In my first blog, I asked a number of fundamental questions about life, the universe, and time. In this blog, and the in the blogs that follow, I will explore and attempt to answer some of these questions from the perspective of Chinese Astrology.
The first of these questions is, perhaps, the most important. Any religion, science, or system of understanding reality must answer this question before it can have any relevance in our life. If any system of inquiry, such as science, does not answer this question it has no basis, no fundamental starting point, and no coherent view on anything. This question is--what is a human being? We are human beings, and anything we do, create, or learn is a projection of this fact, and everything must relate to our humanity and to the relationship and significance of our humanity to the universe. In the next blog, I will answer the question—what is the universe? However, any understanding of the universe without an understanding of our humanity is meaningless and actually useless, for in order to understand what we are looking at, we must first know—what is looking?
The answer to “what is a human being?” may seem big, but it is actually not. The answer is simple, perhaps too simple, and yet this simple answer contains the greatest wisdom available to any person. A human being is a compound. You may be saying—what the hell does that mean? That’s not profound. Let’s unpack what I mean. For our compound nature is the basis of all Astrology.
First, this is a reference to both Daoist and Buddhist view, and here I will refer specifically to what Buddhists call “the four seals of Dharma,” (not the four noble truths), the four defining factors of Buddhism. “All compound phenomena are impermanent.” If we search our experience, we cannot find anything that is not compounded, meaning composed of many things. For example, everything we see is a compound of shape and color. Everything composed must decompose; therefore everything in our experience is unstable, in a process of coming together and apart, in a process of change. Human beings, then, cannot be “perfected.” Meaning that we do not evolve toward any kind of ideal state, but rather we are cyclical, and our life is a rhythm which contains ups and downs, good and bad. Since we cannot be perfected, we are relieved of any notion of progress and of any ultimate notion of “self-improvement.” The goal of being human is not to become perfect but rather to relax and understand our compound nature of cyclical and rhythmic change.
Our nature is movement. All that we can actually observe in ourselves and the universe is movement.
If a human being is a compound, this begs the question—a compound of what? The very nature of being compound means that we are a multitude of different processes in some kind of relationship with one another. In other words, to be compounded means to be in relationship, and we are fundamentally a series of relationships.
In the ordinary sense, we are a compound of ordinary things—you, sitting and reading this, are a compound of what you ate from breakfast this morning, of your relationship with your mother, of blood, muscle, oxygen, and probably a great many fantasies, ideas, beliefs, and so on. From the perspective of Daoism and Chinese Astrology, however, we are a compound of different cycles of “qi” in relationship with one another. Qi is described by what the Chinese call yin and yang and the five elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water), what are called the heavenly stems, and by the 12 animals of the zodiac, what are called the earthly branches, which describe different patterns and qualities of cycling energy. In human beings, these qualities compound to create what we call “Character.” So a human being has Character, composed of qi qualities. Character will be defined in future blogs.
What is qi? Qi is has not English equivalent and cannot easily be defined. To appease the Western mind, I will define qi as the movement/rhythm (meaning Time) of Light within Space. And so ultimately we are a compound of time, light, and space. In the relative world, this compound is characterized by yin/yang, the five elements, and the 12 animals (energy patterns) of the zodiac, which is nothing other than our ordinary experience. But the bigger picture of time, space, and light also compound to create what the Chinese call “Fate.” So a human being has Fate, not a pre-determined future but a pattern of energy set to unfold rhythmically over our life, manifesting as the different possibilities of our experience. Fate will also be defined in future blogs.
Because we are compound, we have no abiding self, for any self we could find would also be compound ad-infinitum. This means that our fundamental nature is not fixed and unchanging, but rather our nature is Freedom, the freedom of light to move within space unimpeded, and the freedom of light to move slowly, creating the appearance of solidity. So a human being has a Nature, which is fundamentally empty of solidity and therefore free to manifest or appear as anything, including the "world." But this freedom, what Buddhists call Emptiness, does not manifest chaotically. Freedom is Chaos, and because it is chaos it manifests as order (chaos without order would be meaningless), and it does so through rhythms of time, space, and light. The movement quality of time, space, and light create the “appearance” of a world and of an abiding “self,” but upon investigation these appearances are empty of any solid continuity. They are nothing other than movement.
To summarize, a human being is a compound of character, freedom, and fate.
Have I confused you? Not to worry, in the blogs that follow, I will define all these terms in further detail. To conclude, I will add perhaps the most important definition of a “human being.” The Confucian tradition calls this “human heartedness” and defines human nature as fundamentally good. A human being is fundamentally an expression of a basic goodness, a freedom which is beyond duality yet free to express duality. Our compound nature, which cannot be perfected because it will always decompose, is also not imperfect. It is the display of a kind of primordial perfection containing all possibilities, and it is our basic goodness that makes us capable of both compassion and hatred. The goal of Chinese Astrology is to become a gentle person, a person who knows that everything is falling apart only to come back together again in different ways, that birth is the only cause of death, and that human beings are perfectly imperfect—knowing this creates human heartedness; knowing this, we can laugh and not take ourselves or life seriously.
Tiger's Play--the View Teachings of Chinese Astrology
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