Category: Asian Philosophy

The Happiness of Fish

The “happiness of fish” refers to a story in the Zhuangzhi, which is a Chinese book (c. 286 BCE), and one of the foundational texts of Taoism. The story consists of a dialog between Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu, Most of the Zhuangzi passages portray Hui Tzu (or Hui Shi) as a rival of Zhuangzi. Hui Shi acts as an intellectual opponent –  he argues the alternative viewpoint, or criticizes the Taoist perspective, and his arguments are often laced with humor. The following famous story of the Zhuang-Hui dialogues concerns the subjectivity of happiness, and whether we can know anything about other...

Ancient Chinese Proverbs

The proverbs of China form an embodied philosophy; they transmit a common-sense approach to life mixed with a deep sense of humor, and compassion for failure. The origins of most these sayings and quotes are lost in the mists of time; some appear to be related to comments by Confucius and other ancient sages. Some also appear elsewhere, for instance in the Zen sayings from Japan. You can fond many sources of Chinese proverbs; Amazon has many books dedicated to Chinese proverbs. Here is a small collection: A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because...

What creates the Identity of the Subject? A Dialog between Milinda and Nagasena.

It is hard to define what a subject really is. The following dialog from the Buddhist tradition shows that a materialist interpretation does not work. It is for instance not possible to find the identity of the subject in a  particular collection of elements, as the chariot example below shows. We face similar problems when we try to define what a “hole” is. The Milinda Panha, (or the  “Questions of Milinda”) is a Buddhist text from approximately 100 BCE. It is included in the Burmese edition of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. Milinda, (or King Menander I ) discusses...

Confucius – Analects, Excerpts

The Analects, or Lunyu, contain the words and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher Confucius and his students. They were written during the Spring and Autumn Period through the Warring States Period (ca. 475 BC – 221 BC). The Analects are  the main work of Confucianism; the work continues to have a substantial influence on Chinese and East Asian thought and values today. This page contains quotes from the Analects, arranged by the themes found in Confucian Teaching: Jen – Humaneness Junzi (chün-tzu)- the Superior Man, or Gentleman, or Scholar Li – Rites Yüeh –Music Learning and Teaching...

Confucius

The following description of Confucianism is quoted from: “Riegel, Jeffrey, “Confucius”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.). “Confucius (551-479 BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his life and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. Fung Yu-lan, one of the great...

Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu was a Taoist philosopher who lived sometime before 250 B.C. From Patricia Ebrey, Chinese Civilization : A Sourcebook, 2d ed. (New York: Free Press, 1993), pp. 28-31: How do I know that enjoying life is not a delusion? How do I know that in hating death we are not like people who got lost in early childhood and do not know the way home? Lady Li was the child of a border guard in Ai. When first captured by the state of Jin, she wept so much her clothes were soaked. But after she entered the palace, shared...

Genjokoan – The Actualization of Enlightenment

By Eihei Dogen Written in mid-autumn, 1233 Translated by Kosen Nishiyama and John Stevens (1975). When all things are the Buddha-dharma, there is enlightenment, illusion, practice, life, death, Buddhas, and sentient beings. When all things are seen not to have any substance, there is no illusion or enlightenment, no Buddhas or sentient beings, no birth, or destruction. Originally the Buddhist Way transcends itself and any idea of abundance or lack–still there is birth and destruction, illusion and enlightenment, sentient beings and Buddhas. Yet people hate to see flowers fall and do not like weeds to grow. It is an illusion...

Tao Te Ching

The following introduction is from the Tao Te Ching, Translation by Gia Fu Feng & Jane English. With Comments and layout by Thomas Knierim: “The Tao Te Ching  was written in China roughly 2,500 years ago at about the same time when Buddha expounded the Dharma in India and Pythagoras taught in Greece. The Tao Te Ching is probably the most influential Chinese book of all times. Its 81 chapters have been translated into English more times than any other Chinese document. The Tao Te Ching provides the basis for the philosophical school of Taoism, which is an important pillar...