On the last day of September, we have our last look at the concept of Freedom from Daoist sages. Although not very ancient, Liu I-ming, an 18th century adept, imparts his concept of bare freedom in the following quote:

“If one walks with every step on the ground of reality in the furnace of Creation, experiencing everything that comes along, being in the doorway of life and death without wavering, like gold that becomes brighter the more it is fired, like a mirror that becomes clearer the more it is polished, fired and polished to a state of round brightness, clean nakedness, bare freedom, where there is neither being nor nonbeing, where others and self all become empty, then one will be mentally and physically sublimated, and will merge with the Tao in reality.”
– Liu I-ming, Awakening to the Dao, translated by Thomas Cleary

As usual, Liu’s idea of bare freedom is an esoteric one – a state of neither being nor nonbeing where others and self all become empty. He uses the Daoist alchemy analogy of firing and polishing to reach that particular state of rouhd brightness. If this works for you, fine. Keep it. If not, then listen to this short video.



We continue our look this week at the concept of Freedom and Free Will from the perspective of Daoist sages. Next up is Mingzi, better known in the West as Mencius.

Mencius said: “To fathom the mind is to understand your nature. And when you understand your nature, you understand Heaven. Foster your mind, nurture your nature – then you are serving Heaven.
“Don’t worry about dying young or living long. What will come will come. Cultivate yourself well – and patient in that perfection, let it come. Then you will stand firm in your fate.”

Mencius said: “What you seek you will find, and what you ignore you will lose. Where this saying is right, and to seek means to find, we’re seeking something within ourselves.
“To seek is a question of the Way, and to find is a question of destiny. Where this is right, and to seek doesn’t necessarily mean to find, we’re seeking something outside ourselves.”

Both of these sayings come very close to the concept of a personal freedom. Now compare them to the idea on this video…


We continue our look this week at the concept of Freedom and Free Will from the perspective of Daoist sages. Not exactly a Daoist and perhaps, one might say, an anti-Daoist, Confucius is next up with a couple quotes.

“When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom.”- Confucius

“”The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” – Confucius

“Tis that I am sick of men’s immovableness and deafness to reason.” – Confucius

“When the ‘superior man’ regards righteousness as the thing material, gives operation to it according to the Rules of Propriety, lets it issue in humility, and become complete in sincerity there indeed is your superior man!” – Confucius

In all of these quotes by Confucius, we can see that he bases the concept of Freedom upon the ability to think and reason and one other very important factor – a strong will to attain the desired result. But do you think he has hit the mark as far as Freedom and Free Will are concerned? Or has Confucius missed it entirely? Take a look at this video and then decide for yourself…


This week we are looking at the concept of Freedom and Free Will from the perspective of Daoist sages. Chuang-Tzu is next up with a familiar story that illustrates his idea of Freedom.

“Chuang Tzu was one day fishing, when the Prince of Ch’u sent two high officials to interview him, saying that his Highness would be glad of Chuang Tzu’s assistance in the administration of his government. The latter quietly fished on, and without looking round, replied, “I have heard that in the State of Ch’u there is a sacred tortoise, which has been dead three thousand years, and which the prince keeps packed up in a box on the altar in his ancestral shrine. Now do you think that tortoise would rather be dead and have its remains thus honoured, or be alive and wagging its tail in the mud?” The two officials answered that no doubt it would rather be alive and wagging its tail in the mud; whereupon Chuang Tzu cried out “Begone! I too elect to remain wagging my tail in the mud.”

It is obvious that Chuang-Tzu feels that protocol and following the dictates of society and the government greatly restricts personal freedom. He equates the idea of Freedom as being able to do what you want when you want.

Now compare Chuang-Tzu’s concept of Freedom with the following video…



This week we are taking a look at Freedom through the words and stories of Daoist sages and others. First up is Lao-Tzu with his idea of Freedom from Chapter 57 in the Tao Te Ching.

“Rule a nation with justice.
Wage war with surprise moves.
Become master of the universe without striving.
How do I know that this is so?
Because of this!

The more laws and restrictions there are,
The poorer people become.
The sharper men’s weapons,
The more trouble in the land.
The more ingenious and clever men are,
The more strange things happen.
The more rules and regulations,
The more thieves and robbers.

Therefore the sage says:
I take no action and people are reformed.
I enjoy peace and people become honest.
I do nothing and people become rich.
I have no desires and people return to the good and simple life.”
– Chapter 57, Tao Te Ching, translation by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English

Now compare Lao-Tzu’s concept of wu wei and the good and simple life with the following video…


Yesterday we looked at the first part of Chapter 28 from the Tao Te Ching. Here is the second and final part.

“Know the honour, but keep to the disgraced, be a valley to the world.
Being the valley to the world, the constant virtue will be sufficient.
Return to plainness.
When the plainness shatters, it becomes vessels.
The sage makes use of the plainness, and becomes the lord over the officials.
Thus the greatest ideal for ruling the world is
to maintain its plainness as its own nature.”
– Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 28

“Know the honour, but keep to the disgraced, be a valley to the world.
Being the valley to the world, the constant virtue will be sufficient.
Return to plainness.”

For many honor brings the recognition and praise they relish. But when honor is lost, others will disgrace them, looking down on them as unimportant or, worse, disrespected. Since change is the only constant in life, Lao-Tzu advises us not to concern ourselves with honor or disgrace as they will come and go. When honored, we accept it with humility. When disgraced, we remain humble as the Truth within keeps us free.

Like the ravine in the opening sentance, being a valley to the world we retain the flow of the Tao within. Then our virtue will be sufficient. We need nothing more than the plainness inside us. “Plainness” means to be natural and simple like an uncarved block, which symbolizes our True Nature – humble, honest and unassuming.
Then Lao Tzu says:

““When the plainness shatters, it becomes vessels.
The sage makes use of the plainness and becomes the lord over the officials.”

Once the rock is cut it shatters into pieces, all different vessels for different purposes. In other words, the ten thousand things or myriads. But the sage who is abiding in the Truth always keeps that plainness, which brings with it that natural attraction of others, who would welcome the sage to Lord over his them.

Here Lao Tzu tells us how a government should function. The head must keep the plainness for his officials to serve the country without crookedness. Although people are divided into different roles and positions, they should be abiding by the plainness of the Truth without cheating or cunning. This is Lao-Tzu’s greatest ideal for ruling. Let everyone be simple and honest to do his or her duties in the way that is most natural for them to do so, thus Lao Tzu ends with the following:

“Thus, the greatest ideal for ruling the world is
to maintain its plainness as its own nature.”


There are several chapters in Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching that put forth humility as an important virtue. In fact, without
acquiring it, achieving enlightenment would be next to impossible. In Chapter 28, Lao-tzu elaborates on humility and its importance in detail.

“Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine, be a ravine to the world.
Being the ravine to the world, the constant virtue does not depart.
Return to be pure and innocent as an infant.
Know the white, but keep to the black, be a model to the world.
Being the model to the world, the constant virtue does not deviate.
Return to the infinite.”

“Know the masculine, but keep to the feminine, be a ravine to the world.
Being the ravine to the world, the constant virtue does not depart.
Return to be pure and innocent as an infant.”

The masculine is our Yang energy which gives us our strength, endurance and will power. But we also need to be humble, resilient and receptive like the femine Yin energy. The “ravine to the world” is an analogy for that humble, receptive part of us that allows the Tao to flow within like water through a stream or ravine. The virtue or Te then becomes a constant part of us, enabling us to return to that innocence we had as a newborn.

“Know the white, but keep to the black, be a model to the world.
Being the model to the world, the constant virtue does not deviate.
Return to the infinite.”

“Know the white” indicates righteousness, which is also a virtue of the Truth that compliments our humility we are right, and people also know that we are rightful. To be righteous is also the virtue of the Truth. However, at times we may encounter people who misunderstand us or treat us with disdain. In those times, Lao Tzu urges us to “Keep to the black,” which means we should be able to bear the temporary suffering of unhelpful encounters and return to the righteousness and abide in the Truth.

So let us contemplate these two short stanzas and see if we can add them to our practice. We will finish Chapter 28 tomorrow. Enjoy your practice, folks.


With the political turmoil and mud-slinging heating up as the midterm elections approach, we take a look at the “Yin and Yang” of American politics via Taoist master Kari Hohne of CafeauSoul.com in this excerpt from hr blog entitled “There Is No Adversary.”

Kari writes:
“We recognize projection happening for the individual, but we can also see it happening among groups.

Like Yin and Yang, a two-party democratic system is needed to find balance. It promotes stability at the same time that it allows for the introduction of new ideas. The two parties were never meant to agree.

They may fear the outcome of their disagreement as a loss of control. Voting tends to balance out their differences.

Studies show that conservatives have traditionally preferred order, while liberals appeared more open to uncertainty. The right accuses the left of threatening their freedoms with government structures that appear too ordered. In the meantime, the left is accusing the right of overthrowing democracy and rejecting what worked in the past.

Liberals seem to be promoting order, while Conservatives are giving free reign to uncertainty. This is the natural way opposites transform each other.

Both view the Other as close-minded, dishonest and immoral. How did this transfer of ideologies become the face of the Other? Projection is how we accuse the Other of possessing our own flaws.

We have to examine what is being repressed.

Conservatives tend to appreciate Christian values, but they don’t seem to extend compassion to serving the needy with any type of social assistance.

Liberals believe they are tolerant, but they don’t extend this tolerance to the idea that people naturally think differently.

The right thinks they are defending liberty, while they enact laws that restrict individual freedoms. The left thinks they are defending democracy, while they demonize those with opposing views.

In the meantime, nobody is being truthful, taking responsibility for their hypocrisies, or willing to examine their own inconsistencies.

If each examined their own motives and founding principles, they just might find consensus.”

I thank Kari for the brilliant analysis and responsible advice, which I hope all of us can put into practice.


Over the past two days we read how the Greek philosopher Plato might relate this idea of the Dao or the Absolute. Like Consciousness, Truth and Love are modalities of the Absolute, and so is Absolute Beauty, which is how Plato chose to relate the idea that Oneness that cannot be named.

In the Navajo tradition, that same idea of Beauty as the defining quality of existence is expressed in the Beauty Way Chant.

Walking in Beauty: Closing Prayer from the Navajo Way Blessing Ceremony
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again

Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.

With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My words will be beautiful…

What can one say except, “Beautiful!” Thus, may you practice this day with beauty before you, with beauty behind you, with beauty below you, with beauty above you, with beauty all around you may you LIVE. Enjoy, everyone.


How might non-Chinese sages from antiquity think of this Absolute Reality that Daoist refer to as the Dao? Today we have Part 2 of how a certain Greek philosopher relates this idea to Socrates, his guru or teacher. See yesterday’s post for Part 1.

“Whenever a man, ascending on the return journey from these mortal things, by a right feeling of love for youths, begins to catch sight of that beauty, he is not far from his goal. This is the correct way of approaching or being led by another to the realm of love, beginning with beautiful things in this world and using them as steps, returning ever on and upwards for the sake of that absolute beauty, from one to two and from two to all beautiful embodiments, then from beautiful embodiment to beautiful practices, and from practices to the beauty of knowledge of many things, and from these branches of knowledge one comes finally to the absolute knowledge, which is none other than knowledge of that absolute beauty and rests finally in the realization of what the absolute beauty is.”
– Part 2 of “Plato’s Journey Through Unknowing”

So, we begin with beautiful things in this world and step-by-step ever on and ever upwards we follow them, from beautiful embodiments to beautiful practices to the beauty of knowledge of many things, and from these branches of knowledge we finally come to rest in the realization of Absolute Beauty, a pure modality of Absolute Reality, the Dao.

Tomorrow we will look at a Native American interpretation of the Dao that aligns perfectly with “Plato’s Journey Through Unknowing.

Enjoy your contemplation and keep practicing, everyone.



Ever wonder how non-Chinese might translate the term “Dao?” Some Westerners may call it God. Some Buddhists might call it Buddhahood or others might call it the Void. Hindus may think it refers to Brahman. Many Western philosophers and spiritual teachers call it Awareness or Consciousness. Some may simply refer to it as the Absolute. As Lao-tzu told us, the Dao that can be named is not the Dao or God or the Void or Brahman.

Many of these terms for the Dao may actually refer to modalities of the Absolute, for instance Consciousness, Awareness, Truth. But how might non-Chinese sages from antiquity think of this Absolute called the Dao. Here is how a certain Greek philosopher relates this idea to Socrates, his guru or teacher.

“He who has been led by his teacher in the matters of love to this point, correctly observing step by step the objects of beauty, when approaching his final goal will, of a sudden, catch sight of a nature of amazing beauty, and this, Socrates, is indeed the cause of all his former efforts. This nature is, in the first place, for all time, neither coming into being nor passing into dissolution, neither growing nor decaying; secondly, it is not beautiful in one part or at one time, but ugly in another part or at another time, nor beautiful towards one thing, but ugly towards another, nor beautiful here and ugly there, as if beautiful to some, but ugly to others; again, this beauty will not appear to him as partaking of the level of beauty of the human face or hands or any other part of the body, neither of any kind of reason nor any branch of science, nor existing in any other being, such as in a living creature, or in earth, or in heaven or in anything else, but only in the ever present unity of Beauty Itself, in Itself, with Itself, from which all other beautiful things are derived, but in such a manner that these others come into being and pass into dissolution, but it experiences no expansion nor contraction nor suffers any change.”

That was Part 1 of “Plato’s Journey through Unknowing.” It certainly sounds like descriptions that Daoist sages have prescribed to the Dao down through the ages. Wouldn’t you agree? In any case, I will let you contemplate this deeply intense paragraph for now and reveal the final part tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your contemplation and your practice, folks.


Just one stanza from the early Chan poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. It is longer than the other stanzas and contains several wonderful concepts to contemplate.

“To live in the Great Way is neither easy nor difficult.
But those with limited views are fearful and irresolute:
the faster they hurry, the slower they go.
And clinging (attachment) cannot be limited:
Even to be attached to the idea of enlightenment
is to go astray. Just let things be in their own way
and there will be neither coming nor going.
Obey the nature of things (your own nature)
and you will walk freely and undisturbed.”

Third line “the faster they hurry, the slower they go” in another translation reads: “Conceived in haste, they only detain us.” Here the line is pointing to our limited views and opinions rather than ourselves, the ones with the limited views.

The fourth line “And clinging (attachment) cannot be limited in the other translation it reads: “Attachments know no bounds.” In other words, there seem to be endless objects, both physical and mental, that we can attach to.

With those two comparisons, you can spend your weekend contemplating this stanza and putting the concepts into practice. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.


Today we cover 3 more stanzas from the early Chan poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. The poem is a blending of Buddhist and Taoist teachings and is highly contemplative. I hope you have been following along. So, here are your three stanzas to contemplate today.

“Although all dualities come from the One,
do not be attached even to this One.
When the mind exists undisturbed in the Way,
nothing in the world can offend.
And when a thing can no longer offend,
it ceases to exist in the old way.

When no discriminating thoughts arise,
the old mind ceases to exist.
When thought objects vanish,
the thinking-subject vanishes:
As when the mind vanishes, objects vanish.

Things are objects because of the subject (mind):
the mind (subject) is such because of things (object).
Understand the relativity of these two
and the basic reality: the unity of emptiness.
In this Emptiness the two are indistinguishable
and each contains in itself the whole world.
If you do not discriminate between coarse and fine
you will not be tempted to prejudice and opinion.

Terms are slightly misrepresented. There is only one subject and that is the Absolute or Dao which has the modalities such as Consciousness, the Perceiver, Truth, Love, Beauty. So, any of these terms can represent the Absolute or Dao, which the only subject there is. All others are objects. This includes the thinking or acquired or conditioned mind or ego. None of these terms for the thinking mind can be considered truly subjective. They are all objects perceived by Consciousness, the true Subject. With that understanding, go ahead and contemplate today’s three stanzas. Enjoy your contemplation and the rest of your practice, everyone.


Continuing to cover excerpts from the early Chan poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen, today we will contemplate three stanzas instead of the usual two that we have been posting. This is due to a seeming contradiction between the first and third stanzas.

“The more you talk and think about it,
the further astray you wander from the truth.
Stop talking and thinking,
and there is nothing you will not be able to know.

To return to the root is to find meaning,
but to pursue appearances is to miss the source.
At the moment of inner enlightenment,
there is a going beyond appearance and emptiness.
The changes that appear to occur in the empty world
we call real only because of our ignorance.

Do not search for the truth;
only cease to cherish opinions.
do not remain in the dualistic state.
Avoid such pursuits carefully.
If there is even a trace of this and that,
of right and wrong,
the mind-essence will be lost in confusion.”
– “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng T’san, translated by Richard B. Clarke

The first stanza states that the more you think and talk about it, the more you stray from the Truth. Then the third stanza states: “Do not search for the truth; only cease to cherish opinions.” The first stanza is correct in that thinking and talking about the Truth will never lead to the Truth of who we are because thinking and talking are actions generated by the acquired (conditioned) mind – the ego. Furthermore, they are actually “objects” perceived by Consciousness, which is the objectless presance, and itself, the one and only “Subject.”

Understanding that, we now can see why the third stanza actually agrees with the first. In other words, searching for the truth using the acquired mind keeps us locked into the dualistic state and, therefore, it is best that we drop all of our dualistic opinions about the Truth. However, this does not preclude us from having a burning enthusiasm for the Truth, not by seeking or searching for it but by just being open to it. If we are able to establish our openness, the Truth will find us. In fact, that Shadow which proceeds the Truth will pull us in to the Truth. But we must be open to it.

So, open up and let it all hang out as they say, and enjoy your practice, folks.


Today we are continuing to cover excerpts from the early Chan poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. The poem is a blending of Buddhist and Taoist teachings and is highly contemplative. Here are the next two stanzas:

“When you try to stop activity by passivity
your very effort fills you with activity.
As long as you remain in one extreme or the other
you will never know Oneness.

Those who do not live in the single Way
fail in both activity and passivity,
assertion and denial.
To deny the reality of things
is to miss their reality;
To assert the emptiness of things
is to miss their reality.”
– “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng T’san, translated by Richard B. Clarke

When contrived or forced, both activity and passivity are forms of ignorance as are assertion and denial. See through to the falsity of both as you continue to practice Self-Cultivation.


Today we are continue to contemplate the early Chan poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. The poem is a blending of Buddhist and Taoist teachings and is highly contemplative. Here are the next two stanzas:

“The Way is perfect like vast space
where nothing is lacking and nothing in excess.
Indeed, it is due to our choosing to accept or reject
that we do not see the true nature of things.

Live neither in the entanglements of outer things,
nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things and such
erroneous views will disappear by themselves.”
– “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng T’san, translated by Richard B. Clarke

See the way our erroneous concept of free will and freedom of choice as we pursue worldly objects in search of happiness actually bring us the direct opposite – more needs, more choice to make, and more insatiable desires that only bring us misery not happiness.

So free yourself of the entanglements of pursuing worldly objects, ambitions, and creature comforts and they will disappear on their own. Enjoy your practice, everyone.


We are going to contemplate an early Chan poem that later became one of the most influential Zen writings. The poem “Hsin Hsin Ming,” is attributed to Seng T’san, who lived in the sixth century and was the third Chinese patriarch of Zen. The poem is a blending of Buddhist and Taoist teachings. We won’t view the whole poem since it’s rather legthy. But I will post a couple of stanzas at a time, any one of which is deeply contemplative.

“The Great Way is not difficult
for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent
everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however,
and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning of things is not understood,
the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.”
– Opening stanzas of “Hsin Hsin Ming” by Seng T’san, translated by Richard B. Clarke

Stay wtih these two stanzas and see where they take you – the inner You. Enjoy your contemplation.


We will close out the week with another quote from Huang Po:

“Suppose a warrior, forgetting that he was already wearing his pearl on his forehead, were to seek for it elsewhere, he could travel the whole world without finding it.”

What does this Pearl of Great Wisdom refer to? None other than your own true nature. And to quote Huang Po once more : “There is only the one reality, neither to be realized nor attained.”

Enjoy your practice, everyone. And enjoy your weekend.

(As a disenfranchised Registered Republican, I approve of the following message.)


Today’s quote is from Huang Po describing the true Nature of all things.

“Consider the sunlight. You may see it is near, yet if you follow it from world to world you will never catch it in your hands. Then you may describe it as far away and, lo, you will see it just before your eyes. Follow it and, behold, it escapes you; run from it and it follows you close. You can neither possess it nor have done with it. From this example you can understand how it is with the true Nature of all things and, henceforth, there will be no need to grieve or to worry about such things.”
― Huang Po, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind

In other words what Huang Po is telling us is that there’s no need to worry or grieve over not being about to grasp the Dao, the true Nature of all things because you can neither change it nor control it. So return to your practice and quit struggling with such things. Just enjoy, folks!


There’s a Chuang-tzu story that isn’t necessarily associated with internal martial arts but nevertheless carries a remarkable message for all cultivators regardless of their philosophical or spiritual affiliations.

Chuang Tzu – The Tower of the Spirit

“The Spirit
has an impregnable tower
which no danger can disturb
as long as the tower is guarded
by the invisible Protector
who acts unconsciously
and whose actions go astray
when they become deliberate
reflexive and intentional.

The unconscious
and entire sincerity of Tao
are disturbed by any effort
at self-conscious demonstration.
All such demonstrations are lies.
When one displays himself
in this amibiguous way
the world storms in
and imprisons him.
He is no longer protected
by the sincerity of Tao.

Each new act is a new failure.
If his acts are done in public,
in broad daylight,
he will be punished by men.
If they are done in private and in secret,
he will be punished by spirits.

Let each one understand the meaning of sincerity
and guard against display.

He will be at peace
with men and spirits
and will act rightly, unseen,
in his own solitude,
in the tower of his spirit.”

My you in your practice understand the meaning of sincerity and guard against display. Enjoy your practice, everyone.


Our final Chuang-tzu story that relates to the Internal Martial Art’s is entitled “Prince Hui’s Cook.”

Prince Hui’s cook was cutting up an oxen. Every blow of his hand, every heave of his shoulders, every step of his foot, every thrust of his knee, every whshh of the oxen’s torn flesh, every chhk of the chopper, was in perfect harmony- in rhythm like the dance of the Mulberry Grove, simultaneous like the chords of the Ching Shou.

“Well done!” cried the Prince. “How did you ever achieve such skill?”

“Sire,” replied the cook, “I have always devoted myself to the Tao. It is better than skill. When I first began cutting up oxens, I saw before me simply whole oxens. After three years of practice, I saw no more whole animals. And now I work with my mind and not with my eye. When my senses bid me stop, but my mind urges me on, I fall back upon eternal principles. I follow such openings or cavities as there may be, according to the animal’s natural physique. I do not attempt to cut through the veins, arteries, and tendons, still less through large bones.”

“A good cook changes his chopper once a year- because he cuts. An ordinary cook, once a month- because he hacks. But I have had this chopper nineteen years, and although I have cut up many thousands oxens, its edge is as if fresh from the grindstone. For at the joints there are always crevices, and the edge of a chopper being without thickness, it remains only to insert that which is without thickness into such a crevice. By these means the crevice will be enlarged, and the blade will find plenty of room. It is thus that I have kept my chopper for nineteen years as though fresh from the grindstone.”

“Nevertheless, when I come upon a hard part where the blade meets with a difficult section, I proceed with caution. I fix my gaze and go slowly, gently applying my blade, until with a Hwah! the part yields like earth crumbling to the ground. Then I take out my chopper, and stand up, and look around, and pause, until with an air of triumph I wipe my chopper and put it carefully away.”

“Bravo!” cried the Prince. “From the words of this cook I have learnt how to take care of my life.”

By following the Dao all these years, the cook no longer is engaged in cutting up the physical body of the ox, its gross matter, but instead has reached the realm of subtle matter and follows the lines of energy within the ox, fully connected to his knife, which has become one with his hand, as the movment of qi pulses through his veins.

I sincerely hope this story can help you take care of your life by engaging in the subtle energy that pulses all around, in and through you. May your practice flow with the energy of the Dao. Enjoy, everyone!


Today we look at one of my favorite Chuang-tzu stories: “Monkey Mountain.” I think the meaning will be quite obvious and one should be able to see its implication to the internal martial arts.

Chuang Tzu Story – Monkey Mountain

The Prince of Wu took a boat
to Monkey Mountain.
As soon as the monkeys saw him
they all fled in panic and hid in the treetops.

One monkey, however, remained, completely unconcerned,
swinging from branch to branch –
an extraordinary display.

The prince shot an arrow at the monkey,
but the monkey dexterously
caught the arrow in midflight.

At this the prince ordered his attendants
to make a concerted attack.
In an instant the monkey was shot
full of arrows and fell dead.

Then the prince turned to his companion Yen Pu’i,
“You see what happened?
This animal advertised his cleverness.
He trusted his own skill.
He thought no one could touch him.
Remember that!
Do not rely on distinction and talent
when you deal with men!”

When they returned home,
Yen Pu’i became a disciple of a sage
to get rid of eveything that made him outstanding.
He renounced every pleasure.
He learned to hide every distinction.

Soon no one in the kingdom
knew what to make of him.
Thus they held him in awe.

Obviously the story is about the dangers of arrogance. The monkey was so full of himself that he thought he could handle almost anything. Therein lies the danger. The monkey wound up full of arrows and so will our engagements with others. if we don’t tame our haughty expectations. In the end, Yen Pu’i chose the path of humility rather than arrogance and by following Lao-tzu’ dictate: “Avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men”…”If the sage would guide the people, he must serve with humility. If he would lead them, he must follow behind.”

Thus, in our own practice, it is arrogance that gets us in trouble and causes all sorts of problems. So, practice humility until it becomes natural and helping others brings you the greatest joy. Bless you, folks.

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Last week we looked at three Chuang-tzu parables that applied to both internal and external martial arts. We begin this week with a fourth parable, “Flight from the Shadow.”

Flight from the Shadow

There was a man
who was so disturbed
by the sight of his own shadow
and so displeased
with his own footsteps,
that he determined to get rid of both.

The method he hit upon was
to run away from them.
So he got up and ran.

But everytime he put his foot down
there was another step,
while his shadow kept up with him
without the slightest difficulty.

He attributed his failure
to the fact
that he was not running fast enough.
So he ran faster and faster,
without stopping,
until he finally dropped dead.

He failed to realize
that if he merely stepped into the shade,
his shadow would vanish,
and if he sat down and stayed still,
there would be no more footsteps.

What this parable is telling us about the internal arts especially like tai chi and baguazhang is twofold. First, it is warning us against the use of force. Trying to force or intend certain processes to happen will only contract both the body and the mind and make success quite difficult if not altogether impossible.

Secondly, and most importantly, Chuang-tzu is warning us about our attitude or psycholgoical impediments. What caused this man’s sudden death? It was not his running away per se, but the reason he was running away. In the opening paragraph, Chuang-tzu tells us that he was disturbed and displeased. It was his extreme displeasure that stressed him out and caused him to act in a way that eventually caused his death.

As the Master tells us: “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.” – Lao-tzu.

I certainly hope you can practice contentment this week not only with your cultivation exercises but with your daily life. And, above all, rejoice in the way things are.

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Our next story from the Zhuangzi (the Book of Chuang-tzu) is one entitled “The Need to Win,” and definitely applies to internal and external martial arts contests like tui shou (push hands).

The Need To Win

When an archer is shooting for fun
He has all his skill.
If he shoots for a brass buckle-
He is already nervous.
If he shoots for a prize of gold-
He goes blind
Or sees two targets
He is out of his mind.

His skill has not changed,
But the prize divides him.
He cares
He thinks more of winning
Than of shooting
And the need to win
Drains him of power.

This is why good teachers tell their students to step back and accept the loss when they feel they need to use force to overcome an opponent. Don’t struggle, don’t fight the opponent’s force or power, and above all don’t be afraid or ashamed of losing. Just step back and reset. That’s all a part of training. So, have a great practice this weekend, everyone. See you Monday.


Continuing our look at stories from the Zhuangzi (the Book of Chuang-tzu) and applying them to both tai chi and the internal arts, today we review “Duke Hwan and the Wheelwright.”

Duke Hwan of Khi, first in his dynasty,
sat under his canopy reading his philosophy.
And Phien the wheelwright was out in the yard
making a wheel.

Phien laid aside hammer and chisel,
climbed the steps
and said to Duke Hwan,
“May I ask you, Lord,
what is this you are reading?”

Said the duke: “The experts, the authorities.”
Phien asked: “Alive or dead?”
The duke said: “Dead, a long time.”
“Then,” said the wheelwright,
“you are only reading the dirt they left behind.”

The duke replied, “What do you know about it?
You are only a wheelwright.
You had better give me a good explanation
or else you must die.”

The wheelwright said,
“Let us look at the affair from my point of view.
When I make wheels, if I go easy they fall apart,
and if I am too rough they don’t fit.
But if I am neither too easy nor too violent
they come out right,
and the work is what I want it to be.

You cannot put this in words,
you just have to know how it is.
I cannot even tell my own son exactly how it is done,
and my own son cannot learn it from me.
Se here I am, seventy years old, still making wheels!

The men of old took all they really knew
with them to the grave.
And so, Lord, what you are reading there
is only the dirt they left behind them.”

There are a couple of very important lessons here which the Zhuangzi is putting across. The first is finding the Middle Way, both in the internal martial arts like tai chi and baguazhan. This is also pointed out in the famous Chinese saying: “Bu diu, bu ding.” Not too little, not too much. Or as the wheelwright points out: “If I go easy they fall apart, and if I am too rough they don’t fit.” So, what’s the solution? The Middle Way: “But if I am neither too easy nor too violent, they come out right.”

But how can one find the Middle Way, that perfect measure between Bu Diu and Bu Ding? Here the Wheelwright warns us not to trust the writings of the ancients. All those old tai chi books and even the newer ones can only point to a solution, but you will have to discover it on your own. Even teachers can demonstrate and perform movements, but unless you have some magic way of getting inside them so you could feel what they feel and move the way they move, then you are left on your own.

So, experiment. Work with a partner if you can and practice the different ways of releasing your energy until you feel that you have it right. Enjoy your practice, everyone!


We begin the month of September with a few Chuang-tzu stories from the Zhuangzi, but not just any stories. These are ones that especially apply to tai chi and tui shou (push hands) as well as other internal arts and martial arts. Our first one is perhaps Chuang-tzu’s most famous, the tale of the “Fighting Cock.”

“Chi Hsing Tzu was a trainer of
fighting cocks for King Hsuan.
He was training a fine bird.
The king kept asking
if the bird was ready for combat.

“Not yet”, said the trainer.
“He is full of fire.
He is ready to pick a fight
with every other bird.
He is vain and confident
of his own strength.”

After ten days he answered again,
“Not yet. He flares up
when he hears another bird crow.”

After ten more days,
“Not yet. He still gets that angry look
and ruffles his feathers.”

Again ten days.
The trainer said,
“Now he is nearly ready.
When another bird crows,
his eyes don’t even flicker.
He stands immobile like a block of wood.
He is a mature fighter.
Other birds will take one look at him and run.” – from Zhuangzi, the Book of Chuang-tzu

This story could easily be called the “Tale of Taming the Rambuncious Ego” for that is exactly what is happening here. In the beginning the bird wants to charge head-long into the ring and attack his opponent. That will probably work with a less experienced opponent, but should his opponent be prepared, it would easily thwart his attack and counter-attack the now defenseless bird.

As the taming continues, the trainer hopes to get the bird to “listen” within and gain empowerment over its previously learned habits. To understand this kind of “listening,” we can step away from Daoism for a moment and take a lesson from the erudite Advaita sage of the last century, Jean Klein, who often urged his disciples to listen to their bodies and continue listening until they were listening to listening, as is the case with the bird whisperer/trainer in Chuang-tzu’s parable. Eventually as the listening deepens there will no longer be a listener, just quiet, a stillness that nothing can touch.

So, as you can see, the story of the “Fighting Cock” applies to meditation as well as tai chi and tui shou. Thus as you practice this month, see if you can listen without judgment or qualifications to your body. Let that listening deepen each day and enjoy your practice, folks.