Thursday, January 20, 2011

Humanity, harmony and daily life

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

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.

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