Author: cheok hong chuan
Date: 04-29-12 14:43
The Three Pillars of Chinese Society – The Tao Foundation – Part 1.
I have been using the term - The Three Pillars of Chinese Society – so frequently that it never occurred to me to explain why we have this ‘fusion’ of spiritual practice, at least since the Tang Dynasty.
It is hard to explain the reasons why but it would seem that the Tao created the Chinese society or it was simply one of those ‘freak’ outcomes that our Chinese ancestors did not invent Gods like the other ancient races, most of which or whom have since vanished into history, making Gods out of the Sun or Moon or the Stars or animals or mythical creatures. The Chinese just took the simple view that there was Heaven above and Earth below and the mysterious ethereal Tao between Heaven and Earth. Harmony on Earth required the mandate of Heaven and the answer lay in the Way of the Tao.
Tao being the Tao, by definition could not be defined and was therefore elusive and ungraspable. This was a ‘master stroke’ of genius! It made Taoism a subject without boundaries and an open canvas. It gave flexibility and an open mind to the Chinese psyche. It made the Chinese ‘lateral’ thinkers! It gave them a propensity to make paradigm shifts freely! What remained constant was simply the Tao and that by definition was just the Tao. It was something mystical of this circular logic represented by the Taoist yin-yang logo. And over the years the Tao defined the Chinese and what is customarily accepted as ‘Chinese characteristics’. In this sense we can say that the Tao created the Chinese society rather than the Chinese society created the Tao. If or had Taoism been or being otherwise, it would not have accommodated Confucianism or later Buddhism and even later Christianity!
Because the Tao was metaphorically speaking at large; Sages true or false, sincere or corrupt, have over the years had literary licence! Thus we have the benefit or suffer the confusion of the range and diversity of the usually esoteric and imponderable I-Ching, Tao Te-Ching, Chuan Tzu, Wen Tzu, Sun Tzu on Art of War and both Pao P'u Tzu and Lieh Tzu on Taoist Alchemy, Tai Chi Chuan [Absolute Boxing] and Pa Tuan Chin [Eight step Brocade].
Imagine or speculate why Buddhism was until recently almost extinct in its land of birth? Passive contemplative Buddhism could never had survived if it had come to a China where its people were not people of the elusive and ungraspable and imponderable Tao, but instead believed in religion, in a faith and in total subservience and fear in or to a God or a pantheon of Gods. As it was or is, Buddhism became the catalyst or spark of spiritual life to Taoism and Taoism in quid pro quo gave higher spiritual meaning to Buddhism, raising it from Theravada or Hinayana Buddhism to the higher level of Zen Mahayana or even the higher level still of Vajra or Tantric Buddhism.
Strangely enough, most of the educated Sages started off as Confucian scholars and then venturing or progressing to Taoism and then later to Buddhism. This appears to be the acceptable natural progression still, as you start off with the Confucian basic tenet of ‘filial piety’, progress to understanding the rhythm or flow of life or the yin and yang of life in the Way of the Tao [the subject of this blog, and which I shall comment on further later], and then to the Buddhist concept of Ultimate Reality.
I am not sure when exactly the trend started that you were required to be trained in or to be cultivating all three, to be truly Chinese spiritually. Personally I take as my starting point Lu Tung-Pin or Lu Chun-Yang, who is one of the Eight Taoist Immortals. Read for yourself how this failed Confucian scholar became a Taoist Immortal with his famous flying sword and later became a Buddhism Dharma Protector after his encounter with Zen Master Huang-Lung Nan at Mount Lu in Kiangsu.
Lu Tung-Pin thought that as he was an immortal that he was beyond physical and spiritual challenge with his magic powers and his magic sword, but he lost to Zen Master Huang-Lung Nan. In the repartee with the Zen Master he realised that his ‘immortality’ was still ‘mortality’, but in a longer term ‘relative’ sense. In excelling in seeking change through Taoist alchemy of I-Ching and other arcane methods, he was nonetheless still caught within inevitable ‘change’!
In the relativity of yin-yang any existence or condition was only an existence or condition by mutual reference between the object and subject, x and y – it was based on conceptions based on perceptions of sensations in the minds of either or both object and subject, x and y.
Buddhism revealed the ultimate reality behind the ‘relativity’ of yin-yang – that yin-yang was still ‘ego’ bound! Behind the yin-yang of life and death, of Heaven and Earth, there was an unchanging constant that could only be gleaned but not grasped – there is something in each thing or person that is in everything and every person; and something in everything and every person, that is in each thing or person; whether in life or death, or in Heaven or on Earth; something which has no consciousness of ‘ego’ of ‘self’ or ‘being’; something which does not have to be ‘born’ and therefore does not have to ‘die’; something that is not subject to ‘change’!
This revelation from Buddhism especially through the Huayen or Avatamsaka Sutra and through Zen meditation has given a new dimension as to the real and continuing mystery of the Tao. Thus the mystery or the Way of the Tao still continues unabated! The Way of the Tao is a quest where you actually seek no answers but just contemplate and wonder in the mystery. If it stops being a mystery, it is no longer the Tao!
To be continued ..............