08/17/2022

Today we have a Taoist quote from a famous Sufi poet. Following Chuang-tzu’s quote yesterday, Rumi, although a Sufi, seems to have been cut from the same Philosopher’s Stone. Where Chuang-tzu criticized clinging to our opinions which have no permanence, Rumi encourages us to drop them as well whether right or wrong.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing
and rightdoing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.”
― Rumi

I sincerely hope you can practice dropping your opinions, especially the toxic political ones. Enjoy the practice, folks.

 

08/16/2022

Yesterday we reviewed Chapter 71 from Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching. Today we have two quotes from Lao-tzu’s greatest admirer, the philosopher Chuang-tzu. Together both quotes relate to Chapter 71 amd what we said about it.

“He who knows he is a fool is not the biggest fool. He who knows he is confused is not in the worst confusion.” – Chuang-Tzu

Here Chuang-Tzu is implying what Lao-Tzu referred to as: “To not know that you do not know is a defect.”

“We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.” – Chuang-Tzu

In this quote, Chuang-Tzu is making explicit what Lao-Tzu was implying that expressions based on opinions rather than actual facts are worthless, yet we cling to them anyway.

So, continue to watch your expression of ideas and whether they are mere opinions or factual, and enjoy your practice.

 

08/15/2022

Today, we look at Chapter 71 of the Tao Te Ching, but we start off with a couple of mistaken translations of lines 3 and 4.

“Only he who recognizes this disease as a disease
Can cure himself of the disease.”

“Only one who recognizes this sickness as sickness
Will not have the sickness.”

Words like sick, sickness, disease, illness are not the correct translations of the traditional Chinese word “bing,” which actually means flaw, fault or defect. So below is an excellent translation by Patrick Moran.

“To know that you do not know is the best.
To not know that you do not know is a defect.
Now only by treating defect as defect can you be without defect.
The Sage is without defect because he treats all defects as defects and so is without defect.”
– Translated by Patrick E. Moran, Chapter 71

I chose this particular chapter due to recent political events in the news this past week. “To not know that you do not know” is definitely a defect especially when it comes to expressing yourself. Here, Lao-tzu is advising us to be certain that what we are saying is an actual fact and not just an opinion of ours or someone else’s. As you can gather from recent news events one political faction is spouting off opinion after opinion regarding the actions of the Justice Department and the FBI that have no factual basis and are thus inciting unwarranted and misdirected violence.

So, my friends, let your practice be just that. Before you speak or write that text, email or tweet, assess what you actually know for a fact and what is merely an opinion and state it that way. IMHO. Enjoy your practice.

 

08/13/2022

Today’s quote is from Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology. In his Introduction to Richard Wilhelm’s I Ching, Jung analyzed what the I Ching does.

“The I Ching does not offer itself with proofs and results; it does not vaunt itself, nor is it easy to approach. Like a part of nature, it waits until it is discovered.”

So don’t look for proofs and results, just practice and enjoy, everyone. Have a great weekend. See you Monday.

 

08/12/2022

Today’s quote is from physicist David Bohm who often dialogued with J. Krishnamurti.

“The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.” – David Bohm, quantum physicist.

Don’t let your practice be an abstraction. Remember, it’s play, not work, so enjoy, people.

 

08/11/2022

Today’s quote comes from Kari Hohne of CafeAuSoul.com in her blog entitled “Strange Attractor.”

“So Tao embodies the unseen and perpetual movement of forces that we call the ‘uncarved block’. Through the interaction of hot, cold, positive, negative, and high and low, opposites are drawn together to maintain optimal conditions on the earth. Tao is the intangible, yet all-inclusive aspect of life.” – Kari Hohne, “Strange Attractor.”

When you practice, notice how your nature (xing) is drawing opposite together and as always enjoy, folks.

 

08/10/2022

Today we are looking at desire and the extinction of the volatile nature and the appearance of true sense from Liu I-Ming’s commentary on Verse 4 in “The Inner Teachings of Taoism,” an esoteric instruction on Taoist Alchemy by Chang Po-tuan with Commentary by Liu I-ming, Translated by Thomas Cleary

“As for desire, when the discriminating spirit of the human
mentality sees objects and encounters things, it flies up; the senses
become active all at once, and the feelings and emotions arise, like a
gang of bandits stealing valuables, whom none can defend against.
If you do not exert effort to block it and cook it into something that
does not move or stir, it can easily thwart the process of the Tao.
“Liquid silver cooks into metal vitality” means taking the human
mentality and cooking it into the mindless consciousness of reality.
The extinction of the volatile nature and the appearance of true
sense are like red sand transmuting into positive energy, ever to be
warm, gentle essence. The death of the human mentality and the
presence of consciousness of reality are like liquid silver changing
into metal vitality, ever to be luminous mind.”

How about transmuting your volatile nature into positive energy as you practice daily? Enjoy it as you go, folks. See you tomorrow.

 

08/09/2022

Today we have further commentary on Verse 4 from the standpoint of False body and mind vs Real body and mind 4 from “The Inner Teachings of Taoism,” an esoteric instruction on Taoist Alchemy by Chang Po-tuan with Commentary by Liu I-ming, Translated by Thomas Cleary

“Lu Tsu said, “The seven-reversion restored elixir is a matter of
people first refining themselves and awaiting the time.” The classic
Understanding Reality (Wu chen p’ien) says, “If you want to
successfully cultivate the nine-reversion, you must first refine
yourself and master your mind.” Shang Yang Tzu said, “Restoring
the elixir is very easy; refining the self is very hard.” These
statements all say that if you want to practise the great Tao, you
must first refine yourself.
The essential point in self-refinement starts with controlling anger
and desire. The energy of anger is the aberrant fire of the volatile
nature, which erupts upon confrontation and is indifferent to life,
like a conflagration burning up a mountain, which nothing can stop.
If you do not exert effort to quell it, refining it into something
without smoke or flame, it can easily obscure reality. “Red sand
refines to positive energy” means taking this volatility and refining
it into neutral true essence.”

Tomorrow we will look at desire and the extinction of the volatile nature and the appearance of true sense. As always, enjoy your practice, people.

 

08/08/2022

We start the week off with Verse 4 from “The Inner Teachings of Taoism,” an esoteric instruction on Taoist Alchemy by Chang Po-tuan with Commentary by Liu I-ming, Translated by Thomas Cleary

“RED SAND REFINES TO POSITIVE ENERGY;
LIQUID SILVER COOKS INTO METAL VITALITY.
METAL VITALITY AND POSITIVE ENERGY,
RED SAND AND LIQUID SILVER.”

Followed by Liu I-Ming’s commentary:

“Red sand” (cinnabar) is associated with the turbulence of the
energy of fire and symbolises volatility in people. “Liquid silver”
(quicksilver) is associated with the movement natural to water and
symbolises the human mentality in people. Positive energy gives
birth to beings; this symbolises the real essence in people. The
vitality of metal is lustre; this symbolises the consciousness of
reality in people…”

A further commentary on this tomorrow. In the meantime, have a great practice and enjoy, everyone.

 

08/06/2022

Yesterday we looked at Verse 3 from “The Inner Teachings of Taoism,” an esoteric instruction on Taoist Alchemy by Chang Po-tuan. Today we look at its meaning from the Commentary by Liu I-ming.

“LOTUSES BLOOM IN THE FLOWER POND;
GOLDEN WAVES ARE QUIET ON THE SPIRITUAL WATER.
DEEP IN THE NIGHT, THE MOON JUST BRIGHT,
HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE IN ONE ROUND MIRROR.”

Commentary:
“The flower pond symbolises the openness of onsciousness; the spiritual water symbolises true essence; the lotuses symbolise the light of wisdom; the golden waves symbolise objects of sense.
When the spiritual sprouts have been warmly nurtured until their energy is complete, the flower of mind blooms and the light of wisdom arises. Therefore it says lotuses bloom in the flower pond.
Once the light of wisdom arises, inwardly thoughts do not sprout, so essence is calm; then external things are not taken in and feelings are forgotten. Therefore the text says that the golden waves are quiet on the spiritual water. When essence is calm and feelings are forgotten, even if one is in the midst of myriad things, one is not deceived by myriad things. Round and bright, the mind is like the full moon shining deep in the night,
its light pervading above and below, heaven and earth ; the gold elixir crystallises in the great void of space.”
– “Thw Inner Teachings of Taoism” by Chang Po-tuan with Commentary by Liu I-ming, Translated by Thomas Cleary

Thus calm your essence and be aware of your feelings and don’t be deceived by myriad things. Enjoy your practice, folks, and have a great weekend.

 

08/05/2022

Today’s quote is Verse 3 from “The Inner Teachings of Taoism,” an esoteric instruction on Taoist Alchemy by
Chang Po-tuan.

“LOTUSES BLOOM IN THE FLOWER POND;
GOLDEN WAVES ARE QUIET ON THE SPIRITUAL WATER.
DEEP IN THE NIGHT, THE MOON JUST BRIGHT,
HEAVEN AND EARTH ARE IN ONE ROUND MIRROR.”
– “Thw Inner Teachings of Taoism” by Chang Po-tuan with Commentary by Liu I-ming, Translated by Thomas Cleary

Do you understand what the verse refers to? No, it’s not the Flower Pound or Moon. Find out tomorrow when we learn Liu I-ming’s commentary. Until then practice diligently, everyone, and enjoy.

 

08/04/2022

Continuing with the steps involved in the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen, today’s quote focuses on Step #7, the final step, Attaining Dao.

“Dao is a spiritual and wonderful thing. It is numinous and yet has inner nature; it is empty but without any symbol. Following or meeting it, it cannot be fathomed. Neither its shadow nor its echo can be pursued. Without
knowing why it just is, pervading all life. Yet it is never exhausted. This is what we call Dao.

“Utmost sages have attained it in antiquity, and thus the wondrous divine law has been transmitted to us today. Following descriptions, probing into principles, we find it completely real. Worthy knights of pure faith have overcome their selves and practiced it diligently. Once the mind is emptied and the “spirit like a valley,” Dao alone will come to assemble. Once Dao has become strong, it imperceptibly works changes in body-form and spirit. The body-form aligned with Dao and pervading spirit is what constitutes a “spirit person.”
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

Be like the Worthy Knights of Pure Faith from ancient times and overcome your self and practice diligently, everyone.

 

08/03/2022

Continuing with the steps involved in the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen, today’s quote focuses on Step #6, The Stability of Cosmic Peace…

“The stability of cosmic peace is the ultimate point of leaving worldly life and the first firm foothold of reaching Dao. It represents merit perfected in the practice of stillness and is the end to affairs through attainment of inner peace. The body-form like dried wood, the mind like dead ashes, there are no more impulses, no more searches. One has reached the perfect contemplative state of serenity. With no-mind one settles in stability, thus there is nothing that is not stable. The Zhuangzi says: “He whose inner being rests in the stability of cosmic peace will spread a heavenly radiance.” Here “resting” refers to the mind, whereas “heavenly radiance” means insight coming forth. The mind is the vessel of Dao. When this is utterly empty and still, Dao can reside there and insight arises. This insight comes from inner nature and does not depend onpresent circumstances. Thus we call it “heavenly radiance.”

Thus we practice resting our inner being in the stability of cosmic peace and enjoy. Great practicing, everyone.

 

08/02/2022

Continuing with the steps involved in the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen, today’s quote focuses on Step #5, Perfect Observation…

“All human affairs, all food and clothing of people are merely a boat. If I want to cross an ocean, I need a boat. After the passage is completed, the reason for the boat is no longer there.16 But why should one abandon it before even having gone on the voyage? Food and clothing in themselves are empty illusion and without actual value. But as a means to free oneself from empty illusion, one must obtain provision with food and clothing. One should therefore never have any feelings of gain or loss about them. Whether involved in affairs or free from affairs, the mind should be constantly calm and at peace!17 Join oth- ers in seeking but not in coveting, in attaining but not in hoarding. No coveting means being free from worry; no hoarding means never experiencing loss. In deeds be like others, but in mind always remain aloof. This really is the most essential point of practice. Work on it very hard!”
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

You heard him – work on it very hard – and enjoy.

 

08/01/2022

Happy August, everyone! Bless you. Continuing with the steps involved in the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen, today’s quote focuses on Step #4, Detachment From Affairs…

“If one has no peace within oneself, how could one ever attain Dao?
Therefore, anyone who is cultivating Dao must gain detachment from affairs
and give up things. Knowing what is marginal and what essential about them,
he can measure their importance. Recognizing that one has to accept or reject
them, he finds no importance or necessity for himself and duly abandons them.
For instance, eating meat and drinking wine, dressing in gauzy cloth and fine
silk, having a high personal reputation and official position, or possessing fine
jades and money are totally superfluous gratifications of passions and desires.
These things are not at all good medicines to enhance life. The masses hanker
after them and bring death and defeat upon themselves. Coming to think of
them calmly, aren’t they terrible delusion?”
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

Remember, your practice is essential not marginal, so accept it and enjoy it, everyone, not only is it yours, IT’S YOU!

 

07/30/2022

Today’s quote details Step #3 “Taming the Mind” from the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen.

“The mind is the master of the body-self, the master of the hundred spirits. When still it gives rise to insight, when agitated to confusion. Delightedly straying in delusions and projected reality, it speaks of obligation and greatly enjoys to be in the midst of action. Who would awaken to see this as empty and wrong?…

“Therefore, when one first begins to study Dao one must sit calmly and tame the mind, let go of projected reality and abide in nonexistence [avidyamāna]. As one abides in nonexistence, without being attached to even one being, one naturally enters emptiness and nonbeing. Thus one joins Dao. The Scripture says: “The center of utmost Dao is serenity and nonexistence, where spirit is without bent and so are mind and physical structure. By going to the deepest source of mind and physical structure, one finds their root is Dao.”
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

So, continue your practice without straying in delusions or entangled in duties. Instead, enjoy your practice and abide in nonexistence. Have a great weekend, and see you in August.

 

07/29/2022

Today’s quote details Step #2 “Interception of Karma” from the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen.

“Interception of karma means eliminating the karmic conditions of action and worldly affairs. By abandoning affairs, the body-form is no longer labored; by resting in nonaction the mind finds peace of itself. Thus stillness and leisure will increase daily, while defilements and entanglements will diminish every day. The further one’s traces are away from the ordinary world, the closer the mind approaches Dao. How could “utmost saintliness” and utmost spirit not begin with this? Thus the Daode jing says: “Cut off contacts, shut thedoors, and to the end of life there will be peace without toil.” [Dao De Jing 52, 56].
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

Enjoy your practice of resting in nonaction. As you practice let the mind find peace of itself.

 

07/28/2022

Today’s quote states the Step #1 “Respect and Faith” from the “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”) by Sima Chengzhen.

“Utmost Dao goes so far beyond sensual perception, perfect inner nature is so far apart from anything one might desire, that it is impossible to “hear the inaudible, perceive the subtle” and believe one’s senses, to “listen to the formless, recognize the symbolic,” and not be perplexed. If someone thus has heard words of sitting in oblivion, has faith in the central points of Daoist cultivation, respects and reveres them, and is determined and without doubt, moreover pursues his practice with utmost diligence, then he will certainly attain Dao.
– Sima Chengzhen, “Zuowang” (“Sitting in Oblivion”), translated by Livia Kohn

Well, what are you waiting for? You heard Sima Chengzhen: have faith in the central points of Daoist cultivation, respect and revere them, and pursue your practice with utmost diligence.

 

07/27/2022

Today we have the concluding paragraph to Sime Chengzhen’s Preface to his treatise on the Zouwang (“Sitting in Oblivion”) translated by Livia Kohn

“Seen from this angle, the length of life depends on oneself: it is neither attained as a gift from Heaven nor lost through theft by people. Examining my heart, I regret that it is already late and that time cannot be detained. I deplore the short “years of the morning mushroom” and that I have already passed beyond fifty. I still have not yet mastered the central points of returning to Dao.

“As time is passing fast like a burning candle, I have made an effort to search the scriptures for passages with simple matter and straightforward meaning, easy to carry out practically and appropriate for spiritual sicknesses. Thus I wrote a concise treatise on the method of calming the mind and sitting in oblivion. I arranged it in seven sections, giving successive steps of cultivating Dao…”

We will preview Step 1 Respect and Faith tomorrow. Keep cultivating Dao, everyone, and enjoy your practice.

 

07/26/2022

Today we have an excerpt from Sima Chengzhen’s Preface to his treatise on the “Zuowang,” translated by Livia Kohn.

“…Fish in a dried-up rut still long for a pitcher of water just as people having “lost their perfect home” unconsciously strive for Dao. They hate the sufferings of life and death [samsāra] yet love its activity. They esteem words of Dao and inherent potency yet disregard their practice. Delighted by colors and flavors, they think they attain their will; demeaning stillness and plainness, they think of them as extreme disgrace. Exhausting themselves for “hard-to-get goods,” they trade in the good fortune of their future life. Giving free rein to easily defiling passions, they destroy the Dao of their body-self. They call themselves wise and skillful, but in fact they live in nothing but a dream, a delusion. They come with life and go with death, revolving through the [rebirth] cycle for a myriad kalpas. One can only call them “upside-down.” Is there anything more preposterous?”
– Preface to the “Zuowang” by Sima Chengzhen, translated by Livia Kohn.

Tomorrow we will have the critical closing paragraph of Sima Chengzhen’s Preface. In the meantime, enjoy your cultivation and a great practice, brothers and sisters.

 

07/25/2022

Today we are going to begin studying quotes from the Taoist classic,”Zuowang”(“Sitting in Oblivion”), written in 767 by Sima Chengzhen of the Tang Dynasty and translated for us by the renown Asian scholar and author, Livia Kohn. Today’s quote is from a Preface of the ZuoWang by Recluse Zhenjing.

“Carefully selecting and arranging the words of the scriptures, the author avoids discrepancies and carelessness. Rather, he meticulously sets forth the subtleties of sitting in oblivion. Spirit and qi spontaneously guard one another, they keep the hundred arteries moist and glossy and the three passes open and free. Thus
the perfect qi of heavenly yang comes to stay in the body-self. This is the un-transmitted Dao of “long life and eternal vision.”
– Preface by Recluse Zhenjing, Translated by Livia Kohn

A note about the title from the translator, Livia Kohn: “I translate wang as “oblivion” and “oblivious” rather than “forgetting” or “forgetful” because the connotation of “forget” in English is that one should remember but doesn’t do so, or—if used intentionally—that one actively and intentionally does something in the mind. None of these holds true for what ancient and medieval Daoists were about. This is borne out both by the language and the writings: the word wang in Chinese consists of the character xin for “mind-heart,” usually associated with conscious and emotional reactions to reality and the word wang for “obliterate” or “perish.” The implication is—as indeed described in the sources—that one lets go of all kinds of intentional and reactive patterns and comes to rest in oneness with spirit and is ready to merge completely.”

Tomorrow we will have an excerpt from the original Preface by the author, himself, Sima Chengzhen.

I hope all are looking forward to a week of self-cultivation and enjoying your practice.

 

07/23/2022

Today we close out the week by concluding Chapter 172 with the “Wen-tzu” restating Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching on how the economic cost of war translates directly into human cost above and beyond that of the dead, wounded, widowed, and orphaned:

“Lordly kings enrich their people, despotic kings
enrich their lands, nations in danger enrich their
bureaucrats. Orderly nations appear to be lacking, lost
nations have empty storehouses. Therefore it is said,
“When rulers don’t exploit them, the people naturally
grow rich; when the rulers don’t manipulate them, the
people naturally become civilized.”
When you mobilize an army of one hundred
thousand, it costs a thousand pieces of gold per day;
there are always bad years after a military expedition.
Therefore armaments are instruments of ill omen and
are not treasured by cultured people. If you reconcile
great enemies in such a way that some enmity
inevitably remains, how unskillfully you have done it!”

Then going even further than the Tao Te Ching, the “Wen-tzu” comments on the very devisive local political practices that have divided our country and segragated our states and their inhabitants. It even depicts the same type of invasive war that Putin is waging in Ukraine. This is an uncanny prediction of the present state of our world, all detailed some 1500 years ago…

“Local rulers establish laws that are
each different, and cultivate customs that are mutually
antagonistic. They pull out the root and abandon the
basis, elaborating penal codes to make them harsh and
exacting, fighting with weapons, cutting down
common people, slaughtering the majority of them.
They raise armies and make trouble, attacking cities
and killing at random, overthrowing the high and
endangering the secure. They make large assault
vehicles and redoubled bunkers to repel combat
troops and have their battalions go on deadly missions.
Against a formidable enemy, of a hundred that go, one
returns; those who happen to make a big name for
themselves may get to have some of the annexed
territory, but it costs a hundred thousand slain in
combat, plus countless numbers of old people and
children who die of hunger and cold. After this, the
world can never be at peace in its essential life.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

After that reading, I can only say pray for the suffering victims and refugees of Ukraine and for the health of our own democracy, which appears to be on life support. Oh, yes, and have a good weekend, everyone.

 

07/22/2022

Today the “Wen-tzu” reveals the Taoist critique of how governments have spawned a sick society and what can be done to create either change or chaos.

“The governments of latter-day society have not stored
up the necessities of life; they have diluted the purity
of the world, destroyed the simplicity of the world,
and made the people confused and hungry, turning
clarity into murkiness. Life is volatile, and everyone is
striving madly. Uprightness and trust have fallen apart,
people have lost their essential nature; law and justice
are at odds. . . .”

Hm? Sound familiar? Remember this was written some 1400 – 1500 years ago.

“If there is more than enough, people defer; if there is
less than enough, they compete. When they defer, then
courtesy and justice develop; when they compete, then
violence and confusion arise. Thus when there are
many desires, concerns are not lessened; for those
who seek enrichment, competition never ceases.
Therefore, when a society is orderly, then ordinary
people are persistently upright and cannot be seduced
by profits or advantages When a society is disorderly,
then people of the ruling classes do evil but the law
cannot stop them.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

Tomorrow we conclude Chapter 172 as the “Wen-tzu” restates Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching on how the economic cost of war translates directly into human cost above and beyond that of the dead, wounded, widowed, and orphaned.

You can never have enough practice but keep it orderly and enjoy, everyone.

 

07/21/2022

As the “Wen-tzu” pointed out yesterday, for the Taoist, although the law is above questions of individual social status, still it is not an absolute ruler and ultimately must have its source in what is right and just for the time, place, and people it is designed to serve. Unlike strict Constitutionalists here, Taoists believe that the letter of the law itself cannot be its own criterion over time, without the active interpretation and input of authentic insight. The problem for S.C.O.T.U. S. and our lawmakers in Congress is that authentic insight requires WISDOM, of which there is precious little on the Supreme Court and in Washington.

Quoting from the “Wen-tzu”:

“Laws and regulations are to be adjusted according to
the mores of the people; instruments and machines are
to be adjusted according to the changes of the times.
Therefore people who are constrained by rules cannot
participate in the planning of new undertakings, and
people who are sticklers for ritual cannot be made to
respond to changes. It is necessary to have the light of
individual perception and the clarity of individual
learning before it is possible to master the Way in
action.

“Those who know where laws come from adapt them
to the times; those who do not know the source of
ways to order may follow them but eventually wind up
with chaos. . . . To sustain the imperiled and bring
order to chaos is not possible without wisdom. As far
as talking of precedents and extolling the ancient are
concerned, there are plenty of ignoramuses who do
that. Therefore sages do not act upon laws that are not
useful and do not listen to words that have not proven
effective.”

Tomorrow, the “Wen-tzu” reveals the Taoist critique of how governments have spawned a sick society and what can be done to create either change or chaos.

As for now, don’t be an ignoramus, call upon your clarity and discernment to light your way as you practice and enjoy, folks.

 

07/20/2022

Unlike Legalists and later Confucians under Legalist influence, Taoists did not conclude from society’s degradation of nature and antisocial conduct that human nature is in itself evil. Instead, they concluded that human beings can be influenced and conditioned into behavior that is contrary to their own best interests, and even into thinking that what is harmful is actually delightful.

“Law does not descend from heaven, nor does it
emerge from earth; it is invented through human
selfreflection and self-correction. If you truly arrive at
the root, you will not be confused by the branches; if
you know what is essential, you will not be mixed up
by doubts.”

Taoist legalism insists on equality before the law in principle and practice.

“What is established among the lower echelons is not
to be ignored in the upper echelons; what is forbidden
to the people at large is not to be practiced by
privileged individuals.
Therefore when human leaders determine laws, they
should first apply them to themselves to test and prove
them. So if a regulation works on the rulers
themselves, then it may be enjoined on the populace.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

As we shall see tomorrow, the Taoists’ Legal Theory was both equitable and fair. Perhaps, S.C.O.T.U.S. and our lawmakers in Congress could learn a few things from it…but then they would need Wisdom to implement them, a commodity that is in very short supply in Washington these days along with integrity. Have a good practice, everyone.

 

07/19/2022

The “Wen-tzu” continues its look at the callous rapacity toward nature by human beings competing for the lion’s share, and among those fighting for the scraps and leavings of that struggle.

“Mountains, rivers, valleys, and canyons were divided
and made to have boundaries; the sizes of groups of
people were calculated and made to have specific
numbers. Machinery and blockades were built for
defense, the colors of clothing were regulated to
differentiate socioeconomic classes, rewards and
penalties were meted out to the good and the
unworthy. Thus armaments developed and struggle
arose; from this there began slaughter of the innocent.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

And how did the Taoists, themselves, classify this struggle? We will find out tomorrow as the “Wen-tzu” looks at the contrast between Taoists and Legalists. As always, enjoy self-cultivation through constant practice, folks.

 

07/18/2022

Today we look at the degradation of Nature through the eyes of the “Wen-tzu” and the diciples of Lao-tzu who preserved their master’s teachings as societal and individual mores further declined.

“Rulers of degenerate ages mined mountain minerals,
took the metals and gems, split and polished shells,
melted bronze and iron; so nothing flourished. They
opened the bellies of pregnant animals, burned the
meadowlands, overturned nests and broke the eggs, so
phoenixes did not alight, and unicorns did not roam about.
They cut down trees to make buildings, burned woodlands
for fields, overfished lakes to exhaustion.
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

Tomorrow the gradual enslavement of both humanity and nature vividly depicted by the Wen-tzu that will arouse one’s own self-reflection. Speaking of self-reflection, what gives with your practice? Still enjoying it, I hope.

 

07/16/2022

Today, we conclude this historical perspective from the Wen-tzu with a look at the Daoist perspective of self-cultivation contrasted with self-degradation. In the the early Daoist period, the centuries following Lao-tzu and later Chuang-tzu, the idea of the true man or sage appeared.

“The way of developed people is to cultivate the body
by calmness and nurture life by frugality. . . . To
govern the body and nurture essence, sleep and rest
moderately, eat and drink appropriately; harmonize
emotions, simplify activities. Those who are inwardly
attentive to the self attain this and are immune to
perverse energies.”

Then there was the rest of society or at least those who more or less dominated it.

“Those who decorate their exteriors harm themselves
inside. Those who foster their feelings hurt their
spirit. Those who show their embellishments hide
their reality.
Those who never forget to be smart for even a
second inevitably burden their essential nature. Those
who never forget to put on appearances even on a walk
of a hundred steps inevitably burden their physical
bodies.
Therefore, beauty of feather harms the skeleton,
profuse foliage on the branches hurts the root. No one
in the world can have excellence in both.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

This week we looked at the decline of humankind from the Golden Age to the early Daoist period. Next week we look at the degradation of Nature. Have a great weekend, everyone. Enjoy your practice.

 

07/15/2022

Today the Wen-tzu continues its historical perspective tracing the decline of society from the Golden Age prior to 3000 B.C.E. through the Chou dynasty (1123 B.C.E. – 256 B.C.E.). When the Chou was beginning to decline markedly, the Wen-tzu comparatively lengthy description of human corruption and degeneracy in the
mind and society of this “latter-day” era follows:

“Coming to the Chou dynasty, we have diluted purity
and lost simplicity, departing from the Way to contrive
artificialities, acting on dangerous qualities. The
sprouts of cunning and craft have arisen; cynical
scholarship is used to pretend to sagehood, false
criticism is used to intimidate the masses, elaboration
of poetry and prose is used to get fame and honor.
Everyone wants to employ knowledge and craft for
recognition in society and loses the basis of the
overall source.”
– Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

Tomorrow, we conclude this historical perspective from the Wen-tzu with a look at the Daoist perspective of self-cultivation contrasted with self-degradation. Enjoy practice, continuing self-cultivation.

 

07/14/2022

In today’s quote, the “Wen-tzu” continues its recital in chapter 172 with reference to other fabled leaders of antiquity:

“Coming to the times when Shen-nung and Huang Ti
governed the land and made calendars to harmonize
with yin and yang, now all the people stood straight up
and thinkingly bore the burden of looking and
listening. Therefore they were orderly but not
harmonious.” – Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu, Understanding the Mysteries” translated by Thomas Cleary

Shen-nung was also a prehistoric culture hero, credited with the development of agriculture and herbal medicine;
his wife is said to have begun the practice of silk cultivation and weaving. As in the case of Fu Hsi, no attempt is traditionally made to place Shen-nung within any sort of definable time frame, even legendary. Huang Ti, in contrast, is believed to have lived in the twenty-seventh century B.C.E, and the Chinese calendar of years begins from the time of his reign. He is honored as a student and patron of all the Taoist arts, both exoteric and esoteric, and is credited with the authorship of the first book ever written. The legend of Huang Ti in particular represents the subordination of earthly dominion to the quest for freedom and perfection of the spirit.

Let us continue our quest for freedom and perfection of the spirit by enjoying our practice of self-cultivation daily.

 

07/13/2022

Today we continue our look at the deterioration of society from the “Wen-Tzu,” a book of original teaching supposedly presented by Lao-Tzu to one of his disciples.

“Eventually society deteriorated. By the time of Fu
Hsi, there was a dawning of deliberate effort;
everyone was on the verge of leaving their innocent
mind and consciously understanding the universe.
Their virtues were complex and not unified.” – Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu,” translated by Thomas Cleary

Fu Hsi, a legendary figure, was reputed to have ruled China around the 28th or 29th century B.C. Thus, the Golden Age alluded to in yesterday’s opening excerpt was prior to 3000 B.C. Enjoy your practice, people.

07/12/2022

This week we are going to look at the fall of humankind from the pristine purity of ancient time as described in the “Wen-Tzu.”

“In high antiquity, real people breathed yin and yang,
and all living beings looked up to their virtue, thus
harmonizing peacefully. In those times, leadership was
hidden, spontaneously creating pure simplicity. Pure
simplicity had not yet been lost, so myriad beings
were very relaxed.” – Chapter 172, “Wen-Tzu,” translated by Thomas Cleary

Just like the present day, all beings harmonizing peacefully. One wonders if humans will ever again return to such a state. For us, we need to continue breathing yin and yang and enjoy our practice. More tomorrow.

 

07/11/2022

Last week Liu I-Ming’s quote, commented on this verse from the “Cantong Qi.”

“Superior virtue has no doing”:
it does not use examining and seeking.
“Inferior virtue does”:
its operation does not rest.”

He explained that Superior virtue cultivates the Dao by the way of “non-doing” (wu wei) while Inferor virtue uses “doing” and extend life by means of practice. Today’s quote continues Liu’s explanation…

“The reason why superior virtue “does not use examining and seeking” is that in the person of superior virtue, Celestial Reality ( tianzhen ) has never been damaged and extraneous breaths ( keqi ) have never entered . Since one immediately awakens to one’s fundamental Nature, there is nothing to cultivate and nothing to verify. . . . The function of examining and seeking does not operate.
The reason why the operation of inferior virtue “does not rest” is that Celestial Reality is lacking and cognition has begun. Although one could immediately awaken to one’s fundamental Nature, one cannot follow it as is. One must use the way of gradual cultivation ( jianxiu ) and the function of augmenting and decreasing (zengjian)… This is why the unceasing use [of inferior virtue] is valuable.
Superior virtue and inferior virtue are different and are not the same. Therefore their uses are dissimilar. . . . However, they lead to the same goal.” Commentary on the “Cantong Qi” by Liu I-Ming, translation by Thomas Cleary.

 

07/09/2022

As promised, here is a Liu I-Ming’s brief explanation of yesterday’s quote from the Cantong qi…

“Superior virtue has no doing”:
it does not use examining and seeking.
“Inferior virtue does”:
its operation does not rest.”

“For the cultivation of the Dao there are two methods: one is the pursuit of bringing one’s form ( xing ) to completion by means of the Dao, the other is the pursuit of extending one’s life ( ming ) by means of a practice

“Superior virtue brings the form to completion by means of the Dao. One embraces the Origin and guards Unity, and performs the way of “non-doing”; thus one can exhaust all pursuits. Therefore the Cantong qi says, “Superior virtue has no doing: it does not use examining and seeking.” Inferior virtue extends life by means of a practice. One begins from effort and ends with stability, and performs the way of “doing”; thus one is able to revert to the Origin. Therefore the Cantong qi says, “Inferior virtue does: its operation does not rest.” – Commentary, Liu I-Ming, translated by Thomas Cleary.

We will delve deeper into this next week. Have a great weekend, everyone. As always, enjoy your practice.

 

07/08/2022

Today’s quote is from the Cantong qi, “The Seal of the Unity of the Three”

“Superior virtue has no doing”:
it does not use examining and seeking.
“Inferior virtue does”:
its operation does not rest.”
– Cantong qi , 20:1-4; trans. Fabrizio Pregadio, The Seal of the Unity of the Three p.78

Don’t worry if you don’t understand it. Tomorrow we will get the explanation from Liu I-Ming. Till then, enjoy your practice.

07/07/2022

We often hear the terms “lead,” “golden flower,” and “black tiger” as they relate to Daoist Alchemy. But what do they signify? Today Chang Po-tuan reveals their significance.

“Lead is dense and heavy, hard and strong, lasts long without disintegrating; what is called true lead here is not ordinary lead, but is the formless, immaterial true sense of real knowledge in the human body. This true sense is outwardly dark but inwardly bright, strong and unbending, able to ward off external afflictions, able to stop internal aberrations. It is symbolised by lead and so is called the true lead . Because its strength and vigour are within, it is also called the black tiger; because its energy is associated with metal , it is also called the white tiger. Because it is not constrained by things, it is also called iron man. Because its light illumines myriad existents, it is also called the golden flower. Because it is the pivot of creation, it is also called the North Star. Because it conceals light within darkness, it is also called metal within water . Because it contains masculinity within femininity, it is also called the rabbit in the moon. There are many different names, all describing this one thing, true sense.” – Chang Po-tuan, “Inner Teachings of Taoism,” translated by Thomas Cleary

Now you know. So, no matter how dark things get outside, remain inwardly bright, strong and unbending and enjoy your practice, folks.

 

07/06/2022

Turn on your “lamplight” when you read this. Today’s quote is from Liu I-Ming’s Contemplation on “Lamplight” from “Awakening to the Tao.” Here is what he says turning on the lamplight means to him.

“If people give up artificiality and return to the real ,
dismiss intellectuality and cleverness, consider essential life
the one matter of importance, practice inner awareness, refine
the self and master the mind, observe all things with detachment
so all that exists is empty of absoluteness, are not moved
by external things and are not influenced by sensory experiences,
being light inside and dark outside, they can thereby
aspire to wisdom and become enlightened.” – Liu I-Ming, “Lamplight,” Awakening to the Tao, Translated by Thomas Cleary

Turn on your inner lamp and shine some light on your practice, folks.

 

07/05/2022

Another quote from quantum physicist David Bohm that could be Music to your Ears.

“Consider what takes place when one is listening to music. At a given moment a certain note is being played but a number of the previous notes are still ‘reverberating’ in consciousness. Close attention will show that it is the simultaneous presence and activity of all these reverberations that is responsible for the direct and immediately felt sense of movement, flow and continuity.” – David Bohm

Hopefully well rested after a long 4th of July weekend, get ready to start off a week of dedicated practice’

 

07/02/2022

Today, a most solemn and profound quote written by renown quantum physicist David Bohm as a eulogyfor a former classmate and long-time friend…

“The field of the finite is all that we can see, hear, touch, remember and describe. This field is basically that which is manifest, or tangible. The essential quality of the infinite, by contrast, is its subtlety, its intangibility. This quality is conveyed in the word spirit, whose root meaning is “wind or breath.” This suggests an invisible but pervasive energy to which the manifest world of the finite responds. This energy, or spirit, infuses all living beings, and without it any organism must fall apart into its constituent elements. That which is truly alive in the living being is the energy of spirit, and this is never born and never dies.” – David Bohm, a eulogy for a close friend.

I’ll let that sink in and say no more except, have a Happy and Safe 4th of July weekend. See you next week.

 

07/01/2022

Today we step into the quantum world with a quote from Ervin Laszlo, scientist, philosopher, musician.

“There is nothing in four-dimensional space-time that would satisfy the time-honored idea of matter. What research on the physical universe has disclosed is information and energy. The entities of the real world are configurations and clusters of informed energy.” Ervin Laszlo, “Reconnecting to the Source”

So, move your bundle of informed energy and keep practicing, people.

 

 

 

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