The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy
Thomé H. Fang
Sandra A. Wawrytko
The Kumarajiva Project
Thomé H. Fang Institute
Of all Professor Fang’s works, the following "Inaugural Address" may be the easiest to understand, yet the most significant to mark--for a special reason. It is truly a Prelude to a whole series of the most important unique contributions he had made to the world of thought.
For 23 years (1925-48) Professor Fang taught at several universities in China, mostly at the National Central University in Nanking and Chungking. He taught another 26 years (1948-72) at National Taiwan University until his retirement, during which time he devoted seven years to leclturing on "The Nature and Spirit of Chinese Philosophy" – later retitled in Englsih Chinese Philosophy: Its Spirit and Its Development. Written mostly at night, it is based, in a condensed form, on lectures in Chinese tape recorded each day.
In 1973, our translator Suncrates served as Visiting Associate Professor and Acting Chairman in the Department of Philosophy and Acting Director in the Institute for Graduate Studies in Philosophy, at National Taiwan University, his alma mater. A sincere effort had been most earnestly made to offer Professor Fang a distinguished position in the department, which he no less earnestly declined. Instead, he accepted the invitation to become Chair Professor of Philosophy at Fu Jen Catholic University, re-established in Taiwan in 1961. Most instrumental in securing this offer were: (1) Rev. Kung Shih-jung (Gong Shirong), formerly Professor of Classic Language (Latin) at National Taiwan University and Secretary-General to Rector of Fu Jen Catholic University, later Cardinal Paul Yu-ping; and (2) Rev. Dr. Aloysius C. T. Chang, then Chairman of Department of Philosophy at the same institute, who was a former student of Professor Fang’s and a classmate with our translator Suncrates during their undergraduate days at Taida (National Taiwan University).
By the middle of 1974, to the author’s great disappointment, most of the tape recordings of his lectures at Taida for the past seven to eight years were found "unusable," for odd reasons, as one may say! Fortunately, the author had three more years (1974-77) to live, which, in spite of the acute pain caused by spreading cancer, he had managed to devote to the arduous task of re-delivery of this series of lectures at Fu Jen Catholic University on a Visiting Chair Professorship. Thanks to the great foresight and open-mindedness of these two scholarly Catholic fathers, Rev. Kung and Rev. Chang a fuller account, in the original Chinese language, of Professor Fang’s most mature thought and judgment on Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Neo-Cofucianism (600 pages) and Mahayana Buddhism (1700 pages) has been made available to posterity and all lovers of wisdom the world over!
We welcome and appreciate the scholarly collaborative efforts, in the form of an intellectual duet, made by Master Fang’s disciple and admirer, Suncrates and Sandra A. Wawrytko, responsible for the readability, elegance, and accuracy of this important translated document to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the author’s passing (in 1977).
We have heard it said in 1991, by Professor Antony Cua of the School of Philosophy and Theology, Catholic University of America in Washington D. C., "The West recognizes Taiwan has philosophy, because Taiwan has Thomé Fang!" Also, we have learned from Dr. Friedrich A. von Hayek, the Nobel Prize Winner in Economics for 1974 that "Professor Fang is one of the great philosophers of Contemporary China; but unfortunately too little of his works has been translated to the West!"
May these remarks of Dr. Hayeks' and Professor Cua’s be accepted as part of the raison d’e tre for our Kumarajiva Project (for Translation).
Editorial, July, 2003
 Professor Cua told our translator Suncrates in person at the Reception of Awards Giving to the Thomé H. Fang Insitute for Distinguished Educational and Cultural Service and Contributions, at the International Education and Culture Promotion Foundation, Washington, D.C., in 1991. For Hayek's remark, see Hsu Ching-min, "Philosophy of Man and Economics: Interview with Professor Hayek," Universitas: Monthly Review of Philosophy and Culturde, Vol. II, No. 12, series # 22, p. 14.
The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy
1. Background and Occasion
(1) A Friendly Challenge from S. Radhakrishnan
(2) Experience in the Western Philosophical Communities
(3) Two Myths of the "Rounder Moon"
(4) Dissatisfaction with Contemporary Works in the Field
(5) Ten Years of Dedication to the Task
(6) Retrospect and Prospect: A Simple View and Hope
2. Fundamental Import and Motive: Pervasive Unity
(1) Prelude: Two Stories
(a) Taking a Flight in the Air
(b) The Child Flying a Kite
(2) Four Traditions Poetically Epitomized
(3) Challenge and Response: Re-Discover and Re-Create
3. Approaches to Chinese Philosophy
(1) The Motif of Creative Humanism:
"There is Man in Chinese Philosophy!"
(2) Methodological Considerations
(a) The Scientific and Logical Approach
(b) The Religious Approach
(c) The Metaphysical Approach
(3) Three Types of Metaphysics
(a) The Praeternatural or Transcendent Type
(b) The Immanent Type
(c) The Transcendental and the Transcendent-Immanent Type
(3) Two Methodological Traps in Western Philosophy
(a) Vicious Bifurcation, rather than Comprehensive Harmony
(b) Partial Analysis, rather than Exhaustive Analysis
(4) An All-Comprehensive and All-Penetrative System of Thought
and Philosophy as an Exhaustive Treatment
4. Fundamental Differences between Chinese and Western Philosophies:
5. General Characteristics of Chinese Philosophy
(1) Doctrine of Pervasive Unity
(2) Doctrine of Tao
(3) Doctrine of Exaltation of Personality
6. Distinctive Features of Four Traditions:
(3) The Mahayana Buddhist Type: Time-Space Man with an Alternative Sense of Forgetfulness
(4) The Neo-ConfucianType: Concurrent Time-Space Man
I. Background and Occasion
(1) A Friendly Challenge from S. Radhakrishnan
A short while ago the department head [Rev. Dr. Aloysius C. T. Chang] suggested that we had better change to a larger classroom, but I don’t think it is necessary. For just as Kierkeggard once said, it is always the case with lectures on philosophy and religion that for the first time a large audience comes, for the second, it is reduced by half, and for the third, by half again until eventually there remains one person alone: the speaker himself indulging in monologue and playing speaker and listener in one. Perhaps when next we meet we may yet have to change to an even smaller classroom, with just one person showing up there!
First of all, I wish to apologize for being unable to speak Mandarin Chinese as the official language; the language I am used to speaking is the ordinary speech prevalent over the plain of the Huai River area [in Southeastern China]. I am wondering if y ou can all understand me? Next, I would like to point out the topic for our discussion today: "The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy."
There have been several turning points in the course of my own philosophical studies and development. Though I was brought up in the cultural milieu of a Confucian family background and was taught to read The Book of Odes while only three years of age, nevertheless after entering college I was primarily interested in western philosophy. Ever since then, the books I have read and the courses I have taught have been mostly in the field of western philosophy. With the Resistance against the Japanese Invasion in World War II a change was called for, even necessitated, as it were, by the situation. I felt then, as now, that more attention should be paid to the philosophical tradition deeply embedded in Chinese culture as its matrix. Thus, my focus of attention and concern has shifted, though gradually, from the West to the East.
During this period of time, however, a noteworthy episode occurred. Soon after India’s Independence, her distinguished scholar, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, heading a delegation of good will, came to visit the National Central University of China at Chungking, our war-time capital, in hopes of securing further support and assistance from the Chinese government and the academic communities as well. Speaking generally of our two peoples and their interests in the philo-sophies of China and India, Dr. Radhakrishnan asked me frankly if I were satisfied with the Western works on Chinese philosophy, as viewed from the standpoint of a native scholar in the field. My reply, of course, was in the negative. For philosophy differs widely from other branches of learning and discipline in that, as generally admitted, one is more likely to achieve objectivity in fields other than philosophy, especially Eastern philosophies wherein the kind of wisdom we often stress is called "the supreme wisdom by self-witnessing from within," or simply "enlightenment" (Cf. The Lankª vatª ra-Sñ tra). External experience and "objective" facts are important only in so far as they can further the development of this kind of wisdom. For Eastern philosophies one should, first and foremost, grasp this very spirit of inwardness.
Suppose someone only moves round an object outwardly, he can never expect to enter into it; basically he remains an outsider—a layman, that is to say. Considering the philosophical traditions of both China and India from this viewpoint, we noticed that, despite the frequent contacts and intercommu- nications between the East and West, and notwithstanding the increasing number of devoted and outstanding western scholars in the field, they still fail, as a rule, to grasp the essence of this inwardness for want of adequate spirit and mentality. Their mindset is typically Western. At any rate, however, interior or inward contemplation takes primacy over external observations. [thus emphasized Dr. Radhakrishnan.] Also he further told me that, although Western scholars nowadays acknowledged the importance and value of the study of Sanskrit and that efforts had been made for its revival as a living language, they still fell short of penetrating into its spirit. It is, he said, just because of dissatisfaction with the Western works on Indian philosophy that he and his native colleagues had moved forward to assume the task on their own shoulders.
In this respect, admittedly, we Chinese scholars are left far behind our Indian spiritual comrades who, under the influence of the British, have acquired an excellent command of English as a vehicle of communication and can use it with perfect facility. Complex, intriguing, and subtle by nature, the Chinese speech has continued to remain a living language down to the present in spite of all the changes and modifications it has undergone in sounds, forms, and usages throughout the ages. The Chinese people have taken great pride in their language, believing it to be adequate and sufficient for the expression of their own philosophical wisdom. For ancient China the term "West," or "Western Heaven," designated "India proper." Beginning with the first century Indian thought spread its influences eastward across China; it was during the Han Dynasty, an epoch in Chinese history distinguished in national power and pride [paralleling the Roman Empire in the West]. Thus, earnest efforts has been made to translate from the Sanskrit as a foreign language into Chinese. From then onwards, the translation project had continued down to the Six Dynasties (420-681) and the Shuei and Tang Periods (589-901). Each of those Translation Centers had among its participants many outstanding Chinese scholars and experts thoroughly versed in Sanskrit. After the Shuei and Tang Periods, how-ever, the study of Sanskrit was no longer regarded as indispensable in China because important Buddhist Satras had all been translated. Historically, the Chinese people have seldom adopted any foreign language as a vehicle to present their philosophy and culture to any other countries. Even in the modern times we still seldom use the Western languages to communicate and spread our thought to the West, although this would greatly reduce and dissolve misunderstandings as our Indian neighbors have done so well. Hence, representations of Chinese thought in the West were undertaken mostly by Western scholars resident in China, whose difference in mentality, persistent as ever, had rendered the hitherto fostered misunderstandings all the deeper and all the worse. Thus, out of good will, Dr. Radhakrishnan challenged me to undertake the task of presenting Chinese thought in the Western medium [which I had gladly accepted.] My interest, as you may now see, was reversed from the West back to the East even as early as the 40’s when I was still with the National Central University on mainland China.
(2) Experience in the Western Philosophical Communities
After my arrival in Taiwan I spent one year’s sabbatical leave completing The Chinese View of Life (1956) which, as some scholars [Professor Joseph S. Wu] pointed out, was a book with too modest a title; in fact it was a presentation of The Chinese Philosophy of Life. Even my earlier lectures delivered at National Taiwan University were primarily on Western philosophy until 1964-66 when I left to serve as visiting professor in the United States. As a result of direct contact I came to realize that my students over there were often beset with the perplexities and difficulties involved in Eastern thought. [So, I had to adapt my teaching styles somehow.] I then began with Western philosophy first, discriminating its strength from its weakness, its merits from its shortcomings, before I proceeded to discuss Eastern views, in a way to help them appreciate these differences. In 1964, when I presented "The World and the Individual in Chinese Metaphysics" at the 4th East-West Philosophers’ Conference at Honolulu, Hawaii, I found to my delight that my Western colleagues—preoccupied as they were with Western wisdom—had no trouble understanding Eastern, especially Chinese, philosophy. Also, when teaching in Michigan I found that the mentality of the American younger generation had undergone such changes that gradually they had no longer felt any indomitable difficulties while facing the major figures in Eastern thought, and in Chinese philosophy particularly. But when I returned to National Taiwan University as my home institute, I found to my great dismay that our intellectual community, misguided in its orientation, had gone far astray from the normal way of development. For all this, I maintain, our scholars of the last generation are chiefly responsible.
(3) Two Myths of the "Rounder Moon"
Needless to say, in the last fifty years Chinese culture in its institutional and intellectual aspects has surely called for modernization. Unfortunately, this need was mistaken for a need for mere Westernization! Despite the resounding slogans in the name of Westernization, our scholars, while discussing this issue of pressing concern, have seldom begun with, or touched upon, the origio et fons of the Western civilization, such as is found in its literature, art, philosophy, and religion. Instead, their perspectives are confined to the skin-deep outward appearances alone, i.e., on the surface level such as politics, economics, commercial enterprises, and the like. For all such superficialities our scholars of the last generation must be held responsible; they are to blame! For it is they who have led [or more correctly, misled] our young generation to believe in the myth: that the moon of the West is rounder than that of the East! Western scholars, it is true, used to look at China superficially, myopically, i.e., merely from the outward surface, hence their interpretations are fraught with misunderstandings of all sorts. But now many Chinese scholars and intellectuals have already forgotten and even abandoned their own cultural identity as the root. Eventually, the Chinese youths have suffered from the innermost poverty in the form of mental anaemia—reflected conspicuously in their language inability and habits of thought.
Nevertheless, the same holds for the West, too. The Westerner, as we see, has erroneously espoused the idea of history as developing along the pattern of linear progression; in recent times, as a result, it is even pushed so far as to equate "progression" with "progress," as if really the later makes the better and the late-comers surpass their predecessors! Modern thinkers in the West cry out: "God is dead! Religion is dead!" But the point to be asked is: "Who has killed Him! Who has killed it?" To be frank, it has been done by none other than the Western mind itself! -- which has speeded up the classical tradition of Ancient Greece, Medieval Europe, and the Modern West towards the consummate goal of total annihilation, hellbound, knowing only to look forward, rather than retrospectively at the same time.
For instance, labelling the Medieval Period as the "Dark Age" betrays one’s own blindness, one’s intellectual blindness. For this reason perhaps the Western youths are found to be cast in the same psychological mould [as their Eastern or Chinese counterparts], so much so, as to believe in the inverse myth: namely, that the moon of the East is rounder than that of the West! No wonder that recently Chinese, Indian, and Japanese thought of all varieties has been in vogue in the West. But let it be not forgotten that theirs is a position of futurism. They have forgotten a great deal of their own important cultural heritage; they keep seeking the East, but blindly; being unable to overcome the language barrier, they indulge in talking abut Zen, ending up of course in the "crazy Zen," incapable at any rate of saving the crisis of the West. And what they are looking for can be anything but the essence of Chinese culture!
Thus, we notice that for the promotion of better mutual understanding between the East and West we should first rectify our own attitude and outlook, immerse ourselves in the matrix of Chinese cultural tradition, capitalize on the genuine Eastern mentality, and then devote ourselves to the studies of the West.
Take, for example, the case of Professor Liang Shu-min. Professor Liang was a good scholar in his own right but, as soon as he came to discuss East and West Cultures and Their Philosophies, he had made some fundamental mistakes. For instance, in his discourse on Indian Buddhism he classified Indian culture as of the "retrospective type." This shows he was far from understanding the Buddhism of India. When Dewey and Russell came to lecture in China [in the 20’s] he mistook them for representing the West, as if Europe had produced only one Bertrand Russell and America only one John Dewey! Attempts to understand the West through just these two figures are doomed to be superficial and misleading, with such far reaching negative effects on the youths as to be hardly imaginable. To properly understand Western culture, we should trace its development, roots and branches, from Ancient Greece down to the Medieval, the Modern, and the Contemporary Ages throughout, consecutively. No empty bags [hollow and flaccid] can ever stand upright by themselves!
Each major cultural tradition has its own determinant factor in the course of development: For Greek culture, it is science and philosophy; for Indian culture, religion and philosophy; for Chinese culture, art and philosophy. As inheritors of such a tradition, we should firmly establish ourselves in its beautiful legacy of spiritual culture, developing as our basis the precious inward life and creative vitality, cultivating thereby our inward wisdom, reflecting critically and openmindedly upon our own strength and weakness, and then adopt a comprehensive view for appraisal of the West and its cultural heritage, in order to "model ourselves on the highest as paradigm—in aim, if not in achievement."
(4) Dissatisfaction with Contemporary Works in the Field
In 1966, soon after my return to Taiwan [from the United States], I came across a book on the history of Chinese philosophy, in a bookshop on the Chungshan North Road, Taipei. I simply couldn’t figure it out: How could it come into being?! Mr. Hsieh Wu-liang’s History of Chinese Philosophy, though an imitation of a Japanese work by Professor Uno, was at least a decent replica. But this one was incredibly absurd. How could it come from the pen of a Chinese?! I then decided to lay aside all the courses I had been teaching in Western philosophy and to teach instead nothing but Chinese philosophy: From its dawn in Ancient Times down to the Three Systems of Speculative Philosophy [I Ching, Laotzu, and Chuangtzu] of the Wei and Jin Periods, the Mahayana Buddhism of the Shuei and Tang Periods until the Neo-Confucianism of the Sung, Ming, and Ch’ing Dynasties. I devoted four years to this lecture series, in hopes of producing some harvests. But the young graduates still found it difficult to teach the course; so I repeated it once more for another period of three years at the same institute, National Taiwan University. Yours—Fu Jen Catholic University—is a university with new hopes, full of vitality after its reestablishment here in Taiwan by reform of its old habits, starting anew to pursue, roots and branches, the study of Western philosophy. You shall reap as you sow. Let there be new hopes for the new generation in a new environment. I sincerely hope that, on the basis of our five thousand years of cultural achievement in wisdom, each and every one of you will accomplish great deeds, resulting in ever expanding spheres of influence reaching from one person to hundreds and from hundreds to thousands!
The course of this lecture series I had offered twice before at National Taiwan University, the first time for a period of four years (1966-70) and the second, for another period of three years (1970-73), covering only up to Mahayana Buddhism. Meanwhile I had worked out synopitcally a book on the Nature and Spirit of Chinese Philosophy [later retitled Chinese Philosophy: Its Spirit and Its Development, 1981], upon which the present lecture series are based [though far more expanded and elaborated]. It was not without much difficulty that I had to go through the dual procedure of writing a book in English and re-interpreting it in Chinese. In fact, original philosophical ideas are hardly translatable. There are many contemporary works on Chinese philosophy, with merits and errors as well.
Fung Yu-lan’s New Discourse on the Tao, rendered into English by E. R. Hughes, the British scholar, under the title of The Spirit of Chinese Philosophy, only deals with ideas derived from the Neo-Confucianism of the Sung and Ming periods, amounting to no more than a quarter of the entire tradition of Chinese philosophy. Besides, since Fungs’ understanding of Neo-Confucianism was in terms of the Neo-Realism of the modern West, understandably there was not much of the spirit of Chinese philosophy left. On the other hand, most of the works in the West on the intellectual history of China were written from Western viewpoints, at the sacrifice of the true spirit of inwardness embedded in Chinese philosophy, thus involving an increasing amount of misunderstandings.
In Hu Shih’s work An Outline History of Chinese Philosophy, for example, such an important Taoist as Laotzu is treated as full of anti-political consciousness! As for Mencius’ thought, obviously his central concern lies with a theory of education; yet, oddly enough, Hu has missed the whole point!
Let us now take another glance at Professor Hsiung Shih-li’s case, whose study of Buddhism took Neo-Confucianism as a point of departure. Unfortunately, since he was unable to escape from mainland China after the communist take-over [in 1949], he had to adopt the strategy of "adaptation to the ruling authority" by having his later work on Confucianism, Chapter I, heavily coated with the ideological terminologies of historical materialism, so that he might pass for a Communist sympathizer before it could be approved for publication. Such a strategy of camouflage is reminiscent of those scholars of former times who had to conform to the official standard by composing their essays in the stereotyped "eight-legged" pattern in order to pass the State Service Examination. But treating Confucian and Taoist thought in such a fashion so as to subject it to the stereotyped pattern of modern scientific materialism is as misleading as treating Berkeley as a materialist, as many a Communists have done out of sheer ignorance. In view of the fact that this was the only way to get his works published under the Communist censorship, Professor Hsiung’s (Xiong’s) case deserves our profound sympathy all the more.
(5) Ten Years of Dedication to the Task
This book of mine is written with a view to elucidating the transmission of Chinese thought in its historical development. Take Confucianism for example. Attempts have been made to trace its development from the pre-Ch’in through the Early and Later Han, and Wei and Chin, down to the Sung, Ming and Ch’ing Periods. A variety of systems of thought produced in the pre-Ch’in Period should be understood in terms of the Zeitgeist (spirit of the time) of the age in question. In the Early and Later Han Periods (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) new thoughts developed as a result of the transformation and modification of the social structure, State organization and institutions; the Han Confucians were then seen to be no longer the same as the Confucians in the pre-Ch’in Period (Prior to 221 B. C.). In the Wei and Chin Periods (220-420) Confucianism receded, yielding to Neo-Taoism represented chiefly by Ho Yen (190-249) and Wang Pi (226-249). Ho Yen claimed to have incorporated Confucianism into Taoism while Wang Pi attempted to give a new interpretation to the Han studies of the I-Ching [The Book of Creativity, usually known as The Book of Changes], such as the Image-School and the Number-School, etc. In its original versions of the Chou Dynasty (1027-206 B. C.) The Book of Creativity began with the hexagrams of the Ch’ien and K’un, the Creative and the Pro-Creative, whereas Wang Pi in his new interpretation began with the Hexagram of Fu, emblematic of the "Return to the Primordial Unity in the Eternal Non-Being." In other words, it was no longer a deduction—on the basis of philosophical ontology—from the Creative and Pro-Creative as the ground of Being to all things; rather it was an inference from the meontological ground, i.e., directly from Wu or Non-Being to the myriad forms of existence. This is a sheer distortion of Primordial Confucianism with a Neo-Taoist twist. Many in the later generation, unable to overcome the philological difficulties involved in the classics, instead started with the Five Masters of the Northern Sung (960-1126) and Chu Hsi of the Southern Sung (1127-1279) down to the Neo-Confucianism of the Ming (1368-1644) and Ch’ing Periods (1644-1910). In fact, the Sung and Ming Neo-Confucianisms all flourished after the tenth century, and therefore, had all been exposed, in one way or another, to the influences of the Buddhist trends of thought of the Six Dynasties (420-581), Chyan (Zen) Buddhism, Taoism, Neo-Taoism, etc. At any rate, it would be a gross misunderstanding to assume these truly represent the Primordial Confucianism of the pre-Ch’in Period.
[Perhaps it is worth pointing out in this connection that] nowadays we have many "writers" here who are not writers at all, but plagiarizers, by copying the works of some authors on mainland China before the Communist take-over. In this regard the Western scholars are quite conscientious, with all quoted sources duly documented with footnotes. Our "writers" should not think that living on this tiny island [Taiwan], in isolation from the outside world, could entitle them to plagiarize anything they want!
For instance, those who found Buddhism too complicated to handle went ahead with copying from Japanese works in the field. Few can write a general history of Chinese philosophy from the ancient to the present. Why? The reasons are two-fold: (1) for lack of sufficient source-materials; and (2) for lack of sufficient competency to marshal those materials needed. From the period of the Three Kingdoms (221-280) onwards, Primordial Buddhism was introduced into China by way of the Western Border Area [Central Asia] rather than India proper. But it was not until many years afterwards that Hsuan Chuang [596-644, eminent Buddhist scholar, especially of the Yogacara School] went to India to bring back the original source-materials. Yet, ever since the Northern Sung Period few could read them; they had to be treasured and locked up on the high shelves in the towers of the Buddhist temples. The intellectual crisis from the ancient times down to the Northern Sung Period was due to the decay of Primordial Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism until the emergence of Neo-Confucianism.
Intellectual developments are unmistakably marked with the accent of the Zeitgeist of each age. As regards the development of Chinese philosophy, only by distinguishing itself from the various branches of sinological scholarship such as philology, historiography, history of institutions, and the like, can the true spirit of its life shine forth as philosophy proper. For example, Ku Yen-wu (1614-1682) and Huang Li-chou (Tzung-hsi, 1610-1695) were both men of great scholarship, but not philosophers in the proper sense of the term. Chinese philosophy was dead in the early phase of the Ch’ing Period [since 1644].
(6) Retrospect and Prospect: A Simple View and Simple Hope
In China, ever since then, all creative thought seems to have come to a standstill. Three hundred years have now passed; Chinese philosophy has been dead for three centuries! As a result, various strains of Western thought have made their way into it by taking advantage of such a period of intellectual vacuum. Political authorities at the court and literati-officials all over the country then knew nothing of the value of thought except those practical in nature, such as found in astronomy and technology, etc. Few of them were able to gain access to the essence of Western culture.
Hence, discussing Chinese philosophy today, we should realize: The decay of Primordial Confucianism had already begun with Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty and what was taught by the Han scholars was a matter of Confucian classical studies [canonical exegesis by philological approaches]. From the Wei and Chin down to the Six Dynasties Primordial Taoism, too, receded, yielding its way to Neo-Taoism. Again, after the Northern Sung Period Buddhism declined, giving rise to the Neo-Confucianism of the Sung and Ming Periods. In the Ch’ing Period, when China was under the oppression of an alien race [the Manchurians], her philosophical vitality had long been vitiated thereby, and now face new challenges as stimuli from external influences. If we take a retrospective view of the West, especially ancient Greece, for contrast and comparison with primordial Confucianism, the parallel is striking indeed. With a profound understanding of Greek philosophy, we will be enabled to better realize our own situation.
From the fourteenth century onwards the West desired to revive the classic legacy but was unable to do so—even up to the sixteenth century—due to a lack of sufficient documents. Works on the history of Western philosophy by scholars of the eighteenth to the nineteenth centuries were found to be laughing stocks—full of ridiculous mistakes—until at least a century afterwards when an increasing number of scholars specializing in Greek and Latin devoted themselves to the classic studies in the first-hand materials, tracing all way up to their fons et origio. It is, therefore, from the nineteenth to the twentieth centuries that many excellent works in the History of Western Philosophy were produced. Recently, few have been able to write a competent work in the field. Generally speaking, the Catholic scholars are competent for the task because they can penetrate into the first-hand source-materials in the original. Such is the case with the History of Chinese philosophy. One should, first of all, solve the linguistic problems so as to return the thought of a given age to that age in its own terms, and then to trace systematically the development of Chinese philosophy as unfolding in its entire course.
2. Fundamental Import and Motif: Pervasive Unity
To sum up the foregoing discussions: The major systems of Chinese thought are such that they had evolved along with Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Three Systems of Speculative Philosophy in the Wei and Chin Periods as the foundation upon which to build what is essentially a Chinese Mahayana Buddhism. This shows that in metaphysics what was derived from foreign thought has matured to a climax in seventh century China during the Shuei and Tang Periods. Since then, it had steadily declined until the revival of traditional Chinese thought in the form of a Philosophy of Reason, as represented by the Five Masters in the early phase of the Northern Sung Dynasty, which was soon to be further developed into a Philosophy of Mind in the Southern Sung Period. Historically, the Later Ming and Early Ch’ing Periods both marked the decline, rather than the climax, of Chinese philosophy in its entire course of development. Such a decline in philosophy can be likened to the afterglow of a sunset, when the sun is about to set down below the horizon of the mountains. By this we mean, of course, the Neo-Confucianism that came as a result of the Sung and Ming philosophy of Reason and philosophy of Mind, while calling for a return from the metaphysical heights and depths back to the human world as an ontic realm of actualities. This is because such a Neo-Confucianism had more or less linked itself in thought with the Han Confucians. But after the middle Ch’ing Period, alas, philosophy in China was dead! It was at this juncture that China got into contact with Western thought. Consequently, scientific materialism came in—by taking advantage of such a hiatus as intellectual vacuum. Similarly, in the Later Han Period when Primordial Confucianism and Primordial Taoism were no longer cared for, Indian thought came in.
Apparently Chinese philosophy was dead in the Ch’ing Dynasty but, in fact, it has just become all the more receptive to novel stimuli. Therefore, given one to two hundred years, it definitely will be able to create new climaxes in ways far beyond what can be possibly predicted by those superficial adherents of wholesale Westernization. External stimulation revitalizes our inmost creative impulses, hence it follows as my simple view and hope as well: That, certainly, China will be able to regain her high planes of philosophical wisdom—in the future.
(1) Taking a Flight in the Air
We now will proceed to discuss our subject for this section. As prelude to our discussion let me suggest, as I often did to my students in former times, that the best first lesson for any student of philosophy is an invitation to take a flight on an airplane.
On the ordinary or commonsensical level we live in our present world, but we don’t fully understand the world we are living in; we exist in this world, but we have yet to learn to appreciate rather than curse it. In case of any slight frustration we tend to misunderstand, to curse it as full of absurdities, owing to the bitter experience of suffering and pain. Viewed from the vantage position on the airplane, the so-called dark world of sufferings looks like the multifacets of Life as Reality. Five times I had the experience of flying over the Great Lakes Areas on the border between the United States and Canada. Looking over the earth from 20,000 feet in the light of the ever-changing formation of clouds, I then beheld the surrounding world transmuted and transfigured into a world of sheer beauty, a bright world of magnificence and sublimity! Such an image of perfection suggested to me the idea of "Heaven on Earth."
On this point Chuangtzu was quite clear. He had himself spiritually been transformed into a magic bird, called the "big peng," which by beating the whirlwinds mounted to an ever ascending height above 90,000 li’s [30,000 miles]! Before the take-off he saw the sky as cast in an infinite vastness of blue; after the take-off he cast his gaze upon the earth-world again. In the light of time-space relativity he at once realized: Is the infinite beauty and sublimity of the sky its real color and form? When viewed from above, the world down below looks the same! Therefore the world, too, is found to be replete with beauty.
Such a realization will help correct much of our misunderstanding about the world. All the more so today on the testimony of the astronauts who have pointed out thus: that when we look up at the moon from the earth (especially on the Mid-Autumn Festival), our appreciation of its beauty was inspired by a variety of poetical imageries; but for those who had been to the moon, it was nothing but a vast land of desolation and barrenness. Contrarily, if viewed from Space high above, the earth looks so multi-colored, beautiful, magnificent, -- just marvelous! Any student of philosophy who sees this world only in regards to its ugly, absurd, evil, and dark sides is far from being a person of wisdom at all. Instead, one should cast one’s gaze again upon the world from the vantage of the free spirit and thereby beautify it. Only by letting the free spirit take flight from heights to heights in infinite Space, then taking a new look at the world, can our philosophical wisdom of various kinds be properly cultivated.
(2) The Child Flying a Kite
Let me tell you another story as a clue to the horizons of Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism. As is customary with Chinese dramatic literature, the opening of a play is preceded with a prologue that sums up, in the simplest language possible, all the subtle cultural implications contained therein. My story is quite simple indeed.
As the legend goes, a man with great wealth and fortune was once so excited that he hit upon a fanciful idea to design a magnificent mansion and have it erected on a beautiful location surrounded by great mountains and rivers. After the construction was finished he found its interior far too empty. He said to himself: How nice it would be if I could get a good painter to do a huge mural for the main hall!. So, he invited a famous painter and had him well served with all luxuries. Endowed with great talents, but rather weird in appearance, the painter did nothing after he moved in, fooling around all day long, enjoying himself with sightseeing in the nearby mountains and rivers. Occasionally he composed some poems and tz’us. Two months passed without any progress in the work he was commissioned to do.
A man of good taste, the host just let him have his own way, without interference, until another period of several months had passed and then he became really anxious. He asked the painter to move into the main hall and had him locked up there, well served as before. Another six months passed until, all of a sudden, he really got started up. Picking up the brush, in a moment he finished a mural on the wall. There he painted a beautiful boy holding in his hand a thin thread connected on the other end to a kite in the form of a butterfly. It was "A Child Flying a Kite." Across the whole space there was just a long line and a butterfly, the child holding the line firmly in his hand; whereupon was displayed the great propelling force of the Celestial Winds: Here it symbolizes the whole cosmic power of creativity as displayed in the thin thread as well as the free spirit of the philosopher in the image of the butterfly. The child feels that power intimately through the very thread vibrant in his firm grasp.
For anyone who wants to engage in the system-building of philosophy, there can be no better way than imitating the child of the story flying a kite, firmly and steadily—besides taking a flight in the air. Though unable to mount up to spaces on high, surely one feels the wondrous, all-propelling cosmic creative forces at work through the very delicate thin thread within one’s firm grasp!
In Chinese philosophy this is not a magic show or performance of the successive movement of up and down! Rather, it suggests the idea of a central thread whereby we are enabled to discover the collective wisdom of the Chinese people as a whole. According to the Confucian view, as stated in the "Life of Ku Yung" (History of the Han Dynasty), we should strive to "establish the Great Center in response to the Heart’s Core of Heaven." The traditional thought of ancient China always emphasizes the full development of the spirit of "Chung Yung" (equilibrium and harmony) or the Way of the Mean. In fact, the word "Chung" (?) represents the whole spirit of the Chinese people and Chinese culture as well. The symbol "F " or "f " represents the Whole Cosmos as a great circle. Prejudices would issue were it taken in any one-sided way. All aspects, all facets of the Cosmos should be conceived in terms of a unifying principle that penetrates all around, up and down, in perfect concordance with the Great Center for the sake of Equilibrium.
Chuangtze’s insightful statement, "grasp the Great Center as the Pivot of Tao so as to be able to respond adequately to myriad situations," simply means to comprehend, to grasp, to experience the Cosmos as a Whole wherein to orient and establish our life as interpenetrating with all the power of the Cosmic Life Itself. Thus, we see that the cultivation of wisdom is not a matter of achievement by individuals alone. Highly developed philosophy is always bound up with the highly creative spirit of art; the aesthetical attitude combines itself with the intellectual to form an inseparable unity. The spirit of philosophy is immersed, through and through, with the horizons of art experience.
The Confucians, following Confucius, urged that one should "abide by the Tao, hold to virtue, rely upon Creativity (jen), and immerse oneself in the arts." This is to say that the totality of cultural life shall comprehend high levels of metaphysical wisdom and moral spirit, unified by highly artistic talent and taste as the central thread running throughout all aspects of experiences, so as to consummate the cultural achievement of life as a whole. Chuangtzu stated this point even more explicitly: "The sage is one who comprehends the Reason of all things in the light of cosmic beauty and sublimity." The Chinese people tend to use literature as a medium to express their philosophical ideas and to use beautiful poetry or plastic arts or paintings to transmute the realm of truth into a world of beauty and meaning as if by magic. For this reason the establishment of systems of thought is at the same time the crystallization of the spirit of art.
Under the inspiring influence of Chuangtzu, Li Po (701-762) the great poet of the Tang Dynasty sang thus:
Pluck out that Divine Power
of Cosmic Creation,
And Transmute it to my magic power
Of masterly execution!
This holds no less true of philosophers who attempt to create their own systems of thought: They are not supposed to formulate their ideas into a mere cold abstract scheme; rather, they must strive to get the cosmic creative forces condensed and concentrated in their own creativeness before they could expect to have these ideas competently expressed. Only when thus accomplished can such a thinker and his system of thought be said to have truly represented the image of Cosmic Beauty as crystallized.
A moment ago we have spoken of the painter and his work, [which suggests the idea that] infinite primal vitality pervades infinite space in the form of the cosmic play of forces. The kite flyer must be able to grasp firmly the cosmic vital forces, known as the Great Celestial Winds. The thin thread of the kite upon which all the cosmic forces play stands for the Unifying Principle of the Cosmos or Universe-Structure as a Whole. It holds together the sublimely creative power of the Cosmos. From the perspective of Primordial Confucianism, only by being able to penetrate forthrightly into the creativity of the Great Flux and Transformation in the cosmic advance, and by taking the individual life as a center of radiation wherefrom to interpenetrate with all the mystery of mysteries and all the wonder of wonders of the cosmic life, can one become a truly creative thinker in the Chinese sense.
(3) Four Traditions Poetically Epitomized
The Tang poet Szu-K’ung Tu (837-908) was at most of the third class as far as his own art of poetical compositions was concerned; but his discourse on poetical vision and horizon, entitled Classified Characterization of Poetry, ranked supreme as a work in poetical criticism and appreciation. It comprised a total of twenty-four categories, each of which as a type has reached the highest standard of the art of poetics. If we read carefully the following categories such as #8, "the Vigorous and Forceful"; #1, "the Great and Sublime"; #24, "the Fluid and Mobile"; and #3, "the Lofty and Antique," we will then be able to epitomize the spirit of Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism, respectively. For instance, Category #8, "the Vigorous and Forceful" type, aptly catches the overtone of the metaphysical foundation of the thought-system implied in The Book of Creativity (the Chou version) as developed by the Primordial Confucians:
Category #8, The Vigorous and Forceful
Creative Spirit prevails
As in the Great Hollow;
Great Force prevails
As stretches the rainbow.
Or, again, like the clouds, so to speak,
Racing, as the winds do,
Across the lofty peaks
Of the Gorges of Wu!
Drink of the fount of Spirituality!
And feed on the supply of Force!
Store up the capital of Simplicity,
And keep to the Mean as the core of cores!
Lo that great Creative Advance, how bravely vigorous!
Its gaits: As lure to perpetuation of Power for all of us!
Co-exist and Co-work with Heaven and Earth,
And identify yourself with the Divine Transformation.
Seek to be fulfilled with such intrinsic worth
As is always at your command for consummation!
This is a terse expression of the Creative Spirit as embodied in the entire system of Confucian metaphysics.
In category #1, the "Great and Sublime," is found the expression of the Spirit of Life characteristic of the Primordial Taoist philosophers Laotzu and Chuangtzu:
Category 1, The Great and Sublime
"The Great Force tends to expand outwardly;
Authenticity charges inwardly.
Reverse to Vacuity, dwell in Fusion,
Strength thus funded makes powerful expression.
Encompassing myriad things in an embrace,
And sweeping across the boundless space.
It moves like clouds in fluidity,
Sustained by the winds from Infinity.
Transcend all objects, all forms all around,
Hold to the Great Center of the Great Round.
Thus come forth the Forceful spontaneously,
And the Sublime inexhaustibly."
In the spirit of Chinese philosophy the Taoists are the typical space-men. Unable to confine themselves to the tiny corner of the Universe, they must transcend it by lifting their spirit up into infinitely vast space wherein to take flight, free and full, alone and unafraid. Riding on the Void by virtue of vacuity is typical of the Taoist spirit but here, too, one must be sufficiently charged and energized for the great take-off, that is, by self-cultivation through a fund of spiritual energy. Even the great magic bird, the "big peng," has to be sufficiently air-borne by beating the powerful whirlwinds before it can mount up to ever-ascending heights. [In other words, self-cultivation is a prerequisite for self-transcendence.] On this very theme of "nourishing the spiritual force and energy" both the Primordial Confucians and the Primordial Taoists agree!
[Likewise, the spirit of Mahayana Buddhism can be epitomized as follows:]
Catetory 24, The Fluid and Mobile
"Like the water-wheel that whirls;
Or, like the ever-rolling pearls!"
How can the Way be thus verbalized?
But a likeness for the fool to surmise.
Lo, the Great Axis of Earth!
And the Eternal Pivot of Heaven!
Grasp its clue of crucial worth,
And be identified with it as One.
Ever upwards leads the Divine Light;
Ever recurs the Dark Void circle-wise.
All thus come and go in an Eternal Orbit.
Does this suggest: "That’s it"?
Category #5, "the Lofty and Antique"
"Lo, the exalted, borne on the spirit of authenticy,
A lotus-flower in hand,
Acrossing the vast realm of temperality,
Vanishes into the infinite space as wonderland."
Similarly, the Neo-Confucian sentiment can be summed up thus:
Category 3, The Slender and Abundant
"The more deeply thus carried away,
The more vividly one sees the Way.
Inexhaustible quest is, alas, much ado,
Revive the Old to make for the New!
(4) Challenge and Response: Re-Discover and Re-Create
Buddhism in India developed in a manifold fashion. Originally in the Western Border Area it emphasized the Hinayana Sect, which after its introduction into China was looked down upon as a mere external religion based on rituals only, lacking great spiritual depth. It was even derided as a "perverse worship." It is only after having taken root in the palace that the literati officials and intellectuals alike attempted to transform it into a high level of wisdom. We may safely assume that, without the Taoist spirit preparing its path, Buddhism would never have developed in China the way it had. Though the fragmentary thought of the Hinª yª na Sect of Buddhism was introduced in the Later Han, Three Kingdoms, and Wei Periods, it could hardly satisfy the Chinese mind if gauged by the high stan-dard of Taoist wisdom.
Soon afterwards, therefore, men of high wisdom went westward in quest of Indian thought through direct acquaintance, tracing its development from the Hinayana to the Mahayana, in an effort to discover parallels with the high level of Chinese wisdom, with an end towards synthesis. Thus, on the basis of Prajña Philosophy, the Chinese mind was able to establish various sects and schools of Mahayana Buddhism in the Shuei and Tang Periods following the Six Dynas-ties. As we see, it would never do to receive something passively with only an empty bag! One must have high wisdom oneself before one can truly benefit from modeling oneself on the highest as paradigm, intellectually and culturally. "The stones of two mountains can benefit each other from mutual grinding, and in the end their respective merits can shine forth all the more," as the proverb goes. The entire course of the Taoist-Buddhist synthesis is beyond the comprehension of the sloganizers of wholesale westernization. If one is unable to learn the high wisdom of other cultures, one can hardly expect to enrich one’s own philosophical wisdom and vision.
Since its introduction into China Buddhism, having merged with Taoist wisdom on the highest level, was thereby furthered in its development towards the Mahayana tendency, until Chan Buddhism burst forth as a result of a concordance with the Confucian spirit, exemplified in the doctrine of the intrinsic goodness of human nature. What was originally a foreign religion was now completely transformed into a typical Chinese philosophical wisdom.
From this historical example the simple-minded and shallow-headed adherents of wholesale westernization have an important lesson to learn! What do they know about Greek literature and philosophy, Hebrew religion, modern scientific culture (beyond mere scientific materialism)?—Nothing but radical misunderstanding! Because of our misunderstanding of ourselves, because of our mis-understanding of the West, intellectually we have made little progress in the last fifty years. Half a century is gone! Ours is a situation of the hollow man paralleling an empty bag! What we have received from the West in the past turns out to be put its worst parts, the surface aspects, such as systems, institutions, fashions, and the like. This so-called "Westernization" has degenerated into "Communization" and consequently we have retreated to this tiny island of Taiwan.—All these phenomena are far from being merely accidental, but are due to the impoverishment of thought. Today, we shall strive to re-discover the true merits of Chinese culture and, above all, to re-create it!
III. Approaches to Chinese Philosophy
(1) The Motif of Creative Humanism: "There is Man in Chinese Philosophy!"
Before we proceed to discuss formally the two schools of Primordial Confucianism and Primordial Taoism, it is necessary that we understand the philosophical viewpoint we adopt here.
It is typical of the development of Chinese philosophy that no matter which direction it takes, there are always some general characteristics or common denominators which account for its homogeneity. These characteristics do not arise ex nihilo, but out of the depths of philosophical minds. Of the major schools of Chinese thought, what is the inward spirit of their representative figures? To answer briefly, various spirits converge on one pivotal point: "Inquiring into the depth of human nature so as to experience thereby human greatness in terms of human nature itself and all its strivings and achievements." This has its beginning with the Confucian school, which emphasized especially "Illumination of the greatness of human spiritual life firmly established in the world of perpetual creativeness." This point was carried further by the Taoist and Buddhist schools as well. We may invert Socrates’ comment on Isocrates that "there is philosophy in the man" and say instead: "There is Man in Chinese philosophy."—There is personality in it. The true Chinese, whose life is constituted of noble humanity, exuberant sentiment, and great rationality, is never but an icy-cold head as thinker. It is characteristic of Chinese philosophy that all these three aspects be fully developed and well integrated so as to form great systems of thought.
More specifically, what are the general characteristics of Chinese philosophy? What are the distinctive features of the representatives of each school?
As noted before, no philosophy can develop itself independently in any culture. In the West it is virtually impossible for anyone to understand its philosophy without appreciating the achievements of Greek poetry, sculpture, and painting, etc. Had Greek philosophy been inspired only by the Apollonian spirit, says Nietzsche, it should have withered long ago. Fortunately it had as a source of inspiration the Dionysian spirit, too. Thus by combining the spirit of art with philosophical wisdom the Greek genius made immortal contributions to Western culture. The Medieval Age absorbed Greek philosophy, but not until combining it with the sentiment of Hebrew religion had it created the highly religious type of spiritual culture of the Middle Ages. As for India, if we merely look at its mythological literature we find nothing but bizarre fantasies; but India has philosophy, too, from the Vedas and Upanishads to the various schools and systems of thought, with its philosophical wisdom, literature, and poetry all blended and expressed in a highly religious spirit. Such a great synthesis of philosophy and poetry accounts for the high-level achievements of Indian religion and Indian philosophy as well.
For Modern Europe the splendor of the Renaissance was made possible by combining the spirit of art with philosophical imagination. The modern man of the West had in spirit penetrated into Great Mother Nature with a view to exploring her secrets. Lured, as it were, by the aesthetical spirit, he plunged back again into the external world to show off his curiosity, or his sense of wonder (or sense of power). Behind the progress in mathematics and physical sciences there had always been lurking the spirit of art as a motive force that made possible modern scientific culture. Therefore, a majority of great thinkers in the seven-teenth century were at the same time great scientists. Evidently, no philosophy has developed along any single-track.
(2) Methodological Considerations
A. Logical, Epistemological, and Legalist Approaches
In retrospect, Chinese philosophy in all ages has aimed to "comprehend the Reason of all things in the light of cosmic beauty and sublimity" [as Chuangtzu stresses], that is, to develop philosophical wisdom and establish systems of philosophical thought by virtue of aesthetic sentiments. On the other hand, as we notice, Western philosophy in the modern age has developed along the path stipulated by logical and scientific methods in order to understand the subjective or objective worlds. But if we adopt as a method the same approach to Chinese philosophy, we can only expect to understand the School of Names (founded by Hue Shih and Kung-Sun Lung) and the Mohist School (and its variants) of the Warring State Period. Such strains of thought have waned since the Han Dynasty. I refrain, therefore, from adopting this logical and epistemological approach for our present purpose. Besides, in the Chinese way of life the principle of "rectification of virtue, benefaction of utility, and promotion of well-being" have served as the guideposts for political ideals since the time of antiquity. However, there were thinkers who knew only "benefaction of utility and promotion of well-being" and forgot to start with "rectification of virtue" which had unfortunately degenerated into the miserable state of "lack of virtue!" For example, the tough-minded, relentless Legalists of the Later Warring State Period belong to this category. Such a Legalist approach was not approved by the Chinese. This is why the radical reform policy launched in the later age by Wang An-Shih of the Northern Sung Dynasty was doomed to failure. Hence, neither would I adopt such a Legalist approach to discuss Chinese philosophy.
B. Religious Approach
The religious approach adopted in the Medieval Age, good as it was, does not fit the Chinese historical scene, which was marked by the so-called "Chinese precocious culture." Just like the brilliant sun arising from the East, Chinese civilization had in early times dispersed all kinds of cloudiness of the universe thus encountered, and had at one stroke, as it were, transformed it into a world of the light of day. Usually, such a process of evolution would take other cultures a long, long period of time for maturization, as was the case with Egypt, Greece and India. All of them had undergone a long period of the mythic phase before they could gradually enter the phase of sublimation or enlightenment in the eighth to the ninth centuries B.C. China was an exception! Part of such a precociousness was expressed in Chinese art (e.g., sculpture) and language. Most expressly it was stated in The Book of History, which shows why the Chinese people admired the spirit of Emperor Yao most:
He was reverential, intelligent, accomplished, and thoughtful—naturally without effort. He was sincerely courteous, and capable of all compliance. The bright influence of these qualities was felt through the four quarters of the land, and reached to heaven above earth beneath.
He made the able and virtuous distinguished, and thence proceeded to the love of all in the nine classes of his kindred, who thus became harmonious. He also regulated and polished the people of his domain, who all became brightly intelligent. Finally, he united and harmonized the myriad states; and so the black-haired (young) people were transformed. The result was universal concord.
Thus, as we see, even in the opening chapter of Chinese history there seems to have emerged a Great Sun shining upon a world that was rationalized through and through! Works analogous to those of Homer and Hesiod in Greece and the Vedas in India were unavailable in ancient China. As Prelude to philosophy, the system of mythology was found to be conspicuously lacking in the history of Chinese thought. Not that China had produced no myths; but that works like The Book of Great Mountains and Rivers and Chu Tz’u (a masterwork in romantic lyrics composed by Ch’u-Yuan of the State of Chu in Southern China) all appeared after the Spring and Autumn (722-481 B.C.) and the Warring States Periods (403-221 B.C.). They were far from being any Prelude to philosophy or art at all. Mystic experience was relatively meager in China; therefore, it is rather difficult to adopt the religious approach for our purpose, as was the case with other cultures.
In China, the essence of religion is morality. From the very beginning mystic religion was replaced by an enlightened rational ethical culture. Chinese thought and culture, in the main, had taken shape early in the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods: It was assumed that human emotions should be guided by rational morality. The situation continued until the Later Han period when Buddhism was introduced into China. Generally speaking, rationalism indeed constitutes a major part of Chinese philosophy as a whole. Western religions have been introduced to China. But, have they been unable to fit themselves for this crucial point—Had Buddhism been unphilosophized—it would have disappeared long ago, just as Zoroastrianism or Mazdeism from Persia and Nestorianism from Syria, both of which have long since become mere historic relics in China proper. Thus, we see all the more clearly that it is hardly feasible to adopt the Western religious approach for studying Chinese philosophy.
C. The Metaphysical Approach
On the other hand, if we adopt the metaphysical, i.e., philosophical, approach, those of the School of Names, of the Legalist and of the Mohist Schools perhaps would not agree, nor would the true religionists. But in view of the development of Chinese philosophy, the metaphysical approach proves to fit the historical scene best. Therefore I adopt it, at least as an approach to the four traditions of Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism.
(2) Three Types of Metaphysics
(a)The Praeternatural; (b) The Immanent; and (3) The Transcendental
First, we shall make it clear in what sense the term "metaphysics" is being used here. There is a type of metaphysics known as "the praeternatural metaphysics" which, in Kantian terminology, may be explained as "the transcendent metaphysics." Kant himself sometimes used "transcendent" and "transcendental" interchangeably. I disagree. The so-called "transcendent" means "the praeternatural" as mentioned above, whereas the "transcendental" signifies that which, though starting from the world of experience and actualities, has philosophical horizons not confined to experience and actuality alone. Moreover, it can break through the limitations of the sphere of actualities by elevating itself to the world of idealities, which is by no means a "kite with a broken thread." From both the Confucian and the Taoist viewpoints all the worlds of idealities are made of the exalted values embodied in the highest degree of reality. Such exalted values can be implemented in the human world of actualities, thus gradually actualizing ideas. Once so actualized, they can inspire new ideals. This is the ground whereupon I advance the term "Transcendental metaphysics."
In other words, all those lofty ideals charged with transcendental values are not something airy or ethereal, flowing, moving and fluctuating in space; rather, they can be applied to the actual world, the actual society, and the actual human existence in alignment with human nature such that they can be actualized, step by step, through human creative efforts. Under such conditions metaphysics is never disconnected from the physical or actual world, nor with actual human existence; rather, it is actualized in and through that existence. Thus, in light of ideal-realization or value-actualization, transcendental metaphysics is transformed into immanent metaphysics, with all values immanent in the process of actualization of the world and human existence.
My adoption of such a metaphysical approach to Chinese philosophy is based on methodological considerations. We find that all philosophers in Greek and modern systems of thought, as well as in certain religions, are gifted with a capacity which may be illustrated by a story in Greek mythological literature: As the story goes, a certain man, having been away from home too long, had eventually returned; but he found every thing in his hometown split in two—his house, his family, and the like. Completely at a loss, not knowing which of the two he should approach, he was caught in what is called "the dualistic mode of thought." The dualists’ tour de force is to see the world in a double image, rather than in light of a holistic perspective, i.e., to perceive the world and life as an integrated whole.
Analogously, Greek philosophers adopted the method of bifurcation: With the Absolute Being assigned to one side and the Absolute Non-Being to the other. One is the realm of perfect values; the other one is the realm of illusory appearances. In this way the spirit of Greek philosophy was hopelessly caught in dualism and encumbered with great difficulties, once it fell down to the lower realm. For only with great struggle could the human soul ascend to the higher realm by way of exaltation and looking at the actual world again, would condemn it as filled with evils, unwilling therefore to come down. Thus, axiologically speaking, to borrow from Plato, the Greeks have made a Chorismos, a separation between the upper and lower realms. Exaltation into the spiritual realm implies a great separation from the lower realm; living in the lower realm means a separation from the world of value-ideals. Hence, the formation of the systems of thought from Parmenides to Socrates and Plato. Despite the effort of Aristotle for a solution, the separation-problem for these two realms was not overcome. Finally, philosophy in Greece had to resort to religion, becoming theology, wherein it is hardly possible to find a place for the development of science.
Dualism in the form of the upper vs. lower Chorismos created great perplexity in Greek philosophy, insolvable even with the philosopher’s head being worn out. Also, it has more or less influenced the Hebrew religion, involving religious problems as well. In spite of the Christian ideal of the Kingdom of Heaven as realizable on Earth, the so-called wisdom formed by humans living in this world is merely a pseudo-wisdom with respect to God. This shows that the Chorismos existing between the world of praeternatural religion and the actual world of human existence has remained unsolved, and that a large cross-section of the natural world would have to be exterminated as the price for the realization of the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth!
On the other hand, as we noticed, there has been in Chinese thought no such gulf separating the world of actualities from that of idealities. This makes it difficult for us to adopt a metaphysical system of the praeternatural type. The metaphysical trends of though prevalent among the Confucian, Taoist, and Neo-Confucian systems are all of the transcendental type: It recognizes the possibility of values in this world as emanating from the world of idealities, forming thus a Great Chain of Becoming characterized by interconnectedness through interpenetration. For this reason, axiological neutrality is not possible in Chinese thought as it has been in the later phase of modern scientific development in the West, which tends to wash away all values by bleaching. Once scientific materialism is established, it would be extremely difficult to re-habilitate therein both the religious and artistic life.
In China, it is necessary for the establishment of any system of philosophical thought that the supra-physical and the infra-physical must be united through interpenetration. A transcendental metaphysics thus formed is at once transmuted into a metaphysics of the immanent type. For the Confucians, one must realize the "human paradigm" by having value-ideals fully actualized in the world of human existence, no matter how great one’s moral achievement may be.
For the Taoists, remarkable as they are in self-transcendence, even those who have reached the summit of spiritual eminence must take the Tao as a point of departure and descend downward from there: "The Tao produces the One; the One produces the Two; the Two produces the Three; the Three produces myriad things, ad infinitum." Taoist ideals also must penetrate into the actual world of human existence. The Chinese are not sympathetic with the Hinayana Buddhists simply because the latter are escapists intending to eschew actual life, darkness and sufferings. They are unlike the Mahayanaists who, on the basis of the eminence of the Prajñª -Spirit (Wisdom-Spirit), can realize that the highest meaning of religion is not for the complete satisfaction of individual happiness. Rather it consists of seeking persistently the spiritual liberation and emancipation for all humankind and the whole cosmic life as a whole.
The Chinese preference for Mahª yª na over Hinª yª na is grounded in the realization that religious wisdom serves for the salvation of the whole world, rather than as a mere means of escape from all the problems and ordeals in the actual world of human existence. To save the world with supreme wisdom is the true spirit of all religion. For the sake of philosophical wisdom various schools of thought have developed in China just by avoidance of the limitations and defects involved in praeternatural metaphysics. Instead, they all move towards the direction of transcendental metaphysics, which emphasizes value-ideals as fully realizable in the actual world of human existence. Only in this way can the world and life be saved.
(3) Two Methodological Traps: Vicious Bifurcation and Piecemeal Analysis
Transforming a transcendental metaphysics into an immanent one, by conceiving value-ideals as immanent in human spirit and life, is what I mean by the metaphysical approach and its viewpoint. Adopting this viewpoint, we shall be able to avoid two kinds of pitfalls or traps: First, the method of bifurcation—which, for the sake of mere expediency in the operation of thought, tends to divide the integrative world and the integrative life into two incompatible realms as disconnected and unbridgeable. Second, the method of analysis—in contradistinction to which, the Chinese mode of thought may appear to be inferior or defective, since, never has, as it is often held, analysis been emphasized in China as it has been in the modern West. In fact, this is not true, because China in her long past was not devoid of such a method: It was stressed by the Legalists, the Logicians, and the Mohists in ancient times. In the course of development, however, the Chinese mind has come to realize that analysis should be conducted exhaustively. Fragmentary, piecemeal, or partial analysis is fallacious in that, whichever aspects it has reached, it tends to get attached thereto by fixation. It thus forms a variety of one-sided, or "tunnel" views, so to speak, and fails, then, to grasp the full meaning and significance of the cosmos and life as a whole in an All-Comprehensive Perspective. With regard to analysis, therefore, be sure to analyze exhaustively [i.e., as thoroughgoingly and penetratingly as possible], lest there be any secrets of the cosmos left out in any directions, up or down, right or left!
(4) All Exhaustive Analysis and Philosophy as an All Comprehensive and All-Penetrative System of Thought
This, as I take it, is what I call "Exhaustive Analysis" as a method: First, it takes in the panorama of the whole universe and the whole spirit of life, as presented before us, in a comprehensive perspective. Then it proceeds to consummate itself by development into an All-Comprehensive Perspective of All systems of Perspectives on the basis of the worlds of vision attained by a set of the interpenetrative viewpoints in regards to all aspects of the Cosmos and Life as spiritually transcended and exalted. Thus, we see that partial, or half-way analysis as a method is fallacious by nature indeed. Only by way of what is properly the exhaustive analysis can we grasp by intuition the Cosmos and Life as an Integral Whole, surveyed in the full scope of its significance, values, and realities. Only as conceived in such a sense, can philosophy be properly called an "All-Comprehensive and All-Penetrative System of Thought" in terms of range and depth.
4. Fundamental Differences between Chinese and Western Philosophies
Before we proceed to discuss the four major traditions of Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism Philosophy of Reason and Philosophy of Mind in the Sung and Ming Periods), it is necessary to begin with a brief account in highlights of their general characteristics and their distinctive features [as outlined in the succeeding sections 5 - 7].
Of the many possible approaches, I have deliberately chosen the metaphysical one. With this delimitation, we are able to concentrate on certain important aspects, without spending much time on those schools of thought which, relatively speaking, are found to be metaphysically weak, such as the Legalist, the Yin-yangist, the Logicalist, and even the Mohist Schools, etc. We shall then focus our attention on the four major systems as mentioned above—namely, Primordial Confucianism, Primordial Taoism, the various sects of Mahayana Buddhism, and the Neo-Confucianism of the Sung and Ming Periods.
(1) Trans-Dualistic System
Regarding metaphysics, we have noticed the Chinese position as distinct from the transcendent or praeternatural type. Why must this point be stressed time and again? Let us take a closer look at the case in light of the world history of philosophy: Methodologically, the Greek, the Medieval, and the Modern European traditions alike are analogous to the Hebrew religion [in that they have all been caught in the dualistic mode of thought]. Logically, it is the application [or misapplication] of "contrast" as a method leading to the dichotomy of the integrative world and life. Or to put it in Whiteheadian language, it is the fallacy of the vicious bifurcation of Nature as a whole. In Greek philosophy, for instance, the infra-physical world of matter is set in contrast to—hence, separated from—the supra-physical world of forms, the latter being the realm of values like truth, goodness, and beauty! Such a method of bifurcation involves a big problem, the problem of Chorismos (Separation) of the upper from the lower realms, which accounts for the biggest problem in Plato’s philosophy as the insurmountable difficulty to bridge these two worlds: the infra-physical and the supra-physical. Consequently, it is rendered extremely difficult for the absolute values of truth, goodness, and beauty to be completely actualized in the world of actualities.
This holds no less true of Ancient Greece than of Medieval Europe. According to the Book of Revelations for example, there is on the one hand the truly religious realm of the Kingdom of Heaven; and on the other, the natural and human worlds wherein we live. Theoretically it is thought possible for the spiritual values of the Kingdom of Heaven to be completely realized in the human world, given that being the case (the ideal of the Kingdom of Heaven becomes true here on Earth), the humankind must have undergone a great many disasters and a large portion of the physical world must have been destroyed in order to make room for such an ideal-spiritual realm, which is supposedly completely actualizable in the world, here and now. Here, it implies of course the praeternatural metaphysics.
To illustrate this point we may cite the words of Julian Huxley, the British critic:
The western world today is caught in an apparent dilemma between two conflicting modes of thought. The one thinks in terms of absolutes—the absoluteness of truth, beauty, justice, goodness, themselves all deriving from an Absolute absolute, which is God. The natural world is complemented by the supernatural, the body by the soul, the temporal by the eternal . . . The absolute Revelation and the absolute of pure Reason will between them answer all the questions that can be answered. Man’s place in the universe is a place of an eternal soul created by God, and working out its destiny in terms of eternal values.
This sounds indeed like a "manifesto of the Praeternatural Metaphysics." In other words, our modern age is seen to be beset with a strong opposition between religion on the one hand, that involves a praeternatural metaphysics, and science on the other, that ascertains a natural world. It is only natural that apart from Greece, the Middle Ages likewise applied the same method to dichotomize the integrative world into the upper (spiritual) and the lower (physical) realms.
Similarly, beginning with Descartes in Modern Europe another form of bifurcation came to the foreground, that opposed the inner (subjective) world of mind to the outer (objective) world of matter. Thus, in addition to the opposition of upper vs. lower, we notice another one in Modern European philosophy, that of the inner vs. outer. Many perplexities resulted in epistemology. Generally speaking, it is typical of the West that, beginning with ancient Greece and continuing down to the medieval (partly) and modern times, the integral world as a whole is chopped in two by using the same method of bifurcation, involving serious problems in metaphysics, too, especially the problem [lack of] interconnection or interpenetration.
But, from the viewpoint of Chinese philosophy, such a predicament can be avoided. Although it is true that in Chinese philosophy the integrative world can be differentiated into several realms for the sake of expediency, there have always been some points of contact between and among them so that they are conceived as a whole in terms of linkage and interconnection—instead of opposition and isolation—[thus forming what may be called the Great Chain of Becoming].
(2) An All-Comprehensive System
Therefore, Chinese metaphysics is seen to be not a metaphysics of the praeternatural or transcendent type; at most, it may be classified as of the transcendental type. Ontologically the cosmic reality can, of course, be differentiated into various kinds of relative realities and the totality thereof as underlying throughout—the Absolute Reality. But never is it the case that the relative and the Absolute are severed by bifurcation. Rather, all the relative realities make a configuration wherein is to be located a unifying thread that can naturally comprehend and integrate all into a Supreme Reality regarded as the Absolute. Taken in this sense, the Absolute is not set in opposition against all such relative systems; rather, it is their consummate unification! Again, axiologically, whether for artistic value (beauty), for moral value (goodness), or for various kinds of knowledge systems (truth), if viewed respectively under the aspect of art, morality, and philosophy, each kind of value systems has its own proper realm or sphere [as world-horizon], yet none of them is an isolated system. Rather, each must develop upwards in connection with the values of beauty, goodness, and truth in other spheres so as to form a hierarchy ranging from the bottom to the top, wherein the values on any exalted plane penetrate into those on the lower ones such that none is deserted in the process of value-actualization.
For example, those who understand the art of painting all know that in the West in order to draw a painting one must adopt a certain viewpoint. That is to say, the painter must adopt a particular viewpoint through which to form a certain perspective before he can work out a vista on the canvas. But such perspectives are all relative in character. Hence, different vistas are made possible by different perspectives as viewing, say, from the left or the right angles, from the close, the remote, or the middle distance, etc. Each of these end-results is therefore relative to the particular viewpoint in question. But in China the competent painter has such a special gift that he can paint the big objects small, and the small objects big, simply because [by adopting a moving focus, instead of the frozen one] he is not confined to any particular viewpoint alone, with only one perspective world available to contemplate upon. Rather, on the basis of a variety of horizons so far obtained from the ground-level perspectives and by the wings of the soul, he can mount spiritually to the most lofty-plane horizons to find therein a vantage-point as "the Acme of the Celestial," so to speak, whereupon he is enabled to survey the world-all from height to height, from width to width, and from depth to depth, thus producing an All-Comprehensive Perspective of all other systems of perspective as relative in nature.
Seen under such a perspective, all the so-called divergences of philosophical horizons on different levels and planes are primarily meant for the Comprehensive Unity to be effected through interpenetration and interfusion, so that all the obstructiveness between the upper and lower realms, the inner and outer worlds, can be dissolved. This is transcendental metaphysics worth the title! In establishing any system of philosophical thought the human creative spirit is neither confined to the lower realm, nor to the inner (subjective) world of mind, alone. Rather, by its power of expansion it always strives to break through the inner, in order to reach the outer, worlds; to break through the lower—and penetrate the intermediate, in order to reach the upper, realms. Hence, living in the actual world as we are, we can still attain to liberation and emancipation by virtue of spiritual exaltation and self-transcendence. Just as, after take-off, the ascending airplane seems to be severed from the ground but, surely, it will touch down for landing [or for refueling if needed], so is the case with the ascending human spirit: after attaining to the highest ideal-horizons it must touch down for landing, back to the actual work [for refueling], for realization, back to the actual life [for recharge], for complete fulfillment. This explains why the system of transcendental metaphysics, once completed, must be transformed into an immanent one: for the transcendental ideals must be completed and realized in the actual work, here and now.
(3) Interpenetrative System
Chinese philosophy has never adopted the method of bifurcation which involves a series of oppositions and contradictions. Instead, it always seeks everywhere to effect interpenetration, vertically as well as horizontally, with a view to constructing what may be called an "Interpenetrative System," to borrow a phrase from the Book of Creativity in the Chou version. This is the point of greatest difference that distinguishes the Chinese position from most others. Because of such a difference, our thinkers as system-builders are analogous to architects working on a blue-prints for a great building, with various kinds of structure-designs and construction-materials to be integrated into an architectonic unity and coherence. In the case of any building, however transcendental its ideal of beauty may be, the construction-materials it uses are all taken from the physical conditions here on earth, such as the clay, sand, timber, steel-frame, concrete, etc. By putting all these together into the architectonic form, the manifolds are at once transformed into symmetry and harmony, and finally all thoroughly integrated as a finished work of art.
Nowadays many of our young scholars have been disciplined in Western thought before they receive training in Chinese philosophy. There is nothing wrong with Western training as such. It always provides us with some kind of methodological procedure for each step of the progression of thought, which is a very good training indeed. But, owing to the impact of science on philosophy, it aims at solving one problem at one time, and has therefore adopted the analytic method for many essential problems and important issues in philosophy. The merit of such a method is freedom from ambiguity and vagueness, but it implies a crisis, too. For, applying this method of analysis, one can only deal with one problem at one time, hence one is unable to be comprehensive in vision as to other problems relevant to the one under treatment. What is analytically grasped tends to form an isolated system and our thought confined thereto is not only unable to have a comprehensive view of all related problems in the case but, more importantly, even of those factors relevant to the solution of the given problem itself. An isolated system thus formed is likely to exclude new possibilities beyond itself; and this will impoverish any system by depriving it of richness and plentitude. Therefore, studying Western philosophy one must be wise enough to learn its merits on the one hand while avoiding its crises [pitfalls and limitations] on the other, such as involved in the isolated system and the prejudices generated thereby.
(4) Organismic System
In China it is necessary that we should transport the transcendent metaphysics for the realm of ideality back to the world of actuality and the community of human life as well, for the complete actualization of values. Furthermore, it is no less important that we should enlarge our scope of vision whereby to take in the totality of myriad aspects of life—cosmic and human—in a Wholistic, All-Comprehensive Perspective, so all kinds of values can be interconnected, interfused, and well-integrated. In this sense, transcendental metaphysics may be properly termed "organismic," in that it stresses the unity of all aspects of an All-Comprehensive and All-Penetrative System of thought wherein it is feasible to effect their culmination unification and highest synthesis. Only in this way can we expect to avoid the shortcomings brought about by isolated systems, namely, [the fact that] the method of abstract analysis has proved to be so one-sided, piecemeal, and fragmentary that it produces only onesided, "tunnel" views while focusing on a few factors to the exclusion of all the others. This is in defiance of the plentitude and manifoldness of the philosophical issues, world-systems, and human life-experiences as a whole.
Modern scientific materialism makes a good case in point. With regard to Western philosophy and religion, it is evident that there are many spiritual spheres in the universe, such as the moral, artistic, and religious worlds, of which the chief constituent factors are all spiritual phenomena. But as viewed by modern physical science, whose method is either that of mathematical abstraction or that of physical experimentation, the fundamental conditions for the cosmic structure are all reduced to quantitative phenomena which, again, are further reduced to simple systems—for which new data must be provided wherever the given ones are found to be insufficient. Through cold and rigid experimentation it seeks new facts in addition to those old ones. In the newly constituted facts it seeks new conditions—those that must be the physical facts capable of being grasped by pointer-readings for the scientific mind, all ending up in the prejudices of modern scientists -- as if the natural reason in their grasp is the only valid over-riding supreme reason, the key to the reality of all that is. Whatever cannot be so grasped must be considered illusory. Thus, all qualities irreducible to quantitative terms are considered illusory; thus, all values incapable of being treated by the modern scientific method are considered illusory.
In this manner the modern scientific mode of thought, once reaching the high degrees of abstraction and exactitude, issues in serious mistakes intellectually—which are eulogized in the name of axiological neutrality! It follows, therefore, that whatever cannot be reduced to quantitative conditions is negated: Inasmuch as religion cannot be so reduced, it is negated. Inasmuch as beauty in art (modern abstract art representing not all arts) cannot be reduced to mere numerical terms, it is eschewed, and people recoil to their own subjective states of mind or their abnormal psychology for refuge or for endless, restless quests. Consequently, beauties in the natural as well as supernatural worlds are all obliterated, all wiped out! In the field of ethics many theorists have uprooted goodness as motivation in morality, reducing it to a bundle of phenomena described in terms of analytic and neutral language; moral phenomena thus described are no longer any goodness at all, but neutral facts!
Under such circumstances the enormous strides made in modern science, once applied to philosophy, imply that the method to be adopted for it is partial analysis instead of exhaustive elucidation, abstract analysis in place of concrete understanding. In addition, because of the erroneous attitude of axiological neutralism adopted towards all values, such as the value of holiness and those of truth, goodness, and beauty, apparently there remains almost nothing to talk about in terms of values at all [as if ‘value’ itself has already become a taboo for our modern philosophic speech]! Thus, with no other alternatives except the path of a radical scientific materialism, it is virtually impossible to create any new horizons in the world of thought.
(5) Value-Centric System
Now, if we adopt an organismic position in metaphysics, first of all we must understand the universe as an organic whole, in light of which we are supposed to discuss ontology as a theory of all the cosmic realities contained therein in toto, before we can further proceed to discuss the entire realm of Authentic Being as Reality Itself. If, however, we think that in terms of art, religion, philosophy and science the reality of the universe can be shown in all its artistic, moral, and epistemic value-ideals, then we can readily effect an interpenetration between the supreme standard of all values (truth, goodness and beauty, etc.) and the ultimate reality of the entire universe. Thus, far from being impoverished, the cosmos is transformed and transmuted into a unified whole combining within itself a far more enriched system of reality with a far more amplified system of a value. If we can establish our philosophy of life on the basis of such a philosophical orientation as foundation, then the human way of life, far from being an array of impoverished activities, will be capable of bringing about the supreme unit of all values by virtue of interpenetration, so as to fulfil what the Confucians in the Great Learning have spoken of as the Categorical Imperative: "abide by the consummation of perfections!" [With the Supreme Good looked upon as the Omega-Point in the cosmic process of Creative Advance, to paraphrase Whitehead and Telhard de Chardin]. Only with the complete actualization of all values will there be the consummate perfection of the standard for the supreme unity of all ideals.
If we adopt this kind of metaphysical system of thought to describe the universe, wherein all the plenitudes of value are unified through interpenetration, then we at once realize that only on the basis of such an intellectual orientation can we move forward to constitute our life-activities as a matter of value-reconstruction, in light of which we can grasp beauty, goodness, and truth as all-pervasive. For this reason Chinese thought will never become an abstract system nor impoverished thereby, unlike the positions of Bertrand Russell and G. E. Moore. They were unable to discuss a good many philosophical issues, because these were already axiologically neutralized; beauty they were unable to appreciate, because it had no place in their [technical] philosophy; nor were they able to fulfill the ideal of goodness, because their moral philosophy was just empty talk incapable of discussing values at all. With regard to religion, people like Russell had no other choice except to become atheistic [or agnostic], because the religious value of holiness was already neutralized and excluded from their universe of discourse.
In the present situation many of our young students of contemporary Western philosophy are unable to trace its enlivening development beginning with Greek philosophy and Hebrew religion as its origio et fons and continuing through the Middle Ages down to the first-rate thinkers of modern times. Ignorant of such a historical background they know nothing except that modern philosophy has become logical positivism or ordinary speech analysis. That’s all. So, they are in fact facing the death of philosophy; it would be a great crisis for them to follow along this tract. In this respect, by means of Chinese philosophy one will be able to avoid blind accepting the crises in contemporary Western thought. For there are so many issues of crucial importance in the field that cannot be treated with the simplistic method of abstraction or isolated systems, or explained away with the premise of axiological neutrality. We see that it is not a mistake for the young generation to study philosophy using Western methodology. The fault lies rather with their failure to pursue Western philosophy, roots and branches, i.e., by tracing from its sources to its streams, and vice versa, in order to gain a systematical and thoroughgoing understanding. It is wrong to adopt such Western fads as presented in the form of logical positivism, or mere techniques of symbolic logic, or mere ordinary speech analysis. All these are crises resulting from the decadence of Western thought in the course of its recent development. Without realizing such crises, certainly we will have misunderstandings about Western philosophy and will not be able to reconsider, in light of the Chinese mentality, the system of philosophical thought that Chinese minds have created in the past, and the high achievement in the wisdom of life they have exemplified. This is an important lesson. If we want to be free, immune from the predicament of contemporary Western thought, we must now turn to some salient points essential to the understanding of the major systems of Chinese philosophy.
5. General Characteristics
Of various schools of thought in the Chinese philosophical tradition—such as the Confucian, the Taoist, and the Mahayanist—none is a simple and single system. Within each major school there are divergent strains, too, as subordinate sects. But despite such divergences, some general characteristics can still be noticed as common denominators in the context of each school: namely, (1) the doctrine of pervasive unit, (2) the doctrine of Tao; and (3) the doctrine of exaltation of personality.
(1) The Primordial Confucian School
In the establishment of any system of thought Chinese philosophers, in method and attitude, have always attempted to make it "broad, great, mellow, and profound," i.e., comprehensive and penetrating. In other words, they have always aimed to transform any system of multidualistic oppositions into a unified integral whole. In regard to Confucianism, we may cite Confucius’ own words, "My doctrine is that of an all-pervasive unity,"—meaning thereby that Confucian thoughts make a system of pervasive unity. In order to properly appreciate such a typical Confucian spirit of pervasive unity, we must first understand what Tzengtzu has called "the way of empathy and sympathy." It urges as an imperative that we shall develop and spread our great sympathy and compassion. In our daily experience of dealing with other people in the world we shall recognize that each person has his/her own specific world horizon; as you have yours. Were you to reject other people’s positions adopted in terms of their own world-horizons, then at once prejudice would ensue!
The so-called "way of empathy and sympathy" means simply this: I am situated in such and such a world-horizon, accordingly I adopt such and such a viewpoint, also at the same time I must transfer my spirit to my world-horizon and viewpoint, therefore I must needs have great sympathy before I can empathize with your situation, to see things from your viewpoint, in your own terms [i.e., to put myself in your shoes.] Thus this "way of empathy and sympathy" is identical with what is called the "way of fair measure" in the Great Learning.—Though easy to say, it is by no means an easy thing to do; I mean, to put it into practice:
"What you don’t like in those above, do not
for that reason apply to order those below; what you don’t like in those below,
do not for that reason apply to serve those above; what you don’t like in those
ahead, do not for that reason apply to lead those behind; what you don’t like
in those behind, do not apply to follow those ahead. What you don’t like in
those on the left, do not for that reason apply to deal with those on the
right; what you don’t like in those on the right, do not for that reason apply
to deal with those on the left."
[Or simply: "What you don’t like in those above, do not for that reason treat those below with; and vice versa. What you don’t like in those ahead, do not for that reason treat those behind with; and vice versa. What you don’t like in those on the left, do not for that reason treat those on the right with; and vice versa."]
You just try it! [as an elaboration of the platinum rule: "What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to them." This is exactly what the Confucians call the "principle of reciprocity."] Nowadays many young people like to use the modern term "generation gap" in their family life. The Chinese never talk about it. In Hsiao Ching, the Book of Filial Piety, it has never been said that in the family system the father is a despotic monster or a tyrant!
Suppose you find your father too strict towards you, wait until you become a father with children of your own. What would you do, then? Spoil them? Or, should you not think for their future, sympathetically? Then, you must rectify so many mistakes they are making. In fact, with regard to the way of empathy and sympathy, or fair measure, it is very difficult to have it well performed. Once this ideal is realized, the whole family, the whole community, the whole state, and even the whole cosmos will then be all transformed into the realm of great and profound sympathy, where in each and every person can put himself/herself into the position of others, and can feel sympathetic to other people’s various kinds of problems in their own situations, so as to transmute all the world-horizons into a unified system of interpenetration, both latitudinally and laterally.
In Primordial Confucianism the so-called doctrine of pervasive unity is differentiated in the way of (1) heaven, (2) earth, and (3) humanity. It is said, in the Book of Creativity, "The way of heaven and earth is perseveringly visible; the way of sun and moon is perseveringly illuminant." Here, "visible" refers to "looking up to contemplate the manifest in the heavens, and looking down to observe the orderly on earth," even down to the manifold phenomena of the plant world and the animal kingdom (including the grasses and trees, the birds and beasts, the insects and fish, etc.) with a view to form a systematical understanding of the cosmic life. Thereby we can orient our human existence in respect of its value, meaning, and status, before we can meaningfully discuss the human way. This point is clearly stated in the Doctrine of Equilibrium and Harmony:
It is only those who, being most truthful and sincere in all the world, can completely fulfil his life. Being able to fulfil his own life in a perfect way, he can, then, completely fulfil the life of other men. Being able to completely fulfil the life of other men, he can, furthermore, completely fulfil the life of all creatures and things. Being able to completely help fulfil the life of all creatures and things, he can participate in the process of cosmic creation. Being able to participate in the cosmic process of creation, he is a co-creator with heaven and earth. [Chapter 22, the author’s own translation.]
The above-quoted statement takes its origin in the Book of Creativity, wherein the ways of Ch’ien and K’un are interpreted in terms of creative origination and procreative completion respectively. Indeed, these two principles are both symbols of universal cosmic life. As the great power (virtue) of creative origination, the former permeates the cosmic life throughout; as the great power (virtue) of procreative completion, the latter embraces all forms of life-impulse on earth, nourishing and sustaining all life-activities in nature. Taken together, these two principles represent the spirit of universal life as a whole. This is the fundamentum of Confucianism. Such a spirit of creativity is all-pervading throughout the entire universe of heaven, earth, and humanity. The human’s place in the cosmos is such that as co-equal with heaven and earth, each individual is an exemplification of the same spirit of universal life.
According to the Doctrine of Equilibrium and Harmony, the spirit of universal life must be fully developed towards consummation as the omega-point by those who are most truthful and sincere—most authentic—in the world. The entire program ranges from (1) fulfillment of the individual’s life-ideals, to (2) extension of sympathy to help other fellow human beings fulfill theirs, and (3) further extension of the same spirit of sympathy from humans to all forms of existence in the cosmos, and helping them, in the spirit of equity, to fulfill their lives as intimately observed in a sympathetic vision. As peer to heaven and earth, humans can equally display the importance of the spirit of creative life in the universe, thus participating in the same cosmic process of nourishing transformation as co-creator with heaven and earth, eventually capable of fulfilling the meaning and value of universal life. This, as I take it, is the gist of the Confucian doctrine of pervasive unity.
(2) The Primordial Taoist School
Next, the same doctrine of pervasive unity for the Taoists is best represented in the sublime words of Chuangtzu: "Heaven and earth and I concresce; all things and I are one." It emphasizes unity through interpenetration of the human and the cosmic spirit as a whole; but its origin should be traced to Chapter One of Laotzu’s work, Tao and Its Virtues (The Way and Its Powers, known in the West as the Tao Te Ching):
that can be walked as a way,
Is not the eternal Tao (Way);
that can be used to designate
Is not the eternal name.
We may adopt "wu" for Non-Being
To designate the beginning of heaven and earth;
We may adopt "yu" for Being
To designate the mother of all beings in universe.
Under the aspect of wu as Non-Being
We can contemplate its wondrous subtleties;
Under the aspect of yu as Being
We can contemplate its infinite varieties.
These two, in origin the same,
Only diverge in name.
Both merge in the Mysterious,
Nay, the Mysteriously Mysterious
Mystery as the gate of myriad wonders!
Here, it is suggested that we should trace back and forth, from the realm of Non-Being (Wu) to that of Being (Yu), and vice versa, to get to the root (primordium) of heaven and earth as well as the mother (matrix) of all things in the universe. Only with all these thus seen through, can we reach the ultimate source of the cosmic life and its secrets, which are summed up in one word by Laotzu—"hsuan" ("the Profoundly Mysterious")! But that does not mean all ends up here—once and for all—with one [aspect of] mystery only, just as no secrets of the great ocean can be fully dug out—once and for all—with just one dive into it at first sight! This kind of "going deep" is not a mere one-dimensional operation. Rather, it is an endless searching into all the cosmic realities from mysteries to mysteries, and from depths to depths, until it gets to the bottom, so to speak. Only with the cosmic secrets all thus plucked out and brought up [for a synoptic survey], can there be any true understanding of Reality as a Whole. This typical Taoist way of "pervasive unity" consists in the endless search after the "Mysteriously Mysterious Mystery." —A new coinage as it is, but philosophically not ungrounded, for F. H. Bradley in his Appearance and Reality (1893) has used the "Really Real Reality." Studying philosophy without such a tour de force, one would end up in a skin-deep philosopher, very superficial, like those [popularized] pragmatists in America who take all things at their face value, without regard to their real value or authentic worth. Appearances, whether in the form of delusion or hypothetical construction, are far from being the really real. Seeking Reality is like peeling the skins off a garlic, layer after layer, until the core is visible. So the Taoists, too, must first take all appearances and delusion as such, and then have them all brushed aside in the phenomenological parlance, "dismantled," in order to grasp Reality in its innermost form—from depths to depths.
As Laotzu sees it, it is one thing to become a well-learned person; but quite another, to become a philosopher! In the former case, one needs simply to accumulate day and night all kinds of knowledge for the sake of scholarship; but to become a philosopher one should, first and foremost, grasp the doctrine of the pervasive unity of the universe. Or else, various kinds of knowledge piled up mountain high are just as worthless as blank sheets of paper! It is therefore asserted that "the development of knowledge is a matter of daily increasing; whereas the cultivation of Tao is a matter of daily diminishing." [i.e., a process of refining.] All true philosophy stresses wisdom, and prejudices and errors must all be rid of the appearances, step by step, layer after layer. For Laotzu, knowledge can be increased through gradual affirmation, step by step, level after level. But to be a thinker a philosopher, one must realize that "the fulfillment of Being leads to eudaimonia; whereas the attainment to Non-Being fulfills the performance of function."
But how is one to apply the second approach? When facing a certain phenomenon, take it as merely appearance; when gaining a certain truth, take it as merely relative truth, and then proceed to probe into the inner essence of Truth as Reality, which in Itself can be differentiated into a variety of aspects that must be thoroughly surveyed from depths to depths, from mysteries to mysteries, in the spirit of endless pursuit. It is only after all biases and prejudices are thus dismantled—peeled, if you like— that Truth will manifest Itself as in the light of day, and so spontaneously! Analogically, no camera can catch the true spirit of a person since it conveys no more than his resemblance; whereas a genius portrait painter can vividly express the quality of the person in his inward spirit. Such is the case with our ways of understanding the Cosmic Reality.
When I was young I was found of photography. Once, when I was visiting Peking for sightseeing, I was so fascinated by the view of the Celestial Temple that I wanted to take a snapshot of it. I tried and tried several times, but always I was unsatisfied, until some days later when, in the twilight of an evening, I made a tour around the place for a more careful observation. It was during the late autumn and early winter season. My attention was captured by a formation of crows flying across the sky. I then lifted my head and cast my gaze upward. Overlooking [imaginatively] from that angle as a vantage point, suddenly I grasped the beautiful scene of the Celestial Temple as a whole. Such is the case with the grasping of Truth. Truth reveals itself only after all the one-sided views and prejudices are peeled off—dismantled. It seems that Ultimate Truth emerges from the inward spiritual life of the philosopher’s personality, in a flash of insight.
Suppose we want to draw a painting of the moon. We first need to paint the clouds as the background against which the moon will be shown, suggestively, as by a magic touch. Certainly the clouds are not the moon; nor does the finger point to itself, but to the moon [as the famous Chan saying has put it]! And even the so-called moon is not the moon either, for the most beautiful image of the moon is reflected in the moonlit waters. Truly philosophical wisdom, therefore, must finally manifest itself as reflected in the inward life of the philosopher’s personality that it tempered through the supreme art of negation as nullification.
In light of the above discussion we may consider Chapter Two of Laotzu’s work:
When people of the world
Are all aware of the beautiful
And its ground,
There emerges [as its co-relative]
When people of the world
Are all aware of the good
And its ground,
There emerges [as its co-relative]
The "no good!"
This means that we should penetrate into the realm of all relative values and phenomena until ultimately we grasp the core of Value and Reality as One. For the Taoists, philosophical discussion does not proceed merely from Being to Non-Being, i.e., not merely from ontology, but from me-ontology also. What appears as the world of Being does not count so much as its inner essence, which deserves to be pursued persistently from depths to depths. Philosophically speaking, the concept of "wu" (Non-Being) is far more important than that of "yu" (Being), the former referring to the me-ontological while the latter, to the ontological realm. For the same reason, in the studies of Western philosophy even the highest reality must be also suspended in the epochê: From the Taoist viewpoint, the Greek ontological conception of Absolute Being in light of Relative Being is found to be still restricted within the realm of Being. In order to understand the Ultimate Reality, we must disclose all its appearances through the method of negation as nullification.
"Wu" (Non-Being), conceived in terms of profound subtleties and unfathomable mysteries, is beyond any verbalization or linguistic description. This is exactly what is meant by Laotzu when he asserts: "The fulfillment of Being leads to eudaimonia whereas the attainment to Non-Being fulfills the performance of function." The primal mystery of heaven and earth is not affirmed as Being through ontology; rather, it is affirmed as Non-Being through me-ontology, in light of which one can gain an insight into the Ultimate Reality as hidden behind all its appearances [but manifested through function]. This is what the Taoists have called the Tao as the Way.
(3) The Mahayana Buddhist School
We now take a look at the case of Buddhism. After its introduction into China in the Later Han Dynasty Buddhism borrowed some Taoist terminology. Mahayana Buddhism stresses Prajna-Philosophy, developing thereby the so-called "Bodhi-Way" or "Bodhi-Tao.: "Bodhi" means "Light", and as such, one can hardly comprehend what it really is. This aspect of incomprehensibility we can well understand in light of Plato and Descartes. The so-called ‘Parable of the Cave" suggests the idea that one who escaped from the Cave and for the first time exposes himself to the light of day simply cannot see anything at all! So, it is futile to talk about Bodhi in its own terms; it must be illuminated by contrast to sufferings, evil, perplexity, and darkness as background. Before achieving enlightenment, even the Buddha himself had only to curse the world, evil, sufferings, humankind—himself included. When he had attained to Enlightenment under the Bodhi-Tree by going through immediate experience of troubles, sufferings, and evils and in virtue of exaltation by Prajña (Wisdom), he suddenly realized that all these did not belong to him; he was then no longer defiled by them in any way at all. By the wisdom he had attained he was able to transcend all troubles, sufferings, and evils, emerging like the purest lotus flower shooting up out of the dirtiest mud, undefiled, and manifesting itself above the surface level of the water. Or, as related in The Virmalakarti-Nirdesa-Sñ tra (The Sñ tra Spoken by Virmalakarti), when the celestial devas, the enchantingly beautiful nymphs, were scattering the fragrant flowers among the monks in an assembly, the lesser ones tried hard—to their utmost—to duck or to brush them away, but to no avail whereas the greater ones remained where they were, unmoved in the least. Yet, strangely enough, the flowers would not stick on them at all!
The so-called "Bodhi-Way" of salvation consists in elucidating, in light of the Doctrine of Samskrita Dharmas (what arise by relational or dependent origination), all the constituent conditions that account for what is generally accepted as the actual world. Then, we realize: If we cannot transcend this sort of bondage, our life will be doomed to be caught in the endless wheel of troubles and afflictions as a vicious circle. If, however, we can gain an insight into the constituent conditions for all the life-phenomena in the actual world, as well as the reason why human life is affixed thereto, we are then no loner subject to this bondage because the network of causation, as we see, is just a matter of hypothetical construction. Higher wisdom emerges only with the liberation of thought.
As maintained in Seng Chao’s "Treatise on Prajña as No-Knowledge," it is only by piercing into the plausibility of all systems of knowledge that one is no longer bound by them; hence, one is freed. Likewise, it is only by piercing into the plausibility of the actual world as a world of appearance that one will no longer plunge one’s life back again into the hot-water of the bitter sea of Samsara in human existence [the well of rebirth, life-and-death]; hence, one is saved. Therefore, one is able to enter into the spiritual realm of freedom, grasping assuredly the Doctrine of True Void (Sunyata). Only by applying the same method recommended by Laotzu, "Cultivating the Tao by diminishing" (in the sense of "reducing for refining"), and only by thus adopting the attitude of negation or nullification to pierce all appearances of the universe, can one attain to spiritual liberation and emancipation. One has then possessed such a spirit of independence and autonomy that one can hold all the universe under his sway, achieving thereby absolute spiritual freedom, undefiled by any darkness, affliction, and perplexity whatever.
This is the true spiritual enlightenment or awakening, which is cultivated bit by bit, drop by drop, until eventually all merge into the Wisdom-Ocean, not as a matter of mere knowledge in the ordinary sense, but as the supreme wisdom paralleling what Aristotle calls "noesis noemata," "knowledge of knowledge." It is developed out of the philosopher’s inward spirituality, known as "the supreme wisdom by self-witnessing from within" (in The Lankª vatª ra-Sñ tra). Hence, the Bodhi-Way is a great spiritual liberation, a radical self-awakening, a true enligh-tenment.
In pursuit of Cosmic Reality and Value as One the Human individual should first of all possess high degrees of spiritual development and achievement before reaching the end-results. In other words, generally, ordinary knowledge serves a decorative purpose whereas philosophical wisdom emerges only out of inward spirituality which, as the sheer spiritual light illuminates oneself, all humankind, all creatures and things in the universe, sentient and non-sentient alike. This means the achievement of a "great, brilliant spiritual personality." Only by virtue of self-transcendence can the individual fully develop his inward spiritual life as embodiment of all the potency of Cosmic Reality and Value, bodying forth himself as a well-cultivated great personality, solid and impregnable.
For the Confucians, this is called the ideal of sageliness; for the Taoists, the ideal of perfect personality, authentic and all-comprehensive; for the Buddhists, the ideal of Buddhahood. The attainment to Buddhahood follows the program of [Sadhana in the form of] "Ten Stages of Self-Transcendence" as telos, according to which one develops step by step, stage after stage, from the ordinary person to the Junior Bodhisattva and Arahat without lapse, advancing perseveringly upwards to the Maha-Bodhisattva and the Buddha, reaching finally the supreme status as perfectly equitable with all the Buddhas past, present, and future. Then, by reversal of direction one descends back to the mundane, human world being committed to the cause of Universal Salvation by participation with all other creatures in it, sentient and non-sentient alike. Only thus can the ideal of a great personality be completely realized.
In the East, especially in China, philosophers are not mere knowledge dealers or peddlers on the university campuses, who have a long way to go yet! A true philosopher is one who is undefiled by, and non-attached to, the lower realms of existence. He is so firmly placed in the Cosmic Life that he can spiritually transcend and liberate himself by an ever-ascending elevation, stage after stage, until reaching the acme of the spiritual world, whereupon to consummate his immortal personality and then to radiate his illumination in all directions. This makes a real philosopher worthy of the name! In the West, as Socrates and Plato had said in ancient Greece, the philosopher should exhibit the uplifting of his purified soul in the world of values wherein he is to liberate himself from all the bondages of the lower realm of the world and to transform himself into pure spirit itself. Yet still down he must go, back to the world, here and now! to engage in the various walks of activities while remaining perfectly immune from any encumbrances whatever. Having thus already attained to the absolute spiritual freedom, he is no longer involved in the lower realm, nor entangled therein. The Chinese philosopher, in the words of the Sung Neo-Confucians, should likewise exemplify "the charismatic spirit—atmosphere of the sages and worthies in every actual occasion of life."
How is one to cultivate this type of spiritual atmosphere? It is possible only by committing one’s individual life to the Great Flux of Universal Life in confluence with all forms of life, cosmic and human, and transcending one’s own spiritual potency in unison with all the spiritual values in the universe, into the loft realms of value-ideals [oriented towards the omega-point as the consummation of perfection]. For this reason the disciples of Wang Yangming in 16th to 17th centuries China used to say of their city-streets that they were "filled with sages everywhere!" It is precisely because both their own standard of value and their own moral edification had been elevated into quite a spiritual eminence that they could well regard all the humankind, not in terms of the belittling petty narrow mind, but in terms of the value-centric ideal of the great noble mind. Here, then, the genuine value of humanity at once shines forth!
Chinese philosophy differs from the Western, in that it has adopted the position of a transcendental metaphysics combining itself with a metaphysics of the immanent type: Starting from cosmic realities and human existence as a whole, it attempts to elevate the actual state of human life into the realm of ideal-values to be applied back again to actual life, thus making an integral system, through and through. From beginning to end, the whole process of operation is an "organismic procedure." In content Chinese philosophy comprises three general characteristics, of which the first one is what Confucius has called the "Doctrine of Pervasive Unity" emphasizing the coherent system of Life as a whole—cosmic and human. Such is the Confucian way, and so is the Taoist way, thus presented by Laotzu,
Behold those ancients holding to the One! --
By holding to the One
Heaven was clarified;
By holding to the One
Earth was stabilized;
By hold to the One
The Divine was spiritualized;
By holding to the One
The Vacuous was amplified;
By holding to the One
All things were vitalized;
By holding to the One
The nobles were edified
As Paradigm for the World to Follow.
Hold to the One, then,
As Model for the world to follow,
Time and again!
—The Way and Its Power, Chapter 39.
This is the Taoist vindication of the Doctrine of Pervasive Unity! But the Confucians differ from the Taoists in approach: The Confucians aim to transcend upwards to grasp high ideals to be completely realized in the actual realm of human life. Whereas the Taoists, like Laotzu, distinguish the spirit of philosophy from that of knowledge. Knowledge is accumulative in character, proceeding from Non-Being to Being, and from being to evermore Being. To whatever extent our knowledge may be thus accumulated, it still remains abstract and analytic in character, far from being able to grasp the realities of cosmic life as a whole. The spirit of philosophy, argues Laotzu, shall not end up with knowledge-seeking alone; nor shall it be concerned with matters of mere learning; rather, it shall be concerned with the Tao. His statement "Reversion is the opera-tion of the Tao" simply means this: Living as we are in the world of actualities, yet dissatisfied with it, and living as we are in the world of appearances, yet dissatisfied with it, we shall do away with all actualities and appearances alike, in order to make room for realities to manifest themselves!
Pursuit of the Tao differs from pursuit of mere knowledge. The former aims at the disclosure of all appearances to grasp ultimate realities, so we may become thereby better aware of the supreme values. It is therefore asserted that "Cultivation of the Tao is a matter of daily reducing," [in other words, the process of nullification is a matter of daily refining.] To be is to be nullified, i.e., to be refined. Only by peeling off, letting-go of all analytic knowledge and all appearances thus involved, may we expect to grasp all authentic values. Only by going through the full course from montology to meontolgy, may we expect to obtain philosophical wisdom of the highest order. Of course, this does not imply that a high level of spiritual achievement means separation from the world of actualities, here and now. On the contrary, it emphasizes that we shall cast our deep regard from the vantage point upon the lower realms down below. "Uplift ourselves to the acme of the spiritual empyrean and cast our gaze downwards upon the lower mundane worlds!" as Chuangtzu urges. Reverse the order from ontology to cosmology and cosmogony, grasp the secret of the Great Tao, treat it as the Acme of the Cosmic Life, and explicate thereupon the whole cosmogenetic processes thus: "The Tao produces the One; the One produces Two; the Two produces Three; and the Three produces the myriad realm of things in nature." Thus we see that cosmology shall be treated last, and the ideal realm shall be transformed into the actual. This, I take it, is the Taoist Doctrine of Pervasive Unity.
It is by the method of De-Being -- by "nullification of Being into Non-Being -- that the Taoists had succeeded in extending backwards from ontology to meontology. We may safely say that in the development of Chinese philosophy it would be virtually impossible for Buddhism to be received, had the Taoist system of thought not existed before [hence, preparing the path for it], because Buddhist terms such as "sunyata" were found to be so much at odds with the traditional Chinese thought in general. In its early stage in China, Buddhism was presented primarily through its external forms of religious rituals. Thus, it was mocked as a "perverse worship" or "weird cult," full of the superstitious indulgences in strange phenomena, superhuman powers, fantastic drives, and supernatural or even monstrous beings, as recorded in the History of the Later Han Dynasty (see "Biography of Prince Ying of Chu"). This is because, when Buddhism was first introduced into China [incompletely], it was of the Hinayana Sect, having only the outward forms of rituals without much spiritual import or significance as the essence of true religion. As such, it could hardly be accepted by the Chinese mind.
Eventually, however, a turning point came as a result of the attempts made to grasp the spiritual import embodied in the Buddhist rituals in terms of Laotzu’s concept of "wu" as "Non-Being." With the Chinese translation of the Prajña-Satra in Small Portions done in the Later Han and Three Kingdoms Periods, the Taoist concept of "wu" as "Non-Being" was adopted as an equivalent for the Buddhist concept "Sunyata" [though this is quite questionable]. Later in the Wei and Chin Periods, the structure of Confucian society gradually collapsed and there arose the School of Neo-Taoism. Buddhism, the new comer, immediately joined itself with Neo-Taoism, the new school, in initiating a sort of trio of thought in the form of Three Systems of Speculative Philosophy. This was made possible by adopting Taoism as the fundamental basis, by absorbing Buddhism as a foreign element for reinforcement, and finally by forging these two, far-fetchingly, into the Confucianism embodied in the Chou version of the Book of Creativity. Thus, we see how Buddhism, originally a religion, once philosophized, came to be well received by the Chinese mind and to take root therein ever since. This point is likely to be oversimplified in words; but, in fact, it came as a result of the long process of historical evolution. New-comer to China, Buddhism had to face an arduous twofold task: on the one hand, it had to absorb new elements from a culture foreign to itself in origin and source, and on the other to complement therewith certain insufficiencies inherent in its own thought.
As to the language for conveyance of Buddhist knowledge, be it Sanskrit for the Mahª yª na or Pali for the Hinª yª na, it is characteristically Indo-European in linguistic pattern and structure. Basically, it claims that thought is not just a matter of mental or psychological activities; rather, it is also under the predominant influence of the Spirit of Logos. Hence, they say, only a language that is analytic in nature is apt for the expression of philosophical thought in a way that is at once abstract and subtle.
According to the Buddhist classification of knowledge [and wisdom], the first kind is known as the aravaka and pratyeka-buddha knowledge, i.e., the general, systematic knowledge explicative of the constitution of the kamadhatu (sensuous realm) on the lower realm as well as the various areas of the rupadhatu (physical world). It includes all knowledge-systems obtained from the visible world, and belongs to the category of scientific knowledge, analytic in character. The second kind is known as the Boddhisattva-knowledge: formed on the basis of the illumination obtained through genuine knowledge and great insight, by all those whose life is endowed with wisdom. Dissatisfied as Buddhist practitioners must be with the natural knowledge either of the sensuous realm or the physical world, they need, in addition, the moral, spiritual knowledge essential for the exalted spiritual personality sought after by all the Boddhisattvas before they can finally reach the stage of Buddhahood. During this period the aspirant is still human, not divine. One’s whole life is intent upon the Perfect Truth to be obtained by way of synthesizing all forms of knowledge, analytic as well as moral, into the sarvajñª and sarvajñaª , i.e., the Buddha-wisdom and wisdom of all wisdom.
This third kind of wisdom, the wisdom of all wisdom, results from merging by fusion all strands of discriminating knowledge in the world into a boundless wisdom-ocean conducive to the exalted spiritual personality of the Buddha, the Enlightened One. The whole life will have become the sheer light by illuminating itself the Universe-All and having all the troubles, evils, and darkness contained therein dissolved clean. Thus, the threefold differentiated world, the kamadhatu, the rupadhatu and the arupadhatu -- (the sensuous, the physical and the invisible realms) form one great integrated whole unified by perfect wisdom. This, as I take it, is the Buddhist Doctrine of Pervasive Unity.
Whether from the viewpoint of Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, or the Neo-Confucianism of the Sung and Ming Periods, Chinese philosophers, as a rule, are each endowed with an exalted personality. For example, the Confucian philo-sophical ideal culminates ultimately in sageliness. Yet Confucius himself has admitted frankly, "As for sageliness and jen, oh! how dare I claim to be qualified?!" Exalted in spirit as he is, Confucius never ventured to call himself a sage. But he well deserves to be called a great man—undoubtedly! As we find it stated in his own "Commentary on the first Hexagram of Ch’ien the Creative" in the Book of Creativity,
And, therefore, the great man comes to be in full accord with the heaven and earth in the excellence of virtue; with the sun and moon in the exuberance of light; with the four seasons in the sequence of order; and with gods and spirits in the bearing of fortune and misfortune.
Such a personality is truly a philosopher, a great Confucian indeed! To be a Confucian in the proper sense of the term, it is necessary that one is able to penetrate with all of his being into the Cosmic Life as a whole, to be further enabled thereby in such a way that "when he acts in advance of heaven, heaven will not contradict him; when he acts in observance of heaven, [even] heaven will deem it fit in timeliness." Only with such a broad and great personality will one be able to help fulfill all forms of life in the Univese, as asserted in the Doctrine of the Mean: The Concentric Way and Its Power, by "participating in the process of cosmic creation as co-worker with heaven and earth." The spirit of Confucianism consists, therefore, in striving to develop the comprehensive spirit of life itself, covering the full scope of the Universe All-in-All, and to understand it thoroughly, with a view to keeping in order the value and destiny of human life. Hence, as we see, the Confucian person is not a mere individual, but an exalted one!
So are the Taoists. In Laotzu’s work, Tao and Its Virtue, Part One describes the Great Tao and its spirit. Part Two takes the sage and his way of life as an exemplar for Tao’s (Dao’s) actualization consummated in the form of the supreme virtue. Men of the supreme virtue make what the Toaists call "the authentic men," "the perfect men," or even "the all-comprehensive authentic men" in Chuangtzu’s work (Chapter 33, "Men of the World"). How all-comprehensive?
The men of old were so perfect and complete in their comprehension of Tao! They could cope with the Divine; they were pure and perfect unto the likeness of heaven and earth; they fulfilled life in essential connection with all creatures; they acted in comprehensive harmony with the entire universe. Their beneficent influences reached to all classes of the people. They understood all principles and followed them out to the ultimate consequences. Throughout the universe, within the frame of Space-Time and in the four quarters, the spirit of his life has an all-pervasive presence, penetrating into all things, great and small, fine and coarse. ...
To be centered on heaven; to take root in excellence; to pursue the way of Tao, presaging all the processes of change and transformation before they come out: all of this constitutes what is called the sage.
Though devoid of the ritual forms for a religion, the Primordial Taoists are fully charged with the true religious spirit—in terms of their "identification with the way of heaven as non-action" [spontaneity]. Only thus can one achieve the Taoist type of ideal personality.
Therefore, Chuangtzu in the said chapter has rated a good many philosophers after the Spring and Autumn and the Warring States Periods as all falling short of the standard of "the all-comprehensive authentic man"—being at most mere replicas in miniature. "The integral system of Tao thus came to be torn in fragments by men of the world," packaged into a variety of brands such as the Confucian, the Taoist, the Mohist, the Legalist, and the Logicalist Schools, each sharing only a portion of it. And yet those who "chose to chop the beauty of the world in pieces and to shatter the constitutive principles of all things" are not able to restore these to an integrative unity. For "without the wholeness of the life characteristic of the wise men of old, they would understand differentially and analytically, seldom able to embrace all the beauty of the world." They simply chopped up the integral wisdom. Regarded in this way, the Taoist ideal is found to consist in the highest development of the full personality and the intimate interpenetration with all the worlds of the universe in order to produce such an "all-comprehensive" type of wisdom. With this point well grasped, we may now turn to the spirit of the Buddhists.
Buddhism teaches the doctrine of relational origination (pratitya-samutpada) that treats the vicious circle of pain, darkness (ignorance), and trouble as such stuff as life is made of. If, however, we can make clear the constitution of all the samskrita dharmas of the relational origination—as stated in the doctrine of samsara and the doctrine of karmic bondage—and can, moreover, break away from this wheel of samsara and find out an exit for spiritual liberation, we will then be able to transcend from the troublous world to the natural world. Thence we transcend to the ideal-world, i.e., the world transcending all actual worlds, known in philosophy as the value-world of truth, goodness and beauty, and finally from such advantage point to look at the kamadhatu and rupadhatu (the sensuous and physical worlds) as seen in an ideal regard. To be thus bondage-free is to be spiritually liberated.
The Neo-Confucianism of the Sung and Ming Periods stresses the importance of the "charismatic aura of the sage for the ideal personality." The philo-sopher’s way of life, it maintains, should be such that it is not to be disturbed by the lower realms of the physical or material world. Instead, it should be "identified with the core of heaven and earth," as "the center, the nucleus of cosmic creation." Philosophers should live for the fulfillment of the life and destiny of all humankind [and all creatures alike.] Such is the great premise upon which must be built all systems of thought; otherwise, frankly, they are only built on petty-narrow-mindedness.
This point will be at once made clear by contrasting the distinctive features of Chinese philosophy to the Western tradition. Take, for example, the case of Bacon and Descartes—fathers of modern European philosophy. What the former advocated as science was not science proper, but scientism; what the latter accomplished as father of rationalism, as he was acclaimed to be, was rather low rated by Jacques Maritain, the French philosopher, who said that the loss of wisdom began with the first thinker of the modern age—Descartes! On the other hand, the medieval philosophers and saints are many of them great personalities of religious sentiment with noble spirit. And among the early Greek philosophers, philosophers of nature as they were, Heraclitus did great deeds and made great contributions to the people. Pythagoras, at the moment of discovery of any truth, would be on his knees before the altar of religious worship for the sake of spiritual transcendence by the ladder of scientific truths.
With Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, knowledge no longer ended up in the sphere of nature alone. For example, Plato discovered the eminent realms of art and morality, and elevated the absolute values of truth, goodness and beauty into the realm of eternity for their ultimate, supreme unity. After Aristotle, science expanded into enormous systems and philosophy developed into the mysterious realm of theology. It is only the modern philosophers who have, as a rule, indulged themselves in the perverted systems of thought of their own making, such as Bacon’s scientism, which was even false scientism, and Descartes’ natural reason, which was made so fragmentary and piecemeal as to dominate the petty and narrow mind by pseudo-analytic knowledge. Hence, the decline of human spirit and the loss of philosophical wisdom; hence, the degeneration from great wisdom into analytic knowledge which, again, has been pulled down to the level of the physical and empirical worlds, until philosophy has lost its entire territory. This situation was caused by petty-and-narrow-mindedness on the part of modern philosophers. Let us now turn to the situation of Chinese philosophy for a glimpse. In its historical development Chinese philosophy, too, has undergone several stages of decline, -- three periods of decadence, I should say.
The first is the period of the Han Dynasty, (206 B. C. -- 220, A. D.), following the downfall of the despotic rule of the Chin Dynasty. It is marked simul-taneously by political, military expansion and spiritual, cultural decadence. This point was seen with peculiar perspicuity by Sze-Ma Chien, the Grand Historian, who summed up the whole situation most succinctly thus: "The Han had inherited the defects of the Chin." For, throughout the entire period of the Han Dynasty no single original thinker had been produced. The Han scholars were almost all syncretists, having indulged themselves in the "doctrine of yin-yang and five agencies," fabricating various sorts of arbitrary misinterpretations of it, being incapable of doing anything remedially about the after-effects of the previous era. Although the revolution was caused thereby, the revolutionary success, nevertheless, was not followed up with adequate political reforms. Thus, having failed to produce one single original thinker, the Han Dynasty was indeed a period of spiritual decadence.
The second is the period of the Five Dynasties (907-960), at the end of the Tang Dynasty, during which period of time not only had Primordial Confucianism receded in its influence, even Buddhism could hardly maintain itself. As vividly depicted by Ou-Yang Hsiu in his New History of the Five Dynasties, it was a time of great turmoil, marked by the darkness of political corruption and the disintegration of social structures until the renaissance in the Northern Sung Dynasty (960-1126) culturally, philosophically and religiously. But since the Ming and Ch’ing Periods (1368-1644, 1644-1912), China was victimized by a series of foreign oppressions. Chinese philosophy suffered once again another period of decline from which it has not recovered yet.
The third period begins with the Opium War (1842) until the present. Beginning with the Opium War against England when China, the oppressed, was forced to encounter the impact of Western culture, it was not the best of Western thought that was brought in. What is worse still, the West just forced its way into China, weapon-backed, supported by airplanes and gunboats, intending to destroy Chinese national unity. Moreover, due to serious mistakes made in terms of our modern education, the younger generation was misled to believe in the myth that the foreign moon is rounder! With the loss of self-confidence they became depressed and blank. Later on, even though attempts had been made to catch up with the West form the top foremost by imitating successively Japan, Europe, and America, they all failed, one after another. Consequently for the last fifty years our youths have lost their cultural consciousness, national spirit, and even human dignity. Besides, lack of sufficient training and discipline in classical Chinese language (philology) made them incompetent to read important classics of their own cultural heritage. I remember, when I was about your age—in the May 4th Movement period of 1919—I used to watch with wonder: What kinds of books were people on the campus holding in their hands?—always foreign books and, even for that matter, not the best of them. None cared for such important works as The Thirteen Classics, Four Histories, Works of the Philosophers, etc. A few years ago, when I was teaching in the United States, I found the same holds there of the American younger generation, too. Modern Americans seldom care for the European cultural tradition, with the result that great philosophical wisdom is dead, Hebrew religious sentiment is almost gone, and the proper science has met the fate of scientific revolution and scientific materialism. With philosophy, science and religion in the West all shattered into such superficial knowledge-beliefs, it is little wonder that now the Western youths have only other countries and cultures to turn to for the "rounder moon!" Fragmentary, partial studies in Indian philosophy as well as Chinese chan poems by Han Shan (Cold Mountain) all serve as the stuff the "hippie culture" and its superficial and decadent beliefs are made of.
Under such tides of fashion there have appeared on the modern stage of history various species of political monsters, armed each with his own wayward beliefs to be further institutionalized as the tools for world domination. The present day politics are all dark power politics. Germany, England, France, and the United States all find themselves at the crossroads. I am afraid that given a few more centuries to come—say, from 100 to 300 years—historians in retrospect will certainly label this century of ours the "Dark Age," just as the late 19th century historians unjustly termed the Middle ages by the same epitaph! Today, the human spirit is in decline; philosophy has degenerated into a mere bundle of superficial knowledge. Confronted with such a Zeitgeist one must feel quite depressed indeed. Great efforts, therefore, must be made to open up new vistas and prospects for a spiritually brightened world, to create new frontiers through philosophical wisdom, by constructing unified systems of scientific thought, unified systems of cosmic structure, and integrated systems of philosophical ideas and insights, culminating gradually, step by step, in the completion of the moral, artistic, and religious realms of value.
Hopefully this Dark Age of ours will soon be over; and we will soon be able to see the light again. Should this day come, it would indeed be a blessing for the modern man. This is what was meant by Suntzu when he said, "Being thrown unto a desperate situation, men will strive for life; being caught in a critical situation, men will fight for survival."
6. Distinctive Features
(A) The Combined Personality of Prophet, Poet and Sage
These four major traditions of Chinese philosophy—Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Neo-Confucianism—have one great presupposition in com-mon: the conviction that philosophical wisdom is the expression of great spiritual personality. On this point, Socrates in Plato’s Phaedrus (179 a) was reported to have said of his contemporary Isocartes, "There is philosophy in the man." The Chinese philosophers, however, may just as well have this statement reverted by saying, "There is man in Chinese philosophy." For further confirmation we may take a close look at the Principium Sapientiae by Professor F. M. Cornford of Cambridge, an eminent work on the origin of Western thought from the viewpoint of comparative studies in folk-lore, where it is maintained that the philosopher is a "combined personality of prophet, poet, and sage." This claim, as we notice from the viewpoint of comparative culture, holds of the East and the West as well.
The Prophet-type is one who, taking off from the present as a point of departure, casts his gaze upon the future, intent upon the future and final destiny of humankind as a whole. He is oriented towards the vista of the future.
The poet-type is one who, by the free play of creative imagination, projects the experience of the past onto the canvas of the future. In fact, it is a reverted past reflecting the past experience of the golden age, inducing thereby a sort of imaginative ideality such that human life can be properly arranged in the stream of time.
The sage-type is one who, firmly established in the present frame of space-time, is able to display the spirit of life and actualize life ideals through practical actions to develop and accomplish a great personality.
The insight of philosophical wisdom is such that it always aims at illuminating the future on the basis of the past, and is able to create all ideals for the future on the basis of present life and actions. Only thus can it constitute the so-called "combined personality of prophet, poet, and sage". Under such circumstances one’s spiritual insight can link itself with the past, penetrate into the present, and speculate on the future. To borrow a phrase from Sze-Ma Ch’ien, the philosopher should be "thoroughly conversant with the communion through interplay of heaven and man so as to gain a penetrating insight into the principles of changes in the process of historical development from the ancient down to the present times." Only a systematical knowledge thus accomplished can help us in dealing with the world. That the philosopher should be able to recollect the past, to penetrate into the present, and to create a blueprint for the future, is no mere illusory fancy. Rather, it is a matter of how to produce noble actions on the basis of a great personality and by virtue of the creative spirit as fully displayed in the actual world, here and now.
For Chinese philosophers of various schools, development of such a combined personality of course varies in their respective emphasis upon one aspect or another. Buddhism is not merely a school of philosophy, but a religion. As such, it is always concerned with the future and destiny of all humankind as a whole. Naturally, in the expression of thought, Chinese Mahayana Buddhists should stress their capacity as prophets.
The Taoists aim "to strive after the cosmic beauty and sublimity in order to understand the reason of all things." They belong to the category of artists, endowed with the artistic capability and sensitivity. As such, they are detached from the bondage of the actual world, capable of transcending into the realm of spiritual freedom. It follows therefore that the Taoists should stress their capacity as poets. But at times there seems to be a danger here, namely, once thus transcended and liberated, they tend to look down upon the world with disdain. The Confucians, on the contrary, have committed themselves to the fourfold guidepost of life: "Abide by Tao, hold to virtue, rely upon jen (creativity), and be immersed in arts." As such, they have cherished lofty ideals on the one hand, yet are not supposed to remain for long in the ideals of the value-world. They are obliged to actualize the heavenly virtues by complete fulfillment of all human functions—as reflected in the make-up of human body—thus realizing the lofty ideals in the actual world, with a view to achieving the threefold purpose of life: "rectification of virtue; benefaction of utility; and realization of eudaemonia" as fulfillment of life in the fullest sense of the term. Only by fulfillment of human life in the entire human community can one fulfill one’s life of creativity (jen). It follows therefore that the Confucians should stress their capacity as sages.
In Chinese thought it is primarily Confucianism that has played a leading role in conducting the Chinese way of life throughout. It is true that in moments of social corruption and collapse, e.g., in the Han Dynasty, Taoism did come to its rescue by transforming actuality into ideality. But the real Taoists, the artists, tend rather to take this world as useless, burdensome, something to forget about. After the Wei and Chin Periods, Buddhist thought made its way into Chinese society, complementing the deficiencies of Taoism. But with the Buddhists, even if a person has become an arhat by spiritual cultivation, it is only his own business, having nothing to do with the rest of the world. Many a Maha-Bodhisattva therefore would rather stay with, or return to, this world for its salvation than enter once and for all into the blissful realm of eternity. One must crack down the hardshell of all sorts of problematic knowledge before one can be free from their bondages and transcend oneself into the realm of spiritual freedom, that is, by following the Doctrine of the True Voidness [Sunyata], or Laotzu’s strategy of "daily nullification for the cultivation of Tao." This is the method of negation, of nullification, of "letting-go-of" all sorts of illusory appearances, suffering, troubles, and darkness (ignorance) in the universe. One can demonstrate one’s spiritual freedom by reasserting spiritual supremacy over them. In the presence of such a freedom there is nothing the latter can do any more. All forms of the highest wisdom culminate in one great wisdom-ocean for the consummation of sarvajñana—the wisdom of all wisdom!
(B) The Time-Man and the Space-Man
Thus we see that such a combined personality is very precious indeed. But the philosopher, after all, is human. Being a human, with differences in attitude and temperament, he is always inclined towards one special aspect or another in the combination. It follows therefore that the Buddhist is inclined towards the prophet-religionist type; the Taoist, towards the poet-artist type; and the Confucians, towards the sage type, At any rate, however, we may say that real Chinese philosophers are none of them ordinary. Distinguished spiritually, they may represent either the prophet, or the artist, or the sage. In addition, we may observe their special characters from another perspective.
(1) The Confucians as the Time-Men
The Confucian type is not merely a sage; he has other special capacities, too. At this moment the British philosopher Bertrand Russell’s remark comes to mind: "To realize the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom." I think his statement is half-right; it should be supplemented by the saying, "to realize the importance of time is the gate of wisdom" as well. For although the Confucians had traditionally inherited as revelation the thought embodied in the Book of History, and could well place their spirit in the realm of eternity; yet, for them, the most important classic still remains the Book of Creativity, wherein all the secrets of the universe are exhibited in the process of change and transformation in the mode of time [as matrix]. Evidently, had they been unable to grasp the secret of time, to exhibit thereby the realities of the world and human existence, and to make of all this a creative process, then the so-called Confucian spirit would have been completely gone long ago. Therefore, I say that all the Confucians, from Confucius himself to Mencius and Hsuntzu, make the typical time-men.
(2) The Taoists as Space-Men
Next, we turn to Taoism, where the situation is quite different. Russell spent one year in China; but in fact, it is only the Taoist spirit that he was able to admire and appreciate. That is why he had made the above statement—"to realize the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom." Consequently his book, The Problem of China, is full of misunderstandings about the Confucian spirit and its role in Chinese culture, precisely because of his own Taoist temperament. I remember, when I was teaching as visiting professor at Michigan State, I asked my students: "Suppose the immortal souls of Laotzu and Chuangtzu had come back to the actual world in the West, what would have impressed them most, above all?" -- "The space-shuttle and the space-men!" As Chuangtzu himself said, "In the dark waters of the Northern Ocean there was a fish, called the k’un. . . . It transformed itself into a bird, called the Peng. . . . Riding on the great winds, it soared up into a height of thirty thousand miles [90,000 li]. . . ," reaching the skies beyond skies. The Taoist thus makes the best type of space-men. Here the term "space" is not the same as the visible space of the geometrical and physical sciences. Rather, it means the "poetical space," to quote Henrich Wolffin, the German historian of art. For, were it physical space, there must still be obstructiveness in the stratified spaces, layer after layer, whereas in poetical space one’s free spirit, riding on clouds and mists, can soar up to the upper realms, from heights to heights, unobstructed. The Taoist spirit of Chunagtzu can thus mount to the acme of the celestial and from that vantage position gaze upon the earth below, taking it for the sky, and vice versa, wondering as he must; "Is the blue of the sky its real color? -- or simply the result of distance without end? Conversely, if viewed from the sky, the things on earth will appear the same!" Only by thus taking the sky for the earth can one realize the wondrous scenes down here as surveyed through the magnificence of the cloud-formations, with changing hues and lights at every moment, just as shown in the pictures of the earth taken by the astronauts from the moon, as a world of sheer beauty! Actually, the Taoist is the space-man of the artistic imagination, capable of being spiritually lifted up to the supreme height, gazing thencefrom upon the mundane world, and finding many of its follies, stupidities, and blunders to be all forgivable—eventually. Returned thus to the human abode, he would find it no longer a petty, narrow world [in Nietzsche’s words, "a nasty place"] to live in!
(3) The Buddhists as Space-Time Men with an Alternative Sense of Forgetting
We may speak of the spirit of Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism conjointly as the typical "space-time man with an alternative sense of forgetting." Assuming the Hinª yª na position one would see human life as cast into the actual world where all life-activities are nothing but the show of whimsical illusions and wayward actions fostering therein greed, anger, and attachment to make a great chain of bondage, known as the Wheel of Samsara. Humankind can never be liberated, then. Considered under such a perspective, the world for Hinª yª nists is marked by impermanence, changes through time forever, wherein no final destiny can be seen, except bondage, trouble, and suffering as all are caught in the wheel of samsara. But the Mahª yª nists know how to trace the stream of human life experience, first, by following the natural course of the Wheel of Samsara in order to understand the structure of bondage during a certain passage of time (dureé). Then, by reversing the course of the stream of time, i.e., contrariwise, we can transform the system of time and flux to that of eternity and permanence. Having thus seen through the trap of the Wheel of Samsara, Mahayanists are able to find another path leading from change and becoming back to the realm of eternity and permanence. For this reason, in the Mahª parinirvª na-Sñ tra change and impermanence in the world are not cursed; on the contrary, the world it depicts is that of eternity. Knowing only life in the stream of time where everything is caught in the Wheel of Samsara, Hinayanists of course stress "forgetting about eternity." But once having transcended into the Mahayanist world, they would then stress "forgetting about becoming." In one such instant the stream of time is transmuted into the realm of eternal truth. Therefore, I say that the Buddhists—with both Mahª yª nists and the Hinª yª nists taken together—make the "space-time men with an alternative sense of for-getting."
(4) The Concurrent Space-Time Men: the Neo-Confucian Type
The Neo-Confucians of the Sung and Ming Periods have inherited the three traditions of (1) Confucianism, (2) Taoism, mixed with Taoisoism, and (3) Buddhism, mostly of the Chan Sect: Naturally they advocate the alignment of life to the universe to make the cosmic unity of heaven and earth an integrated whole. Such a Vision of the Whole implies of course the notion of the "concurrent space-time" as a unified field. Therefore, I say that the Neo-Confucians make the "concurrent space-time men."
With the distinctive features of these four traditions thus understood in multi- aspects as outlined above, we may now proceed to discuss Confucianism.