Chronicles of Tao II

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Taoism is the method of studying and bringing ourselves into harmony with the Tao – or, still further, it is the procedure for uniting with the Tao itself. The sages say, “Tao is forever, and he that possesses it, though his body ceases, is not destroyed.” However, there is no one simple method. People are different, and the Tao is never static. Different ways of life must be tailored according to the needs and destinies of individuals. This is why The Seven Bamboo Tablets catalogue three hundred sixty ways of self-cultivation.

Taoism is a spiritual system of many levels. Where other religions strive to totally define their beliefs to the exclusion of all others, the vast, sprawling range of Taoism embraces the whole universe. One of its most fundamental points of philosophical origin is to accept humanity and the world as they are.

Starting with humanity itself, the Taoists appreciated its intrinsic characteristics of sin and aspiration, wretchedness and nobility, savagery and artfulness, emotion and intelligence, perversity and purity, sadism and compassion, violence and pacifism, egotism and transcendence. Unlike other sages, the Taoists chose not to reject humanity’s evil impulses. The duality had to be accepted and worked with.

Once both sides of dualism were accepted, the Taoists clearly saw that individuals combined good and evil in varying proportions. Taoism therefore evolved into a system large enough to satisfy the needs of all the different people. Taoists gave morality and piety to the common man; faith and loyality to the hero; martial arts and sorcery to the power-hungry man; knowledge to the intellectual; and, for the rare few looking for even more, they gave meditation and the secret to transcendence. Then they turned everything inside out and said, “Not only are these segments of the world’s people, but by the principle of microcosm and macrocosm, they are also inner realities of every individual.”

The Taoist is always a pragmatist, not an idealist. His interest is always to deal with what is there before him, rather than to impose his will upon reality. Perhaps it is for this reason that Taoism is sometimes accused of being too slippery and elusive to define. Some might even say it is an opportunist’s doctrine. But actually, all Taoism cares about is dealing with the situation before it, the one that always changes, the Tao.

Historically, there are five major antecedents to Taoism. Shamanism, philosophy, hygiene, alchemy, and the school of Peng-Lai were the components of what would develop into a massive spiritual movement.

Shamanism was Taoism’s earliest beginning. The primitive peoples believed in a world of gods, demons, ancestral spirits, and an all-powerful Nature that was mysterious and even unresponsive to humanity. They turned to their leaders, shaman priests who used magic to cure the sick, divine the hidden, and control events. The priests intervened through their personal power between their constituents ans a hostile world.

Cults of divine beings sprang up to further make life understandable. Chief among these cults were the worship of ancestors – for the joint work of agriculture made the family unit essential – and the worship of nature gods of the earth, mountain, lake, trees, harvest, and so on. Indeed, every conceivable feature of the landscape and agricultural life was believed to have its divinity. The Yellow River, for example, was called the Count of the River, and he was believed to ride a chariot drawn by tortoises. The people sought to placate his cruel and temperamental flooding by human sacrifices equally as terrible. It was only through the intervention of enlightened sages that the people gradually progressed in their consciousness. Emperor Huang-Di was known for his discourse on medicine. Emperor Fu Xi taught divination and formulated the Eight Trigrams. Emperor Shen Nong experimented with herbs upon his own body. Emperor Yu tamed the floods. These emperors of prehistory shaped shamanism and originated elements of Taoism that still persist today. Many of our traditions of nature worship, divination, geomancy, talismanic art, exorcism, and spirit oracles harken back to the centuries that preceded recorded history.

The philosophical school of Taoism, the pure Conversation School, can be held to have originated during the Zhou dynasty. Lao Tzu was such a Taoist. When he left Luoyang to renounce the world, he came for a time to Huashan. But because of his discourses in the court with Confucius, his philosophy took a twin course: It became part of Taoism, and it gradually became a somewhat secular philosophy for the literati. In the third century A.D. schools of thought, centered around such thinkers as Chuang Tzu and Lieh Tzu, advocated a Taoism that propounded non-contention, theories of government by virtue, relativity of opposites, and the search for the Tao through meditation. The schools that arose from this period may therefore be considered to have advocated an intellectual class of Taoism that paid little attention to divinities, shamanism, or physical practice.

Physical practice arose from hygiene school. The essential premises of this lineage are that both the physical body and the mind must be disciplined and cultivated as means to spiritual attainment. From the first to fourth centuries A.D., the school’s teachings were codified first in the Jade Classic of the Yellow Chamber and then the True Classic of the Great Mystery. It was in these early centuries doctrines arose of the three dan tian vital centers: breath circulation, diet, meditation,  martial arts. All this was united in a principle postulating the existence of thirty-six thousand gods within the human body. Given the assumption of the person as divine receptacle, it is easy to see how they believed that the body should be kept pure and strong – for it was believed that the gods would abandon an unfit body. There was a strong leaning toward asceticism. Wine, drugs, and all external means were rejected, since they could potentially offend one’s resident gods.

The goal of the hygiene school was initially physical immortality. But they gradually became aware of the doctrine of reincarnation, and their priorities shifted to the creation of an immortal soul within the earthly shell that could transcend death.

The alchemists, by contrast, continued to believe in physical immortality. Their origins were in the Five Element School of Tsou Yen, who came into prominence about 325 B.C. It was from this lineage that the fang shih originated. The Fang shih – Formula Masters – were so called because they experimented constantly to find the formula for immortality. They engaged in endless combining of herbs, minerals, and chemicals, and all sorts of smelting processes. Unfortunately for their health, most of their early efforts concentrated on such minerals as mercury, sulfur, and lead. Eventually, they adjusted their research – if only in the interests of self-preservation – toward the use of herbs, ritual, sexual alchemy, meditation and magic. It is this division of Taoism that inherited the early shamanistic concerns of demon enslavement and sorcery.

We come finally to the cult of Peng-Lai, the school that is most unabashedly concerned with simple physical immortality. Sometime around the fourth century B.C., a legend arose about magic islands somewhere in the Pacific where the Mushroom of Immortality grew. Expedition after expedition was launched to find the islands. By the time of Emperor Qin Shi, who united China in 221 B.C. and ruled a mere sixty miles from Huashan, the cult of Peng-Lai combined with the alchemist-magicians. Along with their arts of spirit possession and witchcraft, they advocated the cult of Peng-Lai. Emperor Qin Shi wanted to live forever, and the man who ordered the Great Wall built became a fanatic about Peng-Lai and alchemy. The Emperor sent ten thousand girls and boys to search for Peng-Lai, with orders to succeed or be punished with execution. The ten thousand found the islands of Japan, but no Mushrooms of Immortality, and opted to stay rather than be executed. The Emperor’s efforts at alchemical preservation of his own Imperial person were no more successful. In fact, it is rumored that the illness that killed him was brought on by ingesting some poisonous formula.

From the fourth century A.D. to the present, there has been enormously complex cross-pollination of these five basic aspects. Sixteen centuries of the Taoist movement have generated endless combinations and recombinations. All the thousands of later sects and forms of Taoism can be distinguished as either left- or right-handed Taoism. On the left are sorcery, alchemy, sexual practice and demon enslavement. Roughly, it is a path that believes in external methods. The right-handed path advocates asceticism, celibacy, and meditation. Roughly, it is an internal path. Somewhat common to both are studies in scriptures, worship, meditation, divination, chanting, pursuit of immortality, geomancy, talismanic art, vision quests, and so on. All ostensibly seek union with the Tao; they only differ in their methodology and interpretation of Taoist principles. All are considered valid and orthodox methods. All yield results, and high masters of any sect can demonstrate supernatural power and manifest great spiritual insight.

But I am rigorously opposed to the left-handed path. There is too much temptation. Admittedly, one can practice asceticism sincerely and honestly and gain only contentment, tranquility, and piety. One is not necessarily freed from tribulation. The left-hand path grants great power with a simple incantation or ingestion of pills. But the results are not honestly gained, and the adept, not having undergone the struggle to gain his position with a sound set of values, finds it too tempting to abuse his power. Levitation, transformation, seeing into the future, and controlling demons are all instantly available on the left-hand path. But nothing is free in life. Consorting with the dark side requires payment, and one’s only form of barter is the human soul. Each time the force of dark Tao is tapped, it feeds upon a small bit of the human essence. The whole person is eventually transformed into an agent for the dark Tao. Immortality and power are yours for eternity, but you have sacrificed your soul for it.

In conclusion, I say that the Tao is awesome and transcends human conception. Taoism, with its centuries of great minds seeking to know the Tao, has expanded into a labyrinthine sprawl of different doctrines and schools. There are Taoists for every facet of the Tao – even if it is Tao’s evil side. But I say to you that in spite of this staggering amount of human effort, the Tao remains an enigma and mystery that nevertheless inexorably surrounds our lives and destinies.

Source: Deng Ming-Dao – Chronicles of Tao

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Chronicles of Tao

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A person is like a cartwheel; each stage of his life is like a spoke. When the wheel hits a rock, it will either stop, shatter, or roll right over. But the rock cannot be avoided. So it is for you: no matter what happens, you must meet life head-on.

You must proceed from one stage to another, just as the spokes of the cartwheel revolve. At each stage, you will experience new knowledge. It is only by using this knowledge and following uninterruptedly the turning of your life that you will fulfill your destiny.

(…) At the edge of each new phase, you will feel aspiration, curiosity, inquisitiveness. You will want knowledge, and acquiring some will only make you thirst for more. That is right. You are a human being, and it is human nature to seek knowledge. Therefore, pursue knowledge without hesitation or compromise.

Remember, however, that the time to go from stage to stage is precise, just as the spokes of the cartwheel are precisely set. If you try to skip a stage, or rush to the next, your personality will warp. If you do not move on to the next stage, you will be retarded. The stages of growth can neither be avoided nor held fast. You must proceed through them. This requires guidance. Only a master can guide you, only he can perceive the stages, only he can shape you into the perfection you will need to succeed.

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If you do not work, you do not eat. Work and reward go hand in hand.

Everyone in the temple must work, and humility is always fostered. One who works, one who serves, cannot set himself above others. This is important, because with humility you will never become arrogant. No matter how high you climb on the path of knowledge, you will not misuse your powers but instead will help others. Through work and humility, you will know compassion.

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“The more you learn, the more you must use your knowledge for others,” said the Grand Master. “The wiser you become, the more unselfish you must also become. As your experience deepens, and with it your humility, you will realize unfathomable depths of knowledge. You can never become arrogant and narrow-minded if you perceive how small your abilities are when contrasted to those of the greatest.

Remember to use your knowledge in the service of others, but expect nothing in return. Never seek a reward for your labors, for that is a sin.”

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Learning martial arts means self-assurance, not arrogance. Your confidence should make you the meekest, most humble person on earth. If you are secure in your techniques, nothing anyone can do has any meaning. It is impossible for them to annoy you because you know they cannot harm you. You know you can fight, but you do not exercise that ability. You remain free of violence.

Walking away from a confrontation makes one superior. You have not been taught martial arts to kill, to win glory for yourself, or to exalt religion. Rather, the purpose is self-discipline and self-defense.

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You can only see the gods and heaven by mastering this world.

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Meditation is not simply something you do by itself, casually. Other disciplines complement it and must also be mastered. Martial arts generate mighty strength, and the raw energy for meditation, but the mind must be cultivated through music, calligraphy, painting, and metaphysics before you can be ready for contemplation.

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Good and evil exists as destiny and fate. (…) No, they aren’t [the same]. Destiny is that which you must fulfill in this lifetime. You are born with a task. During your life, you must continually strive to identify it and complete it to its last detail. This is no simple errand, mind you. It is a terrible intricate and unique enigma for each person that must be slowly be brought to fruition. The issue at stake is nothing less than transcending the consequences of past lives in order to be reborn in a higher state or, better yet, to escape all together. That is destiny.

Fate is an active agent that exists solely to deter you from fulfilling your destiny. It struggles against you, impedes your progress. Fate functions through illusion. It is responsible for mirages that lead you astray. It is temptation. It tricks you, fills your mind with grand notions and proud thoughts. Fate would like nothing better than to deter you from your goal. Whenever you think of doing wrong or play a trick, and you become aware of yourself, you have instantly found fate. Give and fate has won. Resist and it has lost. But it will be there, tirelessly waiting to distract you once more.

This is what “Heaven and hell are right here on earth” means. Don’t look outwardly for heavenly beings and hellish denizens. Look within you. Pursue your destiny and you are closer to heaven. Yield to fate and you slip toward hell. If you ultimately fulfill your destiny, you transcend human existence. If you fall to Fate, you suffer in a quagmire of delusion and ignorance.

If you understand good and evil as destiny and fate, you understand that your actions alone move you toward one or the other. Nothing else enters into your life equation. Solve a bit of your destiny and you triumph. Give in the slightest to delusion and your vision is all the more obscured.

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Enter stillness.

Source: Deng Ming-Dao – Chronicles of Tao

Nanzen-ji II

Nanzen-ji

Initial a fost rezidenta imparatului Kameyama (1249-1305) de numai 26 de ani, dupa abdicarea sa in 1274. Impresionat de puterea zazen-ului, el a dedicat o parte a palatului sau pentru aranjarea unui templu in anul 1290.

Nanzen-ji este adapostit intr-o padure de brazi, la poalele Daimonji-yama si este o parte componenta a Scolii Rinzai a budismului Zen. Nanzen-ji constituie un exemplu al credintei Zen in relatia existenta intre toate lucrurile. Padurea de brazi influenteaza arhitectura, arta influenteaza gradina si, toate impreuna, influenteaza observatorul. Templul reflecta stilul chinezesc (kara-yo), sosit in Japonia impreuna cu Zen-ul. Acesta, evoluand de-a lungul perioadei Ashigaka (1333-1573), a atins un echilibru aproape perfect intre stilul solemn chinezesc si simplitatea stilului  nativ japonez. Explorarea celor doua cladiri din cartierul staretilor – Daiho-jo si Shoho-jo – reflecta interconexiuna existenta intre arhitectura gradinii si pictura peisagista. Locul este plin de picturi celebre, precum Tigrul in gradina de bambusi, iar gradinile din jur sunt renumite ca fiind unele din cele mai frumoase din Japonia.

Construit initial ca vila a imparatului Kameyama in 1264 si devenit lacas de cult in 1293, Templul Nanzen-ji este unul din cele mai importante din Kyoto, dar si sediul central al sectei zen Rinzai. Amplasate intr-o padure de pini ce se intinde in spatele lor, spre dealurile pline de arbori, templele auxiliare, unele avand gradini minunate, sunt atat de numeroase incat Nanzen-ji pare a fi un oras de temple. Majoritatea constructiilor actuale (cele originale au fost distruse), au fost ridicate la inceputul secolului al XVII-lea.

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Impunatoarea poarta sanmon, o structura masiva din lemn intunecat in fata intrarii, a fost facuta in 1628. Merita sa urci cateva trepte ca sa fii rasplatit cu o splendida imagine a orasului, vazut de la nivelul superior. Mutata de la fostul palat imperial din Kyoto, Sala Hojo de dinolo de poarta are usi culisante decorate cu capodoperele artistilor din scoala Kano, cele mai remarcabile compozitii fiind ale vestitului Kano Tanyu (1602-1674) cu tigri ce beau apa intr-o padurice de bambusi. Langa Hojo se afla o gradina zen minunata, cu un peisaj bogat in arbori, pietre cu forme interesante si nisip greblat.

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Nanzen-ji I

M-am indragostit.

Ati simtit vreodata, la mii de kilometri de unde v-ati nascut, ca sufletul va e acasa? Ca toate drumurile si toate eforturile facute au fost pentru a ajunge in exact acel loc?

Acasa pentru mine a fost in Nanzen-ji.

O data intrata pe poarta Sanmon timpul s-a oprit in loc si mi s-a facut liniste in suflet.

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De Nanzen-ji apartin mai multe temple. Am intrat in Nanzen-in si Nanzen-ji (in poza e sageata cu Hojo Garden), iar astazi va scriu despre primul.

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Nanzen-in

La vreo 200 de metri  la sud de incinta principala [a Nanzen-ji], unde se ajunge trecand pe sub un vechi apeduct din caramida, se afla Nanzen-in, un templu mai mic ce tine de Nanzen-ji, care, de mult, a fost locuinta privata a imparatului Kameyama. Este inconjurata de o gradina frumoasa, cu pini, muschi si un iaz plin de crapi multicolori. Aducand apa din lacul Biwako, apeductul ridicat la sud de Nanzen-in este o constructie neobisnuita in Japonia, avand arcade din caramida rosie, in stil roman. Mai sus de apeduct, pe deal, exista o padure de pini. Poteca trece pe sub porti torii rosii inainte de a ajunge la o poiana frumoasa cu un mic altar sintoist care cinsteste o cascada sacra.

 

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Inima pura, minte iluminata

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Trei ani de calatorii in afara pentru a ajunge in acelasi loc inauntru.

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Omul e bogat cat saracia nevoilor sale.

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Ma simteam foarte libera, libertatea drumetiei in care faceam ce voiam cand voiam, fara teama. Era o placere care izvoraste din actul inconstient de a-ti pune palmele pe fata si a-ti da seama ca zambesti si ca zambetul e de-acum expresia ta naturala.

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E adevarat ca daca iti iubesti dusmanul il ucizi, pentru ca inceteaza sa existe.

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Totul era grozav pe lume. Numai de m-as putea desparti de ego suficient cat sa rad de greselile mele, cred ca asta ar fi cea mai eficienta reactie.

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Zilele astea simt frigul si cam atat. Nu exista comentariul; sinele meu nu-i rezista si nici nu trebuie sa-l conving. Precum koan-ul despre a nu te uda, mi-e frig; sigur ca mi-e frig, dar nu chiar frig. Takuhatsu [cersit] va iesi bine si am irosit prea multa energie facandu-mi griji cu iarna.

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Munca isshaken mei [din tot sufletul si cu toata inima] nu este corvoada.

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De curand ma simt ridicol de fericita. Fara motiv. Debordez de bucurie. Mi-amintesc cand eram mult mai tanara si m-am hotarat sa ma sinucid la 26 de ani. Dupa 30 de ani o luam la vale, deci 26 de ani erau suficient de trait. Gandeam ca daca pana la acea varsta nu reusesc sa fac ce mi-am propus in viata oricum nu voi mai face vreodata, asa ca la fel de bine as putea sa pun punct. Acum am 26 de ani si ma simt de parca mi-as fi trait viata. Ciudata senzatie. Ca si cum as fi aproape de moarte. Orice dorinte, ambitii si sperante as fi putut avea ori s-au implinit, ori s-au evaporat spontan. Sunt complet satisfacuta. Sigur ca vreau sa ajung mai in profunzime, sa vad mai limpede, iar de-as putea si as avea parte doar de trezirea asta marunta, superficiala, as fi foarte multumita. Perspectiva unei ierni reci si lungi nu-i doar in regula, e chiar satisfacatoare. Totul pare sa fie minunat. Chiar si bolile indezirabile, dureroase au o exaltare si o frumusete patrunzatoare. Asa ca intr-un sens simt ca am murit deja; nu mai am nimic la care sa aspir, nimic care sa-mi justifice sau sa-mi stimuleze existenta. Cadavru viu la 26 de ani, si ce viata am dus!

M-ar jena sa spun asta oricui, suna asa de aiurea, dar de-acum mi-au ramas vreo 50 sau 60 de ani (cine stie?) de viata – deschisi, nescrisi, gata de trait. Vreau sa-i traiesc pentru alti oameni. Ce altceva sa fac cu ei? Nu ca ma astept sa schimb lumea sau macar un fir de iarba, dar e ca si cum a ma darui e tot ce pot face, cum florile nu au de ales decat sa infloreasca. Tot ce pot face momentan e sa ofer oamenilor aceasta libertate, aceasta fericire, si cum sa o fac mai bine decat prin zazen? Asa ca trebuie sa ajung tot mai in profunzime si sa muncesc din greu, dar deja nu pentru mine, ci pentru toti cei pe care ii pot ajuta.

 

Dupa cum reveleaza aceasta reflectie, Maura nu considera iluminarea ca ceva ce trebuie atins doar pentru sine. Isi dorea sa se goleasca pe sine pentru a-i servi pe ceilalti pe calea compasiunii. Aceasta a fost dorinta Maurei. Dar nu si karma ei. Dupa ce a parasit manastirea in drumul spre Irlanda, a murit intr-un accident de autobuz in Thailanda. Avea 27 de ani.

Sursa: Maura O’Halloran – Inima pura, minte iluminata

Calatoria in timp

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Povestea incepe la sfarsitul secolului trecut, cand tanarul H.G. Wells scria si rescria povestirea fantastica din care avea sa se nasca prima lui carte si o senzatie internationala: Masina Timpului. Era o epoca in care o multime de forte se uneau pentru a remodela perspectiva umana asupra timpului. Unele erau filosofice, altele tehnologice: telegraful electric, locomotiva cu aburi, descoperirea civilizatiilor ingropate si perfectionarea ceasurilor. James Gleick urmareste evolutia calatoriei in timp ca idee care devine parte din cultura contemporana – de la Marcel Proust la Doctor Who, de la Jorge Luis Borges la Woody Allen. Autorul cerceteaza inevitabilele paradoxuri in bucla si analizeaza granita flexibila dintre fictiune „pulp” si fizica moderna. In final, se apleaca asupra unei transfigurari temporale care zguduie chiar prezentul nostru: lumea conectata instantaneu, cu prezentul ei atotcuprinzator si viitorul tot mai scurt.

Oamenii ca noi, care cred in fizica, stiu ca distinctia dintre trecut, prezent si viitor nu este decat o iluzie care persista cu incapatanare. (Einstein)

Timpul si spatiul sunt moduri in care gandim, nu conditii in care traim. (Einstein)

Am raspunsuri aproximative si convingeri posibile si grade diferite de certitudine despre diverse lucruri, dar nu sunt absolut sigur de nimic. (Feynman)

Sursa: James Gleick – Calatoria in timp-o istorie

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