Transcendent Work

The motivation to produce good and useful work should not be motivated by profit alone, but rather by the ideas of continuous self-improvement, and the manufacture of a product that is of some extra use to humanity (primarily through individual development). This is the exact purpose of translating Chinese texts into a reliable English. Of course, others may or may not offer a financial incentive for this highly-skilled and time-consuming work, but the presence or absence of this incentive should not be the defining reason ‘why’ the work is carried-out. Both Ch’an Master Xu Yun (1840-1959) and Daoist Master Zhao Bichen (1860-1942) rejected the notion of blatant and naked monetary profit as a good enough (or truly ‘virtuous’) reason to do anything worthwhile, telling or long-lasting. Xu Yun, of course, was a Buddhist monk who strictly followed the Vinaya Discipline, and although he sometimes acted as a conduit for collecting funds to renovate temples and relieve poverty amongst the people, he possessed nothing for himself. Zhao Bichen was a lay-Daoist who worked for a living (as both a salt tax-collector and bodyguard) as a means to feed himself and his family, and yet despite this economic imperative (i.e. work or starve), he chose to teach anyone regardless of their social background, wealth, status or ability to pay. Richard Hunn once explained this selfless attitude to me as providing the means for others to self-develop without the economic imperative getting in the way. Yes, others might well pay with money, time, books, precious items, sincerity, kindness, attentiveness, hard work, or any number of ways, but this should not be the reason for teaching. An economically poor person might well possess a more virtuous character than a person with easy access to wealth – either way the interaction should be toward ‘transcendence’ of current circumstances, and not concretisation through the insistence upon convention. Is this an easy task to fulfil? Obviously not, as many times such a teacher must accept a simple life premised upon living in a state of voluntary poverty. In such an existence, it is cultural knowledge and the ability to ‘see’ what others cannot see that is the common currency.

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