While the original intent of this blog was to share my travel experiences and tips with the world, I found that I continually returned to the question of how we can both travel and exist mindfully (in a way that does not harm the earth, ourselves, or others). Cold Mountain, or ‘Han Shan’ in Mandarin, is the name of a Tang dynasty (8-9th century) Chinese Buddhist Monk who left his worldly possessions behind in order to seek enlightenment on a mountain in Eastern China. While no one knows the exact identity of this man (Cold Mountain was the name he took from the nickname of the cave he lived in), his Taoist and Buddhist poetry speaks to existing in a way that relieves the suffering of individuals and the earth.
As a result, I have shifted the focus of this blog to adhere to this tenet:
“Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing, and oppression, I am committed to practicing generosity in my thinking, speaking, and acting. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. And I will share my time, energy, and material resources with those who are in need.
I will practice looking deeply to see that the happiness and suffering of others are not separate from my own happiness and suffering. That true happiness is not possible without understanding and compassion and that running after wealth, fame, power, and sensual pleasures can bring much suffering and despair. I am aware that happiness depends on my mental attitude and not on external conditions and that I can live happily in the present moment simply by remembering that I already have more than enough conditions to be happy. That is the practice of mindfulness. I am committed to establishing a livelihood that could help reduce the suffering of living beings on earth and reverse the process of global warming.
So this proves that true happiness is possible if we stop running after wealth, power, fame, and sensual pleasures, and recognize the wonders of life available in the present moment. We should be able to help ourselves and others suffer less and that belongs to the lifestyle we are looking for.” — From a talk on Climate Change given by Thich Nhat Hanh
The presumed location of Cold Mountain’s cliff dwelling is in the Tientai Mountain range south of Shanghai. During the time Cold Mountain lived there, writing his poetry and living a hermetic existence, there were a number of other ‘mountain men’ who had retreated from the Confucian system of the Tang Empire, comprising a “free society of eccentric recluses from backgrounds ranging between scholarly elegance on the one hand to total illiteracy on the other” (Blofeld in Red Pine, The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain). This group of eclectic men sought beauty in nature and “built their simple dwellings in places chosen for a combination of such features as curious rock formations, streams, cataracts, waterfalls, handsome trees, lush vegetation, and so on” (ibid.). Their main goal was to live a life of “practicing the Way,” which in Taoism refers to living a life of highest good, a life that understands there is no difference between ‘you’ and ‘I’ or ‘this’ and ‘that’ but that there is an underlying connectedness between all living and non-living things.
This blog, therefore, is a place to collect travel experiences, contemporary stories, locations, objects, art forms, videos, etc., that celebrate the intent of Cold Mountain. As Cold Mountain himself wrote:
The Tientai Mountains are my home
mist-shrouded cloud paths keep guests away
thousand-meter cliffs make hiding easy
above a rocky ledge among ten thousand streams
with bark hat and wooden clogs I walk along the banks with hemp robe and pigweed staff I circumambulate the peaks
once you see through transience and illusion
the joys of roaming free are wonderful indeed