Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Confucianism and Chinese Philosophy for one Contemporary Californian

Here is a link to a recent interview with this humble host of "Ethics and Spirituality Today" Also "Original Confucianism: An Introduction to the Superior Person" is now on Kindle Nook, and iTunes.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Super Bowl Meditation

Reading over the Lao Tzu ch. 77 this morning I was struck by these lines:
'The sage acts without taking credit,
Achieves without attachment.
He does not want to display his worthiness' (Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching(Yi Wu trans.) Ch. 77)

While these lines have long been of interest, today they elicited a unique response, that of 'show-boating athletes', particularly, with the Super Bowl coming up, celebrating a touchdown came to me.

I was then reminded of NFL great Barry Sanders, perhaps the greatest running back of all time, who after each touchdown, no matter how spectacular, would simply hand the ball to the referee, leaving his teammates to do the celebrating for him.

While Barry Sanders is not likely a sage (as this term in Chinese philosophy is reserved for the ancient sage-kings and Confucius alone), his under-spoken celebration said more, without saying anything, than any of the most over the top celebrations ever did. I remember very few celebrations, nor the athletes that performed them. But Barry Sanders' 'celebrating by non-celebrating' is the most memorable of all and a fitting image to the lasting power of Lao Tzu's action in non-action.

Mindfulness Meditation and Natural Clarity

This is another article I wrote for examiner.com based on the post 'Healing the Healer Within':

According to Lao Tzu, our original, natural, ordinary state is that of harmony. We need only return to simplicity to return to this original Way. Like a hand that is grasping in murky water, our active mind can churn up more and more clutter. When we stop seeking and stop grasping, the murkiness begins to settle and we can experience natural clarity.

One increasingly popular way to allow the mind to settle is the practice of mindfulness meditation. Dr. Rina Sircar has been teaching mindfulness meditation at Taungpulu Kaba Aye Dhamma Center in the Santa Cruz mountains, and Taungpulu Kaba Aye Meditation Center, in the Mission Distict, for over 30 years.

The first foundational lesson that Dr. Sircar gives is focusing the mind’s attention on the in and out of our breath. This practice anchors the mind on the breath. If the practitioners become distracted and their minds begin to wander they need only remember to return their minds to focusing on their in and out breathing.

Doing this time and time again allows the practitioner to experience all the fleeting thoughts and aspirations of the mind as they continually arise and pass away. It also gives practitioners the ability to experience something that remains, something simple and natural, beneath every thought.

Mindfulness meditation is like the analogy of the hand searching in murky water; our attention is the hand churning the waters of the mind. Stabilizing our attention, like stilling our hand, allows the murk, the excessive thought, excessive desire, to settle, opening the way for original clarity.

With such a clear mind, insight can shine through, bringing life and insight into our lives. With this insight, we are less likely to view the world with a narrow focus on achieving our desire or fulfilling our ambition. We can instead see the world as it is, the life and insight that we have opened up in ourselves responding to the life and insight in all things.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Humanity, harmony and daily life

This is a new article I wrote as an 'SF Spirituality Examiner' on Examiner.com:

As a prominent Pacific Rim city, San Francisco has long been at the forefront of a vibrant cross-cultural exchange with the Far East. From food to meditation, from tai chi to 'Kung Fu' (Wu Kung), the Bay Area has pioneered the integration of East and West. Leading 'pioneers' like Alan Watts in spirituality, Gary Snyder in poetry and even Bruce Lee in martial arts all have strong Bay Area ties.

Because of the efforts of such people, many of us are now quite familiar with key concepts from religions like Taosim or Zen Buddhism and some of us have integrated aspects of East Asian culture into our daily lives. Confucianism, perhaps the most practical and most important aspect of daily life spirituality in East Asia, however, remains generally unexplored. While Confucianism permeates every aspect of daily life in East Asia, its influence and benefits are relatively unknown or unappreciated here in San Francisco, as in much of the West. As an example, I was recently invited to speak on Confucianism (at Many Rivers Bookstore in Sebastapol) and while being introduced it was noted that I was the first speaker on Confucianism in over seven years of holding discussions on spirituality.

Confucius recognized that the most ordinary and simple aspects of daily life held the most potential for spiritual transformation, that humanity is the most powerful force available to us for ‘spiritualizing’ this Earth. Form learning about humanity, faithfulness to our truest selves and empathy with the truest selves of others, in the family, to practicing righteousness and virtue in any given situation, Confucianism strives to bring harmony to every aspect of ordinary living.

While many of us have daydreamed about a wandering the surrounding hills on a spiritual hermitage, Confucianism urges us to harmonize the most basic elements of our lives, to make everyday living our spiritual practice. Enjoying our meals, our friends and families while, all the while, enjoying the studies that deepen our understanding of them, are examples of the warm-heartedness that, when cultivated, can never be tarnished or taken away. Indeed, Confucius knew that these simple and ordinary affairs benefit humanity in the most important way.

Continue reading on Examiner.com: Humanity, harmony and daily life - San Francisco Spirituality | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/spirituality-in-san-francisco/humanity-harmony-and-daily-life#ixzz1BakL35DJ

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Righteousness, Humanity and Change: 'Waiting while Going'

One of the innovations and changes for this new year here at 'Ethics and Spirituality' will be the inclusion of posts that are more contextualized. Much of the content will be quite similar to that of last year but there will be an addition of posts that move from the theoretical to the practical and tone that moves from the professorial to the more personal.
The starting point and exemplar of theory in practice for Ethics and Spirituality today is, of course, the superior person of Confucianism. The superior person practices humanity and righteousness to deal with any situation. To contextualize this we will examine some very concrete scenarios of change and see the principle the superior person puts into practice in each. Generally, the superior person, simply uses a variation of two methods to deal with change, emphasizing harmonizing the situation. One method is active, bright, moving, strong, yang energy; sincerity. The other is humble, dark, indirect, soft, resting, yin energy; humility. Let's take a look at one example:

The fifth of 64 scenarios of change, as laid out in the I Ching, is 'Hsu' 'waiting while going.'

Clouds rising up to Heaven:
‘Waiting (while Going)’
Thus the superior people (through Hsu) eat and drink,
Are joyous and of good cheer.

Clouds rising up to Heaven eventually turn into the needed rain. Waiting for this rain to materialize, farmers cultivate their fields. In the same way, through this, ‘Hsu’, waiting for what they need, preparing for it for the proper time, the superior people nourish themselves. Instead of preparing for rain they prepare in order to be ready for their Heaven’s destiny, the mandate Heaven provides. Eating and drinking in joy and good cheer is a symbol of waiting without complaining about, or deviating from the proper way, avoiding becoming unprepared for what Heaven has in store.

Superior people wait for the proper time to receive what they need by ‘preparing the field’, clearing away the weeds for receiving rain, practicing humility, emptying the mind for receiving a mandate from heaven. Whether for rain or for destiny, superior people in this situation wait and prepare for the clouds to become full, for the time to become complete.

This is an excellent practice, 'waiting while going', in preparing for a new baby, or a new career, getting ready to receive that which heaven has in store.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Ethics and Spirituality Today Year in Review

Welcome back to 'Ethics and Spirituality Today.' I just wanted to take a minute to reintroduce, frame and explain the general purpose and progress of the site. To date, the posts have helped to establish a broad and overarching theoretical foundation for the site and to gauge interest for its continuation. (not to mention helping this post-doc continue writing and working, building on the momentum of the dissertation process.) From Western Philosophy, through Emerson, to Eastern, through Sri Aurobindo and focusing on Chinese Philosophy, specifically Confucianism, 'Ethics and Spirituality Today' has covered a wide range of topics. All of the posts are meant to relate directly to daily life in contemporary society.
There has been a small but continued and consistent interest in the site thus far from across the globe. From page-views on Aurobindo and modern Hinduism in India, to Metaphysics in Eastern Europe, 'Ethics and Spirituality' is beginning to elicit wide ranging interest.
Thank you for your continued interest and support, and look for new innovations here in the coming year.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Dealing with Modern Times Through Spirit

...(continued)...This integral perfection is again an extension of the Hindu tradition. As the Bhagavad Gita inspires its followers to relinquish the fruits of action, so to does Aurobindo urge us to leave behind our selfish action because it hinders action in union with the Divine. As in the Gita, our actions are no longer our own. For Aurobindo they are Divine. When Aurobindo speaks of bringing the divine down into the mundane realm, it is more of an allowing of spirit, as opposed to ego, become the actor. It is this allowing, allowing the connection to a higher mind, through dispersing the veil of a separate ego identity, to become the source of our all our action, the source which we can embody in the mundane. This spirit in action will naturally breed recognition of the spirit inherent in all things and naturally help allow for greater reception of spirit in all aspects of the self. Aurobindo thus succeeds in expanding, and making central this primary concern of associating spirit with the mundane life, of connecting and uniting the two. This concern which weaves in and out of the Indian tradition becomes foremost for Aurobindo in the true spirit of Tantrism. Because of the social and political climate in Aurobindo’s life, however, he expands Tantrism to become wider in its relation to modern concerns.

In his relation to modernity Aurobindo is a powerful thinker. He shows the many of the same tendencies that historically permeate the traditions of Hinduism: diligent commitment to the highest realms of human existence, a supreme all pervading Divinity within all creation, discipline in uniting with the Divinity, furthering the relationship of others to the Divinity through sympathy, and intense inner concentration upon the various realms of consciousness, these among many other similarities. However, Aurobindo becomes the exemplar of the Hindu tradition, an ambassador to modernity by expanding its ideas, refocusing the emphasis, while adhering to the tradition of welcoming new ideas innovations. Aurobindo incorporates evolution, secular materialism, social and political concern into the vast tradition. Perhaps any talented Hindu, throughout history, would have pursued the same innovations if faced with the same crisis, such is Aurobindo’s embodiment of the tradition. For Aurobindo, because social and political concerns came to the forefront he faced them with intense introspection and found that in the end, the ultimate answer was actually to adhere to the same fundamental precepts that had helped shepard India through the centuries. Remaining true to the commitment to Divinity, elucidating how the Divinity can manifest itself through humanity and thus allowing humanity to harmonize the concerns of modernity was the natural conclusion a natural progression. For Aurobindo, face to face with the seemingly insurmountable social and political difficulties, the answer remained the same as it always had been, the One answer, the One truth, the One harmonizing Divinity had to enter into these new arenas, new frontiers through its perpetual facilitators, ever evolving humanity. For Aurobindo the ultimate act of social concern was immersion in spirit and the manifestation of spirit in all realms. In union with spirit, guided by spirit, one would naturally find the best course to take when confronted with strange and difficult modernization. For Aurobindo, the ultimate social agency remained Spirit, and the propagation of Spirit in others. This union with Spirit, Spiritual teaching and its manifestation was the One ultimate, incorruptible answer to all social concerns past, present and future.