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The Impermanence of Reality.

Popularity 1Viewed 697 times 2019-1-12 09:26 |System category:News

One of the main principles of Buddhism is that everything in our reality is not permanent and that everything goes through a process of change described as 成,住,坏,空. In this essay, I will dwell deeper into the nature of the forces of change and how they have influenced our society. 

Basically, when we don’t have a state of everything is everything like in Nirvana (一真法界), then change or impermanence is inevitable.  In a state where everything is everything, there is no notion of I vs You, big vs small, good vs bad and so on; A can be B or C and B can be A or C simultaneously. It is like all the traffic in the junction can cross at the same time and not collide into one another, thus we call it the ‘无障碍世界’ or the realm with no obstacles.  

The problem begins when the notion of ‘I’ or the self ego is developed by accident (无始无明) and then we no longer have everything is everything; the perspective of what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly, big or small, right or wrong slowly come into existence according to my understanding of the ‘十二应缘’ and the ‘唯识’ sutra. All these new values (right vs wrong) are what we call ‘knowledge’ and our infinite wisdom (般若智慧) then became intelligence (世智辨聪). 

As a result, intelligence enabled us to select what is right and suitable but eliminate what is wrong or inappropriate. According to the law of Karma, change occurs when we enjoy what is good now, we will have to deal with what is bad later because the good and the bad gives meaning to one another and are thus inseparable. It is the same like the Yin period will be followed by the Yang period, and Marxism described it as how anti-thesis will challenge the thesis to form a new synthesis. 

I observed this Marxist philosophy of change when I watched those Taiwanese ‘爱情文艺’ movies made in the 70’s where I get to see how the society changed over the years and what made them change. Take for example, I believe textile was a big industry in Taiwan in the 60’s or 70’s and the government would surely had encouraged more people to join the trade to create jobs and taxes. However, not every participant will be successful in this line due to the process of competition or selection and elimination (分别执着), and those who were eliminated will be anxious or fearful and if no new growth areas are crested, anxiety may turn to destructive emotions like anger, hatred and jealousy. As a result, those who were eliminated in the textiles industry can try their luck in the complementary fashion and retail lines, and that’s why they also used movies and pop culture to set the trend in fashion and even super market business like in the movie ‘海! 亲爱的’, we may take supermarket for granted these days but back then it was a novel retail experience. Wouldn’t you hope to see Jackie Chan playing the male lead role in this movie? I have always hoped to see Jackie and Joan Lin starring in these old romantic movies.

At the same time, people will also need to instill more liberal and open minded values in the society so that people can accept different types of lifestyles and preferences. That’s why we often see in these movies how young people went against the wishes of their parents and wanting to do something new and different; we see woman becoming independent and having a say in society; and we see a fair bit of consumption and hedonism in scenes of people patronizing cafes, bars and restaurants as if they were setting a trend in dining out to boost private consumption. I believe all these are meant to empower young people to consume more to improve their self image and venture into new trades so that businesses can do well and less people will be left behind in this world of selection and elimination. 

Think about all the products and services in Taiwan’s economy today, and then imagine the social values in Taiwan today are the same as those conservative (封建) ones in the 60’s and 50’s, chances are the two can’t co-exist; and if the economic profile of Taiwan today is the same as those in the 60’s, it will not be sufficient to cater to everyone. As such, liberal values are needed in order to accommodate the problems caused by the unceasing process of selection and elimination in the society.

I am writing this to offer an alternative view on what forces caused the society to change over the years so that it can enrich the discussion between the purists and the liberals in Chinese philosophy. I am not stating whether these changes are appropriate or not, maybe only the Buddha can have the wisdom to answer that.  To continue, if we are not flexible enough to provide more industries and trades then people are inclined to use force to get their resources as we have seen from incidences of major upheavals in ancient China like the tragedy of Baima in Tang Dynasty, the Donglin Academy massacre and the Taiping Rebellion, just to name a few, were partially caused by the competition among Confucius scholars themselves. If the society at that time has some kind of mass communication industry then perhaps rebel scholars like Hong Xiuquan can find lucrative jobs in the industry and skipped the Taiping Rebellion he started.

That is why a modern Confucian society like Taiwan has to be more liberal to avert similar types of conflict from happening, for example, the renowned novelist 琼瑶 was said to have faced discrimination in the Taiwanese literati fellowship and as a result her work was not recognized by the fraternity. However, the good thing was that the society at that time can accept more liberal types of literature like romantic novels and allowed ‘rejected scholars’ like琼瑶 to have a very fulfilling career as a novelists, and went on to create those popular 爱情文艺 movies that promoted Taiwan’s economy and brands. What if there was no outlet for her talent at that time? It is hard to say, she is also known to be a very tough character and she could have caused some disruption. 

Or we take Alibaba’s Jack Ma for another example, I was very surprised someone as intelligent and dynamic as Jack Ma was rejected by twenty employers in the past, maybe there was a lot of inefficiency or bias in the human resource practices in China at that time. But thanks to the reform, liberty and technological innovation in China, Jack Ma was able to find his own success through the internet and side-stepped the barrier created by inefficient human resource practices. Maybe KFC (China) regrets not hiring him otherwise he would not have created the food delivery service which is competing with KFC now.

So, as we can see, the moment we develop ‘分别执着’, change becomes inevitable due to the process of selection and elimination, and even if the dominant thesis can suppress all the challenging anti-thesis, it will soon get bored and stressed up by the status quo and volunteer to seek out new things, and the reason is that once the cycle of pleasure is over the cycle of pain will set in to form blockages to the mind and body and then one will seek out more intense form of pleasures to arrive at a new temporary equilibrium.

With the above understanding of the Chinese philosophy, we can now address the deep meaning behind the famous exchanges between Lao Tzu and Confucius in their brief encounter several thousand years ago. Lao Tzu’s intention was to transcend to the realm of infinity and become as one with all things in the universe (天地与我同根,万物与我同体), this is the way of the ‘Tao’ (Buddhist call it ‘佛性’) and when one is in line with this principle, all things will grow and prosper, anything that deviates to much from this principle will be against nature and deemed as abnormal. I believe Confucianism agrees with the basic concept of the Buddha and Lao Tzu, but due to the inherent difficulties in the society at that time, he felt that he needed to work out something which is very similar in principle to the ‘Tao’ or ‘佛性’ that are more practical and can ensure a longer lasting stability (not infinitely). 

Unlike in the realm of infinity, if all the cars in our junctions were to cross all at the same time, we will have a massive pileup and for that reason, the Confucianism that is used to spearhead civilization is like a smart traffic light system that directs the traffic so that they won’t crash into one another while minimizing the traffic congestion (conflict and friction) in the city streets. 

In my opinion, there are three elements in Confucianism which sought to mimic the nature of everything is everything in our ‘佛性’ as closely as possible. ‘佛性’ is perfect equality, and equality means justice because justice is used to restore equality, such as good is right and bad is wrong, or good means reward and bad means punishment. So a system with a strong and fair legislative, judicial and enforcement departments is considered as in congruence with nature or ‘佛性’.

The second element is something like a system of meritocracy. As we now know intelligence like logic (math), harmony (music), justice (legal), proportion (arts/design), synchronicity (sports/dance) coherence (writing) and etcetera are all functions to balance and equate things, and this intelligence is the mimic version of the ‘般若智慧’. Since our most fundamental state is perfect equality (I = You), we automatically and constantly try to get back to this original state of equilibrium because that’s who we are, but because of the blockage caused by our bad karma, we can only seek a temporary relief or an alternate equilibrium with the functions of the above intelligence.  For example, like mentioned in the previous essay, we use scientific logic to invent fertilizers, irrigation and earth work machines to help us overcome the deficiencies in the soil but they don’t transform the nature of the soil permanently, and neither will eating stop us from getting hungry again. 

When we combine justice and meritocracy, we can understand why Confucius says the society will be peaceful and prosperous if everyone plays his or her role well in the society. It means that a father should behave like a father and a teacher should behave like a teacher, similarly if one is a musician then he should play music, if one is an engineer then he will be most productive working as an engineer and if one is a writer then he will find the most peace and satisfaction from writing. When we have all round surpluses, people in the society are more contented and less inclined to do destructive things even though the relief is only temporary.

Having the above two elements are not sufficient because there is another important one and that is moral conduct. The moral system espoused by Confucianism is very similar to those mentioned by Buddhism, Taoism and other major religions known to us, they all call for us to be inclusive to everyone, conduct charitable activities and community services because this is a close mimic to being everyone is everyone in the state of infinity. 

We now go back to the example of the character Sebastian in the movie ‘Lala Land’, he is always in some sort of conflict or frustration in the movie and it is due to some immoral behavior that made it difficult for him to get along with people. However, he was able to experience harmony through music and jazz as he explained how the fluent coordination and improvisation among the various musicians in the band can give him very enlightening moments. These moments of harmony came when they are able to change their styles or scales each time someone improvised something new. These moments of adjustments and harmonization is not too different from why mathematicians enjoy solving equations like maybe 1 + X = 8/2; or maybe if you are harmonizing the very difficult jazz piece of ‘Coltrane Changes’, then the harmonization is similar to doing harder equations like maybe, 2(X + 3) + 8 = 3(X - 1) + 15. What the musician and mathematician are doing is similar to how a person with good moral conduct enjoys being inclusive and getting along with others, and we all enjoy doing these things because we always wanted to get back to the state of oneness where everyone is everyone. So the peace and joy Sebastian experience while playing music is a mimic version of oneness or ‘佛性’.

You may ask what if we just keep on applying fertilizers to correct the deficiency in the soil or keep on playing music and inventing scientific equipment to provide us with temporary relief? The problem with that is the fertilizers and all of our endowments like music, science or beauty are like the limited wealth or ‘Qi’ in our souls, if we keep on using them without replenishing, we will exhaust everything one day. Besides, all mimic versions of ‘佛性’ are pleasures that come with pain later and that is why I mentioned in my previous essay that the best way for lay person to break out from this dilemma is to do our work with the right moral attitude and to practice spiritual cultivation.  

Building a good civilization is like constructing a stable pyramid or a decision tree which can yield the right results, and that depends a lot on the nature of the decision nodes on top of the decision tree. The top decision node is like the CEO of a company and if you use the above philosophical criteria to select the CEO then the person must be one who has the best moral conduct and the best technical skills. The reason is that in this realm of selection and elimination, those who didn’t get the coveted posts will most probably be frustrated with the outcome and it takes moral and technical skills to manage the friction caused by the competition. Let’s say X and Y were competing for the position of the CEO and Y got the job because of the criteria. Since Y has the best technical skills he or she is more likely to produce surpluses every year; and since he also has good morals and is an inclusive person, he will treat X in a professional and cordial way, and is willing to distribute the surpluses to X for his department’s projects, and the hard feelings between X and Y will be minimized. If X is also willing to do the same to his underlings then the friction in this whole chain of competition will be minimized, disruption will be reduced, morale will be high, work processes will be synchronized and the company will prosper.


P.S. There are many other 70’s romantic movies and theme songs which I like such as ‘秋歌’, ‘我是一片云’, the award winning ‘小城故事’, just to name a few. Even though they are very mild movies, if you watch too much you will feel conflicted (纠结) after awhile. This conflict can come in many different forms, for example, my mother becomes very ‘极人忧天’ after watching too much tragic dramas on tv, each time I travel to another town for a few days she will think of ten different ways I can get into trouble while I am away and I believe she was influenced by the negative emotions contained in these drama. Others became very ‘娇情’ and ‘多愁善感’, I believe that means they will tend to interpret things in a very difficult way because that is how they have come to like it, sort of like the more difficult it is the more romantic it feels. 

These conflicts act as blockages to our neuron pathways and after awhile our brains will automatically develop other neuron pathway to by-pass the blockages and I believe that is the reason why audiences’ tastes changed from Taiwanese romantic stories to those Hong Kong romantic comedies which I mentioned in a previous article (How Thoughts and Emotions Changes). Of course other factors include a progressively more liberal society and the need to create more genres of films to cater to different actors. If you start an acting academy, you can’t expect all actors to be handsome like 周潤發,谭咏麟,秦汉, 秦祥林 and 吴亦凡 who are suitable lead characters in romantic movies. You will also have action stars like Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen and Jet Li, and you will also have others who can be comedians and villains; thus you will need to make movies about Kungfu, comedy, triad and horror in order to provide opportunities to everyone. So once again we see how change, be it cognitive or physical, is caused by competition which then turns into impasse or blockage, and out of that comes new variations. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)

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Comment Comment (21 comments)

Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 08:48
Blah blah. The entire time I was reading that I wanted to punch you in the face.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 08:50
And that is the point of this nonsense isn't it. You are trying to be funny.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 08:53
I don't want to be one with you. Or anything else. Everything is everything my ass. You are not me. How is everything is everything any different to nothing is nothing? Give me some nukes and I will blow it all up - problem solved!
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 09:05
And what do you want? And infinite Reich?

Well you need an AntiChrist and chips in all citizens heads then don't you. Not Buddha. When we have chips in all of their brains we can control their emotions and what they think. If we can control their emotions and what they think then we don't need to worry about any of them getting upset that they didn't get the job as CEO or manager of the local McDonald's. And if any of them protest or rebel we can turn them off through the chip in their brains. We can stop a charging bull in its tracks with a chip in its brain you know.

Do you really believe that an actor will be content with being an extra just because that is what they are suited for? We just need movies with enough roles for extras do we? More Ben Hur movies? Then everyone will be happy will they? Or happy enough that they don't cause trouble? I think they would all be a lot happier with chips in their brains don't you?
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 09:40
Here is an idea for you and scumlike you. Stop pretending to have good intentions. Some of you probably tell yourselves that your intentions are good right? And some of you probably believe it. Even if the slaves had no idea of how horrid their existence is you do. You do.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 09:41
I can tell that you don't have good intentions. You think you are funny.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 09:47
What if I don't want to do a thing. What if I don't want to be productive? And what if allowing me to do nothing and be unproductive made me contented enough that I didn't cause trouble? Ever think of that you stupid $%$%s? Ever think that working me to death like a $%$%ing slave is what is making me want to cause trouble? The modern surplus is so great that its a problem you know. You people are terrified of idle hands aren't you? You are terrified of the Devil. What if it was the Devil that was the answer to all of your problems.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 10:01
Satan does not care for your pathetic nonsense.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:01
And doesn't Shintoism say that karma in this life comes from karma in another life? And the point of that was to tell peasants/slaves that their horrid existences were in fact their own fault for bad things they did in their last life? And to scare them into being good citizens in current life? There was nothing about having to experience bad things after good was there? I have never heard anyway explain karma the way you have - even modern Buddhism generally pushes the idea that you gain good karma from being a good person right? Not that if you experience good that you can expect and equivalent amount of bad. Anyway - what a load of horse $%$% but the Shinto idea of karma was a lot smarter wasn't it.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:04
Under Shintoism the monk could tell the slave that their horrid life was their own fault but if they try harder in this life to be good then maybe in the next life they will be born as a fat little baby Buddhist monk.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:24
But yeah if I could murder every last one of you all at once the relief would be permanent. Why do you think that destruction can only bring temporary relief? Or were you saying that the round surplus of the textile worker or whatever only brings temporary relief.

"Less people will be left behind in this world of selection and elimination. " You talk like Hitler don't you. Like kind of Nazi. Like some $%$%ing Nazi justifying the elimination of backward Russians to make way for German living space. You are not getting left behind are you Nazi.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:26
You aren't getting left behind are you Nazi. And you are thinking up ways to keep the slaves content and from causing trouble are you? What a saint you are. Less people will be eliminated under your ideas will they Hitler?
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:33
You are superior aren't you? You have a lot more merit than a textile worker don't you? You are worth a lot more than a textile worker aren't you. You deserve to live a nice easy life because you are university educated right. Your nice easy life is justice isn't it.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:38
And you reference the CIA film La La Land? Are you serious. Jesus Christ. Did you know that Pharrell Williams had something to do with the soundtrack of that CIA movie. Pharrell Williams. The CIA needs to keep that guy away. If I take over the world the Pharrell Williams' of the world will be rounded up and then publicly executed. His song Happy is making fun of the masses you know. He makes fun if the masses in other songs of his too. He thinks its real funny. The CIA pays him to do this but he knows what he is doing. He knows what he is doing like you know that you wrote this jink above to be funny. You are hilarious aren't you buddy. You and your $%$%ing utopia of contented slaves underneath you high merit educated citizens with your nice easy peaches and cream lives. When is the karma going to catch up with you people anyway? That's a scary thought for you isn't it.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:39
You got alotof good haven't you mate. So much good so you must have so much bad coming to you right.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:50
And you talk all this utter nonsense about contented slaves being productive and then you reference La la Land and talk about some character that plays jazz? What in this hell is productive about someone that plays jazz music? Wouldn't be nice if all the textile workers of the world could get happy playing some jazz songs. OK I just read the plot of Lala Land. Its about dreams is it? But only educated people can have dreams can't they? I'm guessing these two vomitworthy characters have been to college right. A textile worker can't have dreams can they? They could try to be content enough that they don't cause happy educated people any trouble but its just silly for a textile worker to have a dream isn't it. That's what is funny about referencing Lala Land in your funny little script here isn't it. Slaves need to be productive not dream.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:51
You educated $%$%ers aren't overthrowing society any time soon are you? Peaches and cream for you $%$%s.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 11:52
You aren't going to cause any trouble are you mate.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 12:08
And oneness. That's what we all want is it? We don't want to be ourselves we want to be everyone else do we? Its just some accident that I have an identity is it? And what Ideally want is to get back to having no identity. You Buddhists are $%#%ed in the brain. And this past and future lives nonsense. If you can't remember your previous life then was it really your life? I couldn't give a $%$% about a future life if I'm not going to remember this one because I won't be me I will be someone else. Don't you people understand that? And if you upload your consciousness to the internet that's not going to be you either if its just a copy - and how could you upload it anyway? All you could do is create a program that acted like you. That would be closer to you than and entirety different person that doesn't even remember you but it won't be you.

Oneness. Are you going to be like the dude in A Space Odyssey 2000? Fly off into space and stuff. But he still has an identity doesn't he. You just want to be nothing. To not exist. To be one with everything.

I hate you. And you want to be one with me do you?  And I should hate you Nazi. Shouldn't I.
Reply Report HailChina! 2019-1-15 12:48
The people in the walled city need the main zombie to help them defeat the other zombies. It's a bit like how the AntiChrist comes from the earth.

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  • The Impermanence of Reality. 2019-1-15 12:51

    The AntiChrist comes from the earth. Only the AntiChrist can bring about a new age.

  • The Impermanence of Reality. 2019-1-15 12:48

    The people in the walled city need the main zombie to help them defeat the other zombies. It's a bit like how the AntiChrist comes from the earth.

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