HUMAN FULFILLMENT AND LOVE OF THE UNIVERSE: A MEDITATION ON EMOTION IN KOREAN AND CHINESE SOURCES
- Author: THIEBAULT PHILIPPE
- Publish: Acta Koreana Volume 14, Issue2, p57~91, Dec 2011
When we reflect with sincerity we recognize that human development is often not on a par with economic development and all the material acquisitions that go along with it. True developmental success needs a higher human maturity and relationship with the natural environment. In our search for well being, something finally escaped us. We did not achieve the “supplement of soul/
supplément d’âme” as Bergson suggested at the beginning of the twentieth century. This essay attempts to react to the distance and the split which were created, especially since the eighteenth century, between nature and man which are also linked to a break which is noticed in us, particularly when we consider emotion. Our decisions have led us progressively to “err.” To avoid working against ourselves, we need a profound experience which helps us to understand more who we are, what the universe represents, and to act accordingly. Ecology is more than a political strategy, a technical problem, or an academic subject. Ecology leads us to reconsider our relationship with all beings. Do we use the earth to dominate it or do we respect it? Are we only the conquerors or do we truly love the universe? This essay wishes to reconnect with the beauty and the significance of our environment with the help of certain Korean and Chinese thinkers who were great admirers of life and the universe, watching daily, seasonal, yearly and generational changes. Beyond theories, let us discover a mind awakening, a sensitiveness and an approach distinctive to certain Far Eastern sources like the Yijing/Book of Changes, The Chasŏngnokof Yi Hwang, T’oegye, and the Sŏnghak chibyoof Yi I, Yulgok, among others, which would help to ease the impoverishments of the spirit and the heart and arouse this “supplement of soul” which was hoped for by Bergson. Thus, overcoming the tendency to mechanization and functionalism, causes of indifference which hinder our in-depth maturation and our relationships, we will have to develop a more adequate vision, an interiorization and new ways of emotional expression and a necessary care concerning the future even of life which risks not inspiring us anymore with wonderment and gratitude.
Human fulfillment , emotion , meditation , T’oegye , Yulgok , Yijing , Chas？ngnok , S？nghak chibyo
When we think about it sincerely we recognize that human development is often not on a par with economic development which is accelerating together with all the materialistic acquisitions that go along with it. Although pertinent warnings were expressed about the weaknesses of the Enlightenment project,1 strangely enough the Western pattern remains the exemplary way because it continues to fascinate due to its contribution to democratization and the freeing of people. However, emphasizing individualism, materialism, inequalities and also weakening values and emotions are not sufficiently considered to correct certain human behaviors and the abuse of the environment. These aspects are, furthermore, connected. If men do not discover their true identity and the depths of their mind-and-heart, how can they appreciate the beauty of the universe and how can they even respect this universe? Besides, man needs the universe. The universe continues the awakening and the education received within the family, allowing us to go beyond narrow ambitions and to acquire a sense of the totality. The universe symbolizes by its infinity, its simplicity and its mysterious dimension what man is destined to achieve.
To come out of misery, be free and create comfortable surroundings are natural desires especially for those who have been oppressed for a long time. However, true development calls for considering deeply human fulfillment, especially on an internal level, and relating to the natural environment. An unbalance is created between our demands for our rights and material success and our human condition which is emotional and not just physical. In our search for well being something has escaped us. We did not achieve yet the “supplement of soul/
supplément d’âme” that Bergson desired at the beginning of the twentieth century2 and the true joy that would have resulted from it. Intelligence suffers from atrophied emotions. Activities are not balanced by an internal understanding.
Not respecting our environment is in fact working against ourselves and future generations; it is hurting ourselves. Struck by more and more huge accomplishments we play the demiurges who are blind to the consequences of their acts. We remember Mencius’ words: “With those who do violence to themselves, it is impossible to speak. With those who throw themselves away, it is impossible to do anything.”3
All the warnings, the rules and international declarations will not suffice to arouse a reaction and responsible involvement in people of all levels of society to avoid greater crises and more evil consequences. It seems that sometimes only catastrophes and suffering pull men out of their indifference and blindness. Mencius says: “Men for the most part err, and are afterwards able to reform. They are distressed in mind and perplexed in their thoughts, and then they arise to vigorous reformation. […] From these things we see how life springs from sorrow and calamity, and death from ease and pleasure.”4
This article aims at reacting to the distance and the fissure which have been created, especially since the eighteenth century, between nature and us; these are linked to a split which has also developed in us. Our decisions have led us to ‘err’ progressively. What we are today is above all the result of the cultural and philosophical evolution of the last two centuries which shaped our identity. During these centuries traditions were shaken and values were weakened. Man gave himself a more and more important position and pushed aside the ontological and spiritual foundations. The result produced a great disillusionment (disenchantment) which is very different from the wonderment of the beginnings of philosophy in the West and the Far East.
We are at a turning point in history. A dose of humility, clear thinking, courage and love is now necessary. Although Gabriel Marcel deplored “the decline of wisdom” and the lack of humility of some Western philosophical schools of thought, Paul Ricoeur was one of the few Western thinkers who together with Merleau-Ponty recognized the limits of Western philosophy in its initial movement and who spoke of the necessity of a meeting with Eastern thought (Chinese, Indian) for “mutual explaining/
explicitation mutuelle” which he felt had never really taken place and which would allow the West to overcome its limitations and have a philosophy leading to a concrete universality.5 Paul Ricoeur sensed this from the 1960s and was in fact aware of Far Eastern thought, having suffered the excesses of the movements of suspicion (based on Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche), structuralism and deconstruction. So much could be discovered today in a dialogue and a mutually authentic and courageous recognition between the Far East and the West for the good of the world; this Leibniz was aware of in the seventeenth century.
Only a deep rooted experience allows us to really glimpse who we are and what the universe represents and to act accordingly. Then we vibrate in wonderment at a reality which presents itself and gives itself to us with generosity for the fulfillment of everyone. This experience can take different forms according to the diversity of cultures and their complementary riches. This vision, anybody having experienced it once cannot forget. […] The light which opened his eyes remains like a non changing light in the depth of the eyes and he quivers always remembering the sensation of that universal contact. […] The liberating word is here: it is not enough for man, rejecting his egoism, to live socially. He needs to live with all his heart united with the whole world which carries him––cosmically.6
Nothing is insignificant in our universe. Teilhard made his first discovery with the density of a piece of iron and then studied stones and through a huge adventure opened up to what he calls “The Heart of the
Matter/Le Coeur de la Matière.” Plants and flowers, animals far from being just moving objects are a part of our education to become more human. When Confucius’ dog died, Confucius was upset because he was unable to do more for the companion who had just left him.7
The cosmic environment is dependent on our responsible or irresponsible actions. Do we use the earth to dominate it or do we respect it? Do we think about how we pass on the earth to future generations? Are we only the conquerors or do we truly love the universe? Paul Ricoeur worried a lot because the West had not developed a philosophy of heart and emotion, a philosophy of mutual recognition and an ethics of gratitude. If we remain insensitive when forests are wiped out and animals tortured we are already vulnerable to the mutilation of our emotions in relating to other human beings. Ecology is more than a political strategy, a technical problem or an academic subject. It allows us to reconsider our relationship with beings, all beings.
This article hopes to reconnect with the beauty and meaning of the universe according to certain Korean and Chinese philosophers and sages who had great admiration for life and the universe in their changes during the day, the seasons, the year, and the generations. Since an extensive theoretical analysis is not within the scope of this article, we searched only to discover a way for the spirit to open, a sensitivity and approach appropriate to certain Far Eastern sources like the
Book of Changes, T’oegye’s Chasŏngnokand Yulgok’s Sŏnghak chibyo, among others, and in an incomplete way. This could help to ease the actual impoverishments of spirit and heart and to arouse this “ supplément d’âme” for which Bergson was hoping. Thus overcoming the tendencies towards mechanization and functionalism, causes of the indifference which block our in-depth maturation and our connecting with the universe, we attempted to tune to a more adequate vision, an interiorization and new expressions of emotions and essential care concerning the future even of life which risks being unable to arouse in us the sense of wonderment and gratitude.
1Cf. particularly Tu Wei-ming, International Conference on Universal Ethics and Asian Values, Seoul, October 1999, Korean National Commission for UNESCO. Korean Society for Future Studies, “A Confucian Perspective on the Core Values of the Global Community,” 362–375, also Alasdair Macintyre, After Virtue, a study in moral theory, Duckworth, 1981/1996. 2Henri Bergson, Les Deux Sources de la Morale et de la Religion, 1932, PUF, Paris, 2008. 3The Works of Mencius, Dover Publications, 1970, Book IV, Part I, Chapter X, trans. James Legge, 301. 4Ibid., 447. 5Paul Ricoeur, Philosophie de la Volonté II, Finitude et Culpabilité, Aubier, Paris, 1960, 185. 6Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Ecrits du temps de la guerre (1916–1919), Grasset, Paris, 1965, 17–18. 7Quoted by Jean Levi in Confucius, Albin Michel, Paris, 2003, 152 (Excerpts of the Tan-kong): “Alas, I am so poor that I do not even have an old blanket used for a carriage to wrap my dog in it and to put him in the ground. However I will give him a mat in order that his head does not rest on the bare ground.”
From the first contact with Chinese sources like the
Yijingwe feel that the place of man in the universe is noble but modest, that it cannot get out of proportion. When man acts like Prometheus or Superman ( Übermensch), it is because he has not developed a sensitive and authentic relationship with the universe. That is why working on oneself while studying the great texts of wisdom is vital, because they are not only texts but footprints, saved from past destructions, “sources” of thought according to the beautiful etymological expression. In fact the word “source” also reminds us of hidden places high up in the mountains from which springs spontaneously water which gives life; so it is with the major texts to which we return because they bring us to vibrant thinking and meaning together with authors who are known forever.
We need especially in uncertain times to stop, to temporarily stop writing, researching and thinking in order to look at what is around us, not to take advantage of it but to welcome it. To stop and reunite with the silence of the universe from which nevertheless emanates a music which we had not suspected. To stop ourselves. To get a glimpse of what man misses. To glimpse the sacred. Every instant awaits with a new experience, completely human and at the same time beyond human.
Although we look for shortcuts always quicker and more modern, the detours in research are far from being a loss of time and the strangeness of texts and traditions which are less familiar both historically or geographically opens for us other ideas in order to act more correctly. Certain pages of the
Yijing, T’oegye or Yulgok disorient us today and at the same time “re-source” us, paradoxically bringing us closer to ourselves.
Experts gave and continue to give their reports on the serious ecological situation of our planet. Humanity is confronted with an increase of natural disasters. Nevertheless scientists mention the capacity of the earth to regenerate;those responsible state that in the long term the great ecological evils can be overcome if men themselves change their attitudes and how they act. That is why if on the one hand effective intervention is necessary in certain situations, Far Eastern wisdom teaches us also the importance of stepping backwards, of “not acting” and contemplating in order to implement a richer human fulfillment connected to the love of this planet and this universe.
In their research to understand life the sages of the
Yijingretired and even hid themselves, not because they lacked courage, but because they decided to prepare themselves. Before opening to the world, they wanted to have a correct spirit. The holy sages purified their hearts, withdrew, and hid themselves in secret.8 These men did not worry about their opinions or their knowledge. They wanted to welcome reality in all its depths and harmonize with it. “They put themselves in accord with the Tao and its power (和順於道德), and in conformity with this laid down the order of what is right.”9 To harmonize with the Tao means that man, recognizing his condition, does not put himself forward because it is the Tao which is the reference and guides his actions.
Fu Xi, who is a symbol of Far Eastern sages, meditated deeply and saw the world: “Fu Xi looked upward and contemplated the images in the heavens; he looked downward and contemplated the patterns on earth. He contemplated the markings of birds and beasts and the adaptations to the regions.”10
Far Eastern thought very early considered particularly the first look, the first emotion and the first thought. It is the passage from calm to movement, from silence to the beginning of sound, from non-action to action. “The seeds are the first imperceptible beginning of movement, the first trace of good fortune (or misfortune) that shows itself. The superior (profound) man perceives the seeds and immediately takes action.”11
Drawing the first line of a hexagram symbolizes this beginning which is hardly perceptible. Our distance from the natural environment, industrialization and urbanization diminished the freshness of our first contacts with nature. It seems that our condition is getting worse and yet new starting points are possible as the Hexagram “Return” shows “Things cannot be destroyed once and for all. When what is above is completely split apart, it returns below. […] Return is the stem of character. Return is small, yet different from external things. Return leads to selfknowledge.”12
The consideration of this first imperceptible beginning or of this return which is hardly visible applies to all our experiences in relationships with others and with the universe: first meeting, first creative movement or first step to return. It is then that we have to search for the correctness of our emotions. We find in the
Doctrine of the Mean:
Thus the centre of deep heart and the harmony of emotions when they begin to show themselves, as we come in contact with things, will bring about the fulfillment of all beings.
The words of Arthur Waley are known: “The Chinese were in love with nature”14 since Antiquity and that showed itself in the early appearance of landscape painting, while in Europe we had to wait until the Renaissance. Furthermore the Chinese were very early excellent astronomers but in a particular way. Their observations were linked especially to the development of a calendar for the advancement of human activities. Thus the study of the universe or of nature was not centered on pure scientific knowledge but was centered on the deep comprehension of what moves the universe and on what helps the fulfillment of man.
Thus this article wants to reread and interpret relating to our time certain Chinese source inspirations like the
Book of Changes, Yijing, which have intrigued great Asian thinkers since their development. We want to go further than a structural logic or an attraction to foresee the future in order to join what Marie-Ina Bergeron called “The eternal wonder”15 or “The great unity of the world [....] in the warmth of relating.”16 In fact to accompany our meditation it would be appropriate to approach our universe, to listen to a waterfall in the heart of a mountain or admire the glistening snow weighing down the branches of the trees on a winter’s day. It would be appropriate through paintings to see the same landscape changing according to the seasons, spring, summer, autumn, winter as the artists depict with delicacy and poetry. A vast canvas of time and space where beings respond to one another trying to build relationships which hopefully will be fruitful.
Our hypothesis is that those who contemplated and observed the beings of the universe as mentioned in the
Yijingdid this out of love for the universe and out of concern for the well being and fulfillment of their fellow beings. These words seem too strong and utopian today because we are accustomed to using nature and even other human beings without feeling. The level to which we aspire is that of tolerance and civility. For the Chinese it does not mean a vague and sentimental love but a precise love in harmony with the rhythm of phenomena and of time. For example it means appreciating the song and habits of a particular bird at such and such a time of the day in a certain season. We find this passage: “ Seeingthe countenance, it instantly rises. It flies round, and by and by settles. The Mastersaid: ‘There is the hen-pheasant on the hill bridge. At its season! At its season!’”17 We are constantly questioned in the Yijingby an internal logic: “A crane calling in the shade. Its young answers it. I have a good goblet. I will share it with you.”18
Confucius appreciated the
Yijingso it is not strange that he chose as the central idea of his thought the renwhich is found in the Yijingas one of the four fundamental attributes of the kŏn/qian(The Creative) (乾, first hexagram); those four attributes are the same in the kon/kun(The Receptive) (坤), whereas the pure Yang and the pure Yin are the two fundamental doors of the cosmic rhythm. The four attributes are difficult to translate. Richard Lynn calls them fundamentality ( yuan), prevalence ( heng), fitness ( li) and constancy ( zhen).19 Richard Wilhelm translates them by: «sublimeness, success, what favors, perseverance.» It is to be remarked that according to the commentaries on the first hexagrams, the attributes of the Creative and of the Receptive are in harmonious correspondence with Human Nature’s attributes. We read: “Because the superior man embodies humaneness ( ren), he is able to govern men. Because he brings about the harmonious working of all that is beautiful, he is able to unite them through the mores. Because he furthers all beings, he is able to bring them into harmony through justice. Because he is persevering and firm, he is able to carry out all actions.”20
We see that according to the ancient Chinese vision, the universe and man respond to each other, are in “mysterious correspondence” to use the expression of Yulgok in his commentary on the
Yijing.21 And one of the essential centres is ‘ ren’: love, deep emotion. How can the universe only be a machine, no matter how sophisticated it is? And how is it that the West often considers that there is no moral dimension in the universe? Perhaps we concentrated too much on a narrow scientific analysis of the universe. The exclamation of Pascal surprises us: “The eternal silence of infinite space frightens me,” 22 which contrasts with the Teilhardin approach in the “Hymn of the Universe” which shows the joy of belonging to this universe: “The roots of our being? They plunge [...] to the most unimaginable past!” And the consequences of this discovery unfold in succession: “ If we could but admit that all makes only one in the process which from top to bottom acts and directs the elements of the universe [...] Man has to build a work, an “opus” where something of all the elements of the universe appears [...] He has to collaborate in the world’s fulfillment. ”23
Thus man shares the life of the cosmos, “Man would not know how to see himself outside of humanity, nor humanity outside of life nor life outside of the universe. ” 24
The Far East expresses sometimes in a laconic way the mystic power of certain Western visionaries such as in these words of Mencius: “All things are already complete in us (me)”25 and “benevolence,
ren, subdues its opposite just as water subdues fire”; “The value of benevolence depends entirely on its being brought to maturity.”26 Thus the nobility of man for Mencius is that he contains within himself the universe, he meets in himself the benevolent heart of the universe and guides this benevolence to its fulfilment.
Beyond the complexity and certain realities difficult to explain, the universe allows us to sense the welcoming heart. We find in the
Yijing: “The Changes show care and sorrow and their causes. Though you have no teacher, approach them as you would your parents.”27 Benevolence, care of parents in the depths of silence. To those who accused him of not speaking about subjects like human nature and Heaven28 or just of not speaking Confucius said:
We do not reach the loving heart of the universe because we have a utilitarian mentality and we have not learned yet the language of modesty. Our ears are not yet well tuned. Tseu-k’i said to Yen: “Perhaps you have heard the music of man but not that of the Earth; perhaps you have heard the music of the Earth but not that of Heaven.”31
The Chinese character for landscape (山水) in art is expressed by the characters mountain and water which we find among the eight trigrams at the base of the hexagrams of the
Yijingand which contain a very rich symbolism. Two famous paintings come to mind: Ma Yuan’s sage meditating near a waterfall and the Korean Kang Hui-an showing a sage contemplating the water of a river. Confucius’s words are known: “The wise find pleasure in water; the virtuous find pleasure in hills. The wise are active; the virtuous are tranquil. The wise are joyful; the virtuous are long lived.”32 As T’oegye mentioned in one of his letters of the Chasŏngnok, to know what these joys mean, you have to understand the characteristics of the man of ren(virtuous) and of a sage (wise).
The disciple Hsu said “Chung-ni (Confucius) often praised water, saying, ‘O water! O water!’ What did he find in water
to praise?” Mencius replied: “There is a spring of water; how it gushes out! It rests not day nor night. It fills up every hole, and then advances, flowing on to the four seas. Such is water having a spring! It was this which he found in it to praise.”33
Here it is the life enriching activity which is stressed. We read in the
Yijing: “Water flows uninterruptedly and reaches its goal. The image of the Abysmal repeated. Thus the superior (profound) man walks in lasting virtue and carries on the business of teaching.”34 Man like water is not stopped by any obstacle, he develops his possibilities and helps others.
However this unceasing activity requires the other dimension of calm as the
Yijingexpresses in the symbol of the mountain: “Things cannot move continously, one must make them stop.” and “Keeping still means stopping. When it is time to stop, then stop. When it is time to advance, then advance. Thus movement and rest do not miss the right time, and their course becomes bright and clear.”35 In the logic of development according to the Yijing, the harmony of two complementary dimensions is necessary such as development and decline, splitting apart and returning, standstill and progress. That is why moving back from activity is sometimes necessary.36
However, balance and the Mean are important for a righteous action. That is why Mencius reflecting on the notion of time, for example the time to stop, calls Confucius the sage who corresponds to the precise moment, the sage who knows the exact value of time in relation to the righteous action and to the fulfilment of being.37 A whole meditation could be pursued on this notion of time, this time which sometimes seems to us too short and sometimes too long. It is easy to rush into feverish daily activities thinking that we are accomplishing a lot and often we are in agony having to wait for a response, a sign, the indication to advance. We feel we fail by waiting, but if we hurry we ruin what is most important. Here we remember the surprising saying of the
Yijing: “Only through the divine (spiritual) can one hurry without haste and reach the goal without walking.”38
Yijingcomes from men who not only contemplated the universe but who loved it; they became active in the universe to open a way for men to fulfill themselves. They knew how to combine retreating and action, silence and words, abnegation and joy. We find this reflection in the Yijing:
What progress would we make in all domains if these words became for us a source of inspiration and action! When man embraces all things and contributes to world order, he cannot err.
Although often modern thoughts insist on conflict, contradiction, the mask, falsehood, the spirit of the sages of the
Yijingand those who practiced it shows a harmonious exchange between all life forms, a true goodness. Connected deeply to the universe, man embraced it in its totality. He rejoices in what is given to him for living. Having no worries, loving is enough. We see in this passage a balance in man’s progress and his actions, in the connection between beings and the universe. Unity, order, joy, sincerity and love are the most important. These lines reached their apogee at a time when China went through moments of chaos, cruelty and misery often due to the ignorance of men who used power and sacrificed to their own earthly ambitions millions of innocent lives enduring unimaginable conditions. Although many became cynical and believed that nothing could break the rule of the most powerful, others, often retreating in silence, found the inspiration that the true universal principles are totally different. The violent fall in the end, and the weak reach true fulfillment. Meditating on the Yijingtext today is like being called to overthrow false principles which we have allowed over time to slowly dominate our lives and our world.
8“The Great Treatise,” Part I, Chapter XI.2, trans. Richard Wilhelm, Princeton University Press, 1976, 316. 9“Discussion of the Trigrams,” Wilhelm, 262. 10“The Great Treatise,” Part II, Chapter II, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 328. 11“The Great Treatise,” Part II, Chapter V.11, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 342. 12The Book of Changes, Hexagram 24, “Return/The Turning Point,” “The Sequence,” “Appended Judgments,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, 504. 13The Doctrine of the Mean, Chapter I, 4–5, trans. James Legge. 14Arthur Waley, An Introduction to the Study of Chinese Painting, Grove Press. New York, 1958, 137. 15Marie-Ina Bergeron, L’Eternelle Féerie—L’image, Guy Trédaniel Editeur, 1989. 16Marie-Ina Bergeron, La Chine et Teilhard, Jean-Pierre Delarge, éditeur, Paris, 1976, 58. 17The Analects of Confucius, 10.18, trans. James Legge. 18The Book of Changes, Hexagram 61, “Inner Truth,” “Nine in the second place,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, 237. 19The Classic of Changes, Columbia University Press, 1994. 20The Book of Changes, “The Creative,” “On the Hexagram as a Whole,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, 376. 21Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Yŏksuch’aek, Book on the Changes and Numbers [易數策], 14.49A. 22Blaise Pascal, Pensées, Seuil, Texte établi par Louis Lafuma, Paris, 1962, fragment 201(206), 110. 23Milieu Divin, 48/49. 24Phénomène humain, 28. Texts presented by Marie-Ina Bergeron, La Chine et Teilhard, Parole d’homme, Jean-Pierre Delarge, éditeur, 1976, 26. 25The Works of Mencius Book VII, Part I, Chapter IV, trans. James Legge, 450. 26The Works of Mencius Book VI, Part I, Chapter XX, trans. James Legge, 420–421. 27The Book of Changes, “The Great Treatise,” Part II, Chapter VIII, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 349; also Chapter VII, 345: “Those who composed the Changes had great care and sorrow.” 28The Analects of Confucius, 5.12, trans. James Legge. 29The Analects of Confucius, 17.19, trans. James Legge. 30The Book of Changes, “The Great Treatise,” Part I, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 298–299. 31Tchouang-tseu, Oeuvre Complète, traduit par Liou Kia-hway, Gallimard, 1969, “La Réduction Ontologique,” 35. 32The Analects of Confucius, 6.21, trans. James Legge. 33The Works of Mencius Book IV, Part II, Chapter XVIII, Legge, 324. 34The Book of Changes, “Hexagram 29,” The Abysmal, “The Image,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, 116. 35The Book of Changes, “Hexagram 52,” Mountain, trans. Richard Wilhelm, “The Sequence,” 652; “Commentary on the decision,” 653. 36The Book of Changes, Hexagram 33, “Retreat,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, “The Image,” 130: “Mountain under heaven. The image of retreat. Thus the superior (profound) man keeps the inferior (small) man at a distance, not angrily but with reserve.” 37The Works of Mencius Book V, Part II, Chapter I, Legge, 371–372: “When it was proper to go away quickly, he did so; when it was proper to delay, he did so; when it was proper to keep in retirement, he did so; when it was proper to go into office, he did so: This was Confucius.” 38The Book of Changes, “The Great Treatise,” Part I, Chapter X. 6, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 316. 39The Book of Changes, “The Great Treatise,” Part I, Chapter IV. 3, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 295.
Different from China, Korean Thought sources are more hidden and less known but reveal their riches if we know how to be patient. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, after the tragedies of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries many people are turning towards Asian countries, Korea included, admiring it for its economic development. However, a greater effort has to be made to appreciate Korean cultural values.
During the second half of the twentieth century Korea became westernized and in the end forgot a lot of its own tradition as Professor Park Chong-Hong, who knew both Western and Eastern philosophies well, mentioned in the past. As we are confronted today to certain excesses of world modernization, the time seems to have come to reconsider development in the larger framework of human fulfillment and our relationship with the universe. Instead of decrees and slogans we need examples like the sages of the
Yijingand Confucius. Are we taking the time like the sages to think about rivers, national protected spaces and the environment in general before taking on a project? Do we think of the flora and the fauna, or of a particular animal species? Do we think of repercussions on men’s lives?
In this second part we want to meditate together with Korean philosophers. Our hypothesis is that, if the Koreans received a lot from the Chinese tradition, not only did they take it seriously and did their best to put it into practice, but they particularly enriched the internal dimension of emotion which we urgently need today to take care of ourselves, others and the universe.
Let us note that Korean Confucian Thought really flourished under Neo-Confucianism especially from the sixteenth century. That is why we are drawn to Yi Hwang, T’oegye and Yi I, Yulgok for this ecological reflection. It is necessary to emphasize as we set out that Neo-Confucianism, or precisely the study of human nature and principles, is not only a reaction to Buddhism but rather a return to Confucian Classical sources to re-appreciate the problems of that time in Korea and China. In its original movement, Neo-Confucianism confronted the present without losing the inspiration of the Classics. One of the Classics which particularly enlightened this movement was the
Yijing, which we mentioned in the first part of this article.
When we consider the simple, self-effacing and deep love of nature, the example of Yi Hwang, T’oegye (1501–1570) naturally comes to mind. His penname includes the character ‘retreating’, not with the meaning of not acting, but in order to grasp reality and one’s responsibility while enjoying nature. T’oegye encouraged his students to spend time near rivers, plants and flowers before become absorbed again in study or activities, sensing certainly an uplifting presence which inspired him.
We feel in these lines how T’oegye found sources for his thought in contact with nature. Nature lived in him, calmed him, allowed him to find moderation, joy and gentleness guiding the clear-mindedness of his mind-and-heart and of his will. Rather than studying in a complicated way, what is necessary is to appreciate what is important. The essential principles can be seen in ordinary life. Mildness,43 peacefulness and simplicity in harmony with nature can help us today. In the
Yijing, after the hexagram ‘Gentleness’ comes the hexagram ‘Joyous/Lake’. T’oegye who loved the stretches of water surrounding his Tosan Sŏwŏn Academy leads us to think of the smiling calm of a lake. “To be joyous and with this to have perseverance furthers; thus does one submit to heaven and accord with men.”44 In this way in transforming ourselves by self-cultivation we discover the principles which govern the world. The activities of Heaven and the activities of men are linked. In this framework of natural beauty, T’oegye met those with whom he studied, his disciples or friends, but he was also the friend of all life in the universe.
We remember that T’oegye in his youth ruined his health studying the
Yijingand that he wrote the Kyemongjŏnŭiin 1557 on this classic. Before anything else T’oegye practiced the wisdom which is discovered in the Yijing. His meditation on the first hexagram,45 for example, shows how his character developed connected at the same time with the spirit of the sages and with the uplifting presence which he felt in nature:
It is not surprising that T’oegye chose as the first diagram of his study The Ten
Diagrams on Sage Learning47 written in 1568 for the young King Sonjo the “Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate” of Zhou Dun-I that mentions man’s place in the universe returning all things to their original source. The tai-chi/t’aegukappears also in the Yijing.48 T’oegye comments with Zhu Xi:
It seems that one of T’oegye’s joys was to strive to reach the unique fundamental principle between the Self and the things of the universe beyond the narrowness of the “I” as can be seen in his reflection on Zhangzai’s
T’oegye made his own Zhangzai’s approach according to which despite his littleness it is possible for man to enter into the cosmic dimension of self. As Tu Wei-ming mentions: “(In the immensity of the cosmos) not only a place exists but an intimate place for each one of us. We are all, in fact, the guardians and cocreators of the universe. In this unitary vision of man, an Ontological chasm between the Creator and creature seems inconceivable.”51
This unitary relationship within the cosmos is brought about by the ‘ren’. T’oegye meditates like this in Diagram two of his
T’oegye was fascinated by the lofty
Liof the universe which he found difficult to understand. He felt his insignificance and shortcomings and yet he sensed that man participated deeply in this sublimity. In one of his letters he writes:
Life itself is a constant object of meditation for man who tries to make sense of it through symbols like the five trigrams in the
Yijingor mountain and water. T’oegye meditates like this:
Reflecting on ecology is not only discussing about ideas and planning but rediscovering the deep meaning of life, changing oneself in contact with men and women who lived taking full responsibility for a higher good. Thus Gandhi helps us with these words: “Be the change that you want to see in the world” and Albert Schweitzer is an example in having embodied what he designated as fundamental : The Teaching of Reverence for Life.58
However human tasks in this world are difficult to accomplish as T’oegye often complained:
T’oegye attached great importance to reverential respect (mindfulness) in order to solve the complex problems of the human condition.60 Following Zhu Xi, he considered that the ten diagrams that he presented held reverential respect as essential. This major concept for T’oegye is the opposite of the models of “Prometheus” and of “Superman” with which modernity has burdened us and which disturb the genuineness of our relationships with others and the universe. In a time when we have lost to a great extent the sense of the sacredness of life, of our activities and of our relationship to the universe, T’oegye’s attitude moves us. Although his scholarship was one of the most advanced in his time and although he invested a lot of energy in administrative positions in his country, he hardly dared to speak,61 asking that people reprimand his inaccuracies and he worried about his limitations. “Beginning early in my life I feared more the heart’s anxiety than the danger of tigers. […] If we understand that the heart is misled and lost, that is where the heart is found.”62
In his letters T’oegye often speaks of ‘an illness’ of the mind and heart which he cannot undo. Thus for him one of the guiding threads between all beings on a cosmic level is the mind-and-heart, the fundamental human emotion which springs up in diagrams six, seven and eight. This feeling has weakened today. It is a surprising reality that emotion connects beings while reason separates because it analyses. Paul Ricoeur speaks even of a ‘mystery of emotion’, knowing the unbreakable link of my existence to beings and to being through desire and love.63 We remember T’oegye’s reflection, “The mind (-heart) of each person is the mind (-heart) of heaven and earth. And the mind of the self is the mind of thousands of people. Originally there is no distinction between the inner and the outer or the here and there.”64
How is that possible? Through emotion. Thus when a part of my body suffers, my whole body suffers and when an element of the universe is damaged, the whole universe feels it. Thus T’oegye urges us through diagrams six, seven and eight to develop the heart which is our weak point compared to our intellectual brilliance.
Depth expresses itself sometimes in certain lines of poems which crystallize the experience of a whole life65 as we see in Gaston Bachelard’s inspiration. T’oegye exclaims: “The eye is like a clear mirror and the mind-and-heart is like the sun (眼如明鏡 心如日).”66
Seeing is linked with brightness and purity; feeling and understanding are linked with luminosity and heat. Hence the symbol: “The heart is like the sun.”
We cannot develop here the study of this symbol of a mirror usually used for the heart which Paul Demiéville explained in depth through different facets of Taoism, Buddhism and even Christianity. Commenting on Zhouang Zi, Demiéville writes:
According to T’oegye: “The eye is like a clear mirror (眼如明鏡).” To really see is difficult. We know from experience that because of our activities and our preoccupations we often do not see the beauty of nature or the goodness of human actions. Only when we stop do we see the magnificence of the orchid or the greatness of an act of forgiving. In the
Chasŏngnok68 T’oegye meditates on what Mencius and Confucius say. Mencius: “To the mind (and heart) belongs the office of thinking. By thinking it gets the right view of things; by neglecting to think, it fails to do this. These—the senses and the mind—are what Heaven has given to us.”69
Confucius: “In regard to the use of his eyes, the profound man is anxious to see clearly. In regard to the use of his ears, he is anxious to hear distinctly.”70 Thus there is in the Confucian tradition exercising the spirit and the senses to come into a higher vision. We find in Teilhard an echo: “To see! You could say that all life is there.”71
“The mind-and-heart is like the sun (心如日)”?a surprising expression of T’oegye. T’oegye criticized Wang Yang-ming and Buddhism and yet in the framework of Neo-Confucianism he gave an important place to Heart and to the culture of Heart. There is one sun which shines on and gives life to our planet. There is one Heart rooted in Heaven’s Heart which allows the relationships between all beings. The closer we get to the purity of the
Tosim(道心), the Heart of the Tao, the more we overcome the limits of the human condition and the more we are capable through this heart72 to transform relationships with men and the universe. We think here of the diagram made by Ch’en Chen-sheng (1410?1473) called “The Diagram of Heaven, Earth and Wisdom” where the heart is placed in relationship with the universe represented by the dynamism of the Changes, the center of which is the tai-chi.73 Teilhard thought that humanity still lacked heart in the intelligent planetary development which accelerates, that which was producing itself in the Noosphere on the level of reason had to enter the sphere of emotion.74
The longing of T’oegye is to get back to daily practical life where everything is finally decided because in the Confucian spirit75, what counts is refining, realization and fulfillment. If we think again about the
Ten Diagramswe see that the first part of this work deals with metaphysical and ontological questions while the second part speaks of the practical application of the mind-and-heart going as far as daily actions. However, the name of the work “Study of Wisdom” means it intends to guide toward a full human fulfillment. Thus chapters nine and ten deal with the details of daily life, but we know how often what appears like a detail plays a crucial role in life.76
T’oegye shows us that from the beginning of a day the real direction of our action is involved:
Meeting T’oegye, who is in himself representative of Far Eastern wisdom, we cannot but humbly recognize that we have let down our original nature and that we have to learn to renew the link of fraternity with all things. We have insisted so much because of the modern world on the rights and individual freedom that sympathy for people and things has faded and moved by diverse ideologies we have become insensitive to the beauty and the unique value of life, of all life.
Yulgok’s approach is complementary to that of T’oegye, T’oegye embodying more the example of retreating when it is time to retire and Yulgok (1536–1584) embodying more the example of committing oneself when it is time to get involved. T’oegye philosophized and acted calmly, in a gentle way; Yulgok confronted obstacles energetically. However, they were equally courageous, clearminded and sensitive to man’s suffering and the injustice of situations, although in different ways. In fact, despite the age gap, each saw the other’s value because of their depth and their cosmic vision.
To approach the texts of Yulgok or T’oegye is to set out on a hermeneutic task of relearning to read and to “taste”, it is working on re-discovering the meaning of these texts. This work is even more complex than for Chinese texts. We wonder: “What have these Korean Neo-Confucian texts of the sixteenth century to do with the modernization of the twenty-first century and with the serious ecological questions which are today endangering man’s future?” If these texts are presented as museum pieces they will remain dumb, but if we discover the key to reading them, their message will become precious.
Our hypothesis is that as in the case of T’oegye the texts of Yi I, Yulgok not only pass the test of time, but they guide us as we mature, confronting the complex challenges of humanity’s global evolution. However, an intensive exploration of Yulgok’s work is necessary. Yulgok was not an ordinary Neo-Confucian as an old Buddhist monk he met in the Kŭmgang Mountains said to him. Yulgok, then still young, was considered to be a living Buddha (生佛). He was, moreover, in harmony with the spirit of Laozi, whose
Daodejinghe commented on in his essay Sunŏn醇言. He appreciated Wang Yang-ming at a time when the Koreans hesitated about introducing his thought. Yulgok was a risk taker, which is why he died early. Just as he climbed high mountains to reach the summit, he challenged complex political situations, was in an advisory position to the king for daring reform projects like organizing a competent army but also, among other works, improving education. Besides, his reflection on governing in Sŏnghak chibyo, Compendium of Sage Learninginspired Sirhakthinkers such as Yi Ik and Chŏng Yagyong.
In a clear and concise way, Yulgok gave his all not only on the level of thought but also through action. For him the reason for the success of an accomplishment was to invest all his energy from the moment of setting his will to the attainment of the highest level of wisdom that was possible. He still fascinates and inspires us because he not only worked out a particular kind of thought that could develop into orthodoxy, but his vision embraced rich aspects of diverse thoughts. His motivation was creativity, the quest for truth and relationships between researches which seem to differ. He succeeded in this comprehensive approach because he embodied Confucius’ words: “My doctrine (Tao) is that of an all-pervading unity.”78 Yulgok guides us to the depths of unity having probably understood Zhuang Zi, who said that the schools debate opinions endlessly because they have left the original unity with the Tao.79 The tradition on which Yulgok leaned was not dried up but dynamic and open-minded: “The wise and spiritual personalities of ancient times having made a connection with Heaven established standard norms for humanity and from there they passed on the Tao tradition.”80
Yulgok understood the intention of the sages who wrote the
Yijingsaying that King Wen, the Duke of Zhou and Confucius expressed the same heart and concern.81 He quoted in the Sŏnghak chibyoan important reflection of Confucius on the Yijing: “The Changes, what do they do? The Changes disclose things, complete affairs (controversies) and include all conditions on earth–this and nothing else. For this reason the holy sages used them to (discern) all wills on earth, to determine all fields of action and to settle all doubts (fears) on earth.”82
Showing thus how much he responded with enthusiasm to the all embracing vision and the depths of the
Having reached the heart of the dynamic of the
Yijing, Yulgok was also able to harmonize with Laozi’s spirit whose way was one of decreasing, humbling oneself, appreciating the fruits more than the flowers83 and the responsibility of governing came to the one who dealt with the lowest problems—being able to deal even with garbage.84 We are usually drawn to being famous, but it is more difficult to work for the common good in obscurity. The Yijingbrings down what is high and lifts up what is low. The Daodejingemphasizes the symbol of water which flows downward and calls us paradoxically to consider the vulgar and the dregs of humanity. Who can take responsibility today for world pollution in all its aspects?
The ordinary way of the world is elevating. We are drawn to position, honours, and famous names. But Laozi says that the Tao does not have a name. Yulgok by his life gave the example of voluntary deprivation through his admiration of the Classical sages, his Buddhist experience and his appreciation of Taoism evident in his poems. For him it was not a question of words but of putting into practice and a true fulfillment in harmony with the cosmic reality. That is why he used the character
shil/shi(實), together with sincerity sŏng/cheng(誠), which became a leitmotiv in his work, showing the correspondence between true principles silli/shili(實理), the true heart silsim/shixin(實心) and true fulfillment silhyo/shixiao(實效). So we have the famous passage:
Yulgok did his best to explain the most difficult questions of the human condition without cutting off from the entirety of the cosmos and society. The future of the cosmos and that of man are deeply linked. Yulgok expressed this relationship of a mysterious exchange between Heaven and men:
Meditating on the
YijingYulgok spoke of the correspondence between Heaven and man: “There is a natural correspondence between Heaven and man, a mysterious dimension of exchange between the two (自然之應而天人交與之妙也).”88 He also says in a reflection on the Tao of Heaven and human undertakings:
The point of departure of Yulgok’s thought and actions is nature and the cosmos but not in the sense that he had a materialistic tendency or an aesthetic affinity. If man cuts off from his ontological and cosmological roots, he cannot enter into the full comprehension of his condition nor into the process of his transformation. Confucius already said: “Without recognizing the ordinances (will) (of Heaven), it is impossible to be a superior (profound) man (不知命無以爲君子也).”91
The cosmos is for Yulgok a place to experience, to meditate on, a place for a unique discovery where man can open his mind to the diversity, the depth and the value of principles and also to the dynamics and maturation of life. It is a place we approach with great expectation but also with great respect. It is at the same time a place where we come and we go, and which we do not own.
The rising of the sun, the appearance of things, energy, primordial energy. These poetic lines were found in a letter he sent:
Like the sages who composed the
Yijing, Yulgok examined intensely the forces of the universe to discover its mysteries because as he just said the source that moves all things is at the heart of these things. The imperceptible ji/ki(幾) of the Yijing,94 the first Yang movement fascinated him.
Yulgok was fascinated from an early age by the beauty of the universe: “the mountain crests covered with snow”, “the waterfalls which rush down shaking the earth”, “the sea in its vastness.” How to respond to this majesty, to nature’s power? Although there was a time when Yulgok was tempted to live as a hermit, he decided to return to society. “I still have not finished my relations with the world.” Even if he was absorbed in action, he kept the vision of vastness, mystery and the reality of the universe-cosmos. What is special about Korean and Chinese cosmology is that it is not just about passive contemplation where you reach an indifference to the troubles of the world but it is an active cooperation with the creative forces of nature, which are not only natural physical forces but also the manifestation of an internal spiritual energy acting in man and the cosmos. Energy at the heart of things. Unity of a reality where phenomena are real. “I also participate in the three Ultimates.” Yulgok wrote. Astonishing expression: “If men do not take as their model this cosmic achievement it is like they give up on themselves.”
The cry of Yulgok who often expressed how man can so easily be corrupted (“polluted heart”) aspires to an original purity symbolized by ‘stainless water’, ‘pure energy’, ‘mysterious heart of Heaven’, ‘Heaven’s truth may become depraved and false.’ In the thought of Yulgok everything converges towards the mind-and-heart and springs from it. Man is at the heart of the universe and (becomes) the heart of the universe. He reflects the mysterious heart to which he is inextricably connected. The desire of the heart for the original source in all its beauty and its purity is often an inexpressible suffering.
There is a heart wrenching in Yulgok between the absence of light and maturity in society and the fulfillment of man which he called
Ingans?ngch’wi(人間成就). This world is waiting for fulfillment. One of the essential ways to achieve this for Yulgok is with sincerity which we cannot go into in this essay. Yulgok was familiar with the Zhongyong/Doctrine of the Mean: “Sincerity is the way (tao) of Heaven. The attainment of sincerity is the way (dao) of men (誠者天之道也 誠之者 人之道也);”97 “Sincerity is the end and beginning of things;without sincerity there would be nothing (誠者 物之終始 不誠無物).”98 Also Yulgok knew of the work of the Neo-Confucian Zhou Dun-I: “Sincerity is the foundation of the sage (誠者 聖人之本也).”99 Through becoming more and more sincere we come closer to the cosmic heart, to the essence of things and to the Dao. Through sincerity we touch at the same time higher spirits and men.
Touched by the internal beauty seen through the cosmic experience, Yulgok found in himself the capacity to set his will in order to accomplish fully his destiny as a man. Correcting oneself, cultivating oneself, constant practice, perseverance are necessary to go in the direction of what was glimpsed: “There is this saying from of old: He who wills it will succeed in what he undertakes (古語曰有志者 事竟成 […] )” and:
Unavoidable foundation of:
Yulgok’s work which allies the internal treasures of a whole tradition of wisdom and the ardent concern of the most down to earth realities can inspire new expressions of wisdom and noble culture to confront the considerable challenges of our time like that of the environment. Yulgok is an example of decision, of courage, of perseverance combined with a lofty vision and aprofound feeling for all beings, accepting hard effort, suffering and thinking only of fulfilling.
40Expression used by the Master of Zhu Xi (1130–1200), Li T’ung (Li Yen-p’ing) (1093–1163). 41These are two fundamental values of Neo-Confucianism for the cultivation of the Self. The former indicates more the widening of knowledge and of the development of human nature. The latter indicates more a deep consideration of the Self within experience. 42T’oegye, Chasŏngnok (自省錄), Letter 1, “Answer to Nam Shi-po,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Kugakcharyowŏn editions, 1998, Original, 37; translation into Korean, 42. 43Yijing, Hexagram 57, “The Gentle,” “Appended Judgments,” trans. Richard Wilhelm, 680: “The Gentle shows the exercise of character. Through the Gentle one is able to weigh things and remain hidden. Through the Gentle one is able to take special circumstances into account.”; “The Judgment,” “The Gentle. Success through what is small.” 44Yijing, Hexagram 58, “The Joyous, Lake,” “Commentary on the Decision,” 686. 45Yijing, Hexagram 1, “The Creative,” “Nine at the top,” 10: “Arrogant dragon will have cause to repent.” 46Complete Works of T’oegye, 3, T’oegyehak yŏn’guwŏn (1992), Original, 58, 48B. 47To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, Columbia University Press, 1988. 48Yijing, “The Great Treatise,” Part I, Chapter XI.5: “There is in the Changes the Great Primal Beginning, tai-chi/taeguk.” 49To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, “Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate,” trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, 42. 50T’oegye’s Selected Works, Minjok Munhwa Ch’ujinhoe edition, Seoul, 1979, 1, “Commentary of the Western Inscription,” Korean Translation, 162, Original, 522. 51Tu Wei-ming, “Neo-Confucian Ontology: A preliminary interrogation,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 7, 1980, 101. 52To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, Columbia University Press, 1988, 58. 53In’gŭk (人極), means that the tai-chi (太極), is reflected in man. 54T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 5, “Answer to Chŏng Cha-jung,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Original, 65, translation into Korean, 69. 55Reference to The Works of Mencius, Book II, Part I, Chapter VI. 56This makes us think of The Book of Changes. “The Great Treatise,” Part I, Chapter V. trans. Richard Wilhelm: “The Tao possesses everything in complete abundance: this is its great field of action. It renews everything daily: this is its glorious power. As begetter of all begettings, it is called changes (生生之謂易).” Richard Lynn in the Columbia University translation puts: In its capacity to produce and to reproduce we call it “change.” 57T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 8 “Answer to Chŏng Cha-jung,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Original, 78–79, translation into Korean, 82. 58Albert Schweitzer, The Teaching of Reverence for Life, Holt, Reinehart and Winston, 1965: “The elemental fact, present in our consciousness every moment of our existence, is: I am life that wills to live, in the midst of life that wills to live. The mysterious fact of my will to live is that I feel a mandate to behave with sympathetic concern toward all the wills to live which exist side by side with my own. The essence of Goodness is: Preserve life, promote life, and help life to achieve its highest destiny. The essence of Evil is: Destroy life, harm life, hamper the development of life.” 59T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 9, “Answer to Chŏng Cha-jung,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Original, 85, Translation into Korean, 88. 60To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, op.cit., “The Diagram of the Great Learning,” quotation of Zhu Xi, 85:“Mindfulness (kyŏng) is the mastery of one’s entire mind and the foundation [of correctly dealing with] all affairs.” 61Chasŏngnŏk, Introduction, first sentence of T’oegye: “The ancients did not speak lightly because they were concerned that their words would not match their actions.” This refers to The Analects of Confucius, 3.22. 62T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 11, “Answer to Chŏng Cha-jung,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Original, 95/97, Translation into Korean, 100/103. 63Paul Ricoeur, Philosophie de la Volonté/The Philosophy of the Will, 105: “The universal function of emotion is to connect; it connects what knowledge divides; it connects me to things, beings, being; while the whole movement of objectivism aims at confronting a world; emotion unites the intention which puts me outside myself and the affection by which I feel I exist. Thus emotion is always below or above the duality of subject and object.” 64Quoted by Tu Wei-ming, “Yi Hwang’s Perception of the Mind,” The T’oegyehak Study Institute, no. 19, Seoul, 1976, 462. 65Gaston Bachelard, L’Intuition de l’Instant, Stock, 1931/1992, 103. “Poetry is an instantaneous Metaphysics. A short poem has to give a vision of the universe and the secret of a soul, a being and objects–all at the same time.” 66T’oegye chŏnsŏ, T’oegyehak Yŏnguwŏn, Seoul, 1998, 101 (no. 161). 67Paul Demieville, Choix d’Etudes Bouddhiques (1929–1970), Leiden, 1973, “Le Miroir Spirituel/The Spiritual Mirror,” 137. 68T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 12 “Answer on the discussion concerning the joy in encountering the mountain and the joy in encountering water according to the writings of Kwŏn Saeng-homun,” presented by Ch’oe Chung-sŏk, Original, 105, Translation into Korean, 107. 69In T’oegye, Chasŏngnok, Letter 13 “Answer to Kim Ton-sŏ, Puryun,” Original, 110, Translation into Korean, 123. The Works of Mencius, Book VI, Part I, Chapter XV.2, trans. James Legge. 70The Analects of Confucius, 16.10, trans. James Legge. 71Words of the Phénomène Humain/Human Phenomenon, 25, quoted by Marie-Ina Bergeron, La Chine et Teilhard, Jean-Pierre Delarge, éditeur, 1976, 65. 72To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, “The Diagram of the Admonition on Rising Early and Retiring Late,” 194 : “The foundation being established, as day breaks… sitting erect, compose your body and recollect your mind, making it as luminous as the rising sun.” We find also this poetic verse in T’oegye’s Selected Works, Minchok munhwa ch’ujinhoe edition, Seoul, 1979, 1, Original, 478; Korean translation, 54: “The paper window shines in the sun, its brightness is like my heart.” 73Introduced by WM. Theodore de Bary in The Message of the Mind in Neo-Confucianism, Columbia University Press, 1989, 69. 74Pierre Teilhard De Chardin, Réflexion et Prière dans l’espace-temps, Seuil, 1972, 9 et 17: Evoking the cosmic God he said: “Vast and enveloping like matter but warm and intimate like a soul, God is the center that exists everywhere” […] “Center in which everything meets and that expands in all things to bring them back to itself.” 75The Analects of Confucius, 7.3: “The leaving virtue without proper cultivation; the not thoroughly discussing what is learned; not being able to move towards righteousness of which a knowledge is gained; and not being able to change what is not good: these are the things which occasion me solicitude.”; The Analects, 15.29: “To have faults and not to reform them, this, indeed, should be pronounced having faults.” 76Throwing a glass bottle in a forest seems an insignificant action but if many people do this in a dry summer the sun can set this forest on fire. The forest is threatened with destruction by an irresponsible attitude. 77To Become a Sage, the Ten Diagrams on Sage Learning by Yi T’oegye, trans. and with commentaries by Michael Kalton, Chapter 10, 194. 78The Analects of Confucius, 4.15, trans. James Legge. 79“There ensued great disorder in the world, and sages and worthies no longer shed their light on it. The Tao and its characteristics ceased to be regarded as uniform. Many in different places got one glimpse of it, and plumed themselves on possessing it as a whole. […] The case was that of the scholar of a corner who passes his judgment on all the beautiful in heaven and earth, discriminates the principles that underlie all things, and attempts to estimate the success arrived at by the ancients. Seldom is it that such an one can embrace all the beautiful in heaven and earth, or rightly estimate the ways of the spiritual and intelligent; and thus it was that the Tao, which inwardly forms the sage and externally the king, became obscured and lost its clearness, became repressed and lost its development. […] The students of that later age unfortunately did not see the undivided purity of heaven and earth, and the great scheme of truth held by the ancients. The system of the Tao was about to be torn into fragments all under the sky.” based on James Legge’s translation: http://oaks.nvg.org/zhuangzi31-.html#33 (accessed May 21, 2011). 80Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, V, 1985, Sŏnghak chibyo, Compendium of Sage Learning (聖學輯要), 26.2A. 81Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Yŏksuch’aek, Book on the Changes and Numbers (易數策), Original, 14.49A: “三聖一心” 82Yijing, “The Great Treatise” Part I, Chapter XI.1, trans. Wilhelm, 316. 83Daodejing, Chapter 38, translated by Victor Mair, Bantam Books, 1990: “The great man resides in fruitful reality not in blossom ornament.” 84Daodejing, Chapter 78. “He who bears abuse directed against the state Is called ‘lord of the altars for the gods of soil and grain’; He who bears the misfortunes of the state Is called the ‘king of all under heaven.’” 85Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Sŏngch’aek, Book on Sincerity (誠策), Original, 6.15A. 86Yi I, Yulgok, Kongmaeng ŏnsŏngdo kunnyŏŭi (孔孟言性道軍旅疑) Complete Works, Academy of Korean Studies, IV, Original, 14.61B–63B. 87Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, V, 1985, Sŏnghak chibyo, Compendium of Sage Learning [聖學輯要], 22.5B. 88Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Yŏksuch’aek,Book on the Changes and Numbers [易數策], Original, 14.49A. 89Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Chŏndoinsa, Book on the Tao of Heaven and on Human Activities [天道人事策], IV, 6.9B–6.10A. 90Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, IV, 1988, Kidoch’aek, Book on Prayer, Original, 5.7B. 91The Analects of Confucius, 20.3. trans. James Legge. 92Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Sŏnggyun’gwan University Press, Seoul, 1958/1986, 1, Poetry, Original, 1.22B. 93Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, III, 1987, Tap Sŏng Howŏn, Letter to Sŏng Ho-wŏn, Original 10.22A. 94“The Great Treatise,” Part II, Chapter V.11, trans. Richard Wilhelm, 342. 95Heaven, man and earth. 96Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Sŏnggyun’gwan University Press, Seoul, 1958/1986, 1, Poetry, 8. 97Zhongyong, Chapitre XX.18. 98Zhongyong, Chapitre XXV.2. 99Zhou Dun-I, Penetrating the Book of Changes, trans. Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1973, 465. 100Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, II, 1984, Manŏn pongsa [萬言封事], Ten-Thousand Characters Memorial, 5.26A–B. 101Yulgok chŏnsŏ, Edition of the Academy of Korean Studies, V, 1985, Sŏnghak chibyo, Compendium of Sage Learning [聖學輯要], 21.6A.
Experts from numerous disciplines agree that the ecological situation of our planet is very serious and that it is important to act quickly as we do not have a lot of time.102 Although we know these problems, we are changing very little. Why? According to these experts, it is because we have decided on progress at any cost, on a certain form of economic development and consumption, on the continuation out of habit of a system which uses and wastes non renewable energy and produces waste which is sometimes uncontrollable and harmful.103 Other forms of energy are possible; solar energy would suffice for our needs. A new economic conception, freed from greediness would slow down pollution and other disasters. Although we change constantly in order to be more up to date in technology, ideas and fashions, we do not change our mistakes about certain essential problems. In fact we are hardly allowed to speak about these weaknesses.
Contrary to what we might think, experts unanimously point out that the solution to this deadlock is in becoming aware of our irresponsibility and our attachment to our own interests. We have cut off our relationships with nature, which is not only material to be exploited. We believe ourselves to be superior to it. The great majority of environmental problems are caused by man, so the solution is in man. “We have to become more human, more caring, more kind, slower and smarter, more frugal, treating life with humility and respect,” some say. So it is the scientists who are calling us to rediscover ancient wisdom!
Care, authenticity, humility, frugality are unchangeable values to relearn and to live today. This article is limited to certain aspects of the teaching of the
Yijing, T’oegye and Yulgok, which can inspire us to discover once again a relationship with nature (and with ourselves) which is rich and full of sense so that we choose options which stop damaging our planet and give all beings a place of dignity and the possibility of fulfillment. Especially essential are modesty and humility104 at which Nietzsche scoffed, convincing many that they meant mediocrity and cowardliness. Thus, as Paul Ricoeur showed, modern man fell from the arrogant Cogito inherited from Descartes to the humiliated Cogito caused by the masters of suspicion but the consequences were harmful and behind his apparent technological success man hides a poverty, especially of spirit and emotion. Therefore, it is necessary to look for a balanced approach.
We are humiliated today by the civilization that we have developed and which in many ways turns against us. It is not a loss of time to stop and evaluate what needs to be corrected and to be accomplished in a positive way. We are far from “the opus” about which Teilhard spoke which ought to include the dimension of heart105, we are far from “the co-creation” spoken of by Tu Wei-ming106 linked to a sense of sanctity and the sacredness of man and the universe.
We cannot fulfill ourselves at the cost of nature and the cosmos but in harmony with them. We act impulsively as if the earth was our property. We give nature no rights legally. In fact the earth is entrusted to us. It prospers if we love and respect it and deteriorates if we treat it badly. Only a conscience that is more acute allows us to find again a sense of wonderment and a feeling of gratitude towards nature. The deforestation and the expanding of deserts actually reflect the dryness of our souls. We have in our hands the power to make life more fruitful or to bring about death.
The universe is not only a source of wonder but education. We have a lot to learn from the universe, infinitely vast and infinitely minuscule, in order to put in place forms of energy and techniques which reflect the marvelous achievements that are taking place under our eyes in the vegetal and animal kingdoms where neither robot nor machine exist; but perhaps more urgent than finding new forms of energy is to work on ourselves in order to become more “human.”
At this turning point of history when we are faced with the complexity of the world and its innumerable challenges, we need more than ever to rediscover the fundamental sources of being and of life, sources of the conscience, moral sources. We consider too often as treasures transient things and pay very little attention to the real treasures.
The real treasures are this universe which has been given to us and mind-andheart of which we become aware a little more each day. We can contemplate untiringly a water source which begins in the depth of a mountain because it symbolizes the mystery of this gift of life. It is only when there is a lack of water that we can really feel its value.
It is even more difficult to appreciate the sources of the mind-and-heart which are easily neglected and presented as utopian, outdated and irrelevant to the contemporary issues. The sources make us hear the voices of courageous men.107 They are one of the important keys of our culture and of our capacity to cope with the challenges of our time. That is why the Korean and Chinese sources which were preserved by many sacrificial and visionary men are for us today treasures if we know how to receive them and rediscover their meaning to complete our present task.
102Scientific Documentary, “The 11th Hour—Turn Mankind’s Darkest Hour into its Finest,” produced and narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, 2007. 103For a long time chemical, plastic and nuclear waste, among others, still remain a serious problem not yet resolved. 104Yijing, Hexagram 15, “Modesty,” “Commentary on the Decision,” trans. Richard Wilhelm: “It is the way of heaven to make empty what is full and to give increase to what is modest. It is the way of the earth to change the full and to augment the modest. […] It is the way of men to hate fullness and to love the modest.” 105Teilhard De Chardin, Pierre, The Future of Man, translated by Norman Denny, Harper & Row, 1964, 178: “Humanity is building its composite brain beneath our eyes. May it not be that tomorrow, through the logical and biological deepening of the movement drawing it together, it will find its heart, without which the ultimate wholeness of its powers of unification can never be fully achieved? To put it in other words, must not the constructive developments now taking place within the Noosphere in the realm of sight and reason necessarily also penetrate to the sphere of feeling (emotion)?” 106Tu Wei-ming, International Conference on Universal Ethics and Asian Values, Seoul, October 1999, 369: “The sanctity of the earth, the divinity of the body, the beatitude of the family and the sacredness of the community are encoded in human nature anthropocosmically defined. There is spirituality in all matter because any matter (Sun, moon, star, animal, tree, or rock) is a specific configuration of the vital energy. There is, therefore, consanguinity between us and all other modalities of being. Self-cultivation, intended for the full realization of our nature, is none other than the transformation of our earthly, bodily, familial and communal realities into all-embracing expressions of ourselves as the co-creators of the cosmic process.” 107The Analects of Confucius, 16.8, trans. James Legge: “The superior (profound) man stands in awe of the words of the sages. […] The mean man makes sport of the words of sages.”
1. Tao Te Ching, Mair Victor 1990