The Dragon’s Tail

Post written by Monica Gaylor.

“If you can’t take the heat, don’t tickle the dragon.”  by Unknown.

Meddle not in the affairs of the dragon; for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup.” by Unknown.

The Dragon has two sides – the last trumpeter of illusion versus the harbinger of authenticity.

In Reverend Venerable John Bright-Fey’s book, The Whole Heart of Zen, he writes (as part of Canto XXI):

  • The mind can be seen
  • In the thrashing of the Dragon’s tail
  • As it seeks to smooth out the surface
  • Of your very being.

Bright-Fey speaks here about the “mind” as ego or illusion.  In his book, he goes on to distinguish the “natural mind” or the “Buddha mind” as being free of ego, illusion, and other psychological constructs.  I think of it as the “authentic mind.”

Ancient Chinese mythology regards the Dragon as auspicious, good luck, and powerful.  Authentic in its nature.  The symbolism has even bled into American pop culture.

“…And from the dragon we learn to ride the wind. All creatures, the low and the high, are one with nature. If we have the wisdom to learn, all may teach us their virtues. Between the fragile beauty of the praying mantis and the fire and passion of the winged dragon, there is no discord….  As no two elements of nature are in conflict so when we perceive the ways of nature, we remove conflict within ourselves and discover a harmony of body and mind in accord with the flow of the universe.”  -Master Kan from the TV show Kung Fu.

 This symbolism would suggest of the Dragon that of creativity, innovation, dreams, and fantasies.  Which are all good when kept in balance in an “authentic” mind.  The quote goes on to discuss conflict within ourselves, which could be interpreted as conflict between the illusion mind and the authentic mind.  I would go so far as to say that the creative and innovative states of being or action have moved humanity from cave dwelling to our modern technological empires.  But the darker side of the Dragon as represented by ego and illusion would imply that all is not well in the big and modern technological empires.  Even though the illusion would suggest a bright, shiny existence.  Bright-Fey states that the “…Dragon emerges as that stage in a thought’s evolution wherein the natural (authentic) mind attempts, one last time, to throw off this new illusion.”  If the authentic mind fails to keep the Dragon at bay the thought becomes part of the illusionary world where the “mind” dwells.  The “mind” sees the world through this illusion.

Why do I bring it up?  I was sitting in Kung Fu class and Si Gong (master teacher) said, “We are the most in debt, overweight, and over medicated society the world has ever had / seen.”  This was not a new revelation to me, but when someone else says it to you – sometimes it has more impact.  Why?  The American (illusion) dream has become, for so many, the American nightmare.  Wake up and see the illusion.

I know my Dragon’s tail thrashes like crazy every time a car or cell phone commercial comes on TV.  Or, anytime I hear the concept that more is better, bigger is better, expensive is better, or designer is better.  It works overtime in the classroom where teenagers think they need a designer “this or that” to simply be “worthy.”  Or teenage girls who think they need to keep to their pre-pubescent weight and get Botox when they turn 18 to be considered beautiful.  How sad is that?  By far the most common answer I get when I ask a teenager what they want to be when they grow up is – rich and famous.  When did rich and famous become an occupation?  These illusions make my dragon’s tail thrash violently.

When Luke asked Yoda if the dark side was stronger?  Yoda replied, “No. No. No.  Quicker, easier, more seductive.”  It has become easier to measure a persons worth by what “picture” they present.  How do you measure what is on the inside?  How do you compare the praying mantis to the dragon?  Are they not separate, but equal?  The authentic mind sits in the center and “knows” – calm, serenity, fearlessness.  The illusion mind pants to keep up and frets and worries and fears….

Dragons are meant to sore – to ride the winds using their tail as a rudder.  When did buying and getting replace creating and innovating in the American psyche?  When did dreams and fantasies melt into “keeping up with the Joneses?”  Remember what happened to Puff – When Jackie lost his youthfulness and creativity, Puff sadly slipped into his cave and ceased his fearless roar.  I would thrash my tail too.  Remove the Dragon’s tail from your mind and let your truth and authenticity rein.  Like the dragon riding the currents – let you creativity loose upon the world.  Ride the winds of enlightenment, serenity, hope, and innovation.  Much damage and fear are had with a thrashing dragon’s tail – but is that what dragon’s tails’ are for?

A free dragon is a happy dragon.

Two excellent articles on overcoming the illusion are:

  1. Breaking Free From Consumerist Chains at Zen Habits.
  2. Stop Comparing Your Life. Start Living It. at Becoming Minimalist.