Monday, February 21, 2011

How did Taoist Masters get enlightened?

Christians are inspired by Jesus ("Take the cross and follow Him"), and Buddhists learned from the Buddha. On Buddhism, I am impressed by the Dalai Lama's preaching of using Shakaymuni Buddha as a model for Enlightenment. As the Dalai Lama said, in the Buddha's life story, we see the three stages of practice: morality comes first, then concentrated meditation, and then wisdom. Another enlightenment model for Buddhist is the path of Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng, who got enlightenment from hearing the Diamond Sutra at a common inn when he was a common laborer and started his life long devotion through learning from Fifth Patriach HongRen. The platform Sutra reviewed that Master Hui Neng had been practicing a life of caring and morality before his enlightenment. Hence, morality is always assumed even in the case of Zen enlightenment.

How about famous Taoist masters? Taoist masters had not been particularly noted for their publicity. According to the teachings of Tao Te Ching, a sage should keep a low-profile, and contribute but not to be recognized as such.

Whereas Buddhists are oftentimes awakened through perception of human sufferings (the source of morality), Taoists typically got their awakening through perception of "Life as flux". Taoist Master LuDongbin (Lzu)[呂洞賓(呂祖)] is the common grand-master for most contemporary Taoist lineages. It is therefore revealing to use his experience as study-example. Master Lu was brought up in a wealthy family, expected to study classic Confucius texts and expected to take royal exams to joint the political power structure. Master Lu failed in his exams many times. He however, did learn swordsmanship, was proficient in verses, and liked to travel around and liked to help people who were in need of help. Before he was enlightened, he could be said to be a failure in society's expectations, had broad experience learned from life itself, and had cultivated a caring and loving heart (morality).

One thing though is not clear: Did our Master actively choose to study hard but somehow failed in his exams? If he was successful in his exams, would he become a Taoist great master later? Interesting questions to be tackled later....

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