dao guidance

Chinese characters for "guidance"


Worship with your conscience,
Receive grace with humility.
Guide with awareness,
Lead with modesty.

The altar is a tool. If we kneel before it and say we have done wrong, we are really telling that to ourselves. If we give thanks for our good fortune, we are expressing our modest appreciation for good luck. There is no outside force listening to us. There is no divine retribution for our wickedness. The altar is merely symbolic. Those who follow Tao use it to focus their self-awareness.

When we step away from the altar, we should not lose self-awareness. We should not take the fact that worship is symbolic to behave in immoral ways. Instead, we still have to act with a conscience and lead others without manipulating them or taking advantage of them.

It takes maturity to grasp that there are no gods and yet still behave as if there were. It takes insight to know that you must be your own disciplinarian. Only the wisest can lay down their own “divine laws” and find guidance as if they were truly heaven’s word.

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

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara
Kashmir or Western Himalayas
10th -11th century
Brass 7 ¼ in (18.4 cm)

Framed by nimbus and aureole, the graceful Bodhisattva stands on a lotus atop a stepped and waisted pedestal. The petals of the lotus are plain and elongated, more like the petals of artichokes. The lotus held by his left hand and the effigy of the Buddha Amitabha on the central triangular crest of the tiara are familiar attributes of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

That it is a Kahsmiri-style figure is not doubted, but whether it was made in Tibet is more difficult to determine. The plastic characteristics of the figure, with its slim legs and naturalistically modeled torso, as well as the treatment of the socle, the lotus, the aureole, and the nimbus, do recall Kashmiri bronzes, but the delineation of the hands, the flower in the hand, the plain, stiff scarf, the necklace, and the simplified tiara, lack the sophistication and finesse of bronzes attributed to Kashmir. Nevertheless, the work does relate generally to a large group of bronzes believed to be from 10th - 11th century Kashmir, though some could have originated in workshops in contiguous regions.

Chuang Tzu: A Happy Excursion

(Chapter 5 and 6)
The Emperor Yao wished to abdicate in favor of Hsu: Yu, saying, “If, when the sun and moon are shining, the torch is still lighted, would it be not difficult for the latter to shine? If, when the rain has fallen, one should still continue to water the fields, would this not be a waste of labor? Now if you would assume the reins of government, the empire would be well governed, and yet I am filling this office. I am conscious of my own deficiencies, and I beg to offer you the Empire.”

“You are ruling the Empire, and the Empire is already well ruled,” replied Hsu: Yu. “Why should I take your place? Should I do this for the sake of a name? A name is but the shadow of reality, and should I trouble myself about the shadow? The tit, building its nest in the mighty forest, occupies but a single twig. The beaver slakes its thirst from the river, but drinks enough only to fill its belly. I would rather go back: I have no use for the empire! If the cook is unable to prepare the funeral sacrifices, the representative of the worshipped spirit and the officer of prayer may not step over the wines and meats and do it for him.”

Chien Wu said to Lien Shu, “I heard Chieh Yu: talk on high and fine subjects endlessly. I was greatly startled at what he said, for his words seemed interminable as the Milky Way, but they are quite detached from our common human experience.”

“What was it?” asked Lien Shu.

“He declared,” replied Chien Wu, “that on the Miao-ku-yi mountain there lives a divine one, whose skin is white like ice or snow, whose grace and elegance are like those of a virgin, who eats no grain, but lives on air and dew, and who, riding on clouds with flying dragons for his team, roams beyond the limit’s of the mortal regions. When his spirit gravitates, he can ward off corruption from all things, and bring good crops. That is why I call it nonsense, and do not believe it.”

“Well,” answered Lien Shu, “you don’t ask a blind man’s opinion of beautiful designs, nor do you invite a deaf man to a concert. And blindness and deafness are not physical only. There is blindness and deafness of the mind. His words are like the unspoiled virgin. The good influence of such a man with such a character fills all creation. Yet because a paltry generation cries for reform, you would have him busy himself about the details of an empire!

“Objective existences cannot harm. In a flood which reached the sky, he would not be drowned. In a drought, though metals ran liquid and mountains were scorched up, he would not be hot. Out of his very dust and siftings you might fashion two such men as Yao and Shun. And you would have him occupy himself with objectives!”
(Translated by Yutang Lin)

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