dao spring

Chinese for "spring"

sculpture of amoghapasa

Sun and moon divide the sky,
Fragrance blooms on pear wood bones:
Earth awakens with sigh.
Wanderer revels on the path alone.

It is the time of equinox, when day and night are briefly equal. This day signals the beginning of spring, the increasing of light, and the return of life to the frozen earth.

Of course, this day only represents a moment in time. Spring has long been returning, and we know that summer will soon follow. The cycle of the seasons will continue in succession. There is no such thing as a true stopping in time, for all is a continuum. Nature makes its own concordances as a mere outgrowth to its movement; it is we who see structure and give names to pattern.

But who can begrudge temporary pleasures to a solitary traveler? Let us go out and enjoy the day, revel in the coming of spring, rejoice in the warming of the earth. For though the ground may be covered with frost, movement and growth are taking place all around us. Beauty bared fills our eyes and makes us drunk. As we wander the endless mountains and streams, filling our lungs with the breath of the forests, let us take comfort in being part of nature. For life has enough misery and misfortune. Philosophy reminds us enough of the transience of life. Give us the charm of the ephemeral, and let it silence all who would object.

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

Nepal c. 8th-9th centuries
Copper with traces of gilding and pigment
h. 31.5cm

This sculpture epitomizes the classical beauty of Licchavi period (c. AD 300-879) art in Nepal. Amoghapasa’s graceful posture (tribhanga) and gentle countenance are exquisitely rendered. Ornament is pared to the minimum to allow for the cleanest line. The sacred thread (upavita), antelope skin and scarf fall naturally over the god’s youthful, sensuous form. The fan-like arrangement of Amoghapasa’s twelve arms, forming a halo around his body, is a tour de force of casting. This figure, like most Nepalese sculpture, is made of unalloyed copper, a metal that is notoriously problematic in the cast. Unfortunately, the arms have suffered damage over the years and almost all are now displaced, somewhat weakening his beautiful composition.

Amoghapasa is particularly popular in Nepal and is only rarely encountered in Tibet. However, this image has been worshiped in Tibet for an indeterminate period, as confirmed by the presence of traces of gold paint on the face and neck and blue pigment in the hair; the practice of applying paint to images in this manner is unknown in Nepal. This work may be compared with other classical Licchavi metal sculpture from Nepal, most notably an eighth- or ninth-century standing Buddha, formerly in the now destroyed Ngor monastery. Their very similar facial expressions and sense of movement are those that define the art of the Licchavi period. The pronounced webbing between the fingers, seen here especially between the thumb and forefinger, is an iconographic feature that appears throughout the Licchavi period, but loses prominence by the start of the Malla (c. 1200-1482). A pronounced nose and protruding lower lip are standard sculptural features of this period; they are ultimately derived, like the webbed fingers, from the ideals of the great artistic era of the Indian Gupta kings.

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 - e i g h t
Chinese characters for "daodejing verse forty-eight"

The sage has no mind of his own.
He is aware of the needs of others.

I am good to people who are good.
I am also good to people who are not good.
Because Virtue is goodness.
I have faith in people who are faithful.
I also have faith in people who are not faithful.
Because Virtue is faithfulness.

The sage is shy and humble — to the world
he seems confusing.
Others look to him and listen.
He behaves like a little child.
— translation by GIA-FU FENG

The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.

She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren’t good.
This is true goodness.

She trusts people who are trustworthy.
She also trusts people who aren’t trustworthy.
This is true trust.

The Master’s mind is like space.
People don’t understand her.
They look to her and wait.
She treats them like her own children.
— translation by STEVEN MITCHELL

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