“If day and night, summer and winter are well with you, you have surpassed the contradictions.”
Principle 5. Acceptance. Second Week.
Last time: Direction and Meaning.
This time: East Meets West as Laozi and Heraclitus weigh in.
Last week we considered the principle in general terms, as well as looking at a traditional story related to it. This week we try to see how the principle can be related to past situations.
General Considerations and Personal Reflections:
Here are some personal reflections. I offer them in the spirit of dialogue and exchange, and look forward to hearing your thoughts about, and experiences with, this principle.
As soon as I begin considering this stuff I think something like: how can I accept both summer and winter as things that are both well? How can I possibly see day and night as the same? At first it didn’t strike me as reasonable, possible, or even desirable. What could it mean to see these opposites as the same — not in the sense of identical but somehow as complementary rather than contradictory?
Here’s an interpretation of our old friend Laozi’s thoughts about this subject (I realize that I quote him a lot. Not as much as I quote Silo but a lot nonetheless…).
In chapter 13 of the Tao te Ching of Laozi — or Lao Tzu as we used to write his name — we are told:
Accept disgrace willingly.
Accept misfortune as the human condition.
What do you mean by “Accept disgrace willingly”?
Accept being unimportant.
Do not be concerned with loss and gain.
This is called “accepting disgrace willingly.”
What do you mean by “Accept misfortune as the human condition”?
Misfortune comes from having a body.
Without a body, how could there be misfortune?
Surrender yourself humbly; then you can be trusted to care for all things.
Love the world as your own self; then you can truly care for all things.
Taoism, the school that considers Laozi to be its founder uses the famous Yin Yang as its symbol. This design is also called the symbol of the Tai Chi or Taiji, which means something like symbol of the “great ultimate”. To me it seems to show opposites as included as part of a whole, but also somehow including each other, all held together in some kind of dynamic tension.
Living around the same time as Laozi, but half a world away, (Greece as opposed to China) was Heraclitus of Ephesia (he’s also called Heraclitus the Dark, Heraclitus the Obscure, and also the Weeping Philosopher — but don’t let any of that scare you off).
He may have been the silent type, but from the fragments of his thoughts that have come down to us we can see that like his Chinese contemporaries he thought about this subject a lot. Even our form of expressing the principle seems to signal a nod in his direction. Here’s some of what he said:
“God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each.
Cold things become warm, and what is warm cools; what is wet dries, and the parched is moistened.”
But really the statement of his that I was considering most these last few day’s is this one.
“They do not understand how that which differs with itself is in agreement: harmony consists of opposing tension, like that of the bow and the lyre.”
Somehow I’ve found that these, perhaps somewhat enigmatic, phrases illuminate my considerations of this month’s principle. I hope you will also find them useful, or at least of interest.
The principles can form the supports for a dynamic meditation, a discipline that you can practice in every moment of your life.
Next week we’ll look continue with the Principle 5, also known as the principle of acceptance. We will be focusing on the present and what the impact of applying it might mean.
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There are currently 2 Parks of Study and Reflection in North America. These are Red Bluff (www.redbluffpark.org) in California and Hudson Valley (www.hudsonvalleypark.org) in New York. The Parks of Study and Reflection are projects built and paid for by individuals inspired by Silo’s teachings. More information is available on their respective websites.