Archives for posts with tag: Marks

It is said, among certain Marks within the ZirCong, that “the universe has already occurred: it has completed its cycle, and returned to the void. Therefore, why hurry in our lives? They ended, long, long ago”.

If it is true, and the book of this world is already complete, how can we know whether we are near the beginning, or the middle, or the end of the text?

Since the rise of the RoMayZine and SurGaKu dynasties, and the retreat of the ZirCong from influence over terrestrial power, TanZo has put away all such theories of completed days and events already concluded. For the TanZo of these present times, it is considered a deviation from the Way to speculate overmuch upon events yet to transpire, or to sacrifice the present to a possible world to come.

Huddled in their great Metallic mansions, though, the houses of the ZirCong, their ancient bloodlines woven by ShoKun, the Mark of the Hatching Egg, do they still cleave to those old, discredited beliefs? And if so, has their power over the dusts of the mind permitted them some sense of a world to come, yet already over? Down what cerebral corridors may they move, inside what rooms may they sit and listen, straining to hear some faint echoes of futurity?

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It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


ATTITUDE TO THE BODY

ZirCong | Famously enigmatic, the ZirCong seem to consider the world neither ideal nor material, but in an unresolved state, or in a state that is constantly resolving towards both flesh and idea. They despise the “world of dust”, and strive for the Dustless condition. When they speak of the body, therefore, they speak of an illusion, a “thing of dust”. Even the mind, viewed from an unilluminated perspective, is to the ZirCong a thing of dust, an illusion. It is said that they do not feel pain — or, if pain is felt, they are not ZirCong. Their bodies do not belong to them: they have cast them aside.

To the ZirCong, as with all ShiO Marks, the MarIsQuess — the “building without motion”, or the “still building”, or, more simply, “the Building” — is the state or condition reached by meditation, with each ShiO division using meditation techniques peculiar to their own culture. The ZirCong use their celebrated, mysterious “Starless Darkness” techniques to achieve MarIsQuess. This is not a state ordinary people can attain. True ZirCong are said never to leave the Building, but always to dwell within it. Suspicious of language and of the “traps of definition”, the ZirCong insist that the Building can’t be described, but must be experienced. The Building must be built, through hours, days, years of arduous meditation. In this process of building, the weak eliminate themselves, as lacking the spiritual purity to maintain their path upon the Way. The foolish, the braggarts, the impatient, the greedy, all of these types of soul can never, without change, erect the Building within themselves, but must languish and perish, stranded in “the world of dust and donkeys”.

This constant striving to found and construct the Building within themselves has made the ZirCong admired, revered, feared and, by many, hated. One informal document, which has been publicly circulated, details the ZirCong attitude as follows:

What the common people call “body” and “mind”, these are merely pathways to the Building. They are gates of dust, leading to the Dustless state. Once inside the Building, all outside and inside ceases. New relations are inaugurated: all the old buildings and languages of dust, though they continue to float in the void, and are used by the common people as the limits of their world, for the Dustless one, are errors of matter and thought, imperfect perception, the toys of innocent children. People will live and die, will age and grow sick, just as they have always done — only, if you dwell in the Building, then living and dying, aging and sickening, these are changed, and their meanings are changed. The laws of sickness, the laws of age, of living, and dying, do not apply to true ZirCong. Life, death, tall, short, weak, strong, body, mind, above, below, finitude, infinity, moments, eternity, these are all categories of a diseased and limited vision: the perfect and entire vision of the Dustless ensures serenity, even as the sword goes through you, or the cancer grips. A healthy body and a diseased body are, within the Building, the same thing: an arrangement of dust.

RoMayZine | For the RoMayZine, the body is a source of struggle, the flesh is a piece of dust that may be caught hold of, polished, sharpened, hardened, quickened, improved. Men and women, both, are encouraged to exercise and to work their bodies until they are the perfect instruments of war. Both sexes swim, box, run, vault, lift weights, perform intricate ritual dances, practise with sword, bow, spear, lance, axe, they are keen horsemen, and work endlessly on their balance and speed of reaction.

There is a RoMayZine saying: The eyes for the arrow, the arms for the sword, the hands for fists, the legs for running.

For the RoMayZine, the body is very important in their philosophy. They adore action: they love to train their bodies and spirits until they are exhausted, and then they feel a tremendous peace. When they are in movement, they are irresistible; and when they are at rest, they seem sated, complete.

Life, on all levels, is a battle for them. Their Way is through action. It is not uncommon to see lords or ladies of RoMayZine clans with facial bruises, scars, misaligned bones, missing teeth.

They are warrior clans. Obviously, during war they are much sought-after as allies. In peace, their company is perhaps less pursued. It is said, among the houses of ZonO – “Society” – that when matrimonial alliances are made, then if you are not from a RoMayZine clan, but marry a RoMayZine partner, then there is often trepidation and anticipation regarding coitus. As lovers, both men and women of RoMayZine culture, are considered unsubtle, crude, demanding. A RoMayZine woman, with her strongly defined musculature and powerful limbs, is usually physically much stronger than most SurGaKu men. ZonO consider RoMayZine men as, frankly, brutes.

Love of the body is love of the Way, the RoMayZine believe. Enjoy the body, and make it do your will. But do not become obsessed with it. At the right moment, throw it away. Nothing is better than dying in battle. At such a moment, the tree both flowers and fruits: where the fruit falls, no one can say.

SurGaKu | A subtle and educated woman of ZonO explained to me that the divisions of ShiO can be broken down, very roughly, into three qualities: ZirCong, wisdom; RoMayZine, action; SurGaKu, beauty.

It is said that the SurGaKu, so concerned with beauty, find the body troubling. The SurGaKu TanZo is the effort to render the world beautiful through meditation and the practice of various forms of art. They are highly conscious of the passage of time, and of the mutability of all things. The moment has pitched its tent at the heart of every particle of dust, the SurGaKu explain, but the tent is empty.

Put simply, while the ZirCong deny the body any effective reality, and the RoMayZine treat the body with a kind of rude pragmatism, the SurGaKu are perplexed and uneasy with their bodies. They are more prone to romance, to melancholy, to dolour. They have purified their sensibilities so that they are sensitive to tiny nuances in the human and the natural world. Conscious that all pleasure and pain is fleeting, their TanZo is haunted by loss. Loss, though, is beautiful: it is the necessary condition for the existence of the world.

Their poetry, songs, prints, paintings, all celebrate the power of the ephemeral. The body, then, is a point of sensitivity, of vulnerability, of delicacy, to the SurGaKu. They know that bodies are fragile, can sicken, can break. They admit the tidal powers of sexual desire, the sweep and sway of it. Ironically, although in many ways the most refined of the three divisions of ShiO, the SurGaKu are in some ways the most fleshly, the most prone to lapse and delirium. They value tenderness and restraint, gentleness, patience, yet can be the most explosively ill-disciplined of all ShiO.

A SurGaKu love poem, from the Era of Storms, goes:

Between the room of parturition,
and the Temple of Ashes,
between the bleeding at birth,
the fire coming to death,
my body has swung, moment by moment,
like pearl beads strung
upon a wire, made into a necklace.

That necklace, my love, you wear.
Lying on your breast, my head
rises and falls,
in time with your breathing:
at sea, the waves also rise and fall,
and beneath the surface
on the shadowed bed
young pearls are forming.


Re-post

It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


ATTITUDE TO PAIN

ZirCong | A pure person feels no pain. What is called “pain” among the common people, and people of flawed purity, is a sign of immaturity and a clinging to the body, which is to cling to dust and to sensations of dust. Although TanZo (“the Way”) is in all things, not all things are in TanZo. To feel pain is selfish, and to be selfish means you have not achieved true illumination. A Dustless person will feel neither the pain belonging to him or to her, nor the pain belonging to others. Pain is useful, as others — the impure — feel pain, and can be reached through pain and through the cessation of pain. All sensation is dust, leading to the void. Pain is dust, leading to the void. Pain is a false understanding of the world. Those who feel pain go towards the void. Achieve purity, true illumination, and there will be no pain. A Dustless person can walk among the sufferings of the damned in barbarian hells, and be unmoved; similarly, a Dustless person can walk among the blisses of the blessed in barbarian heavens, and be unmoved. Hells and heavens belong to the dust: to be truly ZirCong, one must be Dustless.

RoMayZine | Pain is real, a sign of life and of TanZo. Life is battle, and incurs pain. A woman gives birth through pain, and overcomes hardships in order to bring a child into the world. There is thus pain at the very gates of life. It cannot be avoided. But the RoMayZine spirit is never to retreat: where pain is inevitable, it is to be welcomed, as a means to prove one’s purity. The purity of the RoMayZine, the RoMayZine TanZo, is in a great, a warlike spirit. To be alive, one must fight a spiritual battle: nothing else matters. Pain is not to be inflicted needlessly, or received needlessly, but a RoMayZine will never run from pain. To fight through pain, and to win, or to lose, without wavering in one’s spirit: that is RoMayZine.

SurGaKu | Life is one event. The SurGaKu TanZo is through beauty, through appreciation of the world of natural things and through the world of things made by men and by women. Pain is an inevitable part of life, unless one is Dustless. If one is in pain, make it beautiful, do not bow before it and turn ugly, grow weak, become full of dirt and dust. Remain pure. The giving and taking of pain is to be avoided: it is not TanZo, the desire for power of one over another is a sign of weakness, a sign of impurity. Bullying, use of force, malice, the desire for triumph over others, this is not TanZo, and is a disgrace to the Way. At the pure core of all things, there is emptiness, the Dustless state: at the pure core of all life, there is nothing, there is no dust, it is a state beyond peace or war, beyond pleasure or pain, for there is no one to commit acts, no one to receive acts. Few, though, become Dustless: a handful, among billions. For the rest, there is striving through TanZo. It is idle to consider pain an easy or a pleasant thing: but to confront and survive pain, the best course of action is to become TanZo, to show courage and not to dwell too much in the illusion of the present, where painful things must befall all of us. Life is one event: that event is not here, or there, not now, or then. The Way is beauty: make your Way beautiful.

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The political system in O (the “western lands”) is a four-thousand-year-old empire, the SolTanZoZon – “the Empire of the Pure Way”.

After an indefinite period of time known as the Clouded Era, the empire was created, and in some ways based upon, the lost ancient civilisation of the race known as the ‘Metallic ones’.

The empire was initially created from armies of clans originating in the geo-political centre of the continent, the Metallic city of LuinShar. These clans followed certain traditions, and grouped together in Marks — A Mark is thus, for the most part, an association of like-minded clans.

At the centre and summit of the city — well over 1,000 metres above sea-level — is the SuMu, the sacred, Metallic citadel. Here, the court (the GoMin-U) is housed.

The emperor – the ShionDo (the “lord over the lords”) – is a dynastic ruler. When, for whatever reason, a dynasty comes to an end, a new dynasty must be inaugurated.

The organisations responsible for inaugurating a new dynasty are known as the Five Bodies. These are all ancient, pre-imperial institutions, and were all based in the SuMu, a place considered sacrosanct by even most degenerate warlord of the Clouded Era.

The Five Bodies are:

ShimThet – the ancient “celestial” police force, who used to police the SuMu.

ShoKun – the Mark of the Hatching Egg, who since time immemorial, have been responsible for collecting the blood of all aristocratic families, and of overseeing the matrimonial arrangements of the clans of the western lands. Their responsibility is to ensure the “purity of the blood” of the people of O. Their headquarters is based in the complex of buildings around the great Library of Blood, up in the SuMu.

ViwaShar – the Mark of the Five Towers. The body of people who, before the formation of the empire, guarded the SuMu from any external threat. With the foundation of the empire, the Five Towers Mark becomes an organisation dedicated to guarding and serving the emperor, and of ensuring continuity across dynastic changes. The ViwaShar organise the emperor’s household, and supply him with his personal bodyguard.

MarZom – the political body responsible for governing the Marks. The empire is a clan-based system. Each clan is governed by its aristocratic head, and each noble clan is known as an hereditary House. The heads of the clans (Isens) are in turn governed by the head of whichever Mark the clan belongs to. The heads of the Marks meet in council and are governed by the MarZom.

MuKesho – a highly revered monastic body, whose monks and nuns were responsible for guarding and maintaining many of the most precious buildings of the SuMu. Above all, the MuKesho are responsible for the metal books — books of sublimely complex signs, known as “hypergrams”, or “Shofi” — which are the indecipherable texts of the Metallic ones, and are stored in SharAmor, the “sacred tower”, at the absolute centre of Shar.

The society of the Empire of O is ruled by an ornate hierarchy, at the top of which is the emperor, the ShionDo, the Dustless One.

O is a clan-based culture. Over millennia, individual clans have formed with other clans into associations, each association differentiated by a Mark – a Zor, an emblem.

The Marks themselves are divided into two main groups — ZonO, and ShiO.

For much of the Clouded Era, the unfathomable period of time before the establishment of the empire, the most prestigious Marks and clans were ZonO. These clans valued blood, terrestrial power, wealth, property, and cultivated a world of fashion, wit and manners. They ruled the various city-states and kingdoms that made up the western lands in the Era of Clouds.

ZonO clans looked down on the more austere, spiritually inclined Marks who called themselves “ShiO“.

ShiO clans valued a more ascetic, philosophical way of life than ZonO. ShiO clans read and followed the wisdom of the sutras. These sutras, gathered together in the AmorZine, the “sacred book”, taught TanZo – the pure Way. For hundreds of years, ZonO regarded ShiO as a joyless and humourless  culture, given to useless “celestial” speculations, believing in a system that insisted on great discipline and patience, and denied worldly pleasures.

The last phase of the Clouded Era, however — known as the Era of Rival Clans — saw a gradual shift of power, away from corrupt and inefficient government by ZonO, and towards the more disciplined and organised ShiO Marks. Though smaller in number than ZonO, the ShiO clans were largely revered by the wider population, and were seen as pure and just.

Eventually, the rise of the ShiO clans and Marks couldn’t be resisted by the old ZonO order, and after thousands of years of rule, the world of “Society” and the aristocracy was overturned. Following decades of bloodshed, intrigue and struggle, control of LuinShar, the greatest city in O, passed into the hands of ShiO.

The effective end of ZonO power came when the first emperor of Shar, and of O, was declared: this was Jara-so-zirma I, who, after climbing the Five Thousand Steps, in the sacred precincts of the Palace of the Changing Moon took the Lotus Crown, and ordered the calendars to be set to a new system, with Year 0 starting on the first day of his rule.

Jara I and his immediate successors, steeped in their ShiO tradition, ruthlessly purged ZonO, and in many cases broke and destroyed ZonO clans, accusing them of deviating from the Way. Many ancient bloodlines were destroyed: properties were seized, possessions scattered. Nobles whose families had ruled their fiefs for hundreds of years, and were used to honour and the submission of the crowd, found themselves cast out from their lands, and – if they were lucky – sent to live in the public streets, covered with dust and with no way back to their former eminence.

For tens of centuries, those ZonO clans and Marks that survived the creation of the empire were forced to live remote from the Court and from the government. Their lifestyles were curtailed, and they were obliged to follow the Way. Shows of luxury were prohibited, and the ShiO laws of the empire were systematically and pitilessly applied.

Slowly, however, the ShiO tide began to wane, and the zeal that accompanied the formation of the empire began to recede. Once the whole Land of O was conquered and integrated into the empire, the imperial government began to relax its laws, and ZonO clans and Marks were permitted their ancient luxuries.

A historical coolness between the Court and the ShiO Marks developed, which in the long run benefited ZonO. With the waning of ShiO influence over the emperor, ZonO was once again allowed to rise, and to regain terrestrial power.

While each clan is unique, and each Mark distinctive, allowing for many different shades and nuances of opinion, there is no doubt that, fundamentally, there exists a deep traditional bitterness between ZonO and ShiO. ShiO despise ZonO for its deviation from the Way, for its love of pleasure and luxury, its devotion to appetite and matter. ZonO resent ShiO for its power, for its devotion to the Way, for its insistence on ritual and discipline.

Such is the main order of division between the clans and Marks of O: ZonO, and ShiO.

Those who before did not bow, now bow • and those who were kings and queens are sent either to the void or to the streets where the masses toil • Those who ruled are now ruled • and those who sipped wine from crystal cups • must now beg each breath • a sword forever crescent • over their bared necks | This is the fate of impurity • for impurity attracts dust • and dust gathers power | Only the Dustless are beyond the fate of the rising and falling, the living and dying, the strong and the weak | Only the Dustless cannot be sent to the dusts | Therefore, consider the fates of these lords and ladies now brought low • and how the trivial conceits of terrestrial power • end in a beggar’s death • lonely beside a busy road • dust filled with dust • while on the Way • calmly, the Dustless move ever on

‘There are some expressions which, when heard, convince you instantly that their author is a man or woman of great subtlety, that their illumination is intense and pure. This expression of Rygansogun’s is one such: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Of course, knowing Master Rygansogun was a RoMayZine philosopher, one can see that this epigram may be applied to war – that, surely, is one sense of the “house of fire”. Anyone who has fought with the Forbidden Army would feel this: unless a man becomes a thing of flame himself, he cannot live in the house of fire, he must burn, and perish. I have walked there, in the house of fire, and I know something of burning. And yet’ the young Lord went on, lifting his pale blue eyes to look at Zysoshin, and apparently blithely unconcerned that he was addressing his thoughts on complex philosophy to an eight-year-old boy, ‘perhaps the house of fire is not just the house of war, but the house of life itself. Certainly, this is the inflection placed upon the epigram by a much later philosopher, the genial and gracious Serensobel et:denu, a man of Fine Rank, of the Bullrush Mark and the dominant figure of the Ploughing Oxen Era, a master of synthesis, who did so much to try and draw the main traditions of pure philosophy together. Serensobel wrote: Only a man of flames can live in a house of fire. Only a child can live in the house of children.

Excerpt from Fire House, Volume 6 of Dustless

Please explore this house of fire…

•DUSTLESS-FIN6


Re-post | Originally posted December 2014

It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


ATTITUDE TO PAIN

ZirCong | A pure person feels no pain. What is called “pain” among the common people, and people of flawed purity, is a sign of immaturity and a clinging to the body, which is to cling to dust and to sensations of dust. Although TanZo (“the Way”) is in all things, not all things are in TanZo. To feel pain is selfish, and to be selfish means you have not achieved true illumination. A Dustless person will feel neither the pain belonging to him or to her, nor the pain belonging to others. Pain is useful, as others — the impure — feel pain, and can be reached through pain and through the cessation of pain. All sensation is dust, leading to the void. Pain is dust, leading to the void. Pain is a false understanding of the world. Those who feel pain go towards the void. Achieve purity, true illumination, and there will be no pain. A Dustless person can walk among the sufferings of the damned in barbarian hells, and be unmoved; similarly, a Dustless person can walk among the blisses of the blessed in barbarian heavens, and be unmoved. Hells and heavens belong to the dust: to be truly ZirCong, one must be Dustless.

RoMayZine | Pain is real, a sign of life and of TanZo. Life is battle, and incurs pain. A woman gives birth through pain, and overcomes hardships in order to bring a child into the world. There is thus pain at the very gates of life. It cannot be avoided. But the RoMayZine spirit is never to retreat: where pain is inevitable, it is to be welcomed, as a means to prove one’s purity. The purity of the RoMayZine, the RoMayZine TanZo, is in a great, a warlike spirit. To be alive, one must fight a spiritual battle: nothing else matters. Pain is not to be inflicted needlessly, or received needlessly, but a RoMayZine will never run from pain. To fight through pain, and to win, or to lose, without wavering in one’s spirit: that is RoMayZine.

SurGaKu | Life is one event. The SurGaKu TanZo is through beauty, through appreciation of the world of natural things and through the world of things made by men and by women. Pain is an inevitable part of life, unless one is Dustless. If one is in pain, make it beautiful, do not bow before it and turn ugly, grow weak, become full of dirt and dust. Remain pure. The giving and taking of pain is to be avoided: it is not TanZo, the desire for power of one over another is a sign of weakness, a sign of impurity. Bullying, use of force, malice, the desire for triumph over others, this is not TanZo, and is a disgrace to the Way. At the pure core of all things, there is emptiness, the Dustless state: at the pure core of all life, there is nothing, there is no dust, it is a state beyond peace or war, beyond pleasure or pain, for there is no one to commit acts, no one to receive acts. Few, though, become Dustless: a handful, among billions. For the rest, there is striving through TanZo. It is idle to consider pain an easy or a pleasant thing: but to confront and survive pain, the best course of action is to become TanZo, to show courage and not to dwell too much in the illusion of the present, where painful things must befall all of us. Life is one event: that event is not here, or there, not now, or then. The Way is beauty: make your Way beautiful.


Re-post | Originally posted October 2014

Be Dustless…

•DUSTLESS-FIN8

The culture of O is in many ways obsessed with and dominated by the number five.

The original reason for the importance of this number is lost in the Clouded Era. However, the number five also appeared to be crucial to people of the revered ancient civilization, known as the OnDomin, and the remnants of their culture have floated down the millennia and been incorporated into the current order.

Examples abound of the way the number five is inscribed into the culture of O:

The dynastic succession of the imperial clan, or the accession to the throne of a new clan, is overseen by the Five Bodies, the KorBan.

The imperial Mark, the ruler’s household Mark and the imperial bodyguard, is ViwaShar, the Five Towers Mark.

The ancient Han-nah Camellia Map – a map contained within one of the famous metal books of the Ancients – divides up the territory of the Land of O into fifty cantons. (In fact, there are fifty-one cantons on the Han-nah Map, but the central canton, Oron, with the great capital city LuinShar at its heart, is known as the “sublime canton”, a place of transcendent spiritual purity, and considered to be beyond the power of “description by numbers”.)

The culture of O is TanZo. “TanZo” is made up of two Gonfi (LateAncient characters), “Tan“, meaning “simple”, “pure”, “undivided”, “unadulterated”, and “Zo“, meaning “path”, “direction”, “way”. In the current tongue, TanZo is translated as “the simple Way”, or the “pure Way”.

TanZo has “five essential tenets”. People who live by the rules of TanZo perform the “five essential prostrations”.

TanZo is supported by the “five pillars”.

These are:

TineZo | The Way of Blood | rules governing the flow of ancestral resources

QuingZo | The Way of Harmony | rules governing intimate customs and social behaviour

HungZo | The Lawful Way | law over property and social behaviour

ZorZo | The Marked Way | rules governing the organisation and behaviour of Marks

MarZo | The Way of the Clans | rules governing the organisation of clans

The “five pillars” are designed to implement the wisdom of the Way across the whole of O.

MarZo, the Way of the Clans, is a set of laws designed to ensure that the basic unit of society, the noble clan, is run according to TanZo. The noble heads of households are responsible for ensuring that all the members of the clan behave according to the Way, and seek to follow the teachings of the sutras, and to live peaceful, gentle, vigilant lives.

ZorZo, the Way of the Marks, is designed to ensure that clans behave according to TanZo. Nearly all clans are members of Marks, which are associations of clans. The member clans of each Mark behave co-operatively, and seek to assure mutual safety and well-being. Thus, the Isen (“head”) of the Mark has power over the noble heads of individual clans.

HungZo, the Lawful Way, is the set of laws that apply to all people and all social bodies in O. There are two organisations charged with implementing HungZo: KinChogan, known as “Protecting Hand”, who have power over all non-noble households; and ShimThet, colloquially known as “Black Star” – their Mark is Black Star – who have power over all households, both noble and common, and whose elite members, known as “erasers”, have the right to take life in the pursuit of justice. In theory, even the imperial household and the court must submit to the rulings of ShimThet.

QuingZo, the Way of Harmony, is an intricate system of rules designed to ensure that people treat each other according the wisdom of the sutras, and particularly the Strict Order sutra, one of the sutras making up the AmorZine. “Quing” literally means “smooth”, “silk”, “frictionless”. QuingZo governs every relationship in O, and seeks to ensure that everyone shows appropriate vigilance and respect, as laid down in the Strict Order sutra.

TineZo, The Way of Blood, is a set of laws relating to matrimony and succession. In O, the ancestors are revered, as the ancestors were responsible for maintaining the Way over eras of generational struggle. All people of a certain rank in society are obliged to have samples of their blood taken by ShoKun, the Mark of the Hatching Egg, who oversee the matrimonial arrangements of noble clans. The great Library of Blood, in LuinShar, is supposed to contain millions of samples of blood, and ShoKun is responsible for ensuring the health and purity of the noble bloodlines of O.

Thus, from the ground up, from the lowest to the highest, bonds of TanZo are formed. The lowest class of citizen recognized under imperial law is a Murli, a serf, whose family has been bound to a noble clan for five generations. Murli have the right to life and protection, and the Lord or Lady of the clan is responsible for ensuring the Murli are allowed to live according to TanZo. Even the Murli, whose freedoms are strongly curtailed, have the legal privileges known as the Five Bearing Rights of the Strict Order sutra. These Five Bearing Rights are: the right to meditate and follow the Way, right to cleanliness, including care for health, right to shelter, right to food and right to respect.

The clan’s retainers, who exist in a hierarchy, from the humble Murli to the educated and sophisticated chamberlains of the household, must ensure that the “lowest” are allowed full TanZo. All the clan retainers are ultimately responsible to the Lord or Lady of the clan. Should the Lord or Lady themselves prove to be corrupt, then the Isen of the Mark should step in, and seek to ensure that the Mark is cleansed of any impure clan. The Isens, although often tremendously powerful, are still accountable to ShimThet. And ShimThet, in theory, is accountable to the Ministry of Resolution, one of the Five Ministries, who together make up the imperial government.

Thus, it is said in O:

From the Five Bearing Rights to the central summit of the Five Towers, Mark of the Dustless One, from the ant to the lion, from teardrop to ocean, from a lone flame to the heat and light of the sun, all is TanZo

 

Five Towers Mark

 

The half-blind hermit lord, Sokosozuin, performs SeriaYi, the formal recounting of an episode from one’s life

…‘There is a play of the poet Aginsozura, from the Perfect Calm Era, which tells the terrible story of the RoMayZine Lord Ysokan of the Clouded Era: and in that bloody play, Ysokan, finding that in a fit of MalSol, he has put to death the members of his own blood family, gouges out his own eyes, so that he may never see the pure light of the wonderful day again – well, it is a harrowing story. To my imperishable shame, I would have wished to gouge out my own mind, in order to rid myself of the dirty illumination that had taken root there, and was continuing to grow like a fibrous and vigorous weed – but I could not, for one’s own mind is the very basis of the universe, and we are taught that the life of our own mind is the foundation of the Way.

Sai. It is so. It is like that.

And still, the rain fell.

Perhaps I slipped into a doze. The story of Lord Ysokan was on my mind. I remembered once, in a small town in Chian canton, a place of wool, in summer, seeing a group of travelling players performing Lord Ysokan for a ragged crowd of souls. The stage was a simple thing, and the make-up and acting loud and rude, with great clashing of swords and shields, when a battle was made out of yelled words, and five actors made up conflicting armies. The performance was beyond the perimeter of the town, in a clearing among the trees, held by night and lit by lanterns. Despite the crudeness of the stage, and the rough-and-ready talents of the troupe, Aginsozura’s poetry shone out and lifted all – actors and audience alike, and even the watching officers of KinChogan, who stood in attendance to ensure no impure scenes were played out there – all were taken from their present mind, and transported to the turbulent Clouded Era, and to the home of Shion Ysokan, over four thousand years ago. And when the time came for the shion to put out his own eyes, the bumpkin audience moaned and wailed, and called out to him to stop, pleading with the shion to show himself mercy, and to forgive himself. And when the play had finished, after the scene where the barbarian killers come, and find their great enemy blinded and helpless, and despatch him, such a silence fell on that clearing for a little while, it seemed as if we might have heard the needle from one of the nearby pines drop to the forest floor and make a soft noise as it landed.

At the time, I had been very struck by the power of art to transform the flow of our minds, to divert their courses, to canalise them along new directions, and to lift us from our substantial state into the world of imagination, where different laws apply.

Now, as I sat, slumped, leaning against the planking wall of that unoccupied beach house, listening to the sound of the rain and to the bash and drawl of waves as the tide heightened, images from that play played themselves across my wandering mind. The work was purely done, according to the legislation, in the old way, uncorrupted, in the Perfect Calm Era Style: the actors’ faces were masked in lurid facepaint, which shone in the hanging paper lanterns; the toy armour tinkled with a trashy sound during the acts of combat; and for long periods the actor playing Lord Ysokan wore a metal mask, which was only removed for the most tragic moments… The blinding scene was terrifying… Even there, shipwrecked on the coast of the MarIsQuess, destitute under an alien sun, I myself dreamily flinched when Ysokan raised his thumbs to his own eyes, and began to speak the words: World, too beautiful for these violent eyes of mine / and eyes which rage with sight of unforgiving blood / tender things, both, will this night meet no more / not even for one particle of a lonely moment…

I had begun to shiver. I saw in the theatre of my mind the tormented Lord of the Mountain Mark unlatch his visor, and the effect of seeing his naked face – and his eyes – so often hidden under the tin prop of his mask, and knowing his intention, seemed to suspend the blood in my veins.

A cold darkness fell across my soul. For a few moments, I assumed my feeling of approaching horror was related to the play. A sense of silence entered me, just like the silence of the audience as they held their breath, mesmerised by the scene before them.

My mind began to tingle. I can describe the sensation in no other way: there was a curious agitation in my mind, as if of wind chimes stirring at the approach of a breeze. And a shadow encroached upon my thought. I felt intensely sensitive. And yet, I also felt impersonal: it was as if my own thoughts were like insects in a nest, running here and there, organising themselves, making preparations for some coming event.

I opened my eye. Two riders were approaching through the dunes…

Excerpt from Comb, Volume 8 of Dustless

It was a book called The Three Attitudes. In it, the woman, an educated traveller, fascinated by the differences among the three main divisions of ShiO — ZirCong, RoMayZine and SurGaKu – organised her observations of the people of the ShiO clans who, within fifty years, had started the war that would unify the whole world of O.


 

ATTITUDE TO THE BODY

ZirCong | Famously enigmatic, the ZirCong seem to consider the world neither ideal nor material, but in an unresolved state, or in a state that is constantly resolving towards both flesh and idea. They despise the “world of dust”, and strive for the Dustless condition. When they speak of the body, therefore, they speak of an illusion, a “thing of dust”. Even the mind, viewed from an unilluminated perspective, is to the ZirCong a thing of dust, an illusion. It is said that they do not feel pain — or, if pain is felt, they are not ZirCong. Their bodies do not belong to them: they have cast them aside.

To the ZirCong, as with all ShiO Marks, the MarIsQuess — the “building without motion”, or the “still building”, or, more simply, “the Building” — is the state or condition reached by meditation, with each ShiO division using meditation techniques peculiar to their own culture. The ZirCong use their celebrated, mysterious “Starless Darkness” techniques to achieve MarIsQuess. This is not a state ordinary people can attain. True ZirCong are said never to leave the Building, but always to dwell within it. Suspicious of language and of the “traps of definition”, the ZirCong insist that the Building can’t be described, but must be experienced. The Building must be built, through hours, days, years of arduous meditation. In this process of building, the weak eliminate themselves, as lacking the spiritual purity to maintain their path upon the Way. The foolish, the braggarts, the impatient, the greedy, all of these types of soul can never, without change, erect the Building within themselves, but must languish and perish, stranded in “the world of dust and donkeys”.

This constant striving to found and construct the Building within themselves has made the ZirCong admired, revered, feared and, by many, hated. One informal document, which has been publicly circulated, details the ZirCong attitude as follows:

What the common people call “body” and “mind”, these are merely pathways to the Building. They are gates of dust, leading to the Dustless state. Once inside the Building, all outside and inside ceases. New relations are inaugurated: all the old buildings and languages of dust, though they continue to float in the void, and are used by the common people as the limits of their world, for the Dustless one, are errors of matter and thought, imperfect perception, the toys of innocent children. People will live and die, will age and grow sick, just as they have always done — only, if you dwell in the Building, then living and dying, aging and sickening, these are changed, and their meanings are changed. The laws of sickness, the laws of age, of living, and dying, do not apply to true ZirCong. Life, death, tall, short, weak, strong, body, mind, above, below, finitude, infinity, moments, eternity, these are all categories of a diseased and limited vision: the perfect and entire vision of the Dustless ensures serenity, even as the sword goes through you, or the cancer grips. A healthy body and a diseased body are, within the Building, the same thing: an arrangement of dust.

RoMayZine | For the RoMayZine, the body is a source of struggle, the flesh is a piece of dust that may be caught hold of, polished, sharpened, hardened, quickened, improved. Men and women, both, are encouraged to exercise and to work their bodies until they are the perfect instruments of war. Both sexes swim, box, run, vault, lift weights, perform intricate ritual dances, practise with sword, bow, spear, lance, axe, they are keen horsemen, and work endlessly on their balance and speed of reaction.

There is a RoMayZine saying: The eyes for the arrow, the arms for the sword, the hands for fists, the legs for running.

For the RoMayZine, the body is very important in their philosophy. They adore action: they love to train their bodies and spirits until they are exhausted, and then they feel a tremendous peace. When they are in movement, they are irresistible; and when they are at rest, they seem sated, complete.

Life, on all levels, is a battle for them. Their Way is through action. It is not uncommon to see lords or ladies of RoMayZine clans with facial bruises, scars, misaligned bones, missing teeth.

They are warrior clans. Obviously, during war they are much sought-after as allies. In peace, their company is perhaps less pursued. It is said, among the houses of ZonO – “Society” – that when matrimonial alliances are made, then if you are not from a RoMayZine clan, but marry a RoMayZine partner, then there is often trepidation and anticipation regarding coitus. As lovers, both men and women of RoMayZine culture, are considered unsubtle, crude, demanding. A RoMayZine woman, with her strongly defined musculature and powerful limbs, is usually physically much stronger than most SurGaKu men. ZonO consider RoMayZine men as, frankly, brutes.

Love of the body is love of the Way, the RoMayZine believe. Enjoy the body, and make it do your will. But do not become obsessed with it. At the right moment, throw it away. Nothing is better than dying in battle. At such a moment, the tree both flowers and fruits: where the fruit falls, no one can say.

SurGaKu | A subtle and educated woman of ZonO explained to me that the divisions of ShiO can be broken down, very roughly, into three qualities: ZirCong, wisdom; RoMayZine, action; SurGaKu, beauty.

It is said that the SurGaKu, so concerned with beauty, find the body troubling. The SurGaKu TanZo is the effort to render the world beautiful through meditation and the practice of various forms of art. They are highly conscious of the passage of time, and of the mutability of all things. The moment has pitched its tent at the heart of every particle of dust, the SurGaKu explain, but the tent is empty.

Put simply, while the ZirCong deny the body any effective reality, and the RoMayZine treat the body with a kind of rude pragmatism, the SurGaKu are perplexed and uneasy with their bodies. They are more prone to romance, to melancholy, to dolour. They have purified their sensibilities so that they are sensitive to tiny nuances in the human and the natural world. Conscious that all pleasure and pain is fleeting, their TanZo is haunted by loss. Loss, though, is beautiful: it is the necessary condition for the existence of the world.

Their poetry, songs, prints, paintings, all celebrate the power of the ephemeral. The body, then, is a point of sensitivity, of vulnerability, of delicacy, to the SurGaKu. They know that bodies are fragile, can sicken, can break. They admit the tidal powers of sexual desire, the sweep and sway of it. Ironically, although in many ways the most refined of the three divisions of ShiO, the SurGaKu are in some ways the most fleshly, the most prone to lapse and delirium. They value tenderness and restraint, gentleness, patience, yet can be the most explosively ill-disciplined of all ShiO.

A SurGaKu love poem, from the Era of Storms, goes:

Between the room of parturition,
and the Temple of Ashes,
between the bleeding at birth,
the fire coming to death,
my body has swung, moment by moment,
like pearl beads strung
upon a wire, made into a necklace.

That necklace, my love, you wear.
Lying on your breast, my head
rises and falls,
in time with your breathing:
at sea, the waves also rise and fall,
and beneath the surface
on the shadowed bed
young pearls are forming.