(Clearwisdom.net) Chinese culture is divinely inspired. It originated from humans looking up to heaven. It is rooted in faith and honors virtue. It is a culture that unifies heaven, earth, and man, a culture that harmonizes nature and mankind. Therefore, the ancient people respected heaven and believed in gods. They used the heavenly principles to understand human principles. Mankind's culture has gone hand in hand with spiritual belief. Faith has flourished in magnificent and resplendent civilizations.

Throughout recorded world history, almost all ancient people believed in gods. China is the center of divinely inspired culture, thus it was called the Divine Land. The reason why Chinese culture could experience a long period of prosperity, and is passed from generation to generation is because China has benefited from the great wisdom of the traditional Chinese culture and its universe and moral view of: "harmony of man with heaven," and the mutual influence and enhancement of the Confucian School, the Buddha School, and the Tao School. These views set a norm for ideology and people's behavior. Respect for heaven, valuing virtue, cultivating oneself, and love of others were ingrained in people's hearts.

Tao, or the law of the universe, is the home to return to and the highest realm according to various theories and schools of thought in traditional culture. Regardless of which theory is discussed, one must first grasp the overall spirit of the traditional culture. The core values of all religious belief and righteous belief are the same: They teach people to be good, to follow the laws of the universe, and to maintain harmony between the universe and man. Otherwise the teachings are not righteous.

Ancient people believed that the universe is for living beings, that the Tao is the source of all beings and it remains unchanged. If man wants to endure, his behavior has to comply with the heavenly Tao, his heart must comply with that of heaven; this is the meaning of "harmony of man with heaven."

Laozi, who lived around the 6th century B.C., enlightened to the Way:

"There is a mystery,
Beneath abstraction,
Silent, infinite,
Alone, unchanging,
Ubiquitous and liquid, eternal
The Creator of Nature.
It has no name, but I call it the "Way";

Laozi's serenity and "non-action" is the perfect state for all beings to return to the Way.

Confucius said, "Heaven and earth are the mother of all things; only man is the highest form of creation." He held the view that heaven is the origin of virtue, moral standards, and principles. It created and assigned benevolence, righteousness, ritual and wisdom to man. The Buddha School preaches the boundless Buddha Law, offering compassionate salvation to all sentient beings so that people can return to the sacred and solemn heavenly kingdoms through the cultivation of the Buddha Law.

Man cannot live without spiritual beliefs. Otherwise there is no destiny for his soul nor meaning and value to his life. Beliefs are people's acknowledgment to and respect for the Truth of the universe, which they use to guide their actions. It helps them to firmly adhere to their ideals despite changing times and adverse circumstances. Ancient Chinese culture placed importance on the process of "enlightening." When people are lost in material gains in human society and become ignorant of what is in the realm of belief, they tend to be confused. They only believe in pursuing tangible enjoyment, and they don't believe in a future. There is a lack of an individual conscience's awakening, lack of values, and lack of restraint from one's soul. This leads to unscrupulous activities, which further result in loss of morality. Therefore, the traditional culture emphasized "behavior based on enlightenment of the Tao."

Rules and regulations can only restrain people's actions on the surface. They cannot bring about internal respect, awe and conviction. People might still violate the law when no one is watching. On the other hand, virtue is the law that restrains people's hearts. All righteous religions awaken people's consciences and inborn natures, so that they can reach a correct understanding of the truth of life, the destiny and the meaning about life and about the whole universe. They help people to become highly conscientious based on moral awareness, to transcend fame, fortune, and other desires; to strive hard for moral perfection; to embrace a genuinely bright future for themselves; and to acquire true happiness while receiving gods' blessings. Righteous religions believe that heaven rules everything. Man has to have devotion, be grateful and be humble, because there is nothing one can boast about in front of gods who created all. It is not uncommon for one to become more humble as he achieves more, because he has enlightened to principles in higher realms.

Culture is the carrier of a nation's spirit and spiritual belief and culture cannot be separated. The Confucius School, the Tao School, and the Buddha School share one common ideal: They all believe that heaven bestows virtuous nature on man. The Confucius School calls this man's nature, sense of compassion, or conscience. The Tao School calls it divine nature; the Buddha School calls it Buddha nature, which enables man to become a good person through learning, and ultimately reaching the realm of "harmony of man with heaven," with man and divinity combined into one body.

The Confucius School attaches importance to being formal, amiable and respectful. It perceives heaven as being benevolent. It reveals that "If a person does not have a benevolent heart, he receives few blessings." It emphasizes morality and etiquette to maintain social order. Through the awareness of "a person of benevolence who loves others," the social responsibility of "taking the world as one's own duty" and the sense of historical mission of "heaven bestowing on a person with a grand mission," a believer can reach sainthood by cultivating himself.

From the perspective of the Tao School, "It is heavenly nature that a man is born to be calm." One cultivates truthfulness, nurtures his character, returns to one's true nature, takes fame and fortune lightly, reduces desires, and develops wisdom through being calm. In the end, he becomes a man of Truth. From the Buddha School perspective, everyone embodies Buddha nature. One can lose one's nature without being aware of it just by living in regular society. Through cultivation and constantly transcending, one can cultivate to Buddhahood. All three schools have counseled people to respect heaven, believe in gods, cultivate virtue, act with kindness, and believe in the principle that good is rewarded and evil receives retribution.

All people of great virtue in history cultivated themselves, and spread truth and justice. They were role models of self-cultivation. The Five Emperors in Chinese legends followed the principles of heaven to govern the nation, and cultivated themselves to validate the Tao. People in those times voluntarily subscribed to the same beliefs and followed the great way. Everywhere the nation was calm and peaceful. The saints in the three schools taught followers and sentient beings and left a lasting legacy for future generations. Many prophets were able to tell the changes that were to take place by observing celestial movements. Zhuge Liang (181 - 234), Shao Yong (1011 - 1077), and Li Bowen (1311 - 1375), all left books or poems that forecast the transition of dynasties. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty (599 - 649), set strict standards for himself and remained modest. His Reign of Zhen Guan was regarded as the model against which all subsequent emperors were measured.

Other examples of cultivators include Tao Yuanming (132 - 194), Li Bai (701 - 762), Du Fu (712 - 770), Bai Juyi, (772 - 846), Wang Wei (699 - 759), and Su Shi (1037 - 1101). They all worked toward harmonizing their own ideals with nature's laws. Their understanding of life's truths, their enlightening to the universe, and their outstanding literary achievements exemplified the decency and nobility of their characters. Their lofty beliefs were key to their accomplishments.

People in ancient China showed immeasurable respect toward heaven. They believed that man was created by gods. Divinely inspired culture has given the Chinese nation great vitality and cohesiveness. Righteous spiritual beliefs have become the Chinese nation's inner spirit. These deep and broad traditions have guided people to measure all things with lasting moral standards, and to distinguish kindness from evil and the righteous from the devious when facing matters of principle.

November 4, 2009