Tuesday, October 9th I left Huashan Mountain (Huayin) for Xi’an then on to Chengdu… On the mountain I was reminded that eternity may seem remote, but it is here, right now in every precious moment, and you are one with it all, with nature. We are not here just to observe our life and the beauty that surrounds us. But to be reminded that it is all simply an extension of ourselves and the steps we are here to follow and take ourselves, to our responsibility to and for nature, and in turn the universe.
That your world is your sanctuary. We should all become Taoists at heart. The mountain itself, the pine trees, the birds singing their song of joy and eternal wisdom just for you – always in rhythm praising what lies below and the skies above. It’s easy to see how eons ago others saw the mountain as the gateway to heaven. That you are free and immortal as you are. If a sabbatical has something to do with finding your life’s work, I think I have come on this journey to re-enforce the one thing I am good at… to remember and write about things long forgotten by others. Maybe here just to remind us to pay attention to the details of our lives and where they may lead.
Su Ch’e says, “Lao Tzu lived during the decline of the Chou, when artifice flourished and customs suffered, and he wished to restore its virtue through doing nothing. Hence at the end of his book he wishes he had a small state to try this on. But he never got his wish”.
Perfecting the Art of Doing Nothing
If living in retirement is a state of mind… then let mine be here in Chengdu. Life is like Chuang Tzu’s butterfly dream. Are we awake or living a dream – and can it have mattered in the end? I’m beginning to understand the true meaning of wu wei. Finding and living in the state of virtue and being present… i.e., awake. It seems as though my entire life has fit the scope of Taoist thought as almost everything I’ve ever done has amounted to nothing, except for my family and friends who I care for. It seems I’ve been more successful than I thought. Perhaps just waiting for my highest endeavor to find me and to follow it. It’s time to let living in the state of virtue reign supreme. Simply to let your innate nature come through as you live what the Tao has taught you. So here I am talking about Taoism, and here with the Buddha. Or even follow the development of Chan Buddhism in China that found the best of both (Buddhism and Taoism), as if “Finding the right Shoes”. Maybe even best expressed by what I wrote all those years ago… Perhaps even better said by doing nothing.
Finding the right Shoes
Father and son, tradition and innovation. Old ways and new things. Knowing patterns of one’s life brings purpose. Finding purpose through another man’s eyes is not easy. Conflict arises. Immortality is questioned but always prevails.
Finding one’s sense of purpose can not be left to earthly whim. Finding purpose in greater things allows one to escape from individual concern. Following footsteps may be old-fashioned, however those steps are honed in tradition and value. Keeping to the right path is knowing how to find yourself in shoes that fit.
Tradition teaches that structure brings continuity. With continuity comes focus, focus brings clarity and with clarity one can find understanding in all things. Understanding patterns of one’s life brings integrity.
Well worn shoes may require soles, though once repaired the same shoes still can be left to fit the right feet. Find happiness and security in tradition and be eternally rewarded. Ancestors past and spirits yet to come will know comfort through your steps. Seek your own standards yet remain ever diligent. Remember from where you came and seek your own immortality.
An original composition and interpretation of the Chinese Classic the I Ching (18 WORK / Mountain over Wind). 2/13/94
One thing for certain I know about myself – is I hate, abhor… anyplace where contention is present. It makes me wonder why, or how, I was interested in politics whatsoever. Except maybe to show the intent of heaven that reflects the best of all concerned. Maybe the world and even I are not quite ready for that yet. Ah – finding myself again on the mountain… or better yet the tea house on the lake at People’s Park in Chengdu once again away from contention and ego.
Wednesday morning I find myself at the Flipflop Hostel. This is my fourth visit to Chengdu and third to the Flipflop. Seeing a few of my students, re-visiting ancient sites and new ones I haven’t see for a while is like coming home. Some things are meant to be unexplainable I think, only felt from the heart. As if living the dream of your highest aspiration and then it becoming you. For me it’s going to those places that inspire me. Ultimately getting to the place that where I am is not as important as the memories I have gained from where and who I have been in history. As if here now only to be continually inspired. Most importantly the only question remaining is – am I being true to my authentic self?
My friend Pablo from Chile I met at the mountain has joined me here in Chengdu at the Flipflop. It sounds like Pablo and I are headed today by fast train to the Leshon Buddha… stay tuned.
The Leshan Giant Buddha was impressive as it looked down on the convergence of two rivers. Legend has it that he was placed here to stop the flooding that caused so much havoc. The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-meter (233 feet) tall stone statue, built between 713 and 803, depicting Maitreya. It is carved out of a cliff face of Cretaceous red bed sandstone that lies at the confluence of the Min River and Dadu River in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. They say it did help with flooding… for a while, but man continued to build.
In addition to the Buddha, I was most impressed by the Lingyan Buddhist Temple adjacent to it, and especially the Cave of I Ching. I have much to write here later when I have time. The pictures I took here were amazing. Adjacent to the temple is the Lingbao Pagoda.
I am continually struck by this idea of convergence of energies directed at the ultimate – where we fit in the universe. That regardless of our, what may be called philosophical or religious leanings, there is no separation between us and all that there is now, has, or will be. How can something be good for me and bad for everyone and everything else?
Seeing this engraving of Lao Tzu here at the cave at the Lingyan Buddhist Temple heralding the I Ching says it all. This picture and it’s location here was worth the cost of the trip and I am not in Tibet yet. I think this expresses better than I could why my own Kongdan Foundation I began more than ten years ago is so important to me. It allows my the opportunity to express where I have been and illustrate the best way for me to take the next step enmeshed with the Tao.
Its as if it’s all here. I spent about an hour last night with Yak, the tour operator here at Flipflop (its thursday morning here), discussing all this and showing him my pictures and website. He was curious as to my take on Tibetan Buddhism after all I has done chronicling Buddhism in China over many years. His background was in ancient Chinese pottery and porcelain no less. He had spend time at the famous Jingdezhen kiln in south Jiangxi Province. (The picture here was made famous as an example of their work. It’s one I took at the British Museum in London in 2012). Anyway, visiting the famous kiln is definitely on my bucket list for my next trip to China. And Yak, who spent several years in school there, has agreed to accompany me when I go.
Well, it’s Thursday (Oct 11) and calendar says I’m supposed to go with Pablo to Qingyang Mountain today but am delayed due to errands he is doing. It’s over a hour away by train to the north of Chengdu and we’re running out of time to get there and back today… well we didn’t make it. We went to the Qingyang Taoist Temple, Kuan Alley for lunch, then I went to People’s Park Heming Teahouse before returning to the hostel. The teahouse was built in the 1920’s and is known as having the longest history of tea houses in Chengdu.
I made another visit to one of my favorite places in Chengdu with my friend Pablo today, the Qingyang Taoist Temple. I think if I lived here in Chengdu, I would visit at least once or twice a week. I few pictures are below:
Tonight I signed my “Tibet contract”… two pages requiring my signature. I have to leave for the Chengdu airport at 4:20 AM Sunday morning. I hope I don’t oversleep.
Oct. 12, 2018 / Chengdu Opera
As if keeping tune with the universe, the stars above, and beating of one’s heart. The music has always been the anthem carrying the vibrations that convey, or tell, our emotions. Creating a language beyond the need to speak or write defining one’s inner meaning and nature. It has always been the essence of connections, love and the voice of the poet and past.
As if we begin each life as an old song needing a new cover and for some looking for that lost love. As if a song needing some new stanzas to play serves to remind and refine us as the characters we get to play on our own stage. Perhaps only adding nuances, as if watching a movie several times seeing something new each time, as we add a new chapter or verse. Do we build on the past, just begin anew, or maybe both? The choice seems ours to make as we reconcile that which came before, with where we now go and who we will be when we get there. But it has always been the music, an internal beat from within, or rhythm we find that takes us there. Just as with the music we choose to play now that serves to define us, why shouldn’t we ourselves need several takes or “performances” to get it right. The best covers often play better than the original. As with the theater and life, we get to keep doing it until we get it right or the final curtain falls…or then does it? And we even get to choose how we interpret the role we are here to play as our own living history and letting outcomes take care of themselves.
History is not just going to museums and remembering the past, but seeing how things play out to the end. Why things happen are many times just as important as when. Why people acted or did things at the time tells us how popular culture defined the times. It is always the storyteller who leaves the trail, along many endless mediums. Someone did once say “the world is a stage.” We should at least learn to play our part. But I don’t think I’m quite ready to be a theater critic just yet.
It’s Friday, October 12th, I think if life is just the music we play, then since I’m in Chengdu… a visit to the Chengdu Opera is in order, or we should say theater. To me opera is just a storyteller’s dream in song on stage acting things out. This afternoon I attended the theater. Attended by over two hundred people (mostly seniors) like me, this theater could be called “old school”. The story line was said to be hundreds of years old and portrayed Chinese interaction very well between the father who asked 200 silver coins for the hand of his daughter, the poor student suitor she would meet and fall in love with at the Buddhist Temple and later marry, the matchmaker, and the foil, an older gentleman who had eyes for the young girl for himself who “gave” the suitor the money for the bride’s father… or so it seemed with the suitor getting the last laugh.
While they sang the story on stage, my friend relayed in English what was being said and happening in every scene, as I took pictures. My friend Mr. Lee, who invited me and did the interpretation said most foreigners don’t appreciate the older story lines as they don’t understand the “story behind the story” or Chinese history and it sometimes gets “lost in translation”. I would have to admit that although I have never been much of a fan of opera, its probably because I didn’t think it appeals to me. What I didn’t know is like much we see in life, once I went I enjoyed both the story and amazing talent of those on stage. Much like the people just waiting to get to know us and for us them. Knowing the depth of our own story beforehand allows context that brings the music of both the theater and us to life.
I had the benefit of arriving an hour early and going backstage to meet the director (who was also the leading character) and watch as they put on their make-up, go over lines and sequencing of events. It was an education for me, and gaining appreciation for history and storytelling I hadn’t really considered. The director Mr. Fu, a stage veteran of more than 36 years, said variations of the performance called Lu Yao Zhi Ma Li, or “Mr. Lu Yao gets back at his classmate in a funny way”, have been told on stage well over a hundred years and this form of opera is over three hundred years old. My interest was certainly piqued, and I would come again…
While I leave in the morning for Tibet, I always have a sense of melancholy as I leave Chengdu… until planning my next visit. My writing and pictures I take always brings me back though. There is something here in Chengdu about thousands of years where the development of the symbiotic relationship between man (yourself), nature, and spirituality that is empowering. It comes and remains as if guiding you to your highest endeavor. You just are… nothing more – nothing less. Almost beyond definition. For myself, the presence of thousands of years of Buddhism and Taoism is everywhere. You don’t have to see it – you feel it because you are one with it.
It seems to be a haven for retirees where you can easily live within your means. There is a rhythm here to this connection. A certain calm and peacefulness. As if you’ve arrived someplace you’re not sure of quite yet, but you can feel it in the air. It’s easy to become one with it. You get further into it by adapting to the local tea culture that is so prevalent here. Tea houses seem to be everywhere. Just as the tea seeps into the water creating a certain taste, the environment does the same to you (or does for me). You are like a sponge… with no pre-determined agenda or place to be. You just are – with nothing beyond the moment. A presence you feel that becomes you. Or as my friend Lao Tzu would say, you become one with nothing and nothing becomes you. The sanctuary your inner self searches for and wants to create wherever you are – you are then at home because you have found your source that is eternal that resides within each of us. Many others you meet here have this same feeling that creates a community like none I have ever known. That presence, i.e., oneness is here so that once you are a part of… you want to stay. It is the convergence of Chinese spirituality I have been feeling this whole trip that seems to culminate here in Chengdu. As if this was my ending of one phase… as I prepare to leave early tomorrow morning for Lhasa, and Tibet.
Today in Chengdu its raining, windy, and very cool. Not a good day to venture outside for long. Heavy overcast made taking pictures a challenge as everything has a solid white background. I found myself going to the Buddhist Wenshu Monastery where I have been before to take more pictures. I have some notes and background on the importance in southwest China of this Buddhist monastery I want to add later… for now a few of the pictures I took this morning are below. People often ask me “why so many pictures when you have been here before.” I tell them, “they remind me of where I have been and tell me the path I have yet to travel.”
If it clears up this afternoon (stops raining), I want to visit another famous tea house called Gu Niang Niang Miao. We’ll see… well, taxi drivers have a mind of their own and I ended up at Guang Sheng Palace Ancient Niangnian Taoist Temple of Shu Han… sort of a tea house with Taoist overtones. Who knows, maybe it was fate. I had a cup of tea and spoke to some of those who were there. Getting a taxi later was impossible.
Three images below from the “Taoist coffee house”.
The feeling I get in Chengdu is the same as what others have found elsewhere. I don’t want anyone reading this to feel they have to drop everything and rush off to China and Chengdu. It’s becoming universal… call it God, Lao Tzu and the Tao, Buddhism and the Buddha, etc.. It’s where all paths are universally respected and equal. For me it’s living in convergence with all others in common practice. It’s where spiritually directed people can see themselves and others in the same way. Finding the place that speaks to the sanctuary from within and going there. Dropping the pretense that your way is the only way to God.
I have been blessed here in Lhasa by a guide. Not just someone who takes our group through two days of monasteries and temples (a talent for which he has few peers), but Tashi Delek, has agreed to augment my limited knowledge with his wisdom. After the tour was over and I returned to USA, Tashi agreed to review his notes and over the next few weeks we will amend. So on to Tibet… and Tibetan Buddhism. Nothing here is meant to have or relay any political overtones. It is simply to relay it’s importance to history and provide an overview… my own.
We will break it down into five sections below. First, a very brief overview of what you find when you arrive and history of Lhasa. And second, the highlights of the four monasteries and temples here that we went through together with our group. This will have an on-going “growth and change”, as additional information is added. For myself, it continues with the thought of developing mindfulness, that what and when I write it is from both my head and heart – that are listening to my soul’s eternal journey and my own steps into eternity. My heart tells me to be true to my own intrinsic essence towards Taoism, my head tells me that the Way will be made clearer with my serving, or being a conduit for others transformation, not simply my own. Wisdom becomes universal when it is shared by all.
So I’m up at 4:20 AM Sunday morning for an hour taxi ride and two hour check-in for 8 AM flight from Chengdu to Lhasa. I left my notebook in carry-on so all my ideas on the plane had to wait.
Scene from a shop in Old Town
Anyway, I arrived in Lhasa two hours later and make it to the Lhasa Gang -Gyan Hotel on Beijing Road, where I will be for three nights (Sun/Mon/Tues), then leave Wednesday morning for Beijing and Missouri. Sunday after checking in was a free day and I did some shopping for Marie and Katie. The tour begins tomorrow. Lhasa has a unique history unlike almost any other city. It’s been at the crossroads of human travel and has served as the spiritual mecca for what was to be known as Tibetan Buddhism for thousands of years. Most of it’s late history was shaped by the influence of the mongols and connection with Mongolia. The mongols recognized Buddhism early and how the Dali Lama’s influence shaped the entire region.
Coming here is one the most humbling experiences I have ever encountered. The breadth of commitment over the centuries to mindfulness, self-awareness, and what are considered to be universal truths, (in Buddhism routinely called the four noble truths) is not something one can absorb in just a day or two beyond just appreciation in the highest possible sense. Tibetan Buddhism here in Lhasa, is all encompassing. It contains and is the fabric of all who have come before and permeates the local culture in the most positive way imaginable. It’s not something you do… it defines who you are. You can see this in the locals who take what can be called “ritual walks” around the city that is kind of ingrained in Tibetan culture, and without it and early morning rituals by pilgrimages to Jokhang Temple among others, the Tibetan flavor would be lost. Another example is the yearly painting of the exterior of the Potala Palace that was to occur a few weeks here after our visit. Everyone either volunteers to help to paint, or provides food and money to help with the community effort.
You can’t get much closer to God physically, than here high in the Himalayas. Lhasa has an elevation of about 3,600 m (11,800 ft) and lies in the center of the Tibetan Plateau with the surrounding mountains rising to 5,500 m (18,000 ft). The only thing I felt in the change in elevation was a severe headache the second morning after arriving. I think it was the lack of oxygen to my brain. After a couple cups of coffee and walking around outside I was fine. I was also helped by my having gone up and down Songshan and Huashan mountains in China in the weeks prior to coming to Tibet.
One of the best explanations of the spinning wheel you see at every Buddhist temple and monastery was given by Tashi when he said each wheel contains copies of the Buddhist sutras. By spinning the wheel, bits and pieces of the sutras (sutras are comparable to Bible verses) are released to you… the person doing the spinning. As you focus on your highest endeavor and possible destiny, you hope to be noticed by your devout sincerity and compassion towards others on your own journey.
The four monasteries and temples below give a representative overview as to what that means to history and what Tibet has become today. There is ample additional information on all four on the internet. I asked Tashi to give me some specific details that may not be all that is considered “common knowledge”.
The tour began Monday morning at Drepung Monastery. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries and is located on the Gambo Utse mountain, not far from the western suburb of Lhasa. It was the home of the Dalai Lamas before the Potala Palace was built in the 17th century. There were ten people in our group, plus our tour guide, Tashi. The plan is to visit two monastery/temples today (Drepung and Sera) and then two more tomorrow, the Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple. The rest of the group is going to a base camp hours away from Lhasa and will be here seven to ten days. My tour is for four days and I leave the group Wednesday morning and head for Beijing and home.
Drepung Monastery, also called Tashi-Megyur-Chahju-Ling, is one of the largest monasteries of the Gelupa Sect. It was built in 1416. It had more than 10,000 monks in the 1940’s… I think the mindset you should have is the pictures tell the story of what you see, the narrative from Tashi will be from the inside out. Pictures from Lhasa are below:
After lunch at a local restaurant (yak dumplings and yak butter tea) we went to Sera Monastery also known as the “Wild Roses Monastery”. Then back to hotel a little after 4 PM. Sera Monastery was founded by Jamchen Choje Shakya Tesh, who was a disciple of Tsongkhapa in 1419. The Sera Monastery has three colleges and thirty-three houses. It is the second biggest monastery in Tibet. The two things that got my attention were first, the afternoon debates in the courtyard. The daily debating is a class to practice and test the monks mastery of Buddhism. The second was the Circle of Life, or Wheel of Life, depicted here that describes Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Tashi would add…
The Wheel of Life can be interpreted on several levels. The six major sections represent the Six Realms. These realms can be understood as forms of existence, or states of mind, into which beings are born according to their karma. The realms also can be viewed as situations in life or even personality types—hungry ghosts are addicts; devas are privileged; hell beings have anger issues.
In each of the realms the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appears to show the way to liberation from the Wheel. ( A Bodhisattva is a person who has attained prajna, or enlightenment, but who has postponed Nirvana in order to help others attain enlightenment). But liberation is possible only in the human realm. From there, those who realize enlightenment find their way out of the Wheel to Nirvana.
The Wheel of Life is one of the most common subjects of Buddhist art. Mandalas are works of sacred art in Tantric (Tibetan) Buddhism. The word “mandala” comes from a Sanskrit word that generally means circle – hence the concept of circle of life – and mandalas are primarily recognizable by their concentric circles and other geometric figures. There were several to be found here at the Sera monastery. A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.
The detailed symbolism of the Wheel can be interpreted on many levels. The Wheel of Life (called the Bhavachakra in Sanskrit) represents the cycle of birth and rebirth and existence in samsara. In Buddhism, samsara is the process of coming into existence as a differentiated, mortal creature. Whereas, in Hinduism, it is considered the endless series of births, deaths, and rebirths to which all beings are subject.
Tashi explained the different parts of the Wheel and what they mean. The main sections are the hub and the six “pie wedges” depicting the Six Realms. Many Buddhists understand the Wheel in an allegorical, not literal, way. As you examine the parts of the wheel you might find yourself relating to some of it personally or recognizing people you know as Jealous Gods or Hell Beings or Hungry Ghosts.
The outer circle of the Wheel is the Paticca Samuppada. (Sanskrit, meaning the chain, or law, of dependent origination, or the chain of causation — a fundamental concept of Buddhism describing the causes of suffering and the course of events that lead a being through rebirth, old age, and death). Traditionally, the outer wheel depicts a blind man or woman (representing ignorance); potters (formation); a monkey (consciousness); two men in a boat (mind and body); a house with six windows (the senses); an embracing couple (contact); an eye pierced by an arrow (sensation); a person drinking (thirst); a man gathering fruit (grasping); a couple making love (becoming); a woman giving birth (birth); and a man carrying a corpse (death).
The above explanation helps to understand in a brief way, the underlying concepts of the history of Buddhism. For those who follow the “teachings of Buddhism”, being here in Lhasa, seeing these principles put into practice and how others have incorporated this into their own lives often leads to a transformation, or furthering, of one’s own journey. It’s also easy to see how religion and one’s own philosophy of life can blend into how every day should unfold and how we can/should adapt our lives into something much bigger than ourselves. Ultimately giving structure, context, and meaning to where and how everything fits together in the universe, i.e., what Sakyamuni, the Buddha intended.
On Tuesday we first went to Potala Palace, then after lunch we went to Jokhang Temple. Pictures were limited to outside both locations.
The Potala Palace (presently a museum as well as a World Heritage Site), situated between the Sera and Drepung monasteries, was the former winter residence of the Dalai Lama up to the point when Tenzin Gyatso (the 14th Dalai Lama) escaped to India because of the 1959 Tibetan Rebellion. What struck me was its division into what is known as the red palace or section and white palace of the administrative complex. To the left is one of the famous wall hangings from the Thangka Museum. Going through the museum is a requirement prior to entering the Potala Palace. The jade carvings, esp. the Jade Phoenix, and Buddha statutes (the maitreya statute, representing the future Buddha) were highlights for me.
The palace, founded in the 7th-century, is an iconic structure that represents the role of Tibetan Buddhism in the administration of Tibet. It had been named after the Mt. Potalaka, which is believed to be the dwelling of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The Heritage Site also comprises the Jokhang Temple, that I will be this afternoon.
The historic structure has been constructed over a palace that was erected on the Red Hill by Songtsan Gampo. The Potala Palace consists of two chapels – the Chogyel Drupuk and the Phakpa Lhakang retain some of the portions of the original structure. Construction of the new palace was started in 1645 by the Fifth Dalai Lama (Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso) after the site was deemed suitable as the seat of the government. Gyatso was the first Dalai Lama to wield effective temporal and spiritual power over all Tibet. He is often referred to simply as the Great Fifth, being a key religious and temporal leader of Tibetan Buddhism and Tibet. While the external structure took 3 years to complete, the palace interiors were completed in 45 years. The Dalai Lama along with his government shifted to the White Palace (Potrang Karpo) in 1649. The Red Palace (Potrang Marpo) as well as its ancillary buildings were added to the complex during 1690-1694.
After seeing Potala Palace, we had lunch in Old Town, then continued to the Jokhang Temple.
Jokhang Temple is considered to be the spiritual heart and holiest Buddhist site in Tibet. We visited on a Tuesday afternoon on my last full day before leaving the next morning for Beijing and home. Situated in the heart of the Old Town and surrounded by Barkhor Street, this four-storied building was built in the seventh century by Songtsan Gambo. With roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles it demonstrates a combination of the architectural style of Han, Tibetan, India and Nepal, as well as, a Mandela world outlook of Buddhism. It was originally called the ‘Tsuklakang’ (Tsulag Khang) – ‘House of Religious Science’ or ‘House of Wisdom’ during the Bon period of Tibet, which is referred to as geomancy, astrology, and divination of Bon. Today, it is more commonly known as the Jokhang, which means the ‘House of the Buddha’.
Most Tibetans go to Buddhist Temples in the morning hours, as tourists fill the sites in the afternoon. Another thing of interest is that the number of people going through the Potala Palace must be limited each day. The thousands of people streaming through the ancient corridors have caused them to be concerned about the structure’s ability to carry so much weight. Tickets to enter are measured and limited by the hour. Our time was scheduled for 12:45 (about noon) and our guide (Tashi) had to make sure we entered and left at the right time. One reason pictures are not allowed inside the monasteries and temples is that some people attempt to use photos to make copies of what they see inside and then try to sell. They frown on this.
Another interesting note was watching the local people walking around the city, the ring roads, and the prayer path around the bottom of the Potala Palace. There you will find Tibetans from all walks of life, Lhasa folk and pilgrims, doing what many of them do every day or as often as they can, circling the Potala, praying for the long life and good health and return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and for all sentient beings. If I had more time, walking around the city on the paths taken for centuries by the local citizens would have been a must, just to get a better feel for Lhasa and it’s history.
Notes on the aspects of the “Ritual Walks” in Lhasa
At the Jokhang Temple and around Lhasa, all Tibetans take the statue of Sakyamuni as the core for the ritual walks, and any believer walking around Jokhang Temple clockwise can be viewed as following the center track. Tradition says you take the ritual walks in and around the Jokhang Temple three times. First, they walk the inner ring around the statue of Sakyamuni, founder of Buddhism, in the Jokhang Temple; second, they walk the middle ring along Barkor Street, skirting the temple; and third, they walk the outer ring around the Potala Palace, the Jokhang Temple, the Yaowangshan Mountain and other parts of Lhasa.
While taking these group ritual walks in the clockwise direction, they count rosaries in their hands, spin prayer tubes, and chant the Six Syllable Prayer. As they recite OM MANI PADME HUM, the six negative emotions, which are the cause of the six realms of samsara, are purified. This is how reciting the six syllables prevents rebirth in each of the six realms, and also dispels the suffering inherent in each realm. (discussed above at the Sera Monastery as the Wheel of Life).
Generally speaking other names are referred to walking the outer ring, called “lingkor,” early in the morning, and they will walk the middle ring called “Barkor” in the evening. During the traditional Grand Summons Ceremony, which takes place in the first Tibetan month and during the Sagya Dawa Festival in the fourth Tibetan month, taking ritual walks is said to have a much better effect; as a result, many more people take ritual walks at those times.
Oct 18, 2018 / The Journey Home
Notes and Postscript
One thing coming to Lhasa, Tibet has shown me is I am not to become a Tibetan Buddhist just yet. That in many ways we become a conduit – initially unaware of one’s own role – until we open ourselves to the universe and accept who we are truly yet to become. Having a sense of the underlying reason why and how Buddhism came to China, and it’s impact on Chinese religion and culture is though. Beyond just a cursory review, I have had an opportunity to expand my own knowledge and hopefully wisdom of some of the intricacies here on my website. How it progressed over the centuries in China and what was to become Chan and Zen Buddhism is essential in understanding the convergence of philosophy and religion not only in China, but the entire world. For myself, it is a key element in reminding us that we are all universal and that understanding our origins, as well as the origins of others and where it has taken them, is central the our own enlightenment, for lack of a better term or description, as well theirs. This “convergence” begins and continues within each of us.
All of my entries here have additional thoughts, notes, and pictures in some cases to be added. My journey is never to be completed, only added on to…
It is as if all I need to know I already knew and I am simply to be reminded of my own origins and why I am here. Home is everywhere we’ve ever been and/or will be. It is not a physical place, except as we can define as what we create as our sanctuary. It is the place where our body, heart, and mind reside. Our role is simply how we have influenced what we have ever touched or will touch, as we go forth from the past, present, and future with compassion, virtue, and wisdom. That journey continues… and I have far yet to go.
Final Thoughts written on the way back to USA
Why do you not live in the realm of who you are yet to become? Toshi did not leave his pen with you by mistake. It was so that you would take him with you – he is your guide – your gift from the universe. He is no only a tour guide, he is one of your mentors here to show you the way forward.
The one you need is always present just wanting to be asked. You have a gift – fine-tune it to become your ultimate self. The way is clear – open your heart to those who are here to help you. (This was apparent on my way back from Lhasa on the plane going through Xi’an and on to Beijing). But it took me to act in my own best interest first.
Become one with the change that fits naturally within your highest image and become one with it. Become the light of your own universe – it flows from within you, Dan. Find the joy and use its energy to guide you. Create the sanctuary that your mentors find appealing and want to reside in themselves making it easier for them to make an appearance. Focus on continually restoring your energy. Your longevity counts on it. Be guided by and from the light within. Toshi is an example of the key – don’t let him go. Share your energy with him and he will stay in it’s comfort. By example, this energy has always resided as your enthusiasm. Your passion is what gives you the courage and way to see within yourself – you are not to be the Buddha – you are to be yourself.
Create the flow of energy you want the world to follow and they will do so – you are not Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, a Confucian, the Buddha – but the convergence of all these. It was Lao Tzu and use of I Ching that go your attention. You are a child of the universe – once found – you are to manifest this as yourself. Be yourself. You have been given a gift beyond life and death. Your job is to simply stay in the flow as who you have been, are now, and are yet to become. The world is your sanctuary. Live within your highest endeavor and you will always be ready for the next step to come.
For now, complete the update of Lao Tzu you have been working on for over a year. The “account” of your journey is far from complete. Filling in the details is essential.
Become the joy as one who knows the way forward and the next step will always be readily apparent. Continually develop structure and using your innate planning talent to focus on the next three steps that show the way. Three keys to sanctuary are 1) family, 2) your surroundings, and 3) your writing. Let others live in the light that you possess – don’t keep it to yourself. Show compassion and love and you in turn will be loved. Show forgiveness and you will be forgiven. Replace regret with showing the way forward with compassion and energy directed by your heart and mindfulness. That is all. Know the ways of your garden and know the world. You have created your own mantra – just learn to live by what you have written.
Why do you not live within the realm of who you are yet to become? Living in the state of becoming – I have never lived within the confines of a physical space/or place. I live in the State of Becoming. To live as if continually transformed as a mirror – reflecting from within my intent to act as a confluence of energy. Not tied to a particular philosophy or religion – but to the highest endeavor of all that come before me. To be humbled by the gifts of others and they in turn, will become humbled by your own.
As I re-consider my role, I think I have an opportunity to expand the consciousness and make connection to universal truth in regards to history of Tibetan Buddhism, Taoist philosophy, Chinese history, and how they relate with and to the world. With Tashi’s help anything is possible. I may have misjudged my role initially on my blog because I was so humbled by it all and it seemed so overwhelming. With the centuries of history in Tibet, and just as with Taoism, there needs to be an updating, a refresher. What seems to be beyond me comes in the way of my guide – the tour guide who seems steeped in Buddhism.
Perhaps this is why I have always been met with resistance in my endeavors… because there was a much bigger role I am here to play than that I attempted to limit myself to. The arena was limited and did not match abilities I am here to convey and perform. Staying within myself means not to be distracted by those things not tied to my highest endeavor. Perhaps my role is much bigger than to be limited by Qufu, for example. Th broaden my horizon to the universe and let it fill in the blanks. Maybe it is Tashi, in Lhasa, who has a superb knowledge of “connecting the dots” for my benefit as it relates to seeing Tibetan Buddhism and the key to the benevolence within each of us (the ten thousand things – as the Chinese would say).
It is as if this this so-called “sabbatical” has taken on more than I thought might be possible. Just as it is said to be careful what you open yourself to the universe – what comes forth to fill you may be more than you are ready for. Toshi is leading the group I was with in Lhasa onto the base camp in the Himalayas – I didn’t go – but we exchanged WeChat and email and he will help me fill in the blanks to my knowledge and blog… We’ve already began. Instead of having a limited vision of what our role in the universe should, or can be, we are to expand our vision to our highest endeavor. It is as if we are here to come to know who we are and to become this – unafraid as to where it may take us. As if flying at 30,000 feet… above the clouds and seeing below the steps that are needed are easy to see and coming down to enable others to do them. Not by trying to do all by myself, as I follow Lao Tzu’s model of “doing nothing”, but to show others by our virtue the way to proceed.
To become as if a monk in your own sanctuary. You have enough to do – doing nothing.
Focus on mindfulness
- We become Buddha-mind when we become present – in the moment – with the mindset of the universe, and in turn universal truth.
- We become one with where we are when it is as a sanctuary to our highest self – rather in Chengdu, China, or my backyard.
- It is not where we are – but where are we doing it from.
- It is what inspires our highest aspiration from within – and we convey this with love, compassion, sincerity, and energy for all, especially family and friends. Once we reside in this moment we convey this to all we meet and especially to who we are yet to become.
- Our personal attributes not in keeping with our highest selves we diminish and leave behind become a reason for focus, meditation, and contemplation. For myself, it begins with lack of discipline and patience and working to enhance both.
- My visit to Lhasa was not just for pictures, but to expose myself to aspects of mindfulness, and perhaps much more.