Bob Schwartz

Category: Taoism

Crow and heron, goose and crow. And fish.

“Now, about what it means to realize conclusively that what is unborn and marvelously illuminating is truly the Buddha Mind: Suppose ten million people got together and unanimously declared that a crow was a heron. A crow is black, without having to be dyed that way, just as a heron is white—that’s something we always see for ourselves and know for a fact. So even if, not only ten million people, but everyone in the land were to get together and tell you a crow was a heron, you still wouldn’t be fooled, but remain absolutely sure of yourself. That’s what it means to have a conclusive realization. Conclusively realize that what is unborn is the Buddha Mind and that the Buddha Mind is truly unborn and marvelously illuminating, and everything will be perfectly managed with the Unborn, so that, whatever people try to tell you, you won’t let yourself be fooled by them. You won’t accept other people’s delusions.”
Bankei Zen

“You, Sir, if you want to stop everything below Heaven losing its original simplicity, you must travel with the wind and stand firm in Virtue. Why do you exert yourself so much, banging a big drum and hunting for a lost child? The snow goose doesn’t need a daily bath to stay white, nor does the crow need to be stained every day to stay black. Black and white comes from natural simplicity, not from argument. Fame and fortune, though sought after, do not make people greater than they actually are. When the waters dry up and the fish are stranded on the dry land, they huddle together and try to keep each other moist by spitting and wetting each other. But wouldn’t it be even better if they could just forget each other, safe in their lakes and rivers?”
Book of Chuang Tzu

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Thunder in the Lake/Following (Hexagram 17)

The thunder rises in the east
The lake sets in the west.
Miles and eons between
Originating in thunder
Maturing on an island in the lake.
All along
Sublime, smooth
Favorable, steadfast.
Follow when the time is right
Follow when the time has come.

“According to King Wen’s arrangement of the eight primary gua (trigrams of the I Ching), Thunder symbolizes the sun rising in the east, and Lake the sun setting in the west. ‘Thunder in the midst of Lake’ symbolizes that sunrise will surely follow sunset, that time continues in the proper order.

“This gua (hexagram) is very special, for it possesses the four virtues, as do the first and the second gua: yuan, heng, li, zhen….the four attributes of Heaven, symbolizing the virtues of an emperor, a leader, or a superior person. Yuan means sublime and initiative. Heng means prosperous and smooth. Li means favorable and beneficial. Zhen means steadfast and upright. Throughout the I Ching you will find these four phrases attributed to certain gua, though few are so auspicious as to have all four. These four Chinese characters also indicate the functions of the four seasons of a year: originating, developing, maturing, and declining, referring to spring, summer, autumn, and winter.” (Alfred Huang)

World Series I Ching

world-series-2016

The rope fails to raise
Water
From the Well.
The pitcher is broken.
Calamity.
From Hexagram 48 – Jing/The Well

The World Series begins tonight. I am consulting the I Ching about it, and I will explain my purpose carefully.

As I’ve written before, in my view the I Ching is not a predictive oracle, a divining tool, a crystal ball, though it began that way thousands of years ago and is still used that way around the world. It is an insight tool, and an unsurpassed one, offering vision into circumstances and situations so that we may act more knowingly.

Which itself would be useful, if I was Manager of the Indians or Cubs. I could use it to help determine the lineup, or to decide when to pull the starting pitcher. And if I was a pitcher, I could use it to help figure out which pitches to throw, or as a batter which pitches to expect. I’m none of those.

The point here is to look into the attitude a fan might have as the Series proceeds on its roller coaster.

My lifelong love of baseball necessarily includes these ups and downs, measured in innings, in games, in seasons. Or in the case of the Cubs, who have been waiting 108 years to win a World Series, in centuries.

The I Ching is all about ups and downs. It is by title and essence The Classic of Changes. So why not ask it about the changes we are about to experience, as the Indians, this season’s little engine that could, defy the odds. Starting tonight on a very cold but still green fall field in Cleveland.

Some brief excerpts from I Ching commentaries on the received hexagram follow. As for interpretation, feel free to consider it all as the Series plays out.

hexagram-48

Hexagram 48
Jing/The Well

The structure of the gua is Water above, Wood below. This image gave the ancient sage the picture of a well. The water in a well was practically an inexhaustible resource. It was in constant use yet continually refilled. It was the source of life. The image also suggests that the roots of a plant draw water from the soil to nourish the stalk and leaves.

Decision

Neither loses nor gains.
Coming and going, drawing, drawing.
Nearly out of the well,
Break one’s bucket—misfortune.

Commentary on the Decision

Nearly out of the well,
The achievement has not yet been fulfilled.
Break one’s bucket;
There is misfortune.

Commentary on the Symbol

In correspondence with this,
The superior person encourages the people at their work
And urges them to help one another.

Judgment

At the Well.
The rope fails to raise
Water
From the Well.
The pitcher is broken.
Calamity.

On the Image of the Hexagram

Water above Wood,
The True Gentleman
Comforts the Folk;
He gives encouragement.

The Tao of No Place Like Home

These words from Verse 80 of the Tao Te Ching could come from the Wizard of Oz:

let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
but live out their lives
without making a visit

In other words, there is no place like home.

The force of exploration, discovery and progress is strong with us. This post, for example, is drafted on an amazing digital device, edited on another amazing digital device, and published on an amazing global network. Moving house and traveling are easier and more convenient than ever. So many modern tools. So big a world.

Verse 80 proposes a different view. Labor-saving tools not used. Boats and carts not ridden. Knots used to communicate (a pre-writing system). Pleased and content with clothing and goods. You may think that this is regress, the opposite of progress. But is it? In your heart, is that what you believe?

Imagine a small state with a small population
let there be labor-saving tools
that aren’t used
let people consider death
and not move far
let there be boats and carts
but no reason to ride them
let there be armor and weapons
but no reason to employ them
let people return to the use of knots
and be satisfied with their food
and pleased with their clothing
and content with their homes
and happy with their customs
let there be another state so near
people hear its dogs and chickens
but live out their lives
without making a visit

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching, translated by Red Pine

 

Lao-tzu’s Taoteching

Taoteching

“The world is a spiritual thing.”

Taoteching, Chapter 29

Trying to govern the world with force
I see this not succeeding
the world is a spiritual thing
it can’t be forced
to force it is to harm it
to control it is to lose it
sometimes things lead
sometimes they follow
sometimes they blow hot
sometimes they blow cold
sometimes they expand
sometimes they collapse
sages therefore avoid extremes
avoid extravagance
avoid excess

Reading and studying the little (81 tiny chapters) and infinite pool of Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching is as valuable as knowing any text from any tradition. Of the dozens of translations into English, all different and many worthy, the one by Red Pine—the translator and scholar Bill Porter—is the place to visit and rest awake. Along with his translation, he includes excerpts from 2,000 years of commentaries.

Poem: Between the Waters

Hexagram 29 - Theresa Blanding

Between the Waters

Let there be an expanse that it may separate water from water.
Genesis 1:6

It is a bottomless pit
The waters above
The waters below.
An abyss
A sea without boats.
No ground to stand.
Just falling.

If there is space between
How vast must it be
To contain hope?
Could it be so small
And still be heaven?

Dim Dusty Mirror

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (New Revised Standard Version)

Can you keep your crescent soul from wandering
can you make your breath as soft as a baby’s
can you wipe your dark mirror free of dust
can you serve and govern without effort
can you be the female at Heaven’s Gate
can you light the world without knowledge
can you give birth and nurture
but give birth without possessing
raise without controlling
this is Dark Virtue
Verse 10, Lao-tzu’s Taoteching
Translated by Red Pine

“Our spirit dwells in our eyes. When the eyes see something, the spirit chases it. When we close our eyes and look within, everything is dark. But within the dark, we still see something. There is still dust. Only by putting an end to delusions can we get rid of the dust.”
Commentary on Verse 10 by Wu Ch’eng (1249–1333)