Category Archives: Via de la Plata

Santiago Cathedral – Chapter 15

 

We attend the Pilgrim’s Mass at Santiago Cathedral.

After the mass is complete, the officials swing the Botafumeiro (incence burner) from the central nave. The largest Botafumeiro in the world remains idle but the regular-sized one is used for everyday services.

The Botafumeiro is launched. It’s original function was to carry the prayers of the faithful to heaven while masking the smell of the unwashed pilgrims who had walked in from all over Europe.

After the song is complete, the Botafumeiro is brought to rest.

It is secured above the cathedral floor.

We return in the evening to attend a second mass, standing in position to watch the Botameiro as it swings side to side (this video takes 3.5 minutes).

I read Chapter 15 of the Tao te Ching:

“The ancient Masters were profound and subtle.
Their wisdom was unfathomable.”

The Baroque Main Altar dates from the 17th century. St. James, the Pilgrim, on it peak, holds a staff in his right hand, with King Alfonso II and King Ramiro III at his sides. Below is a statue of St. James sitting. Pilgrims are permitted to walk through a passage behind the altar and reach around and hug him!

Karen hugs the Saint.

We visit the saint’s relics — stored in a passageway under the cathedral.

During a less busy time, I approach the altar to meditate.

The altar

In front, hangs the largest Botafumeiro  in the world. It weights 80 kg and has come crashing down on three occasions (without fatalities).

 

Angels on the altar

We walk counter-clockwise around the cathedral, capturing images .

I read from chapter 15:

“There is no way to describe it;
all we can describe is their appearance.”

“They were careful
as someone crossing an iced-over stream.”

Tomb, altar, ceiling

“Alert as a warrior in enemy territory.
Courteous as a guest.”

“Fluid as melting ice.
Shapable as a block of wood.”

St. James holds a scroll which states “I was sent by God” [to bring the Gospel to España].

“Receptive as a valley.
Clear as a glass of water.”

 

“Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?”

“Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself?”

 

“The Master doesn’t seek fulfillment.
Not seeking, not expecting,
she is present, and can welcome all things.”

There is a dark side to the legend of St. James in Spain.  Within the Spanish tradition, St. James was an apostle of Jesus, a pilgrim who brought Christianity to Spain — but he later came as a vision in the sky to assist in conquering and driving out the Moors. He was thought to have appeared as an apparition during a battle and rallied the Christian troops to victory.

 

I will discuss the legend of St. James more fully when we visit the Cathedral museum and the Pilgrim’s Museum.

“Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?”

Santiago Cathedral – Chapter 14

The image above shows the Santiago Cathedral before it was covered with scaffolding. During each of my three visits (2011, 2014, and now  2017), the cathedral has been “under repair” and this time, the main masterpiece, the Pórtico de la Gloria, is covered over — not available to tourists. It, and the main towers, are being restored.

 

Most pilgrims arrive from the north, taking what is known as the French Camino. They pass through the Praza da Immaculada.  The  cathedral has the form of a cross and this is the top, northern part. Above the double doors is a statue of  the Pilgrim Santiago with Kings Alfonso II of Asturias and Ordoño II of León, praying to him.

I read Chapter 14 of Lao tsu’s Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“Look, and it can’t be seen.
Listen, and it can’t be heard.
Reach, and it can’t be grasped.”

[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as beyond imagination; Christianity includes many, many images — which can be seen, heard, grasped.]

Below Santiago are four figures and a blindfolded statue representing faith.

“Above, it isn’t bright.
Below, it isn’t dark.”

[There are elements within faith that are parallel to the Tao — faith has a hidden quality.]

Our experience during this visit was characterized by construction and repair work. These doors were open for the French pilgrims but there is major construction work going on.

“Seamless, unnamable,
it returns to the realm of nothing.”

[Christainity is filled with symbols — many names, ideas, images.]

Walking to the east, clockwise, we come to the Holy Door. Typically, it is closed. Above the door is a statue of St. James and his two disciples (Teodoro and Atanasio). To the left and right of the door are 24 carved figures of saints, apostles, and important religious figures (some of whom appear Asian). The Holy Door is open only on years when St. James’ Day, July 25th falls on Sunday. The exact identity of many of the images is unclear — specific objects have become connected to certain apostles and saints. St. James, for example, is often shown holding a pilgrim’s staff — reflecting his journey to Spain  (not historically documented but accepted by believers). St. James stands above the door and is not among the 24 figures.

On each side of the Holy Door are carvings by Maestro Mateo of saints, apostles, prophets, and Asian guys.

 

Walking to the south, we come to the Plaza das Praterias (Praterias are silversmiths, who used to have their shops here). This is the entrance for pilgrims, like us, who come from the south. There were also shops selling provisions for pilgrims.

“Form that includes all forms,
image without an image,
subtle, beyond all conception.”

[Lao tsu portrays the Tao as something that cannot be seen, heard, grasped, named — beyond conception. The cathedral functions as a kind of teaching tool — bringing the Christian stories into your awareness — but some elements have become obscure for modern listeners]

This plaza is often crowded — there are many tour groups visiting the cathedral.

“See the world as your self.
Have faith in the way things are.”

The cathedral doors in this plaza are surrounded by intricate artwork. On the left, are carvings showing the temptation of Jesus in the desert (note the monsters), on the rights is the “passion of Christ” (but I have not completely figured the exact meaning of many of these images)

 

“Love the world as your self;
then you can care for all things.”

 

 

Obscure images

 

 

We walk to the west and view the Praza do Obradoiro — the famous image on the 1, 2, and 5 cent Spanish coins — but, much is covered by scaffolding. I play with the sun.

 

 

We visited many times — sometimes walking from the north. We pass a beggar and listen to bagpipes.

 

When we visited the Museum, we looked down on the Plaza from a balcony passage.

 

The camera concludes by looking toward the Plaza de Praterias.

 

During the many times we walked through this Plaza, we saw many pilgrims arriving. Over 200,000 pilgrims walk the French Camino each year.

 

 

We leave the Plaza do Obradoiro,  walking south toward the Plaza das Praterias.

We enter — it is time for the Pilgrim’s Mass. You must come early if you want a seat.

Tábara – Chapter 69

We are walking to Tábara, a long 16 mile day.

 

We reach a bridge. I read Chapter 69 of the Tao te Ching:

“The generals have a saying:
Rather than make the first move
it is better to wait and see.”

 

The terrain becomes very difficult, unusual for the Camino de Santiago.

“Rather than advance an inch
it is better to retreat a yard.”

 

We climb to the top. The difficult terrain ends.

“This is called
going forward without advancing,
pushing back without using weapons.”

 

The pathway reaches a series of roads. We see a shepard and 8 dogs move over a hundred sheep down the road and into a field.

“There is no greater misfortune
than underestimating your enemy.”

 

 

“Underestimating your enemy
means thinking that he is evil.”

 

We walk over an bridge, an overpass for a highway under construction. Spain is building many new roads these days. We see Tábara in the distance.

“Thus you destroy your three treasures
and become an enemy yourself.”

[according to Lao tsu, the three treasures are simplicity, patience,  and compassion]

 

 

We arrive in Tábara but the air conditioning in our room is broken and the room is extremely hot.

“When two great forces oppose each other,
the victory will go
to the one that knows how to yield.”

 

 

I watch the sunset. Eventually, around midnight, it gets cooler. I do not consider Lao tsu to be a military expert but I think it is interesting to ponder the idea that your enemy is within.

 

 

When you look inside yourself, you will encounter memories, anger, foolishness, ignorance, pettiness — things that you do not like. Lao tsu suggested not underestimating the impact of these parts of yourself and not regarding these parts as evil.

 

 

Hold on to the three treasures.  Retreat — look inside yourself and accept the good and the bad. Yield to the reality of the situation.

Granja de Moreruela – Chapter 68

 

We leave Montamarta to walk to Granja de Moreruela.

We pass the church at Montamarta.

 

We pass some ruins, remains of a fortress.

I read Chapter 68 of the Tao te Ching ( translated by Steven Mitchell):

“The best athlete
wants his opponent at his best.”

 

“The best general
enters the mind of his enemy.”

A police helicopter lands in front of us and asks some bicyclists to show their ID’s. The police say they do not want to see our ID’s and that everything is OK. The bicyclists are allowed to continue.

 

“The best businessman
serves the communal good.”

 

The police depart and a Karen waves goodbye.

“The best leader
follows the will of the people.”

We arrive in Granja and decide to spend a second day so that we can visit the Monesterio de Santa Maria de Moreruela, a Cistercian monastery built during the 12 century.

We walk about an hour to the monastery and find that there is a gate that seems locked. The site does not open until 10:00. We wait until 10:00 and no one comes to open the gate. I figure out a way to get in.

We encounter another locked gate but I am able to video the remains of the chapel.

“All of them embody
the virtue of non-competition.”

 


“Not that they don’t love to compete,
but they do it in the spirit of competition.

 

We see some workers who are restoring the site, a man tells us that the site is closed on Monday and Tuesday. I apologize and we depart.

Karen is upset because she wanted to see all the ruins. I explain to her that we saw everything.

“In this they are like children
and in harmony with the Tao.”

We walk back to our casa rural.

Steven Mitchell has translated Lao tsu’s text so that it has a modern quality — but Lao tsu was not advocating a political position with regard to capitalism. I suggest that the value of the Tao te Ching is in its capacity to stimulate innovative ways of thinking which can be useful for seeing things in a new way — a pathway to mental well-being.

 

Monks lived in this place — seeking a spiritual life. Our modern life is very different from their life — but the Inner Way is available to everyone.

 

 

In harmony with the Tao

 

 

In Granja, we take the Camino Santabrés, which goes northwest to Ourense – and on to Santiago. We are leaving the Via de la Plata which goes north to join the Camino Francés at Astoria.

Walking to Montamarta- Chapter 67

We are walking from Zamora to Montamarta. We come to the town of Roales del Pan.

 

We see a monument and art pieces in someone’s yard – animals, people, and eventually a nativity scene.

I read Chapter 67 from the Tao te Ching:

“Some say that my teaching is nonsense.
Others call it lofty but impractical.
But to those who have looked inside themselves,
this nonsense makes perfect sense.”

We pass a church.

“And to those who put it into practice,
this loftiness has roots that go deep.”

We see a tree line at the top of the hill. What is beyond it?

“I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.”

We walk past the tree line — more of the same!
“These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.”

 

We follow 3 hikers on the road – far ahead of us.
“Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.”

We reach Montamarta and check the place where the trail leaves town. It follows a path toward a church.

Simplicity, patience, compassion.

Zamora Castle and Churches – Chapter 66

We visit the castle of Zamora, built in the 10th and 12th centuries. During the era of Christian-Muslim conflict, Zamora changed hands many times. King Alphonso II and El Cid laid siege to Zamora and Alphonso was treacherously murdered there causing El Cid to eventually cooperate, for a time, with his enemy, Alphonso’s brother.

I read Chapter 66 from the Tao te Ching:

“All streams flow to the sea
because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.”

The castle has a series of walls and moats and an inner building.

“If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.”

 

 

“If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them.”

 

The castle has an inner building, with arches.

“The Master is above the people,
and no one feels oppressed.”

 

 

Zamora has 24 churches. I approach the Church of San Isidoro. San Isidoro was known as the last great scholar of medieval literature, and is now regarded as the patron saint of computers.

 

I meditate here.

 

 

“She goes ahead of the people,
and no one feels manipulated.”

 

We visit the Church of San Pedro and San Ildefonso. I pray for you.

“The whole world is grateful to her.
Because she competes with no one,
no one can compete with her.”

 

The altar is very golden.

 

We see the Church of la Magdalena. Most people do not realize the importance of Mary Magdaline in the life of Jesus and in the life of the early Christian group.

 

 

We return and enter the church.

 

We see the Church of Santa Maria la Nueva.

We look at the altar.

 

Outside, we look at a wall mural and the Romanesque Bridge leading into the city. The bridge was built in the 12th century.

 

We see the Church of San Juan de la Puerta.

 

I meditate.

 

I do not know that showing you images will induce a powerful experience in you. Perhaps eating is better.

 

The next day, we return to the Church of San Juan. More?

Zamora Cathedral Chapter 65

We visit the Cathedral of Zamora.

 

 

I wish to show a story — an approach, an encounter, an experience, that changes you.

The main altar portrays the transfiguration of Jesus — a powerful experience, witnessed by his desciples. This is a story in the life of Jesus, described in the New Testiment.

I read Chapter 65 of the Tao te Ching:

“The ancient Masters
didn’t try to educate the people,
but kindly taught them to not-know.”

We cannot explain religious experience — but it is at the heart of religions everywhere.

“When they think that they know the answers,
people are difficult to guide.”

The scenes behind show the crucifixion of Jesus.

 

“When they know that they don’t know,
people can find their own way.”

 

 

“If you want to learn how to govern,
avoid being clever or rich.”

 

“The simplest pattern is the clearest.
Content with an ordinary life,
you can show all people the way
back to their own true nature.”

i include religious artwork – each image tells a story.

“Don’t touch me,” Jesus says to Mary Magdaline. She was probably his physical lover and she was the one to whom he appeared first after his death. He was an apparition — not completely physical. Her story of this encounter probably triggered similar experiences. Our thinking and traditions shape our experiences — but there are mysteries involved.

Jesus comforted by the angel. He was in the Garden of Gethsemane — the evening before his crucifixion and death.

Head of John the Baptist. John was arrested and killed for advocating innovative religious ideas.

“If you want to govern the people,
you must place yourself below them.”

Saint Anthony’s vision — Meditators finds that our brains continually bring forth ideas, thoughts, emotions. Some seem to come from outside — but the process is a mystery.

Ancient images of Jesus and his disciples

Christianity, as shaped by the apostle Paul,  fit the needs of the people of its era — there is a series of levels within the religious structure — some above others, a complexity similar to everyday life.

The flood associated with Noah’s ark.


Jesus baptized by John the Baptist.

The apostles of Jesus — no one knows how they actually looked, but patterns emerged so that medieval artists provided consistent portrayals of each apostle.

“If you want to lead the people,
you must learn how to follow them.”

 

 

A tapestry showing a story from Jesus — the workers receive equal pay no matter how many hours they worked.  Many of Jesus’ teachings advocate ideas that are in conflict with modern Capitalism. Even in its early forms, Christianity deviated from the teachings of Jesus.

 

Saint Christopher carries the infant Jesus across a river. Saint Christopher is no longer on the official calendar of saints.

The position of images indicates relationships. If future people, who had no knowledge of Christianity, encountered Christian relics from this cathedral, they would probably conclude that those who came to the cathedral worshiped many human gods – some more important than others.

This image of Jesus on his throne in heaven shows the saintly women on his right and saintly men on his left. Those closest to him, his Mother Mary,  Mary Magdalene, and Saint John, the Apostle, Saint Peter, Saint Paul were regarded as most important.

The stories hold people’s attention and gave shape to their religious ideologies.

I am interested in your particular story, the one that gives shape to your live and your way of thinking.

You can grasp that story and change it because it unfolds before you.

Walking to Zamora – Chapter 64

We leave Villanueva de Campeán, passing by a replica of a mile post marker.

I read Chapter 64 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.”

 

“What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.”

I watch a snail. We are walking each day covering a short distance – this brings a different perspective.

“Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.”

 

 

“The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.”

 

This section has replicas in the original Roman mile markers. The staff and gourd (water) symbolize Saint James’ prigrimage.

“The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.”

We have a brief road walk.

“Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.

 


“Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.”

 

 

“Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.”

 

We see a monument to pilgrims walking the Camino.

The text on the central monument reads: “Leave here the promise that you want to guide your steps and live the “flame of your soul,” Your spirit moves the heart of the earth and someday forms in the “ears of bread” of the hungry. Whisper in all sources, run like rivers, thirsting for justice’ -will fly to the nures [not sure how to translate this word” and it will be a ray of sunshine for the sad.”

So this is uplifting but difficult to translate — but certainly I want to be a ray of sunshine for the sad.

“He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.”

 

We arrive at the edge of town and see a map designed for pilgrims.

“He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.”

We enter the city of Zamora.

“What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.”

 

We see the Cathedral of Zamora. Karen takes a photograph.

“He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.

 

He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.”

We walk through town to our lodging.

We will visit this cathedral and will pray for you there.

“What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.”

Here is the view from our window.

If you practice the Inner Way each day, you may wonder if you are going anywhere  — don’t give up — you are not going anywhere except within —  eventually you will find the secret thing: the One that means everything.

Villanueva de Champeán – Chapter 63

We walk by the church as we leave El Cubo.

 

We are tired due to difficulty sleeping in the albergue. We begin walking to Villanueva de Champion.

I listen to a bird song.

I read Chapter 63 of the Tao te Ching by Lao Tsu (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“Act without doing;
work without effort.”

 

 

“Think of the small as large
and the few as many.”

 

How is this possible?  Meditation can help you adopt new perspectives.

“Confront the difficult
while it is still easy.”

“Accomplish the great task
by a series of small acts.”

“The Master never reaches for the great;
thus she achieves greatness.”

 

The ants clear a path through the vegetation.


“When she runs into a difficulty,
she stops and gives herself to it.”

 

A beetle walks across the pathway — missing a leg on the left side.

“She doesn’t cling to her own comfort;
thus problems are no problem for her.”

We see a sign for the place that we will stay at when we arrive at Villanueva.

 

After we arrive, I wash our cloths and put them up to dry before the window.

Walking to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino – Chapter 62

We walk past the church and through the Plaza – on our way to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino (The Cube of Wine).

I read Chapter 62 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“The Tao is the center of the universe,
the good man’s treasure,
the bad man’s refuge.”

The early part of our hike passes through the countryside.

“Honors can be bought with fine words,
respect can be won with good deeds.”

“But the Tao is beyond all value,
and no one can achieve it.”

 

“Thus, when a new leader is chosen,
don’t offer to help him
with your wealth or your expertise.”

 

 

“Offer instead
to teach him about the Tao.”

The Camino returns to run parallel to highway N-630. I am not certain that it is possible to “teach” someone “about the Tao.” The Tao is a way — if you follow the way, you can learn. I try to set an example but my words are only sign posts for the Way.

 

 

“Why did the ancient Masters esteem the Tao?”

 

The sun was very hot and Karen was extremely tired at this stage. When we arrived at the albergue, we found that my e-mail request for a reservation had been ignored. We ended up in bunk beds among many French people who spoke loudly and continually.

“Because, being one with the Tao,
when you seek, you find;”

We went to the church to get away from the noise but, of course, it was locked.
“And when you make a mistake, you are forgiven.
That is why everybody loves it.”

Lao tsu’s words make for good poetry but not everyone loves the Tao. The Way can be boring and difficult — only those with special motivation follow the Way. Most people seek pleasure even though this does not necessarily lead to happiness.

We checked out the route that the Camino followed out of town.

 

The church has a statue of St. James, the Pilgrim (Santiago), the Saint of our pilgrimage. The Camino de Santiago (the way to Santiago) visits the church in each town.

Here is my advice: When times are good, meditate each day. Then, when times are difficult, you will be able to focus your mind.