Of Philosophy

Posted: 30.06.08 in Blogging

I did think about philosophy and ethics quite a lot without making any real headway in looking further into the tenets of any mainstream ideas. Over the past week though, there were two different ways of life that two religions encouraged I looked at and noted familiar and similar ideas.

Christianity — Seven Virtues

The seven virtues, as described at Wikipedia:

Chastity (opposes Lust)
Embracing of moral wholesomeness and achieving purity of body and thought through education and betterment.
Temperance (opposes Gluttony)
Practicing self-control, abstention, and moderation.
Charity (opposes Greed)
Generosity. Willingness to give. A nobility of thought or actions.
Diligence (opposes Sloth)
A zealous and careful nature in one’s actions and work. Decisive work ethic. Budgeting one’s time; monitoring one’s own activities to guard against laziness. Putting forth full concentration in one’s work.
Patience (opposes Wrath)
Forbearance and endurance through moderation. Resolving conflicts peacefully, as opposed to resorting to violence. The ability to forgive; to show mercy to sinners.
Kindness (opposes Envy)
Charity, compassion, friendship, and sympathy without prejudice and for its own sake.
Humility (opposes Pride)
Modest behavior, selflessness, and the giving of respect. Giving credit where credit is due; not unfairly glorifying one’s own self.

I feel I have somewhat unwittingly been trying to abide by these seven virtues. I am not claiming to be a saint — I can think of many examples where I have woefully let myself down in diligence and humility in particular — and being more aware of the virtues may help me improve as a person.

The clever thing about these seven virtues is that on considering each one in turn it is very easy to think of examples where you have let yourself down. As they counter the Seven Deadly Sins, the Seven Virtues also provide some remedy to counter such misdeeds. However, one curious thing to note is that neither the Seven Deadly Sins nor the Seven Virtues appear in the Bible in such a clearly defined way, rather religious figures later speculated on key sins used as a basis to identify wrongdoing.

Taoism — Three Treasures of the Tao

The Wikipedia entry describes the Three Treasures of Taoism in the various translations made over the course of the last few centuries.

ci
The literal translations of the Chinese character for ci are compassion, tenderness, love, mercy, kindness, gentleness, benevolence. It also represents a mother’s love, as it is the Classical Chinese term for mother.
jian
jian translates as frugality, moderation, economy, restraint, and to be sparing. In terms of ethics, it represents having simple desires.
Bugan wei tianxia xian

The third treasure, daring not be at the world’s front, is the Taoist way to avoid premature death. To be at the world’s front is to expose oneself, to render oneself vulnerable to the world’s destructive forces, while to remain behind and to be humble is to allow oneself time to fully ripen and bear fruit. This is a treasure whose secret spring is the fear of losing one’s life before one’s time. This fear of death, out of a love for life, is indeed the key to Taoist wisdom. (Ellen M. Chen, 1989:209)

The Three Treasures therefore seem to promote compassion, simplicity and modesty. I think these are more of an echo of how I approach life at the moment. I strive to show compassion to everyone; being charitable and giving, receptive and generous with time. I yearn for simplicity, being rather satisfied with life at the moment and being prepared for challenged. In terms of the quote from Chen for bugan wei tianxia xian, I do love life and I do fear death. I do not want to promote myself beyond my means and I am happy to be diligent and patient.

Conclusions

There are many other ideas I might have explored and probably will explore in the coming days: similar ideas are expressed in Buddhism, Islam and Hinduism, for example. These two immediately sprang to mind. Though it seems Taoism and Christianity are both indepedent and far removed from each other in its origins, its ethics are similar.

As Chris Crudelli mentions in Mind, Body and Kick Ass Miracles, the best way to stay alive is to avoid the sword. Living in a such way that helps and pleases people and imposes little on others in a negative way I hope will lengthen my life.

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Comments
  1. Terence B says:

    In looking for commentary on Ellen M. Chen’s comments on the Tao Te Ching’s third treasure, I came across this site. Recognizing the importance and truthfulness of the Tao, I do not perceive that the Taoist fears physical death. The Taoist wisely guards against spiritual death while in the physical body. I do not perceive that the Taoist is scheming to be more fruitful in choosing to humbly avoid the forefront. The Taoist realizes the vanity of the forefront. In that there is vanity in leading from the forfront, and there is a high exposure to vain desires when in the spotlight, the Taoist recognizes the virtue of avoiding the front.

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