dao fundamental

Chinese characters for "fundamental"

copper statue of Buddha, see more in description

After completion
Come to new beginnings.
To gain strength,
Renew the root.

In music, the fundamental tone is the lowest, or root, tone of a chord. Without its presence, no true character is established. Our actions in life are as similarly varied and complex as music. Without a through grounding, there is no harmony.

Followers of Tao emphasize cycles. This must include a sound understanding of what to do whenever a cycle comes to an end. New ones will begin: Some of them will be engendered by the old one, others may simply be in the background and will now come forward. If we are to properly shape these new movements and if we are to prevent unwanted cycles from beginning, we must take stock and renew our basis in the fundamentals.

Everyone wants to be daring, creative, and original. Everyone wants to do things in new ways. But unless we return over and over again to the basics, we will have no chance to truly soar. Do not forget the root. Without it, we can never issue forth true power.

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

Buddha Shakyamuni
Nepal 10th century
Copper alloy
8 ¼ in (21 cm)

Though not large, this is a fine and classic example of an early Buddha image from the Kathmandu Valley. Several stone versions surviving in the valley belong generally to the Lichchhavi period; a precise date is not easy to determine. There seems no doubt that the image type was basically inspired by the fifth-century Buddha icons created at Sarnath in India and had a long life in the valley, as indicated by this example, probably a work from the end of the Lichchhavi period, but no later than the tenth century.

The Ford Buddha stands on a lotus in the usual contrap-posto posture with his right hip swinging outward. His right arm hangs down with the hand displaying the gesture of charity, and the left, raised high to the shoulder, grasps the gathered ends of his garment. The markings on the palm are clearly visible, as are the incisions on the lotus base. The edges of the otherwise transparent garment have been modeled to indicate volume, but the usual overlapping folds along the sides, typical of all early Nepali Buddha images in stone as well as bronze, have been eschewed for the almost stark simplicity one encounters in Gupta-period Sarnath images. The slim, elegant proportions, however, are characteristic of Buddha images of the ninth and tenth centuries.

Another detail that distinguishes this Buddha is the flame aureole, only parts of which remain attached to the base. This feature is missing in all published bronzes. There, however, the aureole is a complete oval joined at the bottom behind the Buddha's feet. In the Ford bronze, the aureole terminates at the two ends of the lotus, thereby providing a break in the continuity of the lower arc. This mode of joining the aureole to the lotus is more common in Pala-period bronze images. Thus, while iconographically the Ford Buddha conforms to the Lichchhavi-period image type, stylistically it offers interesting variations, reflecting the unknown sculptor's idiosyncratic preferences.

all text and images © The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore

T A O t e C H I N G

hand drawn calligraphy of the word dao

E I G H T Y - O N E
Chinese characters for "daodejing verse eighty-one"

Truthful words are not beautiful.
Beautiful words are not truthful.
Good men do not argue.
Those who argue are not good.
Those who know are not learned.
The learned do not know.

The sage never tries to store things up.
The more he does for others, the more he has.
The more he gives to others, the greater his abundance.
The Tao of heaven is pointed but does no harm.
The Tao of the sage is work without effort.

— translation by GIA-FU FENG

True words aren't eloquent;
eloquent words aren't true.
Wise men don't need to prove their point;
men who need to prove their point aren't wise.

The Master has no possessions.
The more she does for others,
the happier she is.
The more she gives to others,
the wealthier she is.

The Tao nourishes by not forcing.
By not dominating, the Master leads.

— translation by STEVEN MITCHELL

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