The following article was written for the Hindu Council’s 3rd national conference in May 2010:
Serving Community through the Tao
Community networking and strengthening bonds from a Taoist perspective
“Through looking at the problems of human beings as a whole,
we can see where our own individual problems lie,
and through working on our individual problems, our lives get elevated.
When our lives are on a higher level,
we can help to deal with the problems of humanity as a whole”.*
“What is ‘truth’? It is following Dao,
following the most fundamental laws of life and the universe.
There is only one fundamental law for each thing.
Everyone may have a different view on this one thing,
so who is right if there is only one truth, one fundamental law? …
It is our job to seek that one truth”.*
The Tao Te Ching is one of Taoism’s foremost authorities on the philosophy of the Tao, or the way of life. It describes how human beings can return to their natural state and live in harmony with the Tao. With over 7,000 years of history and more than 3,600 different Taoist sects, it is impossible here to give a full overview of Taoism. However, taking just one modern-day school’s teachings as an example – Ren Xue Zhineng Qi Gong – I would like to offer some thoughts on how the principles of Taoism can be applied to ‘community networking and strengthening bonds from a Taoist perspective’.
First of all, let’s look at the dual concepts of ‘networking’ and ‘communities’. Generally one could say this involves some sort of communication, interaction, sharing of ideas, support and assistance, with the goal of improving any given situation. And the one common denominator in those actions is a human being! So in order to be our best in our interactions in community, we need to be our best as an individual; and we function at our best when we are physically healthy, mentally clear, emotionally stable and spiritually uplifted. And for this to happen we need to cultivate and uplift ourselves.
This is where the practice of Qi Gong comes in. According to Ren Xue Human Life Science’ The two essential elements of traditional Chinese culture are Dao and Qi; Dao is the fundamental law of the universe and life, Qi is the change and activities that manifest Dao. Qigong is the method that goes with them from the very beginning’.*
Qi,气 is the fundamental substance of life, one definition being ‘energy impregnated with information’. Thus essentially we are a field of energy and information. And our Qi can be upgraded and fine-tuned. In Chinese medicine our physical structure, functions and Qi, are formed from Jing (essence) and Qi, classified together as ‘Ming’. And our mind, the source of consciousness and spirituality – the True Self – is our Shen. Xing and Ming are actually one, and we need to work on both simultaneously in order to grow and evolve. This is known as Xiu or self-cultivation, which consists of two processes: correcting things that are not right, and self-refinement. The goal is to see and manifest the True Self, to reach a high level of realization and clarity, so that life can transcend to a higher level. According to Master Yuan Tze, founder of Ren Xue,“To uplift oneself and uplift others is our primary mission in life. It is the highest level you can get to when trying to deal with your own problems and help others”.*
QI GONG – A TOOL FOR TRANSFORMATION
Qi Gong is a form of training where bye the consciousness is brought inwards in order to transform and enhance our being. In so doing we align ourselves with the law of human life and collectively evolve the human race to a higher level. “We can look at all human problems as being the result of going against the law, and hence to deal with problems we have to go back and begin to follow the law. We have to manifest the real spirit of science which is seeking the truth and discovering the unknown fundamental law in order to serve humanity.”*
So what is this law and how can we live it? Although, as Lao Tze says in his opening verse of the Tao Te Ching ‘The Tao that can be spoken of is not the Tao’, it can generally be described as the correct way of life. According to Ren Xue philosophy, the first principle used to guide us on this way is ‘self-cultivation via the action of Zi Du Du Ren: ‘lift yourself up, lift others up’. To ‘Du’ yourself is to deal with your own problems and once you have done that you can then be of assistance to others. According to Ren Xue this is the ultimate goal of life.
To accomplish this we need firstly to always be in an internal state of ‘calm and relaxation’, this being the ‘natural’ state, the state of the Tao. Then the True Self will manifest, bringing with it a natural state of joy. We also need to acquire a level of truth, knowledge and understanding which we can authentically pass onto others. Only then can we “touch people with virtues and earn trust with true abilities”*
There are more principles that accompany the central idea of ‘Zi Du, Du Ren, which we do not have time to cover here. However, once we have begun to master and live our life using these principles, we can then bring the concept of ‘Dao De’ into the picture.
Dao De can be described as the moral codes which people follow when they interact, and include three key elements: motives, behaviour and judgements. “When deciding whether to do something to achieve the result we want, we think about whether it is a good thing to do. This involves Dao De judgements. Once the decision is made, an action may follow. The Dao De motive will change into Dao De behaviour. While the behaviour is occurring or when it is completed, we assess the effects or consequences to see if they are consistent with the motive”. *
So we need to constantly check that our actions are beneficial, in other words are they fulfilling the requirements of ‘Zi Du Du Ren’. If not they will deplete our Qi and downgrade our Shen. So the questions we need to ask in our actions with others are, (a) ‘what are my intentions, (b) am I delivering the purpose of my actions and (c) do my intentions and actions fit the guideline of ‘uplifting myself and others?’. If we can honestly say yes, then hopefully we will be going somewhere along the road to fulfilling the mission of serving community as best we can.
* All quotes from Master Yuan Tze, ‘Voyage to the Shore’