Doctrine of the Mean - Center Unchangeable 中庸 Translation and Commentary 4
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Doctrine of the Mean 中庸
Zhong Yong - Center Unchangeable
Translation and Commentary - Part 4
(PD) Zhong Yong on Winter Forest
Photograph enhancements and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy
Copyright©2018 April 08, 2018
Translations and Comments Continued
Therefore the Superior Man is cautious in the place where he is not seen, and apprehensive in the place where he is not heard.
(shi gu jun zi jieshen hu qi suo bu du, kong ju hu qi suo bu wen.)
Normal: Yes therefore junzi guards close (~~his) place not seen, fear dread close (~~his) place not heard.
Nature-based parallel: Yes therefore quality man guards close his place not seen, mindfully anticipating close his place not heard.
This sentence enters into the Confucian idea of junzi, a term that has no parallel in English, nor perhaps within any non-Asian culture. Junzi implies a quality man of quality traits and quality behavior. Quality is an attribute of enhanced harmonious creativity. Politeness, mindfulness, modesty, kindness, and all of the other positive (creative) traits accompany the concept of junzi. Inwardly, a junzi is a very, very beautiful person.
Common English translations have given the words 'superior', 'gentleman', 'noble', and 'scholar' as synonyms of junzi, but the English words can and often do point to individuals of low qualities, and so the common English synonyms do not carry the meaning that is in junzi.
Some emperors of China were given the title of 'tianzi' which implied 'son of heaven'. Junzi might appear to imply 'son of master', but, as the following quotes of Confucius' words illustrate, 'junzi' attained a cultural meaning of implying a man who has attained quality attributes. Becoming a junzi was — and still is — a very worthy achievement.
The sentence's change of conceptual wording appears to suggest that this sentence might have been added later, sort of as a brief comment, or perhaps as a related quote from another source, and not be directly related to the previous sentences.
It is important to give notice to the sentence's words of 'fear' and 'dread'. A following sentence will appear to infer that a man who is properly centered will not express emotions, and, so, this sentence and the other will conflict.
恐 (kong) and 懼 (ju) both translate to the synonyms of 'fear, dread'. Perhaps the double use had a cultural implication of when the book was written. For myself, I could invent several plausible interpretations, but I feel that each would merely be what they are; inventions.
It appears that the sentence might be presenting a portion of an illustration of the behavior of centered ⦿ individuals. Mindful anticipations formed within perpetual analyses of what is sensed and not sensed, the mindful anticipations are one of the attributes of those who are of the ⦿ dao.
Anticipation is an emotion, and unique to each individual. Anticipation for some individuals is as a steady tone of mindful attention given to one's environment while the mind rapidly analyzes the environment and one's own behaviors. I myself interpret the idea of 'fear' and 'dread' to be negative, destructive, and disquality emotions — not the behavior of a junzi — and so, to me, the sentence is out of place.
This sentence within 中庸 has had a wild variance of academic translations, and so I feel that it is best to simply leave the English synonyms as they are, and to permit the reader to self-observe and to recognize within themselves what it means to mindfully and perpetually guard one's thoughts and actions.
Nothing is more visible than the hidden, and nothing is more apparent than the subtle. Therefore the Superior Man is cautious when he is alone.
(mo xian hu yin, mo xian hu wei. gu jun zi shen qi du ye.)
Normal: Not visible than hidden, not evident than subtle. Therefore junzi mindful ~~ alone ~~.
Nature-based parallel: Not visible than hidden, not evident than subtle. Therefore junzi mindful alone.
'Not visible than hidden' appears to be more than adequate by itself. At least to me, the wording is very coherent: 'not visible than hidden', or 'it is more hidden than visible', or 'not as visible than hidden'.
Similar with the second half of the sentence: 'not evident than obscure' or 'not evident than subtle'. The choice of synonym for '微' is very variable relative to one's own emotions, firsthand understandings, life experiences, emotional stability, and emotional usage of words. One man's subtlety is another man's obscurity, and another man's mysteriousness.
Being prudent, cautious, thinking, or mindful when alone, it is a natural behavior of those who are mindful.
The two sentences are not easy to discern harmonious synonyms, and so I feel that for the moment it is enough to merely point at a way of behavior in which the mind is always aware, always conscious, and always discerning the world around and within one's self.
When joy, anger, sorrow and pleasure have not yet arisen, it is called the Mean (中 centeredness, equilibrium).
(xi nu ai le zhi wei fa, wei zhi zhong.)
Normal: Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, ~~ not emit, call this center.
Nature-based parallel: Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, where not emit, call this ⦿ center.
According to some recent reports, it is being claimed that humans have no control over their emotions. The reports might possibly be true for the individuals who allegedly participated in the study, but the claims cannot and do not apply to everyone.
If an individual truly is unable to control their emotions, then they possess no potential for zhong nor any other dao.
However, for individuals who do have control over their minds, they can and do choose what thoughts to think, and what emotions to be permitted to rise. Self-observing one's own mind, the processes of emotions are obvious, and the words of 中庸 appear to speak of a similar self-observation.
The ⦿ exists first; emotions and choices to express emotions are of the mind: the mind is secondary to the ⦿. Emotions do not arise from the ⦿. The ⦿ observes the emotions rising.
It appears acceptable that the book's use of 中 zhong as the ⦿ may also point to 'where' the emotions do not rise, but, as the sentences continue, it then appears that 中 might only be pointing to a mind-body centering, which is not the unchangeable ⦿.
Some translations have interpreted the words to imply that equilibrium exists when individuals have no emotions at all; no joy, no anger, no sorrow, and no happiness. The translations measure the center from the edge, from an external and academic point of view. The belief is extraordinarily absurd and destructive to all individuals who would follow the false teaching.
The ⦿ observes the emotions as the emotions are in the process of nascenting, and it is the tone of the ⦿ that can give influence for the mind to choose which emotions to permit to rise and to be expressed. Many years ago I referred to the ⦿ center as being the foundational emotion, the 'tone' of one's ⦿, which still holds valid today. Modern cultures might think of ⦿ as the consciousness, which is a useable enough analogy for individuals who are unaware of ⦿.
Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, where they do not emit, call this the ⦿ center.
Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, where they do nascent, call this the mind.
Joy, anger, sorrow, happiness, where they are felt, call this the body.
Joy, happiness, love, affection, where they rage strong stable, call this mind-centered.
When they arise to their appropriate levels, it is called “harmony” 和.
(fa er jie zhong jie, wei zhi he.)
Normal: Emit but all center restrain, call ~~ harmony.
Nature-based parallel: Emit but all center release, call mind-body centered.
The translation depends upon an individual's definition of harmony. Some individuals think of harmony as an external behavior that observers can see and mathematically measure, while other individuals choose the word 'harmony' to point to the felt inner sensations of peacefulness, calmness, soothed, quietude, softness, plus numerous other 'tones and songs' of mental and physical activities that sum to have an 'emotioned center' at a very specific location within the body. The felt 'center' can be said to be within the balance of harmonious tones.
However, there is not just one possible harmony, nor just one possible tone. Wuji has no boundaries, ⦿ has no boundaries, and the depths and intensities of love (harmony) have no boundaries. 中庸's center appears to possibly be a good one, but it is not the only one, nor the best and most creative one.
Too, the idea of 'restraining' presents the problem of permitting the unwanted disharmonious emotions to remain active, and the attention is given to the unwanted emotions. For as long as an individual resists, so will the unwanted emotions exist to be resisted. It is pretty obvious; a thing must always be present if the thing is always being resisted.
Legge's translation of "arise to their appropriate levels" might be somewhat superior to the modern translations that speak of 'resisting'. Nevertheless, scholarly translations do, of course, apply a scholarly mathematics to the definitions of harmony, that of balancing existing things to create an imaginary center, which is a false belief.
A useful center focuses on the quality central emotions — junzi — and the mind simply lets-go of and releases the disquality emotions. For some individuals, when the self is well-centered, and the self is emitting a quality emotioned tone, it is at that time that the person remains focused on the central tone, and the individual's mind does not wander into thoughts that give rise to disquality emotions.
A person who always diets can never attain the desired weight. A person who always follows can never attain mastery. A person who always restrains can never be rid of the unwanted things.
The full list of available articles in this series can be found on the home page at Doctrine of the Mean 中庸 Zhong Yong Translation and Commentary.
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Updated April 08, 2018
Background image is Zhong Yong on Winter Forest.