The Phoenix and the Peacock 

From Taoist master Liu Yiming (18th century), on the Phoenix and the Peacock, from Awakening the Tao

A phoenix appears rarely, so it is an auspicious omen. Peacocks are always showing off their feathers, so they are taken captive.

In this we observe the Tao of concealment and revelation, good and bad fortune. Those who are proud of their ability, contentious and competitive, giving their thought to artificialities, attract bad fortune. Those who are inconspicuous, disregarding brilliance and wit, who empty their hearts and humble themselves, who direct their effort to self-refinement, bring on good fortune.

Outward application means accepting the artificial and losing the real. This wears out vitality, using up the spirit, to walk on the road of death. Inward application means getting rid of falsehood, maintaining truthfulness, building up vitality, nurturing the spirit. This returns us to the doorway of life.

Good and bad fortune, life and death, illustrate the internal or external use of awareness. Enlightened people cut off externals to govern the internal. Petty people strive for externals and thereby lose the internal. Like the concealment and display of the phoenix and the peacock, one brings on good fortune and the other brings on calamity. Surely we must be careful how we use our awareness.