dao compassion

Chinese characters for "compassion"

painting on cloth with description below, Amitayus

Once you’ve seen the face of god,
You see that same face on everyone you meet.

The true god has no face. The true Tao has no name. But we cannot identity with that until we are of a very high level of insight. Until then, the gods with faces and the Tao with names are still more worthy of veneration and study than the illusions of the world.

With long and sincere training, it is possible to see the face of god. Holiness s not about scientific objectivity. It is about a deep and clear recognition of the true nature of life. Your attitude toward your god will be different than anyone else’s god—divinity is a reflection of your own understanding. If your experience differs from others, that does not invalidate your sense of godliness. You will have no doubts after you have seen.

Knowing god is the source of compassion in our lives. We realize that our separation from others is artificial. We are neither separate from other people nor from Tao. It is only our own egotism that leads us to define ourselves as individuals. In fact, a direct experience of god is a direct experience of the utter universality of life. If we allow it to change our way of thinking, we will understand our essential oneness with all things.

How does god look? Once you see god, you will see that same face on every person you meet.

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


Tibet, 11th century
Distemper on cloth
138.4 x 106.1 cm (541/2 x 413/4 in.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
Rogers Fund, 1989 (1989.284)

Amitayus, the Buddha of Eternal Life, sits in a meditative posture; in his hands he cradles his attribute, a vase that contains the elixir of immortality. Like Ushnishavijaya and the White Tara, he is invoked by devotees wishing to obtain long life. He is flanked by the standing bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara (left) and, probably, Manjushri (right). The bodhisattvas seated above are differentiated by color, gestures, hairstyle, and crown or ushnisha (cranial protuberance). However, they cannot be specifically identified.

The historical figures in the top and bottom registers are distinctive, and their presence implies an early date for the painting. The top row of seven probably represents some type of court or clan assembly. All but one figure wears a flat hat; five sit against throne backs and four of these are sheltered by parasols. The leader, who can be identified by his red mantle enhanced with rondelles, sits with a wine cup and a shield placed to his right. The figures at his left are probably his wives (without thrones, wine cups, or shields). On the far left of the painting, the two figures wearing brocaded inner robes and holding wine cups are probably courtiers. Their shields are nearby.

The two yellow-robed figures flanking the aureole (presented without wine cups or shields) might be minor officials or lamas. At the bottom left of the thanka a seated couple with shoulder-length hairstyles, probably the donors of the thanka hold their hands in anjali mudra, the gesture of reverence or adoration; lotus stalks with burgeoning buds spring from their hands, as also seen in other groups with donors and attendants. At the lower right a monk seated with a shield beside him attends offerings set on tripod stands. Included in the offerings are two conical objects set on the ground. The monk is probably the consecrator of the painting.

In this thanka the emphasis is on volume rather than on decoration, unlike most of the Bengali-style paintings in this exhibition, which emulate late eleventh and perhaps early twelfth-century Indian models where linear development was the primary concern. A number of the motifs are also uncharacteristic and point to an earlier date. Many of Amitayus’s elaborate ornaments are atypical: the jewels hanging from or set above the armlets; the carefully arranged sash on the lotus seat; the bindi (forehead ornament), which also appears on the surrounding deities; the elaborate hair-braid ribbons that fall over the shoulders; the low double crown; and the tall ushnisha with an upper tier of flanking ribbons. Amitayus is backed by an unusual throne, three courses of which can be seen, and the nimbus has a distinctive surround of lotus petals. The simple border design of half-ovoid forms with central half rosettes perhaps an indication of lotus petals—is not set against a water pattern but intermeshes with a triangular motif of dots. The ovoid faces with heavy chins are distinctive, and the seat of the Buddha emerges from a lotus plant akin to that seen in the Ford Tara, not a common feature in early thankas. The overall impression of this painting is that it is somewhat provincial, but many of the details of the principal figures reveal a sophisticated understanding of Indian models.

T A O t e C H I N G

hand drawn calligraphy of the word dao

S E V E N T Y - S E V E N

Chinese characters for "daodejing verse seventy-seven"

The Tao of heaven is like the bending of a bow.
The high is lowered, and the low is raised.
If the string is too long, it is shortened;
If there is not enough, it is made longer.

The Tao of heaven is to take from those who have too much
and give to those who do not have enough.
Man’s way is different.
He takes from those who do not have enough and give to those who already have too much.
What man has more than enough and gives it to the world?
Only the man of Tao.

Therefore the sage works without recognition.
He achieves what has to be done without dwelling on it.
He does not try to show his knowledge.
— translation by GIA-FU FENG

As it acts in the world, the Tao
is like the bending of a bow.
The top is bent downward;
the bottom is bent up.
It adjusts excess and deficiency
so that there is perfect balance.
It takes from what is too much
and give to what isn’t enough.

Those who try to control,
who use force to protect their power,
go against the direction of the Tao.
They take from those who don’t have enough
and give to those who have far too much.

The Master can keep giving
because there is no end to her wealth.
She acts without expectation,
succeeds without taking credit,
and doesn’t think that she is better
than anyone else.
— translation by STEVEN MITCHELL

a reading list of books and interpretations of the Daodejing is available at

for a meditation sent to your email address each day, please write
’subscribe tao’ in the subject line and send to lisbeth at duckdaotsu

No comments: