Influences of Eastern Religions In My Life The two readings that have impacted, influenced, and challenged my view of religion are the Bhagavad Gita (BG) and the basic writings of Zhuangzi. I have chosen these readings because of their influence and insight they have unveiled to me in my present station of life. In particularly, from the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna’s teaching in chapter 2 “The Path of Reality,” and from Zhuangzi; his perspectives from his writings in section 3 “The Secret of Caring for Life” and section 18 “Supreme Happiness. Both have spoken to me from a different context, within a different set of parameters than that of my own faith and practice; bringing me to a fresh and profound understanding of some of my own enduring dilemmas within my own religious tradition. I currently consider myself a Mormon (Latter-day Saint) and have been for the last 13 years. Up until this REL 101 class I was not familiar with these eastern religious traditions and perspectives.
The Path of Reality, as titled for chapter 2 in the (BG), has opened my eyes to its valuable lesson, which I am thankful for its influence. The concept of non-attachment is prevalent here in this chapter. Non-attachment means to live life like a lotus leaf, without being touched by it or polluted by it. It is living free from the encumbrances of life and the attractions and distractions it has to offer, not passively by running away from them, but actively by developing equanimity (yoga) and Self(atman)-awareness (Ch. v. 30-48). According to the (BG) contact with sense objects results in attachment (Ch. 2 v. 58). In the following versus it expounds this thought: When we do not have the right discrimination we lose the ability to choose wisely, which results in the consequences of karma that binds us to this world and samsara. Though I have not embraced every facet of Hinduism, the powerful language found in the (BG) has strengthened me to tackle present-day ongoing trials in my own life with new vigor and enthusiasm.
What I would just simply categorize as sin or an evil deed from the presets of my own religious tradition, I have found new terminology and explanation for my behavior that has been empowering and invigorated my ambition to overcome this adversity I have been facing in my life. The other reading that has had a positive impact on me is the basic writings of Zhuangzi. Section 3 “The Secret of Caring for Life. ” Here, Zhuangzi conveys a story about Cook Ding, the butcher, which draws a more favorable portrait of specialization (Zhuangzi, p. 45-46).
His example is consistent with Aristotle’s observation that human life offers no more of a fulfilling activity than the exercise of some acquired skill. Highly honed skills invite paradoxical, almost mystical, description. In performance we seem to experience a unity of actor and action. Such practice is a way of losing oneself as one might in contemplation or in a trance. Zhuangzi considers Cook Ding possessing remarkable skill, almost effortlessly, because this skill in action is done concurrently while being one with the Dao (p. 45-46).
The accuracy of our own actions sometimes mystifies us. We do not understand how we did it; we certainly cannot explain it to others. I found this story intriguing because I am one who values self-mastery. As an ex-collegiate athlete I can relate to Cook Ding, but would rather call it “being in the zone. ” Although I am not a follower of Daoism there are many things I find appealing in this tradition; this mystical story being one of them. The other section from Zhuangzi “Supreme Happiness” has aided the recent loss of my great grandmother “Grandma Bea. My great grandma was a pillar of faith in my life and a great exemplar in many arenas of life. At times, naturally, I found myself grieving over her loss. Reading this section I felt that it gave me fresh insight to coping with this loss. At first, I found myself more like Huizi, rather than Zhaungzi. As pondered this for the past couple weeks my grief has subsided. When Zhuangzi’s wife died and he beat on a drum instead of mourning for her, he answered his Huizi by explaining that perhaps his wife had evolved into a happier existence than that which she had enjoyed while in human form.
It was not wrong to have loved her and to miss her, but it was wrong to mourn her change from one form to another (Zhuangzi, 115). Zhuangzi’s parables point out that one cannot be certain what is best for other people and that one should therefore avoid imposing tentative and uncertain values on others. He also enlightens the reader about the realities of death and the clarity that comes from having a higher knowledge which gives greater understanding and ability to cope with death. He states, “If I were to follow after her awling and sobbing, it would show that I don’t understand anything about fate. So I stopped (115). Thus, death is simply a phase in the turning of the wheel of fortune that is the Dao. The turning of the wheel voids the identity and disintegrates the material body of the dead person. From the standpoint of the Dao, however, no state of being is more desirable than another. As a natural event in the cycle of human life, death is neither to be feared nor to be sorrowed over. This perspective has given me new insight and ability to cope with my recent loss.