External tranquility found in nature, inner tran
quility cultivated in city, ultimate tranquility realised in wise action (& inaction).
– 南懷瑾老師 (1918-2012)
Buddhist heart, Taoist bones, Confucius persona, compassionately perceive the world;
Skills on hands, abilities in body, thinking via the brain, serenely live life.
– Master Nan-Huai-Chin (1918-2012)
After 26 months of discussion and exploration, we have finally completed our online discussion on the core teachings of the three great classics in Chinese Civilization.
With the focus on personal and spiritual cultivation, we first learnt about the transcendental reality and the way towards it from Laozi’s Daodejing. After understanding our self, and going beyond it, we then learnt the importance of fulfilling our personal, family and social responsibility in the world through practical advises from Confucius’s Analects. Finally, after mastering the world and the reality beyond it, we learnt from the Buddhist Diamond Sutra that all teachings and phenomena, no matter how extraordinary and spectacular, are temporary like dreams and bubble and therefore are not to be attached.
If we can gain a throughout understanding of these three classics, and integrate them into our daily life, then a solid foundation is laid on the roadway of personal and spiritual cultivation. Hopefully these discussions could serve as an opening door and overall guidance for further studies and practice.
This concludes this series of our online classes. As Laozi said, “excessive speeches exhaust our reason, it’s better to stay centered.” The foundation understanding of cultivation has been laid and it is time for practice and integration into our life. If you have further question on the topics mentioned, you may contact me for advice or further discussion. Thank you for your interest and support all along.
Best wishes to you in your life, studies, and practices.
No self is the Dao, no self and no “no self”;
Proper awareness is the Buddha, and there is no such thing as proper awareness;
Charity is the Superior Man, who proceeds in middle of Confucianism Daoism and Buddhism.
Are we alike? Are we different? Despite of our racial, cultural differences, we are all human. Confucius said the same. He said that we are all alike at the source, yet our habits, believes and choices make us apart.
The Master said, ‘By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.’
* * *
Great founders of major religions all reported that we come from the same source. It is in this ultimate source that we are all born and close to each others. Yet, through our evolution, habits, believes, and choices, we spin off from the source and declare ourselves to be different.
Ordinary people establish their identity via separation, whereas spiritual aspirants establish their identity through unity. By study, practice and mastery, we transcend our habitual identification with the separate, align with the source, and unit with the whole.
There is a Chinese saying: giving is more blessed than receiving (施比受更有福). Is it true? Confucius reported so.
The Master said, ‘Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practises it will have neighbors.’
* * *
I would like to share a personal story of charity here. One time, i heard of a practice of charity that one gives away the first money drawn out from the wallet, no matter the value of the note. I decided to give a try on this.
That evening, when i was approaching the San Francisco Symphony Hall, a young homeless person appeared on the street, asking me for changes. I opened my wallet, thinking of the exercise, and put a note. I looked at the note, it was a $10 dollar note. Hesitated for about a second, i handed it over to him. He was surprised, and grateful. When i departed, my heart was filled with love and warmth. At that moment, i was already contented with the result. But that was only the beginning. When i arrived the entrance of the symphony hall, a middle-age lady sensed that i was looking for ticket, approached me and gave me a complimentary ticket! Not only that, when i get inside the concert hall, i was told that the seat is on the first row. I watched the piano soloist perform right in front of me that evening. I was ecstatic!
Indeed it is true. When we give, it comes back to us ten folded and hundred folded. Confucius was right, those virtuous are not alone!
We live in a turbulent world. External events come and go, internal reactions rise and fall. While we could have a fairly stable way to, or expectation on how to live our lives, often time the reality falls short of our expectations. How did Confucius survived this changing world?
Such an one will not enter a tottering State, nor dwell in a disorganized one. When right principles of government prevail in the kingdom, he will show himself; when they are prostrated, he will keep concealed.
The Master said, ‘When good order prevailed in his country, Ning Wu [Ning Wu] acted the part of a wise man. When his country was in disorder, he acted the part of a stupid man. Others may equal his wisdom, but they cannot equal his stupidity.’
* * *
For beginners, Confucius’s advise is to choose wisely of place to live and work. If we choose an environment that is supportive to our life, we are supported, and therefore can grow and serve effectively.
With study and practice, our inner strength and wisdom grows. We become increasing aligned to truth and power, and more able to function in increasingly complex and turbulent situations. We share what we have to offer when conditions are right (which appears to be wise), and blend in with people without losing our inner alignment in other situations (which might appears stupid).
The former require inner wisdom and right conditions, while the latter require unconditional acceptance, wisdom, and compassion to all. Confucius found the latter to be more difficult, as not only does it requires perfection of one’s inner world, it asks for the full acceptance of the world as it is, external and internal, beyond one’s self.
Therefore of the Chinese saying “大智若愚”: the wise appears fool. Lower level of wisdom appears wise; higher level of wisdom appears fool. Are you wise? Are you fool?
The Master said, ‘In teaching there should be no distinction of classes.’
* * *
Confucius teaches all, Laozi transcends all, Buddha liberates all, Jesus loves all. Can you not see where they all coming from and converging back to?
Zixia, being governor of Chu-fu, asked about government. The Master said, ‘Do not be desirous to have things done quickly; do not look at small advantages. Desire to have things done quickly prevents their being done thoroughly. Looking at small advantages prevents great affairs from being accomplished.’
* * *
When we grow flower, rushing it to grow by pulling it up will kill it; harvesting immaturely will prevent you from seeing the full blossom. Impatient decisions are prone to mistakes, lost sight in short-term gain limits one’s long term development and outcome. These errors can be readily seen not only in gardening and government, but also in personal relationships, workplace, business, and even in personal study and development. Stay centered and unmoved from one’s rushingness and short-sightingness. Aim big, stay put, and be patient, and we will see our flowers blossom.
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