On a short hiatus and looking for ideas

I’m currently in the middle of putting together an application for grad school. As a result, I have unfortunately been neglecting my research into my next Ancient Wisdom experiment.

This is where I can use your help.

I have already “done” Hinduism, and will start uploading those posts in the next few weeks (likely after Thanksgiving).

I am considering a few other religions/philosophies for my next experiment. Here are my ideas at the moment.

  1. Epicureanism – I would try to learn what true pleasure is and achieve it via minimalism
  2. Confucianism – I could try to improve my social relationships via Confucian rituals.
  3. Taoism – Don’t know much about it. Looks a lot like Buddhism. Thoughts?

I plan on kicking off my next experiment in December. The first few weeks I will be here in the DC area. The second few weeks I will be back in the Boston area on vacation.

If you have any ideas about what religion or philosophy I should pursue next, what I can get out of it, and how I would practice it, I would greatly appreciate you sharing it in the comments below or e-mailing me directly.



Note: I’m trying to stick to religions/philosophies that are sufficiently ancient, which I have arbitrarily decided as being at least 500 years old. I’m also trying to stick to religions/philosophies that have survived in some way until today. Thus, this rules out (for the moment) things like Mormonism and Bahai as they are not old enough and would rule out most ancient tribal practices where the tribes no longer exist in sufficient numbers.

  • MarcHamann

    I think you may be a bit hemmed in by your methodology here, in that you have to find a particular practice that you can adopt to fulfill your requirements. With ancient philosophies (or modern ones for that matter) it is often more a case of understanding ideas and then applying them to your life rather than following a particular practice.

    For example, Confucianism is very interesting, but I would suspect that if Confucius reappeared today, he wouldn’t tell you to practice ancient Chinese rituals, but rather learn some modern ones, such as the rituals that modern legislative bodies use to open a session, or the etiquette for formal social events. The best thing though would be to read a good modern translation of the Analects (I recommend Burton Watson) to get a flavour for Confucius’ attitudes and values.

    Taoism is philosophically quite distinct from Buddhism (though it may have influenced Zen), but again the practices of modern Taoism are more like folk magic. For a “practice”, your best bet there would be to learn Chi Gong or Tai Chi. Even better though would be to read the Tao Te Ching or the Chuang Tzu ( Burton Watson again for the latter) to get a feel for the values and attitudes.

    Doing any of this in a month would be a challenge. 😉

    • Yes my methodology is a bit limiting, though of course, I’ll be flexible as needed.

      I agree with your point about taking the broader ideas and adapting it to fit our lives. I did this with Stoicism, in the sense that they did not recommend ice baths specifically, but said to periodically experience physical discomfort.

      However, if there are practices that I can still perform that have been around for a long time, I’d like to perform those.

      Tai-chi seems like an interesting way to practice Taoism…I’ll have to look into it.

  • Roger Williams

    I would also recommend looking into Zoroasterism. There are a lot of interesting ideas for such an old religion.

  • Debbie

    Epicureanism sounds really interesting. Are there enough rituals you could follow (which has been the focus of your study through the others). And good luck with your application. Great idea!

    • No idea. Still doing research. However, I think the Epicureans of old were more minimalist in the way they lived their lives, as opposed to the modern connotation of being snobbish about food. I could adapt the ideas to my diet, my relationships, etc.

  • Guest

    Taoism is interesting and I think a bit different from Buddhism but some ideas might be similar. That being said, there might be more texts on Confucianism though, i’m not sure.

    • Clearly I need to do more research.

  • Lian

    Taoism is interesting but I’m not sure how different it is from Buddhism. That being said, there might be more texts on Confucianism though.

    Shintoism might also be another interesting area of study but i’m not so sure about the rituals

    • Shintoism was on my list, however, I have to do some research. If you have any good books on the topic definitely let me know.

  • John Isaacs

    Taoism has interesting sexual practices you could try and standing and moving meditations like chi qong and chi tai.. There is enough there for a months trial. It is different from Buddhism in its philosophical outlook to life.

    • Hm, I think my parents would be horrified if I started detailing ancient sexual practices ;).

      • John Isaacs

        Taoism is concerned with development of chi and the understanding and following of the laws of nature. There is a practice of regulating ejaculation control which is suppose to build chi and give you creativity. The chi gong practices do the same thing. Center your practice around developing chi and see what happens for a month.

  • OTL

    Sikhism would be my first shout (might be just over your time limit btw).

    It teaches you about bravery, caring for others, doing the right thing no matter the cost etc… Plus there are plenty of rules, rituals and so on (‘cos i get the idea your more into orthopraxy).

    Other suggestions: Jainism, erm, paganism?… Not going to lie, feel like we’re scraping the barrel hear a bit.

    Technically the forerunners of the Amish were Anabaptists of the 15th century, so on a technical argument you could go for them: in the sense that when you practiced Judaism you were actually practising a modern interpretation of a religion which originated much earlier (post-temple Judaism is very different etc…).

    Good Luck whatever you pick!

    : )

    • Doing Sikhism with a focus on a moral courage/bravery would be interesting. I’ll have to look into it.

      Thank you for the suggestions!

  • Mahfuz

    How about re-trying previous religions but at specific times i.e. Islam during Ramadan.
    Or perhaps different branches of Christianity.
    Also it would be great if you could do a really big blog as a comparison of all previous experiences.

    • I like it. I’m trying to do the initial surveys of all these religions first, and then I might explore them from a different angle.

      Once I finish this initial project I will do a mega wrap-up series.