Finding One’s Lost Mind

by Mark Chmiel

Julia Ching, The Philosophical Letters of Wang Yang-ming
University of South Carolina Press, 1972

I previously studied with delight Julia Ching’s To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-ming. Wang was the towering philosophical figure in the Ming Dynasty, one whose teachings and poems I took to heart. In this collection of letters, I am reminded of the simplicity of his way—the “extension of liang-zhi.”

Useful Phrases
“our firm determination to become sages” 6-7

having a single purpose, being undivided 41

recover your original determination 43

Mean: Keep always to the Mean; practice discernment and single-mindedness. 49

“the stimulation of the mind, the strengthening of human nature, the practice of polishing and perfecting oneself” 51

“to have a humble mind and to maintain a constant sagacity” 60

“conquer yourself and recover propriety [li]” 74

Confucius recommended, “learning with constant perseverance and application” 89 Analects 1:1

“unfolding, energetic, firm, and enduring” —Doctrine of the Mean 31, 110

 

Major Themes
Learning: the gentleman can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself, since whatever he does is, for him, learning. 105

Liang-chi: To develop the innate moral knowledge in the mind is, for WYM, the only thing necessary in the pursuit of sagehood, while Chu Hsi and said that one ought to investigate the principles of all things. 31

Liang-chi: l-c contains all truth 48

Liang-chi: All [people] have this moral ability to judge between right and wrong. This is what we call l-c. 68

Liang-chi: True spontaneity refers to the substance of mind not being hindered by unruly desire, so that she finds herself in no situation in which she is not herself. 79

Liang-chi: For this l-c, to eliminate carelessness and pride is to investigate things. The extension of this knowledge is the secret transmission of the ancient learning of the school of sages. 83

Liang-chi: l-c is mindfulness 88

Liang-chi: The only effort required is to learn constantly, and the essential of learning constantly is to watch over ourselves when we are alone, and this vigilance in solitude is precisely the extension of l-c, while l-c is nothing other than joy-in-itself. 90

Liang-chi: A scholar who has already determined to become a sage in order to gain insight needs merely to extend his l-c, in its intelligent and conscious aspects, to the uttermost, proceeding gradually and naturally day by day. 94

Liang-chi: To accumulate righteousness is only to extend the l-c. 96

Liang-chi: When l-c awakens, it is as though the bright sun has arisen, and ghosts and spirits naturally disperse. 117

Mindfulness: If we only guard this mind and not allow it to become dispersed, the principles of reason will mature themselves. 8

Mindfulness: Mengzi said, ‘There is naught else in learning outside of finding one’s lost mind.’ 87. Mencius, 6A:11

Mindfulness: sweep your hearts clean of the bandits inside .. and restore inner clarity and peace and calm 45

Mindfulness: The mind’s substance is tranquility; the mind’s function is activity, 58

Path: “abandon the path of honors and reputation, purify your mind and your desires, concentrate on the learning of the sages” 65

Polishing: See Platform Sutra on polishing 10

Sages: [they need to ] have the sincere determination to becomes sages, and to devote themselves to being ‘discerning and single-minded’ 102

Sages: The l-c of hsin is sagehood. 113

 

Vocabulary
hsin = the heart of mind, the seat of consciousness

T’ien-li = heavenly reason, principle of Heaven

Ch’i = breath, ether, force, temperament

Liang-chi = knowing the good, knowledge of the good.

Jen = literally, kindness, benevolence, humanity, goodness, love

Shen-tu = watching over self when one is alone 121

Tao = the Way, for Confucians, virtue, authentic doctrine of the sages. 125

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