The Tao of Daniel

Karst mountains of Guilin
Karst mountains of Guilin

While I came to Guilin to study Mandarin, half of my “class” time here is devoted to history and philosophy. Yesterday my teacher, Kolok, told me a stories about Laozi: his departure from Chengzhou riding backwards on a water buffalo, his writing of the Tao Te Ching at the behest of Yinxi before passing through the Western Gate, his eventual landing in India and teaching Siddartha Gautama.

Really fun stuff, coupled by a line by line reading of the Tao Te Ching in its original language alongside an English translation.

This morning, on the first day of the lunar month, we followed Tai Chi on the rooftop just after sunrise with a visit to a nearby Buddhist temple. This temple is set into a karst mountain, and at the new and full moon, they serve the community free breakfast and lunch. We enjoyed our noodles and buns, then went into the mountain, where Kolok shared stories of Dharma transmissions from Zen-Buddhist masters to their heirs.

That’s still sinking in some. I spent my morning in a Buddhist temple, inside a cave, under a mountain, in the middle of China, learning about 8th century monks. You can take the boy out of the Midwest, as they say. Yes, that photo is actually where I am.

As we walked back to the school before my Mandarin class began, Kolok asked how I thought the lessons were going. I wasn’t really sure what to say. I’m in a special brand of heaven right now, learning by listening to tall tales and eating noodles cooked by monks.

All I could come up with was “this is exactly where I hoped the water buffalo would take me.”