Chapter Two: The Principle of Harmony
In this chapter, we will be discussing the Principle of Harmony, which is the
basis of Wonhwa Do philosophy. It governs the created world, including mankind.
We start at this point because traditionally, philosophers in general and masters
of martial arts in particular have often derived both internal and technical
understanding from a careful observation of nature. For example in philosophy,
Plato observed reality and concluded that a higher organizing Intelligence must
exist. And in the martial arts based upon Oriental philosophy, observation of
nature has yielded both fighting techniques as well as concepts for correct
I. Traditional ViewsA. Taoist Metaphysics In Taoism, the issue of harmony is addressed from a metaphysical perspective. Metaphysics means the science of fundamental causes and processes in things. If these fundamental processes can be discerned, then man can know the basic reasons why nature behaves as it does, and then speculate how he himself should behave. Then man could be in harmony with nature, no longer in ignorant opposition to it, and thus he could find peace. In order to achieve this happy state, Lao Tzu set about formulating the ideas which became known as Taoism. Lao Tzu said that "Man conforms to earth; earth conforms to heaven; heaven conforms to Tao; and Tao conforms to the way of Nature."
Tao is the central concept which gives this teaching its name. As Lao Tzu's words indicate, it is the highest universal principle of nature, standing above heaven, earth and man. All things come from the Tao and it is so vast that it is not describable in words: "The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the true Tao. The name that can be named is not the abiding name."
Lao Tzu was himself an atheist. Though he would sometimes acknowledge heaven, he insistently placed it below the Tao and nature, thus directly refuting the notions of Confucianism that heaven is the highest authority.
Though the Tao itself is too large to grasp, it produces two elemental forces, which generate life through their interaction. These are called "yang" and "yin" and they are more readily perceived throughout all aspects of nature as pairs of contrasting elements. Thus, Lao Tzu identified as pairs things like life and death, dark and light, beauty, ugliness, good and evil, long and short, high and low, etc.
Another concept which Lao Tzu was concerned with was "ch'I". By this, Lao Tzu meant the inner life force of nature and he advised man to develop this in order to be able to blend effectively with the Tao. This important notion will be examined more closely in a succeeding chapter.
There is more to Taoism than these concepts of course, but those things which are relevant to our focus on martial arts, will be introduced at the appropriate times. For the moment, it will suffice to say that Lao Tzu was able to discern an important metaphysics of harmony at work in nature.
B. Confucian Ethics
As we had mentioned earlier, Confucius' views were quite different from Lao
Tzu's. Confucius revered Heaven above all, and his perspective of Harmony was
based upon Heaven rather than upon mere nature. Thus, instead of discussing
metaphysical principles, Confucius directed himself to discussing ethics and
social behaviour patterned after the "Decree of Heaven".
"At fifteen, I set my mind upon learning; at thirty, I stood firm to my purpose; at forty, I acted with discretion; at fifty, I knew (the decree of Heaven); at sixty, I comprehended truth; and now, at seventy, I can follow my heart's desire without transgressing the sense of justice."
Based on these teachings, Confucianism developed strong views of social harmony based upon the decree of Heaven.
C. Zen Mysticism
The notion of harmony from the Zen perspective is not as metaphysical as in
Taoism, nor as ethical as in Confucianism. Rather, it is more akin to mystical
harmony. Let us explain further: Zen eludes description even more than the concept
of the Tao. However, one eighth-century master described it as "everyday
mind." It is also described as "unconsciousness" or "self-forgetfulness."
It refers to a state of spontaneous intuitiveness beyond laboured rational processes,
somewhat akin to the innocence of a child when total immersion in activity is
achieved. One adept explains that one who has achieved the Zen mind "lives,
but what lives is no longer himself". This yields a mystical kind of unity
with the universe, a state which truly reflects the aim of Buddhism to achieve
inner harmony and peace through purity and desirelessness.
Chapter 2-6 (Continued, Part II)
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