For Whom Do We Study? (Part 2)
(Continued from Part 1: http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/articles/2007/1/25/82014.html )
(Clearwisdom.net) Based on one's experience of "harmonizing the family," one can extrapolate from an understanding of "harmonizing the family" to an understanding and achievement of zhi. Zhi doesn't mean to "govern" but instead means "governing evenly." That is, if one can govern evenly and balance everything in the family, he/she can then govern evenly and balance everything at a state level. For example, from filial piety to parents, one can infer how one should extend loyalty to a monarch. In traditional Chinese culture "loyalty" and "filial piety" were always correlated, and it was said, "Loyal ministers come from families with piety." Moreover, the kindness and respect shown to family members were extended to the relationships among colleagues, superiors, and inferiors. How much more should this apply to the relationships between monarch and ministers, among colleagues, and between fame and profit, as well as in regard to one's rapport with common people and neighboring states? However, "the essence remains, despite all apparent changes." This "essence" is the person, himself. He still looks inward when conflicts arise. To solve the conflict, he doesn't look at the other party or for the other's mistakes; instead, he examines himself and checks whether his own point of view in considering questions and dealing with problems are in line with the moral principles of truthfulness and compassion. That is what was illuminated in the Confucius remark: "Do not unto others as you would not do unto yourself." This means that one should consider others from the angle of their thinking, never bring ill to others, and never impose your own opinions on others. Instead, you should enlighten to the kindness of others and open up to the other party's thoughts. Thus, traditional culture talked about "sincerity and respect," "mildness and honesty," and "imparting moral values through educating." These principles were set forth with an eye to how one should treat others and how the other party (in the conflict) can best accept a new idea. This is the best way to balance the relationships among people and between people and things.
If everyone can treat others and different ideas with sincerity and goodwill, during the process of ruling, although the methods of solving problems may differ from person to person, no conflict will arise or intensify; all departments will be responsible for their own functions and duties and be able to meanwhile communicate with each other; government instructions from higher levels or the same level will be carried out naturally and smoothly; everyone will works to the best of his abilities at his own post; and the political atmosphere will pure and harmonious. Wouldn't that exemplify a state that is "evenly governed?" That was considered "to govern by inaction." A person who can genuinely manage well the state affairs will stay outside of the problems (and be objective) and research the fundamental cause of the problems, rather than running around in circles himself and seeking solutions from within the problems. The various manifestations of complex social problems derive without exception from the inherent kindness or evilness of human beings. Therefore, a sage monarch always seeks the real solution of problems through the elevation of his own moral realm. This is because the higher his moral realm is, the more clear and thorough his analyses of the relationships and rules among things can be. The cleaner the various relationships are, the more at ease and relaxed he can be in his management.
When viewing things as described above, one will understand what "governing with non-action" is. One would know that non-action doesn't mean doing nothing. Instead, it means to finally have all problems readily solved by avoiding conflicts and following the overall situation, abandoning the rigid method of recklessly putting one's hand straight into those rough-and-tumble conflicts, and following the nature of things to the greatest extent while beginning at the correct starting point and being cautious at the right moments. This is the way to fundamentally solve problems. If one can genuinely achieve this, then one's influence is bound to exceed the boundary of a state and be able to oversee the whole of national systems, institutions, operations, bureaucracy at all levels and all social classes, as well as the ways for how to operate and to achieve important goals. Accordingly, he can naturally elevate to understanding higher rules and a higher realm that contains the entire earthly world.
In this higher realm, the relationships he needs to ascertain are more numerous and complex. Thus, he needs to have all things on the earth contented according to its nature and true self. This realm, in Chinese traditional culture, was called the realm of "Heaven," "God," or "Dao," and that person was called a "sage." A sage is a person who walks a path that abides by the "Heavenly Dao." Confucius once remarked with emotion, "Does Heaven speak? The four seasons pursue their courses, and all things are continually being produced, but does Heaven say anything?" This means: "It (Heaven) embraces all things, generates all beings, and is omnipresent, but it is beyond perception and cognition. "Dao" is to ascertain the relationships among all things and beings on the earth, and then the human is not in the central position anymore. When we turn around to see things, we can discover that the more selfish one is, the less one can contain. On the contrary, the less selfish one is, the more one can contain. Moreover, when he has totally eliminated his selfishness, he can be assimilated to all things and beings and exist together with Heaven and Earth. This process also describes a process of personal cultivation and elevation of realm for an individual. In a "family," one should not place himself and his personal interests in the central position; instead, he should put himself beyond the family and contain all family members in his heart so as to have the family "harmonized." In a "state," one cannot place his family and the interests of his family in the central position; instead, he should transcend the state and contain all social classes and all common people in his heart so as to have the state "evenly governed." If one grabs power and seeks after his own interests, the family can by no means be "harmonized." If one is entrusted with the mission to govern a whole state but seeks social profits for his own family, the state can by no means be "evenly governed."
Therefore, when it comes to the realm of "pacifying the whole earthly world," if the interests are inclined toward human beings, all things will be seared and unbearably ravaged by humans' endless greedy demands. Consequently, the whole world can never be at peace. In this sense, in the Western Zhou Dynasty people already knew that human beings' production and reproduction must go hand in hand with the capacity of the natural environment to sustain them; people cannot indulge all their desires and do whatever they want. An important concept in Chinese ancient culture thereby came into being, which was " he" (agreeable, harmonious, tuneful). This concept not only referred to the harmony among people, but also to that between man and nature and between man and the universe. How magnificent this realm is!
Confucius said: "Great indeed was Yao as a sovereign! How majestic was he! It is only Heaven that is grand, and only Yao corresponded to it. How vast was his virtue! The people could find no name for it. How majestic was he in the works that he accomplished! How glorious in the elegant regulations that he instituted!" By these remarks, Confucius acknowledged that, as a monarch, Yaowas able to father everybody and everything in the light of the Heavenly Dao and Its rules. People, however, could not extol his achievements because his achievements covered everywhere and everything, but they did not manifest as concretely mentionable and visible contributions (e.g, "Dayu's water controlling"). That was called "The sage shows no merits." However, the sage favors the achievement of everything and mankind, making them peacefully coexist without trespassing upon each other and allowing for all their natures to be adhered to. The entire world then took on a well-rounded and colorful appearance, flourishing with exuberant prosperity.
Suppose a person's study goal is for fame and profit. When his achievements and reputation have been acknowledged, he won't be as motivated because his goal has been reached and what is left is nothing but to maintain the existing status. He would then have to be satisfied with others' admiration and his own enjoyment. However, various conflicts will continue to exist and he still cannot attain mental well-being and peacefulness. But he refuses to move forward any further. Both Confucius and Xunzi(Master Xun) believed that this will be the result when one studies for others and will lead to giving up midway. Here, "others" either means other people or outside things and events. On the contrary, if a person studies for himself, he will "live and learn."
Confucius told his disciples his way of studying throughout his whole life: "I began to engage in study and improving myself in moral cultivation when I was 15 years old. When I was 30 I found my own standpoint in the observation of things, my own belief and way. Furthermore, I could pass the tests within all relationships. When I was 40 years old I saw through, without any doubt, the connections and solutions of things. When I was 50 I observed the operation of heavenly rule and its manifestations within human society and the variety of things. When I was 60 I was no longer attached to my own experience and cognition of the world and my own apprehension of heavenly rule. I realized every thing or event has its own process and characteristics, everybody has his own experience in life; therefore everyone's opinions and points of view became pleasing to my ears. When I was 70 I had melted into the Dao, and all my thinking and behaviors complied with the Dao."
This is truly the Chinese traditional culture: to escape from the minutia of various relationships to holistically view the family, nation, earth, and even the entire universe with a massive breadth of mind. This is what was repeatedly mentioned by the ancients to continuously upgrade one's moral realm. Chinese traditional culture is not only a culture replete with the pure belief in gods and the Heavenly Dao, but it is also a culture of cultivation, where an individual can eventually achieve the realm of gods through cultivating himself.
Have you been inspired by this article? Have you been clear on what you study and why you study? The more massive your breadth of mind is, the more you can bear and the more strong-willed you will be. Only with a high and long-range target can you abandon your eagerness for quick success and instant profits and can you walk more steadily and roundly. How broad your breadth of mind is is how big a success you can achieve. It was said by the ancients, "A prime minister's heart can hold a boat." That is to say, when a person reaches the position of prime minister, he has to possess an immeasurable breadth of heart with massive tolerance and be able to understand and tolerate others. To put it plainly, if you didn't have a tolerant heart and deep insight but you were placed in that position, you would voluntarily quit very quickly. Otherwise, you would be utterly undone by anger. If you clutched it with bad grace, how valueless it would be. This is truly knowledge!