Taoism to Buddhism
Age of Illumination From the East
Circa 500 BC
Light Conquers Darkness, by Nicholas Roerich;
1933. Municipal Museum, Allahabad, India
After a time, the Brotherhood released yet another stream of illumination at a time when the Twelve Tribes were still five hundred years from receiving their Messiah. The timing of the gentle out-breath of God's consciousness still had revelations to anchor before that time. There are cycles, waves and impetuses of Light that affect different ages. Sometimes an individual moves in consonance with these important moments in history. Often times these individuals are anomalies, for a dense and unaware population surrounds them.
Around 500 BC, one of these cosmic intersections of tremendous import happened across the world. Key individuals responded and brought forth such a dynamic and startlingly fresh teachings that the world has never been the same since. The dropped stitches of mystical teachings and the very chalice of light and real knowledge itself were released by these emissaries of the Brotherhood. They were the great teachers embodied during the Golden Age of Greece, and the Oriental adepts: Confucius, Lao Tzu, and Gautama the Buddha.
Finally, the cycle of time had come for Earth, evolving with new soul root races as well as the incarnating lightbearers who had come on the ancient rescue mission to raise the planet Earth to its rightful place, to take a giant spiritual step up.
In the millennia before Christ, the time came for Earth to have its own firstborn Buddha. And a great soul of light stepped forth to take that Initiation.
Gautama Buddha receiving enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree
Gautama Buddha - the Prince Siddhartha
M. and the understanding of Buddha's Teaching lead one to the vital understanding of law, conceived upon the Mount of Light. His Law will be of much help on the way to knowledge. His Teaching is My joy. My Hand leads to knowledge.
Smile when spiritual beggars are called scholars. Smile when someone speaks irreverently about the spirit's understanding, when false books are read, when pure thoughts frighten the small of soul. Leaves of Morya's Garden II, Illumination, 1925, Agni Yoga Society
2. Certainly life is beautiful. But heretofore it was judged by animal instinct, and that is why the beauty of life could not be pointed out.
Egypt was of lofty culture, but it cannot be said that the present culture is lower. Culture used to be centered in the north of India, but only a limited class of people possessed knowledge. Castes — foolish mustiness — have hindered culture. Indeed, the Lord Buddha wished to abolish this caste foolishness. The Teaching of the Lord was imbued with joy.
3. Verily, Lord Buddha could manifest Himself. The Lord appeared to many, but He wished to make His Teaching the only source, and therefore He ceased personal manifestations.
Worship had no place in the Teaching of the Lord; its essence was knowledge and personal achievement. Just this was the characteristic trait of the Teaching of the Lord. Precisely because of this, His symbol was the lion. We often call the Lord, "King of Thought."
You have understood correctly about the unreality of the surrounding world. When I told you to proceed by the upper path of life, I was repeating the words of the Lord. As you see, the Lord recognized the reality of the surrounding world for the present cycle and taught duty to His disciples. Illumination, III:I:2 & 3 1925, Agni Yoga Society
This mighty soul had come from other worlds (see the story of Sanat Kumara and the Lords of Venus) to help the evolutions of Earth to evolve. His tremendous self-sacrifice over many lifetimes, his one-pointed path to soul victory, his world saving enlightenment is a story that is treasured on earth in the Jataka tales and in the annals of the Brotherhood. (See the references in the writings of the Theosophical Society to the Great Sacrifice). Esoteric legend states that the soul of Gautama Buddha incarnated many times as a great teacher during the civilizations of Atlantis, Egypt and Greece. His last lifetime in India was meant to reform the Hindu religion from its dogmatic and extreme state, especially in terms of rituals and the rigid and inhumane caste system. He brought spiritual freedom to India and to all the earth.
The harsh realities of life on earth - the sad conditions of illness, poverty, old age and death, led this great soul to discover how the people of earth could completely overcome their bondage to the cycles of karma, birth and death. As the pampered Prince Siddhartha, he experienced the life of pleasure but it led him, on behalf of his subjects, to discontent. He pursued the path of austerity until his body gave out. He noted the grace and harmony of life around him and began his famous meditation under the Bodhi Tree. There, our father Gautama cracked the code of life in the schoolroom of Earth. He became an Enlightened One and did not leave us behind as he could have, but came back and taught all who would listen his truths of the Middle Way, the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
Prince Siddhartha following an intense path of Initiation became Gautama the Buddha and taught in India until he was in his eighties. How blessed were the hundreds and thousands who listened to him. His great teachings were given in oral recitations and their rhythms even now help the hearer to transcend the world.
Gautama holds the esoteric spiritual office of Lord of the World. His very aura and presence are a continued blessing to all of us evolving on planet earth. The Brotherhood serves with him and at his direction. He received this spiritual office from the Great Bodhisattva, Lord Sanat Kumara who saved the Earth in her greatest moment of spiritual darkness. The Buddha's path is a way of spiritual illumination and we can reach His Presence through his students, the Masters.
A perfect time to meditate upon the Buddha and his teachings is the time of the full moon in Scorpio in May. This special cycle celebrates his birth, enlightenment and earthly departure. This is the festival of Wesak. Pilgrims gather at inner levels out-of-the-body and physically in a valley in the Himalayas to receive the Presence of the Buddha and his blessing for earth and her evolutions. In esoteric teachings, the blessed ones who are physically present in the Himalayan Valley at Wesak may see a vision of the Buddha's physical presence.
Lao Tzu leaving China after writing the Tao Te Ching
Lao Tzu - Anchoring Taoist Philosophy
Although ascetics and hermits such as Shen Tao (who advocated that one 'abandon knowledge and discard self') first wrote of the 'Tao', it is Lao Tzu (or 'Old Sage' - born Li Erh) that wrote the oldest text recording the elusive philosophy of Taoism. Some scholars believe Lao Tzu was a slightly older contemporary of Confucius (Kung-Fu Tzu, born Chiu Chung-Ni). Other scholars feel that the Tao Te Ching, is really a compilation of paradoxical poems written by several Taoists using the pen-name, Lao Tzu.
There is also a close association between Lao Tzu and the legendary Yellow Emperor, Huant Ti According to legend, Lao Tzu was keeper of the archives at the imperial court. When he was eighty years old he set out for the western border of China, toward what is now Tibet, saddened and disillusioned that men were unwilling to follow the path to natural goodness. At the border (Hank Pass), a guard, Yin Xi (Yin Hsi), asked Lao Tzu to record his teachings before he left. He then composed in 5,000 characters the Tao Te Ching (The Way and Its Power).
Whatever the truth, Taoism and Confucianism have to be seen side-by-side as two distinct responses to the social, political and philosophical conditions of life two and a half millennia ago in China. Whereas Confucianism is greatly concerned with social relations, conduct and human society, Taoism has a much more individualistic and mystical character, greatly influenced by nature.
In Lao Tzu's view things were said to create "unnatural" action (wei) by shaping desires (yu). The process of learning the names (ming) used in the doctrines helped one to make distinctions between good and evil, beautiful and ugly, high and low, and "being" (yu) and "non- being" (wu), thereby shaping desires. To abandon knowledge was to abandon names, distinctions, tastes and desires. Thus spontaneous behavior (wu-wei) that was in harmony with the universe resulted.
Contemplating the remarkable natural world, Lao Tzu felt that it was man and his unnatural activities that constituted a blight on the otherwise perfect order of things. Thus he counseled people to turn away from the folly of human pursuits and to return to one's natural wellspring.
The central vehicle of achieving tranquility was the Tao, a term which has been translated as 'the way' or 'the path.' Te in this context refers to virtue and Ching refers to laws. Thus the Tao Te Ching could be translated as The Law (or Canon) of Virtue and Its Way. The Tao was the central mystical concept of the Lao Tzu and the Taoists, a formless, unfathomable source of all things.
Look, it cannot be seen - it is beyond form.
Listen, it cannot be heard - it is beyond sound.
Grasp, it cannot be held - it is intangible.
These three are indefinable, they are one.
From above it is not bright;
From below it is not dark:
Unbroken thread beyond description.
It returns to nothingness.
Form of the formless,
Image of the imageless,
It is called indefinable and beyond imagination.
Stand before it - there is no beginning.
Follow it and there is no end.
Stay with the Tao, Move with the present.
Knowing the ancient beginning is the essence of Tao.
Lao Tzu taught that all straining, all striving are not only vain but counterproductive. One should endeavor to do nothing (wu-wei). But what does this mean? It means not to literally do nothing, but to discern and follow the natural forces -- to follow and shape the flow of events and not to pit oneself against the natural order of things. First and foremost is to be spontaneous in ones actions.
In this sense the Taoist doctrine of wu-wei can be understood as a way of mastering circumstances by understanding their nature or principal, and then shaping ones actions in accordance with these. This understanding has also infused the approach to movement as it is developed in Tai Chi Chuan.
Understanding this, Taoist philosophy followed a very interesting circle. On the one hand the Taoists, rejected the Confucian attempts to regulate life and society and counseled instead to turn away from it to a solitary contemplation of nature. On the other hand they believed that by doing so one could ultimately harness the powers of the universe. By 'doing nothing' one could 'accomplish everything.'
Lao Tzu writes:
The Tao abides in non-action,
Yet nothing is left undone.
If kings and lords observed this,
The ten thousand things would develop naturally.
If they still desired to act,
They would return to the simplicity of formless substance.
Without form there is no desire.
Without desire there is tranquility.
In this way all things would be at peace.
In this way Taoist philosophy reached out to council rulers and advise them of how to govern their domains. Thus Taoism, in a peculiar and roundabout way, became a political philosophy. The formulation follows these lines:
The Taoist sage has no ambitions, therefore he can never fail. He who never fails always succeeds. And he who always succeeds is all-powerful.
From a solitary contemplation of nature, far removed from the affairs of men, can emerge a philosophy that has, both in a critical as well a constructive sense -- a direct and practical political message. Lao Tzu writes:
Why are people starving?
Because the rulers eat up the money in taxes.
Therefore the people are starving.
Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.
Why do people think so little of death?
Because the rulers demand too much of life.
Therefore the people take life lightly.
Having to live on, one knows better than to value life too much.
Confucius, Author of the Analects
Confucius - Bringing Moral Responsibility to Government
One of the most famous people in ancient China was a wise philosopher named Confucius (circa 551-479 BC). To most Westerners, Confucius is was a well-known philosopher, mostly known through his many wise phrases and less known for his culture-changing theories about the law, life and government. His Analects set out a philosophy of a system of ideas concerning human behavior, social interaction, the rules that should be followed to make a successful life, and the best way to run a successful government.
In other words, it's about thoughts and theories that teach other people lessons about principles, or rules, about life and it also teaches you a moral (sort of like the morals that are at the end of a fable). Confucius is famous for his philosophy because he stirred the social pot in motivating people from all levels of Chinese society to think about nature, the world, and the human behavior. He also elevated the purpose of the government through his teaching the emperor and the court lessons on rulership, creating order and how to rule his kingdom successfully.
He was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu. His father, commander of a district in Lu, died three years after Confucius was born, leaving the family in poverty; but Confucius nevertheless received a fine education. He was married at the age of 19 and had one son and two daughters.
He worked as a keeper of a market. Then he was a farm worker who took care of parks and farm animals. When he was 20, he worked for the governor of his district.
His mother died in 527 BC, and after a period of mourning he began his career as a teacher, usually traveling about and instructing the small body of disciples that had gathered around him. His fame as a man of learning and character and his reverence for Chinese ideals and customs soon spread through the principality of Lu.
Living as he did in the second half of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty when feudalism had degenerated Chinese society and intrigue and vice were rampant, Confucius deplored the contemporary disorder and lack of moral standards. He came to believe that the only remedy was to convert people once more to the principles and precepts of the sages of antiquity. He therefore lectured to his pupils on the ancient classics.
Confucius taught in his school for many years. His theories and principles were spread throughout China by his disciples, and soon many people learned from his wise sayings.
One of his rules said, "If you governed your province well and treat your people kindly, your kingdom shall not lose any war. If you govern your people selfishly, your kingdom will not only lose a war, but your people will break away from your kingdom."
He set forth a golden rule that is still being used as a rule today, "A man should practice what he preaches, but a man should also preach what he practices."
One day, his students and he passed a grave where they saw a women weeping at a gravestone. She told Confucius that her husband, her husband's father, and her son were killed by a tiger. When Confucius asked her why she didn't leave such a fated spot, she answered that in this place there was no oppressive government.
Confucius said, "Remember this, my child. An oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger." That meant that the government in the woman's province did not rule the province well. This was one of the many events that exemplified his teaching style - he taught great values by the power of example.
"Rulers can be great only if they themselves lead exemplary lives," he said, "and were they willing to be guided by moral principles, their states would inevitably become prosperous and happy."
Confucius had, however, no opportunity to put his theories to a public test until, at the age of 52, he was appointed magistrate of Chung-tu, and the next year minister of crime of the state of Lu. His administration was successful; reforms were introduced, justice was fairly dispensed, and crime was almost eliminated. So powerful did Lu become that the ruler of a neighboring state maneuvered to secure the minister's dismissal.
Confucius left his office in 496 BC, traveling about and teaching, vainly hoping that some other prince would allow him to undertake measures of reform. In 484 BC, after a fruitless search for an ideal ruler, he returned for the last time to Lu.
Confucius then left his native province to wander about China for 13 years. When Confucius was 69 years old, he returned to Lu and he died there 3 years later. He was buried in a grave in the city of Ch'u Fu, Shandong. Today the site of his final resting place is the beautiful K'ung Forest.
Though he never formally worked with a state to prove his philosophy, after he died many people honored all of Confucius' work by building temples in every city in China. Since Confucius' teachings and philosophy continued to be a standard in China for 2,000 years.
Confucius himself had a simple moral and political teaching:
- To love others;
- To honor one's parents;
- To do what is right instead of what is of advantage;
- To practice "reciprocity," i.e. "don't do to others what you would not want yourself"; and
- To rule by moral example instead of by force and violence.
Confucius thought that a ruler who had to resort to force had already failed as a ruler. "Your job is to govern, not to kill". Confucius did not put the principles of his philosophy into writing - these were handed down only through his disciples.
The Lun Yu (Analects), a work compiled by some of his disciples, is considered the most reliable source of information about his life and teachings. One of the historical works that he is said to have compiled and edited, the Ch'un Ch'iu (Spring and Autumn Annals), is an account of Chinese history in the state of Lu from 722 to 481 BC. In his mission of education and uplift, he wished to be known as a transmitter rather than as a creator, which led him to retrieve lost wisdom by reviving the study of the ancient books. His own teachings, together with those of his main disciples, are found in the Shih Shu (Four Books) of Confucian literature, which became the textbooks of later Chinese generations.