Archives for the month of: February, 2015

Re-posted | Original posting, March 2013


A distinguished lord asked:

How does one commence a great venture?

The young monk replied:

By leaving off small ventures, and middling ventures, and by putting aside nothing.

The lord answered:

Perhaps a small venture may lead to a great venture?

The young monk smiled.

Yes, that’s so. And perhaps a great venture may lead to a small venture, or to nothing.

The lord nodded, and scratched at his beard, and reflected on the monk’s words. After a while, the lord grinned, and asked:

Perhaps by doing nothing, it may lead to a great venture?

The young monk smiled again:

Perhaps doing nothing is the greatest venture of all

he said.


Inquosomir had become increasingly caught up in his own words: he looked less and less often at his noble listener, and instead addressed a point in the mid-air. His eyes swam in the vitreous element of his spectacles. His speech was a kind of arid rhapsody. Zy had the image of small numerals and Gonfi running round in Inquosomir’s bloodstream. The man had rulers for veins, and diagrams for breakfast. When he dreamed, he dreamed in equations. His mind was a set of plans. His heart was made of facts. When he thought, it was like turning a page in a book. He was a useful one, only… he didn’t seem able to stop himself being useful.

Excerpt from Mask [i], Volume 9 of Dustless

Of course, I had always taken great pride in the crest, and no doubt I am biased towards my own clan, but the emblem of the three silhouetted, stylised swallows in a circle, seems to me one of the most beautiful of all the crests of Shar.
— Lord Akzasosan Suli

Suli crest pale green

Acknowledgement | Thanks to Tom Wilson <> for his invaluable assistance

You did not wait for me.
Beneath the walls of the Temple of Ashes,
swallows flew low, screaming at dusk.

You did not wait for me.
At noon, the sun shone over the city,
and the rooftiles glittered like the scales of fish.

You did not wait for me.
In the morning, the river flowed slowly
as it always flows, being great and without end.

You did not wait for me.
At night, in the Utomi Gardens,
I saw red fireflies light the hair of a Lady of Shar.

Red fireflies float above the river with no end.
The river makes no sound, flowing slowly.
You did not wait for me.

The sun glared upon the roof of the Temple of Ashes,
where swallows hunted all day, and at dusk, flew low.
You did not wait for me.

In error, hoping, I merely turn the wheel of dreams,
and my life is without peace.

The wheel of dreams seems easy to turn,
yet leads only to exhaustion and pain.

Upon you, I hang the wheel of dreams:
you are the axis of all illusion.

You could not even wait for me,
one day, by the Red Gate, while I ran there, dreaming.

And still, I wait for you.

Formal song, from The lover in the snow (iv) | Volume 19 of Dustless

So that one may know one’s own, and that others may know others…


Suli crest

Crest of the Suli

Sharian clan, Founding House of the Suli clan, natal clan of Lord Akzasosan Suli, lord returning from exile

If the matter is pure, then the way of proceeding must be pure.

There can be no weakness added to the matter by proceeding falsely with it.

If the matter is pure, and true, and cold, and strong, and possesses weight, any attempt to alleviate those qualities must be resisted.

If the matter possesses purity, even if, understood from a different vantage, it is flawed, the purity is unflawed, and the way of proceeding must be flawless.

What are the methods of proceeding falsely?

They are to do with trivial desires: wealth, fame, idolisation, vain power over others, arrogance of enduring.

If the matter is pure, the servants of the matter must be clear of their way of proceeding, for it is possible to erode, through unclear and uncertain forms of dedication, where motives enter murk and enigma, the purity.

If the matter is death, for example: say, a person was dying before your eyes. If you were to laugh, and be carefree, and turn away, then death would be lighter, lack the proper devastation that is its remit.

If the matter is love, for example: say, you were to hold to your lover, declaring love, but secretly, within, were cool and empty, incapable of caring, then love would be diluted, lack the fierce currents that are its movement, the ground it builds beneath the ground.

Impure ways of proceeding? Treacherous servants? Servants too much quicksilver, too insecure for holding on?

Admiration of self: beware of servants who commit themselves too much to mirrors.

Feckless: beware of servants who throw themselves too much to the breeze, take glitter for substance, lack duration.

Crowd-hung: beware of servants who hang too much upon the hems of droning crowds, live by the laws of tinkle, trinket, junket and tittle-tattle.

Weak: beware of servants incapable of holding on, too prone to detour, too glass of spine, and of proceeding, too butterfly.

Such servants will not endure, will not brave the way of pure proceeding, but will fall away, or not even serve at all, too dedicated to their own flaws, too blind to serve a greater vision.

And the proud? Who think it a chore and a demeaning to serve? They are the most trivial of all, incapable of grasping a true purpose, of submitting to a real way: they are slaves to mirrors, never looking up beyond the edge of the frame, into the forest or, up, above the tops of the trees, into the irreproachable mutness of the blue sky.

If the matter is pure, and true, and cold, and strong, and possesses weight, and endless dimension, and harnesses the teams of horses of dreams, and goes on, relentlessly, without deviation left or right, but is perfect even in the garments of its flaws, any attempt to alleviate those qualities must be resisted.

For the Dustless cannot be maintained by servants of dust.

If you are to proceed, proceed truly. Serve and know: by being humbled, rise; in losing, be found.

For in the outcast lies the guest.

Be no one. Be dust. Be all.

And when the great moment comes

be Dustless.

[Re-posted: original post April 13 2013]…

I heard this story from the Clouded Era. It was meant to have happened in ZonHu canton, in the province of Suono, not far from where the Tasa and Isa rivers meet.

The story is like this:

One day, a romarcho* from a warlike clan was walking alone through the heat of a summer noon, when he saw a young woman, resting beneath the branches of a fire tree.

She wore the robes of the Kiyani sect. Those were days of ruin, and the ancient temple at Ijuro, near ShonSan, had recently been violated, its treasures sacked and occupants killed or sent fleeing into the countryside around.

Now, this romarcho was a lascivious fellow, and seeing the nun lying there, obviously weary and showing signs of flight and desperation, found himself drawn closer to her.

Yes, they were days of ruin. The romarcho was not an uneducated man, but the struggle and grind of the times had made lust and violence casual. He could see from her robes that she was an eight-chu* nun, wearing the Gram of the Golden Flowers of Glass Mountain. He knew, therefore, that this woman, despite her youth, was a highly illuminated person, of great purity, who should be revered for the clarity of her mind, learning and conduct. Sad to say, this circumstance only excited the romarcho more.

The nun woke up. She sensed at once what the man intended.

She gazed at him in a way that roused in him a kind of wrath, but mixed in with the wrath there was a strange joy. He didn’t need to pretend anything. He could see she understood her situation.

“You Kiyani think you are so pure!” he scoffed. “But I know differently. I know, beneath the mind, there is the body, and the body’s wants, and the body’s weaknesses, and the body’s desires.”

The nun was exhausted from her long journey, and lack of food and sleep. Still, she composed herself enough to say: “Is it the body, or the mind, knows these things?”

She drew her loose robes tighter, and tried to stand, but was too weak.

The romarcho stood over her. He was even more excited now. Her words, which seemed to offer a form of resistance, piqued him.

“Oho!” said he. “You think you are higher than me? That I am a low creature? A dirty thing? I’ll show you about the body! When I’ve finished, you will know about yourself, you will know about me, you will know everything!”

The nun realised she was close to violence and dismay. Yet, she responded calmly:

Because you do not know what you do not know, you do not know what you do know, either.

The Kiyani sect was famous for its study of the philosophy of limitations. She was quoting one of the sect’s sages.

To the romarcho, this was tantamount to a form of mockery. He winced, trying to understand what she had said, but at the same time, angry with himself for even trying to understand.

After a moment, he said:

“Well, I know what I am going to do with you!”

Then, despite her condition, he performed the first of the unspeakable acts upon her. Then, he performed a second unspeakable act.

He left her body under the tree, not even trying to hide it, or cover in any way what he had done.

Such were those days of the Clouded Era.

Shortly afterwards, only a matter of a few minutes, while he was walking on down the road, there was a sudden shower of rain. The romarcho came to a halt, and stood as the rain fell on him. His face grew hard with thought. He glanced up, blinking, into the falling rain, and wiped his face, and then looked along the road, where puddles were already forming.

He found himself troubled.

“I don’t know” he said, shaking his head. “I don’t know”.

•     •     •     •     •

*romarcho. Ro means ‘war’, or ‘battle’; Mar means ‘house’, or ‘clan’; Cho means “person”, “human being” or “individual”. Romarcho thus means, literally, “war house/clan person” – a warrior. Specifically, a romarcho is a warrior in the service of a noble clan – rather than, say, a soldier in an army.

*Chu is a measure of spiritual purity, used among the spiritual class in the Land of O. There are ten major grades of chu, and each grade is represented by a particular colour, worn as a ‘gram’, an emblem on an individual’s clothing. The nun in this story had attained the eighth gram, the Gram of the Golden Flowers of Glass Mountain, and so was considered highly illuminated. Only those people to attain ninth chu (the Gram of the Black of the Last Night of Life), or tenth chu (the Gram of the White of Snow Falling on Water) would be considered to have achieved greater enlightenment.

Unless all is known, nothing is known

TanZo (the “simple Way”) denies the supremacy of the world over the mind, and asserts human existence as the true object of life.

The famous dictum “Unless all is known / nothing is known” asserts that the pursuit of knowledge is futile, that knowledge itself is an illusion.

Unless one sees with the eye of a god – all times and all places in a single conclusion – then the nature of phenomena and of events must remain forever cryptic, enigmatic and without terminus.

Phenomena are understood as constructs of the human imagination. As such, they are permanently in the process of being imagined. Their condition is possible, not definite, and provisional, not fixed. It is always possible to re-imagine any phenomenon: indeed, it is impossible not to re-imagine phenomena.

We use words and systems of measurement to establish a sense of order in the world. However, words are in perpetual need of definition, and are subject to a constant process of re-definition. Change the meaning of one word in a language, and the relations between all words in that language are subtly shifted. Add a new word, allow an old word to be provided to oblivion, and the relations between all words in the language are subtly shifted. Alter one language, and that language’s relation to all other languages alters.

As for measurement, it is an empty hallway through which no one moves

Measurement is useless to us without interpretation and context:

Should we measure the height of a drowning traveller? Or measure the width of the flames burning a building?

Measuring phenomena in order to establish a system of quantification, and using such systems to assert mastery over the material world, is unproductive: TanZo rejects such illusions of power. By exploring the material world, one merely adds to the material world, that is to say, promulgates materiality. Notions of objects and places, times and distances, speeds, forces, are empty. All such “knowledge” could be frozen now, and the key problems of human life would be the same, before and after the end of the pursuit of knowledge.

For TanZo, these key problems may be reduced to one essential question: how do human beings live peacefully with each other, in an order of respect for life?

TanZo is a moral and pragmatic “order of respect for life”. TanZo concerns not the number of stars, the number of years, the place the universe was born, the place the universe will die, the distance between this city and that village, the speed the bird flies, the weight of the sun, but how to avoid the drives that lead to hatred and anger, to violence, vendetta, murder and woe.

Why measure the atoms in the blade of a murderer’s sword?

TanZo therefore rejects the project of establishing some mystical world of objects, a place equally available to all, with stable measure and fixed purpose, and insists upon the human presence in all human things. “Whether we wish it or not, for us, the world is human, even when it is inhuman”.

TanZo views the pursuit of knowledge as a mechanical and trivial activity. TanZo asserts the mind itself – and not the constructions of the mind – as the crucial arena of human endeavour.

People do not travel by ships or bridges, roads or sleighs: they travel by thinking, through mind.

The mind is arbiter over all things. “To each thing, the mind brings inspection, value, desire, intention, question, ephemera, obliteration”. “There is no pure, unadulterated world, and no pure, unadulterated mind, and no pure, unadulterated place in between… There is the world, in action.”

TanZo‘s central concerns are not progressive: they are not economic, they are not to do with expansion or domination of the material or the intellectual world. They are moral concerns: how can the human beings live together, gently, kindly, valuing life, wanting to live, and not hating life, rushing to die in “the struggle to obtain this set of atoms rather than that set of atoms”.

All the energy of life should go into cultivating the mind, so that one is aware one breathes, one touches, one sees, one feels. To be together, human being with human being, gently abiding, to dwell without impatience, to value the fact that one can breathe, touch, see, feel, this is the true Way.

To sit so still on a summer evening, you may hear the mountain sigh — that is TanZo.

Lord Akzasosan is delivering a formal account of events from history, and describes a visit of the emperor’s youngest son, Prince Marinsomar, to the distant palace of XhuShai, home to the young barbarian ruler of the Eastern Lands, the Zulor E-Tzhi…

…‘For several weeks, the emperor’s son, Prince Marinsomar, was a guest under DuzakGar. He slept in the palace of XhuShai, and he wrote to his honoured father that every night he fell asleep to the music of nightingales. E-Tzhi greeted him with due respect: each day, E-Tzhi would meet with Marinsomar, and they would discuss matters relating to the Pure Empire, and in particular to the philosophy and practice of the Way.

Marinsomar wrote to his father that the Zulor has an extremely quick intelligence, was remarkable in his growing mastery of the MidImperial tongue, and seemed curious about many aspects of the empire. For several weeks, the letters flowed from DrezDeq, and the immortal emperor was pleased with the success of the policy of the Extended Hand, and proud of his son. For several weeks, there was nothing in Marinsomar’s communications to trouble Moin-so-zhure II, or to make him doubt that the subtle Way was leading them towards a more unified realisation of itself. He smiled at the vivid description Marinsomar gave of the Zulor’s laugh, its curious pitch and the way it stopped abruptly “like a horse being struck by lightning”. For several weeks, Moin read the letters avidly, fascinated by the Zulor’s naive, cryptic remarks as reported by his son: “But is not one of my thoughts greater than the world?”, “I don’t like it when people are breathing in the same room as my Love”, and “I have a god that I keep in my head”. For several weeks, Moin II shared parts of the letters from his son with the MarZom, the Marks to whom he turned for guidance, and whom he guided. For several weeks, the Way seemed unclouded. But then the first clouds appeared. Because then, the letters stopped.’

Excerpt from Stories in the Falling Snow, Volume 3 of Dustless

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Dustless | Volume 3

The dreams expand and the dreams contract, closing in upon themselves.

Inside the sleeper, the eggs of dreams are hatching silently. On the surface of the sleeper’s face, there is calm. On the underside of the sleeper’s face, however, a dreamworld is extruded into being, a whole landscape bubbles up from nothing: the trees, the path, a sound of crows, a dim yellowing winter sky…

Perhaps the sleeper sighs, or turns, unconsciously seeking a more comfortable position for tired limbs. Perhaps the whole world of the dream shimmers as the sleeper moves. Perhaps the world of the dream remains entirely stable, and it is only the sleeper who rotates around. The axis of the dream is straight and still. The forest goes on. The crows creak and chafe and grumble, coming slightly closer through the winter branches. The riders go on, at walking pace. The sun continues to set. And strange animals begin to wake and move…
Perhaps the sleeper calls out a name – but no one, on the outside of the dream, is listening. The sleeper is alone, or settled among other sleepers, none of whom is awake to catch the name…

Inside the sealed world of the dream, the heroes ride, the forest grows. The snow builds up, mountainous, the landscape seemingly impenetrable, endless. But it is just a world inside a skull, made of a kind of nothingness… For what is the material of dreams?… What substance can it possess?…

And what of the dreamer? They have not realised they are dreaming. For them, the dream is a waking world. They have no idea that they are like unborn birds, wrapped up in a crisp shell of sleep: no idea that, beyond the oval darkness in which they are curled, there is an entirely other world.

The dreamer takes the steps to the top of the tower, the path through the forest, the complaint of crows, the tread of footsteps, the printed text of the book they are reading, the brushed characters of the scroll they have unwound before them, the clink of bridle and bit, the thud and crunch of hooves in snow, the dreamer takes all of this as all there is, the stuff of their life: they don’t realise that, beyond the light of the dream, there is another, an actual light, the light that comes when an egg is cracked open, and the shell falls apart…

Inside the sealed world of the dream, the heroes ride, the towers cast shadows of different intensity across the road, the readers read, the forest grows, the plain recedes and recedes: and when the heroes tire, and lie down, they sleep; and in their sleep, they begin to dream…

Excerpt from Mask (i), Volume 9 of Dustless