A student left his home in search of enlightenment. He searched for days and days and finally cam across a group of wandernig ascetics. The monks took him into their order and taught him their ways. he stood in briar patches and let the thorns tear his flesh. he slept in harsh conditions of rain and snow and blistering heat. Eventually, he was able to live on only one grain of rice a day, completely destroying his concept of "self".
But stil, he wasn't satisfied; he didn't feel he had found enlightenment. Depressed, he left the ascetics and went to the city, determined to live out all the earthly pleasure he had given up.
Using his skills as an ascetic, the student quickly became an extremely successful merchant. He lived in a huge and beautiful house. he had the best food, the best wine, and his pick of any woman in the country; he had truly found all that the earthly pleasures had to offer.
But the student still was upset. he had not found enlightenment in either the completely pleasurable path, or the completely ascetic path; what was he to do? Where was he to find enlightenment?
Can you solve the student's riddle?
If you can, you've found the path to not only enlightenment, but also to the limitless world of the soul, and of Taoism.
But, if you're having a bit of trouble (like most everyone does), you could use a bit of help. Well, as an example of these concepts, I would like to refer to our good friends at the Masaki Shrine. I think that they could be of a good deal of help....at least in showing what NOT to do..
Excuse me for a moment, while I look up their phone number....
..Aha! here it is....Chotto matte....
"Moshi Moshi, Masaki residence."
Uhm..hello. Is this...Ayeka?
"Why, yes it is. Who is this?"
Oh, excuse me, this is Dan, from the Tao of Anime Homepage? We had talked earlier about possibly doing a section on the whole gang over there?
"Oh, yes. We just have to wait until Tenchi comes home form school, you see..."
Oh, that's fine, I have to do a little typing here anyway. So I'll see you, Tenchi and Ryoko in about an hour or so?
"Oh...THAT woman. I can't see what you could POSSIBLY want with her. I'm MUCH MUCH more advanced than her. Both spiritually and physically. She's QUITE old, you see..."
Heh...That's alright, I really must be getting back to typing...sooo....
"Well, me and Tenchi and the Mummy-woman will be over shortly.."
Thanks, Ayeka. Good-bye.
Well, she does talk a bit, doesn't she? I suppose that provides a convenient transition into the next section, anyway.
Both Taoism and Buddhism share a central concept that is very important to the practice of either philosophy, and that is the concept of the Middle Path.
The Middle Path concept is simple enough; sway to no one side, but keep yourself equal, level, and balanced in all things. Sounds simple, right?
Well, in reality, very very few people are actually equal in all things in our life. how many people don't eat what's good for them, but mostly sweets, or fatty foods? How many people play too many video games and study too little? or study too much and don't play enough sports? Or would rather work all day instead of being at home with their families? Or only concentrate on getting dates and not on their own development?
If I'm guessing right, pretty much everyone reading this should've heard a little bit of themselves in there. if you didn't, you probably don't need to be reading this at all. But otherwise, youre probably thinking of a couple places where you're unbalanced in your life... but do you have to be balanced in EVERYTHING? what if you hate sports? What if you can't find the time to read?
Think of it like this: it's not specific acts you're balancing, but aspects of your personality. for example, an athelete that is only centered in sports will not exceed. the best atheletes are skilled not only in sports, but also in intellectual pursuits as well. Taoist students not only trained their martial arts skills, they studied calligraphy, mathematics, poetry, and a variety of other subjects.
Focusing too closely on any one subject will throw you out of balance, off the middle Path, and leave you ill-equipped to deal with the real world. if you only studied martial arts, you could quickly become a powerful martial artist; But how would you cope if someone gave you a math problem? Asked you to conduct buisness with them? Challenged you to a game of chess?
To be successful in life, you need to be competent in a number of areas. the more skills you develop, the better equipped you are to cope with the problems life may place in front of you. this is the essence of the Middle Path, and the essence of the Taoist method.
Oh, wait. I think I hear the doorbell. Hold on a second.
Oh, hey, you guys. You got here quicker than I expected...
(Tenchi bashedly scratches at the back of his head..)
"Well, Ryoko kind of flew us here..."
(Ayeka shoots an admonishing glance in Ryoko's direction)
"Yes, a MOST unpleasant means of transportation.."
"Oh, shut yer yap, Princess..."
(Ryoko proceeds to fly around the room a bit..)
"hey, you, ya got any sake in this place?"
Err, I think there might be some in the kitchen...
(Ryoko promptly disappears.)
"Heh..I'd better go follow her...make sure she doesn't break anything...."
(Tenchi exits, a large tear drop hanging morosely over his head....)
Hmmm. Interesting. Uhm, so, Ayeka, can I ask you some questions...?
"Oh..of course. Go Ahead."
(Ayeka folds her kimono neatly and sits, very primly, on a seat across from mine.)
Now, Ayeka, you come from Jurai. Where IS Jurai, exac - - -
(A large crash of pots and pans and breaking glass interrupts my question, a short cry of "Ryoko, what are you doing?? Get off me! Ack!" is heard..Ayeka stands up quickly.)
"OOOOOH! THAT WOMAN! I bet she's doing THINGS to Tenchi! bad things! like this..and..tha..that..."
(Ayeka begins to blush a bright crimson..)
"I must stop them! TENCHI! I'M COMING!"
(Ayeka barges into the kitchen, leaving me quite alone.)
It seems my interview portion has been abruptly..err, interrupted. but I couldn't have expected much less from those two, could I, now?
And why don't Ryoko and Ayeka get along? of course, there's the whole Tenchi issue, but they've been at each other's throats for a while now..why is that?
Well, let's examine their own personal traits. Take Ayeka, for instance. Ayeka's the extreme of the pampered princess stereotype. She's polite to a fault (except with Ryoko, of course.) She's had everything she's wanted all her life as a princess of Jurai. She's well read, well educated, and in every way the prim and proper princess we've all leaned to love. And she's quite powerful in her own right; her ability to project shields that obey her will puts her on par with Ryoko in fighting ability, and makes her a very valuable asset in battle.
But is Ayeka really equipped to deal with life? her prim and proper demeanor serves her well in the Royal courts, but she is often taken aback by things that the rest of the Tenchi muyo cast have no problem dealing with. the slightest thing can outrage her or shck her into paralysis, because she's simply not used to dealing with what we all consider normal life.
(A sudden crash is heard in the kitchen, along with some high pitched shrieking and general chaos..)
..er-HEM. You know, I hope they're not being too violent in there..this IS my house. Oh, never mind, I'm sure they'll respect my propety....
Take Ayeka's nemesis, Ryoko. Now, there's an example of true oppsites if ever there was one. Where Ayeka is nice and polite, Ryoko is starightforward, blunt, and rude. She drinks, she doesn't care about anything but getting herself as comfortable as possible, and maybe getting Tenchi into bed. Some might call her crude, crass, and ill-mannered... And they're probably right. But Ryoko is a very powerful person. She can summon demons from the nethworld, shoot blasts from her hands, form energy swords, meld with matter, and do any number of various things that would hurt you alot.
But If she were forced to perform with both impeccable grace and manners, could she do it? Is Ryoko the one that always comes to the rescue? is she the one who finally comes through to defeat the impossibly powerful villain and save the day?
Nope. the one who always comes through, the one who really has the most power, the one who can form the Light Hawk Wings, is our friend and resident heart throb, Tenchi Masaki.
Tenchi's pretty impressive. He's a student,he works hard at the shrine, he fends off two incredibly enthusiastic suitors, rockets through dimensions, and defeats space pirates at the drop of a hat. Why is that?
(A low rumbling is heard through the kitchen door.)
...Ignore that, I'm ignoring that...er-hem.
You see, Tenchi has a whole lot of untapped potential, but it's also true that he's the most well balanced of the whole gang. He's not either rude or excessively well mannered. he studies hard, but he balances that with his work at the shrine and all those other unexpected responsibilities, like cleaning the space ship wreckage out of his back yard and trying to figure out how to un-shrink his house.
Tenchi knows how to balance, even if he has more than his share of trouble doing it. if you balance as well, and follow the concept of the middle path, you'll find that door that used to be closed to you are now open, that you can do things you couldn't, and that a here-to-fore untapped reservoir of possibilities is now accessible. the middle path is one of the few philisophical cocepts that has almost immeadiate material effects, and so it is a good place to begin applying Taoist conepts to your daily life.
The key is discipline.. Ryoko lacks discipline; Ayeka has too much to let herself go. if you discipline yourself, eat the right things, do the right thngs, say the right things, your life will be in balance, and you will find that life seems much simpler to you when you have a more complete understanding of it...and that the Light Hawk Wings aren't so difficult to form after all.
Now, about our ornery guests, I-------
(House is suddenly vaporized in a sudden flash of yellow light.)
(several hours pass....)
Groooooaaann...ugh..where am I..? Tenchi?
"Uhm..sorry. Ryoko and Ayeka were fighting, and Ayeka called Ryoko a dried up mummy, and Ryoko called Ayeka an old maid..and uhmm..."
OOOooooohh....how much of my house is left?
(Tenchi holds up a tape of Tenchi Muyo! Ryo-Ohki, half singed on the bottom.) (Dan promptly Passes out.)
Take me Back To The Lessons Index!