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The literature of the ancient Eastern civilizations represents a stark contrast to the belief systems of the old Middle Eastern and Egyptian kingdoms. By the 5th century BCE, a renaissance of similar spiritual ideas arose independently throughout India and China (this is also the dawn of the great philosophers of ancient Greece). The major philosophies of this time include Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. Taken together, they represent some of the most influential ideas that have inspired roughly half of all civilized humanity throughout our planet’s history. The study of Eastern literature helps us to place Western literature into its proper perspective.
An Introduction to Eastern Philosophies
Western vs. Eastern Thinking
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
nature of the beliefs universe/gods life creation nature of God means toward God worship road to God knowledge comes from
historical; linear; learn from past, act toward future dualistic and extroverted single life; eternal life everything is created by God; all will be destroyed by God God = creator, father, ruler, judge faith congregational; weekly one path leads to God God, prophets, scripture, “Word” (logos) through reading, holy men
cyclical; transcends history – here and now unitive and introspective karma; reincarnation endless cycle: create, preserve, destroy God = love, consciousness, everything mystical experience ritualistic, meditative, daily all paths lead to God gurus, life experience
communication with God doctrines path to sainthood problems caused by evil
through renunciation of the self subtle, complex, paradoxical self-discipline, contemplation immaturity and ignorance God is all; God is good; therefore, all is good taints the mind (soul is good) reincarnation (up or down)
clear, simple, rational good works, scriptural study disobedience to God living force that opposes God
sin penalty for sin
taints the soul Judgment Day (eternal heaven/damnation) physical punishment
An Introduction to
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Eastern thinking differs from Western thinking in many ways, and our ability to comprehend these concepts will enhance our understanding of the semester’s material. Although the first two units focused on mythology, this unit will delve more into philosophy. In general, Eastern literature explores human relationships with the world, the earth, and universe. How humans comprehend their environment and prioritize its tendencies depends on which philosophy they follow. Western thinkers need to look at the world through a different lens if they are going to be able to appreciate the lessons in the Eastern readings. Be patient, and you will catch on as we read the stories. Westerners tend to think in straight lines, but Easterners think more in circles. instance, consider the following schematic: A → B This is the type of thinking that is linear, direct, and goal-oriented. What matters most is achieving the goal (B) from your starting point (A). Eastern philosophies tend to circle, drift, and spiral — almost never a straight line. Imagine the flight of a butterfly hopping from flower to flower. It does not fly in straight lines, but rather loops, pivots, twists, and turns. A butterfly’s path is erratic, confusing, and fluid, rather than the more direct flight of an arrow. To an Eastern thinker, the goal (point B) is not the most important part of the process — the journey is. This is what Gilgamesh had to learn — he thought that his goal (immortality) was attainable, but after he realized that it was not, he then settled for what he learned through his experiences. So do we, and we can understand this better by studying the East. Another example appears in competition. To us Westerners, winning is everything. We remember who won the Super Bowl, but we have greater difficulty recalling the loser. I have seen U.S. Olympic athletes cry at receiving a silver medal. In the East, however, it is not important whether or not you win or lose, but how you play the game. We will see many more examples of this throughout this unit, so watch for this theme. For
If you recall, in the beginning of the semester, I drew two pictures on the board: a straight line and a circle. I addressed how the Western philosophies typically look at life in straight lines, and the East tends to look at the circles. But philosophy is obviously more complicated than that. If everything comes in dual forms, then we need both types of lines in the world. Two principal Chinese philosophies actually oppose each other: Taoism and Confucianism. While both adhere to many of the same ideals, Taoism is a more fluid and
An Introduction to Eastern Philosophies
liberal philosophy, whereas Confucians abide by a more rigid set of codes. Therefore, each of these philosophies can themselves break down into deeper lines and circles: I O CONFUCIANISM TAOISM
Confucius collected ancient proverbs of virtues that apparently precede the Chinese master by hundreds or thousands of years. He authored very few of these sayings, but has received credit for assimilating them into his collection called The Analects. You will notice that Confucius exemplifies the virtues that are proper for people to follow, and he often gives examples to illustrate these concepts. At the same time, in a different part of China, Lao Tzu also compiled ancient wisdom into a collection of sayings, called the Tao Te Ching. Although each of these men lived at the same time as the other, they focused on different aspects of virtue, thus creating the schools of Confucianism and Taoism. Confucianism tells its listeners to follow a straight and unwavering path to virtue. To the Master Confucius, people (in the 5th century BCE) had lost their virtues and were not living proper moral lives as their ancestors did. He suggested that people listen to the ancient voices of reason that explain to us how we are supposed to live in society. Confucius valued the wisdom of the ancient peoples, but also the elders of his society. Even to this day, intense respect for one’s elders is practiced by Easterners. Confucianism promotes adherence to the state. This state could be the government, the family unit, or any other social organization that has a leader. If this leader is virtuous, then the people should follow him and model their behaviors after him and other virtuous men. If the leaders do not act with virtue, then the whole social system might collapse. Confucius also believed in the letter of the law, whether the law comes from the government, the family, etc. He taught people to obey their elders, respect them, and follow traditions and ceremonies that are designed to give the society a structure and moral foundation. One should not do “his own thing,” lest he deviate from the path of virtue. This rigid adherence to the laws, policies, and social codes is best represented by the straight line.
Lao Tzu, however, understood this need for order and law, but he did not believe that this law should be sought after in the government (or within any human being). Rather, Lao Tzu saw Nature as the ultimate law, from which we should mirror our behaviors. Natural law sets the foundations for humans to create similar laws in their communities, but no manmade law is better than Nature’s Way (called the Tao). Nature provides all the guidance that we need to get along in life. The changing of the seasons tells us to be aware of our own mortality, the cooperation of the elements allows us to be inspired to work with other people for the common good, and Nature sometimes destroys things, so we should be aware of the forces around us that are far greater than we could ever hope to be. Nature is, after all, The Way. We cannot escape it, because we are forever a part of it.
Taoists observe the guidelines of Nature and apply them to their daily lives. Since nothing is more powerful, we should submit to Nature so that we can achieve harmony and bliss. The sun rises, so we wake from our slumbers in the morning. The night falls, so we lay back down to sleep. Nature gives us these cues, so we must fall into place. Taoists often value the fluidity and mutability of life, seeking to bend rather than to break. Water becomes a natural symbol for Taoism, since it flows freely, yet is bound by the river bank or by gravity. Yet, water can penetrate rock, given time, and can sink deeply into the recesses of any hardened substance. Of course, the yin/yang demonstrates this best, and this symbol is, of course, Taoist in origin. Be passive and patient, and life will even out for you. Taoists also apply related concepts, such as wu wei (nonaction), teaching us to avoid unnecessary actions, such as speaking when we have nothing to say. A river flows downstream, so why try to pump water uphill? Going against the Tao may cause problems. A famous story shows a Taoist resting beneath a tree before lunch one day. He was enjoying the shade that the tree provides, even though the tree was a fruit tree, with gnarly bark and wild twists and turns of its trunk and branches. Suddenly, a carpenter arrived with a saw, and he began cutting down the tree. “What are you doing?” asked the Taoist? The carpenter replied that he planned to make a picnic table out of the tree so that they would have someplace to eat their lunch. The Taoist then explained that the tree was already serving its purpose (providing shade), which would disappear once it is cut down. Also, its knotted wood was not suitable for construction, so why cut it down in the first place? Lastly, doesn’t the ground already provide an eating area? Can’t we just eat on the ground under the tree? It would be a lot less work, a lot more environmentally friendly, and would preserve the natural duties of each of these elements. The carpenter understood and stopped his sawing. Over the years, the Chinese adopted both philosophies simultaneously, seeking the balance between both ideals. Just as we learned earlier that straight lines and circles belong together, the union of these philosophical practices bonded together naturally. Confucianism provided the laws and the stability, while Taoism allowed for fluid experiences that are more akin to real life. Much like the yin and yang, these two philosophies formed the backbone of China for many years to come, and even today. Taoism is very yin (water, go with the flow, bend but don’t break, liberal), while Confucianism is essentially yang (bold, steadfast, resolute, unwavering, hard, conservative). Sometimes, when philosophies conflict in a given culture, they often lead to dispute and conflict. However, Confucianism and Taoism seemingly need each other. They work
An Introduction to Eastern Philosophies
together to demonstrate that life demands that we act differently, given our circumstances. These philosophies cooperate, rather than conflict. They are two methods of achieving the same things — peace and harmony in our world. These philosophies, by the way, do not incorporate any god — they are secular principles, not divine ones. Neither Confucius nor Lao Tzu believed in a “god,” per se, although they do in an abstract way — God is a reflection of the totality of the universe, demonstrated most obviously in Nature. Although these philosophies are not religions, there are several religions that have developed around them. In this class, I will focus exclusively on the philosophical aspects of these readings, not the rituals, as usual.
Buddha (the real one) was born to aristocratic parents, and was to become a king one day. His father, however, never wanted his son, Siddhartha Gotama, to feel the pains of life, so he sheltered his son from these experiences. One day, Siddhartha escaped from the confinement of his palace and ventured out into the streets, where he saw poverty, sickness, and death for the first time. He grew depressed, and sought to conquer the ultimate pain of death. He devoted six years to studying ascetism, but did not arrive at the answers to his questions. Finally, he sat beneath the Bo tree for 49 days, battling all forms of temptation (Mara) and illusions of the physical world (maya). Finally, he emerged from his meditation as an Enlightened person — the Buddha. As the Enlightened One, Buddha was no longer ensnared by the temptations of the physical world, even though he belonged to it, just like you and me. By detaching himself from the world’s pain and suffering, he was able to experience constant joy (spiritual joy). A few terms must be understood before we can apply the wisdom of Buddhists to the readings. Many of these concepts are simply borrowed from Hinduism, which we will examine later, due to its extreme complexity. One important concept borrowed from Hinduism is reincarnation (the idea of carnal rebirth into a new form). Many Easterners believe that the soul inside a body leaves the body at the moment of death, and is rebirthed into another body (be it a human or a lesser animal). The direction of this rebirth (up or down) is dependent upon the lessons that the soul still needs to learn. For example, a person who eats “like a pig” might need to be reincarnated into a pig in his next life to better understand its perspective, therefore avoiding this “piggish” behavior in a future life when reincarnated eventually into another human body. Another important Eastern concept is karma (action, cause and effect). One’s karma is the ripple effects of one’s behaviors. If you treat people generously, they will return the favor. If you snap at people on a very bad day, the people whom you yell at will slide into a bad mood as well. Karma is not about “moods,” however. Your actions have impacts not only on those who directly receive it, but also on those who indirectly receive it. One’s unresolved karmas at the moment of death will determine which form the soul will enter upon rebirth.
Additionally, Buddhists believe in the Hindu concept of dharma, which is best defined as “sacred duty.” We all have been given various talents, and to follow those talents would keep us on our intended path. If we are destined to become something, then we ought to follow that path, not push ourselves away from it. Therefore, if you were born a slave, then be the best slave that you can possibly be. If you are born as a horse or a cockroach, then do your best. To Easterners, it’s not whether or not you win or lose, but how you play the game. When we play the game of life as the universe intended, then we best follow our dharma. This is similar to the Parable of the Talents. Buddhists also believe in the concept of nirvana, which is best described as an extinguishing of the flame of life. Since a flame on a candle flickers and is subject to the air currents in the room, it is vulnerable to the surrounding environment. If the flame could detach itself from the troubles and waves of despair around it, then it could exist in a more peaceful state. If you think of your birthday cake candles as being on fire (which they are), and then blown out, the candles no longer burn, but rather enter a state of peace and tranquility. In other words, achieving nirvana is an extinguishing of our lives — not our spiritual lives, which continue on indefinitely, but our physical lives that lead us to death and more rebirth. We will see that detachment from the physical world will allow a soul to better connect to the spiritual world, without the distractions of hunger, thirst, sex drive, want of possessions, etc. (In other words, stomp out that fire in your head.) Buddhists also believe in the concept of following the Middle Path, which is a state of being in which you refuse to allow your emotional attachments to drag you too high or too low. Let’s face it, most of our pain and frustration comes from our own selves, especially when our idealism runs into a collision course with the realities of life. Buddha had been raised in affluence, then relinquished everything to live the life of an austere monk, but he discovered that both were problematic, because they denied the good that accompanies both sides as well. We should eat, but not too little or too much. By striving for the Middle Path, we will avoid the extremes of temptation and suffering. A good example is bringing home a puppy. This might be the happiest day of your childhood. However, the puppy eventually lives its life, then it dies. As happy as we were on the first day, it is replaced with sadness after its death. In the totality of the universe, all of these emotions even out. Buddhism differs from both Taoism and Confucianism, but shares elements of both. To Buddha, book knowledge could not extinguish the pain and suffering of out lives, so it must not have been the most important part of wisdom. One’s experiences, however, allow us to test that knowledge and make it meaningful to us. Remember Adam and Eve? They knew not to eat of the fruit, but they lacked the experiences of the consequences. Gilgamesh knew that he would not be able to attain eternal life, but he had to try (experience it) before he understood. We know that college would be different from high school, but we had to live the experience to be able to assess it properly.
The Vinegar tasters
The Vinegar Tasters
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
An ancient Chinese painting depicts three wise men standing around a vat of vinegar. Each has dipped his finger into the vinegar and has tasted it. The expression on each man’s face shows his individual reaction. Since this painting is allegorical, we are to understand that these men are representatives of the Three Great Teachings of China, and that the vinegar they are sampling represents the Essence of Life. The three masters are Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. The first has a sour look on his face, the second wears a bitter expression, but the third man is smiling.
Confucius, in line with his basic philosophy, has a sour expression. His sourness represents human failure to conform to strict moral codes. Confucius felt that the world was a disorderly place, which had to be controlled. He believed that the present life on earth was out of step with the past; the government of man on earth was out of harmony with the Way of Heaven, the government of the universe. He therefore emphasized reverence for ancestors and strict rituals. Under Confucianism, the use of precisely measured court music, prescribed steps, actions, and phrases all added up to an extremely complex system of rituals, each used for a particular purpose at a particular time. Buddha has a bitter expression, as he believed that life on earth was bitter – full of attachments and obstacles toward attainment of nirvana. He saw the world as a setter of traps, a generator of illusions, a revolving wheel of pain for all creatures. Humans constantly struggle against desires and attachments — illusions that lead to our suffering, unhappiness, and misery. In order to find peace, the Buddhist considered it necessary to transcend this “world of dust” and reach nirvana, literally a state of “no wind.” Lao Tzu, however, is content. As he stated in The Tao Te Ching, the earth is a reflection of heaven, run by the laws of the Tao (the “Way” of Nature), not by the laws of men. To Lao Tzu, the more forcing, the more trouble — whether heavy or light, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules are imposed from the outside, struggle is inevitable. The more man ignores or interferes with the natural balance of nature, the more pain, suffering and disharmony he experiences. Earth is not a setter of traps, but a teacher of valuable lessons, and that we should embrace the wonder of every moment.
http://www.sikhpoint.com/religion/Vinegar_Tasters.asp http://www.hackvan.com/pub/stig/spirit/The_Vinegar_Tasters.htm http://www.taoism.net/books/vintaste.htm
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Founded: 500 B.C. in China Founder: Lao Tzu Believers: 50 million (primarily in China and throughout Asia) Scriptures: Tao Te Ching (“Book of Reason and Virtue”), the writings of Chang Tsu
1. The Tao (“the Way” of all things) is the Eternal, the Absolute, the moral and physical order of the universe, the path of virtue that Heaven itself follows. 2. The Way is so massive and transcendent that we cannot describe it in words or thoughts; any Tao that can be described is not the Eternal Tao. 3. Man aligns himself with the Eternal when he observes humility, simplicity, gentle yielding, serenity, and effortless action. He who has realized the Tao has uncovered layers of consciousness so that he arrives at pure consciousness and sees the inner truth of everything. Only one who is free of desire can comprehend the Tao. 4. All actions create opposing forces (yin/yang); the wise seek inaction in action. 5. One who follows the Tao follows the natural order of all things, not seeking to improve upon Nature or to legislate virtue to others. 6. Man is only one of the Ten Thousand Things; man is finite and will pass (only the Tao is infinite). We should seek to detach ourselves from these Ten Thousand things to better understand the Tao. 7. The spirit of the Tao is effulgent emptiness; the awakened man is compared to bamboo: upright, simple, and useful outside, but hollow inside. 8. The Tao exists everywhere, the natural way of all beings and things. Tao is the beginning of heaven and earth, and is mother of all things. It lies hidden, transmitting its perfection and power to all things. 9. Taoist shrines are the homes of divine beings that guide the religion, bless and protect worshippers.
10. Three Life-Preserving Energies of Taoism: ching – essence shen – spirit chi – vital energy
11. Four Fundamental Concepts of Taoism:
Wu wei (without doing, causing, or making) – Doing something without meddlesome or cumbersome effort. One should not go against the nature of things. Develop an inner sensitivity to the natural rhythms of things. Don’t struggle against Nature, but use a minimum effort. Nonaction does not imply “no action,” but rather “not acting beyond the necessities of the Tao” — not exceeding the action required for the task, and not indulging in calculated action. If we meditate we can hear the promptings of the Tao for us to act effortlessly, efficiently, and hardly giving the matter a thought. We should be ourselves (as Nature is itself) and not force ourselves to act or perform outside of our realm of our essence. Like water, we should act as Nature dictates until we find our proper place and purpose. Appetites and emotions must be kept in check and perfected through meditation, breath control, and yoga. P’u (the Uncarved Block) – Simplicity in all states of being; the ability to enjoy the quiet and the simple. T’ai Hsu (The Great Nothing) – Thoughts (such as knowledge and cleverness) stand in the way of clear thinking. An empty mind hears the birds, but a busy mind tries to discern what kind of bird is singing, blinding us to the beauty ond essence of Nature. Music is the space between the notes. The greatest ideas come from nothing. “I think, therefore I am confused.” Tz’u (caring and compassion) – From caring comes courage. Once compassion is demonstrated, wisdom is shown as well. A clever mind is not a heart. “Knowledge” does not care, but “wisdom” does.
The Five Elements (Wu Hsing)
The five elements theory has the same underlying philosophy as the yin/yang theory — that of constant change and evolution. The elements (or “winds”) — earth, metal, fire, wood and water — are best understood as phases of a constantly moving cycle. Each grows and replaces the next in much the same way as the seasons’ progress. Each of the elements can be seen as the manifestation of a particular aspect of chi, and they also correspond to colors, tastes, seasons, directions and parts of the body, among other things. Two cycles can be seen at work within the five elements — one constructive, one destructive — so each element is strengthened or weakened by two of the other elements.
From METAL we get WATER
Metal turns liquid when melted
METAL is controlled by FIRE
When it is melted
From WATER we get WOOD
Water makes plants grow
FIRE is controlled by WATER
From WOOD we get FIRE
Wood burns to create fire
WATER is controlled by EARTH
Earth holds and absorbs water
From FIRE we get EARTH
Fire creates ashes, which become earth again
EARTH is controlled by WOOD
Plants take in nutrients
From EARTH we get METAL
All metals are extracted from the earth
WOOD is controlled by METAL
All wood can be chopped or sawed
Voices of Taoism
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Returning to Live in the Country
In my youth I was out of tune with the common folk: My nature is to love hills and mountains. In my folly I fell into the net of the world’s dust, And so went on for thirty years. The caged bird longs for its old woodland; The pond-reared fish yearns for its native stream. I have opened up a waste plot of the south moor, And, keeping my simplicity, returned to garden and field, A homestead of some ten acres, A thatched cottage with eight or nine rooms, Elms and willows shading the hinder eaves, Peach and plum trees ranking before the hall. Dim, dim is the distant hamlet; Lagging, lagging hangs the smoke of the market-town; A dog barks in the deep lane; A cock crows on the top of the mulberry tree. My door and courtyard have no dust and turmoil; In the bare rooms there is leisure to spare. Too long a captive in a cage, I have now come back to Nature.
Visiting a Taoist on Tiatien Mountain
Amongst bubbling streams A dog barks; peach blossom Is heavy with dew; here And there a deer can Be seen in forest glades! No sound of the mid-day Bell enters this fastness, Where blue mist rises From bamboo groves. Down from a high peak Hangs a waterfall; None knows where he has gone, So sadly I rest, with my back Leaning against a pine.
A Green Stream
I have sailed the River of Yellow Flowers, Borne by the channel of a green stream, Rounding ten thousand turns through the mountains On a journey of less than thirty miles …. Rapids hum over heaped rocks, But where light grows dim in the thick pines The surface of an inlet sways with nut-horns, And weeds are lush along the banks. Down in my heart I have always been as pure As this limpid water is …. Oh, to remain on a broad, flat rock And to cast a fishing-line forever!
Voices of Taoism
I built my hut in a place where people live, And yet there’s no clatter of carriage or horse. You ask me how that could be? With a mind remote, the region too grows distant. I pick chrysanthemums by the eastern hedge, See the southern mountain, calm and still. The mountain air is beautiful at close of day, Birds on the wing coming home together. In all this there’s some principle of truth, But try to define it and you forget the word.
Mountain Drinking Song
To drown the ancient sorrows We drank a hundred jugs of wine There in the beautiful night. We couldn’t go to bed with the moon so bright. Then finally the wine overcame us And we lay down on the empty mountain — The earth for a pillow, And a blanket made of heaven.
The Inlaid Harp
I wonder why my inlaid harp has fifty strings, Each with its flower-like fret an interval of youth. The sage Chuangzi is daydreaming, bewitched by butterflies; The spring-heart of Emperor Wang is crying in a cuckoo; Mermen weep their pearly tears down a moon-green sea; Blue fields are breathing their jade to the sun …. And a moment that ought to have lasted for ever Has come and gone before I knew.
Of One in the Forbidden City
When the moonlight, reaching a tree by the gate, Shows her a quiet bird on its nest, She removes her jade hairpins and sits in the shadow, And puts out a flame where a moth was flying.
A Song of Changgan II
Yes, I live here by the river; I have sailed on it many and many a time. Both of us born in Changgan, you and I! Why haven’t we always known each other?
A View of Taishan
What shall I say of the Great Peak? The ancient dukedoms are everywhere green, Inspired and stirred by the breath of creation, With the Twin Forces balancing day and night. I bare my breast toward opening clouds; I strain my sight after birds flying home. When shall I reach the top and hold All mountains in a single glance?
At Heron Lodge
Mountains cover the white sun, And oceans drain the golden river; But you widen your view three hundred miles By going up one flight of stairs.
Ascending the Pagoda at the Temple of Kind Favor with Gao Shi and Xue Ju
The pagoda, rising abruptly from earth, Reaches to the very Palace of Heaven …. Climbing, we seem to have left the world behind us, With the steps we look down on it, hung from space. It overtops a holy land, And can only have been built by toil of the spirit. Its four sides darken the bright sun; Its seven stories cut the grey clouds; Birds fly down beyond our sight, And the rapid wind below our hearing. Mountain-ranges, toward the east, Appear to be curving and flowing like rivers; Far green locust-trees line broad roads Toward clustered palaces and mansions; Colours of autumn, out of the west, Enter advancing through the city; And northward there lie, in five graveyards, Calm forever under dewy green grass, Those who know life’s final meaning, Which all humankind must learn. Henceforth I put my official hat aside. To find the Eternal Way is the only happiness.
Voices of Taoism
Looking for Hermit Hu
I pass over water, and pass over water again; I look at the flowers, and look at the flowers again. Traveling the river, there’s a spring breeze; Before I am aware, I reach your home.
At the Lake Pavilion
On a skiff I meet an honored guest, Slowly, slowly, it comes across the lake. Facing at the railing, we drink a cup of wine. On all sides, lotus flowers are in bloom.
(206 B.C.E. - 8 C.E.)
In the Garden a Strange Tree Grows
In the garden a strange tree grows; From green leaves a shower of blossoms bursting. I bend the limb and break off a flower, Thinking to send it to the one I love. Fragrance fills my breast and sleeves, But the road is far — it will never reach you. Why is such a gift worth the giving? Only because I remember how long ago we parted.
To One Unnamed III
Time was long before I met her, but is longer since we parted, And the east wind has arisen and a hundred flowers are gone, And the silk-worms of spring will weave until they die, And every night the candles will weep their wicks away. Mornings in her mirror, she sees her hair-cloud changing, Yet she dares the chill of moonlight with her evening song. It is not so very far to her Enchanted Mountain. O blue-birds, be listening! Bring me what she says!
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Founded: 500 B.C. in China Founder: The Supreme Sage K’ung Fu Tsu (Confucius) and Second Sage Meng Tzu (Mencius) Believers: 350 million (primarily in Chin, Japan, Burma, and Thailand) Scriptures: The Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, Great Learning, and Mencius
1. The primary goal of Confucianism is to create a true nobility through proper education and virtues, described as returning to the way of our ancestors. Confucianists strive for perfect virtue, righteousness (Li), and improvement of character. They practice Jen (humanity or love), harmony in the family, peace and stability of the empire, and a strict code of conduct. All men may achieve spiritual nobility. 2. Confucius was agnostic, placing emphasis on living an ethical life rather than on any spiritual life beyond earthly existence. He preferred to guide men’s minds to the present and the past rather than to the future. He fasted, worshipped his ancestors, attended sacrifices, and sought to live in harmony with Heaven. 3. Stress is placed on the ideal and duty of the “Superior Man” than a Divine or Supramundane Reality. 4. Confucianists believe in the presence of the Supreme Ruler in all things, and in Heaven as the ethical principal (law and order), impersonal, yet interested in mankind. 5. The purpose of life is to pursue an orderly and reverent existence in accordance with Li (propriety or virtue), so as to become the Superior Man. The Superior Man’s greatest virtue is benevolent love. Other great virtues are duty, wisdom, truth, and propriety. 6. Confucianists obey The Golden Rule: “Do onto others as you would have them do unto you” (Analects 12:2 and 15:23). 7. Each man has five relationships, entailing five duties to his fellow man: to his ruler, to his father, to his wife, to his elder brother, and to his friend. 8. Confucianists believe that human nature is inherently good, and that evil is an unnatural condition arising from disharmony. 9. Man is master of his own life and fate, free to act as he pleases, but he should demonstrate benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity. 10. The family is the foremost institution. Religion should support the family and the state. 11. Confucius accepted the Tao, but applied its pragmatic aspects, not the mystical. 12. Salvation is viewed as realizing one’s natural goodness, which is endowed by heaven through education. The Superior Man always knows what is right and follows his knowledge.
Voices of Confucianism
Voices of Confucianism
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
(206 B.C.E. - 8 C.E.)
(25 – 220 C.E.)
The Eastern Gate
I went out at the eastern gate; I never thought to return. But I came back to the gate with my heart full of sorrow. There was not a peck of rice in the bin; There was not a coat hanging on the pegs. So I took my sword and went towards the gate. My wife and child clutched at my coat and wept: “Some people want to be rich and grand: I only want to share my porridge with you. Above, we have the blue waves of the sky; Below, the yellow face of this little child.” “Dear wife, I cannot stay. Soon it will be too late. When one is growing old One cannot put things off.”
I Turn the Carriage, Yoke and Set Off
I turn the carriage, yoke and set off, Far, far, over never-ending roads. In the four directions, broad plain on plain, East wind shakes the hundred grasses. Among all I meet, nothing of the past; What can save us from sudden old age? Fullness and decay — each has its season. Success — I hate it, so late in coming! Man is not made of metal or stone; How can he hope to live for long? Swiftly he follows in the wake of change. A shining name — let that be the prize!
The Confucian examination system for recruiting officials into the bureaucracy may have been far more egalitarian than anything comparable in its heyday; yet it had its limits. Wealthy men were able to hire tutors to ensure their success, but poor but intelligent men seldom rose to the top. Su TungP’o, usually considered the greatest poet of the Sung Dynasty, often commented cynically on the system he considered corrupt and was dismissed from various positions because of this. His sarcasm in the following poem sounds a strikingly contemporary note in this age of cynicism about politicians. The poet’s revenge lies in the fact that his poems are still read and memorized, when all those who persecuted him have been forgotten.
On the Birth of His Son
Families, when a child is born, Want it to be intelligent. I, through intelligence, Having wrecked my whole life, Only hope the baby will prove Ignorant and stupid. Then he will crown a tranquil life By becoming a Cabinet Minister.
(790 – 816 C.E.)
Ballad of the Savage Tiger*
No one attacks it with a long lance; No one plies a strong cross-bow. Suckling its grandsons, rearing its cubs, It trains them into savagery. Its reared head becomes a wall; Its waving tail becomes a banner. Even Huang, from the Eastern Sea,** Dreaded to see it after dark — A righteous tiger met on the road*** Was quite enough to upset Niu Ai. What good is it for that short sword To hang on the wall, growling like thunder? When, from the foot of Tai mountain, Comes the sound of a woman weeping, Government regulations forbid Any official to dare to listen.****
* This poem was a satire on oppressive government, of which the tiger was the symbol. Caught between the Central Government and the warlords, the people are harassed as though by tigers. ** Huang, of the Eastern Sea, had magical powers, which enabled him to control snakes and tigers. Unfortunately for him, he lost those powers through drinking to excess and was eventually killed by a tiger. *** The Chou-yu was a white tiger with black markings that appeared only when a state was perfectly governed. It would not tread on grain nor eat living things. Niu Ai was a duke turned weretiger (much like a warewolf), who ate his own elder brother. The poet is pointing out that some tigers are worse than others. **** Confucius found a woman weeping at the foot of Mount Tai. Though her whole family had been killed by tigers, she refused to leave the district, because there was no oppressive government there. This caused Confucius to remark that an oppressive government was more savage than any tiger.
A Song of the Southern River
Since I married the merchant of Qutang He has failed each day to keep his word …. Had I thought how regular the tide is, I might rather have chosen a river-boy.
Voices of Confucianism
(25 – 220 C.E.)
Green, Green, the Cypress on the Ridge
Green, green, the cypress* on the ridge, Stones heaped about in mountain streams. Between heaven and earth our lives rush past, Like travelers with a long road to go. Let this measure of wine be our merriment; Value it highly, without disdain. I race the carriage, whip the lagging horses, Roam for pleasure to Wan and Lo**. Here in Lo-Yang, what surging crowds, Capped and belted ones chasing each other; Long avenues fringed with narrow alleys; The many mansions of princes and peers. The Two Palaces*** face each other from afar, Paired towers over a hundred feet tall. Let the feast last forever, delight the heart — Then what grief or gloom can weigh us down?
* The cypress, along with the pine, figures often in Chinese literature as a symbol of longevity or changelessness. The stones in the second line presumably represent a similar concept, that of durability. Both the cypress and stones serve as contrast to man and his fleeting life. ** The Eastern Han had its capital at Lo-Yang. The city of Wan, southeast of Lo-Yang, was renowned for its splendor, and, because it was the home of the founder of the Eastern Han, Emperor KuangWu, was honored with the title of Southern Capital. *** The Two Palaces are those of the emperor and of the heir apparent, situated in the northern and southern sectors of the city, respectively. The city was laid out in a grid of broad avenues from which branched numerous smaller alleyways.
(6th Century C.E.)
Beginning of Spring — A Stroll with My Wife
Hairdo and ornaments all the latest fashion, Your outfit strictly in the newest style; The grass still short enough to poke through sandals; The plums so fragrant their perfume rubs off! Trees slant down to pluck at your brocade shawl; Breezes sidle up and get under your crimson kerchief — Fill the cups with orchid blossom wine! These are sights to make the spirit sing.
Hard Is the Way of the World II
The way is broad, like the blue sky, But no way out before my eye. I am ashamed to follow those who have no guts, Gambling on fighting cocks and dogs for pears and nuts. Feng would go homeward way, having no fish to eat; Zhou does not think to bow to noblemen when they meet. General Han was mocked in the market-place; The brilliant scholar Jia was banished in disgrace. Have you not heard of King of Yan in days gone by, Who venerated talents and built Terrace high On which he offered gold to gifted men And stooped low and swept the floor to welcome them? Grateful, Ju Xin and Yue Yi came then, And served him heart and soul, both full of stratagem. The King’s bones were buried; who would sweep the floor of the Gold Terrace any more? Hard is the way. Go back without delay!
An Old Pine
Towering thick, its straight trunk soars a hundred rods and more, Up into blue depths; no forest can claim him. Winds born of a myriad valleys become its voice in the night; The moon shining on a thousand hills hangs in its autumn shade. This strength couldn’t have come from tending with manure; It is endowed with a mind in tune with creation. The court that lacks men of talent would do well to take it; But a world without a good carpenter had better leave it alone.
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Founded: 500 B.C.E., in Nepal Founder: Siddhartha Gautama Buddha (“The Enlightened One”) Believers: 300 million (primarily in China, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Indochina, Korea, Nepal, and Tibet) Scriptures: The Dhammapada, The Tripitaka, Anguttara-Nikaya, Sutta-Nipatta, Samyutta-Nikaya
1. Like Hindus, Buddhists also believe in the concepts of karma (cause and effect), dharma (rightful duty), reincarnation, and passage on earth as an opportunity to end the cycle of birth and death. 2. The goal of life is nirvana (“to blow out”), often described as “peace and tranquility,” “neither existence nor nonexistence,” “emptiness and the unchanging essence of the Buddha,” and “ultimate Reality”; it is essentially a release from the bonds of desire, ego, suffering, and rebirth. 3. One should live life in the “Middle Path,” loving moderately, avoiding the extremes of luxury and asceticism; otherwise, unhappiness (dukha) arises, forcing us to place demands on the universe (tanha). 4. There is no god in Buddhism, nor does one seek union with this force. 5. “The Supreme” is completely transcendent and can be described as a void or as a state of nonbeing. 6. Compassion and love for all creatures contains merit that exceeds offerings to gods. 7. The Four Noble Buddhist Truths: Life is pain and suffering; the goal of life, therefore, is the release from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth; The force of desire leads to rebirth and further suffering, accompanied by delight and passion; Complete cessation of desires and detachment from desires will automatically end the cycle of pleasure/pain, the wheel of birth and rebirth; To end desire, one must follow the Noble Eightfold Path: right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation. 8. Man’s true nature is divine and eternal, yet his individuality is subject to the change that affects all forms, and is therefore transient, dissolving at liberation into nirvana. 9. The progressive stages of Buddhism: • meditation (dhyana), which leads to moral and intellectual advancement; purification and detachment, which leads to pure consciousness; • further meditation (samapatti), which leads to a nullification of psychic, mental, and emotional activity to a state of perfect solitude (neither perception nor nonperception); • the attainment of supernatural consciousness (samadhi) follows, and is the gateway to the unspeakable nirvana.
The Story of the Buddha
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University The story of Buddha’s life is told through various manuscripts, folktales, and supernatural stories. The following summary of Buddha’s life is derived from a combination of these sources, focusing on the legends and myths about the real Buddha.
The Birth of Buddha
Siddhartha Gotama was born in 566 BCE to Queen Mahamaya and King Suddhodana, leaders of a high caste family in the Shakya republic in southern Nepal. The Queen had dreamed of a great hero born to her: a royal elephant walked around her three times, then entered her womb. The Queen gave birth upright while holding branches from the most noble tree in Lumbini. Siddhartha (Buddha) was born “conscious,” took seven strides, and said, “I am born for enlightenment. This is my last birth in the world of phenomena.” Gods, spirits, and animals showered him with blessings, snakes threw flowers at his feet, earthquakes rumbled, dangerous animals bowed their heads, and humans were cured of all diseases. Siddhartha was often referred to as a cakravartin, “the turner of the wheel of power,” resembling six of Vishnu’s previous eight incarnations. This symbol of the wheel was evident on the soles of his feet. The young Siddhartha is most appropriately called a bodhisattva (an enlightened being destined for nirvana, from the words bodhi, meaning “harmony,” and sattva, meaning “lucidity”).
The Four Sights
The brahmins (priests) prophesied a “great departure,” so Siddhartha’s father found his son a wife, Yasodhara, confined them to their upper-story room in the palace, and kept them entertained with beautiful female musicians who “delighted him with their soft voices and playful intoxications.” One day, Siddhartha’s father let him travel to the adjacent gardens, but forbade him from looking at the suffering citizens. One of the gods transformed himself into a street beggar. When Siddhartha contemplated the nature of this old man, Siddhartha said, “Shame on birth, since everyone who is born must grow old.” The second excursion showed Siddhartha a dying man, and the third a dead man. His final vision presented an ascetic man of tranquility. When Siddhartha asked who this man was, his chariot driver told him that the old ascetic had “retired from the world.”
The Story of the BUDDHa
Siddhartha’s wife bore him a son, Rahula, but this only strengthened Siddhartha’s decision to retire as well. One day, when the musicians and attendants were asleep from wine and indulging, Siddhartha made his escape. He viewed the sleeping people strewn across the floor merely as dead bodies, which they would one day become. When he left, Siddhartha came across some laborers tilling the soil, uprooting many small animals from their homes. As the ploughmen rested, Siddhartha sat and meditated on these creatures: “How dreadful that man should, in his ignorance, not pay attention to his fellow creatures who are helplessly enmeshed in birth, suffering, and death.”
Siddhartha’s Career as an Ascetic
After this experience, Siddhartha cast aside his domestic life and his Hindu religion. He adopted the life of a beggar, with a shaved head, a robe, and a begging bowl. He studied under two meditation masters, but quickly mastered their methods, leaving him searching for more. One of his masters, Alara Kalama, sought the attainment of the “sphere of nothingness,” while the second, Uddaka Ramaputra, taught a meditation leading to a state of “neither knowing or not knowing.” Siddhartha rejected these teachings and moved on. Believing that the body is an obstacle to spiritual realization, Siddhartha starved himself for six years in an attempt to bring his body under strict physical and spiritual control. The bodhisattva often lived on one sesame seed or one grain of rice per day, and sometimes ate nothing at all. After six years of these austerities, however, Siddhartha realized that this was not the answer either. Soon, Siddhartha looked for escape from samsara, the repetitious cycle of life and death. Nirvana was the only escape from samsara, when the atman (the individual soul) and brahman (the universal spirit) became unified. Siddhartha, however, looked at this escape differently than did the Hindus: Buddha taught a doctrine of “not-self,” called anatta. To Buddha, nirvana was a condition only to be experienced by someone who had eliminated the self (atman) and any notion of it.
The Bodhisattva Becomes the Buddha: The Three Temptations
In 531 BCE, at Uruvela, on the Nairanjana River, the 34-year-old bodhisattva stopped to seek a place for meditation. Under the bo tree, Siddhartha meditated for 49 days, battling every imaginable temptation. Especially tempting was his battle with his grand tormentor, Mara (also known as “the evil one” and “the enemy of dharma”), who assumed the form of pure temptation (kama). Mara attempted to tempt Siddhartha with beautiful women, his call to duty in the world, and then an army of brutal demons. When Mara asked Siddhartha who would be the witness to his enlightenment, Siddhartha placed his hand on the Earth, which
responded, “I bear witness!” Evil had been conquered, and Siddhartha became the Buddha, seated on his mat of wisdom. Buddha then recalled his previous 550 births, and finally understood his spiritual journey to be complete.
The Middle Way
Through Buddha’s meditation, he discovers the “Middle Way,” a path of no extremes where one recognizes the world for what it is. Having lived in both extremes (wealth and pleasure vs. poverty and austerities), Buddha understood that he himself sought enlightenment in a comfortable place. He counseled five ascetics this way: “austerities only confuse the mind. In the exhaustion and mental stupor to which they lead, one can no longer understand the ordinary things of life, still less the truth that lies behind the senses. I have given up extremes of either luxury or asceticism. I have discovered The Middle Way.” Buddha set out to teach others, having been encouraged by Brahma, the Hindu god of creation, who told him: “Now that you, O sage, have yourself crossed the ocean of the world of becoming, please rescue the other living beings who have sunk so low in suffering.” Buddha taught for the remainder of his life, 45 more years.
The Death of Buddha
Buddha died in 486 BCE. He was reported to have told his close followers: “I am eighty. My body is like an old cart held together with straps. Only when I am deep in meditation is my body comfortable.” He then advised them: “Be your own lamps. Be your own refuge. Hold fast to dharma. Do not look for refuge beyond yourselves. This way you will overcome darkness.” His last counsel advises that “the nature of things dictates that we must leave those dear to us. Everything born contains its own cessation. All will eventually reach enlightenment. Listen, bhikkhus [beggars], I say this: all conditioned things are subject to decay. Strive with diligence.” OM.
Lowenstein, Tom. The Vision of the Buddha. 1996.
Voices of BUDDHism
Voices of Buddhism
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
From Qin Country to the Buddhist Priest Yuan
How gladly I would seek a mountain If I had enough means to live as a recluse! For I turn at last from serving the State To the Eastern Woods Temple and to you, my master. Like ashes of gold in a cinnamon-flame, My youthful desires have been burnt with the years — And tonight, in the chilling sunset-wind, A cicada, singing, weighs on my heart.
(late 17th century - early 18th century)
Verse No. 70
Thin cloud. Light rain. Far cell. Closed to noon. Sit. Look. Green moss Becomes one with your clothes.
As flowing waters disappear into the mist, We lose all track of their passage. Every heart is its own Buddha. Ease off — become immortal! Wake up — the world’s a mote of dust! Behold heaven’s round mirror. Turn loose — slip past shape and shadow. Sit side by side with nothing, save Tao.
Toward the Temple of Heaped Fragrance
Not knowing the way to the Temple of Heaped Fragrance, Under miles of mountain-cloud I have wandered Through ancient woods without a human track; But now on the height I hear a bell. A rillet sings over winding rocks; The sun is tempered by green pines …. And at twilight, close to an emptying pool, Thought can conquer the Passion-Dragon.
A Buddhist Retreat behind Broken-Mountain Temple
In the pure morning, near the old temple, Where early sunlight points the tree-tops, My path has wound through a sheltered hollow Of boughs and flowers to a Buddhist retreat. Here birds are alive with mountain-light, And the mind of man touches peace in a pool, And a thousand sounds are quieted By the breathing of a temple-bell.
A hundred mountains and no bird, A thousand paths without a footprint, A little boat, a bamboo cloak, An old man fishing in the cold river-snow.
Hard Is the Way of the World III
Don’t wash your ears on hearing something you dislike Nor die of hunger like famous hermits on the Pike! Living without a fame among the motley crowd, Why should one be as lofty as the moon or cloud? Of ancient talents who failed to retire, there’s none But came to tragic ending after glory’s won. The head of General Wu was hung o’er city gate; In the river was drowned the poet laureate. The highly talented scholar wished in vain To preserve his life to hear the cry of the crane. Minister Li regretted not to have retired To hunt with falcon gray as he had long desired. Have you not heard of Zhang Han who resigned, carefree, To go home to eat his perch with high glee? Enjoy a cup of wine while you’re alive! Do not care if your fame will not survive!
See Off a Man of the Tao
When I find you again, It will be in mountains; This morning, I lose you Once more to farewell. Free of attachment In heart and mind; Is it why you can go Ten thousand li alone To places with such Little human warmth, Where, when you meet someone, He speaks an ancient tongue? Traveling without disciples, You have only A white dog For company.
Voices of BUDDHism
(25 – 220 C.E.)
Life That’s Scarce a Hundred Years
Life, that’s scarce a hundred years, Holds millenniums of fears. Brief its noon, and long its night: Best then mingle dark with light. Merry-making while you may, Wait not for another day. Fools that treasure up their stock After-generations mock. Him* that held a bond with fate None may seek to emulate.
* The literal translation of this line is, “The Immortal Wang Tz’u-Ch’iao.” It refers to the son of a Chou dynasty king who attained immortality, after twenty years of effort and, ultimately, flew away from this world riding on the back of a crane.
Saying Good-bye to a Singing Girl Who Has Decided to Become a Nun
You have called at the gate of the True Vehicle, your worldly self is no more. You have said farewell forever to the golden chambers, the wind and the dust. Lightly you wield the yak-tail whisk; your singing fan lies on the floor. You learn to adjust your meditation cushion, and laugh at the dancer’s mat. No more resentment when rouge fades like red flowers; No longer will the feathered hairdo appear in your mirror. Mist, light, water — quiet Zen mind: I know a new springtime will bloom in the Realm of Emptiness.
Comparing Two Translations
Below are two versions of the poem “The Buddha’s Essential Functioning,” translated about a hundred years apart. Read each version carefully, and answer the questions below.
The Buddha’s Essential Functioning
Originally translated by Hung-Chih Cheng-Chueh (1091-1157) The Buddha’s essential functioning, The patriarch’s functioning essence, Knows without relating to things And illuminates without reflecting upon objects. Knowing without relating to things, Its knowing is subtle of itself. Illuminating without reflecting upon objects, Its illumination is mysterious of itself. Its knowing, subtle of itself, Is the thought with no discrimination. Its illumination, mysterious of itself, Is the sign without the slightest mark. The thought with no discrimination, Its knowing is completed without other. The sign without the slightest mark, Its illumination is revealed without choice. The water is pure and clear to the bottom; A fish swims slowly. The sky is vast and finds no boundary; A bird flies far away.
The Buddha’s Essential Functioning
Originally translated by Zen Master Dogen Zenji (1200-1253) The Buddha’s essential functioning, The partriarch’s functioning essence, Manifest without deliberation And acomplishes without hindrance. Manifesting without deliberation, Its manifestation is intimate of itself. Accomplishing without hindrance, Its accomplishment is realized of itself. Its manifestation, intimate of itself, Has never been defiled. Its accomplishment, realized of itself, Is neither absolute nor relative. The intimacy that is never defiled Drops away without dependence. The realization that is neither absolute nor relative Penetrates without intent. Clear water soaks into the earth; The fish swims like a fish. The sky is vast and penetrates the heavens; The bird flies like a bird.
Questions for Voices of Buddhism
1. Select any two lines or passages that are different from each other. Comment on the differences that you see, and what might account for these distinctions?
2. Which poem appears to be more faithful to the Buddhist message? Why?
Identifying Eastern Voices on poetry
Identifying Eastern Voices in Poetry
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University When trying to determine the main philosophical influence in a Chinese poem, listen to which “voice” the poem is speaking through. Look for unique features that can distinguish Eastern philosophies from one another. Let’s summarize:
Taoists believe in following the rules of Nature, referred to as “the Tao,” or “the Way.” Nature, after all, tells us everything that we need to know about life. The season of autumn tells us that all things in Nature decay and pass on. This may be a harsh reality, but we learn this over and over by watching these cycles in action. Taoists want to “go with the flow,” referred to as the concept of wu wei, and they seek to perform only those actions that are necessary, especially ones that follow the lead of the Tao (this concept is called “P’u,” the “uncarved block”). CAVEATS: Many students will use hackneyed (overused) phrases to describe Taoism, such as “one with Nature” or “getting back to Nature.” On assignments or tests, I will look at these expressions as too general to describe anything of value. After all, what does “one with Nature” really mean anyway? Instead, state that Taoists follow Nature or seek their cues from it. Also, be sure to avoid jumping to conclusions: every time that a reference is made to Nature does not confirm the voice of Taoism. Jesus told the Parable of the Fig Tree, which is a reference to Nature, but Jesus was not Taoist (although many threads of Taoism have worked their way into the teachings too). Authors can use Nature metaphors, but that does not categorize their statements as necessarily Taoist. See how Nature is used by the poet. When Nature seems to parallel or assist the human experience, that’s usually where we see Tao leading the way.
Confucius lived during a time of great turmoil, political corruption, and war. Like Lao Tzu, Confucius was a pacifist, although both Taoists and Confucians waged war many times. Confucius saw his world as out of step with the past regimes that had society under greater control. Confucius looked at his generation as one that had lost its way and was steeped in corruption, which could only be remedied by adhering to the rules and traditions of their ancestors. Confucians defer authority to the state and to the other hierarchical structures in society, including the family, the military, etc. If everyone plays his/her role adequately, then the well-oiled machine of society can flourish and succeed in peace. Above all, the leaders of the state, communities, and families should be followed without question. Although Confucians may occasionally refer to the Tao, they see the Tao as the precursor of man’s law, which is the one to be followed, since it was inspired by the order of Nature.
CAVEATS: It is possible that Confucius merely thought that his generation was out of step with the more organized past, much like many Americans do. Have you ever heard your grandparents refer to “the Good Ol’ Days”? Well, when exactly were these days? Many Americans look at the period after World War II as the heyday of America, but didn’t we have a society that subjugated women and minorities, fueled by lingering European traditions and the fear mongering of McCarthyism? Do you really want to live with Ward and June Cleaver? Even Socrates in Greece stated similar words, referring to the younger generation as out of control. Maybe we are living in the Good Ol’ Days right now? Hindsight is 20/20. Be clear with your explanations if you compare your society to those of the past.
Buddhists believe that the material world is full of traps, especially emotional attachments that steer us off our spiritual course by distracting us with temptations. Only by avoiding these connections do we liberate ourselves from the emotional highs and lows that society brings us. You will often see Buddhists critiquing their material connections and seeking distance from worldly things. Buddhists strive to achieve nirvana, a state of disaffection where we do not have petty attachments to things that do not benefit the soul. Believing in reincarnation, Buddhists often seek to break the cycle of samsara, or the repeating cycle of birth, preservation, and destruction (death). Since all life ends in death (as well as begins at death), then death is the great evil that must be circumvented through meditation. If you can defeat death, then you will not be reborn, and you therefore will have no more anxieties or hang-ups about your life, your physical body, or the world that we occupy. CAVEATS: Many of the poems listed in your coursepacket discuss serious topics, but I don’t want you to walk away with the impression that Buddhists like to complain or that they write depressing poetry. Like Taoists and Confucians, Buddhists seek peace, love, and understanding. They are simply more aware in their writing of the impacts that the material world effects upon an individual. Also, every “depressing” poem is not necessarily a work of Buddhism. We must also be careful to avoid confusing the concepts of love and passion (desire). Buddhism tells us that attachment to desire causes our suffering, but love can transcend desire, since it is mutually shared and conceived by the couple. Joseph Campbell discusses three types of love (Eros, agape, and amor). He explains that desire is most similar to Eros, or sexual desire. Amor transcends desire because the two have become one in a true spiritual marriage, where the satisfaction of one is trumped by the joy of both. One final example — your mom can worry about her child when she fails to return by her curfew, but is worrying going to change anything? Buddhism would suggest relieving one’s self from the pain and suffering of worry, giving your mom a clearer head. However, this does not deny her love for her children. Love doesn’t make us riddled with anxiety — fear does that to us, and often it uses the instrument of desire to latch onto our minds and hearts.
Interpretations of Chinese poetry
Interpretations of Chinese Poetry
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Bound Home to Mount Song
The limpid river, past its bushes, Running slowly as my chariot, Becomes a fellow voyager Returning home with the evening birds. A ruined city-wall overtops an old ferry; Autumn sunset floods the peaks. Far away, beside Mount Song, I shall close my door and be at peace.
The river and chariot are favorably compared, showing harmony • The river becomes a fellow voyager too, a friend in Nature • The birds lead the way home • The author is at peace in the end Society is crumbling
The author recedes from society, shuts the door, and finds tranquility
the river is not a chariot, but it crawls like one • Naturalism is a Victorian Age literary movement based on science and authentic descriptions, rebutting the Romantic period, which is much closer to Taoism
Ballads of Four Seasons: Winter
The courier will depart next day, she’s told. She sews a warrior’s gown all night. Her fingers feel the needle cold. How can she hold the scissors tight? The work is done; she sends it far away. When will it reach the town where warriors stay?
The wife performs her duties by sewing her husband’s uniform, despite the harsh conditions and a strict deadline • The courier performs his duty as well by leaving to deliver the clothing to the battlefield the next day
The wife must rise above her pain and the elements
The wife sews in the cold, during which she suffers. Buddhists don’t always dwell on pain and suffering, but rather show it in order to overcome it. The wife in this poem does not detach herself • Some students wrote about the wrong poem
UNIT 4 Buddhism
Spending the Night at a Mountain Temple
A host of peaks rear up into the color of cold. At this point the road splits to the meditation hall. Shooting stars pierce through bare trees, And a rushing moon retreats from moving clouds. Visitors come, but rarely to the very summit; Cranes do not flock together in the tall pines. There is a monk, eighty years old, Who has never heard of what happens in the world.
The setting depicts a cold, lonely, bare place where one can meditate without distraction • There is no harmony or life in the world • The last few lines give it away: monks are Buddhist, and this particular one has been detached from the world his whole life • The references to Nature are harsh and lifeless, acting violently: “rear,” “splits,” “shooting,” “pierce,” and “retreats,” so this is not Taoist
The author’s name, Chia Tao, does not guarantee that he is a Taoist • References to Nature do not guarantee a Taoist voice either
The garden, deep and serene; The hall, vacant and small; Now and then, Washerwomen’s pounding Mingles with the wind. In this eternal night, Only a sleepless man hears The intermittent noises, Stealthily brought to curtains By the moonlight.
Nature is in harmony with human actions as the washerwoman’s pounding mingles with the wind, aided by the moonlight • Nature is viewed as vast and all-encompassing: “deep” and “eternal” • The moonlight “stealthily” brings the distant noises to the author’s window • The garden offers life that is “deep” and “eternal,” while the hall (society) remains small and empty
The washerwoman is doing her duties, even at night. One could argue that chores are meant to be done in daylight, as the Tao tells us that we should sleep at night rather than work.
If the man is sleepless, he’s probably not meditating, and therefore not a Buddhist
Interpretations of Chinese poetry
White hair shrouds both my temples; My skin and flesh have lost their fullness. Though I have five male children, Not a one of them loves brush and paper. A-Shu’s already twice times eight — In laziness he’s never been rivaled. A-Hsuans’s going on fifteen, But cares nothing for letters or learning. Yung and Tuan are thirteen And can’t tell a 6 from a 7! T’ung-Tzu’s approaching age nine — All he does is hunt for chestnuts and pears. If this is the luck Heaven sends me, Then pour me the “thing in the cup”!
The author is complaining about his lazy sons who slack off from their studies, chores, and responsibilities, making them far less than Superior Men in the making • These kids are also bringing shame to their father, who must be known to his community as a bad parent, teacher, and role model • The father’s advanced age makes his shame greater
A reference to aging is no guarantee of a Buddhist voice • The father does not accept his situation by succumbing to wine, as a Taoist might. The author is frustrated is essentially gives up due to frustration
Mourning for Yin Yao
How long can one man live Before returning to emptiness? I know you welcomed death. Ten thousand things can trouble a heart. Your good mother not yet buried, Your daughter is barely ten, I hear from beyond the frozen wilderness The desolate sounds of laments. Clouds float across the empty sky; A bird on the wing cannot sing; Loneliness is the way of the wanderer; The white sun soon grows cold. I’m sorry that when you lived, And begged to study the dharma with me, My teaching came too late To bring you much success. Old friends always have gifts to bring, But in your lifetime, mine came a bit too late. I failed you in many ways. Tearfully, I close my brushwood gate.
The author reflects upon his emptiness after the death of his young wife, and he is struggling with his attachment to her • The author refers to his wife’s interest in his Buddhist philosophy, particularly dharma
The author feels guilt for not teaching his wife about Buddhism sooner (teaching others to make them wiser is an idea discussed by Confucius) The references to Nature are not Taoist:
• • • • •
Buddhists don’t seek or revel in their emptiness. The author is suffering because his wife has died. Nirvana brings about a different kind of emptiness — one that is consciously chosen. • References to families are not inherently Confucian — everyone has family
wilderness is frozen, and therefore not hospitable to the needs of people the air carries tears and sadness the sky is empty birds have lost their voices the sun quickly grows cold
UNIT 4 Taoism
The grass is spreading out across the plain; Each year it dies, then flourishes again. It’s burnt, but not destroyed by prairie fires — When spring winds blow, they bring it back to life. Afar, its scent invades the ancient road; Its emerald green overruns the ruined town. Again I see my noble friend depart; I find I’m crowded full of parting’s feelings.
The cycle of life is reflected in the seasons of Nature in the opening lines Like the phoenix rising from the flames, Spring is a season of rebirth, which is a Natural phenomenon that influenced all of the literature that you read this semester Nature “overruns” the structures of society, demonstrating the power of Nature Natural cycles of the seasons represent the constant yin/yang changes that are evident in the Tao Rebirth is glorified in this poem, but Buddhists seek to end the cycle of samsara, since reincarnation shows a failure of the person to achieve nirvana Much like the grass, the author’s friend departs, but should one day return The cycle of life is referenced in this poem, which Buddhists call samsara
The scent “invades” the “ancient road,” which might give some people a suggestion of Buddhism, but this image can also be embraced by Taoists who see Nature as reasserting herself every Spring. The foliage “overruns” the “ruined town,” but Nature does not destroy anything here, since the old village has been in ruins for a long time • The grass is not the “noble friend”
Be wary of vaguely worded explanations that may not adequately communicate your ideas. Avoid using generic and vague phrases such as these:
• • • • •
“talks about” — to say that the poem or author “talks about” something does not tell me what interpretation you see in that passage “is about” — this vague construction needs clarity, so use action verbs, not linking verbs “refers to nature” — a poem or author that makes a reference to something does not indicate that you understand how it is being used, only that it is mentioned “one with nature” — this is too vague, and is used by students as a “cop out” answer when they don’t know how to explain the Taoist message “deals with” — this is a poker term, so use a clearer expression to indicate how things are operating in the poem to reflect the Eastern voice
Interpretations of Chinese poetry
Sources for the Chinese poetry:
http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/chinese/frame.htm http://www.darsie.net/library/chinmisc.html http://www.darsie.net/library/tufu.html http://www.darsie.net/library/wangwei.html http://www.darsie.net/library/pochui.html http://www.darsie.net/library/taochien.html http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/1964/taoyuanming.html http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/1964/hsuchunchien.html http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/1964/liyu.html http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/1964/sutungpo.html http://www.geocities.com/Tokyo/Pagoda/1964/suwu.html http://www.chinese-poems.com/se.html http://www.chinese-poems.com/taoe.html http://www.thedrunkenboat.com/wangwei.htm http://www.thedrunkenboat.com/lipo.htm http://www.tkline.freeserve.co.uk/Webworks/Website/AllwaterWangWei.htm http://www.tkline.freeserve.co.uk/Webworks/Website/AllwaterTuFu.htm http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/poetry/poetry.html http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhism/poetry/poetry.html http://www.poetrystore.com/lipo.html http://www.poetrystore.com/lipo%282%29.html http://acc6.its.brooklyn.cuny.edu/~phalsall/texts/c-poet1.html http://www.chinese-poems.com/due.html http://www.chinese-poems.com/bje.html http://www.emule.com/poetry/?page=overview&author=16 http://www.humanistictexts.org/dufu.htm http://www.lingshidao.com/hanshi/dufu.htm http://www.lingshidao.com/hanshi/dufu.htm http://www.dpo.uab.edu/~yangzw/shi1.html#1.2 http://www.chinapage.com/poet-e/dufu2e.html http://cc.usu.edu/~georgen/confucious.html http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/~yhe/poetry/tu_mu_poems.html
The Tao Te Ching of Lao Tzu
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
1. THE EMBODIMENT OF TAO
Even the finest teaching is not the Tao itself. Even the finest name is insufficient to define it. Without words, the Tao can be experienced, and without a name, it can be known. To conduct one’s life according to the Tao is to conduct one’s life without regrets — to realize that potential within oneself, which is of benefit to all. Though words or names are not required to live one’s life this way, to describe it, words and names are used, that we might better clarify the way of which we speak, without confusing it with other ways in which an individual might choose to live. Through knowledge, intellectual thought and words, the manifestations of the Tao are known, but without such intellectual intent we might experience the Tao itself. Both knowledge and experience are real, but reality has many forms, which seem to cause complexity. By using the means appropriate, we extend ourselves beyond the barriers of such complexity, and so experience the Tao.
judgment has been made. Through his experience, the sage becomes aware that all things change, and that he who seems to lead, might also, in another situation, follow. So he does nothing; he neither leads nor follows. That which he does is neither big nor small. Without intent, it is neither difficult, nor done with ease. His task completed, he then lets go of it. Seeking no credit, he cannot be discredited. Thus, his teaching lasts forever, and he is held in high esteem.
3. WITHOUT SEEKING ACCLAIM
By retaining his humility, the talented person who is also wise reduces rivalry. The person who possesses many things, but does not boast of his possessions, reduces temptation and reduces stealing. Those who are jealous of the skills or things possessed by others most easily themselves become possessed by envy. Satisfied with his possessions, the sage eliminates the need to steal. At one with the Tao, he remains free of envy, and has no need of titles. By being supple, he retains his energy. He minimizes his desires, and does not train himself in guile, nor subtle words of praise. By not contriving, he retains the harmony of his inner world, and so remains at peace within himself. It is for reasons such as these that an administration, which is concerned with the welfare of those it serves, does not encourage status and titles to be sought, nor does it encourage rivalry. Ensuring a sufficiency for all helps in reducing discontent. Administrators who are wise do not seek honors for themselves, nor do they act with guile towards the ones they serve.
2. LETTING GO Of COMPARISONS
We cannot know the Tao itself, nor see its qualities direct, but only see by differentiation that which it manifests. Thus, that which is seen as beautiful is beautiful compared with that which is seen as lacking beauty; an action considered skilled is so considered in comparison with another that seems unskilled. That which a person knows he has is known to him by that which he does not have, and that which he considers difficult seems so because of that which he can do with ease. One thing seems long by comparison with that which is comparatively short. One thing is high because another thing is low; only when sound ceases is quietness known, and that which leads is seen to lead only by being followed. In comparison, the sage, in harmony with the Tao, needs no comparisons, and when he makes them, knows that comparisons are judgments, and just as relative to he who makes them, and to the situation, as they are to that on which the
4. THE UNFATHOMABLE TAO
It is the nature of the Tao that, even though used continuously, it is replenished naturally, never being emptied, and never being over-filled, as is a goblet which spills its contents upon the ground. The Tao therefore cannot be said to waste its charge, but constantly remains a source of
The Tao Te Ching
nourishment for those who are not so full of self as to be unable to partake of it. When tempered beyond its natural state, the finest blade will lose its edge. Even the hardest tempered sword, against water, is of no avail, and will shatter if struck against a rock. When untangled by a cutting edge, the cord in little pieces lies, and is of little use. Just as the finest swordsmith tempers the finest blade with his experience, so the sage, with wisdom, tempers intellect. With patience, tangled cord may be undone, and problems which seem insoluble, resolved. With wise administrators, all can exist in unity, each with the other, because no man need feel that he exists only as the shadow of his brilliant brother. Through conduct not contrived for gain, awareness of the Tao may be maintained. This is how its mysteries may be found.
7. SHEATHING THE LIGHT
When living by the Tao, awareness of self is not required, for in this way of life, the self exists and is also non-existent, being conceived of not as an existentiality, nor as non-existent. The sage does not contrive to find his self, for he knows that all which may be found of it is that which it manifests to sense and thought, which, side by side with self itself, is naught. It is by sheathing intellect’s bright light that the sage remains at one with his own self, ceasing to be aware of it, by placing it behind. Detached, he is unified with his external world; by being selfless he is fulfilled; thus, his selfhood is assured.
8. THE WAY OF WATER
Great good is said to be like water, sustaining life with no conscious striving, flowing naturally, providing nourishment, found even in places in which a desiring man rejects. In this way it is like the Tao itself. Like water, the sage abides in a humble place; in meditation, he is without desire; in thoughtfulness, he is profound; and in his dealings, kind. In speech, sincerity guides the man of Tao, and, as a leader, he is just. In management, competence is his aim, and he ensures the pacing is correct. Because he does not act for his own ends, nor causes unnecessary conflict, he is held to be correct in his actions towards his fellow man.
5. WITHOUT INTENTION
Nature acts without intent, so it cannot be described as acting with benevolence, nor malevolence to any thing. In this respect, the Tao is just the same, though in reality it should be said that nature follows the rule of Tao. Therefore, even when he seems to act in manner kind or benevolent, the sage is not acting with such intent, for in conscious matters such as these, he is amoral and indifferent. The sage retains tranquility, and is not by speech or thought disturbed, and even less by action, which is contrived. His actions are spontaneous, as are his deeds towards his fellow men. By these means, he is empty of desire, and his energy is not drained from him.
9. WITHOUT EXTREMES
The cup is easier to hold when not filled to overflowing. The blade is more effective if not tempered beyond its mettle. Gold and jade are easier to protect if possessed in moderation. He who seeks titles invites his own downfall. The sage works quietly, seeking neither praise nor fame, completing what he does with natural ease, and then retiring. This is the way and nature of Tao.
Like the sheltered, fertile valley, the meditative mind is still, yet retains its energy. Since both energy and stillness, of themselves, do not have form, it is not through the senses that they may be found, nor understood by intellect alone (although, in nature, both abound). In the meditative state, the mind ceases to differentiate between existences, and that which may or may not be. It leaves them well alone, for they exist, not differentiated, but as one within the meditative mind.
12. THE REPRESSION OF DESIRES
Through sight, the colors may be seen, but too much color blinds us. Apprehending the tones of sound, too much sound might make us deaf, and too much flavor deadens taste. When hunting for sport, and chasing for pleasure, the mind easily becomes perplexed. He who collects treasures for himself more easily becomes anxious. The wise person fulfills his needs rather than his sensory temptations.
the sages of old, “Yield, and maintain integrity; be whole, and all things come to you.”
14. EXPERIENCING THE MYSTERY
The Tao is abstract, and therefore has no form. It is neither bright in rising, nor dark in sinking. It cannot be grasped, and it makes no sound. Without form or image, without existence, the form of the formless is beyond defining, cannot be described, and is beyond our understanding. It cannot be called by any name. Standing before it, it has no beginning; even when followed, it has no end. In the now, it exists. To the present apply it, follow it well, and reach its beginning.
23. ACCEPTING THE IRREVOCABLE
Nature’s way is to say but little; high winds are made still with the turn of the tide, and rarely last all morning (nor heavy rains all day). Therefore, when talking, remember also to be silent and still. He who follows the natural way is always one with the Tao. He who is virtuous may experience virtue, while he who loses the natural way is easily lost himself. He who is at one with the Tao is at one with nature, and virtue always exists for he who has virtue. To accept the irrevocable is to let go of desire. He who does not have trust in others should not himself be trusted.
19. RETURNING TO NATURALNESS
It is better merely to live one’s life, realizing one’s potential, rather than wishing for sanctification. He who lives in filial piety and love has no need of ethical teaching. When cunning and profit are renounced, stealing and fraud will disappear. But ethics and kindness (and even wisdom) are insufficient in themselves. Better by far to see the simplicity of raw silk’s beauty and the uncarved block, to be one with oneself and with one’s brother. It is better by far to be one with the Tao, developing selflessness, tempering desire, removing the wish, but being compassionate.
25. THE CREATIVE PRINCIPLE OF TAO
The creative principle unifies the inner and external worlds. It does not depend on time or space. It is ever still, and yet in motion; thereby, it creates all things, and is therefore called “the creative and the absolute”; its ebb and its flow extend to infinity. We describe the Tao as being great; we describe the universe as great; nature too, we describe as great; and man himself is great. Man’s laws should follow natural laws, just as nature gives rise to physical laws, while following from universal law, which follows the Tao.
21. FINDING THE ESSENCE OF TAO
The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao. How it achieves without contriving! The essence of Tao is dark and mysterious, having itself no image or form. Yet through its non-being are found image and form. The essence of the Tao is deep and unfathomable, yet it may be known by not trying to know.
28. RETAINING INTEGRITY
While developing creativity, also cultivate receptivity. Retain the mind like that of a child, which flows like running water. When considering any thing, do not lose its opposite. When thinking of the finite, do not forget infinity; act with honor, but retain humility. By acting according to the way of the Tao, set others an example. By retaining the integrity of the inner and external worlds, true selfhood is maintained, and the inner world is made fertile.
22. YIELDING TO MAINTAIN INTEGRITY
Yield, and maintain integrity. To bend is to be upright; to be empty is to be full. Those who have little have much to gain, but those who have much may be confused by possessions. The wise man embraces the all encompassing; he is unaware of himself, and so has brilliance; not defending himself, he gains distinction; not seeking fame, he receives recognition; not making false claims, he does not falter; and not being quarrelsome, he is in conflict with no one. This is why it was said by
29. TAKING NO ACTION
The external world is fragile, and he who meddles with its natural way risks causing damage to himself. He who tries to grasp it,
The Tao Te Ching
thereby loses it. It is natural for things to change — sometimes being ahead, sometimes behind. There are times when even breathing may be difficult, whereas its natural state is easy. Sometimes one is strong, and sometimes weak, sometimes healthy, and sometimes sick, sometimes first, and at other times behind. The sage does not try to change the world by force, for he knows that force results in force. He avoids extremes and excesses, and does not become complacent.
wasted away. The wise leader knows his actions must be without the use of forced energy. He knows that more is still required, for he also knows that he must act without deliberate intent, of having no intention. To act without contrived intent is to act without contriving, and is the way of nature, and so is the way of the Tao.
38. THE CONCERNS OF THE GREAT
A truly good man is unaware of the good deeds he performs. Conversely, a foolish man must try continuously to be good. A good man seems to do little or naught, yet he leaves nothing undone. A foolish man must always strive, while leaving much undone. The man who is truly wise and kind leaves nothing to be done, but he who only acts according to his nation’s law leaves many things undone. A disciplinarian wanting something done rolls up his sleeves, enforcing it with violence. It may be that goodness still remains, even when the natural way is lost, and that kindness still exists when goodness is forgotten. It may be that justice still remains when the people are no longer kind, and, when this is lost, that ritual still remains. However, ritual may be performed only as an act of faith, and may be the beginning of confusion, for even divination and the such are but the flowery trappings of the Tao, and are the beginning of great folly. He who is truly great does not upon the surface dwell, but on what lies beneath. It is said that the fruit is his concern, rather than the flower. Each must decide what it might be he seeks — the flowery trapping, which comes to summer fullness first, or the fruit which is beneath.
30. A CAVEAT AGAINST VIOLENCE
When leading by the way of the Tao, abominate the use of force, for it causes resistance, and loss of strength, showing the Tao has not been followed well. Achieve results, but not through violence, for it is against the natural way, and damages both others’ and one’s own true self. The harvest is destroyed in the wake of a great war, and weeds grow in the fields in the wake of the army. The wise leader achieves results, but does not glory in them, is not proud of his victories, and does not boast of them. He knows that boasting is not the natural way, and that he who goes against that way will fail in his endeavors.
32. IF THE TAO WERE To Be OBSERVED
The Tao is eternal, but does not have fame; like the uncarved block, its worth seems small, though its value to man is beyond all measure. Were it definable, it could then be used to obviate conflict, and the need to teach the way of the Tao; all men would abide in the peace of the Tao; sweet dew would descend to nourish the earth. When the Tao is divided, there is a need for names, for, like the block that is carved, its parts then are seen. By stopping in time from torment and conflict, strife is defeated, and danger averted. The people then seek the wisdom of Tao, just as all rivers flow to the great sea.
40. BEING AND NOT BEING
The motion of nature is cyclic and returning. Its way is to yield, for to yield is to become. All things are born of being; being is born of non-being.
43. AT ONE WITH TAO
Only the soft overcomes the hard, by yielding, bringing it to peace. Even where there is no space, that which has no substance enters in. Through these things is shown the value of the natural way. The wise man understands full well that wordless teaching can take place, and that actions should occur without the wish for self-advancement.
37. THE EXERCISE OF LEADERSHIP
The way of nature is not contrived, yet nothing which is required is left undone. Observing nature, the wise leader knows this, and replaces desire with dispassion, thus saving that energy, otherwise spent, which has not been
UNIT 4 55. MYSTERIOUS VIRTUE
He who has virtue is like a newborn child, free from attack by those who dwell in the way of nature, the way of the Tao. The bones of the newborn child are soft, and his muscles supple, but his grip is firm; he is whole, though not knowing he was born of the creative and receptive way. The way of nature is in the child, so even when he shouts all day, his throat does not grow hoarse or dry. From constancy, there develops harmony, and from harmony, enlightenment. It is unwise to rush from here to there. To hold one’s breath causes the body strain; exhaustion follows when too much energy is used, for this is not the natural way. He who is in opposition to the Tao does not live his natural years.
46. MODERATING DESIRE AND AMBITION
When the way of nature is observed, all things serve their function — horses are drawing carts and pulling at the plough. But when the natural way is not observed, horses are bred for battle and for war. Desire and wanting cause discontent, while he who knows sufficiency more easily has what he requires.
51. THE NOURISHMENT OF THE TAO
All physical things arise from the principle which is absolute, the principle that is the natural way. All living things are formed by being and shaped by their environment, growing if nourished well by virtue, the being born from nonbeing. All natural things respect the Tao, giving honor to its virtue, although the Tao does not expect (nor look for) honor or respect. The virtue of the natural way is that all things are born of it; it nourishes and comforts them; it develops, shelters and cares for them, protecting them from harm. The Tao creates, not claiming credit, and guides without interfering.
With natural justice, people must be ruled, and if war be waged, strategy and tactics used. To master one’s self, one must act without cunning. The greater the number of laws and restrictions, the poorer the people who inhabit the land. The sharper the weapons of battle and war, the greater the troubles besetting the land. The greater the cunning with which people are ruled, the stranger the things that occur in the land. The harder the rules and regulations, the greater the number of those who will steal. The sage, therefore, does not contrive in order to bring about reform, but teaches the people peace of mind, in order that they might enjoy their lives. Having no desires, all he does is natural. Since he teaches selfsufficiency, the people who follow him return to a good, uncomplicated life.
52. RETURNING TO THE SOURCE
The virtue of Tao governs its natural way. Thus, he who is at one with it is one with everything that lives, having freedom from the fear of death. Boasting, and hurrying hither and thither, destroy the enjoyment of a peace filled life. Life is more fulfilled, by far, for he who does not have desire, for he who does not have desire has no need of boasting. Learn to see the insignificant and small, grow in wisdom and develop insight into that which is irrevocable. Do not try to fight, and so be saved from harm.
63. BEGINNING AND COMPLETING
Act without contriving, work naturally, and taste the tasteless. Magnify the small, increase the few, and reward bitterness with care. Seek the simple in the complex, and achieve greatness in small things. It is the way of nature that even difficult things are done with ease, and great acts made up of smaller deeds. The sage achieves greatness by small deeds multiplied. Promises easily made are most easily broken, and acting with insufficient care causes subsequent trouble. The sage confronts problems as they arise, so that they do not trouble him.
When temptation arises to leave the Tao, banish temptation and stay with the Tao. When the court has adornments in profusion, the fields are full of weeds, and the granaries are bare. It is not the way of nature to carry a sword, nor to over-adorn oneself, nor to have more than a sufficiency of fine food and drink. He who has more possessions than he can use deprives someone who could use them well.
The Tao Te Ching
67. THE THREE PRECIOUS ATTRIBUTES
Those who follow the natural way are different from others in three respects: They have great mercy and economy, and the courage not to compete. From mercy there comes courage; from economy, generosity; and from humility, willingness to lead from behind. It is the way of sickness to shun the merciful, and to acclaim only heroic deeds, to abandon economy, and to be selfish. They are sick, who are not humble, but try always to be first. Only he who is compassionate can show true bravery, and, in defending, show great strength. Compassion is the means by which mankind may be guarded and saved, for heaven arms with compassion those whom it would not see destroyed.
to be as an unskilled carpenter who cuts his hand when trying to cut wood.
76. AGAINST TRUSTING IN STRENGTH
Man is born gentle and supple. At death, his body is brittle and hard. Living plants are tender and filled with life-giving sap, but at their death they are withered and dry. The stiff, the hard, and the brittle are harbingers of death, but gentleness and yielding are the signs of that which lives. The warrior who is inflexible condemns himself to death, and the tree is easily broken, if he refuses to yield. Thus, the hard and brittle will surely fall, and the soft and supple will overcome.
71. WITHOUT SICKNESS
To acknowledge one’s ignorance shows strength of personality, but to ignore wisdom is a sign of weakness. To be sick of sickness is a sign of good health; therefore, the wise man grows sick of sickness, and sick of being sick of sickness, until he is sick no more.
81. MANIFESTING SIMPLICITY
The truth is not always beautiful, nor beautiful words the truth. Those who have virtue have no need of argument for its own sake, for they know that argument is of no avail. Those who have knowledge of the natural way do not train themselves in cunning, while those who use cunning to rule their lives, and the lives of others, are not knowledgeable of the Tao, nor of natural happiness. The sage seeks not to have a store of things or knowledge, for he knows that the less of these he has, the more he has, and that the more he gives, the greater his abundance. The way of the sage is pointed, but does not harm. The way of the sage is to work without cunning.
74. USURPING THE TAO
If the people are not afraid of death, they have no fear of threats of death. If early death is common in the land, and if death is meted out as punishment, the people do not fear to break the law. To be the executioner in such a land as this is
Questions for The Tao Te Ching:
1. How does one find the Tao? 2. Why is simplicity better than complexity? 3. Why can’t words accurately describe the Tao? 4. Why do Taoists avoid seeking titles and ranks? 5. Are Taoists leaders or followers? 6. How can you justify the Taoist belief of “constant change”?
7. What is the relationship between the Tao and eternity? 8. What is the relationship between the self and the Tao? 9. How does Taoism often prioritize the feminine forces over the masculine? 10. How does one become “one with Nature”? 11. What does Lao Tzu say about violence and force? 12. What is the relationship between laws and theft? 13. What role does trickery play in Taoism? 14. Summarize a Taoist’s outlook on life. 15. Locate examples of the following Taoist concepts: Wu wei — P’u — T’ai Hsu — Tz’u —
The Analects of Confucius
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
1:16 Confucius said: “I am not bothered by the fact that I am unknown. I am bothered when I do not know others.” 2:4 Confucius said: “At fifteen my heart was set on learning; at thirty I stood firm; at forty I had no more doubts; at fifty I knew the mandate of heaven; at sixty my ear was obedient; at seventy I could follow my heart’s desire without transgressing the norm.” 5:26 Yen Yü an and Tzu Lu were by the Master’s side. He said to them: “Why don’t each of you tell me of your aspirations?” Tzu Lu said, “I would like to have wagons, horses and light fur coats to give to my friends, and if they damaged them, not to get angry.” Yen Yü an said, “I would like not to be proud of my good points and not to show off my works.” Tzu Lu asked, “What are your wishes, Teacher?”
Confucius said: “I would like to give comfort to the aged, trust to my friends, and nurturance to the young.” 7:1 Confucius said: “I am a transmitter, rather than an original thinker. I trust and enjoy the teachings of the ancients.” 7:2 Confucius said: “Keeping silent and thinking, studying without satiety, teaching others without weariness: these things come natural to me.” 7:3 Confucius said: “Having virtue but not cultivating it; studying but not sifting; hearing what is just but not following; not being able to change wrongdoing — these are the things that make me uncomfortable.” 7:4 During the Master’s leisure time he was relaxed and enjoyed himself. 7:12 The things with which the Master was cautious were fasting, war, and sickness. 7:16 Confucius said: “If I could add 50 years to my life, I would study the Changes and become free of error.” 7:19 Confucius said: “I was not born with wisdom. I love the ancient teachings and have worked hard to attain to their level.” 7:20 The master never discussed strange phenomena, physical exploits, disorder or ghost stories. 7:22 Confucius said: “When three men are walking together, there is one who can be my teacher. I pick out people’s good points and follow them. When I see their bad points, I correct them in myself.” 7:24 The Master taught four things: culture, correct action, loyalty and trust. 7:26 When the Master went fishing, he did not use a net; when he hunted, he would not shoot at a perched bird. 7:33 Confucius said: “I dare not claim to be a sage or a humane man. But I strive for these without being disappointed, and I teach without becoming weary. This is what can be said of me.”
Kung Hsi Hua said, “It is exactly these qualities that cannot be learned by the disciples.” 7:37 The Master was mild yet strict, authoritative yet not mean, courteous yet relaxed. 9:1 The master never spoke about advantage in connection with destiny or in connection with humaneness. 9:4 There were four things the master had eliminated from himself: imposing his will, arbitrariness, stubbornness and egotism. 9:6 A high minister asked Tzu Kung: “If your master is really a sage, why does he know so many skills?” Tzu Kung answered, “Heaven has granted him sagehood as well as diverse skills.” The master, hearing about this, said: “What does the minister know about me? As a youth my family was poor, so I had to learn many worldly skills. Is skillfulness necessary for the Superior Man? Of course it isn’t.” Lao quoted Confucius as having said: “I didn’t have an official position; therefore, I developed various skills.” 9:7 Confucius said: “Do I possess knowledge? No, I do not possess it. Yet if even simple men come to ask a question of me, I clear my mind completely and thoroughly investigate the matter from one end to the other.” 9:9 If the master saw someone in mourning, or in full ceremonial dress, or a blind person, even if they were young, he would collect himself. If he had to pass by them, he would do it quickly. 10:1 When Confucius was in his village, he was quietly sincere, as if he could not speak. When he was in the ancestral temple or the court, he was eloquent, but extremely cautious. 10:2 When he was waiting at court, in speaking with the great officers of the lower grade, he spoke freely, but in a straightforward manner. In speaking with those of the higher grade, he did so blandly, but precisely. When the ruler was present, his manner displayed respectful uneasiness. It was grave, but self-possessed. 10:6 This model of a Superior Man did not use a deep purple, or a puce color, in the ornaments
proportion for the rice. It was only in wine that he laid down no limit for himself, but he did not allow himself to be confused by it. He did not partake of wine and dried meat bought in the market. He was never without ginger when he ate. He did not eat much. 10:10 When eating, he did not converse. When in bed, he did not speak. 10:12 If his mat was not straight, he did not sit on it. 10:24 In bed, he did not lie like a corpse. At home, he did not put on any formal deportment. 13:10 Confucius said: “If any of the rulers were to employ me, I would have control of the situation within a month, and would have everything straightened out within three years.” 14:32 Confucius said: “I don’t worry about being unknown; I worry about my lack of ability.” 15:2 Confucius said: “Ssu, do you think that I am a person who studies widely and memorizes all of it?” Ssu replied, “It seems that way. But perhaps not?” Confucius said, “The answer is no. I penetrate all with one.”
of his dress. Even in his undress, he did not wear anything of a red or reddish color. In warm weather, he had a single garment either of coarse or fine texture, but he wore it displayed over an inner garment. Over lamb’s fur he wore a garment of black; over fawn’s fur one of white; and over fox’s fur one of yellow. The fur robe of his undress was long, with the right sleeve short. He required his sleeping dress to be half as long again as his body. When staying at home, he used thick furs of the fox or the badger. When he put off mourning, he wore all the appendages of the girdle. His undergarment, except when it was required to be of the curtain shape, was made of silk cut narrow above and wide below. He did not wear lamb’s fur or a black cap on a visit of condolence. On the first day of the month he put on his court robes, and presented himself at court. 10:8 He did not dislike to have his rice finely cleaned, nor to have his mincemeat cut quite small. He did not eat rice which had been injured by heat or damp and turned sour, nor fish or flesh which was gone. He did not eat what was discolored, or what was of a bad flavor, nor anything which was ill-cooked or was not in season. He did not eat meat which was not cut properly, nor what was served without its proper sauce. Though there might be a large quantity of meat, he would not allow what he took to exceed the due
The Superior Man (chü n-tzu)
More than any other idea, Confucius describes and promotes his vision of the Superior Man, a common English translation for the Chinese term chü n-tzu, which originally means “Son of a Prince.” Though sometimes used strictly in its original sense, it also refers to a person who has made significant progress in the Way (Tao) of self-cultivation, by practicing righteousness, by loving treatment of parents, respect for elders, honesty with friends, etc. Though the chü n-tzu is clearly a highly advanced human being, he is still distinguished from the category of sage (sheng-jen), who is, in the Analects more of a “divine being,” usually a model from great antiquity. One might want to compare the term “Superior Man” to the Buddhist bodhisattva, in that both are the models for the tradition; both indicate a very high stage of human development as technical terms, yet both may be used colloquially to refer to a noble and pious individual. Through one’s efforts at practicing at the function of humaneness, one may enhance and develop one’s humaneness, until one may be called a Superior Man, or even better, a “humane person.” In the Analects, to be called a “humane person” by the Master is an extremely high evaluation, rarely acknowledged of any human being.
The Superior Man, however, still makes mistakes. The difference between him and other people is that he rectifies his errors as soon as he becomes aware of them and strives to avoid future missteps. Additionally, no matter how bright, clear or sincere you are, it cannot show through properly if you don’t cultivate your manners and the various arts of expression. This emphasis on polishing the outside is something that we find in the Analects more than in other texts.
1:8 Confucius said: “If the Superior Man is not ‘heavy,’ then he will not inspire awe in others. If he is not learned, then he will not be on firm ground. He takes loyalty and good faith to be of primary importance, and has no friends who are not of equal (moral) caliber. When he makes a mistake, he doesn’t hesitate to correct it.” 1:14 Confucius said: “When the Superior Man eats he does not try to stuff himself; at rest he does not seek perfect comfort; he is diligent in his work and careful in speech. He avails himself to people of the Tao and thereby corrects himself. This is the kind of person of whom you can say, ‘he loves learning.’” 2:12 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is not a utensil.” 2:13 Tzu Kung asked about the character of the Superior Man. Confucius said: “First he practices what he preaches, and then he follows it.” 4:10 Confucius said: “When the Superior Man deals with the world he is not prejudiced for or against anything. He does what is right.” 4:11 Confucius said: “The Superior Man cares about virtue; the inferior man cares about material things. The Superior Man seeks discipline; the inferior man seeks favors.” 4:16 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is aware of righteousness; the inferior man is aware of advantage.” 4:24 Confucius said: “The Superior Man desires to be hesitant in speech, but sharp in action.” 5:16 Confucius said that Tzu Chan had four characteristics of the Superior Man: In his private conduct he was courteous; in serving superiors he was respectful; in providing for the people he was kind; in dealing with the people he was just.
6:25 Confucius said: “The Superior Man who studies culture extensively and disciplines himself with propriety can keep from error.” 7:36 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is always at ease with himself. The inferior man is always anxious.” 8:4 While Tseng Tzu was ill, Meng Cheng Tzu went to see him. Tseng Tzu said, “When a bird is about to die, its song is melancholy. When a man is about to die, his words are excellent. The Way prized by the Superior Man has three aspects: “In his behavior and deportment he avoids brashness and arrogance. “When paying attention to his facial expressions he is guided by honesty. “When speaking, he avoids vulgarity and slander. As far as attending to the sacrificial tables — there are specialists hired for these jobs.” 8:6 Tseng Tzu said: “A man who can be entrusted with the care of the crown prince, who can take responsibility for a district of 100 li, and who can handle a major crisis without losing touch with himself — Is he a Superior Man? He certainly is a Superior Man.” 9:13 The Master wanted to stay with the Nine Tribes of the East. Someone said, “They are unruly! Why do you want to do such a thing?” Confucius said: “If a Superior Man dwells with them, how could they be unruly?” 11:20 Confucius said: “Someone may have profound theories — but is he a Superior Man, or is he only superficially impressive?” 12:4 Ssu Ma Niu asked about the qualities of the Superior Man. Confucius said: “The Superior Man is free from anxiety and fear.” Niu asked, “Free from anxiety and fear? Is this all it takes to be a Superior Man?” Confucius replied: “If you reflect within yourself and find nothing to be ashamed of, how could you have anxiety or fear?”
14:45 Tzu Lu asked about the qualities of the Superior Man. Confucius said: “He cultivates himself by comforting others.” “Is that all?” “He cultivates himself by comforting everyone. Now, this is something that even Yao and Shun found difficult.” 15:17 Confucius said: “The Superior Man takes righteousness as the essence. He actualizes it through propriety, demonstrates it in humility, develops it by truthfulness. This is the Superior Man!” 15:18 Confucius said: “The Superior Man suffers from his own lack of ability, not from lack of recognition.” 15:19 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is concerned about the kind of reputation he will have after he passes away.” 15:20 Confucius said: “The Superior Man seeks within himself. The inferior man seeks within others.” 15:21 Confucius said: “The Superior Man strives but does not wrangle. He has friends, but doesn’t belong to a clique.” 15:22 Confucius said: “The Superior Man does not promote a man because of his words, and does not disregard the words because of the man.” 15:31 Confucius said: “The Superior Man indulges in the Tao and does not indulge in his stomach. Doesn’t agriculture have the avoidance of starvation as its motivating factor, and study have enrichment as its motivating factor? The Superior Man is concerned about following the Tao, and is not concerned about avoiding poverty.” 15:33 Confucius said: “The Superior Man cannot act within the framework of lesser wisdom, but he can handle major affairs. The inferior man cannot handle major affairs, but he can act within the framework of lesser wisdom.” 15:36 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is precise, but not rigid.” 16:7 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is on guard against three things:
12:8 Chi Tzu Chang said, “All the Superior Man needs is to have his substance. Why should he need external refinement?” Tzu Kung said, “Amazing! You speak about the Superior Man, but a team of horses couldn’t keep up with your tongue. Refinement is substance; substance is refinement! When the hair is taken off the hide of a tiger or leopard, it looks the same as the hide of a dog or sheep.” 12:16 Confucius said: “The Superior Man develops people’s good points, not their bad points. The inferior man does the opposite.” 13:23 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is in harmony, but does not follow the crowd. The inferior man follows the crowd, but is not in harmony.” 13:25 Confucius said: “The reason that the Superior Man is easy to work for, but difficult to please, is this: if you try to please him by devious means he will not be happy. And in his employment of people, he gives them work according to their ability. The inferior man is difficult to work for, but easy to please. Even if you have used devious means to please him, he will still be happy. And in his employment of people, he tries to squeeze everything out of them that he can.” 13:26 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is selfconfident without being arrogant. The inferior man is arrogant and lacks selfconfidence.” 14:7 Confucius said: “There are some cases where a Superior Man may not be a humane man, but there are no cases where an inferior man is a humane man.” 14:24 Confucius said: “The Superior Man penetrates (ta) that which is above. The inferior man penetrates that which is below.” 14:28 Tseng Tzu said: “The Superior Man doesn’t worry about those things that are outside of his control.” 14:29 Confucius said: “The Superior Man is humble in his speech, but superb in his actions.”
(1) When he is a young man and his physical energies are not yet settled, he is on guard against lust. (2) When he is mature and his physical energy is solid, he is on guard against being drawn into a fight. (3) When he is old, and his physical power is weakened, he is on guard not to cling to his attainments.” 16:8 Confucius said: “The Superior Man stands in awe of three things: (1) He is in awe of the decree of Heaven. (2) He is in awe of great men. (3) He is in awe of the words of the sages. The inferior man does not know the decree of heaven, takes great men lightly, and laughs at the words of the sages.” 16:10 Confucius said: “There are nine patterns which are awarenesses of the Superior Man. In seeing, he is aware of clarity; in listening, he is aware of sharpness; in faces, is aware of warmth; with behavior he is aware of courtesy; in speech, sincerity; in service, reverence; in doubt, he is inclined to question; when angry, he is aware of the inherent difficulties; when he sees an opportunity for gain, he thinks of what would be righteous.” 17:23 Tzu Lu said: “Does the Superior Man esteem bravery?” Confucius said: “The Superior Man puts righteousness first. If the Superior Man is brave without righteousness, he will be rebellious. If the inferior man is brave
without righteousness, he will become an outlaw.” 17:24 Tzu Kung asked, “Does the Superior Man also have things that he hates?” Confucius said: “He does. He hates those who advertise the faults of others. He hates those who abide in lowliness and slander the great. He hates those who are bold without propriety. He hates those who are convinced of their own perfection, and closed off to anything else. How about you? What do you hate?” Tzu Kung said, “I hate those who take a little bit of clarity as wisdom; I hate those who take disobedience as courage; I hate those who take disclosing people’s weak points to be straightforwardness.” 19:7 Tzu Hsia said: “The artisans stay in their shops in order to accomplish their works. The Superior Man studies in order to actualize his Tao.” 19:8 Tzu Hsia said: “The inferior man always glosses over his errors.” 19:9 Tzu Hsia said: “The Superior Man has three appearances. From afar, he appears majestic; close up, he seems warm; listening to his speech, he seems polished.” 19:21 Tzu Kung said: “The faults of the Superior Man are like the eclipses of the sun and moon — everyone sees them. But when he corrects them, everyone looks up to him.”
Kindness to Parents (Hsiao)
In terms of the development of the character of the human being, the most fundamental practice is that of “filial piety,” the English translation of the Chinese hsiao, which means to love, to respect and to take care of one’s parents. Confucius believed that if people cultivated this innate tendency well, all other natural forms of human goodness would be positively affected by it.
1:6 Confucius said: “A young man should serve his parents at home and be respectful to elders outside his home. He should be earnest and truthful, loving all, but become intimate with humaneness. After doing this, if he has energy to spare, he can study literature and the arts.” 1:11 Confucius said: “When your father is alive, observe his will. When your father is dead,
observe his former actions. If, for three years, you do not change from the ways of your father, you can be called a ‘real son’ (hsiao).” 4:18 Confucius said: “When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But, if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect
4:19 Confucius said: “While your parents are alive, it is better not to travel far away. If you do travel, you should have a precise destination.”
for them and don’t distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.”
Spiritual Growth (Shih)
The title shih is usually translated into English as either “knight” or “scholar.” While the shih of later Chinese history is more definitely a scholar than a knight, in the Analects, what Confucius is referring to is a level of spiritual/moral development, as well as academic and martial cultivation which is clearly above that of the average person. Thus, we can understand the shih to be a person who is well on the way toward becoming a “Superior Man,” but is not quite there yet. In this section, “excellence” is a translation of the Chinese word ta, which has such a range of meaning in Classical East Asian languages. Its most basic meaning is to penetrate, permeate, pierce, or pass through. It is used in religious and philosophical works to describe a consciousness that is able to penetrate all things and apprehend them.
11:15 Tzu Kung asked who was the most worthy between Shih and Shang.* The Master said, “Shih goes too far, Shang does not go far enough.” “Then is Shih superior?” The Master said, “Going too far is the same as not going far enough.” (NOTE: “Shang” is an elusive Chinese character, generally accepted to mean “the telling of ritual” or “above.”) 12:20 Tzu Chang asked what a shih should be like, that he may be called “excellent.” Confucius said: “What do you mean by “excellent?” Tzu Chang replied, “It means to be famous in your town, and famous in your clan.” Confucius said: “This is fame, not excellence. One who is excellent has an upright character and loves justice. If you listen carefully to what people say, observe their facial expressions and are careful to be humble to them, you will be excellent in your town, and excellent in your clan. As far as ‘fame’ is concerned, if you put on a show of goodness and do otherwise, and are not the least bit bothered in doing so, you will indeed be ‘famous’ in your town and ‘famous’ in your clan.”
13:20 Tzu Kung asked, “What must a man be like to be called a shih?” The Master said: “One who in conducting himself maintains a sense of honor, and who when sent to the four quarters of the world does not disgrace his prince’s commission, may be called a shih.” 13:28 Tzu Lu asked, “What sort of man deserves to be called a shih?” Confucius said: “If you are decisive, kind and gentle, you can be called a shih. With friends, the shih is clear but kind. With his brothers he is gentle.” 14:3 Confucius said: “A shih who is addicted to comfort should not be called a shih.” 15:8 Confucius said: “The determined shih and the humane man will not save their lives if it requires damaging their humaneness. They will even sacrifice themselves to consummate their humaneness.” 19:1 Tzu Chang said: “The shih who is faced with danger can abandon his life — seeing an opportunity for gain, he thinks of righteousness; at rituals he is reverent; and at funerals is sorrowful — he is worth something.”
In Confucian and Taoist thought, the term hsien (“worthy”) means “good, kind, intelligent, courageous,” etc., but it is also a technical term for a person of a high level of moral and intellectual advancement. Generally speaking, it indicates someone who is “almost perfect,” but who is not a “divine being” (a sage). No one is perfect or free from error, ut when someone makes a mistake in a human relationship, we can tell by the type of mistake (and by the person’s way of dealing with it) what her/his true character is like. Some people think that they are successfully hiding the devious plots that are going on in their minds. But as the Doctrine of the Mean teaches this: “The sincerity on the inside shows on the outside.” When someone is deceitful, everyone knows it. Likewise, when someone is good and honest, everyone knows it too.
1:4 Tseng Tzu said, “Each day I examine myself in three ways: in doing things for others, have I been disloyal? In my interactions with friends, have I been untrustworthy? Have not practiced what I have preached?” 2:2 Confucius said: “The 300 verses of the Book of Odes can be summed up in a single phrase: ‘Don’t think in an evil way.’” 2:10 Confucius said: “See a person’s means (of getting things). Observe his motives. Examine that in which he rests. How can a person conceal his character? How can a person conceal his character?” 4:7 Confucius said: “People err according to their own level. It is by observing a person’s mistakes that you can know his/her goodness.” 4:17 Confucius said: “When you see a good person, think of becoming like her/him. When you see someone not so good, reflect on your own weak points.”
4:25 Confucius said: “If you are virtuous, you will not be lonely. You will always have friends.” 9:17 Confucius said: “I have never seen one who loves virtue as much as he loves sex.” 9:24 Confucius said: “Base yourself in loyalty and trust. Don’t be companion with those who are not your moral equal. When you make a mistake, don’t hesitate to correct it.” 12:21 Fan Chih, while strolling with the Master among the Rain Dance altars, said, “May I ask how to heighten virtue, overcome wickedness, and resolve delusion?” The Master said: “An excellent question! If you take care of your responsibilities before you seek your own gain, won’t this heighten your virtue? If you attack your own evil rather than the evil of others, won’t you overcome wickedness? If, because of a moment’s anger, you endanger your own life, as well as that of your parents, is this not delusion?” 15:3 Confucius said: “Yu, those who understand virtue are few and far between.”
The Golden Rule
12:2 Chung Kung asked about the meaning of humaneness. The Master said: “Go out of your home as if you were receiving an important guest. Employ the people as if you were assisting at a great ceremony. What you don’t want done to yourself, don’t do to others. Live in your town without stirring up resentments, and live in your household without stirring up resentments.” Chung Kung said, “Although I am not so smart, I will apply myself to this teaching.” 15:23 Tzu Kung asked: “Is there a single concept that we can take as a guide for the actions of our whole life?” Confucius said, “What about ‘fairness’? What you don’t like done to yourself, don’t do to others.”
Study and Knowledge (HsÜ Eh)
In the Confucian tradition, learning (hsü eh) is more than intellectual, academic study, or the accumulation of facts (although this aspect is included). It is the process of manifesting one’s humaneness by developing oneself in self-reflection through the various types of human relationships. If a student is not seriously and genuinely concerned about the deeper questions of life, it is very hard to teach her/him anything of value. Confucian “learning” is always fully connected to selftransformation.
2:15 Confucius said: “To study and not think is a waste; to think and not study is dangerous.” 2:17 Confucius said: “Yu, shall I teach you about knowledge? What you know, you know; what you don’t know, you don’t know. This is knowledge.” 5:15 Tzu Kung asked: “How did Kung Wen Tzu get the title wen?” Confucius said: “He was diligent and loved to study. He was also unashamed to ask questions to his inferiors. Therefore, he got the name wen.”
(NOTE: wen = “learned, literary, refined.” King Wen was traditionally recognized as a teacher of culture to the ancient Chinese.)
8:17 Confucius said: “Study as if you have not reached your goal — as if you were afraid of losing what you have.” 9:23 Confucius said: “If I enjoy without inquiring deeply, and follow them without changing myself, how can I say that I have understood them?” 12:14 Confucius said: “Studying liberal arts broadly, and disciplining yourself with propriety, it is easy to stay on the narrow path.” 14:25 Confucius said: “The ancient scholars studied for their own improvement. Modern scholars study to impress others.” 15:15 Confucius said: “If a man doesn’t continually question, ‘What is it? What is it?’ then I don’t know what I can do for him.” 15:30 Confucius said: “I have spent a whole day without eating and a whole night without sleeping in order to think — but I got nothing out of it. Thinking cannot compare with studying.” 15:38 Confucius said: “In teaching people, there is no discrimination (of class, type, etc.)” 17:8 Confucius said: “Yu, have you heard the six phrases about the six foils?” Yu answered that he hadn’t. “Then stay a moment,” Confucius replied, “and I will tell you: “If you love humaneness, but don’t like to study, then you will be foiled by ignorance. “If you love wisdom, but don’t like to study, then you will be foiled by aimlessness. “If you love sincerity, but don’t like to study, then you will be foiled by deception. “If you love honesty, but don’t like to study, you will be foiled by back-stabbing.
5:28 Confucius said: “In a hamlet of ten families there must be someone as loyal and trustworthy as me. But I doubt there will be someone as fond of study.” 6:3 The Duke of Ai asked which disciple loved to study. Confucius answered: “There was Yen Hui. He loved to study, he didn’t transfer his anger to the wrong person, and he didn’t repeat his mistakes. Unfortunately, he died young. Since then I have not yet met anyone who loves to study the way he did.” 6:18 Confucius said: “Knowing something is not as good as loving it; loving something is not as good as delighting in it.” 7:8 Confucius said: “If a student is not eager, I won’t teach him. If he is not struggling with the truth, I won’t reveal it to him. If I lift up one corner and he can’t come back with the other three, I won’t do it again.” 8:12 Confucius said: “It is quite rare to see someone who applies himself to the study of something for three years without having a noticeable result.”
“If you love boldness, but don’t like to study, you will be foiled by your own lack of control. “If you love persistence, but don’t like to study, you will be foiled by your own adamancy.” 19:5 Tzu Hsia said, “Someone who is aware every day of what he lacks, and every month does not forget what he has developed, can be called ‘a lover of learning.’”
19:6 Tzu Hsia said, “Studying widely and thickening your will, questioning precisely and reflecting on things at hand — humaneness lies in this.” 19:13 Tzu Hsia said, “After you have accomplished your job, then study. After you have accomplished your studies, then get a job.”
Humaneness and Li
The Chinese term li is a word that has a wide spectrum of meaning in classical Chinese thought, and is difficult to translate by a single word. Its most basic meaning is that of “ritual” or “ceremony,” referring to the rituals of early East Asian society. The term li however, has, in the Analects, a much broader meaning than ritual, since it can also refer to the many smaller “ritualized” behavior patterns involved in day-to-day human interactions. This would include proper speech and body language according to status, age, sex — thus, “manners.” In this sense, li means any action that is proper or appropriate to the situation. For instance, in the modern context, someone might go up to his friend and slap him on the back, but we certainly wouldn’t to that to a professor, a dentist, or a random student in the class. In the Analects, li, as a general category, is clearly defined in a relationship with humaneness, where humaneness is the inner, substantial goodness of the human being, and li is the functioning of humaneness in the manifest world. That is to say, li is righteousness, filial piety, fraternal respect, familial affection, etc.
4:1 Confucius said: “As for a neighborhood, it is its humaneness that makes it beautiful. If you choose to live in a place that lacks humaneness, how can you grow in wisdom?” 4:3 Confucius said: “Only the humane person is able to really like others or to really dislike them.” 4:4 Confucius said: “If you are really committed to humaneness, you will have no evil in you.” 4:5 Confucius said, “Riches and honors are what all men desire. But if they cannot be attained in accordance with the Tao they should not be kept. Poverty and low status are what all men hate. But if they cannot avoided in while staying in accordance with the Tao, you should not avoid them. If a Superior Man departs from humaneness, how can he be worthy of that name? A Superior Man never leaves humaneness for even the time of a single meal. In moments of haste he acts according to it. In times of difficulty or confusion he acts according to it.”
5:5 Someone said, “Yung is a humane man, but he is not sharp enough with his tongue.” Confucius said: “Why does he need to be sharp with his tongue? If you deal with people by smooth talk, you will soon be disliked. I don’t know if Yung is a humane man, but why should he have to be a clever speaker?” 6:5 Confucius said: “Hui could keep his mind on humaneness for three months without lapse. Others are lucky if they can do it for one day out of a month.” 8:10 Confucius said: “A man who enjoys boldness and hates poverty will be rebellious. If a man lacks humaneness and his dissatisfaction reaches an extreme, he will rebel.” 12:3 Ssu Ma Niu asked about the meaning of humaneness. Confucius said: “The humane man is hesitant to speak.” Niu replied, “Are you saying that humaneness is mere hesitancy in speaking?”
15:35 Confucius said: “It is better to value humaneness than to passively follow your teacher.” 17:6 Tzu Chang asked Confucius about humaneness. Confucius said: “If you can practice these five things with all the people, you can be called humane.” Tzu Chang asked what they were. Confucius said: “Courtesy, generosity, honesty, persistence, and kindness. If you are courteous, you will not be disrespected; if you are generous, you will gain everything; if you are honest, people will rely on you; if you are persistent you will get results; if you are kind, you can employ people.”
Confucius replied: “Actualizing it is so difficult, how can you not be hesitant to speak about it?” 13:19 Fan Chih asked about humaneness. Confucius said, “Be naturally courteous, be respectful in working for superiors, and be sincere to people. Even the barbarian tribes cannot do without this.” 15:34 Confucius said: “The people are more in awe of humaneness than water or fire. But I have seen people tread on water or fire and die. I have never seen someone walk the path of humaneness and die.”
Confucius’ message mostly was intended to be heard by governors and other ruling lords. Government figures were especially pressured to uphold the virtues that could be followed by the general public. Scholars of Chinese thought have commonly placed great emphasis on a supposed radical distinction between Confucian “authoritative” government and Taoist laissez-faire government. But numerous Confucian passages such as these suggest of the ruler’s governance by a mere attunement with an inner principle of goodness, without unnecessary external action, quite like the Taoist concept of wu-wei. NOTE: Confucius’ teaching of “usage of the people according to the seasons” is extremely important in an agriculture-based society, where planting, cultivating, or harvesting a certain crop during a certain period of a few days can be critical. During the Warring States periods in China, selfish and aggressive warlords frequently pulled farmers off their land at important farming times to use them for public works projects, or have them fight in the ruler’s personal wars.
1:5 Confucius said: “If you would govern a state of a thousand chariots (a small-to-middle-sized state), you must pay strict attention to business, be true to your word, be economical in expenditure and love the people. You should use them according to the seasons.” 2:1 Confucius said: “If you govern with the power of your virtue, you will be like the North Star. It just stays in its place while all the other stars position themselves around it.” 2:20 Chi K’ang Tzu asked: “How can I make the people reverent and loyal, so they will work positively for me?” Confucius said: “Approach them with dignity, and they will be reverent. Be filial and compassionate, and they will be loyal. Promote the able and teach the incompetent, and they will work positively for you.”
2:21 Someone asked Confucius: “Why are you not involved in government?” Confucius said: “What does the Book of History say about filial piety? ‘Righteous, by being a good son and friendly to one’s brothers and sisters, you can have an effect on government.” 6:12 Tzu Yu became the governor of Wu Chang. The Master asked him: “Have you got any good men working for you?” The governor answered: “I have Tan-t’ai Mie-ming, who never takes short cuts in his work and does not come to my office unless he has real business to discuss.” 7:10 Tzu Lu said, “If you had to handle a major army, who would you choose to assist you?” Confucius said: “I would not select the kind of man who likes to wrestle with tigers or cross rivers on foot, who can die without a second
thought (like Tzu Lu). It must be someone who approaches his business with caution, who likes to plan things well and see them to their completion.” 8:2 Confucius said: “Courtesy without propriety is wasted energy. Caution without propriety is timidity. Boldness without propriety is recklessness. Straightforward-ness without propriety is rudeness. When the ruler is kind to those who are close to him, the people will be moved toward humaneness. If he does not forget his old friends, the people, too, will not be fickle.” 8:20 Shun, with five ministers, was able to successfully govern the empire. King Wu said, “Altogether I have ten ministers.” Confucius said: “Their ability is the issue. Don’t you think so? When the T’ang and Wu dynasties combined, they had as many ministers as you, with a woman and nine men. King Wen (of the Chou) controlled twothirds of the empire, and, with this, served the Yin. Indeed, the virtue of Chou can be called the epitome of virtue!” 12:7 Tzu Kung asked about government. The Master said: “Enough food, enough weapons, and the confidence of the people.” Tzu Kung said, “Suppose you had no alternative but to give up one of these three, which one would be let go of first?” The Master said: “Weapons.” Tzu Kung said, “What if you had to give up one of the remaining two? Which one would it be?” The Master said, “Food. From ancient times, death has come to all men, but a people without confidence in its rulers will not stand.” 12:9 Duke Ai asked Yu Zo, “It has been a year of famine and there are not enough revenues to run the state. What should I do?” Zo said, “Why can’t you use a 10% tax?” The Duke answered, “I can’t even get by on a 20% tax. How am I going to do it on 10%?” Zo said, “If the people have enough, what prince can be in want? If the people are in want, then how can the prince be satisfied?” 12:11 Duke Ching of Ch’i asked Confucius about government. Confucius replied: “Let the ruler
be a ruler, the minister be a minister, the father be a father, and the son be a son.” The Duke said, “Excellent! Indeed, if the ruler is not a ruler, the ministers not ministers, fathers not fathers, and sons not sons, even if I have food, how can I eat it?” 12:19 Chi K’ang Tzu asked Confucius about government, saying, “Suppose I were to kill the unjust in order to advance the just. Would that be all right?” Confucius replied: “In doing government, what is the need of killing? If you desire good, the people will be good. The nature of the Superior Man is like the wind; the nature of the inferior man is like the grass. When the wind blows over the grass, it always bends.” 13:1 Tzu Lu asked about how to govern. Confucius said: “Lead the people and work hard for them.” “Is there anything else?” “Don’t get discouraged.” 13:3 Tzu Lu said, “The ruler of Wei is anticipating your assistance in the admini-stration of his state. What will be your top priority?” Confucius said: “There must be a correction of terminology.” Tzu Lu said, “Are you serious? Why is this so important?” Confucius said: “You are really simple, aren’t you? A Superior Man is cautious about jumping to conclusions about that which he does not know.” “If terminology is not corrected, then what is said cannot be followed. If what is said cannot be followed, then work cannot be accomplished. If work cannot be accomplished, then ritual and music cannot be developed. If ritual and music cannot be developed, then criminal punishments will not be appropriate. If criminal punishments are not appropriate, the people cannot make a move. Therefore, the Superior Man needs to have his terminology applicable to real language, and his speech must accord with his actions. The speech of the Superior Man cannot be indefinite.” 13:11 Confucius said: “If good men were to govern a country for a hundred years, they could overcome cruelty and do away with killing. How true this saying is!”
13:29 Confucius said: “Only when good men have instructed the people for seven years, may they take up arms. To lead untrained people into battle is the same as throwing them away.” 14:4 Confucius said: “When the government is just, you may speak boldly and act boldly. When you have an unjust government, you may act boldly, but be careful of what you say.” 14:21 Confucius said: “If your words are not humble, it will be difficult to put them into action.” 14:23 Tzu Lu asked how to deal with a ruler. Confucius said: “If you have to oppose him, don’t do it by deceit.” 14:36 Someone said, “What do you think of the saying ‘Repay harm with virtue’?” Confucius replied, “Then how will you repay virtue? Repay harm with righteousness and repay virtue with virtue.” 19:10 Tzu Hsia said, “After the ruler has the trust of the people, they will toil for him. If he doesn’t have their trust, they will regard him as oppressive. If they trust him, they will criticize him openly. If they don’t trust him, they will slander him behind his back.”
13:12 Confucius said: “Even if you have the position of kingship, it would still take a generation for humaneness to prevail.” 13:13 Confucius said: “If you can correct yourself, what problem will you have in governing? If you can’t correct yourself, then how can you correct others?” 13:17 Tzu Hsia, who was serving as governor of Chu Fu, asked about government. Confucius said: “Don’t be impatient, and don’t look for small advantages. If you are impatient, you will not be thorough. If you look for small advantages, you will never accomplish anything great.” 13:18 The Duke of Sheh told Confucius, “In my land, there are righteous men. If a father steals a sheep, the son will testify against him.” Confucius said: “The righteous men in my land are different from this. The father conceals the wrongs of his son, and the son conceals the wrongs of his father. This is righteousness!” 13:24 Tzu Kung asked: “What do you think if all the people in town like someone?” “Not too good,” said Confucius. “What if they all hate you?” “Also not too good. It is better if the good people in town like you, and the evil ones hate you.”
11:3 Confucius said: “Hui is no help to me. He simply delights in everything I say.” 12:23 Tzu Kung asked about the way of friendship. Confucius said: “Speak to your friends honestly, and skillfully show them the right path. If you cannot, then stop. Don’t humiliate yourself.” 13:6 Confucius said: “When you have gotten your own life straightened out, things will go well without your giving orders. But if your own life isn’t straightened out, even if you give orders, no one will follow them.” 15:5 Tzu Chang asked about correct behavior. Confucius said: “If your speech is sincere and honest, and your way of carrying yourself is humble and reverent, such behavior will work even if you live among the Southern and Northern barbarians. But if your speech is insincere and dishonest, and your way of carrying yourself is not humble and reverent, then even if you live in your hometown, you will have problems.” 14:5 Confucius said: “The virtuous will certainly have something to say, but those who have something to say are not necessarily virtuous. The humane man is always brave, but the
brave man is not necessarily possessed of humaneness.” 15:26 Confucius said: “Clever words disrupt virtue. Lack of patience in small matters leads to the disruption of great plans.” 15:40 Confucius said: “Speak enough to make the point, and then leave it at that.” 16:6 Confucius said: “There are three common mistakes made by those who are of rank: (1) To speak when there is nothing to be said — this is imprudence.
(2) To be silent when there is something to be said — this is deception. (3) To speak without paying attention to the expression on the person’s face — this is called blindness.” 17:18 Confucius said: “I wish I could avoid talking.” Tzu Kung said, “Master, if you didn’t speak, what would we disciples have to pass on?” Confucius replied: “Does heaven speak? Yet the four seasons continue to change, and all things are born. Does heaven speak?”
4:8 Confucius said: “If I can hear the Tao in the morning, then in the evening I can die content.” 5:21 Confucius said: “When the Tao prevailed in the state, Ning Wu Tzu showed his intelligence. When the Tao declined in the state, he played stupid. Someone might be able to match his intelligence, but no one can match his stupidity.” 6:15 Confucius said: “Who can go out without using the door? So why doesn’t anybody follow the Tao?” 7:6 Confucius said: “Set your aspirations on the Tao, hold to virtue, rely on your humaneness, and relax in the study of the arts.” 15:28 Confucius said: “The human being manifests the Tao. The Tao doesn’t manifest the human being.”
1:12 Yu Tzu said, “In the actual practice of propriety, flexibility is important. This is what the ancient kings did so well — both the greater and the lesser used flexibility. Yet you should be aware: If you understand flexibility and use it, but don’t structure yourself with propriety, things won’t go well.” 3:4 Lin Fang asked about the fundamentals of ritual. Confucius said: “What an excellent question! In ritual, it is better to be frugal than extravagant; in funerals, deep sorrow is better than ease.” 3:16 Confucius said: “In archery, it is not important to pierce through the leather covering of the target, since not all men have the same strength. This is the Way of the ancients.” 3:17 Tzu Kung wanted to do away with the sacrifice of the sheep on the first of the month. Confucius said: “Tz’u, you love the sheep; but I love the ceremony.” 3:21 The Duke of Ai asked Tsai Wo about sacred temple grounds. Tsai Wo said, “The Hsia emperor planted them with pine, the Hsiang people planted them with cypress, and the Chou people planted them with chestnut, thinking to cause people to be in awe of these trees.” Confucius, hearing this, said: “Don’t bother explaining that which has already been done; don’t bother criticizing that which is already gone; don’t bother blaming that which is already past.” 4:12 Confucius said: “If you do everything with a concern for your own advantage, you will be resented by many people.”
9:16 The Master, standing by a river, said: “It goes on like this, never ceasing day or night!” 9:21 Confucius said: “There are some who sprout, but do not blossom, and some who blossom, but do not bear fruit.” 9:22 Confucius said: “We should be in awe of the younger generation. How can we know that they will not be equal to us? But if a man reaches the age of forty or fifty and has still not been heard from, then he is no one to be in awe of.” 9:28 Confucius said: “The wise are not confused, the humane are not anxious, the brave are not afraid.” 11:9 When Yen Hui died, the Master wept uncontrollably. The disciples said, “Master, you are going overboard with this!” Confucius said: “Going overboard?! If I can’t cry now, when should I cry?” 11:10 When Yen Hui died, the disciples wanted to give him a lavish funeral. The Master told them not to, but they did it anyway. Confucius said: “Hui treated me like a father. Now I have not been able to treat him as a son, and it is the fault of you students.” 11:11 Chi Lu asked about serving the spirits. Confucius said: “If you can’t yet serve men, then how can you serve the spirits?” Lu said, “May I ask about death?” Confucius said: “If you don’t understand what life is, how will you understand death?” 11:21 Tzu Lu asked if it was a good idea to immediately put a teaching into practice when he first heard it. Confucius said: “You have a father and an older brother to consult. Why do you need to be so quick to practice it?” Zan Yu asked the same question. Confucius said: “You should practice it immediately.” Kung Hsi Hua said, “When Yu asked you, you told him he should consult his father and elder brother first. When Ch’iu (Zan Yu) asked you, you told him to practice it immediately. May I ask why?” Confucius said: “Ch’iu has a tendency to give up easily, so I push him. Yu (Tzu Lu) has a tendency to jump the gun, so I restrain him.”
4:23 Confucius said: “If you are strict with yourself, your mistakes will be few.” 5:10 Tsai Yu slept during the daytime. Confucius said: “Rotten wood cannot be carved; dirty earth cannot be used for cement — why bother scolding him? At first I used to listen to what people said and expect them to act accordingly. Now I listen to what people say and watch what they do. I learned this from Yu.” 5:11 Confucius said: “I have not yet met a really solid man.” Someone said, “What about Shan Ch’ang?” Confucius replied: “Ch’ang is ruled by lust. How could he be solid?” 5:20 Chi Wen Tzu contemplated something three times before acting upon it. When Confucius heard this, he said: “Twice is enough.” 5:27 Confucius said: “It’s all over! I have not yet met someone who can see his own faults and correct them within himself.” 6:19 Confucius said: “You can teach high-level topics to those of above-average ability, but you can’t teach high-level topics to those of less than average ability.” 7:15 Confucius said: “I can live with coarse rice to eat, water for drink, and my arm as a pillow and still be happy. Wealth and honors that one possesses in the midst of injustice are like floating clouds.” 7:35 Confucius said: “Luxury leads to laxity; frugality leads to firmness. It is better to be firm than to be lax.” 8:8 Confucius said: “Be aroused by poetry, structure yourself with propriety, and refine yourself with music.” 8:9 Confucius said: “You might force people act according a certain principle, but you won’t be able to force them to understand it.” 9:12 Tzu Kung said: “We have a beautiful gem here. Should we hide it away or look for a good price and sell it?” Confucius said: “Sell it! Sell it! But I would wait until I got a good price.”
12:6 Tzu Jang asked about the meaning of “enlightenment.” Confucius said: “One who does not experience the permeation of slander and who is not agitated by accusations can certainly be called ‘enlightened.’ Indeed, such a person may be called ‘transcendent.’” 12:13 Confucius said: “In hearing lawsuits, I am no better than anyone else. What we need is to have no lawsuits.” 12:18 Being robbed, Chi K’ang Tzu was upset, and questioned Confucius about what to do. Confucius told him: “If you were desireless, they wouldn’t steal from you, even if you were to offer them a reward to do so.” 15:11 Confucius said: “If a man is not far-sighted, then suffering will be close to him.” 15:14 Confucius said: “Expect much from yourself and little from others, and you will avoid incurring resentments.” 15:24 Confucius said: “Among people, who should I criticize and who should I praise? If I praise someone, it is because I have had some way of testing him.” 15:27 Confucius said: “If everybody hates something, you’d better check into it. Likewise, if everybody loves something, you’d better check into it.”
15:29 Confucius said: “To make a mistake and not correct it — this is a real mistake.” 16:4 Confucius said: “There are three kinds of friendship that are beneficial and three kinds of friendship that are harmful. Friendship with the righteous, friendship with the sincere, and friendship with the learned are all beneficial. Friendship with the deceptive, friendship with the unprincipled, and friendship with smooth talkers are all harmful.” 16:5 Confucius said: “There are three kinds of enjoyment that are beneficial and three kinds of enjoyment which are harmful. The enjoyment of cultivation in music and ritual, the enjoyment of speaking of the goodness of others, and the enjoyment of being surrounded by friends of good character are all beneficial. The enjoyment of arrogance, the enjoyment of dissipation, and the enjoyment of comfort are all harmful.” 17:3 Confucius said: “Only the most wise and the most foolish do not change.” 17:22 Confucius said: “What can be done with a man who stuffs his face with food all day, without exercising his mind? He could at least play cards or chess or something. It would be better than doing nothing.” 19:17 Tseng Tzu said: “I have heard this from our master: ‘If a man has not yet fully experienced himself, he will when his parents die.’”
Questions for The Analects:
1. Describe the character of Master Confucius. Does he remind you of anybody? 2. Briefly define the concept of the Superior Man. Summarize some of the qualities. 3. How could you identify a Superior Man while walking around campus? 4. What might Confucius advise one to do who suffers under unreasonable parents? 5. What does Confucius think about people who seek comfort?
6. How would Confucius respond to the following quote from Jesus?
“How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite!” (Luke 6:42)
7. What advice from the “Study and Knowledge” section can help you become a better student? 8. What does Confucius believe will happen to “smooth talkers”? 9. What advice might Confucius offer President Bush? 10. What advice does Confucius give to public speakers? 11. Confucius was not a Taoist, but he often referenced the Tao. Why? 12. What are Confucius’ thoughts about people who make mistakes?
http://www.human.toyogakuen-u.ac.jp/~acmuller/contao/analects.htm http://www.hm.tyg.jp/~acmuller/contao/analects.htm http://eawc.evansville.edu/anthology/analects.htm
The Dhammapada of Buddha
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The Dhammapada, meaning “The Path of Dharma,” consists of 423 verses in Pali uttered by the Buddha on some 305 occasions for the benefit of a wide range of human beings. These sayings were selected and compiled into one book as being worthy of special note on account of their beauty and relevance for molding the lives of future generations of Buddhists. They are divided into 26 chapters, and the stanzas are arranged according to subject matter, many of which are excerpted here. You will recognize that many of the passages listed below seem to reflect the adages of Jesus, who would arrive 500 years after the teachings of Buddha. Common themes include the sacrificing of the self for the greater whole, attending to high standards of personal behavior, and removing passions, lust, and desire from one’s heart in order to attain “salvation,” recognized in Buddhism as the attainment of nirvana, a state of peace and bliss.
The Pairs (Yammakavagga)
1. Mind is the forerunner of all evil states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with wicked mind, suffering follows one, even as the wheel follows the hoof of the draught-ox. 2. Mind is the forerunner of all good states. Mind is chief; mind-made are they. If one speaks or acts with pure mind, affection follows one, even as one’s shadow that never leaves. __________ 5. Hate is not overcome by hate; by love (metta) alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law. 6. The others know not that in this quarrel we perish. Those of them who realize it have their quarrels calmed thereby. __________ 7. Whoever lives contemplating pleasant things, with senses unrestrained, in food immoderate, indolent, inactive, him verily Mara overthrows, as the wind overthrows a weak tree. 8. Whoever lives contemplating “the Impurities,” with senses restrained, in food moderate, full of faith, full of sustained energy, him Mara overthrows not, as the wind does not overthrow a rocky mountain. __________ 11. The one who takes wrong to be right and right to be wrong, and who thinks always of sensual pleasures, cannot be successful in finding the Truth. 12. The one who takes right to be right and wrong to be wrong, and who thinks not of sensual pleasures, can be successful in finding the Truth. __________ 13. Even as rain penetrates an ill-thatched house, so does lust penetrate an undeveloped mind. 14. Even as rain does not penetrate a wellthatched house, so does lust not penetrate a well-developed mind.
25. By sustained effort, earnestness, discipline, and self-control, let the wise man make for himself an island that no flood overwhelms. 26. The ignorant, foolish folk indulge in heedlessness; the wise man guards heedfulness as the greatest treasure. 31. Even as a fire consumes all obstacles, both great and small, a monk, who delights in heedfulness and who views heedlessness with fear, consumes attachments, both great and small. 32. A monk, who delights in heedfulness, and who views heedlessness with fear, will not fail in the end to attain nirvana.
27. Indulge not in heedlessness; have no intimacy with sensuous delights. Truly, the heedful, meditative person obtains abundant bliss.
The Mind (Cittavagga)
34. Like a fish that is drawn from its watery abode and thrown upon land, even so does this mind flutter. Hence should the realm of the passions be shunned. 35. The mind is hard to check. It is swift and wanders at will. To control it is good. A controlled mind is conducive to happiness. 39. He whose mind is not soaked by lust, he who is not affected by haunt, he who has
42. Whatever harm a foe may do to a foe, or a hater to a hater, an ill-directed mind can do one far greater harm.
transcended both good and evil — for such a vigilant one there is no fear.
44. Who will be able to understand himself, this world, heaven and hell? Who will fully realize the well preached Doctrine, which is like a garland fixed by a clever garland maker? 45. The disciple in training (sekha) will be able to understand himself, this world, heaven and hell. He will realize the well preached Doctrine, which is like a garland fixed by a clever garland maker. 46. Knowing that this body is like foam, and comprehending its mirage-nature, one should destroy the flower shafts of sensual passions (mara), and pass beyond the sight of the King of Death. 47. The man who gathers flowers (of sensual pleasure), whose mind is distracted, death carries off as a great flood sweeps away a sleeping village. The man who gathers flowers (of sensual pleasure), whose mind is distracted, and who is insatiate in desires, the Destroyer brings under his sway.
51. As a flower beautiful and brilliant of hue, but without fragrance, even so fruitless is the well-spoken word of one who does not practice it. 55. Sandalwood, tagara, lotus, jasmine: above all these kinds of fragrance, the perfume of virtue is by far the best.
The Fool (Balavagga)
60. Long is the night to the wakeful; long is the league to the weary; long is the samsara to the foolish who know not the Sublime Truth. 63. The fool who knows that he is a fool is for that very reason a wise man; the fool who thinks that he is wise is called a fool indeed. 71. Truly, an evil deed committed does not immediately bear fruit, just as milk curdles not at once; smoldering, it follows the fool like fire covered with ashes. 75. Surely, the path that leads to worldly gain in one, and the path that leads to nirvana is another; understanding this, the bhikkhu, the disciple of the Buddha, should not rejoice in worldly favors, but cultivate detachment.
The Wise Man (Panditavagga)
78. Associate not with evil friends; associate not with mean men. Associate with good friends; associate with noble men. 81. As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, even so the wise remain unshaken amidst blame and praise. 82. Just as a deep lake is clear and still, even so, on hearing the teachings, the wise become exceedingly peaceful. 83. The good give up attachment for everything; the saintly prattle not with sensual craving; whether affected by happiness or by pain, the wise show neither elation nor depression. 87. A wise man renounces evil and sensual pleasure and he does all meritorious work in order to attain nirvana. He becomes a homeless one.
88. By having no attachment and desires, and by forsaking sensual pleasures, a wise man gets rid of his impurities. 89.
Those who practice the seven Factors (Mindfulness, Investigation of the dhamma, Energy, Rapture, Calmness, Concentration, Equanimity), and have freed themselves from attachments, attain nirvana.
The Perfected One (Arahantavagga)
90. For him who has completed the journey, for him who is sorrowless, for him who from everything is wholly free, for him who has destroyed all ties, the fever (of passion) exists not. 91. The mindful exert themselves. To no abode are they attached. Like swans that quit their pools, home after home they abandon and go. 93. He whose corruptions are destroyed, he who is not attached to food, he who has deliverance (which is void and signless, as his objects) — his path, like that of birds in the air, cannot be traced. 96. Calm is his mind, calm is his speech, calm is his action who, rightly knowing, is wholly freed, perfectly peaceful, and equipoised.
The Thousands (Sahassavagga)
100. Better than a thousand utterances comprising useless words is one single beneficial word, by hearing which one attains peace. 101. Better than a thousand verses, comprising useless words, is one beneficial single line, by hearing which one is pacified. 102. One sentence of the Doctrine which brings happiness to a person who understands is better than one hundred stanzas consisting of meaningless words. 103. Though one should conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, he who conquers his own self is the greatest of all conquerors. 104. Self-conquest is, indeed, far greater than the conquest of all other folks. 109. For one who is in the habit of constantly honoring and respecting the elders, four blessings increase — age, beauty, bliss, and strength.
117. Should a person commit evil, he should not do it again and again; he should not find pleasure therein. Painful is the accumulation of evil. 118. Should a person perform a meritorious action, he should do it again and again; he should find pleasure therein. Blissful is the accumulation of merit. 123. Just as a merchant with a small escort and great wealth avoids a perilous route, just as one desiring to live avoids poison, even so should one shun evil things. 124. If no wound there be in one’s hand, one may carry poison in it. Poison does not affect one who has no wound. There is no ill for him who does no wrong. 125. Whoever harms a harmless person, one pure and guiltless, upon that very fool the evil recoils like fine dust thrown against the wind. 126. Some are born in a womb; evildoers are born in woeful states; the well-conducted go to blissful states; the Undefiled Ones pass away into nirvana. 127. Not in the sky, nor in the mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave is found that place on earth
128. Not in the sky, nor in mid-ocean, nor in a mountain cave is found that place on earth where abiding one will not be overcome by death.
where abiding one may escape from the consequences of one’s evil deed.
129. All tremble at the rod. All fear death. Comparing others with oneself, one should neither strike nor cause to strike. 130. All tremble at the rod. Life is dear to all. Comparing others with oneself, one should neither strike nor cause to strike. 131. Whoever tries to seek happiness through hurting others cannot find happiness. 132. Whoever tries to seek happiness without hurting others can find happiness. 133. Speak not harshly to anyone. Those thus addressed will retort. Painful, indeed, is vindictive speech. Blows in exchange may bruise you. 134. If, like a cracked gong, you silence yourself, you have already attained nirvana: no vindictiveness will be found in you. 137. Whosoever causes pain to the innocent ones will himself suffer quickly from one of the following ten states. He will get sharp pain or injury of the body, or get serious illness or become mad, or punishment by the kind, or being accused of doing wrong or death of relatives or loss of treasures, or his house will be struck by lightning, or after death he will be reborn in hell. 142. Irrigators lead the waters. Fletchers bend the shafts. Carpenters fashion the wood. The virtuous control themselves.
Old Age (Jaravagga)
147. Behold this beautiful body, a mass of sores, a heaped-up lump, diseased, much thought of, in which nothing lasts, nothing persists. 148. Thoroughly worn out is this body, a nest of diseases, perishable. This putrid mass breaks up. Truly, life ends in death. 152. The man of little learning grows old like the ox. His muscles grow; his wisdom grows not. 153. Through many a birth in samsara wandered I, seeking, but not finding, the builder of this house. Sorrowful is it to be born again and again.
The Self (Attavagga)
158. Let one first establish oneself in what is proper, and then instruct others. Such a wise man will not be defiled. 159. As he instructs others, so should he himself act. Himself fully controlled, he should control others; for oneself, indeed, is difficult to control. 160. Oneself, indeed, is one’s savior, for what other savior would there be? With oneself, well controlled, one obtains a savior difficult to find. 161. By oneself alone is evil done; it is self-born, it is self-caused. Evil grinds the unwise as a diamond grinds a hard gem. 163. Easy to do are things that are hard and not beneficial to oneself, but very, very difficult, indeed, to do is that which is beneficial and good. 165. By oneself, indeed, is evil done; by oneself is one defiled. By oneself is evil left undone; by oneself, indeed, is one purified. Purity and impurity depend on oneself. No one purifies another.
The World (Lokavagga)
167. Do not follow a life of evil; do not live heedlessly; do not have false views; do not value worldly things. In this way one can get rid of suffering. 168. A man should not live heedlessly but should exert himself to live righteously. Such a man is happy in this world and in the next. 172. A man who is free from heedlessness, and is heedless no more, purifies himself and shines in this world like the moon that is freed from a cloud. 174. Blind is this world. Few are those who clearly see. As birds escape from a net, few go to a blissful state. 175. As swans can fly easily through the air, as those who persevere can perform wonders, wise men can easily conquer death. 176. There is no evil that cannot be done by the liar, who has transgressed the one law of truthfulness and who is indifferent to a world beyond.
The Buddha (Buddhavagga)
179. One who has conquered all defilements, cannot be defeated. Such a one is The Buddha, who has attained unlimited power. 180. One who has no craving with its snare and poisons cannot be disturbed. Such a one is The Buddha, who has attained unlimited power. 183. To cease from all evil, to cultivate good, to purify one’s mind: This is the advice of all Buddhas. 185. Not insulting, not harming, restraint according to the Fundamental Moral Code, moderation in food, secluded abode, intent on higher thoughts — this is the Teaching of the Buddhas. 186. One who has craving cannot be satisfied even when he has plenty of gold. The wise man does not crave, as he understands the consequences of craving. 187. A wise man finds no delight in heavenly pleasures. The disciple of the Buddha takes delight in the destruction of Craving. 192. Hard to find is a man of great wisdom: Such a man is not born everywhere. Where such a wise man is born, that family thrives happily. 194. Honors those worthy of honor, who has overcome all passions, and Suffering. He who honors those worthy of honor, he who has overcome all passions, he has overcome Suffering, he has gained great merit.
201. Victory breeds hatred. The defeated live in pain. Happily the peaceful live, giving up victory and defeat. 202. There is no fire like lust, no crime like hate. There is no ill like the body, no bliss higher than Peace (nirvana). 203. Hunger is the greatest disease. Aggregates are the greatest ill. Knowing this as it really is, the wise realize nirvana, bliss supreme. 204. Good health is the highest gain. Contentment is the greatest wealth. Trustworthy ones are the best kinsmen. Nirvana is the highest Bliss. 207. Truly, he who moves in company with fools grieves for a long time. Association with the foolish is ever painful as with a foe. Happy is association with the wise, even like meeting with kinsfolk.
210. Consort not with those that are dear, never with those that are not dear; not seeing those that are dear, and seeing those that are not dear, are both painful. 211. Hence, hold nothing dear, for separation from those that are dear is painful; bonds do not exist for those to whom naught is dear or not dear. 212. From endearment springs grief; from endearment springs fear. For him who is wholly free from endearment there is no grief — where is the fear? 213. From affection arises grief; from affection arises fear. For him who is free from affection there is no grief — where is the fear? 214. From attachment springs grief; from attachment springs fear. For him who is wholly free from attachment there is no grief — where is the fear? 215. From lust arises grief; from lust arises fear. For him who is free from lust there is no grief — where is the fear? 216. From craving arises grief; from craving arises fear. For him who is free from craving there is no grief — where is the fear?
221. Put anger away, abandon pride, overcome every attachment, cling not to Mind and Body, and thus be free from sorrow. 222. One, who controls his anger when aroused is like a clever driver who controls a fast going carriage; the others are like those who merely hold the reins. 223. Conquer the angry man by love; conquer the ill-natured man by goodness; conquer the miser with generosity; conquer the liar with truth. 224. One should speak the truth and not yield to anger. When asked, one should give though there be litter; by these three things one may go to the presence of the devas, the gods. 225. Those sages who are harmless and are ever restrained in body go to the deathless state (nirvana), where they never grieve. 228. There never was, there never will be, nor is there now to be found anyone who is wholly blamed or wholly praised. 229. Examining day by day, the wise praise him who is of flawless life, intelligent, endowed with knowledge and virtue. 231. One should guard against misdeeds caused by the body, and one should be restrained in body. Giving up evil conduct in body, one should be of good bodily conduct. 232. One should guard against misdeeds caused by speech, and one should be restrained in speech. Giving up the evil conduct in speech, one should be one good conduct in speech. 233. One should guard against misdeeds caused by the mind, and one should be restrained in mind. Giving up evil conduct in mind, one should be of good conduct in mind.
238. Make an island unto yourself. Strive without delay; become wise. Purged of strain and passion, you will not come again to birth and old age. 239. By degrees, little by little, from time to time, a wise person should remove his own impurities, as a smith removes the dross of silver.
241. Texts not repeated are often soon forgotten; the house neglected soon decays; sloth is a blemish on beauty; heedlessness is a blemish on the watchman. 244. Easy is the life of a man who is shameless, bold like a crow — a fault finder, insolent, impudent, and corrupt. 245. Hard is the life of a modest one who ever seeks purity, is detached, humble, clean in life, and reflective. 250. But he who has this feeling fully cut off, uprooted and destroyed, gains peace by day and by night.
251. There is no fire like lust, no grip like hate, no net like delusions, no river like craving. 252. Easily seen are others’ faults; hard indeed to see are one’s own. Life chaff, one winnows others’ faults, but one’s own faults one hides, as a crafty fowler conceals himself by camouflage. 253. He who sees others’ faults, and is ever irritable — the corruptions of such a one grow. He is far from the destruction of corruptions.
The Just (Dhammatthavagga)
256. He is not just who arbitrates hastily. He who inquires into what is right and wrong is indeed just and wise. 258. He is not called wise who speaks much. He, who is patient, thoughtful, free from hatred and fear — he is indeed called a wise man. 262. A man will never be accomplished, even if he is fair in complexion or good in speech, if he is greedy, envious and deceitful. 264. Not by a shaven head does an undisciplined man who utters lies become a monk. How will one who is full of desire and greed be a monk? 265. He who wholly subdues evil deeds both small and great is called a monk because he has overcome all evil.
The Path (Maggavagga)
273. The best of all paths is the Eightfold Path. The best of all truths are the Four Noble Truths. Non-attachment is the best of all states. The best of all men is the Seeing One (the Buddha). 274. This is the only Way. There is none other for the purity of vision. Do you follow this path? This is the bewilderment of Mara. 275. Entering upon that path you will make an end of pain. Having learned the removal of thorns, have I taught you the path. 281. Watchful of speech, and well controlled in mind, let him do no evil with the body; let him do no evil with the body; let him purify these three ways of action and attain the path attained by the Sages. 282. Surely, from meditation arises wisdom. Without meditation, wisdom wanes. Knowing this twofold path of gain and loss, let one so conduct oneself that wisdom may increase. 284. For as long as the slightest brushwood of the passions (of man towards women) is not cut down, so long is his mind in bondage, like the calf to its mother-cow. 286. “Here will I live in the rainy season; here in the autumn and in the summer,” thus muses the fool. He realizes not the danger of death. 287. The doting man, with mind set on children and herds, death seizes and carries away, as a great flood sweeps away a slumbering village.
289. Realizing this fact, let the virtuous and wise person swiftly clear the way that leads to nirvana.
288. There are no sons for one’s protection, neither father nor even kinsmen; for one who is overcome by death, no protection is to be found among kinsmen.
290. If by giving up a lesser happiness, one may behold a greater one. Let the wise man give up the lesser happiness in consideration of the greater happiness. 291. He who wishes his own happiness by causing pain to others is not released from hatred, being himself entangled in the tangles of hatred. 292. What should have been done is left undone, what should not have been done is done. Of those who are puffed up and heedless, the corruptions increase. 294. Having slain mother (craving) and father (conceit) and two warrior kings (views based on eternalism and nihilism), and having destroyed a country (sense-avenues and senseobjects) together with its revenue officer (attachment), ungrieving goes the Brahmana (Arahant). 295. Having slain mother and father and two brahmin kings, and having destroyed the perilous path (hindrances), ungrieving goes the Brahmana (Arahant). 303. He who is full of confidence and virtue, possessed of fame and wealth, he is honored everywhere in whatever land he sojourns. 304. Even from afar, like the Himalaya mountain, the good reveal themselves. The wicked, though near, are invisible like arrows shot by night. 305. He who sits alone, rests alone, walks alone unindolent, who in solitude controls himself, will find delight in the forest.
The State of Woe (Nirayavagga)
308. Better to swallow a red-hot iron ball (which would consume one like a flame of fire) than to be an immoral and uncontrolled person feeding on the alms offered by people. 309. Four misfortunes befall a heedless man who commits adultery: acquisition of demerit, disturbed sleep, thirdly blame, and fourthly a state of woe. 310. There is acquisition of demerit as well as evil destiny. Brief is the joy of the frightened man and woman. The King imposes a heavy punishment. Hence, no man should frequent another’s wife. 312. Any loose act, any corrupt practice, a life of dubious holiness — none of these is of much fruit. 313. If aught should be done, let one do it. Let one promote it steadily, for slack asceticism scatters dust all the more. 314. An evil deed is better not done: a misdeed torments one hereafter. Better it is to do a good deed, after doing which one does not grieve. 317. Those who are afraid when there should be no fear, and are not afraid when there should be fear, such men, due to their wrong views, go to woeful states. 318. Those who see faults in the faultless, and perceive no wrong in that which is wrong, such men, due to their wrong views, go to woeful states. 319. Those who know wrong as wrong and right as right, such men, due to their right views, go to a blissful state.
The Elephant (Nagavagga)
320. As an elephant in the battlefield withstands the arrows shot from a bow, even so will I endure abuse; truly, most people are undisciplined. 324. The elephant is not satisfied with the food in luxurious places. It longs to go back to the jungle among its relations. 325. The man who is lazy and a glutton, who eats large meals and rolls in his sleep like a pig which is fed in the sty, is reborn again and again. 327. Take delight in heedfulness. Guard your mind well. Draw yourselves out of the evil way just as the elephant sunk in the mud draws himself out. 328. Should one find a good companion to walk with and who is steadfast and upright. One should walk with him with joy so as to overcome all dangers. 329. If no such companion is found, it is better to travel alone like a king who has left his kingdom, or an elephant which has left its companions. 331. When need arises, pleasant is it to have friends. Pleasant is it to be content with just this and that. Pleasant is merit when life is at an end. Pleasant is the shunning of all ill. 333. Pleasant is virtue continued until old age. Pleasant is steadfast confidence. Pleasant is the attainment of wisdom. Pleasant is it to do no evil.
336. Whosoever in this world overcomes this base craving so hard to subdue, his sorrows fall away from him as water drops from a lotus leaf. 338. As a tree cut down begins to grow up again if its roots remain uninjured and firm, even so when the root of craving remain undestroyed, this suffering arises again and again. 339. A man who gives way to pleasure will be swept away by craving and his thoughts will make him suffer, like waves. 340. The streams (craving) flow everywhere. The creeper (craving) sprouts and stands. Seeing the creeper that has sprung up, with wisdom cut off the roots. 341. A man’s joys are always transient, and since men devote themselves to pleasure, seeking after happiness, they undergo birth and decay. 345. That which is made of iron, wood or hemp is not a strong bond, say the wise; the longing for jewels, ornaments, children, and wives is a far greater attachment. 346. That bond is strong, say the wise. It hurls down, is supple, and is hard to loosen. This too the wise cut off, and leave the world, with no longing, renouncing sensual pleasures. 347. Those who are infatuated with lust fall back into the stream as does a spider into the web spun by itself. This too the wise cut off and wander, with no longing, released from all sorrow. 348. Let go the past. Let go the future. Let go the present (front, back and middle). Crossing to the farther shore of existence, with mind released from everything, do not again undergo birth and decay. 351. He who has reached the goal is fearless, is without craving, is passionless, has cut off the thorns of life. This is his final body. 353. All have I overcome, all do I know. From all am I detached. All have I renounced. Wholly absorbed am I in “the destruction of craving.” Having comprehended all by myself, whom shall I call my teacher? 354. The gift of Truth excels all other gifts. The flavor of Truth excels all other flavors. The pleasure in Truth excels all other pleasures. He who has destroyed craving overcomes all sorrow.
357. Weeds are the bane of fields; hatred is the bane of mankind. Hence what is given to those rid of hatred yields abundant fruit. 358. Weeds are the bane of fields; delusion is the bane of mankind. Hence, what is given to those rid of delusion yields abundant fruit. 359. Weeds are the bane of fields; craving is the bane of mankind. Hence, what is given to those rid of craving yields abundant fruit.
355. Riches ruin the foolish, but not those in quest of the Beyond (nirvana). Through craving for riches, the ignorant man ruins himself as if he were ruining others. 356. Weeds are the bane of fields; lust is the bane of mankind. Hence, what is given to the lustless yields abundant fruit.
The Monk (Bhikkhuvagga)
360. Good is restraint of the eye; good is restraint of the ear; good is restraint of the nose; good is the restraint of the tongue. 361. Good is restraint in deed; good is restraint in speech; good is restraint in mind; good is restraint in everything. The monk (bhikkhu), restrained at all points, is freed from sorrow. 362. He who is controlled in hand, in foot, in speech, and in the highest (i.e. the head); he who delights in meditation, and is composed; he who is alone, and is contented — him they call a monk (bhikkhu). 363. The bhikkhu who is controlled in tongue, who speaks wisely, who is not puffed up, who explains the meaning and the text — sweet, indeed, is his speech. 364. That bhikkhu who dwells in the dharma, who delights in the dharma, who meditates on the dharma, who well remembers the dharma, does not fall away from the sublime dharma. 367. He who has no thought of “I’’ and “mine’’ whatever towards mind and body, he who grieves not for that which he has not, he is, indeed, called a bhikkhu. 369. Empty this boat, O bhikkhu! Emptied by you it will move swiftly. Cutting off lust and hatred, to nirvana you will thereby go. 370. Cut off the five fetters and pertaining to this shore (self-illusion, doubt, indulgence in wrongful rites and ceremonies, sense-desires, and hatred), throw off the five fetters that pertain to the further shore (attachment to the realm of form, attachment to formless realms, conceit, restlessness, and ignorance), cultivate further five faculties (confidence, energy, mindful-ness, concentration and wisdom). He who has destroyed the five fetters (lust, hatred, delusion, pride, and false views) is called a “Flood Crosser.’’ 372. There is no concentration in one who wisdom, nor is there wisdom in him lacks concentration. In whom are concentration and wisdom, he, indeed, the presence of nirvana. lacks who both is in
373. The bhikkhu who has retired to a lonely abode, who has calmed his mind, who perceives the doctrine clearly, experiences a joy transcending that of men. 374. Whenever he reflects on the rise and fall of the aggregates, he experiences joy and happiness. To “those who know’’ that reflection is deathless. 375. And this becomes the beginning here for a wise bhikkhu: sense-control, contentment, restraint with regard to the Fundamental Code (patimokkha), association with beneficent and energetic friends, whose livelihood is pure. 379. By self do you censure yourself. By self do you examine yourself. Self-guarded and mindful, O bhikkhu, you will live happily. 385. The bhikkhu who, while still young, devotes himself to the Buddha’s Teaching, illuminates this world like the moon freed from a cloud.
The Holy Man (Brahmanavagga)
383. Strive and cut off the stream of craving. Discard, O Brahmana, sense-desires. Knowing the destruction of conditioned things, be, O Brahmana, a knower of the Unmade (nirvana). 385. For whom there exists neither the near nor the farther shore, nor both the near and the farther shore — he who is undistressed and unbound — him I call a Brahmana. 386. He who is meditative, stainless and secluded, he who has done his duty and is free from corruptions, he who has attained the Highest Goal — him I call a Brahmana. 388. Because he has discarded evil, he is called a Brahmana; because he lives in peace, he is called a Samana; because he gives up the impurities, he is called a Pabbajita — recluse. 389. One should not strike a Brahmana, nor should a Brahmana vent his wrath on one who has struck him. Shame on him who strikes a Brahmana! More shame on him who gives vent to his wrath! 391. He who does no evil through body, speech, or mind, who is retrained in these three respects — him I call a Brahmana. 395. The person who wears dust-heap robes, who is lean, whose veins stand out, who meditates alone in the forest — him I call a Brahmana. 397. He who has cut off all fetters, who trembles not, who has gone beyond ties, who is unbound — him I call a Brahmana. 398. He who has cut the strap (hatred), the thong (craving), and the rope (heresies), together with the appendages (latent tendencies), who has thrown up the cross-bar (ignorance), who is enlightened (Buddha) — him I call a Brahmana. 399. He who, without anger, endures reproach, flogging and punishments, whose power and the potent army is patience — him I call a Brahmana. 400. He who is not wrathful, but is dutiful, virtuous, free from craving, self-controlled,
and bears his final body — him I call a
401. Like water on a lotus leaf, like a mustard seed on the point of a needle, he who clings not to sensual pleasures — him I call a Brahmana. 402. He who realizes here in this world the destruction of his sorrow, who has laid the burden aside and is emancipated — him I call a Brahmana. 403. He whose knowledge is deep, who is wise, who is skilled in the right and wrong way, who has reached the highest goal — him I call a Brahmana. 404. He who is not intimate either with householders or with the homeless ones, who wanders without an abode, who is without desires — him I call a Brahmana. 405. He who has laid aside the cudgel in his dealings with beings, whether feeble or strong, who neither harms nor kills — him I call a Brahmana. 406. He who is friendly amongst the hostile, who is peaceful amongst the violent, who is unattached amongst the attached — him I call a Brahmana. 408. He who utters gentle, instructive, true words, who by his speech gives offense to none — him I call a Brahmana. 410. He who has no desires, whether pertaining to this world or to the next, who is desireless and emancipated — him I call a Brahmana. 411. He who has no longings, who, through knowledge, is free from doubts, who has gained a firm footing in the deathless (nirvana) — him I call a Brahmana. 412. He who has transcended both good and bad, and the ties as well, who is sorrowless, stainless, and pure — him I call a Brahmana. 413. He who is spotless as the moon, who is pure, serene, and unperturbed, who has destroyed
418. He who has given up likes and dislikes, who is cooled and is without defilements, who has conquered the world, and is strenuous — him I call a Brahmana. 422. The fearless, the noble, the hero, the great sage, the conqueror, the desireless, the cleanser of defilements, the enlightened — him I call a Brahmana. 423. That sage who knows his former abodes, who sees the blissful and the woeful states, who has reached the end of births, who, with superior wisdom, has perfected himself, who has completed the holy life and reached the end of all passions — him I call a Brahmana.
craving for becoming — him I call a Brahmana. 414. He who has passed beyond this quagmire, this difficult path, the ocean of life (samsara), and delusion, who has crossed and gone beyond, who is meditative, free from craving and doubts, who clinging to naught, has attained nirvana — him I call a Brahmana. 417. He who, discarding human ties and transcending celestial ties, is completely delivered from all ties — him I call a Brahmana.
Questions for The Dhammapada:
1. What are the problems of the mind? 2. What are the characteristics of the wise man and the fool? 3. Why does Buddha find it sorrowful to be “born again and again”? 4. How does “giving up victory and defeat” help one find peace? 5. Why does Buddha instruct us to “hold nothing dear”? 6. What is the Buddha’s advice for conquering anger? 7. Why are emotional attachments stronger than physical attachments? 8. What are the attributes of the Buddhist monk? 9. What are the attributes of the Brahmana? 10. So, what IS the path of one’s dharma? 11. How does one achieve nirvana? 12. How do the teachings of Buddha compare with those of Lao Tzu? 13. How do the teachings of Buddha compare with those of Confucius? 14. How does one behave when following the “Middle Way”? 15. What sacrifices would one make when following the teachings of Buddha? What would be gained? 16. How do the teachings of Christianity compare to the teachings of Buddha? What does Campbell say about this connection?
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Founded: 1400 B.C.E., in India Founder: unknown origins Believers: 1 billion (primarily in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia) Scriptures: Vedas, Upanishads Sacred Epics: The Mahabharata (which includes The Ramayana and The Bhagavad-Gita)
1. The word “Hindu” means “river,” referring to the religious communities along the Indus River. 2. Hindus believe in one Supreme Reality, known collectively as Brahman, who is both pervasive and transcendent, Creator and Unmanifest Reality. 3. The universe undergoes endless cycles of change, from creation, to preservation, to death (samsara). 4. Karma (a Sanskrit word, meaning “action”) is the cause/effect relationship by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds. Karma can be either good or bad, but always must be resolved before an individual soul can achieve moksha.
5. Each person must fulfill certain caste and religious obligations (dharma) in order to maintain harmony in the universe. The only means of escaping birth is to perform one’s sacred duty. 6. Hindus believe in reincarnation: the soul is reborn into a different body (like changing into a new shirt) until all karmas are resolved; Hindus do not believe in hell, an underworld, or damnation. 7. Every soul (atman) ultimately evolves toward a union with God and realizes Truth; all spiritual paths are accepted; each soul is free to achieve realization, whether through devotion, austerity, meditation, or selfless service. 8. One experiences the Truth within, culminating in a consciousness where man and God are one (moksha). 9. Hindus practice love for all living creatures, nonviolence (ahimsa), selfless conduct. 10. Three Principal Gods: Vishnu (“The Preserver”), Shiva (“The Destroyer”), and Brahma (the Universal Absolute Spirit); Indra (king of the gods; Aryan war god and weather god) was an earlier all-powerful god worshipped in the earlier days of Hinduism. 11. A spiritually oriented master (satguru) is essential to know the transcendent Absolute, as are good conduct, purification, self-inquiry, and meditation.
12. The Four Stages of Hindu Life: The Student – Memorize the Vedas, Upanishads, and epics under the tutelage of a sage. The Householder – Marriage and children is the source for passage into the later stages. The Hermit – Turning his back on his family to search for his dharma through rituals and study. A Homeless Wanderer – Cuts off earthly ties, discontinues rituals, and prepares for death. 13. “AUM” (or “Om”) is the Breath of the Universe, the sacred syllable referring to the Hindu Trinity of Vishnu, Shiva, and Brahma. This sound is supposed to be the sound of Creation, and is literally translated “The Absolute and the Relative are Related.” This syllable is repeated slowly during meditation to allow the devotee to more closely achieve lucidity. 14. Devas (Divine Beings) exist in unseen worlds; rituals, sacraments, devotionals, and temple worship help one to create communion with them. 15. Three states of the soul: Lucidity (Smrti) – Clear thinking, dissolving sensory illusions that detach us from complete union with and knowledge of Brahman; leads to moksha. Passion (Kama) – Desire; a bondage to individual and worldly concerns; leads to rebirth. Dark Inertia (Moha) – Chaos, ignorance, and delusion; lost or unwilling to act; represents perverse thinking; leads to rebirth. 16. Hindu caste system: In Hinduism, all men are created unequal. The ranks in Hindu society come from a legend in which the main groupings, or varnas, emerge from a primordial being. Below you can see how each part of the god’s body represents a different type of action:
• • • •
From the mouth come the Brahmans—the priests and teachers. From the arms come the Kshatriyas—the warriors, kings, and soldiers. From the thighs come the Vaisyas—merchants and traders. From the feet come the Sudras—laborers. Each varna in turn contains hundreds of hereditary castes and subcastes with their own pecking orders.
A fifth group describes the people who are dalit, or “untouchables.” Untouchables are outcasts—people considered too impure, too polluted, to rank as worthy beings (such as slaughtering and tanning animals), and therefore Brahma apparently has no place or need for them. Although there are many names for this low-ranking group of people, they prefer the name dalit, translated as “crushed,” “stepped on,” or “oppressed.”
The Avatars of Vishnu
The Avatars of Vishnu
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
The idea of an avatar is predicated on the notion that from time to time, whenever evil or ignorance is on the increase, the Supreme Being must incarnate itself in some form, or descend to earth, so that the forces that stand for good might be reinforced. Though the word avatar is usually translated into English as “incarnation,” and less often as “descent,” an avatar can also be understood as an exemplar, as in the case of Rama, or as a vehicle for transmitting ideas to human beings. An avatar might also be viewed as an expression of God’s playfulness, wrath, or mere concern for human welfare — and as a warning. The ten incarnations of Vishnu take us from lower forms of evolution to divinities that appear in the guise of men. Though some might read in the narrative of the avatars a strict linear progression, the numerous texts belie such a mechanical interpretation.
1 Matsya (The fish)
Vishnu is first said to have come down in the form of a fish (matsya), which saved the Vedas from being consumed by the asuras (demons). The Vedas predicted that the world would come to an end by a huge flood in seven days, and it requested that the king build a huge boat and take the seven sages (hermits), seeds of all plants, and one animal of each type. Vishnu told the king that he would appear as a fish to propel the boat to Mt. Himavan so that it could survive the flood to the next yuga (eon). True to his word, after seven days the Lord appeared and the king tied the boat to the fish by using the royal serpent Vasuki. Matsya took all of them to Mt. Himavan and kept them there until the flood was over. There the king started procreation a for the new era.
2 Kurma (the Tortoise)
In his Kurma Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a tortoise. He requested the help of the asuras in lifting the mountain in exchange for an offer of the share of nectar of immortality that would ensue from the churning. Both the devas and the asuras churned the ocean using the serpent Vasuki as the rope. But, as churning was proceeding, the mountain was sinking. Then Lord Vishnu took the form of the tortoise Kurma and kept the mountain afloat, sustaining the earth on his back, using his shell as a base to churn the milky ocean.
3 Varaha (The boar)
Varaha brings the earth back from the bottom of the ocean where it was dragged down by a demon, known as Hiranyaksha. Varaha kills the demon. Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a boar in this world. A demon Hiranyaksha, had prayed for Lord Brahma and got awarded a boon that no beast nor man nor god could kill him. But somehow from the list of beasts the
name of “boar” was missing. To retrieve the Vedas and to save the world, Lord Vishnu assumed the role of a boar and brought out the earth from the under of the ocean, using its two tusks. It then killed Hiranyaksha and retrieved the Vedas from the asura and brought it back to the safe custody of the Lord Brahma.
4 Narasimha (The man-lion)
Narasimha kills the demon King Hiranyakashipu, who was planning to kill his own son, a devotee of Lord Vishnu. In his Narasimha Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a semiman, semi-lion in this world. The king of demons (asuras), Hiranyakasyapa, wanted to become immortal and wanted to remain young forever, but was smitten by Vishnu.
5 Vamana (The dwarf)
Vamana, the first human incarnation of the Lord, kills the demon King Mahabhali, who had deprived the gods of their possessions. Bali, the grandson of Prahlada, was a very valorous and mighty asura. By his penance and might, he conquered the whole world. Indra and other gods, fearing that he and the other asuras would conquer all the three worlds, went to Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu was then born as a dwarf Vamana in the household of a brahmana (priest). He went to Bali upon growing up and asked for alms. Bali was delighted to offer him anything he requested, even though his priest warned him that it was Lord Vishnu. Vamana then requested for the amount of land that could come under his three feet. Bali gracefully agreed. Lord Vishnu then grew in size and covered the earth and heaven in two strides. And due to lack of space, he put his third leg on Bali himself and crushed Bali to the Patala loka (underground world), thus helping the gods out again.
6 Parasurama (the warrior with an axe)
Parasurama saves the brahmins from the tyranny of the arrogant kshatriyas. In the Parasurama Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as a brahmana (priest) in this world. He was brought in this world to avenge all kshatriyas who had become arrogant and were suppressing the brahmans in the world. Parashurama was always carrying an axe presented to him by Lord Shiva. Parasurama avenged the death of his father by killing all kshatriyas in 21 battles. His story is story of the supremacy of brahmans over the kshatriyas.
7 Rama (the warrior prince)
Rama kills Ravana, the demon king of Lanka. In his Rama Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as Rama, the central character in the epic The Ramayana. As an ideal son, he agrees to abide by wishes of his father King Dasaratha to spend 14 years in forest, along with his wife Sita and brother Lakshmana. During the course of his stay in forest, the demon Ravana abducts his wife Sita. Rama then sets out in search of his wife. During this adventure he
The Avatars of Vishnu
makes friends with the king of monkeys, Sugreeva, and his devotee, Hanuman. In the end he wages a war with Ravana and rescues Sita to return to Ayodhya and to rule it as an ideal king for thousands of years.
8 Sri Krishna (the divine charioteer)
Krishna is Vishnu’s the most popular incarnation. Krishna’s contributions throughout his life include the teachings of the Bhagavad-Gita to Arjuna. In his Krishna Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as Krishna, the central character in the epic Mahabharata. It is essentially the story of two warring groups of cousin brothers, the Pandavas and the Kauravas. As a part of The Mahabahrata, during the war Krishna gives a long discourse to his disciple Arjuna, collectively termed as Bhagavad-Gita. Unlike The Ramayana, The Mahabharata deals with more down to earth issues like politics, human nature, human weaknesses, and does not attempt to idealize the characters as in The Ramayana.
9 Buddha (the ascetic prince)
Hindus consider Buddha as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and accept his teachings, but do not directly worship him. In the Buddha Avatar, Lord Vishnu incarnates himself as Buddha, the ascetic prince who renounced the throne to lead the world on the path of peace. In certain sects of Hinduism, he is considered to be a divine incarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was born the crown prince of the Kapilavastu to Suddhodana and Maya. He was named Siddhartha, meaning “all things fulfilled.” Buddha was saddened by death of living creatures since his childhood days and used to question: “Alas! Do all living creatures kill each other?” He wasn’t happy with any answers that were provided to him, so he decided to find out the meaning and the absolute truth. He left his wife and child for a hermit’s life in the forest. One day, after 49 days of mefitation under the bo tree, he became the Enlightened One. His preachings spawned off the religion of Buddhism now popular across the world.
10 Kalki (a warrior on a white horse)
This incarnation is yet to come, and will mark the end of all evil in the world. In the Kalki Avatar, Lord Vishnu will incarnate himself as Kalki, the machine-man, who will come riding his white horse with his blazing sword in his hands. This is supposed to be a future avatar of Lord Vishnu. At the end of Kali Yuga (present eon) he will punish all evil doers in this world, destroy this world, and recreate a return to a golden age.
Reading Guide: The Ramayana
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Prologue (1977 ed.: 3-6; 2006 ed.: 3-6)
The Ramayana, one of the great Hindu epics, is the story of a powerful prince who makes a sacrifice to save the world from evil. It’s an adventure story, a love story, a morality tale, and an epic — all wrapped into one narrative. The word “Hindu” means “river,” referring to the religious communities along the Indus River. Just as we have seen with Taoism, the flow of water seems to be the main metaphor for life. The universe undergoes endless cycles of change, from creation, to preservation, to death (called samsara). Much like Buddhism, Hindus seek peace by eliminating the need to be reincarnated. Whereas Buddhists seek nirvana, the extinguishing of the flame of desire, Hindus strive to merge with the one Supreme Reality, known collectively as Brahman, the Creator and Unmanifest Reality who is both pervasive and transcendent in the universe. A Hindu achieves this unification with the universe when his consciousness merges with God (this state is called moksha). Every soul (atman) ultimately evolves toward a union with God and realizes Truth, achieved through devotion, austerity, meditation, or selfless service (called ahimsa, a term that reflects selflessness and nonviolence toward all creatures, since all life forms stem from the same life energy). Hindus believe in reincarnation: the soul is reborn into a different body (like changing into a new shirt) until all karmas are resolved (Hindus do not believe in a hell, an underworld, or damnation). Karma is a Sanskrit word that means “action,” the cause/effect relationship by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds. Karma can be either good or bad, but always must be resolved before an individual soul can achieve moksha. We will see many examples of karma and its aftermath in this story. Another important idea to understand is the Hindu caste system. In Hinduism, all men are created unequal. Here are the divisions, ranked from highest to lowest: Brahmans — the priests and teachers Kshatriyas — the warriors, kings, and soldiers (this is the caste in which Rama and Lakshmana are born into) Vaisyas — merchants and traders Sudras — laborers or slaves Dalit (“untouchables”) — outcast people considered too impure and polluted to rank as worthy beings (such as slaughtering and tanning animals), and therefore Brahma apparently has no place or need for them. The name means “crushed,” “stepped on,” or “oppressed.” Each person must fulfill certain caste and religious obligations (dharma) in order to maintain harmony in the universe. The only means of escaping birth is to perform one’s sacred duty. One’s dharma is partly determined by one’s caste position, but also by one’s stage of life. A priest or teacher, for example, cannot teach others when he is a small child, so age also determines how one is supposed to act. If an individual performs his dharma properly, then the universe is in balance and the atman is allowed to be reincarnated into a higher form. A person born as a servant, for example, may spend his
life complaining about his lot in life, but this only leads to a potential reincarnation lower down the scale. Below the human castes are the animals, ranked as well from great to small. Above are the godly incarnations that are found in seven different circles (the highest being “7th heaven”). What we will see is that, once people achieve a godly incarnation, they often are not prepared for such responsibility and power, leading them to act irresponsibly. If you woke up with godly powers, you might play around with them, testing out your strengths and limitations. However, in doing so, you would be deviating from your new dharma, and your curious actions would be considered selfish. Each soul needs to get beyond this feeling and use your powers for the universal good, not selfish interest. The three Principal gods of Hinduism play a large role in The Ramayana: Brahma (the Universal Absolute Spirit) Vishnu (“The Preserver”) Shiva (“The Destroyer”) They form the Hindu Triad that represents the cycle of life. Earlier gods are also mentioned in the beginning of the story, such as Indra (king of the gods; Aryan war god and weather god), who was an earlier all-powerful god worshipped in the earlier days of Hinduism.
Question for the Prologue:
1. What is Vishnu’s motivation to incarnate himself as a human being?
Chapter 1 — Rama’s Initiation (1977 ed.: 7-22; 2006 ed.: 7-21)
This story is an epic, so we will see Rama take a journey to achieve greatness. Be aware that R. K. Narayan’s The Ramayana is only a condensed English translation. Many details and important scenes have been shortened or omitted from the original Sanskrit story. It is based more on the Tamil (South Indian) version of the epic rather than the original, but it is a much more accessible version to a Western audience. The Ramayana is just one part of a longer epic, The Mahabharatha, which is about as long as six Bibles. Chapter 1 in The Ramayana is essentially a rehash of some of the classic stories from the earlier part of The Mahabharatha, but a few scenes provide some necessary background. We know that Rama is an incarnation of the god Vishnu (the Preserver). We see Rama first taken into the desert where he is tested by the wise guru Viswamithra. This guru (spiritual guide) shows Rama many wonders of the Hindu world, all wrapped up in a history lesson. Rama is not fully aware that he is a god until later in the story. (Can you tell where Rama first understands his essence?) Once Rama is tested in the desert, he will be ready to assume greater deeds. One test that Rama has to pass is the test of Thataka, the demoness. Rama is hesitant to kill her because she is a woman, but Viswamithra counsels Rama to view her inner nature. We will see that this difference separates the gods (devas) from the demons (asuras) throughout the narrative. One such character is Mareecha, who is one of the demons defeated by young Rama in the first chapter. When the demons attempt to disturb the yanga (the sacrifice), Rama and his brother Lakshmana send their arrows upward to protect the holy event below. While Lakshmana’s arrows attack the demons, Rama’s arrows help to deflect the blood and garbage that falls from the sky,
thereby preserving the sacrifice, much to the amazement of Viswamithra. Rama’s arrow sends Mareecha, a son of Thataka, clear across the land, prompting Mareecha to begin questioning his evil ways. We’ll see this character later in the story as the uncle of Ravana. Another interesting anecdote from the beginning of the story involves Mahabali’s tale, where Vishnu, in a previous incarnation, comes into being in the form of a dwarf who tricks Mahabali by claiming the universe in three steps. This incarnation of Rama is explained in the coursepacket section called “The Avatars of Vishnu,” which shows us that Vishnu has (and will) come to earth in 10 incarnations, each time saving the world from the demons. You see that the 7th incarnation was Rama, and his story is told in our book, The Ramayana (The Way of Rama). Vishnu’s 8th incarnation occurs in a character Krishna, who we will read about in our last story, The Bhagavad-Gita. The 9th incarnation was Buddha, so you can see how Buddhism was an extension of Hinduism. The 10th incarnation (Kalki, a warrior on a white horse who will exterminate the material world) is yet to come, so get ready!
Questions for the Chapter 1:
2. List the “five-fold evils.” 3. Why should Thataka not be considered a woman? 4. What is Rama’s life mission? 5. How did Vishnu defeat Mahabali in an earlier incarnation? 6. How does Rama use his arrows defensively during the demon attack on the yanga? 7. How did Shiva save the country from the deluge? 8. How does Indra’s curse fit his crime?
Chapter 2 — The Wedding (1977 ed.: 23-34; 2006 ed.: 22-32)
After Rama’s initiation in the desert, he travels back home through the neighboring kingdom, reigned by Janaka. As Rama passes through, he meets eyes with Sita, whom he will marry. When they first see each other, they are struck by each other’s beauty and grandeur. In their past lives, however, they are also married. Rama is the god Vishnu, while Sita is the goddess Lakshmi, the mother goddess and the deity of wealth, prosperity, and fertility. When they look at each other, there is something that they recognize as familiar, yet their human forms do not allow themselves to understand why they are sensing this deja vu. This is a good description of the way that reincarnation appears to operate — that the soul inhabiting the new body cannot recall the thoughts and deeds from the previous lives. Karma is a Sanskrit word that means “action,” the cause/effect relationship by which each individual creates his own destiny by his thoughts, words, and deeds. Karma can be either good or bad, but always must be resolved before an individual soul can achieve moksha. We will see many examples of karma and its aftermath beyond this example. Hindus believe that one’s actions (karmas) influence
the entire universe, and that what goes around comes around. If you treat others respectfully, you will have that sentiment returned to you. Treat people badly, and you will be returned with the same behavior down the line. You may not get an immediate reaction or repayment (called “instant karma”). You may receive the return action at any time in any of your lives, or even thousands of years later. In the end, however, all will balance out. On page 25 (or page 24 in the 2006 version), Sita, after meeting eyes with Rama, becomes lovestruck to the point where she cannot eat, sleep, or concentrate. At one point she hears a bird (Anril) singing a beautiful song outside of her window. She is disturbed by the bird, and she blames a “sin” from a previous life for causing her current distress. She believes that her karma is being repayed in the form of the bird. She does not know that she will marry Rama in just a few short days. Sita’s father, Janaka, forces Rama to perform a great deed to prove his worthiness — the stringing of Shiva’s bow, which was left behind after the creation of the universe. The bow is as big as a mountain, so obviously no mortal could accomplish such a feat. Rama not only strings the bow, but he accidentally breaks it in the process, although many spectators missed his great feat because they averted their eyes, thinking that Rama would fail like all the others who had tried before. Rama is now publicly acclaimed as a hero, and many may suspect that he is indeed a god. Rama may now marry Sita, much to the delight of the large crowd watching. Their wedding is huge, and millions of people arrive from all over the world. Rama is universally loved and admired (as is Sita, who had thousands of male suitors begging Janaka for his daughter’s hand in marriage). On page 32 (or 30), we see some holy priests (Brahmins) arriving to the ceremony, many walking on their toes to avoid stepping on insects and small animals. In Hinduism, all life forms are respected equally, since one never knows whether or not an insect is really a relative living life in a different form (incarnation). These holy men also prevent themselves from “touching their nether regions” and looking at all the pretty girls, so as not to distract them from their spiritual pursuits. In Eastern beliefs, the idea of emotion or passion is considered to be detrimental to one’s life. If you recall, Joseph Campbell refers to the original meaning of the word “passion,” which is “suffering.” Please separate the concept of “love” apart from “passion.” Not all passion is love, and not all love is steeped in passion. Passion could entail anger, jealousy, or any other emotion that prevents you from concentrating on your thoughts or duties. Sita clearly feels passion, since she cannot go about her daily life without thinking of that handsome man that she just met. In Hinduism, one common duality is the mind vs. the body (or emotions). We are made of both, but one goal is to disregard the bodily messages in favor of the intelligent ones. Next, let’s address the fact that Rama has more than one “mother.” Dasaratha’s three wives are invited to the wedding: Kausalya, Sumithra, and Kaikeyi. Having reigned for thousands of years, Dasaratha has earned the right to marry multiple wives, an ancient tradition for a powerful leader. As these three wives enter Ayodhya for the wedding, each is followed by a group of attendants:
Kausalya is the mother of Rama, and is followed by an enterage of 60,000 people (notice the precessional number: 60, showing the extent of the Egyptian and Mesopotamian time systems in India!) Sumithra is the mother of the twins Lakshmana and Sathrugna (followed by 2,000 followers) Kaikeyi is the mother of Bharatha (accompanied by 1,000 servants)
Questions for the Chapter 2:
9. After becoming lovesick for Rama, Sita curses a bird singing outside her window. On what does she blame her suffering? 10. How does Janaka use Shiva’s bow? What is Rama’s reward for stringing it? 11. Describe the Brahmins during their procession into the city for the wedding. 12. List the number of attendants for each of Dasaratha’s wives:
Kaikeyi (Bharatha’s mother) — Sumithra (Lakshmana’s and Satrugna’s mother) — Kausalya (Rama’s mother) —
13. Dasaratha and his advisors consult astrologers before the nuptials. What do the stars tell them?
Chapter 3 — Two Promises Revived (1977 ed.: 35-64; 2006 ed.: 33-61)
Back home, after the wedding, Dasaratha, Rama’s father, is getting ready to retire (after 60,000 years as king), passing the throne onto Rama, whom he considers to be the perfect leader, even at such a young age (16? 20?). He quietly tells a few advisors of his plan, which is overheard by an evil hunchbacked dwarf woman, Kooni, who runs immediately to Kaikeyi’s bedroom to break the bad news to her. Kooni asks Kaikeyi to look in the mirror and accept that her stunning beauty cannot last forever. She plants a cunning seed into Kaikeyi’s head, telling her that life is like a stream, and that she cannot stop the passage of time. Kooni tells Kaikeyi that Dasaratha is more cunning, and that he has evil plans to enthrone Rama instead of Bharatha. When Dasaratha had met Kaikeyi, he was so drunk with love for her that he promised her father that their son would become the next king, which was enough for her father to offer his blessing for their marriage. Although Kooni exaggerates considerably, Dasaratha does act slyly in one way — he calls Rama into his room to inform his son that he has chosen him to be the next king, and that he will be coronated tomorrow. Oddly, Dasaratha has sent brother Bharatha out of town to visit his grandfather. Perhaps Dasaratha does not trust Bharatha’s reaction to the news, or perhaps Bharatha was merely sent to bring his grandfather to the coronation. Ultimately, Kooni does convince Kaikeyi that Rama might banish Bharatha from the city and take over power from her side of the family. This is a lie, of course, but it works well enough. Kaikeyi soon decides that she would rather see her own flesh and blood (Bharatha) on the throne instead of Rama, even though she earlier admitted that she considers her step-son, Rama, to be one of her own. She forces Dasaratha to fulfill his promises (boons) to her (which he pledged after she saved his life in a much earlier episode). The timing of Kaikeyi’s demands could not have been worse, for Dasaratha is forced to fulfill Kaikeyi’s demands if he wishes to attain dissolution (moksha — that is, heaven, eternal peace, etc.). If
Dasaratha gives into Kaikeyi’s demands, then the universe will be placed into chaos because Rama will not be crowned (breaking his promise to Rama). If he stands firm and refuses to comply, then his own karma will be out of balance because he will renege on his promises to his wife, which also means that he will have to face yet another incarnation. He’s stuck, and he knows it. He soon dies from the heartbreak (the passion/suffering) caused by Kaikeyi’s cunning. Dasaratha faces a “lose/lose” situation when Kaikeyi forces him to banish Rama and award Bharatha the throne. He can’t win, which is probably why he dies a desperate, passionate death. Rama’s birth mother, Kausalya, initially blames Bharatha for this mischief, but is convinced otherwise by Bharatha’s anger and frustration with his own mother’s actions (karma). Even so, Dasaratha blames both mother and son for this deed, and he disowns them. Unfortunately, he died immediately after, so his word remains as unbreakable law (Rama will mention that words are “like arrows” (page 57 or 54), since they cannot be recalled after they have been launched). This final action by the king forces Bharatha from being the one to light his father’s funeral pyre. Rama is banished, and Lakshmana is with him, so these two older brothers cannot do it. Yet Bharatha cannot participate due to his father’s commands. It seems as if Bharatha is the greatest victim of his mother’s own treachery and selfishness. Bharatha will leave Rama’s sandals on the throne to let everyone know who the real leader is.
Questions for the Chapter 3:
14. What is Dasaratha’s motivation to retire? 15. What suddenly makes Dasaratha uneasy, forcing him to call Rama back to see him? 16. Why does Kooni tell Kaikeyi that “beauty and youth are like a wild stream”? 17. What evidence does Kooni present to support her fears, accusations, and suspicions? 18. Who are Rama’s five mothers? 19. What had Dasaratha promised to Kaikeyi many years ago? 20. What two boons does Kaikeyi ask from Dasaratha? 21. Rama tells Kausalya that his exile yields three blessings. List them. 22. What episode from Dasaratha’s past does he attribute his current bad karma? 23. Whom does Rama blame for his misfortunes? 24. How are words like arrows? 25. According to Bharatha, what would happen if Rama committed a wrong act? 26. What prevents Bharatha from killing his mother? 27. How is Kausalya convinced that Bharatha is innocent and removed from these evils? 28. Why does Vasishta prevent Bharatha from lighting his father’s funeral pyre? 29. How does Bharatha honor Rama during his exile?
Chapter 4 — Encounters in Exile (1977 ed.: 65-77; 2006 ed.: 62-73)
The Ramayana is a story that presents the ultimate conflict: order vs. chaos, with the gods (devas) promoting order and the demons (asuras) causing chaos. Once Rama is banished into his exile, he will confront the demons and engage in the battle of order vs. chaos. Rama willingly departs into the forest, guided by the Hindu belief in dharma (sacred duty). Each person must fulfill certain caste and religious obligations (dharma) in order to maintain harmony in the universe. The only means of escaping birth is to perform one’s sacred duty. One’s dharma is partly determined by one’s social position (caste) as well as by circumstance. Once a person understands his dharma, he must religiously pursue it until it is completed, which may last thousands of lifetimes. As a son, Rama must obey his father’s wishes, even if they are communicated through his stepmother. Failure to pursue one’s dharma will also create bad karma, tossing the world off of its axis. Notice that Rama calmly and rationally accepts his fate, casting no blame and showing no regrets or anger toward anyone. When informed about this new change of plans just an hour before the coronation, Rama seems to understand the “bigger picture” about this situation, and so he willingly accepts his banishment without any emotional attachment. Perhaps Rama knows that this 14-year exile will allow him to be tested further, giving him the experience necessary to achieve glory in the end. His banishment is very similar to the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve are banished to attain a life experience and prove their wordiness. In fact, Rama blames himself for hastily accepting the throne without thinking about the consequences. Rama takes the “high road” and says no evil or cross words to anyone in his family. He sees his fate as an opportunity, not a curse, revealing his detachment from the material world, unlike Kooni, Kaikeyi, Kausalya, Dasaratha, Lakshmana, Bharatha, the advisors, and the whole region filled with well-wishers. In the desert, much like we saw in the Egyptian unit, evil roams free, as did Set. Rama, his wife, and brother will now enter a new place where the demons curse and tempt them incessantly. In chapter 4, we will see Rama tested by the demons during his exile into the forest, a wide open range of land that I like to call the “demons’ playground.” Ravana, the great demon, will send his family members and henchmen to the desert to conquer Rama, but Rama will vanquish these beasts every time. This will be the first chapter where we really start to see Rama acting as a god. Because he is a man, however, he must also adhere to his social standing (caste), which is why he acts like a warrior — he IS one. Ravana will be assisted in his evil-doing by many members of his family, including his uncle Mareecha (Thataka’s son, whom we met in chapter 1 when Rama was undergoing his training with Viswamithra). We will also see his sister Soorpanka and his son Indrajit cause a little chaos as well. We will also see the forests filled with talking animals, such as Jatayu the eagle, Jambavan the bear, and Hanuman the monkey scholar. These characters are not mere animals, but rather gods that have been incarnated into animal forms with the dharma to assist Rama in his mission. We will learn later in the story that many of these demons were cursed in certain ways where they would die at the hands of monkeys, etc., revealing the need for these unique incarnations. Likewise, we need to notice that a profound difference exists between the devas (gods) and the asuras (demons). Whereas the gods, such as Rama, will be able to see the true inner nature of someone, the demons, such as Ravana, the Grand Tormentor, are only able to see the face value of each person. To the demons, only the characters’ exteriors are considered, but the gods see past the facade and into one’s atman (soul). Likewise, the demons will use illusions and chaos (called maya) to achieve their ends, but Rama (Vishnu incarnate) will use his reasoning and rational thinking to enact divine justice in profound ways.
Look at how Rama uses the logic of the caste system when he battles Soorpanka, Ravana’s evil sister. She descends to Earth in the form of a sexually desperate woman, changing her appearance and her name to Kamavalli. She approaches Rama and makes several advances toward him. Rama, however, knows that she is a demon, and sees through her disguise (obviously, his desert training in chapter 1 has been helpful to battle these very situations). Rama first tells her that they could never marry because they come from different castes (page 68 or 65), but also tells her that they are from different forms entirely (he is a human, while Soorpanka is of the rakshasa class of demons), so it would never work out. She persists, forcing Lakshmana to cut off various body parts, essentially making her ugly and undesirable for lesser humans. Lakshmana often plays the roles of bodyguard and advisor to Rama, and he will often do the “dirty work” for Rama. Ironically, of all her body parts lopped off, she is most worried about losing her nose! All she has to do is change her physical shapes, but it appears easier to complain to her brother instead.
Questions for the Chapter 4:
30. What vow does Jatayu make to our heroes? 31. What is Kamavalli’s real identity? 32. What arguments does she use to convince Rama that they are compatible? (Note: They continue throughout the chapter.) 33. How does Lakshmana finally get rid of the demon woman? 34. Whom does Soorpanka recruit to enact revenge on Rama and Lakshmana?
Chapter 5 — The Grand Tormentor (1977 ed.: 79-95; 2006 ed.: 74-89)
As you make your way through the book, examine how the characters act. Three terms from The Bhagavad-Gita can be applied to these characters. They represent the three states of the human soul:
lucidity — the state of clear thinking passion — emotional connection to the earthly world / suffering dark inertia — the state of delusional thinking and confusion
Notice that Rama is consistently in a state of lucidity from this point in the story until the end. Although he slipped into passion when he chased the golden deer (and also when he griped to Lakshmana about Sugreeva’s failure to arrive after the rains), Rama will now demonstrate his clearest thinking, such as he did when he killed Vali. All passions distract us from our intellectual or spiritual pursuits, so we must learn to detach ourselves from them in order to become lucid. Ravana, on the other hand, consistently demonstrates both passion and dark inertia. Falling in love/lust with a verbal description of Sita shows his propensity for passion, which has therefore clouded his judgment, allowing him to slip into dark inertia. He changes the weather, draws faulty conclusions, and creates a lot of confusion about nothing of consequence. He is hopelessly lost in the dark, spinning wildly out of control, with no reasonable direction or destination.
When Soorpanka returns to the realm of demons, she informs Ravana that she was maimed by Rama, thus sending Ravana into a rage, wishing to kill Rama in an act of vengeance. However, after Soorpanka tells her brother about the beautiful Sita, Ravana suddenly becomes smitten with the love bug, and can think only of marrying her. We should find it funny that he falls in love with a brief verbal description of Sita. He must have a wild imagination because he falls so hard in lust with Sita that he becomes tormented by his own desires. In his confusion, he changes the weather (page 82 or 76-77), although he is not satisfied with any weather at all. What Ravana is doing here is creating chaos, pure chaos, since he is the demon force of disorder and confusion. In fact, he is so confused that he will curse the moon for being unpredictable and fickle, yet his personality embodies the exact same mutability as is demonstrated by the moon. Ravana is playing a feminine role here, being wavering and undecided about himself and about which actions to take. One by one, his demon family members will try to counsel him about his foolish behavior, but he is so ignorant that he is blind to his own ignorance to the point where he can never “see the light.” This type of chaos and confusion is called maya, and it is the way that the demons operate. Watch for this term to appear later in the story. Ravana forces Mareecha (his uncle, an evil demon who is attempting to become good) to assume the form of a jeweled deer, which tempts Sita to the point where she begs Rama to fetch it for her. Although Lakshmana counsels against this, Rama willingly (and foolishly) attempts to capture the deer. Further trickery lures Lakshmana away from the cottage, leaving Sita all alone to be kidnapped by Ravana. When Ravana arrives (in the form of a hermit beggar), Sita is unaware of his demon nature (at least at first), and she is ultimately kidnapped to the far away island of Sri Lanka. Notice that Ravana must kidnap her by digging the earth around her feet because of a previous curse that forbids him to touch a woman without her permission, lest he die. Did Rama not know that he was being tricked? Did he willingly let his wife be captured by the great demon? As Vishnu (the Protector), he has failed in his task. Now he will need to thwart not only Ravana, but also set on another quest to find Sita and bring her back safely. We saw a similar change of plans in Gilgamesh, when Gilgamesh thought that attaining the pine wood was the end of his mission, only to embark on a greater journey after Enkidu’s death. In order to accomplish this more complex task, Rama enlists the help of the monkeys, beginning with a passerby named Hanuman, who is dressed as a scholar, but is really the king of the monkeys with superhuman abilities to fly and change sizes. After Sita had been kidnapped to the island of Lanka (Sri Lanka) by Ravana, the head demon, Rama’s immediate dharma becomes more clear — save his wife from harm.
Questions for the Chapter 5:
35. Describe Ravana’s court. 36. Comment on Ravana falling into extreme lust after hearing a verbal description of Sita, told to him by Soorpanka. 37. Among other things, Ravana commands the seasons to change. How does this reflect his temperament? 38. Why is Mareecha uneasy about assisting Ravana in his plan? 39. Why does Mareecha tell Ravana, “You have the grace of Shiva on you”?
40. Why does Ravana say the following: “[…] let it be Rama’s arrow that pierces my heart rather than the insidious, minute ones from the bow of the god of love”? 41. How do Ravana and Soorpanka view Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana? What assumptions do these demons make about our heroes? 42. Why does Sita desire the golden deer so passionately? 43. Why does Rama chase after it, ignoring his brother’s advice and his own better judgment? 44. How does Lakshmana know that Rama was not harmed, despite hearing cries of help in Rama’s voice? 45. Why does Lakshmana eventually chase after Rama and the deer? 46. At what point does Ravana begin to lose his disguise as a sanyasi (a hermit)? 47. Which character comes to Sita’s rescue, only to be defeated by Ravana? 48. Why does Ravana decide to kidnap Sita rather than fight Rama?
Chapter 6 — Vali (1977 ed.: 97-113; 2006 ed.: 90-105)
This chapter introduces Sugreeva, leader of the monkey clan, and his helper Hanuman. These characters will play important roles in their search for Sita. The chapter ends with controversy. Rama apparently commits an unjustified action, and his victim protests. Look closely at how Rama and Lakshmana explain the logic of their actions. There is a scene on page 99 (or 91-92) where Hanuman, the scholar monkey, begins to bow down to Rama upon their first meeting. Rama tells Hanuman, however, that Rama instead should bow down to Hanuman, since Hanuman comes from the higher priestly caste, while Rama is a “mere warrior” (that is, he is from the warrior caste). This story would have been very different had Rama been incarnated into the body of a priest or holy man. By taking the form of a warrior, Rama can serve as an example for people beneath the priestly caste. He still recognizes his place as a human incarnation, even to the point of realizing that a god in a monkey form is still a god. No matter the form, Vishnu will respect the physical form that he inhabits, just as our souls are obligated to do the same. Ravana’s army was cursed to die at the hands of monkeys, so these devas returning in the form of monkeys makes sense in the narrative. Hanuman informs Rama that Sugreeva can gather the magic monkey army for Rama, but first Rama must help settle a bitter family dispute amongst the monkey kingdom so that Sugreeva can command this army. Therefore, before setting off to find Sita, Rama must help Sugreeva to re-establish himself as a leader of the monkey tribes. This can only occur by conquering Sugreeva’s brother Vali (Vali was present during the creation of the universe, so he is essentially a god character in the form of a mighty monkey. Vali has a unique power that drains his opponents of half of their strength, while transferring it to him).
Hanuman tells Rama the history of this sibling rivalry. When Vali was fighting a great demon, Mayavi, he took the battle into a deep cave that stretched to the center of the Earth. He asked his little brother Sugreeva to guard the mouth of the cave so that the demon wouldn’t escape. Sugreeva did as he was asked, but after many months of waiting, Sugreeva left his post on the counsel of his advisors, assuming that his brother had died in the battle. Twenty-eight months later, however, Vali returned victorious, but now irate that Sugreeva had locked him inside the cave by rolling a boulder in front of the entrance. Furious at Sugreeva, Vali burst out of his prison and chased Sugreeva away, vowing to kill him if he ever saw him again. Vali then proceded to steal Sugreeva’s wife, Tara, and to keep her as his very own. Enter Rama, who shoots an arrow into Vali at the moment that he seizes his brother by the throat and prepares to crush his skull on a neighboring rock. As Rama’s arrow is penetrating Vali’s chest, he pulls it out with equal force, and begins to die slowly. Vali then spouts a long dialogue with Rama and Lakshmana for 5 full pages before finally keeling over and dying. In this speech, Vali criticizes Rama’s actions, calling them cowardly, misguided, and evil. Rama had never before been spoken to this way (such as being addressed as “young man”), yet he patiently listens to Vali’s tirade. Vali blames Rama of having selfish motivation and a corrupt nature that places the younger brothers on the thrones of power while allowing the more capable leaders to lose their might. He further blames Rama for failing to act heroically and for breaking the rules of war. Why did Rama attack him from a hidden location, he wonders? Don’t real heroes fight face-to-face and without weapons? He cannot understand Rama’s behavior until Rama explains to Vali that Rama’s actions were not only justified, but that Vali was smarter than his physical form suggests. After Rama explains that he sees the god inside of Vali’s animal exterior, Vali begins to realize that Rama was really treating him as a god, not as an animal. In essence, Rama has praised Vali by shooting him with an arrow. By enlightening Vali’s mind, he can die with his karmas resolved and can attain a higher incarnation in his next life. Without Rama’s feat, Vali would have eventually died with a great amount of bad karma (through the act of murdering his brother), forcing this god into lower and lower levels of life. Vali quickly explains that he understands what has now happened. Vali has been elevated to the status of a god by the greatest of gods, Vishnu. What looks like an unfortunate sneak attack actually becomes Vali’s greatest day of salvation. He is glorified by the way that Rama treats him, therefore preserving Vali’s soul and his efforts throughout his many incarnations. In short, Rama’s arrows enlighten Vali rather than kill him. Vali’s exterior monkey form is killed, allowing his next birth of his inner soul to become more glorified. In many ways, this is Vali’s best day of all of his lives! As we have learned, Eastern beliefs prioritize the mind over the body. Easterners will typically view this world as one filled with illusions (also called maya). We cannot trust our eyes or our senses, since they can be so easily fooled. We have all seen the “water” on the road on a hot summer day. Eastern followers will meditate to clear their minds of their conscious thoughts (their earthly passions and connections), in favor of tapping into the deeper spiritual essences of our inner beings.
Questions for the Chapter 6:
49. Who is Hanuman? 50. Who is Vali?
51. In what great feat did Vali participate? What was his reward? 52. Why does Vali hate his brother Sugreeva? 53. Which character is the first to identify Rama as Vishnu? How does he know? 54. Rama shoots Vali with an arrow, but Vali protests the appropriateness of Rama’s actions. Summarize a few of his arguments.
55. Rama then responds to Vali, illuminating his mind and ensuring a better incarnation. Summarize a few of Rama’s arguments.
Chapter 7 — When the Rains Cease (1977 ed.: 115-130; 2006 ed.: 106-120)
In chapter 7, Sugreeva is sent back to Kiskinda to reorganize his kingdom and gather a monkey army to assist in the search for Sita. However, Sugreeva falls into the trap of passion, and he has to prove himself once again. Rama patiently waits for the monsoon season to end so that he can be met by Sugreeva and his monkey army. This will allow them to look for Sita by covering the countryside with more sets of eyes. Unfortunately for Rama, Sugreeva has forgotten about his duty to Rama, and instead parties in his palace after Rama had reinstated him as king of Kiskinda. Sugreeva is basking in wine, women, food, and pleasure, all the while Rama waits patiently for his arrival. On page 119 (or 109-110), Rama displays anger and frustration at Sugreeva, at one point threatening to kill the little monkey. Rama quickly clarifies his tone with Lakshmana, sending his brother on a quest to locate Sugreeva. Lakshmana finds our little monkey friend inside his palace, and he angrily knocks some sense into this slacker, who can’t believe that he became lost in his own drunkenness. Upon returning to Rama’s exiled location, Sugreeva apologizes and scolds himself for having a “monkey mind” (page 124 or 114). This concept of a monkey mind is a popular one in Hindu literature, and it refers to the turbulent mind that is overtaken by earthly desires. Rama is quick to forgive Sugreeva, and he decides instead to focus on what Sugreeva can do for him now rather than dwelling on his past folly. Apparently, Sugreeva is now prepared to perform his duties to Rama by gathering the monkey army. Remember that, in Eastern philosophies, the current moment is more important than the past or present, mainly because you can control your actions right now.
Questions for the Chapter 7:
56. What is Rama’s advice to Sugreeva? 57. How does Rama justify “destroying evil”? 58. When Lakshmana arrives in Kiskinda, in what condition does he find Sugreeva? 59. After Sugreeva’s apology, what is Rama’s reaction?
60. How does Rama describe Sita to Hanuman? 61. Where do Hanuman and Angada’s searches take them? 62. What clue does Sampathi offer the group? 63. How has Hanuman been cursed, as explained by Jambavan?
Chapter 8 — Momento from Rama (1977 ed.: 131-133; 2006 ed.: 121-123)
Along the way, Lakshmana stumbles upon Sampathi, the older brother of the eagle god, Jatayu (who had been killed in the previous chapter). Both Jatayu and Sampathi had been rendered powerless by the demon armies. Lakshmana simply states Rama’s name, which allows Sampathi to regain his lost eminence. Sampathi has some good news and some bad news: He has seen where Ravana took Sita (Sri Lanka), but he can’t join them in the battle since he has to sit on the throne and lead his people in his brother’s stead. Why does he do this? Notice that Sampathi has a dharma that must be satisfied. Everyone has his duty, and Sampathi’s duty is first to his people, then to Rama. Other characters (such as Sugreeva) are bound to serve Rama directly, so you can see that each creature has its own dharma to fulfill. Hanuman uses his size-changing powers to take a single step from India to the island of Sri Lanka, then shrinks himself back down to regular monkey size to look for Sita. Apparently none of the demons notice a giant monkey stepping onto their island. (Do you see why these demons just don’t “get it”?) On page 132 (or 121-122) Hanuman thinks he sees Sita, but notices her unflattering sleeping position, therefore drawing the conclusion that she is not Sita (but rather Mandodari, Ravana’s wife). We had learned that one’s physical appearance is not an accurate reflection of his soul, so why does Hanuman use physical features to identify this woman? Well, he’s not really looking at her physical features as much as he sees her subconscious reactions while sleeping. Apparently, one’s true nature can be seen during sleep, since we don’t control our own subconscious thoughts and actions.
Questions for the Chapter 8:
64. When Hanuman sees Mandodari sleeping, how can he tell that she is not Sita? 65. Where does Hanuman find Sita? 66. Ravana orders Hanuman killed. Which character intercedes and what is his argument?
Chapter 9 — Ravana in Council (1977 ed.: 135-140; 2006 ed.: 124-129)
After Ravana’s capital is reconstructed, he gathers together his brothers, generals, and advisors to establish their war tactics. Unfortunately, the meeting dissolves into chaos and contention. Which characters make reasonable arguments, and which make foolish ones?
Ravana’s family begins speaking out against him, one by one, beginning on the final page of Chapter 8 and then continuing into chapter 9. Here are five different speakers who take a stand against Ravana’s wildly erratic behavior: Page 133 (or 123), after Hanuman is captured, Ravana aims to destroy this monkey king. Vibishana scolds Ravana for wanting to kill a mere messenger. This allows Hanuman to escape while setting Ravana’s kingdom on fire. On page 136 (or 125), Ravana’s commander-in-chief scolds Ravana for stealing Sita rather than fighting Rama, and that the animals that rise against Ravana are part of a divine purpose that he better acknowledge. On page 136 (125) again, another speaker blindly ponders why they should be afraid of a monkey. After all, they eat monkeys, so why fear your own food? On page 137 (or 125), Kumbakarna (Ravana’s brother) reminds Ravana that his bad karma has caused their current disasters, and that the future must hold worse things if they do not surrender Sita. Also on page 137 (or 126), Ravana’s own son, Indrajit, is so arrogant and foolish that he believes that he himself can vanquish the great Rama, even though thousands of demons have attempted and failed. What was he thinking? Would he not command all the glory (if victorious), thereby outperforming his own father, denying him his due honor? Selfish acts are chaotic, but selfless ones are noble. None of these demons seem to be thinking clearly, except for two: Mareecha, Ravana’s uncle, and Ravana’s brother Vibishana. Finally, on page 138-139 (or 126-227), Vibishana lets Ravana have it. He aggressively tells Ravana that his actions will lead to doom, but Ravana refuses to listen. Ravana claims on page 139 (or 127) that he is not afraid of Vishnu (Rama) since Vishnu has “never won a single battle.” Well, that is a lie, since Vishnu has already won several important battles in his six previous incarnations. Why does Ravana say this? Pride. Hubris. Dark inertia. Remember from the first unit, we learned that the cycle of life is an ongoing rotation from birth, through life, and then to death (called samsara). The Hindu Triad likewise represents these three important life forces: Brahma (Creator) —> Vishnu (Preserver) —> Shiva (Destroyer). All three are essential to the life cycle, but they are always rotating. Ravana, if you recall, was blessed by Shiva, the Destroyer, meaning that Ravana will serve an important role of destruction, a necessary force to allow for rebirth. Ravana, however, is not thinking about this life cycle properly. Through his confusion and delusion, Ravana mistakenly believes that anything protected by Vishnu will ultimately be destroyed by Shiva. It is partially correct to assume that, no matter what Vishnu does, all things must come to an end. However, Ravana denies the next step after destruction, which is creation/birth/Brahma, which starts the cycle over again. Ravana looks at destruction as the final step, but it is only one of three forces that continually wax and wane, over and over again. Sure, all things preserved will become destroyed, but then they will become reborn, meaning that neither of these three forces is superior to the other. Ravana has made an interpretation that made him to view the blessings of Shiva to be better than the protective forces of Vishnu, but this is delusional (both forces are equal). This is one reason why Ravana’s brothers and cousins begin to step away from Ravana, either resigning from the battle or being dismissed by Ravana himself.
Questions for the Chapter 9:
67. Who rebuilds Ravana’s city? What is symbolic about this name? 68. Summarize the comments that each of Ravana’s counselors offers: Ravana’s commander-in-chief — Mahodara — The third speaker — Kumbakarna — Indrajit — Vibishana —
Chapter 10 — Across the Ocean (1977 ed.: 141-144; 2006 ed.: 130-133)
After Vibishana is kicked out of Ravana’s lair, he seeks protection from the great protector, Rama (Vishnu). He decides to change teams, so to speak, and asks Rama for asylum. Rama asks his advisors what they think, and one-by-one they agree that Vibishana is a demon and a traitor, and therefore can’t be trusted. They all get their say, until Rama asks Hanuman, the scholarly monkey, for his opinion. Hanuman is reluctant to speak, but he offers a different perspective — that Rama should provide protection to this demon brother of Ravana. The others are aghast, but Rama agrees with Hanuman, who saw firsthand how Vibishana had decided to use his powers for the good of others rather than for self-gain. Hanuman recalls, for instance, how Vibishana’s house was orderly, much like a priest’s house, whereas the other demons lived in filth and disarray, or their homes were filled with temptations. Rama explains that providing sanctuary to the needy is a noble virtue, even if it causes him harm to the individual offering the succor.
Questions for the Chapter 10:
69. Summarize the arguments that these characters make regarding Vibishana’s entry: Sugreeva — Jambavan — Lakshmana — Hanuman — Rama — 70. How will the army cross the sea to fight Ravana in Lanka?
Chapter 11 — The Siege of Lanka (1977 ed.: 145-149; 2006 ed.: 134-138)
This is a short, action-packed battle scene. Some of the details are graphic, but I ask you to focus on the behaviors and the motivations of the characters. How do the gods and demons act differently? As you complete this story, look at the methods of fighting that Rama and Ravana employ. Rama plays strictly by the rules of fair fighting, while Ravana will make many mistakes and blunders, especially misinterpreting the heroic characters in this story. On many occasions, Ravana (and many of his demon siblings) will view Rama as a mere human, relying on their exterior forms to cast this judgment. However, we have seen in the Eastern literature that one’s inner soul is the only thing that is real, making our physical bodies mere illusions. While Rama and Hanuman can see a person’s soul, Ravana cannot, since demons work with looks, not substance. The same situation occurred in the Hindu creation story, The Churning of the Milky Ocean, where the gods (Vishnu) tricked the demons with a beautiful woman to win back the elixir of immortality. After the monkey army builds the bridge to Sri Lanka, the fight takes off, eventually culminating in several scenes where Rama and Ravana meet face-to-face. On page 147 (or 136), Ravana is spent, his head is cracked open (well, one of his heads, that is), and he has been disarmed. That’s when Rama offers Ravana mercy, suggesting that he rest and refresh himself for tomorrow’s battle. Why? Would such a thing happen in today’s warfare? Notice that Rama attempts to give Ravana every opportunity to reconsider his evil ways. Predictably, Ravana becomes angrier and more determined, even though he has now been humiliated by Rama and is losing support of his fellow demons by the minute. Ravana seems more worried about how this new twist in the battle may appear to others, but notice that this too is an illusion. Ravana understands only the world of illusions and tricks, having no real substance underneath. Dark inertia evokes this quality of inaction through ignorance. It represents confusion of the spirit, and the most delusional and chaotic thinking possible. Ravana is a perfect example of this, especially when he blames all of their problems on Sita (he erroneously argues that she must be to blame ... because if she weren’t so beautiful, Ravana would have never fallen in love). You can see that this makes no sense whatsoever, and Ravana probably said this because he is too weak to admit his faults or not man enough to assume the consequences of his own actions.
Questions for the Chapter 11:
71. List a few of Ravana’s tactics. 72. What does Rama send Angada to do? 73. After cracking one of Ravana’s heads, what does Rama do next? Why? 74. Whom does Ravana blame as the “cause” of his “misery”?
Chapter 12 — Rama and Ravana in Battle (151-160; ‘06 ed.: 139-147)
This is the second and last battle chapter. Examine the types of weapons that Rama and Ravana use, and interpret how they reflect each character’s qualities. This ultimate battle scene pits the champions of the two opposing forces: order and chaos. Now that Ravana’s army has been decimated by death and defectors, he alone will challenge Rama in a battle to the death.
Appropriately, each procures a grand weapon for the occasion. Rama will use a weapon called “Brahmasthra,” which is a combination of the words “Brahma” (creator) and “asthra” (a weapon of the mind). Notice that the name of Rama’s weapon communicates its purpose: to create something good out of the destruction of something bad. Ravana’a weapon of choice, however, should come as no surprise. His magic weapon is a highly effective one: “Maya.” The word Maya in Sanskrit means “illusion.” We have seen this word earlier in the story: after Hanuman had burned down Ravana’s island at the end of Chapter 8, Ravana’s architect, Maya, rebuilt the city by the start of Chapter 9. It seems appropriate that Ravana’s home is build upon illusion, since none of it is real or lasting, just like the physical, material world of dualities in which we currently suffer. Eventually, Ravana is slain by Rama, who becomes the hero of the story by defeating this great force of chaos. There is a slight controversy, however, when it is discovered that Ravana had a scar on the back of his neck. Rama feared that he might have killed Ravana accidentally from behind, which would bring his shame, not glory.
Questions for the Chapter 12:
75. Which side does Shiva assist in this battle between Rama and Ravana? Why? 76. How do Ravana and Rama approach the battle differently? 77. How does Ravana change his tactics? 78. List some of the asthras (divine weapons) that Ravana and Rama use. 79. After bringing Ravana to the brink of defeat, Rama’s charioteer, matali, advises Rama to finish the demon off. Why does Rama refuse to do this? 80. Why is Rama so concerned about the scar on the back of Ravana’s neck? How does Vibishana explain this scar?
Chapter 13 — Interlude (1977 ed.: 161-162; 2006 ed.: 148-149)
This chapter may bother some of you who want a fairy tale ending, but Sita’s trials are not yet over. Look at how Rama accepts Sita back into his fold. The first paragraph of the next chapter will assist you in answering the following questions. Just as all would seem to be well, Sita is returned to Rama, who shockingly casts her aside and tells her that she is now free from their marriage vows. The problem here is that Sita’s virtue is in question in the public’s eyes. Even though Rama knows that she has been faithful to him while she was kidnapped, the thousands of spectators do not. Many may have been gossiping about Sita’s potential love affairs with Ravana or his brothers, so she must prove her virtue. She asks Lakshmana to build a funeral pyre, and she jumps into the burning logs to immolate herself. Just then, the fire transforms into Agni, the God of Fire, who safely returns her into Rama’s arms, having passed her test of virtue.
Questions for the Chapter 13:
81. Explain Rama’s words to Sita. 82. Explain Sita’s actions in response.
Chapter 14 — The Coronation (1977 ed.: 163-167; 2006 ed.: 150-153)
Rama and Sita will live happily ever after, and the country is returned to Rama’s just rule. Even Dasaratha gets to congratulate his son on a job well done. The story ends when Rama is given his rightful seat on the throne. He also gets to briefly speak with his dead father, who still holds a grudge against Kaikeyi and Bharatha, until Rama asks his father to forgive them. Dasaratha may now slip into the next stage of his life — moksha — which Dasaratha refers to as “dissolution.” The story ends with the forces of preservation victorious, at least for now, for there will be an infinite number of battles still to come!
Questions for the Chapter 14:
83. What news does Brahma tell Rama? 84. When given the opportunity to talk to his deceased father, what does Rama ask of him? 85. How do Rama and his followers arrive back at Ayodhya so quickly? 86. What is Bharatha prepared to do to himself if Rama does not return?
Epilogue (1977 ed.: 169-171; 2006 ed.: 155-157)
Your translator, R. K. Narayan, explains some details of the story and informs the readers about ancient Indian storytelling techniques. He also defends why he has chosen to make some of his editorial deletions. I hope that you have enjoyed this story!
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
What is The Bhagavad-Gita?
The Bhagavad-Gita is a Hindu text, its title meaning “Song of Our Lord.” This scripture, dating from 400 BCE to 400 CE, is considered by many Hindus to be the most sacred and most influential in their canon. Organized into 18 chapters, this reading tells the story of a charioteer named Krishna, who teaches a reluctant warrior, Arjuna, that he must perform his duty (dharma) without dwelling on his emotional attachment to his actions. Krishna is really an incarnation of the Hindu god of preservation, Vishnu, appearing in his eighth physical incarnation. By following Krishna’s counsel, Arjuna will be able to achieve moksha and end the painful cycles of birth and rebirth (samsara) that we all endure here in the material world. The Bhagavad-Gita may be one of our most complex readings this semester. In order to best understand the Gita, we need to look at Krishna’s advice in terms of the bigger picture — the totality of the universe. Westerners tend to dwell on microcosmos, sometimes ignoring the bigger, ultimate realities. Life happens all around us, but we must be able to see beyond our own perspectives in order to comprehend that which is greater than us. Arjuna, the warrior, must fight according to his caste placement (as a warrior). If he performs his duties well as a soldier, then he will have learned his lesson in this life and will be ready to assume the responsibilities of his next incarnation. The trouble is that Arjuna faces a battle against his own cousins (as part of a long family feud over land ownership, dating back to an ancestor who gambled his inheritance away). Arjuna is riding in a chariot (a common model of warfare throughout the world at this time), and his charioteer (Krishna) offers him advice. At first, Arjuna is unaware that Krishna is God, but by chapter VI he accepts Krishna’s form as real. Arjuna fears this battle since he does not wish to inflict harm onto his family, but, as a warrior, he knows that he must fight. What should he do? If Arjuna fails to fight, then he will be shirking his dharma, his sacred duty determined by his birth caste, therefore hurling the universe out of balance, leading to more pain and suffering in future generations.
Chapter I (Arjuna’s Dejection)
Arjuna is a warrior who is about to enter the battle against his cousins and various members of his extended family. Of course, this causes him great distress. He tells Krishna that he feels “dejected” and filled with “strange pity.” He states that he does not “want to kill them even if I am killed,” and who could blame him? Although this seems the proper perspective to own, Krishna knows otherwise. He explains to Arjuna that his emotional attachment to his family is really a weakness, since attachment and passion (kama; that is, “suffering”) are means of connecting yourself to the physical world, which is nothing more than an illusion (maya), the Dream of Vishnu. To Krishna (whose name also means “Christ”), the real enemy is desire (kama), which traps us into a world of tantalizing visions and emotions, ultimately casting us off course from our spiritual journeys.
When reading this chapter, you should look at this battlefield as a metaphor for the battles that take place inside our own minds. This story does take place on a physical field, but it is intended to be interpreted as a battlefield of the mind. As usual, everything is a metaphor.
1:13 Conches and kettledrums, cymbals, tabors, and trumpets were sounded at once and the din of tumult arose. 1:14 Standing on their great chariots yoked with white stallions, Krishna and Arjuna, Pandu’s son, sounded their divine conches. 1:15 Krishna blew Pancajanya, won from a demon; Arjuna blew Devadetta, a gift of the gods; fierce wolf-bellied Bhima blew Paundra, his great conch of the east. 1:20 Arjuna, his war flag a rampant monkey, saw Dhritarashtra’s sons assembled as weapons were ready to clash, and he lifted his bow. 1:21 He told his charioteer, “Krishna, halt my chariot between the armies! 1:22 Far enough for me to see these men who lust for war, ready to fight with me in the strain of battle. 1:23 I see men gathered here, eager to fight, bent on serving the folly of Dhritarashtra’s son.” 1:24 When Arjuna had spoken, Krishna halted their splendid chariot between the armies. 1:26 Arjuna saw them standing there: fathers, grandfathers, teachers, uncles, brothers, sons, grandsons, and friends. 1:27 He surveyed his elders and companions in both armies, all his kinsmen assembled together. 1:28 Dejected, filled with strange pity, he said this: “Krishna, I see my kinsmen gathered here, wanting war. 1:29 My limbs sink, my mouth is parched, my body trembles, the hair bristles on my flesh.
1:30 The magic bow slips from my hand, my skin burns, I cannot stand still, my mind reels. 1:31 I see omens of chaos, Krishna; I see no good in killing my kinsmen in battle. 1:32 Krishna, I seek no victory, or kingship or pleasures. What use to us are kingship, delights, or life itself? 1:33 We sought kingship, delights, and pleasures for the sake of those assembled to abandon their lives and fortunes in battle. 1:34 They are teachers, fathers, sons, and grandfathers, uncles, grandsons, fathers and brothers of wives, and other men of our family. 1:35 I do not want to kill them even if I am killed, Krishna, not for the kingship of all three worlds, much less for the earth! 1:36 What joy is there for us, Krishna, in killing Dhritarashtra’s sons? Evil will haunt us if we kill them, though their bows are drawn to kill. 1:37 Honor forbids us to kill our cousins, Dhritarashtra’s sons. How can we know happiness if we kill our own kinsmen? 1:38 The greed that distorts their reason blinds them to the sin they commit in ruining the family, blinds them to the crime of betraying friends. 1:39 How can we ignore the wisdom of turning from this evil when we see the sin of family destruction, Krishna? 1:40 When the family is ruined, the timeless laws of family duty perish; and when duty is lost, chaos overwhelms the family.
1:47 Saying this in the time of war, Arjuna slumped into the chariot and laid down his bow and arrows, his mind tormented by grief.
1:41 In overwhelming chaos, Krishna, women of the family are corrupted; and when women are corrupted, disorder is born in society.”
Chapter II (Philosophy and Spiritual Discipline)
Krishna continues his counsel by reminding Arjuna about the ancient Hindu understanding about life, death, and rebirth. Krishna explains that all creatures are never ending: “Neither have I existed, nor you, nor these kings; and never in the future shall we cease to exist.” Hindus often use the metaphor of changing one’s clothes to represent the lives that we slip in and out of. We appear different each day when wearing different clothes, yet our insides, personalities, or souls are the same. We change lives as often as we change shirts (assuming that you do not have that many shirts!). Krishna reminds Arjuna that everyone has been given unique talents and expectations (dharmas), so we must adhere to our calling without deviating from this course, regardless of our personal interests and desires. We are not in this world to accomplish what we ourselves want, but rather to adhere to the universal script that we have been asked to follow. Krishna says clearly: “If you fail to wage this war of sacred duty, you will abandon your own duty and fame only to gain evil [bad karma].” Arjuna must learn to “Be intent on action, not the fruits [results] of action.” In other words, Arjuna must face his challenge as best a warrior can, without thinking about the results or repercussions. In short, Arjuna is asked to rise above his physical tethers. Also, Krishna indicates that these emotional roller coasters that we ride tend to get us nowhere (except to a lower incarnation). From desire we get anger, which leads to confusion, lost understanding, and a lack of discipline. If we go down that road, we will not achieve joy, which is the goal of humans, according to many Hindu scriptures (including the Gita and the Upanishads). NOTE: Please distinguish “love” from “desire.” You are supposed to love others, but not desire their attention, possessions, or circumstances. Love and joy can be understood more spiritually without severe emotional attachments that drive us to further desire.
2:1 Arjuna sat dejected, filled with pity, his sad eyes blurred by tears. Krishna gave him counsel.
2:4 “Krishna, how can I fight against Bhishma and Drona with arrows when they deserve my worship? 2:5 It is better in this world to beg for scraps of food than to eat meals smeared with the blood of elders I killed at the height of their power while their goals were still desires.” 2:9 Arjuna told this to Krishna, then saying, “I shall not fight.” He fell silent.
2:2 “Why this cowardice in time of crisis, Arjuna? The coward is ignoble, shameful, foreign to the ways of heaven. 2:3 Don’t yield to impotence! It is unnatural in you! Banish this petty weakness from your heart. Rise to the fight, Arjuna!”
2:10 Mocking him gently, Krishna gave this counsel as Arjuna sat dejected, between the two armies.
2:21 Arjuna, when a man knows the self to be indestructible, enduring, unborn, unchanging, how does he kill or cause anyone to kill? 2:22 As a man discards worn-out clothes to put on new and different ones, so the embodied self discards its worn-out bodies to take on the other new ones. 2:23 Weapons do not cut it, fire does not burn it, waters do not wet it, wind does not wither it. 2:24 It cannot be cut or burned; it cannot be wet or withered; it is enduring, all-pervasive, fixed, immovable, and timeless. 2:27 Death is certain for anyone born, and birth is certain for the dead; since the cycle is inevitable, you have no cause to grieve! 2:31 Look to your own duty; do not tremble before it; nothing is better for a warrior than a battle of sacred duty. 2:32 The doors of heaven open for warriors who rejoice to have a battle like this thrust on them by chance. 2:33 If you fail to wage this war of sacred duty, you will abandon your own duty and fame, only to gain evil. 2:34 People will tell of your undying shame, and for a man of honor shame is worse than death. 2:35 The great chariot warriors will think you deserted in fear of battle; you will be despised by those who held you in esteem. 2:36 Your enemies will slander you, scorning your skill in so many unspeakable ways — could any suffering be worse? 2:37 If you are killed, you win heaven; if you triumph, you enjoy the earth; therefore, Arjuna, stand up and resolve to fight the battle!
2:11 “You grieve for those beyond grief, and you speak words of insight; but learned men do not grieve for the dead or the living. 2:12 Never have I not existed, nor you, nor these kings; and never in the future shall we cease to exist. 2:13 Just as the embodied self enters childhood, youth, and old age, so does it enter another body; this does not confound a steadfast man. 2:14 Contacts with matter make us feel heat and cold, pleasure and pain. Arjuna, you must learn to endure fleeting things they come and go! 2:15 When these cannot torment a man, when suffering and joy are equal for him and he has courage, he is fit for immortality. 2:16 Nothing of nonbeing comes to be, nor does being cease to exist; the boundary between these two is seen by men who see reality. 2:17 Indestructible is the presence that pervades all this; no one can destroy this unchanging reality. 2:18 Our bodies are known to end, but the embodied self is enduring, indestructible, and immeasurable; therefore, Arjuna, fight the battle. 2:19 He who thinks this self a killer and he who thinks it killed both fail to understand; it does not kill, nor is it killed. 2:20 It is not born, it does not die; having been, it will never not be; unborn, enduring, constant, and primordial, it is not killed when the body is killed.
2:55 When he gives up desires in his mind, he is content with the self within himself, then he is said to be a man whose insight is sure, Arjuna. 2:56 When suffering does not disturb the mind, when his craving for pleasures has vanished, when attraction, fear, and anger are gone, he is called a sage whose thought is sure. 2:57 When he shows no preference in fortune or misfortune and neither exults or hates, his insight is sure. 2:58 When, like a tortoise retracting its limbs, he withdraws his senses completely from sensuous objects, his insight is sure. 2:59 Sensuous objects fade when the embodied self abstains from food; the taste lingers, but it too fades in the vision of higher truth. 2:60 Even when a man of wisdom tries to control them, Arjuna, the bewildering senses attack his mind with violence. 2:61 Controlling them all, with discipline he should focus on me; when his senses are under control, his insight is sure. 2:62 Brooding about sensuous objects makes attachment to them grow; from attachment desire arises, from desire anger is born. 2:63 From anger comes confusion; from confusion memory lapses; from broken memory understanding is lost; from loss of understanding, he is ruined. 2:64 But a man of inner strength whose senses experience objects without attraction or hatred, in self-control, find serenity. 2:65 In serenity, all his sorrows dissolve; his reason becomes serene, his understanding sure. 2:66 Without discipline, he has no understanding or inner power; without inner power, he has no peace; and without peace where is joy?
2:38 Impartial to joy and suffering, gain and loss, victory and defeat, arm yourself for the battle, lest you fall into evil. 2:42 Undiscerning men who delight in the tenets of ritual lore utter florid speech, proclaiming, ‘There is nothing else!’ 2:43 Driven by desire, they strive after heaven and contrive to win powers and delights, but their intricate ritual language bears only the fruit of action in rebirth. 2:44 Obsessed with powers and delights, their reason lost in words, they do not find in contemplation this understanding of inner resolve. 2:45 Arjuna, the realm of sacred lore is nature — beyond its triad of qualities, dualities, and mundane rewards, be forever lucid, alive to yourself. 2:46 For the discerning priest, all of sacred lore has no more value than a well when water flows everywhere. 2:47 Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action; avoid attraction to the fruits and attachment to inaction! 2:48 Perform actions, firm in discipline, relinquishing attachment; be impartial to failure and success — this equanimity is called discipline. 2:49 Arjuna, action is far inferior to the discipline of understanding; so seek refuge in understanding — pitiful are men drawn by fruits of action. 2:50 Disciplined by understanding, one abandons both good and evil deeds; so arm yourself for discipline — discipline is skill of actions. 2:51 Wise men disciplined by understanding relinquish the fruit born of action; freed from these bonds of rebirth, they reach a place beyond decay.
2:67 If his mind submits to play of the senses, they drive away insight, as wind drives a ship on water. 2:68 So, Great Warrior, when withdrawal of the senses from sense objects is complete, discernment is firm.
2:71 When he renounces all desires and acts without craving, possessiveness, or individuality, he finds peace.”
Chapter III (Discipline of Action)
Krishna teaches further that Arjuna’s desires can be controlled through the practice of yoga (discipline). By training yourself to “let go” of things emotionally, you can achieve a harmony and a balance that cannot be attained with emotions. We cry after the passing of our loved ones, not because we loved them too much, but because we became too attached to them while they were physically here. Even after they are gone we can still love them. All of us are riding the wheel of life, and if we perform our specific actions correctly, we can achieve universal harmony and preservation.
3:1 “You think understanding is more powerful than action. Why, Krishna, do you urge me to this horrific act? 3:2 You confuse my understanding with a maze of words; speak one certain truth so I may achieve what is good.”
3:7 When he controls his senses with his mind and engages in the discipline of action with his faculties of action, detachment sets him apart. 3:8 Perform necessary action; it is more powerful than inaction; without action you will even fail to sustain your own body. 3:9 Action imprisons the world unless it is done as sacrifice; freed from attachment, Arjuna, perform action as sacrifice. 3:10 When creating living beings and sacrifice, Prajapati, the primordial creator, said: ‘By sacrifice you will procreate! Let it be your wish-granting cow!’ 3:11 Foster the gods with this, and may they foster you; by enriching one another, you will achieve a higher good. 3:12 Enriched by sacrifice, the gods will give you the delights you desire; he is a thief who enjoys their gifts without giving to them in return.
3:3 “Earlier I taught the twofold basis of good in this world — for philosophers, disciplined knowledge; for man of discipline, action. 3:4 A man cannot escape the force of action by abstaining from actions; he does not attain success just by renunciation. 3:5 No one exists for even for an instant without performing action; however unwilling, every being is forced to act by qualities of nature. 3:6 When his senses are controlled, but he keeps recalling sense objects with his mind, he is a self-deluded hypocrite.
3:34 Attraction and hatred are poised in the object of every sense experience; a man must not fall prey to those who brigands lurking on his path. 3:35 Your own duty done imperfectly is better than other man’s done well. It is better to die in one’s own duty; another man’s duty is perilous.”
3:13 Good men eating the remnants of sacrifice are free of any guilt, but evil men who cook for themselves eat the food of sin. 3:14 Creatures depend on food, food comes from rain, rain depends on sacrifice, and sacrifice comes from action. 3:15 Action comes from the spirit of prayer, whose source is OM, sound of the imperishable; so the pervading infinite spirit is ever present in rites of sacrifice. 3:16 He who fails to keep turning the wheel here set in motion wastes his life in sin, addicted to the senses, Arjuna. 3:17 But when a man finds delight within himself and feels inner joy and pure contentment in himself, there is nothing more to be done. 3:18 He has no stake here in deeds done or undone, nor does his purpose depend on other creatures. 3:19 Always perform with detachment by action you must do; performing action with detachment, one achieves supreme good. 3:25 As the ignorant act with attachment to actions, Arjuna, so wise men should act with detachment to preserve the world. 3:33 Even a man of knowledge behaves in accord with his own nature; creatures all conform to nature; what can one do to restrain them?
3:36 “Krishna, what makes a person commit evil against his own will, as if compelled by force?”
3:37 “It is desire and anger, arising from nature’s quality of passion; know it here as the enemy, voracious and very evil. 3:41 Therefore, first restrain your senses, Arjuna, then kill this evil that ruins knowledge and judgment. 3:42 Men say that the senses are superior to their objects, the mind is superior to the senses, understanding superior to the mind; higher than understanding is the self. 3:43 Knowing the self beyond understanding, sustain the self with the self. Great Warrior, kill the enemy menacing you in the form of desire.”
Chapter VI (Yoga, or “Discipline”)
Krishna explains the basic difference between a man and a god. Essentially, if you think like a god, you can become one. Act like a man/woman, and you’ll stay as a man/woman. Krishna advises Arjuna to perform his work without becoming attached to it. We become what we are to ourselves. Krishna advises Arjuna to detach himself from all Earthly sensations, and to react to each different emotion as if it were the same: pleasure and pain, hot and cold, good and evil, etc. Vishnu treats all of these forces equally, so why shouldn’t man do the same?
Krishna advises Arjuna not to judge anything, since man is inherently biased in favor of one part of a duality over another. For example, we want good to conquer evil, so we hate evil. Yet Rama allowed Vali (acting like a demon) to become glorified like a god, he allowed Vibishana to enter Rama’s army (even though Vibishana was a brother of Ravana, the great demon), and Rama allows Ravana a chance to raise himself up rather than to go in for the easy kill. As you can see, Vishnu has a history of treating gods, demons, people, and animals in a similar way. Krishna advises that only a tranquil spirit can understand the mysteries of the universe. He explains that a person’s soul should be as a controlled flame inside a gas lantern. The flame is shielded by the glass encasing, keeping the stiff breezes and rain out of the lamp’s path. The wind might be blowing chaotically, but the flame will remain intact. Thus should one’s soul be. Even though Arjuna argues against Krishna, claiming that he is a mere human being who is locked into this world of sensations, Krishna cheers him on, explaining that even small victories and gains along the way will work favorably into one’s next incarnation. Arjuna fears that he must go into this battle perfectly, but Krishna simply asks him to perform his duties to the very best of his abilities. Whether he wins or loses is not the issue – it’s how one plays the game!
6:1 “One who does what must be done without concern for the fruits is a man of renunciation and discipline, not one who shuns ritual fires and rites. 6:2 Know that discipline, Arjuna, is what men call renunciation; no man is disciplined without renouncing willful intent. 6:3 Action is the means for a sage who seeks to mature in discipline; tranquility is the means for one who is mature in discipline. 6:4 He is said to be mature in discipline when he has renounced all intention and is detached from sense objects and actions. 6:5 He should elevate himself by the self, not degrade himself; for the self is its own friend and its own worst foe. 6:6 The self is the friend of a man who masters himself through the self, but for a man without self mastery, the self is like an enemy at war. 6:10 A man of discipline should always discipline himself, remain in seclusion, isolated, his thought and self well controlled, without possessions or hope.
6:11 He should fix for himself a firm seat in a pure place, neither too high nor too low, covered with cloth, deerskin, or grass. 6:12 He should focus his mind and restrain the activity of his thought and senses; sitting on that seat, he should practice discipline for the purification of the self. 6:13 He should keep his body, head, and neck aligned, immobile, steady; he should gaze at the tip of his nose and not let his glance wander. 6:14 The self tranquil, his fear dispelled, firm in his vow of celibacy, his mind restrained, let him sit with discipline, his thought fixed on me, intent on me. 6:15 Disciplining himself, his mind controlled, a man of discipline finds peace, the pure calm that exists in me. 6:16 Gluttons have no discipline, nor the man who starves himself, nor he who sleeps excessively or suffers wakefulness. 6:17 When a man disciplines his diet and diversions, his physical actions, his sleeping and waking, discipline destroys his sorrow.
6:32 When he sees identity in everything, whether joy or suffering, through analogy with the self, he is deemed a man of pure discipline.”
6:18 When his controlled thought rests within the self alone, without craving objects of desire, he is said to be disciplined. 6:27 When his mind is tranquil, perfect joy comes to the man of discipline; his passion is calm, he is without sin, being one with the infinite spirit. 6:28 Constantly disciplining himself, free from sin, the man of discipline easily achieves perfect joy in harmony with the infinite spirit. 6:29 Arming himself with discipline, seeing everything with an equal eye, he sees the self in all creatures and all creatures in the self. 6:30 He who sees me everywhere and sees everything in me will not be lost to me, and I will not be lost to him. 6:31 I exist in all creatures, so the disciplined man devoted to me grasps the oneness of life; wherever he is, he is in me.
6:33 “You define this discipline by equanimity, Krishna; but in my faltering condition, I see no ground for it. 6:34 Krishna, the mind is faltering, violent, strong, and stubborn; I find it as difficult to hold as the wind.”
6:35 “Without doubt, the mind is unsteady and hard to hold, but practice and dispassion can restrain it, Arjuna. 6:36 In my view, discipline eludes the unrestrained self, but if he strives to master himself, a man has the means to reach it.”
Chapter VII (Knowledge and Judgment)
Krishna tells Arjuna that if he follows him in this advice, then Arjuna will be able to see and know everything, through Vishnu. Krishna explains that few people get to see the world as Vishnu does — as an undivided set of dualities. He continues to explain that he (Vishnu) is everything, and that everything emanates from his issue. Apparently, only one in a million may be able to comprehend Vishnu, so if you don’t get it, that’s okay … neither does Arjuna. Krishna explains that all paths lead to heaven, but those people who weep, yearn, toil, or meditate will find Vishnu first. Krishna then complains that many people worship false idols of Vishnu, but that people become bewildered because they understand the world only in this set of opposites. If you can transcend the dualities, you will be able to know God, since God (Vishnu) does not live as a duality, but rather the unification of dualities.
7:4 “My nature has eight aspects: earth, water, fire, wind, space, mind, understanding, and individuality.
7:7 Nothing is higher than I am; Arjuna, all that exists is woven on me like a web of pearls on thread.
7:8 I am the taste in water, Arjuna, the light in the moon and sun, OM resonant in all sacred lore, the sound in space, valor in men. 7:9 I am the pure fragrance in earth, the brilliance in fire, the life in all living creatures, the penance in all ascetics. 7:10 Know me, Arjuna, as every creature’s timeless seed, the understanding of intelligent men, the brilliance of fiery heroes. 7:11 Of strong men, I am strength, without the emotion of desire; in creatures I am the desire that does not impede sacred duty. 7:12 Know that nature’s qualities come from me — lucidity, passion, and dark inertia; I am not in them, they are in me. 7:13 All this universe, deluded by the qualities inherent in nature, fails to know that I am beyond them and unchanging.
7:16 Arjuna, four types of virtuous men are devoted to me: the tormented man, the seeker of wisdom, the suppliant, and the sage. 7:17 Of these, the disciplined man of knowledge is set apart by his singular devotion; I am dear to the man of knowledge, and he is dear to me. 7:18 They are all noble, but I regard the man of knowledge to be my very self; selfdisciplined, he holds me to be the highest way. 7:26 I know all creatures that have been, that now exist, and that are yet to be; but, Arjuna, no one knows me. 7:27 All creatures are bewildered at birth by delusion of opposing dualities that arise from desire and hatred. 7:28 But when they cease from evil and act with virtue, they devote themselves to me, firm in their vows, freed from delusion of duality.”
Chapter VIII (The Infinite Spirit)
Arjuna wonders how he will be able to find Vishnu in order to understand him. Krishna explains that he is everything, so God will be found everywhere (look no further!). Dozens of examples are listed of Krishna’s various forms, but we will never fully understand these until after we die. Krishna also explains that by performing proper meditation (using the syllable OM, the “breath of the universe”), we can connect with the primordial creative force of Vishnu. The Easterners will often spell OM as AUM, identifying the three sounds as representatives of the Hindu Triad of Gods: Brahma (The Creator), Vishnu (The Preserver), and Shiva (The Destroyer). The forces all work together to reflect the cycles of life and death — the voice is born, preserved, and ended. The pause between the syllables represents the blank slate from which Brahma begins to create anew. Notice that Vishnu assumes the roles of the other two gods in the Triad. That occurs because all three gods act in conjunction with each other, and each can perform reflexive roles in the cosmos. For instance, Shiva may cause destruction, but only so that Brahma can again bear new life for Vishnu to preserve — on and on and on. Krishna tells us that life is pain and suffering without this escape from the life cycle. No matter how much we love someone or something, the day will come when the love turns into tears or mourning. It cannot be escaped, except through moksha.
8:23 Arjuna, I shall tell you precisely the time when men of discipline who have died suffer rebirth or escape it. 8:24 Men who know the infinite spirit reach its infinity if they die in fire, light, day, bright lunar night, the sun’s six month northward course. 8:25 In smoke, night, dark lunar night, the sun’s six month southward course, a man of discipline reaches the moon’s light and returns. 8:26 These bright and dark pathways are deemed constant for the universe; by one a man escapes rebirth; by the other, he is born again. 8:27 No man of discipline is deluded when he knows these two paths therefore, Arjuna, be armed in all times with discipline. 8:28 Knowing the fruit of virtue assigned to knowledge of sacred lore, to sacrifices, to penances, and to acts of charity, the man of discipline transcends all this and ascends to the place of pure beginning.”
8:12 “Controlling the body’s gates, keeping the mind in the heart, holding his own breath in his head, one is in disciplined concentration. 8:13 Invoking the infinite spirit as the one eternal syllable OM, remembering me as he abandons his body, he reaches the absolute way. 8:16 Even in Brahma’s cosmic realm world evolve in incessant cycles, but a man who reaches me suffers no rebirth, Arjuna. 8:17 When they know that a day of Brahma stretches over a thousand eons, and his night ends in a thousand eons, men understand day and night. 8:20 Beyond this unmanifest nature is another unmanifest existence, a timeless being that does not perish when all creatures perish. 8:21 It is called eternal unmanifest nature, what men call the highest way, the goal from which they do not return; this highest realm is mine. 8:22 It is man’s highest spirit, won by singular devotion, Arjuna, in whom creatures rest and the whole universe extends.
Chapter IX (The Sublime Mystery)
Krishna continues his teaching by explaining that the unfaithful must continue to be reincarnated. Fundamentally, Krishna tells Arjuna that the visible life and the invisible one are one in the same. Krishna calls these realms SAT and ASAT (“reality” and “nonreality,” respectively). Have you ever awoken from a dream, but you didn’t know whether or not that dream was real? That blurring of realities is one way that we can transcend this world. Of course, we must do so with lucidity, not dark inertia. In other words, when Sugreeva woke up drunk in his palace, he might not have realized exactly where he was or what reality he was participating in. This is not lucid thinking, so Sugreeva did not understand what Vishnu does. Vishnu also claims to be disconnected from his creation. Parents often must learn this lesson when watching their children grow into young adults. The parents must learn to trust them and to not worry about them when they don’t come home on time. What will the worrying solve? Nothing! Being detached does not mean that we must forego our love of something, but we must be aware that
all pleasure and pain are understood as one emotion by Krishna. There is no distinction between pleasure and pain for Vishnu, who is everything. Likewise, which child does a parent love more, the first or the second? What a silly question! Both are (or should be) loved equally. Therefore, if Vishnu created both pleasure and pain, he will see them on equal footing as well.
9:3 “Without faith in sacred duty, men fail to reach me, Arjuna; they return to the cycle of death and rebirth. 9:4 The whole universe is pervaded by my unmanifest form; all creatures exist in me, but I do not exist in them. 9:6 Just as the wide moving wind is constantly present in space, so all creatures exist in me; understand it to be so. 9:7 As an eon ends, all creatures fold into my nature, Arjuna; and I create them again as a new eon begins. 9:8 Gathering in my own nature, again and again I freely create this whole throng of creatures, helpless in the force of my nature. 9:9 These actions do not bind me, since I remain detached in all my actions, Arjuna, as if I stood apart from them. 9:10 Nature, with me as her inner eye, bears animate and inanimate beings; and by reason of this, Arjuna, the universe continues to turn.
9:15 Sacrificing through knowledge, others worship my universal presence in its unity and in its many different aspects. 9:16 I am the rite, the sacrifice, the liberation for the dead, the healing herb, the sacred hymn, the clarified butter, the fire, the oblation. 9:17 I am the universal father, mother, granter of all, grandfather, object of knowledge, purifier, holy syllable OM, threefold sacred lore. 9:18 I am the way, sustainer, lord, witness, shelter, refuge, friend, source, dissolution, stability, treasure, and unchanging seed. 9:19 I am heat that withholds and sends down the rains; I am immortality and death; both being and nonbeing am I. 9:29 I am impartial to all creatures, and no one is hateful or dear to me; but men devoted in me are in me, and I am within them. 9:30 If he is devoted solely to me, even a violent criminal must be deemed a man of virtue, for his resolve is right. 9:31 His spirit quickens to sacred duty, and he finds eternal peace; Arjuna, know that no one devoted to me is lost.”
Chapter X (Fragments of Divine Power)
In this chapter, Krishna reiterates that he is everything, and proceeds to list his various connections to the world. He explains his transcendent historic connection to India, especially its religion and sacred locations. In this section, Krishna explains that he is the beginning and the end of everything, another universal concept found in ancient religions (e.g., the Alpha and Omega). Since Krishna is teaching Arjuna about the value of transcending dualities, what better way than to demonstrate his million-fold qualities in the universe?
10:3 “A mortal who knows me as the unborn, beginningless great lord of the worlds is freed from delusion and all evils. 10:4 Understanding, knowledge, nondelusion, patience, truth, control, tranquility, joy, suffering, being, nonbeing, fear, and fearlessness ... 10:5 Nonviolence, equanimity, contentment, penance, charity, glory, disgrace — these diverse attitudes of creatures arise from me. 10:19 Listen, Arjuna, as I recount for you in essence the divine powers of myself; endless is my extent. 10:20 I am the self abiding in the heart of all creatures; I am their beginning, their middle, and their end. 10:21 I am the Vishnu striding among sun gods, the radiant sun among lights; I am lightning among wind gods, the moon among the stars. 10:22 I am the song in sacred lore; I am Indra, king of the gods; I am the mind of the senses, the consciousness of creatures. 10:23 I am gracious Shiva among howling storm gods, the lord of wealth among demigods and demons, fire blazing among the bright gods; I am golden Meru towering over the mountains. 10:24 Arjuna, know me as God’s teacher, chief of the household priests; I am the god of war among generals; I am the ocean of lakes.
10:25 I am Bhrigu, priests of the great seers; of words, I am the eternal syllable OM, the prayer of sacrifices; I am Himalaya, the measure of what endures. 10:26 Among trees, I am the sacred fig-tree; I am chief of the divine sages, leader of the celestial musicians, the recluse philosopher among the saints. 10:27 Among horses, know me as the immortal stallion, born from the sea of elixir; among elephants, the divine king’s mount; among men, the king. 10:28 I am the thunderbolt among weapons; among cattle, a magical wish-granting cow; I am the procreative god of love, the king of snakes. 10:29 I am the endless cosmic serpent, the lord of all sea creatures; I am chief of ancestral fathers; of restraints, I am death. 10:30 I am the pious son of demons; of measures, I am time; I am the lion among wild animals, the eagle among birds. 10:31 I am the purifying wind, the warrior Rama bearing arms, the sea monster crocodile, the flowing river Ganges. 10:32 I am the beginning, the middle, and the end of creations, Arjuna; of sciences, I am the science of the self; I am the dispute of orators. 10:33 I am the vowel a of syllable, the pairing of words in a compound; I am indestructible time, the creator facing everywhere at once. 10:34 I am death, the destroyer of all, the source of what will be, the feminine
powers: fame, fortune, speech, memory, intelligence, resolve, patience. 10:35 I am the great ritual chant, the meter of sacred song, the most sacred month in the year, the spring blooming with flowers. 10:36 I am the dice game of gamblers, the brilliance of fiery heroes. I am victory and the resolve, the lucidity of lucid men. 10:37 I am Krishna among my mighty kinsmen; I am Arjuna among the Pandava princes; I am the epic poet Vyasa among the sages, the inspired singer among the bards.
10:38 I am the scepter of rulers, the morality of ambitious men; I am the silence of mysteries, what men of knowledge know. 10:39 Arjuna, I am the seed of all creatures; nothing animate or inanimate could exist without me. 10:40 Fiery hero, endless are my divine powers — of my power’s extent I have barely hinted. 10:41 Whatever is powerful, lucid, splendid, or invulnerable has its source in fragment of my brilliance. 10:42 What use is so much knowledge to you, Arjuna? I stand sustaining this entire world with a fragment of my being.”
Chapter XI (The Vision of Krishna’s Totality)
This is a magical scene. Arjuna pleads that he cannot fully understand this complicated message without first experiencing what it is like to see with Vishnu’s eyes. He asks Krishna to remove his human disguise and to show Arjuna Vishnu’s real form. Krishna accepts, but when he removes his human mask, suddenly his universal essence becomes too much for Arjuna to comprehend. Imagine seeing every sight, hearing every sound, smelling every smell, etc., all at the same time. We couldn’t do it, since our minds are too limited (we have those “monkey minds,” as explained by Sugreeva in The Ramayana). Krishna allows Arjuna to see the totality of the cosmos by using Vishnu’s Divine Eye, which is a similar idea to the divine eye that Horus gave to his father Osiris (as you would expect, these stories are all connected and share themes and imagery). Arjuna claims that he now sees and understands everything in the bigger picture. He now understands that his duty as a warrior is only one small piece of the cosmic puzzle. If Arjuna goes into battle and kills a hundred relatives, he now realizes that he is not killing his family, but merely slaying their physical bodies as part of a cosmic script. Their souls will live on, and, if they all fight gloriously on the battlefield, they all will live on in grander forms in their next lives. Originally, Arjuna was worried that he might be committing a sin, but now he realizes that not performing his duties is the real sin. In the end, he decides to ride into battle and perform his duties without anxiety.
11:5 “Arjuna, see my forms in hundreds and thousands; diverse, divine, of many colors and shapes.
11:6 See the sun gods, gods of light, howling storm gods, twin gods of dawn, and gods of wind, Arjuna, wondrous forms not seen before.
your terrible fires scorch the entire universe, filling it, Vishnu, with violent rays. 11:31 Tell me — who are you in this terrible form? Homage to you, Best of gods! Be gracious! I want to know you as you are in your beginning. I do not comprehend the course of your ways.”
11:7 Arjuna, see all the universe, animate and inanimate, and whatever else you wish to see; all stands here as one in my body. 11:8 But you cannot see me with your own eye; I will give you a divine eye to see the majesty of my discipline.”
11:15 “I see gods in your body, O God, and hordes of varied creatures: Brahma, the cosmic creator, on his lotus throne, all seers and celestial serpents. 11:16 I see your boundless form everywhere, the countless arms, bellies, mouths, and eyes; Lord of all, I see no end, or middle or beginning to your totality. 11:19 I see no beginning or middle or end to you, only boundless strength in your endless arms, the moon and sun in your eyes, your mouths of consuming flames, your own brilliance scorching this universe. 11:22 Howling storm gods, sun gods, bright gods, and gods of ritual, gods of the universe, twin gods of dawn, wind gods, vapor-drinking ghosts, throngs of celestial musicians, demigods, demons, and saints, all gaze at you amazed. 11:23 Seeing the many mouths and eyes of your great form, its many arms, thighs, feet, bellies, and fangs, the worlds tremble, and so do I. 11:24 Vishnu, seeing you brush the clouds with flames of countless colors, your mouths agape, your huge eyes blazing, my inner self quakes and I find no resolve or tranquility. 11:28 As rolling river waters stream headlong toward the sea, so do these human heroes enter into your blazing mouths. 11:29 As moths in frenzy of destruction fly into a blazing flame, worlds in the frenzy of destruction enter your mouths. 11:30 You lick at the worlds around you, devouring them with flaming mouths; and
11:32 “I am time grown old, creating world destruction, set in motion to annihilate the worlds; even without you, all these warriors arrayed in hostile ranks will cease to exist. 11:33 Therefore, arise and win glory! Conquer your foes and fulfill your kingship! They are already killed by me. Be just my instrument, the archer at my side! 11:34 Drona, Bhishma, Jayadratha, and Karna, and all the other battle heroes, are killed by me. Kill them without wavering; fight, and you will conquer your foes in battle!”
11:38 “You are the original god, the primordial spirit of man, the deepest treasure of all that is, knower and what is to be known, the supreme abode; you are pervade the universe, Lord of Boundless Form. 11:39 You are the gods of wind, death, fire, and water; the moon, the lord of life; and the great ancestor. Homage to you, a thousand times homage! I bow in homage to you again and yet again. 11:40 I bow in homage before you and behind you; I bow everywhere to your omnipresence! You have boundless strength and limitless force; you fulfill all that you are. 11:41 Thinking you a friend, I boldly said, ‘Welcome, Krishna! Welcome, cousin, friend!’ From negligence, or through love, I failed to know your greatness.
11:42 If in jest I offended you, alone or publicly, at sport, rest, sitting, or at meals, I beg your patience, unfathomable Krishna. 11:45 I am thrilled, and yet my mind trembles with fear at seeing what has not been seen before. Show me, God, the form I know — be gracious, Lord of Gods, Shelter of the World. 11:46 I want to see you as before, with your crown and mace and the discus in your hand. O Thousand-Armed God, assume the four-armed form embodied in your totality.”
one but you has ever beheld — brilliant, total, boundless, primal. 11:48 Not through sacred lore or sacrificial ritual or study or charity, not by rites or by terrible penances can I be seen in this form in the world of men by anyone but you, Great Hero. 11:49 Do not tremble or suffer confusion from seeing my horrific form; your fear dispelled, your mind full of love, see my form again as it was.”
11:47 “To grace you, Arjuna, I revealed through self-discipline my higher form, which no 11:51 “Seeing your gentle human form, Krishna, I recover my own nature, and my reason is restored.”
Chapter XII (Devotion)
Devotion to the All is the only means to achieving moksha and avoiding rebirth. One way to achieve this is to detach yourself from the results of your actions. This is illustrated best with a sports analogy. Imagine a basketball player standing at the free throw line. If the game is on the line, and he must make the shot to determine victory or defeat for his team, that’s a lot of pressure to place upon a player. Instead of sweating over the potential missed shot, Krishna would tell the shooter to clear his mind and focus only on the task at hand — shooting the ball. Whether or not the ball drops through the basket is not the point, especially since the ball is not in the player’s control once it is released. The player succeeds simply by participating in his assigned role, and he does his job as best as he can. Although missing the basket might deny him a lucrative contract next season, in the end we all face the same trials, so the fruit of the action matters not.
12:8 “Focus your mind on me; let your understanding enter me; then you will dwell in me without doubt. 12:9 If you can not concentrate your thoughts in me, then seek to reach me, Arjuna, by discipline in practice. 12:10 Even if you fail in practice, dedicate yourself to action; performing actions for my sake, you will achieve success. 12:11 If you are powerless to do even this, rely on my discipline, be self-controlled, and reject all fruit of action.
12:18 Impartial to foe and friend, honor and contempt, cold and heat, joy and suffering, he is free from attachment. 12:19 Neutral to blame and praise, silent, content with his fate, unsheltered, firm in thought the man of devotion is dear to me. 12:20 Even more dear to me are devotees who cherish this elixir of sacred duty as I have taught it, intent on me in their faith.”
12:12 Knowledge is better than practice; meditation better than knowledge; rejecting fruits of action is better still — it brings peace. 12:13 One who bears hate for no creature is friendly, compassionate, unselfish, free of individuality, patient, the same in suffering and joy.
Chapter XIV (The Triad of Nature’s Qualities)
One component of The Bhagavad-Gita is the explanation of the Triad of Nature’s Qualities. In these later chapters of The Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna explains that the soul must always exist in one of three states: lucidity, passion, or dark inertia. We have seen many examples of these states in The Ramayana, with Rama being a clear example of lucidity (most of the time), while Ravana represented a passion and a chaos (dark inertia) unlike any other. The behaviors of these characters should indicate whether their souls were virtuous and noble. Since “suffering is the fruit of passion,” we must strive for a lucid understanding of the world, lest we be forced to live our lives again and again, suffering continually between bouts of temporal joy.
14:5 “Lucidity, passion, dark inertia — these qualities inherent in nature bind the unchanging embodied self in the body. 14:6 Lucidity, being untainted, is luminous and with decay; it binds one with attachment to joy and knowledge, Arjuna. 14:7 Know that passion is emotional, born of craving and attachment; it binds the embodied self with attachment to action. 14:8 Know dark inertia born of ignorance as the delusion of every embodied self; it binds one with negligence, indolence, and sleep, Arjuna. 14:9 Lucidity addicts one to joy, and passion to actions, but dark inertia obscures knowledge and addicts one to negligence.
14:10 When lucidity dominates passion and inertia, it thrives; and likewise when passion or inertia dominates the other two. 14:11 When the light of knowledge shines in all the body’s senses, then one knows that lucidity prevails. 14:12 When passion increases, Arjuna, greed and activity, involvement in actions, disquiet, and longing arise. 14:13 When dark inertia increases, obscurity and inactivity, negligence and delusion, arise. 14:14 When lucidity prevails, the self whose body dies enters the untainted worlds of those who know reality. 14:15 When he dies in passion, he is born among lovers of action; so when he dies in dark inertia, he is born into wombs of folly.
14:16 The fruit of good conduct is pure and untainted they say, but suffering is the fruit of passion, ignorance, the fruit of dark inertia. 14:17 From lucidity knowledge is born; from passion comes greed; from dark inertia come negligence, delusion and ignorance. 14:18 Men who are lucid go upward; men of passion stay in between; men of dark inertia, caught in vile ways, sink low.
14:19 When a man of vision sees nature’s qualities as the agent of action and knows what lies beyond, he enters into my being. 14:20 Transcending the three qualities that are the body’s source, the self achieves immortality, freed from the sorrows of birth, death, and old age.”
Chapter XVI (The Divine and the Demonic in Man)
In this chapter, Krishna explains the several qualities of people who behave in upright ways, as well as those who do not. Notice that these virtues are not exclusively Hindu. Confucianism discusses the attainment of the position of the Superior Man, which mirror these virtues very closely. In fact, all religions that I know of promote these same positive qualities and behaviors: truth, gentleness, patience, self-control, purity, etc. These are universal ideals that are represented in thousands of different ways.
16:1 “Fearlessness, purity, determination in the discipline of knowledge, charity, selfcontrol, sacrifice, study of sacred lore, penance, honesty; 16:2 Nonviolence, truth, absence of anger, disengagement, peace, loyalty, compassion for creatures, lack of greed, gentleness, modesty, reliability; 16:3 Brilliance, patience, resolve, clarity, absence of envy and pride; these characterize a man born with divine traits. 16:4 Hypocrisy, arrogance, vanity, anger, harshness, ignorance; these characterize a man born with demonic traits. 16:5 The divine traits lead to freedom, the demonic lead to bondage; do not despair, Arjuna; you were born with the divine. 16:6 All creatures in the world are either divine or demonic; I described the divine at length;
hear what I say of the demonic. 16:7 Demonic men cannot comprehend activity and rest; there exist no clarity, no morality, no truth in them. 16:8 They say that the world has no truth, no basis, no god, that no powers of mutual dependence is its cause, but only desire. 16:9 Mired in this view, lost to themselves with their meager understanding, these fiends contrive terrible acts to destroy the world. 16:10 Subject to insatiable desire, drunk with hypocrisy and pride, holding false notions from delusion, they act with impure vows. 16:11 In their certainty that life consists in sating their desires, they suffer immeasurable anxiety that ends only with death. 16:12 Bound by a hundred fetters of hope, obsessed by desire and anger, they hoard
16:21 The three gates of hell that destroy the self are desire, anger, and greed; one must relinquish all three. 16:22 Released through these three gates of darkness, Arjuna, a man elevates the self and ascends to the highest way.”
wealth in stealthy ways to satisfy their desires. 16:19 These hateful, cruel, vile men of misfortune, I cast into demonic wombs through cycle of rebirth. 16:20 Fallen into a demonic womb, deluded in birth after birth, they fail to reach me, Arjuna, and they go the lowest way.
Chapter XVII (The Three Aspects of Faith)
Continuing the lesson, Krishna recognizes the Triad Qualities all around us, including in the foods that we eat. Food for the lucid is fresh and life-giving, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Passionate food is tangy, sour, and vibrant, providing an immediate emotional reaction (I think of sourball candies). Food for the darkly inert might be the rotten, month-old leftovers found in the back of your refrigerator. Likewise, Krishna discerns the different ways that people give charity. Those who give with no attachment to getting something in return are lucid. Those who seek repayment are passionate. Those who give charity to those who need it least are darkly inert.
17:1 “Men who ignore the ways of tradition, but sacrifice in full faith, Krishna, what quality of nature is basic in them — lucidity, passion, or dark inertia?”
torment me within them; know them to have demonic resolve. 17:7 Food is also of three kinds, to please each type of taste; sacrifice, penance, and charity likewise divide in three ways. 17:8 Foods that please lucid men are savory, smooth, firm, and rich; they promote long life, lucidity, strength, health, pleasure, and delight. 17:9 Passionate men crave foods that are bitter, sour, salty, hot, pungent, harsh, and burning, causing pain, grief, and sickness. 17:10 The food that pleases men of dark inertia is stale, unsavory, putrid, and spoiled — leavings unfit for sacrifice. 17:11 A sacrifice is offered with lucidity when the norms are kept and the mind is focused on the sacrificial act, without craving for its fruit.
17:2 “Listen as I explain the threefold nature of faith inherent in the embodies self — lucid, passionate, and darkly inert. 17:4 Men of lucidity sacrifice to the gods; men of passion, to spirits and demons; the others, men of dark inertia, sacrifice to corpses and to ghosts. 17:5 Men who practice horrific penances that go against traditional norms are trapped in hypocrisy and individuality, overwhelmed by the emotion of desire. 17:6 Without reason, they torment the elements composing their bodies, and they
17:12 But a sacrifice is offered with passion, Arjuna, when it is focused on the fruit and hypocrisy is at play. 17:13 A sacrifice is governed by dark inertia when it violates the norms — empty of faith, omitting the ritual offering of food and chants and gifts. 17:20 Given in due time and place to a fit recipient who can give no advantage, charity is remembered as lucid. 17:21 But charity given reluctantly, to secure some service in return or to gain a future reward, is remembered as passionate. 17:22 Charity given out of place and time to an unfit recipient, ungraciously and with contempt, is remembered for its dark inertia.
17:23 OM TAT SAT: “That Is the Real” — this is the triple symbol if the infinite spirit that gave a primordial sanctity to priests, sacred lore, and sacrifice. 17:24 OM — knowers of the infinite spirit chant it as they perform acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance prescribed by tradition. 17:25 TAT — men who crave freedom utter it as they perform acts of sacrifice, charity, and penance, without concern for reward. 17:26 SAT — it means what is real and what is good, Arjuna; the word SAT is also used when an action merits praise. 17:27 SAT is steadfastness in sacrifice, in penance, in charity; any action of this order is denoted by SAT. 17:28 But oblation, charity, and penance offered without faith are called ASAT, for they have no reality here or in the world after death.”
Chapter XVIII (The Wondrous Dialogue Concludes)
This last section of the reading summarizes the main points. The final stanzas are especially enlightening, and can be summarized this way: right and wrong are not absolute, but decided according to the categories of social rank, kinship, and stage of life. Detach yourself from the fruits of your actions, which can be accomplished through discipline, clear thinking, and meditation. This will lead to joy. One thing that this set of readings really doesn’t show us, however, is the method of attaining such a joy. That’s why we studied some readings in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, since they more directly address how someone of this mentality can set aside the pain and tribulations of this life in this world.
18:13 “Arjuna, learn from me five causes for the success of all actions as explained in philosophical analysis. 18:14 They are material bases, the agent, the different instruments, various kinds of behavior, and finally fate, the fifth.
18:15 Whatever action one initiates through body, speech, and mind, be it proper or perverse, these five causes are present. 18:16 This being so, when a man of poor understanding and misjudgment sees himself as the only agent, he cannot be said to see. 18:17 When one is free of individuality and his understanding is untainted, even if he kills
objects, but in the end it is like poison. 18:39 The joy arising from sleep, laziness, and negligence, self-deluding from beginning to end, is said to be darkly inert. 18:40 There is no being on earth or among the gods in heaven free from the triad of qualities that are born of nature. 18:41 The actions of priests, warriors, commoners, and servants are apportioned by qualities born of their intrinsic being. 18:42 Tranquility, control, penance, purity, patience and honesty, knowledge, judgment, and piety are intrinsic to the action of a priest. 18:43 Heroism, fiery energy, resolve, skill, refusal to retreat in battle, charity, and majesty in conduct are intrinsic to the action of a warrior. 18:44 Farming, herding cattle, and commerce are intrinsic to the action of a commoner; action that is essentially service is intrinsic to the servant. 18:45 Each one achieves success by focusing on his own action; here how one finds success by focusing on his own action. 18:46 By his own action a man finds success; worshiping the source of all creatures’ activity, the presence pervading all that is. 18:47 Better to do one’s duty imperfectly than to do another man’s well; doing action intrinsic to his being, a man avoids guilt. 18:48 Arjuna, a man should not relinquish action he is born to, even it is flawed; all undertakings are marred by a flaw, as fire is obscured by smoke. 18:53 Freeing himself from individuality, force, pride, desire, anger, acquisitiveness; unpossessive, tranquil, he is at one with the infinite spirit. 18:63 This knowledge I have taught is more arcane than any mystery — consider it
these people, he does not kill and is not bound. 18:18 Knowledge, its object, and its subject are the triple stimulus of action; instrument, act, and agent are the constituents of action. 18:19 Knowledge, action, agent are threefold, differentiated by qualities of nature; hear how this has been explained in the philosophical analysis of qualities. 18:20 Know that through lucid knowledge one sees in all creatures a single, unchanging existence, undivided within its divisions. 18:21 Know passionate knowledge as that which regards various distinct existences separately in all creatures. 18:22 But knowledge that clings to a single thing as if it were whole, limited, lacking a sense of reality, is known for its dark inertia. 18:23 Action known for its lucidity is necessary, free of attachment, performed without attraction or hatred by one who seeks no fruit. 18:24 Action called passionate is performed with great effort by an individualist who seeks to satisfy his desires. 18:25 Action defined by dark inertia is undertaken in delusion, without concern for consequences, for death or violence, or for manhood. 18:36 Arjuna, now hear about joy, the three ways of finding delight through practice that brings an end to suffering. 18:37 The joy of lucidity at first seems like poison but is in the end like ambrosia, from the calm of self-understanding. 18:38 The joy that passionate at first seems like ambrosia when senses encounter sense
completely, then act as you choose. 18:72 Arjuna, have you listened with your full powers of reason? Has the delusion of ignorance now been destroyed?”
18:73 “Krishna, my delusion is destroyed, and by your grace I have regained memory; I stand here, my doubt dispelled, ready to act on your words.”
Questions for The Bhagavad-Gita:
1. Why is man “fit for immortality” if “suffering and joy are equal to him” (2:15)? 2. Why is “nothing is better for a warrior than a battle of sacred duty” (2:31)? 3. Describe the meaning of Krishna’s words: “Be intent on action, not on the fruits of action” (2:47). 4. Why should “wise men should act with detachment to preserve the world” (3:25)? 5. How can you explain the following passage: “Gluttons have no discipline, nor the man who starves himself, nor he who sleeps excessively or suffers wakefulness” (6:16)? 6. Why does Krishna tell Arjuna that “both being and nonbeing am I” (9:19)?
7. Why does Krishna tell Arjuna the following: “Conquer your foes and fulfill your kingship! They are already killed by me” (11:33)?
8. How does a person achieve immortality by “transcending the three qualities” (14:20)?
9. List a few of the “divine” and “demonic” traits from Chapter XVI.
10. What are the “three gates of hell” that must be destroyed (Chapter XVI)?
11. What kinds of foods are consumed by the lucid, the passionate, and the darkly inert (Chapter XVII)? Do you agree?
12. How do people containing these three qualities approach charity differently (Chapter XVII)?
13. What are the “five causes for the success of all actions” (18:13)? 14. How do people containing these three qualities view the Earth’s creatures differently (Chapter XVIII)? 15. How do people containing these three qualities perform actions differently (Chapter XVIII)? 16. What kinds of actions are inherent in the different members of the four castes (Chapter XVIII)? 17. What is Arjuna’s final decision after hearing the totality of Krishna’s counsel? 18. Can The Bhagavad-Gita also apply to Westerners? How?
http://www.ashram.org/html/chapter1.htm http://1stholistic.com/images/hindu_om.GIF http://www.premamusic.com/CyberTemple/om.GIF http://web.tiscali.it/cultura/Bhagavadgita/BG_only_sk1.html http://lightinfo.org/images/K-vision.jpg
The Gita: Triad of nature’s Qualities
Triad of Nature’s Qualities
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University In “The Fourteenth Teaching” of The Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna explains to the warrior Arjuna that the universe contains three inherent qualities (gunas) that also “bind the unchanging embodied self in the body” (14.5). These three qualities – lucidity, passion, and dark inertia – also manifest themselves in human behaviors. Together, they are the basis of every aspect of phenomenal existence. While no single quality causes anything, the prevailing quality in each individual determines its prevailing nature. These three strands of nature intertwine to make the rope that binds man’s existence to the world.
lucidity (sattva) = the state of clearest thinking passion (rajas) = the state of emotional connection to the physical world dark inertia (tamas) = the state of confusion, delusion, and ignorance Quality
general result of increase post-mortem food eaten penance performed charity views of existence action agent
knowledge; clear thinking; addicts one to joy leads to peace and reality (through death) knowledge is born; upward reincarnation
emotional attachments; addicts one to actions leads to greed and activity
delusion; ignorance; addicts one to negligence leads to obscurity and inactivity born into wombs of folly; downward reincarnation
born among lovers of action; in-between reincarnation
savory, smooth, rich, healthy bitter, salty, sour, and burning; stale, putrid, and spoiled leading to sickness performed in deep faith given without accepting anything in return all creatures are one; unchanging performed freely no attachment to personal gain or success wavering and self-serving given reluctantly; asking for something in return all creatures are distinct and separate performed with great effort to satisfy one’s desires delusional; sadistic given to unfit recipients; given with contempt the individual represents the whole, which is limited performed with delusion, w/o concern for consequences
anxious to gain fruits of actions undisciplined, vulgar, (violent, impure, greedy) stubborn, dishonest, lazy perverse and backward (such as good = evil) due to dreaming, intoxication, or depression
understanding knowledge of dualities resolve (decisions)
failure to discern amongst (good/evil, bravery/fear, etc.) these qualities sustained, composed, and attachment due to desires disciplined, without wavering for wealth and/or success
Reading Guide: Siddhartha
Prof. Stephen Hagin K Symbolic Connections in WL K 12th edition K Kennesaw State University
Siddhartha (Hesse, Dover 1999 ed.)
The Son of the Brahman (1-7)
1. What does Siddhartha’s father want his son to become? 2. Why does Govinda wish to follow Siddhartha? 3. Why does Siddhartha leave his father?
With the Samanas (7-14)
4. Upon leaving his father, what is Siddhartha’s single goal? 5. What do the samanas teach to Siddhartha? 6. Why does Siddhartha reject the samanas?
7. What does Gotama (Buddha) teach to Siddhartha? 8. Why does Siddhartha reject Gotama’s philosophies? What flaw or gap does he see? 9. Why does Govinda choose to stay with Buddha?
10. Siddhartha realizes that he knows the least about what? 11. How does Siddhartha begin to view the world?
12. Who/What stops Siddhartha from ravishing the woman at the water?
STUDY GUIDE: SIDDHARTHA 13. What does Siddhartha hope to learn from Kamala? 14. Why does Siddhartha find life with Kamala to be easy?
With the Child-People (34-40)
15. What three virtues does Siddhartha feel he owns and uses wisely? 16. Describe Siddhartha’s attitude toward the merchant business. 17. How does Siddhartha explain his failure to acquire the rice on his rice-gathering trip? 18. Why does Siddhartha tell Kamala that most people are like a “falling leaf”? 19. Why does Siddhartha and Kamala agree that “people of our kind are unable to love”?
20. Describe samsara and how Siddhartha has become immersed in it. 21. What is the significance of Siddhartha’s dream of Kamala’s songbird? 22. Describe Siddhartha’s thoughts when he leaves the Kamaswami-people. 23. Why does Kamala set her bird free? What understanding has she come to?
By the River (46-54)
24. When and where does Siddhartha find his epiphany? 25. Why is Om such an important syllable? 26. How have Siddhartha and Govinda changed since they last met?
The Ferryman (54-63)
27. How does Siddhartha finally repay the ferryman for his labors? 28. What is the secret of the river? 29. How does Kamala die?
The Son (63-69)
30. How are Siddhartha and his son similar? 31. Why does the river laugh at Siddhartha’s attempts to bond with his son? 32. Why is Siddhartha reluctant to turn his son “over to that world”? 33. Explain Siddhartha’s realization that his “blind love” for is son is a form of samsara.
34. What does Siddhartha realize that wisdom really is? 35. Of what does “OM” consist? 36. What happens to Vasudeva, the ferryman?
37. What is the difference between seeking and finding? 38. What life lessons does Siddhartha learn throughout his life experiences?