Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Eastern Philosophy - 1st Installment H01 - Marshall Carroll

Word Count: 1190
Eastern Philosophy encompasses many philosophies dating back nearly 5,000 years ago from today. Included in these philosophies are some of the most popular, yet most intricate beliefs that coincide with ancient religions. Beginning in small areas throughout Asia, the foundation for western thought was established through eastern and Islamic ideals starting in Ancient Greece.
One of the most important elements within the Eastern world view is its emphasis on unity and the mutual interrelation among all things and events. In other words, this form of belief considers all experiences to be a display of a fundamental oneness. Furthermore, it is perceived that the primary component of the cosmos is Space itself, and that without it nothing can exist. In ancient Indian culture, for instance, it is believed that the Universe presents itself in two ways; firstly being Space, which functions as our medium for movement. Secondly is movement itself, which concerns the rhythm of the cosmos and the way these experiences occur. For this first installment I will be discussing some of the most popular Eastern philosophies including Taoism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and Buddhism.

Taoism, also known as Daoism, can be traced back to at least the 4th century B.C. Retrieving its cosmological ideals from the School of Yinyang, the philosophy is heavily influenced by one of the most ancient texts of Chinese culture, The Yijing. Within this text is a philosophical structure that presents ways of keeping human behavior in agreement with the ever-changing ways of the natural world. In addition, the teachings provided in the book Teo Te Ching and writings by the famous philosopher, Zhuangi, are the cornerstones of the Taoist tradition.
This Chinese philosophy stresses the importance of living in harmony with the Tao, or “Way,” and focuses greatly on the naturalness with which the universe functions. Unlike many ideologies, Taoism does not exercise strict rituals or social order, but instead directs its attention to the beauty of effortless action, simplicity, and impetuousness. In addition, the Three Treasures lay the framework for Taoistic beliefs. The first being jing, or the essence of a physical body, the second being qi, human thoughts and/or emotions, and lastly shen, the spirit of humankind.
By the 3rd century C.E., the many sources of Toaism had conformed into one intelligible tradition of religious organizations and ritualistic practices in the state of Shu, known today as Sichuan. In the year 440 B.C., Taoism became the state religion of China, with Lao Tzu named as the founder. The main Taoistic belief was that one thing connects to everything and that Teo, nature, and reality are all a part of one entity. Early Taoists developed their own organization which coincided with many of the shamanic beliefs, however, these values would later be divided into two main groups as they evolved: Quanhen Taoism and Zhengyi Taoism. These two ideologies were considered the state religion up until the 17th century. As a result, Taoism made a significant impact on Chinese astrology, Chinese alchemy, Chan Buddhism, various types of martial arts, traditional medicine, feng shui, and other essential elements of the rich Chinese culture.
There is a thing, formless yet complete. Before heaven and earth it existed. Without sound, without substance, it stands alone and unchanging. It is all-pervading and unfailing. We do not know its name, but we call it Tao. .. Being one with nature, the sage is in accord with the Tao.” - Lao Tzu

Confucianism is the philosophical and ethical practice based upon the teachings from the Chinese philosopher, Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.). In a collection of his discussions, called The Analects, he emphasized governmental and personal morality and ethics, the importance of social relationships, as well as empathy and equity. Because of this, he is seen by many Chinese civilians as the greatest master. Rather than attempting to develop methodical theory of life and society, he promoted the philosophy of bettering and developing oneself and to study the outside world.
Throughout the construction of this humanistic religion, Confucianism created the Hundred Schools of Thought inspired by Confucius's writings and thus brought light to ideas and notions that could be discussed among the people freely. Over time, the social consciousness of the public grew, leading to peripatetic scholars gaining power as advisors to government regulations, war efforts, and diplomacy, thus changing the Chinese culture forever.
The worldly awareness of Confucianism is based on the belief that humans are first and foremost good, improvable, and teachable beings that have the ability to improve through self-cultivation and the preservation of ethics. Included in some of the Confucian ethical theories are ren, meaning “humaneness,” Yi, concerning moral disposition, Li, a system suggesting how a person should go about everyday life, and lastly Zhi, which involves the ability to determine what is just from what is unjust. With this being said, Confucianism holds the people accountable for their failure to support these moral ethics.

Unlike many Eastern philosophies, Hinduism stems from India rather than China. Although it does not have a known founder, the first treasury of Indian philosophy writing is known as the Vedas' the word “veda” meaning knowledge. Although the exact date of their origin is unknown, it is believed to have come into existence around 3,000 B.C. The overall idea behind Hinduism is that reality is absolute, perfect, changeless, and eternal, rather than our world having many separate and finite things. In this ideology, meditation and purity of one's mind can allow an individual to experience their proper self (this being God or Braham) which connects us to all things, helping us to find true enlightenment through self-realization. It is because of of this characteristic that Hinduism is widely considered a conglomeration of many Indian traditions and cultures.
Like all philosophies, Hinduism has many objectives set as guidelines to lead an enlightened life, called Purusarthas. Incorporated in these guidelines are Dharma (involving ethics/obligations), Artha (success/work), Kama (inclinations/impulses) and Moksha (freedom/liberty). In order to attain a firm understanding of these principles, the Hindi practice worship, recitations, annual celebrations, meditation, and even pilgrimages. Furthermore, it is believed that if one lives within accordance to these standards, he/she should discover honesty, empathy, patience, forbearance, self-control, and compassion.

Buddhism is the moral religion/philosophy founded by Siddharrtha Guatama, commonly referred to as Buddha (566 – 486 B.C.). In his teachings, he proposed theoretical knowledge in order to lead people to a life free from self-indulgence and self-uncertainty. The two main forms of Buddhism are known as Theravada (The School of the Elders), and Mahayana (The Great Vehicle). Both of these categories of Buddhism involve seeking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and the Sangha, studying scriptures, observing moral doctrines, practicing meditation, and the refinement of wisdom, compassion and love.
In Theravada, the main purpose is to attain the state of Nirvana (Absolute Truth) and to ultimately be reborn. Mahayana, on the other hand, involves one maintaining a cycle of rebirth through which one can help others reach enlightenment, or resurrection. With this being said, I will expand into further detail on Buddhism for my second installment.

For some more info, look at the links below.


  1. Yes! You should consider the possibility of Religious Studies as a minor, which was previously in the philosophy department. You will not only study these religions, but evaluate them and critically approach them.

    1. Actually, RS has just been merged officially with the Phil Dept. Their courses were informally listed under PHIL before, but now we're going to be re-dubbed the Dept of Phil & Rel Studies.

  2. I love the Taoist concept of effortless action, "wu wei," trying not to try. Sounds paradoxical, as do most complex adjustments to life when shrunk to fit a linguistic cage, but harmony, balance, and flow are good approximations and worthy aspirations. I still go back to "The Tao of Pooh" for occasional doses of eastern insight.

    And I love the Confucian "ren," the idea of staying human.

    Hinduism is a bit harder for me to swallow, with its idea of reality as "absolute, perfect, changeless, and eternal" - that's not been my experience.

    Some of my best friends are Buddhists. But, my nirvana is not "absolute" - it's relative in every way, relative to other persons, to nature, to the future of life, to the past. I do think the Buddhist emphasis on compassion and loving kindness have done as much to civilize the world as anything offered by the mainstream western religions.