News of the Sino-Japanese War in 1937 came to Huashan with the monthly supplies. The students who had gone down for provisions had rushed back up the mountain with the report that Japan had swept across the Marco Polo Bridge outside of Beijing, overrun the iron- and coal-rich northern mountains of Shaanxi Province, and had begun a second drive from Tianjin toward Nanjing…
The exceptionally gruesome stories of the fighting and atrocities shocked everyone, including Saihung… Every priest, acolyte, and student had a different opinion…
A large number of Taoists advocated noninvolvement in the war. They insisted that they as ascetics, “people-who-had-left-their-families,” should not return to worldly affairs and break the purity they had so long cultivated. The world was a place of war, deceit, dishonesty, money, killing, politics, and danger.
Patriotic Taoists disagreed, saying that if China was overrun or destroyed, ascetics would have no place to practice their arts… Renunciates or not, they were needed by their country and people.
These are the words I was reading in The Wandering Taoist last Friday when I paused, put down my book, and picked up the news of the tsunami attacking Japan. The synchronicity of aggression by Japan and upon Japan, at that moment, for me, was unshakeable. But what did it mean, what was I being shown?
The meaning became clearer as I contemplated the context of the Sino-Japanese War for the Taoist monks who had left the world and now, high in the mountain retreat of Huashan Monastery, were forced to struggle with deciding what should be the correct action in the face of this worldly aggression.
The Taoist sages knew that this world is but one illusion—they need not attach—and yet many of these highly evolved martial artist monks felt compelled to come down from their mountain and meet aggression with aggression.
Later, as I pondered the deeper meaning and response to the tsunami in Japan, I consulted The I Ching, perhaps the wisest and most immediately useful of Taoist texts. I received Hexagram #49: Ko/Revolution (Molting) with moving lines in the third and sixth places.
The original sense of this hexagram refers to the changes to an animal’s pelt or skin in the course of the year: the molting process. This is a natural event. This is nature’s transforming work, effecting necessary changes to accommodate shifting environmental conditions. Later interpretations of this hexagram extended its meaning to include revolutions that effect necessary changes in governance. Hence, the hexagram represents a change in nature and a change in governance.
These indeed are the attributes of now: the tsunami strike (nature) generating a revolution to overthrow the governing principles of our world. We see this reverberating in the many revolutions taking place throughout the Middle East, heralding a change in governance, while the molting action of nature is destroying a nuclear energy and containment system, which the earth deems destructive to its health and future evolution. Nature’s action and revolution are messages for the entire world, not just Japan and the Middle East. We are all pressured now, through this molting action, to realign governance in accord with nature. Revolution challenges an ideology of greed that refuses to consider balance and the needs of all of nature, human and nonhuman alike.
The moving line in the third place states: “When change is necessary, there are two mistakes to be avoided. One lies in excessive haste and ruthlessness, which bring disaster. The other lies in excessive hesitation and conservatism, which are also dangerous.”
We are challenged here to pause and reflect upon the deep meanings and truths that are being revealed, as well as the lies that are being promulgated, about nuclear power specifically, and then to act decisively. If we contemplate what gives rise to a world that accepts the need to contain highly radioactive materials for hundreds of thousands of years we will arrive at the understanding that at the root of it is a governing belief that unlimited growth is a necessity for the human species. This self-serving principle forces our species to detach from balance and instead exploit and threaten all that nature provides for the survival of all things. Precipitous actions focused on immediate containment and greater securing of a system of deriving energy destructive to life, without a deeper appreciation of the need for a major shift in how we derive energy, would be as futile as monks deciding on bloodshed as the proper action, but in essence just attaching to a different narrow illusion.
The moving line in the sixth place states: “You are reserved and withdrawn. Because of your quiet and uncomplicated philosophy of life, the effect on you of the great changes that are occurring throughout the world will be small and insignificant.”
What does this mean? Stand in the truth. The great changes happening in the world are inevitable. The ego of man will stand unrelentingly firm until nature completely levels it and restores it to humility where it assumes the proper relation to the Tao, or the course of nature. I emphasize here that it is out of our hands now; nature will have its way. This is necessary because man’s ego refused to acquiesce to a governance that respected natural balance and the interconnectedness of all things. In the meantime, we must spare ourselves great energy expenditure fighting that which only the heavy artillery of nature will level.
This was the lesson to the Taoist priests, who ultimately returned to their temples having learned the futility of bloodshed. With this lesson, it was time to take on the true demon on a level playing field, that is, to go within and lift the veil of illusion within the self.
We are all interconnected. What happens without happens within. We are all confronted with a tsunami right now, within ourselves, blowing the lid off truths turned toxic in their nuclear containment within the self. Our personal energy sources, the illusions we uphold to fuel our lives are being exposed now with unrelenting force. Can we face these truths within that we see mirrored and revealed without? What truths are being revealed now that demand changes in the governance of ourselves and our relationships? Are we willing to make major changes in our lives to achieve true alignment? These are the opportunities we are personally being presented with to change the course of our lives, which in turn reverberate into a changed life on this planet.
The future hexagram that emerges from the changes in revolution is #25: Innocence. In innocence we are presented with the image of thunder beneath heaven. When movement (thunder) follows the law of heaven, man is innocent and without guile. Here we have the strong suggestion that the outcome of revolution be a governance that acts in accordance with the Tao, that is, an ego that humbles itself and serves the true needs of the self—the rule of heaven—acting from a place of pure innocence versus tainted egoistic greed. This is the place of humility where man assumes the proper attitude within the interconnectedness of all things. In this paradigm, energy is derived from doing that which is right, working with versus exploiting nature, deriving energy from sources in concert with nature, accepting limitation, versus unlimited energy at all costs.
In summary, my reading of the Taoist response to Japan’s attacks, synchronized with the tsunami in Japan and the reading of The I Ching, all point to lethal power overthrowing the world as we have known it. Japan is simply the latest country to experience the molting of our planet. Think back to 2004, to the tsunami in Indonesia, as well as the recent debacle in the Gulf of Mexico. As well, let us not get distracted by the significance of relief efforts and restoration to normalcy. Victims of these disasters are warriors heralding a new world. Don’t let sadness and grief distract us from the real message: these are necessary encounters with nature’s imperative; everything is changing now on a dramatic worldwide scale.
There is need for revolution, and nature is providing it. Understanding the true nature of this occurrence can bring us to a place of calm and simplicity. We arrive at this place through acquiescing to the deeper truth of fundamental change that we are in the midst of; we can’t stop it. We must align our intent with nature’s intent and remain calm in knowing that what is happening is right. This is not passive surrender. This is the proper position of the ego that supports the truth. Take action within the self and outside the self that aligns with the Tao of nature, because the world, as we have known it, is undergoing major change now, fortunately, heralded by nature itself. No longer is man’s greed going to be allowed to dominate the planet.
Don’t waste energy in psychotic arguments. Embrace the real truth, within and without, without blame, and move toward a life of simplicity that takes only what is necessary and respects the needs of everything else. This is the way of the Tao.
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I am nothing,
References: The Wandering Taoist, Deng Ming-Dao, p. 186; The I Ching, Richard Wilhelm translation, p. 189-192; I Ching, Sam Reifler, p. 220.