Saturday, March 21, 2015

Sustainability and Chinese Spiritualism

There are three primary principles to Sustainability: environmental, social, and economical accountability. There are Three Teachings (“三教”) to Chinese spiritualism: Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Both “Sustainability” and the “Three Teachings” require harmonious interplay of the useful aspects of each of their own three primary principles. During the Ming Dynasty (arguably one of the greatest era of Chinese history), the Three Teachings were synthesized into one (“三教合一”).

Confucianism is about righteousness, loyalty, and filial piety. For the sake of simplicity and making a point to which I think you will find interesting, I will ignore the aspects of Confucianism that I do not like. Buddhism is about suffering and detachment but that’s the inch-deep selfish understanding. To interpret Buddhism in context without the grandeur of hoping for ultimate enlightenment, it means compassion for others. Again, for the sake of simplicity and discarding that which is not useful for the discussion here, I will ignore what I wish from the teachings of Buddhism. It’s my blog after all.

To explain Taoism and to bridge the gaps to help you see why I have started writing this post, I quote one of my favorite Taoist: Winnie the Pooh.

If you compare the City with the Forest, you may begin to wonder why it's man who goes around classifying himself as The Superior Animal.
Superior to what? asked Pooh.
I don't know, Pooh. I've tried to think of something, but I just can't come up with an answer.
If people were Superior to Animals, they'd take better care of the world, said Pooh.
'That's true, I said. 

- Tao of Pooh 
Let's put the three together shall we? Taoism = Environmental Accountability, Buddhism = Social Accountability, Confucianism = Economic Accountability. Ergo, Sustainability = The Three Teachings.

So you see, the Chinese was onto the principles of Sustainability for over 2000 years now and it was more than 500 years ago that the Chinese harmonized the three principles and experienced one of the greatest era in human history. It was Christopher Columbus who wanted to discover the promise land, its wealth and not its spiritual harmony, that began to kill the Chinese Sustainability Spiritualism. It was then modernization during the last 20 years and the path to wealth for China inspired by the west that further corrupted the world’s sustainable status with respect to a harmonious existence.

So I ask, what makes western "exceptionalism" so exceptional in light of the long and rich history of China’s past? To which my only answer is the hope that we go into tomorrow with this in mind and truly devote to the study of Sustainability in the context of history and not in the simplified understanding,superiority and egoism of today’s science and rhetoric alone.

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