Doctrine of the Mean - Center Unchangeable 中庸 Translation and Commentary 6
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Doctrine of the Mean 中庸
Zhong Yong - Center Unchangeable
Translation and Commentary - Part 6
(PD) Zhong Yong on Winter Forest
Photograph enhancements and wording by Larry Neal Gowdy
Copyright©2018 April 14, 2018
Introduction Into 中庸 Sayings of Confucius
All ideologies have sects that believe different beliefs, even when the sects follow the same book. All religions have opposing sects, all philosophies have opposing sects, all sciences have opposing sects, and Confucianism also has opposing sects. Within Nature it is not possible for all people to think the same thoughts, nor think the same way, nor believe the same things, and so it is natural and to be expected that there will exist people who interpret 中庸 differently than what other people interpret.
Some scholars today believe that 中庸 is a doctrine of a Dao (way) that enables man to somehow directly access Heavens' ethics and morals. The scholars interpret Confucianism to be as mysticism, of Confucianism enabling men to receive mystical powers and abilities directly from Heaven itself. It appears plausible that the scholarly belief of Confucianism being a mystical doctrine may have been born upon the scholars' absence of understanding what centeredness might be. Not so long ago, magnetism and electricity were so little seen and so little understood, that many people believed of magnetism and electricity to be magical, mystical, and 'from the heavens' or 'the work of demons'.
Beliefs in mysticism vanish when individuals grow to understand how the things work, or when the things become so common that people no longer think of the things as being special. The scholars' peculiar beliefs of mystical powers appear to be formed upon a belief that the knowledge and memorizing of words is the sole potential of the human mind, which, to scholars, renders individuals' firsthand understandings and abilities to be so far beyond the scholar's own personal potentials that the abilities appear to be as supernatural magic.
Some of the scholars are so weak of knowledge and understanding, that they sincerely find no fault in claiming that the word 'scholar' is an equal synonym to the word 'sage'. The scholars simply do not know, and cannot grasp, that the memorization of words is not the ultimate potential of man.
Very common throughout history are comments by masters and quality individuals who spoke about the scholars of their eras. Many individuals within European cultures are familiar with quotes such as "Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7), and the several repeated statements of "woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!" within Matthew 23.
The division between the adept (sages) and the scholars (scribes) is unavoidable. For as long as some individuals believe that the learning of words is a sufficient means of knowledge, so will there always be a sect of scholars who claim that the things that they do not understand must be magical, supernatural, and mystical.
Today it is very common within the schools for scholars to teach their 'scientific' belief that humans cannot choose their own emotions, nor choose their own thoughts, and so, to scholars, the 中庸 concept of choosing and controlling one's own emotions may appear to be 'scientifically impossible', which sums to 中庸 being interpreted as magic and mysticism.
Meanwhile, individuals who can and do choose their own thoughts and emotions, the individuals interpret the scholars as 'ever learning but never able to come to an understanding'. To individuals who understand some of the different types of centeredness, to those individuals 中庸 is very simplistic, and common.
Whether to choose 中庸's title to be Center Unchangeable, Center Stable, Center Harmony, Confucius' Harmony, Doctrine of the Mean, or some other translation, the choice of words may rely upon one's own familiarity with the book's topics.
The first four paragraphs of 中庸 were presented as brief quotes of personal ideas that appear to parallel the ideas within the following stories (hearsay) of personal conversations that were allegedly spoken between Confucius and other individuals.
The book is as a collection of ideas that appear to correlate with the other, while there is no firm dogma of principles and rules. To me, the absence of dogmas and rules prevents the book from being deemed to be a 'doctrine'. In English, 'doctrines' are statements of rules, regulations, dogmas, and other master-slave demands of which the believers are expected to follow and to obey as true truth. I do not interpret the book's ideas to be pointing to demands, and so, I prefer the title to remain as it is: 中庸.
For the remainder of the quotes, I will be more brief by first giving a translation by James Legge, and then offering a Normal translation, plus a condensed Concept, and also a Nature-based translation. The Normal translation will offer common English synonyms to the Chinese words, and the Concept translation will be as an interpretation from a point of view that assumes that Confucius' 中 predominately implies the mind-body center.
(Legge's quotes are taken from The Chinese Classics (Prolegomena) by James Legge, the online Gutenberg edition, unknown date, circa 1861.)
Of the several different translations that I have looked at, some of them appeared to use different 'original' Chinese texts, which was very frustrating to me, and reason enough to simply glance at the general flow of the texts and to recompress existing translations back into a form that is useable for gleaning an idea of what the original conversations likely spoke of. The recompressing of worded sentences is not an ideal choice, but then again, it is all but certain that the written quotes themselves are compressed concepts that also did not perfectly quote what Confucius might have actually said.
Written quotes of a master's words are by necessity hearsay. The following quotes are hearsay of hearsay, and translated into yet more hearsay. The goal, therefore, is to simply attempt to find common threads within the hearsay, and hope that the threads suggest the same general concepts that Confucius spoke of.
Chung-ni said, "The superior man embodies the course of the Mean; the mean man acts contrary to the course of the Mean.
Normal: Zhong Ni say: junzi center harmony. Lowly person oppose center harmony.
Concept: Confucius said: junzi are of mind-body-center. Disquality individuals have no mind-body-center.
Nature-based parallel: People of quality traits, their center is stable. People with disquality traits, those individuals' thoughts and emotions are unstable.
Confucius is given numerous different names, with Chung-ni being one.
The quote's intentions appear to be obvious enough, that the quality man — junzi — exists with centered mind and body, while the disquality individuals exist without centering.
It is easy enough to present examples of the effects of an absence of centering: the disquality individuals' emotions flare easily upon the slightest of discomforts, of the individuals easily expressing anger, hate, rage, vulgarity, and violence, similar to what today is interpreted as being bipolar, but perhaps bipolar is merely a greater expression of the same inability to control one's own thoughts and emotions.
Though it might be easy to point at the external behaviors of what is disquality, it is not as easy to explain why the junzi quality exists, nor to explain what it means to be centered of mind and body. Few individuals can observe and communicate what their own minds think, nor can many individuals observe and describe what their bodies feel when emotions rise. The absence of written self-descriptions gives harm to the idea of center unchangeable, because, obviously, the reader cannot know if his own centeredness is similar to the one that Confucius praised as being the ideal center.
The absence of description within 中庸 causes the book and its ideas to be weak, requiring the reader to invent within his imagination fictional scenarios that might appear to meet Confucius' 中庸.
Nevertheless, as a collection of sayings and quotes, 中庸's purpose is not to be more than a collection of sayings and quotes, and so it is okay for there to not be descriptions.
Too, it is important to bring into focus that unhealthy individuals may not possess the ability to achieve a mind-body centeredness. The list is long of reasons of why some individuals cannot control their own mind and body: food allergies, toxin poisoning, malnutrition, Alzheimer's, prolonged emotional duress, physical injuries, genetic predisposition to mental instabilities, and the list continues.
Within the real world, the idea of junzi is as a quality goal, but one person's ability to achieve a quality goal does not automatically relegate unhealthy people into a realm of being inferior humans. The popular English translations that use words such as 'superior' and 'noble' are often formed upon disquality forms of judgments that are not relative to what is real within Nature.
To become a junzi is a very worthy goal, but one person's good fortune to live within a peaceful environment that permits junzis to exist, it does not infer that the man himself is superior, nor noble. Humans are not identical, nor the same, nor equal. If a man is able to achieve mind-body-centeredness, then good: the man can then accept that he is what he is, and everyone else is what they are.
Find that which is good, and let-go of that which is not good.
The superior man's embodying the course of the Mean is because he is a superior man, and so always maintains the Mean. The mean man's acting contrary to the course of the Mean is because he is a mean man, and has no caution.
Normal: Confucius said: Junzi center always (中庸), junzi always center (中). Low person center always (中庸), low person nothing shun fear (not cautious).
Concept: Confucius said: Junzi, on the topic of 中庸, junzi is always mindfully centered. Low person on the topic of 中庸, low person is not mindful, nor cares.
Nature-based parallel: The qualities (that create mind-body centeredness) favored by the junzi individual, the same qualities are not present in a non-junzi. The non-junzi behaves without caring of how he behaves, because, in part, the non-junzi simply does not possess the ability to care.
The ideal of junzi is good and creative, but not all people possess the ability to achieve junzi; it simply is not within them. Many individuals simply possess no capacity for quality traits such as extrapolation, memory, speaking a kind word, nor of choosing their own thoughts and emotions. For those individuals, it simply cannot be done. Dogs cannot do it, cats cannot do it, cows cannot do it, birds cannot do it, and most humans cannot do it.
Regardless of which type of centeredness that 中庸 is pointing to, it should be remembered that the ideal man of Confucianism is not an ideal that can be achieved by everyone. Of the different types of centeredness, some are extremely difficult, and can only occur within very specific environments. Regardless of how good a man might be, and regardless of how devoted he might be to achieving centeredness, he might be lucky to discover one type, and still never have the opportunity to experience any other type.
The quote appears to suggest a belief that all men could choose to become junzis if the people chose, and the quote also suggests an interpretation that the failure to achieve junzi is the mark of willful inferiority. If all humans were equal, then perhaps the quote's message might indeed be valid, but humans are not equal, and the quote's message is not adequate.
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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