H/t to Sam Crane for bringing to my attention an interesting short interview with philosopher Linya Liu, revolving around Christian v. Confucian formulations of the Golden Rule. As she sees it, human history has, to date, given birth to five main moral/ethical frameworks:
(1) The Stone Rule. This is your basic "might makes right" situation: those who are most powerful get their way. If there's just one pint of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla Swiss Almond ice cream, with two of us pining for it, and I can beat you in arm-wrestling, then sorry but .... it's mine, and all mine!
(2) The Iron Rule. Here, ethical behavior is defined in distinctly different ways, according to whether the recipient of our action is considered to be an ally or an enemy. I'm nice to those who have "friended" me on Facebook; and to all the others, largely indifferent or perhaps even not-so-nice.
(3) The Brass Rule. This includes all variations of "an eye for an eye." Here we're drifting into "golden rule" territory, but via its "shadow side," if you will. If you step on my foot during our square-dance, then next time around I'm going to stomp on yours: which is only fair, and besides, how else are you going to learn the lesson to not mess with me like that?
(4) The Silver Rule. This is what, in Buddhism, is typically rendered as: "Do no harm." We strive to not do to others what we wouldn't want done to ourselves. Knowing that I feel sad when I look in the freezer, expecting to find my pint of Häagen-Dazs ice cream, only to find that it's been eaten -- I decide to leave you at least three or four bites ....
(5) The Golden Rule. And this, or course, is the classic: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It's closely related to the Silver Rule, but rendered in wholly positive terms. Knowing that I enjoy being treated kindly, I do my best to treat others kindly. Though on the surface of it this sounds pretty straightforward -- a bit of a no-brainer -- the issue of subjective preferences (viz. what I experience as "kind" is different from what you experience as "kind") can make it a tad more complex, in a specific situation, to skillfully apply.
In listening to this interview, and reading Sam's riff on it -- both of which highlight differences and similarities between Christian and Confucian renderings of the golden rule -- what came to mind, first of all, was the Taoist perspective on ethics and morality, articulated elegantly in Daodejing verse 38 (Jonathan Star translation here):
And now, for your inspiration and enjoyment, compliments of the great Tibetan visionary Longchenpa (excerpted from The Precious Treasury Of The Basic Space Of Phenomena):
Just as all light is subsumed
within the sun as its source,
all phenomena are subsumed
within awakened mind as their source --
even the impurity and confusion
in the universe of appearances and possibilities.
Whatever occurs, by examining basic space
as its matrix and abode
you find that it has no foundation, but is subsumed
within the timeless freedom of mind.
Beyond labels and their meanings,
confusion and its absence are subsumed
within the true nature of phenomena --
the timeless expanse, a supremely spacious state.
Even the marvelous display
of awareness's own manifestations --
the kayas, pure realms, timeless awareness,
and enlightened activities --
is subsumed within the naturally occurring state
that is not made or unmade.
Awakened mind subsumes the universe
of appearances and possibilities,
all of samsara and nirvana.
Lucid and uncompounded, it can be compared
to the sun shining in the empty sky.
Occurring primordially and naturally,
it is a spacious, timeless expanse ...
The essay that I posted yesterday -- On Taking Refuge: A Play In Five Acts -- represents the first pass at an inquiry into the slippery fish of the question: what does it mean to take refuge?
I call this question a "slippery fish" because I've noticed, in recent weeks, how my mind resists settling into a position of looking directly at it, and allowing it to unfold, and instead wriggles and wiggles and squirms -- like a slippery fish -- somehow not wanting to actually see what there is to see (or not-see, as the case may be).
My sense of what is at the root of this "wriggling and wiggling and squirming" is ... Read more
First: The Final Word
As Pure Awareness (Dharmakaya, Tao), I am the nondual "refuge" -- the true home -- of all appearances. Perceptions, sensations, thoughts and images arise and dissolve as playful modulations in/as Me, like waves arising and dissolving in/as the ocean, or movie-characters arising and dissolving in/as the movie-screen.
As such, Refuge -- like Truth, Love, Beauty, Wisdom, Compassion and Peace -- is one of My divine attributes, one of the facets of the jewel of True Self. Refuge is not some "thing" that needs to be sought, or found, or attained -- nor is it some thing that can ever, in Reality, be lost. It needs only to be recognized as always and already the case.
I Am Refuge.
This whimsical post, compliments of the Rambling Taoist --
"Yesterday, our apartment complex was assaulted -- yes, assaulted! -- by something far worse than locusts or the plague ..." read more
-- put a smile on my face, and brought to mind:
And left me wondering .... can we conclude anything other than: even locusts (and worse!) are -- in their truest substance, their inner-most nature, their heart of hearts -- God?
Last night I went to hear some Indian classical music. How wonderfully soothing and uplifting it was! -- that sweet dance between harmonium and tabla players; between the "male" and "female" tablas, beneath a single player's hands; between the musicians and the audience; between musical structure (of a given rāga) and in-the-moment improvisation, response-ability ....
"A human being is part of the whole called by us universe ... We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. The true value of a human being is determined by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self ..."
~ Albert Einstein
Every day a wilderness -- no
shade in sight. Beulah
patient among knicknacks,
the solarium a rage
of light, a grainstorm
as her gray cloth brings
dark wood to life.
Under her hand scrolls
and crests gleam
darker still. What
was his name, that
silly boy at the fair with
the rifle booth? And his kiss and
the clear bowl with one bright
Not Michael --
something finer. Each dust
stroke a deep breath and
the canary in bloom.
Wavery memory: home
from a dance, the front door
blown open and the parlor
in snow, she rushed
the bowl to the stove, watched
as the locket of ice
dissolved and he
That was years before
Father gave her up
with her name, years before
her name grew to mean
Long before the shadow and
sun's accomplice, the tree.
~ Rita Dove, from Thomas And Beulah
A couple weeks ago I noticed -- on the outskirts of the little woods behind my home -- three trees whose trunks were newly adorned with bright yellow plastic ribbons. In seeing this, I concluded that these three trees had been selected for either pruning or complete uprooting. I hoped it the former rather than the latter, though guessed that at least one of the three -- the one which had, on windy days, consistently been losing large branches, and generally just didn't seem to be very healthy -- was now marked for, shall we say, a "transition" into wood-chips.
Meanwhile, the squirrels continued their circus-like antics, within the matrix of branches, seemingly oblivious to the change Read More...
"The appearances of the waking state do not actually differ even a whit from the appearances of the dream state, and if we recognize dream as dream, then release from suffering is instantaneous.
If right now we recognize our fixated attachment to friends, reputation and possessions, our hatred for enemies, and all other emotivity as dream appearances and understand them as nonexistent, as mere notational-conceptual products of mind, then external, material things will not be able to disturb us. Realizing that everything is apparent yet nonexistent -- just images of emptiness -- we attain the great citadel of everlasting pure pleasure."
~ Tulku Pema Rigtsal, from The Great Secret Of Mind
(translated by Keith Dowman)
As a teenager, and for reasons I can only guess, I was way into James Bond: the books, the movies. Perhaps it was his high-tech miraculous mahasiddha-like escapes? Perhaps it was his utter calm (a mastery-beyond-mastery of samatha meditation?) in the face of what seemed to be utterly-intractable circumstances? Or perhaps it was just the enjoyment of a good mystery-adventure? In any case, it was always with bated breath that I awaited the next in the series .....
If you also happen to be a James Bond fan, you'll likely recall the scene in Goldfinger which features the epidermal-suffocation-via-gold-gilding of one of Mr. Bond's romantic liaisons. Read More...