Is there a ‘right way’ to think and live?

Although China has had many violent periods in its history, there have not been wars fought in the names of the different belief systems that we have studied. The different ways of living (Buddhist, Daoist, Confucian) have coexisted peacefully and complemented one another.

Following from this, we discussed whether there is a ‘right way’ to think and live, which feels like an important question to ask at a time when London and many other parts of the world are subject to terrorist violence.

Here’s a selection of thoughts from the class. The general feeling seems to be ‘yes,’ there is a right and a wrong way, but not just one right way, an infinite number of possibilities – and the world is better for this diversity. As Faith says, difference is a good thing not bad.

Kaliyah. There are definitely right and wrong ways of thinking and some people have definitely passed the limit; they have started to do things that are totally unnecessary: terrorist attacks and killing. There is definitely not just one right and wrong way of living because everybody is different and their brain has developed differently. If we tried to make everyone the same we would fail because we aren’t all the same.

Sylvie. Different people have different backgrounds and different experiences and no-one is the same so why should we try to force people into thinking one idea, to one peephole on the world. Life is much richer if there are more possibilities. There is a line – you cannot accept racism, sexism, violence etc. – but the world is complex and one plane of understanding would be strange, almost inhuman as everyone’s different.

Jim. I believe there kind of is a right and a wrong way of thinking and living but I feel there should be more than one right way. But you should be free to think what you want to an extent. As long as you follow the basic rules of law and rights I feel that is the right way. No one is the same so everyone has a different interpretation of life. Jacob picks up the point about the role law, saying ‘Maybe in some ways all people are the same because of laws but if it wasn’t for laws there would be war at least once a year.’

Emily. There is no right way to understand the world. Everyone has different experiences, so everyone will believe different things because no two people are exactly the same. So if you take an extremist/terrorist and ask why are they like that, because people are not born wanting to kill, it is the people around them and their experiences who shape who they are.

Olivia. We all have different experiences, so having one right way of thinking and living is basically impossible, and it would make our world boring, and no-one would learn from their mistakes, making us unintelligent creatures who do only one thing.

Myah. I think that the wrong way is saying things like everyone should be the same and no-one should be individual, and the right way is persuading people to think for themselves.

Faith. There are 100,000,000,000 ways of thinking. Some people believe in monsters and spirits, some don’t. Different people believe in different things. It would be weird if everyone was alike in the world – our memories are different. Difference is a good thing not bad.

We’d normally stay away from politics on this blog, and President Trump does not get a good press from many in 6CM, but a post today from daughter and adviser Ivanka Trump, in response to the latest violence in London, feels helpful to our discussion.  She wrote: “Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story and I will tell him mine.”

 

 

Buddhism and the ‘middle way’

As the next part of our lessons on ways of thinking and living in China, we discussed Buddhist ideas about seeking a ‘middle way’ of living that is in harmony with the world and causes no harm – a way of living that also seeks to avoid greed and selfishness that might arise from thinking we are more important than everybody else. Does this make sense, we asked? Is it desirable?  Is it achievable? Here are thoughts from Myah, Sylvie, Kaliyah, Mohammed, Archie and Faisal.

Myah. I do think that the idea of the middle way makes sense because if you go the low way it means you decide not to take opportunities that lay in front of you which I don’t think is right. And if you go the high way, you will take everything and become spoilt and rich and have nothing to do but lay down and think about what will come your way next.

Kaliyah. I think the middle way is perfect because then you don’t get too much or too little of anything. Greed and selfishness are big problems in the world because we have many homeless people who have to beg for money. If we weren’t so selfish and greedy, we would just give money to them or buy them something to eat. Some people are so selfish that they just walk past them or pay no attention to them whatsoever. I think it would be good if people were both Daoist and Buddhist because you would be caring to both nature and people…. and in harmony with the world properly.

Sylvie. I think achieving the middle way would be quite a hard thing to accomplish. Because if you’re homeless with about £2 in your pocket you can’t create a middle way if you’re begging for scraps of food and you wouldn’t have the resources to create this ‘middle way’. Life, I’ve got to say, won’t let you have a middle way. People go through hard times and you can’t make yourself think it’s all going to be fine and nothing’s wrong, trying to make life how you want it. I think people are too greedy because they just create this excess, waste and destruction in their path. Sometimes natural greed comes in simple ways like you’re really hungry and there’s only one chip left in the box and you know you’ve had more than anybody else and you still take it. AND people who are greedy take all the money for themselves and leave people starving – possibly to death.

Mohammed. I think the middle way would never work because everyone is different and has their own way of living. To think of others before yourself is nicer than thinking of yourself straight away. Some people will be rich and/or selfish and some people will be poor and/or kind – but we are all people so why turn away from each other?

Archie. It does make sense to me but right now I don’t think there will be a perfect world – maybe one day, but not now. I feel it could be realistic but with all the terror attacks going on right now it doesn’t look like it will happen any time soon. I think greed and selfishness are both problems and solutions in their own right. Greed can be good because some people says it gives the world new technology but bad because it causes bad actions like violence. Selfishness is good because in some people’s cases it causes success in life. Nina argues the same, saying ‘I think you shouldn’t have too much greed and selfishness… but a little greed is normal and natural’.

Faisal. I think the middle way is a great way to end fighting and I think it could end world war and create world peace. I think that nobody can change who they really are and that it is natural to be greedy and think of yourself before others.

Confucius and The Golden Rule

Much of the writing of the famous Chinese philosopher Confucius is about human relationships.   He argued that respect and responsibilities should flow in both directions in any relationship.   We learned that Confucius wrote one of the earliest versions of the Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you.  

the-golden-rule-8-638

There are versions of the Golden Rule in almost every society, culture and religion, and we asked ourselves why this was so.  Here are thoughts from Archie, Nina and Ellie.

  • The Golden Rule is where you treat others the way you would like to be treated.  I think the Golden Rule is everywhere because it’s not just a Christian, Muslim or Hindu value – it’s a human value.  (Archie)
  • I think that the Golden Rule means treat people the way that you would like to be treated no matter who they are.  I think there is a version of the Golden Rule in every religion and society because its a value that the whole world follows because everyone should be treated the same. (Nina)
  • The Golden Rule, in my opinion, is the simplest rule to follow.  It’s that you treat people the same way you would like them to treat you.  We find the golden rule everywhere because all humans, no matter where they are, want to be treated the same. (Ellie)

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Ancient Chinese wisdom

We’ve been continuing learning about ways of thinking and living in China.  Here are some of 6CM’s interpretations of ancient proverbs from the Dao De Jing.

Dao de jing

The wise man is one who knows what he does not know

  • No-one knows everything in the world so we should learn. (Nathan)
  • If you think you know everything and don’t listen, you won’t know everything, because everyone has their own talents and life experiences, so everyone is worth listening to and an intelligent person will know that. (Emily)
  • It means that you might think you know a lot but there is more you need to know. (Reaiah)

The truth is not always beautiful nor beautiful words the truth.

  • It means the truth can be horrible.  And not everything is good.  It also means that just because something sounds the way you want it to sound, it does not mean it is true. (Jim)
  • I think that it means that the truth can be anything; maybe you won’t like the truth, but you have to accept it.  You can’t change it or shape it how you want it – it doesn’t have to be beautiful, but it’s still the only truth. (Sarafina)
  • When someone tells you something, it won’t always come out how you want it. (Nathan)

Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear?

  • Sometimes your mind gets clouded up with things and feelings, which can be confusing, but if you wait, eventually things will settle and come clear and show you what to do.  (Ellie)

A journey of 1000 miles begins where you stand

  • Every journey has a beginning – no matter how far or how big it may seem, there is always a first step. (Nina)

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.  Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt

  • You can only do so much.  If you keep trying so hard to make it good, it will turn bad.  When you strive for perfection, it will never be perfect.   Everything has balance. You do this; this will happen. (Sarafina)
  • I think this means you should never have too much of anything, you should have the right amount of it and your life will be good.  Also, if you try too hard to find perfection your attempts might turn against you, making your life worse. (Olivia)

When you are content to be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete, everyone will respect you.

  • Just be yourself around other people and then they will like you because you don’t try to change who you are. (Faisal)

Balance in life

Exploring what it might mean to find “balance” or “harmony” in our lives is at the heart of the study we are making of Chinese ways of thinking and living. Here are some very interesting opening thoughts from the class.

  • I think the balance is you can’t have too much of one thing but you need a little bit of everything. You also need to have a back-up plan for your normal plan because you don’t know what’s ahead of you. Life is full of surprises, so whatever the world throws at you, you have to go through it with courage.   Meshach
  • Your life shouldn’t be so dull and balanced [that it becomes] boring like a straight line. But it shouldn’t be too chaotic and erratic either. It should be up and down, with some scared moments and some happy ones.  Sarafina

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  • I think balance in life is not necessarily focusing on just one thing…. As humans, I think we don’t want chaotic lives but we don’t want perfectly sane ones either. Also we want a balance between work and play – we don’t want all-work-no-play lives, nor all-play-no-work ones, because we need balance in our lives.  Archie
  • I think that balance in life means you can’t have ups without downs, or downs without ups. And not everything is perfect. I also think it means if you want something you have to fight for it instead of just getting it. For example, if you want a future job you can’t just say you want it but you have to work your way up to it. Myah
  • I don’t believe the way of living life is as simple as “balance.” My view is probably not to shape life into an equal, samey life but to let it flow. Sylvie
  • You can’t aim for one thing because life is unpredictable so you need other plans. You can’t always be angry, you need happiness as well. You can’t only look at your views, you have to look at the other person’s argument… You can’t only look at yourself, you need to realise there are other people, and that you have to learn and care about others as well as yourself.  Gabriel
  • I think you need balance in life to have a happy life because you always need an opposite like fire and water – you need water to put out the fire. Ignas
  • To be healthy you need to be even in your mind and spirit.  Faith
  • Everyone has a different balance because everyone likes and needs different things.
    Emily

The Dao

In our project on ways of thinking and living in China, we are trying to open our minds to new ideas and ways of understanding the world.

Is this a good or a bad place for a tree to grow?  Ask your children to give you the Daoist perspective!
tree on rock

Here are some of the class’s thoughts on the unfathomable “Dao” and the yin and yang.   They said the Dao is

– how we are all connected to nature and everything around us (Olivia)
– the rhythm of nature and Earth (Sarafina)
– the way of life and nature (Kaliyah)
– a big world, small people (Reaiah).

On Yin and Yang, that they
– show how even opposite things need each other…. how everything in life is linked (Olivia)
– are opposites but need to be in balance to be right (Ignas)
– are the balance in the world (Ellie)
– show how opposites cannot live without one another (Kyrell).