August 26, 2012
This fragile body
For mind and soul.
. . .
We cannot afford to neglect our bodies, even if we recognise that we must not identify with them exclusively. Actually, in our search for our true selves, our physical existence is the best place to start. We can alter our lives by how we eat and exercise, and we can expedite our search by keeping ourselves healthy. If we are free of physical blockages and pain, we can identify with our inner selves much better.
In the search for the mind and soul, it is wise to understand that the body is not the true self, but it is also wise to maintain the body. There should be neither denial nor mortification of the flesh, but it takes a wise person to both maintain the body and look beyond it.
. . .
by Deng Ming Dao
September 11, 2010
Which came first,
Experience or meaning?
When we were children, a favorite riddle used to be, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This conundrum was so sticky that it stayed with us even into adulthood and became a cliché indicating any difficult situation of logic.
Maybe meaning in life is somewhat arbitrary. People go to work, and their work becomes part of the meaning to their lives. People marry and have a family and declare that these are the most important things to them. If they had taken different jobs, or if they had married a different person, or if they had renounced the world and had become nuns and monks, wouldn’t their lives have had different meanings?
And then we have the people for whom life dictated so many meanings: A person with physical deformities will have a much different life than one born healthy. Someone born into a wealthy, aristocratic family will obviously have a much different outlook than a beggar’s child. Someone born in Asia will look at life differently than someone born in Europe.
So which comes first, those who say that meaning comes from our definitions, or those who declare that our circumstances determine our meaning?
July 24, 2010
Can you see a sound?
Can you hear light?
Can you unite your senses?
Can you turn inward?
What we are all seeking is clarity. Forget about religious rationalisations. Forget about elaborate explanations. What we all want is clarity. What we abhor is ignorance. Ignorance confuses us, brings misfortune and sorrow, and makes us miserable. If we have clarity, then we can live with equanimity.
It is a misconception that spirituality brings everlasting happiness. There is no such thing. Sadness still comes to the wise, but, unlike most people, their clarity of mind allows them to see beyond the temporal emotionalism of the moment. They are farseeing, and so happiness and sorrow become the same to them.
True clarity is more than just being smart, more than just being wise. Clarity manifests from meditation. It comes when you can unite all the faculties of the mind and unify them into a magnificent light of perception. It is hard to talk of this in anything but mystical terms. Our language is unfamiliar with the frontiers of the spirit because few have ever seen those limits, let alone described them. But let’s try.
If you unite sound with vision, then you will create light.
That light is the concentration force of the mind.
It is by that brightness that truth is revealed.
July 4, 2010
Enter the cavern with its
Walls of tangled strands.
Find the living flame
That burns on blood.
The brain is a physical object that generates mental energy. It is a tangle of strands, an unknowable, dense web. It is a mass of emotions, memories, instincts, reactions, and thoughts. Whatever comes into its scope of awareness is channeled through its dark core. Energy sparks through at speeds faster than lightening, but still, there are many areas that lie dormant, unused, nearly petrified with age.
With the proper methods, we can enter into the centre of the brain. Metaphorically speaking, this area is like a cavern with a subterranean river running through it. That river can be kindled with a spiritual spark, and the whole river can be set aflame. This illumination is spiritual energy. It can be used to rejuvenate the brain and to supplement the limitations of our normal mental abilities.
Methods that deal with the mind only as a brain will always be limited. Coping with life only through physical faculties will always fall short of the ultimate answers. Only through lighting a living fire within ourselves can we dance quickly and spontaneously enough to meet the rhythm of life.
June 23, 2010
When will craving end?
Originally there was nothing. It is to nothing that we return. Differentiation came out of the interplay of cosmic opposites. Human life became mired in complexities, and this constant diversity is stressful and disruptive. We ourselves add to the problem with our own lusts and ambitions. We intoxicate ourselves, we indulges in sensual gratification, we strive for success in our careers, we commit decades to the raising of children. All this, only to be caught in the closing jaws of old age, gradually hemmed in until there is no alternative other than sorrows, infirmaries, and senility.
Duty is inevitable, but we need not saddle ourselves with extra responsibilities. Keep life simple. Give up as much as possible. Renounce unnecessary cravings and desires. Leave behind the trappings of wealth and success. Turn toward the divine. It satisfies, it brings knowledge, and it brings joy.
June 21, 2010
When the true light appears,
The entire planet turns to face it.
The summer solstice is the time of greatest light. It is a day of enormous power. The whole planet is turned fully to the brilliance of the sun.
This great culmination is not static or permanent. Indeed, solstice as a time of culmination is only a barely perceptible point. The sun appears to stand still. Its diurnal motion seems to nearly cease. Yesterday, it was still reaching this point; tomorrow, it will begin a new phase of its cycle.
Those who follow Tao celebrate this day to remind themselves of the cycles of existence. They remember that all cycles have a left and a right, an up side and a down side, a zenith and a nadir. Today, day far surpasses night, and yet night will gradually begin to reassert itself. All of life is cycles. All of life is balance.
So celebrate, but be not proud. For whenever you celebrate high achievement, the antithesis is also approaching. Likewise, in misfortune, be not sad. For whenever you mourn in grief, the antithesis is also approaching. Those who know how to reach the peak of any cycle and remain glorious are the wisest of all.
March 18, 2010
And you will
Fate is the force that interferes with our lives, wrecking things at the worst moments. Yet what we call fate is nothing more that the consequence of our own actions. Each time we act, we generate a chain of events that is tied to us completely. The faster we run from these links, the faster they follow us. They cannot be severed; our every act binds us further.
The operative element here is time. The events of the past are the curse. Beginning followers of Tao learn to manipulate past, present, and future. They learn how circumstances operate and seek to take advantage of that. More advanced followers of Tao eschew this process of manipulation. They obliterate all regard to past, present, and future as definitions in order to negate the concept of fate.
In order to attain a state of being where there is no past to weight upon the present and no future to be determined, followers of Tao must reach a profound merging with Tao. The follower then acts no differently that Tao would. There is no fate to oppose them, for they are existence, they are causality, they are Tao itself.
March 14, 2010
An opening in the storming sea,
Gold deposited on bones.
Once accumulation has begun,
Take care not to interfere.
There is a fable about a pious man whose father had just died. A geomancer instructed the son to bury his father at the mouth of a sea cave. The sea opened at this spot only once in a hundred years, and a family who utilised it would experience great fortune. Although he had misgivings about this unorthodox location, the son threw the casket into the waters at the indicated time.
For weeks the son doubted what he had done. He eventually went to a competing geomancer who, out of jealousy, advised the son to raise the casket. The son did so. When the coffin was brought up and opened, the man saw that a fine layer of gold had already been deposited on his father’s bones – a clear indication of the auspicious transformation that had begun. In regret, the son wanted to throw his father back in, but it was too late. There was no remedying what had been done.
Spiritual practise must be uninterrupted. We may be anxious because we see very little happening on a daily basis, but we must be patient until we can see what the accumulation of our effort yields. Self-cultivation means steady, gradual progress. To stop prematurely would be more disastrous than never having started at all.
March 9, 2010
Storm breaks into pieces,
Clouds charge the horizon.
Revolving of the heavens
Generates all movement.
Without movement, there could be nothing created in this universe. The revolving of the heavens can generate wind, rain, thunder, lightening. The revolving of the earth enables us to have day and night, the very cycle of the weather, the seasons, and the growth of plants. Movement is responsible for creativity.
Followers of Tao value initiative, but mere aggression is not enough. One needs creativity. This can mean the ability to solve problems, to think of unusual strategies, or to compose poetry, music and painting. In all these cases, one moves in concert with Tao not by blind aping, but by giving intelligent counterpoint and harmony. Creativity does not mean the arbitrary making of something out of our cultural minds. Rather, it is spontaneous movement in tandem with Tao, a movement that will generate life and not misery for others.
One has reached the ultimate levels of creativity when one has mastered skill so thoroughly that it has been forgotten. Look at heaven and earth. Do they think about creating the weather, the seasons, and the cycles of growing? They only go on revolving according to their nature, and the rest is generated without any thought or work on their part. This is truly effortless action and is considered the highest skill that a follower of Tao can attain.
March 7, 2010
Dawn is a shimmering of the horizon.
Dusk is a settling of the sky.
Dawn and dusk together represent the measure of a day. When the sun rises, the moon sets. When the moon rises, the sun sets. This represents the cycle of existence, for without such alternation, the power of the universe could not be generated. When the sun reaches its zenith, it will inevitably begin its descent towards its nadir. All events – including our own plans and activities – follow the same pattern.
It is wisdom to know the cycles of life and where any particular circumstance that we are involved in stands on the curve. If we want to perpetuate something, we should join it to new growth to compound our progress. If we want to destroy something, we need only lead it to its extreme, for all things decline after their zenith.
All too often, people express uncertainty about where they stand in life. It’s important to examine both the short-range and the long-range. If you want to go far in a decade, you have to go far each year. If you want to go far each year, you have to make sure that you do something significant each day. Use the cycles of life to establish a measure to your life, and then arrange your plans according to the units that you have chosen. Then there will be no fear of not knowing you own progress.