Monday, November 15, 2010

Beyond Karma and Rebirth: True Life and True Understanding

True life comes from a desire free orientation toward one’s surroundings and one’s resources. This is a free life. It seems that in many of the classics of Chinese philosophy there is an emphasis placed on the joyous description of the individual in the highest sense, living a life free from desire, beyond Karma. The I Ching, is such a useful, timeless resource because it resonates with the highest good in humanity, the unchanging to deal with change. When we are not deluded by desire for change, we can feel our heaven’s destiny in fulfilling our position/propriety.
Restriction in danger allows us to slowly return to a simple life. Through this restriction, this acting by not acting, we can settle our lives like the murky waters that settle in the Lao Tzu. Desires show themselves as the mere phantoms that they are, powerless to influence our True Life. By repeating restriction after restriction, desires arise, are made evident and fall away without creating Karma. As desire arises, we practice restriction, not following the desire, and it passes away. We can see that our True Life is immediately available and infinitely vast in comparison with narrow desire.
Our True Life, or Heavenly Life as it is called in Confucianism is a vast, deep and significant life based on simplicity; humanity, propriety and filial piety. This emphasis of our immediate life as being important in a set of relationships, and our individual cultivation being important only in regard to its right orientation to these relationships. Both Buddha and Confucius emphasized the potential greatness of humanity and refrained from discussing superstitious or confusing topics. Each person's immediate position, for Confucius, is a unique opportunity to make the Tao great. The cultivation of this heavenly mandate so absorbed Confucius that he felt other irrelevant topics were not even worth touching upon. It is ironic that the same wish to avoid complicating matters was ascribed to Sakyamuni in his original teaching, as in the story of the poisoned arrow. Sakyamuni described one who was injured by a poison arrow asking the healer all sorts of questions about the origin of the medicine, the technique for removal, the history of the physician before they began the healing and thus allow the poison to spread as being analogous to one who engages in limitless metaphysical speculation while neglecting the root of suffering. So while the founder of Buddhism, as did Confucius, refrained from talking about subjects of death and the after life, using the analogy of the poisoned arrow, the subsequent religion became defined, by some, as relating to karma and rebirth. Buddha sought to heal suffering and return humanity to its natural, harmonious way.
The simple, natural way, in humanity and in all life has always existed transcending the ebb and flow of empires and societal fads. To be able to continue in harmony with our surroundings regardless to superficial change is the focus of Chinese philosophy.
This is the perspective from which the I Ching discusses change. This is the perspective which the scholar of philosophy should cultivate gradually. This infinitely useful topic relates directly to everything, every change, and has always existed both in ourselves and in the cosmos; however it remains useless unless it is applied to the field of human affairs. This is the truth that Confucius understood in his emphasis on humanity. If humanity 'makes Tao great' then we must do everything for the furthering of humanity. The true scholar should recognizes change as the appearance of a surface upon a vast ocean. The surface still consists of the ocean’s water it is not separate. Thus the individual scholar becomes interested in the surface life only in its relationship to the vast ocean. Thus the scholar understands the surface life not in terms of karma and rebirth but only in terms of acting and not acting for the sake of enlarging of the Tao, the cultivation of harmony. His/her only concern is the potential for enlarging the Way for people to pass through to conscious relations with the depths. The scholar of true philosophy values the practice of understanding the surface gyrations, in himself and others, for the sake of turning toward the depths of individual experience.
The most awe inspiring thing for such a scholar is that everything he/she experiences is likewise an individual with its own depth to surface understanding.

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