The Tao of Meditation: Part 3 of 3

October 19, 2017

I wonder what happened to all of China’s mediating Buddhists and Taoists during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Did they go underground like Anchee Min’s mother who became a closet Catholic that only prayed when her three children slept? During China’s Cultural Revolution, no one could be trusted, not even your children.

Most people don’t change who they are regardless of what the rich and/or powerful want, so it is obvious that if being a Buddhist or Taoist and meditating could get you denounced, you will find a way to practice what you think when no one else notices what you are doing.

Until Communism appeared, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org reports, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution, the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions. They were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else.

However, after Mao died in 1976, China, under Deng Xiaoping lifted the ban on religious teaching, and since the mid-1980s there has been a huge program to rebuild the Buddhist and Taoist temples that were torn down by the teenage Red Guard.

In addition, in December 2004, China’s central government announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily, “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens, but worship outside of approved religions remains forbidden. There are five religions recognized by China’s government: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s death, it was safe to meditate again without the threat of fear getting in the way of an individual’s search for inner harmony.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 2 of 3

October 18, 2017

I’ve been following an exercise routine for at least 18 years. Recently I added mind and body mediation to the physical exercise. When I mediate every day, I turn inward to link my mind and body.

What I think of when I think of Taoism is a story from Taoist tradition whose main image or metaphor is that of water that meets a rock in the river, and simply flows around it. Taoism suggests that a major source of our suffering is that we resist and try to control the natural movements of the world around us. The Tao literally means “The Way,” and it reminds us that the world is bigger than us, and we’ll enjoy it better if we humble ourselves to the natural flow of things.

You know. Go with the flow.

Taoism teaches that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

The difference from religions in the West was that Taoism did not have leaders on a national scale and was more like a federation of linked communities.

What I’ve discovered as I continue to meditation every morning after the physical exercise and before I start the day, is that I’m calmer throughout the day with little or no depression or doubts and with a lot less physical pain.

Continued in Part 3 on October 19, 2017, or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 1 of 3

October 17, 2017

Some of the earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. Between the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” -Lao-tzu, the father of Taoism (604 – 531 BC)

Lao-Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised a Christian in a Christian culture. Even though I walked away from organized religion at 12, I still retain what I learned from studying the Bible.

I’ve also learned that by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been well established for several centuries.

Taoism was popular in China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, I’ve read that the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

Certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, and those are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao: Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine, and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, that has had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

Continued in Part 2 on October 18, 2017

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Evolution of the Three Teachings of China

July 25, 2017

China may be the only ancient culture that survived the spread of Islam and Christianity and managed to keep its unique identity. The following passage comes from My Splendid Concubine, my first published novel was historical fiction based on a real life story and it earned fifteen literary awards. In the novel, Guan-jiah is Robert Hart’s servant.

 

– the following scene is from CH-4 of My Splendid Concubine

“Guan-jiah,” Robert said, “before I came to China I read The Travels of Marco Polo. Do you know who he was?”

“No, Master,” Guan-jiah replied.

“He came to China from Europe more than six hundred years ago and served Kublai Khan during the Yuan Dynasty. Polo wrote that Hangzhou was the finest and noblest city in the world.”

“Hangzhou was the capital of the Southern Sung Dynasty, Master,” Guan-jiah said. “I’ve heard it is beautiful. Sung philosophy says that we have the power in our minds to overcome our emotions.”

“Marco Polo believed it was God’s will that he came back from China so others in the West might know what he’d seen.” Robert turned to his servant, who was the last in line. “Do you believe in this Sung philosophy, Guan-jiah?”

“The Sung said that if you know yourself and others, you would be able to adjust to the most unfavorable circumstances and prevail over them.”

“That’s admirable, Guan-jiah. You never mentioned you were a scholar. If the Sung Dynasty was that wise, I want to see Hangzhou one day.”

“I am no scholar, Master, but I must believe in the Sung philosophy to survive. I have read and contemplated much literature. However, I am like a peasant and have never mastered calligraphy. It is a skill that has eluded me.”

“How old were you when you studied this philosophy?”

“I was eleven, Master, two years after I was sent to Peking.”

The 3 teachings of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism have been the backbone of Chinese culture since the bronze age, and are still intertwined strongly with today’s China. They are different interpretations to China’s core philosophies of life. Over time, different dynasties favored different ideas, if only to define themselves against their predecessor. Ultimately though, it’s all about the philosophy of combining spirituality with the reality of everyday life.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Buddhism’s Arrival and Influence in China

June 6, 2017

Siddartha Guatama, an Indian Prince, became the Buddha in the 6th century BC. Recorded history says Buddhism first arrived in China about four hundred years later more than two centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ.

After the Buddha died, tradition says that Buddhism split into difference sects. Christianity and Islam also split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries after the founders died.

Today Buddhism has about 379-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion.

The Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD about twelve-hundred years after Buddha.

Britannica.com says, “The accounts of Bodhidharma’s life are largely legendary, and historical sources are practically nonexistent. Two very brief contemporary accounts disagree on his age (one claiming that he was 150 years old, the other depicting him as much younger) and nationality (one identifies him as Persian, the other as South Indian). The first biography of Bodhidharma was a brief text written by the Chinese monk Daoxuan (flourished 7th century) about a century after Bodhidharma’s death.”

The Buddhist monk Bodhidharma was known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Forbidden City Secrets Reveal Tibet’s Long Ties to China

May 31, 2017

I was surprised while reading The Last Secrets of the Forbidden City Head to the U.S. by Auston Ramzy.

I was surprised that evidence like this slipped past the Western media censors — sorry, it is politically incorrect to say that there are media censors in America. In the United States, the censors are editors that work for huge autocratic, for-profit media corporations.

The Time Magazine piece Ramzy wrote was about an exhibit traveling to the United States with treasures from the Forbidden City that have not been seen since 1924.

Ramzy wrote, “Many of the 18th-century objects that will be displayed are symbols of the emperor’s devout Buddhism. They include a hanging panel filed with niches that hold intricate figurines of Buddhas, deities and historical teachers from the Tibetan Buddhist sect to which [Emperor] Qianlong belonged.”

I didn’t know the powerful Qianlong Emperor followed the teachings of Buddhists from Tibet. There are four Buddhist sects in Tibet. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of one of the four, the Yellow Hat sect.

Why would the Qianlong Emperor belong to a Tibetan sect of Buddhism if Tibet were not considered part of China? In fact, Tibetan Buddhist monks traveled to the capital of China to serve the emperors.

China considered Tibet a vassal state or tributary.  In fact, starting in the 13th century, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasty troops are known to have occupied Lhasa.

In fact, the October 1912 National Geographic Magazine describes how the Imperial government in Beijing managed a difficult Tibet, and I’ve mentioned letters Sir Robert Hart wrote in the 19th century that also mention Tibet as part of China.

In 1890, a Convention between Great Britain and China was signed that offers more evidence that China’s emperor considered Tibet part of his realm and Great Britain agreed. Tibet is mentioned twenty-nine times in this treaty.

Tibet declared freedom from China in 1913 after about seven-hundred years of occupation soon after the Qing Dynasty collapsed and China fell into chaos and anarchy while warlords fought over the spoils. Tibet did this because the British Empire convinced the Dalai Lama to break from China.

Discover China’s First Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi, the man that unified China more than 2,000 years ago.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Tibet’s Democracy that Never Was and Never Will Be

April 11, 2017

There are many misleading claims about Tibet. To understand what I mean, Google “Tibet’s Democracy in Exile,” but the historical facts support that Tibet has never been a republic and/or a democracy in its entire history.

One example of a misleading media report said, “Being a Tibetan in exile is a loss that manifests in many forms: the loss of homeland and natural rights fall within that.”

What were the natural rights that were lost?

Most Tibetans in exile (about one-percent of the total Tibetan population) gave up their rights and about ninety-nine percent of the population known as serfs that were often treated no better than slaves. The serfs were left behind as the one-percent who owned the land and held the wealth fled.

Before 1950, when Mao’s Red army reoccupied Tibet for China, there had been no democracy or republic in Tibet in its entire history.

The following quotes show us what Tibet was like before 1950.

“Lamaism is the state religion of Tibet and its power in the Hermit Country is tremendous. Religion dominated every phase of life. … For instance, in a family of four sons, at least two, generally three, of them must be Lamas. Property and family prestige also naturally go with the Lamas to the monastery in which they are inmates.

“Keeping the common people or laymen, in ignorance is another means of maintaining the power of the Lamas. Nearly all of the laymen (serfs) are illiterate. Lamas are the only people who are taught to read and write.”  – October 1912 National Geographic Magazine, page 979.

Under theocratic Lamaism, there was no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and no one voted.

Between 1912, when those words appeared in National Geographic, and 1950, Tibet did not change. The only difference was that there was no Chinese governor in Tibet appointed by the Emperor and supported by Chinese troops.

If the majority of Tibetans want to have self-rule, there’s nothing wrong with supporting a separatist movement as long as you know all of the accurate historical facts.

After all, there are at least eight known and active separatist movements in the United States: for instance, the Alaska Independence Party; Hawaiian sovereignty movement; Lakotah Oyate; Puerto Rico Independence Party; League of the South; Texas Secession Movement; Second Vermont Republic, and the Cascadia Independence Movement.

In fact, Tibetans have about the same odds to be free from China as Hawaiians and the Lakota Sioux have of being free of the United States.

It is a historical fact that a reluctant Tibet was ruled over by the Yuan (Mongol), Ming (Han) and Qing (Manchu) Dynasties from 1277 to 1913, when Great Britain convinced Tibet to break from China at the same time the Qing Dynasty was collapsing. Between 1913 and 1950, Tibet was ruled by a Dalai Lama and was an autocratic theocracy, not a democracy. In case you don’t know, a theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god. In Tibet’s case, his holiness the Dalai Lama is often called a “God-King”.

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