Sacred Texts – the Great Traditions

Meditation using Sacred texts as meditation media

Collected Works of Eugene Halliday more >>

I Ching

Tao Teh Ching

The Holy Bible

The Dhammapada

Bhagavad Gita

 

I Ching
– introduction by Richard Wilhelm

The Book of Changes – I Ching in Chinese – is unquestionably one of the most important books in the world’s literature. Its origin goes back to mythical antiquity, and it has occupied the attention of the most eminent scholars of China down to the present day. Nearly all that is greatest and most significant in the three thousand years of Chinese cultural history has either taken its inspiration from this book, or has exerted an influence on the interpretation of its text. Therefore it may safely be said that the seasoned wisdom of thousands of years has gone into the making of the I Ching. Small wonder then that both of the two branches of Chinese philosophy, Confucianism and Taoism, have their common roots here. The book sheds new light on many a secret hidden in the often puzzling modes of thought.

Indeed, not only the philosophy of China but its science and statecraft as well have never ceased to draw from the spring of wisdom in the I Ching, and it is not surprising that this alone, among all the Confucian classics, escaped the great burning of the books under Ch’in Shih Huang Ti. Even the common­places of everyday life in China are saturated with its influence. In going through the streets of a Chinese city, one will find, here and there at a street comer, a wise man sitting behind a neatly covered table, brush and tablet at hand, ready to draw from the ancient book of wisdom pertinent counsel and in­formation on life’s minor perplexities. Not only that, but the very signboards adorning the houses – perpendicular wooden panels done in gold on black lacquer – are covered with inscriptions whose flowery language again and again recalls thoughts and quotations from the I Ching. Even the policymakers of so modern a state as Japan, distinguished for their astuteness, do not scorn to refer to it for council in difficult situations.

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The Tao Teh Ching 
– introduction by Herrymon Maurer

It has become obvious that conventional ways of living are culminating in a violence that, unless forsworn, can eliminate life itself. It has been assumed that knowledge of such danger is the best preventative of it. But danger grows, not because its consequences are unknown but because its inward roots are unrecognised. Whatever may be the origins of violence in general, today’s violence is rooted in Western man’s habit of persist­ing in himself, existing in himself, and relating to himself whatever happens(self as in ‘egoic self’). It is shown in his telling other people what to do and, failing response, of forcing them, trying to force them, or manipulating them. It is displayed in his practice of expressing himself in word and in action, in preference to expressing anything else to any other being. It is demonstrated more obviously in assaults in the streets, arson in the cities, threats and skirmishes among the nations. It is ultimately disclosed in preparations for a war to end all wars, for which terminal event, the nations, imbued with notions of self-defense and fears of aggression, devise the elimination of vast numbers if not the whole of mankind. The plan is to prevent wars against people. But the too likely consequence is eliminating the people.

But it may well be that people are likely to be annihilated not in spite of them­selves but because of their selves. It may be that life-obliterating war is the cultural choice of men, women, and children whose inward violence (even if expressed in nothing more than contentiousness at home and com­petitiveness at work: or, conversely, self-anger and inadequacy at both places) creates the emotional soil for national and international plagues. Certainly, it is unlikely that there will be peace abroad until it is made welcome at home.

For even the opposition to violence is filled with violence: the violence of people of apparent good will who know no other way of life than doing their own thing and telling other people what to do. The inward symptoms of violence often multiply: the confusion, frustration, fear, guilt, self-hate, depression, loneliness, and like dis­tempers of men and women who are at the mercy of their unconscious minds, trained for centuries in the contentious ways of convention.

But there is another way: a way of experiencing reality and living in it. It is a way based on all of reality – all of a man’s being and all of nature’s workings – and not on a partial reality based on self-willed urges to overcome other people and conquer nature. It is a way to over­comeviolence, socially and personally. Perhaps it can be calledthe other way, for the ways that work against violence are all the same way.

Something there is, without form and complete,
Born between heaven and earth.
Solitary and vast,
Standing alone without change,
Everywhere pervading all things,
Mothering all beneath heaven.
I don’t know its name;
I style it Tao,
And for want of a name call it great.

This one way is traced in many and diverse scriptures. It is the word as it came to Moses, to Gautama, to Isaiah, to Mohammed, to Jesus, and to many other prophets who have found the Ultimate and have sought words to describe their finding.

Sometimes the scriptural sourceworks seem forbidding because they are claimed as possessions by people of moralistic self-will, if not of ill-will and violent will. In recent times, inspired writings about Truth have been ratiocinated out of their actual meanings into monstrous con­ventionalisms of a so-called religious sort.

Whoever keeps to Tao
Does not want to be full.
Not full, he can practice
Concealment instead of accomplishment.

Twenty-five hundred years ago, an old man who distrusted princes, decried rituals, and disliked names, dropped out of the empire of Chou and went into exile. He left behind a book of some five thousand characters, called for the last two thousand years the Tao Teh Ching – the Tao Virtue Classic – which is today as it has long been the great sensation of Asian literature and Asian scripture. He wrote with vividness, with starkness, with simplicity, not without humour, and with such force that his short work bredTaoism, shaped Buddhism, led to Ch’an and Zen meditation, created Chinese landscape painting, influenced profoundly not so much what was done in China as the manner in which it was done, and served as a guidebook for persons everywhere who look for theinward power that brings inward meaning and comfort.

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The Holy Bible – King James version
– introduction to study from the KJV.

Daily Bread: There is nothing so satisfying as the quiet peace or uplifting inspira­tion that can come to an individual from understandingly reading the Scriptures each day. It was not too many years ago that the Holy Scriptures were used as a prime source for religious guidance and culture. Before the advent of radio, television, and the like, Christian families spent many precious hours together listening to the head of the household read a story aloud from the Bible or recite from the Psalms and Proverbs.

As several avenues of mechanical “look and listen” instruments were developed for public entertain­ment, the treasured custom of family Bible reading has gradually diminished until, now, it has almost disappeared from the home scene. Individuals may read.

The Holy Bible, and certainly in the English speaking world the Works of William Shakespeare, have guided intelligent individuals and cultures of the Western world to a greater understanding of their absolute source power, God. Regardless of doctrine and dogma, the teachings of Jesus Christ have been instrumental as a guide to the moral and ethical and spiritual development of individuals throughout the past 2000 years. In a scientific age where suspicion is cast upon methods of gaining knowledge and understanding which are not gross material, the Bible remains a source document for millions of people around the world and is still considered the one book most highly printed and distributed above and beyond all other titles to this day.

According to the British TIMES newspaper:
“Forget modern British novelists and TV tie-ins, the Bible is the best-selling book every year. If sales of the Bible were included in best-seller lists, it would be a rare week when anything else would achieve a look in. It is wonderful, weird … that in this godless age… this one book should go on selling, every month.”

Why is this so…?

Quote:
“0ur Bible is not merely a single book but a number of writings carefully gathered to­gether by many intelligent thinkers in order to give to us a view of the progress of spirit in the world, a movement which ultimately will bring mankind to full realisation of the presence of God in creation and His absolute and final power over all things.

“Our purpose in reading through and studying the books of the Bible will be to clarify for our­selves our own significance and ultimate destiny within the universal plan which these scriptures outline for us. We say outline for us, because life itself is infinitely beyond expression by any words we may formulate in any of our earthly languages.

“But although the ultimate meaning of life can­not be conveyed by mere words, yet words are all we have in our scriptures. Fortunately for us we have not only the external printed words of the Bible, but also a special faculty within us, God-given, by which, under the right conditions of meditation and prayer, we are enabled to arrive at a true interpretation of them. The rules for arriv­ing at this true interpretation are themselves con­tained in the Bible; but we have to read and let ourselves be led by them.”  – Eugene Halliday

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The Dhammapada
– introduction to study by Juan Mascaro

THE Pali word Dhamma corresponds to the SanskritDharma, the first word of the Bhagavad Gita when the field of Dharma, the field of Truth, is mentioned. Pali, the language of the Buddhist scriptures of Ceylon, Burma and Indochina, is connected with Sanskrit just as Italian is connected with Latin. The Pali scriptures are reckoned to be about eleven times as long as the Bible. Besides the scriptures in Pali, there is a vast Buddhist literature written in Sanskrit and in Chinese and Tibetan translations.

The word Dhamma is of supreme importance in Buddhism, and behind the mere word there is the highest spiritual mean­ing. Dhamma comes from the Sanskrit root DHR, which carries the meaning ‘to support, to remain’ and thus of ‘law, a moral law, a spiritual law of righteousness, the eternal law of the Universe, Truth’. In Christian terms it corresponds to ‘the will of God’.

Pada, both in Sanskrit and Pali, means ‘foot, step’ and thence has the meaning of a path. Thus Dhammapada suggests the Path of Dhamma, the right path of life which we make with our own footsteps, our own actions, and which leads us to the supreme Truth.

The Dhammapada is the path of Truth, the path of light, the path of love, the path of life, the path of Nirvana. In Christian terms it is the path of God. Even if we do not reach the end of the path, the joys of the pilgrimage are ours. We can buy them ‘without money and without price’. What is in truth the Path supreme becomes for us all the Path of Perfection.

The word Buddha comes from the root BUDH, to be awake, to be conscious of, to know. From the same root comes the word Buddhi found in the Bhagavad Gita and meaning in different contexts : intelligence, reason, vision, wisdom. It is the faculty of man that helps him to distinguish what is good and beautiful from what is evil and ugly, what is true from what is false, and thus helps him to walk on the path where the great prayer of the Upanishads finds its fulfil­ment :

From delusion lead me to Truth. 
From darkness lead me to Light. 
From death lead me to Immortality.

The progress of man on this earth is a slow awakening, and every poetical or artistic vision and every discovery is an awakening; but behind man’s visions of something infinite in the finite and of something eternal in things that pass away that make possible his creations of art and poetry and all the discoveries of science, there is the great awaken­ing into the law of Dharma, the eternal Nirvana, the King­dom of heaven.

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The Bhagavad Gita
– introduction to study by Juan Mascaro

For over 3,000 years there has been an uninterrupted Sans­krit culture in India, if we include the Sanskrit of theVedas, and Panini produced about 300 BC a perfect Sanskrit gram­mar, `the shortest and fullest grammar in the world’.

Sanskrit literature is a great literature. We have the great songs of the Vedas, the splendour of the Upanishads, the glory of the Bhagavad Gita, the vastness of theMahabharata, the tenderness and heroism found in theRamayana, the wisdom of the fables and stories of India, the scientific philosophy of the Sankhya, the psychological philosophy of Yoga, the poetical philosophy of Vedanta, the laws of Manu, the gram­mar of Panini and other scientific writings, the lyrical poetry and drama culminating in the great poetry and dramas of Kandasa.

There are, however, two great branches of literature not found in Sanskrit. There is no history and there is no tragedy: there is no Herodotus or Thucydides; and there is no Aeschy­lus or Sophocles or Euripides.

Sanskrit literature is, on the whole, a romantic literature interwoven with idealism and practical wisdom, and with a passionate longing for spiritual vision. There is a prayer in the Vedas which for over 3,000 years has been every morning on the lips of millions of Indians. It is the famous GAYATRI:

TAT SAVITUR VARENIAM
BHARGO DEVASYA DHIMAHI 
DHIYO YO NAH PRACODAYAT

`Let our meditation be on the glorious light of Savitri. May this light illumine our minds.’

The poet of the Vedas who chanted these words saw into the future: the mind of India has never tired in the search for Light.

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