«Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership Conversation with Master Nan Huai-Chin Hong Kong, October 25th, 1999 Claus Otto Scharmer1 Nan ...»
Professor Zhao: Yes, there are now so many new books coming out. The main reason is because the population in China is huge. No matter how bad it was during the cultural revolution under communist rule, after the reform, it began to open up.
There are still people in China who are working on those issues.
So the people decide, I think the Buddhist thinking is coming back, also Christianity is going to China, and Taoist is still there. It’s amazing the way Master Nan has become popular in China, it’s really amazing.
COS: How would that show up?
Ken: Ten years ago if you went into China, it would be really very difficult to find his book. Master Nan never, ever talks about his books. He never goes on the TV station, to talk shows, like the authors in the states who try to publicize their books.
No advertising, no commercials, no public promotion of any kind. But suddenly nowadays, you go to any major bookstore anywhere in China, you will find a whole bookshelf of all teacher’s books. It is just amazing. Many years ago when I first knew Teacher, I went to China, and would go to the bookstores and ask, “I want to buy Mr.
Nan’s book.” Who is Mr. Nan? Nobody’s heard of Mr. Nan. But now you go in, © 2001 www.dialogonleadership.org 12 Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership almost every bookstore has his book. They just came from nowhere suddenly.
Because of the demand. The people need this. They are so empty, and they have this huge urge, huge need for this cultural feeling.
COS: Who’s buying it?
Professor Zhao: Officials, everyone, every kind of people.
Ken: So many people ask Teacher to go on TV, go onto radio shows, go onto magazines, go onto newspapers. You won’t find a thing at all. It is just amazing, people with newspapers will come in and see if he will give interviews. Magazines will come and ask for interviews. No interviews, no nothing. And yet a book just sells so well.
COS: I see. How many books has he written in Chinese and published?
Ken: About thirty-something, thirty-five.
Professor Zhao: Thirty-something, yeah. Now I should emphasize one thing that Teacher has been trying to emphasize to you. That first thing is truly hard. To achieve the first learning is already extremely hard.
COS: You’re talking about the seven steps?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Yes, it’s related to what you wrote down there, your full conscience. So the meaning of that, just even the first step, is already hard enough. How do you actually achieve it? Achieving them is just extremely hard.
Most of Teacher’s book is about achieving things rather than talking about this framework. So many books talk about achieving these goals from very different angles, and Teacher would think that it would be good for you to learn some meditation here for this trip. That would be something that would be beneficial to yourself. Maybe we can find a time, either tonight, or now, depending whether you like it or not, to have a short meditative session.
COS: Oh, that would be wonderful.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: So we’ll talk about how we can meditate. That would actually be helpful for you.
COS: Oh, yes, that would be wonderful.
V. Meditation and Stillness
practices. The two key principles are (1) “always reach emptiness” and (2) “concentration is a middle piece.” Reaching emptiness is the goal. Concentration can help to lead to that goal. Opposed to concentration and emptiness, most people operate in one of the following two states: “dozey” or noisy. To contemplate your mind means to see into your fear and to realize that they are empty. There are five poisons that get in your way: greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, doubt. You have to get rid of them all. Contemplating your mind means learning to see what is getting in your way. If something is good, go do it. If something is not, don’t do it. Meditation is seeing emptiness. Contemplation is directly attacking the poisons, and doing virtuous things.
Then we arrived at the family dinner site, where I first got my meditation instruction (for maybe an hour). Then we sat together. A TV was running. Master was smoking cigarettes. At the same time, a nun was chanting sanskrit meditation songs. A leading expert on classic Chinese went his last book with Master through. A Hong Kong banker arrived who later turned out to be a face reader. Then Master instructed and practiced with me the Guan-Yin- Mantra (“Om Ma Mi Bä Mi Hong”). At the same time, all sorts of people were running around, offering nice little things to eat and drink. Everybody was talking and running around, having distributed and parallel conversations. Then we gathered at the round dinner table with about a dozen participants. We had a wonderful meal and a delightful conversations about the feelings of trees, animals, and other beings. We also heard about Master Nan’s experiences when he practiced the martial arts. It was a great evening that did not stop before midnight.
Towards the end of the dinner, I continued the interview with Master Nan by wrapping up the afternoon session for the other participants of the dinner table and then concluding with a follow-up question.
VI. Illuminating the Blind Spot COS: During our afternoon conversation, Master made two significant points.
Number one, that there has been a blind spot in the West in the twentieth century, which concerns the fact that we do not have a central cultural thought, a single unifying cultural thought from which we could reconceive the whole social and living world.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Teacher says that this blind spot concerns both the West and the East in the 20th century.
COS: Okay, the blind spot applies to both West and East. And the way I understood this point is: This blind spot concerns our unability to see the process of coming-intobeing of social reality. Usually we perceive social reality as a thing, as something that is separated from and outside of us. The blind spot means that we do not see the process of coming-into-being of this reality, we do not see the process through which © 2001 www.dialogonleadership.org 14 Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership we bring forth social reality in the first place. And then, I understood Master Nan such that he says that in order to illuminate this blind spot, you have to practice the seven meditational steps of leadership. Let me stop here and ask Master Nan whether or not this is a correct reflection of what he was saying this afternoon.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Teacher said this understanding is right.
VII. The Origin Of Social Action: Mind And Thought COS: If the blind spot is concerned with the process of coming-into-being of social reality, of social action, my question is, where does this stream originate? Where does this stream come from?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Teacher said the source is the mind and the thought. In the 20th century, there was no philosopher who was able to putting it all together and to seeing the whole picture.
COS: Okay. What then is the source from which thinking or consciousness originates?
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: Teacher said that the origin of change relates to mind and thoughts. The main question, where does that come from? And Teacher says that’s all related to the cultivation of the body, the mind, and other things. That’s also related to the East and the Western culture, related to philosophy and religion.
It’s related to where life comes from, etc., so this is really a huge question.
It’s a huge question, but it’s narrowed down to a small answer first. According to the medical field, people usually say their thoughts come from the brain, the physical brain. Of course, this is more on the side of the materialistic philosophies.
So these kinds of people who think that the body is like a mechanical thing -- you know, when you die, then it ceases to exist. Then everything is gone. For example, nowadays, people talk about the left brain, the right brain, the little brain, etc., or the alpha wave, the beta wave, etc., all of these are still the materialistic way of looking at it.
For thousands of years, communities have had religious teachings, politics, education, all the different thoughts, concerning those issues, as well. Do we humans really think that we are nothing but this materialistic construction? Can we really say that our thoughts really just come from a physical brain? Is that all?
VIII. Levels of Consciousness Now the question is where does this consciousness come from? Is the consciousness within our body? We have a consciousness like thinking, a thought. It’s because we are sort of reacting to what we are seeing or to what we are experiencing.
There’s another kind of thinking or consciousness, another part of a consciousness, which can just think by itself. Or have thoughts on its own without like reacting to something you see or something you hear. Without the senses there would still be thoughts coming in.
Our thoughts are like a river flowing, water flow is continuous, and it keeps coming.
It’s very hard, there’s no way to cut it or stop it. Sleeping is also a thought, it’s one thought. Sleeping is the phenomenon of this habitual thought. This is the way it exhibits itself. The same is true for death. Death is also one, it’s a thought, actually.
So you die as a thought, is thought of this habitual thinking. Again, it’s one of the phenomenon.
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: So sleeping is a thought that is also a thought.
It’s again, narrowed down to a smaller range. For example, take you as an example.
When I first see you, I know that you have many thoughts going through your mind.
But the thoughts are not really truly continuous. They pass one, one, one, like that.
Between thoughts there are actually gaps. But most people cannot see the gaps between two thoughts. Then it’s like a continuous thing, actually there are gaps between two thoughts. We think we are able to actually connect everything. Actually you are not able to really connect everything. You think you can have them altogether. So all these thoughts actually belong to the domain of the consciousness.
They are related to our brain but it’s not limited.
Now if you go deeper than this, go behind this even further, you still have three levels to go. Then you ultimately reach the point of talking about the mind and the matter.
But again, this is very complicated stuff. Now these three layers which are even behind this, are all complicated, so we’re not going to talk about them. Let’s now come back again, looking at a narrower problem, let’s look at the thoughts that we have now.
For example if you check content, or look at a thought that you used to have for many, many years. Let’s take every five years as one stage, you probably already have quite a few stages already, right? Every five years is one stage. Then for every stage we have some thoughts, you know, many, many thoughts. But the point is that now all the thoughts have probably already been forgotten and you cannot remember any of those. They are just jumping in and jumping in and jumping, like that, you know. You couldn’t really connect them. Our thoughts change every moment, every © 2001 www.dialogonleadership.org 16 Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership second. We’re always being cheated by our own thoughts. We say “we,” the human.
Actually this is a symbol representing this thing. Ultimately speaking, just the human — this one, the you, the human — this is already a question. Actually, ultimately speaking, there’s no such thing as the person. It doesn’t really exist. Thoughts are not a person. Your thoughts change all the time.
You see, you’re able to listen to me because your thoughts are there, so you’re able to listen to me. On the other hand, this thing doesn’t really exist because it keeps going away. So there’s really nothing there in a sense, nothing really exists.
You have asked me this question four times today already, that, as I told you earlier, is really something extremely complicated. I couldn’t explain everything within one or two hours. It’s related to medical science and life science, biology, etc., and it’s a huge subject.
So that you can see that if there are so many different kinds of theories. Social science theories, physical science theories, etc., etc. He said all the theories are really gone now. Every time period has different theories and they’re all already gone. They’re useless now. You can still see some of the results of the previous period.
This is just a rough framework. Everything Teacher told you is like one chapter or another chapter, and everything he said can be a big chapter of the book. So this afternoon when you first asked this question, I said this will be like a book, you know, a 300,000 character book. We couldn’t be able to explain them within a day.
Samahdi: True Calmness
Many people meditate or pray but very few people can really reach achieve a state of a true calmness, they haven’t been able to empty other thoughts. Even to say, oh, I have a method, I’m able to stop my thoughts. You know what, that’s actually a big thought, back of this stopping the thought. That’s exactly the pre-thought. It’s a big one, getting rid of the others only.
For example, in Hinayana teachings which are originally from India, they do talk about this special state. It’s called the samahdi of no thought. So you indeed can enter that state. But that’s a big thought itself.
For some people who enter that state of samahdi, the body actually will not die, will stay alive for a long, long time. In that case, all those wondering, jumpy thoughts are being stopped, that’s what’s happening.
The Sixth Consciousness3 Let’s now focus on this question of the thought that’s related to the sixth consciousness. Exactly what is it? The sixth consciousness functions through our brain. It’s like the light or this tape recorder here. The light and the recorder are not electricity, but there is the function through this. So the same thing applies to this sixth consciousness, it functions through our brain. But then where does this come from? I didn’t touch that point.