They say he is lost.
Sitting motionless, gazing.
Truth is, he is found.
They say he is lost.
Sitting motionless, gazing.
Truth is, he is found.
If I had to pick the most favorite of my favorite Facebook pages, then it is the new page of Deng Ming-Dao.
Although, he is the author of eight popular books (with a ninth due out in January), a successful artist, and famous book designer, Deng Ming-Dao as a person has largely kept out of the public limelight. Some of his readers have even wondered if he really exists. The reason for Deng Ming-Dao’s hesitance of attracting limelight attention can be explained by the fact that he is a true, contemporary Taoist master who is trying hard to uphold the purity of the ancient Taoist sages’ original teachings.
Deng Ming-Dao is not another New-Age figure, self-help author, or pseudo spiritual leader. Unlike many other authors and practitioners of Taoism, his Taoist lineage goes back directly to Huashan, one of China’s sacred mountains. Aside from his numerous other skills and areas of expertise, this highly cultivated scholarly as well as practical Taoist master is fluent not only in ancient Taoist philosophy, but also in various styles of martial arts.
It comes as no surprise that Deng Ming-Dao’s international readership, including myself, rejoiced when he recently came on Facebook. This new Facebook site, which has already developed into a genuine spiritual community, has made it possible for people of all spiritual traditions to see Deng Ming-Dao’s photo for the first time and find almost daily his profound wisdom and meditations, and information on Taoist history and philosophy. Here readers are encouraged to enter into a dialogue with the master himself and with the other community members.
With Taoism being more of a philosophy, rather than a religion, it is universal. Many of us already benefit from its wisdom and practical applications for everyday problems. Think acupuncture, acupressure, feng shui/geomancy, traditional Chinese medicine, internal and external martial arts, the I Ching, and the Daodejing!
I hope that I have sparked your interest enough and invite you to share this wonderfully inspirational site with me: https://www.facebook.com/dengmingdao
This is a follow up discussion of my previous blog entry, “Sunday Meditation: The True Self” with Deng Ming-Dao. https://andelieya.wordpress.com/2012/11/11/sunday-meditation-the-true-self/
Deng Ming-Dao is an artist, writer and the author of eight books, with a ninth one, The Lunar Tao slated to be published in January 2013. In the discussion that follows, Deng Ming-Dao offers additional insight into the topic of my original blog post.
Sometimes someone else has packed our bags.
Sometimes, we’re afraid to open our bags, or are horrified when we do.
Sometimes we continue to lug the bag, even though we know it’s wrong, because we’re fearful of the alternative.
Sometimes we’re afraid that if we were to upend our bag and clean everything out that we would disappear.
It’s not easy for people to clean out their baggage.
andelieya: We can learn to periodically set the bag down. Once we experience the relief of the weight falling away, we may see the benefit in doing this more regularly and more often.
We may find to have a lot more endurance and be able to go much farther with regular breaks, than if we continually toted the bag without ever putting it down.
After a while, it occurs to us that we can also make the bag lighter and our walk easier if we just emptied some of its content out permanently. We come to the realization that it’s wise to carry along just enough, and everything extra is unneeded and unwanted.
By regularly and often putting our bags down, we can experience refreshing breaks of weightless moments. But while we must still carry our bags, by gradually emptying out all unneeded and unwanted content, they will be a lot lighter. Our endurance increases, and we can walk a lot further and higher without tiring.
DMD: So many of us were told never to put or bags down. Travel in airports with the amplified admonishments not to leave our bags unattended represents an underlying anxiety in our culture. Lock your house. Lock your car. Hold onto your wallet. Hold onto your kids. We aren’t used to putting down our bags.
Hold onto our reputation. Hold onto your job. Hold onto your marriage. Hold onto your sanity.
“She’s letting herself go!” “He’s losing it!” “Don’t let go!” The resistance to putting down our bag is high.
Yes, the classical teaching is to put down or bags. But let’s acknowledge that the task is hard and that all of us who are traveling with our burdens must have compassion extended to us for our burdens.
andelieya: It is so true! The examples you brought up really demonstrate the societal conditioning of our mind in thinking that we must never let go of anything, otherwise something catastrophic will happen.
Although, it seems as easy as just putting them down, letting go of our bags is the most daunting task we are faced with in life. The tendency to cling and not wanting to render full control is in the nature of an unchecked ego. Actually, it is paradoxical, because the ego only thinks it is in full control, but never really is to begin with.
Meditation is one way through which we can dampen the loud calls and many voices of the ego and, instead, listen to the silent, peaceful depth and breadth of our souls. (I intentionally use depth and breadth in singular form here, because this depth and breadth is the Oneness that all souls share.)
Through meditation we can learn to empty our bags of nonessential weight and to periodically put our bags down completely for brief, refreshing moments where we can see clearly the nature of ourselves and of all that is around us. We may even progress far enough to be able to put down our bags at anytime, anywhere.
Those of us who are lucky enough may come across a qualified teacher who will show us the method and guide us in finding our true selves.
Deng Ming-Dao, thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and my readers!
Have you ever heard of the expressions ‘empty words’ or ‘empty chatter’? Usually, there is a deeper reason why certain expressions have become time-honored.
What makes words empty? We could say that mere, and often incorrect, repeating of something we heard or read without fully understanding its meaning makes our words empty. Any words used to bolster our egos are bound to be empty. Frivolous talk produces empty chatter. For good reason, the expression ‘empty words’ is often used in connection with unfulfilled promises or saying things we don’t mean. Sometimes we reply absentmindedly to someone else’s question or story without having fully listened. In this case, our words will certainly be mostly empty as well.
Words that are profound or have some bearing are those that come from deep insight as a result of full comprehension gained through one’s inquiry, contemplation, and direct experience. Words that are profound usually have a positive effect on the listener, because they come from a place of wisdom. I know from my own experience with a book I once read that profound words can potentially be life-altering. There are many profound words, as in ancient spiritual texts from all traditions with their complex imagery, which will by-pass the intellect and go straight to the intuitive understanding of the reader.
In this age of mass and social media, every day we are confronted with an overload of words. Oftentimes, without even realizing it, they make us confused and tired. There is only so much information we can process at any given time. We, too, are contributing to the conversation via emails, text messages, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc. But we have the choice to contribute to the chaos and abundance of empty words that are already flooding all channels of communication or we can decide to contribute to the conversation only with words that have some bearing.
How do we know if our words are empty or meaningful? To help discern between these two qualities, asking ourselves the following questions might help: Will what I am about to say have any positive effect on the world around me? Will my words add to the world’s beauty or spiritual richness? Will I be of any help or brighten someone’s day with my words? If we can say ‘yes’ to any one of these questions, then we know that we are about to make a valuable contribution and are not cluttering our environment with more empty words or chatter.
Would it make sense to give every drop in the ocean a name? Does any of them ever independently exist on its own? Are any of the drops different from the others?
Conventionally, we need to label things and living beings to help navigate and orient ourselves in this existence. But, like the drops in the ocean, all things and living beings are connected in this vast universe. And none of them exists on its own.
Therefore, it does make sense to treat things and living beings with the same love, kindness, and compassion as we would treat ourselves. Whatever attitude we extend toward others, the world will respond in kind. A loving, kind, and compassionate attitude will generate great harmony among all.
Why look in the mirror? Don’t we already know our bodies from the inside out? Are we not already connected with them in the most intimate way possible? Think of your arms and legs. Your arms will perform any task you command them to do, no matter how straining and difficult. Your legs will sedulously carry you wherever you ask them to take you, no matter how far or how high. Think of your eyes, mouth, ears, nose, and hands. They are your portals to the outer world and to life itself. How tirelessly they take in air, nourishment, and outer stimuli, And help you express your inner life to the outer world! Why look in the mirror and judge your miraculous body that is so supportive and perfect? You already know it. It is the temple in which your soul resides. Treat it with gratitude, kindness, and great care!
When I was younger, Hans Christian Anderson’s tale ‘The Ugly Duckling’ never struck me as anything else, but another fairy tale My Tibetan Buddhist teacher’s narration of a similar tale, ‘The Chicken Eagle’, sparked my interest in revisiting the story of ‘The Ugly Duckling’. This time, I was awestruck by its profundity.
Hans Christian Anderson manages to package life’s trials and tribulations, the human condition of suffering, and the way to overcome it into a story seemingly geared toward the young. Upon closer investigation of the metaphors and symbolism, the story’s significance and its suitability for all ages becomes quite clear.
First, the author lets us identify ourselves with the ugly duckling. We recognize that we, too, are experiencing suffering from abuse, rejection, loss or bullying in our own lives, unable to find a way out of the cycle of misery. For every kindness shown to us we encounter unkindness. Life seems to be a continuous stream of ups and downs.
Lonesome and sad, the ugly duckling sets off by himself seeking relief for his misery. He withdraws from the world and spends an entire winter alone in hiding. One can quickly see the parallels between the metaphors of winter and a desert. Everything is barren. Winter and the desert, both signify solitude and present themselves for introspection and a struggle with one’s own concept of the Self.
The story climaxes as winter is followed by spring, symbolic for new beginnings and new life, and the ugly duckling reaches a point where he’d rather throw himself at a flock of swans on the thawing lake and be killed than endure anymore suffering. He has become so weary with life that he decides to surrender. At that very moment, he comes to realize his true nature. For the first time in his life, he is able to spread his beautiful wings and take flight.
The ugly duckling has to go through suffering to receive the spark for wanting to seek the truth. He has to endure trials and tribulations before he decides to surrender his ego. Through dying he realizes the true nature of his self and is liberated from the suffering caused by his delusions.
Plot Summary of The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson (taken from Wikipediahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ugly_Duckling )
When the tale begins, a mother duck’s eggs hatch. One of the little birds is perceived by the duck’s surroundings as a homely little creature and suffers much verbal and physical abuse from the other birds and animals on the farm. He wanders sadly from the barnyard and lives with wild ducks and geese until hunters slaughter the flocks. He then finds a home with an old woman but her cat and hen tease him mercilessly and again he sets off on his own. He sees a flock of migrating wild swans; he is delighted and excited but he cannot join them for he is too young and cannot fly. Winter arrives. A farmer finds and carries the freezing little bird home, but the foundling is frightened by the farmer’s noisy children and flees the house. He spends a miserable winter alone in the outdoors mostly hiding in a cave on the lake that partly freezes over. When spring arrives a flock of swans descends on the now thawing lake. The ugly duckling, now having fully grown and matured cannot endure a life of solitude and hardship any more and decides to throw himself at the flock of swans deciding that it is better to be killed by such beautiful birds than to live a life of ugliness and misery. He is shocked when the swans welcome and accept him, only to realize by looking at his reflection in the water that he has grown into one of them. The flock takes to the air and the ugly duckling spreads his beautiful large wings and takes flight with the rest of his new family.
Have you ever heard of Knulp? Today, I am remembering him. Actually, Knulp is not a real person. He is a fictional character and the protagonist in Hermann Hesse’s book of the same title. As vivid as Hermann Hesse had him come to life in his pages, he might as well be real. Knulp is a treasure of a book. It is one of Hermann Hesse’s less known works.
I read Knulp many years ago and was mesmerized. Only then, I did not know specifically why it made such an impression on me. I was too young to be able to point out the profundity in it. Knulp is one of those rare, unforgettable stories. It will stay with you and have you ponder. Recently, I picked up my old, yellowed copy again and read it once more. It was eye-opening. There was the answer! Now I know why this story stuck with me all these years. If you don’t know Knulp, I will have to tell you about him.
Most people would probably consider Knulp a vagabond or drifter. I liken him to a wandering Taoist. He has no permanent shelter or possessions to call his own. The country roads are his home. This is not out of misfortune, but rather out of choice. Knulp may not be rich in terms of material things, but he is extremely intelligent, very resourceful, has a broad knowledge of things, and more wisdom to offer than the average person. He learned about life from direct experience and keen observation. Today, we would call him a mindful person. Like a migrant bird, he is in tune with nature and wanders to the places that are the most agreeable for the time of the year. Usually, he has no problem finding comfortable accommodations for the night.
One might think that Knulp is a loner, but that is not so. He has an abundance of friends in many places all over the country. Most of his friends are hard-working, accomplished family men with longstanding careers and plenty of material comforts. Why is it then that they feel honored to put up this vagabond for as long as he likes whenever he drops in on them unexpectedly? Why do they feed him, bathe him, mend his tattered clothes, and nurse him back to health when he is sick, without ever charging even as much as a penny in return?
Knulp has something they don’t: he has no attachments. Enmeshed in the myriad responsibilities of family and work, they secretly yearn for a life like Knulp’s and admire him. But deep down inside they know they don’t have the courage to even think about a life severed of all attachments. So his friends complain about the burden of their responsibilities and duties, knowing that Knulp is a good, loving, and compassionate listener. When they vent their frustrations, they know that they can count on his full, undivided attention. Moreover, Knulp always has just the right response to offer, one that gives them new encouragement to go on in life and feel grateful for what they have. He tells them that his vagabond life is not as glamorous as they may think. It also has its pitfalls. He, too, is mortal and his own suffering is no less.
Knulp is a man of integrity. He is steadfast in his moral principles, but he is not a moralist. His friends respect him for that. They know that they can trust him. Although, sometimes they may ask him why he does not just settle down, they accept him as he is. In fact, they admit that Knulp wouldn’t be the person that is so dear to them if he tried to conform and live a ‘proper’ life like theirs.
His presence warms any room he enters and any heart he touches. People feel at ease around him. They open up to him. Knulp is humble and modest. A friend of mine once gave me her business card. Upon closer inspection, I noticed her ‘job title’. It read in German ‘Lebenskuenstler’ or ‘master in the art of living’. There is no better title to attribute to Knulp. That is not to say that his life is free from pain. Masters are only human, too, and pain and suffering are part of the human condition.
At the end of the story, Knulp’s fatal illness is taking a turn for the worse. Knulp knows his end is near and chooses to face death alone near the place where he was raised. It is important for him to reconcile with God his life and the reason for the course it had taken. (Or is he actually reconciling it with himself?) He has doubts that perhaps he wasted his life with his endless wandering and wants to know if it may have all been in vain. After some questions and exchanges, he comes to realize that, despite of his doubts and regrets, everything was exactly as it was meant to be, and he finds solace in that and peace at last.
There is so much to be learned from this story. It would seem that ideally we want to be the family man, but never let go of our Knulp nature. We don’t want to get entangled in our responsibilities and work to the point where we stop walking on our way in life and leave all the other things we are meant to do unaccomplished. There is no need to entirely sacrifice one for the other.
Knulp certainly shows us how to be true to oneself and kind, loving, and compassionate to others. His listening skills teach us the value in giving someone one’s undivided attention. Often, that’s all people need to resolve things with themselves and to find the courage and gratitude to go on. Above all, Knulp reminds us to find happiness and satisfaction in the basic things in life, such as beautiful nature, our feet that take us wherever we desire to go, the company of the people we love, meaningful conversations, opportunities to always observe, learn and do new things, good food, and a comfortable shelter. And putting a smile on someone else’s face is bound to make our own heart smile every time.
Don’t most of us already have everything we need to be happy?
(This review can also be found on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Knulp-Three-Tales-Life/product-reviews/1478200200/ref=sr_1_1_cm_cr_acr_txt?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=1)
Sometimes I see a mother bird at our feeder with her grown and fully capable offspring. While the young bird is sitting on a branch nearby, the mother bird painstakingly selects the most nourishing seed and then feeds it lovingly to her grown child.
Let us be as selfless in our love and devotion to family and other people as the mother bird! Even grown children, our spouses, parents, friends or other adults need to be made felt cared about and loved, especially if they had a bad day or have lots of worries on their mind.
Often all ot takes is one small act of kindness to cheer someone up and make a person feel loved and appreciated.