Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sincerity in the 'Doctrine of the Mean' or 'Chung Yung' -Part 2

‘Ch’eng’s way is the way of the self,’ shows that when we follow sincerity we follow what is most essential for our development. Sincerity is the feeling, a certain reverence, a trustworthy response that precedes the insight of the righteous path. The heart/mind, hsin, is originally sincere, and when we connect an action to this clear mind, or act from this mind, we know righteousness. ‘Without sincerity there would be nothing’, explains how sincerity is the only origin of true success. Any attempt to build from motivation other than sincere motivation will, in time, decay. Any perceived benefit or perceived success outside of sincerity is illusory. Sincere action is a manifestation of the Heavenly principle (The life-giving principle in all things). As such it gives spiritual life to this world. Sincere action imbues the spirit of humanity into this world. Sincerity resonates infinitely, producing a great, or Heavenly benefit. When we choose to learn and grow our lives from the root of sincerity, we move Heaven into the Earth, our action produces Heavenly benefit, our result is vast and ceaseless. The second aspect of practicing sincerity is to benefit all things, to ‘complete things’:
Ch’eng means not only to complete oneself but also to complete things. To complete oneself is humanity; to complete things is wisdom. Both are the virtue of nature. This is the Way which is a union of the external and the internal. ( 141) [italics added]

Wu comments: “to complete things is to let other people and things develop…according to their own natures” (141). Sincerity, completing oneself and completing all things, is the ‘virtue of nature.’ Practicing sincerity is letting oneself and all things develop according to their own natures. Through sincerity the self can emerge, this pure, true self responds with the deepest root of all outside things and unites, internal with external. In this union, or deep response, there is vastness that allows more time and more space for authentic development. Remaining grounded in this space of sincerity, responding to other things in this way, we can meet and complete all things in a pure space, which allows real growth.
Growing from ‘the beginning of all things,’ from such purity things are rooted in the vastness of Heaven. This root, this perfect sincerity, nourishes growth that is ‘ceaseless’, and ‘godlike,’ or Heavenly. This perfect sincerity is very profound but it begins with a simple and heartfelt practice. Sincerity includes basic morality such as truth, honesty, faith, and trust. These virtues arise from and are the extensions of sincerity. As we become more deeply, or more ‘perfectly’ sincere, the profound implications that resonate from virtuous action become clear. It is through continued practice that sincerity become clearer. While ch’eng is defined in the Doctrine of the Mean as the Way of Heaven and the way of humanity, there is also the more specific definition or instruction: “The next level of perfect sincerity is to go by bending, through bending one’s sincerity appears” (Wu 1992, Doctrine of the Mean Ch. 23, p30). Wu, commenting on this line in Concerned Mind Tea, says:
The Chinese word for bend is ch’u (曲), and it may be translated as small, partial or bent. Therefore “going by bending” can be described as not pursuing a goal directly but solving a problem by turning a corner, by bending. For example, when our friends make a mistake, we advise them directly; this is sincerity. But sometimes they do not accept our advice. If we give up our effort because they refused our advice, this is not real sincerity to our friends. Therefore we must turn a corner and use a different way to advise them; this is a real expression of sincerity. (Wu 1992, 30)

First Wu uses the example of advising a friend directly about a mistake that friend has made as sincerity. This is an important example in itself, because it illustrates the simplicity of sincerity in practice. Although sincerity has metaphysical roots and implications, its practice remains simple: honesty toward a friend. If we do not tell the truth to the friend then we show a lack of concern, we allow that friend to proceed with mistaken behavior that in time will bring misfortune. This simple act, out of concern for the friend, carries with it all the profound metaphysical implications. The tricky situation of telling a friend something they might not want to hear becomes even trickier when that friend does not take the advice to heart. As a sincere friend, you cannot give up and must now use indirect methods. You must proceed by bending around the roadblock to advice that your friend has put up. In time you hope the friend understands his or her mistake, but if not you continue the subtlety of ‘going by bending’ as a good, sincere, concerned friend.
Through this sincerity friends help ‘complete each other.’ Through sincerity we fulfill our responsibilities, learning, completing ourselves. Following this sincerity in daily life is following the way of humanity. Fulfilling our responsibilities in this timely way is following what Heaven has set before us. It is following the Way of Heaven.

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