Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sincerity in the 'Doctrine of the Mean' or 'Chung Yung'

While sincerity generally meant truth, honesty, faith and trust, Sincerity, ch’eng,(诚) in the Doctrine of the Mean, takes on a metaphysical meaning as well:
“Ch’eng is the Way of Heaven; to become Ch’eng is the Way of Man (Humanity).” (Wu 1986, 139)

The author of the Doctrine of the Mean shows the connection between simple human honesty, truth, faith and trust and the Way of Heaven. When people are sincere, in this way, they are fulfilling their highest function. Sincerity encompasses a balance of truth, honesty, faith and trust and while peoples’ level of understanding may differ and their characteristics may be unique, their ability be ‘sincere’ is always there. This means that anyone, regardless of talent, can manifest the Way of Heaven through practicing sincerity. Sincerity is animated in us through Heaven’s life-giving power. Humanity and sincerity are in harmony with the principle, the movement of Heaven. When people are sincere they are practicing the way of humanity, the Way of Heaven. This is the function of humanity, to be sincere. When we are sincere, we are doing our part in Heaven’s work on Earth. Each of us can work to accomplish this in our unique way in our unique position, with our unique characteristics and when we do endeavor in this way we, quite simply, work to make the world a better place. This Heavenly origin is why, as Wu points out in Chinese Philosophical Terms (1986), according to the Doctrine of the Mean [Ch. 24] perfect sincerity is like Heaven in these two ways: perfect Ch’eng is godlike and perfect Ch’eng is ceaseless. Perfect sincerity is godlike because it is:
being able to foreknow. When a country is about to flourish, there are surely some fortunate omens; when it is about to perish, there are surely some omens of weird and monstrous things…Whether calamity or blessing is immanent the good and bad can be foreknown. Therefore, perfect ch’eng is like a spiritual power. (140)

And perfect ch’eng is ceaseless, “the function of ch’eng is the same as that of Heaven and Earth, which give life to all things without ceasing” (140).
This sincerity is emphasized in the Doctrine of the Mean, or Chung Yung, because it is closely related to chung, the Mean. Chung, meaning “central” or “the mean,” is the central quality of humanity, which enables us to bring balance and harmony to their affairs. While the term humanity encompasses many virtues and characteristics, chung is the specific attribute, the center, the Heavenly space within us, or more correctly the essence or substance of Nature:
“Before the emotions of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are aroused, it is called chung” [Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1]. Here chung means the essence of Nature, which is in equilibrium and without emotional implications. (Wu 1986, 25)

Chung as the essence of nature, in equilibrium, is beginning of perfect sincerity because it is the pure ground, without deviant motivations clouded by emotion. Motivation and emotion that arise from chung are in equilibrium with the situation and are sincere. These emotions and motivations arise from a pure space beyond any selfish, illusory, identity we may have of ourselves. Motivation from chung is the beginning of righteous action, the action of returning harmony to daily affairs. This motivation is what differentiates superior from inferior persons. Sincerity originates in chung.
Sincerity is the beginning of the path or way of righteousness, which we discussed in a previous post. It is described in the Doctrine of the Mean (Ch. 20) as the way of humanity, which is the origin of righteousness, “To become Ch’eng is the way of humanity” (Wu 1986, 139). Wu points out that there are two ways of practicing this Way, this virtue, first, “one practices virtue and improves knowledge and wisdom with ch’eng in order to complete oneself” (141).
Ch’eng is self-completion, and its way is the way of self. Ch’eng is the beginning of all things. Without ch’ eng there would be nothing. Therefore, the superior (person) values ch’eng. (Doctrine of the Mean, Ch.20 141)

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