Sunday, January 5, 2014

Ziporyn on the Liji VII: Walking Two Chengs

Scott Bradley

"Unseen coherence means self-completion [spontaneous coming into true being, being perfect as oneself]. Dao means self-guidance [auto-guidance, spontaneous nondeliberate directedness]. For unseen coherence is the end and beginning of each thing. Without unseen coherence there is no thing."
("The Doctrine of the Mean")
It is Guo Xiang's (252-312) take on Zhuangzi that immediately comes to mind at reading the quote above: "[E]very being without exception is released into the range of its own spontaneous attainments, so that each relies on its own innate character, each deed exactly matching its own capabilities. Since each fits perfectly into exactly the position it occupies, all are equally far-reaching and unfettered." (Ziporyn)

The difference, of course, is that Guo's focus is on the unconditional affirmability of each and every being just as it is, for no other reason than that it is. The author of the lines above focuses on the potential of self-completion. Taken together, it is a matter of realizing our unconditional self-completion so as to do the work of becoming self-complete. Or, more broadly, once we realize how that things are perfect, we can set about perfecting them.

Ziporyn speaks to this when he comments: "[W]hatever is is what it is because it is coherent as that thing, and only to that extent. This is the realness of the thing, and everything is real in some sense, even if only as a real fake." I would add that if things are only real because there is coherence, then there is also only coherence because things are real. The realness of things is contingent on nothing. The "fake" is as real as the realized real. The illusory is as real as the real. (Maya is Nirvana.) "Not-one is also One." This, for me, is the point of entry into a self-cultivation free of striving, and thus free of judgmentalism, as applied to self and others.

The Confucian author of "The Doctrine of the Mean" is most likely more concerned with the becoming; cheng (authenticity), for him, is contingent. Yet, his vision of self-cultivation is accessible to philosophical Daoism when coupled with an awareness of non-contingent cheng. We walk two chengs.

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