One of the things that strikes me over and over as I read, listen and learn is how we see the same ideas repeated time and again throughout history. Often these are surprisingly practical – “Man is a goal setting animal” said Aristotle in the 4th century BCE, and 2500 years later, Brian Tracy wrote the excellent ‘Goals!’ where he talks about the same thing.
We also see the same fundamental concepts appearing all across the world – they seem to ebb and flow, but never go away. It seems to me that when something sticks around for thousands of years, it’s probably worth paying attention to.
Gung fu is most often associated with Chinese martial arts, but the phrase itself dates back 4500 years to the time of the Yellow Emperor in China, and has a much more general meaning. It refers to a skill acquired through hard work and practice – we can have gung fu in anything, from tennis to poetry to empathy.
Aretê is an Ancient Greek word meaning excellence. This 3000-year-old concept is about being effective for the task at hand. With people, aretê can be applied to all three dimensions of our body, mind and spirit. It can also be applied to objects – a beautifully designed knife can be aretê.
The idea of dharma can be traced back to the Vedic religion in India, 3500 years ago. An exact translation is again challenging, but the accepted usage refers to dharma as about being on the path of ‘rightness’.
These three ancient principles still have value and relevance in the 21st century. We can all benefit from using the skills we gain through hard work to reach our full potential and live life the right way.
Or, to put it another way:
How can we use gung fu to develop aretê in pursuit of our dharma?