Eastern Philosophy

Siddhartha Gautama, or Buddha’s ideas are best represented in the quote that states “teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” Buddha’s key contribution of the Eightfold Path to end human suffering explains in detail how to obtain a generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion; further, a life of service and compassion can only be obtained, according to Buddha, by separating oneself from the fear and anxiety of not being able to meet the constantly elusive demands of selfish cravings. Upon separating oneself, one is able to experience the tranquility and stability that lacked in a life of selfish pursuits. This quote emphasizes Buddha’s belief that he had found the cause of suffering in the world, as well as a way to escape it.

Lao Tzu’s quote “in dwelling, live close to the ground. In thinking, keep to the simple. In conflict, be fair and generous. In governing, don’t try to control. In work, do what you enjoy. In family life, be completely present,” I feel is the most accurate representation of his ideas and key contributions. Tzu believed that in order to obtain tranquility and stability in face of the uncertainty of change, one must abandon all selfish desires and become aware that acting upon ignorance as if it were knowledge is foolishness that leads to hindrance and impairment within the individual and society; the first two assertions of the quote represent these beliefs. Also, Tzu believed that the wise ruler who retreats rather than advances and practices gentleness achieves eventual victory; instead of reacting to violence with violence in an endless cycle of revenge, the wise ruler is open-minded, patient, simple, tranquil, weak, unselfish, and non-striving. For Tzu, too much government activity brings confusion and too many laws create disorder; the remaining assertions in the quote illustrate these beliefs.

Like Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu asserted that the Tao was a force of nature that was beyond control; since people are unable to control the Tao, Chuang felt that the wise person accepts the course of events as they manifest without hope or regret to attain fulfillment. He believed that the key to freedom from fear and stress comes by simply following the Tao; the wise man searches for utter clarity about what is before him, but he has no wish to change things. A quote that accurately represents Chuang Tzu’s beliefs is “flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free. Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.”

Confucius influenced philosophical thinking by developing a philosophy that differed from previous philosophers by asserting that the Tao was not a fixed and eternal principle that exists outside and above events; this concept gave way to the idea that humans are perfectible and can make their own way through seeking knowledge and acquiring wisdom by imitating models of superior men from the past. The focus on this belief provided the understanding that man is not entirely helpless and blind in his actions, but rather an active participant in attaining a virtuous character. In his quote, “if I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself,” reveals his concept of modeling past superior men to gain knowledge and acquire wisdom to develop one’s Tao.

In the quote, Confucius does not only look to understand the good points but the bad points as well; this underlies his concept of means, which implies that human behavior should avoid extremes and seek moderation. Rather than focus on only good behavior, Confucius avoided the extreme of desirable behavior by acknowledging the bad behavior as well, whether he maintained this behavior or not. His concept of reciprocal cooperation is also exposed in seeking a balance of both good and bad points.

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