Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, and you, you are a thousand miles away, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans: before and after imagery from space

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a site with before and after pictures of New Orleans taken from satellites.

The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path

The Core teachings of Buddhism is the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. I find that these resonate with the first chapter of the Dao De Jing posted earlier.

Four Noble Truths:
Suffering exists
Suffering arises from attachment to desires
Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

Noble Eightfold Path:
Three Qualities Eightfold Path

Wisdom (panna)
Right View
Right Thought

Morality (sila)
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood

Meditation (samadhi)
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Contemplation

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Dao De Jing: Chapter 1

The Dao De Jing is one of the world's classics. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a public domain translation.

Chapter 1:

The tao that can be described is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Who needs fiction: stupid criminals

Aug 2005 13:14:11 -0600
Mon Aug 29,12:01 PM ET

Three men trying to steal fuel from a New Zealand farm Monday ended up setting fire to their own car. Police said the trio had siphoned diesel into a petrol-driven vehicle. When their car would not start, they examined the fuel pipe using a cigarette lighter.

One click, a boom and the car burst into flames."It wasn't a major whodunnit," senior sergeant Ross Gilbert told Reuters, from the small North Island town ofWaipukurau (pop. 3,000), about 140 miles northeast of Wellington; "Fortunately for them, there is no criminal charge for stupidity.

The men, aged 18 to 19, escaped injury but were charged with theft.

Who needs fiction: Hurrican Katrina

'Nuff said.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a website where you can one more time watch Kurt Russell's protrayal of Herb Brooks giving the famous locker room speech from the movie Miracle.

Here is the text:

Great moments are born from great opportunity.And that's what you have here tonight, boys.
That's what you've earned here, tonight.
One game.

If we played 'em ten times, they might win nine.
But not this game. Not tonight.
Tonight, we skate with 'em.

Tonight, we stay with 'em, and we shut them down because we can!Tonight, we are the greatest hockey team in the world.
You were born to be hockey players -- every one of ya.
And you were meant to be here tonight.
This is your time.
Their time -- is done. It's over.

I'm sick and tired of hearin' about what a great hockey team the Soviets have.Screw 'em!
This is your time!!

Now go out there and take it!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown

Searching for the Hermit

I asked the boy beneath the pines.
He said, "The master's gone alone herb picking,
somewhere on the mount, cloud hidden,
whereabouts unknown."

(Chin Tao, 777-841)

300 Tang Dynasty Poems #4: Orchids and Oranges II

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the famous anthology of Tang Dynasty poetry, the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems.


Zhang Jiuling

Here, south of the Yangzi, grows a red orangetree.
All winter long its leaves are green,
Not because of a warmer soil,
But because its' nature is used to the cold.
Though it might serve your honourable guests,
You leave it here, far below mountain and river.
Circumstance governs destiny.
Cause and effect are an infinite cycle.
You plant your peach-trees and your plums,
You forget the shade from this other tree.

The 36 Strategies: #4 Face the Weary in a Condition of Ease

4. Face the weary in a condition of ease

You force others to expend energy while you preserve yours. You tire opponents out by sending them on wild goose chases, or by making them come to your from far away while you stand your ground.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Two by Robert Frost


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and
I-I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Old pictures of the Shaolin Temple

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online photo albumn containing pictures of the Shaolin Temple, from the era before 1928, when was the last time it was razed.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The Gentleman on the Beam

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the page where I found this story.

The Gentleman on the Beam

In the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), there lived a man called Chen Shi, who had been the head of a county. He was admired and respected by people for his fine morality and good reputation. He was ready to be promoted, instead he retired for some political reasons and lived in his hometown since then.

One year, turmoil and war took place because of a terrible famine. Robberies and thieves were rampant in that area.

One night a thief got into the house of Chen Shi through one of the windows. The thief was about start his deal when Chen Shi got up to relieve himself. So the thief hid himself on the beam immediately.

Chen Shi had noticed the thief but he pretended to know nothing about him. After he tied the belt around his waist, instead of calling the thief down, he called his sons up and then spoke out to them, "Listen!" the father declared, "As a man, one should act straightly and firmly. He should do good deeds all his life. And I don't think those who serve the devils have an instinct for evil." The address made by the father in the middle of the night puzzled the sons. They didn't know what on earth had happened. And then the father raised his voice and continued, "You must remember that one can be short of property, however, he must stand on his dignity." The father hinted for his sons what he said was all aimed to the man on the beam.

The thief felt very sorry and shamed for what he did. So he began to weep on the beam. Later, he climbed down and knelt before Chen Shi, "I'm terribly sorry, but that is all because of the famine and the war." At last Chen Shi forgave him, gave him some cloth, and let him go.

Though the thief in the story was a little commiserated with, yet he was regarded as a thief admittedly. Since then such a person has got another name, that is, THE GENTLEMAN ON THE BEAM.

Happy Birthday, Woody

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original article.


Pixar tells story behind 'Toy Story'
- C.W. Nevius
Tuesday, August 23, 2005

When Hollywood was churning out movies full of explosions and mindless violence a few years ago, Pixar Animation Studios swam against the stream with "Finding Nemo," a G-rated feature that received four Academy Award nominations and grossed more than $355 million.

Today, of course, Pixar's filmmaking wisdom is self-evident. Mention the animation studio and everyone nods wisely.

But Monday, as Pixar celebrated the 10th anniversary of "Toy Story,'' its debut film, the creative minds behind the studio for the first time told the real story of how they almost lost the picture. Not only did the big-money folks at Disney who bankrolled the film not understand the vision of "Toy Story,'' they hated it so much they shut down production.

Of course, Pixar made the movie, the movie made millions and Disney watched itself dethroned as the king of animation by a company that Steve Jobs started in a Richmond garage.

It is an instructive story on several levels. Pixar, as you have probably heard, has had a stormy relationship with Disney -- and Disney, at this point, looks like the loser. In the 10 years since we met Woody the cowboy, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the "Toy Story" gang, Pixar has won 16 Academy Awards and grossed over $3 billion.

Disney, once the gold standard of animation, is reeling from flops like "Treasure Planet.'' Is Pixar the new model for corporate filmmaking? Wouldn't that be nice?

Yesterday's press tour was a rare opportunity to cruise the Emeryville campus, where studio guru John Lasseter can be seen strolling by in one of his trademark Hawaiian shirts, and slacker-chic employees zip the halls on scooters when they aren't playing video games and foosball.

Call it the house that Woody built.

"I don't think there is any other studio out there like Pixar,'' said Lee Unkrich, the co-director of "Finding Nemo," "Monsters, Inc.'' and "Toy Story 2. ''

He's got that right. Where else would employees talk about creating "art as a team sport?''
It isn't just an innovative workplace; Pixar sounds a little like an alternative lifestyle.

With their beach garb, geek culture and fanatic attention to detail, the folks at Pixar are churning out the must-see movies of their generation. What no one seems to notice is that, with the huge production costs of computer animation, they are rolling the dice with every new release.

Pixar has only done six feature films in 10 years. But there hasn't been a clunker in the bunch.
"A lot of studios talk about a 12-to-1 ratio -- they come in with 12 ideas and one of them makes it," said Andrew Stanton, who won Oscars for writing and directing "Nemo." "We pick one idea, good or bad, and we stick with it until it works.''

That's not how it happens down south, as Pixar discovered with "Toy Story. ''

Disney, which was bankrolling the project, peppered the young animators with notes and suggestions. The story was too juvenile, the higher-ups said, and the characters had to be edgier.

Afraid to trust themselves, Lasseter and his crew tried to follow all the directions. It was, nearly everyone agrees, a train wreck. Disney hated the movie and the idea -- and shut it down.

"Yeah that was fun,'' jokes Pete Docter, who was nominated for Oscars for "Toy Story'' and "Monsters, Inc.'' "And it happened right around Christmas, too.''

Lasseter recalls that he "begged'' for two weeks to fix things. The animators went back, took out all of Disney's suggestions and made the movie they wanted to make in the first place.

And, naturally, when they screened the new version, Disney execs loved it. There's your corporate minds at work: First they screw it up and hate it, and then don't even realize that they're watching what they hated in the first place.

But if Lasseter's last-second fixes hadn't worked, there would be no sprawling Pixar campus in Emeryville today, or a potential expansion with building permits available through 2012. Nor would the Bay Area be known as the epicenter of computer animation. It was one of those behind-the-scenes moments that dramatically changes the culture of a community.

And, it has to be said, Pixar has turned out to be a terrific corporate role model. Not only has it been wildly successful, it has turned out films that nearly everyone finds entertaining and worthwhile. The studio's movies, except for some uncharacteristically dark moments in "The Incredibles,'' are almost always wholesome family fare. The movies, and the studio where they are made, are as down-to-earth and unaffected as the creators.

How do they make it work? Well, a big part of it, they insist, is avoiding what they call "No, but ... .''

The idea is that when someone suggests an idea, others should respond with "Yes, and ...,'' not "No, but ... .''

Docter and Stanton say that attitude comes from the improv comedy culture, and they credit Joe Ranft (Pixar's 45-year-old head of storytelling until he died last week in a car accident in Mendocino County) with bringing it to Pixar. It all comes with the concept that, as they say on campus, "every idea is a good idea.''

"What you need to create,'' says Stanton, the eighth employee hired when Pixar started 20 years ago, "is the most trusting environment possible where people can screw up.''

And follow their own vision. So far, so good.

Happy birthday, Woody.

C.W. Nevius' column appears Tuesday and Saturday in Bay Area and in East Bay Life on Fridays. E-mail him at


The founder of the Soto school of Zen was a brilliant man named Dogen. The following is a very good summary of his thoughts. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the page where this originally came from, and where there's a lot more information on Zen.
These are nine points that can be extracted from Dogen’s thought:
1. Identity of self and others. Zazen is the complete realization of self, identifying with others. He said: “To study the Way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be enlightened by all things. To be enlightened by all things is to remove the barriers between one’s self and others.”
2. Identity of practice and enlightenment. There is no difference between practice and enlightenment. There should not be any attachment to the outcome of the practice.
3. Identity of the precepts and Zen Buddhism. Novice monks must know the 16 Bodhisattvas precepts before becoming monks. There is no difference between the precepts and Zen itself. When enlightened he is already endowed with the precepts.
4. Identity of life and death. Although most people love life and hate death, nobody can avoid death. Once you come to terms with death, there is no life or death to love or hate. Both are part of the life of a Buddha.
5. Identity of time and being. Time is being and vice versa. Time can only be experienced but cannot be cognized. Now is now which includes past, present and the future. Without now there are no others. Now is absolute and eternal. Once lost it never returns. So practice continuously without delay.
6. Being and nonbeing. Nonbeing is not “nothing.” It is being and vice versa. In non-dualistic terms, both are absolutes. So we have both the Buddha-nature and we also do not have the Buddha-nature in non-dualistic viewpoint. Nonbeing in Zen is never the nothing of nihilism but it is a lively and creative function of the Way.
7. Men and women. There is no gap between right and wrong, clever and foolish, high and low social status, or men and women. All can realize Buddhahood. The Way is open to men and women equally.
8. Monks and lay people. Both can practice, but monks are free from world affairs. Lay people can pursue the Way but their practice must be intense and persistent. Of course the best is to become monks and follow the precepts. Remember Dogen’s teaching is that practice takes precedence over theory.
9. Sutras and Zen Buddhism. The Way of the Buddha-mind is beyond letters and sutras, because attachment to the letters and sutras is itself a hindrance. So it is the attachment to the letters and not the letters that must be cast away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pay Attention

In an earlier post on the Japanese poet, Basho, there is a mention of his sitting underneath a banana tree on his property, listening to the breeze blow through the leaves. Sometimes in our busy lives, it's hard to imagine slowing down and just listening, just feeling the breeze. The following article tells us what we're up against.
The New York Times
February 10, 2005
You There, at the Computer: Pay Attention

FIRST, a confession. Since starting to write this article two hours ago, I have left my chair only once.But I have not been entirely present, either.Each time I have encountered a thorny sentence construction or a tough transition, I have heard the siren call of distraction.Shouldn't I fiddle with my Netflix queue, perhaps, or click on the weekend weather forecast? And there must be a friend having a birthday who would love to receive an e-card right now.I have checked two e-mail accounts at least a dozen times each, and read eight messages. Only two were relevant to my task, but I responded right away to all of them. My sole act of self-discipline: both instant messaging accounts are turned off. For now.

This sorry litany is made only slightly less depressing when I remind myself that I have plenty of company.Humans specialize in distraction, especially when the task at hand requires intellectual heavy lifting. All the usual "Is it lunchtime yet?" inner voices, and external interruptions like incoming phone calls, are alive and well.But in the era of e-mail, instant messaging, Googling, e-commerce and iTunes, potential distractions while seated at a computer are not only ever-present but very enticing.

Distracting oneself used to consist of sharpening a half-dozen pencils or lighting a cigarette. Today, there is a universe of diversions to buy, hear,watch and forward, which makes focusing on a task all the more challenging."It's so hard, because of the incredible possibilities we have that we've never had before, such as the Internet," said John Ratey, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School who specializes in attention problems. Dr. Ratey said that in deference to those who live with clinically diagnosed attention deficit disorder, he calls this phenomenon pseudo-A.D.D.A growing number of computer scientists andpsychologists are studying the problem of diminished attention. And some are beginning to work on solutions.

Ben Bederson, who builds computer interfaces at theUniversity of Maryland, said his design goal is to generate a minimum of distraction for the user. "We're trying to come up with simple ideas of how computer interfaces get in the way of being able to concentrate," said Dr. Bederson, director of the Human-ComputerInteraction Lab at the university.When scrolling up and down a document on a computer screen, for instance, he said, some software causes the page to jump. It's an invitation to distraction, in that it requires the eye to reacquaint itself with the document in order to continue reading. To help people understand the importance of avoiding these kinds of jumpy interactions, Dr. Bederson showed that smooth scrolling was not only easier on the eye, but reduced the number of mistakes people make when,say, reading a document aloud.But some distractions don't need much of an invitation.

Take e-mail, for instance."It's in human nature to wonder whether you've got new mail," said Alon Halevy, a professor of computer science at the University ofWashington who specializes in data management systems and artificial intelligence. "I don't think anything else is as compelling to divert attention."Dr. Halevy and others talk about making e-mail intelligent so that it knows when to interrupt theuser."Suppose you trusted your e-mail system enough that you're alerted to an e-mail only if it's really pertinent right now," Dr. Halevy said. "If I knew the right thing was happening with my e-mail, it wouldn't be such a distraction."Dr. Halevy said this is a very difficult problem because it requires sophisticated natural language comprehension on the part of the software. "Completely solving the natural language problem is still decades away," he said, but "extracting useful information out of e-mail is a simpler instance that could make much faster progress."

Dr. Halevy is working on what he calls semantice-mail, which provides some structure to the originatinge-mail to make it easier for the software on the recipient's side to understand it and assign a priority.

Many people, even the experts, have devised their own stopgap solutions to the attention-span problem.Dr. Bederson tries to read e-mail for only 15 minutes every hour. Dr. Halevy sets milestones for himself and breaks down a large task into small ones. "I say, O.K., I'll finish writing this paragraph,after which I let myself check e-mail, go browse the Web a little bit or make a cappuccino,"he said. "If I insert enough resting points between the work,I'm much more motivated to go back to it."

Others might say, however, that Dr. Halevy's self-induced interruptions remove him from essential cognitive flow.Dr. Bederson, Dr. Ratey and others often refer to the notion of flow, a concept coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, (pronouncedCHICK-sent-me-hi-ee), professor of psychology at the Claremont Graduate University and the author of"Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience"(Perennial, 1991). Flow, in essence, is a state of deep cognitive engagement people achieve when performing an activity that demands a certain level of focus, like writing.

Mary Czerwinski, a cognitive psychologist who is a senior researcher at Microsoft, is studying the effect of interruptions on such deep cognitive immersion, with Dr. Bederson. "We're thinking that if you're deeply immersed in a flow state you'll be less amenable to a distraction from an incoming notification, much less likely to even know the notification came through,"she said.In related work, other Microsoft researchers are developing software that can learn to gauge where and how a computer user is directing attention, part ofwhat they call the Attentional User Interface project.

One piece of software in development learns to assign a level of urgency to incoming e-mail messages while shielding people from messages they can see later - based on an assessment of how busy they are."We can detect when users are available for communication, or when the user is in a state offlow," said Eric Horvitz, a senior Microsoft researcher who directs the project.

For Edward Serotta, as for many other people, the problem is reaching that state of flow to begin with. Mr. Serotta is the director of Centropa(, a group based in Vienna that has created a searchable online library of Jewish family photos,linked to oral histories. Part of his job consists of writing lengthy grant proposals, an unwelcome task at best.For the past eight years, Mr. Serotta has used a laptop computer. "That means I can take my ability to dodge seriouswork everywhere," he said. "I really depend on small technical distractions to keep me away from the things I dread doing."

He is currently faced with creating a five-year masterplan for his institute at the request of two potential funding sources. The continual checking of his e-mail is rivaled by the micromanagement of his iTunes. "I will certainly do what they ask, but that doesn't necessarily take precedence overfiguring out whether I should list Stevie Winwood or Steve Winwood in my iTunes library," he said.Mr. Serotta has four local weather services on his computer's desktop, all of which he watches like a hawk, even on days when he has no intention of leaving his office, which is down the hall from his apartment. "This is vitally important because one of them might be off by half a degree," he said.

When Mr. Serotta does manage to find himself in the flow of writing, the stretches of time in which he is focused are what Dr. Czerwinski calls "key cognitive flow moments." Dr. Czerwinski's research group is working to identify the signals that such a moment has ended. "It could be hitting save," she said. "Or it could be the end of a Web search."And this, Dr. Czerwinski said, would be a good time to allow a distraction in, like an e-mail notification. "Most software doesn't take your current cognitive state into account when it lets dialogue through," Dr. Czerwinski said.

But such predictive interfaces, as they are called, do not necessarily promise a cure for distraction, even for those more disciplined than Mr. Serotta, as they can be distractions unto themselves that throw the user off intellectual course."It is the very nature of predictive and adaptive interfaces that the user has to look at whatever the system is proposing and make a decision about whether they want to act on it," Dr. Bederson said. As an example, Dr. Bederson cited word-completion software, like the kind often found on cellphones. "It's a trade-off because you have to look at and evaluate each suggestion from the predictive interface," he said.

Dr. Bederson is also skeptical of a predictive interface's ability to know when the best time to interrupt might be. "That's very, very hard for a computer system to guess," he said. Hitting save, for instance, might be the start of a more reflective moment. "And that's the most important time to not interrupt,"he said.Dr. Csikszentmihalyi, the flow expert, believes interruptions have their place. "I shouldn't knock distraction completely, because it can be useful," he said. "It can clear the mind and give you a needed breakfrom a very linear kind of thinking."He continued, "E-mail could be a kind of intermittent relief from having to think about things that are not really that enjoyable, but when it becomes a habit so you can't do without it, then it becomes the tail that wags the dog, and it's a problem."

Peter S. Hecker, a corporate lawyer in San Francisco,said that when he hears the chiming alert of new e-mail, he forces himself to continue working for 30 seconds before looking at it. Thirty seconds, mind you, not 30minutes."Deep thought for a half-hour? Boy, that's hard," Mr.Hecker said. "Does anyone ever really have deep thoughts for half an hour anymore?"

Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

Who needs fiction? Maybe there is something in the water.

Please click on the title of this post to go to the original...
65 Girls At Area School Pregnant
School To Unveil Three-Prong Program
POSTED: 12:30 pm EDT August 23, 2005

CANTON, Ohio -- There are 490 female students at Timken High School, and 65 are pregnant, according to a recent report in the Canton Repository.

The article reported that some would say that movies, TV, videogames, lazy parents and lax discipline may all be to blame.

School officials are not sure they what has caused so many pregnancies, but in response to them, the school is launching a three-prong educational program to address pregnancy, prevention and parenting.

The newspaper also reported that students will face mounting tensions created by unplanned child-rearing responsibilities, causing students to quit school and plan for a GED. This will make it difficult for the Canton City School District to shake its academic watch designation by the state.

According to the Canton Health Department, statistics through July show that 104 of the 586 babies born to Canton residents in Aultman Hospital and Mercy Medical Center had mothers between 11 and 19.

The newspaper reports that the non-Canton rate was 7 percent. Canton was 15 percent.
Copyright 2005 by NewsNet5. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Monday, August 22, 2005

A couple of mob movies

A couple of mob movies were on cable recently. Casino and The Godfather II.

Casino starred Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, and Sharon Stone. DeNiro and Pesci were at their best, but this was always one of my favorite appearances by Sharon Stone. She wasn't just a pretty face. In fact, in some scenes she was downright ugly. It was with this movie I think we began to see that she had some depth as an actress.

The Godfather II is really two stories. Al Pacino as Michael Corleone is building his empire; while in flashbacks, Robert DeNiro as a young Vito Corleone is buiding his. I thought DeNiro stole the show, doing the performance in Italian.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

What a nice weekend

I had a very full and pleasant weekend.

This weekend was the occasion of my 30th highschool reunion. It started out on Friday, with a golf outing. There were some people I had not seen in those thirty years, and others I see fairly regularly. Either way, picking up were we left off was as natural as could be. We had a very nice afternoon together.

It had been very hot and dry lately, but on Saturday morning, we had a nice long, slow rain. It was so nice to sleep to.

The skies cleared up and we had a very nice evening for the reunion itself. We had over 100 people show up. Some from clear across the country. A very good time was had by all.

I was one of the early ones to go, when I got home after 3 in the morning. I needed to at least get some sleep, because I was moving my oldest daughter back to college Sunday morning.

She's entering her sophomore year. She's moved into a sorority house.

She's in a suite with 2 other girls. The other two dads and I must have looked like the Three Stooges doing plumbing at times, but we got some things assembled. Word got out that her dad knew "about computers" and I was drafted by several other rooms to help them get their computers set up on the network.

It was a lot easier to leave her this time. I know she'll do well. The school year away from home was a good growing experience for her. She's much more mature.

During the summer she had worked two jobs, and took 2 classes at the community college. I'm so proud of her.

It was easier for her this year when we left as well. She hardly notice we were leaving because the girls were already planning what they were going to do that night.

I'm writing this on my patio, listening to the crickets, with the occasional bluesy sound of a train in the distance.

I had a very nice weekend.

300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #3: Thoughts 3

The Tang Dynasty was a Golden Age of poetry in China. No event of any consequence went without a poem. Today, we'd be composing them for high school graduation parties, a homecoming, or leavetaking. What a wonderful way to have lived.

Some of the best poems of that era have been collected in a famous anthology, The 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the anthology.

In the meantime, here is number 3:

Zhang Jiuling

The hermit in his lone abode
Nurses his thoughts cleansed of care,
Them he projects to the wild goose
For it to his distant
Sovereign to bear.
Who will be moved by the sincerity
Of my vain day-and-night prayer?
What comfort is for my loyalty
When fliers and sinkers can compare?

The first leaves are beginning to turn color. The temperature for the next few days will be unseasonably cool. Autumn is around the corner.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website where I found the painting.

Butterfly or leaf?
Early twilight fools my eyes
Moving into fall.

Friday, August 19, 2005

A new blog, plus a tea update

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to The Pragmatic View, which is a new blog. It contains many articles on strategy, historical figures that are prominent in strategy, and so on. Take a look, it's well worth it.

Also, the Imperial Tea Court has a new issue of their newsletter out. Please visit their site at:

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Frog Spring

a buddy of mine sent this along to me, and from me, to you


At the foot of Fan Hill opposite Huangsang Cave in theXiling Gorge (threeGorges area), there was an enormous, oval-shaped rock which, viewed from mid-river, looks like a big frog, its tongue sticking out and its bulging eyes wide open. It was called Frog Rock.Far more famous is Frog Spring at the back of Frog Rock. It supplies clear, sweet water for brewing tea and wine.

The "Best ofTea", Lu Yu (733-804),famous tea expert of Tang Dynasty, was said to have tasted the Frog Springwater. Here is what he wrote about it in his Classic of Tea: "A huge rock protrudes from the foot of Fan Hill. In the shape of afrog, it hides a spring, which gives cold, clear water. People say that water from the Frog's mouth rates fourth in the country in making tea."Poems were written by many literary men in praise of the Frog Spring water, for instance... Ouyang Xiu("The Frog issues curtains of water, Which makes formellow wine."), and SuZhe ("Frog Spring water is not only good for tea, itis matchless for brewing wine."), all of the Song Dynasty (960-1279).

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The 36 Strategies: #3. Borrow a sword to kill another

This one is pretty obvious. It can be interpreted in several ways.

At one level, getting someone else to do the dirty work leaves you above the fray, both physically, and in reputation. If your cat's paw is killed or injured, you can always find another.

At another level, it could be taken to simply mean to keep your hands clean.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Sun WuKong, the Monkey King

I copied this article from Wikipedia. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the original Wikipedia article, which has links, etc.


Sun Wukong (Traditional: 孫悟空; Simplified: 孙悟空; pinyin: Sūn Wùkōng; Wade-Giles: Sun Wu-k'ung; also surn vukorn), the Monkey King, is perhaps the most famous and beloved fictional character in all of classical Chinese literature. A magician, priest, ruler, sage, and warrior in the shape of a monkey, he is the mischievous protagonist of Journey to the West, based on popular tales dating back to the Tang dynasty. The novel narrates his adventures from birth, in particular how he accompanied the monk Xuanzang to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India.

Some scholars believe he is based upon the legend of Hanuman, the Indian monkey hero from the ancient Ramayana epic.

Names and titles
(listed in the order that he first acquired them)

· Meihou Wang (美猴王): Meaning "Beautiful Monkey King".
· His name Sun (孫) is based on the Chinese word Hu2Sun1 (猢猻) which means monkey. · Wukong (悟空): Meaning "aware of emptiness". The name given to him by his first master, Subodhi.
· Bimawen (弼馬溫): The title of the keeper of the Heavenly Horses. Sun Wukong was given this position by the Jade Emperor after his first intrusion into Heaven.
· Qitian Dasheng (齊天大聖): Meaning "great sage equal of Heaven". Sun Wukong demanded this title from the Jade Emperor and was eventually granted it.
· Xingzhe (行者): Meaning "traveller". The name given to him by Xuan Zang.

In addition to the names used in the novel, the Monkey King has other names in various parts of China:

· Gou De Tien (猴齊天) in Taiwanese
· Ma Lou Jing (馬騮精) in Cantonese

Supernatural powers

Legends tells that Wukong was born out of a rock and through his many adventures he was able to master an array of amazing abilities and powers. He knows 72 transformations, double that of Zhu Bajie.Through a series of audacious stunts he acquires the powers of immortality, shape-changing ability, cloud travel skills, and ownership of a handy "as-you-will resizeable staff" which can be nestled behind the ear for easy carrying or resized to tree-trunk size for pounding the sense out of dragons and demons. His magical staff was a supporting pillar he "robbed" from the under-sea palace of the East Sea dragon king. The monkey king also forced the dragon king to offer him other magical "gifts" including his beautiful golden armour. Above all he has monkey chutzpah.

Sun Wukong learned many of his magical tricks while serving as a disciple under the Patriarch Subodhi; it was the Patriarch who gave him the name "Wukong" ("aware of emptiness"). The Patriarch, who by the time they parted ways was certain the monkey would come to a bad end, made him promise never to tell anyone who his teacher was.

Making trouble in Heaven

He was invited to the Heavenly Kingdom by the Jade Emperor in the hopes that a promotion and title would make him a little more manageable. He proved to be an incorrigible monkey, however, and soon he was scarfing down the Empress's Peaches of Immortality and popping Lord Lao Tzu's Pills of Indestructibility like they were Tic Tacs. Feeling guilty, but not that guilty, he became the biggest headache for everybody in heaven. Finally, the heavenly authorities had no choice but to attempt to subdue him.

He fought and defeated the Army of Heaven of 100,000 strong, Four Heavenly Kings, Erlang Shen and Nezha successively. Eventually, by the great effort and teamwork by the heavenly forces, including many famous deities, he was finally captured. After several more mundane execution attempts failed, Wukong was stuffed into Lord Lao Tzu's eight-way trigem cauldron to be distilled into an elixir. The cauldron's sacred flames were hot enough to consume anything (including immortals). After a good long cook and then some, the cauldron exploded and out jumped the Monkey King — stronger and refined (for he was born of a rock). Not only was he not harmed in any way, he now had the ability to 'see' evil through what is called Huo Yan JingJing (Firey eyes flickering) no matter which form they appeared as.

All other options exhausted, they finally appealed to the Buddha himself, who arrived in an instant from his temple in the West. The Buddha bet with Sun Wukong that he could not fly out of his palm. Wukong, knowing that in one flip he can cover eighteen thousand miles, was over-confident of his own ability and agreed. He took a great leap and landed in a desolate section of heaven. There were nothing but five 'pillars' visible. Wukong surmised that he had reached the ends of heaven. He pissed there as proof that he was there. Then he leapt back and landed in Buddha's palm. Smiling, Buddha asked him to turn around. He looked back and saw that the marking he made earlier was on Buddha's finger. Wukong had lost the bet. Immediately, he tried to escape, but Buddha turned over his palm and had the Monkey immovable under a mountain. There he remained imprisoned for five centuries until he offered to serve Sanzang, the Tang Priest , who was destined to make the journey to the West to retrieve the Buddhist scriptures for China. The bodhisattva Guanyin helped Sanzang by giving him a magical headband which Sanzang tricked Monkey into wearing. With a special chant Sanzang is able to tighten the band until Monkey cannot bear the pain. In that way he is brought to his true calling as a disciple of Buddha.

As a disciple to Xuanzang

For the rest of the epic Sun Wukong faithfully helps the Tang Priest on his journey to the west. They are joined by Pig (Zhu Bajie) and Friar Sand (Sha Wujing), two other monsters who have been tamed in advance by Guanyin and woven into Sanzang's destiny. The group gets into many scrapes and must learn many Buddhist lessons before they return safely to the Tang empire with the treasure of the Buddhist scripture.

Celebrations and Festivals

The Sun Wu Kong festival is celebrated on the 16th day of the 8th Lunar Month on the Chinese Calendar. Festivals feature recreations of his ordeals such as walking on a bed of coals and climbing a ladder of knives.

In Hong Kong it is celebrated at the Buddhist Temple in Sau Mau Ping which has a shrine to Sun Wu Kong.


Inspite of its popularity (or perhaps because of it) legends regarding Sun Wukong have changed with the ebb and flow that is Chinese culture. The tale with Buddha and the "Pillars" is a prime example and did not appear until the Han Dynasty when Buddhism was first introduced to China. Various legends concerning Sun Wukong on the other hand date back to before written Chinese history, changing to adapt to the most popular Chinese religion of a given era.It is believed that the character Sun Wukong was partly based on Hanuman, the "monkey god" of Hindu described in a book by the historical Xuanzang. He also bears some similarities to mischievous six year old boys. Sun Wukong became so well-known in China that he was once worshipped by some as a real god.Son Goku, the central character in the Japanese manga Dragon Ball/Dragon Ball Z and anime Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and Dragon Ball GT, is partly based on Sun Wukong. Other parallels can be seen in Goku's telescoping staff and Oolong, the shape-changing pig.

The character Son Goku in the manga Gensomaden Saiyuki, whose plot is loosely based on Journey to the West, is partly based on Sun Wukong.

Sun Wukong is so prominent in Journey to the West that the famous translation by Arthur Waley is entitled Monkey, leading to other versions of Journey to the West also being called Monkey, such as the Japanese television show, Monkey.Journey to the West, a Chinese 1986 live action series and some other adaptations.

Stephen Chow made two comedy movies, the "A Chinese Odyssey" series, in 1994 that were loosely based on the character.

Sun Wukong is on the shortlist of candidates for the mascot of the 2008 Summer Olympics to be held in Beijing.

"The Ape" by Milo Manara retells the story of the ape - with humor, sexy artwork and political overtones. It ran for several months in issues of Heavy Metal (magazine), in the early 80's.

Who needs fiction: full contact yoga

Wednesday, August 3, 2005 (AP)Report: Yoga Stir Tempers in Norway Prison

(08-03) 13:07 PDT OSLO, Norway (AP) --
A Norwegian prison has stopped giving yoga sessions to inmates afterfinding that some of the prisoners became more aggressive and agitated, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

The yoga classes were introduced on at trial basis earlier this year at Ringerike prison, which holds some of Norway's most dangerous criminals.

Prison officials had hoped meditation and breathing exercises would help inmates contain their anger, but it appeared to have the opposite effect.

Some inmates became more agitated and aggressive, while others developed sleeping problems as a result of the yoga sessions, prison warden Sigbjoern Hagen told newspaper Ringerikes Blad.

Hagen said that deepbreathing exercises could make the inmates more dangerous, by unblocking their psychological barriers.
--------------------------------------Copyright 2005 AP

Monday, August 15, 2005

Do the Right Thing

Brad Warner, an American Zen Priest, has a new article on his website entitled "Do the Right Thing." If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the article.

Who needs fiction: alternative fuels

Click on the title of this post, and you'll be directed to a site which describes a new alternative fuel. No kidding.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

From 300 Tang Dynasty Poems, #2: Orchid and Orange I

This is a selection from the famous anthology of Tang Dynasty poetry, the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems. If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to an online version of the 300 poems.

Zhang Jiuling
Tender orchid-leaves in spring
And cinnamon- blossoms bright in autumn
Are as self- contained as life is,
Which conforms them to the seasons.
Yet why will you think that a forest-hermit,
Allured by sweet winds and contented with beauty,
Would no more ask to-be transplanted
Than Would any other natural flower?

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Faith in Mind

"Faith in Mind" is an important Buddhist text. Clicking on the title of this post will take you to the page I got this from.

Seng Tsan, the Third Patriarch, who died in 606 CE, has historically been accepted as the author of Faith in Mind. Contemporary scholars, however, doubt whether he was in fact the author.
Niu Tou Fa Jung, a disciple of Tao Hsin, The Fourth Patriarch, wrote a poem called Song of Mind. The similarity between the poems has caused scholars to speculate that Faith in Mind was actually written after the time of the Sixth Patriarch, Hui Neng, as an improved, condensed version of Song of Mind.

The matter of authorship is irrelevant to the tremendous influence this poem has had on Chinese and Japanese thinking in Chan and Zen.


The Supreme Way is not difficult
If only you do not pick and choose.
Neither love nor hate,
And you will clearly understand.
Be off by a hair,
And you are as far apart as heaven from earth.
If you want the way to appear,
Be neither for nor against.
For and against opposing each other —
This is the mind's disease.
Without realising the mysterious principle
It is useless to practise quietude.
The Way is perfect like a great space,
Without lack, without excess.
Because of grasping and rejecting,
You cannot attain it.
Do not pursue conditioned existence;
Do not abide in acceptance of emptiness.
In oneness and equality,
Confusion vanishes of itself.
Stop activity and return to stillness,
And that stillness will even be more active.
Only stagnating in duality,
How can you recognize oneness?
If you fail to penetrate oneness,
Both places lose their function.
Banish existence and you fall into existence;
Follow emptiness and you turn your back on it.
Excessive talking and thinking
Turn you from harmony with the Way.
Cut off talking and thinking,
And there is nowhere you cannot penetrate.
Return to the root and attain the principle;
Pursue illumination and you lose it.
One moment of reversing the light
Is greater than the previous emptiness.
The previous emptiness is transformed;
It was all a product of deluded views.
No need to seek the real;
Just extinguish your views.
Do not abide in dualistic views;
Take care not to seek after them.
As soon as there is right and wrong
The mind is scattered and lost.
Two comes from one,
Yet do not even keep the one.
When one mind does not arise,
Myriad dharmas are without defect.
Without defect, without dharmas,
No arising, no mind.
Not seeing fine or coarse,
How can there be any bias?
The Great Way is broad,
Neither easy nor difficult.
With narrow views or doubts,
Haste will slow you down.
Attach to it and you will lose the measure;
The mind will enter a deviant path.
Let it go and be spontaneous,
Experience no going or staying.
Accord with your nature, unite with the Way,
Wander at ease, without vexation.
Bound by thoughts, you depart from the real;
And sinking into a stupor is as bad.
It is not good to weary the spirit.
Why alternate between aversion and affection?
If you wish to enter the one vehicle,
Do not be repelled by the sense realm.
With no aversion to the sense realm,
You become one with true enlightenment.
The wise have no motives;
Fools put themselves in bondage.
One dharma is not different from another.
The deluded mind clings to whatever it desires.
Using mind to cultivate mind —
Is this not a great mistake?
The erring mind begets tranquility and confusion;
In enlightenment there are no likes and dislikes.
The duality of all things
Issues from false discriminations.
A dream, an illusion, a flower in the sky —
How could they be worth grasping?
Gain and loss, right and wrong —
Discard them all at once.
If the eyes do not close in sleep,
All dreams will cease of themselves.
If the mind does not discriminate,
All dharmas are of one suchness.
The essence of one suchness is profound;
Unmoving, conditioned things are forgotten.
Contemplate all dharmas as equal,
And you return to things as they are.
When the subject disappears,
There can be no measuring or comparing.
Stop activity and there is no activity;
When activity stops, there is no rest.
Since two cannot be established,
How can there be one?
In the very ultimate,
Rules and standards do not exist.
Develop a mind of equanimity,
And all deeds are put to rest.
Anxious doubts are completely cleared.
Right faith is made upright.
Nothing lingers behind,
Nothing can be remembered.
Bright and empty, functioning naturally,
The mind does not exert itself.
It is not a place of thinking,
Difficult for reason and emotion to fathom.
In the Dharma Realm of true suchness,
There is no other, no self.
To accord with it is vitally important;
Only refer to "not-two."
In not-two, all things are in unity;
Nothing is not included.
The wise throughout the ten directions
All enter this principle.
This principle is neither hurried nor slow —
One thought for ten thousand years.
Abiding nowhere yet everywhere,
The ten directions are right before you.
The smallest is the same as the largest
In the realm where delusion is cut off.
The largest is the same as the smallest;
No boundaries are visible.
Existence is precisely emptiness;E
mptiness is precisely existence.
If it is not like this,
Then it is not worth preserving.
One is everything;
Everything is one.
If you can be like this,
Why worry about not finishing?
Faith and mind are not two;
Non-duality is faith in mind.
The path of words is cut off;
There is no past, no future, no present.

The "authorship" introduction is taken from Jos Slabbert's website, Pointing the Way; the translation of Faith in Mind used is that of Master Sheng-Yen.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Iron Fury

Click on the title of this post, and you'll be directed to the Hanzis Matter website. The August 11th post explains the characters on this shirt.

New Article at Gregory Fong's site

Gregory Fong teaches YiQuan in the northwest. On his website, he has some of the best articles on YiQuan training around. There is a new article there on the "spirit of investigation." Well worth the read.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to Gregory Fong's articles.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Training Quotes

"Begin at the beginning,” the King said, gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
Lewis Carroll

"This present continuous practice is nothing other than just that, just committing oneself to continuous practice for no other reason than to practice continuously."
-Dogen in "Continuous Practice" (Translation by Francis Dojun Cook in the book "How To Raise an Ox")

"Be soft in your practice. Think of the method as a fine silvery stream, not a raging waterfall. Follow the stream in its course. It will go its own way, meandering here, trickling there. It will find the grooves, the cracks, the crevices. Just follow it. Never let it out of your sight. It will take you."

Dogen writes: "Time flies like an arrow from a bow and this fact should make us train with all our might, using the same energy we would employ if our hair were to catch fire.”

“The heart of the study of boxing is to have natural instinct resemble the dragon.”
Wang Xiang Zhai

Fish traps are for catching fish. When you've caught the fish, you can forget about the fish trap. Rabbit snares are for catching rabbits. When you've caught the rabbit, you can forget about the snare. Words are for catching ideas. When you've caught the idea, you can forget about the words.
ZhuangZi Chapter 26

“Philosophy practiced is the goal of learning.”

“One should clean out a room in one's home
and place only a tea table and a chair in the room
with some boiled water and fragrant tea.
Afterwards, sit solitarily and
allow one's spirit to become tranquil, light, and natural.”

Li Ri Hua, a Ming Dynasty scholar

In your meditation you yourself are the mirror reflecting the solution of your problems. The human mind has absolute freedom within its true nature. You can attain your freedom intuitively. Do not work for freedom, rather allow the practice itself to be liberation.
-“The Practice of Meditation,” Zen Master Dogen

Small movement is better than big movement. No movement is better than small movement.
- Wang Xiang Zhai

Producing a feeling with a fixed method
Giving up the method after getting the feeling
Letting the feeling follow into everything
Personal feeling leads to complete awareness

Han Jing Yu

"Know yourself; do your best; don't overdo; make progress every day."
- Jou Tsung-Hwa

“ … It would be a very different, though, if you were to climb on the Way and it’s Virtue and go drifting and wandering, neither praised nor damned, now a dragon, now a snake, shifting with the times, never willing to hold one course only.”
Zhuang Zi (Watson)

A flower falls, even though we love it; and a weed grows, even though we do not love it.

Zen Master Dogen

If you cannot find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?
Zen Master Dogen

From The Way of Chuang Tzu, by Thomas Merton

The Fighting Cock

Chi Hsing Tzu was a trainer of fighting cocks
For King Hsuan.
He was training a fine bird.
The King kept asking if the bird was
Ready for combat.
"Not yet," said the trainer.
"He is full of fire.
He is ready to pick a fight
With every other bird. He is vain and confident
Of his own strength."
After ten days, he answered again:
"Not yet. He flares up
When he hears another bird crow."
After ten more days:
"Not yet. He still gets
That angry look
And ruffles his feathers."
Again ten days:
The trainer said, "Now he is nearly ready.
When another bird crows, his eye
Does not even flicker.
He stands immobile
Like a cock of wood.
He is a mature fighter.
Other birds
Will take one look at him
And run."

“Cook Ding was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui. At every touch of his hand, every heave of his shoulder, every move of his feet, every thrust of his knee-zip! zoop! He slithered the knife along with a zing, and all was in perfect rhythm, as though he were performing the dance of the Mulberry Grove or keeping time to the Ching-shou music. ...
"Cook Ding laid down his knife and [said], 'What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond all skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now-now I go at it by spirit and don't look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants. I go along with the natural makeup, strike in the big hollows, guide the knife through the big openings, and follow things as they are. So I never touch the smallest ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.
"A good cook changes his knife once a year-because he cuts. A mediocre cook changes his knife once a month-because he hacks. I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and I've cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the blade is as good as though it had just come from the grindstone. There are spaces between the joints, and the blade of the knife has really no thickness. If you insert what has no thickness into such spaces, then there's plenty of room-more than enough for the blade to play about it. That's why after nineteen years the blade of my knife is still as good as when it first came from the grindstone."

- ZhaungZi

"Do not believe in anything merely because it is said,
nor in traditions because they have been handed down from antiquity:
nor in rumors as such: nor in writings by sages because sages wrote them:
nor in fancies that we may suspect to have been inspired in us by a Deva:
nor in inferences drawn from some haphazard assumption we have made:
nor in what seems to be an analogical neccessity:
nor in the mere authority of our teachers and masters.Believe when the writing, doctrine, or saying is corroborated byreason and consciousness." –Buddha

Here is one definition of Zen:

"True Zen consists of sitting quietly in the correct posture. It is not a special state, it is the normal state: silent, peaceful, without agitation.

Zen means to put the mind at rest and to concentrate the mind and body. In zazen there is no purpose, no seeking to gain something, no special effort or imagination. It is not knowledge to be grasped by the brain. It is solely a practice, a practice which is the true gate to happiness, peace and freedom."

--Taisen Deshimaru Roshi

"Practice is not easy. It WILL transform our life. But if we have a naive idea that this transformation can take place without a price being paid, we fool ourselves. Don't practice unless you feel there's nothing else you can do. Instead, step up your surfing or your physics or your music. If that satisfies you, do it. Don't practice unless you feel you must. It takes enormous courage to have a real practice. You have to face everything about yourself hidden in that box, including some unpleasant things you don't even want to know about."
--Charlotte Joko Beck

"...Slowly, in spite of ourselves, we begin to be interested in what practice really is, as opposed to our ideas of what we think it should be.The point of practice is exactly this clashing space in which my desires for my personal immortality, my own glorification, my own control of the universe, clash with what is."
~ Charlotte Joko Beck

Do not be concerned with who is wise and who is stupid. Do not discriminate the sharp from the dull. To practice whole-heartedly is the true endeavor of the way. Practice-realization is not defiled with specialness; it is a matter for every day.
- Dogen (1200-1253)

Surrender. Without losing yourself by sticking to a particular rule or understanding, keep finding yourself, moment after moment. This is the only thing for you to do.
(pp. 75-76, "Finding Out for Yourself," in "not always so, practicing the true spirit of Zen", by Shunryu Suzuki)

"A year of practice is made of many days of practice. If you lose the days, then you lose the years."

To practice is easy. To become one who practices, is not.

"Mastery is not something that strikes in an instant, like a thunderbolt; But a gathering power that moves through time, like weather."

"A Master can tell you what he expects of you. A teacher, though, awakens your own expectations."
---Patricia Neal

"I am what I am because I have practiced the basics for 60 years."
Ueyshiba Sensei, founder of Aikido

"When you like what you are doing, it's easy."
Beverly Sills

"I arrive for rehersal so totally prepared, the work is effortless."
Beverly Sills

"As you grow more relaxed, you become less afraid. As you become less afraid you grow more relaxed."
- Professor Cheng Man-ching

Discipline is remembering what you want.
Without the winter, there would be no spring.
- Takashi Kushida

Hold on to the hard things, and your mind will open.
- Takashi Kushida

The more you practice, the better you’ll get. Rest when you’re tired.
- Andrzej Kalisz

The hardest thing to change is your own mind.
- Rick Matz

Understand the changes.
Know the season.
Look at the bigger picture.
- Rick Matz

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Rick's Take on Daoism

I wrote this a couple of years ago. If I were to do it again, I might change a few things around, but by and large, I'll stand by what I wrote then.

think a lot of people look to taoism for a justification for their "doing what they want." Personally, I don’t think that that’s what taoism is about at all. I think taoism has everything to do with order.

Philosophy isn’t about idle speculation over a cup of tea. It has to do with real life. These ideas aren’t airy concepts, but are rooted in our lives. The taoist isn’t blown about by the random forces of life. He makes choices, with a clear idea of the consequences. He understands the order in nature, especially human nature. Order, choice, and responsibility for those choices.

There is much talk in taoism about yin and yang, and that they must be kept in balance. It’s a dynamic balance, however. The world is forever changing, and today’s formula for putting our lives in balance doesn’t necessarily apply to tomorrow. There is no magic bullet. Once you "get it," that doesn’t mean that you’ll always have green lights, or that you won’t have to rotate your tires. "Getting it" doesn’t mean you can kick back and goof off, because everything is going to to your way from now on. The taoist is constantly observing and adjusting.

"Your way." That’s the flaw in thinking. That’s an erroneous idea people have about religions and philosophies. Some people feel that a religion or philosophy should adapt to whatever it is that the indiividual wants to do. This is backwards. The person is meant to manage his life according the the precepts of that religion or philosophy. We may each be the center of our own universe, but we not the center of THE universe.

Another mistake in the "your way" kind of thinking, is how much we really control in our lives. The taoist has what he controls, under control. He realizes just how much he doesn’ t control, and doesn’t fool himself. The realistic assessment of the world and it’s ways is one of the things that distinguishes the taoist.

I think taoism is an alternative scientific method. It is a scientific method that is meant to deal with the whole of things, and not just their physics. Nature, as well as human nature is included as well. It must be included, because human nature colors every aspect of our lives. A science of how to prepare strategies to live our lives.

A taoist does everything with a purpose. Even his stillness and quietness is purposeful.
Basically, taoism deals with ends and means. We are asked to look to nature when considering these ends and means. What do I mean by nature? How things grow and wither. Cause and effect. Succession.

The Four Seasons gently succeed each other. A rapid change is a storm, and is often violent and destructive. Extremes tend to balance out over time.
The I Ching, which is supposed to be an oracle, has nothing to do with fortune telling. I think it is a very sophistocated system of analysis and evaluation.

When considering a question, a hexagram is thrown. This hexagram has to be considered line by
line. Starting at the bottom line, how does this yin, yang, moving yin, or moving yang line apply to the problem? After all six lines are considered, they have to be taken in pairs. How do the Earth, Man, and Heaven pairs reflect on the question? Then the upper and lower trigrams have to be compared and reconciled to the problem. Finally, the whole hexagram itself.

By the time this exercise has been completed, it doesn’t matter what the book says, the analyst has turned the problem over and over again. If there are moving lines, this can be repeated with the resultant hexagram. The book is just a strawman for the analyst to use as a starting point in the evaluation.

Finally the hexagrams should be considered with respect to the four seasons - what is the nature of how things change?

By the time the analyst has completed all of this, he thoroughly understands the problem, and answers should start suggesting themselves.

The ends we wish to attain should be tempered by the advice we receive from nature as well.

What is high will become low. What is new, ages. You can desire to attain anything you want, but be aware of the consequences.

It’s ok to choose to "live large." It’s ok, but there are costs and obligations. Do you want these obligations? The taoist doesn’t just look at the first order effects; he looks at the second and third order effects as well.

In the classic, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the help Liu Pei entreats the Taoist Wizard Chuku Liang (Zhuge Liang) three times to join his group, and advise him. Why ZL’s reluctant?

He was content to live a quiet life on his farm. He really had to consider what he was about to embark upon. He had to be convinced of Liu Pei’s sincerity, and there was also a psychological strategy involved, as there always is - everytime ZL said ‘no’ he became more important in LP’s eyes.

The Tao Te Ching, the Inner Chapters of Chuang Tzu, and the I Ching are not the only taoist texts. There are many other famous and important ones we tend to overlook - The Art of War, and the other strategy books of that ilk are all deeply rooted in taoism.

The Four Seasons change, but who can say when spring becomes summer (ignoring the solstice)? The changes are gradual, and there is a lesson there. A sudden change is a storm, and is often violent and destructive. This winter was like the previous winters, but also a unique instance. We can look to the past for lessons, but we must live each unique moment.

Each season must be experienced in turn. Without winter, there would be no spring.

What do I mean about the Three Essentials: Earth, Man, and Heaven? Here’s an example:

You are in a situation in a bar that can turn ugly.

First, Earth. Is the place brightly lit, or is it dark? Is it crowded, and tightly packed, or is it pretty open? Is the floor covered with peanut shells, or would you have good footing? Further - in the sense of prepositioning, are you seated where you can see the exits? Are you in the main traffic area, or out of the way, where no on can see you?

Man - is your assailant drunk or high (remember, a drunk can sober up quickly sometimes)? Does he seem fit? Does he have friends around? Do you? What is your condition?

Heaven - mostly psychology. Is he showing off for friends? Did he break up with a girl friend? What’s the reason?

The Earth concept above is about positioning. Actually, the taoist takes it a step further, and considers the pre-positioning aspect; do I even want to go into that place in the first place? The taoist plays the percentages.

You can apply the concepts of the Three Essentials to everyday life. The taoist is forever positioning, and pre-positioning; doing things that give him the greatest number of options, and the greatest leverage.

I’ve gone on now, about order; but order without rigidity. Think guidelines, and flexible bounds.

If order leads to rigidity, that is a trap; a trap to be avoided. Planning is essential, but so is the understanding that no amount of planning is perfect or complete. There will always be unforseen and unforseeable circumstances, and one must be flexible enough to allow for that. While the taoist may play the percentages, that doesn’t mean the calculated risk or gambit is ruled out.

There is a famous episode in the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, where ZL has occupied a city, and has only a very small force with him. He is surprised to learn that an opponent is nearby with a huge army, and is headed his way. What ZL does, is to throw open the city gates, and make certain he is seen on the city walls, relaxing and playing his lute. The opposing general sees this, and is shaken. ZL is always thoroughly prepared. This must be a trap, he thinks. He takes his army and leaves the scene immediately.

A taoist finds freedom in order, as Mozart was able to express freedom in the established forms of music for which he wrote. A senseless order is of as much use as random chaos. It might even be more harmful. . Randomness is entropy, hence death. Taoism is about life.

Spontaneity only makes sense in the context of order. To be spontaneous is to step outside of order. To have nothing to step outside of, is chaos. The taoist uses order, but is not confined by it. Because he is not confined by it, he has the ability to be spontaneous.

The taoist seeks to understand the first principles, and extrapolate them to accommodate any situation. The taoist prefers simplicity to complexity, because it is easier to manage. If the taoist must choose complexity, it is with both eyes open, and understanding that the greater the complexity, the farther reaching the unintended consequences. The taoist prefers relaxation, because unnecessary tension in inefficient and wasteful. The taoist is believes in preparation, because to be prepared is both efficient and gives one the ability to handle affairs when they are small; before they get out of hand.

The taoist looks for the greatest leverage and options. This is true in the questions he asks and how he approaches them. When considering a career, a taoist might ask himself: where do I want to live? What sort of lifestyle do I want to have? What would it take to support that? Of course there is a telling question as well - Why do I want this?

We all find outselves running faster and faster to keep up. I would recommend a very good book on time - The Art of Time by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber. It is mercifully a slim book. You can easily read it in an afternoon, between all of your obligations. In it, he touches the secret of time management - you have time for what you love. You have to love everything that you do, and that is exactly what a taoist does. You don’t have the time to do everyting, so you must choose wisely.

A taoist attempts to do what is acheivable, and doesn’t expend the energy on what is unachievable.

The taoist and technology. The taoist is happy to use technology, where it is appropriate, but doesn’t allow the technology to become a crutch. We all know how easily it is to become addicted to one’s email, or to surfing the internet. The taoist will happily use any tool at hand, but will not become dependant upon it.

Wu Wei - Doing nothing. More like doing nothing which is of no use. There is also the idea from Sun Tzu - the highest victory is to defeat the opponents plans before they are formed. In Tao Te Ching to solve problems while they are small and manageable. I think "Doing Nothing" is more of a metaphor - doing the right things early, to apply the greatest leverage.

Of course "Doing nothing" can be applied literally as well. How many times would it have been better to let an event run is’ course, and resolved itself, rather than be engaged? Willfully doing nothing is a choice as well, together with responsbilities.

I had an episode at home recently which serves as a counter example. We decided to do some landscaping at the spur of the moment. What we had in mind turned out to be a much bigger job that we first thought. Because it wasn’t planned, I found that there was a lot of extra shuffling around that needed to be done.

If I had planned, I would have realized how big of a job I was taking on, I would have planned the steps that needed to be done, and the job would have gone much smoother, with less effort, in less time.

The taoist can lead a life that can seem effortless because it is well ordered. He can appear to be
spontaneous because he has a solid framework in which to live.

Te - Virtue. The virtue of something is what it is, and what it does. The taoist sees things and people for what they are, and doesn’t attribute extra good (or bad) attributes. A person of virtue is simply himself, without affectation. This is counter to those who think taoism or zen is being eccentric. There is nothing eccentric about being one’s authentic self. To be without affectation is to be the "uncarved block."


The Romance of the Three Kingdoms by Lou Guan Zhong, C. H. Brewitt-Taylor (Translator)
The Art of War by Sun Tzu
The 36 Strategies (Chinabooks)
The 48 Laws of Power by Greene and Elffers
Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu
Inner Chapters by Chuang Tzu
Management of the Absurd by Richard Farson
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Beginners’ Mind, Zen Mind Shunryu Suzuki
The Art of Time by Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber,
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
Walden by Henry David Thoreau
Finding the Winning Edge by Bill Walsh
Why Things Bite Back by Edward Tenner
How to Lie With Statistics by Darrel Huff

Understand the changes.
Know the season.
Consider the bigger picture.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Speaking of Hiking an Ancient Trail...

Speaking of hiking an ancient trail, the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho went on a walking trip, and kept a journal. It was eventually published as "The Narrow Road to the Deep North."

It's a very enjoyable read.

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to a website that has the text in English, in it's entirety.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Hiking an Ancient Trail

///The article can be found at:
/// If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the website where I found the

March 20, 2005
In Japan, Hiking an Ancient Trail to See Rural Life

THE Nakasendo highway in Japan, a 310-mile post road connecting Tokyo and Kyoto, was constructed during the eighth century, when the term highway was applied not to six lanes of asphalt, but to wide walking paths.

Beginning in the 1630's, feudal lords used these official highways on journeys mandated by the shogun to and from his castle in Edo (present-day Tokyo). The route was also used by messengers, pilgrims, porters,merchants and, once, by Princess Kazunomiya, whose 10,000-member entourage was so long that it took three days to pass through a town.

For hundreds of years, the post towns along the highway buzzed with activity. But traffic on the route dwindled after the construction of railroads at the end of the 19th century, and the once-prosperous towns slipped into economic doldrums for decades. Now,hiking along that highway is an enjoyable way to spend a weekend escaping from the frenetic pace of Tokyo.

In the 1960's the post towns, whose traditional wooden buildings were dilapidated but basically unchanged, were recognized as significant historical artifacts. Since then, several have been restored to look more or less as they did 200 years ago, when pilgrims and samurais were passing through (give or take a vending machine or two). Three of the best-restored towns - Magome, Tsumago and Narai - are in the Nagano prefecture's verdant Kiso Valley.

While a one-day visit is possible, one of the most memorable ways to experience the post towns is to spend a couple of days in the Kiso Valley hiking between them during the day, and dining and sleeping in family-run guesthouses at night. Magome, connected to Tsumago by a well-marked five-mile stretch of the Nakasendo, makes an excellent jumping-off point for exploring the area. Narai, which is at the far northern end of the Kiso Valley, is a multiday walk from Magome, but is easily accessible by train.

Fittingly, the journey from Tokyo to Magome require sriding on a series of successively slower modes of transportation, starting with a bullet train (two hours), then transferring to a limited express(about an hour) and finally catching a bus, which takes about 30 minutes and drops its passengers off on the edge of town.

At this point, initial impressions may be a little disheartening. You don't have to be a scholar of Japanese history to surmise that neither the convenience store nor the gas station is authentic Edo period establishments. But signs point visitors, now on foot, to the town proper,where it is an entirely different scene.

Instead of a road (no cars are allowed), there is a wide stone-paved path, flanked by rows of two-story wooden buildings. In spring, flowers bloom in pots and planters, swallows dip among the bushes and trees, and gushing water pours down the hill in stone aqueducts that run along either side of the road. Here and there, the water is diverted to create carp ponds, and halfway up the hill, a wooden waterwheel spins slowly. The scene is enchanting, although it can get quite crowded. These atmospheric towns are quite popular with Japanese visitors,but foreign tourists are more rare. Busloads of schoolchildren and retirees on weekends can make the towns feel a bit like the Japanese equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg.

The good news, however, is that most visitors are day-trippers. By early evening, people who are staying overnight have the towns almost to themselves. A night in Magome is peaceful once the crowds disappear and the souvenir shops close for the night, and it affords the opportunity to stay in a minshuku, a family-run guesthouse.

Minshukus offer a fairly traditional lodging experience, which is both fun and potentially nerve-racking, because foreigners can unwittingly demonstrate poor etiquette. Travelers should be sure to remove their shoes when entering the guesthouse,and not express alarm when walking into the room and seeing a space that is almost completely devoid offurniture. The bedding - thick futons, comforters and pillows filled with buckwheat husks - is folded in the closet.

In Magome's minshukus, breakfast and dinner are included in the price of a room, about $75 a night.Both meals are served at a fixed time, 6 p.m. and 7:30a.m., and instead of ordering from a menu, guests enter the tatami-floored dining room to see about a dozen small dishes laid out at each place. A typical dinner might consist of miso soup, tempura, sobanoodles, chawan mushi (savory steamed egg custard),wild mountain vegetables, mirin teriyaki river trout,pickled daikon and cabbage, wild boar and perhaps a few thin slices of horsemeat sashimi.

The only suitable end to such an immoderate meal is a postprandial constitutional. For the full effect, borrow a pair of traditional wooden sandals (geta) from the guesthouse before you head out to enjoy the mild mountain air. Strolling among the darkened buildings, listening to the clackof wooden shoes on stone and the chorus of frogs croaking in nearby ricepaddies, you might feel as though you've accidentally discovered the secret to time travel.

The next morning, after yet another large repast that is nearly identical to the previous evening's meal but for the addition of a fried egg, the road to Tsumagobeckons. For a route that is just five miles long, the trail from Magome to Tsumago offers a remarkable assortment of scenery.

Just outside Magome's town limits, the first portion of the trail is paved and winds past rice paddies,bamboo groves and farming villages where small fields are planted with green tea, lettuce and leeks. The path, while not horribly taxing, does include a fair number of sweat-inducing hills.

The buildings along the way don't adhere to the standards of historical accuracy that are enforced in some of the post towns. A house might have a roof made of corrugated tin, for instance, which provides a less picturesque but also less contrived look at life in rural Japan. In the warmer months, old women in wide-brimmed straw hats and white work gloves farm their small patches of land. Scruffy-looking dogs nap in the sun, and clothes are hung out to dry.

After a couple of miles, the road turns from asphalt to dirt, wending beneath a canopy of slender pine and cedar trees. The way is punctuated by numerous picturesque excuses to stop and rest: an abandoned teahouse, trailside shrines and a pair of waterfalls near which, according to legend, the famous swordsman Miyamoto Musashi made great advances in his understanding of the Way of the Sword.

In the morning, the trail will most likely be nearly empty. The absence of other people leaves room for the perception of subtler sensations: the fertile smell of the forest, the sound of a river rushing over boulders or maybe the discomfort of developing blisters.

Hikers who plan to spend the night in Tsumago would be well advised to pack light: in July and August, the tourist offices in Magome and Tsumago offer a luggage-forwarding service,but at all other times of year, visitors need to tote their own belongings.Magome may look like an authentic Edo period post town, but these days,there aren't any porters for hire.

After three serene hours of walking, you'll arrive in Tsumago. It is larger than Magome but still offers the same enticing, back-in-time quality. If the streets are crowded, you may want to continue walking, up to the former site of the Tsumago castle. From there, you can look down on the roofs of the post town and outover the Kiso Valley. But first, rest your weary legs the way travelers have been doing for centuries: by ducking into a little restaurant for cold soba noodles and green tea.

If You Go, Getting There

To get to Magome from Tokyo, take a bullet train to Nagoya ($105, at 107 Japanese yen to the U.S. dollar),then catch the Shinano limited express on the JR Chuoline to Nakatsugawa ($29).

From there, the bus to Magome takes about 30 minutes and costs $5.25.Transfers may not line up like clockwork, though, so leave about five or six hours to make the trip.

To go to Tsumago, take the Shinano limited express from Nagoya to Nagiso ($32) and take a bus to town($2.65).

Visitors who plan to do a fair amount of train travel can save money by buying a Japan Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on most JR trains for the duration of the pass. The two types of passes(ordinary and superior class) are available for 7, 14or 21 days. An ordinary, seven-day adult pass costs $277.60. The superior version is $370.80. Note that you need to buy a rail pass voucher from an authorized sales agent before you go to Japan. After arriving in Japan, exchange the voucher for the actual pass anytime within 90 days of the date the voucher was issued. For more information, go to

Where to Stay

At most of the inns in the Kiso Valley, owners and staff won't speak English, so it helps to know some Japanese or have a Japanese speaker help arrange your reservations in advance. The tourist offices in Magome, (81-264) 59-2336, and Tsumago,(81-264) 57-3123, can help you make reservations at a local inn, though the staff member on duty won't necessarily speak English.

All prices are per person and include dinner and breakfast.

Magome. The Tajimaya Minshuku, (81-264) 59-2048, fax(81-264) 59-2466, is an attractive family-run guesthouse that's about a third of the way up Magome's main street on the left-hand side. Look for wooden wheels and a stuffed raccoon-dog called Tanuki outside the front door. Rates: $75 a person.

Another option is the Minshuku Magomechaya, (81-264)59-2131, which costs $70 a person and has an English version of its Web site,

For beverages and snacks (including an incredible icecream sundae topped with fruit), try a cafe called Kissa Yukata, (81-264) 59-2537, near the top ofMagome's main drag.

Tsumago. Next to the tourist office, the MinshukuSakamoto-ya, (81-264) 57-3111, has rooms for $73 a person.

Two slightly more upscale places to stay are Ryokan Matsushiro-ya, (81-264)57-3022, and Ryokan Fujioto,(81-264) 57-3009, both of which cost around $100 a person per night.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

A MantisTrying to Stop a Chariot

If you click on the title of this post, you'll be directed to the page where I found this story. If you click , you'll be directed to the page where I found the picture.

A Mantis Trying to Stop a Chariot

When somebody overrates himself, he is often warned: "Don't be a mantis trying to stop a chariot." The saying comes from a legend dated back to the Spring and Autumn Period.

One day, the King of Qi went out for a hunting with his men. The carriages were going along, when suddenly a mantis stood in the middle of the road with its sickle-like forelegs opened. It was obvious that he was trying to fight against the carriage to hold it back. Surprised at the case, the King of Qi ordered to stop and asked what creature it was. When he was told it was called mantis, and it would go well up to bridle decisively when it was challenged. The King sighed with exclamation at its braveness. He mused a moment and added: "It's a great pity that it is not more than an insect. If it were a man, he must be the bravest warrior in the world!" Then the King ordered his carriages turn around it to leave the mantis there standing martially.

When the persons around heard the King's words, they were well touched and determined to devote themselves to the country.

As time passed, the meaning of the phrase changed to its opposite. Now it means that someone overrates oneself and try to hold back an overwhelmingly superior force.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

The 36 Strategies: #2, Beseiging Wei to Rescue Zao

Aka ... Surround one state to save another.

When a strong group is about to take over a weaker group, a third part can "hayve it's cake and eat it too," gaining a good reputation by attacking the aggressor in apparent behalf of the defender, and also eventually absorb the weakened defender to boot, without incurring the same negative reputation that would be leveled at outright aggression.

What this amounts to is if A is in trouble, and asks B for help, B can use the occasion for his own advantage.

I think what can be learned from this strategy is less about taking advantage of someone else, than if you are in trouble, and are going to ask someone else for help, be very careful in selecting who you ask.

Friday, August 05, 2005

300 Tang Dynasty Poems: #1 Thoughts 1 by Zhang Jiuling

Click on the title of this post, and you will be directed to the 300 Tang Dynasty Poems


Zhang Jiuling


A lonely swan from the sea flies,
To alight on puddles it does not deign.
Nesting in the poplar of pearls
It spies and questions green birds twain:
"Don't you fear the threat of slings,
Perched on top of branches so high?
Nice clothes invite pointing fingers,
High climbers god's good will defy.
Bird-hunters will crave me in vain,
For I roam the limitless sky."

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Tiger and Dragon Contending

Click on the title of this post to find the website I found this on.

The monastic students of the Long-hu Ch'an Monastery were in the middle of copying a painting of a dragon fighting with a tiger on the wall. The dragon in the painting was hovering under the clouds; the tiger was crouched on a mountain summit, poised as if about to pounce. Although it had been revised numerous times, there invariably seemed to be something missing in the flow of action in the painting. Quite by chance, at this time Ch'an master Wu-te returned from outside. The students requested the Ch'an master to make a quick assessment of what they had done.

After looking at it, Ch'an master Wu-te said: "The outlook of the dragon and the tiger hasn't been painted too badly, but how much do you know about the nature of the dragon and the tiger? What you should know is that before the dragon attacks its head must shrink backwards, just as when the tiger is pouncing upwards its head is bound to press downwards. The more the dragon's neck is bent backwards, and the closer the tiger's head is to the ground, the faster they will be able to rush forward and the higher they'll be able to jump."

The students were overjoyed to receive such an instruction, exclaimed: "The teacher really hit the nail on the head! Not only did we paint the dragon's head too far forward, but the tiger's head is also too high. No wonder we felt there was something lacking in the depiction of the action."

Ch'an master Wu-te seized this opportunity to teach by saying: "In personal conduct, as well as in taking care of affairs, while learning Ch'an and cultivating oneself religiously, one must prepare by taking a step back in order to rush ahead even farther, reflecting humbly so that one can climb even higher."

Apparently not completely following what was being told, the students asked: "Teacher, how is one who steps back able to move forward? How is one who humbles himself able to reach higher?"

In response, Ch'an master Wu-te then solemnly said: "Listen to my Ch'an poem :

By hand, plant the entire field with green seedlings;
Bowing my head, I see heaven appear in the water.
One's body and spirit must be clean and pure before one can practice the way.
Taking a backward step is actually a forward move.

"Are you all able to comprehend?"

By now all the students finally understood.

Self-respect is part of the character of a Ch'an practitioner. They are independent, full of pride and distant like a dragon raising its head and tiger wrestling with its foe; however, sometimes they are also extremely modest, like a dragon shrinking back and a tiger lowering its head. This explains perfectly what is meant by progressing when one should progress; yielding when one should yield; raising up high when it's proper to be high; lowering oneself when one ought to be low. In other words, one should go forward or backward as reason demands it, and raise up high or lie low when it's the proper time for it. Dragons are the spirit of the beasts and tigers are the kings. Those who practice Ch'an are the sages among the people, taking backward motion as progress and humility as their loftiness. Is this not how it should be?

(Source: Hsing Yun's Ch'an Talk, Book 4)