Monday, January 23, 2006

Muddle through studies and life

After a lifetime study of ancient books and classics, we often like to think we know much about ancient thoughts and cultivation. Once we have become fixated in our own thoughts and opinions we become stubborn and close our minds to truths and wisdoms. However the earnest and sincere in learning keep their minds open with the hopes to extend their studies and understanding.

As depicted in the Analects, even Confucius continued to learn during his old age. And he said: ‘The Junzi, extensively studying all learning, and keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, may thus likewise not overstep what is right.’ (Analects 6. 25)

In Analects 7.3 he said: ‘The leaving virtue without proper cultivation; the not thoroughly discussing what is learned; not being able to move towards righteousness of which knowledge is gained; and not being able to change what is not good:--these are the things which occasion me solicitude.’

Yet when one wanders into Yi or Daoist forums to listen to those who spent a few decades in such studies/cultivation and to self appointed teachers, occasionally their comments depict they muddle through their studies and life. It is truly sad when they fritter their lives away and perhaps come to nothing at the end of the day. The hard nosed Confucian may say that these students ‘read dead books’ which means that they do not know how to apply their lifetime studies to humanity.

Why? Because on occasions they go against what is considered right – disparaging renowned Yi translators and well researched topics by scholars with no substantive proof or reasoning; or wanting to replace ancient wisdoms with new age thoughts that tend to mislead students and readers; or try to cultivate but followed bye paths and then argue against self cultivation; or holding court in religious Daoist forum alienating new members by telling them they are not Daoists. Probably if all these people cultivate properly, they may not fritter their lives away. Hopefully discerning students would not be misled by these so-called experts' incorrect line of thoughts.

To walk the middle path which opens the eyes, and bestows understanding which leads to peace of mind, to the higher wisdom, to full enlightenment, to Nirvana, Buddha advised to follow the eightfold path that of Right views; Right aspirations; Right speech; Right conduct; Right livelihood; Right effort; Right mindfulness; and Right contemplation. The eightfold path as one understands it is the dual cultivation of essence and bodily life.

For those who better understand the Book of Changes, perhaps Hexagram 34 Da Zhuang / The Power of the Great may convey a clearer meaning of what constitutes proper conduct of an earnest and sincere student in learning and cultivation.

The judgment simply says: ‘The Power of the Great. Perseverance furthers’. The hexagram points to a time when inner worth mounts with great force and comes to power. But its strength has already passed beyond the median line, hence there is danger that one may rely entirely on one's own power and forget to ask what is right. There is danger too that, being intent on movement, we may not wait for the right time. Therefore the added statement that perseverance furthers. For that is truly great power which does not degenerate into mere force but remains inwardly united with the fundamental principles of right and of justice. When we understand this point–namely, that greatness and justice must be indissolubly united–we understand the true meaning of all that happens in heaven and on earth. [W/B]

Comment: Inner worth comes from our own studies or cultivation. If we show it or do things too early it may not be the right time. If we think we know more than the ancient sages in studies and/or cultivation, or renowned Yi translators and scholars, we have forgotten to ask what is right. Also compare the commentary on the judgment in Hexagram 34 with what Confucius and Buddha said about learning and cultivation. Without righteousness and greatness, do we have the wisdom to master fate (Ming)? On a simpler note, did we really learn the wisdoms contained in the Yi?

The image indicates: ‘Thus the superior man does not tread upon paths that do not accord with established order’.

Comment: Daoist students and cultivators may note that the image text conveys a similar meaning with what Laozi said in TTC 53: “The great Tao (or way) is very level and easy; but people love the by-ways.”

There is a saying that “if someone masters an ancient Classic (Jing), the person can understand a hundred classics”; since all the Classics (Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist) teach the same things. With decades of studying these classics if we still have not learn a thing or two about cultivation, perhaps we may have muddled through our studies and life.


Ren Qizhen said...

Hear, hear!
It seems that Westerners have a license to treat anything of Chinese traditions like a white canvas, upon which anyone can superimpose their own agendas, interpretations and fantasies.
You don’t need to know the first thing about Chinese culture, concepts, beliefs, meditation or physical practices, etc. or even half a sentence of Classical Chinese to embark on creating yet another new interpretation of Yijing.
It's not enough to have read Stephen Mitchen's interpretation - modernisation - of Tao Te Ching and the Tao of Pooh and Te of Piglet to proclaim oneself a Taoist master.
How bitter are the roots...

Allan said...

Welcome Ren!

Yes, you are right. It appears that the unscrupulous like to make money with or without realizing that misleading interpretations or incorrect teachings can affect undiscerning students.

Wish you a Prosperous and Happy Chinese New Year!