by Scott Bradley
by Scott Bradley
I have just begun reading Fung Yu-lan's A Short History of Chinese Philosophy and will share here occasional thoughts that emerge as I continue. In his introduction he states that the Chinese have not traditionally cared much for religion but have rather attempted to fill that need with philosophy. Religion always seems to creep in, but if we look, for an example, at that greatest of Chinese philosophers (at least in terms of influence), Confucius, then his point seems valid. Confucius had nothing to say about God or heaven or hell. His was a philosophy of life. And it became the way of the majority of the Chinese people for nearly two millennia.
This 'need' that required filling is what Fung calls "higher values". These are other than those which mere intellection can provide. They are rooted in something we call the 'spiritual'. They also transcend, he says, mere morality. He does not say what this means exactly, but for me it means a morality rooted in the heart, not in the law.
This is where philosophical Daoism came into conflict with Confucianism, however. For a morality rooted in the heart is a morality nonetheless. Thus Confucianism tells us how to behave.
The Daoists believed those roots did not go deep enough; they did not tap into the very spring of life itself. It is this spring to which Zhuangzi refers (I believe) when he speaks of the Heavenly Reservoir, the Numinous Reservoir, and the Numinous Platform. "That is what allows the joy of its harmony to open into all things without thereby losing its fullness, what keeps it flowing on day and night without cease, taking part everywhere as the springtime of each being.
Connecting up with This, your own mind becomes the site of the life-giving time." (B. Ziporyn; 5:16) Tapping into the very life-giving flow, morality, not to mention "higher values" naturally arise.
You can check out Scott's other miscellaneous writings here.