The Tao of Meditation: Part 3 of 3

October 19, 2017

I wonder what happened to all of China’s mediating Buddhists and Taoists during Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Did they go underground like Anchee Min’s mother who became a closet Catholic that only prayed when her three children slept? During China’s Cultural Revolution, no one could be trusted, not even your children.

Most people don’t change who they are regardless of what the rich and/or powerful want, so it is obvious that if being a Buddhist or Taoist and meditating could get you denounced, you will find a way to practice what you think when no one else notices what you are doing.

Until Communism appeared, religion and the state were often closely linked. In the imperial era, the emperor was regarded as divine; political institutions were believed to be part of the cosmic order; and Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were incorporated in different ways into political systems and social organizations.

U.S. History.org reports, “Taoism and Confucianism have lived together in China for well over 2,000 years. Confucianism deals with social matters, while Taoism concerns itself with the search for meaning. They share common beliefs about man, society, and the universe, although these notions were around long before either philosophy.”

During the Cultural Revolution, the teenage Red Guard did not discriminate against particular religions. They were against them all. They ripped crosses from church steeples, forced Catholic priests into labor camps, tortured Buddhist monks in Tibet and turned Muslim schools into pig slaughterhouses. Taoists, Buddhists and Confucians were singled out as vestiges of the Old China and forced to change or else.

However, after Mao died in 1976, China, under Deng Xiaoping lifted the ban on religious teaching, and since the mid-1980s there has been a huge program to rebuild the Buddhist and Taoist temples that were torn down by the teenage Red Guard.

In addition, in December 2004, China’s central government announced new rules that guaranteed religious beliefs as a human right.

According to an article in The People’s Daily, “As China has more than 100 million people believing in religion, so the protection of religious freedom is important in safeguarding people’s interests and respecting and protecting human rights.”

In March 2005, religion was enshrined in China as a basic right of all citizens, but worship outside of approved religions remains forbidden. There are five religions recognized by China’s government: Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism. There are also a few Jewish Synagogues: two in Beijing, two in Shanghai, and five in Hong Kong.

Since the end of the Cultural Revolution with Mao’s death, it was safe to meditate again without the threat of fear getting in the way of an individual’s search for inner harmony.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 2 of 3

October 18, 2017

I’ve been following an exercise routine for at least 18 years. Recently I added mind and body mediation to the physical exercise. When I mediate every day, I turn inward to link my mind and body.

What I think of when I think of Taoism is a story from Taoist tradition whose main image or metaphor is that of water that meets a rock in the river, and simply flows around it. Taoism suggests that a major source of our suffering is that we resist and try to control the natural movements of the world around us. The Tao literally means “The Way,” and it reminds us that the world is bigger than us, and we’ll enjoy it better if we humble ourselves to the natural flow of things.

You know. Go with the flow.

Taoism teaches that the physical body only contains the personality. There were rules for food, hygiene, breathing techniques and different forms of gymnastics, which were designed to suppress the causes of death and allow each follower to create an immortal body to replace the mortal one.

After the mortal body died, the immortal body went elsewhere to live.

About 200 AD, a Taoist scholar taught that virtue, avoidance of sin, confessions of sins and good works were the most important aspects and took precedence over diet and hygiene.

The difference from religions in the West was that Taoism did not have leaders on a national scale and was more like a federation of linked communities.

What I’ve discovered as I continue to mediate every morning after the physical exercise and before I start the day, is that I’m calmer throughout the day with little or no depression or doubts and with a lot less physical pain.

Continued in Part 3 on October 19, 2017, or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Tao of Meditation: Part 1 of 3

October 17, 2017

Some of the earliest written records of meditation come from the Hindu traditions of Vedantism around 1500 BCE. Between the 6th to 5th centuries BCE, other forms of meditation developed in Taoist China and Buddhist India.

“Those who know do not say; those who say do not know.” -Lao-tzu, the father of Taoism (604 – 531 BC)

Lao-Tzu was an ancient Chinese philosopher and writer. He is known as the reputed author of the Tao Te Ching, the founder of philosophical Taoism, and a deity in religious Taoism and traditional Chinese religions.

I am no expert on Taoism.  I have a copy of Tao Te Ching and have read it in addition to a few pieces about it, but I was raised a Christian in a Christian culture. Even though I walked away from organized religion at 12, I still retain what I learned from studying the Bible.

I’ve also learned that by the time Buddhism arrived in China in the first century AD, Confucianism and Taoism had been well established for several centuries.

Taoism was popular in China while Confucianism was the official state religion of the Han Dynasty. In fact, I’ve read that the bureaucracy practiced Confucianism at work and turned to Taoist spiritual practices after work.

Even though Taoism and Buddhism have fundamental differences, Taoism helped spread Buddhism. While Taoism seeks the salvation of the individual, Buddhism seeks an escape from the cycle of personal existence.

Certain practices of Taoism and Buddhism are similar, and those are meditation, fasting, and breathing techniques.

The word “Tao” means both the order and totality of the universe and the pathway or road that allows the individual to enter into the rhythm of the world through a negation of self.

Two opposing but complementary forces of reality are fused in the Tao: Yin, which is passive, cold and feminine, and Yang, which is active, hot and masculine.

A contemporary of Confucius, Lao Tzu’s teachings were compiled in the fifth century BC into a collection called the Tao Te Ching or Dao De Jing, that has had a great influence on Chinese thought and medicine.

Continued in Part 2 on October 18, 2017

Discover The Return of Confucious

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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Earning Equality through Education

October 11, 2017

Prior to 1949, China faced a shocking literacy rate of 15 to 25 percent. But in the last 68 years, that has changed dramatically. In December 2014, The Globalist reported, “As of 2010, China’s literacy rate was just over 95 percent. … Among China’s youth, the literacy rate is 99.7 percent for young men and 99.6 percent for women.”

In addition, ICEF Monitor says, “Outside of the OECD countries, the trend toward more female students than males is also evident. In China and India, men still outnumber women in higher education, but not by much: women make up 48% of the university population in China and 42% in India.”

What’s driving these changes is explained by a teacher in China that tells her girl students, “You must matter. You must be independent.”

She said, “You don’t change overnight. It takes time. The ideas have to sink in.”

The students are schoolteachers from China’s rural areas. They have come to Beijing for workplace training and to learn more about themselves.

The rural teachers in this program study the Chinese Constitution to learn about their rights and responsibilities.

After all, men and women are considered equal under the law in China, but that doesn’t mean equality is automatic. It takes time to change the old ways of thinking and bring about real equality.

In fact, like women in the United States, women in China are often not paid the same as men for the same jobs.

One of the schoolteachers from rural China said, “You come to believe that you are not as good as men. But I hope when I return to my town that I will have the strength to stand up for myself.”

In October 2011, Chen Zhili, vice-chairperson of the National Congress Standing Committee and president of the All-China Women’s Federation, joined representatives from eleven other Asian and African countries and regions at a conference in Seoul, South Korea.  In her speech at the conference, she “emphasized the four concepts of education as a fundamental right; of education as a means to achieving gender equality and empowering women; of the health and social benefits to be gained from investing in women and girls’ education; and of the responsibility all state governments and international society bear in promoting gender equality.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Blame the British for China and India’s Border Problems

October 3, 2017

In August 2017, The New York Times reported China Tells India That It Won’t Back Down in Border Dispute. “China’s military has warned India not to underestimate its resolve to hold a mountainous piece of land at the heart of a standoff between the two Asian powers. … Beijing defending its claim to the 34 square miles of disputed land at a corner where China, India and the small kingdom of Bhutan meet. India does not claim the land but says it has been acting on behalf of Bhutan.”

So far, no shots have been fired, but this isn’t the first time India has had border conflicts, and the world can probably blame the British Empire for this problem that never seems to go away.

In the 19th century, with the reckless stoke of a pen or pencil, British Explorer McMahon drew the borders on maps that created India, and due to this, International Border Consultants reports, “India has had border disputes/wars with China, Nepal, and Pakistan.”

What’s interesting is that before the British Empire established the Raj, Victorian Web.org says India wasn’t a country, and no Chinese government was included in the changes McMahon made to the borders between Tibet and India.

When McMahon drew those borders for India, the Qing Dynasty like the Yuan and Ming Dynasties before it considered Tibet part of China.

In 1947, soon after the end of World War II, India gained its independence from Britain, and the Indian government refused to negotiate with China over land that had once been part of Tibet, but after 1949, Mao’s government told India that some of the land behind the McMahon line in India had been part of Tibet and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) wanted it back.

For the next thirteen years, China and India had a series of diplomatic conversations about this boundary issue. Zhou Enlai, the first prime minister of the PRC, attempted to convince Jawaharlal Nehru to resolve the boundary issue peacefully.

With the failure of peaceful negotiations, Chinese troops were sent to the McMahon Line.

India’s Nehru government repeatedly rejected China’s requests to negotiate the border dispute over the McMahon Line. Instead, the Indian army built bases and outposts in the disputed area while Chinese troops strengthened their defenses on their side of the disputed border.

Then India sent patrols into territory occupied by China and some of its troops were captured. In the next move, on June 4, 1962, Indian troops built fortified outposts deep in the disputed territory.

On September 8, 1962, Chinese troops surrounded the Indian outposts to stop further advances.

Chinese intelligence reported that the Indian army would soon attack due to India’s Seventh Brigade being deployed to launch Operation Leghorn. On October 9, Indian troops crossed the river between the two armies and attacked Chinese positions.

The resulting battle caused the Indian Seventh Brigade to collapse and large numbers of Indian troops surrendered and were taken prisoner by the Chinese. Chinese troops counterattacked and crossed the river pushing south as the Indian troops retreated faster than the Chinese army could advance.

To stop the Chinese, the Indian army sent four brigades to set up defensive positions along the only mountain road leading south through the rugged mountainous terrain, and India was planning to launch an assault on the Chinese army.

In a risky flanking maneuver, the Chinese sent 1,500 troops along a dangerous mountain trail to attack India’s Army in the rear and cut them in half. The move succeeded.

India’s Sixty-second Brigade collapsed the first day, and India’s Sixty-fifth Brigade abandoned their positions without a fight. News of the Indian army’s defeat reached New Delhi, and the people panicked causing large numbers of refugees to flee south.

China declared a unilateral cease-fire.

India’s army in their haste to retreat had left their weapons behind, but Chinese troops gathered the weapons and returned them to India along with the Indian troops that were POWs.

China’s next move was to withdraw its troops to the border it claimed to keep only the disputed territory. Similar to the Korean Conflict, that brief conflict ended without a treaty.

Since that 1962 war, China and India have continued to argue about sections of the border, which includes a portion of Kashmir and the eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Another area in dispute is Ladakh. For centuries, Ladakh was an independent kingdom but is now part of India but with obvious cultural links with China.

In Ladakh, no one knows where India ends and China begins. China and India still share the biggest stretch of disputed border in the world divided by Nepal and Bhutan from Arunachal Pradesh in the south to Kashmir in the north.

The Indian army keeps a heavy military presence on India’s side of the border in Ladakh. Once again, India is not interested in negotiating a peaceful settlement.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Amazing Story of Pu-Erh Tea: Part 3 of 3

September 28, 2017

The fermentation of Pu-Erh tea demands a perfect mix of water, moisture, and air. This provides the conditions for the development of microbes and the necessary fermentation.

The fermentation process produces a substance called theaflavin often called the soft-gold of tea.

Clinical experiments show that theaflavin reduces blood fat and cardiovascular disease among other benefits.

In animal experiments, the mice fed theaflavin had their blood fat reduced by 30% compared to the control group’s 10% blood fat reduction.

Due to the process of producing Pu-Erh, the tea may be stored as long as a century without losing its flavor or health enhancing benefits.

The 110-days of fermentation for Pu-Erh is important to achieve the best flavor and enhanced, health benefits. The time must not be shortened. The temperature and humidity must also be stable and many warehouses are built partially underground to achieve this.

Pu-Erh got its name because it was first sold in a town by the same name.

I buy my Pu-Erh tea from Whole Foods Market or Sprouts Farmers Market, and I drink it early in the morning during my hour of exercise that ends with ten minutes of focused meditation.

Return to Part 2 or start with Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Amazing Story of Pu-Erh Tea: Part 2 of 3

September 27, 2017

Pu-Erh tea is mellowed by aging, the period by which it is transported and stored.

The largest, tallest tea trees in the world grow in the mountains of Yunnan. This region also produces black, green, Oolong and other varieties of tea.

The leaves for Pu-Erh tea are divided into three sizes, and the largest contain most of the health benefits.

For centuries, the process of making tea from picking, to washing, to boiling, mixing, pressing, clustering, baking, and packing has been improved to enhance the flavor.

Dao Linyin, the governor of Xishuangbanna Dai Autonomous region in China says, “Pu-Erh tea contains many vitamins. Very few Pu-Erh drinkers get high blood pressure.”

Standards for selecting the thickest broad leaves for Pu-Erh tea means only about 30% of the tea leaves that are picked pass inspection to be processed into the final product. This selection process is important because the wrong leaves will have a negative impact on the fermentation process.

The fermentation step in the process of producing Pu-Erh tea takes 110-days.

Continued on September 28, 2017 in Part 3 or return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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