Chapter 1 – The Song of the Green Frog
The green frog thrills to the perfect pond,
Basking serenely at the water’s surface
Her eyes observe the scrumptious prey.
When one comes near, lightning strikes!
She swallows a fly. Skilled in the five techniques:
Snake-like sinuous, or straight-ahead, equally fine.
A thousand frogs keep hopping around.
Oblivious to all, she listens: silence.
The chapter of the Mysterious Frog (xuanwa玄蛙) depicts the first of the six levels of the Tao follower, represented by the green frog. She still mingles in society and has to deal with her fellow creatures, but understands where to position herself. The Mysterious Frog chose a good pond and loves to float on its surface.
The first day I went on the Rokko, I saw a frog in a little pond. She was green, nearly chartreuse in the sunlight, and sat motionless as if in meditation. She pointed her eyes, legs extended, at the surface of water, waiting for a fly. Lingering in the middle of the pond, she floated, camouflaged by vegetation and surrounded by the rasp of cicadas. The Mysterious Frog let time pass and did not worry, waiting to strike. When a little fly passed next to her, her body flashed in the blinking sun. In a nano-second of eternity she swallowed her dinner. Noticing a snake swimming far away from reach of her person, she whispered smugly to a lily pad, “how much better to eat than be eaten!” Then her eyes, smiling, rolled around in their sockets as she plunged into the muddy depth of the pond.
A wise frog needs to position herself as best as she can, in order to be happy and to reach her goals, and to choose the least dangerous, most felicitous pond for bathing, feeding and procreating. It is the gift of choice, initiated by destiny, and directed by a well-tempered heart. She must observe which position to adopt in the pond, the optimal duration, the weather conditions, and other elements. It is better to remain at first in a small pond that does not attract much attention, by moving quietly and deliberately. Stay clear of ponds teeming with snakes; smile into the faces of adversity, avoiding confrontation. The follower of the Tao is not afraid of destiny. But she does not take unconsidered acts, guided always by logic and reason. Relying on confrontation is becoming a goat with horns stuck in the branches of a bush. The more she pushes, the more stuck she gets. Opposing the Tao is running through a wall, though in plain sight a door stands ajar. The follower of the Tao preserves and nurtures her qi, her life energy, and cultivates physical strength, unlike machines that consume more energy than they expend.
The frog floating in a safe pond can achieve her goal because she adopts a correct posture to fulfill her nature, meeting her needs and not interfering with her environment. She spends her life on the pond without resisting or moving against water, just quietly floating, waiting for her prey to come. Floating sometimes with just her eyes out of the water, she can see all but is unseen by others and thrives without fanfare. Like any other follower of the Tao, she remains in balance and keeps her thoughts invisible and unified, allowing her to move at the right time, neither too soon nor too late. In contrast, the fly does not alter its path, being unaware of danger. Knowing one’s own soul permits one to know the thoughts of others, because thoughts move erratically like flies, lacking balance and unity, ruled by passion.
The Mysterious Frog does not concern herself with ambition, but the common good between Heaven and Earth. The Mysterious Frog is a heavenly messenger, even though living the simple life of a frog. The follower of the Tao seems very simple, even if she is master of many arts and understands the thoughts of humans, animals, and plants, hearing what others can’t hear and seeing things what others fail to see. She is an infinitesimal cell in the body of the Tao, but draws on the strength of the whole. The frog master remains in her pond and is content, unlike the restless frogs that unwisely seek a greater view, where the air may be pure and the water clear–but at so great a height, even the most trifling waterfall can prove deadly for the unprepared frog swimming upstream. Winter’s bitter cold may block the flow of her blood, or she may starve too far from her natural food. It is better not to venture into dangerous waters on the high peaks of vanity but to remain in a calm and safe pond located in a quiet forest.
While the frog spots the insect that she covets, she readies herself to jump. The attack can be in a friendly guise (little yang 少陽) or hidden (little yin 少陰) but never overtly aggressive (big yang 大陽) or evil (big yin 大陰). Thus the big becomes small—the small, big—all in the course of nature. This is the major precept of following the Taiji (太極) for victory, the Taiji that roils in emptiness around matter. Matter is governed by skill, but principles are ruled by correct thoughts. Correct thought is ruled by heavenly principles, and heavenly principles by the Tao. Goodness generates strength, and strength generates conflict. Conflict generates division, and division generates separation and animosity; thus goodness generates animosity. Evil generates hate, and hate destruction and chaos. From chaos arises heavenly justice, and from justice, goodness to others. Heavenly justice is eventually victorious, so evil generates goodness in spite of itself.
But evil can never be praised, because ends cannot be separated from means and because all human actions are subject to the polarities of yin and yang. Even when the end is good, the means do not escape their karma. When one has clearly selected the insect she desires, she studies his flight path and follows his erratic movements with her physical eyes, but her original sight remains clear and steadfast. Be mindful that any situation can naturally take a good or a bad turn, so adaptability is very important. The five movements include four directions, plus immobility at the center, and they move as the Tao moves. Know that even friends and family can become enemies when it comes to vanity, anger, money, greed, or frustration. When the frog is ready to attack, she must remain stealthy and invisible before and during the attack, lest by attracting attention, she becomes prey herself.
Be steady with your own soul, and you can be impervious to anyone, anything, and unlike an insect tossing on the wind, your thoughts are rooted in the Tao and your initial soul never leaves you as you are anchored by good thoughts. The mind-controller elevates and diminishes others by praising or punishing. Some vipers know how to twitch the ends of their colorful tails rapidly, pretending to be worms. The dull-witted mouse is easily tricked, goes for the bait, and winds up eaten. The wise frog is neither slave nor brigand, but a lithe amphibian enjoying life. Thus environment does not have much influence on her and she knows who she is and why she lives in her pond—come rain or shine.
During the day, the Mysterious Frog basks under the sun, and during the night, she watches the radiant moonlight glowing on her skin. She knows that if she were to be confronted by an evil, stronger frog, she should observe carefully its moves and learn—not get angry, imitate, or oppose. She plays the game as if she enjoys it, instead of showing disgust, envy, or discontent, and lets emptiness steady her heart. While many red frogs leap mindlessly here and there, like so many raindrops, she ignores the fools and listens to the silence beyond. So with matters and affairs of this world, she advises us to remain mute and observe, think and reach perfect understanding. Only then could we act with the power of nothingness, and the Tao will provide whatever is needed. The Mysterious Frog traverses infinity in the water of her one pond, in harmony with the moon, the sun, and the changing seasons, riding rivers of stars through the frontiers of the Milky Way.
Blending essay, fable, fiction and poems, The Mysterious Frog boldly addresses the greatest evils of our time and the source of evil for all times. Quite different from anything previously written, its blurring of genre lines and narrative voices are postmodern in approach, but its message is classical. Lyrical, philosophical, historical and fanciful all at once, it is a call for action, and an admonition to those people and forces that are threatening our planet with extinction. It is also filled with humor and hope for the potential goodness still residing in the collective hearts of humankind. The advice in the poem that closes the book is simple: “Find what you bring to this mountain within/echoes of autumn, echoes of Self.” That is to say, the solution lies within you.
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