Reaching for the Beginning
"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind."
My introduction to the I Ching (Book of Changes) came from having encountered an article written by Carl Jung regarding it (Carl G Jung's Foreword to Richard Wilhelm's "The I Ching-Book of Changes."). Being a Jung fan, his having introduced the book in a positive light made me wonder. There must be something to it. So I decided to give it a try. Although the thought did not consciously come to mind, to be posted as an explicit question, the first reading that I obtained actually sensed the doubt that I was having about consulting the book. It then proceeded to assure me that the book was neither a positive nor a negative entity. Its contents and the reading merely ARE, part of the IS-ness of the moment. The reading merely IS much like the present moment merely IS, if we can understand the value of withholding our judgment and prejudices from it as it arises.
And it is about the present moment and the question that the reader has for it for that particular point in time. It contains the Wisdom of the totality of Moment, all that exists in time and space and the universe, including the formless. It is the Moment’s gift to the reader.
Recently I consulted the I Ching regarding a concern I had at work, it gave me the verse, “Modesty creates success.” This morning, browsing the internet, again somehow I “chance” upon Einstein’s quote regarding humility. I check the thesaurus and they are given as synonyms to each other---humility and modesty … Are these my cues to write a hub about humility slash modesty?
Only a fool can attempt to write anything about this. But admitting to that might be a good start.
Things come to mind such as the Beginner’s Mind and the Taoist verse, “In uncertainty, be secure.”
I am making a guess as to how all these come together: when we start with a beginner’s mind (e.g. empty of ego-based identification) where we assume that we as yet know nothing and have much to learn from the other person or situation, we are exercising the virtue of humility. When we admit to ourselves that we are small (e.g. a “beginner”) and uncertain, we become open to learning. We are open to receive insights (that may reveal infinite possibilities), which is unavailable to us when we insist that only our own rigid opinion or prejudices are correct.
This is not to say that we should be open to something that is obviously wrong. But it is to say that, maybe we should give it a brief pause to go into a beginner’s mind, where clarity can be achieved, before deciding or acting on something.
The Beginner’s Mind
‘A successful businessman went to a Zen master and announced he had come to learn all about Zen. The master invited the man to sit down and have tea. As the master poured the tea, it overflowed. The businessman shouted, “It’s spilling, it’s spilling!” To which the master replied, “Precisely---you came with a full cup. Your cup is already spilling over, so how can I give you anything? Unless you come with emptiness, I can give you nothing.”’
The Frail and Feeble Mind
Einstein, in the quote above, includes himself as amongst us of frail and feeble minds in comparison to the “superior spirit” he considers “illimitable”. He must have had several experiences proving the enormity of this “superior spirit” (which we may also call God, the Divine, ... ) He must have seen great wonders bestowed upon himself by God. All in his lifetime. Yet the thing is, despite his greatness, he notices the slight details, the small miracles that God bestows on his everyday life.
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Einstein from http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/987-there-are-only-two-ways-to-live-your-life-one
God “reveals himself in the slight details”, Einstein says, and without humility or emptiness or the beginner’s mind we simply not notice the little things, which is sad because it shuts us out from experiencing the joy of wonder that is accessible in simple, everyday life. The sparrow flies by. We fail to notice it and the chance to possibly recall God’s assurance, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
With humility and the beginner’s mind, even Mother Nature becomes a Great Teacher.
We can ask a question then wait in relaxed alertness then watch out for the answer or clues that can lead us to the answer. You may notice that sometimes you become conscious of your question only after the answer has been sent.
A journey into humility/modesty and practicing the beginner’s mind can be a joyful adventure.
Judgment and Prejudices
Judgment and prejudices would probably be the two most significant deterrents in the journey. They shut us off from insights that the moment’s wisdom reveal because our thoughts are stuck with ideas that things should happen only in one particular way, our way. Experimenting with letting go of this stuck-ness can be an eye-opener. Sometimes circumstances just take us out of our normal procedures or routes and we find that there is actually a better route or way of doing things. Little by little, the universe slash Mother Nature is teaching us to go beyond our judgment and prejudices and get unstuck.
Humility not as a Virtue: Virtue versus Power
“The first will be the last and the last will be the first.”
“When a bow is pulled, the top is lowered and the bottom is raised.”
It is the norm for the human personality to be insecure. So most of us, not excluding myself, seek to aggrandize our position over the other person’s.
We also think that a humble person is a virtuous person. In actuality, humility is a way of doing things to help one better navigate through life by learning how to respond to what-IS, instead of being blinded by the shutters of prejudice and opinion. In this sense, we can consider that, humility or the beginner’s mind is not really a virtue. It is actually an advantageous way of going about in the world.
So it is not really something to brag about, as in ‘holier than thou’. Because once we do, we’re pushed back to where we started and “the first (i.e., those who brag or think themselves better than their neighbor) will be the last …”
I have observed this quite a number of times. The fool that I am, ‘thinking that I have learned the lesson? Somehow the universe or God sends me another experience to test if indeed I have learned and retained the lesson.
So it has been said, “Do not be certain about uncertainty.” We cannot be complacent once we’ve seen some signs or affirmations that we are making progress in living life with a beginner’s mind. We have to keep emptying, unlearning the thinking we have arrived then start from the beginning.
Modesty creates success.
The superior man carries things through.
Within the earth, a mountain:
The image of Modesty.
Thus the superior man reduces that which is too much,
And augments that which is too little.
He weighs things and makes them equal.
Six at the beginning means:
A superior man modest about his modesty
May cross the great water.
36. MING I/Darkening of the Light
Darkening of the Light. In adversity
It furthers one to be persevering.
The light has sunk into the earth:
The image of Darkening of the
Thus does the superior man live
with the great mass:
He veils his light, yet still shines.”
- “I Ching-Book of Changes” translated by Richard Wilhelm
"The first will be the last; the last will be the first."
"To pull a bow, the top is lowered and the bottom is raised."