Category Archives: Cross Culture Communication

How to treat family life

Family life is a big part of human life. Every culture has to deal with it. From my experience, family life is a problem in both the west and the east. It is hard to have a normal mind about it. In the west, if I understand it correctly, it is called Family Baggage. In the east, there is no such a word. It is pretty hard to come up with such a word in a Confucius culture.

Chinese culture make the family life too heavy. Because of Confucius, it is deeply rooted in Chinese mindset that young people have to respect their elders, which often implies the elders don’t need to respect the young people. In China, human relations are heavily burdened by this state sponsored and reinforced human relationship hierarchy.

Coming back to China, re-entering family life, I treat everyone as friends including my parents and other family members. They are friends of my life that I happen to have chances to stay more time with. Strangers on the street are also my friends. But they are friends I haven’t had a chance to know more of or stay more time with. I treat them equally as friends.  I help them equally. If strangers on the street happen to need more time from me, I will give more time to them. This renewed way of living the family life has been working really well. The artificially imposed Confucius values are slowly dissolved and true human relationship is emerging.

Since my childhood, I have been questioning the parental love. I always feel if parents really love their children, they should show more patience. So I was expecting more patience. Otherwise, parents are just giving birth to offspring and raise them just for their own sake. I also think the relation between parents and kids should be like friends. It should be equal.

Now it is the time for me to manifest how to be a son. It is my time to show the patience. I am the one who has a lot more knowledge. I should have more patience in communicating that knowledge to my parents.

When I came back last time in January, it gave me a little surprise when I re-entered family life after many years. But i was able to realize quickly what this was about and knew the antidote was to treat everyone as friends.

When I was in the states, i didn’t quite connect to my friends who were talking or complaining about their hardship in their families. I was quite distant from the family life and has been so for quite a long time. So it was hard for me to connect to them.

The true nature of human relationship is equality or we can call it friendship. However, Confucius, in its teaching of family values and hierarchy, doesn’t recognize the equality of human relations.

Buddhism teaches treating every man as your father and every woman as your mother. This is to dissolve the burden of the concept of father or mother and go back to the equality of human relations. Buddhism also teaches treating every stranger as your friend. This is also to dissolve the self-imposed barrier to equality and the truth.

I can also tell you everyone is your stranger. You have to do everything by yourself. How do you manifest everyone is a stranger? How do you manifest everyone is your friend and there is no stranger? You can be friends with everyone.

True friendship is what we are doing together in this world. True friendship is communication. When you treat everyone as a friend, you can get rid of the family baggage, and maybe for the first time, you will realize what it means to have friends in this world and how wonderful it is to do things with friends together.

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Community vs. Networking Part 2

In China, the media is very much controlled (in a different way the media in US is controlled), so it is hard to get to know what is going on at the national level. You read the reports in the news. You doubt what really happened. You read in the news that there is food poisoning happening somewhere in the country. You don’t look at the number of how many people died. You just take the fact that food poisoning happened. That is enough. Things happened far away are hard to know, unless you have friends living in that place and they can tell you what really happened.

But it doesn’t mean there is no truth in your life. Everything around you is truth. They are happening everyday. People’s suffering, people’s happiness, they are there for you to see.

This topic of this essay is Community vs. Network Part 2. It is continued thinking after part 1 here. It is based on the concepts as defined by John Taylor Gatto in his speech Less School.

You cannot get truth from network. Here we take newspaper, TV, internet, social networking and so on as network. You cannot get the truth from them. You can only get the truth from the community, e.g. the local living sphere around you, from people you have to spend a lot of time with. They are the places you can really belong to. You can only get truth from there. When you see the truth, it can destroy any lies told by the system.

Network is only of a couple of dimensions. But community (or we can call village) is of limitless dimensions. Thus community is the truth. Network is only an abstract in one dimension. It is used to achieve a certain purpose.

Community is limited in the sense you can only hold limited number of people in a community. Thus the local culture in that community are influenced by people in the community. A bigger and more diverse community is healthier as it offers individuals more chances to fully develop themselves. So it is important to use network to expand the community. How big a community you can belong to is a personal challenge.

The religious communities in US all have their own local cultures that bound individuals. They make the individuals living inside feel safe and satisfied, without realizing how much conditioned they are and that they are kept away from their true nature and their own potentials. The traditional villages in China have their own local traditional rules, which bound individuals to the old tradition, even that tradition has a long history of smearing off individuals’ individuality and causing tremendous suffering. The working units in socialism China bound people to one single working place for life. It doesn’t matter you like your job or not. It doesn’t matter if the local leaders are repressive of you or not. You have no choice. You have to accept it and live with it. Some people think this as a profound culture. Some people call for change.

US is surely a very different world. Especially with the flourish of Internet, networking is greatly expanded. There are so many choices there that people are constantly thinking of escaping their existing communities.

If used well, however, networking can be used to enrich and expand the community. We all belong to this big community which you can call country or culture. How do you really belong to a country? Many people talk about loving their country without realizing it is actually a huge challenge to love one’s country. How can you feel your country the same way as you can feel of your community? Without that concrete feel, your love for your country is only superficial and exists more as a manifestation of your own ego.

It is easy for our senses to perceive the difference. When you are constantly networking, you see all the differences. But it takes more of knowing the other person for you to perceive the sameness or the equality. When you perceive the equality, you go beyond your six senses and your eighth sense is in touch with the deeper truth. People losing their communities lose everything.

Building a community is to build a village that you cannot escape. Everyone else’s problems are your problems.

Community or sanga is the place for your practice. You practice how you function in a community. You are totally useless unless you can make other people’s lives better. In Brad Warner’s words, your brain is just “big fat hairy deal” (Sit Down and Shut Up, Chapter 6: the Colors of Mind). Only by doing so, can you practice manifesting your true self.

Network is not the place for you to escape the community. If you do so, you will be like a ghost wondering around without a soul. You cannot escape the community. You cannot escape your parents. You cannot escape your siblings. You cannot escape your relatives. You cannot escape your family. You cannot escape your friends. You cannot escape your society. You cannot escape your culture. You have to embrace them unconditionally. Networking, at the best, is only the info you get to help you better understand your community.

Compulsory schooling allienate people by taking them away from the community. How can you unschool those conditionings?

In the age of community, it is time to talk about community. Let’s start the practice.

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A list of modern Chinese writers

Now here is a list of modern Chinese writers that I have learned quite tremendously from:

Wang Xiaobo: ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wang_Xiaobo ) He died in 1997, only about 45 years old. In my opinion, he is the greatest writer of modern Chinese. He has found the way to write beautifully with the plain Chinese. His novels read like poetry, and full of imagination. At the same time, because of his training in science (he is very fond of mathematics), his novel has a power that is rarely seen in other writers. I learned tremendously from him.

Li Ao: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Ao ) a writer in Taiwan. He was born and raised in mainland China and went to Taiwan with his father at the end of civil war in 1949. His writing has a strong flavor of traditional written Chinese, but still concise and beautiful. I like his personality very much. He is always very optimistic. And he is a very good practitioner in life and had been through many things in life. He devoted his whole life fighting for individual freedom of Chinese. He had sacrificed personally fighting for freedom of speech in Taiwan. (He was jailed for 10 years). He is a very good speaker. I am glad someone translated his speech in Beijing University: http://zonaeuropa.com/20050924_1.htm
In that speech, Li Ao tried very hard to convey to Chinese people the way to obtain their freedom. I highly recommend this speech.  Personally I believe he is the best example of living Buddhism in real world (although he never claimed himself as a Buddhist).

Lung Yingtai: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lung_Yingtai ). She is very honest with life and a ardent practitioners. Her way of looking at cultures (and how culture interacts with people) have a huge impact on me.

Steven N. S. Cheung: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_N.S._Cheung ) I learned a lot from him about  economics, especially classic economics. However, I think he has a too economic-centered view, and I don’t think you can explain human society with pure economics.

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Two different philosophies of life and society

In the east, the philosophy is how individuals can best utilize the resource of their own limited body. So it emphasizes how you can reach your best potential through training of your body and mind. It emphasizes the maximum use of the resource available and not to waste any. Thus even in a society of turmoil, you would be able to survive.

The western philosophy, however, tends to focus more on creating external resource outside of your body. Western cultures are obsessed with creating material wealth. So the west is more reliant on external resources and even there are a lot of waste, for them it is ok . For example, the invention of credit card is an financial resource you can fall back on. It gives you the security that when you run out of money you can borrow first and pay back later. This can be convenient in some life-saving situations. The west relies more on the law and enforcement of law as the external mechanism that can prevent the flaws of man from harming individuals, while the east more relies on the virtuousness of the people.

It is hard to say which one is better. But it would be nice if the two can be combined to remedy each other.

This is a random thought.

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Managing common property is a challenge

In our time, there are a lot of thinking that many resources should be managed as common properties instead of being privatized. For example, I just watched the documentary Flow the other week: http://foodandwaterwatch.org/

As I came from China, a common reflection we had since the start of economic reform (which is 2 years after the culture revolution) is that managing common properties is very difficult and is a big challenge. Socialism values collective goods, and advocates individuals to sacrifice for the collective. For example, if an electric pole fall down in the river and are taken away by the river, you should jump into the river to save the electric pole, even that means you might get killed by the torrent river, because the electric pole belong to the public. The reflection of the generation after culture revolution is that whether the value of individuals’ life is more important than that electric pole. Are we, the individuals, also part of the collective? If so, are we human beings more valuable property than an electric pole? This kind of thinking wasn’t allowed traditionally, since the holiness of the public should not be questioned.

A common reflection of our socialism time is that collective is good. But there is no reliable way to tell if the thing belongs to everyone, how can everyone OWN it? Since there is no way for everyone to OWN it, the result you can get is a small minority is selected (by whatever means) to govern it, and whenever a small minority is chosen to represent the majority, there is a problem of how this minority can really REPRESENT the majority.
In the current crisis of America, we know even here the democracy is broken. The elected officials cannot really represent the people’s interest.  For many things in our social life, you can be very eloquent that people should sacrifice for our country. But it is really hard to tell who is making that sacrifice.

So these are the reflection in China as it is going through the process of going from an agriculture society to an industrial society, and thus a process of modernization. That is how China is trying to learn of the wisdom in the design of capitalism and market oriented economy.  I bring this up so it might be helpful to remind some people here of the history of their own. It is not easy to come up with the market oriented economy (The Wealth of Nations,btw, is really a great work.). We have to remember this history, then we can know how we can do better.

So managing common properties is a challenge. We need to use our wisdom to come up with something better. This takes a lot of wisdom, creativity, and time to accumulate experiences. And here I want to point out the hope is that the software and web, by connecting people’s consciousness and provide tools for people to manage the flow of consciousness, provided a big opportunity for us to meet the challenge.

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A world of feelings

In Chinese Buddhism, we say that the human world is a world of feelings while the rest are the worlds of no feelings (not sure how to translate this exactly). When we see anything, a building, a tree, from human being’s perspective, we see them through feelings. They invoke our feelings.

However, coming to a foreign culture gives you the chance to experience the world of no feelings. It is like entering a vacuum.  It is strange to see all those strong feelings that I have take as my existence itself can become so groundless when you enter a new culture.  After a long while, after being able to break through the language barrier for some degree and being able to interact more with people and culture here, I start to emerge from the world of no feelings back to the world of feelings.

Up to now, my feelings in the past, for the most part are coming back to me. When I see people walking on the street, children coming back from school, I will remember my past in China. Human world is a world of feelings. It is feelings that connect things together.

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Peace: What is peace? How do we build peace in our world?

We human beings, like everything else, are just like simple objects, which have both inside and outside. Deep inside of us is an inner core. On our outside, we have an outer layer that is in touch with the outside world. Various forces are acting upon us through the outside layer and are transformed into various signals and passed through to the inner core. The matter of the outer layer, according to my personal experience, is like fluid. It flows naturally and responds to the outside like a mirror in a very spontaneous way. The inner core, however, seems to be of a matter that when overworked becomes very sticky and it sticks itself to whatever it touches. When you see a table, the concept of table will arise in your mind, which traps you and drags your mind preventing it from following the flow of the outside world.

The inner core is shaped by the signals and forces passed through the outer layer. Though the inner core carries out certain functions based on the signals from the outside world and is important to us as human being, the inner core by itself is never able to figure out the truth. Many problems of our world can be attributed to people’s tendency to acknowledge the inner core unconditionally, and attempting to figure out the truth by the inner core itself. Every concept has two sides. So they will start fighting with each other. One concept leads to another concept. They begin fighting among themselves. This drives the person crazy. He becomes mad. That is why we have wars. Cultures that are obsessed with this inner core, acknowledging it unconditionally, have caused conflicts and great harms around the world.

Understanding this root of violence, we should realize that violence can never be overcome by the force of violence. Only the force of peace can dissolve force of violence.

Thus it is important to go back to the nature, realizing we are part of the nature, that is where we come from, and that is our source. By fully in touch with the outside world with all our senses (which compose our outside layer), we can get out of the grip of the inner core, and our mind can start flowing and reflecting like a mirror again. Realizing the inner core, which we often culturally mistake as our identified self, is by every means connected and shaped by the outside world, is the base of love. Without love, we probably cannot live even for one single day. The fact that we are still living in this world means that we are in love with this world.

The whole universe never changes and never moves.  Just as in our sitting meditation, we are able to feel the absolute stillness. As the world goes faster, it has to split into small parts. There are greater forces applied to those small parts, and it relies on the response of those small parts to follow the flow. When those small parts can follow the move of the whole, there is no time and there is peace. For  example, when playing sports, you need to put greater emphasis on the parts of the body that are involved in that sports, such as legs in soccer. As the game becomes faster, you need to make your legs stronger and more skillful in its following and interacting with the space.  When you can follow the flow, you feel of no time. When activity is very slow, you can feel total harmony with the bigger environment, and the consciousness can reach very far. When the activity gets faster, because of our limitedness, we have to focus on the specific parts that are involved, and thus we are not able to pay attention to things far away. For example, in martial arts, if it gets faster and more people attack you, you will have greater difficulty to focus on things far away, and dodging the arrows that enemy shoot at you. 🙂  Thus playing and fun are essential for us to be able to follow the flow of the moving world.

Our world manifests both absolute and relative. Absolute is the absolute stillness. It is the thing that never changes. Relative is the relative dynamic evolving process. This process is the activity of living. Thus this is what life is about. It is the thing that never fixates and is always evolving. To obtain the peace in our world, it is not enough to just understand the absolute. It is also important to understand the changing and evolving aspect of our world. I guess this is a lesson the east can learn from the west.

To understand the relative evolving process, we need to understand the peaceful forces that cause the evolving process. To understand this is the same as to understand what life is about. These forces are the same forces that acted upon our outer layer and shaped the inner beauty of our core.

So what are the outside forces that shape our inner core? I would say briefly that they are beauty, fun, and love.

We are often awed by the beauty of the outside world, and we strive hard to create beauty in our lives and in our minds. The beauty of the nature is such a powerful force that drive people for their whole life. We perceive the beauty of the outside world through various senses in our outer layer. The emptiness manifests itself as various senses of beauties that we can perceive with our senses. It is beautiful because it contains both absolute and relative within itself. It has the absolute stillness which never changes. It has the dynamic flow, which never fixates and is always evolving. Through our ears, we perceive the emptiness and beauty of sound. Through our eyes, we perceive the emptiness and beauty of light. All these senses of beauties shape how our inner core perceives as beauty of emptiness. And it shapes how the inner core considers as beauty in the human world. The inner core manifests its understanding of beauty through literature, music, arts, and so on. That is the beauty of the human world.

Fun is our body being able to interact with the outside space, and being together with the outside world. By being able to follow outside world, we can have peace. To be able to follow the outside world, the related part of the body has to truly enjoy its interaction with the space. Having a very good sense of humor is a manifestation of understanding of emptiness. Thus to have a good sense of humor requires a deep understanding of emptiness. That is why humor can dissolve anything and connect people together, making them realize their common humanity even if they had been on ill terms in the past.

Love is realizing the inner core, which we often identify as our self, is actually shaped by the outside world, and thus we are one with the outside world. Manifesting this oneness with outside world, with other people is interpreted as love in every culture. Thus as we are interacting with the outside world every day, we are receiving love every day.

Thus to build the peace in our world, we need to build a society in which every individual can do what s/he likes to do, e.g. pursue her/his art of life. Everyone is unique. Everyone must have something in the world that s/he is the best at. Diversity is the relative thing. It is the nature of life. Equality is the absolute. Equality manifests itself as diversity in the relative thing of life. To achieve equality, we have to encourage our individuals to greatly develop themselves, which is itself the activity of life. The activity of life, is to perceive the force of beauty, to play with this beauty of emptiness and interact with the outside space, and thus to receive love and manifest love. Thus life is to pursue art. Life activities are to learn/grow, to play, and to create.

To create is to grow as life demands enriching itself and creating new lives.

This essay is a general description of what is peace and how to build peace. As to more specifically what we can do to build peace, for me it is my efforts in changing the way people learn and the way how people organize and cooperate with each other. But I will not cover these in this essay.

One extra note on the function of our inner core. One important function of the inner core of our human being is memory. Because of memory, we are able to hold the past and the future together. As life is an dynamic evolving process, we need to grow and figure out the relative of things, which is to tell the difference. To tell the difference is also one important function of our inner core. This is the importance of learning. So learning is an essential part of life. Thus in this relative dynamic evolving living process, we will have confusion. But we need to remember in the absolute there is neither the past nor the future. There is only the present. The necessity of knowing the relative of the past and future is to enable us to be able to better follow the flow. Since we are in a living process, we have no choice but to follow the flow. To follow the flow we need to understand the relative of the dynamic evolving process, which in the human world translates to understanding our history, our current conditioning in our current society and culture, and how we go to the future. If we can be at now, our mind can follow our body instead of being somewhere else. Then you can have peace. In peace, the power of inner core will allow us to follow and creatively engage in the flow of the world.

So the function of the inner core for the purpose of learning is legitimate, and is an essential part of living as a human being. But as said above, when the brain is overworked, it becomes very sticky and attaches itself to whatever it is in touch with, and thus slows you down, exhausts you or drives you crazy. We also need to keep in mind that the relative, no matter how rich it is, is very limited compared to the absolute. Thus it is always important to have access to the unlimited absolute and have it as the source. That will be your base of peace. Indeed, the relative is just the manifestation of the absolute.

I feel the eastern cultures traditionally have played down this relative part of reality. It might because they fear of losing clarity of the understanding of the absolute. As the east meets the west, it is time for us to learn how to sort out the relative of life and build the richness of life, at the same time not to forget the absoluteness of our still and never changing source. Indeed, the absolute and the relative are inextricably bound to each other and they should serve each other.

Now let me bring this a little into our current context of war and peace. It is my understanding and a shared understanding with many people in other countries that the greatest strength of America lies in the relative lack of wars in the continent of America. The long time peace that Americans have enjoyed have built up a strong force of peace within people’s hearts. Even people here may not realize this themselves, it is easy to tell if you compare people here to people in other countries. There are many subtle differences. The few wars that did happen in this continent or wars that America was involved actually did have a traumatic effect on American psychology, as you can find that in the literature and films. The two wars (Civil War and WWII) actually transformed America from scattered, more individual states centered country to a country that has a stronger national identity, from which the corporate and the capitalists are able to have a tighter control of the nation, and thus America loses its essence to the war. 911 further drags America away from who she is. No matter what rhetorics people have for going to war and no matter what noble causes they are trying to serve, they didn’t have the deep experience of the forces of peace. It is because of realizing this power of peace, MLK came to the understanding that non-violence includes not using violence in self-defense. Violence can never be overcome by the force of violence. Only the force of peace can dissolve force of violence.

Whatever people say of the big success and transformation of China, to me that success mostly can be attributed to the peace that we are lucky enough to enjoy for the past 30 years. As I grew up in China, I could feel the functioning of peaceful forces in people’s hearts which gradually settle down the social order from chaos and make people’s hearts warm to each other again. So for me I feel the most important thing for my country (and thus for the world) is to enlarge those peaceful forces, making them functioning more smoothly. One way to do that is to open up more, and engage with the diversity of the outside world. That is the peaceful force that will cause the greater diversity in China (the greatest diversity is that each individual can pursue her/his art of life according to her/his uniqueness.)  and enrich life. That is why I think the culture communication among people at the bottom level is the most important thing among people of different countries.

A little commercial for myself. This essay is just one way I can use to present my understanding of peace. There are many aspects of peace that will be too big to be covered in one essay. You will  have to read my other articles to get to know more the complete picture of how I understand what is peace and how to build peace. 🙂

Note: this essay is more about the big picture of peace. For fine tuned techniques to deal with peace in various situations on a daily basis, I will cover them in other posts.

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