dao retrospective

Chinese for "retrospective"

coils of color, facing each other we finally see it! peacocks! wonderful peacocks!!

You could labor ten years under a master
Trying to discern whether the teachings are true.
But all you might learn is this:
One must live one’s own life.

When one starts out learning a spiritual system, there are many absolute assertions that the masters make. These must be accepted with a provisional faith: Each must be tested and proved to yourself before you can believe in them. You will be exposed to all types of esoteric knowledge, but you need only be concerned with whether or not you can make them work for yourself.

There will come an intermediate, joyous point where you find that certain techniques work even better than the scriptures claim. In the wake of these discoveries, you will also find that life continues to be just as thorny and problematic as ever. Does this mean that the study of Tao is useless? No. It only means that you have been laboring to equip yourself with skill. You must still go out and live your life to the end.

When you look back and realize that you have absorbed the teachings so thoroughly that they have become routine, it is not the time to reject the system you have learned. It is the time to utilize what you have learned. You must express yourself, take action in the world, create new circumstances for yourself and others.Only then does the long acquisition of skill become worthwhile.

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

Proud of their traditional culture, these artists illustrate Maithil rituals or to make paintings of gods Ram and Sita who, according to legend, married in Janakpur. And in the "office" where they sang songs or told tales of the Hindu gods, they naturally painted scenes from the Ramayana or from Maithil songs and folktales. Many women have enjoyed painting the Maithil tale of Anjur, a tale in which a new bride is made to do impossible tasks by her jealous sisters-in-law, and each time is helped by sympathetic birds or snakes. They often mix images of other tales with Anjur's tale, and similarly Gods will appear in scenes of family planning. This mixing of themes is a reflection of the real world of the Janakpur artists today.

this painting is called
Bamboo Khobar

photo of artist Phuliya Karnathe artist: Phuliya Karna

How old am I? Just a minute, I have to ask my friend. She says in two years I'll be sixty. I was married at 2 1/2. My father sold me for 50 rupees.

Like other men of our caste, my father was a scribe. He would record loans for illiterate people. He told a man who worked with him that he had a daughter who was fifteen and ready to be married. This man paid him 50 rupees and after that my father went home and told my mother he'd sold me.

Because I was so young, he thought he might delay the marriage.But people were laughing at the man who had bought a baby, saying he really got cheated. So the man decided that the marriage must take place to prove he wasn't a fool.

The man was fifty years old. At that time, I wasn't even used to wearing clothes. During the marriage when I was told to cover my face with a sari, I didn't understand and I cried. The same year I was married my mother died of sadness. She was thinking of my marriage when she died.

I moved to my husband's house when I was ten. When I was fifteen or sixteen I had a boy, but he only lived three days. I was 18 when my daughter was born and after another one and a half years my husband died. So at 18 1 became a widow with a baby. I worked in other people's houses to support us — putting mud on house walls or pounding rice.

Around the same age I began to paint walls in the tradition of our caste. I looked around at the walls in our neighborhood during marriages and learned a lot about painting. Neighbors often asked me to paint and they'd give me an old sari or a little food as payment.

In my lifetime I've painted the wedding chambers (kobars) of 20-30 brides in my village. The designs I make at the center are often those I make in the kobar.

Sun and moon painting: We paint the gods of the sun and moon high on the walls of the wedding chamber. These gods preside over all of our lives and must bless the newly wedded couple. We worship these gods in other rituals and draw their images on both sides of our doors during Deepawali, the festival during which we worship the goddess of wealth.

text and images © JWDC

T A O t e C H I N G

hand drawn calligraphy of the word dao
f i f t y - f i v e
Chinese characters for "daodejing verse fifty-five"

Those who know do not talk.
Those who talk do not know.

Keep your mouth closed.
Guard your senses.
Temper your sharpness.
Simplify your problems.
Mask your brightness.
Be at one with the dust of the Earth.
This is primal union.

He who has achieved this state
Is unconcerned with friends and enemies,
With good and harm, with honor and disgrace.
This therefore is the highest state of man.

— translation by GIA-FU FENG

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.

— translation by STEVEN MITCHELL
a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at
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