Finding this blog is a real treat for me. I have always seen the contrasts between the social teachings of Confucius and the spiritual teachings of Lao-tse but have never seen the intersection of the two until now. This is of great interest to me and quite a find indeed! It has been obvious to me forever that you can not separate the two because when we are acting in accordance with our True Nature, the social and spiritual aspects of man are identical. Dr. Berger is a student of Confucius and, therefore, has studied the teachings of Mencius too. Mencius lived about one hundred fifty or so years after Confucius and Lao-tse and infused Taoist thought in his studies and teachings of Confucius. He is highly revered by Neo-Confucians as the teacher of orthodox Confucianism. I admit to knowing very little about his teachings though. In this essay by Dr. Berger, you will understand why I have always said that when we are One with our True Nature, we are always at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing. It is not a conscious act but is the “perfect” act that naturally occurs when we are “in the flow” of Tao. When Lao-tse and Confucius reportedly met, Confucius left their conversation completely puzzled. He basically said when ask about Lao-tse, “I have no idea what he said but he is the wisest man I have ever met!”. It is obvious from this essay, though, that Mencius’ Taoist influence made it possible for him see a connection.
This is a double delight for me because Dr. Berger is trained in Gestalt Theory – the only theory I studied in Psychology that explained a greater power in excess of all of the parts – ie; God, Tao, Self, etc. I have always been fascinated with Gestalt and it has played an important role in my understanding of Reality and Truth. I hope this article helps you in your understanding why it is so important to stop trying to control everything(Ego) because Everything is already in perfect control when we completely let go(Faith) and just Be our True Nature. Enjoy!
The Heart and the Tao
by Glenn Berger, Ph.D.
In the culminating vision of the Sage, Mencius, heart, theHeavenly Mandate, and flood-like ch’i are combined with theTao, or the Way. One accomplishes an alignment with the Heavenly Mandate, or universal law, by manifesting the heart, the faculty of goodness, resulting in flood-like ch’i or fully embodied vitality and courage. The method for living in such alignment is called the Tao, or Way. To quote from “On the Practice of the Mean,” one of the four canonized books of Chinese wisdom, “by ‘the ‘Way’ we mean that path which is in conformance with the intrinsic nature of man and things.” By following the Tao, or Way, we achieve the moral life by living in accordance with natural principles and we become the profound person. We achieve jen, or authentic human-ness.
It is in the natural order of the universe to have manifested a compassionate heart in humankind. We are also given the faculty of cultivating ourselves. What this means is that we can advance our own evolution. By developing ourselves, we participate in the perfecting of nature. The purpose, telos, or entelechy of the universe is love, where love is the ultimate realization of compassion and harmonic relationship. We are each given a capacity for goodness through our inherent compassion and it is our task to develop this capacity optimally in order to play our part in the realization of the universe. Cultivating the compassionate heart is fulfilling the mandate of heaven. This is what it means to live according to the Tao. As the furthest extension of universal development, humankind finds its optimal harmony with the purpose of the universe when we self-cultivate toward the realization of heart.
We come to an alignment with heart through living according to the Tao. The Tao is the heart in time. The heart is the Tao in us. The heart is the faculty that can comprehend and practice living according to the Way.
When we live according to universal principle, our inner conflict ends: what we should do finds harmony with what we want to do. As Mencius put it,
“The profound person steeps himself in the Way because he wishes to find it in himself. When he finds it in himself, he will be at ease in it; when he is at ease in it, he can draw deeply upon it; when he can draw deeply upon it, he finds its source wherever he turns. That is why a profound person wishes to find the Way in himself.”
In this sense, to develop morally is not to learn moral rules, though these provide a framework for the real learning. Instead, we want to cultivate our hearts, the capacity for knowing right from wrong within. In this way we do not obediently follow some rule imposed from without, but intrinsically do the right thing in any circumstance, as the circumstance dictates. As Confucius put it, “The profound person, in the world, does not set his mind either for anything, or against anything; what is right he will follow.”
Self-cultivation, or the process of developing our human potentials, is accomplished by living according to the Tao. It is through the realization of our human potentials that we embody the Heavenly Mandate, or universal principle. This embodiment of universal principle is our purpose, what we are meant to be, or our entelechy. The full realization of our potentials is to fulfill our human nature and is the way we come to know the universal law. The full manifestation of our human nature, which is an embodiment of universal principle, is compassion. Compassion is the purpose of the universe. To realize loving compassion is to manifest the entelechy of the universe. When we manifest the potential of the universe, we are at one with the energy of the universe.
For the Confucians, we get “close enough” to the Tao by having optimal relationships in each domain of being. We cultivate these relationships by developing our empathy through practicing the virtues of benevolence, respect, and compassion and we do this by accessing the heart.
The Confucian conception of the personal heart and its interconnection to all other hearts, the heart of the universe and the transcendent spiritual heart, is best explicated in the monumental work, “The Highest Order of Cultivation.” Here is my interpretation of the core of this text.
• Only once one has an embodied experience of the interconnectedness of all, can one integrate all aspects of the psyche, leading to integration and wholeness; where the parts of the self exist in cooperative relation.
• Only when we are whole can the potentials of the heart be realized. Only when we are whole can we realize our potentials for perceiving, thinking, feeling, imagining, acting and connecting.
• Only when we have realized our potentials do we manifest virtuous moral being. Only when we have manifested virtuous moral centeredness can we put our relationships right, having harmonious relationships, meeting the needs of our partners and growing optimally.
• Only when we can put our relationships right can we have happy, good children and flourishing families.
• Only when we have balanced families can society be at peace and harmony.
• Only when society is in order are we living according to the Heavenly Mandate, or the laws of the universe.
• By cultivating ourselves, we fulfill the purpose of the universe.