THE DAOIST DAILY DIARY & VIDEO

11/30/2022

We close out November and our theme of Life and Living according to Daoism with this quote from Hexagram 52 of the I Ching, Ken – the Mountain…

“Learn inner silence. Bring a meditative mind into all activity or non activity. Achieve total stillness and be a mountain. Such is Wu Wei…
When the mind is highly active it will not accommodate vision or inspiration. It is the cup already full. Mountain over Mountain is the opening of the infinite mind through the silencing of the mind conceptual.”
– Hexagram 52, Ken. Keeping Still. Mountain over Mountain.

Pretty good advice on how to live life with the least effort and the most insightfulness. Enjoy your practice, folks.

In today’s video, Sifu Liang De Hua continues with some tips on Peng both the hand shape or posture and the inner Peng, the energy within the body.
https://youtu.be/zvJZoEk-NUo

11/29/2022

Today is the conclusion of Chuang-Tzu’s “The Great and Most Honored Master” from Book 6 of The Zhuangzi.

“In this way they were one and the same in all their likings and dislikings. Where they liked, they were the same; where they did not like, they were the same. In the former case where they liked, they were fellow-workers with the Heavenly (in them); in the latter where they disliked, they were co-workers with the Human in them. The one of these elements (in their nature) did not overcome the other. Such were those who are called the True men.”
– Chuang-Tzu from The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

Such were the True Men of Old, but what about the True Men and Women of Today? Are you one of them? Keep practicing your Cultivation and enjoy.

In today’s video, Sifu Liang De Hua discusses the all important quality of Peng Jin.
https://youtu.be/8u-tzkN6eUI

11/28/2022

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving, and you’re ready to resume your Self-Cultivation practice after the holiday respite. We will continue with Chuang-Tzu’s view of the ideal way of life and living as exemplified by the True Man of Old and thus the True Man of Dao and end the series this week.

“They (the True Men of Old) considered punishments to be the substance (of government, and they never incurred it); ceremonies to be its supporting wings (and they always observed them); wisdom (to indicate) the time (for action, and they always selected it); and virtue to be accordance (with others), and they were all-accordant. Considering punishments to be the substance (of government), yet their generosity appeared in the (manner of their) infliction of death. Considering ceremonies to be its supporting wings, they pursued by means of them their course in the world. Considering wisdom to indicate the time (for action), they felt it necessary to employ it in (the direction of) affairs. Considering virtue to be accordance (with others), they sought to ascend its height along with all who had feet (to climb it). (Such were they), and yet men really thought that they did what they did by earnest effort.

The gist of what Chuang-Tzu is saying in this paragraph is that the Men of Old rendered to Caesar what was Caesar’s and the Nature (the Dao) what was Nature’s and thereby led an effortless life. See if you can start to work that concept into your daily practice and enjoy, folks.

In today’s video, Liang De Hua is teaching another very important aspect of tui shou (taiji partner work) – sticking energy.

11/25/2022

I hope you thoroughly enjoyed your Thanksgiving and are all geared up for Black Friday. We continue now with another excerpt from The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

“The True men of old presented the aspect of judging others aright, but without being partisans; of feeling their own insufficiency, but being without flattery or cringing. Their peculiarities were natural to them, but they were not obstinately attached to them; their humility was evident, but there was nothing of unreality or display about it. Their placidity and satisfaction had the appearance of joy; their every movement seemed to be a necessity to them. Their accumulated attractiveness drew men’s looks to them; their blandness fixed men’s attachment to their virtue. They seemed to accommodate themselves to the (manners of their age), but with a certain severity; their haughty indifference was beyond its control. Unceasing seemed their endeavours to keep (their mouths) shut; when they looked down, they had forgotten what they wished to say.”
– Chuang-Tzu from The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

Enjoy the rest of your Thanksgiving weekend and don’t go too overboard on Black Friday. See everyone Monday.

Here’s Part 2 of the Taii Jin video with Sifu Liang De Hua

11/24/2022

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving. Of course, according to Chuang-Tzu below, if you try to share your joy at Thanksgiving or manifest affection or observe times and seasons, you are not very wise or sagely. But who cares? If you are enjoying yourself, go right ahead. But read the paragraph anyway.

Being such, their minds (the True Men of Old) were free from all thought; their demeanor was still and unmoved; their foreheads beamed simplicity. Whatever coldness came from them was like that of autumn; whatever warmth came from them was like that of spring. Their joy and anger assimilated to what we see in the four seasons. They did in regard to all things what was suitable, and no one could know how far their action would go. Therefore the sagely man might, in his conduct of war, destroy a state without losing the hearts of the people; his benefits and favours might extend to a myriad generations without his being a lover of men. Hence he who tries to share his joys with others is not a sagely man; he who manifests affection is not benevolent; he who observes times and seasons (to regulate his conduct) is not a man of wisdom; he to whom profit and injury are not the same is not a superior man; he who acts for the sake of the name of doing so, and loses his (proper) self is not the (right) scholar; and he who throws away his person in a way which is not the true (way) cannot command the service of others. Such men as Hû Pû-kieh, Wû Kwang, Po-î, Shû-khî, the count of Kî, Hsü-yü, Kî Thâ, and Shan-thû Tî, all did service for other men, and sought to secure for them what they desired, not seeking their own pleasure.

In essence, Chuang-Tzu is not being as abrupt as this translation sounds. The key is “to regulate his conduct.” If you only act thankful or affectionate or benevolent at certain times in certain situations, then you are being manipulated by a conditioned mind that is attuned to societal norms rather than the Dao. Those sages who follow the Dao have a conduct and demeanor that is consistent all the time, no matter what the occasion is. That’s the point. So, we shouldn’t require a certain day in the year to be Thankful, but should live gratitude and live thankfulness every day of the year without regard to situations and circumstances.

Enjoy the rest of your day and the video with Sifu Liang De Hua on Jin in Tai Chi Part 1…

11/23/2022

More on the True Men of Old from Chuang-Tzu as we approach Thanksgiving and draw nearer to concluding our November theme of Life and Living according to Daoism.

“The True men of old knew nothing of the love of life or of the hatred of death. Entrance into life occasioned them no joy; the exit from it awakened no resistance. Composedly they went and came. They did not forget what their beginning bad been, and they did not inquire into what their end would be. They accepted (their life) and rejoiced in it; they forgot (all fear of death), and returned (to their state before life). Thus there was in them what is called the want of any mind to resist the Tâo, and of all attempts by means of the Human to assist the Heavenly. Such were they who are called the True men.”
– The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

There are three main aspects of tai chi that confound many practitioners, even long time students – song, jin, and peng. Today’s video is from the Martial Man series and features Sifu Liang De Hua, the training partner of the master featured in yesterday’s video, Sifu Adam Misner, demonstrating “song.”

Enjoy the video and enjoy Thanksgiving, everyone. Hope each of you has a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving.

11/22/2022

More on the True Men of old from Chuang-Tzu as we continue his description of “The Great and Most Honored Master” from Book 6 of the Zhuangzi during our November Life and Living theme from a Daoist perspective.

“The True men of old did not dream when they slept, had no anxiety when they awoke, and did not care that their food should be pleasant. Their breathing came deep and silently. The breathing of the true man comes (even) from his heels, while men generally breathe (only) from their throats. When men are defeated in argument, their words come from their gullets as if they were vomiting. Where lusts and desires are deep, the springs of the Heavenly are shallow.”

Maybe you can’t breathe from your feet but you should make sure your breath is anchored to the belly or dantian. That is vital for progressing in the Internal Arts. Also, remember “Where lusts and desires are deep, the springs of the Heavenly are shallow.” Isn’t that a beautiful thought? Enjoy your practice, folks.

Yesterday’s video featured Huang Xing Xian’s loosening exercises. Today’s video features Adam Misner presenting detailed instructions for his Grand Master Huang Xing Xian’s loosening drill. Follow along and enjoy.

11/21/2022

More from the Zhuangzi, (the Book of Chuang-Tzu), Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master” in our November series on Life and Living according to Daoism. On Saturday, we concluded the week asking what is this True man and what is this True Knowledge of which Chuang-Tzu speaks. Today he gives us his answer…

“What is meant by ‘the True Man?’ The True men of old did not reject (the views of) the few; they did not seek to accomplish (their ends) like heroes (before others); they did not lay plans to attain those ends. Being such, though they might make mistakes, they had no occasion for repentance; though they might succeed, they had no self-complacency. Being such, they could ascend the loftiest heights without fear; they could pass through water without being made wet by it; they could go into fire without being burnt; so it was that by their knowledge they ascended to and reached the Tâo.”
– The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

Not only does the True Man’s stature seem powerful, his knowledge that allowed him to ascend and reach the Tao seems even more powerful, We can see by Chuang-Tzu’s description that the True Man was adept at living by “wu-wei.” He was also humble and not emotionally swept up by either failure or success. We will have more from Chung-Tzu and the True Man tomorrow.

In today’s video we return to Tai Chi – well, sort of. Tai Chi requires much different physical conditioning than other forms of martial arts or typical Western bodybuilding. So, to accomplish this transforming the body into a tai chi conditioned body we use various sets of stretches and exercises. Here is the creator of one such set Grand Master Huang Xing Xiang.

11/19/2022

We conclude this week and will conclude our November series on Life and Living from the Daoist perspective with excerpts from the Zhuangzi, Book 6 entitled “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

“To complete one’s natural term of years and not come to an untimely end in the middle of his course is the fulness of knowledge. Although it be so, there is an evil (attending this condition). Such knowledge still awaits the confirmation of it as correct; it does so because it is not yet determined. How do we know that what we call the Heavenly (in us) is not the Human? and that what we call the Human is not the Heavenly? There must be the True man, and then there is the True knowledge.”
– The Zhuangzi, Book 6, “The Great and Most Honored Master.”

So. what is this True man? What is he like and what is this True knowledge? Check back on Monday to find out.

Today we have a 2008 video with Sun Zhi Jun and his students demonstrating further appociations from Cheng style Baguazhang.

11/18/2022

We conclude today with our fifth and final excerpt from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the founders of modern Western philosophy, on his perspective of Daoist thought and philosophy in our November series on Life and Living according to Daoism.

“This is immortality, that the soul subsisting in presence to self is both essential and existing at the same time. Essence without existence is a mere abstraction; essentiality or the concept must be thought as existing. Therefore realization also belongs to essentiality. But here the form of this realization is still sensible existence, sensible immediacy.”
– Georg W. F. Hegel, On Daoism

Unlike Buddhism that focuses on the Great Void, Daoism and. to Hegel’s point, professes that the soul is both essential and existing at the same time. Essence without existence, as in the Great Void, is indeed a mere abstraction, although some Daoist sects do indeed expound the theory that existence came from non-existence and being from non-being.

In today’s video, Hans Menck demonstrates some baguazhang footwork and basic palm applications with a partner.

11/17/2022

We continue today with our fourth excerpt from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the founders of modern Western philosophy, on his perspective of Daoist thought and philosophy in our November series on Life and Living according to Daoism.

“This essential character also pertains directly to the subject or the soul; it is known that the soul is immortal, that it has within itself the power of existing purely, or being purely inward, though not yet of existing properly as this purity, i.e. not yet as spirituality. But still bound up with this essentiality is the fact that the mode of existence is yet a sensible immediacy, though only an accidental one.”
– Georg W. F. Hegel, On Daoism

Hegel seems to have arbitrarily separated the soul from the self as being within self and has the power or potential of existing purely as spirituality but is still dealing with the accidental immediacy of being bound to essentiality.

It is most difficult for someone coming from an entirely different culture, in Hegel’s case, the idealism of Western philosophy in that era, to understand the underlying philosophy of Daoism especially as it pertains to the soul and immortality. Unlike Hegel’s Christian culture, which basically focused on a singular soul, Daoism proposed that man had at least two souls, a yang and a yin, and these were further subdivided into ten aspects. In addition there were subdivision upon subdivision with regards to the various aspects of immortality. We will conclude with Hegel’s thesis on Daoism tomorrow.

Our video today focuses on the 16 palm changes within the Cheng style of Baguazhang as demonstrated by Hans Menck.

11/16/2022

We continue today with our third excerpt from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the founders of modern Western philosophy, on his perspective of Daoist thought and philosophy in our November series on Life and Living according to Daoism.

“…The I is not lifeless tranquility but movement, though a movement that is not change; instead it is eternal tranquility, eternal clarity within oneself. Inasmuch as it is first in Buddhism that God is known as the essential, and is thought in his essentiality – that being within self, or presence to self is the authentic determination – this being within self or this essentiality is therefore known in connection with the subject, is known as the nature of the subject, and the spiritual is self-contained…”
– Georg W. F. Hegel, On Daoism

That’s a real mouthful. If you can follow Hegel’s compound, complex sentence structure then you are definitely enlightened. I do believe that the eternal tranquility or eternal clarity within oneself is a valid description of the I or, as Hegel puts it, “this essentiality,” the nature of the subject.

In today’s video, let’s step away from tai chi for now and take in a more obscure but nevertheless skillful internal art called Baguazhang. Today’s practitioner is Suijen Chen from the 15th World Wushu Championships in Shanghai, China.

11/15/2022

We continue today with our second excerpt from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, one of the fathers of modern Western philosophy, on his perspective of Daoist thought and philosophy in our November series on Life and Living according to Daoism.

“The thought of immortality lies precisely in the fact that, in thinking, human beings are present to themselves in their freedom. In thinking, one is utterly independent, nothing else can intrude upon one’s freedom – one relates only to oneself, and nothing else can have a power upon one. This equivalence with myself, the I, this subsisting with self, is what is genuinely immortal and subject to no alteration; it is the unchangeable itself, what has actual being only within itself and moves only within itself.”
– Georg W. F. Hegel, On Daoism

Hegel’s theory of immortality would be true except for one very important factor that he omits – not from philosophy but from psychology – and that is the subconscious. Our subconscious and ultimately our unconscious mind is built upon conditioning, which in turn is built upon the influences and our experiences with family, teachers, friends and society at large. And it is these ideas and concepts of what life is and how it should be led that influences our thoughts. So, to say that in thinking one is utterly independent and nothing else can intrude upon one’s freedom is completely false. Some part of society, no matter how miniscule, is with us within every thought. More from Hegel tomorrow. Enjoy your practice, folks.

You have no doubt heard it said of tai chi that “four ounces defeats a thousand pounds.” Well, in today’s Internal Arts video, Sifu Adam Misner sets the record straight as he explains jin power and how it is generated and used in tai chi.

11/14/2022

Today’s commentary on our November theme of Life and Living according to Daoism comes from a most unusual source – Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel, one of the founding figures of modern Western philosophy. In his dissertation on Daoism, Hegel interprets Daoist wisdom and philosophy through his perspective of German idealism. A rather lengthy and yet absorbing interpretation that requires breaking it down into a number of excerpts that may take up a better part of our November theme. Here is the beginning…

“While Daoism presents the attaining of immortality through the meditation and withdrawl into oneself as the highest destination of human beings, it does not in that connection declare that the soul persists intrinsically as such and essentially, that the spirit is immortal, but only that human beings can make themselves immortal through the process of abstract thinking in immediate consciousness, and that every man should do so…”

Unlike many Western and some Eastern religions, I would have to agree with Hegel that immortality is not a given. In both Daoism and its offshoot, Zen Buddhism, immortality must be worked at. Whereas Christianity, and some sects of Islam and Hinduism have always taught that humans have an immortal soul that lives on after the physical body dies. So, give that some thought, and we will continue with Hegel tomorrow. Enjoy your practice, folks.

Today’s video feature Adam Hsu from the “Martial Man” series demonstrating applications of some of the moves featured in Saturday’s Chen Tai Chi video with Chen Zheng Lei.

11/12/2022

We continue our November theme of Life and Living in the flow of the Dao with a famous quote from the Dao De Ching…

“If you want to become straight, first let yourself become twisted. If you want to become full, first let yourself become empty. If you want to become new, first let yourself become old. Those who desires are few get them, those whose desires are great go astray.”
― Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching

So, if you have only a few desires, you may actually have one or two fulfilled. But if you are never satisfied and desire more and more in daily life, then you wil lonly succeed in corrupting your life. Practice referring to the reversion of opposites that Lao-Tzu points out in the beginning and enjoy your weekend.

This weekend’s video features Chen style Tai chi with Grand Master Chen Zheng Lei from a 2015 demonstration at a Wushu tournament. Check out his soft, subtle movements contrasted with his sudden explosiveness.

11/11/2022

On this Veterans’ Day, I want to thank all veterans reading this post for your service. Continuing our November theme of the Daoist perspective on Life and Living with another quote by Chuang-Tzu. It’s not one of his famous quotes but an important one nevertheless as he discusses a particularly significant virtue of a sage, his bearing or demeanor.

“A man like this will not go where he has no will to go, will not do what he has no mind to do. Though the world might praise him and say he had really found something, he would look unconcerned and never turn his head; though the world might condemn him and say he had lost something, he would look serene and pay no heed. The praise and blame of the world are no loss or gain to him.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, translated by Burton Watson

This is the demeanor we hope to accomplish ,when our self-cultivation practice has substantially progressed. See how often your demeanor changes in a day in reaction to changing situations. Enjoy your practice, everyone.

Today’s video looks at one of the more famous students of Yeung Chen Fu, the Professor, Cheng Man Ching. After leaving China and relocating in Taiwan and later in New York City, he took the 108 postures of his teacher’s form and condensed them into a form with 37 postures. On this coprehensive video, there are two versions of the Professor performing the 37 postures as well as tui shou (push hands) sequences and the Yang sword form.

11/10/2022

We continue with our November theme of the Daoist perspective on Life and Living with a memorable quote from Lao-Tzu and the Dao De Ching.

“Practice non-action.
Work without doing.
Magnify the small;
increase the few.
Reward bitterness with care.”
― Lao Tzu

Again we are reminded of wu-wei and humility. Add both to your practice and enjoy, folks.

Today’s video focuses on Wu Tai Chi in one of the oldest surviving Tai Chi films from the 1930’s. Here not only does Chu Minyi demonstrate his Wu style Taijiquan form but also his solo training equipment. If the music is too intrusive, mute the audio.

11/09/2022

We continue our November theme of the Daoist perspective on Life and Living with a quote from Chuang-Tzu.

“You have only to rest in inaction and things will transform themselves. Smash your form and body, spit out hearing and eyesight, forget you are a thing among other things, and you may join in great unity with the deep and boundless.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Chaung-Tzu’s language as translated by Burton Watson is overly colorful not to mention dramatic, but I think you get the idea. Don’t interfere and let things transform themselves. Enjoy your practice, everyone, and be sure to study our inaugural video

We begin our inaugural presentation of Internal Arts videos with the only known video of Yeung Chen Fu’s eldest son, Yeung Sau Chung. The quality of the recording is very poor since it was taken from an old 8mm film that the British authorities in Hong Kong required Master Yeung to provide in order to assuage officials from Mainland China that Yeung’s family tai chi was not dangerous. Therefore, Master Yeung hid, sped up or eliminated moves that involved internal energies and explosiveness. Nevertheless, his correct posture and fluidity are evident if you watch closely and rerun it a few times.

11/08/2022

PLEASE NOTE: We are changing our Diary format slightly. Beginning Wednesday, November 9, along with our Daoist Daily Diary quotes, we will also be including videos of past and present Internal Arts Masters in Taichi, Baguazhang, Xingyi and Nei Gong. The videos will include forms, tui shou (push hands), and applications.

Continuing our November theme of Life and Living from the Daoist perspective, today we hear once more from Lieh-tzu This time he reveals the Daoist way to travel.

““Travel is such a wonderful experience! Especially when you forget you are traveling. Then you will enjoy whatever you see and do. Those who look into themselves when they travel will not think about what they see. In fact, there is no distinction between the viewer and the seen. You experience everything with the totality of yourself, so that every blade of grass, every mountain, every lake is alive and is a part of you. When there is no division between you and what is other, this is the ultimate experience of traveling.”
― Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living

Not only has Lieh-tzu reveal how to travel on a trip but also how to travel through Life and follow the Dao. Enjoy your practice, everyone. And make sure you get out to vote, if you haven’t already. Taylor Swift tell us how…

11/07/2022

We continue our November theme of Life and Living from the Daoist perspective with the man known as the Sage of Tea, Lu Yu, (733-804), an ancient Tea Master and writer, best known for his monumental work, “The Classic of Tea.” The verse below is his way of telling us to “Chill out!”

“The clouds above us join and separate,
The breeze in the courtyard leaves and returns.
Life is like that, so why not relax?
Who can stop us from celebrating?”
― Lu Yu

Go ahead and brew a cup of tea, then relax and celebrate how much you enjoy your practice, everyone. But don’t get too relaxed that you forget to vote. Only today and tomorrow left, so follow Taylor Swift’s advice…

11/05/2022

A short one to live by from Chuang-Tzu…

“Don’t go in and hide; don’t come out and shine; stand stock-still in the middle.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

So, you got it. That’s it. Stand stock-still in the middle, and enjoy your weekend, folks.

11/04/2022

Today’s quote on the Daoist perspective toward Life and Living is actually from one of the earliest Chan Buddhist poems and is attributed to Seng Tsan, the third patriarch of Chan, which combined aspects of Daoism and Buddhism and later became known as Zen when it was brought to Japan.

“When love and hate are both absent, everything becomes clear and undisguised. Make the slightest 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.”
― Hsin Hsin Ming

Is it possible as we near the hotly-contested mid-term elections not to hold any opinion for or against anything? Just asking? Okay, go ahead and enjoy your practice, folks.

11/03/2022

Continuing our November theme of Life and Living from a Daoist perspective, today Chuang Tzu gives us a conversation between himself and his friend. Hui-tse.

Hui-tse said to Chuang-tse, “I have a large tree which no carpenter can cut into lumber. Its branches and trunk are crooked and tough, covered with bumps and depressions. No builder would turn his head to look at it. Your teachings are the same – useless, without value. Therefore, no one pays attention to them.”

Chung-txe replied, “You complain that your tree is not valuable as lumber. But you could make use of the shade it provides, rest under its sheltering branches, and stroll beneath it, admiring its character and appearance. Since it would not be endangered by an axe, what could threaten its existence? It is useless to you only because you want to make it into something else and do not use it in its proper way.”
– Chuang-tzu, Zhungzi (the Book of Chuang-tzu) translated by Burton Watson.

So practice everyday making yourself useless and enjoy your practice.

11/02/2022

Continuing our November theme of Life and Living from a Daoist perspective, we have a profoundly insightful thought from Liezi on how not to live our lives:

“Some people think they can find satisfaction in good food, fine clothes, lively music, and sexual pleasure. However, when they have all these things, they are not satisfied. They realize happiness is not simply having their material needs met. Thus, society has set up a system of rewards that go beyond material goods. These include titles, social recognition, status, and political power, all wrapped up in a package called self-fulfillment. Attracted by these prizes and goaded on by social pressure, people spend their short lives tiring body and mind to chase after these goals. Perhaps this gives them the feeling that they have achieved something in their lives, but in reality they have sacrificed a lot in life. They can no longer see, hear, act, feel, or think from their hearts. Everything they do is dictated by whether it can get them social gains. In the end, they’ve spent their lives following other people’s demands and never lived a life of their own. How different is this from the life of a slave or a prisoner?”
― Liezi, Lieh-tzu: A Taoist Guide to Practical Living

If you don’t want to be a prisoner or a slave of life, then follow Liezi’s advice. Don’t chase after fulfillment and achievement. You are already fulfilled. You really have nothing to gain, nor should you have. Instead practice self-cultivation and by all means enjoy life, everyone.

11/01/2022

Yesterday we ended our October Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective with a final quote from Zhuangzi. Today we begin our November theme of Life from a Daoist perspective with a very short but immensely profound quote from none other than Zhuangzi…

“Do not use life to give life to death. Do not use death to bring death to life.” — Zhuangzi

Beautiful and wise, reflect on it, meditate, see how you are going against Zhuangzi’s advice by letting your subconscious fears bring death to your life. Then give life to Life by enjoying your practice, folks.

10/31/2022

Today, Halloween, we conclude our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from the Taoist perspective with three of the most revered Daoist sages of ancient times: Laozi, Liezi and Zhuangzi.

“We go from birth to death. Three out of ten follow life. Three out of ten follow death. People who rush from birth to death are also three out of ten. Why is that so? Because they want to make too much of life.” — Laozi

“The ancients said that for persons who cultivated body and mind, and who are virtuous and honorable, death is an experience of liberation, a long-awaited rest from a lifetime of labors. Death helps the unscrupulous person to put an end to the misery of desire. Death, then, for everyone is a kind of homecoming. That is why the ancient sages speak of a dying person as a person who is ‘going home.” — Liezi

“The True Man of ancient times knew nothing of loving life, knew nothing of hating death. He emerged without delight; he went back in without a fuss. He came briskly, he went briskly, and that was all. He didn’t forget where he began; he didn’t try to find out where he would end. He received something and took pleasure in it; he forgot about it and handed it back again.” — Zhuangzi

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone. And don’t stuff yourself with goodies, so you can still enjoy your practice.

10/29/2022

Today we have another Chinese poem on Death and Dying in the form of a dream, but a very unusual dream, in the way the poet’s lover comes into the dream.

Yuan Zhen: Tonight my love who died long ago came into my dream

“I dreamt I climbed to a high, high plain;
and on the plain I found a deep well.
My throat was dry with climbing and I longed to drink,
and my eyes were eager to look into the cool shaft.
I walked round it, I looked right down;
I saw my image mirrored on the face of the pool.
An earthen pitcher was sinking into the black depths;
there was no rope to pull it to the well-head.
I was strangely troubled lest the pitcher should be lost,
and started wildly running to look for help.
From village to village I scoured that high plain;
The men were gone; fierce dogs snarled.
I came back and walked weeping round the well;
faster and faster the blinding tears flowed–
till my own sobbing woke me up;
my room was silent, no one in the house stirred.
The flame of my candle flickered with a green smoke;
the tears I shed glittered in the candle-light.
A bell sounded; I knew it was the midnight chime;
I sat up in bed and tried to arrange my thoughts:
The plain in my dream was the graveyard at Ch’ang-an,
Those hundred acres of untilled land.
The soil heavy and the mounds heaped high;
and the dead below them laid in deep troughs.
Deep are the troughs, yet sometimes dead men
find their way to the world above the grave.
And tonight my love who died long ago
came into my dream as the pitcher sunk in the well.
That was why the tears suddenly streamed from my eyes,
streamed from my eyes and fell on the collar of my dress.

–Yuan Zhen 元稹 (779-831) Translated by Arthur Waley, Chinese Poems (pub. 1946)

Yes, indeed, sometimes dead men find their way to the world above the grave. That’s why we have Halloween. So, enjoy Mischief Night without getting into miuch mischief and see you Monday on Halloween

10/28/2022

Today we have another poem on Death and Dying by the famous Chinese poet Bai Juyi. This one is a remembrance to his departed friends.

Separation. Bai Juyi remembers his friends

“Yesterday I heard that such-a-one was gone;
this morning they tell me that so-and-so is dead.
Of friends and acquaintance more than two-thirds
have suffered change and passed to the Land of Ghosts.
Those that are gone I shall not see again;
they, alas, are for ever finished and done.
Those that are left, — where are they now?
They are all scattered, –a thousand miles away.
Those I have known and loved through all my life,
on the fingers of my hand– how many do I count?
Only the prefects of T’ung, Kuo and Li
and Feng Province– just those four.
Longing for each other we are all grown gray;
through the Fleeting World rolled like a wave in the stream.
Alas that the feasts and frolics of old days
have withered and vanished, bringing us to this!
When shall we meet and drink a cup of wine
and laughing gaze into each other’s eyes?

–Bai Juyi [白居易] (772-846), translated by Arthur Waley (1889-1966)

So these will be the good old days down the road. Enjoy them now while you can and enjoy your practice, everyone.

10/27/2022

Continuing with our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective, here is a short but nevertheless bittersweet poem from Zang Zhi (aka Tsang Chih)…

Zang Zhi: Dreaming of a Dead Lady

“I heard at night your long sighs
and knew that you were thinking of me.”
As she spoke, the doors of Heaven opened
and our souls conversed and I saw her face.
She set me a pillow to rest on
and she brought me meat and drink.

I stood beside her where she lay,
and suddenly woke and she was not there:
and none knew how my soul was torn,
how the tears fell surging over my breast.”
– Zhang Zhi (died 454) translated by Arthur Waley

What is so significant about the poem is the way our subconscious works to recreate such detailed images in dreams that they seem so real that, in the case of loved ones as this, the images bring us to tears when we awaken and realize the loved one has vanished with the dream. Enjoy your practice, everyone.

10/26/2022

In keeping with this October Halloween theme of Death and Dying with a Taoist perspective, one of the saddest moments in life is when a young person dies. Bai Juyi, one of China’s greatest poets, wrote this poem about a young daughter’s death.

Bai Juyi: This parting is for all time

“Who knew that when I was sick,
you would be the one who suffered?
Lying in bed, suddenly I was startled from my pillow,
Leaning on the others, I wept in front of your lamp.
It turns out to be hard to have a daughter–
I have no son, how can I avoid grief?
The sickness came, took only ten days,
even though we’d raised you for three years.
Miserable tears, crying voices, everything hurt painfully.
Your old clothes lonely on the hanger, the medicine at your bedside.
I sent you through the deep village lanes,
I saw the tiny grave in the field.
Don’t tell me it’s three li away–
this separation is till the end of days.”
–Bai Juyi 白居易 (772-846)

On that note, I hope you take extra good care of yourselves and your families, particularly your children. Take care and enjoy your practice, everyone.

10/25/2022

Today’s selection on Death and Dying from the Daoist perspective is from a woman poet of anciet China. Li Qingzhao (1084- about 1151) wrote this famous poem when she lost her beloved husband. It’s entitled “Seeking, seeking.”

Li Qingzhao: Seeking, seeking

“Seeking and seeking, searching and searching,
cold, cold, clear, clear,
dismal, dismal, wretched, wretched, mourning, mourning.
Suddenly hot, then cold at times,
so hard to bear.
Two or three cups of watery wine–
how can that help me bear the rushing evening wind?
The wild geese are passing
my heart is breaking
we were so close since long ago.

All over the ground, heaps of yellow flowers
wan, withered, outworn
as they are now who will pick them?
Watching at the window
alone how was I born so unlucky?
The wutong trees shed even more fine rain
at twilight, drip drip drop drop
This time
how can there be only that one word– “anguish”?”
– Li Qinghao

The heaps of “yellow flowers” at the top of the second stanza are yellow chrysanthemums, used only at funerals. Her use of repetition is mindful of a funeral drum with its mournful beat over and over again as the procession moves solemnly toward the gravesite.

Enjoy your practice, everyone.

10/24/2022

Continuing with our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective, here is an elegy that Tao Qian wrote for himself.

Tao Qian: Preparing my elegy

“If there is life there must be death,
early or late there is no hurrying fate.
Yesterday evening we were people together,
today at dawn we are listed among the ghosts.
The breath of the soul– where has it gone?
A dried-up shape is left in hollow wood.
My beloved children snivel, looking for their father,
my best friends mourn by the coffin, weeping.
Winning, losing– I won’t come back to know them.
Being, nothingness– how can I tell them apart?
In a thousand autumns, in ten thousand years,
who will know our glory and shame?
But I do regret that during my time in this world
I did not drink all the wine I wanted.”
–Tao Qian (Tao Yuanming) (365-427)

You don’t need to drink all the wine you want or write your own elegy. Just practice self-cultivation and enjoy, folks.

10/22/2022

Closing out this week in the Taoist Month of the Dead with one more from Chuang Tzu. In this one, he shows some remorse for his departed friend, well, kind of.

“Zhuangzi was in a funeral procession and walked by Huizi’s gravemound. Turning his head to speak to his followers, he said, “There was a man from Ying who got some plaster on the tip of his nose, thin like a fly’s wing. He got a workman named Shi to chop it off for him. The workman Shi moved his axe so that a wind was made. He obeyed and chopped it. The plaster was taken off and the nose was unharmed, while the man from Ying did not change countenance.

“Prince Yuan of Song heard about this. He summoned workman Shi and said, ‘Try that on the orphaned one.’* Workman Shi said, ‘Your servant once could chop like that. However, your servant’s [working] material is long dead.’

“Since Master Hui has died, I have no material [to work with]. I have no one to talk to any more.”

– Zhuangzi, the Book of Chuang Tzu

Make sure your material is working – Practice, my friends, practice and enjoy. See you Monday.

10/21/2022

Walking around the neighborhood last evening, I noticed the lawns decorated with Halloween gravestones and skulls, which reminded me of this wonderful Chuang Tzu story, fitting for our October theme of Death and Dying from the Daoist perspective.

Chuang Tzu and the Skull

When Chuang Tzu went to Ch’u, he saw an old skull, all dry and parched. He poked it with his carriage whip and then asked, “Sir, were you greedy for life and forgetful of reason, and so came to this? Was your state overthrown and did you bow beneath the ax, and so came to this? Did you do some evil deed and were you ashamed to bring disgrace upon your parents and family, and so came to this? Was it through the pangs of cold and hunger that you came to this? Or did your springs and autumns pile up until they brought you to this?”

When he had finished speaking, he dragged the skull over and, using it for a pillow, lay down to sleep.

In the middle of the night, the skull came to him in a dream and said, “You chatter like a rhetorician and all your words betray the entanglements of a living man. The dead know nothing of these! Would you like to hear a lecture on the dead?”

“Indeed,” said Chuang Tzu.

The skull said, “Among the dead there are no rulers above, no subjects below, and no chores of the four seasons. With nothing to do, our springs and autumns are as endless as heaven and earth. A king facing south on his throne could have no more happiness than this!”

Chuang Tzu couldn’t believe this and said, “If I got the Arbiter of Fate to give you a body again, make you some bones and flesh, return you to your parents and family and your old home and friends, you would want that, wouldn’t you?”

The skull frowned severely, wrinkling up its brow. “Why would I throw away more happiness than that of a king on a throne and take on the troubles of a human being again?” it said.
– Chuang Tzu, from the Zhuangzi translated by Burton Watson

I didn’t think skulls could wrinkle their brows. Doesn’t one need skin for that? In any case, wonderful story. What makes it so appealing is the fact that it isn’t about how Chuang Tzu views the afterlife, but rather how he views life, specifically about the stressful way we live our lives. Contained in the questions he puts to the skull is a littany of those troublesome situations we engage in. In his dream, the skull ppoints out that Chuang Tzu’s chatter and all of his questions “betray the entanglements of a living man.” Life, in Chuang Tzu’s opinion, needs to be lived carefree and natural, avoiding all those entanglements.

So, in your practice of cultivation see how many entanglements engross your life and look for ways to eliminate them. Enjoy your practive, folks.

10/20/2022

Yesterday we finished Pan Yue’s poem for his deceased wife in which the final line refers to the story of Zhuangzi losing his wife. Here is that famous story:

“When Zhuangzi’s wife died, Huizi came to the house to join in the rites of mourning. To his surprise he found Zhuangzi sitting with an inverted bowl on his knees, drumming upon it and singing a song.

“After all,” said Huizi, “she lived with you, brought up your children, grew old with you. That you should not mourn for her is bad enough, but to let your friends find you drumming and singing–that is going too far!”

“You misjudge me,” said Zhuangzi. “When she died, I was in despair, as any man well might be. But soon, pondering on what had happened, I told myself that in death no strange new fate befalls us. In the beginning, we lack not life only, but form. Not form only, but spirit. We are blended in one great featureless indistinguishable mass. Then a time came when the mass evolved spirit, spirit evolved form, form evolved life. And now life in its turn has evolved death. For not nature only but man’s being has its seasons, its sequence of spring and autumn, summer and winter. If someone is tired and has gone to lie down, we do not pursue him with shouting and bawling. She whom I have lost has lain down to sleep for a while in the Great Inner Room. To break in upon her rest with the noise of lamentation would but show that I knew nothing of nature’s Sovereign Law. That is why I ceased to mourn.”

Contrast between Zhuangzi’s carefree and, dare I say, joyful reaction to his wife’s death and the traditional Chinese grief-stricken reaction as exemplified by Pan Yue and the Confucians, neo-Daoists and many Daoists is quite obvious. What Zhuangzi’s reaction does is show the deep understanding of life and death as only an enlightened, self-realized sage can have.

There are two other Zhuangzi stories that show his disregard for the sentiments we attach to death. They will finish out the week as we continue our October Halloween theme of Death and Dying in the Daoist tradition.
Enjoy your practice, folks.

10/19/2022

Here’s the last stanza in Pan Yue’s poem on his drowning grief for his deceased wife as we continue our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from the Daoist perspective.

My Drowning Grief Overflows My Days (Part 3)

“The spring wind comes bringing a fissure of fate
At dawn the water drips off the eaves
In my bedroom– how can I forget those times?
My drowning grief overflows my days.

How much time will there be like this?
I could bang on a pot, like Zhuangzi.”

That final line with reference to Zhuangzi refers to the story of Zhuangzi losing his wife. When Huizi came to the house to join in the rites of mourning,to his surprise he found Zhuangzi sitting with an inverted bowl on his knees, drumming upon it and singing a song. We will have that story for you tomorrow, so you can see the differences in temperment and beliefs between Daoists even in ancient times.

Take care, everyone. See you tomorrow and enjoy your practice.

10/18/2022

Here’s Part 2 of Chinese poet Pan Yue writing about his wife’s death…

My Drowning Grief Overflows My Days (Part 2)

“When I look at our cottage, I think of her in it.
The women’s rooms are empty of her.
Pen and ink still hold her traces.
The floating fragrance is not yet gone,
her portrait still hangs on the screen
almost as if she is still there.
I come back uneasy, startled, sad.
It’s like birds in the northern forest,
settled as a pair, one early left alone.
It’s like flatfish roaming the river,
one eye gone on the way.”

Pan Yue paints such a beautiful picture of not only his grief but his deep love for his departed wife and the sensual remembrances of her all about their cottage.

Tomorrow we will have the concluding stanza that bears a referance to Zhuangzi.

10/17/2022

We continue our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective with Chinese poet Pan Yue (247-300) writing about his wife’s death, Here’s Part 1…

My Drowning Grief Overflows My Days (Part 1)

“Time passes, winter and spring fade;
cold and heat suddenly flow and change.
My bride has returned to the sad underworld,
a heavy place, forever shut off by gloom.
Private wishes– who can follow them?
Staying on here– how can that help me?
I should respect the court orders,
turn my heart back to my early service.”
– Pan Yue

Pan Yue was one of the first poets to write about his wife’s death. We will have Part 2 tomorrow.

We continue our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective with Chinese poet Pan Yue (247-300) writing about his wife’s death, Here’s Part 1…

My Drowning Grief Overflows My Days (Part 1)

“Time passes, winter and spring fade;
cold and heat suddenly flow and change.
My bride has returned to the sad underworld,
a heavy place, forever shut off by gloom.
Private wishes– who can follow them?
Staying on here– how can that help me?
I should respect the court orders,
turn my heart back to my early service.”
– Pan Yue

Pan Yue was one of the first poets to write about his wife’s death. We will have Part 2 tomorrow.

10/15/2022

I hope you haven’t been spoked by some of Chuang-Tzu’s remarks on Death and Dying. Here’s one with a little humor in it.

“Tzu Li went to see Tzu Lai who was dying. Leaning against the door, he said, “Great is the Creator. What will he make of you now? Will he make you into a rat’s liver Will he make you into an insect’s leg?” Tzu-Lai replied, “The universe gave me my body so I may be carried, my life so I may work, my old age so I may repose, and my death so I may rest. To regard life as good is the way to regard death as good…. If I regard the universe as a great furnace and creation as a master foundryman, why should anywhere I go not be all right.”
—Chuang Tzu

A rat’s liver or an insect’s leg may not be a very appealing idea of an afterlife, but Tzu Lai nevertheless expounds the true Daoist view of complete faith in the Dao, the master foundryman. Have a great weekend, everyone, and I hope anywhere you go is all right. Enjoy!

10/14/2022

Friday’s quote is again from Chuang-Tzu with a story of transcendence that relates to life and death.

“Nu Yu was teaching P-liang Yi to be a sage. It was three days before he was able to transcend this world. After he transcended this world Yi waited for seven days more, and then he was able to transcend all material things. After he transcended all material things, Yi waited for nine days more and he was able to transcend all life. Having transcended all life, he became as clear and bright as the morning. Having become as clear and bright as the morning, he was able to see the One. Having seen the One, he was then able to abolish the distinction of past and present. Having abolished the past and present, he was then able to enter the realm of neither life nor death. Then, to him, the destruction of life did not mean death and the production of life did not mean life …
—Chuang Tzu

So, that’s what one needs to do to become a sage? And all in less than 3 weeks, 19 days to be exact. Good luck with that. Enjoy your practice, folks.

10/13/2022

We continue our Halloween theme on Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective with more from Chuang-Tzu. As I said yesterday, no other Daoist sage is more prolific when it comes to this topic. In fact, he writes about death and dying and its contrast with life more than any other subject to the point that I feel he is obsessed with it. Here’s one that teaches a most profound lesson:

“The true men of old were not afraid when they stood alone in their views. No great exploits. No plans. If they failed, no sorrow. No self-congratulation in success…. The true men of old knew no lust for life, no dread of death. Their entrance was without gladness, their exit, yonder, without resistance. Easy come, easy go. They did not forget where from, nor ask where to, nor drive grimly forward fighting their way through life. They took life as it came, gladly took death as it came, without care and went away, yonder. Yonder They had no mind to fight Tao. They did not try by their own contriving, to help Tao along. These are the ones we call true men. Minds free, thoughts gone. Brows clear, faces serene.”
—Chuang Tzu

“No lust for life, no dread of death,” the true men of old did not drive grimly forward fighting their way through life, and you should not either. Take life as it comes and gladly take death when it’s time, without car, without concern, with no mind to fight Tao. That’s your practice for this week and hopefully throughout the rest of your days. Enjoy, my friends!

10/12/2022

As we continue on our Halloween theme of Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective, we come to none other than Chuang-Tzu. No other Daoist sage is more prolific when it comes to this topic, and perhaps no other sage is so revealing either. In today’s quote, Chuang-tzu is discussing the Sage, the true man of Tao…

“Goods and possessions are no gain in his eyes. He stays far from wealth and honor. Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow. Success is not for him to be pround 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.”
—Chuang Tzu

Long life is no ground for joy, nor early death for sorrow. When all is said and done, “life and death are equal.” Let that be your practice to include in Self-Cultivation. We will have more from Chuang-Tzu on this topic tomorrow. Enjoy life, everyone.

10/11/2022

Continuing our Halloween topic of Death and Dying from a Daoist perspective, today we look at the Daoist counterpart – Confucism with two quotes by Confucius.

“Death and life have their determined appointments; riches and honors depend upon heaven.” —Confucius

“If we don’t know life, how can we know death?” —Confucius

Not one prone to be wordy, these two quotes follow Confucius’ pert style of aphorisms that have little concern for Self-Cultivation in the spiritual sense like Laozi and Zhuangzi. Instead he was more concerned with moral or ethical cultivation. For example:

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” —Confucius

“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order to put the nation in order, we must put the family in order to put the family in order, we must cultivate our personal life and to cultivate our personal life, we must first set our hearts right.” —Confucius

Tomorrow we will see what Zhuangzi has to say about Death and Dying. Quite a bit, I believe. So, for now, enjoy your practice, folks.

10/10/2022

Since October is the month of Ghosts and Goblins. in the true Halloween Spirit, this week we are looking at aspects of Death and Dying with a Daoist flavor. First up are two quotes from Lao-Tzu and the Tao Te Ching.

“Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.” – Lao-Tzu

“Health is the greatest possession. Contentment is the greatest treasure. Confidence is the greatest friend. Non-being is the greatest joy.”

So, in the first one, we are told that Life and Death are two sides of the same coin just seen from different perspectives.On the one side, we look at life with a consciousness believed to be limited, and we perceive all the myriad externals of this world. On the other side, when we realize that consciousness is not limited or dependent on the body-mind, we more or less die to all of our false beliefs and opinions.

In the second quote, Lao-Tzu states the three greatest gifts that Life can give us: Health, Contentment or Satis-faction and Confidence. But it is death or Non-being (No longer being) that is the greatest joy.

Tomorrow, we will see what Confucous has to say about the topic. Enjoy your practice, everyone!

10/08/2022

We had Part 1 of the Chuang-Tzu Story entitled “Wholeness” yesterday. Here’s Part 2…

“So a drunken man who falls out of a wagon
Is bruised, but not destroyed,
His bones are like the bones of other men,
But his fall is different.
His spirit is entire.
He is not aware of getting into the wagon,
Or falling out of it.
Life and death are nothing to him.
He knows no alarm,
He meets obstacles without thought,
without care,
And takes them without knowing they are there.

If there is such sincerity in wine,
How much more in Tao?
The wise man is hidden in Tao,
Nothing can touch him.”

This is not a suggestion to buy wine and get inebriated but to approach life and its obstacles with a carefree attitude confident that you are secure in the Tao. So, enjoy your practice and enjoy the weekend, everyone.

10/07/2022

Today we have Part 1 of the Chuang-Tzu Story entitled “Wholeness.” It points to the ultimate human experience that Chuang-Tzu refers to as the “true man (person) of Tao.”

“How does the true man of Tao
Walk through walls without obstruction
And stand in fire without being burnt?

Not because of cunning or daring,
Not because he has learned –
But because he has unlearned.

His nature sinks to his root in the one.
His vitality, his power,
Hide in secret Tao.

When he is all one,
There is no flaw in him
By which a wedge can enter.”

Chuang-Tzu here agrees with his teacher Lao-Tzu who pointed out in the Chapter 48 of Tao Te Ching that one seeking knowledge learns something new everyday, but the true person of Tao unlearns something everyday.

There is also a message here for those involved in the internal arts: it is not the qi sinking to one’s root that matters, but one’s nature must sink to one’s root in the Tao.

We will close out the week tomorrow with the Part Two of “Wholeness.”

10/06/2022

Today is a Chuang-Tzu story entitled “The Tower of the Spirit,” which highlights the concept of “wu wei,” non-contrived actions.

“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 ambiguous 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.”
– Chuang-Tzu, from the “Zhuangzi (The Book of Chuang-Tzu)

Thus right action is simply “wu wei,” egoless actions done without contrivance, deliberation or display but as a spontaneous response rather than a reaction to a particular situation. Enjoy your practice, everyone.

10/05/2022

We are taking a look at Chuang-Tzu stories this week from the Zhuangzi (The Book of Chuang-Tzu). This one is entitled “Apologies.”

“If a man steps on a stranger’s foot
In the marketplace,
He makes a polite apology
And offers an explanation:
“This place is so crowded.”

If an elder brother
Steps on his younger brother’s foot
He says, “Sorry.”
And that is that.

If a parent steps on his child’s foot
Nothing is said at all.

The greatest politeness
Is free from all formality.
Perfect conduct is free of concern.
Perfect wisdom is unplanned.
Perfect love is without demonstrations.
Perfect sincerity offers no guarantee.”

Thus it is that when one approaches perfection, one need not explain oneself as one’s speech and actions are beyond reproach. Such is the nature of perfection.

While you may be far from perfection, enjoy your practice anyway as there is no need to regret mistakes.

10/04/2022

We continue this week with more from Chuang-Tzu and the Empty Boat…

“Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.

To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He … has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.”

So judge no one, lest you be judged, and enjoy your practice, folks, and the video below…

10/03/2022

We start off October and the week with a quote from Chuang-tzu…

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.
-Chuang-tzu from the Chuangzi (The Book of Chuang-Tzu)

So, empty your boat and enjoy your practice, everyone. There’s no one to oppose or harm you.

09/30/2022

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.

https://youtu.be/UistWzuUcQE

09/29/2022

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…

09/28/2022

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…

09/27/2022

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…

https://youtu.be/AeKs46JvW0M

09/26/2022

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…

09/24/2022

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.”

09/23/2022

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.

09/22/2022

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.

09/21/2022

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.

09/20/2022

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.

https://youtu.be/fRr7qGvpj8U

09/19/2022

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.

09/17/2022

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.

09/16/2022

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.

09/15/2022

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.

09/14/2022

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.

09/13/2022

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.

09/12/2022

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.

09/10/2022

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.)

09/09/2022

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!

09/08/2022

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.

09/07/2022

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!

09/06/2022

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.

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

09/05/2022

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.

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

09/03/2022

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.

09/02/2022

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!

09/01/2022

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.

08/31/2022

We end the month of August with the last part of Chapter 52 and perhaps the most important quote in the Tao Te Ching.

“To see the subtle is called enlightenment.
To hold fast to the gentle is called having strength.
Use the light.
Return to enlightenment.
Bring not misfortune upon yourself.
This is known as following the constant Truth.” – Tao Te Ching, Chapter 52, Part 3

Commentary
How can we seek the Truth within us? Lao Tzu tells us:

“To see the subtle is called enlightenment.

We should see the subtlety in us. By being silent in meditation, we feel the subtlety within. Our mind will calm down, not agitated. To see the subtlety, which is the light within us, i.e., the Truth, the light is the wisdom, the clear mind with simplicity, like the sun. When the sun comes, all darkness disappears. All religions tell us that the Truth is the light. We all need the light for our survival. Without light, people will become blind in darkness. Then Lao Tzu says:

“To hold fast to the gentle is called having strength.”

This is the gentleness within us once our mind turns silent and our breath slows down. This is also the strength within us which can last long. To be gentle and mild all the time within us, even when we are doing work, we can maintain the silence in us. This silence is the long-lasting force for us to see the light, and to be careful and alert, thus Lao Tzu explains in another Chapter:

“Rare words are natural.
Strong wind cannot last all morning.
Sudden downpour cannot last all day.
Who makes this so?
The Heaven and the Earth.
Even the Heaven and the Earth cannot be long-lasting.
How can human be?
(Chapter 23)

Then Lao Tzu tells us in the concluding verses:

“Use the light.
Return to enlightenment.
Bring not misfortune upon yourself.
This is known as following the constant Truth.”

Lao Tzu tells us that the Truth is “constant” which is immutable and eternal. Keep the constancy in us which is the Truth. We will not move up and down, swaying left and right without stability. Our gravity is the constancy in our mind holding fast to the Truth. We only follow the one basic principle inherent within us. This basic principle is the light, the One, without second or many. We use our light to return to the Truth, then we will be enlightened. To be enlightened by the Truth, we will not have any misfortune in life. This is the marvel of the Truth.
– Commentary by Nirguna, Chor-lok Lam

So, there is no better way to conclude Chapter 52 and one’s practice by keeping the constancy in us which is the truth and following that one basic principle inherent within us, which the light. Enjoy your practice, folks.

08/30/2022

Today we look at Part 2 of Chapter 52 in the Tao Te Ching with the Commentary by Chor-kok Lam.

“Block the openings.
Shut the doors.
We would live without toil all through life.
Unblock the openings.
Meddle in the affairs.
We cannot be saved all through life.” – Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 52

Commentary:
The Truth is our pure nature inherent in us. Therefore, we should seek the Truth within us, not outside us, then naturally we will have the Virtue, thus Lao Tzu says:

“Block the openings.
Shut the doors.
We would live without toil all through life.”

Imagine how peaceful and calm a newborn baby is when he was born sleeping silently with the parental care. It does not know about pleasures and pains, joy and sorrow, love and hatred. It only keeps silent in emptiness, in nothingness, as he knows nothing around the world. This tranquility is effortless inherent inward us as the pure nature given by the Lord.

Why do people not know the Truth and become virtuous? It is because people turn away from the Truth. They go away far and far to encounter the outside world without looking back their inner self. They neglect their pure nature but chase to seek happiness and pleasure outside them. They think the sensual objects are their targets to pursue in their life as different aims and goals. The further they go outside to find their aims and goals, the further they will be away from the Truth. They will become the prey of the sensual objects around them, like tigers and wolves eating their prey. Their mind will be eaten up.

To seek the Truth, we must go back, not go away. How can we know what the Truth is when there are so many contradictions among people in the outside world? We should keep our mind always in the Truth by looking inward us, not meddling the outside affairs, thus Lao Tzu says:

“Unblock the openings.
Meddle in the affairs.
We cannot be saved all through life.”

The direction to get the Truth is to go back, not to go away. We are living in this world, but the centre of gravity is always within us, not any object outside us. If we rely on any object outside us, we will lose ourselves. We do not know the Truth is always with us but will be deluded by the changing world. In this way, Lao Tzu warns us that “we cannot be saved”, not for a certain period, but “all through life”.
– Commentary by Chor-lok Lam

This very thorough and profound commentary offers us a set method to practice in order to get the Truth, which is always within us but deluded by the changing world. So, your practice is to observe how the changing world deludes us. Find out. See it for your self. And enjoy your practice, everyone.

08/29/2022

We start off this week with one of the most instructive chapter in the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 52 with the Commentary on the Tao Te Ching by Nirguna, Chor-kok Lam. Here’s Part 1:

“The world has a beginning.
This beginning is the Mother of the world.
When we know the Mother,
we can know her children.
After knowing her children,
go back and hold fast to the Mother.
Then we would live without danger all through life.” – Lao-tzu

Commentary:
In the First Chapter of the Tao Te Ching, it says:
“The Non-being is called the beginning of the Heaven and the Earth.
The Being is called the mother of the whole creation.”
(Chapter 1)

The non-being is formless, the pure intelligence or consciousness, i.e., the Truth. When the Truth manifests itself, it becomes the Virtue (Te) which creates different names, forms and shapes, therefore, in this Chapter, it starts saying:

“The world has a beginning.
This beginning is the mother of the world.”

Here Lao Tzu uses the image of mother to describe how all creatures are created by the Virtue like a mother gave birth to her offspring. This is an analogy to tell how the Truth becomes Virtue to generate all creatures by its creative power. Throughout the whole Tao Te Ching, the image of Motherhood is consistently used to describe how the Being, the manifestation of the Truth, i.e., the Virtue, creates all creatures:

(Chapter 6)
“The Gateway of the Mysterious Female is called
the Root of the Heaven and the Earth.”

Therefore, the mother is the manifestation of the Truth from Non-being to become Being, while her children are all the creatures created by the Being. This relationship is an analogy for our understanding. It can be naïve if people think that the eternal Truth is limited as a mother goddess like human beings. It is the motherhood principle, not mother goddess. As there are a lot of mothers in different worlds, there is only one motherhood principle. Basically, in the pure sense of nature, there is only one principle of motherhood among all different mothers in different worlds. The Truth in this sense is the basic one principle among all creatures. Then Lao Tzu tells us:

“When we know the mother, we can know her children.
After knowing her children, go back and hold fast to the mother.”

How can we know all creatures? We know all of them by knowing their basic principle. It is the simplest answer Lao Tzu gives us with the greatest wisdom. We should know the basic principle of all creatures, like a child knowing his mother very well. Then, we should go back to the principle, the Truth inherent within us. Here “hold fast to the mother” means hold fast to the Virtue, i.e., Te. Why should we hold fast to the Virtue? Lao Tzu tells us the answer:

“Then we would live without danger all through life.”

If we can live in accordance with the Virtue, we will have peace and harmony among us. There will be no conflicts and troubles because the Virtue (the manifestation of the Truth) is always beneficial to all beings. Calamities are resulted if the creatures do not abide by the Virtue. When people act against the Virtue, suffering and disharmony will come forth.

How can people attain the Virtue before we can hold fast to it? The answer is “to go back”. It is why Lao Tzu says we should first “go back”, then “hold fast to the mother”. Like a newborn baby, he should always be with the mother, then everything will be alright. The newborn baby will be looked after very well without effort and struggle once he returns to his mother when no one can separate him from his mother. In this stage, this newborn baby is completely safe.

We will look at Part 2 tomorrow. In the meantime, practice living in accordance with the Virtue (Te) and see if you can manifest peace and harmony in your life. Above all, enjoy what you practice, folks.

08/27/2022

We close out the week with a quote attributed to Lao-tzu from the “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” based on the further teachings of Lao-tzu as expounded by his disciples, students and followers.

“The Way is infinitely high, unfathomably deep. Enclosing
heaven and earth, receiving from the formless, it produces
a stream running deep and wide without overflowing.
Opaque, it uses gradual clarification by stillness. When it is
applied, it is infinite and has no day or night; yet when it is
represented, it does not even fill the hand.
It is restrained but can expand; it is dark but can illumine;
it is flexible but can be firm. It absorbs the negative and
emits the positive, thus displaying the lights of the sun,
moon, and stars.” – Lao-tzu from the “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” translated by Thomas Cleary.

Practice being firm and yet flexible. Enjoy your weekend, folks.

08/26/2022

As promised, today we look at the third part on this section of the “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” based on the further teachings of Lao-tzu as expounded by his disciples, students and followers. The verse below unveils the halcyon, an ideal society governed by wisdom.

“What the sky covers, what the earth supports, what the
sun and moon illuminate, is variegated in form and
nature, but everything has its place. What makes
enjoyment enjoyable can also create sadness, and what
makes security secure can also create danger.
Therefore when sages govern people, they see to it
that people suit their individual natures, be secure in
their homes, live where they are comfortable, work at
what they can do, manage what they can handle, and
give their best. In this way all people are equal, with no
way to overshadow each other”
– “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” translated by Thomas Cleary

So, there you have it, neither Republican nor Democrat. the ideal society governed by Sage wisdom. I would join and vote for that Sage party any day.

08/25/2022

Continuing in the “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” based on the further teachings of Lao-tzu as expounded by his disciples, students and followers, the Wen-tzu further speaks of four practices through which
“the way of government is comprehended,” meaning the way of individual self-government as well as the way of
government of nations:

“Find out destiny, govern mental functions, make
preferences orderly, and suit real nature; then the way
of government is comprehended. Find out destiny, and
you won’t be confused by calamity or fortune. Govern
mental functions, and you won’t be joyful or angry at
random. Make preferences orderly, and you won’t
crave what is useless. Suit real nature, and your
desires will not be immoderate.
When you are not confused by calamity or fortune,
then you accord with reason in action and repose.
When you are not joyful or angry at random, then you
do not flatter people in hopes of reward or in fear of
punishment. When you do not crave what is useless,
you do not hurt your nature by greed. When your
desires are not immoderate, then you nurture life and
know contentment.
These four things are not sought from without and
do not depend on another. They are attained by turning
back to oneself.”

Okay, as we practice, let’s turn inward to find our destiny, govern mental functions, makepreferences orderly, and suit real nature. Enjoy, everyone. And tomorrow we look at the halcyon of an ideal society governed by wisdom.

08/24/2022

A couple months ago, we looked at the degradation of humanity and society in the ancient world through the eyes of the “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” based on the further teachings of Lao-tzu as expounded by his disciples, students and followers. Over the next three days, we are going to look at three more aspects of life from the “Wen-tzu:” the three types of death, the principles of governing nations as well as self-government, and the halcyon, an ideal society governed by wisdom.

Today, we start with the three types of unnatural death. The Wen-tzu’s description of these three kinds of unnatural death contains within itself the way to avoid them and live life to the full:

“There are three kinds of death that are not natural
passing away: If you drink and eat immoderately and
treat the body carelessly and cheaply, then illnesses
will kill you.
If you are endlessly greedy and ambitious, then
penalties will kill you. If you allow small groups to
infringe upon the rights of large masses, and allow the
weak to be oppressed by the strong, then weapons will
kill you.”
– “Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries,” translated by Thomas Cleary

Good advice, my friends, so practice eating and drinking moderately and keeping a check on greed and overly zealous ambitions, and the last part, not allowing small fringe groups to infringe upon the rights of the majority needs to be handle conscientiously at the polls.

08/23/2022

A rather short verse today from the “Inner Teachings of Taoism” by Chang Po-Tuan and a rather involved commentary by Liu I-Ming.

“THE SOLAR YANG SOUL, THE FAT OF THE JADE RABBIT; THE LUNAR YIN SOUL, THE MARROW OF THE GOLD RAVEN: PUT THEM IN THE CRUCIBLE AND TRANSMUTE THEM INTO A FLOOD OF WATER.” – Chang Po-Tuan, “Inner Teachings of Taoism”

“The preceding section speaks of the work of refining the self; this one speaks of the secret of gathering the medicines. The solar yang soul and the gold raven symbolise the finest part of conscious knowledge; the jade rabbit and the lunar yin soul symbolise the light of wisdom of real knowledge. Without the light of real knowledge, conscious knowledge cannot perceive far; without the manifestation of conscious knowledge, real knowledge cannot convey its light.

Therefore the text says, “The solar yang soul, the fat of the jade rabbit; the lunar yin soul, the marrow of the gold raven,” indicating that those two true medicines are to be put into the metaphysical crucible and quickly refined by fierce cooking with the true fire of concentration, causing them to mix and combine so that they merge like a flood of water, without the slightest pollution. Only then is the work done. – Commentary by Liu I-Ming, translated by Thomas Cleary

So, as you practice, manifest your real knowledge with the true fire of concentration. Enjoy, my friends and be well.

08/22/2022

We start off the new week with the famous creation quote from the Tao Te Ching with a commentary from a contemporary Taoist Master Kari Hohne.

“Tao is the One.
It produces the two: Yin and Yang.
The Two produce the three,
and the Three produce the ten thousand things.”
– Lao-tzu, Tao Te Ching

Tao is how the masculine (active) force and feminine (receptive) field move as Yin and Yang to create and dissolve manifestation. We see this in physics, and similar processes are described as the (trifold) three aspects of (1) creation, (2) sustenance and (3) destruction in our ancient texts. The One (Tao) is the totality of everything as it manifests to become the many.
– Kari Hohne from “Nature’s Alchemy”

Our Creation this week is to produce great practices. Enjoy the week and enjoy your practice, everyone.

08/20/2022

Yesterday we looked at Chapter 41 Part 1 of the Tao Te Ching. Today we have Part 2

“Thus it is said:
The way that is bright seems dull.
The way forward seems to lead back.
The smooth way seems rough.
The highest virtue seems a valley.
The purest whiteness seems stained.
Excessive virtue seems defective.
Solid virtue seems inactive.
Simplicity appears sullied.
The great square has no corners.
The great vessel takes long to fashion.
The great note is soundless.
The great image has no form.
The Way hides in namelessness.
It is good at giving and perfecting.”
– Lao-tzu, Chapter 41 Part2, Tao Te Ching

The reason the Tao’s brightness seems dull is because it is not shinning outward but inward, and those who possess do not shine outward either but are outwardly humble and inwardly reserved. Since the Tao does not promote ambitions and success, it seems to lead back instead of forward, leading inward to that “I AM,” one’s true nature. By society’s standards that seems rough, and the highest, the solid, the excessive virtues seem lowly and stained as they are not deemed for outward, arrogant show 24/7.

Furthermore, righteousness and correct living are not square but rounded without corners. Like anything worthwhile the great vessel, in this case the one who follows the Tao, does not happen overnight but takes long to fashion. The great note is the Truth. It is heard in one’s inward silence and not outside through sense perceptions. The same with the great image. The Tao is formless as well as nameless. And that is where it is to be found in that soundless Silence and in the formless Image.

And so, my friends, practice following the Tao and its Truth will sustain and perfect you. Enjoy your weekend, everyone.

08/19/2022

Today we look at the longest chapter in the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 41. Part I is quoted below. We will have Part II tomorrow.

“When the best students hear of the Way,
They try zealously to put it into practice.
When average students hear of the Way,
It’s sometimes here and sometimes gone.
When the worst students hear of the Way,
They burst out laughing.
Not laughing would make it
Unworthy to be called the Way.”
– Lao-tzu, Chapter 41 Part1, Tao Te Ching

Here Lao-tzu illustrates the fall of Wisdom. If one is truly wise, they will zealously practice the Way as best as they can. The mediocre or average student will do as most of us do, and practice half-heartedly, only giving it partial attention now and then. The ignorant ones will think it is the dumbest thing they have ever heard, unable to comprehend its analogies and figuritive language.

So, so as we practice the Way, let’s do it zealously and maybe at some point, wisdom will favor us. Enjoy.

08/18/2022

Today we return to the “Awakening to the Tao,” and the Contemplations of Liu I-Ming. In the one titled “Commerce,” Liu compares Self-Cultivation to building a profitable business. It is rather lengthy, so I have taken the liberty of

“People who cultivate reality build up virtues and carry out undertakings, accumulate vitality and nurture spirit, remain consistently firm and stable, growing stronger the longer, they persevere all their lives, working with a
sincere heart. This is like accumulating wealth (in a business).
“Seeking personal instruction from a guide to know the beginning and the end, understand when to proceed and when to withdraw, recognize when to hurry and when to relax, understand what bodes well and what bodes ill , and know when to stop at sufficiency…is having method .
“Having wealth and having method, using wealth to provide for the Way, using method to practice the Way, through the twin use of method and wealth you see the effects of your effort step by step, until you finally attain great fulfillment…”
– Liu I-Ming, “Awakening to the Tao,” translated by Thomas Cleary

Accumulate vitality and nurture spirit and remain consistently firm and stable in your practice and enjoy as you persevere, my friends.

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.

06/30/2022

Today’s words of wisdom are from Liu I-Ming discussing when one is like dead wood and cold ashes.

“If one can master oneself and exercise restraint, turn back
from inflex ibility and become yielding, sweep away all anger,
resentment, and annoyance, get rid of all contentiousness ,
change the aggress ive and violent nature back into a gentle
taciturn na ture, concentrate the energy and make it flexible,
empty the mind and nurture the spirit, be selfless and impersonal,
not discriminate between self and others, view one’s own body as
having no such body, view one’s mind as having no such mind,
have no discrimination and no knowledge, and
be empty and open, this is like dead wood not flaming when
burnt, like cold ashes yielding no warmth “‘hen sti rred .
One can thereby be in the midst of Creation without
being influenced by Creation, be in the midst of yin and yang
without being constrained by yin and yang.”
– Liu I-Ming, Awakening to the Tao, translation by Thomas Cleary

Kind of hard to put into practice? Keep trying and enjoy your work nevertheless.

06/29/2022

Yesterday Wang Mu gave us the meaning of “following the course” as it relates to Laozi’s quote from Chapter 42 of the Tao Te Ching: “The One generates the Two, the Two generate the Three, the Three generate the ten thousand things.” Today we learn the meaning of “inverting the course” as it applies to the Laozi quote

“What is the meaning of “inverting the course?” The ten thousand things hold the Three, the Three return to the Two, the Two return to the One. Those who know this Way look after their Spirit and guard their corporeal form. They nourish the corporeal form to refine the Essence, accumulate the Essence to transmute it into Breath, refine the Breath to merge it with Spirit, and refine the Spirit to revert to Emptiness. Then the Golden Elixir is achieved.” – Wang Mu, Foundations of Internal Alchemy, translation by Thomas Cleary

Easy enough to understand “inverting the course,” but rather difficult to do. Nevertheless, keep practicing, folks, and you will get there some day.

06/28/2022

Today we have a quote from the “Foundations of Internal Alchemy” by Wang Mu.

“Essence, Breath, and Spirit affect one another. When they follow the course, they form the human being; when they invert the course, they generate the Elixir.
What is the meaning of “following the course” ( shun )? “The One generates the Two, the Two generate the Three, the Three generate the ten thousand things.” Therefore Emptiness transmutes itself into Spirit, Spirit transmutes itself into Breath, Breath transmutes itself into Essence, Essence transmutes itself into form, and form becomes the human being.” – Wang Mu, Foundations of Internal Alchemy, translation by Thomas Cleary

What is the meaning of “Inverting the course?” Find out tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your practice, folks.

06/27/2022

The ancient wisdom of Wen-Tzu starts off the week.

“When the spirit is not focused externally, that is called spiritualty; to keep the spirit intact is called integrity.” – Wen-Tzu

Or, as we say in English – Keep it together. And how do we keep it together? Practice, folks, practice and enjoy.

06/25/2022

To end the week, we have a quote from Chapter 2 of the “Tao Te Ching.”

“When the world knows beauty as beauty, ugliness arises
When it knows good as good, evil arises
Thus being and nonbeing produce each other
Difficult and easy bring about each other 1
Long and short reveal each other
High and low support each other
Music and voice harmonize each other
Front and back follow each other.”
– Translation by Derek Lin

Hopefully no ugliness will arise in your life. Just keep up your practice and enjoy the weekend, everyone.

06/24/2022

Today we look at the teaching Chang Po-Tuan from the “Inner Teachings of Taoism” on “true intent.”

“Earth is that whereby origin and completion are effected. The true earth referred to here is not material earth; it is the true intent of the human body, which has no location. True intent is the director of myriad affairs; it controls the vital spirit, sustains essence and life, occupies and guards the centre of the being. Because it has functions similar to earth, it is called true earth . Insofar as it is truthful and whole, without fragmentation, it is also called true faith. Because it contains the impulse of life within it, it is also called the centre. Because it encloses everything, it is also called the yellow court. Because it is one in action and repose, it is also called the medicinal spoon. Because it can harmonise yin and yang, it is also called the yellow woman. Because it holds the pattern of the noumenon, it is also called the crossroads. There are many different names, all describing one thing, this is true intent.” – Chang Po-Tuan, “Inner Teaching of Taoism,” translated by Thomas Cleary

As we practice today, let us focus on our true intent and enjoy, everyone.

/23/2022

Today’s quote is about the great orb that lights our way through the darkness from author, artist, philosopher and martial artist, Deng Ming-Dao

“The moon does not fight. It attacks no one. It does not worry. It does not try to crush others. It keeps to its course, but by its very nature, it gently influences. What other body could pull an entire ocean from shore to shore? The moon is faithful to its nature and its power is never diminished.” — Deng Ming-Dao

Be a light unto yourself and Light your way through the darkness of the acquired mind by practicing Self-Cultivation.

06/22/2022

Today’s quote is from “Understanding Reality,” the classic written by Chang Po-tuan and translated by Thomas Cleary.

THOUGH HUMAN LIFE HAS A LIMIT OF A HUNDRED YEARS ,
THE LENGTH OF LIFE, AND WHETHER IT WILL BE DIFFICULT
OR SMOOTH, CANNOT BE KNOWN BEFOREHAND. YESTERDAY
RIDING A HORSE THROUGH TOWN, TODAY A SLEEPING
CORPSE IN A COFFIN: FAMILY AND WEALTH CAST OFF, THEY
ARE NOT YOUR OWN POSSESSIONS ; WITH EVIL DEEDS COMING ON ,
YOU CANNOT FOOL YOURSELF. IF YOU COME UPON THE GREAT ELIXIR
WITHOUT EVEN LOOKING FOR IT, HAVING COME UPON IT,
YOU ARE A FOOL IF YOU DO NOT REFINE IT.
– Chang Po-tuan (Tzu-yang) “Understanding Reality (“Wuzhen Pian”), translated by Thomas Cleary

The Golden Elixir is the means or method of transcending Death and the cycle of reincarnation. But hearing about it is not enough. One must devote oneself to its Cultivation. That means practice, folks. Enjoy!

06/21/2022

An ancient Daoist saying:

“Balance is the mainstay of the world, harmony is the way the world
arrives on the Tao. Achieving balance and harmony, heaven and earth
are in their places therein, myriad beings grow up therein.”

So, our practice this week is to work on achieving balance and harmony. Great practicing, everyone, and enjoy!

06/20/2022

Today, Liu Yi MIng tell us how we can eventually realize the Tao

“If people can be firm in decision and flexible in gradual
practice, neither hurrying nor lagging, neither aggressive nor
weak, with hardness and softness balancing each other,
achieving balance and harmony, then they will benefit wherever
they go. If they study the Tao in this way , eventually they
will surely understand the Tao. If they practice the Tao in this
way, eventually they will surely realize the Tao. ”
– Liu YiMing, “Awakening to the Tao”

If you truly want to achieve balance and harmony, quit the hustle and bustle of the Western lifestyle and practice being firm but not aggressive or overbearing and flexible and adaptable without being weak or flaccid and, above all, enjoy your practice.

06/18/2022

In today’s quote, we return again to Liu I-Ming’s book of Contemplations: “Awakening to the Tao.” His thoughts on “Grafting Peaches and Grafting Plums,” tell us how we can experience true rejuvenation at any age.

“When a peach tree is old, graft on a young branch and it will again bear peaches. When a plum tree is old, graft on a young branch and it will again bear plums. This is because even when a tree is old it still has energy in its roots…People age because they indulge in emotions and passions-a hundred worries affect their minds, myriad affairs weary their bodies. Expending their vitality, exhausting their spirit, they take the false to be real and take misery for happiness.” He suggests this kind of living makes their (physical and spiritual) roots unstable and so people grow old and die. “Concentrating the energy like a baby, being abstemious, storing the vitality and nurturing the spirit, getting rid of illusion and returning to reality , fostering the growth of the root at all times , walking every step on the right path, increasing true thought and diminishing false thought, truly sincere within and without, integrated with the design of nature, they can thereby be rejuvenated. This is like the way of grafting a young branch onto an old tree.”

So, don’t indulge in emotions, passions and hundreds of worries. Concentrate your energy like a baby, store the vitality and nurture your spirit and graft a rejuvenating branch onto your daily practice. Have a terrific 3-day weekend folks and a Happy Juneteenth.

06/17/2022

Today’s quote is from Lisa Kemmerer’s “Animals and World Religions.”

“Daoism also encourages people to love deeply and live compassionately (ci), to exercise restraint and frugality (jian), to seek harmony, and to practice wuwei (action as nonaction). Daoist precepts speak often and strongly against harming any creature, whether by disturbing their homes or eating their bodies. Guanyin, the most popular Chinese deity, exemplifies deep compassion for all beings. The Zhuangzi highlights basic similarities between humans and animals, and encourages people to treat all beings with care and respect.”
― Lisa Kemmerer, Animals and World Religions

06/16/2022

Today’s quote is from the opening paragraph of a Neidan (Daoist Alchemy) work from the 11th century, “Awakening to Reality” by Zhang Boduan, also known as True Man of Purple Yang (Ziyang zhenren). It is divided into three main parts, all of which consist of
poems written in different meters. This first part contains sixteen poems written in “regulated verses” (eight-line heptasyllabic poems, known as liishi).

“If you do not search for the Great Dao
and do not leave the delusive paths,
you may be endowed with worthiness and talent,
but would you be a great man?”

Let seeking the Dao be part of your everyday practice. Enjoy your practice, enjoy the flow of the Dao.

06/15/2022

Today, a little swordplay. Well, a swordplay on words, that is, by Doc Pruyne.

“The sword is a handle onto the Way of the world that is offering itself to you. If you are willful it will weigh a ton and wear you out. If you lose focus it will cut open your hand. Mindfulness keeps your mind on the blade; and if you are mindful you will not think about the future or past, there will be no blocks to the flow of Tao, and the Way of the world will flow through the sword and through you. You will become the sword of the world.”― Doc Pruyne, Persimmon

You won’t need a sword to enjoy the flow of Tao if you practice with patience and dedication. Enjoy it while you can, people.

06/14/2022

Today we have a quote by Liu YiMing on Hexagram 61 of the Yijing and faithfulness to the Tao

“If you want yin not to trap yang but to accord with yang, so that yin and yang can conjoin, this is impossible unless you are seriously faithful to the Tao; without faithfulness to the Tao practice is insubstantial and lacks power, inevitably leading to failure to complete what has been started.” – Liu YiMIng, on Hexagram 61 of the Yijing, translation by Thomas Cleary

Thus, if you feel your practice has become insubstantial, realign with the Tao and keep practicing, folks.

06/13/2022

A classic conundrum quote from Alan Watts to start off our week

“It is fundamental to both Taoist and Confucian thought that the natural man is to be trusted, and from their standpoint it appears that the Western mistrust of human nature-whether theological or technological-is a kind of schizophrenia. It would be impossible, in their view, to believe oneself innately evil without discrediting the very belief, since all the notions of a perverted mind would be perverted notions.” ― Alan Wilson Watts, The Way of Zen

Your mind may or may not be perverted, but I certainly hope your practice isn’t. Enjoy, everyone.

06/11/2022

Today we have a quote by Liu YiMing from one of the contemplations in his book “Awakening to the Tao” to get us through the weekend.

“With the nobility of Heaven and the humility of Eath, one joins in the attributes of heaven and earth and extends to eternity with them.” – Liu YiMing, “Awakening to the Tao.”

Heaven is boundlessly vast. It covers everything and contains everything. It produces myriad beings without presuming on the virtue of such. It provides for them. It bestows blessings on them, not expecting any rewards or asking for anything in return. Whether people are good or bad, respectful or insincere doesn’t matter. Heaven allows them to be themselves. This is considered noble.

Earth is thick and lowly, below all else. Despite being tread on or paved in asphalt and concrete, it bears all and nurtures everything. This is considered humble.

So, see how noble and yet humble you can be, and enjoy your practice. Have a great weekend, everyone!

06/10/2022

Today an interpretation of Chapter 36 of the Tao Te Ching by James Frey

“Thirty-six. If you want to shrink something, you must first expand it. If you want to get rid of something, you must allow it to flourish. If you want to take something, you must allow it to be given. The soft will overcome the hard. The slow will beat the fast. Don’t tell people the way, just show them the results.” ― James Frey, A Million Little Pieces

Don’t tell us; Show us – the results of your practice. Keep on keeping on, folks.

06/09/2022

Today we have an appropriate quote from a great American poet, Carl Sandburg.

“Life is like an onion. You peel it off one layer at a time, and sometimes you weep.” – Carl Sandburg.

People are complex, with multiple layers that each provide something unique to the universe. In the Dao Field, the idea isn’t to look at each layer as an individualized trait or part of life, but to examine how each layer fits perfectly to create the onion/the Dao in the first place.
Peeling away the layers of your practice one at a time, folks. Enjoy!

06/08/2022

The next Zhuangzi quote is sort of reminds us of a Laozi quote: “To know that you do not know is the best. To think you know when you do not is a disease.”

“Men honor what lies within the sphere of their knowledge, but do not realize how dependent they are on what lies beyond it.”
― Chuang Tzu

We need to depend on our practice and what it is teaching us about ourselves. Enjoy everyone.

06/07/2022

Today, Chuang Tzu tries his best to give us a comforting thought. Does it work for you?

“We are born from a quiet sleep, and we die to a calm awakening” ― Chuang Tzu

Hope one and all calmly awaken to your practice. Enjoy!

06/06/2022

Today, Chuang Tzu builds a case for emptiness.

“If a man, having lashed two hulls together, is crossing a river, and an empty boat happens along and bumps into him, no matter how hot-tempered the man may be, he will not get angry. But if there should be someone in the other boat, then he will shout out to haul this way or veer that. If his first shout is unheeded, he will shout again, and if that is not heard, he will shout a third time, this time with a torrent of curses following. In the first instance, he wasn’t angry; now in the second he is. Earlier he faced emptiness, now he faces occupancy. If a man could succeed in making himself empty, and in that way wander through the world, then who could do him harm?”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Don’t let the world and all its distractions capsize your boat. Keep practicing to make your self empty so you can wander through the world, a free and easy wanderer.

06/04/2022

Humans are always chasing after one kind of success or another. But even if we achieve success, still it brings suffering. Why? According to Chuang Tzu and other Daoist sages, it is due to the ever-changing movement of Yin and Yang in the world.

“In all affairs, whether large or small, there are few men who reach a happy conclusion except through the Way. If you do not succeed, you are bound to suffer from the judgment of men. If you do succeed, you are bound to suffer from the yin and yang. To suffer no harm whether or not you succeed – only the man who has virtue can do that.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

So, as we practice this coming week, let us focus on finding the virtue deep within us, instilled prior to our birth as a manifestation of the mystical Te. Have an enjoyable weekend, everyone. And don’t forget the victims of Russia’s war on Ukraine.

06/03/2022

Many of us imperfect beings have such difficulty remaining joyful and carefree not only throughout life or even throughout the day or hour to hour. Chuang Tzu tells us why this is.

“You should find the same joy in one condition as in the other and thereby be free of care, that is all. But now, when the things that happened along take their leave, you cease to be joyful. From this point of view, though you have joy, it will always be fated for destruction.” ― Zhuangzi

So enjoy practicing and enjoy working on remaining joyful throughout this day. And let’s put our heartfelt energies together to bring some degree of pure joy into the disreuptive lives of the Ukrainian people.

06/02/2022

Expanding on John Blofield’s quote yesterday on the East Asian idea of a Supreme State of Being as opposed to the Western concept of a Supreme Being, Zhuangzi gives the most complete version yet in this conversation with Master Dongguo.

Master Dongguo asked Zhuangzi, “This thing called the Way – where does it exist?”

Zhuangzi said, “There’s no place it doesn’t exist.”

“Come,” said Master Dongguo, “you must be more specific!”

“It is in the ant.”

“As low a thing as that?”

“It is in the panic grass.”

“But that’s lower still!”

“It is in the tiles and shards.”

“How can it be so low?”

“It is in the piss and shit!”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Zhuangzi, Burton Watson translation, section 22

Well, I guess you cannot top that, or, I should say, you cannot bottom that. Both are pretty low. But we need to stay on top of our practice. So, enjoy and don’t let your spirits sink.

06/01/2022

We start off the month of June with a quote by John Blofield on the major difference between Western and Eastern religions.

“In East Asia generally, the notion of a Supreme Being, so essential to Western religions, is replaced by that of a Supreme State of Being, an impersonal perfection from which beings including man are separated only by delusion.” ― John Blofeld, Taoism

We will have Chuang Tzu’s take on it tomorrow. Meanwhile enjoy your practice, and enjoy Nature as well.

05/31/2022

We close out the month of May with Chuang Tz telling us how he feels about reincarnation…

“A child, obeying his father and mother, goes wherever he is told, east or west, south or north. And the yin and yang – how much more are they to a man than father or mother! Now that they have brought me to the verge of death, if I should refuse to obey them, how perverse I would be! What fault is it of theirs? The Great Clod burdens me with form, labors me with life, eases me in old age, and rests me in death. So if I think well of my life, for the same reason I must think well of my death. When a skilled smith is casting metal, if the metal should leap up and say, ‘I insist upon being made into a Moye!’ he would surely regard it as very inauspicious metal indeed. Now, having had the audacity to take on human form once, if I should say, ‘I don’t want to be anything but a man! Nothing but a man!’, the Creator would surely regard me as a most inauspicious sort of person. So now I think of heaven and earth as a great furnace, and the Creator as a skilled smith. Where could he send me that would not be all right? I will go off to sleep peacefully, and then with a start I will wake up.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Where do you think you will wake up? Forget about it and just enjoy your practice.

05/30/2022

“He who steals a belt buckle pays with his life; he who steals a state gets to be a feudal lord. ― Zhuangzi

Very true, just look at our elections. The man who tried to steal the Presidency has become the defacto leader of the Republican Party.
In any case, keep breathing, keep relaxing and stretching and by all means keep practicing. Have a respectful Memorial Day, everyone.

05/28/2022

Another beauty from Chuang Tzu to close out the week and nearly the month and, as always, to test our understanding:

“Men all pay homage to what understanding understands, but no one understands enough to rely upon what understanding does not understand and thereby come to understand.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

If nothing else, I hope one thing is understood: have a great Memorial Day weekend and enjoy your practice.

On this Memorial Day let us pay homage to the our fallen and as well to the brave people of Ukraine who are fighting for their freedom against overwhelming odds.

05/27/2022

Today we have a “Go Figure” from the Sage’s Sage, Chuang Tzu…

“It comes out from no source, it goes back in through no aperture. It has reality yet no place where it resides; it has duration yet no beginning or end. Something emerges, though through no aperture – this refers to the fact that it has reality. It has reality yet there is no place where it resides – this refers to the dimension of space. It has duration but no beginning or end – this refers to the dimension of time. There is life, there is death, there is a coming out, there is a going back in – yet in the coming out and going back its form is never seen. This is called the Heavenly Gate. The Heavenly Gate is nonbeing. The ten thousand things come forth from nonbeing. Being cannot create being out of being; inevitably it must come forth from nonbeing. Nonbeing is absolute nonbeing, and it is here that the sage hides himself.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

As Chuang Tzu is saying, let your Cultivation evolve, come forth from the emptiness within. Don’t force it. Just enjoy whatever the Tao brings each day, whether you think it’s progressive or not. Accept it and gratefully use it.

05/26/2022

Today we get Chuang Tzu’s take on Lao Tzu’s Tao de Ching, Chapter 55…

“Can you be a little baby? The baby howls all day, yet its throat never gets hoarse – harmony at its height! The baby makes fists all day, yet its fingers never get cramped – virtue is all it holds to. The baby stares all day without blinking its eyes – it has no preferences in the world of externals.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Enjoy your practice as though you are a newborn, fascinated by every movement. BTW, the Ukrainian forces are finally giving way to the Russians. The outcome doesn’t look very positive.

05/25/2022

Today we have another profound quote from Chuang Tzu to help us continue our Cultivation is everyday life.

“In the world everyone knows enough to pursue what he does not know, but no one knows enough to pursue what he already knows. Everyone knows enough to condemn what he takes to be no good, but no one knows enough to condemn what he has already taken to be good.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

I hope you know enough to enjoy practice, everyone. Get to it.

05/24/2022

Positively great advice farom Chuang Tzu today. But not just for today. It’s a quote for all days. A quote for all times.

“When I speak of good hearing, I do not mean listening to others; I mean simply listening to yourself. When I speak of good eyesight, I do not mean looking at others; I mean simply looking at yourself. He who does not look at himself but looks at others, who does not get hold of himself but gets hold of others, is getting what other men have got and failing to get what he himself has got. He finds joy in what brings joy to other men, but finds no joy in what would bring joy to himself.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Bring more joy to yourself. Practice with the joy of Self.

05/23/2022

Does the uniform or the Gi make the man, or does the man make the uniform or Gi? What does Chuang Tzu have to say about that?

“But a gentleman may embrace a doctrine without necessarily wearing the garb that goes with it, and he may wear the garb without necessarily comprehending the doctrine.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

I don’t personally care what you are wearing; just make sure you comprehend what you are practicing. Have a good one, people.

https://www.unicefusa.org/stories/bucharest-school-ukrainian-refugee-children/39951

05/21/2022

Today’s quote is very typical of Chuang Tzu and shows how his Sage mind reasons and flows.

“You forget your feet when the shoes are comfortable. You forget your waist when the belt is comfortable. Understanding forgets right and wrong when the mind is comfortable. There is no change in what is inside, no following what is outside, when the adjustment to events is comfortable. You begin with what is comfortable and never experience what is uncomfortable when you know the comfort of forgetting what is comfortable.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

This coming week, make it a point to get comfortable in your practice. And have a comfortable weekend. Also, remember that true comfort is a long way off for the people of Ukraine and their disrupted lives.

05/20/2022

“Things joined by profit, when pressed by misfortune and danger, will cast each other aside.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Straight and to the point, Chuang Tzu wants us to have deeper connections than purely financial or economic ones. Living from the heart rather than the self-absorbed, obsessive acquired mind will bring those deeper ones into our lives. How about connecting with Save the Children?

05/19/2022

To be Still or not Still, how do Sages do it? That is the question, and today we have Chuang Tzu’s answer…

“The sage is still not because he takes stillness to be good and therefore is still. The ten thousand things are insufficient to distract his mind – that is the reason he is still.”― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

So forget all those distractions, still your mind and just enjoy practicing, folks.

05/18/2022

Today Chung Tzu describes the True Man of ancient times…

“The True Man of ancient times knew nothing of loving life, knew nothing of hating death. He emerged without delight; he went back in without a fuss. He came briskly, he went briskly, and that was all. He didn’t forget where he began; he didn’t try to find out where he would end. He received something and took pleasure in it; he forgot about it and handed it back again.” ― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

A very short description, but a lot there to practice. Get to it, folks, and take pleasure in what you are practicing. Then pass it on.

05/17/2022

Today Alan Watts corrects what some maintain to be attainable in Taoism

“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 Watts

Have a great practice, folks.

05/16/2022

This week we will be weaving in and out of Zhuanzi. Hope you enjoy the tapestry.

“The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror – going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Can you use your mind like a mirror? It’s important to add “not storing” to your practice. What harm does storing do? It leads to very stubborn Clinging. Good luck with your practice. And let’s not forget the courageous people of Ukraine and their equally courageous racoons.

05/14/2022

Today we have the second part of the Wilhelm/Baynes commentary. Since yesterday’s commentary pertained to Hexagram #24, Return, which begins the firing process, this next quote is from the commentary on Hexagram #1, Heaven, the end point of that process as the Taoist adept returns home to pure Yang.

“The holy man, who understands the mysteries of creation inherent in end and beginning, becomes superior to the limitations of the transitory. For him, the meaning of time is that in it, the stages of growth can unfold in a clear sequence. He is mindful at every moment and uses the six stages of growth as if they were six dragons (the image attributed to the individual lines) on which he mounts to heaven.” — The I Ching p 371, Wilhelm/Baynes edition, Commentary on hexagram #1, the Creative

Let us return as well to our continued practice, friends, and be mindful at every stage as we progress. And, of course, be mindful of the children and other victims of Russia’s War on Ukraine.

05/13/2022

As Liu Yiming pointed out earlier, the I Ching is not about Divination but rather the firing process, the inner psychological movement of returning to pure yang which is Hexagram #1 Qian, Heaven, composed of six Yang lines. He explained that this process begins with Hexagram #24, Return with one Yang line at the base and five Yin lines above it. Today we look at a different translation of the I Ching, the Wilhelm/Baynes translation and the commentary on Hexagram #24 Return.

“The light principle returns; thus the hexagram counsels turning away from the confusion of external things, turning back to one’s inner light. There, in the depths of the soul, one sees the Divine, the One.” — I Ching, Wilhelm/Baynes edition, Commentary on Hexagram #24 Return

How do Internal Arts practitioners turn away from the confusion of external things? By soaking the mind throughout the entire body while standing in Wuji or seated in calm abiding meditation. So, work on it and enjoy your practice, people.

05/12/2022

Today’s quote is Liu Yiming’s final comment on the firing process subtly revealed within the I Ching…

The mystic pearl is the pearl of complete yang, something round and bright and unclouded; it is a different name for the Gold Elixir. When the firing process reaches its time, the pearl will naturally be formed.
— Liu Yiming (Awakening the Tao)

As you can see by now, there is much more to the I Ching than divination. Have a great practice, people. And keep the victims of the War in Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers.

05/11/2022

Speaking of the I Ching as a guide to the firing process, Liu Yiming tells us the importance of Hexagra #19.

“This is really a guide to the firing process as one watches over the furnace; if students study and find out the facts in the hexagram Overseeing, then they can grasp most of the process of firing the gold pill (elixir).” — Liu Yiming (the Taoist I Ching, hexagram # 19 Overseeing)

Of Overseeing #19, Liu Yiming explains the two trigrams: “Above is Earth following and below is Lake, joyful, joyfully following truth, acting in accord with that joy, it is therefore called Overseeing. It is interesting to note the Overseeing follows #18 Degeneration, Deterioration.

So, don’t let your practice deteriorate. Instead, follow your joy, your truth, and have a great practice. As life in Ukraine deteriorates, don’t forget the children.

05/10/2022

Two quotes today. One from Zhang Boduan, 11th C. Taoist master on immortals and the firing process. The other from Liu Yiming commenting on Zhang Boduan’s quote.

“Treatises, classics and songs expound ultimate reality, but do not commit the Firing Times to writing. If you want to know the oral instructions and comprehend the mysterious points you must discuss them in detail with a divine immortal.” — Zhang Boduan, 11th C. Taoist master (Understanding Reality)

“It is not that the immortals and real people haven’t spoken of the firing process, but what they say is not organized. If you do not meet an illumined teacher, who will indicate the order for you, you will not be able to know it.” — Liu Yiming (Commentary on Understanding Reality)

Have a great practice, everyone, and don’t forget the children of Ukraine and their plight.

05/09/2022

We start the week off with Liu Yiming discussing setting up the crucible in the firing process to burn away false yin so one can reach a state of pure yang…

“Stabilize the will with firmness; do the work with flexibility.
Making the will firm and strong is setting up the crucible;
Gradually progressing in the work is setting up the furnace.
Firmness and flexibility are both used, without imbalance;
Having prepared, work the fire and the convergence according to the time.”– Liu Yiming, The Inner Teachings of Taoism

Here he is telling us that setting up the furnace requires a balance of yin and yang, which refers to firmness and flexibility respectively. In Daoist teachings, pure yang refers to the conscious awareness of the Original Spirit while false yin, refers to the mechanical awareness of the human mind.

With in mind, have a great practice to start off the week.

05/07/2022

“The method of action in spiritual alchemy is to burn away all the pollution of acquired conditioning.” — Liu Yiming (Taoist I Ching, Hexagram #7 ,The Army)

Have a great practice, everyone. Use those energies to increase your willful dissolution of your obsession with the pollution of acquired conditioning. Just what is the pollution of acquired conditioning? Self-indulgence, incessant self-interest. Have a pleasant weekend, folks.

05/06/2022

Today Liu Yiming continues to explain the “firing process” and how it comes about.

“Fire is a symbol of illumination; operating the fire means employing illumination. Illumination is the quality of awareness and perceptivity. If one can be aware, then one has the mind of Tao, and the spirit is knowing. If one can be perceptive, then there is no human mentality, and the mind is clear.” — Liu Yiming (The Taoist I Ching, Hexagram 55 Richness)

Illuminate your practice today by being perceptive of why you are not perceiving. And give some thought to the suffering victims in Ukraine. If you haven’t done anything for them yet, then maybe today is the day.

 

05/05/2022

Today Liu Yiming further explains what the “firing process” is in Daoist Alchemy…

“The firing process is the sixty-four hexagrams, indicating modification of simple and ready knowledge and capacity to restore them to their innate goodness. The alchemical classics and writings of the adepts, amounting to thousands of volumes, do not go beyond the principles of the I Ching.” — Liu Yiming (Taoist I Ching, Mixed Hexagrams #43 Parting and #44 Meeting)

I suggest you look up and study both of those hexagram and have a great practice. And take a look at the IRC’s work in Ukraine.

 

05/04/2022

Just what is the “firing process” in Daoist Alchemy? Liu Yiming gives us a clue…

“The firing process spoken of in the alchemical classics and writings of the masters is a metaphor for the order of practical spiritual work.” — Liu Yiming (The Inner Teachings of Taoism)

More on this process from Liu Yiming tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your practices, everyone, and let’s Save the Children of Ukraine.

 

05/03/2022

Today we look at the I Ching’s Hexagram #24 Return through the eyes of Liu Yiming.

“Return means coming back. In the body of the hexagram one yang moves below a group of yins ䷗; this hexagram represents the return of yang. The way to do it involves working in sequence, restoring it gradually; one cannot restore it immediately, or even if one does restore it immediately it cannot be stabilized. This path is not difficult to know, but it is difficult to practice….. going from a single yang ䷗, until six yangs ䷀ are pure and complete.” — Liu Yiming, The Taoist I Ching, hexagram #24 Return.

As you practice, remember that our methods of self-cultivation are not difficult to know but difficult to practice. Therefore, don’t be in rush. You need to take in and stabilize each step to return to your original nature. That can take years for most practitioners. Speaking of Returning, let’s hope the refugees of Ukraine and their children in Poland, Romania and dozens of other countries c an return to their homeland soon.

 

05/02/2022

We begin May by asking the etermal question: What is the I Ching and what does it have to do with anything? Liu Yi Ming gives us his answer…

“After meeting genuine teachers all my doubts disappeared, so that for the first time I realized that the Tao of spiritual alchemy is none other than the Tao of I Ching, the Tao of sages is none other than the Tao of immortals, and that the I Ching is not a book of divination, but rather a study of investigation, of principles, fulfillment of nature, and arrival at the meaning of life.” — Liu Yiming (18th c. Taoist adept).

Enjoy your practice this week and don’t forget the children of Ukraine.

 

THE DAOIST DAILY DIARY

04/30/2022

We close out April, 2022 with a simple quote from Daoist adept Liu Yiming:

“Sentiment changes. Truth is eternal.“ — Liu Yiming

Have a great weekend, everyone. I hope April has been good to you. If not, here comes May, enjoy! And don’t forget the children of Ukraine and their plight.

04/29/2022

Do you only experience what is pleasurable and avoid any and all unpleasant experiences? Then listen to Daoist adept Liu Yiming’s advice:

“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 Yiming, Awakening to the Tao

Experience everything and have a good week practicing, everyone. And please keep the children of Ukraine in your thoughts.

 

04/28/2022

Are you a spiritual reader? If so, you might want to take a little advice from Liu Yiming, who warns about being obsessed with the scriptures and a victim of Bookish Bedevilment…

“46 – The Obstacle of Bookish Bedevilment
Read the scriptures but do not persist in being obsessed with them. If one were to be obsessed with the scriptures forming conjectures with its meaning, relying on one’s preconception, the mistake is great, discard the scriptures, without argument, while it is a big mistake, similarly obsession with the scriptures, not seeking a wise master, is an even bigger mistake, discarding books and obsession with them are all wrong. If one were to be obsessed with books for Tao, one has been inflicted with bookish bedevilment, in not seeking a wise master the great task is jeopardized, one must study carefully, distinguish the right and wrong, seek out a wise master to confirm them, only then can one come to understand Tao.
四十六、书魔关
读经书而不可偏执经书也。若执经书以意猜度,依己偏见,误之甚矣,弃经书,全不理论,固是大错,若执经书,不求明师,更是大错,弃书执书皆非也。若执书为道,中了书魔,不求明师则误大事,必须细心钻研经书,辨别邪正,访求明师以证是非,方能明道。”
― Liu Yiming

While you are reading about the Tao or seeking out a wise master, don’t forget the victims of the War in Ukraine.

04/27/2022

Daoism like any other spiritual, philosophical or religious organization or sect is subject rightful, knowledgeable leaders, misguided or poor ones, and outright charlatans and con artists. But not just in modern times. It has been going on for ages. Read what Liu Yiming wrote back in the late 18th and early 19th centuries…

“The Dao is no longer understood. There is an endless number of side doors and twisted byways, constituting a few basic groups. There are those who are fixated on voidness and those who are attached to forms, and those who do psychosomatic exercises. There are actually 72 schools of material alchemy, and 3600 aberrant practices. Since the blind lead the blind, they lose the right road; they block students and lead them into a pen.”
― Liu Yiming, Awakening to the Tao

Before you practice today, question yourselves about your teachers. Are they qualified? Are they knowledgeable? Do you feel they have led you onto the right road or are you being led into a pen?

Let hope the leaders of Ukraine can lead their people away from the Russian pen and onto the road to freedom.

 

04/26/2022

One of my “tui shou” (tai chi push hands) partners complained that he did not feel empty even though he was trying. But what exactly is true emptiness? Well, maybe Bells and Drums hold the answer. At least, Liu Yiming thought so…

“Bells Ring, Drums Resound

When a bell is struck it rings, when a drum is beaten it resounds. This is because they are solid outside and empty within. It is because they have nothing inside that they are able to ring and resound.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of true emptiness and ineffable existence.

True emptiness is like the inner openness of a bell or a drum; ineffable existence is like the sounding of a bell or a drum when struck. If people can keep this true emptiness as their essence, and utilize this ineffable existence as their function, ever serene yet ever responsive, ever responsive yet ever serene, tranquil and unstirring yet sensitive and effective, sensitive and effective yet tranquil and unstirring, empty yet not empty, not empty yet empty, aware and efficient, lively and active, refining everything in the great furnace of Creation, then when the dirt is gone the mirror is clear, when the clouds disperse the moon appears; revealing the indestructible body of reality, they transcend yin and yang and Creation, and merge with the eternity of space.”
― Liu Yiming, Awakening to the Tao

Practice until you feel empty…yet not empty. And maybe you can empty some of your spare change for the victims in Ukraine.

 

https://www.redcross.org/about-us/news-and-events/news/2022/cash-assistance-brings-needed-help-to-ukrainians-in-need.html

04/25/2022

Today’s quote by Daoist sage, Liu Yiming, brings to light unified mindfulness. The great restoration he calls it…

“Stupidity and Madness

The Tao is clear, yet this clarity requires you to sweep away all your clutter. At all times watch out for your own stupidity, be careful of how your mind jumps around. When nothing occurs to involve your mind, you return to true awareness. When unified mindfulness is purely real, you comprehend the great restoration. The ridiculous ones are those who try to cultivate quietude – as long as body and mind are unstable, it is madness to go into the mountains.”
― Liu Yiming, Awakening to the Tao

“Watch out for your own stupidity,” great advice, is it not? So, sweep away all your clutter and have a great day and a great practice, everyone. And keep the brave people of Ukraine in your thoughts.

https://www.unicef.org/

04/24/2022

INCLUSION not Exclusion!!!

04/23/2022

Today’s quote is actually a “reading suggestion” for all you cultivators from Liu Yiming…

“The book known as Journey to the West is about the universal Way that has been handed on by word of mouth from sage to sage, and verified by each of them. Qiu Chuji (丘處機), Taoist name Changchun Zi (長春子), the originator of the Journey to the West cycle, dared to say what the ancients did not dare to say, revealing the celestial mechanism. In Journey to the West is to be found the method for transforming life and death, the way to escape nature. This is the most extraordinary Taoist book of all time.”
― Liu Yiming

Some Western editions are published under the title “Monkey King” or simply “Monkey,” after the main protagonist, Sun Wukong, who is, no doubt, more than just a mere resemblance to Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey god from the Indian classic, the Ramayana.

This weekend make sure you practice hard and don’t monkey around. See you Monday and Keep the suffering victims and refugees of Ukraine in your thoughts.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

04/22/2022

Today’s quote from Liu Yiming is one of the most profound for Daoist Cultivators or any spiritual Cultivator on the Path. Pay close attention to his advice.

“Cut off entanglements.
Get rid of anger and hatred.
Do not be afraid of hard work.
Tolerate ignominy and endure dishonor.
Forgive people and defer to others.
Take possessions lightly; take life seriously.
View others and self as the same.
Do whatever you can to be helpful.

Practice developing virtue is the greatest priority; when achievement is great and practice profound, it moves heaven and earth.
Ridiculous are the foolish ones who only profit themselves; with no achievement and little action, they dream of becoming immortals.”
― Liu Yiming

Don’t be one of the ridiculous foolish ones; develop virtue and make your practice profound. And do whatever you can to be helpful, especially in light of the suffering in Ukraine.

https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5746&mfc_pref=T&5746.donation=form1

04/21/2022

Today’s quote is another short essay. This one is by Liu Yiming, expounding on the analogy of water settling from the Tao Te Ching. Liu Yiming was a Chinese ophthalmologist, philosopher, and writer. He was one of the main representatives of Taoist Internal Alchemy, or Neidan during the late 18th and early 19th centuries The essay is entitled “Murkey Water, Dusty Mirror.”

“Murky water is turbid; let it settle and it clears. A dusty mirror is dim; clean it and it is bright.

What I realize as I observe this is the Tao of clarifying the mind and perceiving its essence.

The reason why people’s minds are not clear and their natures are not stable is that they are full of craving and emotion. Add to this eons of mental habit, acquired influences deluding the mind, their outgrowths clogging up the opening of awareness – this is like water being murky, like a mirror being dusty. The original true mind and true essence are totally lost. The feelings and senses are unruly, subject to all kinds of influences, taking in all sorts of things, defiling the mind.

If one can suddenly realize this and change directions, wash away pollution and contamination, gradually remove a lifetime of biased mental habits, wandering thoughts and perverse actions, increasing in strength with persistence, refining away the dross until there is nothing more to be refined away, when the slag is gone the gold is pure. The original mind and fundamental essence will spontaneously appear in full, the light of wisdom will suddenly arise, and one will clearly see the universe as though it were in the palm of the hand, with no obstruction.

This is like murky water returning to clarity when settled, like a dusty mirror being restored to brightness when polished. That which is fundamental is as ever: without any lack.”
― Liu Yiming, Awakening to the Tao

So, enjoy your practice, everyone, and be patient with it. Like murky water settling, your mistakes will soon dissolve and your practice will evolve if you patiently work on it. Let us hope as well that the Russian aggression in Ukraine will dissolve and peace can once again settle over that land.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

04/20/2022

Today our quote is the opening paragraph from an essay by J. C. (Jean) Cooper in Studies in Comparative Religion on “The Symbolism of the Daoist Garden,” appropriated for Earth Day. Posted below is a link to the complete essay. Have a Happy and Peaceful Earth Day.

“The development of the typical Chinese garden with its full yin-yang symbolism was essentially Taoist in origin. The Han Emperors had earlier created vast artificial landscapes or parks with mountains, ravines, forests, rivers, lakes, and open spaces to provide a habitat for hordes of game for hunting, but during the time of the Six Dynasties and the T’ang, when Taoism prevailed, there developed the quiet intimacy of the Taoist garden, intended to reflect heaven on earth. It became a symbol of Paradise where all life was protected and sheltered. The park had been given over to the grandiose, the artificial, extravagant, and luxurious, to the hunter and aggressor; the Taoist garden was a place of naturalness and simplicity, a haven for the sage, scholar, and nature lover.”

http://www.studiesincomparativereligion.com/Public/articles/The_Symbolism_of_the_Taoist_Garden-by_Jean_Cooper.aspx

04/19/2022

Today’s quote is from J. C. Cooper. Born and raised in China, she wrote and lectured extensively on comparative religion and symbolism, including works on Daoism and Alchemy. Today’s quote is her take on Chapter 8 of the Tao Te Ching…

“The highest goodness is like water.
Water is beneficial to all things but not contend. It stays in places which others despise. Therefore it is near Tao. The weakest things in the world can overmatch the strongest things in the world. Nothing in the world can be compared to water for its weak and yielding nature; yet in attacking the hard and strong nothing proves better than water. For there is no alternative to it. The weak can overcome and the yielding can overcame the hard. This all the world knows but does not practice. This again is the practice of ‘wu-wel’ and nonviolence. Water may be weak, pliable, fluid, but its action is not one of running away from an obstacle. On the contrary, it gives at the point of resistance, envelopes the object and passes beyond it. Ultimately it will wear down the hardest rock. Water is a more telling symbol than land… crossing the river to get to the other side is, again, attaining the state of enlightenment.”
― J.C. Cooper

Speaking of the highest good, you can get no higher than the work UNICEF is doing for the families and children of Ukraine.

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/war-ukraine-pose-immediate-threat-children

04/18/2022

Today, Darrell Calkins gives us his interpretation of “rest” from his book “RE:”

“I look at the idea of rest as rotating one’s qualitative focus, not just doing less or changing activity. The role of rest is recovery. If you keep pushing the same quality button (fast or slow, concentrated or dispersed, hard-working or lazy…) for the same component all the time, of course it’s going to become depleted, just like if you keep working a single muscle in the same fashion or don’t use it at all.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

And now we lay Darrell Calkins to rest, well, at least his quotes for a time and give some other writers a chance to express their thoughts and inspire us with their quotes on Taoism. However, we will return to Darrell Calkins and “RE:” from time to time.

Speaking of rest, I certainly hope the courageous heroes and suffering victims and refugees of Ukraine will be able to get some much needed rest sooner rather than later.

https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5746&mfc_pref=T&5746.donation=form1

04/16/2022

“People generally believe that stress is responsible for depletion, but apathy and uninspired systematic repetition are equally responsible. Or rather, systematic repetition produces as much or more stress and anxiety as anything else.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

On that note, have an inspired weekend. Happy Easter, everyone. And hopefully a peaceful one in Ukraine.

04/15/2022

“The essential dynamic underlying almost every elite and esoteric physical art is work with the breath, so there’s information available. I would only add that it’s unfortunate that so much work is done with it, and not much play. Laughter has got to be the single healthiest activity one can perform. Just think how healthy you would be if you could sincerely laugh at that which now oppresses you. I’ve mentioned before that one good measure of someone’s depth of spirituality is how long it takes before they become offended. Imagine laughing hysterically at the criticisms, complaints and impositions you receive. At the least, you’d be breathing well.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

So, practice hard and laugh hard – from the belly. Of course, what is happening in Ukraine is no laughing matter. Have a Happy Easter, everyone.

04/14/2022

Yesterday, Darrell Calkins’ quote mentioned an unwell lifestyle. Today’s quote from Darrell tells us how to correct it…

“If I were to make a list of focus for well-being, I would begin with lifestyle (the totality of one’s circumstance and how that is engaged, including job and relationships, and proximity to nature), attending to the physical functions correctly (posture, breathing, exercise, food, rest, etc.), consistent expression of your natural range of qualities, working and playing well and hard, and designing things so that you are doing what compels you. Obviously, you can’t give this list out as a prescription for physical problems and diseases, but then again, it is probably the correct prescription. If one were to follow it, any specific problem, even extreme, would almost certainly resolve itself.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

So, work and practice well and hard, folks. And give some thought to Save the Children and their work to help and heal the young victims of the War in Ukraine…

https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5746&mfc_pref=T&5746.donation=form1

04/13/2022

More from Darrell Calkins and his book “RE:” This one is for all of you gym rats and morning latte drinkers…

“Getting down to the gym a couple days a week and having low-fat milk in your morning latte isn’t going to make much of a dent in a system or lifestyle that is essentially, well, unwell.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Very true, indeed. So, people, practice hard but don’t overdo it. The same goes for your everyday life – don’t overindulge. In other words, limit your self indulgence and, instead, try to focus on others, especially those in need like the people of Ukraine.

https://www.unicefusa.org/war-ukraine

04/12/2022

“I look at the idea of rest as rotating one’s qualitative focus, not just doing less or changing activity. The role of rest is recovery. If you keep pushing the same quality button (fast or slow, concentrated or dispersed, hard-working or lazy…) for the same component all the time, of course it’s going to become depleted, just like if you keep working a single muscle in the same fashion or don’t use it at all.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Practice hard, folks. But don’t forget to rest easy – very easy. Take a look…

04/11/2022

Continuing with more quotes from Darrell Calkins and his book “RE:” that relate to Daoist philosophy. This one concerns diet, that is, food for thought…

“A balanced diet” is not so much about protein/fat/carbohydrate ratios. The real ratios to consider, at least for the typical American or European, are energy consumption/expenditure, pleasure/actual need, food/everything else.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

The way Putin and his army are waging his war of world-wide starvation by cutting off the Ukranian grain production, we need to be concerned about our consumption.

https://www.unicefusa.org/war-ukraine

04/09/2022

Today Darrell Calkins has a quote that is very specific to Tai Chi, Qigong and Neigong, as well as Yoga – the health of the spine…

“Besides having been identified recently as the single most important factor in what men find sexy in women, the list of how correct posture influences internal organs and systems, and also mood and general energy, is very long indeed. Your internal environment depends on the efficiency of the flow of elements within it. Obviously, this includes oxygen, blood, hormones and nutrients, but also all interaction between nerves and the brain. The spine, which is your foundation and support, has a natural position that guarantees the efficiency of movement and interaction of the related elements. Your internal organs are all right alongside the spine and depend on its correct position to function well. Any prolonged restriction or deviation from this natural position will result in some, at least partial, dysfunction. Over a long time, the results can be devastating.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Great quote to remember when you are practicing and even when you’re not – which is harder to remember. Let us remember, too, the courageous heroes and suffering victims and refugees of Ukraine.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

04/08/2022

They say ignorance is bliss, but maybe we are too ignorance about too many aspects of life. Here is an important take on our ignorance from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:”

“If you’re ignoring a high percentage of the elements of your entire being, and the range of qualities they can naturally engage, there will be no real recovery or progress until you do. The typical relentless worker is just as lazy as the typical indulgent idler; they’re both just going through the habitual motions. To break the repetitive pattern, and discover more energy and effectiveness, one simply must stretch out in all directions, rotating focus and application of the qualities that make up one’s natural versatility.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

You can begin reaching and stretching out in all directions rotating your focus onto the sufferings in Ukraine.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

04/07/2022

More wisdom from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:” This one is short but very sweet. Chew on it for awhile.

“It’s highly refined stuff—holding to one’s purpose and focus, but also intuiting the value of being a piece in a larger design and evolution. The balance between these two rhythms is where and when true harmony is achieved and magic happens. Often, just the release of the obsession for personal preferences and to personally gain opens the door.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Think “Give” rather than “Gain,” especially now that the refugees and victims of Russian violence in Ukraine need so much help.

https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/

04/06/2022

More from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:” Right now, What are you yearning for?

“Yearning often does not provide a sense of attainment or “peace,” as it is fuel for one’s personal purpose, to in some specific way give or create; to do that is not necessarily easy or peaceful.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Here’s something you may have been yearning to do – donate to help the suffering people, especially the children, of Ukraine. Here’s a great way to do that – and it’s easy…

https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5746&mfc_pref=T&5746.donation=form1

04/05/2022

Another heart-felt gem from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:”

“If one follows what is in one’s heart (let’s leave out mind for the moment), one ends up with what one truly values and loves in life—and one acts accordingly. One’s own private indulgent cyclic habitual reactive subjective transitory feelings are, hopefully, not at the head of that list.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Be sure to check your list for those indulgent cyclic habitual reactive feelings. Hopefully the sufferings imposed upon Ukrainians are somewhere near the top. Here’s a great way to support the children of Ukraine and their families…

https://support.savethechildren.org/site/Donation2?df_id=5746&mfc_pref=T&5746.donation=form1

04/04/2022

More from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:”

“Well-being, or wholeness, implies integrity and harmony between all existing elements, providing freedom for the whole.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Definitely a good point to not only keep in mind but to apply as well. Here is something else to keep in mind: the suffering citizens of Ukraine and apply your generous compassion. Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen is a great place to start. Check out their #Chefs for Ukraine.

https://wck.org/

04/02/2022

We are currently reviewing quotes from Darrell Calkins and his book “Re:” that are in line with Daoist philosophy.

“Every brilliant theory in physics, for example, has been proven mainly wrong, except for the most recent ones, which will be. The big players, like Newton and Copernicus, gave us answers that were later proved more wrong than right. What they did—and why they are valued—is direct our attention to more piercing and compelling questions or possibilities. (I’d suggest the same holds true for the big spiritual players, but that’s a different letter.)”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Something to mull over: What is existence and do we really need it?

Have a great weekend, everyone. See you Monday. And remember the distressed people of Ukraine. Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen is a great place to start. Check out their #Chefs for Ukraine.

https://wck.org/

04/01/2022

We ended March and the first quarter of 2022 with Sheila Burke. We will return to her down the line. But for now I’d like to introduce you to Darrell Calkins for those of you who are not familiar with him or his work. Darrell is a writer, essayist, teacher, philosopher, and lecturer. He has written two books: “RE:” and “In the Midst of Things.” Most of the quotes we will be posting are from “RE:”

“Truth, or mystery basically, seeks the expression of itself. That is, evolution exists to create more mystery, not to answer or end the existing mysteries. This is why with every “truth” revealed, or every answer given, all that actually occurs is the creation of yet a more complex and mysterious question.”
― Darrell Calkins, Re:

Enjoy practicing and cultivating, everyone. And remember the distressed people of Ukraine. Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen is a great place to start. Check out their #Chefs for Ukraine.

https://wck.org/

03/31/2022

We finish out the month and the first quarter of 2022 (Time flies!) with another gem from Sheila Burke. This one still in an artisitc mode moving from Bob Ross to a smile of life and art.

“Life is an all-encompassing art gallery. From the seasons ushering in change to the way a body moves during dance; from the way one smile paints another to the waddle of a street rat – every facet of life is art in motion. Every time a bird takes flight from a branch the scene changes; each time the winds shift brings new perspective.”
― Sheila Burke

Enjoy practicing and cultivating, everyone. And remember the distressed people of Ukraine. Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen is a great place to start. Check out their #Chefs for Ukraine.

https://wck.org/

03/30/2022

Would you believe the Tao and Bob Ross? I can see the analogy, sort of. Another gem from Sheila Burke….

“When I think of Tao,
I think of the artist
Bob Ross and his famous painting techniques.
I can hear him say,
“It’s your tree, you can make it
look any way you want to.”
― Sheila Burke

Enjoy practicing and cultivating, everyone. And remember the distressed people of Ukraine.

03/29/2022

A thoughtful analogy for today from Sheila Burke:

“Everything is in the root.
If you pick the weed without getting the root out of the soil, be assured, it is going to grow back.”
― Sheila M. Burke, Enriched Heart: The Tao of Balancing Your Big, Beautiful, Badass Soul

03/28/2022

On Saturday, we began looking at quotes from Shiela Burke and her “Enriched Heart: The Tao of Balancing Your Big, Beautiful, Badass Soul.” We will look at more gems from Shiela and “Enriched Heart” over the next few days.

“You have the power to change the happiness level in someone’s life and in the process you change your mind-set and the level of your own happiness. Practicing kindness and compassion will change your life, your environment, your outlook on your future, and how you view what has happened in your past.”
― Sheila M. Burke, Enriched Heart: The Tao of Balancing Your Big, Beautiful, Badass Soul

Enjoy practicing and cultivating, everyone. And remember the distressed people of Ukraine. Chef Jose Andres and his World Central Kitchen is a great place to start. Check out their #Chefs for Ukraine.

https://wck.org

03/26/2022

“Taoism is simply the complete acceptance of yourself as you are right in this moment. It’s about rolling with the changes, whether they are perceived as good or bad. Tao reminds us to live life through good actions (important for past karma and karma you are presently creating); through practicing things that engage our mind, body, and spirit.”
― Sheila M. Burke, Enriched Heart: The Tao of Balancing Your Big, Beautiful, Badass Soul

Have a peaceful weekend, everyone. And remember the brave people of Ukraine.

03/25/2022

Today we look at the third sage in the painting to taste the vinegar, Lao-tzu, and his reaction, a smile, that reveals a great deal about his personal philosophy.

To Lao-tse (LAOdsuh), the harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth from the very beginning could be found by anyone at any time, but not by following the rules of the Confucianists. As he stated in his Tao To Ching (DAO DEH JEENG), the “Tao Virtue Book,” earth was in essence a reflection of heaven, run by the same laws – not by the laws of men. These laws affected not only the spinning of distant planets, but the activities of the birds in the forest and the fish in the sea. According to Lao-tse, the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance. The more forcing, the more trouble. Whether heavy or fight, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life become sour.

To Lao-tse, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well. Rather than turn away from “the world of dust,” Lao-tse advised others to “join the dust of the world.” What he saw operating behind everything in heaven and earth he called Tao (DAO), “the Way.”

A basic principle of Lao-tse’s teaching was that this Way of the Universe could not be adequately described in words, and that it would be insulting both to its unlimited power and to the intelligent human mind to attempt to do so. Still, its nature could be understood, and those who cared the most about it, and the life from which it was inseparable, understood it best.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

03/24/2022

Today we look at the second sage in Benjamin Hoff’s story to taste the vinegar, Buddha, and his reaction that reveals a great deal about his personal philosophy.

“To Buddha, the second figure in the painting, life on earth was bitter, filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. The world was seen as a setter of traps, a generator of illusions, a revolving wheel of pain for all creatures. In order to find peace, the Buddhist considered it necessary to transcend “the world of dust” and reach Nirvana, literally a state of “no wind.” Although the essentially optimistic attitude of the Chinese altered Buddhism considerably after it was brought in from its native India, the devout Buddhist often saw the way to Nirvana interrupted all the same by the bitter wind of everyday existence.” – Benjamin Hoff, “The Tao of Pooh”

Tomorrow we look at the reaction of the third sage, Lao-tze, in the painting and his reaction to the taste of vinegar.

03/23/2022

Today we look at Kung Fu-tze or Confucius, the first of the three sages, to taste the vinegar and his reaction that tells us a great deal about his personal philosophy.

“To Kung Fu-tse (kung FOOdsuh), life seemed rather sour. He believed that the present was out step with the past, and that the government of man on earth was out of harmony with the Way of Heaven, the government of, the universe. Therefore, he emphasized reverence for the Ancestors, as well as for the ancient rituals and ceremonies in which the emperor, as the Son of Heaven, acted as intermediary between limitless heaven and limited earth. Under Confucianism, the use of precisely measured court music, prescribed steps, actions, and phrases all added up to an extremely complex system of rituals, each used for a particular purpose at a particular time. A saying was recorded about K’ung Fu-tse: “If the mat was not straight, the Master would not sit.” This ought to give an indication of the extent to which things were carried out under Confucianism.” – Benjamin Hoff, “The Tao of Pooh”

03/22/2022

Over the next few days our quotes will be from Benjamin Hoff, “The Tao of Pooh.” It concerns three of the most famous sages from ancient times and their reaction to sampling a taste of vinegar and what that tells us about their respective philosophies. Today’s quote sets the stage for each sage’s reaction.

“We see three men standing around a vat of vinegar. Each has dipped his finger into the vinegar and has tasted it. The expression on each man’s face shows his individual reaction. Since the painting is allegorical, we are to understand that these are no ordinary vinegar tasters, but are instead representatives of the “Three Teachings” of China, and that the vinegar they are sampling represents the Essence of Life. The three masters are K’ung Fu-tse (Confucius), Buddha, and Lao-tse, author of the oldest existing book of Taoism. The first has a sour look on his face, the second wears a bitter expression, but the third man is smiling.”

03/21/2022

“So, he who displays himself does not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

03/17/2022

Laozi again speaking on war and its destruction as today can be seen in Ukraine

““This world has no need for weapons,
Which soon turn on themselves.
Where armies camp, nettles grow;
After each war, years of famine.

The most fruitful outcome
Does not depend on force,
But succeeds without arrogance
Without hostility
Without pride
Without resistance
Without violence.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Tao Te Ching, Chapter 30

Let us not forget the Ukrainian people and the refugees who continue to need our thoughts and support as well as those from surrounding countries that have reached out to give them sanctuary.

03/14/2022

It’s a shame Putin is an arrogant despot. He could have learned a lot from President Zelensky on how to govern a large country properly as pointed out by Laozi in Chapter 60 of the Tao Te Ching:

“Governing a large country is like frying small fish. Too much poking spoils the meat.” – Laozi, Tao Te Ching, Ch. 60

03/11/2022

Today we have a Zhuangzi excerpt from a passage entitled “The Inner Law” from Thomas Merton’s, “The Way of Chuang Tzu. This particular excerpt points to the character and ultimate destiny of Vladimir Putin…

“He who seeks to extend his control
Is nothing but an operator.
While he thinks he is
Surpassing others,
Others see him merely
Straining, stretching,
To stand on tiptoe.

“When he tries to extend his power
Over objects,
Those objects gain control
Of him.

“He who is controlled by objects
Loses possession of his inner self:
If he no longer values himself,
How can he value others?
If he no longer values others,
He is abandoned.
He has nothing left!

“There is no deadlier weapon than the will!
The sharpest sword
Is not equal to it!
There is no robber so dangerous
As Nature (Yang and Yin).
Yet it is not nature
That does the damage:
It is man’s own will!”
― Thomas Merton, The Way of Chuang Tzu

Let us not forget the Ukrainian people and the refugees who continue to need our thoughts and support as well as those from surrounding countries that have reached out to give them sanctuary.

03/10/2022

We turn from Sun Tzu and “The Art of War” to Laozi and the Tao Te Ching with a couple of quotes on kindness and compassion, which we have seen a great deal of during the war in Ukraine.

“The reason why heaven and earth are able to endure and continue thus long is because they do not live of, or for, themselves.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“The heart that gives, gathers.”
― Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

03/09/2022

Continuing with quotes by Sun Tzu from his “The Art of War” as it applies to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, today Sun Tzu lists five important points that are the keys to victory.

“Thus we may know that there are five essentials for victory:
1 He will win who knows when to fight and when not to fight.
2 He will win who knows how to handle both superior and inferior forces.
3 He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks.
4 He will win who, prepared himself, waits to take the enemy unprepared.
5 He will win who has military capacity and is not interfered with by the sovereign.”
― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Vladimir Putin, his generals and the Russian army have failed on all five essentials. In fact, a member of Russia’s intelligence agency has branded the invasion a “Total Failure.” Forced to try and bomb the Ukrainians into surrendering will make it impossible for the Russians to successfully occupy Ukraine – ever. Putin and his generals have only succeeded in getting themselves indicted as War Criminals. So, beware, Mr. Putin, the Ides of March are quickly approaching.

 

03/08/2022

While Ukrainian Resistance courageous hoods off the invading Russian forces, we hear once again from Sun Tzu…

“There are roads which must not be followed, armies which must not be attacked, towns which must not be besieged, positions which must not be contested, commands of the sovereign which must not be obeyed.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It’s that very last part that gets me. When are these Russian soldiers going to realize Putin has duped them? When will they stand up and say, “No! Enough is enough?”

Let us not forget the Ukrainian people and the refugees who continue to need our thoughts and support.

 

03/07/2022

We start off our week with more quotes from Sun Tzu and “The Art of War” as Russian forces continue their clumsy advance against the outnumbered but superior-trained Ukrainian army.

“In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy’s country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to capture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This is exactly what Putin and his generals thought they could do and would do. But, even though the Russians far outnumber the Ukrainians, they have failed. If they do managed to take Kyiv and ultimately Ukraine, it will be piecemeal and at a very high cost to the Russian Army in terms of massive casualties and destroyed equipment as they battle a smaller yet far better-trained army. Obviously, Putin did not think this one through, and in the long run, he will have greatly damaged Russia and her people.

At this point, we should give Kudos to the U.S. and NATO militaries that have trained and equiped the Ukrainian Army into one of the finest in all of Europe. But let us not forget the Ukrainian people and its refugee who continue to need our thought and support.

 

03/05/2022

Could this be happening to Putin among those who surround and protect him.

“If there is disturbance in the camp, the general’s authority is weak.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Have a great weekend, everyone. And let us keep the courageous people of Ukraine in our minds and our hearts. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes!

 

03/04/2022

The Daoist who is most noted for his knowledge of warfare is Sun Tzu who wrote the Taoist classic on war: “The Art of War.” He has direct warning for Vladimir Putin and ambitious and egotistical leaders like him…

“No ruler should put troops into the field merely to gratify his own spleen; no general should fight a battle simply out of pique.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

We will have a few more of Sun Tzu’s gems as they apply to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For now let us keep the courageous people of Ukraine in our minds and our hearts. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes.

 

03/03/2022

Today we move from Laozi to the other noble ancient sage of Daoism, Zhuangzi, and a quote that subtly describes the mental condition of Vladimir Putin. It’s a quote that Western leaders should come to understand as Putin threatens the West with his nuclear arsenal.

“We can’t expect a blind man to appreciate beautiful patterns or a deaf man to listen to bells and drums. And blindness and deafness are not confined to the body alone – the understanding has them, too.” Zhuangzi

Let us keep the courageous people of Ukraine in our minds and our hearts. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes.

 

03/02/2022

Today’s quote offers up a grave warning to Russian President Putin from Laozi and the Tao Te Ching…

“The world is a sacred vessel, which must not be tampered with or grabbed after. To tamper with it is to spoil it, and to grasp it is to lose it.”

Let us keep the courageous people of Ukraine in our minds and our hearts. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to the Heroes.

 

03/01/2022

We will be returning to Alan Watts quotes, but for now during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I would like to keep the focus on Daoist ideas about war and those leaders who wage them as well a the heroes who must defend against the warmongers. So, today with that in mind we turn to Laozi and the Tao Te Ching to hear his thoughts about an irresponsible warmongering tyrant that Putin is.

“Weapons are the tools of violence;
all decent men detest them.

“Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in the direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.
If the peace has been shattered,
how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons,
but human beings like himself.
He doesn’t wish them personal harm.
Nor does he rejoice in victory.
How could he rejoice in victory
and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.”
– Chapter 31, Tao Te Ching, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Obviously, Laozi doesn’t think that Vladimir Putin is a decent man. Neither do the leaders of NATO and most of the UN countries. With all the atrocities the Russians are committing, perhaps the Ukrainian peoples’ militia do indeed rejoice in any kind of victory.

I’m sure many of the non-military Ukrainians – the grandmothers, the teachers, the shop owners and grocery store clerks – can identify with the last part of Laozi’s chapter – as they take up arms for the first time in their lives to defend their homeland and enter that great task gravely. Maybe not with sorrow nor compassion but with immense determination and love for freedom.

Glory to Ukraine, glory to the heroes!

02/28/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have one from “The Way of Zen” that should be applied to Vladimir Putin as it absolutely fits his fanatical delusions.

“Reasonable – that is, human – men will always be capable of compromise, but men who have dehumanized themselves by becoming the blind worshipers of an idea or an ideal are fanatics whose devotion to abstractions makes them the enemies of life.”
Alan Watts

Not only a War Criminal, Vladimir Putin and those who would praise and side with him are truly enemies of life. Let’s continue to keep our hearts focused on Vladimir Zelensky and the courageous people of Ukraine.

02/26/2022

There is no doubt that the invasion of Ukraine initiated by Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, can be construed as a war crime of immense proportions. Furthermore, not only Putin but those enablers that surround him and keep him in power should all be charged as well as the military commanders who planned this invasion and those responsible for deploying those plans in the field.

From Ukrinform.net, the media arm of the the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukraine Parliament): “The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has called on the international community to recognize Putin as war criminal and to strengthen sanctions not only against him but also against Russians who are fully responsible for their authorities.

“The Ukrainian parliament is convinced that the recent actions of the Russian Federation, which is continuing a full-scale war against Ukraine, can be regarded only as international terrorism.”

There is one problem with charging the Russians with war crimes, namely, it is impossible at this point for the Internation Criminal Court (ICC) to take any action.

ICC Prosecutor, Karim A.A. Khan QC, on the situation in Ukraine: “My Office has also received multiple queries on the amendments to the Rome Statute with respect to the crime of aggression, which came into force in 2018, and the application of those amendments to the present situation. Given that neither Ukraine nor the Russian Federation are State Parties to the Rome Statute, the Court cannot exercise jurisdiction over this alleged crime in this situation.”

Khan went on to state: “My Office will continue to closely monitor the Situation in Ukraine. In the independent and impartial exercise of its mandate, the Office remains fully committed to the prevention of atrocity crimes and to ensuring that anyone responsible for such crimes is held accountable.”

Since amendments to the Rome Statute are useless in this situation, hopefully NATO and the UN can find another way to take action and charge Putin and his Russian perpetrators with war crimes and offer a large reward (in the billions for their capture.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and center your thoughts and your hearts on peace for the Ukrainians.

https://www.unicef.org/stories/children-eastern-ukraine-fear-future

ENLIGHTEN YOUR DAYS

a daily diary of notes on Daoist Internal Arts practices

If you are a cultivator whose one burning desire is attaining the highest goal humanly possible – Enlightenment – then I hope my daily thoughts on my Daoism-based internal arts practices may be of some help. As a cultivator, myself, I try to use the Internal Arts of Daoism – taijiquan, nei gong, and baguazhang – to condition my body and mind through readings, teachings, internal exercises and meditation with an internal environment that allows me to follow the Path of the Dao.

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THE DAOIST DAILY DIARY

02/25/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have one of his most profound quotes from “Psychotherapy East and West.”

“The ways of liberation are of course concerned with making this so-called mystical consciousness the normal everyday consciousness. […]. It has nothing to do with a perception of something else than the physical world. On the contrary, it is the clear perception of this world as a field, a perception which is not just theoretical but which is also felt as clearly as we feel, say, that “I” am a thinker behind and apart from my thoughts, or that the stars are absolutely separate from space and from each other. In this view the differences of the world are not isolated objects encountering one another in conflict, but expressions of polarity. Opposites and differences have something between them, like the two faces of a coin; they do not meet as total strangers. When this relativity of things is seen very strongly, its appropriate affect is love rather than hate or fear.”
― Alan W. Watts, Psychotherapy East and West

If you understood the quote, you will realize that, although we live in different areas across the globe, we are not separate from the terrorized people of Ukraine and especially the children. Show your concern by helping UNICEF in any way you can.

https://www.unicef.org/emergencies/conflict-ukraine-pose-immediate-threat-children

02/24/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have the first of several of his quotes from “Psychotherapy East and West.”

“But what our social institutions repress is not just the sexual love, the mutuality, of man and woman, but also the still deeper love of organism and environment, of Yes and No, and of all those so-called opposites represented by the Taoist symbol of the yin-yang, the black and white fishes in eternal intercourse. It is hardly stretching a metaphor to use the word “love” for intimate relationships beyond those between human organisms.”
― Alan W. Watts, Psychotherapy East and West

A reminder: don’t forget to add “Providing Service” to your regular practice of personal cultivation and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

 

02/23/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have our last one from “Nature, Man and Woman.”

“Thus contemplation or meditation which seeks a result is neither contemplation nor meditation, for the simple reason that contemplation (kuan) is consciousness without seeking. Naturally, such consciousness is concentrated, but it is not ‘practising concentration;’ it is concentrated in whatever happens to be its ‘eternal now.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

A reminder: don’t forget to add “Providing Service” to your regular practice of personal cultivation and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

 

02/22/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts…

“Sexual yoga needs to be freed from a misunderstanding attached to all forms of yoga, of spiritual ‘practice’ or ‘exercise,’ since these ill-chosen words suggest that yoga is a method for the progressive achievement of certain results – and this is exactly what it’s not. Yoga means ‘union,’ that is, the realization of man’s inner identity with Brahman or Tao, and strictly speaking this is not an end to which there are methods or means since it cannot be made an object of desire. The attempt to achieve it invariably thrusts it away.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/21/2022

Resuming with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, we look at another quote from “Nature, Man and Woman.”

“It is true that in Taoism and Tantric Buddhism there are what appear to be techniques or ‘practices’ of sexual relationship[.] Their use is the consequence rather than the cause of a certain inner attitude, since they suggest themselves almost naturally to partners who take their love as it comes, contemplatively, and are in no hurry to grasp anything from it.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/20/2022

As long as there are human beings, there will be religion for the sufficient reason that the self is a theomorphic creature – one whose morphe (form) is theos – God encased within it. Having been created in the imago Dei, the image God, all human beings have a God-shaped vacuum built into their hearts. Since nature abhors a vacuum, people keep trying to fill the one inside them.” – Huston Smith

Another beautiful weekend in L. A., but look out – rain is on the way, beginning tomorrow.

2/19/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts…

“The rift between God and nature would vanish if we knew how to experience nature, because what keeps them apart is not a difference of substance but a split in the mind.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

Another beautiful weekend in Los Angeles. Sunny and mild, temperature in the 70s. Have a great weekend, everyone. And don’t forget to add “Providing Service to your regular practice.

02/18/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have two from “Nature, Man, and Woman.”

“Sexuality is not a separate compartment of human life; it is a radiance pervading every human relationship, but assuming a particular intensity at certain points.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

“The full splendor of sexual experience does not reveal itself without a new mode of attention to the world in general.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/17/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts, today we have two from “The Meaning of Happiness:”

“Trying to explain Zen is like trying to catch wind in a box; the moment you close the lid it ceases to be wind and in time becomes stagnant air.”
― Alan W. Watts, The Meaning of Happiness

“Zen concentrates on the importance of seeing into one’s own nature now at this moment – not in five minutes when you have had time to “accept” yourself, nor ten years ahead when you have had time to retire to the mountains and meditate.”
― Alan W. Watts, The Meaning of Happiness

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/16/2022

Continuing with quotes on the Tao from the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sage of the last century, Alan Watts…

“Great power is worry, and total power is boredom, such that even God renounces it and pretends, instead, that he is people and fish and insects and plants: the myth of the king who goes wandering among his subjects in disguise.”
― Alan W. Watts, Tao: The Watercourse Way

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/15/2022

Next up on The Daoist Daily Diary is one of the most prolific and enlightening philosopher-sages of the last century, Alan Watts, and a collection of his quotes on Taoism as well as comparisons with other spiritual philosophies of the time. We start off with this one from “The Way of Zen.”

“But spontaneity is not by any means a blind, disorderly urge, a mere power of caprice. A philosophy restricted to the alternatives of conventional language has no way of conceiving an intelligence which does not work according to plan, according to a one-at-a-time order of thought. Yet the concrete evidence of such an intelligence is right to hand in our own thoughtlessly ordered bodies. For the Tao does not ‘know’ how it produces the universe just as we do not ‘know’ how we construct our brains.”
― Alan Wilson Watts, The Way of Zen

A constant reminder to add “Providing Service” to your everyday practice. It will balance your internal focus on Self-Cultivation with an external practice of “goodwill” that not only provides benefits to others, whether through donations and/or volunteering your time and skills, but will deepen and stabilize your all-around awareness. As time goes on, you will discover that Self-Cultivation and Providing Service to others are one and the same. Thank you for stopping by.

 

02/14/2022

“The full splendor of sexual experience does not reveal itself without a new mode of attention to the world in general.”
― Alan W. Watts, Nature, Man and Woman

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! We concluded our review of the precepts of Daoism last week, finishing up with compassion. So, today, in honor of Valentine’s Day, I would like to touch briefly on the idea of “Service.” Providing service to others has always been intrinsic to the practice of Daoism. For one reason, it provides practitioners with much-need balance. Practicing self-cultivation as much as possible can leave one more than a bit self-centered. Of course, it is about self-improvement and enriching our personal lives. Nevertheless, we need to devote some time to the service of others, if for no other reason than to make sure that we are not becoming too unbalanced.

Also, serving others provides helps to enrich our lives from the “outside in. Providing service begins to change our lives and enrich our nature from the outside. Finally, what is the point of spiritual cultivation if it cannot be used for the benefit of others and to improve this world?

So, this week, begin to make serving others an integral part of your practice. And enjoy! Thanks for stopping by.

https://www.feedingamerica.org/take-action/volunteer

02/13/2022

“My opinion is that you never find happiness until you stop looking for it.”
― Solala Towler, Cha Dao: The Way of Tea, Tea as a Way of Life

Well, it’s finally over. The 2021-2022 Football season has at last ended, and we can all return to our normal lives. Although those who love to live vicariously may not enjoy that. Nevertheless, the Dao always put Natural ahead of Vicarious. Hope you had a Super weekend.

02/12/2022

“When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.”
― Taoist saying

Another Super Weekend in Los Angeles. warm and wonderful, a great day for a hike in the hills. Tale care, everyone, and enjoy another Super Weekend before things cool down during the week.

02/11/2022

“What is the difference between Zen and Tao? Roshi – “Look at this perfect peach. This must be Zen.” Sensei – “If so, then see this wondrous tree here who gave us our peach, it is the Tao.” Roshi – “Then look to the Earth from where the tree emerges. that is Zen. Sensei – “Then look to the sky whose wind blows through the leaves and whose clouds bring it the water of life.” it is the Tao. Roshi – “Then look to the silent witnessing stars spanning through infinity they are so very Zen” Sensei ~ “Yet look at the space between all these stars, that must be the Tao.” Then they smiled broadly and laughed hysterically “look at our many words they are like the dead leaves of this tree. What a bonfire we can now make.”
― Leland Lewis, Random Molecular Mirroring

Have a great Super Bowl Weekend, everyone. And enjoy your practice.

02/10/2022

“The Formless Way
We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.”
― Tao Te Ching, Chapter 14 – Translated by S. Beck

So, stay with your practice as well in order to master what is present and enjoy. Thanks for stopping by.

02/09/2022

“You have only to rest in inaction and things will transform themselves. Smash your form and body, spit out hearing and eyesight, forget you are a thing among other things, and you may join in great unity with the deep and boundless.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

When Zhuangzi mentions “inaction,” he doesn’t mean no action at all but no contrived, premeditated or self-centered and self-serving (form and body) action. Instead he wants us to consider truly natural action not based on what we see and hear funnelled through our ego or our acquired, conditioned mind but through a humility that is independent of a separate self.

Enjoy your practicing, folks. And thanks for stopping by.

02/08/2022

Today we come to an end of our discussion on the 15 Daoist Precepts (10 Rule-type precepts and 5 quality precepts). We end with the fifth quality precept – Cultivate Compassion. I am sure most of us understand what compassion is. The question is, however, how do we develop it. Like we discussed yesterday, by practicing the first three quality precepts – humility, humor and simplicity – will lead you to being a compassionate person. But remember, as far as the rule-type precepts are concerned, “it is to cause as little change to others’ lives as possible. With little in the way of self-awareness or awareness of others, every action that one generates ripples outwards to change the life paths of those around around us.”

So, we don’t just want to hop outside and mindlessly assault people with kindness. There needs to be a balance between helping others and causing as little change to their lives as possible. This is where the fourth quality precept that we looked at last night comes in. By developing Wu Wei, our act of kindness and compassion will come from a place that is balance with the flow of the Dao. One’s energy will seamlessly flow through and within the community they find themselves in and not develop any breaks or divisions that will lead to separateness.

So, there you have it, all of the Daoist precepts. I do hope that all of you will seamlessly flow into enjoying your practice. While the Diary will be moving on to other topics, let’s keep practicing these five qualities every chance we get. Thanks for stopping by.

02/07/2022

Today we shall look closer at Daoism’s fourth and perhaps most confusing of the quality precept – Cultivate and Adhere to Wu Wei.

The reason it is rather confusing is the way it is translated. Wu Wei literally means ‘No Action’ or ‘Non-Doing.’ While there is nothing wrong with the translation, itself, it unfortunately gives us a false impression of the meaning. Wu Wei actually means take no contrived, premeditated, or intentional action, which most of our actions are. In other words, we mostly think about what we are going to do before doing it with conscious intention. This rumination and its resulting actions stem from our acquired or condition mind but are not in keeping with spontaneity that is the essence of being attuned to the Dao. Thus our actions are mostly self-serving rather than flowing naturally.

The problem is that we are always ‘intending,’ whether it is conscious, subconscious or unconscious intention. The term ‘Yi Nian’ is the balance that is required by the Yi (active mind) and Nian (passive mind). When the two are in balance, then our actions will begin to develop and adhere to the concept of Wu Wei. To balance Yi Nian, it requires development of the first three quality precepts. Once we diligently practice humility, humor and simplicity, over time our active and passive minds will properly balance and our actions will take on that spontaneous nature that is the essence of Wu Wei.

Enjoy practicing, people, and stop by tomorrow for our final quality precept.

02/06/2022

Another beautiful ‘Sun’ day in Los Angeles. Just finished a fascinating online Qigong workshop with my teacher Damo Mitchell, Internal Arts Academy and Lotus Neigong. Hope all of you will stop by tomorrow Monday as we finish up the Daoists Precepts.

02/05/2022

I am doing a 3-day online Qigong/Neigong workshop this weekend with my teacher Damo Mitchell, Lotus Neigong and Internal Arts Academy. So, we will resume our review of the last two quality precepts of Daoism on Monday. Until then I will leave you with this quote from our lineage at the Internal Arts Academy…

“Harmonious Qi, a quiet mind, a tranquil nature, ‘forgotten’ emotions and a harmonious Shen are the immortal medicines (Xian Yao) of Daoism.” – from the Internal Arts Academy.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

02/04/2022

Today we shall look closer at Daoism’s third quality precept – “Simplicity.”

In Daoism simplicity went by the term “Pu.” Perfection of this quality corresponds to Laozi’s concept of the “uncarved block.”

“Tao is eternal, but has no fame (name);
The Uncarved Block, though seemingly of small account,
Is greater than anything that is under heaven.
If kings and barons would but possess themselves of it,
The ten thousand creatures would flock to do them homage;
Heaven-and-earth would conspire
To send Sweet Dew,
Without law or compulsion, men would dwell in harmony.
Once the block is carved, there will be names,
And so soon as there are names,
Know that it is time to stop.
Only by knowing when it is time to stop can danger be avoided.
To Tao all under heaven will come
As streams and torrents flow into a great river or sea.”
– Translated by Arthur Waley, 1934, Chapter 32

Nothing has been chipped away from the block. Thus, like Laozi’s Dao, the uncarved block is nameless, but once it is carved in any way, there will be names, and as soon as there are names, there is imperfection. It is no longer simplicity nor is it aligned with the flow of Dao. So, to Laozi, Pu or Simplicity meant Wisdom, the ability to encounter universal information perceived in purity. To Zhuangzi, it meant humor, which pulses away the layers of negativity at one’s center as we saw yesterday.

The key is the simpler, the better. Enjoy practicing, and keep it simple, folks. Thanks for stopping by.

02/03/2022

Today we shall look closer at Daoism’s second quality precept – “Cultivate a sense of humor.”

Anyone who has read the “Zhuangzi” from Daoism’s long-standing comic, Zhuangzi or Chuang tzu, can understand the place humor has in the cultivation of the Dao. Humor is not used here to entertain but to instruct and emphasize the place the other precepts should have in one’s daily life. But even more than instructing and teaching, humor has energetic purpose – to create a pulse within one’s center that dissolve those layers of negativity piled onto one’s Ming that are suppressing one’s natural-born qualities. Zhuangzi’s tradition is based in allowing you to stay as natural and spontaneous as possible by using the energetic mechanism of humor to dissolve potential attachments before they fully form.

So, in short, humor and the dissolving nature of its energy can be used to strip away difficult emotional layers before they can anchor into one’s heart mind.

No, humor is not joy, but it can bring a certain degree of enjoyment to the difficult and sometimes exhausting practice of cultivation. So, enjoy your practicing, folks, and try to do it with a sense of humor. Thanks for stopping by.

02/02/2022

Today we shall look closer at Daoism’s first and most important as well as most difficult quality precept – “Cultivate humility.”

If you don’t think this is the hardest task you will ever attempt, think again. Why? Because you have something huge working against you, the very thing you will try to use to cultivate humility – your own mind. Sure, your heart mind will agree with the precept in its aim to connect with the Dao. However, your conditioned mind, your everyday mind, has been trying to keep itself head and shoulders above the crowd and ahead of the pack throughout most of your years. Do you think that now it is about to relent?

Although it is conflicted in that it wants to go one way while your heart mind wants to go in the opposite direction, it will appear to go along with your heart mind’s intention. However, it will have you go about it in a way that seems logical but will lead to outright failure by encouraging you to look humble and put forth a humble appearance in all you do. But without that true quality of humility at the very core of your being, you will only be creating false humility, which is often a mask for arrogance and which is sure to be recognized as such by those around you.

To become humble, you must first realize what humility truly is. Originally it referred to opening a space in the center of one’s heart mind to the wider nature of existence. But in time that space creates a vacuum within the center of your being for divine information to flood in and fill. Here in the center of your being you can access spontaneous teachings, in other words, Wisdom. In Daoism, Wisdom. like humility, itself, is very Yin, whose main quality is receptivity. In this case, one is receiving a pure perception of everything taking place around you.

However, you must strip away the layers of fear and pessimism that the conditioned mind will amass to prevent itself from being diminished in any way, which is exactly what humility does. Thus, one needs to free oneself from as many shackles to the conditioned mind as one can. By dissolving these emotional insecurities, one can then feel more secure and much less fearful around practicing humility in daily life.

We will look at the second quality precept in Daoism tomorrow. Until then, enjoy practicing humility without fear. Thank you for stopping by.

02/01/2022

Today we will look at the brief list of the five quality precepts of Daoism. Unlike the ten rule-type precepts, which focus on our relationship to others and the external would in general, the five quality precepts deal with our internal world and the cultivation of ourselves and the ‘personal qualities’ we possess.

1. Cultivate humility
2. Cultivate a sense of humor
3. Live with simplicity
4. Adhere to and develop Wu Wei
5 Cultivate compassion

You may think these are quite obvious, and they are. But there is more to each one as you shall see when we look at them in detail beginning tomorrow. Until then, keep practicing and enjoying it, folks. Thanks for stopping by.

THE DAOIST DAILY DIARY

01/31/2022

I thought we would end January on a one-sentence quote from my favorite teacher that sums up the ten rule-type precepts as well as the coming quality precepts, which we will look at tomorrow.

“On the level of body, addictions must be ended. On the level of mind, habits must be ended. On the level of spirit, poisons must be ended.” – Damo Mitchell, Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy

01/30/2022

Today was another gorgeous Sunday in Los Angeles. A great day for hiking, which I enjoyed along the hillside trails of my favorite park. It was also a great day for tai chi, qigong and tui shou for those of you that took advantage of the weather.

NOTE: A note of CAUTION from yesterday’s post on the tenth and final rule-type precept of Daoism. Trying to follow this rule is not for everyone. Those of you who, for whatever reason, have low self-esteem should first try to build up your feelings about yourself despite being frustrated, unaccomplished or dissatisfied with your life. In this day and age with all the images of success and self-importance that are showered upon us daily by the media, it is easy to get down on yourself. Realizing that you need to put all others ahead of you will only knock down your self-esteem another notch or two. So, hold off on this precept until you can build up that self-image to some extent. Remember, it’s not that you are not worthy or respectable. It’s that you are not more worthy or more respectable or more special than anyone else.

01/29/2022

Today we take a closer look at the tenth and final rule-type precept of Daoism: As long as all beings have not attained the Tao, I will not expect to do so myself. In other words, put other’s attainment of Dao before one’s own. Except for Buddhism and its Bodhisattva Vow, I don’t think you will find many other religious codes with such an unselfish precept. In fact, I believe we would find just the opposite. Just as in the physical world, many people want to save their own necks before others. Spiritually, they are just as adamant about saving their own souls.

Of course, the belief in a separate and independent ‘self’ that functions in life with a free will is the cause for many of the illusions and neurosis of the mind. To break free and end this illusion of self-importance operating any way it pleases, the Daoist sages of the past designed this precept, which is based on Chapter 66 and Chapter 7 of the Tao Te Ching:
“So it is that the sage, wishing to be above men, puts himself by his words below them,
and wishing to be before them, places his person behind them.
In this way though he has his place above them, men do not feel his weight,
nor though he has his place before them, do they feel it an injury to them.”
– Chapter 66, translated by Andre Von Gauthier.

“Therefore, the Sage wants to remain behind,
But finds himself at the head of others;
Reckons himself out,
But finds himself safe and secure.
Is it not because he is selfless
That his Self is realized?”
– Chapter 7, translated by John C. H. Wu.

This seeking in Western society to be unique and special often results in destroying a person’s self-esteem when they fail to live up to the glamorous lifestyles and ambitions they have imagined for themselves. It is usually a long and hard fall that results. This Daoist precept, on the other hand, inculcates the idea that we are all a part of a much wider picture and none of us is more important than any other. But if we persist in our illusion of self-importance, union with Dao can never be attained. By shedding our own importance, our ‘self’ will fade with it and our true Self within will emerge.

On Monday, we will take a look at the five Quality-type precepts. Have a great weekend, everyone, and thanks for stopping by.

01/28/2022

Today we take a closer look at the ninth rule-type precept of Daoism: When someone wants to do me harm, I will not harbor thoughts of revenge. Or, in the Christian concept from the New Testament – “Turn the other cheek.”

In Daoism, while we should try to act in accord with the Dao, we cannot expect the same of others. Everyone conducts themselves according to their own set of values. Each of us has our own personal beliefs and often project these expected standard on others, which, in turn, has caused untold conflict in the world. On the other hand, it is not acceptable for us to drop our own set of values and ethics to justify seeking revenge on someone who has tried to do us harm, either consciously or inadvertently.

Our moral standards and values need to be independent of the actions of others. Thus, we must always project benevolence even when faced with unkindness or, even worse, belligerence. This is the Old Testament view of “an eye for an eye,” versus the New Testament view of “Turn the other cheek.”

If this seems too much like the contrived ethical facade of the Confucanists, it is on the surface. But internally, it is much different. This is not done for any kind of material gain or to put forth a virtuous front and thus acquire praise and admiration. Rather it is deeply centered on the recognition and cultivation of the inherent virtues and benevolence that are the very essence of our inherited authenticity as manifestations of the mystical Te or De.

So add this rule to your daily cultivation and keep practicing to see how you do with it. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

01/27/2022

Today we take a closer look at the eighth rule-type precept of Daoism: When I see those less fortunate, I will support them in regaining their dignity and good fortune.

Like it or not, when it comes to the vagaries of Life, we are not on an even playing field. And, my apologies to Thomas Jefferson and the rest of our Founding Fathers but, no, all men – and women – are not created equal. There are vast differences in wealth, physical stature and health, psychological qualities, education, family status and conditioning. Despite all these differences, the Dao expects us to treat everyone in the same, exact manner, as Lao-tzu tells us in Chapter 5 of the Tao Te Ching – “like straw dogs.”

In ancient China, at the end of a spiritual ceremony the straw dogs, which represented actual animals, personages or deities, were tossed away and burned. The real animals or persons were not harmed at all. This is an analogy to our spiritual essence. It is not what we actually see in the physical and emotional makeup of each person that is important but their very essence within. We cannot be partial as to what is on the outside but must realize that the essence within all of us is the same regardless of our vast human differences.

Again Lao-tzu reminds us “Heaven and earth are ruthless…” They are completely impartial and don’t show any favortism. Hurricanes, flash floods and fires will destroy the lives, homes, and possessions or rich and poor alike. They are colorblind as well. Thus, in Chapter 5 Lao-tzu is telling us to get over our racial, sexual, and religious biases as well as our narcissistic pettiness and respect everyone and treat them with dignity – the way you want to be treated. So, the Golden Rule in Christianity and the Eighth Precept in Daoism are basically instructing us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Hopefully, this is another important aspect that you can add to your practice. And thanks for stopping by.

01/26/2022

Today we take a closer look at the seventh rule-type precept of Daoism: When I see someone do a good deed, I will support him with joy and delight. That’s a precept which isn’t common to all religions but one that is emphasized in the Daoist Arts especially Alchemy due to its effect on vital energy. But what if you were that kind person and not someone else, which is the case with several Daoist traditions such as Quanzhen sect. So, we can actually rephrase the above rule to read: Carry out kind actions and support those who do.

This actually sets up an interesting paradox. If you remember back a week or so when I posted the first precept, it was mentioned that we are not supposed to affect the lives of others which may have a disturbing effect. or even change one’s life path. At the time, I remaked that this was the true meaning of “Leave no footprints.” And so it is. But Daoist sages further realized that it was virtually impossible to ‘leave no footprints.’ Hence, if you are going to leave footprints anyway, they might as well be ‘good’ footprints rather than ‘bad’ ones.

Positive actions generate positive mental states in those we are affecting. This in turn changes the manner in which De or Te (the manifesting virtue of Dao) exists and so creates a better world that is beneficial to the cultivation of Dao within humanity.

As for the second part of the precept, supporting others who carry out kind actions, Daoists should always seek to align themselves with and promote the actions of those who are also kind. In this way, we are again contributing to leaving ‘positive footprints.’

There’s an excellent lesson to practice all week as you work on your cultivation: ‘Leave positive footprint.’ Good luck and enjoy the practice, folks.

01/25/2022

Today we take a closer look at the sixth rule-type precept of Daoism: I will maintain harmony with my ancestors and family and never disregard my kin.

Again this is a precept that is common to many religions although it may be worded differently. For example, ‘Honor thy Father and Mother’ in Christianity. It is also one area that Daoist arts and alchemy share with traditional Daoist religion.

In Daoism and in Chinese culture as well the family is viewed as a closely united group of both living and deceased relatives. Therefore, ancestor worship is a family practice based on the belief that, although most of a family member’s spirit moves on, part of that spirit has a continued existence within the family. Furthermore, it is believed that the remaining part of the ancestor’s spirit will look after the family and possibly influence the fortunes of the living. Thus, the unity of the family is reinforced through ancestor veneration and offerings of various kinds helping to keep the ancestors happy in the spiritual world, so that they, in return, will bless the family.

Ancestor worship is not asking for favors, but a fulfilling of one’s filial duties. It is a way to pay respect and homage to the ancestors, and honor their deeds and memories, since they were the ones that brought the descendants into the world, nourished them and prepared the conditions under which the descendants could grow and mature. Thus, ancestor veneration is as much a pay back of material and spiritual debts as anything purely religious.

Tomorrow we will look at the seventh rule-type precept. As always, enjoy your practicing, folks, and thanks for stopping by.

01/24/2022

Today we take a closer look at the fifth rule-type precept of Daoism: Do not get intoxicated but always think of pure conduct.

There were never any hard and fast rules in Daoism against drugs such as alcohol and certain mushrooms except in a novice’s first hundred days when novices were expected to purify their bodies in preparation for the hard work ahead. Novices were instructed to abstain from drugs, alcohol and having sex for 100 days. Other than that, a practitioner was allowed to consume drugs such as alcohol as long as the practitioner did not consume so much as to get intoxicated.

As with the other precepts so far, this was not an ethical rule but a practical one since consuming drugs to the point of intoxication can begin to erode the will. Willpower in the Daoist arts must be developed to a very high degree. Without willpower, it was certain that practitioners would fail in their endeavors to attain Dao. As long as a practitioner could refrain from becoming tipsy or even drunk, which erodes the will, then practitioners could indulge in some premium alcohol at their own discretion. It was up to each individual to use one’s due diligence to make certain that this slight indulgence did not turn into a habit or, even worse, an addiction.

On the other hand, that part of Daoism that became codified as a religious tradition did eventually ban all intoxicants.

We will look at rule-type precept six tomorrow. In the meantime, you have my permission to become intoxicated with your Daoist Internal Arts practice. Thanks for stopping by, folks

01/23/2022

After an extremely windy Saturday, we got another beautiful spring-like Sunday in Los Angeles. A great day for hiking. I hope you enjoyed your weekend. We will resume our look into the Daoist precepts and the theory behind them on Monday. For now, get ready for a full week of working on your Internal Arts cultivation and enjoy your practice.

01/22/2022

“496 is one of the most sacred of numbers within the inner door alchemical traditions. It is the number of new beginnings and the potential for transformation. It is the number attached to the New Year in alchemy as well as rebirth and the start of a new day.” – Damo Mitchell, Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy

A very windy day in the Los Angeles area. A good day to rest up and get set for a week of intense practice. We will resume our look into the Daoist precepts and the theory behind them on Monday.

01/21/2022

Today we take a closer look at the fourth rule-type precept of Daoism: Do not cheat or misrepresent good and evil. Another way of stating that is simply: Do Not Lie or Do Not Mislead Others with Your Speech. I call this the Trump Precept.

In any case, Dishonesty begets more dishonesty as falsified communication generates distortions in your psychology, your emotions, in your relationships, and, above all, in your energy. Not only that but it increase your likelihood of lying to yourself about your own motives. According to Daoist tradition, the search for contact with Dao is made more complicated if there are excessive distortions. We can clear these distortions by telling the truth in all our communications and especially in the things we tell ourselves.

So, be true to yourself and enjoy your practicing Truth in your daily life. Thanks for stopping by.

01/20/2022

Today we take a closer look at the third rule-type precept of Daoism: Do Not Steal or receive unrighteous wealth.

Again we have an obvious precept that is common not only to many religions but penal codes and laws of nearly every country and state. We all know it is against the law to steal. But Daoism is neither concerned with ethics or laws, whether civil or religious. Instead, Daoism is full focused on cultivation and a resonance with Dao.

The Qi of any object is in part composed of the Qi of its owner. To take an object from another and bring it into your living space would mean to distort your own frequency with theirs and serve to disrupt the mental and emotional energy required for resonance with Dao. In addition, the difference between what happens on the level of Qi when something is freely given versus what happens when something is taken instead is one of balance vs imbalance and corruption. In the case of the latter, when something is taken without being given, there is a malevolent form of Qi involved that takes away from the owner’s sense of self, and obviously something which is never tolerated within Daoist tradition.

So, now we begin to see how everything in Daoism is based on the cultivation of energy, not ethics or spirituality. To balance one’s Yin and Yang energies and bring them into unity is the basis for both the rule-based precepts and the quality-based precepts. This will in turn unify one’s Xing and Ming and open the Xuan Men (the Mysterious Gate) to the flow of the Dao.

Enjoy your practicing, everyone. Thanks for stopping by.

01/19/2022

Today we look closer at the second rule-type precept: Do not be lascivious or think depraved thoughts, or simply, do not commit any sexual misconduct.

This particular precept, although it may seem consistent with that of a multitude of religious sects which focus on ethics, purity and saintliness, in Daoism it is more concerned with energetics and practicality. The idea of not committing any sexual misconduct has more to do with one’s physiological nature rather than their ethical or spiritual nature. The by-products of sexual intercourse run from emotional connection with another to an actual alteration in the nature of the Yin and Yang energies within both participants. Each time we have intercourse with a person of either gender, we radically change our own internal frequency so that it moves closer to our partner’s. Even though this is understood, we can see how this would be an issue for those who wish to align fully with Daoism as a spiritual tradition.

Originally the ‘dual-cultivation’ teachings of Daoism were an attempt to work with the shifting energies involved in intercourse such as finding the correct partner, harmonizing one’s own auric field with that of one’s partner, and maximizing the usefulness of energetic release during orgasm. But in some modern Daoist schools, these teachings have been given far more emphasis and even twisted to some extent than was originally practiced in earlier times, when they were seen as secondary practices that supported the rest of a practitioner’s cultivation. All in all, these teachings were clearly for practical energetic reasons than coming from any ethical standpoint. It was a practitioner’s complete cultivation through all levels of practice, not only refraining from sexual misconduct, that determined how far one would advance spiritually.

Tomorrow we will look at the third rule-based precept. Until then, enjoy working on your own cultivations, folks. Thanks for stopping by.

01/18/2022

Yesterday we looked at a list of the Ten Precepts of Daoism taken from the “Zhi Hui Ding Xin Jing” or “Classical Text of Aligning the Will with Wisdom,” a series of teachings that form part of the more recently discovered Dunhung manuscripts. Today we take a closer look at the first of the rule-type precepts:

Do not kill but always be mindful of the host of living beings.

That’s obvious, you say. It’s even in the Ten Commandments. Yes, it is and it is a part of the laws of a multitude of religions and various sects. So, what’s different about Daoism? Put in another way, we can say ‘Be mindful of the Cause and Effect of relating with others.’ Thus, it can be called the Cause and Effect Precept or the Awareness Precept.

What this means is that every action we take, whether consciously or unconsciously, causes an effect that ripples throughout the Natureverse. It not only has an effect on those we are interacting with but on countless others whom we don’t even know due to the ripple effect of those we interacted with interacting with others, and those others interacting with still others.

Let’s be perfectly clear, if there is one thing that greatly concerns Daoist tradition, it is to cause as little change to others’ lives as possible. With little in the way of self-awareness or awareness of others, every action that one generates ripples outwards to change the life paths of those around around us. Sometimes those changes are very subtle, sometimes they are as large as life.

The whole point of this first precept is not simply ‘Do not kill,’ but do not cause any disturbances in the lives of those around you. This is the true meaning of that ages-old Daoist adage: “Leave no footprints.”

Tomorrow we will take a look at the second precept. Until then, enjoy your practicing and leave no footprints. Thanks for stopping by.

01/17/2022

As promised, today we take a look at the Ten Precepts of Daoism, which were taken from the “Zhi Hui Ding Xin Jing” or “Classical Text of Aligning the Will with Wisdom,” a series of teachings that form part of the more recently discovered Dunhung manuscripts. These precepts are by no means consistent throughout Daoism as each tradition had its own interpretation of the key themes represented below. However, generally these were the ten classical rules of medieval Taoism as applied to practitioners attaining the rank of “Disciple of Pure Faith” or “Qīng Xīn Dì Zǐ.”

While these ten are basically rule-type precepts, there are five more that are considered quality-type precepts. What is the difference?
The ten rule-type precepts deal with one’s relationship with others and the exterior world. The quality-type precepts are just that. They deal with one’s inner qualities and one’s relationship with Self.

Here are the ten rule-type precepts:

Do not kill but always be mindful of the host of living beings.
Do not be lascivious or think depraved thoughts.
Do not steal or receive unrighteous wealth.
Do not cheat or misrepresent good and evil.
Do not get intoxicated but always think of pure conduct.
I will maintain harmony with my ancestors and family and never disregard my kin.
When I see someone do a good deed, I will support him with joy and delight.
When I see someone unfortunate, I will support him with dignity to recover good fortune.
When someone comes to do me harm, I will not harbor thoughts of revenge.
As long as all beings have not attained the Tao, I will not expect to do so myself.

Although these ten may seem obvious, we will take a deeper look at each one beginning tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy your practicing and don’t forget to keep these precepts. Thanks for stopping by.

01/16/2022

Another gorgeous Spring-like Sunday in Los Angeles with the temperature in the mid-70s. No push hands today, however. They have been suspended until April or May due to the Omicron virus. But we did practice Tai Chi and Nei Gong, which are much more important than push hands. Get ready for a full week of practice. folks!

01/15/2022

“The Formless Way
We look at it, and do not see it; it is invisible.
We listen to it, and do not hear it; it is inaudible.
We touch it, and do not feel it; it is intangible.
These three elude our inquiries, and hence merge into one.

Not by its rising, is it bright,
nor by its sinking, is it dark.
Infinite and eternal, it cannot be defined.
It returns to nothingness.
This is the form of the formless, being in non-being.
It is nebulous and elusive.

Meet it, and you do not see its beginning.
Follow it, and you do not see its end.
Stay with the ancient Way
in order to master what is present.
Knowing the primeval beginning is the essence of the Way.”
― Tao Te Ching – Translated by S. Beck

Have a great weekend, everyone. We will look at the Daoist Precepts on Monday.

01/14/2022

Today in Part 4 of the historical account of Master Sun Bu Er, excerpted from various sources by Damo Mitchell, director of Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy, we are looking at some examples of the alchemical poetry left behind by Sun Bu Er to help guide her students and followers of her tradition:

“Free yourself from loss and anxieties.
There is a solitary cloud with a wild crane that is without constraint.
Sit within the thatched building and read through the spiritual texts.
Outside of the window there are forests and streams
At the foot of the hills are bodies of water and bamboo plants.
Let the shining moon and calm breeze be your highest friends.”

“The original Qi was there long before our body.
It is as Jade that shines when we refine it.
It is shining like gold when we develop it.
End the ocean of rebirth and stand instead at the doorway of the masters.
Remain as a point of pure consciousness whilst the fire gently warms you.”

“Survive and nourish yourself on the natural Qi.
This way the Lungs will be clear.
Forget the Shen and its appearances, they are but empty at their root and distractions from the true way.
At breakfast eat wild roots and at night feed on mushrooms.
If you understand the merging of the fire with its own smoke then you will not walk on the magical pond any longer.”

“The spiritual furnace produces both mountains and lakes,
This is the basis of creation.
When you awake, greet the sun.
When you are readying for sleep, draw in the energy of the moon.
Over time, develop the elixir and allow it to purify the body.
When the Yuan Shen moves through the orifices, the apertures will shine forth with mystical light.”
“The body that exists beyond the body is not developed by arcane magical arts.
Making this body all encompassing, we should make active the Yuan Shen.
The golden liquid will condense into the shining moon.
When the Jing of the Sun and Moon have been refined and cooked then the pearl will shine so bright that all other concerns will fade from your mind.”

I hope you enjoyed this brief series on Master Sun Bu Er, the only woman among the Seven Master who were the original disciples of Wang Chong Yang of the Quanzhen sect of alchemical Daoism and founder of Qing Jing or ‘Pure and Tranquil’ lineage, which specialized in teaching female practitioners of the Dao.

Tomorrow we will take a look at the Precepts of Daoism. Enjoy your practicing, everyone. Stay healthy and take care of yourself.

01/13/2022

Today in Part3 of the historical account of Master Sun Bu Er from her “Sun Bu Er Yuan Jun Fa Yu” (孫不二元君法語) ‘The Key Teachings of the Original Master, Sun Bu Er’ as excerpted by Damo Mitchell, Lotus Neigong and the Internal Arts Academy.

“The teachings of Sun Bu Er concerning alchemy were based in the idea that male and female practitioners had a similar but slightly different journey through the arts. She divided alchemical training for women into 14 key stages which are as follows:

Governing the Mind
Nourishing the Qi
Development of Alchemical Skill
Killing the Demon Dragons
Nourishing the Internal Elixir
Development of Embryonic Breathing
Mastering the Inner Fires
Development of the Physical Elixirs
Refinement of the Shen
Mastery of the Body’s Higher Nutrient Functions
Fasting from the Grains
Facing the Wall to Attain Mastery
Entering the Void
Ascending to the Heavenly Realm on Purple Clouds

Though many of these stages actually correspond to the same process practiced by males, there are some key differences at the intermediate and advanced stages of practice. Sun Bu Er clearly had, by understanding what each of these stages involve, a clear mastery of the energetic functions of the physical body and valued the vehicle of the body with regards to its importance in spiritual work. She was also heavily influenced by the Buddhist aspect of the Quan Zhen teachings which are prominent within her tradition’s alchemical methods.”

Tomorrow we will look at some examples of the alchemical poetry left behind by Sun Bu Er to help guide her students and followers of her tradition. In the meantime, enjoy practicing, people. And thanks for stopping by.

Note: In the Image posted yesterday of the Taoist Seven Masters of Quanzhen, Sun Bu Er was in the top right corner. Below in a clearer image of the same scene.

01/12/2022

Continuing the historical account of Master Sun Bu Er, compiled by Damo Mitchell from recorded history and lecture/notes, we look at Part 2:

Sun Bu Er is famous for her inner alchemy but she is also known to have been highly capable in various forms of esoteric medicine as well as in exorcisms and the performance of superhuman feats of survival and power. She was a master of the elements of fire and lightning as well as an expert in telepathic and psychic feats. Whilst none of these were the aim of her study, they are signs of her inner development that arose from her alchemical training under Wang Chong Yang.

After attaining mastery and establishing her own lineage of practice, Sun Bu Er headed West where she took her own students and lived out her life teaching and helping the needy with her healing abilities. It is said that in order to avoid the unwanted attentions of males on her journey to the West of China, she scarred her face badly with hot oil. With such extreme scars on her face, her beauty was destroyed and she was under less risk of being raped or assaulted on her journey. This is, most likely, metaphorical though as is the case with many stories of the Chinese masters. Sun Bu Er travelled ‘West’ which is often used as a metaphor for the attainment of spiritual awakening. India sits to the West of China and at this time India was heralded as a place of great spirituality to the Chinese people. To go ‘West’ meant that a person was walking the spiritual path and thus many teachers are said to have ‘gone West’ within their stories. Sun Bu Er’s beauty is used as a metaphor for attachment to the acquired mind and the egoistic side of existence. By destroying her beauty, Sun Bu Er shed the shackles of the acquired mind so that she could attain her spiritual awakening. This is particularly fitting as Sun Bu Er’s methods are very much based in cultivation of Qi along with dropping the attachments of the acquired mind; teachings in line with the Quan Zhen line within which she studied so hard.

Sun Bu Er died in her seventies (though there is some discrepancy around this age) where she entered into a meditative state in front of her key disciples and allowed her spirit to enter into the Heavenly realm; a sign of her mastery of all stages of Daoist practice. She left behind a whole series of alchemical instructions in the form of numerous short poems and two alchemical texts entitled:

The Sun Bu Er Yuan Jin Chuan Shu Dan Dao Mi Shu (孫不二元君傳述丹道秘書) ‘The Secret Book on the Alchemical Elixir Transmitted by Sun Bu Er’

Tomorrow in Part 3 we will look at some of Master Sin Bu Er’s teachings, especially her key stages of alchemical training for women. But for now, enjoy your practicing, people, and hope you stope back tomorrow.

01/11/2022

Today we begin an historical series on the development of Daoist Alchemical practices with an emphasis on the fairer sex. Master Sun Bun Er founded the Qing JIng lineage which was primarily a tradition for female practitioners of the Dao. The following account, which will be presented in several parts, was compiled and written by my teacher, Damo Mitchell, from a mix of recorded history & lectures/notes from a teacher.

Here is Part 1:

The Qing Jing (清静) lineage was founded by master Sun Bu Er (孫不二) and it was primarily a tradition for female practitioners of the Dao. Sun Bu Er was taken as one of the seven key disciples of Wang Chong Yang during the Jin (1115-1234) dynasty. She was originally married to Ma Yu who was also one of the seven key disciples of Wang Chong Yang but she was told to divorce from him once she attained expertise in the arts so that she and her husband could travel separately and help spread the teachings of the Quan Zhen line of Daoism to different regions of China.

Sun Bu Er was one of the most accomplished masters of Daoist alchemical practice as well as Daoist medicine and, as such, is often a source of inspiration for women entering into Daoist practice even to this day. She is said to have been an incredibly beautiful lady who was born into great wealth. She gave up her rich household life at the age of 51 when she met Wang Chong Yang and he inducted her as a spiritual practitioner and then teacher within his school. She studied in person with her master for 12 years in the ‘cave’ tradition, meaning that her practice was based largely on inner vision and exploration, until she attained immortality. At this stage of her spiritual journey she saw fit to found her own tradition which specialised in the teaching of female aspirants although she also took male disciples as well. The name of her tradition became the Qing Jing or ‘Pure and Tranquil’ lineage.

It was originally Sun’s husband Ma Yu (Ma Dan Yang) who started to follow the teachings of Wang Chong Yang and the Quan Zhen sect. He joined the tradition for a three-month long retreat and came back a transformed man due to his new teacher’s transmissions. Sun Bu Er was not pleased with the transformation that her husband had gone through; though she initially argued with Wang Chong Yang and wished ill of him, she came to understand his spiritual level after he performed several outlandish feats to prove himself to her. Recognising the importance of the teachings Wang Chong Yang was able to impart, she gave her blessing to Ma Yu and also joined the tradition herself.

In an uncharacteristic move for the time, Sun Bu Er left her role as a home-maker and mother to her three children; she left with the other disciples of Wang Chong Yang and chose the path of Daoism as her route through life.

– Compiled and written by Damo Mitchell from a mix of recorded history & lectures/notes from a teacher.

I will post Part 2 tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy practicing, folks.

01/10/2022

Some truly great wisdom for today from Lao-tzu…

“Those who know don’t talk. Those who talk don’t know. Close your mouth, block off your senses, blunt your sharpness, untie your knots, soften your glare, settle your dust. This is the primal identity. Be like the Tao. It can’t be approached or withdrawn from, benefited or harmed, honored or brought into disgrace. It gives itself up continually. That is why it endures.”
― Tao Te Ching, Chapter 56

Taking an example from Lao-tzu and the Tao, we should continually give ourselves up to our practice. Enjoy, and thank for stopping by, folks

01/09/2022

“So it is said, for him who understands Heavenly joy, life is the working of Heaven; death is the transformation of things. In stillness, he and the yin share a single Virtue; in motion, he and the yang share a single flow.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

A beautiful spring-like day in Los Angeles. I got together with some friends in the park for a little push-hands and to discuss Tai Chi. Hope your day has gone well. Get set for a week of practice.

01/08/2022

Today’s Daoist quote is a very practical reminder from Wayne Ng:

“Your Highness, were I to desire to change the world, I could not succeed. The world is shaped by the Way; the self cannot shape it. Trying to change it, you damage it; trying to possess it, you lose it.”
― Wayne Ng, Finding the Way: A Novel of Lao Tzu

Let’s see if we can follow that advice and remember what shapes the world and what cannot shape it. All we can do is enjoy practicing, folks. Thanks for stopping by.

01/07/2022

Yesterday’s quote, the Story of the Stonecutter, was a rather long one. Today’s quote it short and simple but very, very important, especially if you are an Internal Arts cultivator within the Daoist tradition. I’m sure you have heard various gurus and masters talk about heavenly spirits and angels being jealous of humans. Have you ever wondered why that is? Here’s my teacher, Damo Mitchell’s very brief take on it:

“Daoist practice is based upon the idea that primordial spirit may only be refined whilst we are living within the body. This is the meaning of life within the Daoist tradition.” – Damo Mitchell, Internal Arts Academy and Lotus Neigong.

So, this refining of the primordial spirit can only be refined here on Earth while we are alive, not in Heaven, Not in Purgatory or anywhere else. So, enjoy practicing, folks, this is the only place and the only time you can refine the Spirit.

01/06/2022

Ready for a long one? This is from the “Be careful what you wish for” file, the story of the Stonecutter, courtesy of Benjamin Huff.

“There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter. To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!” Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought “I wish that I could be the sun!” Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!” Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!” Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it–a huge, towering stone “How powerful that stone is”” he thought. I wish that I could be a stone!” Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the fixture of a stonecutter.”
― Benjamin Hoff, The Tao of Pooh

So, be careful what you wish for and cultivate an attitude of Acceptance as you follow the Way. Enjoy practicing, folks. And thanks for stopping by.

01/05/2022

Do you Know what the “Te” alludes to in the Tao “Te” Ching? Today, in a short excerpt from her commentary on Hexagram #9 Xiao Chu/Small Restraint or Accumulation, Kari Hohne of CafeAuSoul.com will tell us what the idea of “Te” is. Although it is a short and simple quote, the actual practice is anything but simple.

“In Taoism, the idea of ‘Te’ is the inherent authenticity that you are born with. You need only peel away the layers of fear that keep you from expressing it. In either case, you will need to approach the object of your enquiry with gentle submissiveness to exercise, discover or release your power. Defensiveness ensures that the negative outcome is relentless. Submissiveness always opens new doors for success so simply surrender to the Way.” – Kari Hohne, commentary on Hexagram 9, Xiao Chu/Small Restraint.

Like I said, it sounds simple, but when you get right down to the practice, it can be rather daunting. But don’t let that hold you back. Go for it and practice diligently and joyfully, people.

01/04/2022

Are you practicing true benevolence? Or do you just think you are? Let’s find out from no better authority than Chuang-tzu…

“All attempts to create something admirable are the weapons of evil. You may think you are practicing benevolence and righteousness, but in effect you will be creating a kind of artificiality. Where a model exists, copies will be made of it; where success has been gained, boasting follows; where debate exists, there will be outbreaks of hostility.”
― Zhuangzi, The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu

Whether it’s benevolence or Internal Arts, let’s make it real and not artificial. Enjoy the cultivation, people!

01/03/2022

Who do you trust? Well, let’s check in with Stephen Russell and find out:

“You can trust everyone to be human, with all the quirks and inconsistencies we humans display, including disloyalty, dishonesty and downright treachery. We are all capable of the entire range of human behavior, given the circumstances, from absolute saintliness to abject depravity. Trusting someone to limit their sphere of action to one narrow band on the spectrum is idealistic and will inevitably lead to disappointment.

“On the other hand, you can decide to trust that everyone is doing their best according to their particular stage of development, and to give everyone their appropriate berth. For this to work, you have to trust yourself to make and have made the right choices that will lead you on the path to your healthy growth. You have to trust yourself to come through every experience safely and enriched. But don’t trust what I am saying. Listen and then decide for yourself. Does this information sit easily in your belly? You know when you trust yourself around someone because your belly feels settled and your heart feels warm.”
― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

And I trust you will enjoy practicing. So, get to it, folks.

01/02/2022

Today’s quote is from Laozi and the Tao Te Ching, Chapter 11, reminding us as we start of this new year of the “usefulness of what is not there,” in other words, emptiness.

“Thirty spokes share the wheel’s hub;
It is the center hole that makes it useful.
Shape clay into a vessel;
It is the space within that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows for a room;
It is the holes which make it useful.
Therefore profit comes from what is there;
Usefulness from what is not there.”
– Laozi, Tao Te Ching, Ch. 11

So, empty out those things inside that aren’t useful to your cultivation, and enjoy your practicing, folks!

01/01/2022 – NEW YEAR’S DAY

We start off the 2022 with a quote from my teacher, Damo Mitchell, www.DamoMitchell.com, commenting on a line from the Tao Te Ching:

“Humanity follows the Earth, the Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows the Dao, and the Dao follows what is natural.” (Ch. 25, Tao Te Ching)
Essentially translated as: your state of being will follow the conditions of the body which, in turn follow the condition of the mind. The mind is dictated by the unfolding path that originates from a place of non-conditioning.
It is a line that describes the nature of the tradition of Daoism and how, through internal training, the conditioned root of conscious distortion is eliminated and thus a person may experience a state of true being.
It has nothing to do with respecting the Earth, being spontaneous or being one with nature”
– Damo Mitchell, Internal Arts Academy and Lotus Neigong

So get ready for your best year of practice and cultivation ever. Enjoy, everyone!