One day my daughter came home from school excited, talking about her geography class in which she was studying religious practices and philosophies from around the world. While referring to a painting, she repeated the story her teacher had talked about in class, and I was deeply intrigued by the message she conveyed.
The Vinegar Tasters, a well-known painting from Chinese philosophy and religion, presents an interesting perspective on China’s major religious and philosophical traditions. The painting depicts Buddha, Confucius and Laozi standing around a vat full of vinegar, each dipping their finger in the vat to taste the vinegar. While the vinegar is meant to represent life itself, the reaction therefore represents an understanding of life and its essence. Buddha’s face illustrates a bitter gaze, Confucius has a tart expression, however, Laozi sports a sweet, blissful smile.
It is said that Buddhism reads life as it is, in which vinegar is vinegar, with a bitter taste. Buddha’s reaction represents how life really is; hard. Confucius viewed life as sour, as he believed that humans had no understanding and no respect for the laws of the universe. Conventions were needed to correct this decline. Confucius, concerned about the outside world, considered vinegar acidic and polluted.
For Laozi however, the harmony that naturally exists between man and nature, between heaven and earth has impacted not only distant planets but also the activities of smaller forest creatures and colorful fish. of the sea. Laozi said that the more man interfered with the natural order and universal laws, the further he drifted away from harmony. Everything had its own nature which, if violated, would disturb everything and life would indeed become sour.
However, if one lives in harmony and accord with life and the Tao, understanding the purpose of life and things being what they are; everything becomes sweet and happy.
When life is allowed to flow unchallenged and we become one with nature, even what appears to be negative becomes positive. “Vinegar” my daughter concluded “is naturally sour, but because it stays true to its nature of being sour, in its natural state it becomes sweet.”
I had to bow to this higher wisdom.