Zilong's blog is here: http://www.journeye.org/
ZILONG: It really came as a big relief when I realized two things. One, that the world does not need saving and two, I do not need to be great.
ZACH: This is the Blu Skye podcast. I'm Zach Winter. This was a special one for me to record and a little different than previous episodes. This week I had the pleasure of speaking with my friend and comrade Zilong Wang, whom I met when he became a blue sky employee a few years ago. He has since left Blu Skye and is on a pilgrimage around the globe on his bike. To say that Zilong is unique, does not go far enough. His kindness, patience, and depth is special, and I hope a small part of that comes across in this interview.
ZILONG: to introduce oneself, first I wish I know myself and to know thyself might be the project right now or for a long time to come. And I think I know the journey that I'm on right now better than I know myself. So I introduce that journey. Right now I'm on the journey to the east and it's an open ended the pilgrimage around the world as much by bicycle as possible in service of the ecological and spiritual awakening of our time. I am right now six to eight months into the pilgrimage which started in the Bay Area in California on February 29, 2016. And now I am in across from the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad in India.
ZACH: Zilong, you done a trip like this before. Maybe maybe not like this but you rode your bike across the U.S. to actually come work a Blu Skye. How has this this trip differed from that first bicycle trip that you took?
ZILONG: The first bicycle trip was right after college as a rite of passage. About 3000 plus miles from Massachusetts to San Francisco. That journey was very much an unintentional pilgrimage. It didn't have a clear intention of being a pilgrimage of inner discovery and outer service but it turned out to be that way. So was almost like a rehearsal. And after that bicycling journey I never thought I'm going to do a long bike trip again. I even gave away the bike shorts and ended up have to buy another two pair of bike shorts for this trip this journey that I'm on currently and this journey, the journey to the east is very much an intentional pilgrimage with the vows that I have deliberated on and with as an answer to a calling that came to me in early 2015.
ZACH: I have read those vows. It's hard for me to imagine taking similar vows myself. Can you talk about what those vows are?
ZILONG: Yeah. Those, there are six fous. They are inspired by many traditions. This set of six foulis is closest to the five precepts that are given to lay Buddhists. So I have essentially the five precepts minus the no lying and plus that no meat eating and no commercialization. the other for being no killing, no stealing, no sex, and no intoxicants. So this journey is very much intended to be a journey of cultivation, and I feel like these files are my baseline protection. These vows are my insurance policy and my protectors. And so far they've kept me safe and sound all along the way.
ZACH: I'm glad they're working. I want you to be safe. Which reminds me that I just read on your latest blog that you have abandoned bicycle as your mode of transportation. Can you talk about that?
ZILONG: Yes. It's not abandoning a bicycle as a mode of transportation. It's putting the bicycling on pause and will resume bicycling next year from Europe back to China. That's the intention. But for the past few weeks in India I have decided to not continue bicycling because it is just physically not safe. And it has also been very timely ego check because bicycling has never been an end in itself. I just wanted to travel as slowly as I am spiritually ready. The more spiritually prepared I am, the slower I will be able to travel. I would have been inspired by people who walked around the world for peace or even going on a three year bowing pilgrimage, taking three steps and one full prostration bow for three years and I know I'm not ready for that level of cultivation, so I wanted to go as slowly as I could. But coming to India I realized that bicycling in India is not the safest or the sanest way to practice equanimity. There are other other ways to test the limits of the mind. And this is not the most physically safe way. I have developed a narrative around being the cycling Pilgrim. To have a cycling taken out of the pilgrim really make me question who and my or what I am doing and the heroism factor is taken out. It really make me question what is this journey really about.
ZACH: Thats awesome. It’s good for you. That was what I saw. What struck me most about what you had written was the ego check part. I loved that.
ZILONG: It's a slap on the face from the universe just at the right time.
ZACH: Another thing you wrote. Actually I think it was your interview that was posted recently. You wrote something that I've actually been using as a question. In previous interviews that I've been doing recently. I stole it from you, I don't I know you didn't invent it either but the quote is something about you left sustainability work specifically with Blu Skye because - you're not alone in this - but a lot of people and yourself feel like sustainability work is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Can you talk more about that?
ZILONG: The decision to leave this field has many layers and for some time I have been blaming the field for saying that this type of work is not it, doesn't address the root of the problem, et cetera. But as I go more and more on the journey I'm realizing the problem is not that the field... is that I am not ready. There are many ways... So to reach to be a monk to meditate in a cave is the easiest, to meditate in the corporate board room is the hardest. I have not developed the basic muscle to maintain my prayer and my awareness. Even in the meditation hall. So when I'm put in a much less conducive environment of the business environment, then I frequently lose the balance of my mind and can no longer be in touch with the prayer that that could heal. So maybe one day I would even return to this line of work but hopefully coming back with a different preparedness.
ZILONG: There have been Sufi saints who were butchers and Chuang Tzu, one of the Taoist mystics, wrote about this butcher that he have found oneness, realization, through cutting up a cow when he cut up a cow, his knife, he has been using the knife for 20 years without needing to sharpen it. He feels that how the knife goes through the tendons of the cow without even touching the bone as if a knife going through water etc.. So if it is possible for a butcher to find the Tao in butchering then it should be possible for a consultant to find the Tao in helping companies to become better agents of change. But I realized that I haven't even gotten the basics down and have tried to skip ahead to do the advanced course work. So now am getting back to the kindergarden by being a monk in the world.
ZACH: I don't know if you need to think about it as a as a regression right. Maybe it's maybe it's a progression that's just yours.
ZILONG: That's right.
ZACH: I've been talking to mostly students so far for this podcast. Young people that are just getting their careers started. I want to know from you what you what you see as the greatest deficit in corporate sustainability consulting. Like where, where should young people be focusing their their passions and if they feel like they want to make a change in the world? And it doesn't have to be related to sustainability right, it could be anything. Where where should young people right now be focused?
ZILONG: Yeah. They say the revolution is an inside job. Meaning that it really is what happens on the inside. And I think this generation of young people is getting an intuitive sense of it. We've been looking outside for the problem for the answer for a long time. And if we've been running around to look for the answers for a long time, but maybe all along the answers have been looking for us. We are just so busy running around that we cannot to hear the call of the answers. So I feel the best thing that I can do personally is to slow down, so that the answers could find me and to really look inside we're actually all the root of the problem and the ultimate solution lies, and to look inside it doesn't mean to sit and navel gaze all day long, though some still this practice is definitely required. But the biggest breakthrough that came for me is to turn the searching light from the outside inward. And there I saw all the problems and all the answers. It definitely is hard for young people to do that because we are in such youthful haste and want to see change happen want to make change happen. But I feel blessed to have the opportunity through the help of noble friends around me so that they hold up a mirror so that I can really see myself as part of the problem and solution.
ZACH: That's a very Zilong answer and I love it. Off topic a little bit. But I hope related. You can answer it any way you want. What have you been raised to be afraid of?
ZILONG: Chinese culture in general is afraid of deviance from the convention. But I'm grateful that my parents have gave me the room to do exactly that. I don't really feel like I have been raised with much fear and I have really deep gratitude for my parents for giving me that they're probably the biggest fear that I had, is not my fear but my ego's fear. The ego feared that would not that he would not be grand. That he would not have an opportunity to, quote, save the world. So it really came as a big relief when I realized that, two things one grow to doesn't need saving and two, I do not need to be great. And those two realizations gave me much relief. Essentially took me off the hook of ego for a bit.
ZACH: I love it. You know and Blu Sky is focused on sustainability and this podcast is mostly focused on sustainability but I want to know from you what, aside from sustainability, what political or cultural issues are you most passionate about?
ZILONG: So in a sense just like a soul might be reincarnated into different bodies, all the different problems they all essentially have the same core. I feel like saints and teachers across ages throughout history you have to try and address the same problem, that root problem, of the greed, hatred, and delusion as the Buddha called the three poisons. They keep manifesting a different problem. They used to be imperialism. It could be racism. It could be climate change. It could be political elitism. Fundamentally they’re all disease of the heart and mind in the soul. Saints and activists and leaders of each era choose the most relevant issue as the teaching point of that era to teach the timeless lesson of compassion and kindness and harmony. So I feel like all the issue is essentially, one issue, and they all have the same solution and they manifest as so many different problems and solutions in the daily world which give everyone an opportunity to participate. So I myself right now am on a journey of discovering how those roots of poison lie within me and how this ecological and spiritual to me that's so palpable in our time is giving us all an opportunity to eradicate those roots.
ZACH: What is a personal opinion that you've had and then changed within the last year?
ZILONG: About Donald Trump supporters. I know Donald Trump is a pretty hot topic in the U.S. or in the world media and when I was earlier this year bicycling for a few months through the U.S.. Before I started I don't know any Donald Trump supporters personally, and I had the impression that if someone were to vote for Donald Trump they are probably well they're probably out of their mind. But along the journey I met quite a few Donald Trump supporters who have shown me the utmost kindness they have taken me into their home invited me to dinner. And let me sleep in their yard or pick me up on the highway when I'm stranded. All of them are nice, reasonable, kind hearted people. And for every belief they hold that there is a very good reason behind it. So that's one view that I have changed it put the human face on the Donald Trump supporter and I was at their mercy. They helped me when I was needed, or totally dependent on the kindness of strangers. In those moments I cannot dismiss them as crazies. I have to listen to them, and when I listen I just see/hear a brother, hear a sister and everything they say makes perfect sense.
ZACH: I feel you. I mean I've gone through a similar revelation. That was not born from being in contact with Trump supporters because as you know in Northern California there are not many. But I've, you know, read some things recently which which reminded me how important empathy is in specifically that way. Right. Like all those views that you may see as racist or misogynist or nationalist, all have their reasons behind them. Not to say that they're right but that there are very valid and real reasons for wanting to vote for somebody like Donald Trump so I really appreciated your answer right there. I think that's all the questions I have Zilong. I want to know lastly if you have anything else you want to say or if you have any projects you want to plug or how anybody listening to this might get in contact with you should they want to find you.
ZILONG: There really is no message that I want to send through this pilgrimage because I feel like so much of our problem is because everyone has their own message and they want to add it into the airwave, which is already overcrowded. I wish. I pray that I develop the ability to listen, to hear so that I can be present and that at least, there is one less message out there. And along the journey when there are things that move me either moving through me, or have moved me I sometimes share them on the blog. And which is journeye.org as in journey to the east, so there was journey. Plus the letter “e” dot o-r-g. That's one way I stay in touch so that the things that I'm learning is not just for my own benefit but also hope that they would resonate with others if they come across. But I really pray that we all have this space and the privilege in life to go on a journey to know thy self, to be dependent on the universe, to be one. I definitely feel very grateful for the support that I have received and to a large part from Blu Skye for the leeway that I had when I was an employee to go to do meditation, to go to take on service project and the ongoing friendship and support of my former colleagues. It's a most special place and I'm very grateful for all the comrades.
ZACH: Well, we love you very much here.
ZILONG: Thank you, brother Zach.
ZACH: Please stay safe and we'll be reading your blog.
ZILONG: And likewise. I look forward to hearing more of Zach's podcasts.
ZACH: Thanks Zilong.
ZILONG: Bye Zach.
ZACH: Thanks for listening to the podcast. If you have enjoyed this episode please leave a review you on iTunes, or wherever you are listening. See you next time.