Archive for September, 2014

Yang Chu’s The Vanity Of Celebrity

When he was young, Yang Chu lived only for pleasure.
Once he was travelling in the state of Lu and stayed at the house of Mr. Meng. Meng asked him, “A person is just a person. Why do people strive for fame?”

Yang Chu replied, “If they do, it’s because they want to become rich.”
Meng said, “But when they’ve become rich, why don’t they stop?”
Y: Then they are after high status.
M: Why don’t they stop once they are honoured?
Y: It will help when they are dead.
M: But what good is fame when they are dead?
Y: It will help their descendants.
M: What good is fame to their descendants?
Y: For fame’s sake they have endured all kinds of hardship and pain. But one person’s fame can benefit their family, and even their fellow citizens. Their descendants will benefit even more.

However it’s better for those who desire real fame to be disinterested in becoming famous. But to be disinterested in fame means you live in poverty. And to be disinterested means you have to show restraint, and this is equivalent to being humble.

Meng was puzzled, and asked, “How can one be disinterested in fame, and yet fame arrives by itself?”
Yang Chu replied, “The ignorant strive so hard to maintain their fame, that they sacrifice reality. Doing this they eventually regret that nothing can rescue them from illness and death. They also regret not knowing the difference between ease and pleasure and sorrow and grief.

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September 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

From: The Spiritual Teachings of the Tao – Part 2

Qualities Of The Sage

The ancient teaching says, “The sage is entirely peaceful, so his mind is evenly balanced and at ease. This even balance and ease appears in his serenity and de-tachment. In this state of balance and ease, of serenity and detachment, anxieties and anguish don’t affect him, and no harmful influences assault him. His Te, or power, is complete, and his spirit continues undiminished.

The life of the sage can be compared to the action of heaven, and his death is the transformation common to all things. In his stillness his power is the same as the Yin, and in movement his actions are like the Yang. He takes no initiative in producing either happiness or calamity.

The sage responds to the influences acting on him, and moves only when he feels the pressure. He acts only when he has no other choice. He discards knowledge and memories, and merely follows the pattern of his heaven-given nature. Therefore he suffers no calamity from Heaven, no attachment to things, no blame from people, and no disapproval from the spirits of the dead.

The sage’s life seems to just drift along;
his death seems to be a resting;
he doesn’t have anxious thoughts;
he doesn’t make plans;
his enlightenment is hidden;
his good faith isn’t contrived;
he sleeps untroubled by dreams;
he wakes untroubled by cares;
his spirit is simple and pure;
his soul is never weary.

Empty and selfless, calm and detached, the sage is in harmony with the qualities of Heaven.”

Therefore the teaching says, “Sorrow and joy are distortions of virtue; goodness and evil are transgressions of virtue; likes and dislikes show a failure of the mind. So for the mind to be free from sorrow and joy is to have perfected virtue. For the mind to be unified and unchanging is the perfection of stillness. To be conscious of no opposition is the perfection of emptiness. To have no attachment to external things is the perfection of indifference. And to have no feelings of dissatisfaction is the perfection of purity.

If the body is overworked and not rested, it becomes worn out. If the spirit is used ceaselessly, it becomes weary, and when weary, it becomes exhausted.

It’s the nature of water, when not mixed with other things, to be clear, and if not disturbed, to be level. But if it’s blocked and can’t flow, it won’t preserve its clarity. This is an image of the virtue of Heaven.”

To be innocent and pure, free from all contamination;
to be still and uniform, never changing;
to be detached and do nothing:
this is to move like Heaven and nourish the spirit.

Now the person who possesses the finest sword preserves it carefully in a box, and doesn’t dare to use it, because it’s considered the peak of perfection. But the subtle human spirit is even more perfect, and it radiates in all directions, flowing on without limit, rising to heaven above, and circling round the earth beneath. It transforms and sustains all things, and cannot be represented by any form. We call it the Supreme Harmony.

It’s only the Tao of pure simplicity which guards and preserves the Spirit. When this Tao is preserved and not lost, you become one with the Spirit and in this ethereal communion, you’re in harmony with the orderly operation of Heaven.

There is a proverb which says, “People consider gain to be the most important thing. Scholars – fame. Those who are wise and able value ambition. But the sage prizes essential purity.’

Therefore simplicity implies no mixing. Purity means the spirit is not impaired. It’s the one who can embody simplicity and purity whom we call the Real Person.”
(15.2)

September 10, 2014 at 6:42 am Leave a comment

From: The Spiritual Teachings of The Tao

The Guru and His Disciples

Lieh Tzu went on a journey to Chi, but after travelling only halfway he came back. On his return he met the teacher Po Hun Wu Shan who wondered why he had come back so suddenly.

Lieh Tzu said, “I was frightened.”

“What scared you?”

“On the way there I went into ten soup shops, and in five of them the soup was set down in front of me before anyone else.”

“But why should that frighten you?”

Lieh Tzu said, “Although the inner quality of a person can be hidden, the body, like a traitor, lets it shine through. This display awes people, who then treat you as noble or a sage, and from this treatment problems arise.

You see, soup sellers sell food simply as a matter of business, and however much they sell, their profit is small, and their power nil. So if they treated me as someone special, think how a king would view me! His body worn out with the cares of ruling, his knowledge overwhelmed by his affairs, he would want to hand these affairs to me, and expect me to successfully conduct his government. This is what frightened me.”

Po Hun Wu Shan replied, “Very perceptive! But if you persist in carrying yourself as you do, people will come to you as disciples.”

Not long after, Po Hun Wu Shan went to visit Lieh Tzu, and found his doorway full of visitors’ shoes. He stood there, holding his staff upright, leaning his chin on it until his skin puckered. After standing like this for awhile, he went away without saying a word.

The doorman went in and told Lieh Tzu, who immediately grabbed his shoes, and ran barefoot after the visitor.

When he overtook him at the outer gate, he said, “Since you’ve come for a visit, won’t you give me some good advice?”

Po Hun Wu Shan replied, “It’s too late. I told you that people would flock to you, and so they have. It’s not that you cause them to gather, they simply can’t stop coming. What good did my warning do? What attracts them and makes them pleased is your extraordinary qualities. But you, in turn, will be influenced by this crowd, your inner nature will be disturbed, and nothing can be done about it.

These people will not tell you this. The small words they speak are like poison to you. They don’t perceive this, nor do they understand it. How will you separate yourself from them?

September 8, 2014 at 6:34 pm Leave a comment

My Glorious Publishing career- Pt 3- Finding Marcus’ Voice

Liv Blumer. my new agent, approached Hodder and Stoughton to see if they would publish a book as well as an audio of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. They agreed, so now it was up to me to write an introduction, something that terrified me. I started to do serious research on Marcus Aurelius’ life, the history, beliefs and practises of stoic philosophy, and Roman life, religions and customs. I met with Professor Richard Sorabji of King’s College, London, to discuss stoic philosophy and read voraciously in the Greek and Roman Library at the University Of London.

After about six months I felt that I could discern the forest from the trees. That is, I was not an expert in any of these areas, but I now knew enough to write knowledgably about the subjects. The aim was to impart the knowledge I had gained to a general readership. And so I started to write. After about 20 pages I gave the manuscript to my then wife Jo and asked her for a critique. She said you sound like a professor, and you’re not a professor. What is it that you personally like about this work? Why do you bother to read it? I admitted that the model I was using for the introduction was the Penguin Classics, which are usually written by scholars. Her point was that since I was not a scholar why imitate one, she thought I needed a new approach.

I took myself off to a coffee shop to ponder. And then it hit me. If I was going to write an intro which had any validity, it had to be one that reflected my life and my ideas, and which explained why Marcus Aurelius’ 2000 year old meditations had meaning for me today. So I began with a different approach. I started writing,

“I’m sitting in a cyber cafe in Soho, London, sipping on a cappuccino.
Inside, young business men and women with mobile phones keep in touch with their offices, friends and lovers across the country. Travellers sit at consoles surfing the Internet and collecting e-mail from around the world.
Outside, cars, taxis and buses criss-cross the polluted city ferrying people through the crowded streets. Below my feet, underground trains speed through the bowels of the earth. Nearby, high-speed trains depart for Brussels, Paris and Rome.
Overhead, planes with hundreds of people on board travel vast distances. Unseen, communication satellites circle the earth.
Although we live in a time of an incredible explosion of communications, knowledge, and wealth, we have begun to realise that it will not be possible to sustain the life we are currently leading for very much longer.
We are faced with a world that is suffering at our own hands. Science, technology and ‘progress’, the gods that we believed would provide all the answers, have shown themselves to hold false promises.
Science and technology have extended and increased the power of individuals and groups to an extent undreamt of by our ancestors. The ordinary person in the developed world lives a life of comfort and luxury that most emperors and kings in history could not attain. The rapid access to information and goods, instant communication and high speed travel have transformed our lives.
But there is a price to be paid; there is still no free lunch. This power has had an enormous impact on the environment, human rights and the human condition in general. The major concern we will have to address in the new millennium will not be how to increase technological power but how to control it.
Throughout history technological development has always moved itself forward, leaving the moral order trailing behind. In our time technological change and innovation have been so swift and transformative that the moral order has lagged well behind and is now struggling to catch up.
However, the dynamic nature of morality means that it does eventually catch up and confront the technological order. People are stimulated to rethink moral conventions, to create new values that demand the control and limitation of science and technology.
In this confrontation, ancient Greek philosophy, and in particular Stoicism, is well placed to help us manage the future.”

I had found my voice, and The Spiritual Teachings Of Marcus Aurelius was born.

September 4, 2014 at 10:06 am Leave a comment


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

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