The following message is around 4500 words long (I am sorry It needed to be that long as it can’t be any other way because I didn’t want to leave any detail out), it contains real life situation and does not contain any fabrication or exaggeration of circumstances. I am in need of desperate help making the most important decision of my life.
I intend on sending this message to openly seek advice from other scholars and students alike.
Hello fellow Taoists, Confucians and Buddhists, this is a very important question intended towards making a noble and virtuous decision aligned with principles of the way.
I want to start by saying a little background info. I have been reading Buddhist, Confucian and Taoist text for a while now including the text from Kong-zi, Meng-zi, Chuang-tzu, Lao-tzu, Liu I-ming, Journey to the West, Chang Po-tuan, Master Hua hsuan, tsongkhapa, including sutras like Diamond Sutra, Dharma Jewel Sutra, Heart Sutra and so from reading these texts I now hopefully think I have a small understanding on how we build virtue but I am not a sage or a man of high honours and I am humbly seeking your advice to clarify a few serious doubts I have concerning my current situation, lifestyle and slowly advancing to the path righteously. From this I am requesting all fellow students and scholars alike to help me make a crucial decision in my life which I think can simultaneously effect many lives.
I can go on by quoting Meng-zi, Kong-zi or Liu I-ming and so can everyone who replies to this email but this is my life and this is actual events in my life which I am going to speak of. So replying to this message with quotes is not helpful unless there is a direct relation to the advice. I am saying this because I have seen many replies on forums of other peoples request of help which have mostly been of the flowing type for example say if someone asks “How to cultivate righteousness and benevolence” then the answer to this question is sometimes of this sort, “what is there to cultivate, I am not even me, how can there be you? “ or “Confusion is because of thought, thought is because the mind is confused. Wherever there is thought, there is mind, so have no thoughts!” These words are true and very wise but do not help and can often lead one’s mind astray.
So here I begin… Last year through the grace of heavens I received a substantial amount of capital (money) and before I had the capital I struggled against the force of mundanity and have been turmoiled over my own mindset to always be righteous as much as I could possibly do in my own strength to tread the path of the ancients and hence I believe I was given this capital to use it for righteous means.
For a year now I have been very undecided on how to use the capital so that I can carry on my life #living with frugality, learning the ways of the sages. I have become very torn in my mindset as I wanted to live in a way (in 21st century western society) that was not striving for the mundane way of survival of the fittest mentality. In most of my actions and conduct I didn’t scheme, I didn’t try and invest, I didn’t give to charity (so as to not act out benevolence) but I did give charity from the heart when right circumstances demanded of it to help others, I didn’t go against what my inner leanings towards the teachings. So in essence nothing has changed in my life apart from I have capital and I have no knowledge (in the 21st century) of how to apply ancient wisdom in making the right decisions to foster my learning rather than hinder it and actions so as to help others and also be sure my actions are in accord with what is correct.
So the situation is that currently the substantial capital I have is currently at 0.5% interest in the banks… and because I am not putting it in saver accounts or investing in one year bonds or anything of the sort (it’s just very not my nature to deal with money enthusiastically and I am not motivated to move money around in banks so I receive higher interest to betterment of my money, life etc). I could be far off with what I have read but in many teachings it speaks that fortune is already predetermined so, what can I do in my own strength? Surely what matters is my conduct in affairs more than, whether I put my money in high interest accounts or invest so in future I will be able to continue with my studies of the way of the sages. But if I leave the money in 0.5% my capital goes down all the time as I spend it and I feel I am not using what I have wisely because if I received higher interest it could become a salary or a wage for me so I would just be as if I was earning and so receive no blame from others as frequently in the western society where I live and also around the world when people speak to me they always ask what am I doing with my life? What job have you got? So it’s very imbedded in this society’s mentality and way of thinking. I don’t think I could reply I am a Confucian scholar, it would create great confusion in the person if I replied that way and it’s not an accepted profession if I am not going to university with a career plan. People often question as a talking point what you do for a living and it seems to be the society norm to want to know ones business so they can categorize and judge where you are going so they can make opinions and see where you fit in the cultural norm …as to either accept you as a person and give you respect or see you as very different so being very awkward around you and making others also see you that way. These are my social realities of living in community I am just writing this to give you a picture.
There are many Family issues and pressures of society, demands of money, rent, travel, way of living in high tax government, not using this substantial capital for benefit of others and other demands cause my mind insecurity many times and create confusion in my mind.
Now there are a few things that disturb my mind immensely, for example, if I had high interest I could help many people with the interest and my mind would be more at ease with regards with having time, ease of thinking and only worrying about the text and the way of the ancients but if I left the capital as it is in the banks, then my mind is not going to be at ease either as there is rapid change in the world and as I have got no skills and I have to keep up with the world by striving, like I did before I received the blessings. Also seeing the poverty in other countries and the difference in rich and poor, I am sure if that strife and struggle came to be my reality, my mind would be constantly confused. I am worried that if my mind was weak and my fear increased, I may fall into deviant ways like I did in the past.
So I now have options of what to do with the capital:
With investment I could employ my friend who is foreign national so he can get residence in this country, as he is a great dharma friend who supports each other on the path. I am very aware of my realities, my past, my eons of mundane routine and habits, also outer realities like the tremendous suffering in the world, tremendous mundanity and confusion that permeates all corners of the world. I do not want to neglect it but I do have to refine myself before I can make hard efforts to apply righteous actions to my outer realities so when strength is sufficient the fear is more removed and less dominating.
Another is I would have the ability to travel, meet scholars, study widely and question extensively on principles without worrying about earning a living as the capital runs dry. Even living frugally and as sustainable as I can, the demands of modern society (to keep up with it) would eventually exhaust what I now have. If I invested I would have no blame from people as wherever I go people won’t know my conduct/business and I could remain anonymous and practice the way. I would rather put my time in hand to texts than working at Walmart/Asda or low skill demanding jobs of which I am only qualified for, I am not criticising the jobs but all them companies main aim is to profit anyways so I would be feeding that profit also by working there. When I have worked at them places in the past I find the work environment devoid of any reality and spirituality so it becomes very mentally demanding and laborious for the spirit because with no support in spiritual matters (From correct associates or dharma friends) I often get confused and fall into deviant mindsets and mundane cycles plus extra entanglements because if you become agreeable to people and they like you, they then invite you to go to out and involve in heavy drinking. So if one rejects these mundane affairs one often becomes isolated and segregated and the finger is often pointed at oneself even though one wants to keep away from deviant mundanities. All in all one’s mind becomes entangled in these mundane affairs and confusion arises on many levels without a master of good friends.
But what disturbs me most is that if I invest:
In a high interest account in the bank or a bond, I am effectively feeding the global bank system. Which makes enormous amount of profit against all righteousness and benevolence.
If I invest in my friend’s uncle in his country which is very poor and where people are starving, striving and living in abstract poverty. By investing in this poor country we create jobs for those who would usually beg or steal to survive. In this investment I get treble (triple) the interest that I get from the banks and also nearly 1000 people become employed in his project, they get jobs and feed their families which my friend’s uncle said ”keeps them out of crime and drugs.” He also temporarily house the workers and during the duration of the project construction. I gain profit which apparently helps me which enables me in countless ways to benefit others but is this the right way of helping by giving to the profit even though it helps many poverty stricken people get jobs?
His uncle is an honourable and honest man but his aim is to extend his business and prosper. He is a spiritual man and well versed in his own spiritual disciple and beliefs which means he is very genuine and non-scheming person (which is very rare in the place like where he lives) but he still values status and ranks in society which inherently as we learnt is the part of the culture, his behaviour inclines me to believe that he likes things in their place/correct order in his family and in his work which leads me to observe he is a strict orderly person which when at dinner with him I observed no one in his family said things out of place or out of order which is like ritual in his society, so I observed he has much family discipline (which is very rare in western societies) and enjoys his status.
His project is to build luxury apartment complex with swimming pools, baths, saunas, etc. targeted for rich people foreign or native to the country. He says he is helping many people with jobs and he makes sure they have savings and salary rise every year by 15% and also when the project is finished many of the poor people would have skills and experience to continue and apply for future jobs for themselves with good recommendation and more security for them. I have expressed my desire for the workers welfare and aim to educate these men so that they will have skills to help them in future and my friends uncle has insured me with his word that if I invested I could be involved, speak to these people, that they would not just be a number and that he values there welfare and ensures they save money.
My friend’s uncle’s aim is undoubtedly to profit but he explains he is open to my ideas for the future, if I want to help him move to sustainable and more green business. My investment gives massive credibility to his business as I am the first foreign investor and ensure his company becomes recognized with good honourable reputation so he can expand and move toward other enterprises.
My worry was that it’s still profiting, like they are just following the trend of jobs, get better, get higher status, become richer and then have business themselves so it’s just a profit cycle but can I change that anyway? Because I believe our aim is to bring the ancient wisdom of the sages back again so the right order returns to the world. I may not be the man to do that but my actions affect the balance of what I believe and choose to accord with, but also I know I have to accord with the times and so the world is everywhere like that unforgiving and unjust.
Even if I didn’t invest in his company some other man obviously/definately will, which I know isn’t exactly the best mindset to be working from but that’s why I am typing this message right now because I want to learn the truth and apply the most righteous action.
BUT MY MAIN CONCERN IS THAT IS ANY SORT OF PROFITING UNRIGHTEOUS? Because Mengzi mentions how one shouldn’t have a mindset of profit and not teaching others how to profit.
Mengzi had an audience with King Hui of Liang. The king said, “Venerable sir, you have not re-garded hundreds of leagues too far to come, so you must have a way of profiting my state.”
Mengzi replied, “Why must Your Majesty speak of ‘profit’? Let there simply be benevolence and righteousness. If Your Majesty says, ‘How can I profit my state?’ the Chief Counsellors will say, ‘How can I profit my clan?’ and the nobles and commoners will say, ‘How can I profit my self?’ Superiors and subordinates will seize profit from each other, and the state will be endangered. When the ruler in a state that can field ten thousand chariots is assassinated, it will invariably be by a clan that can field a thousand chariots. When the ruler in a state that can field a thousand chariots is assassinated, it will invariably be by a clan that can field a hundred chariots. To have a thousand out of ten thousand or a hundred out of a thousand is plenty. But when people put profit before righteousness, they cannot be satisfied without grasping for more.
Never have the benevolent left their parents behind. Never have the righteous put their ruler last. Let Your Majesty speak only of benevolence and righteousness. Why must one speak of ‘profit’?”
Because what I see in this country is massive growth and development, many people want to get out of their life of poverty and many strive for better life, more money, more food, more leisure because that’s what they see around them and experience around them as there is a massive gap between rich and poor living even opposite the street to each other, for example multi complex mall would be beside a slum and rich restaurants. Is this this the right way to judge this?
So now one can say that investing in green, ethical, clean energy, sustainable, nature, reforestation and everything that involves the betterment of the environment is the way forward. But this again is very subjective view of western people who have the ease of life to make an opinion whether it is good or bad, not knowing that people are in poverty in certain countries who have no time to think of these ethical and green things and their major worry is when and where will they find there next meal and that their children may have disease, problems and the constant danger of rape, abuse and manipulations surrounding their reality. Then again one can still say that if one applies effort in doing such investments in environment, he may benefit people but that’s like teaching a man who is dying of hunger the ways of the sages rather than feeding him to ease his suffering, where do you draw the line? Where do I put my effort and potential I have been blessed with, when I know there is real need of help around the world.
Through this investment we make a living and if we have spare we give it away to righteous causes without having to work for Walmart, Asda, any other office job in this job market. One may ask what is wrong with working at Walmart and giving it away that way? True, but I haven’t got the wisdom of true restoration and working in absolute mundanity as it can cause me mental illness when seeing all round robbery, violence, deceit, profit, temptations, harsh words, harsh slander, evil mindsets valuing no spiritual principles with no respect for anything other than constructive logical mindset thought system. Like I have mentioned I have no master, I have no associates (I don’t want to join the Buddhist sangha), Buddhist meditation and western Buddhists is not my heart, Taoist energy practices and breathing exercise is not my way. So I find that my ability and strength at this point in my life is insufficient to deal all by oneself and take on the burden of true teachings on my own interpretation and petty wisdom acting out my own fixations in an environment where I have no support and no fellow companions. So this is another reason in which if I do invest, then I will have time to study the broad range of texts and through thorough investigation I am sure one day I will arrive at my master’s door.
My observation is that that the world is fast becoming a global place and the gap between rich and poor maybe getting bigger but the number of people in poverty seems to be getting smaller due to extensive growth of economies even in poor countries. So as the world is becoming a vast global place my thoughts are that, instead of being a recluse and avoiding the world one turns his efforts to harmonizing in accord with the change of the world so one can tread the path of the way of the sages even in this seeming chaos but then one can say investing in anything whether its investing in things that are ethical/green/nature or investing in growth for jobs in poor country - in either case you are profiting the only difference is the ease of heart for the subjective view of the world and where choosing to see one as good and the other as bad is based on differences of opinion… Meng zi says you can’t please everyone and that the most righteous thing is putting into effect the way of the sages, so my main crucial point being that investing in either case one may be profiting less and one maybe profiting more but nonetheless at its root and heart every company, every firm depends on profit to sustain itself.
But one can say what about not-for-profit businesses, in which people make enough to sustain themselves and seek the welfare of others by providing fair jobs? In this category we don’t have the same skills as great business men and my attention is for learning according with right which does leave me with a question that how can a not-for-profit business get rid of eons of mental habits, mindsets, fears and cultivate true conduct …for example I can’t even harmonize with my family so how will I ever begin to start a business. In this is the degeneracy of the age where everything relies on profit and growth to sustain its self unless going against the tide of which is either avoiding the world and its ways or starting something radically different independently from reliance on profit but rather based on giving but still even that has had some root at some point in profit even without knowing this personally because as meng zi would mention in his text that one’s house, one’s status, one’s ability to exercise one’s talents for the benefit of the world whether coming from righteous or unrighteous means cannot be known… Please read this example of the above from Mengzi to relate to my point…
Those who acted as if they have no father and no ruler were those whom the Duke of Zhou chas-tised. I, too, desire to rectify people’s hearts, to bring to an end evil doctrines, to fend off bad con-duct, to get rid of specious words, so as to carry on the work of these three sages. How could I be fond of disputation? I simply cannot do otherwise. Anyone who can with words fend off Yang Zhu and Mozi is a disciple of the sages.”
Kuang Zhang, a man from Qi, said, “Chen Zhongzi is genuinely a pure noble, isn’t he? While living in Wuling, in order to avoid eating anything obtained illicitly, he did not eat for three days, until his ears did not hear, and his eyes did not see. Above a well there was a plum tree whose fruit had been half-eaten by worms. Crawling, he went over to eat from it, and only after three bites could his ears hear and his eyes see.”
Mengzi said, “Among the nobles of the state of Qi, Zhongzi is outstanding — like a thumb among fingers! Nonetheless, how could Zhongzi be pure? To fill out what Zhongzi is trying to maintain, one would have to be an earthworm. Now, an earthworm eats only dry earth above and drinks only muddy water below. But was the house in which Zhongzi lives built by the sage Bo Yi, or was it in fact built by Robber Zhi? Was the millet that he eats planted by the sage Bo Yi, or was it in fact planted by Robber Zhi? This cannot be known.”
Kuang Zhang said, “Why is that a problem? His wife spins hemp that he himself weaves into san-dals, which he then exchanges for these other things.”
Mengzi said, “Zhongzi comes from an influential family of Qi. His elder brother Dai received a salary of ten thousand bushels of grain from estates at Ge. He regarded his brother’s salary as an un-righteous salary and would not live off of it. He regarded his brother’s dwelling as an unrighteous dwelling and would not live in it. He shunned his elder brother, distancing himself from his mother, and lived in Wuling. On a later day, he visited home, and someone had given a live goose to his elder brother as a gift. He furrowed his brow and said, ‘What will you use this cackling thing for?! After that, his mother killed the goose and gave it to him to eat. His
elder brother came home and said, ‘This is the meat of that cackling thing.’ Zhongzi went out and threw it up. If it comes from his mother, he doesn’t eat it, but if it comes from his wife, then he eats it. If it’s his elder brother’s dwelling, then he won’t live in it; if it’s in Wuling, then he lives in it.
Is this really being able to fill out the category? To fill out what Zhongzi is trying to maintain, one would have to be an earthworm.”
My friend is learning sustainable living style and sustainable construction as that’s how we want to live as that’s our best option of survival in this “survival of the fittest world,“ with many demands and realities down your throat but we can do that because this is our reality, alternatively one can say if you do feel strongly in the heart about these poor people then why not live like them but that’s forcing oneself into a situation which you weren’t born in or which you are not ready for mentally or spiritually. Liu I-ming says you cannot get rid of the human mind with the human mind, Chuang-tzu says in similar terms its dangerous to go into a situation of strive to change things when one hasn’t corrected himself yet, Meng-zi says that acting out benevolence is not being benevolent but the important thing is to act out of benevolence. By constructing and leaning about sustainable dwelling in various parts of the world, I can a least ensure that the skills that I achieve by learning will be provided to these poor people in my friend’s uncle’s company to help themselves live frugally and sustainably.
Sometimes I also think I should I give it all away to monks etc (that’s again acting out benevolence) and even then I would only have to go back into the world to make a living to survive again which I strive to be apart from in the first place because I am not strong enough in practicing and understanding principles yet to deal with the absolute force of mundanity on every level, when it’s constantly in ones face with the demands and opinions of modern western society of which other parts of the world are rapidly becoming alike, I feel it will take me some long time to gradually increasing firmness and strength to build up righteousness so I have less fear and more faith to not be affected by the mundane. I have no master, I have no close dharma friends, I am not scholar at university so I don’t have income, I am not a worker in a job , I am not blessed with good skills to apply in the worldly affairs, I have struggled much of my life immensely, I always give from the heart without want of reward or thought of it, I am yearning for learning true wisdom but in this degenerate age everyone requires you have a job, I am not a scholar and I do not do any practices or meditation.
So the summary is as follows:
Find new investment in green ethical company
Which again will be based on profit… so why invest if the investment is based on rather the acting of benevolence than acting out of benevolence?
Leave it where it is at 0.5% interest or put it in saver accounts to get better interest or in bonds?
In this case I gain nothing as I can’t make a living out of that… Also I feed the bankers who simply profit with no good intentions in mind.
Give it all away…
I can do this but I would like to know how I would I survive and learn the text after I do this?
Invest in friend’s uncle – gives him residency + freedom to learn more gradual, unpressured and to travel all over the world to seek answers for ourselves
This option is the only one which I believe suits me the best but there are many concerns about it regarding the profit and the intentions of the people.
Lastly I would like to hear your suggestions?
This last bit is very crucial to me because your opinion will help me make the most important decision in my life. With this I end by saying, “To the homage to all the Buddhas, Immortals and Sages of the ancient antiquity that, may there be more prosperous times so that people like us could make the right decision without being unrighteous…”