Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Decrease - more is less

In today’s consumer society, more and better is the norm. We expect constant improvement and we are conditioned that constant improvement is practically our birthright. And if better cell phones, better cars and better widgets are not forthcoming in the natural course of events, we are prepared to mortgage future earnings in order to have them now. If better performance, better jobs and better relationships are not forthcoming, we push harder to get them or else wonder what is wrong with us. But this is not the natural law, and we are part of Nature. Nature has cycles of birth and death, expansion and contraction, increase and decrease. And so do we - so should we. There is nothing to be ashamed of in this. In fact, facing and accepting this decrease sincerely instead of trying to ignore or deny it is the only way we can learn the lessons it brings us and move on naturally to the next stage.
This is explained so much better in that classic book, the I Ching. When I first read the commentary of the 41st hexagram ‘Decrease’, I had a profound ‘aha’ experience combined with something like relief. I hope you will find it equally revealing (from the Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching):

Decrease does not under all circumstances mean something bad. Increase and decrease come in their own time. What matters here is to understand the time and not to try to cover up poverty with empty pretense. If a time of scanty resources brings out an inner truth, one must not feel ashamed of simplicity. For simplicity is then the very thing needed to provide inner strength for further undertakings. Indeed, there need be no concern if the outward beauty of the civilization, even the elaboration of religious forms, should have to suffer because of simplicity. One must draw on the strength of the inner attitude to compensate for what is lacking in externals; then the power of content makes up for the simplicity of form. There is no need of presenting false appearances to God. Even with slender means, the sentiment of the heart can be expressed.
Photo by Marco Michelini

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Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)

Discover The Tale of Genji, the 11th Century classic of Japan (click image)
Kiyomizudera Temple has a large veranda looking out over Kyoto and beyond