Unknown Date, Serial 00228

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Well, maybe I can tell you something interesting about me, in the sense of how I came to study Confucianism. How's that? Oh, we're great. Excellent. Since I'm leaving tonight, but before I started to respond to Mr. Corcoran's excellent paper, I wanted to say goodbye to all of you, and thank you very much for all that you've given me during this time, not only your hospitality, which is unparalleled with my travels, but also the depth of conversation and insight, both in this room, and more particularly in the interpersonal kind of conversation behind the bushes, walking the trails, and trying to find a shower, and so forth, and meeting people. This has fueled me a great deal. It's going to help me immensely in my teaching at Graduate Theological Union, which necessarily involves educating their mind on a work. I've gotten many, many insights, broke through many stereotypes, and still have many questions. And I'm sorry I won't be here to participate in the answering of those, which will take


place soon after I leave, I understand. I have to say, also, that before coming here, someone said, well, what are you going to do next week? He just went to this thing at the Dalai Lama's Lama, went up to this Trappist monastery to hang out there for a while, and said, why don't you have some fun in your life, man? That just sounds such a waste of time. And as I was driving up, I was thinking, and I'll paraphrase this famous passage from Zhuangzi, who said, people of the world think that our way, this way, is a waste of time, is greatly a waste of time. And he said, it's only because it's great that it seems like a waste of time. As for things of the world that people think are great, there's no question that they're a waste of time. So I feel I haven't wasted my time at all. In fact, I think all of us have felt the time has gone too quickly. But in any event, let me say, also, I really appreciate Sister Cartman's paper. I was reluctant to respond to Confucianism, because I'm an amateur as well.


So what she inspired me to do was to climb my bookshelves, literally, and dust off my old Confucian books, and recall what a wonderful world this is to enter the Confucian text, and try to work with the translation. And so I thank her for that. I actually found very little to be critical of in her paper, and we've had some conversations. And this is surprising, because Confucius, I think, is so grossly misunderstood and misinterpreted, present leadership in China notwithstanding. And I think she delves into the heart of that misunderstanding by giving Confucian philosophy its full weight as a religious, and even a mystical, teaching of enstressing the interiority and the process of Confucian self-cultivation as a core, rather than this formalistic, moral, self-posturing, steeped in hierarchy, hoary, ritual, static, retrograde to human progress.


I'm giving you all the stereotypes of Confucianism. And most importantly, an inhibition to personal realization, that it submerges and suppresses the individual in favor of community. And this misinterpretation has been used, I will say this critically, in China, mainland China, to advocate mass thought, mass thinking. I think it's a misinterpretation of Ren. That's my own spin. And I think she honestly grapples with the fuller meaning of the concept of cheng, sincerity. And there's some subtle and important nuances that she points to between that and benedictine humility. The personal story I had was when I entered the monastery, the Buddhist monastery, I thought, now I'm going to delve into the Buddhist text. And my teacher started throwing Confucian classics at me. And of course, this was, again, my lesson in humility. I want the top of the mountain right away. Why do I have to study this stuff? And he said, well, the reason why we study Confucianism is because, he said, although


there's a road in heaven, Tian, you don't get to it except by walking the road under your feet. So I thought about it, and he said, Confucianism is about perfecting your humanity. When your humanity is perfected, Buddhahood accomplishes itself. And so this was my introduction into the integration of these teachings and texts with the importance of humane or cultivated humanity. Now, to go into Sister Corbin's paper, I think her rendering of cheng as going beyond a mere authenticity of character in the psychological sense to something approaching the deeply spiritual, even ontological, as she suggests, I think is in the right direction. Often, sincerity in our culture, in a very gross way, is inside and outside are the same. But that's not it in Confucianism, because inside has to be correct. It's not just that they match. There has to be. And so sincerity, as my teachers passed it on, was a cultivated mind, body, heart disposed


to and capable of moral error, because all selfish elements had been seen through and therefore easily let go of. So he or she is a quotes of subdues oneself and returns to propriety or to principle. This is the methodology for sincerity. You subdue yourself, and you return back to principle, to me. So I found myself making comments in her paper. I was writing a paper, and then I turned the paper, and she said the next thing that I was writing a comment. So we were going, in Chinese, they say someone who knows your sound. I think we were echoing back and forth. So I said, darn, there it is. It's another point of love. And I think it's very important that she pointed out sincerity or humility, and I don't understand it in the Benedictine sense, but it need not, it should not connote a false modesty or self-effacement, but should be rendered positively as attunement, centering, harmonizing with the Tao the way things really are. Our Western notion of an autonomous, rights-bearing, individual and independent monad that is


unnatural, and I also say it's objectively inaccurate. Many of our seemingly insoluble problems with each other, social, with ourselves, psychological, and with the environment natural, have to do with our clinging to this outdated and unscientific view of ourselves as these hermetically sealed, radical individuals. And Confucianism cuts through that in a very direct way. I think Sister Corcoran also readily suggests, at least as I read her paper, between the headlines of her thinking, that the Confucian view more closely approximates the natural. We are a web of relationships, and thus humility, as she points out, is a relativization of the ego, not its destruction. It's putting the ego back in the proper web and doesn't destroy it. One of my Confucian teachers pointed this out very graphically to me. He said, people mistake Confucianism as this hierarchical, oppressive strategy. It's horizontal. It's relational. It's not hierarchical.


He said, in our lives right now, I am a father to my son. I am a son to my father. I am a teacher to my students. I'm a student to my teacher. And he went through all the possible relationships that we are in right now. He said, that is who I am, these sum total relationships. One of those changes, I change. I lose a father. I lose a daughter. I don't do my job as a teacher. It changes that whole web. But the individual is defined by the sum total of those relationships. Therefore, realizing individuality has to do with writing, perfecting those relationships, not evading them. So it's an important thing that comes. She also brings up a point that I wanted to stress and maybe bring up. It's a question of translation in languages. For example, that Benedict's ladder, I'm quoting from her, of humility begins with


a strong sense of fear in the Lord. Now, as I read Confucius, he warns that anything motivated by fear will not attain what's jungle, proper. So how do we reconcile these two things? Fear is a motivation in the Confucian sense, moves one away from what's proper. In the Benedictine sense, it's the beginning of a ladder towards something proper. So is this a difference, perhaps, in translation? Or is this a difference in fundamentals? Okay. Then, that brings me to my other point, which is, I think that Confucianism, and again, I have to say this is my understanding of Christianity, renewed this week, has an incredible possibility, potential to really reinvigorate some of the major problems we're facing in the West right now. And part of the problem is translation. I did not understand Benedictine fear.


Perhaps others didn't understand the Confucian sense of chung. And so, what I'm advocating is, let's rest in the space in between and be patient. Let it rub us a bit the wrong way, or get in the craw, so to speak. And along these lines, I wanted to quote you a passage that I found very helpful for me. It's written by Henry Clark Warren, who was an early Indologist at Harvard. He translated some of the Eastern classics, one of the first translators. And he was talking about Buddhism, but this would apply to Christianity, I think, Islam, Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism. He says, a large part of the pleasure that I've experienced in the study of Buddhism has arisen from what I call the strangeness of the intellectual landscape. All the ideas, the modes of argument, even the postulates assumed and not argued about have always seemed so strange, so different from anything to which I have been accustomed, that I felt all the time as though walking in fairyland. Much of the charm that the Oriental thoughts and ideas have for me appears to me because


they are so seldom fit into Western categories. And I think Christianity, strangely, paradoxically, has so fit into Western categories that it has now lost its central core meaning and needs to be retranslated as much as the Eastern classics do for us. So we're all of us engaged in a very critical, nothing kills like success. Now, along those lines, maybe I will jump to something that I've talked to Bruno about later, because I was inspired by what he said, and it goes on more to the next level of not just the translation, but are there perhaps some fundamental differences between the Confucian view of human nature and the Christian? And I'm going to put Professor Chung said, I'm not so much interested in the idea of free will, although I am, I'm interested more on the other side of that. What about the notion of redemption or salvation?


Now, free will is one aspect of that. I'm wondering, in the Confucian sense of this intrinsic goodness, self-cultivation constitutes a sociological method, not for salvation, but for returning and recovering what is innate and cannot be left for a moment. It either protects or sustains that intrinsic goodness. And if it's neglected or led astray, it allows us to recover it. Is there not a subtle and important difference between shushan, cultivation of the self, as the root of everything else? That's shushan weifan. That is the root. Self-cultivation is the root of everything else, and the Christological or eschological formulations of Christianity, are they the same? Is redemption, in other words, or would you say restored human nature? What is the content of that restored human nature, is one question. And the last one is playing off of this, and this would be my question that I didn't write down, that I'm really interested in. After these discussions, I go outside and say, well, God's this.


No, no, no, God's that. No, no, God's this, and God's that. And people are actually taking out scripture back and forth. You see, it says here that God is inside. No, God is transcendent. And I was thinking, gosh, I was coming here thinking I would get a very clear definition of what God is, and I'm getting this plurality, if you will. Now, the question to me is, this is lively, I think, in the rub, we grow, and that's fine. I'm just, the question that comes to me in both in this discussion, the larger discussion, by what authority do we resolve these issues? Okay, the issues themselves, one could debate. What I know is generally in the Christian tradition is an authority that is textual, again, orthodox. That one is, people are handing out scripture and saying, look here, look here. No, no, look here. In the Confucian Taoist Buddhist sense, when there is differences like this, the solution that's gone to is the belly, so to speak. Okay, if it's the way, advance. If it's not the Tao, retreat.


What is the Tao? How do you know the Tao? You know the Tao by your personal experience within. This becomes the gyroscope, if you will, the litmus test of what is correct or not. Does it accord with this informed understanding that comes through self-cultivation? Then you say, how do you know it's your teacher? Eat. You don't take out a text and say, so and so said. And so, I'm not criticizing this per se, but I see a lot of problems here in resolving these issues. If the authority is merely external and textual, one will get into endless debates, schisms, and something worse, violence. And I think maybe this is the issue I would ask. What do we look to for authorities to resolve these questions? Rather than the questions themselves, which are not disturbing, they'll always be there as long as there's two people. But the question of authority seems to be critical. And this is the one I would raise as interesting for discussion of how we might begin along those lines. Mr. Stern, would you like to take a couple of minutes to answer some of those questions?


Well, just one thing quick about fear. If you look at Benedict's whole letter of humility, the last part, he says, at that point, when the complete transformation has happened, a person is free from fear, filled with love, and there's ease in virtue. So it's a transcendence of fear, ultimately. And I think the first step of humility is using the biblical phrase, fear the Lord, in the sense of reverence, awe for the mystery. So that's what you meant by translation? See, in our society, psychologically, what that generates is a negative emotion. And once again, you're so wide-drawn here to this that generates fear. Why don't you draw it? Awe of reverence is different. That's something we have for nature and beauty. And it's just interesting at that little coda that's at the end of the letter of humility, St. Benedict refers to the craftsperson in the monastery. The monk is the craftsperson. I link that with what Professor Cheng said about that the reflection spills over into


artistic creativity and so forth. And so there's a concreteness about it. Any questions? Well, again, I've heard this debate go back and forth about fear of the Lord and everything. And this answers the question about the experience of God and who's the authority. It really is realized. I mean, in other words, if we can name God and act like God and teach like God, you'll know that it's the same experience that you're talking about now. So it does come down to the authority is in the lived experience. But back to fear, this has gone on all the time. But I have to say, I had an experience that really, again, I won't go into this. My experience, but I think this is raw fear, too. I think God, the beginning of humility is to let God have that God power and not to


take that away in any way. My experience, real quickly, I was in Bolivia and I was in a jeep and I was down a river and I was on this island for five hours. I was rescued. Everybody else was killed. And I saw these mountains and all this thing. And in my little body, and I was out there a long time, there was real fear and then really being saved. So I don't want to take away from that word fear, the meaning of raw fear. I'd like to add just a tiny thing to that. That, of course, is, I think, psychologically important, that experience, because it is cathartic and actually frees us up. But it is true, however, that that text is taken from the Psalms where the parallels to fear are seeking the presence of God.


And that's, of course, what it's about. Remember that God sees you at all times and all places. So that is ultimately, you know, that God is always there. And then you discover, finally, that God is love and that you're free. But what Innos has always fascinated me, it's a little detail of that chapter, when using the metaphor, the symbol of the ladder, St. Benedict describes it concretely, you might say almost allegorically, because he says, the two verticals of the ladder are the body and the soul. And then the degree is the steps, the 12 steps and so forth. The important thing, for me, is that it is not this usual hierarchical conception of the human being. The soul is not above the body. The body is not some inferior part of the human being. But it is body and soul that are both on the ground.


And, of course, you can't climb a ladder unless it's set firmly on the ground. I think St. Benedict is happy if we do imagine this ladder and the concreteness of it and how it is, indeed, an instrument of work. It's something that you use to climb up on the roof to change the shingles and so forth. So it is a logical evolution of the symbol of the workshop that he gives such importance to. So, just one little detail, which is, I invite all of you to come and help me. Tom, you have two hands? I would agree with Meg about this idea of real fear. Many times in meditation, I'll tell people, I'll just give them a little bit of, a few words to carry them along, and I'll say, meditation is like standing at the edge of an infinite abyss and hearing Christ say, come. And many people have told me that is fear, but they're face-to-face with infinity.


And it is, you can be deeply fearful. And I, when they tell me that, I say, that's great. And then we talk. Stay with me here. Thomas Aquinas says, we can never grasp God with our rational mind. He's beyond anything we can say about it. But since you don't want an answer from a book, I have an experiential answer. We had a Baptist minister that came to our monastery many times, and we didn't see him for years. And he just came back recently. And he used to love to go to the Eucharist. And he said, I want you all to know that one day when I was in your chapel, he said, you must realize that I've read all the commentaries and I know all the scriptures. And he said, I heard a voice, but it wasn't outside, it was inside me as clear as day. And it said, I am a mystery. Stop trying to figure me out. And he said it changed his life.


Maybe I wasn't clear. It wasn't that I didn't want to hear the book thing. I was just wondering, is there a modality or mechanism within the community that not only validates but encourages and has a way of evaluating experience? Because the opposite of this, of course, would be I had an experience. And within the Buddhist tradition, it's very clear that there's both text and internal methods for checking out whether that's ecstasy or LSD, if I want to be extreme. But what I was asking was, is there within your traditions also very clear modalities and mechanisms for tapping into this way of knowing? And maybe, I guess Tom and I were talking that a lot of people that are coming for meditation through a Catholic or Christian tradition are really coming now to come in for a direct experience, a living, visceral, spiritual energy. How does one do that? And perhaps then maybe there is an orthopraxic strand within the Christian community that


could become a vehicle then for revitalization of Christianity in this world where more and more people are coming from that.