dao fear

Chinese for "fear"

sculpture of golden buddha, tibet

Trust the gods within,
Accept given boons.
Illusion is reality’s border:
Pierce fear to go beyond.

In your meditations, you will meet gods. These gods are nothing more than the holiest aspects of your own mind; they are not other beings. Your inner gods will grant gifts of knowledge and power. Accept what comes your way without doubts and without fear. You can trust your gods. They will never betray you, for you cannot betray yourself.

Such trust dissolves fear and regret. You will find a resolution to your inner conflicts. The gods will direct you forward to the very border of reality itself. On the other side is vast profundity, the ultimate nature of existence. But the border can be crossed only if you have resolved all fear and regret.

All fear comes from our sense of self. When we stand at the border of reality, we are afraid that we will lose our identities by plunging in. We are afraid of being destroyed. But we came from Tao in the first place. We are Tao. To return to Tao is not to be negated, but to become one with the entire universe. True, we will no longer be who we are now, but we will be one with Tao. In that state, there is no need for fear.

365 Tao
Daily Meditations
Deng Ming-Dao
ISBN 0-06-250223-9

Kashmir, India c. 9th century
Copper alloy with silver h. 26 cm

This highly accomplished image represents the Buddha in the gesture of religious instruction (dharmacakra pravartana mudra). The Buddha is depicted according to established iconographic norms for the represention of enlightened beings, with webbed fingers, elongated earlobes, a mark between his brows (urna), a cranial protuberance (usnisa) and a coiffure which suggests hair that is arranged in tight curls. The urna and the eyes are inlaid with silver, and the pupils are further enhanced with a black, pitch-like substance. The image is rendered with exquisite subtlety, expressing a luminous presence with a powerful, inward focus.

The image invites comparison with a superb sculpture in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Virginia Buddha, like this image, is presented on a lotus base consisting of two rows of downward pointing lotus petals, in turn supported by a simple, tiered platform.54 Both images emphasize the sensuous qualities of form, with the contours of the Buddha's body partly revealed through his beautifully draped robes. They also exhibit a minimal use of other, inlaid metals, in sharp contrast to two celebrated images of the Buddha, one in the Norton Simon Foundation, the other in the John D. Rockefeller III Collection, both heavily inlaid. A support located just below the back of the neck would once have attached the Nyingjei Lam sculpture to an aureole. There would have been another support now indicated by an aperture into which a brass plate has been inserted at the back of the head; the plate is decorated with rudimentary punch marks to suggest curls of hair. It is likely that this plate was added during the process of consecration, after the image reached Tibet.

Dated Kashmiri images are extremely rare and the chronology of this regional school is still somewhat tentative. A ninth-century date, based on a comparison with two dated Kashmiri works, is proposed for this image. The first dated image is a stone Buddha fragment in the National Museum, New Delhi, that dates to c. AD 739. The body type and facial features of the New Delhi Buddha are very similar to those of many of the renowned Kashmiri carved ivories and those of the acclaimed Buddha in the Norton Simon Foundation. The Nyingjei Lam image is more softly modelled than the dated stone fragment and the Norton Simon Buddha, closer to works normally attributed to the ninth century. The second dated image, a figure of Avalokitesvara dated AD 980-1003, now in the Sri Pratap Singh Museum in Srinagar, has the less satisfying proportions and the somewhat exaggerated facial features that reflect a later phase of the Kashmiri style; this work must predate it by a considerable margin.

images © Nyingjei Lam
text © D. Weldon, Jane C. Singer

T A O t e C H I N G

hand drawn calligraphy of the word dao
f o r t y - s e v e n
Chinese characters for "daodejing verse forty-seven"

In the pursuit of learning, every day something is acquired.
In the pursuit of Tao, every day something is dropped.

Less and less is done
Until non-action is achieved.
When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

The world is ruled by letting things take their course.
It cannot be ruled by interfering.

— translation by GIA-FU FENG

In pursuit of knowledge,
every day something is added.
In the practice of the Tao,
every day something is dropped.
Less and less do you need to force things,
until finally you arrive at non-action.
When nothing is done,
nothing is left undone.

True mastery can be gained
by letting things go their own way.
It can't be gained by interfering.

— translation by STEVEN MITCHELL

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