THE DAOIST DAILY DIARY

11/30/2021

“To Taoism that which is absolutely still or absolutely perfect is absolutely dead, for without the possibility of growth and change there can be no Tao. In reality there is nothing in the universe which is completely perfect or completely still; it is only in the minds of men that such concepts exist.” – Alan W. Watts

Today we take a look at our second Dao Yin Dragon sequence, Swimming Dragon. This is the easiest of the Dragons to perform. You should have no problems following along with the video. The one note I will mention is that the feet are parallel and not angled as with yesterday’s Soaring or Arousing Dragon. In case you had trouble performing that one, you can scroll down to 11/24 and the Dao Yin Dragon Basic Stretches. In the video, look for the one titled “Coiling Snake.” That is the basic posture of the Soaring Dragon without stepping forward. Now just add the steps to it from yesterday’s video and have a great time practicing these two Dragons, folks!

 

11/29/2021

Welcome back, everyone! I hope no one got terminal indigestion from stuffing themselves on Thanksgiving, and I certainly hope no one was seriously injured from fighting through the hordes of shoppers on Black Friday. I’m glad that you are in one piece and can join me once again as we continue the series on the Dao Yin Dragons. Previously we viewed a podcast on Qigong vs Dao Yin and practice some Dao Yin preparatory stretches.

Today we look at the first exercise set in the Dao Yin Dragons called Soaring Dragon. If you have a difficult time following the movements then slow down the video to .75 or even .50. Since there are no audio instructions, you can slow this up as much as you would like and pause and replay it at any point.

 

11/28/2021

Another magnificent weekend in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. Temperature is in the 80s and the air is clean and fresh. A wonderful day to spend in the park doing tui shou with my tai chi brothers and sisters. Hope you have enjoyed your weekend and are ready to a full week of practicing. Thanks for stopping by. See you on Monday when we resume our series on the Dao Yin Dragons.

11/27/2021 Small Business Saturday

Today was Small Business Saturday. I hope you shopped at a small business like this one…

11/26/2021 Black Friday

Found an appropriate quote from Zhuangzi for today, Black Friday…

“The Kingly Man

My master said:
That which acts on all and meddles in none – is heaven . . .
The Kingly Man realizes this, hides it in his heart,
Grows boundless, wide-minded, draws all to himself.
And so he lets the gold lie hidden in the mountain,
Leaves the pearl lying in the deep.

Goods and possessions are no gain in his eyes,
He stays far from wealth and honour.
Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow
Success is not for him to be proud of, failure is no shame.

Had he all the world’s power he would not hold it as his own,
If he conquered everything he would not take it to himself.
His glory is in knowing that all things come together in One
And life and death are equal.”
― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

Happy Black Friday, everyone!

11/25/2021 Thanksgiving Day

“Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are.
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you.”
– Laozi

Happy Thanksgiving to Everyone! If you’re like me, I’m sure you have much to be thankful for. Just to be alive is plenty, and to appreciate life for what it is deepens our gratitude and adds an immense blessing to all we are and do. Have a wonderful day, celebrating Life by Giving Thanks. Bless you, one and all.

11/24/2021

“To a mind that is still the whole Universe surrenders.” – Lao Tzu

Continuing with our series on the Dao Yin Dragons. Here is a short video on Dao Yin Basic Warmup Stretches by Nikolas Benedikt of Mountain Pathways – an affiliate branch of Lotus Nei Gong International., a Damo Mitchell school. Watch the video several times and follow along until you feel proficient. You can slow the playback speed if necessary.

 

And in case you don’t stop by tomorrow, have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving. Since many of you will be travelling and visiting family, we will resume the series on the Dragon Dao Yins on Monday. But the Holiday is no excuse not to practice, especially after gorging yourself with whatever Thanksgiving feast you are having.

11/23/2021

One of the more important aspects of Neigong training, especially in the beginning, are the Dao Yin Dragons. These are a series of choreographed stretches that open the fascia and the connective tissues that enable a more robust flow of Qi. There are four Dragons: Awakening Dragon, Swimming Dragon, Soaring Dragon and Drunken Dragon. Some liken them to Qigong and other actually classify them as Qigong exercises, but they are not. Because of the intensity of their stretches, they are in a class by themselves.

Today we start a short series on the Dao Yin Dragons with a podcast by Kong Jie, who discusses the basics of Dao Yin in general as well as how it differs from standard Qigong. He speaks rather quickly. So, if you cannot understand some of his points, adjust the playback speed from Normal to .75. And have a great practice, everyone.

 

11/22/2021

“Only when we can start with the simplest exercise of absorbing the awareness into the body and increasingly relaxing our mind will we enable the evolution of our breathing processes to lead towards a true state of Gong.” – Damo Mitchell

Today, we conclude our series on Taoist Breathwork not with another breathing exercise, but with a podcast on where the proper breathing takes us once we have developed true abdominal breathing. What happens then is that the breath becomes a major factor in building the dan tian and filling it with Qi. So, today we have Damo Mitchell of Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy explaining how the process works in a podcast entitled “Filling the Dantien Bucket.” Hopefully, this will clear up some misconceptions and put you on the correct path that leads to a true state of Gong. Enjoy your practicing, everyone! Thanks for stopping by.

 

11/21/2021

A magnificent day in Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Valley. Temperature is in the 80s and the air is clean and fresh. A wonderful day to spend in the park doing tui shou with my tai chi brothers and sisters. Hope you have enjoyed your weekend and are ready to a full week of practicing. Thanks for stopping by. See you on Monday.

11/20/2021

“There is nothing to try to do, for whatever comes up moment by moment is accepted, including non-acceptance.” – Bruce Lee

Today we look at another very specific breathing practice – Tu Gu Na Xin or Tu Na for short. This is not for everyday breathing or to be used in your Internal Arts Qigong, Neigong or Taiji exercises. This is a stand alone practice that one does in short 5-round or 10-round bursts before or directly after practice or as a breath refresher during the day.

Taoists directly relate ones quality of breath with their quality of life. Tu Gu Na Xin is a Daoist breathing method that cleans and clears the lungs. This allows for deeper, fuller breaths, contributing to a richer experience of life. This video teaches you to assess your breath capacity in addition to various methods for improving overall lung health and riding them of toxins.

It is presented by David Wei, a 16th generation lineage holder for the Wudang San Feng Life Nourishment Sect. He has over 20 years of experience in Taoist arts and culture, with a specialization in Tui Na acupressure. David is also the founder of Wudang West, an Oakland-based Heritage Center aimed to practice and preserve the cultural wellness arts of Wudang, China.

 

11/19/2021

“As you “observe the breath” for longer, you will naturally start to become aware of the nature of Qi moving within your system.” – Damo Mitchell

Today, we are going to look at another form of Taoist breathing techniques known as “Bone Breathing.” This is not the same as “Bone Marrow Washing” but is simply a breathing technique to soften the connective tissue around the bones and thus create a greater flow of Qi within your channel system. It is a simple technique to learn and even adapt to your Qigong exercises. It is presented here by Dr. David Clippinger of Still Mountain Tai Chi in a short six-minute video. Enjoy your practicing, folks, and thanks so much for stopping by.

11/18/2021

“We have to breath anyway. We might as well be breathing efficiently and with power.” – Lee Holden

Over the last two days we listened to Sifu Mark Rasmus explain and demonstrate Internal Breathing Methods, namely Vital Pore Breathing or Whole Body Breathing. Today Sifu Rasmus is back with us presenting a very specific type of breathing known as “Dragon Breathing.” This is particular method specializes in strengthening virility, increasing testosterone and also fast tracks an astral feeling of qi. So, get comfortable, listen to Sifu Rasmus’ instructions and follow along. Hopefully, you will find this method useful and effective. Enjoy your practicing, folks, and thanks for stopping by.

 

11/17/2021

“Every conscious breath is qigong” – Sebastian Wunches

Yesterday, we viewed a podcast by Sifu Mark Rasmus on Internal Breathing Methods with the focus on Pore or Vital Breathing also called Whole Body Breathing. Today, in a short 7-minute video Sifu Rasmus guides us through a Whole Body Breathing exercise. Follow along and see how Rasmus’ method resonates with you and your body. As always, have a great practice, everyone. And thanks for stopping by.

 

\11/16/2021

“Unwilling to face our deepest fears, we breathe our emotions; and our emotions in turn breathe us.”

Yesterday we heard from Armand at ChiSkills.com in Holland, a long-time desciple of Sifu Mark Rasmus. Today, we hear directly from Sifu Rasmus, himself, in this first part on Internal Breathing Methods, where he focuses on Pore or Vital Breathing also called Whole Body Breathing. Tomorrow, we will take a look at the second part and practice this method along with Sifu Rasmus. This is a short 5-minute talk today, so enjoy and see if you can work some of his points into your practice. And thanks for stopping by.

 

11/15/2021

“Extreme softness begets extreme hardness. Your ability to be lively lies in your ability to breathe.” From Understanding How to Practice the Thirteen Dynamics (of Zhang San Feng)

Our thanks to Damo Mitchell of Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy for starting off this series on Taoist Breathwork. If you missed his “Anchoring the Breath, Parts 1 & 2” podcast, just scroll down this page to 11/12 for Part1 and 11/13 for Part 2. Today we are going to learn about Pore Breathing or Vital Breathing from Armand at ChiSkills.com in Holland. Armand has been a long-time disciple of Sifu Mark Rasmus. We will hear from Sifu Rasmus starting tomorrow. But, in the meantime, Armand explains the basics of pore breathing and leads us in an exercise. I hope you enjoy this short video and gain enough practical information that you can put into practice right away. So enjoy and have a great practice, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

 

11/14/2021

Another beautiful weekend in Los Angeles. Height of Summer weather here in the middle of November. I enjoyed a day at the park today doing tui shou with my friends. How about you? Hope your getting some rest tonight to prepare for a week of practice. As always, good practicing, folks!

11/13/2021

“Tension is stagnation, which causes blockages in the channels. A healthy flow of Qi serves to end emotional tension.”

Yesterday, we began to look at the Taoist methods of breathwork. Damo Mitchell, the Director of Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy, led us off with an explanation of the Taoist practice of “Anchoring the Breath, Part 1.” If you missed it, please scroll down to yesterday’s post 11/12 before going on to today’s video of “Anchoring the Breath, Part 2,” where you can follow along with Damo Mitchell as he shows us how to develop this practice. Enjoy, everyone. And have a great weekend. See you on Monday.

 

11/12/2021

“When we reach a high level of breathing practice, our breath can become a form of release from tension and stress.”

Breathing has a special place in Taoist Alchemy. It is where beginners start their practice and continues through all the levels of cultivation. It is responsible for breaking up stagnation and moving the different forms of Qi through the channels. So, over the next few days we will look at several form of breathing practices and exercises.

We begin today with an explanation a basic Taoist breathing practice called “Anchoring the Breath” by Damo Mitchell, Director of Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy.

11/11/2021

Perhaps the two most consistent themes or qualities running through the Tao Te Ching are Moderation and Modesty/Humility.

Chapter 9 is exclusively about Moderation:
“Stretch (a bow) to the very full,
And you will wish you had stopped in time.
Temper a (sword-edge) to its very sharpest,
And the edge will not last long.
When gold and jade fill your hall,
You will not be able to keep them safe.
To be proud with wealth and honor
Is to sow seeds of one’s own downfall.
Retire when your work is done,
Such is Heaven’s way.”

At the end of Chapter 15, Laozi sparkles with this gem:
“He who embraces this Tao
Guards against being over-full.
Because he guards against being over-full,
He is beyond wearing out and renewal.”

In Chapter 24, Laozi touches on both Moderation and Modesty by revealing what they are not. Then he concludes with a firm rebuke:
“He who stands on tiptoe does not stand (firm);
He who strains his strides does not walk (well);
He who reveals himself is not luminous;
He who justifies himself is not far-famed;
He who boasts of himself is not given credit;
He who prides himself is not chief among men.
These in the eyes of Tao
Are called “the dregs and tumors of Virtue,”
Which are things of disgust.
Therefore the man of Tao spurns them.”

In Chapter 29, Laozi warns us against interfering with the flow of Tao and the balance of Yin and Yang then concludes with this:
“Hence the Sage eschews excess, eschews extravagance,
Eschews pride.”

There are many more, too many to list here. However, I would like to include my favorite Laozi passage on Moderation entitled “Be Content.”
“Fame or one’s own self, which does one love more?
One’s own self or material goods, which has more worth?
Loss (of self) or possession (of goods), which is the greater evil?

“Therefore: he who loves most spends most,
He who hoards much loses much.
The contented man meets no disgrace;
Who know when to stop runs into no danger –
He can long endure.”

Now a quick few on Modesty/Humility.
In Chapter 2, Laozi concludes with another gem:
“He (the Sage) acts, but does not appropriate;
Accomplishes, but claims no credit.
It is because he lays claim to no credit
That the credit cannot be taken away from him.”

In Chapter 22, Laozi examines what the Sage does to become a model for the entire world to follow.
“Therefore the Sage embraces the One,
And becomes the model of the world.
He does not reveal himself,
And is therefore luminous.
He does not justify himself,
And is therefore far-famed.
He does not boast of himself,
And therefore people give him credit.
He does not pride himself,
And is therefore the chief among men.”

We have already looked at Chapter 24 above where Laozi reveals what both Moderation and Modesty are not. I want to conclude with Chapter 77, a wonderful verse, “Bending the Bow, another one of my favorites, that also combines both Moderation and Modesty.
“The Tao (way) of Heaven,
Is it not like the bending of a bow?
The top comes down and the bottom-end goes up,
The extra (length) is shortened, the insufficient (width) is expanded.
It is the way of Heaven to take away from those that have too much
And give to those that have not enough.
Not so with man’s way:
He takes from those that have not
And gives it as tribute to those that have too much.
Who can have enough and to spare to give to the entire world?
Only the man of Tao.
Therefore the Sage acts, but does not possess,
Accomplishes but lays claim to no credit,
Because he has no wish to seem superior.

So, let’s see if we can cultivate these two powerful, revealing qualities – Moderation and Modesty – into our daily lives. And enjoy practicing them, folks. That will seal or bind them to your consciousness.

11/10/2021

When it comes to consistency of themes and sought-after qualities perhaps the four most consistent are the feminine or female, child or infant, moderation or middle way, and humility or modesty. We will look at the last two, humility and moderation tomorrow. Today we will take a look at a few of Laozi’s quotes on the feminine and the infant.

One of his most famous quotes on the feminine is from Chapter 6:
“The Spirit of the Valley never dies.
It is called the Mystic Female.
The Door of the Mystic Female
Is the root of Heaven and Earth.

“Continuously, continuously,
It seems to remain.
Draw upon it
And it serves you with ease.”

Then in Chapter 10, Laozi stresses both the feminine and the infant:
“In controlling your vital force to achieve gentleness,
Can you become like the new-born child?…”

“In opening and shutting the Gate of Heaven,
Can you play the part of the Female?”

In Chapter 20, he mentions both the new-born child and the Mother (the feminine):
“The people of the world are merry-making,
As if partaking of the sacrificial feasts,
As if mounting the terrace in spring;
I alone am mild, like one unemployed,
Like a new-born babe that cannot yet smile…”

“The people of the world all have a purpose;
I alone appear stubborn and uncouth.
I alone differ from the other people,
And value drawing sustenance from the Mother.”

In Chapter 25, he likens the Tao to the Mother of All Things:
“Before the Heaven and Earth existed
There was something nebulous:
Silent, isolated,
Standing alone, changing not,
Eternally revolving without fail,
Worthy to be the Mother of All Things.
I do not know its name
And address it as Tao.”

In Chapter 28 he again stresses both the female and the child but also another consistent theme – the valley, ravine or lowly places:
“He who is aware of the Male
But keeps to the Female
Becomes the ravine of the world.
Being the ravine of the world,
He has the original character (teh) which is not cut up.
And returns again to the (innocence of the) babe.”

In Chapter 52, Laozi identifies the feminine as the Mother of the Universe:
“There was a beginning of the universe
Which may be regarded as the Mother of the Universe.
From the Mother, we may know her sons.
After knowing the sons, keep to the Mother.
Thus one’s whole life may be preserved from harm.”

In Chapter 55, Laozi’s most famous quote on the new-born child emphasizes qualities he considers most important:
“Who is rich in character
Is like a child.
No poisonous insects sting him,
No wild beasts attack him,
And no birds of prey pounce upon him.
His bones are soft, his sinews tender, yet his grip is strong.
Not knowing the union of male and female, yet his organs are complete,
Which means his vigor is unspoiled.
Crying the whole day, yet his voice never runs hoarse,
Which means his (natural) harmony is perfect.
To know harmony is to be in accord with the eternal,
(And) to know eternity is called discerning.”

And finally, in Chapter 61, he joins his theme of the feminine with that of the lowly places in describing a large country:
“A big country (should be like) the delta low-regions,
Being the concourse of the world,
(And) the Female of the world.
The Female overcomes the Male by quietude,
And achieves the lowly position by quietude.”

Tomorrow we will look at the other two major themes in the Tao Te Ching, moderation and modesty. Until then, keep Laozi’s consistent themes in mind while you enjoy your Internal Arts practicing. Thanks for stopping by, folks!

11/09/2021

Yesterday we looked at the consistency of Laozi’s teaching within the Tao Te Ching. Specifically, we focused on handling problems while they are small and the quality of consistency, itself, which Laozi highly recommends if we are to accomplish anything.

Today, we look at the consistency of his teachings on clarity

In Chapter 15, Laozi asks:
“Who can find repose in a muddy world?”
And then he immediately answers:
“By lying still, it becomes clear.”

Actually, the above quote contains three qualities that he consistently urges us to adopt – clarity, stillness, and water. Here he is implying that a muddy world is like muddy water. Leave it alone so the water remains still and the mud will eventually settle at the bottom.

In Chapter 52, Laozi has two references to clarity:
“He who can see the small is clear-sighted;
He who stays by gentility is strong,
Use the light and return to clear-sightedness.”

Another recurring quality or theme in the Tao Te Ching is lessening our attention that we place on the five senses. By doing so, Laozi implies that this brings about clarity.

In Chapter 12, he states:
“The five colors blind the eyes of man;
The five musical notes deafen the ears of man;
The five flavors dull the taste of man;
Horse-racing, hunting and chasing madden the minds of man;
Rare, valuable goods keep their owners awake at night.
Therefore the Sage:
Provides for the belly and not the eye.
Hence, he rejects the one and accepts the other.”

And again in Chapter 52
“Stop its apertures,
Close its doors,
And one’s whole life is without toil.

Open its apertures,
Be busy about its affairs,
And one’s whole life is beyond redemption.”

And in Chapter 56, there’s this…
“He who knows does not speak;
He who speaks does not know.
Fill up its apertures,
Close its doors,
Dull its edges,
Untie its tangles,
Soften its light,
Submerge its turmoil,
– This is the Mystic Unity.

“Then love and hatred cannot touch him.
Profit and loss cannot reach him.
Honor and disgrace cannot affect him.
Therefore is he always the honored one of the world.”

Thus to achieve true clarity and discernment, we want to perceive beyond the five senses and not dwell or get our desires tangled up in the turmoil of this muddy world but instead be still and see that turmoil for what it really is. Enjoy your practicing, people. Thanks for stopping by.

11/08/2021

One of the most essential qualities in developing character and advancing one’s cultivation in the Internal Arts is consistency. This is not a quality to be taken lightly but harkens back to Laozi and the Tao Te Ching. Here is a quote from none other than Osho on Laozi’s consistency:

“To understand Lao Tzu’s logic you will have to create eyes. It is very subtle, it is not the ordinary logic of the logicians — it is the logic of a hidden life, a very subtle life. Whatsoever he says is on the surface absurd; deep down there lives a very great consistency. One has to penetrate it; one has to change his own mind to understand Lao Tzu.” – Osho

One of the concepts in the Tao Te Ching, which Laozi stresses with consistency is handling problems while they are small.

In Chapter 63, Laozi says:
“Deal with the difficult while yet it is easy;
Deal wit the big while yet it is small.
The difficult (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet easy;
The great (problems) of the world
Must be dealt with while they are yet small.
Therefore the Sage by never dealing with great (problems)
Accomplishes greatness.”

Then he comes right back in Chapter 64 and repeats the same admonition:
“That which lies still is easy to hold;
That which is not yet manifest is easy to forestall;
That which is brittle (like ice) easily melts;
That which is minute easily scatters.
Deal with a thing before it is there;
Check disorder before it is rife.
A tree with a full span’s girth begins from a tiny sprout;
A nine-storied terrace begins with a clod of earth.
A journey of a thousand li beings at one’s feet.”

Then in the very next verse in Chapter 64, Laozi deals with inconsistency, stating that the lack of consistency causes our affairs to fail especially when they are close to coming to fruition:
“The affairs of men are often spoiled within an ace of completion.
By being careful at the end as at the beginning
Failure is averted.”

So let’s see if we can put these two qualities of consistency and handling problems as soon as they emerge or even beforehand with preventive measures into our everyday lives as well as our Internal Arts practices. And have a great practice, everyone.

11/07/2021

A beautiful day in L.A. Great for going to your favorite and just chilling out or…doing some push hands and learning while doing. Now it’s time to rest up and get ready for a full week of practice. Enjoy it, folks!

11/06/2021

“Cessation of mind equals cessation of breath. Cessation of breath equals cessation of self…” -Damo Mitchell, Internal Arts Academy

In light of the Zhuangzi story, “Keng’s Disciple,” which we just concluded yesterday (Part 4, 11/05), I would like to post a podcast on Guan Yin by my Nei Gong and Alchemy teacher, Damo Mitchell. In this talk, he explains the concept of Guan Yin in terms of Daoist alchemy, which is basically a way for Internal Arts cultivators and other meditators to begin to realize how their awareness works in the context of our internal complexities. This lack of understanding was precisely what caused Keng’s disciple so much frustration and despair.

 

11/05/2021

Today we conclude “Keng’s Disciple” with Part 4 from Thomas Merton’s collection of Zhuangzi stories entitled “The Way of Chuang Tzu.” To review any of the previous parts of the story simply scroll down the page. For Part 1 scroll to 11/02, for Part 2 scroll to 11/03 and for Part 3 scroll to 11/04.

Have you guessed which chapter from his Tao Te Ching Lao Tzu quotes as advice to Keng’s overwrought disciple, who cannot seem to put the teachings into practice and cultivate desirable qualities while ridding himself of undesirable ones? Let’s find out.

KENG’S DISCIPLE Part 4

Lao Tzu replied:
“Can you embrace the One
And not lose it?
Can you foretell good things and bad
Without the tortoise shell
Or the straws?
Can you rest where there is rest?
Do you know when to stop?
Can you mind your own business
Without cares, without desiring reports
Of how others are progressing?
Can you stand on your own feet?
Can you duck?
Can you be like an infant
That cries all day
Without getting a sore throat
Or clenches his fist all day
Without getting a sore hand
Or gazes all day
Without eyestrain?
You want the first elements?
The infant has them.
Free from care, unaware of self,
He acts without reflection,
Stays where he is put, does not know why,
Does not figure things out,
Just goes along with them,
Is part of the current.
These are the first elements!”

The disciple asked:
“Is this perfection?”

Lao replied: “Not at all.
It is only the beginning.
This melts the ice.

“This enables you
To unlearn,
So that you can be led by Tao,
Be a child of Tao.

“If you persist in trying
To attain what is never attained
(It is Tao’s gift!)
If you persist in making effort
To obtain what effort cannot get;
If you persist in reasoning
About what cannot be understood,
You will be destroyed
By the very thing you seek.

“To know when to stop
To know when you can get no further
By your own action,
This is the right beginning!”

So, if you said Chapter 10 or Chapter 55 of the Tao Te Ching, you were correct. Parts of each are contained in Laozi’s advice to Keng’s Disciple. And as Zhuangzi would have it, good advice for all of us to follow. That is the reason he has developed principles from both chapters to give all of us advice on how to begin cultivating desirable qualities and ridding ourselves of undesirable ones. So for all Internal Arts practitioners, have a great weekend and enjoy practicing, folks.

11/04/2021

Today, we look at Part 3 of “Keng’s Disciple” from Thomas Merton’s collection of Zhuangzi stories entitled “The Way of Chuang Tzu.” Scroll down to 11/02/2021 to read Merton’s commentary and Part 1 with the disciple’s frustration of being unable to realize Keng’s teachings or put them into practice like the other disciples, and Keng advises him to present himself to Lao Tzu. Scroll down to 11/03/2021 to read Part 2 when Keng’s Disciple leaves his temple and journeys south to meet Lao Tzu. Meditating alone in a cell and trying to cultivate desirable qualities only led to further despair. And now Part 3

KENG’S DISCIPLE Part 3

“Miserable!” said Lao.
“All blocked up!
Tied in knots! Try
To get untied!
If your obstructions
Are on the outside,
Do not attempt
To grasp them one by one
And thrust them away.
Impossible! Learn
To ignore them.
If they are within yourself,
You cannot destroy them piecemeal,
But you can refuse
To let them take effect.
If they are both inside and outside,
Do not try
To hold on to Tao. Just hope that Tao
Will keep hold of you!”

The disciple groaned:
“When a farmer gets sick
And the other farmers come to see him,
If he can at least tell them
What is the matter
His sickness is not bad.
But as for me, in my search for Tao,
I am like a sick man who takes medicine
That makes him ten times worse.
Just tell me
The first elements.
I will be satisfied!”

Tomorrow we will conclude with Part 4 where Lao Tzu quotes one of his famous chapters from the Tao Te Ching as advice to Keng’s overwrought disciple. Can you guess which chapter that is? Which chapter would you quote to Keng’s disciple? And why? Contemplate on that tonight and join me tomorrow for the conclusion. And don’t forget to enjoy practicing and contemplating, everyone.

11/03/2021

Today, we look at Part 2 of “Keng’s Disciple” from Thomas Merton’s collectioj of Zhuangzi stories entitled “The Way of Chuang Tzu.” In Part 1 yesterday (scroll down to 11/02/2021), Keng’s Sang Chu’s disciple complained to his master that the other disciples get the Master Keng’s meaning and can put it into practice, but he cannot. No matter how hard he tries, it just does not ring any bells inside. Keng admits that his own capacity is too slight to help his student. Thus, he suggests that the student journey to see Lao Tzu. That’s where we begin today.

KENG’S DISCIPLE Part 2

The disciple got some supplies,
Travelled seven days and seven nights
Alone,
And came to Lao Tzu.
Lao asked: “Do you come from Keng?”
“Yes,” replied the student.
“Who are all those people you have brought with you?”
The disciple whirled around to look.
Nobody there. Panic!
Lao said: “Don’t you understand?”
The disciple hung his head. Confusion!
Then a sigh. “Alas, I have forgotten my answer.”
(More confusion!) “I have also forgotten my question.”
Lao said: “What are you trying to say?”
The disciple: “When I don’t know, people treat me like a
fool.
When I do know, the knowledge gets me into trouble.
When I fail to do good, I hurt others.
When I do good, I hurt myself.
If I avoid my duty, I am remiss,
But if I do it, I am ruined.
How can I get out of these contradictions?
That is what I came to ask you.”

Lao Tzu replied:
“A moment ago
I looked into your eyes.
I saw you were hemmed in
By contradictions. Your words
Confirm this.
You are scared to death,
Like a child who has lost
Father and mother.
You are trying to sound
The middle of the ocean
With a six-foot pole.
You have got lost, and are trying
To find your way back
To your own true self.
You find nothing
But illegible signposts
Pointing in all directions.
I pity you.”

The disciple asked for admittance,
Took a cell, and there
Meditated,
Trying to cultivate qualities
He thought desirable
And get rid of others
Which he disliked.
Ten days of that!
Despair!

Tomorrow we will get into Part 3 of “Keng’s Disciple” and his encounter with Lao Tzu. Until then, enjoy your practicing, folks.

11/02/2021

Today we begin Part 1 of “Keng’s Disciple,” the longest story in Thomas Merton’s Zhuangzi collection entitle “The Way of Chuang Tzu. We will start off with Merton’s commentary.

MERTON:
The “man of Tao” does not make the mistake of giving up self-conscious virtuousness in order to immerse himself in an even more self-conscious contemplative recollection. One cannot call Chuang Tzu a “contemplative” in the sense of one who adopts a systematic program of spiritual self-purification in order to attain to certain definite interior experiences, or even merely to “cultivate the interior life.” Chuang Tzu would condemn this just as roundly as the “cultivation” of anything else on an artificial basis. All deliberate, systematic, and reflexive “self-cultivation,” whether active or contemplative, personalistic or politically committed, cuts one off from the mysterious but indispensable contact with Tao, the hidden “Mother” of all life and truth. One of the things that causes the young disciple of Keng Sang Chu (Keng’s Disciple) to be so utterly frustrated is precisely that he shuts himself up in a cell and tries to cultivate qualities which he thinks desirable and get rid of others which he dislikes.

KENG’S DISCIPLE
A disciple complained to Keng:
“The eyes of all men seem to be alike,
I detect no difference in them;
Yet some men are blind;
Their eyes do not see.
The ears of all men seem to be alike,
I detect no difference in them;
Yet some men are deaf,
Their ears do not hear.
The minds of all men have the same nature,
I detect no difference between them;
But the mad cannot make
Another man’s mind their own.
Here am I, apparently like the other disciples,
But there is a difference:
They get your meaning and put it in practice;
I cannot.
You tell me: ‘Hold your being secure and quiet,
Keep your life collected
in its own center.
Do not allow your thoughts
To be disturbed.’
But however hard I try,
Tao is only a word in my ear.
It does not ring any bells inside.”
Keng San replied: “I have nothing more
To say.
Bantams do not hatch goose eggs,
Though the fowl of Lu can.
It is not so much a difference of nature
As a difference of capacity.
My capacity is too slight
To transform you.
Why not go south
And see Lao Tzu?”

Tomorrow we will learn what happens when the disciple meets Lao Tzu. Until then, enjoy your practicing, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

11/01/2021

I will let Thomas Merton introduce our next Zhuangzi story from Merton’s collection entitled “The Way of Chuang Tzu.”

MERTON:
Meanwhile, though he (Chuang Tzu) consistently disagreed with his friend the dialectician, Hui Tzu, and though his disciples, who were not without “the need to win” always represented Chuang as beating Hui in debate, Chuang Tzu actually used many of Hui Tzu’s metaphysical ideas. He realized that, by the principle of complementarity, his own thought was notcomplete merely in itself, without the “opposition” of Hui Tzu.

One of the most famous of all Chuang Tzu’s “principles” is that called “three in the morning,” from the story of the
monkeys whose keeper planned to give them three measures of chestnuts in the morning and four in the evening but,
when they complained, changed his plan and gave them four in the morning and three in the evening.

When we wear out our minds, stubbornly clinging to one partial view of things, refusing to see a deeper agreement
between this and its complementary opposite, we have whati s called “three in the morning.”

What is this “three in the morning?”

THREE IN THE MORNING:

A monkey trainer went to his monkeys and told them:
“As regards to your chestnuts: you are going to have three
measures in the morning and four in the afternoon.”

At this they all became angry. So he said: “All right, in
that case I will give you four in the morning and three in the
afternoon.” This time they were satisfied.

MERTON:

The two arrangements were the same in that the number of chestnuts did not change. But in one case the animals were displeased, and in the other they were satisfied. The keeper had been willing to change his personal arrangement
in order to meet objective conditions. He lost nothing by it. The truly wise man, considering both sides of the question
without partiality, sees them both in the light of Tao. This is called following two courses at once.

What does this story mean? Simply that the monkeys were foolish and that the keeper cynically outsmarted them? Quite the contrary. The point is rather that the keeper had enough sense to recognize that the monkeys had irrational reasons of their own for wanting four measures of chestnuts in the morning, and did not stubbornly insist on his original arrangement. He was not totally indifferent, and yet he saw that an accidental difference did not affect the substance· of his arrangement. Nor did he waste time demanding that the monkeys try to be “more reasonable” about it when monkeys are not expected to be reasonable in the first place. It is when we insist most firmly on everyone else being “reasonable” that we become, ourselves, unreasonable. Chuang Tzu, firmly centered on Tao, could see these things in perspective. His teaching follows the principle of “three in the morning,” and it is at home on two levels: that of the divine and invisible Tao that has no name, and that of ordinary, simple, everyday existence.

There’s one more important story with Merton’s commentary, “Keng’s Disciple.” It’s one of Zhuangzi’s longest stories; thus, I will break it down into parts. Part 1 will be tomorrow. Don’t miss it. Meanwhile, enjoy your practicing, everyone. And thank you for starting off this month of Thanksgiving with me.

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