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“The path to the light seems dark, the path forward seems to go back, the direct path seems long, true power seems weak, true purity seems tarnished, true steadfastness seems changeable, true clarity seems obscure, the greatest art seems unsophisticated, the greatest love seems indifferent, the greatest wisdom seems childish.”

25 Jun

Tao Te Ching on Love, Wisdom, Impermanence, Truth, Purity, Leadership/Power, Illusion

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I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.

25 Jun

Tao Te Ching on Stillness, Patience, Compassion.

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Tao Te Ching

24 Jun

Tao Te Ching Quote

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Taoism // Through ‘Tao Te Ching’

18 Jun

TAOISM
Through the lens of the “Tao Te Ching”
taoteching

Personal Intro

I enjoyed reading Tao Te Ching, and found it to be a quick and easy read of roughly 100 pages of metaphoric teachings and pros structured in a poetic way.  Although I was unfamiliar with the make-up of Taoism, I had been introduced to several concepts that are central to its teachings; mainly: surrender to the universe (doing not-doing) and see past the illusion of seemingly contrary forces to their actual complementary relationship (yin-yang).

I associate Tao Te Ching’s concept of  “doing not-doing” with “flow states” or “being in the zone” (my athlete metaphor).  Essentially it means, ‘get out of your own way and let the law of the universe work through you’.  I have directly experienced this while playing soccer, dancing and in all of my life  for a brief four month period during my 30th year.  I deeply associate this state with the loss of ego, although that direct metaphor did not come up in the Tao Te Ching.

Beyond, “doing not-doing”, Taoism teaches that forces that seem contrary, are in actuality, complementary (yin-yang).  I have personally experienced this lesson, and recall sometime in the Fall of 2012 reading about complements and spending time pondering its significance.  My first experience in understanding this was with a former co-worker who I considered rigid and uptight. For the longest time, it drove me crazy, until I realized that the co-worker’s discerning eye actually allowed me to have more freedom and creativity because all of the worrying was already taken care of.  Props to my younger brother, who, as I was venting about the co-worker, said to me, “Wow, it seems like they really get under your skin. I wonder what they are here to teach you.”

Most recently, I have experienced the deep connection of complements with my husband.  Not that we are so “contrary” to begin with, but there is much of our surface identity that might seem that way.  In reflecting on my single years and my single friends, I feel like we were searching for our “match” – our equal and opposite.  Instead of finding my “match”, I found the complement to my feminine energy. In hindsight, I actually do not believe finding an equal is even possible, nor lasting. Firstly, I think that the concepts of equality and self-worth are based in the ego; so a “match” is more for the ego than the soul. Secondly, with two dynamic and changing beings, equality cannot stay in tact for long. And lastly, I do not think “equal-ness” is even possible, as every human being is so different.

There are several topics associated with Taoism that have come up in my past, and again came up during my research and peaked my interest.  Those topics are: I Ching, Qigong, Qi, and Yin Yang.  Perhaps I will dive a little deepr into those.

I believe Tao Te Ching is a great read for those seeking lessons on: LEADERSHIP, FORGIVENESS, ACCEPTANCE OF OTHERS and LETTING THINGS GO.


TAO TE CHING

“Tao Te Ching” translated as “The Book of the Way” was written by Lao-tzu, a man who left no trace, and dated to the late 4th century BC.  It is categorized under both philosophical and religious categories.  The version I read was translated into English by Stephen Mitchell, and he states upfront the difficulty in translating the Tao Te Ching with 100% accuracy.

DOING NOT-DOING

The main message of Tao Te Ching is “Wei wu Wie” meaning literally “doing not-doing.”  The book talks often about not forcing things, but rather accepting them as they are and allowing them to be naturally and unfold spontaneously.  The book teaches that the greatest treasures are: simplicity, patience, compassion (translated elsewhere as compassion, moderation, and humility[1]).

THE GREAT SECRET

Yin Yang

Another focus of the Taoism teachings is that of yin-yang: how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another[1] “What is a good man, but a bad man’s teacher? What is a bad man, but a good man’s job?” Tao Te Ching calls understanding this “the great secret”

COMPARED TO BUDDHISM

Like Buddhism, the Tao Te Ching emphasizes the impermanence of the world, and the perils of illusions, desires and attachments.  
Tao Te Ching states that “for governing a country well there is nothing better than moderation.”  Although I did not mention Buddhism’s focus on the “middle way” in my report, both Buddhism and Taoism mention moderation or a “middle path”.  In Buddhism, the focus on the “middle way” is much more prevalent.

COMPARED TO EXISTENTIALISM

The Tao Te Ching  says “He who defines himself can’t know who he really is.” and “When you have names and forms, know that they are provisional.  When you have institutions, know where their functions should end.”  This is resonant of existentialism’s focus on the individual first, before all of their ideologies and categories.

The Tao Te Ching says, “you can show all people the way back to their own true nature.” The mention of a “true nature” aligns with existentialism’s view of a core and authentic self and a path back to that self.  This differs from Buddhism’s “no-self.”

IT’S OWN THING

When the Tao Te Ching says, “Each separate being in the universe returns to the common source.  Returning to the source is serenity,” I believe it is referencing a return to that source after death. Existentialism makes no common claims for life post death, and relative to Buddhism, this varies from it’s “no-self,” and rebirth beliefs.  As well, the Tao Te Ching’s “Be a pattern for the world. If you are a pattern for the world, the Tao will be strong inside of you,” reminds me of Gandhi.

QUOTES (with more coming under categorical posts).


 “All things are born of being.  Being is born of non-being.”


“We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.

We hammer wood for a house, but it is the inner space that makes it livable.

We work with being, but non-being is what we use”


“In the pursuit of knowledge, everyday something is added. In the practice of Tao, everyday something is dropped.  Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.”


“In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In thinking, keep to the simple.

In conflict, be fair and generous.

In governing, don’t try to control.

In work, do what  you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present.”


“It is serene. Empty. Solitary.  Unchanging.  Infinite. Eternally present. It is the mother of the universe. For lack of a better name, I call it the Tao”

 

Buddhism & Existentialism // A Comparison

17 Jun

As I research different philosophies and read different literature, I am making mental note of where the commonalities are.  With Buddhism and Existentialism, here are my thoughts:

  1. The Lens of the Individual: Buddhism teaches people to experience truth for oneself & in existentialism, the central process is one of self-analysis:  Both focus on understanding life and life’s truths through the lens of the individual self.
  2. Removal of Illusions: Existentialism focuses on removing the self from the illusions of categories and ideologies.  While Buddhism does the same, it takes it further to include the removal of our illusion of an actual self (thus its teaching of the “no-self”).
  3. Suffering & Absurdism:  Both Buddhism and existentialism claim that a suffering are an unavoidable truth to the human experience.  In Buddhism, this is the first of its Four Noble Truths, and in existentialism, this is captured in its focus on life being meaningless and absurd.
  4. Concentration: Both Buddhism and existentialism call for deep concentration to reach and achieve states of truth, free from illusion.  In existentialism, it is a constant self-analysis and in Buddhism it is done through meditations.

Where they differ greatly is:

  1. Concrete Self vs No Self.  Existentialism’s aim is for each individual to understand what is core and “authentic’ in themselves.  Although it is one of the more difficult concepts to understand, the concept of “no-self” is core to Buddhism and ultimately means there is no unique soul or self at all; essentially, nothing is core.
  2. Philosophy vs Religion: Buddhism clearly has religious framework which includes daily practices, mantras, a path to end suffering, etc.  Existentialism, has no such parameters or pathways, and is merely a way to view the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Buddhism // An Organization Chart

15 Jun
Buddhism Org Chart

Click here to view the chart in full.

Buddhism

15 Jun

Personal Intro

As I researched Buddhism, I found that I was much more attracted to the philosophical applications than the religious ones (not very surprising if you know me). My attraction towards Buddhism started around 2 – 3 years ago, and has grown increasingly.  Mostly, I have been attracted to the encouragement within Buddhism to question teachings, take nothing on blind faith, and to realize and experience truth for oneself. Meditation has also started to play a significant role in my life, and most recently, my 10 day silent Vipassana mediation (which is Buddhist in its origin), further increased my curiosity in Buddhism through its teachings and discourses.

1) Craving and Desire: My Bad Habit

During my 10-day Vipassana, I was introduced to the “truth” that “clinging to” or “craving of” positive sensations causes suffering (one of Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths).  I had somewhere along the way already gained the understanding that “hate and aversion” cause suffering, and although I had connected the dots of how my high expectations often led to disappointment (and occasional pouting), I had never realized the full extent and frequency of my internal craving habit. This pattern of romanticizing a future life-event, and craving its imagined outcome was addictive and captivating; however, immense disappointment frequently followed when life unfolded with its own set of plans.

Note: I use “Craving”, “Desire”, “Clinging” and “Attachment” interchangeably.  I also do the same with “Aversion” and “Hate”

2) No Reincarnation? No Kidding.

The desire to “know what I am talking about” is a central drive to my existential research.  I was delighted, then, to discover my false perceptions about Buddhism and reincarnation.  Despite what I thought, Buddhist believe in rebirth, not reincarnation.  The very important difference here, is that Buddhists believe in the “no-self”, which means there is no unique, individual soul or essence that carries over from one lifetime to the next.  Do I believe in rebirth? Reincarnation? Time between lifetimes? The self-soul? The no-self?

3) The No-self

This concept in Buddhism is challenging to understand, yet an essential understanding for practitioners.  I am open to assistance in understanding”what” is actually reborn if there is “no self.”  One school of Buddhism, Theravada considers “no-self” to mean that an individual’s ego or personality is a delusion. In another, “emptiness’ is applied, meaning all phenomena are void of intrinsic identity and take identity only in relation to other phenomena.[3]

4) Enlightenment, Liberation, Nirvana, Awakening

The clarification of terms here was really important to me, because “enlightenment”, “nirvana”, and “liberation” are so often interchanged.  Within all of that there is some “awakening”.  The distinction amongst them all still remains a bit unclear.

5) Question/Theory?: Is it me, or is 30-35 a ridiculously important time for profound transformations?

6) Applied Buddhism

Currently, I look forward to becoming aware of my “craving” when it happens, and practicing an “equanimous” approach towards it.  I also look forward to integrating compassion meditation into my daily meditation routine.

Check out my Buddhism Conceptual Organization Chart

Buddhism Org Chart


 BUDDHISM


Buddhism is defined as a non-theist religion and at times considered a philosophy. It is recognized as one of the fastest growing religions in the world. [1]

TEACHINGS
The teachings of Buddhism can be summed into:

  1. lead a moral life
  2. be mindful and aware of thoughts and actions
  3. develop wisdom and understanding.{2]

FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS
There are Four Noble Truths which are regarded as central to the teachings of Buddhism. The four truths are:

  1. Suffering (dukkha) is always a part of life.
  2. Suffering is caused by the 3 “poisons” or “fires”: 1) Aversion to pain and death.  2) Craving/desire and the anxiety of and holding onto things, and 3) the root of the first two, ignorance.
  3. The end of suffering is possible.
  4. The path to ending all suffering is achieved through a set of eight interconnected factors or conditions.

THE PATH TO END SUFFERING
Buddhists believe there are eight significant dimensions of one’s behavior that operate in dependence on one another and define a complete path, or way of living.  In summary, the Noble 8-fold Path is being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focusing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions (this is where meditation comes into play), and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion for others.

eightfold-path grid

THREE MARKS OF EXISTENCE
Three Marks of Existence are impermanence, suffering, and not-self.

THE FOUR IMMEASURABLES
The “Four Immeasurable Minds” in Buddhism are without egotism, and are love, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

THE 5 PRECEPTS
The moral code within Buddhism is the precepts, of which the main five are: not to take the life of anything living, not to take anything not freely given, to abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence, to refrain from untrue speech, and to avoid intoxication, that is, losing mindfulness.

With regards to the “not taking the life of anything living”, I was excited to learn that vegetarianism is not required in all Buddhist practices.

THE THREE JEWELS of which Buddhist take refuge in are:

  1. The Buddha
  2. The Dharma – Law of nature/reality
  3. The Sangha – monk community or community of those in Buddhism

WHERE & SCHOOLS
Buddhism

Two major branches of Buddhism are generally recognized: Theravada and Mahayana.

REBIRTH, NOT REINCARNATION
According to Buddhism there is ultimately “no-self” is no such thing as a self independent from the rest of the universe; therefor, Buddhism rejects the concepts of a permanent self or an unchanging, eternal soul, as it is called in Hinduism and Christianity.  In Buddhism, Rebirth refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of *5 (Theravadins) or 6 (other schools) possible forms of sentient life (1. hellish beings, 2. ghosts, 3. animals, 4. humans, 5. Gods and angels, *6. Asuras: lowly gods and demons, ). Each reincarnation is considered to happen back to back, and is determined by Karma.

In Tibetan Buddhism, there is an intermediate state, a “Bardo” between one life and the next.

ENLIGHTENMENT, NIRVANA & LIBERATION
It varies depending on the school of buddhism, but originally, enlightenment (Bodhi) and achieving nirvana meant the same thing.  Somewhere down the line, the Mahayana school applied nirvana to the elimination of aversion and craving, and enlightenment as the further elimination of delusions and ignorance.   I recall the Vipassana teacher saying that for householders (non-monk Buddhists), liberation is possible, but not enlightenment, but again, the distinction amongst these terms is unclear.

BUDDHA
Buddhism teachings started with Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha.  Buddha means “the awakened one” and refers to all enlightened beings, past, present and future.

At the age of 35, Guatama Buddha famously sat in meditation under a sacred fig tree — known as the Bodhi tree — in the town of Bodh Gaya, India, and vowed not to rise before achieving enlightenment. After many days, he arose as a fully enlightened being

References

[1] “Buddhism” – Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism)

[2] “Basic Buddhism Guide” – BuddhaNet (http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/5minbud.htm)

[3]”Buddhism Basic Beliefs” – About.com (http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/basicshub.htm)

Vipassana Meditation

9 Jun

On May 7th, I embarked no a 10-day Vipassana.

This includes all day meditation sittings with no talking, no reading, no writing, no exercise, 4a wake up bells.

Below are my notes:

Vipassana Notes Page 1 Vipassana Notes Page 2 Vipassana Notes Page 3

Existentialism // An Organization Chart

5 Jun
Existentialism Organization Chart

Click here to see the full, interactive chart.

Existentialism: An Overview

5 Jun
Existentialism Relationships

Click the graph to view layers and details in a separate window


WHAT IS EXISTENTIALISM


The way of thought by means of which

man seeks to become himself,

while approaching life from the perspective that

everything in existence is first and foremost

contextualized from the individual subject.

 

In true existential fashion, the previous definition is essentially my subjective choice and interpretation.  According to my research and wikipedia, “there has never been general agreement on the definition of existentialism.”[1] The first two lines are actually referring to a closely-related/debatably-synonymous concept from Karl Jaspers of “Existenzphilosophie“.[1]

Existentialism lacks not only a concrete definition, but also concrete categorical placement; it is viewed as a cultural movement and a philosophical position[1][2].

I’ve interpreted existentialism in my “30ish days of Existential Research” as the study of myself to the deepest possible depth to unveal (or at least provide some strong hints) as to what constitutes my most core being and authentic self.

 


 WHAT IS EXISTENTIALISM ALL ABOUT?


The analysis of human existence

The centrality of human choice

 

THE ANALYSIS OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

Existentialism centers around the belief that analysis of the human existence begins with the human subject – not merely the thinker, but the acting, living, feeling human.  The analysis of one’s self is of the utmost importance because in doing so, one can understand the concrete, inward nature of his/her existence and live life passionately and sincerely (“authentically”).

  • Personal consciousness precedes all ideologies and preconceptions:  Individuals are individuals first, and prior to being related to anything else, they are related to their own existence.

“The subjective thinker has only one setting—existence—and has nothing to do with localities and such things. The setting is inwardness in existing as a human being; the concretion is the relation of the existence-categories to one another.”

– Soren Kierkegaard[1]

  • Authenticity and Concreteness:  The inquisition into self, can lead to identifying that which is always there – concrete ways of being in the world, concrete amongst all ideologies and categories. This concrete individual existence must be the primary source of information in the study of man, and in understanding the concrete nature of their being, one can live authentically – that is – one can act as oneself, not as “one” acts or as “one’s genes” or any other essence requires. [1]

The authentic act is one that is in accordance with one’s freedom.[1]

 

THE CENTRALITY OF HUMAN CHOICE

Each individual—not society or religion—is solely responsible for giving meaning to life and living it passionately and sincerely (“authentically”).[1]

  • Absurdism (“meaninglessness”, “amorality” and “unfairness”) is critical to existentialism’s focus on individual choice.  It proposes that anything can happen to anyone at any time: good things to bad people and bad things to good people; therefore, life is absurd and there is no meaning in the world beyond what meaning we give it.  In choosing our own meaning, we are inherently responsible for our actions and subjective interpretations in life.

 


 HISTORY & FIGURES OF EXISTENTIALISM


  • Existentialism began in the late 19th and early 20th century. Søren Kierkegaard is generally considered to have been the first existentialist philosopher though he did not use the term existentialism.
  • The term “existentialism” was coined by the French Catholic philosopher Gabriel Marcel in the mid-1940s, and the first to adopt the term as a self-description was Jean-Paul Sartre.
  • 1946 Jean-Paul Sartre’s lecture “Existentialism Is a Humanism” saying, “Existence precedes essence”
  • Simone de Beauvoir, an important existentialist who spent much of her life as Sartre’s partner, wrote about feminist and existentialist ethics in her works, including The Second Sex and The Ethics of Ambiguity.
  • Existentialism became popular in the years following World War II.

 


Footnotes


 [1] Wikipedia article: ‘Existentialism’

[2] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy