanzi, where it is said that a dragon turtle (longgui) left the waters of the River Luo, so that an inscription was seen on its back, actually also a pattern of the shell, that could be interpreted as the eight trigrams in a constellation different to that on the Hetu.

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100_3085Similarly, to the dragon horse, the turtle appeared during lucky times when virtuous rulers reigned the empire and ceased to be seen when bad and selfish men governed the world. You can see depictions today in Confucius Temples throughout China. The one to the left resides in the Confucius Temple in Qufu.

Both inscriptions are mentioned in the Xici commentary of the Yijing. The sage rulers read and interpreted the River Chart and the Luo Inscription and modeled their reign according to the evidence provided in the two diagrams. Yet the same text also says that Fu Xi invented the arrangement of the trigrams after observing the starry sky and all things on earth, without referring to the River Chart.

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The story of the two diagrams as representative of a golden age is repeated in the Baihu tongyi of the Han period, and the scholar Liu Xin said that the “Inscription of the Luo” was found by Yu the Great when he tamed the floods. He interpreted this inscription and came to the conclusions made in the correlative cosmology described in the chapter Hongfan of the ShangshuWhile the Hetu is connected with the eight trigrams, the Luoshu is related to the Five Processes.

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Archaeological findings from the Yangshao and Dawenkou cultures the Dawenkou were found in Shandong Province along the Yellow River and is an area in which I am very familiar. Recent findings have shown that the patterns to be found in the two charts and in the hexagrams date from the Neolithic age, dating from 10,000  to 3,000 BC – up to the Shang dynasty.

The distribution of the numbers is also identical to that found in the numbers in the chart on the prognostication dish of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces (taiyi jiugong zhanpan) from the Warring States period (5th century-221 BC) found in Fuyang, Anhui.

As an explanation of the Great Unity of the Nine Palaces, this served as the original connection to the cosmos and universe. It often took on the personality of the shaman and how well he was able to communicate these “universal truths”. This created different resonances in divination, meditation, and medical context in what would later become Taoist traditions.

AA The Milky Way

The Nine Palaces were the groupings of stars that were identified that traversed the heavens. After giving a name to these groupings (the Great Bear, also known as Ursa Major and the Milky Way for example), one could follow the movement of these stars over time and a “Great Unity” (the stars moving in unison) could be established.  In turn, these “groupings” became a useful metaphor for other sacred spaces. As referred to above, the Hetu “Yellow River Chart” and the Luoshu “Inscription of the River Luo” are two cosmological diagrams used in ancient China.  These were diagrams of the movement of the stars through the Nine Palaces described above.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for AC19leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 46 and 47 appear below. Verses 1 through 45 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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         

Verse 46 – Prevailing Contentment

How can we live within what the Tao teaches us, if we are never content with what D8the world brings to our doorstep and why should it matter? If we are busy cultivating things instead of ourselves, how can we find our true place in the ten thousand things? What can the seeds of contentment bring unless controlling our desires comes to the forefront and contentment decides to stay?  If we do not remain still, how will we know when the way comes to find us?

Cultivating the Tao through meditation, thought, D9appearance, action and deed is the key to the sage’s security. By not seeking things outside himself, he becomes an extension of the Tao. He is internally guided by the knowledge that no crime is worse than yielding to our desire, no wrong is greater than discontent and no curse greater than getting what you want when you are unprepared for the consequences.

D10Before showing the way, the sage must truly know contentment and remain confident with what the Tao teaches and exude that confidence by showing the contentment of being content.  When he can do this, others can see the folly of what external desires bring and can begin to find contentment for themselves.

Finding that the Tao has come full circle and begun to prevail in the world, the sage can be on his way.

The three above landscapes are from the Chongqing Museum. If I become published in the future, appropriate credits will be given. If only for my enjoyment just acknowledging where all photographs originate is enough.

Wang Pi says, “When the Tao prevails, contentment reigns. People don’t seek external things but cultivate themselves instead. Courier horses are sent home to manure fields. When people don’t control their desires, when they don’t cultivate themselves but seek external things instead, cavalry horses are bred on the borders.

Li His-Chai says, “When the ruler possesses the Tao, soldiers become farmers. When the ruler does not possess the Tao, farmers become soldiers. Someone who understands the Tao turns form into emptiness. Someone who does not understand the Tao turns emptiness into form. To yield to desire means to want. Not to know contentment leads to gasp. To get what you want means to possess. Want gives forth to grasping, and grasping gives forth to possessing, and there is no end to possessing. But once we know that we do not need to grasp anything outside ourselves, we know contentment. And once we know contentment, there is nothing with which we are not content.”

Lu His-Sheng says, “When the mind sets something desirable and wants it, even though it does not accord with reason, there is no worse crime. When want knows no limit, and brings harm to others, there is no greater wrong. When every desire has to be satisfied, and the mind never stops burning, there is no crueler curse. We all have enough. When we are content with enough, we are content wherever we are.”

Lu Tung-Pin says, “To know contentment means the Tao prevails. Not to know contentment means the Tao fails. What we know comes from our mind, which Lao Tzu represents as a horse. When we know contentment, our horse stays home. When we don’t know contentment, it guards the border. When the Tao prevails, we put the whip away.”

Hsuan-Tsung says, “Material contentment is not contentment. Spiritual contentment is true contentment.”

Verse 47 – Becoming endowed by the Way

When you are ready to come forth with a vision fully endowed by the way, you become the way. When you are ready to accept the mantle conferred by dragons by accepting Heaven as your ancestor, when virtue becomes your home and the Tao your door, only then can you begin to see beyond the limitations life brings each day D11as Chuang Tzu has taught you.

“Enthusiasm Garden” or “Zhan Garden” of the first ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Hongwu

When you can remain above change, becoming a sage becomes clear.

When you can understand others by knowing yourself and understand other families by knowing your own, nothing more in the world is needed to be known. The sage does not need to ascend to the sky or descend into the depths to understand the way of heaven and earth.

D12When you can know the world without leaving your doorstep and are able to succeed without trying by relying only on your true nature, your vision moves beyond the distant horizon. Seeing what is coming allows you to stay behind. Staying behind allows you to remain as one with the ten thousand things. Remaining as one with the ten thousand things you become empty once again. Becoming empty, the sage remains unmoved by the events that may swirl around him. xx

Ho-Shang Kung says, “The sage understands others by understanding himself. He understands other families by understanding his own family. Thus, he understands to whole world. Man, and Heaven are linked to each other. If the ruler is content, the breath of Heaven will be calm. If the ruler is greedy, Heaven’s breath will be unstable. The sage does not have to ascend into the sky or descend into the depths to understand Heaven and Earth.”

Wang Pi says, “Events have a beginning. Things have a leader. Though roads diverge, they lead back together. Though thoughts multiply they all share one thing. The Way has one constant. Reason has one principle. Holding onto the ancient Way, we are able to master the present. Though we live today we can understand the distant past. We can understand without going outside. In we don’t understand, going further only leads us further away.”

Su Ch’e says, “The reason the sages of the past understood everything without going anywhere was simply because they kept their natures whole. People let themselves be misled by things and allow their natures to be split into ears and eyes, body and mind. Their vision becomes limited to sights, and their hearing becomes limited to sounds.”

Li Hsi-Chai says, “Those who look for Heaven and Earth outside look for forms. But Heaven and Earth cannot be fathomed through form, only through reason. Once we realize reason is right here, it doesn’t matter if we close our door. For the sage, knowledge is not limited to form. Hence, he doesn’t have to go anywhere. Name is not limited to matter. Hence, he doesn’t have to look anywhere. Success is not limited to action. Hence, he doesn’t have to do anything.”

What we choose to believe can become the birth or death of reason… I wonder. 

Verses 48 and 49 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

Sailing with the wind with others in tow and alongside is difficult at best when their staying open to change falls by the wayside. Where does one begin and end with sincere values and virtue aimed at social justice for all? What example do we set, and where in our past do we look for answers that tell the way? It is as Bobby Kennedy once said, “I don’t think any of us can be satisfied with suffering of our friends, our families, and our neighbors.”

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With shouts of “we want justice” resonating today reminding us of times in our past when similar echoes told stories of inequality. He added “When each man strikes out against racial injustice, he sends out a tiny ripple of hope.” It’s a matter of connecting with different people and seeing all men and women as equal under the laws of a just society. This is what Bobby did. It was giving people hope that things could be changed for the better.

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Sometimes I wonder why people are so afraid of equality and fear of giving others the opportunity to live a free and better life. I wonder. Just where can our beliefs fail us? It is as the line “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” that was first written by Alexander Pope in his 1711 poem An Essay on Criticism. The phrase alludes to inexperienced or rash people attempting things that more experienced people avoid. It has since entered the general English lexicon as an idiom. Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet. He is best known for his satirical verse, his translation of Homer and for his use of the heroic couplet. He is the second-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations after Shakespeare.  Just as the saying… “he who gets there first doesn’t necessarily win.” History knows better and is never told less than fifty years after events have occurred. With eventual outcomes not in keeping with our own choosing, except as we ourselves have written in the stars…

This was always the dilemma of the ancient shaman. How can you teach someone else to become transcendent and universal? How does someone get to that vision seen at the mountaintop and know what it means and more importantly, that it is something they too should follow and to perhaps tell to others as well?

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Or that seen in the American Indian ritual of the vision quest, as a required rite of passage. Seeing beyond who you think you are, to have a sense or come to know why you’re here and how you fit into the scheme of things in the present. And more important, what you should do about it. That still small voice coming from within that transcends any human frailty that Bobby Kennedy, and so many others, have emulated and not only said… yes. But please come join us. Something I like to call “the plea of dragons.”

Perhaps this is in keeping with my own final call in becoming the storyteller. To make decisions without concern with who may benefit, or what may have been right or wrong, or to choose certain outcomes, as you live every moment within the Tao. Thusly, having no decisions left to make.

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To see and know events that foretell the future, as you have seen and done it all before. As if simply on call to be ready when there is a story worthy of being told. Just as clouds over the distant horizon tell of the coming rain. Not quite sure though of nature’s intent, and where the rain will fall. As we sow the AGenghisseeds of commonality that stresses how nature plays no favorites. Observation and the Tao teaching the role all must play and that outcomes affect everyone equally over time.

Or to as the Mongols, and Genghis Khan would say simply “to live under the laws of the blue sky.” 

To be truly transparent seeing through to the source of all. Knowing that when floods come everyone must find higher ground. And why the teaching of filial piety and benevolence taught by Confucius became the essence of Chinese culture and society. It begins with respect of ourselves, our family, our community, and of nations. Just as nature knows no boundaries or borders in emulating the Tao neither can we.

There’s a great story about a singer/songwriter named Sixto Rodriguez from Detroit, who was never that popular in USA whose music was from the 1960’s. A tape of his music made its way to South Africa where a radio station played it and he became an overnight sensation while Nelson Mandela was still in prison and apartheid was still in full effect. His music resonated there, while he stayed in relative obscurity here in USA.

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One of his songs was entitled… I Wonder, and a line that goes I wonder when this hatred ever ends. I wonder. Another song… You can’t get away from it. Then another song… I’ll Slip Away.  Mending all my shattered dreams and not choosing to be like them. 

A movie was made about Rodriquez that I saw on a movie channel while I was teaching in China. He went to South Africa and played before three sold out concerts. I love his albums and play them often. Amazing story and great music. It reminds us that we never know where our accolades may come from, or thoughts of others that might serve to try to diminish us. One of the first things I wrote seen below carried the theme that there can be no rush. I’ve often wondered what I meant by this…

Or in the words of John Lennon, Instant AB15Karma’s going to get you.“Well we all shine on. Like the moon and the stars and the sun. Well we all shine on” continuing “Instant Karma’s gonna get you. Gonna knock you off your feet. Better recognize your brothers. Everyone you meet. Why in the world are we here? Surely not to live in pain and fear. Why on earth are you there? When you’re everywhere. Come and get your share”.For Lennon, the idea of “not choosing to be like them”, resonated and living within his own skin was paramount. Just as with any artist or writer of any age. Just who can be the non-conformist in our midst and their ultimate purpose. I wonder.

There can be no Rush  

Trying to see dragons while looking over mountains and water into the sun can cause temporary blindness. You must see beyond ignorance.  Beware of those who are not trustworthy. Pay attention they can lead you astray.

There can be no rush to judgment. Only the path to learning leaving childhood innocence behind.

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Find a mentor and come to know peace and harmony. Learn to listen to your inner voice and know the Tao. All that there is to know is already here. In front, beside and behind.  Beneath you instilled in the earth and above you in the sky.

There can be no rush to knowledge. Only preparation to see and know what is important when it arrives and letting your inner virtue define you.

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Find and nurture patience and you can begin to look over mountains and over the sea. There can be no rush to find the symmetry to be found in the Tao. With vision you will become immortal and come to know dragons flying in the sky.

From the top of Huangshan Mt in Anhui

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (4 BLINDNESS / Mountains over Water). 2/6/94 below is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

(Note: Below is continuation of the thread I began in the last chapter). Because of their enigmatic character, both charts were used by the apocryphal, or interpretation of the Confucian Classics, that flourished during the Han period.

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The imperial bibliography Squish jingji zhi of the official dynastic history says that there were nine chapters of text about the Hetu and 6 chapters about the Luoshu. It lists a book Hetu with a length of 20 (including the Luoshu 24) Juan, written during the Liang period (502-557) and already lost during the early Tang period (618-907), as well as the books Hetu wei and Luoshu wei with a total length of together 45 chapters.

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Other books parts of which have survived until today are the Hetu longwen, Hetu kuodi xiang, Hetu xiyao gou, Hetu kaoling yao or Luoshu lingzhun ting. Today, fragments of 120 Hetu books are preserved, and those of about 20 writings to the Luoshu. Although the compilers of the Suishu purported that these books were compiled during the ages of the mythical rulers of the past, it is certain that they date from the Han period or somewhat later.

Tang period scholars were not very interested in the two charts, and they only gained prominence again during the Song period (960-1279). The Taoist scholar Chen Tuan is said to have received a dragon chart (longtu) from the Taoist Master Mayi and transmitted it to his own followers. Another branch of disciples were Mu Xiu, Li Zhicai and the mathematician Shao Yong who was one of the early Song Neo-Confucians. The great Southern Song Period Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi took over Shao Yong’s transmitted shape of the two charts and used them for his interpretation of the I Ching (Yijing), known as the Zhouyi benyi.

Interestingly enough, Liu Mu’s two charts just had the opposite configuration of the trigrams as that of Shao Yong, so AB fishchartthat Shao Yong’s Hetu corresponded to Liu Mu’s Luoshu and vice versa. Apart from Shao Yong’s and Zhu Xi’s version, there is the Yinyang yutu “Fish chart of Yin and Yang”, a very popular version of the constellation of the eight trigrams, with the trigrams forming the outer frame and a black (Yin) and white (Yang) field the center. The two fields are shaped in curves and creeping into each other to express the permanent fluctuation between Yin and Yang during the seasons. It is the much more famous of the trigram charts and is widely used in Taoist circles, where it became the symbol of Taoism. Zhu Xi’s version of the two charts can be seen in the illustrations above.

Numerological speculation was very common among the Neo-Confucians. Zhu Zhen’s book Zhouyi guatu says that the white circles in the Hetu chart sum up to an odd number (25), the black circles to an even number (20), with a total sum of 45.

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The white circles in the Luoshu chart are 25, black circles 30, with a total sum of 55. While the Hetu symbolized the theory and substance (ti) behind all things, the congenital and innate (xiantian) nature of things, the Luoshu symbolized that practical aspect (yang) and the state of things how they are and live (houtian).

The main number of the Hetu is 10; 1 and 6 express the ancestral (zong, Celestial) nature, 2 and 7 the Way (tao), 3 and 8 friendships (peng), 4 and 9 mutual support (you), and 5 and 10 protection and safety (shou). The main number of the Luoshu in 9; head is 9, feet is 1, left is 3, right is 7, 2 and 4 are the shoulders, 6 and 8 the legs, and 5 is the number of the physical center. AB8The Hetu also expresses geographical directions, each of the nine regions of the empire represented by one symbol of the chart. The number 9 also stands for the Nine Palaces (jiugong) of the earth, while the number 5 represented in the center of the Luoshu symbolized the Five Processes.

During the Qing period (1644-1911) Confucians like Huang Zongxi or Hu Wei contradicted the cosmological interpretation of the Neo-Confucians. In his inscription Wan Gongze muzhi ming, Huang Zongxi assumed that the Hetu and Luoshu were very crude geographical maps of ancient times.

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Yet it is more probable that the charts served as a theoretical illustration of the universe for the purpose of prognostication, or to symbolize the elements of which the cosmos or the body were believed to consist. Why all of the above is important, is because it establishes the benchmark for how we got to the here and now. Using the system and numbers above correlate directly with a person’s place in the universe at any given moment. “Reading a person’s chart” meant understanding from where one came, ie, his beginnings, could have a direct correlation with where their journey would finish…. hence the I Ching was born. In practical terms, it means you can find the Tao through the pragmatism followed in understanding you life’s role. In popular culture we describe this as horoscopes, but in reality it is the measurement of where we are in our ultimate journey as we become in tune with the Tao.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for B15leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 48 and 49 appear below.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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.          

Verse 48 – Becoming the Master Weaver

In weaving the fabric of your surroundings together, seek only the Tao without the use of ears or eyes. It will only be by looking within yourself and following your inner nature that the answer (which incidentally you have always known), comes forth to greet you.

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Be guided by the answer given by the sage when he is asked “do you think I learn in order to increase my knowledge”. The sage simply replies “no, I seek only that which brings everything together”.

As you liken yourself as the master weaver, you find yourself remaining as a clean slate with neither right nor wrong guiding your actions.

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As you have become the natural extension of the universe – all things become possible.  Opportunities otherwise overlooked or unknown come forth that have been waiting on cue to make their appearance. External knowledge becomes less important as the sage weaves all the pieces presented him into what becomes the natural extension of his own spirit.

Cultivating his body and spirit in the proper way the sage appears to have nothing to do.  Having nothing to do leads to nothing not getting done. Having nothing better to do, the world simply finds itself coming along for the ride.

Confucius asked Tzu Kung, “Do you think I learn in order to increase my knowledge?” Tzu Kung answered, “Well don’t you?” Confucius said, “No I only seek things that bring everything together.” (Lunyu 15.2)

Sung Ch’ang says, “Those who seek the Tao don’t use their ears or eyes. They look within not without. They obey their natures, not their desires. They don’t value knowledge. They consider gaining as losing and losing as gaining.

Wang Pi says, “Those who seek learning seek to improve their ability or to increase their mastery, while those who seek the Tao seek to return to emptiness and nothingness. When something is done, something is left out. When nothing is done, nothing is not done.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “He who seeks the Tao begins by using wisdom to eliminate desires. Thus, he loses. Once his desires are gone he eliminates wisdom. Thus, he loses again. And he goes on like this until the mind and the world are both forgotten, until selfish desires are completely eliminated and he reaches the state of doing nothing. And while he does nothing, the people transform themselves. Thus, by doing nothing, the sage can do great thing things. Hence those who would rule the world should know the value of not being busy.”

Verse 49 – Remaining True to Form

Retreat into the emptiness brought forth by the ten thousand things as if you have no mind of your own.

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Taking on the mind of all those around you and treating them as the same you become immersed in nothing.

Mindless, you convey the hopes, dreams and fears of all around you and embrace neither side of any argument.

To the good the sage is good and to the bad as well.  He supports the bad like he is good until they see the bad for what it has brought them and become good.  He illuminates like the sun and transforms the spirit.  To what is true he is true and to what is false he is true until they too become true to the Tao.

It is by seeing the real in the false and the false in the real the sage’s wisdom is different from others. By remaining empty, the sage’s mind can merge with the mind of others. Because his mind is still, he can respond accordingly. While he may appear withdrawn from the world, he moves all in the direction they should take.

Always humble, he remains transparent while letting others seemingly find their own way. xx

Su Ch’e says, “Emptiness has no form. It takes on the form of the ten thousand things. If emptiness had its own form it could not form anything else. Thus, the sage has no mind of his own. He takes on the minds of the people and treats everyone the same.IChing115

Yen Tsun says, “A mindless mind is the chief of all minds. The sage, therefore, has no mind of his own but embraces the mind of the people. Free of love and hate, he is not the enemy of evil or the friend of good. He is not the protector of truth or the attacker of falsehood.  He supports like the earth and covers the sky. He illuminates like the sun and transforms like the spirit.”

Confucius says, “In his dealings with the world, the great man is neither for or against anyone. He follows whatever is right.” (Lunyu: 4-10) Hsuan-Tsung says,” The sage covers up the tracks of his mind by blending in with others.”

Ch’eng Hsuan-Ying says, “Stop the eyes and the ears, and the other senses follow.”

To always write as if the last thing you wrote is the best thing you have ever written.

Verses 50 and 51 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

Te-Ch’ing says, “Those who guard their life don’t cultivate life, but what controls life. What has life is form. What controls life is nature. When we cultivate our nature, we return to what is real and forget bodily form. Once we forget form, our self becomes empty. Once our self is empty, nothing can harm us. Once there is no self, there is no life. How could there be death?

What could be a greater aspiration than to be so in tune with the Tao that you become the Way? To be like the Bob Dillon song… to be always “Knock, knock, knocking on Heaven’s door”. As if we’ve been on a long trip and just can’t wait to get home. Or the song, “It’s no use to sit and wonder why babe. As we succumb to the notion as a natural extension of ourselves we don’t think twice it’s alright”. How is it we come to live day-to-day? Who do we spend our time with? What AJ1aspirations are worth paying attention to and how can they matter? Why are we driven by fear of the unknown… when there are things that can never be known? I think it has to do with what Joseph Campbell called the eternal quest and our bliss and Jack Kerouac, of the beat generation fame who expressed, what we do in finding and becoming one with our source. As if as relayed here later… how can death possibly matter except where we find ourselves as we return to our beginnings. If we are granted two lives as expressed below, that each of us have two lives, “The one we learn with, and the one we life after that” then how do we live our lives except to find our natural rhythm that brings us closer and in tune with the Tao? And just what is this bliss thing, but contentment found in the clouds with old friends once again.

There have always been warnings by writers, philosophers, and poets against getting AJ2too caught up in the mystical approach or search for “what may be possible”. A great philosopher known as  Kierkegaard, wrote that too much “possibility” led to what he referred to as a “madhouse” in our thinking. This leads us to what can be called the “sickness of infinitude” as we wander from one path to another with no real recognition that we have even entered into or are embarking on a search at all. Or having even a clue as to what we were searching for to begin with. The key being that at the bottom of every breath there is a hallow place needing to be filled.

One of Kierkegaard’s recurrent themes is the importance of subjectivity, which has to do with the way people relate themselves to (objective) truths. In Concluding Unscientific Postscript to Philosophical Fragments, he argues that “subjectivity is truth” and “truth is subjectivity.” What he means by this is that most essentially, truth is not just a matter of discovering objective facts. While objective facts are important, there is a second and more crucial element of truth, which involves how one relates oneself to those matters of fact. Since how one acts is, from the ethical perspective, more important than any matter of fact, truth is to be found in subjectivity rather than objectivity. What attracted me most to Kierkegaard, was comparisons on Eastern thought to Chuang Tzu, whose premise of challenging the status quo, especially Confucius was central to defining what could be seen as truth.

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A whole “industry” rose up in China over two thousand years ago in the production of “commentaries”. Whereby analyzing what Confucius and other luminaries (the voices of status quo) really said or meant, was to become “what did they really mean”. The idea that truth is only subject to the eyes of the beholder holds much the same today. Many feel it was Chuang Tzu’s attitude toward death as simply a continuum that led to both Chan as Zen Buddhism’s success in becoming a fixture in Chinese and Japanese thought, religion, and philosophy.

The Dragons are Waiting

Yin and yang tell us to wait without anxiety. Earth and sky, water and heaven wait for the seasons and all things that will come.

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Knowing that waiting brings change from spring and time to plant, to summer a time to tend and autumn a time to harvest. To winter and a time to rest before beginning the cycle once more. Again, again and again.  Let nature and you garden be your teacher. Knowing what is now yields to what will be.

The Tao teaches us to be gracious, asking for help when needed and giving help when it is asked.  Know to treat good and bad the same with indifference. Knowing what is now yields to what will be.  Resolve to know the Tao and know courage and security.

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Let the seasons teach you cycles. Knowing cycles brings patience. The earth and sky and all in between serve to show patience to those who watch, listen and learn. The dragons are waiting. Be patient, listen and learn.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching   (5 WAITING / Water over Heaven). 2/6/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

I wrote the below “Beginnings”, in January 1996 as the preface of what became a still unpublished manuscript that opened to door to what would come to define my own journey. The book became entitled “My travels with Lieh Tzu”one of six books now (I’ve lost count).

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The Book of Lieh Tzu, written more than two thousand years ago, was to become mandatory reading for Taoist precepts in Taoist monasteries over the centuries. Writing my own version was like a continual catharsis, as if the relieving or releasing of emotional tensions, especially through gaining appreciation of certain kinds of art, as tragedy or music. As if we need a benchmark, or starting point, as we begin to learn the meaning of meditation for ourselves. As if when one door closes through death of who we thought we were, the universe rushes in to get our attention to fill the vacuum. The challenge always asking are we ready? It is not something others can do for us, except maybe to help point the way forward. As if agreeing with Chuang Tzu that we never really die, only move on to new beginnings and endings needed to transcend into our highest version of ourselves simply waiting to unfold. Making room for new personas, or doors that are simply waiting for appearances sake to be opened and just maybe asked to stay.

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When I wrote this, I had just finished writing my book about the Ching and change and had lost a job that I had moved to Massachusetts to do not far from where my Italian ancestors had come more than a hundred years earlier. I thought this was where I was supposed to be, bought a house, settled in and became a master gardener in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island. But I had now gotten the dragons attention and of course they had other plans in mind. Their idea of returning to the place of my ancestors went a little further back in time. Imprinting on me that it was not where I am, but who I am in history that is important. As if saying okay, if you wanted to return to your source, your beginnings, you can’t stop here. My interpolations of The Book of Lieh Tzu was to serve only as a reminder, perhaps an initial road map, as I was about to begin my own quest in earnest.

Beginnings

It is said that each of us is granted two lives, the life we learn with and the life we live after that.

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To perchance awaken midstream in our lives, as if we have been re‑born; given an opportunity to find and follow our true destiny and endeavor. That our ultimate task is not only to discover who we are but where we belong in history. Is not this the ultimate challenge? To simply rise up, traveling as one with the prevailing winds. Becoming one with the angels, or dragons, as they manifest before us. Letting our spirit soar. Freeing our mind, heart, and soul to go where few dare to wander.

I know my task as a writer will be complete when my writing is as indefinable as my subject. Just as I know my task as an individual, as I exist in the here and now, will be to simply tell the stories that I have learned along the way. That we each have a story to tell. As we free ourselves of attachments and ego and baggage we have clung to as we try to find our way. That the ultimate travel is the travel of our spirit. That the ultimate giving is to share our gift with others.

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To become one with the ages. To bring forth the stories, myths and legends that tell the way. To stay interested in life, as I am in reality here only for an instant before moving on.

My task only to look for constant renewal. Finally, true expression of self is in losing myself through expressing the voices of the past. That I am here to relay that the fears and hopes of humanity rest not in where we find ourselves in the here and now, but in reality, to find and reflect our inner nature waiting to be re‑discovered and built upon again and again.

That all true learning is self-learning of who we ultimately are to become. That once we have awakened so that we can see beyond ourselves, then have not we found our spirits traveling the winds through eternity. This being so, could there be a more ultimate way of travel than to be found traveling with Lieh Tzu?   1/21/96

I wrote the above more than twenty years ago on January 21, 1996 when completing my own version of The Book of Lieh Tzu after moving to Boynton Beach, Florida to become a city planner. My job was to help with the city’s master plan. In reality, it was as if I had moved to south Florida to live in paradise while addressing my own. Knowing this how could I not pursue the unknown to get to a place where the pieces, like strands of pearls that would fit onto the same thread? Life becoming the process of finding and polishing pearls of virtue and wisdom brought to the surface within myself. As if life’s experiences are only an expression of time built on those who have come before us as we ourselves endeavor to become universal.

There is a saying that all great writing is autobiographical. That ultimately, what we think, say, and in turn write is emblematic of who we have been and are yet to become. That enlightenment first begins with acknowledging our origins or beginnings, then moves to how we respond or act accordingly. Only then, can we continue on course as we find ourselves and begin to challenge what might make us feel good at the moment. Or as Chuang Tzu would say in the Seven Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu – The main themes of the seven chapters called the nei-p’ien that are an advocacy of creative spontaneity, the relativity of all things, transcendental knowledge, following nature, equanimity toward life and death, the usefulness of uselessness and the blessings of emptiness and non-existence.  That living in spontaneity provides the essence to change and follow the Tao.

While Lieh Tzu represented the “everyday or common man”Chuang Tzu was seen as the pivot to what would be known as the “perfected man.”  Both were representative of what was to become and define Taoism for centuries to come. Much more on both yet to come in future posts.

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Great writing and art, mainly as calligraphy, flourished over time in China where your brush stroke was indicative of your own perception of the eternal and how you intertwined AJ11with what was seen as what philosophers such as Kierkegaard, famous in western philosophy centuries later, would call indefinable. How you presented the form would be just as, or more important than, what was stated. Defining what was real behind the image was as important. It would be considered tai chi at it’s best.

Most of what was attributed to Lieh Tzu is actually considered a repository for numerous authors/writers who wanted their work to be considered but feared that under their own name might have otherwise been overlooked. Some scholars even question whether Lieh Tzu even existed at all. Of course, in my humble opinion he certainly did.

 As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of AJ12philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 50 and 51 appear below. A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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.

Verse 50 – Evolving with Ever-renewing Purpose

To the sage death is nothing more than an opportunity to return home once again. To assess his standing in the ten thousand things and be reassured that he remains no better or worse for the wear, that in the end only his eternal presence, or essence, in keeping with the Tao is insured.

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Success or failure only determined by the number of lives he has touched and rather he helped others find their true way.  In coming home, he transcends all boundaries and exudes the virtue and grace of one who has been everywhere there is to be, seen all there is to see and transcended the Tao to and fro, up and down and is utterly complete.

   Cultivating his true nature his body is cast aside. As an innate knowing reminds him that once our body has been cast aside we are free to travel once again on the wind with dragons, as you are reminded of your eternal role in the universe and secret to your own longevity.  Just as in life you guarded your real purpose, you now are ready to be renewed before returning to be born again. xx

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Ch’eng Chu says, “Of the ten thousand things we all experience, none are more important than life and death. People who are cultivate the Tao are concerned with nothing except transcending these boundaries.”

Wang Pi says, “Eels consider the depths too shallow, and eagles consider the mountains too low.  Living beyond the reach of arrows and nets, they dwell in the land of no death. But by means of bait, they are lured into the land of no life.”

Su Ch’e says, “We know how to act but not how to rest. We know how to talk but not how to keep still. We know how to remember but not how to forget. Everything we do leads to the land of death. The sage dwells where there is neither life or death.”

Chiao Hung says, “The sage has no life. Not because he slights it, but because he doesn’t possess it. If someone has no life, how could he be killed? Those who understand this can transcend change and can make of life and death a game.

Verse 51 – Honoring the Way

Honoring the Way means staying true to the Way.  Staying true to the Way means remaining humble with your virtue guiding every thought, action and deed. You have taken form in this place as the essence of the Way of Virtue.

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While challenges and stubbing your toe may occur, they are simply to remind you of your own personas that you are here to complete.  Your affinity to nature and the natural order of things are simply ways to express and sort through those things you are here to do. Created as an image or extension of the Way, virtue guides and instructs while being shaped by events as the Tao completes them.

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Thus, all things come forward to honor the Way. Remaining transparent, your role cultivates and trains, steadies and adjusts, nurtures and protects without possessing or presuming. Without the need to control events everything reaches its fullest potential. xx

Wu Ch’ing says, “What is begotten is sprouted in spring, what is kept is collected in fall; what is shaped is raised in summer from sprouts that were grown in the spring; what is completed is stored in the winter from the harvest in the fall. Begetting, raising, harvesting, and storing all depend of the Way and Virtue.

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Hence the ten thousand things honor the Tao as their father and glorify Virtue as their mother. The Way and Virtue are two, but also one. In spring, from one root many are begotten: the Way becomes Virtue. In fall, the many are brought back together: Virtue becomes and is also the Way.

Lu His-Sheng says, “To beget is to bestow with essence. To keep is to instill with breath. To cultivate is the adapt to form. To train is to bring forth ability. To steady is to weigh the end. To adjust is to measure the use. To nurture is to preserve the balance. To protect is to keep from harm. This is the Great Way. It begets but does not try to possess what is begets. It acts but does not presume on what it does. It cultivates but does not try to control what it cultivates. This is ‘Dark Virtue’.

AJ18Ho-Shang Kung says, “The Way does not beget the myriad creatures to possess them for is own advantage. The actions of the Way do not depend on a reward. And the Way does not cultivate or nurture the myriad creatures to butcher them for profit. The kindness performed by the Way is dark and invisible.”

Wang Pi says “The Way is what things follow. Virtue is what they attain. ‘Dark Virtue’ man’s virtue is present, but no one knows who controls it. It comes from what is hidden.”

Finding mountains of joy for just who we are.

Verses 52 and 53 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

From a practical perspective, there is great power in intention and how it can shape the present moment and even the future—because if you approach this present moment with wisdom, kindness, and a sense of responsibility, you won’t have to worry about the future. It will take care of itself.

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This sense of commonality to and with nature that seems to permeate Eastern philosophy, especially from Buddhism and Taoism, expresses the idea I like to call, from where we are doing it from”, i.e., as if living our lives above it all with abundance and joy.

I am inspired by the song “True Colors” by Cindy Lauper and the lines:

And I’ll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
I see your true colors
So don’t be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful
Like a rainbow.

One of the anthems of the LGBTQ community, Lauper’s authenticity to be true to J22our “souls consciousness” sings true. One does not have to be this way to respect another’s choice to be so. We ultimately teach others through our own acceptance and actions by treating others as we want to be treated ourselves.

Nature and the Tao also teaches us that we are all equal in the eyes of the universe. Fitting because a rainbow represents all colors as one. It is standing for what is right that ultimately gives each of us strength to become empowered to become our true selves. It is in this way we break the bonds of doubting our own self-worth and we learn that nothing separates us from God, and the Tao. Or as if adding lyrics to the Beatles song in Two of Us“We are simply rainbows on our way back home”.

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I am especially inspired by the song “Ain’t no mountain high enough ain’t no valley low enough to keep me from loving you” sung by Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross. Mountains are here to climb and in seeing the other side we discover the panorama of life, of heaven and earth, and our place in it all. Why be afraid of the unknown when it is this that makes us complete? Who are we to get in the way of another’s joy?

Finding Joy

 As with all things that must know their way, leaving things undone due to flights of fancy can lead to one’s undoing. Learn from your mistakes and know that what has come will come again.

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Be patient, know and understand that staying close to the Tao keeps one protected. Stray and bad things can occur. Find purpose and meaning in what you do and what needs done will get done. Both good and bad are the same. However, knowing the outcome leads one to know the way of virtue.

Accept faults and accept the true fate. Once admitted you are accepted again. Remember what is now taken for granted and loosely kept can easily be taken back again.

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What is fundamental is that the eternal oneness of all things will change.  Yin become yang. Yang becomes yin. Leaving things undone opens chi to the unknown. Letting nature find its course leads one to finding the joy in all things.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching  (5 WAITING / Water over Heaven). 2/6/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

It has always been the need to see beyond simply language and words to the ethereal, to be closer and ultimately one with the Tao, or God. In China, it was the mountains where one could go to attempt to see beyond what could be explained into the horizon.

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In America, it was the sacredness of the Black Hills of the Dakotas, the Appalachian Trail, the Great Smoky Mountains and Daniel Boone, and the travels of Lewis and Clark over the continental divide over uncharted mountains and rivers westward to the Pacific that has always intrigued me. As if there is an unconscious knowing and something more than imagination reminding us that, yes, we were there too.

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But it was the sacred and historical context and connections to mountains in China over an extended period, that I most drawn to and find most appealing. It is truly as if you are facing forward while looking back.

It is this link with and to nature and creation that triggers the ultimate connection with and to our source. That it is in the remembering we forget what diminishes us. As if the sameness of everything, meant it could return just as easily as something else. It is as if by design it is meant to be forever indefinable… it is Tao. To the Taoist and the acknowledgment of the “ten thousand things” (of which you are only one of many), you can begin to understand the universal nature of God and you.

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In China, many have even gone so far as to reside here, on a mountain as what are called a “hermit”. Abandoning the ways of the world, to move beyond earthly cares to simply become one with it all. To a place where it becomes easy to find and become reclusive. Surely not meant for everyone, as if ultimately defining joy only for oneself. Well my friends it’s hard to imagine. Someday after I’ve gone missing the likely responsible suspects of where I might be found may happen to lie below. Ah, the paradox of every sage. In my heart I’m already there… as if I never left. As if found roaming the sky with dragons only stopping to catch my breath on top of mountains. Except to come down seeking others who need only encouragement to join us. All that is required is we, as Cindy Lauper said… see our true colors shining through and become them. My favorite, of course, is Qingcheng Mountain north of Chengdu, one of the most revered Taoist holy mountains.

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Historically through the millennia, it has been the ability to rise above the clouds with your feet still firmly planted on the ground that enables us to converse with the eternal.   To live or to be moving into the state of becoming who we are meant to be that has always been our primary purpose.

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Like the words in the song Forever Young… May you build a ladder to the stars and climb onto every rung. May you stay forever young.

The Sacred Mountains of China are divided into several groups and were the subjects of pilgrimage by emperors and commoners alike throughout in Chinese history and dynasties. 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 those associated with Taoism are referred to J211as the Four Sacred Mountains of Taoismalthough those making the list seems to depend on the author. For myself the list can easily be expanded to six depending on personal preferenceThree of which I have been to, the remaining three are on my bucket list…

Six sacred mountains of Taoism:

1)     Wudang Shan in the northwestern part of Hubei. For myself a highlight is the J212Crown Prince’s Hall at the highest point of the Fuzhen Temple (Revelation Temple) complex. If you are a kung fu enthusiast, Taizipo is also home to The Eight Immortal Temple because tai chi gets all the credit for Wudang’s martial arts. Its sometimes easy to forget the mountain is home to many other forms as well, including ones that use weapons.

Wudang derives its name from the Five Dragon Palace. Once a bustling area of Taoist J213temples, it was long the area known for cultivating the most accomplished Taoist priests. Unfortunately, it is also the area whose temples, halls, and palaces have undergone the most destruction. That being said, it is still a particularly scenic area and is the only place on the mountain that has a forest reserve. The cliffs here are quite spectacular, too. The Wudang Mountains are renowned for the practice of tai chi and Taoism as the Taoist counterpart to the Shaolin Monastery, which is affiliated with Chinese Chan Buddhism.

2)     Longhu Shan literally “Dragon and Tiger” in Jiangxi Province. The  Lónghyiǔ Shān scenic area encompasses 200 sq km, most of which is  located along the eastern bank of the Lúxī River.

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It is particularly important to the Zhengyi Dao as it is the home of the Shangqing J219Temple and the Mansion of the Taoist Master that are located here. The temples in Shangqing are mentioned in the beginning of the famous Chinese novel “Outlaws of the Marsh”.

3)     Qiyun Shan literally “Cloud-High Mountain”, in Anhui. Mount J215Qiyun is a mountain and national park located in Xiuning County in Anhui Province, China and is noted for its numerous inscriptions and tablets, as well as monasteries and temples. Through Chinese history, Chinese poets and writers including Li Bai, Tang Yin and Yu Dafu have visited Mount Qiyun either to compose poetry or to leave an inscription. I visited here in October 2016 and climbed to the summit, it is one of my favorite spots in China.

4)     Qingcheng Shan literally “Misty Green City Wall”; (Nearby city: Dujiangyan in J217Sichuan. In ancient Chinese history, the Mount Qingcheng area was famous for being for J218“The most secluded place in China”. I came to Qingcheng in June 2015 and I am anxious the return. It is famous as a Taoist retreat over the centuries and has some of the greatest vistas of mountains anywhere. It is easy to see why the theme of getting back to nature and how closeness to the Tao and God are transposed into one’s persona as once having been there makes it difficult to leave.

5)      Hua Shan’s four major peaks, that are capped with ancient temples that have J220been the site of prayer and sacrifice since at least the period of emperor Qin Shi Huang in 200 B.C.  Famous because Lao Tzu was supposed to have resided there for a while, and number one on my bucket list to visit.

The chess pavilion, from the top of the East peak

Once called the West Mountain in ancient times it is noted for very steep and narrow trails.  East Peak (also called the Morning Sun Peak), is the best place to see the sunrise; West Peak (also called the Lotus Flower Peak), because of the a large flower shaped rock which stands in front of Cuiyun Temple; the central Peak (also called the Jade Lady Peak).

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Cloudy Terrace Peak

Legend has it that the daughter of the King Mu lived here; South Peak (also called the Wild Goose-resting Peak), towers over all other peaks on the mountains and is covered by pines and cypresses; and North Peak (also called the Cloudy Terrace Peak). From a distance, these five peaks look like a lotus flower among the mountains, hence the name of Huashan.

6)    Tai Shan in ShandongPerhaps saving the best for last, Mount J225Tai Shan is the one I am most familiar with having been there many times. It is the most famous Taoist mountain in China because being furthest to the east, it is where from its summit you can be the first to see the sun rise to the east. For over a thousand years tradition required the emperor to make a pilgrimage to Tai Shan on his return to Beijing after visiting Qufu and paying homage to Confucius.

J226At the base of the mountain is the Daimiao TempleOne of my favorite points of interest is the ‘Peitian Gate’. It is an excellent example of how Confucian and Taoist thought resided and complemented each other over the centuries.

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The stele, or entryway had a saying with the theme,” The virtues match the heaven and earth”. It highlighted the ‘Azure Dragon’ and ‘White Tiger’, two of the principal symbols of the Chinese constellation that were enshrined in the hall.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was IChing17this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching, verses 52 and 53 appear below.

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.

 Verse 52 – When our Virtue becomes us

 When the ten thousand things came forth in the world, they did so as offspring of a great mother.

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When you know this mother, you can begin to understand her offspring understand the child and its mother becomes secure and. lives without trouble.  Begin to focus on the Tao with the path you must take becoming clear and this mother will nurture you forever.

When we block the opening from that outside ourselves and close the gate to those who would bring us misfortune, we can live without toil or struggle. When we leave the opening unprotected and meddle in affairs outside of what the way teaches us, we live without hope.

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When we follow the words of Confucius when he reminds us that just as things have their roots and branches, those that know what comes first and last may approach the Tao.

When we understand what motivates those around us and events when they are small, we can be quick to change our behavior and magnify our vision.

When we learn to trust our vision, we can see beyond ourselves and live beyond our death. When we live beyond our death, we can become free to travel the universe with the dragons as our virtue becomes us.

Li His-Chai says, “The Way is the mother of all things. Things are the children of the Way. In ancient times, those who possessed the Way were able to keep mother and children from parting and the Way and things together. Since things come from the Way, they J231are no different from the Way, just as children are no different from their mother. And yet people abandon things when they search for the Way. Is this any different from abandoning the children while searching for the mother? If people knew that things are the Way, and children are the mother, they would find the source in everything they meet.

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Confucius says, “Things have their roots and branches. Those know what comes first and last approach the Tao (Tahsueh: intro).

Hsuan-Tsung says, “If someone can see an event while it is still small and can change his behavior, we say he has vision.”Tung Ssu-Ching says, “People are born when they receive breath. Breath is their mother. And spirit dwells in their breath. When children care for their mother, their breaths become one and their spirits become still.

Verse 53 – Gently guiding Others

 Slow down and let your virtue lead the way. Stay fixed to the Great Way not letting distractions lead you astray. Stay focused on doing nothing and do everything simply with that you have learned by following the Tao.

Just as others look to you for direction, you must first gather them up like laundry, put them in the same basket, wash and dry them, then sort them in an orderly fashion.  Folded and put away they await their turn to come to the forefront for all to see.

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Instead of pushing certain things to happen, sit back and let your nature gently guide those around you. Instead of being in such a hurry, taking shortcuts and finding nothing but trouble, let events play themselves out. While the sage remains ahead by staying behind, his only concern is leading people down such a path.

However, as events play themselves out, he remains always ready to show the next step along the way.

Ku His-Ch’ou says, “The Tao is not hard to know, but it is hard to follow”.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Lao Tzu was concerned that rulers of his day did not follow the Great Way. Hence, he hypothesized that if he knew enough to conduct the affairs of a country, he would follow the Great Way and devote himself to implementing the policy of doing nothing.”

Lu Hsi-Sheng says, “The Great Way is like a grand thoroughfare: smooth and easy to travel, perfectly straight and free of detours, and there is nowhere it doesn’t lead. But people are in a hurry. They take short cuts and get into trouble and become lost and don’t reach their destination. The sage only worries about leading people down the wrong path.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “When the court ignores the affairs of state to beautify its halls and interrupts farm work to build towers and pavilions, the people’s energy ends up at court, and fields turn to weeds. Once fields turn to weeds, state taxes are not paid and granaries become empty. And once granaries are empty, the country becomes poor, and the people become rebellious. When the court dazzles the people with fine clothes, and threatens people with sharp swords, and takes from the people more that it needs, this is no different than robbing them.

Living beyond illusion… Can we simply be an allegory of ourselves?

Verses 54 and 55 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

Ho Shang Kung says, “We cultivate the Tao in ourselves by cherishing our breath and by nourishing our spirit and thus by prolonging our life.

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We cultivate the Tao in the family by being loving as a parent, filial as a child, kind as an elder, obedient as the younger, dependable as a husband, and chaste as a wife.

We cultivate the Tao in the village by honoring the aged and caring for the young, by teaching the benighted and

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Ritual at the Confucius Temple in Qufu

instructing the perverse.

We cultivate the Tao in the state by being honest as an official and loyal as an aide.

We cultivate the Tao in the world by letting things change without giving orders. 

Lao Tzu asks how we know that those who cultivate the Tao prosper and those who ignore the Tao perish. We know by comparing those who don’t cultivate the Tao with those who do.”

What is an allegory but a representation of an abstract or spiritual meaning through concrete or material forms; as if, through our mind’s eye it must be the real thing. Perhaps even as a metaphor used to suggest a resemblance with something else. AC16With the adage seeing is believing is the real thing. It’s what great writing does in taking us there. For myself, it is as the sage with my best times remembered as the dragon as intoned by the ancients. To give figurative treatment of one subject under the guise, or semblance, of another.

As if our highest endeavor can only be found as our true selves above the clouds – again.  As we use ourselves as the symbolical narrative in telling the story that conveys even our own ultimate destiny. As if in living each day can we know what is real or something we imagined and even question if it can really even have mattered in the end.

If nothing more, it helps or guides us to find a place we may not have otherwise Ju2known asking if we were really present, or just acting as some semblance of ourselves. Or as in that old Lone Ranger episode we watched as kids all those years ago, often the only question remaining was “who was that masked man?” As if he too was only an allegory simply chasing after his own highest endeavor and destiny. In the end until the next episode always saying, “Hi Ho Silver… away”. But aren’t we all simply re-defining who we are meant to become.

Keeping with “My Travels with Lieh Tzu”, something I wrote many years ago seems to fit the universal nature we all eventually find and embrace.  The below entry seems to fit the times.

Changing Clothes

Forever reaching for the next rung on the ladder that must be followed. Beyond earthly endeavors. Attachments strewn about like dirty clothes waiting for their place in the right laundry basket.

One’s life simply the process of cleaning the clothes previously worn that must be recycled over and over again. To be constantly reborn. Anything that is seen of paramount importance only a test to be mailed in after you have found and corrected your own mistakes.

Outcomes only determined by lessons learned with only yourself checking and knowing the right answers. Mistakes although constantly repeated. Leading only to an eternity of self‑fulfilling prophecies of our own unwillingness to follow the ultimate path we know must be taken.

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Finding the courage to change. Leaving behind patterns filled with adversity we have come to know as a life support. Forever keeping us down as a one-thousand-pound weight around our shoulders. Continually given the eternal chance to change. To keep living until we get it right as we live and die simply by letting go.

Finally finding the ladder. Cautious steps of optimism leading to places previously unheard of and unseen.  Knowing that eternal truth lies only in the steps that must be followed. Never looking back, thereby losing your balance the constant order of the day.

Be forever the agent of change. Knowing that the content found by others with everything as it remains is not the way things ultimately will be. Remaining forever unattached, letting go and finding yourself in clothes that are eternally clean.     12/30/94

What is the purpose of seeing things in allegorical terms, except to take or see things beyond the norm, or how we see ourselves in context with what cannot be seen or perhaps even known. Questioning what we think is given as a premise for what we believe is true. Great writing has always done this. As a literary device, an allegory is a metaphor in which a character, place or event is used to deliver a broader message about real-world issues and occurrences. Allegory has occurred widely throughout history in all forms of art, largely because it can readily illustrate or convey complex ideas and concepts in ways that are comprehensible or striking to its viewers, readers, or listeners.

An example can be seen in the poem ‘Harlem’ about the African American experience Ju4during the first half of the 20th century, Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967) uses objects like ‘a raisin in the sun’ and a ‘festering sore’ to describe what he thinks happens when dreams are put off or Ju5deferred. The images are powerful because they give a memorable and concrete idea of the ill effects of unrealized dreams. Writers, like Langston Hughes, frequently feature symbolism in their work, using an object, person, animal or even color to stand in for an abstract idea. His poetry and fiction portrayed the lives of the working-class blacks in America, lives he portrayed as full of struggle, joy, laughter, and music. Hughes was from Joplin, Missouri where I grew up, but lived many places in his professional life, mainly in New York. I  always liked Hughes writing because he saw beyond what was a given, to what could become real if only we could see it in ourselves, perhaps if only in our dreams.

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It is said that measuring the stature of great men by the yardstick of the small is difficult at best.  As if raising the bar never becomes too much to expect as we become guided by our peers, our becoming worthy of what I like to refer to as dragons. Almost to the point of saying… are we asking too much of ourselves and those around us to have that mountaintop experience.

For the Taoist and Lao Tzu, the answer can only lie in “are we being true to ourselves”. For the sage the question becomes in seeing beyond our feeble ego, we see a world that nature provides as it asks “are we to make the most of it.” 

I was 100_5409here on the East peak in October 2018 spending two nights atop Hu Shan Mountain in celebration on my sixty-sixth birthday for the sunrise. I have returned many times ti mountains in China for my own continuing “Mountain top” experience.

Finding the perfect segue for what comes next is a challenge, in that it presupposes a leap of faith to what I call the storyteller’s dilemma. It’s not simply telling the story but becoming the story as well. To be outside the limitations living brings you to allow others to see themselves in the story as participants. You don’t simply tell the story of dragons resting on clouds in the sky. You become one with the dragons, beyond earthly endeavors where much is expected and appreciation for how far you’ve come has been acknowledged and you are humbled as you take your next step. For thousands of years the shaman perfected and prepared others for the journey. Some got it as if innately knowing the next step, others never did.

One must have Merit

To be one with dragons requires great strength and demands discipline. Leadership requires courage based simply on merit. A cause pursued for or by dragons must be pursued with merit.  If not, the cause must be abandoned.

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Arise from obscurity and retirement. Find your place in the Tao and find a oneness with the universe. Requests from Heaven are difficult to comprehend on both land and water.

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Without strength, the most sincere and righteous cause will not prevail. Find patience and your inner chi, or breath, and you will find strength. Find strength in the Tao and you will come to know dragons in the sky.

Once merit is found discipline can follow. Finding courage brings respect from friends and neighbors.

To find balance and harmony one must be worthy of dragons. To be one with dragons one must have merit to be seen dancing on clouds in the sky.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (7 THE ARMY / Earth over Water). 2/8/94   The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Another common use of allegory in language is what is called the parable.

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Described as a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson. Usually a statement or comment that conveys a meaning  indirectly by the use of comparison, analogy, or the like. One of the most famous in Chinese Taoist history is attributed to the Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu) (369 BC to 286 BC), and the story of the butterfly dream, which serves as an articulation of Taoism’s challenge toward definitions of reality vs. illusion.

The story, as translated by Lin Yutang, goes like this:

“Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. Between a man and a butterfly there is necessarily a distinction. The transition is called transformation of material things.”

This short story points to a number of interesting and much-explored philosophical issues, stemming from the relationship between the waking-state and the dream-state, and/or between illusion and reality: How do we know when we’re dreaming, and when we’re awake?

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How do we know if what we’re perceiving is “real” or a mere “illusion” or “fantasy”? Is the “me” of various dream-characters the same as or different from the “me” of my waking world? How do I know, when I experience something I call “waking up,” that it is actually a waking up to “reality” as opposed to simply waking up into another level of dream? Or as Langston Hughes I think would remind us… that when awakened from the dream of our current state of affairs, we should be ready to move beyond the dream to the reality of to as he says, fixing the broken wing and being prepared to fly to what is awaiting us.

I have read and written about Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream for more than twenty years. One of my favorite descriptions is Robert Allison’s “Chuang-tzu for Spiritual Transformation”. Employing the language of western philosophy, Robert Allison, in his book Chuang Tzu for Spiritual Transformation: An Analysis of the Inner Chapters (New York: SUNY Press, 1989),  presents a number of possible interpretations of Chuang-tzu’s Butterfly Dream parable, and then offers his own, in which he interprets the story as a metaphor for spiritual awakening.

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In support of this argument, Mr. Allison also presents a less well-known passage from the Chuang-tzu, known as the Great Sage Dream anecdote. In this analysis rare echoes of  Advaita Vedanta’s Yoga Vasistha, and it also brings to mind also the tradition of Zen koans as well as Buddhist “valid cognition” reasonings. It also reminds one of the works of Wei Wu Wei who, like Mr. Allison, uses the conceptual tools of western philosophy to present the ideas and insights of the non-dual eastern traditions. Mr. Allison begins his exploration of Chuang-tzu’s Butterfly Dream anecdote by presenting two frequently used interpretive frameworks: (1) the “confusion hypothesis” and (2) the “endless (external) transformation hypothesis.” For myself, it is the “endless transformation” each of us endeavor to travel that is most intriguing and worth following.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote Ju12in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 54 and 55 appear below. Verses 1 through 53 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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 54 – While cultivating his garden the world comes forth to meet the Sage

What is this thing called virtue and this personal quest we each must come to know? Where does virtue begin and how does it grow and manifest to guide us once we see ourselves in the Tao?  Once found, how do we let our virtue transcend our everyday desires so that we may see beyond ourselves to discover our rightful place in the universe?

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To the sage the world reaches no further than his garden. He remains guided by planting things right so they cannot be uprooted and knowing what is nurtured cannot be ripped away.  He cultivates his garden as if tending his virtue.  He then cultivates others by reaching out to bequeath what is noble, pure and found only in the Tao.

Cultivating ourselves our virtue becomes real, cultivated in our family it multiplies, in the place we live virtue only increases and we prosper.  In the world virtue thus expanding everywhere.

In both perceived beginnings and endings, the sage looks no further than within himself. Staying completely still, within his true self the world comes forth to emulate him.

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Wu Ch’eng says, “Those who plant it right, plant without planting. Thus, it is never uprooted. Those who hold it right, hold without holding. Thus, it is never ripped away.”

Wang An-Shih says, “What we plant right is virtue. What we hold right is oneness. When virtue flourishes, distant generations give praise.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “In ancient times, ancestral worship consisted in choosing an auspicious day before the full moon, in fasting, in selecting sacrificial animals, in purifying ritual vessels, in preparing a feast on the appointed day, in venerating ancestors as if they were present, and in thanking them for their virtuous example. Those who cultivate the Way likewise enable future generations to enjoy the fruits of the cultivation.”

Yen Tsun says, “Let your body be the yardstick of other bodies. Let your family be the level of other families. Let your village be the square of other villages. Let your state be the plumb line of other states. As for the world, the ruler is its heart, and the world is his body.”

Verse 55 – Gaining a firm grip on lasting Abundance

What does it mean to have lasting abundance when we leave our virtue behind?  How can we be full of breath, yet not know how to make our breath endure? If our essence remains within us, why does our virility stand in the way?

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When you become simply an extension of the Tao, you go as if mindless through your endeavors. Without a mind, you have no thoughts or desires. You proceed fearless unaware of what may harm you or that you could possibly harm another.

Once you become aware that you are a part of something bigger than yourself and have a firm grip on the direction you must take, only then can you begin to focus your mind and cultivate the Tao. When your mind does not stray and a certain serenity surrounds you, then your breath can become balanced.

The sage focuses on his breath because when it becomes balanced his essence is stable, his spirit serene and his true nature is restored.

Controlling his breath, he endures and finds his true nature. Understanding his true nature, he is able to impart wisdom to others. He becomes unconcerned and extending his life as his spirit is uncluttered and has already rediscovered its place in what has been what may occur now and where he will spend eternity.  The sage has no fear of death because he knows his essence, or spirit, remains eternal.

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Wang P’ang says, “The nature of virtue is lasting abundance. But its abundance fades with the onset of thoughts and desires.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “Those who cultivate the Tao should first focus their minds. When the mind doesn’t stray, it becomes calm. When the mind becomes calm, breath becomes balanced. When breath becomes balanced, essence becomes stable, spirit becomes serene, and our true nature becomes restored. Once we know how to breathe, we know how to endure. And once we know how to endure, we know our true nature. If we don’t know our true nature but only know how to nourish our body and lengthen our lives, we end up harming our body and destroying our lives. A restless mind disturbs the breath. When the breath is disturbed, the essence weakens. And when the essence weakens, the body withers.”

Hsun-Tzu says, “Everything must breathe to live. When we know how to breathe, we know how to nurture life and how to endure”.

Sung Ch’ang says, “The basis of life rests on this breath. If someone can nourish the pure and balanced breath within himself for fifteen minutes, he will discover the principal of Heaven and Earth’s immortality. If he can do this for half an hour, he will gain the gate of eternity. But if he tries to extend his life or force his breath, he will create the womb of his destruction.”

Mou-Tzu says, “Those who attain the Way don’t become active and don’t become strong. They don’t become strong and they don’t become old. They don’t become old and don’t become ill. They don’t become ill and don’t decay. Thus, Lao Tzu calls the body a disaster” (32).

Chapter 3

Verse 56 – You must be the Change you want to see in the World.

Should the path of the sage be drawn to only finding his own place in the scheme of the universe once he becomes the embodiment of the Tao, or should he depart from his first inclination and devote himself to bringing others along the way to find it for themselves?

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Following his instincts, he knows he must first find comfort in where he has been, where his path leads and where his final destination will take him.

Once he is self-assured that he speaks with one voice and his actions speak for themselves, he can begin preparing for the greatest challenge the Tao and the universe can offer.

For thousands of years the sage has taken the back seat in the development of the world. Preferring to follow the traditional path to enlightenment concerned only with his own path, his own voice and his own actions.

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His virtue alone carries his spirit from past encounters along destiny’s doorstep. How much greater his role could be if he could use his place in the Tao to lead the way.

Giving others his light, they too can perhaps begin to shine their own and find their own path as well. To be the door others can use to open their own spirit to find their way. This could be the ultimate role of the sage, his highest endeavor. To lead without harming others and to live as Gandhi said…

“To be the change you want to see in the world”, by doing nothing more than by simply showing the way.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Those who know value deeds not words. A team of horses can’t overtake the tongue. More talk means more problems”.

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Ts’ao Tao-Ch’ung says, “Those who grasp the truth forget about words. Those who don’t practice what they talk about are no different from those who don’t know.”

Wang Pi says, “If something can be embraced, it can be abandoned. If something can be helped, it can be harmed. If something can be exalted, it can be debased.”

Te-Ching says, “The sage transcends the mundane and the superficial, hence he cannot be embraced. His utter honesty enables others to see, hence he cannot be abandoned. He is content and free of desires. Hence, he cannot be helped. He dwells beyond life and death; hence he cannot be harmed. He views high position as so much dust, hence he cannot be exalted. Beneath his rags he harbors jade, hence he cannot be debased. The sage walks in the world, yet his mind transcends the material realm. Hence he is exalted by the world.”

Wei Yuan says, “Those who seal the opening and close the gate don’t love or hate, hence they don’t embrace or abandon anything. Those who dull the edge and untie the tangle don’t seek help, and thus they suffer no harm. Those who soften the light and join the dust don’t exalt themselves, and thus they are not debased by others. Forgetting self and other, they experience Dark Union with the Tao. Those who have not yet experienced this Dark Union unite with ‘this’ and separate from ‘that’. To unite means to embrace, to help, to exalt. To separate means to abandon, to harm, to debase. Those who experience Dark Union unite with nothing. From what, then, could they separate.

Verse 57 – Becoming one with the dust of the World

The words of the sage cannot be heard. It is through his actions that he leads the way.

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Leading with simple virtue he remains quiet and unassuming.

When he talks he does so in almost a whisper so that others have to listen carefully so that nothing is missed. By controlling his breath, he focuses on self-control and stays away from extremes. To bring forth the virtue in the world he begins by transcending his human frailties and accepting his destiny and where it takes him.

In mirroring those around him, he begins by knowing when to enter and when to exit. As if he were sealing an opening or staying behind to close the gate. He focuses on dulling the edges and untying tangles to still the spirits.

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He softens the light and joins the dust to adapt all things to the proper way. He unties all things but leaves no trace as if he was never there.

Transcending himself the sage cannot be embraced, cannot be abandoned, cannot be helped and cannot be harmed.

He cannot be exalted or debased. While uniting with nothing, there is nothing that does not unite with him. Yet there is nothing he does not do or has not done.

Sun Tzu says, “In waging war, one attacks with direction, one wins with indirection” (5-5).

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Su Ch’e says, “The ancients sages were kind to strangers and gentle to friends. They didn’t think about warfare. Only when they had no choice did they fight. And when they did, they used indirection. But indirection can’t be used to rule the world. The world is a mercurial thing. To conquer it is to lose it. Those who embody the Tao do nothing. They don’t rule the world, and yet the world comes to them.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “In cultivating the Tao, the sage accepts the will of Heaven. He doesn’t change things, and the people transform themselves. He prefers not to talk or teach, and the people correct themselves. He doesn’t force others to work, and the people become rick in their occupations. He doesn’t use ornaments or luxuries, and the people emulate his simple ways.”

Wang Pi says, “Prohibitions are intended to put an end to poverty, and yet the people become poorer. Weapons are intended to strengthen the country, and yet the country becomes weaker and more confused. This is due to cultivating the branches instead of the roots.”

We should help others to see themselves as the person they would hope to be.

Verses 58 and 59 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

In governing people and caring for Heaven, nothing surpasses economy. Economy means planning ahead. Planning ahead mean accumulating virtue. Accumulating virtue means overcoming all and overcoming all means knowing no limit.

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Knowing no limit mean guarding the realm. Guarding the realm’s mother means living long. This means deep roots and a solid trunk are the way of long and lasting life. Developing this by remaining humble and teachable, not dogmatic within our own view and limitations. Acknowledging that you might be wrong about something is I think the key. Raising our consciousness by being open to change and transformed by what we see, do, and hear as we are all simply expressions of the Tao (God).

What is it that a teacher does, but to take us on a great journey beyond the limitations of who we thought we were or knew? That inspiration literally means the act of breathing, of taking it all in. To look before we leap. With guarding one’s breath seen as protecting the body’s mother. Understanding ancient teachings helps us to recognize our path when we see it and knowing that when we are truly ready the teacher appears.

In China teachers are revered for what they do to inspire and prepare students in school, as well as, society in general. In Qufu, the birthplace of Confucius, it has a special meaning. Teaching in Qufu, following the tradition of Confucius who was the ultimate teacher in Shandong Province, and especially in his hometown was amazing.

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For me to live across the street from the Confucius Temple and Mansion and teach at the school where his descendants went to school was an honor. Many of my closest friends who live in Qufu and Shandong Province are his descendants.

There is even a special holiday every year in May for teachers in China. To have friends and students whose families have lived here for hundreds of years who could trace their family’s living in the same hutong (house in town), or village nearby is pretty remarkable. Visiting my students at home was always an experience for their family and many times their whole village or community.

Often when I was walking down the street in Qufu, people would stop and bow and say hello, or good morning teacher. Most knew me as Kongdan (my Chinese name), and that I had published the Unity Daily Word many years earlier in western Shandong Province.

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The China Daily Word is considered a family keepsake for many of those who have a copy and has been seen by more than 3 million people. I was well known and people appreciated having foreign teachers who were there to prepare their children for the world they would later confront in the workforce and global society. It was as if China was preparing to step out of it’s ancient history and into the modern world. They wanted their kids to lead the way and education was the key to that occurring. China takes education much more seriously than we do here in USA. (It’s like the SAT in USA times a thousand). The competitive exams to get into the best high schools and universities are fierce and grades determine the student’s future. Banners often fly at all the schools in Qufu admonishing students to follow in the words of Confucius. One in particular I recall “Education breeds confidence. Confidence breed hope. Hope breeds peace.”

If parents can afford it, they often send their kids to schools far away from home in high school urging them to study hard for the college entrance exam they must ultimately pass for success. The ancient story below describing “The frog in the well”, describes this dilemma very well. In Qufu at Qufu #1 Middle School (high school) over 6,000 students live on campus, along with most of their teachers. Classes are six days a week from 8 AM to 4:30 PM. Then students return to their class from 6:30 to 9 PM every day, yes six days a week. They are required to return Sunday evening to review and prepare for the coming week. USA cannot begin to compete with that and does not appear to even be trying.

Due to the one child policy, (recently amended), with only one child in the family, a family’s prospects for the future rides solely on their son or daughter’s ability to test well for high school or college.

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Oftentimes, if they could not do well it would be back to the village and farm in the country-side. Today, because there are so many university graduates who want to be English teachers, the government has raised the bar even higher with the final exam after graduation from college. Fewer can qualify because there are so many of them.

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Many of my students who intended to be teachers are now in import-export business, work for airlines in China, or even as tour guides. The exams are given twice a year. Some even quit their jobs to focus solely on preparing to take the exam next time. As if still at the bottom of the well unable to jump high enough to escape the inevitable.

I have been involved with the middle and high schools in Qufu for over eighteen years because of the Sister City Young Artist Program between Boynton Beach, Florida (where I lived from 1995 to 2015) and have also Jy6lived and taught in Qufu over the years.

My daughter Katie with several university students who volunteered to be “tutors” for her at her school

While I was teaching in Qufu, my daughter Katie, who was with me, attended 8th and 9th grade in Qufu as well.

Below is an original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (9 SMALL CATTLE / Wind over Heaven). 2/9/94 An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching. It can be found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Prospects for Rain

New beginnings can often bring a sense of insecurity, apprehension and conflict. Lack of communication brings one to quarreling, misunderstandings and misfortune.

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Waiting for dragons to bring forth good fortune and rain is tenuous at best and can lead to anxiety and false expectations if one is not prepared to venture out. Maintaining and forging trust and integrity within oneself determines both direction and one’s fate.  In either rain or drought, or in sickness and health. All good things come to those who carry no guilt.

How one deals with misfortune reveals one’s true self and integrity.  Punishments can be expected by those who exploit others. Keeping to false self interests thereby causing others misfortune will also lead to disaster.

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Keep an eternal sense of oneself by understanding clarity found in your inner chi and know peace and come to know the way of virtue.

Step back and know the outcome of your actions. Nature will always find the true course. Anticipate and rely on the coming rain. New beginnings require it, integrity trusts it, and so it shall be. ##

While in Qufu, I marveled at the people who seemed to literally spend their days doing little if anything to what most would attribute to doing work or something that might be defined as work. It was as if they were beyond work.

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It cost so little to live there that if you chose that particular lifestyle, then that life would come the greet you and you would decide to stay. And you would find comfort in this and say to yourself… this feels pretty good.  At first, I thought this must be a Confucius thing. That knowing who you are and having over 2500 years of history to back it up meant “I can find happiness in being just who I am” without all the attachments living beyond oneself brings and be happy with who we are and as such aspire to nothing beyond this because this is the best life can bring…. or so it seems. I found the same attitude in other cities as well. I especially appreciate Chengdu in Sichuan Province and this feeling of “being beyond work”, and what it meant. People’s Park tea house which I will discuss in a later post, especially exhibited this laid-back feeling of “finding comfort within your own skin”, to the point of harmony with your environment that was pervasive as well as addictive.

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There seemed to be an unwritten connection between Buddhism and Taoism in Chengdu that has flourished over the centuries in the way people go about how they lived every day. It was both invigorating and enlightening… and hard to describe. As if yes… the fabled Shangri La could not be too far away.

Shangri–La is a place described in the fictional book Lost Horizon by James Hilton. The British author created a mystical and utopian valley led by the gentle lamasery located in the western part of the Kunlun Mountains in China.

There is a similar phrase ‘La dolce vita’ meaning the good life, full of pleasure and indulgence popularized in Italy by a movie with the same title. Basically, having the means to live comfortably where you are with whatever you are doing. This phrase entered the language following the success of the 1960 film La Dolce Vita written and directed by Federico Fellini.

The Frog in the Well

This brings to mind the ancient story of the frog that lived in the bottom of a well. He Jy11was happy living an uneventful yet what he thought was a full life until he got the attention of another frog (some stories say it was a turtle) who happened one day to appear at the top of the well and learning what would appear as what his limited life brought him.  Once he learned of what he was missing being stuck at the bottom of the well, he at first became quite miserable.  The story could just as easily refer to my students when the distance to jump can appear as way too high. Too many of them and too few jobs that required knowledge of English. Or those living in Qufu or returning to the countryside happy to live within their means with just what they know and have.

Then for the students, most of them from villages in the country-side, a teacher, a Jy12philosopher as such who knew the teachings of the ancient sages appeared and reminded them of who they are and from where they came… as centuries earlier their predecessors had all come from the top of the well and they had made the choice to jump in and that they found themselves at the bottom of the well by choice. 

That they had become so comfortable here at the bottom of the well they had Jy13forgotten what lay outside the comforts of what they considered as home. This teacher was a new age philosopher whose task, or mission, was to rewrite the words of the ancients in order that they have life again after all the centuries that have gone by. He too had chosen to jump in and join them at the bottom of the well.  He had mysteriously been able to join them many times in the past having the means they did not possess so that he could come and go as he pleased. His presence only to help them rise above limitations they had found and to teach them how to fly.

That in the end what would it matter if the happiness they found here at the bottom Jy14of the well was enough or not or so they may have thought. However, just in case they spent all their time learning the language spoken outside the well… but possessed a lack of ability to climb out of the well once and for all.  That they should/could find the happiness they had known before being told what they were missing by doing nothing at the bottom of the well they now called Jy15home. Hadn’t they been taught by their greatest teacher Confucius that it was not where they are but who they are that was ultimately important. That they were to bring something to the table of life more important than what attachments and money could buy which was to find their niche, to have a sense of benevolence for all, and know and be thyself.

They knew the whole world looked to the teachings of the ancient sages. That their ancestors had originally been from this place. They knew all the stories about why they were here at the bottom of the well… that at some point they had been enticed to jump in. While now none of them thought they could leave, they must do more to entice other “friends from afar” to come join them at the bottom of the well who could help them to find a way to climb out.

They knew the teachings of Confucius by rote or so they thought. His teachings now but a shell of their former selves after being changed by commentaries over the centuries and adapted to suit whoever was in charge at the moment.  But they in fact innately felt they lived by them by finding and doing nothing more than being themselves. To ultimately achieve a transformation of consciousness, that takes them to places they otherwise would never go.

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The original ‘The Frog in the Well’ was written well over a thousand years ago. I wrote and adapted my own version in December 2010 and made additions later while teaching at Jining University in Qufu and Qufu Normal School teaching English to students who feel bound by where they now reside as they too endeavor to climb out of the well.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote Jy17in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 58 and 59 appear below. Verses 1 through 55 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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.

Verse 58 – Bringing the World along for the Ride

 The sage understands that most things under the sun are temporal, things coming and going with no lasting impact or purpose.

That once a certain direction becomes popular, indirection is what succeeds and that those who can remain still and inactive ultimately come forth to have the final say.

The sage knows that it is when we attempt to conquer the world we lose it. That the greater the prohibitions, the poorer the people become. The sharper the weapons, the greater the chances we will live in darkness.

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The more we scheme, the more complicated the outcome becomes. The greater the treasure, the more people strive for things outside themselves. Therefore, the sage changes nothing and the people transform themselves. He stays still and the people come to their senses. He does nothing, neither talking nor teaching and the people correct themselves thereby enriching themselves.

Wanting nothing, everyone around him simplifies himself or herself. By accepting the will of heaven, the sage brings others to enlightenment. By knowing the final outcome his virtue remains intact. With his virtue intact, the sage simply continues along on his way.

Jy19Hsuan-Tsung says, “To stand aloof is to be relaxed and unconcerned. To open up is to be simple and honest. The ruler who governs without effort lets things take care of themselves.”

Li His-Chai says, “When the government makes no demands, the people respond with openness instead of cleverness. When the government makes demands, the people use every means to escape. When government that stands aloof leaves power with the people. The government that steps in takes their power away. As one gains, the other loses. As one meets with happiness, the other encounters misery.”

Wang P’ang says, “Everything shares the same breath. But the movement of this breath comes and goes. It ends only to begin again. Hence happiness and misery alternate like the seasons. But only the sage realizes this. Hence, in everything he does, he aims for the middle and avoids extremes, unlike the government that insists on direction and goodness and forbids indirection and evil, the government that wants the whole world to be happy and yet remains unaware that happiness alternates with misery.”

Lu Nung-Shih says, “Only those who are free of direction can transcend the appearance of good and evil and eliminate happiness and misery. For they alone know where these end. Meanwhile, those who cannot reach the state where there is no direction, who remain in the realm of good and evil, suffer happiness and misery as if they were on a wheel that carries them farther astray.”

Te-Ch’ing says, “The world withers, and the Tao fades. People are not the way they once were. They don’t know direction from indirection or good from evil. Even the sage cannot instruct them. Hence to transform them, he enters their world of confusion. He joins their dust and softens his light. And he leaves no trace.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The sage’s inaction is inaction that is not inaction. Edges always cut. But the edge that is not an edge doesn’t cut. Points always pierce. But the point that is not a point doesn’t pierce. Lines always extend. But a line that is not a line doesn’t extend. Lights always blind. But a light that is not a light doesn’t blind. All of these are examples of inaction.”

Verse 59 – Remaining as an edge the does not Cut

Traveling back in time when I was one with my contemporaries; Lao, Lieh, Chuang, and yes even Kong (Confucius), I am reminded of times spent debating the great thoughts of the day, serving the emperor only a way to expand the path that should be taken.

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The Eternal Dragon   Wuhan Temple

Facilitating order, eschewing the truth only found in cause and effect continually reminded that there is no right or wrong. That one’s destiny is only vaguely tied to our endeavors we become attached to in the here and now. Keeping happiness at arm’s length knowing it can only be followed by sadness. Both alternatives as if seasons.

Repeating through the ages the axiom that when either government or that governed stand aloof, the people remain relaxed and unconcerned as the sage remains in the background. Letting things take care of themselves, he is content to be free of direction as if blown along by the wind. Transcending uncertainty, he can see where everything begins and ends.

While the world withers and the Tao ebbs and flows, the sage remains content to remain as the edge that does not cut, as a point that does not pierce, as a line that does not extend and a light that does not blind.

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By entering the world of seeming confusion he extends the Tao to the world and shows the way. Living in paradox and knowing where things end he begins to transform all those around him.

Li His-Chai says, “Outside, we govern others. Inside, we care for Heaven. In both, nothing surpasses economy. Those that are economical are economical in everything. They’re watchful within and on guard without. Only if we are still, does virtue have a place to collect.”

Mencius says, “The way we care for Heaven is by guarding our minds and nourishing our natures” (7A.1).

Wang Tso says, “Caring for Heaven means preserving what one receives from Heaven. It means cultivating oneself.”

Li Jung says, “When the ruler maintains the Tao, the country is at peace. When he fails to maintain the Tao, the country is in chaos. The country is the offspring. The Tao is the Mother.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The realm is the metaphor of the body. Breath is the body’s mother. Breath that has no limit can preserve the body. Someone who fills themselves with breath can conquer the world and remain unharmed. Breath rises from below as if from the roots of a tree. By nourishing the roots, the roots grow deep. Breath flourishes above as the trunk of a tree does. By nourishing the trunk, the trunk grows firm. Thus, the tree does not wither.”

Joseph Campbell meets the Frog in the Well (continued from previous post) and the transformation of our consciousness  

Verses 60 and 61 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

If you don’t subscribe to Netflix, you should. Even if short-term. There is a D13phenomenal interview done between Bill Moyer and Joseph Campbell you should watch over and over again. It is well worth your time. It is about the power of myth and its role in our discovering who we are and how our consciousness transforms, shapes, and commits us to change. Campbell ultimately is a teacher. It is here I continue our story.

What is it a teacher does, but to teach a new way of consciousness and how to think AM7for ourselves. That it is the trials of the journey we see in the book “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell, that propel each of us to our transformation and ultimate destination, often even meaning the return to our source.

That it is the trials one faces on the journey knowing that there can be no reward without renunciation, paying a price. This is often the process of losing who we thought we were. We can see this in the Frog in the Well story where the frog initially only thinks of himself through his limited knowledge due to his environment. That for us our primary task is to stop thinking only of ourselves, our own self-protection. Often this means giving ourselves to another. We see this in others jumping down in the well without regards to their own safety.

What Campbell is speaking to is this transformation of consciousness. In effect, moving from one way of thinking to another.

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To the point that you now have to think differently. This transformation is caused by trials and illumination, i.e., seeing the light. That it is through trials and revelations that we move forward thinking… ya, I can do that. The power of myth is that it has always been the hero figure who we model ourselves after. Ultimately it is when we act on instinct (look within) that we achieve our goal and in the case of the frog (my students), they learn seeing beyond ourselves (who we think we are), to who we are yet to become. Campbell uses the analogy, the myth of Star Wars, to show how we are all connected ultimately to what he calls finding our bliss and not being afraid to follow it.

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For the teacher it is helping others see the vitality within themselves. That it is out of your center that has to be known and held – that the action comes. In Buddhism we often refer to nirvana.

Nirvana is a psychological state of mind. It’s not like heaven, it is here in the midst of our daily turmoil (called samsara), your life’s conditions. Nirvana comes when you are not compelled by desire or by fear. When you hold to your center and act out of there. The Buddha doesn’t show you the truth, he illuminates the way YOU are to follow. All a teacher can do is give you a direction… as if a lighthouse with a beam of light you must follow for yourself. 

The whole idea of the frog in the well myth is to bring us into a consciousness that is spiritual that speaks directly to us as we move into the light.

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The key is letting go and using the force of our imagination to take us there. To remain where we are or look upward and move towards the light. To be prepared and ready for it when we see it. Campbell calls it a manifestation of your character. However, the conditions have to match the readiness of someone who can then find this for themselves. The key is the achievement must be one we are ready for.

The desire to step out and say, “yes I can do this”. Hence the value of the teacher showing the way. It becomes what you are ready for is what you get. Some will find a way to get out of the well and some will not. The transformation becomes something they did not know or had forgotten they already possessed within. What I have just said is very important that relates ultimately to our spiritual growth. The power of myth helps to take us there. Raising our consciousness up to a different, or higher, level.

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To associate with the powers of nature that for the Chinese has always been the yin and yang, the I Ching. With this they can leave the well by learning how to fly. Hadn’t Confucius begun his quest all those centuries ago by studying the five ancient classics and the I Ching, the Book of Change?  Wasn’t it by looking back at what had occurred that one could know what was to come next when similar circumstances presented themselves… and who was this modern-day teacher/philosopher who kept coming and going. What could he possibly teach them they did not already know? Now he appears having written a new version of the I Ching, claims to being a Taoist philosopher and having written extensively about the Tao and Lao,Chuang, and Lieh Tzu… and knew the history of the frogs at the bottom of the well better than they knew themselves… or better said what they had always known and taken for granted or simply forgotten.

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Perhaps he was here simply to remind them.  But then isn’t all true learning re-learning what we have always known and simply forgotten. Ultimately, the true test is do we serve the system or do we change the system for the better. An even bigger question is this why we return over and over again. That if a person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life and follow a certain path, he will surely find trouble. He soon finds himself out of alignment with whom he is yet to become. That the creative spirit lies out there beyond the boundaries of the norm. As if on the edge of what is known verses what is yet to be discovered.

What a paradox living had brought their cold dark home. What was the true meaning of happiness? They had thought everyone wanted what they had… An endless supply of bugs to eat and lots of relics from their past they had brought with them to admire. Who needed a future when they had their past? Why couldn’t living in your past be enough to give you a future.

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Was it the role of this new teacher to somehow show them the way? They had learned you could be as complete a frog, or person as your spirit had taken you by embracing the past and that in itself had always been enough.

Others from outside had come along and taken the finer points of Confucius for themselves, because they could do so without the need to join those in the bottom of the well. Leaving them with a few crumbs that others infrequently threw down to seemingly make them happy with what they had left from memories of who they once were.  Having nothing to do, they had learned the happiness of doing nothing except to wait and watch for the sun to pass by each day or wishing on a star seen but for a moment overhead at night. Being left to be content with just what they had.

But then they had known the sweetness, or happiness of doing nothing and wondered why or how change could possibly bring them something they felt they already possessed. They began to understand that it was nothing more than not living beyond oneself. To not become enamored or attached to things you really have no use for. Over time it seemed everyone else wanted what they had without having to take the plunge into a deep dark well that was only lit an hour or so a day when the sun was directly overhead. They knew they must bring others to someplace they would go, if only they could go themselves without their leaving home.

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Otherwise to be left in the dark…  to be as complete a person as your spirit has taken you thus far but now frozen, or found, in the bottom of the well as if waiting for change that must inevitably occur.  Your memories however reminding you of what you are here to contribute that will lead you back to your ultimate endeavor and destiny beyond where you now find yourself in the bottom of the well.

Their new teacher or the philosopher telling them they must first overcome their fears so that they too could learn how to come and go as he does, but they can’t or won’t because they have lost the desire or knowledge of how to do so.  It seems they were not always a frog whose jump was just a few inches. That this being enamored with Confucius and looking inward had blinded them to other abilities they had always had but now never used.  That their comfort in doing nothing but rest on the laurels of Confucius had made them into something they were not… that their fear of failure was more than their need for success that the venture out of the well would lead them too. It was just too easy to stay where they were.   They just thought they were happy…  a prevailing innocence that kept them… well innocent.

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But wasn’t that what following Confucius had taught them all these centuries? Just as it is said to get to the castle you must first cross the moat… the same goes for the thoughts you have each day. They are like the clothes you decide to wear each day.

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That in reality the well they were in was an illusion they had created for themselves. As if they had intentionally dug it and then jumped in… Thinking that knowledge and Confucius would forever give them the cover they needed to maintain this happiness of doing nothing. An unaccounted-for love of being unaccountable to and for themselves except as they have been taught by the innate presence of Confucius everywhere they look.  As if he is always looking over their shoulder. As a look back shows he is always gaining on you when you are there in Qufu.

They had forgotten a neighbor of Confucius named Mencius who taught only love. That we are forever surrounded by grace and are here to be filled with love. To love the whole world and to allow our enthusiasm fill us with our gift and that we are to share that gift with everyone we meet.  Mencius lived a few centuries after Confucius and could see the hole people were digging for themselves.

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Embracing the sage who would one day overshadow all they were to become. As the philosopher, you are continually reminded that you are here to do the work…. and to make things right.  That the happiness of doing nothing begins with knowing that to forgive oneself is the first step to happiness.  That God dwells within each of us as us… Just to be happy as we meet others smiling with our mind.

To treat everyone, you meet as a member of your universal family wherever they are. Knowing when you help yourself that you are actually helping others.  Understanding that to lose your balance is sometimes just living your life you are here to live. Accepting everyone you meet as a teacher. As you spend your time crossing over to who you are yet to become by always looking through your heart all the while knowing that it will be in this way we know God.

Coming back to Qufu and the frog in the bottom of the well…  finding the sweetness of doing nothing and enjoying where that leads as you begin by knowing others as you come forward to find yourself in the Tao.  Acknowledging your role as one responsible for bringing forth the words of the ancient sage as a member of the I Ching/Confucius Society in Qufu. To be the teacher and philosopher conveying that the only limits are self-imposed. Bringing the thoughts and works of Confucius and my friends (Lao, Chuang, and Lieh Tzu) forward as I endeavor to help others climb or even fly from the well themselves.

Below is an original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (10 TREADING / Heaven over Lake). 2/9/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

Finding One’s Step

The day of great importance has arrived. A great journey is commencing. The dragons are curious.

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Is there sincerity present? Is peace and harmony ever apparent?  The day has arrived.  Draw no attention to yourself  keeping to the back  woods, the mountains, streams and lakes.

Your feet must not stumble. It is important that you have worn the right shoes. With beating heart and trembling hands the way ahead requires endurance.

Concentrating on one step at a time. Focusing only on the path ahead. When trouble arrives remaining alert to peril, looking ahead and watching one’s step as one with nature secure in following the way of knowledge.

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The dragons interest has peaked. Others have come this way and failed. these footprints appear to be true. A great journey is commencing.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Jul11Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 60 and 61 appear below. Verses 1 through 59 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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.

Verse 60 – The Way of long and lasting Life

Calmness and economy, two traits the sage follows instinctively. In becoming still, the sage turns to his breath and then his thoughts. When his thoughts are calm, his virtue remains within. When his breathing is clear, he is reminded of his center and being at one with the Tao and all things. By embracing economy, the sage can possess what he needs without using more than his spirit requires thereby keeping his virtue intact.

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Planning ahead the sage accumulates virtue, accumulating virtue means that he overcomes all. Overcoming all he knows no limit. Knowing no limit, he can return to the Tao as if guarding what is real. Knowing this, he takes care of his body and breath. Caring for his body he remains unharmed.

He stays behind as if one thousand years old. His roots nourished by the breath of ten thousand things. Maintaining deep roots and a solid trunk the sage prospers adhering to the way of virtue letting his branches and leaves breathe through eternity.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “If you cook a small fish, don’t remove its entrails, don’t scrape off it’s scales and don’t eat it. If you do, it will turn to mush. Likewise, too much government makes those below rebel, and too much cultivation makes vitality wither.”

Wang Chen says, “The government that takes peace as its basis doesn’t lose the Way. When the government doesn’t lose the Way, yin and yang are in harmony. When yin and yang are in harmony, wind and rain arrive on time. When wind and rain arrive on time, the spirit world is at peace. When the spirit world is at peace, the legions of demons can’t perform their sorcery.”

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Su Ch’e says, “The inaction of the sage makes people content with the way they are. Outside, nothing troubles them. Inside, nothing frightens them. Even spirits have no means of using their powers. It isn’t that spirits have no powers. They have powers, but they don’t use then to harm people. The reason people and spirits don’t harm each other is because they look up to the sage. Ans the sage never harms anyone.

Verse 61 – Harmony finding the Way

Bringing harmony to all around him, the sage is reminded of cooking a small fish. Too much attention and the fish turn to mush, too little and it soon burns. Harmony can only flourish when each is allowed to find its own way. Some fish will become mush and others will burn. But in the end, if it is to be eaten a consensus or middle ground will be found.

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In governing the world by following the Tao, the sage displays no powers. Just as the world learns to eat fish, he remains inactive or seemingly behind the scenes. He governs but does not act his virtue remaining intact with harmony always finding its way.

As the sage is the essence of virtue disharmony can never enter the picture. Neither can the people do him harm, nor him harm others, as he too finds the world’s middle and a place for everyone at the table.

Lao Tzu says, “The reason the sea can govern a hundred rivers is because it has mastered being lower” (60).

Ho-Shang Kung says, “To lead a great state we should be like to sea: and we should be at the bottom of a watershed and not fight even the smallest current. A great state is the meeting place of both the high and low. The female refers to everything yin, weak, humble, yielding, what doesn’t lead.”

Wu Ch’eng says, “The female doesn’t make the first move. It is always the male that makes the first move. But to move means to lose. To wait means to gain. To move means to be above. To wait means to be below. The great state that doesn’t presume on its superiority gains the voluntary support of the small state. The small state that is content with its inferiority enjoys the generosity of the great state. The small state doesn’t have to worry about being lower, while the great state does. Hence the great state needs to be lower.”

Wang Pi says, “By cultivating humility, each gets what he wants. When the small state cultivates humility, it preserves itself, but that is all. It can’t make the world turn to it. The world tuns to the great state that cultivates humility. Thus, each gets what it wants, but it is the great state that needs to be more humble.”

A Taste of Taoism for Unity

Verses 62 and 63 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

(The entry below mirrors the Power Point presentation (with some modification) given at Unity of Springfield on Sunday, July 22, 2018). The actual Power Point will appear here on the website in the future.

Taoism in China has a very long history. Although the essence of what would be known or become Taoism came thousands of years before it had a name. The Tao by it’s nature is undefinable.

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Historically and even today the ultimate for most Chinese is the idea of being born a Taoist, to live as a Confucian, and to die as a Buddhist. It’s not something you think about. It’s just who you are and how you live every day.

Like an innate knowing. Taoist ethics in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), “naturalness”, simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: “compassion”, “frugality”, and “humility”. As if tuning into nature’s essential rhythm.

The River of No Return

What is the Tao, but a blade of grass or a daffodil blooming after a Spring rain? Simply the essence of nature’s way and our own connectedness to it and to all things.

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What is the Tao, but the pebbles in a stream bed and the water flowing overhead as the trout breathes through its gills finding oxygen only in the water itself?

What is the Tao, but that that seems irrational to all those unknowing of the ultimate way of virtue? Of the inner desire to find peace and to know a certain contentment known only in the journey itself and knowing where the road leads to and where it does not.

What is the Tao, but the beginnings and endings of all things that were comprised of yesterday, occurs today and will happen tomorrow? Everything and nothing together as one in an instant and forever.

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What is the Tao, but dragons bringing both good and bad as there must be in all things? Strive to do the right thing by all knowing that the clouds and elements both lead and get in the way of what may fleetingly be considered progress.

What is the Tao, but the abandonment of all things seen as necessary to succeed in the world as we live it with others present?

Yu Garden in the rain

What is the Tao, but the ultimate quest for perfection and immortality and finding mirror images of the sage in ourselves and our everyday actions now and forever yet to come?

What is the Tao, but to flow as a droplet of water down the river of no return? Knowing all the while that in the end you will simply arrive and that in itself will be forever simply enough.    (An entry in The I Ching – Voices of the Dragon 4/10/94)

Basic difference between Eastern and Western Philosophy

In Eastern philosophy for over 5,000 years the relation between man, nature, the DSCI0385sun, moon and stars has created the impression of a universal connection with all things. Traditionally this is called “the ten thousand things”with the Ching saying everything revolves around yin/yang and complimentary opposites. Man is simply one of the ten thousand things and the universe shows no favorites.

Dao or Tao literally means “way”, or one of its synonyms, but was extended to mean “the Way”. This term has been used by many Chinese philosophers including Confucius, Mencius, and many others. It has special meaning within the context of Taoism, where it implies the essential, unnameable process of the universe. For practical purposes, there are two concurrent threads in Taoism. First those who see themselves as adherents to philosophical Taoism, and others who take a more religious approach towards the Tao called religious Taoism. This maturation is thousands of years in the making and corresponds with other teachings throughout Chinese history.

In Western philosophy it’s always been everything found in nature is here for the benefit of man. The beginning of Taoism is first found in shamanism, the I Ching, and over five thousand years of history.

The Eternal Spirit

Medicine men and shaman giving way to Lao Tzu and the others with their quest for immortality putting the finishing touches on the way to be forever followed.

Many false starts by many with good intentions and some sense of direction from signposts they have read and heard along the way. Starting strong, enthusiasm high with motivation found to follow what they feel is the way of virtue.

In the end few succeed as the centuries pass as the dragons look to add more to their company. The entry list is very short as those coming this way often fail to see the Tao as it should be seen. Thinking that it can be turned on and off like a faucet. Each 100_4311wanting to come this way running. First hot, then cold and then hot again for the strength and comfort found only in the inner self along with the Tao.

The desire for immortality and desire to return home again to live with dragons the driving force behind the effort that must be made.

The journey is not one that can begin and end over and over at one’s leisure. The immortal ones do not have time to waste on half-hearted efforts. They cannot be bothered. Keeping to one’s eternal spirit is the motivation to continue the journey. Learning and teaching others along the way.

Be happy with the road to be traveled and find comfort solely within the details.  (An entry in The I Ching – Voices of the Dragon) 4/13/94

The Wu – Shaman of Ancient China 

Their relationship to the cosmos was a shamanic one. At least some among them Ancient riverswere able to communicate directly with plants, minerals, and animals; to journey deep into the earth, or visit distant galaxies. They were able to invoke, through dance and ritual, elemental and supernatural powers, and enter into ecstatic union with them. The class of people most adept at such techniques became known as the wu – the shamans of ancient China. Early China was developed mostly along the Yellow River to the north and the Yangtze River delta around current City of Shanghai.  It was the Yellow River that divided China north and south that played a major role in clan and major family development.  And it was the shaman of the various clans who served as the glue who ultimately made sense of it all and pulled it all together.

The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors

The leaders of this pre-dynastic era were the legendary Three Sovereigns, or “August Ones,” and the Five Emperors – morally perfected sage-kings who used their magical powers to protect their people and to create conditions for peaceful and harmonious living. The wisdom, compassion and enlightened power of these beings was considered beyond mortal comprehension; and the benefit they bestowed upon those they governed, immeasurable.

Fu Xi

The Heavenly Sovereign, Fu Xi, is said to have discovered the eight trigrams – the bagua – which is the foundation of the I Ching, Taoism’s most well-known system of divination.

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The Human Sovereign, Shennong, is credited with the invention of farming and the introduction of herbs for medicinal purposes.

Yellow EmperorThe Yellow Emperor, Huang di, is known  as the father of Chinese medicine. He is credited with numerous inventions and innovations – including the calendar and is regarded as an initiator of Chinese civilization. Traditionally it is said he is from Qufu in Shandong province.

The Dragon in Chinese Culture

Dragons are deeply rooted in Chinese culture. The Chinese sign for the dragon first appeared upon turtle shells, a tribal totem, ages before the Xia and Shang dynasties, and was eventually emblazoned on the national flag during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 AD). Chinese mythology is rich with the artwork, tales and depictions of dragons.  Equating figures such as Fu Xi, Shennong, and the Yellow Emperor with the dragon gave them heavenly and mystical qualities as the sage.

An Early I Ching

Later, especially the Taoist figures Lao, Chuang and Lieh Tzu, Confucius, Mencius among others were said to achieve immortality as the dragon, a celestial being who rests on clouds in the sky. The emperor later became the “Son of Heaven” as the dragon.

Dragons are thought to give life; hence their breath is called “sheng chi” or divine energy. They are essentially benevolent and associated with abundance and blessing, helpful, wise and generous with their gifts when people encountered them.

The Age of Enlightenment – The Dragons

During the Zhou (Chou) Dynasty, the origins of native Chinese philosophy developed its initial stages beginning in the 6th century BC. The greatest Chinese philosophers, those who made the greatest impact on later generations of Chinese, were Confucius, founder of Confucianism, and Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu founders of Taoism.

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Other philosophers, theorists, and schools of thought in this era were Mozi, founder of Mohism; Mencius, a famous Confucian who expanded upon Confucius’ legacy; and Xun Zi, who was arguably the center of ancient Chinese intellectual life during his time, even more so than iconic intellectual figures such as Mencius.

What is man’s place in the world and the cosmos?

This was the basic question of Chinese Taoist philosophy. Lao Tzu was born during the Spring and Autumn Period (771 to 476 BC) , but it is said he came from a very old shaman family dating back to the late Xia or early Shang. He was the first philosopher who tried to explain the Tao in Eastern Zhousuch a way that it could be commonly understood. According to Lao Tzu, Tao, or “the Way”, is the source and root of the earth, heaven and everything between. The Way has no starting point and no end. That the Way is nature itself and nature itself is the Way.  He actually wrote the Te Tao Ching in frustration because he got tired that no one would take his “oral” advice.

Lao Tzu borrowed the notion from the I Ching and the shaman that “the Way D13follows nature” to reveal a common yet profound truth in his book the Te Tao Ching: that all things found in the universe including man, and his society, have a natural character. Humans must obey the law of nature and should not put incessant demands on nature. That there was a “universal connectedness” with all things and that what was seen as government and man’s role should reflect this truth. That the powers of those in control of others should answer to this and not their own sense of importance and sense of ego. This paradox between the roles of Confucian and Taoist advocates became the pivotal argument in mainstream rule and in Chinese philosophical and politic outlook in the world. Do they “obey the laws of nature” or nature, or of humans, and why and how the two be so different?

Chuang Tzu (369-286 B.C.) was a leading thinker representing the Taoist strain in Chinese thought. Using parable and anecdote, allegory and paradox, he set forth the early ideas of what was to become the Taoist school.

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Central in these is the belief that only by understanding Tao (the Way of Nature) and dwelling in unity can man achieve true happiness and be truly free, in both life and death. Witty and imaginative, enriched by brilliant imagery, making sportive use of both mythological and historical personages (including even Confucius), the book, which bears Chuang Tzu’s name, gave real legitimacy to Taoist thought in China beyond Lao Tzu.

Chuang Tzu espoused a holistic philosophy of life, encouraging disengagement from the artificialities of socialization. Promoting the cultivation of our natural “ancestral” potencies and skills in order to live a simple and natural, but full and flourishing life. He was critical of our ordinary categorizations and evaluations, noting the multiplicity of different modes of understanding between different creatures, cultures, and philosophical schools, and the lack of an independent means of making a comparative evaluation. It is said his writings provided the inspiration and connection to what was to become Chan Buddhism in China. He advocated a mode of understanding that is not committed to a fixed system but is fluid and flexible and that maintains a provisional, pragmatic attitude towards the applicability of this attitude and how we are to live. (This best describes my own personal way of thinking. I identify with Chuang Tzu’s attitude more than any other way of life. My own feeble attempts at understanding tell me I still have far to go).

Remaining Indefinable

Forever indefinable, an ageless knowledge beyond unity found in the oneness in all things.

Two Dragons

How can one possibly hope to discuss the inner workings of the Tao? How can one hope to express what cannot be said? And finally, how can one hope to write about something that cannot be described or known?

As the sage studies many years before a glimmering of knowledge and understanding comes to the surface, he approaches what was before him the first instant. Learning is simply that which is brought to the exterior of oneself. There is nothing new. Only new ways to see nothing.

The Tao is simply the ultimate source of all. The origin and beginnings of everything that forever has roots and foliage, flowers and reseeds itself. Only to begin and end over and over again. Being present at the start and being there in the end. How can one hope to come to know what cannot be known or even desire to know such a thing as the oneness of Tao?

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Dragon bracelet worn by favorite of Chinese emperor – Shaanxi Museum in Xian

What other role is there to have? Why have a reason to exist at all?  The answer is that the Tao gives true meaning and purpose to finding one’s way through the origins of the universe. Simply coming to know yourself and how you fit into the overall scheme of things is worth the cost of admission. Remain indefinable and know that the answer is in the journey itself.   (An entry in The I Ching – Voices of the Dragon) 4/17/94

Disappearing Fences

The dragons prefer peace and take no action otherwise. Turning their heads to all knowing that conflict defeats all.

Neighbors may build good fences. However, it will be fences that good neighbors build together that remain standing against common enemies. Expect hardship even among friends knowing what important and what obstacles  are to be expected. Encounter difficulties in peace and success is assured.

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Do not proceed alone in times of controversy. Surround yourself and be protected and protect others as well. Act appropriately with both friends and neighbors always maintaining close relationships.

Being at peace within oneself insures that those close by will not become enemies but instead are simply waiting for an opportunity to become your friend. All the while not taking advantage of another’s downfall.

At the same time knowing that your own carelessness and lack of judgment may be your own. Find peace and the fences good neighbors build may ultimately disappear like dragons riding on clouds in the sky.                                  

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (11 TREADING / Heaven over Lake). 2/9/94. The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for Jul11leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 62 and 63 appear below. Verses 1 through 61 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

A partial preview can be seen on the Lao Tzu and Taoism tab here on my website. 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.

Verse 62 – Cultivating Humanity

Remaining at the lowest point of mediation where everything else comes to meet.  As if the confluence, or gathering point, of great rivers that all come together to create a united front or way.

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Acting as if this great river of life sustaining water irrigates your life and your garden. Remaining humble, as if the needs of others are shared and understood by all as each becomes nourished through your enlightenment.

Standing alone each is like a turnip found in the garden of the sage. Picked while still small they are tender and sharp, if allowed to get to large, the turnip becomes tough and bitter. Like the gardener, the sage cultivates humanity as if picking the turnips while they are small, thereby saving him much misunderstanding in the end.

The sage becoming simply a watershed making people content with the way they are. Showing the way, he attains the highest by remaining the lowest. By uniting and leading others, he succeeds by joining and serving others.

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In the truest sense he is cultivating humanity simply by tending his garden as he tends to all around him.

Wu Ch’eng says, “’Sanctuary’ means the most honored place. The layout of ancestral shrines includes an outer hall and an inner chamber. The southwest corner of the inner chamber is called the ‘sanctuary’ and the sanctuary is where the gods dwell.”

Su Ch’e says, “All we see of things is their outside, their entrance hall. The Tao is their sanctuary. We all have one, but we don’t see it. The wise alone are able to find it. Hence Lao Tzu says the good treasure it. The foolish don’t find it. But then who doesn’t the Tao protect? Hence, he says it protects the bad. The Tao doesn’t leave people. People leave the Tao.”

Wang Pi says, “Beautiful words can excel the products of the marketplace. Noble deeds can elicit a response a thousand miles away.” Te Ch’ing say, “The Tao is in us all. Though good and bad might differ, our natures are the same. How then, can we abandon anyone?”

Lao Tzu says, “The sage is good at saving / yet he abandons no one / yet the good instruct the bad / the bad learn from the good” (Verse 27).

Verse 63 – Becoming a sanctuary to all you meet

The sage acknowledges and understands that there is nothing that is not in keeping with the Tao. Especially true is that the Tao resides in each of us. Thus, in showing the way the sage is good at saving and directing those around him, while abandoning no one. Since the sage in essence is simply the embodiment of the Tao, abandoning or leaving behind another person could or would never enter his mind.

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The sage’s surroundings are illustrative of how he sees his place in the ten thousand things.

As though he is seen creating a sanctuary that reflects his innermost sense of who he is yet to become. Kind and reflective, still yet expansive, he competes with no one and no one competes with him. His strengths and weaknesses have become razor sharp as he uses them to cut through what is perceived to be truth and falsehood. While he remains on the edge pushing others to places they would not otherwise go, he leaves no foothold for those who would follow except by accepting and following the Tao.

When he himself becomes the sanctuary for others to take refuge and follow, finding the comfort only found in the expression of the Tao, he is reminded that he who searches will find it and those who don’t only escape to wait until another day.

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Ho-Shang Kung says, “To act without acting, means we only do what is natural. To work without working means to avoid trouble by preparing in advance. To taste without tasting means to taste the meaning of the Tao through meditation.”

Li Hsi-Chai says, “When we act without acting we don’t exhaust ourselves. When we work without working, we don’t trouble others. When we taste without tasting, we don’t waste anything.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “To act without acting, to work without working, to taste without tasting is to conform with what is natural and not to impose oneself on others. Though others treat him wrongly, the wrong is theirs and not the sage’s. He responds with the virtue that is in his heart. Utterly empty and detached, he thus moves others to trust in doing nothing.”

Chiao Hung says, “Action involves form and thus includes great and small. It is also tied to number and thus includes many and few. This is where wrongs come from. Only the Tao is beyond form and beyond number. Thus, the sage treats everything the same: great and small, many and few. Why should he respond to them in anger?”

Te-Ching says, “When I entered the mountains to cultivate the Way, at first it was very hard. But once I learned how to use my mind, it became very easy. What the world considers hard, the sage considers easy. What the world considers easy, the sage considers hard.

We are stardust. We are golden. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Verses 64 and 65 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

One of my all-time favorite lines in a song by Joni Mitchell from 1970 after she AAWoodstockmissed Woodstock from a year earlier that was held in August 15-17, 1969 and wrote the song Woodstock in tribute. I listen to this song at least once a day and the words above. We are stardust… Two others who missed Woodstock were John Lennon who was in Canada and couldn’t get a visa due to opposition to the Vietnam war, and Bob Dillon who was home with a sick child. However, her song takes us all there again and for me much further. (Woodstock poster from Wikipedia)

Speaking of gardens and a few of my favorites are the the gardens of Suzhou (about 62 miles northwest of Shanghai) in China. The city of Suzhou is along the famous Grand Canal. The Grand Canal is a man-made waterway that runs north and south in eastern China. It is the longest man-made waterway in the world. The canal stretches over 1,100 miles from the city of Beijing to the city of Hangzhou. (I’ve been to both cities). It is sometimes called the Beijing-Hangzhou Canal. Besides connecting these two major cities, the canal also connects the two major rivers of China: The Yellow River and the Au2Yangtze River.

(This picture was taken at the Jining Museum. Jining is about an hour from Qufu and is considered the midway point between the two cities on the Grand Canal. I taught at the Cambridge English School in Jining for a few months in 2010 before teaching at Jining University). 

When I am in Jining, I often meet with friends and my students at the Grand Canal Mall. When I lived in Qufu, I would often go to a supermarket in Jining that had a much greater selection of western food than I could find in Qufu… like tomato paste I used in making spaghetti for my students. It was visiting Jining and members of the City Planning Department back in October 1999 that I first saw the plans for the new Jining University that was to be built in Qufu. Little did I know I would begin teaching at this school in March 2011.

It was then that this life-long connection would change me and cause an epiphany. It was at lunch with the city planners in Jining that I told them I kept having visions of a flying horse that somehow seemed to be close by. After lunch they took me to a place in the country-side about ten miles out of town and stopped at what appeared Au3to be just an old shed. We looked inside and there were two-thousand-year-old stone tablets from the Han Dynasty. One depicted Confucius meeting Lao Tzu. They did an etching and gave to me. I had it framed and years later I gave to the Confucius Institute in Miami, Florida where I was teaching… Anyway, we went to an even smaller outbuilding and they gave me a small iron horse that seemed to be floating on a cloud that had been originally cast back then or even earlier more than two-thousand years ago. This is what I was looking for. I had been here before. This was not the first time and showed me that we were somehow connected. It was as if my origins were here in western Shandong. Now almost twenty years later I will return again next month to China, Jining, and Qufu (September 2018).

The stone tablets were later moved to what was to become the Jining Museum mentioned above. Yes, we are stardust… we are golden when we can find our way back to the garden. Which is nothing more than identifying and becoming one with our ultimate source once again. But then again, being able to traverse the length and breath of China on the Aucanalcanal all those years ago, I could have been from anywhere and probably was.

Jining was the half-way or mid-point on the Grand Canal and has great food. I love the restaurants in Jining. Over the years I have often been asked what city in China has the best food. I always say, for me, it is Jining. I think it comes from the city’s historic place on the Grand Canal. People from all over China would travel this route to and from the capital, Beijing. At least that’s my story. I think the food serves to simply take me back as a reminder of who I am and the places in China I have seen and been. Most seem to be along the rivers and this canal that stretches over a thousand miles.

The canal was initially built in order to easily ship grain from the rich farmland in southern China to the capital city in Beijing. This also helped the emperors to feed the soldiers guarding the northern borders. The ancient Chinese built early canals to help with transportation and commerce. One early section was the Han Gou Canal built by Kin Fuchai of Wu around 480 BC. This canal stretched from the Yangtze River to the Huai River. Another ancient canal was the Hong Gou Canal which went from the Yellow River to the Bian River. These ancient canals became the basis for the Grand Canal over 1000 years later.

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It was during the Sui Dynasty that the Grand Canal was built. Emperor Yang of the Sui wanted a quicker and more efficient way of transporting grain to his capital city at Beijing. He also needed to supply his army that guarded northern China from the Mongols. He decided to connect the existing canals and expand them to go all the way from Beijing to Hangzhou. Between 604 and 609, Emperor Yang Guang (or Sui Yangdi) of the Sui dynasty ordered a number of canals be dug in a ‘Y’ shape, from Hangzhou in the south to terminate in Beijing and in the capital region along the Yellow River valley. When the canal was completed it linked the systems of the Qiantang River, the Yangtze River, the Huai River, the Yellow River, the Wei River and the Hai River. (from Wikipedia)

Suzhou… the home of gardens and living in high style.

Many years ago, when I was a city planner in Boynton Beach, I researched the possibility of building a Chinese designed “friendship Park/Garden” using this style of southern Chinese architectural design (this would have been in the Spring of 1999) in south Florida. It was in my research I found a firm that specialized in this style of construction from Qufu who traveled all over the world building this style of Chinese designed parks similar to that found in Suzhou. It was this that took me to Qufu in October 1999 for the first time. The park was never built, but friendships for a lifetime were made. Little did I know what the next twenty years would bring leading up to today. Ah… a reminder of one’s eternal steps I guess. It was on the way to Qufu that I visited Suzhou and its famous gardens for the first time. Years later when I was teaching students English who were to become national tour guides, several ended up as guides at the gardens of Suzhou.

The Classical Gardens of Suzhou are a group of gardens in Suzhou region, Jiangsu province that are on the UNESCO World Heritage Site List.

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I first visited here the first time in October 1999, nineteen years ago, on my second trip to China. Always an avid gardener myself and interested in landscape design, these gardens were made famous during the period of almost one thousand years.

From the Northern Song to the late Qing dynasties (11th-19th century), these gardens, most of them built by scholars, standardized many of the key features of classical Chinese garden design with constructed landscapes mimicking natural scenery of rocks, hills and rivers with strategically located pavilions and pagodas.

The elegant aesthetics and subtlety of these scholars’ gardens and thier delicate style and features have often been imitated by various gardens in other parts of China, including the various Imperial Gardens, such as those in the Chengde Mountain Resort. According to UNESCO, the gardens of Suzhou “represent the development of Chinese landscape garden design over more than two thousand years,” and they are the “most refined form” of garden art.

These landscape gardens flourished in the mid-Ming to early-Qing dynasties, resulting in as many as 200 private gardens. Today, there are 69 preserved gardens in Suzhou, and all of them are designated as protected “National Heritage Sites.” In 1997 and 2000, eight of the finest gardens in Suzhou along with one in the nearby ancient town of Tongli were selected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site to represent the art of Suzhou-style classical gardens.

When I was teaching at Jining University I taught English to several students who Au4were studying to be national tour guides. A couple were to go to Suzhou. I’m not sure they are still there or not. First among my favorite gardens was the Humble Administrator’s Garden.

The garden contains numerous pavilions and bridges set among a maze of connected pools and islands. It consists of three major parts set about a large lake: the central part Au5(Zhuozheng Yuan), the eastern part, Dwelling Upon Return to the Countryside), and a western part (the Supplementary Garden). The house lies in the south of the garden. In total, the garden contains 48 different buildings with 101 tablets, 40 steles, 21 precious old trees, and over 700 Suzhou-style penjing.

Penjing, also known as penzai, is the ancient Chinese art of depicting artistically formed trees, other plants, and landscapes in miniature. (similar to bonsai in Japanese gardens).

For me, my personal favorite is the Master of the Nets Garden. Ownership passed Au6to Qu Yuancun, a scholar well-versed in the classics and literature, in 1795. He added and remodeled buildings, planted trees, and arranged stones. The garden acquired the nickname of Qu’s Garden during this period as well as its first acclaim by critics. Ownership passed to Li Hongyi, an imperial official and master calligrapher in 1868. About half of the steles in the Au7garden are inscribed by him. Ownership passed to He Chang in 1940, who restored both the garden and returned the name back to Master of Nets Garden. He stipulated in his will the garden should be donated to the government. In 1958 his daughter He Zehui gave the garden to the Suzhou government.

During the late 18th century it was recognized for its herbaceous peonies. In his Notes on the Master of Nets Garden, Qian Daxin stated, “A good integration of the delights of the village and town.” Modern critic Chen Congzhou feels that the Master of the Nets Garden is the best representation of all classical Chinese garden art, as stated in Famous Classical Gardens of China.

My third most favorite is the Lion Grove Garden. This is probably one of the most Au8famous rock-gardens in Chinese garden design. It has been copied repeatedly over the centuries. This is the so-called Lion Garden’ in Suzhou. The Lion Grove Garden was built in 1342 during the Yuan Dynasty by a Zen Buddhist monk, Wen Tianru, in memory of his teacher Abbot Zhong Feng.

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At that time the garden was part of the Bodhi Orthodox Monastery. The name of the garden is derived from the lion-shaped taihu rocks, which in turn were built as a reference to the symbolic lion in the Lion’s Roar Sutra.

I recall taking hundreds of pictures of the gardens in Suzhou in the early days of my travel to China almost twenty years ago… where are all those pictures now? I found a few…

A great story of China from more than five hundred years ago is about two brothers who were famous for making glazed tile used in construction of buildings using the ancient style and Au11design. They were originally from southern China, but moved north. One to Qufu and the other to Beijing. Their glazed roof tile (commonly seen as yellow, gray, green, and blue (blue was often reserved for Beijing) was used in Qufu for the Confucius Temple and Mansion, as well as, numerous other locations around Shandong Province.

Over the centuries there emerged two distinct 100_1876garden designs often referred to the northern and southern styles. The southern style was epitomized by the classical water, rock, and buildings seen above in Suzhou. And the northern style that is identified by ancient pine trees and buildings using the glazed roof tiles. A favorite of mine of the northern style garden design is the Daimiao Temple in Tai’an north of Qufu at the base of Mount Taishan.

Au10This is a picture of a tour of the glazed tile factory from my first visit to Qufu in October 1999.

The second brother’s glazed tiles were used in the construction of the Forbidden City and other landmarks in Beijing. One of their descendants became a good friend of mine in Qufu. For years he was there to greet me when I arrived and see me off when I left.

Their glazed tile became the premier emblem of garden design throughout China. Glazed tile from the factory used in building the Confucius Mansion and Temple in Qufu was the same used in my own garden pavilion in Boynton Beach that was 2005 pictures from China 027destroyed by Hurricane Irene in 2004. The loss of my pavilion was very depressing… Plus the more than $20,000 I had spent to have it shipped from China and re-constructed in my backyard. Afterward, looking at the debris of what was my pavilion, I could only think of Joni Mitchell’s song and how –

We are stardust. We are golden. We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.

Succumbing to Hysteria 

Speaking softly and smoothly where others must crane their neck to listen is best. Always speak calmly knowing that that fear and reality are the same to find. Ever conscious that hysteria leads to dread of the unknown.

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Hold the attention of all those involved. Varying one’s voice relieves tension that may assist in finding the solution. Be brief, simply uncomplicated. Finding your rhythm brings forth changes overcoming all setbacks. Sincerity must provide the rhyme and reason of any true voice before it is heard. Much is expected of those who know dragons.

Beware of treachery or bringing attention to oneself by shouting, I am here! The noise overshadowing what is not said so nothing important is heard. Instead of finding your rhythm in the Tao and being heard for miles and miles forever. Continually refining your actions always knowing simply what is needed.

Internal rhythm, the chi, reverberating throughout the elements, the earth and sky, waking dragons to their delight. Stay calm and listen to the one you can hardly hear. He speaks softly as he knows the way of virtue.

An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (12 OBSTRUCTION / Heaven over Earth). 2/10/94 The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found Au12in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 64 and 65 appear below.

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.

Verse 64 – Finding everything too Easy

The sage knows that doing what comes naturally is not work. Therefore, he works without really working. He acts without really acting, thereby not exhausting himself and tastes without really tasting the true meaning of the Tao through meditation. He goes forth knowing that rather we are great or small, many or few it is important to repay any slight or wrong with virtue.

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What the world considers hard the sage considers easy. Just as what the world considers easy the sage considers hard. How can that be so?

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If one can plan for the hard when it is easy and work on the great when it is small, the hardest task in the world becomes easy. The greatest goal in the world begins or becomes small.

Because the sage never acts he achieves great things. He responds to others knowing instinctively that he who quickly agrees is seldom trusted and those who make it all look easy finds the way hard. Therefore, the sage travels in virtue making everything appear hard, while he himself finds nothing hard.

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “We should act before things exist, while they are peaceful and latent. We should govern before they rebel, while the are fragile and small. But to act before things exist means to act without acting. To govern before things rebel means to govern without governing.”

Sung Ch’ang-Hsing says, “From a sprout, the small becomes great. From a basket of earth, the low becomes high. From here, the near becomes far. But trees are cut down, towers are toppled, and journeys end. Everything we do eventually results in failure. Everything we control is eventually lost. But if we act before things exist, how can we fail? If we govern before they rebel, how can we lose?”

Wang P’ang says, “Everything has its course. When the time is right, it arrives. But people are blind to this truth and work to speed things up. They try to help Heaven and end up ruining things just as they near completion.”

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Others seek the ornamental. The sage seeks the simple. Others seek form. The sage seeks Virtue. Others study facts and skills. Te sage studies what is natural. Others study how to govern the world. The sage studies how to govern himself and how to uphold the truth of the Way.”

Verse 65 – Learning to act before something Exists

As one who is recognized by his peers for his vision and all things ethereal having found where all things meet and reflecting on the common purpose or rhythm of the universe, what can be more important than knowing when to act before something exists?

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Knowing when to proceed and when to wait letting patience be your guide. It’s easy to rule when it’s peaceful. It’s easy to plan before something arrives. It’s easy to break when its fragile and as we have learned, easy to disperse when its small. Be the one who prepares the master plan.

But know to act is to fail and to control is to lose. The sage therefore doesn’t act he thus does not lose. Living in the paradox that life brings forth to challenge him each day ultimately simply the reminder of why he is here.

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Does not the sage seek what no one else looks for turning to what others pass by? To remind others that everything must simply run its course. That when the time is right it arrives and that the truth of all things is in doing what comes natural. The sage therefore knows to simply act naturally before something exists.

Chuang Tzu says, “When the knowledge of bows and arrows arose, the birds above were troubled. When the knowledge of hooks and nets proliferated, the fish below were disturbed. When the knowledge of snares and traps spread, the creatures of the wild were bewildered. When the knowledge of argument and disputation multiplied, the people were confused. Thus are the world’s troubles due to the love of knowledge” (10.4).

Liu Chung-P’ing says, “Those who rule without knowledge turn to Heaven. Those who rule with knowledge turn to man. Those who turn to Heaven are in harmony. Those who are in harmony do only what requires no effort. Their government is lenient. Those who turn to man force things. Those who force things become lost in the Great Inquisition. Hence their people are dishonest.” Liu’s terminology here is indebted to Chuang Tzu: 19.2 and Mencius 4B.26).

Su Ch’e says, “What the sage values is virtue. What others value is knowledge. Virtue and knowledge are opposites. Knowledge is seldom harmonious, while virtue is always in harmony.”

Lin Hsi-Yi says, “‘Perfect harmony’ is whatever is natural.”

Jumping the Dragon’s Gate

Verses 66 and 67 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

To paraphrase the Van Morrison song Into the Mystic:

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“We were born before the wind / Smell the sea and feel the sky.
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic / Just like way back in the days of old.
Then magnificently we will float into the mystic…. you know I will be coming home.”

What does it mean to become mystical, or better said a mystic? To be characterized by esoteric, otherworldly, or symbolic practices or content as seen in certain religious ceremonies, as with art, writing, or personal behavior.

The Azure Dragon was on the national flag of China during the Qing dynasty during 1889-1912. The Four Symbols discussed here literally mean “four images”. They are four A212mythological creatures in the Chinese constellations. They are the Azure Dragon of the East, the Vermilion Bird of the South, the White Tiger of the West, and the Black Turtle of the North. Each one of them represents a direction and a season, and each has its own individual characteristics and origins.

The Four Symbols were given human names after Taoism became popular. The Azure A214Dragon has the name Meng Zhang (孟章), the Vermilion Bird was called Ling Guang (陵光), the White Tiger Jian Bing (監兵), and the Black Turtle Zhi Ming (執明). 

Why discuss this here, many in my audience are in China and Europe not just the USA. I have learned that many Chinese are not that familiar with Chinese history. This website serves to inform wherever people reside.  In most cases this brings back memories of stories they heard when they were young. Especially in the Chinese countryside where storytelling is more common. It follows the tradition of the shaman who made everyone feel universal.

It is as if we make the connection to the universe taking on something spiritually significant, or even ethereal, as in heavenly or celestial. As if an enigma, one with the cosmos. Knowing where you have been and will return is more important than where you find yourself just now. What is it about the seeming struggle of adhering to the stability of ritual and tradition that serves to guide us as our inspiration that leads us home?

A213To the left is the Azure Dragon on a road sign at the Yangshan Quarry, an ancient stone quarry on Yangshan Mountain near Nanjing, China.  

Do we become spectators of our past or acknowledge it and move on to what is to be of our future as we fill in the details of a self-fulfilling prophesy? As if looking back in order to make progress, or move forward. For myself, between spiritual freedom and wisdom of my heart, or be pulled by knowledge of my thoughts and brain? Moving away from the herd-instinct to faith in a higher destiny through inner development and seemingly lost discipline I am here to finally find and accept. My age-old quandary… maybe to stop only listening to my friend Lieh Tzu and to follow Chuang instead. From what is considered the ‘everyday man’ epitomized by Lieh Tzu, to Chuang Tzu’s ‘perfected man’.  Their text and your own writing drawing you into an experience that is to change who you think you are and understand that your life is your work… and your work is your life. As if eternity is simply waiting for a decision on your part.

That life is truly a pilgrimage. Moving away from the mundane and to just be present as we move beyond fear and develop courage as our true self.

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Not as ego, but as authentic to our divinely guided inner recognition of who we are, have been, and are yet to become. The vision quest so often referred to here over the past several entries we all seek to find in our own way.

As the symbols of the I Ching help to define us and guide our ultimate path, we are to stay in tune with our own varied nature and the stars that show us the way.

Knowing the outer space (that found in nature) we see is simply the inner reflection of our own development or enlightenment, directed towards a still unknown, or distant aim as if intrinsically tied to the very movement we seek. That there is no separation found in the universe. That by our very nature we are connected to the stars we see above. It is from here we cross over from what is known and familiar, and we accept others and new environments as our ultimate endeavor and destiny.

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In doing this we grow in confidence of the significance of all that happens to us as we find the courage and harmony that defines us. With this, we become secure with our ultimate source, the depth of our being and the universality of a greater life. This concept helps us to understand the essence of what has come to be known as Tibetan Buddhism. And why the synthesis of Buddhism and Taoism together in Eastern philosophy becomes so important.

I especially like the analogy of a white summer cloud, in harmony with heaven and earth, freely floating in the blue sky from horizon to horizon, following the breath of the atmosphere – in the same way the pilgrim abandons himself to the breath of the greater life that wells up from the depths of his being and leads him beyond the farthest horizons to an aim which is already present within him, though yet hidden from his sight. (The above is written with inspiration from The Way of the White Clouds by Lama Anagarika Govinda.)

Finally, I am reminded that the efficacy of what Lama Surya Das says “Our actions A216will be determined by the quality of the contemplation that precedes them.” I think what precedes the whole idea of “I think I can, therefore I am”.

An example of perseverance would be a story in Chinese mythology, the Dragon’s Gate is located at the top of a waterfall cascading from a legendary mountain. Many carp swim upstream against the river’s strong current, but few are capable or brave enough for the final leap over the waterfall.  If a carp successfully makes the jump, it is transformed into a powerful dragon.  A Chinese dragon’s large, conspicuous scales indicate its origin from a carp.  The Chinese dragon has long been an auspicious symbol of great and benevolent, magical power.  The image of a carp jumping over Dragon’s Gate is an old and enduring Chinese cultural symbol for courage, perseverance, and accomplishment.

You A217know, it’s always the picture you didn’t take that you later see its value. The small rise the koi had to go over is just to the left of the bridge…    At the Dufu Thatched Cottage in Chengdu there is a small stream with stepping stones you have to traverse – as the large koi fish swim upstream and go over a small rise against the current. At first, watching the koi I thought little of their attempts. It was the larger fish who could  “jump the gate” to go upstream that had little difficulty and became in affect dragons. The smaller fish struggled as if not quite ready to make the great leap forward just yet. Next time I’m in Chengdu this stream and koi jumping the dragon’s gate will be on my list again…

Historically, the dragon was the exclusive symbol of the emperor of China and the expression, Liyu Tiao Long Men, was originally used as a metaphor for a person’s success in passing very difficult imperial examinations required for entry into imperial administrative service, as in they too had jumped over the dragon’s gate themselves.

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To this day, when a student from a remote country village passes the rigorous national university examination in China, friends and family proudly refer to the Liyu Tiao Long Men.”  More generally, the expression is used to communicate that if a person works hard and diligently, success will one day be achieved. Similar to the salmon in the northwest along the Pacific Ocean in North America where they “jump the ladder” to lay their eggs. Once done they die. In death, they have succeeded with what was important to their life.

Once acknowledged, the question becomes where does that leave us? The difficulty of man is the seeming sense of self-importance that comes with ego. That’s the paradox living with others bring each day. As if, what is it we fill our days with but a test only we can find answers to with no answer ultimately better than another, except that found simply by cause and effect by simply letting nature find its true course. It is what lessons tending one’s garden teaches us and helps us to discover our true path, or way in letting go. Not in the typical sense of procrastinating, but waiting intuitively as if by second nature, for events themselves to convey the best way to proceed. It was this sense of patience that taught Sun Tzu, in The Art of WarA219to wait and let events foretell the future and only then to respond accordingly. To become like a leaf floating along in the breeze knowing the eventual outcome is assured and the results will be the same either way. Knowing what I know now, how could I become anything but an enigma to those who think they know me? Perhaps only here to describe the indescribable and in the A2110end to be known as unknowable myself. Maybe a mystic…

Daimiao Temple TaiShan Mountain Entrance     Once inside is the Peitian Gate and saying that is derived from Confucius, “The virtues match the heaven and the earth.” “Azure Dragon” and “White Tiger” – two of the Four Symbols of the Chinese constellations are enshrined here in the Main Hall of the Daimiao Temple in Tai’an north of Qufu at the base of Mount Taishan.

I wrote the below “Becoming Irrelevant” in April 1994, almost twenty-five years ago with no idea that ever actually going to China would be on the horizon. Any measure of success since then only found when others I meet don’t remember my name or if I was really present or not. Only the virtue I have left behind as I go by. I guess you could say I’ve been working on it ever since.

Becoming Irrelevant

Know that inside and outside are the same. That truth and falsehood are not the issue and begin to travel with dragons on clouds in the sky. Know that there is no way to discuss the ultimate joy found in finding the true path of virtue and the oneness to be found in all things.

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Physical descriptions become irrelevant to explanation of how all things fit together in a unifying purpose to be found as one yesterday, today and forever for all things to be found in the universe. The Tao teaches that the essential elements making up all things are to be found in everything only shaped in different ways. That sameness is the essential Tao. Coming to know this basic tenant is the underlying reason for one’s journey.

The journey is long and arduous. It is difficult to bear, hard to continue and only more impossible to endure.  You are forever blown along with the wind. As a leaf with no real destination. Only a sense of purpose brought along for the ride into eternity as the crane and tortoise are to longevity and beyond.

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Final destinations unknown. With nothing brought along as an itinerary except as the elements dictate things to come. A randomness that foregoes any relevance to anything not essential to the true way.

Assist only with the collapse of reason and find the path blocked for everything except what can begin again to be built on a true foundation. Built solid in the words and images of the Tao and by God himself as all that will be needed to succeed.  4/11/94    An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching. The above is found on this website at The I Ching / Voices of the Dragon.

As I continue to go through my own version of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching that I wrote A2112in May/June 2000 and my book, Thoughts on becoming a Sage, The Guidebook for leading a virtuous Life, I am asked to tell… just who was this Lao Tzu and why is he so important? I know I spoke of this last time, but some may have missed so it bears repeating. Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching was the culmination of thousands of years of philosophical thought of what was to become Taoism thanks in part to copies found in tombs of those who were buried with copies of it in China. There are eighty-one verses in the Tao Te Ching.  Verses 66 and 67 appear below. Verses 1 through 65 were seen here on my most recent posts. The balance will be seen here over the coming months.

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 66 – Reaching Perfect Harmony

In the middle of all lies perfect harmony. When you go to extremes you lose the natural balance found in all things. It is for this reason that knowledge is frowned upon for those who have not found their way. Knowledge in the hands of a person not grounded in the way of virtue is lost to the vagaries of the moment.

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Knowledge leads to deception and deception to definitions of right and wrong that are self-serving and can become secretive and divisive.

Those who remain unconcerned about knowledge look to heaven and harmony with the world around them. Once in harmony with heaven, they learn to only do that which requires no effort. Once you see that everything you need to know already lies, or exists, within yourself you can begin to understand that the lack of knowledge spreads virtue. It is by governing himself, cultivating the virtue he shares with heaven, that the sage’s place in the scheme of things becomes clear.

The sage becomes so deep that he cannot be reached and is always found to be doing the opposite of others. He goes so far as to reach perfect harmony, an image mirroring the Tao.

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Te-Ch’ing says, “All rivers flow to the sea, regardless of whether they are muddy or clear. And the sea is able to contain them all because it is adept at staying below them. This is a metaphor for the sage. The world turns to him because he is selfless.”

Ten Tsun says, “Rivers don’t flow toward the sea because of its reputation or its power, but because it does nothing and seeks nothing.”

Lu Hui-Ch’ing says, “When the sage possesses the kingdom, he speaks of himself as ‘orphaned, widowed, and impoverished,’ or ‘inheritor of the country’s shame and misfortune.’ Thus, in his speech, he places himself below others. He does not act unless he is forced. He does not respond unless he is moved. He does not rise unless he has no choice. Thus, in his actions he places himself behind others.”

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Ho-Shang Kung says, “When the sage rules over the people, he doesn’t oppress those below with his position. Thus, the people uphold him and don’t think of him as a burden. When he stands before them, he doesn’t blind them with his glory. Thus, the people love him as a parent and harbor no resentment. The sage is kind and loving and treats the people as if they were his children. Thus, the whole world wants him as their leader. The people never grow tired of him because he doesn’t struggle against them. Everyone struggles against something. But no one struggles against a person who doesn’t struggle against anything.”

Verse 67 – Thoughts on remaining a lower Presence

The sage’s challenge is to be present, but act as if he is not really here. Possessing the way, he sees himself as an orphan widowed and impoverished staying below those around him. He is as if the banks of a great river allowing everything to run through and past him, while he guides the way.  He is like the receptacle of everything as it meets its end, as if the ocean remaining lower and capturing the water of a hundred rivers. While they pour into him, he barely notices except to be raised up by their presence.

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For those who would benefit by the sage he must maintain a position lower than everyone around him.

If thrust to the forefront he must act as if he were behind. If seen as above others he must see that others remain unburdened by him.

While those around him continually push him forward he simply flows with events taking care not to struggle. Because he does not struggle no one can struggle against him. As no one can struggle against him he takes everything to new heights and places they would not otherwise go.

Ho-Shang Kung says, “Lao Tzu says the world calls his virtue great. But if his virtue were great in name alone it would bring him harm. Hence, he acts stupid and useless. He doesn’t distinguish or differentiate. Nor does he demean others or glorify himself.”

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Wang Pi says, “To be useful is to lose the means to be great.”

Su Ch’e says, “The world honors daring, exalts ostentation, and emphasizes progress. What the sage treasures is patience, frugality, and humility, all of which the world considers useless.”

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Te Ch’ing says, “’Compassion’ means to embrace all creatures without reservation. ‘Austerity’ means not to exhaust what one already has. ‘Reluctance to excel’ means to drift through the world without opposing others.”

Wang An-Shih says, “Through compassion, we learn to be soft. When we are soft, we can overcome the hardest thing in the world. Thus, we can be valiant. Through austerity, we learn when to stop. When we learn when to stop, we are always content. Thus, we can be extravagant. Through reluctance to excel, we are excelled by no one. Thus, we can be chief of all tools. Valor, extravagance, and excellence are what everyone worries about. And because they worry, they are always on the verge of death.”

Mencius says, “He who is kind has no enemy under heaven” (7B.3).

Finding ourselves in the state of grace… and virtue

Verses 68 and 69 of the Tao Te Ching and commentaries

One of the first things I had to learn once I began this journey with study of the I Ching and Taoism… was that it’s not the job we have (Ram Dass’s – that the person I am from nine to five is not who I am from five to nine). And it is not where we are (physically), but who we are and the mindset from where are doing it from.

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Once found they serve as a talismanor object, holding magical properties that bring good luck to the possessor or protect the possessor from evil or harm. By any name, it’s simply something you can’t learn you just have to acknowledge to have it; to feel, then respond and just do. Knowing grace once found is both internal and eternal. That for each of us, it is just as five thousand years of complementary opposites with yin and yang has taught us. It is the same with grace and virtue, one cannot go forward without the presence of the other.

Talisman representing the mentor and teacher in China

The talisman simply a reminder of who we are and that it is those who follow the flow of nature that win. Those who cannot see it choose as if flying headlong into the wind.

As if the universe speaks to us through as what some would say divine mind, and it sometimes takes a traumatic life experience to get our attention. For me though, it is as if I alternate between the state of living in paradox (in the world with others present), versus living in the state of virtue (living within my own sense of enlightenment). Sometimes it’s easy seeing how the reclusive lifestyle of the sage becomes so attractive. Ultimately though, it is my writing that takes me there with my asking “where did that come from”.

Those who follow me here know I attempt to separate my daily activities on Facebook into two entities. One filled with personal input on the issues of the day, and the second for The Kongdan Foundation where I am honored to have more than five hundred followers (thank you).

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Recent events regarding “politics” serve to remind me of why I left Springfield more than thirty years ago in 1987 and finding myself once again in the vagaries of the moment as life swirls around me. Where the ego of others seems to meet with the order of the day. When and how do people begin to see beyond themselves and acknowledge the imprint they leave behind? A challenge I have lived with for my entire life where a sense of grace and virtue seems to be in scant supply. This isn’t just a reality of the moment, but serves as a reminder as to why I am here and lessons to be learned this time.

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It is like what my old friend Lao Tzu, who is said to have written the Tao Te Chingcame to understand. After being driven away once again from another city where self-aggrandizement ruled where he had served as an “adviser” to the powers that be. He was given a choice of leaving either with his head attached to his body… or not. Fortunately for the world tradition says he left his thoughts with Kuan-yin below before finding a mountaintop and disappearing into the clouds. (we should all be so lucky). Kuan-yin but the repository of great philosophy and writing through the ages.  I wrote the following story many years ago that is included in my unpublished manuscript, My travels with Lieh Tzu”, about great thinkers of the day expressing their similar sentiments very well. It can be found on my website.

The Corner Table 

Wanting to continue the dialog with Kuan-yin, others come forward with the need AS4to get involved in the discussion. To get in their own two cents worth. As many have come this way over the centuries and left with Kuan-yin bits and pieces of their knowledge and wisdom. The inn at the mountain pass the gateway to places where many have departed never to be seen as the person they were before. Many traveling this way. Not only the Taoists, but many who speak of the current thoughts of the hour. One’s entry only the desire to question authority and anything accepted by the standards or rules of the day.

Attention drawn to the table in the corner where many are speaking. Each taking his turn to add to the commentary at hand. Taoists, Confucians, Buddhists, Mohist, all. Each not questioning the legitimacy of the other, only adding to the discussion that which reaches the highest accord. Differences put aside for a while. Central themes the only point of discussion. As the plum wine flows and spirits reach higher and higher.

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The discussion centering on the sage and his concern for knowledge, truth and falsehood, sincerity and where it all should lead. All agreeing on the principle that the sage knows what will go in by seeing what came out, knows what is coming by observing what has passed. This is the principle by which he knows in advance.

Concurring that when this knowledge is passed on to the world that those who cannot see beyond themselves cannot come forward to know the Way. That we judge by our own experience, verify by the experience of others. The Mohists present adding that if a man loves me, I am sure to love him; if he hates me I am sure to hate him. They all agreed that Teng and Wu became Emperors because they loved the Empire. While Chieh and Chou were ruined because they hated the Empire. With everyone nodding around the table shaking his head with this knowledge as their own verification.

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Kuan-yin then adding that Lao Tzu had told him that when judgment and verification are both plain, refusing to act on them is like refusing to go by the door when you leave or follow the path when you walk. If you do this, will it not be difficult to get the benefit you seek?

Nods of agreement going around the table, all present in awe still that Kuan-yin had had such a privilege to have been the one to have taken down the words of Lao Tzu and could even now recite them so well. In the good natured banter that followed, they all knew the above to be true as the red faced Kuan-yin tries to step back out of the limelight. As knowing glances around the table convey a togetherness they just for this moment all share and cherish.

Several then chiming in together that they had observed this in the virtue of Shennong and Yu‑yen, verified it in the books of Shun and the Hsia, Shang and Chou dynasties. That they had reached their own conclusions by the exemplary scholars and worthy men they had each met. That they had never found a case where survival or ruin, rise and decline did not derive from this principle. With this, all those left could do was to thank the innkeeper for such great hospitality as each of those present paid their tally, went upstairs to sleep or outside to catch the wind and wonder.   7/30/95

AS6

When I returned to Springfield, it was a returning home where I grew up here in southwest Missouri, graduated from then SMSU, served in the Missouri House for a couple years, and helped to found the Westside Community Betterment Association with my friend Virgil Hill. To what most people would refer to as my source… family, people, and places I knew while growing up, etc., etc.

Now as I prepare to leave for China and Tibet for a month, I feel the same disconnect I felt all those years ago when I left the first time. That I may be where it is considered to be my home, but I am not pursuing my own highest endeavor and destiny by being satisfied with where I am just now. Almost as if returning to Springfield was nothing more than “catching my breath on a cloud, or wind, before it passes me by”. That ultimately, it is not only where you are but who you are… and can you get to where you are going from the place you are now. And the bigger question – am I fulfilling my ultimate purpose in the context of where I now reside content to simply bringing others along for the ride through my writing?

AS19

As if asking how can I add more to what I have already written? Or what I have found in traveling to Qufu for almost twenty years with those present asking how to put this virtue into practice. In reality, it becomes the ultimate paradox. A question I will ponder later this month while in contemplation and reflection while sitting atop Huashan Mountain in China. The place where Lao Tzu is said to have frequented and maybe just follow the footsteps of my old friend and mentor…

With Lieh Tzu leading the Way

As always Lieh Tzu, my brother, has changed his tune in immortality. While a reclusive sage on earth he now leads the way.  Laughing at the others.

AS7

Hoping as always to instill bits of wisdom into their eternal endeavors. As he is now found flying circles around the dragons all assembled. Ultimately showing up others who should know better than to challenge him to anything short of calling for a full accounting for anything.

The dragons are converging with Lieh Tzu leading the charge. While others, especially Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, stay behind taking up the rear guard finding humor in the procession.  Looking down on lesser clouds they see many who have taken up the challenge over the centuries who have heard their inner voice and traveled far along the way to immortality’s doorstep and beyond.  A newcomer has gotten their attention.

AS8

He has listened well and conveys the words of the dragons in his writings well beyond his years.

Everything coming natural to the one they refer to among themselves as Cloud Dancing, as he seems adept to the ways of nature and has become a well-respected Master Gardener. Always tending to the ways of his garden as one eternally linked to all that the cycles encourage and in fact require.

His journey in fact is just beginning. However, great strides have the attention of all assembled.      4/12/94

All these entries written from the past are like pearls on a string that convey a story that connects all to the Tao. Moving from our human frailties, our moral weaknesses and liability to yield to temptation – to our higher selves. Ultimately, it comes down to as I said before… where are you doing it from and can you get there from where you are now. As if your present purpose is to discover why it is you find yourself where you are just now. Truly the paradox living brings each day.

As Chuang Tzu’s Perfected Man

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

AS9

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

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

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

AS10