From Daoism’s 5 main ethical precepts, Compassion, Frugality, and Humility are grouped together as The Three Treasures, or “Sanbao” (三寶).
--Compassion “cí” (慈) appears in some form in nearly every major eastern philosophy and is described as a tender, merciful, and benevolent kindness
--Frugality “jiǎn” (儉), simple living at its most basic, explains the role moderation and restraint play in both constructed and natural environments. It avoids waste through simplifying desire, thus sparing action
--Lastly, Humility “bùgǎn wéi tiānxià xiān” (不敢為天下先) is explained as the refusal to assert authority or to insist on being the foremost. It goes on to say that living at the world’s front like that is the same as endangering oneself and cheating oneself of time spent ripening.
Beautiful manifestations of these precepts include work by Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese animation director (“My Neighbor Totoro,” “Spirited Away,”) and Daniel Quinn, the American author known for his Leavers & Takers concept in his novel Ishmael.
Both Miyazaki’s and Quinn’s work are rooted in Animism, one of the foundational ways of seeing the world before organized religion, where all places and things have their own spirit and essence. Animism deeply shaped indigenous thought and culture. Because there were no clear boundaries between spiritual and material worlds and life was attributed to plants, stone, human artifacts, bodies of water, weather, words, and names, it became necessary to bring compassion, frugality, and humility to all interactions and recognize any use of resources as taking from one’s equals.
Modern society often brushes this perspective aside as primitive and unsophisticated since it doesn’t fit into individualist conversations on industrial and commercial progress but if we can look past our favorite narratives on heroes, technology, and “progress,” we would begin to notice the complex balance we’ve given up by trying to detach ourselves from the natural system we are a part of.