«Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership Conversation with Master Nan Huai-Chin Hong Kong, October 25th, 1999 Claus Otto Scharmer1 Nan ...»
Ken: What I want to ask is something close to what you have been actually talking about in your own writings. The first thing of the seven is awareness or knowing.
Now Teacher has a very good explanation in his book, and nobody understands him.
COS: Nobody understands --?
Ken: Because even today’s scientists cannot explain the question, where does consciousness come from?
Awareness And Stop These Are Like Two Brothers And Sisters Teacher says, for instance, without this body, do we still have a consciousness?
Before we are born into this body do we have a consciousness? After we die do we still have a consciousness? And the death of the consciousness, there are so many ways. Even if we are happy, we know that we are happy. If you are feeling painful, you are not feeling right. If you are depressed, you know you are depressed. So there is always this awareness. In Confucius the teaching is you have to really understand yourself first. It is very close to what you have been doing research on.
These seven meditative postures, stands, are so important. The first is awareness.
Then the question is we have to know how to stop, because our thinking is actually — the second thing is stop, right? So awareness and stop these are like two brothers and sisters, they’re so closely related to each other. We haven’t been able to stop our thinking.
Buddhism, and many cultivators, including some of your fellow students, have pointed out that thinking is not like a stream of thinking. It is like a waterfall. You look at a waterfall and you just see water coming down. It’s like a curtain of water.
But actually everybody knows that waterfall is composed of water drops, billion and billions that form the curtains that we see in our eyes. Thinking is actually the same.
Our mind runs so rapidly, and it’s all composed of drops of thought. They just go on together, linking up together, linking up together. We perceive our thinking as if it is like a waterfall. But in a way, if you are able, if you are aware, and if you are able to stop, then you know that. Because thinking is just tiny molecules of thinking. It’s just points and points and points of thinking. It’s just related together, and then we think we have a thinking process. So it is important to understand yourself first. You have to be aware of what’s going through your mind, what is in your cognitive consciousness. Then you have to be able to stop, to identify your real, real thinking.
COS: When do you know that you have to stop?
The Trick Ken: That’s the trick. As soon as you know that you’re thinking, then you’re actually in the second thinking already. We have to practice it. The mind has to calm down, calm down, calm down. The superficial thoughts just emerge. Then you’ll be able to see more clearly the underlying thinking, and then you’ll be able to see as true nature. But as soon as you are aware, you already stop, actually. That’s the trick. You know that you are listening to me. As soon as you know, we stop.
For instance, you have done meditation. And in meditation, of course, we try not to have too much thinking, right? As soon as you know that you are thinking, basically has stop already, you just have to know. It just comes like this, it follows each other, in a way. You just have to, you know and then it stops. So you don’t have to think of a special way to try to stop it, to stop your thinking. You don’t need to do that. You only have to be able to be aware. That’s the whole trick of the whole cultivation practice.
So you understand about all the questions that you’re raising? It really takes practice.
But the two important things are to be aware and stop.
The Example of a Famous Chinese Professor Zhao: Maybe I’ll give you an example of a person who hasn’t been able to reach this high meditative state. This meditative state doesn’t mean to just sit there. It means it’s a state that you’re in. Even while you’re sitting here talking you can be in that state. It’s a state that you’ll be able to achieve, a cultivated state. Now a person who hasn’t achieved that state will be obstructed by all the different emotions, greed, etc. That means we’ll not be able to know where to stop, we’ll not be able to make a right judgments. So we won’t be able to do things right.
There was a very famous story that Teacher cited in his book. There was a very famous Chinese, who used to be a prime minister. Later on he quit his job. He became a very famous businessman, extremely famous. He became an investor doing business in China. When he was doing business, one of his sons was in trouble in another state in China. At that time China was still divided into other small states, right?
Professor Zhao: So his son was in trouble in another state, so he wanted to send his other son, the youngest son, to go and help to save that son. But then the elder son says, “According to the Chinese tradition, you’re supposed to send me to go there to do the job. If you send the younger son that means I’m incapable, that means I’m pretty bad in a sense.” So he wants to go. And his mother also says, “Well, we should get my elder son to go and do this job.” This guy says, “Well, because there’s so © 2001 www.dialogonleadership.org 8 Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership much problem here, if you all want the elder son to go, so he has to.” He ended up sending the elder son to do this job. So the elder son went there, and then he went to see the guy who’s in charge, who was very close to the emperor on everything. He talked to him about the problem. That guy said, “Okay, no problem. I will solve the problem for you.” The eldest son’s father had given him lots of money so he could give that money to that official. He gave him the money and he left. Later on he heard that actually the emperor is going to release all the prisoners.
COS: Amnesty, right.
Professor Zhao: Right. So then the elder son thinks, “Wow, I don’t need to give the money to the guy anymore, the emperor’s going to release everyone. Why should I give the money to him?” He didn’t know that the official had convinced the emperor to release all of them. He had said, “Oh, this is the best timing to release these people.
You’ll get a very good reputation and you’re going to make the country even better, etc., etc.” He didn’t know this, so he actually went there and took the money back.
Then that official told the emperor, “Well, you can release everyone except this guy.” And all the other prisoners were released but this guy. He got executed. So the elder son carried the body of the brother home.
Then, of course, the mother cried, and the father didn’t really cry. He said “I knew this was going to happen.” Why? Because the elder son had been working with his father to build up the business, and he knows how hard it is to earn money. He had this in his mind, he wanted to hold onto the money. He didn’t want to give it away, in a sense. But the father knew this is the situation where you’re supposed to give the money. If he had sent the younger son this would not have been a problem. The younger son didn’t have this is his mind, in a sense he didn’t care about money. So in a sense you can see that when we have this kind of greed, or -
Ken: Attachments --
Professor Zhao: Yes, attachment will affect our ability to judge. It will affect our knowing, even. You wouldn’t even know. You don’t know where to stop. They just explained to you that a true leader, to really know what they are doing, has to have this cultivation. So that’s one example which explains why the seven step cultivation is so important. That’s why this is sort of the really the practical teaching for leadership in China. But just the knowing part, as Ken has explained to you, is extremely hard. People spend their whole lives without really knowing what that knowing is. As he said, there are so many levels. What do you mean you know? Does a baby know, right? When you die do you know?
The Two Most Important Essays in Confucianism
COS: Are they both written by the grandson of Confucius?
Ken: One is by the grandson, one is by the great-grandchildren, the fourth generation children. They are not long at all. I am sure there will be a translation in German. And I’ll e-mail a copy to you. Can you get your e-mail?
Professor Zhao: But be careful with those translations, they may not be very accurate.
Ken: This book, the first sentence, actually, it teaches you how to be a human being before you become a leader. But it has been misinterpreted. It has been misinterpreted.
COS: In what way does Teacher’s interpretation differ from the older interpretation?
Master Nan’s New Interpretation Of Confucius Ken: For instance, nobody, as far as I know, for hundreds of years has been able to explain the awareness and the stop. They would interpret it in a different way.
Interpret it as to know what position in a society. The emperors in those days, they would say, okay, you have to know where to stop. That means you have to know that if you are my officer, then I’m the boss, you are the officer. You have to listen to everything I say. You have to be subservient, you cannot resist authority. In a way this is a right interpretation, assuming your boss is someone who is enlightened, who really knows what’s going on. But unfortunately, for thousands of years, we haven’t had more than two or three of these emperors. So that was a problem.
But Teacher said no, no, no, it’s not just understanding that position, that is maybe a certain part. The important part is to actually understand yourself, understand your opening process. But the emperors, in order to protect their own power, they were trying to mislead them into trying to have a certain line of thinking.
That thinking would be to maintain your position in society. Don’t fight authority, just be a good follower. Teacher said no, that’s not the way the book should be interpreted. It should be interpreted in a different perspective. First, before you can become a leader you have to understand yourself, you have to be sincere in your heart, you have to be unbiased. That’s where the importance of those seven training comes in. You have to be aware and you have to stop - start.
The Founding Principle of The Great Learning Ken: Here are the three founding principles of the Great Learning. That is to really understand the whole nature, and then to be able to basically spread the words to
everyone, and to be able to stop at the ultimate virtue. Those are the three main points. And then the seven basic -COS: Can you repeat the three main principles?
Ken: Okay. To really understand the true nature of the universe, of the human being, our existence. That’s the first main point of it. That’s the first sentence in the essay.
COS: To really understand the true nature of the universe.
Ken: Yes. The second one is to be able to spread what you understand to all the people, to all the human beings.
COS: To spread what you understand to all people.
Ken: Yes, to all people. And the third is to stop at the ultimate virtue, always try to be as good as you can. You never stop until you have reached the ultimate goodness.
Professor Zhao: This ultimate goodness is not, when we say good and bad we always have a good and bad, right? This ultimate virtue is like the middle, like the ultimate. It’s beyond good and bad. That’s the ultimate virtue.
COS: So, again, that’s the first sentence of the Great Learning?
Professor Zhao: Yes, the first three sentences.
Ken: A symbol everybody knows—do you know any Mandarin at all?
COS: No, unfortunately, I don’t. I’m not educated.
Ken: The first phrase is the path of the great learning. It is to basically really understand the nature of the universe.
COS: You know, what you are saying is, in a way, answering my second question, right? When I talked about the three issues, the ecological split, the social split, and the split between matter and mind, it’s exactly addressing the three points you just mentioned. So understanding the nature of the universe is really what true ecology is all about. To overcome the split...
Professor Zhao: I think the first three phrases is a much, much higher level than what you are saying, actually. But you can say at this level of application, yes, it’s related to the three things that you said. But those three achievements are so much more higher than this. But to the common understanding of human beings at this moment, you can say those three are probably right.
Ken: I could almost safely say that there are a very few human beings in history that have achieved the three goals.
Professor Zhao: Maybe four, five or ten, a dozen, that’s it.
Ken: In all the human history. That’s how high it is.
China on the Eve of the Millenium COS: So what reaction do you get when you come with this to today’s business leaders and children and students?
Ken: The business leaders, I really don’t know. I don’t think anyone can tell them, plainly speaking. Teacher said for the next decade, the next ten years, twenty years, thirty years, money will still be the driver. After a certain stage, people will know that all this striving for profit will lead society, the human being, into nowhere. You mentioned about ecological. In the last 120 years, human beings have consumed more natural resources than in the last billions of years. The problem with China is they don’t have religion anymore. And they don’t believe in communism anymore.
COS: So Confucianism and Buddhism and Taoism don’t play any role?
Professor Zhao: I think, actually, you are right in the sense that Teacher also said that the culture is really creeping down now. But on the other hand, somehow it’s in their blood, somehow all this traditional culture is actually reviving nowadays. That’s partly due to Teacher’s promotion in China. If you go into Chinese book stores, you now see there thousands of books only on Chinese culture.