Sunday, November 11, 2012

Catastrophe and Renaissance of Chinese Traditional Culture (Part 2)

March 19, 2008 | By Danchen
During the early periods of this human civilization, people from every nationality and country believed in gods. Every nationality has a record or legend about the origin of its own people. It is under the protection of gods that mankind has survived to the present. People always treated gods, who created their lives, with veneration and awe. Although according to these legends and recordings, gods can be quite different, they are the creators of all the peoples in the world. Similarly, gods originated the cultures of all nationalities.
Gods are far away from us because they are in other dimensions; they are also very close to us because all dimensions are interconnected. Gods look after us all the time. Those with good inborn qualities can see gods; even many of those who are unable to see gods still believe in gods, because every individual has his or her enlightened side. Because of this, the traditional cultures of all nationalities refer to gods.
According to Chinese traditional culture, every time a natural disaster occurred, besides praying for gods’ blessings, the people would reexamine themselves to see where they had not done well. Even the emperors “proclaimed their own faults.” History books recorded that when the Shang Dynasty’s founding emperor, Cheng Tang, was in power, there was a long-lasting drought. As the emperor, he took a bath, fasted, and then piously prayed for rain in a mulberry tree forest. At the same he also deeply reexamined himself for his mistakes in governing the country. As a result, it started to pour. This Chinese tradition is observed in the present time in Taiwan, where the president and the leaders of the counties and cities go to the temples, burn incense, and kneel down to pray to the gods to bless the people and the nation.
In fact, this is not just a Chinese tradition. It has existed in all places where people are looked after by gods, and all these places have witnessed divine miracles. In Georgia, in the southeast United States, on November 13, 2007, Governor Sonny Perdue led officials and religious leaders, about 250 people in all gathered in the square outside the state government building, to pray for rain. The sincere hearts of the governor and the people moved the heavens, and on the evening of November 14, a big storm visited the drought stricken area of Georgia. Georgia also had a big drought in 1986. At that time Governor Joe Frank Harris led the people in prayer for rain at the Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta. In the end, a much needed rain fell.
Speaking from this perspective, we can see that gods are benevolent to mankind, and that mankind should respect the gods. Gods protect people on a grand scale. Gods have imparted culture to mankind for two reasons. The first reason is that, through their belief in gods, people can follow the Dharma or Tao to return to the heavens through cultivation. The second reason is that these divinely-imparted cultures play the role of stabilizing morality, because people who believe in gods tend to follow the gods’ restrictions in their words and deeds.
2. The principles of Yin-Yang and the Five Elements are at the core of Chinese traditional culture
Ancient science in China directly targeted the human body, lives, time-space, and the universe, and its understanding of everything in the universe was quite systematic. It embraced the philosophy of the “unity of heaven and mankind.” When it came to the study of the individual human body, the ancient Chinese people believed that a human body is a small universe. Chinese ancients revealed the influence and function of time-space on human lives. Such understandings were applied to ruling the country and establishing socially acceptable norms.
Chinese traditional culture viewed the human body and the universe as research targets. It was not like modern science, which has to rely on modern instruments to gain some understandings of the universe. Ancient Chinese people’s research was more direct and could reach many more dimensions of the universe. The research was not only more holistic and systematic, but also more microscopic and macroscopic. By uniting their bodies with the universe, the ancient Chinese researchers could study the universe or the human body directly; their studies were much better and more accurately controlled, and what they learned completely surpassed what humans perceived with their senses. Ancient Chinese people did not need to rely on external instruments; they fully used their own special abilities. Furthermore, those with such special abilities were born that way, and when they were born, they carried with them the most fundamental and delicate abilities of the universe. Even today, those who have cultivated themselves very well know that what a cultivator understands when in a “tranquil” or other special state is the genuine science, which, if brought to the present time, would be a science of the highest value. Then, if people could summarize what they had understood, wouldn’t that be science? Of course, the will of gods is also included in these discoveries. It is not that man can do whatever he wishes. Mankind’s history of development also follows laws.
The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Alchemy contains the following words: “Yellow Emperor asked Qi Bo (the emperor’s historian): ‘Is it right that the sky is on the top and the earth in the beneath?’ Qi Bo responded, ‘The earth is below mankind and exists in the empty space.’ The emperor asked again, ‘Why is it like this?’ Qi Bo answered, ‘Because the atmosphere holds it up.’” So, several thousand years ago, our Chinese ancestors, through cultivation, had already gained insight into the universe. Their understanding of the human body, life, time-space, and the universe has far surpassed what modern science knows.
In modern science, the understanding of “Yin-Yang” is far less complete and systematic than the ancient Chinese. The Yin-Yang symbol, which is the representation of Yin and Yang in the human world, has profound philosophical meaning. As a matter of fact, to cultivators, Yin-Yang has encompassed many dimensions and is a manifestation of the principle of the universe. In the human world, the Yin and Yang pair cover everything. By going deep into the roots ofYin-Yang, ancient people found that Wu Ji (i.e., the none-pole) created Tai Ji (i.e., the Taichi or supreme pole), and Tai Ji further split into Yin and Yang. In this way, the process of the universe’s origin can be described in a highly abstract and precise way. When it is further expanded, the Five Elements and the Eight Diagrams can be used to thoroughly describe the details about the development of matter, their status, characteristics, and even their futures. It is the “heavens” and gods that allowed the ancient Chinese to understand the essential relationships among the universe, nature, society, and the human body and then summarized it into human thinking. Gods have endowed people with such thinking ability so that mankind can be in good harmony with the universe. After creating mankind, the gods kept enriching people’s abilities to think, which is a part of the universe’s mechanism.
The Five Elements principle does not just further explain Yin-Yang. It is a systematic expression of matter, its balances and restrictions. The principle has also been used to explain the origins of matter and the universe, and their interactions. Modern science has now gained an understanding on the composition of the universe and matter, and its understandings of molecules, atoms, electrons, protons–all the way to quarks and neutrinos, including the detailed Periodic Table of the Elements. However, traditional Chinese science used only the “Five Elements” to explain the composition of the universe. It tells us that the Five Elements constitute everything in the universe. The Five Elements, that is, metal, water, wood, fire and earth, encompass the characteristics of all matter. The pure and unsophisticated ancient Chinese were very insightful. The more they exhibited their inborn natures, the more insightful they became; they are said, in the community of cultivators, to have very good inborn qualities.
(to be continued)
February 16, 2008