Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Vinegar Tasters

Presented for your philosophical consideration this New Year's Day, a picture of a popular print from old China. It is called The Vinegar Tasters. It shows the three teachers of the three main philosophies of China, gathered around a jar of vinegar representing the world. On the left is Confucius, who tastes the vinegar with a sour expression. His philosophy finds the world degenerate, and in need of rules to correct human behaviour, and so finds life sour, like ruined wine. Gautama Buddha in the center tastes with a bitter expression. According to the teaching of Buddhism, life is pain and distraction, and so Buddha finds life bitter, polluting body and soul. On the right Lao Tzu, the expounder of Taoism, tastes the vinegar with a sweet and happy expression. The way of Taoism is to accept reality as it is, without preconceptions or expectations as to what it should be, so all experience is acceptable and "sweet." Although most interpretations of this picture usually award the palm to Taoism, others feel that since all three are gathered around the pot that all three are "one."

Personally, I, myself, like pickle juice.

No comments: