Saturday, July 19, 2008

Asian Wisdom in American Self-Improvement Books

During past two years, I have read a lot of self-improvement and inspirational books by American writers. It is interesting to see a lot of American authors like to refer to Asian wisdom and philosophy, especially Chinese ancient wisdom.
Several authors used the Chinese explanation of “Crisis” (危机) to educate people not to be despaired by a dangerous situation. Crisis is combined by two words in Chinese: danger () and opportunity (). There is always opportunity in the dangerous situation. If you are not scared and victimized by the crisis, you can utilize the crisis as a changing point for your life or career. Whether the crisis is a danger or a chance, it depends on your wisdom, judgment and quick action. Keep cool in a crisis, protect yourself being hurt and utilize it and benefit from it as a new staring point.

The other story appeared several times in the books I read is “an old man who lost his horse (塞翁失马)” from Lao Tzu’s “Dao De Jing”.

Once upon a time, there was an old man who spent all his money to buy a horse. Unfortunately, one day the horse ran away. What a loss! After several days, the horse returned with a group of stallions. What bliss! However, when his only son rode and trained a stallion, he fell down and broke his leg, and became lame forever. The old man was very sad. Then a war broke out, all the young healthy men were enlisted to fight, but the old man’s son was exempted because of his lame leg. The battles were so fierce, nearly all the soldiers died. Fortunately, the old man still had his son alive.

The situation is changing, so we can’t judge the outcome at the beginning. Losing may be no cursing; getting may be no blessing. Fortune comes from misfortune; misfortune may hide in fortune. Don’t be overjoyed when you obtain something, be careful of the latent change; don’t be despaired by losing, there is still hope.
A male author ever used this story and said it is an Indian one. I had an urge to write to him that it is a Chinese story composed 2,500 years ago, but I stopped. Now, I am reading the book “Inner Excellence at Work” authored by Carol Orsborn, who referred this story to Lao Tzu. Also, Carol Orsborn used several stories from Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu and Buddhism to enlighten readers.

Troy Anderson, an entrepreneur and a competent Go player, composed a book “The Way of Go”. Go is an ancient Asian chess game with 361 grids and played by two persons who hold either black chess pieces or white ones. In “The Way of Go”, Anderson told us how to use the philosophies and strategies found in the game Go to succeed in the real life and the business world, such as how to utilize the limited resources, how to deal with global and local, how to read people’s minds, how to change disadvantaged situation to your benefit and so on. Inspired by this book, I tried to play Go, but I can never be a good player of it because I am unable to think five steps in advance.
I read motivational books by American authors to learn Western philosophies and wisdoms, and try to be more proactive and positive. The American writers like to assimilate Asian wisdom in their books to search for inner peace and wisdom. Therefore, I think, the best wisdom should be a combination of both the Western philosophy and the Eastern philosophy.


John said...

I enjoyed your explanation of the word "crisis" as seen through the "I Ching."

With that, you quickly demonstrated that nothing is entirely good or bad. That we can use situations for our benefit, even if they appear disastrous.

I enjoyed your article.


Jade Meng said...

Thanks for your comments. I ever lived through a big crisis, otherwise, I can't write a blog about philosophy in English. The crisis made me a writer.

"If you are not destroyed, you are stronger." We can benefit from a crisis.

Nothing is entirely good or bad; every cloud has its silver lining. Live life positivly.