Friday, October 23, 2009

Hua Hu Ching - Verse 50

Verse Fifty
What good is it to spend your life accumulating material things? It isn't in keeping with the Tao. What benefit in conforming your behavior to someone's conventions? It violates your nature and dissipates your energy. Why separate your spiritual life and your practical life? To an integral being, there is no such distinction. Live simply and virtuously, true to your nature, drawing no line between what is spiritual and what is not. Ignore time. Relinquish ideas and concepts. Embrace the Oneness. This is the Integral Way.
~ Translated by Brian Walker ~
Back in the days of yore when I was a Christian, one of the many things that bothered me about this faith was the abject separation of one's spiritual life from everything else. It seemed like adherents would spend 6 3/4 days per week violating every known commandment and social more possible only to arrive at church on Sunday morning to say their prayers and sing hymns to God. As soon as the service ended, they would immediately return to their hedonistic ways.

Actually, it was quite interesting to watch people in the church parking lot. As they arrived, almost everyone gunned for the best parking spots. If two or more cars spied one of the choice spots, it went to the person who was the fastest and most aggressive.

In addition to watching the jockeying of vehicles, I also noticed that it was not infrequent that individuals or whole families seemed to be in very foul moods. They would argue and snipe at each other all the way across the parking lot...until they arrived at the front door. At this juncture, it seemed like a fairy had sprinkled magic dust all over them and they would enter the building like smiling cherubs.

I rarely ever heard any arguments of any kind within the walls of the church. To be certain, there were disagreements, but, with God ever close by, most people tended to be on their best behavior. Then it was on to the sanctuary where everyone would confess their transgressions, repeat mindless affirmations of faith and the Lord's Prayer, listen to laborious sermons, and sing their little hearts out celebrating the glory of it all.

Once the weekly festivities ended, the magic dust would suddenly disappear. People would go racing out of the building and return to arguing and sniping at each other. The mad exodus of vehicles from the parking lot often was downright hilarious! Vehicles would cut in front of each other and you'd sometimes be treated to seeing or hearing someone cuss out that "damn SOB who cut me off!"

Now I'm certain there are some Christians and adherents from other religions who try to fuse their spiritual lives with the entire lives, but, from what I've experienced, this number is very scant indeed! I suppose this is natural for those who see a dualistic world wherever they look.

But, as this verse so aptly points out, there should be no such distinction. Whatever we are -- physical, chemical, emotional, physiological, mental, spiritual, etc. -- is part of us at all times. Try as we might, we can't compartmentalize or cordon off particular aspects of ourselves. When we try, we mess ourselves up and the result is stress and tension (disharmony).

This post is part of a "miniseries". For an introduction, go here.


  1. I can appreciate your comments today. That has been a consistent experience in churches for me as well. Some of the most vocal proponents of God inside the church are some of the most unpleasant people outside its walls. Even since I began reading about gnosticism and its spiritual dualism years ago, I've seen that very thing played out in most Christian churches in one form or another. This is interesting to witness.

    As I've come to understand it, once you look beyond Christian dogma and theology, the main message seems to be to accept God's will in all things. To me, this isn't terribly different from following the Tao or the Zen notion of living in the present moment as it is. And the idea of "being led by the Holy Spirit" isn't too far off from the ideas of the unity of all things and getting the ego out of the way in order to live fully. Once you set theology aside and live from an experiential point of view, the behavior of most Christians would seem kind of funny if so much misery didn't result from it.

  2. Cecil,
    Thanks for sharing. As always, you provide great insights and food for thought.

  3. The act of "being on your best behavior" at church was what made me figure out how ridiculous it is. It is just this really creepy mask people put on that makes me incredibly uncomfortable. Very glad as I aged I outgrew the dogmas and ideas of organized religion. Tithes, I love that one too. I remember being in church and just feeling almost sick, had no idea why. Sometimes I would sweat, I just felt super uncomfortable. Once I finally found Buddhism and Taoism, which resonated deeply with me I understood where it all came from. Love this blog by the way it is awesome.


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